As I have been experiencing my first pregnancy this summer, my mother and I have been discussing how similar it is to women “getting old.” Her words not mine. But as the days pass and I tell her about a new challenge I have or a new ailment, I am thinking she is on to something. It is funny to us, but also kind of sad, because that means I have to go through this again and it’s going to last a whole lot longer than just nine months. Gee, I have something else to look forward to in about 20-25 years.
We have come up with a list of items to share with you that demonstrate how being pregnant is a lot like getting older. These are in no particular order and I am sure there are a few that will make you laugh out loud, especially if you can personally relate:
- Your hormones are raging, they are all over the place and you don’t know whether you are coming or going on some days. Everybody beware!
- You are hot all of the time. Hot flashes are a regular occurrence, you are constantly taking off clothes, kicking off covers at night and sleeping with the fan on full blast. Everyone else in the house is freezing while it is 80 degrees outside on an August evening.
- You need to hold onto a wall, bed post or counter to put on your underwear, pants, skirt or anything that goes on your bottom half. A new form of a balancing act is an understatement as you use one hand to do all of this. SIGH!
- You walk slower, move slower, bend slower, get up out of a chair slower and walk up the stairs slower. Your limbs have all of sudden turned against you and it’s so not fair.
You need one of those rubber mats in the bathtub to keep from slipping, grabbing the shower curtain and almost killing yourself as you get in and out of the shower! Did I mention your equilibrium is shot?
- Incontinence has become your new friend. You sneeze, you pee. You laugh too hard, you pee, You cough, you pee. You drink ANYTHING, you are running to find restroom at the nearest mall or store. You may even have to pull over while driving to go because you know you will not make it another 5 blocks. Yes, I have done this on a few occasions.
- Mexican, Jamaican, Indian, and well just about anything with a kick is SO not your best friend. Spicy food gives you heartburn ALL of the time and will keep you up at all hours of the night popping TUMS.
- You can’t bend over to pick things off of the floor. You realize you are very creative in picking up things you drop by using broom handles, shoes, umbrellas, your feet/toes or getting into a very awkward squatting position.
- Eventually, you can longer see your toes because of your stomach. Pregnant belly or muffin top…enough said.
- You are in need of a new wardrobe because your current clothing doesn’t fit your expanding mid-section.
- You don’t sleep through the night because of many trips to the bathroom and naps during the day are the next best thing to a slice of chocolate cake.
- Did I mention chocolate cake? You could care less if you indulge and eat all of those calories. All you care about is you want it, you need it, you have earned it and quite honestly who is going to stop you from eating it?
- You go to more doctors’ appointments, take more tests/screenings and give blood than you have ever in the past.
- Memory? What memory? You don’t even remember what you did 5 minutes ago or what you were planning to do in the next 5 minutes.
Now if this list hasn’t convinced you of the odd similarities of being pregnant and getting older or at the very least made you chuckle, then you are just clueless and hopeless. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed creating this list all summer. I am sure there are more similarities, but we can start with these.
It is no secret that I have been “MIA” on the blogging front since November but I have a really good reason. Despite the fact that work was kicking my butt after Thanksgiving last year, I found out on January 2 that I would soon be a mommy come September. Needless to say these last six months have been a whirlwind for me as I prepare for this new phase of my life. In those first few months I really wanted to blog about my new experience of being newly pregnant, but between hugging the porcelain goddess for 5 weeks straight and trying not to fall asleep at my desk or lose my EVERY thought during meetings; I just physically could not do it. Just a few of the many things no one can really prepare you for as it relates to pregnancy. Oh the list goes on and on. But, I digress.
So yes, my dear readers, I will soon be adding another set of letters behind my name — MOM– and I do hope now that I have begun to master this pregnancy thing and I am able to focus a little better, that I can blog more often about what I am experiencing. Talk about real life maternal and child health information. But please know that I will continue to blog about women’s health in general especially as I prepare to turn 40 in September. (That is a whole other life experience unto itself). Just because I am about to be a mom, I am a woman first and staying on top of my health is important to me. So while I will talk about pregnancy and the like, know that I will not forget the purpose of my blog.
I must now prepare for an evening of slight insomnia because of the 100 baby related things on my mind, the constant flipping from my right to left side every two hours because I can no longer sleep on my back or stomach, the trips to the bathroom every 3 hours and oh my favorite the wonderful leg and hip cramps I get because I am sleeping on my side. Ah yes, I know it is all worth it in the end when that tiny hand goes into yours, but right now…not so much. I would pay so much money right now for just one night of sleeping on my stomach for the next 8 hours.
Live Life, Live Healthy!
Every year, an estimated 13 million babies are born too soon and too small. More than a million of these tiny babies do not survive. Premature birth is a big problem in the United States. In other parts of the world, where hospitals and health providers may be ill-equipped to care for preemies, or the nearest hospital is days away, the problem is even more serious.
This blog is dedicated to one of my favorite little girls Maiya, who lights up a room every time she walks in, makes you laugh hysterically and has more personality at the ripe age of 4 than most adults I know. She is truly a fighter, strong willed and very determined. Much like she was on the day she was born.
Maiya was born 8 weeks premature with underdeveloped organs, a lot of hair and so small that I could literally hold her in one hand. Her mother, one of my best friends, spent weeks at the NICU, waiting to hear the words from the doctor — “You can take her home.” When that day finally arrived, we were all overjoyed with an enormous amount of faith that Maiya would grow strong and develop into the amazing little girl she is today. My girlfriend did everything she thought was right — early prenatal care, healthy diet, no smoking, no drinking, etc. But we also know that prematurity can be caused by so many different things. So, while we may not have the answer to the question “why this baby?” we do know she is a survivor.
As one of her many Aunties, I am so thankful to not only Maiya’s NICU nurses but to all of the nurses around the country. Your job is so critical and I wonder if you truly know how much relief you provide to families every day. It is because of you that babies are strong enough to go home sooner rather than later.
I encourage you all to spread the word about prematurity and help increase the awareness so we can reduce then number of babies that are born too soon. We need to fight ― because babies shouldn’t have to.
Today I spent the day with about 50 breastfeeding experts and advocates from around the nation, including representatives from key US government agencies. As I sat and listened to the latest research, current community initiatives and strategies from lactation consultants; I found myself having to sit on my hands. While I am very much an advocate of breastfeeding and truly believe breast is best for our infants, there were a few things my colleagues were saying that I did not agree with 100%. There were staunch breastfeeding advocates and I did not want to get put out of the room, so I never went to the mic or raised my hand. Surprisingly, the MEN had the loudest voices in the room today.
So I would like share my two cents on the subject with all of you:
Breast is best! Research shows this is true and that the benefits of breastmilk are profound. Not to mention the unique bond that is established between mom and baby when they are skin to skin. In addition, there are great benefits for mom too. So new moms and moms-to-be, I urge you to learn about breastfeeding during pregnancy and do all that you can to not only initiate breastfeeding, but maintain it for at least 6 months.
Breastfeeding takes time, patience and support. Many people think, “oh it just comes naturally.” Uh NO, it does not. Even a lactation consultant will tell you this. Is it a natural and biological thing for moms? Yes, but I repeat, it takes time, patience and support. I have watched so many of my girlfriends struggle through tears, guilt and anxiety as they initiate breastfeeding and fail the first few times. They want to breastfeed but the overwhelming feeling of wanting to ensure their baby doesn’t starve, takes over. So they begin to lean towards the solution of giving the baby formula. I think lactation consultants in the hospital could offer different methods to breastfeeding, ways to soothe mom and more support. As a result, Mom, may not give up so quickly.
Dads’ support is key to breastfeeding. So many women find it difficult to breastfeed because they don’t have support from their partner. He may not understand the importance or significant benefits that breastfeeding has on the baby short and long term, as well as for mom. If Dad is not supportive, this can cause additional stress for mom as she focuses on trying to breastfeed. If she doesn’t have support at home, she will find it increasingly difficult to do it. On the other hand, if Dad is very supportive then great! But he should also not “browbeat” mom if she cannot breastfeed or is having difficulty breastfeeding. This will only make things worse and make her feel more guilty as well as anxious. So to my men, participate in learning about breastfeeding, be there for her and do everything possible to understand that this is not as easy as you may think.
Mom, it really is okay if you cannot breastfeed! SCREECH!! Nails going down a blackboard. The needle on a record player stopping! Yes, me, the SavvyHealthGirl said it! The breast advocates are going to shoot me! But, I never want any mother to ever believe that she is a bad or awful mother because she was not able to breastfeed her child. A woman goes through enough as it is over nine months of carrying a human being and then having to figure out what to do with it now that it’s out! So making her feel guilty because she didn’t produce enough milk, is cruel. Many of us were not breastfed and we were healthy, intelligent and well adjusted children. Let me be clear, I am not saying not that you should not try to breastfeed, but if you try and are not able (for whatever reason) your baby can still be healthy. You will still be a good mom.
There are so many resources out there for moms on breastfeeding. I have listed some below. You can find out if your city has a Baby Friendly and/or a Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital. You can get also find out where lactation consultants are in your area who can help you ease into breastfeeding.
This post is dedicated to all of my friends who are either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think they may want to get pregnant some day. For those of you outside of the world of public health, there has been a new focus since 2006 on preparing a woman’s body BEFORE she thinks about getting pregnant. It’s called preconception health and health care. Naturally, when most women hear the word “preconception” they automatically break it down in their minds and think this doesn’t apply to them because they are not thinking about being pregnant anytime soon. But that is the key — having a healthy body BEFORE you even begin thinking about getting pregnant or planning to get pregnant. Because 50% of the U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, it is even more important for a woman to be healthy NOW and not when it’s too late. It’s simple actually — healthy women=healthy babies and healthy babies=healthy communities. It’s a cyclical effect.
Generally, a woman doesn’t know she is pregnant until after 4 weeks of gestation which is the most critical period of development. This is why preconception health trumps prenatal health and care. By taking of your body in advance, you can feel a little better about that 4 week period of development, that you may not be aware of, because you know you were eating healthy, exercising, less drinking of alcohol and not smoking.
Here is an idea of what is happening during those first 4 weeks:
Neural tube forms - It will develop into the nervous system (Brain, spinal cord, hair, and skin). The baby already has the foundation for thought, senses, feeling, and more!
The heart and primitive circulatory system rapidly form – While still in its beginning stages, this is the very life support system that will carry the baby throughout his or her life.
So ladies (and men), I ask that you if you are thinking about having a baby next month or two years from now, that you do some simple things today to help you have a healthy baby and healthy pregnancy. It will make a difference!
- Get a check-up for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, seizures and thyroid disease.
- Get tested for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Take a vitamin with folic acid every day.
- Eat healthy, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Be active! Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Keep stress under control and do pleasant things that will keep you in good spirits.
- Don’t smoke, drink or use drugs.
Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a fan of caesarean (C-section) births unless it is an ABSOLUTE emergency . . . life or death situation for a mother and/or her unborn fetus. Or if you have had a caesarean previously. For these reasons I can understand. But if you elect to have a C-section so you can pick the day your baby is born or if your doctor suggests you have it so they can make it easier for their schedule, then I have a huge issue, huge!!!
There are just too many immediate, short term and long term health complications that are associated with C-Sections for both mom and baby. While it seems like the ideal situation — choosing when you give birth– it is not always the best situation. Many women don’t realize the health issues they will face afterwards. Finally, a study has revealed what many of us health professionals have already known, that caesareans, especially early caesareans can have negative impacts on the baby.
A study supported by NICHD was published last Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine about the threat that early caesareans pose to newborns. The study shows that more than one-third of mothers who had their babies by repeat C-Section, had them earlier than recommended medical guidelines. As a result, the babies experienced major health complications like respiratory distress, infections, hypoglycemia, being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, or being hospitalized for five or more days.
Although babies born by Caesarean section after just 37 weeks of pregnancy are considered full-term, the study found they were twice as likely to suffer complications as those born by Caesarean after 39 weeks. Infants born by Caesarean at 38 weeks were 50 percent more likely to have a medical problem than those born at 39 weeks.
Ladies, I only ask that you do your research when it comes to elective C-Sections and ask your doctor tons of questions if they are suggesting a C-section, especially for your first birth. Be informed. Remember you are your best health advocate.
I don’t think people truly realize how important and essential oral health is to their overall health. This is especially true for women’s health. I didn’t realize how much of an impact being a woman has on my oral health until I had my wisdom tooth out recently. In preparing for this, I did some research and found out that it’s best to have your wisdom tooth out right before your cycle begins, 23-28 days to be exact. Who knew? Thankfully, the date I chose fell right between those days! Here’s my other new found fact: if you are taking birth control pills, you are more likely to experience dry socket. How crazy is that? I was extremely blessed that I didn’t get dry socket because every woman I spoke to said they got it and it was extremely painful. It is so hard being a woman!!
There has actually been a great deal of research conducted that shows a link between poor oral health (gum disease) and adverse health issues affecting women. Because gum disease is a bacterial infection, it can enter the bloodstream and may be a factor in causing other health complications such as heart disease, stroke, pregnancy, diabetes and respiratory problems.
As women we should be aware of the special oral health changes we face throughout our lives. Our changes with hormone levels during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause enhance the way gums react to plaque. During these times, it critical that women thoroughly brush and floss every day in order to prevent gum disease. Here is important information related to women’s health and oral health that you should know:
- Menstruation — some women find that their gums swell and bleed prior to their periods, while others experience cold sores or canker sores. These symptoms usually go away once your period starts.
- Oral contraceptives — inflamed gums are one of the most common side effects.
- Pregnancy — studies show many pregnant women experience pregnancy gingivitis, when dental plaque builds up on the teeth and irritates the gums. Symptoms include red, inflamed and bleeding gums. Prenatal care is especially important. Gum disease may also trigger increased levels of biological fluids that may induce labor.
- Menopause — oral symptoms experienced during this stage of a women’s life include red or inflamed gums, oral pain and discomfort, burning sensations, altered taste sensations and dry mouth.
- Osteoporosis — a number of studies have suggested a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. Researchers suggest this may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports teeth may be decreased. When combined with gum disease, osteoporosis speeds up the process of bone loss around the teeth
Remember, brush, floss and have check-ups/cleanings regularly to prevent gum disease and other forms of bacteria in your mouth.
It’s Springtime and that means lots of new lives will soon be making their way into this world. I definitely see more pregnant women in the spring and summer, than I do in the winter. Much like last year, I seem to have a few girlfriends that are expecting. A couple of them are still exercising and some of them, not so much. Of course, there are many valid reasons why they don’t exercise — severe fatigue, morning sickness, and discomfort from the baby sitting on their bladder. It’s a little hard to walk 30 minutes when you have to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes. Not very many restrooms on the hiking trail.
Understanding all of these challenges, I am a firm believer that women who are pregnant should try their very best to get some physical activity on most days. Exercising while pregnant has several health benefits: keeping your weight to the maximum you should gain, reducing your risk of getting gestational diabetes, and strengthening your bones. A few women also told me that working out did help with the nausea, it helped them lose the pregnancy weight much faster and it helped a little bit with the labor. It also helped them bounce back faster, energy-wise, after the baby was born. There is definitely something to be said for exercise, but you still need to be very careful in the type of exercise you do while you are pregnant. Keep the following things (from the March of Dimes) in mind as you begin thinking how you can incorporate exercise into your next nine months:
*Before you go out and run a marathon, talk with your health care provider. Not all pregnant women should exercise, especially if they are at risk of preterm labor or suffer from a serious ailment, such as heart or lung disease.
*Think about the type of exercise you want to do. Know that it’s okay to try several things. You can do brisk walking for 30 minutes or more, and you don’t need to join a health club or buy any special equipment. You can also swim, which is really good for pregnant women. The water supports the weight of your growing body and provides resistance that helps bring your heart rate up.
*You can also look for classes that are specifically designed for you such as prenatal yoga or aerobic classes for pregnant women.
*Avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as horseback riding or downhill skiing. Stay away from sports in which you could get hit in the belly, such as ice hockey, kickboxing or soccer. Especially after the third month, avoid exercises that require you to lie flat on your back. Lying on your back can restrict the flow of blood to the uterus and endanger your baby. Finally, never scuba dive. This sport may lead to dangerous gas bubbles in the baby’s circulatory system.
*Most importantly, pay attention to your body and how you are feeling during and after exercise. Don’t overdo it—try to build up your level of fitness gradually. If you have any serious problems, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, decreased fetal movement or contractions, stop exercising and contact your health care provider immediately.
Enjoy these nine months as best you can and help your body adjust by adding a bit of exercise to your new lifestyle on a regular basis.
Okay I have some good news about coffee and caffeine as a follow up to my post from last week. You know me, always trying to give you all the most current and accurate research that is out there. Just know there is always going to be research to top the other research and update the past science to provide the current science. So keep that in mind and stay informed to be savvy about your health. In the March issue of “O Magazine” Dr. David Katz answered a question from a reader about caffeine and the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Here is what he had to say:
- Caffeine can interfere with the absorption of certain minerals including calcium, magnesium and iron, but the loss is minimal.
- Some studies, as I pointed out in the other post, drinking coffee can thin bones but it can be offset by adding milk. He suggests nonfat powdered milk — yuck, but less calories.
- The latest research shows coffee actually contributes nutrients to our daily intake. It’s the leading source of antioxidants in the American diet and primarily because we drink so much of it. (Who knew?)
- Research also suggests drinking up to three cups a day can actually have beneficial effects on health. Mineral loss can be offset by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Okay so maybe we don’t have to give up our coffee entirely, but I still think too much caffeine is just not good for you. Everything in moderation. Seriously, if it was okay, would there really be a strong recommendation for pregnant women not to drink it? I also think there is still truth to losing weight by not drinking coffee. Think about it. When you tend to drink coffee, isn’t there generally a muffin, donut, bagel, or scone next to your cup? Just a thought that we probably don’t eat as healthy as we could when we drink coffee. So I am still going to give it up. I survived week one and I am sure I will survive the next 5 weeks. I will keep you all posted.
Ahhh . . . there is nothing like a hot, aromatic and smooth cup of coffee first thing on a Sunday morning. Oh and a Monday morning to get you going! I love to mix my grinds with a few dashes of cinnamon. It gives it a nice tasty kick to your cup of java. But now, my mother has ruined it for me. She told me today that she read a study, article, something, that stated if we just stopped drinking coffee daily, we could lose 10 pounds! Is that decaf or caffeinated? Because I only drink decaf. Maybe that doesn’t count. I don’t know, let me weigh this . . . being able to actually hold a conversation with my colleagues on a Monday morning by 10 a.m. or fitting into a pair of size 10 jeans. Such a tough decision! I think I may go for the jeans! I may be a little less sociable in the morning, but I’ll look good as I walk by grouchy!!
So I am not sure how much truth there is to this, but it’s worth a try. Let’s face it, we all know that once you add the flavored cream and/or sugar to the coffee, the calories have gone up. And if you are a latte or mocha kind of girl, then you are already looking at 300-450 calories and 20-30 grams of sugar. Let us not forget the whipped cream.
Many of us already know that caffeine really isn’t good for us. It’s been linked to several women’s health issues such as infertility, osteoporosis, and low birth weight babies. So for those of you who drink caffeinated coffee regularly, the news may not be so great. You too, may want to go for the jeans. In the bit of research I did, I found that caffeine can increase hunger and therefore making it more difficult to lose weight. No wonder every coffee shop has delectable pastries just begging for you to buy them. I have also heard that coffee can increase the level of toxins in your body, again making it harder to lose weight as your body is attempting to push the toxins out to decrease fat. Definitely some food for thought.
As you sip on that morning java while reading this, you may want to think how your body responds to caffeine. Is it the best thing for you and your health? Try replacing it with something like a skim, hot chocolate or green tea. They are definitely less addictive choices. I will let you know in 6 weeks if giving up coffee really helps you lose 10 pounds. I can feel the withdrawal already, wish me luck!