Archive for the 'Advice' Category

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Selfies of Uber-fit Moms who show off bodies after Birth are Selfish

Personally I am tired of these moms coming out of anonymity to show off post baby ultra-fit bodies by posting selfies on Facebook while scantily clad to put the rest of us normal people to shame. Really, is there not any decorum and decency left? Of course I say “good to you” if you can find the time, means and let’s not kid ourselves, genes, to drop all your baby weight in mere days after giving birth and reveal something like a set of six pack abs. But in my opinion these photos reveal more about vanity than muscles.

However it does give me pause to wonder if they are forgetting about the baby or were more focused on their own body weight than a healthy pregnancy. If you are nursing postpartum, which is a fulltime job in itself, you should be consuming an additional 500 calories a day for a total of approximately 2500 calories a day to support milk production.

Many nursing women find that over time nursing does help them burn off a lot of the baby weight while continuing to eat a healthy 2500 calorie a day diet, particularly as the baby gets older and eats more. Personally I think nursing fulltime should be redefined as something of a contact or endurance sport as it does take a high level of skill, patience, strategy, quick reaction time and limitless energy to get it right. Of course the long-term benefits to your baby and to your own health are infinite and priceless (and yes it does save you money). However, any sort of weight drop from nursing is usually gradual and generally does not kick in for several months as the early day and weeks postpartum are really about revving up your milk supply and learning how to feed your baby successfully (and around the clock while trying to steal catnaps whenever possible and feel vaguely human).

So my message to the exhibitionists who are looking for instant fame and recognition through a viral Instagram or u-tube videos for their abnormal postpartum weight loss is, please keep it to yourself or between you and your husband. We may gawk at your photo and send encouraging messages, but really you are shaming the rest of us normal people with actual human bodies that do not react like yours.

Redirect the focus to your postpartum health and that of our baby and less on vanity. These early days with your new baby are a precious bonding experience which can set the tone for your relationship with your child for life. Savor them, expect them to be heartwarming as well as challenging steeped in sleep deprivation. Be sure to rely upon the kindness of friends and family who offer to help and cook a meal or watch the baby while you take a break or rest.

Remember to give yourself a pat on the back for successfully bearing a child, managing your life and body through 9 months of pregnancy and having the guts to care for a newborn who does not always follow an instruction manual and seeking to make that new baby a priority in your life in the days, months and years to come. That’s the important stuff, six pack abs can wait.

Surprise Babies are Surprisingly Common

Although most pregnancy test news is welcome/expected/ long hoped far, not all are. In fact according to recent statistics it is estimated that almost half, 49%, of all pregnancies are unplanned in the United States.

Most American families want two children. The average American woman spends five years pregnant, nursing and postpartum or trying to become pregnant. The next three decades she tries to avoid unintentional pregnancy. By age 45 half of all American women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy and 30% will have had an abortion.

Personally I find these statistics very surprising. We all hear about unplanned teenage pregnancy, the “bonus baby” in the family with two kids or the “miracle baby” for the mom who suddenly gets pregnant in her 40’s after adopting two babies thinking she was not biologically capable of having a child with her husband. But who knew that what seemed like the exceptional unplanned pregnancy, is actually a normal and common occurrence, even if everyone is not admitting their child, or the timing/spacing of their child, was unplanned.

Being a mom of three children I often get the question, “was your third baby planned?” It’s usually posed by people I don’t know well or virtual strangers who believe it’s a perfectly OK benign question to ask. I suppose anytime you go over the average two kids per family, you are assumed to have a surprise baby. I am also continually amazed by how many people readily admit that their third baby was not planned and came as “on its own” or “out of nowhere.” I have yet to encounter a parent who says that they regret that surprise child or that it has not impacted their life in some positive and unexpected way although many will admit they “have their hands full” or “it took an adjustment period” to regulate their lives.

Although we welcomed every child in our family, we did not “plan” their exact birth timing (although all were born in November somehow) and were pleasantly surprised each time the test came back with a positive blue line. There are ways to be pretty bulletproof when you are really done having children and many couples over 40 who are “sure” they want to be done, have utilized multiple methods to insure they don’t have any more additions to their brood. Sometimes I think the ones that don’t use multiple foolproof methods may not be convinced they are truly done and are leaving a small window to fate or chance to decide if another child is part of their family’s destiny.

My advice to women everywhere who get pregnant unexpectedly and who choose to keep their baby, is to feel better knowing you are not alone in having an unplanned pregnancy and that having another child in your family can be a truly positive experience. Yes all babies are hard work and expensive, but hard work isn’t always a bad thing and you learn as you go, even when life throws you a curve ball. Half of American moms have experienced an unexpected pregnancy, although you may not hear about it. Also I would venture to guess that the majority of those moms are happy to have the surprise child (even if it was a shock initially and took a little warming up to) and grew to love them every bit as much as any “planned” children they might have had.

Life does not always go according to plan, but wouldn’t it be boring if “The Plan” never changed and was so predictable. There is always something good than can come out of a surprise or a challenge. A miracle baby may be just what you need in your life and future.

Stay Away from BPA during Pregnancy

As if we don’t have enough to be worried about during pregnancy, we now have new research to reinforce a suspected health danger, BPA. In pregnancy, exposure to high levels of the BPA chemical may increase risk of miscarriage based on findings from a recent study from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

This study found that pregnant women who had the highest levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, in their blood were more likely to miscarry (by 80%) than pregnant women with low levels of BPA.

BPA is commonly used in food packaging and it also used to line cans to prevent corrosion. Even more concerning it is found in plastic baby bottles as well as tableware and food storage containers.

Researchers refer to BPA as a “hormone disrupting chemical” which links to reproductive problems including obesity, diabetes and neurodevelopmental delays. All the more reason to be more cautious with your exposure to BPA during pregnancy.

The BPA chemical is currently banned in Canada and the European Union. The United States banned it from baby bottles and sippy cups last July 2010 but has rejected ban of the chemical altogether.

Small levels of exposure to BPA are reported to be safe and the study has not confirmed causality of BPA exposure to miscarriage as there may be other risk factors involved. However the findings are convincing enough that pregnant women should be extra vigilant about BPA exposure.

To be on the safe side, parents should discard plastic bottles and sippy cups acquired earlier than July 2012 as they were made before the BPA ban on these products. Be sure to throw out plastic bottles that have scratches as they may contain bacteria which increases the release of BPA. Also, limit your children’s exposure to BPA products including the plastic food storage containers with BPA that are used for children’s meals.

Is the Uber-Fit Facebook Mom of 3 Sending the Right Message?

ExcuseA very fit mom of three has recently caused quite a bit of controversy over a photo of herself and her three young children she posted on Facebook. In the photo the 32 year old, Maria Kang, poses in a skimpy workout outfit to reveal washboard abs and an incredibly toned physique. Her three young sons surround her on the floor with ages attached to each, 8 months, 2 years, and 3 years.

However, the part that seems to have set off the viral spiral of this photo is the seemingly accusatory remark that looms over this attractive young family, “What’s your excuse?”

Since we now live in an age of social media where anything seemingly harmlessly posted on Facebook, tweeted or Instagramed is no longer personal and can quickly go viral in a cause an otherwise ordinary person to be an overnight web sensation with good or bad publicity. Maybe this young women did not mean to offend her followers but when a posting like this takes off to the mass public, people feel compelled to share their opinions and emotional reactions to it and the originator of the post/photo.

In my opinion, I do believe it’s commendable that this healthy mom has been able to achieve such an incredibly fit physique after having three young children in less than four years. However she is by far the exception to the average woman’s body after three kids and the caption, “What’s your excuse?”, comes off as accusatory and egotistical rather than inspiring as she says claims she intended it to be. Maybe a better caption should have read “You can do it too!” or “Love the Babies but shed the Baby Fat!”

She probably could have cashed in big on a postpartum exercise DVD or established a new career as a top personal trainer, inspirational speaker, blogger, etc. Instead a remark reading the wrong way seems to just add more shame to the rest of us with young babies, especially those of us who can never seem to kick those last 10 pounds (or more) of post baby weight.

Kang explains, “I wanted to inspire people,” she explains, adding that the “What’s your excuse?” part was simply a borrowed, popular phrase that’s been used in various “fitspiration” campaigns. “I wanted to say, ‘I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.’” Maybe that caption would have translated better…

Kang, of Sacramento, California, is a former pageant queen and fitness competitor who founded the nonprofit Fitness Without Borders in 2007. Ironically, she’s also a recovering bulimic. Kang says she understands why some people reacted so defensively. “I think people struggle with their weight. When you add on being a mother — and the pressures we face to have it all and be everything, including fit — the expectations are so high. I think some moms saw the picture and just said, ‘This is ridiculous.’” But still, she says, “I felt really frustrated. Being called a bad mother and a bad person definitely hurts.”

Although Kang posted this photo a year ago to her Facebook page, it only recently went viral. She recently reposted it to her 72,000 followers along with a “sort of” apology.

“I’m sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. I won’t go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two businesses, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer. What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. You created them. So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life.”

This apology/response which started off well seemed to end with the same accusatory tone her initial photo caption embodied. Clearly this addendum did not help her case to water down the haters. On the other hand her critics have not been too tactful in their retaliation calling her a “bully” and blaming her for the body shaming problem in the country, etc.

I think the learnings we can take from this are that moms everywhere feel they need support not criticism, especially from other moms. Women have long struggled with body image, multitasking and balancing life with children, work and other demands, let alone working out to achieve their pre-baby body or better. It is encouraging and inspiring to see that it can be done, albeit by a gorgeous beauty queen mom who may be a few years younger than many of us middle aged moms who have to work harder with bodies that are less forgiving after multiple pregnancies. Now I too am going on a bit of a rampage, although hopefully not a hateful one. I do admire someone that can achieve this level of fitness with or without children and marvel even more that a mom of three young children who can accomplish this feat (assuming there’s not a lot of airbrushing going on here).

But again, I really don’t think her caption or tone of apology was appropriate. I also think that in this social media frenzy age we have regular ordinary people becoming celebrities overnight with viral photos and videos. These ordinary people are not used to this level of media attention and are usually totally blindsided and unprepared for the sudden level scrutiny and feedback that follows. Maybe we should think twice before tweeting or Facebook posting something that may sound hurtful or mean. Having babies and taking care of children is an amazing job and a tremendously challenging job that is a lifetime commitment. Most of us are surprised by the level of responsibility and commitment as well as the level of love and attachment we feel for our kids. It’s sometimes hard to find the time or justify the time to take care of ourselves, our health and our bodies. But we should take care of ourselves and we should support and not shame one another.

Is Seafood Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Once you’re pregnant, everything you do in your life that affects your health needs to be examined closer to ensure the healthy development of your baby. Nutritional needs top the charts with increased attention to your diet which may be further complicated by morning sickness which, for some women, can last the entire nine months of pregnancy.

It comes as no surprise that lean protein is an optimal source of nutrition for anyone’s diet, but especially an expecting mom. In terms of calories per portion, seafood such as fish, particularly of the salmon variety which packs in those important fatty acids with low calories per portion can be a great choice. However, many pregnant women steer clear from seafood altogether with all the news we hear about mercury levels being dangerously high and a risk for the health of a developing fetus.

While some seafood may be best to avoid during pregnancy, it is not a great idea to cut out seafood altogether as they contain many nutrients that are vital to our baby’s health and development. As the saying goes don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. In the same notion don’t throw all the fish out of your diet with the worries of mercury and contamination, but do choose wisely. There are plenty of great seafood choices that are very beneficial to our developing fetus’ health as well as our own.

For starters, omega-3 fatty acids aid in brain development and provide high levels of lean protein. Fish can serve as a powerful weapon against birth defects when choosing the low mercury varieties such as salmon, sardines, haddock and cod. Seafood which is high in mercury which you should avoid during pregnancy include shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish. In moderation, tuna is not a problem as long as you avoid the albacore and blufin varieties and limit your consumption to a few servings a month.

It is also a good idea to steer clear of fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers that can carry high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs which could travel to the placenta and affect the development of the fetus. So do be cautious when eating fish from local lakes and rivers.

Raw shellfish and uncooked sushi are also seafood choices you should postpone during pregnancy. Also, make sure that cooked mussels, clams and oysters are actually cooked all the way through so that salmonella is not a threat. Pathogens such as salmonella are destroyed through cooking, otherwise they can cause severe food poisoning in pregnancy and may cross the placenta to the fetus as well.

It is easy to be overwhelmed with all the mercury and food poisoning cautions and simply avoid seafood altogether during pregnancy, but this would be a disservice to your developing baby and yourself as there are so many benefits to safe seafood choices, such as salmon for dinner. Seafood during pregnancy can be a very healthy choice, just choose wisely and space out your seafood meals and portion sizes for moderation.

Are Your Baby and Maternity Clothes Really Clean?

We all know that once you become a parent your laundry volume goes through the roof. Even pregnancy seems to be a precursor for the greater amount of laundry with maternity clothes generally being larger then our pre-pregnancy wardrobe and more frequent wardrobe changes. More body temperature changes and generally running at a higher temperature leads to increased sweating and often greater body discomfort (or fussiness with the way our clothes look on our changing body) which all lead to our laundry bins filling up quicker.

Taking care of a newborn just adds to the laundry pile with babies spitting up on their clothes, blowing out diapers, drooling and generally getting messy as they begin to crawl. Also we all know it is fun to change those cute baby clothes several times a day and show off our newborn in cute clean clothes to friends and family. It can often feel like we are raising a movie star as we shuffle our baby through multiple wardrobe changes gifted from baby showers before they outgrow the outfits in the next week.

As every new mom knows, staying ahead of the laundry can quickly become a fulltime job that never seems to end. If you are like me and most moms out there you probably feel just putting the clothes through the laundry machine with the right amount of detergent is getting them clean. You are also probably patting yourself on the back when you finally get through the overflowing bin of dirty clothes and have returned them nicely folded to the respective shelves and drawers.

It seems we are mistaken. Recent research by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) indicates that we may not be doing the laundry right. If we are using cold water with antibacterial detergent we are not getting our clothes as clean as we think. We are in fact putting dirty clothes right back on our body and even worse, on our babies.
First when it comes to the water temperature we are washing our clothes in, we need to go hotter. “If you’re putting clothes in cold water, you aren’t getting rid of bacteria,” Marcelle Pick, an ob-gyn and pediatric nurse practitioner at the Women to Women health care center in Yarmouth, Maine says. “For babies, their clothes tend to be more contaminated, so you should definitely wash using hotter temperatures.”

Cute onesies and adorable stuffed animals may look clean and you may hesitate to inflict a hot water machine wash on them, but there’s a good chance that they contain bacteria (and often the really bad kind, from feces). Of course you cannot throw all stuffed animals in the wash, but at least wipe with warm soapy water and make sure they thoroughly dry before you hand them back to your baby to cuddle.
According to the ACI’s recommendations for laundry procedures, cold water can be used to presoak items that have been heavily soiled (especially of the pee and poop variety). However we should use hot water in addition to detergent and bleach, if necessary, to thoroughly sanitize and disinfect dirty laundry.

The second step is using an effective detergent. Ed Osann from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior water policy analyst, explains, “Warm or even hot water is not hot enough to sterilize clothes exposed to fecal matter. If detergent is formulated for comparable effectiveness in cold water, then no extra benefit would be expected from warm water use.”
Contrary to what many of us would consider common sense, Osann advised avoiding antibacterial detergents as they actually promote growth of resistant bacteria. He also recommended thoroughly drying clothes in the dryer.

How frequently should we wash our clothing? It depends on what it is. The ACI recommends washing clothes more frequently that are tighter fitting and more likely to carry more bacteria. In our baby’s case, that would be just about everything but jackets, extra layer sweaters or flowy dresses that are not soiled. For ourselves and older children, items like underwear, socks, tanks and T-shirts, tights and even jeggings should be cleaned after each wear. Other items such as jeans and khakis can get 3-4 wears before they need to be cleaned. Towels should be hung to dry after each use and should also be washed every 3-4 days, especially if they are used by kids. Bed sheets should be washed at least every two weeks and more frequently if you sweat a lot, which is common during pregnancy and postpartum.

The next step is maintaining a clean washing and dryer by setting up a regular sanitizing routine. Clothes will get only as clean as the machine allows. Every week, or more if you do tons of laundry, you should run an empty cycle with your washer using hot water along with bleach and detergent to disinfect the washer (some washing machines have a sanitizing cycle labeled on the machine). Next be sure to run an extra rinse cycle to make sure the bleach is completely flushed out. After that it is a good idea to start off by washing your whites with hot water and detergent as there still may be some bleach remaining in the machine from disinfecting. After washing, dry your whites on high for 45 minutes to sanitize your dryer. This way your laundry machine and dryer are sanitized for the rest of your laundry.

When the weather is nice and sunny, you can be more eco-friendly approach to save energy by washing in warm water and line-drying in the sun. The good news is that as your children get older and out of diapers, there are less of the particularly bad bacteria types to contend with, so washing in warm water may do the trick most of the time.

Remember husbands and older kids can do the laundry too, so don’t hesitate to train as needed and delegate. Just make sure they know the laundry for optimal cleanliness.

Light During Pregnancy Is Important For Fetal Eye Development

A fascinating new study of mice during pregnancy, leads evidence that pregnant humans also need light during pregnancy to aid in proper fetal eye development.

A new study conducted by scientists from Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and recently published in the journal Nature, reveals information about the importance of sunlight during pregnancy for the eyesight of babies that are born prematurely. The study concluded that the eye, which requires light in order to see, also needs light to develop normally during pregnancy.

Co-author Richard Lang, PhD, a researcher in the Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center said:

“This fundamentally changes our understanding of how the retina develops. We have identified a light-response pathway that controls the number of retinal neurons. This has downstream effects on developing vasculature in the eye and is important because several major eye diseases are vascular diseases.”

Lang collaborated with David Copenhagen, PhD, a scientist in the departments of Opthalmology and Physiology at UCSF. Mouse models were used in their study which produced surprising outcomes:

Copenhagen commented, “Several stages of mouse eye development occur after birth. Because of this, we had always assumed that if light played a role in the development of the eye, it would also happen only after birth.”

The researchers in the current study revealed that the activation of the newly labeled light-response pathway must occur during pregnancy in order to achieve the precisely planned program that creates a normal eye. They point out that it is crucial for the right number of photons to reach the mother’s body by late term pregnancy.

The team of scientists completed several experiments using laboratory mouse models that let them look at the light-response pathway’s purpose and parts. Mice were raised in darkness, and in a regular day-night cycle starting at late term pregnancy to examine the comparative outcomes on vascular progression of the eye.

The scientists confirmed the purpose of the light response pathway by changing an opsin gene in mice known as Opn4 that creates melanopsin which stops the initiation of the photo pigment.

The melanopsin protein is there in both humans and mice during pregnancy. The authors say they will continue to examine how the light-response pathway might impact the probability of pre-term babies developing retinopathy of prematurity and its relatedness to other eye conditions.

So get outside and into the sunlight during your pregnancy as much as possible on a regular basis. The natural light not only helps your mood but is essential for your baby’s healthy eye development!

Learning To Say “NO”, Everyone Mom and Expecting Mom’s Right and Prerogative!

This week I was out sick with some version of the flu. Admittedly I got a flu shot a few months ago, so I’m not positive it was the flu, but it was not pleasant and had me coughing and sneezing in my bed for most of the week. I can only imagine that it would have been ten times worse if I had not gotten the flu shot. So at this point I am at a loss with how to qualify it, do I say “I have the flu” and provoke everyone’s sympathy and judgment (for assuming I did not get a flu shot) or just go with the generic “I’m sick” description to include any and everything and maybe leave some doubt as to how sick I truly am. The short and long of it is that I am really sick and should not be around the general public coughing and sneezing involuntarily and generally spreading my germs to innocent children, parents, preschool teachers and strangers alike.

I did find, however, there is a silver lining in this yucky sinus infection I am a victim to. That lining revealed itself with a “get out of jail free” card that I have been using like a madwomen on every single engagement and activity I have been assigned to this week. It has been nice to “just say no” and have no guilt for an entire week of getting out of an overbooked schedule of school volunteering, carpooling, field trips, gym classes, and even social engagements with friends. With the exception of getting my kids out the door in the morning to their respective schools and preschools and aiding with their homework and dinners in the evening, I largely have been at my own disposal for most of the week which has been nothing short of lovely. My husband has pitched in more to let me grab an extra 15 minutes or so of sleep in the morning. He has helped with my 4 year old’s transportation to preschool by re-arranging his business meetings. I opted out of the fieldtrip to the library, lunch with a friend, my scheduled workout at the gym, my hosting of a dinner with friends, a design meeting to redo my bathroom, volunteer ski coaching this weekend and some other volunteering at the school and church. Instead I have enjoyed some much needed time alone to read the news, a novel, a few self help books that I find interesting and insightful, some time to shop online for much needed furniture for the house and a great excuse to go to bed an hour earlier. Even my babysitter the other day took pity on me to do the extra dishes in the sink and vacuum all the kids’ rooms. Overall it’s been a pretty good deal. My mother even called worried about me and telling me “to get to the doctor right away!” I didn’t get to the doctor but I drank in the extra maternal attention and felt loved like child. Just this morning I felt like a real hero trudging to the bus stop with my kids. Wrapped in extra layers of clothes, hair array and clutching tissues in my hand, I greeted my fellow moms with my red nose and rasping voice, evoking sympathy and support from my neighbors for my mere effort of leaving my bed to accompany my kids out the door.

As a result of this greater restfulness and empowerment to make my own choices of spending time to recuperate I have felt like a better person and a better mom, more grounded than ever before. Why isn’t life always like this? Apart from the annoying hacking cough and nose drops throughout the night so I could breathe, it’s nice feeling more cared for and generally getting out of an overbooked schedule. It’s also nice to do this without feeling any major guilt, my main culprit in life since being a fulltime mom to three little ones and quitting my corporate job.

My take-away from this experience is that life goes on without me. I am needed and loved for what I can do and the relationships I have, but sometimes I overvalue my importance. I mistakenly feel that if I’m not fully present and perfect for every last demand made on my time, the whole world will collapse and my kids will suffer. The truth is that my kids learn a little more self-reliance when I am not 100% well and present in their lives and a little failure on their part, like forgetting to finish all their homework or practice their piano one week, may result in a lesson well learned- that of learning the ramifications of not doing their part and getting a bad grade or feeling embarrassed for not being prepared for class or a music lesson. The stakes are not high now, they are in elementary school and they can afford a few failures that may protect them from greater failures down the road when they do not have their mom hovering over them to assure they fail at nothing at all.

I also learned that saying “no” is very empowering. As a mom I often forget that “no” is even an option. Also, since I quit my fulltime demanding corporate job and work for myself , I often feel that I am at everyone’s disposal – any class that needs a last minute volunteer, that’s me. If the 3rd grade teacher needs an extra parent for the field trip, I’m there. If my friend needs me to carpool last minute and take her daughter across town to a girl’s scout meeting in the evening that’s totally inconvenient to my Friday night, sure I can do that! (We’ll just eat dinner a little later!) If my son’s preschool teacher needs someone to pitch in last minute for snack day, I can do it! In order to prove myself the ever mighty mom and community helper, I am generally at anyone’s disposal anytime of the day or week. Being sick has forced me to say “no” and surprisingly no one is angry about it, in fact they are quite sympathetic and caring about my condition. I can really lounge in bed all day and feel good about it. I just got my first full night’s sleep in over a year the other night as I woke up feeling slightly better. Then I thought, “oh no”, I’ll need to go to that PTC at the school tomorrow night and cook for that homeowner’s potluck on Saturday. Maybe I’m still sick enough to stay home?

I now realize how silly this all is. Does it really take coming down with the flu where I am not physically able to do as much to figure out that “no” is a word we are all capable of using when we need to/want to. Although it is good and admirable to pitch in over and beyond the call of duty now and then, it should not be a habit. Just being a mom is going beyond the call of duty every single day and just because we don’t get a paycheck or a pat on the back for that all consuming, most important job in the world, does not mean we don’t get to say “no” when we feel like it and take time out to refuel before we really are physically sick and emotionally drained. “No” is a privilege and a right we should remember to employ anytime we need to as it will allow us to draw boundaries to protect ourselves and make our own voluntary decisions more wholeheartedly. It also allows our “yeses” to be more real, more enjoyed and more purposeful. Yes, we do still have the right to choose what we do and don’t want to do, just maybe not when it comes to helping our kid in the bathroom!

Pregnancy is great time to gain experience at saying “no” if that’s something you need a little more practice at doing. Pregnancy affords you all kinds of luxuries you can and should take advantage of – like a more doting partner, unfamiliar men opening doors for you and giving up their bus seats. Morning sickness is no picnic, but it does afford you the right to say “no” to your well meaning family members who want you to attend a certain family wedding across the country or participate in the weekly family potluck. It even allows you the privilege of saying “no” to your employer regarding working overtime, travel or working at all. You have your doctor’s permission if need be to enforce that “no” to guard your health and that of your developing baby’s. Believe me, those “no’s” are worthwhile and will be excellent practice for you when you are a mom and find yourself becoming a professional juggler more often than not. If you want to be a really good mom, learn your “nos” now and make it a useful word in your vocabulary. Your friends and loved ones may be a little shocked at first if they are not used to hearing you say it, but it gets easier over time for them and you. My 4 year old knows about this magic word already and I guess he sees it works for him from time to time as he keeps using it unabashedly, maybe I should take some lessons from him!

Sex while pregnant is generally safe

 

Research has shown that having sex while pregnant is generally safe.

Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the study showed that there are few complications involved in the practice.

Using current evidence, the team from Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto explained that the uncommon, but potential, risks involved in sex in pregnancy include premature labour, pelvic inflammatory disease, haemorrhage in placenta previa and blood clots.

Dr Clare Jones and her co-authors wrote: “Sex in pregnancy is normal.

“There are very few proven contraindications and risks to intercourse in low-risk pregnancies, and therefore these patients should be reassured.

“In pregnancies complicated by placenta previa or an increased risk of preterm labour, the evidence to support abstinence is lacking, but it is a reasonable benign recommendation given the theoretical catastrophic consequences.”

They concluded that comfort level and readiness to engage in sexual activity should be used as guides by the couple involved.

Why the health of pregnant women matters to us all

By Annie Murphy Paul,author of “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.”

“Pregnant Is the New Sexy,” read the T-shirt a friend gave me when I was a few weeks away from my due date. With my swollen ankles and waddling walk, I wasn’t so sure – but it’s hard to deny that pregnancy has become rather chic. Glossy magazines flaunt actresses’ and models’ rounded, half-clad bellies on their covers. Inside they chronicle celebrities’ pregnancies in breathless detail, from the first “bump” sighting to the second-trimester weight gain to the baby-gear shopping spree. And now comes the news that “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” – the advice bible that has sold more than 14 million copies – will be made into a feature film.

There’s something wrong with this picture. Even as Americans fuel a rapidly growing pregnancy industry of designer maternity jeans and artsy pregnancy portraits, we’re ignoring the real news about these nine months. An emerging science known as the developmental origins of health and disease – DOHaD for short – is revealing that the conditions we encounter in the womb can have a lifelong impact on our health and well-being, affecting everything from our appetite and metabolism to our susceptibility to disease to our intelligence and temperament.

The more we learn about these effects, the clearer it becomes that investing in maternal health would return larger and longer-lasting dividends than almost any other comparable public health investment. But as a nation, we’re heading in exactly the opposite direction, spending more and more of our limited resources on the later stages of life instead of where they can make the most difference: at the very beginning.

Take obesity. Many anti-obesity initiatives concentrate on changing adults’ behavior, trying to persuade us to eat less and exercise more. But research shows that these efforts have limited effectiveness. A recent analysis of U.S. obesity-prevention campaigns, conducted by Olaf Werder of the University of New Mexico, concluded that their “overall impact on obesity has been negligible.”

Even public health programs aimed at school-age children come too late: Almost a third of American children over age 2are already overweight or obese, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Clearly, the conditions that contribute to obesity must begin exerting their influence very early in children’s lives – as early as their time in the womb.

DOHaD research shows that the intrauterine environment of a woman who is significantly overweight when she conceives – or who puts on excessive weight during pregnancy – affects the developing fetus in ways that make it more likely to become overweight itself one day. Scientists are still figuring out exactly why this happens, but it appears that prenatal experience may alter the functioning of organs such as the heart and the pancreas, may shift the proportion of lean and fat body mass, and may influence the brain circuits that regulate appetite and metabolism.

In a cleverly designed study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2009, researchers compared children born to the same mothers before and after they’d had successful anti-obesity surgery. Children born after their mothers’ surgery weighed less at birth and were three times less likely to become severely obese than their older brothers and sisters. Weight-loss surgery isn’t for everyone, of course. Still, what if before conceiving, overweight women were routinely counseled by their doctors about the effects of their weight on future offspring? And what if women who were gaining weight too rapidly in pregnancy were offered more help in controlling it?

The results might look something like those found in studies of diabetes treatment during pregnancy. Research shows that the children of diabetic women are more likely than others to develop diabetes – in one recent study, seven times more likely. Like obesity, diabetes has a strong genetic component, but scientists are also beginning to focus on the effects of a diabetic intrauterine environment. For example, a long-running study of the Pima Indians of Arizona, who have one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, concluded that exposure to the disease while in the womb was responsible for about 40 percent of the diabetes cases studied.

A pregnant woman’s diabetes can also affect the odds that her child will become obese. In a study of almost 10,000 mother-child pairs, researchers from the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest found that women who developed diabetes during pregnancy and were not treated had children who were twice as likely to become obese as the children of women without that illness. Pregnant women whose diabetes was treated with insulin, however, had children with no additional risk of obesity. Simply by controlling their mothers’ blood sugar during pregnancy, in other words, the expected doubling of these children’s obesity risk was completely reversed.

Even the mental health of a pregnant woman can have a long-term impact on her offspring. A 2008 study by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in California found that women with even mild symptoms of depression are 60 percent more likely to deliver early than other women; those who are severely depressed have double the risk of premature birth. The babies of depressed women are also more likely to have low birth weight, to be irritable and to have trouble sleeping.

Of course, these complications may come about in part because many depressed women don’t take good care of themselves: They may eat poorly, smoke or drink alcohol, or fail to get prenatal care. But depression itself may shift the biochemical balance in a woman’s body in a fateful manner. For one thing, the stress hormone cortisol, which is often elevated in people with depression, may cross the placenta, directly affecting fetal development, and it may also affect a pregnant woman’s blood vessels, reducing the oxygen and nutrients that reach the fetus.

The case seems pretty clear: We should make a nationwide effort to ensure that every obstetrician checks every pregnant patient’s mental state, along with her weight and blood pressure. Women who show signs of depression should be offered therapy or, in cases that warrant it, carefully administered antidepressant medication.

Adult behavior can be difficult to change, as we know from the general ineffectiveness of anti-obesity campaigns. But pregnant women are a special case: They’re usually highly motivated, they’re typically in regular contact with health-care providers, and they have to keep up their efforts for only nine months. Pregnancy therefore offers a singular opportunity to improve lives for decades to come, via interventions that cost little compared with the enormous price tags for obesity, diabetes, low birth weight and premature delivery.

So why isn’t this critical window one of our top health-care priorities?

Part of the reason may simply be our preference for quick fixes and for dealing with only those problems that exist in the here and now. It can be hard to wrap our heads around the notion that a woman’s diet or mental state today will have a serious effect on her children’s health many years out. But there’s a less obvious reason that resistance to maternal health initiatives might crop up among the liberal-leaning individuals who typically support public health initiatives and women’s health-care issues: abortion politics.

Caring for the fetus, protecting the fetus from harm – to abortion rights advocates, such measures sound like the steps antiabortion forces have taken to try to establish a fetus’s rights. What’s the difference between controlling a diabetic pregnant woman’s blood sugar and, say, charging a pregnant woman who uses drugs with child abuse? Between telling an obese pregnant woman that her weight may predispose her child to obesity and requiring a woman to look at an ultrasound of her fetus before proceeding with an abortion?

The crucial difference lies in the intent behind the intervention and in the way it’s carried out. Help in achieving a healthy pregnancy must be offered to pregnant women, not forced upon them. And the aim behind such efforts must be to foster the health and well-being of the woman and her fetus, not to score political points.

Ultimately, research on the developmental origins of health and disease should lead us to a new perspective on pregnancy, one that’s not about coercing or controlling women – nor about ogling or fetishizing them – but about helping them, and their future children, be as healthy and as happy as they can be.