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Baby AJ has Arrived!

Follow your Preggers Geek

Four days late and after an unexpected induction, Alexander Justus was born at 8 pounds, 11 ounces on August 8th. He was 21 inches long. They say making a birth plan is a great idea—and it is, in the sense that it gets you to think about everything you may encounter and how you want to direct your birth—but at the same time, the only thing anyone can guarantee about your plan is that something will happen that you didn’t expect!

Take my experience. I had a basic plan, I hired a doula. I wanted to attempt a natural labor and birth without pain medication. Four days after I was due, however, I could no longer feel the baby move. Knowing that stillbirth has happened several times to my female relatives, I didn’t delay. I called my doctor and was told to head to the hospital.

Thankfully, the monitors showed a healthy heartbeat, but since I had been scheduled to have the membranes stripped the next day anyway, my OB said she would prefer to just do it then and admit me. Several hours later, they started me on Pitocin since I wasn’t dilating. A few hours after that, they broke my water.

Labor’s a You-Know-What

Up until they broke my water, I was rolling with the punches. I was making progress and riding the contractions with patience. Within twenty minutes of the water breaking, the contractions were through the roof—it was basically 0 to 60 in no time flat. The doula was away at the time, and it was already after midnight. I had a very hard time managing the new level of pain and requested an epidural.

Thankfully, the epidural took care of the back pain but still left me with the ability to move my legs. By about 5am, they told me I was ready to push (even though I didn’t feel the urge yet). I could feel pain and pressure in my bottom but not the back or abdomen. After three hours of pushing, AJ arrived.

I won’t get into all the gory details of pushing, but there was some considerable unpleasantness (um, no one tells you beforehand that vomiting is common…we’ll just leave it at that). Despite the pain and the lack of sleep and the messy wreck of a person I was by the end, when they put my son on my tummy, I felt only joy and relief (OK, and a few stitches, too).

I never realized I was capable of such immense love and happiness. In the blink of an eye, your heart grows to the point of bursting and you instantly realize how precious life is. Then came the exhaustion and anxiety.

The Hospital Stay and the First Five Weeks

Awake for about 36 hours before I was able to get some rest, the days in the hospital were tough. They come in every hour or two to check vitals—even if you’re doing fine and just trying to sleep. I had difficulty breastfeeding and was unable to latch even with the help of lactation consultants. Pumping was difficult and I was hardly able to collect any colostrum while in the hospital. To say I was stressed would have been an understatement.

After two nights, we got the go-ahead to go home. AJ had received his newborn screening tests, his circumcision, and a clean bill of health (as had I).

The first week or two, we kept AJ in the room with us, sleeping in a pack-and-play. I’m a very sensitive sleeper, though, and woke up with every little whimper or squirm. Plus I woke up even when he was quiet because I was afraid he had stopped breathing (I chalked it up to new parent anxiety). After becoming increasingly stressed due to lack of sleep, I decided to move him to his crib in the nursery across the hall. I couldn’t hear every little squeak, but I could definitely hear him cry when he was hungry or upset. It was a smart move.

Five weeks in, I’m back to work (at home for a bit) and we’re adjusting well. We’ve had tons of company around helping with the cooking, cleaning, and diaper changes. It’s amazing how time flies. He’s up to 11 pounds already, and occasionally sleeping for more than three hours at a time—what a blessing!

Anyway, it’s been a great experience sharing my life as the Preggers Geek. I count my blessings every day that I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery and a healthy baby, and I love being a Mom. Now that I’m the Parenting Geek, I wish you all the best. Enjoy your own adventures in pregnancy and parenting!

Signing off,

The (Previously) Preggers Geek

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Screening and Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Testing Blood Sugar

All of the screening and diagnostic tests for diabetes involve drinking glucose-containing drinks and blood glucose measurements. If the tests identify gestational diabetes, you will be informed and asked to change your diet, requested to make more frequency prenatal visits, start monitoring your blood glucose levels at home, possible start insulin therapy, and have additional maternal and fetal monitoring.

Who should be screened for gestational diabetes?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends that every pregnant women should be screened for gestational diabetes.

During pregnancy when should diabetes screening be performed?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends in the absence of a high degree of suspicion for undiagnosed diabetes that universal screening be performed at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.  You can be screened as early as your first prenatal visit if you are obese, history of previous gestational diabetes, sugar in your urine sample, or a family history of diabetes. Specifically, if you have a prior pregnancy complicated by diabetes you are tested early due to a 33 to 50 percent chance of recurrence.

You will also be screened early at your first prenatal visit if any of the following are found:

  • Fasting glucose greater than126 mg/dL
  • A specific lab test for diabetes called A1C is greater than 6.5 percent
  • A Random not fasting blood glucose of greater than 200 mg/dL  

How to screen for gestational diabetes

There is not an accepted worldwide standard for diabetic screening in pregnancy.  The current approach in the United States is to first do a screening test and followed it by a diagnostic test if the screen was positive. (called a two-step approach).

Two step approach

The two step approach starts with a 50 gram glucose drink that is given without concern for the time of your last meal.  Your glucose blood level is measured one hour later. This is called a “one-hour GTT”.  If your glucose level is less than 130 mg/dl then you do not have gestational diabetes and no further testing is required.  On the other hand if your glucose level is greater than 130 mg/dl then you will undergo further testing called glucose tolerance test. This diagnostic test is definitive for the diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST

The oral GTT is a practical means of diagnosing gestational diabetes. It can be administered by two different methods.

100 gram three hour oral glucose tolerance test

The 100 gram three hour oral GTT is most commonly used during pregnancy in the United States. The test is recommended by both ACOG and by a 2013 NIH Consensus Conference. For the test to show you have diabetes you need to have two elevated glucose values.

The diagnostic criteria for the 100 gram 3-hour GTT to diagnose gestational diabetes mellitus:

  • Fasting blood sugar greater than 95 mg/dl
  • One hour blood sugar greater than 180 mg/dl
  • Two hour blood sugar greater than 155 mg/dl
  • Three hour blood sugar greater than 140 mg/dl

75 gram two hour oral glucose tolerance test

The 75 gram two hour oral GTT is recommended by the IADPSG and ADA  (International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) and American Diabetes Association). The reduce glucose in this test is more convenient, better tolerated, and more sensitive for identifying the pregnancy at risk for diabetes than the 100 gram three hour oral GTT. The Increased predictability of this test  is likely related to a lower threshold for a positive test – only one elevated glucose value is needed and the cut-offs for a positive result are slightly lower.

Criteria for a positive two hour 75 gram oral glucose tolerance test:

  • Fasting blood sugar greater than 92 mg/dl
  • One hour blood sugar great than 180  mg/dl
  • Two hour blood sugar greater than 153 mg/dl 

PATIENTS UNABLE TO TOLERATE ORAL GLUCOSE

The glucose drink is very concentrated and not well tolerated.  The drink can cause nausea and even vomiting that make the glucose screening unreliable.  Alternative to the glucose drink such as candy, a calculated calorie meal, or soft drink are better tolerated, but less reliable as an indicator of diabetes. None of the alternative glucose loads have been endorsed by the ADA or ACOG.

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How to Store Breast Milk

How to store breastmilk

How to pump your breasts to store breast milk for later use?

First make sure to use good hygiene and wash your hands with soap and water prior to pumping. It is not necessary to wash your nipples or breasts.

Do make sure that all the breast pump attachments and storage containers are clean.  Washing with hot soapy water is adequate and sterilization is not necessary when pumping for a healthy baby. It is almost impossible to dry pumping tubing, so do not wash it.  If your tubing has moisture in it you will need to discard the tubing and buy new tubing.

Make sure you are in a comfortable position for pumping your breasts.  Most new mothers prefer to sit while pumping.  If you are using an electric pump make sure to set the suction strength not too high. The suction should not hurt and needs to be adjusted downward if it does.  If your pump style has a cycling speed, you may want to start out with a rapid cycle until your milk begins to flow and then slow the cycling speed down.

It is important to make sure that you use the correct size breast shield. One size does not always fit all.  The correct size is not only for comfort, but also to maximize milk expression.  You will know that the shield fits adequately if your nipples do not rub against the tunnels.

How long can you store breast milk?

The length of time you can store breast milk is dependent on where you are planning to store it.  If you leave a bottle out at room temperature (77 to 79F) it will be fine up to 4 hours. If you place it in the refrigerator it will be useable for up to 3 days and if you place it in the freezer it will keep for up to 3 months. Thawed breast milk should only be stored for 24 hours in a refrigerator, then discarded.  If you have thawed frozen milk, you can safely refreeze it

What type of storage container should I use to store breast milk?

The best storage containers are either glass or rigid plastic bottles that are designed specifically for storing food products.  The plastic bags are fine for healthy babies, but they are not recommended for breast milk storage for hospitalized or sick babies due to the loss of some nutrients.

How much milk should be stored in each container?

Small amounts of breast milk should be placed in each container. This way the milk can be completely consumed to avoid re-freezing. One to four ounces of breast milk should be placed in individual store containers, labeled with a permanent ink pen or waterproof label. Make sure the label includes the time and date of being pumped.  You can combine milk from different pumping sessions, but make sure you cool both in the refrigerator before combining.  Do not add warm or refrigerator breast milk to frozen breast milk and of course use the oldest dated stored breast milk first.

How to prepare stored breast milk for feeding

Thawing and warming breast milk should be done gradually in a warm bath of water to reach 98F or 37C.  It is best if the warming process does not exceed 20 minutes. Do not submerge the bottles to avoid contamination of the milk.  Make sure that you test the milk before given it to your baby.  The milk should feel lukewarm and not hot when touched.  Refrigerated milk may have a layer of cream on the top which should be mixed by gentle swirling.

Do not heat in a microwave or rapidly heat the milk, this will adversely affect the immunologic and nutritional benefits of breast milk.  Fresh breast milk has antibacterial benefits, but milk that is stored for more than a day will lose this benefit.

How to find help if you have a question?

Your physician, certified lactation consultants or baby’s doctor should be able to answer your questions and worries about breastfeeding, pumping and storage. Certified lactation consultants are a valuable source of knowledge for helping you troubleshoot your breastfeeding problems. The following websites can help you find a lactation consultant and breastfeeding support.

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Pregnant & Packing? Preparing for a Healthy Move

Pregnant & Packing? Preparing for a Healthy Move

Moving and starting a family are major life challenges that can significantly affect a mom-to-be who’s about to have a new home. Although you may be eager to take on moving full force, recognizing and accepting limitations can help alleviate moving-related stress and anxiety.

Dealing with the mental, emotional and physical demands of moving from Point A to Point B, especially while pregnant, can threaten your health, whether you move across town or the nation. Remember, your health and your baby’s health are top priorities. Keep the following in mind as you determine what you’re capable of accomplishing.

Emotional

Emotions can take you on a roller coaster ride daily. Depending on your pregnancy stage, unremitting exhaustion might as well be sitting next to you on that ride, huh? The last thing you want to do is uproot yourself when you are in full-blown nesting mode.

The Stanford School of Medicine’s Center for Neuroscience in Women’s Health mention recent studies that suggest upwards of 20 percent of pregnant women suffer from a bevy of emotional issues. Mood and anxiety disorders include feelings of guilt or worthlessness, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, excessive worry, or other feelings of foreboding that are hardly conducive to an efficient moving experience.

To minimize risks of deep emotional despair, aim for accomplishing small goals that will help chip away at the seemingly insurmountable task of moving and contribute to the end goal. An excellent resource for moving tools can be found on self-storage company websites. Using organizational tools, you can calculate how large your moving truck needs to be or create reminders for commonly forgotten items while crafting that essential moving to-do list. Free apps like State Farm MoveTools can help you manage your move — planning tasks, packing and organizing.

Reward yourself for accomplishing these small goals. For example, packing up the cluttered junk drawer will provide you with an emotional sense of accomplishment, strength and motivation to attack that next task.

Physical

Now you regret buying that solid oak bedroom set. What a chore to move it! Similarly, as you cast your eye on the dilapidated couch that has more dog hair on the cushions than stuffing within, ditching the couch and replacing it at the new house is an easy solution. You’ve been waiting for that reason to upgrade. Options for sofas with delivery from Macy’s range from $85 for one piece or $185 for five pieces of furniture. While evaluating your furniture prior to moving, comb through your closet, kitchen shelves and desk drawers to rid yourself of other unnecessary, useless belongings that just take up space.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Your pregnancy is already taking a toll on your body and moving furniture is only going to exacerbate those stresses. Talk to your doctor about what you can be expected to safely move. Set your ego aside and be willing to hand over those responsibilities. Every moving project requires a project manager; claim that title. You job is to guide movers, boxes and furniture — ensuring the process runs smoothly.

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30 & Flirty: Tips for Getting Pregnant After 35

Middle age pregnancy, pregnancy over 35 years, pregnancy later in life, tips for getting pregnant

Today, 35 isn’t what it used to be. A few decades ago it was a time to prepare for middle age; now it’s the time of life where women can be climbing the corporate ladder and starting a family all at the same time. If you’re applying for the title of mom, these tips can help you build your resume:

Understand the Impact of Age on Fertility

When you were born, you had a finite number of eggs. In your 30s, you’ve already expelled a significant number of eggs. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may not have as many high-quality eggs, which can inhibit your ability to easily conceive. This simply means that it can take longer to get pregnant, but it doesn’t make it impossible. If you have been trying to get pregnant for six months, but have not been successful, make an appointment with your OB-GYN. Most couples conceive within a year of trying, but the Mayo Clinic suggests couples where the woman is 35 or older should talk with a doctor if she isn’t pregnant within six months.

Develop a Support System

Chat with other older moms or women you know who are your age and trying to conceive. It can help you to rely on these women for support, as being around a bunch of extremely fertile 25-year-old women can be frustrating at times. According to Womenshealth.gov, stress can have an impact on your ability to get pregnant. Build a network of friends who you can talk with, ask questions and rely on when you need it. Include your family, your doctor and your partner in your network of support, as they can all help you along the way during your conception journey.

Start Charting and Discover Your Fertile Window

Most women are only fertile a few days each month, usually during the time of ovulation. Women older than 35 may not ovulate each month, so it’s important to chart your ovulation cycle to know your personal fertile window. While you can use a Basal Body Thermometer or pen and paper to do this, you also can use a First Response ovulation calculator to quickly and easily determine your fertile window. You’re most likely to get pregnant two to three days before ovulation, and 12 to 24 hours after, according to WomensHealth.gov.

Make Personal Health a Priority

While you may be focused on getting to your OB-GYN’s office to talk about pregnancy-related topics, keep up with your other general health appointments at the same time. Make sure your body is in good shape, as it will ensure both you and your baby are happy and healthy throughout your pregnancy. Web MD notes that women 35 years or older should go for routine physicals to make sure their blood pressure is under control. Also visit your dentist for regular exams and cleanings, as healthy teeth and gums lessens the chance of pre-term birth and low birth weight babies, according to Web MD.

Exercise and Nutrition

If fast food has become your snack of choice and exercise isn’t high on your to-do list, it might be time to take another look at your daily routine. According to Web MD, it’s essential to exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients and quit drinking and smoking before you get pregnant. This will make sure your body is in its best shape ever, which may increase your chances of getting pregnant sooner rather than later.

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Week 35: This Baby Ain’t So Itty Bitty!

35 weeks pregnant 3d ultrasound of baby's face

I’ll start with a confession. I have the good fortune, as a result of being a science writer for the children’s hospital, of being in frequent contact with a wide variety of leading scientists and clinicians specializing in pediatrics. This week I was lucky enough to have a meeting with the hospital’s chief of urology. After we’d covered all the official business, I moved on to a rather selfish question.

You may remember that the anatomy ultrasound I had mid-pregnancy found enlarged kidneys in my son, and that I’ve been following up with maternal and fetal specialists to keep tabs on his health. Although I’ve been assured by several doctors that enlarged kidneys are not typically anything to be concerned about, I figured I’d double check by asking the city’s top specialist about it. Thankfully, he reassured me. He said the problem is common and virtually always resolves on its own after birth—Baby just needs an ultrasound once he’s born and to follow-up with a specialist if the kidneys are still enlarged. Good news!

The Final Ultrasound

Shortly after my impromptu consultation with the urologist, I had my final ultrasound with the specialists to check his kidneys. Although they’ve grown a tiny bit, they aren’t significantly worse. Phew. Even better, we got to see that baby has some peach fuzz on his little head. They were also able to measure his head, tummy, and weight. Apparently he’s no itty bitty baby—6 pounds, 6 ounces already!

This was a particularly shocking bit of news for me, since that’s about what my friend’s baby boy weighed when he was born at 38 weeks. It’s even more alarming now that I know my husband and both of his sisters were 9 pound babies…looks like I could be in for a big baby!

We were hoping to see his whole face, since by now his features are supposed to more accurately represent what he will look like when he is born, but alas, he did not cooperate. Baby hid his face, so we only got a little glimpse of his chin and nose from below. After the next regular visit with the obstetrician, I’ll be up to weekly appointments until he arrives. Crazy—that means he’s coming soon…

Out and About for Baby

Since my nesting desires set in last week, I’ve been eager to tackle errands and projects. I needed to get out for a number of reasons this week, not least of which was to find the perfect “first outfit” for Baby to pack in his hospital bag. After three hours on the town, I had wrapped up my errands and found, not his first outfit, but a cute little Batman onesie. I couldn’t resist! I suppose his first outfit hunt will have to wait until next weekend.

After running errands, however, the rest of my day was pretty much shot. By about halfway through my time out, I found myself desperately searching for benches and chairs to use. I have to admit I sat in the shoe aisle at Target for a full ten minutes, only pretending to actually look at shoes.

Lately, standing is the toughest activity for me—not walking, not climbing stairs, not even dashing to catch a shuttle. Just standing still in line or while browsing at a store drains my energy faster than anything else. What’s worse, however, is the exhaustion that comes after bouts of standing. The rest of the day, I couldn’t get anything done around the house. I just had to sit and prop my feet up. I even started getting, for the first time, round ligament pains.

Since the day I overdid it on errands, I’ve started having the ligament pains occasionally when changing position or heading up stairs at work. Thankfully, I’ve only felt these sharp pains on the right side of my body. Now I know not to push myself when I really just want to take a seat—no more marathon outings for me!

I learned my lesson, and now I’m off to rest from just a half-marathon outing.

Until next week,

Your Preggers Geek

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Top 10 Things to Love About Pregnancy

Here are ten reasons being pregnant rocks!

Say what we may about the growing pains and stretch marks, there is a whole lot to love about pregnancy. Here are my top 10—what are yours?

The Ten Nicest Things About Being Pregnant

10. A big round belly is actually a nice thing for strangers to comment on!

9. The big round belly strangers comment on is only temporary. Phew.

8. There is a legitimate excuse to have another helping of steak, potatoes, or ice cream. It’s not just you you’re feeding!

7. Up to 12 weeks off from work to focus on life and love (and diapers, but we’ll leave that part out of this).

6. Kicks and waves from a little one—from inside. What a feeling!

5. Seeing the ultrasound, then wondering for the next several months what your baby will actually look like.

4. Special parking perks. Need I say more?

3. Debating about names. Then debating some more, choosing, changing your mind, and going back to the drawing board. Seventeen times.

2. Dreaming about the future of your little one—butcher, baker, or candlestick-maker!

1. Seeing how much joy a new life can bring to family, friends, and your own life.

There it is–short but sweet. I hope you can add to the list of reasons it really is lovely to be pregnant!

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34 weeks pregnant

There are certainly excellent things about working while pregnant. Number one is the cash (tied perhaps with personal fulfillment?). Other perks include an extra baby shower, distraction from thoughts that my body will never be the same, nice comments from coworkers about my “glow,” and friendly advice from other parents.

One definite negative of being pregnant while working a full-time job, however, is the inability to escape from heartburn. This entire week, no matter what I ate or how straight I sat up at my desk, I couldn’t seem to ease my afternoon heartburn. To make matters worse, I consistently left my bottle of Tums at home, despite having written reminders to myself on every exposed body part to bring them with me.

I ended up having to duck out one afternoon to drive to the drug store for antacids so that I could simply get through the rest of the day. I felt I had no other real option, since the cafeteria in my building was closed for the day and my preferred heartburn cure (ice cream) was thus unattainable. Boo.

“Dropping” the Baby Basketball at Work

Other than the battle with heartburn that I am repeatedly losing, working during pregnancy has been very pleasant. Twice this week I received comments from ladies in the building (one whom I had never met) that it looked like I had “dropped.” It was news to me!

The first time I heard it, I thought she meant I had lost weight. “Really? I don’t think I have. What makes you think so?” I asked.

“Well, you’re carrying much lower this week than last, it looks like,” she replied. Ahh, understood.

The next time someone said I had “dropped” I was prepared for its actual meaning. Good thing, too, because the second lady started asking follow-up questions (like whether it was now easier to breathe) that wouldn’t have made much sense if I had stuck with the weight understanding of things…

I also learned this week that the children’s hospital where I work offers special parking accommodations for pregnant employees. I work at a different location from the main hospital, and normally we have to take a shuttle between the two buildings. However, they often are delayed and have only limited stops.

Through the offhand comment of a coworker, however, I found out that I can get freebie parking passes to use in the garages when needed to spare myself the wait and the waddling from one end of the hospital to the other. Hooray! Shameless use of this perk is cool with me. Plus, I am now everyone’s best friend when they need to get to or from the hospital for a meeting with me.

The Nesting has Begun

Do we have the crib ready? How do we install the car seat? What goes in my hospital bag? What do I need to bring to the hospital for the baby? How many diapers should we buy ahead of time ? Do I wait for my final baby shower or finish buying the necessities now? What’s the best way to organize his little dresser of clothes and blankets?

My head has been swimming with questions and concerns lately, and I think it’s the start of the infamous nesting behaviors. It is slowly hitting me that, really, Baby could arrive any time. Heck, he would even be considered full term if he came in just three weeks! That means that we have to be prepared—NOW.

We still haven’t finished re-staining the change table (a little kid’s desk that will do double duty for now), we have no rocking chair, there is a full-size mattress on the floor of the nursery for extra guests after the baby arrives (he’ll be sleeping in my room at first, anyway, but the clutter on the floor is stressing me out), I don’t know the first thing about getting to the maternity ward from the hospital parking garage, and I’m starting to realize that I don’t have much time left to take care of all of these things.

In addition, I’ve decided it’s the perfect time to make homemade soaps with dried herbs from the garden and cherry cobbler and jam with the abundant fruit on the tree in the back yard. To add more home projects to the list, I can’t stay away from the garden department at Lowe’s, meaning my “honey do” list for landscaping keeps growing. Poor Hubs.

I’m realizing the concept of nesting is very real, and I’ve been bitten by the bug. Home projects and Babies ‘R’ Us, here I come!

Until next week,

Your Preggers Geek

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Three Reasons to be Thankful on the Fourth

Why Pregnant Women in the US are So Darn Lucky

Happy Independence Day, America! The 4th of July provides many reasons to celebrate—freedom, family, fun, fireworks, and more—but there are a few reasons why pregnant or parenting women in America can be especially grateful for this day.

One: Pregnant Women in America Have Options, and Lots of Them!

Do you want an OB or a midwife? A home birth, a birth center experience, or a hospital birth? Do you want to go all-natural for your skin care? How about organic for your prenatal diet? Do you want to see your baby in a 4-D ultrasound? Name your baby Tulip Theflower? Go back to work? Buy a onesie that shows your college spirit? Well, you can. Embrace the options you have, and enjoy making your pregnancy and parenting experience as unique as you are.

Two: We Have Tons of Support

No matter your situation, if you’re pregnant or parenting in America, you have support available to you. Whether or not you have a mother, sisters, cousins, or friends leading you through the craziness of growing and raising a baby, you have some amazing resources at your fingertips: a world of information in trustworthy online articles, digital and community-based support groups, hotlines for pregnancy loss or post-partum depression, crisis pregnancy centers, charities, and even social clubs for mothers that exist with the sole purpose of supporting mothers like you.

Hospitals and health centers offer breastfeeding classes, schools offer parenting classes, local organizations host family fun days, doulas offer reduced prices for military wives, libraries and YouTube offer books and videos on any and every pregnancy and parenting subject, and the list goes on…you get the idea! Whoever you are, whatever you need, there is support for you during and after your pregnancy.

Whatever may be said about the state of America’s society, one thing is still clear to me: we have a wealth of support for families in need. That shows me that people are still aware of what’s important.

Three: The Opportunities are Endless

The U.S. is not dubbed the “land of opportunity” for nothing. When your child is born, there is no way of knowing who or what he or she will become. A pianist? An accountant? Travel writer? Chef? Teacher? Doctor? Entrepreneur? The president?

The dreams we hold for our children are plentiful and boundless. Not every country fosters such dreams in its people. Here, we are not limited by the confines of our neighborhood or the life to which our initial circumstances may predispose us. With determination and hard work, with courage and ambition, with passion and commitment, American children—our children—can seize opportunity. For them, life can be what they make it. For them, the opportunities truly are endless.

This idea is one that I treasure when I think about holding my baby. I can imagine a million different possibilities for him. I can hope and wonder, but in the end he will make and choose his own opportunities. He will find and embrace a life of his own. He will be independent—as all men and women are meant to be.

That’s what I’m thankful for this 4th of July, and every other day. To those of you who have served our country or who have family and friends who have served or are serving, thank you. Thank you for helping to make and keep the U.S. the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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Iron During Pregnancy

Although some women manage to eat a diet rich in iron without even trying, many tend to fall short in iron. Any lack of dietary iron can be exacerbated during pregnancy, especially if an expectant mother decides to take prenatal vitamins without iron—a common decision because of the nausea often caused by iron supplements.

Pregnancy is a time when women are particularly at risk for anemia, though. As blood volume increases and the mother becomes responsible for her own blood supply as well as that of the growing baby, it can be hard to maintain a diet high enough in iron to avoid a shortage. With a little extra care and some regular menu planning, pregnant women can be sure to get plenty of iron—even if they decide to nix the supplement.

Five Rules to Help You Get Enough Iron in Your Prenatal Diet

Having enough iron circulating in the bloodstream allows the body to use oxygen; women who don’t have enough iron in their blood may feel weak, tired, and even confused. By following a few simple rules, most women can get an adequate daily helping of iron that will provide for their own oxygen needs as well as the baby’s.

Rule #1: Get your animal protein. Red meat, pork, chicken, and shellfish can be great natural sources of iron. If you don’t like much in the way of meat or fish, opt for eggs. Animal proteins are the best sources of iron and are very easy for your body to use.

Rule #2: Eat enriched breakfast cereals and grains. Most breakfast cereals come loaded with vitamins and a hefty dose of iron. Pay attention to serving sizes and have some cereal for breakfast or a snack on a daily basis. In addition, many pastas, grains, and breads are also enriched with iron, so check the brands you buy and compare them to competitors to find the better source of iron.

Rule #3: Be big on beans, nut butters, and dried fruits. Beans, lentils, and nut butters (like peanut or almond butter) offer natural plant sources of iron. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, whole grains, beans, and nut butters should be staples in your diet to ensure that you get enough iron. In addition, try snacking on dried fruit–just watch how much you eat and buy varieties that are dried without added sugar.

Rule #4: Eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body use the iron you eat. By having foods or drinks with vitamin C at the same time you have your iron-rich foods, you can increase your body’s absorption of the iron. For example, eat broccoli with your chicken or drink orange juice with your morning peanut butter and toast.

Rule #5: Avoid dairy products and caffeine when you have iron-rich foods. Just as vitamin C can help your body absorb iron, dairy and caffeine may block your body’s ability to use iron. This means it’s best to eat your cereal dry and to skip the cheese on your hamburger to get the most iron out of your foods. Eat your dairy and sip your caffeine for separate snacks or meals during the day.

If you’ve decided to forgo iron pills, make sure your obstetrician is aware. He or she can test you regularly for anemia and work with you to create a diet that will provide enough iron for both you and your growing baby. If you have previously had problems with anemia or if you have certain medical conditions, your healthcare provider may encourage you to take supplements in addition to a diet rich in iron to ensure that you do not become anemic during pregnancy. For most women, however, a well-managed diet can provide plenty of iron for baby and mommy!

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Week 33: Baby has a (Secret) Name!

33 weeks pregnant

Yes, it’s true. We’ve pretty much decided on a name for Baby. Until very recently, we were having a terrible time narrowing down a gigantic list and were always adding more any time one of us picked up a baby name book. We were out at dinner one night and decided that we were never going to make any progress unless we set some boundaries. I said I liked a particular nickname we had tossed about (one that has a handful of options for the related root name). Hubby agreed that he was happy with that nickname and suggested we limit ourselves to options that fit it.

Wow—progress right there! But did we stop? No! I said I liked a particular choice for the middle name. Hubby agreed. More progress! Then I listed two options for the first name, either of which I would have been happy with. Hubby named his favorite of those two, I agreed, and—voila! We suddenly had a name! We were so shocked by it that we had to ask ourselves if we had seriously just come up with our son’s probable name before the appetizer had even arrived. It seems that we have.

After a couple of weeks of mulling over our choice, we still like the name—I think it’s strong, offers Baby a variety of nice nickname options, and still has a full form that sounds professional. It’s a relatively popular name based on the Social Security Administration’s rankings, but we think his nickname and middle name will make it unique enough for our tastes.

Reveal the Baby’s Name or Keep it a Secret?

As you might have guessed based on the title of this post, we’ve decided to keep Baby’s name under wraps until he’s officially arrived. This not only offers us the chance to change it if we want (if he comes out a redhead, he WILL be named Russell—I want to be able to call him Rusty!), but it also allows us as parents to share a bit of private excitement about welcoming our baby and announcing his name to everyone at once.

Mind you, we’ve had to stand firm, and it hasn’t been very easy. My sister insists on calling him by something, and she teasingly landed on Bobert (which the rest of my family has picked up as well). My sister-in-law grilled me for a complete half hour (Luke? Logan? Am I close?). My husband’s grandmother jokingly offered to pay for his college tuition if we revealed the name—I asked her to put it in writing and said then we could talk! She must not have wanted to know that badly after all…Shucks.

All in all, I understand people’s desire to know his anticipated name, but at the same time, I don’t want to limit ourselves. I also don’t want tons of things monogrammed or knitted with one name if we end up changing it to something else! So Baby’s name will have to be a secret.

So That’s What Fetal Hiccups Feel Like!

I have heard tons of women talk about fetal hiccups since I became pregnant. Truth is, however, I was always uncertain as to whether they knew what they were talking about. Hiccups? Surely we couldn’t tell what was a hiccup from out here! Surely hiccups would be too gentle or uncommon for us to know what was truly going on! Ahem. I stand corrected.

I had noticed, pretty much since the time I started feeling regular movement, that I would occasionally feel steady, small pulses in my lower right side. I thought the baby was just giving a series of little punches on a regular schedule. Silly me. I finally decided to Google “fetal hiccups” one day on my lunch break, and found out that those regular little pulses are, indeed, baby hiccups.

Apparently they have been documented on ultrasounds and simply indicate that your baby is practicing breathing and swallowing, which can give them the hiccups on occasion. So basically, I’ve been feeling the baby hiccup almost daily for about two months, and I naively thought they were just a little mini punching routine…ah, I will never doubt the experienced mamas again!

Am I Supposed to be THIS Tired?

With the parents in town for a quick visit and a brief heat wave through town, I’ve started to notice a theme: I get tired, and quickly! I find it hard to stand still even for short periods of time. I do better when I’m moving or walking, but I definitely have learned to keep my eyes peeled for a place to sit. I actually just sat in the shoe aisle in Target the other day because I needed a rest. I pretended I was looking at the shoes across from me, but really, I was just pooped!

This tiredness, especially on hot or humid days, has awakened in me a new love of naps. I’ve never been a good napper because it takes me too long to fall asleep, but boy, have they been a lifesaver! I’ve taken a few solid naps (sometimes only a couple of hours before bedtime) and have felt loads better. More human, less cranky. More rested, less drained. Definitely worth the time out of my evenings or weekends. Now all I have to do is find a good nap room at work…

Till next week,

Your Preggers Geek

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32 weeks pregnant

For our fifth anniversary, my husband and I had planned—a year ago—to return to the B&B we’d stayed at for our honeymoon for a long weekend. It was a vineyard, and we planned on indulging just as much in the wines, beers, and ciders of the area as we had the first time around. Baby dared to interfere, however, so we nixed the vineyard idea (I’ll wait for the tenth anniversary and make him take me to Napa Valley, instead! Talk about an upgrade!).

Vineyard plans aside, we decided to stay at a historic inn on the shores of Lake Erie, which was a mercifully short drive from home. The weather was lovely, the inn was charming, we had the beach and pier almost entirely to ourselves, and the local cuisine was fresh and delicious.

Because we were so close to some of the vineyards in the Lake Erie coastal area, I decided it would be worthwhile to check one out and pick up a drinkable memento of our fifth year of marriage. Sure enough, when we walked into the tasting room, we received a skeptical look from one of the female staff. Another asked us if we would like a tasting, and before we could reply, the first lady shouted from across the room (while serving other customers, mind you), “Only one, I hope! Not two tastings!”

Despite the fact that tastings offer only about a half-ounce to one ounce per wine on the list, I could feel enough sets of eyes on me to pressure me into declining a tasting for myself. We ordered only one tasting and simply explained to the woman serving us that I would share with my husband. She kindly shrugged her shoulders and told me that when she was pregnant she had the occasional glass, but never felt brave enough to do so in public only because of judgmental glares from others. I could sympathize. We selected a few of our favorites, including a bottle of champagne for Baby’s arrival, and got a move on. At least we got what we had originally gone for!

A Sinus Infection During Pregnancy

As always happens to me on vacation, I got sick before it was even halfway over (remarkable, really, since we only went for a weekend!). I have a bad habit of getting a sinus infection as soon as I begin to relax and enjoy myself. By the time we were home on Sunday, I had a fever, the chills, and a headache. I considered calling my OB, but I knew that the worst usually passed in a day or so and that sleep was my typical saving grace.

I took a long nap, popped an acetaminophen to keep my fever down, and stayed hydrated. I also used nasal irrigation in an attempt to slow my progress through an entire forest’s supply of Kleenex. The next day I felt considerably better, but didn’t get my energy back until halfway through the week. When I saw the OB, she prescribed an antibiotic that is safe for use during pregnancy to clear up the infection.

The day I intended to pick up the script, however, I noticed that my nasal gunk was clear. In addition, I was feeling well enough to finish battling the sinus infection on my own. I’m still a bit congested, but I’m glad I fought off the worst of it without having to take medication.

Baby’s Doing the Belly Dance

Baby is now much stronger than he used to be. I know this because, when he decides to kick, it is no longer a gentle little pulsing sensation. Instead, it’s the feeling of an organ slamming into my ribs. Or a strong poke in the bladder.

I suppose it’s because of his increased strength that I feel Baby more often now, too. His movements are regular and, at times, distracting—especially at work. They are most disruptive during meetings. I’ll try to listen quietly and pay attention, but it’s like Baby is trying to break out of jail or something! He moves and kicks and pokes and turns…maybe to keep his Mum entertained.

The biggest kicks make noticeable upticks in my belly’s surface, and half the time my tummy looks totally lopsided. I can’t help but imagine that my stomach offers other meeting attendees something interesting to watch. Anyone not enthralled by the meeting’s speaker could just keep eyes on my stomach and make bets with themselves about when the next kick will happen.

That’s my Baby—keeping it interesting.

Until next week,

Your Preggers Geek

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Is It Possible to Have No Clue You're Pregnant Until the Baby is Born?

Perhaps you’ve seen Discovery’s hit series, “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant,” or perhaps you’ve heard of “surprise” pregnancies and deliveries from another source. I remember reading an article about it years ago in a teen magazine: a slim, athletic teenager got through an entire pregnancy completely unawares, only to suddenly give birth on a toilet. When the Discovery show came up in conversation recently, I joked with my husband about how difficult it would be not to know. It’s probably no coincidence that I happened to be tired and achy (thanks to pregnancy) at the time.

I recently came across another article through a random Google search on the topic, however, and found that yes, you can “not know” you’re pregnant until you go into labor. In fact, it may even be more common than having triplets!

Among the incredible tales of surprise baby arrivals are the delivery of a baby to a mother of three immediately following a half-marathon training session, a childbirth in the bathroom of an amusement park, and even a labor and delivery on a boat—in a bikini. But how can women not know they are pregnant?

5 Pregnancy Symptoms Women Could Overlook

Despite the fact that many women may think the signs of pregnancy are unmistakable, there are some symptoms that could be mistaken for more common discomforts.

  1. Weight gain. Who doesn’t put on a few pounds every now and then? Women who are heavy may gain little or no weight during pregnancy, while women who are very slim may gain only the weight of the baby—hardly a noticeable fluctuation.
  2. Missed periods. Many different types of health conditions may cause missed or irregular periods. Likewise, medications or very low body fat can cause a lack of menstruation. For women in one of these situations, a missed period—even a year of missed periods—could be considered nothing out of the ordinary.
  3. Nausea or morning sickness. Because some women experience very little in the way of morning sickness, some may escape these warning signs altogether. Even for those who do experience nausea, however, it may pass as simply an extended illness.
  4. Fatigue. Besides stress, hard work, and a busy schedule, there are many things that could reasonably cause the fatigue associated with pregnancy. Related symptoms, like shortness of breath or weakness, could be explained by similar circumstances, such as illness or anemia.
  5. Fetal movement. Let’s face it: those of us who know we are pregnant can easily believe that, at least at first, the movements of the baby can pass for gas, bloating, and a rumbly tummy. Barring a malnourished or weak baby, however, I can’t imagine not considering the movements I’ve been feeling lately as anything other than kicks!

All in all, it seems there are, indeed, a few situations in which a pregnancy could go unnoticed—even to full-term. Although I couldn’t find much documented research on the topic, it still makes for a fascinating idea to ponder.

Do you think you could have gone an entire nine months without attributing your symptoms to pregnancy? Do you believe that the women featured in shows like that of the Discovery Channel truly were unaware of their pregnancies? How big of a role might denial or willful ignorance play in these cases?

Tell us what you think!

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Week 31: Can Three Pounds Cause All This?

31 Weeks Pregnant

Prior to pregnancy, my weight would vary slightly throughout the year—a few pounds higher around the holidays, a few pounds lower during the summer months of salads for dinner. For the first time, my weight has gone up and up (and up). It seems like every time I go through a mini growth spurt, however, the difference is far more noticeable than it used to be.

Nowadays, three pounds more means back pain, heartburn, waddling, stretched skin, and trouble sleeping…Nothing alarming or insurmountable, of course, but annoying nonetheless. Every time I gain a bit, now, it seems I have a brief adjustment period of achiness. I would feel more guilty about using this blog to complain about it, but as I sit here typing, I have pillows wedged in at all sorts of angles to try to relieve discomfort and simultaneously prevent myself from slouching. I’m about to hit the 20-lb mark, though, so perhaps the number on the scale is the true instigator of this tirade!

Overall, I’m Feeling Great, But…

While I’m on a bit of a rant, I figure I might as well go all out. Just sitting can be uncomfortable! I find that the main discomfort develops at the top of my belly, right at the edges of my ribcage. As soon as I get behind the wheel to drive home, the baby starts kicking the sore parts of my ribs, so I spend half of the drive stretching my arms above my head trying to free up some space and soothe my muscles.

I can’t tell if some of this pain is from muscle and skin stretching or from poor posture. I’m also constantly adjusting my position at my desk to get the baby in a comfortable spot. In meetings, I have to stop myself from rubbing my belly sometimes when I’m trying to ease the pain away…don’t want to seem like I’m drawing too much attention to my “condition!”

To stop my bellyaching (and my whining!) for your sakes, I decided to get my act together.

Back on the Exercise Track

During the month of May, I fell out of the habit of getting much physical activity. Beyond walking around campus and work, my evenings were too packed with studying and wrap-up for my side jobs to squeeze in real fitness sessions. Now that the statistics class is settled, choir is out for the summer, and I’m settled into just one main job, I’ve rediscovered the occasional freedom of an unplanned evening.

I’m working my way back into my routine with a few of the ten-minute customizable prenatal Pilates video sessions each evening, as well as a brief walk and some stretching. Better still, I notice serious pain relief the days that I work out. With any luck, the pain in my sides will be in check after a few more sessions. I’m trying to strengthen my core and my back muscles in the hopes that it will prevent some of the pain in my ribs.

In addition, my doula said that building strong leg muscles could make labor much less trying. Squats, lunges, and some general lower body strength exercises are another focus of mine, now—I want to be prepared! Thirty-one weeks along doesn’t leave a ton of time for building strength, so I want to get myself on the road to power legs while I still can.

Speaking of Doulas

I have to thank my doula for yet another great push in the right direction. Previously, I have had a relatively quiet relationship with my OB. Beyond asking a few questions here and there, my appointments were fairly brief, even though she always asked, “What else? Any questions?”

After getting tons of ideas and suggestions from Mandi the Doula, my last OB visit was entirely different. I asked about how my OB tends to manage labor, who her emergency replacements are, whether I can wear my own clothes at the hospital, when exactly to call her office during labor, and a number of other questions. Had I not been prompted by the doula, who knows whether I would have thought to ask any of these before Baby arrived!

All in all, I suppose I’m ending on a higher note than that on which I began. I should, after all, be grateful for the overall healthy, pleasant experience I’ve had during my pregnancy. With exercise and a slightly more positive attitude on the docket for the coming week, I’ll bid you all goodbye for now.

Until next week,

Your Preggers Geek

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Techniques for Battling Low Back Pain in Pregnancy

Back Pain in Pregnancy

Like it or not, pregnancy has many bedfellows. Back pain is just one of them, but it can be quite persistent. As many as 3 in 4 women experience low back pain during pregnancy. Some recent research even suggests that severe back pain during the third trimester is also associated with poorer birth outcomes, such as a greater risk of Cesarean section. To minimize your low back pain during pregnancy, just follow some of these simple tips.

Prevent Low Back Pain During Pregnancy

Knowing that low back pain is common can be enough information to give you a fair chance at avoiding it altogether. I knew to expect it but didn’t take prevention seriously enough, so learn from me! Put a stop to it before it starts. After all, a strong back can be a great help during labor.

  • Exercise. Yoga, stretching, strength training, and targeted lower back exercises for pregnant women can be incredibly helpful. You can strengthen your muscles to prepare for the shifting position of the baby and the increasing weight you’ll have to balance in the front.
  • Stay stress-free. Anxiety, stress, and even grudges can result in physically-held tension that can aggravate your lower back muscles. Meditation and regular stress relief can help keep your body in good shape as well as your mind.
  • Practice good posture. It’s easy to start slouching with the extra weight and common discomforts from pregnancy. By keeping your posture in line, you can keep your muscles strong during the gradual changes of pregnancy.
  • Get your fish oil. Anti-inflammatory agents, like omega 3 fatty acids, are found in fish and some vegetable oils. Because many women cut back on fish during pregnancy, it may be simple to purchase prenatal gummy vitamins with fish oil supplement. Anti-inflammatory substances from the diet and prenatal vitamins can help calm some aggravation in back muscles that leads to pain.

Relieve Existing Back Pain

For those of you already in the thick of it, back pain can make an otherwise pleasant pregnancy miserable. With the go-ahead of your doctor or midwife, try some of these pain relief techniques to kiss your pregnancy-related back pain goodbye.

  • Exercise. Again, yoga, stretching, strength training, and targeted exercises can not only prevent back pain, but also help relieve existing pain. Start gently and work your way into a daily routine. Stretch frequently while at home and at work, as well. Your back should feel some almost immediate relief, and with time and dedication, your general pain level should lessen significantly.
  • Get a massage. Back rubs can be very soothing for stressed, pained muscles. Have your partner give a massage for even a few minutes every evening, or treat yourself to a weekly half-hour massage session with a pro!
  • Consider acupuncture or aromatherapy. Some pregnant women respond well to alternative therapies for back pain—especially when exercise and massage do not help. In some cases, chiropractors may be able to help, too. Just make sure that any practitioner you visit is familiar with the special needs of pregnant women.
  • Treat it with temperature. Use a heating pad or alternate hot and cold packs on your lower back when pain gets bad. Take a warm bath or shower to relieve inflammation and pain.
  • Try acetaminophen. It is considered a gentle and safe pain relief medication to use during pregnancy, and it may help for some particularly painful time periods.
  • Sleep well. In addition to keeping your posture in line during the day, get plenty of rest at night and use extra pillows for back support. Try sleeping on your left side with a pillow behind your back and between your knees. Later during pregnancy, a soft pillow wedged under your belly may also take some of the strain off of your back while you rest.

If your back pain makes it hard to sleep, walk comfortably, or concentrate on regular activities, talk to a health professional. There may be a systemic medical condition causing unusual back pain that can be relieved with treatment. In addition, some types of low back pain may be indicative of labor or other pregnancy problems. Don’t delay if your pain worries you—get professional advice!

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30 Weeks Pregnant

Maybe I’m a bit short on iron in my diet, but it seems that lately just the three flights of stairs to my office can seem like a bit too much work. I huff and I puff and I eventually get there, tired before I even start the day. I even told someone else to start ahead of me the other day so that she wouldn’t be stuck behind me if I slowed—which I typically do by flight number two. Thankfully, going down is much easier. Less fatiguing.

In general, my energy levels seem pretty stable, but they are stably low this week. I’m exhausted for most of the work day, so I’m very lucky that when I get home, the Hubs takes note and offers to cook or take care of most of the household chores. I’ve been trying to keep up on my snack and water intake, as I suspect that my energy could depend quite a bit on regular sustenance, but sometimes I go to three meetings in a row without the chance to nosh on almonds or refill my water bottle. Oh, the inconveniences of office life when you’re pregnant!

The office isn’t all bad, I should be careful to say. I love the work, and—even better—the welcoming environment my building has for expectant parents. Shortly after I started the job, another pregnant employee came up to me and asked, “Have you heard about the buckets?”

“Um, buckets? No.”

“Yeah, there are these giant buckets of maternity clothes that just get passed from pregnant lady to pregnant lady. I have them now, but I’ll bring them in and you can use what you want. Then you’ll just pass them on to the next girl!”

Sweet. She wasn’t kidding! I got two huge buckets of clothes, some of which fit perfectly and all of which was appropriate for the office. I guess the working world isn’t so bad after all!

Getting to the Scary Stuff: Learning about Labor

Hiring a doula has, as I think I’ve mentioned, inspired me to read a bit more about exactly what I can expect when it’s “show time.” I decided to ask a friend to talk a bit about her delivery last fall, and she was kindly willing to comply.

I’ll spare you the gory details, of which there were mercifully few, and simply offer the main takeaways I got from her experience.

Takeaway #1: Everyone will react to the pain differently. I know this because (as her husband corroborated) she was largely silent during contractions. I will most definitely not be.

Takeaway #2: Pain relievers aren’t a copout. She got an epidural after hours and hours of pain, contractions, and stress. She experienced labor and delivered a healthy baby. That’s what we’re all doing—pain relief or not—right?

Takeaway #3: Pack in advance. This includes the car seat being ready in the trunk and actually knowing how to install it. It also means both you and whoever your partner will be for delivery should have your gear set to go. When it’s time, it’s time—you don’t want to be worrying about packing undies or a hairbrush. Or an outfit for the baby!

If any of you are willing to share some tips from your own delivery experiences, I’ll be an eager listener! Feel free to spread the wisdom below or on our Facebook page. An anxious mom-to-be (like me) may benefit immensely from your experience!

Onto the 31st week,

Your Preggers Geek

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Safe Slings, Wraps, and Infant Carriers

A few years ago, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced some general recommendations for the use of popular “babywearing” items like slings and wraps. The announcement came on the heels of more than 12 reported infant deaths caused by suffocation over the previous decades.

Unfortunately, many health agencies and consumer groups interpreted the guidelines as a warning to steer clear of all such gear. Thankfully, supporters of slings, wraps, and other items that allow parents to strap an infant to their bodies can be used safely—provided parents take care to follow some general safety strategies.

Know When Slings and Wraps Should Not Be Used

The first step toward safe use of these items is to know when they shouldn’t be used. The situations below have been identified as high-risk circumstances. Do not try to carry your baby in a sling or wrap if any of these cases apply:

  • Your baby is younger than 4 months old (corrected for prematurity and low birth weight)
  • Your baby has a cold or respiratory problem (such as asthma)
  • Your baby cannot hold his or her head up without help
  • Your baby is a twin—do not attempt to carry both twins in slings or wraps at once, even if they are in separate slings

Know the Safest Strategies for Babywearing

Provided the above situations do not apply to you, slings and wraps can be convenient, comfortable ways to carry your baby and may help with bonding. Follow the tips below to reduce your child’s risk of suffocation and make babywearing a safe experience for you and your baby.

  • Position your baby so that you can see each other’s eyes.
  • Make sure your baby’s face is at or above the rim of the sling or wrap.
  • Clear any fabric or portion of your body (especially after nursing) from your baby’s face.
  • Avoid allowing the baby to rest in a curled position.
  • Position your baby’s head so that the chin is not resting on his or her chest.
  • Do not wrap the baby with his or her face against your body.

Provided you are careful to make sure that your baby has a clear pathway for air to circulate. Any position or interference that can block the baby’s ability to breathe can increase his or her chances of suffocation.

It takes just a matter of minutes for an infant to smother, so check your baby often and reposition as necessary.

With a few simple nods to safety, parents can rest easy knowing that they are looking out for their babies’ wellbeing and still enjoying a pleasant, convenient bonding experience. Babywear well!

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at 29 weeks pregnant by hiring a doula

For those of you who have been so supportive in our efforts to find a great doula, thank you. It has paid off. We hired Mandi the Doula, a sweet and helpful Ohio doula who knows her stuff.

I’m already realizing what a great investment hiring a doula can be. Despite the fact that I have spent several years in the maternal and child health arena (in public health, research, and writing), I found myself no more prepared for pregnancy and childbirth than any other first time mom. I worry about stretch marks and my baby’s health, but I don’t know by heart the stages of labor or the typical process for post-term labor induction. What I do know is that a doula is already guiding me toward a more informed pregnancy.

Before talking with Mandi, I was naively under the impression that I could just roll with the punches and everything would turn out perfectly. We had a long meeting to talk about my birth plans, health history, communication style, and preferences for support. Had I not hired her, it never would have crossed my mind to think of having a set plan for requesting medication (for instance, only getting the epidural if I ask for it three contractions in a row) or taking time to discuss a change in plans before giving my answer (you mean, I can ask the OB for a minute to think?). Moreover, it never would have occurred to me to review natural pain relief strategies or personal preferences for encouraging remarks with my husband (No, honey, I don’t want you to quote The Waterboy version of “You can do it!” every time I scream in pain).

Going over everything in detail with her helped me realize how much I hadn’t thought about—and how much I need to decide about before heading to the hospital. With a doula on the docket, I already feel more prepared and more relaxed about the entire delivery experience.

The Heartburn Kills, but I am Trying to be Grateful!

Approximately two nights ago, I woke up at 3am to what felt like a serious kick in the stomach. I felt an urgent need to puke—not from nausea, but from heartburn! I felt as if I had just stuffed myself to the brim with food and that even a sip of water would push me over the edge. To make matters worse, I was sweating like crazy and felt like the unattractive, literal variety of a “hot mess.”

Four tropical generic Tums later, I still felt crummy and was on the verge of calling my OB’s overnight line to ask for advice. Instead, I propped myself up, surrounded myself with soft pillows, drank a glass of cold water, and had my husband bring a bowl to keep by the bed. Needless to say, it was a long, uncomfortable night; mini-naps were interrupted by repeated hot flashes, and I felt like I had to stay completely still to avoid upsetting my heartburn even further.

As unpleasant as that night was, I definitely have to count my blessings. A coworker recently delivered her twin girls at only 25 weeks. They are in excellent care at a local NICU, but having two babies—each under 1.5 pounds—makes you realize that having a little one that causes one hell of a bout of night heartburn at 29 weeks just isn’t so bad.

In fact, I should feel quite lucky. A return trip to the maternal and fetal specialists revealed that Baby’s kidneys are stable. His bladder is functioning properly, the amniotic fluid is plentiful, and the specialists are pleased with his growth (3 pounds and counting!). I can feel him kicking like crazy. The fact that he’s still with me, letting me know he’s okay, saying “hello,” and causing some crazy heartburn is, in a very serious way, a blessing and a thing of beauty. I’m grateful that I haven’t had to deal with the terrible stress of delivering so prematurely and seeing my baby struggle with the challenges that early arrival can bring.

On that note of thanks, I will sign off for now. May the coming week, however heartburn-packed, be equally graced with luck and perspective!

Your Preggers Geek

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mother's endometriosis diagnosis increases her daughter's risk

Thanks to the comprehensive Danish medical record system, researchers have more firmly established a family link in endometriosis risk. In addition, the recent study examined the reproductive outcomes among women born to mothers with endometriosis.

Researchers have long recognized a familial connection of endometriosis—a tissue disorder that can cause severe pelvic pain and infertility—but, until now, the generational effects on miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, successful pregnancies, and induced abortions were unclear.

Scientists and clinicians working at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Gynecology were able to use medical records from a matched group of women to determine the effects of being born to a mother with endometriosis. As expected, women born to women with endometriosis were more than 2 times as likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis as women born to mothers without such a diagnosis.

In addition, women born to mothers with endometriosis had relatively normal reproductive outcomes. When compared to women whose mothers had no endometriosis diagnosis, these women had similar birth rates, miscarriages, and ectopic pregnancies. The study did identify a slightly higher rate of induced abortions among women born to mothers with endometriosis, but this could be due to a simple difference in desired versus unplanned pregnancies among the two groups of women—the study did not collect information on women’s pregnancy intentions. Based on the study’s available information, it appears that being born to a woman with endometriosis does not significantly affect reproductive outcomes.

Endometriosis: What’s the Story?

Endometriosis is a disorder that does not affect everyone in the same way. Tissue that is normally shed during a menstrual cycle begins to grow in other areas of the pelvic region. It may attach itself to the bladder, the ovaries, or elsewhere. When it breaks down, however, it has nowhere to go. The condition may cause cysts and irritation that can cause scarring, pain, and reproductive difficulties.

Some women get a diagnosis when searching for the cause of heavy periods, pain around the time of menstruation, pain during intercourse or urination, or difficulty conceiving. The earlier endometriosis is diagnosed, the more successful treatment may be in managing pain, avoiding excessive scar tissue, and enabling reproduction. Treatment options include hormone therapy, hormonal contraceptives, over-the-counter or prescription painkillers, and surgery. If non-surgical methods may be effective, most doctors will try to avoid surgery.

If you have any symptoms of endometriosis, ask your doctor for an evaluation. Many women go undiagnosed because they confuse the symptoms with those of other problems (like urinary tract infections, hormone imbalances, or just abnormal periods). Ask your sisters and mother if endometriosis has affected any of them, and keep their answers in mind when searching for your own diagnosis. Your fertility could depend on it!

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Week 28: Being Pregnant is a Full-Time Job

preggers geek at 28 weeks pregnant

Pregnancy takes its toll on the body in many clear, physical ways. To me, however, some of the most difficult adjustments have been sort of silly. You’re telling me my feet hurt after walking just a half hour? That my ribcage is about to burst because I’ve slouched at my desk? That I can’t get by on just six hours of sleep a night? Pshaw! Oh, wait. It’s true. Pregnancy is a round-the-clock job, with the fatigue and the wear and tear to prove it.

I Cannot Bear to Admit It: the W-A-D-D-L-E Happened

Was that a waddle? A completely legit, pregnant woman waddle?! Yes. Thankfully, no one asked me those questions. I asked them of myself, shortly after catching myself in an odd little side-to-side walk that reminded me of a penguin. I have tried to ward the waddle off ever since, but it occasionally rears its head when I’m tired or overloaded with things to carry. Ugh.

I’ve also decided that it’s pretty much impossible to do laundry frequently enough to keep up with my meager collection of maternity work attire, so I’ve indulged in another small outing to gather some preggers gear. As much as I love to shop, I’m also trying to remind myself that these clothes are not for keeps—it’s not worth investing much in pieces that will be out of my rotation just two or three months from now!

It Must Be a Man Thing: Mentioning the Belly

In lighter news, I’m at the stage (I suppose) when it should be pretty obvious to most people that the bump on my belly is not just an unusual distribution of body fat. However, it seems most women are too polite to assume so. Invariably, I get a few comments a week from strangers on my pregnancy, but they are all from men. Women do not seem to feel comfortable asking or commenting (with the exception of the coffee shop lady who decided I needed decaf coffee because of it—curses!).

I can’t really convince myself that women don’t pick up on it (especially women at work). Instead, I think they tend to just err on the side of caution and ask someone else after I’ve left. Men, on the other hand, put it all out there—taking a risk, I suppose, in the process.

“Happy Mama’s Day, Ma’am!” was the greeting I received from an older gentleman riding his bike away from the grocery store.

“Is this your first? When are you due? I have three kids—ten years apart each!” was the first thing a cashier said to me when I approached the counter at a deli.

“How far along are you? You’re in for a hot summer, I’m sorry to say!” was the remark I received from the windshield repairman who came to fix my two little windshield cracks at my office parking lot.

Thankfully, they were all correct in their suppositions. I’d hate to be them when they guess wrong, though, if they make comments like these a habit! It’s nice to hear, however, and it’s also a comfort to know that I at least look the part: 28 weeks pregnant.

Mother’s Day for Pregnant Ladies is A-Okay with Me

Although I have no baby to put a handprint on a card for me, I do happen to have a sweet Hubby who thought I deserved to celebrate Mother’s Day with the rest of the Mama World. This post is a bit late in acknowledging it, but I thought it was fabulous to be recognized by the Hubs, my parents, my in-laws, and even that man on his bike for being—at the very least—a Mama in the making.

My husband took some time to take care of some projects in the yard I’d been wanting, and treated me to a nice afternoon of pampering. In addition, I received two cards and some texts and notes from family. I figure if Hallmark acknowledges pregnant mothers in published greeting card language, then it must be official: pregnant women deserve to celebrate Mother’s Day, too!

Until next week,

The Preggers Geek

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The (Re)Customization of Labor and Delivery

labor and delivery

For those women pregnant for the first (or even the fifth!) time, it may come as a surprise that—OB and hospital willing—just about everything about the labor and delivery process can be tailored to the mother’s preferences. Mothers delivering at home or in a birth center have even more options for personalizing their experiences. From start to finish, labor and delivery are becoming, for the lucky among us, an opportunity to get in touch with some concepts that seemed to be lost from maternal medicine for decades: personal choice, woman-centered care, and patient autonomy.

Embarking on the journey from the confirmatory ultrasound to the delivery room, a woman is faced with a number of personal choices to make. Midwife or OB? Home birth, birth center, or hospital? Childbirth preparation classes or “surprise me” attitude? Un-medicated or pumped up on pain pills? Expectant or active labor management? Vaginal labor or scheduled C-section? And the list goes on…

Top Opportunities to Personalize Your Childbirth Experience

  1. Talk about contingencies. For most birth experiences, not everything goes according to plan. While not all deliveries vary wildly from a woman’s expectations, there is always a possibility that things can go awry. To keep your experience as close to your preferences as possible, develop a contingency birth plan. What happens if you go into labor prematurely? What if the labor is drawn out and the doc wants to intervene? What if you or the baby must be transferred to a specialty facility? Get it figured out in advance so that your preferences are clear if things go south.
  2. Decide who will be present and make your preferences clear. For uncomplicated deliveries, most facilities will let you have multiple guests. Want family and a close friend? No problem. Want the nurse to tell a certain family member there’s a strict one-person limit so that just you and your partner can share the moment? Most will do that, too!
  3. Choose your own delivery garb. Guess what: hospital gowns (dry, scratchy, and faded) aren’t always a requirement. Ask your delivery location about their policies on wearing whatever you want. Choose a cute nightgown or a soft oversized t-shirt to look more like yourself and feel more comfy from start to finish.
  4. Make yourself at home during the first few stages of labor. Aim to reduce your stress and up your comfort level. Do you enjoy music? Create a playlist and ask about options for playing it in your room. Love aromatherapy? Bring some oil or lotion along and make good use of it. Can’t pass up a good chick flick? Pack your faves into your hospital bag. The more at-home you feel, the less likely you are to stress out.
  5. Ask about eating and drinking during labor. For women at low risk of needing an emergency C-section, gone are the days when abstention from snacks and drinks was required. After all, labor is exhausting—if you can power up with food and water, you’ll be happy you did so.
  6. Get familiar with alternative delivery positions. If all you know about delivery positions is what you see in the movies, do some research. Side-lying, squat, birthing bars, reclining, birth chairs, and water births offer women a wide range of options that might be considerably more comfortable.
  7. Be vocal about post-partum preference. Do you want delayed cord clamping? Let them know. Do you want immediate skin-to-skin contact? Tell them! Do you want the baby kept with you whenever possible? Make that clear. Don’t be afraid to tell the nurses or birth attendants what you want once the baby arrives. Better still, tell them in advance. If you don’t let them know what you want, they’ll go with the standard—probably without consulting you.

These tips are just a few of the options I’ve learned exist—many of which were not available to women even just a decade ago. If you have a question about something, talk to your care provider. If you want to know how something works, just ask! In many cases, women may miss out on a personalized childbirth experience simply because they don’t know that they have choices available to them. If you don’t have anyone to guide you through your options, a little research can go a long way. Don’t resign yourself to a depersonalized birth if you want to be able to spread your wings a bit.

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Week 27: Boy, this Baby Boy is Lucky!

27 weeks pregnant

Surprise, surprise! Baby got a second baby shower. It’s nice to be one of the youngest in a choir by a solid decade (or two)—everyone I sing with is as excited about Baby as my own family. This lucky boy got a nice little party after last week’s practice. It resulted in a stunning homemade cake, a delicious concoction of Ritz crackers with cheese and bacon to munch on, one small addition to his 3­–6 month wardrobe, and one ridiculously large contribution to my Babies ‘R’ Us collection of gift cards. Sweet, lovely people. A heartfelt “thank you” goes out to them all. People can be so kind and generous!

In other news, I broke the word to my new boss—during orientation—that I had a bundle of joy on the way. To my immense relief, she reacted wonderfully. She smiled and congratulated me very enthusiastically. I believe she is entirely genuine and supportive, even if she was secretly thinking “Ahhhh! What am I going to do three months from now?” Maybe it’s in the job description for managers that cool tempers and self-control are must-haves. That’s one major worry off my back, though, so bless her and her relaxed response.

Two Trips: One to Pittsburgh…

Seizing perhaps our only opportunity to see some family for a relaxed weekend before Baby arrives, the Hubs and I jetted (or drove) off to da ‘Burgh for a visit to the folks. We spent a wonderful two evenings relaxing on the back porch, enjoying Mummy’s cooking, and reveling in perfect spring weather. I knew I left Arizona for some reason!

My brother lives near my parents and was able to join us for dinner both nights. He will be a first-time Uncle when I become a first-time Mom, and he is super stoked. Baby cooperated a few times and actually let him and both of my parents feel a few kicks through my tummy. My mother was a tad impatient, though, and would immediately give my belly a little jiggle if Baby didn’t supply kicks quickly enough. I’m hoping she’ll be more patient with him once he’s arrived…

The Other to the OB

At the 27 week OB visit, I got the measuring tape treatment. The belly seems to be keeping up with expected growth, although I go back for another ultrasound with the specialist in a couple of weeks to double check and to see his kidneys again.

Just before this appointment, I was introduced to the lovely test for gestational diabetes. I had to down an 8 or 10 ounce bottle of something that tasted like flat orange Fanta in less than five minutes. Besides feeling like the drink was sweet enough to burn my esophagus, I was pleased when I narrowly passed the blood sugar test 90 minutes later (phew!). I’m guessing I was close to the cut-off because of something I like to call a peanut butter Rice Krispies treat that cleverly sneaked its way into my breakfast that morning. Don’t judge.

Because I’ve been a tad behind the curve for weight gain (yes, despite the “occasional” Rice Krispies treat), I got the official, sweet go-ahead to “go crazy” if I wanted. This includes, she said, frequent trips to the ice cream shop. I can handle that, I think. Yes—I know—my OB rocks. Needless to say, I did not waste any time complying with her edict. The flavor of the week for me was chocolate with peanut butter swirls. Dee-lish.

Getting My Doula Act Together

Besides having investigated the topic slowly over the last few weeks, I’ve finally discussed the decision to hire a doula with the Hubs. After learning a little more about what the heck a doula is and why she might prove useful to both of us, he agreed to help me schedule and meet with a few. We set a date to go doula greeting, so check back next week to see our verdict.

I tentatively broached the subject of hiring a doula with my mother and my mother-in-law as well, just to get a feel for their reactions. My mom needed a definition of the term (“Who’s Adoula?”) but basically seemed chill about me “bringing in a professional, eh?” My mother-in-law, however, a nurse in a family of nurses and a major fan of modern medicine, asked, “Does this mean you are doing a home birth?!” No, mother-in-law dearest, that is not a requirement of doula-attended births. Besides, my insurance dictates my only maternity center option: a major academic medical center.

I set her at ease and hope to bring both mums into agreement with us that the idea is a good one. I don’t anticipate much difficulty once they adjust to the plan, but I suppose it doesn’t matter if they think we’re crazy—these are my Baby Boy and my Hubs, and we’re sticking to our decision!

Until next week,

Your Preggers Geek

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A World of Pregnancy Info—in Graphics

Best Pregnancy Infographics on the Web

For those new to the term, an “infographic” is just what it sounds like: an informative graphic, or a picture that combines data and facts with images or drawings. They are taking the web by storm and throwing website managers into a mad dash to develop graphics that people want to share with others. Why do I bring them up? Infographics can be a very cool and simple way to get fun info on pregnancy.

From the hopelessly cheesy to the fabulously informative, I thought I’d give you all a peek at my five favorite pregnancy infographics.

Top 5 Pregnancy Infographics

  1. Want to get pregnant? Want some cheesy but mostly accurate advice on tips for boosting fertility? Then check out The 10 Commandments of Getting Pregnant. Despite the fact that number 8 and 10 have the same title, the graphic offers some cheeky info to help couples up their chances of conceiving. For those just beginning to consider getting pregnant or for those having difficulty, this graphic can offer a starting place for potential roadblocks to investigate or avoid.
  2. How do you know that your pregnant? What are the top signs and symptoms (other than that confusing pregnancy test)? Just check out the infographic called Top Pregnancy Symptoms for your answers. Short, sweet, and illustrated. Nice.
  3. Ever wonder why prenatal vitamins are even necessary, especially if you already eat a balanced diet? I did. Then I saw this Australian infographic on how much of those healthy things you would actually have to eat everyday to get the amount of vitamins and minerals contained in your average prenatal pill…So ask yourselves, Mums-to-be, are you getting the nutrients you need?
  4. Now that the pregnancy is confirmed, you’re popping your prenatal pills, and baby is all set to go, how will your body change? From top to bottom, check out the many changes you can expect to see with this (rather medically inclined) but thorough infographic on the Body Changes During Pregnancy.
  5. Will you ever look this cheery during your pregnancy? I don’t know. All I know is that my baby’s somewhere between the size of an eggplant and a cabbage (however that works, geometrically), and that this is kind of cute. Pregnancy Week by Week (almost) is, at the very least, kind of cute.

The Tip of the Pregnancy Infographic Iceberg

As well as these little graphics walk you through the basics of pregnancy, they are by no means the only things out there to offer fun, shareable info on this special time of your life. For those in search of graphics on pregnancy statistics, there are pieces aplenty. Interested in something specific, like how to adjust your financial planning when baby’s on the way? They’ve got that, too. And graphics on human vs. animal pregnancies, how many diapers you’ll need the first year, what the heck to do with a newborn baby, and so on.

Although not always thought-provoking and comprehensive, infographics may be a great way to share info about your pregnancy with friends and family or to brush up on some general facts about what you can expect. Or, just share some pregnancy humor, like this (one of my faves!): When is it okay to ask a woman if she is pregnant?

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