Archives for July 2009

Artificial Sweeteners during Pregnancy

Artificial sweeteners are chemical substitutes for sugar. Their safety has long been debated, especially since most of the studies done to test their safety is funded by the companies that make them.

You would be surprised to know what artificial sweeteners are actually made of. Saccharin (Sweet N’ Low) was discovered by a chemist working with distilled coal tar.  Studies done in the 1970’s showed that saccharin causes bladder cancer in rats and the FDA proposed that it be banned. After a public outcry (who cares about cancer as long as we can have sugar-free treats?!) saccharin products were allowed back on the market with a warning that “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health.”

Studies show that saccharin crosses the placenta and may remain in fetal tissue, according to American Pregnancy, so its safety for pregnant women remains in question.

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful) has also had its share of controversy since being discovered in 1965. One ingredient is methanol, wood alcohol, which is a deadly poison. In his book, Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World, (also made into a chilling documentary– see the trailor) H.J. Roberts, MD wrote about “Aspartame Disease.”  The symptoms can include headache, dizziness, mood changes, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, vision changes, diarrhea,  memory loss, fatigue, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), seizures, Alzheimer’s, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and various cancers.

Another book published by Dr. Russell Blaylock, professor of Neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi, is Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. He links the rise in brain cancers with the chemistry of aspartame. In 1981, Satya Dubey, an FDA statistician, stated that the brain tumor data on aspartame was so “worrisome” that they could not recommend approval of NutraSweet.

Dr. Diana Edwards studied possible birth defects caused by aspartame. However, her funding came from Mosanto, the manufacturer or Aspartame, and funding was cut after preliminary data showed damaging information.

The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) claims that Aspartame is safe for use during pregnancy and lactation, although they recommend moderate consumption, whatever that means. However women are warned to avoid aspartame in the book While Waiting: A Prenatal Guidebook, which can cause brain damage, including mental retardation.

Sucralose (Splenda) was discovered while trying to create a new insecticide. Claims that Surcalose is “natural” and made from sugar is false. It is a chemically treated substance, and it’s safety has also been called into question. Acesulfame K, another lesser-known artificial sweetener, contains methylene chloride, a known cancer-causing agent. Cyclamate is is another sweetener that has been linked to cancer and is currently banned in the United States.

Stevia is derived from a South American shrub, and has not been approved by the FDA to be sold as a sweetener. Stevia can be sold as a “dietary supplement” but not as a sweetener because its safety has been questioned when used as a food additive.Pregnant or lactating women should avoid using Stevia.

Today, both obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions, proving that the use of artificial sweeteners has gotten us nowhere. People who don’t rely on artificial sweeteners tend to maintain a leaner, healthier diet and lifestyle.  Because research is limited on the safety of non-nutritive sweeteners during pregnancy, it is best to avoid using them, or use sparingly. With all the questionable chemical ingredients they contain, and the warnings and health concerns being voiced, it is better to be safe, than sorry.

Image from Dr. Sharma: Do Artificial Sweeteners Promote Weight Gain?

Information derived from an article called “Artificial Sweeteners: Short and (Not So) Sweet, by Yocheved Rosenthal, R.N, CNM (certified Nurse-Midwife)

Premature Labor: When to call the Doctor

Premature labor occurs in about 12% of all pregnancies.  A normal pregnancy should last about 40 weeks. Occasionally, labor may begin prematurely before the 37th week of pregnancy because uterine contractions cause the cervix to open earlier than normal. When this happens, the baby is born premature and can be at risk for health problems. Fortunately, due to research, technology and medicine, the health of premature babies is improving.

If any of these possible signs of premature labor occur, stop whatever you are doing and call your healthcare provider. Sit or lie down while you wait to hear what he or she advises.

1. Your membranes rupture and amniotic fluid either trickles or gushes from your vagina.

2. Contractions that you may have previously thought were normal Braxton- Hicks contractions now become more intense and more regular.

3. Sudden onset of low back pain or crampy pressure in your pelvic area; a feeling that you have not felt before.

For more information on Premature Labor, visit American Pregnancy or Dr. Sears.

Pregnancy Energy Boosters

During pregnancy, especially the first and third trimesters, you are probably feeling like all you energy is being sapped by that sweet little bundle growing in your belly. It’s hard to get going in the morning, it’s a chore to get all the day’s tasks checked off, and you tend to fall asleep during dinner, much to your husband’s amusement.

Is this lethargy just something you’ll have to learn to deal with, or are there ways to boost energy levels during pregnancy?

Well, it’s a little bit of both. Some advice for dealing with these new levels of exhaustion involve taking naps during the day (even a 10-minute cat nap may help keep you going) and letting certain things slide (like housecleaning). But if you are looking for other ways to boost your energy, here are some things to try. The following 10 tips are from ask baby:

  1. Drink a glass of cold water – Drinking plenty of cool water will help to rehydrate and energise you by maximising the circulation of blood and oxygen around your body, improving alertness and increasing your metabolism.
  2. Turn on the radio – Music can have an amazing effect on your mood, listening to your favourite tunes is a great destresser and will leave you feeling refreshed so if you’re in need of a pick me up simply turn on the radio.
  3. Focus on your breathing – Poor posture and shallow breathing will leave you feel tired and achy. Take a few moments to clear your mind, focus on sitting up straight and filling your lungs properly whenever you have an energy dip.
  4. Brush your teeth – The mere scent of mint can help to reduce fatigue so try brushing your teeth, sucking a mint, sniffing some essential oil or lathering up with mint shower gel when you need to feel more alert. Mint also has cooling properties so a peppermint body lotion or spray can be a really refreshing option too.
  5. Take a short walk – Although exercise is the last thing you might feel like doing when you’re tired, taking a short walk will help to circulate oxygen around your body, boost your metabolism and encourage the release of endorphins into your blood. Taking gentle exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga on a regular basis will actually fill you with more energy and help to prepare your body for labour.
  6. Breakfast like a king – One of the best ways to boost your energy levels is by starting the day with a hearty breakfast. Research has found that a breakfast combination of complex carbohydrates and protein will make your energy high last longer as sugar is released into your blood slowly and steadily throughout the morning. Try adding seeds to your cereal, fruit to your yogurt, egg on your toast or honey to your porridge for the best lasting boost.
  7. Go green fingered – Plants help to cleanse your environment by improving the quality of air you breath in; their mere presence has been shown to reduce headaches, minimise fatigue and increase alertness. Go for easy to maintain plants with dark green leaves for the best boost at home or in the office.
  8. Open the window – Being indoors with stuffy air and artificial light can contribute to a feeling of fatigue. Opening a window and taking some deep breaths of fresh air will help you to feel revived; better still take a few minutes to go outside and stretch your legs.
  9. Snack smart – It can be so tempting to reach for sweet treats when your feeling exhausted, and while they do give you an energy boost it will only be short lived. So, when you get the munchies its much better to go for some dried fruit, wholegrain toast or nuts as these will release sugar into your blood stream slowly and evenly and give you a much longer boost. Keep a packet of dried apricots in your bag as an emergency pick me up as these are packed with iron, fibre, vitamin c and many other pregnancy essentials.
  10. Take a power nap – If you’re struggling to sleep at night, try taking a short power nap during the afternoon (or when you get home from work). This will do wanders for your energy levels and help to make up for the zzzz’s you’re missing when the sun goes down.

Baby Zone adds the following pointers:

  1. Make TV Time Productive: Rather than sitting to watch your favorite TV show, use those 30 minutes for exercise. Pedal a stationary bike or take a walk on the treadmill. Low-impact exercise is best, but the overwhelming message is the same: exercise will “reenergize and increase your oxygen, blood, and nourishment to your body,” says Dr. Hall.
  2. Get a good night’s rest: The key to maintaining energy is getting enough sleep. “Proper rest,” according to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, “means getting at least eight to nine hours of good sleep every night.” Nowadays, this may seem like a lot, considering the majority of the country is running on empty. “A hundred years ago, the average American slept nine hours at night, which has now been whittled down to six hours,” says Dr. Teitelbaum.
  3. Energy from food: You’ll benefit most from foods that provide plenty of nutrients and energy-boosting substances. Broccoli is a great source of beta carotene with vitamin C to keep you energized, reports Dr. Hall. Likewise, blueberries contain protective antioxidants and stimulate the brain. You can boost your body’s healing capabilities by eating foods containing vitamin B6 which helps the body produce serotonin, creating a calming effect. Dr. Hall suggests eating chicken, sweet potatoes, and bananas for a B6 boost.
  4. Drink plenty of water: “As a society, we walk around chronically dehydrated,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. Pregnant women, especially, should drink the recommended eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day to keep healthy and maintain stamina. (Stay away from caffeinated drinks which do little to help hydrate a body. Plus, the effects of caffeine on a fetus are still unclear.)

SNACK IDEAS FOR SUTAINED ENERGY

Women24 maintains that the key to having more energy, as well as less nausea, minimal weight gain, and a healthy baby, is to control blood sugar. Healthy snacking throughout the day can help maintain your blood sugar and energy levels:

  • A mixture of raisins and cashew nuts
  • A cup of fresh fruit salad, dotted with black cherries and sprinkled with ground nuts
  • Bananas are one of the best snacks
  • 2 Ryvita biscuits, topped with sliced turkey, tomato and black pepper
  • 1 slice pumpkin seed rye with 1/4 small avocado pear and 1/4 cup low fat cottage cheese.
  • 6 dried apricot halves (soft juicy type) and 5 almonds
  • Orange slices served chilled
  • image from fitness and pregnancy

    Breastfeeding as Birth Control

    Maybe you have heard that nursing can prevent you from getting pregnant again. Perhaps breastfeeding is nature’s method of birth control and child spacing. Is it really true that you won’t conceive again as long as you’re breastfeeding?
    Yes it is, explains William Sears, MD, as long as you nurse according to the rules of natural child spacing.  The same hormones that make milk also suppress the release of reproductive hormones. Most mothers who breastfeed full-time do not ovulate and do not have menstrual periods. This means that you can’t get pregnant, at least for a while.

    But is it reliable?

    To get the full benefit of breastfeeding’s effect on fertility, you need to follow the “rules.” In the last ten years, lactation researchers have developed the lactational amenorrhea method of family planning, called LAM. Research shows that LAM’s effectiveness in preventing pregnancy is better than 98 percent, a figure that compares well with artificial methods of birth control. According to LAM, you can rely on breastfeeding for protection from pregnancy under the following conditions:

    • Your menstrual cycles have not returned.
    • You are not supplementing regularly (bottles) or allowing long periods without breastfeeding, either during the day (more than three hours) or at night (more than six hours).
    • You baby is under six months old.

    Actually, studies have shown that most mothers who are breastfeeding exclusively remain infertile for more than the six-month period covered by LAM. You will only start ovulating and menstruating when the baby starts to nurse less often and prolactin levels fall.

    Extending the Protection

    Here are 4 tips for using breastfeeding to delay ovulation, and prevent pregnancy:
    1. Practice unrestricted breastfeeding without regard to schedules. Usually six to eight feedings a day will suppress ovulation.
    2. Don’t train your baby to sleep through the night. The milk-making hormones that suppress ovulation are highest between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Nighttime nursing is important to the suppression of fertility. Sleeping with your baby facilitates unrestricted feeding at night.
    3. All of baby’s sucking should be at the breast, for comfort as well as food. Avoid the use of bottles and pacifiers.
    4. Delay the introduction of solid foods until age six months or later. Solids should provide additional nutrition, not substitute for breastfeeding.

    The key to using breastfeeding to delay the return of fertility is frequency. Because prolactin clears so rapidly from the blood, frequent feedings are necessary to keep it high enough to suppress ovulation. As baby nurses less frequently, prolactin levels fall, reproductive hormones rise, and fertility returns. If you follow these rules, you may enjoy a period of lactation amenorrhea (no menstrual periods) that lasts thirteen to sixteen months. (Research shows an average of 14.5 months without a period following childbirth.)  A few mothers will experience a return of menstrual periods by six months, others not until two or three years.

    Getting Pregnant Again

    Your first period after childbirth is often anovulatory, meaning that it is not preceded by ovulation (the release of an egg), and thus you could not have gotten pregnant before this first period. However, about 5 percent of women do ovulate before having their first period, and the longer you have gone without having periods, the more likely this is to happen. Thus it’s possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding, even if you are not menstruating. Once your periods resume, assume that it is possible for you to get pregnant, and take precautions if necessary.

    Your baby’s nursing may continue to affect your fertility even after your periods have returned. If you are nursing an older baby or toddler, and want to get pregnant, you may find this difficult while you are still breastfeeding. Cutting back on breastfeeding a bit, especially at night, can make it possible for you to conceive.

    Remember that in addition to providing safe and effective temporary child spacing, LAM provides optimal infant nutrition, enhances immunity, prevents formula-related illness, and physiologically promotes mother-child interaction (La Leche League).

    To read about further breastfeeding benefits to mother and baby, please click here!

    feature image from here.

    Pregnancy in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s

    “Is there a perfect age to have a baby?” asks Parents.com. They go on to list the pros and cons of having a baby in every child-bearing decade. Some women find themselves in their mid 30’s or early 40’s trying to conceive, becuase they were pursuing a career, waiting to find the right one to settle down with, or did not feel financially secure or emotionally prepared in their 20’s. But the truth is that the earlier you have children, the better your body will handle it and the better chance you have of a healthy baby. So think again before pushing off the baby-making another five years!

    The 20’s: Ideal

    The younger, the better! Today, the typical American woman gives birth around 25 years old.  (Thirty years ago the average was 21!)  Your eggs are young and therefore more likely to be healthy. This means:

    • It is generally easy to conceive now
    • You have a lower risk of birth defects
    • The chances that you’ll miscarry are minimal
    • Pregnancy is tiring, but you’ll have more energy to carry you through
    • After birth, you’ll bounce back relatively quickly
    • You have a high chance of giving birth vaginally because your body has more muscle tone in the uterus and abs. This makes pushing easier.

    The cons about having kids in your 20’s? There really are none, unless you do not feel ready to have a baby. As Dr. Goldstein at Parents.com puts it, “societal norms have outpaced evolutionary ones. Younger bodies are better able to handle the physical demands of pregnancy, but you may not feel financially or psychologically prepared to be a parent at that stage,” he says.

    The 30’s: In good company

    In your early 30’s, pregnancy is much the same as in your 20’s. Your health, energy, fertility, and quality of eggs are still all at optimal levels. The risks of genetic defects is low and the chances of a smooth pregnancy are good.

    Unfortunately, as you get older, the risks increase.

    • In your later 30’s, the odds of miscarriage are about 20%,  due to declining egg quality.
    • Your pregnancy will be monitored more closely, and you may be asked if you want to be screened for chromosomal abnormalities.

    But there’s no need to panic. Many women in their late 30’s have completely normal pregnancies and healthy babies. They may also have the added luxury of financial security and the maturity needed to parent wisely.

    The 40’s: Never too late!

    Having a baby in your 40’s may be exhausting, but chances are you’re so happy to be pregnant you could care less! And Dr. Goldstein notes that women are a lot healthier at 40 than they were even a generation ago, “so it may not be as difficult as you expect.”

    What is cause for concern, however, is the risk of birth defects.

    • The older your eggs are, the more likely it is that an embryo’s chromosomes will be improperly sorted.
    • At 40, the chances a fetus will have Down syndrome is 1 in 100.
    • This risk of chromosomal imbalance also partly explains why the risk of miscarriage stands at more than 50 percent by age 42.
    • Due to these higher risks, you may be urged to get extra testing at this stage.
    • Your doctor will also be vigilant about checking you for chronic health problems. First-time moms over 40 are 60 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure and four times more likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy than mothers in their 20s.
    • They are also eight times as likely as women in their 20s to suffer placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta is implanted low in the uterus — sometimes over the cervix — impeding delivery.
    • C-sections are also more common in older moms, since they may suffer from other health problems such as fibroids, which can complicate delivery, adds Dr. Goldstein.

    Although this list of “likehoods” is overwhelming, it is never too late to try.  You too may be blessed with a healthy baby, like other 40-something women have.  And if it makes you feel better, you are less likely to experience morning sickness when you’re older. Becoming a parent when you are settled, mature, and secure means you can afford to give your baby the best life has to offer.

    image from it’s about love

    Naming your Child’s Gaurdian

    No parent wants to think about it, but it’s something that needs to be arranged… Who will care for my child if (God forbid) something happened to me? As heartbreaking as it is to imagine your kids alone in the world, it could happen to anyone at any time. It’s best to be prepared.
    If you have yet to appoint a legal guardian for your children in the event of your death, ParentDish assures you that you are not alone. Some parents have just not thought about it, some  have some vague idea of who they’d prefer (or maybe a strong opinion on who they would not prefer) but many have not made it legal.

    Actually, making it legal is the easy part. Get a lawyer to draw up the necessary papers and that’s it (this can be done when drawing up your will).  You should name one personal guardian (and one alternate, in case your first choice can’t serve) for each of your children.

    The hard part is choosing who to name as legal guardian. It’s a huge decision in which many factors come in to play.

    • Your parents: This might be an obvious choice for many parents; after all, who loves your kids almost as much as you? They might be willing and able, but depending on their age, that could spell even more upheaval and distress for your children should they pass away before the kids reach maturity.
    • Family size: Your cousin might be a wonderful, loving parent, but with 5 kids of her own, is she willing to make room in her family for yours?
    • Location: In case of a tragedy, uprooting your kids from their familiar neighborhood, school, and friends may add to the trauma. This is a consideration when choosing someone who lives nearby, or in another state or country.
    • Money matters: Can you provide enough assets to raise the children? If not, can your chosen guardian afford to bring them up?
    • Religion: Does the guardian share your moral and/or religious beliefs?

    Some parents name one person to be the children’s personal guardian and a different person to look after financial matters, explains Nolo.com. Often this is because the person who would be the best surrogate parent would not be the best person to handle the money. For example, you might feel that your brother-in-law would provide the most stable, loving home for your kids, your close friend would be better at dealing with the economic aspects of bringing them up. Provided that your brother-in-law and your friend agree and you trust them to get along in the best interest of your children, you can name one as personal guardian and the other as custodian or trustee to manage your children’s inheritance.

    Nobody wants to plan for their own death, but as parents we have a responsibility to our children to do so. Have you done it?

    Having trouble with the decision? See: Naming a Guardian for Your Child: Problems and Solutions

    Turn off the TV!

    Past studies have shown that infants exposed to television tend to have delayed vocalization and attention problems (not to mention health problems like obesity). Now, a new study finds that the it’s not only the child‘s experience with the television that affects him, but the amount of TV watched by adults around him, as well.

    Researchers fitted children with business-card sized sound recorders that captured everything they said and heard during continuous 12-16 hour periods. Special software was used to analyze the sounds children were exposed to, as well as the sounds they made.

    According to ParentDish, “The researchers found that for each hour of audible television, there was a significant drop in the amount and duration of child vocalizations as well as a drop in conversational interactions with an adult… every hour of television exposure was associated with a decrease of 770 words the child heard from an adult… the adults were speaking 500 to 1,000 fewer words per hour of audible television.”
    In other words, this study found that when the TV is on, adults barely speak to the babies or children who are around them!

    This reduced verbal interaction may be responsible  for language delays, as well as attentional and cognitive delays.  Language development is a critical component of overall brain development during early childhood.

    What is important to realize is that just having the television on in the home reduces the number of words your child hears and speaks. It doesn’t matter if he is actively watching television or is merely in the vicinity of an audible television. This is especially troubling when you consider that fact that 30 percent of American households report having the television always on, even when no one is watching!

    SO TURN OFF THE TV! The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Public Education’s recommendation that children under the age of two should not be exposed to television at all, and that older children should be limited to no more than two hours per day.

    Image source

    8 Easy Fertility Boosters

    Changing your lifestyle even slightly may not be exactly easy, but when considering the benefits of a healthy pregnancy, these 8 ways  to increasing fertility are not too much to ask! WebMD explores ways to raise your chances of becoming pregnant, according to fertility specialists. These are the recommended measures to try before turning to assisted reproduction:

    1. For  Her: Weight Control

    If you are underweight or overweight, it may take longer for your body to conceive.  According to one study, women who are overweight (BMI of 25-39) took twice as long to get pregnant. But being underweight is even worse! Having a BMI below 19 increased the time to conception fourfold.

    2. For Him: Lower the heat

    Wearing tight underwear or sitting on hot car seats may not affect your sperm viability, but regular sessions in the hot tub may.  Researchers have also found raised scrotal temperatures when guys use their laptops on their laps, which may harm sperm. Another study speculates that keeping your cell phone in your pants pocket in talk mode may negatively affect spermatozoa and impair male fertility. So if you want to be a dad, you might as well put the laptop on a table, and keep your cell phone out of ur pants pocket!

    3. For Her: Drink in Moderation

    Drinking too much coffee (more than 5 cups a day/500 mg of caffeien- including tea and soda) or too much alcohol (2 drinks a day) can impair a woman’s fertility.  Moderate coffee drinking seems to be OK, but keep it under 200 – 250 milligrams of caffeine a day. Obviously, once you become pregnant you should cut the alcohol out of your diet.

    4. His & Her: No Smoking

    Research shows that smoking cigarettes can impair both a woman and a man’s fertility.  In women, it affects how receptive the uterus is to the egg. In men, smoking can reduce sperm production and damage DNA. Smoking while pregnant can result in a host of potential problems including miscarriage.

    5. His & Her: Timing of Sex

    The “fertile window” is defined as the six-day interval ending on the day of ovulation.” And the 3 days before ovulation are when pregnancy is most likely to occur.

    Patients often wait until the day of ovulation or later to have intercourse, says Richard Paulson, MD, but his advice is, “Err on the early side.”  To track ovulation, figure that it usually occurs about 14 days before your period is due. You can also use an ovulation predictor kit or the calendar method.

    6. His & Her: Frequency of Sex

    The more often the better! Delaying intercourse until your body is in the “fertility window” is counter-productive. After about a week of not having sex, the sperm count goes up a bit, but the motility (swimming ability) decreases. Daily lovemaking is best, but not always practical, so ever-other-day or as-often-as-you-can is also good.

    7. His & Her: Check your Lubricant

    Some lubricants contain spermicides, which actually decrease fertility. Even commercially available water-based lubricants, such as Astroglide, KY Jelly, and Touch may inhibit sperm motility by 60% -100% within 60 minutes of incubation.  So what to use? Canola oil, or even peanut oil, the experts suggest!

    8. His & Her: Avoid Chemical Exposure

    Men and women’s fertility may be harmed by exposures to pesticides, especially agricultural pesticides.  And women’s fertility can be affected by exposure to some solvents and toxins — including those used in printing businesses and dry cleaning establishments.

    For more info on any of these 8 tips, visit WebMD.

    feature image from focus photography.

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