Archives for August 2009

What is a Doula?

According to DONA (Doulas of North America), “The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.” Doulas are often trained in massage and other non-pharmaceutical methods of pain relief.

There are basically 2 types of doulas (some doulas offer both types of services to their clients, while others specialize in one service or the other):

birthing doulas help couples to write a birth plan and then offer support during labor and the first few hours after the birth.

Postpartum doulas provide a reassuring mix of motherly advice, breastfeeding assistance and hands-on help with household chores like cooking and cleaning during the days and weeks after baby’s arrival.

Why Have a Doula

Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. They also reduce the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), pain medication and epidurals, forceps, vacuum extraction, and cesareans.

Furthermore, research shows that women who use a doula feel more secure, confident, and cared for. They are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics, and experience less postpartum depression.

How to Find a Doula

She Knows Pregnancy & Baby provides some questions to ask when you start shopping around for the right doula:

  • Are you accredited through Doulas of North America (DONA)?
  • How many births have you attended?
  • What is your philosophy about childbirth?
  • What role do you see yourself playing at our baby’s birth?
  • Do you work with a backup doula? If so, could we meet her ahead of time?
  • What services do you provide?
  • Can you provide us with references?
  • What are your fees?

Note: You can expect to pay between $200 and $600 for the services of a birthing doula and a fixed hourly rate for the services of a postpartum doula (rates vary tremendously from one part of the country to another, but $15-$20/hr. is fairly typical).

For more information, visit, Doulas of North America or Canadian Doulas.

Feature image from Glam

Baby Boy Names that Spell Trouble

Does the name you choose for your baby boy affect his future? Well according to a new study, reports MSNBC, “the more unlikely the name, the more likely a boy is to commit a delinquent act.”

The report is based on a study of some 15,000 names given to baby boys between 1987 and 1991. The top 10 “bad boy” names are Alec, Ernest, Garland, Ivan, Kareem, Luke, Malcolm, Preston, Tyrell and Walter.

Why might this be so? TODAY’s Erin Burnett thinks this might be the reason: “Basically, if you’re teased mercilessly your entire childhood for your name, you become an angry, bitter person, and you lash out in a way that could be negative.”

This is something to think about, especially these days when the trend is all about unusual baby names (celebrity children in particular!). What do you think? Do you plan on giving your baby an uncommon name, and if so, are you worried about the effect it will have on his/her future?

image from kiddy mania

Are You Eating for Two?

Do you think you’re eating for two? Well, if you’re pregnant, you’re mistaken, but if you’re nursing, you are closer to the truth…

The Pregnancy Myth

Many women feel that pregnancy is a good time to overeat, even considering it good for their growing baby’s nutritional needs. But doing so can cause complications for mother and baby, including excessive weight gain, lethargy, heartburn, back and leg pain, and even gestational diabetes. Another risk involved with overeating is a baby that’s too big, which can cause obstruction during a normal delivery, increase the chance of injury to the baby, or the likelihood of having a Cesarean.

Remember, you’re not feeding an extra adult! Pregnant women only need about 300 extra calories a day to assist their body’s baby-making.  Some pregnant women do claim to be hungry all the time, and this may be due to a faster metabolism. If you’re hungry, eat small meals or snacks every two or three hours, but make sure you’re making healthy choices!

Fore more information, or for meal and snack ideas, please read this article: The Myth of Eating for Two.

Breastfeeding: Eating for Two NOW?

Although it may seem hard to believe, a nursing mother needs up to twice as many extra calories a day as a woman in her second and third trimesters of pregnancy.  A breastfeeding mom needs about 500 extra calories daily–some women as much as 800– to produce as much milk as her baby needs.  It’s necessary to help her recover from birth and to generate an adequate milk supply for her baby.

You may find yourself even more ravenous than you were during pregnancy. Focus on feeding your hunger by making healthy choices. It takes a lot of energy to not just feed, but care for, your newborn.  Eat whole grains, fresh fruits and veges, and avoid refined sugars.  Get adequate protein, either through meat or nuts and legumes. And be sure to drink plenty of water.  Your milk is 87 percent water, so you also need to up the fluid intake. Don’t forget that whatever you eat is turned into food for your baby, so make it good!

If you are not eating enough, you may find yourself feeling unnaturally hungry, thirsty or fatigued. And your baby may not be getting enough milk, making him fussy and always wanting to nurse.

Try not to worry too much about loosing your pregnancy weight. Instead of dieting, focus on exercising and eating well-balanced meals that will enhance your milk supply.  Many nursing mothers are pleasantly surprised to find that the weight slips off without excessive efforts.

Are Plastic Baby Bottles Safe?

There’s continuing controversy surrounding the safety of plastic baby bottles. The concern is that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can leach from plastic baby bottles made from polycarbonate plastic, posing a potential health risk to infants. The same chemical is found in many other products — especially food and drink packaging (like some reusable polycarbonate water bottles).

According to the FDA and the American Chemistry Council, bisphenol A is safe for use.  But an independent panel of scientists has criticized the FDA’s stance on BPA safety, insisting that more attention be paid to infant exposure.

The National Toxicology Program issued a report in September 2008, expressing concern about the effects on the brain, prostate gland, and behavior in fetuses, infants, and children. In animal studies, BPA mimics the effects of estrogen.

While there is no hard evidence to prove the ill-effects of BPA on humans, it is always best to err on the side of caution. To reduce your infant’s exposure to BPA, try the following:

  • Look for safer baby bottles — either tempered glass bottles or plastic baby bottles made of safer plastics like polyethelene or polypropylene (recycling symbols 2 or 5).
  • Some plastic products may have labels saying they are free of bisphenol A. Products that do contain BPA are not required to list the chemical on the label.
  • Don’t heat breast milk or infant formula in plastic baby bottles.
  • Don’t microwave plastic containers with baby food or milk.
  • If you use formula, opt for powdered. Many formula cans are lined with a BPA resin and liquid formula is more readily contaminated than powdered.

Source: WebMD.

For info on BPA-Free baby bottles, click here.  Note that the safety of Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow bottle may be questionable.

Feature image from the daily green.

Pregnant? Beware of Mice!

You probably know that once you become pregnant, smoking is a no-no, alcohol should be avoided, raw fish is “iffy” and you should let someone else clean the kitty litter. But here’s another thing to add to the list:  Stay away from mice and hamsters, no matter how cute and cuddly they may be!

According to, mice and hamsters pose a threat to your unborn baby, and pregnant women should pass on holding, petting or otherwise getting near these rodents. They should not clean an animal’s cage, or clean up mice droppings, and it may be harmful to merely breathe the air where infected mice live. These critters may be carrying a virus called congenital lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) which can cause serious birth defects.

Healthy adults are usually unaffected by the virus, and a mother-to-be may not have any symptoms. It’s not until the baby is born that problems are discovered, and often misdiagnosed as one of the other prenatal problems, like the parasite-caused toxoplamosis, German measles or even some kinds of herpes virus-caused condition.

The good news is that while virus definitely exists, and has been detected all over the USA, there are probably only a few mice that carry it. “So the chances of picking up LCMV while pregnant are, right now, very, very slim,” says Dr. Joseph Stavola, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

But Dr. Leslie Barton, a pediatrics professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, still thinks it’s important to raise awareness about this virus, in women and in obstetricians.  She notes that learning more about LCMV could give a name and a reason to many otherwise-unexplained conditions in infants and children.

“It is a terrible feeling knowing that something happened to your child during pregnancy and not know what the cause was — or if it could happen again with a subsequent pregnancy,” she says.

What to do:

  • Common sense and basic hygiene can go a long way in protecting you and your unborn child against LCMV and other prenatal risks.
  • “If you are pregnant, wash your hands frequently, don’t clean the hamster cage or sweep up rodent droppings, and whenever possible, avoid areas populated with mice,” says Stavola.
  • For more information on the full range of prenatal tests that can help protect mother and baby, visit the March of Dimes site.

Read more about LCMV here at

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Belly Wraps for Postpartum Tummies

Belly wraps have been around for a long time, but these girdle-like, postpartum garments are most recently marketed under names like the Belly Bandit and the Taut.  Many  moms, doctors, trainers, and celebrities have said that these abdominal compression wraps helped them get their pre-pregnancy shape back ASAP, according to WebMD.  But “are these belly wraps really a magic bullet for getting your body back after pregnancy or just another get-skinny-quick gimmick?”

Instructions for Use

Some doctors recommend a belly wraps as part of a postpartum plan. Women can put it on after delivery and should wear it for four to six weeks after delivery to reap the maximum benefits. According to the Belly Bandit website, “wearing an abdominal compression wrap after a c section may actually decrease the post op recovery time by minimizing associated incision pain, which allows greater mobility post surgery.”

The belly bandit does not take the place of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Instead, it should help make new mothers more aware of their bodies and encourage them to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, and exercise on a regular basis.

How the Belly Wrap Works

Even the skeptics can’t argue that these belly wraps make you appear slimmer by holding the flab in. But proponents claim that these wraps also exert a gentle pressure that helps reduce the swelling of the uterus, while supporting the legs and back.  They help women recovering from birth with their posture, abdominal support, and self-confidence. Because the new mom feels more comfortable and supported, she is more likely to get out and exercise, speeding up the weight-loss process.

But the benefits of a belly wrap may go even further. Belly binding has been around for centuries, according to Target Women, and is common in countries such as Japan (where it’s termed Haramaki), Latin America (they call it Faja), India, and other European countries.  They claim that a flabby tummy can be reversed through proper posture, support and warmth on the abdominal.   It is believed that puffy skin needs certain amount of heat and pressure to reattach to the muscle. A belly wrap provides this gentle compression and also helps the uterus return to its normal size quicker.

Fans of the belly wrap say that it even decreases the appearance of stretch marks, cause by skin that is pulled and stretched during pregnancy. The theory is that even after birth, saggy skin may continue to cause stretch marks.  Greater support of this loose skin may decrease tension which in turn may decrease stretch marks in the postpartum period.

A belly wrap costs anywhere from $20 for something simple, to $65 for the deluxe, eco-friendly models.

Think Again…

Other doctors and fitness experts warn buyers not to be fooled by the belly wrap claims. As tempting as it sounds, there is no evidence that your body shape can truly improve because of a belly band. The only proven way to lose your baby weight and keep it off, they say, is to eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and high in fiber, and engage in regular exercise. The wrap will help you suck in that gut, but anything else is just wishful thinking.

They may actually do new moms a disservice, WebMD quotes one doctor as saying. “We have to consciously work to strengthen and engage our core muscles, and we use less of our abdominal muscles when wearing wraps.”

Bottom Line: I have never tried a belly wrap, and am not sure I believe it would work… but it sure is a tempting thought! At worst, you spent $50 on a fancy girdle that at least makes you look thinner. At best, you’ve got better posture and a tighter, slimmer, less flabby belly!

And the fact still remains that there is no easy and quick miracle cure for losing weight. Gradual weight loss, attained through the right balance of a healthy diet and proper exercise, is still the healthiest way.

Hearing your Baby’s Heartbeat

Many parents eagerly await hearing their baby’s heartbeat for the first time. There’s nothing quite like the revelation that there really is a small person growing in there!

The embryonic heart begins to beat about 22 days after conceiving (5 weeks gestation). Because the heart is so small at this point, it cannot be detected on a Doppler instrument, but an ultrasound will show the tiny heart fluttering away. After 9 or 10 weeks gestation, the baby’s heartbeat is detectable on a Doppler instrument. Sometimes you won’t be able to hear it until the 12-14th weeks of pregnancy. A Doppler is a small hand-held wand that fits in the hand, and amplifies the sound waves that are bounced back from the baby’s heart.  Your doctor may apply a lightweight gel to your abdomen to help the sound travel.

A baby’s heart beat, also called fetal heart tones (FHT), starts out at 180 beats per minute (BMP), which is very rapid, much faster than an adult’s. Then around 12 weeks gestation it settles into the normal range of 120-160 BPM for the rest of the pregnancy.

A baby’s heartbeat is checked often to monitor how the baby is developing and coping with the stress of the pregnancy and labor. To measure the heart rate, your doctor will count the number of hearbeats for a full minute, or count for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. Some instruments provide a reading themselves, and some practitioners are so attuned to that all they have to do is listen carefully.

There is an old wives’ tales that suggests you can tell the gender of your baby by listening to the heart rate. A higher fetal heart rate means the mother is carrying a girl, and a lower heart rate means it’s a boy. Unfortunately, this is just a rumor!

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The Birth Plan Reality

Here is some good advice (from when it come to writing a birth plan: “Try to keep it realistic and keep an open mind about changing your plans. Sticking to a plan too rigidly could actually compound your stress in the delivery room and cast a negative light on your birth experience.”

There are many factors that come into play that will affect what type of birth a woman has. Birth plans give caregivers an idea of the mother’s preferences, but the reality is that things hardly ever go exactly as planned. Sometimes your contractions just won’t get rolling on their own… sometimes your baby’s head is just too big… and sometimes the pain is just more than you expected.

One option, in place of a written birth plan, is to communicate verbally with the hospital healthcare team. According to Sarah McMoyler, RN, BSN, author of The Best Birth:   “When a couple arrives in L&D (Labor & Delivery) with a written dissertation on what will and won’t happen, outlining their plans for the birth, they are setting themselves up for disappointment, regret, and effectively distancing themselves from their nurses. The hospital team has the same goals you do: healthy moms and healthy babies, however you get there. When couples have realistic expectations of themselves and of the hospital, everyone can work together towards the same goal – a beautiful baby!”

For those that feel that creating a written, personal birth plan is essential, be sure to keep it flexible. One suggestion is to use words like “prefer” or “if possible”, when writing it. This makes your plan appear less like a complicated set of orders and more like an organized communication tool to share important preferences pertaining to your birth experience. In case an emergency cesarean birth is necessary, you should include preferences for such a scenario, as well.

“Every woman would like to know when it will happen, how long it will take and whether or not she really will need pain medicine,” says Dr. Binkley at Pregnancy Today. “Here are the definitive answers to these questions: It won’t happen soon enough or it will happen before you’re ready. It will take way too long or will be much faster than you thought; and it will hurt less or more than you expect. Some labors will be quick and uneventful, while others may take days and require medical intervention to accomplish the deed.”

The Male Biological Clock Ticks, Too

Everyone knows all about the female biological clock. But what you might be less familiar with is that when it comes to making babies, guys don’t have all the time in the world, either. It’s not as obvious becuase men have successfully fathered children all the way into old age. But male fertility decreases with age, as does the ability to father healthy children. Here are a number of things you should know about.

Men do continue to produce sperm throughout their lives, but the male biological clock affects the amount, motility and quality of sperm produced. Pregnancy etc calls attention to some of the following  factors:

  • Erectile dysfunction: Testosterone drops after a man turns 25, which can lead to weight gain, which in turn results in more estrogen and less testosterone being produced in the man’s body. Added weight, especially around the middle, can contribute to heart disease which constricts blood flow. This can lead to erectile dysfunction.
  • Sperm count: Men between the ages of 30 and 50 typically experience a 30% drop in sperm count.
  • Motility (how fast sperm swim): older sperm is 37% slower.
  • Sperm health: Older men produce sperm that is 5x as malformed as its younger counterparts.
  • Pregnancy: Research has shown that when a man is 45 and up, it takes the woman as much as five times as long to get pregnant.
  • Birth defects: Genetic conditions such as dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, and schizophrenia increase with paternal age.

There are things a man can do, in order to help preserve his sperm. Eating healthy, exercising, avoiding smoking, steroids, and hot tubs can all help. But no matter how healthy your habits are, the clock keeps ticking. According to the NY Times, these findings should “persuade many doctors that men should not be too cavalier about postponing marriage and children.”

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Prenatal Vitamins: What you need to know

Prenatal vitamins are prescribed during pregnancy (and lactation) for a mother’s health, and the health of her baby.  These are specially formulated multivitamins that make up for any nutritional deficiencies in the mother’s diet.

While a daily vitamin supplement cannot take the place of a healthy diet, many women need supplements to make sure they get adequate levels of these vitamins and minerals. (Eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods actually helps your body absorb the vitamins better.) These supplements contain numerous vitamins and minerals, but certain ones are especially important during pregnancy:

Folic Acid

Folic acid can reduce your risk of having a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain and spinal cord, called the “neural tube.” A baby with spina bifida, the most common neural tube defect, is born with a spine that is not closed. The exposed nerves are damaged, leaving the child with varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and sometimes mental retardation.

This is one vitamin that all women of childbearing age are recommended to take. This is because neural tube defects develop in the first 28 days after conception, before many women even realize they are pregnant.  In fact, the FDA now requires that all flour products — such as breads, buns, and bagels — be fortified with extra folic acid. A woman who has had a prior child with a neural tube defect should discuss the appropriate dose of folic acid with her doctor before her next pregnancy.

Food sources include: green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, and fortified breakfast cereals.


Calcium during pregnancy can prevent a new mother from losing her own bone density as the fetus uses the mineral for bone growth.

Food sources include: Yogurt, milk, cheddar cheese, calcium-fortified foods like soy milk, juices, breads, cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones.


Iron helps both the mother and baby’s blood carry oxygen.  Most women do not get the amount of iron that they need to keep up with the 50% increase in blood volume and for storage in the baby’s liver. Iron can also help prevent anemia, low birth weight, and premature delivery.

Food sources include: Beef, pork, dried beans, spinach, dried fruits, wheat germ, oatmeal or grains fortified with iron.

Are All Prenatal Vitamins the Same?

No, they’re not, says WebMD. Look for one that contains approximately:

  • 4,000 and 5,000 IU (international units) of vitamin A
  • 800 and 1,000 mcg (1 mg) of folic acid
  • 400 IU of vitamin D
  • 200 to 300 mg of calcium
  • 70 mg of vitamin C
  • 1.5 mg of thiamine
  • 1.6 mg of riboflavin
  • 2.6 mg of pyridoxine
  • 17 mg of niacinamide
  • 2.2 mcg of vitamin B12
  • 10 mg of vitamin E
  • 15 mg of zinc
  • 30 mg of iron

Beware of Over-Dosing

American Pregnancy cautions: Avoid taking several different supplements unless under a health care provider’s supervision; instead take one multivitamin that includes a variety of needed nutrients in one dose. Combining supplements (such as taking a folic acid supplement along with your multivitamin, etc.) can raise concerns because you run the risk of overdosing on a particular nutrient. Taking more than 100% the RDA of any nutrient should be avoided during pregnancy unless under the direction of your health care provider. Ask him/her to recommend a prenatal vitamin suitable for you.

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