Archives for November 2009

Pregnant? Think Twice about H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine

U.S. health authorities have made pregnant women one of the highest priority groups for getting the H1N1 swine flu vaccine, but is it actually safe for pregnant women and their babies? This is the question asked by Organic Health Adviser, and the answer may shock you. Miscarriage reports from pregnant women who have taken the H1N1 swine flu vaccine are starting to pour in from all over the nation.  Although many doctors, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are urging their pregnant patients to be vaccinated, the package insert for the swine flu vaccines actually says that the safety of these vaccines for pregnant women has not been established.

If you want to read the stories of real women who got the H1N1 swine flu vaccine and then miscarried shortly afterward, click on this Baby Center June 2010 birth club message board. You can also read the article on the About.com Miscarriage/Pregnancy Loss blog, “Some Pregnant Women Fearful of H1N1 Vaccine.” See the comments that follow. Also, see the article and comments in the Organic Health Adviser.

Vaccines have been linked to other disorders and diseases, such as autism, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders, although the research is often inconclusive. So the big question is, is there really a link between the vaccine and miscarriage, or are these stories mere coincidences? I am not able to pass judgement, but the fact that the vaccine is closely followed by miscarriage time after time makes the situation very frightening. Dr. Mercola agrees: “Perhaps some of the 20 women on one of the blogs would have miscarried anyway, but when a number of women have healthy, uneventful pregnancies up until they’re injected with a vaccine, and then suddenly miscarry, it most certainly warrants investigation!”

On the flip side, the Star Tribune points out that scientists have noticed a pattern: A disproportionate number of expectant mothers have been hospitalized with the flu. So far, pregnant women, who make up 1 percent of the population, have accounted for 6 percent of H1N1 deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.  According to doctors, pregnant women have weaker immune systems and the flu not only endangers their lives, but increases the risks of miscarriage and birth defects as well.  A counter-argument is examined at Swine Flu Alert — Shocking Vaccine Miscarriage Horror Stories, from Mercola.com.

For those who choose not to be vaccinated, there are ways of building your immune system naturally, to ward off the possibility of catching the swine flu (or any other type of flu).  This includes getting adequate levels of Vitamin D (whether through sunlight or supplements), exercise regularly, get enough sleep, address emotional stress, wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your mouth and nose with unclean hands.

Whether or not to be vaccinated is a decision that no one can or should make for you.  However, we hope that you will make an educated decision on this topic, for yourself and your family, after weighing all the risks and benefits. Whatever your decision, the public should be aware that any time you take a pharmaceutical drug or vaccine of any kind, you need to report any and all side effects to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). You can do this through your doctor– you should ask to get a copy of the report to make sure it was done– or you can report it yourself via the VAERS web site.

Thanksgiving Thoughts for Parents!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, as we all take time to reflect on our blessings, let’s take a moment to feel gratitude for our precious little (what do you want, my love?) blessings.  Let’s be thankful for all the joy (will you stop sitting on your brother’s head, please?) they bring us, despite the sleepless nights, small aggravations (NO! No more cookies), and endless trials (do you want to go to your room, young lady?!)… because after all, if children didn’t act like, well, children, (how many times must I tell you not to climb on that?) we would never discover the capabilities we have for unconditional love, endless giving, and true refinement of character (WOULD YOU SHUT UP ALREADY?!).

Right?

So here are a few quotes to brighten your day and help us all remember how lucky and priviledged we are to be parents. And know that you are not alone in the glorious, aggravating, entertaining experience of raising children!

For Parents of Infants:

It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born.  This is not necessarily cause for alarm.  The important thing is to keep your wits about you and borrow some money.  ~Elinor Goulding Smith


A baby is an angel whose wings decrease as his legs increase.  ~Author Unknown

Families with babies and families without babies are sorry for each other.  ~Ed Howe

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.  ~Leo J. Burke

Getting down on all fours and imitating a rhinoceros stops babies from crying.  (Put an empty cigarette pack on your nose for a horn and make loud “snort” noises.)  I don’t know why parents don’t do this more often.  Usually it makes the kid laugh.  Sometimes it sends him into shock.  Either way it quiets him down.  If you’re a parent, acting like a rhino has another advantage.  Keep it up until the kid is a teenager and he definitely won’t have his friends hanging around your house all the time.  ~P.J. O’Rourke

One of the most obvious results of having a baby around the house is to turn two good people into complete idiots who probably wouldn’t have been much worse than mere imbeciles without it.  ~Georges Courteline, La Philosophie de Georges Courteline

A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.  ~Carl Sandburg

For parents of Small Children:

A characteristic of the normal child is he doesn’t act that way very often.  ~Author Unknown

Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.  ~Harold Hulbert

Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.  ~Rabindranath Tagore

A child is a curly dimpled lunatic.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A three year old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm.  ~Bill Vaughan

There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is a home without children?  Quiet.  ~Henny Youngman

It is not easy to be crafty and winsome at the same time, and few accomplish it after the age of six.  ~John W. Gardner and Francesca Gardner Reese

Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.  ~Phyllis Diller

If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.  ~Edgar W. Howe

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.  There are seven million.  ~Walt Streightiff

For Parents of  Teenagers

The young always have the same problem – how to rebel and conform at the same time.  They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.  ~Quentin Crisp

Little children, headache; big children, heartache.  ~Italian Proverb

Heredity is what sets the parents of a teenager wondering about each other.  ~Laurence J. Peter

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.  ~Dorothy Parker

Adolescence is perhaps nature’s way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest.  ~Karen Savage and Patricia Adams, The Good Stepmother

Mother Nature is providential.  She gives us twelve years to develop a love for our children before turning them into teenagers.  ~William Galvin

The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.  ~Raymond Duncan

The invention of the teenager was a mistake.  Once you identify a period of life in which people get to stay out late but don’t have to pay taxes – naturally, no one wants to live any other way.  ~Judith Martin

Teenagers complain there’s nothing to do, then stay out all night doing it.  ~Bob Phillips

There isn’t a child who hasn’t gone out into the brave new world who eventually doesn’t return to the old homestead carrying a bundle of dirty clothes.  ~Art Buchwald

At fourteen you don’t need sickness or death for tragedy.  ~Jessamyn West

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.  ~Mark Twain, “Old Times on the Mississippi” Atlantic Monthly, 1874

All quotes from The quote garden

image from UC Davis

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Extra-Embryo Dilemma

A booming fertility business has produced millions of unused embryos, which have been cryo-preserved, or “frozen” in liquid nitrogen. This process allows patients a further chance at pregnancy if a first embryo transfer doesn’t work or if they want another child or children some years down the road. But what should you do with unused embryos when you no longer want any more children, or health issues or marital problems crop up? This is a question that finds many patients unprepared to deal with.

The Boston Globe featured an article yesterday by Alison Lobron called “The Maybe-Baby Dilemma,” which explains the factors that go into this decision, and the various options available. The fate of an embryo is a complicated and delicate subject, a source of political controversy, religious convictions, and personal angst.

Is an embryo a life, or isn’t it? Many patients care about and respect their embryos but don’t see them as children.  This is particularly true among patients who have seen their own embryos not “take,” learning firsthand that not every embryo is capable of becoming a baby.  Many fertilized eggs simply cease cell division — and are no longer viable — before freezing or transfer. Others aren’t viable after they have been thawed. Still others fail to implant in the uterus.

But even people who don’t view their embryos as “children-in-waiting” with rights that need to be protected, experience complex attitudes toward these tiny clusters of cells, feeling an emotional attachment that defies logic. Here are the options that these couples can choose from:

1. Donate the embryo to scientific research: Scientists see incredible potential in stem-cell and other kinds of research, and some donors are spurred by a desire to further a cure for diseases that they may have personally experienced. This has been a common option for people who want to do something productive with an embryo, which is valued and respected but not regarded as a child.

…But the couple liked the idea of donating to science because the husband, Brian Zikmund-Fisher, who was diagnosed with cancer in his late 20s, had been helped by medical research. “It satisfied my need to feel like these embryos we had worked so hard to create were being used productively,” says Brian.

2.  Donate it or Give it up for adoption: An agency like Nightlight Christian Adoptions of California, offers in vitro patients the chance to choose someone else to “adopt” their embryos. In this case, the embryos “parents” are able to screen families seeking embryos, and choose the family they feel the most comfortable with.  Many doctors are seeing increased interest recently in using other people’s embryos because it’s the cheapest option for patients who cannot get pregnant using their own eggs and sperm. Implanting an existing embryo typically costs less than $5,000, whereas an in vitro cycle with a sperm and egg donation can cost more than $25,000.

For Linda… thinking about the process as “adoption,” and being able to choose the family, made it more compelling. Over the span of a year, she and her husband reviewed the stories of four couples and “fell in love” with one pair… Linda’s five frozen embryos were shipped across the country, where the other family had a daughter and then, later, a son using the embryos… The two families have never met in person, but Linda thinks they will one day. Her kids refer to the other children as “our brother and sister,” and Linda and the woman she calls “the adoptive mom” often e-mail each other, seeking similarities in their children’s personalities, likes, and dislikes. With a laugh, Linda says, “What mother doesn’t love the opportunity to gush about her kids? She loves to hear my stories, whereas anyone else would be yawning.”

3. Dispose of it: The American Society for Reproductive Medicine deems it ethically acceptable to thaw and discard embryos. Typically, they go into the clinic’s bio-hazardous-waste container. Many couples have a hard time seeing potential life treated this way, while to others this is a logical end to unused and unneeded embryos.

4. Disposal Ceremonies: Often, parents feel compelled to give the embryo a more dignified ending than simply throwing it in the trash can.  Some choose a ceremony akin to a funeral for their thawed embryos.  Others choose a “compassionate transfer,” which is an embryo transfer procedure that would not result in pregnancy.  Some will wait until near menopause before they return for the transfer, while others refuse the hormones that are typically used to help the embryo implant. Some patients have even asked that the embryo be placed in the vagina instead of the uterus, where it is impossible for them to implant and grow.  It is thought that efforts like these bring emotional comfort to some patients, but can pose difficulties to fertility doctors. (For example, the time a doctor spends on this type of procedure is time not spent helping someone get pregnant.)

5. Do nothing: When the decision is just too confusing or overwhelming, some couples choose to keep their embryos frozen indefinitely.

Murray says that as a Catholic, she considers an embryo to be a life and feels she has no choice but to implant hers. At the same time, she and her husband don’t feel they can manage more children right now, financially or logistically. Yet donating the embryos to another couple feels wrong, too. “I would never give my child up for adoption,” she says… Murray’s sense of having no good options, nothing that works both for her family situation and her ethics, is not uncommon, say doctors who treat infertility patients. Some people in Murray’s predicament simply drop out of contact with the clinic… This is thought to represent “an absolute inability to decide…”

For a more in-depth discussion of the topic, see The Boston Globe’s online article. What are your thoughts on the issue of unused embryos? If it was your decision, what would you do?

Types of Ultrasounds for Pregnancy

You may be looking forward to your first ultrasound as an opportunity to see your baby for the first time, or to learn whether it’s a boy or a girl. On the other hand, your doctor views the ultrasound as an opportunity to ensure that the fetus is healthy and developing properly. The images seen during the ultrasound can help determine the gestational age of the fetus, check the heartbeat, and look for congenital problems with the baby.

Here are the most common types of ultrasounds for pregnancy:

Standard Ultrasound

A standard ultrasound is the most common type performed during pregnancy. The technician holds a wand shaped transducer and rubs it over the stomach to produce two-dimensional pictures of the baby. If the doctor has any reason to suspect problems with the fetus, he may ask the technician to perform an advanced ultrasound. In an advanced ultrasound, the doctor points out areas of concern and the technician pays particular attention to those area.

Transvaginal Scan

In the case of a high risk pregnancy or if the mother is experiencing health issues, the obstetrician may want to perform an ultrasound earlier than a standard ultrasound. In these cases, a transvaginal ultrasound is used. The technician inserts the transducer into the vagina to perform the scan. Once the pregnancy reaches ten weeks, the obstetrician will typically choose a standard ultrasound.

Fetal Echocardiography

This ultrasound assesses potential problems with the development and anatomy of the baby’s heart and diagnoses any suspected heart defects. The obstetrician may recommend a fetal echocardiograph if he sees something suspicious on the standard ultrasound. He may also recommend a fetal echocardiograph if the patient or her partner has a history of cardiac abnormalities or the doctor notices irregularity in the fetal heartbeat. The technician can perform fetal echocardiographs either vaginally or through the abdomen.

3-D Ultrasound

A 3-D ultrasound uses computer software along with a specially designed transducer to generate a more complete picture of the baby. The transducer takes images in a series of slices which, when transmitted to the computer, form a three dimensional picture.

Dynamic 3-D Ultrasound

Often called a 4-D ultrasound, this ultrasound uses specially designed transducers to give a more realistic view of the baby. Parents enjoy seeing the dynamic 3-D ultrasounds because they can see their baby in action. The doctor and parents can watch the baby move in the uterus. While 3-D and dynamic 3-D ultrasounds are fun for the parent, they offer no diagnostic advantage over standard ultrasounds.

Info from LiveStrong

Image from UNC Healthcare

Is it twins??

You know that you’re pregnant, but do you have a funny feeling there are two babies in there?  Depending whether this is you first pregnancy or not, your expectations of what is a ‘normal’ pregnancy may vary.  Raising-Twins.com polled their expert twin mamas to see what are generally the first signs a woman can look for in a twin pregnancy. Although some swear they had absolutely no idea, usually that “mother’s intuition” lets them know there’s something extra special going on!

1. Extreme Fatigue

Every pregnant woman feels more tired than usual. But twin moms reported extreem fatigue, often taking 3-hour naps during the day, falling asleep on the job or before dinner!

2. A big fat positive on the pregnancy test

Most of  Raising-Twins.com‘s twin moms took a home pregnancy test and were answered with a big fat positive almost immediately. While normally there tends to be a very faint line for positive, especially in early pregnancy, when you are pregnant with twins, the hormone hCG  (human chorionic gonadtropin) is at higher levels and is therefore picked up faster by the test.

3. That twin belly grows fast!

Many women who start showing early on in pregnancy wonder if they are carrying twins. Sometimes they are, as the extra blood volume and extra water weight can result in faster-growing bellies.

4. Severe Morning Sickness

Many twin moms have reported the first trimester resulted in morning sickness. Even moms who have been pregnant without morning sickness before, reported having morning sickness for the first time ever. If you are finding your sense of smell is heightened, you have an overabundance of saliva, or things turn your stomach that you once enjoyed, you can atribute it to hormones once again. For almost all women, morning sickness passes around12-14 weeks.

5. Early Fetal Movement

Those little flutters and kicks can happen earlier with twins, especially if you have been pregnant before and know how to differentiate the little bubbles sensations from normal bodily functions. Most women pregnant with twins report feeling fetal movement earlier than usual – around the 16-18 week mark. However, there are cases though where they feel less fetal movement due to the position of the babies. If their little hands and feet are pointing inward, you are less likely to feel their movements. You may also only feel one baby on a regular basis.

6. Mother’s Intuition

Many, many moms swear they just ‘knew’. They either dreamed it, felt they were seeing signs, or just felt somehow different. While this is obviously not scientific in any way, there is something to be said for a mother’s intuition!

7. Seeing is Believing – Ultrasound Pictures

A trained technician or obstetrician can do an ultrasound or sonogram to show you on the monitor the two fetuses and and two heartbeats. Modern technology allows for quick diagnoses of twins, as well as viability and whether there are one or two sacs.

If you are looking for confirmation of your suspicions, your health care provider is the person to see. Having a twin pregnancy is an incredible journey that requires preparations – mentally, physically, financially and emotionally. But hopefully your twins will also bring you double the joy and double the fun!

For more information on twins, from pregnancy, birth, and throughout childhood, visit Raising-Twins.com.

Feature image from Science Daily

Maternity Fashion: Fall 2009

With the days growing shorter and the weather cooler, everyone’s starting to bring out their soft knits, cozy sweaters, and great boots. This season offers the pregnant woman all the comforts you’re used to, plus this fall’s hottest styles and accessories.

Here are some of the great maternity fashions of the season!

(image from clothing tutor)

Feminine Frills

A bow neck on top or some ruffles cascading down your belly add a lovely lady-like touch to any outfit. Add some slim pants and a cardigan for the office, or a slim skirt and heels if it’s time to party!

Elbow Sleeve Ruffled Maternity Blouse

(Ribbon-trim textured-stripe shirt by Gap, Elbow Sleeve Ruffled Maternity Blouse by Pea in the Pod, Silk Ruffle Blouse by Gap)

Pretty Patterns

You’ll see lots of great patterns out there, from fresh florals to preppy plaids, to funky graphics. Have fun!
(Flora Tie Back Dress by Gap, Plaid Ruffle Blouse by Pea in the Pod, Cravings Maternity Boutique)

Bangin’ Boots

Choose your favorite… scrunchy boot, a mid-calf, or an over-the-knee boot, heels, flats, wedges, stilettos, rain boots, cowboy boots… They’re all great this season! Whatever your style preference is, get some great boots to complete every outfit!

printed a line skirt Maternity clothes fashion

(Pictures from myddnetwork)

Chunky Knits

Keep yourself toasty and trendy this fall with some super-cozy knit sweaters. To balance out the bulk on top, wear these sweaters with skinny pants or a shorter, tailored skirt.
(Short Sleeve Cable Knit Sweater by Pea in the Pod, Funnelneck cable cardigan by Gap, Butterfly Sweater by Isabella Oliver)

Maxi Dress

Perfectly glamorous! The Maxi dress is definitely made for the pregnant woman’s delicious curves. The beautiful dresses below are great for a special occasion, but you can find casual maxi dresses too that are perfect for a day at the mall.

(The Maxi Wrap by Isabella Oliver, Spaghetti Strap Ruched Dress by A Pea in the Pod)

Over-sized Accessories

Your curvier figure will lend balance to chunkier jewelry and larger accessories than you might be used to.  Try wearing a simple jersey dress with a huge tiered necklace, chunky bangles, dangly earrings, or a fabulous, fits-everything-in-it bag. (Note: Wearing ONE of those at a time may be enough of a statement!)
http://g-images.amazon.com/images/G/01/Shopbop/pcs/media/images/products/tulst/tulst2000212345/tulst2000212345_prod_medium_v1_m56577569831144973.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3549/3321579827_a349a2081f.jpghttp://2.bp.blogspot.com/_nj8_NSFJGLQ/Sc9-xtymkCI/AAAAAAAABJI/UvJWQZYSSvg/s400/ear.jpg
(Photos left to right: WorkChic, Flickr, Best Ever You 20s)

Battling Pregnancy-related Constipation, Gas, and Bloating

Constipation

Why it happens: Although it’s uncomfortable and embarrassing, most women are prone to constipation throughout their pregnancy. You can again blame pregnancy hormones, which slow the movement of food through your intestines (the medical term is decreased gastrointestinal motility). The slower passage of food and fluid allows more fluid to be absorbed into your system. The combination of reduced motility of the intestines and firmer waste products (due to the extra absorbed fluid) contributes to constipation. In later pregnancy, the pressure of your growing uterus on the large intestine further hinders the passage of stools.

4 WAYS TO COMBAT CONSTIPATION

1. Increase fiber. Fiber passes through your intestines undigested and acts like a sponge, soaking up fluid. Increased fluid helps your bowels move faster and leave your body more easily. Eat more of these fiber-rich foods:

  • Fruits, especially prunes, pears, figs, and apricots
  • Vegetables, especially crunchy vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, and celery
  • Psyllium (a natural bran-like stool softener, available at nutrition stores)
  • Whole grains, such as 100 percent bran and multi-grain bread
  • Legumes, beans, and peas

2. Increase fluids. If you increase the fiber in your diet, you must correspondingly increase the volume of fluids. Too much fiber and too little fluid can actually aggravate constipation by making your stools even firmer. If you like juice, try prune, pear, or apricot nectar, which is not only high in water, but also higher in fiber than plain juice. But make sure to drink six to eight glasses of water a day, too.

3. Increase exercise. Getting your whole body moving gets your intestines moving. Regular exercise seems to keep all your physiologic systems more regular, and your intestines are no exception.

4. Obey your urges. Although we are seldom far from a bathroom, busy pregnant women may not take the time to empty their bowels immediately, when their intestines tell them to. The problem is that unanswered signals soon lose their communication value. Go when you need to go, otherwise, your intestinal muscles get lazy, the signals get weaker, and constipation gets worse.

The same intestinal changes that lead to constipation may also cause you to feel gassy. As your pregnancy advances, this bloated feeling intensifies, because your growing uterus and your ballooning intestines are competing for room.

5 WAYS TO ALLEVIATE GAS

1. Keep your bowels moving. Avoid constipation, which contributes to bloating and gas.

2. Eat slowly. When you eat and drink quickly, you gulp down air too.  Take time to chew your food well, and the food-processing job will be easier on the lower end.

3. Eat non-gassy foods. Common gas-producing foods include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beans, green peppers, and carbonated beverages.

4. Avoid fried and greasy foods. High-fat foods are very hard to digest, stay in your intestines a long time, and may make you feel bloated.

5. Eat like a baby. Eating small, frequent meals is more intestine-friendly than taking three big daily meals. Most pregnant women feel the most comfortable “grazing,” eating 5 to 6 mini meals at regular intervals each day.

For more information on pregnancy symptoms, including heartburn, pay a visit to Dr. Sears!

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