Archives for March 2010

Reflexology & Acupressure to Induce Labor

There’s no reason to worry if your pregnancy progresses past 40 weeks, but it may make you antsy to give birth already! In addition to that, if you are nearing 42 weeks and your doctor starts talking about an induction, you may want to do something to start your labor naturally.

Reflexology and acupressure are both safe and often effective means of stimulating labor. They are similar in that they both work by applying pressure to certain points on the body. Acupressure involves the whole body, while reflexology focuses on the feet, hands, and ears (primarily feet). Additionally, they are based on different concepts of energy flow throughout the body.

Precautions

  • The following pressure points should not be accessed before you reach your 40th week of pregnancy.
  • Always check with your doctor or midwife before doing anything to stimulate contractions
  • Pressure points may feel tender, but it should not hurt you. If you feel pain, reduce pressure and make sure you have the right spot!
  • If a contraction starts, stop the pressure and wait until the contraction ends. Then you can apply pressure again.

Reflexology Points

Thumb Point: Press firmly on the center of your thumb for a few minutes, then switch to the other thumb. This is one of the most effective points used in reflexology for inducing labor.  It stimulates the pituitary gland to release oxytocin, one of the main hormones that causes the uterus to contract.

Arch of Foot: This point is located inside the arch of the foot, just in front of the heel. Apply firm pressure, but not so hard that it causes pain. This point is  also very helpful in relieving intense pain during childbirth.

Inside Heel: Apply pressure to the point just inside the heel of the foot, aligned with your ankle. If it feels tender you’ve found the right spot.

Between Toes: Apply pressure one finger’s-length below the point between the big toe and the second toe. This point will also be tender when you find it.

Acupressure Points

Webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Press or massage the top of this webbing. This point affects the large intestine which surrounds a portion of the uterus, stimulating contractions.

Shoulder muscle. Press and massage the highest point of your shoulder muscle.

Inside ankle. Find the point four finger’s-width above the inside of your ankle. Apply pressure; it helps ripen the cervix and strengthen weak contractions.

Outside ankle. To help the baby descend toward the pelvis, put pressure on the point between your ankle bone (outer ankle) and Achilles tendon (which runs up the back of your leg).

Lower back. This point is actually located one finger’s-width above your buttocks crease.  Feel for a small indentation and massage for a minute.

Roof of Mouth. Using your tongue, press on the roof of your mouth with your tongue as far back as you can. This is a handy one you can use as you go about your daily routine!

feature image from holistic therapy room

Check Sperm Count in the Comfort of your Home

Reuters reports on a new device that will allow men to check sperm count in the comfort of their own home. It is scheduled to be available in August in Europe, and is undergoing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review for marketing in the US too.

The SpermCheck Fertility test, which looks a lot like a home pregnancy test, should be helpful for couples who have been trying to get pregnant for a few months, but aren’t ready to seek professional help yet. About 20 percent of infertility cases in couples are said to involve the male partner, with a low sperm count being the most common problem.

Dr. John C. Herr of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who helped develop the new test, told Reuters Health that the test helps couples find out if the male is a factor in the infertility. The best part is that it can be done in privacy, at a cost of only $25.

That’s a lot cheaper than going in and having a full semen analysis, which can cost between$65 to $250, and may or may not be covered by insurance.  Compared with standard laboratory testing, the SpermCheck Fertility tests were shown to be accurate 96 percent of the time.

How it Works

Women who take a home test to check ovulation or pregnancy only need to dip a test stick in their urine. The SpermCheck Fertility test requires just a few more steps.

Herr and his colleagues discovered an antigen found on the surface of the head of a sperm cell known as SP-10.  The SpermCheck Fertility test was developed to detect this protein.

Users let the semen rest for 20 minutes, collect 100 microliters using a pipette, and mix the semen with a detergent-containing substance known as a buffer, which releases the SP-10 protein from the sperm. Users then put a few drops of this mix into the two sample wells. Within seven minutes, the test results will appear in test windows above the wells.

Sperm counts of 20 million per milliliter of semen and above are considered normal. Sub-fertility is a count of 2 to 20 million sperm per milliliter, while infertility means sperm count levels below 2 million sperm per milliliter. “It basically tells the man how deep the infertility is,” Herr explains. “If both strips are negative it’s important that they then seek medical treatment for the infertility.”

Safe Babywearing

A baby sling is often invaluable for busy moms who want to keep their baby close by. Most models leave your hands free to wash dishes, fold laundry, and work at the computer, but keep your baby warm and cozy right on your body. But could that comfy, convenient baby carrier be dangerous for your little angel?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it has investigated at least 13 deaths associated with sling-style infant carriers over the last 20 years, including three deaths last year, according to this report.  Twelve of the deaths involved babies younger than four months of age.

This has got many moms debating the safety of their slings. Most are very happy with their baby carriers, and point out that any baby product needs to be used with care and common sense. But some have expressed concern and say they have experienced some worry when wearing their baby.

According to the CPSC , parents who should be the most careful are those who’s babies are under 4 months, a low birth weight twin, born prematurely, or have a cold. (But please don’t think that it is unsafe to wear a sick or premature baby in a sling. When done correctly, it is actually beneficial for preemies to be kept close to their mother as much as possible. Read more about it here.)

CPSC warns that slings can pose a suffocation hazard in two different ways:

  1. A sling’s fabric can press against a baby’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and suffocating a baby within a minute or two.
  2. The other case involves slings where the baby is cradled in a curved or “C-like” position, nestling the baby below mom’s chest or near her belly. That curved position can cause a baby’s head to flop forward, chin-to-chest, restricting the infant’s ability to breathe. “The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate,” warned the commission.

Pat Shelly, director of The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington, believes that the safest way to wear your baby is in a carrier that keeps the newborn upright, and solidly against his mother’s body.  “Parents should be instructed to allow the infant to keep his chin off his chest optimizing the airway for breathing.”

Here are some guidelines to using a baby carrier safely:

  • Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines for using your carrier.
  • Make sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times while in the sling.
  • If nursing the baby in a sling, change the baby’s position after feeding so the baby’s head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother’s body.
  • Parents and caregivers should be vigilant about frequently checking their baby in a sling.
Pictures of right and wrong ways for baby postitions in a sling
Here are some more rules of safe babywearing, from Dr. Sears:
  • While you are getting used to wearing your baby, support him with your hands. As you go through the learning phase of moving and reacting, the urge to support your baby with your hands is instinctive. After you become a babywearing veteran, you can safely carry your baby in the sling with one or both hands free.
  • Wear baby cautiously in the kitchen. Do not wear baby while cooking or working with sharp or hot objects.
  • Do not drink hot beverages when wearing baby, although wearing baby while eating is safe.
  • When wearing your baby and stooping over, bend at the knees, not at the waist, and hold baby in the sling with one hand.
  • Toddlers, if worn, are at your reaching level, can grab dangerous or breakable objects off shelves. Keep an arm’s distance away from potential hazards.
  • When going through doorways or around corners, be careful that baby’s body does not stick out past your arm and strike the wall or doorjamb.
  • Do not ride a bicycle or other moving vehicle while wearing your baby. Baby carriers are not substitutes for an approved car seat.
feature image credit

Feeding Your Baby: Birth – 24 Months

Here are some general guidelines about feeding your baby, what ages you can try to introduce new foods to your little one’s diet, and what food-related developmental skills you can expect at various ages. For a user-friendly chart version, please visit Dr. Sear’s Feeding at a Glace.

0-6 Months: Breast milk and/or iron-fortified formula. (Note that all efforts should be made to breastfeed, with formula being second best.)

Developmental skills: Your baby’s mouth is designed to suck, not chew yet. She has a “tongue-thrust reflex” that pushes out solid foods.

6 Months: Strained, pureed starter foods. Try bananas, pears, rice cereal, or unsweetened applesauce. Some suggest starting with more bland-tasting veges so that your baby doesn’t develop an early sweet tooth.

Developmental skills: Baby can now sit up in a chair. Tongue-thrust and gag reflexes lessen, so she is now able to accepts solids. She may also begins teething!

7-9 Months: You can now begin finger foods such as teething biscuits, cheerios and small pieces of soft, cooked foods.  Add additional types of pureed and mashed foods.  Baby may also start drink from a cup.

Developmental skills: You may notice your baby begins to reach for foods and utensils. She is now able to hold a bottle or sippy cup, and begins trying to pick up small food morsels with her thumb-and-forefinger.
Beware of choking hazards, as she will taste just about everything she can get her hands on! She’s really “acting like a baby” now, and enjoys banging, dropping, and flinging things.

9-12 Months: Baby is ready to try foods with a lumpier consistency. Make sure food is cut into small enough piece so she can’t choke on them. New foods to introduce can be lamb, veal, tofu, poultry, noodles, bagel, beans, rice cakes, peas, egg yolk, yams, cheese, oatmeal, and yogurt.

Developmental skills: Your baby’s self-feeding skills are improving, although she still loves to make a mess with her food. Try to let her feed herself even if she spills much of her food (or tries to smear it into her hair!); it’s good for her development!

12-18 Months: Let your baby participates in family meals. She can eat almost any foods the rest of you eat. See how she likes papaya, cottage cheese, apricots, grapefruit, whole eggs, grape halves, beef, strawberries, tomatoes, fish (salmon, tuna), pasta, crackers, broccoli, cereal, spinach, honey, cauliflower, pancakes, melon, muffins, mango, kiwi.

Developmental skills: Baby’s  “Do it myself” desire intensifies, but luckily she can hold her spoon better and spill less when eating and drinking. It’s still normal if some of the food ends up on her lap, floor, or hair.  If baby has begun walking, you may have a hard time getting her to sit still and eat. She may prefer to stop by and pick off of your plate now and then.

18-24 Months: You toddler starts the grazing stage, often earning her the title of “picky eater.”  Try tempting her with various foods to see what she likes. Some options include sandwiches, stews, smoothies, shakes, pate, dips, toppings, spreads, soups. You can also try to make food fun by creating
fun-shaped snacks, such as avocado boats, cooked carrot wheels, cheese blocks, broccoli trees, o-shaped cereals, toast sticks, and cookie-cutter cheese melts.

Developmental skills: Molars appear, so toddler begins rotary chewing. She can mostly spoon-feeds herself without too much spilling.  She may be able to say things like “more” or “all done” or signal those meanings. However, you’ll probably need to be more persistent or creative in order to keep her at mealtime. Her eating habits may be erratic, so focus on small meals or snacks throughout the day as opposed to three set mealtimes.

Source: Dr. Sears

Note: May parents are concerned that their children get “enough” milk and dairy products, mainly because of the calcium. However, due to the increase in sensitivity to cow’s milk, you may NOT want to include too much dairy in your kids’ diets.  In fact, milk may not even be the best source of calcium after all. Other foods to try are calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-enriched cereals or calcium-enriched soy milk, sesame seeds and sesame butter (tahini), broccoli, collards, spinach, baked beans, and supplements.

Feature image from Bella Baby Food organic, frozen baby food.

The Mask of Pregnancy

You wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and do a double take. “When did these dark patches appear under my eyes? And is my forehead getting blotchy too? I look like a raccoon! What is going on?”

If something like this has happened to you, you’re not alone, and it’s actually quite normal.  These skin changes did not happen overnight, although you may notice them all of the sudden on morning.  The American Academy of Dermatology says that about 70 percent of pregnant women develop these blotchy areas of darkened skin. It’s called chloasma or melasma, but is also known as “the mask of pregnancy” (sounds more romantic than it is!).

The blotchy areas usually appear around your nose, cheekbones, and forehead (hence the name Mask of Pregnancy). They may also show up on your upper lip, cheeks, and jawline.  Some women also develop dark patches on other body parts that are exposed to the sun. You may also notice areas of skin that are naturally darker (nipples, freckles, genitals) — becomes even darker during pregnancy. Some women notice a darkened line, called the linea nigra, running from their belly button downward.

Why does it happen?

You guessed it– it’s those lovely hormones at work again!  During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause a temporary increase in your body’s production of melanin, the chemical that gives color to hair, skin, and eyes.

Women with darker skin are more likely that lighter-skinned women to get melasma.  This “mask” may become more pronounced with each pregnancy.

Will it go away?

The good news is that these darkened areas will probably fade within a few months after delivery. In some cases it never completely disapears, but for many women their skin will return to its normal shade.

Can I prevent it?

Although this skin pigmentation  usually disappear on its own after delivery, there are some things you can do to minimize the splotchy factor:

  • Stay out of the sun and avoid tanning salons. Cover up or use sunblock if you’ll be out in the sun. More pigment is created when skin is exposed to sunlight.
  • Use gentle cleansers and lotions. Irritating products can worsen the condition.
  • Use concealer! When all else fails, there’s always the make-up bag.
  • After birth: Continue to protect sensitive areas from the sun. Certain contraceptives containing estrogen may also cause melasma.

feature image from The Daily Green

Reasons They Won’t Give You an Epidural

Many women out there love their epidural! Epidural anesthesia uses an injection of drugs into the epidural space in your lower spine.  An epidural works by blocking the transmission of nervous system signals to your brain, thereby limiting or suppressing your feelings of pain.

Epidural anesthesia has become the most common form of pain medication for labor and birth, but it’s not for everyone.  Here are some common reasons an epidural might not be right for you:

  1. Your Body Type: Sometimes, the doctor has no easy access to the epidural space. Factors that might make it difficult to find the right spot include obesity, scoliosis, scar tissue, unusual spinal archtecture or previous surgeries.
  2. Drug interactions: Some medications, such as blood thinners, can make an epidural risky or ineffective.
  3. Existing health issues: If you have a low platelet count, or other blood disorders, there is an increased risk of internal bleeding in the spine.
  4. Timing: In some hospitals, anesthesiologists are available only at certain hours of the day, or certain days of the week. They may simply be busy and unavailable. Also, if you come into the hospital in advanced labor, or with a very quick labor, there might not be time to get an epidural in place.
  5. Infection: If you have an infection on your back, you definitely don’t want your anesthesiologist putting a needle through that area.  It might cause the infection to spread to the spine and other areas of your body, which could lead to major problems.
  6. Heavy bleeding or shock: Often, having an epidural lowers blood pressure. Therefor, if you are bleeding heavily or are suffering from shock, your already lowered blood pressure can make the situation even more dangerous.
  7. Hospital restrictions: Some hospitals have policies about when you can have an epidural. Some stipulate that you must be at a certain point in labor (for example, four centimeters dilated) before an epidural can be given. Others may decide that epidural should not be given after a certain point of labor (for example when you’ve reached full dilation).

Source: About.com

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