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What’s a placenta?… She did what with it?!

The placenta is an organ that grows inside a pregnant woman’s uterus to provide nutrients and oxygen to the developing baby. It also enables antibodies to pass from mother to child and removes waste from the baby’s blood. It’s attached to the wall of the uterus and is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord. Basically, it’s what keeps the little one going.

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The word Placenta comes from the Latin word for cake.  It really does look like a big purple pancake, full of all those good nutrients for the baby. It measures about 9 inches wide and 1 inch thick in the middle, weighing roughly 1 hefty pound at delivery. Delivering the placenta is called the third stage of labor and, unless there are complications, is probably the easiest part of it all. Most women forget after pushing out the kid that there’s just one more part to do before you get to lay back and rest.

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Although this super organ can cause issues during pregnancy, as well. The most common is Placenta Previa; when the placenta is low in the uterus and partial or totally covers the cervix (the outlet for the uterus), it can cause severe bleeding and a C-section may be required. Placental Abruption is when the placenta peels away from the uterine wall (partially or fully) and can cause bleeding, a lack of oxygen and nutrients to the baby, and early delivery may be needed. Placenta Accreta is almost the opposite. It’s when the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterus and fails to detach during labor. It can cause bleeding and severe blood loss after delivery and the mother may have to go through surgery afterwards to remove it and possibly her uterus along with it.

I think most readers are really curious about this next part: What is done with the placenta after birth?! Well, we here in the West tend to just incinerate it via the hospital. However, there have been growing beliefs and new findings that we have been wasting something important. Here are just some of the ways our placenta is now being used:

The first is to leave it alone! They aren’t cutting the cord at all. It’s called a Lotus Birth and basically you carry the baby and placenta around until the cord naturally falls off. (Between 1-2 weeks) Those who do this believe that it’s a much more natural and healthy way to slowly introduce their child to the “outside” world. There isn’t any scientific proof as of yet that this is helpful to the babies however there isn’t anything to say nay either….

The second is to encapsulate the placenta and have the mother take it as a supplement after birth. This is a rising trend that started in ancient Chinese medicine. The basis for this thought is that in the wild many mammals eat the placenta after the birth of their young and it seemed to give them rejuvenating properties. More and more woman are doing this as a much more appealing alternative to cooking or eating their own “murder-less meat”. Studies are showing that ingesting your own placenta may actually help rebalance your hormones, possible combating Postpartum Depression by making mothers less fatigued and overwhelmed and in a much cheerier disposition.

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Another take-home placenta idea is to bury it. This is probably one of the oldest human customs around the planet. Although it has no health properties this is more of a spiritual belief. I have a Wiccan friend who did this after the birth of her first born son. She planted it at the base of a 9 month old sapling (placentas actually do make wonderful fertilizer) and now the tree grows along with her son. Even if you hold no religious beliefs along these lines, I think it’s still a lovely gesture.

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The placenta really is an amazing thing and we are still learning about its benefits to both child and mother. The last time I delivered I donated mine to research. Maybe this time I’ll keep it. And who knows, maybe within the year I’ll be blogging about my own personal experience taking placenta supplements.

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Needles, Syringes and Bloodwork, Oh My!

Three medications most of the population has not heard of or understand the reason for: Progesterone, Delestrogen, Lupron. No, I’m not conjuring up the dark forces; these different medications have to do with hormones to become pregnant in the “New” fashioned way. If you’ve underwent In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) before, then they are as common a household name to you as Tylenol is to most people. Their common bond, along with  multiple blood tests, is that they all require poking yourself with needles for probably a good solid month (or two…or three…depending on how it all goes).

First medication is usually Lupron. This is administered by a relatively small needle and easily injected in the tummy. Many fertility doctors use this drug to get your cycle lined up or synchronized with a third party, such as a surrogate mother or egg donor. Then you’re on to the big boys! Progesterone is an oil-based shot given in the upper-outer quarter of your buttocks each night. Delestrogen is also oil-based that is even thicker that’s administered twice a week in the same areas. Your poor heiny ends up lumpy, battered and bruised. Not to mention you inner elbows (is there a word for that part of your body?) start to look like you’ve been shooting heroin from all of the blood drawing required. However, it’s a small price that’s happily paid by those hoping to conceive.

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My husband has had the honor of “sticking it to me” on a nightly basis for a while now ;). It’s so much easier with help. Twisting yourself into some weird high-level yoga pose to get that gigantic needle into position and then watching yourself jab it into you own butt, is absolutely no fun at all. Also, I think it gives him a weird, sadistic pleasure getting to poke his wife with needles. All joking aside, I do believe that it is bonding in a way; it makes him feel more involved in the process and sympathetic to my situation.

I’ll tell you something though, you become a poking-prep expert pretty quickly: “I need to twist off the gray needle, twist the pink one onto the syringe, pull back to the two mark, insert needle into the bottle of medication, push up, then pull back, make sure there’s no bubbles, pull back again so liquid is out of the needle, remove the pink needle (or OUCH!), discard it in the Sharps container, twist on the gray needle, cap it then get the alcohol wipe and Band-Aid.” Veterans are laughing right now because it’s true. And that’s just for one of the syringes!

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After he’s done with the injection(s) he usually takes a tennis ball and rolls it around the area with moderate pressure so that I don’t get knots too badly. You may never look at a tennis ball the same way again. I know I don’t 

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After you have done the embryo transfer (a different kind of poking and prodding), and you are lucky enough to get a positive pregnancy blood test (this requires at least 3 more blood draws), you’ll probably remain on Progesterone and Delestrogen for most of the first trimester of your pregnancy. This is to “trick” your body into believing the embryo is yours and to not reject it. It’s similar in a way to what they do to an organ transplant patient. Once you are cleared and taken off all medication by your fertility doctor, those injections become a thing of the past and it becomes your basic old-fashioned pregnancy until birth.

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Double Trouble… being sick while pregnant

Oh man – oh man – oh man. UGH! I was just starting to feel better. No more nausea, no more vomiting; I can finally keep things down and morning sickness was slowly becoming a thing of the past. Then…BAM! I’ve got a cold. That stuffy, achy, icky-ness feeling that I wish would just go away. With so many changes already going on in my body and so many things I can’t do, eat or take during pregnancy, this is just the icing on the cake isn’t it? What can I do? What can I take? Is it worth it, or do I just suffer? Blah….

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Luckily, most doctors have a list of “approved” products that are safe for you and the baby. Unfortunately, it’s a rather short list and even shorter during your first trimester. Good-old-fashioned-home-remedies may even work better for you (they always seemed to for me). However, always, always, always check with your health care provider first before taking anything herbal or over the counter. Even if it’s what your mom, your grandma and your great-grandma took and what all your friends suggest. It’s better to double check with the pros and be safe than sorry. You never know for sure what new discoveries have been made in the last couple of years and for the safety of that little one (and you) it’s always best to ask beforehand. There is never such a thing as too many, or too stupid, a question when it comes to your health. That is especially true when it comes to prenatal care. Also, that stuffy nose you’ve got may not even be a cold in the first place.

A lot of woman, (around 30%), are congested during their pregnancy, it’s a condition called Rhinitis of Pregnancy, and it has nothing to do with allergies or a viral infection. It has to do with the high amounts of estrogen and blood in your body, causing swelling in the mucus membranes and blood vessels in your nose. This leads to congestion, runny nose, sneezing and mild headaches. Be prepared, you may have it during your entire pregnancy (sorry). I did, the second time around. It’s annoying, but as long as there are no other symptoms it is perfectly harmless. Your risk of sinus infections also increase when you are pregnant, so if you feel pressure, pain, are coughing, have a fever, swelling or any other symptoms, contact your provider for help.

Another culprit is those pesky allergies that you had before the pregnancy. They run amuck once you get knocked up and can increase in potency. There are a few medications a doctor can prescribe for you that are safe to take, but it may be best to just try to stay away from the source for a while, considering that you can get pregnancy rhinitis on top of any of these lovely illnesses.

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What you can do is this: keep elevated and use pillows, pillows and more pillows. Take them all from your partner. You’re allowed…seeing as you are probably kicking off all of the covers anyway, it’s a fair trade. Drink plenty of liquids and hang out in your warm bathroom after a shower for a bit or wet a washcloth with warm water and breath through it for a while. It’ll be a nice soothing relief from congestion. Some people like saline drops or spray (Saline only! No added stuff) to clear everything out. Vaporizers and humidifiers also work well at night; just make sure you clean them regularly. The last thing you need is more irritants and bacteria floating around. Also, avoid anything that may be an irritant. Do your work out indoors on days when the air quality is poor. Stay away from smokers, paint and chemical fumes (which you should be doing anyways) and get your partner to dust and clean any mold and/or pet dander from inside your home.

As mentioned before, there are so many different methods and home remedies out there.  I’ve only mentioned a few.  

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What are some of the methods you use?  What Holy Grail of discoveries can you offer those sick in the morning (afternoon, evening and sometimes midnight)?

Post your comments below and then repeat after me: “This too shall pass.”

I Want Candy…information on Gestational Diabetes

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From Halloween until Super bowl, the holidays of sweet and savory junk food are upon us and it can be a tough time to just say no! If you’ve ever been pregnant during this tempting time of the year, you will know just how tough avoiding the temptation can be. Even if you haven’t, just know it’s tougher when you believe you are “eating for two”. This is not true by the way – you do need to eat and burn more calories when you are pregnant, but not enough for a whole other person. This is why Gestational Diabetes is such an easy trap to eat your way into.  Most people know about Type 1 Diabetes (an autoimmune disease) and Type 2 Diabetes (a metabolic disorder); but not many people know what gestational diabetes really is; how you get it, how it’s treated, if it’s permanent or what affect it will have on the baby?

Firstly let’s start with a definition (from Web Dictionary):

Gestational diabetes (or gestational diabetes mellitus, GDM) is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes exhibit high blood glucose levels during pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes (GD) will usually go away after you deliver the baby, however, statistically, many of the women who get it, will develop Type 2 later in life (boo).  Secondly, it is not entirely clear as to how it develops in the first place. It only appears in about 5% of American pregnancies.  

Unfortunately, Gestational Diabetes is on the rise. While it is linked to your weight, poor diet and lack of exercise, genetics and ethnicity play a crucial part in it as well. Gestational diabetes makes its appearance in the 3rd trimester and is usually treatable by a controlled diet and, sometimes, insulin.

Those pesky pregnancy hormones are to blame and even though we make three times the amount of insulin when we are pregnant, it is sometimes not enough:  the placenta (the organ that connects the baby via the umbilical cord to the uterus) is trying to prevent the mother from getting low blood sugar. In between the 24 to 28 week mark your doctor will have you do a glucose screening test. Within 5 minutes, you will be asked to drink an orange flavored sticky-flat-super-sweet-soda-pop-like substance (though I’ve heard rumors that it also comes in cola and lime flavors too). You would wait an hour and then do a blood test.  Be sure to bring a book, magazine, phone or tablet because you’re not allowed to leave during this time. Your results should be available in a few days and if your sugar levels are high you’ll have to go back and take the three hour test.

Luckily, only about one-third of woman who have to do the second test actually have GD. If it turns out that you are one of the unfortunate groups, you’ll probably have you keep track of your sugar levels with a glucose monitor and keep your results in a chart formatted journal. No candy, sweets or sodas for a while. You may also have to take insulin, however, this usually only happens during the time of delivery because some of the medications you may receive could increase your sugar levels. Also, just because you got GD during one pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it for the next, especially if you keep up your healthier routine.

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GD doesn’t normally affect the baby; however, in some cases it can cause the following problems: Macrosomia (aka “big baby”) meaning any baby over 8lbs 13oz, which can make childbirth difficult, most likely leading to a caesarian delivery. GD can also lead to the possibility of the child developing Type 2 Diabetes later on in life. Another effect is that the baby could become Hypoglycemic (too much insulin resulting in low blood sugar) after birth. Your doctor will test for this. While jaundice is also a common condition, the likeliness of a newborn suffering from it is higher when the mother suffers from GD.

Good luck during this tempting time of year and try to avoid the temptation if you can. The weather is cooler, the treats are abundant and all we want to do is cuddle up and eat…and eat… and eat. Just remember that “eating for two” comes with the “responsibility for two” as well. More important than that second helping, is the heath of those first (and possibly second) heartbeats inside of you. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself this winter; knowledge is always power and maybe just reading this blog post will help keep you a little healthier, now that you know what to expect.

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