Pregnancy Tea

February 21, 2012

I’m a big fan of controlled studies that measure the efficacy of various interventions, but I am also a believer in some alternative medicine.  So, when it comes to things like pregnancy tea, I am cautious, but also have FOMA about it.  Recently, after talking to a doula I respect a lot, I decided that I would take my chances with pregnancy tea even though the American Pregnancy Association warns pregnant women to proceed with caution when it comes to some of these ingredients (scroll down to “Herbs Used in Teas”).  The main things to watch out for is increased contractions correlated with tea drinking, but if you don’t seem to be experiencing that, I think you’re good to go.

Here’s the mix and what the herbs are intended for:

2 parts – Red raspberry leaf (tones uterus)
2 parts – Nettle (tones uterus, lots of nutrients/calcium, increases energy, flow of milk)
2 parts – Dandelion (aids digestion, elimination)
1 part – Oatstraw (calming, strengthens capillaries)
1 part – Alfalfa (vitamin K, increases milk supply)
1 part – Lemon Balm (mood lifter)
1 part – Spearmint (calcium, magnesium, digestion, flavor)
1 part – Rosehips (vitamin C, strengthens bag of waters)

I went to a local tea store and had them mix it up for me.  Many grocery stores with bulk sections also sell these ingredients, but then you have to mix and measure yourself.  There are also lots of prepackaged pregnancy teas that have some or all of these ingredients.

I steep two tablespoons of tea in 32 oz of boiling water overnight.  I try to drink that amount every day.  A friend also told me that it’s good for after birth to help your uterus contract.  Sounds like wonder tea to me!

The Real Deal: Helpful Labor and Recovery Tips from Moms Who’ve Been There

February 21, 2012

As my partner and I have been preparing for labor and recovery, I’ve been talking to a lot of friends with babies and have realized that most books and even childbirth classes don’t tell you about the gory details of what it’s really like. 

Since I want to know what to expect, I have surveyed my mommy friends and come up with the top unpleasant things no one told them about that they experienced during/as a result of childbirth, and on a more positive note, the most useful things for recovering from childbirth.  I think the most important disclaimer is that experiences varied widely and it is impossible to know exactly what your labor will be like, but I like knowing what the range of possibilities are, so here goes.

Things to Know About Labor

  1. Epidurals are not always 100% effective.   One friend could feel everything on one side.  Another could feel the area where she tore (ouch!) and had to stop the doctor while he was stitching because she could feel it!  The good news is that I think it’s more common to not feel anything, but you never know!  Also, a friend with an epidural said she actually liked having a catheter because having contractions in the bathroom was terrible, which is a good lesson in trying to be open-minded during labor even when it isn’t going according to you birth plan.
  2. You will probably bleed during labor and you will have a LOT of post-birth bleeding.  My friends’ responses on this ranged from “Expect to waddle around wearing enormous pads for weeks.” to “When I tried to use the restroom post-delivery I left the bathroom looking like a scene from a slasher movie. There is no pad big enough to control that mess.”  I guess the lesson here is just remember it’s temporary.
  3. You will probably poop when you’re pushing.
  4. Hemorrhoids suck.
  5. Many friends remarked about not realizing how long recovery would take.  Specifically regarding sex, one friend noted that sex was impossible for six months post baby and very painful for six months after that.

Recovery and Generally Helpful Survival Tips

  1. For faster recovery, do lots of kegels and perineum massage pre-birth to avoid tearing.
  2. Bring sweats, bathrobe to the hospital.  You are not going to want to wear nice clothes.  Another friend recommended a stretchy v-neck cotton dress for ease of nursing.
  3. Prearrange friends/family to be on call who can bring you food, fill prescriptions, give you hugs.  Basically, people who enable you to focus on your baby.
  4. Eat and sleep as much as you can even though you’re overwhelmed with everything because it will speed up your recovery (but don’t expect any miracles).  Keep healthy and protein packed snacks near your nursing stations.  A water bottle with a straw is great, especially during nursing (someone else can “feed” you water if your hands are occupied.)
  5. The disposable underwear and big frozen ice packs they give you at the hospital will be your best friends.  Ask for extras at the hospital to bring home with you.
  6. Make sure you have super soft toilet paper and multiple peri bottles (put one in each bathroom and one in your diaper bag).
  7. It helps to have an inflatable ring to sit on.
  8. A smartphone is great for lots of things (camera, videocamera, reading while you’re nursing, keeping track of feedings and diaper changes).
  9. Snuggling with your baby will help you forget the pain you’re feeling … or at least remind you why it’s worth it.

Good luck to all your mommies-to-be out there!

The Baby Registry Dilemma

December 2, 2011

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a growing uneasiness with the idea of asking people for stuff and giving people stuff when you’re “supposed to” (weddings, babies, Christmas, birthdays), so this NYT article really resonated with me.  I think it’s much cooler when I see something that reminds me of a friend and then get that for her/him because I feel like it, but I am not immune to the social pressure of forcing myself to find a suitable gift to give when I am supposed to.

My partner and I have been discussing this a lot lately because people keep asking us where we’re registering for the babies.  Since we are getting most of our stuff used, we’re not registering anywhere and we’re encouraging people not to buy us anything and to donate to charities like Onesie Twosie or Help a Mother Out.

Honestly, what would be most helpful to us is help (changing diapers, dropping off meals, cleaning our house, etc) or money so we can pay for things like our mortgage or daycare, but that’s not what people expect when they ask you where you’re registering, nor are most people comfortable with that idea and I can’t say I blame them.  It is socially acceptable to register for toys and blankets, but not diaper cream and daycare.  There are also things we’ll need to buy in a year or two that we won’t be able to get used, but I don’t think most people will respond well to us registering in a year – please congratulate us for surviving our first sleepless year by buying us stuff now!  I think at that point, no one will remember that we didn’t register.

All this pondering inevitably leads us to the “problem” of friends who just can’t help themselves and will buy us something regardless of whether we register or tell them not to buy us anything.  I’ve already heard from these friends and they want to show us how happy they are for us by buying us things.  While I totally understand this phenomenon, there is something truly weird about this if you think about it.  To those friends: I truly feel your happiness for us when I talk to you and I know you are really stoked for us!  You don’t need to buy us a baby toy to show us that.  The issue remains, however, that we have friends who we know will buy us things regardless of what we say, so do we tell them about the few things that we have to buy new?  Are they going to feel satisfied when I tell them I need nursing bras and cloth diaper detergent or should I let them buy us a million onesies with cute things written on the front?  Am I being selfish by not letting people share in our happiness in whatever fashion makes them happy?

Selected List of My Feel Good Pregnancy Milestones

November 16, 2011
  1. When a doctor told me my cervix was “awesome”.
  2. When I learned to recognize the gleam in strangers’ eyes when their hands are headed for my uterus.
  3. When I developed a preemptive slight turn to avoid strangers touching my uterus, while maintaining an innocent look “Oh sorry, did you randomly want to stroke my body part?  I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”
  4. That my dog has not eaten a single baby toy even though they resemble her own toys.
  5. The one day that I ate 100 grams of protein.
  6. When someone gave me a pregnancy pillow that takes up 3/4 of our bed and my partner embraced it like a new family member.
  7. Every time I meet twin parents, especially ones that appear well-rested and cheerful.
  8. When I met a mom of triplets and was reminded that our budget spreadsheet could have a lot more red on it!
  9. Every time I get ultrasounds and see our crazy little boys having a dance party in my uterus.
  10. When I think about the crazy fun dance parties we’re going to have when our little boys are born.

Double Trouble (and all those other cliches)

November 3, 2011

Clearly I’ve been neglecting this blog, but there’s a good reason – I’m pregnant … (wait for it) … with twins!  We were pretty shocked when we found out we were going to have two, but now I can’t imagine only having one!  I think there must be some kind of karmic balance at play here because I am confident that I was among the best prepared moms-to-be with one baby, but as soon as we found out we were having two, I had to start my research (and budget spreadsheet!) all over.  There are SO many different things to learn about twin pregnancies.  Here’s a quick list of things I found really interesting about twins.  Sorry, I’m too tired to properly cite my stats!

  1. Only 1% of births are spontaneous twins (no fertility treatments used).  The rate of twin births has gone up considerably in recent decades because of the increasing use of fertility treatments, so 3% of births are twins nowadays.
  2. The rate of twin pregnancies, both spontaneous and as a result of fertility treatment, is actually higher than twin births because some women never know they were pregnant with twins because one vanishes before their first ultrasound.  An estimated 25-31% of pregnant women suffer from vanishing twin syndrome and 2/3 of twins that vanish do so before 9 weeks.  Some researchers hypothesize that the majority of twins that vanish had serious genetic defects.
  3. 1/3 of twins are identical (monozygotic) and 2/3 are fraternal (dizygotic).
  4. Identical twins can be boy/girl, but if that happens, the girl has a genetic disorder called Turner’s Syndrome.
  5. There are some very unusual subtypes of twins (most are subtypes of monozygotic twins) like conjoined twins, twins conceived at different times (superfetation), including by different fathers (heteropaternal superfecundation), half identical twins (the egg splits, but then each half is fertilized by a different sperm), mirror image twins, parasitic twins.  Who knew?
  6. Identical twins are not genetic, but fraternal twins are.  So, if twins run in your family on the mom’s side and you have twins, they’ll probably be fraternal.
  7. Fraternal twins almost always have separate placenta and amniotic sacs (dichorionic/diamniotic).  That is the safest situation.  75% of identical twins share placenta (monochorionic).  Whether or not identical twins share depends on how far after fertilization they split.  About 15% of monochorionic twins develop twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) and no one knows how to prevent this.
  8. If your babies share placenta, you have to cut the umbilical cord as soon as the first one is born because there is a risk that the 2nd baby won’t get enough blood if you don’t.  If not, you can allow the first one to stop pulsing even as the other twin is being born.  Either way, you can wait before cutting the 2nd baby’s cord.
  9. Twin pregnancies, by virtue of there being two babies, are considered high risk.  Pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, premature birth) are more common for moms carrying identical twins and less common for spontaneous twins.
  10. The only thing correlated with reducing the chance of preterm birth with twins is gaining more weight.  I was told to gain 45 pounds!!!
  11. You can deliver twins vaginally, but it depends greatly on their positioning.  In 75% of cases, the first baby is head down and most doctors will attempt a vaginal delivery in that situation.

I know some of this sounds scary, but I actually found it really empowering to learn about what could happen even if there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.  I feel like I’m ready to tackle whatever arises (although last time I felt that way, I ended up with one more baby than I planned for!) and also justifies my early gathering of baby gear!  Having twins is like being in a special club.  In fact, there are special clubs for twin families!  More to come about our crazy adventures as twin parents-to-be.

Caffeine and Pregnancy

August 9, 2011

I think it’s pretty well accepted that you should cut caffeine out or drastically reduce it from your daily routine once you are pregnant, but I found it hard to determine how much is really allowed.

  • The American Pregnancy Association says [t]he less caffeine you consume, the better.” and “Avoiding caffeine as much as possible is your safest course of action.”  They do note that experts cite a maximum of 150mg – 300mg as the upper limit of what a pregnant woman should consume daily.
  • Kaiser Permanente says to limit yourself to 1 cup of coffee, which I found unsatisfyingly simplistic.

So, I think airing on the side of caution, a maximum of 150 mg/day is a safe bet.  I made this chart to help mommas-to-be figure out how much caffeine they are consuming every day.  The information comes from the Mayo Clinic unless otherwise noted.

Pregnancy/Birthing Book Reviews

January 18, 2011

My partner and I have been reading a lot of books lately about pregnancy and birthing, so I thought I’d give you a brief review for some of them.

What to Expect Before You’re Expecting

A good place to start, but overly simplified.  There is also a long section on infertility, which is odd given that the book’s target is ostensibly people who haven’t tried to get pregnant yet.  I haven’t read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but I have heard that lots of this book is cut and paste from that book.  This book was pretty obviously published to make more money, not to put out new information, but if you keep that in mind, it’s still a useful basic primer.

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

This book was great for me personally because I am a nerd and I liked the listings of findings from scientific studies, but the book was poorly organized and not particularly well written.  I also appreciated the seemingly unintentional irony that the author ends the book with a description of her scheduled c-section birth where she admittedly feels uninvolved. After writing an entire book about how the fetus’ experience during pregnancy influences the rest of its life and in light of reputable research about how c-sections may have adverse long term impacts on child development as well, it seems like an oversight not to mention this, but I guess this book was just about the 9 months of fetal development, not everything you can do to make sure your kid turns out okay.  Overall, I liked this book a lot, but I admittedly have a high tolerance for poorly written non-fiction books with interesting information

The Art of Conscious Parenting: The Natural Way to Give Birth, Bond With, and Raise Healthy Children

For the most part, I liked this book and think it has a lot of useful information.  The book does a good job of doing a literature review of work supporting pre-conception planning, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, etc.  It does not do a good job of presenting a balanced literature review, which is fine, but should be noted if you’re not 100% sure you want natural childbirth because the author’s goal is clearly to make you feel that you are a selfish parent who will cause irreparable harm to your child if you opt for anything less than a completely natural, drugfree birth.

That said, I found the author a little irritating and self-righteous.  There are eye-roll inducing passages where the author describes how wonderful and well adjusted his child is and attributes it to his and his wife’s amazing parenting skills.  He goes to great lengths to tout the benefits of natural childbirth, breastfeeding, etc, but in a throwaway sentence extols circumcision as a positive religious bonding event without even acknowledging the ongoing debate about circumcision as potentially traumatic genital mutilation.  I don’t have particularly strong personal feelings about whether or not to circumsize boys, but it struck me as hypocritical to not even mention that performing “surgery” on a newborn may run counter to many of the themes in the book.  There is also a not-so-subtle rah rah Jewish voice that pops up throughout the book, which seemed random.

Summary: This is a good book for anyone considering natural childbirth, but you need to be able to put it in the context of one author’s perspective who clearly thinks he and his wife are the most well/completely informed parents.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth

This book stressed me out, but in a productive way.  I know a lot about the pros and cons of hospital births and I’ve watched the Business of Being Born, etc, etc, but this book laid it all out very matter of factly, which was good and bad.  It is not meant to be a balanced book, which the author admits, but there are some questionable statistics and some moments of ranting as opposed to fact-based persuasion.  Even despite that, this book has very useful information to consider when making your birth plan, so I recommend this book even if just to feel empowered when you talk to you doctor about your options.

The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be

It goes month by month to give the expectant dad a very basic idea of what happens each month.  My partner liked it, but couldn’t think of anything particularly striking that he learned from the book.

Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads

My partner is reading this now and he thinks it’s amusing and has learned some interesting things.  It’s snarky, but not offensively so and isn’t overly partronizing as books for dads can be.  I’ll post more when he’s done if there is anything to add.