The Aftermath

Having a baby is an exciting time for new parents, and it can trigger a wide range of emotions from joy to fear and anxiety. Sometimes, the feelings of fear don’t go away, and you may develop what is called postpartum depression.

It is common for new mothers to experience some mood swings and crying spells (but come on, it’s not like that is totally new…), but some mothers develop a more severe, long-lasting form of depression. This depression affects all aspects of your life, and interferes with your ability to care for your baby and perform daily tasks. Some symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swing
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting help. Postpartum depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can get back to caring for your new baby.

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Premature Births:What You Can Do

The definition of a premature birth is one that occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, and a baby born between 37 and 40 weeks is considered full term. 12.8% of babies born in the United States are born prematurely, and the rate is increasing.

Some women are more at risk for giving birth prematurely. The March of Dimes website identified 3 risk groups of women who are more at risk:

  • Women who had had a previous premature birth
  • Women who are pregnant with twins, triplets, or more
  • Women with certain uterine or cervical abnormalities

There are also certain demographic factors that increase your risk:

  • Non-Hispanic black race
  • Younger than 17, or older than 35
  • Low socioeconomic status

If you fall under any of the categories listed above, don’t lose hope. A woman can reduce her risk of having a premature birth by visiting her health care provider early and seeking regular prenatal care. When a woman receives adequate preconception and prenatal care, providers often can identify and treat pregnancy problems early, helping to reduce the risk for premature birth.

Certain lifestyle choices can also contribute to making sure your baby is born full-term. Do not drink alcohol, smoke or use any kind of illicit drugs. Eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Basically, just take good care of yourself. When you are healthy, your baby is healthy. Also, talk to your doctor about what kind of supplements you should take. A recent study suggests that women taking folic acid supplements for one year before pregnancy may cut the risk of having a premature baby by half.

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The Burden of Malaria

  • · It is estimated that 50% of the global population is at risk for Malaria.
  • · Over 881,000 people died in the year 2006 due to Malaria.
  • · Most deaths occur in children under the age of 5.
  • · 80% of all Malaria deaths occur in Africa.

Malaria is caused by a parasite and is transmitted when a mosquito that is infected with the parasite bites a person, spreading the parasite to the new host. Malaria continues to place an unacceptable burden on health and economic development in over 100 countries across the world. Each year, 30 million pregnancies are affected by Malaria. Pregnant women in endemic areas are at a 2-3 fold higher risk than non-pregnant women. Adverse effects include impairment of fetal nutrition and result in low birth weight, poor infant development, and death.

This disease can be treated and cured, but for most people in developing countries, like Africa, drugs are not available. Proper prevention methods are not practiced because of a lack of funding. Find out what you can do to help by visiting the Roll Back Malaria website.

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HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

Since I am preparing to go to Ghana next summer, I thought I would write a couple posts about the health risks associated with pregnancy in Africa. Of course, what I write in this post may be applicable to women everywhere, not just in Africa.

More people die of AIDS in Africa than in all the wars on the continent. More than 6,000 Africans die each year from AIDS, and an additional 11,000 are infected EACH DAY. Many of those 11,000 are new babies, born to a mother who did not know she was HIV positive. And this doesn’t only happen in Africa. This is a problem for women right here in the United States as well. So what can be done to stop this epidemic?

The risk of babies being born with HIV can be reduced very significantly by a short course of anti-viral medication given at the right stage of pregnancy. Most mother-child transmission of HIV occurs around the time of labor and deliver, so drug treatment during this time is extremely important for protecting your baby against HIV infection. Antiretroviral therapy administered during pregnancy, labor, and delivery and then to the newborn, as well as elective cesarean section for women with high viral loads, can reduce the rate of prenatal HIV transmission to 2% or less.

If you think that you may be HIV positive, get tested. There is no cure available to HIV, but there is treatment. And the sooner you get treatment, the better for you and for your baby. Talk to you doctor about treatment options. Also, visit the Get Involved page to get more information on the Global AIDS Alliance, and how you can help stop the global AIDS crisis.

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Cesarean Births

Another common subject among pregnant women is that of the Cesarean delivery. A Cesarean delivery (most commonly called C-section) is a surgical procedure used to deliver your baby through an incision in your abdomen (Mayo Clinic). If you need to have a c-section, you will receive anesthesia or an epidural. The incision is made down to the amniotic sac, and the baby is removed. Once the baby is removed, the umbilical cord is cut, the placenta is completely removed, and the layers are closed with either suture or staples. Supposedly, the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was born this way, hence the name “Cesarean.”

This method of delivery is not recommended “on demand” as a way to avoid labor associated with a vaginal delivery. A natural birth should is always encouraged, but there are definitely reasons why a baby would be delivered using a C-section. If the baby is in an abnormal position, you are carrying multiples, or you or your baby have health problems, your doctor will recommend a cesarean birth. (For a more complete list, go to this site.) If you have to have a c-section, make sure you know the risks associated with this type of birth. Knowing what to expect during the procedure and recovery can help you prepare.

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The Skinny on Exercise

A huge concern (no pun intended) for pregnant women is that of weight gain. How much is appropriate? Is it possible to stay skinny while I’m pregnant? These are important questions that have important answers.

As discussed in the previous post, weight gain is absolutely essential during pregnancy. Even women who are clinically obese need to gain at least some weight. Here is a chart that you can use for a reference, but it is still a good idea to talk to your doctor and find out how much weight is healthy specifically for you.

BMI Recommended Weight Gain
30+ 11-20 lbs
25 – 29.9 15-25 lbs
18.6-24.9 25-35 lbs
18.5 and lower 28-40 lbs

So how can you “stay skinny?” If you have heard that exercise is bad for your fetus, forget it. There are many ways to exercise while you are pregnant. In fact, exercise is beneficial to you, which means it is beneficial to your baby.

If you were very active before you were pregnant, you can almost always continue your same routine when you are pregnant. For example, if you were an avid runner, good news-you can continue running! But before you start any exercise routine, check with your doctor. Here is a list (I seriously love lists) of some exercises to try:

  • dancing,
  • swimming,
  • water aerobics,
  • yoga,
  • Pilates,
  • biking
  • walking

Swimming is especially appealing; as it gives you welcome buoyancy (floatability or the feeling of weightlessness). Try for a combination of cardio (aerobic), strength, and flexibility exercises, and avoid bouncing. If you want to try yoga or Pilates, make sure that your instructor is certified, and tell her that you are pregnant. She will be able to help you

modify some moves that may otherwise not be good for your fetus.

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“Eating for Two”

First things first: if you are pregnant, you must gain weight to keep you and your baby healthy. Remember, you are growing a human being. This means more food which means more calories which means weight gain. But this certainly doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. According to the American Dietetic Association, a pregnant woman only needs to increase her caloric intake by 300 calories. Dang, no more using the excuse, “I’m eating for two.”

And what a pregnant woman eats is much more important than how much. There is no special food designed specifically for pregnant women, but you do need more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you did before you were pregnant. To make sure you are getting enough nutrients, talk to your doctor about a multivitamin to take in addition to the other healthy foods you are eating. Here is a quick run-down of the amounts of food that is recommended:

Fruits and Vegetables Pregnant women should try to eat 7 or more servings of fruits and vegetables combined (for example: 3 servings of fruit and 4 of vegetables) daily.

Fruits and vegetables with vitamin C help you and your baby to have healthy gums and other tissues. Vitamin C also helps your body to heal wounds and to absorb iron. Examples of fruits and vegetables with vitamin C include strawberries, melons, oranges, papaya, tomatoes, peppers, greens, cabbage, and broccoli. Fruits and vegetables also add fiber and minerals to your diet and give you energy.

Whole-grains or Enriched Breads/CerealsPregnant women should eat 6 to 9 servings of whole-grain or enriched breads and/or cereals every day.

Whole-grain products and enriched products like bread, rice, pasta, and breakfast cereals contain iron, B vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some breakfast cereals are enriched with 100% of the folic acid your body needs every day. Folic acid has been shown to help prevent some serious birth defects. Eating breakfast cereals and other enriched grain products that contain folic acid is important before and during pregnancy.

Dairy ProductsPregnant women should try to eat 4 or more servings of low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or other dairy products every day.

Dairy products provide the calcium you and your baby need for strong bones and teeth. Dairy products are also great sources of vitamin A and D, protein, and B vitamins. Vitamin A helps growth, fight infection, and vision.

Try to eat low-fat or non-fat milk and milk products to lower your fat intake. Other sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and tofu. If you are lactose intolerant or can’t digest dairy products, you can still get enough calcium. There are several low-lactose or reduced-lactose products available. In some cases, your doctor might recommend a calcium supplement.

ProteinsPregnant women and their growing babies need 10 grams of protein more than non-pregnant women. Pregnant women should eat 60 grams of protein every day.

Two or more 2-3 ounce servings of cooked lean meat, fish, or poultry without skin, or two or more 1 ounce servings of cooked meat contain about 60 grams of protein. Eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas also are good sources of protein. But don’t rush out and buy high protein drinks! Women in the United States regularly eat more protein than they need. So you probably won’t have to make an effort to eat the needed 60 grams of protein a day. Protein builds muscle, tissue, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies for you and your baby. Protein-rich foods also have B vitamins and iron important for your blood.

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