Archive for the ‘ Pregnancy ’ Category

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: What You Should Know

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

pregnant womanToday is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day. Lately, it seems like every day has been labelled something different: “Cheese Pizza Day,” “National Iguana Awareness Day,” “Wonderful Weirdos Day.” It’s easy to overlook days that have actual significance. However, I implore you to take a closer look at today, because the message behind this awareness campaign can and will change lives.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a serious condition that can happen as a result of a woman drinking at any point in her pregnancy. It is also the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disorders in this country, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Some claim that the potential dangers of alcohol to the fetus are already well-known. The information about fetal alcohol syndrome has been common knowledge for almost 40 years. The truth is that drinking during pregnancy remains a serious problem in the U.S. The NIH conducted a recent study in which 1 out of every 13 pregnant women report drinking in the last month, and, of those women, 1 in 6 report binge drinking in that time period. That is, quite frankly, startling. We need to continue to spread the word about the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

Unfortunately, there has been conflicting information from the media on whether drinking during pregnancy is safe. Some women are writing about how they drank during their pregnancies and everyone turned out fine. The Stir has a list of “7 Celeb Moms Who Drank While They Were Pregnant.” A Danish study came out and reported that expectant mothers who drank one glass of wine a week had children with better mental health. Despite these findings, even the author of that study believes that women shouldn’t drink during pregnancy. “I really think we should recommend abstaining [from drinking] during pregnancy. “I really believe that even a glass of wine now and again is really damaging,” study co-author Janni Niclasen, a post-doctoral student at the University of Copenhagen, told Overall, “there are simply not enough studies out there for us to feel confident that drinking during pregnancy is safe,” says Eve Espey, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico and a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

If you are trying to conceive, the best thing you can do is to stop drinking now. The earlier exposure to alcohol occurs in the fetus, the greater the chance of more serious damage. “The best choice when planning a pregnancy is to abstain — there is no safe alcohol, no safe time, and no safe amount,” says Kathy Mitchell, vice president and spokesperson for the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).

This is what is important to consider: It is worth it to drink if there is a possibility that it could affect your unborn child? Babies born with FASD have neurobehavioral issues, such as intellectual disabilities, speech and language delays, and poor social skills. You only have to abstain from alcohol for 9 months. The disabilities associated with FASD will last a lifetime.

Note: If you can’t stop drinking, it could be a sign of alcohol dependence. Contact your health care provider for a treatment referral. For more information, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a plethora of information and resources.

Alcohol During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Alcohol During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Alcohol During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

Image via Shutterstock

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How Risky Is It to Take Antidepressants While Pregnant?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Our answer–as well as that of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)–has always been that certain medications, namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are safe enough to consider taking during pregnancy. What’s more, it can be of greater risk to a baby to be born to a mother suffering from severe depression, because she may have trouble taking care of herself during pregnancy, and may be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and to smoke, perhaps as a way to combat stress.

But a compelling New York Times piece outlines several pieces of recent research that seem to raise more questions about the safety of SSRIs. Increasingly, connections are found between women who take them and babies who go on to be born premature, to be diagnosed with autism, to have ADHD, and to have language difficulties. We asked ACOG whether these studies should change the current thinking, and the answer at this point is: No.

“Broad, sweeping policy should not be made based on these kinds of findings,” says ACOG spokesperson Aaron Caughey, M.D., professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland. “We are concerned about these associations, but the evidence is inadequate.” Nothing yet points to a direct link between the medications and problems later on.

Dr. Caughey walked me through what would produce good evidence: “You’d take a really big group of women with major depression–say, 10,000–and randomize them into two groups, prior to pregnancy. For half, we’d wean them off their medication, and have them try other things to help their depression.” (He’s referring to approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, acupuncture.) The other half of the women would stay on their medication. Then in five years, all of the women’s children would be evaluated not only for their physical health, but their IQ scores and their behavior and development.

“You can imagine the problems in designing a study like this,” he continued. “First, you’d have to identify the women who are going to be pregnant–which would be overwhelmingly expensive. Then you’d have to get certain women to agree to go off their meds, which could be difficult; on the other hand, you’d have other women saying, ‘I’ve read the research–I’m stopping the meds.’ There are big challenges to conducting the right, well-designed research. So instead we end up doing a lot of small studies that aren’t able to find any cause-and-effect, but point to associations, which aren’t definitive.”

Dr. Caughey believes that articles like the NYT piece serve as as good reminder of how crucial it is for every woman to discuss the risks and benefits of antidepressants with her doctor or midwife–ideally before becoming pregnant. It’s worth asking whether there’s a different medication you can be on, or other ways of treating your depression that don’t involve meds at all. Of course, it will always depend on your situation, and for some women it may not be possible to go off medication.

The bottom line, says Dr. Caughey: “This is a really good issue to talk about with your provider. It’s incredibly important, and for each woman the answer will be different.”

Prescription Drugs During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Prescription Drugs During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Prescription Drugs During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

Photo: Pregnant woman taking medication via Shutterstock.

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This Movement Will Help You Accept Your Post-Pregnancy Body

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

While social media has obvious downsides (such a timesuck!), what I love most about it is its ability to bring people together. From ways to connect as diverse as support groups to hashtags, people bond over common problems, beliefs, situations, and opinions—and are often inspired or motivated by the solace other members provide. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than cyberspace’s ability to foster a community of likeminded individuals.

One of the many online movements bringing women together and encouraging them to accept their bodies is Love Your Lines. The movement’s Instagram account is accompanied by the hashtag #loveyourlines, and encourages women to submit photos of their stretch marks, or as they call them “tiger stripes,” along with their story. In the two weeks since the Instagram launched, the account has gone viral, accumulating more than 40,000 followers and over 150 photos.

The account is curated by two moms, Alexandra Elle and Erika Layne, a writer and photographer duo who started the Instagram after sharing their own stretch mark woes with each other. While they previously didn’t disclose their identity to keep the focus of the account on the women’s stories, they revealed themselves on a recent Good Morning America segment. In the interview, Alexandra explained the power of Love Your Lines, saying, “It’s all about women coming together in an all natural way that really helps motivate and lift each other as sisters.”

In that spirit, tales of body acceptance struggles from moms and non-moms alike accompany most of the photos, with many women expressing a desire to embrace the flaws society normally pressures them to hide. Many thank the Love Your Lines account for giving them the courage to start loving their lines, and what they represent. Each photo receives multiple messages of support from other women, praising the bravery and beauty of the submitted photos.

Groups like this that reinforce positive body image are always poignant—because who among us hasn’t felt insecure about our flaws? (I know I have, more often than I want to admit.) They serve as a reminder that everyone feels insecure, but the important bit is learning to embrace what makes you unique, and celebrating your body for all it does.

Test your knowledge of pregnancy skin care with our quiz!

Body After Baby
Body After Baby
Body After Baby

Image: Women hugging via Shutterstock

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The Power of Social Media Helps Mother Heal

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Whenever I need a quick, mindless break from life and work, I like to scroll through Instagram. Among pictures of majestic London cityscapes and my friends’ adorable

cats and new apartment decor, I happened upon a picture of a newborn baby , who had tubes connected to him in every place imaginable. My heart broke as I read the photo’s caption.

The baby’s mother, Amelia Barnes, recounted the tragic highlights of her son’s birth. On July 8, Amelia was due to give birth to a healthy baby boy. But the baby’s heart rate monitor start going off after eight hours of labor. Amelia had an emergency C-section. Seven minutes later, Landon was born, but his heart still wasn’t beating. Medical personnel resuscitated him after 15 minutes, but his brain and kidneys began to fail along with his heart.

After two days, Landon was removed from life support and shocked his parents by living for 17 more hours.  In those magical hours, Amelia and her husband, Justin, were able to have a photo shoot with their son, and Amelia shared many on her Instagram and blog called Landon’s Legacy. Looking through the beautiful family photos, you almost forget the baby has never cried, will never meet the family dog or leave the hospital in a car seat.

Amelia isn’t the only person who has experienced such a loss. With the power of Instagram, she was able to connect with other people in similar situations and create a virtual support system.

In addition to helping others heal with her, Amelia is creating a dialogue on postpartum bodies with the help of social media channels like Instagram. In a world where celebrities grace covers with instantly thin post-baby bodies, Amelia’s photos of her still-swollen belly are refreshing and honest. Even as a woman who has never given birth myself, I’m inspired by her body confidence — even during the hardest time of her life.

Instagram can be more than a way to pass time. Filtered photos and hashtags can reach across the world to tell her story to people she will never meet. To read more about Landon’s Legacy, visit

Image: Red heart with cross sign in female hand, close-up, on light background via Shutterstock

Labor & Delivery: What to Expect in a C-Section
Labor & Delivery: What to Expect in a C-Section
Labor & Delivery: What to Expect in a C-Section

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Is Paid Family Leave the Path to the White House?

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Hillary Clinton Paid Family LeaveCould support for paid family leave be the centerpiece of a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016? In The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky argues for just that, saying that Clinton should make “paid family leave a—no; the!—central plank” of her presumed run for the presidency. Tomasky is just offering advice and not reporting that this is actually under consideration, but his argument is persuasive that this issue is a winner.

I can’t agree more. Let’s look at the facts of the situation and then the politics of it:

The fact of the matter is that the United States is last among developed countries—final, end of the list—in legally mandating paid leave, with a grand total of zero weeks. Not a single day of paid family leave is guaranteed by law to new parents. Instead, the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by none other than Pres. Bill Clinton, guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers in companies covered by the law. Between the lack of any pay during that period, the measly three-month length, and the relatively high number of companies not covered by the law, this not exactly a generous policy.

Elsewhere in the world, however, Tomasky reports, workers are entitled to large chunks of paid time off to focus on their children: “In France, it’s 100 percent for 16 weeks. Mon dieu, you say, that’s France. But in Germany, which even American conservatives respect a little more in economic terms, it’s 100 percent pay for 14 weeks, and 65 percent for an astonishing 12 to 14 months.”

Our neighbors to the north and south also put us to shame in this department: Canadian moms get 15 weeks of leave at 55% of their pay, plus the couple get an additional 35 weeks at the same pay rate to split between them however they see fit. In Mexico, moms get 12 weeks at 100% of pay. There’s no reason for U.S. parents to be without any paid leave.  (Andrew Sullivan of The Dish posted a sobering chart illustrating just how behind we are.)

Then there’s the politics. Paid family leave has long been a dream of political liberals and a nightmare to business interests, who would be forced to pay employee’s salaries during periods when they are not working. But, as Tomasky points out, the idea of paid leave enjoys wide support among the public, and it’s hard to see women, even those with conservative, pro-business political leanings, opposing it. They and their families stand to benefit greatly from it. “A survey commissioned in 2012 by a pro-leave group found that respondents supported the idea by 63 to 29 percent,” Tomasky writes. “Democrats were of course strongly in favor (85-10), but independents were at a still quite favorable 54-34, and even Republicans weren’t against it—they were evenly split at 47-48.”

For Clinton, who usually plays her politics safely, it would be a bold stance that would at once show her independence—by hewing to the left and taking a risky stance contrary to her usual centrist leanings—while also remaining absolutely true to her pro-family, pro-woman concerns she’s focused on throughout her public career. In short, it’s an issue that is bound to be immensely popular, despite vocal and well-funded detractors.

I would add to Tomasky’s analysis that rallying support for paid family leave has the potential to attract religious conservatives for whom the health and strength of the family is paramount. It’s hard to imagine a policy that would do more for families than one that allows more parents to spend more time with their new babies (or ailing family members) without worrying about losing their income. Too many parents now have to make a choice between spending that crucial time with their newborns or paying the bills, because they cannot do both without paid leave. Family-values conservatives joining liberals and women from across the political spectrum would comprise an impressively powerful coalition to advance this cause.

In addition, it’s important to remember that paid family leave is not just beneficial to women. Men would also be covered by paid paternity-leave policies, allowing them to spend the time being fathers and bonding with their children that they otherwise could not afford to. And the real winners here, of course, are the children who would have more time with their parents at home.

Lastly, I’d argue that the idea should not be confined to a Hillary Clinton candidacy or pigeonholed as her thing, lest it end up buried in partisan combat (which, of course, it might anyway). It is a policy whose time has long past come and I’d invite–expect–any candidate from any party who claims to be pro-family to take up the cause.

Plus: Use our stay-at-home calculator to find out if you can afford to give up your job and stay home with your kids full time.

Work-Life Balance in America
Work-Life Balance in America
Work-Life Balance in America

Image of Hillary Clinton via Shutterstock.

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