Author: Briana Thornton

Do’s and Don’ts of Your First Trimester

Do’s and Don’ts of Your First Trimester

After finding out you’re pregnant (congrats mommy-to-be!), you may start to feel a little anxious. What can you do? What can you not do? What foods and drinks should you avoid? With so much information out there, it can quickly become overwhelming. That is exactly why we’ve put together this list of do’s and don’ts for your first trimester, so you can make the best possible decisions for you and your baby during this important phase of pregnancy.

DO start taking folic acid supplements

You’ll want to start taking folic acid supplements as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant. This provides essential nutrients that helps protect the baby’s brain and spinal cord. You may also want to start taking prenatal vitamins. 

DO prepare for morning sickness

Despite its name, morning sickness can last all day typically during the first trimester. While not all women are plagued with morning sickness during pregnancy, many are so it’s best to get ready for it ahead of time. 

There are teas specifically formulated to combat nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. If you find that you’re prone to morning sickness, you can brew yourself a cup each morning. There are also morning sickness hard candies that you can eat in addition to your cup of tea or instead of it.

If you find that you have mild morning sickness, then you can take measures like eating small and frequent meals and sticking to foods that are bland and simple. If you find that it is severe you should talk to your OBGYN immediately.

DO learn about health insurance and pick a provider

If you already have health insurance, you should look into the plans for prenatal care and delivery expenses. If healthcare is provided by your job, look into the benefits offered by the health insurance company. 

From there, it’s time to choose an OBGYN or a midwife. The reason it’s advised to look into health insurance first is because they likely have a list of participating providers. A good way to find a healthcare provider is through recommendations from friends and family. Ensure they are under your health insurance plan and, if possible, meet with a few to see if they are a good fit

DO set up your first prenatal appointment

Before your appointment, make a note of the first day of your last period as they will ask you this, and write down any questions that you may have for your doctor. If there are diseases or disorders on either the father’s side of the family or yours, these are a great thing to discuss with your doctor. 

You should also make sure to consult your doctor about any medications you are on to make sure they are safe for pregnant women. Continue to do this throughout your pregnancy if you are prescribed different medications, including over-the-counter ones. Mention any herbs, vitamins, or other supplements you take. 

DO limit stress

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed in the first few months of pregnancy with lists of things you have to do. But stress is bad for your health and for the baby’s development so you’ll want to avoid it as much as possible. 

Easier said than done, right? Well, there are a few measures you can take in order to make this process easier for yourself:

  • Take everything day-by-day. For example, instead of doing everything all at once, take it in stride and do one thing every day to get prepared for the new baby’s arrival.
  • Practice deep breathing. When you are starting to feel stressed, don’t let yourself get too worked up. It’s normal! Instead, take a few deep, calming breaths and refocus your intentions. 
  • Use a pregnancy planner. This will help you to stay organized and abreast of the things you have to do so that you can reduce stress. 

DO cultivate better habits

If you haven’t already read our general list of do’s and don’ts for pregnancy, you should give it a look. There are things that will be important throughout your pregnancy. We included the importance of exercise (you may need to modify your workouts to accommodate your pregnancy), eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Those are extremely important in the healthy development of your baby and in maintaining your own health. But it’s not enough to start doing that in your 3rd trimester and hoping that’s enough. You need to start now, during your first trimester. 

  • Exercise: Between the nausea and low energy, working out may be the last thing you feel like doing. But it’s important to get up and move as it makes for a more comfortable pregnancy and can help reduce complications.
  • Get lots of sleep: Being pregnant is very demanding on your body and being a new mom is even more so. Make sure you are getting enough sleep to help you prepare.
  • Eat healthy: It’s essential that you are eating a healthy and balanced diet so that you are getting all the nutrients that you and your baby need. 

DO talk to your partner about parenting and budgeting

This is going to look different for all couples because everyone goes into parenthood with their own ideas and practices. One good way to tackle this is to sit down and both write a list of what parenting means to you and what each of you saw from your mother and father. Then, come together and agree on practices that add value to the baby’s life and help raise your child positively.

It’s also important that you talk about how you plan to handle the baby’s expenses. It’s no secret that babies can be expensive with all the diapers, food, toys, and baby gear, in addition to saving for when the baby grows up. Check where you can trim your budget now and make adjustments to save money that can be used for your baby.

DON’T paint the nursery

It’s an exciting step to get to decorate the baby’s room but the chemicals and solvents in paint can be toxic and harmful. If you do insist on painting, use natural or organic paints and ensure the room is well-ventilated.

DON’T consume foods that may be harmful to you or your baby

We go much more in-depth in our article on the top 11 foods to avoid during pregnancy so be sure to check that out.

DON’T smoke or breathe in secondhand smoke

Cigarette smoke is linked to many complications that may include cancers, premature delivery, low birth weight, miscarriage, sudden infant deather syndrome, and learning or behavioral disabilities as the baby grows and develops. You should not be doing any recreational drugs as they can be harmful and toxic to you and the baby. 

DON’T stay in the same position for an extended period of time

Do not sit or stand for long periods of time as it can hurt your ankles and veins. Take frequent breaks to move around and keep your legs elevated after you’ve been on your feet for a while.

DON’T drink alcohol

Alcohol can pass through the placenta and umbilical cord and affect the baby’s developing brain and organs. Regular consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, brain damage, miscarriage, stillbirth, and life-long debilitation.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts and What to Do About Them

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts and What to Do About Them

While it is pretty common for women to have ovarian cysts, it is important to understand where they come from, how they affect your body, and what you should look for and do about them. Ovarian cysts can come in many different forms and most are pretty harmless. However, when you start to consistently feel bloated, feel sharp random pains, or experience pain during sex, these are signs that you should make an appointment with your OBGYN and get yourself checked out. 

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form in a woman’s ovaries, generally during her menstrual cycle and they typically go unnoticed. While most are painless, cysts can become a problem when they are enlarged or don’t go away. 

It is normal for a woman to experience having at least one ruptured cyst a month because during a normal menstrual cycle, the ovaries produce a cyst that intentionally ruptures to release an egg, allowing the woman to become pregnant. When the cyst ruptures, fluid is released into the pelvis in a process called ovulation. If the egg that was released is fertilized by sperm, a pregnancy occurs. If not, a period occurs. 

While the vast majority of ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous) and harmless, if you have abnormal pains or discomfort for an extended period of time, you should look out for these signs: 

Irregular or delayed periods

Periods can be complicated and irregularities can occur for a number of reasons (check out our article on the causes of irregular periods). Ovarian cysts can be yet another factor that complicates periods further and can add pain and discomfort. Some months, the cyst that forms is larger and releases more fluid, causing immense pain while other months the cyst is smaller, releasing less fluid and causing slight discomfort. 

Sharp pain around your pelvic region

While mild to moderate pain may come with your period, if you experience random, excruciating pains outside of your menstrual cycle, it may indicate complicated cysts. You will most likely feel this pain in your lower pelvic region where your ovaries are located. Look out for a pain that stays in one specific area and stays even after your period goes away. 

Sex is painful

If you find yourself experiencing pain during sex when that has not normally been the case, you should make an appointment with your OBGYN. Enlarged cysts can make sex incredibly uncomfortable and even painful. 

You constantly feel the urge to go to the bathroom

If you constantly feel like you need to use the bathroom, it may be that a large ovarian cyst is pushing on your bladder and applying constant pressure to that organ. An easy way to detect if this is the case for you is to monitor how many times you are using the bathroom throughout the day and note what you’re doing on each trip. If you often get to the bathroom and find you don’t have the urge to urinate, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. 

You feel hormonal

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where women have several small cysts on their ovaries that affect their hormones and can cause irregular periods, sudden weight gain, and acne. Because there are so many cysts on such a small space, it can cause an imbalance in estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, which triggers the above-mentioned symptoms. The only way to diagnose PCOS is by having a doctor run a blood test or conduct an ultrasound exam. 

How can I prevent and treat ovarian cysts?

Unfortunately, there are no preventative measures a woman can take to keep ovarian cysts from forming. They occur naturally as part of the menstrual cycle or on their own. However, if you feel any of the aforementioned symptoms: vomiting, heavy bleeding, or excruciating pain, there may be complications and you should consult your OBGYN. He or she will conduct a pelvic ultrasound to diagnose enlarged ovarian cysts and then conduct a follow-up ultrasound three to four months later during a period. Enlarged cysts typically disappear within that time. 

Some cysts will require surgical removal but in the majority of cases, cysts are nothing to worry about.

Everything You Need to Know About Periods

Everything You Need to Know About Periods

A period, also known as menstruation or a menstrual cycle, occurs when the lining of a female’s uterus breaks down and leaves the body, usually every month. The lining is made up of blood, tissue, and nutrients – the development of which is the body’s preparation for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, meaning the woman’s egg is not fertilized by a sperm, hormones tell the body to shed the lining that’s been built over the last 28 days (on average), resulting in a period that varies in length from one woman to the next.

When do periods begin and end?

Periods start during puberty, which is when a girl’s body begins to change, typically between the ages of 8 and 15 years old. It’s important to remember that periods look different for everyone so the side effects, ages at which it starts and ends, and how long each menstrual cycle lasts vary from person to person. However, as a rule of thumb, if a girl’s period has not started by the age of 16, she should be evaluated by a physician to assess the cause of the delay.

Periods end when women enter menopause which generally falls between the ages of 45 and 55 years old.

What side effects come along with a period?

Side effects may start up to two weeks before the start of a menstrual cycle. Women may notice a change in the body with symptoms called Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). These can include:

  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Acne and breakouts
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Swollen or tender breasts

As these symptoms recur each month around the same time, they usually start to become predictable and more manageable. When symptoms start to become overwhelming, there are steps you can take to ease them:

  • Limit intake of fat, salt, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. An adjustment in diet can help to ease the side effects of PMS.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Over the counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can effectively lessen symptoms.
  • Consider hormonal birth control like the pill.

If you find that any of these premenstrual symptoms are overwhelming to the point that they are impacting your daily life, you should talk to your OBGYN. He or she may be able to find ways to ease the intensity and frequency of your symptoms. 

Should I use pads, tampons, or a menstrual cup?

There is no right or wrong answer here because all three methods allow women to go about their daily lives by collecting the blood that the body releases during a period. It is, however, important to know the basics of each option to make the best decision for you.

Pads are worn outside of the body so they collect the blood after it exits the body. Most pads are disposable after one use while others are made of cloth and meant to be washed after use. The material is highly absorbent to avoid leakage. Many women start off using pads when they first start their periods because they don’t require insertion into the vagina and are easy to use.

Tampons act almost like a plug that’s inserted into the vagina where it absorbs the menstrual blood before it leaves the body. Tampons generally come with an applicator that makes for easy and quick insertion and have a string that makes for easy removal. They are also highly absorbent and disposable after one use (up to 8 hours). Many women prefer tampons because they are small and discreet, they are usually not felt once they’ve been properly inserted into the body, and they allow women to engage in a greater range of activities than pads do, including swimming and other active sports. It is very important to change tampons every 4-8 hours (overnight is also ok) to avoid bacteria buildup which can result in a very rare condition called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). This rare but serious condition can result from wearing a tampon for longer than 8 hours.

Menstrual cups look like little inverted bells and similarly to tampons, they are worn inside the vagina. Rather than absorbing the blood like both pads and tampons, menstrual cups are made of medical-grade flexible silicone and collect the blood while inside the vagina. They are then emptied, washed, and reinserted into the vagina. Menstrual cups are more environmentally-friendly as they are not thrown out after a single use, which is why many women prefer this method. Women also like menstrual cups because they can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time without the risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Can you get pregnant on your period?

You sure can! Although the risk of pregnancy is lower during your period, it is still a good idea to use some form of birth control to avoid unintentional pregnancies. 

What to do if your period comes late

First, do not panic! It is common for periods to not always come 28 days apart on the dot. A typical menstrual cycle falls between 21-34 days, but there are quite a few factors that can affect the regularity of periods including weight gain or loss, stress, diet, medication, excessive exercise, and other lifestyle factors.

If your period does not come within 35 days and you are sexually active, you should take a pregnancy test even if you are on birth control. If a pregnancy test comes back negative or you are not sexually active, you should check in with your doctor who may want to conduct tests to determine the cause of this irregularity. 

 

If you have additional questions, our highly knowledgeable staff has answers. Call us to set up an appointment: 757-455-8833.

7 Infections You’re More Susceptible to During Pregnancy

7 Infections You’re More Susceptible to During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women become more prone to certain infections some mild while others can cause grave complications for mommy and baby. Because certain infections can be more prevalent among pregnant women, it’s important to know how to prevent and/or treat them. 

Why does pregnancy make you more prone to infection?

It has been scientifically proven that the human body is in a constant state of defense, working to protect the body from potential damage caused by various bacteria and viruses. However, pregnancy affects the body’s physiological system and the number of hormonal changes that occur during this period can weaken the body’s immune system making it easier for bacteria to invade the body.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs are typically caused by bacteria that are present in the rectum, vagina, or on the skin entering the body through the urethra. Pregnant women are at an increased risk for UTI’s between weeks 6-24 of pregnancy. Why? The uterus sits directly on top of the bladder but during pregnancy, the uterus grows and can block the drainage of urine from the bladder which can cause an infection. 

UTIs come with quite a few symptoms but the most telling symptom is a burning sensation when urinating. 

If a UTI is left untreated, it can lead to a kidney infection in any woman that contracts one but with pregnancy, there are concerning complications that come with this. Kidney infections can cause early labor and low birth weight so it’s important that you get your UTI treated as early as possible. Many women will try to self-treat a UTI or just hope it goes away on its own but your best bet is to go to your doctor who will then prescribe you a 3-7 day antibiotics course. Learn more about UTIs here.

Chickenpox

If a pregnant woman catches chickenpox, both she and her baby may face serious health complications like pneumonia. If chickenpox develops during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, the baby might face a risk of a rare group of birth defects known as congenital varicella syndrome which makes a baby more likely to develop skin scarring and eye, brain, limb, and gastrointestinal abnormalities. If chickenpox develops between the few days before you deliver and 48 hours postpartum, the baby could be born with a potentially life-threatening infection called neonatal varicella. 

If you are exposed to chickenpox during pregnancy and you are not already immune, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. From there, your healthcare provider will develop a course of action including an immune product or antiviral drugs, depending on how much the infection has developed.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Pregnant women can become infected by the same STDs as women who are not pregnant. Despite common misconceptions, pregnancy does not provide women or babies any additional protection against STDs. Many STDs are silent and don’t have any obvious symptoms so many people that have them are unaware but the result can be life-threatening for both the woman and her baby. Some of these issues are clear upon birth while others may not be discovered for months or even years after. 

The best way to avoid getting an STD while pregnant is to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship where both parties have no STDs or use condoms every time you have sex. 

Hepatitis B

Babies that are born to mothers with hepatitis B have a greater than 90% chance of developing chronic hepatitis B if they are not properly treated for it at birth. If a doctor is aware that a pregnant mother has hepatitis B, he or she can ensure that the proper medications are in the delivery room to help and prevent the baby from being infected. This requires that the newborn is given two shots immediately in the delivery room. 

Hepatitis C

In the United States, 1% to 2.5% of pregnant women are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), which carries an approximately 5% risk of transmission from mother to infant,” according to the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Hepatitis B can be difficult to detect because the first sign is nausea, a symptom commonly associated with early pregnancy, making it difficult to assess. 

People with hepatitis C generally have no symptoms although some will have nausea and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) when they first become infected. Sometimes the body can clear the virus on its own but what usually happens is that the virus stays in the liver which can cause carriers to develop severe liver damage or cancer of the liver. Most carriers, however, live for many years without major health complications. 

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes are typically caught through contact with the genitals of an infected person or from oral sex. At the onset of the infection, a person will develop genital ulcers or painful blisters. 

If a woman with genital herpes has the virus present in the birth canal during delivery, herpes simplex virus (HSV) can be spread to the infant, causing neonatal herpes, a serious, sometimes fatal condition. Neonatal herpes overwhelms the baby’s barely developed immune system, resulting in lasting damage to the central nervous system, mental retardation, or death. 

If the infection occurs during the first trimester, it can be treated, but if it occurs towards the end of pregnancy, a cesarean section may be recommended to avoid the transfer of the disease to the baby. 

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Anyone can develop GBS but pregnant women are at an increased risk and can pass the bacteria to the baby during delivery. Nearly 1 in 4 women have GBS which causes infections in the blood, lungs, skin, and bones, but in pregnant women, it can cause infections in the urinary tract, placenta, womb, and amniotic fluid. 

Babies with GBS can develop serious health problems including pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis.

How to Protect Yourself If You've Had Unprotected Sex

How to Protect Yourself If You’ve Had Unprotected Sex

Unprotected sex, although typically not planned, can happen. Maybe you missed a day or two taking your birth control pill or you had sex without a condom or barrier of protection. If you or a friend find yourself in a situation like this, the first step would be to call your primary care provider who will help you to find the best solution to reduce your risk of pregnancy. Today, we’ll answer your burning questions about your options after having unprotected sex. 

What are my emergency contraceptive options?

The Morning-After Pill

This is a popular choice after having unprotected sex as it can significantly reduce your risk of pregnancy. It’s a hormone-based medication that can delay ovulation (ovaries releasing eggs which will then be fertilized by a sperm). These are readily available over-the-counter at most pharmacies; you will likely see Plan B which is a popular brand of morning-after pills. There are also more effective pills that may be a better fit for your particular situation but these will most likely require a prescription.

Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The copper IUD is a hormone-free, long-acting reverse contraception. When used as birth control, it can remain effective for up to 12 years but it can also be used as emergency contraception as it prevents your eggs from being implanted in the uterus. If you are interested in having an IUD inserted, give us a call!

How effective are these emergency contraception options?

The copper IUD is the most effective, preventing unplanned pregnancies for 99% of users. If taken within the first 72 hours after having unprotected sex, Plan B is about 75-89% effective but becomes less effective in women who weigh 155 pounds or more. The ‘ella’ morning-after pill can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex and is 85% effective and not dependent on your weight. 

How long after unprotected sex should I use emergency contraception?

The short answer: the sooner, the better. The length of time is completely dependent upon which method you choose but in most cases, emergency contraception is effective if taken within 3 days while ‘ella’ is effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The IUD has the longest grace period with effectiveness up to 7 days after sex. But the sooner you take the contraceptive method of choice the better so don’t delay. 

Will I be able to get pregnant later?

There have been no studies that have produced results that morning-after pills or copper IUDs have negative effects on future pregnancies. You can take them as needed, keeping in mind that, aside from the IUD, they should not be used as a replacement for regular birth control. 

Are there side effects?

The side effects that accompany morning-after pills are similar to those of birth control pills and are typically not something to worry too much about. You may experience some of the following side effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Spotting between periods
  • Heavier bleeding during your period
  • Cramps
  • Breast tenderness
  • Lightheadedness

These side effects typically go away after a few days but if you experience them consistently after taking emergency contraceptive, speak to your primary care provider. 

Bodily Changes You Can Expect While Pregnant pt. 2

Bodily Changes You Can Expect While Pregnant pt. 2

Last month, we wrote about sensory changes, hormonal changes, and changes in the breasts and cervix that can impact a woman during pregnancy. Upon writing that article, we knew we wanted to write a more comprehensive guide to what you might experience during pregnancy so that you’re ready for all the possible changes that you may go through.

Respiratory and metabolic changes

Pregnancy causes an increase in the amount of oxygen transported in the blood due to the increased demand for blood and the dilation of blood vessels. The growth forces an increase in metabolic rates during pregnancy. 

Metabolic rate

The amount of energy the body expends while at rest increases dramatically during pregnancy. It’s important to monitor this rate, the resting metabolic rate (RMR), in order to estimate the amount of energy intake required to maintain or gain weight. The change in this rate is why pregnant women need to increase calorie consumption. 

Changes in body temperature

A slightly higher core temperature is a common sign of pregnancy and will be maintained through the duration of the pregnancy. Women will also notice a higher need for water as they are at greater risk of hyperthermia and dehydration and need to be cautious to remain hydrated.

Breathing and blood oxygen levels

A pregnant woman moves 30-50% more air in and out of her lungs than a woman who is not pregnant due to 2 factors: 1) Each breath has a greater volume of air, and 2) The rate of breathing slightly increases. Even without exercising, these changes can cause shortness of breath. 

Changes in hair, skin, and nails

You will likely experience changes in the physical appearance of your skin while pregnant. Most are temporary (stretch marks, for example) while others can lead to permanent changes. 

Hyperpigmentation

The majority of pregnant women experience some sort of hyperpigmentation which consists of the darkening of the skin tone on parts of the body including the areolas, genitals, scars, and the linea alba, the dark line that forms down the middle of the abdomen. This occurs in women of every skin tone but it’s particularly common among women with darker complexions. 

Pregnant women may also experience a condition called melasma with the darkening of the skin on the face. This condition is worsened by exposure to the sun and its radiation so it’s essential to we broad-spectrum sunscreen daily during pregnancy. Melasma typically goes away after pregnancy. 

Changes in moles and freckles

The hyperpigmentation will likely also cause darkening in moles, freckles, and birthmarks but these changes are typically harmless. If, however, you do notice changes in size, color, or shape, you should visit a dermatologist or your OB. Most skin pigmentation changes will fade or disappear postpartum but changes in mole and freckle color are often permanent. 

Stretch marks

Nearly 90% of pregnant women will see stretch marks form on their bodies by the 3rd trimester as a result of the physical stretching of the skin and the effects of hormone changes on the skin’s elasticity. These most often form on the breasts and abdomen and while they will likely fade in color, they may never disappear fully. Stretch marks may itch so applying a cream can reduce the itchiness and deter you from scratching and potentially damaging the skin.

Changes in hair and nails

Hormone changes that occur during pregnancy can lead to excessive hair loss, particularly in women who have a family history of alopecia. Many women, however, experience hair growth and thickening at rapid rates and may even notice more hair growing in unwanted places, the face, arms, legs, or back for example. 

These are changes that typically return to normal after the baby is born but it’s common that women will continue experiencing hair shedding and loss up to a year postpartum. This happens because your hair follicles and hormone levels are trying to regulate themselves again now that they’re no longer under the influence of pregnancy hormones. 

Many women will also experience faster-growing nails while pregnant, due in large part to the prenatal vitamins that add to the growth hormones of pregnancy. This can also come with increased nail brittleness, grooves, keratosis, and breakage.

Circulatory system changes

Due to the rapid expansion of the blood vessels and increased strain on the lungs and heart, women produce more blood during pregnancy and must, therefore, use more caution when exercising. They may experience the following during pregnancy:

  • Heavy breathing while exerting energy, like climbing the stairs or exercising
  • A feeling of dizziness when standing quickly
  • Changes in blood pressure

Blood pressure and exercise

Pregnancy hormones can have a sudden effect on the tone in blood vessels which results in that dizzy feeling or brief loss of consciousness that is relatively common among pregnant women. This is caused by the loss of pressure sending less blood to the brain and central nervous system. 

Dizziness and fainting

Dizziness is more common after the 24-week mark or earlier in multi-fetal pregnancies and conditions that increase amniotic fluid. Lying flat on the back compresses the large blood vessel that goes from the lower body to the heart which can cause a sudden and dramatic decline in blood pressure, causing dizziness or loss of consciousness. 

To avoid this, we recommend that after the first trimester, avoid exercises that require lying on the back. Lying on the left side may help relieve dizziness and is a good position to sleep in. If you are consistently experiencing dizziness or fainting, you should consult with your doctor.

How to Distinguish Between Postpartum Depression vs Postpartum PTSD

How to Distinguish Between Postpartum Depression & Postpartum PTSD

New chapters in life can be exciting, but change can also cause anxiety. Think about getting a new job – it’s a great opportunity, hopefully with more pay and in line with what you want to do long-term, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. Will you get along with your coworkers? Will you learn the systems quickly and efficiently? Will your boss be nice or harsh? 

Now multiply those uncertainties – and your responsibilities for them – by ten thousand. With the excitement of bringing a new child into the world, there’s immense pressure to not only keep your child healthy but raise them right. 

This is only the most obvious challenge of giving birth. Few folks take into consideration the intensities of labor on the body and the shift of focus from mother to baby. Any small complication with the child or even the labor plan can cause immense anxiety and stress.

Not to mention, anything less than the explosion of love and affection outsiders ensured you’d feel after birth might make a woman immediately question her mothering skills and feel some sort of postpartum depression.

While usually tied into one neat, trauma-filled, anxiety-ridden package, postpartum PTSD and postpartum depression are completely different. Women may experience either, both, or neither. If left untreated, P-PTSD can easily lead to postpartum depression.

What are the symptoms?

There are lots of symptoms the diagnoses share, but there are plenty that separate them, too. Here’s a breakdown of the symptoms:

Specific to PD (postpartum depression):

  • Intense hopelessness and sadness
  • Obsessive worrying or severe anxiety
  • Intrusive thoughts of self-harm or harm to the baby
  • Guilty feelings or thoughts of worthlessness 
  • Change in appetite (not eating enough or overeating)

Specific to P-PTSD (postpartum PTSD):

  • Being easily startled
  • Nightmares and flashbacks that are recurring
  • Avoiding the baby and anything related to birth
  • Aggression and irritability 
  • Panic attacks 

Symptoms PD and P-PTSD share: 

  • Withdrawing from social interaction
  • A strain on personal relationships
  • Insomnia 
  • Difficulty with or no desire to bond with the newborn

How common are these disorders?

Studies show that full-blown P-PTSD affects 3-7 percent of women, but around 30% of women suffer some sort of PTSD after birth. Increased circumstances can occur if the baby has a medical condition, is rushed to the ICU, or is born prematurely. Non-planned changes that go against the mother’s birth plan such as a fast labor, c-section, lack of epidural, and even difficulties breastfeeding can cause stress and contribute to PTSD.

Postpartum depression is much more common, with a majority of women feeling some sort of “baby blues” directly after birth. 50-75% of women show signs of extreme sadness and anxiety within two weeks after delivery. This develops into a more long-term and severe depression for about 15% of women.

How long do they last?

Generally, both disorders can last anywhere from a few weeks to the first year of a child’s life. Of course, when left untreated, both disorders can draw guilt and stress out longer. 

If you feel like you may be experiencing one or both of these disorders, Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care has plenty of treatment and counseling options. Talk to your doctor about your options and what treatments might work best for you.

Remember, just like any big changes in life, you’ll get the hang of this major one! Never blame yourself for how you’re feeling, and never doubt your ability to be a mother. You’ve got this, and Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care is here to help.

Bodily Changes You Can Expect While Pregnant

Bodily Changes You Can Expect While Pregnant

It’s a well-known fact that pregnancy comes with a variety of changes to the body. But those changes can be the common and expected changes, like swelling and weight gain, to less common ones like changes in body temperature. We find it best to know what to expect which is why we will break down the changes you may experience during pregnancy

Sensory changes

Believe it or not, pregnancy can dramatically affect a woman’s sight, taste, and smell. 

Changes in vision

Although there is no precise explanation for why this happens, some women experience increased nearsightedness during pregnancy with vision returning after birth. Some changes that are common are blurred vision and discomfort with contact lenses while some women may be at risk for retinal detachment or vision loss, although these cases are much rarer. 

Changes in taste and smell

Often times during pregnancy, women have a higher threshold for sour, salty, and sweet tastes because many are afflicted by dysgeusia, a decrease in the ability to taste, which most commonly occurs during the first trimester. Generally, they regain full tasting capability after pregnancy. 

It’s no secret that pregnant women often have cravings and those cravings may vary from trimester to trimester. 

Pregnant women also report changes in their sense of smell, often described as a heightened sensitivity to odors. This can cause nausea for many women that experience it.

Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy

Pregnant women go through a sudden and dramatic increase in estrogen and progesterone levels. These changes in not only the amount but also the function of these hormones and a number of other hormones affect mood, aid in the development of the fetus, alter the effect of physical activity on the body, and create that “glow” everyone talks about in pregnancy. 

Changes in estrogen and progesterone

A woman will produce more estrogen during one pregnancy than during her entire life when not pregnant. The increase in estrogen supports the developing baby and transfers nutrients from the uterus to the fetus. 

Estrogen levels will increase steadily throughout the pregnancy and reach their peak in the third trimester. During the first trimester, the rapid increase in estrogen levels can cause the nausea that is often associated with pregnancy. During the second trimester, the increase in estrogen plays a role in the development of the milk ducts that cause the breasts to enlarge.  

Progesterone is the second hormone that plays a big role in pregnancy and these levels are also extremely high. These changes cause a loosening of ligaments and joints in the body and can cause organs to grow in size, which is how the uterus, normally the size of a pear is able to accommodate a full-term baby.

Greater risk of exercise injuries

With looser ligaments, a pregnant woman may be more prone to sprains and strains of the ankles and knees which can make exercising difficult. In addition, a pregnant woman will most likely experience a change in her posture. Her breasts have grown, her stomach becomes convex, and her back becomes more curved, all changes that can shift the center of gravity forward and cause her to lose her balance more often. 

Pregnant women also retain fluids and, as a result, experience swelling of the face and limbs which places another limitation on exercising. The increase in water weight accounts for a significant amount of weight gain during pregnancy. Here are our tips for reducing swelling:

  • Avoid caffeine and sodium.
  • Avoid standing up for long periods of time.
  • Rest.
  • Increase your dietary potassium intake.

Changes in the breasts and cervix

Hormonal changes also lead to physiological changes throughout the body that are preparing the woman’s body for pregnancy, giving birth, and breastfeeding

Changes in the breasts

Pregnant women’s breasts often undergo quite a few changes during pregnancy as the body prepares to produce and supply milk to the new baby. These may include:

  • Hormones that affect the skin’s pigmentation often darken the areola.
  • Stretch marks and veins may become more visible on the breasts, especially if they’ve grown rapidly.
  • The size of the nipple and areola will likely increase.
  • Small bumps may form on the areola.
  • Most women will start producing and sometimes leaking small amounts of a thick, yellowish substance (colostrum) during the second trimester.
  • Small lumps may form in the breast tissue indicating blocked milk ducts. If these don’t disappear after a few days of massaging the breasts and warming them with a washcloth, have a doctor examine it. 

Changes in the cervix

The cervix is the entrance to the uterus and must also undergo physical changes in order to prepare for pregnancy and labor. The tissue of the cervix will likely thicken and become more firm and glandular. It will then soften and dilate slightly from the pressure of the growing baby in the weeks before birth. 

In the early stages of pregnancy, the cervix produces a thick mucus plug to seal off the uterus which is later expelled in late pregnancy or during delivery. 

 

As leaders in our industry, Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care offers support before, during, and after pregnancy and together, we will walk through this time of big changes with you. 

What New Moms Need to Know About Breastfeeding

What New Moms Need to Know About Breastfeeding

Although breastfeeding is a natural process offering health benefits to both mother and baby, it certainly can come with its difficulties. There are several different areas where these difficulties might show up: getting your baby to latch on, ensuring she/he is getting enough milk, finding the right position that’s comfortable for both parties, etc. Here are the breastfeeding basics that every mother should know. 

Positioning Your Breastfeeding Baby

It’s likely that you won’t be a master at breastfeeding the first time, even the first several times you try. Don’t get discouraged! Instead, here are a few tips on how to position your baby and get them to latch on:

Cradle Hold

Place your baby’s head in the crook of your right arm (if you’re nursing from your right breast), so that your forearm is supporting the rest of the baby’s body. Hold your breast and squeeze so that the nipple points toward the baby’s mouth.

Football Hold

For this type of hold, tuck your baby’s legs under your arm on the same side as the breast you are feeding him or her on. Use that arm to hold your baby and the other hand to hold your breast to help your baby find your nipple.

Reclining Hold

Lay back on either a couch or bed with a pillow propping up your upper back, neck, and head. Place your baby tummy down so that he or she is lying vertically on your chest with their mouth just below your nipple.

Side-Lying Hold

Once again lying on either a couch or bed, prop a pillow underneath your head. Your baby should face you with his or her head level with your nipple.

Crossover Hold

If you’re nursing from the right breast, hold your baby’s head with your left hand and body with your left arm so that he or she is held across your body.

How to know if your baby is getting enough milk

We recommend solely breastfeeding for at least 6 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics infers that a new baby needs to be fed every one and a half to three hours.  The first week after your baby’s birth he or she should be gaining about an ounce a day. 

The way you are able to tell if your baby is getting enough food is by how many diapers you have to change. You should see about 5 to 6 wet diapers a day until your baby is 6 months old.  You can also tell by your baby’s mood after being fed; if he or she seems full and content, that is a likely sign that they are getting enough milk. 

Nutrition

It is important that as a breastfeeding mother you maintain a balanced diet and continue to take prenatal vitamins to help keep both yourself and your child healthy during the breastfeeding process. Breastfeeding nourishes your baby and strengthens their immune system.

You should be drinking six to eight glasses of fluids (water, juice, milk)  every day to produce enough milk to stay hydrated.  

You also may find that you need a little more food in your system to keep up the energy for breastfeeding, about 400 to 500 additional calories a day should be all you need. Opt for nutrient-rich foods when it comes to seeking these additional calories. You should also choose protein-rich foods like lean meat, eggs, dairy, and beans as these will help to fuel your milk production. Eating a variety of foods can actually change the flavor of your breast milk and help your baby to accept solid foods easier when the time comes.

What foods should a breastfeeding mom not eat?

The foods that you should be avoiding while breastfeeding are very similar to the foods you should not eat while pregnant. You should be especially cautious of the following:

  • Alcohol: No amount of alcohol in breastmilk is safe or healthy for a baby. If you do choose to drink, make sure to wait at least two to three hours before breastfeeding your baby.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine in your breast milk can interfere with yours and your baby’s sleep.  Avoid drinking more than two or three cups of caffeinated drinks a day.
  • Seafood: You should avoid eating seafood as excessive amounts of mercury in your breast milk can put your baby’s developing nervous system at risk.
Everything You Need to Know About Mammograms

Everything You Need to Know About Mammograms

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast that can be used not only to detect breast cancer in women that are showing no signs or symptoms of the disease but also to check for breast cancer in women after a lump or other sign has been found. There are two different types of mammograms: screening and diagnostic. 

What is the difference between screening and diagnostic mammograms?

A screening mammogram is done as a preventative measure in women who have not displayed any signs or symptoms of breast cancer because the x-ray images allow you to detect tumors that a physical screening may not. 

A diagnostic mammogram is used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign of breast cancer has been detected. Just like we mentioned in our Breast Cancer Awareness blog post, there are many other signs of breast cancer besides finding a lump. Some of these signs may include breast pain, thickening of the skin of the breast, nipple discharge, or changes in the size, shape, or appearance of your breasts. These signs can, however, also be related to benign conditions which is why a diagnostic mammogram is important to further evaluate changes that may have been found during a screening mammogram.

Both types of mammograms use the same machine. The major differences between the two are (1) the amount of radiation you will be exposed to is higher in a diagnostic mammogram because more x-ray images are needed to view the breast from multiple angles, and (2) diagnostic mammograms take longer to obtain than screening mammograms. 

What are the benefits of screening mammograms?

Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier, potentially before it can spread. This vastly increases the possibility of overcoming the disease. But we can’t talk about the benefits of screening mammograms without also talking about the risks that can come with them.

What are the potential hazards of mammograms?

Radiation exposure

Mammograms require radiation and, although it is in very small doses and results in low exposure, repeated x-rays have the potential to cause cancer. The benefits of mammography do almost always outweigh the potential harm from radiation exposure, however, you should speak with your health care provider about the need for continued x-rays. You should also be sure to disclose your potential of being pregnant with your health care provider and x-ray technician as radiation can be extremely harmful to a growing fetus.

False-positive results

A false-positive is when a radiologist sees an abnormality that could be a positive on an x-ray picture but there is no cancer present in reality. All mammograms that do find abnormalities should be followed up with additional testing to determine whether or not cancer is truly present. 

False-positive results are most common among younger women, women with dense breasts, women with a family history of breast cancer, women who have had previous breast biopsies, and women who are taking estrogen. 

False-positive mammograms can lead to anxiety and emotional and physical distress and the additional testing required to determine the presence or absence of cancer can be costly, time-consuming, and physically uncomfortable.

False-negative results

A negative result in cancer screening means no abnormality is present. A false-negative result gives the impression that the mammogram is normal despite the fact that breast cancer is present. This occurs most frequently among women who have high breast density and younger women because as women grow older, their breasts become more fatty which makes false-negative results less likely. 

A false-negative result can give a false sense of security and can delay treatment. 

I have breast implants. What can I do about screening mammograms?

While implants can hide some breast tissue and therefore make it difficult for a radiologist to detect an abnormality in the mammogram images, women with breast implants should still get regular mammograms. If you have gotten implants as a result of a mastectomy, ask your doctor whether or not they recommend a mammogram of the reconstructed breast. 

In either case, it is important that you let the mammography facility know that you have breast implants when you are scheduling your mammogram. This will let them know to take the necessary precautions to make sure that as much breast tissue can be seen on the mammogram as possible.

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