Unexpected Side Effects of Pregnancy & How to Handle Them

Unexpected Side Effects of Pregnancy & How to Handle Them

We have not been shy about all the things that pregnancy brings into your life, not only a beautiful new baby, but also the side effects that come with their growth, development, and arrival. Some women deal with morning sickness, others have food aversions, both symptoms that some scientists say potentially protect the developing baby from being exposed to food-borne illnesses. There are, however, many other symptoms that you may experience during pregnancy that aren’t pretty and seem to have no explanation. We find that in situations like these, knowing beforehand makes the situations all the better. 

Overactive Salivary Glands

In addition to morning sickness, your mouth will start to produce saliva in overdrive. Typically, the salivary glands produce about 400 ml to 1 liter of saliva on a daily basis. That sounds like a lot, but it goes relatively unnoticed because you are constantly swallowing throughout the day. During pregnancy, however, women produce more saliva because of increased saliva production, decreased swallowing, or a combination of both.

Experts don’t have a definite reason for this happening but attribute it to hormonal changes. You can ease this symptom by chewing gum, drinking water, sucking on a mint, and/or frequently brushing your teeth. 

The Frequent Urge to Pee

As a result of a growing fetus pushing on your bladder, increased blood volume, and hormonal changes, pregnant women will frequently feel the urge to urinate. Not only will you find yourself running to the bathroom more often, but you may also notice that you leak a bit when you sneeze, cough, or laugh. It is an unexpected but unavoidable side effect of pregnancy as the mother’s pelvic floor weakens. Your body is circulating 25% more fluid during pregnancy so it is important that you are not holding it and are allowing yourself plenty of bathroom breaks in your day. 

Varicose Veins & Burst Capillaries

Varicose veins are swollen veins that appear near the surface of your skin. They may appear purple or blue and often in the legs due to several different factors: your growing baby adding increased weight and pressure on your legs and the circulation in your legs growing weaker. 

Varicose veins typically cause little to no discomfort and are resolved upon giving birth. Pregnant women may also experience hemorrhoids which are varicose veins that occur in the rectum. 

Similarly, pregnancy increases the risk of developing broken blood vessels which typically fade after giving birth.

Breakouts

Around week six of pregnancy, most women experience a surge in fluid retention and progesterone which causes an increase in sebum production, both of which can cause breakouts. And unfortunately, because of pregnancy, options for battling acne are relatively limited because of the active ingredients that can be harmful to the fetus. If you are struggling with acne during pregnancy, speak with your OBGYN and they should be able to give you recommendations of treatments. 

Excessive Sweating

Due to fluctuating levels of estrogen during pregnancy, you will probably find out that early on, you sweat a lot more than usual. You may also find that your sweat smells different than it ever has before. Changing hormones and an increase in blood flow can slightly raise the body temperature soon after you become pregnant which can make the woman feel hot and cause her to sweat more as her body attempts to cool her down. This is one of the first signs that signal pregnancy for many women

There are a couple of things you can do to counteract increased sweating during pregnancy: exfoliate your armpits frequently using a scrub or by shaving. Keep a deodorant in your purse to be easily accessible to you. 

The Dandruff

Dandruff can be a painful condition for some so dealing with it in addition to all the other side effects that come with pregnancy can be overwhelming. Many people associate dandruff with hygiene issues and not showering enough. However, dandruff is rarely the result of poor hygiene and more often the process of shedding dead skin cells to make way for new cells. It’s a completely natural process but when the process is faster, the scalp gets covered with flakes. 

Often dandruff becomes more of an issue during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. The skin often becomes more sensitive during pregnancy and can be irritated by the products you previously had no trouble with. As a result, changing up your hair care routine during pregnancy may be a good idea. 

 

Before looking for medical solutions to these side effects or others, check with your doctor. 

Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

As people become more and more aware of the toxic ingredients often included in beauty products, making sure you know what is going into your body becomes even more important during pregnancy. We understand that it can be hard to give up a foundation, mascara, or quality skincare item that you’ve been using for years particularly when natural products just don’t seem to compare. 

You’ve probably even convinced yourself that the parabens and silicones that you’re putting on your skin don’t pose any imminent danger in the short-term. But now that your choices affect the baby too, you may want to take another look at that ingredients list and educate yourself to make sure none are toxic to his or her health. Here are some ingredients that are commonly found in beauty products that you should be aware of and avoid during pregnancy.

Artificial Fragrances

Fragrances are generally made of harmful chemicals that have been linked to nervous system issues and cancer and shorter-term effects like redness and irritation on the applied area. Some companies try to hide the fact that fragrances are included by using terms like perfume, parfum, or even flavor (for more information, check out the FDA’s guidelines on fragrances in cosmetics). Most fragrance-free products are labeled as such – although some that say “unscented” contain fragrances – so opt for these options when searching for makeup, skincare, or hair care products. 

BPA

You are probably aware that you aren’t supposed to microwave food in plastic dishes because the BPA from the plastic can seep into the food when heated. But did you know that BPA can infiltrate into whatever is being contained by it. This highly unstable chemical that is most commonly used in plastics can disrupt the endocrine system leading to breast/prostate cancer, infertility, heart disease, and diabetes. Fetuses that have been exposed to BPA have been linked to developmental issues, obesity, and behavioral problems.

Formaldehyde

For years, connections between exposure to formaldehyde and reproductive issues were unfounded and inconclusive. But in recent review, there has been much more evaluative evidence of an association between formaldehyde exposure and adverse reproductive and developmental effects. The chemical is a classified carcinogen and ubiquitous environmental contaminant that’s been linked to cancer as well as other nervous system issues like trouble breathing, respiratory irritations, chest pain, and coughing. 

Formaldehyde is often found in some hair-straightening products and in nail polishes. During pregnancy, a trip to the salon is okay every now and then but make an effort to find a well-ventilated salon as the presence of this chemical puts your body, your baby, and salon workers at risk. If you choose to do your own nails, look for nail polishes labeled 3-free and 5-free as they don’t contain this chemical. 

Parabens

Parabens are a commonly used preservative that helps to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in all kinds of beauty products including shampoos, soaps, deodorants, makeup, and skincare. The FDA says that studies have not yet shown definitive proof that parabens are harmful to health. However, the skin can absorb parabens in lotions and cleansers and moisturizers where it then enters the bloodstream and can harm the baby. Some research has shown that exposure to parabens during pregnancy may increase the baby’s likelihood of increased weight gain in infancy and obesity in adulthood. 

Hydroquinone

You’ll find this skin-lightening agent in brightening serums and creams used to treat conditions like hyperpigmentation and melasma. This is a product you should avoid using till after the baby is born because studies have shown that 45% of hydroquinone is absorbed by the skin after using it in a topical product. While no studies have shown that this has a direct effect on the fetus, too much of the chemical soaks into your bloodstream for comfort. Instead, to help prevent dark spots and discoloration during pregnancy use sunscreen…religiously!

Retinoids

Retinoids are frequently found in prescription acne and anti-aging medications like Retin-A and Accutane and have proven to be connected to an increased risk of birth defects in developing babies. We warn patients not to get pregnant if they are on these medications but if you do get pregnant, stop taking retinoids immediately. 

Sulfate

You’ve probably heard many recommendations to steer clear of shampoos and soaps with sulfates, a chemical that acts as a foaming agent. Prolonged exposure to sulfates can cause issues with the nervous system and kidney and liver function. Short-term, if ingested, sulfates can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. 

Phthalates

This ingredient is used to help stabilize the formulas of many moisturizers, soaps, and deodorants. But it has also been linked to liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive issues. Parabens and phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) that affect the body’s levels of reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Researchers have made connections between EDC exposure and preterm birth and hypospadias, a birth defect in the male reproductive tract in which the penis doesn’t form normally during pregnancy. Avoid all products with ingredients ending in -phthalate. 

Our intention with this article isn’t to scare you but rather to be more aware of what you are putting in and on your body whether you’re pregnant or not. If you ever have questions about the safety of a product, ask your OBGYN or PCP if it’s safe for use.

What to Expect in the First Few Months After Giving Birth

What to Expect in the First Few Months After Giving Birth

Before, during, and after pregnancy, friends, family, and random internet sources alike will try to tell you what is “normal” and what isn’t. It can leave you feeling really confused as to why your experience doesn’t compare to what’s “normal.” Even after giving birth, you’ll hear statements like “You’ll heal in no time” even though, for many women, the post-partum period can be much more complicated than that would suggest. Here’s what you should know about the first few months after giving birth, also frequently referred to as the “fourth trimester.” 

Your Pelvic Floor Muscles May Be Weakened

Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles as they have to support the weight of the baby. In the first few days after giving birth, you may find that you can’t make it to the toilet before urinating. This is called incontinence and it usually goes away as your pelvic muscles become stronger. You may also find that you feel pain or burning when you urinate or you have trouble urinating. Soaking in a warm bath can help to relieve these issues and if that doesn’t help, speak to your OBGYN.

They will need adequate time to recuperate. In addition to giving your body time to heal, you should also eat a diet filled with nutritious, easy-to-digest foods and spend time off your feet, sleeping when the baby sleeps. That gives your hormones and body time to regulate and transition into restorative mode. There are exercises you can do that will strengthen those muscles but the best thing to do in the early days is rest.

You May Experience A Lot of Bleeding

Even if you had a vaginal birth with no tearing, your body has undergone a massive undertaking by building a human, pushing said human out, and producing the nutritional requirements for the newborn through breastfeeding. As a result of this process, you may experience bleeding in the days and maybe weeks after giving birth. 

Following birth, you will most likely have to wear at least a hospital-grade pad at first and then a regular pad as the bleeding lightens. You may find that you bleed more after bringing the baby home because you are on your feet and moving around more. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible. After about 10 days, you should start to see less blood. You may experience light bleeding or spotting for up to 6 weeks after delivery.

You may experience pain in your breast

If you are breastfeeding, it is likely that you will experience some nipple pain in the first few days, especially if your nipples crack. In this case, you should ask your OBGYN to help you make sure your baby is latching properly. He or she should also be able to recommend a cream that you can put on your nipples. You should also massage breast milk onto your nipples after breastfeeding and let it air dry.

In addition to pain in your nipples as a result of breastfeeding, your breasts will also become engorged as they start to fill with milk. It usually happens a few days after giving birth and can leave your breasts feeling tender and sore. The discomfort generally goes away once you start regularly breastfeeding. If you’ve chosen not to breastfeed, this feeling may last until your breasts stop making milk, usually taking a few days. 

You can relieve this feeling of discomfort by trying not to miss a feeding or going a long time between feedings particularly during the night. Before you breastfeed your baby, express a small amount of milk from your breast either by hand or using a breast pump. It also helps to take a warm shower or lay warm towels on your breasts to promote milk flow. If the feeling of engorgement becomes too overbearing, put cold packs on your breasts.

You May Experience Swelling

Many women experience swelling in their hands, feet, and face during pregnancy due to the extra fluids in the body. It’ll take some time for this swelling to go away even after the baby is born but you can help relieve the swelling by lying on your left side when resting or sleeping, putting your feet up, drinking plenty of water, and keeping cool. 

Your Hair May Start To Thin

You may have noticed that your hair probably grew thicker and fuller during pregnancy. This happens as a result of the high levels of hormones in your body causing you to lose less hair during pregnancy. After your baby is born, you may notice that your hair has started to thin or you may even lose hair. Hair loss usually stops within 6 months of giving birth and you should return to your normal hair fullness within a year. Just make sure to eat a nutritious diet as the nutrients in fruits and vegetables can help protect and restore your hair and be gentle with your hair. No tight ponytails or sleeping in rollers all night; they can put stress on your hair and pull it at the scalp.

You May Notice Changes In Your Skin

You may notice stretch marks on your body from where your skin stretched to accommodate the pregnancy and they generally fade over time. You can use creams or lotions that are specifically formulated to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. 

It May Be Hard To Sit

Movement may be difficult in the first few days after giving birth and sitting down may not provide much relief. Once you have stopped bleeding, full-body baths should help as the heat therapy a bath provides helps to promote tissue health. Until you get to that point, we recommend sitz baths as they bring heat and circulation to the tissue and can help to speed up the healing process and reduce scar tissue. 

You may also find that you have trouble with bowel movements. This can happen for a few days after giving birth. To relieve the pain caused by constipation, make sure to eat foods that are high in fiber, omega 3s, and magnesium as they can help to soften stools. Make sure you are also drinking lots of water.

You May Get Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen, painful veins in and around the anus that may bleed or hurt. They are common during and after pregnancy. You can relieve the pain associated with hemorrhoids by soaking in a warm bath or asking your provider about over-the-counter medications that can help with the pain.

How to Avoid Birth Defects During Pregnancy

How to Avoid Birth Defects During Pregnancy

Now that you’ve found out you are pregnant (congratulations!), you probably are making every effort to ensure that you give birth to the healthiest baby possible. While not all birth defects can be prevented, women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by maintaining healthy conditions and adopting healthy habits before becoming pregnant that she carries into the pregnancy. 

Before moving on, let’s clarify what a birth defect is. Birth defects are problems that occur during the baby’s development during pregnancy. Birth defects can affect different aspects of the child including their brain function and development, physical appearance, and organ function. Most defects occur during the first trimester which is why it’s so important to develop healthy habits prior to becoming pregnant.

What causes birth defects?

There are some birth defects whose exact cause is unknown but there are certain birth defects where the result in the fetus developing improperly can be determined by the following factors:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Smoking while pregnant
  • Consuming alcohol while pregnant
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Mother of an older age
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Obesity of the mother
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Inadequate prenatal care

Many defects can be identified during pregnancy with prenatal ultrasounds. If your OBGYN sees something of concern that could mean an issue with your baby’s development, they’ll order additional screening. 

Taking steps to prevent birth defects

While again, not all birth defects can be prevented, there are some steps women can take during pregnancy to reduce their risk.

Step #1: Do not smoke, drink, or do drugs

Drinking alcohol, smoking, and using illegal drugs can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, premature birth, stillbirth, cleft lip, sudden infant death syndrome, brain damage, low birth weight, or neonatal abstinence syndrome. 

Step #2: Look for solutions to existing health problems

If you’ve previously been diagnosed with a chronic health condition including diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, or HIV, speak to your doctor about managing that condition during your pregnancy. These conditions can raise your risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, birth defects, or premature birth. 

Step #3: Maintain a healthy body weight

There seems to be the common thinking that when a woman is pregnant, she is now eating for two. And while this may be true, there is no reason she should double the amount of food she eats. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to complications including high blood pressure and gestational diabetes and it can increase the likelihood that your child will develop diabetes during childhood. 

Step #4: Eat healthy

In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight, now is the best time to make sure you are eating foods with high nutritional value. Foods that are high in folate like leafy green vegetables, avocado, and brussel sprouts are great because folate is essential in developing the red blood cells and preventing birth defects. For a list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, check out our blog post.  

Step #5: Stay hydrated

Babies receive nutrients through the amniotic fluid during pregnancy which is essential to the healthy development of the baby’s lungs and digestive system. The mother must stay hydrated in order to ensure there is an adequate amount of amniotic fluid surrounding her baby.

Step #6: Exercise

Regular exercise throughout pregnancy is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing the mother’s risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women should, however, speak to their OBGYN to ensure they are leading an active lifestyle while making modifications to keep the baby safe. 

Step #7: Get adequate prenatal care

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you should schedule an appointment with your OBGYN with the first prenatal visit falling around eight weeks after your missed period.

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.

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.

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.
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