The Silver Lining To My PUPPS Nightmare

Everything happens for a reason

….or so people say.

I had always longed to be a mother. I dreamed of pregnancy, a little baby bump, and a group of like-minded women to with whom to hang out and help raise our little ones in friendship, unicorns, and rainbows.

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What a wonderful portrait of “what to expect when you are expecting”… am I right? In fact, we even joked amongst the four of us here at Real As A M*ther that I would be the one with half a dozen kids and a goofy husband that made me endlessly laugh until I cried and doted on me daily. Perfection.

DSC01327So when my wonderfully hilarious, awesome, doting husband and I got married, it was natural for me to not want to wait to start this family I’d been craving. By the blessed powers that be, within 6 months I had the exciting news to tell my friends and family…..

I experienced the normal first pregnancy woes in the beginning. Morning sickness, nausea, food aversions, being super tired, and reallllllly missing wine. But overall, things were looking great. We relocated to a town outside of the city, and my husband hand-made the baby’s crib and dresser.

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I mean, the man is hilarious, awesome, and talented. What can I say?

When I was about four months along, we went to visit Christiana, who was living in Japan! It was an amazing, globe-trotting, babymoon trip where my tiny baby belly began to show while posing for picturesque photos overlooking Japanese pagodas. Pregnancy dreams, on. track.

When we got home, however, life threw my dream a giant curveball. I was on a walk around town, when my calves began to itch. I sat down at our quaint town hall fountain and saw that it looked as though I had been bitten by 30 mosquitos simultaneously. I just chalked it up to summer, and maybe… heat rash?  But the itching persisted.

Within two weeks, it had spread. My inner thighs, underarms, and belly had broken out in a rash. It felt as though I had just slept in a den of mosquitos and chiggers. After calling my midwife, I started taking some liver cleansing teas/supplements. I got some special soaps to help calm it down, and tried oatmeal baths. Nothing helped. Not. A. Thing.

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Post Biopsy

I was about 20 weeks along when I saw a specialist that, along with my midwife, decided after bloodwork and a biopsy and although it rarely occurs this early, that I had PUPPPS.

Like many of you right now, I had this reaction.

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‘da heck d’you just say?

According to Healthline.com, “Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) rash is an itchy rash that appears in stretch marks of the stomach during late pregnancy.”

Stretch marks, you say? I was 18 weeks! I hadn’t barely even begun to show, much less stretch. And this was systemic, not on my belly! But, at least I had some sort of explanation that calmed me down. Thinking, ok now let’s get rid of this mess, I said,

“Ok, doc, what can I do?”

“Well, the only cure, is delivery” <heart sinks>

So basically, what I was being told was this: I was going to itch like this for 20 more weeks. 

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20 Weeks: just the beginning

4 more weeks went by, which felt like an eternity. The rash got so bad that I could not sleep, eat, or even wear clothes. I had to take cool/cold showers because the heat would spread the rash to a new area, which I kept finding out the hard way as it spread all over my body. It was on the soles of my feet, palms of my hands, even in my nail beds and on my eyelids. The longest I went without solid sleep was 7 whole days. I don’t even remember if I was hungry.

I, did, however, hold tightly onto the fact that I needed to drink water. I remember having thoughts of “I don’t want the amniotic fluid to get low, and that be the reason I have to get a C-Section,” which was a huge fear for me. That was the only coherent thought I remember having during this time.

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It was when my mom found me naked on my kitchen floor at 24 weeks (I was lying there because it was cool and clothes made the itching turn to burning pain) that she scooped me up and into the car. I have no recollection of this event, but she took me to the doctor and demanded an appointment right then and there. I had lost 20 pounds, the baby wasn’t gaining any weight, and I was put under the care of a neonatal specialist. I was delusional, depressed, suicidal, and covered in what looked like oozing poison ivy.

At this point, desperation kicked in, (mostly from my husband and parents because I had checked out) and a steroid regimen was put into place. I was on Prednisone until my 30th week and experienced so much relief. The rash was kept at bay and the baby was monitored regularly to make sure the medicine didn’t cause any problems.

Thinking I was in the clear, I weaned off my medication because I was so worried about steroids affecting the baby. Around Thanksgiving, however, it came back with a vengeance. At it’s worst, I could literally peel the layers of my skin off with a tissue. I immediately started the steroids again, and the rash was mostly cleared up in about two weeks.

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Belly scarring at 37 weeks

When I went into labor at 37 weeks and 6 days, I had such relief. Where most women are fearful of the unknown, I was prepared and ready for the natural pain and hormone release I had learned about through my teacher of The Bradley Method.

Most of me has forgotten about just how incredibly difficult that pregnancy was. In fact, I am only reminded when I have bad cycles now, because the rash creeps back up under my upper arms and on my legs, raised and irritated ghost shadows of such a dark time in my life.

We still don’t know what causes it. But, some risk factors for developing PUPPPS are:

  1. Carrying a boy: we didn’t know at the time but…check
  2. Being Caucasian: check
  3. First pregnancy: check
  4. Maternal hypertension: undiagnosed but with no sleep…check
  5. Multiples
  6. Rapid or higher than usual weight gain

While I did not fit into the category of the last two risk factors, my mind got to thinking about why my personal case was so different. The only reason I came up with, ties back to the beginning of this post. Because… everything happens for a reason.

It was through this tough and terrible time that I learned about prenatal herbal supplements, and how and why they work. I learned a valuable lesson in the blend of a cooperative maternal care team, and their strategies for helping. I learned the importance of relying on medical intervention, because it saved my life, my son’s life, and my sanity. But the most important gift this experience gave me was the fact that I knew I wanted to help support other women through pregnancy and birth.

I tell this story because it is important to look back and find gratitude in the lessons we are given in this lifetime. Even though I did not know this going through it, I am certain that this time of suffering gave birth to the compassion for women in their childbearing years that I had never known was inside of me. It gave me the tools for empathy that one can only develop while in the depths of great personal struggle.

DSC01829.jpgNow, I feel healing each time I help a woman accept and trust in her body through the pregnancy process. I am energized by watching her awaken to the power within her, and I am both blissfully honored and overwhelmed each time I watch her hold her baby. Because no matter what type of pregnancy, what kind of prenatal education we choose, how or where we labor and birth, or what the birth outcome is, I am reminded in that moment, women are bound together as one. And that is my most ultimate, and ever-present, silver lining.

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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 kids in Virginia.

Crazy Chicken Lady

So you know that one neighbor whose garden is flush with edible landscape, where noises come from animals and kids everyday when they are outside, and whose chicken tractor moves every week to a different location to start the growth of new grass? Yup, that’s me. Hi, I’m Kristy, and I am a proud crazy chicken lady.

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I decided that since there are a million posts about chickens all over the inter web, I’d share with you all a personal story about how I found out that I care very deeply about my chickens.

It was an amazing early summer evening, the kind where the nights are still semi chilly and humidity hasn’t plagued us with it’s relentless wet blanket effect.  We had spent the day outside, ate dinner on our deck, and had just begun to doze off to a cool breeze from the open window when we heard the noise…

The horrible sound of a chicken distress call. Which, if you are so blissfully unfamiliar, is a saucy mix between a fog horn and what I would imagine would be the Blair Witch stubbing her (does this particular haunt have a gender?) long and writhing toe.

“Holy S$#&, the chickens are getting attacked!” I jump out of bed screaming to get the flashlight to shine down while my husband rushes to get on suitable clothing for saving the day. That is when we see its ringed tail dragging my favorite chicken towards the fence.

“It’s a BLEEP BLEEP BLEEPing Raccoon” This is where I feel like I must have sounded like an old lady in curlers and nightgown in a 60’s western with only a couple teeth and a shaking fist “Get that sumbitch, babe. It’s got my favorite chicken!” The flashlight scared the beast off, thankfully, and we trudged outside to see what was left of the rest of the flock.

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I heard my husband shout, shouted “She’s still alive!”. Much to our surprise, a little tan Buff Orpington was crouched down by the fence. This is amazing if you’ve ever had chickens and a raccoon attack has plagued your coop. It rarely ends well for the fowl if they even can be found.  Anyway, my husband picked her up and tried to put her back in the coop. She flailed and flapped, clearly in distress. (ummmmmmm, duh)  In hindsight she was probably thinking,

“Holy crap, dude, that’s literally the scene of the crime and you’re asking me to just waltz right back in there! NOT COOL, tall guy, not cool.”

When I reopened the door, she jumped right into my arms. I knew something wasn’t right. We made her a “coop” in the garage where she would be safe from looming mischievousness, and from her coop-mates that love to pick on an injured chicken. Assessing her injuries, we noticed a huge bite taken out of her side and her thigh with layers of muscle, fat, and skin missing. Her left side had been literally skinned down to the breast and of course, feathers were everywhere. My heart just sank. I knew there was little to no chance that she’d make it.

The next morning, I vowed to her (Natalie is her name), that I would do everything in my power to help her. I got the cat crate out, and hauled her to the only vet in town that would see her. I got antibiotics and pain medicine and had to administer them every 8 hours for three weeks. Say What now? The vet told me it was her only chance.

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A little backstory here. When I got Natalie (she was the only chick I named) she had a broken right hip. She was a hatchling that I assume got injured during transport. Normally, these chicks don’t survive. But Natalie did. She was small, hobbling, and loyal to her “sisters” from day one. She thrived despite them leaving her alone at night by herself under the heat lamp. She pushed her way into that flock, and climbed her way into the middle of the pecking order.  She was a fighter, and I was gonna be damned if I was gonna let a dumb ole raccoon take away all she worked to establish.

So, I did it. Every eight hours, pain medicine and antibiotics. Getting a chicken to swallow one, let alone TWO big pills may have been the hardest part of it all! Each day, Natalie started to show signs of progress. The wound was drying up and scabbing over. I’d talk to her and syringe her some water to keep her hydrated. She eventually began to nibble on some food.

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After about a month, we introduced her very delicately back into the brood. Chickens can be the meanest of mean-girls when it comes to re-inclusion, so we would let Natalie graze next to the coop, and visa versa. To our surprise, the other hens came running to her, seemingly as amazed as we were that she was alive. When it was finally time to move her back in, they had all accepted her and she was right in with them up on the perch during bedtime.

She is now the most vigilant hen I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. She, long necked and eyes peering, is the first to call out to her sisters when she thinks there is danger. Although she keeps her distance from me, she always shoots me an eye while the others just devour their food as if to say, “I see you lady. And thanks”

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“You guys hide, I GOT this”

The moral of this story is two-fold.

  1. Even though most people told me to give up on her, I wouldn’t. We don’t give up on those we love. No matter what form of life they take, life deserves at least a chance to keep going.

  2. Even when you least expect it, however you hobble yourself back into your “people”, trust they will love and welcome your broken self back with open arms and a warm nesting spot they’ve been saving for you.

Who’d a thunk such great life reminders could come from a chicken?

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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 human children and 5 chickens in Virginia.

A Modern Day Village: The Birth Worker’s Inspiration

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I recently had a conversation with a client who is about to be a first time Grandmother. As I listened to her speak about her worries about her daughter’s upcoming birth, her struggles during pregnancies with depression and Hyperemesis Gravidarium, I was completely struck by the feeling of isolation that she was describing in her daughter. She is the only one of her friends pregnant, and although she does have a Fiance, he is  not operating on the helpful wavelength that she needs.

Immediately, my head swirled with questions to find out more.

“Who did this new soon-to-be-mama have to ask questions to other than the doctor she sees once a month?

Why is no one there for her other than her mother? Is the doctor leading her to support groups, mothering circles, moms with prenatal or postpartum depression? What will she do when she actually HAS the baby? If she’s struggling with depression now, who will watch out for the signs/symptoms of it in the postpartum months? Who will help this woman!!!!!!!??????”

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A little voice in my heart spoke up right then.

You, silly. You’re a birth doula. You have all she needs. Help her.

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Almost moved to tears, the words fell out of my mouth reflexively. “I remember those feelings all too well in both of my pregnancies,” I said sympathetically. “It sounds like she could use a birth and postpartum doula.”

The only difference between this mama and me when I was going through those same terrible feelings while pregnant was, I wasn’t actually alone. I had my doula there one phone call away at any moment. I had the cohesion of care between my amazing midwives, my doulas, myself, and my team. I had created my village.

After explaining what a doula is and does to her, (if you still want to know what that is, reference my Demystifying Doulas post here) it occurred to me that in some cases, women have no idea of the need for a village.

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Photo Cred Doulamatch.net

Back in the day, we lived in literal villages that would commune together for the birth of a new village member, and either call the midwife or have one on hand. 9 times out of 10, the birthing mother had a sister, mother, friend, neighbor, SOMEONE, with her until the midwife could arrive to her. Thus, the doula is born. Even female elephants know the importance of gathering around to form an impenetrable barrier of support for the birthing mother. I frickin’ love elephants.

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While modern-day women and birthing communities are certainly bringing doulas back, there is still too large a proportion of women who go unsupported during the pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum process. Why, you ask? Mostly because, they do not know we exist. It is the lack of conversation, or the lack of clarity on our exact role, that I sadly have to believe is one of the main reasons that birth has the potential to be such a traumatic experience for some women.  Having the guidance of your doula to shepherd you into the parenting life with grace, provide you with materials to support you every step of the way, can provide you with your lifeline if when you need it.

A glorious benefit in making the choice to hire a doula is that he/she may in turn lead you to your permanent, modern village.

Truth is, the years of preconception, pregnancy, transitioning to becoming a mother of one, two, three, multiples, etc., can come with many mixed emotions. No matter what your situation turns out to be when you find out you are pregnant, the feeling of isolation can be sudden and agonizing. When hiring a doula, you’re not only receiving the personal care of a hands-on teammate in your birthing journey, you are also DSC01327choosing an expert in community, local resources, birth education, knowledge of primary care givers specific work, and access to birth related evidence, articles, and, yes, even a postpartum sounding board. The doula will, in essence, be your trail guide for navigating the rough and unknown waters of this new chapter.

It is time, now, that we stop isolating ourselves as mothers. Let’s remind our world that we have been supporting each other proudly and strongly for…well…since the dawn of humankind. We do not need to do it alone. It may feel too daunting a task going to these mothering circles full of strangers, organizing birth class dinners at your house, or even seeing a therapist to get the necessary prescriptions to aid you. What if, in lieu of uncertainty of the support you need, you could Call. Your. Doula.

We can support this adventure every step of the way. We are here, so that you can be here and present through the whole process.

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Now that I have you convinced of the awesomeness of unconditional education and no-judgement support during your birthing years, let me illuminate the steps necessary to finding your perfect doula.

  1. Ask a friend: Ask around for a connection or connect with the doulas in your area by using the ultimate doula search engine: Doula Match  
  2. Interview a few: Find the right candidate by sitting in the energy of several different people.  Remember, you are hiring for a job, so the right fit is important. Birth is a vulnerable experience, so pick someone who will make you feel completely safe, who makes you feel confident, and someone by whom you and your birth partner feel empowered.
  3. Ask all the questions: Make sure you understand their vision of care, fees, and schedule and those align with what you had in mind for your birth vision. After all, it is your birth, the team you hire should complement it in every way with encouragement and advice that makes you feel informed. Do you want a doula just for prenatal education and birth? Do you know you’ll need postpartum care? Do you even know what that means? Does this person have the resources for all of that?
  4. Contract: You should always enter into a contract with your doula. That way there is an expectation of care that is agreed upon by all parties. This agreement is key, as mentioned above, it will be the catalyst for your new life as a mother.
  5. Get excited: Your doula should help you feel connected to birth classes, books, and other materials to prepare you for your upcoming experiences and all outcomes!

We all need the help. It is up to us to choose, in this modern world, just what our helping hand will look like. Most of us consider this calling a service to womankind alike. I am here to let you know it’s out there. I am writing to speak aloud that we are everywhere. We are your friends, neighbors, sisters, mothers, co-workers and colleagues, gym members, professionals, and tradeswomen.nature.jpg

We are your village, and we are here for you.

Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.

 

Strong Women Series: Introducing Dr. Sara Smith Wellness.

We all hopefully have someone in our life that inspires us regularly. That inspiration can lead to anything. Slowing down and focusing, reaching out, emboldening dreams, or recognizing the need for change.
In this series, we at Real As a M*ther hope to lift these strongly and fiercely motivated women up by featuring them specifically on our blog. Today, I am delighted and honored to call to the world’s attention to my friend, Dr. Sara Smith. 
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I met this caring and soulful practitioner back in the day when we worked together at a chiropractic clinic. In that year of commiserating about life and work, we discovered that we have a bond that goes beyond the workplace. We share a common love of mind-body work and spiritual empowerment. I observed her actively seeking positivity which I find truly admirable – especially in this modern world of so much negativity.  I have since found her insight to be invaluable in the many seasons of my life since.
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So, enough about our relationship! Let me gush, now, about her expertise and experience.

She is a Certified Wellness & Life Coach with a professional background as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) and Certified Yoga Instructor. She is a working mother of two, and a super badass wife to her husband and a prominent member of her community in the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

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Professionally, with her “multifaceted knowledge base, intensely caring attitude, intuition, and light touch of humor she guides her clients to find simple solutions to their most stressful and seemingly habitual problems so they can finally move forward with confidence and ease.” She is described as having “a gift to help her clients reconnect with their own core confidence so that they can tap into their innate wisdom, courage, and strength to find balance amidst very demanding professional and/or parental obligations.”

In her PT practice, Sara focused her studies in women/men’s pelvic health as well as chronic pain management. She has found that when we are not connected physically and mentally to our pelvis and core, when we lack physical strength and healthy “core” habits, we also tend to falter emotionally and spiritually. Woah – that’s deep. Literally. Her beautifully designed programs and gentle intuition remove the layers of resistance to help uncover those core weaknesses and transform them into core confidence and strength. True healing from the inside out.
She has lead numerous mind, body, and spirit conscious workshops. She combines these modalities in ways that create EASY habit change.  In these retreats, Sara mentions that she has been witness to “sacred sharing amongst other women that creates a level of profound awakening and healing and atunement to the people they are around.”
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When I asked her what her general energy was around starting healing retreats, she said “I want people to know that the frustrations they’ve had, the real life anger, anxiety sadness, the BIG EMOTIONS that make us feel ‘less than’…. within those things… it’s ok. And those can be very helpful to us.” Her upcoming retreat this November, for example, is focused around a blend of acknowledging the REAL emotions we feel as women, and the dreams and “crazy” yearnings that keep tapping us on the shoulder that we feel we need to push away cause it isn’t “practical”. This is a safe place to release the energetic gunk that holds us back.
It can be a quiet, sacred place to hear and deeply KNOW the next step to creating an action plan. This is for women, like me, who are hardwired to help others..so much they seem to keep putting themselves on the back burner BUT they know, truly know, something must change. I can show them how, and I am so honored to do so. A sacred small group has specifically been chosen in order to generate great power of group healing.
Ummmmmmmm, Sign a sister up! And thats exactly what I did after interviewing her. I am so excited to get my rejuvenation on.
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I have to say that one of the inspirations for featuring Sara today is my experience with her being her birth doula.  I had the honor of being with her for the birth of her eldest son, who has since been diagnosed with a very severe form of Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Her strength showed through from those first moments and through each hurdle along that path since. She has become an active advocate for her son, and has been celebrating the milestones along with him in his speech development journey.  If you are not familiar with Apraxia, here is some information about it.
Sara’s blog is dedicated to the emotions that come with being surprised with a special needs child in the family.
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It has rocked so much of our life and through education, awareness, and love, I hope to teach other adults and children that unforeseen differences can be the greatest gifts.
Right on, Sara. Right the freak on.  In a world of differences, it is my hope today that we can find a commonality in pursuing self reflection, and the gratitude with finding peace within our personal growth.
Please give it up for Sara Smith, personal life coach to this blogger, and general badass mama, lover of healing, and one amazing woman.
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Thank you for showing the world your insides, so that we all may have a better perspective on life.
I love you, girl
—Kristy and the Real As a M*ther crew.
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Pregnant, MD: What’s Safe in Pregnancy Myth vs Fact, Part 1

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Photo Credit: Fiona Margo Photography

Hey mamas and mamas-to-be! There is a lot of confusing and alarmist information out there on the interwebs about the safety of lots of things everything in pregnancy. We all want to be safe, but also to not be deprived of allofthethings for 9+ months. This post is a quickie guide to set the record straight on some of the most common questions we pregnancy providers get. This, like all my posts, are not ever meant to replace the personal guidance of your own health care provider – when in doubt, as them! I’m breaking this down on the following very non-scientific scale:

Myth – Mostly Myth – Kind of Fact – Mostly Fact- Fact

No Coffee – Myth

Our family lived in Portugal when I was in Kindergarten and first grade, so that was about the time I started drinking coffee. No joke. So, when I was learning about pregnancy, you better believe I looked up all the information on this topic! I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to – even other doctors – who are under the impression people have to stop drinking all caffeine the moment they conceive. That’s just cruel.

My actual face if you told me not to drink coffee while pregnant.

The truth is, The Cochrane Review looked at the research and the best studies have shown no difference in pregnancy outcomes with moderate caffeine intake. What’s “moderate caffeine intake”? About 200mg caffeine daily. That’s one tall Starbucks brewed coffee or an espresso drink with 2 shots. Strong black tea has about 50mg per cup and regular or diet soda (bad for other reasons….but) about 35mg. Energy drinks vary widely – if you want to look up your specific fave bev, check out Caffeine Informer.

No Hot Tubs – Mostly Fact

This one is legit. Studies have shown that raising your core body temperature can increase the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy and other complications later on in pregnancy. This is true whether it’s a high fever from being sick or you are in a hot tub, sauna, hot yoga, or even hot bath or shower at home.

Does this mean you can’t take a quick hot shower ever? No! You can go in any of these warm environments for a little while. What’s a little while? As soon as you feel hot, break a sweat, or of course if you feel light headed at all, leave and cool off immediately. If you can’t trust yourself to make that judgement, avoid altogether.

No Hair Treatment – Mostly Myth

The old types of hair treatments for dying and perming had toxic chemical derivatives which were potentially dangerous, especially in first trimester of pregnancy.

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Definitely got my hair did before these pics.

Newer dyes should be free of these chemicals and are ok. Highlights that aren’t applied to your scalp are also fine – just stay in a well-ventilated area because your breathing can be more sensitive during pregnancy. Perms and straightening treatments again vary – ask your salon if they offer safe, natural alternatives to the older more harsh treatments. More info HERE on American Pregnancy’s Website.

No Nail Polish – Mostly Myth

You can get your nails did with no worries as long as the salon uses good hygiene practices. One of my favorite midwives from my training at UCSF, Judith Bishop, wrote a great summary HERE on this. Any kind of polish and even fake nails are ok. Beware though – the chemical smells might make your sensitive nose and stomach unhappy!

No Cheese – Mostly Myth

The key here is *pasteurized*. You can get Listeria, a dangerous bacterial infection that can cause miscarriage, from unpasteurized dairy products. Pasteurized cheeses that are within their expiration dates and have been properly stored are fine. Even soft cheeses. Most restaurants should be able to tell you if their cheese is “raw” or pasteurized – if they can’t skip it.

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No Lunchmeat – Kind of Fact

This again is due to Listeria concern. You should avoid lunch meat unless it’s been heating to steaming in the microwave, stovetop or oven. Not sure how you feel about warm lunchmeat, but this preggo is NOT for it! Opt for grilled chicken, tuna salad (no more than 2 servings per week though) or other choice if you don’t like warm sliced meat.

 

No Fish – Kind of Fact

Speaking of tuna…. The main concern with seafood is about mercury. Check out and print yourself THIS PDF from American Pregnancy if you want a quick guide to which fish are “highest mercury” aka, avoid entirely or just “high mercury” aka have no more than 2 small servings weekly or lower and you can enjoy at will.

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

What about sushi?? So, cooked sushi is always ok as long as you are paying attention to mercury issues. Raw sushi *theoretically* should all be flash frozen based on USDA safety regulations and therefore should NOT have the parasites that are of concern in pregnancy. However, you are putting your trust in the sushi fish purchaser and preparer in this care, so approach with caution.

 

 

 

 

No Strenuous Exercise – Mostly Myth

There are no strict guidelines regarding exercise in pregnancy because this is highly variable as to what is safe and normal for YOU. There are elite athletes who’s “norm” is to run 10 miles or lift hundreds of pounds of weights on the regular. There are couch potatoes who get winded walking up a single flight of stairs.

Seriously, though… Exercising in pregnancy is actually key to having a healthy pregnancy, easier delivery, and – get this – fewer stretch marks! The main guide here is how the exercise makes YOU feel. Yes, that’s right, you have to listen to your body. This is not the time to “push through” and override your body telling you it is hot, too winded or  overworked. You will need to be more cautious with yourself because your blood flow is altered, your body shape is changing and your muscles, ligaments and tendons will be affected by relaxin hormone eventually.

No Sex – Mostly Myth

OK, think about it. If having sex while pregnant was dangerous, do you really think humans would have survived this long? A lot of pregnant woman have their libido skyrocket thanks to increased blood flow to the lady parts (though if you don’t that’s nothing to worry about). It is ok and GOOD to have sex if you want to in pregnancy. Get. It. On.

A few words of caution though… If you have pain or bleeding during sex, stop. Have your doctor check you and tell you if it’s safe to continue having intercourse during your pregnancy. And if you’re pregnant and single – you need to be ultra careful about not contracting an STD. They can cause severe birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth if contracted while you are gestating. Safe sex – good. Unsafe sex – bad.

No Smoking – Fact

This includes ALL smoking. Smoking cigarettes and being exposed to second-hand or even third-hand (if you smell it even though no smoke is around, that’s third-hand smoke) can cause complications in pregnancy. If you are smoking when you conceive, talk to your provider right away about how they can help you quit. If people around you are smokers, same goes. It is NOT sufficient for them to just go outside. If your sensitive sniffer can smell the smoke, you’re being exposed. 

What about pot? It’s legal now and stuff, and doesn’t it help with appetite? NO, not safe in pregnancy. Marijuana has been shown to increase rates of ADHD, anxiety and other cognitive disorders in children who were exposed in utero. Stay away.

No Alcohol – Mostly Fact

Saved the most controversial for last! So, here in the USA, all of the official guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, etc… go along these lines, “There is no amount of alcohol known to be safe in pregnancy”. So, pregnancy providers will tell you to abstain completely from the time of ovulation if you might conceive through birth.

The Royal College of OBGYNs (Britain’s version of ACOG) takes a slightly more relaxed tone, saying “The safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all if you are pregnant, if you think you could become pregnant or if you are breastfeeding. Although the risk of harm to the baby is low with small amounts of alcohol before becoming
aware of the pregnancy, there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant”. None of the large studies done recently showed negative effects on the baby or child with having a few drinks per week. However, the risk of preterm birth with alcohol exposure and of the devastating fetal alcohol syndrome makes pregnancy providers approach this with significant caution.

I know you are looking for a straight forward “yes you can have a glass of wine now and then” or “no, alcohol is truly dangerous”. We don’t have that yet. As a health provider, I follow the lines of saying, no amount is safe. As a woman physician, I know a whole lot of doctors who have read the studies and comfortably go ahead and have a drink now and then in the later parts of pregnancy. Ultimately, you’re in charge of making that decision for yourself and your unborn. Think about whether the anxiety when your kid seems hyper at age 3 that maybe they have subtle effects because you had a glass of wine at that dinner party is manageable vs the benefit you’ll really get from said glass of wine. You should for SURE never get drunk or even tipsy – that’s a no-brainer.

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Photo Credit: Fiona Margo Photography

What else?

This is why I called this Part 1… Please, comment away with questions, Myths you want busted, funny examples of crap your mother in law told you was unsafe in pregnancy! Part 2 will be based on your input. Whatcha wanna know??

Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 with 1 more on the way (bump captured by Fiona Margo in the above pics, if you’re in the PNW look her up!!) and family physician in California.