Author: briana

How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy

How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy

Pregnancy begins when an egg and a sperm unite into a single cell in a process called fertilization that then leads to a series of changes in the body as the baby grows inside. From the time it is implanted until the end of the eighth week of pregnancy, it is called an embryo. From the ninth week until the pregnancy ends with birth, it is called the fetus. Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks which is the time from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period until she gives birth. The fetus undergoes many changes during this 40-week timespan to prepare it for life and so we will go through how your body changes as the fetus develops. 

How time is broken down during pregnancy

The 40 weeks are often grouped into 3 trimesters, each lasting about 12-13 weeks each:
  • The first trimester lasts from 0 weeks to 13 weeks.
  • The second trimester lasts 14 to 27 weeks.
  • The third trimester lasts from 28 weeks to 40 weeks.

What is the due date and how is it calculated?

The day your baby is due is referred to as the estimated due date (EDD). Only about 1 in 20 women actually give birth on their due dates but the EDD is still extremely useful throughout the pregnancy. It determines the fetus’s gestational age so that its growth can be tracked and also provides the mother with a timeline for various tests during pregnancy. The EDD is calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period but if that date is unknown, an ultrasound is performed to determine the estimated due date. 

First-trimester changes in the mother’s body

There are quite a few different symptoms that a woman may experience during her first trimester as she adjusts to the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy. In the early stages, her pregnancy may not be showing on the outside, but inside there are many changes underway.  Rising levels of estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can cause nausea and vomiting known as morning sickness that many women experience during the first few months of pregnancy.  hCG is also responsible for changes to the blood; the increased levels of hCG can be detected in a woman’s urine which is the reason she will have a positive result on a home pregnancy test.  During the first trimester, women can expect to feel tired as a result of rising levels of progesterone. She will likely also need to urinate frequently as her uterus grows and pushes on her bladder. The uterus undergoes many changes throughout the pregnancy in order to multiply in size to accommodate and nourish the growing fetus.  Many parts of the body also start to work harder during pregnancy, including the woman’s heart. Her heartbeat will increase to pump more blood to the uterus which then supplies it to the fetus. The increase in blood circulation to the woman’s face gives her a rosier complexion, which many describe as “pregnancy glow.”

First-trimester development of the fetus

Weeks 1-8

As the placenta begins to form, the brain, spinal cord, and tissues that will form the heart are some of the first organs to also form and begin to operate. The eyes, ears, nose, and genitals begin to develop and buds for limbs appear with paddle-like hands and feet.  By the end of the eighth week of pregnancy, all of the major organs and body systems have begun their development.

Weeks 9-12

During this time, the skin is thin and transparent, the backbone is soft and flexible, the fingers and toes start to form, and the bones and muscles start to grow. At this point, the hands are more developed than the feet and the arms are longer than the legs.

Second-trimester changes in the mother’s body

By the second trimester, a woman’s body becomes more adjusted to the changing hormone levels and many of the resulting effects subside or disappear. A woman may have an easier time sleeping, her energy levels may increase, and the feeling of nausea and vomiting typically go away. There are, however, many more changes the body must undergo to continue to grow and develop the fetus and so she may experience symptoms as a result. Women often feel more pelvic pressure and a more visible baby bump appears as the uterus grows beyond the woman’s pelvis. As the fetus gets bigger and weight is gained in the front of the body, she may experience back pain.  The 20th week generally marks the halfway point of a woman’s pregnancy and she will begin to feel the fluttering movements of the fetus and the sensation that comes with the fetus kicking and turning. 

Second-trimester development of the fetus

Weeks 17-20

As the second trimester progresses,the fetus also sleeps and wakes regularly and the gallbladder begins producing bile, which is needed to digest nutrients. In female fetuses, the eggs have formed in the ovaries and in male fetuses, the testes have begun to descend. 

Weeks 21-24

The fetus’s brain is rapidly developing and the finger and toe prints are now identifiable. The lungs are also fully formed, however, they can not function outside of the uterus quite yet. 

Weeks 25-28

The mother will definitely feel the fetus stretching and kicking at this point. The fetus will start responding to sounds by making grasping motions with the hands and changes in light by opening and closing the eyes. 

Third-trimester changes in the mother’s body

In the third trimester, a woman’s breasts will start leaking colostrum, a yellow liquid, as they prepare for breastfeeding. The mother-to-be will most likely feel an increased pressure in the areas that we discussed above: her bladder from the pressure in her uterus, her back as the bump on the front continues to grow, and in her joints. Her ankles, hands, feet, and face may swell as she retains more fluids and her blood circulation slows. She will also likely notice stretch marks on her belly, thighs, breasts, and backside.  Women may experience Braxton-Hicks contractions, also known as false labor, as she nears her due date. During the last few weeks, a woman may feel exhausted because it becomes harder to find a comfortable position to sleep in.

Third-trimester development of the fetus

Weeks 29-32

Now that the fetus has undergone that majority of its development, he or she will gain weight quickly and the bones will harden although the skull remains soft and flexible. Hair on the head starts to grow and the different regions of the brain continue to form.

Weeks 33-36

The fetus starts to develop sleeping patterns and turns into a head-down position as it prepares for birth.  Weeks 37-40 The fetus drops lower into the pelvis which will visibly cause the bump to lower as well. The baby accumulates more fat, particularly around the elbows, knees, and shoulders at about half a pound per week.
What Can I Do About Painful Sex?

What Can I Do About Painful Sex?

Pain during or after sex is far more common than you might think. In fact, nearly 75% of women experience pain during intercourse at some point during their lives. For some, the pain is temporary while for others, it can be a long-term issue. 

What causes pain during sex?

Pain during sex is typically in the vulva, which is the area surrounding the opening of your vagina, or within the vagina. You may also feel pain in your lower back, pelvic area, uterus, or bladder during sex. There are several issues that painful sex could signify including gynecologic problems or problems with sexual response. We will break each of these down so that you can understand the specific issue you are facing and will advise you on what you may be able to do to relieve pain during sex and when you should consult a professional

Pain during sex due to sexual response problems

Sexual response problems can be due to a lack of desire or lack of arousal – the hormonal, physical, and emotional changes that occur as a result of sexual stimulation. The following are the common reasons for sexual response problems:

Problems in the relationship

Issues with your partner can often inhibit your sexual response. This commonly comes as a result of a relationship in which the partners have mismatched levels of sexual desire.

Your partner’s sexual response

If you are with a partner that has issues with sexual response, this can often lead to you experiencing problems in this area as well. It may make you feel uncomfortable or anxious about having sex. 

Your mental state

Emotions such as shame, guilt, embarrassment, anxiety, and fear can make it hard to relax and may, in turn, inhibit your sexual response. Stress and fatigue can also cause you to feel pain during sex as they keep you from relaxing and make arousal difficult. 

Medications and medical conditions

Many medications, including some methods of birth control, have a side effect of reduced sexual desire. There are also some medical conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and thyroid conditions that have an indirect impact on your sexual response. 

Pain during sex due to gynecologic conditions

Pain during sex can sometimes come as a result of several gynecologic conditions which can worsen when left untreated. 

Skin disorders

There are some skin disorders that can result in ulcers or cracks in the skin of the vulva. Treatment for the skin disorder will vary depending on the type of disorder. One common skin disorder that affects the vulva is contact dermatitis which is a reaction to an irritating substance like perfumed soaps, douches, or lubricants that causes itching, burning, or pain. 

Changes in hormones

A decrease in the levels of estrogen as a result of perimenopause and menopause can lead to vaginal dryness which can then lead to discomfort during sex. There are treatment options out there including hormonal therapy. Using a lubricant during sex can also help.

Childbirth

Women who experience tears in the perineum or an episiotomy while giving birth may find that they have pain during sex that can last for several months after childbirth. Treatment options can include physical therapy, medications, or surgery.

Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is a pain disorder that affects the vulva. There are many treatment options available for this condition including some self-care methods, medication, or surgery in more severe cases.

Vaginitis

This is an inflammation of the vagina that can be caused by a yeast or bacterial infection with symptoms including discharge, itching, and burning. This is generally treated with medication. 

Vaginismus

Vaginismus is the reflexive tightening of the muscles at the opening of the vagina that can make sexual intercourse very painful. This condition is treated with different forms of therapy.

When should you see a healthcare professional about painful sex? 

If you experience frequent or severe pain during sex, you should make an appointment with your OBGYN. This is an important step in determining what may be causing the pain and how to respond to it.  During your appointment, you may undergo some tests that may include a pelvic exam or ultrasound that will give your OBGYN some insight into the causes of some types of pain. You may also be asked questions about your sexual history and state of mind that can lend a hand in determining the reason for pain during sex. 

What you can do to help with pain during sex

There are some measures you can take yourself that can help to relieve pain during sex.
  • Be open with your partner. Tell them when and where you feel pain and discuss other ways of making intercourse more pleasurable. 
  • Use lubrication. If you are prone to vaginal irritation or sensitivity, a water-soluble lubricant is a good choice. Do not use petroleum jelly, baby oil, or mineral oil with condoms as these can dissolve the latex and cause the condom to rip.
  • Try sexual activities that do not cause pain. If you find intercourse is painful, you and your partner may focus on other sexual or even nonsexual, but sensual activities.
  • Relieve pain before sex. Take a warm bath, try over-the-counter pain reliever, and empty your bladder.
  • If you experience burning after intercourse, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a small towel to your vulva.
How to Deal with Postpartum Depression

How to Deal with Postpartum Depression

Having a baby is life-changing for new moms and the new responsibilities, roller-coaster of hormones, and scant sleep can lead to postpartum depression. Plenty of moms experience “the baby blues” as they enter this new phase of life shortly after giving birth and feel overwhelmed as they adjust to motherhood and a very different looking schedule. For some moms, however, those feelings linger and get worse instead of better, developing into postpartum depression (PPD).  Baby blues may come and go in the first few days after childbirth and can leave women feeling depressed, anxious, upset, and wondering if she is fit to care for a baby. The major difference between baby blues and postpartum depression is the length of time each lasts. Baby blues are known to get better within one to two weeks of giving birth without any treatment. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, most commonly starts about 1-3 weeks after childbirth and can last up to 1 year after having a baby. 

What is postpartum depression and what causes it?

Postpartum depression is a medical condition that women experience after giving birth that can come with intense feelings of anxiety, sadness, and despair and prevent them from being able to go about normal life. There are a number of causes associated with postpartum depression including:
  • A history of depression: Women who have had depression at any point or who are currently being treated for depression have an increased risk of developing postpartum depression. 
  • Changes in hormone levels: Decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone in the hours after childbirth can trigger depression.
  • Fatigue: It’s common for mothers to feel tired after giving birth and adjusting to the baby’s schedule. It can take weeks for a woman to regain her strength and energy. For women who have had a cesarean delivery, it can take even longer. 
  • Emotional factors: Feelings of doubt, guilt, and sadness are common after pregnancy and it can take a long time for new mothers to adjust to having a baby. These emotions can cause stress and affect a woman’s self-esteem.
  • Lifestyle factors: A lack of support or other stressful life events can increase a woman’s risk of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression treatment options

Postpartum depression may be treated with medications called antidepressants which is often used in combination with talk therapy. Antidepressants operate by balancing out the chemicals in the brain that control moods.  Antidepressants can come with side effects but most are short-term and temporary. If you find that your side effects are severe, unusual, or keep you from going about your normal daily habits, you should notify your healthcare provider. It may be that you need a different type of antidepressant. 

Can postpartum depression be prevented?

If you have a prior history of depression at some point or are taking an antidepressant, you should tell your OBGYN or healthcare provider early on in your prenatal care. Ideally, you should tell your doctor before you become pregnant as he or she may suggest that you begin treatment soon after giving birth in order to prevent postpartum depression.    If you think you or someone in your family may be suffering from postpartum depression, it is important to see an obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) or other healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Safe Medications for Pain Relief During Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery

Safe Medications for Pain Relief During Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery

Discomfort often comes along with the different stages of pregnancy but when that discomfort turns into pain, you want to make sure you are using only medications that are safe for pain relief during pregnancy. Fortunately, there are safe painkiller options available both over the counter and by prescription but as we suggest with almost everything related to pregnancy, you should discuss all medications with your OBGYN There are two types of pain relief medications used during labor and delivery: analgesics and anesthetics. Anesthetics relieve pain by blocking most feelings whereas analgesics lessen pain without causing you to lose feeling or muscle movement. These two types of pain relief medications work in one of three ways: 
  • Systemic meaning they affect the whole body and reduce your awareness of pain, having an overall calming effect on the body. 
  • Local which affects a small part of the body.
  • Regional which affects a region of the body, for example, the region below your waist.

Side effects of systemic analgesics

Side effects are relatively minimal and can include drowsiness, itching, nausea, vomiting, or trouble concentrating. They can also affect your baby’s breathing and heart rate for a short time and leave him or her feeling drowsy, which can make it harder to breastfeed in the first hours after birth. For this reason, your OBGYN may restrict you from taking systemic analgesics within a few hours of delivery. 

Local anesthesia used during labor and delivery

Local anesthesia is injected into a particular spot and is meant to prevent pain in a small area of the body. The anesthetic drug is injected into the nerves of the vagina, vulva, and perineum, providing relief from pain in those areas. The drug is administered typically just before delivery to relieve the pain during childbirth.  It’s rare that women see side effects as a result of local anesthesia; some women have had allergic reactions or have experienced nerve or heart problems with a high dosage. It is very rare that local anesthetics will affect the baby.

Regional anesthesia used during labor and delivery

Regional anesthesia and analgesia are used to lessen the pain below the waist. There is the epidural block, spinal block, and combined spinal-epidural block.

What is an epidural block?

An epidural block is the most commonly used type of pain relief used during childbirth. It is a medication that is given through a tube that is placed in the lower back.  For labor and vaginal delivery, a combination of anesthetics and analgesics may be used which will cause some loss of feeling in the lower areas of the body but will allow you to remain awake, alert, and able to push your baby through the birthing canal. For cesarean delivery, the dose of anesthetic may be increased to cause a loss of sensation in the lower half of the body. You will still be able to move with an epidural, but you may not have the ability to walk. 

What is a spinal block?

A spinal block is another form of regional anesthesia. It’s given as a single shot into the fluid around the spinal cord. Although it works to relieve pain quickly, it generally only lasts for about one to two hours, therefore, it’s most commonly used for cesarean delivery. It carries with it the same side effects and risks as an epidural block. 

What is a combined spinal-epidural block?

A CSE block is the final form of regional anesthesia with the same benefits as a spinal block and epidural block. The spinal part provides quick pain relief while the epidural part provides continuous pain relief. A CSE block has the same side effects and risks as previously mentioned.
How to Treat Chronic Pelvic Pain

How to Treat Chronic Pelvic Pain

This article will discuss how to treat pelvic pain that has lasted longer than 6 months. If you are experiencing new, sudden pelvic pain, see your doctor as soon as you can.

What is Chronic Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain happens in females below the belly button. It is considered chronic, meaning long-lasting, if it has lasted 6 months or longer and is not related to pregnancy. The type of pain varies from woman to woman; some experience a mild ache while others experience severe pain that makes it hard to work, sleep, or enjoy life. For some women, it comes and goes while for others it can be constant. Sometimes chronic pelvic pain follows a regular cycle such as occurring during menstruation or at a certain time, such as during sex.  If your doctor is able to find what is causing this pain, treating it may cause the pain to go away. If he or she is unable to find the cause of the pain, the doctor may be able to help find ways to ease the pain and restore your quality of life. 

What Causes Chronic Pelvic Pain?

There are a number of conditions that can cause chronic pelvic pain. Some common causes of chronic pelvic pain include:
  • Diseases of the urinary tract or bowel. This can include irritable bowel syndrome and chronic bladder irritation.
  • Scar tissue in the pelvic areas as a result of infection or surgery.
  • Problems of the reproductive system including endometriosis, adenomyosis, and uterine fibroids.
  • Problems with the joints, muscles, and ligaments in the pelvis, lower back, or hips.
For some women experiencing chronic pelvic pain, no cause is found. This does not mean that there is no cause or that your pain is not real. 

How Is Chronic Pelvic Pain Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose chronic pelvic pain, your doctor may ask for your medical history, perform a physical exam including a pelvic exam, and conduct various other tests to find the cause. It may be necessary to see another specialist like a urogynecologist, a gynecologist that specializes in urinary and related issues. The tests conducted to diagnose the cause may include cystoscopy, colonoscopy, laparoscopy, ultrasound, or sigmoidoscopy.

How Is Chronic Pelvic Pain Treated?

There are several pain-relief measures that can be taken to treat chronic pelvic pain including the following.

Lifestyle Changes

Improving your posture and regularly exercising can help to relieve pelvic pain.

Pain-Relief Medicines

Pain relievers called NSAIDs, that include ibuprofen or naproxen can be purchased over the counter or your doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers. Be safe with medications, following a doctor’s orders on how much and how often to take them.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy may be used to help you relax your muscles, ease trigger points that cause muscle pain, improve your posture, and live a more active life. 

Birth Control or Hormone Treatment

For pelvic pain associated with menstruation, a doctor may prescribe you birth control pills or hormone treatments.

Surgery

Chronic pelvic pain that does not respond to the previously mentioned treatments can be relieved with surgery. Surgery may be used to remove a growth, cyst, or tumor if that is found to be the cause of the pelvic pain. Cutting or destroying nerves can block pain signals from reaching other tissues and organs.
How to Tell When Labor Begins

How to Tell When Labor Begins

If you are pregnant and are nearing your estimated due date, you are probably wondering how labor will feel, how long it will take, and how you will know you’re in labor or if it’s a false alarm. It’s hard to predict what it will look like because labor and birth look different for every new mom. But knowing what labor is and what signs to look for will help you know when it’s almost time to meet your baby. 

What Is Labor?

Labor is the process of childbirth that starts with contractions of the uterus and ends with the delivery of the baby. From the start of labor and throughout early labor, the baby will continue to move around.  When labor begins, the cervix dilates or opens and the uterus will start to contract at recurring intervals. Between contractions, the uterus will relax and become soft but when it contracts, the abdomen becomes hard. There are certain changes you will notice that will signal that labor is beginning, some that you may notice and others that you won’t. They are as follows:
  • You will feel the baby dropping lower. This may happen from a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins and as a result of the baby dropping, the baby’s head will have settled deep into your pelvis.
  • You may notice an increase in vaginal discharge that is clear, pink, or slightly bloody several days before labor or at the onset of labor. This happens as the result of a thick mucus plug accumulating at the cervix during pregnancy. 

What Is False Labor?

You may experience false labor, otherwise known as Braxton Hicks contractions, in which the uterus contracts on and off before labor truly begins and the cervix does not dilate. These are common but they can also be painful and can occur more frequently towards the end of the day. 

How to Know the Difference Between Labor and False Labor

It can be hard to differentiate between real labor and false labor which is why, in some cases, the only way to truly tell is to have a vaginal exam conducted in which an OBGYN will look for changes in the cervix that signify the start of labor.  Generally, false labor contractions are not as strong and don’t occur as regularly as real labor. A good way to differentiate the two is to time the contractions and note the amount of time between the start of one contraction and the start of the next one. Record this for an hour. Here are some differences you may notice:
 

Contact Your OBGYN

If you have any further questions or think that you may be in labor, contact your OBGYN.
Get answers to your questions about breastfeeding so that you can naturally feed your baby.

Your Questions About Breastfeeding Answered

How soon after birth should I start breastfeeding?

Most moms start breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Most hospitals will encourage this, in fact, and have you hold your baby directly against your bare skin (called “skin-to-skin” contact) soon after birth to promote breastfeeding. 

How do I get my baby to latch on?

This is another reason that promoting skin-to-skin contact is so important; holding your baby directly to your bare skin will trigger his or her reflexes to latch on to your breast. Cup your breast in your hand and position your baby’s mouth at your nipple to encourage your baby to open his or her mouth wide. Pull your baby closer, aiming the nipple toward the roof of the baby’s mouth. For more tips on how to position your baby when breastfeeding, check out this article.

How long should I breastfeed my baby?

Exclusively breastfeeding your baby is widely recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Breastfeeding may continue up to the baby’s first birthday as you start to introduce new foods. You can continue to breastfeed your baby after his or her first birthday if you think that is best for you and your baby.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is good for both mama and baby and here’s why:
  • Breast milk contains antibodies that can help to protect your infant from certain diseases which can include diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, allergies, and ear infections. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the health benefits.
  • Breastfeeding an infant lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Breast milk is easier for the baby to digest than formula.
  • Breast milk has the perfect amount of fats, sugar, water, protein, and minerals that a baby needs to grow and develop. As your baby grows, your breast milk can adapt to fit the baby’s changing nutritional needs.
  • Breast milk can help alleviate the short- and long-term problems that preterm babies can face.
  • Breastfeeding may reduce the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Breastfeeding may make it easier for the mother to lose weight after pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin which causes the mother’s uterus to contract and return to its normal, pre-birth size and may reduce the amount of bleeding you experience. 

How will I know when my baby is hungry?

When most babies are hungry they will look alter, close their fists, bend their arms, and bring their fingers to their mouths. Crying is a late sign of hunger and by then, the baby may have a harder time latching on. When babies are full, they will typically relax their arms and legs and close their eyes.

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

You can allow your baby to set his or own schedule. On average, most babies feed 8-12 times in a 24-hour span which means they’re eating at least every 2-3 hours (this time is measured from the start of one feeding to the start of the next). Many newborns will feed for 10-15 minutes on each breast but some will nurse for much longer periods, even up to 2 hours. When your baby releases one breast, offer the other and if or she shows no interest, plan to start on that side for the next feeding.

What if I am having trouble breastfeeding?

While breastfeeding is a perfectly natural process, it can take time for new moms and their babies to learn. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, there are plenty of resources available starting with lactation consultants available at the hospital. They can give you advice if you run into challenges or show you alternative positions to try.

What should I avoid while breastfeeding?

  • Caffeine: Drinking caffeine in moderation (200 mg a day) will likely not affect your baby. Generally, caffeine has a greater effect on newborn and preterm infants so you may want to reduce your caffeine intake in the first few days after birth or if you have a preterm infant.
  • Alcohol: The alcohol will leave your milk as it leaves your bloodstream. Drinking more than 2 drinks a day regularly may be harmful to your baby and can cause unusual weight gain, drowsiness, and weakness. 
  • Seafood: We recommend limiting your fish or seafood intake to 2-3 times a week and altogether avoiding fish with high mercury levels.
  • Smoking and drugs: Secondhand smoke from cigarettes is extremely harmful to infants and children and increases the risk of allergies, asthma, and SIDS. The use of illegal drugs or prescription drugs taken for nonmedical reasons is also extremely harmful to your baby while breastfeeding. If you need help quitting smoking or drugs, speak to a healthcare professional.
  • Medications: While most prescription medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding, some may not be and you should discuss the potential effects with your healthcare provider.
Best Foods While Pregnant: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Best Foods While Pregnant: What to Eat and What to Avoid

When pregnant, women seem to be bombarded with conflicting views from family, friends, and other well-meaning people about what they should and should not eat during their pregnancy. It can be difficult to distinguish between good advice and advisors that are somewhat misguided which is why we have compiled a list of foods and beverages that you should avoid while pregnant and what you should be eating a lot of. 

Limit your caffeine intake while pregnant

The effects of caffeine on a mother or baby during pregnancy have not been confirmed by a study. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend consuming fewer than 200 mg (that’s equivalent to one 16-ounce cup of coffee) a day during pregnancy. Correlations have been found connecting caffeine and miscarriages, particularly if consumed in excess during the first trimester. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it eliminates fluids (water and calcium, both extremely essential for a woman and the growth of a healthy baby during pregnancy) from the body.

Eliminate alcohol from your diet

Prenatal exposure to alcohol can result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other developmental disorders. There is no known safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy.  If you have consumed alcohol during your pregnancy, stop drinking immediately. Alcohol intake should not be resumed until after you deliver. 

Healthy weight gain during pregnancy

The amount of weight that a woman gains depends on her health and body mass index before she gets pregnant. A woman who was at an average weight before pregnancy is recommended to gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. A woman who was underweight should gain more weight than a woman who was at a normal weight and a woman who was overweight or obese should gain less weight.  Overweight and obese women are at increased risk during pregnancy and may deal with problems including high blood pressure, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery. Babies of overweight and obese women are also at a greater risk of problems which can include birth defects, childhood obesity, and macrosomia with a possible birth injury. 

How to avoid food poisoning during pregnancy

Food poisoning can cause serious problems for a woman and her fetus because vomiting and diarrhea can cause significant water loss and can throw the body into chemical imbalance. To avoid food poisoning, follow the following guidelines:
  • Avoid all raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat. You should avoid all sushi with raw fish (cooked sushi is ok to eat during this time) and make sure that foods such as beef, pork, or poultry are cooked to a safe internal temperature. 
  • Wash all raw produce thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking. While fruits and vegetables are a necessary part of a balanced diet, it is essential to wash it before eating.
  • Keep your kitchen clean by washing your hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods. 

Fish can benefit your diet but you should be careful

Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that occur naturally in many kinds of fish and play a large role in a fetus’s brain development both during pregnancy and after birth. To get these benefits, women should eat at least two servings of fish or shellfish (about 8-12 ounces) per week before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and also while breastfeeding. Now, there are some types of fish that have higher levels of mercury which has been linked to birth defects. You should make an effort to limit exposure to mercury by avoiding certain types of seafood.
  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, tilefish, or orange roughy.
  • Limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces or less a week.
  • Instead, opt for fish and shellfish like shrimp, salmon, catfish, and pollock. 
  • If you’re eating fish caught in local waters, make sure to check advisories. 

Be extra wary of undercooked food

Pregnant women are 13 times more likely to get listeriosis, a food-borne illness caused by bacteria, than the general population. Listeriosis typically starts off with mild, flu-like symptoms but it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature delivery. In some women, listeriosis comes with no symptoms. Here are some foods to avoid eating while pregnant in order to minimize the chances of contracting listeriosis:
  • Unpasteurized juice, unpasteurized milk, and any foods made with either of these including soft cheeses, most of which are made of unpasteurized milk
  • Smoked seafood
  • Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat
  • Hot dogs, lunch meats, and cold cuts unless thoroughly cooked
  • Refrigerated pate and meat spreads

So what should I eat while pregnant?

It is important that you are getting plenty of iron, calcium, and vitamin D, all essential in the growth and development of the fetus. Here are some guidelines to follow and foods to eat in order to ensure you are getting enough of all three:

Iron

Iron is used by the body to carry oxygen through your blood to your organs and tissues. Pregnant women need about double the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need so that the body can provide oxygen to the fetus as well. This extra iron can be found in prenatal vitamins and in iron-rich foods including poultry, lean red meat, dried beans and peas, fish, iron-fortified cereal, and prune juice. The body absorbs iron more easily if eaten with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes.

Calcium

The body uses calcium to build the fetus’s bones and teeth. The best sources for calcium are milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt. If you are lactose intolerant or have trouble digesting dairy products, you can get calcium from other sources like leafy green vegetables, sardines, broccoli, or by taking calcium supplements.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D also helps to develop the fetus’s bones and teeth and is also essential for healthy skin and eyesight. Milk is a good source for vitamin D as is fatty fish, like salmon. Exposure to the sun is also a good way to get your daily dose of vitamin D as the sunlight is converted to a chemical in the skin.
Overdue Pregnancy: What to Do When Pregnancy Goes Past Your Due Date

Overdue Pregnancy: What to Do When Pregnancy Goes Past Your Due Date

Your due date is creeping closer and closer until it passes and your baby still isn’t here. What are you supposed to do when your pregnancy goes past your due date The first thing to do is remember that due dates are simply a calculated estimate of when your baby will be 40 weeks. Your due date does not mean an exact date of when your baby will come and it’s normal to give birth before or after your due date. 

Should I get tested for my post-term pregnancy?

Prenatal care will continue after you pass your due date. During these visits following your due date, your OBGYN will continue to check baby’s heart rate, position, and your baby’s movements. If you’re over your due date, your OBGYN might do fetal heart monitoring, non-stress test, and in some cases, labor induction may be recommended. 

What is labor induction and how is labor induced?

Labor induction is the stimulation of uterine contractions during pregnancy to achieve a vaginal birth, before labor begins naturally. There are a few methods used to induce labor and these methods include:
  • Cervical ripening balloon: Your OBGYN will place a small inflatable balloon-like device into your cervix to mechanically dilate it and prompt labor
  • Prostaglandin analogs: These are a type of medication that is placed in your vagina to start cervical ripening
  • Rupturing the amniotic sac: Your OBGYN will make a small hole in the amniotic sac to release the fluid (“break the water”)
  • Oxytocin: Oxytocin can be given through an IV tube causing the uterus to contract
  • Stripping or sweeping the amniotic membranes: Your OBGYN sweeps a finger over the thin membranes that connect the amniotic sac to the wall of the uterus 

What are the risks associated with labor induction?

There are potential risks associated with labor induction which include: changes in fetal heart rate, infection, contractions of the uterus that are too strong, or induction not working. You and your fetus will be monitored throughout the entire process to ensure you are both tolerating it well.
What Are Ovarian Cysts and How Are They Treated?

What Are Ovarian Cysts and How Are They Treated?

Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid and/or other tissue that form in or on the ovaries. Ovarian cysts are quite common and occur most commonly in women with regular periods, although they can occur after menopause and during childbearing years. Most ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous) and go away on their own. It is rare for a cyst to be malignant (cancerous). 

Different types of ovarian cysts

The most common types of ovarian cysts – known as functional cysts – form during the menstrual cycle and are typically benign. These include:

Follicle cysts

In a normal menstrual cycle, an ovary releases an egg each month which then grows inside a tiny sac called a follicle. When the egg matures, the follicle breaks open to release the egg. In the event that the follicle doesn’t break open, a follicle cyst forms. These often come with no symptoms and go away without treatment in one to three months.

Corpus luteum cysts

After the follicle breaks open and releases the egg, the empty follicle sac dissolves into a mass of cells called corpus luteum. This makes hormones that prepare the ovaries for the next egg and the next menstrual cycle. Corpus luteum cysts form if the sac doesn’t dissolve and instead the sac reseals itself after the egg is released. These also generally go away after a few weeks but they can grow and may bleed or twist the ovary, causing pain. 

Endometriomas

This type of cyst forms as a result of endometriosis which occurs when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. 

Cystadenoma

These cysts form on the outside of the ovary. They are filled with watery fluid and can grow very large although they are typically benign. Malignant cysts are rare and more common in older women. Cancerous cysts can become ovarian cancer, which is why it’s important to have ovarian cysts checked by your doctor.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?

Most ovarian cysts are relatively small and do not cause symptoms. They are often found during a routine pelvic exam or imaging test.  Cysts that come with symptoms may cause a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen, bloating, swelling, and pain during certain activities. Larger cysts may cause twisting of the ovary which causes pain on one side that comes and goes. Cysts that bleed or burst can cause sudden, severe pain. 

How are ovarian cysts treated?

Treatment options for cysts depend on the type of cyst and a few other factors. Treatment options include watchful waiting and, in the case of a cyst that is large, surgery may be an option.

Watchful Waiting

This is a way of monitoring a cyst using repeat ultrasound exams to observe if the cyst has changed in size or appearance. Your OBGYN will decide when to conduct these repeat ultrasound exams and how long this follow-up process should last. Many cysts go away without treatment after one or two menstrual cycles.

When surgery is recommended

Surgery may be recommended if the cyst is large or if cancer is suspected. The type of surgery performed depends on several factors: how large the cyst is, the age of the patient, her desire to have children, and the existence of a family history of ovarian or breast cancer.  If the cyst is benign, minimally invasive surgery is recommended and done using a small incision and a laparoscope. Open surgery may be used if cancer is suspected or if the cyst is too large to be removed with laparoscopy. Open surgery requires a larger incision that is made horizontally or vertically on the lower abdomen.    If you suspect that you may have ovarian cysts, contact your OBGYN to figure out the best treatment option for you. Give us a call: 757-461-3890.
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Tidewater Physicians for Women
a division of Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care

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Virginia Beach, VA 23462

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Norfolk, VA 23502

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