Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What is Preeclampsia

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If you are a soon to be mom or planning your first pregnancy, you may or may not have heard about preeclampsia.  It's a big word and can be a scary word too until you understand what it means to you and your baby.

Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen in pregnancy with little warning and in fact, it can creep up on you.  One of the first signs is an increase in your blood pressure to levels above 140/90.   This increase in blood pressure can result in headaches, severe headaches that can affect your vision and create light sensitivity.  Nausea and vomiting are not uncommon, decreased urine output with high levels of protein.   Another telltale symptom is swelling.  Your hands and feet may become swollen with a sudden increase in weight from the extra water.  Keep in mind, this can happen with any normal pregnancy but it's important to mention this to your provider so further investigating can take place.

 Scientists believe that it is a condition that begins in the placenta.  When pregnancy begins, new blood vessels form to help move blood to the placenta, the organ that nourishes your fetus.  In some women, these blood vessels are not formed properly.  Preeclampsia is one of 4 blood pressure issues that can affect a pregnancy.

Is there a way to avoid preeclampsia?  Not really... but scientists are studying possibilities that may help down the road.  Some hopeful studies are surfacing in the use of antioxidants and amino acids.

In the meantime...

There are risk factors that you do have control over.  Begin your pregnancy in the best possible shape.  Make sure any pre-existing health conditions are being managed and controlled such as diabetes, auto-immune diseases such as Arthritis or Lupus, high blood pressure, or obesity.  Some factors can not be managed.  Sometimes, a first pregnancy can yield greater preeclampsia complications or if a fetus is conceived by IVF.

Medicine is getting better at treating preeclampsia before it creates a life threatening situation for you or your baby.  Be proactive.  Keep your regular appointments and discuss your risk factors and symptoms with your provider.  Healthy practices, bed rest and medications can help protect you until a safe delivery is accomplished.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

6 Ways to Become the McGyver of Self Care

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How many times have you heard your doctor say, "You have to manage your stress before it manages you." or something to that effect?  If you don't believe them, just wait until stress really does start managing you!

What is stress anyways?

Stress isn't always produced from the perceived 'bad' things we experience in a day, a week or a month.  Stress can sneak up on us when we are experiencing the very things we hoped and prayed for.   The dictionary defines stress as a state of mental or emotional strain from demanding circumstances.

Taking care of ourselves isn't exactly as easy as it sounds, especially when you have little ones under foot, a taxing job, a million different roles that we as women play on any given day, but with a little practice, it can become easier or at least more of a good habit than a mad scramble when the last straw has broken our already bending back, from the pressures of life. 

Here are 8 things you do in this minute to give yourself a little lovin' that doesn't require you to plan ahead or even scramble to find a sitter.

  1.  Breathe.  Everything in our body is built on a rhythm.  Our hearts beats to a steady rhythm, brain waves create a pattern of rhythm, our breathing is rhythmic too.  When we can stop for a few minutes and focus on breathing, we re-establish a pattern of calm that got washed over in a flood of anxiety provoked adrenaline.   Concentrate on deep, slow breaths.  Try to inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 6.  The inhale helps to lift and energize us, while the exhale stabilizes us. 
  2.  Be kind.  We are much better at being kind and forgiving to total strangers than we are to ourselves.  What's up with that?  It's okay to have an 'off' day.  It's okay if the kids stay in their pajamas all day long.  It's okay if maybe you weren't as productive at the office as you were hoping to be.  When we cut out the negative self talk, we make more room to see the good things we do in a day.  Be your own best friend.
  3. Check your perspective.  When stress creeps in to our life, it's easy to lose our focus and we can't see the forest...you know how that goes.  Maybe you had a bad day.  That doesn't mean you have a bad life.  
  4. Unplug.  This is not just a trendy thing to do.  It's an important, even critical thing to do.  Technology and social media creates a stress that we don't often notice.  Checking in on Facebook every hour, literally creates new pathways in your brain and soon enough, before you even realize, your brain needs that 'fix' to keep the pathway strong.  Unplugging isn't easy for this very reason.  Your brain thinks you need it but it really just feeds your stress.  When you can unplug and place a new, healthy, self care habit in it's place, you will find your levels of stress diminish somewhat because the pressures of the world will weigh less upon you and take up less space in your daily 'To Do's'. 
  5. Be still.  Just sit.  When was the last time you just sat and did nothing.  You can call this meditation if you want but that word seems to conjure up it's own agenda of stress.  Just sitting can be refreshing and break the cycles of anxiety and worry that often accompany stress. 
  6. Reach out.  When we feel stressed or even anxious, it's easy to isolate.  Sometimes, the very thing we need is connection.  A soft place to land.  A friend to talk things out with and witness the comings and goings of our life.  There is great healing power in being witnessed and feeling like we have a place to belong.  Stressful events can take on a life of their own when they remain stuck in our own heads.  When you share your thoughts and get them out, they lose their steam and momentum. 
There are countless ways and means to take care of ourselves.  It's crucial to our overall well being.  You can't run on empty forever, no matter how much you enjoy living in denial.  One way or another, you will be forced to slow down.  It's always better to make a conscious choice now, than to be surprised on a day we least expect it all to catch up with us.   When women neglect their own care, they become sick, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and suffer unhappiness and low self esteem. 

Breast Cancer Awareness

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It's October...so you know what that means...by the time this month ends, you will hear more than you ever wanted to, about breast cancer.  Though it may be a subject you are more than familiar with, there is always more to learn about the disease that is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women, next to skin cancer.

Getting caught up in the negative statistics of breast cancer is easy, but what about the good news?  Is there any good news when it comes to breast cancer?

It's true the statistics feel daunting but did you know, according to Breastcancer.org that the rate of death from breast cancer has been steadily decreasing since 1989?  The greatest decreases are seen in women under the age of 50.   They attribute these drops to the fact that it's a disease we are good at talking about.  All this breast cancer talk, as well as an entire month dedicated to the topic, has led to better screening,  advanced treatment and more educated women. 

Science has made great strides in the research of breast cancer.  Genes have been identified that allow doctors to be more supportive in their care of us, but it also allows us as women, to be proactive in how we take care of ourselves and manage our health.   The number one thing we can do as women, is be educated.  No matter how well we know our healthcare provider or they know us, they rely on you to know your body and know when something is amiss.   The identification of the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes help scientists determine which cancers are likely to advance and which ones are not.  This is good news.   Treatment can become more individualized.

Along these same lines, science is now embarking on targeted therapies, rather than the broad treatments we have all come to fear, whether we have experienced our own firsthand cancer or not!  They are better at understanding tumors.  Do they have estrogen receptors or is it an overproduction of HER2?  The treatments differ significantly depending on the type of tumor.  That isn't something that existed even 10 years ago.  Armed with this knowledge and targeted therapies, side effects can be managed better.

Here is some more good news...more than 90% of women with breast cancer are alive 5 years after their diagnosis.  Breast cancer care is not just about chemotherapy or radiation.  Today, a woman can be supported in any number of ways with nutrition counseling and therapies, exercise instruction, psychological care, stress management and don't forget a community of strong women.  Historically, women excel at banding together to see each other through these difficult moments in life.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness.  It's a great time to schedule your mammogram and be proactive. Continue with self exams and if you aren't sure how to do this, let us teach you. The government posts cancer screening guidelines but what really matters is knowing your own body and establishing personal guidelines and that can only be done with your trusted healthcare provider at Madison Women's Clinic.  We hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Eating for Two?

It's funny how pregnancy nutrition has changed and evolved over the years.  There's a little saying we hear a lot these days..."I'm eating for two!"  And while we know that would really not be the healthiest approach to pregnancy, how many extra calories do you need?

Well, here's what we have found and it may surprise you!

The first trimester, you don't need any additional calories.  Surprised?  It's true.  Your baby, in the first trimester, grows from the size of a poppy seed, to the size of a plum.  They are still pretty tiny! Now is the time, if you haven't already upped your  nutrition game, to start making better food choices.

The first trimester is a time of staggering cell growth for your baby.  Support that process with plenty of healthy, whole foods such as clean protein, iron, calcium and folic acid. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, and citrus fruits are great sources of folic acid.  Did you know that there are some studies linking folic acid to lower levels of depression?  So, it's an important micro-nutrient for your mental health as well as the baby's general health.

The second trimester, you will need to eat approximately 300 additional calories.  What does 300 calories look like?  A handful of almonds.  A large apple with peanut butter.  The food you eat in the second trimester goes a long way in nourishing your baby so make every bite count. Magnesium, Vitamin D, healthy Omega 3 oils will help in bone and teeth development for little one, as well as brain development.  At this stage, your baby grows to be the size of an eggplant.

Getting a healthy dose of Omega 3 in the second trimester can also help in warding off postpartum depression.  There is a movement gaining some traction, that diseases and especially mental health problems will start being treated with nutrition.  We probably don't give the things we eat, enough attention or consider the impact they will have on our general health.

Finally, in the third trimester up to 500 extra calories is about what you need to sustain the baby and you, in the remaining weeks.  Continue with good food choices.  Make sure you are getting plenty of fiber and drinking lots of water.  Exercise continues to be important but make sure your doctor has provided you with good exercise guidelines.

Your baby is starting to store minerals and nutrients during this time, especially iron and calcium so make sure you are especially focused on a healthy diet. In addition, get plenty of rest during this time as well.

Being pregnant is a great time to get healthy because you have plenty of good reasons and a purpose in making the effort.  Remember that balance is the key to just about everything and every good decision you make in your diet will have great rewards.  As always, these calorie numbers are merely guidelines.  Everyone is different and between you and your doctor, you will find that sweet spot for balancing calories and nutrients for your body type and baby needs.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Back to School

It's that time of year...the kids are heading back into the folds of textbooks and times tables and aren't you excited?

Let's be honest here, summer is long!  It's been three long months of relaxed routines, rusty reading schedules, bored children and made up chores to keep them out of your hair.  There has been no time for YOU!  Am I right or am I right?  So, next week, all that changes and here's a list of back to school tips for all you overworked moms!

  1.  Get organized.  You only have 6 hours or so to spend without the Littles under foot and less if you have to deal with Kindergarten.  (We really should look into all day Kindergarten.) You need to maximize your free time!  Make a list of all the things you've been dying to accomplish like... going back to bed as soon as the yellow bus hits the corner.  Maybe you are the energetic type and want to hit the gym.  I'm not sure why you would want to do that but go for it.  It's all about you now!  Now is your time to shine.  You've worked hard all summer, it's time to let the teachers have a turn at raising your budding little humans.  The teachers have missed your kids!! Believe me,  Facebook feeds are full of warm thoughts from teachers. 
  2. Establish a routine. Humans love to know what's coming next; something we can count on.  When organizing your activities for the day, consider adding a little mundane to the mix, for example, every day between 1-3 you will watch re-runs of the Ellen Show.  Routine is healthy I've heard. Psychology Today mentions that it helps you slow down and capture important brain space.  You're going to need that as soon as the bus arrives so it's all in good health.  Mental health.  When your husband or kids asked what you did all day, you can wholeheartedly say you made some additional space in your brain to handle all their needs and wants more effectively.  They will totally respect that! 
  3. Don't Isolate.  It's very important you don't hide out in your house all day.  A Brigham Young University study showed that people with poor social lives had a 50% chance of dying younger than those with rich social lives.  You just can't take that risk.  Get out there with friends who are inspiring and like minded.  Go for lunch.  Watch the Ellen Show together.  A word of warning, don't get sucked into 'trading' babysitting.  You don't have time for that.  There is so much to do while your own kids are at school!  Soon, their kids will head to school too and they too will find themselves having to make these very important life adjustments and setting priorities.  
  4. Get plenty of rest and exercise.  School is stressful, if you have a kid going there.  It's 10 fold stress for each and every kid beyond one, that attends school.  Teachers apparently think you have all afternoon and night to sit and solve your child's math problems and glue pom poms on pretend DNA strands for them. Don't even get me started on writing papers for them!  This is a stressful time.  There is nothing like a nap and stroll around the Mall to help you handle the stress and anxiety of all the work you have to do.  If you happen upon a fabulous pair of shoes while strolling...all the better.  
  5.  Review the food pyramid.  This is important information to know when packing lunches, providing loving snacks after school and of course dinner, that should be a well rounded meal.  Just about every kind of food fits into the food pyramid somewhere.  Even the corn dogs and Fruity Pebbles you gave them last night for dinner because that's all the Lovies will eat...so much for the stuffed pork roast you've been dying to try from Pinterest!  You tried!  You pinned it...that's all that matters!  It's okay if the your food pyramid is upside down from time to time...tell the kids it's one of the Wonders of Your World! 
See?  School is stressful.  It's a life changing time sending those kids back there.  The first week is going to be hard- all those papers to sign, rules to read and other nonsense, but you've got this!  One last piece of advice...Don't ask questions that lead to dead ends like...

"Why does your math sheet have a bite taken out of it?"
"Why do I have to send you with 2 boxes of Kleenex?" 
"How come you didn't eat your sandwich?"
"Why aren't these papers in the $14 binder I just bought you?"
"What do mean...you left your backpack on the bus?"

 These are things we may never understand and it's okay.  My kids have all graduated now and moved on to higher learning.  I have bought over 125 boxes of Kleenex but I consider it money well spent on important education stuff.  

We hope this list helps you as you embark on this upcoming school year!  But seriously...back to school is a stressful time for moms and dads and kids too.  Whether you are a mom who is home during the day or at the office, remember you are probably doing a better job than you think you are.   Be gentle and kind to yourself, just like you are with those around you.  Raising children is a big deal and this Momin' gig is hard work so...we hope our little survival list for back to school put a smile on your face as you get the kids ready for more learning.  Keep on being your greatest version of YOU!!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Why does bone density matter?

Bone density isn't something we hear a lot about, at least not in the same way we hear about other women's issues.

What is bone density and why does it matter?

Bones are mostly made of collagen and proteins within a strengthening frame work of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate and other minerals.  Our bones and teeth contain all but 1% of the calcium our body needs.  It is critical that our bones are both strong and flexible.  The collagen and calcium work together to ensure that the framework for our body is in optimized shape.  We are continually adding new bone to our skeleton, at least in theory.  When that balance of old and new bone growth is upset, we end up with bone loss and a weak skeleton.

This is where we all understand bone density, especially if we are menopausal women and dealing with the effects of Osteoporosis.

Here are some facts about bone growth and bone loss...

  • Most new bone is added in childhood and teenage years
  • We reach our peak bone mass at about age 30
  • Bone loss increases just following menopause
  • Bone loss is caused by lack of calcium in our diets, age, smoking, some medications, lack of exercise.
  • Small frame and underweight women are at greater risk for lower bone density.
  • Loss of height is a sign of increasing bone loss
  • Dark greens and low fat dairy products will increase calcium levels in our diet
  • Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium
  • Weight bearing exercises help build bone
  • Estrogen replacement can assist in preserving bone loss
Do you think you may be at risk of low bone density?

If you are over 50, underweight, early menopause,  post menopausal, a smoker, have experienced loss in height, or have a family history of osteoporosis or hip fractures.  If you aren't sure, meeting with your health care provider is always best.  

Osteoporosis is one of those things that can be prevented.  As women, we often put off the simplest thing when making small changes now, can have the biggest pay offs down the road. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Taking Care of You

As women, we like to think we can do it all, be it all and have it all.  I wonder sometimes, if perhaps we secretly wish the culture would cut us some slack?  Do you sometimes look at other women who have no problem giving themselves permission to decompress and feel...well, jealous?

We become so good at taking care of the world around us and those people we love and even those we don't even know, that we forget to take care of ourselves.  Women intuitively spend more time look 'out' rather than looking 'in'.

No matter how far you've strayed from taking care of yourself, you can start today with one small thing and just maybe, you will see what a difference one small thing can make.  If you aren't very good at self care, you may not even know where to start.

The Blissful Mind, suggests that there are 5 dimensions to self care.  They are Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, Social and Emotional.  Let's talk about what each one of these means.

Physical: These are the physical things we do; habits we have for good or for bad.  It includes sleeping patterns diet and exercise, medical check-ups, and sexual health.  These are the important things that are so easy, maybe too easy to skip out on.  We think we can make up for last sleep when the weekend arrives but the weekend comes and goes and the sleep deficit grows.

Intellectual: These are your personal growth items like schooling, education, continued learning, and even having a good and positive outlook on life.  Keeping you mind busy and engaged is something most of us do anyways.  I think the difference is, focusing on the things that you love or have always wanted to learn.  Often, that little evil, inner critic we all have convinces us that we are too old, too dumb, too something to learn new things.

Spiritual: What are the beliefs and values that keep your life on track? What nourishes your soul?  Remember there is a huge difference between religious and spiritual.  For many, their self care is shown when attending a religious service that supports their spirit.

Social: What does your network of supporters look like.Social self care is a look at who your friends are.  Who has your back?  Who can you count on to listen to you?  It's important to connect with people outside of social media.  We all need to feel like we have a place to belong, a place to find acceptance.

Emotional: This one may be the most difficult to do.  How do you cope from day to day? How do you cultivate kindness, empathy, compassion, love for yourself and others?

If you are new to self care, choose one area to work on for a few days.  It doesn't have to cost money, or cost you time.  Just a few minutes of focus intention can offer a huge dividend for yourself.  It's not selfish or egotistical, it's healthy to care for you!