Surviving the holidays while pregnant

Surviving the holidays with comfort and joy while pregnant
It is possible to survive and even enjoy the holidays while you are pregnant, with the help of these tips from the experts.

Pro tips from the professionals

Robert Wool, MD, FACOG, ISCD

Let’s face it—the holidays are often hectic. But to-do lists that grow long with events and errands can be especially stressful for women who are pregnant and already carrying an extra burden (literally).

It is possible, however, to relieve some of the stress and still enjoy the season’s festivities.

The first step is to banish guilt. If you’re pregnant, you have a built-in excuse to focus on your health and comfort, and that of your baby. Take advantage of the opportunity to give yourself a free pass to let go of the activities and expectations that are too much. If baking relaxes you, the annual cookie swap may be an event you look forward to. But if not, let it go. Listen to your body.

Here are four additional tips for expectant moms looking for more comfort and joy this holiday season.

Enjoy a silent night (or two)

You need extra sleep during pregnancy and will soon be dealing with the ‘round-the-clock demands of a newborn, so include downtime in your holiday schedule,” said Dr. Wool. “Depending on your personal needs, that may mean taking a nap before an evening out, saying an early goodnight or skipping a few events altogether.”

Indulge, but with care

You will be more comfortable if you eat smaller amounts more frequently as opposed to large, multi-course meals. Take small portions of the items you like the best and pass on the rest,” he said. “Skip anything with alcohol, and avoid foods that make you uncomfortable, like rich or acidic foods if you get heartburn. Foods high in sodium, like a holiday ham, can make you bloated and uncomfortable. Balance holiday treats with nutrient-rich foods your body, and your baby, really need.”

Be prepared

Hydration is very important during pregnancy as your body naturally demands more water. The cold, dry winter weather and additional holiday activities can raise your risk for dehydration,” said Dr. Wool. “Keep water and healthy snacks on hand, whether you are home or on the go.”

Comfort is key

Your body is going through a lot of changes, so be kind to it,” suggested Dr. Wool. “Loose-fitting or elastic-waist clothing will allow you to breathe more comfortably. Your feet may swell or even increase a size during pregnancy, so comfortable flat or low-heeled shoes are advisable. They will also provide more support for your back and pelvis, which are strained when you wear heels.”

Dr. Wool added, “Take the opportunity pregnancy provides to put your feet up and enjoy some of the holiday season’s simpler pleasures, from your favorite holiday songs or movies to quiet time with loved ones under twinkling lights.”

Osteoporosis prevention is every woman’s concern

osteoporosis prevention
A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet that’s rich in calcium, is key to preventing osteoporosis later in life.

No bones about it

Robert Wool, MD, FACOG, ISCD

The realm of women’s health extends far beyond the female anatomy. In fact, as a woman, the “parts” that tend to be the most disease prone are ones all humans share—from head to toe. Greater than your risk for most reproductive diseases is your risk for osteoporosis, making an osteoporosis prevention plan an important part of your overall health.

Women’s bones are typically smaller and thinner than men’s to begin with. Then, as you age, you quickly and steadily lose estrogen, a hormone that helps protect bones. These factors make women much more susceptible than men to bone loss and, eventually, osteoporosis—bone deterioration due to severely decreased bone mass.

The primary danger of osteoporosis is that thin, weak bones can fracture easily. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately one in two women over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Stopping osteoporosis before it starts

The good news is, there’s a lot you can do to help protect and strengthen your bones, reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. The key is to adopt lifestyle habits that are important for optimal health in general, including:

  • eating a well-balanced diet
  • getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D (ask your provider whether supplements may help—for example, if you are pregnant or nursing)
  • exercising regularly
  • not smoking
  • limiting alcohol

At Women’s Health Associates, we routinely recommend bone density testing for women who are in menopause. Depending on these results and your general health, we might prescribe estrogen therapy (ET), estrogen with progesterone hormone therapy (HT), or medications specifically targeted to help reduce bone loss.

Healthy bones for life

Because osteoporosis is most common after menopause, you might think this condition shouldn’t concern you until later in life—but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that hormonal changes can accelerate bone loss is the very reason to be proactive about bone health. It’s critical to build strong, healthy bones while you are young, before those changes occur. Even if menopause is years or decades away, the time to start taking charge of your bone health is now.

Concerned about your bone health or osteoporosis risks? Contact us for an appointment today.

We’ve come a long way, baby

National Midwifery Week (Sept. 30–Oct. 6) highlights the evolution and modern importance of a time-honored vocation

National Midwifery Week highlights the role of the modern midwife

Anne Vaillant, CNM

In recent decades, expectant moms across the nation have been making a slow but steady return to their historical roots in terms of pregnancy care and childbirth. An increasing number are choosing a delivery experience that was the norm in early America and, in many parts of the world, still is today. These women are embracing the traditional—yet evolving—practice of midwifery.

Sept. 30–Oct. 6 marks National Midwifery Week, when Women’s Health Associates joins the medical community and family-centered organizations everywhere in highlighting the work of America’s certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and certified midwives (CMs). With passion and dedication, we collectively deliver more than 300,000 babies in the U.S. every year and provide primary gynecological care throughout countless women’s lives.

Midwifery: A Natural History

In times past, the primary attending caregiver during labor and delivery typically was a “lay” woman, informally trained to support the mother and provide initial care for the newborn. While these functions remain at the core of modern midwifery practice, today’s midwives are specially trained, licensed and certified, most in nursing as well. Certified nurse-midwives address women’s health needs from adolescence through menopause and beyond, in addition to our essential role as care provider during pregnancy, labor and childbirth.

With the establishment of obstetrics as an important medical field in the early 1900s, the vocation of midwifery faded from common practice for several decades. Its gradual resurgence came in the 1960s and 1970s, as a handful of hospitals began offering formal training programs.

According to a report from the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the proportion of CNM/CM-attended births has risen nearly every year for at least the last 20 years.

Advantages of Midwife-Led Care

Women often choose midwifery care for its holistic, woman-centered approach, which actually may lead to better outcomes and lower health-care costs. Research shows that women receiving care from CMNs experience lower rates of cesarean births and labor induction, lower use of regional anesthesia and higher rates of breastfeeding than women strictly under physicians’ care.

While these facts speak volumes, it’s important to note that collaboration is critical in today’s Ob/Gyn practice. As CNMs, we work very closely with our physicians, ensuring that every woman has access to the best medical intervention if concerns should arise.

If you’re seeking a personalized, optimal care experience during pregnancy and childbirth, or at any stage of life, our CNMs are ready to partner with you. Contact us for an appointment today.

Learn the subtle signs of a dangerously silent disease

Teal signifies support for those affected by ovarian cancer. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, join us in promoting awareness of this potentially devastating disease.
Teal signifies support for those affected by ovarian cancer. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, join us in promoting awareness of this potentially devastating disease.

Dr. Robert Wool

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Though considered rare among all cancers, ovarian cancer is the deadliest of gynecological malignancies—due, in large part, to its notorious silence. During the month of September, we join the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and others nationwide in promoting awareness around this potentially devastating disease.

Because early signs of ovarian cancer, if present at all, often go unnoticed or are attributed to less serious conditions, diagnosis typically occurs at advanced, less treatable stages. For this reason, staying attuned to your body and recognizing when something isn’t right is the key to earlier diagnosis and, ultimately, effective treatment.

Most cases of ovarian cancer are seen in women over age 55, but it can develop at any age. It sometimes presents with common gastrointestinal issues, such as indigestion, bloating, pain, bowel changes or feeling full quickly. Other possible symptoms include urinary urgency (feeling of having to go) or frequency, back pain, pain during sex, period changes and extreme fatigue. Although ovarian cancer is an unlikely cause, never dismiss these problems, especially if they are new or unusual for you, get worse or don’t go away. Make an appointment with your ob/gyn as soon as possible.

Just as important as paying attention to your body’s signals is having regular gynecological exams, or “well woman” checkups. These allow your provider to get an overall picture of your health, including new concerns or recent changes. Unlike some other abdominal or pelvic cancers, ovarian masses themselves are difficult or impossible to feel on regular examination until they are quite large. This makes good communication critical for determining whether certain tests, such as transvaginal ultrasound, may be warranted.

If you’re due for a regular checkup or have any concerns about your gynecological health, call us for an appointment today. You know your body best. Be sure to listen to it closely—this month and always.

Vaccines during pregnancy: what expectant moms need to know

Some vaccines can be an important part of protecting the health of both mom and baby.
Some vaccines can be an important part of protecting the health of both mom and baby.

Dr. Jacqueline Kates

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

When it comes to health and wellness in pregnancy, any choice an expectant mom makes is for two (or more!)—including whether to receive vaccines. During National Immunization Awareness Month, we’re taking the opportunity to educate our patients and all pregnant women on this critical area of their care.

As with any medical treatment, recommendations around vaccinations center on risk vs. benefit. In general, a vaccine that contains inactive viruses is safe in pregnancy, and its protective benefits almost always outweigh its risk.

The flu shot and the Tdap vaccine—which prevents against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)—are primary examples of vaccines that contain no live viruses.  Not only do these vaccines protect both mother and fetus from potentially serious infections, but the baby will then retain some of that immunity after birth. For these reasons, we routinely recommend that women receive the flu shot and the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy.

That having been said, it’s important to note that only the flu shot—not the nasal mist—is recommended in pregnancy, as the nasal mist is made from a live virus. Other common vaccines that contain live viruses include the chickenpox (varicella), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and shingles (varicella zoster) vaccines. Since it’s possible a live virus vaccine, while generally safe for children and infants, could pose a risk to the baby, pregnant women should avoid these vaccines.

Health care providers may recommend other vaccines during pregnancy in certain cases, such as upcoming travel outside of the U.S. If a mom is at higher risk for infection due to certain health factors, we may determine that hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines would be beneficial.

It’s the job of your obstetric provider to explain the risks and benefits of receiving any vaccine, and to make recommendations based on your particular situation. Call us with any questions or to make an appointment. We can help you make the best choices for your baby’s health and yours.