Dear WordPress: I’m Moving

Dear WordPress,

Thank you for the opportunity to get my feet wet as a birth and women’s health blogger. I’ve appreciated the user-friendly interface and fancy tools included in your free platform. My dream is to be a stay-at-home mom and writer. Since you don’t offer an easy way for me to take the next step toward this goal, I’m moving on to blogger for their free, convenient ad options.

If you’d like to stay in touch, visit me at

The Preconceptionist

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Prenatal Screening, Early Sex Prediction, and My First Sonogram

Originally, I decided to pass on the standard first trimester prenatal screenings because I knew they weren’t diagnostic. The nuchal translucency scan combined with a blood test can estimate your chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome, but if the results come back as higher risk, you have a couple of extremely difficult decisions to make. Do you proceed with a diagnostic chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis, which both carry the risk of miscarriage and may end up ruining a perfectly healthy fetus? If the CVS or amniocentesis comes back positive for Down Syndrome, do you proceed with the pregnancy or terminate? I’m not in the high risk age group for Down Syndrome, so I’d rather not go down that road.

My husband, of course, has a different opinion. He wanted to do the tests to be on the safe side. Better to know what you’re up against than blindly accept what you’re dealt. Since I get to choose the birth place and my health care provider, I deferred to M on this one. Another teensy factor in my decision is that I was dying to see the baby on an ultrasound.

So, yesterday morning, I went in for the screenings.

The nuchal translucency scan was completely normal. I’ll get the results of the blood work in one week, but the physician assured me that, given my age and the results of the nuchal translucency, I am “very low risk” for any problems. Next he turned and asked, “Are you finding out what you’re having?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, don’t hold me to it, but it looks like a boy.”

I had no idea they could make an educated guess this early. When I returned home, I did a bit of research, and it looks like yes, an educated guess is possible. At 12 weeks, the female and male “nub” look very similar, but the male nub tends to point up toward the head, and the female nub tends to point flat toward the rear.

I thought for sure it would be a girl. We conceived while traveling, and my husband did nothing to make sure his sperm were healthy—he was sunbathing in 90+ degree weather for god’s sake. How could male sperm possibly survive that? I’ll find out the sex with more certainty in 6 weeks. For now, I’m getting used to the idea of having a boy. If I had it to do over again, I would rather not have heard anything at 12 weeks and waited for a more definitive answer at 18 to 20 weeks.

No matter what the sex ends up being, I’m ridiculously in love with my baby already. Seeing that booger for the first time on ultrasound was miraculous. I highly recommend it.

Did you do any prenatal screenings and would you recommend it? Has anyone received an early sex prediction that turned out to be correct or incorrect?

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Baby No Like Stress

We have a heart beat, and I am fully out to the world as a pregnant woman. In other news, today is the start of my second trimester. My pregnancy books conflict and say the first trimester ends at 12, 13, or 14 weeks. I choose to believe the first trimester ends at 12 weeks. 

Until today, I’ve done well with avoiding stress. Even before we were trying to conceive, I began nixing commitments and situations that stress me out. Without going into too much detail, today was the day before the 40-page newsletter I edit goes to the printer. It’s usually a stressful time, but this time has been extra special, with requested changes and additional articles from the executive director coming in at 3:30pm the day before print.

Under normal circumstances, I would have sucked it up, skipped the gym, and stayed late. But as a pregnant woman, I know that whatever my body goes through, my baby goes through. At just 12 weeks old, my baby had enough with 8 hours of work intense enough to make me forget my ravenous appetite. I heard my baby loud and clear, “Let it go, Mom.”

I left at 5:30, did a moderate cardio session, and picked up pizza (a healthy version) on my way home to give myself the night off from cooking. I intended to listen to music and knit once I got home, but here I sit blogging, watching junk TV, and eating tortilla chips to stave off my appetite until the pizza is ready. Overall, I think I’ve done an average job at handling my stressful day.

My goal for tomorrow is to not react when things don’t go the way I anticipate. Every time I catch myself reacting, I’ll pause, remember my baby, and begin again.

Posted in Pregnancy, Second Trimester | 3 Comments

Preparing to Fall into the Second Trimester

I’m 11 weeks, 3 days, which means two fabulous milestones are just days away: the end of the first trimester, and the day I get to hear my baby’s heart beat for the first time.

Monday evening will be my second prenatal appointment. M is going with me for the first time, and I’m excited to introduce him to my midwife and the birth center. If M had it his way, I’d be giving birth at Georgetown medical, but he really doesn’t know much yet. Actually, he doesn’t know squat.

In an attempt to bring him up to speed, I’m forcing him to watch The Business of Being Born with me this weekend. I don’t really expect everything to click for him overnight, but at least he’ll get a snapshot of the reasons behind my decisions. I’m still waiting for him to get excited about this baby. Yes, he’s excited off and on. He has moments of gushiness. But I know it’s not real for him yet. In all honesty, it’s not quite real for me yet either.

I’ve been holding back from falling in love with my baby. I’m holding my breath until I know it’s for sure for real. If I hear the heart beat like I expect Monday evening, I very well may burst into tears. It will be my first concrete message from my baby that says “Yes, Mom, I’m here. I’m for real.”

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What Your Health Care Provider May Not Tell You about the Flu Vaccine

Last week several well-respected, prestigious organizations released a joint statement urging health care providers to advise their pregnant and postpartum patients to take the 2010 seasonal flu vaccine. These organizations employ brilliant researchers, educators, clinicians, and public health experts. Their unified voice is hard to ignore.

Because of my job and my online activities, I have access to individuals at many of these organizations. In my search for evidence-based research behind flu vaccine recommendations, this statement gave me new hope that somebody at one of these organizations would point me in the right direction. I sent out an inquiry and was provided with the full text of a prospective, controlled, blinded, randomized study in the New England Journal of Medicine involving more than 300 pregnant women. Results showed a 63% reduction in laboratory-proven influenza (flu) illness in infants up to 6 months old, a 29% reduction in respiratory illness with fever in infants, and a 36% reduction in respiratory illness with fever in mothers. Sounds like a good deal.

Here’s the rub: among the list of study supporters was the National Vaccine Program Office, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Aventis Pasteur, Merck, Glaxo-Smith Kline, and Sanofi-Aventis. The National Vaccine Program Office was established to reduce the potential financial liability of vaccine makers due to vaccine injury claims. The rest of that list is pharmaceutical companies, aka potential vaccine makers. Did you know that in 2007, the vaccine industry was experiencing double-digit growth in sales? I don’t mean to suggest that these organizations are intentionally trying to dupe the American public. However, their organizational goals–preventing financial liability and making profits–seem like a giant conflict of interest to me. Even though this study comes from NEJM, I need more to convince me of the benefits of receiving a flu vaccine during pregnancy. This can’t possibly stand up to studies involving more than 40,000 mothers and infants that were not able to demonstrate flu vaccine effectiveness.

I’ve never been passionate about the flu vaccine before trying to make a reasonable decision about it for me and my unborn baby. I started this journey in search of evidence supporting the effectiveness of flu vaccination. But I’ve turned up empty-handed and stumbled onto a pile of disturbing information. To state it more accurately, I’m highly disturbed that the recommendations for flu vaccination are so strong despite the evidence being so iffy. I believe in the science of vaccination. I’m thankful for the eradication of diseases like smallpox. But seasonal flu is not smallpox, and it takes years of research and development to translate scientific theory into a a safe, effective product.

In conclusion, based on my research, I believe it is a rational decision to take or not take the flu vaccine during pregnancy. Flu infection carries known risks to mother and baby. Everyone should take steps towards prevention, including hand washing, good nutrition, rest, exercise, and if you so choose, the flu vaccine. I am shocked and outraged that women are not presented with the facts, or lack thereof, and given the opportunity to decide for themselves.

P.S.–I remain open to supporting research, personal experience, and logic to help further develop my knowledge on this issue. Fair, balanced, strong research is still on my most-wanted list.

Posted in First Trimester, Pregnancy, Rants, Vaccinations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why Don’t I Feel Pregnant Anymore?

Back in the days when my ovaries were aching for a baby, I thought a positive pregnancy test would be a dream come true and life would blossom into a continuous burst of rainbows and unicorns. But you know what? I’m still a big giant worry wart.

My latest worry is how energetic I’ve been feeling. I thought that wasn’t supposed to happen until at least 12 weeks. I’ll be 10 weeks on Wednesday. Yesterday I spent most of the day weeding the front yard and then couldn’t even fall asleep for my usual afternoon nap. By weeding, I’m talking near manual labor. I haven’t been in the yard since before I conceived.

This morning I stepped out of the shower and pranced around in front of M, “My boobs don’t feel big, and my belly isn’t sticking out. Do I look pregnant? ‘Cause I don’t feel pregnant.”

9 weeks pregnant 9/15/10: Do I look pregnant?

What happened to my pregnancy hormones? I want my body to DO something. Oh crap…no, I didn’t mean I wanted an afternoon dose of nausea. Oh well.

How soon in pregnancy did you start to feel better?

Posted in First Trimester, Pregnancy | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Depression Plus Pregnancy Hormones Equals…Happiness?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I struggle with depression. I had the worst flare-up ever one month before I conceived. Thankfully, I landed myself an excellent therapist along with a nurse practitioner to help adjust my medication, and I trudged forward, determined to proceed with my conception plans.

I wasn’t sure how I would handle pregnancy hormones. Everyday life can be challenging enough operating in a mentally healthy state of mind. Throw depression and pregnancy hormones into the mix and…whoa, Nellie!

As is often the case with my preconceived notions, my preconceptions about the emotional terrain of pregnancy have not held up to reality. The fatigue in weeks 6 – 8 felt eerily similar to depression, except my head didn’t hurt. This Wednesday, I’ll be 9 weeks, and the fatigue and nausea are already starting to lift. I’ve cried twice in the past 3 weeks, which I’d say is a pretty healthy average for a pregnant woman.

I’m down to biweekly therapy sessions now. Yesterday my therapist introduced the idea of cutting back on medication–which scares me. I’ve tried weaning off medication probably 4 times in the past. Each time ended horribly. But I’m at least willing to cut back and see how things go. I have an appointment two weeks from today to discuss the idea with my nurse practitioner.

What would you do? Would you leave well enough alone and not rock the boat, or would you give it a try at a lower dose of medication? Also, a note to all you women who are blessed to not struggle with depression–if I can do pregnancy, you can do pregnancy. Don’t let it freak you out!

Posted in Depression, First Trimester, Pregnancy | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments