Sunday, May 31, 2015

Seeking Hydration

In some ways, it seems like some of the most simple lifestyle changes to prep for pregnancy are turning out to be the most complicated. Case in point: Trying to increase my fluid intake.

I've never been a big drinker, of any liquid. I already don't drink alcohol (We both choose to abstain, actually -- maybe I'll write a post on that choice at some point). We also both have been pop-free (or soda-free, coke-free, insert-your-preferred-lexicon-for-carbonated-beverages-here-free) for the last 12 years. You would think that would mean I would naturally drink more water. Well, my preferred drink of choice when we're out to eat, at the movies, etc. is water. But I'm not drinking anywhere near 8+ glasses/day. In fact, C even developed a nickname for me related to this very issue -- he calls me "dixie" (as in, those tiny shot glass sized dixie cups) because anytime we're out to eat, he goes through multiple full glasses of water, while I drink maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of a glass over the course of an entire meal. 

I know this is a problem. I really like water and it isn't as if I have some aversion to drinking it. I just don't gulp it down like most people I know. It's unfortunate that C isn't able to carry the baby, because he gulps down so much water you'd think he was preparing for a drought. I know that pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy, my body is going to need substantially more fluid. 

So, I'm trying to figure out just how I'm going to manage to drink a lot more water throughout the day. My current office has a nice water cooler just a few feet from my office door. The water is nice and chilly. But how can I remind myself throughout the day to be drinking more?

Today at Target, I found the nice "glass sipper" photographed at the top of this post. I love the bright yellow accents on it, and I also like that it is glass instead of plastic (the straw is still plastic , but still seemed like a healthier option?). I've heard of a newer trend to "infuze" water with fruit. All that seems to mean is people are slicing up fresh lemons or placing a few berries at the bottom of the glass to add some fresh flavor to the water.

How are you increasing your fluid intake? Any recommendations to track fluid intake?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chapter 1: Preeclampsia, Epigenetics, Stress, and Flu Shots

I'm finally getting the chance to start off the summer reading series with a review of Chapter 1. If you're just joining and would like a chance to read the book, I placed a link to purchase it at the bottom of this post! 

Chapter 1 of Dr. Lu's book gave a general overview of what to expect in the book! Starting off the chapter, the reader learned about how preeclampsia develops and what it means in terms of health of the mother and viability of placenta. I was interested in learning more about preeclampsia (formerly known as toxemia) as I know a few mothers who suffered from it and had to deliver babies early via emergency c-section. I realized I did not know what symptoms of preeclamsia were beyond elevated blood pressure, and the only symptom mentioned in the chapter by Dr. Lu in the chapter was high blood pressure.

I did some reading on the Preeclampsia Foundation website to learn more about signs and symptoms of the condition. I've detailed some of the symptoms below:
  • High Blood Pressure: "High blood pressure is traditionally defined as blood pressure of 140/90 or greater, measured on two separate occasions six hours apart." I was interested in seeing if the website had anything to say about pre-pregnancy planning, and found the following useful... "Know your blood pressure prior to pregnancy, especially if it's normally considered low.  Ask, "What is my blood pressure?" during each prenatal visit with your healthcare provider."
  • Protein in your Urine (Proteinuria): Readings of 1+ or greater can be indicative of preeclampsia developing, even when blood pressure is within the normal range. I did not know that you can purchase test strips to monitor protein in the urine at home, if you're concerned about develop preeclampsia. 
  • Swelling: From the website, it sounds like mild swelling (particularly in the feet) is expected as a common occurrence in pregnancy. Swelling consistent with preeclampsia appears to often present as excessive facial swelling or pitting edema. Pitting edema is identified by swelling where an indentation from pressing with a finger "holds" for a few seconds, instead of immediately returning to its normal position.
  • Headaches: Painful, light-sensitive headaches are a cause for concern. Headaches accompanied by any changes in vision are immediate cause for concern. Any sudden changes in vision (seeing "auras," sensitivity to light, or blurry vision/seeing spots) should be immediately evaluated.
  • Nausea/Vomiting: GI problems are common in early pregnancy, but sudden onset of nausea and vomiting in the 2nd or 3rd trimester is not. It's recommended women who experience that have their blood pressure and urine checked immediately.
  • Pain in the Liver Area: This can either occur around the liver directly, or as "referred pain" in the shoulder or lower back. 
  • Sudden and excessive weight gain: Defined as 2+ pounds within a week. Prior to pregnancy, it is helpful to maintain a BMI of 30 or less, as obesity increases the risk of developing preeclampsia. Drinking an adequate amount of water is also important.
  • Sudden shortness of breath: May be indicative of fluid accumulating in the lungs.
As highlighted by Dr. Lu, these symptoms cannot be ignored because preeclampsia can quickly lead to life-threatening emergencies or even maternal death. The Preeclampsia Foundation noted that "by conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year."

What can be done pre-conception to decrease risk factors of preeclampsia? Adopt a healthy weight-management routine (if your BMI is above 30), reduce sodium intake, and know your typical blood pressure. 

Overall, the chapter made an excellent case for why it was so important to attend to several variables of maternal health prior to conception. Dr. Lu pointed out that many women don't see a doctor or even know they are pregnant until a few weeks after conception. At that point, the baby already has developed the beginnings of a cardiovascular system and the neural tube (which will later develop into the brain and spinal cord). 

Another important factor Dr. Lu briefly highlighted was epigenetics and maternal stress, and how this contributes to the overall long-term health of the fetus. For example, women who experienced influenza during pregnancy increased the risk three-fold that their baby would develop autism or schizophrenia later in life! 

Questions to reflect on in the comments:What did you think about Paula's decision to wait to have a c-section despite having serious symptoms of preeclampsia? Are there any pre-conception lifestyle changes you have thought about implementing to help prevent pre-eclampsia?

For myself, I have been trying for some time now to reduce sodium in my diet, but will be focusing more seriously on this goal as I get closer to TTC (trying to conceive). I also strongly agree with Dr. Lu's conclusions about the negative impacts of stress on the fetus; I'm working on mindfulness and other stress reduction techniques I hope to reflect on in future posts!

Want to join in the reading series but haven't purchased the book yet? Click the image of the cover below to purchase it! 

Simple Saturday Project: Burlap Love Letters

I have been searching for a simple wall hanging for our bedroom, but could not find just the right thing to hang above our bed. I ended up creating this easy Saturday project -- and thought I might turn it into a series on the blog! I'm going to call the series "Simple Saturday Project," posting easy 1-day craft projects. 

This project is as simple as can be, as long as you can paint light, thin coats of acrylic paint and manage a glue gun. It is also inexpensive. I purchased all of the supplies for less than $15! For this project you will need:
  • 4 burlap canvases. I took a picture of them in the package so you can see what they look like (they come 2 in a pack):

  • Four wooden craft letters. I recommend purchasing the letters and canvas at the same time -- hold the letters up to the canvas to ensure the letters you're purchasing can be centered well on the canvas.
  • Acrylic paint and a small paint brush. I recommend a matte finish paint, as it does not show the brush strokes as prominently as a glossy finish. The small brush makes it much easier to paint the edges of the letters.
  • Glue gun and glue sticks. I have a "high" heat mini gun. 
Step 1: Paint the front and edges of all four letters. The wood does soak up a bit of paint and it is easy to forget the little edges and sides of the letters. Don't worry about painting the back of the letters -- that side will be firmly glued to the burlap. Let dry 20-30 minutes in between coats. Remember to use thin coats and watch for bubbles in the paint. A professional looking finish takes a little bit of patience but is preferable to one thick, gloppy coat. I also recommend purchasing a small paintbrush for this craft. The letters below were painted with a glossy paint and you can easily see the brush strokes. A matte finish dries a little better:

Step 2: After your letters have dried for about 2 hours (should no longer feel "tacky" to the touch), plug in your glue gun and prepare to place the letters on the canvas. Use several large dots of hot glue to firmly affix the letters. Also, once you've firmly pressed the letter into place, flip the canvas over and push on the letter from both sides. I didn't do this at first and the bond was much looser. If it fails to bond well, let the glue dry, peel off the glue, and try again. 

Step 3: Place the canvases together to make sure the positioning of all of the letters looks okay. I used the natural lines created by the wood behind the canvas to make sure the letters were centered properly. 

And that's it! Very simple project you can complete in just a few hours. I chose a pale yellow and gray color scheme because it matches our bedroom. Here is the finished product hanging on our wall.

Happy Saturday! We'd love to see this project if you make it -- 
please comment with a photo if you do!!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Summer Reading

We have selected the first book for our summer reading series! We will be reviewing and discussing several chapters from Get Ready to Get Pregnant over the next few months.

This book was chosen because of it's comprehensive overview of a variety of topics, including pre-conception genetic testing, environmental health, and stress resilience. We hope you will join us in reading and provide us feedback on what you think of the book. We will be actively working to implement the "10 Concrete Steps" offered in each chapter, with the hope that our journey can help guide you in implementing the suggestions in the book.

Look for a post next week reviewing the first chapter!

Walk before the Waddle: Improving Cardiovascular Health

Improving cardiovascular health is an important consideration pre-conception. Taken from the book Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide For Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception:
"According to the American College of Sports Medicine, regular moderate-intensity physical activity "is the cornerstone therapy for the primary prevention, treatment, and control" of high blood pressure. It may also protect against developing high blood pressure during pregnancy. The most dramatic improvements are seen in women who go from being completely sedentary to being moderately active - doing something as simple as walking around the neighborhood" (p.182). 

It is recommended that women preparing for pregnancy make it a regular routine to get in at least 30 minutes of active exercise a day. Walking is an easy exercise routine to start, and will be easy to maintain after you become pregnant. The most important consideration for an exercise routine is choosing something that you can turn into a habit. If you are not already physically active, it is important to take things slow -- gradually building up activity over time. 

In our preparation for pregnancy, we actually both purchased a Fitbit Flex. This activity tracker is worn on the wrist with interchangeable colorful wristbands. It syncs with either your computer (through a USB device) or your smartphone, tracking the number of steps you have taken during the day. We really like this activity tracker because of the free iPhone app which allows us to easily check on our step progress throughout the day. Here is a screenshot of the app from A's phone to show you what it looks like:

Overall, the app tracks how many steps you've taken, total miles traveled for the day, and total active minutes. My advice would be to set a goal for 30 "active minutes" per day. The best part about the Fitbit app is that you can set up challenges with friends. Do you know others with a Fitbit trying to improve their fitness? Set up a "goal day" challenge and see who can log the most steps!

I have definitely noticed changes since using my Fitbit, including always using the steps at work instead of relying on the elevator to reach my third floor office. On days when I forget my lunch, it is also an incentive to walk to pick up lunch. 

What are the benefits of a healthy cardiovascular system for pregnancy? I found an excellent article discussing the importance of this aspect of your health:
After becoming pregnant, a woman is likely to focus on the health of her growing fetus; she may not necessarily consider the effects of pregnancy on her own health, except in terms of how it may affect her future child. In essence, though, pregnancy can have a profound effect on a woman’s health and may, in fact, be her first “cardiac stress test.” Even an otherwise healthy woman experiences a rise in total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), and possibly blood pressure (BP) during pregnancy. A woman who gains excessive weight or makes poor lifestyle choices during pregnancy can heighten the metabolic changes already occurring and place her at risk for developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) or pre-eclampsia. These events may not only jeopardize the pregnancy outcome but may also increase the woman’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the future.

Not only is your cardiovascular health an important consideration pre-conception, it is important to continue during pregnancy and after delivery to help keep your heart healthy. Future posts will focus on other lifestyle changes (e.g., reducing salt intake) that can also help keep your heart healthy.

As with any health advice, it is important to consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen. If you have a pre-existing chronic health condition it is important to follow exercise recommendations developed by your healthcare provider.

Friday, May 1, 2015


Welcome to our Blog! We're a married couple, coming close to the 6th anniversary of our wedding. Starting our journey as high school sweethearts, we finished college, married, and now are facing the very end of graduate school. It is our hope to begin "trying" for a baby in about 6 months.

We have quickly learned that this journey requires a significant amount of preparation! Our plan is to use this blog to document our journey to pregnancy, including all of the changes we make in our own household and lifestyle for pregnancy & parenthood. We hope to create a comprehensive guide for couples considering parenthood, with a healthy dose of humor added in.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!