Category Archives: My well-being

The fourth trimester, part 2: What to expect after expecting

“The process of pregnancy renders a woman simultaneously an individual and a crucial part of a dyad: mother and child.” -Martha Fineman

The first three months after birth are referred to as “the fourth trimester” by pediatrician Harvey Karp as they are a period of adaptation that mother and baby go through following childbirth. Below we’ll focus on tackling some of the transitions that mothers undergo during the first weeks following delivery.
Coming into the world is less a milestone than it is a gradual transition in which the baby relies on the mother’s attunement and help. With this in mind, the end of pregnancy is a process instead of an immediate and clean-cut event. This might not be what some media portrays about the firsts weeks of motherhood. However, it’s what early childhood and developmental psychologists/researchers say, and what actually fits with your intuition or past experiences as well. Reva Rubin, one of the first specialists in maternal nursing in the 1950’s, was the first to introduce the idea that motherhood as an identity is much more complex than childbirth. Thanks to her we now acknowledge that the deeply transformative process of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood require a period of restoration and adjustment.

The first weeks postpartum are full of intense emotional, social and physical changes for the mother because, according to Rubin, some of the psychological and physical aspects of pregnancy continue after birth. The Association of Women’s Health, the Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist give some examples of what to expect during this “fourth trimester”:

• Over a six-week-period, the uterus will shrink to its normal pre-pregnancy size.
• Bleeding and discharges may continue intermittently, or a normal menstrual cycle may return. Gynecologists insist that neither this, nor breastfeeding, entail a method of birth control.
• The internal organs that were making room for the growing baby will reposition.
• Some water retention, swelling, and urinary retention may be expected while the body readjusts, and drinking plenty of fluids can help.
• There are still plenty of hormonal changes going on after delivery, so try to be gentle with yourself if you’re experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions.

With this in mind, acknowledge the impressive journey you went through, and let yourself marvel at the unbounded possibilities and journeys that are awaiting while you hold your newborn baby in your arms.

“The fourth trimester, part 1: Transitioning to life outside the womb “

Just like you, your baby needs a period of adjustment to her life-after-birth. Pioneer pediatricians have a couple of eye-opening advices that’ll ease this transition.

Have you ever wondered why is it that most mammals are born landing on their feet and ready to start walking alongside their mothers just a few hours after birth, but human babies come into the world still unprepared for life outside the mother’s womb? The answer to this paradox lies in the highly complex brain that characterizes our species. A more independent human baby would require more time to further develop the nervous system and the resulting large head-size would make delivery impossible. Although human babies are born full term after 37 weeks of gestation, they are nonetheless developmentally premature and depend on their caregivers for survival. That’s why, for practical reasons, evolution relied on our social nature to help the baby thrive.

Reflecting on these implications, UCLA professor of pediatrics Dr. Harvey Karp proposed the term “fourth trimester” as a way of describing the period of rapid growth and adjustment you and your baby go through after childbirth. From the moment they arrive, babies start soaking up new information, interacting through trial and error, practicing new behaviors, and connecting with their surroundings in an increasingly complex and fast manner that will continue throughout their entire lives.

You’ll be amazed how quickly your bundle of joy opens her eyes to the world, suddenly discovers a toe, or starts babbling, and that’s where mommy comes in! Your baby relies on you and your support system to help her adjust to the outside world, because living inside the womb is all she’s ever known. Let’s consider the characteristics of the maternal-womb: the thermostat is reassuringly regulated at 37 degrees Celsius, the baby is permanently surrounded by softness, is in constant physical contact with the mother, and soothed by her heartbeat and the rhythm of her daily movements. The uterus is very gentle with the baby’s nascent senses: there are no bright or flashy lights, no scents in this aquatic environment, and she has never experienced hunger, loneliness or had to lie on her back to sleep. So, it’s understandable that some newborns might be unable to sleep outside their mother’s arms.

A group of researchers on early childhood from the University of South Florida recommend parents to take into account that a period of adjustment is taking place after birth. Empathizing with the newborn’s sudden encounter with the world can help them attune into her needs. Dr. Karp suggests living the first months after pregnancy as if your baby was still in-utero. Promote skin-to-skin contact, hold her in fetal positions, allow her to feed on demand, let her use sucking for comfort, rock her with rhythmical movements or sounds, and spend as much time as possible with your baby close to your body, like in babywearing.

There’s no such thing as a “perfect mother”

We’ve all heard the tales about a proverbial super-woman that supposedly cooks organic and Instagram-ready gourmet food she grew herself, was innately masterful at synchronizing her circadian clock with the baby’s sleeping-and-napping schedule from day one, is able to achieve a professional-family life balance without sweating, always has time to spice things up with her partner, and effortlessly holds an honorary PhD in Psychopedagogy. Well, let us repeat this loud and clear: the “perfect mother” doesn’t exist. She’s no more than a social construct.

The “perfect mother” myth encompasses a series of beliefs and expectations regarding a motherhood ideal that’s fed by our society’s pressures, unrealistic media portrayals, and family experiences. The problem is that many moms weigh themselves against this unrealistic representation, and guilt pops up when they find themselves to be ordinary women.

The detrimental role of these myths is well documented. Developmental psychologist Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan from Ohio State University found that mothers who guided themselves by comparing their parenting skills with the social ideal were actually less attuned to their child’s needs. So, in fact, worrying about being “perfect” is simply counterproductive and ends up making things more difficult for you.

Becoming a mother is a perpetual balancing act between the joys and the struggles, just as any other human relation. It is also the development of a new aspect of your identity and a continuous process between you and your baby to get to know each other and grow together.

The takeaway? Don’t fret about the inconsistencies between your experience and the shoulds, nevers, and always of what the “perfect mother” is supposed to be. Instead of putting yourself down when struggling to meet a challenge, focus on your efforts and what there is to learn from them. Undoubtedly this can set a very good example for your child!

Its okay not to be okay

Ever since you learned that your baby was on its way, you started paying particular attention to a lot of aspects of your daily life and maybe you have implemented some changes: you’ve been eating healthier, you exercise most days, avoid alcohol, go to doctor’s appointments, and prepare the baby’s room. But have you been keeping tabs on your psychological well-being? Beyond avoiding excessive stress, checking on your emotions and inner life is just as important as all the other preparations you’ve been doing throughout your pregnancy.

We hear a lot that “a happy mom makes a happy baby” and, although that’s true, sometimes it can be misinterpreted as an obligation to being perpetually happy or as a motto that prohibits or condemns some of the less-bubbly feelings and thoughts you may be having. We know that being pregnant and becoming a mother are major life transitions that naturally rise many complex feelings in a woman. This can range from concerns about parenting, fears related to the identity shift, anxiety about your finances or professional trajectory, nostalgia regarding other period of your life, etc. You should never feel ashamed for having human feelings. On the contrary, recognizing your experience and being willing to work through your emotions is a brave thing to do, and can make you grow in ways that will foster your baby’s emotional well-being in the future.

If you’re having trouble, reaching out to your family and loved ones or talking with your doctor and asking for a therapist referral can be very helpful. Psychotherapy can be a judgment-free space to talk about some feelings around motherhood that might be difficult for you to talk about because, although normal, they might still be taboo in our society.

Morning sickness: rocking the day with a cup of ginger tea

Chances are you’ve either experienced or heard the stories about the stomach discomfort and overall feeling of malaise that can appear during the early stages of pregnancy and that for some women last well beyond the morning. Research by the University of Wisconsin shows that up to 80% of pregnant women will experience some degree of nausea, most of them during their first trimester. This is normal, and the sensation is caused by the sudden hormonal changes that your body goes through while the placenta develops. But don’t worry, if you are seeking some relief from this nausea, or are just looking for a good coffee alternative to sip on, we’ve got you covered.

Ginger is the only non-pharmacologic intervention that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends for treating morning sickness during pregnancy. Hot water brewed with either powdered or fresh ginger root several times a day has been proven to significantly reduce nausea and malaise. The science behind the ginger’s power lies in the stimulating effect it has on the gastrointestinal tract, where it helps movement and encourages the flow of saliva, bile, and gastric secretions. According to the United States Departmnet of Agriculture (USDA), ginger is also a good source of vitamin B3 and B6, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and copper.

While some people worry about the safety of ginger during pregnancy, the medical consensus states that the maximum recommended daily dose of fresh ginger is 20 grams (4 grated tsp), more than that may act as a uterine-stimulant. Now, if you want to verify this claims yourself, try this ginger tea recipe:

Ingredients:
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of grated fresh ginger (skin scraped-off)
OR
½ to 1⁄3 teaspoons of powdered ginger
1 ½ cups of boiling water
1-2 teaspoons of maple syrup
lemon

Directions:
– Put the ginger into a large glass measuring cup.
– Fill it up to the 1.5 cup line with boiling water, and let brew for 10 minutes.
– At the 10-min mark, strain the contents into a mug or heat-proof container, and add a teaspoon or two of maple syrup to sweeten.

You can duplicate or triplicate this recipe if you want and store it for up to 24 hours in the fridge, that way you could try it as an iced tea with a couple of lemon wedges!

The harsh truth behind pregnancy

One harsh truth about your pregnancy is that you may experience constant bloating and have gases. Your digestive system slows down due to your pregnancy hormones, meaning, food moves more slowly through your system. The increase in your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone relax your smooth muscle tissue in order to allow more nutrients to be absorbed both by you and the baby.

Although hormones now play a big role in your daily life, there are a few things that you can do to either make things take a down-turn or get better.

What can I do?
• Avoid greasy, fried or highly seasoned foods.
• Avoid large amounts of caffeine and soda.
• Avoid large meals (eat small meals throughout the day).
• Avoid lying down or not moving after a meal.
• Limit your dairy product intake (even more so if you’re lactose intolerant).
• Eat slowly.

There are plenty of solutions out there. In most cases changes in your diet should help manage some of the bloating, for others, some medicine or further intervention may be necessary. Talk to your doctor and design a plan that best fits your cravings and lifestyle while avoiding potential harmful foods.

Breastfeeding prep

It’s crazy to think that years ago women were told to “toughen-up” their nipples by rubbing towels over them during their pregnancy. It’s even crazier to think some women did. All jokes aside, breastfeeding is definitely a challenge, one that should not be taken lightly. While research has concluded that rubbing towels is actually counter-productive, there are other healthier ways you can prep your mind and body for breastfeeding.

Your pregnant body is preparing itself for when your little one arrives. That’s one of the main reasons why your breasts get bigger during pregnancy, your milk ducts and milk-producing cells are developing which means a lot more blood is flowing to your breasts than before. Now that you know mother nature is helping you prep for breastfeeding, there are a few products you can use to make everything a little easier:
• Nursing bra: These are comfortable bras, fit for your larger breasts that have a flap which you can easily open to feed your baby without hassles.
• Nursing pillows: These pillows are designed to give you support while nursing and avoid getting too tired during the feeding sessions. It’s usually no biggie when your baby is a newborn, but as he grows, you’re going to want the extra help.
• Breast pump: Besides helping you store some extra milk to have at hand, a breast pump can be a huge relief and help avoid breast engorgement (milk piled-up can be quite painful).

Here at Kinedu we want you to be as ready as you can be for when D-Day arrives. So be sure to research beforehand about nursing, read tips, talk to family and friends, you could even sign up for a breastfeeding class. Remember, knowledge is power and we’re confident you’ll get the hang of it in no time!

How long will my labor take?

During labor, there are factors that can either speed up the process or slow it down a bit. It can take from an hour to even 24 until you hold your little one in your arms. Normally labor’s a bit longer for first-time moms since your cervix and birth canal (vagina) is less flexible than those who already had a baby. But of course, everyone is different and the factors we mentioned before do play a role.

The Mayo Clinic recognizes three stages of labor. First, the uterus opens the cervix to allow your baby’s descent. The second stage consists of pushing and finally there’s the delivery itself of the baby and the placenta. The factors that affect your labor’s progress are present during the three stages:

• Baby’s position. The best position for your baby (and your labor) is for her to be head down, with her back against your belly, facing your back. But, even if your baby is positioned correctly, one wrong move through the canal and she may reach an awkward position slowing down the process.
• Mom’s cervix. Both effacement and dilatation play a role and ultimately will allow your baby to flow through the birth canal. Effacement means that your cervix stretches and gets thinner as your baby’s head puts pressure on your pelvis. Dilatation refers to the opening of the cervix itself and is commonly measured in centimeters (10 being the maximum). Your cervix must be completely dilated in order to begin pushing.
• Mom’s physical and mental state. When you’re feeling well and rested you have more strength to get through labor. Likewise, the right stress-management exercises and breathing techniques can help ease the labor work because you will feel more relaxed and with a positive outlook on the situation. The more peace of mind and calm you feel, the better.

Afterwards, it’s time to celebrate! You finally get to meet that little person you carried around for nine months. Enjoy bonding with your newborn and get ready for days full of fun activities using Kinedu.

Taking action

Every day you’re one step closer to be handed a bucket-full of responsibilities. The thought of dealing with this can sometimes be a little overwhelming. The Mayo Clinic has listed some of the most common anxieties a parent may feel during pregnancy along with how to tackle them and help keep stress at bay.

• Balance work and family. Many parents worry about how they’ll manage their newborn and all he entails, plus the job, the household and the other children in case they have them. Attenuate your worries by talking to your partner, discuss (in detail) how each of you would like an average day to be like, what you expect from your partner and what are your aspirations for the future (both personal and professional). Establish a network of trust, ask advice from friends or family who already went through something similar, and start building your support system. Maybe you’ll need to get help from a health care provider or a family member. The sooner you work out those little details, the sooner you’ll breathe a little easier.

• New responsibilities/financial strain. A newborn will always entail bigger responsibilities and babies almost always dig into your savings. Everything’s possible if you plan ahead. Adjust your budget accordingly before he arrives and manage your expenses in a way that includes saving and sticking to a budget (consider a few luxuries here and there, but it’s important to splurge every now and then).  The most important take-away here is to monitor what you spend your money on and continuously strive to improve. There are plenty of budgeting tools available online or you can reach out to a financial advisor or family member who can help you create your household’s budget.

• Lack of sleep and time with partner (that, includes sex). A baby will, whether you like it or not, change the dynamics with your resting hours and in some cases with your partner. Just in case you don’t hear it enough, communication is key. Establish with your partner what kind of parents you want to be, what you expect from each other, what each of you can do to support the other, who will tackle which responsibilities and how will you make time for each other throughout the chaos (date night anyone?).

Being a parent is a challenge, the more prepared you are for what comes, the more confident you’ll feel once your little one finally arrives!

Labor for dads

As you and your partner await the arrival of your little one, it’s common for some nervousness to build up. Making labor plans and prep will be vital tools to ease your worries. At the end of the day, the person who’s sharing the most with your baby is you, so make her arrival a shared experience with your partner. Involve him and make him a part of the big day!

Dad’s labor prep
• Read a little bit about childbirth. You’ll feel more empowered if you know the signs and symptoms of labor, what to do when mom starts getting contractions and what can be expected in the delivery room. All of this information may help you make fast decisions and be a helping hand throughout the process.
• Most likely you’re the designated driver, which means you should map the fastest route to the hospital (taking into account changes in traffic) and call ahead to learn about the hospital’s policy on parking.
• Get the car seat ready. Although seemingly simple, it’s harder than it looks! Plan ahead and take your time reading through the instructions to ensure maximum safety for your newborn.
• Pack your bags! You can help your partner pack hers or simply get yours ready. If you’re planning on staying with her in the hospital, think ahead and be ready to leave in the blink of an eye!

Dad’s role during the actual labor
• Distract your partner during the first stages of labor. Know that it can be a frustrating and long process, so be there for her every step of the way.
• Take shorts walks with her around the hospital (unless advised otherwise by your doctor).
• Help her time her contractions.
• Massage her shoulders, back, feet and basically anywhere she may feel discomfort.
• Try different relaxation techniques together (quick tip: an easy one is to focus your attention on your breath for a minute, rest and repeat).

Labor will be hard work for both of you. Anxiety and nerves may get the best of you, so take that into account at all times and support one another. Most importantly, enjoy the ride, your little baby girl will arrive sooner than you think!