Thursday, May 31, 2007


Body: Swelling and Edema Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy
Continuing on those sports analogies (remember, it was a soccer ball two weeks ago), your uterus has swelled to the size of a basketball this week. But unfortunately, that's not the only thing that's swelling. Beginning somewhere around this stage of pregnancy, nearly three-quarters of pregnant women start to experience mild swelling of the extremities, particularly of the feet and ankles (but also your hands, as you may have noticed when you last tried to take off your rings). Called edema, such swelling occurs when fluids accumulate in your body tissues as a result of increased blood flow and pressure of your growing uterus on the pelvic veins and your vena cava (the large vein on the right side of your body that returns blood from your lower limbs to the heart). Mild swelling sure isn't swell (especially when you try to squeeze into your shoes at the end of the day, when puffiness is at its peak), but it is completely normal. If your swelling seems to be more than mild, talk to your practitioner. Excessive swelling can be one sign of preeclampsia, but when it is, it's accompanied by a variety of other symptoms (such as elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine). If your blood pressure and urine are normal (they're checked at each prenatal visit), there's nothing to be concerned about. To spell swell relief, avoid sitting or standing for a long time, try to get some pregnancy-appropriate exercise, such as walking or swimming (if your practitioner okays it), and when you rest, do so with your feet elevated (if anyone deserves to put her feet up, it's you). Be sure, too, to drink enough each day to stay hydrated. Restricting fluid intake will not decrease swelling, but making sure to get your eight glasses daily may. And also try to look on the bright side: First of all, pretty soon your belly will be so big, you won't even be able to see how swollen your feet are. Second, edema is a temporary condition — you'll deflate completely soon after you give birth.

Mommy: Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy
Call it a Murphy's Bed Law of Pregnancy — now that you need a good night's sleep more than ever, it's getting harder and harder to get one. Getting comfortable in bed isn't easy anymore — especially if your favorite position is tummy-down and your tummy is currently the size of a watermelon (a very squirmy watermelon). But before you flip onto your back to catch those z's you crave, consider this: Experts recommend that pregnant women not sleep on their backs during the second and third trimesters because the weight of the growing uterus and baby pressing the vena cava, the main vein that carries oxygenated blook back to the heart from your lower body region. If compressed, it can interfere with optimum circulation (and circulation is a pregnancy's best friend). So what position should a pregnant woman shift to when you're in search of slumber? Your best bedtime bet is to lie on your side. Though it's less important which side you choose, the left side allows for maximum blood flow (less pressure on the vena cava) and could reduce swelling in the legs. To get yourself comfy in that position, pull out all the stops — and all the pillows. You can try putting one pillow between your legs, one under your belly, and one behind your back — or any other improvised combination that allows you to sleep like a baby. You can try a wedge-shaped pillow for support. Another option is a full-length body pillow (which, when you shift positions with it, actually provides good training for alligator wrestling). Best intentions (and nightly get-comfortable rituals) notwithstanding, you can't always control what pose your body strikes in your sleep. If you wake up on your tummy or your back — don't worry — absolutely no harm will come to your baby. That you woke up in the first place is probably your pregnant body's way of telling you to change positions (and maybe that it's time to pee again). So (after your trip to the bathroom) just haul yourself back into position — which at this point is probably no small undertaking (relocate four pillows, swing over the legs and belly, push out buttocks, rearrange the pillows…are you comfortable yet?). Here's to a good night's sleep (while you can get it!).

Baby: I Sense Something Is Going On
Most babies this age, yours included, still like to snuggle in a slightly curled position inside the uterus (thus the term "fetal position"). Even so, beginning at this stage, your baby's length will be measured from top of head to toe — which makes your baby nearly a full 15 inches now. And at just over two pounds, he or she has doubled in weight from four weeks ago. Your baby's auditory development (hearing) is progressing as the network of nerves to the ears matures. And even though the sounds your baby hears are muffled (thanks to the creamy coating of vernix covering those ears), he or she may recognize both yours and your partner's voices. So this might be a good time to read and even sing to your baby (or rather, your belly) — and a good chance to start boning up on those nursery rhymes and lullabies you'll need to be repeating (and repeating) pretty soon. And while you're at it, here's another way to have some family fun: If your partner presses his ear to your belly, he might be able to hear the baby's heartbeat. Your baby's taste buds are very developed now too (with more taste buds than he or she will ever have outside the womb, actually). Need a taste test? If you eat some spicy food (you hot mama, you), your baby will be able to taste the difference in the amniotic fluid (but keep in mind that you'll have different mealtimes, with your baby's coming about two hours after yours). Some babies will even respond to that spicy kick by hiccupping. And although hiccups (which feel like belly spasms to you) may seem like they're disturbing to your baby, he or she isn't stressed at all. It's just one more sensation that babies need to get used to.

Safety in the Kitchen
You've already said so long to rare steaks, sayonara to sashimi, and adieu to your favorite French brie. (Fortunately, you won't be apart for long — as soon as your baby's born, you'll be able to welcome them back into your diet with open arms, and open mouth.) Out the kitchen door, too, is a casual approach to meal prep — there's never been a time when food handling has been more important (not that you'd ever want a case of food poisoning — but you definitely want to avoid one now). Fear not: Preparing food safely is fairly easy if you take your lead from the local health department and follow a few common sense rules. (These habits will serve you well when you're trying to keep your child's food safe, too — so consider using them for keeps.) Wash up. That goes for your hands first and foremost, and also for your dish towels, countertops, sponges — everything that's even remotely a part of the food prep process, including the food itself. Anything you plan to eat, and anything that touches what you plan to eat, should be kept spick-and-span. Be extra vigilant about this when handling raw meats, eggs, poultry, or fish — wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after you touch these foods, and be sure to clean your hands immediately after you've finished, along with the utensils, cutting board, and towels you handled along the way. Wash the lids of cans before you open them so dirt and bacteria won't contaminate the contents (and never eat anything from a dented can — but that's true whether you're pregnant or not). Wash fruits and veggies thoroughly before eating them, even the ones you intend to peel. The one exception to the wash before using rule: Don't rinse raw meat or poultry. You won't be washing off the bacteria — only cooking can eliminate that — but you will be splashing the bacteria all over the sink and countertop. Hot means hot, cold means cold. Keep uncooked perishable foods at or below 40°F, and don't let them stay above 40°F for more than two hours. Refrigerate any fresh food that won't be served or cooked immediately. On the flip side, keep hot foods at or above 140°F until serving, and don't leave them sitting out on the table while you linger over coffee. Refrigerate them immediately, and reheat leftovers thoroughly (until steaming or boiling). Having a hot weather picnic? Limit the time your perishables spend sitting out to one hour. Make it well-done. When it comes to meat, fish, or poultry, half-baked isn't baked enough for you. Pierce your cooked chicken — if the juice comes out red, it's undercooked, so put it back in the oven and let it heat up till the fluid runs clear. Cut through the thickest part of cooked meat and chops to make sure the middle is gray or brown, and not a speck is rare. And instead of searing fish and serving it rare or medium, bake, broil, grill, or poach it until it's cooked through. Better still, check the temperature (with a quality meat thermometer, not the back of your hand) of anything you make to be sure it's cooked through. Remember these "fully cooked" temperatures of some family favorites: Whole chicken or turkey: 180oF. Beef, veal, lamb, or pork, roasts, chops, or steaks: 170oF.Chicken breasts: 170°F. Ground chicken or turkey: 165°F. Ground beef, veal, lamb, pork: 160oF. Fish: 145°F. Precooked ham: 140oF. Be "eggs-acting." Choose cage-free eggs, when possible, and only buy ones that have been kept refrigerated. Throw away any that have cracked, and keep even your cooked eggs in the fridge at all times. When preparing eggs, cook until the whites have set firmly and the yolks have begun to thicken. And of course, never consume them raw (in salad dressings, sauces, or mousse-type desserts), unless you're using the pasteurized variety. If you're using raw, unpasteurized eggs for baking, resist the temptation to lick that raw batter.

Dad: Two-Thirds Down, One to Go
Braxton Hicks is not the owner of an NFL franchise. Braxton Hicks are contractions. But before you panic (Oh, no! The C word!) or start packing the hospital bag, here's something you should know: Braxton Hicks (which might start as early as the next few weeks) are not the kind of contractions that bring a baby — they're just a sort of uterine spring training, which helps get those important muscles ready for the big day (or night). Stay calm when your partner tells you she's just experienced that clenching sensation (which will also make her belly extra firm and strangely contorted). Help her change positions — get her off her feet if she's standing; help hoist her out of her chair if she's sitting. But relax (and help her relax) — it's not labor. Yet.

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