Monday, August 13, 2007


BODY: Colostrum
Two weeks and counting (unless, of course, your baby decides to stay on for the tenth month…). Your body, still a baby-making machine, is fast becoming a baby-delivering one too. Gearing up for the big day, it's going through many changes now in anticipation of labor: some you're aware of, such as your baby dropping into your pelvis (easier breathing, more pelvic pressure) and others that you probably are not aware of, such as cervical dilation and effacement. While you're waiting for D-day to arrive, think of these last weeks as a dress rehearsal for life with baby. Sleepless nights, a little anxiety (or perhaps a lot of anxiety), leaky breasts. Huh? Leaky breasts? Yes, it's true: many pregnant women find that their breasts begin to leak colostrum sometime in the third trimester. Colostrum is a thin, yellowish fluid that is the precursor to mature breast milk. Chock-full of antibodies to protect your newborn baby, colostrum has more protein and lower fat and milk sugar (the better to digest with) than the breast milk that arrives three or four days after delivery. Not all women experience leakage of colostrum, even though it's being produced in the breasts. If you're not doing any leaking, but you're still curious, squeezing your areola may allow you to express a few drops (but don't squeeze with a vengeance — that'll only result in sore nipples). Still can't get any? No need to fret — your baby will be able to when the time comes (if you plan to breastfeed). If you are leaking colostrum, you may want to consider wearing nursing pads in your bra to protect your clothes. And get used to it, too, since this is just a foreshadowing of increasingly leaky breasts (and wet bras, nightgowns, and shirts) to come.

BABY: Approaching the Runway
Only two more weeks (or plus two more, max) before your baby makes his or her appearance. And what an adorable appearance that will be! Your little one isn't so little anymore — weighing in at close to seven pounds and hitting the height charts at the 21-inch mark (or less). As you prepare (best you can) for baby's ETA, he or she is also getting ready, big time. Vernix and lanugo continue to shed from your baby's body into the amniotic fluid. Your baby swallows that amniotic fluid (yum yum?) and some of it winds up in his or her intestines where it — along with other shed cells, bile, and other waste products (triple yum) — will turn into your baby's first bowel movement (meconium) and perhaps your first diaper change. Your baby's lungs continue to mature as more and more surfactant is secreted (remember — it helps prevent the lungs from sticking to each other when your baby begins to breathe…definitely a good thing). All systems, almost go!

FOOD: Your Brain on Choline
Can't remember where you left the car keys — or where you left the car? Showing up on Tuesday afternoon for a Monday morning meeting? Have your desk blanketed in Post-its reminding you to be home for that crib delivery — but managed to miss it anyway? Pregnancy forgetfulness has a way of sneaking up on you without any warning (or maybe you got a warning but you forgot). Here's a slightly unsettling, yet illuminating explanation why you've been having senior moments ever since you started gestating junior. For sure, hormones play a part (the same ones that kick in when you're premenstrual — except they kick in at much higher levels, leaving you in a much thicker fog). But it also turns out — just as you suspected last time you spaced out when you were supposed to turn off the oven and ended up with burnt chicken instead of baked chicken — that your brain has actually been shrinking during pregnancy. Researchers have noted that the brain cell volume of pregnant women actually decreases during the third trimester of pregnancy, only to plump up a few months after delivery. So you're not imagining your brain drain (and you have a valid medical excuse for why you forgot to pay the electric bill until the lights started flickering). But is there anything you can do to minimize the effects of your so-called placenta brain? Luckily, there is — and it's to lean on choline. This essential nutrient helps improve brain function and is the building block for a memory-forming brain chemical called acetylcholine. What's more, choline plays a crucial role in the development of your baby's brain — something occurring at a rapid clip now that you're in your third trimester. Researchers theorize that getting plenty of this brain boosting mineral during pregnancy can boost the cognitive function of both your baby — and you. (Another way to get through your day without leaving your credit card at a single cash register? Load up on those omega-3's like DHA, the other best bud of your and your baby's brain.). Expectant moms are expected to get 450 mg of choline each day. You'll probably get some from your prenatal vitamin (check the label), but it doesn't hurt to get some extra from your diet. You can easily get your share and more by eating such choline-rich foods as egg yolks, beef, milk, soybeans (enjoy them in their crunchy roasted form or steamed in yummy green pods), citrus fruits, wheat germ, and nuts (which incidentally, also pack a memory-boosting omega-3 punch — making them twice as important to remember to eat. And the same goes for those egg yolks, especially if you make them DHA eggs). And don't stop once your baby's born, especially if you're breastfeeding. Not only because you'll need all the memory help you can get then (yes, your brain will be back to its prepregnancy proportions — but you'll still be in a fog thanks to sleep deprivation), but because nursing mothers need even more choline (remember, your baby's brain is growing at a fast clip even after birth) — about 550 mg per day. So keep the choline coming, Mom!

EXTRA: What a Keepsake!
Belly casts date back to ancient times when they were used to commemorate the miracle of life. These do-it-yourself plaster replicas are easy and fun to make with your mate, midwife, or your baby shower guests. Just sit back as your chosen ones apply strips of wet plaster onto your belly (it usually dries within 15 minutes). Once the cast is dry, decorate and display as you like. (Is the dining room table too prominent a spot?) You'll find many resources on the Web; just type "belly cast" into a search engine and sculpt away.

EXTRA: Walk It Off, Baby!
Easy on your knees and ankles, and just plain easy, walking is one of the best exercises during pregnancy. And when you're this close to term — there's another benefit to walking (though at this point, it might be better termed waddling). The side-to-side sway of your hips during walking…I mean waddling…may ease your baby's head into your pelvis, giving you a leg up on labor. And speaking of labor, there are those who swear that a long walk in the park — or on the track — can actually bring on contractions. So keep your sneaks handy as you near your due date (or round the corner past your due date).

EXTRA: Fill That Freezer!
Have visions of yourself, newly delivered domestic goddess, whipping up gourmet meals in those postpartum weeks? Dream on. Cooking will be the last thing on your mind or your to-do list during those first few weeks (make that months) after delivery. Trust me, fitting in a three-minute shower will trump it for sure, as will using the bathroom when the urge strikes. To avoid serving Cheerios for dinner on a nightly basis (realistically, there will be nights when you will), plan ahead. Stock your freezer now with individually packaged, simple heat-and-serve options that you (or he!) can get on the table in a flash. Label carefully, so you won't be left with UFOs (unidentified frozen objects). Good candidates for the freezer include hearty soups, stews, and casseroles, as well as mini-meatloaves. Have the baking itch? Satisfy it, and stash away several trays of bran muffins (don't ask, you'll need them). Another plan-ahead tip? If you don't already have your favorite takeouts on speed dial, now's a good time.

DAD: Deal Yourself In
Despite the billions of babies that have been born into this world, labor is still an unpredictable event. It can be as fast as a half-inning of baseball or as long as a two-day cricket match. So come prepared. Pack a backpack or carry-on with a selection of distractions: cards, games (hand-held electronics if she enjoys them), puzzles, books, magazines, music. You can relax together with these distractions during lulls between contractions — and there could be a lot of lulls. Remember, the operative word here is "together" — it would be a bad idea to be absorbed with the Game Boy while she's breathing her way through contractions. Also remember: Whatever she decides in advance, be sure to ask again during labor. It may have sounded like a good idea to play a few rounds of Texas Hold 'Em — until the contractions actually started.

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