Friday, February 28, 2014

Constructing a Shower Registry

Putting together a baby registry is a daunting task. In one respect, it is great to know you are not responsible for buying all of these things yourself if you are lucky enough to have someone throw you a shower and lucky enough to have generous friends and family buying things to get you started. But nonetheless building the registry is complex. Most stores have a checklist as a starting off point but I'm always leery of these and feel additional research may be something you want to do to ensure you are not being swindled into buying everything little thing the store wants you to think you must have for a new baby. In addition to determining overall what items you need, many of the individual items come with a decision as to which specific type and brand you want to get. This may also require a little research on your part- whether it be heading online or asking other recently new moms to weigh in.

                For our registry we started in what I like to call the ‘Beg, Borrow, or Steal’ category although I guess it is more appropriately known as the ‘Hand-me-down’ category because I don't really plan on stealing anything (haven't gotten to that point yet!). Again if you are lucky enough to have friends and family with little ones, don’t be shy in asking what you can take off their hands. For the most part they want to give some things away, as they know it will being going to good home and it clears up space in their home. And it’s a generosity cycle, for the most part someone helped them out when they were starting out as new parents and surely you’ll want to pass your things down to friends and family when you no longer need them. I sat down with my sister-in-law and we went through everything she planned to give us from her collection as well as the things she would not be able to give us. This was all very helpful for a number of reasons- I have somewhat of a general idea of the things we need (crib, high-chair, stroller, car seats) but overall I am new to this so having a mother of two go through what she is and isn’t giving us was a great starting off point on what I need. Sitting down with an experienced parent is also recommended because you can pick their brain about what they had too much of and what they didn’t have enough of- for example I was surprised to hear my sis-in-law say they didn’t have enough clothes because they didn’t ask for a lot on the registry and she suggested we put a decent amount on there. I also think that works well with building a registry in general since clothes are the inexpensive items and it is a good idea to have a range of price points for your shower guests to choose from.
 Another helpful tip from my sister-in-law was what you should put on the registry and what you should leave off the registry and purchase yourself. For the latter things if you want to splurge on and get a specific, high-tech version of something you are probably best off just purchasing that yourself because on a registry someone might buy a slightly different one. For anything that is on the registry, it is up to your guests discretion to make a slightly change in what you asked for and what they give you so for the things you know you are going to be really particular about it’s probably best to go ahead and get them yourself to save the hassle of return and exchanging it later.  For us, we are leaving the baby monitor off because we want to research it, splurge for one with a video system and get exactly what we want.
                Next I sat down to actually registry or registries since we opted to do both Babies R’Us and Target. Both stores provides the check-list and by this point I have become a bit more familiar with what we need. Most of the checklists have the items categorized by furniture, clothing, health, toys, etc. I opted to start with the health/safety and furniture/equipment because I feel like those are the categories I should pay the most attention to in terms of specifications and recommendations on what is best to use. By the time I get to clothes and toys I’ll probably just add things quickly and that seems fine for those categories.  Another tip, if you know other new moms you can do a quick search for their registries on the popular sites. I easily found a few of the latest moms that we know and was able to look at what they had asked for.
Starting with something as simple as the thermometer sent me down the rabbit-hole- there are different options in terms of where the thermometer is going in/or the baby. A quick online research yielded the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of using a rectal thermometer on babies 0-3 months as this type is the most accurate. Around six months, the parents can switch to the ear thermometer since by then the baby’s ears are larger to accommodate it. I checked with a mommy friend of mine to see what she uses and she confirmed the rectal is the one you should use for newborns, and she reassured me with a little Vaseline the thermometer goes in easy and doesn’t cause the baby discomfort.  The other health & safety items come in cute little kits- the one I added had the nasal aspirator, nail-clippers, comb, little toothbrush, etc.  I'm going to look into medicines and creams at some point as well, but for the registry I moved on.  A lot of the equipment is being handed down to us which is great, the major things we need to ask for/get ourselves are car seats and swings/bouncers.
For the car seat I spent some time online looking at recent consumer reports and I matched up the brands and makes that were consistently mentioned on several different reports. Then I went back to Babies R Us and Target to see which options they  and both have them at the same price. (For the most part these two places have the same prices on the equipment, I have a feeling Target will have better prices on clothes when I get to it though). I went with the Chicco Keyfit 30-Foxy.  The only question mark is it both my husband and I really need our own or if two bases, one car seat is enough.

 I spent some time looking into swings as well, this along with the car seat was the major thing my sister-in-law will not be handing down to us. It seemed with the swings the best bang for your buck is when it swings in multiple directions. Also having both battery-operated and plug-in options seemed to be the most positively reviewed if your baby finds peace while swinging and you don’t want to go through tons of batteries.  After much deliberation I went with the Fisher-Price My Little Snugapuppy Cradle 'N Swing. Funny, Fisher Price's swings all seem to be named after animals and I assumed they were all the same otherwise. I saw a review where another women made the same assumption and she got the Snugapuppy instead of the 'My Little Lamb' and was shocked to find out they were different. One was noisy or bulky, something mechanical not just the animal depicted on it. Thanks for making things easy on us Fisher Price.

          Diapers, ok well this is probably more appropriate for another post but the long and short of it is we are going to try to use cloth diapers for some of the time. I’m going in with a really flexible ‘just see how it goes’ mentality but I would like to use them at least part time to alleviate the cost of buying disposable ones. (I read somewhere that all the laundering you do to the reusable ones mostly puts them on an even playing field with the disposable ones taking up space in a landfill, so environmentally they are almost even. But something about throwing away all those disposables away does seem cruel to mother earth). I have a lot more research to go, there are so many questions and I’ve found some great resources online so to be continued on this issue. But for the registry I, at least, was able to some research and add the Charlie Banana’s starter kit, along with a separate request of the disposable inserts (the starter kit comes with the cloth diapers themselves and 12 reusable inserts). We are also going to ask for some newborn sized diapers as well for night-time use/back-up plan.

            For clothing it’s important to think season, I’m due in June so we’ll need more short-sleeve onesies than long-sleeve to get us started. Also as pointed out by this great list,, a sunhat and sunscreen will be necessary for when I’m home with little one and venturing out for walks during my maternity leave. We are not finding out the gender so we mostly are picking animal-adorned things from the boys section. One of the reasons I didn't want to find out the gender was to not gender imprint the baby so much, since I know we imprint so much unconsciously. It is starting to drive me nuts that almost everything is denoted as 'boy' or 'girl' just based on the color. Really? A boy can't have a purple binky and a girl can't wear blue. I think it's all very silly. (Below is the most adorable thing we have picked out as of yet).
                Ok that’s it for now, the registry is not done but this blog post has helped me organized myself as I have gone through the list of getting it started. Please feel free to let me know what you think about my choices, as well I’ll gladly take suggestions for any must have items.

Binky Linky

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

25 week update

Whoa- we are moving right along here :)

As I'm heading into my third trimester, a comfortable night's sleep is being to elude me. I think for any pregnant woman this is normal but for me, my back and hip problems certainly aren’t helping the cause. I’m tired at night and ready to go to bed, fall asleep right away after reading for a little while (I am currently reading the Expats by Chris Pavone, it’s good, nothing great, quick read, perfect for bedtime. And yes still chugging away at Crime & Punishment, some nights before dinner I’ll lie down with my Greek yogurt and read it for about a half hour) but then I wake up a few hours before the alarm clock is set to go off with left hip pain, so I switch to the right hip, but that is short lived. Then I go back to leftie and the pain follows. I’m thinking of trying to get up and curl up on the recliner in the second bedroom (soon to be nursery but that’s another blog post altogether) to sleep the last few hours in a slightly different position. Other than that I’ve got no complaints! I feel good, my energy level is still pretty good, I’m still able to do my cardio and I’m back to eating a well-balanced healthy diet (no cravings…yet). I’m looking forward to the weather shaping up a bit, less cold, less snow so I can get out and walk and actually make more of an effort with my wardrobe. Below is really all I’ve got right now and that’s not saying much!

My bump is out there! I looked at it yesterday in the mirror when I was putting on cocoa butter lotion and I was surprised how big it is. I think especially with the winter the bump is hidden, even from me, most of the time so when I see it in all its glory I am surprised.  I have found that it totally depends on what I am wearing out and about in terms of whether people can tell I am pregnant. For example I went to the dentist last week with a long black sweater, and my ubiquitous black yoga pants and sneakers (it’s still icy out there) and both the hygienist and dentist were surprised I was pregnant. (As with any doctor you want to let your dental professionals know you are pregnant as soon as you know because they will not do x-rays even if you are due for them, plus gum disease during pregnancy is an important topic-one I might dedicate a post to- so it’s critical to tell them). It was a nice little boost to my self-esteem that I look good enough to pass for a non-pregnant woman. But then two days later I went to have my thyroid blood work done and this time I was wearing a white sweater (you can probably guess what else I was wearing with it, so predictable) and another patient chatted me up about my pregnancy while we were waiting. So I think a lot of it has to depend on what I am wearing. Also on a related note I am hoping the cold weather starts to go away soon because I am just to the point where my buttoned up winter coat has no more room in it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pregnancy Brain-Is it Real?

You've probably all heard of it by one of its many names, Pregnancy Brain, Baby Brain, Preg-Head (my personal fave), or Momnesia, a condition characterized by forgetfulness plaguing pregnant women. But is there scientific proof to back it up? Well it depends who you ask or more specifically whose research you trust.
Source: Getty Images

For every study seeming to prove Pregnancy Brain's existence, another comes along pointing out it might not be caused by anything other than being a pregnant woman. That is to said a woman who is all of the sudden thinking 24/7 about all the decisions a new mother needs to make-Day care? Breast feeding? What type of crib to buy?- including is she staying healthy during her pregnancy, avoiding the wrong foods? eating the right ones? taking her vitamins? going to all the appointments, etc, etc. Also sleep is often not normal during pregnancy, so it is possible the temporary memory issues are due to a combination of much more on one’s mind and a lack of sleep.

Some studies, according to their research methods, have claimed to prove that Pregnancy Brain exists and it is linked to an increase in hormones found in the woman's body. But the major thing to keep in mind here is their research methods. One particular study, done by the Diane Farrar and others at the University of Bradford, England in 2010 compares pregnant women to non-pregnant women in various cognitive tasks testing their memory. When looked at as a whole, the pregnant group didn't do as well in the memory tasks as the non-pregnant group. In addition, blood samples were drawn and the hormone levels of progesterone, estradiol, and prolactin were higher in the pregnant women. Well there is no surprise on the hormone levels, and it seems that because the levels were higher and the memory was decreased the researchers made the stretch that the two were connected. (Despite being able to track down some of Farrar’s other publications, I can’t find this exact paper so I’m not entirely sure how much the authors attempted to correlate the hormone levels to the memory issues). There is a major flaw in this research design pointed out by another researcher, Helen Christensen, and I completely agree. The flaw in previous studies is they compare pregnant women to completely different non-pregnant women. What does that really prove since we don't know what the memory functioning was like in the pregnant women before (or after) they were pregnant?  Comparing two different groups of people’s memory skills without getting a baseline measurement really doesn’t tell us much. Christensen set out to change the experimental design when looking into Pregnancy Brain with her 2010 study. Christensen’s study followed not-yet pregnant women (age 20 to 24) for four years, applying the same cognitive tests the first year and so on in follow up years. In order to ensure there would be enough pregnant subjects to compare with their non-pregnant baseline the researchers started with around 1200 women, and sometime within the four years of the study 76 of them became pregnant and were tested with the same tests while pregnant. And the researchers didn’t find any significant differences in the tests run comparing individual women to their non-pregnant and pregnant results. This is, of course, only one study but more studies like this would go further to prove or disprove the theory of Pregnancy Brain than the boatload of studies like Farrar's comparing to separate groups of women.

To me it seems a lot of these studies don’t have sufficient research methodology to conclude that Pregnancy Brain exists. That is not to say that I don’t believe that pregnant women suffer bouts of memory loss from time to time. I just think it all can be explained by the overall change in status a pregnant women goes through- the many additional things on her mind combined with the change in the amount of sleep she is getting. And to be honest, I'm not sure what doing all of these studies will accomplish.


So what do you think? Have  you suffered from pregnancy brain?

Binky Linky

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Facial Development in Utero

Week 10- Continued development of eyelids and ears, facial features are distinct, fingers and toes continue to grow and soft nails form.

This seems like a good time to slightly switch things up a bit and talk about facial features development. Initially I was thinking this would be an easy section to review and cover, well I was wrong. I completely take for granted all that my eyes and ears do on a daily basis, despite their small size they are jam packed with anatomy and physiology. In reviewing the ears I realized it’s a pretty good idea for new parents or parents-to-be to be familiar with the basics of your little ones ears, because you play a large part in the proper development and health of them.

Source: Lennart Nilsson

Let’s start with how the eyes are formed which begin at 9 weeks. Now at this point your baby still looks like an alien, let’s just call it like it is. A really adorable alien, but an alien nonetheless. The eyes start out as little dark spots on the head and have four major players from the embryo contributing to them- the neural tube ectoderm cleverly called neuroectoderm, the neural crest cells, the surface ectoderm, and the mesoderm. It makes sense all of these different layers contribute to the eye, as it is a highly specialized organ. Eye development all begins with outgrowths of the neuroectoderm, a pair of optic vesicles which will eventually become the optic nerves. As these optic vesicles grow they develop a connection to the developing central nervous system. Surface ectoderm thickens to form the lens placode when induced by the optic vesicles. Eventually as both these things grow they will neighbor each other, when this happens the optic vesicle will invaginate and form a cup-like shape, taking angiogenic mesenchyme into its middle. This specialized mesenchyme can make blood vessels and that is just what it does here- converting to the hyaloid artery, which will supply the developing lens. When it is no longer needed it will mostly disintegrate leaving behind a canal in the vitreous humor.  A portion of this embryonic artery will ultimately become part of the adult ophthalmic artery of the retina. The optic cup formed by the optic vesicle develops two distinct layers- the inner layer will become the neural component of the retina this has the light-sensitive elements, photoreceptors, as well as neurons and the outer layer which contains the pigmented epithelial layer. The mesoderm surrounding this cup will develop into the uvea, cornea, and sclera. The lens placode will invaginate forming the lens vesicle. Eventually it will detach from the surface ectoderm and drop into its final position. Ultimately the outermost clear layer, the cornea, will focus light coming into the eye while the iris, the pigmented part, will regulates how much light is let in. The pupil is a hole in the center of the iris that depending on its size lets in varying amounts of light. The sclera is the white part of the eye (I honestly don’t think I ever knew its name). The lens is located just beyond the iris and pupil, it functions to focus light onto the back of the eye, where the retina is located. The retina has neural capabilities and it converts light into electric impulse which are carried by the optic nerve to the brain. 

Your baby’s eyelids are made from the surface ectoderm around the time the eyes start to develop. Shortly after forming the eyelids fuse shut and will remain shut until about 26 to 27th weeks. At this time the baby can open and close them at will. While they are fused shut the baby is able to detect light. By the 28th week eyesight improves.  

To move onto the ears, I mentioned above parents contribute to the development of the baby’s hearing, this starts when the baby is still in the womb. Also most people associate infancy and childhood with ear infections, so knowing the basics of ear anatomy and physiology should help you in case your baby gets ear infections (I will probably spend some time in another post talking about ear infections). The ear is segmented into three section- the outer ear (auricle and the external auditory meatus), the middle ear (tympanic membrane, more commonly known as the eardrum, and the ossicles) and the inner ear (also known as the labyrinthine, contains the semicircular canals, vestibule, and the cochlea). The external auditory meatus is the outside portion of the auditory canal, the opening really. The auditory canal leads to tympanic membrane which connects to the inner ear. The inner ear is a maze of bone covered membranes filled with endolymph. The middle ear conducts and amplifies sound via bone through transference of sound waves to the fluid in the inner ear and from there the inner ear converts the acoustic energy to electrochemical energy for the CNS. In addition to playing a huge role in hearing, the inner ear deals with equilibrium, that is to say balance. 


I got sucked into this great research article by Steven Graven and Joy Browne ‘Auditory Development in the Fetus & Infant’ the articles focuses on how a baby in utero at 25 weeks (or in the NICU) requires auditory stimulation in order to properly develop the key components of the auditory system. The authors explain that while the anatomy of the ear develops in the first 20 weeks, the physiology of it- the neurosensory component of the auditory system develops mostly after 20 weeks. This component is critically developing from about 25 weeks to 5 to 6 months after birth. 28 to 30 weeks is a critical time for the developing system, as the hair cells of the cochlea, the axons of the auditory nerve, and the neurons of the temporal lobe are fine tuning based on what the baby hears going on outside of the womb. This tuning requires voice, language, music, and meaningful background noise to be able to discriminate between varying levels of sound. The hair cells of the cochlea contain stereocilia which as their name suggests function to amplify and convert sound into electric signals to be passed onto the auditory nerve, and so on to the auditory cortex (located next to the temporal lobe).  The fetus can learn the mother’s voice, as well as basic music and common background noises. The authors make it clear this auditory stimulation is required for the little one to distinguish between pitch, intensity, pattern and rhythm. Towards the end of its time in the womb the baby can even distinguish between different emotions and mood based on the sounds it hears. I guess to some extent I knew about this idea before becoming pregnant, since I have heard of parents reading to the baby while the baby was still incubating in there. I just didn’t realize that hearing sounds in its outside environment is critical to the developing of the auditory components. Really fascinating stuff and relevant to know for the greater good of your little one.

Moving on to the overall development-the outer ear, the auricle, is derived from six surface hillocks, which early on look like lumps of clay around an opening (the external meatus) and as time passes they define into the various structures of the outer ear. These surface hillocks come from the first and second pharyngeal arches, shown below as '1' and '2' in the first image. The six hillocks surrounding the primitive ear opening can be seen to the far right, upper corner, as well as what they become in the adult ear below it.

Ok let’s recap the above images- first off, see I told you, your baby looks like an alien. Actually if I overthink about it maybe our preconceived idea of what an alien looks like comes from in utero imaging of baby humans. (Did I blow your mind there or what?) Second these images are really cool because they point out something else I read and was skeptic of until seeing it- the ears actually start down near the ‘neck’ or where the neck will be and then move up. Lastly these pictures show the early development of the eye as well.
The external auditory meatus comes from the first pharyngeal cleft or arch. The pharyngeal arches come from mesoderm, there are six in total and they come about around the fourth week on either side of the developing pharynx (which we haven’t gotten to yet). Each of the six will become a distinct group of muscles, arteries, nerves, and skeletal tissue in the face and neck region. The first arch, among non-ear stuff, gives rise to the a tympanic muscle called the tensor tymphani muscle as well as the two of the three ossicles of the middle ear- the malleus and incus (the second arch gives rise to the third middle ear bone- the stapes). The tympanic membrane comes from ectoderm, endoderm, and mesenchyme.
When talking about the development of the face in general, including the nose and mouth, the overall pattern is similar to the way the outer ear developed. There are lumps of cells, in this case all called ‘prominences’ and they arrange themselves around the embryonic mouth, the stomodeum. Included in these prominences are ones that will give rise to the nose- the lateral and medial nasal prominences as they are called. The lateral gives rise to the sides of the nose, go figure, while the medial will develop into the nasal septum. These groups of cells come about from the various sections of the developing brain. The pharyngeal arches we mentioned above in discussing ear development are relevant to the face in general as they give rise to various bones, muscles, arteries, and nerves of the face including the jaw bone and the muscles responsible for chewing. Week 4 up through week 7 mark big chances for the face, these prominences organize themselves into the major parts of the face. Nasal pits are developed from the nasal cell groupings, and change name again to nasal placode as they continue to take shape. These will ultimately become the olfactory epithelium of the nose. The developing nose shifts to a more middle location of the face and the tip of the nose is visible in profile by week seven. After week seven things start to slow down a bit for the face- there is modest progress up until birth, involving the proportional changes and positioning of the facial features. An interesting point which makes sense upon hearing it, is the brain dictates much of the face’s outward appearance. As the brain grows it forces the forehead outward, moves the eyes to either side, and causes the ears rise up.
Pretty much every image depicting nasal development in utero is creepy and makes your baby-to-be look like her or she is auditioning to be one of the three little pigs. So I went with this illustration because beggars can’t be choosers.


Friday, February 14, 2014

We got a mover and shaker in there!

Feb 5th- I feel like I have been slacking a bit pregnancy blog wise but man I feel busy overall. I have been working overtime which is great, I love the time and half pay. I’ve been trying to really tune up my Hubpages blog, update some articles, split some into two if they are too long, add pictures and YouTube videos to liven others up etc. I just want to get all the articles on there as up-to-date as possible before the baby comes. I’m not really sure how much blogging I am going to be doing post-pregnancy, I don’t want to go into it with unrealistic goals, so we’ll see. I’ve been cooking some new recipes which is nice, doing some stuff around the house. It’s been so cold and snowy this winter and I am so glad I work from home but I am definitely a bit of a shut-in lately. But even so I feel busy with work, overtime work, managing two blogs, working out, cleaning, cooking, etc. I like to think I’m a very productive shut-in.  I’m making some progress on my pre-pregnancy Leah-centric to-do list. My name change is almost complete, we are scheduled to get our taxes done (which with then lead to car shopping), I’m still working on wedding pictures- putting together some albums for our wedding party, printing out some larger copies to display around the condo. I did cave and start reading a more fun book than Crime and Punishment, but I am half way through it and still picking it up from time to time. I vow to have it done by the time this baby comes!


Feb 11th- For a few weeks now I have been questioning whether I am feeling the baby move in there. I’m right in the time when I should be feeling him/her, the doctors told me between 18-22 weeks and I’m at 22 weeks now (I feel like now that I am further along it’s getting harder to keep track). So the last few weeks I’ve been slightly anxious about when I am going to start to feel the little one. I know there is nothing to worry about, the heartbeat has always been great each time we have gone to the doctors. Plus we saw the baby move its arms in reaction to the ultrasound we had a few weeks ago, well that was probably a month ago now. It was the trippiest thing, there the baby is on the screen, clear as day moving around, but I couldn’t feel it actually happening.  The heartbeat and the ultrasound have helped to assure me things are all good in there. Plus I have a bad stomach, so I feel like there is a lot of activity normally going on in there (rumbling etc) when I am not pregnancy so I was wondering if I was chalking up the baby’s first little movements to my normal stomach activity. Well today was definitive! I was lying down reading, dedicating a little pre-dinner time to reading Crime & Punishment, and Chris came home from work and was hanging out with me and I felt the baby moving in there. So I had him put his hand on my belly and he didn’t feel it, went back to chit-chatting about our days and the baby moved again. So this time I put his hand back on there and he said “That’s not you?” and I confirmed that it wasn’t me. It was a nice moment and proof that the baby enjoys classic novels. We have a scholar on our hands folks.


Feb 14th- Happy Valentine’s Day! My first Valentine’s day as a wife, but in the grand tradition of our independence-based life together Chris is actually going to be snowmobiling this weekend. So we had our Valentine’s day last  night, our tradition is to cook together. We made a new recipe from one of my new cookbooks, a peach-glazed pork chop with sriracha which is cool because I’m been meaning to incorporate it into my pantry and now I am the proud owner of a bottle of it. The pork chops were really good which is a meat triumph for me, since meat and I haven’t been on the best of terms lately. I also made a chicken and white bean chili in the crock pot Sunday and I have eaten that twice this week- yea protein! Also I’m one step closer to cooking a full chicken, which is a pre-baby goal of mind, since I used bone in chicken for this recipe. This is a big step for a gal that is grossed out by meat. Chris gave me my traditionally dark chocolate valentine’s assortment from the local house of candy so tonight I will have my own little Valentine’s day celebration with the first disc of the BBC’s Sherlock and some chocolates. I always savor my v-day chocolates, eating one day until they are gone, but let’s see how long that lasts in my new condition. I feel good food-wise this week, lots of fruits and veggies and I have even incorporated V8 fusion so I have a glass of that a day for an extra fruit and vegetable serving. So I am allowed to have some chocolate with Cumberbatch tonight J

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Body Image and 'It might be time for you to get your own blankets'

Jan 26th- I’ll admit it I’ve become a little obsessed with my growing bum and thighs. I don’t want to say I’m being self-absorbed about it just more so self-aware but maybe that is just semantics. Here’s the deal and I know this sounds obnoxious but this is the most weight I have gained in my life which I know is no reason to complain and I’m not complaining it’s just a weird thing to see the additional weight on my body. Out of context saying my pregnancy is the first time I’ve gained weight sounds obnoxious but I will say I have gained 15 pounds before once or twice and now I am over that mark so I am new territory. Also I’m not one of those ‘I can eat whatever I want and I never exercise’ people who are either lying or deserve a punch in the face. I’m in the category of bad stomach on top of lactose intolerance which equals me being on a somewhat restricted ‘diet’ all the time and if you have read previous posts of mine you’ll know I take my daily low-impact cardio pretty seriously. So a normal weighted gal is only supposed to gain about 25 pounds in her pregnancy and I think at this point I am over 15 pounds and half way through so I am just a little worried I am going to gain too much. I just don’t want the baby to suffer and I don’t want my physical health to suffer with extra, unnecessary weight. And yes being perfectly honest I just don’t like the way it looks!

Feb. 3rd- My mom bought me a body pillow, a snoogle, ridiculous name-yes, ridiculous looking pillow- yes, great gift to get a pregnant gal in your life- yes. I’ve been adjusting to it for about a week now and it has definitely helped me get comfortable while sleeping. But it’s rather large and takes up its own square footage in our bed and we have a California king size. I honestly can’t imagine trying to use it in a bed smaller than a regular king. Now flashback to before I was even pregnant where Chris and I joke with each other that sometimes the other is guilty of doing the ‘tuck and roll’ in the middle of the night leaving the other left out in the cold. It’s an unintentional asleep move of trying to reposition oneself and tucking in the blankets and rolling to the other side of the bed leaving your partner blanket-less, cold, and alone. We have both been guilty of it on various occasions. Flash forward now to this morning we get up and the bed is in complete disarray. Turns out the pregnancy pillow only furthers the tuck and roll maneuver as it takes up a lot of blanket surface area itself. I suggested to Chris he get an individual blanket and he agreed he is going to tuck one away far from me and my snoogle.

The snoogle in all it's glory, and yes I also wear matching silk pajamas and smile while sleeping.

Hormones and High Heels

Jan 24th- The other day I sent my girls an email about sending an obligatory baby bump picture and then I attached the link of Gwen Stefani rocking her baby bump instead of one of me with mine.


Obviously she looks amazing and I definitely sent the email while wearing sweats. Now I’m not going to be hard on myself about this, she is a celebrity and as Sarah Jessica Parker so correctly pointed out regular women should not compare themselves to celebrities ever, especially during pregnancy and immediately after because it is their job to look good. Luckily for me it is my job to work from home on a nerdy medical database, so my laundry at the end of the week consists entirely of sweatpants, yoga pants, and hoodies.

Anyway the reason the picture of Gwen stuck in my mind is the stiletto heels. Now I have never worn heels like that, my chronic pain condition is reason/excuse enough for me to only wear modest sized heels when necessary. I have heard about the long term adverse health effects associated with wearing high heels in women in general. So I was curious to look into is whether it is bad for pregnant women to wear heels. Turns out it is not the best thing for a few different reasons. Due to the change in hormones when pregnant and the effects they have, wearing high heels can put added stress on your changing body. For one, pregnancy marks a time where hormonal increase allows for your ligaments to loosen in your low back and stomach to allow for the additional occupant and the eventual eviction of said occupant. One website I read credits progesterone with this change while another names relaxin as the culprit. To be honest I don’t remember relaxin from my school days and had to look it up- it is part of the insulin superfamily of hormones and there are seven different types. Both men and women have relaxin for different purposes, women produce it in their ovaries and breasts throughout their life and when pregnant their placenta, chorion, and decidua also produce it. There are spikes of it at 14 weeks of pregnancy and at delivery and its role in pregnancy is to mediate the hemodynamic changes a pregnant woman undergoes- increased cardiac output and blood flow for example, as well it relaxes the pelvic ligaments. Progesterone is a steroid hormone, and like relaxin it has both a normal role and an extended pregnancy role in women. It is mainly known for its role in developing and maintaining the endometrium, as well it stimulates development of glands in the breast for milk production. But I also found a source that links progesterone to the loosing up of ligaments in your lower back and abdomen during pregnancy. So for one a pregnant woman’s muscles are undergoing change and wearing high heels could cause back and hip pain. The second part of this is that most people know as a woman gets further into her pregnancy her center of balance is thrown off. Doctors recommend using caution on stairways and avoiding icy areas outdoors. Wearing high heels can only make this balance issue worse. So as a general rule get your high heel wearing out of your system in your first trimester, and then switch to low heels or flats going forward. Really no love lost for me but clearly Gwen is having a tough time kicking the habit.

Sex differentiation in utero

Week 9- Reproductive organs, continued development of the digestive system- intestines, also buds for teeth form

The major things I remembered about sexual differentiation in the fetus, from when I took development biology in grad school, are there are two pairs of tubes, the Müllerian and Wolffian duct, in all developing babies. For girls, one develops into the internal sex organs and the other recedes and for boys the opposite. Turns out that is a pretty good estimate of what happens. But let’s look a little closer. The two duct pairs are part of urogenital development in the fetus and both extend passed the mesonephros (the primitive kidney) towards the caudal (tail) end of the organism, at the cloaca (define). The fetus remains gender neutral until about the 7 to 8 week, but one major thing has been in effect since way back when fertilization occurred. In terms of sex chromosomes, there are two an X and Y chromosome, each parent contributes one to the zygote to get a set. The mother can only contribute an X chromosome, since women are XX, but daddy can contribute either the X (this gives a daughter) or the Y (this gives a son). Ultimately it made sense for researchers to hone in on gene products from the Y chromosome as dictators of the male phenotype in developing organisms and the SRY gene was found. The SRY gene along with some others induce differentiation of cells located in the up-to-this-point gender neutral gonads to pick a side and become male sex organ lineage. The gonads, as depicted in the image, are a pair of undifferentiated sex organs located alongside the mesonephros and are made up of mesodermal germ cells, supporting cells, and steroidogenic cells.  Each of the sex organs, male or female, have both structural elements and hormone-producing elements. The steroidogenic cells will produce the gender-specific hormones when directed to do so. A major hormone that heavily contributes to gender assignment, along with the Y chromosome SRY gene, is the Anti- Müllerian Hormone. As I mentioned in my brief recollection of what goes on in the fetus for sex assignment to occur one of the aforementioned ducts will become the sex organs and the other duct will degrade. The SRY gene product, the Testes Determining Factor, and other genes along for the undifferentiated gonads to take on male characteristics, the supporting cells become Sertoli cells and the steriodogenic cells become the Leydig Cells, these start to make testosterone by week 8. The germ cells in the gonads will become spermatogonia. So now we have cells that will produce testosterone, Leydig cells, to allow for sperm production and the cells that will support sperm production, the Sertoli cells. The Sertoli cells are production site for the anti- Müllerian hormone, which will allow for the degradation of the female-designed pair of ducts, at the 8 week mark. The Wolffian duct will develop into the epididymis, vas deferens, and the seminal vesicles. In the absence of this testis-determination factor, the ovaries will begin to develop in the gonad region around 12 weeks. In the case of ovaries, the supporting cells will differentiate to Theca cells and the steroidogenic cells will become granulosa cells. I’m not sure how much this nomenclature of calling one cell type supporting and the other steroidogenic holds up in the case of a female since these cells but support the developing eggs, oocytes, and both produce hormones. The granulosa cells directly surround the oocyte and produce the various estrogen hormones, while the theca cells are present in the outer layer and make androgens (which the granulosa cells use to make estrogens). The Müllerian duct will become the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the upper vagina. In terms of external genitalia by week 7 the undifferentiated genital tubercle, urogenital groove & sinus, and labioscrotal folds will become the clitoris, urethra, lower vagina, and labia in the absence of testosterone by week 7. For developing boys between weeks 8 and 12 the genital tubercle will become larger forming the penis, while the urogenital groove and sinus will merge to give rise to the urethra & scrotum.
Gender determination can be done a variation of ways at different points in the pregnancy and for different reasons. There is of course the curiosity factor but in some cases learning the gender is done for diagnostic purposes. An amniocentesis or a chorionic villi sampling can be done as early as 15 weeks.   A blood test at or after 7 weeks or confirmation can be done via ultrasonography between 18 and 26 weeks. Generally the first three options are done for diagnostic purposes.
At this point we have discussed in some detail the kidney and the ureters as well as the sex organs including the urethra, the only thing missing from this discussion of the urogenital system is the bladder. And of course since I broke the two up it’s a little tricky throwing the bladder back in, but it comes from the urogenital sinus (which itself comes from the cloaca). The cloaca is the most caudal part of the hindgut and it splits into different regions forming both the bladder and urethra (the urethra is slightly different depending on whether the baby is a girl or a boy) and the rectum and anal canal. The bladder begins development around the 12 week point.

More Food Issues

Jan 18th- Well I’m not winning any pregnant women awards tonight. Went out to dinner and completely forgot I have new dietary restrictions, ordered a salad with unpasteurized cheese on it and a steak that was still mooing. I picked the cheese off the salad and had about two bites of the most cooked, outer portion of the steak and then asked for a box for it figuring I can cook it more so at home. Definitely didn’t bring my A game to dinner with me.

Jan 20th- Still plagued with cooking, I made a paella today which I have never made before (I substituted soy beans for regular peas since peas are the one vegetable I truly hate) did the prep, threw it all in the crockpot, and wanted nothing to do with it when it was ready. What is wrong with me? It’s frustrating, but I think it’s safe to say the culprit is meat. I don’t really eat much meat so I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I don’t want much to do with it now that I am high maintenance tummy wise.

Jan 23rd- Yesterday was a little rough, I had a bad night’s sleep and I think I overdid it working out the previous day so I woke up in pain and very tired. Slept in a bit and started work a little late which no one seemed to mind about, I still haven’t told my boss and manager I am pregnant but I really think I should soon. One of the advantages of working from home is they can’t see my growing belly. Overall I feel very spoiled to work from home in general, but especially while pregnant. I think it’s a beneficial thing for my employer as well because since I have access to my work 7 days a week (we can work anytime M-F 7am-6pm to make up time outside of our regular schedule, but they do like if you stick to your set schedule as much as possible) I haven’t had to take any personal time for pregnancy related appointments and illnesses. Yesterday I probably would have just taken a sick day if I still worked from the office, but I ended up working the majority of my regular hours in my pjs and promptly went back to bed after I finished up.  Now I just need to tack on a half hour to Thursday and Friday to get my full forty hours.