30 May 2009

New weight guidelines and preconception care

Oh man. As if woman needed another thing to make pregnancy and birth less than fun. Is it any wonder that just as the Institute of Medicine released its revisions of the 1990 guidelines for pregnancy weight gain (in a nut shell, continue to limit your weight gain and if you are already overweigh try not to gain any weight at all), as if on cue, Heidi Murkoff released her latest tome, What to Expect Before You're Expecting, which in the tradition of the other What to Expect books capitalises on telling women what to eat, how much weight to gain and how not to be a bad mother all BEFORE they even get pregnant.

Seriously, if anyone could take the fun out of baby making, it would have to be Murkoff. Sure, while conception is by no means easy for everyone, come on. I think it's a pretty sad state of affairs when women are being told to monitor their weight gain before they are even pregnant and treating pregnancy as though it was a 2year process and not just nine months. As Murkoff writes:

"Before you're expecting--and before you even begin trying to expect--is the best time to get both your bodies into tip-top baby-making shape. And that's why I've written What to Expect Before You're Expecting--a complete, step-by-step preconception plan to help you and your partner prep for pregnancy. Whether you're hoping to fill your nest for the first time or the fourth (or more!), a little conception know-how--which lifestyle adjustments you should make now (cut back on caffeine and cocktails) and which you can hold off on (get your sushi while you can!); which foods are fertility-friendly and which are fertility busters (say yes to yams and oysters, so long to saturated fats); how extra weight can weigh on your fertility and his; how to track fertility and pinpoint ovulation--can help you fill that nest faster. What's more, the right preconception protocol can help ensure a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy (think less morning sickness, a lowered risk of premature delivery and gestational diabetes) and a healthier bundle of baby. And the plan doesn't end when you're finished with the prepping. It covers baby-making how-to's, do's, and don'ts--everything you need to know about conception sex (from timing, to logistics, to positions, and more)."

I think this is so dangerous. Some women do everything 'right'. They follow all of the preconception care, they see the best doctors and they still don't get pregnant. To suggest that eating healthy foods and tracking your ovulation will make you a better mother or even ensure that you will become one is ridiculous.

28 May 2009

Sabrina the teenage witch: shameless self-promotion

Blah blah blah. Melissa Joan Hart is 'revealing her bikini body' after having two kids. It's taken her 14 months to get back to 113 lbs after seeing 'horrifying' photos of herself on the beach last year. "I still read blogs about me discussing how fat I've become," the former Sabrina, the Teenage Witch star tells PEOPLE in the new issue, available on newsstands Friday.

"Everyone still thinks I'm huge," says Hart, 33, whose post-pregnancy body was the subject of cruel Internet attacks after she gave birth to sons Mason, 3, and Braydon, 14 months, with husband, Course of Nature lead singer Mark Wilkerson, 32. "But I'm not anymore!"

And I'd like to ask her...has the loss of fat changed her life? Sure, she may say that she's happier, inspired, whatever. What really annoys me is this crap that is constantly fed to women and in particular, post-birth mothers, that suggests that weight loss makes life easier. Sure you can fit into smaller clothes but it doesnt ever change the fact that many women in this world are dealing with juggling a work/life balance and working out is only another pressure among a sea of already existing pressures. Getting into a bikini doesn't change any of that.

Boo to you, MJH.

27 May 2009

"Hee hee hooo": breathing no good when it comes to birthing outcomes

A new Swedish study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reveals that antenatal breathing classes have no measurable benefits. Couples that were taught relaxation techniques, massage and breathing fared no better than couples who were enrolled in standard antenatal classes. The researchers thought that relaxation techiques and breathing would help couples with the stress during birth, lower rates of epidural use and more pleasurable birthing experiences overall. They found, however, that the experiences in both groups were largely identical.

Professor Philip Steer, BJOG editor-in-chief, said: "The findings of this study are contrary to what many of us would expect."

"The lack of benefit from psychoprophylactic techniques is disappointing, and suggests that parents' experience of childbirth is affected more by their personality and previous psychological orientation than by the relatively limited training that is possible during pregnancy. An alternative view is that standard antenatal classes are 'good enough' and therefore represent an effective use of limited resources

What are your thoughts? Did any of you use breathing or relaxation techniques during your labour?

26 May 2009

Depression test for new Australian mums

It won't be long before new Australian mums will be screened for postnatal depression thanks to the work of the national depression group beyond blue. The group is in talks with the federal government to introduce the test and also to support a British study of 1400 women that has revealed that mothers of twins and triplets are almost twice as likely to become depressed. According to recent stats, almost 16% of Aussie mums develop some form of depression and for the most part, help only comes when women are already depressed. A measure to screen new mums nationally would be a step in identifying the triggers for depression and getting women help much earlier. The truth is that many women become depressed antenatally (during pregnancy) but the depression is never identified until postpartum. Based on the results of the British data, beyond blue deputy chief executive Nicole Highet has said that Australian mothers of multiples are at a greater risk of becoming depressed often because of the trauma or challenges involved in getting pregnant (complications with IVF, for example) and in getting the babies into the world safely (caesareans, separation after birth, etc). This is aside from the fact that while having one baby is exhausting, having two or three newborns can be even more so. On top of this, the unrealistic pressures placed on mothers today only makes for a perfect platform for emotional collapse. Highet argues:

"Long-term untreated PND can cause delayed cognitive and emotional development in the baby. The benefits of picking up PND early are immense."

Postnatal depression especially effects the partners of women: Highet notes that 50-60% of partners are also depressed.

Help can not come soon enough. It's amazing: for all of the technology that has managed to save babies in the long run in the US and Australia, for instance, at the same time, technology has also managed to fundamentally change the ways in which women get pregnant, give birth and do motherhood. It is frustrating that with all of the changes that have come to maternity since the rise of hospital birth and obstetrics as a legitimate profession during the Industrial Revolution, there have been very few measures enacted that are solely designed to support mothers emotionally and psychologically. Up until now, we have been very focused on outcomes, making sure the 'products' of birth (e.g. babies) are healthy and that mothers come out on the other end alive. While this is an obvious mark of progress historically (especially in light of my recent post about birth in Tanzania), at the same time, if our mothers aren't happy and well, there is little chance that our babies will also remain healthy and well. Women who are supported (by partners, friends, families, midwives, etc) do much better statistically than women who go at pregnancy, birth and motherhood alone (and this is not implying that all women need to have partners to be good mums). Historically, it has been much more intellectually satisfying for medical professionals to focus on the physical problems associated with pregnancy and birth. Yet, the pastoral care for the mother is extraordinarily important perhaps even more so than the intensive care of infants. The people that ultimately care for babies are parents, and by and large mothers.

If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Baby Bump Project now on Facebook!

Well, the day has finally come. The Baby Bump Project has finally joined Facebook.

If you are on FB (and who isn't these days), become a fan of the BBP has enjoy another space where you can share ideas, post photos, videos or whatever content you think is relevant to other readers like you.

I'm especially interested in having an interactive space where you can more easily speak to each other and also pass on ideas for posts or ask questions. I often would like to respond to comments on the blog but Blogger makes it a bit difficult. Facebook is clearly the solution.

Anyway, join up and leave a message, or a proud photo of you, your baby bump, your post-baby body and anything in between.

Click the link on the right to become a fan!

24 May 2009

Tanzanian women dying in alarming numbers

What can I say. Heartbreaking. Horrifying.

13,000 deaths annually in Tanzania due to what are knows as the 3 delays: delaying going to the hospital, the time lost getting to the hospital and delays once at the hospital in getting treatment. Many hospitals have no obstetricians. Only 20% of Tanzanian women give birth in hospitals, and usually this is only if they need a caesar. Most women cannot afford to go to the hospital, instead giving birth at home or at a local clinic. Women in Africa, in general, have the highest death rate in pregnancy and birth. Nearly 536,000 women die annually. A shortage of qualified doctors has left thousands of women without help during birth. According to the New York Times:

"It is not uncommon for a woman in labor to arrive after a daylong, bone-rattling ride on the back of a bicycle or motorcycle, sometimes with the arm or leg of her unborn child already emerging from her body.

Some arrive too late. In October, a mother who had been in labor for two days died of infection. In November and December, two bled to death. Doctors say they think that more deaths probably occur outside the hospital among the many women who try to give birth at home.

A few minutes’ walk from the hospital is an orphanage that sums up the realities here: it is home to 20 children, all under 3, nearly all of whose mothers died giving birth to them."

This is unacceptable. Half a million African women do not need to die every year.

22 May 2009

Leicester teen birth video: shocking

A mobile phone video of a teenager giving birth in Leicester and republished as a part of a NHS campaign against teen pregnancy has sparked controversy around the world. The graphic depiction of a teenager screaming and giving birth on a playground, surrounded by her classmates taunting her was originally banned on You Tube but has recently reappeared.

"We know this film is hard-hitting but so are the numbers of under-18s getting pregnant in Leicester,' Tim Rideout, chief executive of NHS Leicester City, told Metro UK. "Nearly half the city's wards are classed as teen pregnancy 'hotspots'." Rideout says that posters and leaflets have been ineffective and it was hoped that the video would get the message across.

What do you think?

21 May 2009

Ana Ortiz: baby bump photo shoot

Ugly Betty's Ana Ortiz posed for a pregnancy photo shoot with celebrity preggo photog, Jennifer Loomis. You can check out the video of her shoot at Entertainment Tonight.

"She's got a whole vision, she can see the picture as a whole it's great," Ana says about working with Jennifer. "I feel totally confident that she sees the whole picture and I don't have to worry about that. I can just let it go and let her do the work, and me just sort of have fun."

20 May 2009

SJP opens up about her twins and the surrogate

SJP has opened up about her the imminent birth of her twins by a surrogate living in Ohio with Access Hollywood. Although Parker is clearly excited in the interview, she also notes that she has been distressed that her surrogate has been harassed by the media and her life threatened. Here are some of the highlights:

Why they chose a surrogate: “Well, you know, we’ve been trying to expand our family for a number of years and we actually have explored a variety of ways of doing so,” she said. “This was one of the things we discussed with seriousness that had real possibilities for us.”

On having trouble conceiving: “Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t pretend otherwise,” she said. “It would be a complicated. It would be odd to have made this choice if I was able to, you know, have successful pregnancies since my son’s birth.”

Her reaction to the news: “I mean, giggles!” she said of her reaction when first learning the news. “We didn’t expect it. I think after a certain amount of time, you tend to hold your hopes at bay a bit so as not to be disappointed. One really would have been thrilling and we would’ve felt incredibly lucky. And two was a comedy.”

On the surrogate: “I am incredibly outraged by the sort of extraordinary and unprecedented invasion of her privacy,” Parker said. “The most unsavory things have been done,” she continued. “She’s had her phone hacked, her personal computer information hacked, she’s had threats against her and true harassment… She’s had friends threatened and family threatened and she’s had family of friends threatened.”

On the health of the surrogate: “She is [healthy] today, but she’s had a bad week in the very recent past… You understand what stress, worry and fear and being scared can do,” Parker said. “She’s quite far along in this pregnancy and she’s carrying two children…. There’s simply no excuse for doing this to somebody. It’s not acceptable.”

“I’m beyond comfortable with who she is,” Parker said. “We haven’t been reckless, we haven’t been cavalier. She hasn’t been reckless…. Every single allegation that I know has been suggested about her is absolutely slander, and libel.

“Obviously there are those that don’t care about her, or her health, or safety, or my children’s health and safety, and that they should go to term and not go into an early labor and, god forbid, suffer all the things that can happen — that is a real possibly,” she added.

Have to hand it to SJP. It's not easy to talk about infertility at the best of times, let alone as a celebrity. For all of the people that have questioned her choice 1) to have more children at the age of 44 and 2) to have them through a surrogate, I think it's hard to deny how brave she has been to talk about these issues openly. Never once has she pretended that being a mother and a full-time professional was easy nor has she played much of a part in the whole gushing motherhood/yummy mummy thing like many others in Hollywood.

18 May 2009

Moral panic Monday: Britain's 'oldest mum' at 66

In case you missed it, everyone in the world seems to have their knickers in a knot over the pregnancy of Elizabeth Adeney, 66, now claiming the dubious honour of Britain's 'oldest mum'. Following on from many years of failed IVF attempts, Adeney fell pregnant after treatment at a Ukrainian fertility clinic. Most UK doctors refuse treatment to women of her age and also it is much cheaper to go elsewhere for IVF. Nevertheless, whether you agree with her decision or not, it is hard to deny that this poor woman is being unfairly castigated for choosing to become a mother at what is considered to be a socially inappropriate age. While on some level, I tend to agree that being nearly 67 when you have a newborn is morally ambiguous when you think about whether you will be around long enough to see the child into their teen years, at the same time I am appalled by the personal attacks on this woman's character, her ability to raise a healthy child and her position as a 'divorcee' in recent days. Has anyone forgotten about all of the famous men in their late 60s who have fathered children, receiving only pats on the back and knowing winks by other men for partnering with a woman nearly half their age?

Case in point: talk show host, Larry King. King, who became a father for the fifth time at the age of 65 in 1999 received only praise for having a 39year old (7th) wife and a baby on the way. Last year at the age of 73, he was praised for being a 'better father' to his two young sons, aged 7 and 8 in Ok!:

"Larry King enjoys being a dad at the ripe old age of 73. He loves to take his young sons, Chance, 8, and Cannon, 7, to Dodger games, which is something his older sons, aged 47 and 40, didn’t enjoy enough. “I’m a better father this time,” he tells intern Brandi Tape at The Quaker Smart Heart CafĂ© breakfast. “I have more time to spend with them, and I guess I care more.”

Argh. This makes me so angry. With regard to Adeney, who is expected to give birth by caesarean next week, one fertility doctor has said:

"I do not treat women older than 63,' he said. 'I don't want the child to be left without a mother before they reach 20."

If any of you saw Today this morning in Australia, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt (whom I hate, by the way) had the nerve to say that Adeney was an unfit mother because she was divorced and because she was not providing the child with a father figure. This woman is the manager of a factory and earns a decent living.

I think the issues are being confused. Whether Elizabeth Adeney can be a 'good' mother is completely separate to whether it is appropriate for women over 65 to be able to access IVF. Older men seem to be able to get away with fatherhood late in life with no concern over the very real prospect that some of these men will not be alive to see their children finish high school. Women, on the other hand, are seen as 'past their use by date' once they reach a certain age and I think the threat of an 'older', 'single' and clearly financially secure woman choosing to have a child is what is really at the core of this moral panic about IVF.

16 May 2009

Julia Roberts: bares her 'mummy tummy'

And the arsehole award goes to....The Sun for saying that Julia Robert's needs to tone up her 'mummy tummy'. After photos of Roberts frolicking on the beach in Hawaii, one idiot journalist had this to say about whether Julia 'had the right' (um, excuse me?!) to show her belly off:

"She is a Hollywood icon and we all used to aspire to her stunning looks, eagerly devouring the celeb pages for her latest snaps.

And this picture's kinda ruined that - just like the rest of us mere, flawed mortals, she's not that pleasing picture of perfection we so enjoyed looking at."

Hi, have you had twins? Until you have, pgf. No woman should ever have to apologise for being proud of her body.

Photo credit: Splash

Rebecca Romijn: changed by motherhood blah blah blah

It was only a matter of time before the magazines started to bid over Rebecca Romijn's baby photos...and strangely enough InStyle is the winner. In the June cover feature, the Ugly Betty actress says motherhood makes her feel 'whole' and 'like I understand the meaning of life'. Seriously, gag me. I get so nauseated by the endless celebrity gushing about how amazing motherhood is. Anyway, I was interested by her comments about her post-baby body:

"I feel as sexy as I have ever felt," says Romijn. "I'm a jeans size up from where I usually am, but there's nothing about it that freaks me out—I've always said that sexy is having a really strong sense of yourself and never taking yourself too seriously."

13 May 2009

Japanese pregnant dolls

I've just come across these 19th century pregnant dolls used to train Japanese midwives how to deliver babies. Aside from being a useful teaching tool, the dollls were also used for public entertainment in sideshows that aimed to educate people about the human body. The pregnant doll's abdomen opens to show foetuses at different stages of development.

11 May 2009

Maternity leave payments just in time for Mother's Day

Just in time for Mother's Day, Australia is finally catching up with the rest of the developed world: From 2011, primary caregivers (men or women) will be eligible for 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage ($544 per week). Although the scheme has been chopped in order to lighten the load to tax payers (loss of paternity payment and means testing), this is a historic point in Australia's history as working women have been campaigning for nearly 30 years to have the right to be compensated for staying at home. Stay-at-home mums, however, will not have access to the scheme but can make use of baby bonus payments and the family tax benefit.

Is anyone else out there excited?

09 May 2009

New book tell women to bond with their 'bump'

I just came across this new book, Postcards from the Bump in which the authors claim:

"Pregnant women are often advised on what to eat and how to take care of their health to nurture their developing babies. But they are rarely encouraged to get to know their unborn baby's personality. But now comes Postcards from the Bump, a guide for expectant mothers who want to bond with their babies long before they're born."

"You've got double the reason to be happy and take care of yourself because if Mommy is happy, baby is happy," Beanland says."[We suggest] going on date with your bump [baby] and kind of checking out the playground or exploring the places you're going to take your baby to once he or she gets here."

I'm sorry but this makes me insanely angry. I'm all for pregnant women having access to books that are less prescriptive (less about telling you what to do) and more about enjoying pregnancy. At the same time, however, I find it very problematic that women are encouraged or expected to think about their 'bumps' as 'babies' from the moment they conceive. As many of you would already know from having your own children, pregnancy is not always fun and games. Many women don't actually feel pregnant until they feel movement or after having an ultrasound, and even then, the idea that the thing resising in your belly will be a child one day is an extremely abstract concept and even after feeling movement, a number of women in my study told me that they still had a hard time believing that the thing moving around inside was a baby.

While I'm sure the authors of the book have nothing but good intentions, I feel like the more we focus on the hummanness of foetuses and continue to construct them as 'babies' at earlier points in pregnancy, this can lead to a slippery slope in other areas of life particularly when it comes to the rights of mothers v. the rights of foetuses (or babies, depending on what you believe). One of the reasons that abortion is so contentious, aside from the religious points of contention, has to do with the fact that as we increasingly develop more sophisticated ways in which to view foetuses with ultrasound with extremely human-like features, this has set a new precedent for understanding when foetuses are actually 'babies' or 'human'. A book like this only contributes to the fact that women should feel as though they should be bonding to their foetuses at all times and does not account for the times when pregnancy is unwanted. Besides, encouraging women to think about the baby's personality outside of the womb is also problematic considering many births do not always end in happiness. Can you imagine a woman reading this book and having a stillbirth? I think the authors give too much credit to the imprinting that takes place in the womb and not enough credit to the influences of the outside world. Babies are not 'made' in the womb, their personalities are developed through interactions with the people in the world around them.

Anyone have any thoughts? How bonded did you feel to your baby/foetus during pregnancy? Am I totally wrong?

08 May 2009

How 'cooked' is your baby?

A maternity t-shirt for the new millenium......

SJP surrogate identified

It was only a matter of time before the identity of Sarah Jessica Parker's surrogate was revealed, and in only the most credible of sources, Star magazine. The surrogate is allegedly Michelle Ross, a 28 year divorced mother of one from Ohio. The media, however, is making a big deal of that fact that the surrogate's MySpace page claims that she is a bisexual rocker with tattoos. After losing a first pregnancy of her own in high school, the surrogate claims she found her 'dark side'. Of course, the ex-husband of this woman has also been interviewed in which claims she is happy to have the babies of other people but doesn't look after her own son. I find it interesting that anyone even cares whether any of this information is true. If indeed this woman is SJP's surrogate, it's not as though any of the surrogate's genetic information is going to influence the development of the babies. Just because Ross claims to have had pink hair a love for spiked heels, does that necessarily discount her from being a good surrogate? Would it have been better for everyone if she wore cardigans and pearls?

06 May 2009

Is breast best?

Well, it seems as though the debate surrounding whether breast is best has been revived after the tragic death of a British mum, Kathy Isden, who committed suicide by falling off the roof of her New York apartment block as a result of feeling so distraught about not being able to breastfeed her son. Due to see a lactation consultant on the day of her death last November, the 29 year old first-time mum was found by her husband on a neighbour's patio early that morning. Although Isden was thought to be depressed at the time, it is still not clear whether she jumped or fell from the roof.

As so many mothers know, breastfeeding is not always easy and it is definitely not 'natural'. As horrific as this incident truly is, it is not surprising that something which is supposed to be a 'choice' for women, can have such devastating effects on those women that cannot perform according to our quite narrow social views of what makes mothers 'good'. While there are certainly other factors that probably contributed to Isden's death, nevertheless, the pressure to be a 'good' mother clearly had a hand in her decision to take her own life (if indeed it was suicide).

Thankfully, the Australian Breastfeeding Association has been blessed with some extra cash to better resource its national breastfeeding helpline. According to recent reports, the line has experienced a 30 per cent increase in calls since March, with more than 28,328 calls received between October and April.

05 May 2009

OctoMom and other bits and pieces

Sorry it has been a few days, what an insane week. Teaching is exhausting at the moment so I apologise for silence on my end.

Anyway, I made it to Clunes (a small mining town near Ballarat) this past weekend where a number of antiquarian and second hand booksellers fill every available building in the town with books. I'm always on the look out for great pregnancy/maternity/motherhood stuff and this year I found a huge stack of Australian Women's Weekly mags from the 50s and 60s with some amazing ads for maternity clothes, infant formula and other hilarious enticements for women to really learn to love ironing. I will be scanning some of those images and posting them soon.

In other news, interestingly, it turns out that Nadya Suleman is getting into a bit of hot water over her continual 'exploitation' (in the eyes of California state law) of her babies as she has been contracting them out for photographs and other appearances. Turns out she might be in breach of child labour laws. Attorney Gloria Allred has filed a petition to appoint a guardian for the babies' estate, basically a party that will protect the financial interests of the babies.

"Rather than chose to provide her children with a normal life, their mother, Nadya Suleman, has chosen to commercially exploit them," Allred said. "We believe that the babies are entitled to remuneration since most of the compensation appears to be use of their images."

The goal, she added, is "to be sure that the babies receive their fair share of payments" and that their payments "be placed into separate accounts for them and preserved for them as required by law."

According to California law, when filming or photographing children, a nurse and credentialed studio teacher must be present and children -- ages 15 days to six months -- also can only be at the place of employment for two consecutive hours (between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. or between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.). Infants can't work any more than 20 minutes each day.

Looks like OctoMom just walked into a whole lot of trouble...

01 May 2009

Rebecca Romijn drops baby weight

Surprise, surprise. Rebecca Romijn has lost 60 lbs after giving birth to twins four months ago. Apparently, she says it was all due to breastfeeding:

"It's like you have to eat 5,000 extra calories a day or you can't produce enough food for them. So, that's been fun as well". [You only need a few hundred extra calories, but who's counting, right?)

The actress hasn't been exercising either:

"I think within the first three weeks, I took off like 35 lbs. without doing anything!" says says. "I haven't been able to work out that much because I have twins. It's impossible to get back into a regular schedule."

But she does acknowledge, "I'm not pretending to be back to the shape I was in beforehand anyway. I still have a ways to go. We've got Spanx underneath almost everything."

If only it were that easy for everyone else....
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The Baby Bump Project by Meredith Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.