Sex During Pregnancy: The Full Rubdown On What’s Safe, What’s Normal, What Not To Do

sex during pregnancy

Just because you’re knocked up doesn’t mean you cease to be interested in sex — after all, in most cases, it’s the cause of your current state. Still, it’s understandable if you pump the brakes on your love life as soon as you start to experience those first few signs of pregnancy. A hundred questions might be running through your head and, let’s be real, at least a few probably revolve around whether a penis or a dildo can poke your baby in utero during pregnancy sex.

Fortunately, you’re still allowed to get frisky while you’re pregnant (and, thanks to surging hormones, you might be frisky AF). We’re here to help put your mind at ease and set your libido free as we explore the effects, advantages, benefits and everything in between of sex during pregnancy.

Is sex safe during pregnancy?

In a word, yes. “Sex during a normal pregnancy is perfectly acceptable and actually it is recommended,” board-certified OB-GYN Geoffrey Cly, MD, of HonestObgyn.com told Scary Mommy. “Sex is very important for intimacy, especially since your emotions will be going up and down and many women want to feel that closeness.”

So, during an uncomplicated pregnancy, it’s all systems go where sex is concerned. And it’s a good thing, too. As much as your brain may have pumped the brakes at first, your hormones could be revving up. Explained Dr. Cly, “I have women tell me their sex drive has never been higher and they want to have sex with their partner all the time [during pregnancy]. It is usually the partner, in these instances, who is holding back or concerned they will bump the baby.”

Is sex during pregnancy ever off-limits?

While it isn’t the norm, some pregnancies preclude sex — and, more specifically, climaxing — during certain stages or, in rare cases, altogether. According to Dr. Cly, these include preterm labor, shortening of the cervix (either naturally or after a cervical cerclage), and placenta previa. “This is because the uterus contracts during an orgasm,” said Dr. Cly, noting that uterine contractions could cause labor to kick in early in women with these conditions. Breast stimulation and certain hormones in semen called prostaglandins can also cause uterine contractions.

So, can climaxing cause miscarriage?

No. The conditions mentioned simply make women more susceptible to being sent into early labor by uterine contractions, which can caused by orgasms. But per the Mayo Clinic, most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally. Other reasons your OB-GYN may put a moratorium on sex during pregnancy? If you have unexplained vaginal bleeding, have a history of preterm labor or premature birth, have a history of miscarriage, or are pregnant with multiples. Also, if your water has already broken, sex increases the risk of infection.

If you’re concerned or have any of these conditions, make sure you talk to your health care provider before you put those pregnancy hormones to good use.

Should you take any sex precautions during pregnancy?

In a healthy pregnancy, your baby is protected by the strong muscles of your uterus, amniotic fluid, and an infection-barrier mucus plug that blocks the opening of the cervix. And while that’s a pretty kickass protective trio your body has created, there are additional precautions you can take during pregnancy if you plan to be sexually active.

As always, it’s imperative to protect yourself — and, when you’re pregnant, your baby — from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These diseases and/or infections can be passed to you if you have unprotected sex or other intimate physical contact with someone who is already infected. You can get STIs from vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Because STIs can have negative effects on your baby during pregnancy and birth, you obviously want to be cautious. So, if you’re having sex while pregnant, make sure you know your partner’s sexual history. If possible, avoid sex with someone who has other sexual partners. Don’t have sex with your partner if they have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. And always use a condom, especially if you’re not in a mutually monogamous relationship or if you’re having sex with a new partner.

Need more incentive to glove up before you love up?  Although it’s extremely rare (like, fewer than a dozen cases reported), superfetation is the fertilization and implantation of a second ovum sometime after the start of a pregnancy. As in, it is possible to get pregnant while pregnant. Just FYI.

Are any types of sex off-limits during pregnancy?

As we’ve already established, vaginal sex is generally A-OK during pregnancy unless your OB-GYN or midwife has told you otherwise. What about other types of sex, though?

Sex with toys: The common perception is that vaginal sex is when a male inserts his penis into a female’s vagina. However, it can also include the penetration of the vagina by a woman, man, or non-binary partner with sex toys, fingers, and/or the tongue (more on the latter in a minute). Accordingly, there are a few safety caveats.

“Inserting a sex toy into the lower part of the vagina will not cause any problems as long as that toy has been cleaned properly and does not have any bacteria hiding on it,” said Dr. Cly, noting that rough sex with toys could be troublesome. “Vigorously pushing a toy all the way up to the upper vagina and cervix could cause problems and initiate some preterm labor and preterm contractions. And in severely aggressive thrusting, the toy could disrupt the placenta and cause major bleeding or an abruption. So, if someone wants to use a toy, I would recommend using it on the outside or only in the lower part of the vagina that is close to the outside.”

Oral sex: In a healthy pregnancy with two healthy partners, oral sex is typically deemed safe. Still, there are points of concern. For women receiving oral sex, it is crucial that your partner doesn’t blow air into the vaginal opening. Trapped air bubbles can enter the placenta as an air embolism, which can cause problems with fetal development. Also, the pressure differential caused by trapped air can cause blood vessels to rupture.

As far as giving goes, oral sex is “likely” safe. Said Dr. Cly on the subject, “A pregnant woman can perform oral sex on a male partner, but she might have an increased gag reflex because of the pregnancy hormones.” If you aren’t in a mutually monogamous relationship, use a condom while performing oral sex to protect against STIs.

Anal sex: Anal sex is a bit more complicated. Although it’s unlikely to harm the baby, it’s probably still best to ask your health care provider if it’s OK to have anal sex during your pregnancy. There are two primary concerns.

First, bacteria like Giardia and Group B Streptococcus often colonize the rectum. If vaginal or oral sex follows anal sex, or if there is any touching of hands or genitals after anal sex, that bacteria can be spread to the vaginal tract. There, it can cause infections that could be dangerous for the baby in utero or even be transmitted to the infant during delivery. Second, because anal sex is more likely to damage tissue, it’s easier to transmit or contract STIs through anal sex.

Plus, anal sex might be uncomfortable if you’re dealing with pregnancy-related hemorrhoids (which, ugh, are the worst but common in your state). Anal could even cause the hemorrhoids to become inflamed or ruptured, and anal bleeding definitely merits a call to your doc.

What sex positions are best during pregnancy?

Obviously, your body goes through a lot of changes while baking up that beautiful little human (or humans) in your belly. This means that sex positions which worked before pregnancy or in the early stages of pregnancy might not work later — some may even cease to be safe. Take, for example, the flat-on-your-back “missionary position.” After your fourth month of pregnancy, the weight of your growing baby could constrict major blood vessels and put added pressure on your internal organs.

But, as a general rule of thumb, any sex position you find comfortable during pregnancy is probably okay… within reason. In other words, it’s probably best to avoid sexual acrobatics that could leave you more prone to slipping and falling. Otherwise, get creative! As your pregnancy progresses, keep the lines of communication open with your partner about what works for you. As your belly grows, you might feel more comfortable in positions that allow you to control the depth and speed of penetration, like woman on top. Spooning, in which your partner lies behind you, could be nice since it relieves the amount of pressure placed on your belly.

Wondering if doggy-style is safe during pregnancy? Probably. Just make sure you’re on a soft, non-slip surface (like the bed). “A woman’s center of gravity is different because of the weight of the fluid and the baby in the placenta, causing her to be off-balance toward the end of her pregnancy,” explained Dr. Cly. And, no, your partner’s penis isn’t going to ram into your baby’s head. Fear not; that isn’t where dimples come from.

What are the benefits of sex during pregnancy?

As for whether pregnancy-time sex is good or bad, the general consensus is… good! In fact, there are several benefits of sex during pregnancy. Ask any woman who has had a super-powerful pregnancy orgasm, and she’ll undoubtedly tell you the same — you can thank increased blood flow to the genitals for that. Other positive effects of sex during pregnancy include burning calories, releasing feel-good endorphins, creating intimacy with your partner, boosting your immune system, and enhancing your sense of happiness.

There are even benefits of sperm during pregnancy. “I do recommend couples have sex when they are approaching their due date to help stimulate contractions and cervical dilation. The sperm have prostaglandin chemicals in them that will help soften and dilate the cervix,” said Dr. Cly, adding that climaxing “will help the uterus to contract, and that can help with dilation and descent of the baby.”

Is there a point you should stop having sex during pregnancy?

Unless you’ve been given specific instructions otherwise by your health care provider, you should be able to enjoy sex throughout your pregnancy. Still, use your best judgment. If something seems off, tell your provider. This could be anything from heavy bleeding and cramping to fluid gushes too substantial to be discharge or ejaculate.”This happened to one of my pregnant couples when they were having sex close to her due date,” Dr. Cly shared. “The amniotic fluid broke while they were having sex and she was on top in a cowgirl position. She also had more amniotic fluid than normal. The fluid splashed all over him and he completely freaked out, thinking he broke her water and knocked his baby in the head.”

Naturally, the man hadn’t knocked his baby in the head, and everyone was fine (if not a little traumatized). The moral of the story? You should be fine to have sex all the way up to your due date, but your body is a complex matrix of creation right now. You never know what might happen. Just keep calm and give your OB-GYN or midwife a call if you’re concerned.

Are there consequences of not having sex during pregnancy?

Admittedly, there aren’t many disadvantages of sex during pregnancy to speak of. However, that doesn’t mean there are consequences of not having sex. The truth is you might not be in the mood, and that’s okay. Hormonal surges make some people feel extra sexy during pregnancy. For others, the hormones are overridden by pesky little pregnancy symptoms like nausea, constipation, hemorrhoids, headaches, back pain, and more.

Toward the end of your pregnancy especially, you may consider hanging a “do not disturb” sign on your vagina door. Because your baby and belly are both growing, you’re more prone to aches, pains, and fatigue. This may equal uncomfortable or painful sex during pregnancy in the third trimester. Basically, you might find yourself more interested in what’s about to come out of you than anything that might go in.

Those feelings are valid. Share them with your partner so that you can explore other ways of being loving. If no sex during pregnancy sounds like your speed, you can be intimate through kissing, cuddling, massage, making out, or even mutual masturbation. There is more to intimacy than just sex.

Written by Julie Sprankles.

Read More:

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The Ramzi Method: Can It Really Determine Baby’s Sex During Early Ultrasounds?

ramzi method, ramzi theory, baby ultrasound

Second only to the anticipation of a pregnancy test result, expecting parents excitedly turn their attention to the next big reveal coming their way: the baby’s sex. Many new parents want to find out the gender of their baby before the birth for a number of reasons. Maybe you want to get a jump start on baby names, or maybe you want to plan the nursery color scheme or maybe your family has a genetic history of a particular disorder that’s linked to gender. Whatever the reason, most parents won’t learn of the sex of their baby until about halfway during the pregnancy — between 16 and 20 weeks. But what if you want to find out sooner? Is there a way for you to discover if you’re having a boy or girl as soon as possible? Apparently the answer is yes, according to the Ramzi method.

What is the Ramzi Method, anyway?

The Ramzi method, or Ramzi theory, was developed by Dr. Saam Ramzi Ismail and claims that you can predict a baby’s sex as early as six weeks into your pregnancy by determining how and where the placenta formed by viewing images from an ultrasound. According to the Ramzi method, if your placenta is forming on the right side of your uterus, the baby is most likely a boy. If it’s forming on the left side, it’s probably a girl.

Who is Dr. Saam Ramzi Ismail?

There is some controversy surrounding the theory, and much of that has to do with Ismail himself. For starters, Ismail is not a medical doctor. Rather he holds a doctorate in Public Health and a master’s degree in medical ultrasounds. According to Baby Center, the Ramzi method appears to have started with an unauthored research paper published in 2011 on the website ObGyn.net, which was later attributed to Ismail. According to the paper, the Ramzi method correctly predicted the fetus gender in 97.2 percent of males and 97.5 percent of females early in the first trimester.

However, as Baby Center points out, it’s important to note that ObGyn.net isn’t a peer-reviewed medical journal, which means research papers published on the site aren’t necessarily legit because they don’t need to be reviewed by other scientists or medical experts to ensure it’s scientifically valid.

According to a 2014 interview with Ismail, the intention of the study wasn’t actually meant to help women discover the sex of their babies earlier. “The research was designed to help those women with XXY (otherwise known as Klinefelter Syndrome) or other syndromes that can be seen in one gender than other and give an early management start to parents and doctor to make the correct choice, and it is also good for helping the[sic] vet science with endangered species like panda etc  if we want to select male or female,” Ismail wrote to Bottlesoup.com.

What does the medical community think of the Ramzi Theory?

For the most part, the Ramzi method isn’t supported by the medical community at large. A 2010 Australian study published in Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology found “there is no relationship between placental location and fetal gender. Ultrasound assessment of genital tubercle is a more useful tool for prediction of fetal gender in early pregnancy.”

Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline that because the sex organs begin to form in an embryo at four weeks, then “it would be really amazing to learn that someone could find out this information only two weeks later, with a 97 percent accuracy rate.”

Should you try it?

There’s no real harm in trying the Ramzi method for fun. But it would be fair to say that you shouldn’t share your results with friends and family until you go for your mid-pregnancy ultrasound around 16 or 20 weeks when your baby’s genitals are developed enough for your doctor to recognize. If you’re concerned about any potential genetic abnormalities based on sex, then you should ask your doctor about other prenatal tasks like an amniocentesis or a maternal blood test.

This article was written by Brianne Hogan. 

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The Best And Spiciest Sex Positions for Each Trimester Of Your Pregnancy

sex positions during pregnnacy

With your hormones going haywire during pregnancy, it could mean that you’re down to get down any time, or maybe you’re not interested in sex at all. Either way is completely normal, but you also may be wondering whether it’s even safe to have sex while you’re pregnant. The good news is that yes, it is. But are certain sex positions better than others during those nine-ish months? Glad you asked. 

Before we get going, consider this your friendly reminder that the idea of “sex” is not exclusive to penis or dildo-in-vagina penetration: there are other forms — like anal and oral — that can be pretty great, too. For the purpose of the first part of this article, though, we’re going to focus on positions for vaginal penetrative sex (we’ll get to the other fun stuff later on). So without further ado, here’s our pregnancy sex positions guide, broken down by trimester. 

First Trimester — You On Top

For a lot of pregnant people, the first trimester can be rough, between the possible fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. In addition to the mood swings and breast tenderness, you are also experiencing increased blood flow to the pelvis, Dr. Lisa M. Valle, an OB-GYN and medical director of Oasis Women’s Sexual Function Center in Santa Monica, CA tells Scary Mommy. This can have various effects on your sex drive, including increasing genital sensitivity and vaginal lubrication, as well as causing discomfort, she explains.  

“Assuming your obstetrician or nurse midwife has not advised against sexual intercourse due to obstetrical or medical indications, vaginal intercourse can normally resume without any special accommodations during this trimester,” Valle explains. “However, it would be advisable to avoid rough play.”  

Like being on top? Might as well go for it during your first trimester, before your bump starts growing and may make it more difficult to get in this position further down the line.

If at any point during or after sex you experience heavy spotting or bleeding, you should call your physician immediately. 

Second Trimester — Doggy Style & Side-Lying Entry

During the second trimester, your breasts and uterus have grown significantly, and your bump is starting to get noticeable. In general, sex should not be painful, Valle says. Having said that, you  are going to want to avoid any sex positions where pressure is applied to your abdomen. “Your partner should not place his/her weight on your belly,” she explains. “The blood supply to the uterus can be decreased if this occurs. This also applies to the third trimester.”

Your best bets for your second semester are side-lying entry or rear entry positions (yes, like doggy style). According to Valle, these are good examples of positions that avoid any abdominal pressure or weight on the belly. 

Another thing you want to keep in mind is that your cervix might bleed easily with deep penetration, she explains, so she advises sticking with positions involving shallow thrusting, like having the woman on top, and variations of sitting and standing positions. 

Starting at approximately four to five months, Valle recommends avoiding lying flat on your back to prevent blood flow to the uterus and fetus decreasing. This is because “the uterus is quite large at this point and by its sheer weight can place too much pressure on your vessels,” she adds. 

Third Trimester — Side-By-Side

By your third trimester, you’ve probably figured out which positions work best for you and your partner (but mostly you, because you’re the pregnant one). Valle says that the same type of positions mentioned for the second trimester can apply to the third trimester as well — like a nice side-by-side position. It’s still important to be careful to avoid lying on your back for the same reasons mentioned above. You may also find that it’s more challenging to find a position that feels comfortable as your body continues to grow and change. 

Safe Sex During Pregnancy

In addition to making sure sex is safe for you and your developing fetus, you may also want to take additional precautions in certain situations. For example, if you are not in a mutually monogamous relationship or you start having sex with a new partner, you’re going to want to use a condom, the Mayo Clinic advises. Also, avoid having vaginal, oral, or anal sex with any partner who has an active or recently diagnosed sexually transmitted infection. Contracting an STI during pregnancy can cause complications for both you and your fetus, depending on the type of infection

Other Types Of Sex During Pregnancy

Anal Sex 

Whether you’re pregnant or not, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that vaginal penetration sex is not the sexual be-all-end-all and there are plenty of other ways to be intimate and experience pleasure — with or without a partner. For example, though you may think that anal sex may be off the table during pregnancy, Valle says that’s not necessarily the case — you just need to use plenty of lube. And we probably shouldn’t have to tell you this, but if you’re one of the lucky ones who develops hemorrhoids during pregnancy, anal is probably not a good idea. However, the American Pregnancy Association notes that you should proceed with caution when it comes to anal sex. This is because certain infections like Giardia (giardiasis) and Group B Streptococcus (GBS) “often colonize the rectum and can be spread to the vaginal tract if vaginal or oral sex follows anal sex, or if there is any touching (hands or genitals) after anal sex.” So if you’re going the anal route, please keep sexual hygiene in mind.

Oral Sex

According to Valle, oral sex is safe during pregnancy as well. However, according to the APA, when receiving oral sex, it is important that your partner does not blow any air into your vaginal tract (hey, everyone has their preferences). “A bubble can cause a pressure differential which may burst blood vessels near the surface,” the organization explains. “This may cause vaginal bleeding or more serious effects.”

And as we discussed before, if you’re having sex with a new parter, someone with an STI or aren’t in a mutually monogamous relationship, you’re going to want to use a condom or dental dam to make sure you’re protected.

Masturbation

Lastly, don’t forget about masturbation. You may have other things on your mind while you’re pregnant (or maybe not…) but in general, it’s pretty safe unless you have a high-risk pregnancy, Healthline reports. In fact, having an orgasm — via solo or mutual masturbation — can help relieve tension. Also, it feels really good and may be a good option if penetrative sex with a partner has become uncomfortable. 

The bottom line is that the best sex positions during pregnancy are the ones that work and are most comfortable for you, assuming you have a normal, not-high-risk pregnancy. As always, keep safety in mind, when it comes to both the position as well as STI prevention. Also, have fun — it may be harder to find time to be intimate when the baby arrives.

Written by Elizabeth Yuko. 

The post The Best And Spiciest Sex Positions for Each Trimester Of Your Pregnancy appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Braxton Hicks Are The Liar Contractions No One Asked For

pregnancy contractions, braxton hicks contractions, pregnant woman, pregnant belly

Remember that Friends episode in which a pregnant Rachel was experiencing weird symptoms, so Joey took her to the hospital to get it checked out? While she was afraid she might be going into labor, it was discovered that she had experienced Braxton Hicks contractions. While Ross and the doctor seemed to think it was no big deal (Ross: “Most women don’t even feel ’em”), Rachel famously said, “No uterus, no opinion.”

So what are Braxton Hicks contractions anyway? While it might not initially feel like it, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), Braxton Hicks is basically harmless false labor. The term is named after the doctor who first described them back in 1872. Essentially, you can think of it as your uterus preparing for the birth of your baby.

What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

While they can start as early as the second trimester, Braxton Hicks usually occur near the end of the third trimester as your body is getting ready to welcome your bundle of joy. Some physicians and midwives believe that they play a part in toning the uterine muscle and promoting the flow of blood to the placenta in preparation for the real thing. But, don’t worry: Braxton Hicks won’t ultimately lead to delivery. You can think of them as “practice” contractions. Yay.

What causes these “practice” contractions?

For the most part there is no clear explanation why Braxton Hicks occur. Healthline reports they could be ignited by an active day, while the APA reports they can be triggered by anything from a full bladder, dehydration, or having sex. There’s really no rhyme or reason why some women experience them. However if you’ve been walking a lot near the end of your pregnancy, rushing around to get a million things done to prepare for your new little one or if you just orgasmed, then, don’t be surprised if you start to feel something funky down there. It’s perfectly normal if you initially freak out like Rachel did, but it’s important to remember that experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions is a natural part of pregnancy for many women. Think of it this way: you get to practice your breathing exercises.

What do Braxton Hicks contractions feel like? 

You’ll feel a squeezing around the front of your abdomen that might scare you but it’s not super painful. At least not as much as the real thing. The discomfort that you feel is really the muscles of the uterus tightening. Typically, Braxton Hicks contractions last for approximately 30 to 60 seconds, and sometimes as long as two minutes. Your cervix might also thin out (like it will in real labor) but in most cases it won’t. Unlike real contractions, Braxton Hicks happen sporadically and don’t increase in frequency or intensity. Eventually they will taper off and disappear altogether. That’s when you know it’s not real contractions. It stops.

What you can do to alleviate the pain.

The APA suggests a variety of remedies to reduce Braxton Hicks symptoms. If you’ve been standing or sitting for a long period of time, you should try to switch it up to get more comfortable. Because they might occur due to dehydration, you should also ensure you’re filling up on water. Taking a warm bath for 30 minutes or less is another option. Essentially, you want to relax and indulge in some self-care as much as possible. When in doubt, contact your physician. And don’t forget to repeat Rachel’s words if anyone tells you Braxton Hicks aren’t a big deal. (They really aren’t, but it’s still super fun to say: “No uterus, no opinion.”)

Written by Brianne Hogan.

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Pregnancy Congestion: How To Survive A Stuffy Nose While Pregnant

pregnant woman with stuffy nose, pregnant woman, pregnant belly

Pregnancy congestion may not sound like a big deal, that is, until you have it. Turns out, breathing is kind of essential to being a human and all. And with a tiny new baby pressing on your diaphragm, a constant stuffy nose can make the whole inhaling and exhaling shebang pretty hard.

Plus, once that morning sickness subsides, congestion can keep you from tasting all those delicious pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Or, you know, that pint of frozen yogurt. After all, we’re eating a balanced diet.

Luckily, there are some pretty good ways to help you alleviate all those congestion symptoms.

Wait, why is pregnancy giving me a stuffy nose?

Don’t worry, congestion is just another super weird but totally normal symptom of pregnancy. It’s called pregnancy rhinitis.

It’s all those hormones in your body creating more mucous and screwing with your schnoz. Also, because there’s so much more blood coursing through your veins while pregnant, blood can flow to the nasal passages and expand your veins. The increase in blood flow can make your nose feel gross, and aside from congestion, can also give you nose bleeds. Fun times!

How can you treat congestion when you’re pregnant?

There are some great, natural ways that will help alleviate your pregnancy congestion.

  • Hydrate: Yes, you’re already running to the bathroom a billion times a day, but drinking water does help your nose from getting even more stopped up. So keep that little bottle of water near and dear.
  • Get a humidifier: Dryness can really make your congestion worse. So whenever you can, be around a working humidifier. Or two, or three. Fill your house with luxurious mist and walk through it like the mysterious badass you are. You can even add a relaxing essential oil to help you sleep better, as long as it doesn’t irritate your nose.
  • Elevate your head while sleeping: As bad as congestion is when you’re walking around just trying to live your pregnant life, it can get downright suffocating when you’re lying down. So make sure to prop your head up. Maybe invest in a luxurious pregnancy pillow? After all, it’s important to get as much sleep as possible before your little one comes along and (very adorably) steals all your precious sleep.
  • Get a move on: Turns out, exercise helps with congestion. Which, we know, is easier said than done, especially when you’re struggling to breathe. We definitely would not recommend a Cross Fit class, but a brisk walk or a prenatal yoga class can do wonders.

Other natural remedies you can use to treat pregnancy congestion:

  • Use a neti pot: Let’s face it, neti pots seem gross. But also, they can be magical creations that help your nose breathe free. Seriously, pregnancy is already gross enough, why not give it a try. Just be sure to keep that baby super clean and only use filtered water in it.
  • Use saline drops: Saline drops are basically water and salt, so they’re totally pregnancy safe. You can even make your own solution by mixing 1 cup of warm water with 1/8 tsp salt and a tiny pinch of baking soda. Oh, salty, salty relief.
  • Nasal strips: As mentioned above, sleep is super important. Nasal strips might not be a turn on for your bedmate, but they will help you breathe better at night.

What congestion medicine can you can take while pregnant?

Consult your doctor before you take any medication, as they may recommend the safest over-the-counter decongestants. And make sure to check back in with your doctor if your rhinitis gets too severe.

The good news is that pregnancy rhinitis will disappear completely about 2 weeks after you give birth, even though that may feel like it’s eons away when you’re in the middle of your pregnancy. But we’re here to tell you, you will breathe like a human again.

Written by Lior Zaltzman.

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I Had An Ectopic Pregnancy — But I Didn’t Even Know I Was Pregnant

Confusion. Shock. Grief. Sadness. Heartache. Fear.

A whole bunch of feelings that were neither expected nor invited to show up on an ordinary Wednesday morning. It was the week of spring break and my husband had taken the day off work. He was in the kitchen cutting sweet pastries from our favorite bakery into tiny bite sized pieces for our three kiddos who were eagerly ready for a day of “family fun.” They’d been looking forward to this day all week and while they were starting their morning in the very best way, I was hiding in the bathroom.

I had been on the phone with an OB nurse explaining that I’d been fighting menstrual cramps since Saturday and I had reached the point in which they were literally bringing me to my knees. I hadn’t slept well the night before and despite numerous warm baths, Tylenol, and heating pads, the pain was just no longer something I could tolerate. As I spoke with the nurse, I admitted feeling guilty and even a little embarrassed for being a 31-year-old adult female calling to complain of cramps. I mean, c’mon, I should be able to toughen up and handle this, right?

I didn’t know.

The nurse listened and talked through my symptoms for several minutes. She gently asked me to take a pregnancy test — you know, just to rule things out. “I know I’m on my period. I’m not pregnant,” I told her. Still, she encouraged me to take the test, “Just as a precaution. Go ahead and take it. I see the doctor coming down the hall so I’m gonna talk to him real quick and call you back.”

Fine… I peed on the stupid stick. I sat waiting for those single lines to confirm what I already knew and moments later, the nurse was calling me back. “It’s negative,” I told her. “There are only two lines.”

As I listened for her response, I glanced down and noticed another faint line slowly emerging. “Wait a minute. No, there’s another line showing up. Wait, there’s definitely a plus sign showing. Oh my God, I think I’m pregnant. Am I really pregnant? What does that mean?”

I didn’t know.

I yelled for my husband and burst into tears. I showed him the test and we stood together, looking at this little stick that had always been something that brought us happy and exciting news in the past. I had never even considered that a positive pregnancy test could actually indicate a very negative outcome.

I simply didn’t know.

The nurse was gentle and careful with her words. She told me that I needed to come in to be evaluated. I prepared myself for some very difficult conversations — to hear that there was no heartbeat and to be given confirmation that this unexpected nightmare was in fact, reality. I told my husband to stay home with the kids while I went in to be seen. I don’t know why I didn’t push for him to come with me. In hindsight, that was weird. But in the moment, I was in shock. And I was scared.

And I just didn’t know.

I arrived for labs and ultrasound and was immediately called in by a tech. I still remember her face. She had those eyes. You know, those sympathetic, sad puppy dog eyes. I told her it was okay.

“I know why I’m here…. Please just be honest with what you see.”

I didn’t know what else to tell her so I got undressed and laid in the chair. I was cold and uncomfortable and doing my best to get through this inevitable nightmare. The tech told me that she saw fluid. A LOT of fluid. There was nothing in my uterus.

“Have you ever heard of an ectopic pregnancy?” she asked. She told me that she needed to call my physician so that he could talk to me. As she left the room, I grabbed my phone and quickly Googled, “ectopic pregnancy.” I took a quick screenshot and sent it to my husband with the message, “This is what’s happening. I’m waiting on the doctor now.” I had no other information, I didn’t know what an ‘ectopic pregnancy’ was, and I didn’t have time to let Google do any more research for me.

I didn’t know.

The tech returned and explained that my doctor probably wanted to speak with me in his office, rather than in ultrasound so I grabbed my things and she walked me down a back hallway to a room labeled, “Education.” Seconds later, a nurse arrived telling me that we needed to go downstairs to the ER. Okay, at this point, I was just going through the motions. I didn’t know why I was being moved from room to room. I had no idea what was going on. I was still in shock.

And I still didn’t know.

The nurse took me directly to patient registration. As the receptionist asked for my license and insurance card, I heard my phone ring. It was my husband. I hadn’t talked with him since sending that quick text earlier in the ultrasound room. “Do you mind if I take this,” I asked the receptionist, and without even giving her a chance to respond, I put the phone to my ear and answered.

I heard his calm voice ask, “Hey, how are you doing?”

“I don’t know. I have no idea what’s going on.”

“Okay, well, I just got off the phone with the doctor and I’m going to get there as soon as possible,” he reassured me.

“Wait. What? I haven’t even seen the doctor yet!? Why did he call you?”

“Kayla, you’re getting ready to have a procedure…”

“WHAT!?!” I interrupted him again, bursting into tears. “WHAT is going on!?”

I looked at the receptionist and before she could even muster a response, another nurse arrived to take me into a prep room. I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone, “Everything is going to be okay, Kayla. I am working on getting someone over here to watch the kids and I will be there as soon as I can. I love you.”

Why did my doctor call my husband before even talking to me? What procedure did I just register for? Who was going to be home in the middle of the week to watch our kids?

I didn’t know.

I blindly followed the nurse and was greeted with two more as we entered yet another room. They told me I was getting ready for surgery. They apologized for the chaos and confusion and rush but also explained that all those things they were apologizing for were necessary. “This is an emergency, Kayla. This is a life-threatening situation and we are going to be moving quickly.”

She explained that an ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg does not make it into the uterus. Instead, it gets stuck implanting into the fallopian tube. Based on the ultrasound images, it looked like my fallopian tube had ruptured and I was now bleeding internally… and possibly had been since Saturday when I had first assumed that I was on my period. Before I could even start to process what the nurses were telling me, the room filled with staff helping me undress, start an IV, put on compression socks, draw blood, gather my belongings.

Another nurse came in and began discussing bereavement options and available support. There was a nurse documenting on her computer. There was an anesthesiologist introducing himself. There were papers to sign and questions to answer and so many things happening at once. It was blurred chaos. It was uncontrolled chaos. It was too much. I had no idea what to do.

I later found out that my doctor, who I still believe is the best OB/GYN on the planet, had been busy in the background the entire time — trying his best to surround me with the support he knew I would need before all this chaos ensued. He had been preparing my husband. He had been preparing himself. He had been doing his job. He knew it was going to be a lot and more than I could bear alone. He had called my husband before seeing me because he knew this was not something I could process on my own. He knew I needed the support. This had gone far beyond a “tough conversation regarding a failed pregnancy” and my lack of understanding as to what was happening wasn’t the fault of any of the staff around me. The nurses were all doing their best to get me ready. They were doing their jobs. They didn’t know. And you know what?

I didn’t either. I didn’t know.

I felt overwhelmed, like I couldn’t breathe. I needed to clear the room. I mustered every polite bone in my body and looked at the bereavement nurse first, firmly telling her, “I need you to stop talking to me about this. I need you to leave.” The room suddenly grew quiet. You guys, these nurses were compassionate and caring and doing a great job but I needed a moment. I needed space. I needed to find a way to breathe.

Within moments, the room emptied. Everyone had left except for this very sympathetic nurse who was left standing at her computer. “Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know this must be hard for you.” I shook my head and apologized for being such a mess. I closed my eyes, wiped my cheeks, and pulled my knees to my chest.

I took a deep breath and looked back at the nurse with tears in my eyes, I asked her, “Will you just stop what you’re doing and pray with me?” I didn’t know what else to do. So right there, in that big, scary moment, that sweet nurse did exactly that. She sat down on the bed, wrapping both her arms around me, and while I sat there sobbing, she prayed. She prayed for my health. For understanding. For comfort and consolation. She prayed for the doctors and nurses. She prayed for their knowledge and expertise. For their ability to take care of me and get me through this tough moment. She prayed for the baby. The baby that two hours ago, I hadn’t even known existed. And it was in that moment that reality hit. I choked back my emotions and asked her quietly, “

I don’t understand. How far along am I? Is the baby alive?”

She looked at me, this time with tears in her own eyes, “No sweetie, a baby can’t survive what has happened. And this is why you’re going into surgery. You too, are at risk and we need to take care of you right now.”

You know that feeling when a parent sees their baby for the first time? That feeling of overwhelming love and adoration and joy for a child they’ve only just met? It’s indescribable. And it’s the most accurate way to describe what I was feeling in that moment, except opposite. I felt like I had spent the last two hours moving through a storm of chaos with whirling winds, pouring rains, powerful thunder and scary lightning and all of the sudden, everything had stopped. Everything was calm and I was suddenly filled with this fierce, overwhelming, and profound sadness. I was sad for the final realization that somehow, sometime, some way, human creation had failed. I felt like I had failed. I felt like a piece of motherhood had been stripped from my identity.

The rest is a blur.

I woke up from surgery with my husband by my side. He had rushed through the hospital door only moments after I had been wheeled into the surgery room. We had missed seeing each other by a few minutes but he tells me that my doctor had warned him over the phone that he wasn’t going to wait. “I’m not gonna be able to wait on you, Jeremy. But I promise I’m gonna take care of your wife.”

I had three little incisions — one on my belly button, one below my belly button, and one on my hip. They told me they had removed my right fallopian tube. They told me that I could still conceive if we wanted to try again. They told I needed to take it easy and that it was okay to cry. They told me there were services and support groups available if we needed them. They told me that my husband and I needed to talk together to make a decision regarding we wanted to do with the remains.

Big stuff, right?

Big, awful, painful, scary, heartbreaking stuff.

So why am I sharing such a personal story? Why am I writing about such a private and traumatic moment? Why do I feel the need to expose the world of social media to such a sad moment in my life?

Because I am a writer and I have a story to be told. Because I am a verbal processor. Because right now, I feel empty and my only coping mechanism is to sit in front of my laptop and translate my heartache into written words. Because I hate to admit that I know there are countless other women who can relate and recall the very same feelings I’m feeling now. Because I want those women to know that they’re not alone. Because I also want the reassurance that I’m not alone. Because my heart aches and my body hurts and I need to talk about it but I’m at a loss for spoken words. Because the loss and grief are real. Because something failed in those first few weeks of creation. And because I lost a baby and that truth hurts me the most.

On March 27, what I assumed was a “hard” period turned into a surprise pregnancy. That surprise pregnancy turned into a devastating miscarriage. That devastating miscarriage turned into a life-threatening situation and an emergency surgery. That emergency surgery turned into a whole bunch of heartbreak with grief counseling and bereavement discussions and a day filled with uninvited and unexpected chaos and sadness and pain.

1 in 4 women experience loss.

I am now part of the 1 in 4.

And now… I know.

One last thing: according to that statistic, 25% of women have experienced loss. One.in.four. This is not uncommon, folks. This is happening every day and, oh, does it hurt. Do you know a friend or loved one who is part of that statistic? Maybe it’s you who can relate to that awful number. I pray that’s not the case. But here’s my point: before this week, I had always tried my best to understand the sorrow my friends felt with the loss of a pregnancy. I had always tried to walk with them through the survival of a nightmare I never fully grasped myself. I was a friend who saw their heartache and wanted more than anything to remove their pain, but never knew what to say or how to do it.

After a week of resting and recovering and basically taking each day by the hour, here’s what I think I know: I think there is nothing that can ease our pain. There is nothing that will “fix” our sorrow or “make it better” for our friends or ourselves. Bad things happen every single day. They happen to all of us, this is a guarantee. So while our stories of loss may be different, our details different, our experiences and reactions different, we share the same pain and that pain offers connection, in the most authentic and unfair way.

I don’t know why miscarriage or pregnancy complications happen — to me or anyone for that matter, but I do know it won’t help to direct our anger at asking questions regarding why. So right now, I’m leaving that alone. Right now, I’m focusing my energy on giving myself permission to feel my feelings. I’m taking it easy.

Beyond those things, here is what I’m hoping… I’m hoping that maybe as the pain softens with time, I’ll be able to use this awful experience to help others get through the same scary, awful heartache. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll be able to offer some stronger empathy, deeper compassion, and better consolation to those hurting. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll be able to use my story to replace someone else’s feelings of guilt and fear and loneliness with understanding, reassurance, and support.

The post I Had An Ectopic Pregnancy — But I Didn’t Even Know I Was Pregnant appeared first on Scary Mommy.

After 5 Years Of Fertility Struggles, I Finally Feel ‘Lucky’

Things tended to go my way in life. Not because of luck, which my husband sometimes claimed. “You are a lucky person,” he would tell me.

Luck to me implied a certain amount of passivity. I never had much of that. I went after what I wanted fervently. The job. The apartment. The promotion. It didn’t necessarily come easily, but it did eventually come.

And then, almost instantly, it stopped coming. If I try to pinpoint a time and place things changed it was in my Prospect Park West apartment about two months before David and I were planning a Peru vacation. It was to be our first big trip a year after our marriage, and we had made the decision that I would go off the pill that night.

I had been on the pill since I was 18 years old. I thought it’d be a matter of months before I got pregnant.

“If you get me pregnant before Peru, I’ll be so mad at you,” I said.

It turns out I had no reason to be mad. I didn’t get pregnant. We had a memorable trip to Peru exploring wonders of the world and topping those off with sour Pisco drinks.

In fact, I didn’t get pregnant that year, or the following, or the year after that. In 2015, I did get pregnant via IVF, but that resulted in a miscarriage. We had tried one other IVF round and two IUI rounds by that time and…nothing. That was above and beyond the temperature readings, ovulation kits, timed sex sessions, period tracking apps and more.

About a year after Peru, we went to see the fertility doctors and embarked on a series of checkups to determine what was “wrong.” I was 35 years old. Those months are mostly a blur.

There was a test that showed a healthy ovarian reserve, despite my age.

There was the hysteroscopy that determined some tissue had invaded my uterine muscle. A follow up procedure scraped that tissue away.

There was a bacterial infection in my uterus that cleared up after two rounds of antibiotics.

There was a reading that showed David had low sperm motility. He underwent varicose seal outpatient surgery in order to “unblock” the veins.

There was the HSG, which involved a balloon and some dye being inserted into my vagina in order to test the flow within my fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs. I left the room crying and shaking that day – it was about as unpleasant as you’d expect, especially considering the balloon deflated while inside me and they had to start over again – and called David.

“If this is what it’s going to take, we may need to think of another solution,” he responded.

That test showed that there was some scarring in one of my tubes that could be an issue. I could undergo surgery to correct that but it would require a week of recovery and wouldn’t guarantee anything. Why do that when IVF, which bypassed the tubes, was an option?

So, to answer our question about what was “wrong” – not much. This didn’t sit well with someone who liked to fix problems. There didn’t seem to be a real problem to fix.

One of our doctors said, “Medicine is the science of uncertainty,” as they wrote “unexplained infertility” all over our charts. We were deemed excellent candidates for IVF. Based on my age, our chances of a live birth, according to the CDC, hovered around 30 percent.

It didn’t work the first time, but it did get me used to the process – the multiple daily shots, the resulting bruises, the arsenal of supplement pills taking over a kitchen shelf, the incessant 7 a.m. appointments, the unforeseen charges, the insurance headaches.

If the shots didn’t bring you down, those insurance calls did. Deciphering the caps, the pharmacy procedures and what was actually covered could cause hours of frustration. David eventually took this piece over; it was one thing he could control. All else, as Michelle Obama recently wrote, was “the acute burden of being female.”

We waited a few months and tried again. That time it worked, but we soon realized we had to redefine what “worked” meant because I miscarried at eight weeks. We heard the heartbeat drop steadily over a few morning appointments until there was silence.

It was a Thursday and I went to work. David and my boss begged me to stay home, but work allowed me respite – somewhere else to focus my mind and energy. I scheduled the D&C for the following day.

Every time I thought I had the tears contained, someone else would ask me nonchalantly, “What are you here for today?” It must have been hospital procedure. At one point, a woman called me in for a private intake and she asked me the question, which unleashed the flood. When David saw me he wanted to know what they said to make me so upset.

“It’s not what they said. It’s how I feel. Broken.”

About a month later, we joined David’s family for his father’s 50th reunion from West Point. We were touring the elegant-yet-rowdy dining hall, when my phone rang. I saw that it was one of our favorite fertility doctors and could barely hear him when I answered.

“Mariela, I have great news. You miscarried because of a chromosomal abnormality.” He was ebullient. I was annoyed. How was this good news and why was it being delivered at this moment – with people everywhere and so out of the blue?

I hung up quickly. We were in our “taking time off from all things pregnancy” mode and this was not part of the deal. The doctor had unknowingly overstepped his bounds.

With time, I did come to understand how it was good news. There was an explanation for the miscarriage and it was only a matter of time before the pregnancy would’ve ended. The doctor’s message was: better sooner than later. Also: there is still no reason why you can’t get pregnant.

If it had been a perfect embryo, we would have had to chalk the miscarriage up to more of the unexplained, the uncertain.

We eventually decided to try adoption. My mind and body were tired of all things IVF and the disappointments that came with it. Adoption seemed like more of a guaranteed outcome, plus we could help a mother in need.

We started researching agencies and landed on one that specialized in domestic adoption, welcomed all loving, hopeful parents regardless of religion or sexual orientation and pioneered the open adoption model. This meant that the birth parents and adoptive parents would meet and match before the birth, and the child would grow up knowing their story. Studies showed that it was better for the child, who would inevitably have questions about where they came from.

I agreed with the model – transparency is always better than secrets and lies – but found it terrifying. Would I be secure enough in myself and my parenting to have a healthy relationship with a birth parent? And what would that birth parent want from us?

It helped me to frame it as an opportunity for growth. I anticipated personal challenges unlike others I’d faced, and I welcomed those challenges.

We were initiated into all things adoption. The background checks, fingerprinting and birth parent letter. The website, recommendations and health reports. The hours and hours of time, effort and documents. The payments – so many payments.

Six months after we signed the agency contract, our home study was approved and we were officially being promoted to expectant moms. They called it going “live.” We shared the news with our friends and family.

I recall one conversation with David’s brother where we answered a lot of questions. The last one was: “After all is said and done, will you have a child?” We said yes, as that’s what we’d been told. It could take an unbearably long time, but a child would eventually come.

We went live in September and on January 31 the following year, we abruptly received an email from the agency declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy and informing us that they would be “closing permanently effective immediately.”

Adoption, which we believed to have a certain outcome, simply did not. It was devastating – to us and to 500 plus other waiting families. We had put our trust, time and money in an institution that floundered it all away. I felt like a fool.

We visited the offices first thing the next morning and they were completely empty. It was an appropriate visual metaphor – empty offices, empty wallets, empty hearts.

Facebook groups launched to piece together information and share grief and anger. Lawyers held conference calls for hundreds of victims. I lightly participated for a couple of months, and then David and I decided that we needed to step away. The emotions were all consuming and kept us looking backward.

By April 2017, I told David that I was ready to try IVF one last time. I recently found an email conversation sharing this update with a friend (who understood all too well the difficult path to motherhood) and this is how I explained it to her at the time: “Now, believe it or not, I feel more trustful of IVF.”

To be clear, that level of trust was capped at 12%, as that was now our expected live birth success rate, according to the CDC.

We went back to the same Brooklyn doctors that we felt comfortable with. Starting over with a new practice felt like time traveling back to 2013. We liked our team and felt that all our work up to that point must have given them deeper clues as to what might work for us.

Those clues led them to recommend preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). Since our infertility was unexplained, what we really needed was the best chances of pregnancy and birth with the healthiest embryos. PGS was a new-ish procedure that tested young embryos for chromosomal abnormalities – at an added cost.

We felt the more science we could apply, the better. It helped tip the scale closer to certainty.

PGS showed we had two perfect embryos – a boy and a girl. They asked us which we wanted to implant and it felt wrong to choose. After all we’d been through, gender was insignificant; health was our priority.

On the evening of April 5, 2018 at 6:38 p.m., our daughter was born at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. She was six pounds, 11 ounces and in perfect health. She’s grown into a curious girl, who loves to eat and dance, is a mercifully good sleeper, and looks forward to socializing at daycare.

She’s also looking forward to being a big sister. On November 15, 2018, I confirmed that I was 11.5 weeks pregnant.

It was my first spontaneous pregnancy, after more than five years of trying fervently. I missed almost my entire first trimester, mostly because of utter disbelief and denial. I didn’t want to call the doctor about not having yet gotten my period after birth and have their first question be: “Have you taken a pregnancy test?”

I didn’t feel ready. I felt overwhelmed.

But, after a couple of weeks, I certainly felt lucky.

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What My Husband Learned After I Threw A Container Of Mac And Cheese At Him

I threw a large container of Panera mac and cheese at my husband this morning.

I know what you’re thinking. That shit is expensive and delicious; how could I risk wasting it?

Let me rewind and give you a little back story as to how I got to chucking creamy pasta across the room at 7 a.m. Last week, at 27 weeks pregnant, I started getting sick again. I think it’s because this man child is causing so much indigestion that it feels like hot sauce is coming up my gullet, even when I’m standing straight up. Zantac, who was my bestie, has proven to be an unreliable friend at this point.

I’ve been sleeping sitting up, but sometimes I get a little too comfortable in my sleep and slide down into a cozy position. I then immediately wake up and run to the bathroom to dry heave and/or vomit.

Initially, this was only in the mornings, but it now has now crept into all hours of the night. So, needless to say, I’ve been juuuust a little agitated.

Over the weekend, I was getting so sick that it was difficult to eat or drink anything. By Monday morning, I had broken every single blood vessel in my face and eyes and couldn’t even peel myself off the bathroom floor. At this point, my husband was URGING me to call the doctor. I tried to convince myself I had caught a little bug or something, even though I knew this was a pregnancy thing.

Oh, in the midst of getting sick again, I completely threw out my back while vomiting. So, I was basically a shell of a human by this point, just crawling around the bathroom floor, moaning and feeling sorry for myself.

Once I talked to a nurse at my OB’s office, she encouraged me to head to the hospital for fear that I was dehydrated or that I had some sort of infection that was causing back pain and vomiting. While we were waiting for my in-laws to come watch Mickey, I finally slithered down the steps for the first time all day.

At this point, my daughter finally witnessed the red, puffy, bruised state my face was in. She immediately started growling at me like a monster and calling me “zombie.” She wasn’t off at all. I looked like a fucking zombie. Actually, I looked like I had survived a Zombie attack to the face.

I got the same looks when we got to the hospital. Mothers hid their children’s eyes from the sorry state I had become. Every single doctor I came in contact with asked me if I was sure I wasn’t having some sort of severe allergic reaction to something. Nope, Doc, that’s just my face.

I continued to throw up while they set me up with an IV of anti-nausea drugs, Tylenol and fluids. The problem was, once I was dehydrated, I simply could not stop getting sick. The flood gates had opened and there was no containing anything.

The nurse who initially administered my IV, who was an absolute nugget, unfortunately blew through my vein without realizing it. After about 30 minutes of feeling pretty uncomfortable, I looked down to see my arm had blown up like a water balloon. She came in and immediately pulled out the IV. After trying two other spots, we finally got a vein to work.

By this point, my test results came back. I had ketones in my urine. I’m honestly still not quite clear on what that means, but I do know it meant I’d need two liters of sugar in me before I was allowed to be sent home. I also know it meant that I was pretty freaking dehydrated.

After a few more hours, we got the green light to go home. I got a prescription for Zofran for nausea and a muscle relaxer for the back pain. And, very clear instructions to try my hardest not to get sick again, because I’d end up back in the hospital on an IV.

I made it almost two whole days without getting sick. I took Zofran the moment my eyes opened. I ate only broth and saltines. I slowly sipped Gatorade. I treated my body like it was a ticking time bomb.

And then I got cocky. I decided I was sick of resting, so I took Mickey to the mall to run around. After being out for a few hours, I came home, did laundry, and cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned. I could feel my body getting tired, but I was just so sick of “taking it easy” that I kept on going.

By dinner time, I felt like a complete asshole. This is when I made a very, very grave mistake. After only eating toast, broth and crackers for three days, I decided I was feeling well enough for something more substantial. I ate half of Mickey’s heavy, creamy, cheesy, Panera mac and cheese. As soon as it hit my stomach, I knew I was in trouble.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night hunched over the toilet, crying.

This morning I felt extremely nauseated but quickly took my 8 mg. of Zofran with some ginger ale. I refused to get sick again. REFUSED.

My husband is a morning person. He’s one of those people who sits up and immediately starts talking about his day in a very loud, very awake voice. God bless him for being such a go-getter, but I needed him to be his enthusiastic self far, far away from me.

As I was packing our daughter’s lunch, he was trying to talk to me about work. Apparently I responded with something nasty and short. That’s when he made his first mistake. He asked, “Why are you being so cranky?”

I stared at him. Not stared–glared. My eyes melted through his soul. I tilted my head to the side, like I was possessed, and growled at him that I was sick.

This is when he made his second mistake. In an annoyed voice, he responded with, ‘‘Ugh. I know. You’re always sick.”

My arm immediately shot up over my head and I HURLED a large portion of that fucking Panera mac and cheese at his head.

You better believe I had every intention of hitting him with it, but unfortunately I’m no athlete. It slammed off the kitchen floor, the lid flew off, and it went EVERYWHERE.

Without saying a word, I turned around and walked upstairs, leaving him to clean it up.

So, what’s the moral of the story? The moral of the story is that I don’t condone violence and I was 100% in the wrong for throwing anything at him, especially food…

Totally kidding. He deserved it. I once threw a rest stop hoagie at him while I was on Clomid, so this isn’t anything he’s not used to.

The real moral of the story is, unless you want some sort of food product launched in your direction, under NO circumstance, EVER, ask a pregnant woman why she’s cranky. And when that pregnant woman tells you why she’s cranky, don’t ever, ever, make her feel that it’s an annoyance to you.

You’ve been warned.

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What I Learned From My Pregnancy After The Loss Of My Son

Trigger warning: pregnancy/child loss

Being pregnant after a loss is simply different – physically, emotionally, mentally.  As someone who takes great comfort in being prepared but also has been raised to believe in optimism, those two sometimes felt at odds with each other. After we lost our son when I was 22 weeks pregnant, we didn’t know if we’d be able to have another baby, especially as we dealt with multiple early miscarriages.

When we found out we were pregnant again, this time with a viable little embryo and a strong medical plan of care that would keep him growing, I found there was a learning curve the entire pregnancy, a constant balance between bracing yourself and letting hope in.

Some observations of what felt different:

1. Planning

I realized I was putting off small, specific tasks, to-do’s or “official” plans. Before our losses, a positive pregnancy test was a total green light. I would write ahead in the calendar how far along I’d be each week all the way to the due date. Something in my Type A mama brain loved to see it all laid out and reaching the next milestone week after week.

When we lost our baby, Abram, I remember seeing what week he should have been the many weeks after. Each number naively written in the top squares of the calendar before we found out something was wrong, before we delivered and held him, before we had to say goodbye when we had barely said hello.

Writing things down felt scary this time. I wouldn’t even sign up for the usual weekly updates online that I had done with the others until several weeks in, because I was afraid of having to un-sign-up again. None of these little things made our grief that much worse after; they were just specific small reminders of what would not be, an unexpected stinging in a raw heart, and I didn’t want them to blindside me again.

It took me until Week 28 to write down the remaining weeks in my planner this year, and after that seemingly “big” act, I had this flood of planning, writing lists for each month, creating a little registry of items we needed, picturing ‘normal’ life and routine with a baby, actually worrying about how we’d handle three children in our home. It felt so good to hope unabashedly. Holding back isn’t exactly my nature, and I don’t think I realized how much I had been holding in a breath, waiting until “the next ultrasound” just in case, month after month.

2. Big Sister Prep

Our daughters were a great reminder of perspective. We told them there’s a baby in Mama’s tummy early on, but even with them, it took several months before they moved past “Is the baby’s heart still beating?” or “Is the baby growing?” I found myself wanting to finish every statement of hope with one of caution, and every statement of caution with one of hope. I didn’t want them to be worried; I didn’t want them to be blindsided.

We tried to just let them lead, answering the questions they asked. They also have a less hesitant hope that I find myself so grateful for. When they talked about what they wanted and imagined, we were right there with them saying “Us too!” I don’t know if there’s a right way to navigate these conversations with kiddos, but I think there being conversations is the main thing.

3. Due date

After several months, people began stopping me in public to ask about my due date. Typically, I was chasing after the kids or concentrating on them not acting like hellions in public, so it always took me a second to figure what the heck this stranger was asking me (during which a brief flash of panic crossed their face wondering if, in fact, the large watermelon-like shape on the front of me was a baby).

Once I realized they were asking me when the baby was coming, I normally stuttered for a few seconds before saying, “Hopefully end of September-ish.” The grocery store with a total stranger is usually not the time to get into the fact that the entire pregnancy, the due date seemed very, very, very far away and something I was afraid to attach myself to, and week after week, we were just trying to get to a viable baby that had a chance of living.

4. Baby’s sex

We truly did not care if this baby was a boy or a girl. When we said we just wanted a healthy baby, we meant it 100 percent. I imagined both with love. Our daughter did tell us, “I hope it’s a brother. Because we had a brother, but I also want a real baby I can hold that is a brother, that we can play with.” Leave it to a 5-year-old to name exactly how you feel.  There was a hole where the idea of a little brother gaped, what it would have been like to have a little boy in our house … part of me certainly hoped we would get a second chance. Not to fill the hole, but to change its shape a bit.

5. Symptoms

Every pregnancy symptom that is cause for complaint is actually a cause for thankfulness. Hurray puke! Hurray sore feet! Hurray huge awkward belly! Hurray Things They Don’t Tell You About Pregnancy! While throwing up every time I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wasn’t pleasant, it meant my hormones were doing what they were supposed to, and I was thankful.

6. Preparing

The “nursery” was a very unsure, in-between space for over a year after our youngest moved to her sister’s room. Once we felt more sure that we’d be coming home with a baby who needed a nursery, I felt torn between being afraid to jinx it and wanting to celebrate. Luckily, we had great family and friends, several of whom have lost babies too, who simply said, embrace hope. Go for it. Plan the nursery. Look at the baby clothes; sort those sizes while you “aww” over the little outfits. Make a list of things you need. Decorate for your little boy. After a while, I’ve realized it’s not like I hadn’t started hoping and imagining anyway. There’s a certain relief in the permission and act of letting it in. Sometimes a small trickle of hope, sometimes huge waves of excitement.

7. Check-ups

Our OB practice handled the complex emotions beautifully. They explained when we needed extra explaining; they reassured when we needed extra reassuring. They understood worry and joined in celebrating good news and never made us feel crazy for coming in for a heartbeat check. An environment like this makes such a difference.

The ultrasounds often made me think of our son we lost. That’s where we got to see him moving, wiggling, sucking his thumb, turning, kicking. I will also never forget seeing him on the screen that day he died, as our ultrasound tech and midwife cried with us, confirming what we already knew. He was so still. It wasn’t a surprise that morning, but it was the day our hearts broke in ways we’d never imagined. That screen is how we knew our baby was gone.

Fast forward to our following pregnancy, also a boy. The day of the glucose test, I hadn’t eaten much at all, thus he was moving much less than usual. I can’t tell you how fast fear flashed through every bone in my body until the tech showed the heartbeat and got him wiggling again. The surges of relief are huge — every heartbeat, every ultrasound. Even on ordinary days, I wouldn’t realize I was worried until I felt that kick or movement and let out a sigh of relief. I’d flashback to when Abram stopped moving, even for his beloved Ben and Jerry’s, the night my husband and I sat in bed and knew he may have gone. There are continual flashbacks one has to talk oneself through.

Our third baby, Abram, was stillborn at 22 weeks and was only 8 ounces. He was even smaller than his gestational age due to intrauterine growth restriction. Because we learned so much from his pregnancy, our care team of physicians and midwives knew the route of care that would make our next baby healthy. Which meant he was big; he was healthy. He was viable. There were many emotions with this. Mainly: Joy. Joy. Joy.

Our baby was okay. I also noticed that sadness and guilt snuck in when we were relieved and happy for such different news, like we were betraying Abram for being happy. Sometimes, one forgets that grief still hits. One day it hit me right after we sorted some items in the nursery, and the tears just started pouring. I didn’t realize I could be so thankful for the baby growing in my belly and so heartbroken to have lost Abram in all the same moment. Sometimes joy and sorrow lean on each other, sharing a space, and an understanding that this story has many threads woven into it that all matter.

We had our fourth baby, a healthy little boy who is now almost four months, who has currently discovered his toes, refuses to go to sleep until midnight, and grins every time his sisters play patty-cake. He is his own person, but he also carries part of his brother with him, I know. We all do.

It’s work to process while you’re pregnant after a loss. There are many times to be patient and kind to yourself while you learn to heal and celebrate at the same time. You have to sort through the anxiety regularly.  But there is this river of hope, if you can find it, ready to wrap its waters of good around you. Because there is good in every thread of our stories. And I suppose that’s what I’ve learned the most.

From the beauty in Abram’s story, from our girls’ beautiful perspectives and funny ways, from the rolling flips of a growing baby, from my husband’s quiet strength, from my own love for all of them, from our village that holds us…. I have learned that at the end of the day to let hope in. Let hope in.

Just let it in, and the rest will unfold.

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What It Feels Like When Your Children Are Born With Health Issues

When Both Of Your Children Are Born With Health Issues

When my son was diagnosed with hydronephrosis in utero, I panicked. I had never heard of hydronephrosis and didn’t realize that kidneys could have fluid on them let alone it lead to long-term health consequences. Medical professionals reassured me that his diagnosis was not reflective of anything that I had done the wrong way it was just something that happened with children from time to time.

When your child is born with health issues, it’s hard not to blame yourself. Any mother whose child has a health condition will tell you we feel some level of responsibility even when it is illogical to do so. You wonder if you would’ve missed one less prenatal vitamin would things have gone differently. Or perhaps that glass of wine you had the week before finding out you were pregnant is what’s the blame. You go through a lot of things that don’t make sense when you say them out loud but you need someone to blame. Most often, you’ll blame yourself.

It took a while, but with time I stopped this feeling the backbreaking level of responsibility. With time, it was predicted that my son’s condition would have little to no impact on his life. But when I found out that my daughter was having health issues including an intrauterine growth restriction and heart complications, every ounce of those feelings of responsibility returned.

Again, I was reassured that it wasn’t anything I had done wrong and for the most part I believed them. But at the same time, there was an aspect of responsibility I just couldn’t shake — the reality of having had a second child with congenital differences.

Having a child with a health condition changes you in a lot of ways. Depending on what that condition is, there might even be an accompanying level of guilt. You might even wonder why you even made the decision to have another child after the first had challenges. 

The uncertainty of my children’s future health has forced me to think long-term thinking about if I should ever have more kids. It’s been challenging to do. And nothing makes you think about having children like knowing you might not have a choice in the matter.

I love my children and I see them as absolutely perfect. Instead, I see myself as flawed and the carrier of faulty genes. It hurts me to think that my genes gave my daughter heart issues. It scares me to know that in utero the placenta wasn’t giving her all that she needed. It’s like I was given one evolutionary job and I failed.

I didn’t have any intentions of having more children in the near future. So trying not to get pregnant was a decision I would have to make regardless. But after the anxiety associated with having to go to a specialist and a pending surgery for my daughter, it’s gone from a consideration to a priority.

In full transparency, the health conditions that my children battle are minuscule compared to many of the other children we see when going to Children’s Hospital and seeing specialists. But that doesn’t make their needs any less important. I have to make sure I have the clarity to understand their conditions and maintain their appointments. 

A third child could result in more individuals carrying the weight or the financial responsibility of health issues. I say that before referencing my own health issues that have occurred with each pregnancy. Out of the two births I have had, each one has left me with placental tissue and required post-birth surgeries. Having a third child and facing medical neglect a third time could be enough to rob the children I have of their mother. As a black woman, that’s a risk I can’t afford to take.

I know I’m fortunate. I’ve already had two children and there are plenty who haven’t had any. I’m learning to be grateful for the family I have. At the same time, I know the most responsible thing for me to do is think about the future and make decisions that are best for me and the children that I already have before planning for more children. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another pregnancy but at the moment I’m leaning towards not doing so. It’s okay for me to mourn that.

Who knows what the future holds. Perhaps medicine will improve. Or maybe insurance will be easier to come by. But until I have more of those answers I will not be able to answer all of my reproductive questions.

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