“Don’t Smile!” – A man’s guide to supporting a mom-to-be

It was total adrenaline – the night my first son was born. With 007 speed, I grabbed our overnight bags, got my wife into the car and hoped to make it to the hospital in time. I remember thinking, over and over, “this is it – I’m going to be a dad.”

Jim and his eldest child.

As I pulled into labor and delivery, nothing could rip the smile from my face. After we got to a room, my wife’s contractions became pretty intense. She started vomiting – which I hadn’t expected. Still pumped, with a silly grin from ear to ear, I handed my wife a tiny pail that was 10 times too small. Cheeks red and eyes watering, she looked at me and shouted “Don’t smile!”

Well, that did it. I stopped smiling – not because of what she said, but because in that moment I realized I had done nothing to help prepare for this day, and had only focused on how it was affecting me.

Guys, just because we don’t have a uterus doesn’t mean we have no responsibilities when it comes to our pregnant partners.

No, you don’t have to spend all day reading about how a fertilized egg implants itself into the lining of the uterine wall. There are real ways to be a rock for your partner – and it’s not just what you do, but how you do it.

Get it together

One of the most important things I learned was, no matter how you prepare, do it together. Whether you found a new book, website, anecdote or whatever – talk about it with your partner. There’s some anxiety that comes with pregnancy – a lot of “what if” scenarios. Doing things together lets your partner know you’re a team and you’ve got her back.

There’s no shortage of pregnancy info out there, and working together, you’re likely to find the planning methods and information sources that work for you both. Plus, you’ll know what you’re doing and won’t be surprised – like I was.

Tip: Go with her to every OB/GYN appointment. Also, remember this is a very personal thing for her, so don’t announce she’s pregnant without talking to her first.

This is her thing

When it comes to expecting, expect to get advice from everyone. Seriously. Everyone. Your parents, her parents, your friends, even that guy you met once at the company holiday mixer and can’t remember his name – yeah, him too.

There are a lot of standards, but every body and every pregnancy is unique. This is happening to your partner and her body – the choices about her diet, exercise and everything else, should be hers.

Not so fast, bro. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be involved. It just means if you have information to share, don’t mansplain the info like you’re dictating what she has to do. Have a real conversation, provide new info and options – and then respect her decision. “Wait, it’s my baby too.” Yes, and the best way to support your baby is to support the mom.

At one point during my wife’s first pregnancy, she was experiencing varying symptoms of high blood pressure. Some of these symptoms can be non-descript, but I wanted her to see the doctor anyway and very strongly insisted. Fail. Her blood pressure was fine, and I ended up with a stressed out and upset mom-to-be. This was not good for her or the baby.

Tip: The information and experience could get overwhelming. If it does, be cool and be constructive. Don’t make dismissive dude comments like “just relax” or “it’s fine.” To her, that sounds like “I don’t care” or “you’re just overreacting.” Think about what you’re saying and how you can help.

Help out – before she asks

Throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy, she will be experiencing different effects. Some of the fun ones include exhaustion, morning (or evening) sickness, memory loss, swollen feet, insomnia, and undulating hormones. There are many more.

Sometimes the effects get a little weird. My wife used to hum in her sleep while she was pregnant. There are a lot of physical and emotional effects she is enduring, not to mention feeling downright uncomfortable.

You know your partner – think of ways you can help out around the house. It doesn’t have to be big, and can be as simple as a menial chore here and there that gives her an extra half-hour to put her feet up and relax. BTW, these helpful acts are even more meaningful if she doesn’t have to ask.

Tip: Pregnancy can get physically demanding. If you really want extra points – offer a shoulder or foot massage every once in a while. Hey guys – I said shoulders and feet.

Pack it up

Yes, her OB/GYN has set a due date – but think of this as a general guideline, because babies are almost never born on their due date. My first son was nearly four weeks early, and my second son was two weeks early.

Take 10 minutes to sit down with your partner and make a list of what you both will need for a hospital stay of a few days. You’ll probably be in the hospital for only one night, but just in case, make the plan for a few days. About six weeks out, pack bags for you and her and keep ‘em close to the door. If you wait till the last minute to do this it will be an epic mess – for real.

Get the baby’s car seat ready around this time too. Read the instructions – at least twice – and get that sucker in the back seat. If you aren’t sure the seat is in correctly, make an appointment with one of the car seat safety stations in Pima County.

Trust me and do this ahead of time, you don’t want to try to figure this out in the hospital parking lot, while your partner and new baby are waiting for you.

Another necessity is a contact list. Discuss with her about who you both want contacted when the baby debuts. This way, you can take care of all that and she can focus on having the baby – that’s enough to handle.

Tip: Get a suitcase, backpack or travel duffel for each of you. If you pack one enormous suitcase for both of you – yeah, that big, heavy, bulky thing just isn’t going to work.

You’re up, slugger

Whatever the stereotypes of guys may be, we do want to be good husbands, partners and fathers. Even with this intent, I just wasn’t aware of some of things I could have done to be that great partner and husband during my wife’s pregnancy.

Finding your own path is going to be part of this ride, but I know it will be easier if you do this together, support her, help out and prepare. Starting a family has been my most rewarding experience, and it will be for you too.

And I know all the partners out there have other great tips, too. Please leave your own suggestions in the comment section.

Jim and family

You got this! A big thumbs up from Jim and his family on your adventure

Although family is his first priority, supporting a mom-to-be was a new responsibility for Jim Marten who works in communications at Tucson Medical Center. When he isn’t engaging press relations and community affairs for TMC, he’s spending time with his wife, Jami and their two sons, Aaron and Aiden. He hopes sharing this experience will help dads and partners get it right the first time, and won’t leave mom shouting “don’t smile!”

Pregnant? Set the stage for breastfeeding before your due date

You work.
You’re about to have a baby.
You plan to breastfeed.
You plan to continue to breastfeed when you go back to work.
Now, just how is that going to work?

Despite all the known benefits of breastfeeding for the health and well-being of our children, many of us face barriers and challenges when we return to work that derail our efforts to continue to breastfeed. Here are some tips from our lactation consultants about actions you can take while you’re pregnant and still working to make things easier upon your return to the workplace.

 

Set the Stage-Before Your Due Date

Before your due date talk to your employer or supervisor about your plans to breastfeed and the positive implications for your workplace if you’re able to continue to breastfeed and to express milk when you return to work:

  • Lower health care costs for both mother and child. Breastfed babies have lower rates of infection and illness and breastfeeding has positive implications for mothers too, including lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.
  • Lower absentee rates
  • Higher employee morale (and so productivity) and positive view of a “family-friendly” employer.
  • Retention of experienced employee

It is also useful to know the legal requirement of employers to be supportive. The Healthcare Reform Act (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) made clear the responsibility of all employers to provide suitable (private, not a bathroom) space and reasonable time for mothers to express their milk multiple times a day without interruption. You can find more information about the federal law here.

Make a plan

Before your due date, come up with a plan with your employer or supervisor to make pumping successful. Your plan should include:

  • The location of a private, non-bathroom space, where you will not be disturbed or viewed while you express milk.
  • How your work schedule will allow you two to three approximately 15 minute (plus travel time) breaks every work day.
  • Where you will be able to store your breast milk. Susan suggests a cooler that you can take to and from work.
  • Where you will be able to store and clean your breast pumping equipment.
  • How you might modify your schedule at the beginning to ease into being away from your baby. If possible, see if you can return to work for reduced hours the first few weeks or starting in the middle of your work week so that you have less time away from baby the first week back.

Once you have agreed upon a plan, write it down and share a copy with your employer and supervisor.

Don’t forget to tap into a powerful resource, your colleagues. Is there someone in your workplace who breastfed their children? Or whose partner breastfed? Can this person be a champion for you?

Sign up for Breastfeeding Basics – A class for expectant mothers to support them on the breastfeeding journey

Until we have a child and start to breastfeed, we may be oblivious to those in our workplace who were forging the way with regard to breastfeeding and working. These colleagues may be able to offer support and practical solutions for your specific workplace.

If you work at a site with a human resources office you may wish to check in with the folks there, first, as there may be a site-based program to support you. The Business Case for Breastfeeding from Womenshealth.gov provides a wealth of information your human resources or employer can use. Among other items this document includes a list of myths and facts that you may wish to arm yourself with in case your employer or supervisor has concerns.

Pregnant? Finding sleep elusive? Try a body pillow!

The ever-changing state of your body during pregnancy inevitably makes getting comfortable enough to beat those fits of insomnia feel impossible. Your body is working to create a new life and an important part of that process is rest.

You know that sleeping on your back again will have to wait and the best position for you and your baby is with you on your side, but that doesn’t make it any easier. With a little help from the right pillow, you’ll ease the strain on your body and get a restful night’s sleep.

As with anything, the best option for you won’t necessarily be the best for someone else. There are a variety of options out there to fit your particular needs.

The pregnancy body pillow – designed in the curved shape and length of your body, this option is like snuggling your partner all night.

The u-shaped pregnancy pillow – the name says it all, this versatile pillow is constructed to wrap around your body from front to back, allowing you to turn from your right to left sides and prop your head up when on your back.

The inflatable pregnancy pillow – shaped like a pool float, this option has a belly-shaped hole that allows you to rest comfortably on your stomach.

The wedge – small and intended for targeted areas, this pillow can be shaped to fit between knees, under the lower back or anywhere else that needs a little help.

“Getting enough rest is vitally important for your body and the development of your baby,” said Stacie Wood, clinical educator for Women’s and Children’s Services and Tucson Medical Center.

Now that you know your options, if you’ve got the DIY spirit and the reluctance to spend extra money, get creative! Hop onto Pinterest and get those creative juices flowing. Check out these pins we’ve saved for you on DIY Pregnancy Pillows.

Pregnancy and the flu vaccine – Protection for you and your baby

Why you should get the flu shot if you're pregnant

Photo by Alex Pasarelu

“Babies can’t be given the flu vaccine until they are six months old, so the vaccine that you receive is for both of you,” explained Erin Sperry Schlueter, M.D. F.A.C.O.G., department chair of TMC OB/GYN.

With pregnant women on the short list of people with an increased risk of developing flu complications, understanding the facts about the flu vaccine is a top priority. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women can get the flu vaccination at any time in their pregnancy, but it is best to get one early in the flu season, October through May.

The vaccine can be given in two ways, a shot or a nasal mist. The mist is not recommended for pregnant women, although it’s safe for women who have just given birth and are breastfeeding.

Protecting yourself from the flu is only half of the benefit; the other half is the protection it gives your baby. The vaccine decreases your risk of getting the flu while you’re pregnant and then keeps your baby protected for the first six months of life. If you do happen to catch the flu after getting the flu shot, it is usually a much more mild sickness.

“The flu shot is critically important for pregnant women because they are at a much higher risk of life-threatening complications from the flu. We also recommend that all immediate caregivers such as partners and grandparents get themselves protected with a flu shot to provide a ‘cocoon’ of immunity around the new baby”, said Dr. Sperry Schlueter.

Don’t get caught by the flu, get your vaccination early. Mild side effects like a sore arm and a low fever for a few days are a minor annoyance when compared to the flu virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on their website about the vaccination and pregnancy. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_vacpregnant.htm.

If you haven’t already had your flu vaccine, get vaccinated. Even if it is late in the flu season the vaccine can still be beneficial. You can schedule an appointment to get the flu vaccine at the TMCOne Wyatt office by calling (520) 394-6619. A brief registration keeps you on schedule, the central location makes it easy and the friendly professionals provide the quality care your family expects from TMCOne. The flu shot is covered by insurance and only $25 for out of network plans.

 

Pregnancy and Back Pain – Tips from an Expert

pregnancy-back-pain

The waddling gait, the hands pressed into the small of her back, mama-to-be is uncomfortable.

An aching back is such a common part of pregnancy that the waddling and back clutching is a stereotype of late-term pregnancy. But backaches can start much earlier in pregnancy. The vast majority of pregnant women will experience backaches during pregnancy. For many, it persists after the birth of the baby.

Tim Evens PT of Agility Spine & Sports Physical Therapy gave us the lowdown on why back pain is an issue during pregnancy and what to do to prevent and to treat back pain.

Why do so many pregnant women experience backaches?

As the baby grows and mama’s belly grows, the increased weight, shift in center of balance, and the increased mobility of some of the joints of the pelvis (hypermobility of the sacroiliac joint) all contribute to extra strain on the lower back. This added strain and resulting distorted movements with joints locked at the end range of motion can make daily life painful.

What can you do to prevent backaches during pregnancy?

A strong core and upright posture before and during pregnancy can help prevent backaches.

  • Squats help strengthen legs, abs and pelvic floor, and require balance and can be performed during pregnancy.
  • Balancing exercises, such as through yoga, can provide core strengthening
  • Avoid over stretching
  • Limit how much sitting you do each day
  • Exercise 30 minutes every day

When to contact a physical therapist?

Evens suggests that if back or pelvic pain is limiting daily function do not wait to seek help. Often it is an issue that can be easily addressed. The first port of call is your primary care physician who can rule out other issues. If this is a second or third pregnancy and this is a familiar pain you may wish to check in with your physical therapist’s office.

How can a physical therapist help you if you experience backaches?

A physical therapist can help you return to fully functional movement, and address tissue healing and trauma of back and pelvis pain. As many of these issues can be addressed simply, Evens encourages women to seek help if the pain is limiting their daily function. Don’t let it linger for months when it is easy to fix and can help reduce stress during a time that can be fraught with stress anyway.

At your appointment the physical therapist will evaluate your flexibility, strength, balance and posture. The therapist may manipulate or move your body to address immediate tissue issues, and almost always will provide you with at-home daily exercises to increase strength, mobility and flexibility.

How to perform a squat

Evens provided these tips for performing an effective squat:

  1. Hold your lower lumbar spine in a neutral position. As you squat the low spine should not flex (tail should not tuck under)
  2. Make sure your knees do not move in front of your toes. This ensures that the majority of motion is coming from the hips

Remember good squats require good hip strength and flexibility.

 

This post was first shared on May 1, 2014

Preparing for childbirth – Katie chose TMC

Katie and Goldie KeatingKatie Keating can run a marathon, 26.2 miles, in 3 hours and 3 minutes. During graduate school she investigated what the universe is made of, literally! Her studies centered on the interactions among galaxies. So, when it came to having a baby, Katie applied the same level of dedication and effort to preparation as she did to her running and academic studies.

Katie ran during the first two trimesters of her pregnancy preparing herself physically.

“After that I walked a few miles per day up until the end. Everyone’s experience is definitely different though,” she says. “I would recommend doing what feels best to you.”

Katie and her husband, Jared, toured the TMC Mom/Baby unit, and took the weekender Preparation for Childbirth, Baby Care ABC and Breastfeeding Basics classes.

”The classes definitely helped me feel more in control, since I understood a lot more of everything that was happening around me. It was also helpful that when there were choices to make during labor, I had already thought about them ahead of time and was prepared, rather than having to make decisions in the heat of the moment when I was in a lot of pain.”

 From healthy pregnancy and VBAC classes to breastfeeding and newborn care we’ve got you covered.  Sign up for a class today

On Jan. 9, 2016, Katie and Jared welcomed their daughter Goldie to the world at TMC. Six weeks after Goldie’s birth Katie was back running. “That is just what worked for me,” she says. “ I don’t think there’s anything wrong with waiting longer to exercise, you are going through so much as a new mom that I think you should only exercise if it’s helpful to you mentally and physically. Sometimes you need a nap, sometimes you need a run.”

Interested in developing or maintaining your exercise routine while pregnant?
The Core at La Encantada offers seminars including those on exercise and pregnancy.

Katie, Jared and Goldie are expecting another addition to the Keating family in 2018. Katie reports she is able to run more than she did last time. “I feel pretty lucky it’s worked out that way this time.”

See Katie, Goldie and other TMC moms and babies in our latest video!

Pregnant? What you need to know about pre-eclampsia

Pregnant? Are you making all of your prenatal visits? It can seem tiresome to go to prenatal visits when it seems like they do the same blood pressure and urine tests every single time, but those prenatal visits are critical for keeping you and baby healthy. One of the conditions your midwife or obstetrician is on the lookout for is pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is a potentially life-threatening condition for mother and baby where an expectant mother develops high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia and its related conditions affect somewhere between one in 10 or one in 20 pregnant women every year making it a relatively common condition.

pregnant preeclampsia

Symptoms of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is often a silent condition, the signs subtle or dismissed as just a ‘normal’ part of pregnancy – making prescribed bedrest particularly frustrating to a woman who feels fine. The subtle often silent signs of pre-eclampsia mean that those prenatal visits and checks are vital to catching and treating it.

While pre-eclampsia can be a silent condition, be on the watch for any of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
    Yes, a little in your feet might be fine, but around your face? Hands? Get it checked.
  • Sudden weight gain
    Those repeated weighing measurements are not just some torture device; they have an important purpose. Watch for more than two pounds a week.
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain
    Pain in the stomach area just beneath the ribs and/or shoulder
  • Migraine-like headache
    If it doesn’t go away with your obstetrician-approved over-the-counter medication, call your provider that day.
  • Vision changes
    From flashing lights and light sensitivity to blurry vision, if your vision changes contact your provider immediately.
  • Confused, muddled thinking, racing pulse, sense of anxiety
    More than usual? See a doctor.

Eclampsia vs. pre-eclampsia

Eclampsia is viewed as a serious complication of pre-eclampsia. It can result in seizures for the expectant or postpartum mother. During a seizure, the oxygen supply to the fetus is drastically reduced. Sudden seizures can occur before, during or (rarely) up to six weeks after delivery (postpartum). Postpartum seizures are most common during the first 48 hours after delivery.

How is pre-eclampsia diagnosed and treated?

Today, the number of women who die as a result of eclampsia, or suffer complications from pre-eclampsia, is much lower than it was a century ago thanks to prenatal blood pressure monitoring, urine tests, and the use of magnesium sulfate and other anticonvulsants to treat seizures in women with eclampsia and prevent seizures in women who have pre-eclampsia. But the precise cause of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia is not known. This is why it is critical that all pregnant women get regular monitoring from their obstetrician or midwife.

During these visits, your blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff. A sudden increase in blood pressure often is the first sign of a problem. You also will have a urine test to look for protein, another symptom of pre-eclampsia. If you have high blood pressure, tell your doctor right away if you also have a headache or belly pain. These symptoms of pre-eclampsia can occur before protein shows up in your urine.

Treatment of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia

The only cure for eclampsia and pre-eclampsia? The end of pregnancy! Even then, the impacts of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia can be seen up to six weeks postpartum.

If diagnosed your doctor may suggest:

  • Magnesium sulfate or another anticonvulsant if you have severe pre-eclampsia to prevent seizures
  • Blood pressure medication to lower your blood pressure until postpartum
  • Corticosteroids if you have severe pre-eclampsia or HELLP
  • Bed rest or reduced activity. Depending on the severity of the pre-eclampsia, this reduced activity might be to keep off your feet for a certain amount of time each day, bed rest at home or bed rest in the hospital.
  • Toward the end of pregnancy or if the pre-eclampsia is particularly severe, it may be suggested to induce labor or to perform a Cesarean section.

There is no cure for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, and both are very serious medical conditions, but we do have treatment and management plans. For the healthiest pregnancy, we encourage you to keep up with your prenatal appointments with an obstetrician or midwife throughout your pregnancy.

 

Moms Have Delivery Options – Even After Cesarean

Great post over on TMC for Women. Here is a teaser: “Once a cesarean, always a cesarean” – That was the 1916 version of modern medicine, when women were told if they had a baby by cesarean section, they’d have any future babies that way as well.

Times have changed, but word has been slow to get out to women that the prior surgery shouldn’t deny women the chance to deliver a baby vaginally.

In fact, researchers say even women carrying twins can still be candidates, as can women with two previous c-sections, said Marjorie Letson, a childbirth educator who regularly hosts classes at Tucson Medical Center designed to introduce prospective moms to the full range of opportunities. For the full story here.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461