The once-amazing Motherisk site is now owned by a weed company

Motherisk.org, which used to be a helpline run by SickKids for people who were pregnant or breastfeeding, is now run by a third-party promoting CBD oils.

Photo: iStockphoto

UPDATED to include comment from SickKids

Once a trusted resource for expecting parents, Motherisk.org now appears to be owned by a for-profit cannabis-related blog and pushes the use of CBD oil.

Since its launch in 1985, the Motherisk program, run by SickKids Hospital in Toronto, has aided countless people in helping them understand what you should or shouldn’t expose your baby to while pregnant or breastfeeding by providing them with research-based safety information. However, SickKids closed the program back in April 2019 due to lack of funding, and in a worrisome turn of events, the original site, Motherisk.org, has since been taken over by CBD Clinicals.

Pregnant woman on her phone and laptop The Motherisk helpline saved me when I was pregnant—I can’t believe it’s goneThe concern is that people who haven’t heard of the closure may still try to go to the site for help or recommend others to use it. That would be a bad idea. If you go to motherisk.org, you are rerouted to a page on the CBD Clinicals site that discusses the use of CBD oil—a topical oil sourced from cannabis plants said to have countless benefits—for new and expectant mothers. None of the original information from the old Motherisk, such as specifics on various ingredients and medications to avoid, is available and the articles are all about CBD oil. While these articles don’t explicitly recommend the use of the drug (many simply state that there is not enough research), the slant towards CBD is very clear. As well, the recommendations they do provide regarding other medications and natural remedies aren’t necessarily research-based in the way the trusted well of information previously provided by SickKids was.

SickKids released a statement in November informing the public that “the motherisk.org website is currently being operated by a third party and in no way represents SickKids or the former Motherisk Helplines.” In lieu of the helpline, SickKids recommends that those with questions get in contact with their healthcare providers.

Attempts to visit motherisk.com, motherrisk.org and motherrisk.com—URLs that are similar to but slightly different than the original domain—are redirected to the SickKids statement. So why was the original domain name given up or sold in the first place?

According to SickKids, “The domain name expired and was released following the closure” which they said was an oversight that they are working to prevent from happening in the future. “We know that many individuals and members of the medical community relied upon this website as a resource for up-to-date information about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding,” SickKids said in an email release. “We are concerned this content will be perceived to have been validated by SickKids experts.”

As well, CBD Clincials told CTV News that they were unaware of Motherisk’s history when they bought the domain on advice from consultants.

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Do you need to worry about fluoride during pregnancy?

It’s in your toothpaste and mouthwash, and there’s a good chance you’re drinking it, too. But recent research says certain levels of fluoride might not be safe for babies in utero. Here’s what you need to know.

Photo: iStockphoto

If you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant, you’re likely more aware of what’s going into your body on a regular basis. So a recent study on consuming fluoride during pregnancy that made headlines in August may have given you pause.

Led by researchers at York University in Toronto, the study followed pregnant women in six Canadian cities. In the studied sample, 41 percent lived in fluoridated communities and 60 percent lived in non-fluoridated communities.  When they tested urine samples of the women in communities with fluoridated water, they found higher levels of fluoride. Then, when the children were ages three and four, it was found that the boys of the women with higher fluoride levels had lower IQ scores than children of the women with lower levels during pregnancy. There was no statistically significant association with IQ scores in girls based on maternal urine testing.

Fluoride is a natural mineral found in virtually all water bodies. It’s also usually added to toothpastes and mouthwashes and many regions add more fluoride to drinking water to ensure optimal levels for good oral health. Health Canada guidelines reference 1.5 mg/L as the maximum allowable amount of fluoride in drinking water. However, 0.7 mg/L is regarded as the most effective concentration for oral health benefits.

About 39 percent of Canadians live in communities with fluoridated water systems as of 2017, 74.4 percent of Americans did in 2014.

While fluoride is known to help prevent cavities and tooth decay, accumulating research has some medical experts concerned it may have negative consequences on fetus’ developing brains at certain concentrations. And the latest study is raising even more questions about its potential harm to fetuses—but it’s not without controversy.

Christine Till, a psychology professor at York University and one of the primary investigators in the study, says the study’s findings are a cause for concern. “This study indicates that fluoride ingestion during pregnancy at levels that are found in Canada may not be safe for unborn children. Ingesting too much from fluoridated water and other sources may be detrimental to brain development,” she says.

Till believes women should reduce their fluoride intake during pregnancy until more studies have been done to refute or confirm the findings.

Alt text Everything you need to know about dental health during pregnancy But not everyone shares this belief. When the study hit the news in August, some called the study’s methodology into question, while others said the difference in IQ levels were not statistically significant when you considered the population as a whole (ie: both boys and girls).

Ferne Kraglund, a public health dentist and assistant dean at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry in Halifax, stands by Health Canada’s guidelines.

“Pregnant mothers should not decrease their intake of fluoride. They need it to maintain their oral health, which is linked to the health of their newborn babies,” she explains.

Oral health is particularly important during pregnancy, as changing hormone levels can lead to pregnancy gingivitis, with gum swelling, bleeding and tenderness. If untreated, gingivitis may develop into advanced gum disease (periodontitis), affecting bone and gum tissue, which can lead to tooth loss. Some studies link preterm, low-birth-weight babies to severe periodontitis during pregnancy.

Others, however, say this latest study warrants some consideration. “We’ve known for years too much fluoride causes fluorosis [changes in teeth and gums], but we didn’t think concentrations in water that are common in North America would be toxic to the developing nervous system, which the study shows it can be,” says Donald Cole, emeritus professor at the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a physician in occupational environmental medicine.

He believes more studies are needed in young children to better understand the effects on IQ not only from exposure in utero, also the impact on babies and toddlers who drink the water.

For now, Cole says pregnant women should still feel comfortable using fluoridated toothpaste, as long as they don’t swallow it. To reduce fluoride intake, women can avoid black and green tea, which both contain the mineral. You could also consider purchasing specialized filtration systems that removes fluoride from tap water, if it’s in your budget. If you want to reduce fluoride intake, but are worried about tooth decay, you can reduce the amount of sugary and processed foods you eat, as they can cause tooth decay

However, Cole believes municipal fluoridated drinking water is still an important public health policy in places where women and their children are not provided free dental care, as this resource can reduce tooth decay among vulnerable children.

For its part, Health Canada is assessing the latest study. However, it believes the research to date indicates that the current maximum allowable 1.5 mg/L of fluoride in its guidelines poses no health concern, says Health Canada spokeswoman Marie-Pier Burelle.

William Fraser, an ob/gyn and researcher at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, is also giving advice cautiously. He says the new study is well designed and important, but he thinks more research is needed before drawing final conclusions about impact of fluoride in developing brains. The findings need to be replicated to strengthen the conclusions, he says.

“But in light of the current evidence, and until further research findings are available, mothers may wish to avoid fluoride supplementation during pregnancy,” he says. So far, he is not giving his patients any specific advice. “This is still fairly new. But over the next few months our medical group will consider having conversations on fluoride with women and what we will tell them. The study will generate a lot of discussion among practitioners and policy makers on if we should adjust fluoride levels and create policy around it,” he says.

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15 unique baby names you’ll adore

If you’re looking for sweet-but-unusual name inspo for your baby-to-be, look no further, we’ve compiled our fave unique baby names. You’ll definitely want to add some of these to your list.

Photo: iStockphoto

Unique baby names don’t have to be strange—they could be delightfully unusual or just beat to their own drum. With picks inspired by nature, prose and even time of day, this out-of-the-box list has something for everyone.

Clove

This French moniker is an ode to the fragrant spice and falls in the same category as other unique baby names like Chamomile and Sage. (We’re big fans of a food and plant themes for names.)

Mauve

En Francais, Mauve translates to “violet-coloured” and is reminiscent of the Victorian period. It’s a pretty fit for your colourful character.

Juniper

Not to be confused with Jupiter (which is also a lovely, out-of-this-world name), this androgynous namesake means “young” and pulls from nature, as a juniper tree is a small, evergreen shrub. Oh, and it’s got Latin roots. (See what we did there?)

Isle

Mom holding smiling baby Find out how popular your baby name is over the years using this cool toolSimilar to the popular name Isla, Isle means “island.” And when you think about it, a strong piece of land that can hold its own in troubled water is a pretty cool thing to represent.

Elm

Fitting for both ladies and lads, you don’t have to be a tree hugger to love this naturistic name. Meaning “reddish-brown,” Elm can also be short for the oldfangled moniker Elmer—which surprisingly was a top 100 name in the last century!

Poet

Your kid can be a poet and not even know it. Another one that’s good for any gender, your babe doesn’t have to be a wordsmith to wear the name with confidence. Soleil Moon Frye (a.k.a. Punky Brewster) named her daughter Poet in 2005. Alternatives to riff off of could be Poesie, Sonnet and Poetry.

Early

Here’s one that really rolls off the tongue. A constant reminder of the lack of sleep-ins to come, this unisex name means exactly what you think it does, “ahead of schedule.” You can alter the spelling to be styled as Earlie.

Fifer

Another gender-bender, Fifer is a Scottish name and comes from the word fife, which is a small, high-pitched flute (and the ones who play this are called fifers, of course). It’s sort of a fresh and fun spin on Piper, too.

Ellington

Most commonly a boy’s name, this one can go both ways. With English origins, it means “Ellis’s town.” It’s a popular surname and—if you’re a Sex in the City fan, and who isn’t?— it’s also the middle name of Cynthia Nixon’s son, Max.

Mercer

Commonly a surname, this French title is fitting for girls and boys and means “merchant.” It can be shortened to Mercy, but we’re into it styled as Merc for a fun and casual nickname.

Zephyr

Zephyrus was the name of the Greek god of the west wind, so this Grecian moniker obviously has an easy-breezy feel to it. We love that it’s ambiguous and will invoke conversation about its origins. *Cue Red Hot Chili Peppers… Fly away on my zephyr…*

Drey

“Ah, a short form of Andre or Andrea,” you might be thinking. But, nope, this name stands alone. It’s actually pulled from the word draper (a good Mad Men name to add to your list for consideration) and means “fabric maker” or “cloth merchant.” *Ring ring* is that Project Runway calling for Drey?

Thane

A good, ol’ Scottish boy’s name, Thane means “clan chieftain” and is familiar thanks to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where it was used as a nobility title. It also sounds similar to unique baby names like Zane or Wayne. *Thane’s world, party time, excellent.*

Rocket

Listen, this name isn’t for everyone, but you’re here to explore unique baby names, right? If you’re a space buff, this (inter)stellar name is one to consider.

Lake

Nature names are nice, and this one is no exception. It’s English and its meaning runs deep, literally. It’s more common in pop culture thanks to actress Lake Bell. Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen used it as a middle name for their daughter, Vivian.

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9 non-alcoholic drinks made for celebrating

Whether you’re pregnant, sober or just want something special to drink (minus the booze), these tasty wines, spirits and mocktails have you covered.

Photo: iStockphoto

We giggle at #WineMom memes as much as the next parent, but there’s something to be said about staying sober while still celebrating (Hello, 6 a.m. toddler wake-up calls!). Raise a glass without worry by pouring one of these tasty non-alcoholic drinks.

Bottle of O.Vine non-alcoholic drinks
Photo: Water Wine

1. O Vine White Wine Essence Water

This may just be the closest thing to real vino—minus the buzz. During the traditional winemaking process, roughly 25 percent of the grapes used (mostly skins and seeds) are tossed as waste. Israel’s Galil Mountain Winery developed a process that captures the taste, aroma, colour and antioxidants hidden inside used wine-grape skins and seeds to create “wine” that is free of alcohol. Choose from red, white, sparkling, chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon water essences. $7, pusateris.com

Bottle of Seedlip non-alcoholic drinks
Photo: Well

2. Seedlip spirits

Made with the same care and attention as a bespoke spirit, these non-alcoholic beverages are based on the recipes from the 17th-century book The Art of Distillation. Choose from Garden 108, a fresh and floral blend of handpicked peas and hay from founder Ben Branson’s farm; Spice 94, a distilled Jamaican allspice berry and cardamom mixture, which pairs perfectly with tonic and red grapefruit; or Grove 42, a citrusy blend of blood orange, mandarin, lemon and ginger. $45, well.ca

Bottle of pink House Alchemy Ginger Shrub non alcoholic drinks
Photo: Amazon

3. pink House Alchemy Ginger Shrub

Many mixologists use shrubs to enhance the flavour of spirits, but this concentrated syrup can also play a starring role in your glass. Simply add soda and a slice of candied ginger and you’ve got an impressive-looking mocktail. $20, cocktailemporium.com

Bottle of Vin(Zero) Brut Rosé rose wine
Photo: Hill Street Beverages

4. Vin(Zero) Brut Rosé

Self-described as, “if you crossed a peach with a rose, kissed it twice, and served it up poached in the essence of fairy dust.” This sparkling beverage is the perfect centrepiece to any celebration, without the ugly hangover. $13, hillstreetbeverages.com

Bottle of Loxton Chardonnay
Photo: Superstore

5. Loxton De-Alcoholized Wine

Wondering what the heck “de-alcoholized” wine is? This multi-stage process removes nearly all the alcoholic content from a traditionally made vino. The result isn’t always great, but Vancouver natives Malcolm and Linda Gillis scoured wine regions across the globe to find a de-alcoholized wine that was worth raising a glass to. They found it in Australia and developed a collection of 99.6-percent alcohol-free red, white, rosé and sparkling wines. $7, superstore.ca

Can of Clausthaler non-alcoholic beer
Photo: LCBO

6. Clausthaler Non-Alcoholic Beer

While non-alcoholic beer isn’t new, most producers use a complex method of extracting the alcohol after the fact (similar to de-alcoholized wine). Instead, Clausthaler adds the hops at an advanced stage of the brewing process, so only a negligible amount of alcohol is produced and the beer’s flavour isn’t compromised. $2, lcbo.com

Bottle of Mott's Mr & Mrs T Mai Tai Cocktail
Photo: Walmart

7. Mr & Mrs T Mai Tai Mix

Sugary cocktails like daiquiris, margaritas and Mai Tais are all about the syrup. These tasty mixes make it easy to skip the spirits while still getting that spent-the-day-by-the-pool vibe. $5, walmart.ca

pink sangria cocktail in gold-trimmed cocktail glasses
Photo: Roberto Caruso

8. Sangria Berry Mocktail

Stir up orange, pomegranate and lime juices with some frozen fruit and soda and you’ve got a fizzy, sweet-tart mocktail perfect for toasting. Get the recipe: Sangria Berry Mocktail

Four glasses of Sparkling 'Champagne' Mocktails
Photo: Roberto Caruso

9. Sparkling ‘Champagne’ Mocktail

The French may disapprove of the name, but this bubbly brew ensures that everyone can clink glasses—even tiny revellers. Get the recipe: Sparkling ‘Champagne’ Mocktail

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I'm pregnant. Should I worry if I’m bleeding after sex?

Here are the most common reasons why you may bleed after sex while pregnant, and when to be concerned.

Photo: iStockphoto

Pregnancy sex can be pretty steamy but also scary if you happen to have vaginal bleeding afterwards. Here are all your questions answered about bleeding after sex during pregnancy.

How common is bleeding after sex during pregnancy?

Most of the time, there’s no reason to panic. “Bleeding after sex during pregnancy is quite common,” says Dustin Costescu, an OB/GYN in Hamilton. “This is a normal variation for most women in most instances. It’s normal for half of my patients to present with spotting or bleeding related to intercourse at some point throughout their pregnancies.”

Why does bleeding after sex during pregnancy happen?

If you experience bleeding after sex during pregnancy, your healthcare provider will want to know details like when it started, how long it lasted, if it was light or heavy, if there were clots, what colour the blood was and if you experienced pain.

Causes of light bleeding during pregnancy

Cervical changes

If you experience light bleeding, or spotting, after sex, you’ll see pinkish, reddish or brownish blood on toilet paper when wiping, in your underwear or on your panty liner. It is very light, isn’t painful and doesn’t last long. This is likely because your cervix changes during pregnancy and may become more sensitive and more likely to bleed if it’s bumped during sex or during an examination from your doctor or midwife.

Implantation bleeding

Early on in pregnancy, about a week after conception, you can have implantation bleeding, where the embryo burrows into the lining of the uterus and causes light bleeding. After sex, vaginal mucus and semen can carry some of this implantation blood out of the vagina.

Infection

Little kids sitting in a classroom as a teacher reads a book What experts say kids need to learn in sex ed An untreated sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, or a yeast infection can cause spotting. Usually, a yeast infection will have additional symptoms, such as itching and irritation. Your healthcare provider can do a simple urine test or vaginal swab to diagnose an infection. It’s important to seek treatment right away to keep you and your baby healthy.

Cervical polyps

Polyps, or small growths, on the cervix are usually benign and can be related to higher estrogen levels during pregnancy. They can cause bleeding after sex, whether you’re pregnant or not, so it’s a good idea to be up to date on your cervical screening and Pap test.

Vaginal dryness

Dryness, which can lead to tiny tears in the vaginal wall, is another possible source of spotting. “Some people experience hormonal changes in late pregnancy, which can lead to uncomfortable intercourse,” says Costescu, “but there is usually more lubrication in pregnancy, so this is not a common scenario.”

In all of these cases, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible to figure out what’s going on, but it’s not an emergency.

Preterm labour

During weeks 20 to 37, light bleeding, or spotting, accompanied by contractions, cramping, low backache, feelings of pressure in the pelvis or a watery or bloody vaginal discharge (which could mean that you are leaking amniotic fluid), could be a sign of preterm labour, so be sure to contact your healthcare provider right away. Sex doesn’t cause preterm labour in a typical pregnancy, but if you are at risk of preterm labour, your doctor will recommend that you avoid sex.

Causes of heavy bleeding after sex during pregnancy

Less often, bleeding after sex during pregnancy can be a sign of something more serious. “If the bleeding is enough to fill a pad, you should seek medical attention, particularly if it’s associated with abdominal pain,” says Costescu.

Placenta previa

The placenta nourishes your baby inside the uterus during pregnancy. If you experience placenta previa, the placenta is partially or completely covering the cervix, which can lead to heavier, bright red bleeding. While sex doesn’t cause placenta previa, it can trigger bleeding. Placenta previa can be diagnosed with an ultrasound scan.

Placental abruption

Another serious condition is placental abruption, where the placenta has a small tear and separates from the uterus before birth, causing bright red bleeding and, often but not always, abdominal pain. “Intercourse doesn’t cause placental abruption, but there may be small amounts of blood trapped in the uterus that are dislodged by intercourse,” he says. In both placenta previa and placental abruption, your healthcare provider will recommend avoiding sex for the rest of your pregnancy.

Miscarriage

Heavier, bright red bleeding and pain can also be a sign of miscarriage in the first or second trimester. Remember, though, that sex does not cause miscarriage—bleeding could just happen to coincide with intercourse. “Bright red blood is more worrisome than brown or really dark red blood, which signifies older blood,” says Costescu. “This may still need to be looked at, but it’s less of an emergency.” An ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus (usually in a fallopian tube), can cause light or heavy bleeding and pain in the first trimester and needs quick medical attention (and again it’s not associated with intercourse).

“Overall, sex during pregnancy is common and safe,” he says. If you and your partner are comfortable with it and your doctor gives you the green light, go on and get busy (because there will probably be less sex in your future after the baby is born!).

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This eggplant parmesan recipe put me in labour—twice!

In order to avoid getting induced, I tried just about everything to jumpstart my labour, but nothing worked until I stumbled upon this recipe.

Photo: Courtesy of Brett Tryon

When I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy, I tried just about everything to encourage labour and avoid being induced: I ate tons of pineapple and spicy food, went for long walks, bellydanced, and practiced yoga. I knew there was no guarantee, but I was confident labour would start on its own.

Despite my best efforts, my due date came and went. And kept on going. I hadn’t the tiniest hint that labour was impending—no cramps, no bloody show, and not a single Braxton Hicks contraction. I started to worry. The hospital had me on the clock: their policy would only let me go eleven days past my due date before they induced labour.

So I upped my game. I went for acupuncture, took homeopathics, and got my husband to try acupressure on my swollen feet. Surely one of these things would do the trick. But at my 41-week checkup, the doctor told me the baby hadn’t dropped and my cervix wasn’t the least bit dilated. Even though an ultrasound showed a healthy baby and plenty of amniotic fluid, I had no choice: if labour didn’t start in four days, I would be induced.

It was time to pull out all the stops. I tried acupuncture, nipple stimulation, evening primrose oil, and sex (by this stage of pregnancy, a last resort). My doula even brought me a jar of raspberry leaf tea so strong it looked—and tasted—like swamp water. I choked it down dutifully.

At t-minus two days, I was getting frantic. I scoured the internet for ways to trigger labour. And that’s when I found it: the famous labour-inducing eggplant parmesan.

I got the recipe online from Scalini’s, an Italian restaurant in Cobb County, Georgia, whose eggplant parmesan is famous for sending hundreds of women into labour within 48 hours of eating it.

The dish was an old family recipe, which was passed down to Scalini’s co-founder John Bogino by his Italian immigrant parents.

“This is one of the recipes that my mom and grandmother cooked as I was growing up,” Bogino says.

However, it didn’t get its reputation for inducing labour until it was brought to Scalini’s. Not long after the restaurant opened in 1980, women started talking about how they had gone into labour after eating it. So, when Bogino’s wife was pregnant with their second child, he made it for her.

A mom in ah hospital bed kissing her newborn baby lying on her chest 7 common labour myths—and the truths behind them “She delivered the baby about 10 hours later,” he says.

Over the years, the eggplant parmesan became more and more popular. Many grateful mothers have sent in pictures of their “eggplant babies,” which now adorn the walls of the restaurant.

“We have about five or six hundred pictures,” says Bogino. “But many, many more women have been in. Sometimes ten to fifteen a day,” he says. A few have even gone into labour at the restaurant.

“We get a lot of very pregnant gals that come through the doors, and they all order the eggplant parmesan.”

There’s been much speculation about how, or if, eggplant parmesan actually can stimulate labour. Perhaps it’s the spicy chili flakes, the insane amount of cheese, or maybe even the eggplant itself?

According to Adrienne Côté, a holistic nutritionist and certified childbirth educator with Toronto Yoga Mamas, these ingredients can “indirectly produce contractions” by stimulating digestion—but she says labour won’t start until certain hormones have given the go-ahead.

“Labour is a unique process that requires the right hormonal signalling to kick things off,” says Côté. “When it comes to claims that certain foods can trigger labour, there simply isn’t the empirical evidence to back it up.”

Maybe researchers should set up shop at Scalini’s.

“We don’t claim anything about it,” says Bogino. “But just in case, we have not changed the recipe in 40 years. Just in case there’s something to it.”

Like hundreds of other pregnant women, I desperately hoped there was something to it. After all, I had tried everything else I could think of; if the eggplant didn’t work, nothing would.

So my husband made a last-minute trip to the store for ingredients and got to work. Luckily he loves to cook (not that he had a choice), because the recipe isn’t exactly simple.

First you need to slice the eggplant, sprinkle it with salt, and squish the slices between paper towels to remove excess moisture. While it sits, you make the marinara sauce from scratch, first sautéing onions and garlic, then adding tomatoes and spices. Once the eggplant has drained for an hour, you dust it with flour, dip it in egg, and coat it with breadcrumbs. Then you sauté it in olive oil until it’s golden brown. Finally you layer the sauce, eggplant, and three types of cheese in a casserole dish and bake for 25 minutes.

By the time dinner was ready, it was 10 p.m. and we were starving. But as soon as we dug in, we agreed: even if it didn’t work, it was well worth the effort. The combination of gooey cheese, zesty sauce, and crispy eggplant was delicious. I went back for seconds (and maybe thirds) and waddled off to bed.

Two hours later I was awoken by my first contraction.

I slid out of bed and shuffled into the bathroom to check on matters. I will never forget the rush of excitement as I peered into the toilet. Lights, camera, action: it was the bloody show! It was really happening!

My labour progressed slowly and steadily, and 37 hours later I gave birth to a healthy baby — on the very day my induction had been scheduled.

Two years later,when I was pregnant (and overdue) again, I skipped the swamp water tea and went straight for the eggplant parmesan. Only this time, we had thought to make it ahead of time, so we just popped it in the oven. I went into labour the next morning and delivered my baby girl a few hours later.

So is there something to the eggplant parmesan after all? Or is it simply a placebo or a plain coincidence? After all, by the time most women finally try it, odds are they would have gone into labour soon anyway.

But when hundreds of women like me have had a similar experience, it’s tempting to believe that Scalini’s eggplant parmesan really does work.

No matter how you slice it, it’s a delicious way to try.

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How forceps permanently changed the way humans are born

Photo: iStockphoto

Obstetric forceps look like ninja weapons. They come as a pair: 16 inches of solid steel for each hand with curved “blades” that taper into a set of molded grips. Designed for emergencies that require a quick delivery, they have a heftiness that conveys the weight of wielding them.

The first time I saw forceps used was also when I learned how to use them. An experienced senior obstetrician and I did the emergency delivery in tandem. She showed me how to orient myself to the bony parts of the mother’s pelvis and guide each blade into the birth canal with my fingers while ensuring the curvature safely cradled the baby’s head. She clinked the shanks together so that both parts of the forceps locked definitively in place. As the frightened mother pushed, we pulled together so I could get a feel for the proper angles and necessary force.

We pulled so hard that I cringed. I saw the mother’s partner cringe as well. I could hear the depressed heart rate of the baby on the monitor. I could hear my own pulse pounding in my ears. But it worked. A baby girl was born and took her first breath of oxygen-rich air. Aside from matching bruises where the forceps pressed the baby’s cheeks, both she and her mother emerged from the delivery healthy. I was in awe of that power, the ability to step into a delivery room, avert a potential tragedy and preserve a moment of joy.

Once ubiquitous, the skill to use forceps is now rare. As cesarean deliveries and easier-to-perform “vacuum” deliveries became more common, the inclination of obstetricians to use forceps waned. Still, their introduction into birthing rooms permanently changed the way humans are born.

The role of lived experience

Woman giving birth in hospital A new study says injuries from forceps deliveries are on the rise For most of human existence the risks of procreation were severe and terrifying. Everybody knew someone who died from a complicated pregnancy. Everybody knew someone whose baby was born dead. Not only did women face the prospect of birth and death simultaneously, in the absence of contraception, they did so again and again. Until the early 20th century, the probability of dying from childbirth was similar to the probability of a woman dying of breast cancer or a heart attack today.

Women managed their understandable fear by drawing on the support of their community. They gave birth at home under the care of other women – family members, friends and neighbours who were also mothers. Families may have called upon a midwife, though back then there were no specific qualifications that distinguished the midwife’s professional skills beyond having attended a lot of births. For most of human existence, the most important form of expertise in childbirth was lived experience.

The capability to intervene in childbirth began to shift the balance of preferred expertise toward those who could wield surgical instruments. At first, the available options were limited and gruesome. Intervention only occurred under dire straits. If the baby appeared stuck in the birth canal, a physician could make more room by fracturing the mother’s pubic bone or by performing a vivisection – a cesarean without anesthesia, good lighting or the ability to stop bleeding. Or he could remove an obstructed fetus by whatever means necessary, potentially saving the life of the mother, but almost guaranteeing the mutilation and death of the baby.

Forceps were a game changer that made saving both possible. Sure, they resembled weaponry. But under the circumstances, the promise of delivering the baby alive and intact was widely welcomed.

A late 18th-century illustration of forceps cradling the baby’s head.

The costs of technology and the need for balance

Yet, this capability also came at a cost.

In the 19th century, as more women accepted medical intervention in childbirth, the composition of the birthing room began to change. The professionals who originally wielded forceps – both midwives and physicians – were men. They lacked lived experience in giving birth themselves. Gender roles and modesty standards also prevented practical opportunities to learn: men were discouraged from performing direct visual examinations of the female pelvis.

Most importantly, everyone – labouring mothers, their female caregivers and the male midwives themselves – recognized that what the male midwives had to offer was intervention with forceps. This led to a skewed perspective on when intervention was truly necessary. Rather than being performed during emergencies only, the ever-present spectre of death made it compelling and common to use forceps preemptively. And as these professional male attendants grew in popularity in the later half of the 19th century, the role of family and community in providing support became increasingly marginalized. By the mid-20th century, intervention in childbirth was routine and nearly all women had their babies in hospitals under the care of male obstetricians.

Many of our modern norms resulted from the way these shifts propagated into the present. Today forceps deliveries are rare but intervention in childbirth is not. Today, 1 in 3 American mothers gets major surgery to give birth, despite evidence that this rate of intervention is excessive – and not only unhelpful but harmful. Today, the type of continuous labor support once provided by a mother’s community has largely fallen away, despite evidence that it improves both birth experiences and outcomes.

The irony is that in our sharp focus on using technology to prevent harm, we appear to have lost sight of lived experience as its own complementary form of expertise. Valuing lived experience – what a mother is feeling, and what other mothers with similar experiences have felt – might not only make childbirth safer but also more dignified. It might provide better insight into when intervention in childbirth is truly helpful (and when it is not). It might help us support each other better when we are trying to start or grow our families. And it might help us adjust our collective goals to expect more from childbirth than simply emerging from the process unscathed.

This article is republished from The Conversation.

 

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What to expect at your 20-week ultrasound appointment

The anatomy scan is about more than just finding out your baby’s sex. Learn what happens at your 20-week ultrasound appointment.

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The 20-week ultrasound, an anatomy scan that takes place between 18 and 22 weeks is probably one of the longest and most detailed ultrasounds you’ll have during your pregnancy. We asked the experts how to prepare and what to expect.

How long does the 20-week ultrasound take?

Be prepared to spend at least an hour at your 20-week ultrasound appointment, not to mention the time you’ll spend in the waiting room. Your actual scan will probably take about 45 minutes to an hour, or even up to 75 minutes if you are considered high-risk, explains Susan Kinnear, manager of diagnostic imagingat Hamilton Health Sciences Centre and director at large for Sonography Canada. Don’t be afraid to tell the sonographer if you’re uncomfortable, she says, as many women think they have to just bear it if their back hurts or they need to move or go to the bathroom. After the ultrasound, the sonographer has to write up the case, so you may have to wait afterwards as well if you are seeing your doctor for a follow-up appointment or if there are any concerns.

What happens at the 20-week ultrasound?

A sonographer will put gel on your belly and use a transducer (ultrasound wand) to get ultrasound images, which are high-frequency sound waves that create images of what’s happening inside your body. You may be asked to move from side to side to get the best images.

 What do you need to prepare for the anatomy ultrasound?

You don’t need to load up on water for the 20-week ultrasound (after 12 weeks you’re good!), but you should eat a meal or snack beforehand because, as mentioned, this is a long one. Eating may also make the baby more active so that the sonographer can see different angles.

What is the sonographer looking for at the 20-week ultrasound?

This scan involves taking ultrasound images and measurements of the baby’s face, brain, spine, heart, kidneys, diaphragm, chest, stomach, bladder, genitals, limbs, feet and hands, as well as the umbilical cord.The sonographer will also measure the size of the fetus, look at the location of the placenta and measure the level of amniotic fluid, explains Doug Wilson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Calgary in Alberta. They will check the baby’s heart rate, as well as your cervix to make sure that it’s clear of the placenta, closed and long, says Kinnear. (Cervical length is important, as a shortened cervix can increase your risk of preterm labour. It can also begin to open too early, which a technician will check for.)

What abnormalities can be detected at the 20-week ultrasound?

In this detailed scan, the sonographer will look at the baby’s overall anatomy to flag any abnormalities, such as a heart defect or opening in the spine. “You can’t tell the baby’s health, but you can tell the anatomical structures and if they look like they’re in a normal place,” says Wilson. For example, the scan can identify if there is fluid in the bladder, which means that the kidneys are working, or if the heart chamber looks like it’s functioning properly.

At the 20-week ultrasound, the sonographer may also be looking for markers for genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome and trisomy 18. (If you opted for prenatal screening in your first trimester, this bloodwork, in combination with an 11– to 14-week ultrasound scan, will have already given you information on your risk for certain genetic disorders, explains Wilson.) Now that your baby is much bigger, this scan could provide additional information on your baby’s growth and any abnormalities.

Pregnant women holding an ultrasound picture of her baby Here's how ultrasounds actually work'

Will you find out the sex of the baby?

The 20-week ultrasound is often known as the “gender reveal,” but it depends on the baby’s position and the medical directive from the clinic or hospital where you have the scan. A sonographer needs to get a clear image of the genitals to tell whether it’s a boy or girl, and there’s always a small chance that it could be wrong. For a female fetus, they are looking for the vulva, clitoris and labia; for a male fetus, they are looking for the scrotum, testicles, penile midline rapheand penis.While you can be fairly sure that the gender is accurate, they can misidentify the baby or may not see it clearlyto tell you. (You can also find out the gender if you do noninvasive prenatal testing, or NIPT, as they screen for sex-related chromosomal disorders.)

What does your baby look like at 20 weeks pregnant?

At about halfway through your pregnancy (or 20 weeks), your baby is about the size of a banana (or about 10 ounces). The limbs, face, neck, spine and heart are formed, so they finally look like an actual baby, not just a tiny spot on the ultrasound.

Should you bring someone with you?

Generally, you’ll be allowed to bring someone in the room with you, and it’s usually best to have them there for this 20-week scan, recommends Kinnear. But don’t bring your entire family because they won’t be allowed in the room. “There’s a lot of work that goes into getting the right images,” says Kinnear. “If they want to do a really good job, they have to concentrate.” Depending on the clinic, if your family comes for the “gender reveal,” they may be able to come in for the last 10 minutes, says Kinnear.

How many ultrasounds will you have during pregnancy?

If the baby is in the wrong position or won’t move enough for the sonographerto see all of their body parts properly, you might be asked to return in two weeks for another anatomical scan, explains Kinnear. If things look OK, you may not have another ultrasound before birth, unless your doctor indicates that it’s necessary.

What will the sonographer tell you?

Generally, the ultrasound sonographer isn’t supposed to tell you what they see—that’s news you’ll receive in a follow-up appointment with your doctor, says Wilson—but most technicians are allowed to tell you the gender. Also, no news is often good news. “If you’re sent away with no information, you can assume that things look good,” says Wilson.

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What to expect at your 6-week ultrasound appointment

Find out what you can see at your dating ultrasound (as early as six weeks along) and how to prepare for that first appointment.

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You’ll never forget the first time you see your baby on that glowing black-and-white ultrasound screen. It’s exciting and scary, and it’s a relief to find out exactly what’s happening inside your body. We asked the experts all you need to know about that six-week ultrasound or first ultrasound appointment.

When is the first ultrasound during pregnancy?

Your doctor will usually wait until at least six weeks to perform the first ultrasound. However, if your periods are irregular or you’ve had a history of complications, such as an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, pain, or bleeding, your doctor might send you for an earlier scan, says Susan Kinnear, manager of diagnostic imaging at Hamilton Health Sciences Centre and director at large for Sonography Canada. Generally, if your period is regular and you know the “guesstimated” date of conception, you won’t have your first ultrasound until you are closer to the end of the first trimester, at 11 to 14 weeks. (Remember, pregnancy is calculated from the first day of your last menstrual period.)

What happens at the six-week ultrasound?

If your first ultrasound is earlier than seven weeks, the baby is often so small that it’s hard to see with a traditional abdominal ultrasound. Instead, you will have a transvaginal ultrasound, where they insert a tampon-length transducer (ultrasound wand) into the vagina to see the fetus. “Vaginal ultrasound is the best way to do the first-trimester ultrasound,” says Doug Wilson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Calgary in Alberta. At around seven to eight weeks, the sonographer can confirm the gestational age (your due date), plus or minus three days. Your doctor will continue to use this date as a marker throughout your pregnancy, says Kinnear.

What are they looking for during the first ultrasound?

The sonographer is looking for a few main things in this first scan.

Dating ultrasound: Due date confirmation

To determine your baby’s gestational age, the sonographer will measure the crown-rump length, which generally indicates the baby’s date of arrival.

What will they be checking at the first ultrasound?

Heartbeat

At six weeks, sonographers may be able to see a heartbeat on the monitor (more on this below).

Pregnant mother looks at ultrasound pictures How many ultrasounds do you get in a typical pregnancy?

Location of the embryo

The technician is looking at whether the embryo implants in the uterus. If it implants outside of the uterus, this indicates an ectopic pregnancy, which happens when a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube or somewhere besides the uterus. Where the embryo implants is also important as it can be higher or lower in the uterus. (“Higher is better,” says Kinnear.)

Number of fetuses

The technician is looking for multiple embryos or sacks to tell if you’re having twins (or more!).

Yolk sac

At this early stage, the sonographer will be looking for a yolk sac, which is attached to the baby like a balloon to provide nourishment, explains Kinnear. Sonographers look at the size and shape of the yolk sac (it’s an indicator of the baby’s health), which eventually goes away at around 12 weeks.

Cyst

It’s very common for women to have a corpus luteum cyst during the first three months, which forms on the follicle where the egg is released, so they will note any signs of a cyst during this scan.

When can you see a heartbeat?

The sonographer may or may not be able to detect a heartbeat, depending on how far along you are, says Wilson. The earliest you can see a heartbeat is at five weeks and two days gestation, says Kinnear. Even then, sonographers often only see a heartbeat in 20 percent of early dating scans. While it may be nerve-racking, your doctor will likely send you for a repeat scan in one to two weeks to re-evaluate, says Kinnear. (If your doctor breaks out a Doppler to use on your tummy, you might also be able to hear the heartbeat but probably not until at least 10 weeks.)

What can they tell you at the ultrasound?

Don’t freak out if the technician doesn’t say much. Depending on the province and medical clinic, they may or may not be able to give you details about your baby, such as heartbeat and size. Most clinics will fax the results to your doctor for a follow-up appointment. If there’s a concern, they may get you to speak to someone right after your ultrasound appointment.

What does your baby look like at six weeks pregnant?

At six weeks pregnant, your fetus is the size of a single sweet pea (or a quarter of an inch), so you won’t be able to see much, though it’s starting to have some cranial development and limb marks. On-screen, it will probably just look like a glowing little blob (but, hey, that’s your beautiful little blob!).

How do you prepare for your first ultrasound appointment?

Whether it’s six weeks or later, you’ll need to prepare for your first ultrasound appointment. Drink a glass of water 45 minutes before your ultrasound appointment in case you have an abdominal ultrasound, recommends Kinnear. A full bladder provides an ultrasonic window to better see what’s inside the uterus. “A lot of people overfill their bladders,” she explains. “They come in and say ‘Oh, I drank 10 glasses of water,’” she says. “It will show the baby better, but you can actually be too full.” Not only will you have to pee before the scan is over but it’s also not necessary. Besides, if you’re really early on in your pregnancy, you will probably end up getting a transvaginal scan anyway, which doesn’t require a full bladder or any preparation.

First ultrasound pictures

Taking a photo home after your first ultrasound (whether it’s at six weeks or later) depends on the hospital or clinic where you have your scan. Many places use digital machines these days and don’t print out sonograms (ultrasound photos) anymore, says Wilson. However, you may be able to take a shot of the screen with your phone, if the technician allows, or order a CD of your photos.

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6 natural heartburn remedies during pregnancy

Before you reach for medications, here’s what an obstetrician, a midwife and a naturopath have to say about natural heartburn remedies during pregnancy.

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It can be one of the most frustrating side effects of pregnancy: heartburn, or an uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest after you eat. For some women, spicy foods set it off, while others experience it after eating large meals, lots of citrus or anything at all. And while some expectant moms might be reaching for antacids or other medications, others are keen to find natural heartburn remedies.

Also known as acid reflux, heartburn is a common symptom of pregnancy, says Nirmala Chandrasekaran, an OB/GYN at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. That’s because the valve between your stomach and esophagus relaxes due to hormones, allowing the acid to flow back up.

Your digestive system also slows down during pregnancy, which can cause indigestion and constipation. Add to that the pressure of your growing baby on your stomach and the discomfort can intensify.

It can take some trial and error to figure out what will help with your discomfort—what works for one person might not work for another. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any herbs, supplements or medications during pregnancy.

Still, many expectant moms swear by these natural heartburn remedies during pregnancy:

Popular natural heartburn remedies

1. Ginger

Well known for reducing nausea, ginger can also have a soothing effect on the digestive tract, says Erica Nikiforuk, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto. Chandrasekaran agrees. “It’s been proven effective in treating nausea and vomiting, which is related to heartburn,” she says. You can try to incorporate natural ginger in your diet, such as grating it into your stir-fry or boiling it in water for tea, or get ready-made ginger tea or supplements.

Pregnant woman sitting on couch This is why you shouldn't overdo the antacids during pregnancy

2. Apple cider vinegar

“People tend to think of vinegar as very acidic, but apple cider vinegar is actually quite neutral, so it calms the acid down,” explains Carly Beaulieu, a midwife in Edmonton. Dilute one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water and drink it once a day for natural heartburn relief.

3. Pineapple and papaya

If you have heartburn because of slow digestion, foods with digestive enzymes, such as pineapple and papaya, might help, say Nikiforuk and Beaulieu. Snack on these fruits after meals to improve digestion. Pineapple and papaya are also available as enzyme tablets, but be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about taking any natural heartburn remedies or supplements during pregnancy.

4. Herbal tea

Peppermint, slippery elm and marshmallow root are known for their soothing properties and considered safe during pregnancy, says Nikiforuk. However, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking any herbs or herbal teas while pregnant. Try sipping these teas, available at health food stores, after dinner to see if they offer some natural heartburn relief.

5. Probiotics

The bacteria in your gut maintains the health of your entire digestive system. A probiotic supplement increases “good” bacteria in your digestive system to combat “bad” bacteria. Both Nikiforuk and Beaulieu suggest taking a probiotic supplement regularly to help with heartburn. The American Pregnancy Association considers probiotics to be safe during pregnancy but cautions that more research is needed.

6. Exercise

Going for a 10-minute walk half an hour after a meal promotes digestion, says Beaulieu. Getting food moving through the digestive tract means a little less pressure on your stomach, so it’s less likely to spit acid back up your esophagus.

Medication for heartburn

Women often don’t want to take medication during pregnancy, but if the symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription medications. Chandrasekaran typically asks her patients to try making some lifestyle changes first, including eating smaller and more frequent meals and avoiding spicy foods. If these changes don’t help, she recommends medication.

Over-the-counter medications

Drugstore antacids, such as Tums and Gaviscon, are considered safe, but be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about these medications. If you take them on a daily basis, they could cause health problems down the road.

Prescription medications

Chandrasekaran says that some women may need prescription medications to manage their heartburn and they are considered safe during pregnancy. There are two types of medications: H2 blockers, such as ranitidine (Zantac), which block the signal to your brain to produce acid, and proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Losec), which inhibit the chemical process in your body that produces acid. In September 2019 concerns over possible contamination by a potential cancer-causing chemical prompted several brands of ranitidine, including Zantac, to be pulled from store shelves. Talk to your doctor about options if you’ve been taking this medication.

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