My Search for the Perfect Prenatal Vitamin

My Search for the Perfect Prenatal Vitamin

Good evening and happy Wednesday =D I wrote this back when I was pregnant with Paulie and wanted to share! I hope this helps pregnant mama’s and those trying to become pregnant =)

As a new mom-to-be, I was surprised to discover that the majority of commercially available prenatal vitamins contain ingredients that are considered toxic to humans. For this post, I am focusing on two specific types of toxins: food additives and mercury. FD&C Red #3, Blue #1, Green #3, Yellow #5, and Mercury are just some of the widely used ingredients in both prescription and over the counter prenatal vitamins. As a result of this, I considered discontinuing taking prenatal vitamins completely, but it quickly became apparent that doing so would render me incapable of adequately monitoring my essential nutrient intake solely through careful dieting. While it is incredibly important that pregnant women take prenatal vitamins, it is also essential that we stay informed about the ingredients in our dietary supplements. I am very passionate about early childhood development, and I truly believe that it is possible that toxins found within food and supplements could impact a child’s development. There are two main questions that I ask myself before taking a prenatal vitamin.

1. Does the pill contain any food additives?

Researchers have been publishing studies concluding that food additives may be contributing to ADHD in children since the early 1990’s. After conducting a study on two groups of children, Bateman (2004) concluded “that the effect of food additives on behavior occurs independently of pre-existing hyperactive behavior.” The behaviors of both groups of children (those who were diagnosed with ADHD and those who did not exhibit characteristics of any behavioral disorder) significantly changed after the additives were removed from their diet. According to Tuormaa (1994), the reason for these “subtle or exaggerated behavioral changes” is most likely due to the impact that food additives have on neurotransmitter release (which is essential for brain function). Weiss (2012) noted this response made by the FDA Food Advisory Committee in 2011: “For certain susceptible children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other problem behaviors, the data suggests that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

Color additives are a type of food additive that is found in many food items (often found in foods targeted towards children), and is also found in most prenatal vitamins. With all of the evidence linking food additives to ADHD in children, it is alarming that I have not been able to find studies focusing on the impact (or lack of) that color additives have on pregnancy and the developing fetus. I have noticed that many times, the color additive is not listed as an ingredient on the brand’s box; and it was not until I called each company to talk to a representative that I discovered that I was taking a vitamin that contained color additives.

2. Where is the DHA extracted from?

DHA is an Omega 3 fatty acid that is essential to a baby’s brain development. Many vitamins extract DHA from fish, which would be acceptable if they extracted DHA from fish that do not contain high levels of mercury.  Mercury is highly toxic and could negatively impact the development of a fetus. Oken (2008) concluded that children born to women who consumed fish with high levels of Mercury during pregnancy had “lower developmental test scores at age 3 years.”

When I first started searching for prenatal vitamins that contain DHA, I noticed that many brands would extract DHA from sources other than fish. However, the box often times does not indicate the entire source of where they extract the DHA from. For example, CitraNatal Harmony says on the box that 40% of the DHA is extracted from a plant. What about the other 60%? When I spoke to a representative, I discovered that the other 60% is from a synthetic DHA. Prenate says that they extract 100% of their DHA from fish, but what kind of fish? When I spoke to a representative, he was unsure of what type of fish it was extracted from. With the possibility that mercury will impact a developing fetus, my goal has been to find a vitamin with DHA that is extracted from fish with low mercury levels or solely from plants.

It is a major issue that brands are regularly offering misleading information and not thoroughly labeling the ingredients found within their products. Since boxes may fail to provide accurate information about the ingredients, I recommend to always call and ask a representative these two very important questions so that women are aware of what they are consuming. 

References

Bateman B., Warner J O., Hutchinson E., Dean T., Rowlandson P., Gant C., Grundy J., Fitzgerald C., Stevenson J. (2004). The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Retrieved from http://adc.bmj.com/content/89/6/506.full.pdf+html

Tuormaa T. (2004). The Adverse Effects of Food Additives on Health: A Review of the Literature with Special Emphasis on Childhood Hyperactivity. Retrieved from http://www.natural-knowhow.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Additives-and-child-hyperactivity-article.pdf

Weiss B. (2012). Synthetic Food Colors and Neurobehavioral Hazards: The View from Environmental Health Research. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernard_Weiss/publication/51650459_Synthetic_food_colors_and_neurobehavioral_hazards_the_view_from_environmental_health_research/links/0912f50c000252a10c000000.pdf

Oken E., Radesky J., Wright R., Bellinger D., Amarasiriwardena C., Kleinman K., Hu H., Gillman M. (2008). Maternal Fish Intake during Pregnancy, Blood Mercury Levels, and Child Cognition at Age 3 Years in a US Cohort. Retrieved from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/167/10/1171.full.pdf+html

What Every Woman Should Know About Her Postpartum Body

What Every Woman Should Know About Her Postpartum Body

During pregnancy, a woman’s body drastically changes in a very short period of time. It is important for women to be aware of these changes so that they are better prepared to address them. Women should prepare for the following changes to occur:

Pelvic Muscles: It is important that women who want to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are postpartum understand the importance of strengthening their pelvic floor muscles. The weight from carrying a baby for 9 months places a lot of stress on a these muscles, causing them to become weak. Weakness in the pelvic floor muscles causes women to be at risk for experiencing incontinence while pregnant and postpartum; which is a sign of a much more serious problem called a vaginal prolapse. The only way to prevent incontinence and a vaginal prolapse is to exercise the pelvic floor muscles. It is never too late to start pelvic floor exercises. The most commonly known exercise that targets the pelvic floor muscles are kegals; but there are many more exercises that a woman can do prior to pregnancy, while pregnant, and postpartum to strengthen her pelvic floor muscles.

Diastasis Recti (split abs): Women who are interested in exercising postpartum should be aware of diastasis recti. Some women, including myself, experience a split in their abs while pregnant. To reconnect them, women need to do very gentle core workouts. Post delivery, I asked the nurse to check my abs and she confirmed that my abs were split three fingers wide. She then taught me how to measure my abs and explained that prior to engaging in ab toning exercises, my abs could not be any wider than one finger width apart. Women are not allowed to engage in any toning exercises until six weeks postpartum; so when I reached six weeks, I saw a physical therapist who taught me the exercises that I needed to do to strengthen my abs. I highly recommend going to see a physical therapist six weeks postpartum prior to exercising.

Vagina: Any change to your vagina will depend on the trauma it endures during delivery. Trauma includes first degree, second degree, third degree, or fourth degree tears or episiotomies; as well as tools used for assisted birth. Women who experience no tears or episiotomies; first degree tears or episiotomies; and who give birth without assistive birthing tools will most likely notice very little change about their vagina both aesthetically and sensationally.

Muscle LossMuscle loss is inevitable during pregnancy due to many factors. The experience of pregnancy is beautiful, but it is physically difficult. There are approved pregnancy workout programs that women can do; but even these workouts may be too strenuous for many women. If you are unable to workout during pregnancy, do not worry, any muscle loss during pregnancy can be rebuilt postpartum.

Breasts: If you produce milk, your breasts will change drastically; and they will change whether or not you choose to breastfeed. I exclusively breastfeed (meaning that all sucking needs, both for nutrition and comfort, are met at my breasts); and exclusive breastfeeding has not only impacted the physical appearance of my breasts, but my weight loss and fertility as well.

  • Exclusive Breastfeeding and Weight Loss: I dropped my pregnancy weight at an accelerated rate. It is recommended that women consume an additional 500 calories a day if they are breastfeeding because women burn approximately 20 calories per one ounce of milk.
  • Exclusive Breastfeeding and Fertility: Women who exclusively breastfeed may experience natural child spacing. For this to be effective, women need to be breastfeeding approximately every 3 hours to maintain the hormone prolactin; which is the hormone responsible for milk production. Natural child spacing is 98 percent effective for the first six months postpartum.

With the knowledge of these postpartum body changes along with setting goals, hard work, patience, realistic expectations, accepting and overcoming setbacks, being in tune with my body, embracing a positive mindset, accepting the permanent changes to my postpartum body and desiring to be the happiest me; my pelvic floor muscles are once again strong, I no longer have diastasis recti, and I have gained my muscle mass back. The female body is strong; and being informed about postpartum changes will allow women to overcome these temporary changes.

Baby Boy is Full Term!

Good morning and happy Monday =D I am 37 weeks pregnant, and my son is officially full term! When I look at my belly, I can’t believe that I have a full size newborn baby in my body. My little marshmallow man is due in 22 days, and I am so anxious and eager to meet him. It is amazing how much my son’s fetal movements have changed over the last week. I feel him all of the time, but he is mostly squirming and trying to stretch. I think he is trying to make more room in mommy’s tummy!

Body

This is my body at 37 weeks =D  I still weigh 140 lbs.

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 This is the first time in my life that, in my eyes, I feel absolutely beautiful =D Being pregnant has been such a positive experience and has had such a positive impact on me.

Thank you for reading! I hope you have a happy Monday! <333

36 Weeks Update

Good evening and happy Monday! I am now 36 weeks pregnant and have 28 days left until my due date. My tummy is feeling incredibly heavy, like I am carrying around a 20 pound kettlebell; a very adorable and active kettlebell of course =D I have been getting a lot of cramping and Braxton hicks contractions this week, which has me thinking about my birth plan. The plan is to go natural if I can, I would like to experience medication free childbirth at least once. If the pain is too intolerable, I will be getting an epidural, which is a little frightening to me. I really dislike the idea of having a tube sticking out of my back and a catheter inserted into my body. I also dislike the idea of feeling paralyzed from the waist down, so I am hoping I can tolerate the pain enough to experience childbirth. =D

Matt and I have a few names picked out; we have been calling him one of the names for the passed few months, but we are not set on it. A few days ago, Matt called out the names that we were discussing to my belly, and our son responded to the name that we have been calling him over the passed few months by giving us a big movement. It was incredible =D

Body

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Here is my body at 36 weeks pregnant. I am now 140 pounds, so I gained a pound and half this week. This time, eating empty calories is not to blame for the extra half pound of weight gain =)

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you have a happy Monday <33

 

Hello Ninth Month of Pregnancy

Good afternoon and happy Saturday =D I hope everyone is enjoying the new year <3

Today, I am officially 9 months pregnant, and the feeling of reaching my last month is bitter sweet. Pregnancy has been such an amazing experience; my favorite part of it has definitely been feeling my baby boy’s movements grow stronger. At the end of 35 weeks, I no longer feel kicks and punches, rather, I feel full stretches, twists, turns and body movements. Once I give birth, I know I am going to miss these active movements that have become so soothing for me. Truthfully, I do not remember what it is like not to be pregnant, so it is going to be interesting to see how I readapt.

At the same time, I am at a point where I am so eager to meet him that I can not wait to go into labor. I am full term in a week and a half, so I find myself fantasizing about going earlier than 40 weeks. Also, after growing a baby for 9 months, my body is incredibly tired and could use rest. The transformation my body has gone through during this pregnancy has been astonishing, and though I enjoyed every moment of it, I am excited to get back into my physically active hobbies that I was told to stop during my pregnancy. Interestingly, washing the dishes for 5 minutes makes my heart beat as fast as working out used to do to me and I am equally as out of breath.

I have had 5 ultrasounds done throughout my pregnancy, and I want to show you the progression of my little marshmallow man.

This is my little man at 13 weeks and 3 days <3 When I first saw this, I instantly knew that he has inherited Matt’s lips =D

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This is my my man at 27 weeks and 3 days =D He weighed about 2 pounds <33

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Here is my little marshmallow man at 34 weeks and 6 days =D He weighed 5 pounds 4 ounces, and this ultrasound confirmed that he has definitely inherited Matt’s lips! We also saw his hair flowing in the fluid. I wonder if he has inherited my thick hair.

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This is the little man who gets the hiccups a few times a day because he is practicing breathing. This is the little man who responds to my touch and voice by giving me a strong movements. This is the little man who has been a part of me for the last 8 months. This is the little man who will soon be able to live independently from my body. I can not wait to meet him.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have a happy Saturday! =D

35 Weeks Update!

Good afternoon and happy Tuesday!! I am 35 weeks pregnant and I could not be happier. My insurance has a new policy where everything needs to be preauthorized before patients are able to get tests done, and after a month of waiting for an approval for a fetal echocardiogram and a routine ultrasound, I finally got both of the tests done yesterday =D

I needed to get a fetal echo because I had the Coxsackievirus during my third trimester of pregnancy. This virus, also known as the Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, is a prevalent childhood infection, but if a pregnant woman is exposed or becomes infected with the virus during pregnancy and it crosses the placenta, the virus attacks the fetus’ heart. (Some other childhood infections that could cause serious damage to a fetus is Fifths Disease and Chickenpox). My cardiologist said at first glance everything looks normal and he does not see anything that is life threatening. I waited so long to hear this, so I am ecstatic. =D

At my last few doctors appointments, I was told that my stomach was measuring small and they were concerned about my son’s growth, and today, I was told he is currently 5 pounds 4 ounces and everything looks great! Yay!

And! He is in birthing position; I was told to be prepared to give birth at 37 weeks, that is 2 more weeks =D

Body

The transformation that my body has undergone throughout this pregnancy has been astounding. I can’t believe I started here (the two left pictures are pre pregnancy and the two right pictures are 17 weeks):

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and now I am here (35 weeks):

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I currently weigh 138 pounds. This week I gained 1 1/2 pounds (I should be at 137), and it is because I over indulged on empty calories throughout the holiday season. That extra 1/2 pound was worth it. =D

Now that I am nearing the end of my pregnancy, I realized that I forgot what it feels like not to be pregnant. Over the last few weeks, I have become accustomed to the soothing feeling of my son’s movements inside my body. It truly brings me so much happiness. As I enjoy the last 2 to 5 weeks of pregnancy, I am excited to give birth and see how my body transitions from being pregnant into being unoccupied. I find myself asking these questions: How long will it take to lose my pregnancy weight? Will my body look as it did prior to pregnancy, or will I embrace a new shape? Will my belly button remain an outie (because seriously, that button is completely out), and will it be stretched out? I do have more questions, but, I will just have to wait and see =D

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you have a happy Tuesday! <333

Christmas Time <3

Good afternoon and happy Sunday! =D My favorite time of year starts during mid October when the cool autumn air first fills the city. This is the time of the year that I most love to spend time outside. Everything looks so incredibly beautiful, and there is something about the way it smells outside that makes me feel so happy. I feel the same way in December when it is brisk outside. There is something so exciting about getting ready for Christmas, and eventually, for the winter snow.

Every year, during the last weekend of November, Matt and I go to an amazing Christmas Tree Farm in Northern NJ  to cut down our own Christmas Tree. It is something that I look forward to all year. The whole experience of planning our trip and going on our trip is so wonderful and relaxing. =D We always pick a really tall and big tree. This year, we claimed a 7 inch super fluffy tree.

Here are some pictures:

Here is Matt cutting down the tree =D

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Here is Matt dragging the tree to the car while I stop an look at holes created by animals in the ground. =D

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We invested in a really good stand this year. Every year prior to this, we used a cheap plastic stand and all of our trees fell over. It was impossible to get them straight. This year, we purchased a metal stand. It is absolutely AMAZING and will definitely last us for years to come. =D

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After the tree is set up, we let it continue open for a few hours. The apartment smells like Christmas as soon we open the tree. After the sun has set, Matt and I blast Christmas music and decorate our tree. =D After we are done decorating, we shut the lights off, sit in the living room, and just enjoy the moment =D

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I can not wait for our son to share in these moments with us. It is so exciting that he will be 10 months old when he enjoys his first Christmas. I am very passionate about early childhood development, so I already have a list of functional toys that he will be getting next year that will foster his cognitive, fine motor, literacy and language development. <3

Thank you so much for reading, happy holidays! =D

The Ultimate Power Dessert: Yogurt Ice Cream

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Happy Saturday! Matt has created many recipes throughout my pregnancy to satisfy my ever changing cravings. This dessert is not only super delicious, but it is nutritious for you and your baby =D There are two recipes that we have been making.

Recipe 1:

Ingredients:

Plain Greek Yogurt

Frozen Strawberries

Pasteurized Honey

Chia Seeds

Lemon

French Vanilla Oats

Recipe 2:

Ingredients:

Plain Greek Yogurt

Peanut Butter

Banana

Chia Seeds

Pasteurized Honey

Lemon

French Vanilla Oats

Place the yogurt and frozen strawberries (Recipe 1) or the yogurt, peanut butter, and banana (Recipe 2) in the food processor or blender. Add some raw organic honey, some chia seeds, and a squirt of lemon. This measurements are based on your taste, after the ingredients are mixed, add more of anything that you would like. Place the mixture into a bowl and put it in the freezer until it is at a texture to your liking. Sprinkle french vanilla oats on top for a nice crunch.

What nutrients do these ingredients contain?

Plain Greek Yogurt

Yogurt contains protein, calcium, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains probiotics, which research suggests boost the immune system.

Pasteurized Honey

Honey boosts your immune system and reduces heartburn. It contains calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds contain fiber, iron, protein and calcium.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter contains protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and healthy fats.

Oats

Oats contain fiber, potassium, and iron.

Strawberries

Strawberries contain vitamin C, magnesium and calcium.

Bananas

Bananas contain potassium and vitamin B6

Lemon

Lemons contain calcium, thiamin, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, manganese, vitamin B6 and riboflavin.

How does the nutrition found in these ingredients foster your babies development?

Protein is necessary to the baby’s growth and organ development.

Calcium is necessary to the baby’s bone development.

Magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar levels and your build tissues.

Potassium contributes to balancing electrolytes and nerve impulse transmission throughout your body.

Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of red blood cells.

Copper assists with developing the baby’s heart, blood vessels, and skeletal and nervous systems.

Iron helps create blood for you and baby as well as transports oxygen throughout your body.

Phosphorus helps with the baby’s bone development.

Zinc is essential for the baby’s rapid cell growth.

Fiber helps regulate the digestive track in pregnant women.

Vitamin C assists with the development of the baby’s skin and bones.

Vitamin B6 helps promote the production of white blood cells by ensuring that the organs that create them remain healthy.

Thiamin helps promote a healthy nervous and muscular system for your baby.

Riboflavin helps a baby develop bones, muscles, and nerves.

I hope that you enjoy this delicious dessert =D Happy Saturday <3333

 

 

34 Weeks Update!

Good afternoon and happy Saturday! I am so sorry that I have not updated in a while =( I am now 34 weeks, and each week since my last update has been full of new surprises. My baby boy is super active and has taken control of my tummy; especially the left side =D Little cutie. I feel every precious movement he makes, and my favorite has to be the sensation of him rolling around. It is also super adorable when he gets the hiccups, which feels like a heartbeat =)

It is so exciting that I only have 6 more weeks to go. =) It is amazing to experience how different my body feels and looks from one week to the next. An interesting symptom that I have been experiencing over the last 3 weeks is a decrease in appetite. I am not hungry all the time anymore, and I get full incredibly fast.

Here is me at 34 weeks pregnant:

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My total weight gain so far is 21 lbs. I am now 136 lbs, which is exactly where I expected to be =D

Hospital Tour

Matt and I went on a tour of the hospital this week =D We both feel very much at ease now that we know what to expect during our 2 or 3 night stay. There is an ER just for women who are in labor, which is the first place I will go when I arrive to the hospital. After I am admitted, I will be transferred to the delivery room, which is a private room where we will stay for the rest of my labor. After I deliver, we will be transferred to another private room where we will spend 2 or 3 nights. Being there and seeing what my experience is going to be like was so invigorating; I’m ready!

Labor Pains

The day after Matt and I went on our hospital tour, I started experiencing intense cramping. I have a relatively high pain tolerance, so I was unable to accurately judge the urgency of the pain. The cramping started in my lower back and made it’s way around my entire stomach. I was also having contractions, but they were so irregular that I knew it had to be braxton hicks. I experienced these pains constantly for 6 hours before finally falling asleep. I still had them when I woke up in the morning, so my doctor is testing me to see if I am at risk for premature labor. I am on bedrest until the results come back on Monday =0 I am hoping that baby boy waits until 37 weeks so his lungs and brain have more time to develop.

Words can not express how amazing it is to be pregnant and to experience a human growing inside of you. In the third trimester, you feel every movement your baby makes; every twist, turn, stretch, kick, and hiccup, and since I love feeling him, the third trimester has been my favorite part of pregnancy. Thank you for reading and enjoying this experience with me <33333 I hope you have a wonderful Saturday!

 

How I am Staying Fit During Pregnancy

Good afternoon and happy Thursday! Even though I have been unable to do toning exercises, I have been trying to stay as fit as possible by eating healthy, drinking a lot of purified water, and going on daily walks. I have been gaining 1 lb a week since week 13, so I am currently 130 lbs (my pre pregnancy weight was 115) and I have about 12 to 15 more pounds to gain depending on the size of my boy. I have found many recommendations online about how many calories to eat on a daily basis, but honestly, I do not follow any of these suggestions. When I am hungry, I eat. Since the second trimester, I have been consuming approximately 1800 to 2300 calories a day. Though I do add up my daily calorie intake, I am not concerned with them. What is most important to me is where I am getting the calories from. I try my best to limit the amount of empty calories I consume on a weekly basis since they have little or no nutritional value and try to keep my diet very healthy. I am very happy if I consume 2300 or more calories from nutritional foods in one day. =D

There are specific items that I try to always have in my kitchen to ensure that I am eating healthy and nutritionally:

Fruits and Vegetables

Avocados, Organic Spinach, Organic Apples, Oranges, Frozen Strawberries and Mangos, Bananas, Tomatoes, Onions, Organic Celery, Organic Carrots, Jalapeños, Red Peppers, Cucumbers, and Garlic

Protein

Chickpeas, Cannelloni Beans, Red Beans, Organic Eggs, Organic Peanut Butter, Organic, Whole Chicken, and 90% Lean Ground Beef

Dairy

Greek Yogurt, Parmigiana Cheese, Butter and Whole Milk

Oils

Canola Oil or Olive Oil

Grains

Pasta and Whole Wheat Bread

Drinks

Orange Juice and Sparkling Water

Seeds

Chia Seeds

There are so many delicious and nutritious meals that could be created with these ingredients. I have been sharing my husband’s recipes and explaining how each ingredient in the recipe impacts the development of a growing fetus. If you would like to view some, you can click on the following links =D

Chicken Burrito

Beef Chili

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Upcoming recipes include homemade hummus with homemade yogurt sauce, chicken chili, and fruit smoothies  =)

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful day! <3

 

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