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Early Signs of Pregnancy

June 26, 2009

Are you pregnant? Often, our body gives us the signs that we are pregnant before that plus sign ever shows up on a pregnancy test. However, many signs of pregnancy could also be symptoms of a medical problem or even just premenstrual syndrome, so it’s important to take that test as soon as a positive result is possible.

Delay/Difference in Menstruation

When a woman misses a period, often the first thing she does is take a home pregnancy test. A late or skipped menstrual period is the most well-known symptom of pregnancy. Some women may bleed lightly during pregnancy. If this occurs in the first few weeks, it’s called implantation bleeding and should be very light. Heavy bleeding after a period is late or after a pregnancy test has shown you are pregnant could indicate a miscarriage and you should speak with your doctor.

Other factors may also create an irregular menstrual cycle or a missed period. These include:Early Signs of Pregnancy

  • Excessive changes in weight and/or diet
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Stress
  • Going off birth control pills
  • Breastfeeding
  • Travel, esp. involving changes in altitude
  • Illness
  • Antibiotics

Implantation Bleeding

Implantation bleeding, in women who experience it, is typically the first indication of pregnancy. When the embryo implants into the uterine wall, some blood may be released. However, only about 20 to 30 percent of women experience this bleeding, which is really more like a pink or very light red discharge of blood. Any bleeding that is not your period should be discussed with your doctor.

Are You Late?

What was the date of your last menstrual cycle?


Swollen / Tender Breasts

A woman’s breasts may become sore, swollen or tender as early as one or two weeks after conception. However, this is also a sign of PMS so, if you experience swollen breasts, you may want to wait until the first day of your missed period to take a home pregnancy test. You may also experience tender or sore breasts if you have a hormone imbalance or recently started birth control pills or other hormone-based birth control.


Extreme fatigue or even feeling more tired than usual could indicate pregnancy and may begin as early as the first week after conception. However, there are multiple other factors that could make a woman tired, so if this is not accompanied by other symptoms of pregnancy, consider other factors first.

  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you under stress?
  • Could you have a cold or the flu?

Stress, exhaustion, depression, illnesses, a change in exercise habits or even a change in diet can leave you feeling fatigued.

Nausea / Morning Sickness

This well-known pregnancy symptom will often show up between two and eight weeks after conception, and typically subsides at the start of the second trimester. Some women do not experience morning sickness at all, while some feel a degree of nausea throughout pregnancy. Rule out other causes first, including food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach disorders, stress and a stomach flu.


Lower backaches may be a symptom that occurs early in pregnancy, but it may begin at any time during your pregnancy and last until delivery, or come and go based on your level of physical activity and other factors.

Like most pregnancy symptoms, backaches may be caused by a number of other factors, including impending menstruation, stress, back problems, physical injuries such as pulled muscles.


The sudden rise of hormones in your body can cause headaches early in pregnancy but, since headaches are so prevalent in women and have so many other causes, this is not usually a good indicator of pregnancy unless accompanied by other symptoms. Headaches may be caused by:

  • Dehydration
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • PMS
  • Eye strain
  • Stress
  • Cold or flu
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Sinus infection

Frequent Urination

Around six to eight weeks after conception, as the uterus grows and shifts, taking up more room in your abdomen and exerting force on your bladder, you may experience frequent urination. Frequent urination in the absence of other pregnancy symptoms, however, could indicate a problem such as:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Bladder infection
  • Diabetes

Using diuretics or increasing your liquid intake may also cause more frequent urination.

Darkening of Areolas

If you are pregnant, the skin around your nipples may get darker. This may also be caused by a hormone imbalance not related to pregnancy. Areolas may not return to their original color after childbirth.

Food Cravings

As any pregnant woman – or her husband who hit the convenience store at midnight for ice cream, with or without pickles – can attest, pregnancy food cravings are not a myth. They can last throughout your entire pregnancy, but usually don’t appear until the second trimester or late in the first trimester.

Dieting, PMS, lack of a certain nutrients, stress or depression can also cause food cravings. Click here to read about some strange food cravings experienced by the BOL bloggers.

Enhanced Sense of Smell

For moms-to-be pregnant for the first time, an enhanced sense of smell is often one of the oddest symptoms of pregnancy. This evolutionary trait may have developed to help pregnant women detect – and avoid – spoiled foods before they ate them. It can be embarrassing if you have to leave a room because of someone’s intense body odor or want to gag around people with the scent of third-hand smoke clinging to their bodies.

Mood Swings

It’s not just a myth. All those hormonal changes going on in your body can wreak havoc with your mood, too. Of course, mood swings can also be caused by stress or plain old garden variety PMS. Some women actually experience improved moods – or a more stable mood if they previously suffered from PMS-related mood swings – during pregnancy. Others discover that one or two specific individuals “push their buttons” but that people, as a whole, are easier to tolerate.

Increased Hunger

Doctors recommend that women not gain much weight in the first trimester, but you may feel hungrier than usual. To keep weight in check, maintain a healthy diet and eat lots of foods high in fiber, which are filling and will also help alleviate constipation. Drink a glass of water before every meal, too. Pregnant women shouldn’t need to increase their caloric intake to accommodate the growing fetus until the start of the second trimester, when they should eat approximately 300 extra calories per day. You can also maintain a high level of physical activity in the first trimester, which will help prevent excessive weight gain.

Later Pregnancy Symptoms

Some symptoms – such as a backache or headaches – may begin in the first trimester and persist throughout pregnancy. Others appear later.

  • Feeling extremely warm / hot flashes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in all areas of your body, including hair, skin and nails
  • Blurred vision
  • Insomnia

Essentially, “anything goes” when it comes to pregnancy symptoms. If you are concerned about any reactions you’re having or changes to your body, speak with your midwife or obstetrician.

Author: Dawn Allcot

Predetermining The Sex of Your Child

June 25, 2009

Predetermining The Sex of Your ChildIs it really possible to pre-determine or, more accurately, to select, the gender of your child? Several medical experts say that it is.

These are a few methods currently used for gender selection.

The Ericsson Method – This medical procedure can be pricey, but it is effective about 75% of the time when selecting a boy and about 70% to 72% of the time if the couple is trying for a girl. The use of the fertility drug Clomid increases the odds of bearing a girl if sperm bearing the X chromosome are used for insemination.

The Ericsson Method entails artificial insemination, where the sperm are first separated and those bearing the male (Y) chromosome or bearing the female (X) chromosome only are used to fertilize the eggs, depending on the patient’s choice.

PGD (Preimplantation genetic diagnosis) – PGD combines in vitro fertilization with the Ericsson Method of sperm selection, so that only embryos fertilized with sperm bearing either the X or Y chromosome, depending on the patient’s choice, get implanted into the mother. Because the embryos are first fertilized with selected sperm and then checked for gender prior to implantation, this combination yields even higher success rates than the Ericsson Method alone.

If you are using gender selection to avoid passing on gender-related genetic diseases, or if you feel you absolutely could not accept a child of the gender not of your choosing, this medical method has the most proven track record, according to many accounts.

Intercourse -Timed Gender Selection – In the 1970s, two doctors released two different books offering directions on how to conceive a baby with the gender of your choice. In 1971, Dr. Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik wrote “How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby,” and revealed that sperm with male (Y) chromosomes move faster than sperm with X (female) chromosomes but do not live as long.

To conceive a boy, have intercourse on the day of ovulation or one day after. To conceive a girl, have sex two to four days prior to ovulation.

Use any number of methods, such as:

  • tracking your natural fertility signs such as: basal body temperature, your cervical mucus, and your cervical position
  • using an ovulation tracker/calculator

Shettles offers other tips for tipping the scales when it comes to conceiving a baby boy, too.

  • When a woman orgasms, it changes the pH level in the vagina to be more alkaline, an environment where the Y-chromosome sperm thrive
  • Create an alkaline or acidic environment for the sperm by douching with a special solution prior to intercourse
  • The prospective father-to-be should drink coffee prior to intercourse

Elizabeth Whelan’s method – outlined in her mid-seventies book “Boy or Girl,” contradicts the Shettles Method. She says that biochemical changes in a woman’s body prior to ovulation make the environment more friendly to Y-chromosome sperm. To conceive a boy, she says, have sex six to four days prior to ovulation, and to have a girl, wait until two or three days prior to ovulation.

Whelan’s technique, however, has lost validity over the years, while many people still rely on the Shettles Method. The Shettles Method, when done correctly, offers a 75% success rate for both genders, making the technique as reliable as medically-assisted methods. The Whelan’s method offers only a 68% success rate for boys and 56% for girls; only 6% higher than the natural 50% odds of having a girl without doing anything prior to or during conception to influence the gender.

GenSelect Gender Selection Kit – Kits such as the Genselect Gender Selection Kit also consider the pH level of the vagina, and offer special douching solutions to create an acidic or alkaline environment, friendly to x- or y-chromosome sperm, respectively.

This kit, which touts a 96% success rate, combines intercourse timing with diet and all-natural nutriceutical supplements with douches to adjust the acidity of the vagina.

Diet A recent study suggests that women who eat a high-calorie diet tend to conceive boys more frequently – specifically, in a sampling of 740 women, 56% of the women who ate a diet high in carbohydrates and who consumed more calories conceived a boy, compared with 45% who ate a lower calorie diet. Additionally, starting the day with a bowl of cereal increased the odds of having a boy. 59% of women who ate cereal daily had boys, compared to 43% who ate cereal less frequently than once a week.

Experts attribute the increase in males conceived by women who eat a healthier, heartier diet to an increase in blood sugar levels. Also, the study seems to lend credence to the old belief that a diet high in salt increases the odds of conceiving a boy. In the study sample, a higher intake of sodium, potassium and calcium seemed to favor conceiving a boy.

It’s important to note, however, that a change in diet alone only increased the odds by a mere 9% (at best) over the natural 50-50 chance of having a boy.

Many people view the ideal family as “one boy, one girl.” And parents with two children of the same gender often get the question “Are you going to try for a boy/girl?”

These ideas may help you conceive your gender of choice. But let’s be honest: When all is said and done, most people don’t really care whether they have a boy or girl, so long as the baby is healthy. Even if you are hoping against hope for one or the other, as soon as you see that wonderful baby you created, the gender probably won’t matter.

Author: Dawn Allcot

Going To See The Doctor

June 22, 2009

Going To See The DoctorIf you have been trying to get pregnant without success for more than a year, or for more than six months if you are over the age of 35, it may be time to visit a fertility specialist.

Before you see a doctor, however, make sure you have done everything in your power to get pregnant.

If this is the case, a fertility specialist should be able to help you pin down the reason you have not been able to conceive and discuss methods that will help you conceive or make a pregnancy possible. Statistics show that 85 percent of all infertility cases are curable.

Testing for Him

The doctor first will take down your medical history. Testing typically begins with the male, because his test involves a simple semen analysis. The analysis will look for sperm count, healthy movement of the sperm, and the shape and maturity of the sperm cells to determine the quality. The semen’s consistency and volume will be analyzed – approximately one teaspoon is considered normal. The pH balance will be tested – it should be slightly alkaline to survive in the environment of the cervix.

If the test results show abnormalities, a doctor specializing in male infertility will repeat the exam two times over the next three months. Many different factors – from a fever or illness to sexually transmitted diseases – can affect sperm count. Additionally, intense physical activity – and especially bicycle riding – can reduce sperm count, as can high temperatures, such as those experienced in a hot tub. Even wearing briefs instead of boxers can create a warm environment in the testes that can lower sperm count.

If the next two exams bring abnormal results, your partner will be referred to a urologist, who will perform the following tests:

  • A sperm antibody test
  • Hormonal blood tests
  • Testicular biopies to determine if he is sterile
  • Vasography which checks for any obstructions
  • Fructose test
  • Bovine cervical mucus test which checks the sperm’s ability to penetrate cervical mucus from cows
  • Hamster egg test which determines sperm penetration strength. This test is important, because if his sperm can’t penetrate the egg, in vitro fertilization will not be successful.

Testing for Her

If your partner’s semen analysis results are normal, or if all of the tests performed by the urologist show no problems, testing begins for you. A gynecologist specializing in reproductive endocrinology can take you through this stage of fertility testing.

The doctor will first view both of your charts and review your medical history, paying particular attention to past surgeries such as appendicitis, myomectomies or fibroid surgery, and any STDs on record. He will ask about your menstrual cycle – if you’ve ever had irregular periods, etc., and he will ask about your contraceptive history. He will then conduct interviews with both of you, either together or separately.

He will ask you both questions about previous pregnancies and their outcomes, as well as how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant. He will also ask many lifestyle questions including:

  • Frequency of sex
  • Do you use any recreational drugs?
  • Do you smoke?
  • How often do you drink alcohol?
  • How healthy is your diet?
  • Do you exercise regularly? How often and what activities?
  • Have you experienced any stressful events recently, such as a death or new job?

It may be tempting to lie when you answer some of these questions but your honest answers will help your doctor discover the cause of your infertility and make changes that will help you get pregnant.

Your exam includes a complete physical, including an internal, when the doctor will examine your ovaries for signs of problems such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), endometriosis, and PID. An ultrasound may be performed to check the condition of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Additionally, blood work will be done or scheduled to check reproductive and thyroid hormone levels and to test for STDs.

A visit to a fertility specialist can be a stressful experience, but knowing what to expect and being prepared can help alleviate some of your concerns, as well as make your visit go smoothly.

How can you prepare?

  • Bring a list of questions you and your partner want to ask
  • Be prepared with your families’ medical histories and your own medical histories
  • Be prepared with information about your menstrual cycle, including ovulation dates from charting your cycle for at least three months.

Author: Dawn Allcot

Ovulation Predictor Kits

June 18, 2009

Ovulation Predictor KitsMany methods exist for tracking your dates of ovulation. Some, such as tracking changes in your cervical mucus or using an ovulation calculator, are free. But many women rely on over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits, which can be purchased at drugstores like CVS, Rite-aid and Walgreens, and at retailers like Wal-mart, K-Mart, and Target. You can also find ovulation calculators online at They run about $15 to $40, and you can save money by purchasing in bulk online.

Two types of ovulation predictor kits exist – those that measure the luteining hormone in your urine and those that measure estrogen in your saliva. This article explains how to use both and evaluates some of the more popular brands.

Ovulation Predictor Test Strips

Ovulation predictor test strips measure the amount of LH (luteining hormone) in your urine. LH peaks right before you ovulate, giving most women a 36-hour window to try to conceive before they ovulate, and another 24 hours while they are ovulating. While you may get pregnant up to 24 hours after you ovulate, because an egg lives for 24 hours, the best time to try to conceive is the few days prior to ovulation.

Many fertility specialists say that Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) are more reliable than other ways of tracking your fertility. Your results may vary, though, if you have an irregular cycle. Additionally, if you have a long cycle, using an OPK every day until you ovulate, starting on day 10 of your cycle, gets expensive.

Additionally, OPKs only detect the hormone surge that precedes ovulation; they can’t tell if you will actually release an egg during your cycle.

To get the best results, follow the directions in the package for your specific test precisely. Keep in mind, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility, may affect the results of the test, as will certain fertility drugs, including Clomid.

How to Use an Ovulation Predictor Kit

Much like an over-the counter pregnancy test, you simply urinate (mid-stream) on the test strip. In most tests, you will see a control line and then a line that indicates the amount of LH in your urine. If the test result line is the same color or darker than the control line, you are experiencing the hormone surge that indicates you will ovulate soon—usually within 12 to 36 hours of the surge.

Unlike a pregnancy test, you don’t use an OPK with your first-morning urine. Instead, wait until about 2 PM – anytime after noon may be okay. You may have a hormone surge in the morning, but it takes 4 hours to show up in your urine. You may also want to test twice a day, once in the afternoon and once in the evening, to make sure you don’t “miss” the surge.

Since ovulation times vary, you should begin testing on day 10 of your cycle, which is approximately five days after the start of your period. These numbers may vary if you have an exceptionally long or exceptionally short cycle. Continue testing until you detect the LH surge.

Ovulation Kits That Measure Saliva

The QTest, Ovuscope, MaybeBaby and Fertile-Focus saliva ovulation test kits are just a few examples of kits which test for estrogen, rather than LH, to determine time of ovulation. Most of these kits are about $20 to $30, although others exist that are much more expensive.

A saliva ovulation test kit is essentially a small, re-useable 40X to 60X microscope. Some kits work with a supply of slides, while others, which are more expensive, let you test right on the lens. Tests are approximately deemed 98 percent accurate and capable of detecting ovulation up to 72 hours in advance.

As your body nears the time of ovulation, in addition to an LH surge you will experience an estrogen surge. This surge manifests in saline in your saliva. Saliva Ovulation Predictor Kits detect this saline, which shows up as a fern-like pattern on the microscope slide.

How to Use a Saliva Ovulation Predictor Kit

You can use the test first thing in the morning, or anytime during the day, as long as you have not eaten or drank anything, brushed your teeth or smoked for at least two hours before testing.

Use fresh saliva to test; swish your saliva around in your mouth and apply fresh saliva from under your tongue to the test slide.

If you are near the time of ovulation, you will see a fern-like pattern on the slide. During the transition phase, the slide will contain a mixture of ferns and small bubbles. You are not ovulating or in transitions if you see only tiny bubbles.

Keep in mind, smoking, eating, drinking or brushing your teeth up to two hours before taking the test could affect the results. Pregnancy, recent pregnancy, menopause, hormone-based birth control methods and hormone replacement therapy may also affect the test.

You may have to test for a few months before you begin to plan your pregnancy to recognize the fern pattern. Keep track of your cycle by marking every menstrual period on a calendar, too, so that you can begin testing just prior to your most likely time of ovulation. You may want to test at other times of month, too, for a comparison.

If, after several months, you are seeing ferns all the time, or not seeing any ferns around your suspected time of ovulation, check with your doctor. You may be producing estrogen all month, perhaps due to a lack of the hormone progesterone, or you may not be producing enough estrogen to conceive.

Author: Dawn Allcot

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic Procedures in fertilitySeveral tests performed by your doctor or reproductive endocrinologist will help diagnose the cause for your infertility. We already covered the tests your partner will go through in the section titled “Visiting Your Doctor.”

The tests for you range from very simple in-office tests no more invasive than a PAP smear or ultrasound to surgical procedures.

Post Coital Test
During the Post Coital Test the doctor takes a sample of your cervical mucus. The doctor will examine the cervical mucus under a microscope to determine if it is hospitable to sperm.

Timing is everything with this test; it must be performed four to 10 hours after sex when just prior to, during, or immediately following ovulation (i.e., your fertile period, or the time of your cycle when you should be able to conceive.) Use an ovulation predictor kit to be certain, although you can certainly use other timing methods, including tracking BBT (Basal Body Temperature) and cervical mucus.

Do not:

  • Use lubricant during sex
  • Douche after sex
  • Bathe or swim after sex (a shower is okay)

The doctor will take a small sample of cervical mucus and examine it for:

  • Quantity – There should be more plentiful amounts during your fertile period;
  • Consistency and clarity – It should be very thin and clear and also very stretchy, almost rubbery;
  • Ferning – Under a microscope, the doctor should see a fern-like pattern in the dried cervical mucus, indicating the presence of estrogen without progesterone hormones;
  • Cellularity – Few cells, other than sperm, should be present.

If any of these factors show problems, this could be the reason you are having difficulty conceiving. The doctor may recommend artificial insemination by means of intrauterine insemination in order to bypass the cervix all together.

However, the number one reason this test fails is poor timing; if the test was not done four to 10 hours after intercourse or was not done while you were ovulating, then the cervical fluid may not show a favorable environment for sperm to survive, swim and fertilize an egg. If this is suspected to be the case, a second test should be performed at the time of ovulation.

Other causes for an unfavorable cervical environment include:

  • Infection or irritation. If this is the cause, testing will show white blood cells in the mucus.
  • Procedures performed on the cervix to treat an abnormal Pap smear, such as freezing or laser treatment.
  • Medications. Clomid (generic: clomiphene) a fertility drug used to treat infertility caused by anovulation, can have adverse affects on cervical mucus. If your doctor prescribes the drug or increases your dosage, he should perform a post-coital test to be sure the cervical environment is still hospitable to sperm.

Most people think of ultrasounds as a non-invasive, painless procedure performed on pregnant women in order to see the unborn baby. True, an ultrasound can determine the gender, size (give or take 2 pounds), and often the general health of a fetus, but it can also give a doctor information about why you haven’t been able to conceive yet.

Your doctor will use an ultrasound to evaluate the condition of your ovaries and fallopian tubes, and check for cysts, tumors and uterine fibroids. He will be looking for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, endometriosis, and anything else that may be impairing your ability to get pregnant. An ultrasound can show the doctor if your eggs are developing properly and are being released from the ovaries and if the endometrial lining thickens sufficiently to permit implantation.

An endometrial biopsy is used to detect cancerous cells, precancerous cells, infections or any abnormalities that may be affecting your ability to conceive. The doctor inserts a thin catheter, called a pipelle, into the uterus and uses it to draw out cells for testing.

You may experience mild to intense cramping during and after the test. The doctor may recommend you take ibuprofen, such as Motrin or Advil, before and after the test to minimize cramping, or he may offer a prescription painkiller. You may have minor bleeding following the test.

You should take a pregnancy test prior to an endometrial biopsy since the procedure may terminate a very early pregnancy.

A hysteroscopy is an out-patient procedure performed that will allow your doctor to spot abnormalities in the uterus such as:

  • fibroid tumors
  • polyps
  • scar tissue

A hysteroscope is a very thin telescope with a camera on the end that can enter the cervix with no dilation. The uterus is expanded by means of saline solution or carbon dioxide, permitting the doctor to view the inside on a television monitor in the office. Minor cramping may result from the introduction of saline or carbon dioxide into the uterus, but the procedure is not considered especially painful.

Cleared by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 1997 for use to diagnose fallopian tube blockages in women trying to conceive, falloposcopy is regarded as a relatively new and complicated procedure. However, since nearly 35 percent of all female infertility cases are related to fallopian tube damage, this procedure may be invaluable in determining the cause of infertility. Your doctor will probably order less invasive tests first, however, including an ultrasound.

Because the fallopian tubes are located so deep within the reproductive system, past diagnostic procedures carried a 40 percent rate of false diagnoses. The STARRT Falloposcopy procedure, patented by Conceptus, Inc., shows a much greater accuracy rate.

The procedure takes about 45 minutes and is performed with local anesthesia or intravenous sedation. Another benefit of the test is that tubes can be repaired at the same time, with the same equipment, if the doctor finds any abnormalities. Tubal repair can take as long as two hours and your doctor will use a general anesthesia. If abnormalities are found but the tubes cannot be repaired, your doctor will discuss the possibility of in vitro fertilization with you and your partner.

Similar to a hysteroscopy, a falloposcopy views the inside of the fallopian tubes by means of a camera inserted into the body. It enters through a catheter that travels through the cervix and uterus and finally, into the fallopian tube. A fiber optic endoscope with a camera on the end is then inserted through the catheter, so the doctor can view images on a television monitor in the office.

Risks include infection and bleeding, so your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic as a preventative measure.

Laparoscopic surgery is an advance in medical technology which permits diagnostic surgery through a very small incision, into which a thin instrument (laparoscope) is inserted in order to take pictures of the abdomen. Carbon dioxide is used to expand the abdomen, permitting the doctor with a clear view of the uterus, cervix, and ovaries and fallopian tubes on a television monitor in his office or in the operating room.

Doctors in the late 20th century commonly recommended this diagnostic procedure in couples trying to conceive. Today, however, other procedures are recommended first. Although laparoscopy is simpler and safer than traditional surgery with a full-size incision, it is still surgery, and often performed under general anesthesia. Rarely does a laparoscopy turn up any abnormalities not spotted by other fertility screening tests.

Hysterosalpigogram (HSG)
According to the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, a hysterosalpigogram is a common infertility diagnostic procedure that is helpful in detecting tubal infertility. Since 25 percent of all infertility is caused by tubal abnormalities, this test may be an important one. Less invasive than a laparoscopy, top fertility clinics makes it part of its basic fertility screens.

The test is performed in the radiology department of the fertility clinic, hospital or medical center between days six and 13 of the patient’s menstrual cycle.

Dye is injected into the uterine cavity, through the vagina and cervix. If the fallopian tubes are normal, the dye should spill out into the abdominal cavity. If there is a tubal blockage, the dye will stop at that point. The X-rays will be available for evaluation that day.

An HSG test also detects:

  • uterine anomalies
  • polyps
  • fibroid tumors
  • uterine scar tissue
  • tubal defects
  • scar tissue around the fallopian tubes

Legs Cramps and Pregnancy

Legs Cramps and PregnancyPregnancy comes not only with joy but for some of us many aches and pains and little known conditions as well. Thankfully most of these ailments are short-lived and end with the birth, and have little or no harmful impact on the mother or baby. One such condition is leg cramps. The worst thing about these mostly nighttime attacks is that they can be painful. Many sufferers report being jolted awake by these cramps. They tend to begin in the second trimester.

Leg cramps are common in pregnancy but there is no definitive answer as to why some women have them. Some possible causes include:

  • Being dehydrated: Some pregnant women, especially those who are working cut back on water and fluid intake so as to minimize the frequent trips to the bathroom. Trying to cut back on nighttime bathroom visits is another reason why pregnant women avoid drinking fluids, especially in the late evening hours. This can lead to muscle problems.
  • Vitamins: Deficiency in certain Vitamins such as magnesium and potassium
  • Weight gain during pregnancy: Weight gain in pregnancy can cause stress on leg muscles resulting in leg pain from conditions such as sciatica

How to deal with leg cramps

There are number of ways to alleviate leg cramps. Some may not be appropriate for everyone based on their medical condition. Discuss some of these with your OB/GYN or midwife if you have concerns. Prevention tips include:

  • Take walks daily unless you are on bed rest or otherwise restricted
  • Avoid long stretches of sitting or standing
  • Avoid crossing your legs for long periods
  • Give your ankles a little exercise. Practice rotating them and wriggling your toes periodically
  • Drink lots of water
  • A warm bath before bed can help relax leg muscles
  • Try lying on your left side so as to aid circulation to your legs
  • If possible have someone give you a leg massage before bed

The best way to deal with a leg cramp when you get one is to stretch your leg out. Flex your toes and as your stretch your calf muscles. There will be pain at first but this will gradually disappear. Doing this tends to stop the cramping quicker than just waiting for it to pass.

If you experience persistent pain from these leg cramps see your doctor just in case you have something more serious going on. One of the most likely causes could be a blood clot in the leg. This can be deadly and should be treated as soon as possible.

Baby Growth Spurts

June 16, 2009

Baby Growth Spurts

Parents know when something is “off” with their child. Baby suddenly gets extra fussy, or seems to be hungry all the time, or isn’t sleeping like he or she used to. Maybe it’s a combination of these factors. Either way, things are not quite right with your baby.

Before you panic and call the pediatrician, consider your child’s age. What you’re experiencing could simply be a growth spurt. When my nursing son hit the one month mark, it seemed like all he wanted to do was eat. Considering that that was all he had done for the first four weeks of his life, it was nearly unfathomable that he might want to eat even more than what he was already consuming. But he did! Because, as it turned out, it was a growth spurt.

Growth spurts can be sometimes difficult to identify but, in general, they occur around the first few days after arriving home from the hospital, then at about 1 week old, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, 6 months and 9 months. In addition, after one year of age, growth spurts may occur again every few months or so until your child becomes a teenager. Of course, as with most things baby related, your timing may vary a bit. Growth spurts usually last two or three days.

Signs of a growth spurt include:

  • Baby is hungry all the time
  • He or she frequently wakes at night to eat
  • Baby is more fussy or cranky than usual

For nursing moms, if your baby seems to be hungry all the time, just go along with it and feed your baby when he or she wants to eat. Don’t worry about running out of milk; your milk supply will adjust to your baby’s needs. In addition, if you are nursing, you might also be hungrier or thirstier while your baby is experiencing a growth spurt. It’s nature’s way of telling you that you need to eat more for baby. Just eat or drink more each day (opting for healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and plenty of water, of course.)

If bottle feeding, bring on the bottles! Remember that babies are simply incapable of overeating. If he or she is fussing and seems hungry, try giving a bottle.

Addictions and Trying to Conceive

May 31, 2009

Addictions and Trying to ConceiveIf you drink, smoke or do any illicit drugs, now is the time to stop. All of these activities are dangerous to your unborn baby, and can also decrease your chances of conceiving successfully. It’s not easy to quit bad habits, so it’s best to struggle with the challenge before you’re pregnant, rather than after, when you’ll be busy adapting to many other changes in your body, too.

The research on the effects of caffeine during pregnancy seems to change more often than a new mom changes diapers. But the most recent reports state that drinking coffee during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase your chances of miscarriage. Since cutting caffeine out of your diet cold turkey may result in exhaustion and withdrawal headaches, it’s better to stop now than when you find out you’re pregnant and are already battling extreme fatigue and morning sickness, and you’d rather not take anything for that throbbing headache. (Tylenol is safe during pregnancy, but you’re still better off not relying on pain medications if you don’t have to.) Additionally, doctors in the Netherlands discovered that caffeine can reduce your chances of conceiving by about 26 percent; it has the same effect on TTC as drinking alcohol more than three times a week.

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that women who consumed more than 200 mg. of caffeine a day (the amount in just two cups of coffee) in the first trimester doubled their chances of a miscarriage. Other studies have shown that moderate caffeine intake, especially after the first trimester, is not necessarily bad. Still, it’s better to kick the habit now and make decaf coffee (or better yet, just drink water!) part of your new, healthier lifestyle.

If cutting your caffeine intake seems challenging, kicking the nicotine habit, for smokers, may seem impossible. But smoking during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight and pregnancy complications.

Don’t despair, however. There are many programs on the market today that can help you along the way. For many women, just thinking about the health of their unborn baby, and the dangerous effects of smoking on a fetus, may be enough to throw away those “cancer sticks.”

If sheer will power isn’t working, talk to your doctor about the best way for you to quit smoking. Drug-free techniques may include the Patch, nicotine gum, E-Cigs, hypnosis, or laser therapy. Most importantly, rely on your family and friends as a support network to help you.

Once you’ve quit, there are many good reasons not to start up again when your baby is born. Recent studies have shown that not only is second-hand smoke bad for babies (and everyone else) but third-hand smoke—those smoke particles and that odor that clings to your clothes after you’ve had a cigarette—is also linked to diseases such as cancer, heart disease and asthma.

While one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage per night has been shown to have health benefits, this isn’t the case for pregnant women. Even the smallest amount of alcohol may cause some level of birth defects linked to fetal alcohol syndrome. In spite of the old wives tale to the contrary, beer is not a “health food” for pregnant women.

If you’re trying to conceive, the “magic number” that will decrease your odds of conception by 26 percent is more than three drinks per week. If you’re trying to conceive, a glass of wine once a week with dinner won’t hurt you, but if you have a feeling that you may have trouble quitting altogether once you conceive, start trying to quit now!

If you find that you can’t go without a drink, there are programs that can help you. Look for a local AA chapter in your community, or talk to your doctor about support groups and help to quit drinking.

Having said all this, what if you get pregnant and weren’t trying to conceive? Will that night of frozen margaritas within the first two weeks of pregnancy hurt that unborn baby you didn’t even know you were carrying?

The use of any drugs, alcohol, nicotine or even prescription or over-the-counter medicines within the first trimester carries a slight risk, but, according to the authors of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the best thing to do is to put it behind you and focus on being as healthy as you can for the rest of your pregnancy.

Author: Dawn Allcot

Child Photography Challenges

Child Photography ChallengesWhen we use our children as photography subjects we are faced with a wide array of challenges. Maybe it’s those tricky toddlers or maybe it’s the weather that won’t comply? Whatever the challenge, though, there are ways to overcome various photography hurdles. Pictures don’t have to be perfect to be well received and treasured for years to come. It’s all about the emotion a photo evokes. Jumping the hurdles is easy, you just have to try.

  • You have a child who just won’t smile or when he does smile it’s all forced and fake?
    • How about capturing him when he’s not looking. Get him drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, blowing bubbles, or jumping on the trampoline.
  • The rain is relentless and you haven’t taken a picture for days because you are most interested in naturally lit photographs.
    • How about popping that flash and just snapping. You could be missing the best shots ever because you don’t want to use your flash.
  • You have multiple children and there is always one who looks away or closes her eyes. You just want one great picture of all of them together.
    • How about following them as they walk hand-in-hand on the beach, or you get them all playing together in the yard, or swimming in their kiddie pool? There aren’t any rules that say you must have them all looking and smiling.
  • The tantrums are plentiful and your fear is that you won’t get a decent picture of your terribly terrific toddler.
    • How about you put that bubble machine to use and capture some shots of your child playing amidst them, or maybe bath-time is a happy time and will yield some big smiles. Pick out times that your child is happy and get snappy!

Pictures that will be treasured don’t need to be posed. In this era of the digital camera we are afforded the option of taking as many pictures as our memory cards can hold. Keep those cameras within reach and start photographing the little moments, those ordinary –yet extraordinary– moments!

Natural Fertility Signs

May 29, 2009

Natural Fertility SignsOne way to increase your odds of conceiving quickly is to make sure you are having sex during the most fertile part of your cycle — the days just before, during and after ovulation.

Because sperm can live in the body for up to five days, but an unfertilized egg dies after 24 hours, you increase the odds of having sperm and egg meet by having sex just prior to ovulation. But how do you know when you are ovulating?

If your periods are very regular, and come consistently anywhere from 21 to 35 days apart, you can also use our ovulation calculator to predict when you are fertile.

But by tracking the physical signs of fertility, you will get more exact results, even if your cycle varies slightly each month. You can track your fertility by charting your Basal Body Temperature (BBT), Cervical Fluid, and Cervical Position.

Basal Body Temperature
BBT is the temperature of your body before any activity—your body’s baseline temperature. Your BBT rises slightly on the day of ovulation and remains elevated until just before your next period starts. To track your BBT, take your temperature orally with a BBT thermometer (they sell for about $10 at any drug store) every morning before you get out of bed and chart the results. A BBT thermometer only registers temperatures between 96 to 100 degrees F. and can detect very slight changes in your temperature. Most women have a BBT of 96 to 98 degrees normally before ovulation and 97 to 99 after ovulation.

Cervical Fluid
Cervical fluid, sometimes called cervical mucus, is produced by the lining of a woman’s cervical canal and varies in consistency, color, and amount based on where you are in your monthly cycle.

As you get closer to your time of ovulation, your cervical mucus will change in order to better permit the transfer of sperm into your cervix.

To get a good sample of your cervical mucus at any time, place your fingers (make sure they are clean) inside your vagina. When you pull your fingers out, examine the sample you’ve obtained, noting its consistency and color.
Immediately after menstruation, you will have several “dry days,” where there is very little fluid at all.  What is there may be white or opaque and thick and sticky. As you approach mid-cycle, you will note more moistness, and the fluid will be thin, and possibly cloudy. If you hold some between your fingers, it will be slightly stretchy.
In the few days just before ovulation, which is when you are most fertile, your cervical fluid will be copious, thin and transparent. It will be very stretchy, almost the consistency of egg whites.

Just as your cervical fluid changes throughout your cycle, so does the position of your cervix in order to facilitate the transportation of the sperm and fertilization of the egg during your fertile time. Monitoring the position of your cervix is another way to track your ovulation times. Using these three methods combined will give you the most accurate results.

Begin by checking your cervical position at the end of your period, and check it daily until you reach your time of ovulation. You should do this at the same time each day, and in the same position each time. You can check your cervical position while sitting on the toilet, or it may be easier to place on foot on the toilet and keep one on the floor. Move your middle finger all the way up into your vagina until you hit your cervix, which will feel like a rounded cylinder.

At the beginning of your cycle, your cervix will be low and easier to reach. During ovulation, it will rise to a higher position, and may even be difficult to reach with your middle finger. It will drop back down to a place where it is easier to touch after you ovulate.

Author: Dawn Allcot

Baby Shower Beginnings: How It All Started

May 18, 2009

Baby showers. They weren’t always about guessing games and diaper-shaped party favors. Although these celebrations got their start in the beginnings of human culture, they’ve continuously evolved. So when did the baby shower become the baby shower?

The Ancient Baby Shower

A long time ago—as far back as the ancient Egyptians and Greeks—families celebrated the act of bringing new life into the world. But instead of showering the expectant mom with gifts or pregnancy massages, she was hidden away for a period following the birth because it was believed the process was unclean. Celebrations included visiting temples or holding festivals during which the child was formally named. Ancient Greeks also engaged in shouting following labor to signify that peace was once again at hand.

Birth celebrations continued on the tenth day after birth. While the new mom was honored with a meal, just like today’s shower honorees, the momma-to-be in the ancient world didn’t receive so much as a diaper. Instead, they were expected to honor the birth goddess with gifts, or offerings.

The Middle Ages Baby Showers

During the Middle Ages, from the 5th to the 15th century, the celebrations were not so much about mom but about God. The primary birth celebration was the Christian baptism, which was held typically held just one day after the baby’s was born. Mom, however, could not be part of it because tradition dictated that she be sequestered for 40 days following childbirth. During the baptism, mothers counted on Godparents to play a central role. As spiritual teachers, godparents played a vital part in any child’s life. The role’s importance was evidenced by the costly gifts of silver that godparents often gave to the child.

The Renaissance Baby Shower

After the utilitarian celebrations of the Middle Ages, Renaissance celebrations must have seemed slightly more decadent. While baptisms remained important, the new mom was also honored. Family and friends showered her with gifts that included food, clothes, and—appropriately enough for the Renaissance—paintings. And although we know that modern-style rocker glider furniture wasn’t on the gift list, new moms often received a special wooden tray. Inscribed with good wishes for the new family, it was used to carry yummies and goodies to the mommy.

The Victorian Age Baby Shower

By the time the Victorians came along, showers had evolved again. Even though it was uncouth for pregnant women to be seen in public—or to admit that they were in the family way—new moms were typically honored with a tea party after the baby’s birth.

This tradition continued into the early 1900s, transforming into a more festive baby shower with a modern feel to it. Along with the party, friends and family gave the new mother handmade gifts. Grandmothers also traditionally provided gifts made from silver.

By the time the Rat Pack rolled around, the baby shower became a way to help new families cope with the financial burden that came along with those cute little bundles of joy. Gift givers focused on practical items, such as clothing, diapers, and bathing supplies.

The Modern Baby Shower

Baby showers today retain the gift giving and celebration but they have entirely new dimensions as well. For example, these parties were traditionally hosted by the mom-to-be’s friends. However, more families are starting to take a hand in shower arrangements. Mom’s not the only one being celebrated either. Today it’s not uncommon for Dad-to-be to share honoree status. Likewise, guests are no longer limited to sisters, grandmas, and girlfriends. The baby showers of today also include uncles, grandfathers, and golfing buddies.

Baby shower hostesses are often responsible for planning the entire shindig, from serving snacks on a pink platter to festooning the foyer in fuchsia. Trying to be the hostess with the most-est can be stressful, though. Party planners find themselves planning menus, crafting party favors, and coordinating baby shower activities. One aspect of baby showers that hasn’t changed is the gift giving. Moms- (and dads-) to-be are showered with a wide range of gifts. Popular practical presents include diapers, clothes, and nursery items like glider rockers. Luxury items are also a hit with soon-to-be parents. Spa treatments and chic gift baskets are a few of the popular pampering gifts. Modern moms can make it easier for family and friends to choose gift ideas by registering at a favorite store, whether it’s a baby boutique filled with frilly baby dresses or a home improvement store with everything need to create a custom nursery.

Although baby showers have changed dramatically through the ages—from honoring goddesses with gifts to pampering mom with a pedicure—one thing is clear: the arrival of a newborn is a major life milestone that should be honored. Whether it’s nursery glider or a diaper disposal device, gifts will probably continue to be a major part of the celebration. It’s likely future generations will feel that way as well…the question is: what will baby showers look like in 20 years or 100 years?

About the Author

Kimberly Aardal publishes, which features reviews and articles about many different types of rockers, from a glider for the nursery to the dutailier glider. She lives in Colorado and enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and decorating as well as relaxing in her favorite rocking chair.

Most Popular Baby Names for the year 2008

May 15, 2009

Most Popular Baby Names for the year 2008If you are like most parents, you started thinking about baby names the moment you found out you were pregnant. Some prospective parents even have favorite names picked out long before they ever conceived. So why is it so difficult to decide on the best baby name?

First of all, it’s so permanent. Naming a child can determine a lot of things in his or her life. Then there’s the problem of two parents agreeing on the same baby name. And it has to sound good with your last name. For example, last names that begin with vowel sounds often don’t flow well with first names that end in a vowel–a dilemma or the woman who picked out the perfect names long before she met her husband.

Sometimes parents might decide for or against a given name because of the nicknames associated with it (“If we name her Elizabeth we can call her Ellie”). There are in-laws to consider, and older children to contend with (“No, Johnny, we are not naming your baby sister ‘Jack'”). And some parent consider the names of their nieces and nephews.

Names are also generational (remember the girl in elementary school who had an “old fashioned” name?). Some of those grandma names are back. In fact, four of the top 20 girls’ names were on the list 100 years ago in the same form or a variation of it, as were three of the boys’ names.

Maybe you want to avoid the most popular names last year–or you want to get some ideas. Perhaps you just want to see where your child’s name ranked. Here is the list of the top 20 Babies Online member baby names for 2008. And when your little one is born this year, tell us what name you picked out–it will become a part of our 2009 data!

    Girl Names

  1. Madison
  2. Emma
  3. Isabella
  4. Chloe
  5. Ava
  6. Sophia
  7. Olivia
  8. Abigail
  9. Alexis
  10. Emily
  11. Samantha
  12. Alyssa
  13. Lily
  14. Hailey
  15. Addison
  16. Kaylee
  17. Grace
  18. Hannah
  19. Elizabeth
  20. Savannah

    Boy Names

  1. Jayden
  2. Ethan
  3. Jacob
  4. Aiden
  5. John
  6. Noah
  7. Michael
  8. Joshua
  9. Alexander
  10. Logan
  11. James
  12. Anthony
  13. Christopher
  14. Landon
  15. Matthew
  16. William
  17. Gavin
  18. Nathan
  19. Tyler
  20. Dylan

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