baby5It’s a well-known fact: 40 percent to 50 percent of pregnant women experience back pain, but we all hope it will go after the delivery, like the rest of pregnancy-related discomforts such as heartburn and the close friendship with the loo.

Actually, your chances of having back pain again increase threefold after the baby is born.

“At first, new moms are lifting seven to 10 pounds 50 times a day, and by 12 months, they likely are chasing and lifting a 17-pound child. Two years later, mothers will be lifting a 25-pound to 30-pound child,” Baltimore orthopaedic spine surgeon Alan M. Levine, MD, says.

Here are ten great tips to prevent back pain in new moms. The tips are kindly provided by Dr. Levine, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – and comments in italics come from the real mom, yours truly.

1. Begin exercising soon after delivery to restore abdominal and back muscle tone. Ten minutes of stretching exercises on the floor each day will restore hip and back flexibility. Dr. Levine suggests that you exercise when your baby is taking a nap, but, frankly, such tip can only come from a man.

When baby’s taking a nap, it’s our chance to strain our back even more by cleaning, mopping, doing laundry and all other things that comprise the life of a normal woman. Not exercising. That belongs to our pre-baby past, along with six-inch heels and 20-dollar lipsticks.

Please note: women who delivered by Caesarian-section (C-section) should wait six weeks or until they get the permission of their obstetrician before they begin exercising.

2. Try to get back to your normal weight within six weeks after giving birth. The risk of back pain is greater among young, overweight women, according to Dr. Levine.

Six weeks? That simply is not realistic and plain dangerous. You cannot shed that much weight in such a short time, especially if you are breastfeeding. It took me nine months to accumulate those ten kilos. Normally, women get back to their pre-pregnancy weight in about a year after giving birth, that’s of course, if you don’t go the lipo route.

3. Do not stretch your arms out to pick up the baby. Bring him/her close to your chest before lifting. Avoid twisting your body. Now, that makes perfect sense.

4. To pick a child up from the floor, bend at your knees (not at your waist), squat down, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles. Also a great tip.

5. Remove the high chair tray when you are trying to put the baby in or take the baby out of the high chair. That’s not always possible, but nice point anyway.

6. When picking the child up out of the crib, put the side down and pull the child toward you rather than lifting over the top. Now, that’s really gymnastic,  but I will try.

7. Consider using a “front pack” to carry the baby when you are walking. Again, a tip from a man’s world. Front carriers are notorious for making back hurt like mad. Even the most ergonomic ones. Wrap fabric slings are a bit gentler.

8. Do not carry a child on your hip; this overloads the back muscles. Completely true.

9. To avoid upper back pain from breastfeeding, bring the baby to your breast rather than bending over to the baby. Use an upright chair rather than a soft couch. Well-known fact but thanks for reminding.

10. Four-door vehicles are better than two-door vehicles for ease of placing the child in the car seat. With the car seat positioned in the middle of the back seat, do not stand outside the car, reach in and, at arm’s length, try to put the baby in the seat but rather kneel on the back seat to place the baby into the car seat.

Now, that’s a good point – although I cherish my recurring fantasy of having a designer baby seat installed into my dream Porsche.


PregnancyWe’re programming our children to be fat, says the author of a groundbreaking study that found how exposure to a high-fat diet during pregnancy produces permanent changes in the offspring’s brain.

Apparently, eating fatty foods during pregnancy leads to overeating and obesity early in life, according to new research by Rockefeller University scientists.

“We’ve shown that short-term exposure to a high-fat diet in utero produces permanent neurons in the fetal brain that later increase the appetite for fat,” says senior author Sarah F. Leibowitz, who directs the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurobiology at Rockefeller.

“This work provides the first evidence for a fetal program that links high levels of fats circulating in the mother’s blood during pregnancy to the overeating and increased weight gain of offspring after weaning.”

Research in adult animals by Leibowitz and others has shown that circulating triglycerides stimulate brain chemicals known as orexigenic peptides, which in turn spur the animals to eat more.

Scientists also have shown that obese and diabetic mothers produce heavier children and that exposure to fat-rich foods early in life leads to obesity in adulthood.

These studies suggested that food intake and body weight may be programmed during fetal development.

Leibowitz and her colleagues found that pups from the mothers fed high fat diets had, in utero, a much larger number of neurons that produce the appetite-stimulating peptides – and they kept them throughout their lives.

During gestation, the mother’s fat-rich diet also stimulated the proliferation of neuronal precursor cells and their migration to obesity-promoting centers in the brain.

In rats on a balanced diet, these neurons were much fewer in number and appeared much later after birth.

“We believe the high levels of triglycerides that the fetuses are exposed to during pregnancy cause the growth of the neurons earlier and much more than is normal,” says Leibowitz.

The researchers hypothesize that because the mother must prepare her embryos to survive on her diet, they need to be born with the brain mechanisms that allow them to eat and metabolize all the excess fat they are consuming.

“We’re programming our children to be fat,” Leibowitz says.

“I think it’s very clear that there’s vulnerability in the developing brain, and we’ve identified the site of this action where new neurons are being born. We now need to understand how the lipids affect these precursor cells that form these fat-sensitive neurons that live with us throughout life.”

This surprising finding, reported in the Nov. 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, provides a key step toward understanding the increased prevalence of childhood obesity during the last 30 years.

Older age among fathers may be associated with an increased risk for bipolar disorder in their offspring.

Bipolar disorder is a common, severe mood disorder involving episodes of mania and depression, according to background information in the article. Other than a family history of psychotic disorders, few risk factors for the condition have been identified.

Older paternal age has previously been associated with a higher risk of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism.

Emma M. Frans, M.Med.Sc., of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues identified 13,428 patients in Swedish registers with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

For each one, they randomly selected from the registers five controls who were the same sex and born the same year but did not have bipolar disorder.

When comparing the two groups, the older an individual’s father, the more likely he or she was to have bipolar disorder. After adjusting for the age of the mother, participants with fathers older than 29 years had an increased risk.

“After controlling for parity [number of children], maternal age, socioeconomic status and family history of psychotic disorders, the offspring of men 55 years and older were 1.37 times more likely to be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder than the offspring of men aged 20 to 24 years,” the authors write.

The offspring of older mothers also had an increased risk, but it was less pronounced than the paternal effect, the authors note.

For early-onset bipolar disorder (diagnosed before age 20), the effect of the father’s age was much stronger and there was no association with the mother’s age.

“Personality of older fathers has been suggested to explain the association between mental disorders and advancing paternal age,” the authors write.

“As men age, successive germ cell replications occur, and mutations accumulate monotonously as a result of DNA copy errors,” the authors continue. “Women are born with their full supply of eggs that have gone through only 23 replications, a number that does not change as they age. Therefore, DNA copy errors should not increase in number with maternal age. Consistent with this notion, we found smaller effects of increased maternal age on the risk of bipolar disorder in the offspring.”

“However, the mental disorders associated with increasing paternal age are under considerable genetic influence.” Therefore, there may be a genetic link between advancing age of the father and bipolar and other disorders in offspring.”

The report appears in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Premature infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy may be at even higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than preemies whose mothers did not smoke, according to new research out of the University of Calgary.

In the first-ever experimental study to compare the breathing reflexes of preemies of smokers versus non-smokers, researchers found that babies whose mothers had smoked showed a number of signs of impaired respiratory function.

“Smoking during pregnancy is a double-edged sword with respect to SIDS,” said Shabih Hasan, M.D., a staff neonatologist and professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Calgary, and the principal investigator of the new study.

“Not only does it raise a mother’s likelihood of having a preterm baby, who is already among the most vulnerable to SIDS, but it increases the infant’s susceptibility to SIDS even further.”

Studies have indicated that a combination of hypoxia (low oxygen) and hypercarbia (excess of carbon dioxide) may be acute precursors to SIDS.

Infants at the greatest risk for SIDS have been shown to have both attenuated arousal and ventilatory responses to hypoxia and/or hypercarbia.

“Preterm babies are known to have increased breathing difficulties in proportion to their prematurity and cigarette smoke is known to increase apneas in full-term babies,” said Dr. Hasan. “But until now, cigarette smoke exposure and preterm birth have not been investigated together with respect to their potential effects on respiratory dysfunction.”

To analyze the effects of cigarette smoke exposure on preterm infants’ respiratory health and their risk of SIDS, the researchers recruited 22 preterm infants who had been spontaneously born between 28 and 32 weeks with no other complicating respiratory factors.

Twelve of the infants had mothers who had smoked five or more cigarettes every day in pregnancy.

The mothers of the other ten infants did not smoke during pregnancy.


The two groups were remarkably similar in some measures: respiratory rates and number of breathing pauses were similar among both groups of infants.

But there were significant differences between the two groups of preterm babies with respect to heart rate and recovery period.

The cigarette-smoke exposed infants showed increased heart rate during the hypoxemic period compared with their baseline values, but there was no difference in heart rates was observed in control infants, indicating that the oxygen depletion put their bodies under more stress than the control groups.

Furthermore, while blood oxygen levels decreased similarly in both groups during the hypoxemic challenge, infants who were exposed to cigarette smoke did not recover as well, as quickly or as often as the infants born to non-smoking mothers.

“Our study shows that preterm infants make incomplete and/or delayed recovery from interruptions in breathing,” said Dr. Hasan. “This has clear implications for their risk of SIDS. But there is even still another reason for concern even after the risk of SIDS has passed. Inability or delayed recovery from repeated low oxygen episodes can also be detrimental to brain development. There is increasing evidence that infants exposed to prenatal cigarette smoke are at high risk for developmental and behavioral disorders.”

There could be two explanations, researchers say: first of all, nicotine interacts with highly selective endogenous neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which may in turn affect development of areas in the central nervous system essential for respiratory control. Secondly, cigarette smoke can slow lung development and worsen lung mechanics.


Pregnant women who smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis (those who live with smokers) may be raising the odds that their baby will be born with a cleft lip, one of the most common types of birth defect.

Cleft lip and cleft palate arise when the tissues that form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip do not fuse properly, sometime between the fifth and ninth week of pregnancy.

Norwegian researchers found that women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day during their first trimester were nearly twice as likely to have a baby with a cleft lip as nonsmokers were.

Granted, there are not many clueless moms who continue chain-smoking placing an ash tray on their bellies. But many of us inhale someone else’s tobacco fumes.

This angers me most: why all these god-forsaken smokers think they have the right to force other people inhale their poisons? If you choose to kill yourself, it’s fine with me, but what on Earth gives you right to spread the disease among other people?

To me, smokers who proudly march along the street with their cigarettes puffing smoke into other people’s lungs are no better off than people with syphilis or AIDS who deliberately infect others, from spite, fury or some sort of sick vendetta.

The findings are horrifying. Nonsmoking women who were near a smoker for at least two hours each day had a 60 percent higher risk of giving birth to a child with cleft palate or cleft lip than women who were not exposed to passive smoking, regardless of genetics.

“First trimester smoking was clearly associated with risk of cleft lip,” Dr. Rolv T. Lie, of the University of Bergen in Norway, concluded, after his team studied 1,336 infants — 573 of whom had an oral cleft.

Scientists report the results in the journal Epidemiology, as reported by news at

It’s getting scarier out there for a lot of people – especially for future moms. Especially for those who can’t get the green bug out of their mind. Anthrax, mad cow disease, mold contamination in the Katrina states – our home is where we used to feel protected from anything creepy that might spread germs. No wonder, we are reaching for products that enable us to get a better sense of self-protection.

Antibacterial all-purpose cleaners and hand wipes today are more popular than ever. Are they good for a newly green mum? Let’s take a look. Most of them are made of petroleum, a non-renewable source. Some detergents contain alkylphenol ethoxylates, suspected hormone disruptors; and all antibacterial cleansers prompt bacteria to mutate and produce antibiotic-resistant offspring, according to a 2000 World Health Organization report. Chlorine bleach, even in mild solution, creates organochlorines that are known to break havoc on immune system and to even trigger an array of cancers. (Are you still swimming in a chlorinated pool, by the way?) Chlorine is doing double whammy when mixed with another popular antibacterial agent, triclosan. Together they form chloroform, a potential toxin and suspected carcinogen.

I am not telling you to embrace bacteria – this would be criminal. But I can’t recommend you pouring some industrial-strength solution over all of your kitchen surfaces and door knobs. So what can you do to cope with the reality of dangerous bacteria? There’s no way around it: Wash like crazy. Cleanse your hands before handling any food and after touching raw meat or poultry. Thoroughly wash “prewashed” produce and all vegetables and fruit you will peel.

To kill food-borne pathogen bacteria such as E.coli or salmonella use hot, soapy water to wash all cutting boards, dishes, knives, and surfaces that have touched raw meat or eggs.

To disinfect bathroom or kitchen surfaces, try white vinegar which helps kill bacteria, mold, and viruses. For added peace of mind, you may consider buying “green” antibacterial cleansers such as EPA-registered Earth Power Herbal Disinfectant, Bio-Shield Cleaner or all-purpose cleansers by Seventh Generation and Ecover. While vinegar is a good natural disinfectant, when you have a newborn, commercial disinfectant is called for.

These days, there’s no shortage of antibiotic-laced wipes. Should you rush out to buy them? Not necessary, say infectious disease experts. Instead, wash hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds, making sure to get in between fingers and under fingernails. For baby changing table and a bath tub you can use one of organic spray sanitizers that are formulated with strong alcohol, tea tree oil, witch hazel and citric acid. A simply wipe with vodka (just be careful not to sniff at the alcohol fumes!) will do the trick. Pour some plain unflavoured vodka in a spray bottle, add a couple of drops of lemon, rose and lavender oil, shake well and you just got yourself a perfectly natural antimicrobial spray.

Hand sanitizers like Purell kill 99.9 percent of most common germs, according to company claims, but ordinary soap washes away both bacteria and viruses. Just wash frequently, especially before eating or preparing food, after you handled your pet and of course after you came home from work or using public transportation. To encourage yourself to wash your hands frequently, splurge on some luxurious organic hand washes. Most often, they are very concentrated, too, so a little will go a really long way.

If you are planning to have a baby, every little helps. In addition to adopting a completely green, organic lifestyle, my partner and I boosted our vitamin intake, particularly antioxidants selenium, vitamins C and E, and zinc.

Zinc is the most widely studied nutrient in terms of fertility for both men and women. It is an essential component of genetic material and a zinc deficiency can cause chromosome changes in either you or our partner, leading to reduced fertility and an increased risk of miscarriage. Zinc is necessary for your body to use the reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, more efficiently.

However, zinc is even more important for your partner: zinc is found in high concentrations in the sperm. Zinc is needed to make the outer layer and tail of the sperm and is, therefore, essential for the health of your partner’s sperm and, subsequently, your baby. Interestingly, several studies have also shown that reducing zinc in a man’s diet will also reduce his sperm count. Your partner should take at least 30 mg of zinc per day starting at least two months before conceiving.

Another important mineral to recommend to your partner is selenium, an antioxidant that helps to protect your body from highly reactive chemical fragments called free radicals. Selenium can prevent chromosome breakage, and good levels of selenium are also essential to maximise sperm formation. Blood selenium levels have been found to be lower in men with low sperm counts. Selenium is not without side effects: among the most common are split nails and weakened hair. If you feel you need to boost your chances, the recommended dosage is 1000 mg per day. Among natural sources of selenium are eggs, onions, garlic, brazil nuts, seafood, shellfish, egg yolk, onions, garlic, dairy, wheat germ, whole grains, and brewer’s yeast.

When you are trying to conceive make sure your partner consumes enough of essential fatty acids since the semen is rich in prostaglandins which are produced from these fats. Men with poor sperm quality, abnormal sperm, poor motility or low count, have inadequate levels of these beneficial prostaglandins.

Plant-derived vitamin E is also beneficial for sperm fertility and motility, while natural vitamin C is known for protecting sperm and the DNA within it from damage. If DNA is damaged, there may be a chromosomal problem in the baby, should the pregnancy proceed. Whether or not DNA damage does have these effects has not been conclusively proven, but it’s worth taking vitamin C and the other antioxidants as a precautionary measure.

Some of you may opt for pills that contain all of these vitamins and minerals. But naturals forms of zinc, selenium, vitamins C and E should not be neglected. They are good for you, and adequate levels of these life-savers in your body will be even better for your little one.