Tag Archives: Health

10 weird things you didn’t know about being pregnant – Part 2

 

From the bionic fatigue, food aversions and just general “yucky” feeling in the first trimester, to the itchy, bitchy and huge feeling in the third
trimester, being pregnant is not for the faint-hearted.  I touched on five of the the strange pregnancy symptoms that you never knew to expect (Read Part 1).

Here are another five pregnancy phenomenon to look out for and make peace with.

  1. Cue the snoring orchestra

Especially in the third trimester, snoring can occur as the mucous membr
anes in your nose swell.  This is caused by the higher levels of estrogen as well as the increased amount of blood during pregnancy.  Add to that the possible excess weight you are packing thanks to a growing baba, you have extra tissue around your head and neck which doesn’t help the snoring phenomenon much either.  So the heavier you are, the more likely you are to have trouble breathing when sleeping.  Baby Centre.com gives some practical advice on how to deal with snoring during pregnancy.

  1. Where did I put my keys

“Porridge brain”, “Pregnancy Brain”, “Momnesia”, “Mommy Brain” – whatever you prefer to call it – most moms-to-be talk about being forgetful during (and after) pregnancy.  The truth is that the capacity of the brain remains unchanged as does your IQ during pregnancy.  So what’s the cause?  According to Louann Brizendine, MD, director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, “There is 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen marinating the brain during pregnancy.  These hormones affect all kinds of neurons in the brain. By the time the woman delivers, there are huge surges of oxytocin that cause the uterus to contract and the body to produce milk – and they also affect the brain circuits.”  In other words, when you’re pregnant, you have higher than normal hormone levels and a whole new set of priorities which can lead to apparent forgetfulness.  Let’s be honest, growing a little human being is one of the most important tasks you’ll ever face, so why should writing that memo at work or cleaning that bath tub seem that important?

  1. Is that a contraction?

That baby bump didn’t just come out of nowhere.  Your uterus has to grow and expand to accommodate that little life form growing inside you, so other things have to make way to help the expansion project.  The round ligaments that surround and support your uterus and connect to the groin have to stretch and thicken to allow for this change, and this you will feel as possible sharp pains in your belly or hips.  It’s not a contraction, but it may sure feel like one.  Then there’s the Braxton Hicks contractions, or false labour pains, that many women experience in pregnancy especially in the third trimester, but some as early as the second trimester.  The contractions are a tightening in your uterus that’s irregular, infrequent and unpredictable.  These contractions are not a “pre-labour” sign, just your body preparing for the real deal when baby is ready to come.

  1. My gums are bleeding doc!

You’re brushing and flossing your teeth as normal, but now your gums are bleeding. Don’t stress, it’s just another one of those interesting little pregnancy quirks.  Some experts call it pregnancy gingivitis, but all it really means is that due to those pesky surging pregnancy hormones that cause swollen nasal membranes, your gums can become more inflamed and are also more susceptible to bacteria and plaque.  Try switching to a toothpaste specifically for sensitive teeth and gums and try opting for a softer toothbrush.  Don’t abandon the flossing, just be more gentle.

  1. Big and weepyIMG_0495

There are 101 things that happen to our bodies when we fall pregnant, some unexpected and undesirable, and some to be celebrated as the miracle being pregnant really is.  I’ve walked a long journey to falling pregnant, and while I’ve finally conquered infertility this time round and am trying to appreciate every little aspect of being pregnant, I can’t help still feeling like a big, unattractive pregnant mare.  Then it’s the idea of bringing a little human into this big, wide world.  Will I be able to give this child everything she needs?  Will I be able to protect her and keep her safe from harm?  Will I be a good parent?  There are so many questions …

It’s all perfectly normal I’m told.  So if you feel the same way, rest assured that you and every other new mommy are feeling the same way.  We’ll be just fine :)

Beauty products for hormonal acne: the good, the bad and the downright nasty

For over a year now I’ve been tormented by hormonal acne.  For a woman in her mid-thirties, it’s debilitating to have to face friends, family and work colleagues with an uneven skin tone and pimples to boot.

Acne vulgaris

My seemingly over-active sebaceous glands have managed to teleport me back to the dark days of being a teenager.  Back then, my solution to oily skin, pimples, those nasty under-the-skin bumps and blackheads was the oral contraceptive, a magic little pill I started taking at the age of 17 years.  It was marvellous, and thankfully my acne subsided and the bad memories gradually faded.  Then, at the age of 34, I upset the apple cart by going off the pill.  My fairly clear skin returned to its previous oily and pimply state, leaving me feeling helpless and just plain miserable.

Since then, I’ve tried taking different vitamins, minerals and tissue salts; bought numerous facial cleansers, toners, moisturisers, serums and acne/spot treatments; and indulged in countless expensive facial peels and deep cleansing facials – all of this to figure out that treating acne, especially adult acne, is a challenging task. 

The first step to treating adult hormonal skin problems is to be aware of what hormonal acne is and what causes it:

  • Hormonal imbalances such as Estrogen, Progesterone or Testosterone spikes or dips, or even a hormonal imbalance in the ovaries (polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • Stress which increases the Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands
  • Lifestyle choices e.g. too much caffeine, dairy products, processed foods with refined sugar
  • Menstrual cycles can cause acne to flare up
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Hormones in food and in plastics

For many women, taking an oral contraceptive regulates hormones and seems to be the miracle answer to all problems. Sure, taking birth control has its advantages (I should know), but don’t be so quick to discount its side effects either.  Do your homework by researching the different oral contraceptives out there in order to make an informed decision.  Of course, making lifestyle changes can also offer beneficial results for the adult acne sufferer.  Simply by reducing intake of caffeine, and dairy products as well as consumption of processed foods, acne can indeed be lessened or even eliminated.

With regards to beauty products, there are a myriad of products out there that promise to reduce acne and promote a clear, blemish free skin. In my experience, many of these products work by drying out the skin, which for an adult acne sufferer is not the answer.  From the hordes of products I’ve tried, here is my personal rating on the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Product table

So there you have it, for me, the winner from a budget and product effectiveness is Eucerin’s DermoPURIFYING skin care product range. So far, I’m winning the hormonal acne battling little by little …

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It’s easy to lose your marbles in the loony ball pit of depression

There  is something so therapeutic about the ocean. A powerful ebb and flow that serves to remind me just how unimportant I am really am in the greater scheme of things. I am humbled and captivated by the sea – it’s actually the right scene for the space I’m in. Nature has a way of pulling me closer to God, and the sea and surf in particular seems to nurture my inner peace when I find myself in personal chaos.  With what has transpired in the past two weeks, I needed to reflect on events and I needed time to appreciate life in general.

Since my last blog post, “What’s in the belly of the monster?”, I was drawn further into a depressive darkness that swallowed my hope and joy.  I almost left my husband, I contemplated how much better people’s lives would be without me, and a friendship of over 20 years terminated in a spiral of unfortunate events. Additionally, a perception of being unappreciated in my career and the fact that I could actually lose said job, was the icing on the cake. 

I found myself in a down-slide that gained momentum with every day.  Between seesawing episodes of tearfulness and anger, I visited my doctor, changed my anti-depressant medication from Zoloft to Wellbutrin XL and was booked off work with a depressive episode. Unfortunately for me, my depression actually worsened and I experienced several bad side-effects, amongst others, insomnia, increased agitation, and aggression.  All this culminated in a mini breakdown of sorts.

Toes in the sandAfter a second visit to the good doctor and a diagnosis of burnout and anxiety, I was changed back to my former medication and given another medication on top of that to help me cope. Now, after strict instructions to get some rest and relaxation, I am at the coast doing just that!

I’ve found that my toes in the sand, a salty sea breeze in my nostrils and the soothing sound of breaking waves in my ears are the best prescription. I feel happier and more at peace than I have felt in a while! It’s a first step to getting back on the wagon; and since I’m taking this whole ‘getting better’ thing day by day, that indeed makes it a very significant step.

What’s in the belly of the monster?

There is a time for everything:  a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to grieve and a time to dance, a time to love and a time to hate, a time to embrace and a time to turn away.  Where are you in your life? 

We live our short existence in seasons, and that’s ok, because there is a time and place for almost everything under the sun. But for some of us, we find ourselves ensnared in one never-ending season:  winter.  

I think back to my days as a younger woman in her early twenties. I had lost my father to depression and alcoholism and was left alone to my own devices.  I had no siblings and a dysfunctional relationship with my mother. I found myself in a place filled with turmoil and unhappiness. I even tried to end my life.  But eventually I found God and was pulled out of the muck and mire.  I was happier again – for a short while – before slipping back into the arms of a former lover, that is, the comfortable misery I had once known.

I can truly imagine how Jonah must have felt when he was swallowed by the whale!  In my opinion, the belly of the monster [depression] is a dark, cold and desolate place to be trapped in.  Yet, I’ve been in this place before; I’ve actually come full circle! While crying helplessly in the shower yesterday, apparently for no reason whatsoever, it dawned on me that I’m familiar with this feeling of despair.  I am also concerned about how much of the so-called depression gene I have inherited from my father. Perhaps I really do suffer from dysthymia?

Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer

Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to research, the Greek word dysthymia refers to a ‘bad state of mind’ or ‘ill humour’.  It is characterised as one of the two forms of clinical depression, although it apparently has less serious symptoms than major depression, but lasts longer.  The American Psychiatric Association defines dysthymia as a depressed mood most of the time for at least two years, along with at least two of the following symptoms: poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or excessive sleep; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or indecisiveness; and hopelessness.  Some experts surmise that dysthymia ‘runs in families and probably has a hereditary component’. Other proposed symptoms of dysthymia include ‘a strong tendency to be critical of oneself and others, pessimism, guilt, brooding and gloominess’.

Where I am, I don’t want to be. I feel as if I’m mourning the life I wanted to have. I know I have so much to be thankful for, so much to celebrate – right now I’m just in the belly of the monster, and I can’t find the exit sign!

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Down the depression rabbit hole

I’m not in a good space right now. The positive spin on this is that I know rough times foster the need for change, the need to do and act differently, to challenge the status quo and cross over into a better situation. That’s apparently where I am – on the pathway to something better.

Despite knowing this, I of course, still need to get through this bad patch. I fully realise that I can’t keep blaming my past on how I feel today. I know that my reactions and feelings stem from my insecurities and my innate inability to believe that I can be loved. Yet, acknowledgement and awareness is not actually helping me to change how I behave.

I am trying so hard not to be sucked further into this black hole of depression and this pit of self-despair.  I try harder to keep a smile on my face and to appear happy.  I’ve even started to keep clear of confrontation.  Me? Steer away from confrontation? That, in itself, should be a warning sign!

On the Threshold of Eternity

On the Threshold of Eternity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on past experience, I recognise all the warning signs:  the hyper-sensitivity, the tearfulness, the feelings of being unloved and being unworthy, the increased shopping expenditure and consequent credit card debt, the need to look and feel more in control by focusing on my physical appearance – and yes, shying away from confrontation because I know I’m not emotionally strong enough to handle it at this juncture.

Am I bipolar? Apparently, after chatting to a friend that is bipolar (and doing a bit of ‘google-ing’), I’m not. Is my life, my job, my lifestyle, my relationships, so bad? No. There is no logical answer for my destructive behaviour – except that I do still feel this way. Previously I turned to antidepressants as a miracle cure for my depressive state of mind. I can’t do the same now – after all, surely 50 mg of Zoloft a day should be doing the trick?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers. I am caught in a spiral and I am trying to claw my way out.  Hopefully, dear reader, I will succeed, because there is one huge difference between now and the depression I suffered in the past:   I can now write about it and openly share my feelings without fear of admonishment or undue remorse. I can draw on the strengths and experiences of other writers and bloggers who are, or have, gone through the same trials and tribulations. 

I am not alone.

Sweaty armpits and BO crimes against humanity

What’s that smell? Amazingly, as soon as we smell something stinky, our first reaction is to take a deeper whiff!  And that’s just what I did! Standing in the isle of my local grocery store, breathing in deeply while taking a quick look around to try to pinpoint the source of the stench.

My brain is working at 6000 revs per minute to solve the odour crime against humanity.  An internal dialogue takes place in literally one-tenth of a second.

“Is the stench a silent but deadly fart?”
“No …”

Stinky feet?”
“Nobody has their shoes off …”

“Smelly perfume?”
“Hmmmm, close …”

“Body odour?”
BINGO!

 

verschiedene Deodorants

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The culprit is a young man standing behind me in the isle gazing forlornly at the neatly stacked cans of deodorant.  Clearly he’s come to the right section, but golly gosh, why did he leave it for so long? The body odour (BO) is so bad that my eyes are actually watering!

Once I’ve grabbed my husband and the trolley and dart around the corner, I instantly feel guilty. Some people do have a problem with excessive sweating and body odour. In fact, I myself have been experiencing some … er … problems in the armpit arena (blush).

My sweaty tale of woe started when I went off the contraceptive pill last year. I had been on the pill, without a break, since I was 17.  However, with plans to prepare my body to start a family, I decided to go off the pill at the ripe age of 34.

Little did I know what horrors were awaiting me.  Besides developing an oily skin with pimple breakouts that is reminiscence of my teens, the worst was the change in my natural body scent. Suddenly my deodorants, roll-ons and perfumes didn’t smell so kosher.  I was definitely perspiring a lot more too. I was mortified. I had never, never had a problem with how I smelt and yet, there I was, an honorary member of the BO Offenders.

One year has passed, and truthfully I’m still battling to find a suitable antiperspirant. I’ve found one deodorant that seems to work better than the rest and thankfully, any armpit aromas are limited to one week a month, which is linked to when I am ovulating.

Over and above carrying my trusty deo can in my handbag, Ive done a little research on the subject of BO due to hormonal changes.  Apparently supplements such as a combination of Vitamin B and Magnesium, or Zinc and Magnesium, may just help my little problem. The article I read also suggested Chlorophyll tablets. As an added precaution, I need to curb my soaring coffee intake as caffeine is an alleged BO accomplice.

Maybe I should’ve passed this good advice onto that poor young man in the grocery store?   Somehow though, I dont think hormones are the cause of his troubles.  Im sure a good bath and a strong antiperspirant will easily solve his problem.

The smell of desire: fact or fiction?

Goose bumps provoked by a fresh breeze. Photo ...

“His very smell gives me goose bumps and turns my brain to mush.”

The topic of pheromones and how they affect physical attraction has interested me for a long time. For example, I once dated a guy whose hobbit-like body odour turned me on completely. For some reason I was intensely attracted to him even though it defied all logic. That’s what I’m talking about – pure primal attraction! The kind of attraction we sometimes don’t understand and often cannot rationalise.

Although some people aren’t as smell sensitive as others, “scientists have found repeatedly that the less a person smells like you (as far as natural body odours go), the more attractive – or rather, the less repulsive – you find their armpit aromas”. This is according to ‘Scientific American’ (Armpit Psychology: The science of body odour perception).

If I think of my husband, I confess that I find his scent in the morning intoxicating – I just want to drink him in. He actually admitted something along the same lines to me too. Every morning when I roll out of bed, he always moves over to my side of the bed. I initially thought it was because he prefers my pillow to his (which he does!). However, the real reason is that he apparently likes the scent I leave behind on my pillow.

In an article ‘Scent of a woman’, Rachel Herz Ph.D. says that “women rank how a man smells as the number one determinant for whether she’ll be sexually attracted to him. Moreover, what men each woman finds most sexy smelling varies widely and is tied to immune system genetics”.

She goes on to refer to research that shows how “naturally cycling women prefer the body-odour of men whose immune system genes are relatively different from their own”. It is seemingly nature’s process to help a woman select a male partner that she is compatible with in terms of fertility and reproduction. Why is this important you ask? Simply put: because it ensures the reproduction of genetically strong offspring.

Oral contraceptive

Note the research refers to “naturally cycling women” and not the over 100 million women worldwide who take the oral contraceptive pill. The pill alters a woman’s hormones and apparently this has an impact on the type of man she would be attracted to. Think about it: if a woman who is not on any hormone altering medication or treatments is drawn to a man who has a genetic composition different to hers, then wouldn’t it be correct to say that the opposite would be true of a woman who is on the contraceptive pill? Wouldn’t she then be attracted to a man who has a similar genetic profile to hers? This poses a further question: if by taking the birth control pill, are we not contributing to a genetically weak lineage?

The moral of the story for women: ditch the contraceptive pill when choosing a lifelong mate and rather revert to other methods of safe sex if you can’t abstain (wink wink).

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