Friday, November 19, 2010

Some parents sedate their babies

A frazzled mother on a crowded flight tries to coax a screaming baby to sleep as surrounding passengers stare - some in empathy, some in barely disguised annoyance. When the child doesn't calm down, the parent discreetly pulls a bottle of children's Benadryl from a diaper bag and administers a small dose.

Surveys and parental testimonials suggest that this scene is repeated every day in the skies over America and in other settings.

But the use of the antihistamine, known generically as diphenhydramine, to sedate babies is controversial, with at least one study suggesting it is a form of child abuse.

Overdose deaths of babies and other small children involving parental abuse or neglect remain relatively rare, despite the ubiquity of prescription and over-the-counter drugs in family medicine chests.

"The most common way that children overdose is that medications aren't stored properly,"said Dr. Ian Paul, a member of a committee on drugs at the American Academy of Pediatrics. "They are not in childproof containers. They are not out of reach of children. Kids are adventurous and they don't understand consequences. They will find things and put them in their mouth."

A study of records at U.S. Poison Centers around the nation from 2000 to 2008 found there are an average of 160 incidents a year involving the "malicious"use of drugs in children under 7.

Just under 14 percent of the incidents resulted in "moderate or major outcomes,"including death, according to the study published in the Journal of Pediatrics this year.

And one review of pediatric autopsies found that just 6 percent of drug-related deaths are homicides, reported the study's author, Dr. Shan Yin of Denver.

But 51 percent of 1,634 "malicious"poisonings that occurred over the eight-year period studied involved drugs for sedation, he wrote.

Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine were among the top 10 drug categories involved in the incidents, the study said.

Yin didn't examine motivation for the improper use of the medications, but speculated that caregivers might be trying to calm a crying child, sedate the child after physical abuse or be seeking a "respite from the responsibilities of child care."

Anecdotal evidence suggests that occasional use of Benadryl to calm infants and young children is commonplace.

But that would constitute a "nontherapeutic"or "off-label"use of diphenhydramine, which is commonly used to treat coughs, colds and hay fever.

Yin, in his paper, argued that such use may be a form of child abuse.

While acknowledging that Benadryl and similar drugs don't calm all children — and in some cases have the opposite effect — some parents and family physicians continue to recommend the occasional use of the drug to try to provide relief for a child who is agitated on long airline flights and in other stressful situations.

An online poll in 2006 on the website found that 18 percent of the nearly 3,700 participants said they had sedated their child for a flight and another 20 percent said they would consider doing so.

The pediatric academy's Paul, an associate professor at the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa., rejects the act even though he knows that some of his colleagues continue to recommend it.

"It's an inappropriate practice,"he said.

Researchers have reported cases of babies dying after being given excessive doses of the medication.

"Dosing is so difficult,"Paul said. "Physicians will say give a quarter teaspoon. People will mess up. They will use a food teaspoon. They will use a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon. There is a lot of room for mistakes to occur."

And even small increases in dosage can have serious consequences for infants because of their small size.

But Paul understands the motivation of parents who resort to sedatives like Benadryl.

"It's hard to watch your child — or your patient — feel bad. Many parents have to go to work,"he added. "And people need to sleep so they can function the next day. A fussy child is challenging. When you have a kid like that, there aren't very many things that can work or you can try."

Caroline Stange, who teaches parenting to teen mothers in Toledo, Ohio, recalls only one instance of giving Benadryl for sedation when she was raising her own family of five children.

Her daughter was 5, ill with chickenpox, and nearly hysterical from the itchiness of the ailment.

However, Stange does not recommend use of the drug, especially with infants.

Women and girls with "high needs"babies should consult their physicians for advice when travel is necessary.

Very young mothers especially have difficulty coping with crying babies. Often developmentally unable to recognize that the crying shows the baby is uncomfortable in some way, the mother interprets it as a signal that the baby doesn't like her.

With toddlers, Stange recommends giving a cereal like Cheerios one at a time to a fussy child.

Babies are tougher, she acknowledges. When raising her own children, who are now grown, she had the advantage of breast-feeding, which often proved to be an effective antidote for fussiness.

"I held them a lot,"she recalled. "I carried them a lot. I tried swaddling. I did a lot of holding and swaddling."


Your baby can save a life

When Leidy Sanchez and her husband, Carlos Reyes, went to the hospital last week to deliver their baby, a nurse got her a gown, hooked her up to a fetal monitor and asked an unexpected question: Would they like to donate cells from their baby's umbilical cord blood to a public bank?

"We said, 'For real, people are doing this?' " says Sanchez. "We'd never heard of it."

The couple had heard of private banking, where you pay thousands of dollars to store your baby's cord blood cells, but this was different. The stem cells from Christopher's umbilical cord would be stored, free of charge, at a public bank for potentially anyone in need of a stem cell transplant for leukemia, sickle cell anemia or dozens of other diseases.

It didn't take Sanchez and Reyes long to say yes.

"We felt good that we could save a life," Sanchez says.

But what about if, heaven forbid, their baby Christopher were to need those cells later in life? They might still be there for him, but then again they might have been given away to someone else.

"I don't think he'll need them. Hopefully, he'll be healthy," Sanchez says. "But we know there could be someone out there who needs these cells right now."

While private banks advertise heavily to parents, public banks do not, and they hope stories such as Christopher's will encourage other families to donate. But public banks know they face an uphill battle: Parents will always wonder if they should keep those cells for themselves.

Umbilical cord cells helpful for siblings

A child's umbilical cord cells could be useful for a sibling or other family member who needs a transplant, doctors say.

"When I have a patient whose mother is pregnant, I say they absolutely should go ahead and privately bank those cord blood cells when the baby's born," says Dr. Haydar Frangoul, director of the pediatric bone and marrow transplant program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

But he adds that often umbilical cord cells aren't enough and doctors have to go in and extract marrow from the child who donated the umbilical cord cells to use in addition.

If I do public banking, will the cells be there for my family?

If you choose to donate to a public bank, the cells might still be there should you need them.

According to Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke University Medical Center, there's a 95 percent chance your child's umbilical cord cells will still be there if you need them, and you get to have them for free.

Here's the catch: Public banks have strict standards and reject about half of all donations because not enough cells were obtained or there are quality problems with the cells, Kurtzberg says. In that case, you can't get your child's cells back because they weren't stored in the first place.

How to publicly bank your child's umbilical cord cells

Here's a list of some 200 hospitals that make it easy to publicly donate your baby's umbilical cord cells. Each hospital has a relationship with one of the more than 40 public banks in the United States.

If you're not delivering at one of these hospitals, the National Marrow Donor Program says you can contact a public bank directly about arranging a donation.

A mother can't donate her baby's cord blood if she has certain infections such as HIV or if she has tattoos. Here's a complete list of eligibility requirements.

First Steps For Establishing Breastfeeding

The easiest way to establish a good breastfeeding routine with your baby is to start right away. Once the baby is in your arms, there are some steps you can take to get breastfeeding started. (These apply to situations where mom and baby are healthy. If you have extenuating circumstances, contact a La Leche League Leader as soon as possible for customized help.)

Your birth can make a difference. If you had an epidural, baby can be a little drowsy at first. If you had a c-section, demand that no sugar-water or formula be fed to baby -- that YOU are to be baby's first food, and within the first hour, barring any complications.

Nurse as soon as you can. Baby is uniquely alert in that first hour post-birth, and they are designed to go straight from umbilical cord nutrition to your breast. In fact, placed on the mom's belly, babies can get to and latch onto your breast themselves. The goo all over them smells very similar to your breasts as well, which is nature's way of helping baby find the source of food. If you wait too long, you miss this alert stage and baby will go to sleep, and then it can be more difficult to feed baby when baby is incredibly hungry and frustrated later.

Colostrum is all a baby needs. If you try to hand-express and only get out a drop or nothing, that's okay. Babies have marble-sized tummies for the first week. They can't even drink an ounce at once, so don't worry about supply. As long as baby is peeing 6-8 times a day by 3 days old, and pooping as well, it's generally okay. Call the LLL if you're not sure. Sometimes a diaper is wet, but it can be hard to tell. If you're worried baby's not peeing, try pouring one ounce of liquid on a diaper to see how little that really is.

Keep baby with you. A lot of hospitals are ditching nurseries now, and it's for the best -- newborns can nurse over 12-14 times a day. Don't assume that because baby nursed for 40 minutes, took a break for 15, and wants to nurse again that that means you're not making enough -- your baby was just on a 24/7 food supply! It takes time to get used to going a little bit between feedings. There are cultures that don't put infants down, even once, in the first few months. You don't have to go to that extreme, but you will be with baby pretty much 24/7, other than the time it takes to pee or shower.

Don't bring your boob to the baby, but bring the baby to the boob. If you are uncomfortable, your baby is too. Get yourself propped up with pillows or whatever you need on your lap until the baby is at the boob. You're going to be sitting like that for awhile -- don't make it any more difficult than it needs to be.

Perfect the latch-on. Some babies are naturals, and some need some help. The chin should touch the boob, not the nose. The nipple should also aim at the roof of the baby's mouth, NOT centered. As this Kellymom animation shows, you're not putting baby straight on, so much as angling them. Try the "C-Hold" where you cup your breast with your hand, thumb on the top close to the nipple, and push down just a little so your nipple angles up a little. It can help you get it in the baby's mouth correctly.

Don't watch the clock. The old idea that a baby should nurse for 10-15 minutes at each breast is just wrong. Think more along the lines of one breast per FEEDING, and that can be 10-40 minutes. If baby pops off and seems to want more, then you can go to the other breast, but don't prematurely remove baby because of a clock.

Pain doesn't always mean you're doing it wrong, and it will go away. I'm sure you've heard "If it hurts, it's wrong" but sometimes it does hurt even when everything is perfect. If you've worked on everything everyone has told you and it still hurts, practice some of those relaxing birthing techniques try to get through it. It WILL get better. Try to let your nipples air-dry, use an ointment, be gentle, and avoid soaps which can be drying.

Don't overthink it. The biggest problem women face is self-doubt. If you think your baby might not be getting enough, nurse more. Send your husband out to rent you movies, grab your favorite take-out, and rub your feet, but keep nursing. Even if letting dad give one bottle sounds heavenly, it can interfere with 2-3 breastfeeding sessions and actually cause problems even if you didn't have any to start. Have him help and support you in any other way you need, even doing everything BUT the feedings. Your job is baby. Period. Any expectations beyond that can add to your stress, so ditch everything else you might have had planned. You just brought a brand-new life into the world -- that life needs you.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

San Francisco Shopping Event for Moms

Bay Area moms will be delighted to know that an Appel & Frank shopping event is taking place in San Francisco on December 8th. Get complimentary wine, beauty services and more as you shop for designer items at discounted prices. Over 70 designers will be in attendance. The Stockings & Stilettos event takes place from 5-9pm at The Regency Center, 1270 Sutter St.   

Use the discount code “parentingweekly” on the website for $7 admission, otherwise its $10 at the door.

Visit now to buy tickets and reserve your gift bag.

Preparing to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding isn't always easy but setting yourself up before you give birth can be very helpful.

Educate yourself. Pick up a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and read it, go to Kellymom's website and look up anything you're even slightly curious about or that anyone tells you, also browse the La Leche League website. Encourage your partner to read some of the basics as well. You can have an information overload, especially when everything is new to you, but knowing things like the fact that a newborn can nurse 14 times a day and it's totally normal can save you tons of stress.

You don't need to "toughen up your nipples." There's no evidence it does anything, other than just make you uncomfortable. In fact, it can actually make your nipples incredibly sore, making early nursing even more uncomfortable than it has the likelihood of being.

Don't stock up on or accept any "just in case" formula. Though people often feel like they need some formula in the house just in case, it's mental sabotage, and can turn into real sabotage if Daddy, thinking he's being helpful, gives baby a bottle -- one bottle of formula can interfere with 2-3 breastfeeding sessions. Decide here and now that you ARE going to breastfeed and you will not have formula in your house unless you end up really needing it.

Pregnancy breast changes say little about supply. There is one medical condition where breasts lack the proper ducts (this is visually diagnosable pre-pregnancy) and it can make exclusive breastfeeding difficult or near impossible, but in general, whether your breasts start leaking and swelling in your second trimester or you don't see a drop until baby is born and don't engorge for a week, don't judge your milk supply by changes to your boobs. If you do have colostrum leaking and big cup size changes, be confident in your body -- those are great signs.

Surround yourself in the right support. Start attending La Leche League meetings, and surround yourself with women who have succeeded with exclusive, full-term breastfeeding. As much as you may love your friends, if they didn't breastfeed for a long time or at all, as well-meaning as your friends might be, they're not going to be the breastfeeding support you need. Physically, 98 percent of women can breastfeed, but it's bad info and sub-par support that hurts the majority of other women. Have faith that just like your body is doing right now, nourishing your baby 100 percent, it can continue to do that once baby is on the outside as well. Tell anyone who says anything remotely negative that it's not helpful. Nicely.

Know that you're not your mother. Your mom's breastfeeding history has absolutely nothing to do with yours. Neither does your sister's.

Make yourself a nest. Choose a couch, your bed, and start moving stuff in there: your laptop, TV, maybe a mini-fridge, trashcan, book, phone, and phone charger. If you go in with expectations that your main goal for the first few weeks is to feed your baby and heal your body, you'll do a lot better than if you're always exasperated that the baby needs you AGAIN and you're stuck being able to do nothing AGAIN. Make sure your partner and family members know this as well -- they can help you be entertained and comfortable, but your main job for the first few weeks or so is only to get to know your baby. Anything that interferes with that can just make life harder.

Easy access, or even nudity, saves a lot of effort. Invest in some very comfortable clothing, such as nursing tanks or even just tank tops with a built-in bra that you can lift your boob out of easily and comfortably. Nursing bras with no underwire can make a huge difference. Figure out what you're going to be most comfortable with in public because if you go out in those early days you will need to nurse -- pumping and bottles can cause you a lot more problems than they're worth, and baby isn't going to be content for your entire dinner, even if you nurse in the car before you go in. Decide if you want to do a double-shirt to pull one up with the other still covering you, want to try a nursing cover, or maybe you just don't care at all -- it's all personal.


Rachel Zoe Confirms Pregnancy

Rachel Zoe has finally put all the pregnancy rumors to rest. On Wednesday, the celebrity stylist confirmed she and husband Rodger Berman are expecting their first child.

"Hey everyone! I want to officially confirm to my loyal friends and followers that I am pregnant! I feel great, Rodger and I are beyond excited and so thankful for all of your love and support," she wrote on Twitter.

OK! magazine, who first reported the story, said Zoe is three months along and will take maternity leave from full-time styling following the 2011 Oscars.

Last month, Zoe denied the pregnancy rumors. When asked by PEOPLE if she was pregnant, Zoe reportedly showed off her flat stomach and said, "Not at all. I'd be home sleeping."

The couple's decision over whether this was the right time for them to have a child was a major topic on this season of her Bravo reality show, 'The Rachel Zoe Project.'

"Rachel isn't getting any younger and I'm starting to feel like if we don't get on it, we'll miss the opportunity, which would be a complete shame as I know that Rachel would make an amazing mother," Berman wrote on his blog on Aug. 10.

The couple started dating 19 years ago and tied the knot in 1997.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This Week's Celebrity Baby Bumps

Ali Larter is adorable in all back, Penny Lancaster keeps it casual in black leggings, Pink reveals her bump in a bikini and later shows Ellen during her official announcement, Rachel Zoe has not announced her pregnancy, but it looks like she can no longer hide it as she bumps it up in black.
Source Source

Preterm Birth in the US

Today is National Prematurity Awareness Day, and like last year, the United States has maintained a "D" rating from the March of Dimes for its preterm birth rate. The target rate for preterm birth is 7.6% or less, but the US has a rate of 12.3%. According to the March of Dimes, premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death and a plethora of disabilities such as cerebral palsy, and breathing problems.

It's not all bad news this year though, the US's preterm birth rate is steadily declining. The past two years has witnessed a decline of 4% in the preterm birth rate. Unfortunately, with the current drop in health insurance among pregnant women, experts are concerned that the positive trend in preterm births could be reversed.

Pregnant women who want to reduce the risk of preterm labor should:

  • Get proper prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.
  • Don’t smoke, drink or take drugs while pregnant.
  • Avoid violent or abusive situations.
  • Lower stress levels. Only take on as much as you are capable of, avoid extremely stressful situations and practice stress-relief exercises as needed.
  • Avoid early elective inductions and cesareans. These might be used in emergency situations for the better of mom and baby, but elective cesareans and inductions should not be undertaken before 39 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet, including fish or fish oil and folic acid.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid exposure to environmental toxins like car exhaust, pesticides and phthalates.
  • Avoid working situations where you need to stand for long periods of time.

For women who do go into labor early, medical professionals will determine whether or not to make an effort to stop the impending birth depending on the maturity of the fetus and how far into labor the woman has passed. Factors like fetal stress, infection, high blood pressure, infection and other complications will help to determine when to let labor continue or when to try to stall.

Women whose labor can be stalled will be encouraged to try a variety of treatments:

  • Bed rest, lying on the left side
  • Sedation
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Antibiotics
  • Antenatal Corticosteroids (to accelerate lung growth of the fetus)
  • Drugs such as magnesium sulfate and others
  • Cervical cerclage

If preterm labor starts, it's important to see a medical professional as soon as possible. Although modern medicine facilitates the survival and thriving of some of the earliest preterm infants, preventing preterm birth is an important step to ensure a child's lifelong health. Learn more about preterm birth at The March of Dimes.


'Placenta key to pregnancy length' discovery ends mystery

New research has revealed that the structure of the placenta has an important role in determining the pregnancy length in humans.

The research, which ends a 100-year mystery, links growth rates of mammals inside the womb to the structure of the placenta and the way it connects mother and baby.

The study, by Durham and Reading universities, shed light on how babies grow twice as fast in the wombs of some mammals compared to others.

It has found that the more intimate the connection is between the tissues of the mother and the fetus, the faster the growth of the baby and the shorter the pregnancy.

The findings also help to explain why humans, whose placentas do not form the complex web-like structure seen in animals such as dogs and leopards, have relatively lengthy pregnancies.

The structure of the placenta, however, varies enormously from species to species. This new study suggests these variations may play a role in the length of the pregnancy.

The researchers, who analyzed 109 mammal species, studied the length of pregnancy, structure of placenta, and size of offspring in mammals, and examined how these characteristics have changed during the evolution of mammals.

They found that, despite the placenta essentially having the same function in all mammals, there were some striking structural differences.

They found that the more complex and folded the placenta of a mammal, the shorter the pregnancy time appeared to be.

The researchers also discovered that more folded placentas were able to deliver more nutrients to the infant.
"This study shows that it is not necessarily the contact with maternal blood which determines speed of growth, but the extent to which the tissues of mother and baby are 'interlocked', or folded, with one another," said lead author Dr Isabella Capellini.

"In humans, the placenta has simple finger-like branches with a relatively limited connection between the mother's tissues and those of the fetus, whereas in leopards, for example, it forms a complex web of interconnections that create a larger surface area for the exchange of nutrients," she added.

"Because we found no differences in the size of the babies when they are born, it seems that the outcome of this conflict is a kind of equilibrium in which faster growth is offset by a shorter pregnancy, " said co-author Professor Robert Barton from Durham University.

The findings are published in the academic journal American Naturalist. (ANI)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Push...and smile! Moms Primping for Birth

Live, from the maternity ward, it's a photo shoot. With smartphones uploading pictures and video straight to Facebook and YouTube - expectant mothers say they need to be prepared. In 2010, that means lining up a pediatrician, readying the bassinette - and, for some moms, making a hair appointment, getting a mani-pedi, and buying flattering hospital johnnies.

Bleary delivery-room photos used to be seen only by immediate family and then stashed in a photo album, but now they circulate widely online to friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. And who wants a picture of herself — sweaty, exhausted, in desperate need of a shower — floating around the Web . . . forever?

Abigail Tuller, editor in chief of Pregnancy and Mom magazines, says the uptick in grooming is part of a societal shift. “The boundaries of the birthing room are being expanded,’’ she said. “People are Facebooking from the delivery room, they’re doing live feeds of their birth, they’re texting during labor. We live in the information age, and everyone wants their information out there. You need to look good.’’

How good is good? “It’s not about looking like you came from the runway,’’ said style blogger Roxanna Sarmiento, a mother of three. “But those pictures last forever. Anyone can see them five or 10 years from now. Even future employers.’’

Although some women do get dolled up for the delivery, Sarmiento, 34, says that doesn’t make sense. “I’ve seen pictures of people with mascara running down their faces. You cry or you get all sweaty. It’s a very emotional time.’’

The time to put on your face — assuming that there were no complications with the delivery and the baby is healthy — is, apparently, about 20 minutes after the big event. That’s when Sarmiento pulled out her kit with the little mirror and the Chanel and Laura Mercier cosmetics.

“I didn’t attempt eyeliner,’’ she said, “but I do a little shadow and mascara and blush and a little powder. People are worried it’s too vain, but there is a lot of down time.’’

She and her husband live far from family, she said, making photos even more important. “What’s your choice? Taking care of yourself at the hospital and making sure you look decent in the photos, or shying away from the camera and being invisible when the baby’s born?’’

The latter just won’t do, according to Geoffrey Batchen, an expert on historical and contemporary photography and a professor of art history at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

“The photographic image is no longer simply a document shared within an immediate family group,’’ he wrote in an e-mail, “now it is also a means of communication, a message to an extended social circle that says ‘I am present,’ ‘I am here,’ ‘I just did this.’ ’’

Christine Koh, founder of the Boston Mamas website, put it more simply: “People are tired of looking crappy in the photos.’’ She includes herself in that group.

Koh was very unhappy with how she looked in photos snapped after her daughter was born, when she’d sped over to the hospital, throwing on a bandana she happened to have with her. She’s vowed not to repeat the mistake. Now 22 weeks pregnant with her second child, Koh is already planning to get a blow-out before hitting the hospital (if possible), and she’s also shopping for cute headbands.

Silly? No, says Koh. “You’re doing this miraculous thing, but you also want to take care of yourself. It’s a good life lesson for parents. You put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.’’ Or, in this case, style your own hair first. “This is a more superficial level of it, but I think it’s related." The increasing pressure to be camera-ready postpartum is the natural escalation of the dreaded trend that demands pregnant women looks stylish and even sexy.

“There’s no break,’’ said Rachel Zinny, founder of Wellesley-based dearjohnnies, which sells pretty hospital gowns and robes. “Everyone is dressed to pick up their kids from school, they’ve got the worked-out bodies. It’s the same when you’re having a baby. You’re on, you’re on, you’re on.’’

Still, some women bristle at the idea of worrying about their appearance at such a big moment.

“That would be the last thing on my mind,’’ said Susan Kane, of Jamaica Plain, as she pushed her daughter in a stroller. “But some women don’t feel like themselves if they don’t have makeup on.’’

Indeed, few criticized those who are eager to be camera ready. Isabel Kallman, founder of, said she expected backlash after writing a blog post equating maternity ward photos to wedding pictures — and advising new moms to get their hair done before the big day.

“If you’re pregnant for the first time, you’re probably wondering exactly when you will have the time,’’ she wrote on “A first-time mom will labor for approximately 24 hours. Distraction is your best technique for easing contractions in the early phase. Also, I hate to break it to you, it may be the last time you’ll get [a haircut] for a while.’’

Commentators had their own stories. “My water broke at 2:00 a.m.,’’ one reader wrote. “I knew there would be pictures so while my husband was making arrangements, I tried to straighten my hair. I put on makeup and started sectioning my hair when the contractions started going two minutes apart. My husband then yelled at me to ‘STOP STRAIGHTENING YOUR HAIR AND GET IN THE CAR.’ ’’

Steele’s hairdresser sister, Kellie Walters, 26, recalled the difficulty of stopping her husband from snapping shots before she had put on makeup or done her hair. “Do not take my photo or I will get out of this bed and kill you,’’ she told him.

Meanwhile, new moms aren’t the only people under pressure to look good for the Facebook audience. Zinny has added cute swaddling blankets to her line after the stylishly johnnied moms were outshining the newborns in photos.

  “Everyone was tired of seeing the babies in those blue- and red- striped hospital blankets.’’


Maternity Coverage Proves Costly For Women Buying Individual Policies

Pregnancy ranks right up there with diabetes and a bad heart as a medical condition you don't want to have if you're in the market for individual insurance coverage.

As a recent investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee found, chances are your policy won't cover expenses related to maternity care unless you buy a special maternity rider before you get pregnant and pay a hefty premium surcharge.
How much? Try $400 a month. And that's just the start when it comes to extra charges.
  While pregnancy is generally a nine-month proposition, post-partum care adds another couple of months to the total. That means many women need maternity coverage over two health plan years, with the result that they may have to pay two separate deductibles for their maternity coverage.

"It’s amazing how many costs a person might face, even with insurance," says Lisa Codispoti, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which has also investigated maternity coverage in the individual market.

In a memo outlining the results of its investigation into insurance company practices, the Energy and Commerce committee described a proposed maternity rider, for example, that would have imposed a $5,000 annual deductible on the costs of maternity care. A typical uncomplicated pregnancy, including prenatal and postpartum care, cost $10,652 in 2007, according to the March of Dimes.

Additional maternity rider costs would come on top of other common restrictions, including waiting periods of one or two years and limits on total benefits of a few thousand dollars in some cases.

In a few years, none of this should still apply. Under the federal health overhaul, maternity care is considered an essential health benefit, and insurance companies that sell policies in the state-based insurance exchanges, as well as those that sell new individual and small group policies outside the exchanges, will have to provide maternity coverage.

Until then, if you have individual coverage you may want to get cracking now in the hope of confining your pregnancy costs to the upcoming calendar year.


How to Choose a Doula

A doula is a woman who acts as an attendant or helper to a woman during childbirth or after her baby is born. Doulas are often distinguished by the titles birth doula and postpartum doula. The birth doula can help the expecting mother and her partner understand their options as they prepare for the birth of the child. She will also join with the partner and other family in taking care of the mother during the delivery of the baby. The postpartum doula will provide support to the family as they adjust to having a new baby at home. She can help mom learn how to take care of the child, teach techniques to keep mom and baby comfortable and relaxed during breastfeeding, and provide emotional support to parents and other children in the household.

There are many listings of doulas online that allow you to enter your city to locate women who are certified as birth doulas, postpartum doulas, or both. Doulas of North America (DONA) is one of many organizations that provides doula certifications. The first step in finding the right doula is making sure the woman you select is properly trained and able to provide the care you want and need.

Consider these basic questions when interviewing doulas:
  • What training do you have? Are you certified by any organizations?
  • Do you have backup doulas available in case you are not available when I go into labor? Can I meet with her/them in advance?
  • What do you charge, what is included in the fee, and do you have a refund policy?
  • Can you provide references that we can contact?
Consider these questions for potential birth doulas:
  • What is your experience as a birth doula?
  • What is your philosophy about being a doula? What is your main focus or goal during delivery?
  • Can we contact you with questions prior to the day of delivery? Will you help us make our plan for the delivery?
  • When will we see you on delivery day? Will you come to the house early in labor or meet us at the hospital?
  • Will you follow up with us or can we call you with questions after the baby is born?
Consider these questions for possible postpartum doulas:
  • What is your experience as a postpartum doula?
  • What is your philosophy about parenting and your role with our family as a postpartum doula?
  • Can we contact you or meet with you prior to the day of delivery?
  • When do you begin working with us after the birth?
  • Can you confirm that you have had a background check done, and that you have been tested for TB and have a current CPR certification?
Many doulas can be privately hired by individual families. Others work directly for hospitals or are volunteers in hospitals or community programs. Doulas are often paid a flat rate that can be negotiated at the time of hiring. Be sure to specify what contact you want with your doula before the day of delivery and at what point in your labor you want her to join you, whether that is at home, at the doors of the hospital, or after you have reached a certain point in your labor.

Before choosing your doula, it is important that you and your partner meet with potential candidates to make sure you are both comfortable with her. Consider her compatibility with your family style and with your household. If your family tends to be quiet, someone outgoing and enthusiastic may seem overpowering when your energy is low. Think about how well she communicates and what warmth and kindness you sense from her. Consider whether she seems comfortable with your plan or if she believes she knows a better way to do things.

You will probably want to interview more than one doula to be sure you are comfortable with your choice. Someone who has great experience but who does not make you comfortable will not be able to provide the best possible care when it’s time for your baby to be delivered.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Steve Nash Welcomes a Boy and Splits from Wife

The same day NBA star Steve Nash's wife gave birth to the couple's son, the basketball player announced his marriage was over.

He and Alejandra Amarilla met in 2001 and married in 2005. They already have twin daughters Lola and Bella, 6.

Nash released a statement announcing his son's birth that also confirmed they plan to divorce.

"I am very thankful and excited that we have a new son, Matteo Nash. Alejandra and the baby are doing fine. But this is a bittersweet moment for my wife and I; after five years, we are now in the process of dissolving our marriage," he told Life & Style magazine.

"While we have lived separately for the past several months, we remain firmly committed to raising our children in the most positive, nurturing way possible."

"I want only good things for Ale going forward; right now, I'm focused on ensuring that our children understand how much they're loved and adored by us as they continue to adjust to these changes."

"I would ask that their privacy, and ours as a family, be respected as we move forward. This will be my only statement on this."

Nash, 36, currently plays for the Phoenix Suns. In 2004 he signed a six-year, $63 million contract with the team.

Sunday night he led his team to a win over the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. He has twice been named the NBA's Most Valuable Player.

Alejandra Amarilla is from Paraguay while the South African born Nash was raised in Canada.


'Heidi Klum factor' pushing moms to lose weight postpartum

Celebrity moms like Heidi Klum, who get back in shape just weeks after giving birth are putting too much pressure on new mothers, a poll has found.

Six in ten new moms said that celebrity culture makes them feel as if they have to slim down as soon as they have given birth, reports the Daily Express.

They also claimed busy midwives do not have the time to discuss nutrition with them during pregnancy.

Celebrities such as Mylene Klass, Denise van Outen and Heidi Klum have appeared in public weeks after giving birth looking as slim as before they became pregnant.

However, with most new mothers it can take weeks or even months for tummies to return to a normal shape, while extra pounds gained during pregnancy can often prove hard to shift.

A poll of more than 6,000 mothers, carried out by the website for the Royal College of Midwives, found that most think the NHS (National Health Service) needs to offer women more advice about diet during pregnancy, with three in four women saying the NHS should run classes on how to eat and manage weight during pregnancy.

Sally Russell, co-founder of, said mothers are being left with low self-esteem because of a lack of support.

She said many described their bodies as "disgusting", "elephant-like" and "fat" when pregnant and admitted to feeling down about how they looked.

Only a few said they were "happy and proud" of their bumps.


Only children happier than those with siblings

A new study has revealed that only children are happier than those with siblings.

One of the reasons only-children appear more confident and content is they do not have to deal with "sibling bullying," according to researchers, with almost a third of youngsters saying they are regularly hit or shoved by a brother or sister. Many children with siblings also complain of their belongings being stolen and being called "nasty names" by a brother or sister.

The figures, which come from one of the widest-ranging studies on family life conducted in Britain, Understanding Society, tracked the lives of 100,000 people in 40,000 homes.

Previous research has indicated that being an only-child could hamper social skills, while those enjoying sole parental attention are often considered more selfish than other youngsters, A Ohio State University study in 2004 showed single children found it hard to make friends on joining kindergarten compared with those who had at least one sibling.

But Gundi Knies from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, who analyzed the Understanding Society data, said the findings indicate the fewer siblings children have, the happier they are.

The study also that children from ethnic minorities are happier than their white British counterparts.

And for parents with teenagers, it seems that on the whole they are a contented bunch, with seven out of 10 saying they are ‘very satisfied’ with their lives.

The results will be published later this week in State of the Nation, a magazine published by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Sibling bullying is a regular occurrence in many homes, with 30 per cent of teenagers claiming they suffer verbal abuse from their brother or sister, while almost one in five say they have personal items taken from them

Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick, who has carried out research into sibling rivalries and bullying, said: ‘More than half of all siblings (54%) were involved in bullying in one form or the other.’
But he also found brother and sisters not only fight with each other, but offer support as well, something unavailable to a single child.

The researcher claimed tensions between siblings were likely to have an impact on parents, saying: ‘From anecdotal reports, quarrelling siblings increase stress for parents and some just give up intervening or intervene inconsistently, leaving the field wide open for the bully sibling.’