Friday, April 29, 2016

Fertility: the basics


This will be the first post in a series on fertility, a series that is very much needed. So many of us have struggled with issues in fertility, and similar to miscarriage, it is something that no one addresses. Trying to have children when it doesn't just "happen" is so emotional, so isolating, and so misunderstood. I am hoping that by providing some basic information, clearing up some myths, and shedding some light on the process, you lovely readers will feel more empowered, informed, and confident.

First lets start with eggs. Women are born with all the egg cells (or oocytes) they will ever have - they do not produce any after (unlike men, who produce sperm throughout their life). While women are born with 1 million egg cells, less than 500 of these will become actual full-fledged eggs over their lifetime. Even of the eggs that do survive, about half of all eggs have genetic problems, and the number only increases as we age. So it's not just a quantity issue, but one of QUALITY too. 

While you can get pregnant from the time of your first period (menstrual cycle), you are most fertile in your late teens through late 20s. By the time you are 27, your fertility starts to decline. Yes, you read that right, 27.  Around 31, fertility really takes a hit and starts to decrease faster, until the age of 35 where it starts to take a nose dive. About 1 of every 4 women older than 35 have trouble getting pregnant.

The average woman can get pregnant until the age of 41, but that isn't the case for many. You are able to conceive (get pregnant) about 10 years before menopause, but everyone goes through menopause at a different time (some as early as 45). 

That's not to say its all about the eggs. Next post will cover what other issues come into play when determining fertility. Stay tuned. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Magnesium and Migraines



Like many women (and men), I suffer(ed) from migraines. I used to get them chronically, and then they somewhat subsided to a couple times a  month. One primary care doctor recommended that I start taking magnesium supplements to help prevent them. And thus started my love affair with magnesium. After a nasty vestibular migraine (that took over a month to diagnose) that was totally cured with a magnesium infusion (thank you Dr. Mauskop for the proper diagnosis and treatment!), I was a total magnesium convert.

But of course, I am a scientist as well, so I needed to do my due diligence into this magnesium-migraine association. And there is quite a bit of science to back up the use of magnesium as a way to prevent migraines. Turns out, a lot of us migraine sufferers are deficient in magnesium. If you have cold hands and feet, leg and foot cramps, bad PMS, and brain foginess, insomnia, you might be deficient in magnesium too.  A magnesium infusion (through an IV) has been shown to help treat a migraine just about as well as some migraine medication, and taking a daily magnesium supplement has also shown to reduce the number and severity of migraines.

There are various forms of magnesium and some are better tolerated by the belly than others. It is recommended you start with 400mg of magnesium and see if it helps. You may have to take a little more, or you may have to take a little less, or you may have to try different type (magnesium glycinate vs. magnesium oxide, for example). Definitely check in with your doctor and see what they think. I for one, have never felt better!








Monday, March 14, 2016

Do underwire bras cause breast cancer?


Last week I was out with my mama friends and of course our boobs came up in conversation (apparently one drink in and we start talking about lady parts). One friend mentioned that she only wears bras without underwire because she had a breast cancer scare a couple years back and was advised to not wear underwire bras.  Which of course led me to wonder whether there was any science behind this.

I've been wearing underwire bras forever, and was told that if I wanted to keep the girls up, proper undewire support was the only way to go. Was I causing myself to be at higher risk for breast cancer?

After doing some research I found that this was quite the contentious topic and that neither my friend nor I were quite right.

While there are quite a number of websites that claim that tight fitting underwire bras clog our lymphatic drainage (our lymphatic system runs through our body carrying infection fighting cells and removing "debris"), increasing risk for breast cancer. This claim was based on a study that showed that women who wore underwire bras were at a much higher risk for getting breast cancer, and that in cultures where women didn't wear bras, they had very little breast cancer risk. Sounds compelling right? Ah, if only we could just let our boobs hang out and not get breast cancer. Too bad what the study didn't take into account were things such as genetics, fat, diet, age, or any of the other things that have been shown to increase breast cancer risk. All in all this study was good at showing correlation  (bras and breast cancer are associated with one another), but  NOT causation (bras actually breast cancer). A much more robust study published in 2014 found that there was NO association with bra wearing and cancer in women that over 55 years old.

And then there is the whole issue of whether wearing these contraptions even helps keep the girls up. Not so much, since there is this thing called gravity and age. And let me tell you, there isn't much to do about that. Weight fluctuation, breast feeding, and aging all take their toll on breast tissue, and wearing a bra doesn't actually change that.

Bottom line,  do what is comfortable for you and what makes you feel good. If wearing an underwire bra gives you the support you need, great. If you are more comfortable with a soft cup or no cup, that's wonderful too!


Monday, February 29, 2016

The Zika Virus: Fact, fiction, and the unknown


Hello lovely readers, 

Welcome to the new and improved, and much more fancy website! Despite my absence, I have been busy making babies, editing textbooks, teaching and advising students, and trying to enjoy life in the crazy city I call home. 

Speaking of craziness, let's talk Zika. You've heard it all over the news, you've seen the viral Facebook  posts about it, but what exactly is going on? Should you be freaking out, or is this all hype?

Well I am here to tell you to take a deep breath and not freak out just yet. Because, quite frankly, not much as been scientifically confirmed. There has been a lot of speculation and possible links, and not all that much sound evidence. 

What do we know:
  • The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes, who then bite humans, and give them the disease. 
  • Most people who become infected with the virus have no symptoms and feel nothing. Only 1 out of 5 people (20%) who are infected with Zika have symptoms and they are pretty mild - you feel kind of crappy for a couple days with some body aches, red eyes, and a rash. You are supposed to take some Tylenol, get some rest, and wait for it to pass. (More info from the CDC). 
  • The Zika virus was first identified in humans in 1952 in Nigeria. It was identified in the Pacific in 2007 and in 2015 in the Americas. This virus has been around a while and around the block. 
  • One particular kind of mosquito has been found to carry the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti while Aedes albopictus is thought to be a possible carrier as well. They both have black and white legs, and black and white bodies (although they vary on the pattern).
    What is going on:
    • Women in Brazil have been giving birth to babies with smaller heads (microcephaly). 
    • There is a good amount of overreporting of these cases, as the government in Brazil set a broad definition of what a "small" head means (according to their definition, both my boys would have had microcephaly, which they do not) and more doctors are now looking out for this.
    • Out of 404 confirmed cases of babies with microcephaly (there are still over 3,600 babies waiting to be properly tested), the Zika virus was found in 17. 
    • It appears that Zika could be spread through sex.

    What does this mean all mean?? Right now, there are a lot of unknowns and the data is all over the place. Scientists are trying to figure out the actual CAUSAL link between Zika and microcephaly, which is difficult to do.  Government agencies are freaking out and staying cautious, telling all pregnant woman to avoid travel to countries with Zika, and to use protection if they have a partner who traveled to a country with Zika. In general, just be careful if you are in a place with mosquitoes - use bug spray (use it all over your body. Those suckers are sneaky and can get under clothing), wear long pants and sleeves, close doors and windows,and make sure there aren't holes in any window or door screens. These particular mosquitoes bite during the day too, so use bug spray at all times. My family and I just came back from the Caribbean and we didn't get a single mosquito bite - we were just that careful. 

    I'll keep updating and parsing through the media hype as news trickles in. Stay tuned. 

    Friday, October 4, 2013

    Sweating it out: Postpartum hot flashes!? It's not menopause, just baby fluid


    It is the last month of your pregnancy. You have been making another human being for 9 months. Your ankles are GONE to be replaced with fluid filled cankles. Then the day finally comes and you expel said baby out, hold that amazing wonder in your arms, look down at your ankles, and realize they are STILL not there.

    So baby is out, and ankles should be back, right? Not so much. You have to actually get rid of all that fluid. Some people pee it out, and others sweat it out.  And by sweat I mean, HOLY DRENCHING HOT FLASHES!

    These joyous hot flashes are caused by your pregnancy hormones yet again, this time telling your body to get rid of all those extra fluids that you needed while creating another person.

    You may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night completely soaked in sweat, only to wake up the next morning and see your ankles again. Phenomenal! For some, these sweat sessions happen only at night, for others they are happen throughout the day as well. And sometimes this may last for a week or so, and for others, for over a month.

    Drinking lots of water, getting your body moving, sleeping on a towel (with an extra set of pjs/nursing tops nearby) is the best way to get through this fascinating postpartum phase. Just think that with every hot flash that you are one step closer to having ankles that don't resemble tree trunks.

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