Treating Allergies While Prergnant

Sadie Minkoff

Sadie Minkoff L.Ac., FABORM

This is the column where our readers can write in with their questions. We’ll field the questions to one or more experts in the subject and post the responses typically within 2 weeks. Write Us with Your Question!

Q: My nasal allergies are much worse now (at 4 months pregnant) than they were a year ago. What are some ways to feel better that won’t potentially harm me and my baby?

Sadie Minkoff, L.Ac., FABORM and team at Sage Acupuncture in Austin specialize in Reproductive Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. 


This is a great question! We treat many pregnant women suffering from allergies. Not only because we live in Austin, the “allergy capital of the world” but also because when you are pregnant, your mucus production increases and your immune system is often more sensitive.

Here are 5 Tips to Help you Feel Better Naturally:

  1. Try a daily nasal wash like the Neti pot, to decrease sinus congestion and inflammation.
  2. Take a shower in the evening to wash away any residual pollen or dust from the day.
  3. Stay well hydrated and get as much rest as possible to keep your immune system strong.
  4. Reduce or eliminate dairy (goat dairy is less congesting than cow), as well as refined sugar, which contribute to inflammation and increased phlegm accumulation.
  5. Last but not least, acupuncture is a great support for allergies and for prevention of sinus infections. It is recommended for many pregnancy-related symptoms such as sciatica, insomnia, nausea, digestive upset, stress, fatigue, and yes, allergies.

Research has shown that acupuncture has a positive effect on the immune system as well as relieving the uncomfortable symptoms associated with allergies, including: sinus congestion, sneezing, runny nose, headaches, scratchy throat, and fatigue.

We’d love to see your question. Write Us!

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

This is the column where our readers can write in with their questions. We’ll field the questions to one or more experts in the subject and post the responses typically within 2 weeks. Write Us with Your Question!

Margaret Connor

Margaret Connor, MPH, CHC

Q: I’ve always had a pretty healthy diet but now that I am pregnant, what vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are critical to include for optimal health for me and my baby?

Response from Margaret Connor, MPH, CHC, The Wellness Pantry

A: It sounds like you have already helped yourself and your baby by eating healthy before your pregnancy began, which is terrific. Now let’s examine how our metabolic needs do increase during pregnancy. The following vitamins and minerals play a special role in your health and that of your child’s during pregnancy (and often postpartum as well). One exciting detail to consider is that the absorption of nutrients across our intestinal barrier typically increases during pregnancy, so eating good sources of these vitamins and minerals will go a long way towards keeping you equipped with the necessary nutrients.

FOLATE – You’ve probably heard your OB mention this as a valuable supplement that you might have been taking even before you became pregnant. The evidence that folate reduces the risk of neural tube defects is so compelling that the U.S. started fortifying grains with folate in 1998. The current recommendation is for women with child-bearing potential to be taking 400 micrograms/day and for pregnant women to take 600 micrograms/day. Good dietary sources of folate include broccoli, spinach, lentils and other beans. FUN FACT: Did you know that folate is actually Vitamin B9?

IRON – This is the most common deficiency we see in pregnancy and it typically appears in the second or third trimester. During the first trimester, your body’s increased metabolic demands for iron are balanced out by the fact that you are no longer menstruating each month. However, your body’s demands for iron will increase during your pregnancy and as such, your doctor will likely be keeping a close eye on your levels. On average, 13-40 mg/day of iron supplementation is recommended. Most prenatal vitamins (which we actually take during pregnancy) contain about 30mg. If you are found to be iron-deficient, or anemic, your doctor will place you on a higher dose and recommend that you continue supplementation postpartum. The best dietary sources of iron are read meat, poultry, fortified cereals and beans. Iron is best absorbed from food when it is eaten with foods containing Vitamin C.

CALCIUM –  Calcium is required for your baby to grow healthy bones and teeth. Some studies have also shown  that calcium supplementation during pregnancy can lower your risk for pregnancy-induced hypertension and preterm delivery due to preeclampsia. It is recommended that pregnant mamas get 1000mg of calcium per day. The average daily intake for most women is about half that amount. As a result, most prenatal vitamins provide calcium supplementation. Good dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, sardines, collard greens, sesame seeds and tofu. To be honest, with the exception of dairy (which I don’t tolerate) that can be a tough list of foods to find palatable during pregnancy. Just do what you can.

[Read more…]

Sharing Our Perspectives: Frieda’s Feedback

Frieda has shown a great deal of support for our Project as is a senior advisor who volunteers her time to help us with research. She holds a M.A. in counseling and brings some incredible contributions to our work. She had her son at age 36 while living in Northern California.

Sharon:  How did you react to getting the Advanced Maternal Age stamp on your medical chart (or having that label applied to you) What did it mean to you–if anything?

Frieda:  I don’t really feel like I was given that stamp by my healthcare professionals, other than sharing some concerns that might arise.

I do feel that I got some of that from society, but I mostly chose not to let it affect me. At the time I was living in a pretty progressive area of Northern California and most of my peers had experienced divorce as children and were choosing to wait for marriage and children.

I did however, feel that my OB was overly cautious in my diagnosis of gestational diabetes. I was rigorous about testing my blood. All I wanted to eat was orange juice and ice cream, instead I ate a ton of vegetables and a whole lot of steak. Most evenings I’d sneak one bite of ice cream after dinner! My blood sugar always remained within safe levels.

I had a long and challenging labor, but delivered my son naturally after 36 hours of labor. He was perfect!

Sharon: Do you identify yourself as an “Older Mom”? If yes, what does that mean to you? If not, tell us about that!

Frieda: Yes and there are certainly blessings and challenges in being older mom. While I’m very physically active (and a yoga instructor), I sometimes find it difficult to keep up with my son’s energy. At the same time I have far greater capacities for the kind of emotional challenges (patience, resilience, sacrifice, reflexivity) that arise with parenthood than I had in my twenties. I am a much better mom because of all my experiences.

Share your thoughts – we’d love to hear from you

Preparing Your Body for Fertility

Sadie Minkoff

Sadie Minkoff L.Ac., FABORM

If you are reading this post, it is probably because you are preparing to grow your family in your thirties or early forties. In spite of what you may have heard, this is a great time in life to become a parent and more and more people are choosing to do so. In fact there is some evidence that, although it may not be as easy to conceive as for our younger counterparts, women of advanced maternal age may have more success than was originally thought. So how can you optimize your chances? Chinese Medicine is one of the best ways to support fertility.

Often women hear about positive experiences with Chinese Medicine from their friends and family, from a support group, or from their doctors.

Treatment with Chinese Medicine involves a combination of receiving acupuncture, shifting lifestyle habits, and learning what you can do to optimize the potential to conceive and carry a healthy baby.

Why Acupuncture?

Acupuncture techniques have been proven to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. This may improve the health of ovaries and their hormone production, a concern for women of advanced maternal age. It may stimulate blood flow to the uterus (by inhibiting uterine central sympathetic nerve activity), increase serotonin, and decrease stress. Often your practitioner will also prescribe medicinal herbs to facilitate this process. The combination of acupuncture and herbs has a synergistic effect.

The idea of changing our habits may seem daunting, but things can shift in a remarkable way with some relatively simple changes. Everyone knows that eating better makes us healthier, but there are some specific things that we can do to optimize our health and fertility. Focusing on changing one’s diet is part of the equation.

Chinese Medicine focuses on paying attention to the entire mind, body and spirit as a whole. Consider the following:

  • What makes you happy?
  • What is fun for you to do?
  • Tap into your creativity.
  • Take walks in nature.
  • Move your body. Exercise releases endorphins which help to keep a more positive focus when life gets difficult.
  • Do something regularly to take care of yourself and give yourself the attention that you deserve. That could mean receiving a massage, going dancing, journaling, or painting. Meditation, yoga, and/or tai qi are avenues for stress and anxiety reduction, as well as for the simple act of being with oneself.

[Read more…]

Exercise During Pregnancy

We have begun a new column where our readers can write in with their questions. We’ll field the questions to one or more experts in the subject and post the responses typically within 2 weeks. Write Us with Your Question!

Tatum and Her Dog Griz

Tatum and Her Dog Griz


Our expert for this question below is Tatum Rebelle, an experienced fitness professional and owner of  Total Mommy Fitness.  Read more about Tatum’s work here, including her online prenatal fitness program.

 Q: I have been a runner for the past 5 years and just learned that I am pregnant. Do I have to give up running?

A:  If you were a runner before you were pregnant there is no reason that you cannot continue as long as it feels comfortable and you have the okay from your doctor. This is a very important time to listen to your body and do not push it to your pre-pregnancy intensity.

Q: I love weightlifting and find it empowering. What are the common restrictions about this while pregnant? I want to be safe but also stay in shape for when my baby arrives.

A:  Weightlifting is safe and very beneficial during pregnancy. You can continue your pre-pregnancy routine as long as it feels comfortable and your doctor has cleared you for exercise. If you were not lifting weights before pregnancy you can begin a routine that feels comfortable. Pregnancy is not a time for powerlifting and explosive movements, but a full body, moderate intensity program has many benefits for you and your baby.

We’d love to see your question. Write Us!

7 More Tips on Fighting Fatigue

Fatigue Section of  Better Late than Never BabySerena Kirby, a professional writer and AMA mom from Western Australia contacted us recently. Her new book called Better Late than Never Baby includes information and suggestions not found in other sources for expectant moms over age 35. We’ll share excerpts from her book with our audience and let you how you can get your own copy.

Serena Kirby

Serena Kirby, Writer and AMA Mom

7 More Tips on Fighting Fatigue (Part 2, a condensed excerpt from Better Late Than Never Baby by Serena Kirby ©2013)

  #1 Eat Up, Eat Well Input always affects output so good nutrition is important in keeping up your energy levels and battling fatigue. If you’re breastfeeding, nutrition carries an even greater importance, and it’s a good idea to eat as if you’re still pregnant.  Drink, drink, drink lots of fluids – at least 10 cups a day when pregnant and at least 13 cups when breastfeeding. You also need good nutrition and energy-generating foods to help your physical recovery from the birthing process (natural or caesarean) and to boost your immune system. It’s particularly important to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet so you don’t become anemic (one of the most common fatigue-causing medical conditions for new moms).  Your daily iron demand increases nearly 10-fold from the start of your pregnancy, but research shows that less than 25 per cent of women start their pregnancies with enough stored iron to meet their increasing nutritional needs. As such, by the end of the pregnancy, a large number of women are iron depleted if not anemic. If left untreated, the condition continues and often worsens in the weeks after giving birth, and the result is overwhelming fatigue. If you can’t get all the iron and other goodies you need in your diet, talk to your doctor or midwife about vitamin and mineral supplements.

#2 Hormones and Nutrition
If you’re an over-forty mom and feeling continually tired and moody, your fatigue may be being worsened by the prelude to menopause – perimenopause. Remember that during this time your body and your hormone levels are changing (as if puberty, pregnancy and breastfeeding wasn’t enough for one lifetime). To find out if perimenopause is contributing to your fatigue, speak to your doctor about having a blood test to check your hormone levels, but know that they are not completely accurate in showing smaller, subtle changes.  A more advanced and accurate method is the saliva sample test but not all doctors use it so you’ll need to call around to find one that does.

#3 Exercise
As strange as it sounds exercise is actually an excellent way of beating fatigue. You may be thinking, “Hell, I don’t have enough energy to get out of bed let alone run around the block”, but the truth is exercise has been proven to be highly effective in reducing fatigue. Whilst pushing the stroller around the block is good for your physical well being, many mothers suggest that exercising without your baby has the added bonus of providing a chance to truly switch off and be off duty.  You can let your mind wander without being disrupted by a child demanding your attention (yet again). Plan to exercise three to four times a week, preferably in the morning when you have more energy, and block out some time for exercise without your child. What to do with the baby? Most gyms have a childcare facility or ask a relative or friend to babysit.  Or go out early before your partner goes to work (you’re up anyway!).
#4 Conserving Energy
On the flip side of using energy to exercise is the saving of energy around the home.  Organize your home with items and systems that make life easier. Think of the home – especially the nursery – as a workplace (it’s where you’ll do most of your work in the first few months anyway) and spend time making sure you have everything you need exactly where you need it. Review and update your needs every few weeks because, as the baby grows so to will your routines and needs.

Sharing Gayle’s Story

Gayle, mom of 3 after age 35Gayle from the State of Georgia found our website while searching on the Internet and wanted to some words of wisdom with our audience.

I always like to provide encouragement to those who would like to give birth to children in their late thirties and beyond. I have three beautiful children, the oldest who is diagnosed with autism. I gave birth to them at age 38, 39, and 42. Prepare yourself mentally and physically for the big journey ahead be positive – always believe and don’t listen to those who are discouraging.”

5 Suggestions for Fighting Fatigue

Better Late Than Never BabySerena Kirby, a professional writer and AMA mom from Western Australia contacted us recently. Her new book called Better Late than Never Baby includes information and suggestions not found in other sources for expectant moms over age 35. We’ll share excerpts from her book with our audience and letyou how you can get your own copy.

Serena Kirby

Serena Kirby, Writer and AMA Mom

5 Suggestions for Fighting Fatigue (Part 1, a condensed excerpt from Better Late Than Never Baby by Serena Kirby ©2013) 

#1: Get Support

Countless experts state that support is essential in beating tiredness and fatigue.  But as the issue of fatigue is often downplayed and overlooked, the support a new mother receives (from her partner and others) may not actually be as adequate or as long lasting as may be required.

As today’s family unit has become increasingly smaller, more isolated (physically and socially) from extended family and more self-sufficient, the ready-made support network found in many other countries is lacking.  The result is that many older mothers have little or no support base on which to draw and she is left to primarily fend for herself.

This is a far cry from the support available in many Eastern and European countries where there is a tight extended family and a cultural understanding and expectation of pitching in and helping when a new baby arrives. The old African proverb that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is still alive and well in many countries.

In China, for example, there is a support practice known as zuo yuzi, which involves a month of confinement after the baby is born. During this highly protective period the new mother is cloistered at home and given high levels of support from relatives. The mother is not allowed to work and is discouraged from getting out of bed (now you’re talking!) as any energy-sapping activity, other than looking after herself and her baby, is considered bad for her health and could in fact do her unthinkable harm in future years. A form of zuo yuzi is adopted in many other Asian countries and while experts say[i] our western culture would make it difficult to emulate, they agree the idea holds definite merit and benefits.

In the absence of zuo yuzi, good advice comes from Australian researcher Carol McVeigh who has argued that women really do need to address the issue of support, where and how to get it before the baby is born, and that support should be considered part of the childbirth education process.[ii] She goes further to suggest that ‘actively enlisting’ help is a skill women should be taught while pregnant.

As such, why not develop a list (then double it) of the support you think you may need and who is available to help. Talk to each person about the issue of fatigue, and the importance of support, and come to an agreement on how and when they can provide assistance. Be specific (write it down if you have to) otherwise all your planning is likely to go out the window (quickly followed by your energy) when the baby arrives. Don’t forget to think past the first six weeks post birth – remember fatigue has a nasty habit of increasing, rather than reducing, over time.

#2 Offers of Help

Change the way you think about accepting help and even practice saying ‘yes’ in front of the mirror. Make it a personal goal to say ‘yes’ whenever the word help is mentioned.

#3 Put ‘Self Care’ on the list

Being a mother is a relentless job and many days during the early months will feel like Groundhog Day. The repetition of feeding, changing, holding and soothing your baby dulls your senses and numbs your mind – all of which fosters fatigue.   Finding time for yourself is so rare that it’s no wonder you lose track of who you are – let alone remember what day it is.

It is also a mother’s instinct to put the care of her baby and family before her own, but many studies show that this is often to her own detriment. Taking regular time out and time away from your baby is important. It may be coffee with a friend, a walk, reading a book, enjoying some pampering or simply resting and doing nothing at all. Being off duty helps relieve stress, breaks the repetition of Groundhog Day and gives you a sense of self. It lets your body and mind rejuvenate and rest.

Remember to think of ‘self-care’ as being an essential item, not as something you’ll do if and when you have time.  And, by making a standing booking to take time for self care (at least two to three times a week even if you’re working outside the home) you won’t have to repeatedly ask your partner, or someone else, to care for the baby. Everyone will know that there are set times on certain days when you are not available to be with the baby.

[Read more…]

When and How to Start a Prenatal Yoga Practice

We have begun a new column where our readers can write in with their questions. We’ll field the questions to one or more experts in the subject and post the responses typically within 2 weeks. Write Us with Your Question!

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans, an Experienced Prenatal, Postnatal, Children’s and Hatha Yoga Instructor

Our expert for this question below is Sarah Evans, an experienced Prenatal, Postnatal, Children’s and Hatha yoga instructor in Austin, Texas.  Sarah is a mom of two. Read more about Sarah here.

Q: I’ve tried yoga a couple of times before and heard it’s especially beneficial for pregnant women. As a beginner, should I try it? What can I expect from my first yoga practice? 

A: If you are newly pregnant, congratulations! You are embarking on such an amazing time in your life. Whether you have no yoga experience or have been practicing for years, attending a Prenatal yoga class is one of the best activities you can do for you and your baby!

Gathering with a group of expectant mamas provides invaluable support in this time of much change. In each class, the students spend the first few minutes sharing how they are feeling and ask questions. This time gives them an opportunity to be heard in a safe environment, and it provides a sense of normalcy to any student who might need reassurance that they are not alone in their physical or emotional feelings.

The yoga poses practiced in a Prenatal class are safe for both mom and baby. Since the body is in the flux so much during pregnancy, options are offered to either intensify or soften each pose. We begin with breath awareness and gentle warm-ups. Then we gradually work toward side stretches, subtle back bends, gentle forward bends, hip openers, and abdominal strengtheners. We end with time to rest, in the final pose of class, called Savasana.

All of these postures improve circulation, tone, balance, and gives a greater sense of space in the body. The release of endorphins through these movements helps to calm the discomforts of pregnancy. This, combined with deep, mindful breathing helps to foster relaxation, which is priceless during labor and delivery.

Most importantly, let your body be your guide! Listen to your body’s messages, be gentle with yourself, take breaks when needed, modify when appropriate. Enjoy connecting with your baby and appreciate your body for all the hard work it is doing to carry this sweet little life.

Please consider joining a Prenatal yoga class. It will greatly benefit both you and your baby!

We’d love to see your question. Write Us!

On Selecting a Pediatrician

We have begun a new column where our readers can write in with their questions. We’ll field the questions to one or more experts in the subject and post the responses typically within 2 weeks. Write Us with Your Question!

 Q: When should I select a pediatrician for my unborn child? How can I compare practices and philosophies?

Dr. Kibler

Dr. Elise Kibler, Capital Pediatric Group, Austin

Response from Elise Kibler, M.D., Capital Pediatric Group

A:  It is best to select a pediatrician during the third trimester of pregnancy.  I would select one after visiting their office and meeting with them 2 or 3 of them.  Determine your own priorities for a good pediatrician and come prepared with a list of questions.  I think important items to discuss would include after hours contact with doctor, whether the doctor can see the newborn in the hospital, practice style of the pediatrician, and what the pediatrician thinks parents-to-be should know.  Doctors should have a way for parents to get advice and reach the on-call physician if needed.   Consider asking about the physician’s threshold for using antibiotics, thoughts on vaccines, check-up schedule, and ease of working in sick patients same day.

A pediatrician’s practice style can be that of a team effort, in which the pediatrician plays the role of a team member in the care of the child.  Their role is that of an educator and provide options in the care of mild illnesses.  Some options may include homeopathic treatments or a wait and see approach for things like congestion, and mild ear infections in older children.

[Read more…]