Tag Archives: pregnancy

Who drinks the most coffee?

Have you seen this?

Source. Read more about it here or here.

I’m not really surprised that Scientists/Lab Techs are at the very top.

I fought it for a long time.  I’ve been working in labs for about 13 years now.  It wasn’t until I started my current job that I finally succumbed, and now I crave coffee and drink 1 to 3 cups a day.

What changed?  Well, I could say I had kids, but what it really came down to was accessibility.

My current job (probably because scientists are at the top of that list) has Keurig machines in every kitchen, on every floor, of every building in our complex.  Along with the machines, there are 5 to 6 types of coffees (only 1 is decaf) and 3 kinds of tea.  There is powdered creamer on the counter, along with whole, skim, and half and half in the fridge.  You can choose from sugar, Equal, or Sweet n’ Low.  There’s also 3 kinds of hot chocolate (sugar-free, regular, and mini-marshmallow).  Some kitchens have espresso machines and assorted varieties of those as well.

Before certain meetings, there is a line for the machines.  The facilities staff includes people whose job it is just to keep all of that stocked.  On days the K-cup shipment arrives, it looks like we won a lifetime supply of coffee on The Price Is Right.

Now, while it’s nice and generous of my company to provide these, I don’t think they are being entirely altruistic.  By providing all of this- feeding the compulsion of the scientific staff, they are keeping us all on-site.  No need to make a Starbucks run when you have FREE coffee right down the hall.

I have always loved the smell of coffee, but I was never a fan of the taste.  When I started my current job, the constant smell of coffee was irresistible.  So, I started off slow.  A cup of French Vanilla here or there, not everyday.  Then I tried this Vanilla Hazelnut flavor and that was it.  Now I’m hooked. Last year for our anniversary, my parents even got Mac and me a Keurig.  He uses it mostly just to make hot water (either for tea or for warming bottles), I use it for coffee.

Once I was pregnant with Nemo, I kept it to one cup most days, two cups max (see here for why).  That changed once he was born- my consumption picked up considerably.  (I did not worry about caffeine and the breast feeding- see here for info.)  While I was still home on maternity leave, I had at least a cup a day.  After I went back to work and could no longer sleep in or take a nap, that turned into two cups a day, most days.  Somedays I have a third after the kids are in bed and I can sit and savor it.

As for what kind I drink, that’s changed too.  At work I still drink the Vanilla Hazelnut.  At home I’d mostly kept to French Vanilla that people got me as gifts or Hazelnut Cream I could pick up in the store.  Now I surf Amazon looking for sampler packs of delicious sounding varieties.  What I’m currently working on?  This:

You can find it here if you want.

Caramel cappuccino, delish!

Southern Pecan, yum!

Wild Mountain Blueberry, wow!

Apple Caramel Pie, heaven help me!

I think I have a problem.

During Hurricane Sandy, on the day we were without power, I had no coffee.  I really wanted coffee.  I thought, should I hook the Keurig up to the generator?  Then I thought, no you idiot, you should not use the generator to power your coffee machine!  So, I sent Mac to the Dunkin Donuts up the street (oddly, it was only a teeny tiny portion of our neighborhood that lost power.  Our neighbor backlots had power and I seriously considered asking if we could run an extension cord from his window.)  I told him to get a BIG cup and not to put creamer or anything in it (hi, no power=no refrigeration) so I could stretch it out and reheat it on the stove.  Well, I nearly cried when I put the “supposedly no refrigeration needed/Walmart sold me an expired product” little creamer in my coffee and it curdled.  I though, maybe just that one was bad, so I tried again.  Happened again.  Got a new box of the little creamers only to find they were expired (thanks for nothing Walmart), but since I was desperate, and they’d only expired in September (unlike the other box that expired in February, months BEFORE I bought them at Walmart), I used the more recently expired ones and managed to get one little cup of coffee.  When I realized that the treat Mac had brought be was a fluffy donut (which I HATE) instead of a cakey donut (which I LOVE), I nearly cried.

Can you say “First world problems?”

Let me reiterate, I think I have a problem.

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Filed under #scimom, breastfeeding, Mother, pregnancy, Recipes, Scientist

Happy Anniversary: Better than last year

Today Mac and I celebrate out 4th wedding anniversary.  We’re going out to dinner at a restaurant near our house that we’ve been wanting to try since it opened a little over a year ago.  I’m hoping it lives up to our expectations!

Last year I posted about our anniversary here.  However, there was something significant that I glanced over.

I mentioned “other craziness/worry that just made me appreciate my husband and our marriage even more.”  Well, I’m happy to say that this year, the cause of the craziness/worry, an embryonic Nemo back then, will be spending the evening with his grandma.

Last year at this time I was about 7 weeks pregnant with Nemo.  Last year, our anniversary was scary and frightening and stressful.

I had had my first prenatal visit on Monday the 26th.  I mentioned to the midwife that I had noticed a few instances of spotting over the previous week or two.  It was very minor, but it was worrying me a little.  She suggested that they run some blood work to see how things looked.  Otherwise, there wasn’t much to do- being only 7 weeks, they didn’t do an ultrasound or anything.

I hadn’t told Mac about the spotting (considering one of the instances happened when we were out for the day, without Mabel, celebrating our anniversary) because I didn’t want him to worry.  Looking back, I think that was a mistake.

The day after that first appointment, our 3rd wedding anniversary, the midwife’s office called me at work.  It was not good news.  My progesterone (the “pregnancy hormone“) levels were extremely low.  For comparison, normal range is 9 to 47 ng/ml, with an average being about 25ng/ml at 7 weeks pregnant (source).  My blood work showed my progesterone level was 6ng/ml.  Very low.

The midwife then said, “Before we begin to supplement your progesterone, we need to make sure it’s a viable pregnancy.”  Right there my heart skipped a beat.  I knew it meant there was a chance I was having a miscarriage or what I thought was a pregnancy was a blighted ovum.

The midwife gave me the contact info for a local radiology center that could conduct the ultrasound, since the midwife in the practice who did them wasn’t in the office that day to do it.

Doing my best to keep myself composed, I took the scrap of paper with the phone number, picked up my cell phone and car keys, and went out to my car.  Nobody at work knew I was pregnant and I couldn’t have that kind of conversation in a shared office.

First, I called the radiology center, told them it was urgent and asked when they could see me that day.  They had a 3:30pm appointment.

Once I hung up with them, I knew I had to call Mac.  I was nearly in tears just thinking about having to make the phone call.  He was totally unaware that anything was going on. I hadn’t told him about the spotting, I hadn’t told him about having the blood drawn.  As far as he knew, everything was fine.

I called him, a tremor in my voice and said, “The midwife’s office called.  They are sending me for an ultrasound.  They think I might be having a miscarriage.  I had some spotting, they did some blood work and they need the ultrasound to confirm that the pregnancy is viable.  My appointment is for 3:30pm.”  It all tumbled out.

His first response was, “What time do I pick you up?”  What else we discussed is hazy in my mind. I know I was crying.  I felt scared at the loss of the pregnancy and I felt guilty for having kept him in the dark.

I then scrambled and called my mom.  She knew I was pregnant, but also unaware of the concerns.  She was great.  She accepted my brief explanation, didn’t ask any questions and then scrambled to get coverage at work so she could come watch Mabel.

I composed myself and went back into my office.  I sat down and started Googling/PubMed searching and reading all that I could about miscarriage, low progesterone, blighted ova, chemical pregnancies, etc.  In my searching I found info on misdiagnosed miscarriages.  Women, particularly those with a ‘tipped uterus’ reported being misdiagnosed as miscarrying.  Transvaginal ultrasounds (the only ones capable of seeing an embryo in the early stages of pregnancy) with a tipped uterus apparently resulted in miscalculated gestational ages- indicating that an embryo wasn’t growing normally, was measuring small, and likely there was a miscarriage in progress.  I tucked that info into my brain.

At 1:30pm Mac with Mabel, my mom, and I all convened in the parking lot at my work. I didn’t even tell anyone I was leaving, I just walked out. My mom took Mabel home, and Mac and I went to the radiology center.

We waited FOREVER- over an hour- to be called back.  It was miserable.  Then they called me back.

The technician began the scan and looked for a long time.  The longer she looked, the more my hope faded.  She said, “Here’s the embryo.  It’s measuring about 5 weeks.  That’s too early to see a heartbeat.  Maybe your dates are wrong?”

I knew my dates weren’t wrong.  I’m a scientist for Christ’s sake.  I was charting.  This was a wanted and planned for pregnancy.  My dates were right.  I had a positive pregnancy test in my hand over 3 weeks ago!  There was no way that I was only 5 weeks along now.  Something was wrong.

Outwardly, I was stoic.  I just laid on the table holding Mac’s hand.  I didn’t look at him.  I couldn’t look at him.  I felt so guilty for keeping him in the dark.  For letting him go along thinking everything was fine.  Then calling him a few hours ago to tell him everything wasn’t fine, that I might be having a miscarriage.

Inwardly, I thought to myself, “Maybe I have a tipped uterus.  Maybe that’s why her measurements are wrong.  It will be hard to wait, not knowing, but I’ll insist on coming back in a week to see if the embryo is still growing.”

Then, the technician, God bless her, said, “You know what, scootch down, make your hands into fists, and put them under your but.  I think your uterus is tipped.  Let me just try to get a better angle.”

I felt a glimmer of how and did as she instructed.  It took several minutes.  I knew she was trying very hard to find us conclusive answers.

After what felt like an eternity she said, “Oh!  I see a heartbeat! Right there.”

I couldn’t even look.  I didn’t even turn my head.  I had too many tears in my eyes to see the screen anyway.  I just reached out and clenched Mac’s hand and said a prayer of thanksgiving.  (I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it now.)

She recalculated her measurements.  The embryo was still measuring behind where it should have been, giving my charting, but it was less than a week off, and given the tipped uterus and the trouble she was having getting a good view/good measurements, it was good news.  The heartbeat was definitely good news.

I can’t explain the relief I felt.  I don’t think it’s possible to comprehend just how attached you are to your pregnancy until you are faced with losing it. I knew that the embryo wasn’t a baby, yet, but I wanted it to become one, and I realized I would have been heartbroken if it hadn’t of been viable.

As soon as the appointment was over, I called the midwife’s office and they called a prescription for Prometrium into my local pharmacy for me to start on that very night.  Then I called my mom and let her know that her prayers were answered.

That was how we spent our anniversary last year, Mac and I.  This year promises to be so much better.

________________________

Follow-up:

A few days later (I think it was Thursday or Friday) the midwife’s office gave me another near panic attack when they called with the retest of my progesterone levels after starting on the Prometrium.  They hadn’t gone up at all, and they said I needed an ultrasound to confirm viability.  The fear came flooding back.  This time I went to their office, alone.  When I mentioned the scan I had on Tuesday, and how the tech had said my uterus was tipped, the midwife looked confused.  Apparently they hadn’t gotten around to putting the results from the radiology center into my chart!  That midwife (one of several in the practice) didn’t know the viability had already been confirmed when she saw my blood work and said to bring me in!   So, the midwife did an exam and actually, manually un-tipped it (!) and could see everything just fine.  She measured and said the embryo looked fine and was measuring normal growth compared to Tuesday. I was simultaneously angry at them, and relieved by the results.

I stayed on the Prometrium through my first trimester, even upped the dosage, but my progesterone levels never got above 12.  Thankfully Nemo was fine.  He developed right on track.  By the time of my Nuchal Translucency scan (about 12 weeks) he was measuring right according to my dates.

Thinking back, it was so frightening.  I am so blessed it worked out the way it did.  My heart breaks for the parents whose stories don’t have the happy ending.

___________________________

ETA: A follow-up post with more science, and more emotions regarding this experience is here.

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Filed under Mother, Nemo, pregnancy, Scientist, Wife

Ramipril take me away

I’ve written before about recovering from my repeat C-section here.  The short version- a week after the delivery, my blood pressure went WAY up (165/85 versus my normal 120/70).  My OB checked me for late-onset preeclampsia and thankfully I did not have it.  The hope was that as my body recovered from pregnancy and delivery that my blood pressure would also go back to normal.

Well, it’s been 9+ weeks since delivery and my BP is still high.  I’m basically flirting with hypertension (140/90).  My OB said it was time to see an internist about how to proceed since, by now, my body should be recovered from the pregnancy.

I went yesterday to another doctor in the medical group and now I’m on Ramipril- as is the doctor.  Of course, I’m not keen on being on blood pressure medicine, but I’m also not keen on walking around with chronic high blood pressure.  The internist drew lots of blood and is running a bunch of tests I’ll know the results of on Monday.  I’m hoping there is nothing else wrong- or if there is a clear cut reason for this change in my BP it’s not serious.

The Ramipril isn’t the only course of action- I’ve been given the standard advice to watch the salt in my diet, exercise more, and try and lose weight.  I’m pretty sure I’ll have no problem with the first two suggestions, but I’m wary of aggressively addressing the third.  The main reason for my reluctance is that in all likelihood I will be unsuccessful and actually wind up worse than I started.  This article from The NY Times covers lots of the science and social aspects of why:  The Fat Trap.

That said, I’m not going to put my head in the sand.  I will do my best maintain how I ate while pregnant, which allowed me to minimize my weight gain (I only gained 11 lbs, and am now actually 15+lbs less than I weighed when I got pregnant).  I will make a concerted effort to walk everyday with the dog (and hopefully the kids too).  I will continue to rarely/never put salt on my food, but be more conscientious about the salt already in my food.  I hope this, along with some time, will allow me to go off the medication soon/eventually.

Thankfully the internist and Nemo’s pediatrician conferred and Ramipril is safe for me to take while nursing.  If it hadn’t been, I’m not sure I would have given up nursing.

Fingers crossed Monday’s test results bring no bad news.

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Pregnancy made me lose my curls.

When I was little I had pretty straight hair.  When I started the earliest stages of puberty- around 3rd grade or so- my hair got super curly.  It stayed curly until I got pregnant with my daughter.  Exhibit 1:

So what happened?  Why did my hair change?  I didn’t know, but was curious and went in search of answers.

First I asked around- I found a few other moms whose hair had gotten curlier or straighter during/after being pregnant.  Since they were all scientists, they could speculate why, but nobody knew for sure.

A quick Google search turned up tons on info on post-partum hair loss, and articles about how thick and full hair can get during pregnancy, but nothing about a change in texture.  Therefore- a more in depth Google search.

Here are my findings…

Most of what I knew about hair growth, I actually learned from mice.  Hair growth is cyclical, with two primary phases:  anangen (when the follicle is actively growing hair), and telogen (when the follicle is resting and sheds the hair it had been growing).  There are a variety of mouse mutants that have long hair- thanks to changes in genes that prolong the anangen phase.  The length of the cycles vary depending on the location of the hair and are controlled by a variety of growth factors and hormones.

Source

Normally the majority of the hairs on your head are in anagen (about 90%), with 10% in telogen.  So you lose hair everyday, but since it’s the minority of hairs on your head, it’s not noticeable.

While you’re pregnant, estrogen and other hormones prolong the anagen phase, meaning you lose fewer hairs and most women report thicker, fuller hair.  Once you give birth, your hormone levels fluctuate and the follicles on your scalp that had been kept in anagen, transition to telogen and you shed lots of hair at once.  That process is called post-partum alopecia and is a form of telogen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium could explain how my curly hairs fell out, but it doesn’t explain why the hairs that grew back weren’t curly.  So, what makes hair curly?

Turns out, the shape of your hair is due to the actual shape of the follicle from which it grows.  This post by Anne Tecklenburg at Stanford was really helpful at explaining hair texture .  The take home message:

Source.

So did my follicles change their shape after I was pregnant?  Were hormones responsible for my hair getting curlier at puberty and less curly during pregnancy?

It is known that estrogen strongly influences hair growth (see here), and we know that estrogen levels fluctuate during and after pregnancy and birth.  However, the exact molecular mechanisms responsible for the change in hair texture during pregnancy may not be known- or are an area of active research.  This great piece on NPR addresses just that possibility:  A Hair Mystery:  Curly Hair Gone Straight.

The conclusion from all this- while not definitive- is that yes, hormonal changes during pregnancy can alter the texture of hair, most likely by changing the shape of the hair follicle.

A coworker of mine had her hair go from stick straight to very curly with her first pregnancy, and from very curly to wavy with her second.  As I’m now almost 19 weeks through this second pregnancy, and hair grows about 1.25 centimeters per month, I have about 5.5 centimeters of hair that has grown since I got pregnant.  While I have noticed less hair loss, so far, I don’t see it getting curlier, if anything it’s getting even straighter.

I’ll be sure to update when my hair growth normalized post-pregnancy.

Some references:

WebMD- Telogen effluvium

Standford’s Ask a Geneticist-  Hair Biology

NPR- A Hair Mystery:  Curly Hair Gone Straight

Wikipedia- Hair Follicle

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