Doctors in Fortis La Femme - Bangalore
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A mother’s milk is said to be the most nutritious food for a newborn baby. It contains the perfect balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals needed for your baby and changes to keep up with your baby’s growing needs. However, the benefits of breastfeeding extend way beyond nutritional value. Breastfeeding is beneficial for both you and your baby. Ideally, a baby should be breastfed for at least the first six months.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that every mother should start breastfeeding within an hour of giving birth to a baby and the process should continue for at least two years.
- Stronger immunity: Mother’s milk is rich in antibodies and a number of unique compounds that help the newborn child’s body fight bacterial and viral infections. No other form of baby food is as rich in these antibodies. Babies who have been breastfed have a lower risk of suffering from ailments such as ear infection, stomach upsets and respiratory problems. The first milk expressed by a woman’s breasts after giving birth is known as colostrums. This milk coats the baby’s digestive system and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Fewer allergies: Breast milk is easier to digest than formula or cow’s milk. This protects the gastrointestinal passages from inflammation and prevents undigested food from triggering allergic reactions. Being breastfed can also reduce the number of allergies a child may suffer from in their later years.
- Healthy body weight: Breastfeeding makes a child less likely to suffer from obesity in their later childhood and adult years. This is because breast milk contains less insulin and more hormones as compared to formula. This helps regulate fat absorption. On an average, babied fed on formula put on weight quickly and are more likely to overeat in their later years.
- Stronger bones: Breastfeeding is beneficial for both the child and the mother. When a woman is breastfeeding her child, her body’s ability to absorb calcium increases. This helps increase bone density, especially as pregnancy can make bones weak.
- Builds a strong mother-child bond: After 9 months of carrying a child to term, giving birth may lead to postpartum depression and a mother may feel the connection between her and the child severed. Breastfeeding helps nurture this connection and provides emotional relief to both the mother and child. For the mother, this experience releases hormones that reduce stress and relax the body. For the baby, close physical contact is very important and this process provides the perfect opportunity to do so.
- Getting back to shape: Breastfeeding helps a woman get back into shape after giving birth to a baby. A woman loses a large number of calories while breastfeeding.
- Eliminating the risk of certain cancers: Breastfeeding also helps women in reducing the chances of cancers like breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Although the cause of over 60% of birth defects are not known, there are things that you can do to help ensure optimal health for your baby.
There are a number of things you can do to increase the probability of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Some are more challenging than others because they may require that you break bad habits, but it is worth your effort.
1. The first and foremost tip is maintaining preconception health - Eating well balanced and nutritional meals, and taking a multivitamin daily that includes the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid. If you are sexually active and pregnancy is a possibility, make sure you take a multivitamin daily, which includes the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid and other essential B vitamins.
2. Seek an annual gynecological and wellness exam - Especially a preconceptional visit would help in determining any problems with the blood tests such as thyroid, sugars and haemoglobin. Some vaccinations also may be necessary prior to pregnancy.
3. Avoid all activities that could potentially lead to birth defects, including alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and caffeine.
4. Obtain genetic counseling and birth defect screening, particularly if you have any family history of birth defects.
Maintaining proper vaginal hygiene is imperative to ward off any sort of STDor STI, even before any sort of irritation, infection or disease occurs. The normal vaginal pH balance helps cater to the growth of useful bacteria. Some useful tips to maintain proper vaginal hygiene can be:
Douching (spraying a mixture of water, baking soda, vinegar or iodine on the vaginal area) is strictly discouraged. It can interfere with the normal pH levels of the vagina and can make the area extremely acidic, which sets the stage for the growth of bacterial infections.
A balanced, healthy, nutritious diet is recommended for a healthy vagina as well as for good reproductive health. Certain fluids such as cranberryjuice can help prevent the onset of any yeast infection.
Safe sex should be practised in order to keep harmful bacteria away. Using a condom during a sexual intercourse helps prevent the occurrence of any sort of STI or STD.
Gynaecological check-ups should be done every four months or so to be on the safe side regarding any doubts about unhealthy vagina. Prevention is always better than cure in the long run.
Petroleum jelly should not be used for lubrication during sexual intercourse as such fluids tend to damage the latex in the condom and may even lead to a possible infection.
Clothes should be chosen carefully to keep the vaginal area clean and dry. Cotton underwear is generally the best option in this regard as it can help prevent any bacterial infection by keeping the area clean and dry.
Certain simple sanitary habits such as changing of tampons or sanitary pads every four hour during one’s periods, proper washing of the genital area after relieving the bowels, can go a long way in nurturing the health of the vagina.
Opt for gentle skin care products to wash the vaginal area as that area is extremely sensitive. Avoid scrubbing the vaginal area as well.
The cyclical change in the uterus and ovaries of the female reproductive system is called the menstrual cycle. It includes changes in the physiology of the uterus along with the change in hormones as well. This cyclical change is what allows a woman to get pregnant. This cycle allows the formation of oocytes (or eggs) and helps to prepare the uterus for implantation.
The commencement of period is called the menarche. It normally starts from the age of twelve to fifteen years. The time between the first day of the period and the first day of the next one is usually twenty one to forty five days in young adults and twenty one to thirty five in older women. The entire cycle is mainly governed by hormones like oestrogen, progesterone, Luteinizing Hormone etc.
Hormonal changes play a big role in the menstrual cycle. It consists of three phases
- Menstrual stage (1-7 days)
- Proliferative stage
- Secretory stage
In the menstrual stage, the thick endometrial lining of the uterus will start to shed and will come out of the vagina in the form of blood and mucous. This may last from four to seven days. The levels of both progesterone and estrogen remain low in this phase.
In the proliferative stage, the amount of oestrogen gradually rises and the menstrual flow reduces and eventually stops. The Follicle stimulating Hormone (FSH) is produced in the brain that stimulates your ovaries to produce mature eggs. The eggs are present in a follicular bag, which allows the secretion of oestrogen. Hence the amount of oestrogen is the least on the first day and increases gradually. At the same time, the uterine lining starts to thicken. This is the phase in which the egg is produced and in the presence of sperm, gets fertilised.
You may notice a thin slippery discharge around these days that makes it easier for the sperm to travel and survive in the uterus. You are most fertile in this stage, around on the 14th day of the cycle when ovulation occurs. The egg survives for around 24 hrs, whereas sperm can survive for about 2-3 days.
In the secretory phase, if the egg is not fertilised, the levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall. The thick lining that has been produced starts to shed and that commences the menstruation. If the egg is fertilised, then it may implant itself to the uterine wall and produce the pregnancy hormone called human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG).
In preparation for the possibility of conception, a woman's body undergoes the menstrual cycle every month which culminates with the periods. This is a normal process which all women of reproductive age experience every month. However, in certain cases, the periods can be really painful where one may suffer from menstrual cramps or could be generally in much pain. This condition is known as Dysmenorrhea.
What exactly is Dysmenorrhea?
As mentioned above, dysmenorrhea is a disorder that many women go through while having their periods where they may suffer from painful cramps. The pain usually occurs in the pelvic area and the lower abdomen and may also be accompanied by other symptoms.
Some symptoms of Dysmenorrhea:
Some of the symptoms of dysmenorrhea could be any combination of the following factors:
I. Very painful menstrual cramps accompanied by lower back pain
III. Pain in the inner thighs, lower back and hips
IV. Being hypersensitive to light, loud sounds, specific smells and touch
V. Being fatigued all the time, even causing you to faint
Causes of Dysmenorrhea
Dysmenorrhea is usually caused by the contraction of the uterus. While the uterus does contract a little even in normal periods, during dysmenorrhea the contractions tend to be a little too much. Due to this the uterus presses against the blood vessels and organs within the vicinity causing oxygen loss to them. This causes elevated levels of pain and discomfort.
There are primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea. Primary dysmenorrhoea is menstrual cramps which are not related to any of the following pathologies. Some of the underlying causes of secondary dysmenorrhea are:
1. Endometriosis - This is where the uterine lining is found outside the uterus, especially in the pelvic cavity and thus may cause painful cramps.
2. Tumors - Tumors or fibroids which are unwanted growths on the inside of the uterus may also trigger dysmenorrhea.
What to do if you are suffering from Dysmenorrhea?
Some basic care which you can take to ease pain from dysmenorrhea are:
1. Avoid smoking and abstain from alcohol
2. Ample rest during periods
3. Keep the body well hydrated
4. Don't consume foods high in salt
5. Don't drink coffee or any caffeine rich foods
6. Lower back massages and hot water bag treatments to relieve pain
In very severe cases, pain killers which are safe to take, may be prescribed. Other hormonal treatment may be required if other pathologies have been diagnosed such as endometriosis etc.
The thyroid gland within the body plays an important role in regulating your metabolism among many other functions. This is a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck and plays an important role within your body. However, a common condition that may afflict it is hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. It is even more of a problem if you are pregnant as it may affect your baby’s development in the womb. It has also been noticed that pregnancy in itself may cause hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism-
Pregnant women may also exhibit symptoms common to other patients who are suffering from hypothyroidism. These may include:
Fatigue along with lethargy.
Mild to significant weight gain.
Feeling cold with severe chills
The thyroid gland produces the T4 hormone responsible for regulating many mechanisms within the body such as metabolism. With hypothyroidism, the production of this hormone decreases or stops altogether. This is important as disruption in the production of the hormone may disrupt the normal development of your baby.
Hypothyroidism during pregnancy can affect your child’s developmental abilities. Many studies in this field have shown that such children tend to have learning difficulties and may even display lower IQ scores during tests. It was noticed that sometimes, hypothyroidism during pregnancy wasn’t diagnosed correctly as the pregnant mother did not show much apparent symptoms. This is also a major issue in the early diagnosis of the problem. Hence, it is absolutely imperative to test for thyroid problems early during pregnancy.
Prevention is the Best Cure-
It is thus very important that mothers be screened properly for thyroid issues even before they are pregnant and while they are pregnant. Some of the medically recommended steps that should be taken are –
Screening before pregnancy as this can help to devise a solution for this condition.
Women with goiter or enlarged thyroid should most certainly be screened.
Women with a family history of hypothyroidism should be screened.
Treatments for Hypothyroidism During Pregnancy-
The doctors may suggest thyroid hormone replacement therapy wherein artificial T4 hormone is introduced into the body. This helps to maintain a constant rate of the thyroid hormone within the body. This can be done even before pregnancy as the developing fetus is completely dependent on the mother for its thyroid hormone until at least 12 weeks when the baby’s body can start producing it on its own. Also, the levels of this hormone should be regularly checked within the body through the TSH or the thyroid stimulating hormone tests to ensure that the levels are at a safe minimum.