5 Breastfeeding Benefits

Breastfeeding has long been lauded by the healthcare community for its many benefits, including the opportunity to allow mothers to bond more with their children. Now, even the stigma of public breastfeeding is starting to wane and the practice is becoming more accepted. Here are some of the top benefits to breastfeeding your child.

  • Source of colostrum—Colostrum is the milk produced in the first couple of days and it will help your child’s digestive system so that it can function properly early on (https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-benefits.html).
  • Protection from diseases—A great deal of research has been done on the different diseases and other ailments that children are less likely to get if they were breastfed. Among these are: meningitis, ear infections, diarrhea, vomiting, asthma, SIDS, and type 2 diabetes (http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc).
  • Protection from allergies—Allergies seem to be even worse than ever among younger generations. But one way to prevent food allergies in a child is with breastfeeding.
  • Protection from obesity—Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic levels. Breastfed babies are more likely to have a healthy diet later on in life and also have more leptin in their system. This is a hormone that helps to regulate diet, appetite, and fat.
  • Benefits for mom—Your child isn’t the only one who will get benefits from being breastfed. Moms who breastfeed are less likely to gain and retain weight after the pregnancy and are also less likely to develop osteoporosis (http://www.fitpregnancy.com/baby/breastfeeding/20-breastfeeding-benefits-mom-baby). It can also lower your risk for breast and ovarian cancer and help with postpartum healing.

8 Fertility Tips When You’re Trying to Get Pregnant

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Once you make the decision to try and get pregnant, there are several things that you can do to improve your odds of succeeding. When you are in your early 20s, the odds of conceiving within a year are 96 percent. That number gradually decreases to 78 percent by the mid 30s. Once you hit your forties, the odds of getting pregnant naturally drop off massively and IVF becomes a more viable option (http://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/trying-to-conceive/getting-pregnant-at-every-pregnancy-age/). But there are some things that you can do to increase your chances of getting pregnant:

  1. Get a calendar and an ovulation kit. These will help you to track your ovulation to find your most fertile time of the month (http://www.self.com/story/things-you-should-start-doing-if-you-want-to-get-pregnant-soon).
  2. Get a check-up. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist to make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues to worry about (https://www.familyeducation.com/pregnancy/trying-conceive/8-steps-take-trying-conceive).
  3. Get rid of your birth control. Whatever method you have been using, make sure that you stop taking it as soon as you decide to have a baby. It may take a while for the hormones to get out of your system.
  4. Have lots of sex. It may sound like a no-brainer, but you should make sure that you don’t turn sex into a chore. This is a sure way to kill a relationship.
  5. Get rid of the drinking, smoking and caffeine. These three can greatly reduce your chances of getting pregnant by taking their toll on your body (https://www.familyeducation.com/pregnancy/ovulation-conception/top-10-tips-boost-your-chances-getting-pregnant).
  6. Find the right position. Many experts believe lying on your back after sex with a pillow under your hips will help improve your chances.
  7. Take your vitamins. It is important to go ahead and take pre-natal vitamins including folic acid. Additionally, get out in the sun and soak up the Vitamin D. This can add to your overall health and help with your fertility.

Plan for the future. If you aren’t sure if you really want to have a baby right now, then you should still have a contingency plan. Consider having your eggs frozen so that you can try when you are ready in the future.

How to Keep Your Healthy Life Motivation Strong

If you have ever been the member of a gym or fitness club, you’ve probably seen this in action: On January 1st, all of the machines are packed and there’s a line to use the free weights. A week later, maybe one or two people have fallen to the wayside. Two weeks pass and the gym is half empty. And by February 1st it’s back to the same group that regularly uses the equipment. It doesn’t just happen with weight loss, but all aspects of living a healthy life have a problem with keeping motivated and staying strong. But how do you keep from being just another “New Years Resolution” that gave up a month into the year (or quit after years of working)? Here are tips to keep you motivated and strong.

Eating

When it comes to eating healthy, don’t put yourself on such a limited diet that you make yourself miserable (http://www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/tips-keeping-your-healthy-motivation-strong). Instead, try the “three bite rule.” This means give yourself a treat, but limit yourself to just three bites. If you think about it, everything after the third bite is just downhill anyway. It’s those first few hits of forbidden taste that really matters.

Exercise

This is probably the toughest one for many people (http://www.drwayneandersen.com/2012/05/15/keep-that-motivation-going-strong/). But there are some ways to stay motivated throughout the year and into the future. First, get a FitBit or step monitor and set a goal for yourself to stay active during the day. This will encourage you to do things like take the stairs at work or not park at the closest parking space. Every little bit helps. Also, get a gym buddy. This is the person who will motivate you to workout even when you don’t want to. (And, you will do the same for her when she is feeling down and too tired.)

Stress

The saying is true: stress kills. Being too stressed out is a prime way to head to a heart attack or stroke (https://dollysdaughter.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/protect-your-motivation-2/). Instead, you can cut down on your stress in a number of ways. First, find out your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. Is there someone at work who sends your stress levels through the roof? Stay out of their path as much as possible. Also, surround yourself with positive people. Find friends and acquaintances who will help keep you calm and collected as you work on making your life better.

Raising Awareness of Women’s Heart Health

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Heart disease is often referred to as “the silent killer.” Although it does not get as much attention as breast cancer has in the past few years, it is still a substantial health problem for women as they get older. However, in the U.S. 1 in 29 women will die of breast cancer whereas more than 1 in 3 will die of heart disease (http://www.everydayhealth.com/womens-health/raising-awareness-of-womens-heart-health-issues.aspx).

The American Heart Association has even attempted to match the breast cancer pink ribbon campaign with their own Go Red for Women campaign to raise awareness of what is the number one killer of women in the country (https://www.goredforwomen.org/home/about-heart-disease-in-women/facts-about-heart-disease/). With that in mind, there are several things that you need to know about heart health both in terms of risk factors and preventative measures.

Common risk factors

For both men and women, there are several common risk factors for heart disease. These include a patient’s weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels as well as family history of heart disease and if the patient smokes regularly (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease/art-20046167). However, women have specific risk factors that can increase their chances, including:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Menopause
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Complications from pregnancy
  • Broken heart syndrome

In addition, women are unfortunately less likely to seek out medical attention for a heart attack than men are. They tend to try to “tough it out” more without going to the hospital, often with fatal results.

Preventative measures

Heart disease doesn’t have to be some looming portent on the horizon. There are ways to prevent this particular health condition. In addition to staving off heart disease, these will also help you maintain a healthy weight, an important factor. These preventative measures include:

  • Regular exercise. Even if it is just twenty minutes or so of walking, at least four to five times a week, this can go a long way to helping you.
  • Eating healthy. Cut back significantly on fatty foods as well as those that are high in sugar. Also, watch your salt intake. Many processed foods have high levels of sodium that will ultimately contribute to heart disease.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It seems every year breast cancer becomes more prevalent right in our own homes. Whether it’s a friend or a family member, we see the devastating effects of breast cancer far too often. Although the screening processes and treatment options are better now than ever before, breast cancer still steals too many loved ones. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate against race, income, age, or any other factors. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant against the awful disease we know as breast cancer.

Breast cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the tissue of the breast; these cells can then attack any surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body. Nearly 1 in 8 will develop a form of breast cancer throughout their life. Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in women and it’s the second leading cause of death in women. The American Cancer Society estimated that around 246,660 women would be affected by breast cancer in 2016.

Via National Breast Cancer Foundation

The most common and effective way to combat breast cancer is through early detection. Early detection can help save lives and consistently does each year. According to a study done by the American Cancer Society, mammography reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer by about 20% in America and up to 40% in Europe and Canada.

Here are some signs/symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels
    • Nipple tenderness or a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area
    • A change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture)
    • A lump in the breast (It’s important to remember that all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional, but not all lumps are cancerous)
  • A change in how the breast or nipple looks
    • Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
    • Dimpling anywhere on the breast
    • Unexplained swelling of the breast (especially if on one side only)
    • Unexplained shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only)
    • Recent asymmetry of the breasts (Although it is common for women to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other, if the onset of asymmetry is recent, it should be checked)
    • Nipple that is turned slightly inward or inverted
    • Skin of the breast, areola, or nipple that becomes scaly, red, or swollen or may have ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange
  • Any discharge from the nipple, specifically clear or blood discharge
    • It is also important to note that a milky discharge that is present when a woman is not breastfeeding should be checked by her doctor, although it is not likely linked with breast cancer

(National Breast Cancer Association)

Death rates from breast cancer have been steadily decreasing since the ’90’s. Experts think this in part due to increased awareness, early detection, better treatment options, and better screening processes. It’s imperative you get mammograms and give yourself monthly checks, early detection can and does save lives.

There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. If we join together and become proactive in the fight against breast cancer, we can make sure that no one faces this alone. With the correct screening, we can help fight this fight with our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and anyone else who been impacted by breast cancer. While we can’t cure cancer, we can make sure that no one goes through this process alone.

Sex During Pregnancy: Is It Harmful?

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For many women, pregnancy can feel totally unsexy. The swelling and discomfort as your body prepares for birth is not really conducive to romance, nor is the nausea and vomiting of morning sickness. Surprisingly, the hormone shifts that pregnancy cause can actually make some women desire sexual activity more and experience an increase in their libidos. But, the question then becomes if sex during pregnancy is safe.

Many couples actually abstain from sexual contact during pregnancy because they fear they will harm the fetus. Thankfully, this is not the case. Sex during an uncomplicated pregnancy is perfectly safe. However, there are some extreme situations that women must be careful of. In addition, there are some adjustments that may have to be made (http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/sex-during-pregnancy-is-it-safe#1).

There are a few complications that may prevent some women from having sex during pregnancy. One of these is placenta previa. This condition involves the placenta covering the cervix. Because of this, sexual activity is not a good idea because it can lead to hemorrhaging that will endanger both mother and child. Another condition that can cause issues is having what is called an “incompetent” cervix. This is where the cervix begins to dilate because of pressure from the baby. Sexual activity with this condition could lead to a miscarriage, premature birth or other serious problems. The final major complication is a premature rupture of membranes. When this occurs, the amniotic fluid sac can burst or begin to leak, a condition that can be compounded by sexual activity.

In addition to these major complications, women who are sexually active during pregnancy should be cautious of bleeding and vaginal discharges. These may be the sign of a possible miscarriage or even a uterine infection that can possibly compromise the pregnancy.

Finally, we need to also address the issue of comfort during pregnancy. For a pregnant woman to lie flat on her back, the blood vessels leading to the uterus can be compressed. Although this will not cause a great deal of problems, it can cause pain and discomfort. As a fix for this, women should consider being on top during sexual activity so they can enjoy the experience more fully.

How to Avoid Osteoporosis Later in Life

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If you’re a woman, chances are you have been hearing for years about the importance of calcium in your diet as a means of fighting off osteoporosis when you get older. But, like a lot of women, the chances are also pretty high that you blew this advice off thinking “I’ll worry about that later.” Unfortunately, sometimes “later” has a habit of sneaking up on you and then you are left with a serious health problem and you are dealing with the ramifications of your earlier life decisions. If you are worried about developing osteoporosis as you get older, here are tips to follow (http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/guide/osteoporosis-prevention). Just remember, it’s never too late to start.

What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones that make them more brittle and fragile. Because of this condition, painful breaks and fractures are more common and also more dangerous. A fall that might have left a simple bump or bruise when you were in your twenties can now result in a shattered bone that will require surgery to repair.

How to find out if you have osteoporosis?
A bone density scan is the quickest and easiest way of determining if you have osteoporosis or if your bones have just started to get thinner. This is a ten-minute procedure that is ultimately a special type of x-ray. It will test a sample of your bones to determine if they are thinner than they should be.

How to avoid osteoporosis?
There are several steps that you can do to avoid osteoporosis. They include:

  • Get calcium in your diet—Milk and cheese are great sources of calcium, which you need to help build healthier, stronger bones. If you have a genetic predisposition for osteoporosis, it is also probably a good idea to augment this diet with calcium supplements.
  • Exercise—Exercise such as strength training encourages bones to develop stronger as a preventative against later bone thinning. It also helps you to have better general health and improve flexibility which can be a bonus should you fall when you are older.
  • Avoid sodas, alcohol, and cigarettes—Besides all of the other problems that they can cause with your health, all three of these can affect your bone thickness and lead to osteoporosis.
  • Take care of yourself—There has also been a connection between women with eating disorders and osteoporosis. One theory behind this is that a severe eating disorder may throw your body’s regularity out of sync. If you don’t have, for example, regular menstrual periods then your level of estrogen is lower and it can help lead to a higher chance of osteoporosis.

Does Menopause End Endometriosis?

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No one will ever say that being a woman is easy. With all of the health concerns and procedures that we go through, it’s a testament to our strength. Unfortunately, one very painful and all too common health problem that women face is endometriosis (also called “endo”). For many of us, endometriosis is just something that we have to live with routinely. In fact, many women may not even know that they have the condition. However, if there is one major silver lining it is the fact that menopause can help ease up some of these symptoms tremendously (http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/endometriosis.html).

What is endometriosis?
The term “endometriosis” is derived from endometrium. In a healthy woman without endometriosis, this tissue is the material that lines the uterus. However, endometrium can begin to grow in other areas of a woman’s reproductive system including the fallopian tubes and ovaries as well as the outside of the uterus. The tissue can even spread to the bladder and bowel. This tissue will actually bleed just like the regular lining of the uterus does during your monthly period. However, the tissue cannot be shed by the body in the same ways so it builds up over time. When it is attached to other parts of the body, this can cause, at a minimum, severe irritation. At its worst, endometriosis can cause excruciating pain and inflammation as well as the development of scar tissue and can hurt a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.

Endometriosis and menopause
The good news is that, at least for many women, menopause will bring about a reduction in the problems from endometriosis. Once a woman becomes menopausal, the body stops producing endometrium so that it cannot spread to other areas. The problem, however, is that after thirty to forty years of spreading out, the scarring will still be present. Once you enter menopause, your body will also stop producing estrogen as it previously did. This has been shown to make the deposits of endometrium actually shrink. However, if you take hormone replacement therapy as a means of dealing with the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and mood swings, you are reintroducing estrogen into your system which can prevent this from happening.

Perimenopause: Know What to Expect (and when to visit your doctor)

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It’s a term many women have been hearing about for years—the change of life. Although this euphemism may seem tired and clichéd, it nevertheless reveals a major truth: menopause is, indeed, a pivotal change in a woman’s life both physically and emotionally. However, what has received less attention than it should is the period leading up to menopause, also called perimenopause. This is a time when women can begin to prepare themselves for this massive change and start to transition their lifestyles to ease this along (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/perimenopause/basics/definition/CON-20029473).

What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the time period that begins a few years before a woman actually enters menopause. At this time, the ovaries are still producing estrogen, but it is doing so at a rate that is much lower than normal; in fact, this decrease will speed up at a more rapid rate the closer a woman gets to being menopausal. This transition will last until a woman reaches menopause and her body stops releasing eggs and she stops having monthly periods. Because women start menopause at a different point in their lives, it is hard to pin down an exact age when perimenopause will begin, but usually it is from late 30s to early 40s.

Perimenopause symptoms
The signs of perimenopause can, in some cases, mimic the symptoms of actual menopause. These can include breast swelling and tenderness, hot flashes, mood swings, urinary leakage and urgency, as well as a lower sex drive and vaginal dryness. These can, in turn, lead to trouble sleeping and severe tiredness. However, what distinguishes perimenopause from actual menopause is that a woman still gets her monthly periods.

During perimenopause, periods may be quite irregular and in some cases can involve heavy bleeding and even clotting. If you are experiencing these extreme types of periods or are having spotting between periods or after sex, then you should contact your doctor to rule out other possible causes such as hormone problems, pregnancy, blood clots, or tumors.

Treatments
There is no way to stop perimenopause any more than there is a way to stop menopause from happening. However, there are ways to reduce the symptoms of perimenopause including the use of low-doses of birth control pills or injections to ease hot flashes. Women are also encouraged to quit smoking and drinking and to pursue a healthier lifestyle with proper diet and exercise as this may help ease some of the problems they may experience.

Common Signs of Menopause

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No matter what euphemism you call it—“The Change” being of course the most common—menopause is a major event in a woman’s life that can also be very emotional (http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/1292_women-s-health-questions). Your hormones are thrown massively out of whack during this time and you’re ending a major stage in your adult life—one that has been with you for forty years or more.

But how do you know if you have actually started menopause? Sometimes, it isn’t as simple as just saying that you’re menopausal. But there are a few definite signs early on that can hint at what is to come (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/symptoms/con-20019726).

The first thing you should realize is that your body will start signaling you’re about to become menopausal. The signs that this is coming include:

  • Before your last menstrual period, you will notice that your periods may become extremely irregular (short periods, skipped periods, light periods, or even two periods in one month). This can go on for up to a year before your last period.
  • Hot flashes—Probably the most famous sign are hot flashes. This just isn’t a minor change. These can be truly debilitating where no amount of air conditioning, fans, or ice packs can cool your body down. In addition, these flashes can hit at night leaving you with severe night sweats.
  • Other body changes—Your body can also go through other changes that include vaginal dryness and decreased interest in sex. Your body’s metabolism also begins to slow down dramatically and women tend to have weight gain at this time.

If you have these symptoms and then go several months without a period, then chances are you have hit that point in your life. You should consult with your physician to find out about how this will impact your life from here on and how to handle some of the symptoms.