Before I get to the topic of this blog - Pregnancy and Constipation - I have to tell you that I saw the 18 week sonogram picture of my grandbaby yesterday. When I was pregnant with my first child, sonograms were for high risk pregnancies only. When I was pregnant with my second child, they were more common, but still very expensive. I opted not to have one.
When I look at pictures of heads and feet, beautifully formed in the womb. When I hear the good news that all four quadrants of the brain have formed perfectly, that the heart is beating normally, that liver and kidneys are functioning, I am amazed. While this child weighs less than a pound, it is very much a human being.
Not only that - BC has personality. SIL raced bicycles in college. DD tells me that BC's little legs were going constantly throughout the sonogram, so much so that it was hard for the doctor to count all ten toes! He told DD, your little one is bouncing off the walls. I'll need to have lots of energy to keep up when BC comes to visit.
I have learned something about my Darling Daughter during this pregnancy. She has battled constipation all her life. How did I not know that? How did I not take action, given the colon cancer issues in our family? Constipation is just not a thing that teenage girls or young women want to talk about with their mothers. But pregnancy lowers modesty barriers, and we have had some very honest talks.
Until she found out she was pregnant at about 6 weeks, her bowels had been normal - for her - which to my way of thinking is not anywhere close to acceptable. She only had bowel movements on days when her morning routine was normal - in other words work days when the traffic got her to the office calm and on time. Nothing on weekends, nothing on holidays. Even at that, she did not have a bowel movement every day - so for years she had been having 3-4 per week.
Her diet changed dramatically at 6 weeks pregnant. At first grain and fruit were the only things that tasted good. Then she began to crave meat. Salad, which had been a big part of her diet didn't taste good at all. Neither did raw vegetables. Eventually she complained to me that she was really constipated.
Dr. D recommends wheat bran for Type A constipation. DD didn't like the way it made her feel and it didn't help. Same for larch and acacia fiber, both of which work really well for Type O me. Psyllium products irritate both of us. Chewable Calcium Magnesium made her stomach feel inflamed. She was eating 8-10 prunes a day. They tasted good but didn't help the constipation. She was drinking lots of water.
One morning I got a text that said, "I was queasy yesterday and today, but I don't think it was morning sickness. It is more like indigestion, and I think it is related to my being constipated for so long." She went on to say that she couldn't drink water that morning. She was sipping, but that if she took a big drink of water it bubbled back up in her throat.
She said she had researched laxatives on the internet and they were not recommended for pregnant women because when they started muscle contractions in the bowels it could simulate labor and could cause miscarriage.
I was starting to get worried. I had no idea that her normal state was constipated. What she was describing sounded serious to me. She certainly did not need a blockage when she was pregnant. I had exhausted everything I knew to do.
We agreed it was time to email her OB. The doctor emailed back and recommended a stool softener called Colace. It is safe for pregnancy. DD started with the maximum dose. Even at that it took several days before she had any results. It was two weeks before she felt like her intestines were cleaned out.
She tried to cut back on the dose, but the constipation quickly came back. We have accepted the fact that she will just have to stay on a stool softener through this pregnancy. Frankly with our family history, I think she may need to keep Colace on hand for the rest of her life. From what I read, fecal material remaining too long in the colon is the single greatest risk factor for colon cancer.
After the baby comes, I would like to see her give fiber products another try. However, I am glad to know about a product that works and is considered safe even for mothers and their unborn babies.
When DD was coming out of her exercise and eating disorder, we had no idea whether she would ever be able to have a baby. She told me, even back then, that if God ever allowed her to get pregnant knowing how much to exercise would be the hardest thing for her. That has turned out to be true.
Before she got pregnant, DD and SIL were doing regular, strenuous exercise. The first text DD sent about exercise came on her only bad day of Morning Sickness. She wrote, "Don't worry about me exercising. I'm more worried about eating...ever again."
As she got queasiness under control, she began to exercise again. "BC liked the exercise video we did tonight. We have a much happier baby now." Another text said, "Mental image for you: While I do an exercise video, BC is swinging around like Tarzan on the umbilical cord."
One Monday DD did an exercise video that involved a lot of jumping around. On Tuesday, she did an aerobic workout on an exercise bicycle. That night I got a panicked phone call. DD had some mild spotting. It was only a few drops, but it frightened us all.
The next day I got this text, "So far this morning, all is OK, I am just nervous. This little life was so precious to me before - and now, when something might be wrong, I realize how even more precious it is. I love BC with all of my heart. This little unexpected life means the world to me. Oh Lord, please keep little BC safe in my womb."
DD's OB has an email address where patients can ask questions and get an immediate response from her staff. By 8:30 DD had sent all of her symptoms to the office. The doctor herself called and said she was not worried unless the spotting got heavier. She mentioned several things that could cause spotting in the second trimester, and one of them was exercise.
DD sent this text, "I need to be careful. Tonight I am resting. Tomorrow, maybe some leg lifts...maybe. I think I will stay off cardio equipment for at least a week. This really shook me up."
Once the crisis was past, I sent her my comments:
When we first read about BTD, Dr. D'Adamo said that Type As should do calming, centering exercise. In the early days we noticed this was true in our family. The Type Os gravitated toward more strenuous exercise than the Type As.
During your exercise/eating disorder you pushed yourself to excel in cardio exercise. You adapted to intense physical exercise. Your muscle tone was incredible. I stopped trying to convince you to act like an A, because you were doing so well. You might want to revisit this while you are pregnant. I suggest you slow things down. Do some pilates. Walk - either outside or on the treadmill. Do back exercises - you'll really be glad you did when you get to third trimester. Focus on strength and flexibility rather than aerobic.
The book What to Expect When You're Expecting had a lot of exercises that concentrate on those goals. Eat Right for your Baby allows some low impact for Type As, but also has a list of cautions. Dr. D'Adamo doesn't recommend weights (except very light weights) for 2nd or 3rd trimester. After yesterday, I would be cautious.
DD looked up spotting on The Bump. One of the comments she liked said:
I was running, walking, and going to the gym regularly early in my pregnancy when I experienced spotting after a run. I called my OB and she told me to try a week of rest (no sex or exercise) and to call if it did not go away. It went away in a couple of days and I gradually ramped my exercise back up but stayed away from anything high impact (no step aerobics or running) and stuck to walking, elliptical machine and got a prenatal strength video. I have not had any problems since. Running was not worth the health of my child and I figured I can get back to it as soon as she is born.
Since that episode there has been no more spotting. DD has a daily struggle to find the right balance between exercising enough and not overdoing it. As she predicted long before she became pregnant, moderation in exercise is hard for her.
I've given her many ideas - it's hard for a future grandmother to keep quiet. I think two of them have been helpful enough to mention here.
DD was concerned that she could see what she thought were dimpled fat cells. It reminded her of how her legs used to look. I knew that she was eating a balanced and healthy diet. She was not overeating to the level of adding fat cells. I reminded her that during pregnancy not only was the baby growing, but she would be storing fluid. She needed that fluid for increased blood supply and other physical changes that are normal in pregnancy. I suggested that what she was seeing was more likely to be cells filled with fluid than fat cells.
Some exercise equipment shows visual patterns representing levels of intensity. I suggested that DD exercise in the shape of a pyramid. Start slow, give her body plenty of time to warm up. Gradually increase intensity. Don't stay at peak intensity for long, like at the peak of the pyramid. Gradually decrease intensity, letting her body slowly return to normal. She has tried this for several days and tells me it makes her feel good.
DD has her next doctor appointment in a few days. I'm curious to see what the doctor says about exercise. But as DD said so well in a text, "I know exercise is important, so I want to workout, but BC is even more important."
DD texts me this week that Baby Cakes can smile and frown. Is that not fascinating!?! There in the womb at 14 weeks BC can express pleasure and pain.
I've got blogs half written in my head about exercise in pregnancy, plus what BC likes DD to eat, but something funny happened last night, and I'm going to do a silly; tongue in cheek blog.
I have several friends whose young adult children have been trapped by prescription upper and downer drugs. What I am told is that someone in college will get a prescription for one of the medications that makes you more alert and gives you more energy. Someone else will get a prescription for one of the medications that calms you down and lets you sleep.
They see their friends having trouble focusing or sleeping and they share their medications. (This is, of course illegal) Why doctors give unlimited refills on these things is beyond my understanding, but evidently they do. The students become dependent on uppers in the day to help them focus in class and downers at night to calm themselves down so they can sleep. By they time they are young adults and have jobs, some of them are seriously addicted.
I have heard horror stories about depression, suicidal thoughts, and inability to function when the supply of the drugs are cut off.
None of that is funny, silly, or tongue in cheek. It is a serious problem.
However, this is how a 60 year old health nut who wouldn't dream of polluting her body with that kind of prescription drugs experienced the same thing - - - naturally.
Yesterday afternoon I fixed myself a big glass of green tea. I got distracted by many things and about 9:30 I noticed the tea still sitting on its coaster beside the computer. I was thirsty, and I didn't give it a second thought; I just drank it down. The caffeine hit a few minutes later, and all of my creative brain cells were firing. I was energetic and enthusiastic.
To get 8 hours of sleep, I've got to be in bed by 11:00. At 10:45 I was still on a caffeine high. I had no interest in relaxing to go to sleep. If I didn't think of something, it was going to be a short night. What relaxes me? What sends me to sleep in 20 minutes? Chewable Calcium Magnesium (favorite brand is Country Life). I crunched up two tablets; climbed in bed; closed my eyes; and had a great night's sleep.
I am not recommending this as a lifestyle. Stay away from prescription uppers and downers, no matter what. Enjoy your green tea early in the day. Take cal/mag in the right doses for nutritional purposes.
But I do have to laugh at myself for one day of "natural" uppers and downers.
When I was pregnant with our first child I was working as a commission sales person for a radio station. I would schedule my morning appointments close to home so I could sleep late except for the mornings we had sales meetings. If I was wiped out in the afternoon, I would go home and take a nap. I was not cheating my employer because I continued to meet my sales quota. I was, however, able to listen to my body, and in the first trimester my body wanted lots of rest.
Before the end of the first trimester, my Honorable Husband said I could quit my job if I wanted to. We had saved enough money to pay for the baby. I was planning to be an at home Mom. If I continued working there would be extra expenses of a professional maternity wardrobe. I had a head full of ideas for making all of the nursery decorations. I thought about his offer for a minute or two and said, "Yes!"
Between high doses of Vitamin B6 and lots of sleep, I didn't have morning sickness, just occasionally a queasy feeling.
DD did not have that luxury in her first trimester. She works in advertising and marketing. She must be at work on time. She has a one hour commute from home to office. This meant she got up early - about 5:30 and got home late - about 7:00. There was no way she could get eight hours of sleep, much less the amount of sleep that BC wanted.
One day I got a text that said, "I cannot get enough sleep. All I want to do is curl up and sleep for the next 2-3 months." On Saturday afternoon I got another text: "Sleeping until 11 makes us feel so good."
She came up with several creative ideas that let her get a little extra rest. Some mornings she would leave for work extra early to avoid the traffic. Then she would sleep in her car until time for work. Her office has a fitness center for employees. Every day at lunch she would curl up on the mats and sleep for an hour. Often in the afternoon, she would go to sleep on the mats giving the traffic time to thin out. It meant she got home late, but she spent less time sitting in the car and got extra sleep.
Friends warned her about sleeping on either her stomach or her back. Those, of course are her favorite sleep positions. Last week I got this text: "I have a new pregnancy problem. Sleeping on my sides is making my hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows hurt. Not my joints, but pressure points on my skin. I tried pillows. No luck."
The next day she said, "I went to sleep sitting up. At some point in the night I went to my side. It was better, but now my neck hurts." Obviously sitting up was not going to solve the problem.
HH and I went to see her last weekend. We took an egg crate from our camping equipment. That worked great on the pressure points. No more sore spots in the mornings. I showed her how to put pillows behind her back when she was on her side. She can lean back on them so that she is technically on her side, but she feels support on her back. That seemed to help as well.
Now that she has entered the second trimester, she isn't as tired. In fact I would say that last weekend she was a little hyper. It was good to see all of her energy.
Modern women certainly have many advantages in terms of opportunity, creativity, and income. Our grandmothers and great grandmothers worked from home. They contributed to family economics in many ways, but rarely got recognition. The advantage they had was being able to listen to their bodies and accommodate their unborn baby's need for rest.
I have so much I want to share about what DD is eating, how the BTD is benefitting her and her baby, how she is trying to resolve the annoyances of pregnancy, as well as her new exercise and sleep patterns. She is at the end of her first trimester. I got a text yesterday that said, "Just heard my favorite sound in the world - a healthy baby heartbeat."
I'm sure every prospective grandparent is flooded with joy when they hear those words, but I think I have just a little more cause for thanksgiving than most. I've been blogging on the BTD site since 2004. DD was in middle school back then. I wrote about how she liked my new eating plan because I no longer pushed her to drink milk or eat beef. We had never had a lot of junk food in our house, so she adapted easily and became a fan of this Blood Type lifestyle.
However, the summer before she was a senior in high school, she succumbed to an exercise/eating disorder. She was never anorexic - and often reminded me that she only missed one meal. She was never bulimic - she turns her head if someone vomits in a movie. But she exercised too much and lost way too much weight. She stopped having periods in November, 2007. Her thyroid began to malfunction in the fall of 2008 - both a direct result of low BMI. Her circulation was affected.
I blogged many times about DD during those painful days. She overcame the spiritual problems that led to this disorder, and began to gain weight. In the summer of 2010 she met SIL. One of the hardest things she has ever had to do was confess to him what she had done to her body, and tell him she wasn't sure if she could ever have children. They cried together and prayed together. He said that he loved HER, and that if she couldn't have children, they would find a way to adopt.
DD and SIL got engaged in the summer of 2011. In the fall of 2011 she began to have periods again. They gradually became more regular, but there was no way to know how much damage had been done to her reproductive system. They married in June, 2012.
Do you get just a glimpse of the joy and thankfulness we have for this precious baby growing in DD?
However, all of that joy did not make her first trimester any easier. One day we got a call that she was pregnant. The next day I got a text saying, "I am not actually sick-sick. But I am very queasy. I couldn't go to church last night. I felt horrible. This is the weirdest feeling. I am hungry and queasy at the same time. Although I know I need food, it is repulsive. This is going to be a long 2-3 months."
She found an obstetrician who accepted her medical insurance and scheduled an appointment. She told them about her morning sickness. The first question the nurse asked was if she was taking Vitamin B6. Right away I knew I liked this doctor. I believe B6 is very effective at relieving morning sickness symptoms.
However, DD is a working mother-to-be. She has a long commute in the car. She can't lie down and take a nap any time she feels queasy. B6 alone was not enough. The first thing the OB said to add was an over the counter sleeping medication called Unisom. DD was told to take 1/2 a dose once a day. The pills were so small and she felt so bad, that the first day she took a whole pill. The combination of B6 and Unisom worked. She felt good. But then she worried that she had taken a full dose. She worried about the baby on a sleep medication. She worried that she would fall asleep driving to work.
The OB's next suggestion was Zofran. It is a prescription medication that stops nausea and vomiting. It is given to pregnant women, cancer patients, and babies as young as one month. The dosage for pregnant women is one pill three times a day. DD found she could function with one pill every other day. She did not like any taking medication, and felt guilty about it part of the time. But in the long run, it let her eat and drink fluids. That, she decided, was better for BC than risking dehydration.
She quickly learned that one of the best things she could do was get carbs in her stomach at the first sign of queasiness. This has been a source of great amusement to me. DD, raised by a health food fanatic mother, never ate many desserts. During and after her eating disorder, she shunned desserts and breads, eating beneficial fruit, nuts, and vegetables instead.
Her first funny text said, "One of the ladies who knows of my plight brought me two oatmeal raisin cookies. Normally I would not eat them, but I tried a bite - and it tasted good. I'm going to eat one and save one." In less than five minutes I got another text, "Yummy, both in my tummy. My baby will love oatmeal!" A few minutes later my phone went off again, "Now I have my first craving - more oatmeal raisin cookies."
The next morning I got a text, "I am happily nibbling on my last piece of carrot wedding cake. There is something about baked cinnamon that appeals to us." A little later I read, "Goodness BC is hungry today. I go from not eating to wiping out a piece of carrot bread and moving on to cereal. My tummy actually hurts more when I'm not eating. Go figure. "
More pregnancy news next time. Let me close this long blog with one more expression of thanksgiving for health and humor and God's mercies in all things.