Notes on Women's Health

Women's Health

I recently went to my annual women’s health check-up. My husband and I are thinking about having a child in the near future and my doctor gave me some preconception advice. It’s pretty general but I thought I should make note of it here in case I lose all the handouts.

On eating:

It’s important to consume foods with calcium and folic acid. Our bodies stop producing calcium naturally when we are 25 years old. So after that, our bodies use the calcium in our bodies and any calcium we eat from food. Women should eat 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. Vitamin D helps with absorption and it is recommended to take supplements with food. Additionally, it is better to natural foods with calcium than to take supplements. Calcium can be found in milk, tofu, yogurt, cheese, sardines, salmon, some vegetables and other foods like pudding and ice cream. The highest amount of calcium can be found in nonfat yogurt (452 mg for 8 oz of yogurt) and collards (357 mg in 1 cup). Kale (179 mg in 1 cup), broccoli (178 mg in 1 cup), okra (176 mg in 1 cup), and mustard greens (103 mg in 1 cup) are also good sources of calcium.

Folic acid (vitamin B) is also important because it helps the unborn baby’s neural tube (brain and spinal cord) develop properly. It is recommended that pregnant women take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Although folic acid is in food, it’s hard to get the amount needed from diet alone so multi-vitamins can help supplement the diet.

It is also recommended that pregnant women or women who may become pregnant avoid certain types of fish because of mercury. Fish to avoid are shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna, and tilefish. These fish have high levels of methylmercury because they are large fish that feed on other fish. Women can eat 12 oz per week of cooked fish. The types of fish include shellfish, canned fish, small ocean fish or farm raised fish.

Apparently Listeria is a big deal during pregnancy as it can lead to premature delivery, miscarriages, fetal death and severe illness or death of a newborn from the infection. Listeria is a bacteria that causes listeriosis. People are at risk of this bacteria from food contamination. Listeriosis causes flu-like symptoms, chills, muscle aches, fever, upset stomach, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions. Antibiotics are given to the mother to treat listeriosis and to the babies born with the illness. To avoid Listeria, women should avoid eating hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats unless they are steaming hot. Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican style cheeses. It is ok to eat hard cheeses, mozzarella, pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads, cream cheese, and cottage cheese. Do not eat pate or meat spreads. Do not eat smoked seafood unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish.  Do not drink raw milk or unpasteurized milk.  Listeria can grow at temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below so it is recommended to use perishable items as soon as possible and clean refrigerators regularly.

On treating colds during pregnancy:

Although I hear it is not good to take medication during pregnancy, it is safe to take medication to treat colds. It is safe to take medication after the first trimester and only if it is really necessary. The following are ok to take:

  1. Tylenol for aches and fever
  2. Throat lozenges and sprays for sore throat. Gargling warm salt water or boiling ginger in hot water is also recommended
  3. Sudafed for nasal congestion
  4. Antihistamine such as Benadryl for nasal drip
  5. Robitussin DM for coughs. Avoid products with ethanol. “Expectorants” help get mucus coughed up during the day. “Antitussives” suppress the urge to cough during the night.
  6. Drinking lots of fluid and suppress coughs also helps soothe a throat
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