The Ultimate Snow Day: What It Really Feels Like to Have a Newborn

A couple of weeks ago, we were chatting with a friend who recently had a baby. After the routine pleasantries—“He is so adorable,” “You look amazing,” and “How magical is motherhood?”—the conversation got real. We started to dish on the unbelievable fatigue, the shower drain-clogging hair loss, and the daily outfit dilemma (nothing fits my top or my bottom!).

Let’s face it: those first few weeks can be pretty blustery. To quote a fellow member of the new mom club: “That first month is like one long snow day. You hang out in your PJs, you eat lots of comfort food, and you lay around on the couch.” Your days snowball into nights and avalanche into the next day. It’s one big mental blizzard.

And although many of you will bring your little ones home during a heat wave in August, when snow days are far from your mind, you get the concept. It’s that never-ending feeling of being in a daze. Not only are you utterly exhausted, but you are also completely confused: nipple pads, Diaper Genies, and breast pumps. It’s like speaking a foreign language. It makes you want to bury your head in your pillow, pull up the covers, and take a long nap. But you can’t. Motherhood calls.

At some point, you will have to put on regular clothes, you will have to cook yourself a meal, and you will have to leave your apartment. You will have to go back to normal. And finding out how to adapt to that new normal can be tough—it’s hard for even the most seasoned mothers. It’s important to remember that things will be “chilly” when getting your cadence down, but with time, help, and patience, things will get easier.

Take it from us, former members of the new mom “snow day club.” Motherhood, particularly those first few months, will throw you lots of snowballs. Some will land softly, and some will hit you smack in the face. But wherever they hit, you can brush them off and get back up.
The sun is on its way out!

Bad Moms

The other night, amidst packing and paying bills, I stumbled upon the movie Bad Moms. And while I never had a strong desire to watch it, for a combination of comic relief and some much-needed mental respite, I decided to put it on. I was immediately hooked. As a mom who struggles with work and kids, family and career, there was something to this movie. And while I don’t think it will win an Oscar, the movie not only made me laugh, but I also came pretty darn close to crying (and not because I was laughing so hard).

My emotions went south because, from the title to the struggles that Mila K and her besties faced, I could relate. The being late to everything, the never having everything under control, and the constant feeling like you are doing a C job as a mom, a wife, and a professional resonated with me. Add to that the constant feeling that people are watching and judging you, and you really have yourself in a tailspin. It’s a wonder any of us can get out of bed in the morning! It seems that no matter how hard you try, crossing the threshold from “bad” to “good” feels impossible.

Unfortunately, this piece won’t offer you much in terms of advice. It doesn’t come with “10 Tips on How to Feel Better about Yourself as a Mom” or “5 Ways to Feel Good Rather Than Bad.” And that’s not because we wouldn’t share it if we knew (trust us, we give you all that we’ve got!), but because we also don’t really have the answers. We, too, just like many of you, struggle with the “bad mom” feelings on a daily basis. No matter how big our smiles are on Instagram or how color-coordinated our outfits are, we are far from perfect.

We are sharing these emotions, as well as our flaws, to bring unity amongst women. To help us all recognize our similarities rather than dissect our differences. At the end of the day, we pretty much all want the same things—health, happiness, and love. So, let’s promise each other that the next time you think about uttering the words “I am such a bad mom,” you stop yourself. Take a deep breath, and think about all that you have already accomplished today and all that you will do, both for yourself and for others.

Cut yourself some slack. Cut out the negative thoughts. And cut out the negative people who perpetuate those emotions. Although we didn’t learn it in medical school, we are pretty confident that a processed lunch with non-organic bread or an extra 30 minutes on the iPad is not the end of the world.

Give yourself a break: doctors’ orders!

Is Testosterone the End All-Be All for Sexual Dysfunction?

Whether it be for our skin, our hair, or our vaginas, we are always in search of the Fountain of Youth. You know, that product or device that will keep everything looking and feeling young. In the land of sexual dysfunction, testosterone was thought to be just that. The magic medication that would keep us like our 20-year-old self—need we say more? And while it certainly can do the trick for some women, it has probably gotten much more press than it deserved. Let us explain…

As women age, androgen levels decrease. As androgen levels decrease, so does sexual desire. This connection led scientists to study the impact of androgen replacement treatment on sexual dysfunction, specifically hypoactive sexual desire disorder (Sexual Dysfunction). And like all good competitions, the results were split. Some studies showed improvements in sexual functioning, and others showed no change. And because there was no good tiebreaker for the long-term use of testosterone to treat sexual dysfunction (a.k.a. a prospective randomized controlled study), doctors were hesitant to prescribe it.

Furthermore, due to the limited data, the FDA was not willing to put their stamp of approval on testosterone treatment. For this reason, transdermal testosterone is only used to treat hypoactive sexual disorder in the short term, that is, no greater than six months. Long-term use is not recommended, no matter how hypoactive your sexual desire is.

We tread lightly when using testosterone because it is teeming with negative side effects. Think acne, facial hair growth, deepening of your voice, and cardiovascular complications. Not fun. Additionally, some researchers have noted an association between testosterone use and breast cancer. While the link is loose, it is another reason to opt for the short-term rather than long-term use of testosterone.

When it comes to hormones, testosterone is not the only game in town. While testosterone has gotten a lot of attention, it seems to work best on hypoactive sexual disorder (a.k.a. I am just not that interested).

When the desire is there but vaginal dryness is holding you back, cue estrogen. Low estrogen (think menopause and breastfeeding) leads to a loss of vaginal lubrication. Vaginal dryness equals vaginal discomfort, and collectively, these symptoms are a common culprit in sexual dysfunction. Vaginal estrogen (tablets, gels, creams, and rings) can be particularly helpful in alleviating vaginal dryness (picture a hose in a desert).

Oral estrogen can also add some water to the well but is generally not as effective as vaginal estrogen for the treatment of vaginal dryness. Going straight to the source is way more effective! Last, adding vaginal lubricants or moisturizers (Astroglide, Replens, etc.) will help to turn up the power on that hose and further reduce the dryness.

Hormones are certainly helpful in hampering sexual dysfunction. However, they are only the half of it. Treatment will generally take on many other forms, such as the addition or subtraction of other medications, counseling, and physical therapy. So, while our Fountain of Youth remains dry (no pun intended), the combination of treatments may just do the trick. It may not fill up that well, but it’s worth a shot!

When Having Sex Is More of a Chore Than a Choice: Sexual Dysfunction

Talking about sex is not always easy. Although it is plastered on magazine covers and frequently a hot topic on “The View,” opening up to others about your sex life (or lack thereof) can be difficult. In fact, dishing about how much you are “doing it,” whether you’re talking with your friends, your sister, or even your GYN, can make even the most open amongst us close up. Bottom line, it’s not an easy conversation to have. And the topic can become particularly taboo when we aren’t having it or aren’t even wanting to have it. Your lack of desire and/or pleasure from what is supposed to be one of the most pleasurable acts can make you feel alone. But we are here to tell you that you are most certainly not alone. Millions of women, particularly during the post-partum period plus, shudder at the thought of sex. So, in the words of our favorite ‘90s hip-hop artists Salt-N-Pepa, “Let’s talk about sex…”

Starting with the basics: sexual dysfunction actually comes in a few different flavors. And while most suffer from a lack of sexual desire, there are actually three other types that may be forcing you to choose sleep, shopping, and even sorting laundry over sex: impaired arousal, inability to achieve an orgasm, and sexual pain.

We learned a lot about sex and sexual response from the Kinsey, Masters, and Johnson sex studies. In fact, the sexual response is pretty intense (no pun intended). There are four phases (excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution), and in sexual dysfunction, any or all can be off. It goes something like this:

  1. Sexual Desire Disorders
    Those who fall into this category are basically suffering from “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” or “sexual aversion disorder.” The former is the most common in women of all ages. And while it seems to get us all equally (no matter how old or young we are), it gets us in different age groups for different reasons. For our seasoned women, it usually has to do with things like atrophic vaginitis (a.k.a. dry vagina from hormonal shifts), chronic disease, medication use, and even mental health issues. In our mommying group, we are more commonly looking at situational circumstances. Think of things such as newborn babies, terrible twos, crazy fatigue, and even dysfunctional relationships. The treatment for sexual desire disorders usually consists of counseling plus or minus medications (including creams/lubricants/ moisturizers that can help with vaginal dryness).
  2. Sexual Arousal Disorder
    Women in this category are generally unable to go the distance (a.k.a. complete sexual activity) due to inadequate lubrication. It is usually linked to a chronic medical condition or medication use. It usually exits stage left once the condition is treated or the medication is stopped. Additionally, lubricants and/or moisturizers can also be particularly helpful.
  3. Orgasmic Disorder
    When all seems to be going just right (normal excitement phase) but you can’t get to that place (achieve an orgasm), you have female orgasmic disorder. In most cases, orgasmic disorder does not stand alone. It is generally linked to hypoactive sexual desire, and therefore, the treatment is fairly the same. The one exception are women who have never achieved an orgasm (medically termed, primary orgasmic disorder). We usually prescribe masturbation, education, communication exercises, and body awareness.
  4. Sexual Pain Disorders
    Dyspareunia and vaginismus are the two culprits when it comes to sexual pain. While dyspareunia is pain with sex not caused by a lack of lubrication and vaginismus is an involuntary spasm of the outer vaginal muscles that make sex and any vaginal penetration nearly impossible, they are both a pretty big pain (no pun intended). They are frequently linked to some of the above diagnoses. In most cases, CBT as well as physical therapy and some at- home dilator use are key to quelling this problem.

Finding a doctor who not only gets you but also gets the difference between the various types of sexual dysfunction is key. The only way to get to the bottom of what’s bothering you is to lay it all out there. If the person across the table doesn’t evoke that vibe, then you need to evict yourself from their office, ASAP. Everything you take (particularly medications like anti-depressants and anti-hypertensives), everything you feel, and everything you don’t feel should be shared. No judgment here.

If you feel more like lying on the couch than lying in bed with your partner, you are not weird, you are not atypical, and you are certainly not alone. Many of us have also gone through this (especially when you have little ones at home). Major life events can take a major toll on your body and your psyche. And while we certainly don’t expect you to post hypoactive sexual disorder on your Facebook page, we do suggest you share it with you GYN. They will have ways to help you work through this time and get you back to your home base. If we don’t know the answers, we have colleagues (a.k.a. sex therapists) who have seen it all, heard it all, and have all the tricks to treating this issue. So, as our girls Salt-N-Pepa liked to say… “Let’s talk about sex.”

Breaking a Sweat without Breaking the Bank

Let’s face it. Exercise and popular workout classes are not free. In fact, they are not even cheap! Clipping into the saddle or popping onto a Pilates machine can cost you a cool 40 bucks (depending on where you live and what studio you like to frequent). Times this by 5 or 7, and you are not talking chump change. Furthermore, if you have kids, breaking free to break a sweat requires a babysitter. Add an additional 30 to 40 dollars for that, and you have gotten yourself an expensive afternoon. All of this makes exercising not only unappealing but also nearly impossible. But despite these roadblocks, the benefits of exercise are big, so it’s important to find ways to bypass them, no matter how impassable they may seem.

Here’s some of our five favorite free ways to break a sweat:

  1. Use your feet. We use our feet to get us everywhere. Whether it be walking to and from work or running to and from errands, we try to get there on foot. We never leave home without a pair of sneakers! This practice not only saves money and time (best way to beat the traffic), but it also gives you some fresh air (Vitamin D) and some alone time. It’s a great way to let your head go and get recentered…all while burning some calories!
  2. Start climbing. No, we’re not referring to your nearest hike, although that would be a great form of free exercise! The climbing we are talking about is the one that gets you from the bottom floor of your office building to your desk (plus maybe a few extra levels to really drive your heart rate up). By ditching the elevator, you can get your blood moving, your heart pumping, and break a good sweat. And although we too will miss those good elevator tunes, a few hikes up and down will do a lot for your bottom line and your overall health.
  3. Do some research. It may surprise you to know how many low-cost exercise options are out there. While everything may seem pricey at first glance, with some research you might find some good choices that don’t cost too much. Don’t take what you see at face value. Ask about packages and deals. Often, fitness centers will sell packages if you buy in bulk. Last, consider taking your workout woes to your human resources department. Gyms and studios are often eager to make deals with companies (the more members, the better). This is a great way not only to save money but also to engage your colleagues.
  4. Make a date out of it. Couples who sweat together stay together! Going out for a run or taking a class not only allows you to break a sweat but also spend some quality time together. Think about substituting the movies or dinner for a sweat session. The costs will be fairly comparable, including the babysitting fees, and you will get some good cardio out of it. And honestly, what’s better than a date where you don’t have to wash your hair, worry about what you wear, or put make-up on?
  5. Do it as a family. There is nothing better for your kids than to learn healthy eating and exercise habits at a young age. Like mother, like daughter; like father, like son. Go outdoors and run around. Play tag. Take a hike. Go for a swim. Walk in the park. Whatever you can do to get moving, make it happen. Turn off the TV, the iPad, the iPhone, and anything else that needs to be charged. Family activities centered on fitness will recharge your family’s battery. Togetherness is way more powerful than any electrical device!

Going, Going, Gone: Hair Loss in the Postpartum Period

Staring at the mirror in the postpartum period can be rough: black circles under your eyes, stretch marks on your thighs, and a belly that looks like it is still carrying a baby. And if that’s not enough to make you feel really awesome, a couple of months after delivery you begin to notice that the drain of your shower is clogged with hair. Bald spots on your forehead abound, and you begin to wonder what in the world is going on. How can those luscious locks go from plentiful to pitiful in just a couple of short months? Are you losing your hair along with your mind from lack of sleep? No, not really. While you might be losing your mind from lack of sleep, you are losing your hair from a massive change in the hair cycle.

Yes, hair has a cycle. It grows in phases and in stages; anagen, catagen, and telogen. And unlike other stages or cycles, when it comes to hair all three occur on one noggin simultaneously. So while the majority of hair (about 85%) on one’s head is in the anagen phase, one hair strand can be resting in telogen while another can be growing in anagen. You still with us? In addition to the various stages, the hair cycle is actually fairly lengthy, with a growth of about  .5 inches/month. This might give you pause before chopping it all off! While the length of time a hair spends in anagen is largely determined by genetics, in general, the longer hair is in anagen, the longer it will grow.

During pregnancy, there is a substantial increase in the growth or anagen phase relative to the resting or telogen phase; this translates into that Pantene commercial-like hair that you see while carrying your plus one. It flows, it glows, and it really never looked so good. A common misconception is that this unprecedented growth is the result of prenatal vitamins. And while prenatal vitamins are good for you and for your baby, they are not the reason behind that magnificent mane. High levels of estrogen prolong the anagen or growth phase. So rather than having 85% of your hair in growth and the rest in transition or rest, you may have 90-plus percent in growth while you are growing your little one. This translates into some luscious locks while pregnant! Side note…extra hair growth does not only occur on your head. It will also be seen in some of your not-so-favorite places (a.k.a. bikini line, armpits, legs, and lips). Bottom line, you may become quite friendly with your local beauty salon.

Postpartum, the ratio is reversed, and about one to five months after delivery, telogen takes the lead. With “T” in the lead, months of hair loss follow (UGH!). And in contrast to the normal loss that occurs daily when not pregnant (take a look at your brush…we all lose about 50–100 strands on a normal day), post-partum hair loss can last for up to 15 months.

Breastfeeding will worsen the situation and promote continued hair loss (what else will this kid take from me?). Continuing to take vitamins, maintaining healthy habits, drinking lots of water, and getting as much sleep as possible (yes, we get that the last one is impossible!) can help get things back on track. Additionally, modifying your hair regimens and treatments may also have a positive impact on your ponytail. So while you may have been dreaming about going back to your Keratin treatment, it is best to talk to your GYN and your hair stylist; they will likely have some good tips on how to treat your tresses.

The postpartum period is often dominated by creativity. And while we don’t mean drawing and designing, we do mean thinking of ways to do things with one hand, one minute of freedom, and what may feel like one functioning brain cell. Coming up with novel hairstyles and clothing options also require creativity. Given the hair loss, you may need to employ bandanas and sweatbands to cover your hairline. But despite these short-lived innovative styles, your hair will come back. It may not be exactly the same (unfortunately, almost nothing really is, post-baby), but you will be able to brush without going bald—we promise!

Pain in the Butt: Hemorrhoids

Talking about your tush, particularly what’s coming out of it and how you feel when these things come out, is no one’s idea of a good dinner conversation. Even during a ladies’ lunch, it’s rare to hear someone say, “So, do you have pain with defecation?” And no matter what you like to call it (defecation is the medical way to say bowel movement), most of us don’t like to call attention to our bowel habits. However, after pregnancy and delivery, pooping can become a pretty big problem. Here’s why…

Pregnancy is a pressure-filled time (and we are not referring to the pressure of knowing that a baby is about to come and change your whole life). During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, you hold on to more fluid, and you usually gain a fair amount of weight. All of these pluses lead to an increase in the pressure bearing down on things like your ankles, your joints, your pelvis, and even your rectum. The local pressure on the anus can lead to varicosities (dilated/swollen blood vessels) in the anal canal (a.k.a. hemorrhoids). Additionally, constipation, a common complaint of pregnant and postpartum women, will make matters worse and will increase the pressure on an already pressured system.

Although hemorrhoids come in two “varieties” (internal and external), most of us are only aware of the external ones. The reason is that the internal ones are sort of invisible. They rarely cause pain or discomfort and only present themselves with rectal bleeding. Therefore, unless you go looking for a cause for the bleeding, you probably won’t find them.

External hemorrhoids, however, are much “flashier.” They cause a pretty good amount of pain with defecation and often move, or prolapse, to the outside of the anus after a bowel movement. On occasion, blood clots form within these prolapsed external hemorrhoids, making them doubly painful. The extra blood will not only cause extra pain but it can also turn the hemorrhoid a bluish purple color, which can cause a good amount of fear. However, the reality is that even though they look and feel bad, they are not dangerous or serious. No matter how little we may talk about hemorrhoids, they are super common, particularly in the last trimester of pregnancy (when pressure is at its peak) as well as during the post-partum period. As you can imagine, labor and all that pushing will not help the hemorrhoid situation, and most women report even more hemorrhodial discomfort (pain, bleeding, rectal itching) in the postpartum period. Not fun.

And while hemorrhoids can be a major pain in the butt, there are many treatment options available, even for pregnant women. From the most basic (anti-inflammatory, anti-itching, and pain relief creams) to the most aggressive (surgery), we have ways to take care of those hemorrhoids and those nagging symptoms. Additionally, changing your diet and increasing fluid and fiber intake can decrease constipation. Decreased constipation = less pushing = less pressure on the rectum = less hemorrhoids.

How your bottom feels can be the basis of how bad (or good) your day is. Let’s face it, we all need to sit, and we all need to have bowel movements—without pain. If you dread defecating, you need to dial up your OB/GYN. Although talking to anyone about your tush seems totally off limits, it’s a pretty standard part of an OB/GYN’s day. We hear this stuff all the time. And if we can’t help you return to the toilet without terror, we have many GI (gastroenterology) friends who can. We promise your hemorrhoids are not here to stay.

Fitting It All In: Maximizing Your Day

How do you get to work, work out, and work on your kid’s homework, all in one day? Trust us, it’s nearly impossible. We fight the same battle every day. Trying to figure out how to fit it all in is a daily struggle. And trying to fit it all in with a smile on your face and some positivity is even harder! While we don’t really have any magic bullet and, unfortunately, have not found a way to add extra hours to the clock (we’ve tried), we have figured out a way to be as efficient as possible—walking and talking, running and listening, watching and writing. Here are a few tips from two busy moms to get as much done as possible in those waking hours.

Start the day early. As much as a five AM wakeup call seems ungodly, it is a great way to get things going (that and a shot of espresso!). The early-morning wakeup call offers you some quiet time before your brood beckons you to their bedside (say that five times fast!). The “Mom” calls come early, but if you can beat them to the punch, you might be able to squeeze some you time in. While we use this time to sweat and burn some calories, it is also a way to let loose and set the cadence for the rest of our day. Exercise does way more than just burn calories; the release of endorphins improves your mental state and focuses you for the rest of the day.

Whether it’s a cycling class, a run, or a Pilates session, whatever gets your blood going will likely get your brain going as well. While we get it’s hard to get out of bed when it’s dark and cold, it may just provide you with more motivation than a Starbucks trenti (did you know they had something bigger than a venti?)! On the days that your kids are up early and you can’t go before they cock-a-doodle-doo, take them with you. Maybe invest in a jogging stroller. The car is a great place to nap, so why wouldn’t the jogging stroller do the same trick? Even if you can’t fit it in but you need your fix, play tag, lift them in the air, and clean up their toys. Although unconventional, if your kids are anything like ours you will be sweating in no time! And don’t underplay getting to and from work. Walk or run (did we really say run?) to and from the office. This is a great way to save money (and the environment) and get your blood going. Keep a mini shoe collection under your desk, an extra pair of underwear/bras, some deodorant, and even a dress (trust us, it will get some good use). You may even consider splurging on a hair dryer. It will “dry” away all the evidence!

Listen to music as much as possible—you don’t need to jam out for hours, but some good tunes on your way to and from work will reset your head and help focus you. We have found this is also a good trick when writing, studying, and even completing tasks. We all need a zone-out/Zen-out session from time to time. It gives you time to decompress and recollect your thoughts. Music has a way of doing this that is unlike any other medium. While we too love a good Bravo reality TV show, it can be a bit more distracting. Definitely get your fix of Real Housewives, but maybe not every day. Reading is also an excellent way to let your mind go; a good novel can literally transport you to another century. Book clubs with friends and even your kids are a great way to get conversations going.

Set aside email/work time. Whether you work in or out of the house, the emails are constant. They are literally non-stop. Trying to stay on top of them can be exhausting. It can also detract from your time at home, time with your kids, and time with your partner. Pick two to three times a day where you return emails, respond to text messages, and return phone calls. The worst thing we can do is be a slave to our phones (and we are culprits of this in the highest order)—it distracts us from our family, detracts from the flow of our day, and can be downright depressing. We all have to work, and we all have to take care of business. But if we are more efficient with our time, we can accomplish a whole lot more.

Make meals matter. Whether it be with your family, your friends, or with your co-workers, put your phone down, and turn the TV off. Meals can be a great time to communicate. You don’t have to make the food (we get it), but you do have to eat. Use your mealtime to make the most of your day. Go on a date with your partner. While it doesn’t have to be a big to do, it can do big things for your relationship. Kids bring with them a whole new world. The nonstop “Mommy, I need you” can wear you down. Remember that time alone with your partner is important. And while you may not make it to Bali or the Bahamas for a week’s kid-free vacation, you can make it to your local bar for a beer! Put time aside for you and your partner. It may be the necessary ingredient for a long and healthy relationship.

Write as much down as possible. As much as you think, “Yeah, I’ll remember that,” you will forget it. So become tight with your calendar. It will make sure you don’t miss a beat (or an important event)! Be it Google, Microsoft Outlook, or an old-school refrigerator door with a magnet, write things down. Whether it be your kids’ school activities, your shopping list, or when your bills are due, this will help you remember who needs to be where when and what needs to be done when. Being aware of what’s coming up will alleviate anxiety because it will allow you to plan. It will also allow you to see when you need extra help.

Don’t be a martyr. Ask for help, and let others help you. While you are almost superwoman, you still can’t fly! As women, we hate asking others for anything. We take one more, add another thing to our plate, and say yes to another task. Know your limits, and don’t be afraid to set them. Spreading yourself thin will lead to exhaustion, exasperation, and a less than ideal outcome.

Try to plan for what’s to come (and not necessarily the next five and ten years; that’s just not possible). Plan for the immediate foreseeable events. For example, lay out your clothes for both you and your kids the night before. Mornings can be stressful, and this can alleviate the “oh no, where are those shoes?” moments. Keep a good weather app on your phone; it can save you from wearing your favorite suede boots in the pouring rain! While you won’t be able to plan away every problem, conquering a few things will help alleviate some of the stress and anxieties that we all feel.

While we certainly don’t have all of the answers and most definitely lay awake at night thinking of all the things we didn’t do that day rather than all that we did do, we try to use the hours we are awake in the best way possible. Plan, plot, proceed, and prepare. But don’t forget to play; unfortunately, once we are out of school, the last “p” is often forgotten. Put it back in your day; it makes a difference in your mood and can often make you more productive. And remember that, no matter how much you accomplish, it will never feel like enough. We all feel this way. It’s a part of being a mom. Welcome to the club!

IUD: When Your Bumper Sticker Reads “Babies on Board and I Need a Break!”

You know when you are out on one of those awkward first dates that are not going well? There are endless uncomfortable silences, those pregnant pauses that are just yearning for some interesting conversation. And then someone breaks the ice and says, “What animal would you be if you could be any animal?” And in that moment, you know: we are never going on a second date! But while the relationship may be over, you probably spit out something like a dolphin, maybe a horse, or even a dog. Those animals that sort of elicit a positive emotion in all of us. Come on, who doesn’t like dogs? We highly doubt that anyone has ever said a camel. I mean they have humps, they walk in the desert, and they can shut their nostrils in a sandstorm. But if you have or have ever considered using an IUD, you may be surprised to find out that the first IUDs were used in camels. Yup, camels. Story goes that many, many years ago traders put stones into their camels’ uteri to prevent pregnancy. It worked. And that, ladies, leads us to IUDs…

Fast-forward several hundred years, and IUDs (intrauterine devices) are one of the most popular forms of long-acting reversible contraception. Given that they take almost no thought (after placement), they do a pretty good job at preventing pregnancy. They allow a pause between pregnancies or a pregnancy pause that can go on between five and ten years, depending on which type you use!

IUDs come in two basic “flavors” (think your local soft-serve shop in the summer)—the Copper T or the Mirena. Recently two more IUDs have come on the market, the Skyla and the Liletta (they are very similar to the Mirena). While the three hormonal options (Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta) differ in a few minor ways—size, the amount of progesterone they release, and the length of the time they will be good at putting baby making on hold, when it comes to the major stuff, they are pretty much the same!

The Copper T is a T-shaped device wrapped in copper. It does its job (a.k.a. no pregnancy) in a couple of different ways. First, it holds the SLOW DOWN sign to both sperm and egg. By slowing down the swimming of sperm as well as changing the speed at which the egg moves through the tubes, fertilization is delayed. However, it not only acts pre-fertilization but also post-fertilization, that is, it can damage or destroy the fertilized egg. Pretty smart, huh? It is important to remember that everything that the IUD does (both the hormonal and non-hormonal types) happens before an embryo implants. The Copper T is your steady eddy or your tortoise in the tortoise and the hare race…it is good for 10 years. But while it lasts and lasts, symptoms are not uncommon. Women often complain of irregular or heavy bleeding and occasional pain. However, the majority of women are pretty pleased with their selection and don’t even know that it’s there.

The other options on the table are the hormonal IUDs, the Mirena, the Skyla, and the Liletta (the levonorgestrel IUD). They are also T-shaped, but rather than being wrapped in copper they are wrapped in hormone: progesterone (levonorgestrel). Despite these differences, the two work in a similar fashion. Both limit egg and sperm movement and, thereby, fertilization. While the Mirena has a shorter half (five years) and the Skyla and Liletta even shorter (three years) they come with fewer side effects—primarily, less bleeding. The progesterone in these IUDs thins out the uterine lining, something that is particularly good for women who have a tendency to develop thick linings from irregular periods.

A thin lining = not so much to shed = fewer annoying bleeding episodes!

News flash: most women who use IUDs still ovulate. Therefore, when the time comes, and you get ready to pull it, pregnancy can potentially happen pretty quickly because ovulation is not suppressed.

Nobody is perfect; everyone and everything has their flaws. Trust us, we have several! The same goes for seemingly flawless medical devices and treatment plans. The IUD is pretty picture-perfect…it prevents pregnancy, you don’t have to remember to take it, and when you are ready to have a baby, you just remove it and are off to the races. What could be bad?

While IUDs are pretty easy to place (most OB/GYNS learn in their first year of residency), there are occasions where a uterine perforation (hole in the top of the uterus) can occur. The perforation rate is about 1/1000. So basically, you have about the same chance of an asteroid hitting the Earth in 2182! Bottom line, it is likely not going to happen. Additionally, there is a small risk of expelling the IUD—this happens more frequently (between 2–10% can dislodge in the first year). Last, if pregnancy should occur while an IUD is in place, calling all of you super-fertile women, you are at a slightly higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy. When things (eggs, sperms, embryos) move slowly down the tubes, they may get sidetracked and start to sightsee. This delay in transit (hello, subway system!) can increase one’s risk for an ectopic pregnancy. So while IUDs don’t cause ectopic pregnancies, if you get pregnant while an IUD is in place, the chance of an ectopic pregnancy is slightly higher. This caveat is not meant to scare you, but it is meant to have you take a pregnancy with an IUD in place seriously.

Historically, IUDs got a bad rap. When you mention, “Mom I am going to get an IUD,” she may have a visceral reaction. In the 1970s, they were blamed for everything from infertility to infection and got the “I definitely don’t want to use that” verdict from many women. However, changes in the design, particularly the string that comes off of the IUD, made them much more attractive to potential users. Now even women who have never had a baby (medically termed nulliparous) as well as adolescents are cleared for boarding. There is no good data that IUDs cause infection or infertility and as a result are “in play” for almost anyone. And bonus— routine antibiotics are no longer needed when placing an IUD.

IUDs are a great go-to for women who want an extended baby-free break. Whether these are young women who are not ready, women who have a baby and want a big-time breather, or women who are done and done, it works. Placement can be performed at any time of the cycle, although right after the period is usually preferable. While we may not have inspired you to use an IUD, we probably gave you some good dinner-party conversation (#camels) or a fighting chance when watching Jeopardy. When having kids or more kids or more and more kids feels harder than trekking across the Sahara Desert without water, think about that camel. And ask your OB/GYN about the IUD.

When the Going Gets Tough…the Tough Get Pumping!

There may be no bigger love-hate relationship than that between a breastfeeding mother and her breast pump. You love what it gives you (#foodforBABY) but loathe the process of pumping. Plugging it in, preparing the parts, putting the pump on, and processing the milk can be a pain, to say the least. For all of you who have done it or are in the process of doing it, you are likely nodding in agreement. But no matter how much angst our plus one (a.k.a. the pump) brings us, it can bring you and your baby many benefits. Here’s how to make this relationship last as successful and as long lasting as possible…

First, it’s okay to acknowledge that the breast pump/breastfeeding relationship is definitely not love at first sight. No one looks at that piece of machinery with adoring eyes and thinks, Wow, this is what I’ve been dreaming of! So before you decide to go steady (a.k.a. the baby is here and you need to make extra milk), get to know each other.

A few weeks before your baby is set to arrive, assemble the pieces, become comfortable with the parts, and set up your system. This will serve you well in the weeks and months to come. If you are unsure about this “match,” seek out a “matchmaker” (a.k.a. someone who has been there before). Don’t be afraid to ask for a tutorial. And if you are the first in your line of friends and family to do the baby thing, look online. There are several legitimate sites that can serve as a guide. Additionally, lactation consultants will not only help when it comes to breastfeeding but also when it comes to breast pumping.

After you and your pump exchange pleasantries, it’s time to solidify this relationship. While most of us like to practice the “take things slow” motto when it comes to relationships, the sooner you start making milk, the sooner you can start storing and saving. This is particularly helpful for mothers who plan to go back to work and want to continue giving breast milk.

Milk production is highest in the immediate postpartum period. Maximize what you make then by pumping after the baby feeds and setting it aside for those “rainy days.” The more you have saved up now, the more you will have to offer your little one later. By maximizing your supply now, you are in many ways matching their demands later. Frozen breast milk can last for months.

Keep track of all of your dates, even the ones that didn’t end so well. Every ounce of milk that you produce and package appropriately (#date) can be used later. Therefore, you want to clearly date each bag of milk that you produce (think black Sharpie) so that you know when it needs to be used by. Unlike the milk you buy at the grocery store, frozen breast milk can go the distance. In fact, it can last up to six months in the freezer.

Because time keeps moving on, you want to use what you made first, first and what you made last, last. And be sure to store your frozen milk in the coldest part of the freezer, not on the door! This system will ensure that you don’t let all of your hard work go to waste (making milk is not easy!)

Give your significant other some space. And while we aren’t talking about relinquishing some of that coveted closet space or clearing a spot on your bathroom counter, we are talking about rearranging your freezer. Milk that you plan to store for a later date needs to be frozen, so it’s a good idea to clean out your freezer before and free up some room before you start the milk process.

Invest in a “new outfit.” Let’s face it: getting dressed for a first date is never easy. Is that skirt too short, are those shoes too bright, is that shirt too tight? And while breast pumping seems far from glamorous, investing in a good hands-free bra can make all the difference in whether you call your pump back for a second date! Hands-free bras allow you to produce and be productive all at the same time! And when you may need to pump several times a day, a hands-free bra can make all the difference.

Be creative. It’s easy to get into a rut in your relationship. Sleep, eat, work, pump, repeat can take a toll on any new mom. It can make you forget what you are doing and why. When cleaning parts and preparing your pump bag for the next day, “wear” your baby in the carrier. While it may not be the traditional “rock-a-bye-baby,” it accomplishes that skin-to-skin closeness that we all yearn for. It also helps with bonding and brings you back to why you are busting your butt making all that milk.

Last, divide and conquer. Figuring out who and what can help you make this relationship work will help ensure that you and your pump go the distance. The pump has to be cleaned, sterilized, and cleaned again (sounds like fun, right?). This takes time, time that no new breastfeeding mother has to spare. Consider asking someone for help (partner, friend, family member, hired help). Dividing up tasks will make the process more tolerable.

There is no doubt that this relationship will have its ups and downs. No doubt you will want to break up at least once a day. And at some point, you will. Whether you get back together in the future (#anotherBABY) is up to you. But in order to make this go around as fruitful, forgiving, and far reaching as possible, it is important to remember our dating tips. While we certainly are not matchmakers, we do know a bit about how to make the breast pump/breast feeding relationship a long-lasting one—take it from us, this one is a keeper!