Folate in Pregnancy

by Maxine
Posted July 23 2010 01:30pm
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Experts have found that mothers who have adequate levels of folic acid in their bodies may be less likely to give birth to children with neural tube defects (NTDs). As well, folate may also help in preventing a number of other health problems that can be experienced during pregnancy, including anemia, birth defects, and complications such as preeclampsia and spontaneous abortion. After the birth of a child, folate may also help a mother’s body get ready sooner for another pregnancy.

Although it occurs naturally in food, a typical woman of childbearing age gets just 0.2 mg of folic acid through diet alone. Because many pregnancies are unplanned and NTDs occur very early in a pregnancy—often before a woman knows she’s pregnant—experts recommend that all women of childbearing age take in between 0.4 mg and 1.0 mg of folic acid every day. And women who suffer from epilepsy and diabetes or who have a family history of NTDs should take in more, as much as 5.0mg daily. After giving birth, many women appear to suffer folate deficiency for as long as 6 months; these women, in particular, should think about supplementation. However, always consult your doctor before starting folate supplements. Folic acid levels that are too high can possibly lead to an increased risk of multiple births, neurological disorders, and breast cancer.

With a little preventative action, such as storing food in the fridge in tightly covered containers and cooking in small amounts of water for as little time as possible, folic acid can be preserved in the foods we eat. 

Excellent sources of folate include: 

Cooked fava, kidney, roman, soy and white beans, lima beans, chickpeas and lentils, spinach, asparagus, orange juice, canned pineapple juice, peanuts, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, romaine lettuce, enriched pasta and bagels made with enriched flour.

Good sources of folate include: 

Cooked corn, sprouted mung beans, broccoli, green peas, brussel sprouts, beets, oranges, melons, avocado, eggs, walnuts, cashews and English muffins made with enriched flour.

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Communication Strategies: Parroting

by Guest
Posted August 1 2010 11:20am
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You’re in the middle of a heated discussion. Unfortunately, you’re not really getting anywhere because you’re either not listening or you don’t understand what your partner just said. We are men and women, after all. Our brains work differently.

While one of you is speaking, the other might be busy making assumptions, only hearing part of what was said. Sometimes, it’s a matter of misunderstanding while you try to read between the lines. Yes, it’s a common barrier and yes, it’s really frustrating!

When we don’t listen or we misunderstand what our partner is saying, it can add fuel to any conflict. This is most likely to occur when our raw emotions are also caught up in the discussion.

So how do you avoid this conflict? How do you make the other person feel heard? How can you actually understand what it was they said? A good way to reduce this confusion is by "parroting."

What's parroting?

Parroting is the act of repetition. It means that when you, for example, state how you feel, your partner repeats back what you just said. It’s not necessary to repeat the entire conversation –just the key points. Here are some of the important things you should say back to your partner when they voice feelings to you:

1.    Repeat back what you heard your partner say.
2.    Describe how the problem is affecting your partner.
3.    Describe how it makes you feel.
4.    Specify what you would like to see happen to resolve the problem.

Parroting your way through tense discussions will allow you both to feel heard and understood.

An Example: Bob and Sarah

Sarah is married to Bob. Sarah is 8 months pregnant. She is upset that Bob has been working late each night over the last few weeks. She finds it lonely at home and thinks Bob is finding it horrible to be at home with her. She really would like him to be around more. They have set a time to talk about why Sarah’s upset and to try to resolve it.

An Ineffective Style:

Sarah:    I really feel like you don’t want to be with me, Bob. (Sarah states her problem.)

Bob:    Are you crazy? I love you, and I'm really looking forward to the baby. (Bob implies she is     being irrational and states how he really feels.)

Sarah:    You wouldn’t know it. You are more like a visitor lately. I eat supper alone, and when you     come home you are tired. Maybe you are having an affair. Do you think I am ugly being     so fat? (Sarah does not believe Bob and exposes one of her big worries.)

Bob:    You are just being silly now. Your mother has been talking with you, hasn’t she? She’s     never liked me. (Bob devalues Sarah’s raw emotions and attacks Sarah’s mother.)

Sarah:    If you remember, my mother is the only reason we were able to get this apartment.     (Sarah defends her mother, and the focus of the original discussion is lost.)

An Effective Style:

Sarah:    I really feel like you don't want to be with me, Bob. (Sarah states the problem.)

Bob:    You think I don’t want to be with you? (Bob re-states the problem and asks Sarah if he is right.)

Sarah:    Yes, that’s right. (Sarah tells Bob he has heard her correctly.)

Bob:    I don’t want you to feel that way. I'm trying to get as much done now because I want to take a month off when the baby is born so I can be with both of you full time. (Bob tells Sarah he does not want her to feel that way as well as how he really feels and why.)

Sarah:    You don’t want me to feel that way. You're trying to get as much of your work done because you want to be with the baby and me after it is born. (By repeating what Bob has said, Sarah tells Bob that she has correctly heard and understood his actions and motives.)

OK, is there any way that you can come home earlier? I really miss you most in the evening. (Sarah repeats her need and asks Bob for a different solution.)

Bob:    You want to know if I can find a way to not work so late. You miss me most in the evening. (Bob repeats what he thinks he has heard Sarah say her need is and why she has the need.)

How would it work for you if I go to work earlier? I'm up at 6:00 anyway, and that’s when you like to sleep. If I go in at 6:30 I can wrap up by 5:00 and get everything done that I need to. (Bob proposes a solution.)

Sarah:    I think that’s a great idea.

Parroting forces 3 positive things to happen that are critical for conflict resolution:

1.    It slows the conversation down, so each partner has a chance to stay focused and encourages them to use constructive strategies with issues that are rooted in raw feelings.
2.    It forces each partner to listen carefully to what the other is saying and helps to reduce the emotional escalation and overload that can take place when you are discussing emotional issues.
3.    It helps each partner hear what the other is saying. If there was a misunderstanding, it provides a chance for the other person to correct it. For example, Bob might say, “No, I didn't say I don’t like your mother. I said I don’t think she likes me.”

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Expectations and Roles for New Parents

by Maxine
Posted July 1 2010 11:28am
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Tony and Lin are thrilled to bring home their new baby girl, Isabella. The first few days at home are a whirlwind of visitors, diapers and feedings. After several weeks, they feel more settled in with Isabella. However, they discover their very orderly lives have really changed. At times, Lin feels out of sorts because she isn’t able to keep up with her usual chores. Tony works long hours and was not prepared for the extra workload at home. Finally, after much frustration, the couple decides to look at the roles they each play in their new family life together.

Even for parents like Tony and Lin who are ecstatic when the baby is born, there is often a major change of expectations and roles that parents go through after a birth. The issue of changing expectations and roles is a natural one for many new families to face as they adapt to the baby in their lives.

Research shows that many couples don’t talk with each other about what their expectations, roles and life changes will be after the baby is born. Often, there are unspoken assumptions, and the danger is that these assumptions can be very different for each parent. They both may have a different point of view about their own role or their partner’s role. This can lead to a clash of expectations after the baby is born. Many new parents are surprised at how much friction occurs in the first few months after their baby is home.

Experts on couple and family relationships suggest that you ease the impact of a baby’s birth on your family by talking about your expectations and roles before your baby arrives. It’s helpful for both of you to agree on chores like regular household cleaning, cooking, bathing baby…etc.

Let’s take a look at some common barriers that couples may face:

It’s a woman’s job to take care of the baby. It’s hard to shake the idea that child rearing is women’s work. Despite men becoming more involved in childcare and taking care of the home, for most families, it’s the woman who most frequently bears the brunt of the workload. This set-up is fine, if a couple has talked about this and both agree to it. The important thing is that expectations for the responsibility for baby care need to be thoroughly aired before the baby is born.

Moms should automatically be able to do everything right with the baby. Both men and women still tend to expect mothers to be skilled at caring for a baby right from the start. However, a lot of research shows that both moms and dads can lack in experience and confidence with newborns. Often, both parents are equally competent and incompetent with small babies. It’s a modern-day myth that moms know more and feel more competent than dads.

Fathers are not as competent as mothers and can be in the way rather than helpful. Sometimes mothers, grandparents or other relatives can give fathers the feeling that they are not able to take care of the baby “in the right way.” Many fathers who are timid or anxious in the beginning can end up less involved in their role. It’s normal for both mothers and fathers to lack in experience and confidence with newborns. However, it’s important for both moms and dads to learn to be equally at ease with their infant—and for many couples that means that dad needs to learn how to become as competent as mom, “in the right way.”

Criticism and unwanted “advice” from others can create self doubt and frustration. As a new parent-to-be, chances are you will welcome the support of relatives and friends. But, in some cases, there may be people in your life who don't know when to stop, or they have opinions you just don't agree with. Too much advice, or advice you can't accept, can be very frustrating, annoying and even undermining. If this is happening, it's up to you to decide when someone crosses the line.

It’s helpful for you as new parents to talk about how you want to handle these opinions in advance of your baby’s birth.

Understand that, in most cases, the advice-giver is trying to help. Thank them for their advice, but be firm that it's your right and responsibility to deal with your pregnancy, as you think best. You could talk to them about your values in gentle matter-of-fact words.

When the advice is something that doesn't really matter to you, but the person giving it is important in your life or the life of your new child, you can offer to "think about it." This will help strengthen your relationship with the advice-giver and keep the lines of communication open. Remember, there will be times when you may be glad to have their advice and goodwill.

Most importantly, if the advice is something you can not follow, try not to let the situation get too emotionally heated. Stay calm and gently firm in your response.

Aiming for total equality may be an unrealistic goal. Some parents get stuck on trying to create a perfect 50/50 split in housework and baby care. Today, many men are much more involved with childcare and housework than in prior generations. However, it’s still usually the woman who takes on the majority of the tasks. How the duties are split is very important. If the workload seems out of kilter, when it was supposed to be 50/50, it is important that both of you have the chance to talk about how it appears in reality. Maybe 50/50 is not achievable in your circumstances. Talk it over. You should try hard to come up with a plan that can work for the two of you.

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Managing Friction

by Maxine
Posted August 1 2010 11:29am
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Friction or conflict is common in all relationships; each of you has many individual beliefs, values and behaviours. Unfortunately, it's not always managed well. This can do damage and have a lasting negative impact on you as a couple, on your family and on the other important relationships in your lives. The more you both know about conflict and communication, the better you'll be able to deal with the real issues. The goal is to prevent differences or disagreements from becoming "monsters."

Harmony is normal, as is conflict. Each of you has a unique personality, feelings and beliefs. You will most certainly face numerous times when others do not agree with you.

Conflict is not something that should be avoided at all costs. If you avoid dealing with problems, they get buried rather than resolved. The problems can then get bigger, and resentment and negative feelings can grow. You may even find your body sends out warning signals that you're not dealing with things; signs like depression, insomnia, stomach aches and weight gain or loss.

You do not need a winner or a loser for conflicts to be resolved. You can deal with conflict in a variety of ways and it is possible to find win-win solutions if you are willing to shift your goals slightly.
Personality differences do not cause conflict. Actions, values and beliefs are the source of differences.

Being human, throughout your life you will be at odds with others – at work, at school, even at the bank or grocery store. But, conflict is more likely to occur with the people you spend and share the most time. You may not screen your thoughts and feelings as much in your intimate relationships as you might with your boss or a stranger. Therefore, disagreements and conflict with those you love the most can happen more often – and can be more difficult to manage.

In many marriages couples manage conflict very poorly, which creates more problems than expected. Some couples avoid conflict as much as possible, choosing to bite their tongues or just shut down. Others may become angry or aggressive and try to control the conflict by winning.

However, you cannot resolve conflict by winning the argument or shouting the loudest or pouting the longest. And you'll be especially unsuccessful if one or both of you only think about your own wants, with no sense of what your partner needs. It takes real effort and desire to effectively manage conflict.

Consider the following nine common reasons for conflict in relationships.

A main reason for a couple's inability to resolve an argument is when one or both of you fails to clearly communicate with the other. This may include such issues as:

  • Not being direct about what the real problem is. For example, dad is complaining about having no clean shirts, but what is really bothering him is mom spending all of her time at the neighbor's house.
  • Not listening to what the other is really saying.
  • Blaming each other rather than trying to find a solution.
  • Not taking responsibility.
  • Not wanting to lose the argument.

Sometimes, a conflict stems from a clash of fundamental values or beliefs. For example, Mom, who is Catholic but did not attend church, wants to baptize the baby and go to Catholic church regularly. Dad is Lutheran and knows his parents will expect him to go to their church if they decide to follow a faith.

Sometimes, you can get so wrapped up in your own world that you don't recognize or appreciate what the other is feeling.
For example, Mom is distracted by her job, her aching back, her parents’ surprise visit—and didn’t notice that Dad was trying to talk about something that was bothering him. He ends up thinking that Mom doesn’t care, understand or appreciate what he’s feeling. So, he decides to show more of what he’s feeling. Maybe then, Mom will understand what he’s going through. "Can't you see I'm mad?” he wonders. “I guess I'd better express a bit more anger so she gets it."

This pushes one or both of you to need to win at all costs. This is often made possible by finding fault with the other. For example, one of you ends up yelling, "You think that I'm not nice to your mother? Well, listen to what you say about my mother every day".

You may have other needs that are not being met – sleep, intimacy, self-care, financial worries or external pressures. When this happens, you may be very vulnerable or touchy and easily move into conflict, even though what you’re arguing about isn’t all that important. Your self-care becomes the higher priority rather than the problem your partner was trying to express.

You may think that dealing with the current conflict will have a more negative consequence than ignoring it. For example, Dad does not want to tell Mom that he is angry about her forgetting to fill the car with gas because he’s worried that she may break down and cry – and then he’d have a bigger problem to fix.

Many disagreements turn into major unresolved conflicts because Mom or Dad may not believe what the other is saying.

Dealing with conflict takes time. In our current world of dual-income households, time is lost commuting or keeping up with your everyday busy lives and schedules. There is often little time left for couples to focus on and work out their differences. Waiting for the right time, which never comes, is common.

Getting even for a prior conflict can also fuel a new conflict. As the number of old, unresolved conflicts increases, you start storing up your negative thoughts and feelings. Of course, this only makes new conflict more likely. The bigger your reserve of unresolved conflicts, the greater the likelihood of a major blowout.

The issue may actually be quite small but the reaction—very big. The response from either of you may then be, "What's the big deal?" You don’t see that the real issue is not that Dad didn’t hang his coat up again, for example, but rather a build up of past conflicts coming out all at once.

As you try to manage your conflicts, use the following tips to guide you.

  1. Before working out a conflict, ask yourself these questions: If I don't resolve this, how will this affect my life a month from now? Am I willing to hear my partner's side? Am I willing to change something about myself to resolve this conflict? Am I willing to set aside time with my partner to deal with this?
  2. Schedule enough time. Set a time that allows you to focus on the conversation and not feel harried or stressed because you need to go to work in five minutes.
  3. Use "I" statements. Avoid starting sentences with "you."
  4. Stay in the present. Don't bring up old history.
  5. No threats! For example, don't say, "If that's how you feel, then let's just get a divorce!"
  6. Be honest.
  7. Stay on topic. It's not fair to bring in another issue from last month.
  8. If you feel you can't resolve an issue and it's going to affect your relationship, seek help from a third party.

There are many other things you can do to help manage conflict and support positive communication and healthy relationships with your partner, your child, your relatives, friends and colleagues.

The few strategies we've offered here have been used with success by couples who have chosen to deal with their conflict or friction constructively.


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