Browsing Tag

Family Planning

Failure to Plan Parenthood in Texas

By March 1, 2016 2 Comments

 The other day, I had a craving for coconut ice cream.

Stick with me here (and no, I’m not pregnant–this was just a garden variety gluttony)

I was dying for it, and in a stroke of luck I didn’t have to rush home to my kids that day, I had the chance to fully indulge myself. Of course, now that I had the opportunity to indulge, I went to four different stores looking for some and then I finally gave up. I had the motivation to drive all over creation to find it, the time and the ability to seek it out, and the money to pay for it once I found it but I STILL couldn’t get what I wanted when I wanted it.

That’s just life sometimes, and as a mother I’ve realized that’s life more often than not. But my great unfulfilled quest to find coconut ice cream made me think of a study I’d just read in the New England Journal of Medicine. Yes, I know. When you work in public health your brain never shuts off about this stuff.

Heading home without my ice cream was no big deal, but what if I’d been looking for something else instead. The only impact of me not getting my ice cream was that I was disappointed and Haagen-Dazs lost a sale. But what if I’d been looking for something of life-changing importance and I wasn’t able to get it? Let’s imagine we’re talking about birth control.

I know this seems like a stretch, but like I said, stick with me here.

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Categories: Policy, Politics, + Pop Health, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning

I Want Data: Pregnancy When You Have A Rare(ish) Disease

By February 29, 2016 No Comments

“Can’t you just look at the monitor and tell me when to push?” I asked my nurse. “I feel like I need more data to tell me whether or not I’m getting any closer to having this baby.”

I had been pushing for more than three hours and the epidural left me with little physical data about how my contractions were progressing. After what seemed like an eternity, my nurse looked at me and said “How’s this for data?” She then picked up the intercom and announced “Delivery Room 3.” Soon a sea of medical personnel showed up to help deliver my baby.

As a scientist, I like to have information. This was especially true when I was in active labor, but my quest for data on pregnancy and childbirth actually started about a year earlier. My husband and I are both scientists, so we tend to approach things systematically and with data in hand. So when we decided it was time to start a family, I started to look for information.

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Categories: Chronic Illnesses + Conditions, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning

Planning A Pregnancy in the Time of Zika

By February 9, 2016 1 Comment

Like a lot of couples, my wife and I have waited to start a family until the time was right for us, which just so happens to be now-ish.  Unfortunately the right time for us has coincided with the spread of the Zika virus in North America, a virus that shows an association between infection with it during pregnancy and an increased risk of microcephaly (reduced brain/head size) in newborns. The Zika virus is not a new virus from a historical perspective, however, the newly accepted correlation with microcephaly seems to have given the virus a significant amount of media attention.

For any expectant parent – or couples planning on getting pregnant, like my wife and me  – the possibility of a Zika infection is terrifying.  My wife and I are the kind of people who like to arm ourselves with information, so let’s dive into Zika virus infections and take a look at some facts and figures.

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Categories: Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning

Ladies, Don’t Drink and Don’t Have Babies: When Public Health Messaging Fails

By and February 8, 2016 1 Comment


We strive to be evidence-based communicators here at The Scientific Parent, and sometimes we collectively wring our hands at public health messaging by our counterparts at other organizations. After all, the public health nerd core tends to be made up of nerds, and while we love nerds (seeing as how we consider ourselves members of that tribe), sometimes nerds can get lost in health data and forget that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Data may be objective in the eyes of researchers and statisticians, but in the real world and life, those numbers have context.

That’s why over the last two weeks we’ve found ourselves squirming over recent public health campaigns. For example: common sense would suggest that telling women in Texas to simply not get pregnant due to the threat of catching the Zika virus is utterly unhelpful. First, because of the lack of universal access to free contraceptives for both sexes, and also because the messaging places an undue burden on women with no equivalent advisory (i.e.: ‘don’t get anyone pregnant’) for men. Also, family planning and expansion usually doesn’t stop because viral outbreaks, as public health officials in every other country on the planet can tell you (including those in Brazil who are seeing women avoid mosquitos that carry Zika, not pregnancy).

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Categories: Policy, Politics, + Pop Health, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section (VBAC) + Repeat C-Sections: Myths vs Reality, Part Two

By and January 27, 2016 1 Comment

Interview with Dr. Jean-Gilles Tchabo 

In my last post (which you can read here), I talked
about my experience approaching the delivery of my second child, after having an emergency c-section for my first.

The OB/GYN I chose for my second pregnancy, Dr. Jean-Gilles Tchabo, encourages vaginal deliveries after cesarean sections (VBACs) as an option for women in my situation. In the last post we dispelled some of the myths about VBACs, and today, we delve deeper into the topic as I pose a couple of reader questions about VBACs and repeat c-sections to Dr. Tchabo.

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Categories: Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section (VBAC) + Repeat C-Sections: Myths vs Reality, Part One

By and January 26, 2016 1 Comment

Interview with Dr. Jean-Giles Tchabo 

When I was in labor with my first baby, my regular OB had to leave and I was terrified. I trusted my OB and didn’t know this new doctor that was coming on rotation, and I didn’t want a random doctor making medical decisions that could mean life or death for my baby and I.

The hospital staff reassured me that the physician coming on rotation, Dr. Jean-Giles Tchabo, was “the best,” and had trained every doctor at the hospital. If I wanted a vaginal delivery, they said, this doctor was the one who was going to make sure I got it. I thought they were trying to placate me until my husband confirmed it by looking him up online on his phone.

But what we want and what is medically essential are sometimes different things. As I’ve written before,  I ended up needing an emergency c-section and it was a fairly traumatic experience. However, I’ve reviewed my medical files and I’m confident that Dr. Tchabo’s decision was in the best interests of myself and my son.

For my recent pregnancy with my daughter, I followed Dr. Tchabo to his own practice, and found that they encourage vaginal deliveries after cesarean section (VBAC), which something that not all practice or hospitals allow. So prior to my delivery, I decided to sit down with him and ask some questions about VBACs and repeat c-sections. Here’s what he had to say:

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Categories: Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning, Science 101 + Mythbusting

Helping Kids Welcome a New Baby

By October 20, 2015 No Comments


Three of the people I love the most and am closest to are my brother and sisters. I’m always happy to see them and, like the best old friends, we can catch up with each other’s news in a moment. These relationships are not an accident, however. They are the result of our parents’ efforts over the course of all of our lives to remind us that these, our siblings, are people we can count on. This work starts the minute a child learns that they are about to become an older sister or brother.

For a child under the age of four, it is not always clear where the baby is coming from and so it does help to demonstrate that the baby grows inside their mother. Many parenting guides recommend having a child come to some prenatal visits and some obstetricians, family doctors, and midwives include a visit for the whole family as part of their standard prenatal care. In fact, it is no longer unusual for older siblings to be present for a birth, especially when a child is being born at home.

The most important thing a child needs to know when they are expecting a sibling is that they are going to continue to be an important part of the family and that no new baby will ever replace them. This is a good time to reinforce a child’s gifts and special qualities. It is also an important time to remind a child of their ongoing importance by sharing pictures and memories of them through all stages of their lives.

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Categories: Ages + Stages, Mental, Emotional, + Behavioral Health, Newborns + Infants, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning, School-Aged Children, Toddlers + Preschoolers, Tweens + Teens

My Journey to Surrogacy (Part 3) – Trusting Another With Your Growing Baby

By September 16, 2015 1 Comment

Marisa faced a traumatic pregnancy wrought with complications and kidney damage for the birth of her first child, and doctors warned her that a second pregnancy had the potential to kill her. You can read the details here in part one and part two of Marisa’s story. Below is part three:

When we tell people that we’re expecting our next baby via surrogate, the most common question we get is, “how does that work exactly?” The short and unscientific answer is that they took my egg and my husband’s sperm, mixed them in a Petri dish and 5 days later popped the embryo into our surrogate’s uterus. Of course, it’s not really quite that simple, as I explained in my last post.

But here we are, with a surrogate 22 weeks pregnant with our second child.

Once we knew for certain that our ‘bun was in the oven’, we shouted it from the rooftops, and the response of love and support was so tremendously positive and heartfelt. Our family and friends have been nothing short of incredible, both before and after the pregnancy was official. There aren’t enough good words to say about those people in our lives who supported us during that time, just more blessings to count!

However, our biggest supporter in all of this has been our surrogate, Stephanie.

Trusting Our Surrogate

It’s a pretty foreign idea to have someone else walking around living their day-to-day life carrying your baby, while you live yours with very little control over what your surrogate is doing. For me, there needed to be a certain level of trust involved for us to feel comfortable with someone carrying our baby, and fortunately we have that with Stephanie.

She and I text each other most days, and we talk about so much more than the surrogacy journey. We discuss how she is feeling, if she has any new or disappearing symptoms, if the baby is moving, what gender we think it will be, and all of the fun pregnancy chatter. But we also share our day-to-day lives. We discuss weekend plans, funny stuff our kids and husbands say or do, their accomplishments, or what we are making for dinner.

Marisa and her family's surrogate, Stephanie

Marisa and her family’s surrogate, Stephanie

Prior to pregnancy and while we were still in the care of the fertility clinic, I used to meet Stephanie in Toronto for our appointments and we would meet up to share a meal together and chat like old friends. The night before the embryo transfer, she and I stayed in a hotel and went out for dinner and a movie. All of this was important to me, as I didn’t want to feel disconnected from the person we chose to carry our baby.

I have heard of surrogacy being compared to having a good babysitter.  You don’t ever think that your babysitter is going to keep your child, but you want to make sure that while they are in their care, you don’t spend your time worrying that they are OK. That’s how we feel about Stephanie. The life and development of our child is completely in her hands, and we don’t lose a wink of sleep over it.  I think trust is the most important part of any relationship, and maybe even more so in this situation.

My husband Trent and I always say that if we had gone on a vacation somewhere and met Stephanie and her husband, we would have become lifelong friends with them. I just never expected I would love them as much as we love Stephanie and her family. I am so appreciative that it has turned out this way, and it’s comforting knowing that our growing baby is being taken care of by such awesome people.

Surrogacy Isn’t The Easy Way Out

As much as surrogacy is an amazing gift, no intended parent that I know really wants to have to take the surrogacy route.  We are lucky it’s an option, but given the chance, any of us would gladly go about bringing a child into the world the good old-fashioned way. I say this in response to many people who have mentioned that they thought surrogacy was just for women or celebrities who don’t want to “ruin their bodies” or sacrifice their careers. Let me be the one to stomp on that misconception.

I’m sure that there are some people out there who have done that, but they would be the exception, not the rule.  I have met a ton of fantastic and determined intended parents who have spent years trying to conceive, having multiple tests, ultrasounds and miscarriages, draining themselves financially and emotionally just trying to have a baby. I assure you that any of these women would have given anything to carry their own child. Like me, some of them couldn’t because of medical contraindications. Others have unexplained infertility. Others have some sort of immune response where their body doesn’t recognize their baby as part of their own body and won’t allow the pregnancy to carry to term. We have all experienced some form of emotional destruction or another.

The soon-to-be newest member of the Fletcher family

The soon-to-be newest member of the Fletcher family

I am very grateful that I got to experience pregnancy and feel my first child growing inside my womb. For most of the people I have met and talked to, that is not the case, and that in itself is a loss. No one grows up imagining building their family and having someone else carry their baby for them.  Pregnancy, while uncomfortable at times, is a gift, and gestational surrogacy is usually the last resort for people in these particular situations to have a biological child.

Looking Forward to the Future

That being said, we are so very happy that we were able to take this journey and add to our family. Although I would have gladly attempted another pregnancy if my doctors had have been supportive of it and if my life wasn’t endangered, once Stephanie was pregnant with our baby and things were well on their way, I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to go through it again and recover from it again.  I’m happy to say that in the 3 years since I gave birth to my son, I’ve gained back 20% of my kidney function giving me a grand total of 60% function, and I haven’t needed any assistance with treating my diabetes for a year and a half.

My son Elliott will turn 4 in November and is very excited to start junior kindergarten, or as he likes to call it “Big School,” in September.  He is not-so-patiently waiting for his little brother or sister to arrive! I can’t wait to see him in action as a big brother, or to be the mom of two kids.  I look forward to meeting our baby and seeing his or her sweet little face, and analyzing which characteristics came from whom. Trent and I will feel more complete as a family and we won’t spend any more time mourning the loss of a child who never existed, but was wanted so badly that it hurt.

Circumstances and outcomes often cannot be changed, so I started telling myself to trust the universe.  Just do the next right thing, and it will work itself out.  This has become my personal philosophy.  We are looking forward to January when our second miracle baby is due, and although it wasn’t how we thought we would get there, life just had a different path for us to take.  We are so excited and truly ecstatic for the opportunity!

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Categories: Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning