Posted in pregnancy

How to battle back pain during pregnancy

Hello everyone!

In my previous post I talked about why we develop back pain during pregnancy and in this post, we will talk about how to tackle the pain. Pre-pregnancy, I worked out 3 times a week  that consisted of cardio and lifting. When I stopped working out in my first trimester, I lost some of my muscle mass. That was not a good outcome for my body since I started developing some back, neck and pelvic pain. Four factors that can create back pain during pregnancy are losing muscle mass, postural changes, developing baby and hormones. Here are four ways how you can tackle back pain during pregnancy.

#1 Avoid standing or sitting for too long 

use-support-pillows-while-sitting-during-pregnancyAs you move along your pregnancy, your activity tolerance will change. As nausea and fatigue slow you down in your first trimester,  your growing belly will limit your activity tolerance in your last trimester.  Today, we all are used multi tasking where we go non-stop all day long. My advice to you is take it easy and take breaks to make it more manageable and less painful for your body. Avoid prolonged activity such as sitting or standing for too long. Being in a position for an extended period of time will increase the stiffness in your back. If you are sitting for an hour, getting up may be harder. If you are standing for an hour, you may start getting radiating pains from your back to your legs. Remember to give yourself adequate rest breaks.

mh5m455i7it6hzhj_oxn-wqA low back pillow such as OPTP lumbar support can also prolong your sitting tolerance. You can purchase it on Ebay or Amazon for under $20. This hot dog shaped pillow fits in the curvature of your back and supports your spine during sitting in front of TV, while you are at the dinner table or even while driving. You can take it with you anywhere. A little support for your back, will make it also complain less.

#2 Stick to your exercise program

Following an exercise program that consists of both stretching and strengthening is very important. Stretching will prevent over tightening of your muscles, while strengthening will keep your muscles active and engaged that will give the support for your growing baby and changing body.  20-30 minutes of daily exercising will be helpful during your pregnancy, labor as well as postpartum. When it comes to your upper back, the key is to stretch the front of your chest and strengthen your upper back. When it comes to your lower back, the key is to stretching your hamstrings, calves and hip flexors, while you strengthen you gluteals and deep core stabilizers.

Pilates and yoga are also great tools to use while pregnant. Pilates focus on core stabilization and hip strengthening while yoga focuses on improving overall flexibility, and strength by using your own body weight.

 

#3 Use a belt of support

If your back pain is hard to manage, then it is ok to get a little external support. I have a small frame and during my second trimester, I started getting some back and pelvic pain where I could not stand more than 10 minutes. When I was registering for my registry, I came across Medela Maternity support. Thinking to myself, “it is under $20 so can’t hurt to try”, I am glad I made the purchase. This belt provided gentle support for my low back which eased my pain. I was able to stand for longer periods of time which allowed me to attend some house chores. It is made of stretchy material so it did not dig into my belly as it gently lifted and supported my stomach. This belt attaches in the front via velcro system so it was easy to put on, adjust and take off. Hassle free! Definitely recommended!

 

#4 See a professional

pregnant-ptSeeing a health care professional throughout your pregnancy is a great idea. Even though, your ongoing aches and pains will stop once you give birth, alleviating those symptoms can be as simple as seeing a physical therapist or chiropractor as little as once a week, regularly. A health care professional can address any misalignments in your body, can use manual techniques to decrease muscle spasms, correct misalignments, and unlock aching joints. They can use tape to support your growing belly to alleviate your pelvic and back pain, give you tips on which exercises to perform to keep your musculoskeletal system as strong and efficient as possible.

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

Do not miss my next post on essential exercises of your second trimester!

Stay tuned in, stay awesome!

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Posted in pregnancy

Onset of back pain during pregnancy

http://www.spineuniverse.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery-large/wysiwyg_imageupload/3998/2015/07/31/pregancy_backache21374070_M.jpgPre-pregnancy, I worked out 3 times a week  that consisted of cardio and lifting. When I stopped working out in my first trimester, I lost some of my muscle mass. That was not a good outcome for my body since I started developing some back, neck and pelvic pain. Four factors that can create back pain during pregnancy are losing muscle mass, postural changes, developing baby and hormones. Lets look at each one of them in more detail.

Losing muscle mass: Our body is very smart when it comes to conserving energy and prioritizing, and responds to demands very efficiently. If your pregnancy prevents you from your workouts, it is inevitable that your body will stop sustaining your muscle mass. Once the muscles around your joints are weakened, you are more prone to biomechanical faults, decreased control and increased pains and aches due to daily demands.
good-pregnant-posture-

Postural changes: As your growing baby gets heavier and heavier, the forward pull on your body becomes more and more. Your core weakens due to over stretching and posture also responds to this pull. Your neck juts out more, shoulders get rounded and curvature in your low back is exaggerated. All these changes creates uneven weight bearing in your joints and alters your biomechanics which creates aches and pains.

Developing baby: As your little one gets bigger, it all gets really tight in your belly which will start exerting more pressure towards the outside. Your internal organs are shifted, and there is a different demand from your musculoskeletal system. Your core muscles get stretched out and weaker so they no longer are able to support you as well as they did pre-pregnancy. When your spine does not have the stabilization and guidance during movement from your core, you are more prone to injury.

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Hormones: One of the reasons to why pregnancy women go through mood changes, experience morning sickness and have a “glow” is due to rapid hormonal changes in the body. Besides estrogen and progesterone, relaxin hormone is essential to keep your joints more flexible to prepare you for labor. While all of these hormones are absolutely critical to complete your pregnancy, they also put you at risk for sprains and strains due to increased laxity. In a nutshell, increased laxity plus weakened muscles equals up to injury followed by pain waiting to happen. Be mindful and careful during any physical activity.

 

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

Check out part 2 series of how to battle back pain during pregnancy next!

Tune in for more information, until then stay awesome 🙂

 

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Posted in pregnancy

Drinking alcohol while pregnant

pregnant-women-red-wine-avoid-new-survey-514778Once of the most discussed topic of pregnancy is whether or not you can drink while pregnant. I think most people agree on the harms of excessive drinking, however the amount remains unsettling for many. But what is excessive? Is one cup a day excessive? Is one cup a month okay? Should you not risk anything and not drink at all?

Here is my take on this topic…

Whatever you put in your body, you are also sharing it with your baby. Even with the advancements in the medicine today, we still do not know how much alcohol your baby would be exposed to and the affects of the alcohol on your baby’s development when you drink. Also, each drink has a different amount of alcohol in it. A glass of long island tea contains way more alcohol than a bottle of miller light. So, I have a little conservative take on this topic but I am not for banning alcohol fully either.

During my pregnancy, I stayed away from hard alcohol. I was not a big drinker to start with so giving up on hard alcohol such as vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum etc, was not a big deal. I only craved for beer and/or wine occasionally. Whenever we went out to get burgers and fries, I would also crave for beer. Since I did not want to have an alcoholic beer, I would ask the bartender for a non alcoholic beer. I have to admit it did not taste the same but hey! I was still having a beer with my burger.

Some non-alcoholic beer options are

 

The list goes on and on and you got the point. There are non alcoholic beer options available if you like. On occasion, I also craved for wine. We all know that drinking one cup of red wine is actually healthy for your heart. Since it was good for your health, I did not bother with non-alcoholic version, which would be sparkling wine. Instead I consumed in very very little amounts. I had wine in three or four occasions during my pregnancy and each time I took 2-3 sips only, not gulps ,which was less than ¼ of a cup. Since my alcohol tolerance was already lowered, I got buzzed after I took two sips so I stopped.

When it comes to making a decision on how much drinking is too much, it is all up to you. You will hear a lot of opinions on this matter and some will be conservative, while some will be more courageous for you to drink. Listen to all, do your research, then come to a conclusion.

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

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Posted in pregnancy

Myth of eating for two while pregnant

0404mathsIn this case, 1+2 is not equal 2. In many cultures, pregnant women are encouraged to eat more since there is a baby growing inside of them. 1+1= 2 right? So many people believe when you are pregnant, you need to be eating twice as much since you need to gain weight and also supply for your baby.

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The recommended amount of weight gain is 11-33 lb during pregnancy. If you are gaining less than 11lbs then your baby may be underweight and premature. If you gain more than 33 lbs, it will be harder for you to move around with all that extra weight, you may set yourself for gestational diabetes and/or high blood pressure, and it will be harder to lose all that extra weight post pregnancy. I know people who gained 50-70 lbs during pregnancy and unfortunately, it was really hard for them to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight since it took months and a big commitment and lots of sacrifice.

The truth is eating for two means your baby also gets some of whatever you eat, it does not mean you need to uptake twice as much calories. Your baby needs about 300 calories a day. If you count your calories or into reading food labels, then you know 300 calories can be a small portion meal or just a snack. Refrain from overeating and packing up extra weight.

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

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Posted in pregnancy

Is my baby kicking?

During first trimester, morning sickness onsets due to change in hormone levels in your blood which is super important for babies growth and placenta formation. Sensitive stomach and heightened sense of smell is a primitive tool to keep you away from bad food. Majority of the women experience some sort of morning sickness and the duration varies.

2d792aea0f016e7f0aa3824450ac078eMany people gave me a positive perspective on being sick; my hormones were working, and my body was doing what it supposed to do so it was a good thing. Around 3.5 months, when the nausea stopped and I was pretty much back to feeling normal; I did not feel pregnant at all. First, you tell yourself not to be crazy, and you are ok. At the time, one of family friends had to go for a surgical abortion at 3 months because her baby’s heart stopped. You can imagine then I started fearing what if something happened to my baby? Early in the pregnancy, my plan was to not get ultrasound at every doctor visit. Once I entered second trimester, I could not wait for the ultrasound just to see my baby. When we went for our 4 months follow up visit, I was relieved to know he was ok.

11055916_843521119074265_2014033821_nFeeling the first kick or move is very exciting for both parents. I did not start feeling him kick or move until 4.5 months. It is different for every mother. Also feeling your baby move has to do with the position of your baby in relationship to the placenta. If your baby is lying on top the placenta then your baby is directly under your belly, making the barrier between you two less. If placenta is between your stomach and the baby, it will be harder for you to feel all the punching and the kicking that may be going on.

77308d530b3a2b7dc9507d21a1d56cdeThe period between the nausea stopping and baby starting to kick, maybe a little unnerving but do not worry. I was not thrilled at all regarding ongoing sickness during my first trimester, however when the nausea stopped and fatigue subsided, I started feeling not pregnant. Do not worry and panic! Your little one is probably safe and just hanging out which will be confirmed at your next follow up visit.

 

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

 

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Posted in pregnancy, Super Momma

Exercising during pregnancy

how-to-exercise-during-pregnancyMany women continue to run, lift, do sports such as crossfit while they are pregnant. There is 15% chance of miscarriage until baby’s heartbeat is present. Genetic problems, drug or alcohol abuse, hormonal imbalances can cause or contribute to miscarriage vs. exercising does not. I think the myth is that if you jump up and down too much or if you lift heavy, you may experience a miscarriage. The fact is that your baby is protected very well in your womb and is not going anywhere.

I am a practicing doctor and due to the nature of my job, I do not get to sit down. I also tried to work out for about an hour 2-3 times a week. At least, that was my pre-pregnancy routine. During my pregnancy, I went to the gym twice and in both instances, after 15 minutes of light workout, I was so out of breath that I had to leave. When I got home, I was wiped out for 2 hours. Due to the extreme fatigue and not feeling well, I could not make it to the gym so I ended up cancelling my membership.

Even after cancelling my gym membership, thanks to my job, I was able to stay active by moving around whenever I was at work. Then when I was home, I would keep active with gardening, cooking, light cleaning etc. I stayed away from prolonged sitting and bending over too much to pick something up from the floor, or getting something from the cabinet/ fridge since those would give me back pain. I also got a piece of elastic band to work out some muscle groups for two main reasons: 1- I was losing my muscle mass since I was no longer lifting weights. 2- I was getting a forward head posture and wanted to oppose the forward pull by getting my back stronger. I did couple exercises periodically to keep my upper back, shoulders and hips in check. I would also take walks around my neighborhood to stay active and de-stress from daily drama.

832b6b14-7d48-4fd6-9b96-94751736f15d.crop_1000x525_0106.resize_1200x630.format_jpeg.inline_yesWhen it comes to what kind of exercise in what amounts is right for you, it is mainly up to you and how you feel. There are really no recommended guidelines. First trimester, due to fatigue and nausea, I do not think any soon-to-be mom can stick with a strict exercise program. Second trimester is the time that you start feeling better, however your blood volume is already 50% increased, baby is getting bigger and placenta is fully developed so you are carrying around some extra weight. You may find out that your exercise capacity is not the same. Third trimester is the time that everything starts getting tight that you start waddling even when you are walking so moving around definitely gets restricted.

494389547_XSIf you already have a routine and able to go on with some adjustments, and then do it. If you are a crossfit athlete, I advise you to use less weight during lifts. If you like to run, I advise you to either slow down your speed or cut down on your distance. If you cannot run anymore but like to stay active, you can use the elliptical, which is a great alternative to running or simply walk.

Pilates and yoga are great tools to use while pregnant. Pilates focus on core stabilization and hip strengthening while yoga focuses on improving overall flexibility, and strength by using your own body weight.

6 Don’t’s of exercise

  • Refrain from hot yoga since high temperatures may affect your and your baby’s health
  • Make sure you are not holding your breath. If you are holding your breath, you may increase your blood pressure during exercising
  • Ensure you are drinking enough water before and after exercise to avoid dehydration
  • Do not push yourself beyond your limits- this is not the time for that
  • Your tolerance differs everyday – your body is changing daily so what you could tolerate will be different so stick with a program that has variety of exercises
  • If exercising is new to you then tut more emphasis on stretching since keeping more flexible and mobile can aid during labor

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

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Posted in pregnancy

Nutrition and pregnancy

We all agree that not only during pregnancy but also in our everyday lives, we need to eat right and/or make better food choices. What does eating right mean? I think it is such a general concept or intention that when it comes to application, majority of the time we fail to do so.

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I am not a big fan of going extreme and being super strict with your diet, start measuring the amount of food per meal or day, being super picky with food choices. I believe that you are more likely to get off of track when you follow a strict diet. I believe in being good 80% of the time, and being more lenient 20% of the time. That means, 80% of the time eating right and choosing healthy food, while cheating and being more lenient towards not-so-good-for-me food groups 20% of the time. Once you give yourself a bit more wiggle room, you are less likely to get disappointed and give up. Lets take a closer look at different food groups and how they can affect your body and baby.

The first trimester is the toughest when it comes to eating. You all know what I am talking about. Feeling sick all the time, not being able to eat, having a heightened sense of smell, and not being able to tolerate even sight of some food groups are some challenges of the first trimester. Controlling your diet in the first trimester is very hard since you are lucky if you can eat some food and actually keep it in.

My advise to you is eat whatever you can and do not worry about what it is. For example, during my first trimester I could only eat bagel with cream cheese, pizza, pasta with cheese and any citrus. I could not stand garlic, hummus or anything green including salad spinach etc. I knew I needed my strength to get out of the bed and go to work so I had a bagel in the morning, some fruit in the afternoon, then pizza and some soup in the evening followed by a magnum double chocolate caramel ice cream bar right before bed. It was the ideal diet, however that’s what I managed to eat at that time. I was also taking my prenatal vitamins that provided vitamins for my body so I did not stress over it too much.

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What your growing baby needs is protein for your baby’s developing muscles and internal organs, fat for neurological system including the brain and the spinal column, minerals and vitamins for bone health. All these elements play an important role in your baby’s development since they all work together as the building blocks of your baby. Did you realize that I did not include carbohydrates? Your baby does not really need many carbohydrates, so carbs really end up on the bottom of the list.

When broken down, carbohydrates eventually turn into sugar and we all know sugar actually feeds into inflammation, causes weight gain and is usually used in our body as a quick access energy source so it is not meant to be storage, it is meant to be used so you can get rid of it. I am 5” 4’ 120 lb (pre pregnancy) and gained 8 lbs just in a month due to my increased carbohydrate intake. I was determined to change my diet when I started feeling better which started happening around 14 weeks of my pregnancy. I stuck with a high fat protein diet and tried my best to stay away from carbohydrates.

I will give you two examples of what I ate once I no longer experienced morning sickness,

  • Breakfast: omelet with 2-3 eggs, onions, peppers, olive oil and cheese
  • Lunch: mixed nuts, salad, chicken
  • Afternoon snack: Green apple
  • Dinner: yogurt.

The next day,

  • Breakfast: Panini
  • Lunch: stuffed pepper
  • Afternoon snack: a banana
  • Dinner: fish with salad, Avocado

Pre-pregnancy I did not have dinner, instead I would eat a lot more for the first half of the day. During my second trimester, my body went back to my old habit of eating more during the day and eating less at night. I am not saying that is what you need to do, just figure out what works best for your body.

Even though my goal was to stick with a high protein high fat diet, I was still eating carbs too. For example, Panini has bread that is carbs. Fruits such as apple and banana also have some amount of carbs in them since they have sugar. I was not too concerned because I was not eating a ton of fruit. Remember if you are good 80% of the time, you will be ok- at least that’s my philosophy.

food_pyramid_flat_2011sm-1Some great sources of protein are: of course all the meats, fish, poultry, eggs, yogurt, green peas, quinoa, nuts (minus peanuts) and nut butters (I advise you to grind your own nut butter from whole foods that has no additive), tofu, edemame, leafy greens such as broccoli and spinach, chia sesame sunflower seeds and the list goes on.

Some great resources of fat: nuts (minus peanuts), avocado, natural oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter (stay away from corn oil, margarine, vegetable oil, sunflower oil etc)

For your vitamins and minerals stick with eating lots of vegetables and control your fruit intake since you do not want to spike up your sugar levels.

51T4YZfJGTL._UY250_During my pregnancy, I really enjoyed reading and learning more from Mark Sisson’s Primal Blue Print book, and Primal Blue Print Cookbook as well as Quick and Easy recipe book. If you want to learn more about nutrition, making better food choices and how to make healthy food in seconds, these books are treasures that are definitely worth checking out.

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

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Posted in pregnancy

How much caffeine is enough while pregnant?

11438455-Heart-shape-made-from-coffee-beans-with-a-spoon-and-cup-of-coffee-on-hessian-spelling-I-love-coffee--Stock-PhotoDuring my first consult with my OBGYN, we discussed nutrition; what to eat, what not to eat, and how to cheat when it comes to limiting all the delicious but not-so-good-for-me food groups. One suggestion that he had was “ you can either have one cup of coffee or 4 cups of black tea day”. I kept listening as he jumped onto next topic supplements however after leaving his office, I started wondering does not 4 cups of tea have more caffeine than a cup of coffee?

Assuming doctor knows what he is talking about, I started thinking maybe it is because the way coffee is processed is harmful that’s why I had to limit coffee? This just did not sit right with me. I decided to Google the answer, lol.

It was really hard to conclude how much caffeine there is in a cup of coffee. Varieties of coffee beans available matter since it will naturally contain different amounts of caffeine. Although the darker roasts have a deeper flavor, lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts. Aha! I did not know that! The caffeine content can vary significantly between regularly brewed coffee, espresso, instant coffee and decaf coffee. A cup of coffee may range anywhere between 8-24 ounces depending of your interpretation. In the end, my conclusion was 8 ounces of breed coffee contained anywhere between 80-140 mg of caffeine depending on your preference of light vs. dark roast.

mcdonalds-starbucks-dunkin-dnutsLooking at three different companies people usually tend to buy their morning treat from left me amazed. An 8 ounce cup from Starbucks contains 180 mg, same size from Mc Donald’s contains about 75 mg and 8 ounces from Dunkin Donuts contains about 172 mg of caffeine. Who are we kidding? On average people ask for large or X-large cups so triple that amount of caffeine.

Then I had to go back to Google for caffeine content in black tea and do a little math. I encountered the same problem: coming up with a definite number of caffeine in a cup of black tea. Apparently, how the tea is prepared plays an important role in how much caffeine it will contain. The amount of tea used, water temperature, brewing time to whether the leaves are steeped loose, in a tea bag, or strainer, all affect how much caffeine will be in your cup. In general, more tea, hotter water, and longer steeping all contribute to more caffeine per cup. After reading online, I concluded that a cup of black tea contains about 40 mg of caffeine if you are using a tea bag. If you use the same tea bag in a 16 ounce cup then you will have 80 mg of caffeine since content will be higher.

In the end, Doctors suggestion of 4 cups of black tea added up to 160 mg of caffeine while a cup of coffee could be anywhere from 90-180 mg.

Now it makes more sense…

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

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Posted in pregnancy

Does your morning sickness stop you from taking your prenatals?

morning_sicknessI do not know why it is called morning sickness since you feel queasy all day long. In my case, I did not have too bad of a sickness when I compare myself to others where women could not get out of bed, could not eat anything, lost weight and even had to get an IV put in due to risk of malnutrition. I never threw up, nausea would cause me to gag, I would go to the bathroom just incase and It would stop. I guess I was lucky.

I did not have any pregnancy symptoms until 6 weeks 3 days. It all started with onset of mild sickness, followed by bathroom visits every two hours. I had to continue to take my vitamins especially prenatal and folic acid tablets but they were also making me nauseous. Doctor prescribed me an increased dose of folic acid for my first trimester due to my sister being born with a cleft lip. He had to make sure we were preventing any genetic problems. Prenatal vitamins plus the folic acid added to about 8 pills a day. If you have difficulty taking one, taking 8 of them can be a huge challenge. Luckily, I was taking capsules where I could open them up and mix them with a median such as juice. I chose to purchase vitamin code prenatals and Bluebonnet Folic acid from wholefoods store.

Increasing my vegetable and fruit intake was not easy since I could not stand the sight of anything green. Therefore, I decided to make smoothies in the morning. I would put more fruit than vegetable to make the smoothie sweeter so it would be easier to drink. When you are pregnant, your heightened sense of smell and taste do not allow you to eat certain food groups. The best strategy is to trick yourself into eating them by mixing in the food that you like to eat.

healthy-fruit-smoothieMy favorite recipe was:

  • ½ banana
  • couple strawberries- whatever you have at home
  • ¼ of blueberries
  • Spinach (eating spinach was impossible otherwise
  • Chia seeds (great source of nutrition)
  • Yogurt (most of the time strawberry yogurt)
  • Milk
  • Then open 8 capsules of supplements

Blend it then take it to the car with me, and I would finish it before I got to work.

Just like any other expecting mother, I started searching all questions or concerns that I had online. I also started reading the book,what to expect when you expecting. All the sources said eat small meals frequently throughout the day so I decided to follow the advice. Surprisingly, I started getting light headed when I got up too fast, it would get dark and start spinning. I suspected it was my blood pressure. My normal is 100/60. I started taking my blood pressure 3-4 times a day and realized that it was fluctuating between my normal and 125/ 80. At first, I thought it was just pregnancy, then I figured I was not eating enough. I used my fitness pal to track my calories and I was taking about 1300 calories instead of 2000/2200 calories a day. I decided to heck with online advice and started eating my regular portions, which immediately resolved my blood pressure problem. Interesting huh? I guess your body is much more sensitive when you get pregnant.

I would like to hear about your perspective. What do you think? Please comment and let me know!

Images retrieved from:

http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/images/1HT03416/morning_sickness.jp

http://www.images-iherb.com/l/GOL-11590-5.jp

http://www.thenatural.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/650×650/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/4/5/450-Folic-Acid-800-mcg-Vcap_6.jp

http://scrumpscupcakes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/healthy-fruit-smoothie.jp