Pregnancy and delivery changes a woman forever – beyond physical changes, it also changes one mentally and emotionally. At a time when the new arrival takes priority over everything else, many women find themselves sacrificing their own practical and self-care needs in favour of the baby’s nutrition and safety. It is important to remember that postpartum care for yourself is critical so that you can be your best self as you bond with and care for your infant. Understanding the postpartum periodThe postpartum period encompasses the first 6 weeks after giving birth. This period, often dubbed as the fourth trimester, is a time when your body begins to heal and adjust to not being pregnant. It is described as a period of significant transition characterised by changes in self-identity, the redefinition of relationships, opportunities for personal growth and alterations to sexual behaviour as women adjust to the ‘new normal’. In short, there is definitely a lot going on! There are many factors that come into play in your postpartum recovery journey. These include whether you’ve just had your first child or your third, vaginal or C-section delivery, if you had gestational diabetes or if your baby was born preterm. Nevertheless, there are some general changes in your body and mind that you can expect. Changes to your bodyExpect some soreness in your vagina if you had a vaginal delivery. This would be accompanied by some bleeding over the first week. Bleeding is likely to gradually change to light-coloured discharge that may continue for about 6 weeks. You would also feel contraction-like sensations as your uterus is contracting back to its pre-pregnancy size.If you had delivered via C-section, you will experience pain at the site of incision. Movement is likely to be difficult. For example, you may have trouble getting in and out of bed. However, you are advised to move around to avoid blood clots from developing. Mood changesIt is common to feel sad during the first few days after delivery. You may also feel irritable, moody, anxious, may have difficulty concentrating or even experience sleep problems. As your hormone levels are changing during this period, with oestrogen and progesterone levels dropping off and prolactin and oxytocin levels rising and falling as your baby nurses, it is normal to experience a case of baby blues. These feelings typically peak on the third or fourth day and subside within 2 weeks. Do seek help if you find yourself experiencing severe mood swings, loss of appetite and overwhelming fatigue as these may be symptoms of postpartum depression. How can you care for yourself?Your body has done a lot of work throughout your pregnancy and continues to as you care for your newborn. It’s important that you also care for yourself and get the support that you need to cope during the intense postpartum period. Ask for and accept help from your partner, family and friends. There are many remedies you can try to ease discomfort and pain, including pain medications. Talk to your doctor to know what is safe to take, especially if you are breastfeeding. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable about your postpartum body but remember to be gentle on yourself and set realistic weight loss expectations. Plan small trips to get out of the house from time to time for a change in environment It’s normal to feel like you have no idea what you are doing in the early days. As you spend more time with your baby, you’ll be able to figure out what your baby needs and wants. The postpartum period is overwhelming. You may experience a range of conflicting and contrasting emotions, including intense feelings of joy and love as well as guilt and lack of control. Be gentle on yourself. Accept that your life has changed and while the transitioning phase may be hard, it will get better. References Healthline. Your Guide to Postpartum Recovery. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/postpartum-recovery-timeline Accessed 10 November 2021. Finlayson K, et al. PLoSOne 2020;15(4):e0231415. MSD Manual Consumer Version. Overview of the Postdelivery (Postpartum) Period. Available at: https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/postdelivery-period/overview-of-the-postdelivery-postpartum-period Accessed 10 November 2021.
There is a misconception that a snoring baby is one who is in deep, restful slumber. While often times snoring is due to mucus in the nostrils, in rare cases, it can be a sign of a more serious problem such as sleep apnoea. What does normal sleep look like?Sleep patterns of infants vary with age. In their first month of life, a newborn sleeps up to 20 hours a day. This gradually reduces to about 11 hours by the time they are 2 years old. It is normal for an infant to have short pauses in breathing followed by rapid breathing during sleep, however, this should not be seen with colour changes or loud, noisy breathing. When snoring is harmlessIn most cases, babies who snore simply have blocked noses. This is because the nasal passages of infants are very small, so even a tiny bit of dryness or extra mucus in their noses can make them snore or have noisy breathing. A stuffy nose can usually be cleared up using a simple home remedy of saline drops or may not need any treatment at all. If the loud breathing or snoring does not resolve over a short period of time, it may be an indication of other underlying issues, requiring the attention of a paediatrician. Infant sleep apnoeaPersistent snoring in babies may indicate the presence of a sleep-related breathing disorder called infant sleep apnoea. This is a condition where there is a pause or reduction in breathing when an infant sleeps. Infant sleep apnoea may be central, obstructive or mixed. Snoring is more commonly associated with obstructive sleep apnoea. SymptomsThe following are some signs of the presence of infant sleep apnoea: Prolonged pauses in breathing lasting 20 seconds or longer A breathing pattern of repeated pauses, gasping for breath or choking Persistent snoring Difficulty breathing while taking naps during the day Risk factorsPremature babies are more likely to have infant sleep apnoea than those born full-term. The risk is more pronounced during the first months after birth in infants with lower birth weight. Apart from that, a variety of medical conditions can cause infant sleep apnoea or make it worse, including acid reflux, anaemia, infection and lung disease. Infants with underdeveloped facial features, such as a small chin or jaw, having a large tongue, tonsils or adenoids or those with a floppy airway due to a softening of the voice box (larynx) are also at risk. Seeking interventionUnresolved sleep apnoea is of concern as it may affect growth and development and lead to long term physical and behavioural issues. So, if you are concerned about your baby’s consistent snoring, it’s best consult a paediatrician to get it checked. Taking a quick recording of the snoring and playing it for the paediatrician would be helpful to determine if there’s anything of concern going on. A sleep study may be recommended to monitor breathing during sleep, which can detect and identify any problems. In most cases, infant sleep apnoea resolves as the child grows and matures. Studies have also found breastfeeding to be protective against snoring. In other cases where there are other underlying medical conditions, treatment with medications or surgery may be necessary depending on the nature of the problem. References Hong H, et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2018;198:15-16. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep Education. Infant Sleep Apnea. Available at: https://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders/infant-sleep-apnea. Accessed 13 August 2021. Healthline. Why Is My Newborn Snoring? Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/newborn-snoring. Accessed 13 August 2021. Bonuck K, et al. Pediatrics 2012;129(4):e857-e865. Katila M, et al. Acta Paediatr 2019;108(9):1686-1694.
Routine screenings can be life saving for many women since the early detection of some diseases can lead to better outcomes. Here are some important screenings you should consider for your routine visit. A healthy lifestyle can make you feel better. This feeling is actually a good thing but what if you were told that visiting a doctor should be a habit regardless of how you feel. We’ve all heard stories of how simple routine screenings have saved lives where being late by a few months could have led to a different outcome. These yearly visits are otherwise known as well-woman exams. Knowing what screenings you should take on your well-woman exam is the next step to empowering yourself and taking control of your health after a healthy lifestyle! Here are some screenings you shouldn’t overlook on your well-woman exam. Pap smears Pap smears test for cervical cancer which is the fourth most common cancer for women worldwide. The good news is that it’s often curable if detected at an early stage. The test includes taking a sample from the cervix and checking for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells. When should I get tested? Women should start getting tested after age 21 once every three years. After crossing the 30 year mark, most doctors recommend doing one of the following: A pap smear once every three years An HPV test once every five years A HPV test along with a pap smear once every five years If you’re over 65 and have never had a positive pap result then your doctor may allow you to stop taking pap screenings. Breast cancer Breast cancer is feared by many women. Some even go as far as delaying breast exams and mammograms out of fear of being diagnosed with it! However, that’s not the best way to deal with it. Sure, no one wants to be diagnosed with breast cancer but ignoring these screenings only makes matters worse. An early diagnosis means better chances of curing it. When should I be tested? Women should start yearly mammogram screening after age 40 while younger women aren’t advised to screen unless they have factors that put them at a greater risk of getting breast cancer. Regardless of your age group, you should always see a doctor if you notice a lump, abnormal nipple discharge or any abnormality. Skin examination This one is easier to do as most of the time all you’ll need for skin examination is a sharp eye. Look for new moles or changes to existing ones on your skin as these might indicate early signs of skin cancer. You should make this one a monthly habit, always keep an eye for any skin changes. Your doctor may also help you decide whether you need an in-office exam every once in a while. Other screenings you should consider We’ve mentioned some screenings you shouldn’t overlook but here are some screenings you should consider on your well-woman exam depending on your risk factors and age group: Blood pressure screening Diabetes or blood glucose test Lipid profile / cholesterol levels Bone density screening Colorectal cancer screening Your doctor can help you decide which tests you should take regularly depending on your risk factors. References: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007462.htm https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007467.htm https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/screening-tests-for-women www.ucsfhealth.org/-/media/project/ucsf/ucsf-health/pdf/womens_health_passport_chart.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwj_5IDW1vPyAhVHT8AKHaY3BRAQFnoECA0QAQ&usg=AOvVaw07w7Jv1udM6gI6tCWnpJzm&cshid=1631251910620 https://www.cancer.org/healthy/find-cancer-early/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer.html
Functional exercises can help you face the daily physically demanding activities in life. And to add to that, they don't need any fancy equipment to begin with! Here are some of the best functional exercises you can do from the comfort of your home. Functional exercises typically include compound exercises that fire-up sets of muscles just like how you would use them in your daily activities. Adding these exercises to your routine makes you all set to face the physical challenges of today’s world. Today we’ll talk about some of the best and easy to do functional exercises for a full body workout. Squats This exercise is a great all-rounder. It works your glutes, abdominals, hamstrings, and quads. Strengthening these muscles can really strengthen your core and boost your mobility. Squats are one of the healthiest exercises as they provide a range of benefits which includes burning calories and reducing the risk of knee injury. Lunges Lunges are similar to squats but since they use one leg at a time they engage other muscles to help stabilize your body. Lunges are similar to walking or climbing stairs. Some people have gone as far as replacing lunges and squats with stair climbing! The effects are mostly the same so doing any of these will definitely improve your endurance and lower body strength. Push-ups While squats and lunges work your lower body, push ups work on strengthening your upper body. Push-ups target your triceps, shoulder, chest, and abdominal muscles. Strengthening these muscles can really come in handy during your daily activities. Just like squats, this exercise is another great allrounder that targets many muscles. Mastering functional exercises Always start slow and make sure you get your form right to avoid injuries. Your personal trainer can help with fine-tuning your form. Once you’ve mastered these exercises you can then move on to adding weights to make them more challenging. The seven main movements of the body are push, pull, squat, lunge, hinge, gait and rotation. For a full-body functional workout routine, you’ll have to target each of these movements after mastering the basics. Other great exercises you can try out after building a solid core include deadlifts, overhead presses, and pull-ups. Sticking to a functional exercise routine will show noticeable changes in your mobility and ability to easily perform daily physical tasks. These range from holding your baby, picking up groceries, climbing endless stairs, and basically whatever life has to throw at you! References: https://blog.nasm.org/functional-training-compound-workouts https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/functional-strength-training https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/functional-fitness/art-20047680
Your menstrual cycle is divided into the menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal phases. Each phase is accompanied with specific changes that can influence your mood, appetite or even sleep. Here is a brief recount of the menstrual cycle starting from day one. The menstrual cycle is all about preparing your body for possible pregnancies. But besides being curious, why should you educate yourself on what happens to your body during your menstrual cycle? Yes, the main goal of your cycle is pregnancy but it’s probably affecting every aspect of your life too! From mood to appetite, discomfort or even sleep, a deeper look into when some hormonal changes occur can help explain how you feel at certain times. The menstrual cycle starts with bleeding or shedding of your uterine lining. The four phases of your cycle are the menstrual, follicular, ovulation and luteal phases. Menstrual phase (day 1 to 5) This phase starts when your period starts. When the egg from your last cycle isn’t fertilized, your body no longer needs it’s thick cushioned uterine lining which it prepared for your fertilized egg! Consequently, your thickened uterine lining is deemed unnecessary and is shedded as period blood. Feeling tired? Looks like your estrogen levels have dropped. Hold on while your hormone levels gradually start increasing again. This phase lasts anywhere between 3 to 7 days although some women have longer periods. Follicular phase (day 1 to 13) This phase starts with your menstrual phase and ends with ovulation. It can range anywhere from about 11 to 27 days depending on your own cycle. Your brain signals your ovaries to produce follicles containing immature eggs via follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Usually, only one egg will mature during ovulation. This lucky egg's follicle sets off a boost in estrogen levels causing your uterine lining to thicken for the baby-to-be to grow. Ovulation phase (day 14) Estrogen produced by the maturing follicle causes your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH) which kickstarts ovulation. Once the mature egg cell is released you’re all set for getting pregnant. In fact, this is the only phase where you can get pregnant. Sperm from a few days before ovulation can still fertilize the egg. Ovulation usually occurs on day 14 of a 28 day menstrual cycle. The egg will die if not fertilized within 12 to 24 hours of release. With estrogen levels at their peak, you might notice egg-white like mucus discharge along with an increase in body temperature. Estrogen levels usually drop right after ovulation. Luteal phases (day 15 to 28) Remember that chosen follicle that released your egg? It becomes the corpus luteum and is now in charge of keeping that uterine lining thick and ready for a fertilized egg. The former follicle does this by releasing progesterone along with a bit of estrogen. If you get pregnant then your body produces the human gonadotropin hormone (hCG).This hormone is used during pregnancy tests. If you don’t get pregnant then your corpus luteum is slowly absorbed leading to less released progesterone and estrogen. This leads to a period and shedding your uterine lining. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) So it's that time of the month where your period is in 5 to 11 days (during luteal phase). Your thoughts and mood are all over the place and to make things worse you get an acne breakout. Wait, now you're craving food like crazy? You might be wondering, what is going on? Turns out these are symptoms of premenstrual syndrome which affects about 75% of women in one way or another. Rest assured that these symptoms are normal. You should still look out for any abnormal changes in your menstrual cycle! Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/ https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/stages-of-menstrual-cycle https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/menstrual-cycle
It is a crowded world out there in the supplement market. You are definitely not alone if you have wondered whether your child is missing out for not taking the latest vitamin gummy on the pharmacy shelves. As its name implies, vitamin and mineral supplements are meant to supplement or compensate for any nutritional deficits in a person’s diet. Ideally children should obtain these nutrients through a well-balanced and healthy diet. However, in reality there are many reasons why this may not be achieved. Which kids need supplements? Paediatricians may recommend daily doses of specific vitamins and minerals for the following: Children who are not eating sufficient fresh, whole foods Picky eaters who lack variety in their diets Children eating a lot of fast food or processed food Children with restricted diets, including vegetarians Children who drink a lot of carbonated beverages, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies Children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or digestive problems and those who have had surgery Recent studies have shown that children in Singapore do not consume enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains while their sodium and sugar intakes are high. While eating habits need to be improved in general, vitamin and mineral supplementation may be beneficial in addressing any nutrient deficiencies they may have. What are the essential supplements? Several vitamins and minerals are critical for growing children. Vitamin A aids in normal growth and development, as well as tissue and bone repair. It is also essential for maintaining healthy skin, eyes and immune responses. Vitamin Bs The B vitamin family, which includes B2, B3, B6 and B12, is important for metabolism, energy production and maintaining a healthy heart and nervous system. Vitamin B12 is the most important of the B vitamins and is found primarily in animal-based foods. Children who are vegetarian/vegan may not get enough B12 in their regular diet. Vitamin C aids the body’s ability to heal and fight off infections. It also helps to strengthen muscles, connective tissue and the skin. Reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables may result in a deficiency of this nutrient. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is required for bone and tooth formation. Because infant formula and growing up milk are usually fortified with vitamin D, infants and children who consume them do not need additional supplementation. Calcium is the essential building block of bones and teeth. Building strong bones during their growing years will serve as reserves when bone loss occurs later in life. Iron builds muscle and is essential for healthy red blood cells. It is especially critical during periods of rapid growth. Some things to keep in mind Fresh foods are the best source of nutrients. So, while you are attempting to address any nutrient deficiency in your child through supplementation, it is also important to serve a variety of whole, fresh foods as much as possible so that they do not require supplements for long. Remember that it is entirely possible to overdose on vitamins through supplementation. Vitamin or mineral supplements can be toxic to children when taken in excess amounts. This is particularly true for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamins that are in gummy forms can also be easy to overeat because of their candy-like taste and appearance. It is best therefore to consult with your child’s paediatrician to see if they are indeed in need of any supplements and to always keep the supplements out of reach of children. References: Grow by WebMD. Vitamins for Kids: Do Healthy Kids Need Supplements? Available at: https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/vitamins-for-kids-do-healthy-kids-need-vitamins#1 Accessed 17 August 2021. Stanford Children’s Health. Kids Need Their Nutrients. Available at: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=kids-need-their-nutrients--1-19820 Accessed 17 August 2021. Manson JE & Bassuk SS. JAMA 2018;319(9):859-860. Brownlee IA, et al. Nutrients 2019;11(11):2615. Choy MJY, et al. Nutrients 2021;13(4):1335.
Young children are prone to catching infections in school. This may happen as often as every 2–3 weeks as their immunity is immature from the lack of prior exposure to certain germs. Typical infections you may have noticed your child catching in school include the common cold, stomach flu and hand, foot and mouth disease. A strong immune system prevents an infection from developing into a serious illness. The good news is that there are measures you can take to build your child’s immunity so that they don’t fall sick frequently and if they do catch a bug, they bounce back quickly. Dr Dave Ong from Kids Clinic Punggol shares some practical tips on how you can help build your child’s immunity 1. Consider exclusive breastfeeding for at least 4 months Breastfeeding has been shown to allow the transfer of antibodies from mother to baby. These antibodies provide a constant source of help for the baby to defend themselves from germs. Nevertheless, exclusive breastfeeding may not be possible for all mothers and it’s absolutely fine to practice mixed feeding. 2. Keep up with your child’s vaccination schedule Vaccinations are important to help build antibodies against certain infections and to help white blood cells develop the ability to fight these germs in the future. Vaccinations commonly seen in the immunisation schedule are the 5-in-1 or 6-in-1 vaccines, which protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae disease and hepatitis B. You may also want to consider optional vaccinations such as those for rotavirus and chickenpox. Influenza vaccination is another one to think about especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic, to reduce the risk of acquiring multiple respiratory infections. 3. Ensure your child gets sufficient sleep When we sleep, the immune system rests and rebuilds to fight infections. Lack of sleep may decrease the ability of the immune system to fight infectious diseases. So, how much is enough sleep? Here is a guide for you to follow: Preschoolers (Ages 3–5): 10–13 hours Children (Ages 6–13): 9–11 hours Adolescents (14–17): 8–10 hours 4. Feed your child a balanced and colourful meal Up to 80% of our immune cells are in the gut. Building a healthy gut is critical to ensure a strong immune system. You can do this for your child by feeding them with a balanced and nutritious diet. Remember to also include colourful fruits and vegetables. They contain phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to support the immune system. Adding foods that are rich in probiotics and prebiotics in your child’s diet will also help in developing a strong gut. These include yogurt, bananas, legumes, oats and berries. 5. Consider vitamin and mineral supplementation Certain vitamins and minerals have been shown by research to help reduce the duration and severity of infections. These include vitamin C and zinc for the common cold and lower respiratory tract infections and baker’s yeast beta glucan for upper respiratory tract infections. Vitamin D is an important immunomodulator that not only boosts the immune system but also moderates it. This means that if your child does catch an infection, their immune system is not overly active risking damage to the internal organs. 6. Get outside and exercise Exercising helps to release positive chemicals such as endorphins that strengthen the immune system. When it is done outdoors, sunlight exposure helps the body to manufacture vitamin D, which further strengthens and supports the immune system. Going to school should be an exciting and enjoyable experience for kids and a pleasant one for parents. By practicing these steps, you can help your child keep those pesky bugs at bay, so everyone can stay focused on learning and growing. References Quigley MA, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr 2016;70(12):1420–1427. Hemila H & Chalker E. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;(1):CD000980. Singh M & Das RR. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011;(2):CD001364. Lassi ZS, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016;12(12):CD005978. Meng F. J Nutr Food Sci 2016;6:4. Martineau AR, et al. BMJ 2017;356:I6583.
Breast cancer is known to be linked to genetics, but your risk also increases as you age. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50. Hence, it would be best if you started exploring mammograms - an x-ray of the breast - after you turn 40 and go for regular screenings from 50 years old. Photo Credits: iStock, eggeeggjiew The frequency is usually once a year from age 40 to 49 and once every two years after that. At home, you should also check your breasts regularly for any lumps and your nipples for any blood or discharge. If your doctor spots anything suspicious in your mammogram results, they may ask you to go for further tests. The follow-up tests could include a repeat mammogram, an ultrasound or a biopsy. Aside from age, there are many other risk factors, some within your control, others not. Women who have a family history of breast cancer or a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Also, women who start menstruating early (before 12 years old) and experience menopause later (after 55 years old) are exposed to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer as well. In terms of what you can control, eating well and exercising frequently can significantly lower your risks of breast cancer. Women who are overweight or obese, smoke, and/or drink excessive amounts of alcohol are more likely to get breast cancer. If you fall into any of the above categories, now’s the time to reconsider your lifestyle and improve your health. Maintain a healthy weight, stay active and load up on more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods that are low in fats. References: https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/20/breastcancer
All women are at risk of breast cancer, the most common cancer among women in Singapore. And unfortunately, our risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Photo Credits: iStock, Staticnak1983 Although breast cancer is still considered uncommon for women under 45, once you hit the big 4-0, it may be time to pay your family doctor a visit and discuss your options for getting screened. Usually, yearly mammograms are recommended. Mammograms - an x-ray of the breast - is the primary screening tool for breast cancer. It involves pressing your breasts under two plates to capture an image that may show lumps and/or abnormalities. If you don’t need to go for regular mammograms just yet, you should still make it a habit to check your breasts yourself once a month (a week after your period). Some risk factors associated with breast cancer are beyond our control. For starters, being a woman puts us at a much higher risk of the disease. Having a family history of breast cancer also increases your risk, as about 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary. That said, there are just as many risk factors that are linked to your lifestyle. The risks are higher for women who: are not physically active are overweight or obese are going into menopause have their first pregnancy after age 30 have not breastfed have never had a full-term pregnancy. So aside from checking your breasts and getting screened regularly, you should also maintain a healthy lifestyle to lower your breast cancer risks. Maintain a healthy weight, stay active and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods that are low in fats. You should also go easy on the alcohol - if you can’t avoid it altogether, make sure you have less than one alcoholic drink per day. References: https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors
Breast cancer is more common as we age, but about 18% of women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer were younger than 45 years old (Singapore Cancer Registry, 2010 to 2014). Typically, mammograms - an x-ray of your breasts - is the primary screening tool to detect breast cancer. However, as a young woman in your 20s, you don’t have to go for yearly mammograms yet. Photo Credits: iStock, Pornchai Soda Instead, from your 20s onwards, it is recommended that you do a monthly self-examination of your breasts at home. Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide on how to check your breasts: Face a mirror. Raise your arms, then lower your arms and place your hands on your hips. Turn from side to side and look for changes in your skin, nipples, and breasts’ size and shape. Feel your breasts for lumps, starting from the outside, at your armpits. Use small, circular movements. Make sure to feel behind the nipple too. Gently squeeze your nipples to check for any bleeding or discharge. Finally, lie down and repeat steps 4 and 5. Source: Health Hub, Ministry of Health Although breast cancer can strike at any age, it is still relatively uncommon. Some women who are at increased risk include those who have a family history of breast cancer or have received radiation treatment to the chest. For young women, breast cancer is usually diagnosed in its later stages, which is why survival rates tend to be lower. Regular self-examination is important - early detection results in a higher chance of beating the disease! References: https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/20/breastcancer
Are mammograms painful? Do you need to go for breast cancer screening if you’re young and have no family history? Let’s answer all that and more. Photo Credits: iStock, andresr Did you know: breast cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in Singaporean women. As its name suggests, breast cancer is the cancer of breast tissues, and all women are at risk. Thankfully, with medicine as advanced as it is today, treatment is possible, and with early detection, survival rates can be improved. Breast cancer often presents no symptoms, so the best way to protect yourself is by doing regular self-examinations and going for mammogram screenings. Mammograms are an x-ray of your breast, taken with a special machine that presses your breast with a plate. Doctors use this to look for lumps and any abnormal growths in the breast. Many myths surround the procedure because of how mammograms are done, causing women to shy away from mammograms. The first myth is that mammograms are very painful. While it is true that mammograms may hurt a little for some, most women only feel discomfort. Secondly, many believe that breast cancer is purely genetic, so they don’t need to go for screenings if they do not have any family history. In actuality, studies show that 70% of women with breast cancer do not have a family history. Another myth is that only older women get breast cancer, which is not true. The Singapore Cancer Registry reported that from 2010 to 2014, 18% of women who had invasive breast cancer were under 45 years old. Hence, no matter your age or family history, it is recommended that you do a monthly self-examination at home, preferably a week after your period. After 40, you should discuss the benefits of going for regular mammograms (usually once a year) with your doctor. For those 50 and up, the recommended cadence for a mammogram is once every two years. Aside from mammograms, you may have heard of ultrasound screening. Although it is another way to detect breast cancer, mammograms remain the primary screening tool as it is the only one proven effective in reducing the number of breast cancer deaths. References: https://www.thomsonmedical.com/article/mammogram-myths-find-whats-true-whats-not-breast-screening/ https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/20/breastcancer https://www.healthxchange.sg/cancer/breast-cancer/breast-cancer-screening-can-ultrasound-replace-mammogram
Enter into Your Prime:20 – 34 years This is the prime period of a woman’s life, where she has outgrown the awkwardness of puberty and established her sense of self as a young adult. Some of the gynaecological needs or concerns affecting young women in their 20s and 30s are listed below: 1. Endometriosis Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition in which the endometrium, or tissue lining the uterus, grows outside the uterus and in other locations such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and ovarian ligaments. This tissue thickens and subsequently breaks down during every menstrual cycle. Severe pain during menstruation or chronic pain in the pelvic region is a common symptom of endometriosis. Women with endometriosis may also experience pain during sex, painful urination or bowel movements, and may struggle with infertility later on. Do I Have Endometriosis? Your doctor can check for clues of endometriosis during a pelvic exam or ultrasound. However, a laparoscopy or keyhole surgery will be able to determine with certainty if endometriosis is present. Treatment may be in the form of pain relief medication, hormonal therapy to control the build-up of endometrial tissue, or a laparoscopic surgery to remove the tissue. More on Endometriosis 2. Fibroids Fibroids are non-cancerous growths consisting of muscle and fibrous tissue. Around 1 in 3 women will develop fibroids in their lifetime. They vary in size and may develop in or around the uterus, usually during a woman’s reproductive years, often shrinking after menopause. Do I Have Fibroids? Most small fibroids are asymptomatic and no treatment is required. However, depending on their location and size, fibroids may cause certain symptoms which interfere with daily life, such as: Excessive bleeding with passage of blood clots during menstruation Pelvic pressure or discomfort Increased frequency of urination Pelvic and/or lower back pain Difficulty or pain during bowel movement Upon diagnosis, your gynaecologist may treat symptoms with medication to reduce the occurrence of menorrhagia or shrink the size of the fibroids. Fibroids may also be treated surgically, either through complete removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) or removal of the fibroids with the uterus in place (myomectomy). This procedure may be done via an abdominal surgery or a keyhole surgery (laparoscopy). More on Fibroids 3. Ovarian Cysts Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs which develop on a woman’s ovary. A large majority of ovarian cysts are harmless and will naturally disappear without presenting any symptoms (physiological or functional cysts). However, in some cases, an ovarian cyst may be a tumour, and if the cyst is large, may develop complications. Do I Have Ovarian Cysts? Your gynaecologist will be able to detect an ovarian cyst during a pelvic examination and ultrasound. Sometimes blood tests such as tumour markers may be performed. If your cysts are persistent, symptomatic or possibly malignant, your doctor may speak to you on the removal of cysts via an abdominal surgery or laparoscopy. More on Ovarian Cysts 4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition which affects up to 27% of women during their childbearing years. It is characterised by the presence of multiple small ovarian cysts (due to egg follicles that failed to grow, mature or be released), higher levels of male hormones and irregular periods. Women with PCOS may also experience symptoms like hair growth or balding, weight gain and acne. PCOS is a common cause of infertility in women. Do I Have PCOS? Other than a suggestive history, hormonal blood tests and an ultrasound scan is necessary to aid in the diagnosis of PCOS. PCOS can be managed with oral contraceptive pills to regulate the menstrual cycle or with fertility drugs to improve fertility. 5. Family Planning A. Contraception Understanding The Various Birth Control Options A wide variety of birth control options are available for women nowadays. They range from oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) , to hormonal injections and even hormonal implants under the skin and intra-uterine contraceptive devices (IUDs). Oral Contraceptive Pills Hormonal Injections Hormonal Implants Intra-Uterine Devices (IUD) Description Contains synthetic female hormones either singly or in combination Injectable hormones A small, silicone tube containing a progesterone hormone that is placed in the arm just below the skin A small device that is placed in the womb in the clinic. Can be coated with hormone e.g. Mirena or can be without (copper) Benefits Can also help regulate menstrual cycle, lighten the flow and reduce cramps Convenient as it is administered every 3 months only Convenient as it needs to be changed only in 5 years Convenient as it needs to be changed only in 3 years. Hormonal IUD can help to reduce heavy menstrual flow Disadvantages Effective only if taken consistently according to instructions May sometimes cause irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain and mood swings Can cause scarring and may result in irregular menstrual cycles at the start May experience some weight gain or irregular menstruation at the start While reliable in preventing an unwanted pregnancy, these birth control methods do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, and should be used in conjunction with condoms during sex. Selecting the most suitable birth control method should begin with a discussion together with your partner and doctor. The appropriate method will vary with individuals depending on your medical history, lifestyle, duration of contraception use, usage compliance and level of effectiveness. More on Contraception B. Fertility A woman’s highest chances of getting pregnant are in her 20s. Women below 30 have a 20% – 25% chance of conceiving every month. At this age, you also have lower chances of miscarriage, pregnancy complications and foetal abnormalities. However, women in their 20s are not immune from fertility problems. If you have been having regular, unprotected sex for a year without getting pregnant, you or your partner may be facing fertility issues. More on Fertility 6. Vaginal Infection and Discharge Vaginal discharge is a normal and regular occurrence in women. It is usually white or clear and watery. During ovulation, you may sometimes observe discharge that is clear and stretchy like mucus. Towards the end of your period, it is also normal to experience brown or bloody discharge. However, vaginal discharge that is abnormal in colour, consistency, odour or accompanied by other symptoms may indicate an infection or even sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and HPV. Do I Have a Vaginal Infection? A vaginal infection usually presents with abnormal vaginal discharge, and sometimes accompanied by itch, pain or even fever. A white and thick discharge accompanied by vaginal itchiness or swelling is a sign of vaginal yeast infection or candidiasis, a common condition. A yellow or green discharge with a foul smell is a sign of trichomoniasis, a sexually-transmitted infection. It may be accompanied by pain and vaginal itchiness. Increased vaginal discharge, which has a foul and fishy odour, may be caused by bacterial vaginosis, a common bacterial infection which also occurs during pregnancy. These infections can be easily diagnosed by a doctor and treated with medication, creams and ointments. More on Vaginal Infection 7. Vaccinations and Screening for Women Under the Ministry of Health’s recently-established National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS), it is recommended for expecting or young adult women to undergo the following vaccinations: Vaccines Recommended Groups Schedule Why is vaccination important? Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Women aged 18-26 years 3 doses(0, 1-2, 6 months) Some types of HPV infection may lead to cervical cancer. Maximize the benefits of HPV vaccinations by going for vaccination before the start of sexual activity, where HPV exposure occurs. Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (TDAP) Pregnant women (between 16-32 weeks) 1 dose per pregnancy Pregnant mothers vaccinated against TDAP can pass on the protection to their babies for a short-term as newborns will not receive vaccinations immediately upon birth. Influenza Women at all stages of pregnancy 1 dose annually Protects mothers and newborns against influenza *Content is republished with permission from the SMG Women’s Health.
Stepping into Womanhood:10 – 19 years This period signifies the transition from childhood to womanhood, with accompanying physical changes. The first signs of puberty in girls may start at around 10 years old, and include an increase in height and weight, development of breasts, growth of body hair, acne and menstruation. Gynaecological issues in adolescence are often caused by hormonal imbalances related to the onset of puberty. 1. Menstruation (Period) In general, a regular menstrual cycle occurs every 21 – 35 days with bleeding lasting 2 – 7 days. You may experience some cramping during a heavy flow at the start of your period. Regularity of a period can depend on age, body weight, stress or other underlying health conditions. Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) such as tiredness and bloatedness are commonly experienced around 1 week before a period. Some adolescents may experience abnormal menstruation, which are listed below. Dysmenorrhoea (Painful Periods) Dysmenorrhoea refers to severe and frequent cramps experienced during menstruation. It is more commonly experienced in adolescents and young women due to the release of a substance known as prostaglandin, which causes the uterus muscles to contract as the lining is shed. However, severe menstrual cramps may also be caused by underlying conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids or cysts. The pain is often managed using common painkillers, but if the pain gets worse progressively, it may be prudent to consult an O&G specialist to understand the cause. Irregular Menses (Infrequent Menses / Overly Frequent Menses) An irregular menstrual cycle is one that occurs less than 21 days (polymenorrhoea) or more than 35 days apart (oligomenorrhoea). It is a common occurrence in adolescence. Some adolescent girls may not develop a regular cycle for several years after starting their period. Your menstrual cycle may gradually regulate or stay irregular into adulthood. Most menstrual disorders may be managed with lifestyle changes such as diet and adequate rest or pain relief medication. If you feel that self-care practices are not adequately addressing these issues, seek a doctor’s advice for a further examination. Menorrhagia (Excessive Bleeding) Menorrhagia occurs when the menstruation lasts longer and is heavier than normal. Indications of excessive bleeding include having to change a pad or tampon every 1 – 2 hours, having huge blood clots, having flooding episodes, having to use double pads to prevent overflow, or having heavy periods lasting for 8 – 10 days or more. Menorrhagia may be caused by a variety of reasons, including hormonal imbalances which are common during the initial occurrences of menstruation. However, they may also be a symptom of uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, endometriosis, or a bleeding disorder. As a result of the excessive bleeding, many women with menorrhagia suffer from anemia. Signs of anemia include feeling tired easily and paleness of the skin. Amenorrhoea (Absence of Periods) Amenorrhoea is characterised by the absence of any menstrual period by 16 years of age, or absence of any period for 6 consecutive months without pregnancy. It may be the result of a delay in puberty, hormonal imbalances, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Lifestyle factors such as weight changes (gain or loss), stress or excessive exercising may also lead to an absence of periods. Check out Conversations on Nectar to increase your knowledge on period-related content through questions asked from our women's community. 2. Sexual Health It is important for adolescents who are sexually active to take care of their sexual health and practice safe and responsible sex. Lack of information on one’s sexual health can lead to a greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as HIV, chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes or gonorrhoea. STIs caused by bacteria (gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia) can be treated with antibiotics. Those caused by viruses (genital warts, genital herpes, HIV) can be treated, but the viruses may not be eradicated. If left untreated, some of these STIs may lead to serious health problems in later life. How Can I Protect Myself Against STIs? Practice safe sex if you are sexually active; condoms offer an effective protection against STIs A vaccination can protect against some strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which may cause genital warts or cervical cancer in women Reduce your number of sexual partners- a higher number of sexual partners increases the risk of contracting an STI Learn about your partner’s sexual health and history Abstinence is the most effective method to preventing an STI Get Vaccinated Against HPV A vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) can help prevent certain strains of HPV infections that could lead to cervical cancer. A HPV vaccination is most effective when provided before the start of sexual activity, before potential exposure to HPV. In Singapore, there are a couple of HPV vaccines, which are currently approved for use against specific strains of HPV. There is the 4-valent vaccine which covers 4 HPV types i.e. 6, 11, 16, 18, as well as the 9-valent vaccine which covers 9 HPV types i.e. 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Depending on the specific vaccines, girls and women aged 9 to 26 are eligible and advised to get vaccinated against HPV. For Singaporean women, some HPV vaccines are Medisave-claimable (up to $400), as long as you are between the age of 9- 26 years old. If you are unsure of your suitability, consult your doctor to understand more about a HPV vaccination. If you are sexually active, it is important to continue to go for a regular pap smear every 3 years even if you have received a HPV vaccination. *Content is republished with permission from the SMG Women’s Health.
Oral Aversion In Babies There's nothing more worrying than a baby who simply won't eat. Babies can’t voice their issues clearly which is why feeding problems can be worrisome for mothers. For most babies, breastfeeding or bottle feeding is comforting and reassuring. It's also a great bonding opportunity. But did you know that some babies can find both breastfeeding and bottle feeding to be an absolute nightmare? Oral aversion, a sensory feeding disorder, is when an infant fears or refuses taking in any food or substance by mouth. For these babies, any sensation around the mouth area or even a slight touch can cause distress. What causes babies to develop oral aversions? Premature babies are twice as likely to develop feeding aversions. One of the reasons behind this is that premature babies aren't mentally or physically developed yet. A premature baby’s muscle tone and cognitive development may affect their appetite and ability to feed normally. Another reason behind oral aversions is when babies have traumatizing experiences around the mouth area. Any unpleasant sensations around the mouth area can cause your baby to fear eating and develop an oral aversion. Stressful NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) procedures can cause your baby to make negative associations between taking anything in by mouth and pain or discomfort caused by procedures such as intubation or NG/OG tubes. This is why premature babies who spend more time in the NICU have a higher chance of developing an oral aversion. Just like how premature babies may make a negative association between any mouth sensations and pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also have the same effect. If a baby’s stomach contents rise and produce a burning sensation due to GERD, it won’t be long before they associate drinking milk with this burning sensation. This may lead a baby to develop a fear of feeding. Signs and symptoms to look out for Some common signs your baby has an oral aversion include: Not eating even when appearing to be hungry Not drinking enough milk Refusing to feed while awake and only feeding while drowsy or asleep Showing distress or crying when put in a feeding position Drinking a small amount of milk before refusing Inadequate growth How you should handle oral aversions? An oral aversion can impede a baby’s growth and development at a phase that requires optimal nutrition. Short stature, lower cognitive functioning and behavioral challenges are a few long term effects that improper nutrition at this critical stage can cause. As a mother, feeding your baby is one of the most effective ways to bond but if your baby is busy stressing out then the feeding process won’t be so pleasant and comforting. Your baby’s doctor can help you take steps towards resolving your baby’s feeding issues. This can involve behavioral therapy for your infant along with other steps that revolve around slowly making your baby more familiar and comfortable with feeding. As a last resort your doctor might have to insert a feeding tube for severe oral aversion cases. Although a feeding tube might sound scary, it’s a safe option that your doctor might consider to make sure your baby gets the vital nutrients he or she needs. References https://www.healthline.com/health/baby/oral-aversion
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/W4wXcgt-nmc" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> Menses is often a dread for many ladies as the time of the month draws near. However, for some, period problems tend to be a lot more severe. Some ladies might get prolonged menses beyond 7 days or experience bleeding so heavy that it affects their daily lives. Others experience cramps so bad that even painkillers don’t help. What causes these period problems? In this section, Dr Kanika from SMG Women's Health explains the common causes: 1. Painful Menses Many ladies often get painful cramps during their menses. This is commonly referred to as dysmenorrhea or simply period pains. There are 2 main types of dysmenorrhea: Primary Dysmenorrhea This usually happens to teenagers and unmarried ladies. They will experience pain on the first day of their menses or 1-2 days before the start of their menses. Panadol is generally sufficient to manage the pain. After childbirth, this type of period pain goes away. Secondary Dysmenorrhea This is a more serious symptom. It typically happens to ladies over the age of 30. The pain tends to start on Day 2 or Day 3 of menses and lasts throughout the menses. This is also a common symptom for ladies suffering from endometriosis. 2. Heavy Menses While heavy periods don’t cause pain, they can affect the quality of life by limiting social activity or cause social embarrassments. Clinically, repeated heavy periods can also result in anemia (low blood count), which might cause tiredness and in more serious cases, require a blood transfusion.Here are 3 of the most common causes of heavy menses: Fibroids Fibroids can result in heavy bleeding. They often occur in ladies over the age of 30. Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding In dysfunctional uterine bleeding, there is no tumour or lesion in the womb. In this case, the gynae does not find any specific cause for heavy bleeding.However, it requires treatment to reduce the heavy bleeding. Otherwise, the haemoglobin level may drop from 12-14 (normal level) to 7-8. Adenomyosis In this condition, the lady experiences a lot of pain in addition to heavy bleeding during menses. Ladies over the age of 35 and ladies with no children are more prone to this condition. 3. Spotting between Menses Spotting can happen either before or after menstruation. Ovulation Bleed (Mid-cycle Bleed) A lot of women will get a little bit of spotting around 10-14 days after their period, where ovulation happens.This is normal and ladies do not have to be worried about this. However there is another common reason for spotting in between cycles which is a cause for concern. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) In PCOS, there is an imbalance in hormone levels, which results in ovulation not happening on a monthly basis. This condition can also result in spotting, or not having regular menstruation. When to See a Gynae for Period Problems? While most of the time these symptoms are not a huge cause for concern, there are some signs ladies should not ignore. In this section, Dr Kanika shares with us when ladies should seek a gynae’s help for these common period problems. 1. Painful Menses Ladies in Singapore have high tolerance when it comes to period pain. However, you should definitely see a gynae if you experience pain so bad: You have to take an MC from school or work. You are unable to participate in daily activities. You find yourself taking increasing doses of painkillers. Another major red flag would be if a lady does not usually get pain during menses but after giving birth, she starts having painful periods. 2. Heavy Menses Some ladies may have very heavy flow but they do not realise it, as they have gotten used to it. While heavy menses can often be subjective, there are a couple of ways for ladies to quantify what is considered as heavy menses: If you need to change your pad/tampon every 1 or 2 hours. If you notice that you bleed out of your pad/tampon overnight when sleeping. If you think you’re experiencing heavy menstrual flow, it is good to see a gynae as they would do a blood test to look at your haemoglobin levels. This will help the gynae assess how heavy your flow actually is as ladies with a very heavy flow generally would be anemic (low blood count). 3. Spotting between Menses If you constantly find that you get spotting for 3-4 days after your period is over, you might have a polyp in your cervix. This can be easily detected by the gynae during a check-up. 4. Irregular Menses If your period doesn’t come for 2-3 months, it is usually a cause for concern. However, if it happens to you for the first time, it can be due to stress or sudden weight gain. Dr Kanika advises you to track your cycle for about 3 months first. If you still do not get your period regularly, you should see a gynae as the underlying cause could be hormone imbalance. Hence, it is important to see a gynae as this imbalance may also affect your fertility and ability to conceive. Usually, the gynae will do some blood tests, an ultrasound scan and then advise you accordingly. Now that you know when you need to seek help from a gynae, don’t let your work hours be an excuse to prevent you from seeing a doctor. *Content is republished with permission from SMG Women's Health.
As a parent, you may feel responsible to make sure your child gets the nutrition they need. But children often develop worrying eating habits and behaviours. Today, we'll discuss food jags and food aversion in children. Children often develop eating behaviours that worry their parents. Most children would pick eating their favorite food all day over a balanced diet in a heartbeat. But as a parent, you’d naturally feel responsible to ensure your child gets the nutrition they need for healthy growth and development. Two common eating behaviors seen in children are food jags and food aversion. Food jags and aversion Part of making sure your child gets good nutrition involves eating a variety of healthy foods from different groups. A food jag is when a child chooses to eat only one food for all meals. As for food aversion, this term refers to children refusing to eat certain foods. Is there a reason behind your child's eating behaviour? Most children are picky eaters by nature. For those with adventurous taste buds, there’s a good chance that their favourite food could be considered healthy while for picky eaters, it may simply be junk food. For instance, some children wouldn't mind eating chicken rice (or even plain porridge) all day. But food jags can affect your child's health since this behaviour can prevent them from getting the nutrients they need through eating a variety of foods. However, food jags aren’t a cause of concern in most cases and usually get resolved with time. In fact, food jags and aversion are a normal part of a child’s development. Children's eating habits can be a way of asserting their independence. Addressing these issues can help your child get the nutrition he or she needs. Promoting healthy eating habits in children If you offer your child his or her all-time favourite tomato pasta every day, then you’re missing out on the chance to introduce a variety of different healthy foods. It is important to cultivate a balanced and healthy diet by offering meals with other nutritious options. Introducing a variety of food will allow your child to be more acceptable to eating other nutritional foods as well. If your child is insisting on eating unhealthy food during meal times, you may consider offering nutritious alternatives during snack times. Your child will then open up to other options. You may need to constantly introduce a new food (which could go up to 10 times) before your child starts to accept it! The same goes for food aversions, offering a variety of foods consistently is key to having your child accept them. When exposing your child to new foods or trying to get them out of a food jag, always avoid forcing foods upon them and respect their appetite. While feeding time may be the most stressful time of the day, it is also important to avoid threats, punishments and junk food treats. Instead, continue offering nutritious foods at meal and snack times. Other ways that could help your child open up to a variety of healthy foods is by appropriately engaging them in cooking, giving them the same meal as everyone else without cooking your child a separate meal and making their food more visually appealing. Sources: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/toddler-meals.html?view=ptr https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/childrens-health/art-20044948 https://www.healthline.com/health/food-jags
What are Night Terrors? Night terrors refer to a disturbance during sleep when your child may suddenly scream, cry, mumble or trounce about in his or her sleep. It may seem dramatic and can be disturbing for you to witness, but it is usually not a cause for concern as children often outgrow these episodes by about 12 years of age. It is important to note night terrors may occur with other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking. Night terrors are a sleep disturbance during which your child may scream, cry, mumble or thrash during sleeping. What Causes Night Terrors? Night terrors often occur if your child has an irregular sleep pattern, there is a change in the usual routine or if they are facing stress and anxiety during the day. Children also have a higher tendency of getting night terrors if they do not get sufficient sleep. Is My Child Having Night Terrors? During a night terror episode, your child might: Shout or scream in distress Sit up in bed and appear upset or frightened Kick or thrash around Have an increased heart or breathing rate Perspire Be inconsolable If your child is having a night terror episode, do not try to wake them up. What Should I Do If My Child Has Night Terrors? It is normal for you to worry if your child has night terror episodes as a good night’s sleep is an important contributor to their development. Occasional and infrequent night terror episodes usually do not warrant any cause for concern – although you may bring it up during a routine check with your paediatrician. However, do consult a doctor if your child experiences the following: An increased frequency in episodes Regular disruption of sleep which results in fatigue and inability to perform during the day Cause for safety concerns or injury Episodes continue well into the teenage years Children with night terror episodes typically have no memory of the event after waking up. You can also follow these steps to help prevent the episodes from recurring: Observe the pattern and frequency of your child’s night terror episodes (time of occurrence, duration of the episode) Wake your child up about 10 to 15 minutes before the expected night terror episode Try not to awaken your child fully and put him or her back to sleep If you continue this routine for a week, it will usually break the recurrence of the night terror episodes. Sources:http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/terrors.html https://www.babycenter.com/0_night-terrors-why-they-happen-and-what-to-do-about-them_142.bc http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-terrors/symptoms-causes/dxc-20341115 http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/night-terrors#1 *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
According to the Breast Cancer Society, Breast Cancer is the Number 1 cause of cancer in Singapore. Breast Cancer often starts in the ducts, while some may start in the milk sacs or lobes. Breast Cancer can often go undetected in the early stages as there is usually no pain or visible symptoms. This is why it’s important to go for Breast Cancer screenings for the recommended ages: Once a year: For women over 40. Once every 2 years: For women over 50. Or if you discover any unusual symptoms around the breast area such as rash or discharge. So what happens during a Breast Cancer screening? Doctors might advise doing either a mammogram or ultrasound, or both during your breast cancer screening. Mammograms are done by radiologists who use special medical equipment to get x-ray scans of the breast tissue. As for ultrasound, it is done by radiologists, where they use the same equipment used to conduct checks on pregnant mothers. The device uses high-frequency sound waves that create images of what’s inside the body. Watch the video down below to understand more about the process and differences between both types of screening methods, as well as how a mammogram cannot be substituted by an ultrasound. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j_p73V-7kfk" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> *Content is republished with permission from The Breast Clinic.
What is Mindfulness? Mindfulness means many things to many persons. Here’s our take on it: Mindfulness is being fully present in that moment of being It is that moment when you notice a stray cat in a lazy stretch, or the cacophony of sounds children (with boundless energies) make at a playground. Mindfulness has its roots in meditation techniques, and it is most commonly thought of as the simple act of affording undivided attention to one’s present experience. In a clinical setting, mindfulness as a therapeutic tool is frequently described in terms of its associated characteristics and outcomes such as self-consciousness or being fully aware of a moment, and experiencing these in a non-judgmental manner, without reaction or interaction. As a stress reduction tool, mindfulness has been described as:“Mindfulness is basically just a particular way of paying attention. It is a way of looking deeply into oneself in the spirit of self-inquiry and self-understanding” — Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness has been gaining traction as people increasingly recognise its effectiveness in alleviating physical and psychological disorders. Credit: Own Mindfulness is not Meditation Many tend to conflate Mindfulness and Meditation, not just because their definitions are often similar and interconnected in many ways, but because these terms have become increasingly interchangeable. Mindfulness is simply being fully present in every moment; while walking on a footpath, talking to a colleague at lunch, or watching the cars go by. By contrast, Meditation is a structured practice requiring a dedicated amount of time towards its practice. While Mindfulness has its roots in meditation, the goals of both practices are vastly different. While there are many types of meditation, it evolved from predominately religious or spriritual ideologies. However, it’s destressing properties were efficacious and subsequently adapted and utilised by psychotherapists for its therapeutic benefits and to improve patient outcomes. Both are highly desirable life skills that give us a chance at inner peace and happiness and are built upon the ability to be focused completely on the present moment. How do we incorporate Mindfulness into our lives? The ability to practice mindfulness is something we all naturally possess. As with other skills, it becomes more accessible to us when it is practiced on a regular basis. Practicing mindfulness does not necessarily entail the need to start learning about or incorporating long hours meditation into our lives right away. Using Mindfulness to reduce stress The use of Mindfulness to reduce the impact of stressors has been empirically validated to treat an extensive range of ailments - both physical and mental. This includes, amongst others, chronic pain, rumination, stress, attentional issues and the affective components of chronic afflictions such as cancer or various disabilities. This programme is known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR. Essentially, the process of Mindfulness is a way to return us to the present moment In today’s busy society, our minds are constantly flooded with thoughts (whole trains of them), judgements and worries. If you would like to give Mindfuless a try: Ψ Using your senses of sight, hearing, and smell, allow yourself to notice, accept & let them roll by without judgement and gently bring your awareness back to the present moment. Ψ Watch your breathing to sustain your awareness by bringing attention to it. Do this at various intervals throughout your day by pausing occasionally, open your senses and observe what it is you’re actually doing. Ψ For instance, bring your attention to how the chair feels underneath you, how the pencil feels between your fingers or how your breath feels when it moves through your nose, chest and stomach. Once you’ve gotten comfortable & familiar with this you can dip your toe in more deliberate meditative practices. Perhaps, try a mindfulness app (there are plenty available now) or drop by a mindfulness yoga class. “Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake”— William James *Content is republished with permission from Annabelle Psychology.
“Are you worried about your child’s picky eating?” You are not alone – fussy or picky eating is very common in children. Parents often worry excessively about their child’s appetite, specifically the lack of it, as they are concerned that it would lead to malnourishment. However, even though your child’s appetite can fluctuate a lot, their overall caloric intake day-to-day is actually constant. This means that your child’s growth is usually not affected by picky eating behaviours unless there are certain red flag symptoms or signs. Take heart that most children eventually learn to accept new foods upon repeated exposure. Therefore, parents should try their best and be patient to teach their children good eating habits to help them eat more effectively. If your toddler or child is a picky eater, avoid forcing your child to eat and use positive encouragement instead. How To Tell If My Child Is A Fussy Eater? While there is no standard definition of fussy eating clinically, some children may demonstrate behaviours that indicate a certain degree of pickiness about food. For example: Eating very small food portions Rejecting food Being uncooperative when trying new foods Eating only limited kinds of food Choosing beverages over solid food How Do I Know If My Child Is Growing Well? A typical growth chart for children from birth to 2 years of age (Credit: WHO Child WHO Child Growth Standards) As a general rule, most infants triple their birth weight and increase their birth length by 50% in their first year. From 2 years old till puberty, the average growth rate continues at about 6–8 cm per year for height, and 2 kg per year for weight. A common misconception that parents have about children’s growth is that the 50th percentile on growth charts is the expected normal weight for every child. However, this is not true as the growth of the child is also dependent on genetics apart from nutrition. A picky eater who is growing along the 10th percentile line, but whose parents are small in size, may not be suffering from reduced growth from picky eating, but it could be related to his/her genetic potential. “Do not be overly pre-occupied to get your child to gain weight even if they are not at the 50th percentile.” In fact, only children with growth parameters ≤ 3rd percentile and ≥ 97th percentile will require more detailed assessments. It is also important to not focus on an isolated measurement but look at the growth of the child over time. Why Is My Child A Fussy/Picky Eater? A small number of cases of fussy/picky eaters are due to medical conditions, which would require a proper evaluation before diagnosis. For the majority of such cases, the cause(s) of fussy/picky eating is not always clear and is often related to biological and psycho-social factors. a) Biological factors related to fussy eating Studies have shown that breastfeeding exposes infants to a wider range of food tastes as compared to formula feeding, which helps children to accept new foods subsequently. It is also proposed that there is a genetic predisposition for taste sensitivity, which makes certain children avoid certain foods. The way parents accept food will also affect how the child gets used to new foods. b) Psycho-social factors related to fussy eating Family dynamics, the relationship between parent and child, as well as the child’s personality will all affect how a child eats. Some children refuse food to get the attention of their parents, and this needs to be recognised because it may reveal underlying problems in their relationship. Forcing the child to eat often makes things worse. Children also often want to choose their food as they grow older as a sign of asserting independence. How Can I Get My Fussy Toddler To Eat? 1. Optimise the appetite of your child (a) Serve small, frequent meals and snacks instead of 3 main meals. Try going for healthier options such as cereals, fruits, yoghurt, cheese or a hard-boiled egg between meals. (b) Only give beverages/soups at the end of the meal, to prevent their stomach from becoming too full from the liquids. Avoid giving your child sweet beverages as that can increase satiety as well. (c) Have scheduled meal times. Eating together as a family will be a positive experience as children are naturally inquisitive and might want to eat what everyone else is eating 2. Minimise distractions during meals (a) Seat your child at a table/feeding chair for all meals/snacks so that they are clear on the objective of the meal. (b) Avoid toys and screen time at all mealtimes. 3. Families should eat together for bonding purposes; it would be good to use the opportunity to teach your child about food and good eating habits at the same time. 4. Allow your child to feed and handle his or her own food. Accept the mess and avoid scolding them for it. Be patient. 5. Systematically introduce new food New food should be introduced in small amounts. If your child refuses, offer just 1 bite without forcing. Stop after 3 attempts. Re-introduction can be done after a few days or weeks. Do note that it can take up to 10 exposures before your child fully accepts a new food. 6. Set time limits for meals (a) Start eating within 15 mins from the start of a meal.(b) Each meal should not last longer than 30 mins. 7. Serve age-appropriate food in proper portions e.g. palm size for each item (can increase if the child requests for more) 8. Keep your attitude neutral when feeding your child (a) Do not appear too excited(b) Never appear angry(c) Do not involve rewards or punishments Always remember that every child is unique. While parents may try their very best to get their children to eat, patience will go a long way. Be reassured also that nutritional supplements and appetite stimulants can be considered if your child’s diet is deemed insufficient for his growth, depending on advice from your paediatrician. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
Immunising Your Child Immunisations play an important role in keeping your child protected against various infectious diseases by building your child’s immunity towards preventable infections. Vaccines are most effective when provided at specific recommended intervals. Here are common vaccines for children and the diseases that they protect against: Immunisations taken at recommended intervals provide children with protection against various infectious diseases. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) Vaccine The BCG vaccine protects against tuberculosis (TB), a serious infection which affects the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body. The BCG vaccine is given to infants as has been shown to provide good protection against the prevalence of the disease. The BCG vaccine produces a small raised bump which eventually heals with scarring. Hepatitis B Vaccine Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), which can be life-threatening. The virus is transmitted through contact with an infected person’s blood, bodily fluids, or from mother to the foetus. DTap/IPV/ Hib Vaccine This combination vaccine immunises against the diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, inactivated polio and haemophilus influenzae type B diseases. Diphtheria is a serious disease that usually begins with a sore throat but can escalate into breathing difficulty. It can also damage the heart and nervous system – and in severe cases, can even lead to death. Tetanus is a disease affecting the nervous system that can usually lead to muscle spasms, lockjaw and breathing difficulties. It is caused by neurotoxins produced by bacteria growth through open cuts and wounds. Pertussis or ‘whooping cough’ is a disease that can cause long bouts of coughing and subsequent breathing difficulty. Infants below the age of 1 are at increased risk of whooping cough and are generally hospitalised when diagnosed, as it can lead to death. Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system and can cause lifelong paralysis. Haemophilus Influenzae type B is a bacterial infection that can cause illnesses such as septicaemia (infection of the bloodstream), pneumonia (lung infection) and meningitis (infection of the brain covering and spinal cord). It is a deadly illness if not treated properly. Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine Pneumococcal disease infections are caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium that enters the body and spread to the blood, brain or lungs. In severe cases, it can lead to permanent brain damage or even death. Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) Vaccine Measles can cause fever, cough, runny nose, eye irritation and rashes. It can cause complications including ear infections, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. Mumps can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite and swollen glands. It can cause complications including deafness, meningitis and sterility. Rubella, also known as German measles, causes rashes and fever. If a woman contracts the infection during pregnancy, this could lead to a miscarriage or serious birth defects in the baby. The MMR vaccine may result in a fever 6 days or later after vaccination. Rotavirus Vaccine Rotavirus is a virus that infects the stomach and intestine, causing severe diarrhoea, vomiting and fever in infants and young children. Hospitalisation may be required in some cases due to severe dehydration. Hepatitis A Vaccine Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver that is transmitted through the oral-faecal route, either from person-to- person or via the consumption of contaminated food or water. When infected, one may present symptoms such as fever, prolonged jaundice, headaches and fatigue. Varicella Vaccine Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus which causes blister- like rashes, itchiness, fatigue and fever. Influenza Vaccine Influenza, or the flu, is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalisation and sometimes even death. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine The HPV virus can be passed easily through direct sexual contact, from skin and mucous membranes of an infected person to their partners. The HPV vaccine is intended to protect females against HPV before the first exposure to sexual contact. To know about when each vaccine should be administered, refer to the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
If you are a woman, you will have learned to deal with the inconveniences and discomforts your monthly period brings. While some women experience regular cycles and go through the process smoothly, many women face problems with their periods. To understand what common problems are, it’s important to know what a “normal” cycle is like – even an average cycle varies between individuals. An average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, and anything between 21 and 35 days is considered regular. An average period lasts between 2 to 7 days and the average amount of blood lost during each period is between 30 – 40ml. Some of the common period problems can be categorised into: Irregular Period Cycles Periods are defined as irregular if they occur more frequently than 21 days or less frequently than 35 days, or if they last longer than 8 days. Irregular cycles are often the result of hormonal imbalances which can be caused by: Excessive weight loss or gain (e.g. from eating disorders or illnesses) Increased exercise Increased stress Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) Breastfeeding Asherman’s Syndrome Taking medications such as the birth control pill can also cause lighter periods or amenorrhea (absent periods). Irregular cycles are common especially during adolescence and in the later years as women approach menopause. If your period is irregular, your gynaecologist can scan your pelvic organs and conduct blood tests to check on your hormone levels. They may also suggest hormonal pills to regulate the period cycle or lifestyle modifications to help regulate overall health issues such as weight or stress. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Heavy menstrual bleeding is considered to be 60ml or more in each cycle. Excessive blood loss during a period may be caused by hormonal imbalance, uterine fibroids, polyps, intrauterine device (IUD), pregnancy complications, cancers, bleeding disorders or thyroid disorders. If you have to change your pad or tampon every hour or are passing blood clots during your period, you may be bleeding excessively. To prescribe treatment, your gynaecologist will scan the womb, do a blood test for anaemia, or a possible hormonal evaluation. They may also sample some womb lining tissue for biopsy testing or a hysteroscopy D/C to examine the womb lining further. Depending on the diagnosis, treatment may be in the form of iron tablets, tranexamic acid, hormones, Mirena IUD or surgery. Painful Cramps During menstruation, the walls of the uterus contract faster to encourage shedding of the womb lining. Hence, some women experience cramping during their period, which is expected and normal. However, if you experience severe pain which prevents you from working or functioning without painkillers, you may need to see a gynaecologist. Severely painful periods (dysmenorrhea) may be caused by underlying conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease. In these cases, your gynaecologist could conduct an ultrasound to assess for fibroids or ovarian cysts. They may also screen for any possible pelvic infection or explain various pain relief or hormonal options available. If you think you may have a problem with your periods, make an appointment with our gynaecologists. *Content is republished with permission from SMG Women's Health.
Managing Common Childhood Injuries For most new parents, it is a scary world out there and you always want to protect your children to the best of your abilities. However, while you cannot protect your children from every injury or illness, you can take certain measures to make your home and the outside world safer for your children. The first and easiest thing you can do is to always be prepared by keeping a first aid box with basic dressings and common medications at home in case of injuries and minor accidents. You can easily buy pre-packed first aid kits at pharmacies but you can also prepare one yourself. Important Items Your First Aid Box Should Have Bandages of various sizes Sterile cotton wool and gauze Melonin dressing Steri-strip to bring small cuts on the skin surface together Antiseptic solution Clinical thermometer Clean scissors and forceps Safety pins You could also consider including medicines like paracetamol, flu and diarrhoea medications. If you are not sure about what medications you should include, you should check with your PD. They will also advise you on the correct doses. How to Perform First Aid Treatment for Injuries? Now that you have your first aid kit, it is important to know how to use it. Here is a guide on how to handle common childhood injuries. 1. Abrasions and cuts For simple cuts and abrasions, you can wash and clean the affected area with water and antiseptic solution. Then you can apply a dry dressing. You should change the dressing once every 3-4 days to ensure the wound heals properly. If the cut is large or deep, then you should visit a doctor who will treat the wound according to the severity of the wound. While the initial bleeding may seem scary, applying pressure on the wound with your hands can keep the bleeding in control even for larger wounds. Wash and clean cuts and abrasions with antiseptic solution before applying a dry dressing. 2. Burns and scalds Young children are naturally curious therefore they might try and touch items around them that might not be safe. Some of these items might result in them burning or scalding themselves but there are certain measures you can put in place to ensure this does not happen. Read more on what are the common types of burns in children and precautions you can take to prevent these types of injuries from taking place. Treat superficial burns by immersing in cold water, cleaning with antiseptic then applying a dry dressing. 3. Fractures Children often sustain fractures while they are playing. While the fractured limb may be clearly swollen or injured, there are some situations where your child may just complain about pain in their limbs. Regardless, you should bring your child to see a doctor as the severity of the fracture can only be determined after an X-ray. Keep in mind that you should avoid letting your child eating or drinking anything until they are seen by the doctor as they might need to undergo anaesthesia to get their fracture fixed. Arm fractures in children are commonly sustained from falls or during games. 4. Trapped fingers This usually happens when your children’s fingers are caught in the door hinges or when doors are accidentally closed on their fingers. It also occurs when children try to poke their fingers in household appliances or even sockets. A Steristrip dressing can be done to reposition the wound. In more serious cases, partial or complete finger amputation or severely crushed fingers would require emergency surgery. 5. Pulled elbow This injury is usually caused if there is a sudden pull on your child’s arm, typically when you swing them while playing or grab them to prevent them from falling. Your child will most likely complain of pain and will not use the injured arm. This can be easily fixed by your doctor. 6. Head injury Children usually sustain head injuries if they fall off beds, sofas and chairs or even while they are playing. Fortunately, most head injuries are not severe but it is still recommended to visit your doctor to ensure the injury is not serious as sometimes children may have fractured their skull fractures or sustained internal brain injuries. Some symptoms that indicate your child’s head injury is serious includes drowsiness, vomiting, bleeding from the ears or nose, and if your child is unconscious. 7. Swallowed objects If your child has accidentally swallowed an object, they may complain of throat pain. You should seek medical attention immediately. 8. Inhaled objects It is common for children to accidentally inhale food when they laugh or talk as they eat and if they eat while they are lying down. Furthermore, young children are unable to control their swallowing reflex properly yet. One of the most common food items that are inhaled is nuts. If your child is 3 years and below, you should strictly not allow him/her to eat or play with nuts. If your child inhales objects or food, the item can cause obstruction in their windpipe. Therefore you seek medical attention immediately. If your baby turns blue or becomes unconscious you should immediately call the ambulance. While waiting for medical help to arrive, you should turn your baby prone on your lap and apply 4 back-blows on his/her back in the area between the shoulder blades to dislodge the inhaled object. For older children who turn blue or become unconscious, you can use the Heimlich manoeuvre to dislodge the inhaled object. This can be lifesaving. 9. Accidental poisoning If your child has ingested or is suspected to have swallowed something poisonous, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Do not try to force him into vomiting or attempt a home remedy. If your child is unconscious, immediately call for an ambulance and place him/her on their stomach to prevent him from choking in case he/she starts to vomit. Even if your child does not show any signs of distress, you should still seek medical advice immediately as the effects of the poison may not manifest until much later. If you can, bring the poison your child ingested in its original container to the doctor. Your doctor can use it to check the exact ingredients in the poison your child ingested. 10. Eye injuries If it is a simple injury where particles such as sand or dirt have gotten into your children’s eyes, they can be removed easily by cleaning their eyes with clean tap water. Do not use a cloth to rub their eyes as this may irritate the eye further. If it is a penetrating eye injury or a chemical substance has gotten into your child’s eye, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately. For chemical substances that have gotten into your children’s eyes, the very first thing you should do apart from seeking medical attention is to hold their face upwards and under a running tap for at least 5 minutes. 11. Objects in the ears or nose If there is an object stuck in your child’s ear or nose, do not try to remove it as there is a risk of pushing the object further in instead. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible so that the doctor can remove the object safely. Conclusion When handling common childhood injuries, it is key for parents to be calm and carefully think through the next steps they should take. If you are calm, your child will also be calm. You should administer basic first aid where possible and seek medical attention immediately if the injury is more serious. You should also keep a list of all the emergency numbers for easy reference. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
What is Cow’s Milk Allergy? Cow’s milk allergy or dairy allergy is commonly seen in infants, although it can be observed in children of all ages. It is caused when the immune system has an allergic reaction to the protein found in cow’s milk. Most children will usually outgrow this condition by ages 3 to 5. Is Cow’s Milk Allergy Similar to Lactose Intolerance? Cow’s milk allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance as they both share similar signs and symptoms. Cow’s milk allergy occurs when the immune system has an allergic reaction to the protein found in cow’s milk. Lactose intolerance occurs when the digestive system is incapable of digesting lactose (sugar) in the milk fully. Does My Baby have Cow's Milk Allergy? It is not always easy to tell when a baby has cow’s milk allergy. Infants who are breastfed have a lower risk of developing a milk allergy than those who are formula-fed. Some babies may display an allergic reaction soon after the cow’s milk is introduced, while others may show signs hours or even days later. Symptoms displayed may also vary between individuals, including: Wheezing Shortness of breath Coughing Stomach discomfort Vomiting Diarrhoea Blood in stools Hives Swelling Loss of appetite Irritability (Colicky behaviour, poor sleeping patterns) If you suspect your baby has cow’s milk allergy, it is important to see a paediatrician immediately to test and diagnose their condition. How do I Care for My Baby with Cow’s Milk Allergy? If you are breastfeeding:It is important that you remove cow’s milk and dairy products from your own diet as milk protein can be passed through your breast milk during feeding. You can do this for a trial period to see if your baby’s symptoms improve. Be extra mindful and always check food labels for presence of milk or milk-based ingredients. Your paediatrician may involve a dietitian to advice on diet changes and how to replace nutrients that may be missed when excluding cow’s milk from your baby’s diet. If you are formula-feeding:Your paediatrician may advise you to switch your baby to a hypoallergenic or an extensively hydrolyzed formula as these are usually least likely to trigger an allergic reaction. Do not embark on a dairy-free diet for your baby unless under the advice of your doctor. Can My Baby be Allergic to Other Foods too? Since protein in goat’s and sheep’s milk are similar, there may be a cross-reactivity to these products if your baby has cow’s milk allergy. Hence, it is not recommended to substitute cow’s milk with similar products as your baby could also be allergic to these products. You may wish to consult your paediatrician before introducing possible allergy-inducing such as eggs, nuts, soy, wheat, shellfish and fish to your child. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
Did you know that Breast Cancer is the Number 1 cancer amongst women in Singapore*? While annual mammograms are important especially for ladies over 40 years old, all ladies from the age of 20 should also do a breast self examination. This is highly encouraged as early detection is key when it comes to breast cancer. In this video, we show you the simple steps of how and when to do a breast self check. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HZ-8YbAbl0k" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> *Breast Cancer is the number 1 Cancer amongst women in Singapore, Source: Singapore Cancer Society *Content is republished with permission from The Breast Clinic.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/E0uEybulu7o" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> As Singapore’s #1 Cancer amongst women, many ladies who find a tumour in their breast often ask if all breast lumps are cancerous. Fortunately for most ladies, 80-85% of breast tumours are benign (not cancerous). However, while it may be safe to say there is a large probability that the tumour is not cancerous, ladies who find a lump in their breast should have it checked by a specialist. This is especially important as early detection is key when it comes to breast cancer and should not be hesitated on. Ladies above the age of 40 are recommended to do a breast screening twice a year. Find out more about breast screening here. *Content is republished with permission from The Breast Clinic.
Childhood Obesity in Singapore Childhood obesity has been a rising problem worldwide over the past few decades including Singapore. Ministry of Health of Singapore (MOH) did a study in 2017 and one of the key findings was 13% of children in mainstream schools are overweight. Not all children who are overweight stay overweight even when they are adults. However, childhood obesity is related to being overweight or obesity in adulthood 1. Obesity increases the risk of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, among others. Why Should I Be Worried About My Child’s Weight? Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, early heart diseases, fatty liver diseases and even bone problems. If your child is overweight or obese, they would develop poor sleep habits resulting in them being drowsy during the day and being unable to concentrate at school, affecting their learning abilities. Your child might be bullied in school leading to psychological issues such as low self-esteem, poor body image and depression. Does Overweight = Obese? Being overweight is different from obesity. Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to differentiate between being overweight or obese. As BMI changes with age, using BMI-for-age percentile charts for boys and girls (6-18 years old) is the most useful. The definitions are as follows: ClassificationPercentile on BMI-for-age Chart Acceptable weight: 5th to <90th percentile Overweight: 90th to 97th percentile Severely overweight (obesity): ≥ 97th percentile If your child is obese, you should visit your doctor to check for obesity-related conditions and complications. This is very important especially if risk factors are already present. What Can I Do If My Child Is Overweight or Obese? One of the most common causes of children being overweight or obese is due to overeating and an inactive lifestyle. However, by following these tips, you can make a difference in your child’s future. 1) Choose Food Wisely. It is important to understand and monitor what your child is eating both at school and at home.For example, you should advise your children to opt for foods with less oil or sauces and eat more vegetables and fruits when they are at school. The same should apply for home as well. You can implement this by preparing food with less fat content, incorporating more vegetables in the dishes you make and using less oil/salt in your cooking. 2) Keep to Child-sized Portions. Other than eating the right types of food, ensure that your child is not taking more than 1 serving of food during mealtimes. 3) Encourage Exercise. You should plan regular physical activities that your child enjoys instead of focusing on activities focused on weight loss 2 & 3. Your child should take part in physical activities at least 3 times a week for an hour. Limit screen time. Choose physical activities that your child enjoys and plan a simple schedule with them. You should take part in the activities with your child like going on a walk or going for a swim to show them your support. Losing weight might not be easy, but it can be done. Old habits can be hard to break initially but the key is to take small and consistent steps. Furthermore, you should also provide moral support for your child and constantly encourage them when you see that they are struggling. A good goal to being with is maintaining their current weight or a slow weight loss. This will allow a gradual decrease in BMI for adolescents and children who are obese. Finally, you should work closely with your paediatrician to ensure any weight loss is taking place safely and that your child is still getting the essential nutrients he/she needs. References: 1. Maffeis C, Moghetti P, Grezzani A, Clementi M, Gaudino R, Tato L. Insulin resistance and the persistence of obesity from childhood into adulthood. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87(1):71-6. 2. Baker JL, Farpour-Lambert NJ, Nowicka P, Pietrobelli A, Weiss R. Evaluation of the overweight/obese child–practical tips for the primary health care provider: recommendations from the Childhood Obesity Task Force of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. Obes Facts. 2010;3(2):131-7. 3. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). Management of Obesity. A National Clinical Guideline. 2010 *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
Did you know that Breast cancer is the number 1 cancer amongst ladies in Singapore? According to the National Cancer Centre Singapore, 11232 cases of breast cancer in ladies were reported between 2014 to 2018. Early detection of breast cancer is very important. However, it can be difficult to detect it ourselves as there is no pain or visible lumps during the early stages. This is why it is recommended that all women over 40 go for a breast cancer screening every year. For all ladies aged 50 and above, it is advised that you go for a screening once every two years. At a regular breast cancer screening, you will usually be required to have a mammogram and/or a breast ultrasound scan. A mammogram and breast ultrasound scan would be able to detect the presence of lumps within the breast. Be reassured that getting a mammogram is safe as the radiation from the machine is very low. You can find out more about the various breast cancer screenings here. Check out the video to find out why it is recommended for women to go for an annual breast cancer screening. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bbud-X14sQM" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> *Breast Cancer is the number 1 Cancer amongst women in Singapore, Source: Singapore Cancer Society *Content is republished with permission from The Breast Clinic.
The word cancer strikes fear in everyone and can make you feel powerless. But did you know through BRCA genetic testing, you can find out your risk factor for breast and ovarian cancer? BRCA genetic testing looks out for mutations in the BRCA gene and women with mutated BRCA genes have a higher chance of developing breast cancer. The test is very beneficial as it allows you to understand your risk and it gives you the opportunity to take any actions early before you are diagnosed with breast cancer. Additionally, breast cancers may be genetically linked and thus it is recommended for women who have a very strong history of breast cancer in the family to undergo the BRCA genetic testing. Let us take the chance to identify our risk of breast cancer and prevent ourselves from becoming a victim of cancer! Hear from Dr Anthony Tang (The Breast Clinic) as he shares everything you need to know about BRCA testing, which actually gained a lot of awareness thanks to Angelina Jolie! <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c1uuKpBvzAg" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> *Breast Cancer is the number 1 Cancer amongst women in Singapore, Source: Singapore Cancer Society *Content is republished with permission from The Breast Clinic.
Food Allergies in Children Food allergies are immune system-driven undesired bodily reactions to specific food. Certain food allergies are more likely to be outgrown (such as cow’s milk and eggs), in contrast to certain food allergies (such as nuts or seafood) which are less likely to be outgrown. What Causes Food Allergies in Children? A strong family history of food allergies increases the chance of food allergies in a child, suggesting that there is a genetic component involved. Certain environmental factors may also play a role, including delayed introduction of solid foods into the child’s diet. This is why the introduction of foods, including so-called “allergenic” foods like eggs and peanuts, should not be delayed beyond 4 to 6 months of age. How Do I Know If My Child Has A Food Allergy? When there is a true food allergy, your child may experience the following symptoms very quickly (within 30 minutes) after consuming the culprit food: Wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness Sudden bad coughing or a ‘lump in throat’ sensation Hives (also known as urticaria) Itchy rashes around the mouth area Swelling of the eye/lip/tongue Sudden vomiting with abdominal pain and/or diarrhoea However, it is important for parents to note that the most common cause of acute vomiting with abdominal pain is still food poisoning or acute gastroenteritis. Sudden nasal symptoms (itchy nose, sneezing or blocked nose) Diagnosing & Treating Food Allergies Managing Food Allergies in Children Preventing Food & Other Allergies in Children Introducing Solid Foods and Watching for Allergic Reactions The introduction of solid foods usually begins from 4 to 6 months of age but this varies from child to child, depending on their developmental readiness. Your baby may be ready for solid foods when he or she: Is able to sit up Has sufficient head and neck control Loses the tongue-thrust reflex that pushes food back out Tries to reach out to grab food Timing of certain foods should also be considered when introducing solid foods to your baby. Try introducing these single ingredient infant foods to your baby one at a time, every 3 to 5 days: Rice or oat cereal Yellow and orange vegetables (sweet potato, squash and carrots) Fruits (apples, pears and bananas) Green vegetables Age-appropriate stage-based foods with meats This slow process can give you the chance to identify and eliminate any food that may cause an allergic reaction. Do note that certain acidic foods (e.g. berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits and vegetables) may cause rashes around the mouth but this is commonly due to irritation from the acid in the food and not from an allergic reaction to the specific food. You may read more on Weaning Your Baby onto Solids. Should I Introduce Highly Allergenic Solid Foods to my Baby? Highly allergenic foods can be introduced to your baby between 4 and 6 months of age, just as you would introduce any other solid foods. Highly allergenic foods that you can feed your baby include: Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt or cow’s milk protein formula (not whole cow’s milk to drink due to nutrition reasons not related to allergies) Eggs Soy Wheat Peanuts and tree nuts in a form of butter or paste (not whole peanuts or tree nuts due to choking risk) Fish and shellfish You may want to be cautious when introducing your baby to highly allergenic solid foods. One safe way to do this is to introduce the first tastes at home rather than at day care or a restaurant. You should introduce highly allergenic foods to your baby after other solid foods have been fed and tolerated, and with the first taste being at home. If no reaction occurs, then you can gradually increase the amount at a rate of 1 new food every 3 to 5 days. You should to talk to your baby’s paediatrician before introducing a highly allergenic food for the following situations: If your infant has had an allergic reaction to a food or has a known food allergy If you think your infant has a food allergy If your infant has persistent, moderate to severe atopic dermatitis despite recommended treatment If your infant’s sibling has a peanut allergy If your infant has positive blood tests or skin prick tests to food(s). Some infants will develop food allergies regardless. Thus, if there is an allergic reaction to any food, that food should be stopped and you should seek advice from your child’s paediatrician. Your child’s paediatrician may refer him/her a paediatric allergist/immunologist for further evaluation, depending on the clinical situation. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
What is Autism? Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition present from early childhood. Autistic individuals may face challenges in socialising and interacting with others, display repetitive behaviour, and have difficulty with expressing verbal and non-verbal communication.Early diagnosis, treatment and proper support is important to helping individuals with autism thrive and overcome their challenges to reach their full developmental potential. What Causes Autism? Although the main cause of autism remains uncertain, child experts believe genetics are a main contributing factor in the development of autism. While there is no conclusive scientific evidence, researchers suspect there is a link between an abnormal gene and an individual becoming more prone to developing autism when combined with certain conditions such as chemical imbalance, viruses or chemical exposure, or a lack of oxygen at birth. Despite many concerns in the medical community regarding mercury-containing vaccines resulting in the development of autism, numerous studies have failed to establish a link between autism and MMR vaccine or other vaccines. Therefore, it is important to ensure that children receive their childhood vaccinations regularly to prevent serious diseases that can be life-threatening. Does My Child have Autism? Signs of autistic behaviour in children typically appear between 2 – 3 years of age. In some cases, autism disorders can be diagnosed as early as 15 to 18 months. Symptoms of autism in young children include: Spoken language: Delay in speech development (e.g. speaking less than 50 different words by 2 years of age) or no speech at all Frequent repetition of the same set of words Preference for communicating using single words despite being able to string sentences together Responding to others: Not responding when their name is called despite having normal hearing Rejecting affectionate gestures like hugs initiated by a parent or caregiver (although children may initiate hugs themselves) Reacting negatively when asked to do something by others Interaction with others: Unaware of other’s personal space, or displaying intolerance when another person enters their personal space Uninterested in interacting with others, including children of a similar age Prefers to play alone Avoiding eye contact Behaviour: Displays repetitive movements (e.g. flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, flicking their fingers) Prefers to adhere to a familiar routine and gets very upset if there is a change to the routine How Do I Care for a Child with Autism? If your child has autism, the best solution is to seek help and start treatment immediately. Do not wait and hope that your child will eventually catch up to his or her peers or outgrow the problem. The earlier your child receives treatment, the greater the success rate. Early intervention is the most effective way to help your child reach their development potential and manage the symptoms of autism as they grow up. 1. Learn about autism If you are well-equipped in your knowledge on autism and autism spectrum disorders, you can make better informed decisions and participate in your child’s treatment. 2. Become an expert on your child Monitor your child’s behaviour closely and observe what triggers disruptive behaviour and what evokes a positive response. If you understand your child’s challenges well, you can help prevent, change or handle situations that affect them. 3. Accept your child Instead of focusing on how your child is different from other children, practicing acceptance is key. Feeling a parent’s unconditional love and acceptance will help your child immensely. Enjoy time spent with your child, celebrate small successes of learning or improvement, and do not compare your child to others. 4. Do not give up Find help and support. It is important to remember that individuals with autism may spend an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities. Caring for an autistic child requires plenty of energy, time and patience. Parents may often feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Therefore, it is crucial that parents ensure their health and well-being are taken care of. Take breaks when necessary and seek channels where families with autistic children can join to get advice, help and support. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
What is Asthma? Asthma is a respiratory condition in which the airway narrows and swells, and produces extra mucus which makes breathing difficult. This can result in wheezing, experiencing shortness of breath and even chest tightness. A severe asthma attack can be life-threatening. What Causes Asthma? Asthma sufferers have inflamed bronchial tubes that are highly sensitive. Exposure to allergens can provoke an asthma attack. However, triggers vary among individuals and may not cause symptoms immediately after exposure, making it difficult to track. It is important for parents and caregivers to keep a record of possible asthma triggers. Asthma can be triggered by: Allergens (e.g. dust mites, cockroach, pollen, mould, pet dander or rodents) Airborne irritants (e.g. air pollution, smoke, strong fumes) Respiratory illnesses (e.g. common colds) Exercise (e.g. increased physical activity) Climate (e.g. dry wind, cold air) Medicine (e.g. NSAIDs, beta blockers) Strong emotions or stress Food preservatives or enhancers Other medical conditions (e.g. gastroesophageal reflux disease) Does My Child have Asthma? Asthma symptoms can vary among individuals and appear differently at different times (e.g it may occur infrequently or mildly one time and severe during the next) Signs of asthma include: Shortness of breath Chest tightness or pain Wheezing or whistling sound when exhaling Difficulty sleeping Frequent coughing, especially at night How Do I Care for an Asthmatic Child? If your child’s asthma is managed well and under control, they can likely continue with daily activities without any symptoms getting in the way. While your child’s doctor plays an important role in prescribing the required medication, the parent’s role is equally important. Parents play a critical role in observing and finding out possible asthma triggers, keeping a record of their child’s asthma and providing the proper care. These are essential to ensuring your child stays well and reduces the chances of an asthma attack until your next doctor’s appointment. 1. Learn about asthma medicines Understand what are preventer and reliever inhalers, and when and why your child requires them. Ease any concerns you may have about your child’s asthma medicines so you are more equipped and confident in administering the medication to your child in the event of an attack. 2. Cultivate good habits Integrate the usage of inhalers into your child’s daily routine to ensure they do not forget to use their medicine. Ensure the reliever inhaler is always with your child and that it can be administered if an attack occurs. 3. Check your child’s inhaler technique regularly If the inhaler is used correctly, your child will receive the optimum benefit from the treatment, recover faster and be less prone to the condition recurring. 4. Spot your child’s asthma triggers Using the inhaler as your doctor has prescribed helps reduce airway sensitivity and inflammation. Preventive measures typically help relieve these problems and allow your child to carry on with their daily activities. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
What is ADHD? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children. Children with ADHD are hyperactive, unable to control their impulses or have problems staying focused. ADHD is more commonly seen in boys than girls and can interfere with their daily life by affecting a child’s ability to learn. This can result in a lower self-esteem and problems socialising with others. What Causes ADHD? While conclusive research has not been done to fully understand the causes of ADHD, child experts believe there are several factors which contribute to the development of the condition. Research has suggested that ADHD may be hereditary. A child is at higher risk of ADHD if both parents and a sibling have been previously diagnosed with ADHD. However, the role of genetics in ADHD is thought to be complex rather than due to a single faulty gene. Studies have also shown there are several differences in the brains of ADHD individuals as compared to those who do not have the condition. Some studies have identified that in children with ADHD, certain areas of the brain appear to be smaller, the brain matures at a slower rate, and there may be chemical imbalances in the brain as compared to children who do not have the condition. Other possible causes of ADHD might be attributed to: Consumption of alcohol, smoking or abusing drugs during pregnancy Premature birth Low birth weight Brain damage either in the womb of first few years of life Exposure to high levels of toxic lead Does My Child have ADHD? ADHD is generally characterised by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The extent of ADHD depends on the predominating symptoms presented. More often than not, children with inattentive symptoms are easily overlooked as they may not display disruptive behaviour. The most commonly detected form of ADHD are in children presenting all three symptoms.Signs of inattentiveness in children with ADHD: Easily distracted, have problems staying focused Have difficulty completing a given task Appears uninterested or does not listen when spoken to Have difficulty recalling or following instructions Signs of hyperactivity in children with ADHD: Constantly fidgeting Have trouble staying still or playing quietly May talk excessively May have a quick temper Signs of impulsivity in children with ADHD: Acting without thinking Interrupts other people’s conversations or activities Unable to control their emotions, resulting in tantrums or outbursts 7 Tips on Caring for a Child with ADHD Organise a schedule at homeEstablish a timetable with specific times for each daily activity (waking up, meal time, play time, study time, sleeping). Explain the changes in routine to your child beforehand and make sure he or she understands the schedule. Set up rulesGive clear and short rules – and make sure to explain the rules to your child clearly. Your child must also understand the consequence of breaking rules – punishments should be carried out firmly and consistently if rules are broken. Be positiveTell your child what you expect from them. Instead of blaming your child for making mistakes, praise and reward them regularly for every good behaviour observed. Make sure your child understands your instructionsEnsure your child is paying attention and establishing eye contact with you. Give simple and short instructions in a clear and calm voice, and ask your child to repeat the instructions back to you. Give one instruction at a time and praise your child when they are able to accomplish the task successfully. Be consistentAlways deliver what you have promised. Follow through with punishments if your child has broken a rule, or a reward for good behaviour carried out. Make sure your child is not left aloneChildren with ADHD can be impulsive and require constant supervision as compared to other children. Accept your childInstead of focusing on how your child is different from other children, practicing acceptance is key. Feeling a parent’s unconditional love and acceptance will help your child immensely. Enjoy time spent with your child, celebrate small successes of learning or improvement, and do not compare your child to others. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
How Do I know if My Child Has Abdominal/Stomach Pain? Abdominal or stomach pain is a very common medical symptom in childhood. The pain could be acute or recurrent in nature. It may be associated with other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite etc, depending on the cause of the pain. What Causes Abdominal/Stomach Pain in Children? There are many possible causes of abdominal pain. It may arise from gastrointestinal causes or non-gastrointestinal causes (e.g. urinary tract, gynaecological system in girls and many other medical/surgical causes). Common causes include constipation, infant colic, gastroenteritis, food poisoning and urinary tract infection. However, some children could be suffering from more serious conditions such as acute appendicitis or intestinal obstruction, which will need medical attention urgently. Your child’s doctor will need to take a history and perform a physical examination in order to diagnose the cause of the stomach pain. Sometimes urine/blood tests, X- rays or other scans may be required to help with diagnosis. Consult Your Child's Doctor Early When: Any of the symptoms in your child, e.g. stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhoea, becomes worse within 12 – 24 hours Your child’s stomach pain becomes localised (e.g. in the right lower abdomen, as in the case of acute appendicitis) Your child’s stomach pain is severe, constant or lasts for more than 1 hour Your child’s abdomen becomes painful to touch Your child’s abdomen becomes distended Your child is unable to pass motion or gas There is fresh blood in your child’s urine, stools, or vomitus Your child’s vomit is greenish in colour Your child’s stools becomes black, sticky, and foul smelling Your child is having difficulty passing urine or has pain on passing urine Your child keeps vomiting and is unable to retain any oral fluids Your child is lethargic and appears unwell Your child is having fever Your child appears breathless or off-colour *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
1. 0 – 12 months: Breastmilk and/or Formula Milk, with introduction to solids as per advice below. 2. 4 – 6 months: Can introduce solids when your child is about 4 – 6 months. Typical first solids include runny smooth puree textures like thin smooth white or brown rice iron-fortified baby cereal (see image below) 3. 6 – 7 months: As your child gets better with his/her spoon-feeding skills on runny textures, you can start to thicken the puree by adding less water to it. Examples of thick smooth puree textures (see image below) include: Thick white/brown rice iron-fortified baby cereal Thick smooth pureed apples, pears, bananas, papayas, pumpkins, spinach, potatoes Thick smooth yoghurt Thick smooth custard 4. 7 – 8 months: Once your child is coping with smooth puree, the next goal is to increase the texture of the puree. Your child’s puree can now contain little lumps. Examples of thick lumpy puree textures (see image below) include: Thick lumpy porridge with lumps of mashed meat and vegetables Lumpy mashed apples, pears, bananas, papayas, mangoes, avocados, kiwis, pumpkins, spinach, potatoes, carrots, broccoli Lumpy mashed fish, chicken, pork 5. 7 – 8 months: At this stage, you can also introduce your child to cup drinking for fluids. You can start out with just sips of water or milk, and make it fun. It is expected that the fluid will spill and it will be messy initially. However, practicing it repeatedly will allow your child to perfect his/her cup drinking skills. You can: Use an open cup or cut-out cup (not a sippy or spouted cup) Offer small and single sips with jaw support 6. 8 – 10 months: We want your child to practise chewing harder textured foods at this age too. You can start off by giving your child some hard meltable solids (solids which soften with saliva) to chew on, while making sure that they are not choking hazards. Some examples include: Baby bites Star puffs Round milk biscuits Yoghurt melts 7. 8 – 10 months: Besides a cup, you can also offer a straw for fluids at this age. This will equip your child with another useful skill for drinking. You can: Start off with a short and thin straw Offer small and single sips 8. 8 – 10 months: As your child’s chewing skills improve, he/she should be able to handle soft food cut into small pieces during mealtimes. You can start to include soft textured foods in his/her diet in all food groups, such as: Soft apples, pears, bananas, papayas, mangoes, avocados, kiwis, pumpkins, spinach, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cheese Soft fish, chicken, pork, nuggets Soft bread Softly cooked pasta, rice, noddles, macaroni Well-cooked scrambled eggs You can continue to offer the cup or straw for drinking. 9. 11 – 12 months: As your child continues to practise chewing soft textured foods, you can now start to introduce more regular adult food in his/her diet. Soon, your child will be able to eat the foods that you are eating.
Finding out you are pregnant is exciting news, but actually going through pregnancy can be quite a rollercoaster experience for many ladies. The first few weeks of your pregnancy is a vital time as your body gets busy growing your baby. During this period, you may start to feel overwhelmed as you are getting used to the many changes your body undergoes. Understanding your pregnancy trimester by trimester will help you be more prepared for these changes as you learn to manage them and ensure your growing baby thrives inside the womb. In this article, Dr Tho from the Astra Women’s Specialist Clinic in Jurong will be sharing more on what changes you can expect and how to manage the symptoms in your first trimester. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RpdMQdrbJik" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> What is the First Trimester? Your first trimester is calculated from the first day of your last period and lasts till the end of Week 12. Most women will discover their pregnancy around 5-6 weeks into the first trimester. You can read more on the first signs of pregnancy here. What Changes Can Mums-to-be Expect in the First Trimester? In the first trimester, your body undergoes many changes and while some may seem quite scary, these changes are your body’s way of preparing you for the arrival of your baby. It is important to note every lady’s pregnancy journey is unique so you might not experience the same symptoms as someone else. Regardless, these are some of the more common pregnancy symptoms: You are going to feel more tired and sleepy. Your appetite will change and may become quite unpredictable. You will find yourself passing urine more. You might be passing motion less, but if you can pass motion once in two days, it is normal. Your tummy will feel bloated most of the time. You might experience some period-like cramps but as long as you do not experience severe cramps, it is not a cause for concern. If you notice any bleeding, you should inform your doctor. You might experience mood swings. Post-natal depression is more widely talked about but it is quite common to experience some of these symptoms during pregnancy. How Can I Manage My First Trimester Symptoms? If you are a bit overwhelmed or scared by all the symptoms, fret not as there are things you can do to manage the symptoms! Here is what Dr Tho recommends: Take things slowly and get more rest. Avoid engaging in strenuous sports but non-strenuous sports like yoga and swimming are acceptable. Eat small portions every two to three hours and ensure you eat slowly. After eating, it is recommended that you go for a short and relaxed walk to allow some of the air to be passed out. If you are struggling to pass motion, you should consume one to two servings of fruits daily. What Should I Avoid During My First Trimester? The good news is that for a majority of the time, you can actually continue with most of your pre-pregnancy life. There are not many strict rules (other than avoiding alcohol and smoking) on what you should not do during your pregnancy! However, the health and safety of your growing baby is the priority which is why Dr Tho advises ladies to avoid these five things during the first trimester: Avoid any medication unless it is prescribed to you and be sure to let your doctor know you are pregnant. Avoid alcohol throughout the whole pregnancy. Avoid smoking and being around cigarette smoke throughout the whole pregnancy. Reduce the consumption of drinks that contain caffeine like coffee/tea to only once a day. Avoid traditional medicine in the first trimester but it is advisable to always consult your doctor before consuming any medication. What Antenatal Tests are Required in the First Trimester? Antenatal tests are vital as they ensure both you and your baby stay healthy. Even if your pregnancy is going well, it is crucial for you to attend your appointments regularly to ensure potential risks can be identified, prevented or reduced. Some of the antenatal tests you can expect in the first-trimester include testing for anaemia, checking on your Hepatitis B and rubella status as well as testing for the presence of thalassemia. The screening for Down syndrome will also be done. Down syndrome is a genetic condition and there are 2 tests that can be done to assess the risk level for your baby. OSCAR Test This involves taking the mother’s blood to assess the baby’s enzymes or hormones to calculate the risk of Down syndrome and is about 90% accurate. Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) This is a direct assessment of the DNA of the baby in maternal blood and is about 99% accurate. If you want more information on what antenatal tests you can expect in your first trimester you can read this article. Conclusion There aren’t many hard and fast rules about what not to do during your pregnancy, beyond abstaining from alcohol, smoking and of course, drugs. For the most part, you can live most of your pre-pregnancy life. But because the health and safety of your growing baby is essential, here’s a list of 11 things to avoid while pregnant. While the many changes your body undergoes during your first trimester might be scary, they also signal the beginning of a new and exciting journey. If at any time you are worried or are unsure about any symptoms you might be facing, you can always talk to your doctor and they will be there to guide and support you throughout your pregnancy. *Content is republished with permission from SMG Women's Health.
LGBTQ+ is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning or Queer. Here are some (more or less) agreed definitions: LGBTQ+ and Psychotherapy Many in the LGBTQ+ community have had unpleasant experiences with psychotherapy. Some have felt the effects of subconscious bias against their gender identity and sexual orientation, while others have unfortunately been subject to Sexual Re-orientation Therapy (sometimes called Conversation Therapy), despite criticisms and mounting evidence of its harmful effects. Many organisations and establishments have stepped up to denounce Conversion Therapy. The American Psychological Association has found that: “...there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation” and “...the American Psychological Association advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder…” But whatever your orientation, we share a common humanity.Therapy should and must draw from values of love, respect and acceptance. And that is what we firmly believe in. Our psychologists appreciate and respect the differences in gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, as well as how they make up the individuality and identity of each member of the LGBTQ+ community. We strive to provide psychotherapy that’s centred on our values while adhering to the standards and best practices recommended by the APA and AHPRA, and keeping abreast of with established scientific evidence on providing psychotherapy taking into account sexual orientation and sexuality. References: https://www.apa.org/about/policy/sexual-orientation https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-55326461 https://www.glaad.org/conversiontherapy?response_type=embed *Content is republished with permission from Annabelle Psychology.
What is Colic? All babies cry, usually due to hunger, cold, tiredness or having a soiled diaper – however this crying is usually resolved if their needs are met. In some circumstances, despite being well-cared for and fed, there are still repetitive episodes of excessive crying, which may indicate that your child has colic. Colic is an outbreak of uncontrollable and inconsolable crying, accompanied by what appears to be an abdominal pain in babies.Although it is characterised by very frequent crying, colic is not a dangerous condition. However, it can be stressful and upsetting for parents dealing with a colicky baby. It is important to note that colic is a common temporary phase which will eventually resolve. Colic episodes are typically most intense in infants around 6 weeks old, and will improve between 3 and 4 months. What Causes Colic? It is not known what exactly causes colic. Researchers have explored various possibilities including allergies, lactose intolerance, digestive system issues, anxiety from parents and feeding or comforting methods. However, there are not been any conclusive cause as to why some babies suffer from colic while others do not. Read more: Tips to Care for your Baby’s Needs (0-6 months) Does My Child have Colic? Some symptoms of colic include: Intense and furious crying which is inconsolable Crying episodes may occur at a similar time every day and last from a few minutes to a few hours Irregular sleeping patterns that can be interrupted by crying episodes Feeding that can be interrupted by crying episodes Your baby’s posture is tensed up with knees drawn up towards the chest, fists clenched and back arched If you notice any change in your baby’s general behaviour including eating habits or sleeping patterns that concern you, seek medical advice. How do I Care for a Colicky Baby? Colicky babies will respond differently to various ways of comforting. The following methods may help calm your baby down: Swaddle your baby properly Sit your baby upright during feeding to reduce ingestion of air Adopt a feeding pattern with frequent small feeds For breastfeeding mothers, reducing their intake of tea, coffee, spices, dairy products, wheat or nuts may improve the baby’s condition Use a pacifier Ensuring bottle teats are of the appropriate size for your baby to prevent extra ingestion of air Ensure your baby is burped after every feed Comfort your baby in a quiet and dimly lit environment Keep your baby in a gentle swaying motion Give your baby a warm bath or gentle massage Get additional help when you require *Content is republished with permission from Kid's Clinic.
Why do children fall sick easily? The body constitution of children are delicate as their organs and immune system have not yet fully developed, making them more vulnerable to diseases. Furthermore, children who do not practise regular meal times and snack between meals are more susceptible to digestive illnesses. Frequent illnesses impede proper absorption of nutrients, which could eventually lead to poor health and growth. What is Paediatric Tuina? Paediatric tuina is the combination of a variety of safe, non-invasive therapeutic methods to bring about treatment, growth, and prevention of diseases in children. Techniques used include: Gentle strokes Kneading Rubbing Acupressure These techniques can help to promote blood and ‘qi’ circulation in the body, as well as to regulate organ functions, achieve pain relief, and improve general health and well-being. Here are some examples: What is it used for？ Predominantly done for children between the ages of 6 months – 7 years old, paediatric tuina can be used for the following conditions: Why Paediatric Tuina? Paediatric tuina might be more readily accepted by children as it does not involve bitter medication or injections. It is an external massage done by physicians to stimulate meridians and/or acupoints to bring about changes in the child’s body, essentially boosting the child’s immune system to fight their own diseases. Tuina is more effective for children because their acupoints are more pronounced than adults, making it easier to stimulate the meridians through acupressure. As we age, other types of treatment methods such as acupuncture would then be needed to bring about similar effects. Additionally, special unique meridians and acupoints can be found in the child’s hand, thus allowing for the efficacy of paediatric tuina. Regular tuina (1-2 times a week) can help to boost the child’s immune system, leading to better growth and healthier children. How is it done? Before treatment is done, the physician would have to diagnose your child’s illness before customising a treatment method for your child. Typically, paediatric tuina starts from the palms of the hands, the upper limbs, head, body, and then to the lower limbs. Different illnesses will require different treatment methods, hence do not be surprised when your child receives a different combination of tuina techniques from another child. Each treatment lasts around 15-30 minutes depending on condition, age and cooperation of the child. Note: Paediatric Tuina cannot be used to replace Western Medicine especially in emergency cases such as contagious diseases. However, during the recovery phase, paediatric tuina can be administered to aid in recovery. Common tuina massages to do at home For locating where the acupoints are, do use your child’s fingers to measure. To improve digestive system Massage Zu San Li ST36 足三里穴 for 1 minute– Four fingers below the knee cap, one thumb spacing away from the tibia – Two thumb spacing from the navel For runny nose or blocked nose Massage Ying Xiang LI20 迎香穴 for 3 minutes– At the outermost point of the nostril, along the nasolabial groove – At the depression point of the temple To boost immune system Starting from the bottom of the spine, grab folds of skin on both sides of the spine and roll upwards towards the top of the spine. Do this for 5 times daily. Article by Physician Sheryl Tay Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM.
Socializing is something we sometimes take for granted. But with age, many older adults have a lack of social interactions. This need for socializing is often overlooked despite its immense effects on one's mental and physical health. Image Source: Unsplash, James Hose Jr Going out with friends and talking to your work colleagues are things we all take for granted. But as you age and reach retirement age, you might miss all these human interactions as your social circle becomes smaller or in some cases non-existent. Changes such as retirement, a shrinking social circle and other social changes can affect both your mental and physical health. Lockdowns were an eye-opening experience for people of all ages showing them how a lack of human interaction can affect one’s mental health. Some have even questioned their sanity after being isolated for so long! But living in this state is already the norm for countless elderly people. Mental health of older adults About 20% of all adults aged over 60 suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. The most common disorders in people over 60 are dementia and depression. Anxiety disorders also affect a considerable percentage of this age group. The problem with tackling mental health issues in older adults is that there’s a stigma surrounding these issues which makes elderly people less likely to seek help. To add to all this, mental health issues in older adults are under-diagnosed by health professionals since their symptoms such as a change in activity levels or mood are already associated with aging. Health importance of maintaining a healthy social life Maintaining a healthy social life can have numerous health benefits. Older adults with a strong social life have a lower risk of depression along with a longer lifespan. As you age, it’s important that your brain remains active. Meeting people and having human interactions at an old age can help your brain stay active and slow cognitive decline. One study suggested that older adults above 60 who visited friends daily were 12% less likely to get dementia compared to those that visited friends once or twice every few months. While meeting family is essential to maintaining a healthy social life, meeting friends seems to have the most effect when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia. Loneliness and isolation have been linked to many conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. Staying social as you age When you get older, the way by which you meet new people changes. If you’re younger, you get to meet new people at social activities, educational institutions or work. But when you get older and move around less you need to know where to look. Try volunteering or finding a hobby you enjoy. Whatever you try out, the point is to socialize and keep your mind active and engaged. Exercising in groups can also come with many health benefits. Some older adults really want to socialize but social barriers can prevent them from doing so. Barriers include medical conditions that make moving around harder, transportation, costs related to social activities or even depression. So if you want to help out a close loved one then look out for any barriers and encourage a healthy social life! References: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults https://www.healthline.com/health-news/staying-social-as-a-senior
The birth of a child is an incredibly life-changing period for mothers. During this transformative period, it can be immensely exciting as it is exhausting to all mothers. So many changes around you. All of a sudden your life revolves around your little one, you devote your priorities, accommodate your sleep schedule, and take on new responsibilities as a mother for your baby. And of course, your sex life will inadvertently change too. Image Source: Blue Planet Studio If you're a new mother, you might be scared of resuming sexual activity. After all, you just popped a baby out of you! Pregnancy causes your body to undergo bodily and hormonal changes, and that can stifle a woman's desire to have sex. Considering the post-partum recovering period, it probably would have been a long time you engaged in the act too. Getting back in the sheets might not be the easiest, but with time and patience, it's definitely possible! Here are four of the best post-partum sex positions you can try with your partner, that may help the both of you to ease back into your sex life! Woman-on-top Performing any position that involves you being on top such as the cow-girl or the reverse missionary, gives you control over the insertion, depth speed and clitoral stimulation, This allows you comfortably go at your own pace, and ease back into activity without fear of pain or over-sensitivity From-behind Being on top may sometimes be exhausting, especially when you’re experiencing postpartum fatigue and soreness. Any position where your partner is behind can help you take a break from it! Some include doggy-style, the happy scissors, bent over a counter, the frisky flip. However, it is important to take note that if you have perineum tearing, these positions may cause discomfort. Spooning A closely intimate position like spooning can help the two focus on each other rather than the sex itself. This is especially if you feel self-conscious by the changes to your body right after pregnancy. Penetration is also shallow too, allowing your partner to take it easier on your vagina. Missionary Lastly, the old but reliable position, the missionary, is a safe bet you can try for postpartum love-making. Its face-to-face position is incredibly intimate and allows for clitoral rubbing. This can allow you to achieve orgasms with normal-depth penetration. The Bottom Line No matter what position you choose, trying to get back in the sheets with your partner is a healthy step to take right after the postpartum recovery period. With a new life to take care of and motherly responsibilities, this period can be overwhelming. So take it at your own pace! Don’t feel guilty about blocking a part of your schedule for some intimate time. This will not only be fun, but essential in forging an intimate bond with your partner. References: https://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1063564/best-sex-positions-after-having-a-baby/
If you’re a new mother or a mother-to-be, one of your worries of motherhood may be how your sex life may be affected by pregnancy. Is it going to hurt? Will it be awkward? Do I even remember how to do it? Pregnancy can cause most women to undergo a lot of hormonal and physical changes. The most common issues women face may include, vaginal dryness, loss of vagina elasticity, low libido and soreness. Image Source: Shutterstock, Bangkok Click Studio This is why doctors recommend most couples to wait 4-6 weeks after pregnancy before sexual activity can resume once again. If this does worry you enough, you may have heard stories of how the hustle and bustle of parenting have led to the extinction of several couple’s sex life, or perhaps how pregnancy may ‘loosen’ the vagina, making sex less pleasurable. However, when a small survey was conducted on whether lovemaking was less or more enjoyable after pregnancy, 60% of those surveyed said that postpartum sex was in fact, more enjoyable and had new vitality. You might be probably wondering how, so we’ll dive into some of the reasons why! Improved CommunicationAn important factor to achieve passionate and enjoyable love-making is communication. Pregnancy can be an incredibly transformative period for many couples. If a couple is developing deeper bonds and growing closer during pregnancy, increased compassion for each other can easily lead to an increase in sexual desire and mutual satisfaction. The Long Wait During Pregnancy During pregnancy, fewer couples indulge in sex, especially during the third trimester where sex can be painful. Furthermore, right after pregnancy, a couple takes a recovery period before they can start love-making again. Having not had sex for a long period of time can increase sexual desire between the two, potentially making sex more pleasurable once the doctor deems its safe to do so. Physical & Hormonal Changes Postpartum will cause mothers to feel different. Certain physical changes may discourage the enjoyability of sexual intercourse, but there are some aspects that can enhance your sexual experience. According to a clinical sexologist Kat Van Kirk, some studies show that ‘nerve compression from the trauma of birth may increase a woman’s orgasmic sensitivity positively’. She also points out that if you do kegel exercises, post-partum, things may increase your vaginal muscle control, increasing the intensity of orgasms. Furthermore, the spike of growth hormones during pregnancy may increase the number of nerve endings in your clitoris, leading to more frequent orgasms. Motherhood and pregnancy may be a daunting phase to get by, but taking the right steps and worrying less can help make it an enjoyable period too! Postpartum recovery is important so make sure you consult your doctor first before getting it on once again. All in all, you can check sex off your list of worries, reassured your sex life will resume to normal, and may even better! References:https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/sex-after-birth https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a19984427/better-sex-after-baby/ https://www.hindustantimes.com/sex-and-relationships/experts-explain-how-your-sex-life-really-improves-after-a-baby/story-YzaQBEqTuCtnDJzkfbI5EI.html
There are many claims surrounding vaginal looseness but are any of these claims medically accurate? Image Source: Shutterstock, metamorworks A ‘loose’ vagina has been a term used to shame women for their sex lives. And if you think about it, it doesn’t make sense at all, since it’s not used to shame someone who has lots of sex with a partner, but instead someone who has many sex partners. But is the term ‘loose vagina’ medically accurate to begin with? Can a vagina actually end up being more "loose" and if so what can cause it to get loose? Perhaps you would naturally think of childbirth, but is this actually true? Today, we'll cover everything from whether your vagina can change in some cases and whether these changes are permanent or have any lasting effects on your lifestyle. A brief look into what makes up your vagina Before we answer the main question, let's look into what makes up your vagina and keeps its form and shape. Your vagina is an elastic muscular canal that's so elastic it can handle stretching to make way for a baby's head before strapping back to its original shape! Pelvic floor muscles keep your uterus, cervix and vagina in place. Can you experience changes in vaginal tightness? Since the vagina is basically a muscle, it can change its shape and form. When you're aroused, your vagina relaxes to facilitate penetration but when you're no longer aroused, it goes back to its original state. Your vaginal canal is very elastic so sex shouldn't change much since your vagina will probably strap back to its original state when you're done. However, giving birth can lower vaginal tightness although the change isn't that drastic. If a baby is popping out of your vagina it makes sense that your vagina might not return to its original state but these changes aren't that big. Your vagina might also lose a bit of its elasticity after a few births but it's nothing to worry about. Any looseness should go away after a few days of giving birth. Looseness is usually temporary. The vagina is a muscle so it's normal to degrade and change with age. Starting from your 40s, your vagina becomes less elastic, drier and thinner when you experience a drop in estrogen. Another possible reason behind losing elasticity is having weak pelvic floor muscles which hold your vagina and other reproductive parts in place. What you can do Childbirth and ageing can cause minor vaginal tightness change so it's nothing to fear. Weak pelvic floor muscles can also cause a feeling of vaginal looseness. Try Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. If you feel like your looseness is affecting your life in any way then make sure you consult a doctor. References: https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/loose-vagina
Contributed by: Dr Wendy Sinnathamby We do understand that teaching your child to practice good hygiene habits isn’t a walk in the park. In this article, Dr Wendy will be sharing more on how you can teach your children the importance of maintaining good hygiene. Hands are the parts of bodies that have the most contact with everything, from other people to objects in our everyday life, to even our bodies! As adults, we often touch our faces many times a day without realising it, what’s more for children. In this current COVID-19 period, where hygiene is of utmost importance to protect ourselves against the coronavirus and prevent the spread of disease, the simple act of washing our hands with soap and water has become a critical personal hygiene practice for adults and children alike. When buying soaps or handwashes, many people tend to reach for products labelled “antibacterial” thinking that it would be more efficacious in getting rid of bacteria than a regular handwash. But are antibacterial soaps really better than regular soaps? We ask a paediatrician from Kids Clinic, Dr Wendy Sinnathamby some common questions on antibacterial handwashes that people ask these days. 1. Do Antibacterial and Regular Handwashes Kill Germs? Both antibacterial and regular handwashes do not actually “kill” the various disease-carrying germs but help to remove them from our skin. 2. Be Positive and Realistic. The molecules in handwashes are made up of two ends- one end that “likes” water (hydrophilic end) and the other end that “likes” oil (hydrophobic end). Our hands tend to have an oily layer which germs stick to. When we clean our hands with handwash and water, the handwash binds with both the oily layer and water. This helps to rinse off the oily layer on our hands that contains germs, be it bacteria or viruses. Working up a lather when washing with handwash and water allows for more effective cleaning as friction helps to lift up the germ-containing oils better. 3. How are Antibacterial Handwashes Different From Regular Handwashes? Antibacterial handwashes contain active antimicrobial ingredients that are specifically intended to prevent bacteria from multiplying on our skin, thus reducing the bacteria on our skin. There is, however, a concern that long-term use of these types of handwashes can result in side-effects in the long run since many other household cleaning agents contain similar chemicals. Furthermore, overuse of antibacterial handwashes may result in increased resistant bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics. 4. Which is Better: Antibacterial Handwash or Regular Handwash? Any type of handwash can remove germs from our hands as long as it is used properly. There is currently insufficient evidence to prove that antibacterial handwash is better than regular handwash. In a nutshell, washing hands with soap (either antibacterial or regular) and water is the best way to remove germs, and thus lower the chances of us or our children getting sick and preventing the spread of germs to others. Therefore, it is important as parents, to instil this habit of washing hands regularly in our children. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
Good hand hygiene habits have always been important as they prevent the spread of germs and reduce the risk of falling sick. With the current COVID-19 situation, the importance of hygiene cannot be further emphasised. Simply washing hands with soap and water has become a crucial personal hygiene practice for adults and children to protect against the coronavirus and prevent the spread of disease. While adults are able to easily adopt these practices, children require more time to understand why such practices are important. In this article, Dr Wendy Sinnathamby shares some fun ways you can teach your children about good hand hygiene. However, before you start talking to your children about the importance of good hand hygiene, you should first talk to them about what is currently happening in Singapore and around the world. While it might be tricky to broach the topic of Covid-19, Dr Wendy shares a few tips on how to navigate this new territory. Talking to Your Children About Covid-19 (Source: www.who.int & www.cdc.gov) 1. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Covid-19Your children have probably heard about the coronavirus at school. Now that there have been stricter measures implemented in Singapore, it is good for you to take this opportunity to have a chat with your children about what is actually going on. 2. Be Developmentally AppropriateIt can be quite overwhelming for children to be bombarded with a lot of facts, some of which they might not even understand. You should keep the information you give them simple, and leave more room for questions instead. Here’s a quick guide: You can check out this video by The Socially Distanced Dad on how you can talk to preschoolers about Covid-19! 3. Let Them Share Their FearsYou should encourage your children to share what they are feeling. This is a new and uncertain situation for all of us, including children. It is important for you to hear their fears and worries, and do your best to comfort them. 4. Focus on How They Can Stay SafeIn addition to listening to the fears your children might have, you can also share with them how they can help to fight the virus by practising good hygiene. This way, your child feels empowered and in control instead of feeling scared. 5. Follow a RoutineNow that schools have closed, it is important to still have some structure to your child’s day. You can work together with your child to create a daily routine that is both fun and productive. 6. Remain CalmIn these uncertain times, it is normal for you to be a bit anxious. If you feel the anxiety creeping up, take some time to calm down before answering your child’s questions. Teach Them About Hygiene In a Fun & Interactive Way You should teach your children good hygiene practices yourself. Apart from just talking to them and instructing them, you can reinforce this by showing them an age-appropriate video clip. You could also read a storybook that is about good hygiene practices with them. In addition, visual demonstrations are always helpful to show children why washing hands with soap and water is important. Here are a few fun experiments you can do with your child to emphasise the need for good hygiene practices. The Glitter Experiment This is a simple yet effective method to show young children why rinsing our hands with just water is not sufficient to remove germs. It is important to use soap too and this is how you can show this: Step 1: Add glitter to a large bowl of water. Step 2: Then let your children play around with the bowl of water for a while. Step 3: When they are done playing, get your children to imagine the glitter on their hands is actually germs. Step 4: After which, get your child to wash his/her hands with water and ask them to observe if the glitter comes off or not. Step 5: When the glitter does not come off, ask your child to try washing his/her hands with soap for 20 seconds and see what happens. They will definitely be surprised by the difference and hence be able to better understand the importance of washing their hands with soap. The Flour Experiment Flour is a great alternative if you are not a huge fan of glitter (it can be a pain to clean!). Step 1: For this method, you will need to spread some flour on a plate and ask your children to place their hands on the plate firmly. Step 2: Once again, you can ask them to imagine the flour is actually germs. Step 3: Then ask them to bring you a couple of their favourite toys and let them play with the toys for a while. They would need to do this without washing their hands! Step 4: After a few minutes, ask them to take a look at the toys to see how much flour is on them. Step 5: One other demonstration you can do is to gather some flour in your hands and blow on it. Tell your kids to imagine that you just sneezed. You can then get them to observe all the surfaces that now have flour on them. Both these methods are a great way to visually demonstrate how easily germs can spread if we do not wash our hands after sneezing/coughing and using the toilet. The Black Pepper Experiment (Source: Coffee Cups and Crayons) A third way to teach your children about germs is this fun and interactive experiment. This method emphasizes the importance of using soap to wash your hands. Step 1: For this experiment, you would need to fill up a large bowl with water about ¾ of the way. Step 2: When adding pepper to the water, ensure the pepper is still visible but does not fully cover the water. The experiment works best when there is less pepper. Step 3: Then you would need to prepare 2 more bowls- one with water and another with some soap and water. Step 4: Now is the fun part! Get your child to dip one hand into the bowl with just water and then subsequently dip that hand into the pepper bowl and remove their hand after a few seconds. Step 5: Then, you can ask them to dip their other hand into the bowl of soapy water and into the pepper bowl. Your children will be amazed at what happens next. The pepper will “run away” from their soapy hand. This is when you can explain the pepper represents germs and the way the pepper “runs away” from the soapy hand shows how soap actually removes germs from our hands. You can visit Our Little Play Nest to find out how they conducted this experiment (and for other educational game ideas). Now that you know how you can teach your child about hygiene, here are some tips on what you should teach them about. a) Start with the Basics Ensure your child is washing their hands multiple times a day for at least 20 seconds. You can get them to sing the Alphabet song or any nursery rhymes that last about 20 seconds! b) Reminders to Practise Key Habits Teach your child to sneeze or cough into a tissue. They should also use a tissue to blow their nose. Remind them to discard the used tissue into the waste bin immediately rather than leaving it lying around. If there are no tissues available, teach your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow so that their hands are not contaminated. This will also stop the spray of droplets into the air. Always ask your child if they have washed their hands before/after eating and after using the toilet. Point out to them whenever they touch their eyes, face, nose and mouth, and remind them why they shouldn’t be doing it. c) Extra Precautions to Take in Public Spaces Your children should cultivate the habit of washing or sanitising their hands when they have touched any surfaces in public Encourage them not to lean against walls, escalators in public and to refrain from touching surfaces in public where possible. Teach them to keep a distance from others in public. You can also explain the concept of social distancing to them and the reason why we are doing it. Discourage touching each other, shaking hands or embracing for now. Avoid enclosed areas. Take your child to parks and encourage running around playing games like “catching” or playing with own toys and bikes, ball etc brought from home instead of playing on the structures in public playgrounds. d) Additional Steps to Take Beyond Hygiene Encourage healthy sleep habits and a regular exercise routine. Encourage a well-balanced diet and consumption of good volumes of water. Most importantly, be a good role model and lead by example! Ensure you follow the same practices stated above as children often watch and learn from their parents. *Content is republished with permission from Kids Clinic.
Fetal kicks are one of the most exciting stages in pregnancy. But this sensation can go on for years after giving birth. Here's why they happen. Image Source: Shutterstock, Africa Studio Fetal kicks are one of the most reassuring stages of pregnancy. Unlike a swollen belly, nausea and other pregnancy symptoms, fetal kicks are that stage where you truly get to connect with your baby and make sure that they're alive and well. Surprisingly, you can still feel a sensation similar to your baby kicking and moving around on the inside for months or even years after giving birth. Phantom kicks are when you feel these baby kicks except there's no baby inside you! Some women experience this sensation long after birth or loss of birth. Although not much research has been done on phantom kicks, according to an online survey done on 197 women, 40% of the surveyed women said they experienced phantom kicks. On average, the women felt phantom kicks for 6.8 years after birth One woman reported feeling them for 28 years! Why do they happen? Although phantom kicks are a widely experienced phenomenon, there’s still no definitive explanation regarding why they happen. However, one possible explanation relates to the fact that as the uterus grows during pregnancy, it’s nerve receptors also increase in growth. Feeling phantom kicks after pregnancy could be due to these nerves firing. A similar situation to phantom kicks is when amputees feel their limbs even after they were removed. It’s like your baby was once a part of you and your brain for some reason still perceives it as if it’s there. Another explanation regarding phantom kicks is that they’re simply gastrointestinal or digestive movements. With all the changes going on in your body while recovering from pregnancy, it’s normal to have heightened awareness. This may cause you to focus too much on otherwise normal feelings such as gases or digestive movements. Are phantom kicks normal? Phantom kicks usually shouldn’t be a cause of concern but they could affect your postpartum mental health. Not everyone feels the same about phantom kicks. They could make you feel nostalgic but for others, phantom kicks don’t come with such pleasant emotions. A stillbirth is a saddening and heartbreaking experience. And while some mothers might be trying to recover from these experiences, phantom kicks can disrupt this process by aggravating symptoms of anxiety. If you feel like your phantom kicks aren’t normal or they’re affecting your mental health then book an appointment with your doctor. References: https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/healthy-mom/phantom-baby-kicks-are-real-and-this-is-why-they-happen
Take a moment and think about female orgasms. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, you are not alone! This is just one of the many female health topics still shrouded in stigma and taboo. Ladies often have many questions about their sexual wellness but might not be sure where they should begin and just the mere thought of female orgasms probably opens up a wealth of questions. In reality, the female orgasm is not complicated once you understand it but unfortunately there are many misconceptions. Therefore, we hand-picked a few common myths for our doctors, Dr Ida Ismail-Pratt and Dr Lim Min Yu, to debunk and share with you. Before we dive into the various myths surrounding female orgasms, we should define what an orgasm actually is. An orgasm is a feeling of intense pleasure that happens during sexual activity. This feeling is usually accompanied by rhythmic contractions of the genital muscles. During an orgasm, your heart rate will increase, and your brain will release hormones that make you feel happy and content. Now that you know what an orgasm is, here are 5 of the most common myths. 1. There is only 1 type of female orgasm. Rather than talking about types of orgasm, we should instead reshape the conversation to the different ways an orgasm can be achieved. There are many different parts of the body which are sensitive to stimulation as they have lots of nerve endings. Stimulating the following areas can result in orgasm: Clitoris Vagina Cervix Nipples Anus Often, it is a combination of these different areas being stimulated that result in an orgasm. It is also important to note that there are erogenous zones specific to each lady. 2. Good sex means you and your partner both have had an orgasm. Having an orgasm is an incredible sensation, but it should not be the singular goal of sex. Having sex can still be a satisfying and relaxing experience regardless of whether it results in orgasms. Sex is not just about pleasure but also about connection between you and your partner. Orgasms can just be seen as a lovely byproduct. 3. You need an orgasm to get pregnant. This is true for the male. He needs to ejaculate, which is part of the male orgasm, in order for the lady to become pregnant. However, for ladies, it is not a requirement for you to have an orgasm to fall pregnant. However, there are plenty of good reasons to have an orgasm! An orgasm is fun, pleasurable, and an excellent stress buster. However, if you become fixated on having an orgasm, both you and your partner may feel under pressure. This can lead to you having difficulty achieving orgasm, adding frustration to your babymaking. The best way to improve your chances of orgasm during sex is to try and enjoy intimate time with your partner. No goals, no pressured-orgasms, no guilt. If you have an orgasm, that is great but if not, it is okay, too. 4. Everyone orgasms so there is something wrong with me if I do not orgasm. If you cannot or do not orgasm, the most important thing to know is that there is nothing wrong with you. You are no less capable of having a healthy and full sex life. There is a small group of women who are unable to achieve an orgasm and this can be caused by the following factors: Medications such as antidepressants A history of trauma Changes that occur at different life stages (for example menopause, weight loss or gain, stress at work, etc.) Unknown reasons (frustratingly) The good news is that there are things you can do to try and make having an orgasm easier. The first step is to ask yourself some questions and do some homework to figure out what works for you. We all have our own individual quirks, preferences, and abilities in the bedroom, and that’s more than okay. As long as the sex you’re having is consensual and safe, you are doing it right. 5. Orgasms feel the same to everyone. This common misconception is perpetuated by TV shows and movies. They tend to set unrealistic expectations for orgasms, especially in women. The psychological experience of an orgasm can vary, depending on factors such as how aroused or excited you are, whether there are any distractions, or how much pressure you feel to reach orgasm. Even though the same thing is happening to your body physically, the way it feels can be different based on all these factors. Orgasms aren’t always “fireworks” amazing: it might be something as ordinary as, “oh that felt nice”. The experience differs from lady to lady so when you compare notes with your girlfriends, keep this in mind! No two bodies are the same. There’s no shame in discussing female sexual wellness. By debunking some of these common myths, Dr Ida and Dr Lim hope to have made it easier to discuss female sexual wellness. There’s no reason for female orgasms to be considered a taboo topic as they can bring a lot of pleasure into your life! The one key message our doctors hope all ladies remember is that sex is not just about having orgasms and it is perfectly normal not to achieve one. Not all orgasms are the same. It is unrealistic to expect any type of stimulation to elicit the same experience every time. Orgasms are just one of the many important elements of sexual satisfaction. If you have any concerns, you can make an appointment with your gynae, who will be able to help you determine if there is a problem, and if so, what can be done to help. *Content is republished with permission from SMG Women's Health.
Cooking may seem like a daunting task especially if you're a busy person. Choosing takeout over home-cooked food on a busy day is a no brainer for some. However, there are still many reasons to choose home-cooked food over takeouts. Image Source: Shutterstock, Makistock Ordering an effortless tasty takeout after a long tiring day is a no brainer for some. Well, that’s until you read your takeout meal's ridiculously high-calorie content. One can no longer shamelessly gobble up a 1000 calorie meal without feeling any guilt. But besides the guilt, here’s why home cooking beats takeout on almost every aspect. The cooking experience is unmatched Dining at your favourite restaurant or ordering takeout may be great but have you tried making cooking fun? Not everyone enjoys cooking but if done right, it’s a fun and satisfying experience. You’ll soon know why people use cooking as therapy. Cooking can help you de-stress along with giving you a sense of fulfilment after finally cooking a delicious meal. With the busy lives some of us lead, bonding with your loved one or partner over-preparing food is a memorable experience. You know yourself better than anyone No matter where you order from, no one can know your exact preferences. With home cooking, you can cook your food the way you like it. This takes personalization to the next level. It may be hard at first especially if you haven’t honed your cooking skills yet. Home cooking doesn’t have to be bland and boring. There’s no turning back once you can get creative and make what’s on your mind just by imagining all the flavours. Home cooking is healthier Takeout meals are usually dense in calories. A single takeout meal can easily cross the 1000 calorie line which is about half your daily recommended calorie intake. Cooking on your own also means you get to control your portion size which means you probably won't overeat. One study found that people who cook tend to have a healthier diet. Home-cooked food is also more likely to be nutritionally balanced while takeaways can lack certain food groups like fish, vegetables and dairy depending on what you order. You can save time Cooking doesn't have to take long. In fact, it might actually save you some time. There are certain foods that only find their way into our plates because they're convenient. But what if home-cooked food can be convenient too? The internet is full of fast and convenient recipes. A quick and simple nutritious meal can take less time to prepare than waiting for an order. Leftovers can also help you get through busy days when you can't cook! If you’re stuck between cooking at home or ordering takeout and you view home cooking as a chore then you’ll probably pick a takeout since it’s more convenient. Stop looking at cooking like it’s a chore. Cooking can be fast, enjoyable and convenient if you want it to! Sources: https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/get-cooking-at-home
Out of all the things you could do to improve your baby's health, can cleaning your baby's pacifier using your saliva really boost your child's immune system? Image Source: Shutterstock, Boontoom Sae-Kor What should you do when your baby drops their pacifier? You might look for the safe option which includes boiling or sanitizing it. Or maybe you’ll just pick it up and rub off any dust before handing it back to your baby. Surprisingly, popping your baby’s pacifier into your mouth to clean it can improve your baby's immune system according to a study. As disgusting as it may seem to some, your saliva can boost your baby’s immune system after using this rather peculiar pacifier cleaning technique that some parents use. The study noted that parental sucking on a child’s pacifier can reduce their risk of developing allergies. Healthy or friendly oral bacteria from a parent’s saliva may be responsible for strengthening a baby’s immune system. It’s suggested that these transferred harmless bacteria stimulate the immune system. This study adds to increasing evidence that exposure to microbes early in life can affect your baby's future health. Some studies have also shown that children who attended daycare or grew up on a farm were less likely to develop immune-mediated illnesses. From the moment a child passes through the birth canal, they’re exposed to different types of microbes. This exposure develops their immune system and acts like training. Over-sanitizing and whether you should lick your baby’s pacifier Sanitizing everything in sight has become the norm. Many are finally aware of the importance of good hygiene. There's no doubt that sanitizing has saved us from countless diseases. But in certain cases, over-sanitizing may be an issue. Even then you shouldn't be shoving your baby's pacifier into the dirt for no reason although a quick lick to clean their pacifier may be beneficial. Microbes such as bacteria have a bad reputation although some bacteria are actually good for your health. If you're over-sanitizing you'll kill both the good and bad bacteria. Making your child live in a completely sterile environment is going to do them more harm than good which is why targeted hygiene is usually enough. Targeted hygiene involves protecting yourself from harmful microbes while keeping some exposure to the good microbes around us. Sources: https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20181116/do-you-clean-your-babys-pacifier-with-your-mouth
For new mummies who are experiencing mastitis, Dr Anthony Tang from The Breast Clinic shares important tips to make your breastfeeding journey an easier one in this article. What is Mastitis Even before ladies give birth, there are many changes that occur in their breasts. A lot more milk is produced in the lobules of the breasts, which lead towards milk ducts and finally the nipple.Sometimes, these milk ducts can get blocked by oily secretions, causing the milk produced in the lobules to get stuck and it cannot come out through the nipple. If these blockages are not relieved and continue to fester, the milk that is stuck inside can start to get infected, resulting in the start of mastitis. Signs and Symptoms of Mastitis I. Mild One of the earliest symptoms of mastitis is that certain areas of the breast start to feel a little bit hard and if you press on it, it might be a little painful as well. II. Moderate As mastitis gets worse, the skin over the particular area becomes red and fever may develop. III. Severe If it progresses even further, an abscess will form in the breast. An abscess is similar to a big pimple in appearance. One area of your breast might feel a bit soft and fluctuant, as though there is some liquid behind it. This is often accompanied by fever and your breast area feeling quite tender. How is Mastitis Treated The treatment varies depending on which stage of mastitis you are in. If you see the doctor when your symptoms are still mild to moderate e.g. when no abscess has formed yet, then you would probably just require antibiotics. If an abscess has already formed, then it might need to be aspirated. This means that the pus within it will be drained using a fine needle. Sometimes, a small surgery needs to be done to drain the pus. These treatments are typically performed by breast specialists. Tips to Manage Mastitis at Home Since the cause of mastitis is the blockage of milk ducts, there are measures you can take to relieve this blockage in the early stages of mastitis. I. Continue breastfeeding It is important for mummies to continue breastfeeding. Furthermore, you should try to breastfeed in multiple positions as this tends to release different ducts. II. Apply a warm compress before breastfeeding You can also apply a warm compress over the breast about 5 mins before breastfeeding. This warmth helps to dissolve the oily secretion that is in the duct and might help to restore the flow of milk. Why See a Breast Specialist for Mastitis It is pertinent to see a breast specialist if you observe redness, pain or discomfort in your breasts especially during or after pregnancy. This is because the symptoms might be due to another condition known as inflammatory breast cancer. In this condition, the breast becomes quite red, with a lump underneath. As the symptoms for mastitis and inflammatory breast cancer can be pretty similar, it is important to visit a specialist who will be able to distinguish between the two conditions. Hence, it is advisable to get the issue accurately diagnosed and properly treated by a specialist, especially when it happens for the first time. To all mummies out there, do try to continue to breastfeed. If you have difficulties, whether it is pain, congestion or infection, see a suitable specialist to help you through this particular episode, so that you can continue that special bond with your child through breastfeeding. *Content is republished with permission from SMG Women's Health.
A mother's diet is one of the most important determinants of a baby's health during or even after pregnancy. Here are some surprising diet facts that may affect your baby during and after pregnancy. Image Source: Shutterstock, Anna Om Pregnancy is a sensitive stage where your baby needs to grow in optimal conditions with the right amounts of nutrients for healthy growth and development. During this stage, a mother’s nutrition can have long-term effects on her baby's health. Here are 4 surprising diet facts that can affect your baby's health during or even well after pregnancy. Fact #1: A vegan diet can impede your baby’s development Strict vegan diets are usually lacking in certain nutrients including iron, vitamin B12, calcium and omega-3. During pregnancy, you’ll need a higher than normal intake for some of these nutrients so your vegan diet might give you a hard time meeting your pregnancy needs. That being said, a carefully planned vegan diet is perfectly safe and can give you the right amounts of these nutrients although you might need some supplementation. A dietician can help you go through your diet plan to see if it has sufficient levels of certain nutrients. Fact #2: Folic acid can help reduce certain birth defects Taking folic acid supplements is vital during pregnancy since it reduces the chance of your baby getting a neural tube defect (brain and spine defects) which may lead to paralysis or intellectual disability. Another nutrient that can help reduce the chances of neural tube defects is vitamin B12. Make sure you’re taking the right amounts of these nutrients by consulting a doctor. Folic acid supplements are usually recommended before conception and throughout pregnancy. Fact #3: Obesity can increase your baby’s risk of having certain health issues The dangers of obesity are well-known to most people. But did you know that obesity can put your baby at risk of many health problems including those with life-long effects? Obesity is associated with an increased risk of a bunch of complications including miscarriages, preterm birth, still birth, a larger than normal baby and birth defects such heart and neural tube defects. Babies born with more fat have an increased chance of becoming obese in the future. One study even suggested that children born to obese parents may be at risk of experiencing developmental delays! Fact #4: Craving for non-food items can harm your baby. During pregnancy, some women develop an eating disorder called pica in which they get a craving for non-food items like clay, dirt or even soap! Eating these non-food items can be dangerous for both you and your baby so make sure you notify your doctor immediately if you experience these cravings. You probably don't want poisoning, digestive issues or an infection lingering around while pregnant Sources: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-obesity/art-20044409 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470702/
Growing up in Singapore, most of us obediently abided by quirky beliefs from our mommy dearest that have been passed down for generations. From “Girl ah. You’re coughing, don’t eat chicken.” to “Aiyo, your body so heaty. Come drink Liang Teh.”. How much truth do these old wives’ tales carry? Our physicians weigh in! #1 “Don’t eat dark soya sauce when you have chickenpox/wound. Later got scar.” MYTH. Eating dark soya sauce after chickenpox or injury does not darken scars. Scars are a result of scratching which impedes recovery and increases the risk of infection. To avoid scarring, the best thing is to leave the wound alone and don’t scratch it! -TCM Physician Sheryl Tay #2 Mom every day: “Come drink Liang Teh/ Chrysanthemum Tea/ Barley. It’s good for you.” IT DEPENDS. There’s no need to drink liang teh all the time if you’re not suffering from any prolonged heatiness due to body constitution. Even when there is an underlying issue, get it checked by a certified TCM Physician who can better advise you! In fact, prolonged consumption of liang teh might have adverse effects if it’s not suitable for you. -TCM Physician Ardy Quek #3 “You coughing. Cannot eat chicken!” TRUTH IF… you’re suffering from a “heaty cough”. Chicken is a heaty food. If you have a heaty cough (with symptoms such as yellowish sputum, sore throat and/or constipation), then the consumption of chicken will not be recommended as it could increase your heatiness, worsening the cough. HOWEVER… there are many types of coughs like wind-cold, phlegm-cold, phlegm-heat, yin deficiency, the list goes on. Skip the self-diagnosis and consult a TCM Physician instead! -TCM Physician Sheryl Tay #4 “Don’t keep drinking lemon/lime juice. Later gastric.” NOT REALLY. There is little scientific evidence proving that lemon/lime juices lead to gastric unless an individual already has an underlying stomach issue. That being said, excessive intake of low pH (acidic) juices can lead to various health concerns. The acidity due to high ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) in limes and lemons can dissolve tooth enamel and damage stomach linings which leads to a higher risk of stomach ulceration. Excessive intake can also worsen acid reflux symptoms. Like most food and drinks, consume it in moderation! – TCM Physician Oh Xu Xuan #5 “Cannot drink beer after eating durian! Will die one.” MYTH. You probably won’t die unless you eat an awful lot of them or is allergic to either. HOWEVER… Durian and alcohol both have a high amount of fat and sugar. Eating both in excessive amounts require your body to work harder to metabolise them, causing body temperature to spike, higher inflammatory states, and gas when you overtax your digestive and liver system which causes bloating and indigestion. Although there is no scientific evidence showing that the consumption of durian with alcohol will lead to death, for the sake of your health, it is recommended not to take them together. – TCM Physician Victoria Tan Do you also have a quirky belief from your family you have not quite figured out its legitimacy? Let us know in the comments section below! Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM.
A child's breastfeeding period is a crucial developmental stage. A mother's habits during pregnancy can affect a child's future health. But can breastfeeding shape your child's future food preferences? Image Source: Shutterstock, Nitikan T Pregnancy and breastfeeding are two stages where your baby is essentially living off the nutrients you consume. This is why many mothers make sure they make health-conscious decisions during these crucial stages in a baby’s development. Recently, more studies are linking certain aspects of maternal health and a mother’s lifestyle to a child's overall health and their susceptibility to developing certain conditions in the future. One of these aspects is whether a mother’s diet affects her child’s future food preferences and consequently their nutrition. Did you know that your baby can taste some of the flavours you take in during breastfeeding? One example of such flavours is garlic which can be tasted by your baby in breast milk. Surprisingly, this can affect your child’s food preferences. How breastfeeding shapes a child’s dietary patterns The importance of these food preferences becomes evident as your child begins to wean off your breast milk and solid foods are slowly introduced into their diets. By nature, infants are inclined to lean towards sugary foods and to dislike sour and bitter foods. This is why convincing a child to eat their vegetables can sometimes seem hard unless they're used to eating vegetables. Children naturally gravitate towards foods they’re familiar with. If a mother eats certain foods while breastfeeding, her child will be more likely to eat and accept that food since they’ve already been exposed to the taste in breast milk. Exposure to a wide variety of flavours (foods eaten by the mother) can be beneficial when introducing solid foods as your child will be more open to a diverse range of foods. On the other hand, formula milk doesn’t offer this exposure to a wide variety of flavours. This is why breastfed children are less likely to be picky eaters compared to formula-fed children during their later childhood. Exposure encourages adventure Exposure to a wide variety of flavours means more familiarity when your child finally tries them as solid foods. One study showed that children who were breastfed for longer periods of time had an intake of a greater variety of healthy foods and vegetables in their later childhood. This supports the theory that exposure to a variety of flavours during breastfeeding positively affects food preferences. One possible link with obesity is that formula-fed children are less inclined to eat healthy foods than breastfed children since they weren’t exposed to different flavours early on. If you’re hoping for your child to have adventurous and healthy taste buds in the future, consider exposing them to healthy foods as babies through your breastmilk! References: https://www.nestlenutrition-institute.org/docs/default-source/global-dcoument-library/publications/secured/does-breastfeeding-shape-food.pdf?sfvrsn=42bc8eec_0 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28903109/#
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” While mothers are highly concerned about the diet of their children, they often neglect their own nutritional needs in the name of time, convenience, and sometimes beauty. Yet, a mother’s diet plays an essential role in her own wellness as well as that of her child. Even if you have had a child already, these tips are good to bear in mind for your next child or for your girlfriends and family members who are moms-to-be! What to Eat During Pregnancy Many moms may have heard of the “first 1000 days of pregnancy” nutrition concept. These 1000 days begins during pregnancy, as your baby is depending on you for all his/her nutritional needs, till when your child hits the age of 2. Some of the essential nutrients required during pregnancy will include folic acid, iron, calcium, protein, Vitamin C and fibre. First Trimester Foods In the first trimester, folic acid is an important element that should be consumed as it helps to prevent neural and spinal cord defects (neuro-tube defects) in the baby. In fact, all women planning to have a baby or in the first trimester of pregnancy should have a daily intake of folic acid amounting to 5 to 8 mg per day. This can help to make the mother and pregnancy to be healthy throughout the pregnancy. Apart from taking the folate in supplements or tablets, one can also consume food sources rich in folate, which include leafy green vegetables, fortified or enriched cereals, breads, beans, and citrus fruits.Vitamin A is also useful in helping mums to stay healthy and fight off infections during pregnancy. For those who suffer from morning sickness, ginger is a great natural option to reduce nausea symptoms. There are now preparations made from ginger oil which can decrease nausea and vomiting in the first trimester of pregnancy. Second Trimester Foods In the second trimester, mothers will require more calcium as the baby’s bones and the whole skeletal system is getting bigger. Calcium can be found in our daily food products including red meat, eggs, seafood like prawns, fish and dairy products. Vitamin D is also an important element that helps your body with calcium absorption. Natural source of Vit D can be obtained when your body is exposed to the sun and the recommended duration is 20 to 25 mins per day. Other sources include fatty fish like Salmon, tuna, and eel. Expectant women also require more iron to produce more red blood cells as there is a relative blood dilution effect when there is more water retention in the blood circulation producing a relative anaemia in the mother, which can make the mother more easily fatigued and an increased risk of infections. Dietary sources of iron alone are often insufficient during pregnancy, hence most pregnant women are given supplements to increase their iron intake. Consuming a source of Vitamin C together with iron-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish or iron-fortified cereal can also aid in the absorption of iron. Third Trimester Foods In the third trimester, Vitamin C is a helpful nutrient to help protect cells against damage due to its anti-oxidant effect. Thiamine can give you an energy boost as it functions by releasing energy from food – definitely helpful in the third trimester as you feel more fatigued. Water and fibre also play an increasingly important role as they help to prevent constipation, a common issue faced by pregnant women in their last trimester. A higher amount of protein is also required during pregnancy, as this is necessary for the ever-developing baby in the womb. What to Eat after Pregnancy In the immediate post-delivery period, most mothers in Asian cultures will observe a confinement period varying from culture to culture. The aim of the confinement period is to allow the mother to recover from childbirth. Depending on cultural beliefs, certain confinement foods have been recommended to help the new mother to boost their immunity and regain their strength. These include dishes with “heaty” ingredients such as tonics brewed with herbs, pig trotters in ginger and vinegar, and papaya fish soup which is believed to increase breast milk supply. Foods which are “cooling” are often avoided, such as cold drinks, cucumber, pineapple, sugarcane, etc. as these are considered to prolong the recovery. Pregnancy, coupled with breastfeeding, often drains the mother of calcium. Thus, it is important for women to continue including calcium-rich food in their diet. This can help to reduce the effect of osteoporosis which occurs after childbirth and breastfeeding. While many young mothers are concerned with weight loss after pregnancy and may tend to avoid certain food groups to lose weight, it is still important to take in the right type and amount of nutritious foods. Of course, it is helpful for mothers to limit their intake of refined sugars e.g. sweet beverages or food. Exercise is also an important component in the recovery of the body to increase the stamina of the mother to take care of an ever-growing baby and also help to slim down the body. Exercises must be done wisely so as not to injure the body when it is not ready. So be mindful of the body as it will pass messages to you to how much you can exercise. Do not overdo it. Remember! A well balanced and wholesome diet will help you in the long run. Wellness is not the end goal of a short sprint, but a life-long journey that can be achieved with the right frame of mind and education. *Content is republished with permission from SMG Women's Health.
As your child grows up and finally says goodbye, it can be hard to accept this new reality. But now that they've grown, your relationship will now have a different dynamic as you cope with your empty nest syndrome. Image Source: Shutterstock, Christin Lola After spending years of blood, tears and sweat preparing your children to face the world, waving goodbye as they set off to become independent adults can bring about a lot of mixed emotions. You're happy to see them succeed, to know that you have successfully completed your roles as nurturers and guides. But as their footsteps fade in the distance, a gust of cold wind fills your empty home and you're left wondering - what is going to fill that void they left behind? The peace you were once wishing for is now filled with the grief and loneliness that’s associated with becoming an “empty nester” (a parent whose children have moved out). Who would have thought that you’d miss all the hustle and bustle of parenting that you once complained endlessly about? Empty nest syndrome Empty nest syndrome isn’t a medical condition but it’s what many parents go through after the departure of their grown-up children. It’s a transition that shows that your children occupied a huge portion of your life. From kids running around the house, to all the banter and arguments you had with your children. It can be hard to appreciate all the noise and precious moments they made in the midst of all the busy schedules and parenting stress. Missing a household that was once full of life can cause empty nesters to experience depression, grief and even feeling a loss of purpose. Empty nesters can also spend hours overthinking and living in fear that something may happen to their child or that they may not be able to handle living alone. It may take some time before you're done with this transitional phase. But finding something to fill that emptiness can make things a lot easier. A lost sense of purpose Whether you like it or not, your life may have revolved around your children just like countless other mothers. Whether you’re a full-time mother or not, it’s only natural for a mother to have her kids on her mind. In efforts of raising your children to the best of their abilities, it is normal for mothers to leave their past life and passions behind, spending their parenting years focused solely on providing the best care for their children. Inadvertently, mothers slowly start living vicariously through their children. Their successes and accolades become your greatest joys, and their faults and downfalls your deepest shame. But when your whole sense of purpose is taken from you as your children grow out of needing you, coping with all this emptiness can be difficult. You suddenly get an urge to scramble and discover yourself but you might find literally no hobbies or interests since you never had the time to think about such things. But there's just so many things you can do that you're bound to find something to fill your time with! Your new role as a parent Rediscovering your role as a parent is a crucial part of this transitional phase. Your role won't be the same so avoid things like checking in too much and worrying excessively about your son or daughter so make sure you give them some space. However, you should definitely connect regularly. No matter how much they grow, they'll still need you as a mother! They'll still look to you for advice or even emotional support. You'll still be their safe haven whenever life hits them hard! Connect regularly using video calls, regular calls or social media and maintain a close but not too intrusive relationship. If possible, you can even invite them for dinner every once in a while. A visit can really brighten up your day! You'll still hold your "parent" title but it's important to realize that you're now dealing with an adult. However, this shouldn't stop you from showering your son or daughter with love and telling them about how much you miss them! Make sure you talk to a mental health professional if you feel like your empty nest syndrome is getting out of hand. References: https://www.readbrightly.com/mom-mean-now-theyre-grown/ https://grownandflown.com/children-grown-what-is-my-purpose/
Being a new mother can be hard especially if you're still young. Along with the challenges of childbirth, depression is surprisingly common among new mothers. But what does this influx of feelings even mean and what should you do if it gets out of hand? Image Source: Shutterstock, Pixel-Shot Having a baby is an emotional rollercoaster. A new mother can go from being excited about meeting her new bundle of joy to being worried sick from doubting her capability to be a mother. Having mixed feelings is perfectly normal. However, when negative feelings linger and grow over time, that may pose a big problem. If you’ve heard of the term ‘baby blues’, it is something most mother’s experience after childbirth and it may include symptoms like mood swings, sadness, anxiety and feeling empty or emotionless. Baby blues usually resolve in about two weeks. However, about 1 in every 10 women experience a more severe form of depression called postpartum depression. Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression If your baby blues don't go away within 2 weeks of childbirth and you experience the following symptoms then you probably have postpartum depression: IrritabilityChanges in appetiteMood swingsCrying spellsAnxietySadnessEmptiness and hopelessness Facing your postpartum depression can be hard. You may feel like you're a bad mother but rest assured that countless other women have gone through the same experience! After all, your postpartum depression can be explained by hormonal changes after childbirth so it's nothing to feel bad about. Giving birth as a young mother Becoming a mother and getting used to life as a parent can be hard especially if you're a young woman. Transitioning from having no one to care for other than yourself to having a little one who's entire existence depends on you can be an overwhelming reality to accept. Did you know that younger mothers are at greater risk of postpartum depression? Along with being young, factors that increase your chances of getting postpartum depression include going through an extremely stressful event, job stress and financial issues. Seeking help At this stage in your life as a young mother, there's just so much going on in your life it can be hard to process what's going on. If you feel like you have postpartum depression then make sure you talk to your doctor since this condition requires medical attention. If you feel that you might harm your child or don't have the energy to deal with their baby then urgently seek help. Things you can do to feel better include sleeping whenever you get the chance to, making time for socializing and getting help from your friends and family. Sharing your problems with an understanding loved one is always a great solution. Having someone to talk to especially if they've gone through the same experiences can provide you with an outlet for your emotions, and most of all give you the needed support and perspective. References: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617 https://evolvetreatment.com/blog/the-importance-of-maternal-mental-health/
Mom rage is an issue that many women face. Although it has many mental and physical health implications on both you and your children, it isn't talked enough about. Image Source: Shutterstock, Microba Grandioza Parenting can really test one’s limits and while you might be doing your best to stay calm, there can be times where you just can't control your anger. Lockdowns showed how easily parenting can make one cross their tipping point. Even if you previously never had temper issues, a whiny child with 10 daily meltdowns can easily enrage even the most patient mothers. You'll need a lot of mental strength to stay calm and composed when facing the difficulties of motherhood. The impact of mom rage Anger is a normal feeling but when you’re dealing with a toddler, expressing your anger by throwing a tantrum probably won’t teach them anything. In the heat of the moment, flying into a rage might make you do things you aren’t particularly proud of. Simply appearing to be out of order in front of your children is enough to make you feel mom shame and that you should set a better example. If you have young children, raging can scare them and teach them to act impulsively. As for older children, frequent raging might make it too normalized for them to notice abusive behaviour from others. Why are you angry? Have you ever asked yourself why you’re always raging? Have you just grown to have a short temper from years of mothering? When it reaches the point that you're screaming at your toddler although they’re just doing child things like spilling their food, don't accept that your short temper has become part of your personality. Mother's rage is a real thing and can be solved. It stems from repeatedly stifling your anger and frustration from the a everyday stress of a mother. One or two events of your daughter refusing to eat her food or whining might seem like nothing, but if the repeats over a hundred occasions, all the tiny bouts of annoyance you feel may culminate into an impending melt-down. Know that this can bed fixed, and it starts with identifying the root cause. Identifying your triggers can help you understand why you’re angry so often. Triggers could be literally anything. In fact, they could be totally unrelated to your children’s actions. If you’re having trouble noticing a pattern then jot down what happens every time you start raging then look closer for specific triggers. Sometimes, a noisy house is just too much after a long tiring workday. If your children aren't listening that too could be a trigger. As a mother, you might be so busy caring for everyone else you might forget your own needs. Sleep, nutrition, unprocessed emotions or any other unmet needs can trigger rage. Each one of these needs might not trigger raging on its own but having many unmet needs pushes you closer towards your tipping point. Coping with mom rage Once you’ve identified what your triggers are, the next step is working on your rage. When it comes to dealing with your triggers, deal with the ones you can control. For example, if you notice that noise after coming from work is your trigger then a pair of earplugs might do the trick if your children are old enough to stay unattended or if someone else is looking out for them. Other triggers you could deal with are unmet needs, feeling overwhelmed and that you don't have any support. You can also try exercising or meditating to calm you down whenever you feel like exploding. Raging is bad for both you and your child's mental and physical health. Raging can also impact your physical well-being by increasing your chances of having a heart attack or conditions like low blood pressure. Know that although not many mothers talk openly about mom rage, it’s a real and common issue. Try talking to someone who can relate to you or seek professional help if needed! Sources: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/family-health/mom-rage-is-a-real-thing-heres-how-to-deal-with-it/amp/
It’s often said that a baby is a bundle of joy to the family. But at 3am when you’ve tried everything everyone in your local mummy’s forum have suggested, we can’t help but feel whoever said the aforementioned phrase should be hanged, drawn, and quartered (hint: it is often the father). It is challenging to juggle motherhood and career at the same time. We worry about… … having to return to a huge load of work while worrying if your child meets each developmental milestone … how our colleagues might view us if we are unable to complete our work with the same level of efficiency as before … the list goes on... All these problems accumulate over time and become overwhelming, especially when sleep deprivation is a real issue for mothers. Taken together, they can snowball into burnout if not dealt with in time. Is there anything we can do to juggle motherhood and career at all? One way to do that is to adopt an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach by: Ψ acknowledging and accepting our experiences, no matter how difficult they might beΨ being aware and being in the present momentΨ using values to guide our actions Mindfulness: Accept, and be present It is normal for mothers to avoid, suppress, or escape from unwanted private experiences (e.g., thoughts, emotions, memories, etc.) associated with the pressure to juggle family and work commitments. After all, to confide in others is akin to admitting that weakness and vulnerability. That said, wouldn’t it be better to accept our experiences instead? Mindfulness promotes the acceptance of experiences related to expectations as a working mother. One mindfulness exercise involves taking deep breaths and writing 5 things about the self and environment. Applications, such as UCLA Mindful, are also available for those who prefer guided approaches. Valued Direction: what’s truly important? Besides mindfulness, the ACT approach involves being aware of what matters to us. When things get tough, it can be easy for us to lose track of what we value, or what meaning we derive from doing certain things. Journalling is one good way to help us uncover these important questions:Ψ What kind of parent would I like to be?Ψ What can I do to foster the bond with my child, while nurturing their development and dreams? Take Action: putting it all together. After deciding on what values are important to us, we can now take steps to align our actions with them. Think about the domains in your life that you would like to address, such as career or parenting, and set relevant goals. On this note, it is helpful to set SMART goals to increase the chances of success. Credit: VComply Suppose you are someone who values work-life balance immensely. Your short-term goal might then look like this:S: I will prioritise my work during weekday mornings and afternoons; evenings and weekends reserved for my family.M: I will spend quality time with my child by focusing on my family during evenings and weekends; I will switch to “work mode” once the next work day starts.A: I will plan my schedule each day to help me be more attentive and aware of my family’s needs, and my work responsibilities.R: This is something I can do over the next few weeks, given that I do not work on weekends.T: I will do this over the next four weeks and see if this works out fine. It’s not easy to juggle motherhood and career. Kudos (or in local parlance: add oil) to all mummies out there for being strong! When things get overwhelming (and they often can and do!), it’s easy to lose track of what is important to us. Learning to take a breather from time to time is important so that we do not react immediately to everything that’s happening. It also helps to remind us that our values are really good guides in helping us decide what we should do when we face obstacles! Motherhood and career are both long-term endeavors; give yourself the opportunity to learn these skills to flourish and thrive in the long run! *Content is republished with permission from Annabelle Psychology.
Being a mom is no easy feat. Whether you’re a full-time mom or juggling motherly responsibilities with a day job, at any point in time you’re probably scrambling to complete to check off a long list of tasks from your list. Pouring your heart out for your children and wrecking your brain for work can be incredibly overwhelming. It is normal to feel stressed and burned out after months and years of mothering. However, mothering responsibilities don't get easier over the months and years, there seems to be no time to afford to solve your stress. In times like this, finding a quick and efficient way to practise self-care and destress is so important. If you’re a busy mother, here’s a few 60-second routines that can help you be grounded and strong amid the craziness of motherhood. Image Source: Shutterstock, Doucefleur 1. Visualization technique The first routine that can help ease your frustration and stress is through regulated breathing and visualizing yourself in a peaceful setting. You may begin by closing your eyes and taking deep, slow controlled breaths, and utilizing your touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing imagining yourself in a comfortable and relaxing setting, say a beautiful beach or at the peak of a scenic mountain. By doing so, it allows your relaxation response to kick in. Make sure you try to focus on all 5 senses to make this exercise effective! This is a perfect way for stressed moms to gain control of their emotions and regain clarity in their thoughts during an overwhelming period. 2. Treat yourself to some self-care time Allocating some time for a skin-care regimen can be a real mood booster and it's an excellent way to work on self-care. Setting aside a time before the day starts and right after it to care for one’s hair, skin and nails can help mothers feel confident and happy in their own skin. Who doesn’t love to feel beautiful after all! An occasional manicure might just do the trick in taking your mind off your problems while improving your mood for the day! 3. Ensure you’re getting the best nutrition This might not be the first time you hear this, but when you're occupied with feeding your growing children with the most nutritious meals and sending them around for their classes, along with a bunch of to-dos at the back of your head, it's easy to forget about the basic necessity of having nutritious meals. It’s not a common sight to see moms finish off whatever's left of their children meal! As the main pillar of families, mothers not only need to fuel themselves with the best nutrition, they need to start prioritizing their diets, because they deserve it! Instead of waiting for your gastric to hit you in the late afternoon, take 5 minutes each morning and afternoon to have a complete meal. You’ll realize how much more energized and happier you’ll feel! 4. Put your legs up the wall exercise This sounds a little odd, but putting up your legs on the wall and focusing on your breathing can help to calm you down. Here’s how to do it: Lie with your back on the floor, raise both legs in the air and rest them against the wall. Set your timer for 60 seconds, and in that position, focus on your breathing. Studies show that this position may help alleviate stress and reduce your headaches and lower backaches and ultimately calm your mind. 5. Do this chest opener. If you're breastfeeding your baby or carrying him or her around, it is easy to get neck and shoulder aches from all the hours of handling them! Try this simple exercise to relieve tension from your shoulders and neck! First, sit on an elevated surface like a chair. Place your hands under your behind your bum, with your fingers pointing backwards. Once you’re in that position, roll your shoulders back and lift up your chin follow but your chest upwards to the ceiling. Now take a deep breath, and you might feel a release of tension. References: https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/experts-share-their-favorite-60-second-self-care-routines-for-busy-moms/
A Mother’s Day Ordeal: Not Every Child Celebrates Mother’s DayMother’s Day is a day of celebration and joy for families as we cherish the many gifts of mothers around the world. Yet, that might not be the case for everyone. In a healthy mother and child relationship, the bond between mother and child is usually a close and endearing one. For others however, Mother’s Day might be a painful one. For children who might suffer from ongoing emotional, physical and psychological abuse due to the absence of or abuse from their mother, or adults who were abused as children, Mother’s Day might be a stark reminder of that toxic relationship and trigger traumtic memories. The scars left behind in children who experienced trauma as a result of their mother make it difficult for them to celebrate Mother’s Day. Trauma is directly attributed to any type of abuse a mother subjected her child to. Abuse may take many forms (spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual), and can be ongoing throughout childhood and into adulthood. In many cases, the source of the abuse may be an untreated mental illness or a personality disorder. Ultimately, an abusive upbringing damages the relationship between the child and the parent. Moreover, all types of abuse are damaging to children and can cause long-term difficulties with their behaviour and mental health. As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, let’s remember the children whose mothers do not fulfil the ideal role of motherhood. Let’s extend our love and respect to all those battling with such issues today. For those struggling with Mother’s Day, here are some tips you can follow to make getting through Mother’s Day a bit easier. Tips for navigating Mother’s DayBe honest about how you feel Acknowledge how you actually feel about this day instead of what you think you should feel. It is easy to skip over your true feelings when confronted with idealistic Mother’s Day messages and people telling you how you should feel about your mom. Even though it’s hard, being honest with yourself about your feelings — without judgment — is an important step in navigating difficult emotions surrounding family-centric holidays. Take a break from social media on Mother’s DayTry and take a couple of days of social media to focus and take care of yourself. Being away from social media helps you take your mind off the bombardment of Mother’s Day messages. Celebrate the positive female role models in your lifePay tribute to another female in your life instead – a sister, grandmother, female friend, teacher, aunt. Take this opportunity to let this woman know how much her presence has meant to you. You could also turn Mother’s Day into your own personal celebration of strong and powerful women everywhere. Your self-defined version of Mother's Day is definitely worthy of celebration. Create a plan to take care of yourselfGet out of the house and do something fun to take your mind off things – go for a run, buy yourself some ice cream. You may have a mother-sized hole in your heart, but you can take time today to think about how you can take better care of yourself. Make a commitment to treat yourself with respect, love, encouragement and gentleness. Spend time with supportive friends on that dayReach out to a friend who is always willing to lend a judgment-free ear whenever you need emotional support or some companionship. *Content is republished with permission from Annabelle Psychology.
An upset tummy is easy to overlook when you’re busy with work and fulfilling motherly responsibilities. But these persistent cramps could be a sign of serious health conditions that could be problematic if left untreated. Image Source: Shutterstock, CHAjAMP If you’re a mother, dealing with a bad stomach ache may seem like the least of your worries when you have bills to pay, children to care for and chores to complete. Even if the stomach ache persists or worsens, there always seems to be something more important to attend to, and the ‘stomach problem’ is treated with basic medication and swept under the rug. Studies have shown that females have a greater likelihood of gastrointestinal problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Furthermore, stress, insufficient sleep and irregular diets from Motherhood can increase gut sensitivity. A bad diet full of processed foods, with high sugar and fat content, can take a toll on your gut health, leading to chronic digestive issues like Crohn's disease. If you’ve been complaining about bloating, constipation and diarrhoea for a few months or years now, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do. #1 What you shouldn’t do: Ask Dr Google When a stomach ache seems to be too minor of an issue to visit the doctor, never go scouring the internet for answers. Stomach problems may seem simple on the surface, but digestive symptoms in actual fact can be incredibly complex. Diagnosing yourself can be dangerous and can do more harm than good. You’ll be surprised to know that it can take time, lots of tests, even a few wrong turns for experienced physicians to pinpoint the root of a problem. What You Should do Instead: Approach a real doctor Seek out an experienced healthcare provider or relevant specialist and ask for their opinion. #2 What you shouldn’t do: Stop when a Doctor tells you it’s probably IBS If you go to a doctor, and he or she comes to a swift conclusion that it’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS), after a minimal assessment or even worse, stating the fact that ‘you’re a woman, so it’s probably IBS’. Make sure you don’t stop there! What you should do: Find someone who will do extensive test for you Make sure to seek out multiple opinions, and find someone who is willing to run comprehensive tests, full physical and lab studies. You need a doctor who’s willing to listen to your needs and is willing to work together to solve the issue for good. All too often, we hear too many ‘mom’ stories who dismiss their stomach issues, only until these issues start doing real damage to their bodies. Every mother deserves the same care they’ve selflessly extended to their children. Make sure you consult a doctor or specialist and seek proper help if you experience any persistent stomach issues. Because if not now, when! References: https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/healthy-mom/the-real-reason-your-stomach-hurts/
#1 I cannot wash my hair or shower during confinement for fear of “wind” entering the body. I will be plagued by headaches and rheumatism for the rest of my life. The traditional belief is that by bathing, the mother may have “wind” and “cold” enter the body, resulting in body aches and rheumatism. In the past, there was no easy access to clean water, heater, hair dryer or a sheltered conducive environment to wash hair or shower. However, the standard of living today is much better compared to the past. It is fine to shower daily to ensure good personal hygiene and comfort. It also reduces the incidences of skin or wound infections. However, do take note of the following points when bathing. Do not bathe in cold water. Use warm water (around 35 to 37 degrees Celsius) to shower. Take short showers (around 5 to 10 minutes). Those who feel cold easily after giving birth may consider using special confinement herbs to bathe. Makes sure to dry your skin immediately and be fully clothed before exiting the bathroom. No direct wind or aircon blowing at you after bathing. New mothers have weaker immune systems and body constitutions. For mothers with wounds like caesarean, you may want to delay showering until the wound area is healed. You can use a damp warm towel to wipe the body. Note: New mothers with vaginal delivery: Shower 2-5 days after giving birth. Try not to bathe within 24 hours after giving birth. #2 I cannot drink plain water at all during confinement, only red date and longan tea. In the past, the traditional belief is that drinking water alone will result in water retention. Drinking red date and longan tea is a better beverage choice. From a TCM perspective, longan and red date tea has a warming effect and is a good source of iron to replenish the blood supply. This is useful as blood is lost during childbirth, therefore the tea provides nutrients for producing breast milk. It also promotes better quality of sleep. Hence, although it is okay to drink water, a mother should ensure that she has enough nutrients and stay properly hydrated to ensure sufficient milk supply for breastfeeding. The key is to avoid cold water and drink warm water. #3 Why must I eat certain foods or take TCM herbs during confinement (e.g. pig trotters, sesame oil or ginger)? From a TCM perspective, a woman after childbirth loses substantial amount of Qi and Blood. Most of the foods or TCM herbs that women take during confinement helps to replenish the Qi and Blood in the body. Hence, specific foods are encouraged during confinement, for example: Ginger is a “warm food” that can help dispel cold from the body, reduce bloating and improve digestion. Sesame oil helps to expel “wind” from the body and is rich in calcium, iron and Vitamin E. Fish soup or pig trotters soup helps in boosting production of breastmilk. #4 I cannot expose myself and my baby to any wind drafts or air-conditioning. The traditional belief is that air-conditioning or wind draft can cause” wind” to enter the body and cause backache in the future. There is no harm in switching on the air-conditioner or fan as Singapore is hot and humid. A cooling environment makes the new mother and baby feel comfortable and may help prevent heat rash from developing. However, the key is to keep the room temperature between 25⁰C to 26 ⁰C. In addition, a new mother should avoid having any direct exposure of wind or air blowing towards the body. Refrain from wearing sleeveless clothing in an air-conditioned room. #5 I must eat liver and meats only. In TCM, the liver has an important role to store and regulate blood in the body. A woman after childbirth loses a substantial amount of Qi and Blood. Consuming liver and meat, which are rich in protein and iron, can help with replenishing blood, energy, and also prevents anaemia. However, it is also important to have a well-balanced diet (such as grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy or protein) rather than specific food types. This helps to build stores for recovery and for breastfeeding. #6 I cannot read or cry. The traditional belief is that this causes eye issues later in life. This has no scientific basis. In TCM, the liver is closely linked to the health of our eyes. A substantial amount of blood is lost during childbirth. A further deficiency in liver blood may lead to higher incidences of eye problems or deterioration like dry eyes or blurred vision. It is advisable not to read excessively or have too long screen time. In fact, this applies to everyone, not only new mums. Take frequent breaks (every 20 minutes) in between activities like reading, using mobile phones, computers or watching television. Allow your eyes to rest by looking at distant objects. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
What is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis? De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, commonly known as “Mother’s Hand” (妈妈手) is a painful condition affecting the tendons around the base on the thumb side of your wrist. It occurs when there is inflammation in the tenosynovium and tendons in the wrist. Tendons attach muscle to bone. Normally, the two tendons in the wrist glide smoothly through the small tunnel that connects them to the base of the thumb. Repetitive and chronic usage may irritate the sheath around the two tendons, causing inflammation, swelling and thickening. This results in pain and movement restriction of the thumb and wrist. This condition is also known as “Mother’s Hand” (妈妈手) as it is commonly found in new mothers. Hormonal fluctuation and repetitive lifting of the baby with your hands in an “L” shape (with your fingers on baby’s back and your thumbs on his/her chest) are the main culprits for putting pressure and strain on your thumb and wrist. Causes: Chronic overuse of your wrist. Any activity that relies on repetitive wrist or hand movement like lifting your baby, prolonged use of the mouse/mobile phone, gaming or working in the garden. Symptoms: Swelling, soreness or pain near the base of your thumb side of your wrist; pain may travel into the forearm Pain worsens with hand and thumb movement, such as grasping an object Gradual or sudden onset A “snapping” or “sticking” sensation in your thumb when moving it Difficulty moving the affected wrist or thumb How to check if you have De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis Bend your thumb so it rests across your palm. Make a fist, closing your fingers over your thumb. Bend your wrist toward your little finger If you experience pain or tenderness at the base of your thumb, you probably have De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. TCM’s approach to De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis Depending on the cause, symptoms and duration as diagnosed by the TCM practitioner, the following combinations of methods are used to treat this issue. Acupuncture Tuina External application Lifestyle modifications It may take around 4 to 6 weeks to improve the symptoms. Early recognition and treatment are key factors for improvement. Lifestyle modifications 1. Wearing a splint for 4 to 6 weeks This supports and immobilises the thumb and wrist, hence reducing symptoms. 2. Rest the hand and avoid any activity that causes repetitive thumb and wrist motion. 3. For mothers, it can be difficult to prevent the repetitive thumb motions as they need to lift the child many times a day. These are some methods to reduce the occurrences of pain. Lift your baby differentlyKeep the palm of your hand up and lift your baby under their bottom instead of lifting your baby under the arms. Check your breastfeeding positionDuring breastfeeding, use a pillow for support so that the full weight of your baby’s head is not resting on your hand. Hand exercises Opposition StretchTouch the tip of each finger with your thumb. When you reach the tip of your little finger, hold this position for 5 seconds and then release. Repeat 10 times for each hand. Grip strengtheningSqueeze a soft rubber ball, hold the squeeze for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times for each hand. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Motherhood may be one of the most heartwarming and respectable roles to take on in life. For someone to take the very frontlines of nurturing the future generation, and to be able to give the purest form of sacrificial love for their family, there is no doubt Mothers play an integral driver in spurring humanity forward, one way or another. However, as touching as motherhood is, it is difficult tenfold. Image Source: Shutterstock, GoodStudio Wonderwomen Nothing beats the job description of Mothers having to do it all. from cleaning the house, paying the bills and shopping, all while being a role model and disciplinarian to their children. Mothers are expected to give their all to the family. It almost feels selfish to not do so. It’s no wonder most mothers don’t have time for themselves and neglect their health and well-being. Self-sacrifice or self-neglect Mothers are so occupied with giving their time and energy to everyone else, they are often left none themselves. A study reported that 52% of mothers suffer from a loss of identity in their first year of motherhood. With no time to think, let alone spend on one’s unfounded passions and aspirations, as much as we’d love Mother’s to be empowered by Motherhood, on the contrary, their self-esteem is often beaten down by their loss of identity. The self-sacrifice that we exalt mothers for seems to be slowly turning to self-neglect! Who works the most, needs the most care ‘You have to put on your oxygen mask first,” says Psychiatrist Gail Saltz “If you go to pieces, everyone is going down with you. So you have to give time to yourself. That is healthy, not selfish or narcissistic. That is a tough concept for a lot of women.” As the backbone of the family, mothers need to tend to themselves first before others - and it is not selfish. In fact, caring for yourself first is acting in the best interest of the family! Moving forward, as a mother, how can you practise proper self-care? Care for your health and well-being first If you’re a mother, it may have been long before you have gone for a doctor’s appointment, but before anything, check up on your health and well-being. Mothers should make sure they're getting sufficient sleep, the right nutrition and exercise. Schedule the necessary health screenings and check-ups to make sure you’re at the pink of health. Schedule me-time Make sure to take some time off the hustle and bustle of motherhood and spend some alone time. Pick a day of the week or month and dedicate it to relaxing, reflecting on your life, doing something you enjoy. Remember, while being a mother doesn’t define who you are, it doesn’t define you completely. Embrace the change of motherhood Motherhood can be an incredibly transformative phase, to an extent it is easy for mothers to look back on their past life and lament how much they’ve ‘lost’ from their old selves. Indeed change can be scary, it may seem like much has been lost, but remind yourself that there a whole new life is ahead of you! The key is to find gratitude in your current situation and embrace your new path as a mother. Motherhood will inadvertently change you. But always remember that as much as your old self may be gone, a much stronger, wiser and more selfless person has taken that place. Embrace that person and take care of her well! References: https://www.today.com/parents/doing-it-all-moms-neglect-important-person-themselves-2D11899303 https://www.verywellfamily.com/overcoming-pressures-to-be-super-mom-4164348
Having a cold womb is a very common phenomenon in Singapore. This is due to the bad habits cultivated from living in a warm summer weather throughout the year. Most people tend to indulge in iced beverages, “cold” food like salads and sushi, staying in air-conditioned rooms for long hours and wearing trendy clothes that expose a lot of skin like crop tops and mini skirts/shorts. These lifestyle habits may eventually lead to a cold womb. Cold Womb in Western Medicine What does it mean to have a cold womb in western medicine? The uterus (which is also called the womb) is a pear-like organ located in the lower abdomen, responsible for a woman‘s reproductive functions, mainly menstruation and pregnancy. During the second half of the menstrual cycle (Luteal phase), a “warming” hormone also known as progesterone, is produced to raise the body temperature in preparation for proper implantation should fertilisation takes place. This temperature is usually recorded and monitored using a Basal Body Temperature (BBT) chart. Having a cold womb will indicate that during the luteal phase, BBT chart reflects that progesterone level produced is not high enough or the luteal phase is shortened. This is also known as a Luteal Phase Defect (LPD). Thus, with a cold womb, it is then harder for your uterus to have an appropriate uterus lining thickness for implantation of fertilised eggs. This can also cause early shedding of the uterus lining. In other words, this characteristic of your womb imposes potential problems like early menses, infertility and even miscarriage. Cold Womb in TCM How about having a cold womb in Traditional Chinese Medicine? In terms of TCM, cold womb refers to 宫寒 gong han. 宫 gong refers to 胞宫 Bao gong which comprises of the whole female reproductive system including the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes etc. 寒han literally just means cold. So where is this cold derived from? There are two types of cold- acquired and endogenous cold. All of our bad lifestyle habits contribute to acquired cold. In the long run, long-term intake of cold consumption or exposure to cold air will deplete the internal fire produced by our kidney. This is a body constitution called Kidney yang deficiency. So in TCM, having a cold womb implies that your body constitution belongs to that of Kidney yang deficiency. So what does it mean to have a cold womb/ Kidney Yang deficiency? Kidney x Reproductive System From a TCM perspective, everything has both Yin and Yang, even your kidney. Kidney yang produces your internal life fire and acts as the core heating centre. It warms our body to promote smooth flow movement of Qi and it is needed to ensure the other organs function properly. Whereas Kidney yin stores essences that serve as a raw material to produce fluids (e.g. blood) in our body to nourish the organs and tissues in our body. Kidney yang is essential to warm our uterus to promote blood circulation so that the uterus is sufficiently nourished in preparation for potential implantation. Kidney yin is also just as important: it improves the quality of the eggs produced by the ovaries, increasing successful pregnancy rate. A cold womb would hinder the process of pregnancy, resulting in infertility. In fact, having a cold womb is so common that around 50% of infertility is the result of having a cold womb. The lack of warming energy in our body also means that you are more prone to having irregular menses and painful cramps. TCM theory states that 寒主收引，其性凝滞. This means that cold has contracting properties that will contract the blood vessels, slow down the flow of Qi and blood and cause stagnation of Qi and blood in our body. When the flow of Qi and blood in the uterus is obstructed, menstrual blood flow will be affected, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles and dark clotty menstrual blood. Menstrual cramp is also associated with obstructed blood flow, evident in TCM theory “Where there is no flow there is pain; when there is no pain, there is flow” (不通则痛，不痛则通). Therefore, an obstruction of Qi and blood flow in the uterus caused by cold will also result in painful menstrual cramps. Other signs of having a cold womb? How can TCM help? Since ancient times, TCM has placed a huge emphasis on warming the uterus and thus, has different approaches to expel cold and restore Kidney Yang. TCM treatment methods can not only help with the warming of the uterus, regulating ovulation and menstrual cycle, it can also help to improve the quality of eggs produced in the ovaries and reduce menstrual cramps. These treatment methods include Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Herbal Medication. Acupuncture uses thin needles to stimulate certain acupoints along the meridians to help strengthen the womb by invigorating the kidney system. Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy by using heated dried mugwort placed above acupoints to expel cold, promote Qi and blood circulation of the meridians. Thus, it is commonly paired with acupuncture treatment to tonify the Kidney Yang and treat cold womb. Herbal Medication can also be incorporated to help warm the Kidney Yang, expel cold and promote blood circulation. It is advisable to consult a physician for a proper diagnosis and prescription according to your body constitution. Acupoints You can massage these acupoints in circular for 1 to 2 minutes, 3 times a day. 阳池 (Yang Chi, TE4)Yang Chi refers to a pool of Yang energy and thus, stimulating this acupoint can help with the stimulation of Yang energy in our body. 三阴交 (San Yin Jiao, SP6) San Yin Jiao is associated with the Liver, Spleen and Kidney system and hence, able to tonify the following systems. 太溪 (Tai Xi , KD3) Tai Xi belongs to the kidney meridian and it is an acupoint which vitality qi of the kidney passes through and stops at that point. Hence, it is beneficial in restoring the kidney system vitality. 肾俞 (Shen Shu, BL23) Massage your lower back using your knuckles downwards. Repeat 10 times a day. Alternatively, you can use both palms, place it on your lower back and rub continuously for 1minute so as to warm the lower back. Moxa Pad Place a self-heating MOXA Pad around the lower abdominal area before you sleep to introduce heat directly to the womb area. Warmth helps to dilate the blood vessels to promote better blood circulation and reduce painful menstrual cramps. Studies have also shown that better blood flow to the uterus is associated with higher pregnancy outcomes. Food Therapy Tea Recommendations Ginger is good for warming the stomach as well as expelling cold. Ingredients: A slice of fresh ginger 2-3 dried red dates (seeds removed) 2g of Cinnamon 1 teaspoon of brown sugar Instructions: Add the ingredients into a cup and add 250ml of boiling water. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Both longan and red dates are beneficial for replenishing our body’s blood and Qi. Ingredients: Longans, 5pcs Red dates (seeds removed), 3pc Water, 500ml Instructions: Add the longans , red dates (seeds removed) and water. Bring to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, turn to low heat and simmer for 20mins before drinking. Both motherwort and rose buds are also good stress and anxiety relievers which help to treat menstrual issues. Ingredients: Motherwort leaves, 2g Rose buds, 2g Water, 250ml Instructions: Add 250ml of boiling water into 2g of motherwort leaves and 2g of rose buds. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Self-care tips Avoid over consumption of cold drinks or raw food. You can cook the vegetables before consuming. Avoid consuming cold fruits directly taken out from the fridge. Ensure you have sufficient clothing especially around the lower abdomen during menstruation and postpartum. Take foot baths or wear socks to protect the meridians against cold from entering from your bare feet. Exercise at least 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes to improve blood circulation in our bodies. This helps to build up our immunity. It’s never too late to give your uterus the proper care that it needs. Find out more about our Fertility programme and learn more about how TCM can help with Women’s Health. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
We all know the role of a mother is no easy task, but there are a lot more responsibilities that are burning mothers out - and they often go unseen. Image Source: Shutterstock, sutadimages The backbone of the family A smooth day for the family doesn’t go without mothers zooming around to complete every little task for the day. From making personalised breakfast for the children to scheduling appointments, planning the children’s tuition and training, replenishing the family’s toilet paper, even searching for her son’s misplaced textbook! When compounded along with the 101 little chores that need to be done to let the family operate a smooth problem-free day, these tasks often go noticed - only until it hasn’t! According to a survey in 2019, a great proportion of mothers (61%) report handling household work all by themselves, with 62% having less than an hour to themselves in the previous day, due to the constant presence of some kind of obligation they needed to worry about or fulfil. Mothers are generally in charge of everything that goes behind the scenes, which keeps the show running. From handling daily household chores, ensuring the proper upbringing of their children, and attending to their spouse’s emotional needs, mothers themselves won’t realise the magnitude such a responsibility bears until you list them out yourself! The mountain of tasks are taxing mothers mentally and are plaguing them with waves of stress, worry and guilt - and most of it goes unseen by the family. This is why some mothers are suffering a painful silence, and it is slowly burning them out! How then do they get a break from this invisible load? Passing the hot potato The solution isn’t bizarre, and you might have thought of this before but the only way mothers can relieve their burden is to spread some of their load to the rest of the family. After all, a family always support each other! Breaking the barrier If you’re a mother, you’ve probably thought of trying this solution before but got held back for several reasons. Part of you still wants to be in control - having been so used to running the show, it may be hard to let your spouse get certain things done his way. Furthermore asking for help is never easy, especially when society expects so much of Mother’s, it requires you to swallow some pride and muster on a little courage. Start small and start right Change is never easy and so is transferring responsibilities. Start by asking your spouse to take on little tasks for you, but make sure you ask for the right kind of help! Rather than micromanaging and issuing random tasks here and there, get your spouse to take on certain roles as his own. ‘Can you be in charge of reminding us to take out the trash? Can you be responsible for putting a reminder in your calendar every Thursday? Engaging your spouse or a family member this way meant that you won’t have to remember to ask for the help you needed. It takes off a slice from your mental load! More than this, it also allows your spouse to realise the uneven dynamics of the household, which allows them to empathise and step up on roles they could help with! Build onto to bigger responsibilities By giving a sneak peek of how the household operates behind the scenes, your spouse can slowly take on an equal-sized load in the house. It may start with smaller responsibilities like chores, such as taking out the laundry and doing the dishes after dinner, to bigger things like handling the scheduling of your son’s tennis training, or offering to attend a parent-teacher meeting. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself having pockets of time you can spend on yourself. Beyond that, being able to share the mental load with your spouse or family member may improve communication between both of you and strengthen your family ties. Acknowledge their help Every once in a while, always remember to remind your spouse or loved one how much you appreciate their help, such as emphasising how much less you need to worry about. Asking for help may be difficult, but remember that most of us are married to good people, who wants to care for us. We just don’t know how to communicate the help we need, and they don’t know how to offer it! All we need to do to show them our struggles and tell them the areas we need help in. References: https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/how-to-get-a-break-from-the-mental-load-of-motherhood https://www.mother.ly/news/invisble-labor-motherhood-mental-load
Snoring can be a nuisance to people around you especially if you share the same bed. But what may seem like a mere inconvenience to others can be a sign of a more serious underlying health issue. Image Source: Shutterstock, 9nong Have you been feeling tired all day lately? Have you been waking up in the middle of the night? Have people told you that you’re a huge snorer? If your answer is yes to all three questions, you might have a condition called sleep apnea. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This means your breathing is interrupted and repeatedly starts and stops due to blocked airflow. Snoring is a prominent sign of sleep apnea and simply shows that you can't move air freely through your nose and throat. Breath pauses caused by sleep apnea can last 10-20 seconds and can happen anywhere from a few to hundreds of times a night. Imagine how much oxygen a person with chronic sleep apnea are deprived of! When sleep apnea becomes chronic, it can be linked to several illnesses like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea and heart disease You might be wondering how snoring can cause something as serious as heart disease. Temporary breathing pauses from sleep apnea can cause your body to release stress hormones. At high levels, stress hormones may contribute to high blood pressure, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, the reduced oxygen due to airflow blocks can also affect your heart health negatively. The drop of oxygen causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, causing repetitive fluctuations that may lead to hypertension, which increases the risk for heart disease. To make things worse, sleep apnea goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation as waking up gasping for air multiple times per night can affect your quality, length of sleep and consequently your heart health. According to a study, patients with hard-to-control high blood pressure and sleep apnea saw a drop in blood pressure when their sleep apnea was treated. Signs of sleep apnea Although snoring is associated with sleep apnea, not everyone who snores has the condition and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. But if your snoring is coupled with any of the following signs, there may a high possibility that you’re is suffering from sleep apnea: Feeling sleepy during the day Interrupted sleep Irritability Finding it hard to pay attention Chronic headaches Chronic fatigue Who is at risk? Did you know that sleep apnea affects men more than women? However, sleep apnea still affects a whopping 17% of women and yet it is more likely to go undiagnosed in women! About 80% of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed. Although anyone can have sleep apnea, people who are at a higher risk are: People with congestive heart failure People who drink alcohol People with high blood pressure Men Menopausal women Obese individuals Tackling sleep apnea If you think you might have sleep apnea then consult your doctor. Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes such as weight loss or performing certain throat exercises. Other solutions include surgery or using positive airway pressure (PAP) devices that keep the airway open during sleep. If you’re familiar with heavy snorers in your household - remember to check up on them! Along with potentially saving them any future health complications, you might save yourself more peaceful nights at home! Sources: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea-linked-heart-disease https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea-and-heart-disease-stroke
Have you ever woken up from a dream and wondered whether your dream served a purpose or had a hidden meaning? You may have heard from some cultures that dreams could be visions for the past or future, and some religions do believe it’s a medium for spiritual entities to speak to us. But what does science say about dreams? Is it just an illogical amalgamation of meaningless junk that your brain does for no reason? Well, this may surprise you, but scientific studies have shown that your dreams can say a lot about your health. Image Source: Shutterstock, Olga Strelnikova When do dreams occur? Every day, we spend about 2 hours dreaming. If you do the math, that means you’re spending 6 years of your lifetime dreaming! During this period, did you notice that your dreams always occur at a certain stage in your sleep? Well, although dreams can happen at any stage in your sleep, they’re more intense and vivid in the final hours of sleep when you go through long REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep episodes. This is typically in the morning which is why alarm clocks sometimes wake us up in the middle of a dream. REM sleep occurs throughout the night in episodes that get gradually longer. These episodes are the longest during the final third of sleep. Why do we dream? While researchers are still debating about the purpose of dreams, there is mounting scientific evidence that links dreaming to memory and emotional processing. There are many theories regarding the purpose or meaning of dreams with some stating that dreams make us ready for situations that may occur in real life by making us go through different scenarios. Another theory proposed by renowned 20th-century neurologist Freud suggests that dreams provide a path to your subconscious mind and often represent a wish that you couldn’t fulfil in real life. While these theories are all debatable and haven’t been confirmed, dreams could provide an insight into your general health. What dreams mean for your health While the exact benefits of dreaming are unknown, dreaming is almost always a good sign. This is because dreams usually occur during REM sleep which has been proven to have countless benefits such as better memory, mood, learning and emotional processing. Some even say that it's the most important stage of sleep. Dreams show that you’re getting good quality sleep. Cutting down on sleep may interrupt REM sleep that occurs for longer episodes in the final third of sleep. There’s no way to get more REM sleep other than getting the full hours of sleep which is typically 7-9 hours for adults. You might be wondering, do scary dreams mean anything? Nightmares may, in fact, indicate potential physical or mental illnesses. While having nightmares every once in a while could be a normal thing, nightmares could be a form of hallucination and could reflect certain mental conditions. Studies have shown that nightmares occur more frequently in patients with schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease than they do in the general population. If you experience frequent nightmares, a doctor may be able to help pinpoint the underlying cause. References: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dream-meaning-health-dreams_n_2957121
If there’s one thing you should never fall short on it would be sleep. A good night’s sleep could be the difference between starting off your day to an energetic start and having a bad day. Sleep deprivation is linked to many mental and physical health problems. Here are some ways your body will thank you for getting the sleep you deserve. Image Source: ANURAK PONGPATIMET Adequate sleep is an absolute prerequisite for a healthy and alert brain. Getting enough sleep is directly tied to your cognitive functions. So if you feel like you can’t focus or have trouble remembering things, then maybe it’s time to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. This can help you stay at the top of your game. A healthy and happy brain consists of a delicate balance of many chemicals including mood and appetite-related chemicals. Sleep deprivation has been proven to disrupt this balance, sometimes leading to weight gain due to imbalances in appetite-controlling hormones such as leptin and ghrelin. Studies have also shown that sleep quality affects your mood so if you’ve been feeling down for no reason whatsoever then try getting your recommended hours of sleep! Another reason to keep tabs on your sleep is your immune system. In order to fend off infectious diseases, a well-functioning immune system is vital. There is increasing scientific evidence that suggests that sleep deprivation may affect how your immune system functions. Science has shown many unexpected sleep deprivation effects on our bodies. Did you know that pain tolerance is reduced by sleep deprivation? Or that being under the effect of alcohol has the same effect on performance as sleep deprivation? So make sure that you’ve had enough sleep especially before driving or doing an activity that requires special attention. Setting up a Sleep Schedule The first step to committing to a healthy lifestyle is by setting up a good sleep schedule. Doctors recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for adults in general. Mothers, entrepreneurs, caregivers and busy women sacrifice their sleep due to their busy lifestyles. But given the importance of a good night’s sleep, we ought to give ourselves the sleep hours we deserve. Using your phone right before sleep might be the only free time for many busy women but blue light coming from your phone can make it especially hard to fall asleep. Try staying away from electronics at least 1 hour before sleep especially if you have trouble falling asleep. If you feel like you’re suffering from a sleep disorder then make sure you consult with a doctor to devise a treatment plan. References: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important
Do you struggle to fall asleep no matter how tired you are? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for hours, anxiously waiting to fall asleep? What is Insomnia?The word "insomnia" originates from the Latin “in” (no) and “somnus” (sleep). Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterised as having difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Insomnia is defined by the quality of your sleep and how you feel after sleeping, therefore having chronic insomnia might contribute to health problems. If you feel drowsy and tired during the day even though you slept for 8 hours, you may be experiencing insomnia. 4 Common Types of InsomniaDifficulty falling asleep. Some may experience an endless stream of thoughts, making it hard to fall asleep.Time spent staying asleep is short, waking up often in the middle of the night and having difficulty falling asleep again.Frequent transients of being asleep and awake. One may be easily awaken by sounds.Excessive dreaming, such as vivid dreams or nightmares, resulting in unrefreshing sleep. How can TCM help with getting a good night’s rest?Depending on the cause, symptoms, duration and body constitution diagnosed by the TCM practitioner, the following combination of methods can be used to treat insomnia. TCM medication Acupuncture Cupping Acupressure massage According to TCM principles, problems such as waking up between 1am to 3am, frequent fearful awakening, timidity, irritability and sighing are associated with disorders in the liver and/or gallbladder. Personalised TCM treatment to balance the yin and yang of the body will be recommended accordingly. Acupoint Massages to Relieve Symptoms of InsomniaGV20, 百会 “Baihui” Massage Bai Hui Point for 2 minutes. Location: Apex of the ears, in line with the middle of the eyes and back of the head. EX-HN20, 安眠 “Anmian” Massage An Mian point for 2 minutes. Location: Either side of the neck, a little bit under the lobe of the neck. EX, 失眠 “Shimian” Massage Shi Mian Point with a thumb for 100 times. Location: The point at the middle of the heel. HT7, 神门 “Shenmen” For individuals who experience dream-disturbed insomnia, use your right hand’s Shen Men Point to rub your left hand’s Shen Men Point for 2 minutes and vice versa. Location: Located on the inner side of the wrist crease, towards the little finger (ulnar) side, about one-fifth of the distance across the wrist. Feel for a hollow at the base of the pisiform bone. PC8, 劳宫 “Laogong” and KD1, 涌泉 “Yongquan” Dont's Before Sleeping Know your body habits.If you are someone who can’t fall asleep after drinking caffeinated drinks, avoid consuming coffee, chocolate, alcohol or any other stimulants late in the day. Do not eat heavy meals or food that is difficult to digest late at night.The last meal and sleeping time should be spaced at least 3 hours apart. TCM has a saying “胃不和则卧不安”, which means that a poor stomach leads to unrestful sleep. Sometimes, when we eat too much or too little before bed, our tummies will feel uncomfortable (bloated or ache), making it difficult to have good quality sleep. Avoid using phone or tablets before sleeping.Electronic devices emit blue light that interferes with melatonin production and disrupts the sleep cycle. Exposure to blue light close to bed may trick the brain to think that it’s still daylight. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Let’s face it, for many of us, coffee is a lifesaver. No one knows what would've gotten us through all these long cold nights and sleepy mornings. However, it has become more of a necessity than a supplement. Image Source: Shutterstock, aslysun Caffeine, an active ingredient in coffee, is a stimulant that helps us stay alert. Long term dependence on this substance can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. Although caffeine itself is not addictive, it does cause some physical dependence. This isn't meant to offset coffee lovers, but you might want to rethink your coffee drinking habits! Here are some signs you’re relying too much on coffee to keep you going. You Can’t Function Properly Without Coffee For one reason or another, you might've forgotten to drink your daily cup of coffee at least once but how did you hold up? If you can't function properly without your daily cup of coffee, chances are you have some form of caffeine dependence. You might want to ask yourself if you can get by without coffee for a day. You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms Withdrawal symptoms are the biggest indicator of caffeine dependence. The most common symptom is headaches. Other symptoms include depression, low energy, anxiety and fatigue. Coffee withdrawal symptoms are said to last anywhere from two to even nine days for heavy consumers! Why You Should Curb Your Dependence There's nothing wrong with drinking coffee, after all, it's what springs us to life every morning. However, you shouldn't be dependent on it. When you consume more coffee, the minimum amount of coffee you need for normal functioning increases. You might not realize how much you’ve grown reliant on coffee until one day, you’re unable to meet your minimum coffee consumption. Next thing you know, you’re hit with a stream of withdrawal symptoms and only then will you realize you’re over-reliant on coffee. It’s like your body doesn’t have enough fuel to keep you going even though you’re an otherwise healthy person! Pregnant women are advised to minimize or preferably eliminate their caffeine consumption. It's always better to wean off your coffee dependence before pregnancy. Slowly and gradually lowering your coffee intake is one of many ways you can curb your dependence. Make sure you consult a doctor if you feel your coffee intake or dependence is affecting your life. Don't forget to enjoy your cup of coffee but at the same time, don’t let it take control over your life! References: https://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-withdrawal
Many people consume caffeine on a daily basis. But its adverse effects are often neglected. The association between anxiety and caffeine isn't new but is it actually true? Image Source: Shutterstock, Mary Long Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. Did you know one hundred thousand 60kg bags were consumed in 2020 - and that's just coffee alone! It's also packed tea, your favourite sodas and most energy drinks. Despite its prevalent use, its adverse effects are taken rather lightly and given relatively little attention. Since caffeine is so widely available, the effects it can have on your body fall on a broad spectrum depending on your daily dosage. On the higher end of the spectrum, caffeine is associated with a whole slew of negative side effects. Among these lies claim that caffeine can increase or trigger anxiety. Anyone who has experienced anxiety knows the great difficulty of dealing with such a condition. If drinking caffeine can bear such a serious consequence, its daily dosage must be taken with greater consideration. Hence, we’ve come to explore the claim - Is caffeine really fuelling your anxieties? Caffeine and mental healthWhile caffeine has many proven mental benefits like improved mood, better focus and lower risk of suicide, it's also associated with mental health disorders. High caffeine doses can induce symptoms of anxiety. People with social anxiety disorder and panic disorder are more sensitive to these doses and are more prone to experiencing these symptomsFurthermore, a study found that caffeine increased feelings of anxiety, hostility and psychosis(detachment from reality) in psychiatric patients. Caffeine can mimic symptoms of anxiety Excessively ingesting caffeine and anxiety are both associated with overactivity in the sympathetic nervous system. This is why caffeine is said to mimic anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, fast heart rate, insomnia and gastrointestinal problems. Should you still consume caffeine?The safe limit caffeine consumption for most healthy adults is about 400 mg which is about 4 cups of coffee. It's safe to say that as long as you don't exceed the 400 mg limit, you can safely enjoy your cup of coffee! Cutting back on your caffeine intake can be hard. But if you have anxiety, you might want to keep a close eye on your caffeine consumption. It is important to note the anxiety disorders are much more prevalent in women, as much as that cup of coffee can be the antidote to your fatigue, overconsumption may turn it into your poison! Sources:https://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-and-anxiety https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20164571/
As much as we don't like them to, work stress and burnout can seep into our private lives. But are they to blame for straining your relationship? Image Source: SUPERMAO It’s all too often that we’ve heard the saying ‘separate work life and personal life’. As much as we’d like to do so, it may feel almost impossible when we’re flooded with work 80% of the week, and the 20% is left to deal with personal problems. When being overwhelmed with work life, it is easy for the negative energy of work stress to seep into the confines of your personal life - and your partner would be the first to experience its wrath. When you’ve been drained to the core by work-life, mustering the energy to connect with your partner, let alone feel the same spark you once had may feel impossible. But is it right to pinpoint our hectic work life as the true cause of a strained relationship? Is your work stress affecting your relationship? Relationships require time and effort, but if you don't have the energy to deal with your partner in the first place it is easy for the relationship to feel one-sided. A moody, irritable and uninterested partner can easily incite tension and fuel unwanted conflict in a relationship. This could shatter a once healthy bond. If you think it couldn’t get any worse, cortisol, the stress hormone, is released when you're burned out or stressed. This lowers your sex drive and can potentially ruin your sex life. Everyone needs to blow off some steam every once in a while, and unloading pent-up frustration from work-life could be a healthy thing. But if your work problems are the topic of discussion 7 days of the week, being on the receiving end of these daily rants may be hard on your partner. If you find yourself endlessly complaining about work-life problems, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be solved. Taking on a constructive approach with your partner, by discussing and attempting to pinpoint the root cause of your distress may not only alleviate your work stress, but it could also strengthen your relationship when solving the issue as a team. We’re all humanRealise that we all have our own struggles in life. More often than not, your partner will be able to relate to your problem in his or her own way. Listening to your partner's struggles along with sharing your own, can build unity, improve communication and increase empathy between the both of you. Although it may be hard to improve your situation at work, there are other ways you could cope and improve your relationship for the better. Remember that your partner is there to uplift you and hold your hand through tough times! If the relationship feels rocky, trying relationship counselling may help! Alternatively meditating or using relaxation techniques could help to lower your stress. Occasional date nights as your little getaway from work may not only relieve stress but may reignite that spark you once had for your partner. References:https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.huffpost.com/entry/how-burnout-work-hurt-relationship_l_5e5d3d45c5b6732f50e613fc/amp
What is your idea of a healthy lifestyle? You may think it would be going to the gym every morning before work, going on a balanced and clean diet, and getting 8 hours of high-quality sleep. What else can you wish for in terms of a healthy lifestyle if you’ve got exercise, nutrition and sleep along with a bit of leisure time? Well, it’s easy to overlook this one but surprisingly, your social life plays a big part in both your physical and mental well-being. Studies show that receiving social support from a friend, family member or spouse is essential in achieving better mental health. On the other hand, a lack of social interaction could lead to adverse health conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and depression. Shutterstock: mentatdgt Why you need meaningful social interactionsSocial interactions are an integral part of human nature. But what really matters are the meaningful social interactions you engage in. Good friends are good for your health – they stay with you through thick and thin and most importantly, they're there when it's time to celebrate! Friendships can help reduce stress and make you happier. Simply having someone who has your back, one you can comfortably talk to while basking in their company, can mean the world. Did you know a warm hug can be a real mood booster? Hugs can make you feel happy by releasing dopamine and oxytocin which is known to improve happiness and relieve stress. Being socially active can lead to healthier habitsSocial connections especially when you're around health-conscious people can help you stay mindful of your lifestyle. Joining a group that exercises together can also improve your commitment. When you exercise with others, you're more likely to give it your all, knowing that there others challenging themselves alongside you. Researchers have found that working out in groups can lower stress by 26% and significantly improve quality of life. The loneliness epidemicThe loneliness epidemic is real, especially in a technology-driven era when everyone around us is practically glued to their phones. The issue of loneliness became even more prevalent after the pandemic caused lockdowns all over the world, and people began realising that their social life plays a big role in their happiness. Our priorities change along with our commitments as we get older, and it is likely that socialising no longer remains a priority – keeping our social circle small and intimate. By retirement age, you may be faced with the issue of not having a social life outside of your family, which is why many seniors experience this loneliness. Live a happy and more fulfilling lifeEnjoy the ties that you hold dear to. Meeting your friends and family members every once in a while is a great way to unwind and de-stress. Try maintaining your social connections by taking time to check in on your friends even if the both of you have drifted apart due to family or work commitments. Is a busy schedule really more important than your social life? Maybe take 10-30 minutes off your work week to have coffee with some friends as your way of recharging! You may then realise how essential a robust social life is to your health. It's never too late to reconnect or even make new friendships! It's never too late to pick up your phone to ring that dear friend you miss talking to! References: https://www.southuniversity.edu/news-and-blogs/2018/05/why-being-social-is-good-for-you#
Stress is a normal part of life. However, your body isn’t designed to handle too much stress. Here are some signs that may indicate that your body is begging for help. Shutterstock: Roman Samborskyi Stress is a normal body response to demands and challenges. In fact, did you know that stress can be beneficial in some potentially dangerous situations since it puts you in fight or flight mode by boosting your focus and physical readiness to face a situation? This response is caused when hormones are released by the brain in response to stress. However, our bodies are only equipped to handle a limited amount of stress. Your body might be giving you clues that you’re overworked if your stress response keeps firing multiple times every day whenever you find difficulty dealing with work or fulfilling family obligations such as caregiving for a child or an elderly parent. Chronic stress can lead to emotional, physical and behavioural effects. You might be thinking that you can handle some stress but is your body suggesting otherwise? Today, we’ll discuss the stress-related physical signs that may be your body’s way of crying out for help. Headaches and muscle painWhen your body is stressed, your muscles tense up. This is a defensive reflex to aid your muscles in protecting you from injury. However, chronic stress causes unnecessary tension in your muscles and keeps them on standby. This can result in unpleasant symptoms such as headaches that are associated with the continuous muscle tension in your head, neck and upper body. Chronic stress has also been linked to other muscle disorders. One study concluded that in older people, hormones released during stress can cause a decline in muscle strength which increases their susceptibility to falls and fractures. Meditation and relaxation techniques are methods to ease up your muscle tension. This reduced tension can lower the chance of getting any stress-related disorders. Hair and skin issuesStress can have a big impact on how you look. Have you noticed a correlation between stress and your acne breakouts? That's right, stress releases cortisol, a hormone that makes your skin more oily and prone to skin problems. Stress can also fire up skin problems like eczema, skin rashes and psoriasis, potentially affecting your self-confidence. That's not just it. Your hair won't be happy too. In fact, stress can lead to hair loss. You might notice an increase in hair fall whenever you comb or wash your hair. The good thing is that stress-related hair loss is usually reversible! Gastrointestinal problemsStress can also badly upset your digestive tract. Starting from your esophagus, stress can cause heartburn, stomach discomfort, bloating and nausea along with a change in appetite which can effectuate eating disorders. As you approach the bowel, stress disturbs your friendly gut bacteria which aids in digestion. Stress can also disrupt the flow of food which can lead to either diarrhea or constipation. Reproductive health problemsAs for reproductive health, stress can lead to a wide range of effects. High levels of stress can lead to:- Irregular menstrual cycles- More painful periods- Loss of libido- Worse premenstrual syndrome symptoms (cramping, bloating and mood swings)- Worse physical menopausal symptoms (more severe hot flashes) To add to all this, stress can even negatively affect your chances of having a baby! Coping with stressDon't forget that stress is also associated with a plethora of other factors including mental health. Getting stress under control can be achieved through exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, having a healthy social life and meditating. If your body is experiencing any stress-related symptoms then take the hint and start an effective stress management plan today! Sources:https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body# https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/
Did you know that sex can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and hypertension? Sex can be an important part of a woman’s life. It’s a pivotal part of love and marriage, bolstering strong bonds through deep intimacy. Yet with a busy schedule and an amalgamation of worries from work, relationships and family, there seems to be no time to think or even enjoy partaking in the act. Months and years may fly and you’ll be left wondering where your desire for sex went. Why Stress Impacts Libido The Accelerator and The BrakeTo understand why your libido has flown out of the window, you need to understand how the body deals with stress. A body has a sympathetic (stress response) and parasympathetic nervous system (stress relief). Analogous to a car requiring the accelerator to drive over slopes and difficult terrains, the sympathetic nervous system functions just like the accelerator - to cope with the challenges and stressors in life. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is the brake of your body and is activated when the body needs rest. When you wake up to your phone buzzing with mountains of tasks needed to be done, relationship problems at the back of your mind, and endless bills to chase - you become immobilized with stress. To cope with this major hurdle, your body fuels you with a short boost of energy to either face your problems or run away from them. Our stress response (the accelerator) is activated in our bodies. We’ve all experienced it kicking in, your heart pounds faster, your palms get moist and sweaty, you tingle with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. Once the problem has been resolved, the accelerator will be relieved by the brake. Phew, another hill conquered, now you can take a break. The Chronic ProblemBut what happens when stress becomes chronic? Another day, another steeper hill to conquer, but this time it stretches over a long period of time, our body hits the pedal for too long, and it feels as if our accelerator has gotten stuck. Stress over SexOur body is working overtime, all the time, giving no chance for our brakes to kick in. To allow the accelerator to keep working, the production of our stress hormone, ‘cortisol’ increases. During this process, our body uses our sex hormones, to meet the increased demands of cortisol production. This disrupts the balance of sex hormones, along with the desire for sex. An erotic touch, even kisses and cuddles from a partner does not excite you the way they did. It’s fight or flight and nothing elseYour sex drive is not only affected by your hormones but also socially and mentally. When the stress hormones kick in, it’s fight or flight and nothing else. It’s impossible to be present, to smell the roses, to be interested in this week’s latest gossip, or to catch up with your friends, even your spouse. There seems to be no time to deal with anything but yourself. When stress extends over prolonged periods, it’s easy to detach yourself socially from others and intimately from your spouse. When your intimacy with your partner fades, and your ‘fight mode’ leaves you in an aggressive and defensive state. In such as state, sex would probably be the last thing on your mind. What can you do about it then?First, you need to understand the loss of sex drive is ultimately a symptom of your underlying issue with stress. Here are some ways that may alleviate your stress: Realise you are not aloneAll of us experience stress, share your worries and anxieties with your spouse. You need not face your fights alone! Team up with your spouse, fight the stress together. It will not only increase your sense of unity but also shows your resilience and fight as a couple. Accept that your sex drive will fluctuateYour path in life is never a straight path and so is your sex drive. It will be lower sometimes and that’s fine. Accept that it might take a little while to recover, but trust it will bounce back eventually. If you can accept that this is completely okay, you can still have a lovely sex life during a stressful period too. Focus on Sensation, not SexInstead of the act itself, focus on where it all started, and why it did. Loving acts such as cuddles, kisses and hugs can help. It also forces the body to go from stress to relaxation, if you allow this. If you know your spouse is going through a rough period, kiss them a little bit more, hug them a little tighter and a little longer. These tiny acts of affection can let your partner feel more love and cared for. A little goes a long way indeed! Get activeExercising is a great way to relieve stress. Going on a quick evening jog can help release endorphins (stress-relieving chemicals) and can allow you to feel more connected with your surroundings. The Bottom Line All in all, you need to realise low libido is a manifestation or symptom of an underlying problem that may not be stress itself. In the case of stress, however, you need to realise you are not alone - friends, family and your partner are there for you. However, if your stress stems from your relationship or deeper problems, do seek the necessary professional help from therapy and experts. References:https://www.verywellmind.com/how-stress-can-lead-to-low-libido-3145029https://www.self.com/story/how-stress-affects-sex-lifehttps://www.gottman.com/blog/3-reasons-stress-is-affecting-your-sex-drive-and-what-to-do-about-it/
Caregiving is a noble act, but while selflessly providing care for a loved one, caregivers can go through a lot which is why their mental health shouldn’t be neglected. Image Source: SorapopUdomsri As beautifully quoted by Rosalyn Carter, “There are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers”. Undoubtedly so, caregiving is an integral part of life. Taking on the role of a caregiver for your loved ones can be immensely fulfilling and meaningful. However, just like anything hard-earned, it is not an easy path to take. Years of caregiving can be filled with highs and lows. The cherishable moments you share with your loved ones may develop deep and special bonds. But in doing so, you would be taking on their burdens, problems and worries, which may result in feelings of stress and guilt especially if your loved one doesn't get better despite your best efforts. If you feel you're not doing enough, you're not alone. It is important to realise these feelings of guilt and stress may not arise from not doing enough, but conversely from overworking and feeling excessively accountable without keeping stress and burnout at bay. It's easy to forget about your own well-being when giving your utmost love and support to a loved one. However, if you want to provide the best care for your loved one, they need you to be your best self. This means ensuring that you're at the pink of health both mentally and physically, by watching out for signs of caregiver stress and burnout. Signs you need a break Caregiver stress isn't always obvious. The smiles and appreciation you receive along with a sense of duty can do a good job masking clear signs that indicate impending burnout. Watch out for signs of stress like depression, feeling tired, having difficulty sleeping and any new or deteriorating health problems. Signs you're burned out include having low energy levels, little to no self-care and not finding time for yourself. If your whole life revolves around caring for your loved one and you feel like caregiving is becoming a heavy burden then you might need to re-evaluate your approach. Feel empowered and focus on the things you can control Trapping yourself in a vicious cycle of feeling accountable for matters in life that are out of your control may make you feel powerless, preventing you from thinking of sound solutions to make the lives of both you and your loved ones better. Focus on the things you have control over and give yourself credit for doing your best! Ask for caregiving help As much as we may be heroes to our loved ones, we have our limits. Try asking for help with caregiving from a friend or family member if you need time to recharge. Ask a friend to take your loved one on a walk while you take a break. Asking for a simple favour from your friends such as helping you cook a meal and completing a simple chore so that you can unwind every once in a while could do heaps for your self-care and well-being. So don't be afraid to ask! Accept your caregiving and applaud yourself Realize that caring for your helpless loved one is a noble choice that you made and should embrace and feel proud of. This can stop you from feeling any self-resentment while providing extra motivation for taking care of your loved one. Along the way, make sure you celebrate the small wins! Talk to a supportive and appreciative friend or family member Try talking to someone who understands and appreciates the great lengths and sacrifices required to adopt such a selfless role. Connecting with someone who went through a similar situation can help you vent and de-stress. It may also drive you towards a new perspective along your caregiving journey. Take breaks and don't neglect self-care Lastly, you need time to destress and get your energy back. Take a break and make time for self-care. This could mean exercising, cooking, meditating or anything you love doing! Don't neglect your social life, it is a critical aspect for self-care and your own happiness. Always remember that you’re not alone, everyone needs the help of others! Just like how your loved one needs you, you need your friends and family to have your back. Whenever you need a break or feel stress or trouble, seek help from the people around you. References: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784
Depression is a touchy subject. But noticing signs of depression in a loved one can help them get the help they need. Seeing a loved one go through depression can be a very distressing experience. But what if you don't even notice their depression in the first place? The thought of not being there for your loved ones when they need you the most is heartbreaking to say the least. We all have our own set of daily struggles. This can cause us to unknowingly miss out on the little pleas of help left by our loved ones who might be quietly suffering. Knowing what signs you should look out for can allow you to provide the right help at the right time. Image Source: Janon Stock Signs to look out for: When a friend or a family member goes through depression you might expect them to approach you for help. But this isn't always the case. They could simply be in denial. Or maybe they're held back by shame and fear of dragging you into their struggles. So watch out for these common signs: Fatigue Appetite and weight changes Changes in sleep habits Low energy A loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy Having bad hygiene and not caring for themselves Hopelessness You won't expect it but your loved one may be hiding these signs behind a smile. If you want to have their back then make sure you take a closer look! Check up on your loved ones regularly and always be on the lookout for these signs. What should you do if you think a loved one is secretly suffering from depression? The road to recovering from depression can be a long one. Professional assistance is highly recommended as depression is complex and specific to the individual. That being said, they'll still need the help of others! Here are some tips that can help you offer the best care and support: Show them you're willing to help by talking to them and trying to make them open up. Talk. Express your concerns especially if you think they might have suicidal thoughts. Contrary to popular belief, talking about your suicide concerns isn't going to "put the idea in their head" or encourage it. Especially if it's discussed in an appropriate manner. Try to take the initiative by offering to cook a nutritious meal together or going for a walk together instead of giving them generic advice they probably won't listen to like "just eat healthy food and exercise regularly." Don't try fixing them. Dealing with depression requires patience, so don't make them feel like they need any fixing. Depression is a medical condition that can't be treated by saying a few over-simplified phrases like "just ignore the stuff that makes you sad". Instead, shower them with love and care so they can recover in a loving and healthy environment. Don't leave them out no matter what. Even if you're sure that they won't accept your gathering invitations, make sure you still invite them so they feel included instead of feeling left out. Help them seek professional advice by suggesting they see a mental health professional and offering to take them to their session if they feel comfortable with you doing so. Stay in touch. Depressed individuals may try to avoid reaching out so make sure you check on them and make them feel cared for. Depression is a real threat that anyone can face. We can protect our loved ones by keeping a close eye on their mental health state. Beyond the pain and agony it can bring to a victim, someone suffering from depression has an increased risk of committing suicide. If you think someone you know has suicidal thoughts then make sure they seek professional advice. References: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm
Depression is usually associated with a bunch of signs that can be hard to miss. But people with smiling depression can hide these signs which makes their depression easier to miss. Image Source: Shutterstock, GoodStudio What is smiling depression? “Are you okay, really? I’m here if you want to talk!” It is likely that you’ve heard of this phrase when you were sulking in your sorrow or perhaps used it on a friend who looked upset. It is typical to associate depression with sadness, social withdrawal and low energy levels. While it is true most of the time, this precariously overlooks an anomaly that is growing in numbers – smiling depression. Smiling depression is a form of high-functioning depression where individuals mask their depression to convince others and in some cases, themselves, that they’re fine. This leaves smiling depression usually undetected and is a serious problem for many women. Who is at risk of smiling depression?No matter how cheerful and happy someone may seem, smiling depression is a real possibility, especially if they exhibit subtle signs of depression. Some jobs and especially those that require one to look happy and cheerful can actually encourage the habit of suppressing one’s emotions. Mothers may also hide behind this smiling mask for many reasons including not wanting to share their burden with their children. Other reasons why people may try to hide their emotions may include fear of being judged, refusal to accept the reality of their condition and not wanting to burden their loved ones. A quiet killer According to experts, there’s a worrying connection between smiling depression and suicide. Contrary to a depressed victim who lacks the energy to even leave bed, a depressed victim who is still able to function at normal or even high energy levels may be more likely to initiate a suicide attempt. This makes it a true silent killer. How can we detect it then?While smiling depression goes undetected on surface levels, if you looked closer into the life of a victim of smiling depression, you may find clear signs. This would include losing their appetite, looking tired and having less sleep due to insomnia. Another sign that’s usually hard to hide is losing interest in things they used to enjoy. Tackling the invisible killerWhether it’s you or someone else, who you think suffers from smiling depression, you should realize that there is help out there. Talking to a mental health professional can help you treat your depression. This can be as simple as taking certain medication, doing talk therapy or making lifestyle changes. Opening up and talking to others who are going through similar situations can also help with treating depression! Sometimes all we need is someone who can understand what we’re going through especially since it is challenging for others to relate when they do not share the same experience, and may find it hard to believe that a seemingly happy person can have depression. Try joining a support network or mental health communities, and speaking with a certified mental health professional. Remember, you’re not alone. If you have any suicidal thoughts then make sure you reach out for help. References: https://www.healthline.com/health/smiling-depressionhttps://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-smiling-depression-4775918 https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/this-is-what-high-functioning-depression-looks-like https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2016/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Smiling-Depression%E2%80%9D https://adelphipsych.sg/smiling-depression-a-dangerous-and-hidden-mental-health-problem/ Nectar has hosted a past webinar "Nectar Circle: A look into Lynette’s Journey in Coping with High-Functioning Depression". You can watch a recording of the webinar to find out how Lynette coped with High Functioning Depression and download a copy of the key takeaway slides here.
With technology as advanced as it is today, adapting to the ‘new normal’ should be easy, right? After all, from attending work meetings to buying groceries, almost everything can be done over the internet, with just a tap on your smartphone. Photo Credits: iStock, gahsoon With technology as advanced as it is today, adapting to the ‘new normal’ should be easy, right? After all, from attending work meetings to buying groceries, almost everything can be done over the internet, with just a tap on your smartphone. Granted, we can continue with most functions in our daily lives, but loneliness and a sense of disconnectedness is one thing that cannot be salved by virtual socialisation. For those who aren’t active on social media, the isolation can feel even worse and be harder to manage. It’s no wonder that depression is on the rise due to COVID-19. Although there are strict social distancing rules in place, we can still go out and socialise in small groups. Don’t skimp on this: these less frequent and more intimate gatherings are very important for your mental well-being. Meaningful interactions can help ease feelings of isolation and loneliness and improve your mood. Go ahead and continue to meet up with your close friends and family. If you want, consider catching up in less crowded places with fewer distractions. Regular exercise is also scientifically known as a great mood booster — exercising fights depression by releasing serotonin in your brain, helping to regulate your mood, sleep and appetite. Thus, you can also consider pursuing an interest or taking up a new sport. Not only is this great for building your mental and physical strength, but you may even get to meet other like-minded individuals and join a new community!
On top of having full-time jobs, many women are the primary caregivers for children and the elderly at home. This is a huge task as it is, what more amid the COVID-19 global health crisis! As much as we’d like to believe we have it all under control, having to work from home is a big lifestyle adjustment, especially when we have to take care of the kids and/or elderly and manage the household at the same time. Image Source: Envato Elements, DragonImages At such a time, know you are not superwoman, and you don’t have to be. It is okay to take a break to rest and recharge. The ‘new normal’ takes an inevitable toll on your mental health, so it’s essential to take care of your body and mind before you fall prey to depression. To manage your stress levels, ensure you get adequate sleep every night, have healthy, balanced meals and make time for self-care, whether it’s through regular exercise or pursuing a hobby. It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone. If needed, lean on your loved ones for support, and if you can, offer the same kindness in return. Don’t neglect your social ties — spending time chatting with your close friends and family can provide relief and fight feelings of loneliness. If you are already consistently struggling with five or more symptoms of depression (check ‘SAD CAGES’ list of depression symptoms), you should seek medical advice. You can call HealthLine (by the Health Promotion Board) at 1800 223 1313 or visit your doctor, any polyclinic or hospital, or the Institute of Mental Health. Nectar has hosted a past webinar "Nectar Circle with APSY: High-functioning Depression in Working Women" in partnership with Annabelle Psychology. You can watch a recording of the webinar for greater insights into how you can cope with High Functioning Depression and download a copy of the key takeaway slides here.
Although compared to the world, things may seem pretty ‘normal’ here in Singapore, and we should give ourselves a huge pat on the back for dealing with the many COVID-19-induced changes in our lives. We should also take some time to step back, breathe and take a break. With the strict social distancing regulations, many of us have spent much more time at home. We’ve had to let our social lives take a back seat and adapt to taking classes and/or working from home, which has blurred the lines of work and play. For fresh grads, there is the added pressure of entering into an uncertain job market. Image Source: Envato Elements, leungchopan Although compared to the world, things may seem pretty ‘normal’ here in Singapore, and we should give ourselves a huge pat on the back for dealing with the many COVID-19-induced changes in our lives. We should also take some time to step back, breathe and take a break. With the strict social distancing regulations, many of us have spent much more time at home. We’ve had to let our social lives take a back seat and adapt to taking classes and/or working from home, which has blurred the lines of work and play. For fresh grads, there is the added pressure of entering into an uncertain job market. These situations can affect our mental well-being as they often lead to relationship issues and higher stress and anxiety levels. Being cooped up at home with many family members can cause interpersonal tension and/or feelings of isolation. Being unable to balance work and rest can lead to burnout. If you’ve noticed that you (or a loved one) is consistently feeling down, it may help check your mood against the ‘SAD CAGES’ list of depression symptoms. If you match five or more symptoms daily for two weeks or more, you may be struggling with depression and should seek medical advice before these feelings get the better of you. You can call HealthLine (by the Health Promotion Board) at 1800 223 1313 or visit your doctor, any polyclinic or hospital, or the Institute of Mental Health.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, be sure to take care of not just your physical health but your mental well-being too. The COVID-19 outbreak may have reminded us to revisit our hygiene habits and take better care of our bodies, but we often neglect our mental health in this crisis. Singapore has done a great job of managing the pandemic— immunisation is already in progress. The daily case count is in the single-digit range — but even so, the disease continues to wreak havoc on many other aspects of our lives. For many of us, our ‘new normal’ involves telecommuting, home-schooling our children, limited socialisation with our friends, family and colleagues, and perhaps even unemployment and income loss. Image Source: Envato Elements, Leszekglasner Unsurprisingly, depression is a related outcome of the global health crisis. Beyond merely feeling down, depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness and/or hopelessness. It often disrupts the sufferer’s daily life, causing them to be unable to enjoy other activities, including those that were previously rewarding. There is no single cause of depression. The condition is complex, and has several causes, from physiological changes in our brain and/or hormonal levels to environmental factors like stress, trauma and the like. But what we do know is that women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Depression can strike anyone, and at any age, so it is more important than ever for us to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Although depression can be triggered by significant upheavals such as grief due to the loss of someone close or financial difficulties due to job loss, we must remember that even if we are fortunate enough not to be affected by the above, we may still be vulnerable to heightened stress, anxiety, interpersonal tension and other conflicts. If you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from depression, the Ministry of Health recommends checking your symptoms against this list (‘SAD CAGES’): S – Sleep disturbancesA – Appetite changeD – Depressed mood of feelings of sadness over a sustained periodC – Concentration problemsA – Anhedonia: Loss of interest in enjoyable activitiesG – Guilt or shameE – Energy and enthusiasm lowS – Suicidal thoughts due to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness If you have at least five symptoms that persist daily for two weeks or more, you may want to visit your doctor. You can also call HealthLine (Health Promotion Board’s toll-free health information service line) at 1800 223 1313. It operates from 8.30am to 5pm on weekdays, and 8.30am to 1pm on Saturday and is available in 4 languages. Alternatively, visit any polyclinic, hospital or the Institute of Mental Health. References: https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/101/topics_depression https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19
A bad mood can easily ruin your day. Improved general health usually means a better mood but how can the type of food we eat affect our mood? Shutterstock: WAYHOME Studio Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed, and instantly felt your day was ruined before it even began? Your mood and emotions can affect almost every aspect of your life, including your productivity. The great feeling of seizing the day and living life to the fullest can sometimes be held hostage by your mood and mental health state. Your mood can be affected by a myriad of factors, but did you know that nutrition plays a crucial role in affecting your mood? In recent years, there has been increasing evidence that nutrition can actually affect mental health. Here are some ways the food we eat can actually affect our mood. Always trust your gutEver had that gut feeling about someone or something? Science might not be able to explain that, but studies have shown that a two-way communication channel exists between your gut and brain. And that channel plays a crucial role in regulating your mood! A fun fact, 90% of serotonin, the chemical that stabilizes your mood and happiness, also coined as "the happiness hormone" is produced in the digestive tract. A happy meal may have some scientific backing after all! Is that burger affecting your mood?Gut bacteria have also been found to produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine and many others related to anxiety, concentration and even motivation. It would only make sense if we ate foods that help these gut bacteria flourish! Foods containing probiotics can improve your mood and brain function by encouraging a healthy gut environment. While whole foods, fermented foods and vegetables can boost your gut health, eating large amounts of processed foods that contain additives, sugar and lack of fibre may disturb your gut bacteria. Can food help with menstrual cycle mood swings?We can all agree that your menstrual cycle can easily claim the title of the biggest mood breaker. Before your period begins, it's perfectly normal to have mood swings, feel sad, angry or simply irritated. Next thing you know, the cramps come knocking and all of a sudden, you're too overwhelmed. But how can food help in this dire situation? One study suggests that calcium supplements can actually reduce PMS-related (premenstrual syndrome) mood changes and negative feelings. Another reason for mood swings that can be treated is iron-deficiency anemia which can be caused by heavy periods. Fish oils, egg yolks and exposure to sunlight can reduce irregular periods associated with low vitamin D levels. You are what you eatAfter all, we really are what we eat. Eating foods that promote brain and gut health can help keep chemical balances in check and improve your overall mood. Sugary foods can take you on a mood rollercoaster. You get a momentary mood spike but before you get to appreciate that milkshake, you're hit with a sugar crash which can easily bring you down. However, when it comes to using food to treat mood changes, you have to realize that as much as nutrition is a key factor to your mood, it isn't the only one. Other mood drivers include your external environment and mental state. These factors are all important and must not be neglected. If you feel depressed or have any suicidal thoughts then make sure you get help. Finding your happy diet can really go a long way! You'd be surprised how eating the right food can boost your mood. References: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/gut-feelings-how-food-affects-your-mood-2018120715548 https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/food-and-mood/about-food-and-mood/
A picture is worth a thousand words. What does your tongue reflect about your health? Observing the tongue is one of the main 4 diagnostic methods to obtain information.What does a physician look out for in a tongue? 9 BASIC TONGUE INDICATIONS: NORMAL BODY CONSTITUTIONPink tongue with thin coating YIN DEFICIENCY Red tongue with little/ no coating/ cracks One is usually thin in size, averse to hot and dry weather, often complains about feeling warm at the palms of the hand and soles of the feet especially in the night, has a dry mouth and nose, frequent thirst, night sweats, and dry stools / constipation. YANG DEFICIENCYPale swollen tongue or with white coating Averse to cold and prefers extra clothing to keep oneself warm, often complains about feeling cold at the hands, feet and abdomen, often feels unwell after eating cold food, and prone to fertility issues. QI DEFICIENCY Pale/pink tongue and teeth marks at the sides Easily fatigued, susceptible to the common cold or flu bug, prone to panting, perspires easily with little physical activity, tend to overthink and worry, and watery / loose stools. BLOOD DEFICIENCYPale tongue with little / no coating Easily fatigued, prone to dizziness, palpitations, forgetfulness, poor concentration, and tend to be anaemic. QI STAGNATIONTongue with red tip with thin white coating Prone to mood swings, anxiety / depression, excessive sighing, tight chest, bloated stomach, and excessive dreaming. DAMP HEATRed with yellow greasy coating Prone to have acne on the face, chest, or back. Often complains of a bitter taste in the mouth, averse to warm and humid weather, excessive secretions / dampness at the reproductive organs, and sticky stools / sense of incomplete defecation. PHLEGM AND DAMPNESSPink/ swollen tongue with thick white coating Prone to excessive sebum secretions on the face and scalp, excessive phlegm production, chest tightness, sense of heaviness especially in the limbs, often have cravings for food high in fat and sugars, and aversed to humid and wet weather. BLOOD STASISPurple red tongue with black spots Often have dull complexion and pigmentation on the skin, dark-coloured lips, unknown bruising, prone to bleeding disorders, and abnormal growths in the body. Tongue RegionIn addition, the tongue is divided into sections associated with different organs of the body. Noting where the characteristics appear on the tongue can help the physician to attain a more accurate diagnosis and treatment method for the patient. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Nectar has hosted a past webinar "Deciphering Women’s Health & Body Constitution Through Our Tongue" in partnership with PULSE TCM. You can watch a recording of the webinar for greater insights into what your tongue reflects about your health and download a copy of the key takeaway slides here.
You must have heard the words ‘heaty’ and ‘cooling’ before, but do you really know what it means? Do you know how it can affect your body, and are there any types of food you can take to reverse it? What is ‘Heaty’ & ‘Cooling’?Originating from traditional Chinese medicine theory, everything in nature is made up of a balance in yin (dark) and yang (bright) energy. ‘Heaty’ in TCM (阳盛则热) suggests that there is an excess of yang energy in the body, whereas ‘cooling’ in TCM (阴盛则寒) suggests that there is an excess of yin energy in the body. There are two types of factors that contribute to ‘heatiness’ and ‘coldness’ – external and internal. External factors such as weather and the food we eat can cause ‘heatiness’ / ‘coldness’ to manifest in the body. For example, eating fried or spicy foods can result in individuals developing ‘heaty’ symptoms. Being in a cold room could result in one developing ‘cooling’ symptoms. Internal factors such as the inborn constitution of the body can also be the reason for ‘heatiness’ / ‘coldness’. For example, certain individuals who are innately ‘cooling’ would be able to snack incessantly without developing symptoms of ‘heatiness’. Symptoms When one is ‘heaty’, ‘cooling’ foods are recommended to counteract the ‘heatiness’ in the body, thus returning the balance of yin and yang energies in the system. In the same way, ‘heaty’ foods are recommended for those who have ‘cooling’ symptoms to help dispel cold and improve circulation. Balance can be seen in the way we pair our foods. For example, durians are usually eaten with mangosteen to achieve an equilibrium in energies. Characterisation of Foods ‘Heaty’ and ‘cooling’ foods do not represent the temperature of food, instead, they refer to the effect that the food causes on the body. For example, consuming hot desserts such as green bean soup would be recommended to someone with heaty symptoms as the dessert would generate ‘cool’ energy to counteract the ‘heatiness’, hence returning the body back to equilibrium. It is also important to note that some individuals may experience a combination of both symptoms, and it is best to consult a TCM physician to inquire in depth about the body’s constitution. In some cases, herbal medication would be needed to restore the body back to its balanced state. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
As early- to mid-career women, you’re gunning for the next promotion or being groomed for leadership positions. At the same time, you’re coping with the mounting business challenges that have come with this pandemic. On top of all of that, young mums are dealing with the pressures of raising young children, while thinking about parents who may be retiring or are entering their silver years. As you’re being pulled in several directions at one go, what you need right now is to maintain your energy levels. You need foods that can provide a sustained release of energy, especially complex carbs that take a longer time to digest. One of the most undervalued foods to get you going in times like these is the humble banana. A good source for vitamin B6, potassium, complex carbs and fibre, the banana, when digested, allows sugar to be absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. This provides a sustained delivery of energy, instead of energy spikes, which will also help to stabilise your mood and stress levels. Not all sugars are bad for you, as a diet completely devoid of sugar can cause irritability. Foods rich in vitamin B6, such as poultry, soybeans and oats, are also known to help with the release of “happy” chemicals dopamine and serotonin. The other way to increase levels of dopamine is to exercise regularly. Other foods that help with stable energy levels: sweet potatoes, brown rice and eggs. References: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16763894/
You can finally say you’re adulting, but instead of celebrating the beginning of your career you’re grappling with a slowing economy and facing a recession after graduating from universities or polytechnics. There are longer waits to find the right job for yourself as companies announce hiring freezes. Coupled with family or peer pressure to start earning an income, this can be an extremely stressful and emotionally draining time. The fix might be a Netflix and binge session. But if you eat right instead, you can find more effective mood and immunity boosters. K culture has the answers — but it only has a little to do with Korean pop bands. Fermented foods, like Kimchi, supply probiotics, which help with gut health and improved serotonin levels — natural mood enhancers in the body. Yogurt, especially plain Greek yogurt, has been a traditional go-to option for probiotics. But there are other “Ks” that have gained popularity for their gut benefits — they are probiotic drinks, kefir and kombucha. These are easily available off supermarket shelves. If you can squeeze in the time, there are tons of online resources to learn to make these fermented drinks at home. Not all fermented foods supply probiotics though. Don’t expect to improve your gut health through bread, beer or wine. Other foods that help with mood and immunity: oats, berries, beans and lentils. Reference: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/what-lies-ahead-for-the-class-of-covid-19
Stress eating is something we all go through. But rather than satiating unhealthy cravings, you can relieve stress with the right nutrients. The Covid-19 pandemic has upturned the way we work, live and play. Most of us are spending more time at home than ever, whether we are working, keeping house or caring for loved ones. In an ideal world, all this time at home should translate to better, healthier home cooked meals. Instead, we are busier with remote working arrangements, and continue to struggle with managing our time. There are four reasons for this: even while home, our work must continue; we experience diminished boundaries as family time becomes intertwined with work time; there are space constraints or non-conducive work spaces; and we have fewer choices when it comes to social company. This has in turn affected how we eat — where we get our food from, how it is prepared, and how we consume it. Due to movement restrictions and continued work-from-home recommendations, food deliveries have spiked. Understandably most of us chose convenience to get through this period of adjustment, with healthy choices taking a backseat. Treats like chocolates, chips and sweet drinks help us feel better momentarily, but these foods can worsen the anxiety and stress we feel. Consuming large amounts of added, processed sugars can result in spikes and inevitable crashes in energy levels, affecting alertness and productivity. Caffeine from coffee or tea might be the antidote to sleep-deprivation, but a study found that too much of it can intensify feelings of anxiety. Caffeine can elevate blood pressure and plasma norepinephrine levels at rest, resulting in significantly raised levels of stress. On the flip side, some foods can help your body deal with new pressures. Research has shown that eating lots of fruits and vegetables not only has a positive impact on your physical health, but can do wonders for mental health too. Foods rich in probiotics, like yogurt and other fermented foods, that contribute to gut health and increased serotonin levels, can help enhance moods. There are several nutrients you can choose from depending on your most immediate needs, your age and your lifestyle. There is no single fix for stress. Please speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about stress management. References: https://news.stanford.edu/2020/03/30/productivity-pitfalls-working-home-age-covid-19 https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/consumer/singapores-food-delivery-surge-during-lockdown-highlights-waste-problems https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2195579/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953618306907?via%3Dihub
As you age, your metabolism slows down tremendously. The result is your body begins to respond differently to pressure. At this point, it is important to consider not only what foods can help you feel good, but those that can help slow down the effects of aging and prevent age-related conditions. Your go-to at this point is antioxidant-rich foods like… dark chocolate. While chocolate in general can have a bad reputation on the sugar front, dark chocolate, which has considerably less sugar and dairy, is a purer product with more of the benefits of the cocoa bean. One of the health benefits of cocoa is increased blood flow which improves brain and muscle function. It’s important to note that dark chocolate also includes a hint of caffeine. Caffeine in small doses does help with stable energy levels. The maximum acceptable amount the body can take before caffeine starts to have negative effects on anxiety is 300mg per day — equivalent to 45ml or 1.5 shots of espresso. Fatty or oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines can do double duty of lifting your mood and promoting healthier aging. These fish are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids — essential fats for proper body function — which can only be obtained through food. Omega-3 has been shown to lower levels of depression while supporting brain development, and it can also lower the risk of heart disease. Other foods that help with anti-aging: avocado, broccoli, spinach and nuts. References: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25782129 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712371/
Packaging and diet trends can tempt you to eat certain "healthy" foods. However, some of these foods with a so-called health halo aren't as healthy as you think they are. Image Source: Shutterstock, Hananeko_Studio Drawing the line between healthy and junk food may not be as easy as it seems. A bit of clever marketing can easily lead you into thinking a food product is healthy. Looking at the labelling of some of these products, you'd swear they're the cure-all for all your health issues. You'll see buzzwords like ‘superfood’, ‘all-natural’, and ‘organic’ being thrown around all over their labelling. These products are said to wear a health halo because of their claimed benefits. It feels good to spend a few extra dollars on healthy products when making a health-conscious decision. But for the sake of your wallet and of course, your health, are these food products really what they claim to be? Here are some foods that wear a health halo but don't deserve space on your plate. Plant/nut-based milkNut milk is a healthier alternative, as it is packed with a plethora of essential nutrients that can bring you closer to your daily dietary needs. For instance, we all know dairy milk to be a great source of calcium, but did you know most nut milk packs at least the same amount or more calcium than dairy milk? In addition, it serves as a stomach-friendly option if you're lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products. The only catch for nut milk would be that it may be a little bland and chalky for the general palate. Many brands solve this issue by flavouring plain nut milk with sugar or sweeteners to enrich its dull taste. This is why you should check for any added sugars before picking your carton of nut milk from the shelf. Whole wheat breadIf you find yourself browsing through the whole wheat bread section in your local market, chances are, you're a bread lover and you're trying to cut down your calorie intake. When it comes to picking the whole-wheat option, however, you have to be especially careful. Why? You can label any bread 'whole wheat' as long as there's a speck of wheat in its ingredients list. And if it isn't 100% whole wheat, the product is likely to contain enriched flour, which is a big red flag in the health book. Enriched flour not only gives you a sugar spike followed by a crash just like any sugary food would, but it also means the bread has been stripped of its nutrients. So make sure to check the ingredients list to make sure it's the real ‘whole wheat’ you're getting. Low and fat-free foodsFat isn't always bad. It's an essential part of a healthy diet but saturated fats have grown to be infamous. Moderate fat intake isn't going to do you any harm, and in fact, it’s essential to fulfil your daily nutritional intake! When a food product is advertised as low fat or fat-free, there's a big chance they're using sugar to make up for the lost taste. Sugar is commonly added in large amounts too, which would do the opposite to your weight loss journey. Fruit juices and dry fruitFruit juices taste great, but are they really good for your health? Fruit juices do contain the nutrients found in fresh fruits. However, in terms of sugar content, fruit juices are no better than a can of soda. When it comes to dry fruits, they are densely packed with calories, and almost all of it comes from their sugar content. Water makes up 80% of the composition of the average fruit. This means that when food has been ‘dried’, the calories of the fruit remain the same but it’s been shrunk to a fifth of its size. This is why when we compare the sugar content of a dry mango to its fresh counterpart, the former has over 4 times more sugar per gram than the latter!So make sure, when consuming any snack or beverage that’s fruit-related, keep a close eye on the amount of sugar you’re consuming by limiting or counting the number of treats you’re eating. The bottom lineIf you're looking for healthy food then in most cases, you'll need to cut down on processed foods. When these foods are advertised as being sugar or fat-free, they'll probably include something to make up for it. This can end up as "fat-free" food with incredibly high sugar content or sugar-free food with a ton of chemicals and artificial sweeteners.Never let these ‘health halos’ be the sole decider of what goes on your plate. Always make sure you read the nutritional information on the packaging before picking something up. References: https://uglybynature.com/blogs/news/fruits-and-vegetables-hydrate-more-effectively-than-water-according-to-study# https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2012/07/25/14-healthy-foods-that-are-actually-bad-for-you/?sh=52d5e5425b15
There’s no sugarcoating it: our 40s is when we start to notice the effects of a slowing metabolism and possibly even the early symptoms of chronic conditions. If you haven’t already been watching what you eat, now is an excellent time to review your diet and start eating more healthily. With a more sluggish metabolism, weight management can be tricky. At this age, portion control is essential, so you’ll want to focus on nutrient-dense foods. Low-glycemic index (GI) foods are great for keeping your blood sugar levels checked, but don’t stop there. Pick the low-GI foods that also have high levels of minerals and vitamins that pack as much goodness in them as your body needs. Image Source: Envato Elements, amenic181 There’s no sugarcoating it: our 40s is when we start to notice the effects of a slowing metabolism and possibly even the early symptoms of chronic conditions. If you haven’t already been watching what you eat, now is an excellent time to review your diet and start eating more healthily. With a more sluggish metabolism, weight management can be tricky. At this age, portion control is essential, so you’ll want to focus on nutrient-dense foods. Low-glycemic index (GI) foods are great for keeping your blood sugar levels checked, but don’t stop there. Pick the low-GI foods that also have high levels of minerals and vitamins that pack as much goodness in them as your body needs. Here are some of our recommendations: Firstly, our brains use up to 20% of our body’s carbohydrate supply, so it’s imperative to feed it with good carbs. Nuts generally have low GI scores, and variants like walnuts, almond, hazelnuts, and peanuts are excellent brain foods. For better digestive health, opt for unrefined whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice and steel-cut oats. These aid digestion and keep you full for longer. You can also add fermented foods like kimchi, pickles and yoghurt to introduce more good bacteria into your gut. To improve hormonal health, eat foods high in phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen)— for example, soy products like beancurd and cruciferous veggies like broccoli. Finally, if you want to slow down ageing, it’s best to load up on antioxidant foods. Generally, the brighter the skin of the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it contains. Our favourites are blueberries, strawberries, oranges and bell peppers. References: https://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-healthy-foods-nutrition/nuts-brain-health/ https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/family-nutrition/brain-foods/best-brain-foods-11-ways-foods-can-help-you-think https://www.eatthis.com/best-foods-for-every-decade/
The first quarter of 2021 may be ending, but it looks like remote working is here to stay. If working from home (WFH) and staying in all day is starting to feel boring, why not take this chance to experiment in the kitchen? One of the good things about WFH is that you have more time to cook at home. Not only is preparing home-cooked meals more economical than dining out, but it also puts you in full control of you and your family’s nutrition. Image Source: Xframe Here are some easy low-glycemic index (GI) foods you can stock up on and add to your recipes: For breakfast sandwiches, use wholemeal bread instead of white bread. Want to take it a step further? Go for the even more nutritious wholegrain or multigrain breads. You can also replace your regular sweetened cereals with natural muesli and rolled or steel-cut oats. When it comes to bigger meals, white rice is an everyday staple, especially in Singapore. Low-GI alternatives to white rice include red, black or basmati rice. You can also opt for pearl couscous, quinoa, sweet potato and/or butternut pumpkin. For fibre, always complement your meals with low-GI vegetables like carrots, green peas, and broccoli. Not that adventurous? Your good ol’ leafy greens are a reliable option. While prepping meals for the family, don’t forget to take care of yourself. As you mature into your 30s and beyond, you may notice early signs of ageing, which is why now is the best time to load up on superfoods and antioxidants. References: https://www.gisymbol.com/swap-it/ https://www.lark.com/blog/low-glycemic-foods-list/ https://www.eatthis.com/best-foods-for-every-decade/
It sounds cliche, but the old adage is true, especially in your teens and early 20s. As your body moves into young adulthood, what you eat will form the building blocks of your health and follow you into the rest of your life stages. Now, having nutritious and well-balanced meals is more important than ever! For starters, opt for the “good” carbs, which are those that rank from moderate to low on the glycemic index. These are often whole grains and vegetables that are higher in fibre and take longer to digest. They keep you full for longer, serving as a more sustainable energy source for your active body. Image Source: Envato Elements, MaaHoo A great example is quinoa: Not only does it have a low glycemic index score of 53, but it also contains many essential amino acids that can improve your metabolism, which starts to slow down in your 20s. Getting used to diets with good carbs will help counter overnutrition, which can lead to weight problems and chronic issues like heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Besides picking the right carbohydrates, you should go easy on the booze. Alcoholic drinks pack a ton of extra calories which can be really unhealthy. The same goes for soft drinks and energy drinks. You should also avoid skipping meals - focus on the quality of your meals, not the quantity! It may seem a hassle to make too many changes to your eating habits, but think of it as “investing” in your health. Trust us, your body will thank you in 30 years. References: https://www.bustle.com/articles/179031-11-foods-to-eat-in-your-20s-to-get-as-many-important-nutrients-as-possible https://www.today.com/health/how-lose-weight-healthy-habits-start-your-20s-t128152
Hoping to lose weight? Instead of avoiding carbohydrates completely, consider the glycemic indices of your intake. If you are trying to manage your weight and are researching how best to improve your diet, you may have read about avoiding carbohydrates, or carbs for short. Carbs are one of the three main classes of food and responsible for fuelling your body with energy. Most carbs are sugars, starches and fibre, and common examples include bread, rice, potatoes and even starchy vegetables. Many diet fads focus on reducing your carbohydrate intake because doing so automatically lowers your calorie consumption, forcing your body to burn fats, which store energy. While this can have powerful benefits for some — such as those struggling with severe obesity and/or type 2 diabetes — low-carb diets may not necessarily be healthy, especially if taken to extremes. Image Source: Envato Elements, monkeybusiness Instead of cutting out carbs completely, a more sustainable approach to healthy weight loss is by considering the glycemic index (GI) of said carbs. Different carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates, and the GI ranks them on a scale of one to 100 based on how quickly and how much they raise our blood glucose levels after eating. Low GI (55 or less) Most fruits and vegetables, beans, minimally processed grains, pasta, low-fat dairy foods, and nuts. Moderate GI (56 to 69) White and sweet potatoes, corn, white rice, couscous, breakfast cereals such as Cream of Wheat and Mini-Wheats. High GI (70 or higher) White bread, rice cakes, most crackers, bagels, cakes, doughnuts, croissants, most packaged breakfast cereals. Source: Harvard Health Publishing Picking low GI foods can help prevent large spikes in your blood sugar and help in warding off chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and more. An easy way to get started is by swapping out your usual carbs for lower-GI alternatives. Here are some examples: From white rice to brown rice From white bread to wholegrain bread From instant oatmeal to steel-cut oats From corn to peas or leafy greens Remember, keeping in your best shape requires both a balanced diet and plenty of rest and exercise. So while improving your diet with low GI foods, don’t forget to get your heart pumping regularly through exercise too! References https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1329/what-is-the-glycaemic-index https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/a-good-guide-to-good-carbs-the-glycemic-index
If you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscles, you’ve probably considered cheat days or alternatively, a simple once a week cheat meal where you get to indulge in your guilty pleasure. But is it okay to treat yourself every once in a while? Before answering the main question, let’s look at two claims surrounding the benefits of cheat days. Image Source: Shutterstock, The_Molostock Myth #1: Cheat days can help you lose calories by boosting your metabolism.This theory claims that when you reduce your calorie intake, your metabolism adapts to this new level of calorie intake and slows down. On cheat days, the sudden spike in consumed calories supposedly accelerates your metabolism leading to a perceived increase in burnt calories. However, this claim isn’t true and cheat days aren’t necessary to burn more calories. Myth #2: Cheat days can actually help you stick to your diet by altering hunger hormones.What this theory claims is that cheat days encourage the production of leptin, a hormone that curbs your appetite, and hence makes you eat less. In reality, there isn’t much evidence to support this theory. Does the extent of cheating matter when it comes to achieving your goals? The goal of a weight loss diet is usually achieved as long as you don’t eat more calories than you’re going to burn. Although the weight gain / loss process is very complex and can differ from one person to another, as long as you don’t affect your overall calorie intake, you can probably get away with a cheat day if you don’t over do it. But if you’re actually trying to bulk and gain muscle, a cheat day is unlikely to interfere with your plans. Your attitude towards cheat days can affect its effectiveness Depending on whether you consider cheat days as a treat or if you associate them with feelings of shame can actually affect their outcome! One study showed that those who associated chocolate with celebration had more success losing weight than those who associated it with guilt. It’s not entirely your fault if you feel guilt as the word cheat doesn’t help with removing this association. This negative association can also cause disordered eating tendencies especially in young women such as excessively restricting yourself from food. Not everyone has the same self control. For some, a cheat meal is a chance to go back to their old unhealthy eating habits and for others it’s motivation to keep sticking to their diet plan. Since not everyone can resist the temptation to break loose and overdo cheat days or even abandon their diet plan, the same results can’t be guaranteed for everyone. Cheating should never be a solution to achieving your diet goals. Suddenly eating junk food can lead to bloating or indigestion. Cheating is also hard to measure so it's easy to overeat. This is why you shouldn't think of cheat days of free days where you get to eat as much food as you want. Why you might need to change your approach If cheat meals are all you’re thinking about throughout the week then you should probably change your approach. You’re bound to eventually hit some lows with your willpower so you better spice things up and make your everyday meals more interesting. Eating healthy doesn’t mean eating food you don’t enjoy! Even with cheat days, you should make sure it’s all planned for so you don’t go on a binge eating run that can set you back a few weeks. A balanced approach is what you should go for. References: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cheat-meals https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/cheat_days https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666313004698
Many assume that being skinny is always healthy but surprisingly, being “skinny fat” can turn out to be a silent killer. Image Source: Shutterstock, goffkein.pro Being skinny is often associated with being healthy. Whether it’s you or someone else, we all know someone who gets to eat all they want without gaining any weight or doing any exercise. Feeling jealous? Well, you shouldn’t. It turns out that being skinny and following unhealthy eating habits with no exercise can have the same effects as being obese! Skinny fat individuals can have perfectly normal weight and a normal BMI. But what these readings don’t account for is body fat percentage. Women with a body fat percentage of more than 30% with normal body weight and low muscle mass are probably skinny fat. This condition is otherwise known as TOFI (thin-outside-fat-inside) or described as being metabolically obese. So you might be wondering where all the fat is stored if skinny fat people can actually look slim on the outside. This fat is stored as visceral fat which is wrapped around your organs. Unlike subcutaneous fat (under the skin) which is visible and can be pinched, visceral fat is more dangerous and carries greater risk of getting diseases usually associated with obesity. Visceral fat is linked to a whole slew of diseases that aren't usually associated with skinny individuals. Diseases like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease are all linked to having too much visceral fat. So if you think you can get away with an unhealthy lifestyle just because you’re skinny, then you better think again. Visceral fat has also been found to have a different genetic origin than subcutaneous fat and what’s dangerous about this type of fat is that it’s a silent killer. Other discoveries linked to this type of fat include an increased risk of having poor cognitive performance or worse, getting dementia. Being skinny is no excuse for a bad lifestyle. If you have bad eating habits, don’t exercise regularly and suspect you might have too much visceral fat, then it may be advisable to speak with your doctor. A large waist size is usually the easiest way to confirm you have too much visceral fat. This is all the more reason to not overlook your yearly visit to the doctor’s office no matter how much you weigh. A nutritious diet with less processed foods and junk food along with regular exercise is the way to go no matter how you look! References: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/scientists-find-origin-bad-fat-linked-heart-disease-and-cancer-9180037.html https://www.healthline.com/health-news/if-youre-skinny-fat-you-might-be-at-increased-risk-of-dementia https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2468805/normal-weight-central-obesity-implications-total-cardiovascular-mortality https://time.com/14407/the-hidden-dangers-of-skinny-fat/
A personalised diet plan usually involves a lot of experimenting through trial-and-error. The greater challenge is to achieve a diet that you can sustain in the long term with foods that you can enjoy and most conveniently obtain. There are certain categories of food that you can fuel your body with for correction and regulation of the body systems, depending on your body type and metabolism. There are three main body types associated with obesity. Although you may NOT be overweight, there are a group of us who experience sluggishness, fatigue and suboptimal health conditions and may be interested in resetting your metabolism with diets that suit your body type. Most of the time, the way our body metabolises the food we eat and the response of the system is influenced by one dominant gland. Dampness 痰湿体质 Physical ObservationWeight gain around the waist Other ObservationsFatigue, distension, easily cold limbs CravingsSweets, starches, caffeine Diet GuidePlenty of protein (e.g. chicken, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese), leafy vegetables, complex carbohydrates (e.g. brown rice, whole wheat, rye, millet, quinoa, sweet potatoes) AvoidSimple carbohydrates (e.g. white rice, white bread, pasta), sweets, sweet fruits (e.g. grapes, mangoes) Snack OptionsProtein (e.g. hard-boiled eggs, almonds) Stagnation of "Qi" 气滞体质 Physical ObservationWeight gain on upper body Other ObservationsEasily irritable, predisposed to hypertension, more sensitive to stressors CravingsGreasy, sour and salty foods, alcohol, red meat Diet GuideLight meals all day – steamed food, chicken, fish, fresh vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy, legumes, minimal caffeine and sugar AvoidRed meat, high-fat foods, alcohol, salty foods, shellfish Snack OptionsMineral water, parsley tea, vegetable soup Spleen & Kidney Deficiency 脾肾虚体质 Physical ObservationWeight gain all around Other ObservationsTired at night, weaker immunity, joint pain, lower sex drive, difficulty digesting at night CravingsDairy, creamy foods Diet GuideHeavy breakfast, moderate lunch, light dinner – Animal proteins (e.g. beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, fish, pork, shellfish), plenty of vegetables, whole grains in moderation, fruits in moderation AvoidDairy, sugar, caffeine, having supper Snack OptionsCooked meat The diet guide serves to provide information to the foods your body adapt better to, and what foods to eat more of to nourish the body and avoid overstimulation of the wrong metabolic system. Every individual is unique and you may even have 2 dominant imbalances. It is often best to consult your physician to determine your body type more accurately and ascertain a diet plan that is most suitable for your needs. After the metabolism has been reset, it is recommended to reintroduce foods in moderation to your diet to maintain a balanced diet. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
In our society today, endless diet plans are proposed to us everyday, be it Atkins, Paleo, Elimination and many more. It sometimes gets so confusing as to which is really doing good to our bodies. Our views on healthy food change all the time, and are mostly dependent on the newest Western clinical research findings. We all understand about basic food nutrition components such as fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins. But everyday there are studies that introduce something new and diet theories that get debunked. So what should we really eat? The Chinese have their own answer to healthy eating, with concepts strongly related to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In contrast to Western Medicine, the role of food and medicine in TCM overlap. For example, a watermelon is a food, but it can also have a medicinal effect during hot days due to its hydrating and cooling properties. Hence, food therapy is one of the first treatments given to people who are trying to stay well, remain balanced or are suffering from illnesses. When food alone provides insufficient help, people will need to turn to herbal medicines and other treatments that have stronger effects to reverse imbalances. Food in TCM is classified according to its energetic properties rather than according to its physical nutritional components such as protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, fats and other nutrient contents as seen in Western medicine. TCM mainly classifies food according to Five Flavors and Four Natures. Five Flavours According to TCM, the five main food flavours are: Pungent (Spicy), Sour, Sweet, Salty and Bitter, just like the Western world. However, these flavours of the food are more than just the senses. In TCM, each bite of food sends the nutrition to corresponding organs as seen in the list below. The list comprises of what properties and uses are for each flavour, which organ the flavours mostly nourish, people with certain conditions who should be warned about taking too much of any particular flavour, and examples of food with the particular flavour. Four Natures The four natures of food are: cold, cool, warm and hot, with neutral food being food that is neither warm nor cool. The nature of food is not determined by their actual temperature but rather by what effects they have on a person’s body after consumption. Foods that are warm and hot bring heat to our bodies. Examples of such food are beef, ginger, hot chillies, fried food. Cold and cool food cool down our bodies and examples of such food are salad, and green tea. Neutral food are food like rice, grains. When a person continually eats only one type of food, it actually creates an imbalance in the body, either being too hot or too cold. A person who has too much heat in their body usually feels hot, sweats all the time, is grumpy or could be constipated. People who have too much cold in their bodies appear pale, have cold hands and feet, might feel weak or have poor blood circulation. Thus one of the keys in taking food according to TCM is to take food of nature that will keep the body “neutral”. Hence, does it mean that to be healthy we should just eat neutral food in all flavours? This is not necessary, as it is not just a matter of eating nourishing healthy food but of eating nourishing healthy food that is right for individual body types. Just like we all have different personalities, we also have different body constitutions. And just like we cannot communicate with all people in the same way, we also cannot feed the bodies with the same food in the same way. For example, a person with a lot of “dampness” in their body tends to be overweight, may sweat a lot and may have an oily face. This kind of person needs bitter food to take away their dampness, but it also means sweet food, which can add on dampness to the body, might worsen their situation and such food should be avoided. As for the body constitutions, it will be advisable to go to a TCM practitioner to identify your particular body type as it will require a holistic diagnostic procedure to carry out the identification. Thus in TCM, every food is nutritious, and as long as a healthy person does not eat too much of any one food, nothing is unhealthy. There’s a saying in Chinese: "The five grains provide nourishment. The five vegetables provide filling. The five domestic animals provide enrichment. The five fruits provide support." It means a balanced diet, where food is consumed in appropriate combinations according to their natures and flavours, serves to supplement the essence that the human body needs. TCM works according to Chinese philosophies and hence one of the golden rules to health is: never take extremes. After all, it’s all about balance. *Content is republished with permission from PULSE TCM. Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Food, physical activity, healthy habits and mental health are the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. Get them right and you're on the right path. We all know that regular exercise, a good diet and healthy habits are vital to a well-functioning mind and body. But if this is nothing more than common sense then what can you do to push yourself forward and take control of your health? Well, after all, knowledge is power when it comes to taking your health to the next level. But what exactly are you looking for? Recycled generic advice doesn't share anything new. A different or deeper look could be what you've been missing. For this month, we'll look at things that aren't what they appear to be. Our theme for this month is "Look Closer", where we take a closer look at our nutrition, general, sexual, and mental health. We'll cover some of the most relatable issues facing women where you'll need to take a closer look to see what's really going on. We'll cover topics ranging from whether the type of food we eat affects our mood, to how being skinny may not always mean you're healthy and more! It's that time of the year where you've probably already made your new year's resolution and should be a few months from being halfway through your plan. But in reality, our plans may not turn out as we'd like them to. Be it the lack of time to look after your health, not knowing what to do, or even mere laziness. There are countless ways you can stop yourself from changing for the better. However, it's time you take control of your health and be more mindful of what you eat and do. A simple habit tweak or diet change is a step towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. Taking a closer look might be what you've been missing! Stay tuned as we go take a closer look at our general, sexual and mental health along with the issues that face countless women looking to take control of their health!
From lack of awareness to similar symptoms and social customs, here's why women's health is shrugged off so often. We’ve all heard of misdiagnosis stories of how women have had their symptoms dismissed although there was an underlying condition. You might've been told to "take a pain reliever" way too often or even heard the good old "stop being too dramatic". But why is women’s health in particular suffering from this? One of the most obvious reasons for having our complaints shrugged off is that many diseases that affect women have common symptoms like irregular periods or greater period pain. This is why diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis are especially hard to diagnose. If doctors are hearing the same pain complaints over and over again they might become too normalised. However, pain isn't monotone, if the pain seems abnormal for whatever reason then it should be seriously checked on. Taboos, social customs and feelings of shame can also prevent some women from opening up about their experiences. Since some women don't share their experiences, it's likely you'll have a faulty perception about how common certain conditions are. Not everyone can comfortably talk about sensitive topics like miscarriages or infertility. You'd be surprised about how common some conditions are. Take polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that may affect fertility, as an example. Did you know that this condition affects about 1 in 10 women? This disease is just as common as diabetes! But the amount of research and attention it gets is nowhere near diabetes. Attention drives awareness and knowing how shockingly common these conditions are can lower the chances of a misdiagnosis. Reproductive health isn't the only area where women are wrongfully dismissed. Chronic pain and heart attack symptoms in women are usually shrugged off and women who come with these complaints are more likely to be seen as being over-dramatic. One study even mentions that women in the emergency room are less likely to be taken seriously than men! Time and time again we hear stories of women going to the emergency room with chest pain being told they have a panic attack without looking into it. Other less obvious reasons for this trend is the lack of research funding for diseases that affect women exclusively. Over the past century, organisations and charities with a focus on women's health have slowly started increasing. This led to more awareness and funding. But even then, there's a lack of long term studies focusing on women's health. Awareness about women's health has drastically improved over the years. Hopefully, this will lead to lower rates of misdiagnosis and negligence! References: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/womens-health-concerns-are-dismissed-more-studied-less-feature https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180518-the-inequality-in-how-women-are-treated-for-pain https://nypost.com/2019/08/05/medicine-ignored-womens-health-for-years-thats-finally-changing/amp/#aoh=16171397824164&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&_tf=From%20%251%24s https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=383803
Preventive health care means reactivating those appointments you might have postponed during the months of the Circuit Breaker and social distancing. Health screenings, which generally mark our calendars as annual self-care dates, might have taken a backseat this year. It’s easy to overlook them, especially with healthcare facilities restricting appointments to emergencies or immediate concerns because of Covid-19 safety measures. But indefinitely postponing regular health screening is no long-term solution. Keeping to the confines of your home only reduces the spread of the coronavirus — it doesn’t help you keep track of your body’s needs. Image Credits: Pexels, Karolina Grabowska Preventive health care means reactivating those appointments you might have postponed during the months of the Circuit Breaker and social distancing. Health screenings, which generally mark our calendars as annual self-care dates, might have taken a backseat this year. It’s easy to overlook them, especially with healthcare facilities restricting appointments to emergencies or immediate concerns because of Covid-19 safety measures. But indefinitely postponing regular health screening is no long-term solution. Keeping to the confines of your home only reduces the spread of the coronavirus — it doesn’t help you keep track of your body’s needs. Diagnostic tests for general wellness — which for women include breast exams, mammograms, pap smears, pelvic exams, among many others — are essential to preventive healthcare, as well as maintaining optimal health. Those of us with family histories of women’s cancers, heart and hereditary diseases also need to stay vigilant. After all, regular checks have been credited with helping women identify markers and early stages of disease, which greatly increase successful treatment. The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for women over 40 who are at average risk. Those in this category do not have a personal history of breast cancer or a strong family history of the disease. They also do not have a genetic mutation known to increase risk (eg., the BRCA gene), and have not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30. For risk levels higher than average, mammograms and breast MRIs are recommended, starting at the age of 30. So as the year of the global pandemic winds down, don’t socially distance yourself from your specialist for much longer. Time to make that all-important appointment to catch up with your doctor, and get the assurances you need for a better, healthier year. Just what is right for your health screening, and what should you look for? Here are some key factors, depending on which phase of your life you’re at, to consider. Reference: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html
Trends in health screening for women are evolving in response to the fallout of Covid-19, as you mature past your 20s, and into your 30s and 40s. These can include monitoring of stress levels, liver conditions and blood-related diseases (haematology), as work-life patterns shift towards hybrid arrangements for work from home and office time. Image Credits: Pexels, Stanley Ng The annual health exams you began in your teens may need to change in frequency, and their types can vary from one individual to the next. For instance, eye exams every two years are recommended as you move into your 30s, and full physical exams, every one to five years. Preconception health checks: If you and your partner are planning for children, consult your OBGYN for a screening, which includes tests for anaemia, Thalassemia, blood group and type (Rhesus), as well as infectious disease tests. Women will need a Pap smear test, along with a basic ultrasound of the pelvic organs to detect cysts and fibroids in ovaries and uterus. Don’t forget to check if you’re already immunised against Rubella and Varicella Zoster viruses. Your specialist might also recommend changes to your lifestyle and diet to put you in optimal health for a new addition (or more). Diabetes: Screening for diabetes as you move towards your late 30s and 40s is recommended, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet. Screening for diabetes is recommended at least once every three years, with a test that calls for a simple fast at least eight hours ahead. Overweight women with a strong family history of the disease, or have a history of gestational diabetes or pre-diabetes, may even opt to be screened sooner. Breast exams: As you round off your 30s and move into your 40s, get a professional breast exam every year. Healthcare providers examine breasts for irregularities, and will note differences in size or shape, rashes and dimpling, as well as lumps. They are likely to also check if nipples produce fluid when gently squeezed. HPV Infections: For women over 30, to identify cervical-cancer causing HPV strains (types 16 and 18), and receive gynaecological attention where needed. If results are negative, the test can be repeated every five years. Liver Function Tests: Also known as liver chemistries, these help determine the health of your liver — the workhorse of all our organs — by measuring levels of proteins, liver enzymes and bilirubin in your blood. They can reveal abnormalities that indicate liver problems, and are recommended: To check for infections such as hepatitis B and C Monitor side effects of medications known to affect the liver Monitor treatment of an existing liver disease If you’re experiencing symptoms of a liver disorder If you have medical conditions such as high triglycerides, diabetes, high blood pressure or anemia If you drink alcohol heavily If you have gallbladder disease
The right job in times of uncertainty can be valuable if it offers benefits that go beyond just a monthly pay packet. In addition to a general physical, eye and dental exams, annual checks in your 20s may include screening for: Women’s cancers: a pelvic exam and Pap smear every three years after the age of 21, as well as breast cancer screening. As women become sexually active, they might find themselves at risk of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can lead to cervical cancer. Cholesterol: From the age of 20, get a baseline screening for cholesterol levels and triglycerides if there’s a risk for coronary heart disease. Blood pressure screening: Because high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to other complications, it should be checked every two years. Those diagnosed with high blood pressure should also be screened for diabetes. Image Credits: Pexels, Karolina Grabowska Immunisations: Consider the HPV vaccine if you’re not yet 26. An annual flu vaccine, and, if you’ve never had chickenpox, the varicella vaccine. Thyroid tests: Women at all phases of their lives are more likely than men to experience low thyroid hormone levels. The hormone regulates our metabolism, influencing how our bodies regulate temperature, heart rate and even brain function. As our bodies change with age, it helps to keep tabs on thyroid levels. Women with lower levels of the hormone can benefit from thyroid hormone replacement, so it is worth testing for them if you are likely to develop thyroid disease. If you have a medical history, or notice spikes in your LDL cholesterol level or inexplicable weight gain, do consider getting a test so you can start tracking. Individually, you can also consider additions such as depression screening, as well as tests related to individual lifestyles, habits and hereditary risk factors. Or, if a wedding is in your plans, consider premarital health screening. Gynaecological complaints (irregular, heavy or painful periods) also benefit from investigations early in life. Reference: https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/do-you-need-a-thyroid-test
Did you know that roughly 1 in 16 people in Singapore (or 6.3% of Singapore’s adult population) has suffered from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also known as major depression, at some point in their lives? Major Depressive Disorder (PDD)MDD is the most common disorder in Singapore of which people have suffered from at some point in their lives, compared to other common disorders like bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and alcohol use disorders. MDD is not as uncommon as previously thought, and this could evolve into a much bigger concern for our society if the figures continue to grow. But wait, what really is ‘depression’? If I feel rather upset, does it mean that I suffer from depression? There are actually many different types of depression, just like how you may feel more happy in certain situations and less in others, depression can range from being mild to severe as well. Some types of depression are triggered specifically by certain life changes, like giving birth. Symptoms include: depressed mood (feeling sad, empty, hopeless) loss of interest or pleasure in activities significant weight loss/gain due to changes in appetite difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much loss of energy or increased fatigued feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness increase in purposeless physical activity (like pacing), or slowed movements and speech which can be observed by others thoughts of death or suicide A diagnosis of MDD requires a person to experience at least five of the above symptoms to persist for at least two weeks and symptoms must be present for most of the duration. Symptoms must also include depressed mood or loss of interest. Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)What is even harder to detect is what is sometimes known as “High Functioning Depression”, or as its clinically known, Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). It is more difficult to recognise PDD; although the symptoms of are similar to that of clinical depression, many who are suffering from High Functioning Depression might not even know it because the symptoms are often not as severe as those experienced in MDD. The main characteristic of PDD is a depressed mood for most of the day, and for more days than not, for a period of at least 2 years. Persons suffering from PDD experience milder symptoms such as poor appetite or control, sleep issues, low energy or fatigue, low self-esteem, poor concentration or general feelings of hopelessness. A diagnosis of PDD only requires the presence of at least two out of the six symptoms listed above (as contrasted to MDD which requires at least five out of nine) but requires the individual to have experienced symptoms for a minimum of two years rather than two weeks. It is also possible for individuals to experience both disorders at the same time. They may be moderately depressed for a long time (resulting in diagnosis of PDD), but undergo more serious problems occasionally (which warrants the diagnosis of MDD). Perinatal or Postpartum DepressionPerinatal depression refers to depression occurring during pregnancy or after immediately after childbirth, while postpartum depression refers to depression following childbirth. Perinatal depression may be an initial indicator for the development of depressive disorders later in life, and also increases the chance of developing postnatal depression. You might be also surprised to know that men can also suffer from perinatal depression! Yes, men have been reported to have suffered from perinatal or postpartum depression as well, although the focus may be more on the increased responsibility or changes in lifestyle which comes with parenting. Symptoms include fatigue, feeling sad/hopeless/worthless, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in baby/not feeling bonded/feeling very anxious about baby, feelings of being a bad mother, fear of harming the baby or oneself, or a loss of interest or pleasure in life. While it may seem common to experience some form of “baby blues” after childbirth, never hesitate to approach a medical or mental health professional just to clarify any doubts you may have. This is especially so if you have experienced the symptoms for more than two weeks, had suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your child, worsening of depressed mood, or having trouble with daily functioning or even taking care of your baby. Treatment Common treatments of depressive disorders are usually psychotherapy and antidepressants, sometimes one without the other or both in the most severe of cases. Examples of psychotherapy that prove to be effective are interpersonal psychotherapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). If appropriate, interpersonal therapy is done to improve interpersonal relationships and social functioning to relieve distress. This is done in a variety of ways from improving social skills or to dealing with family disputes, past grievances or major life changes. Cognitive-behavioural therapy focuses on unhealthy emotions, thought processes or coping behaviors. The aim is to stop you from engaging in unhelpful thinking patterns, negative thoughts or poor coping behaviors when dealing with stress as they often do not help to relieve stress, but rather, prevent individuals from actually engaging in effective ways to relieve stress. Acceptance and commitment therapy focuses on accepting inner emotions and thoughts as appropriate responses to certain situations, and how to stop avoiding or suppressing these emotions and thoughts. Acts of avoidance merely make it harder for people to move forward with their lives as these acts often cause more distress. However, by promoting acceptance and understanding towards personal emotions, thoughts and responses, this helps to increase understanding towards oneself, focusing more attention to personal principles and can help commit individuals to make changes to their behavior. A special note about the treatment of perinatal or postpartum depression: it is common for mothers to shy away from seeking a diagnosis, or become fearful of getting help due to the fear of what others may think, or about the effects of the medications prescribed. Antidepressants are only prescribed if the depression is severe, and there are medications that are safe for use in pregnancy for both the mother and bubs. Always check with your psychiatrist. The point is to never hesitate to seek help from a medical or mental health professional; avoiding treatment does not make the problem go away. References: https://www.annabellepsychology.com/psychotherapy/#ACT https://www.annabellepsychology.com/psychotherapy/#CBT *Content is republished with permission from Annabelle Psychology.
Your health screening needs to take into consideration changes to your metabolism, hormones, and lifestyle. Prolonged stress, or major upheavals in lifestyles, as well as hereditary conditions, might lead to the need for more medical attention. Image Source: Freepik Blood Analysis: Blood analysis can reveal tumour markers in the pancreas, breast and nose. Ultrasound: Getting ultrasounds for the breast, pelvis and abdomen are considerations too. Blood pressure checks: Hypertension screening should be conducted yearly, and cholesterol levels should be checked every three to five years — more, if it’s already abnormal. Bone mass density: Transitions towards menopause happen at different ages for individuals. As your body starts to naturally transition itself into menopause (perimenopause), you may experience changes in bone density. Declining oestrogen levels can cause you to start losing bone mass more quickly than you replace it, increasing the risk of osteoporosis, which leads to fragile bones. To screen for the disease, women 65 and above should take this test, especially if you have a high fracture risk. Hearing test: An audiogram to check on your hearing at various intensity and pitch levels may also be required once a year. Skin checks: If you’ve taken skin care seriously all your life, don’t stop now. Take note of new or suspicious moles, and consider if you have had: significant sun exposure, a family history of skin cancer, fair skin, the presence of multiple and unusual moles, or if you’ve suffered more than a few blistering sunburns, especially in your younger years. Colon cancer screening: As you turn 50, start being annually screened for colon cancer — or more regularly if you are at a higher risk, for instance, being overweight, lacking in physical activity, or have a diet that’s high in red meats. Getting an annual stool test, and seeking the advice of your physician about which relevant tests you can take to assess your colon health every five to 10 years, can help you stay on top of things. Immunisations: After the age of 65 every year, get a flu vaccine annually, and consider getting a shingles vaccine after the age of 60. Reference: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/perimenopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20354666