Congratulations, You’re Pregnant! So What’s Next?


So you’re having a baby. Isn’t that wonderful? I know exactly how unreal that feels! But once you and your husband or partner are done jumping up and down for joy, you may need to sit down and start the ‘family’ talk – if you haven’t done already. Being pregnant is just the beginning of a lifetime commitment to put someone else’s needs, wants, convenience, happiness well ahead of yours. As a first time soon-to-be parent like me, you may also be wondering what exactly needs to be done next. Well, besides getting your husband/partner involved every step of the way, here are some of the most important things to tick-off your pregnancy checklist.

Before Getting Pregnant

1. Get a comprehensive health insurance. Actually, this is something that you and your partner should have already planned for even before getting pregnant. If possible, get one that covers pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal in full – especially if you live in an expensive country like Singapore. Hubby and I decided to go for Bupa Health Coverage, on the advice of some friends, sometime in July/August last year. At that time, the holding period was only around 10 months and any pregnancy-related expenses, including delivery, and post-natal, after the 10th month will be covered 100%. Shortly after we took the policy, the maturity period was changed to 24 months, so it really was a good call when get insured at the time that we did. Bupa has an excellent health coverage program and even if you have to pay a slightly higher premium, you know that you will not be left out cold when you need it the most – especially when the bills start piling up during the course of your pregnancy.

2. Find a great OB-Gyne with whom you can entrust your body and your baby. Just like in number 1, it would have been ideal if you already have an OB for your regular non-pregnancy related check-ups even before getting pregnant. In my case, I had to find an OB shortly after moving to Singapore because of my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which needs to be monitored regularly. And once Hubby and I decided to get pregnant and I had to get off the hormonal pills I was taking, he was also the one we consulted about it.

During Pregnancy

3. Keep fit and healthy. If you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle even before deciding to get pregnant, then props to you! Making sure that your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals for yourself and your growing baby is a very important task. Start with having more vegetables, fruits and meat/fish in your diet. Also, ask your OB about prenatal multivitamin supplements as these can help fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet.

When it comes to fitness, continue with whatever workout regimen you already have prior to pregnancy, but make sure to adjust the intensity according to the stage of your pregnancy. Remember, we are not created equal – so whatever works for other pregnant women may not necessarily be your cup of tea. In my case, I was doing a lot of running and yoga before I got pregnant, but I had to stop running at some stage and I also switched to prenatal yoga when I entered the second month of my pregnancy. In large part due to my age-related paranoia that I might end up causing harm to my growing bub if I get too intense with any of my workouts. Instead of running, I have been doing a lot of walking these days, averaging about 8,000 steps daily.

4. Get a good anti-stretchmark cream. Trust me, your body will thank you later for it. I started using this product called Elancyl, which I discovered when I Googled “Top anti-stretchmark creams for pregnant women” days after I found out that I’m pregnant. I started applying the product on my 8th week, even before the bump became pronounced. It is essential to keep the skin around your tummy, thighs, buttocks and breasts supple and elastic especially when they start expanding and stretching to accommodate the growing baby in your belly.

An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.
An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.

Another product that has mothers raving about is Bio Oil, which is a much cheaper alternative to the branded stretchmark creams available in the market. In order to stretch the life of the slightly pricey Elancyl, what I normally do is alternate the use of both. I apply a generous quantity of Bio Oil on prescribed areas at night before bed time, and use Elancyl during daytime, after my morning shower.

Another alternative is the ubiquitous Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Anti-Stretchmarks Massage Cream. Slightly more expensive than Bio Oil but cheaper than Elancyl or Clarins, this product is also endorsed by a lot of pregnant women. I forgot to bring my Elancyl when we left for Bangkok and for some weird reason, we couldn’t find it in Boots or Watson’s so I bought Palmer’s instead. I love the buttery scent of the cream but I still prefer Elancyl. Will definitely stock up on the latter when we’re back in Singapore.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream

5. Get educated. Read up on pregnancy but try not to get so obsessive about it that it causes you to be super scared and paranoid about your condition. I tend to fall prey to Googling weird stuff about pregnancy that I sometimes get so scared of stepping out of the house for fear that I might harm my baby. There are books and resource materials aplenty but in my case, I have found some of the best tips and information from this book called What To Expect When You’re Expecting, which was loaned to me by Yats, and this goldmine of a novel by an American writer living in Paris called Bringing Up Bébé, which essentially extolls the virtues of raising your children the French way.

Expect the best and the worst.:)
Expect the best, prepare for the worst.:)
Explore the joys of French parenting
Explore the joys of French parenting.

6. Pamper Yourself. As our body goes through a plethora of hormonal changes, so does our mood. Pregnant women tend to become overly sensitive, not only about their surroundings but especially about their bodies. At the beginning, I was also a bit alarmed by the weight gain, the appearance of cellulites on my thighs, the thickening of my arms and thighs, etc. And if you are every bit as vain as the woman sitting next to you, it’s not very difficult to feel fat or unkempt. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. By all means, get a haircut, a Brazilian wax (a word of caution: Your skin actually becomes more sensitive especially around the pubic area so if you can’t take the pain of getting the hair pulled, then feel free to skip this), mani-pedi treatment, antenatal massage, etc. You may be losing your hourglass shape, but that doesn’t mean you need to let go completely.

First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment,  gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.
First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment, gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.

7. Invest in fashionable yet durable maternity clothes. But don’t go on a rampage when you’re not even showing yet. I suggest you start buying only during your second trimester when your bump is already visible. And even then, go for pants or skirts that have elastic waistbands or those beautiful tunic dresses that you can keep until the the last trimester. Maternity clothes are not the easiest to find, I know, and are often more expensive than normal casual clothes, but with a little bit of patience in going through online shopping websites, you’ll soon be turning heads with your radiant pregnant look.

Can you believe that I found this dress online for only 20 SGD?!
Can you believe that I found this dress online for only sgd 20?!

8. Schedule maternity visits and pick your hospital (for delivery) soon. In a way, I feel very lucky to be living in Singapore for a multitude of reasons, including having so many great maternity hospitals to choose from. From Mount Elizabeth, Mount Alvernia, Thomson Medical, Gleneagles, KK Hospital, etc., you can have your pick of a great hospital to deliver your baby. Deciding on the hospital early is very important as it will also help you and your partner to figure out the finances. Having a baby in Singapore is such an expensive business which is why, I cannot emphasise more on the importance of securing a top-of-the-line insurance coverage earlier on.

9. Get your husband/partner involved. Always remember that it’s not only you who’s probably scared and overwhelmed about having a baby. Make it a point to have regular open and sincere discussions about the baby and starting a family as this will also bring both of you closer than ever. Discuss parenting decisions, religious faith, child education, etc. all throughout this magical journey so you are both on the same page and the foundation of marriage and family life is more fortified than ever before.

10. Embrace the journey. The next nine months and the years after that are going to change your life in ways that you’ve probably never imagined. My husband and I are still befuddled by the changes and the coming responsibilities but we both love where we are now and where we’re headed for. That, to me, is just as important as all the other tips I have shared. There must be, first and foremost, an overflowing supply of love and respect in the home for you wouldn’t want to bring forth a child in a chaotic, stressful environment. Make time, as a couple, to sit back, relax and just bask in the joys of pregnancy even as you get ready for the next phase of becoming les parents.

Fermented Foods For Good Health


If 2014 is the year of gluten-free (some may call it ‘fad’) diet, 2015 will be the year of fermented foods, according to an article by Phil Lempert discussing next year’s food trends. Meaning, most fermented foods that we already know such as yogurt and sauerkraut are about to get more attention and most likely appear on our dining tables more often. Fermented foods contain live or active cultures that are considered effective bacteria-boosting agents.

Not to undermine the health benefits of farm-to-table foods, but these fermented foods with their pungent probiotic ingredients have been proven to boost the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which can help correct and prevent digestive issues, promote weight loss, improve skin conditions, and boost overall immune system.

Here are some traditional fermented foods you should incorporate in your daily meals to give the good bacteria in your digestive system a lovely boost. Keep in mind that as in all things good, you must only enjoy these fermented foods in moderation, with one or two meals a day.

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)
Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Yoghurt. Greek and regular yogurt are the most common fermented yogurt, but you can also make your own. Try this delicious home-made coconut yoghurt and get all the beneficial bacteria your body needs to strengthen your gut health and improve your immunity.

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut. Also known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is said to have positive impact on good digestion as well as, brain health. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale, there “exists a correlation between gut and brain health”. You can either buy sauerkraut from the supermarket or make your own. Here’s an easy home-made sauerkraut recipe.

Miso Soup goodness

Miso. Here’s something that miso soup lovers probably already know: The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is packed with essential minerals including potassium and also microorganisms that promote good health and stamina. And it’s also pretty easy to make! Simply add a small portion of miso paste to boiling water together with spring onions and bok choy.

Kimchi

Kimchi. Considered a staple in Korea, kimchi is a spicy dish that is made typically from fermented cabbage and is regarded as a beauty food and an energy-booster. Why? Because as you improve your digestion, you will notice a significant improvement in your skin as well.

Wine and Beer

Wine & Beer. Now this is probably where most of us are getting our fermented food quota. Go ahead, no one’s judging. Just keep in mind that the ideal quantity is just a glass and anything beyond that may bring your body more harm than good.

Favorite Items no. 6 & 7: REEBOK Easytone & SNOE Beauty Products


Favorite item no. 6: REEBOK Easytone 

Why do I love my Easytones? Let me count the reasons:

I love my Reebok Easytone apparel and shoes for its flashy, vibrant, feminine colours.

I love my Reebok Easytone apparel and shoes for its easy comfort.

I love my Reebok Easytone apparel and shoes for its flattering design and cut that compliment my form and feminine curves.

I love my Reebok Easytone apparel and shoes because they are oh-so-versatile I can wear them with just about anything.

Bikya, my Easytone boots.
No-fuss fashion.

Favorite item no. 7: SNOE 

Ask the owners and they will tell you that SNOE is a reflection of the diverse trends of its consumers as a leader in the local cosmetics industry through innovative and provocative beauty products. As a represented Filipino Brand, SNOE establishes itself as a global beauty brand through its commitment to beauty, youth,and innovation. At SNOE, everyone is dedicated to understanding the value of health and beauty and they passionately pursue to serve their consumers’ daily beauty needs. SNOE commits to continue creating new products to exceed customer expectations.

Ask me and I will tell you this: SNOE is lovingly made to cater to the unique needs of the female skin while enhancing her finer attributes. I have only been using SKIN Stem Cell Sunblock for a few days but I can already feel the difference. My skin is set to oily default and with the old facial sunblock I use, my face gets twice oily as the day wears on. But not with SKIN Stem Cell.  Another product that I have been tripping out on is SNOE Glam Jam – the collection of Lip and Cheek stain that comes in different delicious flavours. It’s very delicate, sweet, and blends well with the skin on my face that I don’t get that blotchy look I sometimes get with other similar products.

SNOE Stem Cell Sunblock is awesome!
SNOE Glam jam (scarlet) on my lips and cheeks

Total Fitness: MIGRAINE MANAGEMENT


TOTAL FITNESS October 2011

It’s not carved out of stone but initial observation in the United States peg women to be the common sufferers of migraine – with a three out of four of the nearly 30 million migraine patients in terms of statistics. The reason may have to do with a woman’s menstrual cycle, but triggers can also include alcohol, weather changes, stress, food and lack of sleep. Ask people who often suffer from migraine and you would discover that most of them prefer herbal cure and home remedies – for a good reason. As it is, migraines are incapacitating and prescription drugs at times are associated with side effects.

Here are some remedies that you can try:

Water. The many great health and wellness benefits of water cannot be emphasized more. Oftentimes, these headaches are caused by lack of water in our system.

Butterbur. Root extracts of the Butterbur plant has been employed for medicinal purposes since hundreds of years. A research conducted in 2004 showed that the intake of seventy-five mg of butterbur two times a day appeared to be working in lessening the regularity, strength and time of migraines. Detrimental reactions to watch out for, however, are burps, weariness, scratchiness and abdominal issues.

CoQ10. CoQ10 or coenzyme Q10 is a substance manufactured by the cells of our bodies. According to Dr. Brian Grosberg, assistant professor of neurology and director of Inpatient Headache Program at Montefiore Headache Center in Bronx, NY, taking 300 milligrams per day has proven to be effective in reducing head pain. The downside: It can be expensive.

 

***For full story, grab a copy of TOTAL FITNESS October issue.

Total Fitness: Be brain-healthy at any age


Brain-healthy is beautiful.

Sometimes, even when life looks generally great on the surface, we still somehow feel that we are stagnating. That even while working extra hard for that satisfying career, having a fantastic relationship and an established routine with family and friends, our mind seem to clamor for more stimulation.

Keeping our mental faculties in tip-top shape is very important in avoiding degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and we can do this by giving ourselves plenty of opportunities for mental stimulation.  This can be done by using our cognitive skills, testing our powers of recall, improving our memory, and challenging our selves to be more creative in our thinking.

By regularly engaging in the right activities, we can increase our memory, improve our problem-solving skills and boost our creativity. Here are some tips on how to keep our mind active:

1.    Expand your vocabulary. Learning new words not only enriches one’s understanding of the world, but also enhances the brain’s cognitive functions.

2.    Practice yoga. You might be surprised at how strenuous yoga can be. Beyond the physical demands that give your entire body a workout, yoga has great calming and relaxation qualities.

3.    Play video games. Action video games improve eye-hand coordination, improve spatial visualization skills, and increase the number of things that you can visually attend to simultaneously. But here’s the caveat: Video games can be addictive so try to keep it in moderation.

4.    Engage in spelling exercises. Spelling forces you to mentally “see” the word prior to speaking it or writing it down. This exercises several language-related brain areas and circuits.

5.    Run. Lace up your running shoes and get moving. Even if you don’t set your sight on running a marathon, the sport itself can get both your body and mind in shape. Running will increase the levels of oxygen in your brain and flowing through your body. In turn, your body will release more endorphins, which will make you feel energized while producing a sense of pleasure and wellbeing.

You may also opt to sign up for a foreign language class, read a book, solve puzzles, or self-talk. Whatever you do, make sure you keep that brain working and your cognitive skills enhanced. Everybody loves a smart, mentally-agile person – keep that in mind.

Total Fitness: Jumpstart Your Metabolism


When I say jump, you say how high.

Published in this month’s issue of TOTAL FITNESS magazine. Grab a copy TODAY!

***

Contrary to what most people subscribe to these days when it comes to losing weight, depriving your body of food is NOT the way to do it. In fact, research shows that speeding up the metabolism process is the more effective way of keeping fit and healthy – and this can be done by eating more nutrition-dense food. The operative word being ‘nutrition-dense’, this means having a good amount of protein and a reasonable amount of carbohydrates in your daily diet. Crash diet causes your body to burn muscle tissue which in turn gives visceral fat the upper hand. And as your metabolism crawls even slower, fat goes on to claim more territories in your body.

To keep your metabolism on the up and up, here are some tips to follow:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It is said that your metabolism slows down whenever you are dehydrated, so drinking at least eight glasses of water every day is a surefire way of l keeping your body and your metabolism working properly. Not much of a water drinker? Start by having a glass of cold water before each meal. This will also help you feel full faster. If you want to speed up metabolism some more, drink green tea and black coffee as well.
  • Embrace the active lifestyle.  Still considered to be the best way to improve metabolism, workout in the form of cardio exercise or weight training is highly recommended by health and fitness experts. An independent research published on http://www.webmd.com, claims that our bodies burn six calories a day for each pound of muscle in our bodies, so it is very beneficial to incorporate some type of weight training in your workout routine.
  • Increase your PROTEIN intake. Most of us aim for lean muscle and why not if it makes us feel and look good and strong? To achieve and maintain lean muscle, our body needs protein. Researchers recommend that women, especially those who are into resistance training, should get an amount of protein between 0.54 and 1 gram per pound of body weight. (If you want to lose weight, use your goal body weight as your guide.) Add a serving, like 3 ounces of lean meat, 2 tablespoons of nuts, or 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, to every meal and snack. Furthermore, research shows protein can increase post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent.
  • Have resources, Go ORGANIC! Toxins from pesticides and food preservatives are stored in fat cells and interfere greatly with the energy-burning process of the body. Therefore, people with the most organochlorines (pollutants from pesticides) experience a greater than normal dip in metabolism as they lose weight. In other words, pesticides make it harder to lose pounds. But since organic produce is quite expensive and not easily found in regular supermarkets, you may opt to choose which ones to buy organic such as celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, cherries, potatoes, and imported grapes and these produce tend to have the highest levels of pesticides.
  • Eat right! Increasing your metabolism is not a complicated matter at all. In fact, it can be as simple as eating the right types of food. Lean proteins like lean meats and fish help increase metabolism because our bodies use more energy to process these foods. Low-fat dairy foods like yogurt or cottage cheese are great snacks and can increase metabolism as well. While at it, clear your cupboard of junk food and sugar-laden snacks that only promote overconsumption.

 

Oh it’s a beautiful day, I’m looking for something dumb to do…


…and since there’s no one around at 6AM whom I can ask to marry me, I did 15k race pace and capped it with INSANITY Maximum Interval Plyo! Don’t tell anyone but while I was running, I actually toyed with the idea of dissing work and going on a solo full marathon of sorts. Or I don’t know how far my feet will take me but I was feeling so good about nearly everything this morning that I thought I could go on running for five hours.

But of course I did no such thing. I am such a freak that I feel extremely guilty when I would so much as clock in five minutes late for work. Worse, even when I’m sick and practically burning up with fever, I still feel guilty about not being there in my office, working like a maniac behind the desk. No, really.

So 15k race pace done and I still have a universe of energy to spare so I decided to take on Insanity. God knows what Day I am on now because it’s already Round 2 and my body- sucker for physical torture that it is – already feels somewhat desensitized from circuit-workout type of pain. In fact, yesterday, when I shared this with my resurrected friend, he said I need to try something new. I need to shock my body, he added. But what else is out there to shock me? Insanity ASYLUM is one, but I won’t get my hands on the workout dvd until gorgeous Abby burns me a copy – and hopefully soon. But really, what else is there to try? S&M? Absolutely NOT. *ROTFLMNSSAO*

Quite interesting that morning run. Like I said, my body refused to quit. Obviously, I have some serious issues and running has become, for me, the penultimate catharsis. Or escape. I think it goes so much deeper than just running from stuff but then again, what do I know? My college diploma says AB Journalism and not some fancy degree in advanced Psychology or Psychiatry. Now before we go psychoanalyzing  my convoluted mind (it’s a dark and dangerous place, i’m telling you) there’s one other interesting thing that happened during my morning run.  While running along Garnet Road, I saw this old couple suffering from osteoporosis so bad that they’re both bent over from the waist. I took one look at the old man assisting his old wife and trying very hard to put umbrella over both their heads and just like that, I cried. There’s something about old people that turns me into a puddle of tears and this coming from a girl who prides herself to be an emotional eunuch. Most of the time. I don’t do sentimental love. My boyfriend whom I love dearly would attest to my emotional frigidity. Not all the time, no. But I have always been like that. Too pragmatic and too much of a realist. To break me is very difficult. But show me old people and I am stripped away of the glacier covering that organ called the heart. In an instant. I had already passed the couple a few yards when I decided to turn back, still Weepy Weeperson, opened my belt bag and saw my breakfast money and some loose change. It was a choice between my 5-peso coin and my Egg McMuffin+brewed coffee+hashbrown+pancake money (hey, I was very hungry!). It was an easy choice. That was probably the best fully-loaded breakfast money I had ever spent and not for my own gastronomic satisfaction. I know I’ve said this before but I’m going to say it again, one day when I am disgustingly rich, I will blow all my cosmetic surgery money on helping old, poor, and abandoned elderly. Maybe all the attention and discipline I plow into health and fitness will actually allow me to live long and still look youthful and vibrant even when old and wrinkly and I won’t ever feel the need to waxify my gorgeous face with Botox and what-not. Kamusta naman daw at may gorgeous pang nalalaman si bruha. Now how do I translate that into English?

Running back to the house I kept thinking: that right there could be the elusive true love. You should see how the old man looked after his wife, letting her weak frame lean on his body, while clumsily trying to open the tattered umbrella to put over their heads. She was wearing a tattered shirt with ‘Ramones’ printed at the back which made me smile through the tears. But what really pained me was the damage osteoporosis wrought on their wrinkled frame. Every step they make seemed very painful to me. Perhaps if they had access to better nutrition in their youth, things would have been vastly different. But hey, they were holding each other up, taking each step together, no matter the pain. I think next time my boyfriend tells me he adores and loves me, I should ask him if he’d look after me like that when I’m old and traces of my youthful beauty are long gone. Equally, I should want to do the same for him (as well).

Okay, that’s it. Mushfest over. I told you I can’t do sentimental the way it’s supposed to be done. But trust me on this one: I have a good heart.

And a rockin’ body with INSANE abs. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? Oh you know me all too well! Seriously, I do. And the only reason why I’m such a braggadocio when it comes to my finer attributes is because I worked freakin’ hard to get this body. Ask Shaun T. He knows. And now, you would know, too, with these photos.

Let's give that flab the one-two punch.
Side Suicide Drills for that nasty obliques!
Stay strong, keep the abs tight!
Push-up Balance.