One gorgeously green wrap – so many unique uses! Made of super-soft Micro Modal, which is created from the pulp of ethically farmed Beech trees that can be re-grown over and over again so less trees are needed in the production of the wrap, the Japanese-inspired Oramaki™ can be a slim-fitting skirt, an easy top, a double layer underneath a shirt, or a warm hug to pamper and soothe during pregnancy!

This is why “Mom” is loving the Oramaki™ at the moment – she is expecting, and this lovely wrap has made quite the difference when worn on her ever-expanding belly, especially at night, as it holds her belly lovingly while sleeping! Why choose the Oramaki™ during pregnancy?

  • Oramaki’s soft, hugging action pampers and calms during every stage of pregnancy.
  • When your pants stop fitting, the Oramaki is the perfect way to cover that opened button and save the cost of an early pregnancy wardrobe.
  • And when your baby bulge is in full bloom your Oramaki will help support your back and the weight of your belly on your inner organs and bladder.
  • Once baby arrives, your Oramaki converts to the perfect breast feeding cover-up.

Available in single layered in white only, or double layered styles in nude, black or pink, the Oramaki™ comes in sizes small, medium, and large. It makes an excellent gift for any expecting mom!

To learn more about the benefits of using the Oramaki™, visit

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Keeping Up With Your Kidneys For Your Kiddo’s Sake

By Sonia Alvarado, CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line Counselor

Since March is National Kidney month, it’s a good time to learn a little about prenatal exposure to drugs as well as maternal diseases that can have an effect on function and development of the fetal kidney.

Although there are a number of conditions that affect the kidney, there are generally two major causes that need to be considered in pregnancy: diabetes and hypertension. Experts worry that the growing number of obese individuals, including women of reproductive age, will mean more diabetes. Diabetes affects kidney function, One of the major categories of drugs used to treat kidney disease in diabetic women as well as others are called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Unfortunately this group of drugs can cause serious kidney damage in the developing fetus when exposure occurs in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. These drugs are associated with oligohydramnios and anhydramnios (low or no amniotic fluid) and stillbirth, both the result of damage to the developing kidney.

Hypertension is another condition that is associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure. CKD as well as first pregnancy, genetic factors, and twin pregnancy are risk factors for the development of preeclampsia, a sudden increase in blood pressure, after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Severe preeclampsia is associated with kidney damage, as well as liver damage and other serious problems.

The fetal kidney is formed in the first trimester of pregnancy, starting at about five weeks. Although the kidneys are formed in the first trimester, they continue to mature throughout pregnancy and are sensitive to several medications that could interfere with their function, often permanently. Many pregnant women are not aware that there are even medications that are available over the counter which could pose a significant risk to the kidney of their developing fetus. For example many pregnant women are told by their doctors to avoid over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, particularly late in pregnancy. However, they don’t know why they need to avoid them. This is a problem, because if the pregnant woman does not understand why she needs to avoid them, she may forget the warning among the many other health messages about food, etc., she is getting from her health care provider, as well as the internet, and brochures. Additionally, women that are not very familiar with pain relievers or medications in general, may confuse acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is recommended for pregnancy, with one of the other drugs. Survey studies suggest that many pregnant women have not heard or understood which pain relievers or fever reducers are recommended for them.

There are multiple reasons why NSAIDS, which are otherwise safe and effective pain relievers, are not recommended during pregnancy. These drugs have an anti-inflammatory effect by decreasing prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins are found in smooth muscle including the uterus, and all over the body and are increased following inflammation. Prostaglandins are also important in maintaining the ductus arteriosus, which is a blood vessel that allows blood to go around the baby’s lungs before birth. Prior to birth, the fetus does not need to receive oxygen from the lungs because oxygenated blood is provided by the placenta. However, immediately after birth, the lungs of the newborn baby are filled with air, and the ductus arteriosus closes. When prostaglandin-reducing drugs such as NSAIDS are taken by the mother and are, therefore, introduced into the fetal circulation, the ductus arteriosis sometimes closes prematurely, causing a crisis for the unborn and the newborn baby. That is associated with damage to the newborn kidney. NSAIDs are also associated with a risk for fetal intracranial hemorrhage, and gastrointestinal problems (necrotizing entercolitis) above what is normally already seen in premature infants.

The take away message for pregnant women or women of reproductive age is to take care of your kidneys, avoiding lifestyle factors that could put them at risk such as obesity; take medications as prescribed by the physician if you have diabetes or hypertension and, finally, plan every pregnancy, whether there is an underlying illness or not.

About the Author

Sonia Alvarado is a bilingual (Spanish/English) Teratogen Information Specialist with the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) Pregnancy Health Information Line, a statewide service that aims to educate women about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Along with answering women’s and health professionals’ questions regarding exposures during pregnancy/lactation via CTIS’ toll-free hotline and email service, she’s provided educational talks regarding pregnancy health in community clinics and high schools over the past decade. In addition, Sonia contributes to the service’s website, develops training materials for new CTIS staff, and is the supervising Teratogen Information Specialist trainer. Sonia attended San Diego State University and has worked in Tuberculosis Control for San Diego County’s Public Health Department. Sonia’s work has also been published through several tuberculosis studies. In her spare time, she loves to volunteer with the March of Dimes as an expert speaker on themes related to pregnancy.

CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line is part of the The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), a non-profit with affiliates across North America. California women with questions or concerns about pregnancy exposures can be directed to (800) 532-3749 or by visiting Outside of California, please call OTIS counselors at (866) 626-OTIS (6847).

Safe Cold and Flu Remedies for Pregnant Women

You’ve seen the numerous labels: “Do not use if pregnant or nursing.” But what if you’re struggling with a cold or flu during pregnancy and you desperately need some relief? Many cough syrups and medicines are considered unsafe during pregnancy. What’s a sniffling, coughing, sneezing, aching mother-in-waiting to do? We’ve compiled a list of some safe and natural remedies for those looking for relief from their symptoms. Good for mom, good for baby.

Heads Up

Propping your head up as you sleep is a surprisingly effective method when you’re dealing with sinus problems. By keeping your head propped up, you are allowing easier sinus drainage and decreasing a stuffy nose. If you’re taking any medicines or cough syrups before bed, this also aids the process of decongesting.

Feel Better Foods

Pre-natal nutrition is important anyway, but when you’re sick and pregnant it’s even more important. Getting Vitamin C through the foods you eat, and making sure you’re taking supplements that are supporting your immune system are vital during this time. Keep in mind that it’s still recommended to get chicken noodle soups and broths when you’re sick. These warm soups have a soothing effect, and are somewhat bland, which help during times of sickness. You’ll be satisfied and so will the baby.

Fever Relief: Mission Possible

Acetaminophen products (Tylenol) are actually safe for pregnant women in small doses. If you have a low grade fever and are dealing with the aches and pains, you can turn to certain products containing acetaminophen. If you have a fever above 102, you should see your doctor. If the fever is accompanied by other serious symptoms that last a few days, see your doctor immediately.

You CAN have Lozenges

Although it is best to stay away from menthol lozenges when you’re pregnant, it’s not bad for the baby if you indulged in a lemon or honey lozenge. If your sore throat or coughing is just too irritating, these are a safe go-to.

Lemon and Honey for the Money:

For centuries, people have used lemon and honey as effective, natural supplements. Many people love honey and lemon tea, and use it when there is any sign of throat irritation. Zarbees All-Natural Children’s Cough Syrup includes both of those ingredients, and is safe for pregnant women and children alike. Honey soothes, while lemon also gives you a boost with Vitamin C. Together they are a winning combination.

Humidify Yourself

Humid air is actually quite helpful during times of sickness. If you find yourself dealing with congestion and breathing problems at night, a humidifier can help keep things moist, and clear out your air passageways as you sleep.

About Zarbee’s

Zarbee’s is the fastest-growing children’s cough and cold brand in the country. Developed by Dr. Zak Zarbock, one of the country’s top pediatricians, and recommended by pediatricians nationwide, Zarbee’s products are all-natural, drug-free and made from antioxidant-rich buckwheat honey, which clinical trials have shown to be the safest and most effective treatment for relieving coughs in children. Zarbee’s products do not include Dextromethorphan (DM), the most common over-the-counter treatment for coughs. A controversial ingredient not supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, DM has been banned for children ages four and younger and is being scrutinized by the FDA as ineffective and potentially dangerous for children. Zarbee’s products are also gluten free, contain no drugs, alcohol or dyes, have no side effects and carry no risk of overdose. Zarbee’s products are available at Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Kmart, Kroger, Winn Dixie, Albertsons and Meijer stores nationwide. Zarbee’s Original Cough Syrup sells for a suggested retail price of $7.99 for a four-fluid-ounce bottle. Zarbee’s Nighttime Cough and Sleep Drink, which comes in a powder form that mixes with soothing warm water, sells for a suggested retail price of $8.99 for six doses.

You Can’t Ignore the Cantaloupe Listeria Issue…Especially During Pregnancy

By Sonia Alvarado, CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line Counselor

Pregnant women who ask their doctor about food recommendations, or who call a pregnancy information service such as ours in California ( are typically told to avoid unpasteurized milk products such as raw milk, unpasteurized cheese and deli meats to avoid exposure to listeria monocytogenes, a mycobacteria. Listeria infection in pregnancy can cause neonatal infection, stillbirth, miscarriage or prematurity. While we recommend that everyone wash fruits and vegetables before eating, we had not been specifically concerned about listeria contaminating fruit and possibly infecting pregnant women; until now.

At the time this is being written, there is a large investigation being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other Federal authorities, along with the support and cooperation of local health departments on an extensive listeria outbreak resulting from contaminated cantaloupes. The contaminated cantaloupes originated from a Colorado producer, Jensen Farms, who distributed to vendors in 25 states, who then trucked the cantaloupes to stores and supermarkets. According to the CDC, at this time there are at least 72 people who have been sickened, including 13 deaths. It is expected that the number of infected people will rise since illness may not occur until 2-3 weeks after infection, and cases would still have to be reported to the appropriate authorities to be counted. The ages of infected individuals so far ranges from 35 to 96 including two pregnant women, according to media reports.

Listeria infection causes listeriosis and this disease is most dangerous to pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, children and senior citizens. Pregnant women are reported to be 20 times more likely to get listeriosis. The symptoms of listeriosis are different in the various sensitive groups; pregnant women may experience a mild, flu-like illness, seniors may suffer septicemia: infection throughout the body, and meningitis. Pregnant women may not realize what’s happened until after they’ve suffered a pregnancy loss, one of the risks associated with listeria infection in pregnancy.

Most worrisome at this time is that we do not know how the cantaloupes were infected. Was the listeria in the soil or in the water that irrigated the cantaloupes? This critical piece of information is necessary to prevent this outbreak from occurring again.

This outbreak is yet another warning about the importance of having evidence-based and enforced regulations on food handling, production and inspection. However, since no system is perfect, we all need to take steps to reduce the chance that we’ll be infected from listeria or other bacteria and parasites.

The following are recommendations from the CDC in combination with other sources, to reduce your chance of exposure; recognizing that no recommendations are going to be 100% effective.

1. Wash your hands before handling any food (meat, fruits, vegetables, canned, prepared, not prepared, etc). Wash hands for 20 seconds with soapy, warm water.

2. Wash all homegrown produce and store-bought before eating it. You can use water, a 1% vinegar solution, soapy water or a commercial vegetable-cleaning product. Use a vegetable brush if possible.

3. Wash knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.

4. Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry to a safe internal temperature. What’s the appropriate temperature? From the USDA (using a food thermometer):

  • All whole cuts of meat (ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork) to 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat (rest time of 3 minutes before eating)
  • Ground meats, (ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork): 160 °F no rest time recommended
  • All poultry products (ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork); 160 °F no rest time recommended

5. Separate uncooked meats and poultry from vegetables

6. Separate uncooked meats from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.

7. Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk, and do not eat foods that have unpasteurized milk in them.

8. Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.

9. Clean dishes with soap water in the hottest temperature that is safe and comfortable for you. The FDA requires restaurants clean dishes with a minimum temperature of 110 degrees F, so if you have a dishwasher, you may be able to get the water to this recommended temperature.

10. When possible, choose irradiated foods. Cleaning foods on the surface may not get to all of the bacteria. For example, cleaning lettuce with water may not get to bugs that get between nooks in the leaves. Irradiation exposes food to a source of electron beams, and destroys bacteria and parasites. Get informed about irradiated foods from the experts!

11. Clean your refrigerator! You won’t get all the listeria out, but most of it and slow its growth.

12. Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees or below. This temperature slows the growth of listeria in refrigerators.

About the Author

Sonia Alvarado is a bilingual (Spanish/English) Teratogen Information Specialist with the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) Pregnancy Health Information Line, a statewide service that aims to educate women about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Along with answering women’s and health professionals’ questions regarding exposures during pregnancy/lactation via CTIS’ toll-free hotline and email service, she’s provided educational talks regarding pregnancy health in community clinics and high schools over the past decade. In addition, Sonia contributes to the service’s website, develops training materials for new CTIS staff, and is the supervising Teratogen Information Specialist trainer. Sonia attended San Diego State University and has worked in Tuberculosis Control for San Diego County’s Public Health Department. Sonia’s work has also been published through several tuberculosis studies. In her spare time, she loves to volunteer with the March of Dimes as an expert speaker on themes related to pregnancy.

CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line is part of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), a non-profit with affiliates across North America. California women with questions or concerns about pregnancy exposures can be directed to (800) 532-3749 or by visiting Outside of California, please call OTIS counselors at (866) 626-OTIS (6847).


The Many Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

It goes without saying that women experience overwhelming physical, psychological, and emotional changes during pregnancy, and these changes can cause severe distress, pain, and overall discomfort. Pregnancy massage therapy can be a great way to help alleviate some of these difficulties, promoting a greater sense of well-being, giving the expectant mother a feeling of rejuvenation, and focusing on the specific needs of the mother-to-be.
Pregnancy massage can serve many purposes, including easing the discomforts associated with pregnancy, helping the pregnant woman prepare for labor, and giving her nurturing emotional support. In fact, pregnancy massage, often times called referred to as “prenatal massage,” has emerged as a routine practice for the modern, well-informed pregnant woman, as research continues to prove that it can be an instrumental addition to traditional prenatal care. And as concern increases regarding pain medicine that could affect unborn children, massage therapy offers a safe, drug-free alternative to combat the pain experienced throughout pregnancy.

Pregnancy massage offers relief from many of the discomforts including muscle cramps, stiffness, knots, and spasms. Massage can also eliminate much of the considerable pain caused by muscle imbalances in the back, joints, neck, hips, and legs, as well as the resultant muscle tension and headaches. Later on in pregnancy, pressure placed on the uterus due to the baby’s resting spot on the muscles of the pelvis and lower back spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower legs, causing them to swell and consequently put pressure on nearby nerves. Pregnancy massage therapy can substantially calm these inflamed nerves, commonly known as “sciatic nerve pain,” by helping to release the muscle tension.

Massage therapy techniques alleviate the trigger points and restricted connective tissue causing much of the pain, oftentimes even preventing pain before its initial onset. Additionally, massage stimulates the release of endorphins to the brain and nervous system; these endorphins act as natural pain killers within the body, soothing and relaxing the expectant mother’s nervous system. This increased relaxation can decrease an expectant mother’s insomnia. This therapy also encourages the maintenance of good posture, encouraging proper adjustment to the changing alignment of a pregnant woman’s body.

Swelling is also often experienced by mothers-to-be, and it most commonly affects the hands, feet, legs, and ankles. This troublesome condition is caused by the increased weight of the uterus, which in turn reduces circulation and increases pressure to the major blood vessels. However, regular massage therapy stimulates the soft tissues, reducing the collection of fluids in swollen joints and increasing blood and lymph circulation, which aids in the reduction of swelling. After all, steady blood flow must reach both the uterus and placenta to ensure a safe pregnancy, and a more efficient lymph system promotes better immune function. The increased blood and lymph flow can hasten the elimination of toxins through the circulatory and lymphatic systems, eliminating the excessive fatigue often experienced during pregnancy. And as if that wasn’t enough, the improved blood circulation brought about by pregnancy massage also aids in the delivery of vital nutrients to the fetus.

A major contributing factor to massage’s success in pregnant women has to do with the glandular secretions that help stabilize hormone levels. Studies have shown that the hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered when massage therapy is introduced to prenatal care, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health. Specifically, there was a reduction in hormone levels of norepinephrine and cortisol, also referred to as “stress hormones.” Stress can be very dangerous to the mother and fetus, because when cortisol levels are continuously elevated, it can cause serious damage to the body, including elevated blood pressure and impaired brain function. Meanwhile, the hormones whose high levels are often associated with combating depression, specifically dopamine and serotonin, were increased with the introduction of massage therapy. And ultimately, fewer dangerous hormonal changes lead to significantly lower rates of premature birth and other complications, and fewer instances of newborn complications, including low birth weight.

Moreover, as with other types of massage used on the general, non-pregnant public, pregnancy massage therapy is proven to reduce anxiety and decrease symptoms of depression. Massage also enhances the pliability of skin and underlying tissues, which are often stretched to their limits during pregnancy. Pregnancy massage can also contribute to the lessening of heartburn, acid reflux, varicose veins, shortness of breath, and constipation, all of which become prevalent during pregnancy.

Pregnancy massage can also prove quite useful when it comes time to enter the labor and delivery stages of pregnancy. Massage therapy can actually prepare the mother-to-be for an easier delivery due to its sedating effect on the nervous system and promotion of relaxation. It also prepares the muscles that will be used in childbirth. In fact, it is a good idea to prepare for this life-changing experience by having your partner accompany you to your pregnancy massage appointments, in order that they too can learn valuable, safe, and comforting massage techniques. After all, a woman in labor needs more than a back rub in the delivery room!

However, being a licensed massage therapist alone does not necessarily mean that he or she can be trusted to perform a safe massage on a mother-to-be and her unborn child. Although most massage therapy training institutions offer some type of pregnancy massage therapy classes, it is best to be diligent and find a highly qualified massage therapist who is also certified in prenatal massage. As an added benefit, a certified prenatal massage therapist can also provide the expectant mother with helpful instruction regarding several self-care techniques, including specific stretches, self-massage techniques, and gentle exercises. Consider obtaining a recommendation from your doctor, and do not be afraid to demand extensive information regarding a potential pregnancy massage therapist’s expertise and training. Pregnancy massage should be gentle and non-invasive in nature, and it is never a good idea to utilize deep tissue massage during pregnancy.

Certified prenatal massage therapists should be specifically trained to avoid pressure to certain trigger areas, as well as certain massage positions that could prove dangerous. After all, therapists should be aware that positioning during massage treatment is critical to the safety and well-being of both mother and baby. The licensed massage therapist should have studied the proper techniques to be applied to pregnant women, should be familiar with the anatomy of pregnant women, and should have in-depth knowledge regarding the processes of pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period.

About the Author

Bethany Brewer is a freelance writer who covers topics related to education and health. Some of her recent work has been focused on massage therapy and its benefits.

It’s a Cruel, Cruel Summer
By Nadia Mohamedi, OTIS Teratogen Information Specialist

Summer is here and it feels like it happened so fast! The temperature is rising and the summer BBQ’s are beginning. While some may think we’ve got some time before the hottest days of the year, research shows that in all 50 states the hottest month is already here. In fact, the record temperature has been broken in all 31 days of July, with August having only 10 days with record-breaking temperature. These hot days can feel like torture for pregnant women, who already feel like a furnace due to their increased blood volume and weight. So, I’d thought I’d help those who are sweating for two and give some tips on how to survive pregnancy in the HEAT.

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Everyone know they’re supposed to drink 5-8 glasses of water per day, but who really does? Even though it feels like a lot of water, pregnant women really should pay attention to this recommendation, not only to cool themselves down but to prevent dehydration. Being dehydrated in pregnancy can cause a mom to faint or have preterm contractions. Iced tea can feel amazing on those hot summer days, but iced tea can have as much caffeine as soda and make you more dehydrated. So, put some water bottles in the freezer and take a few cold ones with you before you head out for the day!

2. Gym, TAN, laundry: Well, forget the gym/laundry part, but some sun in pregnancy is beneficial! Vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnant women, even when women live in sun-filled areas. Being deficient in Vitamin D can contribute to preeclampsia, low birth weight and having a baby with fragile bones. For a light-skinned person, getting full-body exposure in peak summer sun for only 10-15 minutes will release 20,000 IU of vitamin D into circulation. Vitamin D also increases your absorption of calcium, which your baby loves to steal from you. Catch some rays for a healthy pregnancy and get your glow on, but don’t forget the SPF!

3. Cant.Move.Too.Hot: While it is nice to get some summer sun, it’s important to use your own common sense to know when it’s time to chill out, literally. Normally, your body can self-regulate its temperature by expelling heat when the core temperature rises higher than 98.6⁰F. However, when the temperature outside is warmer than your core temperature and the humidity is over 75%, it’s a lot harder for the body to release its own heat into the environment. This can result in your core temperature rising, just like it does when you have a fever. In the 1st trimester, having a core temperature of over 102⁰F can increase your baby’s risk of being born with a neural tube defect, like spina bifida. Rising internal temperatures can also cause heat exhaustion or even heat stroke when core temperature reaches 104⁰F. Symptoms to watch out for are rapid breathing, nausea/vomiting, headache, fatigue, dizziness and an abnormal mental status (i.e- confusion or hallucinations). Ways to prevent heat-related illness are restricting exercise, staying in the shade or air-conditioned locales, hydrating, and wearing light loose-fitting clothing. If you find you cannot cool yourself down, and you start to experience symptoms, you should call your doctor or get medical assistance. Occasionally, it is too hot outside and not completely safe for anyone. Even though this may mean watching family BBQ’s from the inside this summer, your baby will thank you for chilling out!

4. Listeria Hysteria: Personally, my favorite part of summer BBQ’s is all the MEAT – hot dogs, hamburgers etc. However, undercooked meat can contain a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. Additionally, hot dogs could be contaminated with bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. L. monocytogenes causes Listeriosis , which is more likely to occur in pregnant women due to their decreased immune systems. Although the risk of actually having the listeriosis infection are very low, pregnant women can avoid exposure by eating food as soon as it is prepared (a great excuse to jump the line!), re-heating until food like hot dogs and cold cuts are steaming, and washing raw veggies. Food to totally avoid, unfortunately, are soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk (like feta and Brie- I know, so sad), raw/smoked seafood (i.e-sushi or smoked salmon), and pate. Listeriosis in pregnancy can increase one’s risk of having a preterm delivery, miscarriage or stillbirth. The newborn infant can also be born with the infection as well. Check out our Listeriosis fact sheet for more info:

5. One nice cold beer won’t hurt, right? Wrong: With all these summer events outdoors, it seems like everyone has got a nice coldie in their hand. Thanks to some fancy cans, you can even see how cold the beer is by how blue the mountains are. Great. This can make drinking so much more tempting, but, remember, there is no safe threshold for drinking in pregnancy. You can hold the cold beer up to your forehead, but if you drink it at any time during pregnancy, you may be doing permanent damage to your baby. See the Alcohol fact sheet for more information: Even the non-alcoholic beers have some alcohol in them, so sit back with some cold sparkling juice and know that you are doing two great things at once: cooling down and contributing to a healthy life for your baby.

Now that you know the tips for having a healthy pregnancy this summer, enjoy the beautiful weather, time with family, friends, and good eats! Now that doesn’t sound so cruel after all!

About the Author

Nadia Mohamedi is a teratogen information specialist and also serves as a research assistant/interviewer for OTIS studies in San Diego, CA. She holds a BA in neurobiology and a minor in psychology from Harvard College. In addition to her work with OTIS, Nadia has worked for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program at McLean Hospital as well as served as a teacher’s assistant at a school for children with disabilities in Lima, Peru.
OTIS is a North American non-profit dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based information about exposures during pregnancy and lactation. Questions or concerns about medications and other exposures during pregnancy or breastfeeding can be directed to OTIS counselors at (866) 626-OTIS (6847) or online at


Haddad, J. G., Matsuoka, L. Y., Hollis, B. W., Hu, Y. Z. & Wortsman, J. (1993) Human plasma transport of vitamin D after its endogenous synthesis. J. Clin. Invest. 91:2552-2555

*Image: Louisa Stokes /*

Particularly good for pregnant women, this vegetable and fresh herb-infused punch tastes nothing like your canned vegetable juice at the grocery store!

Cucumber Tomato Punch


5 heirloom cherry tomatoes (antioxidant, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K – good for the heart)
5 slices of organic cucumber (Vitamin A, C & Folic acid)
5 slices of celery
1.5 oz lemon juice (Vitamin C)
1.5 oz black peppercorn infused simple syrup * (anti-inflammatory agent)
2-3 sprigs of herbs such as dill, cilantro, oregano or basil


Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail (or “mocktail”) glass.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Kim Haasarud, liquid chef, founder of Liquid Architecture, and author of 101 Mojitos & Other Muddled Drinks.*

Active, pregnant mamas will fall in love with this exciting new apparel brand for the mom-to-be! Based in Southern California, Mountain Mama was founded in 2009, by climber, kayaker and avid outdoor enthusiast Teresa Delfin. The company produces high quality technical apparel for hiking, camping, swimming, kayaking, snowshoeing, yoga and more.

Award-winning designs attract healthy, active moms and celebrity athletes alike. Mountain Mama products are produced, designed and manufactured all within 20 miles of the company’s HQ at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in sunny southern California in an effort to maintain a minimal environmental footprint. Mountain Mama synthetic fabrics (like Polartec) are all made in USA and are compliant with Blueline, so they adhere to the strictest environmental standards for textiles in the world. And whenever possible, the company uses plant-based fabrics like Tencel, Bamboo, Modal, etc. This is important so that pregnant mamas aren’t at risk of coming into contact with toxins that appear in some textiles!

Check out their eco-fabulous new collection for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter at

*Images and informationn provided by Mountain Mama.*

The Mother’s Diet Affects Child’s Obesity

A new breakthrough study on a pregnant mother’s nutrition can have a great effect on the risk of obesity on the child. The study has also shown that the mother’s diet can alter the functioning of their child’s DNA.

This dietary influenced change is called epigenetic change and its effect on the propensity of the child to add on fat. This research also concluded that the epigenetic change acts independent of the fatness or thinness of the mother and the weight at infant birth.

Thus this epigenetic change is another factor in determining the overall health of the child later on in life. These include development of such diseases as obesity, diabetes and other problems. The most pernicious of these possible diseases is diabetes. This condition is the body’s inability to either produce and/or properly metabolize the hormone insulin.

The hormone insulin is important to the body’s ability to use blood sugar for fuel in its normal processes. These normal processes include cell regeneration and functioning. If the cells are unable to have fuel for use, then it dries up and dies, leading to organ malfunction and even failure.

The other contributory factor would be lifestyle and diet. The lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle would definitely contribute to the development of the child’s obesity and diabetes. This taken with a high sugar and fat diet, then the body would be unable to properly adjust its metabolism to address the flood of sugar and fats in the body. Insulin is important to the proper management of these chemicals in the body.

This whole cycle can start even during pregnancy. The predisposition to unhealthy living such as obesity and diabetes can be properly avoided by the mother eating healthy food and exercising while carrying the child. Being proactive as a pregnant mother through proper nutrition and exercise can prevent epigenetic changes that can lead to health problems to the child in the long run.

For a more comprehensive discussion on diabetes and healthy living, please visit Parental Diet Related to Child, or the author’s site, The Diabetes Forum.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Pregnancy Might Not Always Be Glowing

By Nadia Mohamedi, OTIS Teratogen Information Specialist

May is a beautiful month. Flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping and BBQ’s are firing up. To Nadia Mohamedi, however, May is most beautiful as it is Mental Health Month. This month we celebrate the spreading of awareness of mental health conditions and wellness, an issue that is near and dear to her heart. Although one in four Americans has a clinically diagnosable and treatable mental illness, a lack of awareness and a strong stigma associated with having a mental illness deters more than half of these individuals from seeking treatment.

One of the most frequent counseling calls received through the toll-free help line at the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) are from women wondering about depression and antidepressant use in pregnancy. In fact, depression occurs in up to 15% of pregnant women and about 13% of women in the United States report using an antidepressant in a pregnancy. Although the research data on the safety of antidepressant use and the risk of untreated depression in pregnancy has grown immensely in the last five years, the results can be difficult to interpret, especially in light of recent lawsuits. In this blog, Nadia hopes to summarize the recent data so women and their health care providers can make the best-informed decisions about their treatment plans in pregnancy. She also hopes to increase awareness of this serious, but highly treatable, condition so that we can all support the mental well-being of our friends and family.

What is depression?

Now and then, everyone has the blues. When we lose a family member or experience a disappointment, it is normal to feel sad. When there is no specific reason for this sadness or it remains for too long, the cause could be depression. Experts feel that depression is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. Clinical depression is defined, by the DSM IV-TR, as at least a two week period in which a person experiences a decrease in previous functioning with either a depressed mood or loss of interest/pleasure in one’s normal activities most of the time. Other symptoms can include change of weight/appetite, sleeping too much or too little, restlessness from mental tension, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, inability to concentrate and thoughts of death. There is a wide range of severity that can occur with depression.

How does untreated depression affect a pregnancy and the development of the fetus?

Untreated depression can affect a pregnancy in different ways. One of those ways is the direct effect of depression on one’s behaviors. For example, a depressed pregnant woman is more likely to have poor nutrition, missed prenatal care appointments, or alcohol and drug use. These behaviors can be extremely detrimental for a developing fetus such as causing poor fetal growth, birth defects, preterm delivery, or neonatal withdrawal. Biological factors of depression like the irregularity of hormones can contribute to placental dysfunction or decreased uterine blood flow to the developing baby.

Since depression is a complex disorder, researchers have had difficulty discerning the specific causes of adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with untreated depression. For example, untreated depression can adversely affect one’s stress level and social support. Nonetheless, many studies have shown that depression left untreated increases a woman’s risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth (delivering before 37 weeks), poor fetal growth, preeclampsia (a serious form of high blood pressure) and placental abnormalities. Moreover, women with depression who stop taking their medications are as much as five times more likely to have a relapse of symptoms compared to women who continue their medications in pregnancy.

Beyond the pregnancy, women who have a mental illness during their pregnancy are twice as likely to develop post-partum depression (PPD), depression following childbirth. PPD can adversely affect maternal bonding and the baby’s development and behavior.

Now that we have the risks of untreated depression, what are the risks associated with treatment for depression in pregnancy?

The most common treatment for depression is taking an antidepressant medication. Most antidepressant medications have not been linked to higher risks for birth defects. When some antidepressants are taken during the third trimester, there may be effects in the newborn. The baby may be jittery, irritable, and have difficulties with feeding, sleeping, breathing and heart rate. In most cases, these symptoms last a few days or less. Some antidepressant medications have been studied more thoroughly than others. You may call OTIS toll-free at 1-866-626-6847 to speak with a counselor about your specific treatments and possible risks to a pregnancy.

IMPORTANT: You should not stop taking your medication without first consulting your physician. If you and your doctor decide that you should come off the medication, it is recommended to slowly taper off the medication to avoid possible withdrawal effects. Although it is generally recommended to take a medication that has the best pregnancy data and the lowest dose possible to treat your condition, it is not recommended to switch to a more researched medication if you are unresponsive to it. There’s no point in exposing your baby to it if it doesn’t help you! Also, you may have to increase your dose in pregnancy due to weight gain and hormonal changes. Despite the potential risks in late pregnancy, your doctor may want you to stay on your medication to avoid a relapse or prevent post-partum depression.

Other treatment options with no known risk to the developing baby are psychotherapy, light therapy, and acupuncture for depression. For other ways to help improve your symptoms and “mentally pamper yourself”, you can read a recent OTIS article:

Seems like so much information. How can I decide what to do?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for depression treatment in pregnancy. A long time ago, it was thought that having depression was impossible during pregnancy. Clearly, this is not the case. Mothers should feel neither guilty taking a medication that they need in order to maintain their normal functioning nor embarrassed that they are not feeling mentally well when everyone expects a pregnant woman to be glowing all over the place. In the end, no one knows your condition better than you and your physician. In general, a healthy mom is a healthy baby. So, this May, focus on YOU – your mental well-being, your treatment, your support, and your future family. And know that all over the United States, others will be spreading awareness and encouraging others to live well this Mental Health Month.

About the Author

Nadia Mohamedi is a teratogen information specialist and also serves as a research assistant/interviewer for OTIS studies in San Diego, CA. She holds a BA in neurobiology and a minor in psychology from Harvard College. In addition to her work with OTIS, Nadia has worked for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program at McLean Hospital as well as served as a teacher’s assistant at a school for children with disabilities in Lima, Peru.

OTIS is a North American non-profit dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based information about exposures during pregnancy and lactation. Questions or concerns about anti-depressants during pregnancy or breastfeeding can be directed to OTIS counselors at (866) 626-OTIS (6847) or online at**


Bansil P, et al. 2010. Maternal and fetal outcomes among women with depression. J Women’s Health.19(2): 329-334.
Cooper WO, Pont ME, Ray WA. 2007. Increasing use of antidepressants in 2 pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gyneco.l 196:544e1.

Muzik M, et al. 2009. When depression complicates childbearing: guidelines for screening and treatment during antenatal and postpartum obstetric care. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 36:771-88.

Petersen I, et al. 2001. Pregnancy as a major determinant for discontinuation of antidepressants: an analysis of data from The Health Improvement Network. J Clin Psychiatry.