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Posts Tagged ‘pregnancy’

Before I applied to OT school, I was a therapy aide at a pediatric clinic in Carlsbad. In the course of working with various therapists, one OT told me something that has since stuck with me: When you start having kids of your own, it can make you a better pediatric therapist.

As someone who wants to be able to give my full effort and attention to the things that I do, this made me feel a lot better about going into OT school at the age of 25. I knew that I wanted to start having kids in my late 20s, but I was afraid that by me going to grad school, I was essentially acknowledging the fact that I wouldn’t be able to start having kids until I got into my 30s. It only seemed logical that if I started grad school at age 25, then I would finish at age 27 and work for a few years before having kids so that I could earn some money and get used to the whole new career thing. Right? But when this OT — who has 2 young boys of her own — told me in 2008 that you don’t necessarily have to put off starting a family in order to still be a good therapist…that totally changed my perspective. And, clearly, I have come to embrace this perspective, as my husband and I will be welcoming our first baby into the world just 3 months after I graduate from OT school.

Why might having kids of my own actually help me become a better pediatric therapist? When the OT first mentioned this concept to me, she said that she found that she could relate better to the parents (a HUGE part of working in pediatric OT) and seemed to develop this uncanny ability to somehow understand her pediatric clients in a more complete way. It seems that, once you have kids of your own, you can more fully understand the realities of living with and raising children. While every family’s situation and experience is different, having kids of your own gives you the ability to be more realistic in the things that you ask of your kiddos’ parents. Things like home programs, community outings, and environmental modifications.

And not only may having kids of my own improve the technical aspects of my pediatric practice, it may also boost the potential for parent-therapist rapport. One of the things I’ve always fixated on when working with kids is my ability to gain respect from parents because, well, I look like I’m 14 years old even though I’m in my late 20s. That doesn’t mean that parents don’t come to respect me through the work that I do with their kids. But I sometimes envy those who don’t have to work to gain parents’ respect — they just have that look about them that says, Don’t worry, I’m old enough to handle this.Issues…

I should also add that just because you don’t have kids of your own, it doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be a good pediatric therapist. And just because you do have kids of your own, it doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become a superstar therapist either. It’s just another dimension of life that has the potential to improve your practice. I hope people don’t think I’m saying that my situation is the best, because it certainly isn’t. I mean, who really wants to have to worry about pumping schedules, how long your milk will last on ice during the workday, and the potential for leakage while working with crying children, all while looking for a first job as a pediatric OT? Not many people, I’d imagine. It’s a whole new set of factors to consider.

Anyway…

I bring this all up now because as I’ve been looking through potential pediatricians in the Santa Barbara area, I have found myself drawn to those doctors who have kids of their own. And, specifically, who have boys of their own. Maybe it’s a petty factor to consider, but I’m finding that it really does make a big difference to me. It sets those doctors apart because, whether they are male or female, I know that they’ve been through this before.

That being said, I’m excited about the pediatrician that we’re scheduled to meet with at the end of May. Not only is he a Bruin (!!!!!) who’s a strong advocate of breastfeeding and has 2 boys of his own, but he’s also a Santa Barbara native who is super involved in the community, both locally and nationally. He writes a healthcare column in the local newspaper as well as in national publications, is involved with the local AYSO soccer league and Little League, is a distance runner, and is a medical consultant for the show Burn Notice. And although he does all of that stuff and provides a ton of parent resources on his website, my favorite thing about him (without having actually met him yet) is the fact that he has an entire page of his site devoted to kid-related things that his 2 boys and his wife enjoy in Santa Barbara. From local activities to baby accessories/toys to wife-recommended breastfeeding supplies, he really seems to understand the need to be able to relate to the parents of the kids he works with. It appears that he recognizes the fact that the kids and families he treats are more than just his patients. They are people. And although it’s nice to put together a list of local resources and recommendations (something we’ve done as an assignment for one of our pediatrics classes in OT school), it means a lot more when the person making the recommendations has some personal experience with them rather than simply looking things up online and throwing together a list of resources.

So even though I am sort of (sort of???) terrified of the idea of having my first baby and then immediately starting a new career, I know that it has the potential to make me better at what I do, both as a new parent and a new therapist. It’s a lot to handle, I know. I realize that being a new mom and a new therapist will be anything but a cakewalk. But I truly believe that God will be able to use each of my new roles to strengthen each other, as well as to draw me closer to him. Praying for peace and encouragement as each of these milestones quickly approach!

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I’ve always been a bit of a nerd. I love learning, and I love things that are cheesy and silly. So it should be no surprise to me that, as I’m finishing up my last semester of grad school, I am now relating my pregnancy to things I’m learning in school…in my research methods class.

In occupational therapy we talk about EBP: Evidence-Based Practice. We want to make sure that the interventions that we use with our clients are backed up by evidence. And not just heartwarming stories of things that people did that made them feel better after a stroke or an unexpected life-changing accident. Real, solid evidence with good study designs, limited confounders, and generalizable results. We’ve learned that RCT’s (randomized control trials) are the gold standard in experimental research, and that systematic reviews are at the top of the research hierarchy, pooling and examining lots of studies in order to make a strong case with a collective result.

So, I started thinking. What if I had an evidence-based pregnancy? What if I actually looked into the evidence myself? I mean, there are always pregnancy books and blogs and random internet news articles to tell you what’s good and bad during pregnancy. But why not just go to the source of the evidence? I mean, I basically have unlimited access to any kind of evidence I want since I’m currently a student and USC pays subscription fees in order for their library (and, consequently, their students) to have access to tens of thousands of research journals. 

What would I want to start with? I’m a student. Caffeine it is.

So I looked up a systematic review evaluating caffeine use and pregnancy. What I found shocked me, actually. Most pregnancy resources I’ve read have advised that pregnant women stick to between 100-200 milligrams a day of caffeine, if they’re going to consume any at all. That’s like 1-2 cups of average-strength coffee per day. This review, though, basically found that up to 400 milligrams a day was fine. Interesting. Not that I’m going to start drinking 4 cups of coffee per day. But still.

So what next? I miss my occasional glass of wine. So let’s do alcohol and pregnancy. Of course, we all know the common rule of thumb when it comes to drinking while you’re pregnant — don’t do it. But in the past few years, it seems that all of my pregnant friends’ doctors have told them that an occasional glass of wine with dinner is just fine. Maybe even encouraged, depending on the person and her specific medical situation. This shocked me when I first heard about it, and I thought there was no way this could be true. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to find when I looked up a systematic review of mild to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The review said that it’s basically fine, but that there are some mixed results, it depends on the person’s specific case, and we need more research. Not too surprising there.

My third and most recent search related to something I’ve been doing a lot this semester: sitting with my laptop. I have always secretly reasoned to myself that, reproductively speaking, it’s probably not the healthiest thing for women to sit with computers on their laps. I know research has shown that lap-based laptop use has been linked to decreased fertility in men (due to increasing the temperature of their…yeah), but I wanted to know if anything has been studied about women. I mean, aren’t there some sort of invisible, harmful, computer vibes that emanate in coordination with that low humming noise? To my chagrin, I didn’t find anything about pregnant women and laptop use. But I did find a study about prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phones. This study found that with increased cell phone exposure, both prenatally and postnatally, children were more likely to later develop hyperactivity and learning disorders during the preschool years. But it is important to explicitly state the age-old research mantra (as they did at the end of the article): CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION. There are several reasons why the results may have turned out this way, most of which I’m sure you could come up with on your own.

So that’s it thus far. Caffeine, alcohol, and cell phones. Straight from the horse’s mouth. What else should I look into to further my evidence-based pregnancy? Suggestions welcome.

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In OT, we talk about occupations as activities that are personally meaningful to an individual. While it would make sense to say that pregnancy is a time that is rich with meaning, I never really would have thought to label it as an occupation.

Until now.

Now that I myself am pregnant, I am finding that it is the most meaningful occupation in which I have ever participated. It’s kind of like being pregnant is an occupation in and of itself, and then there are all sorts of occupations related to being pregnant that also qualify.

I am at the 13-week mark (due August 7th) and have already collected three strips of ultrasound photos, so I decided to buy a baby book — one of the most exciting purchases I’ve ever made! The occupation of “baby booking” will soon occupy some of the time that I should probably spend studying. Oh well.

In addition to getting a baby book in which to store memories, I have acquired a couple of baby-related books. One is the good ol’ What to expect when you’re expecting. The other is a book on natural childbirth (Ina May’s book on childbirth), something that terrifies yet lures me all at the same time. This occupation of reading also occupies some of my free time, and I’m sure will crank up a notch as the big day gets closer.

Being pregnant has also fast become a popular topic of conversation. As a 2nd year OT student in her last semester of school, I am constantly surrounded by awesome girls who have yet to experience this roller coaster of an occupation. Every day they ask me questions: what is it like? how do you feel? what are you craving? how big is the baby now? Those questions and conversations have almost become an occupation in and of themselves! But it’s great, because I love to teach people and I love to share information, and this is such a great and natural way to be able to do that.

I look forward to the adventures that are sure to lie in front of me!

 

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