Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A 7-hour flight with a 30-week bump

We leave as two, and will return as three...!

I've been MIA from posting lately as I've been busy getting settled into London life for the final stretch of my pregnancy... But despite the delay, I thought it would be worth writing about my experience of travelling whilst heavily pregnant, as it may be helpful or interesting for some of you.

So, we flew from Dubai to London exactly 10 days ago, when I was 30+1. In the days leading up to our departure I had my final appointment at Medcare Women & Children's Hospital with my OB-GYN, during which I passed the dreaded GTT (glucose tolerance) test with flying colours, and the doctor issued me with a 'Fit to Fly' certificate to present when asked by the airline during my impending travels. It's generally required by all airlines from 26 weeks of pregnancy onwards, but you may even be asked to show it earlier than that depending on how pregnant you actually look.

My doctor also prescribed me an Innohep injection to be taken just before flying; it's used as a 24hr blood thinner to prevent the risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and is recommended before  any flight of over 4hrs in the later stages of pregnancy. Mine was administered at the hospital by a nurse into my thigh at 11pm, before a 5am flight the next morning. I didn't feel any effects of it and it's apparently a very normal injection with minimal risk of any side effects, so I was more than comfortable to take it.

The prospect of a 7hr flight from Dubai to London rarely fills anyone with joy, but factor in being really quite pregnant and also having booked a connecting flight via Doha rather than travelling direct, and it is safe to say I was rather looking forward to the whole transit part being over. I made sure to wear my most comfortable Topshop maternity leggings, a big baggy sweater, and my absolute favourite shoes to wear during pregnancy: Yeezys. I know they're overhyped and overpriced but there is really nothing more heavenly for those swollen pregnant feet.

Checking in at the Qatar Airways desk in Dubai International Airport was a breeze - even with our total of 100kg luggage between my husband and I - and nobody even seemed to notice I was preganant. The flight to Doha was a short and sweet 1 hour in First Class, but once we arrived in Doha the fun and games began. A shepherd from the airport was waiting for us as soon as we stepped off the plane, and proceeded to hurry us to the other side of the terminal - without a buggy - as he said our connecting flight was waiting for us. He also didn't notice I was pregnant and was rushing ahead whilst I struggled to keep up. We finally reached the boarding gate with much huffing and puffing on my part, and the shepherd informed us that there may not be time to transfer our baggage from the first plane to the second as the transit time was so short. Great.

We raced through the gate, believing that we were the only two holding up the entire flight, only to find that takeoff was to be delayed by at least an hour for a totally unrelated reason. So we rushed for nothing, and I sacrificed a bathroom trip for nothing. We sat in the holding pen at the gate with all other passengers for over an hour, with no access to any bathrooms - the worst prospect to face when you have a 1.5kg baby nestling against your bladder!

Eventually we boarded and yet again nobody from the airline appeared to even notice I was pregnant - so my Fit to Fly certificate went totally unused. As soon as we reached cruising altitude I reclined my seat to the flat position and proceeded to sleep for 5 of the 7 hours in the sky. I also made sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the flight, plus I requested ice cold towels a few times to soothe my feet, which are tending to overheat at any altitude these days.

Upon landing at Heathrow things were nice and smooth - both of us breezed through border control and our baggage - which thankfully had had enough time to be loaded onto the plane during the delay - was the first to roll off the carousel. Excited to be home in London and to see my mother, my energy levels were good for the remainder of the day, but when it came to bedtime I was absolutely exhausted from the exertions of the trip and spent much of the night and the next morning virtually comatose.

Overall it wasn't a bad experience at all taking a long haul flight at 30 weeks pregnant, although a direct flight would've been more convenient in general. I didn't suffer any aches or pains or new symptoms as a result of flying, but of course I was fortunate enough to be flying First and Business class so I had plenty of space to get comfortable, and I think an Economy seat would be far more difficult to deal with during pregnancy. So if, like me, you must fly in your third trimester, it's definitely worth it to book as high a class as your budget can stretch to (or do some great hustling work to get an upgrade!) for the sake of your baby and your body. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Why I'm going to 'eat' my placenta



No... Not fresh out of the womb with a knife and fork, or spread liberally over a few slices of toast... Don't panic, and get those common 'eww'-inducing misconceptions out of your mind! For placenta encapsulation is the way forward, and there's absolutely nothing gross about it at all.

You've probably seen sensationalised headlines in various newspapers and celebrity magazines recently about the likes of Rochelle Humes, Coleen Rooney, Tanya Bardsley, Alex Gerrard and Amy Childs 'eating their placenta' after giving birth, which at first glance you might think was a little bit weird. But these ladies, and many more, have in fact turned to the practice of placenta encapsulation by the Liverpool-based, female-owned and -run business called Placenta Plus.

Danielle Kinney started her business after experiencing the benefits of placenta encapsulation first-hand. Having suffered from crippling post-natal depression after her first baby, Danielle heard about the advantages of placenta encapsulation and tried it with her subsequent pregnancy. Her experience was so drastically different from the previous one, and so overwhelmingly positive, that she pursued a path to make placenta encapsulation accessible to many more women in the UK.

In case you hadn't gathered from the term 'placenta encapsulation', the process literally involves the placenta being steamed, dehydrated, ground, and placed into pills or capsules, which you can then take daily as you would any multivitamin or health supplement until your yield runs out. Danielle at Placenta Plus offers two methods of placenta encapsulation: Traditional Chinese method, which involves steaming before the dehydration process and is thought to have a more calming and rebalancing effect, or the Raw Dehydrated method, which skips the steaming stage and is recommended as the more energising of the two methods.

So why exactly have I decided to do it? Well...

The benefits of placenta encapsulation include:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Reduced post-birth bleeding
  • Faster reduction of uterus size post-birth
  • Reduced risk of post-natal depression and post-natal thyroiditis
  • Reduced likelihood of suffering from a post-natal 'hormonal crash' - hormones are rebalanced much quicker
  • Enriched and more plentiful supply of breastmilk
  • Reduced amount of time to return to pre-baby weight due to boosted metabolism
Your placenta is a tailor-made source of nutrients, hormones, naturally occurring chemicals, iron and protein, created specifically by your own body to nourish your growing baby during the gestation period. Therefore, consuming an encapsulated version of your placenta and all the nutrients it contains is like taking a multivitamin supplement which was designed exclusively for you. The majority of mammals (including herbivores) eat their placenta after giving birth, proving that this is a beneficial practice in nature throughout the animal kingdom. 


The placenta is rich in nutrients and hormones such as:

- THYROXINE: a major key for all thyroid patients like me, especially after suffering a sudden increase in TSH levels during pregnancy. Natural thyroxine from the placenta will assist with rebalancing TSH, improving thyroid function, boosting metabolism to assist with shifting the baby weight quickly, and staving off the risk of post-natal thyroiditis (which is often misdiagnosed as post-natal depression)

- ESTROGEN, PROGESTERONE & PROLACTIN: Female hormones which contribute to stabilising post-natal moods, boosting lactation, regulating post-natal uterine cramping, decreasing depression and normalising libido

- THYROID STIMULATING HORMONE (TSH): essential for regulating and restoring thyroid function, boosting energy levels and supporting recovery from stressful or traumatic events

- OXYTOCIN: known as the 'love hormone', this stimulates bonding between mother and baby, therefore reducing the likelihood of postnatal depression. It also counteracts the production of the stress hormone cortisol, and enhances the breastfeeding let-down reflex

- CORTICOTROPIN RELEASING HORMONE (CRH): increased levels of CRH are vital to fighting off the risk of suffering from post-natal depression

- CORTISONE: reduces inflammation and swelling, and promotes healing after childbirth

- INTERFERON: triggers the immune system to fight infections - remember, your immune system is massively subdued during pregnancy

- PROSTAGLANDINS: an anti-inflammatory which helps to regulate uterus contractions and shrink it back to pre-pregnancy size

- IRON: replenishes maternal iron supplies to combat the common onset of post-natal anaemia, whilst also increasing energy and reducing depression

- HAEMOGLOBIN: oxygen-carrying molecule essential to increasing energy levels

- CYTOKINES: trigger cell metabolism healing and replace damaged cells and tissues

- VITAMIN B6: aids in the production of antibodies

- VITAMIN E: rich in healing properties for damaged skin cells

- IMMUNOGLOBULIN G: antibodies to support the reinstatement of the immune system

- HUMAN PLACENTAL LACTOGEN (HPL): boosts lactation as well as regulating maternal glucose, protein and fat levels

So, for the privilege of receiving all the evident benefits above, I have booked in and paid for a £200 package from Placenta Plus to encapsulate my entire placenta, which can yield anything between 90-250 capsules depending on its size. That's almost a year's supply of custom-made multivitamins designed just for me. There are also packages available including pills and body cream, but for me I feel the pills will be of most benefit so I preferred to maximise the number of those I will receive.

The whole Placenta Plus procedure includes Danielle sending a licensed medical courier to collect the placenta from wherever you give birth in mainland UK, and delivering the beautifully-packaged pills along with a dried umbilical cord keepsake (sweetly twisted into the word 'love' - a bit better than the grotty old cord clip my mum has saved from my birth back in the 90s!) between 24-48hrs after you give birth. An exceptional service, and I can't wait to try it out. I will definitely be posting more about my experience once I've had the benefit of trying the pills myself.

For more information about Placenta Plus or to book in for your own placenta encapsulation (available in England, Wales & Scotland only), visit their website - www. placentaplus.co.uk 



Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The awkward moment when you enter your Third Trimester but haven't bought any baby things yet

Officially the first (and only) baby-related item we own... Oh, and baby!

So, I officially entered the third trimester of pregnancy this week, which means we are now on the home stretch! Part of me feels like I've already been pregnant forever and the days are passing really slowly, but another part is suddenly startled by how time appears to be speeding up as we hurtle towards one of the single most life-changing events we will ever experience.

I joined the 'Mumsnet July 2017 Births' group a little while ago, and have been following and contributing to the thread with great interest ever since; learning a lot and sharing experiences with a diverse group of fellow mamas-to-be. It has been particularly interesting for me to compare my experience of prenatal care in Dubai with the other group members' UK experiences, with some of the biggest differences including the fact that I appear to have a great deal more ultrasound scans than anyone is getting in England, as well as the fact that the whooping cough vaccine is not offered in the UAE whereas it is standard on the NHS, and here in Dubai the GTT (glucose tolerance test for gestational diabetes) is standard for all expectant mothers, but in England it seems to only be offered to those who are considered at a high risk.

I really enjoy my interactions with the other July-due mothers - a group which also includes my expectant cousin! - and we often reassure each other by comparing notes on mutually-endured pregnancy symptoms and indulging in general baby-on-the-way chit chat. However, over recent weeks, reading the thread has started to give me mild anxiety.

I think I am quite literally the most utterly unprepared pregnant woman in the entire group.

It started dawning on me when I realised I was able to contribute less and less to the more prevalent discussions on the thread. Clearly I was the black sheep; the odd-one-out. Everyone else has moved on to sharing photos of their fully-decorated, fully-equipped nursery rooms. Talking about which brand of non-bio detergent they've already used to pre-wash their entire 0-3 months AND 3-6 months collections of babygrows. Reviewing the different baby-carrying systems they've trialled and tested out at their local sling libraries. Suggesting clever storage solutions for the multipacks of nappies they've already purchased. Writing up their lists of what they've already packed in their hospital bags.

I honestly have NO common ground on which to join in with the discussion anymore. I CANNOT relate. At all!!

I don't even know where we will be living when we come back to Dubai at the end of August; let alone how baby's room will be furnished or decorated. I didn't even know you were supposed to pre-wash all baby clothes before they wear them, and, suffice to say, to date we have not purchased a single item of baby clothing. I didn't have a clue that such a thing as a 'sling library' even existed. Clearly I haven't started to stock up on nappies yet - disposable or reusable (and that's a whole other story...). And as for packing my hospital bag...? I DON'T EVEN HAVE A HOSPITAL BAG YET!

We physically do not own a single baby-related item. Not one single thing.

Trying to reassure myself that I wasn't way behind or being too lax in my approach, I convinced myself that all the mothers-to-be in the July group are just superhumanly organised, overly keen, overly cautious, overly prepared, and/or verging on OCD.

But then...not one, not two, but THREE babies were born to mothers in our July-due group. In the same week. In May!!! Thankfully they are all healthy and doing well, despite arriving so early, but it really hammered home to me that all the other women in the group who already have everything ready and set up are in fact not being overzealous with their preparations. They are simply being practical.

Ok, my circumstances are a little different, in that I'm currently in Dubai and will be travelling to London in less than two weeks, due to give birth there in July. So really it doesn't make sense to do any baby-related shopping until we get to London. Inspired by the massively organised mothers-to-be of Mumsnet, I have at least started curating shopping lists of items we'll need to get as soon as we arrive in the UK on the Mothercare and John Lewis apps. But I still can't help feeling a bit naive for the way I've just made the sweeping assumption that I'll carry baby to full term and therefore still have plenty of time between now and then to get everything sorted.

To be fair, I've taken care of the 'big stuff'; the hospital booking for the birth, the placenta encapsulation booking (more on that in a post soon), plus overseeing (from overseas) the renovations of a number of rooms at my mother's home in London, ready to accommodate us all over the summer. But in terms of physical, material, baby-specific items... Nothing whatsoever has been done in that department.

Yesterday, after having another 4D scan to see baby delightfully wiggling around, yawning, smiling and touching his face, the sonographer gifted us a tiny weeny pair of socks along with our CD of images from the scan. So, finally, we do actually own ONE thing for the baby, although we didn't purchase it ourselves! There's still a long way to go towards being ready, but at least it's one small, baby-sized footstep in the right direction...








Saturday, 6 May 2017

Despicable Trumpcare bill punishes thyroid patients & pregnancy



I'm not usually one to get on my political soapbox in public, particularly when I am neither a citizen nor a resident of the concerned country, but many of my readers are from the USA and most of my 'thyroid network' of friends and fellow thyca-fighters are Americans. So here I am, sharing my outrage on your behalf.

The first 100+ days of Trump in office have been a horror show to say the least, and from an overseas perspective we have watched the numerous scandals and sickening decision-making unfold with our jaws on the floor.

The latest in a series of disturbing events is the passing of the AHCA (American Health Care Act) - otherwise known as 'Trumpcare' - by the House two days ago, in an attempt to repeal the current ACA (Affordable Care Act) referred to as 'Obamacare'. I realise that I am commenting from the outside, as someone who has no experience of American healthcare whatsoever, and I realise that there were also valid criticisms of Obamacare and that it had its imperfections. But this Trumpcare bill is just so, so much worse.

It has been brought to my attention by reading the posts of several influential and inspirational American ladies I follow across various social media platforms - including Aisha Thalia and Shelah Marie - that the new Trumpcare bill appears to be a major attack on women. Stunned by what I was reading, I investigated further, and researched the list of all illnesses, conditions and circumstances which will now disqualify people from receiving healthcare coverage - either as subsidised packages through Medicaid, which provides reduced price healthcare and financial support for 74 million poor, disabled and elderly Americans - or even for citizens who are attempting to purchase health insurance at the full premium. The bill will enable health insurance companies to deny these people coverage, or significantly raise their premiums to an unfeasible level.

The vast majority of the newly-considered disqualifying 'pre-existing conditions' are suffered specifically (or almost exclusively) by women. Breast Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Hysterectomy, Osteoporosis, Sexual Assault, C-Section, Pregnancy, and Thyroid Issues are all considered reasons to disqualify patients from being able to obtain health insurance in the new bill. If that is not gender discrimination, I don't know what is.

As someone who is fortunate enough to be British and have grown up with the NHS (National Health Service), providing free healthcare for all under all circumstances, and now as someone who has fully comprehensive Gold Standard private health insurance in the UAE, for which we pay around 8000 AED (£1678 / $2178) annually to get a remarkable level and standard of coverage, my heart really hurts for the estimated 24 million Americans who will be disqualified for health insurance due to this bill. If I was in the USA and subjected to this legislation, my healthcare would be denied on several counts. If I wasn't able to avail of this private health insurance coverage in the UAE - or free NHS healthcare in the UK - my treatment bills for my thyroid surgery and subsequent issues, followed by my pregnancy, would have easily topped 200,000 AED (£42,000 / $55,000) over the past two years. That is simply not a fair or sustainable amount for the regular working class citizen to shell out for the human right of healthcare.

I sincerely hope and pray that this barbaric Trumpcare bill doesn't make it through the Senate and that enough sensible politicians will stand up for the rights of those who are suffering in order to oppose its passing. My thoughts are with all my friends and readers from the States, who are dealing with similar medical conditions to me, but could soon be dealing with vastly different healthcare privileges and financial issues. Nobody deserves to be punished for being a survivor, and women certainly don't deserve to be discriminated against for going through the physical struggles we are susceptible to due to what we were put on this earth to do.