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Sunday, 20 October 2019

Nesting (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #5)

I’ve been experiencing some severe nesting symptoms. But is it because nesting’s a real thing, or because of my personal desire to organise and structure life (especially in the wake of impending chaos)?

Women have long been observed to clean more in the spring. But is “spring cleaning” driven by their desire to go out in the weather, or cast off the stuffiness of winter?

What is Nesting?


Nesting in preparation for a baby includes anything from cleaning to organising, decorating to stockpiling. I have done all this – from emptying and restructuring drawers to buying baby bits, to sewing, stewing, and sticking in a frenzy of creative energy.

Making © TWDK.



Friday, 11 October 2019

The Placenta (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #4)

The placenta is a complex and poorly understood organ. Found in placental mammals, it forms during pregnancy, starts to break up in the last few weeks, and is normally expelled within 30 minutes of the birth. Looking at it, it’s easy to feel intimidated by this mysterious, massive, living thing that is birthed and dies when your baby is birthed.

Placenta via Wikipedia Commons.

 

What is the placenta anyway?


The placenta is a two-sided disc. On the one side, the maternal placenta (stuck to the womb) develops from the mother’s tissues 7-12 days after conception; on the other, the foetal placenta forms 17-22 days after conception from the blastocyst after it burrows into and connects up with the mother’s blood supply. Scientists are still studying how the placenta forms.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Magnetic Monopoles and Geometry

Take a balloon, rub it against your jumper, then stick it to a wall. Why does this work?

By rubbing it on your jumper, you’ve given it extra electrons and, since the electrons have a negative charge, the balloon now has a negative charge too. So, why does this make it stick to the uncharged wall? Because, by comparison, the wall is more positively charged – and positive and negative electric charges attract. In some materials, charged particles even can shift about a bit to give a more positive side near to the balloon, creating stronger sticking.

Charged balloon attracted to the hair of a cat. Public domain.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Bizarre symptoms (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #3)

For many women, pregnancy is a medley of bizarre and persistent symptoms – some well known, like morning sickness, and some… less so.

A missed period


Missing a period is a pregnancy symptom… but not every woman gets it! Some continue having “periods” for one, two, or more months. Whilst they are not truly menstruating, doctors can’t explain every bleed. Common explanations are implantation bleeding (when the embryo embeds into the uterus lining), subchorionic haematoma (where blood collects between the placenta and uterus lining), or miscarriage. Minor causes might be tears, inflammation, or infections. Around 1 in 5 women experience some kind of bleeding during pregnancy[1].

Pregnant woman via Pixabay.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Diving with ‘Monsters’

Why are we so fascinated by monsters? Creatures of the jungles, of the deepest oceans, and of historic eras in our planet’s past have long captured our imaginations. Perhaps it’s our evolutionary instinct to learn from our enemies, and to study to outwit and outcompete our rivals. One thing is true: we have long been fascinated with monsters, and where better to find the unknown, the mysterious and the monstrous, than in the 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of oceans that stretches across our planet?

...Or, perhaps, in a small Blue Planet aquarium near Chester. Which is where I’m taking you now.

Shark in the Blue Planet aquarium, Chester. © TWDK

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Weight (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #2)

If you’re pregnant and you’ve been reading books, boards and information sites, like me, you’ve probably got the wrong end of the stick about some things – such as weight. And the reason is this: having a baby in the UK is very different from having a baby in the US, and the US dominates these platforms.

Partly, this is because the NHS is unforthcoming: they don’t share information about being pregnant until you are. Their websites offer the bare minimum; their leaflets aren’t much better; they don’t answer my emails; and their advice is always to talk to your midwife. As mine explained to me, information is drip-fed as you progress to “prevent you from being bombarded”. Or, in other words, to maintain control over information access.

Meanwhile, the US sites would lead you to believe that medical health professionals are obsessed with monitoring, managing, and manipulating your weight gain throughout pregnancy, including berating you if you gain too little weight or, more emphatically, if you gain too much.

Diagram of weight versus gestational age by Yehudamalul via Wikipedia Commons.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Morning Sickness (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #1)

Recently, I’ve needed to take a lie down after every meal. This isn’t because I have a food baby – it’s because I’m having an actual baby, and that’s when morning sickness really hits me.

Numbers vary, but reports suggest two thirds or more women will experience some sort of morning sickness – which can include vomiting, nausea, food aversions, and feeling “under the weather”.

Most women get it between weeks 6 and 14 in the first trimester of pregnancy, but some get it earlier, have it fade sooner, or suffer it for most of the 9 months they are carrying. Some never get it. Some women suffer all hours of the night and day (I like to think the objectionable term “morning sickness” refers not to a propensity to suffer only in the mornings, but to the sickness as the “beginning” or “dawn” of pregnancy or motherhood), and some find it comes and goes throughout the day or even week to week. Some get it at specific times of day, or have it triggered by brushing their teeth, particular foods, or particular smells (I didn’t think smell affected me until someone walked past me on a train with one of those heavily processed Cornish pasties!). Unfortunately, we don’t know what causes morning sickness, nor why it varies so much woman to woman.

What causes morning sickness? Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Sleep Paralysis - A Ghost Story

I’ve just had my first sleep paralysis with shadows.

Champion of ghost stories, sleep paralysis is thought to lie behind hundreds and thousands of ghost stories and alien abductions every year.

It affects up to half of us during our lifetimes. It may even have happened to you.

We still have much to learn about how sleep works, how the brain works, and how our emotions guide understanding. One fascinating insight is this phenomenon. Rather like opening up the back of a watch, it spills its guts and opens up more scientific questions than it answers.

Shadow -  © TWDK
Sleep paralysis happens when the waking and sleeping parts of the brain become confused, usually just when you are about to drift off, or just as you awaken. When we’re in REM sleep, all of our muscles are frozen, except those in our eyes and diaphragm, to prevent us from acting out our dreams: when we suffer sleep paralysis, they remain frozen, even though our minds – our desperately trapped, struggling brains – are wide, wide awake.

It feels like you’re being held in place by invisible forces: unable to scream, unable to sit up. Worse, your paralysed torso forces you to breathe shallowly, and during the few seconds or minutes that sleep paralysis takes hold, it feels like a weight has been placed upon your chest, the ghost is sitting on you, squeezing out all the air… And, with air deficiency comes a real feeling of panic, and a powerful sense of impending doom.