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Friday 27 December 2019

Alcohol and Caffeine (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #9)

It’s the Christmas season and, for many people, time to get merry. But pregnant women can’t drink – alcohol or caffeine – or can they?

All things, wrote Paracelsus, are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous.

And dose, apparently, works both ways. You may be able to have too much of a good thing, but you may also be able to have too little of a bad thing.

We often think that a drug does nothing to us until the point where it has an effect – the threshold dose. However, this describes a linear dose-response relationship… which doesn’t fit every drug. Researchers think that some substances follow a biphasic dose response: at some point they switch over from stimulating to inhibiting or from inhibiting to stimulating. Alcohol is one such drug.

This dose response phenomenon is known as hormesis, and is explained in more detail in this article.
The hormetic effect. © TWDK.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Biodiversity on Ice

Whilst 97% of water on earth is salty and 1% is freshwater, 2% is locked up in snow and ice – but never gets a mention in the national curriculum! However, as the planet warms due to climate change, the ice is melting, and this could have an unprecedented impact on habitats and biodiversity.

Interestingly, as more water becomes available and the climate becomes more temperate, what is observed is a loss of biodiversity. Specialist organisms designed for living in harsh, cold, wintry environments die or are out-competed by more common species already found in neighbouring environments. The conclusion is that the unforgiving glaciers provide pockets for more unusual lifeforms to flourish. These lifeforms are known as extremophiles.

Thursday 5 December 2019

Exercise (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #8)

I wasn’t sure how to break it to her. The midwife. That I was a climber.

My greatest fears in pregnancy was being told not to climb, abused by people for doing it anyway, and turfed out of climbing centres – and I had done my research: exercise is highly advantageous during pregnancy, and there are no controlled studies on climbing whilst pregnant.

The body changes during pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body changes and remodels itself to create a nest to house your foetus for 9 months. As the hormone relaxin floods your body, your ligaments relax and joints loosen. Your centre of gravity shifts, upsetting your sense of balance. Your need for oxygen increases, with an extra 20% of blood flowing through your body, and this can make your blood pressure drop, leaving you more prone to dizziness.

So you should definitely exercise – here’s why

Exercising is good when pregnant for the same reasons it's good when you're not, but it can have additional benefits, such as supporting circulation through you and your foetus, reducing cramping and back pain, and improving balance as your centre of mass shifts.