Health Check

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    If you're trying for a baby, you've probably hit your local pharmacy for a prenatal vitamin. Most OB/GYNs will tell women to start taking these supplements as many as one to three months before they're even pregnant! But which one do you choose? And are they even necessary?

    "I do believe in a high-quality prenatal vitamin for every woman trying to build her family," says reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Josh Hurwitz with Reproductive Endocrinology at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut. The fact of the matter is that, try as we might, most of us don't get all of the essential nutrients out of our everyday diets, let alone all of the must-haves for a healthy pregnancy, so it's best to take a supplement.

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    Finally, your kids are sleeping through the night. They're even going to bed at a reasonable hour and staying there too! And then it happens. Your child wakes up crying out loud and grabbing their legs. Growing pains: they're not just an '80s TV sitcom. And contrary to popular opinion, they have nothing to do with growth spurts.

    "The term 'growing pain' is a bit of a misnomer," says pediatrician Dr. Carol Wilkinson, medical director of Kinsights, an advice sharing network for parents. "Studies have shown that they are not associated with periods of rapid growth."

    Instead, these aches in the muscles can simply be signs that your child's muscles are sore from playing hard on the playground or something deeper -- a stress or big social change that can lower their pain tolerance and make it hard to sleep.

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    We know one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of HIV is to wear a condom during sex. But for many too many women around the world, getting a man to use protection before sex is nigh unto impossible. Now there may be a new way for these women to shield themselves: Tampons that deliver anti-HIV medication. If it works, it could put prevention into the hands of women and save millions of lives.

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    Most of us know of the many health and economic reasons to breastfeed for mothers and babies. We are told regularly that “breast is best,” and although there continues to be debate about the degree that not breastfeeding results in health problems for an individual dyad in a Western society, we acknowledge that whether one does it or not, breastfeeding is definitely a healthy choice. However, most mothers who continue to breastfeed beyond a year, especially those who continue to nurse at night, face backlash from an unexpected source: the dentist.

    Many families face a dentist who is adamant that they give up breastfeeding or give up night feeds due to the higher risk of cavities despite the other benefits to the families that breastfeeding may confer. What are parents to do? Give up breastfeeding or accept the risk? Or can families have their breast milk and drink it too?

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    When we heard the awful news that we'd lost actor Robin Williams to suicide, we were stunned -- and deeply saddened. How could a man who projected so much joy and mirth be so wracked by the devastating mental illness of depression?

    The disease is tricky that way. And when it wins, it leaves behind spouses and children who desperately wish they could have rescued the victim.

    Men have a particularly hard time dealing with depression because of the perceived stigma in admitting they're suffering from a condition that may be stronger than they are. Many self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. For the women who love these men, there are no easy answers.

    So what do you do if your husband is dangerously depressed but can't -- or won't -- get the help he needs?

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    Go walking through the toy aisle at any store, and you're bound to see the term "non-toxic" bandied about. It's a term parents should take with a (giant) grain of salt. After all, a government agency just put out a call for a permanent ban on five different phthalates in items made for kids. 

    Phthalates, if you haven't heard the term, are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, and they commonly show up in kids' toys and other childcare products. Now for the scary part: the CDC says phthalates can affect the reproductive system in lab animals. The EPA calls the plasticizers "endocrine disruptors or hormonally-active agents," and the National Toxicology Program warns the chemicals may adversely affect human reproduction or development.

    And these are in our children's products?! In 2014?

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    We've always been told to wash our hands rigorously, for 20 seconds at a time, while silently singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." It sounds easy enough, but now it turns out that pregnant women should add another layer of protection when they're scrubbing their hands. A group of scientists from the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute is now reporting that substances present in antibacterial soaps could harm pregnant women and their fetuses.

    According to the researchers, triclosan and triclocarban are two of the most commonly used germ-killers and are present in soaps, toothpastes, detergents, and paints, among other household items. And constant use results in shorter birth lengths for newborns and can lead to developmental and reproductive issues.

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    The “F” word in my house is a three-letter word: FAT. We don’t use the word in reference to people. We’ve determined it’s OK to use as a descriptor for Santa Claus or maybe even our dog who was getting a bit pudgy, but that’s about as far as it goes. No one calls anyone else fat. Especially because it’s so rarely true and has become just another derogatory name.

    My daughter was thin when she told me she was fat. At least by any reasonable adult standards. Sure she had a little bit of a belly, but she was also in middle school and I knew that’s where the negative body image was coming from. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince her that she had a beautiful body.

    She wanted to go on a diet.

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    I have fought the battle of the bulge my entire life. I was never satisfied with the size or shape of my body, and even when I was at a reasonable weight, I still didn’t believe I looked good. Of course, it doesn’t help when we are bombarded with images of the thin and the beautiful.

    Once I had kids, as so often happens, I put on weight that I just couldn’t take off. Along with the stresses of motherhood came the handfuls of mindless eating. I’d be really good during the day. I’d eat lots of salads or low-calorie sandwiches, but then in the evening when the kids kicked into gear, so did my eating. I munched on everything in sight -- except of course for fruits and vegetables. But because I had kept my mealtime eating in check, I denied that my out-of-control snacking was largely responsible for my weight gain.

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    Childhood obesity is a hot button topic for moms, but helping your kids shape up and slim down is much easier said than done. Many moms out there are wondering what they can do to help their kids shed some pounds without messing with their heads.

    The Stir asked weight loss experts to dish out some kid-friendly advice (some of which they say worked wonders on their own children). Here are some top dos and don'ts to set your family on a healthier path.

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