Duct, Duct, Loose: Clearing a Clogged Milk Duct


If you want to watch a mom involuntarily wince, just say the phrase “clogged milk duct.”

Not only are they feels-like-you-got-punched-in-the-boob painful (quite possibly the female equivalent to a guy getting kicked in the junk?!), they’re also troublesome because they can lead to the dreaded mastitis.

I’ve had my fair share of troubleshooting clogs while feeding two babies, so I wanted to share a few tips from along the way in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

Breastfeed. Your baby is very efficient at draining milk from your breast. If latching is too painful, begin nursing from the opposite side to encourage let-down, and then switch sides.

Pump. The same goes for pumping; the object is to get that duct open and keep the milk flowing, so pump, pump, pump it up.

Positioning. Use gravity with a “dangle feed” to help get things moving. And try a similar position while pumping, as well.

Moist heat. The idea here is to reduce inflammation and pain, plus stimulate circulation. Take a hot shower or sit with a hot compress (don’t have one? simply wet a baby diaper & zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds) prior to feeding/pumping.

Vibration. My PT recommended this for helping to loosen things up and stimulate milk flow. And electric toothbrush works perfectly when used in small, circular motions!

Massage. Apply some lotion and massage out any lumps and bumps with your fingers, working from the back of the breast toward the nipple.

Sunflower Lecithin. Lecithin is reported to decrease the viscosity (stickiness) of the milk, thus helping it flow more freely. The recommended dosage for  helping to clear a clogged duct is 3600-4800 mg lecithin per day, or 1 capsule (1200 milligram) 3-4 times per day. You can decrease the dosage as symptoms decrease/disappear.

Anti-Inflammatories. I’ve had good success with using ibuprofen to treat pain and inflammation, helping to open up and clear out those angry ducts.

Compressions and/or Hand Expression. While pumping, work on any areas that are hard or tender in an attempt to un-stick the milk. For particularly troubling spots, you can also hand express after feeding/pumping, which often helps get things moving (and can even increase supply!).

Loose Clothing. Wearing a tight or poorly-fitting bra, constrictive clothing or anything that smushes your breasts can impede milk flow and contribute to a clogged duct. Loosen up!

Sleep Position. Continuous pressure on your breasts while lying on your stomach or even in some side positions can also hinder milk flow, so switch it up frequently (or bust out that pregnancy pillow again).

Ultrasound. When all else fails, find a local physical therapist who specializes in women’s health. Whenever I had a pesky duct that just wouldn’t loosen up on its own, a session or two with my PT worked wonders.

Mamas, any other tricks for finding relief with clogged milk ducts? Please share!

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional; this advice is purely shared based on personal experience. Please see your doctor to get clearance before trying anything new! 


My External Cephalic Version Experience

Source: PregnancyVideo.net

Source: PregnancyVideo.net

Sounds like a fancy spa treatment, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re not already familiar with the term, spoiler alert: It isn’t.

An ECV or “version” as it’s more typically called, is a procedure where your doctor lubes up your pregnant belly and uses their hands to try to manually flip a breech baby from the outside.

As I mentioned previously, Baby H has made himself/herself very comfortable lounging with a head in my left ribs, feet in my right ribs and butt nestled on top of what I can only figure is the nice cushion of my bladder. No wonder running was super uncomfortable as soon as s/he started getting bigger…

And after trying a number of natural remedies and old wives’ tales to get him/her to move, my doctor gave me the option of trying the ECV to see if we could encourage a somersault to get Baby in to the correct position for delivery (although some will attempt it, it’s my hospital’s policy to not deliver breech babies vaginally).

Because Google is every first-time pregnant woman’s best friend and worst nightmare, there are a lot of horror stories circulating about this procedure. Some are true — when it goes poorly, there are major risks that shouldn’t be taken lightly, such as tearing of the placenta, water breaking prematurely, emergency c-sections and even stillbirth — but there are also success stories, so I wanted to share my version of the version (pun intended) in case you find yourself at the same crossroads. Believe me, I spent many sleepless nights and hours on the Internet trying to make the decision whether or not to give it a shot. 

First and foremost for any pregnant woman is the rule that there’s no eating or drinking past midnight the night before a version. This is fine if you’ve got a morning appointment, but I was scheduled for 12:30 p.m., so you can imagine the extra anxiety this created.

Both Ben and I prepped beforehand — I was really, really hoping Baby wouldn’t get distressed and have to be evacuated via an emergency c-section where they’d have to knock me out cold and I’d miss the actual birth — so we figured we’d prepare for the worst-case scenario and hope for the best. Hospital bags were packed and loaded in the car, and I took a quick shower before we went over and checked into the Labor and Delivery unit of the hospital a bit before noon.

Now, despite watching my sister give birth and visiting my father-in-law after back surgery, this was pretty much my first time IN a hospital, let alone being a patient there. So despite trying to keep my cool, I could feel my heart start to race and fought the instinct to flee as they led us to a delivery room and I was instructed to get into a gown and lay down in the hospital bed.

Once the nurses took my vitals and asked a bunch of health-related questions, they put sensors on my belly to monitor Baby and put me on my first-ever IV. I was having regular/minor contractions due to the dehydration of not being able to drink for a good 13 hours, so they gave me a liter of fluid in my IV…but it was really there just in case things went south and they needed it for anesthesia for surgery.

After getting a baseline for Baby’s heartbeat — strong and healthy! — I got a shot of terbutaline in my arm, which would relax the muscles of my uterus. A common side effect is feeling anxious, flushed or like your heart is racing, but I didn’t experience that, most likely because they gave me another pill by mouth to help counteract the effects.

At this point, I was actually hoping to feel woozy, but I was completely coherent when the doctor came in and double-checked the position of Baby H via ultrasound. Then she laid the bed back, oiled up my belly and quickly got to work.

I’m not gonna lie; it was pretty uncomfortable as her hands dug deep into my belly to try to grab the baby’s head and bottom and slowly twist him/her around. I tried to focus on my breathing, but my original in-for-four-out-for-seven plan went out the window as all I could do was brace myself, and try to relax as much as possible while clutching Ben’s hand for dear life.

The first direction (counter-clockwise) was halfway way successful; I could feel the baby move sideways, and I remember saying, “This feels SO WEIRD” as s/he rotated within me. But the butt simply couldn’t seem to make the turn out of my pelvis; the doctor checked the ultrasound to see if we were able to clear it, but Baby had promptly popped back into place.

They also checked heart rate at this point to see how Baby was tolerating being poked and prodded. I remember hearing a slower thumping rhythm as it dropped from the 130’s into the low 90’s at one point…and I started to panic that it would keep dropping, but — thank goodness — it went right back up to normal within a few seconds.

We attempted the other direction (clockwise), and the pain was intense. Any kind of controlled breathing disappeared and I had to fight to keep from holding my breath as the doctor tried using her knuckles to get underneath Baby’s butt in my pelvis. Ben could see the pain in my eyes and knew it was time to pull out the big guns and make a joke to try to distract me as she gave it one final try.

But Baby H simply wouldn’t budge. 

I was relieved when the doctor called it because I didn’t think I could take another round at that point. Not only was she starting to break a sweat, but my stomach was also super sore and I felt shaky when I was cleared to get up to go to the bathroom a few minutes later.

She congratulated me for being such a trooper, and I thanked her for giving it her best shot. We agreed that if Baby was going to turn, this would have done it because neither of us was holding back, so she suggested that my pelvis angle might be playing a part in keeping the little guy or gal from being able to flip.

It was now around 2 p.m., and as the adrenaline slowly left my body, I realized I was starving. But Baby H still needed to be monitored for another hour before I could eat or drink, just to make sure everything was ok.

Fortunately his/her heartbeat remained strong and regular, so around 3:30 p.m. I was cleared to eat and Ben ran out to get me some ramen and steamed buns with fried chicken. In the meantime, my nurse brought in snacks — fruit plate with yogurt, blueberry muffin, cheese sticks, pudding cups, crackers and ice water — which I promptly wolfed down.

Baby H was still being monitored for an additional hour, but between the hospital snacks, food from Ben and TV in the room, I was a pretty happy camper. Both our vitals stayed steady, so we were able to check out around 5 p.m…and I proceeded to keep eating and drinking over the course of the evening until it was time to go to bed.

For the next few days, I was tired, had some minor cramping and felt like I got punched in the gut — or did a really, really hard ab workout — but Baby H was moving around as if nothing happened. My guess is that s/he is in there, just contentedly lounging, and I’m just fine with baking the little bun for a few more weeks.

In terms of where we go from here, there’s a very small chance that the baby will flip on his/her own in the home stretch, in which case we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but Baby H will most likely be making his/her debut via c-section. Regardless, I’m happy we gave it our best try, grateful for the wonderful hospital staff who took fantastic care of us and mostly just relieved that it didn’t end in an emergency situation.

And you know what? It’s taken me a while to process, but I’ve come to learn through my experience and by reading and hearing about others’ that Baby will come how s/he is meant to come. The best scenario isn’t necessarily the one you’ve planned for (Me: “Pregnancy really is a crap-shoot, isn’t it?” My doctor: “Welcome to OB!”); it’s the one in which both mom and baby emerge happy and healthy.

As much emphasis as we place on the “birth story,” I’ve realized that it’s really just a lot of unnecessary pressure on moms, and we need to take it easy on ourselves when things don’t go the way that we (or society) expects. After all, I’m pretty sure the best “stories” are the ones yet to come. 🙂

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional; this is merely my experience with a procedure from my personal perspective. It’s not meant to replace advice from your doctor, so be sure to check with him/her before making any medical decisions. 

Looking forward to introducing you all to Baby H in early March! 

I’ll (Try to) Spin You Right Round, Baby

It’s said that “most” babies are head-down by around 36 weeks (I’ve read as much as 96-97% of ’em), getting ready to make the journey from womb to world.

Of course, Baby H had other plans and remained comfortably in a stubborn “sweet little breech ball,” according one ultrasound technician.

My doctor first broached the topic around 32 weeks, but when our little nugget still hadn’t budged by 34 weeks, I took matters into my own hands to try to facilitate a flip naturally.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t run in a few months. Or maybe it’s because I’m not following any kind of training schedule. But either way, my inner Type A-proactive-planner took over and I enjoyed researching, laying out a game plan and getting to work on the following options for encouraging a breech baby to turn:

Moxibustion: A Chinese medicine practice of burning mugwort on or near the outermost point of your pinkie toes. Apparently there’s an energy channel located there, and getting things flowing in a downward direction may help baby’s head to do the same.

Inversions: Whenever I’d feel Baby H get particularly active, I’d try out different inversions to see if I could give him/her more room in my belly to move around. A number of people recommended SpinningBabies.com, so I tried a bunch of the moves on the site (again, much to Ben’s amusement).

Acupuncture: Similar to moxa with the energy channel hypothesis, this uses needles to balance your “Chi” and get baby to turn. It’s been shown to have a decent success rate in studies such as this one, and I found it to be a great way to relax for an hour, as well.

Swimming: Whether it’s the change in pressure, buoyancy or body position, some people think that getting in the pool can help get baby re-oriented in the right direction. There are no official studies on this, but being in the water once a week definitely felt good and, I think, decreased swelling.

Chiropractic: The theory here is that if your skeletal structure is out of whack, it could affect your inside organs (i.e. uterus) and baby’s positioning or ability to move. Chiropractors use a special move called the Webster Technique, which is supposed to restore proper pelvic balance and function.

Old Wives’ Tales: Other suggestions for turning a breech baby include things using cold packs, talking, music or light to incite movement. Again, none are proven to be particularly effective or supported by studies, but they’re something to consider nevertheless.

Although ultimately unsuccessful for us, I do feel these techniques are well worth a shot if you find yourself (and your baby) in a similar situation. But — and I probably sound like a broken record with this — pregnancy really is a total crap-shoot, so don’t go into anything expecting guaranteed results.

The only thing I can guarantee? A laugh about the whole predicament, if you read this post from Pregnant Chicken.

And as for me, I’m learning that this process — along with expecting the unexpected and just going with it — is all a part of preparing for the next adventure: parenthood.

Disclaimer: I’m not a health professional, so be sure to consult yours first before trying anything new!

Anyone else out there have experience with a breech babe?

Baby H: 36-Week Update


We’ve reached the point of what I’ve dubbed the “ninth-month conundrum” where you’re so ready to NOT be pregnant anymore…yet you’re so NOT ready to not be pregnant. Meaning, it’s starting to hit both Ben and me that — wow — this kiddo is imminent.

And although I feel like we got a lot accomplished this past month — baby shower, childbirth class, car-seat installation, car tune-up, clothes washing and hospital bag packing, just to name a few — the to-do list is still very much in progress. As in, my priorities are tying up loose ends at work for my maternity break and getting the apartment really organized (read: obsessively cleaned) and ready for Baby H’s homecoming.

So here’s where things stand at our 36-week “bumpdate.”

Month Nine: In the last month alone, baby is estimated to have almost doubled in weight (~5-6 pounds) and measures somewhere around 19 inches long. It amazes me that with all this technology we have now there’s not a more accurate way to gauge his/her size, but I guess the exact stats are part of the fun of delivery day!

Weight Gained: Right around 25 pounds. I’m still loading up on good fats and doing lots of snacking to help Baby H pack on those final few layers of adorable chub. I’m trying to up my water intake, too, to keep well-hydrated and to maintain good fluid levels.

Workouts: While they’re nothing like my old intensity, I’m thankful to still be moving at least 5-6 days per week. I’m listening to my body carefully, steering clear of high-impact activities (they’re neither appealing nor comfortable) and limiting myself to a maximum of 30 minutes of “easy” cardio per session, whether it’s the recumbent bike, elliptical, stair stepper or walking. I’ll toss in some yoga, barre or strength training a few days a week, as well, just to keep my muscles awake and engaged.

Symptoms: Normal-sized meals are now totally off-limits, unfortunately. Even my strategy of hardcore, well-paced snacking is pushing it; despite aiming for healthier Superbowl fare this year, I still ended up propped up on the couch for hours afterward, in misery, with my digestive system struggling to process the remnants of our Mexican fiesta. Bending over is non-existent, although I’ve come up with a number of ways to contort my body to accommodate the belly, much to Ben’s amusement. And I get out of breath with even the smallest effort — like going up a flight of stairs, getting out of the car or even putting on socks — so I’ve learned to allow for extra time to keep myself from having to deal with the cascade of Braxton Hicks contractions that will inevitably result.

Food Aversions: Nada, thankfully. Well, aside from the lactose-free milk that Ben accidentally grabbed last week instead of our usual 2% — gross!

Food Cravings: Oranges. So much so that I plowed through a 10-pound box last month. And now that those are gone, I’ve moved on to clementines, apples and raspberries. But cheese sticks, milk and cereal are all in heavy rotation — along with pints of ice cream that keep finding their way into our freezer (thanks, Ben). So it’s safe to say that dairy’s still up there on the cravings list, too. Oh, and sweets…although I *try* to limit my candy consumption to a few pieces per day or chocolate or chewy fruity things.

Sleep: Not sleeping well is now the norm, so there’s not much to add here. I’m guessing that this means we’ve truly begun our transition to parenthood?!

Looking Forward To: As small as it seems, setting up the crib. Because then it’ll really feel “real”…and hopefully we’ll feel somewhat prepared. Big picture, though? Meeting him or her soon! Both Ben and I are excited to find out who this little person is that’s about to rock our worlds.

Boy/Girl Suspicions: None. And I hope to keep them that way until delivery day because we’ve made it this far! We’re still getting feedback that’s pretty evenly split, so your guess is as good as mine. Wanna weigh in? 

Any Fun Stories? Baby H is what I affectionately call my “breech ball baby” because s/he is still settled butt-down, curled into a comfy little ball. While I wouldn’t necessarily call it “fun,” we do have some decisions to make over the next few weeks that will potentially affect our labor and delivery options. In the meantime, I’ve been doubling down on acupuncture, chiropractic, moxibustion and inversions in an attempt to get him or her to bust a move and head south. More on that soon!

Stay tuned for what could be our ten-month update (yikes!) in just a few weeks…

Baby H: 32-Week Update


A girlfriend (who also happens to be pregnant and due around the same time) recently shared with me a great description of what it’s like at this point of pregnancy: It feels like you don’t have much time left, but there’s still a long way to go.

As in, there’s a lot that needs to be done before our new roomie arrives — crib setup, car-seat installation, clothes washing, hospital bag packing! — but then again two more months of living day-in and day-out in this state feels like it might get old…very soon, if not already. So, without further ado, here’s our 32-week “bumpdate”…

Month Eight: Estimated at a little more than three pounds (as of our most recent ultrasound) and anywhere from 17-19 inches long from end to end, Baby H’s new job is to start packing on the pounds in preparation for life outside the womb. According to my app, all senses are operational, too, which is exciting because I’m constantly wondering what’s going on in there with each little thump or squirm that I feel!

Weight Gained: Still hovering at a little more than 20 pounds. I was expecting that number to be higher after all my holiday indulgences, but my doctor says I’m tracking just fine for total gain, so I’m just loading up on good fats with things like eggs, nuts, avocados (and maybe the occasional ice cream sundae) to help Baby H build up that fat to help with temperature regulation and energy after birth.

Workouts: It’s high time to take it down a notch. Not only am I limiting cardio to 30-minute sessions, per my doctor’s recommendation, but I’m also following the talk test more strictly. And I’m also sticking with low-impact cross-training, which means more barre, Pilates, light weights, yoga and the like.

Symptoms: I miss being able to eat whatever I want without feeling full very quickly. Maybe it’s the way Baby H is sitting, but my eyes are quite literally bigger than my stomach at every meal. Normally, I’m a three-square-meals kinda gal with snacking in between, but I’m learning that six smaller ones might be more my speed at this point.

Food Aversions: None, thank goodness. Just getting a little tired of my snack of choice (nuts), so I’ve been searching out new products and recipes to keep from getting bored while trying to consume enough good fats. Stay tuned for more on that!

Food Cravings: Oranges. I can’t get enough of ’em. Which is also convenient because it’s peak cold and flu season, and I could use all the immunity help I can get. We got a box of our favorites delivered direct from Florida, and I’m in heaven. Otherwise, it’s been tough to try to limit the sweets so I can leave some room for high-density foods, such as eggs, avocado, nuts, coconut, etc.

Sleep: It never fails — get a group of preggos together, and inevitably the conversation turns to how much sleep we’re not getting at this point. It fluctuates, depending on the night, but let’s just say I’m operating on average numbers that I’ve never before considered sustainable. Yet, I know I’ll be looking back in a few months and wishing I was getting as much shuteye as I am at the moment, sans baby!

Looking Forward To: All the nesting, which means things are getting real. We’re starting to plan our hospital bags, logisticize a dedicated space for Baby H in our apartment (much to our dogs’ dismay, as their domain is shrinking), wash tiny clothes (Dreft smell!) and gather all the other necessary gear.

Boy/Girl Suspicions: I still don’t have a strong feeling. Ben’s mom surprised us over the holidays at a family dinner with something really fun — she had a dozen each of pink cupcakes and blue cupcakes, and people got to vote by selecting their dessert. In the end, blue won. But it’s also worth saying that my new chiropractor, unprompted, said her vote is for pink. So I think it’s safe to say that this kid’s got everyone stumped.

Any Fun Stories? Baby H apparently has a sense of humor. And some impressive flexibility skills. Or we’re just getting a sneak peek at a future trouble-maker. At my last ultrasound, s/he was sitting comfortably breech — butt down and legs up overhead — although s/he usually prefers to tuck both feet under my ribs. Apparently I have a few more weeks until Baby H may settle into a final position, although s/he seems pretty darn comfortable hanging out as-is!

Stay tuned for the month nine update in a few weeks…

Baby H: 28-Week Update


The third trimester has arrived, and it’s sure making its presence known. I’m starting to slow down a bit as I enter the seventh month with Baby H, but we’re still hanging in there…and both growing by the day! Here’s our 28-week “bumpdate”…

Month Seven: Weighing in at a whopping 2.5 pounds and almost 16 inches long from end to end, Baby H is (hopefully) getting ready to settle into the proper position for birth (head down) soon before s/he starts running out of room. Fingers crossed. Until then, it’s a dance party in my belly — both day and night — while new skills are being added to the repertoire of movements, including blinking, coughing, sucking, hiccuping and taking practice breaths.

Weight Gained: Right around 20 pounds (!), which is starting to feel a little cumbersome because bending over is no longer an option. I’m not so much concerned about the number as I am keeping my daily eating habits consistent — or, rather, trying to keep them reasonable during the holidays. This is NOT the time for dieting or being super strict; believe me — I’m definitely having fun. But if I hear one more time the, “But, you’re eating for TWO!” excuse, I may start carrying a sign that says, “Just because my belly is starting to rival that of the jolly man in the red suit doesn’t mean I need that fourth helping of cookies.”

Workouts: The type fluctuates depending on my mood…but the frequency is consistent! I’ve even managed to do a few short jogs here and there — which is much needed both mentally and for fresh air when we get a break in the rain. Some things (cycling, yoga, anything where I’ve got to bend over or twist) are starting to feel more uncomfortable since Baby H is riding low, but others feel great (Pilates, swimming, elliptical, bootcamp, barre), so I’m doing what I can while I still can because I know this will likely be a moving target. Also, per my ZOOM+Performance recommendations, I’ve been experimenting with Gyrotonic, which is great for posture, alignment, flexibility, breath/body awareness and more.

Symptoms: Ugh. As someone who can usually eat whatever she wants, I’m no longer taking an efficient digestive system for granted. Everything’s fine while I’m eating, but a full meal now hits me HARD 15-20 minutes later and then takes what feels like hours to process through my stomach. And it usually leaves a lovely parting gift of heartburn and acid reflux. I’m learning to eat smaller portions more frequently, though, which helps.

The belly is now front and center, too, which requires more thought when maneuvering around. It feels so odd to have to think about my approach to simple tasks like putting on underwear, shoes, socks, etc. (basically anything requiring bending over) rather than just acting out of habit. Basically, there’s a lot contorting and heaving myself around once I’m in a good position so I can give gravity some of the workload…and I still end up completely out of breath in the process.

Food Aversions: Nada. But God help you if you get near me with a lit cigarette. Every time I walk through a cloud of irresponsibly-exhaled smoke (PSA: If you insist on slowly killing yourself, that’s your choice. But please blow those toxic fumes upward or downwind so it doesn’t boomerang back and hit other people in the face!), I have to hold my breath and am starting to dole out the dirty looks pretty liberally.

Food Cravings: Does ‘nesting’ count when it happens in the kitchen? I’ve been having fun experimenting with new recipes, and I’m trying to make sure they’re a good balance of nutrient-dense and delicious. Other than that, I’ve been putting my egg scramble in heavy rotation for extra protein, and I can’t pass up dairy. I also can’t seem to say no to the leftover holiday treats that Ben’s bringing home from the office…but I’m trying to limit myself to a sensible serving or two instead of a whole box or bag.

Sleep: What is that, and where do I get some? Between regular bathroom trips, worrying about work details slipping through the cracks (I don’t care what people say — ‘baby brain’ is a real thing!) and prepping for the impending arrival of our little one, sometimes it’s tough to get back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night. And other times I just wake up HUNGRY, so I choose to believe that s/he must also be going through a growth spurt (versus the alternative, which is that my rear just going through a growth spurt, LOL).

Looking Forward To: Setting up a dedicated space for Baby H, washing tiny clothes (i.e. smelling that delicious newborn detergent) and putting together all the related gear. Since I work on my computer for a large part of the day, it’s probably part nesting and part me craving some non-screen time. I’m also anxiously awaiting our next ultrasound, which I’m not sure when will happen — but the curiosity of what this kid looks like now (versus our last one, which I think was around 19 weeks) and what the heck s/he is doing in there when I’m feeling certain movements is killing me!

Boy/Girl Suspicions: I don’t have a clue one way or another, but if I were to hazard a guess right now, I think I’d be more surprised if it’s a boy. It’s fun to have other people guess, though; everyone who looks at my belly seems to have a strong opinion one way or another — although the responses for Team Pink and Team Blue have been split pretty evenly!

Any Fun Stories? Ben and I recently attended our first official baby class: an all-day seminar on Newborn Care & Breastfeeding. It was informative, worthwhile…and eye-opening! Although I have some experience from helping with my nephew a few years back, it was good to have a refresher. Ben especially liked the swaddling competition. And, if you follow me on Instagram, perhaps you’ve seen that he’s been practicing his technique? I’d say he nailed it.


Stay tuned for the month eight update in a few weeks…

Taking ZOOM+Performance for a Test Drive


Most of us think about going to the doctor when we’re sick in order to get better. But what about checking in with your doctor when you’re well in order to enhance your health and actively try to prevent some of those acute illness or chronic injury visits in the future?

That’s exactly the concept behind ZOOM+Performance, one of three primary care platforms offered by ZOOM+Performance Health Insurance, a company right here in Portland, Ore., that’s committed to revolutionizing the American healthcare system. What started in 2006 (under the name ZoomCare) as state-of-the-art neighborhood urgent care clinics in Oregon, Washington and Idaho is now called ZOOM+ (as of 2015) and has transformed into a complete healthcare system with health insurance built in.

What’s brilliant, though, is that it goes beyond what is traditionally offered in healthcare delivery systems to play a critical role in preventing chronic illnesses that require costly interventions down the road. ZOOM+Performance, in particular, caught my eye because it’s geared toward people who want to optimize their human performance using food, movement and relationship as medicine.

ZOOM+’s mantra is “Twice the health at half the cost and 10 times the delight.” So when they invited me in last week for one of their signature wellness assessments, I decided to put that mission to the test.


After checking in and filling out a few forms, Dr. Natasha Kassam whisked me off to a private room to get my vitals and take my health history. She white-boarded my information as we walked through current conditions, concerns and goals together (i.e. have a healthy baby and resume my normal level of activity when it’s safe!).

She explained that ZOOM+Performance’s assessment is aimed at helping people improve athletic performance, mental-focus and creative energy. After doing some deep brain, cell and body tests, including VO2 Max, Neuroagility and Body Comp (typically there are some labs, as well, but not for the purposes of this visit), we’d regroup and she would prescribe food and movement to help me achieve my potential.

Brain & Nervous System Function

First up was Heart Rate Variability testing, which measures the balance and function of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. A balanced system, meaning both the “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” sides are responding equally well, supports optimal cognitive and physical function.


I sat down in a big, comfy chair while Dr. Kassam hooked me up with a monitor that attached painlessly to my ear lobe. Math problems and puzzled flashed on the screen for a few seconds each, followed by a breathing exercise which helped set a baseline for measuring the ebb and flow of my two branches.

Body Composition

From there, we moved to another room with an alien-looking egg-shaped vessel in it called the BodPod. The BodPod is considered the Gold Standard in body comp tests because it delivers a highly-accurate measurement of body fat percentage using air displacement and body density as markers.

British Olympic diver and television personality Tom Daley testing his body composition (courtesy of BodPod)

British Olympic diver and television personality Tom Daley testing his body composition (courtesy of BodPod)

Although we knew my results would be skewed, it’s completely safe — even for preggos — so I decided to give it a shot to get a feel for the experience. After stripping down to my skivvies and donning a swim cap, Dr. Kassam locked me in (don’t worry; there’s an emergency release in case you get claustrophobic) for two rounds of measurements.

It was quick and painless, although I will admit it takes some getting used to! Expect to hear a rush of air and some thumping, plus you’ll feel a bit of pressure in your ears; but just sit still, stay calm and relax — it’s over before you know it.


Next up was my favorite part of the session: Neuroagility. Thanks to infrared sensors, you get to interact with the neuroagility wall, which is an experimental assessment of neuromuscular coordination and gross-motor ability.

Performance_Neuro_Agility (1)

Step one is to stand in front of the wall to get everything calibrated. Step two is a short practice run; it takes a moment or two to get a feel for how the system responds to your movements. And step three is the actual test where you’ll have a few seconds to “touch” orbs that appear in different positions on the wall.

You feel like you’re in a video game, and as the orbs appear and disappear more rapidly toward the end, you’ll be running back and forth like a crazy cat trying to follow a pointer on the wall. Now try doing this while pregnant — i.e. carrying extra weight, off balance and out of breath — and, well, you get the picture.

VO2 Max

For the final test, we went over to a bike that was wired up to a machine for the VO2 Max assessment. ZOOM+’s cycle test is a quick way for them to get the calculation, which is an indicator of aerobic efficiency and endurance.


Dr. Kassam instructed me to pedal slowly and steadily on the bike while keeping an eye on one of the metrics (I forget which one it was — most likely cadence — but my instructions were to keep it around 60 despite changes in resistance). Meanwhile, they’d be tracking my heart rate and other stats to come up with a final score.

My Results & Recommendations

Brain & Nervous System Function: Although I was able to bring my system into equilibrium during the breathing exercise, the “stress” of the first part of the test threw me more into the “fight of flight” mode, so Dr. Kassam recommended daily meditation or mindful breathing to bring more awareness to my breath.

She recommended some useful apps and exercises, in addition to trying out rhythmic breathing while walking, running and biking in order to raise my performance threshold when under stress. As far as I’m concerned, she nailed this right on the head because it’s something that I currently neglect as part of my training regimen, but could help me perform better going forward.

Body Composition: Dr. Kassam warned me that this measurement wouldn’t be valid due to me being pregnant, and it was. I guess the machine doesn’t account for all things baby because I fell into the “Excess Fat” category, whoops!

But even though these results were skewed, it was well worth the experience so I know what it’ll be like next time around. I’m planning on going back post-baby to check in again so I can get some baseline metrics and make a game plan for getting back in shape.

Neuroagility: Oddly enough, despite having to lug around 15-20 extra pounds which left me feeling less than agile, I was able to score in the “Good” range here. I’ll be interested to see, though, if I can make it into the “Excellent” category post-baby when I feel a little less inhibited with my movement.

VO2 Max: Yes, I know I’m pregnant. And, yes, I know my heart rate is elevated, my lung capacity feels like it’s decreased and my endurance is lower due to these factors, as well as not being able to work out as hard or as long as I’m used to.

But I’ve got to admit that the “Average” rating here was, personally, a bit of a bummer. Of all the metrics, I figured it wouldn’t be too far of from my normal range…but I keep reminding myself that it’s all about the big picture right now.

And it just goes to show you how much of an impact pregnancy has on all of your systems. Don’t get me wrong; I’m more than happy to be able to divert any extra oomph toward Baby H, although I’ve got to admit that I’m excited to get back to work on this when I’m able to safely start training again!

The Verdict

After my tests were completed, Dr. Kassam and I met back up in the first room to discuss results, as well as her recommendations for moving forward. Of course, since things are a little out of whack at the moment, I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary in terms of next steps; however, her insight really impressed me.

In addition to the mindfulness and breathing awareness exercises, she suggested that I try alternating in a high-dose probiotic with my usual probiotic supplement. The ideas is to flush and re-populate my GI tract — not only to aid with digestion, but also to keep my system in tip-top shape prior to delivery.

Dr. Kassam was also enthusiastic about the idea of adding gyrotonic workouts to my regimen. Gyrotonic utilizes three planes of movement for exercise sequences that are composed of spiraling, circular movements. These carefully-choreographed sequences are designed to create balance, efficiency, strength and flexibility — not to mention improve posture, regulate breathing and strengthen the core and pelvic floor (super important for moms-to-be!).

If I were on the ZOOM+ plan, the next steps would be for Dr. Kassam and I to set some measurable goals and design a 90-day sprint in which we’d make a game plan for how to go about reaching those goals. We’d meet monthly to check in on progress and tweak the approach, as needed.

This kind of accountability, along with the thoughtfulness and relevance of her suggestions, would no doubt produce some great results. In fact, even though I’m not doing the traditional sprint-and-follow-up format with ZOOM+, I am following through on her recommendations and look forward to going in for another assessment to get a more accurate baseline after Baby H comes this spring.

If you’re in the Portland area, it’s something I’d advise checking out because it’s both empowering and enlightening to be able to take your health into your own hands. Not to mention that getting ahead of the curve when it comes to healthcare is no longer something any of us can afford to ignore.

For more information about ZOOM+, visit ZoomCare.com.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary performance assessment to try. All opinions (and geeking out over the associated metrics) are my own, however. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Kinetic Fix!

My Pregnancy Fitness Philosophy and “Training” Plan


I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my pregnancy workout routine and how “training” has changed over the course of the past few months, so I figured I’d do a post on the topic. It’s interesting to look back on how things have evolved now that I’m sweating for two, although it’s important to remember that everyone has and/or will have a different experience; this is just what I happen to be going through, so take it for what it’s worth!

Let’s start at the beginning: Pre-pregnancy, I was what I call in “maintenance training mode” — meaning, I’d set a specific training plan for a major event (i.e. last fall’s marathon) but otherwise would try to maintain a level of fitness that’d allow me to not have to start from scratch each time. It’s an approach I highly recommend; building slow and steady means fewer injuries, and maintenance in between allows you to push harder with each cycle.

After lots of racing in 2014 (marathon, Olympic-distance triathlon, ultramarathon and more), I knew 2015 would be a year filled with more reflection, recovery…and, apparently, reproduction! I had dialed back the aggressive goals early on — not only to keep myself from getting sidetracked while adjusting to the first year in a new city, but also to keep from burning out, which I felt close to towards the end of last year.

Fast forward a few months, and we got the big surprise-on-a-stick! And, for better or worse, almost immediately I could tell my body was in the process of changing (I think years of tuning in — and out — during training and racing have honed these skills). I was determined, though, to find my personal form of “pregnancy maintenance mode” where I could challenge myself without causing injury to myself or harm to Baby H.

Little did I know that what I was aiming for would be a moving target!

Here’s one week’s worth of workouts I logged from very early on during my first trimester — while I was still trying to keep up “maintenance mode:”

  • Monday: 45-minute indoor cycling class
  • Tuesday: 30-minute elliptical + yoga class
  • Wednesday: Portland Trail Series 5-mile race
  • Thursday: 30-minute run + barre class
  • Friday: Strength training class + 60 minutes of walking to/from meetings
  • Saturday: 3-mile run + prenatal movement class
  • Sunday: OFF


As I look back through my logs, I see that during the later weeks of my first trimester (once the pregnancy symptoms really hit) most of my cardio was walking. Running just felt “off;” my bladder was heavy, and I was out of breath about 10 seconds into a run. That, combined with sheer exhaustion, and I knew I was lucky to be able to continue some kind — any kind — of activity, even if it wasn’t at my usual intensity.

Here’s a week from my log during that time — I call it “survival mode:”

  • Monday: 30-minute walk with dogs + Pilates class
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes of walking to/from meetings + yoga class
  • Wednesday: 30-minute elliptical + some bodyweight exercises
  • Thursday: 60 minutes of walking to/from errands
  • Friday: Strength training class
  • Saturday: OFF
  • Sunday: 5-mile run

Around week 17 I hit a sweet spot, though, where running felt great again. I was hitting the pavement (or the trails) two or three times a week, and my goal was to do at least a six-miler each weekend to keep my mileage up.

That lasted for all of maybe six weeks.

Now, as I’m creeping toward the end of the second trimester, running (at least at the moment) isn’t working for me anymore. I ran an awesome six-miler with friends on Nov. 1, but later that afternoon got blindsided with what felt like a strained a ligament in my groin and could barely walk for two days.

Physically, I get it; my body’s got a lot going on, and something’s gotta give. But it’s been much more difficult, mentally and emotionally, to detach from my “happy place.”

With pregnancy comes a lot of uncertainty, and who knows what will feel good a few weeks from now, let along a few months down the road. But it’s an excellent lesson in learning to roll with the punches, look at the bigger picture, get creative and be grateful for what you can do rather than what you cannot.

So here’s where I was as of last week, which I’m calling “the new normal mode:”

  • Monday: 60-minute walk during lunch + prenatal yoga class
  • Tuesday: 30-minute elliptical + barre class
  • Wednesday: 30-minute stair stepper + prenatal movement class
  • Thursday: 30-minute laps in the pool + barre class
  • Friday: 45-minute indoor cycling class
  • Saturday: OFF
  • Sunday: 3-mile run (painful!)


And in the meantime, I’m keeping things fluid, taking it day-by-day and approaching fitness with a more pregnancy-friendly set of principles:

  1. Listen to my body. I modify like nobody’s business, and if I’m not up for something, I don’t do it. It’s as simple as that!
  2. Keep it a priority. Fitness has always been and always will be important to me. I make it work around other commitments.
  3. Keep it in perspective. Races and PRs will be there waiting for me. Right now, I want to stay in the moment and enjoy this time.
  4. Have fun. Whether it’s meeting up with friends or trying a new class, I love having more freedom to experiment.
  5. Mix things up. Even if my new default is walking, I’m trying to get as much variety as I can to keep my mind and body engaged.
  6. Re-think “training.” As in, my immediate focus is getting through childbirth come March, then being healthy enough to chase a kiddo.
  7. Stay curious. Gone are strict training schedules for the time being, so I’m just enjoying figuring out how to work this “new” body.
  8. Be grateful. I’ll do whatever I can for as long as I’m able. It feels good to move, and I want to honor my body where it’s at as this process progresses.

And, on the bright side, I’m also hoping that if I do have to take a good chunk of time off of running, I might finally heal some nagging injuries (old: SI joint, new: ligaments/groin). For example, my plantar fasciitis is almost a distant memory now that I’ve dialed down the impact activities, which I’ll take as a win.

So where will I go from here? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll keep you posted.

How did your perspective on fitness change during pregnancy? 

Back to Basics: My Favorite All-Natural Skincare Products


Welcome to your 30’s, where it’s possible to have both pimples and wrinkles at the same time. And don’t even get me started on what pregnancy hormones do when thrown into the mix. 

You know what that means, though? Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just limited to what you put into your body (nutrition) or how you keep it in shape (exercise); it’s also about developing a strategy for keeping its largest, most protective organ — aka our skin — in tip-top shape.


So I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a total junkie when it comes to beauty products. Maybe it was watching my mom do Miracle Whip facials and mayonnaise hair conditioning treatments when I was a kid, but you name it, and I’ll try it on the quest for smoother skin, shinier hair or a dewier glow.

And while I typically don’t discriminate against ingredients (I know, I know…but I have yet to find a natural deodorant or shampoo/conditioner that actually works), I’ve done a 180 with Baby H on board these past few months.

The last thing I want to do is expose him/her to harmful chemicals, regardless of how small the amounts may be, so I’ve been on the hunt for the best all-natural (or as close as possible) alternatives. Here are the current favorites on heavy rotation in my routine:

Step 1: Remove Makeup

At 99.1% natural, Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes ($6) supposedly remove makeup, cleanse and tone in one easy step, leaving skin clean without the need for rinsing. But I prefer to use them as a first line of defense in removing even the most stubborn makeup without irritating skin.

Step 2: Cleanse

Made with 100% Certified Fair Trade ingredients, I first spotted Alaffia EveryDay Coconut Cleansing Face Wash ($13) while shopping at Whole Foods and decided to give it a whirl. Because it’s all-natural, it isn’t quite powerful enough to remove heavy-duty makeup or waterproof mascara on its own, but works well in conjunction with the Burt’s Bees towelettes.

My friend Corey also shared some Arbonne Calm ($123 for the full-sized set) samples with me because the line is not only free from the usual chemical suspects, but it’s also made up of naturally-derived and food-grade ingredients that do not contain fragrance or color. I’ve been using these mostly while traveling a) because they’re travel-sized and b) because dry airplane air can wreak havoc on skin, but the products have lived up to their name.

Step 3: Tone

After years of using harsh toners that would leave my skin feeling stripped and tight, I’ve learned my lesson and now take a gentler approach with Scientific Organics Spirulina Toner ($30), which adjusts pH, removes dead skin cells and prepares skin for better product absorption. Best of all, it’s made of pure, potent botanicals instead of chemicals and has a minimum of 70% organic ingredients.

Step 4: Treat

Because some of the best anti-agers (retinols) are a no-no during pregnancy, I’ve adopted Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum ($34) as my new treatment of choice. It’s got eight “actives” or ingredients with known antioxidant and skin rejuvenating properties and none of the bad stuff, so I can help reduce the effects of photoaging and not feel guilty in the process.

And when I want to have a “spa moment” but don’t have extra time or cash for a facial, I turn to BioRepublic Eco-Friendly Sheet Masks ($5 each) which is are ultra-soothing facial masks infused with natural cucumber extract, plant collagen and vitamin E. I’ll pop one on during an evening TV show, and in 20 minutes stressed out skin feels soothed and rejuvenated.

Step 5: Moisturize

I’m been a big fan of Acure Organics Night Cream ($18), which I found at the local Pharmaca and used for about four months with great results (they don’t call it “nature’s nocturnal miracle” for nothin’). However, the scent became a little too much thanks to the association with the first trimester queasies, so I’ve been looking for something new that would still do the trick for tired skin.

Enter Farmaesthetics Nourishing Lavender Milk ($38), which is my new multitasking best friend at bedtime; not only is it made of 100% natural ingredients that are certified organic (as indicated), but the lavender smell helps me relax as I drift off to sleep. Plus, it’s got one of the all-time best skincare ingredients — Calendula — which is an ancient remedy for healing wounds (as well as a diaper rash treatment that my sister swears by).

Step 6: Remember the Body

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also include some skincare items for the benefit of your body, as well (because hello, pregnancy bacne)…

Case in point: Pura Naturals Peppermint Volcano Soap-Infused Active Slice Sponges ($9 for a 3-pack), which are awesome, patent-pending soap infusion sponges that will cut your shower time in half. They’re infused with ground pumice and a bunch of rich extracts and oils — all great, yes — but what makes them really cool is that they’re created from renewable plant materials and the manufacturing process actually removes carbon from the atmosphere, so every purchase is akin to buying a personal carbon offset.

And, finally, no skincare post that references pregnancy would be complete without mention of something to keep the dreaded itchy belly at bay. My two favorites are Booda Butter ($14) and  The Spoiled Mama Tummy Butter ($34), both of which smell like cocoa and immediately give me a chocolate chip cookie craving each time I apply them. But they’re also smooth without being greasy and mild enough scent-wise to be used all throughout pregnancy.

Which natural beauty items are on your must-have list? I’d love to hear which products you swear by! 

All-Natural Tips for Surviving Morning Sickness


Pre-pregnancy, you had the best intentions of staying active and incorporating fitness into your daily routine. But throw in morning all-day sickness plus exhaustion, and now that you’re pregnant you find yourself wondering if you’ll ever be able to get your butt off the couch.

The good news is that, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, exercise can actually help alleviate some of the yucky symptoms of early pregnancy. Plus, it’s good for your body – and baby – to start an active regimen early on (Disclaimer: Just be sure to check with your doctor first).

Regular exercise during pregnancy not only helps keep you fit and feeling good about yourself, but it can also help improve posture and decrease common discomforts, such as backaches and fatigue. Plus, there’s good evidence that it may prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress and even build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.

But if shifting your workout schedule to work around queasy spells simply isn’t an option, don’t throw in the towel just yet. There are a few natural, yet highly-effective, remedies for helping to tame tummy troubles so you can still hit that spin class – without the feeling that the room is spinning around you.

A ‘pressing’ matter

According to traditional Chinese medicine, illness results from an imbalance in the flow of Chi (life energy) through the body. Morning sickness is seen as this energy going in the wrong direction – your stomach energy should go down and out; not up.

Acupressure, a practice based on Eastern medicine methods used to open up blocked energy pathways in the body, is thought to help relieve or shorten the duration of morning sickness symptoms. Pressure is applied on a small area of the body to treat a given ailment; in this case, the P6 point is used to prevent or reduce nausea.

P6 is located on the inner side of your arm, in line with your middle finger and one-sixth of the way between your wrist and elbow. Pressing on the point with a thumb works, but if you’re looking for longer-term relief, try wearing wristbands that hold a plastic disc on the P6 point on each arm.

Sea-Band ($9.99 per pair) is the industry standard, featuring a knitted, elasticized wristband with plastic stud that has been clinically tested against nausea and vomiting in travel, anesthesia, pregnancy and chemotherapy. But fashionable mommies are also breathing a “Psi” of relief, thanks to colorful rubber Psi Bands ($13.99 per pair) from “mompreneur” Romy Taormina, who wanted to give moms an alternative with a watch-like adjustable band to better control pressure.

Supplementary, my dear Watson

According to one report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may find that taking vitamin B6, ginger or other supplements can reduce their symptoms. And not only are these treatments effective, but they’re also safe for the baby, which will ease every mom’s mind, as well as her upset tummy.

Try starting your morning off on the right foot with Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Organic Morning Wellness Tea ($5.99 for box of 16 bags), a cup of comfort that’s blended with stomach-settling ginger root and spearmint, a safe hint of peppermint, plus soothing chamomile and lemon balm with a yummy twist of orange peel for flavor. (Note: If you’re looking for natural products, the company also offers quite the array of herbal goodies for pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, plus babies of all ages).

Get a mid-day belly boost with Anti-Nausea Ginger Gum from Sea-Band ($9.99), which contains 25mg of ginger oil and settles stomachs by delivering the healing benefits of the herb to the body in one of the fastest ways – under the tongue.

Battle intermittent waves of nausea with the vitamin B6 in Preggie Pop Drops ($5.50 for a box of 20), which offer relief via a combination of essential oils and aromatherapy. And there’s a bonus: Not only do these bite-sized sour candies alleviate dry mouth, but they can also provide quick calories and energy during labor down the road.

Need something even stronger? Another option for getting stomach-soothing vitamin B6 into your system quickly is B-natal, available in both Green Apple lozenges and Cherry Therapops ($15.99 for a box of each). B-natal was developed by Jennifer Cherry, president of Everidis Health Sciences, and has clinically-proven, efficacious amounts of B6 with just enough sugar to help alleviate symptoms and sweeten the taste.

And when all else fails…

Sometimes there’s just no stopping it, so you might as well be prepared to puke in something pretty, right?

Enter Morning Chicness Bags ($7.50 for a pack of 10), which are compact, leak-proof barf bags – the brainchild of founder Tara Ramos, who herself suffered from severe morning sickness while pregnant.

After depleting her supply of air sickness bags from traveling colleagues, Ramos had to resort to carrying leaky plastic shopping bags and bulky garbage bags, so she decided to develop a bag for pregnant women to carry without being embarrassed.

Available in eight different designs, the bags help eliminate that panicked feeling of needing to find the nearest toilet – now. And on the bottom of each bag, Ramos has added a gentle reminder to serve as some much-needed encouragement for all sick-as-a-dog moms-to-be: Take one day at a time.

Got any morning sickness survival tips to share?