CYMA SHAPIRO CHATS with Rallie McAllister, co-author of The Mommy MD Guides to Pregnancy and Birth
Q: What compelled you to write this book?
The idea for The Mommy MD Guides to Pregnancy and Birth came from my co-author, Jennifer Bright Reich, a mother with two young sons. In her career as a writer, Jennifer has interviewed hundreds of doctors. She was especially intrigued whenever a woman physician offered her tips that she had used in her own life to deal with common challenges that most mothers face, especially in terms of keeping her children safe and healthy. We (also) loved the idea that physicians who are also mothers have expertise and experience in two very important areas: motherhood and medicine.
Q: What might be the most common myth which you debunk in this book?
I think the myths held by moms-to-be fall into two general categories, depending on the woman’s personality. For those who have always felt that they have their lives perfectly in order, and that they must maintain total control over every aspect of their lives, the book dispels the myth that you can control all aspects of pregnancy and delivery. You just can’t! These women learn that they have to relax and leave some things to Mother Nature, and she knows what she’s doing! For women who tend to feel less powerful, on the other hand, the book debunks the myth that they can’t influence their pregnancies in any way.
Q: It is interesting that this book is written from the viewpoint of the working mother — someone relegated to working through common pregnancy and childrearing issues ranging from morning sickness, and heartburn to time restraints and daily scheduling. What are some of the tips these mom-physicians have shared?
One tip that all of our Mommy MD Guides agreed upon is the wisdom of banking babies’ umbilical cord blood. It’s important for moms-to-be to consider, since they’ll only have one chance to do it: in the moments following birth.
Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, considered to be the master cells of the body. After collection, cord blood is delivered to a cord blood bank, where it is stored in liquid nitrogen. Theoretically, the stem cells it contains can last forever if stored properly. F
or more information and additional important benefits of cord blood banking, moms-to-be can visit http://www.cordblood.com/
Q: Do working mom-physicians bear burdens or have experiences different from other working mothers?
I believe one of the greatest challenges that mom-physicians face that may not affect women in many other careers is their knowledge of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy. It’s perfectly natural for expectant moms to experience occasional concern and anxiety. With their medical training and experience, mom-physicians have lots of fuel for the fire.
Another challenge for mom-physicians is that because of their medical training, they may believe that they’re prepared for all the changes that accompany pregnancy and motherhood. Wrong!
Q: What are some of the positive attributes about being a mother and a physician?
As a physician, it’s wonderful to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. If we’re able to think objectively about ourselves and our children, this can be very helpful in terms of knowing when to seek medical attention. But this positive attribute doesn’t even come close to the on-the-job experience we gain every single day of our careers. I think most of our Mommy MD Guides would agree that our patients are the greatest teachers of all.
Q: New older motherhood presents challenges often singular to this group. Did your older women subjects offer any advice?
Several of our Mommy MD Guides were older when they became pregnant for the first time, having completed undergraduate school, medical school and residency training before they conceived. They offered lots of firsthand, heartfelt advice about going through in vitro fertilization, dealing with fatigue, changing their career plans, enduring (or choosing not to have) all of the extra diagnostic tests of pregnancy recommended for older women.
Q: Your section on “When to Call Your Doctor” is, perhaps, the most commonly asked question, especially for new mothers. When do you call your doctor?
While the book offers hard and fast signs and symptoms that warrant a call to the doctor, the more important, underlying message to moms-to-be is this: If you are concerned, or if you have a feeling that something is just not right, you should feel free to call your physician for reassurance or advice. If you don’t feel comfortable calling, you probably don’t have the right doctor.
Q: What have you learned from writing this book?
I learned so many important tips that I wish I had known during my own pregnancies! They would have made my life so much easier. I also learned that motherhood creates a wonderful bond between women that transcends all boundaries. It’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world for one mother to identify with and feel compassion for another mother. We’ve have shared so many of the same experiences, fears, and joys.
Q: The image of a physician is often overworked, stressed, and stretched-thin. Your book presents women physicians taking care of themselves while pregnant or with their children. Do you think this group represents the larger group as a whole?
I do. Like most female physicians and hard-working women in any occupation, our Mommy MD Guides placed enormous demands on themselves—physically and emotionally—when they were not pregnant. But in virtually every case, these same women were not willing to sacrifice their babies’ health during their pregnancies. So while they may have been perfectly willing to miss meals, sacrifice sleep, and work to the point of exhaustion before they became pregnant, all that changed with conception. There’s something incredibly powerful and instinctual about motherhood that drives us to put our babies’ health first and foremost.
Q: What one final tip would you give any working mothers with children?
I would encourage working mothers to remember that their children only have one childhood. A baby’s first years are absolutely critical in terms of emotional development, and a mother’s time and love are the greatest gifts she can give her baby. More than expensive toys or clothes or books, babies yearn to be close to their mothers. Moms should feel good about relinquishing some other responsibilities in life to spend time with and enjoy their beloved babies.
Some of the 900 tips that 60 doctors who are also mothers use during their own pregnancies and births:
Coping with morning sickness: At some point in the pregnancy, I stopped being able to tolerate flat liquids of any kind—even water. Seltzer water always came to my rescue. It worked best during those times when I was at a restaurant and I felt the nausea wave coming. If you don’t like plain seltzer, try one with fruit flavoring.
—Tyeese Gaines Reid, DO
Easing the (heart)burn: When I was pregnant with triplets, I had terrible, unrelenting heartburn. I discovered that eating ice cream and sipping a little milk helped. So I coated that heartburn with some ice cream! The ice cream (plus medication my doctor prescribed) eased the heartburn enough that it wasn’t waking me up anymore. Of course, by then I was waking up for a zillion other reasons.
—Sadaf T. Bhutta, MBBS
Enjoying sex during pregnancy: Before I got pregnant, my husband and I had a healthy sex life. We had a lot of sex while I was pregnant too. In fact, we had sex the morning my water broke. We just found ways to make it happen. Sex was relaxing for me and lovely for him. It’s good to bank up a lot of “credit,” because after the baby comes, you won’t be able to have sex for a while.
—JJ Levenstein, MD
Seeing your baby for the first time: I cannot adequately describe how I felt when my babies were born. At the time, the analogy came to me forcefully that it was just as if I had died and there really was a Heaven with the Prophets and the Angels, and that you could look at them clearly and see they were like real people, with eyelashes and fingernails. My baby’s eyelashes and fingernails seemed that impossible
and vivid to me. Just to look at them seemed impossible.
—Elizabeth Berger, MD
Rallie McAllister, MC, MPH, is co-founder of Momosa Publishing, publisher of MommyMDGuides.com and the Mommy MD Guides book series. She is a board-certified family physician and a nationally recognized health expert. Her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Your Health, appears in more than 30 newspapers in the US and Canada and is read by more than a million people each week. Dr. McAllister has been the featured medical expert on more than 100 radio and television shows. A dynamic public speaker, she educates and entertains audiences from coast to coast with her upbeat, down-to-earth delivery of the latest health news. She has three sons.