Thursday, March 04, 2010

How to UP: Gear

The first thing McKay and I did after officially deciding to go with an unassisted pregnancy the first time around was go online and buy what we felt was needed for it.

Flexible Measuring Tape in Metric
This is for measuring my fundus. Pretty self-explanatory. McKay owned one when we got married, so this was free.

We ordered an inexpensive fetal stethoscope. I think it was this one, but it only cost $9.99 when we bought it. Fetoscopes are just stethoscopes, but modified for hearing quieter heartbeats. If someone besides the mother is listening, there is a forehead bar which is supposed to amplify the sounds. I've heard that you can usually start hearing the heartbeat with a fetoscope at around 18-20 weeks. We actually heard it a few weeks earlier than that and are only just now getting some echoes of the placenta. With Margaret's pregnancy, my placenta was anterior and drowned out her heartbeat even after 20 weeks. The first time I listened to her heartbeat, it took me about 45 minutes to find it. I didn't really know what I was looking for, but I got better at it. The placenta is a whooshing sound and goes at about the mother's heart rate. The baby's heartbeat sounds a little like the ticking of a watch underneath a pillow. It's about twice as fast as the placenta. Give or take. By the end of my pregnancy with Margaret, McKay didn't need the fetoscope to hear her heartbeat; he just put his ear on my belly and found it that way.

Urine Test Strips
I track a few things during my pregnancies, but the most important ones for me are protein and glucose. We bought this brand, though I'm pretty sure it was cheaper than $20 at the time. Darn this inflation! I check for leukocytes because I had chronic UTIs as a child and one of my kidneys may have some damage from my younger days. Excess protein in urine can be a symptom of preeclampsia and would be a signal to also check your blood pressure and note any swelling of the extremities. With Margaret, there was a time when my protein was a little high, but my BP was normal and I was able to wear my wedding band my entire pregnancy. After altering my diet, I checked my protein a few days later and it was back to normal. No problems. High glucose levels can mean your body is having a hard time with sugars and could mean gestational diabetes. I did get one test with higher glucose levels, but again, after adjusting my diet, they were back to normal. My other numbers (weight, fundal height) were on track, so Margaret was obviously not gaining too much- a fear with gestational diabetes.

In general, I change my diet to see if I can get things back to normal. If I were to consistently get worrisome readings and symptoms that I couldn't get under control, I might consider getting an opinion from a care provider.

Those are the things I have on hand all the time. Other equipment you could get include:

Blood Pressure Cuff
I check my blood pressure at one of those "check your blood pressure" corners at a pharmacy. I know it's not 100% accurate, but I use the same machine every time so there is some consistency.

Glucose Meter
I would consider getting a glucose meter if I was having regular gestational diabetes-like symptoms.

Bathroom Scale
We don't own a bathroom scale because I don't believe in them, but I check my pregnancy weight with a friends' scale when I'm at her house. It's definitely "off" but, like the blood pressure machine, it's consistently "off" so I have a good idea of what my weight gain is.

Because I'm not 100% sure ultrasound has no damaging side effects, I'm wary of the doppler so we don't have one.

If you are a Type A person, you might want a notebook to document your prenatal care and keep track of all the details. I'm not like that, so I don't. I know some people like to have the information just in case they want to transfer care in the middle of a pregnancy.

How often do I pee in cups? Listen for the heartbeat? As often as I feel like it. Sometimes it's every couple of days, sometimes I go weeks without checking.

What I like about UP is that I can get answers almost instantly. That time when my protein was a little high? It was a Wednesday. After three days of self-care I checked it again on Saturday and it was fine. You don't get that sort of immediacy with a midwife or OB when your next visit is 1 to 2 weeks later. For me, it brought me a lot of peace of mind that I could get answers quickly and not have to wonder, "Is 5 eggs a day enough for my protein levels?" for 2 weeks.

So that's what I have in my medicine cabinet. :) How exciting!


  1. Thanks mucho for posting this. I hAd googled test strips but couldn't track down where to buy them:)
    and a fetoscope- going to get that too.
    I'm off to see if you've written more on up.

  2. Just a quick question. How did you adjust your diet when you had excess protein and glucose in your urine?

    I just want to know so if mine come back a little high I'll know what to do.



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