Thursday, November 21, 2013

Three Thing Thursday

Thing the First: Wow - 200 calories as demonstrated by about 60 different foods. Really interesting!

Thing the Second: If you shop on Thanksgiving, you are part of the problem. Amen! There is no deal worth it to me for which I could justify making someone else miss Thanksgiving with their families - so we will not be shopping on Thanksgiving and we won't be participating in Black Friday madness. It's possible that Peanut will go buy a discounted TV that day, our first time ever shopping on Black Friday - but he won't be going for the doorbuster deals at 4 a.m. (I'm not even sure we'll really save a lot of money, but it's something we were going to buy anyway, so if he wants to try it, more power to him.(

Thing the Third: I saw this image on my Facebook feed with the caption "It doesn't matter how you look to others - it only matters how you look to yourself." This week, I hope you all can see the wondrous things you are capable of - even if others may have a hard time seeing it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

World Prematurity Day

Proud Parent of a Preemie! Alex was born 12/17/10 @ 2lb4oz & 14"...We spent almost 59d in NICU getting to know each other ( falling even more in love with my bebe:)

Today is World Prematurity Day, a day of awareness started by the March of Dimes and other international groups to highlight the dangers of prematurity. Prematurity is the leading cause of death among infants. 

Babies born too early are babies born sick. They are at risk for everything from developmental delays to blindness to lifelong respiratory problems. A premature baby is not simply a tiny baby - a premature baby is a very sick baby, and the earlier they are born, the sicker they are. However, World Prematurity Day poses something of a problem for me. It's one thing to raise awareness for breast or testicular cancer (those can be detected through regular self-exams). It's another thing to raise awareness for a condition that frequently arises spontaneously and for no apparent reason.

So I'd like to focus on the things you can do to help prevent pre-term births. This is important information for any woman who is or may become pregnant, and also important for her partner to know. It's easy to tell yourself you're over-reacting when you're all hormonal, but sometimes a partner's urging to "let's just call the doctor to be safe" can save a pregnancy.

Risk Factors
- Carrying multiples
- Conceiving through IVF
- Mother's age - teens and women over 35 are more likely to have pre-term labor
- Smoking, drinking, or drug use during pregnancy
- Poor nutrition
HELLP syndrome
- Problems with the uterus (PPROM or rupture), cervix ("incompetent" cervix, a judgemental phrase if ever there was one) or placenta (placenta previa or abruption)
- Unknown origin of pre-term labor

Some of these things are preventable, with the exception of the last four items. These are the scary sections at the back of the baby books that you might not get to or might want to avoid. Don't bury your head in the sand - take the time to ask your doctor or read up on the symptoms. One of the other mothers I met in the NICU was in labor for most of a day, but didn't recognize it - pre-term labor is NOT like term labor. She felt nauseous and generally unwell, and had some back pain. That's a far cry from having your water break and screaming through contractions - but she was so far along that her baby was born less than 45 minutes after they arrived at the hospital. If she had known the symptoms and gone earlier, it's entirely possible that the doctors could have stopped her labor.

In my case, I had a placental abruption, where the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus, depriving the fetus of oxygen and nutrients. I had a sudden, intense pain and immediate bleeding. We were at the hospital within half an hour and the staff was able to stop me from going into labor, buying my daughter a precious week of gestation (in our case, the abruption was not complete, so with hospital bedrest and a lot of drugs, she was safe inside for a while. When the rest of the placenta detached, she went into distress and we had an immediate emergency c-section.). I firmly believe that if she had been born the day of the abruption, she would not have survived.

Unfortunately, it's also possible that we could have bought her even more time. I had been having contractions for two weeks but I didn't know that's what they were until I was on a contraction monitor in the hospital. Contractions are really hard to describe if you've never felt them, and I tried to ask the nurse practitioner about a feeling I had been having, as if the baby was spinning inside of me and therefore rolling across my entire abdomen, at one of my pre-natal appointments, but her response was "oh, you'll KNOW if you're having one". While I try not to dwell on "might have been", I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if we knew there was something wrong weeks before the abruption. I will always wish I had described what I was feeling instead of asking what a contraction felt like.

I don't want to scare pregnant women. Most pregnancies are fine, and most babies are delivered at term (or later!) without complications. But these things have to happen to SOMEONE, so it makes sense to talk to your doctor about your risk factors and learn the symptoms of pre-term labor or an emergent complication backwards and forwards. Below are some infographics about prematurity, if you're so inclined to learn more.

And a quick update on our own little miracle - she is doing very well health-wise. Her lungs are clear and she survived her first ear infection/fever/cold with only one quick trip to the emergency room (ha!). She still does not eat by mouth, and is eight months delayed in gross motor skills - she sits up but doesn't scoot, creep, or crawl. She is ridiculously adorable and cheerful and smart - the reason she is so far behind in moving is that she knows she might fall and has decided that there is nothing on earth she wants bad enough to risk a bump to the head. She's got eight sharp little teeth and a headful of soft hair, and she sleeps through the night all night long. Despite her feeding tube and developmental delays, we are insanely lucky with how well she's doing - a quick look at statistics below will show you just how lucky we are.

Learn how to recognize the signs of preterm labor, care of Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns. #labor #pretermlabor #sharpmarybirch

The odds are: Statistics behind premature births and neonatology

Neonatology: Caring for premature babies in the NICU

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Future of Health Insurance

My husband works for a small company - less than 15 employees - so we sometimes get unusual insight into business decisions. Here's one that affects us in a big way: his boss is thinking about terminating the health insurance coverage that he offers to his employees, with a commensurate raise in take-home pay so that they can all buy a comparable plan on their own.

It's not really a financial decision on his part, just something that he doesn't want to deal with for all of his employees. (He outsources payroll but that's about it - everything else is something that he manages which takes time away from his actual job of bringing in clients and whatnot.) He floated the idea by Peanut, since he knows that we are interested in both money and health insurance, and we used 99% of all health services used by all the employees in the last year.

At first I kind of panicked about this, but I did a little bit of research and I think it would be a great idea. First, it would mean that our health insurance is no longer tied to Peanut's job, which would make things much less stressful in the even that he were to leave - changing policies would be totally up to us, and not to business decisions. Second, it would give us more power with the health insurance company - if WE are the customer, we have the ability to walk if we don't like what we're offered. Third, I think it's the wave of the future, so we might as well get on board with it now, and help it gain critical mass.

I did my research on our state health insurance exchange,*. I know there have been a lot of problems with the insurance exchanges at the state level (and definitely at the federal level) but that wasn't true of Minnesota - the site worked great. There are some bugs to be worked out in terms of the information that's offered but it was clear where things were still "coming soon". I was able to find a comparable plan with the same insurance company that would cost us around $600 per month, which seems reasonable (and is slightly cheaper than what the boss pays for us right now, actually).

The plans were so cheap because I was looking only at what's comparable to what we have right now, which is a high-deductible, low(ish) max out-of-pocket plan. If I was looking for something where I never had to pay a doctor's office bill, our monthly fees would be much, much higher. I like high deductible plans for a number of reasons - one, fees that go towards premiums are not deductible on your taxes, but fees that go towards deductibles are. Two, right now Baby M receives state aid based on her health status that covers anything that would hit our deductible, so any expenses of hers will not actually come out of our pocket until sometime next year. And three, I would MUCH rather pay a known high deductible of $6,000 and then have insurance cover 100% of everything else than to be responsible for only a $500 deductible but then 20% of Baby M's $1,200,000 hospital bill.

If it seems like Peanut's employer is definitely going to cancel the health insurance, then I'll have to investigate other plans - it might be worth it to pay $1,800 a month if we only ever have to pay a $20 co-pay for example. Ultimately I'm looking for the best coverage at the lowest combination of annual premiums plus max out-of-pocket.

Have you noticed any changes in your health insurance situation in the last few months?

* This post is NOT sponsored by MNsure or anyone else.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How does wealth make you behave?

This surprising study indicates that the richer you are, the more likely you are to steal at work, lie in negotiations, break traffic laws, and even take candy from children.

Take a look at the video below:

This is pretty interesting stuff! It does seem like the inequality gap is growing in America, especially according to this crazy video. If these things are true, where on earth is our society headed?