Motherhood challenges too need a check-up
Linda Calabresi is a GP and editor of MedicalObserver. Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org I ama 35-year-old woman who until recently was rarely ill. I had my first child almost 18 months ago, and since ceasing breast-feeding around 10 months ago, I have been plagued with colds and gastro viruses to the point where I amhardly ever well. While I ammostly just very tired, I also suffer from recurrent lower back pain and a dull ache in my pelvic region. I exercise daily, am not overweight, do not smoke and rarely drink alcohol. My diet is adequate and my sleep is mostly good. Should I accept this as the working mother’s lot or get a check-up with the doctor?
While your symptoms could well be secondary to the physical challenges of motherhood and the result of exposure to a whole new range of viruses courtesy of your child, there are certainly enough other possible diagnoses that would warrant a check-up with your doctor. Some of these other possibilities include an underactive thyroid gland, anaemia, diabetes or depression. In particular, thyroid problems are relatively common in new mothers, occurring in about one in 50 women. And because a low-functioning thyroid can result in symptoms such as tiredness and depression, it often goes undetected as women will explain those symptoms away as being part of their new role. The back pain and pelvic pain also could have a number of causes. They could have a musculo-skeletal origin — related to the increased lifting you would be doing with an 18-month-old — or they could have gynaecological cause, associated with your ovaries or uterus. The good news is that a thorough check-up and some simple tests done by your doctor will be able to detect or eliminate the majority of these diagnoses. In short, seeing your doctor is likely to be worthwhile.
My husband has been trying to lose weight for a number of months with little success. He has continued to drink alcohol — could this be the cause of his failure to shed kilos?
It certainly could be a contributing factor. Alcohol can be considered fattening for a number of reasons. Firstly, the alcohol that is most commonly consumed contains additives — it would be rare (not to mention dangerous) to drink pure alcohol. So even though 10g of alcohol (the amount of alcohol in a standard drink) delivers only about 30 kilojoules of energy, a standard glass of wine contains about 450 kJ and even a middie of full-strength beer about 585 kJ. To put this in context, a man’s average daily intake is generally around 11,000 kJ and a woman’s is around 8500 kJ. The other factor to consider is that the body cannot store alcohol as an energy source; instead it will metabolise the alcohol as its energy source in preference to any other fuel. So while the body is burning off the alcohol, it won’t be metabolising any other energy sources such as fats consumed in the diet — and these will then tend to be stored, which leads to weight gain. As a consequence, most diets recommend at least minimising alcohol intake in order to lose weight.
Do fluorescent light bulbs emit UV radiation? Will the use of compact fluorescent bulbs contribute to skin cancer?
Fluorescent lights do produce some UV radiation, but it is far less than the amount of UV radiation produced by natural daylight. There have been a number of studies done related to this issue and the consensus appears to be that fluorescent lighting, as commonly found in homes and offices, does not represent an acute or long-term health risk.