Moth­er­hood chal­lenges too need a check-up

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - LINDA CAL­ABRESI

Linda Cal­abresi is a GP and ed­i­tor of Med­i­calOb­server. Send your queries to linda.cal­abresi@medobs.com.au 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.

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