Conception, Pregnancy, and Postpartum Basics from a NYC-based OB/GYN

We all have questions we may be too afraid to ask our healthcare provider (or we just forget to ask and wish we could text them questions that keep us up at night). Like, will my lady bits ever go back to normal?  Why do my nipples hurt all the time? Can I still have sex while pregnant?! Now is your chance to ask! 

We sat down with Dr. Kameelah Phillips, New York City-based OB/GYN and mother of three. She’s super passionate about women’s health and aims to empower women with knowledge to help them make the best health decisions for their life. Click the button below to read her thoughts on conception, pregnancy, and wellness.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a Board Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) practicing in New York City. I’m also a life long educator and is passionate about Women’s Health at all stages. I aim to empower women with knowledge to help them make the best health decisions for their life.

As an OB/Gyn, my passions include sexual health, lactation, and menopause. I’m committed to treating the entire woman by helping her navigate adolescence to maturity with confidence and grace.

I’m a Human Biology graduate of Stanford University and I completed medical school at the University of Southern California and attended New York University for OB/Gyn residency. During this time, I won teaching awards for resident and medical student education. I’m humbled to be highly rated by patients for honesty and down to earth communication style.

I’m a wife and mother of 3 young children. When I’m not doctoring, I love to cook, garden, and am a wanna-be interior designer.

What are your best tips for conception?

With regular cycles, it is best to track your ovulation and have sex when ovulating. Predictor kits are helpful, but do not feel obligated to use them especially if they are expensive for you. I encourage women to not feel like they have to have sex all the time as “fertility fatigue” is real and can stress a relationship.

This is a really good time to work on any habits that should change in pregnancy i.e. smoking, heavy drinking and commit to living as healthy as possible. If you don’t work out, it would be a good time to develop even a simple routine to help manage weight gain.

It is also an excellent time to get any other chronic health conditions in check. This would include your thyroid, diabetes, hypertension, weight. People often minimize the stress a pregnancy can put on your body, so think about conception and pregnancy from the viewpoint as being as healthy as possible.

How long should women wait to see a doctor when trying to conceive?

This depends on your age and other health conditions. Generally if you are healthy and under age 35 we will let you try for a year on your own before recommending a referral. I am flexible with this timeline as some women have a lot of anxiety around this and perhaps waiting a year is not the best for their mental health. Similarly, if other medical conditions are involved, it may not be realistic to wait.

After 35, we typically offer 6 months of trying before referral to a specialist. I also adjust this time frame based on your personal circumstances. I often refer early (because it can sometimes be a wait to see a fertility specialist) and have the patient try in the meantime. Often by the time the appointment comes around, she is pregnant!

What advice can you give to pregnant women who are anxious about their pregnancy or giving birth?

I would express this anxiety to friends, family, and your doctor to get it out of your head, into the atmosphere, and out of your system. Talk about it! Especially with your doctor, because often some fears are based on over-dramatized TV and movies. Often a simple conversation about the anxiety, what happens in the delivery room, and what their options are can empower women to be fearless as they approach this phase of life.

What are some fun or unknown facts about pregnancy?

The uterus is about the size of a watermelon at full term

A baby’s taste and smell develop in utero. Even though they aren’t technically “eating” babies can taste their amniotic fluid and develop preferences as they get a sense of mom’s diet

Your joints can loosen during pregnancy so you may find yourself being more flexible than ever.

What are 5 important self-care tips pregnant women should follow?

1. Keep your mental health in order. Whether this means with lifestyle changes, friends, medication or a psychologist-your mental health is key.

2. Make your visits. Don’t assume that just because they are quick that important information is not being collected or shared.

3. Work out. I know you are tired…but make an effort. I’m not asking you to train for a marathon, but recognize that labor is a cardiovascular challenge. Staying or getting in shape will help you out immensely during this time.

4. Your prenatal vitamins aren’t always required. If they are making you nauseous, then consider alternatives like gummies. Also, there is no supplement for a healthy diet. A prenatal vitamin does not balance a fast food diet.

5. Be flexible. In pregnancy, labor and delivery, and post partum. No one can predict what will happen so being flexible with the goal of a healthy mother and baby is really important.

What are signs of postpartum depression women should look out for?

Being tearful especially in the first few weeks is normal and very common. Many new and repeat moms cry after delivery, during breast feeding, at home with feeling isolated, etc. Most of the time crying should resolve and feelings that things will get better should prevail.

If after about 2 weeks these feels do not resolve, then PPD is more of a concern.

If you continue to feel sad, are unable to take pleasure in things, or feel uninterested in yourself and/or the baby you may have PPD. There are other signs including anxiety and hopelessness. You should get to a doctor quickly.

What is the usual treatment for PPD?

Counseling, medication, and support are are key.

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