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    How To Get Better Quality Sleep

    As someone who has struggled to sleep from time to time, it’s been a pursuit of mine to understand how to get better quality sleep.
    I suffer from panic attack disorder – a type of anxiety disorder – and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in sheer panic. There have been times when I’ve launched out of bed with my heart racing in pure “fight or flight mode” and it takes me a while to calm down enough to get back into bed. Sometimes I have a little hamster on high alert, racing on his little wheel in my head from 2am to 4am. A metaphor for my thoughts.
    Thankfully there are ways to help set you up for sleep success.
    At Women’s Health, we hosted an event with sleep expert Dr Dale Rae whose current research focuses on the study of sleep and circadian rhythms as they relate to both general health and sports performance. Dr Rae is also the Director of Sleep Science at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.
    7 Hacks To Sleep Better
    Below I’ve created a list of hacks and tips I’ve learnt from Dr Rae as well we further research into the field.
    1. Set up your sleep environment for success
    Take a look at your bedroom. Does it ooze comfort? What about safety? And is it a place you feel like you can really relax in? Making small adjustments to your bedroom can help set you up for better quality sleep. Take note of any noises that can be fixed: that creaky door, the window shutters, a ticking clock. Think of scents as well. Perhaps light a candle or get a diffuser that creates calming scents for the room. We all know that lavender is a win!

    2. Check your lighting
    Are your curtains dark enough? Are there any flashing or distracting lights in the room? Make sure you minimise artificial light. Another great idea is to invest in a dawn simulator light that works for bedtime and morning, adjusting levels of light in your room over time to help you unwind and wake up.
    3. What is your temperature like?
    Contrary to what you might think, we actually struggle to sleep well when we’re too warm. I know – you’re thinking “but it’s so easy to snooze on the couch in the sun”. That said, it’s also hard to drop off if you’re too cold! Your body heat peaks in the evening and then drops to its lowest levels when you’re asleep, so a cool 16-18°C is thought to be an ideal temperature in a bedroom. Temperatures over 24°C are likely to cause restlessness, while a cold room of about 12°C will make it difficult to fall asleep.
    My solution is to have a lighter duvet in summer and a heavier duvet and blanket in winter. Also, I like placing a hot water bottle in my bed in winter just to warm up the sheets. I also use a portable air conditioner in summer for those scorching evenings.
    4. Set your phone aside
    A great way to help the mind calm down is to switch off the sensory overload. Many of us take our laptops and phones into bed with us to play games, reply to texts and scroll through TikTok. But beeps, buzzes and even the tiniest lights can wreak havoc with the body’s circadian rhythm. So try set aside your phone or laptop as you wind down. And avoid the sensory overload!
    I have started placing my phone in my bedside drawer. Plus, I keep a few books on my bedside table, so I try tuck into one of these instead, while I wind down.
    5. Avoid stimulants
    Having caffeine too late in the day or alcohol or sugar can all mess with your sleep. I make a rule with myself that I don’t have caffeine after midday. If I’m feeling tired, I have more water (often we’re dehydrated and this makes us feel lethargic). While a few glasses of wine may help you fall asleep, it often causes disruption a few hours into your sleep. Hello hamster!
    6. Set up a bedtime routine
    I have set up a routine to help “tell my body” that it’s bedtime. I make a cup of plain black rooibos or chamomile tea every night. Yes, I travel with teabags. And this forms part of my bed-time routine.
    If I have had a stressful day or if I’m going through a period where my anxiety is high, I practise 10 to 20 minutes of yoga and meditation before going to bed. Gentle, easy stretches and mindful breathing can help you physically and mentally wind down. As a qualified yoga teacher, I can advise on some postures to try to help ease the body and mind.
    Here is a quick, beginner-friendly yoga sequence I created:
    [embedded content]
    Also try this: 14 Yoga Stretches To Do If You Want To Soothe Anxiety And Find Calm
    7. Examine your bed
    The biggest investment you can make in your sleep hygiene is to invest in a good mattress. We’re all different and have different likes and dislikes when it comes to what feels comfortable. But it’s not always easy to know what actually works for you, unless you spend some time sleeping “on it” – am I right?
    There is a local South African company called SLOOM, who have invested an adjustable mattress. How it works: inside each Sloom mattress is two interchangeable foam layers, of which each have two sides with different comforts. So that means four different comfort options. Place the clearly marked layer of your comfort choice facing upwards on top.

    I tested the Sloom mattress and love it! I have a queen-sized bed and the advantage of this size is that the mattress can be split for independent comforts. So, you don’t have to argue with your bed partner if you have different sleep desires. Simply adjust each side to suit you!
    They also offer a 100-night sleep trial. Click here for more info.
    I actually sleep with the Sloom Pillow now too, which has breathable tech so it does not get too hot. Bonus!
    READ MORE: The 10 Best Sleep Apps To Help You Fall Asleep Faster And Sleep Through The Night
    How To get Back To Sleep
    It’s important to note that sometimes, in periods of high stress, that the above methods may not entirely prevent a bad night’s sleep, but they will certainly make them less frequent. So, if you find yourself in a state of anxiety or with a little hamster in your brain at 3am, here are some ways to calm yourself down in the moment:
    Do a breathing exercise. Focusing on your breath and taking longer inhales and exhales helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. A pranayama I try is: breathing in through the nose for a count of four; holding the breath for a count of four; and exhaling through the nose for a count of four. The focus on the breath helps to calm your thoughts and body.
    Listen to a meditation. I know its not always easy if you have a partner. What I do is place one of my little earbuds in, roll on to my opposite side and listen to a meditation or sleep story from the Calm app.
    Journal. If the above two methods don’t seem to be helping in anyway, sometimes I get up and write down my thoughts and stressors. This helps me to feel more in control and like I’ve “sorted through” the issues in my head.
    READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Sleep More

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    How To Make Sure You’re Actually Getting In Enough Water

    Trying to get back on the fitness wagon or simply wanting to take every step to ensure optimal health? We’ll be the first to be straight enough to tell you that you aren’t achieving any of these (never mind not looking or feeling your best), if you aren’t properly hydrated. Yup, we said it. Research shows that water plays a crucial role in almost every aspect of keeping your body running1 — from regulating body temperature to getting rid of waste. That’s why it’s important to fill up your water bottles as we gear up to celebrate World Oral Rehydration Salts Day on 29 July. It’s not only a perfect opportunity to hit the reset button if winter’s made you slack on sipping enough H20, it’s also the best time to get informed about how important it is to keep hydrated.
    Signs you’re dehydrated
    Because water is so essential for your bodily functions1, which includes avoiding everything from poor performance during a workout to that dreaded feeling of constipation, being able to identify the signs is crucial…
    Here are five common dehydration symptoms to watch out for…
    You feel thirsty.2 Obviously. But, while thirst is the most common sign, it also unfortunately means that you’re already slightly dehydrated and need to start drinking up.
    Your wee is dark.2 If you didn’t already know this then it’s a good one to remember: the darker the colour of your urine, and the stronger its odour, the more likely it is that you’re experiencing dehydration. So, have a look in the toilet after a wee and stay informed.
    Your muscles are cramping.1 While you may have overdone it in the gym; weak, cramping muscles can also be a sign of dehydration. Pay attention and have a few extra sips before, during and after a workout.
    You have a headache or feeling dizzy.2 If you’re feeling light-headed1,2 or have migraine symptoms then it’s time to grab your water bottle. Headaches are one of the top signs of dehydration.
    You’re uhm, constipated. If haven’t been regular lately or, finding you’re having to strain, it could be your digestive system signalling you to drink more water.
    If you’re experiencing all of the above, no judgement — just get on top of it, stat. And no, you don’t have to throw back litres of water to undo the symptoms. Simply become more aware of the fact that you need to consume enough water. Then, stock your medicine cabinet with an oral rehydration solution — which is believed to be one of the greatest medical innovations for treating the various causes of dehydration. This doesn’t mean you get to ditch drinking water1, it simply acts as an effective treatment for dehydration when you’re experiencing its side effects. It is also especially handy for treating dehydration in the frail and in children, who are susceptible to dehydration — which can become life-threatening2, as acute diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of mortality in infants and children.

    Introducing Nudrate
    Nudrate oral rehydration salts is made into a solution and assists in preventing and restoring electrolyte loss and dehydration in infants, children and adults3. Its special formulation meets World Health Organisation standards and is the most effective intervention during the early stages of dehydration treatment4. Dehydration is especially concerning in young children as they lose fluids faster2, but rest assure, Nudrate is suitable for the whole family, from babies to adults3. Rehydration provides a range of important benefits:4

    READ MORE ON: Health Sponsored More

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    This Is The Best Way To Support Your Immune System, According To A Dietitian

    With the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are trying our best to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe and protected. From wearing masks to washing our hands regularly to social distancing, we each have to do our part to flatten the curve. And while we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves from the outside, we should also dedicate time to getting our immune systems in fighting shape.
    “If it’s not already a focus of family life, this is actually an ideal time to prioritise nutrition and health,” says Retha Harmse, a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa). “As lockdown restriction levels fluctuate; we will have more freedom of movement, but also more risks of contracting COVID-19. Eating a balanced diet plays an important role in maintaining health and supporting the immune system, as well as all the body’s vital systems.
    A balanced diet is the best immune support
    We’ve all seen the Whatsapp group messages that tell you to eat or drink various foods, medicinally-used plants or nutritional supplements as ‘immune-boosters’, treatments or even ‘cures’. But many (if not all) of these are misinformed and have no scientific evidence that can help protect you from the virus.
    “Of course, everyone would like to minimise their risk for contracting COVID-19, however, there is no simple quick fix to boost our immune system to guarantee that we won’t be infected. Simply put, you cannot ‘boost’ your immune system through diet, and no specific food or supplement will prevent you from contracting COVID-19. Good hygiene practice and social distancing remain the best means of avoiding infection,” explains Retha.
    READ MORE: COVID-19: Here’s How Risky Normal Activities Are, According To Doctors
    Maintaining a healthy balanced diet made up of different foods that provide a spectrum of nutrients that include copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D is the very best way to support immune function.
    “In addition to a healthy balanced diet, a generally healthy lifestyle is also important to support your immune system,” says Retha, “This means not smoking, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and very importantly, minimizing stress, which is very intense at this time.”
    Enjoy a variety of foods
    Although certain foods might be a bit harder to come by, don’t fall in the trap of eating only certain foods. Variety also means including foods from two or more food groups at each meal.
    Support local businesses like Yebo Fresh who deliver fresh fruits and vegetables straight to your door. There are also options for you to donate to families in need.
    Be active
    Regular, moderate exercise is very beneficial for getting outdoors, stress relief and improved immune function. Try some of these lockdown ideas:
    You don’t need big spaces for cardiovascular exercise — running up and downstairs is great; as is skipping, and skipping ropes are inexpensive cardio tools.
    Download exercise apps for daily workouts.
    Similarly, there are many physical activity videos, including dance, martial arts and yoga, available on YouTube (check out our selection of workouts while you’re there).
    If you have a closed-in garden or courtyard-type space, play physical games such as handball, bat and ball, mini-cricket or mini-soccer as a family or couple, combining fun, bonding and exercise.
    READ MORE: How Can I Tell If My Symptoms Are Allergies, Or A Possible COVID-19 Infection?
    Make starchy foods part of most meals
    Choose whole grain, unrefined foods to add more fibre, vitamins and minerals to your diet. Good options to choose are whole-wheat pasta, multigrain Provitas or cracker bread, brown rice and bulgur wheat.
    Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day
    This can be challenging while we are under lockdown and want to avoid frequent shopping.
    Choose fresh, whole fruit that is naturally longer lasting such as apples, pineapple and citrus fruits.
    Eat fruits as snacks and desserts. Add sliced fruit or dried fruit to your cereal, muesli or yoghurt.
    As some fresh vegetables don’t last long, blanche or cook them on the day of purchase and then freeze for later use.
    Root and bulb veg options such as carrots and turnips, onions, garlic and ginger are longer lasting.
    Frozen and canned vegetables are also good options.
    Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly
    Dried legumes are not only good substitutes for meat, fish, eggs or cheese, but can also be used as affordable ‘meat extenders’ to make meals go further.
    Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day
    Maas and yoghurt will last longer in the fridge than fresh milk. For more long-term milk options buy long-life milk, skim milk powder or evaporated milk.  Fresh dairy products can also be frozen.  Eat yoghurt, with added fruit, as a snack between meals instead of a packet of chips as this contributes to the day’s nutrient intake and does not contain excess fat and salt.
    Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs can be eaten daily
    Stock up on tinned fish options such as tuna, pilchards, and sardines. And meals such as quiches and omelettes are an easy and tasty way to use up vegetables that might spoil soon.
    READ MORE: Are COVID-19 Outcomes Worse For People Living With HIV?
    Drink lots of clean, safe water
    This is perhaps the easiest time to get into the habit of drinking enough water because you are confined to one space. Keep a bottle of water nearby so that you can stay hydrated throughout the day.
    Use fats sparingly
    Choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats, and always use only a little, as fats are high in energy but provide relatively few nutrients.

    READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Healthy Eating Tips More

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    Ace Your Body Goals And Make A Killer Comeback!

    Have you been struggling to find your groove and stay on track when it comes to eating, living and thinking healthily? Sounds like the effects of spending too much time in the comfort of your home with only your own mind to bounce your thoughts off of. We get the struggle. Life in our new normal can be a positive experience on one day and completely depressing the next – and our eating habits can easily follow the same trend. All in today and all out tomorrow. While practicing self-care means being kind to yourself when you make mistakes, it also means being able to stand your ground when it comes to doing what is best for your body, even when you don’t want to.
    Get on track
    We get that it is hard to stay motivated when the world can seem like a pretty dark place right now, but we also know that a healthy lifestyle can keep your immune system strong and save you from the downward spiral in your mood and wellbeing in general. That is why we’re looking at different programmes that can help keep us motivated and on track…
    iNova Pharmaceuticals’ iLiveLite2Gain plan, is one such programme, made to help you get back into the swing of things by creating a community to keep you accountable and excited about your goal.
    The 12-week programme is designed to help you reach your weight-loss goals by equipping you with expert-led tools and tips to change your life. iLiveLite2Gain takes a holistic approach that incorporates long-term changes to diet and increased physical activity. It also helps with realistic goal-setting, community support and regular weigh-ins to help you stay motived along the journey.
    What you get when you sign up to the iLiveLite2Gain programme:
    12 weeks of nutrition support including expert-designed meal plans, recipes and a food diary
    Tips on increasing activity levels, an exercise programme and an exercise diary designed by a personal trainer
    Regular weigh-ins and a measurement tracker to help you feel a real sense of achievement when reaching your goals
    Tons of tips and motivation through videos from experts such as doctors, dietitians and personal trainers
    Sound like something you’d need to help you get back on track? Visit to find out more about what the plan entails, or to sign up!

    READ MORE ON: Sponsored Weight Loss More

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    Get A 5-Star Hotel Sleep At Home With These Simple Tips

    A couple weeks before lockdown, I spent a night at The Westin Cape Town to experience their World Sleep Day package. The Westin is a five-star hotel located right next to the Cape Town International Convention Centre and a two-minute walk from those iconic Foreshore high-rises. Many guests are in town for meetings and conferences where they’ll need to be on top of their game. So the Westin takes sleep very seriously. They celebrated World Sleep Day like it was a holiday, right down to reception staff in nightgowns. It was hilarious. Until four-months into SA’s 21-day lockdown when all I could think about was that glorious hotel sleep and why I didn’t treasure it more at the time. Fortunately, it is possible to simulate the experience at home. Use these tips to (finally) get a good night’s sleep during lockdown.
    READ MORE: This Is The Effect Lockdown Is Having On Your Sleep, According To New Studies
    1/ Start with your bed…
    One of the reasons a hotel sleep is so blissful is the bed. The Westin hotel chain has its own signature bed (The Heavenly® Bed) that’s been specially designed to promote deep, restful sleep – from the supportive, padded mattress with its individual pocket springs to the high-thread-count linen. Like I said, they take sleep very seriously. Assuming you don’t have €3 000 to shell out on your own Heavenly® Bed, upgrade your existing one with bedding. Use a fitted sheet that fits your mattress well and won’t come loose. Similarly, your duvet cover should fit your duvet well. If you can’t afford to splurge on a new mattress, splurge on a pillow that offers good support.
    READ MORE: This Might Just Be The Best Type Of Pillow For Every Sleeper
    2/ Set The Temperature For Sleep
    To ensure a good night’s sleep, the room should be a little on the chilly side. Even in winter. This prevents you from overheating during the night, causing you to sweat and toss and turn, which disturbs your slumber. At a hotel you can simply set the air con (I usually opt for a cool 18 degrees). If you don’t have an air con at home, mimic a climate-controlled hotel sleep by cracking the window open slightly. You want it just wide enough for that wintery air to cool the room, but not so wide that it feels like you’re sleeping in a fridge! While you’re at it, make sure your room is properly dark. Light signals your body to wake up and we don’t want that. So you chose your curtains for aesthetic appeal rather than blackout capability? Get a soft, comfy sleep mask.

    The Silk Lady Sleeping Mask
    R 395

    3/ Scent Of Dreams
    At The Westin we got little bottles of lavender oil in the room. Lavender has long been used to promote sleep and relaxation and a number of small studies suggest there could be some truth to this old home remedy. In any case, drifting off to the sweet smell of lavender makes you feel like you’re experiencing an indulgent hotel sleep rather than just a regular Saturday in your own creaky bed.

    Lavender In Lavender Hill Essential Oil
    R 75

    4/Restful Eating
    Ever had a really heavy meal right before bed and struggled to sleep? Or woken up with meat sweats? Not pretty. And, yes, I’ve totally been there. Instead, eat a light supper made with ingredients that promote sleep. Dairy products contain tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to help make the hormone melatonin and the brain chemical serotonin, both of which promote sleep and relaxation. If, like me, you have a problem with dairy, other sources of tryptophan include nuts, seeds, honey and eggs. I ordered a cheeseless omelette off the sleep section of the Westin’s room service menu. Yes, for supper. Yes, it was delicious. And I had a five-star hotel sleep that night.
    READ MORE: The 10 Best Sleep Apps To Help You Fall Asleep Faster And Sleep Through The Night
    5/ Start Early
    A good sleep starts before bedtime. You want to lay off the caffeine (the Westin provided chamomile tea) and limit alcohol. I failed on that count. My hotel sleep experience might have been even better had I not climbed into that delicious bottle of red wine in the mini bar. In lieu of a hotel spa treatment, treat yourself to a hot bath or shower just before bed. Cooling down afterwards mimics how your body temperature drops as you fall asleep and helps signal your body to nod off.
    READ MORE: Beginner Yoga Poses To Help You Sleep Better.
    If your mind is racing, try doing a mindfulness exercise to ground you in the moment and clear those racing thoughts: try a guided meditation app like Headspace or do a gentle, restorative yoga practice, focusing on your breath.

    READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Sleep More

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    Are COVID-19 Outcomes Worse For People Living With HIV?

    South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with close to 8 million people living with the disease. With South Africa having recorded over 373 628 cases of COVID-19 positive cases so far, it’s no surprise that there have been questions around how the virus plays out in those living with HIV.
    New research – considered to be the largest study of a group of people who were both living with HIV and hospitalised with COVID-19 – looked to answer this question. According to the study, being HIV positive does not pose a bigger risk for worse COVID-19 outcomes.
    Why you shouldn’t worry
    The worst had indeed been assumed when no research into this had been done at all, and while the scientists don’t necessarily know why, they found that patients living with well-controlled HIV in their study population didn’t have any worse outcomes compared to a similar comparison group. The scientists did mention that more research would need to be done to confirm this.
    READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About HIV As A Woman: Latest News, Treatments, Breakthroughs
    “In conclusion, we found no differences in adverse outcomes associated with HIV infection for hospitalised COVID-19 patients compared to a similar comparison group,” the study concluded.
    “Verification of this finding in other large cohorts is warranted to improve understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV. If confirmed, investigation of specific factors contributing to similar outcomes in this large group of patients with immune disturbance may provide greater insight into the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2.”
    What you need to know
    If people living with HIV have been anxious about what contracting COVID-19 would mean for them, this study should ease their fears.
    “I’m telling [my patients] ‘look, take standard precautions, but there’s no reason to live in fear that having HIV is causing you to be more likely to die from COVID,” Dr Keith Sigel, lead researcher for the study, said in a statement.
    “Although this, to date, is the largest study that’s been published that has a comparison group, many of the studies without comparison groups have shown a similar finding – that is reassuring.”
    HIV awareness and education organisation Avert offers some other important points people living with HIV should take note of:
    Current evidence suggests that HIV is less of a risk factor for severe COVID-19 than other health conditions.
    People living with HIV not on treatment or virally suppressed may be at a greater risk.
    As with the general population, older people living with HIV and those with other underlying conditions should take extra precautions to prevent illness.
    Try to have at least 30 days’ supply of ART in your home. If possible, ask for three months.
    The new list of underlying conditions that up your risk
    The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a newly expanded list of underlying conditions that put individuals at an increased risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19. This came after the organisation reviewed published reports, pre-print studies and several other sources of data. Here’s the updated list:
    Chronic kidney disease
    Type-2 diabetes
    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
    Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
    Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    Sickle cell disease
    The CDC also included a list of other conditions that might increase an individual’s risk of severe COVID-19 illness:
    Cystic fibrosis
    Neurological conditions such as dementia
    Liver disease
    Pulmonary fibrosis
    Type-1 diabetes
    Cerebrovascular disease
    They clarified that these lists are living documents that may be updated at any time as the science evolves.
    New isolation guidelines for South Africans
    The minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced that the recommended isolation period for someone who tests positive for COVID-19 is now 10 days and no longer 14 days.
    “The presence of a detectable virus when testing does not imply infectiousness – it has been proven that in mild cases, virus cultures are generally only positive for eight to nine days after symptom onset,” Dr Mkhize said in his statement.
    “The duration of infectiousness in patients with severe disease is less well established. In general, patients with severe disease may continue to shed the virus at higher levels for longer periods than patients with mild disease.”
    The new guidelines go as follows:
    An asymptomatic patient can end isolation 10 days after testing.
    A patient with mild disease can end isolation 10 days after the onset of the symptoms.
    A patient with severe disease can end isolation 10 days after clinical stability has been achieved.
    READ MORE ON: Coronavirus COVID-19 Health Health Advice Health News HIV More

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    Your Postpartum Periods Might Be Heavier And More Irregular Than The Ones You Had Pre-Pregnancy

    So you just had a baby, and life is pretty different and all about feeding schedules and new sleeping habits. Through all that new mama craziness (and joy!), you prooobably have a ton of questions about the weird body stuff happening to *you* in those first months, too. Example: WTF is going on with your postpartum periods?
    Your body will be adjusting back to not being pregnant for the first month or two after giving birth, and you’ll experience pretty consistent bleeding. But that’s not actually your period returning to its pre-baby schedule. The first period after pregnancy will likely take a couple of months to get back on track, though it varies from person to person, and on whether or not you’re breastfeeding. And in some cases it may be different than your periods were before pregnancy.
    Ahead, an ob-gyn explains everything you should know about postpartum bleeding, and what to expect from that first real period after pregnancy.
    The immediate bleeding after you have a baby isn’t actually your period, FYI.
    While it might feel like you’re having one long period (and using a *ton* of pads) after giving birth, the bleeding you experience is not actually your period. This post-birth bleeding, called lochia, is your uterus shedding all of the lining that was built up during pregnancy. “The blood, mucus, and discharge that makeup lochia can last up to six to eight weeks after birth,” explains Dr. Kameelah Phillips, an ob-gyn and founder of Calla Women’s Health.
    Lochia can ebb and flow (pun intended) during this postpartum period, Dr. Phillips says. It tends to start out red in colour, and then progress to pink, and then turns to a yellowish-white colour. After that progression, which typically takes a month and a half or two, you may notice your period returning, which will generally be back to bright red or the colour you’re used to seeing. Or, in other cases, it’ll take longer before you menstruate again.
    When your actual period returns may depend on breastfeeding.
    “The return of your menstrual period depends on the individual, and regularity of breastfeeding,” Dr. Phillips says. Sometimes, the longer you breastfeed, the longer it takes for your period to return to schedule. That’s because breastfeeding releases a hormone called prolactin, which can send a message to the brain to delay the hormonal process of ovulation (because you’re literally feeding a baby at the moment).
    “Lactational amenorrhea, which is the absence of the period due to breastfeeding, can last up to a year or longer, depending on the individual,” adds Dr. Phillips. Some people consider lactational amenorrhea a form of birth control (that is if your baby is under six months, doesn’t eat solid foods or formula at all, and you don’t start getting your period), but it’s *not* considered a secure method of preventing pregnancy.
    Other people will get their period back quicker, even if they do breastfeed. Your period doesn’t typically affect your milk supply, Dr. Phillips says (but, if you’re struggling with milk production or with feeding, it’s best to contact your ob-gyn, who can refer you to a lactation consultant). It does mean that as soon as your period returns, you can get pregnant; you’ll likely start ovulating regularly as soon as your period is back on schedule.
    When your first postpartum period does arrive, you can expect it to return to what it was like before you had your baby, though potentially a little heavier.
    Initially, your first postpartum period might be heavier, especially if you had a C-section, Dr. Phillips says. The uterus may still be shedding its lining from pregnancy, so there might be additional blood.
    There is not usually an increase in pain with your postpartum periods, though, Dr. Phillips says. The period of lochia discharge usually involves cramping, as your uterus is contracting and returning to its regular size. But often, your actual period, once it arrives, will be about the same in terms of pain, cramps, and PMS symptoms as it was before you gave birth (unfortunately for some people).
    In terms of regularity, you’ll most likely experience regular periods after birth, Dr. Phillips says, with a cycle of about 21 to 35 days in length (or whatever “regular” means for you). But this, too, can fluctuate based on breastfeeding; sometimes your period will stop and start a few times before getting back to normal. Your second period after birth will tend to be more like your pre-pregnancy periods in terms of flow and length, however.
    You can typically get back on birth control six to eight weeks post-delivery if you want to.
    Getting back to birth control really depends on you and what birth control you were on (or weren’t on) before getting pregnant. But it’s entirely possible that after lochia ends, you could bounce right back and get pregnant again within the first couple of months of giving birth — whether you plan to or not.
    If that’s not something you’re trying to do, talk with your ob-gyn about birth control options. “We typically start birth control six to eight weeks after delivery,” says Dr. Phillips, “but depending on the patient, we may initiate birth control immediately postpartum.” It’s entirely individualized to the patient — you have to decide what works for you, whether or not you want to use hormonal birth control, and how you’d like to space out births if you want more children.
    It’s important to have a thorough conversation with your health care provider about postpartum birth control, because it will affect your menstrual cycle and may change your bleeding patterns, too, Dr. Phillips adds.
    Ultimately, there’s a wide range of what’s considered “normal” for both postpartum bleeding and your first real periods after pregnancy.
    There’s usually no reason to worry if your periods don’t look or feel totally like what you were used to pre-baby. But if you experience any of the below symptoms, it’s a good idea to check in with your doc.
    Heavy bleeding. It’s common to experience heavier bleeding within the first couple of weeks after birth. However, if the heaviness continues beyond that six-to-eight week period, give your health care provider a call.
    Large clots. Passing clots is also normal, but if clots are accompanied by abnormally heavy bleeding and are larger than a walnut, it could be cause for concern, Dr. Phillips says. Pay attention to the heaviness of the blood as well as the size of the clots.
    Bleeding through multiple pads. You’re going to be using quite a few pads, both during the lochia period and once you start your period. But if you need two pads at a time post-birth (during lochia or once your period starts back up) and are still bleeding through them, talk to your doctor.
    Lightheadedness or fainting. If you’re feeling particularly weak, lightheaded, or experiencing fainting during the postpartum period, it might be due to the heavy bleeding. This could be a sign of anaemia, so check in with your ob-gyn to have a blood test.
    The bottom line: Most women start to menstruate again about a month and a half to two months postpartum, though it can vary and depend on breastfeeding. Your periods may initially be heavier and more irregular, too, but will likely return to what you experienced pre-pregnancy.
    This is article was originally published on 

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    Mental Health Resources You Need To Know About During Lockdown

    You might be struggling to make ends meet, scared of contracting COVID-19; you might have lost a loved one, lost a job, or are scared of losing your current job – whatever it is, it’s no secret that the effects of this pandemic have felt like a never-ending attack on our collective mental health.
    For some, the impact could feel mild and negligible, while for others, it could lead to an almost paralysing state of depression or anxiety. Moreover, it could also lead to increased feelings of loneliness, stress, negative emotional spirals, panic attacks, other forms of mental distress and could even lead to suicidal thoughts.
    While we don’t have easily available data on the pandemic’s impact on South Africans’ mental health, a new report by Old Mutual suggests that the number of people affected by mental health disorders has increased significantly over the last few years.

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    They have paid out 59% more in psychiatric disorder claims since 2016, and their proportion of suicide claims has increased by 24% between 2018 and 2019.
    “Our overall experience with psychiatric disorders shows that most claims were for major depression,” Kerissa Naidoo, Old Mutual’s Chief Medical Officer, said in a statement.
    “Other psychiatric disorder claims are attributed to bipolar mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive episodes, adjustment disorders, and stress.”
    READ MORE: How To Get More Comfortable Talking About Your Mental Health
    The group says that most claimants, 83%, were adults aged between 30 and 50 years old – prime working age. Interestingly, 70% of these claimants were women.
    As we’ve all retreated to working from and staying home, with little to no physical social interaction, one can only imagine how much more of an impact on mental health the last couple of months have had on South Africans.
    “Whilst our statistics reflect our experiences in 2019, we can be certain that the current global pandemic will only compound matters,” Naidoo continued.
    Feelings of depression and anxiety in lockdown and isolation can make it feel like there’s no one to reach out to, but that’s not true. As we’ve heard a million times over, we’re fortunate enough to live in the most digitised era in history. Amongst other things, this has opened unconventional, but effective, channels and avenues where one can access resources to work through mental health issues.
    Here are some resources you can make use of if you feel like you need to talk to someone:
    Speak to someone for free
    The South African Anxiety and Depression Group, which is the continent’s largest mental health support and advocacy group, offers free telephonic consultations with expert counsellors and psychologists as and when you need it.
    Reach them here: 0800 12 13 14
    Another free counselling resource is Adcock Ingram’s Depression and Anxiety Helpline. Sponsored by the said pharmaceutical manufacturer, this support line offers immediate help for people that are overwhelmed by depression, anxiety and other issues related to mental health.
    Reach them here: 0800 70 80 90
    If you’re not necessarily looking to speak to a professional but want to speak to someone who feels like a friend, there’s a free service for that called Befrienders South Africa. With this service, you don’t have to disclose your identity; it’s there to lend a listening ear.
    Reach them here: 051 444 5691 (national line) / 051 444 5000 (Bloemfontein line) / 041 922 0068 (Uitenhage line)
    For suicidal emergency, call the Cipla SADAG Mental Health Line: 0800 567 567
    Book a virtual consultation
    Before COVID-19 hit, virtual consultations with psychologists were only allowed where a relationship between the psychologist and patient already existed, but this has since been overturned by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). In April, the statutory body announced that due to COVID-19, first-time consultations could take place virtually.
    This is something worth taking advantage of RN. Ask around in your family/friendship circles if anyone has a psychologist they’d recommend, or look online and set up a virtual consultation. Alternatively, check out the BetterHelp website. This platform will help you find affordable online counselling with a licensed therapist.
    If you have COVID-19 specific concerns, Discovery and Vodacom recently partnered to launch a free virtual healthcare platform. The platform offers access to reliable information, risk screening and, when necessary, free online medical consultations. All you have to do is register on either the Discovery or Vodacom sites and follow the prompts.
    Find nearby help
    If you feel that your mental health has deteriorated to a point of no return and you want to access nearby help, visit the TherapyRoute website. This online resource will help you find nearby mental health services. This includes everything from psychologists and social workers to community clinics, NGOs and psychiatric hospitals.
    [WATCH] Women’s Health SA chats to experts about dealing with anxiety and mental health in an ever-changing world…

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