Decoding Agent Portal Features By MediBuddy For Seamless Claims Management

You have a lot on your plate as an agent. Following up on health insurance policies, collating a network hospital list for your clients, explaining health claims process before selling a health insurance policy, monitoring claims intimation…the roles and responsibilities you have to juggle are extraordinary.

You might be god-like when it comes to multitasking, but there are times when you wonder if everything you do could be organized into a single process; something nifty yet simple, and easy to operate. The health insurance industry is one where every second counts. Every wasted second, and every error in processing (or filing) of paperwork can put your patrons’ health and lives at risk.    

At MediBuddy, we understand what you go through which is why we’ve tried our best to piece together a product that straightens out your work. Here’s a simple walk-through of the all the features we’ve developed for agents who are registered with us but need clarity, and for those who are still toying with the idea of switching to MediBuddy.

The following are the tiles you’ll see on your agent portal once you sign in with your registered username and password after registration on MediBuddy.

Tile 1: Policy Coverage | View Health Insurance Details Of A Single Patron

You won’t have to go through your archives and flip through files and folders to look up health insurance policy details of a single customer with the ‘Policy Coverage’ option. What’s more, you can even manage policies that aren’t serviced by MediBuddy.

Add Medi Assist policies just by entering the policy holder’s name/policy number and MA ID. You will get all the details such as the insurer, sum insured, balance sum insured, validity period as well as the ability to download your customers’ E-card.  

Tile 2: Policy List | Chronicled Health Insurance Policies

Excel sheets and tables can surely list every policy you ever sold, but you’d have to enter details manually. Moreover, you’d have to deal with policy papers and documents separately to dig up details. This is for one customer. Now imagine the work you have to put in for, say, 50 insurance policies sold—that’s a lot of cells to fill and documents to manage. And it gets worse as more policies are sold.

Also, policy documents aren’t meant to last forever. They can go missing or worse, get damaged. Although excel sheets are digital, they too need to be backed up after every entry.

What if every health insurance policy you ever sold is automatically listed on a single page?

Well, the Policy List tile lets you:

  • Add policies serviced by all other TPAs via the ‘Add non-Medi Assist policy’ option and fill in the required details. Here, you also have the option to search these policies later by clicking the ‘Search non-Medi Assist policies’ tab.
  • For all the policies saved on MediBuddy, you get additional information such as the number of days in which a particular policy will expire. You can view the policy details, E-cards and claim details, and you can even set a reminder for the policy end date, for which you will be notified via SMS/E-mail before the policy expires, so that you can remind your customers to renew their policy in time.
  • For the moments when you don’t have internet access and want information immediately, you have a great option to download all policies which you can save on your system or even print for reference.
Agent Tip-Off:

Did you know that MediBuddy helps you become more efficient while making your life simpler by empowering you with all the information that you need to serve your customers better? It is available as a portal as well as an app, so that you can get instant access to all information on-the-go! All you need to do is sign into the MediBuddy App with your existing login credentials.

Tile 3: MediBuddy Infiniti | Convenience Redefined With Centralized Health Care

Your work as a health insurance agent is commendable. There are many hundreds and thousands of individuals and families who benefit from your hard work. That said, even you and your loved ones should benefit when you enroll with us.

With MediBuddy Infiniti you take care of your health, wherever you are. Get yourself acquainted with MediBuddy Infiniti and access a world of wellness and outpatient services such as doctor consults, medicines, health checks and more.

Here are the services currently available on MediBuddy Infiniti:

  1. HEALTH CHECK
  2. MEDICINE
  3. CONSULTATION
  4. LAB TEST
  5. HOME HEALTHCARE
  6. DENTAL
  7. HOSPITALIZATION
  8. TELE CONSULTATION
  9. SECOND OPINION
  10. GENOME STUDY
Agent Tip-Off:

Did you know that we always run special discounts and offers on MediBuddy Infiniti? Go ahead and check out the Offers page on MediBuddy Infiniti to browse through the special discounts available.

Tile 4: Search Hospitals | Dig Up Best Hospitals For Emergency and Planned Hospitalization

As a responsible agent, you are sensitive to the hospitalization needs of your customers. You want to promptly help your customers who are on the lookout for a hospital which is close to them and is also within the network of their insurer.

But responding quickly often proves a challenging task, since you have to grapple with the confusion and stress of finding out which hospitals are covered under a particular insurer for that customer.

This is where MediBuddy, the exclusive portal and app for agents, can be of great assistance.

MediBuddy can help you find the right hospital as per your customers’ preferences in an instant.

You will be able to search for hospitals by:

  • Insurer: You can select your customer’s insurer and sort your search
  • Location: Find network hospitals close to your customer’s location through a map-based search
  • Speciality: Filter your search based on the kind of treatment/hospitalization your customer is looking for

Tile 5: View Claims | Online Claims Management and Tracking

Track any customer claim status online, including the minutest of details of a claim under this tile.

Look up a claim by entering the policy number, Medi Assist ID (MAID), or claim number. You can get details, such as patient name, claim amount and type (reimbursement or cashless), date when claim was received, status (denied or settled), and the insurance company involved.

Clicking on “View” takes you deeper into the details of the claim. For instance, information on ailment, deductions ,bills, history of claim settlement ( from submission to processing, and final settlement or denial), bank details of the patient, date of admission and discharge and more are furnished on a single page for clarity.  

Tile 6: Your Profile | The Health Insurance Agent’s Identity

This tile is self-explanatory. MediBuddy allows you to edit your personal details, such as name, mobile number, email address, date of birth and profile picture. You’re also free to change your password as and when you desire.

Tile 7: Health Bites | Personalized Health Care Info For You and Your Patrons

You are an educator; not just an agent who sells health insurance policies. This section houses informative tips and reminders on health and wellness that you can adopt or take lessons from. But since you’re an educator, be sure to pass them on to every one you know, including your customers.

Each visual we send is content-heavy and beautifully designed so that it imparts knowledge with visually appealing caricatures.

Tile 8: Self Help | Curated FAQs For You and Medi Assist Customers

There will be times when you’ll want to research cashless hospitalization, ecashless feature or anything related to our services. We’ve put up this page so that you can quickly garner all the information you want.

However, in the event you cannot find answers, you can always contact us—by selecting a query from the drop-down menu and leaving a comment—from the dialog box on the right. Alternatively, you can reach us via email or call our helpline.

That just about wraps up everything under the Agent Portal. Here’s hoping calmer waters for you on MediBuddy. Stay tuned for future developments and/or features for the agent portal.     

So take advantage of the improved accessibility! Take control of your customers’ health benefits anytime and from anywhere. Explore the agent portal features on the MediBuddy App.

Tips for Heart Disease treatment and prevention

In India, cardiovascular disorders are the reason behind every 272 deaths per 100,000 people. Globally, cardiovascular disorders account for every 235 deaths per 100,000. With the numbers rising steadily, there is an urgent need to understand the causes and take the necessary counter measures.

Warning Signs That You Are At a High Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke

You never know when a heart attack or a stroke may cross your path, but your life after that might just turn upside down. Lifestyle and cardiac health have a deep rooted connection. The way you lead your life and practices you indulge in may put you at a higher risk of these diseases. Take note of the following signs and symptoms and call for help immediately if you feel under the weather.

Heart Attack

  • If there is a feeling of pain, squeezing or pressure concentrated on the left side of your chest
  • Any feeling of pressure in the upper part of your body, neck, back, jawline, arms (more so if in the left) and stomach
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating suddenly
  • Shortness of breath.

Stroke

  • Displaying a lopsided smile caused by the face drooping on one side.
  • Having trouble walking.
  • Slurring of speech
  • Confusion of thoughts.
  • Weakness or numbness of limbs, mostly on one side of the body.
  • Sudden severe headache.

How to decrease risk of heart disease?

  1. Limit your meals to smaller portions.
  2. Include more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. You can reduce chances of heart attack considerably by this minor alteration in your diet.
  3. Keep a check of your blood pressure on a day to day basis.
  4. Heart attack precautions diet includes consumption of proteins in the form of dairy and lean meats.
  5. One of the most common natural ways to prevent heart attack is to keep a tab on the amount of salt consumption.
  6. Do not smoke and avoid second hand smoke as much as possible as it can put you at a high risk of heart attack.
  7. Choose whole grains over processed grains.
  8. Exercise and heart disease prevention go hand in hand. You could also indulge in stress busting techniques like meditation and yoga.

Sources: Cardiovascular Diseases in India

Common Types of Ear Infections

Of the most common ear problems, ear infections top the list. There are various types of infection that affects the ear. The most prevalent ones among these are:

  1. Middle Ear Infection – This is a condition where a bacterial or viral infection causes an inflammation behind the eardrum. Though mostly common in children, middle ear infection symptoms in adults manifest as a more serious health concern and must be attended to immediately. This condition is characterised by pain in the ear, disturbed sleep, fever, having trouble hearing etc.
  2. Swimmer’s EarSigns of ear infection of this sort include itching sensation in the ear, redness on the inside of the ear, discomfort in the ear and when the pinna is pulled it causes pain. Though this is mild in the beginning, persistent ear infection may spread that could lead to the swelling of the lymph nodes present in your neck and blocked ear pain. There is a common connection of swimming with ear infection of this sort and it is evident from the nomenclature of it too. This bacterial infection is acquired from water as the causative agent of this condition primarily dwells in water.
  3. Labyrinthytis – It is a form of disorder of the inner ear where the nerves get inflamed. Common ear problems associated with this condition are vertigo, nausea and hearing loss. Inner ear infection treatment in adults as well as in children is done by using medications such as antihistamines, meclizine, sedatives and corticosteroids for providing relief from its symptoms.

Everyday Problems Faced due to Ear Infection

Ear infections can affect day to day lives in a number of ways. Normal activities like using earphones, traveling in an aeroplane and swimming can be restricted due this ailment. Various researches have also established a relationship between high carbohydrate diet and ear infections as they induce mucus production greatly by causing congestion and inflammation.

Tips to Care for Ear Infections

  1. All methods of ear infection cure and prevention depend greatly upon the hygiene that is maintained when it comes to the ear. Using soft cloth to wipe the outer ear and not inserting any sharp objects is an important part of maintaining good ear health.
  2. It is import for parents to know what causes ear infections in infants as it is most prevalent at that age. Preventing colds from aggravating, breastfeeding them to the right age and be avoiding exposure to smoke especially from wood and cigarette can help small children greatly to be safe from such conditions.
  3. Visiting a doctor must be done on priority if constant ear pain persists and/or any fluid oozes from it.

A quick insight into the management of infertility in women

What is Infertility?

Infertility is the inability to get pregnant even after having repeated intercourse in a span of at least one year. It affects males and females in equal measure. In females, it is difficult to identify the cause for infertility. The most common signs of infertility in women are an irregularity in menstrual cycle or distortion in its length (more than 35 days or less than 21 days).

Common Reasons for Infertility in Women

  1. Disorders that prevent ovulationOvulation and fertility are related as ovulation is the process of the egg being discharged from the ovary into the fallopian tube, where it eventually gets fertilised. There are various diseases that cause infertility by preventing ovulation, such as PCOS, premature ovarian failure, excess prolactin and hypothalamic dysfunction.
  2. Damage of the fallopian tubes –It is a condition where a blockage of the fallopian tube prevents the passage of sperms through it and inhibits fertilization. It could also affect the process of fertilisation by blocking the fertilized egg from travelling to the uterus.
  3. Endometriosis – This is an abnormality where the tissues of the lining of the uterus are present elsewhere such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the linings of the pelvis. This causes blockage in the path of the ovum and the sperm or the fertilised embryo depending on the stage and position that is affected.  
  4. Age – With age, the number of functional eggs starts to dip in a woman, thereby increasing the chances of infertility. Hence fertility after 40 falls considerably.
  5. Smoking – Nicotine present in cigarettes affect fertility in a huge way. It damages the fallopian tubes, affects the ovum health as they develop and also increase the chances of having miscarriages.
  6. Weight – Infertility has been attributed to both being underweight and overweight.

Medical Procedures for Infertility

The above medical conditions can be treated through a few surgical and medical procedures. They are –

  1. Hysteroscopic or laparoscopic surgery – This surgery involves removal or correction of abnormalities such as blockages, scar tissues etc. to improve the chances of getting pregnant.
  2. Tubal surgeries – It is a type of surgery that is conducted on the fallopian tubes to remove blockages.
  3. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) – This is a procedure where numerous healthy sperms are positioned within the uterus at the time of ovulation to ensure fertilization.
  4. Assisted Reproductive Technology – In this technique the mature eggs are retrieved from a woman’s body, there after in vitro fertilisation is conducted under a controlled atmosphere in a lab and the resultant embryo is then implanted into the womb.

Lifestyle measures that can reduce the risk of infertility

An interesting find in a research conducted under the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) to understand the trends of childlessness and fertility problems in India, showed that the risk of infertility is significantly higher in urban women than in rural women. This speaks volumes about the effects of urban life on a woman’s health. To prevent this, women can adapt certain lifestyle measures such as:

  1. Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  2. Planning a family at the right age
  3. Maintaining a healthy body weight
  4. Practising safe sex

Your everyday guide on how to manage stress and anxiety

A research published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry says that by the end of adolescence, anxiety grips about 17%-25% of the modern Indian youth. These figure clearly show how easily the current generation is affected by stress and anxiety. These disorders have largely been attributed to the current social, economic, cultural and educational environment.

Modern life and stress

Life now progresses at a faster rate than it did fifty years ago. While it is true that we have now become more technologically abled, we have also put a lot of stress on ourselves in the process.

  1. Connected too much – Wireless and mobile connectivity has taken the communication world by storm. It has bridged thousands of miles with a single ring or a ping or now with even video calls. But this has left you with no place to hide from the world. Social media has intruded into your private life with/without your consent. To stay away from the limelight, you need to maintain a constant vigil, which takes a mental toll.
  2. Giving your best – but for what? – Having mentioned social media and the constant vigilance, everyone wants to don the garb of a perfectionist. A virtual anonymous judgement spurs you work wise, hobby wise, life wise and in every way possible. Seeking perfection in everything you do will cause you to have unrealistic expectations. And when you don’t meet these standards, stress will follow.
  3. Vent the right way – It is essential to release the built up stress in using the right approach. No, drinking isn’t one on this list, nor is a cup of coffee, instead indulge in a session of massage once in a couple of weeks or go out for a long run a couple of times a week.

Health disorders stemming out of stress and anxiety

There are a number of health disorders that are a result of stress and anxiety. Here are a few listed below:

  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Raised blood pressure
  • High level of blood sugar
  • Weak immune system
  • Heartburn
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Fertility problems
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

Tips to cope with stress

If you find yourself in a tight spot and need the blues to vanish, you could bank on these following tips:

  1. Turn to a creative hobby such as music, art, sculpture, etc.
  2. Meditate or practice yoga to fill yourself with a sense of wellbeing.
  3. Spend time outdoors with your kids or your pets.
  4. Take a walk in an environment that has ample greenery and fresh air.
  5. A relaxing bath with some bath salts and scented candles could make you feel better too.

Skin Care during Pregnancy

Pregnancy plays havoc with your hormones, which means your skin is in for a tough time. The hormonal changes in your body can cause skin cracks, acne and blemishes. The skin on your face will feel drier than usual. The skin around your eyes, nose, cheeks, navel, armpits and inner thighs will darken, especially during the second trimester; but fortunately these should disappear in a few months after you’ve delivered. During the second and third semesters, the hormonal imbalance causes brownish or greyish patches on the cheeks and forehead in about 70% of the women.  This is called the ‘mask of pregnancy.’ Exposure to sun increases the risk of developing the mask of pregnancy, and it is more noticeable in the areas exposed to sun. Luckily, this too fades away after delivery for most women.

Due to fat cells piling up in your abdominal region along with your hips, thighs and breast, your skin over stretches. This leads to stretch marks and these will remain your pregnancy souvenir for life.

Acne is another skin problem you might have to deal with when you become pregnant. As expected, this is a result of overproduction of oil due to an increased level of hormones. Your back, chest and shoulders might end up being affected in addition to your face but fortunately, all this will disappear once your pregnancy advances.

One irritating issue you might notice is itching, that too in places that is extremely hard to scratch like your soles and palms.  There is usually no rash or lesions with this itching.

Papilloma or skin tags appear in the skin folds of the neck, underarm, groin region and just below the breasts.  These are fleshy outgrowths and are usually painless and harmless, but could turn out to be an aesthetic problem.

You might also notice a dark line that runs from your navel to your pubic bone.  This is called the ‘Linea Nigra’ (or black line) and its intensity will vary based on your skin tone.  It is not related to sun exposure, and there is no way to avoid it even if you don’t go out in the sun. You generally will see it in the second trimester and as time passes, it will darken in colour.

Caring for your Skin

Stretch marks sadly cannot prevented; but you could wear garments that provide good support for the breasts and abdomen during the pregnancy months.

Cover up while out in the sun to protect from excess pigmentation and use a sun-screen with SPF 30 on sunny days to reduce melanin production. Since the body doesn’t absorb the sunscreen, it is safe to use while pregnant. Vitamin C also helps with excess melanin production, and many skin products now are fortified with vitamin C, which are safe to use. Unfortunately, none of these will treat the pigmentation issues.

Skin tags that usually appear with pregnancy disappear after your baby arrives but those that do not will need to be surgically removed. In the meantime, wear loose clothes so as to not irritate the skin tags.  Also, keep the area of skin tags dry as possible. After delivery, if you plan to get them removed, make sure it is done by an expert to prevent regrowth.

Linea Nigra is harmless, except from an aesthetic viewpoint. For some women, this line will darken as their pregnancy progresses while for others it will remain white or invisible. You may not see it during all your pregnancies either. Be reassured it will disappear gradually after you deliver.

For women who have acne during their pregnancy, a good cleansing regimen should be enough. Take care to avoid harsh products that act as an abrasive and are not advised for blocked pores. Acne medications are not advised during pregnancy because of safety issues. Never step out into the sun without your sunscreen if you have acne. Please consult your doctor for topical antibiotics that are safe during pregnancy if you have severe acne.

If you have no other accompanying problem like fever or a secondary rash with your itching, then simply bathing daily in lukewarm water followed by skin massage with a body lotion and/or natural oils should help you manage through your pregnancy. When the itching sensation cannot be managed with this routine, make an appointment with your doctor to rule out more serious possibilities.

Everything You Need to Know about C-section

Commonly known as caesarean delivery, this is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through two incisions – one in the mother’s abdomen and another in the mother’s uterus. If you have any complications with your pregnancy or if you have already had a C-section with your previous pregnancy and are not considering vaginal birth after caesarean, then a C-section can be planned ahead of time. However, many a time until labour is under way, the need to perform a C-section is not obvious.

When will you have a C-section:

  • You’re carrying twins, triplets or other multiples
  • Your baby has a health concern such as developmental conditions
  • You’ve had a previous C-section
  • Your baby is in an abnormal position
  • There’s a problem with the umbilical cord or placenta
  • Your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen
  • Your labour isn’t progressing
  • You have a health concern such as unstable heart disease, high blood pressure or infections such as genital herpes or HIV

C section is also performed at your request.

How a C-section is performed:

Anaesthesia:  C-sections mostly require just local anaesthesia which numbs only the lower part of your body allowing you to stay awake during the procedure. The most common anaesthesia choice is a spinal block in which the anaesthesia is given directly into the sac surrounding your spinal cord. Sometimes, an epidural may be given to your lower back just outside the sac that surrounds your spinal cord. General anaesthesia can be used if you are over anxious about the procedure or some other conditions.

Abdominal incision: Once the anaesthesia is adequate, an incision will be made through your abdominal wall, usually horizontally, near the pubic hairline (bikini incision). In some cases, a vertical incision will be made from just below the navel to just above the pubic bone when a large incision is needed or when your baby needs to be delivered very quickly.

Uterine incision: A second incision, called the uterine incision, is made in the uterus after the abdominal incision. In the absence of any pregnancy complications, an incision will be made horizontally across the lower part of the uterus (low transverse incision).

Delivery: Even while under anaesthesia, you might feel some movement as the doctor gently removes the baby from your uterus, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. Your baby’s mouth and nose is cleared off all fluids, then clamped and the umbilical cord is cut. The placenta is removed from your uterus, and the incisions are sutured.

If you’ve had a C-section, you and your baby will stay in the hospital for about three days. You’ll be encouraged to get up and walk as moving around can hasten your recovery and help prevent constipation and the risk of blood clots. Your healthcare team will instruct you on movement, fluid intake and other post-delivery complications. Meanwhile, your incision will be monitored for any possible signs of infection, and you will be given medicines for postsurgical pain. You should start breastfeeding soon after the surgery, this might be a little uncomfortable due to pain at the incision site. Don’t worry though, your healthcare team and the lactation consultant will help you with this.

FAQs from our Readers

What is an emergency caesarean and why is it performed?

Most of the time, an emergency C-section means that it was not scheduled or is a ‘non-elective’ caesarean. But there are times when it is performed for urgent reasons like the following:

  • Arrested labour, which means the labour is not progressing and is causing foetal distress or maternal exhaustion
  • There is a risk of heavy bleeding or haemorrhage caused by the placenta separating from the uterine wall
  • The baby is in a complicated position, i.e., transverse or difficult breech despite manipulation
  • The pelvis is too narrow for the baby’s head to pass through

What is an elective caesarean?

Elective caesarean means it was planned and scheduled in advance, generally in the 39th week. Here, both you and your doctor make the decision to deliver surgically. Sometimes, your OB advises you to have a C-section due to the following circumstances:

  • You have cephalopelvic disproportion where your baby’s head is too big to pass through the birth canal.
  • You have had a previous C-section.
  • You have Placenta Previa or other placental complications that can be life-threatening
  • Your previous pregnancy and labour situation was difficult
  • You have pre-eclampsia that is affecting your well-being or your baby
  • You have a multiple pregnancy
  • Your baby’s position cannot be manipulated for vaginal delivery

What are the advantages of having a planned caesarean?

Since you have plenty to time to plan, a caesarean can be an advantage. You can choose the date of delivery (unless your baby arrives early). You don’t have to endure labour pains. You don’t have to go through vaginal interrogation done routinely for women in labour to measure dilation. With a planned C-section, your partner can be with you during the operation.

Is the C-section surgery painful? What are you likely to feel while in the operation theatre?

With a planned C-section, you are most likely to be on an epidural which means you will be awake. You could feel some odd sensations like tugging, pulling, pressure and some rummaging as your doctor disengages your baby’s head from the pelvis and pulls the rest of the body out. You should not feel any pain since the anaesthetic effect is adequate to numb the affected region before your doctor proceeds with the incisions. You may sometimes experience uncontrollable shivering and chills.

Will I be able to deliver normally after having a C-section?

The biggest risk of a vaginal birth after a C-section is the tearing of the uterus. But these days, vertical scars from incisions are much stronger, and VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) has a much lower risk. It basically depends on why you had a C-section previously and the number of operations you have had before and the type of incision made.

What are the possible complications after having a C-section?

Uterine infections, severe bleeding requiring blood transfusion, possible damage to the bladder or other organs, scarring of internal organs, blood clots in the leg veins or lungs are some possibilities. Issues like adhesions or opening of the skin incision can occur post-delivery.

There seems to be an increase in repeat caesareans, what are the reasons for this?

Many women opt for a repeat C-section due to the slight risk of uterine tear. Caesareans are preferred over difficult forceps vaginal deliveries and breech deliveries and also larger babies seem to be norm these days which requires surgery.

Due to effective technologies, high-risk women can become mothers; however, problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and advanced maternal age contribute to the increase of surgical births. Some women choose caesarean over normal delivery because of fear of labour pain or convenience even though they have no medical reasons with contraindicates a vaginal birth.

Breast feeding

Breastfeeding a baby exclusively for the first 6 months (i.e. giving only breast milk to the baby), and then continued breastfeeding in addition to appropriate solid foods until 12 months and beyond is called ‘Exclusive Breast Feeding’ and has health benefits for both the mother and child.

The first few drops of milk that are secreted just after the delivery is called colostrum and it is the thick first milk that is made during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and includes antibodies which fight against infections and strengthens the immune system of your baby. Colostrum also helps the new-born’s digestive system to grow and function.

The composition of the milk changes as the baby grows. Colostrum changes into mature milk by the third to fifth day after birth. This mature milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help the baby continue to grow. It looks thinner than colostrum, but it has the nutrients and antibodies the baby needs for healthy growth.

Benefits to the baby

Research shows that breastfed infants have fewer illnesses such as ear and diarrheal infections. Neither the nutrients found in breast milk nor the special benefits these nutrients provide can be duplicated by any supplement. Breast milk is always fresh, perfectly clean, just the right temperature, instantly available.

  • Breastfed pre-term babies tend to have a higher IQ than their formula-fed peers.
  • Breastfeeding offers emotional security to the baby because the skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby.
  • The activity of sucking at the breast while breastfeeding enhances the baby’s development of oral muscles and facial bones.
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to develop respiratory infections, childhood diabetes and childhood lymphoma.
  • Babies who are breastfed:

– Have fewer learning disabilities

– Have lesser incidence of allergies

– Are 10 times less likely to be admitted to the hospital during the first year.

– Are one-third less likely to die of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

– Are four times less likely to contract the infections that cause meningitis.

Benefits to the mother

Breast-feeding is not only good for the babies; it has a lot of advantages for the mothers as well.

  • There are no bottles to sterilize and no formula to buy, measure and mix.
  • It may be easier for a nursing mother to lose weight after pregnancy. Lactation stimulates the uterus to contract back to its original size.
  • Nursing supresses ovulation and hence can act as nature’s contraceptive–although not a very reliable one.
  • The milk-producing hormone, prolactin, has a relaxing effect on the mother and stimulates maternal instincts.
  • Women who breastfeed reduce their chances of pre-menopausal breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis.

When to Consider Alternate Feeding

There are some medical reasons for mother to not opt for breastfeeding:

  • A few viruses, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and illnesses such as herpes, hepatitis, and beta streptococcus infections can pass through breast milk. Women who are HIV positive or have other such illnesses should consult their healthcare provider before choosing to breastfeed.
  • Women who have had breast cancer can usually breast-feed from the unaffected breast. There is some concern that the hormones produced during pregnancy and lactation may trigger a recurrence of cancer, but so far, this has not been proven.
  • If a mother is on radioactive therapy for cancer, on ergot preparations for migraine, on anticancer drugs, or Lithium, she may have to discontinue breastfeeding after consulting her healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding and Working Mothers

If you must resume working before your child is six months old, then follow these guidelines:

  • Feed your baby before you leave for work and frequently after you return home.
  • Before you leave for work, empty both your breasts manually, and store the milk in a sterile container. This milk can be stored at room temperature for four to six hours ordinarily. If refrigerated, expressed breastmilk can be stored for 24 hours. The milk can be reheated before feeding by keeping the container in another (larger) container containing warm water.
  • While at work, empty your breasts in the ladies room whenever you have a feeling of fullness. This is important to maintain the milk supply. You can store and carry this milk home to feed your baby later.
  • Avoid using a bottle to feed your baby at any stage. This can confuse the child because the mechanism of getting milk from the breast is different than that from a bottle. A confused baby may refuse the breast.

If your baby is more than four months old, consult your paediatrician to start appropriate weaning foods.

Exercise and Travel during Pregnancy: FAQs

Exercise

Does exercise in early pregnancy cause miscarriages?

Research shows that women who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer from complications during pregnancy and have an easier delivery when compared to those who don’t. During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it is advised to avoid too much exercise as miscarriages are common during these initial stages. Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise regime.

Which exercises help relieve back pain?

The heavy baby load during the last trimester of pregnancy gives you a backache usually, though backache can also occur earlier. Prevent back strain by maintaining a proper posture while sitting and standing. A birth ball or cushion should help you sit upright which will keep the abdominal muscles in proper alignment. Exercises such as walking and yoga (only those poses that are suitable for pregnant women) help with keeping the joints supple and mobile. There are certain yoga poses and pelvic tilts done when you are standing or sitting that will give your lower back a good workout. Warm baths, massages, hot and cold compresses will further help.

How much exercise is actually needed during pregnancy?

Inadequate rest, dehydration or too many working hours when you are pregnant will tire you out. Eating a balanced diet is of primary importance as your body will need the extra calories and if you are working out, then energy depletion should also be kept in mind. The following factors ascertain you are not overdoing the exercise:

  • Your heart rate
  • Being able to talk when on treadmill
  • The fatigue level after workout

How often should I exercise to stay active?

During pregnancy, working out a few times a week is enough. Let your body tell you when it is tired and slow down or even avoid a workout. A moderate 30-minute workout about 4-5 times a week is good enough.

What does post-workout fatigue during pregnancy mean?

If you feel so tired that you cannot go about even your daily activities, then take that as a sign that you have worked out more than required. Though feeling fatigued is common during pregnancy, you have to be careful you are not overdoing your exercise routine. The fatigue could be due to a particular exercise regimen not suiting the stage of your pregnancy or that you are new to exercise or that you are doing it in excess. Whatever the reason, you will need to re-evaluate the level or the type of activity to prevent the exhaustion.

What are the things to be considered before starting on any exercise program when you are pregnant?

Before starting any exercise regimen, you need to answer these questions:

  • Do you generally feel healthy and positive about your pregnancy?
  • Did you exercise before you became pregnant?
  • Have you had any complications with your previous pregnancy or with your current pregnancy?

Once you have honest answers for all the questions, you will need to consult your doctor and discuss an exercise program that suits your condition.

What forms of exercises are ideal for me during pregnancy?

Start with a walking program and add pelvic floor exercises. You can also do some gentle stretching for 3-5 minutes and gradually increase it to 10 minutes. If you like swimming, then you can do that. The water tones your muscles without causing you any strain. In late pregnancy, swimming becomes even more enjoyable as the water makes you feel lighter and cools you down. If you prefer dancing as a form of exercise, you can take that up or try aerobics as suited to pregnancy. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout your exercise session. Remember, exercising while you are pregnant is not about losing weight or maintaining your weight but about staying healthy for you and your baby. Always, consult your OB before starting any exercise regimen.

When is exercise considered unsuitable for pregnant women?

If your pregnancy is considered ‘high risk,’ avoid any form of exercise. Get your doctor’s consent before you start on any form of exercise activity. For a detailed list of what exercises to avoid and when, please refer to the booklet on ‘Gearing Up’.

Is sex safe during pregnancy?

There is generally no restrictions on sex while you are pregnant. But it is always advisable to consult your OB to ensure you don’t have any conditions which preclude sex, like the risk of preterm labour or miscarriage or Placenta Previa. Choose a position that is most comfortable for you and puts no weight on your uterus. As your pregnancy advances, you will have to keep changing positions.

Travelling:

Is travelling safe during pregnancy?

As most common obstetric emergencies occur in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, it is safe to travel between 18 and 24 weeks in the second trimester. Any decisions to travel should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider.

During air travel, is the cabin pressure harmful to the foetus?

In small planes, the cabins are not pressurized, so avoid traveling in them when you are pregnant. In commercial planes, the cabin pressure is maintained at a level safe for women with healthy pregnancies. As with exercising, before traveling be sure to check with your OB as there are certain conditions like anaemia, history of blood clots or other circulatory related diseases which preclude traveling.

What is deep vein thrombosis and what are its effects on pregnancy?

Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a blood clot in the deep leg vein, invisible to the naked eye. This is different from varicose veins which we can see. Moving about will make the blood flow easily and prevent DVT.  If we stay immobile for longer periods, there is a danger of DVT which will partially or totally block the blood flow.

Pregnancy is one of the several factors which cause DVT. One in a thousand pregnant women develops this problem during pregnancy. The situation is grave if you have had DVT previously and are now pregnant. Staying immobile on long flights slows the blood flow in the legs and the blood clots. To ensure this doesn’t happen, take short walks to stretch your legs to prevent clots, especially in your calves, when flying. Since both air travel and pregnancy increase the risk of DVT and clotting, it is best to avoid flying while pregnant.

 

 

All about Labour and Delivery

Labour is a unique experience that differs from one woman to another and in fact even from one pregnancy to the next one. For some, labour is over within a few hours whereas for others, it can last much, much longer. Till it actually happens, it is impossible to predict how long it will last. By around the 33rd week, your uterine muscles start contracting and relaxing in preparation for labour. These are known as the Braxton Hicks contractions. Changing your posture or activity generally takes care of them. Actual labour happens in three stages.

Stage 1: Early labour and active labour

During the first stage of labour, the cervix opens and thins out to permit the baby to move into the birth canal. This is the longest of the three stages of labour and is divided into 2 phases: early labour and active labour.

Early labour: During early labour, your cervix starts to dilate, and you’ll feel gentle contractions throughout this time. These contractions generally last for 30 to 90 seconds and occur at regular intervals. Towards the end of early labour, they last longer than five minutes. Duration of the early labour cannot be accurately predicted. The average length of early labour is 6 to 12 hours for first pregnancies whereas subsequent deliveries have shorter early labour. You might see a blood-tinged discharge from your vagina as a result of cervical dilation.

You may be able to go about your daily chores during the contractions of early labour, but if you experience any discomfort, the following tips may help ease that:

  • Try slow and deep breathing or relaxation techniques
  • Apply ice/heat packs to your lower back
  • Have a gentle massage
  • Eat light, healthy snacks
  • Drink fluids
  • Change positions
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Take a shower or bath

Active labour: The contractions become stronger, longer and regular. You may experience leg cramps, nausea and increasing pressure in your back as well. Your cervix dilates to 10 cm and as your labour progresses, pain intensifies. Active labour often lasts up to 8 hours or even longer. To help with the discomfort of active labour, try breathing and relaxation techniques. Your healthcare team may provide you with required physical and psychological support. Even though you will feel the urge to push due to the intense contractions, you should resist the urge till your cervix is fully dilated. Try these to promote comfort during active labour:

  • Change positions
  • Take a walk, stopping to breathe through contractions
  • Have a gentle massage between contractions
  • Take a warm shower or bath

Stage 2: The birth of your baby

You deliver your baby during stage 2 active labour. You might take anywhere from a few minutes up to a few hours or more to push your baby out. Push your baby as per the instructions of your healthcare team. Once your baby’s head is out, her airway will be cleared and your healthcare team will make sure the umbilical cord is free. The rest of your baby’s body will follow shortly.

Stage 3: Delivery of the placenta

In the third stage of labour, your healthcare team delivers the placenta and ensures your bleeding is under control. Your doctor massages your lower abdomen to ease the delivery of the placenta, and you may have to push one more time to deliver the placenta. The placenta expels out with a small gush of blood with the contracting of the uterus. This procedure typically takes about 5-30 minutes. You might still feel gentle contractions, chills or shakiness. Your placenta is examined to ensure it is intact, and your doctor removes any remaining fragments from the uterus to prevent bleeding and infection. If required, stitches and other repair work will be done. You will be prescribed medication to encourage uterine contractions and minimize bleeding.

FAQs from our Readers

What are labour contractions and why do they happen?

Labour contractions are uterine spasms that brings your baby out into this world. They are an indication that you are in labour, and in some cases can be the only sign of labour. In early labour, the contractions come as period-like pains, pain in the lower back combined with some aching pressure behind the pubic bone.

What is false labour?

Before the real labour, your body sometimes practises for it. This gives rise to false labour, which generally fades away. An achy back, pressure and menstrual cramps which last just briefly don’t necessarily mean you are in labour. These false labour contractions seem to never end and occur intermittently, but their strength and intensity remains the same. They are usually tiring and frustrating. These contractions are short, last less than half a minute, and are less frequent unlike real labour. Moving around or drinking fluids sometimes diminishes the false labour.

What do the labour contractions feel like?

Your stomach muscles tighten in a sequence, which start from your tummy to your back and then comes back to the front. It feels like a strong, uncomfortable cramp all around the centre of your body. Sometimes, the squeeze can be felt also in the groin and thigh areas. Once this starts, it means you are entering the active phase of labour. The contractions become more frequent and regular, and the pain intensifies. As your cervix starts to dilate, you will feel the discomfort in your groin area as well. The intensity of active labour varies from woman to woman.

How to tell from the contractions if it is a true labour?

True labour contractions will be frequent, intense and closely spaced. If you are in doubt, try these to verify:

  • Active labour makes movement difficult. Even talking will seem painful. If the pain diminishes with walking, then it is mostly probably not true labour.
  • False labour vanishes with change in position.
  • Dehydration is one of the causes of false labour, so the discomfort lessens with drinking fluids which will not happen if it is real labour.

If your contractions last longer than a minute and are about 5 minutes apart for at least one hour, call your doctor.

What is the active labour phase like?

During this phase, the cervix dilates more than 8 cm in most cases. The discomfort is more frequent than you like and contractions seem to occur every 2-3 minutes and last for a minute or longer. Nothing seems to relieve the pain, and walking and talking seem impossible during the contractions. Massaging you back or resting it against the wall will ease the pain a bit. After each minute of contractions, you experience a break for about 5 minutes where you feel no pain at all and can rest.

Is there a way to predict how long my labour will last?

Just like every pregnancy is different, so is every labour. Once the contractions are regular, you are said to be in active labour. In first time mothers, the labour phase is longer and the contractions are more intense. The latent phase which comes next also lasts longer (usually for 6 hours or more) in first-time mothers. As a general rule, labour for first time moms last 12-24 hours. For subsequent births, the labour period is shorter if there are no other complications. For some women who have had vaginal deliveries before, labour can be rather short lasting a brief 2-3 hours or even minutes. If you suspect your labour has started, contact your doctor immediately.

Is it true that you lose control in labour?

It is very difficult to control your contractions or the pain associated with it wilfully, but there are certain techniques that can help you cope with the pain. You can control your response to the pain. When the labour is very intense and overwhelming with not much breaks in between, there is not much you can do. In some cases, the labour is very prolonged and you are exhausted and just want to get it over with. Once you accept that this is how you will bring your bundle of joy into this beautiful world, you will learn to work with the labour to help you manage.

Can water, shower and bath help with managing the pain?

Warm water greatly helps reduce the labour pains, you can choose a shower, whirlpool or a bathtub. The massaging effect of water will go a long way in calming you down, and the buoyancy helps relieve pressure on the pelvis. There are hospitals with whirlpool facility. If not, a shower works just as well. Aim the shower head to where you need it most. In a tub, lean back and relax against bath towels with the water covering the bump to be effective. Water also works at lowering elevated blood pressure, reducing the length of labour and lowering the risk of tearing.

How is labour triggered?

When your baby is ready to be born, her brain sends a series of chemical messages to your body. The foetal brain and the placenta release CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone) indicating to the mother and baby that it is time to deliver. This usually happens any time between weeks 37 and 42 in a healthy pregnancy, though it can vary greatly from mother to mother. The ‘fetoplacental clock’ decides the rate at which the hormone is released. If you are past your due date and labour has not begun, it means the fetoplacental clock has not triggered the onset of labour, and your baby is not ready to be born just yet.

What is placenta previa?

Placenta previa is a condition in which a baby’s placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix, it is seen in as many as one in every three pregnancies before the 20th week of pregnancy. There are several types of placenta previa:

  • A low-lying placenta does not cover the cervical opening but lies near it. It will usually move upward in the uterus as your due date approaches.
  • A partial placenta previa covers part of the cervical opening.
  • A total placenta previa covers and blocks the cervical opening completely.

About half of all pregnancies have some form of placenta previa in the early stages. In most women, it resolves and only in 5% of women is it present at term. It seems to be more prevalent in women who have had it before, in women having babies at an older age, in women who smoke, in women who have had several pregnancies before, who have had scarring on the uterus lining during a previous C-section or abortion, and in a multiple pregnancy. It also occurs where the uterus or placenta is abnormally developed.

What are the symptoms and the complications of placenta previa?

Placenta previa causes painless bleeding in the last trimester, though this is not very common. The blood is bright red, coming from the placenta and is usually intermittent, ranging from light to heavy. It usually occurs at the end of the second or the beginning of the third trimester. Bleeding may continue for a few days and then stop on its own, only to start again a few days or weeks later. Labour follows the bleeding in some cases while in others, labour precedes the bleeding. Placenta previa can be dangerous if not attended to appropriately.  If you notice any form of vaginal bleeding, please inform your doctor immediately.

How can placenta previa be treated?

Treatment will be based on how serious the placenta previa is, i.e., the amount of blood loss, the extent of the placenta previa, age of the infant and if the mother is already in labour. Other considerations include the baby’s position and the number of pregnancies prior to this one. If it is a partial placenta previa, then bed rest with abstinence from sexual activities, straining to pass a stool and douching will be strongly advised. If the blood loss is substantial, blood transfusion along with medicines to prolong the pregnancy to at least week 36 and delay labour (after which baby can be safely delivered), and medicines to help in the maturity of infant’s lungs will be administered. Both mother and baby will be closely monitored at the hospital or home under the doctor’s advice.

What is placental abruption and its symptoms?

Sometimes, the placenta deteriorates and separates partially or completely from the uterine lining before birth. This condition is known as placental abruption and most often occurs in the third trimester or during labour. The symptoms of placental abruption include continuous bleeding with abdominal pain, the severity of which will depend on the size of the area that has torn away. If the blood has collected high in the uterus, there is no vaginal bleeding. The degree of separation is determined by ultrasound. Massive blood loss can lead to premature labour or even a stillbirth since the baby is deprived of oxygen and key nutrients prematurely.

What causes placental abruption?

One of the most common reasons for placental separation is uncontrolled high blood pressure or hypertension. Other reasons include trauma to the abdomen (a fall, accident or abuse) smoking, drinking, sudden rupture of membranes or if the mother has autoimmune diseases. However, in most cases, no obvious medical reasons can be found.

Complete or even partial abruption is life-threatening for the foetus.  The amount of placenta that has detached from the uterus wall will determine how serious the foetal distress is. Complete abruption can put the mother’s life at risk too. Unless the mother already has some form of haemorrhage or shock, partial abruptions is not as dangerous to the mother.

How can placental abruption be treated?

A scan is ordered for confirmation if placental abruption is suspected. If the separation is small and baby’s heartbeat is good, the mother will be advised bed rest and given medication to stop the contractions. The mother is given an injection of steroids to help mature the baby’s lungs. If abruption occurs before week 36 and foetus is showing no signs of distress, treatment will include a close watch over the foetus until it is mature or distress signals are seen, which alerts the obstetrician to go in for a C-section.