DISCLAIMER: The content of Dr Kristal Lau’s Postpartum Wellness Show does not replace medical advice from your health providers. Listening to this show does not establish a patient-doctor or client-provider relationship between you and Dr. Kristal Lau. Please see your health provider for any medical concerns or contact your local emergency line for any urgent matters.
Selamat Datang and Welcome to the Postpartum Wellness Show!
and I’m Dr Kristal Lau, your host and postpartum wellness consultant
In this show, I share insights and knowledge around approaching your postpartum journey through culture, traditions, and modern postpartum care using my combined experiences as a physician with scientific and public health background, an author, a foreign-born US military spouse, and a mom of 2.
Join me in this exploration of motherhood, wellness, and heritage where you will learn how to thrive in your postpartum journey and beyond.
Lovely to have you back on another episode of the Postpartum Wellness Show.
Today, I'm doing something a little bit different – I'm doing story time. And this segment is gonna be different from the previous episodes, which were more informational and we're discussing topics. And I have an outline.
For story time, it's more casual, conversational, and I'll just be sharing my personal stories and experiences with pregnancy, postpartum, and maternal health and wellness in general. Or I'll be sharing stories that I've read in the news or industry updates from the health and wellness sphere around maternal and postpartum health.
So for today, I'm going to share with you my health journey from pregnancy up until now. I am two years postpartum after having my second kid. So in total, I don't think I've actually really, you know, fully been out of postpartum before jumping into the next kid because my kids are only about two years apart.
So, yeah, kind of went from one kid to the other, but then again that was part of our family planning because we wanted our kids to be closer in age because my husband and I, we're quite far apart in age from our siblings. So, you know, we wanted our kids to have something closer together in age. So I'm gonna start off chronologically, starting off with the first device that I procured at the end of my first pregnancy. It is a blood pressure machine, so something pretty standard in a sense that you can get these over the counter in pharmacies or other medical device places.
The crappy part about this is, well, having to have a blood pressure device at home for me to monitor my blood pressure at this young age of 35. But that's really important in pregnancy and in the postpartum period because high blood pressure can lead to a lot of dangerous situations for mom and baby, which is not something we'll dive into today since I'm gonna keep this casual and conversational, but we can explore that topic later in a more informational episode.
So for those of you listening on the podcast, I'm gonna put the link to the YouTube video and to the blog post so you can look at the pictures that I'm gonna put up in the blog or look at the video where I'm gonna do a little show and tell for my devices.
All right, so for those listening, I am now holding up my blood pressure machine for those who can watch this on YouTube. Very simple. It's a battery operated device. It's got a start-stop button and um, other buttons that help you look through your other blood pressure measurements. Uh, very simple, easy to use, and it's connected to the arm cuffs. Again, very easy, something that I can do by myself. And it's got a little round indication on the blood pressure cuff that tells you where you should align that dot to.
And again, I won't go into detail into how to use a blood pressure machine at home. But if you're interested, let me know in the comments or write to me and I will do a special segment for that.
So I had to get this blood pressure machine because towards the end of my pregnancy with my first child, well, my blood pressure wasn't really high, but it was slowly creeping up. Normally, my blood pressure sits around the 100 and 110 systolic, which again, I'm holding up the machine. It is the top number. When you measure blood pressures, you get two numbers. They put a number slash another number, so that first number on top. It's just easier for the sake of. You know, today's episode, I'm just gonna talk about the top number. Um, I normally sit at 100, 110, which is considered normal under the current guidelines, but it was kind of creeping up to like 130, which is still all right at the time.
But after I gave birth to my first child, immediately my blood pressure started climbing. It went up to 150, 160. And it didn't come down. It was kind of hovering there, fluctuating up and down, up and down. And of course that got my OB GYN concerned because 150, 160 fluctuating around that range was not great, and for those of you who may have heard of the term preeclampsia or eclampsia, which is a condition in pregnancy related to high blood pressure, that condition can happen in postpartum as well.
So, of course there were concerns that if my doctor didn't bring my blood pressure down, then I was at risk for developing postpartum eclampsia. So I had to leave hospital and immediately go to a pharmacy. I had my first baby in the States. So we just went to, I think we got this from Walmart, actually. Um, went there, got a machine, and I had to take my blood pressure a few times a day following the instructions of my OB GYN, and any time I would experience any symptoms of high blood pressure, for example, feeling dizzy or having a headache, feeling hot in the head, in the face, um, and just feeling unwell.
I had to take my blood pressure then to make sure whether or not those symptoms are tied to high blood pressure, if that was the case. And that did happen to me. I was just sitting down on the couch watching TV, and I just started feeling kind of dizzy, a bit light in the head, have a little bit of a headache, a throbbing feeling, and I was like, oh no. Took my blood pressure, 160. Not great. So the instructions were to take a blood pressure medication, should that happen, wait 20, 30 minutes and then take the blood pressure again to check whether it's come down. So that's why I had to get the machine, and I had to do that for definitely a few, at least the first two weeks.
And if things didn't settle with the medication, or I felt infinitely worse, which means if I had any eyesight issues or my legs started blowing up and swelling more than it already was, then I had to go to hospital immediately for an emergency, um, checkup. But thankfully things settled and so up till now I still have the machine because with my second pregnancy, Given that I had experienced hypertension related to pregnancy in my first round, I had to make sure that things were going well the second time around.
So, It was great to have this at home and was also useful in my second postpartum experience, uh, here in Germany, just in case when I was feeling unwell or dizzy and, you know, all those symptoms. Then I had something on hand to check and make sure everything was all right. So that's the first device that I collected during this pregnancy journey or this journey in becoming a mom.
Um, and the second one, the second device I collected, well, was prescribed to me, was during my second pregnancy here in Germany. I got diagnosed with mild gestational diabetes, so diabetes related to pregnancy, which in a way wasn't really surprising to me because of two things. One, in my first pregnancy, when I was given the glucose challenge test, I failed the first time and then I went for a second test and then I passed. So all good. I did not have gestational diabetes the first time around, but the second time when I went for the test, I was like, oh no, I bet I'm gonna fail it. And this is not a case where, You know, you can will it to happen or not.
It's what the body does during pregnancy, um, which I will explore in different episodes to tell you what happens to the body in pregnancy and after, and all these changes. Essentially in pregnancy, it makes the entire body more susceptible to having high blood sugar. The general physiology in very simple terms, um, explained that way, and also my ethnicity, my Southeast Asian, Malaysian, and Chinese ethnicity and genetics is a risk factor for developing gestational diabetes.
So all said and done. I was quite disappointed because I had intense sugar cravings during both pregnancies. So to have the official diagnoses of mild gestational diabetes means that I accrued the blood pressure machine, um, which came with. The pricks for the fingers, the reader itself for the blood glucose levels.
And of course, I got these strips that will have to go into the machine and the dreaded lancets to prick my fingers. Now this is where. The appreciation for all the patients that I've seen in the past when I was practicing medicine, the appreciation for their, um, for their journey really kicked in. I truly understood and also was really thankful that my diabetes wasn't to a point where I needed medication or insulin shots.
It was well controlled with diet, so it really made me appreciate how difficult it is to keep up with pricking yourself every day, how much it actually hurts, although it's a very surface prick, but still a few times a day, every day, all the time, and logging things. I fully understood why it's so difficult to be consistent with monitoring and also how difficult it is to be consistent with the treatment, in my case diet.
But also unfortunately because I did get gestational diabetes during the second pregnancy, it means that next time if we do wanna have another child and I do get pregnant, it's something I absolutely have to watch out for and going forward as I get older, my risk of developing type two diabetes is probably, unfortunately a lot higher.
So as much as I don't fit the bill of a, um, stereotypical unhealthy person, I. I have a lot of things that I've accumulated in the journey of becoming a mom that I need to watch out for as I get older so that I don't develop those health conditions. And now the third device that I got, I only got it two days ago, actually, um, two days before recording, um, this episode.
And it's called a CPAP machine. CPAP. It's an acronym for continuous positive Airway Pressure. And what it is, it's a device to treat sleep apnea. Well. What is sleep apnea? I'm gonna cover this in detail in a few episodes because I've been documenting my journey as a patient. And, uh, honesty here, I am not a good patient at all.
Um, This machine helps keep my airways open at night when I'm sleeping so they don't collapse. Sleep apnea is a condition that affects people when they're sleeping at night, where the airways collapse, which is why a symptom of sleep apnea is extremely loud snoring. So imagine a pipe that has a lot smaller opening and air's rushing through it, it's gonna create a lot of vibrations, hence the snoring.
For me, I got diagnosed about a month ago and insurance and stuff. That's why it took a while for me to get my device here in Germany. Um, my sleep study showed 28.8 apnea episodes per hour, which means 28.8 times within an hour of sleeping at the sleep clinic where I did my sleep study, I stopped breathing.
For 28.8 times, and during those times, my oxygen levels in my body dropped below 90%. Not good. What that essentially means for my body is instead of getting good quality sleep at night, I am in a fight or flight mode. My whole body is up in arms. It's not resting because every time I start to snore during my sleep, there is a chance of my airways getting completely blocked and my oxygen levels going down, and my body's going, oh my gosh, you, you gotta do something. Like, Hey, wake up.
So not great. And, As much as I am so sad about this diagnosis, I'm also glad I finally got it checked out because the snoring for me started in my first pregnancy. And you know, you could think back and ask me, well, you're a doctor. You know these things. Why didn't you get checked out? Well, being a doctor is one thing, having the knowledge. Is another thing, but I'm also human and having seen the end point or the severe points of these conditions in hospital, sometimes if I don't go check it out and don't get diagnosed, then I don't venture into that realm.
That human part of me really kicked in and, uh, being stubborn and a bad patient, I, I just. Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance was bliss at at those time, unfortunately the snoring during my pregnancy didn't go away in the first postpartum experience. The snoring continued in my second pregnancy and it continued.
well. Two years later. And then, you know, my husband told me, he's like, you really gotta go get checked out. Your snoring is bad. He gets woken up by my snoring. And that's saying a lot because he snores as well, but he has to. Brush me awake, throw pillows at me to get me to stop snoring.
And the worst part is I also snore this badly and loudly while sleeping, reclined. So we have a recliner couch in the living room, and I slept there for most of the pregnancy because I had a lot of other pains and things. But then he could still hear me snoring from the living room while he's in the bedroom.
That's not good. Not good at all. So I finally got checked out and here we are with the diagnosis and I finally got my device. And I must say I have forgotten what it feels like to wake up feeling refreshed because the last four years as a mom, I've only known exhaustion, which. I figured it's common.
It's, you know, we've got two young kids. The lifestyle is hectic, plus I, I'm choosing to do a lot of these things like the podcast and all my other work. So, I do sacrifice sleep in general. But you know, there are symptoms where even though with less sleep, I still shouldn't feel the level of exhaustion that I did to a point where I was falling asleep and literally not being able to stay awake like I just had to sleep in the afternoon.
But anyway, let me show you my device now. Um, this is the mask. So for those of you who are listening on the podcast. I have a sleep apnea mask, which is, um, it's a silicone. Uh, structure, it goes around my head. And for those of you seeing this on YouTube, I'm not gonna put it on, but the nose part just covers my nose only, which is so good compared to the machines I've seen what, 10 years ago in the hospitals, um, where they're really cumbersome.
Huge. Just something. Really stuck in your face and, blowing pressure into your face. It's not fun. But wow. The, the devices today and the mask today are amazing. So my mask, um, the entire part around my head and face is made out of really soft silicone, so it feels really comfortable and, the machine itself is another advancement that I'm so impressed with.
Which really makes me excited to get treatment for this because it actually doesn't really interfere with my sleep. Um, and I still breastfeed my two year old, almost two year old. So I, when I tested the mask, at the medical device clinic, I tried different positions and different masks to see which setup would allow my baby to be next to me.
Um, you know, and the tubes out of the way. So again, The silicone parts are really soft. It only covers my nose and the tubing that connects the machine to the mask, it attaches to the top of my head, so that's great. It doesn't get in the way whether I'm sleeping on my back, on the side, and it actually feels really comfortable.
Now the machine itself is so fancy nowadays. It's amazing. It's so tiny. So for those of you listening, I'm showing this on YouTube now. It's got an SD card attached to it where it can collect all my sleep information remotely. But the actual machine itself is, I don't know, it's got its own wifi. Like I didn't even have to connect it to my home wifi like it.
I don't know how they do it. Um, but everything. All the data from each night will automatically be uploaded to the cloud system that I've given them access to these information so that if anything goes wrong with the machine, they can troubleshoot it from their clinics, from their place. And if the doctor has got new prescription or new settings, I don't have to bring my device into his clinic. He just uploads the, you know, the new settings and there I go. I sound so excited because, I've only done a short term in respiratory medicine where we deal with a lot of lung conditions and people with sleep apnea or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Who might need CPAP machine. And from what I remember a long time ago, those devices were still very cumbersome and the patients had to bring their device in to get it tuned up or have new settings put in, and it was just quite difficult for the patients to use the machine every night because it's just not comfortable.
So I was really worried at first going into it, but so glad in a sense that I got diagnosed today in 2023 to be able, to have access to such technology and advancements that the last two nights, um, the recorded. Sleep apnea episodes was one or less per hour.
So from snoring so loudly and having, an average of 28 apnea episodes per hour, going down to one or nothing. I mean, I, I'm so happy. I'm so excited because I, I don't know how much of my postpartum depression, I don't know how much of that was worsened or compounded by undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea. I haven't felt great in the past few years, so yeah, it'll be interesting to see where the full treatment takes me and I'll be very excited to share with you the outcomes.
Share with you. My results. I wanna show you all the. Ups and downs and how low my oxygen dipped. And even even I was like, oh no, this is horrible. I do feel bad. I feel like I should have gotten it checked out way, way before. Um, but it's not the end of the journey, like using this machine is just the beginning of my sleep apnea treatment and the hope is to wean off the machine down the road so that I don't need it anymore.
Well, of course, unless I get pregnant again and start getting snoring again, then I'll need to use the machine. I think that's enough for a 35 year old who has been generally healthy before getting pregnant. I never really had many health issues, which is also something I definitely took for granted.
Going through the pregnancies and both postpartum journeys and having these things come up in my health has definitely made me take a step back to appreciate how things were before. And, uh, It's definitely helping me stop taking things for granted going forward.
So I hope this has been a fun one for you to hear something different. And for those of you watching, I hope you had fun looking at all the devices that I have. Um, I would love to hear from you if this is something you've experienced. So please write to me, you can leave a comment on, uh, the YouTube video if you're watching this or if you're listening to this in the podcast. Please use the contact form. I'm gonna put the link in the show notes and write to me.
And yeah, if you wanna learn more, let me know too and I'll do separate episodes for each device, talk about each condition and see where we go from here. Well, I had a lot of fun doing this kind of story time and show and tell and I think I will keep up these story time segments from time to time.
I think it'll break up the heaviness of information and discussions when I talk about more serious topics.
Welcome to the blog post for Episode 6 of The Postpartum Wellness Show!
Today, I'm taking you on a different kind of journey - a journey that's deeply personal and close to my heart. I'll be sharing some of my stories and experiences with pregnancy and postpartum. It's a glimpse into the rollercoaster ride I've been on, filled with twists, turns, and unexpected challenges that shaped my perspective on motherhood and wellness.
The Beginning: A Twist at the End of My First Birthing Experience
My journey into motherhood started with the excitement of pregnancy. But also a great fear because everything I learned about the dangers of pregnancy in medical school came flooding back to me.
But reassured by my generally good health before becoming pregnant, I allowed myself to feel joy, and started anticipating a smooth journey. But life had a different plan, lah.
Toward the end of my first pregnancy, my blood pressure that usually sits low (systolic 100 or 110 is my average) started creeping up to around 130. Still not too bad and I expected it to be temporary. It should go away once I give birth.
But guess what? Nope. My blood pressure decided to do the opposite once I had given birth.
It shot up to the mid 150s to 160 systolic! Didn't wanna budge. Fluctuated around there. And it got my OBGYN worried too.
I was plunged into the realm of potential postpartum eclampsia - a condition I'd only read about in medical school. The textbook content was becoming intimate as I grappled with the realities of pregnancy-related health risks and the need for vigilant self-monitoring.
So, I got my first medical device due to a pregnancy-related health condition. A home blood pressure machine!
The Unexpected Diagnosis: Gestational Diabetes in Round Two
The second pregnancy marked a new chapter, but it brought with it yet another curveball. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes was the last thing I needed. I loved my carbs (my RICE!) and I had intense sugar cravings. Sometimes, I'd eat a whole cake for a meal.
Despite having treated diabetic patients in the past when I was practicing medicine, the reality of the condition was a challenge I hadn't fully anticipated. Monitoring my daily blood glucose levels and having to adhere to dietary changes to control my blood sugars put into context the complexities of diabetes in daily life and the unique challenges my patients had to endure.
I was definitely humbled by this experience and I had an appreciation of being in my patient's shoes.
Snoring Nights and Sleep Apnoea
Pregnancy and postpartum journeys are never one-size-fits-all, and mine took another unexpected turn into the realm of sleep apnoea. The snoring that I had developed during my first pregnancy had evolved into a deeper health concern.
Sleep apnoea is a condition where the airways get blocked during sleep, causing the body to be deprived on oxygen during those moments. Biggest warning signs that you may have sleep apnoea are daytime sleepiness and extreme fatigue, plus frequently snoring so loudly that it interrupts others. Or you snore so violently that you wake yourself up! I had all those symptoms.
So, with my diagnosis of sleep apnea, I got my CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine and started my treatment at home. I had forgotten what it felt like to wake from a good quality restful sleep. I'm definitely a lot less cranky in the daytime, have better mood overall, and feel less exhausted in the afternoons!
Final Thoughts: Embracing My Health Journey
I think all the medical devices I've collected from both my pregnancies and postpartum journeys is enough for this 35 year old who has been generally healthy before getting pregnant. These experiences made me realise that I've never really had health issues before getting pregnant, which is something I definitely took for granted.
Going forward, I'll definitely make better effort to take care of my health so that I can enjoy my motherhood journey and being a woman!
Like what you read and want more?
Get your free 15-Minute Postpartum and Maternal Wellness Discovery Call with Dr. Kristal Lau now!
Prefer video? Watch this episode below!