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Heart failure is an issue for new moms, and doctors need to start listening

New moms may not be recognized as being at risk, but we are.

Heart failure is an issue for new moms, and doctors need to start listening

When Cathy was 41 weeks pregnant, medical professionals were sure she was developing preeclampsia. Fearful of the complications, they recommended inducing birth, which led to 57 hours in labor, a steady stream of fluids and an eventual C-section.


All of which likely exacerbated the real problem: Cathy had undiagnosed peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), a rare but life-threatening form of heart failure that can develop in the last month of pregnancy or in the first five months postpartum, according to the American Heart Association.

Five days postpartum and unable to catch her breath, Cathy went to the emergency room where the doctor ruled out a heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism. Even though blood work revealed an elevated cardiac enzyme and her severely swollen lower extremities should have signaled a problem, Cathy says the doctor was dismissive.

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"He looked at the CAT scan and he was like, 'Well maybe you have some mini lung collapses because of the C-section and all the fluid, so just try to take really deep breaths and try to walk more,'" Cathy recalls to Motherly.

During a follow-up with her general practitioner two days later, Cathy says it took just "30 seconds" of listening to her heart for her doctor to determine something was wrong. Back at the hospital, an echocardiogram confirmed the PPCM diagnosis and she was given prescriptions for medications that immediately began helping.

For hundreds of new mothers, the outcome is worse. According to a new study in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, rising rates of heart failure among postpartum women is contributing to rising maternal mortality rates in the United States—with 26% of pregnancy-related deaths attributable to heart conditions.

Cathy's experience is representative of why this continues to occur: As multiple studies have shown, women are more likely to be misdiagnosed when they are having a cardiac event than men. Much of this is because men's cardiac symptoms often present in the more "typical" way with chest pain or shortness of breath. Meanwhile, women are more likely than men to have symptoms of nausea or to have pain in the neck or back.

"Doctors may be more likely to attribute those symptoms to anxiety than heart disease," said Kim Lavoie, a professor of psychology at the University of Quebec at Montreal and co-author of a 2016 study on the topic. "So, in other words, a diagnostic bias may occur."

This is true across the board for women and especially so among young women—including new mothers—who are not viewed as being at risk for cardiac incidents. But as the recent findings have shown, this is a dangerous assumption.

In her case, Cathy says it seemed medical professionals were too quickly satisfied with the explanation of preeclampsia. "I kept saying, 'We don't have this. It's not what I'm feeling, regardless of what they labs might be saying, this isn't what I'm experiencing,'" she says, explaining her elevated resting heart rate should have signaled there was more at play. "Even if someone just said, 'Let's do an echocardiogram just to check'… We could have left the hospital after the C-section with meds instead of having to figure it out."

Five months out from her diagnosis, Cathy continues to take medication to manage the condition and copes with daily side-effects of fatigue. Still, she says she considers herself lucky that her situation wasn't worse, especially after connecting with a community of PPCM survivors and learning just how dire it could have been if she hadn't advocated for more care.

That's why she's now passionate about raising awareness—and encouraging other families to stand up for themselves if they feel a diagnosis isn't right. Rare as a condition like PPCM may be, she says, "If you know someone who's pregnant, just tell them… this is actually a thing."

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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