Ask a Doctor Who’s Also a Mom

Ask a Doctor Who’s Also a Mom

When seeking precise health advice about children, it would seem like a logical course to ask a doctor. They’re the ones who have studied up on how bodies work and so should be able to give the best advice and tips regarding pregnancy, birth and raising a healthy child.

Jennifer Bright Reich, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides, made an interesting discovery, however. As a professional writer and editor, she’d had occasion to interview many doctors over the years. “During my interviews, one interesting thing would come up every now and again,” Reich told Natural Vitality Kids. “A doctor would say, ‘When my kids were little I used to do this.’ They would always say it in passing, like it was trivial. It interested me because I thought that if a doctor does something for his or her own family, it must be really good advice, since this doctor is also a parent and a busy person who doesn’t have time to mess around with things that don’t work.”

One day it just clicked for Reich, and she thought that tips from doctors who are also moms would be a great idea for a book, perhaps even a series of books.

Reich herself was seemingly made for such a venture. She had navigated the challenges of motherhood with her own two sons, making the most of the many tips she’d obtained from her doctors, family and friends. She is a writer with more than 10 years of publishing experience (including with well-respected Rodale), has contributed to over 150 books, and has published more than 100 magazine and newspaper articles.

Shortly after having the idea of tips from mom-doctors, Reich met the perfect one: board certified physician Rallie McAllister, a family doctor from Kentucky. McAllister is a mother of three and a broadly recognized health expert. Her nationally syndicated newspaper column, “Your Health,” appears in over 30 newspapers across the United States and Canada; she has been the featured medical expert on more than 100 radio and television shows, and is the former host of Rallie on Health, a weekly regional health magazine on WJHL News Channel 11 with over one million viewers in a five-state area, and No Bones About It, a weekly radio talk show.

“I myself had gone through three pregnancies,” Dr. McAllister told Natural Vitality Kids. “I realized that as a physician I was totally unprepared to face those pregnancies. It’s really necessary for pregnant young women these days to know more than I did. A lot of times you don’t learn everything you need to learn even from your doctor visits, and it’s interesting to note that many doctors who are also mothers have had similar experiences. We discovered that what we studied in medical school didn’t mean that much when it came right down to the actual experience of being pregnant.”

Reich and Dr. McAllister decided to team up, and in 2009 they formed a company for the purpose of creating books and a website. The site, The Mommy MD Guides, arrived soon thereafter, and their first book, The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, is now available.

The website is brimming with tips on getting through the different trimesters of pregnancy, handling toddlers, children’s health, advice on toys, and much more—all from mothers who are also doctors.

Through the site, Reich forwards recommendations from the Mommy MDs about products that they have found useful. “When I interview doctors, I often ask them questions about what products and brands they have found useful for their families, and even in which stores they shop,” Reich said. “We then share that valuable information through our books and on our website in ‘Mommy MD Guide–Recommended Product’ sidebars. We have also designed a ‘Mommy MD Guide–Recommended’ logo that we offer to those companies to place on their websites, or even on their products. I envision a time when women will look for our Mommy MD Guide–Recommended Product seal to help them simplify their purchasing decisions.”

Reich and Dr. McAllister talked with us about a number of different important issues facing mothers today. Reich sees “career guilt” as something many new moms have to overcome. “The guilt that moms feel at going back to work and the worry about leaving their children and getting good childcare has come up again and again,” she said. “A lot of the doctors who write for the site and are featured in the new book said they started looking for childcare very early because it was such a concern, and they did a lot of interviewing of people. These are women who don’t have as much chance as others of staying home—they are very educated and have careers, and it’s hard for them to walk away from that.”

Interestingly, Dr. McAllister sees a problem in over-reliance on the practice of medicine. “In many cases we’re ‘over-medicinized,’” she said. “We’ve made pregnancy a huge medical issue when it doesn’t always have to be. It’s a natural process. We in the medical community often create a lot of fear because that’s kind of our job; we have to look out for moms and make sure they are aware of things that can be potentially harmful for them or their unborn baby. But, at the same time, often our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. On the weakness side, we’ve sometimes made moms more fearful of what can go wrong, which results in taking pregnancy out of the hands of mothers and putting it only in the hands of medical professionals.”

Both Dr. McAllister and Reich see the necessity of turning to natural alternatives to drugs. “Natural alternatives come up quite a bit in our pregnancy book, because pregnant women experience so many things that we would normally turn to drugs for,” Reich explained. “Headaches, colds, flu and back pain are conditions that many people would just run to the medicine cabinet for, but when you’re pregnant you can’t. We have a number of natural solutions in our book, such as using a saline nasal spray if you have a stuffy nose, or trying a different kind of relaxing or stretching or massage if you have back pain—because of course in pregnancy you don’t want to be taking a lot of medications.”

Dr. McAllister agrees. “In many cases drugs can be absolutely lifesaving and can help the mother and the baby; we can’t discount their importance. But when it comes to conditions that could be prevented—and prevention is a key word—we need to use natural products as often as possible; for instance, heartburn, which, in the vast majority of cases, can be entirely prevented by lifestyle changes or by simple preventive steps, such as natural herbs. Drugs all have potential side effects and many of them are unknown. So I would encourage anybody, but particularly pregnant women, to try to prevent things first with wise lifestyle decisions and choices; and then, secondly, in cases that potentially aren’t very dangerous or life threatening, to try natural approaches instead of medications.”

There is also a great deal of attention today on pesticides and chemicals in food and the effects they might create. Dr. McAllister feels strongly about this subject too. “Whenever possible, I think it’s an excellent idea for everyone—especially expectant mothers and young children—to eat organic foods to avoid exposure to pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics,” she said. “In recent years, research has highlighted a number of important health risks associated with these chemical agents. It’s true that organic foods can be more expensive than non-organic foods. So, when it’s not possible to buy (or raise your own) organic fruits and vegetables, it’s important to thoroughly wash the produce you purchase in order to rinse off any chemical residues. Eating smaller serving sizes of meat and poultry can also help limit exposure.”

The Internet has opened the door to ventures like the Mommy MD Guides, from which expert advice can flow directly to the public. We hope there will be many more to come.

The Mommy MD Guides can be found at www.mommymdguides.com.