Your Healthy Honeymoon
By Walt Larimore, M.D, and Susan A. Crockett, M.D.
CBN.com A highly healthy honeymoon—one that is healthful—must balance physical, emotional, relational and spiritual health. Unless these four “marriage wheels” are balanced and inflated, then your ride down the road of marriage may be bumpy indeed and you may even be in for a flat tire along the way.
That’s why we’ve spent so much time in this book talking about the spiritual, relational and emotional aspects of marriage that form the foundation of a healthy honeymoon. There are also a number of physical health aspects to address.
Preparation for a Physically Healthful Honeymoon
We hope neither you nor your spouse will be in need of a physician during your honeymoon. To that end, some of what we’ll discuss here will help you prevent physical illness during your first week or two together as a married couple.
You’ll also find yourself better prepared for minor medical conditions and able to take care of them yourselves without the hassle of seeking inconvenient or expensive medical care while away. We’ll also help you identify when you need to go beyond self-treatment and seek outside medical care.
Since we’ve already dealt with the sexual health issues (physical, emotional, relational and spiritual), let’s turn our attention to some basic information for travel and general medical health, along with resources for identifying preparations or medical needs specific to your physical health and your honeymoon destination.
State Requirements for Health Testing for Marriage License
Some states still require that blood be drawn to test for sexually transmitted infections or genetic disorders before the issue of a marriage license. If you live in one of these states, it is very important that you comply with plenty of time to get the results back before the wedding. We recommend doing this at least one month or more before the wedding.
States that require blood tests:
• District of Columbia (Washington, DC)
• Montana (5)
General Travel Readiness
How would you rate your general physical health today? Do you eat healthily? Do you exercise? Do you manage stress well? Do you get enough sleep? Do you take your vitamins and other medications as prescribed? Do you make (and keep) your doctors’ appointments? How physically healthy would you like to be by the time you go on your honeymoon?
Bride-to-be, you are at risk for using extreme weight-loss plans and not using good stress management. Thin at what price? You do not want to enter your first week of marriage squeezed into that teeny-waisted wedding gown, weak from poor nutrition, exhausted from the stress, and fainting from lack of oxygen! That’s no way to enjoy your new husband!
Jenny, a patient of mine, is an example of this behavior. She was a bit overweight before her wedding. Rather than talk to me about a slow, steady and healthy increase in exercise combined with a healthy nutritional plan and plenty of refreshing rest and recreation, she followed the advice of her brother: He was a high school wrestler and had her follow a regimen of unhealthy fasting, the ingestion of potentially dangerous supplements and doing too much exercise in too short a period of time.
By Jenny’s wedding day, she had lost the weight she wanted to lose but was frail, tremulous and pale. Makeup made up for her pallor, but her body could not accommodate her compromised health. To the horror of everyone at her wedding, she fainted at the altar and could not be quickly revived. An ambulance was called, and after intravenous fluids, the shaken bride was able to return to and complete her wedding ceremony a few hours later. But she could not attend her reception and had to delay the honeymoon.
Men, you may not have the same reputation for extreme weight-loss schemes leading up to the wedding, but we’ve seen more than our share of men suffering from unhealthy activities—overeating, under-exercising, smoking, poor stress management. And most men are not as wise as the woman they are marrying in seeking preventive health care.
For example, the average woman consults a doctor 150 percent more frequently than does the average man and is significantly more likely to keep up with her annual medical visits.(6) The cost? Guys are significantly under-diagnosed for medical conditions such as high blood pressure, depression or diabetes—any of which can greatly affect honeymoon activities, not to mention marital and life expectancy!
Picture instead yourself and your spouse physically healthy, vivacious and vibrant on your honeymoon—tired maybe from the wedding planning and activities (and honeymoon activities) but healthy, strong and able to fully take pleasure in your new roles as husband and wife—emotionally, relationally and spiritually intact and growing.
How can you best get there? Begin today!
Healthy Lifestyle During Your Engagement
Choose to live a healthy lifestyle during your engagement—practicing good nutrition, and getting adequate sleep and regular exercise.
You may want to pick up a copy of my book God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Person.(7) At the start of the book is an assessment tool to self-rate your physical, emotional, relational and spiritual health. The book also includes an in-depth Relationship Questionnaire and a detailed Spiritual Life Profile that you and your fiancé can use to evaluate your health and wholeness.
You can also access my Assess Your Health Assessment Tool at www.DrWalt.com.
If You Choose to Lose Weight, Do So Wisely
Sue is a Weight Watchers lifetime graduate. After delivery of her fourth child in six years (Sue says, “Okay, maybe not the most healthy choice”), she found herself 65 pounds over her ideal body weight. One of the most challenging things she’s ever done was to lose that weight. She did it with the help of Weight Watchers—and she has kept it off.
We both highly recommend Weight Watchers (www.weightwatchers.com) for these reasons:
- Weight Watchers recommends dietary suggestions that are medically and nutritionally sound. The program teaches you how to eat healthily instead of handing you prepackaged meals.
- Weight Watchers recommends a reasonable exercise plan.
- Weight Watchers uses important tools for modifying behavior—education, accountability, a support group and a way to journal.
- Weight Watchers is affordably priced.
- Weight Watchers teaches and encourages lifelong health habits, not just how to lose weight.
- Weight Watchers is highly accessible and has local meetings in virtually every community in the United States. Still can’t make it? Log on to www.weightwatchers.com for an online version with great tools for managing your diet and health.
- Weight Watchers has a system that is clinically proven. If you follow it, it works.
Get a Premarital Preventive Medical Examination
I was pleased that both Scott and Jennifer had preventive examinations during their engagement. In Scott’s case, his primary care physician discovered a blood pressure problem that has a deep root in my wife’s family. Undiagnosed hypertension can lead to a bevy of medical problems (such as heart disease, heart attack or stroke) that can be prevented with early recognition and treatment. Without this examination, it’s likely that Scott may have gone many more years without recognizing this problem.
Make an appointment to visit your primary care physician (family physician, internist or obstetrician/gynecologist) and get a thorough general physical examination, especially if it has been more than a year since your last one.
Talk to your doctor about your general medical health, any concerns you might have and your plans for travel. (See destination-specific concerns and sexual health concerns sections for more topics to discuss at your visit.)
Make sure that you fill your prescriptions and pack medications with you when you travel. Also ask your doctor for a written prescription for each medicine you routinely take and have it with you on the trip. Your doctor can help you get fine-tuned and in shape for your honeymoon.
Stop Smoking or Using Tobacco Products
If you are a smoker or use tobacco products daily, we don’t have to tell you how
addictive they are. And you know as well as we do all of the reasons to stop—not the least of which is a longer life, a healthier life and healthier children when they come along.
What you may not know is that people who choose to stop smoking before their wedding (or before the birth of a child) are much more likely not only to stop successfully but also not as likely to fall back to tobacco use at a later time.
If you or your fiancé use tobacco products, there is no better time to stop than now. If you have any trouble, discuss this with your pharmacist or physician, who can be of great help to you.
Commit to Getting Enough Sleep During Your Engagement
This is especially true the week of the wedding. One wise future husband made his bride-to-be a promise to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night the week of the wedding—instead of his usual 5 hours of sleep per night—which left him groggy most of the day. Was she ever grateful!
Study the Ethical Concerns Regarding Birth Control Methods
In our experience, the choice of whether or not to use birth control, and a couple’s choice of the type of birth control, is an intensely personal decision fraught with emotional, moral and ethical consideration. When it comes to hormonal birth control, there is a debate among deeply pro-life, Christian physicians about whether hormonal birth control sometimes works by an abortifacient effect.
In other words, some physicians and researchers believe that hormonal birth control may, at times, cause an embryo not to implant in the uterus (the womb). If you believe, as we do, that life begins at conception (fertilization), then anything that unnaturally ends that life, before birth, would be an abortifacient (cause an abortion).
I believe this risk is possible, while Sue thinks it is unlikely.(8) Nevertheless, because this debate is so very complex and the ultimate decision you make, as a couple, will be deeply reflective of your religious and moral views and will also be influenced by your physical health and mutual desire for children, we cannot hope to begin to offer appropriate individual counsel in the format of this book.
Rather, we encourage you to study this controversy together and discuss birth control with your pastor, priest or rabbi, as well as your mentor couple and personal physician.(9)
Talk About Your Physical Health Expectations
Take some time to sit down and talk with each other about your health expectations for each other in marriage. Think about how you want to encourage and care for each other.
Most engaged couples take for granted that they will live together (and sleep together) as a married couple. Many underestimate the impact that a married couple has on each other’s health habits.
Start your marriage off on the right foot, during your honeymoon, with good married health habits. Eat healthy meals together. Exercise together. Stop bad habits (such as smoking) together. Encourage each other to keep physically healthy for a lifelong healthy marriage.
Consider Menstrual Manipulation or Menstrual Shifting
One recent advance in hormonal birth control medicines is the development of continuous dosing birth control pills. Rather than having a period every month, women using this medication have a period every three months (only four periods a year), thus reducing any problems that may be aggravated by monthly cycling, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhea (painful menses), fibroids, abnormal or heavy menstrual bleeding, or pelvic pain. In addition to daily oral pills, continuous dosing methods also include injectable, implantable, patch and vaginal ring devices.
Not only can these medications be used to stop periods for these reasons, but they may also be used to safely prevent menstruation at inconvenient times, such as during your wedding and honeymoon. Talk to your doctor about continuous dosing of contraceptive medication when you go for your pre-wedding checkup.
Another technique we have recommended for honeymoon couples is menstrual shifting. Instead of stopping periods completely, this technique just shifts the period for a week or two so that it does not coincide with the wedding. This technique requires about 6 months advance planning to adjust the body to the new cycles without breakthrough bleeding problems; so if the wedding is closer than that, please don’t start trying to shift things around now.
In order to find out when your period is due, use the menstrual calendar in appendix E. Look at your last six cycles, calculate your average cycle length by counting the number of days from the beginning of one menses to the beginning of the next.
A normal menstrual cycle length is 26 to 35 days. If you are taking regular cycling birth control pills, your cycle length is 28 days. Using your average cycle length and the first day of your last menstrual period, mark your predicted menstrual cycles for the months leading up to your wedding. In order to shift a period, it is far easier to shorten a cycle length (make a period start early) than it is to lengthen it (make it start later).
Using birth control pills, your doctor can help you schedule shortened cycles to adjust your period to fall just before your wedding. Prepare at least six months in advance, if you wish to shift the date of your period to not coincide with your wedding date or honeymoon.
Update Your Immunizations
In general, you both should be current on the following immunizations, recommended for all adults, whether you are traveling or not, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can find more detailed information at the CDC website.(10)
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP)
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Hepatitis A and B
If you have additional risk factors for disease based on your lifestyle, work environment, medical conditions or otherwise, you may also need to be vaccinated with the following:
- Influenza (usually only given October through December of each year)
Whether you are planning a honeymoon close to home or a more ambitious foreign trip, we want you to be physically healthy before and during your trip. Even beyond that, part of having a long and happy marriage is taking good care of that earth-suit the Creator gave each of us! If you are not already making healthy daily choices, we encourage you to begin today. That’s the best way we know to help you have the healthiest honeymoon (and marriage) for a lifetime.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/travel and www.cdc.gov/nip/recs/adult-schedule.pdf.
Larimore, Walt. God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Person. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004.
Travel Health Online. www.tripprep.com.
Weight Watchers. www.weightwatchers.com.
From The Honeymoon of Your Dreams, © 2007 by Walt Larimore, M.D. & Susan A. Crockett, M.D. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
(5). “Chart: State Marriage License and Blood Test Requirements,” Nolo. http://www.nolo.com/article.cfm/ObjectID/586AC0B4-0435-4D7C-BD06608979A6CBF9/
catID/697DBAFE-20FF-467A-9E9395985EE7E825/118/304/192/ART (accessed September 10, 2006)
(6). “Men’s Health,” Doctors 4 U. http://www.doctors-4u.com/mens_health.htm (accessed September 10, 2006).
(7). Larimore. God’s Design for a Highly Healthy Person.
(8). Both Sue and I have published a number of reference articles on this topic:
(a) Walter L. Larimore, “Postfertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and Their Relationship to Informed Consent,” Archives of Family Medicine, vol. 9 (2000), pp. 126-133. The article can be viewed online at http://www.polycarp.org/larimore_stanford.htm (accessed October 25, 2006).
(b) Walt Larimore and Randy Alcorn, “Using the Birth Control Pill Is Ethically Unacceptable,” quoted in J.F. Kilner, P.C. Paige and W.D Hager, eds., The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies and the Family (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2000), pp. 179-191.
(c) Walter L. Larimore, “The Abortifacient Effect of the Birth Control Pill and the Principle of ‘Double Effect,’” Ethics and Medicine, vol. 16, no. 1 (2000), pp. 23-30. The article can be viewed online at http://www.epm.org/pilldebate2.html (accessed October 25, 2006).
(d) Susan A. Crockett, Joseph DeCook, Donna Harrison and C. Hersh, “Hormone Contraceptives Controversies and Clarifications,” ProLife Obstetrician, April 1999.
(e) Susan A. Crockett, Joseph DeCook, Donna Harrison and C. Hersh, “Using Hormone Contraceptives Is a Decision Involving Science, Scripture and Conscience,” quoted in J. F. Kilner, P.C. Paige and W.D. Hager, eds., The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the Family pp. 192-201.
(9). See William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn, The Contraception Guidebook: Options, Risks, and Answers for Christian Couples (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2005). Here are some views you can study:
(a) “Possible Post-fertilization Effects of Hormonal Birth Control,” Christian Medical and Dental Associations. This position statement can be viewed at http://www.cmawashington.org
/index.cgi?BISKIT=7049854&CONTEXT=art&art=1183 (accessed October 25, 2006).
(b) “Birth Control Pills and Other Hormonal Contraception,” Focus on the Family Position Statement. This position statement can be viewed at http://family.org/corrpdfs/Miscellaneous/Position_Statement-
(c) Randy Alcorn, A Dialogue About Birth Control (Sandy, OR: Eternal Perspective Ministries, 1999). Available at http://www.epm.org/articles/dialogue.html (accessed October 25, 2006).
(d) Randy Alcorn, Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? 5th ed. (Sandy, OR: Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2000). Available at http://www.epm.org/bcp.html (accessed October 25, 2006).
(e) Robert Fleischmann, The Christian and Birth Control: the Pill (Milwaukee, WI: Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Lutherans for Life, 1999). You can search their website, from their home page, http://www.wels.net/, for several articles on birth control and the birth control pill. You can find several examples on these sites:
(f) William F. Colliton, Jr., “Is It an Abortifacient and Contraceptive? Believe It – the Answer is Yes!” Available at http://www.all.org/article.php?id=10193 (accessed October 25, 2006).
(g) Trewhella, M. “The Protest of a Protestant Minister Against Birth Control.” Missionaries to the Preborn. http://www.missionariestopreborn.com/default.asp?fuseaction
=bc_protestantprotest (accessed September 10, 2006).
(10). “Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule, by Vaccine and Age Group, October 2005-September 2006,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.org/nip/recs/adult-schedule.pdf (accessed September 10, 2006).
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