Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Herbal Tea for Your Baby Bump

For centures, women have used herbs for everything from hemmrhoids to hot flashes. However, pregnant mamas need to use caution when reaching for just any traditional remedy. Herbs are powerful, that's why they work. Many drugs come from a plant initially. Some herbs are wonderful for pregnancy, and some are best left alone.

Here are three nutritional and healing herbs to use when pregnant.
  1. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is the classic, hands down favorite pregnancy herb. It is a uterine tonic high in Vitamins B,C and E. It is also rich in calcium, potassium and iron. However, it is not recommended for women who have a history of miscarriages or pre term labor. Most women can safely consume it  during the last month of pregnancy. Check with your health care provider to determine effective ways of incorporating it into your daily routine.
  2. Oatstraw is rich in calcium and magnesium making it a great one to help calm nerves and anxiety in pregnancy when emotions can run high. It also helps with leg cramps. 
  3. Ginger is wonderful to help alleviate morning sickness or nausea. 
  4. Nettles are busting with calcium, potassium, iron, and Vitamins A,C and K. These are essential for fighting infection, building bones and muscles and rich blood. Be careful if you are picking them, they will "sting."
As always check with your healthcare provider before embarking on any nutritional plan.

Recommended reading:

Top Three Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Midwife

When choosing a midwife or doctor to attend your upcoming birth, it is important to establish what their philosophy of birth is. There are three questions you can ask to see if you and your potential caregiver are on the same page.

1) Will I have the freedom to move around freely?
  • Walking, swaying, rocking, standing in the shower, sitting on the toilet, kneeling, hands and knees, etc. are all very important. That helps baby align himself in the pelvis correctly. If they keep you in bed, baby doesn't have enough room to adjust, then he gets stuck or doesn't descend well.

2) Can I choose my own birth position?
  • Lying on your back benefits ONLY the doctor/ midwife, not you or baby. In fact it is much harder to give birth on your back, that is why so many women end up with episiotomies, forceps, vacuum extractor, cesareans. An upright position makes use of gravity.

3) Will I have the freedom to eat and drink in labor?

  • This is important because you will be working very hard, and you need to be nourished. If you are denied nourishment, many times the uterus just stops working efficiently if it has been a long labor.
Everything else (amniotomy, electronic fetal monitors, I.V.'s, episiotomies, etc.) are also important, but those are questions to be asked after the first three are answered to your satisfaction.

If they truly support women birthing naturally, they will not have difficulty answering these three basic questions. If not, keep searching. There are caregivers who support women in birth.

You just have to find them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Postpartum Self-Care

For nine months you have been taking care of baby by taking care of yourself. Eating healthy foods that include lots of protein, fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains and limiting your intake of processed foods and unhealthy snacks. You could feel good about your exercise sessions, knowing that in turn, you and baby would benefit when it came time for the birth. It was a two for one special, take care of you and the benefit is you also took care of baby.

Now that baby is here, everything has changed. Between changing diapers, midnight feedings, consoling her when she's lonely and hunting for a fresh outfit when the last diaper didn't hold up, it's easy to feel that there is little time for taking care of yourself. Mom care. After baby care, bill paying, cleaning, groceries and cooking where is there time to take care of yourself?

First of all, it's important to see the absolute need to care for yourself. You can't wait until baby is older to take care of your own needs. Learn how to adjust your new life as a mommy to include time for your own self care. When mom is taken care of, everybody is happier!

  1. Eat like you're still pregnant. OK, you can cut down on the quantity a bit, but still look for healthy options and take your prenatal during the postpartum period and while breastfeeding. 
  2. Exercise at least twenty minutes a day. Once you have your midwife/doctors clearance for exercising, get back into a good exercise routine. Start with familiar exercises like pelvic rocks and deep breathing. Avoid anything strenuous at first. A postpartum yoga routine can be helpful.
  3. Chill for twenty minutes a day. Take some time to sit or lie comfortably and just focus on your breathing. Meditation/relaxation practice calms your nerves, lower your heart rate and raises your endorphins, those feel good hormones.
  4. Do what you want. Once a day, do something you enjoy. It might be as simple as calling a friend, or reading a feel good fictional book, or inviting your neighbor in for tea and adult conversation.
  5. Get out there, girl! Once a week (minimum) get out and see friends, go to the park, a museum, window shopping with the girls or lunch out with your sister. 
  6. Write it down. Get a notebook or journal and write out your feelings, plans, dreams. Write down something positive from your day, as well as pouring out your heart on paper.
  7. Keep meals simple. A little planning ahead before baby comes can help with this. A few weeks before your due date make double batches of your favorite meals and put them in the freezer. Gather simple ideas for meals that are quick and healthy. 
  8. Go with the flow. Accept that not ever day is going to flow as smoothly as you had hoped and just "go with it." Accepting situations as they are is a good lesson in life and parenting in general.
  9. Stay connected with your partner/spouse. He is probably tired, too. Eat together when you can, sit on the couch for a few minutes each day to cuddle and catch up on each others day. 
  10. Join a mommy group in your community for social time that meets you and baby's needs. 
Remember, when you take care of your own needs and allow yourself to recharge before becoming depleted, you are also taking care of your baby by giving her a mom that is rested, healthy and happy. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Childbirth Without Fear

Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware … To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory. She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.” ~ Grantly Dick-Read 
This quote is from a classic book on childbirth, "Childbirth Without Fear." That was one of the first books I read when I was expecting my first child in 1984. I was 19 years old, scared and excited all at the same time. Fortunately, for me, I was surrounded by women who were experienced in natural childbirth, who were confident at breastfeeding, and very much "attachment parenting" type moms, although that term wasn't coined until later. They nurtured me into my childbearing years, showing me the way simply by their very presence. They let me live life with them. When my first beautiful baby was welcomed into this world by cesarean, they lovingly helped me breastfeed, and eventually helped me find my way to Bradley Classes and a doctor who supported VBAC. They mentored me, loved me, and created a safe place for me to ask questions. 
The quote above reminds me of those precious days, and how fortunate I was to have such dear friends. I don't remember which of them told me to read Dr. Grantly Dick-Read's book, but it had a profound impact on my view of birth. And, I must add, that I experienced that "spiritual uplifting", an empowerment like none other with my 5 VBAC's. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

To Doula or NOT to Doula....That is the Question!

A doula is someone who mothers the mother. She offers support before, during and after birth. Her presence can be calming and reassuring. For much of recorded history, women have been attended by other females in labor. Sisters, aunts, neighbors and friends would be helpers at a birth. Their training was simply their previous experience doing this for others in the community.

Now there are doula training organizations that teach women the skills needed to be an effective doula. DONA, CAPPA, ICEA, ALACE and Intuitive Doula are some of the organizations that offer doula training. Doula's who have experienced natural childbirth have their own life experiences, as well.

A doula is not a medical person. She holds your hand, applies warm or cool compresses, coaches you through tough contractions. She can inform, instruct, educate and explain hospital jargon. She cannot negotiate with the doctor for you, but you can consult with her when making a decision about your care. She will help you change positions in labor, help with communication with your birth team and be like an older, wiser sister to encourage and help during the birth.

Another role of the doula is to support your partner. She can get him some food or drink, take over coaching while he catches a nap, talk with the family in the waiting room, take pictures so your partner can focus on you and the baby, etc.

A good doula will honor your wishes, and support you as a strong, capable birthing woman. She will honor your partners place at the birth and view her role as supportive of  the two of you. Interview a few doula's and think about which one you feel at home with. She will be with you during your most vulnerable moments.

The decision to hire a doula is personal. Many women find it comforting to have the emotional support of another woman in labor. Consider your own birthing philosophy and look for a doula who supports your choices.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rock On, Mama!

Having a baby is not an event to take lying down. When mom moves around, swaying, walking, rocking on a birthing ball she works with her body and gravity to help bring baby down into the pelvic cavity. One of my all time favorite prenatal exercises, the pelvic rock, is a useful move during pregnancy, first stage labor, second stage labor and postpartum. This is truly a "mom" exercise that can have wonderful benefits for the whole nine months and beyond.

  1. Assume a hands and knees position on the floor. 
  2. Rock the pelvis forward and back. If you were standing up it would look like a move from an exotic dance, no worries you are on your hands and knees here! 
Benefits in pregnancy:
  1. Tones abs.
  2. Relieves back pressure.
  3. Increases circulation to the legs and pelvic cavity, thus reducing the risk of varicose veins.
Uses in labor:
  1. Promotes optimum fetal positioning.
  2. Relieves back pressure from descent of baby.
  3. Relieves back pressure due to posterior position of baby.
  4. Encourages baby to rotate from posterior to anterior position.
  5. Alternate pushing position for second stage to facilitate a posterior presentation or birth of a large baby.
Postpartum benefits:
  1. Encourages circulation to promote healing.
  2. Helps align organs after the birth.
  3. Tones lower abs.
Rock on, mama! 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Inner Knowing

The knowledge of how to give birth without outside intervention lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on an acceptance of the process.
Suzanne Arms

When a woman believes in her body's ability to give birth, she opens herself to the power and amazing adventure of birthing. She possesses an inner knowing, a primal knowlege at the gut or heart level. However, in our frantic and fear driven world, that message is questioned, ridiculed, despised. As a childbirth educator, one of my main messages to the strong, capable women who come to my classes, is that they already have everything they need. Within their own heart and body are the strength and wisdom to birth their baby. 

Confidence needs to replace fear.
Surrender to replace control.
Respect to override unnecessary interference.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Giving Birth


We give donations, hugs, smiles and friendly advice. We give a little or a lot, depending on the situation.Giving is something we DO.

And a woman in labor gives birth. Give. It's an active verb. It is not passive. 

She does not need to "be delivered" of her child. She is not sick, nor is she in an emergency in most situations. She will birth the child herself.  Instead of an emergency, it is an emerg-ing. A child emerging from the comfort of the womb, a woman becomes a mother, as she gives birth.

Choose your birth team wisely and with care. Educate yourself about natural birth. Decide for yourself where this event should take place. Where you feel the safest is usually the best place for you.

Do not align yourself with any birth professional that does not support your right to give birth in a way that feels right to you. 

Believe in birth.

Believe in yourself.