Expectations

August 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Sometimes things just don’t happen the way we expected. In fact, this is true so often for me that I wonder why I even bother predicting how things will go! For example…

Harder than I ever expected

  • Establishing breastfeeding.  Shouldn’t something so “natural” come naturally to us?  Holy cow. So hard the first time.  So many contraptions (nipple shield, syringe, pump, etc.) to get us going.  But it was so worth the agony of those first days/weeks and easy peasy with babies #2, #3, #4.

Improving your epidural birth

November 18, 2010 at 8:46 am

Back in August, a close friend from college specifically requested that I do some posts for women like her who plan to have epidurals. So I wrote the first in a supposed series of “Improving your epidural birth” posts, encouraging pregnant women to “hire wisely” when choosing a care provider.

This morning I got feeling bad that I haven’t written any more posts for that series, and I suddenly realized that I have! In fact, the vast majority of the posts I’ve written over the last six months are on topics that would be of interest to all women, not just those who choose to forgo pharmaceutical pain relief in childbirth. And scanning three+ years of posts on my old blog brought up many more.

So, with all of that in mind, I give you some of my best tips for improving your epidural birth (besides carefully choosing a care provider), gleaned from my blog (and other helpful sites) over the years.

1) Prepare your body for pregnancy.

The more I learn, the more I realize that the groundwork for a really wonderful birth experience must be laid long before labor begins. When you nourish and take care of yourself, your body will be stronger and better able to perform its vital functions in pregnancy and childbirth. A strong, healthy body is much less likely to suffer complications that can have a detrimental and traumatic impact on your birth experience.

Many of the same things that will best prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy will also improve your chances of conceiving—eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low on processed foods, maintaining a healthy weight, optimizing your body’s levels of key nutrients (vitamin d, magnesium, essential fatty acids, and folate).  Making these dietary and lifestyle changes habits before conception will make them much easier to maintain throughout the coming pregnancy and beyond. 

Protecting your perineum (from the inside out)

November 9, 2010 at 9:04 am

IMG_36311Someone I love gave birth last week for the first time. We talked on the phone about her experience a few days later. While she felt really good about how everything went, she was hurting. An episiotomy+tearing, back pain from her epidural, plus the normal pain associated with initiating breastfeeding were wearing on her. Having experienced some severe tearing with my first birth, I gave her my solidarity. Recovering from perineal trauma was some of the most excruciating physical pain I’ve ever experienced! I’d take labor pains over that any day.

During our phone conversation, she mentioned that one of the nurses at the hospital had asked her if she ate meat (she does eat a little, mostly chicken). Seems like a strange question, but apparently the nurses at that hospital had noticed a trend among the women they attended in labor: in their experience, women who were vegetarians were more likely to tear. A statement like that calls for some follow-up research, no? I jumped on it and starting digging around in the scientific literature to see what dietary substances are associated with increased skin elasticity. I never really found a clear-cut answer to the vegetarian question, but I did find lots of other cool information.

I’ve posted before about how to prevent tears from the outside in, but now I know a whole slew of ways we may be able to protect our perineums from the inside out. These are some dietary additions you may want to make if you’re hoping to prevent tears (and improve your skin and health in general):

Honey for healing tears

July 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Back in January of ’09 I read this great little tidbit in the Midwifery Today E-News:

Raw honey is a great remedy for first-degree [perineal] tears. Honey’s thick consistency forms a barrier defending the wound from outside infections. The moistness allows skin cells to grow without creating a scar, even if a scab has already formed. Meanwhile, the sugars extract dirt and moisture from the wound, which helps prevent bacteria from growing, while the acidity of honey also slows or prevents the growth of many bacteria.

Avoiding tearing and episiotomies

July 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Giving birth for the first time was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. My water broke, my contractions started, everything progressed smoothly, and, less than six hours later, my baby girl was born. It was an ideal birth experience, except for one thing. That one thing made my next few weeks of recovery extremely painful. I tore. I really tore.

Despite the painful recovery, this was actually the lesser of two evils for me. Though some caregivers continue to cut episiotomies in as many as 80% of their patients, medical research does not support routine episiotomies. Studies from as far back as the 80s made it clear that routine episiotomies have no benefits and carry real risks. One of the most detrimental risks is that episiotomies can lead to further tearing, sometimes extending into the anus. These fourth degree anal tears almost never occur without an episiotomy. In addition, a spontaneous tear may only reach into the surface layers of skin, while an episiotomy cuts into far more layers. Episiotomies are rarely warranted and should be reserved for those unusual emergency cases. Ultimately, even without all the evidence, I just didn’t want someone cutting me. I knew, going into my first birth experience, that if I had to choose between them, I would choose to tear. And, tear I did.

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