Reducing childbirth pain?

June 30, 2011 at 6:08 am

It has never been easier getting from 0 to 9 centimeters as it was for me during my fourth birth. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was at 7, 8, 9 centimeters.  I’ve thought a lot about that fact over the past four months, wondering… what made the difference? I can really only speculate, but these changes might at least partially explain the reduction of labor pain I experienced:

1) Prenatal exercise

I was in much better shape starting out this pregnancy than I have ever been in my previous pregnancies.  I continued running approximately three mornings a week until about halfway through my pregnancy.  Then I walked and hiked to keep myself active, though not as regularly.  As I’ve shared before, prenatal exercise has so many benefits, including: reduced need for pain relief, decrease in maternal exhaustion, and shortened labor.  It may not be safe for all pregnant women, but I was grateful to be able to exercise through my pregnancies and grateful to have midwives who urged me to keep running and walking.

I’m ready now

February 13, 2011 at 6:01 am

For weeks whenever anyone has asked me, “Are you so ready for this baby to come?”  my immediate response has been an adamant, “No! I wish I had two more months! I’m not ready!” I’ve been nesting for quite awhile and crossing things off my before-the-baby-comes to-do list every day (only to think of more things to add and then cross off), but, beyond the physical preparations for the birth and postpartum period, I haven’t felt an ounce of readiness. Each night as I have gone to bed, wondering whether a birth would be waking me soon, I have felt an overwhelming lack of surety… a feeling that not everything was in place… a yearning for something to bolster me and give me the foundation I need to give birth in peace in confidence. Today it came.

Growing, Glowing, and Going: Midwife’s Orders

January 31, 2011 at 6:45 am

During our home visit last Thursday, my midwife, Mary, mentioned that the baby is still “really high.” Since two of my births have started with my water breaking, we definitely don’t want the baby’s head high much longer since the cord could easily prolapse. She told me to do lots of walking to coax the baby down into my pelvis.

We went on another hike at South Mountain at the beginning of January, but I haven’t been getting much exercise since then. So Mary’s advice was just the nudge I needed to get myself back out there and “going” again.

The weather was gorgeous here in the Valley of the Sun today. Can’t beat 72 degree weather in January. So we took a nice two mile walk/bike ride before dinner. It felt really good to be getting some fresh air and exercise again. The forecast is threatening rain and cooler temperatures this coming week, but I’m hoping we can get some more walking in. Come on down, baby. Pretty please?

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. 

Growing, Glowing, and Going: South Mountain

November 14, 2010 at 7:07 am

I’m twenty-six weeks today. Or about 6 months.  On the verge of the third trimester.  Time flies!  This afternoon, I was telling my husband that I’ve been feeling more pregnancy aches and pains in my lower back and pelvis (mostly when getting out of bed in the morning or getting up from sitting on the couch for too long). It’s always worse after I’ve been immobile for an extended period of time. So I guess the key is: keep moving. Too bad sleep is so important, eh?

My body is telling me to get moving. And research on prenatal exercise tells me the same thing. Remember that book I mentioned in my last exercise post? Origins:How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, by Annie Murphy Paul? I picked it up from the library earlier this week. I haven’t had a chance to read much of it yet, but from what little I’ve read so far, there’s no question that prenatal exercise is beneficial to both mom and baby. And, of particular note to me today, prenatal exercise can “help manage musculoskeletal problems like low back pain” (p. 151). This reinforces what I had already learned reading Exercising Through Your Pregnancy a couple of years ago.

Keep moving, my body is saying. So… I obliged. And the perfect Arizona fall weather obliged as well. It was a fabulous day for a picnic and hike at South Mountain.  Those rocky trail inclines were a workout, but it was awesome. My body felt great, my kids impressed me with their stamina, and, as per my usual, I took an excessive number of pictures. Here are a few (or maybe more than a few) of them…

Growing, Glowing, and Going: Slacker

November 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

So I was going to write a series of posts sharing my adventures exercising through this pregnancy.  Ha.  Oops. My only excuse is that I got too busy researching and posting about other topics like preventing postpartum hemorrhage, the perils of cervical scar tissue, the bed rest myth, and preventing preterm labor. So I’m not a total slacker-blogger, right? ;-)

The latest on my pregnant runner exploits is… well… I’m a slacker. I did really well going running 2-3 times a week (and listening to LOTS of podcasts) up until the last few weeks. I started noticing some discomfort in my lower abdomen and found myself walking a lot more than running on those last several runs. So I decided it was time to transition into the walking stage of my prenatal exercise regimen. We have taken several walks since then, but not nearly as many as I should be taking. And I’m feeling more and more of the effects of my lack of exercise… more aches and pains, general lack of energy, etc.

Preventing preterm labor

October 16, 2010 at 12:58 am

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Before I get into my research on preterm labor, I want to make it clear that preterm labor should be taken very seriously.  I am not a medical professional, so none of the contents of this blogpost should be considered medical advice. If you suddenly begin to experience possible preterm labor symptoms, the March of Dimes urges:

Call your health care provider or go to the hospital right away if you think you are having preterm labor. The signs of preterm labor include:

  • Contractions (your abdomen tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
  • Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from your vagina)
  • Pelvic pressure—the feeling that your baby is pushing down
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like your period
  • Abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea

(Source: Preterm Labor and Birth: A Serious Pregnancy Complication)

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote “The Bed Rest Myth” and promised that a post about preventing preterm labor was in the works.  Here is that promised post.  To re-cap, I got thinking about preterm labor a little over a month ago. A family member was put on bed rest (at 7 months pregnant) for some worrisome cramping and contracting she was experiencing. Her situation catapulted preterm labor onto my radar screen with big flashing red lights. Since then I’ve spent considerable time digging through the available research, hoping to find some clues that might be helpful to women facing preterm labor (and those hoping to prevent it).

The Bed Rest Myth

September 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm

“Bed rest does not appear to improve the rate of preterm birth and should not be routinely recommended.” -American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

“The majority of women who are on bed rest don’t need to be, and many experience physical, emotional, and financial complications that are completely unnecessary.” -Mark Taslimi, M.D., professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Stanford University

“Just because something is widely believed doesn’t make it true. Scientifically, bed rest is simply not a valid treatment.” -John Thorp, M.D., a maternal-fetal specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill

Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this post should be considered medical advice. If you have concerns or questions, please consult with your healthcare provider.

Several weeks ago, someone I care about was put on bed rest (at seven months pregnant) for some worrisome cramping she had been and continues to be experiencing.  Her situation catapulted preterm labor and bed rest onto my radar screen with big flashing red lights.  I had never really given preterm labor or bed rest much thought because I had never experienced them nor had anyone close to me.  As I started digging into the scientific literature on these subjects, I was totally blown away by what I discovered.  I’ve been researching pregnancy and childbirth topics for over seven years, but, yet again, I’m asking myself, “How did I not know this before?”

Before I dive into those stunning facts, let me first set the scene with the not-so-pretty reality of the bed rest experience.

Bed Rest Challenges

“Rest cure” has been recommended to women as a means of treating a wide variety of physical and emotional ailments since the 1800’s.   Almost a million American women are prescribed bed rest during their pregnancies every year for all types of pregnancy complications. 

Preventing postpartum hemorrhage naturally

August 25, 2010 at 4:39 am

Childbirth involves blood loss. There’s no way around it. How much blood a woman loses is the potentially dangerous variable. Postpartum hemorrhage accounts for the majority of maternal deaths worldwide. Fortunately, in the United States where maternity care is more readily accessible, most postpartum hemorrhages are not fatal. But they do happen, regardless of where you give birth.

So what do we know about postpartum hemorrhage?

Who is most at risk of experiencing a postpartum hemorrhage soon after giving birth?

  • Women with pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Women who experience a prolonged second stage of labor
  • Women who are induced or have their labors augmented with Pitocin
  • Women whose babies are delivered via vacuum extraction
  • Women with “large for gestational age” infants

(Source: Obstetric risk factors and outcome of pregnancies complicated with early postpartum hemorrhage: A population-based study)

Growing, Glowing, and Going: Randomness

August 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm

1.  Last night I found the “doggy tag” necklace my bro-in-law gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. It has my name and emergency phone numbers just in case something happens to me while I’m out on a run.  And the other side has one of my favorite quotes from one of my heroes.  It got me thinking that I should tell you about her some time.  I think I will.  Be sure you carry some form of I.D. when you run (especially if you’re pregnant)!

Electrolyte replacement

August 18, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Getting fluids in early labor

Pregnant women and women in labor often need electrolyte and energy boosters.  While many recommend using Emergen-C or sport drinks like Gatorade, here are some alternatives which might be more suited to a laboring woman’s needs:

  • Homemade electrolyte drinks
  • Midwife Kim Mosny recommends this “Labor Aid” recipe…

    * 1 qt. water
    * 1/3 c. honey
    * 1/3 c. juice from a real lemon
    * 1/2 t. salt
    * 1/4 t. baking soda
    * 2 crushed calcium tablets

    Here’s another similar recipe including magnesium (I assume it’s also added to a quart of water)…

    * 1/3 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh-squeezed)
    * 1/3 cup honey
    * 1/4 tsp. sea salt
    * 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    * 1-2 calcium/magnesium tablets, crushed, OR 1 Tb liquid calcium/magnesium supplement

  • Coconut water, “nature’s electrolyte,” an isotonic beverage (having the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood).
  • [Coconut water] was significantly sweeter, caused less nausea, fullness and no stomach upset and was also easier to consume in a larger amount compared with [carbohydrate electrolyte beverage] and [plain water] ingestion. In conclusion, ingestion of fresh young coconut water, a natural refreshing beverage, could be used for whole body rehydration after exercise. (Saat, et al, 2002, Rehydration after Exercise with Fresh Young Coconut Water, Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Beverage and Plain Water)

  • Vitalyte (a.k.a. Gookinaid), an electrolyte drink created by biochemist and marathon runner, Bill Gookin
  • I am very impressed with the successful use of VITALYTE for fluid and electrolyte replacement in labor, often in cases in which the only recourse would have been intravenous fluids. -Jonathan McCormick, MD, Ob-Gyn

    We have now successfully used VITALYTE for treating morning sickness (including hyperemesis with twins), pre-term labor (by correcting fluid and electrolyte imbalance) and pre-eclampsia (for increasing fluid volume and sodium intake). I am very pleased, don’t care if we ever create an RCT to “properly” study it all. -Marla Hicks, RN, midwife (source)

What do you drink in labor?

And the winners are…

August 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm

You guys are brilliant. I was thrilled so many people entered the contest and produced so much cleverness. Thank you! I was really glad I had my husband to help me make my final decision. In the end, we agreed that the winner should be the creative and multi-talented Kendra @ My Insanity with…

Growing, Glowing, and Going

What can I say?  Tasteful rhyming and alliteration give me warm fuzzies.   THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS, Kendra!  I love it!  And I can’t wait to get your prizes to you.  We’ll be in touch via email so I’ll know where to send your $25 BornFit code, book, and stretchy wrap.

Stay tuned

August 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm

The “Exercise your creativity” contest/giveaway has officially ended.  Thanks to everyone who entered!  I will announce the winners on Monday.  Can’t wait to read through all the name ideas with my marathon man. :-)  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Exercise your creativity–my first contest/giveaway!

July 31, 2010 at 10:39 pm

THIS CONTEST/GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED! Stay tuned for the winners!

A few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I was going for a morning run and had a little epiphany.  During my last pregnancy, I had taken a lot of encouragement and motivation from reading a (no longer available) blog called “Running For Two” at the Runner’s World website.  As I jogged down the last stretch of road before turning the corner to my house, I made up my mind that I was going to offer myself to Runners World as a “pregnant running blogger” so I could bring that same encouragement to other women striving to stay active through their pregnancies.

Runner’s World had recently put out a call for women to share their experiences running while pregnant and mothering children, so I thought the climate might be ripe for another pregnant runner blog.  As soon as I got in the door from my run, I contacted Runner’s World via email.  A week or two later, I got a friendly reply in which I was basically told, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  But I wasn’t disappointed for long and soon resolved to document my exploits as a gestating runner right in my own blog.

Then I got scheming about it… thinking I should come up with a clever name for my pregnant running post series.  I didn’t want to copy the “Running For Two” name used by Runner’s World, but I couldn’t for the life of me come up with something I liked as well.  Then we went on vacation, and my brother and I got busy creating my new website.  And then I had another epiphany.  What if I asked my readers to put their creative juices to the task?  They could probably come up with something far better than what I could!  And maybe I could have prizes? Thus… my first contest/giveaway was born.

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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