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):

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).

Building a Baby Ready Body

October 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Just a quick post to let you know about a pre-pregnancy eCourse being offered by Michelle at Find Your Balance starting October 21. I’ve always believed that diet and lifestyle can have a great impact on fertility, so I’m thrilled that Michelle’s eCourse will be sharing helpful information on that very topic to help women prepare for pregnancy. I’ve really enjoyed Michelle’s blog over the last few months. She shares mouthwatering whole food recipes and a wealth of helpful information on nutrition and wellness. Click here to view more details

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)

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?

Got lecithin?

August 4, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Partway through my first pregnancy, I started having pain in my pelvis. It wasn’t the normal round ligament pain. It started in my lower back and radiated through my whole pelvis into the hip joints. When I walked or climbed stairs, it was especially bad. Eventually, I could hardly walk without excruciating pain, lasting for weeks. I asked my doctor about it, but I think all he told me was, “That’s normal.” Thanks, doc. It sure didn’t seem “normal” to me. If only I had met my friend Meredith way back then!

Meredith and I met at our doula training in February of ’09. Some time afterward, when we were hanging out at one of our houses, she started telling the story of how she switched from a doctor to a home birth midwife mid-pregnancy (with her second baby). She began by describing some pelvic pain she had been experiencing and how her doctor was no help to her. Bells and whistles started ringing in my head… Hey! That happened to me too! I had almost forgotten about my first pregnancy pelvic issues until she mentioned hers.

Good-bye, Gerber

July 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Click on the image for more info. [Affiliate Link]

Last summer, when my son was approaching six months old, a friend introduced me to the “baby-led weaning” concept, and I was almost immediately sold. Basically, baby-led weaning approaches the introduction of solid food from a developmental (and common sense) standpoint. Its proponents argue that a baby shouldn’t be given any food other than breastmilk (or formula) until that baby can feed him/herself (usually this doesn’t happen before about 6 months). Or, in other words, babies’ digestive systems will be truly ready to process solid foods when they are physically able to pick up food, take it to their mouths, chew/mash it, and swallow it. Makes sense, huh? No doubt it’s the way human babies began eating food for thousands of years. At least until rice cereal appeared on the scene.

Treating mastitis

July 21, 2010 at 2:59 am

Most women who’ve given birth and subsequently nursed their babies have at least heard about the possibility of developing mastitis (if not experienced it themselves). I have, on one occasion, developed what appeared by my estimation to be mastitis. It started out with what seemed like a plugged duct. I had experienced a plugged duct before, so I nursed frequently on that side while massaging the painful area. Eventually the pain was accompanied by flu-like aches all over my body. I didn’t want to wait around for the fever to start, so I immediately opened up my Nursing Mother’s Companion to see what suggestions were there. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t offer many concrete natural treatments and encouraged women to see their doctor for a prescription of antibiotics to avoid having the infection progress into an abscess. I have only taken antibiotics twice in my memory–once for an ear infection as a teenager and later for a supposed UTI (which was probably not actually a UTI in retrospect). I am not a big fan of antibiotics, and I think we all know they’re over-prescribed, over-injected, and largely responsible for the scary super-bugs we keep hearing about. So, needless to say, I didn’t want to go to the doctor and get a prescription.

Breastfed baby growth

July 21, 2010 at 1:47 am

I’ve noticed a trend in my own experience and among my friends whose babies are breastfed for at least a year. Our babies grow much more quickly in the first few months and then their weights taper off or plateau. They follow a completely different trend than the growth charts you see in the pediatricians’ offices.

I’ve heard so many stories from friends and family of their doctors being concerned about their babies’ growth between 6 months and 18 months. ‘Cause they pretty much stop gaining weight and just start getting taller and thinner. So the doctors recommend formula supplementation or tests to check for problems. But nearly all the moms have said that they’re sure their babies are fine… they’re happy, reaching developmental milestones, etc. With all the childhood obesity out there, you’d think doctors would be delighted to see thin, thriving, smart little babies! Fortunately, our doctors never showed too much concern.

Magnesium for pregnancy and beyond

July 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm

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Magnesium is incredibly important.  (Especially for pregnant women, but I’ll get to that later.) Magnesium is probably most well-known for its partnership with calcium in muscle function–calcium contracts muscles, magnesium relaxes them.  But magnesium is actually involved in far more than that.  From what I gather, every time a nerve cell fires, magnesium is required to control the entry of calcium into the body’s cells.

Bugs and guts

July 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I’ve been wanting to post about birth and healthy guts for a while now. Years ago I read an article that had a profound impact on me. It was Jeff Leach’s “C-sections, breastfeeding, and bugs for your baby.” His piece changed the way I viewed the birth canal. Cesareans aren’t just another way to give birth. Being born through an incision bypasses an extremely important step in the birth process–being colonized by the “base population” of the mother’s vaginal and fecal microflora. Following birth, breastfeeding continues the transfer of healthy microflora (probiotics) from the mother to the infant.

Preventing morning sickness?

July 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm

[This post was written in 2010… don’t want you to be confused by the pregnancy announcement. ;-)]

Before I jump into my latest possibly-crazy musings on morning sickness, I have an announcement first:

I’m sporting a 9-week pregnant baby bump!

My cycle had been wacky for a few months, so it didn’t phase me much when my period was 8 days late in June.  Even so, I thought I’d take a test (on Father’s Day)  just to verify to myself that my cycle had, indeed, taken on a new unpredictable personality.  I did not feel the least bit pregnant and had been experiencing none of my usual pregnancy symptoms, so I was completely shocked when I found myself looking at a positive test a few minutes later.  Huh?!  Really?

We hadn’t been preventing pregnancy for the previous four months, but we hadn’t really been trying or expecting to become pregnant either.  We had decided back in January to leave things up to God, so we’re putting our trust in the divine (or at least attempting to trust) that having our 4th baby two months before my spirited toddler turns two is exactly right for our family.  ETA mid-February 2011 (the perfect month to give birth in AZ, or so I’m told).

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