Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy

There are many things you can and should do to prepare your body to have a healthy pregnancy. This can and should start several months or even years before trying to conceive. Some of these sound like no-brainers, but you would be surprised at what I see pregnant women do because of the lack of knowledge they have about having a healthy pregnancy for both mom and baby.

#1 - Quit Smoking....and never smoke again.
Smoking cigarettes is probably the number one cause of adverse outcomes of babies. These include: low birth weight babies, underdeveloped bodies, and adverse effects to the lungs, brain, and other organs. Even just one cigarette a day can have significant effects on the baby's blood vessels, causing lifelong traumatic effects on him.

# 2 - Stop Drinking Alcohol
Some alcohols that contain yeast can provide an environment on the body that breeds bacterial and fungal infections. As you prepare your body to conceive, understand that these infections can be passed to your baby if not taken care of properly. When you drink alcohol while pregnant, so does your baby. Alcohol has been shown to be harmful to the baby's development. If you drink during pregnancy, you are putting your baby at risk for irreversible Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

#3 - Check Out Medications and Supplements
Before becoming pregnant, check with your health care provider about the affects your medications may be having on your ability to conceive and carry a baby safely. In addition, some medications and supplements are not recommended for pregnant or lactating mothers.

#4 - Cut Out The Junk food and Soda
It is important to develop healthy eating habits before your baby is conceived. Being at an ideal weight and eating well will significantly increase you and your baby's health. Eating foods that are empty in calories is not a good habit to have. When pregnant, it is important to choose foods wisely. Having a balanced diet of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber is important to develop and strong and healthy baby. Reach for the apple instead of the candy bar next time you have a pre-pregnancy craving. The sooner you start, the better off you will be once you are pregnant! Here are just a few ideas of some healthy foods for pregnancy:
  • Whole Grains - buckwheat, spelt, rice, millet, quinoa, barley, and rye
  • Leafy Greens - spinach, kale, arugula, collard greens, and broccoli
  • Protein - wild caught fish, chicken, legumes, tofu, nuts, eggs, and cheese
#5 - Become Active
If you aren't already involved in doing some kind of physical activity, it is going to be important to get your body physically in shape to carry a baby. Try exercises such as yoga or Pilates. This will help minimize the muscle aches and pains that come along with being pregnant when you get there. If the season is right, get outside and walk in the park or around the block each day. Plus, the fresh air is good for you! *I do not recommend starting a rigorous exercise program when pregnant. And, don't start doing anything when you become pregnant that you hadn't preciously done, like jogging or running.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Breastfeeding Polls

Many books have been written about it and there is so much information out there about it. However, as an industrialized country, the USA does not rank highly in breastfeeding. Third world countries, who do not have the access too books, lactation consultants, and all the education, are ranking higher in their efforts to breastfeed. Hmmm...

The previous breastfeeding poll didn't tell me what I really wanted to know. Thanks for taking the time to take my two newest polls.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Epidurals: The Tip of the Iceberg

Recently in my reading, I have come across many alarming statistics, but one in particular stuck out.

From Birthing from Within
by Pam England and Rob Horowitz

"It is a popular myth that epidural medication doesn't get to the baby. Epidural anesthetics do cross the placental barrier. Anesthetic levels in the baby's blood have been found to be as high as one-third of the maternal blood levels. As a result, compared to unmedicated babies, babies in the epidural or pitocin-epidural groups showed "drugged behavior" (trembling, irritability, and immature motor activity) on the first day, with behavior recovery by the fifth day. It takes 48 hours for a newborn to eliminate the epidural anesthetic from its system."

I am going to try and not to step on anyone's toes too much here, but I find it interesting to hear a variety of birth stories. (I am more fascinated by watching all kinds of births, but that is for another post.) What I hear often in medicated births is "the epidural was amazing" or "I don't know what I would have done without it." Some women will bend over backwards to take extreme care during pregnancy by eating well, making every visit with the doctor to see how the baby is developing, exercising, taking prenatal vitamins and other supplements, getting enough rest, and staying hydrated. Parents buy safety locks, outlet plugs, and put all breakable and sharp objects out of reach before baby is even born. But, when it comes to the birth, they seem unphased by the paramount risks the epidural poses to their baby.

Having an unmedicated birth is something you need to decide before you get to the hospital. Often times nurses will try and talk you in or out of having an epidural. The time of birth is not the time to decide to have a natural birth. The anesthesiologist may arrive at a point where all you can think about is "getting drugs!" Can a woman honestly weigh the risks and benefits of an epidural at that stage in labor? Education before the birth is key.

Natural birth takes preparation in a different way then medicated births. I tell anyone who is having a natural birth to take The Bradley Method childbirth class. (FYI: Donna is teaching a Bradley class June-August for those of you expecting in the DFW area).

If you choose to have an unmedicated birth, there are many ways a doula can support you and your partner. As a doula, I provide comfort measures and relaxation techniques to help mothers in labor. I also help dads learn how to provide support to their partner as well. I meet with couples prenatally 2-4 times or more to discuss the birth and needs of the family during birth, as well as provide pregnancy support with nutritional consultations, massage, and acupressure.

Parents, I encourage you to do your research and educate yourself before the birth day. That way, when you decide on your choices for birth, you can have all the facts and support you need to make the decisions that are best for you and your baby!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Take the Polls

If you haven't taken my poll, please do! I want your ideas and opinions on circumcision, breastfeeding, and your birth place preference.

See the right column for the polls and thanks for taking!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baby Accessories

Baby accessories are available now. Call for you custom order!
  • blankets and quilts
  • burp cloths
  • breastfeeding aprons
  • shopping cart covers
  • bedding
  • ...and more!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Purpose and Value of Labor Support

A doula a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth. She understands the physiology of birth and the needs of a laboring woman.

The role of the birth doula greatly depends on the woman and family for whom she is providing care. The doula’s main purpose is to be a friend, a mentor, and a helper to the mother, as well as a support to her partner and/or family. If the mother chooses a doula in the early stages of pregnancy, the doula can help to provide information and education for several months leading up to the birth. This can also help the mother and family build an established, comfortable, and trusting relationship with the doula. The doula will usually have one to three prenatal consultations with the mother and family prior to the birth. These sessions may include meeting with other caregivers, answering questions for the parents-to-be, providing referrals when necessary, and massage and other pregnancy comfort measures. Throughout the pregnancy, the doula assists by listening to the mother’s desires, helping her have a comfortable, nourishing pregnancy, helping her to create the plan for the birth she desires, providing factual and unbiased information to enable her to make choices she can feel good about, keeping her comfortable during the birth while doing all she can to ensure the birth outcome the mother wants, advocating on her behalf, encouraging her in her birth decisions, and even providing lactation consulting after birth to help create a breastfeeding relationship. She has no agenda and has nothing to gain by convincing the mother to make certain choices.

As labor and birth are imminent, the doula is experienced in providing comfort measures and relaxations tools. This may include visualization and meditation techniques, preparing cool clothes, utilizing the birth ball, positions to enhance labor, counter pressure massage, aromatherapy, encouraging the mother stay hydrated and energized, and, providing relaxing music. Some doulas may also be skilled in other modalities such as massage therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, and reflexology to help facilitate labor in a positive manner. These techniques can be used in such a way to allow the woman to have a natural, unmedicated birth. And, in some cases, these techniques have been known to help labor and birth progress more timely and efficiently. Or, if the mother chooses or needs to labor with the help of medications, these methods can also help facilitate the labor and birth. These techniques may help reduce the need for prolonged analgesic drugs or augmentation medications. The doula is one of the only birth attendants that does not leave the side of the mother as she labors. This may be several of hours, but she stays near and helps the mother feel empowered during the birth. The doula ensures that the mother’s needs are being met and that her birth plan is carried out in the best possible way without intervening or interfering with the process. She provides guidance and reassurance to the mother and reminds her of her progress and power when labor becomes more difficult.

Statistics show that women who utilize a trained doula are 50% less likely to have a cesarean. They typically have a 25% shorter labor. Additional figures suggest there is a 60% decrease in the number of women who request an epidural, a 40% decrease in her chances of receiving Pitocin, and a 30% reduction in the use of analgesic drugs. Furthermore, the risk of having a forceps or a vacuum delivery is lessened by 40%. Doulas can make a woman feel more empowered and prepared to make good choices during their delivery, and they even can provide encouragement for the expectant fathers and help them to have a more active, supportive role in the birth.

Following the birth, the doula can provide initial breastfeeding support as well as newborn care. A doula will usually follow up the birth with one to two postpartum visits with the mother and family to ensure baby and mother and family are getting appropriately acclimated to their new roles at home. In-home postpartum visits may also include light cooking and housekeeping as the family adjusts into parenthood. In addition, new parents may benefit from education on bonding, attachment, and coping skills

Whether she is a new mother or has had many experiences in childbirth, a mother can always benefit from the care, love, support, and encouragement that comes from the loving heart of a birth doula.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Website of the Week

Time your contractions at!

Book Pick of the Week

Birthing From Within
by Pam England, CNM, MA and Rob Horowitz, PhD

This book helps inspire you to bring out your inner "artist" while pregnant and adds a new dimension to your pregnancy and birthing ideas. Understand how getting creative in your mind and thoughts can help you have an amazing birth.

Post Due Baby Turned Home Birth

Friday March 6th was the day before her scheduled induction. I called them to let them know I was on my way over to their house. According to her prenatal visits in Fort Worth, she was 10 days post due. But, going by her first prenatal appointment in Florida, she was 17 days post due. She was hoping to avoid an induction, but her midwives at the local hospital were only allowing her to go until that next day.

She had been having mild to moderate contractions for about a week leading up to this day. With high hopes, she had also been drinking castor oil that day and the previous Tuesday. As their doula, I suggested working on some acupressure points and visualization techniques would help bring on labor. I arrived at their home at about 1:45pm and began acu-massage on specific points. Her husband had to go into work for a couple of hours to prepare for Sunday services if he was unable to be there. While he was gone, she began to have stronger contractions. Along with this, I helped her with some positioning and visualization techniques to help get the baby in the optimal position for birth. I also encouraged she and her husband to talk to the baby from there on out. At 4:00pm she was feeling change. As she moved from the different positions I had given to her, she began to feel pressure.

At 5:00pm, as she sat on the birth ball, she and I had a discussion about her birth options. She was concerned about the possibility of the induction if she indeed was not in labor. Earlier that week, she had talked with midwives at a local birthing center about the possibility of them attending her birth in the event that she did not have the baby before her other group would induce. She phoned the midwives at that birthing center to inform them of her situation and to see their policy on birthing past 42 weeks. They agreed to come by visit her that evening. With new information after that call, she phoned her husband who was on his way home from work. There was now an option of changing caregivers last minute. When he arrived home, they agreed that they would like the midwives to come for a home visit later that evening. I put on some soft music and got out some tools from my birth bag. He brought dinner for us on his way home. She ate at about 5:45pm. While eating dinner she began to have contractions that were two to four minutes apart for the next hour or so. I suggested to them that they needed to make a decision about their caregiver because she was in labor and the baby would be coming. They called the midwives from the birthing center and told them they may be attending a birth, not just a meeting. Until they arrived, she lay in the bed and then moved into the tub to be more comfortable. The first midwife came at 7:30pm and by 8:30pm their entire team of seven had arrived. Her husband continued to encourage her and never left her side. She was laboring in the bathroom for most of the time and her midwives were right there by her side. I took many photos and videos, as that is what they wished. During labor, she moved back and forth from the bed to the tub. Her water broke at 9:01pm while she was lying in the bed. In the tub, her husband prayed and sang during labor to help encourage her. He gave her bites of peanut butter and many sips of water. Soft music was playing in the background as all eight of us were squeezed in the master bathroom.

At about 10:45pm, she was fully dilated and getting ready to push. She pushed a few times in the tub and then got out and onto a birth stool. Several pushes later, the baby was born at 11:47pm, weighing 8lbs. and 6ozs. She struggled with breathing at first and had to be resuscitated by the midwife. She was then placed in her mother's arms and he made several phone calls to family members. She was able to nurse her about an hour after birth. The birth team gathered around the bed and ate ice cream and talked about the wonderful birth.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hannah Who??

Fields and flat plains you can see for miles. The smell of wheat harvest in early July and backyard barbecues. Just the sounds of the wind and small creatures at night. A place where the grocery store is just around the corner, you shop locally because their business is your business, and everyone knows you.

I am just a small town girl from Kansas and this is my story.

Being the first born of five children, I had a lot of responsibility growing up. My siblings are 2, 6,12, and 18 years younger than I am. Needless to say, I became a chauffeur, babysitter, cook, and seamstress, just to name a few. Don't get me wrong, I never really minded that much. I was kind of a homebody anyway. I was involved in 4-H for 11 years growing up. It taught me the domestic side of life. I stayed home baking, babysitting or sewing on the weekends and summers. I guess I kind of had a natural calling to help and nurture others.

As a junior in high school, the last thing you want to find out is that your mom is pregnant. I was horrified and upset when I first found out. I was just getting used to it being just the four of us kids. Plus, high school was a delicate time for me. I didn't have time for my parents to be consumed with yet another child. That sounds selfish, I know, but remember, I was a teenager. I sure was glad when my brother was born though. I can't imagine what our family would be like without him now.

In the fall 1999, I went off to college. I started an interior design major at a small private college in Oklahoma. With aspirations to do well in the business and move to Texas and start a career after graduating, I decided to transfer to the University of Arkansas my junior year to complete by degree. I chose the U of A to be close to my sister when she went off to college that year.

As my junior year in college wrapped up, I was looking forward to the summer break, working part-time, and taking some summer classes. My sister and I were living in an apartment with two other girls for the summer. One evening, about a week after classes got out, my sister and I decided to make a home cooked dinner. As I stood there in my summer attire of shorts and a t-shirt chopping vegetables to make egg rolls, the pan of hot olive oil caught fire. Not taking a second to think what to do, I picked up the fiery pot and took it to the sink where it flamed up and I spilled it on me. At this point, the kitchen had several small fires and all I could think was to run and get help. I ran out the door and knocked on every apartment door upstairs and down until someone answered. I screamed at our unsuspecting neighbor to call 911, that our apartment was on fire. He ran up to help my sister who was putting out the fires. As I stood in his apartment downstairs in shock, I can remember looking at my hands, arms, legs and feet thinking "I am burned". I stood at his kitchen sink sobbing and running cold water on my wounds. I didn't know what to think. My sister and neighbor, were able to put the fires out with no real damage. I needed an ambulance though. I sat on a bar stool shaking as my sister stayed with me and never left my side. In her calm, soothing voice, she kept saying everything will be okay. Was it really going to be okay? What had just happened to me? The next few hours are a blur as I was whisked away in the ambulance, sirens and all. My sister stayed with me all night, bless her heart. I was pumped full of Morphine and not feeling a whole lot of pain in what I had come to find out were 2nd and 3rd degree burns along the right side of my body, mostly hand and foot. The next day, my mom and four year old brother arrived. Recovering from burn wounds is long and painful. The doctor advised daily debriding which consisted of scrubbing the wounds to prevent infection. For about four days I suffered through this excruciating process. When we arrived back in Kansas, my mother researched holistic and alternative approaches to burn healing and we opted for that route. Still, seven years later, now and then I can feel the pain of the nerve damage. I have scars on my hands and feet that get many questions that I don't mind to answer. It is a reminder that from that day on, my life was about to take a drastic and wonderful change.

That fall I went back to school. I struggled in many of my classes. My interior design classes were especially difficult, as we were building scale models and constantly drawing and sketching. With my hand still wrapped in gauze, those small tasks became huge endeavours for me. That semester I failed psychology. The ride home to Kansas at Christmas was miserable. I played over and over in my head how I was going to explain to my parents that I needed a break from school. Surprisingly, they took it well and agreed I needed a break. That following March I landed a career at the Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, AR in the product development department. Handbangs, scarves and gloves became my life. After six months, I was promoted. The money was good, but I found myself sobbing at night on the phone with my mother. Nine months in, I wasn't happy in the corporate lifestyle. While I continued to work there, I decided to take classes to get my degree in holistic nutrition. While taking my first class, was reading a book called Healthy Healing. As I sat on the porch of my town home reading the chapter on "Your Health Care Choices" it hit me, I was not going to spend my life in a cubicle. Six months later, I quit my job at Wal-Mart and enrolled in massage school. Seven months after that, I began my career in massage, moved to Texas, and then got married in the summer of 2006. I continue to do massage in addition to my newest pursuit.

Over the years I have had a strong interest in becoming involved with childbirth. After getting information from several midwifery schools I put it on the back burner. I wasn't sure being a midwife was quite my "calling", so I waited. In the meantime, my sister had two amazing home births. One in 2005 and one in 2008. My brain continued to be interested and I waited and listened.

One hot, summer day last August, I wasn't feeling just right. I woke up that morning feeling off. I had one massage appointment that I prayed myself though. I called in sick to my job that afternoon. Throughout the day I felt worse. Scott was at work and I stayed on the couch most of the day. As the day progressed, I was drinking tea and resting. I knew something wasn't right because I was bleeding. But, I chalked it up to being a cyst or something minor. I decided that I should make an appointment with a gynecologist just in case. They said they could get me in in two weeks. I said okay and then called Mom for advise. She did a little research and called me back. From what I had been explaining my symptoms were, she thought it could be a tumor or an ectopic pregnancy. One month earlier we had tried for a baby, but it had never occurred to me that I could be pregnant. Two weeks earlier I had been bleeding as usual. This was more serious than I had originally thought, so I called the gynecologist back and asked for an earlier appointment. They could fit me in first thing in the morning but advised me to go to the ER if I felt worse. At 9:30 that night I texted Scott on his way home from work. I was in desperate need of some ice cream. When he arrived home, I told him I thought this may warrant a trip to the ER. We debated our options. I wasn't in a lot of pain, but enough to feel "off". At 11:00 we went to the hospital. Three hours later I was in a room. They took blood samples and let me rest for another couple of hours. I told Scott to go out and sleep in the car. I was sure it wasn't serious, and he had to be at work early the next day. At 5:00am the sonographer came in. I asked him what he needed to do. He said my pregnancy test had come back positive and he needed to take a look. An hour later and with many views of my insides, sure enough, I was six weeks pregnant in my fallopian tube. Not five minutes after he left, Scott and I were being told that emergency surgery was necessary to remove the baby. That is a lot of information to find out all at once, but babies don't survive growing in the fallopian tube and neither does the mother. Just before noon, my surgery was complete. In just one day I went from finding out I was pregnant to losing a baby all at once. Thankfully, I acted on my intuition that night. I could had lost my life in just a matter of a couple of hours if we had not gone when we did. Amazingly, that summer was the only time in our marriage that we have had health insurance. We were surely being watched over. Now, our prayer is that God will bless us with a baby when the time is right.

That experience led me to pursue my certification as a Doula. In the weeks and months leading up to this loss, I had been researching. I felt it was meant to happen in order for me to become the kind of Birth and Postpartum Doula I was called to be. I now work for a local adoption agency that houses young women who desire to place their baby for adoption. My loss, I believe, has helped a few of them cope with their own loss.

Since getting the training to become a Doula, I have attended 12 births in the last six months. I know that my background in Holistic Nutrition and Massage Therapy is great asset in my work in pregnancy and childbirth. Women have the power to do anything they desire. I am an advocate for her physical, mental, and emotional well-being. She can have a natural pregnancy and a natural birth and I am here to support her. I have compassion, not experience. I learn by watching, reading, talking, and doing for others. My birthing day will come soon, but until then I am living on my desire and passion for women and expectant mothers to have exactly what they are hoping for. My prayer is that I have the strength and ablily to be just what they long for in their child birthing journey.

Here I am today, in Texas. I see the Fort Worth city skyline, the hustle bustle of cars as they race to their destination, sirens blaring throughout the day, stores and supermarkets full of strangers, and shopping for the best deals with people you don't know. It isn't Kansas, but I think we'll call it home.

And that is how I came to be.