The Birth of Olive June

Birth has the tendency to unveil your greatest fears and expose areas of strength that you never knew existed. For me, this third baby has freed my soul and changed me in ways I’m not quite able to put into words. But before the days of toddler messes and newborn cuddles cloud my memory, I must put my best foot forward in jotting down the details of this triumphant day. The day our Olive June arrived.

Our home birth story came at the start of a new decade. Quite literally, too, as Olive made her grand entrance earth side twelve days after the new year. A due date babe. A baby born after 29 hours of physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil. 29 hours of facing my physical fears and pleading with God to remove the pain and to offer supernatural strength. Strength I knew I could not muster up in my own doing. 29 hours of trusting the process. Trusting my body to do what it was born to do. After 29 hours, light transcended the darkness and my daughter was in my arms.

This was my third pregnancy in four years. The first two were beautiful, unmedicated hospital births that I was fortunate enough to have no complications pre or postnatally. Both of which I felt supported, heard and validated in all my birthing requests. However, with the switch from healthcare insurance companies, doors opened for our family to pursue my desire for a home birth. To us, our home is sacred. A space we moved into as newlyweds. Our first big purchase together as a married couple. A space that allowed us to begin our family of three and then soon after our party of four. With the plan to move within the year, we could think of no better way but to celebrate the birth of our third child within the walls that already held so much love and memories and togetherness.

While the name we chose for her was a nod to the peaceful olive branch, the labor she and I wrestled through couldn’t be further from this. Right away, contractions were close together and filled with intensity. The birth team gathered shortly after I contacted them and the house soon filled with feelings of anticipation and excitement. A baby was soon being born into the world! Who could think of a better way to spend the weekend?!? The clock ticked and labor progressed, slowly but surely. The birth team patient, kind and plenty encouraging. My husband, my dear husband, working tirelessly to get the hose attached so I could labor in the tub.

The tub was filled and located in the center of our bedroom. A symbol of tranquility. During intense contractions, I wanted to be nowhere else except in the water. Unfortunately, though, the water slowed my labor down drastically and even stopped contractions all together. This prompted my team to encourage me to get moving. Lunges, squats, stairs. Dilation was slow, tumultuous and incredibly painful. My midwife, Deanna Kopf, and her attendant Tina Overton thought the unpredictable labor pattern I was experiencing was due to Olive’s positioning in the womb. Katie Kirkpatrick, my doula and best friend, educated in Spinning Babies and other positioning exercises, thought it best to use asymmetrical movements which would help Olive descend into the pelvis. After laboring for close to 20 hours, the team needed a little rest. The labor gods were kind to both Olive and I as the intensity paused for a few hours and Tyler and I were able to get some rest. Deanna and Tina found a bed in the basement and Katie snoozed on the floor of my daughters’ room.

Around 5:15 am the next day, I texted Deanna for my (and Olive’s) vitals to be checked. Both of which came back normal. While my family and friends were wondering where this baby was and what was the hold up, my team remained calm and assured both Tyler and I that time was the only thing this babe needed to emerge. And more movement and exercise. I pleaded desperately with them to let me just get back into the tub. They heard my request but explained that draining and refilling (since the water was cold and at risk of containing bacteria at this point) would take an hour or more. Katie gave me a peanut ball and I laid on the bed to labor there while the tub refilled. My contractions became incredibly intense and my laboring sounds changed. Both Tyler and Tina were downstairs heating up pots of water on the stove to hurry the tub filling process along. I felt the urge to push powerfully and deeply and Olive’s head appeared! Katie yelled that the head was born and Tyler and Tina hurried upstairs. Three strong pushes later and a midwife’s hand assisting Olive’s shoulders in sliding out, she plopped on my bed. Stunned, I stared at my crying baby. Tyler announced the gender and I slowly repositioned so I could hold her on my chest. All the pain was gone. Never to be felt again. The contractions vanished. The vomiting subsided. The uncontrollable shaking disappeared. Never did I think this moment would emerge but as with all suffering and pain, dawn eventually emerges. A beautiful birth story etched in my memory and never to be physically, emotionally and spiritually felt again.

While, in the moment, I wanted nothing more than relief and for it all to be over, I do not regret a single decision I

made leading up to her entrance into the world. I had to experience the pain of January 11th to gain the joy of January 12th.

Welcome to the world, sweet girl.

 

** A huge heart of gratitude and overwhelming love goes out to my extraordinary team. Katie, Deanna, Tina and Tyler, Olive and I were so blessed to have you by our side every step of the journey.

birth story

 

 

5 Car Seat “Don’ts” You Want Avoid

Parents-to-be have so much information to absorb. It’s difficult to keep track of it all. Then, baby
arrives and the sleep deprivation sets in. It’s easy to mistakenly do something dangerous,
especially when it seems that the safety recommendations are constantly in flux. Even if this
isn’t your first go-round, it’s likely things have changed since the last time you had an infant in a
car seat. Keep on reading to be sure you’re avoiding these common car seat mistakes.

Don’t put the Car Seat on top of a Shopping Cart

There’s no doubt you’ve seen lots of babies in car seats perched atop shopping carts. It’s a very
common practice but it’s not a safe one for baby nor is it a good move for the integrity of the car
seat itself. The major safety issue at play here is the potential for the shopping cart to tip over
due to becoming top-heavy from the weight of your baby and baby’s car seat. This could then
cause the car seat to topple over which could harm the baby. Additionally, car seats are not
designed to clip on to shopping carts even though you may be able to clip your seat onto the
cart. This is actually warned against in car seat manuals and can damage the mechanism in the
car seat that holds it securely to the base. Either scenario, a fall from the top of the cart or
unknowingly continuing to use a seat that has been damaged, could end tragically so it’s best to
avoid this practice altogether.

Don’t use Aftermarket Products

There are boatloads of aftermarket products sold for car seat use. Everything from hanger toys
for the infant seat’s handle to fancy headrests and infant inserts. Since they’re sold at leading
retailers and because they often have a stamp of “approval” listed on the packaging, parents
often figure they’re totally safe for use. The truth of the matter is that the car seat you own has
only been tested and proven safe to use with the items that are originally included with the seat
(or those sold by the manufacturer that are listed as safe in the instruction manual). So, while
those little teddy bear strap huggers are adorable, it’s better to leave them on the shelf and stick
with the products from the manufacturer of your seat designed for your specific seat.

Don’t put Baby in a Bulky Winter Coat

When the temperatures drop, it’s only natural to want to keep your baby warm and cozy,
especially when heading outside. It seems the sensible thing to do would be to bundle baby up
in a sweet, fuzzy bunting or a warm, puffy coat before strapping them into the car seat. The
thing is, car seat harness safety depends upon the snugness of the harness against baby’s
body. This means that in a collision, particularly at high speeds, the “fluff” of a winter coat
compresses, leaving baby loosely strapped in, and vulnerable to being ejected from the seat,
even if the harness had been pulled tautly over the coat at the onset of the ride. With small
babies, a blanket tucked around them or a “shower cap” style seat cover are the best options for
keeping baby warm in the car seat. With older children, simply having them put the coat on
backwards once strapped in their seats or using the coat as a blanket are the easy alternatives.

Don’t Leave Baby in Car Seat when not in Transit

With the convenience of a carrying handle, it seems that infant seats are designed to help
parents avoid having to remove your sleeping newborn from the seat once you’ve exited your
vehicle. However, the most recent recommendations warn against this practice, citing examples
of cases where infants have died when left to sleep in a car seat when not in-transit. They
believe this is a result of the angle of the seat and the position of the baby when the seat isn’t in
the vehicle versus its safe and proper angle when it is properly secured in the vehicle. So, while
it may seem counter-intuitive to disrupt a sleeping baby by removing him/her from the car seat
upon arrival to your destination, this is exactly the recommendation given for optimal safety.

Don’t Skip Reading the Manual

Perhaps this should go without saying, but with the constant need to maximize the use of our
time and the seemingly easy installation of car seats, it would be faster to skip reading the
manual and still feel confident that you have installed your car seat correctly. However, there
are so many nuances to the seats themselves as well as the vehicle in which the seat is being
installed, that failing to both read the manual and follow the instructions accordingly, could truly
be an endangerment to your child.

Keeping track of all the “rules” can be overwhelming when it comes to childrearing. However,
car seat safety is something that just cannot be glossed over. Car travel is so commonplace in
our society that we tend to overlook the inherent risks; but the proper safety measures must be
taken to keep your baby secure and out of harm’s way.

 

For car seat installation and support in the Baltimore area, please contact Sheena Hill, CPST at Parenting Works.

Building Your Birth Team: Part 2

Today, on the blog, we will continue the discussion about building your optimal birth team for support both before and after birth. Being fully informed and having the necessary resources during pregnancy (and beyond) could make all the difference in the beginning stages of parenthood. The previous Building your Birth Team post highlighted the importance of choosing your care provider, childbirth educator, doula and placenta encapsulation specialist. Below you will find several other supports that optimize your overall journey.

Chiropractic Care: There are many hormonal and physical changes you’ll experience during your pregnancy. Some of these will have an impact on your posture and comfort. As your baby becomes heavier, your center of gravity shifts, and your posture will adjust (sometimes for the worse). Also, this may create added pressure and misalignment in the pelvis. A misaligned pelvis may pose complications during delivery. When the pelvis is out of alignment, it can make it hard for your baby to move into the best position to be born, which is rear-facing and head down. In some cases, this could affect a person’s ability to have a natural , low intervention birth. A balanced pelvis also means your baby has a lower chance of moving into a breech or posterior position. When your baby is not in an optimal birthing position, it can lead to a longer, more complicated delivery. Evidence points to improved outcomes in labor and delivery for people who’ve received chiropractic care from a Webster Certified Chiropractor during their pregnancy. Chiropractic care can help balance the pelvis, allowing baby the room need to get in the most optimal position possible, while also allowing for a comfortable pregnancy. In fact, chiropractic care may even help reduce the length of time you’re in labor. Locate a Webster Certified Chiropractor, one who specializes in pregnancy and pediatric care, today!

Acupuncture: Many people sing the praises of acupuncture during pregnancy to ease some common discomforts such as back and pelvic pain, nausea, heartburn, swelling, and constipation. So how does it work exactly? Researchers have found that acupuncture points correspond to deep-seated nerves, so that when the needles are placed, the nerves are activated and the energy flow will regain balance. This, in turn, triggers the release of several brain chemicals, including endorphins, which block pain signals and help to relieve a number of pregnancy symptoms.

Clinical Psychologist: This support person cannot be encouraged enough. This particular birth team member will allow you to prepare for the birth as well as process and heal post birth as you enter into parenthood. Benefits of a mental health therapist encompass well being, which ultimately affect baby and partner's well being. Becoming a new parent has the possibility of bringing in unexpected stress and anxiety. Having a safe space to process this can make all the difference.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist: This particular support involves biofeedback and exercises to encourage relaxation and strengthening of the muscles of the lower pelvis which have the tendency to weaken in pregnancy and through postpartum. A physical therapist measures muscle tone and the strength of muscle contractions, which give you the information you need to proceed with tailored exercises. After practicing at home, you can see the improvement at your next visit. When necessary, the therapist may use a massage-like technique called myofascial release to help stretch and release the connective tissue between the skin and the muscles and bones in your pelvic region.

Pelvic floor PT postpartum may: strengthen your pelvic floor, re-training your abdominal function, help libido levels or painful intercourse, and treat incontinence.

Adding these members to your birth team care for the entire person. Physical, mental, and emotional supports are vital in attaining the wellness you deserve.

Building Your Birth Team

When you’re pregnant for the first time, people dart questions at you every step of the way. I had no idea what some of the words meant, let alone how to even begin to answer.

“Who is your care provider? Will you have a doula? Do you have a birth plan? Where will you give birth? What position will you give birth in? What’s your EDD? Have you been doing your spinning babies exercises? Do you use a rebozo? Who will be in your birth team?”

Basically, Mr. Google was my continual resource in a time of need. Today on the blog, we are chatting about birth teams and why these people can make the transition to motherhood a little bit easier.

Care Provider: This is who you choose to do all your prenatal care. This person/ group focuses primarily on maternal and fetal health. Different models of care are the Midwifery Model of Care and the Medical Model of Care (defined below). This is the most important choice you will make your entire pregnancy as it will affect your desired outcome (with no guarantees, of course!). Fully trusting your care provider brings peace and confidence as you prepare to meet your baby. It is also never too late in pregnancy to change care providers if you are unhappy with decisions and/or approaches.

Doula: A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula's purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. Because the doula is not medically trained, she does not attend to fetal/maternal physical health but more so focuses on mother’s emotional well being before and during labor.
***Personal Side Note: My doula made a HUGE impact on my birth outcome, I believe. When I was in a state that I could no longer make decisions, she and my partner teamed together to advocate on my behalf. Having her there every step of the way made me feel peace and comfort both physically and emotionally.

Birth Educator: A birth educator is trained to teach childbirth education classes to expectant families. Childbirth educators are a resource for families providing information they may not have access to outside of a birth class. They help couples learn valuable coping skills and strategies to have an empowered birth experience. While your birth educator may not be present at your birth, she is considered part of the birthing team.

Placenta Encapsulation Specialist: Placenta encapsulation is the process of turning your baby's placenta into capsules to aid in your postpartum recovery. The placenta encapsulation specialist (PES) adheres to all OSHA & EPA guidelines regarding blood-borne pathogen transmission, infection prevention, standards for sanitation, and safe food handling. The PES brings all of the necessary equipment and encapsulation materials to your home to complete the process. This process happens postpartum and is believed to help with increasing energy levels, lactation, postpartum anxiety/depression, increased levels of CRH (stress-reducing hormone), and restoration of iron levels in the blood.

There you have it. A well-rounded birth team ready to support the laboring mama every step of the way. Being uplifted and encouraged during labor, I believe, made all the difference prenatally and postnatally for me. Women deserve information and support while they embark on one of the greatest (yet challenging) adventures in their life!

Virginia Apgar: An Advocate for Newborn Health

The APGAR test, a standard newborn test developed in 1953 by Virginia Apgar, assesses an infant's health immediately after birth. At 1 and 5 minutes post birth, the infant is examined and given a score based on the following criteria: heart rate, respiration, color, muscle tone, and reflex irritability. The term APGAR score is a mnemonic learning aid based on its inventor’s last name which stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. By the 1960’s, because of its readability and effectiveness, this score was used widely across the United States. Now, it is globally used and adopted by most doctors and midwives.

This pioneering anesthesiologist worked effortlessly throughout her career to save countless newborns. Born in New Jersey in 1909, she became passionate about medicine in High School. She completed an undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College in zoology with minors in physiology and chemistry. She also played on multiple sports teams, reported for the college newspaper, acted in local plays, and played violin in the orchestra. Her teachers were astounded at her capacity to succeed.

She went on to attend Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (CUCPS) as one of nine women in a class of ninety. She received her medical degree in 1933 and began a surgical residency. The chairman of surgery at CUCPS highly encouraged Apgar to switch to anesthesiology. Anesthesiology, at the time, was given by nurses but surgeries became more and more complicated. This procedure then became a doctor’s specialty. Because the field was relatively new and unresearched, Apgar had the enthusiasm and grit to take it and run with it. And that is just what she did. In 1937, she received her anesthesiologist’s certificate and returned to CUCPS to become the director of the newly formed division of anesthesia and, in 1949, she became the first female full professor in CUCPS’ history.

This high position allowed her to research and study more in depth at Sloane Hospital for Women with laboring and new mothers. She soon realized that there was no developed way and standardized measure to asses the overall health of newborn babies. Mortality for children under a year old in the U.S. had been going down in this time, however, the rate of mortality for newborns remained the same. This was mostly due to the fact that doctors weren’t identifying the babies that were born at risk. Hence no necessary interventions could be put into play. This prompted the brilliant Virginia Apgar to develop the APGAR score in the 1950’s.

She went on, in 1959, to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins University and soon after took a position at the March of Dimes Foundation directing its research into the prevention and treatment of birth defects. She was one of the first people to focus on the effects that premature birth has on an infant’s overall health. Today, the March of Dimes still works to prevent premature birth and is one of their top priorities because of the legacy Apgar left them with. Apgar published over 60 papers and continued to tirelessly work and research until her death in 1974.

David Rose wrote, on the 100th anniversary of her birth in 2009, “Virginia Apgar was an irrepressible and charismatic champion for babies whose wit and lively personality captivated everyone she encountered in her constant quest for improvements to maternal and infant health… it has been said that every baby is first seen through the eyes of Virginia Apgar.”

 

Source: www.amightygirl.com

Baltimore Clinical Herbalist Specializes in Women's Health

Today on the blog, we have an interview with Melanie St. Ours, an author and Baltimore clinical herbalist who specializes in women’s health and mental health.

How did your clinical herbalist passion ignite?

Even though I'd had a lifelong interest in natural healing, I didn't have the courage to turn to herbs until I ran head-first into the limitations of our current healthcare system. It was 2008, and by day I was working as a massage therapist at a busy physical therapy clinic in downtown DC where I was the go-to person for clients with chronic illnesses, trauma histories, and other complex cases. Even with weekly treatments, I could see that they needed more options and that pharmaceuticals often didn't work for their needs. Meanwhile, I was getting sicker and sicker with Ulcerative Colitis --- and was shut out of the system because my "pre-existing condition" made it possible for health insurance companies to deny me access to a policy in those days before The Affordable Car Act had passed.

Seeing the ways that the system can fail people --- both those with access and those without --- made me passionate about becoming an herbalist so that I could teach people how to care for themselves with the medicines the Earth herself provides. I think of herbal medicine as a powerful complement to the medical system. The combination of both approaches is incredibly powerful, and we all deserve access to the best of both worlds.

How has this professional journey helped you in pregnancy?

More than anything, my herbal knowledge allowed me to enter into pregnancy in great health. I'm convinced that being well-nourished and well-supported was a big part of what made it possible for me to conceive right away at age 35 and to have a pregnancy that's been pretty comfortable and uneventful. I'm at 34 weeks today and still feeling good!

What has been the most helpful natural remedies for you while facing typical pregnancy ailments? Inflammation? Constipation? Decreased energy levels? Leg cramping? (Feel free to add any others)

It was a shock when I started experiencing constipation since I'm a vegan and am fantastically regular outside of pregnancy, but my favorite flax seed stool softener has been a huge help! (And I plan to drink this during labor and early postpartum to help make that first BM after birth as easy as possible.) If you want to try it, here's the recipe:

Flaxseed Stool Softener
(from The Simple Guide to Natural Health by Melanie St. Ours)

Ingredients:

1 heaping TBSP whole flax seeds
8oz room temperature (or cold) water

Directions:

1. Combine flax seeds and water in a cup or jar. Stir until all of the seeds are wet.

2. Let the cup or jar sit undisturbed at room temperature or in the fridge for 6-12 hours.

3. After steeping it complete, strain the seeds from the water. (You'll notice that the flax water is thickened and gel-like, especially toward the bottom of the glass/jar. This is what you want!) Drink the water/gel. You can use the soaked flax seeds in a smoothie or on food, or simply discard/compost them.

4. To prevent constipation, drink 1 serving per day. To reverse constipation, drink at least 2 servings per day -- one in the morning and one in the evening. You can increase to up to 4 doses per day if needed, and/or use this remedy in combination with Magnesium to enhance results.

I hope this will help you get some relief in the near future! If you try it for 2-3 days and don't notice much change, I'd add some liquid Magnesium (or Natural Calm dissolved in water) to the equation until you're feeling better.

I understand you have written a book that compiles your professional journey as a clinical herbalist. What inspired you to write the book? What is your hope for the book after publishing?

Well, the book isn't really about my journey as much as it's a guide to help others who are starting out on their own. 🙂 It's called The Simple Guide to Natural Health and is designed to make it easy for beginners to get the most out of all kinds of natural remedies including essential oils, natural body care recipes, healing foods (these are some of my favorite recipes in the whole book!), and homemade herbal tea blends, tinctures, and treats. We've already sold over 10,000 copies and I've spotted the book "in the wild" at Whole Foods, so really my biggest hope at this point is just that it reaches people and helps them to start experiencing how amazing herbs are in their own lives. This medicine really does belong to all of us, and I hope that my work somehow makes it a little bit easier for people to get started.

 

Positive Postpartum Affirmations

Focusing on the labor and birth of your baby during pregnancy leaves many women unrehearsed for the “Fourth Trimester” and beyond. The postpartum period is a time that many women struggle with bonding, feeding, sleeping and giving themselves basic needs for an overall healthy transition into motherhood.

Continuing to speak affirmations over yourself after birth is beneficial in building positive mental health for both you and your baby. Below are several powerful affirmations that will encourage you as embark on your new journey.

I am a strong and capable parent.

I am able to balance all of my responsibilities with ease and grace.

My body will continue to heal.

I am making the best choice for my baby.

Challenging does not mean impossible.

I am so much stronger than I think.

I will take this one moment at a time.

I will try my best to enjoy the process.

I am doing the best I can with what I have.

My baby is being nourished by me.

I will listen to advice given but listen to my intuition above all else.

I am rockin’ this mom bod and I look beautiful.

I allow my tribe to surround me with love and support.

I honor and respect the instinct inside me.

My baby is a different human than someone else’s baby.

I know what my baby needs.

I trust the divine development of my baby.

My baby and I share a sacred bond.

Patience is the first lesson I am working on as a mother.

I will take the time for self-care today.

I will lean into my partner when I need help.

I will choose to be kind to myself.

I am beautifully and wonderfully made.

No one else can mother my baby better than me.

I can freely choose how to parent my baby.

 

Need Birth Affirmations? Click here.

The Golden Hour: Those First 60 Minutes After Birth Are in Fact Pure Gold

The first 60 minutes after your baby is born are remarkably beneficial for bonding and attachment between mama and her new babe. What is the golden hour exactly? How can you maximize attachment and bonding in this hour? How long should skin-to-skin be established before those medical tasks and procedures are performed? These questions all point to this golden hour and its magical luster.

Congratulations! Your baby has been born. You have finally gotten a chance to gaze in their eyes for the first time after feeling all the pregnancy symptoms and baby’s movements. You are on the other side of labor and it feels so incredibly relieving.

That uninterrupted contact between mother and baby during the “golden hour” after birth is critical to the child’s growth and development. In the past, often times, the baby was whisked away from mother to perform all the essential procedures such as weight, bath, vaccinations (if consented by parents), diapering and swaddling. Mom would be waiting to receive her new bundle back once tasks were performed. Health care providers now understand and know that the more skin-to-skin mom can have with baby immediately after the birth, the better chance of bonding the mother will have and also the better overall experience the family will have as they embark on their new parenting journey.

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends the following guidelines:

So what exactly are the benefits?

Expectant mothers can talk to their care provider about the standard procedures for this postpartum period. Your birth plan can also include these 60 minutes immediately following birth. Every mother and baby should have a chance to experience their “golden hour.”

 

5 Popular Pieces of Baby Gear You Can Do Without

If you’re expecting your first child, you’ve likely started a baby registry. This can be both a fun
and daunting task. Without having your baby here, how exactly are you supposed to know what
baby gear is needed and which products you’re better off passing up? Look no further. I’m going to
give you a list of five very popular baby registry items that truly are unnecessary, some are even
considered unsafe.

Baby-Specific Laundry Detergent
If you’re seeking a gentle detergent for your baby, it’s likely your favorite brand has a
hypoallergenic, fragrance-free laundry detergent available. Most brands of laundry detergent
offer this option and all are less expensive than brands like Dreft that sport a much larger price
tag solely because new parents are willing to pay more for what they believe is “best for baby.”
Simply by avoiding baby-specific detergents, you can save quite a bit of money while still
providing a safe washing alternative to conventional, highly-scented, often high-allergen laundry
detergents. Truthfully, the “free & clear” detergents are actually a better choice for the whole
family since artificial fragrance has been linked to a wide variety of health issues no matter
one’s age.

Bumbo
The Bumbo seat and other brands like it allow baby to be in an upright-seated position before
baby is naturally able to sit unsupported on her own. Many parents may view this as a positive
thing to help baby learn how to sit upright or to develop the muscles necessary to reach this
milestone more quickly. However, it seems the opposite is true. Propping a baby into this
position at a time when his body has not organically achieved the muscle tone to do so, could
have a negative effect on baby’s core strength and in some cases could even delay or hinder baby’s natural trajectory to meet this milestone. A better and free (yay!) option is to allow baby ample time on both back
and tummy so that all muscles are getting a solid workout in a natural way, allowing baby to
reach this development in her own time.

Large reclining high chair
This common-style of high chair is not only large and awkward, difficult to store, and often in the
way, it’s also totally unnecessary. The main purpose of a high chair is to facilitate feeding solids
foods to your baby. The latest recommendations for introduction to solids include waiting for
baby to show signs of physical readiness, one of the most important signs being the ability to sit
upright unsupported. If one is waiting until baby is physically capable of doing this, the reclining option on the seat is negated, leaving this type of seat largely pointless. A simple booster seat with a tray that straps to an
existing dining chair or a seat that latches directly to the table are both far less expensive and
take up far less space than does a traditional stand-alone, reclining high-chair.

Bucket Car Seat
I know, I know, this is a tough one for people to swallow because it seems like such a high-
priority item. However, with convertible car seats available that are made to hold brand new
infants up through older toddlers, if money-savings is at all a thought for you, skipping the infant-
carrier/baby bucket type car seat is a great option! Many people lean toward this handled car
seat because babies sleep so much in the first few months. It’s thought to be a no-brainer that
you can just carry baby from car to destination and leave baby sound asleep without
disturbance. However, the latest information and recommendations warn against babies
sleeping in this type of seat other than when in-transit since the positioning is not ideal and can
pose a risk to baby. Taking away the convenience of keeping a sleeping baby asleep once
no longer in a traveling vehicle, really seems to greatly decrease the appeal of this type of seat.
You may now wonder what one would do with a baby in a grocery store for instance or out at a
social event if there isn’t a car seat to keep baby contained. This is where babywearing really
comes in handy and is often less cumbersome than lugging around an infant in a heavy car
seat.

‘Smart’ Monitors
With all the hoopla surrounding the many smart-monitors available now, it seems parents are
flocking to these pricey products in the hopes of preventing SIDS or other potential health
issues. The problem with these is that they haven’t been shown to reduce or prevent either of
those scenarios nor have they been approved by the FDA. A study done in 2017 shows that
false alarms are common while actual potential issues for oxygen saturation or heart-rate were
sometimes not detected at all. Doctors are warning parents not to rely on these physiologic
monitors since their effectiveness is questionable and could cause parents either undue distress
or an assurance everything is fine when perhaps it is not. It seems that outside of a true medical need for
constant oxygen/respiration monitoring, which should be done with only hospital-grade
machinery prescribed by a medical professional, this type of monitoring is not needed at all and
should not be viewed as a guaranteed accurate measure of baby’s state of physical well-being.
With baby items, like anything else, most of what is sold is unnecessary. Babies, particularly
young babies, require very little in the way of material goods and a great deal in the way of
physical nurturing and emotional support. If you don’t have the desire for or cannot afford all the
latest gadgets marketed to new parents, take heart, you and your love for baby are what is
needed most and that cannot be purchased!

Acupuncture and Moxibustion: A Dynamic Duo

What is Moxibustion?
Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials called "moxa" are burned on or very near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi in the body and dispel certain pathogenic influences.

Moxa is usually made from the dried leafy material of Chinese mugwort, but it can be made of other substances as well to achieve the same goal.

What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the method of treatment based on influencing the body by inserting needles in the specific points of human body, called acupoints. The name originates from Latin and literally means “inserting needles” – Latin “acus” – needle and„ “punctura” – to needle/to stick needles.

Why are these two therapies often used as a pair?
Practitioners often pair the two therapies because it is believed that the two of these together can be more effective when the diagnosis allows for it, such as a breech presentation of baby.

 

How can this double therapy be helpful in pregnancy?
This powerful pair is often used in relation to breech baby presentation which typically appears around 20+ weeks of pregnancy. This happens in about 4% of all pregnancies. Many times, baby turns on his/her own and no further treatment is needed. However, when approaching the end of pregnancy with a breech baby, these two ancient Chinese therapies could find themselves extremely useful! A study in 2009 showed that these two methods were, in fact, effective in changing the presentation of the baby.

The conclusion of the study is as follows: Acupuncture plus moxibustion is more effective than observation in revolving fetuses in breech presentation. Such a method appears to be a valid option for women willing to experience a natural birth.

Sleep-Training Considerations: Part I

If you’re a parent, you know sleep-training is a hot topic. Fueled with passion from both sides, some swear by it and claim that it’s the only thing that can be done to teach a child to sleep, while others say it’s not necessary and that baby will learn over time, without it. There’s so much talk about whether it’s right or wrong that folks don’t sit back, take a deep breath, and consider the implications of sleep-training and how it feels for them personally, away from all the chatter.

The two most-recommended sleep training methods are: 1) extinction, often referred to as cry-it-out (CIO), where a parent puts a child down awake and does not return until morning, and 2) the Ferber-method, where a parent puts down a drowsy child and increases the duration of time baby is left alone while periodically checking-in when baby is distressed; offering some reassurances (verbally, picking-up and putting back down, pats on the head or back, etc) until eventually the parent stops re-entering the room at all. Being that these two are the most popular and the methods that come with such heated debate, these are the two being considered for the purpose of this post. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s unpack what this looks like.

 

Night-feedings

It’s no secret that babies need to eat frequently. Some people try to convince parents that once babies have achieved a given weight or once babies hit a certain age, night-feedings are no longer necessary. The issue with this, particularly for nursing babies up to a year old, is that the intervals at which they feed and the number of feedings needed in a 24-hour period depends largely on Mom’s biology, namely her breast storage capacity and breast fullness. By prematurely cutting out night-feedings in the hopes of more sleep, baby’s total daily caloric intake is reduced. This has the potential to negatively affect baby’s growth, mood, and overall well-being. Additionally, it introduces the possibility of creating clogged ducts, mastitis, or supply issues for Mom.

 

Nighttime Parenting

As parents, clocking-in and clocking-out just isn’t an option. We need to have a realistic expectation that we’ll be up through the night with our babies for at least the first year, perhaps even longer. Reframing the idea of the often frustrating parental night-waking into “nighttime parenting” is helpful. While the sun is no longer shining and the goings-on of the day have wound down, the parent is still on-call, the baby is still fully dependent on the caregiver for all of the same things the caregiver provides during daylight hours. With that in mind, it’s important to reflect on how you respond to baby during the day. Do you let baby fuss for several minutes before responding? Do you wait to respond until baby is crying heartily, obviously needing attention? Do you tune out the cries and wait for baby to sort it out on her own? As parents, while we may deeply desire uninterrupted sleep, we don’t clock out at the end of the day. We’re always on and babies are relying on us. When considering how differently nighttime presents itself; the dark, the quiet, baby is often totally alone; one can clearly see how baby’s needs are likely to increase, rather than decrease. Instead of nighttime lending itself to a hands-off approach to parenting, nighttime is a time of high need for baby. High need for baby means the need for high responsiveness from parents.

 

Physiology of Distress and Self-Soothing

Babies are tiny humans so their bodily systems operate similarly to an adult’s. Being so much smaller however, babies’ bodies are more easily overcome by physiological changes than are our adults’ bodies. As babies cry and then cry harder, their physiology responds the way ours would as we get increasingly upset. Blood pressure increases, body temperature increases, heart rate increases, cortisol levels rise, respiration increases, skin may flush, sweating ensues. Baby may begin to get a headache, nose will run, voice will become hoarse.

No parent wishes this type of physical distress on their baby. However parents will willingly allow this to occur when convinced that baby is manipulating them or that baby is “only” frustrated and needs no intervention. Parents, with broken hearts and large glasses of wine, sit outside the door of their hysterical baby because they’ve been told that without this, baby will simply never learn to sleep-through-the-night.

The phrase “self-soothe”  is mentioned again and again; along with the idea that babies can only learn this skill by working it out alone through tears, screams, and sobs. However, when taking a step back, one can see, as is pointed out in this chart, that a baby’s capacity for soothing is virtually totally limited to reliance on the parent. And of course, the younger the baby, the higher that reliance.


Reflect on How it Feels

You’ve waited 40 long weeks (give or take) to hold this sweet baby in your arms. Now that your baby has arrived it seems like everyone is encouraging you to treat her like a hot potato. Don’t hold the baby while he sleeps, you must get baby sleeping in her own room, you must teach the baby to self-soothe, you’re going to spoil him, the baby will never learn to sleep along if you’re always holding her. How does that advice feel for you? When you hear your baby crying, does it feel in your heart like you want to tune the cries out or do you feel drawn to your baby? Do you feel a strong urge to snuggle your baby up and soothe the baby through nursing or rocking or patting? If there weren’t all the outside noise blaring well-intended advice at you, what would you do instinctually?

We need to find our way back to our natural leanings as parents rather than listening to so-called “sleep experts” and well-meaning friends and family members. We are physiologically hard-wired to be hear and respond to our children. To attempt to desensitize one’s self to the calls of our offspring can prove detrimental to both parent and child. This period of such high physical need, while admittedly challenging, is short-lived but vital to a child’s attachment to parents and overall trust and security.

 

How Did We Get Here?

If the claim is that we’re being coerced to deviate from natural responses to our children, it begs the question why. What has happened in our culture that some parents have made a choice to tune out a crying infant in order to catch some Z’s of their own? Are these heartless parents? No. These are desperate parents! Parents desperate for sleep, desperate for routine, desperate for the ability to function on the job.

This desperation is at least, in part, rooted in the fact that our society does not value parents in actionable ways. There is a major lack of support for parents in our country. Mothers are expected go back to work at 6 weeks postpartum; the “lucky” ones who can manage financially without pay, go back around 3-4 months postpartum. Neither is  enough time to establish one’s position as a parent, let alone get the hang of breastfeeding, become accustomed to frequent night-waking, fully embrace the notion of being totally responsible for sustaining another human life. These are all huge emotional and physical undertakings and there is little to no cultural understanding of that. Then when returning to work, it’s often a struggle for breastfeeding mothers to fit in time for pumping and can require a lot of legwork upfront to get approval and space for pumping breaks.

The challenge for mothers to be able to perform at work without falling asleep at their desks in-between their rushed pumping sessions is very real. This weighs heavily on these women who are trying so hard to manage a very new and very stressful lifestyle. Going home at night only to lose precious sleep once again is enough to wear anyone down. Something has to give and oftentimes the promise of more sleep makes sleep-training seem like the only option.

 

Is there an Alternative?

There is an alternative to traditional sleep-training that improves sleep for both Mother and baby! Keep an eye out for Part II of this post which will address that.

Veterans Moms Tell All: Advice for Moms-to-Be

In today's information age, preparing for motherhood can sometimes be an overwhelming and daunting experience. It can be incredibly challenging to find  unbiased information for many topics related to pregnancy, birth, infant care, and the postpartum period, and it seems like just when you think you have the answers you're seeking, someone in your life contradicts it.

In an effort to get real life advice from moms who have been there and done it, we took to our local Facebook group, Baltimore Birth, Babies & Breastfeeding and asked the following question:

What is the most important piece of advice you could give to a person who is about to welcome their first baby?

We got an outpouring of responses to share with you.  Below you will find very honest, candid, and wise feedback about those early postpartum days from moms throughout Baltimore.  If you're looking for a place to ask your own questions related to the childbearing year, join us on Facebook!

The Call for Limiting Ultrasounds During Pregnancy

Fetal ultrasound is a method of viewing a fetus while in the womb. Ultrasound technology uses
sound waves, that bounce off the baby’s mass, to produce a picture of the baby. While both the
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the Food and Drug Administration
both agree that limiting fetal ultrasound is important, some doctors continue to insist on
frequently looking at baby in-utero without caution.

To avoid unnecessary viewing of your unborn baby, ask why an ultrasound is necessary.
Oftentimes, doctors utilize certain technology simply because it’s readily available without taking
into account the potential risks at-hand. In the case of fetal ultrasounds, it seems that
obstetricians, especially those with direct-in-office-access to ultrasound technology, like to “take
a peek” at baby in-utero far more frequently than may be clinically-indicated. Some women have
a fetal ultrasound performed at nearly each prenatal visit. Patients, trusting the doctor, don’t
always question why the ultrasounds are being conducted, and understandably so, enjoy being
able to view baby. However, if there is not a clear clinical need to have these images taken,
these ultrasounds are better off being declined.

What are the potential risks you’re even avoiding if you were to decline an ultrasound? In this
FDA article, Dr. Shahram Vaezy, an FDA biomedical engineer, states that,
“Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles
(cavitation) in some tissues.” Dr. Vaezy also warns that, “...prudent use of these devices by
trained health care providers is important.” Ultrasound has also been utilized recently to help
heal fractured bones and is also used to “blast” away kidney stones. Something that has the
potential to change the tissues of a developing fetus should be used with caution and operated
strictly by a trained health professional. This means that not only should the storefront
“keepsake” ultrasonography shops be completely avoided but frequent viewing of baby under
any circumstance increases risks to the fetus.

A trained ultrasound technician should be the only person performing these scans but it’s not
just the operator that holds significance. The length of time the ultrasound takes place is also of
significance. The longer the fetus is exposed to ultrasound, and the longer the fetal temperature
is altered, the higher the potential risks. The ACOG, in an October 2017 “ACOG Committee
Opinion” release note specifically that, “Ultrasound imaging should be performed efficiently and
only when clinically indicated to minimize fetal exposure risk using the keeping acoustic output
levels As Low As Reasonably Achievable (commonly known as ALARA) principle.”
Worth noting is that fetal Dopplers, often used by care providers to listen, not look, at baby in-
utero, also utilize ultrasonic sound waves to pick up baby’s heartbeat. These monitors carry a similar risk to visual ultrasound and also carry warnings as to be used only by healthcare
professionals. By purchasing this type of monitor, many mothers feel reassured by being able to
listen to baby’s heartbeat at any given time. However, Doppler monitors have not been
designed for at-home use.

The decision for frequency of ultrasound exposure during pregnancy remains with the patient.
With information regarding both risks and benefits of this medical intervention, one can make an
informed choice as to how she wishes to proceed when ultrasound is recommended by her care
provider. It is always important to have an open dialogue with your provider regarding any
concerns about recommended procedures. Only when the patient is comfortable and in
agreement, should a non-emergent procedure take place. As a patient, you have the right to
decline any or all ultrasounds recommended by your care provider. You also have the right to
question what the provider is hoping to find through the recommended imaging and how the
imaging itself would affect future medical recommendations.

While ultrasound is widely accepted in the medical community as being safe and carrying little
to no risk, it is still wise to proceed with caution. Let us not forget that several decades ago, X-
rays were used readily for a host of reasons, including fetal imaging and were considered “safe.”
Of course, now more is known and there is great caution with X-ray use. This is a good lesson
in why, for a healthy pregnancy, less medical intervention is often the best choice.

Placenta Print Art

The placenta is an amazing organ that gave your baby life for the 9 or so months that s/he lived inside of your body. Most often this organ is discarded as medical waste with a total disregard for it's important work. Instead of tossing it, how can you honor the birth of your baby and maximize the use of the “tree of life?” Placenta art may be one of the last things that pop into your head, but there are a number of reasons why to consider having your baby's placenta printed:

These prints can be displayed on a wall or kept with baby’s other precious mementos. Whatever you choose to do with your prints, know that it is a lasting way to celebrate the birth of your baby.

Contact us to discuss whether placenta prints are right for you!

 

 

Protein in Pregnancy: What’s the big deal?

Have you ever wondered just how important your diet is for your growing baby in your belly? Have you ever allowed craving after craving to drive your food intake? Have you ever felt like your body only wanted to eat carbs, carbs and more carbs? If you have answered yes to one or all of these questions, this blog post is for you.

Throughout pregnancy, a protein rich diet can make all the difference in maternal and fetal health. It can reduce risk factors for pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, and even improve your birth outcome. But how?!

When your baby is growing the fastest, during the second and third trimester, it is vital that your body intakes protein which contains amino acids. These acids are the building blocks for you and your baby. Most experts recommend consuming a minimum of 80 to 120 grams of protein per day while pregnant. It is also important to use salt to taste. Between 20-25% of your daily calories should come from protein. As explained in the chart below, albumin is made directly from the protein mom eats which in turn increases blood volume. When mom doesn’t get enough calories, the protein is burned up rather than being used to make albumin. This unfortunately drops blood volume. The result of high blood pressure is due to the kidneys producing an enzyme called renin which makes the blood vessels constrict. This down spiral of events often leads to early signs of pre-eclampsia and usually early induction of baby.

Adequate protein and salt for the pregnant mom are vital in an overall healthy pregnancy and an uncomplicated delivery. Best choices that include protein are as follows: meat and poultry, fish and seafood, eggs, dairy products, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, high protein grains, protein powder. If the mother will increase the amount of salt, protein, and calories that she eats, the blood volume will increase, and blood pressure will come down to a normal level. Sometimes, this could even mean eating an ounce or two of protein every hour. It is in fact possible to reverse pre-eclampsia risks with proper protein-rich nutrition. For more information on the link between nutrition and pre-eclampsia, see www.drbrewerpregnancydiet.com.

protein in the maternal diet

Meet Hyeon-Jin Kwon, Baltimore acupuncturist and women's health practitioner

Today we are discussing acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine and women's health with Baltimore acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine practitioner Hyeon-Jin Kwon. The Nurturing Root has had the honor of serving Hyeon-Jin after the births of all 3 of her babies, and have enjoyed learning about the important work she does to help women conceive and have healthy pregnancies and postpartum experiences.

Baltimore acupuncture pregnancy
Hi, my name is Hyeon-Jin. I work at Sustainability Wellness located inside Ruxton Towers in Towson. Our office offers many different forms of healing and energy work such as acupuncture, massage, readings, reflexology, and therapeutic touch.
How were you lead to this professional path?
I've tried on many different hats throughout my career. I never quite felt satisfied with the jobs I had and was always searching for the next thing that I thought would feed my soul. One day, with absolute clarity, I knew my work would be in acupuncture. I was let go from my job at the time as a gemologist (one of my many hats) because of downsizing. I thanked the Universe and I happily packed my bags. I drove from LA to SF in the hopes I would get into acupuncture school. I didn't have a Plan B and I've never looked back.
What are you most passionate about in your profession? Why?
My passion is helping others in their journey. Patients come to my office for many reasons and at all stages of health but it's my job to figure out what is it they need in this moment and in the long term. It could be tangible like a Chinese formula or it could be intangible like encouragement. Sometimes all it takes is a small shift to make a big difference.
I'm also passionate about education. My belief is that if patients are given all the information then they can make an informed decision. Too often than not, I find that piece missing when listening to patients. I want them to feel confident and take control of their health.
What are the benefits of your practice for the pregnant woman?
I see many women during the pregnancy for all the fun things. Nausea, constipation, and fatigue are common during first trimester. Back pain, sciatica, pubic pain, edema, and carpel tunnel are just a few things during second and third trimester. If there is an issue before pregnancy, it's usually exacerbated with pregnancy so I work on minimizing if not relieving it.
At times I see women just at the tail end of their pregnancy. I help with labor preparation by working on the physical and psychological aspects of opening up for labor and delivery.
Explain how you are able to use your work to help women facing
infertility issues.
Chinese medicine is wonderful at understanding the complexities of the individual person and is not a one-size fits all. We begin with a thorough intake of their medical history which includes understanding their cycle. There is so much information to be learned from each week of the cycle. I examine where they are in their fertility journey and where they would like to go. In addition to a treatment plan which includes acupuncture, herbs and supplements; I offer nutritional and lifestyle counseling. The same approach is used for women trying to conceive naturally or with assisted reproductive treatments. Fortunately the medical community has become more open and even encouraging women going through IUI and IVF to seek out acupuncture.
What drew you to using placenta medicinally during your own postpartum experiences and how do you think it helped in your recovery?
I first learned about placenta encapsulation when I was an acupuncture student from my doula classmates. While in herbs class, I also learned placenta is part of the Chinese pharmacopeia. Placenta can not be used as part of an herbal formula that I prescribe in the US as determined by the FDA. But knowing the properties and benefits of placenta, I thought if I were to give birth then I would absolutely encapsulate - it made perfect sense. My recovery, luckily, was pretty smooth. My energy was good and my milk came in well (thank you Carmen for that reassurance) after taking the pills. I am so grateful especially for increasing my milk production which caused this new mom quite a bit of stress! Luckily, I had rather large placentas so I had enough pills to freeze. When production started to dip as I went back to work those capsules in freezer gave me peace of mind. I have happily called upon the services of The Nurturing Root for each of my 3 babies. And recommending placenta encapsulation is always on my list of recommendations to my mama-to-be patients.

YUM! Milk Boosting Horchata

We've taken a timeless Mexican Horchata recipe and adapted it to support lactation in new mothers.  By substituting the rice for oats and using a plant-based milk, this recipe may be helpful with milk production in breastfeeding mothers.

Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup of uncooked oats

5 cups of water

1 cup of coconut, rice, or almond milk

1/2 T vanilla extract

2 cinnamon sticks

1/3 cup of sugar (more or less to taste)

 

Directions:

1. Place 2 cups of water, oats, and cinnamon sticks in the blender until the oats and cinnamon sticks are roughly ground.

2. Add additional water and place mixture in the fridge to soak overnight (or 4 hours minimum).

3. Strain mixture and discard solid contents.

4. Add vanilla, milk, and sugar.

Serve cold.

 

**This recipe is not intended as a fix for supply issues or breastfeeding challenges.  For mothers struggling with breastfeeding or milk production, we encourage you to reach out to one of our recommended IBCLCs for guidance and support.** 

Soothing Hemorrhoids in Pregnancy and Postpartum

Hemorrhoids, which are swollen and exposed blood vessels in the rectum, are perhaps one of the biggest complaints I hear from expecting and postpartum parents.  Some find they have hemorrhoids during pregnancy, while others get them postpartum, likely from pushing.  hemorrhoids

But why do hemorrhoids happen in pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the increased progesterone levels cause the walls of the veins to relax, increasing the likelihood of swelling.  Progesterone levels can also cause constipation in expecting mothers, particularly in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  With increased swelling, constipation, and the growing uterus adding pressure to the inferior vena cava, hemorrhoids can become a common and unpleasant pregnancy symptom.

What can I do to soothe hemorrhoids in pregnancy/postpartum?

Eat well and supplement to make sure stools remain soft. Don't strain. Eating a diet high in fiber can help keep constipation at bay.  Leafy greens, fruits, beans, and whole grains are all good sources of fiber.  Supplementing with magnesium is also known to help keep bathroom habits comfortable and regular.  I love this magnesium supplement and add it to my daily smoothies. Regular exercise can also encourage mobility in the bowel.

Witch Hazel is an anti-inflammatory antiseptic that can reduce discomfort and itchiness.  Witch hazel is also an astringent, which contracts the tissues to minimize bleeding. After wiping, dip a cotton ball in witch hazel and apply to the area.

Sitz Baths are a basin that sits in the toilet bowel and can be used to soak your bottom in warm water.  Not only can a sitz bath keep the area clean, but the warmth of the water can be comforting and also increases blood flow to the area encouraging healing.

Using cold compresses or ice packs can reduce pain and swelling in the area.  Alternating between hot and cold throughout the day is ideal.

Kegeling can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which can prevent internal hemorrhoids from being exposed.  The exercise can also increase blood flow to the pelvic area, promoting healing of existing hemorrhoids.

Potatoes! Using a cheese grater, shred a raw potato.  Use the grated pieces of potato to make poultice and place it next to the hemorrhoid (do not insert into the rectum).  This is reported to reduce the swelling and the size of the hemorrhoid.

A diet high in vitamin C is known to strengthen blood vessels and can help prevent hemorrhoids.  An added bonus of vitamin C is it also maximizes iron absorption. 

 

 

Natural Pain Relief Options For Birth

Maybe you are looking to have a natural birth experience? Or perhaps, you plan on getting that epidural as soon as you get to the hospital! No matter what your ideal birth looks like, the majority of women will benefit from some great natural pain relief options and techniques to help them get through contractions!

Labor is so aptly named, as it is the purposeful hard work you do, on the final journey to meet your baby! During labor your body goes through incredible physical, emotional, and hormonal changes. This transformation of birth is often accompanied by a substantial degree of discomfort. Of course laboring women want to mitigate pain, but short of using pharmacological interventions, how do you really reduce pain in labor and birth? You support your body’s own natural pain relieving abilities! Here is the key to natural pain relief: During birth you want to reduce cortisol levels, the hormone produced in response to stress, and catecholamines, the ‘fight or flight’ hormones, produced in response of fear. And you want to increase oxytocin and beta-endorphin levels, to help facilitate labor, provide a sense of euphoria, and alleviate pain. The following seven natural pain relief options for birth help your body balance specific hormones, to ease labor discomforts.

Education
Educating yourself about pregnancy, labor, and birth will help build your knowledge, prepare you emotionally and mentally, and give you the necessary tools and techniques to navigate the modern birth landscape. Education serves as an important natural pain relief tool, because you are replacing fear of the unknown with information and excitement about your birth. When you know what to expect from the birth process, it becomes much easier to cope with the pain of labor. You can educate yourself by taking a comprehensive childbirth course, read birth stories, and find informational and supportive books about the birth process. Knowing what to expect will build your confidence and prove to be a powerful pain relief tool!

Relaxation
There are several facets to relaxation that you should consider. You want to create a relaxing birth environment and learn to relax, both physically and emotionally. Employing this trifecta will serve as exceptional natural pain relief during labor. First, you want to create a relaxing birth environment. Curating a serene atmosphere with dim lighting, candles, aromatherapy, and calming music can get the oxytocin flowing, and ease tension to help you enjoy labor.

It is also important to relax both physically and emotionally. A recent study suggests engaging in relaxation exercises, through a mindfulness-based practice during pregnancy, can help reduce anxiety and facilitate an easier and more satisfying birth experience. Mindfulness is simply a state of awareness, that arises from paying attention to the present moment. This mindfulness app, specifically created for pregnancy, birth, and parenthood, is a fantastic training tool to help you engage in relaxation wherever you are. There are also several simple, but effective exercises that will teach you how to relax your muscles during times of tension and stress. To benefit most from these physical and emotional relaxation exercises, set aside time once or twice per day during your pregnancy. Relaxation training can truly help you have an amazing birth experience.

Movement
Your baby must navigate down and out through your pelvis during labor and birth. Movement is key in facilitating this, and serves as an important pain relief strategy for you. Getting into a more upright position, or even just changing positions regularly can really help you manage even the most intense contractions. Movement can speed up a slow labor, help a posterior baby turn into a more optimal (and less painful!) position, and help you get a little more comfortable. Consider taking a walk, spending time on a birth ball, or use the support of your partner’s body to sway through contractions. Finding rhythm and ritual through movement is a fantastic pain coping mechanism.

Water
Hydrotherapy is a scientifically proven natural, stress reducing and pain relief technique. Laboring in a warm bath can provide an incredible level of pain reduction. Taking a hot shower can be exceptionally relaxing, while helping you get upright, which helps baby move down and through your pelvis.

Acupressure
Acupressure is based on principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine, an ancient and holistically focused wellness practice. Utilizing and applying direct pressure to specific points on the body during labor, may provide you with phenomenal pain relief. Acupressure is a wonderfully convenient and cost-effective pain relief tool. You can take advantage of the benefits almost anywhere, and without any special equipment. When direct and appropriate pressure is applied to this area of the back and on the feet, relief from uncomfortable back labor may be alleviated, almost effortlessly.

Massage
The demonstrated pain relief benefits of massage during labor are extensive. There are both physical and emotional advantages to massage therapy during labor and birth. It can relax tense muscles, easing the pain of contractions, shorten labor, facilitate rest, ease anxiety, and promote a sense of serenity. Your partner or birth support person can help you access the amazing pain relief options of massage by following these techniques.

Emotional Support
Having a supportive birth team is one of the most effective natural pain relief tools available! It is crucial to find a provider you trust, who encourages your birth philosophy, educate your birth partner, and hire a birth doula! A doula is a trained maternal support practitioner who provides emotional, physical, and educational assistance to a laboring mother and her birth partner. Evidence overwhelmingly supports having a doula as a powerful natural pain relief option. With dedicated labor support, women are more likely to have a satisfying and positive birth experience and require less medical pain management. Doulas can provide comfort with numerous pain-relief techniques that help reduce anxiety and fear, support physical and emotional relaxation, promote an uncomplicated physiological birth, and facilitate a positive birth environment.

Birth can be a joyous occasion for the the entire family. With the right preparation, support, and natural pain relief options, you can absolutely have the best (and possibly pain-free) birth experience. If you would like more natural pain relief tips, tools, and techniques, enroll in our Natural Pain Relief Strategies For Labor Workshop. This incredible class helps couples gain an amazing sense of self-reliance, so they can cope with labor beautifully.

The Nurturing Root loves to support and educate families in Baltimore. We offer an exceptional array of Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth courses and holistic newborn care classes, in-home placenta encapsulation, and family-centered postpartum doula and infant care support. We are honored to serve your family. Please contact us for more information, today!

7 Tips To Prepare For A Natural Birth

Did you know that 85% of pregnant women are able to have a safe natural childbirth experience? But, only about 2% of American women give birth without any interventions. What is the disconnect? Certainly choice plays a role. Some women aren’t necessarily interested in unmedicated childbirth. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control National Vital Statistics Report, over 60% of women use an epidural for pain relief in labor. Also our culture and institutions impact a mother’s ability to birth naturally. Since one in three women welcome their babies via surgery, desiring a natural childbirth can feel somewhat unattainable. Know that if you are considering natural childbirth, it is so crucial to properly prepare yourself. With commitment and support, you can have an awesome, unmedicated birth experience! Follow these 7 tips, and you will be on target to have the best natural birth!

Be thoughtful when selecting a birth location!
In most places throughout the United States, you have access to three different birth locations. Mothers can give birth in a hospital setting, at a freestanding birth center, or at home. There are benefits and risks to all of these locations. You also need to decide where you feel most comfortable having your baby. If you really want an unmedicated natural birth experience in a hospital setting, find out what the c-section rate is for the facility you are considering. Individual hospital c-section rates vary widely, even within the same community. If you are thinking about having your baby at a freestanding birth center, this study presents great evidence to support safe and satisfying birth outcomes for mom and baby in a center environment. The study explains that if you have a low-risk, healthy pregnancy, your chances of having a c-section (via hospital transfer) is only 6% at a birth center, versus a 25% chance of c-section if you birth at a hospital. Your risk of interventions and c-section are lowest if you are planning a home birth. In this significant study, which analyzed nearly 17,000 planned home births, nearly 96% of women delivered their babies vaginally, and only 4.5% required pitocin to start or augment their labor. Compare this to a 30% induction rate in a hospital setting for first-time, low-risk mothers. Where you decide to birth matters! Understand the risks and benefits of different birth locations, and choose wisely.

Select a midwife as your prenatal provider!
Just like birth location, the provider you choose to see during pregnancy, and to attend your birth, has huge implications in your ability to have a natural birth experience. If you are having a healthy, normal pregnancy absolutely choose a midwife over an OB/GYN. The midwifery model of care sees pregnancy as a normal life event, that almost always results in a healthy mother and child. Midwives view pregnancy and birth through a holistic lens, and support women with more individualized care and minimize technological interventions. They also will identify and refer expectant mothers to obstetrical care, when truly necessary. There are several types of midwives, including Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Professional Midwives, licensed midwives, and direct-entry midwives. The majority of pregnant women are able to access midwifery care in a hospital, birth center, and/or home environment. Research midwives in your area, find out if they attend births in your desired setting, and select a midwife that encourages your wishes for an unmedicated birth!

Take a comprehensive natural childbirth course!
Everyone knows that knowledge is power! Simply wishing for a natural birth will almost certainly not get you there. Educating yourself about birth will help build your knowledge, prepare you emotionally and mentally, and give you the necessary tools and techniques to navigate the modern birth landscape. Invest in a thoughtful, comprehensive childbirth education program that prepares both you and your partner for natural birth. Look for natural childbirth classes that covers staying low-risk in pregnancy, nutrition, exercise, relaxation techniques, choosing a care provider and birth location, anatomy and physiology of labor, birth-partner preparations, common policies and procedures, breastfeeding, newborn care, and possible complications, interventions, and alternatives. A great childbirth education course will really build your natural birthing confidence and abilities!

Take exceptional care of your body!
Preparing your body for birth is crucial. Having a healthy, nutrient rich diet and exercising regularly and appropriately, provides a strong foundation for natural birth. Caring for your body and baby with proper nutrition and exercise will help keep you low-risk, and may alleviate common pregnancy related ailments. Also consider chiropractic care during pregnancy. Find and visit a chiropractor certified in the Webster Technique. A chiropractor can help balance your pelvis and spine, so your baby can find the best position for birth. A review of studies found that women who received regular chiropractic adjustments throughout pregnancy had 39% shorter labors. Achieving optimal wellness with diet, exercise, and chiropractic will pay off big time!

Practice mindfulness!
Training your mind and heart for natural birth is just as important as preparing your body. A recent study suggests engaging in a mindfulness-based practice during pregnancy can help reduce anxiety and facilitate an easier and more satisfying birth experience. Mindfulness is simply a state of awareness, that arises from paying attention to the present moment. A prenatal mindfulness practice can be applied in a variety of ways. You may choose to facilitate your own quiet meditative practice, choose visualization exercises, engage in progressive relaxation, or even use a mindfulness app, specifically created for pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. Whatever you choose, mindfulness is a practice, so set aside time once or twice per day, and focus on the moment, to help you achieve an amazing natural birth.

Find your tribe!
Connect to other pregnant and new mothers that are interested in natural birth. It is so bizarre, but culturally normal, for veteran moms to share pregnancy and birth horror stories with expectant mothers. Disregard this negativity, and find your natural birth tribe. You can, of course, find a community of like-minded natural mothers everywhere online. If available, search for and attend a birth group or mama’s circle in your area.

Hire a doula!
Regardless of the type of birth you want or ultimately have, you should hire a birth doula! A doula is a trained maternal support practitioner who provides emotional, physical, and educational assistance to a laboring mother and her birth partner. Doulas help families have a safe, memorable, and empowering birth experience. Evidence overwhelmingly supports having a doula present during labor. With continuous labor support, women are more likely to have a satisfying and positive birth experience, less likely to have surgical interventions, and require less medical pain management. Birthing women with doulas also have shorter labors and fewer birth-related complications for mom and baby.

Having a natural birth is biologically normal, and most often physically and emotionally ideal, for mom and baby. It can prove to be a positive experience for the entire family, as well. With the right preparation, support, and education, you can absolutely achieve the best natural birth.

The Nurturing Root loves to support families that desire an unmedicated birth. We offer an exceptional array of Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth courses and holistic newborn care classes to support you during this exciting time of transition. Additionally, we support Baltimore families with in-home placenta encapsulation and family-centered postpartum doula and infant care support. We are honored to serve your family. Please contact us for more information, today!