15 Facts about the Foreskin and Circumcision

Circumcision

Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis, is most commonly performed on newborns.  With a global circumcision rate of approximately 30%, the United States in the only country in the world that circumcises infant for non-religious reasons.

FACTS ABOUT CIRCUMCISION

  1. Originally, the goal of circumcision was to desensitize the penis to curb masturbation. Dr. Kellogg, inventor of the corn flakes, was a major promoter of the procedure.
  2. The foreskin, containing 20,000 nerve endings as opposed to the 8,000 in a clitoris, is a highly sensitive, functioning part of the male anatomy.  It’s purpose is to protect the glans, or the head of the penis from abrasions and to keep dirt and bacteria from the urinary tract.
  3.  The average adult foreskin consists of 1½ inches of outer skin, 1½ inches of inner mucosal lining – totaling a length of 3 inches – and is 5 inches in circumference when erect. This amounts to a surface area of 15 square inches, or a surface area equivalent to that of a 3″ by 5″ inch index card.
  4. Circumcision is not routinely practiced in most countries.  In fact, The United States is the ONLY country where circumcision is done routinely for non-religious reasons. Aside from being a Muslim and Jewish cultural practice, it is a very American practice.
  5. After reviewing 40 years of research, it has been determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics that routine infant circumcision cannot be recommended.  In fact, no professional medical association in the world recommends routine infant circumcision, nor do they state it is medically necessary.
  6. When the foreskin is removed, the head of the penis can develop a thick layer of skin to protect it, making it much less sensitive.  As a result, circumcised men are 3 times more likely to have issues with erectile dysfunction.
  7. Circumcision can reduce a baby’s risk of getting an urinary tract infection (UTI) by 1%.  In other words, in order to prevent 1 UTI, 100 circumcisions would need to be performed.
  8. It has been claimed that circumcision can reduce one’s risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. The United States has one of the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS, yet we are the only country that routinely circumcises male babies.
  9. A foreskin doesn’t separate from the head of the penis until adolescence, sometime between 3 and 15 years of age.  Until this separation occurs, you only need to clean the outside of the penis.  You clean it just as you would any other part of your body.  In fact, a newly circumcised penis, which has an open wound, may be more difficult to clean and care for during diapering.
  10. 117 babies die each year as a result of circumcision complications. The foreskin and penis is a highly vascularized area that contains a significant amount of blood flow. A newborn only has a total of  11.5 ounces of blood.  That’s just shy of a cup-and-a-half.  A newborn only needs to lose 1 ounce to hemorrhage, and 2.3 ounces, which is a the amount in a shot glass, to bleed to death.  You can read more about it here from DrMomma.org.
  11. According to the CDC, circumcision rates have fallen to 55.4% in the United States.
  12. A Mohel, a person specially trained  in circumcision techniques, can perform the circumcision, even on non-Jews.  It has been argued the Mohels perform the procedure more quickly and gently than in clinical settings.
  13. Cortisol levels, a stress hormone, are 3-4 times higher during circumcision than prior to the procedure, which can contribute to post-op breastfeeding challenges.  It is also thought that the pain and trauma from undergoing circumcision may impact the child’s response to pain or stress throughout their life.  Canadian investigators report that during vaccinations at age 4-6 months, circumcised boys had an increased behavioral pain response and cried for significantly longer periods than did intact boys. For more information about this click here.
  14. Foreskins are harvested to make high-end face creams and are often used for cosmetic testing to determine a product’s safety.
  15. Anti-circumsicion activists are referred to as intactivists.

Yoga Poses for the Pregnant Mother

yoga poses for the pregnant mother

Written by: Stephanie Misanik

Yoga is one of my FAVORITE things to talk about with expecting mommas.  Whether you are an experienced yogi or brand new to the mat, prenatal yoga can be a fantastic tool to help ease moodiness, shortness of breath and swollen ankles often experienced during pregnancy.  It provides you with a sacred space to really bond and connect with your baby AND helps prepare your body for the upcoming mystery of labor.  In addition, hitting your mat in a room full of other expecting mommas really creates an energy that I have never experienced anywhere else.  There is something super powerful about expecting mothers coming together and taking time to connect with themselves, their babies and other moms.  If you are feeling all alone in your pregnancy, like nobody gets it…get to a prenatal yoga class!  It’s a safe space to share your experience (the good, the bad and the ugly) with other moms who really truly understand what it is you’re going through.  It’s a fantastic way to create community and feel supported during this beautiful time of life.

If the thought of doing any physical exercise whatsoever seems incredibly overwhelming to you, think of it like this.  Labor is one of the most physically and emotionally intense experiences you will ever endure in this lifetime.  You wouldn’t run a marathon without some physical preparation, and labor is no different.  The asanas (physical poses) of yoga help you to build your strength and stamina while improving circulation.  The meditation during savasana can help you relax and bring your awareness within.  The pranayama (breathing exercises) will be an indispensable tool that you can use to breathe through your contractions when the big day comes.

Safety is key when it comes to exploring the world of prenatal yoga.  If you have never practiced yoga before, it’s important that you only practice prenatal yoga when pregnant.  Now is not the time to check out hot yoga for the first time.  If you already had a strong yoga practice before pregnancy, you may be able to continue that practice (with modifications) during your pregnancy.  Whether you are experienced or brand new, I recommend sticking to a gentle non-heated flow during your first trimester as the fetus is still implanting and the risk of miscarriage is highest.

As you hit your mat, keep in mind that when pregnant, your body produces a bunch of the hormone relaxin, which softens the connective tissue.  This is super important because it allows the joints in your pelvis to become more flexible as your uterus expands, making room for your growing baby.  Unfortunately, it also can lead to instability in the sacroiliac (SI) joints and can cause lower back pain, so be careful not to overstretch during your practice.

When it comes to knowing which poses are safe and which should be avoided, there are some general guidelines, but mostly I suggest listening to your body.  If something feels good, keep doing it…and if something feels bad, stop.  Here are some helpful guidelines to get you started:

Safe Poses:

Standing poses such as Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) and Virabhadrasana 1-3 (Warrior 1-3) are safe and a great way to ground you to the earth and build strength throughout your pregnancy.

Balancing poses such as Vrkasana (Tree) and Garudasana (Eagle) are okay too.  I recommend doing them near a wall or chair if you are feeling unstable.

Hip openers such as Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), Agnistambhasana (Ankle-to-Knee Pose), Eka Pada Kapotasana (1/2 Pigeon Pose), Balasana (Wide-Knee Child’s Pose) and Malasana (Deep Squat) are great because of the focus on flexibility that will be needed later on for delivery, just don’t overdo it because the hormone relaxin is softening all the joints and they are easily dislocated with excessive stretching.  These hip openers are especially helpful in the third trimester because they relieve lower back pain and create space around the pelvis.  They are great poses to use during labor as well to release the lumber spine and open the hip joints.

Stretches on the back such as Supta Baddha Konasana (Recline Bound Angle Pose) and Supta Padagusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose – with a strap) are great during the first trimester.  After 20 weeks, I suggest placing a blanket or bolster under your upper back to elevate your upper body past 20 degrees

Poses to Avoid:

Avoid intense abdominal work like Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose) because the uterus is super delicate right now.  As you progress in your pregnancy, doing super intense abdominal work runs the risk of tearing and separating your abdominal muslces.

Avoid deep twists like Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle), Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle) as they tend to exert too much pressure on the abdominal cavity.

Avoid inversions except Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) for short amounts of time.

Safe Backbends During Pregnancy:

I am often asked if backbends are okay during pregnancy, and my answer is YES, with modifications.  It is super important to listen to your body, so if your body is telling you that something doesn’t feel good listen to it!  Here are some safe backbends to take during pregnancy, if it feels good to you:

Supported Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose)

Sphinx Pose on two blocks and a bolster underneath your thighs.  During pregnancy, the femurs shift forward in the hip sockets.  Placing a bolster underneath your thighs helps to lift the femurs toward the hamstrings, centering the thighbone in the hip socket.  The blocks give extra height to create space for you baby bump.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog) with a bolster under your thighs

Purvottanasana (Upward Plank)

Ustrasana (Camel Pose) with blocks on the outside of your legs

In addition to the asanas, breath work is a fantastic yogic tool to calm the mind and prepare you for the big day.  The two most beneficial kinds of pranayama (breathing exercises) during pregnancy are Ujjayi (long, strong deep breaths in and out, through your nose with a slight constriction in the back of your throat) and Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).  It’s important to stick to these two and avoid any kind of breath retention or hyperventilation because it could limit the baby’s oxygen supply.

In the end, remember that you are a powerful woman.  Trust your intuition.  If something doesn’t feel good, don’t ignore that feeling.  Listen to your body, do what makes you feel good.  Prenatal yoga is a great opportunity to bond with your baby, to meet other moms and to prepare your body for the birthing process.  I hope to see you in class!

Plants for Life,

Stephanie Misanik, INHC, RYT-200

Celebrate Autumn With Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds

Autumn has finally arrived in Maryland and that means that is it pumpkin season. Almost everywhere you’ll find lattes, pies, and soups with its namesake. We are celebrating the harvest with the seeds of this seasonal squash. Also called pepitas, these little seeds are extremely nutrient dense, and contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Here are why pumpkin seeds are fall’s favorite superfood!

Protein During pregnancy you should be consuming an extra 25g of protein per day. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vegetarian protein with about 5g in a one-ounce serving. Adding some seeds to a salad or a smoothie is an easy way to increase your protein intake. Pepitas are also particularly high in tryptophan, one of the 9 amino acids that comprise protein. Tryptophan is used by your body to synthesize the hormone serotonin; which is partly responsible for nervous system health, sleep regulation, and muscle growth and repair.

Minerals Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of several essential and trace minerals.

  • Zinc Just one-quarter cup of pepitas provide nearly 20% of your recommended daily allowance of zinc. Consuming adequate levels of zinc helps maintain your metabolism, improves immune health, and facilitates digestion. Zinc is also vital to proper fetal development. Increasing your intake will help ensure you have a healthier pregnancy, birth, and baby.
  • Magnesium Pumpkin seeds are also a fantastic source of magnesium. This macro-mineral used by the body to form teeth and bones, synthesize proteins, regulate metabolism and maintain heart health. Obtaining more magnesium may also increase blood flow and nutrition to baby via the placenta.
  • Iron During pregnancy, blood volume increases 40-50%, and iron is required to make all those new red blood cells to transport oxygen through you body and to baby. Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of this essential mineral.

Omega-3  These fatty acids are crucial for brain growth and fetal development. Consuming sufficient amounts of Omega-3’s from foods like pumpkin seeds is linked to better birth outcomes including a higher placental weight, lower risk for preeclampsia, longer gestation, and higher birth weight.

B-Complex Vitamins  There are eight ‘B’ vitamins. All are crucial to normal body functions and a healthy pregnancy. The B-complex vitamins are essential for proper metabolism function, immune support, and normal nervous system growth in baby.

After you are finished carving your pumpkin make sure to set aside the seeds. Here are twelve plant-based recipes featuring pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!

If Most Mammals Consume Placenta, Why Don’t We?

Why don't humans ingest placenta?

The placenta, a temporary organ, has a crucial role to play in pregnancy.  It nourishes the fetus, also bringing oxygen and removing waste for the mother’s kidneys to dispose of.  This essential organ also regulates hormone production throughout pregnancy and is responsible for sustaining the pregnancy. The placenta, attached to the baby via the umbilical cord, is born shortly after the birth of the baby.

We know that with the exception of just a few species, all mammals, including herbivores, consume their placenta as an innate behavior after giving birth to their young. Some say the behavior, also known as placentophagy, satisfies a nutritional need of the mother.  Others claim it is a way for the animal to clean their nest in an effort not to attract predators.  While at first glance, the cleaning-of-the-nest theory makes sense, we know that animals whose young can walk immediately after the birth, such as horses or giraffes, still consume their afterbirth with great enthusiasm even though they could just walk away from the birth site to a perceived safer location. Similarly, monkey species also engage in placenta consumption even though they could let the placenta fall to the ground below away from their tree-top birthing location.

If mammalian mothers only consume placenta as a way to clean the nest site, why don’t they take the time to lick up the blood and other fluids from giving birth?  What are they gaining from the practice? And finally, if most other mammals do it, why don’t humans eat placenta after birth?

 

The Fire Hypothesis:

Last spring, I had the pleasure of attending PlacentCon, a conference for birth workers that hosted many presentations centered around the placenta and placentophagy.  The conference, held in Las Vegas, had speakers from a variety of specialties, but one of the most memorable talks was given by Dr. Daniel Benyshek, medical anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).  Dr. Benyshek, along with researcher, Sharon Young, discussed their work with the groundbreaking placebo VS. placenta study currently underway at UNLV.  When asked about why humans don’t innately engage in placentophagy, Dr. Benyshek had a fascinating hypothesis.

He explained that as a species, early humans probably did consume their placenta after birth.  When fire was discovered millions of years ago, trees, absorbing heavy metals from the earth, were then burned.  As a result, expecting mothers were around smoke and inhaling it regularly.  While we know that the placenta does not act like a filter, holding onto toxins, it does have difficulty ridding itself of heavy metals.  As the women were around smoke more and more, their placentas had increased levels of cadmium and lead.  Upon ingesting their placentas after giving birth, women began either getting very ill or dying, and over time, we evolved to discontinue the practice.  For the same reason, in present day, it is thought that cigarette smoking in mothers is a contraindication of placenta encapsulation.

Though there is research supporting the benefits of placentophagy in new mothers, the body of research is small and incomplete.  The anecdotal evidence, however, showing that placenta encapsulation can help ease a new mother’s transition into motherhood is overwhelming.  Women who consume their placentas often report:

  • less incidence of iron deficiency
  • more energy
  • less fatigue despite irregular sleep
  • increased milk supply
  • enhanced mood
  • decreased postpartum bleeding

Whatever the cause of placentophagy in the animal kingdom, it’s clear that moms from across the world are pleased with the results from utilizing their placenta for postpartum recovery. It’s exciting to see more research developing about this practice.  Stay tuned in 2016 for the results of UNLV placenta VS. placebo study to be published!

 

To read what moms in Baltimore and the surrounding area have to say about their experience with placenta encapsulation, visit our testimonials page & our Facebook page.

Salt & Protein Can Reduce Risk for Pre-eclampsia

Salt & Protein can reduce risk for preeclampsia

Eating a whole foods diet, with adequate amounts of protein, and water to thirst, can help alleviate many of the complications women face during pregnancy.  A diet high in protein can help repair and grow muscle, stabilize blood sugar, and can lower a mother’s risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Pre-eclampsia, a potentially life threatening condition, affects between 5-8% of mothers.  Symptoms include high blood pressure, edema, rapid weight gain, visual disturbances, headaches, and pain in the upper right quadrant.  The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby.

When I was pregnant with my first son, my midwife suggested I eat 80-120 grams of protein a day.  Without fully understanding why this was so important, I gave it a shot, but really didn’t track my protein intake too closely.  Around 35 weeks, my blood pressure started to rise, and at every prenatal appointment it was higher and higher.  In an effort to reduce my blood pressure, friends and family told me to cut my salt intake, and unfortunately, I listened.  As a result, I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 36 weeks and risked out of my homebirth.  At 37 weeks, I went to the hospital for an induction and had a very difficult birth that ended up being vastly different than anything I had hoped or planned for.  I learned the hard way just how important protein and salt intake is in the maternal diet.

As someone who has experienced pre-eclampsia, it is important that I help spread the message about how diet can impact your and baby’s health and birth.  This graphic explains how the body reacts when mom does not consume enough protein, calories and salt.

pregnant woman prepares a meal

(The Brewer Diet can be very beneficial to pregnant mothers and focuses on a whole foods diet that is high in protein. This website is a wonderful resource to for those interested in learning more about The Brewer Diet. Proper nutrition really can make a huge difference in your birth experience.)

Pin It on Pinterest