Friday, June 26, 2015

8 Steps to Healthy Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Benefits

8 steps to healthy breastfeeding:
*Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding
*Initiate breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth
*Ask a health-care professional to explain how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation
*Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk (unless medically indicated)
*Breastfeed on demand
*Give no artificial nipples or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants (compared with nonusers, infants who use pacifiers breastfeed less frequently and stop breastfeeding at a younger age)
*Find breastfeeding support groups, books or website to trouble shoot breastfeeding problems

The benefits of breastfeeding:
Mother: Contracts uterus, delays return of ovulation , thus lengthening birth interals (though not a dependable form of contraception), conserves iron stores (by prolonging amenorrhea), may protect against breast and ovarian cancer and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and increases energy expenditure (contributes to weight loss.)
Infant: Provides the appropriate composition and balance of nutrients withhigh bioavailability, hormones that promote physiological development, improves cognitive development, protects against a variety of infections and diseases- such as diabetes, obesity, arthersclerosis, asthma, and hypertension, (later in life), protects against a variety of infections and illnesses, (including diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia), may protect against some chronic diseases, (diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, asthma and hypertension later in life), protects against food allergies, reduces the risk of SIDS, supports healthy weight.

(Except for the cosleeping recommendation, which I added, all of this information is from the textbook, Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition)

Pregnancy Nutrition, Diabetes, Low Birth Weight, Prematurity and the American Obesity Paradox

Do you ever read something and connections start firing off in your brain to other things you've read or other knowledge you've already gained? This happened to me when I read this section in the nutrition textbook, Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition:
"Nutrition is a primary determinant of beta cell growth, and infants who have suffered prenatal malnutrition have significantly fewer beta cells than well-nourished infants - and low birth weight and premature birth correlate with insulin resistance later in life."
Reading that immediately made me think about how low birth weight and premature birth are a big problem in the US! From the CDC:
"In 2012, preterm birth affected more than 450,000 babies—that's 1 of every 9 infants born in the United States. Preterm birth is the birth of an infant before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Preterm-related causes of death together accounted for 35% of all infant deaths in 2010, more than any other single cause. Preterm birth is also a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children. Preterm birth costs the U.S. health care system more than $26 billion in 2005."
Next, I thought about the fact that Americans are MALNOURISHED. There is a paradox - obese and at the same time malnourished.
Might there be a connection between the American diet and our rates of premature birth and ever growing rates of diabetes? Hmmm....
(sarcasm implied!)

The Grandmother Effect and Longevity

I learned something new today - it's called the "Grandmother Effect".

I mean, in a way I already knew it. I have seen first hand how important grandmas are and what a negative impact on families not having a grandma around makes. Post-postpartum depression may be one example of how childbearing women are impacted by not having a grandmother to actively participate in the raising of a newborn.The isolation we experience at such a demanding time is not according to God's design, or according to evolution, as some see it. This information just affirms what I have known all along: Grandmas are important!

However, it never occurred to me that being a Grandma is the point of why women live longer! I've known forever that women live longer than men, and my kids have even asked me why this is the case- well, now I know why!

There is a purpose to having an elder women available to her daughters, her neighbors and her community. I knew Grandmas can nurture their grandchildren in unique ways, but it hadn't occurred to me that Grandmas actually improve the mortality rates of babies! And in turn, babies positively affect Grandmas. What a beautiful plan!

This does not mean that Grandpas are not important. It just means that Grandmas have a unique and special role that benefits family in a special way. Both Grandparents make a huge difference on the health, happiness, education and skills of children.

The "Grandmother Effect" is discussed in a TED talk given by Dan Beuttner. The following is a summary of that talk:

10% of how long we live is dictated by our genes. So 90% is dictated by lifestyle. Only 1 out of 5000 people in America live to be 100. There are areas in the world where people live to be 100 at a rate 10x that of Americans.Their diet is plant based (and other things), but more importantly is how they treat the elderly. 

The "Grandmother Effect" results in healthier children and longer life expectancy. Okinawa is the location of the greatest longevity and disability-free centenarians. Plant based diet and consuming tofu are part of the reason why- but most important is they have strategies against over eating. Also, their societal constructs contribute to longevity. They are not isolated. There is no work for 'retirement'.

In America 7th Day Adventists have the greatest longevity. Their lifestyle consists of clean living, weekly nature walks and spirituality.

Common denominators among these groups:
*Don't exercise as we know it - but their lives are set up to be active and when they do intentional activities, it's things they enjoy. They don't have a lot of conveniences. They tend to walk. They all tend to garden
*Outlook- they all pray, take time to downshift
*Vocabulary for having a sense of purpose
*No "longevity diet" - they consume plant based, low meat, beans and nuts,
*Connections- faith-based community, family, and have the right "tribe". If you hang out with healthy people you will be healthy.

Watch the video. Learn more about the Grandmother Effect and Longevity. And, of course, share with your friends!

Friday, June 12, 2015

My Darling Daughter's Births

I am a trained doula and mother of 7 children. Raised by a natural childbirth, breastfeeding and home birth, and even UC advocate, has influenced my eldest daughter's birthing, breastfeeding and mothering. She and her husband decided to give birth in a hospital for many reasons. She studied childbirth on her own and desired a natural childbirth. The following is the account of her two births at a military hospital. 
My darling daughter (dd) had gone a week and 3-4 days "over due" with her first baby. Her CNM was supportive though an OB in the practice gave her the "your baby could die" chastisement. With her second pregnancy we started "Baby Eviction", or labor supporting, events like Hot Hula fitness dancing, walking, eating pineapple, swimming and I had begun applying pressure to a few points on her foot, ankle and hand. Then at 40 weeks 2 days a skilled and knowledgeable local doula came over with her massage table and gave my dd a wonderful, relaxing massage. She gently aligned her aching hip and applied pressure to points I had never heard of, like on the tail bone. 
At 40 weeks +4 days my darling daughter (DD) started contracting around 1 p.m. Before going to nurse her 2 year old and put him down for a nap we did a pressure points massage. She returned after using the bathroom and said she was spotting. After 2 hours of resting she was still contracting so we figured it was true labor. Labor starting this time of day and being past her "due" date was similar to her previous birth but the similarity pretty much stops there, (except both babies ended up being caught by an RN and Grandma,) as her first labor was longer, she was in the hospital an hour and a half with him, had 2-3 vaginal exams, as well as intermittent monitoring, labored on the hospital floor on sheets and cushion with a birth ball, and used a squat bar during crowning, which was lengthier in time.
Realizing labor had ensued we all started scuttling about with final preparations. Around 8:30 she put my grandson down to bed and had started vocalizing with each contraction. (Vocalizing is a technique of making a sound that helps carry you through a contraction that I used during 5 of my own labors.) My son-in-law (SIL) comforted her and I applied the hip squeeze technique and counter pressure as she labored in the living room. She had leaned over the birth ball for a short bit at first during contractions, but preferred hands-and-knees while leaning onto the bed with her face down and bum up in the air, which is perfect for counter pressure, massage and hip squeeze. Then after each contraction she would side lie on the bed (that they have in the living room instead of a couch) and pillows and relax until the next one came, when she would get up and turn over for. She also labored for a short time draping herself over the birth ball.
With her previous birth she was GBS+ so though she wanted to birth at home as long as possible, she also needed to get to the hospital in time to be started on a medicated IV. This time she took probiotics and was GBS -. Therefore, we had no rush to get to the hospital, but we did have the issue of a sleeping, very attached-to-mama toddler to deal with.
With her first birth she went in and was checked and not admitted due to not being dilated to at least 5. We returned home to labor longer and returned at 6 cm dilation. We didn't want that to happen this time because if we woke up the toddler and she wasn't far enough along, she'd have to deal with him. Besides, the longer you labor at home the better!! It is more comfortable and the hospital birth clock isn't ticking.
So the big decision was when to go into the hospital. She had been laboring steadily but contractions were not regular in timing. They were 6, 3, 1, 10 etc. minutes apart. I was looking for tell tale signs and at one point when she got the chills and felt a little nauseous I wondered if that was transition. But she was so relaxed and the contractions didn't seem very intense, so I wasn't sure.
At 10:30 I suggested a bath. A few minutes later her son woke up and entered the bath with her. She mentioned feeling pressure before entering the bath, which she said the bath felt good. I was wondering if maybe baby was presenting posterior or something. At 11:00 I messaged a midwife friend for support. She sent me info I had never read before about being able to determine dilation by a purple line on the mothers buttocks. The line is supposed to go all the way up the crack if complete dilation. I couldn't ascertain if there was a purplish line or not. 
She again said she felt pressure. I asked if her if she felt "pushy." She said she thought so but wasn't sure. I said, "then you should go in." And we immediately did.
SIL dropped us off at the front of the hospital. I told DD to walk up quickly by herself and I got all the bags and followed while SIL parked the car and brought in my grandson. I only left the birth ball behind and said, "I don't really think she'll need it, but maybe bring it just in case since she wanted it." He said he would.
She had a contraction outside of the hospital as she leaned on a post. Then we walked in and I told them, "she's in labor and she needs a wheelchair." As we went up 3 flights in the elevator and through the halls she had one or two contractions. She was wheeled into a triage room as a corpsmen, (a Marine nurse, generally a male), followed asking questions. She got out of the wheelchair and stood at the foot of the bed while she began contracting. As she leaned onto the bed I went to stand behind her to apply the hip squeeze that she liked because it alleviated pain. At that moment one of the two corpsmen moved toward us from the left and said, "She needs to get on the bed so we can check her and monitor her" with the expectation of her doing it at that moment. I had my hands on her hips and put up my left arm making a stop sign and extended it firmly in his direction then proceeded to apply pressure as we ignored him and she vocalized. He stood there then exited the room.
DD said, "Mom, I have to pee really bad, like REALLY bad!" I said, "it's probably not pee, it's probably your water going to break." Then she squatted a little, instinctively, as some water hit the floor. She immediately said, "i need to poop, Mom!" and turned right toward the bathroom. I said, "it's probably not poop, it's probably the baby." She grabbed the rail by the toilet and said, "Check me, mom, and see if that is poop or the baby coming out of me!" I took off her underwear and checked and said, "that's the baby! **Don't** get on the toilet, you should get on the bed."
She did, on her knees with her arms over the back of the bed. I could see the baby's hair and went out and the corpsmen were in the hall (because this had all been in like 30 seconds or so) and I said, "whatever you are going to do, do it *NOW* because she's crowning, the baby is coming!" and I walked back in the room.
I went over to her and could see the baby's head emerging and I put my handout and placed it on his head to catch him. His head was warm and moist and his hair was dark. I could hear them saying, "is she really crowning?!" and making a commotion. I told her, "don't hold back! it's ok, let him come!"
I could see her opening and more of his head emerging, then a female nurse entered as she was gloving up and she extended her hand just as his face appeared and his shoulders turned and he dropped into both of our hands.
The nurses were all excited and I said, "she's fine, the baby's fine!" One nurse started rubbing the baby very vigorously and I told her he was fine- (I could hear him breathing). She said he needed to cry and sure enough she got him to cry!! Lol. Then they started touching the cord and DD and I both said not to clamp it. DD was insistent and I said firmly, "She doesn't want her cord clamped! She doesn't want it cut until after the placenta is born!" The nurse said, "ok, I won't clamp it." I said, "and don't pull on the cord either. Let it come on it's own." She said, "I'm not pulling, I'm not pulling."
The on-call doctor had been summonsed but she took about 20 minutes. When she arrived the cord had stopped pulsating and she let DD hold it to feel for a pulse so she would give permission for it to be cut. The dr. was very calm and nice and answered my questions politely about blood loss volume and the placenta,etc. She showed it to us as she examined it and it looked complete. It come out with a slight manipulation and push from DD. She said, "you are obviously low intervention so I think we can forgo the pitocin after all since you've stopped bleeding and the placenta looks great and everything."
(I am certain it had detached on its own this time, unlike the last time when the nurse midwife at that hospital pulled on the cord prematurely and wanted the placenta out within minutes of the birth even though she was very hands off during the delivery and left to attend another patient delivering at the same time, and since DD was laboring so well, she left a nurse to catch my grandson and I was able to have my hands on him then as he emerged, too. The nurse midwife returned to manage 3rd stage and DD ended up with retained placenta after that birth and got very sick and had to have a D&C.)
The nurse had thought maybe DD tore but the doctor examined her and said she didn't. I looked along intently and asked questions and the doctor freely answered my questions. (I'll take all the learning opportunities I can get!)
DD gave birth in a triage room without any vaginal checks, no monitoring, no pitocin. The baby was born in one contraction without any pushing. She put him to the breast and he latched on like a champ. After a bit, when things were settled down, she tandem nursed the 2 year old and the newborn (and against hospital recommendation she co-slept with baby through the night.)
When we first arrived at the hospital my SIL carried his 2 yr. old son on his back in a carrier from the car as he also carried the birth ball. He entered the L&D floor and asked the desk about his wife. At that moment the corpsmen had left the room after I put up my hand in a stop sign. He said to SIL, "is that your wife in labor? Oh, good! She is in that room and we need to check her and monitor her but that woman in there won't let us. Can you do something about her?"
SIL entered the room and put the birth ball down and hearing that the baby was crowning he walked out to tell them to call the doctor and when he walked back in the room the baby had been born and he missed seeing his son enter the world!!! Such a shame since he was in Afghanistan last time and was so eager to see his son born!!
DD labored so beautifully, it wasn't overwhelming to her at all until about the last 40 minutes, particularly, in the short car ride (and also it was a bit tough when she had to nurse the toddler to sleep at 8:30 pm that night and lie still through contractions in order for him to fall asleep!) She was up and walking about 2 hours after the birth. It was a beautiful experience and I am so glad and grateful it all went so well and honored her and SIL let me be a part of it. 
We finally made it home after an uncomfortable, annoying, sleep disturbed, regulated hospital stay that not a one of us enjoyed. We all sat down comfortably in the living room. After a few minutes SIL said, "Soo, home birth next time?" DD said, "yup! 
But even if my daughter doesn't get the home water birth she desires, we have learned how to maneuver through the hospital fairly well.

Friday, January 09, 2015

A Tear

Under the cover of night,
enfolded in the arms of my love,
My spirit feels young as ever,
though our bodies show signs of the years,
that we have traveled together,
from work and births and time,
that never stands still,
a breath,
as my heart swells,
thinking of the children we have conceived,
with gratitude,
a single tear swells,
then rolls down my cheek,
dropping onto my pillow,
followed by a stream,
from the ache for the loved ones that I cannot hold,
that I cannot touch,
separated by land or by the heavens,
until time,
ever pushing forward,
will bring us together once again.

~ Susan Fierro-Baig

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Labor Aide: Calcium and Magnesium Benefits During Pregnancy and Birth

 Dr. Christiane Northrop, board-certified OB/GYN, is the world's leading authority in the field of women's health and wellness. She published an article(2010) in the Huffington Post entitled, "The Magic of Magnesium: A Mighty Mineral Essential to Health."

 I have longed considered antacids as undesirable, though many OB's recommend them as a calcium supplement and to combat heartburn during pregnancy. Northrop cited the National Academy of Sciences as stating in 1997, that most Americans are magnesium deficient for several reasons, including taking antacids- which disrupts magnesium absorption. This is important because magnesium helps the body absorb calcium. Northrop stated:

For the majority of human history, the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the diet was 1:1, a ratio that's considered optimal. A ratio that's between 1:1 and 2:1 is adequate (for example, 800 mg of calcium to 400 mg of magnesium). Unfortunately, today's diets contain an average of 10 times more calcium than magnesium.

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists published the results of a study that found that magnesium supplements benefited babies of poorly nourished mothers during labor - they experienced "fewer fetal heart rate irregularities, meconium-stained liquor, and partogram abnormalities,... fewer late still births either before or during labor."
The study also found that calcium lowers the incidence of developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. Researchers strongly cautioned that women without calcium and magnesium deficiencies should be careful "about taking extra supplements if they don't need it.”

...(S)upplementation cannot be recommended but poorly nourished women should be encouraged to eat a diet that contains adequate magnesium, in particular brown - rather than white - bread.

Northrop, however, recommends supplementation of calcium and magnesium. See this article for specifics. She also recommends bathing with Epsom salt, which contains magnesium and helps with aches, pains and cramps. Magnesium is powerful and has been used to stop premature labor.

Because magnesium helps with the functioning of all nerves and muscles, it makes sense that it would help reduce the sensations of labor. Midwife, Angela Burwick, considers cal/mag supplements beneficial during pregnancy and labor.  Because of magnesium's, "involvement with muscle impulse transmission"  among other properties, she encourages cal/mag supplementing to pregnant women complaining of leg cramps. On her website she recommends the following dose:

From the research I’ve done, the recommendation for easing labor is to take 2,000 milligrams at the onset of labor — I would combine this with 1,000 milligrams of magnesium, following the 2:1 ratio suggested when these minerals are taken together.

Like the researchers in the study cited above, Burwick also cautions against excessive supplementation. She states that a moderate increase in the minerals are not harmful to healthy women but those, "with kidney malfunction should not take more than 3,000 mg of magnesium per day." She further warns:

Just because a little may be a good thing, however, doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Too much magnesium could have the effect of slowing down labor by over-relaxing the muscles of your uterus, and excessively high doses of calcium taken for several days or weeks before labor could even result in hypocalecmia of the newborn.

The author of the Keeper of the Home website published the following labor aid drink recipe that her midwife shared with her.

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/3 cup honey (or to taste) 
1/4 tsp sea salt 
2 calcium/magnesium tablets, crushed 
water to make 4 cups

As a doula, I have always recommended the labor aid recipe published on Mommy Potamus. Not only do I like the recipe, but I LOVE the natural childbirth photos that accompany it! Either recipe can be frozen in an ice cube tray for use during labor instead of traditional ice chips for those women who are high-risk or might like to suck on an ice cube.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Visualization, Bonding, Belly Painting and Mandala Art During Pregnancy

 During labor visualizing opening up like a flower is very effective to helping labor progress. As an expectant mother relaxes she can imagine her cervix going from a closed, taught, bud to an open, blossoming, flower!!

Roses can also be used as a visual aid, but water lilies are perfectly suited as a visual aid for birth because they are surrounded by water - which increases the relaxation properties of the image. 

During labor women must resist the natural reaction of recoiling and closing one's self off to the powerful sensations that take place, particularly during transition and crowning. Instead of pulling away from the intensity, women must open wide and release their baby!!

During body relaxation and breathing practice, expectant mamas can also practice visualizing. Some things to visualize are going to a refuge place - even a sacred, spiritual place, where God comforts and nourishes her as he did the birthing woman in the Bible in Revelations 12. A woman can mentally go to a fantasy place - by the shore, a stream, an oasis. She can also envision herself floating in soothing water amongst a bed of lilies, opening slowly, gently as the light of day brightens. She can envision herself as a water lily opening up, expanding her cervix and releasing her baby- just as a lily opens it's petals in order to reproduce.

Dr. John Kapeleris, author, speaker and blogger, writes about the benefits of visualizing in his article The Power of Creative Visualization:

Visualization is a technique used commonly amongst successful athletes and sports people. For example, a successful golfer spends time to visualize the perfect stroke over and over again. As a result of repetition of the visualization process the golfer improves his or her golf scores. There is no reason why we couldn’t apply visualization techniques to our personal and work lives.

In addition to visualizing images of flowers blossoming, women can use art as a means of integrating into their minds the concept of opening, releasing and blossoming during birth. The visual aid is an anchor that helps an expectant woman remember her work of accepting and welcoming the sensations of birth. Dr. Kapeleris stated in his blog post Improving Your Memory

The use of visual landmarks to guide someone to a destination is very common e.g. buildings, intersections, bridges, schools, shopping centres, sports fields, statues, gardens, unique structures or places of business. An extension of this approach is to use visual references as anchors for remembering things. Also called “Method of Loci” this technique was used by ancient orators to remember speeches by associating paragraphs with the mental picture of the different rooms of a familiar building. As the orators visualized a “mental walk” through a building they would recite the paragraphs of their speeches that were associated with each room of the building.

Creating your very own visual image, instead of or in addition to existing images, may further the effect of the visualization. Amy Haderer-Swagman used art to help her "meditate, process emotions, and prepare for the birth of her third daughter."  On her blog, The Mandala Journey, it states that, "Doing these (art) pieces daily during her pregnancy helped Amy to have the beautiful, peaceful home birth she dreamed of."

Creating Mandalas is considered by many as meditative, relaxing and even healing. David Bookbinder wrote this about the many Mandala's he has created:
  My use of the hexagram (the Star of David, "beloved" in Hebrew) as the organizing shape for most of the mandala images was subconscious, but I believe this choice was no accident. In many traditions, the Star of David, composed of two overlapping triangles, represents the reconciliation of opposites — male/female, fire/water, and so on. Their combination symbolizes unity and harmony...

Expectant women creating any kind of art during pregnancy- not just for visual aids- has many benefits. Registered Art Therapist, Emily Boyce, who offered a Pregnancy Art Class at the ZukaBaby Natural Parenting Boutique, stated on the store's website:

Pregnancy Art simply means art made during pregnancy. It can take countless forms, but essentially it is an invitation to stop, self-reflect, express, and connect.

Making pregnancy art allows us to connect with, not just ourselves, but our babies, our spirituality/ higher power(s), and with others who have walked this path before us, or who are walking it alongside us. We can feel supported, relieved, and excited by connecting in this way. Done in a group setting, this process can be even more powerful.
In addition to having expectant moms create art, I believe it would be very meaningful to have the partners of expectant women paint a Mandala or other artwork on the mom-to-be's belly. This would awaken the imagination of the father/partner and the act of painting her belly would release oxytocin- which stimulates bonding.

Though any image can be painted on the expectant woman's belly, painting a Mandala may be as easy as it is beautiful.  The Mandala Journey blog states:

..for many people who want to create art but aren’t feeling particularly inspired or artistic it helps to have a place to start. By creating something inside of a shape (like a mandala) it doesn’t seem as intimidating as a blank piece of paper. The ability to create symmetry within a circle is endless and can lend itself to the new artist.

Especially for birth art the mandala is perfect because it is the shape of pregnancy itself. The circle holds, for me at least, feminine energy and endless perfection. It is soft and curvaceous and represents the continuation and cycle of new life.

Time website published photos of professionally created belly paintings. View the images here. Though there are benefits to having a professional paint a mama's belly, (particularly before a photo session), it would be awesome to have the mother's husband/ partner create a painting on her belly! It wouldn't have to be extremely artistic - flowers, designs, baby's name, words like "Love", symbols, etc. would be very easy to do by an adult or child. The Parenting website published 40 photos of Belly Paintings.

I plan to incorporate Mandala Art and Belly Painting into my Childbirth Classes. If you create any Pregnancy Art that you would like to share with me I would love to see it! You can get ideas for creating Mandala based Pregnancy Art from the Mandala Journey website or purchase Amy's beautiful artwork to display in your home or office.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Steps to Public Health: Preconception & Prenatal Nutrition and Breastfeeding

 April 7-11 is National Public Health Week. To raise breastfeeding awareness Breastfeeding Talk with UCLA created this image.

Breastfeeding is certainly an important step toward increasing Public Health but technically Public Health should start with preconception and early pregnancy nutrition, (as well as physically, emotionally and spiritually nurturing the pregnant mother.) 

 Pregnant women should be treated as special members of society as they do a great work and that special treatment would naturally carry over into the protection and support of the breastfeeding relationship.  I mentioned this to Breastfeeding Talk With UCLA and the response was in concurrence, "Maternal health and educating oneself on infant feeding during pregnancy is also very important."

Yesterday as I studied for my university Physical Education course, I read the nutrition section of my textbook,  Fitness and Wellness, by W and S Hoeger. It contains information important for preconception and early pregnancy nutrition.

First of all, consuming a wide variety of foods is generally better than taking a multivitamin. According to the textbook:

"Vitamins are beneficial to people with nutrient deficiencies, alcoholics, street-drug users, smokers, strict vegans, those on low-calorie diets (less than 1,500 calories) and those with disease related disorders or who are taking medications that interfere with absorption. Most supplements do not provide benefits to healthy people who eat a balanced diet."

The text also states that, "healthy eating implies consuming primarily whole, fresh, or locally grown food items made with few ingredients and minimal processing and packaging."

Although a nutritious diet is paramount to good health, prenatal vitamins are still recommended, particularly as a means of obtaining Iron and Folate. The latter being vital for preventing birth defects like Spina Bifida.Though getting vitamins and minerals from unprocessed foods is generally the best option, according to, folate supplements and fortified foods are the best source for the following reasons.

Folic acid (vitamin B-9) from supplements and fortified foods is absorbed twice as well as from regular food. Consequently, pregnant woman are advised to get folic acid from a supplement (or fortified food) as well as regular foods. Also keep in mind that if you get your iron from plant foods, it is absorbed only half as well as iron from meat -- although eating your spinach (or iron supplement) with a source of vitamin C will boost the absorption of its iron.

In addition to Folate, Iron is also vital for pre-pregnancy and pregnancy nutrition to prevent and treat anemia according to Iron deficiency anemia is common in menstruating and pregnant women.The CDC found that about nine percent of women ages 12 to 49 years are deficient in iron. Pregnancy often triggers anemia due to the new demands on the body- there is an approximately 50% increased need for it. Anemia causes fatigue and shortness of breath but during pregnancy the consequences of anemia are more serious. states:

Pregnant women who are anemic have an increased risk for problems when their baby is born, particularly if they are anemic in the first trimester.... (A)nemic women are more likely to need a blood transfusion following childbirth... and their babies are more likely to be born prematurely, and have lower birth weights.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, "People who have iron-deficiency anemia may have an unusual craving for nonfood items, such as ice, dirt, paint, or starch. This craving is called pica (PI-ka or PE-ka)." Pika can occur during pregnancy.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women take a daily supplement of 30mg of elemental iron as a preventive dose. Most prenatal vitamins contain 30mg of iron. Pregnant women who are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia are usually advised to take a total dose of at least 120mg of iron each day, according to

Prenatal vitamins should be view as supplements to a nutritious diet. There are many foods that are rich in Iron. Here is a link to iron rich foods.
Because meat products contain high amounts of Iron, vegetarianism during pregnancy can be challenging.  However, beans and leafy greens are good sources of the mineral.

This salad consists of green leaf lettuce, spinach, shredded beets, carrots, tomato, broccoli, and sunflower seeds with poppyseed dressing. Quick, easy, yummy. All it needs is an avocado which is rich in essential fatty acids, and according to the World's Healthiest Foods website, avocados are a good source of Folate, Vitamins C, K,E, B6, potassium and fiber!

The vegetables in the salad pictured above and the sunflower seeds provide protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals.
Spinach is high in iron, as is Kale. So are fish and eggs. You can add chicken or beans to a salad to increase protein.

Spinach is high in iron but more easily absorbed when consumed with vitamin C, which tomatoes have. I add spinach to my spaghetti for that reason cause the sauce is hi in vitamin C. Romain lettuce is high in iron and has vitamin C. 

I have struggled with anemia all my life - likely due to absorption issues. I avoid pill supplements and have taken Floradix herbal supplement instead. Herbal or whole food supplements tend to be more easily digested and non-constipating. One of my friends says that she prefers Megafoods Bloodbuilder:

I take Megafoods "Bloodbuilder" for my "iron" supplement... its food-source, rather than "elemental."

You can read about Megafoods Bloodbuilder on their site and read consumer reviews on Amazon. To fully inform you about your choices states the following about whole food supplements:

Using supplements made from whole foods won't necessarily give you more vitamins (in fact, they typically contain more modest amounts of vitamins than other dietary supplements), but you will get other plant compounds which could be of potential benefit (as well as some grams of fiber if you are consuming, for example, spoonfuls of a whole food powder as opposed to a pill). Paying a premium price for this, however, may not be worthwhile and has found lead contamination in some whole food and "greens" products.

Regarding natural vs. synthetic forms of vitamins in dietary supplements, sometimes natural is better, sometimes synthetic is better, and sometimes it doesn't matter. Keep in mind that all can help prevent or treat deficiencies and other conditions, and nearly all are known to be harmful at too high a dose.

For more information on supplements derived from whole foods read the ConsumerLab report.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Incorporate Traditional, Ethnic Diets Into Your Meals

Incorporating traditional, ethnic diets into your meal planning can increase your health. The diet of the Mediterranean has been found to be very healthy, with people in that region having lower diet-linked diseases, such as cardiovascular disease that causes heart attacks and stroke. People from that region also have a longer life expectancy than Americans.
The following is information I gleaned from my college textbook, Principles and Labs for Fitness & Wellness, authored by W. & S.Hoeger.

- Mediterranean foods (consists of olive oil, red wine, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits with limited amounts of meat, fish, milk and cheese.)
-Soul food includes yams, black-eyed peas, okra and peanuts.
-Hispanic foods - corn, beans squash, chili peppers, avocados, papayas, and fish.
-Asian- The diet in Okinawa Japan, where some of the healthiest and oldest people in the world live - fresh (vs. pickled) vegetables, high in fiber, low in fat and salt. Southern China - fish, seafood, and stir-fried veggies.

 I know Indian food is also very healthy so I did a search and found this on Wikipedia:

Staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bajra), rice, whole-wheat flour (atta), and a variety of lentils, especially masoor (most often red lentils), toor (pigeon pea), urad (black gram), and moong (mung bean). Lentils may be used whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split. Split lentils, or dal, are used extensively. Some pulses, such as channa (chickpea), Rajma or kidney beans, lobiya are very common, especially in the northern regions. Channa and mung are also processed into flour (besan).

Many Indian dishes are cooked in peanut oil in northern and western India,  and coconut oil along the western coast, especially in Kerala. Gingelly (sesame) oil is common in the south since it imparts a fragrant nutty aroma.

For more information on the Indian diet check out this IndiaTimes article.

According to my Fitness and Wellness textbook, soy which has been associated with health benefits such as less heart disease and  fewer hormone-related cancers has also been "shown in limited animal testing to increase the risk of breast cancer." Therefore, according to the University of California Berkeley, soy based supplement should be avoided. "They man contain higher levels of isoflavones than those found in soy foods. Individuals with a history of breast cancer and women who are pregnant or lactating should not use such supplements."

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Natural Remedies for Swollen Ankles During Pregnancy

Some swelling during pregnancy is normal, though uncomfortable, and frequently occurs in the last trimester. Water retention and pressure on the veins in your legs contribute to the problem of edema.

The babycentre has a great article on using natural remedies for swelling. Check it out here:

Some additional information for preventing or reducing swelling. Swelling can be a sign of a serious condition called pre-eclampsia.  Dr. Tom Brewer found in his 5 year study that a high protein diet prevented pre-eclampsia.  He recommends 80 grams of protein a day and does NOT recommend a low salt diet. You can find his diet recommendations here:

A group of doulas made the following suggestions for reducing swelling:

*Compression socks/stockings. Have her put them on before she swings her legs over the side of the bed in the morning.
*Drinking lemon water
*Stay hydrated - (64oz per day, 32 oz before lunch, 32 oz before dinner)
*Water aerobics or swimming
*Workouts in a pool up to neck and cran juice
*Sleep with  legs elevated on a pillow
*AromaTouch oil and lavender
*Dandelion root
*Compression socks and warm Epsom salt soaks
*More protein in diet
*YouTube lymph drainage massage
*Elevate feet throughout the day

Friday, April 04, 2014

Mullerian Anomalies, Bicornuate Uterus and VBAC

I met  a woman with a bicornuate uterus who wants to attempt a VBAC with her current pregnancy. She asked if I had any information regarding this condition and frankly, I had never heard of Mullerian anomalies before.  I did a Google search and the information stated that those with uterine anomalies have lower success rates of VBACS and higher rates of uterine rupture.

However, driven to find the best evidence to weigh in her decision making this woman kept researching and sent me a reassuring research article entitled, Trial of labor and vaginal birth after cesarean section in patients with uterine Mullerian anomalies- a population study.

The conclusion of the study states:

A trial of vaginal birth after cesarean section in patients with uterine Müllerian malformations and cephalic presentation is not associated with a higher rate of maternal morbidity and uterine rupture. The risk for uterine rupture during a trial of labor after cesarean section (CS) is no greater in women with
uterine Müllerian anomalies than in those with a normal uterus. VBAC appears to be a safe mode of delivery
among patients with MA. 

Apparently, the information that I read must have been based on another study that reported an increase in uterine rupture during VBAC for women with Mullerian anomalies. The trial of labor study counters that reported increase:

VBAC is not associated with an increased risk of uterine rupture vs women with NU. Our finding disputes that of Ravasia et al, who reported an 8% incidence of uterine rupture in women with MA who attempted VBAC. Their report, however, is based on a small cohort, including 25 patients with MA, of which only 2 patients (8%) had a uterine rupture. Our results are based on a larger cohort of 165 patients with MA; of these, 103 (62.4%) had a trial of labor and 61.4% (64/103) delivered vaginally.

As is the case with VBAC's in general, there is increased risk of rupture with induction.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Pregnancy Truths Game on FB

There is a "game" being played on FB called Pregnancy Truths. I was given #7. So here goes.

1. I have been pregnant 7 times, (possibly 8 times.)

2. Our first year in rural MO we were hauling wood and water (cause our well dried up) and I may have had a miscarriage. Usually, I know right away when I am expecting and since I had no signs, I am not certain what I passed was a baby. If not, I have no idea what else it could have been.

3. I love being pregnant. (But not enough to have more than 7!)

4. Seeing an expectant woman excites me - I want to photographer her, teach her, praise her, and care for her!

5. I have always dreamed of opening a center for expectant women where they can receive holistic care, garden, and have classes available in mothering arts.

6. I have never had a belly cast. I should trying doing this for someone!!

7. I had a blessingway during 3 of my pregnancies and consider them to be sacred, uplifting, and heartwarming experiences shared with special friends!! (A blessingway is different than a baby shower. The blessingway focuses on spiritual and emotional support of the pregnant woman. The gifts given are usually freezer meals, mementos, or something to inspire and uplift the woman.)