Five steps to the birth of your dreams

Most women anticipate labour and birth with a mix of excitement, and fear—of all the unknown and loss of control. In the face of that kind of vulnerability, it is good to have a plan, a vision of the outcome you want and then begin taking steps to get there.

Actively preparing with easy, practical measures will lead to a birth experience that is satisfying and empowering. No client of ours ever told us “I did too much to prepare for my birth.” That is why we are happy to suggest these five steps to the birth of your dreams!

1) Choose online prenatal education or yoga classes that reflect your vision of an ideal birth.

A virtual gathering with other pregnant women in online classes that discuss pregnancy, labour and birth will help you to find support and community in which to make your choices, share ideas, and learn together.

I also lead virtual Regina Hospital tours, allowing you to become accustomed to the setting in which your birth will unfold. Attending these classes is your start to finding your tribe and building vital connections that will help you thrive in the postpartum.

2) Create your circle of support and birth-power

Expecting Couple

Take a clear-eyed look at the others on your support team. Partners sometimes feel pressured to perform and provide a level of physical and psychological support that may exceed their capacities. Many times it feels unfair to expect them to take on such a new role all on their own.

What do they need to feel supported? What things can you both do in the prenatal time? Have they talked to other non-birthing partners? Birth is a shared experience so both of you need to be mindful of what you need and communicate your expectations.

If a friend or relative is invited, are they experienced, will they add calm or stress to your birth, will they come at any time and stay as long as needed? Have you invited them or did they invite themselves? You get to decide. Birth is not a spectator sport – as the birthing woman you get to choose.

If you’re a solo parent-to-be, consider inviting someone who brings you comfort. Any person coming to the birth should attend prenatal education classes with the mother. They should be familiar with the birth setting, the protocols there, their own availability and the ability to be a helpful presence, not a distraction.

3) Hire a Doula

It is hard to navigate all the decisions you will be faced in pregnancy, labour and birth. Why do it alone?

Professional doulas support the birthing woman and her labour team members. Women who have doula support have half the rates of cesarean births as those without. They also have significantly shorter labours, request pain meds at far lower rates (less than half as often), and experience significantly fewer interventions.

Doulas are experts in comfort measures and also great information resources. Whether it is a simple question or a complex decision, your doula is there to help you through every choice you make. Partners do more when there is a doula on their team!

Plus – doulas make the process fun! We are trained to smooth out the edges, show you the ropes and be your birth sherpas! Contact me for more information!

4) Make an effective birth plan that works for you instead of against you

There are many options for labour and birth, but many people don’t know they can do some research, ask some questions and design their birth their way. It is important to know what to expect from your time in the hospital (or home if that is your choice); it is important to be informed and prepared.

There are many things you can control in the face of the vulnerability of labour and birth.

We all want to feel safe first. For our babies to be born in a cocoon of safety. And then we are allowed to want other things as well.

You are allowed and encouraged to dream big and envision the birth of your dreams, not just a birth that is safe, not just the birth you dread.

  • What makes you feel safe?
  • What stresses you out?
  • What do you need?
  • What would you love to happen?
  • Quiet respectful space to labour in?
  • A less clinical feel to the room?
  • A more clinical and monitored space? So you know both you and baby are ok.
  • Want to catch your baby?
  • Keep the cord?
  • Use your own playlist to create the vibe?
  • Wear your own clothes?
  • Use your own pillow?
  • Labour in whatever position is most comfortable to you?
  • Birth in the posture of your choice?

Your plan should use positive language, including things that are unique and important to you. Including the things that are essential for you.

5) Find and Practise tools to manage the intensity of labour

Pregnant Yoga

Whether your labour is a sprint, a marathon or a surgical experience – many women describe birth as hard work.

There are things you can do to manage this intensity! Whether you plan to labour naturally or to use an epidural to support your experience, taking the time to strategize what tools might work for you – and practice the skills while you are pregnant is essential.

Be your sensuous self and amplify your senses to distract or soothe yourself – sight, sound, smell, touch!

Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, sound/music, and visualizations/affirmations are valuable tools. Hypnobirthing is a system many women find helpful. As are hynotherapy sessions with a trained therapist. Ask me for suggestions.

Control, control, control! Find things that you can control and control the heck out of them!

Looking for more information on your upcoming birth? Interested in taking one of my online prenatal classes or in need of birth support? Please contact me!

Article written by my wise friend and work-partner, Karen Herriot – Master Doula, Doula Trainer, Yoga Teacher.

Released Waters (aka Ruptured Membranes or Water Breaks) and What to Do!

Your waters just released – now what?  When you water breaks, it can be released as a few drops at a time or in a gush.  Only 10 per cent of women will experience waters releasing before labour has started.  When this happens, labour usually starts within 24 hours.  The other 90 per cent of women’s waters will release at some point during labour, usually in active labour.  Here is information on self-care and warning signs.

About 75 per cent of women with PROM at term (“premature rupture of membranes” i.e. before labour starts, from 37 weeks on) give birth within 24 hours. This increases to 90 per cent within 48 hours and 95 per cent by 72 hours.  People often worry about infection after waters release.  Note that risk of infection increases with internal exams (vaginal exams), fever in mother and being confirmed GBS-positive. So this is something to be aware of.

Warning Signs Regarding Released Waters

If any of these occur, seek medical attention in a timely manner.

  • If waters release before 37 weeks, contact your medical care provider and/or go to hospital.
  • If fluid is coloured (yellow, green, brown) or has a strong smell, then contact your medical care provider.
  • If you have any signs of fever contact your medical care provider.
  • If your baby isn’t moving normally, then contact your medical care provider.
  • This is a 911 call! If you feel a cord between your legs or at the vaginal opening, assume a “child’s pose” with bum in the air (on hands and knees with chest on the ground) and call 911.
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“Child’s Pose” with bum in the air

Self-Care

  • Nothing inside! That includes internal examinations unless there’s a good reason to do one. There’s a correlation between time on first internal exam and onset of infection; the earlier the initial internal exam, the higher the risk of infection.  Risk of infections goes up with number of internal examinations.
  • Baths in your own tub at home are fine. Once you’re in active labour then baths are also fine in your private birth room.  Use showers instead when in public spaces (e.g. hotel, hospital assessment washroom).
  • Be aware of signs of infection such as fever. Take your temperature every 4-8 hours during awake hours.
  • Stay hydrated. Consider if you’ve had a steady stream of fluid or just that early trickle.  It’s also possible to have a little “high leak” without membranes fully  releasing.  A healthy mama/baby will continue to make amniotic fluid.
  • Take care of hygiene:
    • Wear a clean pad and change it often
    • When using the toilet, one wipe from front to back per tissue
    • Wash hands before and after using toilet or changing pads

Go to Hospital… or Not?

This should be discussed with your midwife or doctor at prenatal appointments ahead of time in case they have specific instructions for you.  If fluid is clear then you may have the  choice to stay home or contact your medical care provider for options. Generally there are 3 things assessed at hospital:

  1. Baby’s health (by listening to fetal heart tones)
  2. Maternal health (vital signs and interview)
  3. Presence (or absence) of amniotic fluid (the “waters”) present

If you go to hospital and you’re not in active labour, you will likely be offered a sterile-speculum exam (think PAP test); the purpose being to confirm your waters actually released.  This is optional, although it’s not usually presented as such.  Other ways to determine if waters actually released may included simply asking the pregnant woman or dipping the testing swab into her wet pad.

  • If you previously tested “GBS positive” then your medical care provider may recommend induction.
  • If you previously tested “GBS negative” then may be offered induction but will more likely be sent home to wait for labour to start.  If labour hasn’t started within 24 hours then your medical care provider may recommend induction.

Your Options

  1. Go to hospital for maternal and baby assessment but decline internal examination.
  2. Go to hospital and consent to all of it – sterile speculum exam, maternal and baby assessment.
  3. Stay home and wait for labour to start, barring any warning signs or health complications.  Practice good self-care, be aware of warning signs, and pay attention to your baby’s movements.

Further Info:

Here is an excellent article about obstetrical care of women with Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM) at term (37+ weeks), including discussion of differences in outcomes with GBS positive and negative, options, and when labour typically starts.

Pregnant Woman by ocean

I teach a variety of Child Birth Education classes and prenatal workshops online for students all over.  I have been a birth doula since 2002, and have helped over 300 mothers with their births and over 1000 through prenatal classes. Learn more about my birth doula services, and contact me with any questions you may have.

Brewer Pregnancy Nutrition

Adequate protein and good quality nutrition are required for the increased metabolic functions that accompany pregnancy. Many midwives and practitioners recommend good nutrition during pregnancy, including the Brewer Diet.  There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to support them.

A study conducted at Harvard University found that eating at ≥75 grams of protein daily helps prevent diseases of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia (Abubakar & al., 2011) (Haas, 1995).

In the 1960’s Dr. Tom Brewer worked with a large, high-obstetrical-risk group in California: impoverished ethnic minority teen mothers in their first pregnancy.  During the same time in other areas of the USA, this group had up to 35% rates of serious pregnancy diseases, preeclampsia and eclampsia. Dr. Brewer worked with more than 7000 pregnant women over more than 12 years. He asked each woman about her diet and determined that malnutrition was prevalent.  All of his clients were required to attend nutritional counselling and were fed good nutrition and adequate protein.  The incidence of serious pregnancy illnesses  among his patients dropped to 0.5% (Brewer & Brewer-Krebs, 1977)! This is remarkable and well documented but as there was no “control group” (a group who didn’t receive “treatment”, because Dr. Brewer felt it would be unethical to withhold good nutrition from a group of pregnant women), most medical associations don’t consider this scientifically valid research.

The basic Brewer diet recommends a daily minimum of 2600 calories, 80-120 grams protein, salt-to-taste, green veggies, whole grains, fats, and vitamin-rich foods (Jones).  The Brewer diet can be easily integrated into general good pregnancy nutrition (see Basic Prenatal Nutrition handout (Evans, 2011)).  For example, while the Brewer Diet doesn’t specify types of salt or fat, whole-mineral salts (e.g. Himalayan or Celtic) and high quality omega-3 fats are healthiest.  Special needs such as food-sensitivities / allergies, ethical choices or cultural habits can all be incorporated into the Brewer Diet.  As usual, ensure you eat 3 meals and 3 snacks daily, including protein at each one.

If you wish to check out the actual “Brewer Diet”, see diet checklists at www.blueribbonbaby.org .  They also include vegan and vegetarian options.  Below is a basic checklist you can use.

Brewer Pregnancy Diet Food Log

The list below is the minimum daily requirements according to Dr. Brewer.  You may wish to consult a holistic nutritionist if you have special needs.  Let you midwife know if you aren’t meeting these daily minimums as this requires prompt attention.

Check off a box each time you have a serving.  Each food counts as one checkmark on the lists e.g. a glass of milk counts as either “Milk” or “Protein”, but not both.  Examples for each category are presented.  Modify to fit any special considerations you have, such as vegetarian or a health issue to work around.

DAILY MINIMUMS:

oooooooo  (8) Calcium source; servings below.  Note 125ml = ½ cup

½ cup animal milk, yogurt or sour cream

¼ cup cottage cheese

1 small slice cheese

36 almonds

12 Brazil nuts

1 tbsp raw sesame seeds

1/3 cup cooked bok choy or collard greens

1 cup broccoli, cooked

½  cup kale

2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses

4 oz black olives

1 oz sardines

 

oooooooo  (8) Protein; servings below.  1oz = 7g.

Note:  See information about fish and mercury on Basic Prenatal Nutrition handout.

1 oz poultry, fish, red-meat, or organs

¼ cup canned salmon or tuna

3 sardines

1 oz cheese: cheddar, Swiss, other hard cheese

¼ cup cottage cheese

1/8 cup brewer’s yeast + 1/4 cup rice

1/8 cup sesame or sunflower seeds + ½ cup cup rice

1/8 cup beans + 1/4 cup whole rice or ½ cup cornmeal (measured before cooking)

 

oo (2) Fresh, dark green vegetables; servings below

1 cup broccoli

1 cup brussels sprouts

½ cup lettuce (preferable romaine)

½ cup endive

½ cup asparagus

½ cup sprouts: bean, alfalfa

2/3 cup greens e.g. collard, turnip, beet, mustard, dandelion, kale, spinach

 

ooooo (5) Whole grains; servings below

1 slice whole grain bread

1 corn tortilla

½ cup oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa,

1 shredded wheat biscuit

½ cup bran flakes or granola

¼ cup wheat germ

1 waffle or pancake made from whole grain

½  roll, muffin, or bagel made from whole grain

 

oo (2) Vitamin C foods; servings below

½ grapefruit

½ cup grapefruit juice

1 orange

½ cup orange juice

1 large tomato

1 cup tomato juice

½ cantaloupe

1 lemon or lime

½ cup papaya

½ cup strawberries

1 large green pepper

1 large potato, any style

 

ooo (3) Fats and oils; servings below

1 tbsp butter

¼ avocado

1 tbsp nut-butter

1 tsp algae oil

1 tbsp first/cold-pressed vegan oil – olive, flax, avocado, hemp, coconut

1 tsp cold-pressed fish oil – cod-liver, sardine, mackerel, anchovy, krill

 

o (1) Vitamin A foods; servings below

3 apricots

½ cantaloupe

½ cup carrots (1 large)

½ cup pumpkin

½ cup winter squash

1 sweet potato

 

Salt and other sodium sources—unlimited, to taste

kelp powder–to taste

soy sauce or tamari–to taste

full spectrum natural salt to taste – Himilayan, Celtic

 

Water—unlimited; drink to avoid thirst, not in response to it

Purified water is best – see http://www.angieevans.ca/pdf/Water%20&%20Hydration.pdf

Fresh, home-made juice

Unsweetened herbal tea (see Safe Herbs in Pregnancy handout)

 

 

References

Abubakar, A., & al. (2011, Aug). Lipid Profiles and Platelets Counts of Pre-eclamptic women in Selected Rural Areas of Northern Nigeria.  WebmedCentral PHYSIOLOGY: http://www.webmedcentral.com/article_view/2121

ACOG. (2002, Jan). Diagnosis and Management of Preeclampsia and Eclampsia; #33. ACOG Practise Bulletin – Clinical Management Guidelines for Obstetrician-Gynecologists: http://mail.ny.acog.org/website/SMIPodcast/DiagnosisMgt.pdf

Brewer, D. T., & Brewer-Krebs, G. (1977). What Every Pregnant Woman Should Know. The Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet: http://www.drbrewerpregnancydiet.com/id74.html

Evans, A. (2011). Basic Prenatal Nutrition. Canmore.

Frye, A. (2007). Understanding Diagnostic Tests in the Childbearing Year, 7th Ed. Portland, OR: Labrys Press.

good nutrition… for healthier moms and babies. (n.d.).  BlueRibbonBaby.org: http://www.blueribbonbaby.org/

Haas, A. (1995). Preventing Preeclamsia, PIH, Toxemai and HELLP by Good Nutrition. Midwifery Today .

Jones, J. M. (n.d.).  The Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet: http://www.drbrewerpregnancydiet.com/

Maine, D. (2000). Role of nutrition in the prevention of toxemia. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 72 (1), 298-300.

NICE. (2010, Aug). NICE clinical guideline 107: Hypertension in pregnancy. NHS – National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence: http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/13098/50418/50418.pdf

 

 

Hospital Birth Room Set-up 101

One of the important tasks I do for my clients is to set up their hospital birth room for comfort, safety and efficiency.  Here’s a list of what I take care of I go into a birth room.  In my local hospital the birth rooms all have a small closet, mini-fridge, blanket-warmer, some empty shelves and an adjoining private washroom with a tub. If you’re DIYing then find out ahead of time what your local birth rooms are like and modify as needed.

Doulas and Dads

Although the information here will reassure any partner, this article intentionally addresses dads-to-be. All the quotes, links and videos are made by dads for dads-to-be, about their most common concerns about birth support:  1) Value; why should I pay for a doula if I’m going to be there?  2) Why do we even need a doula; what does she have that I don’t?  3) How will I be included if a doula attends?

Use of Herbs During Pregnancy & Lactation

Herbal medicine is specific category of health-care.  Many herbs, including essential oils, are safe and beneficial during the childbearing year, while others can be dangerous.  Pregnant women must be cautious with any remedies, especially during the first trimester when the fetus is most vulnerable.  There’s a lot of misinformation concerning herbs.  Here are lists of commonly used herbs that are considered safe and unsafe through pregnancy and postpartum.

Here We Go Again: Facts vs Fear-Mongering in Placenta Encapsulation

Placenta capsulesYesterday the CBC posted another article on placenta encapsulation.  The article is low on fact and filled with fear-mongering.  Certainly an article like this should lead service-providers to pay attention to their practices, ask questions, and re-evaluate protocols to ensure safe services are being offered.  An article of this nature should also lead clients to ask questions of their encapsulators.  Unfortunately, when a big media company publishes an article with an inflammatory headline, most people don’t read through, and of those that do, few know how to evaluate the information presented.

Let’s get to the facts.

Avoiding Post-Dates Pregnancy

Post-term or post-date pregnancy is one that exceeds 40-42 weeks gestation, depending where you live.  If a woman is healthy and well nourished then her placenta is likely to thrive and nourish the baby at any gestation.  If there are signs that mother or baby will be healthier with baby Earth-side, then induction is warranted; otherwise it’s a much overused intervention that leads to a Cascade of Intervention.    

Drying Up Breastmilk

While breastfeeding is actively promoted in almost all Canadian communities, a new mother may need or want to prevent further lactation or dry up her milk.  Reasons include still-born, surrogacy, medical conditions requiring treatment contraindicated with breastfeeding, past abuse, and lifestyle choices.  For many women it’s a very difficult decision.  Women need acceptance and supported in their choices.  To that end, here’s information to help a woman cease lactation in the safest and least painful way.