Creating the Best Start for New Life
by Deborah Shouse
"Awoman’s body is exquisitely designed to conceive, nurture and give birth,” says Dr. Carol J. Phillips, an Annapolis, Maryland, prenatal chiropractor, doula and author of Hands of Love: Seven Steps to the Miracle of Birth.
Judith Lothian, Ph.D., associate editor of the Journal of Perinatal Education, professor of nursing at Seton Hall University, in South Orange, New Jersey, and a natural childbirth educator, knows the significance of women’s deep intuitive instinct. “Women who feel supported and encouraged can tap into their own wisdom and find deep satisfaction in giving birth naturally. The process itself perfectly prepares mother and baby to continue on their journey together.”
Several gentle strategies help mothers-to-be prepare for the joys of natural pregnancy and childbirth.
Build a Baby-Friendly Body Discover Intuitive Nutrition
“Follow your urges,” counsels Peggy O’Mara, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, former editor of Mothering Magazine and author of Having a Baby, Naturally. “Eat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you’re weary. Go to the bathroom the moment nature calls. Practice this in pregnancy so you’ll be in the habit of listening to your instincts when you give birth.” This simple advice counters women’s common habit of attending to other people’s needs instead of their own.
Along with eating organic whole foods, Kristy Wilson, of Las Vegas, a certified professional midwife, labor doula and placenta preparation specialist, recommends both a plant-based food supplement with iron and whole food prenatal supplement. Vitamin C is important for a strong amniotic sac; she suggests at least 500 milligrams daily. A high-strung mom can take magnesium chloride baths or sip a soothing cup of red raspberry leaf tea.
“Women that are concerned about their diet can tune into the baby and ask what they need,” says Lori Bregman, of Santa Monica, California, a doula, birth coach and author of The Mindful Mom-to-Be. If craving a certain dish, she can research its benefits and healing qualities. The yearning for comfort foods like pizza, macaroni or ice cream may signal the need for more nurturing. Eyeing popcorn or chips could be a sign she’s stuffing down an emotion. She can ask herself, “What am I suppressing?”
“Eat a lot of protein, including vitamin B-rich foods, during both pregnancy and breastfeeding,” advises O’Mara.
The connections established between mother and child are much stronger when she progresses through pregnancy and birth from a natural perspective.
“Nursing moms need to eat nutrient-dense foods frequently, along with getting adequate fluids,” says Wilson. She recommends foods that assist lactation called galatactagogues, like almonds, avocados, legumes, kale and spinach. To increase milk production, add fennel to meals or smoothies, or turn to capsules.
Prenatal Nutrition: Eat Yourself to a Healthy Baby!
by Lee Rossano, C.N.C.
Babies require a huge amount of nutrition and the only way to get it is from the mother. She is totally responsible for providing that nutrition and hence there is the problem. Highly nutritious foods that contain the right vitamins and minerals often don’t appeal to the mother in the first trimester. In our chemically laden world, more and more babies are being born with genetic problems and food sensitivities.
Some important nutrients to look for in foods are:
Zinc protects DNA found in eggs; pumpkin and sesame seeds, yogurt, peas, shrimp and beef. Low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy, according to The Centers for Disease Control’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Report.
• Citrus fruits, such as orange juice.
• Beans, lentils, dried beans, peas, nuts and avocado.
• Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, collard or turnip greens, okra, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.
• Rice Beans and Pastas. Gluten free if applicable and women with genetic brakes such as MTHFR should consider folate versus folic acid.
• Red meat, pork, poultry and seafood
• Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots.
I have left out fortified grains because of the inflammatory nature of grains.
• Milk (not my first choice because of Casein and Lactose content)
• Kale and broccoli
• Yogurt and cheeses (better choice because of low casein and lactose content)
• Sardines with the bones
• Most women don’t get enough protein, so add foods such as eggs, cheeses/dairy products, meat and fish
• Fish should not be eaten more than once per week.
• Fish oil and vitamin D are very important also. Look at the sources of the supplements.
• No soy! Prescription Prenatal vitamins are often hard to digest and may contain synthetic vitamins and soy.
For my clients, I recommend a multi-vitamin in capsule form, taken 2 to 3 times a day, then add separate folate, zinc, fish oil, vitamin D and a probiotic.
Lee Rossano, C.N.C., practices at Advanced Nutritional Solutions, 1444 W. Silverbell, Lake Orion, MI. She helps with food sensitivites, anti-aging, and has been doing fertility work for 16 years. For more information, call 248-652-4160 or visit WhySuffer.net.
Keep Moving with Intention
Wilson recommends yoga, swimming, walking or light jogging three to five times a week, for 20 minutes a day. “Squatting like a child on your haunches is a great exercise for childbirth,” she says, noting that 20 squats daily will strengthen core muscles. Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a desk chair or couch also engages core muscles, while improving posture.
“Regular exercise brings more energy, better sleep, reduced stress, higher spirits, better odds of an easy labor, faster post-delivery recovery and reduced risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy,” Bregman finds. She recommends a prenatal yoga practice that includes breathing and visualizations. This restorative form of yoga offers gentle stretching, promotes good circulation and naturally supports relief or healing of many possible pregnancy ailments.
“To alleviate physical distress, try chiropractic prenatal care,” says Phillips. Light finger contact from an experienced practitioner helps realign bony segments and restores the body’s normal tone. “A prenatal expert can adjust so the mom’s body maintains its balance and the baby is free to move.”
Craniosacral therapy reestablishes balance to the membranes that encapsulate the brain and spinal cord.
Prepare the Mind
“Just say, 'No thanks,’ to friends who want to burden you with stories of their long, excruciating labors,” O’Mara advises. “Protect yourself from toxic people and their horror stories. Focus on maintaining your own good health and surround yourself with people that have experienced a normal birth. Plan to have uplifting support during the birthing process and in the postpartum period.”
A woman easily influenced by others might ask her doula, midwife or spouse to be her advocate. A woman that needs to exercise control might seek such assistance for peace of mind, knowing that her wishes will be followed.
“'Pain’ is a fear-based word,” to be avoided in conversations about labor, Wilson explains. “Don’t fear the strength of contractions. They are doing exactly what your body needs to do to give birth.” As a midwife, she helps moms relax and embrace these intensely important sensations by focusing on what is going on in their body. Research published in the journal Cell Adhesion & Migration shows that the hormones released during labor enter into the baby’s immune system to also strengthen the child.
Spark the Spirit
Affirmations can positively state the mother-to-be’s intentions for pregnancy and birth. Examples include: “Birth is a safe and wonderful experience. I am choosing the right path for my birth. I trust my body and my instincts. I have all the support I need.” Wilson recommends choosing two to four that resonate, repeating them every morning while gazing into the mirror, placing them on the refrigerator door and even having them pop up on a smartphone.
“Meditation prepares you for childbirth and can also be soothing during labor by offering tools that push away fear,” says O'Mara. She likes this mantra from Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, Being Peace: “Breathing in, I calm myself, breathing out, I smile.”
To begin, sit comfortably in a quiet room with eyes closed. For women new to meditation, Wilson suggests lighting a scented or colored candle and noticing the colors and movement of the flame for something physical to focus on. “This calming practice is important because labor becomes like a meditation,” she says. The mother copes through the contraction, then uses her meditation skills to reset, refocus and ground herself before the next contraction.
Wilson and Bregman both encourage expectant mothers to keep a journal during pregnancy. “Record thoughts and experiences. Sometimes dreams tell things about the child, who has a story too,” advises Wilson.
Naturopathic Tips For the New Mother
by Dr. Doug Cutler, N.D.
Some of the most notable effects from the rapid decline in estrogen and progesterone in the weeks following childbirth vary for each new mother, but the most common are changes in energy, digestion, libido, weight and mood. This shift can often be attributed to Postpartum Adrenal Fatigue, which can also manifest as acne, depression, fatigue when waking up, insomnia, thyroid issues, brain fog, dizziness, cravings, irritability, generalized weakness, and more. There are some natural approaches to help deal with these issues.
The Naturopathic basics
• Clean up the diet by focusing on whole/organic foods and increase filtered water intake.
• Heal the gut and reduce chronic inflammation. This alone can start to rebalance hormones and improve mood.
• Easier said than done with a new baby, but find every opportunity to get your sleep. Reach out to family and friends to help make this possible.
• Stress management with breathing exercises, yoga, exercise, acupuncture, cuddling with baby and meditation will change the sympathetic (fight or flight response) state to the parasympathetic (relaxed) state. A daily morning routine of “me time” can help reduce the effects of chronic “stressors” which imbalance cortisol and sugar levels.
• Having a baby depletes a mother’s reserves of nutrients. IV Nutrient Therapy helps address any possible nutritional deficiencies and provides a high dose of nutrients directly into the body, while bypassing the gut, which can give immense relief of symptoms to a new mom.
• Adrenal formulas that include certain nutrients such as Vitamin C, Magnesium, B-Vitamins, L-Theanine and botanical adaptogens such as Ashwaganda, Korean and Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola, Astragalus and Licorice Root can help balance and restore adrenal function.
Finally, every new mother should have a naturopathic physician on board for not only preventative health, but to address the underlying causes of symptoms. Don’t let your symptoms become chronic or your “norm.” There are safe and very effective naturopathic approaches that can help you be your best as a new mom. Reach out, bring your newborn with you and get started feeling better from just the first visit.
Dr. Doug Cutler, N.D. practices at Cutler Integrative Medicine, 31350 Telegraph Rd., Ste. 102, Bingham Farms, MI. For more information, call 248-663-0165 or visit his website: CutlerIntegrativeMedicine.com.
Design a Special Experience Create a Birth Plan
Those that prefer a home birth can find a compatible midwife through a natural birthing community such as the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, International Childbirth Education Association and La Leche League. For a hospital experience, look for low-Caesarean rates, a personally compatible doctor and a distinct birthing center. Either way, a doula or midwife can help craft the desired birth plan.
Upon selecting a venue, the expectant mother may imagine the ideal birth environment and write positive statements, such as, “I want to move around freely. I want my husband and sister with me at all times.”
“If a home birth is a mother’s first choice, design two plans; one for home and one for the hospital,” suggests Phillips. “If the mother needs hospital care during labor, the attendants will know her wishes.”
Wilson encourages the spouse to be involved from the beginning. “The partner’s energy plays a role in how the birth progresses during labor. Plus, being part of the planning keeps him engaged and attuned to her wishes.”
Orchestrate a Childbirth Team
“The birthing mother needs continuous support from someone that can focus on her and her needs,” says Phillips. “The partner also needs to have access to experienced support. Both need to surround themselves with people that know how to enfold them in love.”’
A birthing team includes the medically trained attendant appointed to help deliver the baby; either a midwife or a doctor. Many women choose to have a trained doula collaborate, as well. She provides continuity of care and advocacy, lessens the need for medical intervention, stays with the mother, honors and includes the partner and supports the parents in making informed decisions.
With home births, family members tend to invite themselves over. The mom needs to have control of her birthing atmosphere. “I encourage moms to be firm regarding who they want in the room when the baby is born,” Wilson says.
Honor the Postpartum Mother
“Giving birth is the first big unknown of parenting,” says Wilson. “You plan for it and then you have to trust and accept the outcome.” She encourages postpartum appointments for discussing the birth.
“A breastfeeding mother’s nutrient requirements are actually higher postpartum,” Wilson says. To prevent deficiencies, she suggests moms nourish themselves during this period, delaying any focus on weight loss and regaining muscle tone.
The birth team and other friends can deliver meals, do light housecleaning, run a load of laundry and bring groceries. The new parents will welcome this generous and loving help.
Deborah Shouse is a mother, writer, speaker, editor and health advocate in Kansas City, MO. Her latest book, "Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together," focuses on life’s meaningful moments (DementiaJourney.org).