vintage prenatal advice

5 pieces of advice for expecting mothers

vintage prenatal advice

Vintage “Prenatal Care” book photo from Etsy.com (advice below is not from this book)

As a doula I have worked with and know a lot of new moms. Their questions usually centralize around a few topics; health care provider, birth location and preparation. If I had a 5 minute window to give the best advice I know to newly pregnant or attempting pregnancy women it would be these things:

  1. Get healthy and stay healthy. There are so many statistics about how dramatically your health affects you pregnancy, your labor and your baby. Good diet and exercise through pregnancy decreases complications, length of labor, complications, and improves the health of the baby throughout the first moments and years of its life, as well as improves mother’s recovery time and decreases risk of postpartum mood disorders (depression). If you don’t exercise and eat well right now, it’s never too late to start! Women who have been diagnosed with serious conditions like gestational diabetes can minimize their risk and sometimes even eliminate the disease by simply exercising and eating right. And if you don’t know how to get into these good habits now, it’s not gonna get any easier with a baby! You wanna know now how to do these things right so you can keep up with these habits with a baby, set a good example and keep your baby healthy.
  2. Choose a health care provider (HCP) that cares about your preferences and agrees with your priorities. Do not choose a HCP based solely on insurance!!!! Can I say that again? Don’t do it! It is not worth the money to have a terrible pregnancy and labor and possibly risk your health, your child’s health and your happiness. Invest in your future and find someone who believes in what you believe in. Someone you can trust to help you make good decisions for your life and your child’s life. PLEASE consider midwives as well as doctors. OBs are trained in the medical, surgical, complicated side of birth. Midwives are trained in the healthy, support and encourage mind and body side of birth. There are midwives that work in hospitals if you still want a hospital birth. Midwives will NOT take on clients that have any complications in pregnancy that would make it risky for an out of hospital birth.
  3. Where do you feel the safest? Do you view hospitals as a place to go when you are sick or ill or when something is wrong? Have you had bad experiences at a hospital? Do hospitals make you nervous, anxious, stressed or fearful? Then consider a birth center or an at home birth! Your comfort and frame of mind SIGNIFICANTLY affect the labor process. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable labor will be more difficult. However, if hospitals feel like a safe place that you go to feel better, get help, and relief, than a hospital could be a much better place for you to give birth than at home. If you are having a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy, the risk of complications arising during labor that require a transport to the hospital are low.
  4. Prepare but don’t obsess.  Moms tend to be on one side of the spectrum or the other when it comes to preparation. There are the borderline obsessed, need all of the information, contemplate everything, plan everything, need to have control kind of moms, and then there are the I don’t care, I don’t have any preferences, I don’t do any research, I don’t mind not knowing what to do and I’m just gonna wing it kind of moms. Both moms are putting themselves at risk. You can’t control everything or know everything. The more stressed you are, the less healthy it is for your baby and the labor process. There are going to be things that happen during labor that go outside your birth plan. Don’t freak out! For my Christian clients I advise them to focus on the peace that God gives despite your circumstances. God grants us peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil. Being comfortable or getting what you want or expect is not always the best thing and does not guarantee peace. Trusting God’s plan for your birth, not matter how it looks, will bring you peace no mater the circumstances. On the other side, not preparing or not having preferences does not mean you will be without stress or disappointment. The biggest regret I hear from parents after the birth of their child is “I wish I had known more or had been better prepared”. You are right Ms. Unprepared, things never go as planned. But when things go wrong and you are forced to make a life or death decision for your baby, are you going to wish you had done a little more research? And there’s nothing wrong with having preferences. In fact, preferences are what make the birth unique, memorable and make you and your partner feel more like you are apart of this amazing experience. Don’t know where to start? Try taking a childbirth class or reading some books like “Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn”, “The Birth Partner” or “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”.
  5. Finally, have a doula. Read my previous post on the “Why everyone needs a Doula”.

Any other good advice out there?

1 in 5 women experience Mittelschmerz

Could you be one of those women?

Mittelschmerz is, essentially, painful ovulation. Have you ever had a sharp, stabbing or aching pain on one side (sometimes both sides) of your lower abdomen around the time of your ovulation (roughly 10-14 days before your period)? That could be mittelschmerz. It can last as short as a few minutes or as long as a couple days. The pain can be more severe for women who have experienced invasive procedures to their abdomen or reproductive organs, such as surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. It’s a normal process and it does not necessarily mean something is wrong. If you are experiencing symptoms of mittelschmerz, it is important to compare these symptoms to that of an ovarian cyst or other abdominal condition. If pain persists long than 1-2 days or is not correlating to your ovulation, seek medical evaluation.

So now you know what this pain is, what can you do about it? For most women, the pain is not bad enough to require any treatment. Plus, it usually diminishes very quickly. And what a blessing to know when you are ovulating! That makes birth control much easier! I know that I have sharp stabbing pains very briefly on the morning of my ovulation, and it is no longer noticeable within an hour. The pain is sharp enough to catch me off guard, but not enough for me to desire anything to help cope with it. However, some women experience severe pain, to the point that doctors used to mistake mittelschmerz for appendicitis! If you are experiencing significant pain, there are a few things you can try.

non-medicine:

-heat. because the pain is (supposedly) muscular in nature, putting a hot pad on the site of the pain can relieve tension.

-stretching or moving positions. as a doula i always recommend this and assessing your mental state to help cope with pain before relying on medicine. If women every day can get through labor pains solely using different positions, breathing techniques, or focusing/meditating on something, it’s worth giving it a shot for this. Depending on the kind of pain, laying on one side or switching sides could help, getting on hands and knees, or supporting the lower back with a pillow (with a hot pad!) may help.

-improving your nutrition. this can do wonders for any problem. one site recommends eating more oily fish, nuts and seeds, beans, seafood, whole grains, green and leafy vegetables. on the other hands, try avoiding coffee, tea, chocolate, sugary refined foods, alcohol and fatty foods. this will not create immediate results, but could help over time.

homeopathy:

**I am not medically qualified to prescribe any sort of homeopathic medicine or otherwise. These are remedies I have read about that are associated with this condition, please talk to your health care provider before taking anything**

Colocynthis– used as a remedy for mental cramps, abdominal pain, cramps among other things

Sabina– used as a remedy for extreme uterine pain that extends into the thighs

-other suggestions can be found a Think Natural or Dr Lockie. You can find these products at your local health foods store or market in the health and beauty section. be sure to read the directions carefully to assess your symptoms and the right homeopathic remedy for you.

medcine:

-butylscoplamine- this is a rather strong medicine used for conditions of spasmodic indigestion pain from conditions like Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndromen. In Germany it is offered over the counter and this study discusses its common use for extreme cramping. In summary, the majority of the women in this study used this medication for extreme cramping pain and, in this short term study, they did not experience significant negative side effects from using it this away. Be sure to talk to your health care provider before using this product!!

In summary, mittelschmerz is a normal condition that occurs at the time of ovulation and can occur regularly in some women. For some the pain is quite tolerable, for others the pain is extreme. There are many ways to cope with pain, and above are some at home remedies you can do on for own, some homeopathic remedies that may help, and a medicine that has been used by some women to help with the pain. I recommend starting with the least invasive (non-medicine) techniques first and then working up to homeopathy or medicinal remedies.

why everyone needs a Doula

I think doulas can be one of the most valuable tools in childbirth, yet so many women go through birth without one.

Since beginning my profession in the realm of childbirth I have had many pregnant friends ask me questions about various things related to pregnancy and birth. No matter who they are or what they think they want for their birth I always recommend they get a doula. Off all my advice, it’s usually the best advice I can give, but it is usually taken the least seriously. Why is that? I think it’s because of two reasons; doulas aren’t a common word outside of pregnancy and they are completely under estimated.

I first learned what a doula was when I was looking into becoming a midwife. One of the pre-reqs for midwifery school was birth doula training. I had no idea what a doula was so I googled it: “a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during or after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family by providing information, physical assistance and emotional support.[1] The provision of continuous support during labour by doulas (as well as nurses, family or friends) is associated with improved maternal and fetal health and a variety of other benefits.” It is literally translated from the greek word to mean “a woman who serves”. I became more interested… what kind of benefits does a doula provide?

Numerous scientific studies have shown that the care provided by doulas is directly associated with:

  • shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduced negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduced need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • reduced requests for pain medication and/or epidurals

Also, studies demonstrate that parents who receive doula support:

  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have lower incidence of abuse

So what are these doulas doing that provides all of these benefits? Doulas:

  • Recognize birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
  • Stays with the woman throughout the labor
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience
  • Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level

This is all from the DONA website (which i recommend if you want to learn more about what doulas do, how to find one, or how to become one) but if I had to describe it in my own words… I wouldn’t, I would quote someone else who once said “During labor, the woman’s partner is her right hand and the doula is her left”. Doulas use their experience and knowledge of labor to personally help and advocate for the mother and partner to get through birth.

As a doula I have met with my clients multiple times before the birth to get to know them, their birth desires, and answer questions. I would then attend to the couple (or single mother) as soon as they wanted help. Sometimes this was only a couple hours before the actually birth, sometimes it was a couple days before the birth. No matter how long the labor is, the doula will be there the whole time. After the birth I would ensure the parents have transitioned from “birthing” mode to “connecting with new baby” mode and are ready to be alone with their newest family member. I typically do two follow up meetings following the birth to recap the experience and answer any questions relating to newborn care and labor recovery.

Birth is the most life changing, ever memorable, fragile and miraculous thing you (both mom and dad!) will ever experience.

Wouldn’t you want to invest in ensuring you have the best experience possible?

Now that you know all of this about doulas, do you think you would use one? Please?

The Good News

The good news is the Gospel and it’s everywhere. Somewhere between Seattle and San Antonio I had become comfortable with the thought that I may called by God to just be a doula and childbirth educator. Yet, God apparently has other plans for me. As some of you know, I have been trying so hard to become a midwife for almost 3 years. I have reached many road blocks and detours and have turned to God confused every time, doubting His calling for me because of the adversity. I look back now and I can see very clearly that I was trying to force my plan for this over His plan. I should have known that His plan is better and, fortunately, it trumps my plans. I think I have finally reached a point at which I am willing for God to do WHATEVER with my life. I feel safe and certain of His goodness and intentionality in my life so I began to let go. He took the reigns. Let’s walk through the events of the past couple of months:

  • The last week of Feb I asked for my husband’s help with finding a midwifery school. He nodded, said he would help me, prayed and then in 20 minutes found Birthwise Midwifery School. A school I had looked at many times over the past 2 years but discounted… why? It reminded me of in Luke 9:45 when Jesus told the disciples of his upcoming betrayal and the truth was “hidden from them so that they did not grasp it”.
  • On March 26 I mailed in my application to Birthwise.
  • On March 29 I received a call from Birthwise saying they wanted to set up an interview with me.
  • On April 17 I had my interview. After that interview I prayed each day that God would not let me get accepted into the school unless He was certain it was the right one for me and I could do it.
  • On April 19 I found out I had been accepted into the program.

I think He’s telling me to stop making excuses and trust that this is finally His plan, not mine. I am comforted by His confidence. He is not just holding my hand through this crazy season of changing career fields and quitting my secure job to pursue a calling. He is guiding my footsteps and moving in me to get this done. It’s incredibly exciting to know that I have a god that holds everything in the palm of His hand that is taking such personal care of me, rooting for me, nudging me along like a mother duck. Here we go!

Love these WWII 4×5 Kodachromes of women working

My mother sent me this link to these amazing photos of women helping to build bombers during WWII. Amazing to see these photos and consider that during this era women were still fighting for so many rights and treated totally differently. Heck, women wearing pants was still controversial. Yet, here they are in photos taking the places of husbands, brothers and friends in the assembly line. Doing some hard, technical, physical labor alongside men. I particularly love this photo of the man and woman riveting a cockpit together. Amazing! Thanks mommy!

WWII 4×5 Kodachromes of women working.