Five Fun Ways to Document Your Pregnancy

Liz Abbene, one of our contributors, waiting for her belly cast to dry during her 4th pregnancy.

Newly pregnant? Documenting your pregnancy is a fun way to preserve the memory of your growing baby and changing body, and your child will one day love looking at the images, notes, or letters where she was in your “tummy.” Below are five fun ways to document your pregnancy.

1. Weekly belly photos. This can be done in SO many ways. It can be as simple as taking a profile photo of your belly in the same spot and same shirt every week of your pregnancy, or as elaborate as putting your images into a video, or creating a hard bound or digital book. You can keep your images simple, or add a note, message, or comparison item (“your baby is the size of a lemon…”) for fun. For some inspiration, check out this weekly belly shots board on Pinterest.

2. Keep a pregnancy journal. Your journal can include photos, mementos, notes about your pregnancy, doctors’ visits information, sonogram pictures, letters to your baby — anything you want to preserve and share about your pregnancy. You can create your own, or you can purchase one of the many available online or at a major bookstore.

3. Weekly letters to your baby. This is not only a wonderful way to preserve the memories from your pregnancy, but also an amazing gift that your child will always treasure. You can write hand-written letters, you can set up an email account and email your baby, or your can blog your letters.

4. Professional maternity photo shoot. If you can swing it, professional maternity photos are a wonderful way to capture a moment in time during your pregnancy. You can have them taken solo or with your partner. Be sure to research different poses and shots before going to your shoot so that you get just the look you were hoping for (Google “maternity photo poses”).

5. Belly cast. For a more three dimensional documentation of your pregnancy, you can have your belly cast so that you can preserve your shape forever. You can purchase a kit online or find someone locally who will come to your house and do it for you. Once your cast is dry, you can decorate or paint it as you like. Some moms also use their cast to pose their newborn for the first set of baby photos.

 

How did you document your pregnancy? If you have a link, please share it with us! 

Enjoy the Holidays, Safe, Sane & Sound During Pregnancy

By Dr. Kecia Gaither

Deck the halls and hark the herald! Well ladies, the holiday season is upon us again.  Time for family and friends, shopping and travel, New Year’s resolutions and my personal favorite—cooking and eating.  So let’s  discuss a few things, from a medical  perspective, that will keep you and your precious cargo well and whole for the holiday season.

Travel: Recommendations for travel will vary depending on your destination, mode of transportation and the length of time spent traveling. Basic rules: being pregnant increases your risk of blood clots in the legs; long hours of sedentary travel further increases that risk—it’s important during your excursions to wear comfortable clothes, support stockings and to get up and stretch at least every two hours to get that blood pumping.  If you are going to an exotic destination, try to avoid those locales where vaccinations are needed; if you must go, consult your physician to verify which vaccinations are safe during pregnancy.  Be extra cautious about consuming the water in foreign countries to avoid stomach upset/traveler’s diarrhea—err on the side of drinking bottled water in these circumstances.

Flying during pregnancy, pending your medical status, is considered safe in the first and second trimesters.  Prior to making your reservation, it would be prudent to contact your airline carrier for their travel policies concerning  pregnant women as restrictions may vary.  Due to a lack of oxygen, it may be wise to avoid flying in small, unpressurized planes while pregnant.

Food: Food is the mainstay of any holiday celebration — however, there are some foods pregnant women should avoid due to the bacteria, viruses or parasites which may be present.  These critters can cross the placenta and not only affect mom, but baby as well.  Listeria, a bacteria, is top on the list of germs that can cause severe food borne illness, miscarriage, and stillbirth.  Foods such as unpasteurized cheese/milk, and poorly cooked hot dogs may contain this bacteria, so be vigilant in their consumption.  Foods with raw eggs,  (like eggnog), or  uncooked vegetables (particularly sprouts), or under-cooked poultry may contain E.coli and Salmonella, both of which can cause sickness for mom. Undercooked pork products  may contain a parasite which can cause trichinosis — this one can also cross the placenta and affect the fetus, causing stillbirth, so be sure that all pork is thoroughly cooked. Proper refrigeration of cooked food also is important. The USDA recommends pregnant women avoid foods which have been left out for more than 2 hours.

New Years’ Resolutions

When you’re pregnant, there are a few resolutions that are certainly worth thinking about, and that are attainable and maintainable.

  1.  Cut the mama drama – decrease the stress in your life.  Stress for anyone, but particularly pregnant women, affects both mother and fetus—presents with an increased risk of preterm labor/delivery, low birth weight infants.  Stress also contributes to the development of hypertension.  Anecdotally, mothers who are under immense stress tend to have crankier babies.  Stress busters—meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, professional counseling and therapy—all are safe, natural ways to de-stress.
  2. Open wide and say AAH! – pay attention to your dental health.  Infection is thought to play a major role, among other things, in the genesis of preterm labor and heart disease. Periodontal disease, is, in effect, a lingering oral infection.  A trip to the dentist for cleaning of plaque/attention to any gum disease decreases your incidence of preterm labor and delivery.  Make sure to schedule routine visits for maintenance of your oral health throughout the year.
  3. An apple a day keeps the doctor away– the old adage is true; nutrition contributes to great health. Pay attention to your nutritional choices with the new year—focus on increasing your fruit, vegetable, beans, and whole grains intake—cut down on fatty high cholesterol containing foods/processed foods. Lean meats like chicken and turkey are great. Increase your water consumption and eliminate drinks containing high fructose corn syrup.  Good nutrition contributes to a healthy growing fetus, and post delivery, helps with good milk production and keeping mom in a positive nutritional balance.

With those thoughts in mind, enjoy your holiday season, ladies!

 

Dr. Kecia Gaither serves as the Vice Chairman and the Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics &
Gynecology at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center located in Brooklyn, N.Y. – one of the region’s largest and busiest nonprofit teaching hospitals. In her current position, Dr. Gaither oversees the hospital’s OB/GYN’s Ultrasound Unit and the Maternal Fetal Medicine Division. With more than 20 years of professional experience, Gaither’s expertise is grounded in the
research and care for women with diabetes, HIV and obesity in pregnancy.

A New York City native, Gaither’s mission as a medical professional is to offer exemplary prenatal care to those often
underserved and overlooked. The women who enter Dr. Gaither’s office are typically without the financial means nor the emotional support needed to receive the proper care needed while carrying a high-risk pregnancy.

photo credit: richiebits via photopin cc

A New Mom’s Last-Minute Gift Wishlist

1. Sleep

2. Sleep

3. Sleep

4. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed. (You know, in case I want more sleep.)

5. Sign on door that says: Welcome Visitors! Unless you are sick. And only if you bring a meal. And only if you promise to stay for less than an hour. And only if you don’t expect to be fed or entertained in any way.

6. Time for sleep again!

7. Magic powers to know exactly why my baby is crying at any given moment.

8. A shower. Every day would be preferable.

9. An invisible shield that prevents leakage from diapers and breasts.

10. To never, ever forget these precious moments when my baby was small enough to fit in the crook of my arm and fall asleep on my chest.

Unlabored Breathing

By June Connell, ICCE, CD(DONA)

The breath is the link between the body and the mind.  In the yogic philosophy, how we breathe – long and deep or short and shallow – can affect and determine our overall emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.

Every time we breathe, messages are sent to the nervous system about the emotional state we are in at that particular moment.  The breath lets the nervous system know if we are feeling stress or fear, or if we are feeling safe and relaxed.  As soon as the nervous system picks up the emotional cues from the breath, it signals the glandular system to produce and disperse the appropriate hormones to the parts of the body that need them.

The pituitary gland, known in the yogic tradition as the “master gland” because it controls the entire hormonal system, is located below the hypothalamus, just outside the brain and behind the nose.  It has two lobes, the anterior and the posterior.  It produces a variety of hormones, many of them linked to reproduction.  But it is in the posterior pituitary gland where oxytocin, produced by the hypothalamus, is stored and ready to be released when the hypothalamus gives the signal.

Oxytocin, a Greek word that means “sudden delivery,” is called the love hormone because it is one of the key hormones that helps us find a mate, get pregnant, stay pregnant, go into labor, labor effectively, and ultimately birth a baby.  Immediately after birth, oxytocin is present at its highest levels ever so that a new mother can deeply bond with her new baby.  Without oxytocin, some scientists say, we might cease to behave in ways that “facilitate the propagation of the species.”

So the question is:  How can a woman in labor produce the most oxytocin possible to help her labor progress?  The consensus is that it is through her breath.  Study after study points to how conscious breathing can lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate and decrease stress.  It is also clear that yoga and meditation have direct and positive effects on both mother and baby.

In her book Mindful Birthing, Nancy Bardacke, CNM, teaches an “Awareness of Breath” meditation, a simple exercise where the participant focuses all of her attention on the breath, how it feels moving in and out of the body, and how to use the breath to quiet a wandering mind.  Bardacke says it is breath awareness that creates the foundation for a mindfulness practice that is key for childbirth.

“The conditions that encourage your body to produce lots of oxytocin include both the external birthing environment, and your inner birthing environment, which is deeply influenced by the state of your mind,” says Bardacke.  She adds that when we are in a state of stress during childbirth, we inadvertently trigger the fight or flight response and inhibit production of oxytocin just when it is needed most.   But a mindfulness practice can help a women let go of her “thinking mind” in labor, and instead create a positive internal environment where she can access her more primal state, release more oxytocin and help her hormones reach their fullest levels.

Another way to access that primal state during labor is by repeating a sound or mantra to help keep the mind focused, in the case of labor, on something other than the pain of a contraction.  One of the easiest sounds to make is “hmmmmmmm.”  This is the first conscious breath exercise I share in my birth classes, and I often use it as a warm-up in my prenatal yoga classes.  Some women are very self-conscious about making noises, so it’s good to practice during pregnancy.  Try it right where you are.  Close your eyes, place one hand on your belly, the other hand on your heart, inhale deeply, and hum on a long, deep exhale.  Hum on a low note, and feel the vibration it creates in the chest, in the nasal area, and behind the eyes.

According to Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, in his book Meditation as Medicine, these vibrations can stimulate the glands, in particular, those located in the head, such as the pituitary and the hypothalamus which produce oxytocin.

“Sound currents also strongly influence the chakras by vibrating the upper palate of the mouth, which has 84 points connected to the body’s ethereal energy system,” says Dr. Khalsa.  “Some of these points carry energy directly to the hypothalamus and to the pituitary.”

Ina May Gaskin agrees that deep abdominal breathing is a positive practice in labor.  “It causes a general relaxation of the muscles of the body, especially muscles of the pelvic floor,” she states in her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  She says that when a woman is tense in her mouth and jaw, it can inhibit the cervix from opening, so she encourages women to relax their mouth and throat muscles “make a sound pitched low enough to vibrate your chest.”

The ultimate enlightenment in yoga is to develop a neutral mind, to be present in every moment, to become stillness in motion and to find peace during action.  It is hard to imagine that in the very active state of labor, a woman could be any of these, yet with good support, a positive external environment, a conscious breath and a focused sound, a laboring woman can produce the oxytocin she needs for her labor to progress without the need for external interventions, and find peace and calm in the internal stillness.

 

June Connell, ICCE, CD(DONA), is a Happy Birth Way professional childbirth educator.  She integrates her knowledge of the birth process in her roles as a birth doula and a yoga teacher (Yoga Alliance).  She teaches birth and yoga classes throughout Pinellas County and supports women in labor at hospitals and birth centers through the county. 

Find the Best Care Provider and Hospital through Referrals

When you’re on the hunt for the best midwife or OB and hospital or birth center to have your baby, it can be hard to narrow down the field. Yes, you can schedule interviews. Yes, you can talk to friends and family. Yes, you can even Google search for other moms’ opinions online. But if you want a direct, dependable, and knowledgeable referral, your best bet is to talk to your local birth network or group of doulas and childbirth educators.

It can be tough to find the rates of interventions and cesareans for care providers and hospitals, as they often are not published nor are they readily available. Even doulas who have been practicing for less than a year have the inside scoop on providers in your area, as well as the typical policies and standards found at local hospitals and birth centers. Doulas work in the presence of midwives, doctors, and nurses on a monthly or even weekly basis. They can tell you which care providers regularly practice evidence-based care, which ones have high rates of cesarean, and which ones truly support VBAC. Independently certified childbirth educators not affiliated with a specific hospital (many of whom are also doulas) also have this insight. Talking to doulas and childbirth educators in your area will give you a starting point to finding the best care provider and birth location for you and your baby. With referrals in hand, you can then proceed with scheduling interviews and tours to find the provider who best aligns with your preferences for birth.

Support for Pregnancy and Birth after a Fatal Diagnosis

We have been given the opportunity to interview Amy Kuebelbeck, journalist, author, and founder of PerinatalHospice.org, a resource website for parents who make the decision to continue their pregnancy after receiving a diagnosis that their child will die shortly after birth. 

 

Describe “perinatal hospice and palliative care” and tell us about the resources you provide on your website.

Most pregnancies progress beautifully and end joyfully with the birth of a healthy baby. Sadly, some pregnancies end unexpectedly in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. And in a heartbreaking twist created by prenatal testing, some parents are receiving devastating news before birth that their unborn baby has a condition so serious that the baby is expected to die.

Many families in this situation are choosing to continue their pregnancies and allow their baby’s life to unfold naturally, embracing the time their baby will be able to have, no matter how brief. In response to these families’ needs, the concept of perinatal hospice and palliative care was pioneered in the U.S. and is now spreading around the world. Caregivers are incorporating wisdom from adult hospice and palliative care into the care of these families, treating all involved with respect and compassion and love. Perinatal hospice is not a place. It’s a model of care that can easily be incorporated into ordinary pregnancy and birth care just about anywhere.

This support begins at the time of diagnosis. It can include birth preparation and preliminary medical decision-making before the baby is born; plans for making memories with the baby such as photography (for example, see the beautiful work of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, an international network of professional photographers); emotional support; and more-traditional hospice and palliative care at home after birth if the baby lives longer than a few minutes or hours. (Lamaze healthy birth practices can help parents prepare for a labor and delivery that is as natural and peaceful as possible.) Palliative care can also include medical treatments intended to improve the baby’s life. This approach walks with these families on their journey through pregnancy, birth, and death, honoring the baby as well as the baby’s family.

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but even though these parents know that their pregnancy and birth will result in a baby who is not expected to have a long life, this path can bring surprising beauty and joy.

I started the PerinatalHospice.org website in 2006 because I wanted to provide a comprehensive site for parents to find support and for caregivers to find information about how to provide this care. The website includes many online support resources for parents; professional resources such as medical journal articles for caregivers; and an international list of hospitals, clinics, hospices, and others that provide perinatal hospice and palliative care support.

At the time I started the website, I had been collecting notes literally on scraps of paper about the few perinatal hospice programs in existence. It seemed to me that someone ought to keep track of the programs and make a list available online, so I decided to go ahead and do it myself. It’s been inspiring to see the growth in programs across the U.S. and around the world. As of this writing, the number of perinatal hospice and palliative care programs listed on my website is 193, and the number is growing all the time. (Recent additions include hospitals in California, Ireland, and Chile, as well as an independent program in Hawaii.) Ultimately, my goal is that the list will become unnecessary — that it will be as redundant as keeping a list of hospitals that provide emergency care or obstetricians who can perform C-sections. I hope perinatal hospice and palliative care will become a standard model of care available to any pregnant woman whose baby is diagnosed prenatally with a life-limiting condition.

 

How/why did you get involved in this line of work?

I needed this kind of support back in 1999, and there was nothing like it. My husband and I had learned through prenatal testing that our son, Gabriel, had an incurable heart defect. I searched for websites, books — anything — for reassurance that someone else had gone through this experience of continuing a pregnancy and simultaneously preparing for birth and death. There was virtually nothing. The idea of perinatal hospice had not yet spread. Fortunately, we had an empathetic nurse who affirmed for us that we still had a profound opportunity to parent our baby. We created a sort of perinatal hospice experience for ourselves, even though we didn’t have those words for it at the time. I eventually wrote a memoir, Waiting with Gabriel, which was the kind of story I had been searching for while I was pregnant. A few years later, I put my journalistic hat back on and collected stories from more than 100 parents for A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby’s Life Is Expected to Be Brief. It’s like “What to Expect” when this isn’t what you were expecting at all. I invited developmental psychologist Deborah L. Davis Ph.D., who is now my friend, to co-author the second book with me because I had been helped greatly by her books Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby and Loving and Letting Go. When Debbie and I were writing A Gift of Time, sometimes people would assume that the subject was depressing. It wasn’t, because every story in it is a love story. Parents’ descriptions of saying hello to their babies through tears of joy still give me goosebumps. My hope is that these books and my website will help at least one other parent feel more empowered and less alone.

 

What do you find that parents need most after they’ve received a fatal diagnosis for their child?

Judging from my own experience and what I’ve heard from hundreds of other families, parents first of all want to be acknowledged as parents and want assurance that their baby’s life is valued by others, even though that life may be very brief or “imperfect.” They need to hear that they will not be abandoned and instead will receive excellent care from their caregivers during the remainder of the pregnancy, during birth, and beyond. They need reassurance that life-limiting conditions generally do not cause the baby to suffer, and if pain is a possibility, it can be treated aggressively and effectively. They need to know that life-limiting conditions in the baby generally do not pose any greater physical risk to the mom than the normal risks of pregnancy. (For medical references, see perinatalhospice.org/FAQs.) They need to hear that others who have traveled this path have found that it’s not just a journey of grief but also a journey of love. Continuing the pregnancy can be beautiful, profoundly meaningful, and healing.

 

When parents receive a fatal diagnosis, what the first thing they should do/first step they should take?

The first thing I would gently encourage parents to do is to take a deep breath and not make any decisions immediately. Typically, the baby is snug and safe right where he/she is and is not in any distress. It’s not an emergency. Take the time to research your options and imagine what each path might look like, both for you and for the baby. Parents who are considering terminating the pregnancy usually still have time to make that choice. (Most states allow abortion for any reason through about 24 weeks of pregnancy and also allow exceptions after that, and nine states and the District of Columbia have no time limit at all.) A diagnosis like this leaves parents reeling. Many parents have said that they benefited from taking time to process their initial shock and grief before being able to make a clear decision about how to proceed.

 

In what ways can extended family members help?

This is a difficult experience for extended family too. They may be mourning for an already-loved grandchild, niece, or nephew. They may feel helpless watching the parents grieve and wish that something could make the situation go away. The sad truth is that nothing can erase the fact that this baby is very sick, and there is no shortcut through grief. What often helps both the parents and extended family is to offer support just like you would to anyone experiencing a terminal illness or loss. That could mean practical help with food, babysitting, and household tasks, as well as simply being present and listening if the parents want to talk. (Not just the mom; ask the dad how he’s doing too!) And there are ways to show your support for this unique situation. If the baby has been given a name, use it. This honors the baby and honors the parents’ gift of the name, one of the few and precious gifts they will be able to give to this little one. If invited to be present at the hospital to welcome the baby, or if there’s a funeral or memorial service, go — even if you’re afraid or think you’ll be uncomfortable. Google for lists of things not to say to parents whose baby has died. (“At least you didn’t really know the baby” is one example that many parents find deeply hurtful.) But do say something, even a heartfelt “I’m so sorry” or a simple “I don’t know what to say.” For more ideas, Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support has a helpful brochure, “Ways to Support a Parent Whose Baby Has Died.”

 

How Can I help?

There are lots of ways to help. If you know someone who is expecting a baby and needs this support or who is currently researching options for her pregnancy, send her to PerinatalHospice.org to find a program closest to where she lives. (Even if there’s no program nearby, she and her caregivers can work together to create this kind of care for her and her baby.) If you would like to make sure your own caregivers know about this concept, please tell them about the website and about the professional training and resources available. You can follow perinatal hospice news on Facebook. And if you’d like more people to know about this beautiful and compassionate model of care, please share information about it with your friends and on social media. Maybe someone out there needs this help right now and will find it because of you.

 

Amy Kuebelbeck is a freelance journalist and former reporter and editor for The Associated Press and other news organizations. She is author of A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby’s Life Is Expected to Be Brief (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), along with Deborah L. Davis Ph.D. Kuebelbeck described her own experience of continuing a pregnancy with a life-limiting prenatal diagnosis in her memoir, Waiting with Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby’s Brief Life (Loyola Press, 2003), which is used by many hospitals and clinics as a resource for patients. She edits the website PerinatalHospice.org and its companion Facebook page and is a frequent speaker at medical conferences across the U.S. and Canada. She moderates an e-mail group for caregivers interested in perinatal hospice, a group begun in 2006 that now has grown to more than 300 members. She also has been quoted by media including The New York Times and MSNBC.com in stories about perinatal hospice and related issues. 

 

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

Birthing Confidence into the Fourth Trimester

You took Lamaze classes. Your doula checked in on you, sometimes daily. You knew that you were going to give birth at your local birthing center, where you could move around and hold your baby immediately once she was born. Whether everything went as planned or not, you could say that you felt confident about giving birth—at least far more confident than you feel now that you have a baby at home. If you find your confidence has waned in the “fourth trimester”—the first three months of your baby’s life— know that you are not alone. Adjusting to your new mothering routine can be far more difficult than talking about it in parenting classes, but the skills that you gained in order to give birth confidently can also assist you through the fourth trimester.

Be Flexible

When giving birth, we respect that every infant is different and will have her own way of coming into the world. She will also have her own way of being in the world. Just as you allowed labor to begin on its own and allowed yourself to change positions as you gave birth, you will need to give yourself the time and space to align your parenting expectations with your newborn’s actual needs and desires. You may not accomplish everything that you set out to do in your day, and that’s okay. You may be surprised by your own feelings—it’s not unusual to experience some postpartum depression, or to struggle with your new postpartum body. Keep an open mind and remember that having a healthy baby is still your ultimate goal.

Be Mindful of Your Urges

Natural birth encourages mothers to follow their urges—to eat if they’re hungry, and of course, to push when the body says push.  Our bodies know how to give birth. Remaining aware of your body’s urges will also help you mother into the fourth trimester. Our bodies know how to mother. Remember that the baby blues are normal. We go through tremendous hormonal shifts in the days following labor, and it’s common to worry about your baby’s safety. Mindfulness will also help you to be aware of whether you feel like you might be a danger to your baby’s safety. If you notice that you’re having urges that you don’t understand, seek help. Activities such as conscious breathing will keep you centered and aware through your baby’s first three months.

Seek Support

If you notice yourself experiencing severe postpartum depression, you should obviously speak to a doctor, counselor, or doula and get connected with the resources that will help you to function and thrive. However, even those who feel mentally stable after birth shouldn’t feel pressure to mother alone. Hiring a postpartum doula can help encourage confident mothering beyond the fourth trimester, in addition to assisting with lactation issues. If you have a supportive partner, be open about how you’re feeling. Postpartum support groups can connect you with mothers who may be experiencing what you’re experiencing, which can decrease any lingering sense of isolation.

Hold Your Baby

We acknowledge that it’s important to hold our babies after birth, but the need to be home and bond with our babies continues into the fourth trimester. The old tradition—pre-19th century—was that women weren’t to leave their beds for nine days after giving birth. This is far from realistic in our modern context, even when we seek the support we need, but we should strive to spend as much time with our infants as possible, getting to know their sounds, smells, faces, and habits. We want to attune to our babies, to empathize with them in order to know their needs. This site has a great chart that shows the difference between the womb and the outside world that supports why your baby likely wants to be held all the time, or walked or rocked. Taking a moment to empathize with our babies will help us to confidently address their needs.

Incorporating the skills we learned to birth confidently provide a great foundation for confident parenting in addition to addressing other challenges such as tuning out messages about how our bodies should once we’re out of maternity clothes and learning how to breastfeed. As you give yourself the flexibility and support to get to know your infant, you will be able to reflect on your personal mothering style and to support other women—and perhaps your next child—through the challenges of the fourth trimester.

Kristen Hurst is a blogger, a mother, a doula, and a fashionista. She received her bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing, and writes for Seraphine Maternity. When she’s not trying to juggle the lives of Casey, Austin and Ben, she practices yoga and designs her dream house on Pinterest.
photo credit: hugabub.com via photopin cc

How Will You Fuel Your Labor?

Labor and birth is hard, physical work. Your uterus is a muscle — the strongest muscle in the human body, in fact. With each contraction, your uterus contracts and releases (approximately 200-400 times or more throughout labor, depending on the length of labor). Add to that the force it takes to push out a baby (a whole lotta force!), and you’re looking at a woman who is really working hard during labor and birth — sometimes for more than 24 hours!

Like any other major, prolonged physical activity (sports game, running, hiking, swimming, biking, etc.), labor and birth require hydration and nutrition to maintain your stamina. And, similar to other physically demanding events, you may do better to seek food and drink that digests easily and is packed with nutrients and electrolytes. For example, laboring women don’t usually crave a loaded slice of pizza and a giant Coke (though some do!). The following list of great labor foods are staples that laboring women often turn to, and provide the best bang for the buck, so to speak:

  • Water — it’s on the top of must-haves; sip it often throughout your labor to stay hydrated
  • Coconut water — natural electrolytes!
  • Fruit juice or smoothies
  • Sports drinks
  • Honey sticks
  • Yogurt
  • Simple carbohydrates, like bread, muffins, crackers, and plain pasta
  • Hard candy — not very nutritious, but can cure a dry mouth and curb nausea
  • Gel packs — used by endurance athletes because they are easy to digest and process quickly for a boost of energy
  • Soup broth
  • Applesauce
  • Fruit
  • Eggs

You might be thinking, “But I’ve heard you can’t eat during labor?” For many years, doctors have restricted laboring women from eating and drinking during labor (ice chips only!), but the evidence has emerged and it has found, in fact, that it is safe to drink and eat during labor and birth. To learn more, read a review of the research by Evidence Based Birth and a study on eating and drinking in labor from the Cochrane Summaries.

 

How did you fuel your labor?

 

 

photo credit: Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits via photopin cc

Giving the Gift of Confidence to Your Partner in Labor

In labor, your partner can be your best ally in supporting you and communicating your needs and preferences to hospital staff. But many dads and partners report feeling unprepared, anxious, and in-the-dark about what to do during labor and birth. They worry about how to tell when their partner is in labor, knowing when to head to the hospital or birth center, how best to support and comfort their partner, and how they’ll respond to and care for their new baby. Many things come intuitively in labor, birth, and parenting, but preparing in advance can help boost your partner’s confidence. While you can never truly know what to expect until you experience it, taking a quality childbirth class greatly helps prepare you — and especially partners — for this next stage of life.

Partners and dads who take a good childbirth class will learn how to:

  • Recognize pre- and early labor signs and how best to support you during that time
  • Time contractions to help determine your labor pattern so you can focus on the work of laboring
  • Evaluate when it’s time to go to your place of birth
  • Use a variety of comfort measures to help you in labor
  • Suggest position changes if you experience “back labor”
  • Communicate effectively with hospital staff so you can get the best care in labor
  • Help you make critical decisions about you and your baby’s care
  • Support you in the different ways you need through the changing stages of labor
  • Be your breastfeeding advocate
  • Comfort and care for your new baby

To find the best childbirth class for you and your partner, be sure to do your homework. Often, generic classes given at the hospital are not the same quality as private classes taught by a certified childbirth educator. (Check out these 5 tips for choosing a childbirth class.) If you take the time to carefully evaluate the class you want to take, you’ll be glad you did — the education you receive will be worth it. (Find a Lamaze class.)

How did childbirth classes help your partner prepare for birth?

 

Want to get a jump-start on your education? Lamaze is offering a free parent webinar on December 9. Details are below.

Pregnancy and the Holiday Dinner

 

This week, millions of people across the United States will gather together to enjoy the Thanksgiving tradition of reuniting with friends and family, giving thanks, and eating. A lot. When you’re pregnant, eating a lot of food (or any food at all) in one sitting may not sit well with your body. With this in mind, there are things you can do to stay comfortable, ward off the antacids, and enjoy your holiday feast.

 

BYO crackers – If you’re in your first trimester and experiencing nausea, consider bringing your own side dish to dinner — crackers. No one will care that you can’t partake in Grandma’s favorite casserole or pumpkin pie — more for them!

Drink up – Well, not those kinds of drinks. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation, cooking, and merry-making when among friends and family during the holidays — if you’re not remembering to drink, you can become dehydrated. Be sure to keep your glass filled.

Have seconds – And thirds, and fourths. If you’re in your third trimester, eating a large meal in one sitting may push you past your comfort level. Instead, eat small portions of your holiday meal throughout the afternoon and evening.

Take a break – The holidays are the perfect time to “pull the pregnancy card.” Feel free to retreat, take a seat, put your feet up — growing new life is hard work!

Smile & nod – A growing bump and a family gathering prompts lots of advice, suggestions, and birthing war stories. Some women find it easier to just smile and nod, instead of engaging with the back-and-forth. Or, you can reply with, “My doctor/midwife has advised us to ______.” It’s hard to argue with medical advice! If people feel the need to share a negative birth story, say, “Shhh! No scary birth stories — the baby is listening!”