Take care of yourself. Just like they say on the airplane …”put your oxygen mask on first". Your little one responds to your emotional tone. So, slow down, take a few long deep breaths, take a bit of time for yourself- take a yoga class:)
Make a plan to focus on one thing at a time. Try a few ideas from “mindfulness” as a strategy to balance the hustle and bustle of things like shopping, cooking, and family get-togethers during the holidays: stop and pay attention to what is happening at the moment, focus your attention on one thing about it, notice how you are feeling at the time, withhold immediate judgment, and instead be curious about the experience.
Do your best to keep family routines the same. Stick to your baby’s sleep and mealtime schedules as much as possible to reduce stress and help your little one, (and you), enjoy the holidays.
Don’t feel pressure to over-spend. Think about making one or two gifts instead of buying everything. Chances are, those gifts will be the most treasured. Remember that it is your presence NOT your presents that matter.
From my heart to yours🙏
When a birthing woman feels safe and supported, when she feels uninhibited and free to respond to her body, when she is undisturbed and unmedicated, then the innate wisdom of her mammalian body takes over and orchestrates a powerful, yet delicate cocktail of birthing hormones.
A birthing woman’s hormones gradually build up during the birth process and peaks as her placenta is delivered and the woman holds her baby in her arms and initiates breastfeeding.
So, let’s talk about these miraculous hormones...
First there is Estrogen and Progesterone….Basically these hormones initiate labour. They coordinate the uterine contractions and activate natural painkilling pathways in the brain and spinal cord.
Then there are the Beta-Endorphins-...These hormones primarily serve as natural opiates- natural painkillers.
Then there are Catecholamines or Epinephrine and Norepinephrine...These hormones kick in toward the end of the birthing process stimulating the FETAL EJECTION REFLUX and giving the birthing women extra strength and energy to push.
Then there is Prolactin- often referred to as the mothering hormone. Prolactin prepares a woman’s breasts for lactation (breastfeeding). Prolactin rises sharply in the moments after a woman gives birth getting her ready to nourish her baby.
And, I saved the best to last …Oxytocin- In addition to being the most powerful contraction causing hormone, oxytocin is often referred to as the love hormone. We see oxytocin levels rise during meaningful human connection, love making, birth and breastfeeding. After birth, skin-to-skin contact and the initiation of breastfeeding produce high levels of oxytocin in the mother and her baby to facilitate initial bonding.
Now, this is a very simplified explanation of the birth hormones. I strongly you to encourage you to look into the work of obstetricians Michel Odent and Sarah J. Buckley on undisturbed physiological birth and the hormones of birth.
Here's the bottom line...Mother Nature is smart. She wants you and your baby to be safe. So, labor and birth happen best when you feel you’re in a calm and private place—a place where you feel safe, protected and relaxed. Often the care a women gets around the time of labour and birth may be stressful. For example, bright lights, noise, medical equipment, frequent vaginal exams, and people coming in and out of the room can be pretty stressful. Your body may “view” these things as threats. If your body feels that you’re not in a safe place, your birth hormones may not work very well and labour may slow or even stop. So, no matter where you give birth, it is important to mitigate any potential stress. Choose where you give birth and whom will be in attendance wisely. Your body knows how to give birth; it just needs to be allowed to do so in peace.
From my heart to yours🙏
Let’s keep this simple...A well balanced, nutrient dense diet is the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. Improving the nutrition of the pregnant woman is scientifically proven to produce healthier babies and make a difference in preventing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and other complications of pregnancy. Getting ample protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and oils and good-quality salt in your diet, as well as minimizing sugar are the keys to good prenatal nutrition.
So, what constitutes a well balanced, nutrient dense prenatal diet?
Water: It is vitally important to stay hydrated during pregnancy. The general rule of thumb is somewhere between eight and ten 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Why Water? Water helps your body absorb essential nutrients into the cells and transports vitamins, minerals and hormones to the blood cells. It's those nutrient-rich blood cells that reach the placenta and ultimately your baby. Additionally, staying well hydrated helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and urinary tract infections and helps prevent swelling (edema), overheating and headaches.
Protein: Protein requirements are 30% to 70% higher in pregnancy (depending on stage of pregnancy) At least twice a day the pregnant woman should eat a high quality protein source that is about the size of the palm of her hand (80 -100 grams total). Sources of protein include *eggs, dairy, *fish, meat (beef, poultry, pork etc), soy (tofu and tempeh), legumes (beans, lentils quinoa), nuts and seeds and high quality protein powder.
Why Protein? The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of your body's cells – and of your baby's body as well. Additionally. maintaining a diet that is rich in high quality protein minimizes the risk of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. It’s important to get enough protein throughout your pregnancy, but it's especially critical during the second and third trimesters.
*Let’s Talk about Eggs: The suggestion is two eggs per day. The whole egg – whites and yolk.
Why Eggs? Eggs are a good source of protein that provide the amino acids you and your baby need. They contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including choline (found only in the yolks), which is good for baby's brain development. Avoid eating undercooked or raw eggs.
*Let’s Talk about Fish, Shellfish and Seafood: It is preferable to eat wild, low-mercury fish like sardines, salmon and trout. The general rule of thumb is: The smaller the fish the less mercury it contains. Limit tuna intake and avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish which all have high levels of mercury contamination.
What about Sushi? The main worry about pregnant women eating sushi comes from the fear
of parasites. However, fish is almost always flash frozen to transport, which kills parasites There is no scientific evidence linking pregnant women eating sushi with health risks to babies or complications with pregnancies. In fact, in Japan eating raw fish is considered part of good neonatal nutrition as long as the
fish isn't high in mercury levels (salmon is a safe pick!) DO NOT EAT RAW SEAFOOD!
Calcium/Milk: At least four servings a day. There are lots of healthy options for calcium including milk, cheese and yogurt. And, don’t forget nuts, olives, broccoli, kale.
Why Calcium? Your developing baby needs calcium to build strong bones and
teeth. Calcium also helps your baby grow a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles as well as develop a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting
abilities. Calcium can also reduce your risk of hypertension and preeclampsia.
Green Vegetables (The more the merrier!):Broccoli, spinach, cabbage and kale reign supreme for vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. You really can’t over do it! Suggestion: Try blending your greens with a banana, a handful of berries, hemp hearts, protein powder and nut butter for a fantastic smoothie:)
Why Green Vegetables? Green vegetables contain many of the nutrients pregnant women need, including fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium and antioxidants. EAT YOUR GREENS!!
Vitamin C (At least 1 serving daily): Citrus fruits such as oranges, kiwis, lemons, guavas, grapefruits. Other vitamin C-rich fruits include papaya, cantaloupe and strawberries. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and peppers are also rich, natural sources of vitamin C.
Why Vitamin C? Both you and your baby need vitamin C daily because it's necessary for the body to make collagen, a structural protein that's a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin. Vitamin C helps your body fight infections and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.
Other Fruits (1 serving): Apples, Bananas, Berries, Melons, Stone Fruit etc. Please limit the intake of dried fruits and fruit juices as these are high in concentrated sugar and calories. Why Fruit? Fruit is an excellent source of nutrients that are essential during pregnancy. Fruits can provide vitamins, folate, fibre, and more, which all help to keep the woman and baby healthy.
Healthy Fats: Use healthy fats such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and flax seed oil. Full-fat dairy products, avocados, meats, and nuts are also good healthy sources of fat.
Why Fat? Fat is especially important for the proper development of your baby’s nervous system. Additionally, dietary fats provide your body with energy and support healthy cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body to absorb nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Fat does not make you fat. Eat healthy fats.
Whole Grains (4 servings): Brown rice, whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers, barley, buckwheat, bulgar, faro, oatmeal, millet.
Why Whole Grains? Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including fibre, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium). Fibre is important for healthy bowel function and helps reduce constipation which can lead to hemorrhoids. B vitamins help the body release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates. Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Magnesium is a mineral used in building bones and
releasing energy from muscles. Selenium is important for a healthy immune system. Need I say more?
Sodium/Salt: Salt to taste with good quality salt. Using good quality, mineral-rich salt is important. Himalayan salt and Celtic sea salt are healthy, good quality salts.
Why Salt? Every cell of the body needs salt. It is important for the body to function properly.
Food or Substances to Avoid or Limit: (in addition to those outlined above)
Supplements and Vitamins: It is advisable to take a good quality prenatal vitamin, iron and folic acid.
Why Prenatal Vitamins? Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are specially formulated to meet the increased demand for micronutrients during pregnancy.
Why Iron?Your body uses iron to make extra blood (hemoglobin) for you and your baby during pregnancy. Iron also helps move oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body - and to your baby's. Getting enough iron can prevent a condition of too few red blood cells called iron deficiency anemia.
Why Folic Acid? Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. It gets converted into the active form of folate in the body. Folate is a B vitamin that plays an integral role in DNA synthesis, red blood cell production and fetal growth and development.
How to Curb Unhealthy Cravings:
Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE
The Brewer Diet developed by Dr. Thomas Brewer
Pregnancy Nutrition by Trimester- Lamaze International
Haven’t heard of it? Well, It is a normal physiological response to the changes in a woman’s hormones that allows the connective tissue, (aka the linea alba), between the left and right abdominal wall muscles, (aka the “six pack” or rectus abdominus), to expand and thin out to allow a baby to grow in utero.
In pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is produced and is responsible for softening ligaments and tendons. Additionally, progesterone is also increased which relaxes smooth muscle and together with the increase of estrogen soften connective tissue. All of this is wonderful to allow the pregnant body to expand and facilitate the pelvis opening for birth, but can also be problematic. Pregnant women are more apt to overstretch and strain ligaments, tendons and muscles; so, they must be cautious.
Once you've delivered your baby and hormone levels have returned to their pre-pregnancy levels, the thinning generally improves. In some cases however, the tissues get so stretched out during pregnancy that they lose their elasticity and, therefore, the ability to retract back into position -- kind of like an overstretched rubber band. That is when diastasis recti can become a problem.
Can I try to prevent it from becoming a problem?
Yup, you sure can:) First, no matter how experienced a yoga practitioner you are, avoid deep backbends!! Deep backbends not only compress the already exaggerated lumbar curve, but pose the risk of overly lengthening, stretching and straining the abdominal muscles. Second, avoid all abdominal “crunches” or sit-ups…pretty obvious. And, lastly, past 30 weeks, avoid any exercise that requires a forward tilt of the pelvis and torso, (like spin classes).
Huh? No spin classes? Why?
Spin classes have the potential to create overly tight pelvic floor muscles and ligaments, torque the pelvic and uterine ligaments and shorten the psoas muscle, all of which can lead to a malpositioned baby. A malpositioned baby can make for a longer, harder labor and delivery. Birth functions best when the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are supple and balanced allowing for the baby to find optimal fetal position.
Bottom line...as a doula, I advise my mamas-to-be to embrace pregnancy as a time to slow down, deeply listen to the needs of their baby and body and surrender to the transition into motherhood. Backbends, spin class, and crunches will all be there post-baby. And, it will be a lot harder to get back to a pre-baby fitness or yoga level if you are healing major diastasis or pelvic floor issues.
I’ve had my baby. Now what? How can I tell whether or not I have diastasis recti?
It's easy to perform a self-test for diastasis recti. Just lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Put one hand on your belly, with your fingers on your midline at your navel. Press your fingertips down gently, and bring your head (shoulders stay on the ground) up into a mini crunch-like position. Feel for the sides of your rectus abdominis muscles, and see if and how far they are separated. Separation is commonly discussed in terms of finger widths -- for instance, two or three (or more) fingers' separation.
Here is a video that demonstrates how to check yourself for Diastasis Recti:
Ok, I think I have diastasis recti. What can I do about it?
Well, exercise can be used to repair diastasis recti and should be undertaken as the first approach to healing. That said, some exercises will exacerbate the problem. So, please talk to your doctor to get a referral to a physical therapist who can help you correct the issue with gentle exercises. Since so many doctors aren’t well versed in how to treat the condition and can mistake the condition as a hernia, make sure to find a therapist—specifically, a pelvic floor physiotherapist—who specializes in treating the condition.
From my heart to yours,
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.”
~ Dr. Viktor Frankl
I will never sugarcoat it…having a natural unmedicated birth is painful. That said, no woman should ever suffer from the pain of childbirth. Pain and suffering are often thought of as synonymous, but they’re not. There are distinct differences between pain and suffering -especially in childbirth. Basically, pain may or may not cause suffering.
Pain, by definition, is an unpleasant physical sensation that is transmitted through the central nervous system to your brain. Suffering, however, is the response to pain- it’s your thoughts, your judgements, your beliefs, and the stories you tell yourself about the pain. Suffering results from mental and emotional responses to pain. Learning how to effectively respond to the pain will allow you to cope so that you need not suffer.
So, how does one effectively respond to the pain of childbirth?
#1 Know that the pain associated with childbirth is unique. It’s not like the pain of breaking a leg. The pain of childbirth is a side effect of a normal physiological process. A process that is finite, that comes to an end, and has a wonderful outcome.
#2 Fully understand why contractions hurt and that each contraction brings you closer to meeting your baby. That knowledge alone can often see you through the birthing process.
#3 Learn natural comfort measures and all you can about the birthing process.
#4 Ensure that you will be lovingly cared for in a peaceful, comfortable and safe environment where you will feel completely uninhibited and free to move in response to your body.
Bottom line… Your response to the pain is where you have power. When a birthing woman becomes overwhelmed by the pain, feels helpless, or has feelings of being completely out of control that is when pain turns into suffering. And, no woman should ever suffer from the pain of childbirth.
When a birthing woman knows ways to effectively respond to the pain of childbirth she doesn’t suffer- she copes.
From my heart to yours,