Preparing for Postpartum Recovery

Preparing for Postpartum Recovery

The first few hours, days and weeks after having a baby are special times to treasure as you recover from birth, transition to mothering baby from the outside, and spend time bonding and adjusting. Being adequately prepared ahead of time can make a key difference in helping postpartum to flow smoothly and successfully. Here are a few tips to consider as you prepare and plan for AFTER baby arrives. Remember that adequate rest, low stress, nourishing food, good support and planning ahead will help you to heal and promote a better overall experience for baby’s first few weeks. It’s important for your physical & mental health to take recovery seriously, and provide your body with the things it needs to continue nourishing a baby while recovering from the demands of pregnancy & birth. You won’t regret being adequately prepared!

Before the Birth:

  • Consider your support system. Do you have a close friend or family member that would be willing to be a resource to answer questions, let you talk with when you’re feeling low emotionally, or just need a listening ear? Is there someone you can trust and feel comfortable with who could come into your home to help care for the household (especially if there are other children) for a few days or weeks so that you can adequately rest and recover? Is Daddy able to take some extended time off of work? How does support look to you? Do you have some babysitting options?
  • Meal Planning: consider having some wholesome family favorites stocked in the freezer so you don’t need to think about cooking. Does your church or support group have a plan for after-baby meals? Do you need to reach out to someone to coordinate this? Would you have a friend willing to start a “meal train” after your birth? And just a note to Gentle Delivery clients: if an online “meal train” is something that would bless you, your midwife is very glad to start this after your baby arrives!
  • Consider stocking up on disposable plates, cups, silverware, etc. in order to simplify clean up and household chores.
  • Shopping (consider the below suggestions, and try to have these things together before your baby is due):

Immediate Postpartum (first hours after birth)have these things handy in a basket or box for immediately after delivery.

  • Newborn Diapers & Baby Wipes
  • Preferred first outfit for baby, along with a swaddle blanket, socks and hat.
  • “Adult Diapers” or Depends (or whatever type of pad you prefer for heavier postpartum bleeding).
  • Comfortable Nightgown or Pajamas that are nursing accessible and easily work for skin-to-skin contact with baby.
  • Ibuprofen and/or tincture (such as AfterEase or After-Pain Relief) to help with after-pains.
  • Pre-made “padsicles” or perineal ice-packs and/or an herbal healing spray such as this one from MotherLove.
  • Heating pad or rice sock to help with sore muscles and after-pains.
  • Rhoid Balm, Tucks or other soothing support for hemorrhoids.
  • Large Water bottle that is easy to use, to remind & encourage you to drink lots of fluids!
  • Nourishing foods, drinks and snacks (think bone broth, energy bites, juice, etc.).

First Few Days since you’ll be resting and nursing and taking it easy the first few days, you’ll want to consider having some of these items purchased ahead of time, and ready to be used during the initial few days after baby arrives, in addition to the items above (which you’ll continue using throughout the first few days/weeks).

  • Comfortable nursing-accessible clothes and nursing bras (remember that you may go through multiple changes of clothes due to leaking milk, bleeding and/or baby messes!). Comfort is key, since you will be resting and sleeping whenever possible.
  • Belly Support Binder (can use a Rebozo or scarf, or you can purchase something like Belly Bandit or MamaStrut).
  • Breastfeeding helps:
    • Disposable or reusable Nursing Pads for your bra.
    • Small flexible ice packs or Breast Soothies to relieve engorgement the first week.
    • If you have experienced challenges with milk supply, have supplements such as MaxiMilk or Legendairy products available to start once your milk begins to come in.
  • Stool Softener or Magnesium to help the first stools pass easier.
  • Pads/period underwear for a lighter flow (be sure to check out non-toxic options such as these JewelPads).
  • A journal or baby book to jot down thoughts and memories.
  • Something to read or do as you spend hours nursing your baby!

And finally, feel free to print/download and post this list of visitor guidelines to aid you in navigating the stress and joy of baby visits during those first days!

Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Potential Midwife

Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Potential Midwife

Baby Tirzah helping Mommy do office work!

Are you looking into the possibility of working with a midwife, and trying to decide if it’s the right choice for you? If you’re blessed to live in an area with several options, it can be a great idea to take the time to “interview” each one, and see which one feels like the best fit for you and your family. Most midwives (myself included) offer free consultations that can give you a chance to sit down and ask your questions in person, and this can be a great opportunity to explore whether or not you and this care provider will be a “good fit”.

While I think it’s a good idea to look into your options for ANY medical provider, it can be especially important when thinking about a homebirth. Your midwife will be coming into your space, and you want both yourself and your husband to feel completely comfortable with this person, which facilitates clear & open communication, thus providing you with the best care possible. So besides some specific questions (which we’ll get to below!), also think about the intuitive side of how you connect and communicate throughout the interview. Another important component in this interview is dad’s perspective, so whenever possible please have him attend this initial consult, as this can give him the opportunity to ask questions he might have, and help establish a good working relationship from the beginning.

There are many posts out there that cover long lists of questions, but I want to get you started by giving you a few basic questions, which might bring up more as you go along. It’s a good idea, too, to do your own research before you meet with a perspective midwife. For instance, does she have a Facebook page or website? Are there reviews you can read by previous clients? Is there information listed about the types of services she offers, or things that set her apart from other options in your area? What type of credentialing/training does she have? Do the philosophies expressed on her website correspond with what you are looking for? Do what you can to find out as much as possible before meeting up, as this will enable you to get the most information out of your time together, and may raise specific questions that you might have missed otherwise. It will also keep you from wasting time that you could be spending looking into other options!

So let’s get started:

  1. What kind of training did you go through to become a midwife?

Some midwives have attended midwifery school, others have been trained strictly through apprenticeships. Some midwives have credentials that indicate a certain level of training, and require a stated number of continuing education hours to be maintained. There are midwives who have gone through rigorous school programs and have delivered few babies outside of the hospital, and others who have done minimal studies and have only delivered babies at home. This question is not meant to dictate which type of training and educational experience is best, but rather to help you think through whether the training this midwife has received is adequate for your own comfort and safety concerns and desired birth location.

  1. How would you describe your style during labor & delivery? Hands-on or hands-off?

Depending on your preferences, this may help you determine if you can work together well. If you know you want someone very involved, or you want to be left alone as much as possible, the midwife’s answer may shed some light on how her style could affect your labor. Some midwives are very good at adapting to their client’s wishes, and some have their own set way they want to see things happen.

  1. What do you provide or include in your services, and what will be my responsibility?

Depending upon your state, local regulations and/or your community options, a midwife’s care package may include the ability to obtain lab work and/or ultrasounds or refer you to providers for these items, or you may be responsible to figure these things out for yourself. Some midwives include a “birth kit” as part of their package, while others ask clients to purchase this separately. A birth pool is included in some midwives care bundle, while others provide options for rental. Some midwives are able to give your baby vitamin K or provide mom with RhoGam if needed, while others need you to get these items from your pediatrician if you want them. Most midwives are able to file the needed paperwork to obtain a birth certificate and social security number, while there are a few who need you to do this legwork. Asking clear questions and getting an idea of what is and isn’t included will hopefully eliminate unmet expectations and surprise expenses as you continue through your pregnancy!

4. What tests & procedures do you routinely offer, and am I given the freedom to decline when I prefer?

It’s great when your midwife is willing to discuss the pros and cons of different tests and procedures, and allows you to make a true informed choice on each of these. Depending on the political environment, local standards of care, protocols, etc the midwife may have more or less freedom in these areas, or she may have personal preferences as to certain tests.

  1. What are some of your recommended resources for pregnancy and for birth preparation?         

This question may give you some insight into the birth philosophies the midwife has, as well as indicate how in-touch she may be with more up-to-date resources and educational material. Some books and resources are old classics, but there is also a wealth of more recent publications that can help you to be prepared. Are her health suggestions in line with your perspective and preferences? Does she require certain books to be read or DVD’s to be watched? Does she provide some resources for clients, or are you expected to purchase certain materials? Does she encourage a parenting style or lifestyle that you may be uncomfortable with, or that you find helpful?

  1. What is her client load typically, and what happens if two mamas are in labor at the same time?

While this doesn’t happen often, it does occasionally, and it’s a good thing to discuss. This question will reveal what sort of back-up plan the midwife does or doesn’t have, and will give you some indication with how well she works with the midwifery community around her. It also helps you to think about the “what-if’s”, since birth can’t always be controlled like we wish!

  1. What do you see as your role during labor, and would you encourage me to hire a doula?

It’s great if a prospective midwife can be honest about the support she can provide. Some midwives operate with a large team or a small client load that allows them to spend more time coaching and supporting a mom throughout labor. Most midwives are glad to support in whatever way they can once you’re in active labor, but they need to conserve their resources so that they have the energy and alertness they need for the time of birth, which means that if you really want hours of support early on, you’d probably be best served by considering a doula. This question can help you determine what the midwife’s expectations are for when she would come to you, and what sort of support you can expect, and will help you to define the role she would see herself filling at your labor.

  1. What are some of the reasons I would be risked out of care?

This gives you an idea of the midwives range of comfort, and whether she takes a more cautious or more relaxed approach. Each approach has it’s place, but you need an approach that makes you feel most comfortable and safe. It’s also good to remember that each midwife should only operate within a realm that they truly feel is providing safe care, so this is not a “good vs. bad” topic, rather a way to understand and communicate. Is this midwife comfortable with breech delivery? With a mom that goes past 42 weeks? With a baby that decides to come before 37 weeks? Continuing if gestational diabetes develops?

  1. What happens if I need to transfer care for some reason?

Does the midwife typically accompany clients to the hospital, or send them in by themselves? Does she have a doctor she works with, or a preferred hospital? Why or why not?

  1. How do you handle emergencies, and which ones have you encountered the most often?

This question will give you some insight into the midwife’s perspective: does she rely only on herbal remedies? Does she carry medications? Is she trained in NRP? Does she take a proactive approach to prevention? Does she see many emergencies? The answer may vary according to your area, too, as some incidents of complications can depend upon the clientele and area the midwife works in.

I hope this list can help you as you think through what is most important to cover as you interview your potential midwife! If you find it helpful, or if you have other questions you think should be added, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, and be sure to share this list with others that might be looking into hiring a midwife for their maternity care!

answering questions after a birth…
End of Year Update for 2020!

End of Year Update for 2020!

Some highlights of the year!

Dear friends and clients of Gentle Delivery,                                                

      As 2020 comes to a close, I am reminded of the fact that we really do not know what the next day or year will hold. Last year at this time our family was anticipating the arrival of our fifth child, little knowing how many strange twists and turns the New Year would bring to everyone all over the world. I am grateful to rest in the confidence that nothing takes God by surprise, and that He cares about the details of our lives, which provides strength & courage to press ahead into the future!

       After adding baby Tirzah to our family last December, I enjoyed a lengthy maternity leave, and felt so blessed and cared for during those first postpartum weeks. Thanks to many of you for your part in this! It’s true that you learn some things by experience that you couldn’t learn through academic study, and I am more committed than ever to encouraging moms to get adequate rest, adjust expectations, and take the time to really recuperate during those first postpartum weeks. It really is worth it! This baby has been our most contented, too, and while there are many things that probably play into this, one key factor that seemed to make a difference was the addition of infant probiotics into her daily routine from the very beginning. If you have struggled with fussiness in your baby, please take a minute to check out the blog post I wrote where I detailed this information—I really want to see more families benefit from my own challenging experiences!

            As you can imagine, the COVID pandemic has affected midwifery in more ways than one. After the initial quarantine I have been doing prenatal and postpartum care visits for local clients in their homes, as it reduces the exposure for those coming in and out of my home office. I’ve also had more inquiries into homebirth this year than ever before, as many families are concerned about hospital restrictions and germ exposure. Between this added level of interest in midwifery care and my added family responsibilities, I have needed to limit the distance I can travel for births, which has meant turning down requests in outlying areas even for a few clients I’ve worked with before.  

            One fun aspect of care this year has been the large amount of repeat clients I’ve been privileged to serve! It was really special to catch my first “fourth baby” for a family, and have the opportunity to see babies that I have caught in years past welcoming baby siblings. With one more 2020 baby left to go, the current stats for the biggest baby this year was 8#14oz, and the smallest was 5#14oz. The earliest baby came around 2 weeks early, and the latest was almost 2 weeks late, which goes to show that there is much variation in the range of “normal”. Assisting my back-up midwife with the home delivery of twins was another extra-special experience this year! Speaking of my back-up midwife, I am grateful to have the assistance of RoseMarie Spicher to care for clients when I am unavailable, and I’ve been glad to have a working relationship with a community of midwives in the general area who have all needed to pull together to cover for each other at times due to COVID exposure or for other reasons. I’m also excited to be working regularly again with Lynelle, as she plans to attend births as my assistant this next year after taking some time off to welcome her own baby this past summer.       

            Heading into 2021, I’m anticipating meeting many sweet babies, and I’m enjoying making new connections with many families who are choosing midwifery care and homebirth options for the first time. I continue to feel a sense of gratefulness towards each of you for giving me the privilege of working with your family as you journey through this intimate season of life. It truly is a gift to witness the miracle of birth and the wonder of that first cry, and the wonder of that moment never grows old!

            As I close, I also want to thank my family for their support as I do this work, and in particular thank my husband as he quickly and competently cares for our home and children during my random absences. It takes a special family to deal with the unpredictable aspects of having a midwife for a wife and mother, and I’m grateful for all they do behind the scenes to make this option available to the families I serve. It’s a joint effort, and I could not do what I do without Joel’s encouragement and work behind the scenes.

            May God bless you and your family throughout this next year!

           ~Kelsey Martin/Gentle Delivery Midwifery

Be sure to regularly check out this blog and the facebook page to stay updated on current news, helpful information, health suggestions, birth stories, and announcement of special events. I’m really hoping that playdates can resume again sometime in 2021!

Caring For Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy & Beyond

Caring For Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy & Beyond

            One very uncomfortable (although very common!) challenge during pregnancy is varicose veins. “Varicose” actually means “distended”, this term describes exactly what is occurring. Due to a variety of factors (such as the increased blood volume, hormonal changes, weight of baby restricting blood flow, etc.) a mom’s veins will distend, which can cause considerable discomfort if not actual pain. Did you know that hemorrhoids are another form of varicose veins, just that these are located in the rectum?

If you notice the presence of hemorrhoids and/or extended veins (typically on your calves, but they can pop out in other places as well), it’s very important to start doing something about it right away, in order to have the best chance of keeping them from becoming a greater problem as the pregnancy continues.

Here are some practical ways to care for your varicose veins, and help to keep those veins strong and discourage further distention:

  • Exercise regularly (daily walks are great!) to keep your blood flow circulating.
  • Make sure your bowels are moving well, in order to prevent straining from constipation (this makes hemorrhoids worse). Take some extra fiber and magnesium if needed, and make sure your daily diet includes high-fiber foods such as flax meal, oatmeal, etc.
  • Take time to elevate your legs higher than your heart 2-3x a day for 20 min.
  • Whenever you need to sit, keep your feet elevated slightly and avoid crossing your ankles or knees.
  • Try not to stand or sit for long periods of time: keep your position changing!
  • Sleep on your side to encourage good blood flow.
  • Consider extra support: good quality support hose for varicose veins or a “V2 Prenatal Cradle” support for vulvar varicosities. Support should be put on first thing in the morning before gravity causes pressure on the veins.
  • Hot, moist compresses for pain relief.
  • Take care not to massage the veins, as this can dislodge clots.

Supplements are another way to build up the vein wall strength and encourage good blood flow:

And finally, if you’re looking for some topical ways to get some relief from the burning, itching and heavy sensations that varicose veins bring with them, you may find some of these options helpful:

I hope these ideas and suggestions can be a help to you, and provide you with some relief from this pregnancy discomfort! If you have a recommendation of something that really worked for you, I’d love to hear about it!

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

If you’ve read much about preparing for birth, you probably have realized that there tends to be two different “extremes” when it comes to how much or how little you do to prepare your body for the marathon of birth. On the one hand, there are those who feel strongly that you need to “trust your body” to do what it was made to do, and that the addition of herbs and other proactive methods give moms a sense that their body is broken and unable to work on it’s own. The other hand tends to view the whole process of labor and birth as an “accident waiting to happen”, and rushes to medicalize every situation (for example, routinely inducing labor at 41 weeks just because it’s a week past your due date).

My personal opinion (and take this as my opinion-as with anything, you must do your own research and make your own decisions about these suggestions!), is that there should be a balance between these two extremes. I feel strongly that a women’s body was designed to grow, nourish, carry and deliver a baby, and that you can have confidence that this a totally normal and natural process (and not a medical emergency!). But just like any other capabilities your body may have, these abilities can be supported, enhanced and enabled to do their job more efficiently, smoothly and successfully. With that mindset, I’m going to share with you some suggestions on how to support and prepare your body in order to provide you with a greater possibility of achieving a low-risk, normal, natural vaginal birth.

Some of the biggest factors that arise that prevent moms from their desired birth outcome include: pain in pregnancy that prevent them from moving well at the end of pregnancy, going so far past your due date that your care provider feels like an induction is necessary, a long early phase of labor that prevents mom from getting adequate rest and results in exhaustion (which often ends in transport from home and/or an epidural to provide needed relaxation), and a long pushing period that sometimes ends in surgical or assisted delivery. While there are varying factors in all of these situations that can all be prevented, there are MANY things you can do to reduce your risk of these situations occurring, if you just know what to be aware of and how to help your body to prepare!

  • Movement, Alignment and Positioning:

One key factor that makes a difference in your pregnancy comfort level, baby’s ability to descend efficiently, and your overall length of pregnancy/labor is the position of your baby in relation to your pelvis. I highly recommend you find a good chiropractor in your area (for those who are local you can find some recommendations when you click on the “Local Resources” tab) who is certified in Webster technique and works with pregnant moms, and get regular adjustments specifically throughout the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. If your pelvis and muscles are out of alignment, they can keep baby from being able to descend into a position that is optimal for triggering the start of labor, and the ability of the baby to navigate the birth canal, which can then cause labor to stall and/or make it more challenging for you during the pushing phase.

For the best explanation of position and how this can affect labor (and what you can do about it!), I highly recommend that you take the time to watch the Parent Class taught by Gail Tully at Spinning Babies. Once you’ve watched it, check out the Spinning Babies website for more tips and suggestions on optimizing your baby’s position. And finally, if you are getting near your due date (or are past your due date and are waiting for baby!), taking time to complete a few rounds of the Miles Circuit exercises has been shown to improve baby’s position and encourage labor to happen.

  • Exercise:

As they say, you don’t decide to run a marathon and then complete it tomorrow! I think it’s wise to go into labor with a similar mindset as one would in preparing for a long-distance athletic event. Regular exercises that help to strengthen your legs, open your pelvis (think deep squats and lunges) and build your stamina can play a role in encouraging baby to come in good time, helping to improve your ability to handle the rigors of labor and provide you with a much better recovery. Even if you’re only able to include ten minutes of purposeful exercise a day, it will give you great benefits. Here’s one to get you started: 10 Minute Pregnancy Workout. Long, brisk walks and swimming are also great exercises to consider including in yoaur routine.

  • Herbal Supplements:
    • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea has amazing health benefits, besides helping to prepare and tone your uterus making contractions more efficient. I have more information on this great tea in my post over here, and you can begin drinking one cup a day during the 2nd trimester, increasing to 3+ cups per day as you near your due date.
    • Birth Preparation Formula: I have personally had great success taking an herbal supplement during the last 5-6 weeks of my pregnancies that is specifically geared towards preparing your uterus and cervix for labor. Yes, I take it in addition to Red Raspberry Leaf tea. If you have a history of preterm birth, you would want to wait to start this until 36 weeks, and on the flip side, if you tend to go way past your due date, you could begin taking it at 34 weeks up until delivery. The moms that I have had take this tend to have shorter labors, earlier deliveries, and minimal postpartum bleeding (myself included!). There are several different brands available, though I tend to think the tincture forms work the best. My all-time favorite is the  Gentle Birth Formula. You will need 4 to 6oz in order to take it daily for 5-6 weeks, and it’s best to not consume the tincture in the late afternoon/evening, as it can cause contractions that may prevent you from sleeping!
    • Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil: The high GLA content in either of these oils can help to soften and prepare your cervix for labor, which can assist the body in working more efficiently once labor actually begins. You want a “mega” gel-cap with 1000mg or more per capsule, and this can be taken orally every day for the last trimester, and then also inserted vaginally at bedtime during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
  • Abdominal Support:

Some moms just need some extra support for their abdominal muscles, especially if they have had a few babies, or if their babies tend to be large. The muscles that support the uterus and help it to contract efficiently can become stretched (think of a rubberband that has been completely stretched out, and doesn’t quite return to “normal”), and are unable to “hug” baby enough to get a consistent labor pattern started, or even get baby low enough to obtain a good position to begin with! One way to work with this is to consider regularly providing your uterus with support, in particularly during the last 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. You can purchase a maternity support belt (Belly Bandit has some great, albeit expensive options), but many women find that using a rebozo or long scarf/piece of scarf works great, such as is illustrated in this post here  and another option here. The goal is to pull the uterus slightly up and towards you, mimicking the way your muscles naturally pull, with provides a firm, consistent support (which also relieves pressure from your back!).

  • Eating Dates!

The benefit of consuming dates during the last weeks of pregnancy has only recently been discovered. The suggested protocol is to eat 4-6 dates daily beginning around 36 weeks until you deliver. To find out more, you can check out the details of a recent study at Evidence Based Birth and see what Mama Natural has to say here.

With the exception of eating dates (this is newer option I’ve discovered!), I have personally tried all of the above suggestions for my own five pregnancies and births, and have seen many women successfully use these recommendations throughout my midwifery practice over the past 11+ years. I wish I would have known about many of these earlier in my practice, as I think it would have prevented more transfers and unnecessarily lengthy labors. Another side benefit to following these suggestions is that your body is that much more prepared and ready should an induction actually be medically indicated. While I rarely have reason to need to get labor started, when there is this need and the body is ready for labor, then there are many more options available that have a high likelihood of actually working (in case you’re wondering, one method many midwives use is the Midwife’s Brew, but you should never attempt this without discussing the details, risk vs. benefit, etc. with your care provider!). And if you end up needing a hospitalized induction, the above suggestions will also increase the chances that you end up with a successful induction and normal vaginal birth.

Understanding Gestational Diabetes (and your testing options)

Understanding Gestational Diabetes (and your testing options)

GDM

I recently worked on updating the information I give to clients on Gestational Diabetese screening during pregnancy. Compared to 12 years ago when I was first delving into midwifery studies, there is so much more helpful information out there about this subject! For this month’s blog post, I decided to share my updated “informed consent” handout (this is something that each client recieives in order to help them make a truly informed choice regarding their screening options), as well as some links that may be helpful for those who are wanting to research this topic further.

Informed Consent Regarding Glucose Testing and Screening for

Gestational Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes?

John Hopkins Medicine describes Gestational Diabetes as follows: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)  is a condition in which a hormone made by the placenta prevents the body from using insulin effectively. Glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes is not caused by a lack of insulin, but by other hormones produced during pregnancy that can make insulin less effective, a condition referred to as insulin resistance. Gestational diabetic symptoms disappear following delivery. Approximately 3 to 8 percent of all pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Although the cause of GDM is not known, there are some theories as to why the condition occurs: The placenta supplies a growing fetus with nutrients and water, and also produces a variety of hormones to maintain the pregnancy. Some of these hormones (estrogen, cortisol, and human placental lactogen) can have a blocking effect on insulin. This is called contra-insulin effect, which usually begins about 20 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

As the placenta grows, more of these hormones are produced, and the risk of insulin resistance becomes greater. Normally, the pancreas is able to make additional insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but when the production of insulin is not enough to overcome the effect of the placental hormones, gestational diabetes results.

For more information on understanding Gestational Diabetes and Insulin Resistance during pregnancy, I highly recommend checking into these websites: EvidenceBasedBirth.com and LilyNicholsRDN.com, and by reading Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols (available through my office lending library).

Risks Associated with GDM for mother and baby:

Ÿ Increased risk of developing Pre-eclampsia

Ÿ Increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes

Ÿ Maternal injury

Ÿ Increased risk of Cesarean section

Ÿ Shoulder dystocia

Ÿ Macrosomia (infant weight over 8lb 13 oz)

Ÿ Neonatal hypoglycemia

Ÿ Neonatal jaundice

Ÿ Stillbirth

Ÿ NICU stay

Ÿ Birth injury

Predisposing Risk Factors can include:

Ÿ Pre-pregnancy BMI >25

Ÿ Family history of diabetes

Ÿ GDM in previous pregnancy

Ÿ Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Ÿ Chronic hypertension

Ÿ Maternal age over 25

Ÿ Ethnicity (African-American, Native American, Hispanic, South & East Asian, Pacific Islander)

ŸPrevious macrosomic infant

Ÿ History of Cardiovascular disease

ŸPoor nutrition

Potential Signs and Symptoms of GDM:

Not all mothers will have any symptoms, but these are indicators of the possible presence of GDM:

Ÿ Polyuria (excessive urinary output)

Ÿ Polydipsia (extreme thirst)

Ÿ Weakness

Ÿ Poor healing/susceptibility to infections

Ÿ Size large for dates

Ÿ Recurrent glucose in urine

Ÿ Recurrent yeast infections

Ÿ Ketones in urine

Ÿ Excessive weight gain

Ÿ Polyhydramnios (excessive amniotic fluid)

Ÿ Polyphagia (excessive hunger)

What are my testing options?

The American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) recommends universal screening for every mom between 24-28 weeks for pregnancy. Women with a history of GDM or have high-risk factors are encouraged to screen as early as possible in pregnancy, and typically Glucola is used as the glucose load. Due to the preservatives, dyes and other ingredients found in Glucola, other glucose options are offered, such as a dye-free glucose drink, or the option of consuming 28 jelly beans per the article published by American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. If opting for either of these tests, it is recommended to eat an average of 150 grams of carbohydrates daily for three days before testing. The standard testing procedure is as follows:

  • 1 hour Oral Glucose Challenge test: This involves drawing blood for blood sugar testing one hour after consuming a 50g glucose load (non fasting). Blood sugar levels should be under 140mg/dl. If the blood sugar levels are higher than this, then a 3 hour test is recommended to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of GDM.
  • 3 hour Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT): This four-step test is performed after fasting for at least 12 hours, and includes drinking a 100g glucose drink. Blood is drawn fasting, and then again at 1, 2 and 3 hours after drinking the glucola. If two or more levels are out of range, the mother is diagnosed with GDM. Consultation with a physician is recommended, and transfer of care may become necessary should diet changes be insufficient to keep sugar levels within target ranges.

During recent years, more physicians are becoming comfortable with an alternative to the above traditional protocol as described here by Rebecca Dekker at Evidence Based Birth (near the end of the article):

Home blood sugar monitoring: “Another alternative could be for people to monitor their blood sugar levels at home and discuss the results with their care provider. This is another controversial way to screen for GDM. We didn’t find any studies on GDM screening that compared home blood sugar monitoring versus a standard oral glucose drink.

However, we hear of some people using this method. Basically, they are following a similar path that people do when they’ve been actually diagnosed with GDM. Usually, after a GDM diagnosis, mothers monitor their blood sugar levels four times a day, once after fasting (first thing in the morning) and again after each meal (AGOG, 2018).

The ADA and ACOG recommend that fasting blood sugar levels should be <95 mg/dL, and post-meal blood sugar levels should be <140 mg/dL at 1-hour. Other recommendations for healthy blood sugar level targets during pregnancy are even lower. For example, the California Diabetes and Pregnancy Program (CDAPP) Sweet Success recommends fasting/premeal levels at <90 mg/dL and post-meal levels at <130 (Shields and Tsay, 2015).

Monitoring your blood sugar levels at home might be an option for someone who cannot take a glucose test because of the side effects, or prefers not to drink the glucose solution. However, home blood sugar monitoring is demanding and has some drawbacks. Mothers may have to purchase their own testing kits, and they have to remember to set alarms and carry their testing supplies with them throughout the day. Some people would consider it a major downside that blood sugar monitoring requires constant finger sticks, although others may not mind. Since home blood sugar monitoring is usually done after GDM diagnosis, there is no clear-cut standard for screening/diagnosing gestational diabetes based on home blood sugar checks. It’s important to discuss any results with a care provider to determine if testing can be stopped, if home monitoring should be continued, or if consistent high values mean that treatment for GDM is needed. Also, with this method, it is important that mothers follow their normal diet while testing, to get a “real-life” picture of their blood sugar results over time.”

While this testing method has gained acceptance in some medical communities, it is important to note that it has not been officially documented as a standard for diagnosing GDM. However, research is ongoing, and this method does provide you with an accurate day-by-day picture of how your body is responding to your normal diet. For clients who choose to do home glucose testing (whether in addition to or in place of the Glucose Challenge Test), I am happy to provide you with a glucometer, supplies and a chart that you can use to track your glucose readings for two weeks.

What if I have Gestational Diabetes?

Many women are able to control GDM through regular exercise and dietary changes. For clients who test positive for GMD, I will ask you to read Lily Nichol’s books Real Food for Gestational Diabetes and Real Food for Pregnancy, and we will discuss a plan for your care, including necessary diet changes and logging, home glucose monitoring, and exercise routines. If additional insulin is needed to control sugar levels, this will result in a transfer of care, as insulin-dependence significantly raises risk factors making a homebirth not a safe option for mother and baby.

Conclusion: Informed Consent

I highly recommend checking out these websites for more information on Gestational Diabetes Screening:

I also would encourage you, regardless of your choice to screen for GDM, to spend time reading Lily’s Nichol’s books (mentioned above) and implementing her dietary suggestions for pregnancy. Excellent information is available at her website: LilyNicholsRDM.com

As an expectant mom, it is your responsibility to choose first whether to screen for Gestational Diabetes, and if so, which method of screening to utilize. This document is intended to begin the conversation and aid you in researching what is best for your health and the health of your baby, and I welcome your further discussion and questions at any time.

In your Client Information Folder you will find a document entitled “Consent & Waivers for Common Procedures”, on which is listed screening for Gestational Diabetes. Please indicate your choice on this form, after you have spent time reading the risks and benefits of screening and the type of screening.

Did you find this information helpful? I’d love to hear about your experience with GDM and your testing/treatment options! If you’re wanting to research this topic further, here’s some links to other helpful posts, many written by moms sharing how they made a decision regarding GDM screening for their pregnancies (note, many of these posts are personal opinons shared for your consideration, though they may not include documented studies or be supported by general medical literature):

If you have more to add, or resources to share, feel free to comment below! 

Boosting Energy During Pregnancy

Boosting Energy During Pregnancy

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If you’re like me, one of the huge challenges of pregnancy (especially early pregnancy!) is the severe lack of energy. Honestly, if you stop and think about it, your body is pouring so much into making a tiny baby that there just isn’t enough energy to do much else! While you might KNOW that your productivity can’t be measured by what you get done visibly, it can be hard when you feel like there isn’t enough of mommy to go around to all the needs at home.

In this post, I want to share a few tips that might help you get through pregnancy while keeping your energy levels up. There are many different factors in the equation, and honestly each one could be the subject of a separate post. For instance, a diet that is low in simple carbs & sugars, and has a good array of healthful fats and proteins can make a big difference for some women. To get more pointers on this, I’d highly recommend reading Lily Nichol’s book Real Food for Pregnancy. Another factor is getting some sunshine and movement (a walk outside can help immensely!). Yet another factor is finding ways to curb morning sickness (this is another topic on my mind for a future post).

While you may find that early on in your pregnancy you may have to forego your prenatal vitamins due to sickness (did you know prenatal vitamins can sometimes make you feel worse those first months?!? My personal philosophy is that if the vitamins keep you from keeping food down, then it’s best to scrap them for awhile!), once you’re able to take pills again, it’s key to find a quality vitamin. Getting adequate levels of minerals, as well as easy-to-absorb forms of folate, B12 and other vitamins can all contribute to boosting your energy levels. Check your labels to make sure that your vitamins contain folate (and NOT the synthetic form called folic acid), and that the B vitamins are methylated in order to promote absorption. This article on Folic acid vs. Folate may help you to better understand the difference, and why it matters.

Whether you can take your prenatal vitamins or not, I’ve found that supplementing with additional B vitamins can be a huge help, especially during the early months when your body is working so hard and fetal development is so rapidly taking place. During one of my pregnancies, I found that B vitamin injections provided me with some relief from morning sickness as well as boosted my energy levels, and when those weren’t available for me for my most recent pregnancy, I spent some time researching other options. I stumbled upon this gem, and found it to be an incredible energy boost: Max Stress B is a fermented, liquid B complex that provides a combination of B vitamins in a form your body can utilize quickly. Another helpful supplement is a B complex lozenge, which you can slip under your tongue before getting out of bed in the morning, and/or take throughout the day. Two brands I have appreciated are Jarrow  and Seeking Health. If you are only looking for B12, I find that these lozenges are great when you need an extra boost and mama doesn’t have time or opportunity for a nap: Jarrow B12. I even keep these on hand and use them when I’m up all night at births!

Low iron (anemia) can also be a reason for low energy, though sometimes this can even be corrected by the above B vitamins, as some types of anemia are actually caused by a B12 and folate deficiency (your midwife or care provider should be able to determine whether this is the cause by looking at your prenatal blood work). If your hemaglobin is actually low, then some suggestions would include supplementing with a plant-based whole-foods iron supplement such as  Garden of Life Iron,  adding daily doses of liquid chlorophyll, and even regularly consuming Blackstrap Molasses , all of which can help to gently increase your iron levels. If you need more iron suggestions and information, check out this article from Mama Natural on anemia during pregnancy.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started, and if you’ve found something that helps you with maintaining good energy levels during pregnancy, I would love to hear about it. And if you try any of these recommendations, let me know how it works for you. I love getting feedback and knowing what works for different people!

Probiotics: A Key for Fussy Babies?

Probiotics: A Key for Fussy Babies?

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Note: I am sharing this post from my own personal experience, in hopes that it might encourage another mom and perhaps give you some ideas as you research options and solutions for colic and fussiness. This is not to be taken as medical advice, but rather an introduction to provide you with a foundation for further investigation and research.  I also want you to keep in mind that this post deals with just ONE aspect of what can cause extra fussiness in an infant…there are often a multitude of factors that can be part of any situation, so I’m just tackling this particular aspect in this post! The products that I mention are ones that I have used myself, and I am not receiving any incentive or gain by recommending these!

As I was preparing to welcome our fifth child at the end of last year, I was resuming my usual research into how to help prevent excessive fussiness in infants. If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that all of my babies have tended to be fussy and “high maintenance”. Nursing challenges have been part of that, and so have issues with sensitive tummies (I’ve ended up needing to go dairy free at some point in my breastfeeding journey with each of them!), but there’s always been this underlying fussiness that has not tended to improve until they reached 6 months or older. This has presented a number of challenges, as it really takes away from the joy of adding a new baby, if the baby needs constant juggling, bouncing and soothing!

While reading anything I could find on how to help soothe fussy babies, I came across this article that talks about a study that showed b.infantis linked to reducing inflammation in infants.

Shortly after reading the article, I saw a post on a Mommy group that I am part of, where a friend of mine recommended an infant probiotic, noting that it had made a world of difference in the temperament of her baby.  Earlier in the year, I had a client who told me how her  youngest baby has been her happiest ever, and credited a nightly bottle of goats milk kefir as part of what made a difference.

I also kept running into articles such as this one on babies needing L. reuteri, and others that talked about how different probiotic strains can help with colic such as this one: Can Probiotics Soothe Colicky Babies?  Then there is this article that, while encouraging people to purchase their company’s products, has some good information on why fermented foods and probiotics are essential components of health, and in particular infant health:  Introduce Babies to Probiotics.

I found it interesting to think about how years ago our typical diets contained more fermented foods (think about the sauerkraut and other fermented products that were a necessity in the days before refrigeration), and how antibiotic usage is so much more common these days. We are still figuring out what all the possible long-term effects are caused by frequent antibiotic usage over the course of our lives, and how these effects may come into play on our children. Here’s some interesting data looking at long-term effects of antibiotics on our micro-biome: Long-term impacts of antibiotic exposure on the human intestinal microbiota.

After reading and researching these articles and more, I decided that it was worth trying for my baby, as it obviously couldn’t hurt! There are many different products available on the market, and it can be hard to determine which one is best. I was searching for one that specifically had the strains B. infantis and L. reuteri, and would also be easy to give (with five children I knew that I wouldn’t make it happen faithfully if I had to be mixing and syringe feeding anything!). I ended up trying Humarian Probonix that my friend had recommended, and I started giving baby Tirzah a few drops beginning on the third day after birth. I gradually increased it to the 6 drops recommended, and she’s been getting that daily ever since. Occasionally I will give her another brand/type, but the Probionix drops are by far the most convenient. While there may be many other factors at play, this baby has been my happiest by FAR, has had regular diapers, hardly any skin issues, and has not had nearly as sensitive of a tummy as my other babies. I have to think that regular probiotics have been one element in helping her, so I wanted to share this in case it can help another mom out!

There are plenty of other brands out there, such as Envivo, Love Bug for Tiny Tummies, and Mama Natural has a whole blog post devoted to discussing the pros and cons of these and other probiotics specifically for infants here. By reading about them, comparing ingredients and determining your own needs, you should be able to find something that can work for your baby. And if you’re looking for more info on the benefits of cultured foods for baby, there’s a great article here.

Have you given your baby probiotics? Do you feel like it’s helped? What else have you found beneficial for fussy babies? I’d love to hear about your journey! And if you end up using probiotics for your infant, I’d also be interested to hear what brand you used, and whether you saw it make a difference.

Resources and Info on COVID-19: Links, Practice Changes, Recommendations & More

Resources and Info on COVID-19: Links, Practice Changes, Recommendations & More

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With the COVID-19 crisis in full swing, it can be hard to know where to go for good information. As a midwife wanting to give my clients the best, up-to-date, evidenced based care as possible, I have found it extremely challenging to navigate all the information being thrown around as everyone scrambles to learn what they can about this new virus. Even information from reputable sources can contradict each other, leaving one’s head spinning, and making you unsure of what measures should be taken to protect your clients and your loved ones from any unnecessary exposure, while also caring for the emotional and physical needs of expectant moms! I’m sure you’re probably in a similar boat, so I’m wanting to make available some information sources for you as you try to understand how the current crisis may or may not affect you, your baby, your care, and your birth.

Here are some links that I have found helpful:

Aviva Romm Series on Covid-19 Info

WHO info for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

National Association of Certified Professional Midwives: Covid-19

WHO Info-graphs

While information is changing on a day-to-day basis, I am currently implementing the following changes to my practice in order to minimize risk for my current clients, and enable safe midwifery care to continue in my community:

  • I am available to answer any questions clients might have via email or phone/text at any time.
  • Pushing prenatal visits further apart to minimize person-to-person contact.
  • Practicing social distancing and limited exposure for myself and my family, and not seeing any clients if myself or one of my family members are sick.
  • I will be performing April prenatal visits in client’s homes to reduce the risk of transmission or exposure. My current client load is light as I am just coming off of maternity leave, so this feels like the best option as I look into ways to make my home office space more practical for office visits due to the stringent recommended disinfectant protocols.
  • I am not taking on new (non-repeat) and/or long distance clients during April. I hope to resume new client consults and prenatals in May, but will base this on information as it becomes available, as well as on how able I am to handle the extra time needed to maintain the possible new protocols, etc. Having to unexpectedly homeschool two children this month, as well as juggling the demands of a nursing infant (and trying to understand what risk there could be to her health) all combine to make my days extra full right now, without adding in the hours of research needed to stay on top of current medical news!
  • If you are just beginning to look into the option of homebirth due to concerns with exposure at the hospital, I would suggest you begin by reading these two links:

I am also asking clients to follow these guidelines:

  • Please reschedule your visit if you or one of your family members are experiencing any of the typical Corona symptoms, including:
    • Fever
    • Coughing
    • Shortness of breath
    • And remember that Covid-19 care is outside of the scope of practice for your midwife to advise you on, so please contact the proper medical authorities if you suspect you may have contracted it!
  • Try to limit your exposure to illness by practicing safe social distancing from ill persons, and practicing good hygiene and hand washing.
  • Due to the unknown severity of respiratory complications for both mom and infant, a home birth will be out of the question if you test positive for COVID-19 over the time you are in labor.
  • Realize that there may be some changes in birth practices as more information and studies become available, so feel free to reach out with any questions, and stay tuned as I continue to research and keep you up to date on current research and practice guidelines/changes. Some of these changes may include restrictions on children attending prenatal appointments, amount of people in attendance at your birth, etc. As time goes by, I hope to have more concrete information to guide our practice protocols for the safety of everyone.

I would also strongly encourage all expectant moms to do what you can to boost your body’s (and your family’s!) natural ability to fight any virus (there are other illnesses out there you don’t want to catch, as well!). I don’t think we need to just sit back and hope we don’t get sick-you can be proactive in assisting your body in being able to resist and fight illness right now. There are some great resources available that help you to consider how healthy eating (low sugar, lots of whole foods) combined with adding some immune-boosting supplements (such as high-quality vitamin C, regular vitamin D, probiotics and others) and regular exercise can help you and your family to stay healthy and strong. Here are some resources to get you started in thinking about the possibilities:

Advice from a Pediatrician

Aviva Romm on Natural Remedies

If you’re interested on hearing additional perspective on the crisis from a well-known, more “naturally minded” pediatrician, then you may appreciate Dr. Sear’s podcast series: Coronavirus Update: Are We Doing it Right? Pt. 1

And finally, some practical ways to help you handle the extra challenges from social distancing right now, tips on reducing anxiety, and helps in understanding more about the virus: COPE Updates on Covid-19

If you have found a source to be especially helpful as you navigate the news surrounding Covid-19, I’d love to hear about it. And if you are in a different area, I’d love to hear how your midwife/care provider is implementing changes to their practices. Blessings to all of you expectant mamas navigating this new territory during this time in your life-I know it’s a challenge, and I am committed to continuing to provide you with personal, safe, gentle midwifery care!