Morning Sickness: Remedies, Suggestions & Research

Morning Sickness: Remedies, Suggestions & Research

Please note: I am NOT affiliated with any of the mentioned companies, and I do not receive any sort of reimbursement from sharing their products other than occasional free samples that are sent to my office (which is how I was introduced to several of them!). Some of these companies have offered discount codes for my readers, and I’m passing those on when available, at no benefit to myself!

As a mom who has struggled with severe morning sickness with most of my pregnancies, I know from experience how incredibly difficult and challenging those first months can be when you feel so miserable! In fact, the mere thought of going through those early weeks and months of sickness makes me desperate to find some type of relief to try. Because of this, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading any new research, thoughts and suggestions that I can get my hands on regarding combating morning sickness over the past couple of years. My hope with this post is to help you understand what might be going on under the surface, and to provide you with a number of suggestions and resources so that you can hopefully find something that works for you! I know each mom (and each pregnancy!) can respond differently, and that there is NO cure-all that works for everyone. But sometimes you find out about something that can make a difference, so my hope is that you might discover something new that can bring some relief to you as you nourish and carry that tiny baby that is already requiring so much from mama!

For the foundation, it’s important to be caring for your body BEFORE pregnancy whenever possible. If you haven’t done so, I would highly recommend that you take the time to read Real Food For Pregnancy by Lily Nichols. Having a high quality diet in place that is low in simple carbs and refined sugar and high in quality protein has made a big difference for many moms, but this provides the most help for morning sickness if this has been a way of life long before pregnancy. Along these same lines, taking the time to do a liver cleanse and possibly a candida cleanse have made a big difference in pregnancy health for moms.

Talking about the liver brings me to the first important suggestion for morning sickness relief, and that is LIVER HEALTH. As you know, a mom’s body works hard to support the massive amount of growth that is happening for baby during the first weeks after conception, and one of the organs under a lot of stress is the liver. It is fascinating to study into this more, and realize how gentle support of the liver can help alleviate the severity of morning sickness (you can read more about this here). A great way to provide liver support is through taking Milk Thistle twice a day (and if you are planning a pregnancy, start taking this a couple of months before pregnancy for even better success!). Some good Milk Thistle options are: Jarrow Milk Thistle  & Natural Hope Herbals Milk Thistle Tincture.  If you want more support (and possibly more success), consider taking a liver support complex such as the pregnancy-safe tincture from  Mountain Meadow Herbs Liver Glow II. This product from Earthly Wellness includes dandelion which is another herb that provides liver support, along with some additional herbs to aid in reducing nausea: Mama’s Tummy Relief (use code “gentlemidwife” for 10% off your first order from them!). Another form of liver support comes through the addition of lemons to your diet, which is most easily done by squeezing fresh lemon juice into your water that you sip on throughout the day (add some honey for a bit of a natural sugar boost!).

Another factor that can make morning sickness worse, and be especially problematic when a mama is vomiting often, is maintaining good hydration and electrolyte balance. Staying on top of this before it gets to the point of needing IV treatment is key, and one of the ways to help with this is having some high-quality electrolyte drinks available (that are not full of artificial flavors & dyes like Gatorade!). A few good choices that I’ve personally tasted an tested are: GoodOnYa Organic (this one tastes like delicious lemonade, yet it has only healthy ingredients: use the code “gentlemidwife” for 10% off + free shipping on your order!), Nectar (another organic, sugar-free option with multiple flavors), LMNT (available in several different flavors-you can purchase a sample mix on Amazon to get you started), and DripDrop. You can even make popsicles out of these electrolyte drinks in order to sip on them…just make it a priority to stay hydrated and prevent your electrolytes from orbiting out of order…we want to prevent the need for an IV or other intervention whenever possible!

A “newer” remedy that I am finding quite fascinating is that of additional magnesium supplementation for morning sickness relief. Here’s a couple of articles that go into more detail: Magnesium for Morning Sickness Relief, & Magnesium for Morning Sickness: My Story. If I have another baby, I’m definitely planning to try this idea! Besides swallowing pills or drinking magnesium-containing drinks (which many sick moms can’t handle), a few ways to supplement with magnesium that might be easier on your stomach are creams and sprays. Pink Stork carries this  Magnesium Spray for Morning Sickness, and a local company that I highly recommend carries this cream: Shade Mt. Naturals Magnesium Cream . Another magnesium cream I have used personally is this one: 8 Sheep Organics Magnesium Cream

If you’ve read other posts on my blog or talked with me long, you probably have heard how strongly I feel about incorporating high quality probiotics into your life for pregnancy, nursing and newborn health…and now I’m finding proof that probiotics can also help with morning sickness! These two articles show how: Study: Probiotics Reduce Nausea & Vomiting  and Study Finds Probiotics Significantly Improve Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy. Based on this research, as well as knowing how beneficial probiotics are to your overall health, it seems like it can’t hurt anything to increase or start your probiotic intake during the early weeks/months of pregnancy. If you’re looking for some good quality options, here are a few that have been recommended by other midwives and clients that I trust: Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete, This Is Needed: Prenatal Probiotic, and Entegro:Flourish. Another way to increase your probiotic consumption is through fermented foods, such as raw sauerkraut and drinks like Kefir. Some moms have found the “sparkling” aspect of water kefir to be especially appealing while feeling sick, and many stores carry options such as Kevita in the cold drink section. You can also learn How to Make Water Kefir at Home or purchase something like this: Coco-Biotic Coconut Water Kefir

Some moms can obtain relief by supplementing with some specific vitamins & nutrients. Adding a few drops of this Liquid PhosFood by Standard Process to your drinking water (it tastes similar to lemon) has been beneficial to a few clients. Other times your body really needs some additional B vitamins, both for the B6 that specifically helps with nausea, and for the energy that is so lacking during the first trimester! My favorite B complex for those early weeks is the Max BnD Fermented B complex that helped me SO much with my last pregnancy. Whatever type of B vitamin you find, make sure that is contains bio-available forms, such as folate and methylated Bs, in order to obtain the most benefit. Jarrow and Seeking Health are two good brands to purchase.

Now we’ll move on to some random suggestions and options that have helped other moms (thanks to so many who shared in response to my question on what has helped!):

  • Hard Candies Specific for Morning Sickness: Morning Sickness Sweets by Pink Stork,  UpSpring Stomach Settle Drops , PreggiePop Drops & Tummy Drops are several good options to choose from.
  • Ginger: many people find ginger helps to settle the stomach, and you can try it in the form of Ginger Ale, Ginger supplements, or even through chews & candies such as these: Gin-Gins Ginger People Candy & Chews
  • Pink Stork offers a product called Total Morning Sickness Relief that contains needed vitamins & minerals for nausea.  
  • Herbal tinctures formulated specifically for morning sickness: Wishgarden Calm-A-Tum, BrighterMornings from Natural Hope, StomachAid from MMH, & Nausea Relief Tincture from HerbLore.
  • Acupressure in the form of Sea-Bands is helpful for some moms: Research on relief of nausea from Sea-Bands
  • Frequent snacking (don’t let your stomach get empty!), and eating something light before you get out of bed in the morning. Make sure you’re getting protein in whenever possible, even adding it to smoothies if needed!
  • Daily mineral supplement, such as this Fulvic-Humic Acid Mineral Blend available through VitaCost.
  • 1 gel cap of Heather’s Tummy Care Peppermint Oil Caps before each meal for 3-5 days, adjust as needed.
  • Fruit Juice popsicles
  • Some moms find that they need to quit taking daily prenatal vitamins during this time, as they can be too hard on the already sensitive stomach. Don’t stress if you need to do this-you & baby will both do better overall if you can keep food down, and this is more important than the vitamins during these weeks! Remember, baby needed the vitamins the most during the first few weeks, so by the time morning sickness hits with a vengeance this key foundation is over, so the goal is keeping mom hydrated and healthy! An alternative is to find a different vitamin and see if it might be gentler on your stomach. There are gummies, powders and pills, so another form may work during these initial weeks, especially if it does not contain iron which can be particularly hard on a queasy stomach.

IF you really are struggling to keep anything down, and need to move past the natural supplement stage, don’t hesitate to reach out to your care provider for additional support. Some moms MUST have prescription meds to survive these months, and that is totally warranted depending on the situation. Other moms need to have an occasional IV in order to restore hydration, and we are thankful for these interventions when they are desperately needed. Some over-the-counter yet more medically-based solutions are:

In closing, here are a few other blogs that contain more suggestions on how to find relief from the challenges of morning sickness: Wellness Mama: How to Avoid Morning Sickness & Natural Morning Sickness Remedies

I would love to hear from you readers: what did you find helpful?? Any suggestions that aren’t on this list? Did anything listed here benefit you? What did you find helped from one pregnancy to another? Thanks so much for sharing so that we can all learn and hopefully be better able to handle these early weeks and months of pregnancy!

Pre-conception Considerations: Things to Think About Before Getting Pregnant

Pre-conception Considerations: Things to Think About Before Getting Pregnant

I’ve had several ladies reach out this year asking for information to consider as they hope to conceive sometime in the next few months. As I started replying to some of these inquiries, I realized that it might be helpful for others in similar positions to have some of this information at their fingertips. My hope is that some of these suggestions can help you to achieve the healthiest pregnancy possible as you actively prepare your body for the amazing stress and strength that growing a baby places on your entire system-this is certainly worth seriously considering and prepping for, and I can guarantee you won’t regret any time and effort you invest before pregnancy!

Let’s start at the beginning:

  • Educate Yourself on Your Hormones and Cycle:
    • Understanding how your body works, and how to read your fertility signs (temperature, cervical mucous, etc.) can make a huge difference in both your ability to conceive and in determining an accurate due date. There are some disorders or challenges that can be identified early on if you have been keeping track of your fertility signs, and this can save you time, money and heartache if you know what to look for and when to get medical intervention. Simple things such as knowing you ovulate “late” compared to traditional due date calculators can save you the challenge of being considered “overdue” when you actually didn’t have an accurate due date to start with!
    • For better understanding, I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This guide helps you to really get to know how the women’s body works, how to chart your cycle, and how to understand all the information you are pulling together. The TCOYF app is also a great way to track your cycle, and it’s free! Another helpful book on the subject is The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack (as a disclaimer, I JUST ordered this book and have it sitting in my “to read” pile-it looks great, but I haven’t read through it yet!).
    • For those particularly wanting to use fertility tracking as a guide to Natural Family Planning, the Art of Natural Family Planning Student Guide is a good way to delve into some of the details, which can also be an aid in achieving pregnancy.
  • Birth Control/Hormonal Contraception:
    • If you’ve been on hormonal contraceptives, it’s important to remember that it can take up to three months for normal cycles and fertility to return. The sooner you can get off any hormonal BC the better for  your overall health! Aviva Romm has a great article on fertility issues after hormonal contraceptives and getting off the pill here: Post Pill Reset and I highly recommend the new documentary The Business of Birth Control for better understanding of how hormonal contraceptives can negatively affect your overall fertility and health while providing an introduction to other non-hormonal options.
  • Deal with Any Current Health Concerns Now
    • Do you have weight you need to gain or loose? Start understanding healthful eating, and work on that now BEFORE  you add pregnancy to the mix! I’ll add more on diet below, but healthful eating habits should begin now, and will provide a great foundation for the demands of pregnancy on your body.
    • Are you currently on any medication that could have a negative effect on a developing baby? Many health challenges (such as elevated BP) can be managed by diet, lifestyle and supplement changes, and these are best achieved before pregnancy. If you’re hoping to have a low-risk delivery at home, this is even more important to consider, as any compilation of medications can increase your risk and rule out homebirth. Also, remember that you should be under the care of a physician or medical provider before attempting to wean off any medications, especially for BP, anxiety, depression, etc. You need to do this safely, and sometimes these changes can take time!
    • Thyroid health: many women these days experience thyroid imbalances, and it can make a huge difference on your ability to carry a healthy pregnancy if you are on top of these imbalances before pregnancy, and have a provider who can work with any sort of needed thyroid medication especially during the early days of pregnancy. Learn more about thyroid and it’s effect on pregnancy by reading Aviva Romm: Thyroid in Pregnancy
  • Learn more about healthy food choices:
    • There are so many things to learn about how food and our daily choices affect the way in which our body works! From supporting the organs, optimizing brain function, regulating blood sugar…the food we eat has so much to do with how our entire body operates. Add to this the growth and development of an additional entire human body and placental organ, and you’ll start to get a glimpse of how important solid nutrition is to your body and that of your future baby! The best book on the subject that I have read is Lily Nichol’s Real Food For Pregnancy, and I would encourage any woman who is pregnant or considering pregnancy to read it and really digest her wisdom and suggestions. Lily covers more than just diet, and her overall suggestions when it comes to regulating blood sugar, exercise guideline, and prenatal vitamin recommendations are all amazing and educational.
  • Support your Liver!
    • This might seem like an odd topic, but did you know that your liver performs under extra stress during pregnancy? There are many pregnancy complications that can arise when the liver is not functioning well, and there are some studies that suggest that a healthy, supported liver can reduce the amount of morning sickness a mom might experience. With all of these factors on the table, I highly recommend either purchasing a liver cleanse and using it a few months before getting pregnant, or at least taking a high-quality Milk Thistle supplement for a month or two before conception, and continuing to take it during the first trimester. Here is an article that addresses this further: Milk Thistle for Morning Sickness
  • Prenatal Vitamins:
    • Start your research on prenatal vitamins now, and begin taking them daily. Remember, the critical time for baby’s development are in the early weeks, so your body needs to start getting a good foundation of nutrients so that your body is ready to nourish the developing brain, organ and other nutrient needs of a growing tiny baby. Many moms end up sick enough that they cannot continue taking prenatal vitamins during part of the first trimester, so having this foundation laid ahead of time is key!
  • Further Reading:
    • If you’re wanting to read more about how to optimize your fertility and prepare well, many providers recommend the book It Starts with The Egg. Rebecca Fett goes into detail about diet, supplements and other foundational principles of helping your body to achieve healthy conception!

In closing, I hope you’ve found these suggestions informative! I’d love to hear what else you would add to this list, and what has helped you as you’ve prepared for pregnancy. Maybe you’re not pregnant yet, but you’ve found a great resource…or maybe you followed some preconception guidelines and are currently in the middle of pregnancy…either way, I’d love to hear what you found most helpful!

Postpartum Rehab: Local Options, Tips, Introductions & Info!

Postpartum Rehab: Local Options, Tips, Introductions & Info!

If you’ve recently given birth, you’ve probably wondered how to really help your body heal as you navigate the postpartum period and adapt to your post-baby body. Over the years I have developed a greater passion to see women really cared for and their bodies aided in this healing process, realizing that taking the postpartum period seriously can have long-term benefits for mom’s health & well-being in a variety of areas.

One component to long-term women’s health that often lacks attention is that of the physical rehabilitation needed after birth.  If you think about all the changes that the body goes through during pregnancy (stretching, repositioning of internal organs, increased blood volume, muscle strain, weight gain, uterine growth, etc.) and then during birth (the physical exertion, movement, muscle & tissue stretching, internal organ placement changes, and more!), we should consider it normal that our body might need some help in recovering and rehabilitating in order to be able to function optimally. But there are SO MANY voices out there telling you what you should & shouldn’t do, and it can feel overwhelming to know where to start and who to listen to! In light of this (and because I wanted some better information to give to my postpartum clients!), I reached out to several local experts who provide support and services to postpartum women in our area.  I’m grateful that they were willing to share a little bit about themselves, the services they have to offer (if you’re local, they are great options to consider as you prepare for postpartum recovery!!), and give us a few tips when it comes to understanding the recovery process and how to integrate physical exercises that will actually help our bodies heal without causing further trauma or injury.

By introducing you to these women who are aiding local moms specifically in their pelvic floor and post-birth rehabilitation health, I am hopeful it can give you an idea of some of the options you have right here in Centre County. Any of these providers will be happy to aid you in recovery from the marathon of growing a baby and giving birth! I also know that many moms are hesitant to reach out for this type of support and therapy, sometimes due to having many unanswered questions about what physical therapy or other services might entail. After learning more about these professionals and the specific focus and background each one has in their respective areas of expertise, you will hopefully have some of your questions answered, and perhaps have a more informed idea of what care might be best for your situation, preference, and recovery.

Dr. Julie Kulig, Chiropractor@ Kulig Chiropractic & Rehabilitation:

Dr. Julie & family

Hi! I’m Dr. Julie Kulig, a chiropractor in Bellefonte at Kulig Chiropractic & Rehabilitation. I have a strong interest in treating pregnant and postpartum women (and their littles). I have 2 children currently of my own and find joy in observing and assessing these littles movement patterns and developmental milestones. 

My educational background is Doctor of Chiropractic, Webster Certified (for all you pregnant mommas),  Birthfit professional, DNS (dynamic neuromuscular stabilization), and MDT (the mckenzie method of mechanical diagnosis and therapy.) Previously I held BIRTHFIT postpartum classes 2x/ wk for 4 weeks to help women improve core and pelvic floor function postpartum. I still treat pregnant and postpartum women daily and am happy to offer this service alone if you are interested (no adjustment needed). 

Dr. Julie gently caring for my own newborn!

The BIRTHFIT exercises are based on DNS: dynamic neuromuscular stabilization. These are a series of exercises based on the study of babies and their motor milestones that occur 0-18 months. We use these movements to help treat moms both pre – and post – baby! The exercises are based off of diaphragmatic breathing and the relationship the diaphragm has with the pelvic floor (much more intricate and we can talk about that more!!) 

We treat: pain, pelvic floor pain, urinary stress incontinence, diastasis rectus abdominus and more. Trunk stability is the basis of all of our movements and essential in our recovery postpartum. Wondering if we could help you?? ASK: drjuliekulig@gmail.com. I’m always happy to chat more!  www.kuligdc.com

Becca Beck

Becca Beck MovementRestore Your Core® Certified Teacher:

Hello! I’m Becca Beck. Originally from GA, I live in State College with my husband and 3 sons. I am a Functional Movement Teacher who specializes in the Core and Pelvic Floor and a Certified Restore Your Core® Teacher. Restore Your Core® is a movement program, founded by Lauren Ohayon, that takes a whole-body approach to the Core and Pelvic Floor. It uses exercises that are a mixture of corrective exercises, yoga, pilates, and functional movement to help women reboot their core and pelvic floor. I educate my clients on the contributing factors to core and pelvic floor dysfunction, help them to uncover their movement blind spots and repattern their core and pelvic floor to be functional, reflexive, responsive, and supportive to their bodies. 

Here are some things I want my clients to consider and try in their Postpartum Recovery

  • Rest. Even if you are feeling good, you still went through a dramatic physiological experience and you still have a dinner plate sized wound on your uterus. I hear all the time from women who regret getting back into things too soon after birth but I have never heard a woman regret giving her body time and space to rest and heal. You have to think of it as an investment. This time you take to rest now, sets you up for a better recovery and getting back to the things you love sooner. 
  • Reconnect With Your Core. Your first 6 weeks do not have to be without movement but we want to be smart about how we approach it. You wouldn’t sprain an ankle, rest 6 weeks and then jump into the same movements you were doing before without doing some rehab. Your abdominal system just spent 9+ months rearranging itself and being stretched to new limits. Those early postpartum days are a great time to start reconnecting with your core, waking up your brain to this area of your body, and preparing your body to return to the daily movements of life and the activities you love. 

Where to start: Dandelion Breath. Sitting, standing, or laying down. Place one hand on your lower abdominals. Imagine you are holding a dandelion right in front of your mouth. Inhale, and then on a long exhale blow all the seeds off your dandelion and keep blowing smooth and steady until you have no air left. Did you feel a natural drawing in of your abdominals away from your hand? It’s okay if you didn’t. Try a set of 5 about 1-2 times a day. You may not feel it right away, but the more times you ask the stronger that brain connection will become and you will get there eventually! When you feel more comfortable with this exhale and feel that natural corseting in use this Dandelion Breathing whenever you are going to lift or exert. Remember, “Blow before you go.”

  • Show Your Back Some Love. Early post-partum can be a beast on the low back with all the sitting, feeding, bending over for changes and lifting out of the crib.

A few tips to try:

  • When sitting, try to sit on your sits bones (the bony parts you feel where your legs and butt meet) instead of letting your pelvis tuck under (don’t feel militant about this advice, slouching isn’t evil we just want you to change it up some!). You may find it easier to sit up if you place a pillow under your sits bones.
  • When you bend over, think about sticking your bottom out vs tucking your tail like a sad puppy dog. Also consider putting a step stool by your baby’s crib so you don’t have to round as much in the upper back to get baby in and out of the crib. This will allow you to use a squat for lifting and lowering baby putting less strain on the low back.

Working with me or a Pelvic Floor PT can be a great way to learn exercises for early postpartum and how you can progress them as you move through the 4th trimester and beyond. It is never too late to get started.  www.beccabeck.com or email: beccabeckmovement@gmail.com

Kyla Dunlavey

Kyla Dunlavey, PT at CorePhysio:

Hello! My name is Kyla Dunlavey and I am delighted to be included in this group of women! I have been an orthopedic/sports med physical therapist for almost 25 years and I launched my private practice Core Physio LLC in February 2021 with a special interest in helping active women stay active. I am originally from NW Pennsylvania and spent 14 years of my career at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington DC before moving back to Pennsylvania in 2018.
            I started my own practice in order to practice the way I wanted to… Instead of the typical PT clinic ‘mill’, I wanted to see fewer clients for longer sessions, offering the true one-on-one, in-depth, unique, holistic attention to my active clients deserve. I don’t do any internal pelvic floor work, but rather I approach the entire system through exercise, pressure management, breath work, and mindfulness. I refer as necessary to pelvic floor PT. I look at the entire person and empower them with knowledge about their bodies, movement, and the breath, for greater carryover into activities like running, or even just picking up and carrying a child!

I have an endless curiosity and fascination about the human body and I constantly strive to keep up on the latest research and treatment techniques, as what we know about the human body is continually evolving! Case in point, over the past few years, research has started honing in on the pelvic floor and its connection to low back, SI joint, and hip health…and vice versa! Not only this, but also identifying it’s buddy the diaphragm and proper breathing technique, as part of a missing link in establishing true core stability, along with its teammates: the pelvic floor, the abdominals, spinal extensors, and intra-abdominal pressure.
            The way women stand, move, and breath typically changes during pregnancy, as the baby grows and hormone levels alter. Ligaments become more lax, abdominals are on stretch, the back extensors may become taut, it’s difficult to get a breath down into the abdominal cavity, and postural alignment changes impacting optimal muscle recruitment like the glutes. This often carries over into postpartum life, impacting return to activity or just simply keeping up with the demands of motherhood. Women may experience things like diastasis recti, leaking (with coughing, sneezing, laughing, or jumping), hip pain, SI joint pain, pelvic floor pain, or low back pain. A bonus, in establishing proper breathing technique, is tapping into our parasympathetic nervous system which gets us out of the tense fight, flight or freeze state most of us stay in all day!
            Try the 10 minute-Time Out: Go to a quiet area. Have hubby watch the kids. If you don’t have 10 minutes, do 2 minutes! Lie down on the floor with your legs up on the wall and a pillow under your head, (or on your bed with legs up on the headboard if it is flat). Without getting into specifics of proper breathing, just breathe through the nose slowly for 4-5 seconds, letting go of any tension in the body. Exhale. How long did you exhale for? It should be at least 4-5 seconds, if not double your inhalation! How do you feel afterwards? Hopefully relaxed and energized!

If you think you might be interested in tackling your issues, call for free 15min consultation: 814.314.8880 www.TheCorePhysio.com

Mieke Haeck & family

Mieke Haeck, PT at Pelvic Shanti:

I have 20 years of experience working as a physical therapist. Born and raised in Belgium, I graduated from the Catholic University of Leuven as a Physical Therapist in 2001. Afterwards, I pursued a 2 year program at the University of Ghent to become an Orthopedic Manual Therapist. I have worked as a physical therapist across the world: in Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey, New York City and State College, PA. 

Becoming a mom in 2010, I became more acutely aware of the need for pelvic rehab in the US compared to Europe. I decided to expand my practice and become a Pelvic Health Specialist. I have done extensive continuing education through Herman and Wallace, the APTA Women’s Health Section, Pelvic Guru, and others. I take pride in staying up to date in the emerging field of pelvic rehab, women’s health physical therapy and pre- and postpartum care with extensive continuing education, literature, and books. 

I feel extremely passionate about providing the best possible care to all people experiencing challenges with their pelvic health. Being able to help people achieve their goals and highest potential is my biggest reward. 

Why Pelvic Shanti? 

Pelvic Shanti was founded to provide resources to women during their pregnancy and in the postpartum period (and beyond). A lot of the symptoms that we experience during this time in our lives are quite common but not normal. 

 We recommend a consultation with a pelvic floor physical therapist if you experience:

● Urinary or fecal incontinence 

● Urinary or fecal urgency 

● Heaviness, pressure, bulge or dragging in the pelvic area 

● Pain with sexual intercourse 

● Constipation 

● Rounded abdomen, separated abdominal muscles or decreased abdominal muscle strength 

● Hip, pelvic and low back pain 

We are here to answer all your questions and guide you as you return to your physical activities. To best support the new moms we work with, we offer office or in-home visits and remote consultations.  www.pelvicshanti.com

Dr. Rudavsky

Aliza Rudavsky, DPT, PhD

I’m a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and a researcher at Penn State University. My clinical practice focuses on treating women with pelvic floor problems like incontinence, pelvic pain and prolapse (heaviness in the pelvic organs), and my research aims to better understand pelvic floor muscle function, how it works with the rest of the trunk, and develop innovative new treatments for pelvic floor problems.

Pelvic floor physical therapy aims to restore optimal function in the muscles that support bowel and bladder use, sexual function, and keep the pelvic organs lifted. These muscles get stretched and can even tear during pregnancy or delivery and can contribute to problems of leaking (bowel or bladder), scar tissue or painful areas of the muscles, and poor support of pelvic organs causing dropping or prolapse. Treatment with a physical therapist may involve local pelvic floor interventions to improve the scarring, strength, mobility and tone in the muscles. It may also involve exercises and movements focused on the whole integrated body so people can return to the movement that matters most to them, whether that is playing on the floor with babies or training for a triathlon. In my practice, I treat the pelvis and pelvic floor as a piece of the puzzle and will also address the whole body and the whole individual.

I will be resuming my private practice in the spring/summer of 2022 and will provide updated information on my website: www.centered-physio.com

NOTE: Dr. Rudavsky will also be recruiting participants for her research in pelvic floor functioning in the spring of 2022. For more information on participating in pelvic floor research, please email Dr. Rudavsky at axr5794@psu.edu

In closing, I want to thank each one of these women for taking the time to share their thoughts, suggestions & tips as well as providing us with an introduction to themselves and the services they provide. If you’re local and end up using one of these providers, please let them know you read about them here! And if you’re not local, it’s my hope that you at least learned more about the services pelvic floor therapists, chiropractors and other professionals can provide to postpartum moms, and perhaps you can use this information to aid you in your search for good postpartum care. I know you won’t regret taking care of your body now and avoiding potential long-term challenges!

 If you’ve used a pelvic floor therapist, chiropractor or other professional during the 4th trimester and beyond, would you tell us about your experience?

2021 Year-End Update from Gentle Delivery

2021 Year-End Update from Gentle Delivery

As I think back over this past year, it is with a sense of gratefulness for the ways that God has led, protected and provided. 2021 has included more complications, challenges and adrenaline rushes than I’ve ever had in one year’s time since I began practicing as a midwife 12 years ago! The additional gray hairs accumulated over the months prove this, and I am ending the year feeling like I’ve gained a level of experience that I honestly wouldn’t have minded doing without. However, I’ve also been reminded that this is WHY a midwife takes training seriously, and I’m more committed than ever to doing my best to assist families in safe births, even when at times this requires a different birth location than what we had hoped for, or more invasive assistance than what I prefer to provide.

            Besides being the most intense year complication-wise and the most stressful year when it comes to constant changes & research due to the ever-changing Covid landscape, it was also my busiest year baby-wise! I had the honor of helping to welcome 6 girls and 11 boys by the time the last December babies arrived. Weight ranges were fairly average: smallest was 6#8oz and the biggest was 9#9oz. While a couple of little ones came a week or two early, most typically went on the later side with two babies waiting until 13 days past their due date. Three babies made child #6 for their families, and two boys were the first ones for their families. While there were several long labors and many hours spent with a family before the birth, one little guy was in a big enough hurry that he made his appearance in his home before I did! As usual, birth always has an element of surprise that keeps us all on our toes.

Lynelle, Myself & Lanna

            I was blessed to work with several great assistants this year! These ladies really help to lift my load, and add a lot to our team. After assisting with births throughout the past 6 years, Lynelle is sensing a need to step back for a time, so she won’t be seen as frequently in the next year. Lanna began helping this spring at the height of our busy season, and has been such a blessing! She will continue to assist as her schedule allows, and there’s the potential of another assistant joining the team in the near future. I’ve also been grateful for the continued help of the midwifery community here in central PA: other assistants and midwives have been willing to fill in as needed, and I’m thankful to have had help available whenever I’ve needed an extra set of hands or someone to cover for a trip or emergency. I was especially thankful for RoseMarie’s willingness to cover for me this fall when our family had COVID, and I was thankful for the baby who so beautifully cooperated in waiting to arrive until I was recovered and my family was past quarantine!

Guerrero, Mexico Summer 2021

            On the home front, my little family is growing and doing well! In spite of lots of babies and the craziness this adds to our calendar, we were thankful to get to spend some time camping over the summer, as well as taking a family trip to Mexico to visit missionaries serving with the organization my husband works for. I couldn’t serve as a midwife without the amazing support of my husband Joel, who graciously steps in to care for everyone when mama disappears at a moment’s notice. With children ranging in age from almost 2 to 10, life at home is always exciting and active, and my girls can’t wait until THEY are old enough to “help mama at births”.

            A big thank you to each one of you who have trusted me to support you as you navigated your pregnancies and deliveries—it is something I count a privilege and honor! I love to hear from families, so please feel free to send an update and picture when you have a chance!

Many blessings as you head into the New Year,

Kelsey Martin & Gentle Delivery Midwifery Services

Be sure to check out the blog and Facebook page to stay updated on current news, helpful information, health suggestions, birth stories, and announcement of special events such as playdates!

www.gentlemidwife.wordpress.com       facebook.com/gentledelivery

Follow gentlemidwife on Instagram!

Birth Story of our Christmas-time Baby

Birth Story of our Christmas-time Baby

As we enter into the Christmas season again, I have to think about the year we were anticipating our own Christmas baby, and what a delightful time of year it was to cozy up inside with a newborn! Our little Tirzah had quite the dramatic entrance into the world, and it almost makes me laugh every time I recount it…

By the time I was expecting my fifth baby, I knew to expect lots of contractions and discomfort, and this pregnancy was no exception. Thankfully my blood pressure was staying within normal limits, and everything else was proceeding smoothly. But after several nights with contractions and signs that labor could be imminent, I was getting TIRED. Once you loose that much sleep and feel heavy and uncomfortable all the time, you start to wonder how on earth you are going to make it through labor yet! One night I was pretty sure it was the “real deal”, after being up for hours with regular contractions, only to find everything stopped once the birth team was here and the pool was filled! Funny that it took the fifth child to experience that “false run”, but after not calling the midwife soon enough last time, we were trying to not repeat that scenario—only to send everyone home after a couple of hours!

My previous baby had come after an extremely intense labor, and I was trying hard to not allow fear to overcome my anticipation of this birth. Lynelle, my good friend and birth assistant, had told me that I really should try the birth pool this time around, and even offered to take care of all the set up and prep to make that happen. So we had set up the pool in the office, and had everything ready to go, and I was really hopeful that it would make a difference in the intensity, especially at the end.

Everything set up and ready go for round #1!

Fast forward a couple of days: after getting a good night’s sleep, I woke up on Saturday feeling like this baby needed to be encouraged to come. I’ve taken Castor Oil before, but every time I thought about that option it made me want to puke. So I figured there had to be an alternative: enter the Midwives Brew! I had read about this recipe (used often by European Midwives), but had always figured that the small amount of castor oil combined with the other strange ingredients wouldn’t actually be effective. But by this point I was willing to at least TRY it and see! My husband was on board (he was ready to see me up at night nursing a baby instead of up at night with contractions!), but I warned him that I really didn’t think it would work.

Mid-morning, I took my youngest for a little “mommy date”, and we headed to Wegman’s for a few groceries and the ingredients for the brew (see this post to find out what those are!). I had fun picking out a few things that I thought would sound good to eat or drink IF I was in labor later on, and we had a pleasant little outing. Once I returned home it was about lunch time, so while Joel fixed lunch, I blended up the brew, and sipped it down before eating a little lunch. While not the best flavor I’ve ever tasted, it wasn’t nearly as bad as downing large amounts of castor oil in juice!! My stomach felt a little funny, but eating some food and then chewing some gum seemed to settle things.

strange blend of ingredients!

This was the weekend that one of our little local Victorian towns always holds an event called “A Victorian Christmas”. That event combined with the opening of an exhibit of an Underground Railroad station in one of the museums there had made me want to take the children out for awhile if we were still waiting on a baby over that time. Since Joel had a Bible Study planned at our house for the afternoon, it felt like a great opportunity to take out the older children for some educational distraction and let me get a chance to think about something other than baby waiting! Since all I had been experiencing for two hours was some minor stomach discomfort, I decided to head out around 2:30pm, despite my husband’s slight misgivings. Laughingly I joked with him that if I called him he’d better answer the phone, as it might mean I needed him to come pick me up!

Bellefonte is about 10 min from our house, and we parked and went through the historical museum, only to find out that it did not contain the Underground Railroad Exhibit like I had thought. The curator pointed us up the road about half a block to the right museum, and the children and I headed that direction. Right as we hit the steps (around 3:30pm), I felt a slight “pop” and had a thought that perhaps my water had broken. But I wasn’t sure, and decided since we were RIGHT THERE we might as well go in. I felt a bit of dismay when the museum volunteer cheerily told us that the exhibit was on the top floor…UP THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS!! We started up the stairs when I felt my first real contraction, and I immediately thought that we’d better not stay long. The children were oblivious, of course, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring, while I tried to act like nothing was amiss as the contractions quickly started getting stronger and harder. I hurried them through the exhibit and back down the stairs, stopping briefly in the bathroom where I confirmed that indeed my water had broken. As we headed outside, my children excitedly discussed the next place we would go…and  I seriously informed them that we needed to get home NOW. They looked at me puzzled, and I told them I thought baby sister was going to be coming, to which my 6 year old son replied “how do you know? Your water hasn’t broken yet, has it?”. That made me laugh in spite of the situation, and when I told him it HAD, they all got really serious!

The half-block walk back to the car seemed to take forever, as the contractions were definitely picking up in speed and intensity. Once we pulled out and started on the road, I called Joel. The first time he didn’t answer, but then when the phone rang the second time he figured he’d better pick up! I told him that labor had begun, and to please have all the Bible study men out of the house by the time I got home and figure out where the boys were supposed to go…and to pray I could drive home safely! Next I called my friend Lynelle, as I knew that she would need to get a babysitter for her children, and I really wanted her free to get the pool started if things continued. Once I was finished with this phone call I knew I couldn’t make any more calls and drive, as things were just too intense. It was all I could do to stay focused on driving! I kept praying a policeman wouldn’t pull me over, as I had no bandwidth to explain why I was headed home instead of to the hospital!

I reached home, and our friend Daniel had his van running so he could pull out with the boys as soon as I arrived with Matthias. I pulled in the garage around 4:20, and had a massive contraction that made me unable to even get out of the vehicle. I heard Joel on the phone—he had called our midwife to see if I had called her yet (I hadn’t!! She was next, but I couldn’t make another call after I talked with Lynelle!), and she said she’d be on her way. I still remember running inside to the bathroom, trying to focus on relaxing, and coming to grips with the fact that at this rate I would not be having a water birth, then Joel calling through the door “the pool is warm and half way filled if you want to get in!!”  He had so sweetly started filling the pool, turning on the music, and getting things ready the minute I called home! I told him he’d better call Lynelle and Priscilla (our friend who was going to come help with our girls and take pictures), and they’d better hurry, and I still remember the relief of settling into the warm pool.

Just a minute or so old! Pink all over except for her slightly bruised face which was caused by her speedy birth!

Once I got in the water, the intensity and closeness of the contractions subsided, and I had a chance in between to catch up Joel on all that had transpired. Lynelle and Priscilla don’t live far, and arrived within a few minutes, and I still remember us all laughing in between contractions as the craziness of how fast things were happening! It wasn’t long before I felt the pressure of Tirzah’s head descending, and Lynelle was ready to help in anyway she could. Priscilla called our girls in, and they all clustered around the pool, quiet with excitement and anticipation. This time around I didn’t want anyone to touch me (other than squeezing Joel’s hand!), and I have never experienced the awareness during pushing as I did with this birth. It was an incredible experience to actually breathe her out and catch her myself—something I don’t think I could have done without the help of the water! I pulled her up to my chest, she cried right away, and we settled back in the warm water, both amazed at all that had happened. It was 4:42pm, only 20 minutes after I had arrived home!!

Sisters!

My girls were so delighted to help welcome their little sister, and their eyes shown as they stroked her head, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sit back and relax and catch my breath. Being in the warm water seemed to decrease my usual after-birth shakes, and we had a long chance to connect and rest. Rose Marie arrived about 20 min later, and since I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet, daddy and the girls took baby sister to the other room while I transitioned to the birth stool where the placenta came easily. I was feeling good enough (and minimal blood loss!) that I showered quickly, and then cozied up on the couch while our midwife and friends did all the baby checks, and Joel popped a pizza into the oven. Eventually Priscilla went to bring the boys home to meet their sister, and we had a lovely evening rejoicing in our new gift. I had never had a daytime baby, and I couldn’t believe how good I felt and how I was hardly even tired! After everyone had some supper and everything was cleaned up and taken care of, I took our new baby upstairs, and we cuddled up together for the night-so thankful for the amazing experience, and still in a bit of unbelief!

Our Fantastic Birth Team!!
Immune Support For Pregnancy

Immune Support For Pregnancy

Supporting your Immune System during Pregnancy

As we head into flu season and continue to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, I wanted to share some suggestions for pregnant moms wanting to boost their immune systems. There are so many ways we can proactively support our bodies in order to provide better resistance to germs and illness, and possibly prevent severe sickness. Many women find their immune systems face greater stress during pregnancy, so it’s extra important to try to support your body as it grows a baby while exposed to germs!

Before mentioning specific supplements, it’s important to remember that there are some key factors that also play into your overall health. These factors include:

  • Sufficient, regular sleep: you need ENOUGH sleep to support your body’s needs, and these needs are often increased during pregnancy. Make a habit of going to bed early enough to get the hours of sleep you need! If you’re having trouble sleeping, let your midwife know (I have some suggestions for pregnancy-induced insomnia, so don’t hesitate to reach out!).
  • Reduce Stress Levels: stress wears your body down, and makes it harder for your immune system work properly.
  • Eat a healthful, whole-foods diet with lots of variety. If you need information on what a good pregnancy diet looks like, I highly recommend Lily Nichols’ book Real Food For Pregnancy (check out her blog for helpful info, as well: Lily Nichols, RDN)
  • Stay hydrated: this helps to keep your body flushed and supported.
  • Add fermented foods to your diet, such as raw sauerkraut, kefir, etc.
  • Get 15-20 min of direct sunshine daily whenever possible!
  • Exercise regularly, especially in the fresh air: a 30 min walk outdoors daily is excellent for ALL pregnant moms!

Consider the following supplements daily (check with your prenatal vitamin to determine your needed dosage to reach the recommended levels below):

  • High Quality Probiotic: it’s no secret that our culture’s frequent antibiotic usage and lack of cultured and fermented foods are contributing to inadequate and/or imbalanced intestinal flora and correlating issues. A good probiotic with multiple different strains can help your body to work the way it should! One that specifically targets Candida overgrowth can be especially helpful in supporting the immune system. Klair Labs and Jarrow are two brands I recommend, but there are many options out there!
  • Vitamin C (preferably with bioflavonoids) 2000mg daily: this can be split up throughout the day.
  • Vitamin D3  4,000IU daily: for best absorption take with a meal containing fat.
  • Zinc lozenges  5-10mg daily: preferably in the form of acetate.
  • Elderberry  1-2TBL daily

When needing extra support (feeling run down, extra or direct exposure to illness, etc.) you may want to add the following to your regimen for 7-10 days:

  • Gargle with Salt Water 2-3x/day for 15-30 seconds.
  • Echinacea: 300-500mg dried herb (capsule or tablet) 3x/day or 2.5-5mL of tincture up to 3x/day
  • Astralagus, Garlic, Ginger & Green Tea
  • Bone Broth (find instructions for making high-quality bone broth at Broth is Beautiful: Weston A. Price Foundation)

The following are some combination immune boosting blends that are wonderful to have on hand for extra immune support (they contain combinations of the above suggestions):

A few years ago I posted some additional tips and suggestions on preparing for cold season, and you can find that post here: Preparing for Cold Season: Pregnancy-safe Suggestions

For those wanting to learn more and get further tips, check out the following links:

Lily Nichols on Vitamin D

Mama Natural: Boosting Your Immune System

Aviva Romm: Natural Prevention for Covid 19 in Pregnancy

American Pregnancy: Boost Immunity During Pregnancy

Preventing Group B Strep Colonization in Pregnancy

Preventing Group B Strep Colonization in Pregnancy

For clients of Gentle Delivery, you know that routine Group B Strep testing is offered to every expectant mom in accordance with the ACOG standards of care. While the pros and cons of testing and subsequent treatment plans are discussed in detail elsewhere, the purpose of this post is to help you to minimize your risk of developing Group B Strep colonization during pregnancy, thus promoting better health for you and baby (and increasing your chances of obtaining a negative test result!).

If you are interested in researching Group B Strep info, I’d strongly encourage you to read Aviva Romm’s article: Group B Strep in Pregnancy: What’s a Mom to do? You’ll find clear explanations of GBS, risks and benefits of antibiotic treatment, and tips on promoting health. This post by Wellness Mama also includes further links for study along with Katie’s suggestions for avoiding GBS colonization with natural methods: How I Avoided GBS Naturally  And finally, this article provides a few other options to consider while making decisions on prevention and treatment: Decrease Your Chances of GBS

As a practicing CPM in a state that does not offer licensure, I am currently unable to offer IV antibiotic treatment to GBS+ clients. This increases my desire to do all I can to help support a mom’s immune system and decrease the possibility of a GBS+ test result, as it greatly simplifies the care protocols and necessary decision making for clients and their families!

So here are the primary suggestions for making your vaginal flora inhospitable to Group B Strep:

  • High Quality Probiotics (if not started early on in pregnancy, then beginning at 28-32 weeks orally, adding vaginal support at 32-34 weeks)

“Many species of Lactobacillus have been shown to be beneficial to the vaginal flora; Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosis are species known to be especially helpful for supporting healthy vaginal (and bladder) flora, while these and others, including L crispatus and L. salivarius strains, have been shown to to inhibit the growth of vaginal pathogens including Gardnerella vaginalis and Candida albicans, and also reducing the frequency of bladder infections in addition to vaginal infection.

In one study, 110 pregnant women at 35-37 weeks of gestation who were diagnosed by GBS culture as being GBS positive for both vaginal and rectal GBS colonization were randomly assigned to be orally treated with two placebo capsules or two probiotic capsules (containing L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri ) before bedtime until delivery. All women were tested for vaginal and rectal GBS colonization again by GBS culture on admission for delivery. Of the 99 who completed the study (49 in the probiotic group and 50 in the placebo group), the GBS colonization results changed from positive to negative in 21 women in the probiotic group (42.9%) and in nine women in the placebo group (18.0%) during this period. The researchers concluded that an oral probiotic containing L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri could reduce the vaginal and rectal GBS colonization rate in pregnant women.

In another study involving 57 healthy pregnant women, L. salivarus was taken daily by the 25 GBS positive women in the group from weeks 26 to 38 of pregnancy. At the end of the trial (week 38), 72% and 68% of the women were GBS-negative in the rectal and vaginal samples, respectively. The researchers concluded that this seemed to be an efficient method to reduce the number of GBS-positive women during pregnancy, decreasing the number of women receiving antibiotic treatment during labor and birth.”  (copied from Aviva Romm’s article here)

In light of these studies, and knowing that probiotics are vitally important to the health of both mom and infant for a variety of reasons, supplementing regularly with probiotics during pregnancy can be beneficial in more ways than one. For GBS specific support, it’s recommended that you begin supplementing orally at 28-32 weeks (though earlier is even better!), and then increasing your oral dosage and consider using a probiotic vaginally for at least 2-4 weeks before your Group B Strep test (and then continue the oral support through the rest of your pregnancy).

As you shop for probiotics, pay attention to the different strains it includes, as not all probiotics are created equal, and they will be most effective against GBS strains if it includes L. Rhamnosus, L. Reuteri and L. Salivarus.

Some brand suggestions that other midwives have given me are:

  • Diet Support
    • Eating a diet high in fermented foods/drinks (kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, etc.) help to promote a healthy gut flora.
    • Eliminating sugar and simple carbs are also effective in promoting beneficial gut flora.
    • Add 1-2 tbl of coconut oil into your daily diet for it’s antibiotic properties, specifically in the few weeks prior to testing.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar consumed daily or in capsule form may be helpful.
  • Vitamin C
    • Consuming 1000-2000mg of high quality vitamin C daily (in divided does) can help to increase your body’s immune response, which makes it more difficult for unhealthy microorganisms to grow. You can begin this regimen around 30 weeks.
  • Garlic/Allicin (active component of garlic)
    • Garlic has been used as an antimicrobial agent for generations, and for good reason. However, high doses of garlic can cause blood thinning, so I don’t recommend staying on high doses of garlic or allicin after obtaining your GBS test. But it is a treatment to consider to reduce the possibility of GBS colonization before getting tested. Currently there is a midwife practice conducting a study where participants are instructed to use Allicin Gel 2x daily for 12-14 days along with ingesting 180mg of Allicin capsules 2x daily for 12-14 days prior to testing. The basis for this study is from a preliminary study done in 2009 where Allicin was shown to reduce the possibility of early rupture of membranes and chorioamnionitis, both of which can be complications of GBS infection. Other methods of using garlic include: taking garlic capsules daily, consume raw garlic daily, and/or insert a raw garlic clove vaginally at night before going to bed.

            While we still have a lot to learn about Group B Strep (how exactly it is transmitted, best ways to treat it, and how to prevent it from the beginning), and while there still seem to be a few moms who naturally carry Group B Strep bacteria in their vaginal tract no matter what they try to do about it (antibiotic or otherwise!), one of the benefits of utilizing these suggestions is that they promote health for mom and baby regardless of the GBS presence (or lack thereof). While obtaining a negative Group B Strep test does eliminate a certain amount of worry, risk and decisions, the benefit to your body of increasing the good bacteria and gut flora through healthy foods, probiotic supplementation and other factors may provide long-term benefits that you will see later on. I’d highly encourage every pregnant mom to consider these suggestions, and wish each of you a healthy and safe pregnancy and birth!

            I’d also love to hear: did you try any of these prevention methods? How did it affect you and your GBS status? Did you test positive in one pregnancy and then negative in another? What was most beneficial for you?

Anemia During Pregnancy & Postpartum: what it is & what to do about it

Anemia During Pregnancy & Postpartum: what it is & what to do about it

If you are like many moms, struggling with low energy can be a challenge during pregnancy. Understanding how to support your body as it faces the increased demands of growing a baby can help you to have a better experience, and improve your recovery during the postpartum weeks. For many moms, the lack of energy is due to low hemoglobin levels, which can be linked to low iron. There are many ways to boost these levels naturally, thus providing your body & baby with the nutrients they both need in order to thrive!

What is Hemoglobin?

In a nutshell, hemoglobin is component of your blood that carries oxygen to your cells. If your hemoglobin count is low, you can experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Low energy
  • General Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath (especially after climbing stairs or exerting yourself)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

How do I find out if I have low hemoglobin?

Having routine labwork performed during pregnancy can tell you where your hemoglobin levels are. In my practice, we often check these levels towards the beginning of pregnancy, and then again after you reach 28 weeks of pregnancy. As you progress in pregnancy, your blood volume expands, preparing you to be able to handle the blood loss that occurs with delivery. For many women, their total volume increases over 25%, and tends to peak by the time you hit the beginning of the third trimester. Testing your hemoglobin soon after 28 weeks tells us how your body has handled this blood volume expansion, and gives us time to really hit support should your levels be low at this point in pregnancy.

What if my hemoglobin levels are low?

If your results are low, my first step is to look at all of your lab results to see if we can get a clue as to WHY they are low. There are a few different types of anemia, and the two most common in my practice are:

  • Iron Deficiency: caused by a lack of iron, which can show up as low hemoglobin combined with a low hematocrit ratio on your lab results.
  • B12/Folate Deficiency Anemia: caused by a lack of adequate B12 vitamins and folate, and can be indicated by an elevated “mean corpuscular volume” (abnormally large red blood cells) on your lab results in combination with a low hemoglobin level.

In occasional instances, low hemoglobin levels can also happen if a mom bleeds excessively after delivery. This is one of the reasons that it is so important to get your hemoglobin in an optimal place before birth, as it increases the body’s ability to handle blood loss. But if your hemoglobin is low and you need iron support after having your baby, the following suggestions will also pertain to you!

What can I do to bring up my hemoglobin?

Some key factors to consider as you weigh your options for iron and vitamin support:

  • Typically natural-based supplements take consistency and time to really be effective. This is why to start helping your body early, as the body will then have time to respond. Many iron and vitamin supports will take one to two weeks to really start working to bring levels up.
  • Look for products and options that are whole-food or plant based when possible, as these will cause less constipation and be able to be more easily utilized by your body.
  • Pay attention to labels, and stay away from supplements that contain synthetic ingredients. This is particularly key when it comes to “folate”, as you do NOT want the synthetic form called “folic acid”. Due to genetic issues, many women are unable to adequately absorb synthetic folic acid and synthetic forms of B vitamins, which increases the specific problem of B12/folate deficiency anemia. To understand more about folate and the importance of methylated vitamins, check out this article here by Wellness Mama.

Now onto options for increasing iron levels!

Borderline anemia: if your levels are borderline, and you are looking for some general ways to boost your levels and provide more support to your body, these are some great ways to start:

  • Use cast iron cookware for cooking.
  • Eat foods high in iron (beans, lentils, red meat, liver, spinach, turkey, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, black strap molasses, etc.)
  • Increase your vitamin C intake with a high-quality Vitamin C supplement once or twice daily.
  • Make sure you aren’t mixing calcium supplements with your iron-rich foods or supplements (they will block the absorption of the other, negating the benefits of either one!)
  • Alfalfa Tablets, Moringa capsules & Yellow Dock tincture.
  • Drink several cups Red Raspberry Leaf tea daily during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters (and during postpartum as well), or drink several cups of NORA tea daily (a combination of Nettles, Oatstraw, Red Raspberry Leaf and Alfalfa). To learn my favorite recipe for Red Raspberry Leaf, click here or for NORA tea, check out this link.

True Anemia Support: for those who need to seriously boost their hemoglobin levels, here are some additional supplements to consider, in addition to the list above:

Many moms have found this combination very effective at bringing up their iron quickly (combined with some of the above suggestions):

  • Liquid Chlorophyll (drink 2-3 tablespoons daily, and 1/4c. daily during the first week postpartum)
  • Hemaplex Tablets (make sure it’s these tablets, as they do not contained the synthetic forms of folate)
  • Desiccated Liver capsules (grass-fed organic is best)

Others have found the combination of Chlorophyll with one or two of the following to work for them:

For additional information on anemia during pregnancy, I’d encourage you to check out the following links:

And for more suggestions on anemia in general, Aviva Romm has some great suggestions here: Aviva Romm on Anemia

I’d love to hear from you: what has helped to bring your hemoglobin up, and help you have adequate iron levels during pregnancy and postpartum?

Basic Supplements for a Healthy Pregnancy

Basic Supplements for a Healthy Pregnancy

Are you confused with the myriad of pregnancy supplements out there, and wondering how to make the best choices that are good for you & baby while at the same time not depleting your budget? Have you wondered, too, which supplements are key and which aren’t actually necessary? And which supplements are going to actually provide you with the nutrients you need? And what are the basic supplements you should focus on? You’re certainly not alone in your musings!

As a midwife and a mom, I’ve had the same questions. I also know that it can be overwhelming to sort through brands, AND remember to take multiple vitamins and pills every day, especially if they have to happen at different times. I also want to make sure the moms and babies I’m caring for are getting the nutrients they need, which means NOT relying on the cheapest brands and options. If you’ve spent any amount of time researching options, you know that there lots of things to consider as you think about vitamins and supplements. Ideally, you want to use a brand that focuses on whole foods, organic sources, and includes bio-available nutrients (such as folate instead of synthetic folic acid). Of course, these vitamins aren’t going to be the cheapest ones available, which means that you will want to choose wisely, and consider using fewer supplements and making sure the ones you ARE taking are high-quality!

For those who have wondered, here is a list of the basic supplements that I routinely recommend to clients. Of course, more need to be added in the presence of specific conditions, but for most moms, these are the basics that I would encourage any mom to take during pregnancy (and while you’re nursing!):

For special considerations, these are typically the first recommendations:

  • B Vitamin (if dealing with low energy especially: your midwife can do blood tests to determine if it’s caused in part by a B vitamin or folate deficiency).
  • Iron (if low energy seems to be iron deficiency related)
  • Magnesium drink at night before bedtime to help promote restful sleep: Natural Calm
  • Trace Minerals to help with restless legs, leg cramps, muscle soreness: ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops

Most moms with low-risk pregnancies who are consuming a high-quality diet don’t need more than these to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby! For more information on understanding diet & supplements and their effect on mom and baby’s health (and what ingredients are important to be aware of!), I’d highly encourage you to check out the following sites:

Dr. Aviva Romm on Prenatal Vitamins

Lily Nichols on Folate vs. Folic Acid

Lily Nichols-information on diet and nutrition during pregnancy

And finally, if you’re looking for a place to purchase vitamins and supplements, I encourage all my clients to check out www.vitacost.com, as I typically find the best prices at that site!

I’d love to hear what prenatal vitamins and other supplements have worked for you! Feel free to share in the comments below so we can all learn together. And be sure to share this post with other moms that might benefit from the links and information!

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!