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!!
Probiotics: A Key for Fussy Babies?

Probiotics: A Key for Fussy Babies?

IMG_3751-001

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.

Tips for Boosting Your Milk Supply: Recipes & Supplements

Tips for Boosting Your Milk Supply: Recipes & Supplements

IMG_33633333

As I write this, I’m sitting here nursing my fifth child who will be 7 weeks old tomorrow. My experience with nursing and milk supply has been different with each child, as you may know if you’ve read this blog over the years. All of my babies have had issues with tongue and lip-ties, some of which were quickly resolved, and others where that wasn’t the case. One nursed well and gained quickly, another nursed okay, but I had to be very careful as my supply would tank quickly if I was extra busy or exercised much. Both of my boys struggled for months, with both of them needing to be supplemented and then fully bottle-fed by around 4-6 months (you can read about their stories and some of the things I learned and experienced here and here). With both of them, the challenges of poor nursing/latch also resulted in really low supply on my part. Those days were so long & discouraging. If you’re in the position of facing lots of challenges with feeding your baby, I totally get you!

So in preparing for baby #5, I had no idea what to expect. I did know I wanted to be prepared for lots of challenges just in case. We were also planning to do a significant amount of traveling when baby was still very young, and I wanted to make sure to have things on hand to boost my supply if it was needed, as I’ve learned from experience that it is MUCH easier to encourage a robust milk supply if you don’t let it drop too far to begin with! Before baby Tirzah was born, I spent some time researching additional options to add to my list of things to help boost supply.

IMG_3347 (2)This experience has been different yet! The first few weeks found baby gaining really slowly (she lost a pound after birth, and took three weeks to regain it!), which of course had me worried after everything that happened with my previous baby. But around 3 weeks old, things began to shift, and her suck got stronger and she began to gain weight! By now, at 7 weeks, she is a healthy, chunky 11 pounds, which means she has put on 2 pounds in just over 2 weeks! I thought perhaps there might be some other moms out there looking for ways to increase and improve their milk supply, so I’m going to share some of my favorite suggestions…some of these I found helpful when I was exclusively pumping for baby #4, and they have gone on to be helpful this time around.

If you are needing to establish or boost supply, your first step is to nurse frequently!! Lots of skin-to-skin time, especially in those first weeks, really helps to establish that supply, as well as nursing whenever baby is interested and for however long (and make sure the don’t go longer than 3 hours during the night those first few weeks!). Next, remember to drink lots of fluids. I would keep a water bottle at my bedside so that I would drink throughout the night (along with a snack!), which I continued to do until I was confident that my supply was adequate. Throughout the day make sure to keep drinking large amounts, as it really helps your body as it manufactures milk for that little one! And don’t forget that your body needs lots of nourishing calories to feed a second person-remember that your baby is still depending upon you for all of his/her nutrition, and baby is now bigger (and growing rapidly!), so now is not the time to cut back or diet. You actually need an additional 500 calories than what you needed while pregnant!

Besides these three things, here are some other supplements that I have found really give my milk production a boost (and just a side note, these are NOT affiliate links, so I’m not benefiting in any way by suggesting these!):

Maxi-Milk by Mountain Meadow Herbs has been one of my favorite supplements over the years. I began taking it twice a day around day 3 postpartum this time, just to give my body a boost since baby was loosing weight and I wanted to get my milk supply off to a good start as it started coming in. This is the one supplement I have always kept on hand after each baby, and any time I feel my supply dropping, I start taking it, and can see a difference within 24 hours. It’s especially helpful during those days when baby has a growth spurt and wants to eat all the time, and you can feel your body struggling to keep up with baby’s demands!

Legendairy Prouducts offers several different supplements for helping build and maintain milk supply. I had heard about them in the past year, and had them recommended to me by other moms who had tried them. I knew I would be dealing with more stress and less sleep while traveling with such a young baby this time around, so I started adding the “Liquid Gold” supplements to my daily routine. I’m now trying the “Cash Cow”, and both seem to be helpful! I was especially intrigued by their formulas and the lack of fenugreek, as my babies tend to have very sensitive tummies, and have not always done well with the traditional high-fenugreek content of other supplements.

Moringa is a green super-food type supplement, that has been used for a variety of health reasons, but has a history of helping to encourage milk production. Check out the link to find out more about it! I take it each morning at breakfast.

Spirulina is similar to Moringa, and is recommended for boosting supply and the nutrition-density of mom’s milk. This is the first time I’ve tried taking it regularly for this purpose, but it’s one of those supplements that has so many benefits that it sure can’t hurt to add it to a new mom’s daily regimen! Once again, click on the link to find out more of it’s benefits.

When it comes to adding some nutrient-dense calories, AND keeping good, quick snacks on hand for a hungry (and busy!) nursing moms, these two recipes below are my favorites. They include such things as nutritional yeast, oatmeal (oatmeal is an old-time favorite to boost milk supply!), flax-meal, coconut oil, and other great ingredients to feed and nourish a new mom and baby. The first recipe is one that my mother-in-law perfected during the year I was trying desperately to increase my milk supply for my little guy who had so many nursing issues. They are super yummy while also having great ingredients. When I was exclusively pumping, I could see first-hand how these helped to keep my supply up! The second recipe is a variation of a granola bar that a friend brought to me after I had my third child-ever since then, I always make a big batch of these around the time baby is due, as it is a wonderful snack to have on hand for those first weeks of nursing round the clock (I keep one beside my bed for nighttime feedings during the first few weeks!).

Grandma Martin’s Lactation Cookies

1&1/2 sticks softened butter
4 TBSP coconut oil
1 & 1/2 cups organic sugar  (I use coconut sugar)
5 TBSP Brewers Yeast
3 TBSP ground flaxseed (golden tastes the best!)
2 eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp EACH salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon
1 TBSP ground Fennel seed
1tsp ground Fenugreek (I grind these 2 together in coffee grinder)
1 & 1/2 cups flour (for Gluten Free cookies use 1/2 cup each of brown rice flour & whole oat flour and 1/2 cup of another flour)
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
Chocolate chips or raisins as desired.

Roll into balls, place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Makes 3 dozen. These freeze well, and taste delicious frozen!

Energy Bars/Balls

1 cup warmed honey

1 cup natural peanut butter (or almond butter)

½ cup oat bran (or oatmeal ground really fine)

1/2 cup golden flax meal

1 cup unsweetened coconut

1/3 cup seeds (sunflower, chia, etc.)

1 c. chopped nuts (I like to use a blend of mixed nuts, though just almonds or pecans work as well)

1/2 tsp Celtic or Himalayan Pink salt

2 + cups old fashioned oats (enough to make mixture thick enough to form balls or press)

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all together and form into balls or press into a pan to form bars, refrigerate until firm. I like to cut these into bars and wrap them individually for a quick on-the-go snack.

IMG_3335 (2)

In closing, I’d love to hear about what has helped you to maintain a good milk supply for your little one(s)! If you try any of these supplements or recipes, let me know what your results are. Blessings as you nourish your baby today!

Pregnancy Health: Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Pregnancy Health: Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

IMG_9335

For a bit of a different post this month, I’m passing on one of my favorite ways to drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. Perhaps you’ve heard of this “women’s health” herb-there are seriously so many reasons why you should be consuming Red Raspberry Leaf on a regular basis, even when you’re not pregnant! It’s high in minerals and vitamins that your body needs, and has the added benefit during pregnancy of helping to tone and prepare your uterus in preparation for labor. In light of this fact, it’s wise to avoid this herb during the first trimester, as that is one season in which your uterus needs no extra stimulation. But once you reach the second trimester, I highly recommend making this supplement part of your daily routine. You can receive benefits by taking this herb in capsule or tincture form, but tea form is a great way to get the maximum benefit out of this particular herb.

If you’re wanting to learn more about the benefits of Red Raspberry Leaf, here are some great resources to check out:

One of the downsides to this tea, though, is that it doesn’t remotely taste like raspberry! And if yours does, the you’re drinking the wrong thing! If I drink red raspberry leaf tea straight, it doesn’t take long to be turned off-which is why today I’m sharing with you my favorite way to make it. If you have a favorite method, share it in the comments below so we can benefit from it, too!

IMG_8965

First, gather your ingredients:

  • Organic Cut & Sifted Red Raspberry Leaves (I use Frontier Co-op brand that I purchased through Amazon)
  • Raspberry Zinger Herbal Tea Bags from Celestial Seasonings
  • Lemon
  • Stevia or your choice of sweetener (honey also works)-pictured above is the NuNaturals Pure Extract Stevia that I use.
  • Purified Water

Fill a small pot with about 4 c. of purified water, bring to a boil. Turn off and add your tea: I like to use several re-usable tea strainers, that I fill with Red Raspberry leaves. For one batch, I use about 1/3c. total of loose leaves. Then I add four bags of Raspberry Zinger tea, to help improve the flavor. Stir this around, then cover and let steep for about 20-30 min.

Pour your concentrated tea into a glass pitcher (about a half gallon), and add the juice of half a lemon. Next, add a few dashes of stevia or other sweetener to taste. Fill the rest of your pitcher with purified water, and let sit until cool. Pour over ice, and enjoy! I store this in the fridge, and drink it cold, and I can consume so much more tea this way. Even my children love it!

“The First Birth”: A Story from 18 Years Ago

“The First Birth”: A Story from 18 Years Ago

Not the baby featured in this story, but another baby born early on in my training!

From the time I was young (8 years old or so!), I had an interest in midwifery. I’m sure it stemmed from the fact that my mother used midwives for her pregnancies and the births of my five younger siblings, which gave me exposure to this “alternative” type of care. This was back in the day when having babies at home was NOT the popular, photographed and blogged about way to have your baby as it has become today! The midwives that cared for my mother seemed like an extension of our family, and as a young girl growing up, they were certainly some of my heroes that I wanted to become like when I “grew up”.

I think I was about 14 when I seriously felt like midwifery was something I wanted to pursue. Still very young and extremely inexperienced…with no idea what all this profession entails! I had read lots of missionary biographies, and a common experience in most of them included helping in some way (either unexpectedly or because they were prepared!) in childbirth in various countries.  So it seemed to my 14-yr-old mind that this was certainly a skill that would be good to know, and I pictured myself helping women in some far-off jungle or desert clinic someday. As I got older, I continued to feel a major pull towards midwifery that wouldn’t go away.

By the time I was 16, I was convinced this is what I needed to start pursuing. My parents wisely recommend that I begin by doing some reading, and they told me that they thought I should probably try to attend a few births before diving in head-first in a midwifery study program. Their reasoning was that perhaps this was just a passing whim, and why sink all sorts of time, energy and money into something only to find out that I would faint at the sight of blood, or have some other sort of aversion to what all comes with the birth territory. This is no joke. I personally know people who were SURE midwifery was what they wanted to do, but when they faced the nitty gritty, it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t their calling after all!

So, the next question was how on earth was I going to get any birth experience in, seeing as I was so young and inexperienced?!? I figured I would have to wait years for the opportunity, though I was reminded that if God wanted it to happen, He could figure out a way. That’s what makes my first birth experience so special-it was completely unexpected!

The summer that I was to turn 17 found me helping several families out on a weekly basis, going in to care for children, clean, cook, or do whatever was needed as a mother’s helper. One family was expecting their fourth child that summer, and they were excitedly planning their first homebirth in our state. Seeing as they had several young children, and that I had been spending a lot of time with them over a number of months, they asked if I would be on call to come and help babysit when the mom went into labor. This was the plan, with a backup plan being set where the children could go to a neighbor family’s home if the mom decided she could relax better without children in the house.

So one hot (Kansas is REALLY hot in July!) day, I got a call that the mom was in early labor, and that they would be glad if I could come care for the children so she could concentrate on resting and relaxing. I went over and made supper, took care of some household things, and entertained the children so mom and dad could focus together. An hour or so after supper, the mom decided that she would prefer the children leave the house, which left me thinking that I should probably go since my job was done. But the mom looked at me and said “I want the children to go, but you are to stay. I don’t want you going anywhere.” I sure wasn’t going to argue with that! She then went on to tell me that she wanted me to rub her back “just so” while her husband finished setting up the birth supplies and called the midwives, which I was more than happy to do. All of a sudden things kicked right in, and I vividly remember both parents bemoaning the fact that they hadn’t studied better on how to catch a baby if the midwife didn’t make it! I was blissfully ignorant, as I was only aware of my own mother’s very long labors, and figured we still had a very long night ahead of us. Little did I know!

I continued my “job” applying back counter-pressure as dad set up birth supplies, sweated nervously as he watched the signs of his wife progressing rapidly, read his childbirth class manual, and gave his wife emotional support. Thankfully, the midwives arrived just as mom started feeling more pressure, and all the last details were quickly set up and ready to go. About half an hour after the midwives arrived, a beautiful, howling, red little boy made his safe and smooth appearance, and I was in awe. I had no idea birth could be this beautiful, and I was so very, very grateful for the amazing opportunity. I was flying pretty high for days after this experience, and as you can imagine, I was totally convinced that this was what I wanted to do.

What is really hard to believe is that this baby will turn 18 this summer…I cannot believe that time has flown, and this many years have passed. After this first birth, I attended random births that I was invited to (word started getting around that I was interested, and some very sweet, very brave women invited me to share in their experiences, for which I will always be grateful!), and eventually began midwifery school when God opened the doors. It’s now been over 10 years since I graduated and started my own practice, and I continue to be thankful for those who initially helped me to start down this path by allowing me to be present at such personal, private life events.  As I continue to reflect back on memories and celebrate 10 years of practice, I want to especially thank each of you moms and midwives who took this very young girl under their wing and gave her experiences that will last a lifetime!

I’m so privileged to be involved in this work of ushering life into the world!

Preparing Well for Postpartum Recovery

Preparing Well for Postpartum Recovery

The longer that I am a mom and midwife, the more I have come to realize how important it is to adequately rest and recover after giving birth. But this does not “just happen”…it takes some serious thought and planning!! Why is it that we spend hours and hours preparing for pregnancy and birth, yet no time or focus is given to what happens AFTER the baby arrives? With this in mind, I’m hoping that these questions and comments will help families to come up with a plan on how to cultivate an intentionally restful and healing postpartum period. I’d encourage you as a couple to sit down and talk about these questions, and figure out what you could do to be better prepared emotionally, mentally and physically for the initial 6 weeks after giving birth.

If you want to read more about some of my own favorite items to have nearby during the initial days postpartum, check out the link here

Reading and Preparation:

Let’s start with some book suggestions. We spend lots of time reading books about pregnancy and birth, right?!? So why not read about how to care for oneself postpartum? Here are some titles to get you started. I’ll note that I don’t endorse everything these authors share, but I do appreciate the way they help me to think through our thoughts and expectations surrounding postpartum adjustments and recovery.

Some Facts to Consider:

As you talk about your expectations for postpartum, it’s good to think about some facts, especially for the dads who wonder if it’s really necessary for mom to spend so much time resting! I love to show the new parents the placenta after the birth, which is generally the size of a small dinner plate. Picture a wound of the same size on the inside of mom’s uterus. Seriously! That’s the wound that needs to heal, and even though the uterus continues to contract and get smaller over those first days/weeks, there is a still a significant amount of healing that needs to happen inside. Add to this any amount of blood loss, any stitches/tears, the length of labor, swelling, and the amount of work it takes to push a baby out, and you can quickly see why it’s important for mom to take care of herself! All of a sudden the reasoning behind “not lifting anything heavier than your baby” makes complete sense, doesn’t it? Along the same note, almost anyone recovering from any type of surgery is usually given a two week minimum recovery time…new moms need AT LEAST that long!

As the postpartum days progress, mom’s body is going through a lot of changes, which include a drop in hormones from the expulsion of the placenta and baby, and a surge of more hormones as her body transitions into producing milk. Keep this in mind those first days…mood swings and emotional roller coasters are NORMAL. But it sure helps if you are expecting that as part of those initial days. And it’s good for husbands to know that this is a normal part of adjustment. Mom needs rest, understanding, and sometimes NO MORE VISITORS!

Another thing to remember is that you won’t be getting a lot of sleep those first few weeks. It’s good for baby to eat every 2-3 hours to establish good nursing habits and milk supply, but it does not contribute to a restful mom. Keeping life low key, and expectations to a minimum can really make a difference in allowing this time to be as stress-free as possible. Along the same lines, nourishing foods and lots of liquids are also hugely important in helping to establish a plentiful and healthful milk supply.

Lastly, try to view the postpartum period as a 6 week MINIMUM. I understand you may not be able to take that much “time off” of your normal home duties. But the longer you can rest and care for yourself in the initial weeks, I can promise you the better off your long-term postpartum experience will be. These initial 6 weeks your baby needs you as much as he needed you when he was inside, and this means an unpredictable schedule, lots of nursing, skin-to-skin time, and lots of cuddles. A slow re-entry into normal life will be beneficial to everyone, and lowering your personal expectations of this time can be a life saver!

Initial days postpartum:

  • Consider staying in bed for several days, getting up only to use the restroom, and perhaps joining the family for one meal a day. This can be beneficial for several reasons: visitors don’t stay as long if you’re in bed, you can sleep when baby does, and it reminds everyone that you are recovering!!
  • Prepare your room or a special corner ahead of time to make it a pleasant place for recovery. You’ll relax better if you find your space enjoyable and refreshing. Think about getting some special reading material or audio books together ahead of time to enjoy while you spend hours nursing your new baby. And don’t forget to have some comfortable clothes to wear that promote easy nursing access and yet allow you to rest well!
  • Limit visitors, and the amount of time that they stay. This can be dad’s job: remember that even if your wife loves people, new moms find extra company more draining than they initial expect. Short 10 or 15 min visits are sufficient, and this allows mom to not be separated from baby too long (since many visitors want to hold the new baby the entire time they are present).
  • Have nourishing snacks, foods and drinks gathered ahead of time: a new nursing mom is ALWAYS hungry and thirsty that first week!
  • Remember that your body is going through some major changes and may need some help: have some ibuprofen, nipple cream, icepacks, heat packs, hemorrhoid balm and magnesium available in case you need them.
  • Consider some ways to have meals taken care of: freeze some ahead of time, or ask a friend to organize a meal train or signup list where friends can bring food. It can be nice for the entire family to have meals provided for the first days/weeks as the whole family adjusts to the new baby.
  • If you have older children, it’s a good idea to think about how to implement the “no lifting” rule…sometimes it can be helpful to invest in a step stool that the older sibling can use to climb up beside mom so that she isn’t tempted to lift him or her up.

First Two Weeks:

  • An old midwife’s adage is “5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed and 5 days around the bed”. While many moms balk at this amount of recovery time, it’s not a bad idea to consider! Mom will continue to bleed for around 2 weeks, and the longer she rests oftentimes the shorter the time she bleeds.
  • Continue to follow the “no lifting anything heavier than baby” rule until at least 2 weeks to maximize the uterine healing that needs to happen.
  • Keep stressful visitors to a minimum-this may mean telling well-intending friends and family that they need to wait to come see mom and baby, especially if that entails a lengthy visit of several days. Sometimes it’s hard for people to remember that mom is recovering and needs to spend time with baby, so this is NOT the time to be socializing and holding a newborn for hours on end.
  • Consider getting some household help these first weeks (longer if possible!). This would preferably be someone who can come and keep up housework, prepare food as needed, entertain older children if present, and take care of household duties so that mom can rest mentally as well as physically. As you consider this possibility, keep in mind that this works best if it is someone that mom feels completely comfortable with-sometimes this is a family member, but sometimes it is someone totally unrelated, and even hired for this express purpose. Talk honestly about what type of person would work best in your family situation. After my fourth child was born, we were blessed to have a girl who was willing to come spend 2 days a week with us during the first three weeks. This was sufficient time to catch up laundry, clean the house, and keep after work that wasn’t getting done, as my husband had a flexible work schedule the other days of the week. I found it much easier to rest when I knew the house wasn’t falling apart while I rested!
  • As you feel your energy increasing, start slow…remember that the sooner you jump in to “normal life”, the sooner everyone else will expect you to stay that way!
  • If people offer to help, take them up on it! An offer to babysit can mean an extra nap for mom, and many friends are more than willing to run get your groceries if they know you need something. Don’t turn any offers of help down!

Weeks 3-6:

  • This is when it can get hard to remember to rest. Even though you feel much better by now, remember that you need to go slow, and say no to anything extra in life, even if you FEEL energetic. Your baby still needs lots of time to nurse, and your body is still going through significant changes. One day you feel on top of the world, and the next you are in the dumps…all of this is part of your body learning to regulate it’s hormones again! There are supplements you can take to help with this-check with your midwife if you experience lots of these swings.
  • Start slow with exercise. It’s best to wait the full 6 weeks before engaging in anything specific to rehab, but I do encourage moms to get out in the fresh air and start taking slow walks if they are having minimal or no bleeding by week 2 or 3. Put baby in a stroller or in a carrier, and stroll. Don’t push yourself, just give yourself the chance to get some sunshine and fresh air.
  • Make sure you are taking your prenatal vitamins and consider adding some extra Vitamin D and Evening Primrose Oil to help with hormonal balance.
  • Try figuring out a way to get just a little bit of time to yourself each day…perhaps your husband can take care of the children while you slip out for a short walk, or perhaps you can meet up with a friend for coffee (and let her hold the baby!), or even get a chance for a short nap by yourself. These things can help with managing the mental load, and can be a big step in preventing postpartum depression.
  • Find a friend you can talk with and share with as you go through the many adjustments during these weeks. It’s always reassuring to be reminded that this stage of life doesn’t last forever, and you will sleep again someday!
  • Continue to get help with basic household duties as you can, and don’t turn down the offer of food!
  • Consider trying to get some intentional time as a couple: the unique stress of this period, combined with mom’s unpredictable hormones, interrupted sleep, and all the other factors can add some significant stress on your marriage. Getting away for an hour (with baby in tow) to concentrate on your relationship can really help you to navigate this time and grow stronger in your relationship.
  • Eat nourishing, healthy foods, and don’t worry about weight loss while your body is establishing milk supply!

 

In closing, I’d love to hear what you would add to this list? What was most helpful to you when you were anticipating the arrival of your little one? What helped you recover? Please share your tips and input!