Muslim American Childbirth Preferences & Experiences Survey

MuslimAmericanBirthSurveyIn order to get a better picture of Muslim American women and their experience of childbirth and maternity care here in American, I’ve been working with Krystina Friedlander, a childbirth doula in Boston to create a survey. 

Survey responses will help us understand how health care providers can better support Muslim women and their families during pregnancy, labor, and in the postpartum period. We will use this information in presentations and workshops with American medical professionals, and we also intend to identify resources and provide better access to resources in Muslim communities.

The San Francisco Bay Area has offered me the pleasure of working with families from all corners of the globe, and lifestyle preferences.  As a midwife, the more I know about the unique intersection of each family and how they  view the upcoming birth, the more fulfilling it is for all of us. 

Help your care providers understand your unique needs and preferences as a Muslim American woman.  Take our survey here. 

Please share widely, and stay tuned for the results!!!

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Shatavari: A Fertility Friend

shatavari1I’m more than thrilled to have my lovely friend Krystina Friedlander of Baraka Birth guest blogging today!  She’s offering a wonderful online class entitled, Natural Approaches to Fertility, on March 20 through the Boston School of Herbal Studies

Shatavari: A Fertility Friend

 

 Here in Boston it’s not unusual to see snow continue through March, and yet the subtle signs of spring are beginning to shine through. The lilacs have tight buds of whorled leaves and just the other day I saw the first little crocus poking up through the soil near my home. Like the world around us, women’s bodies are subject to the same “seasons,” cycles of cooling and warming, dampness and dryness, inward retraction and outward expansion, and these cycles are reflected in our monthly and lifetime fertility. Optimal fertility is about more than getting pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy; healthy cycles are a reflection of women’s overall wellness.

 

 

On March 20, I’ll be leading a workshop at the Boston School of Herbal Studies, which will also be available online, on using herbs to support healthy ovulatory cycles—what some call “moon cycles,” an echo of their similarities to the lunar month and correspondence to lunar phases. I’ve offered classes in the past on reproductive health and learning to observe our cycles using the Fertility Awareness Method, specifically for birth control purposes, but it’s spring and the world around me is about to blossom and I’m pregnant with a ripening belly, so this class will focus more on bringing ourselves into balance to encourage and support conception.

 

 

One of the many wonderful herbs that I’ll discuss is shatavari (Asparagus racemosa), one of my personal herbal allies and a staple of the Ayurvedic canon. Ayurveda is the traditional medical system of the Indian subcontinent, and like other traditional medicinal frameworks, it works to bring the body back into balance from a state of imbalance. Tonifying herbs are among my favorites because they gently work with our bodies to nudge us back into balance, supporting our own abilities to overcome “dis-ease” or depletion through nourishment. Shatavari is the classic tonifying herb for women in the Ayurvedic system, similar to how Ayurveda treats ashwaganda for men. 

 

 

Shatavari2Because shatavari is an Ayurvedic herb, I find I rarely encounter it in western herbal books but I think it’s a valuable herb addition to our cabinets and to regular use. In Sanskrit, the word shatavari means she “who possesses a hundred husbands,” a reference to its capacity to rejuvenate the female reproductive system. In addition to the entire reproductive system, shatavari acts upon the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive system as a nutritive, demulcent (moistening) and antacid rejuvenative tonic. As an emmenagogue, it encourages menstruation and the clearing out of stagnant blood in the uterus, and is also useful in the treatment of painful menses.

 

 

It’s an herb used to address all forms of depletion in female reproduction, which can include sexual fatigue but also infertility. Its demulcent, moistening, cooling qualities make it an excellent herb to treat menopause symptoms. Ayurvedic medicine also uses shatavari as a pregnancy tonic, for threatened miscarriage, and to support breastfeeding; according to the American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, shatavari is considered generally safe for pregnant women.

 

 

An Ayurvedic preparation would be a milk decoction of the root, using three grams of shatavari root powder per cup of milk, sweetened with raw sugar or honey. As someone trained in Western herbalism, I like to combine shatavari with licorice and ginger in a fertility formula for women struggling to become pregnant where they experience stress and fatigue.

 

 

 

 

Fertility Decoction
A fertility formula for women struggling to get pregnant.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 tsp shatavari root (powder or chopped root)
  2. 1 tsp licorice root
  3. 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  4. 1 quart water
Instructions
  1. Simmer until reduced by a quarter.
Notes
  1. Drink one cup daily.
Birthrite http://birthrite.me/site/

 

Further Reading & Sources

 

 -The Yoga of Herbs, David Frawley and Vasant Lad (Lotus Press, 2001)

 

 -“Asparagus Racemosa (Shatavari): A Versatile Female Tonic,” Kamal Sharma, International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological Archive, Vol. 2, No. 3 (2011).

 

-http://www.ijpba.info/ijpba/index.php/ijpba/article/view/305

 

 -“Shatavari,” American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, Second Edition, eds. Zoë Gardner, Michael McGuffin (Taylor & Francis, 2013).

 

 -“Shatavari,” The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety, Simon Mills, Kerry Bone (Churchill Livingstone, 2005).

 

 

Krystina Friedlander is a childbirth doula, student midwife, and herbalist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her website is www.barakabirth.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cod Liver Oil for Beautiful Babies

Cod-Liver-Oil2 When you’re trying to conceive, you’ll try anything to make it happen. Simultaneously, you will down herbs that taste like compost, do a headstand (because it delivers circulation to ‘ze ovaries), chant affirmations about your self worth, and of course, look hot for your partner at just the right time of the month. 

I’ve been there, and then some.  In my mid twenties, I tried everything to get pregnant.  I even sacrificed a cow.

Want to know what else I did, head over to my lovely friend Krystina’s beautiful blog Baraka Birth to find out the rest of my conception story! If you’re trying to boost your fertility be sure to check out her online course, happening March 20, through the Boston School of Herbal Studies.  Also check out Birthrite’s online course, the Preconception Module is chock full of fertility goodies.

Roasted Dandelion Root Chai

 

Roasted Dandelion Root Chai2Once the leaves start changing colors, I don’t know about you, but I crave warm cups of something starting around 2 o’clock.  In fact, right now, I have so many warming, nourishing drinks on the roster, that I’m thinking of starting a whole series, “2 o’clock Pick Me Ups!” This Roasted Dandelion Root Chai is the perfect thing.   Steeped in raw milk, and sweetened with a little honey, these herbs deliver flavor and nutrition simultaneously.

 

Dandelion Root is a mild, bitter herb, digestive tonic.  Dandelion Root nourishes the liver, an important organ for hormonal production, detoxification, and blood building. 

Dandelion Root is an herb I often use in my midwifery practice. In pregnancy, dandelion root is useful for high blood pressures, swelling, gestational diabetes, and anemia.   Because it is a digestive tonic, warming, and a blood builder, this is a super nourishing drink postpartum as well!!

 

Here are some more uses for Dandelion Root:

  • It increases digestive enzymes, helping to break down our food. Wonderful for people with food sensitivities or allergies, or anyone on the GAPS diet. 
  • This digestive tonic is expert at relieving constipation
  • By helping your body assimilate the iron that is available, and liberating iron stored in the liver, dandelion root is often given to combat anemia as well. 
  • It is a good remedy to stabilize hormonally induced mood swings
  • By supporting the liver, dandelion root also builds blood, thereby strengthening you as you drink it!
  • This is an excellent drink to take for heartburn, the dandelion root  helps the indigestion, the spices stimulate the digestive juices, and the milk cools it down.  The honey, well, the honey just tastes good! 
  • Dandelion root helps with skin issues, itchy, rashy skin calms down with daily ingestion of dandelion root.

Dandelion root IS a bitter, so without changing the properties of that, this recipe briefly roasts the dandelion root to make it slightly less bitter. It’s delicious and lots of people find it an effective substitute for coffee!  All of the herbs and spices can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs

 

Roasted Dandelion Root Chai
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 2 parts roasted dandelion root
  2. 1 part cinnamon (sticks or chips)
  3. 1/2 part dried ginger root
  4. 1/2 cardamom pods
  5. 1/2 part star anise
  6. 1-2 cups of whole, fresh milk
  7. Honey to taste
Instructions
  1. Roast the dandelion root on a cast iron skillet. Roast until it turns golden, or you can smell it. About 3 minutes depending on the amount you use.
  2. Crush the rest of the herbs in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Add all herbs to milk.
  4. Gently heat on medium low heat until bubbles begin to form on the top of the milk, or to about 115 degrees.
  5. Remove from heat and strain into mugs.
  6. Add honey to taste.
Adapted from Herbal Teas: 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health and Vitality
Birthrite http://birthrite.me/site/
 This post contains affiliate links.  This does not change the cost of the product for you, but it sure helps to support this ‘ol blog, and my efforts to provide midwifery inspired information for moms and babies all across the interwebs. Thank you!!

Ultrasound: Helpful or Harmful?

UltrasoundSo, it’s all a little abstract, other than the nausea, and maybe some sore breasts, you are still basically feeling like yourself.  You can’t imagine that in a mere 9 months you will balloon out and eventually birth a baby, one with a personality and a destiny all its own. This is when the siren song of the ultrasounds starts calling.  It would make you FEEL pregnant if you could see the baby.  It would make it all real. I remember one mother, frazzled and besought with four children under the age of 7, finding herself pregnant unexpectedly again. In between the meals and meltdowns, she found herself in such anxiety as she anticipated adding a fifth to this already busy household. The finances were tight and there was no family  nearby to help.  She’d never had an ultrasound in any of her other pregnancies.  We weren’t clear about when she conceived, so I  suggested an ultrasound.  That ultrasound was the best medicine for this distraught mother.  Once she saw that little heart, she fell in love.  It wasn’t going to be easy, but it was hers, and that was enough to readjust her mental state. And there have been studies that have shown that women who have ultrasounds in the first trimester not only have a greater degree of attachment to their babies, but also consume less alcoholic drinks! Peeking into the mystery of human gestation is fascinating. It can also be an important tool in certain pregnancies. I’d like you to think about what an ultrasound is, from your baby’s perspective.  Similar to the echolocation system of bats, whales, and dolphins, ultrasound works by sending out high frequency sound waves, which hit the body of your baby, and are reflected back onto the probe.  These sound waves have been recorded to be as loud as a subway train coming into a station, or 100 decibels.  Most ultrasound technicians will tell you anecdotally, that babies do indeed move away from the probe once its placed on the mother’s abdomen. Ultrasounds also generate an intense amount of heat. The amniotic fluid and other affected tissues absorb the energy from the ultrasound which increases the heat in the cells being examined. The fetus has no way to perspire, and so heat can cause trouble with fetuses. Depending on the timing of the heat exposure it can cause growth retardation and developmental defects.   Doctors and midwives frequently caution women against taking hot baths, so why would ultrasounds – which generate more heat than a bath – be repeatedly used? Frequent ultrasound has been associated with an increase in left-handedness amongst males, which by itself is inconsequential, but does indicate some level of brain involvement.   It is also increasingly linked with autism.  And just so you are fully informed, ultrasound is not only encountered when you see your baby on the screen.  Dopplers for listening to heartbeats during pregnancy, and continuous fetal monitoring in labor are also forms of ultrasound. Unlike the larger ultrasound machines, the Doppler uses continuous ultrasound rather than a pulsating form. I know, I know, you’re barely pregnant, and I’m already frightening you!  Don’t fear, there is much you can do to lessen the ultrasound exposure in your baby.

  • Surprise! It’s a ? Embrace old fashioned surprise.  Orange, yellow, green, brown, teal, are lovely baby colors for any boy or girl you may produce
  • Ask your health care practitioner to use a fetascope, a stethoscope designed to hear a fetus’s heartbeat. They work beautifully.
  • Ask for intermittent fetal monitoring in labor, rather than continuous monitoring, which exposes baby to a lot of ultrasound. Or consider a birth center or home birth!

7295416642_8f7222dfdaUltrasound is a useful tool in many situations, and as a midwife I am frequently grateful for it’s many uses.  Here are some things that ultrasound is useful for:

  • Placental location - this is important for mothers who have bleeding later in pregnancy, and for VBAC mothers to ensure that the placenta is not covering their previous scar.
  • Threatened miscarriage – I often refer mothers to the ultrasound technician when there is bleeding in the first trimester and we are unsure if the pregnancy is viable or not. If it’s not we can use herbs and things to help if necessary, and if we see a heartbeat, then we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Sometimes you just get that nagging feeling that there’s two in there.  My hands can tell, but we still need to look at the position of the twins and confirm.
  • Uncertain dates.  If a woman is uncertain of when she conceived, a first trimester ultrasound will tell us an accurate due date. After the first trimester fetal development is more varied and so a dating ultrasound is not as accurate after the first trimester

Ultrasound is a useful tool, but like most technologies in modern American maternity care – overused. One or two ultrasounds are most likely harmless, it’s the repeated use that many practitioners employ  that is of concern.  Almost always a laying on the hands is just as good.  My favorite part of the prenatal visit is checking the baby’s position. There’s so much that my hands tell me about baby in that moment, and this is useful to me throughout the pregnancy and labor. In the postpartum, I feel like I’ve known this baby all along too! Make sure your doctor or midwife is skilled in palpation, the ancient art of using ones hands to feel the baby. Those bumps and lumps mean something to a skilled maternal practitioner, and are often more adept at determining position, weight and overall health of the baby. Photo Credit, Photo Credit 3

Baby Treasure Baskets

DSC_1089

Have you ever looked at the baby section in toy stores?  Flashing lights, tinny songs, hard plastic, jarring colors, whew, it leaves me overstimulated and cranky, so imagine the effects on baby!   When babies are born, anyone with a beating heart will attest to their spiritual nature, the openness of their being. They absorb our moods, scents, voices and colors.  We swaddle them, cover their buggies with a blanket, hold them close, and eschew loud noises around them.  Instinctively we know that they need to be attached, held and protected.

But then baby begins to move around, to slowly unfold and wake up to his surroundings.  He begins to develop a will.  He wants to be picked up and carried all the time.  This stage can begin to wear that still fragile new mama down.  You’re still not sleeping through the night, your body hasn’t adjusted yet, and you may not have either.  How will you ever get the floor swept?! If you walk into the above mentioned toy store for distraction, you’re likely to drive yourself even crazier with all the noisy toys you bring home.

You don’t have to go far to find simple playthings,  instead search your cupboards and closets, or your local thrift store.   Silk, cotton, wool, all of these natural materials nurture and enliven your child’s senses, all the while conveying the world’s warmth.  What better lesson is there to give a baby, that the world is a warm and inviting place filled with beautiful treasures?! Baby Treasure Baskets are a new mama life saver and make unique and economical baby shower gifts.  They will keep baby entertained, and give you that much needed break! Here are some suggestions to get you started.  I’ve included some links to actual toys, but really, babe will enjoy a wooden spoon and a bowl just as much.

-First, find a basket.  Fabric lined baskets are nice. I think thrift stores exist to sell ridiculously cheap, but quality baskets.  I can’t leave without one. babytreasurebasketCollage

-Silk, soft to the touch, and wonderful for peekaboo, is great for nourishing baby’s sense of touch.  Find a silk scarf in your closet or a thrift store and add it to the basket.  Sarah’s Silks make playsilks brilliantly hued.  This is one gift that will stand the test of time, they double as pirates bandanas, ropes, capes, fairy skirts, etc…

Wood is sturdy, yet carries a warmth and softness that plastic just doesn’t.  Add some blocks to stack, spoons and bowls to bang and thud, and a rattle to shake, baby will keep busy long enough for you to pour that cup of tea!

-Soft cuddlies and/or soft balls made of natural materials like wool or cotton. If you are a super mama, and can squeeze in some knitting or simple sewing, it only adds to the baby’s experience.  This book is a wonderful starting point for homemade toys for baby.

– The possibilities are endless for baby treasure basket, customize to your baby, and be sure to keep it interesting by switching toys in and out.  As babies get older, they enjoy more of the sorting type toys, so include those at the appropriate age.

 

If this is a baby shower gift, be sure to add something to mama, because she’s going to have some time now to kick up her feet and put her nose in a book.  Rahima Baldwin’s classic, You are Your Child’s First Teacher to round out the Baby Treasure Basket gift!

 

This post is shared at Thank Your Body ThursdaysOld Fashioned Friday, Party Wave Wednesday, Natural Family Friday, and Keep Calm Craft On.

Inductions: Just Say, “Wait!”

InductionsThe other day I realized that I now mark time in terms of babies born. July 2008 brought Maryam, Omar, Julian, and Sofia. If I want to think back to say November 2009, I think of Asiya, Malachi, and Caroline. Living in a season-less California, births mark times and seasons more concretely than weather can. It would be a lie to say that they always arrived at the most convenient times, when my cold was gone, on the weekends when babysitting is free, or at a civilized hour. No. Babies come when they are meant to come. As much as I would like, I have no control over when that hour descends. Even now as I write this, a sunny weekend approaching, I am hesitant to make plans as I am waiting on a baby.

If I were another type of practitioner, maybe I would consider inducing this client. It would be nice to have it out of the way, with a free weekend sprawling before me. If so, I wouldn’t be so off the mark. In 2007, a large study of 18,000 deliveries found that 9.6% were early births (‘early’ was not defined in this study), and the reasons for them being early were non-medical, i.e. practitioner or patient convenience. Indeed according to the Center for Disease Control sources, the average length of pregnancy has fallen by seven days since 1992!

No one really knows what kicks off labor. It is a complex interplay of mother and baby hormones that each tell the other that the time is near. Mom’s cervix softens, telling baby’s lungs to mature. Baby’s lungs mature and mom’s uterus develops more receptors for oxytocin, the hormone that makes the uterus contract among other things. Like all other bodily processes, it is hard to isolate it from the whole, and interference often shows up in other ways later.

This thought provoking look at early elective births by California Watch looks at the reasons why inducing early for non medical reasons is now thought to be contributing to poor maternal and infant mortality rates in America. There is a reason babies play a major role in deciding when they are born. A 2009 New England Journal of Medicine study found that elective cesarean sections resulted in respiratory and other adverse outcomes for neonates. The brain, eyes, and nervous systems all are formed in the third trimester. According to California Watch babies born early through C-section and/or induction are nearly twice as likely to spend time in the neo-natal intensive care unit.How can women prevent this scenario? Show any of the above information to your doctor. Like an old college friend of mine threatened with induction at 41 weeks asked, “How can I go nine months with perfectly health pregnancy, and NOW all of a sudden I’m high risk?!” Good question. She answered it by delivering at 41 and a half weeks, a perfectly healthy baby girl, au natural.

Here are some tips for preventing the dreaded post-dates:

  • Drink lots of red raspberry leaf tea throughout the pregnancy. I can’t say enough on this wonderful uterine tonic. It provides all of the minerals a healthy uterus needs to do it’s job.
  • Walk, especially hills. I’m not sure what it is about hills, but I’ve sent many women packing up and down the beautiful hills of San Francisco in order to get labor going.  Being fit, a side effect, may be what helps to prevent post dates.
  • Have sex. Yes, as the old adage goes, what gets the baby in gets the baby out. Semen contains prostaglandins which help soften the cervix. An orgasm cannot occur without oxytocin flooding your system, once again, the hormone which causes contractions.
  • Visualization can help relax you and allow your mind to turn off. Sit in a quiet, undisturbed place and visualize a head down baby, distending the cervix and rotating down and out of the pelvis.
  • Adequate healthy fat intake throughout the pregnancy, but especially in the third trimester, cooks a baby just right! We know that healthy fats are needed for baby’s brain development and that the most brain development happens in the waning weeks of the third trimester. If baby is getting what he needs in terms of development, there will be no need to leave early, or hang on too late in order to soak up the nutrients. Eat lots of  pastured eggs, wild caught fish, grass fed meat and coconut oil. Supplementation of cod liver oil, never hurt either.
  • Eat 6 dates a day starting at 36 weeks.  I’m not kidding.  A study in Jordan looked at a group of women who consumed 6 dates a day starting one month prior to their due date compared to a group who at none.  The results were clear,  the date eating women had a significantly lower need for induction of labor, had a much higher incidence of spontaneous labor, and dilated faster and more efficiently.   Wanna know the secret to the dates?  They contain a naturally occurring form of oxytocin!!

Sometimes inductions however,  are unavoidable, even necessary. I suggest these final things only as a means to naturally induce labor when an induction is unavoidable. Use with wisdom.

  • A homeopathic induction of Cimicifuga and Caulophyllum is a gentle way to start labor. Take one remedy every half hour for three hours, alternating the remedy each half hour. Do this every morning until labor commences. The strength should be 200C
  • Herbal inductions can be used as well. Black and blue cohosh along with cottonroot are a potent mix of uterine stimulating herbs. A half dropper of each every hour for three hours. I have heard some herbalists comment that this isn’t enough because our bodies metabolize herbs quickly. Consult with a person who knows if my recommendation doesn’t kick things off.
  • Acupressure points that you can squeeze yourself are also effective. The two I like are located in the webbing between your thumb and index finger and the other four finger widths above the inside of your ankle bone.
  • And finally, there is the dreaded castor oil. This is a last ditch resort. Castor oil makes for a messy birth. In fact, that the whole reason it works, it irritates your bowels, thereby irritating your uterus, or so the theory goes. I have seen it work many times. A castor oil milkshake is one way to tolerate it. 2oz of castor oil, some ice cream, and some juice. Drink it up!

As the Bible says (I’m paraphrasing), to everything there is a season, this includes babies. I rather like that my years and seasons are marked by a soul’s entrance and not by my vacations or plans. Inductions can have long lasting effects on mother and baby. It’s best to wait for the dance of hormones to begin. Just like we can’t force the long days of summer, or rush the chill or winter, neither should we unduly force a baby’s birth. To everything there is a season. I can’t think of a better reason to put off my plans than a birth, so for this weekend, I’ll stick around here and maybe next year I’ll think back to November, and remember the particular way the sun fell as a baby, for now nameless, was born.

This post was shared at Thank Your Body Thursdays, Old Fashioned Fridays Natural Family Fridays, and Party Wave Wednesdays.

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The Healing Hour

healing hour

No matter what type of birth you have, the first hour after birth is meant to be savored. Both mother and baby have made it. The hard work is over and the instinctual acts of attachment and bonding are about to begin. Baby has so much work to do, learn to breathe, digest, find the food, etc..but these lessons have not begun yet.

 
Think of this hour as an exhale, a big exhale after the bated breath of labor. No one needs to intervene, weigh, assess, or even show the baby where he is to get his nourishment from. Mom and baby know exactly what they are doing, it is a state of expansion after the contraction(s) of labor.Recently, a fellow midwife deemed this hour, ‘the healing hour’. Labor is a huge event, mother and child each feeling the grandness, and difficulty of it, and, they just need a moment to catch their breaths.An hour is not an exact measurement, but I find it nice to really try to guard that sixty minutes closely. Today’s world moves fast enough, it impinges on every area of our life as it is, birth should be an exemption. For one hour, no visitors, no texts, no phone calls. Take advantage of the biological imperatives so firing in these moments, the baby’s alert state, her large searching eyes, mother’s oxytocin level the highest it will be in her life, take these and so many other reasons and fall in love. It is a love that cannot be weighed, swaddled, assessed, but one that in the moments after birth is begging to happen.If this isn’t enough reason to keep antsy nurses and fidgety midwives at bay, here are some more by the legendary Michel Odent. I have summed them up and clarified in certain instances. The full article can be found here.

1. Baby needs to breathe. Who is a better teacher of this, mom or incubator?

2. A short but crucial period, that will never be repeated. Ethologists have observed this period in birds and mammals and have concluded that it should never be disturbed. Why do we disturb it?

3. The first hour as the beginning of lactation. Babies have instincts too. Place them tummy to tummy between mom’s breasts and watch them find their own nourishment. Also skin to skin has been shown to increase success in breastfeeding.

4. Metabolic adaptation. Babies use less of their precious glucose and fat when on mother. They use more when screaming from across the room, or being passed around to relatives. They can enter hour 2.

5. Thermoregulation. Babies stay warmer on mom, and they also learn how to keep themselves warm when sleeping near her. The womb didn’t have great temperature variations, so they must adapt to the extremes on the outside and it takes awhile for them to be able to do that.

6. The bacteria. When placed skin to skin baby starts to colonize mom’s bacteria, the bacteria he/she will be living with, and already has antibodies to from it’s time in the womb. This is extremely important for babies future health.

7. “The greater the social need for aggression and an ability to destroy life, the more intrusive the rituals and beliefs are in the period surrounding birth.” Wow! No comment!

I keenly remember each of my children in this first hour, both unique and different, yet I still see it in them now. These moments you can’t have back. Talk to your midwife or doctor about this hour before you deliver. Tell them you want to postpone the weighing and measuring and any assessments until afterwards. Have a no cell phone rule in this hour. Everyone can wait, but your baby is present now, and he is looking for his mother, he is looking for home.

Photo Credit
 

Herbal Fertility Spa

 

herbalfertilityspaI have three kids, but I have spent a total of 21 months attempting to get pregnant.  Instead of relinquishing more control with each passing month, I often became more panicked, desperate to find whatever new fertility trick was on the horizon.  Acupuncture, hips piled on top of pillows after each attempt, I’ve even forced my husband to cut out of Sunday brunches early in order to conceive.  Perhaps if we had adopted an ancient attitude, nurturing our bodies for a period of time  before conception, not only would we see those two little lines faster, we might have promoted even more vibrant health in ourselves and our children.

Instead of seeking out pregnancy, I should have had the mindset to seek out fertility. Women in tribes, societies, and worlds before ours have actively sought fertility and adopted fertility promoting practices.  It is a mindset that promotes health and self care. It is not a grasping at straws, but rather an acknowledgement that health promotes fertility. In our harried culture we go from boardroom to bedroom, expecting results as fast as a tweet gets tweeted.  Then when the period rears its red head, we panic and seek the quickest fix to our supposed “infertility”.

As one of the midwives I apprenticed with always told the busy Silicon Valley women we served, “If the train doesn’t stop, or at least slow down,  before you deliver, the slowness of a newborn will come as a great shock.”  That train needs to start slowing down now, when that little soul is just a glimmer.  Here’s my favorite way to slow down, some self pampering; self pampering is great at any stage of life, but developing these practices now can create strong habits of self care throughout motherhood.

Full of herbal, natural goodness, the herbs chosen for this spa are fertility enhancing, and hormone balancing.  Choose one recipe, or choose them all.  4173702194_485093558fWhichever you choose, be sure to savor your time  and visualize the little soul traversing the universe to end up home with you!   If you are in the  preconception phase of your childbearing, please sign up for the first module of my Birthrite courses, the Preconception Module.  The Herbal Fertility Spa is one of the many bonuses.  Charting your cycle, best times to conceive, the three C’s of conception,  Green Clean for Baby, and much, much more are included in my Preconception Module.

Back to the spa treatment. I would bet that you have most things on hand, and if not, you can substitute what you do or go on to the next step. I would say that as long as there is a bath, a significant slowing down, and some poetry, your fertility will improve!

Herbal Fertility Spa

1. Begin by brewing a pot of Fertility Enhancing Tea.  Add 1TBS of coconut oil to each cup of tea. It’s delicious and your fertility hormones thrive on the healthy fats in coconut oil.

2.While it’s brewing wash your face with a cleanser.  My suggestion is  Almond Meal Cleanser – 4 tsp almond meal, 2 tsp of dry milk powder, and 1 tsp sugar.  Mix and apply to a damp face.

3. Apply a clay mask. Clay is wonderful at drawing out impurities in the skin. Add 1 TBS to a glass of water and drink that now too.  Clay binds to heavy metals and removes them from the system, an important step to take before conceiving.  Mix another TBS of the clay with enough water to make a paste, apply to face and let dry. 

4. While the mask dries, read some poetry.

5. Warm the Ginger Infused Fertility Oil (see recipe below) and massage your belly, uterus and hips.  ginger

6. Steam a washcloth in hot water, remove mask.  Apply Apple Cider Vinegar toner with cotton ball.  Mix 1/4 cup of water to 1TBS apple cider vinegar. Add a few drops of essential oil if desired.

7. Step into the shower armed with your favorite scrub. Mine is a Brown Sugar Scrub – 1 cup of sugar to 1/4 cup oil.  Rub into skin, again concentrating on hips and pelvic region in order to bring circulation to the reproductive organs.

8.  Step out of shower and pour yourself another cup of Fertility Enhancing Tea.

9.  Take a bath with magnesium bath flakes dissolved into the water and a few drops of essential oils. Don’t forget a candle!! Magnesium is an important fertility nutrient for both men and women, and absorbing it trans-dermally, through the skin, is the best way to get it.

10. Soak and sip as long as you like, feeling deep nourishment, health and well being from the inside out.

11.  Dry off, moisturize, and slip off to bed, or put the Herbal Fertility Spa to the test!

Here are the recipes for Fertility Enhancing Tea and Ginger Infused Fertility Oil, both are very simple to make. Ingredients for both can be found here.

Fertility Enhancing Tea
By increasing vitamin and mineral content, balancing hormones, toning the reproductive system, and just tasting delicious, this Fertility Enhancing Tea will have you feeling great in no time!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 parts red raspberry leaf
  2. 2 parts red clover
  3. 2 parts nettle leaf
  4. 2 parts peppermint
  5. 1 part chamomile
  6. 1 part dandelion leaf
  7. 1 part oatstraw
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Use 1 tablespoon per cup of water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes. Sweeten with honey if desired. And always add 1 TBS of coconut oil to increae the fertility enhancing properties!
  2. Drink 2-3 cups daily for optimal benefits.
Notes
  1. Parts refer to the part used for measurement, a teaspoon, a tablespoon, an ounce etc…It doesn’t matter what you use to measure, only that you use it consistently while making the recipe. So in this recipe, if you use a tablespoon, it would be 2 tablespoons of the first four ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the last four. It’s always a good idea to taste a little of your tea before you make a big pot, that way you can add more herbs for flavor if needed.
Birthrite http://birthrite.me/site/
Ginger Infused Fertility Oil
Ginger is a wonderful kitchen herb. Imparting warmth and circulation wherever it goes, ginger is an ideal herb for conception. Giving yourself daily belly rubs, with a special focus on the uterine area is great for fertility. It is also useful for sore backs, stiff joints, and as a chest rub for colds.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 TBS chopped ginger root
  2. ½ cup of oil, coconut, olive, almond, or sesame oil
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients to a sauce pan. Simmer on low heat for at least two hours, up to eight for increased therapeutic value. The oil shouldn’t get above body temperature, or you will cook the ginger. You should always be able to put your finger in the oil without burning it! Cooking this oil, should impart a spicy ginger scent to your kitchen. Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth or an old T-shirt. Squeeze the ginger to get all of the oil out. Bottle.
Notes
  1. Massage starting at the belly button in a clockwise motion. Start with large circles covering the entire belly. Progressively use smaller strokes until you are just massaging the lower belly and reproductive organs. You can also massage into your hips, which can increase blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Birthrite http://birthrite.me/site/
Photo Credits
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 This post was shared at Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave WednesdayWellness Wednesday, and Old Fashioned Friday.

Home Birth FAQ’s

 homebirthfaq1So you want a home birth, but you want to know how they’re going to clean up all of that blood and uh, stuff?  In the hospital it just fell into a neat little plastic bag at the end of the bed, and was promptly whisked away after delivery right?  How will they do that at home?  Does my husband have to clean it all up?  And after all that, who pays for it?!  

Well, I have some thoughts on the matter. Here you go my A to your  frequently asked Q’s. I sure hope this clears up some of those questions (here’s a hint: Chux pads!)

1.   Is home birth safe? – I hate confirming stereotypes about home birth, but it really is the most frequently asked question! Do you ask your OB if hospital birth is safe?  That’s not a bad idea.  Hospital interventions are associated with all kinds of risk and adverse outcome.  Take for example the latest findings that induced labor increased the risk of autism by a whopping 23%!  Cesarean sections increase maternal mortality by six times over vaginal birth.  Cesarean sections have also been associated with infection, hysterectomy, subsequent complications of pregnancy, infertility, and still birth.  But we rarely ask if C-sections are safe.   

“Birth is as safe as life gets” said birth photographer Harriette Hartigan. It’s true.  Most of the time life is well, safe. We get in our cars, hop on planes, swim in oceans, and we’re fine.  Very occasionally,  there’s an accident, a failed landing or a shark attack, and that makes the news.  Birth, in the context of a well nourished, healthy woman, is incredibly safe.  It is even more safe when attended by an experienced and trained midwife.  In study after study (after study), midwives delivering out of hospital have similar rates of adverse perinatal outcomes as those found with a similar population in the hospital. In addition, midwives have lower rates of intervention, inductions, episiotomies, and Cesarean sections than practitioners who deliver in hospital.   My private practice’s Cesarean rate last year was less than 5%. 

Birth becomes risky when we intervene in a natural physiological process. The natural, and hormonal needs of birth require privacy, warmth, intimacy and trust. If we left well enough alone, birth would unfold as easily as a cloud releases rain.  Home birth by its nature, with no anesthesiologist, no cold rooms and bright lights, no strangers, is the perfect stage for a safe and healthy birth for mom and baby.

 

2092010147_43d48070d22.  What about the mess?! How about the placenta?! A smoothie anyone? Mess is such a non-issue.  I ask my clients to have some hydrogen peroxide on hand, and plenty of chux pads.  The combination is all you need to keep surfaces clean and dry.  While the new family is nuzzling and cooing, I usually grab the bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some towels, and  go on a search and destroy mission. There may be an occasional drop of blood or two, but they always come out.  

Before my assistant and I leave, we make sure the place is neat and tidy. A load of laundry is started, dishes washed, and the trash is taken out.  You would never know we were there, if not for maybe the birth tub, and the bundle of cuteness in your bed!

Placentas can be frozen, eaten, buried, encapsulated, or yes, tossed.  It’s a personal preference. I just ask that you have two quart size freezer bags for me to store it in.   It’s that easy.

 

3.  How do you get paid? Will my insurance cover it?  Why thanks for asking! Some insurances do cover home birth. Namely PPO’s.  HMO’s, Kaiser, and MediCaid in some states, do not cover out of hospital birth. Although, it’s not always so clear cut. Sometimes, when you need a service that your insurance can’t provide you an get a GAP exception and they will cover the service, even if the provider isn’t in network for your insurance company.  There are some billing companies that cater to midwives and through whom parents can pay $20 and have them verify your insurance benefits.  I highly advise this as they are billing specialists who know which questions to ask in order to have an accurate idea of your reimbursement rate.  After the birth, these same companies for a nominal fee will also submit a superbill on your behalf. I find this, along with a phone call  (or two or three) by the parents to be the best way for families to recoup their costs.  Because typically it’s cash up front, anywhere from $2000-$5000 depending on where in the country you are,  and then reimbursement after the birth.  Here is one father’s account of getting reimbursed for their home birth. And here is a comprehensive list of questions to ask your insurance provider. I find that most families get something back.  Home birth is at least half the price of an unmedicated vaginal birth, and it only goes up with intervention, so for many families and insurance companies, home birth is the most affordable option.

 

2490960003_28a0df17354. What happens in an emergency? What if we need to go the hospital?  Birth doesn’t always stay at home.  For myriad reasons, we may find ourselves in the hospital. My transfer rate is less than 10%, but still, there are eventualities that may land you there. It is a common concern amongst home birth parents, and those that prepare for it, are almost always the ones who stay out of the hospital! I like to go through the emergency plan at the 36 week visit. We write down all of the numbers we need in case of emergency, discuss what it would like and where we would go.  I bring out my oxygen tank, my neonatal resuscitation equipment so that it’s not frightening in case we need to use it. 

Midwives are trained and skilled to deal with emergencies.  We take neonatal resuscitation, and adult CPR training.  I practice the timing of resuscitation breathing on my way to each birth. We carry anti-hemorrhagic medications and are knowledgeable about when and how to  use them.  Midwives are trained in normal birth, so when abnormal situations arise, we can spot them easily and readily.  911 is called and we provide palliative care until the emergency team takes over.

Each area of the country differs in how non emergency transfers are handled, with everything from ER drop offs, to the midwife staying through until the end. Here in the Bay Area it typically looks like this; I phone the Labor and Delivery unit to explain why we are coming in, your chart is then faxed ahead of your arrival.  We go to the hospital and I stay until you and baby are snuggled.  This is a compelling post from a friend/former client detailing all of the emotions that go into a hospital transfer. 

 

2013 Big Push for Midwives_PushMap5.  Is it legal?!  Can I get a birth certificate? Up until the 1930’s most American women delivered their babies with the help of a midwife.  In the countries with the best maternal and infant statistics today, midwifery care is the standard for healthy pregnant women.  Once birth moved from home to hospital in the U.S., midwives were pushed out of the birth room, and are just now, reentering that space.

Check the chart to the right to see if CPM, Certified Professional Midwives (the midwives who attend the vast majority of home births), are legal in your state. 

If midwifery is legal in your state, getting a birth certificate is a piece of cake. I’m not sure what it’s like in states where it’s not legal, but I imagine it’s not difficult.  Here in California, I fill out some paperwork, and you take it to the Department of Vital Statistics, and a couple of weeks later, the birth certificate is in your mailbox. 

 

I hope this cleared some things up.  Keep asking questions.  If home birth is whispering it’s sweet song in your heart, follow it,  you will be glad you did.  If you are in the Bay Area and are interested in my home birth services, feel free to contact me with any further, burning questions!

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 This post was shared at Real Food Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, and Wellness Wednesday.

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