Articles in Category: Pregnancy

Gratitude for the Gift of Life

A Blessingway Start

Kuepfer Tammy Maternity 2015 Apr 12 18 Edit WEB 2

Life is full of gifts. Receiving life in the form of a child, is one of the most beautiful of them. I have four of these gifts in my life and with each one, I’ve learned something along the way. And for each of these lessons, whether challenging or easy, I am grateful. 

My first son taught me about the unknown. Standing at the threshold of a new life I pondered: How do I give birth “the right way”? Is my relationship with my partner ready to be “ruffled” by a new soul in the house? When will my child arrive? Will I be a good mother? In the end, his gift to me was that of fulfillment – I was finally a parent. 

My second child, I will admit to you, was brought into the family so our first wouldn’t be an only child. I couldn’t help but worry that if something happened to us, our first would be left alone. We couldn’t do that to him. So, my second taught me “family”. He taught me that “special time” was time together – not time individually. We were a unit bigger than just me, my partner and a child. We were a pride, a gaggle, a herd. BUT I also learned that looking after two children is challenging (to say the least!) and can’t be done alone. You will sacrifice your whole being if you don’t have any supports or resources in place. You will need your circle of support to remind you that even in those moments when you believe with all your heart that “I wasn’t meant to be a mother”, they will be there to tell you, “Ya, I felt that way too!” 

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With the arrival of our third son, I relaxed finally into parenthood. My first two could play together and I could sit back with my newborn on my chest and just watch and spectate the beauty of their interactions and glory in different personalities and passions. I saw myself no longer as someone “trying” to be a mother, trying to meet someone else’s standards, to do it in a blogger, Baby Center kind of way. Instead I stopped caring what anyone else thought and listened to my own intuition and what was right for me. 

Having a fourth child just solidified that belief that intuition is the success to my parenthood. I know my children best (despite what google or someone in the grocery store says), I know their ins and outs and I know that I don’t need to force anything for them to grow, love and develop. I have said on many occasions that I wish everyone could have their 3rd or 4th baby first, to have the confidence in their heart to listen to their own wisdom and to relax into the process. So I’m writing this blog so that you can have a sample or starting point at which to begin to understand who you are as you become or grow into being a mother - a place to begin to listen to your own inner voice called intuition.

History has shown that in these beautiful times of planning, gestating and anticipating new life, people turn to things that have deeper, greater and more enduring meaning. As mothers and mothers-to-be, we stand at a threshold of unknown - searching books, sites and asking other mothers about “what to expect” physically, mentally and spiritually. Will I know how to do this? To birth, to be a good parent… Who will I be? What will the “new me” be like? 

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What you need to know first is that allowing the spirit of “who you will become” after your child’s arrival, is a gift – probably one of the most important for yourself. Opening your heart to the unknown and allowing the process of life to unfold in front of you can be both challenging and rewarding. With a baby coming, there is so much to worry about, so much to prepare, so much to buy and have ready, so much to know! Have you ever sat back and considered what YOU need to be a mother? Write it down. Move toward it. Have you sat in a quiet room, by yourself and listened to your inner voice and just followed it? Try it. Practice it. It will be courageous of you to see what happens when you follow your own advice. 

While you await the gift of your child, another way to receive for yourself and open to your new self is by celebrating the woman-you-are-to-become through a Blessingway or Mother Blessing. Traditionally, a Blessingway (in the tradition of the Navajo) or Mother Blessing (a north American term) is a birth ritual or ceremony that celebrates a woman’s passage into motherhood. The ceremony acknowledges the changes a woman is going through in the months leading up to her baby’s arrival, and the greater impact of birth and early parenthood on her, as a person. In a close circle of women, the mother-to-be is nurtured in storytelling, adornment, gifts, blessings and food. Bead bracelets can be made, which the mother-to-be will carry with her into birth as a reminder of the strength and support her circle of women sends with her. The group can hold a red string ceremony to connect each with the other as women, and when the announcement arrives that baby is earth-side, the red string around the participant’s wrist or ankle is cut and released free. From all of this, the mother-to-be comes away with a strong sense of belonging, support and confidence that she will need as she nears the birth of her baby and after her baby is born. 

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Chances are you have attended or have heard of a “baby shower”. This type of celebration is a wonderful chance to rain baby presents upon the family so they are prepared with the materials they may need for their child. A Mother Blessing can be another option or in addition to a Baby Shower. Celebrate and recognize the mother-to-be as she transforms and transitions. You don’t have to follow any set agenda or order. Mother Blessings can vary in proceedings and rituals, so choose what you would like to do in yours. You can make it as “North American” or “Granola” as you like. Receiving your gift of love, belonging and support will give you the confidence to listen to your inner voice and be the mother you were meant to be – one who can also teach your children to live the life of gratitude for their gifts and inner voice too.

AngieStenback3If you have any questions about blessingways or Mother Blessings, or would like to host one, The WOMB has space in Milton or Burlington for rent. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., cofounder of The WOMB and Doula can also help you facilitate the right ceremony for you.

Three things every birth needs

A Birth Doula answers the Partner's questions

Stanleybirth31Photo credit: Kieran Darcy

Over the past 5 years, I have had the honour of walking alongside so many wonderful families all over the GTA as they welcomed their awesome babies. It is my dream job (although it doesn’t feel like a job!) and I am so thankful for the many moms, dads, partners, grandparents and extended families that have trusted me over the years. As people find out more and more about birth doulas, the most common questions I get are ‘what does a doula do”, “what’s the difference between a doula and a midwife”, and “what about the dad/partner? What role will they have if you are also there to support the birthing mom?” All of these are great questions! But I have to say my favourite question was asked early on in my doula career by a hands on partner who wanted to know “What are the 3 things you use at every birth?”

He asked this question because he had taken lots of classes and read lots of books and felt that he was pretty well versed on how to support his wife. But, due to all of his knowledge, he also felt that he wasn’t trained specifically in the ebbs and flows of birth and wanted to know what role on their team I would uniquely fill. I LOVE this question as it is one that most people I meet with want to know but don’t think to ask.

So, here is my list of the 3 Things That I Use At Every Birth. 

#1: My Voice

During birth, your senses as the labouring mother are all heightened. And as labour progresses and gains in intensity each mother needs to find her own rhythm and ritual to aid her in breathing and letting tension go through each contraction. This is where I come in. I use a variety of gentle, guided relaxation breathing prompts as the birth sensation begins, builds and then recedes. I use the knowledge that I’ve gained in my prenatal visits with moms to use words and phrases that would best suit and motivate her. Although I do not teach Hypnobirthing or Hypnobabies, etc, I am trained in stepping in and supporting a mom who has taken these classes and wishes to use these techniques. I believe that, although there are some similarities to how each birthing mom needs support, that each birth is unique and specific to each mom. So, I pride myself in my adaptability to support every mom where she is; not to guide her to where I think she should be.

Where the partner fits in

As I am guiding mom in the breathing and relaxation techniques, this is where your parter shines! Your partner knows you better than anyone in the room. Your partner loves you more than anyone in the room does. And it is this connection with you that has amazing benefits! Oxytocin is the natural love hormone that is necessary for birth sensations to begin and to build. Who better to help foster an oxytocin friendly environment than your partner? Often partners aren’t sure what to say and how to specifically guide you through each sensation.  That’s the benefit of having me there! :) I can support mom in the ways I am trained to, and your partner can, with a touch, a presence and words tell you how amazing you are, how strong you are, and how they can’t wait until your baby is here.

#2: My Hands

Stanleybirth1Photo Credit: Kieran Darcy

How to provide hands on support for a labouring mom was a key part of my doula training. There are many different positions that not only support mom and give her some relief, but are also great positions for baby as they make their way to her arms.

Applying counter pressure via a double hip squeeze during each sensation is something that most moms absolutely love at some point during their labour. As baby makes their way out of the uterus and into the birth canal, mom can often feel more pressure in her lower back. This is where applying sacral pressure to her sacrum (located in the middle of her back, at the very bottom) can greatly assist in comfort for mom. I also have a rebozo (a long flat piece of fabric) that I can use to bring comfort to moms and also can be used to aid in babies positioning during labour. Having experienced labour and childbirth personally four different times has also heightened my senses and intuition of what may give relief and support to a mom during each sensation. Often something as seemingly innocuous as a gentle massage on mom's back in between sensations can help her greatly in getting into her rhythm and ritual mindset. I’ve often gone from performing the double hip squeeze to a rhythmic massage on her back and if I stop to take a drink, mom will turn her head and say “Please keep going! That helps so much!” :)

Where the Partner Fits In

Similar to how the parter can provide support with their words, your partner's touch can bring a huge amount of relief and reassurance. I love to show partners how I do certain counter pressure techniques and love when they gain confidence as they do them. I’m a visual learner and have found that a lot of partners are too. They often watch for the first little while and then when I suggest they step in and try, they are quick to learn how to do it. Aside from the technical moves, having your partner right beside you, holding your hand, stroking your hair or face, or giving one of their awesome back or foot rubs can bring amazing support and relief as you labour.

#3: My Patience (Holding Space)

Just like it took 10 months for your babe to grow and develop, birth can take time. Your body may have a few starts and stops over several days (or weeks!) as it preps for active labour. This pre-labour and early labour stage can be emotionally and physically draining on both mom and partner. I make it a high priority prenatally to really go over the importance of patience during this stage. I make it a point to simply BE with moms and partners during this stage. This may be to just listen, or it may be to encourage them to shift perspective - to make these next few hours and/or days before babe, a special bonding time with just them - to see how special this time is..the time between ‘almost and not yet’, and to hold space with them there. Then once labour actually begins and babe is ready to get things moving and I am on my way to them, I am very conscious of the need for me to model patience for them, and to be in tune enough to recognize the moments when my voice or my hands aren’t needed...that the greatest tool in some moments of birth is simply holding space.

And finally as baby is birthed and mom and her partner finally get to see and hold and kiss and love their new sweet baby, I quietly take pictures and videos of those amazing first moments. And as much as possible, foster an environment in the room that respects those first incredible and life changing moments.

Where the Partner Fits In

stanleybirth2 1Photo Credit: Kieran Darcy

The most common thing I hear partners say at births or prenatally is “I just want to help her.” And it really wasn’t until I became a doula that I fully appreciated how difficult and emotionally draining the role of the support person could be. And that is amplified 1000% for your partner as they love you and it can be so difficult to see the one you love in pain. And because of this enormous love and concern they have for you, sometimes it is difficult for them to remember what your birth wishes are - especially when all they want to do is take your pain away. But once your partner is able to see the tremendous value in simply holding space for you and simply BE by your side, it’s really amazing to watch what happens. It empowers the birthing mom in an amazing way! She can "read" her partner better than anyone else, so when her partner's face is lined with worry or doubt, she can see that. But, when she sees her partner calmly and confidently just BE-ing, the calm and confidence transfers to her and empowers her to trust her body.

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So those are the 3 things every birth needs! I have many other tools that I bring and use at different births and during different stages of labour, but these three things - My Voice, My Hands and My Patience are the 3 that I use every single time.

AngieStanley

Angie Stanley is a Birth Doula. She is passionate about supporting women and families and has worked with various non-profit organizations over the past 15 years.  She truly believes that the pregnancy and birthing stages are some of the most life changing and special times of a woman's life.  She considers it an honour to be present to walk alongside women and their families at such a special stage of life. Setting up a FREE consultation with a Birth Doula is easy! Visit us here!

Exercise During Pregnancy

When & What? Advice from a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist

A common question I get as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist is: “What kind of exercises are safe to do during pregnancy?”. The short answer is that most forms of exercise are safe and advocated. Maintaining fitness, preventing health issues such as gestational diabetes and preparing the body for an optimal birth and recovery are a few of the reasons why regular exercise is important. Of the different types of exercises, “core exercise” is often a hot topic for pregnant women. Although your deep core muscles do assist in breathing and pushing efforts during birth, your uterus does most of the work so you don’t need abs of steel to to have a smooth birth (another blog to come on this topic). Engaging in different types of exercise will keep you well in pregnancy and beyond.

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Safety: When shouldn’t I exercise during pregnancy?
In rare circumstances there may be reasons to more drastically modify standard exercise recommendations or avoid exercise all together. If there is an underlying condition involving the uterus, placenta or your overall state of health, your primary care provider will typically indicate when this is the case. Refer to this link for more information.

What kind of exercise should I be doing?
General exercise guidelines still apply during pregnancy – cardio for lung and heart health 30 minutes, 5 times a week; muscle strengthening 3 times a week; and stretching daily. There is also a lot of new research outlining the importance of daily mindfulness to counteract the chemical stress response that most of us have in our busy lives. Try a 15 minute guided body scan (lots on YouTube), meditation, prayer or gratitude journaling.

Some women find during the first trimester symptoms of morning sickness limit them from doing strenuous activity. Be patient with yourself and give your body some time. Starting with a gentle walk for 15 mins 2x/day just to get the blood pumping and muscles moving is still beneficial. The same principles apply if you are new to exercise – start slow and gentle and progress as you are able.

What about Kegels?
A “kegel” is a sustained and repeated pelvic floor activation named after the OBGYN who started advocating for them in the 1940s (Dr. Arnold Kegel). Yes, we want our pelvic floor muscles to be strong but we also need them to be flexible; they need to be able to relax, and to be coordinated with our muscles. As a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, I can help you set up an inner core program incorporating pelvic floor muscle training that will support you through your pregnancy, during exercise, throughout labour and into your recovery post partum. 

What about Yoga?
Prenatal yoga can help with flexibility and relaxation during pregnancy and also has the added benefit of meeting other Moms-to-be for you to connect with during pregnancy and into motherhood. Yoga is a great compliment to your strength and cardio program. Note that hot yoga is not recommended during pregnancy as the increases in core temperature can impact fetal development.

prenatal yoga

High Impact Exercise: What about Running? Crossfit? HIIT? Power Lifting?
In the media there tends to be an all-or-nothing approach to pregnancy – either all you do is yoga or you continue to power lift until the day you birth your baby. If you were performing high intensity or high impact exercises before pregnancy it is typically safe to continue these, but the intensity will taper down during pregnancy. Here are some things to remember:

You must acknowledge that your body will change during pregnancy and it is wise to honour these changes. There are a number of physical adjustments that affect your posture, breathing and your muscles' ability to generate power as the length of muscles change and the relationship of structures adjusts. Good form when executing high-impact exercise is always very important and simply put is more difficult to do when pregnant. Unfortunately, most trainers do not have the adequate knowledge to guide women through these high impact exercises in a safe and appropriate manner. Sit ups, curl ups, toes to bar, V sits, boat pose, Russia twists and double leg lowers are examples of traditional core exercises that increase abdominal pressure and overrecruit our external core which can contribute to rectus diastasis or “Mummy Tummy”. To prevent pelvic floor issues and abdominal wall issues, you are best to touch base with a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist who can appropriately guide you through the exercise program you desire.

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Don’t forget that pregnancy is a time for maintaining your strength and endurance then tapering the intensity as your needs change. The goal is not to develop fitness at this time through max lifts or personal bests, so an adjustment in your approach to exercise and fitness is important. During pregnancy you should be able to talk throughout your workout, recover quickly and modify your movements easily.

I hear I am supposed to listen to my body – what am I listening for!?

  • Pain – of any kind, especially in the back or pelvis.
  • A feeling pressure or heaviness in the pelvis
  • Loss of control of urine – leaking with lifting, running, coughing, sneezing, laughing
  • A “tenting” or “coning” through the front of the abdomen with any movement
  • A tendency to to hold your breath to perform a movement
  • Development of hemorrhoids or varicose veins

These events signal there is a muscle and pressure imbalance through the body that needs to be addressed. Again, as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist I can help you connect with these imbalances and educate you as to how to manage them going forward.

Take Home Message: Exercise is Medicine in Pregnancy and Beyond!
Exercise during pregnancy is safe for most women and should be fun, engaging and rewarding – physically and emotionally! You can start at a low intensity and build your way up, or continue with the work you were already doing and make modifications along the way. At the WOMB we have workshops, fitness classes and our Pelvic Health Physiotherapy team ready to support you through your pregnancy and into motherhood. 

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Jenny Telfer Crum is a Registered Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at The WOMB. She has a special interest in helping women exercise safely during pregnancy, prepare for labour and return to their exercise intensity of choice after birth while honouring their body along the way.

 

What you need to know about Postnatal Doulas

There is a big difference between a Postnatal Doula, and a Night Nurse or a Mother's Helper

The incredible treasure that people don’t know about…and it’s at the WOMB!

Imagine, after a long and tiring process of trying to conceive, finding out you have finally been blessed with what you were praying for…and then some…you are pregnant with twins. As you move through that first trimester you start to process the awesome reality of what is happening to you. As you start to notice some of the difficulties managing your new circumstances with the babies contained within your womb, you wonder how you are going to manage once these two precious humans enter the world? An exciting and daunting prospect!

This was me. Although I was more excited than anything else, I did wonder how I would be able to enjoy those early days of motherhood. How might I manage to cherish the blessings that had been bestowed on me when I felt like I did not know a thing about being a mother, and I was in for double duty?

It was my sister who was the one who educated me on the existence of Postnatal Doulas, upon learning about my pregnancy she unequivocally said, “You need to get one”. At that point I was aware of the existence of a Birth Doula, however, I have never heard of a Postnatal Doula. In my sister’s enthusiastic words, she declared a few descriptors of a Postnatal Doula: “baby expert”; “helps get you on a rhythm as you transition”; “eliminates chaos”; “assist with family sleep”. I did not need to hear more…”sign me up”!

007 DuforFamily HRM 1My Postnatal Doula support did not disappoint!! In fact, my expectations were far exceeded. I can honestly say without a doubt is was the best money I have ever spent in my life. My husband and I used to joke that we had been so lucky to find an incredible treasure that no one knew about…our Postnatal Doula, a real-life Mary Poppins, who just made life better!

So, what did the support look like for us? Well, we started with having support 3 nights a week (for approximately 7 hours at a time) and this pared down to twice a week and then once a week until we were all managing really nicely on our own. At this point I changed my support to 1 day a week, (for approximately 4 hours) to assist me as we adjusted to other transitions as our children developed.

Now, I do want to clarify that there is a pretty big difference between a Postnatal Doula and a night nurse or a mommy’s helper. It is the role of the Postnatal Doula in particular that is golden, so let me elaborate.

A Postnatal Doula is an expert in postnatal family support and baby care. She understands the transitions parents and siblings make when adding a new baby or babies to the family. Here are some common supports our WOMB Postpartum Doulas provide:

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• Teach you how to soothe baby
• Provide assistance with food and hydration so you can care for baby
• Support your breastfeeding/feeding efforts and help you problem solve
• Help you and baby to sleep better at night
• Allow you time to nap by taking care of the daily household chores
• Help you keep the house organized so that you feel less stress
• Teach you about your amazing newborn and stand by you as you learn, reminding you that you are doing a great job!
• Help you look after your other children so that they feel engaged and can adjust to their new sibling AND so you have time to bond with your baby

I know what you’re thinking. “This really exists? There are people who can do this?” Yes, it does. Wonderful right? Here at the WOMB we have these amazing treasures and their goal is to support you through empowerment, so you have the tools and skills to be on your own and be the best mother possible.

I continue to be surprised, six years after my own experience with Postnatal Doulas, that people still do not know about this incredible resource. As one of the Pelvic Health Physiotherapists on the WOMB team I have an opportunity to see the value of all our Doulas have in our clients lives. There are many instances when my feeling is that a client of mine would benefit more from Postnatal Doula support than from the pelvic floor intervention that have sought me for. More people need to know about Postnatal Doula support. We are talking about an incredible treasure that should not be hidden…spread the word!

Sinéad Dufour PT PhD

Hey Birth Partner! Why you don't need to be a Superhero...

So I’d like to get right to the point….Birth Partner, you are important!

Often times with all the excitement and preparation for labour and birth, the role of the birth partner is taken for granted. Society has placed unrealistic expectations on partners to be the hero for the day but without enough sleep, food and some simple items, it’s hard for partners to hold it together for the birth let alone help mom. But the birthing mom will notice if you aren’t meeting your own needs and this can make her more anxious. The more anxious she is the more pain she feels. So by looking after your own basic needs, mom can relax without worrying that you’re ok. You are not a superhero but a human being about to share in one of the most exhilarating yet exhausting times of your life. Here are some things that a birth partner can do to prepare and feel ready for the big day.

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Pack a bag – for a hospital birth bring a change of clothing, sweater, flip flops, bathing suit, mints, phone charger, lip balm for mom, and your toiletries. You’ll be staying more than 24 hours and you’ll want to freshen up too! Having fresh breath is so important when your face to face for so long! You’ll definitely feel like a hero if you casually pull lip balm out of your pocket when mom complains that her lips are dry.

Pillow for mom and a pillow for you – hospitals usually aren’t generous with pillows, so if you do get a chance to rest, it’ll be so much better with a pillow.

Eat and stay hydrated – I can’t count the number of times as a doula that I’ve looked over at a partner and begged them to take a break and eat something. I think that there can be some guilt when they can’t take discomfort away from mom so sacrificing eating can alleviate that feeling of guilt. However, this is the one discomfort that has purpose and that needs to be there for baby to be born, so feed yourselves!! Energy bars are a great item to bring and are easy to bring in any bag, so you’re not away from mom for a long amount of time. Every time mom has some water, so should you! Dehydration symptoms are pretty harsh and you need to be on your game. Hospitals are notoriously dry and coffee is also dehydrating so be good to yourself and balance everything with some H20.
and last but definitely not least….

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Emotions – you will be going through some crazy emotions that may take you by surprise. It’s ok, your feelings count too. Let yourself feel them and share them with your partner. Watching your partner birth your baby and then meeting your baby for the first time is an amazing, life changing experience – enjoy it… feel it… live it.

Sincerely,
The Doula

For more information on Doulas attend one of our Ask A Doula Nights or contact the WOMB at 905-842-2434…

DanielaSimone

Daniela Simone is a guest blogger and Certified Childbirth Doula and Postpartum Doula.  Daniela’s goal is to help women find their labour style, find strength in their choices and appreciate the amazing experience of giving birth in awareness. She loves being a wife to her supportive husband and mother to her two wonderful children.Setting up a FREE Consultation easy! Connect with us Today!

What everyone should know about Caesarean birth

The following is written by Dr. Sinéad Dufour, PT PhD, our a pelvic health physiotherapist at The WOMB and professor at McMaster University. She is also the proud mom of twins and gave birth by Caesarean birth under the advisement of her obstetrician. Since then, Dr. Sinéad has come to understand the health implications of caesarean birth and has an important message to share with women: one that she wishes she had known 5 years ago when she gave birth to her twins.

I first met my Obstetrician when I was 15 weeks pregnant. Since I was pregnant with twins it was suggested that my perinatal care be provided by the “high risk” OB in town. In this first (very brief) meeting, I was reassured that so far things looked good, but given I had not yet had children it would be in my babies’ best interest, particularly that of baby B, to be delivered via Caesarean section.

pregnancy twins multiples

At this time in my life, I was over half way through my PhD, so my inquisitive mind needed to know, “what is the evidence to substantiate a C- section? Is it in the BEST interest of baby B”? 

In response, I was given a somewhat detailed answer pertaining to a recent five-year research trial that determined consistently poor outcomes for baby B when delivered vaginally. I accepted this, agreed to the recommendation and as I left my appointment, I was given a card with my scheduled Caesarean section date indicated. In a way, it was a bit of a relief. My trust in our health care system at the time translated to me not giving much thought to the type of birth I would have.

However, I am most grateful (especially now!) that my naturopathic doctor did. In addition to helping me conceive, she ensured that “despite my impending Caesarean section”, I would be armed with the best possible health strategies for my future children.

What did she mean? She was talking about the microbiome. Birth through the vaginal canal is the time when a baby ingests some of the first bacteria that will colonise its gut. But babies born by caesarean birth miss out on this process, and end up with a different set of bugs – including some from the hospital environment.

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Tons of studies have found evidence that this C-section microbiome could make the child more vulnerable to problems later in life, such as asthma, food allergies and even obesity. We are finally coming to understand how important the collection of bacteria in our guts is for our health.

It is only now that I understand how important certain aspects of her plan were – probiotics!! My children are now five years old and it’s only in the last two years that I’ve given more thought to how they were brought into the world, and how I was duped by the very care system in which I work. In retrospect, I was not given accurate information on what was in my babies’ best interest. Rather, I was offered a recommendation based on a biased perspective, one that medicalizes birth, disrupting our precious evolutionary fabric in the process.

My increasing knowledge and understanding of the microbiome has stemmed from one of the many hats I wear – a professor of pathophysiology at McMaster University. Simply put, the scientific evidence is now very clear: a well-functioning microbiome is the key to health – it represents the foundation and the evolutionary matrix that allows us to exist. This important new research SHOULD be transforming our health care approach, especially as it relates to perinatal care. Almost one third of babies born in North America are now birthed by caesarean. These babies can still receive the microbes they’re missing — and hopefully some of the health benefits — by being swabbed with their mother’s vaginal fluid shortly after birth.

The microbiome (gut microbiota of humans – formerly known as gut flora) represents a diverse set of bacterial species (approximately 1000-1150). These micro-organisms control our immune system as well as metabolism – they are everything! Here’s a video explaining how the microbiome is the future of medicine. Colonization of the intestine with important bacteria begins at birth, mainly due to transfer of bacteria from the mother, but also from the environment – to which the influences are many. Mode of birth, place of birth, breastfeeding and antibiotic use have been clearly demonstrated to influence the composition of the microbiota.

So, what exactly are the implications regarding Cesarean birth? We still don’t have all the answers. What we do know, is that when your baby’s gut is colonized by the micro-organisms in the hospital operating room rather than from you, it doesn’t bode well for the long term health of your child. More disturbing is the fact that this is now understood to have a multi-generational effect.

So, what can we do with all of this information? Our conventional practices that medicalize birth require a major upheaval. It is not to say we never need medicalization – of course there are times when medical intervention saves lives. This is where our current systems approach shines. However, the pattern of routine unnecessary intervention is a big issue and frankly the health of our population is suffering as a result.

007 DuforFamily HRM 1
Regardless of where you fit in the perinatal care process, you need to be informed. Beyond being informed, you need to be supported and empowered to make the best decisions. Thankfully our bodies are designed to adapt towards a state of wellness. We do however need the correct guidance on how to get there in a world of conventional practices that are hazardous to our health. I am so grateful to now be working with an incredible team in a one of a kind centre called The World of my Baby (the WOMB), who can provide this much needed help.

Why You Might Want to Try Acupuncture During Pregnancy

By Dr. Amy Dobbie, Naturopath

acupuncture and pregnancyWith all the testing, poking and prodding, therapies and preparation, it seems like there are so many things "to do" or try in pregnancy. What about acupuncture? Clients have experienced the most amazing results just from those wee needles we use! Here are the most common questions I am asked in my practice as a naturopathic doctor.

“I’ve heard acupuncture helps in pregnancy – is this true? Is it safe?” 

My answer is always YES! Acupuncture is completely safe during pregnancy, and is proven to be extremely beneficial and effective. In the first trimester it helps to maintain a pregnancy, nourish the body and alleviates early symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and heartburn. Later, the aches, pains, constipation and swelling that go along with pregnancy can be greatly alleviated by acupuncture treatment as well.

One of the most important times to have acupuncture during pregnancy is the third trimester, to help prepare the body for labour. Routinely, I recommend a set of pre-birth acupuncture points, and add in specific points based on individual needs.

How does it work?

Pre-birth acupuncture prepares a woman’s body for labour by tonifying and nourishing the body. The acupuncture points help to relax and soften uterine ligaments and bring blood flow to the pelvis. This encourages the baby to descend into the birth canal in the proper position, while preparing the cervix to soften and dilate and the uterine muscles to effectively contract when needed.

What are the benefits?

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o Increased likelihood of spontaneous labour around due date, meaning reduced likelihood of induction
o Reduced risk of medical intervention (C-section, forceps, epidural, etc.)
o Faster, easier birth (on average, 1.5 hours shorter)
o When acupuncture has been done routinely, there is an increased effectiveness of natural “induction” acupuncture.

When should a woman begin pre-birth acupuncture?

She should start weekly 30 minute treatments, beginning at 36 weeks, and continuing until her due date.

If I am overdue, will acupuncture help induce me?

Yes, additional acupuncture points can be added if you are past your due date to: help your baby engage into the birth canal, gently promote cervical softening and dilation, and strengthen birth sensations (contractions). These treatments can be done more frequently (every 1-3 days) until labour begins.

Acupuncture also helps to build energy and calm anxieties and frustrations, which often arise when a woman is past her due date.

Does acupuncture help with turning breech babies?

Yes. Often I will combine acupuncture with moxa (herbs heated over specific acupuncture points) to encourage babies to move to the proper position.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Typically no. Most people find acupuncture relaxing, and often fall asleep during the treatment. It is normal to feel some heaviness or warmth around points, but generally acupuncture is quite painless.

Does acupuncture cause pre-term labour?

No. Specific points are avoided until your due date, as they are known to promote labour. The points used for pre-birth acupuncture will not bring on early labour.

Why should I see a Naturopathic Doctor for this treatment?

Aside from acupuncture, I help women prepare for labour using other therapies such as homeopathics, herbs, supplements, hydrotherapy and hands on techniques. I always teach women how to apply acupressure at home and how to use these points as comfort measures during labour. Diet and lifestyle will also be discussed to ensure you are healthy throughout the remainder of your pregnancy and the post-partum period.

The other major benefit of seeing a Naturopathic Doctor is all of my treatment plans are tailored to your specific needs. We will discuss your questions about labour and birth, post-partum, breastfeeding, vaccinations, etc. and review your family history to make sure that your baby has the best possible start to life! I can even become your baby's primary health care provider!

Dr. Amy Dobbie is the Naturopathic Doctor at The WOMB - The World of My Baby. Dr. Amy works with all members of the family but holds pregnancy, women's health and paediatrics close to her heart.

Choosing the Right Prenatal Vitamin

vitamins during pregnancyPregnancy is an exciting, but often overwhelming time for new moms like you. There is so much to learn about your changing body, growing baby, birth and labour, not to mention preparing for parenthood. It is also a time where moms are more conscious about making healthy food choices to be strong and healthy to support the new life growing within. One of the most crucial parts of having a healthy baby and body during pregnancy is making sure you are getting the most out of your prenatal multivitamin.

When choosing your prenatal look for the following 3 criteria:
1. Adequate Nutrient Levels: AKA how much of each nutrient is found in the daily dose.
2. Excellent Absorbability: Different forms of vitamins are better absorbed than others. This is especially important for moms with digestive issues or food sensitivities, who may have difficulty breaking down and absorbing nutrients. Read below for which forms are best.
3. Few Fillers & Additives: Found under “non-medicinal ingredients”. Choose a prenatal with as few additives as possible to prevent passing on these harmful ingredients to baby.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is important for the immune system, skin health and development of vision, however, high levels of vitamin A (over 10, 000IU) are known to be harmful during pregnancy. Choose a multi with low or moderate amounts of Vitamin A. Synthetic vitamin A is very poorly absorbed, so look for animal (retinol) or vegetable (beta-carotene) based sources. If you were or are a smoker, beta carotene supplements are best avoided entirely as they can increase a smoker’s risk for lung cancer.

Folic Acid vs. Activated Folate
Folic acid/folate is one of the most important parts of a prenatal multi to prevent neural tube defects (NTD). Since adding this to all prenatal vitamins, there has been a large decline in NTDs. However, over 50% of our population has a defect, ranging from mild to severe, in the MTHFR gene, which is responsible for activating folic acid into it useable form of methylfolate. When this gene isn’t working at its best, folic acid cannot be activated and used by the body. Methylfolate is essential for methylation – a process used to promote detoxification, produce neurotransmitters and hormones, create energy, repair cells, etc. MTFHR defects are common in women with recurrent miscarriages and infertility and are linked to mood disorders, pre-eclampsia, Autism, Down Syndrome, heavy metal toxicity and cardiovascular disease. Testing for the MTFHR gene is an option, but another great choice is to always opt for activated folate (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) when choosing a prenatal.

B Vitamins
Our B-vitamins are essential in methylation, much like methylfolate, and assist in development of baby’s nervous system while supporting your own energy and stress levels during pregnancy. Choosing activated forms of B12 (methylcobalamin) and B6 (pyridoxal-5’-phosphate) ensures your body absorbs and uses these B vitamins effectively.

Vitamin D
D3 (cholecalciferol) is your best-absorbed form of vitamin D and is an important part of a prenatal multi for Canadian women. It is difficult to get enough of this important nutrient through the sun during Canadian winters, so ensuring your prenatal has at least 1000 IU will protect you and baby. Building adequate vitamin D stores before breastfeeding is also important, as we know breast milk is commonly deficient.

Calcium & Magnesium
These minerals are important for bone, teeth, musle and nervous system development. Citrate, malate and glycinate forms are better absorbed than carbonates, sulphates or oxides.

Iron
Constipation is a common complaint in pregnancy, and iron supplementation can make constipation worse. If this is true for you, choosing an iron glycinate or heme iron tends to cause less digestive upset and is better absorbed.

Still feeling overwhelmed about choosing your multi? Use this easy chart to compare common brands, or consult with one of the Naturopathic Doctors at The WOMB to help choose which is best for you and your baby.

Prenatal Comparison Chart

Birth Without Fear - A Dad’s Perspective

Our first childbirth experience was traumatic. Despite our excitement going into it, my wife and I were also more than a little nervous.

 We attempted to have a natural home birth with just ourselves and our midwife (and no painkillers). As labour got underway, things started to get tense - literally. What started out as slight back labour created fear; was the baby in a bad position? Is this normal? Should we be going to the hospital? Ultimately this level of thinking was the beginning of the end for us in terms of our intentions for a natural home birth. Instead, this only served to create a vicious cycle of fear-pain-tension, more fear-more pain-more tension, and so on. The result was a very slow, painful and stressful labour, and ultimately an unplanned hospital birth with intervention, far from what we had initially envisioned.

The second time around we were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work with the amazing doulas from The WOMB. In the weeks leading up to labour they helped us to prepare mentally for a calmer birth experience. The plan was to attempt a natural home birth again, but this time with a doula and a midwife. We felt much more prepared and we were confident going into it that things would be smoother this time. However, as soon as labour kicked in, it was game on, and the tension quickly resurfaced. Contractions began to progress rapidly and with great strength, and the back pain began to set in again. Almost immediately my wife’s mental state went right back to the place of fear experienced during our first birth. Within the first hour she was already suggesting that maybe we should just go to the hospital! At that point I also began to become fearful again.

With perfect timing, before these feelings even had a chance to take root, our doula arrived. The instant she entered, the entire mood transformed. Fear was replaced by trust, wisdom, confidence and a sense of calm: trust in each other and in this natural process; wisdom gained from countless birth experiences and knowing that everything would be okay; confidence in knowing this is a natural process and if a mental calmness is maintained, the process can be expansive in every sense of the word and indeed beautiful. Additionally, with our doula present, my wife and I were much more able to focus on just being in the moment and sharing this almost supernatural experience together. Rather than worrying about all of the big and little things, I was able to focus entirely on my wife and working together to make sure she was comfortable and staying in a positive frame of mind. Written by WOMB dad, Evan - dad to two little boys.


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