But, WHY not? Dietary Restrictions During Pregnancy. Part One: Contamination

photo credit: Dan Zen via photopin cc

photo credit: Dan Zen via photopin cc

As most of us are all too aware, pregnancy brings with it some pretty big lifestyle changes, especially in the realm of food and drink. Women are told to cut out alcohol and sushi, soft cheeses and coffee, but less often are they told the reasons behind those recommendations. You wind up following rules (or not) blindly, because no one ever bothers to answer the simple question, “why shouldn’t I eat _____ while I’m pregnant?”. As with all things birth, I feel that people are in the best position to make decisions for themselves when they have all of the relevant information available, rather than simply acquiescing or refusing based on what their friends did, what their doctor says or simply what feels right. Don’t get me wrong, friendly advice, medical recommendations and intuition are all super important, but they’re all also greatly improved by awareness of evidence gained from credible sources.

In this series of posts I will go over the main categories of food and drink restrictions and include common examples from each. First up: contamination.

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The Motherbaby Dyad: Can maternity care ever truly be ‘baby-friendly’ without first being ‘mother-friendly’?

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Most people now acknowledge that close physical proximity between mothers and babies during the first hours, days, weeks and even months of life is ideal for both. We know that being skin-to-skin encourages the baby’s oxygen levels to remain stable, that it regulates her temperature, that it encourages bonding between the two, that it stimulates milk production in the mother’s breasts and that babies held skin-to-skin for long periods tend to cry much less often (and have lower levels of stress hormones as a result). We know that breastfeeding on-demand helps both mother and baby adapt to life after birth; that room- and even bed-sharing helps everyone get more sleep, can prevent SIDS and make breastfeeding easier; that picking up a crying baby rather than letting them ‘cry it out’ keeps stress levels low and tends to lead to less anxiety later in life. Basically, the goal in all of these things is to allow the newborn to live outside of the womb in a manner that resembles life in the womb as closely as possible. Human babies are born essentially premature when compared to other mammals. While the calf can walk at birth and the baby chimp can cling to it’s mother’s back while she climbs, human babies are still essentially foetal. Why? Simply put, we walk upright, which affects the size and shape of our pelvic bones and we have big brains, which require large skulls to keep them in. In order for our human skulls to fit through our human pelvises (which they do very well, thank you very much – remember, as Ina May says, “Your body is not a lemon.”) we must be born early relative to other mammals. This works out ok, as long as we are prepared to care for what is essentially a foetus living outside of the womb. Doing so is even more demanding than pregnancy and requires support systems, maternity leaves, lots of encouragement and the ability to pick oneself up again time and time again (i.e. self-compassion). I have written before about the importance of community and social support systems for new parents but today I am thinking about the process of labour and birth and how they affect both mom and baby (or, motherbaby as many people are now referring to newborns and their moms to signify the importance of caring for them as a single entity). We accept that what happens after birth affects both mother and baby, but the evidence also shows that how a mother is treated prenatally and during labour and birth affects both individuals as well. So what does it mean for a hospital to be considered “mother-friendly” or “baby-friendly” and why are these two separate sets of considerations? Continue reading

June Weekend Prenatal Class

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There are spaces available for my June Weekend Prenatal Class at the Centre for Social Innovation. This is a two-day intensive course designed to help you feel confident, calm and prepared as you approach your birth and new parenthood. It will also provide your partner with skills and knowledge that will aid them in supporting you during labour and birth, as well as postpartum.

Classes will be held Saturday June 15th and Sunday June 16th, 2013 from 10am-5pm, at CSI Annex (720 Bathurst St.). This series is ideal for those expecting to give birth between late June and August.

To register, send an email to register@labourdoula.com with your name, your partner’s name (if applicable) & email address, your estimated delivery date and your phone number. The fee for the course is $240 per couple. Discounts are available for doula clients.

Topics for the course will include (but are not limited to):

-natural pain management and coping strategies for labour

-the physiology of labour and birth

-positions for labour and birth

-risks and benefits of common interventions (including pain medications)

-self-advocacy/informed decision-making skills

-breastfeeding

-postpartum care

-newborn care and characteristics

Wondering why you should take an independent class instead of one offered by your local hospital? 9 great reasons here.

photo credit: Steve took it via photopin cc

Breathe

This morning I came across this wonderful article in the Journal of Perinatal Education. In it, fellow doula Mary Esther Malloy, advocates for a slowing down at the moment of birth. A moment in which mother exhales and lets go of the birth that she has accomplished and inhales the moment of meeting her baby, slowly, deliberately, purposefully. According to Malloy, this momentary pause is the place where we are, “finding our babies… finding ourselves as mothers, and finding our way into a new state of being.”

Waiting to Exhale: How to Unhurry the Moment of Birth

Why Doula?

“Do you have any children of your own?”

This is a question that sometimes comes up when I talk about my work, whether I’m talking with a potential client or just chatting with someone at a party. Sometimes, when I respond with, “no, not yet.” and a smile, I’m met with a puzzled look. On a few occasions, the puzzled person has come right out and asked me, “so, why did you become a doula then?”

In honour of International Women’s Day today I thought I’d take a stab at answering that question. Continue reading

Weekend Prenatal Classes!

Too busy to attend a six-week prenatal series? Then you’re in luck! Due to popular demand I am now offering weekend prenatal courses at CSI Annex (720 Bathurst St.). Email me now to register!

The first weekend course will be held Saturday March 16th and Sunday March 17th, 2013 from 10am to 5pm.

The course is $240 per couple.

Topics will include (but are not limited to):

-pain management and coping strategies for labour

-the physiology of labour and birth

-positioning for labour and birth

-risks and benefits of common interventions

-breastfeeding

-newborn care, characteristics and abilities

-parenting options

Education is the key to having a birth experience in which you feel confident, calm and in control.