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.

Continue reading

Don’t Believe the Hype

This article from The Wall Street Journal provides some great historical information that connects meaningfully with my previous post (Home)Birth is Safe.

The author, Nathaniel Johnson notes that,

In 1923, Mary Breckinridge started the Frontier Nursing Service in rural Appalachia….Within a decade, the astonishing impact of that care was apparent. The women the Frontier Nursing Service cared for, who were desperately poor and usually gave birth at home, were 10 times less likely to die in childbirth than the average American at the time. The nation as a whole wouldn’t catch up until the 1950s, after the widespread acceptance of antiseptic and the discovery of antibiotics.

Given that antiseptic practices and the use of antibiotics are available and in use in midwife-attended home births today, it makes sense that, as Sheila Kitzinger has argued, it is not a high level of medicalization that makes birth safer – it is overall health: access to good pre-conception, prenatal and postpartum healthcare, good quality nutrition, access to clean water and access to skilled birth attendants. This has been borne out the world over, regardless of whether women are typically birthing at home or in hospitals. Access to medical interventions for the few women who actually need them is important, which is why midwives are thoroughly trained to detect possible complications before they become problematic and why they only support home births for women who are not at risk. Obstetricians are trained to deal with problems when they arise, but midwives are far more likely to be able to prevent them in the first place. Continue reading

Education is key! Next prenatal course begins March 5th.

I have another upcoming prenatal series starting at the Centre for Social Innovation, in the Annex, on March 5th. This course will run Tuesday evenings from 6:30-9 pm for six weeks.

If you are expecting a baby between late April and early June, this is the class for you! I cap my courses at six couples, so that my students can get to know one another and start building those new parent networks early. This course will give you and your partner the information and skills you need to cope with labour and birth; self-advocate effectively with your healthcare providers; know how breastfeeding should look and feel; know what to expect of a newborn; and make decisions about parenting that will work for you and your family.

The course is $240 per couple. Discounts are available for doula clients. Email me for more information, or to register.

Topics for the series 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.

You Can’t Beat Mother Nature

I’m always excited to read about good hard science that reveals more about the awesome power of women’s and babies’ bodies. Check out this article about the hundreds of different bacterial microorganisms that have been identified in breast milk through DNA sequencing.

In addition to the further confirmation that a mother’s milk can’t be duplicated in its richness and complexity, this article also lends support for minimizing interventions in labour where possible:

The type of labour also affects the microbiome within the breast milk: that of mothers who underwent a planned caesarean is different and not as rich in microorganisms as that of mothers who had a vaginal birth. However, when the caesarean is unplanned (intrapartum), milk composition is very similar to that of mothers who have a vaginal birth.

These results suggest that the hormonal state of the mother at the time of labour also plays a role: “The lack of signals of physiological stress, as well as hormonal signals specific to labour, could influence the microbial composition and diversity of breast milk,” state the authors.

Our bodies truly are amazing.

Prenatal Classes at CSI Annex – Spaces Left!

I still have room left in the prenatal series beginning on Tuesday, January 8th at CSI Annex (720 Bathurst St.). This is a six-week course, running from 6:30-9pm Tuesday evenings.

Register now! heather@socialinnovation.ca

Two Prenatal Series Options!

CSI_LogoWCH_Logo

I will have two new prenatal education series’ starting in the new year for those expecting a baby between late February and early April, 2013. Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) will be on Tuesday evenings, from 6:30 – 9pm, beginning January 8th. Classes at Women’s College Hospital will be on Wednesday evenings, from 6:30 – 9pm, beginning January 9th. Both courses are six weeks in length. You can choose the series that best suits you in terms of day and location.

In taking the role of prenatal instructor at Women’s College, one of my top priorities was that I would be able to use my own curriculum and that there would be no imposition of a hospital agenda upon my prenatal course content. In other words, these two courses will be identical in content and will focus on preparing for birth as a normal, healthy experience that can be anticipated and experienced without fear and in a calm an relaxed manner. We will also cover topics related to the postpartum phase and parenting.

To register for the course at CSI Annex (Tuesdays), email me at heather@socialinnovation.ca. To register for the WCH course (Wednesdays), email janelle.noel@wchospital.ca or call 416-323-6494.

For more info on topics that will be covered, hit the jump! Continue reading

Prenatal Classes at Women’s College Hospital

Women's College Hospital - Health Care for Women, Revolutionized

As many of you are already aware, I was recently hired to teach prenatal education classes at Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto. I’m very excited about this opportunity as I hope that it will allow me to reach many more women and their partners, from more diverse walks of life. I firmly believe that education is a vital component of a healthy pregnancy, a positive and empowering birth experience and a strong start as new parents. Taking group classes over a six-week period gives you the opportunity to make new connections with other parents-to-be and affords you the time to absorb the wealth of information and ensure that your questions are addressed.

Another reason that I am excited about teaching at WCH is that they are permitting me to run the courses using my own curriculum – in other words, the content will be the same as  it would be in any other location where I teach. This means that my students will not have to worry about anyone else’s agenda interfering with the education they need to make informed choices. All of the content in my courses is firmly based in current, reliable evidence and respects a woman’s ability to know her body and to give birth with confidence and strength.

Unlike most other hospital prenatal classes, you do not need to be a patient at WCH. Regardless of where your midwife or doctor has privileges and whether you are planning a hospital birth or a home birth, you are welcome to register.

For more information or to register, please visit the WCH website. My courses are on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm (until 9). The first series begins November 14th.

At Long Last….

Baby held in parents' palm

After many years and many promises, Ontario finally has a breast milk bank! This is amazing news for those babies who most need donated milk. Until now, milk for vulnerable babies whose moms were unable to feed them directly had to be shipped in from outside of the province. Now moms in Ontario can donate milk if they have oversupply and this will mean access to donated milk for a much higher number of at-risk babies.  If you need milk, you need to get a prescription in order to access the bank. For more info on that, go here. If you have milk that you would like to donate, please visit this page to find out more.

Every baby deserves the most nutritious food possible and for the vast majority, that food is breastmilk (the only real exception that I know of being babies with galactosemia). Eventually, it would be wonderful to see the system open up to all babies – not just at risk babies – whose moms are unable to breastfeed for medical reasons and who wish to have breastmilk for their babies. This might further encourage the powers-that-be to ensure that all moms are given adequate education and consistent, good quality support so that they can realize their breastfeeding goals. Believing that you can’t breastfeed your child is a frustrating and heartbreaking experience for many women and sadly, in a huge number of cases, support and education are all that stand between breastfeeding success and failure. We can’t continue to let so many moms and babies fall through the cracks, given the tremendous health benefits of breastfeeding and how much it can mean to moms to be able to achieve their goals.

This is the announcement about the milk bank that I received this morning from The Maternal Newborn and Child Health Promotion (MNCHP) Network:

Located at Mount Sinai Hospital, and in partnership with The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Milk Bank collects donated breastmilk from lactating women, pasteurizes it, and distributes it by prescription to medically fragile babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units across Ontario.

The Milk Bank has been developed by some of Canada’s foremost experts in paediatrics and neonatology, including Dr. Shoo Lee, an internationally recognized neonatologist and Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health and an inter-professional clinical team from all three hospitals. The process for creating the Milk Bank included ensuring regulatory approvals for donor milk banking and conducting research about the benefits of donor breastmilk for very low birth weight babies. The safety and quality of donor human milk is the Milk Bank’s top priority, and The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank meets or exceeds all safety standards for donor human milk banking.

Evidence from the medical literature was used to determine the eligibility criteria for babies to receive donor breastmilk. The research determined that providing donor breastmilk to a specific group of infants – preterm or very low birth weight hospitalized babies – can protect them against life-threatening illnesses such as necrotizing enterocolitis and potentially against serious infections and other complications related to preterm birth.

The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank is made possible through the generous support of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Rogers Foundation.

http://milkbankontario.ca/

Big News!

I am very pleased and excited to announce that, just today, I was offered a job as a prenatal instructor at Women’s College Hospital here in Toronto! I’ll be teaching an evening class, weekly, likely starting in September.

I’m really psyched about this opportunity. I’m also thrilled that WCH is letting me use my own curriculum, which means that women accessing prenatal education through the hospital will receive the same quality, evidence-based information that I provide to my students when I teach as an independent CBE. Not having to teach to the “typical experience” was really important to me, as I firmly believe that women are capable of and entitled to better than the standard base level of care that most women are receiving today. I am also really jazzed, because unlike every other hospital in Toronto, WCH opens their classes up to all women, not just those who are patients at their own hospital. In other words, if your OB or midwife is at St. Joe’s or Mt. Sinai or Scarborough General or any other hospital in the city, you can still take childbirth education classes at WCH!

I’ll post more once I have more info on the date that my first WCH series will be starting and other relevant stuff. Can’t wait!

Summer/Fall Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation

If you are expecting a baby in later summer or fall of 2012 and are looking for prenatal education that works for you, you’re in luck! I am offering a full series of Prenatal Classes at the Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) from August 15th to September 19th, 2012. This is a six-week series, Wednesday evenings from 6:30-9:00 pm. People have already started registering for this series – I have, at present, room for four more couples (or singles with a support person). If you are interested in taking my summer course (May 30th to July 4th), there are still a couple of spots available in that series too.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “why would I pay for independent prenatal classes when I can just attend the free ones at the hospital?” This is a great question and there are a number of excellent reasons. Continue reading