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preecclampsia: real stories

I found this story (about an Ohio woman!) on this website and I think it is so encouraging!

A survivor's story: From ICU to 26.2! 

Rachel Yencha in Lakewood, Ohio, knows what it takes to overcome challenges; she suffered preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, and placenta accreta with her pregnancy in 2015. Rachel nearly lost her life twice during the medical ordeal and spent several days in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The after-effects were also challenging -- Rachel was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fast forward three years and Rachel has taken on another challenge -- to run the London Marathon in April as a way to raise money for the Preeclampsia Foundation! That's 26.2-miles! She's running as an example of overcoming adversity for her healthy three-year-old daughter.

Rachel is also an example to other preeclampsia survivors and families that commitment to the cause can take many forms, including fundraising. She's already hit her fundraising goal of $2,600 and continues to receive donations from family and friends. Her secret? "You just have to ask," says Rachel. "I'm introverted by nature and I found that setting up a Facebook page for the event helped a lot."

I share this story not to say that every survivor of preeclampsia should strive to run a marathon, but as an encouragement that there is hope and can be triumph after such a scary experience. If you've had preeclampsia and have a happy story to share, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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Postpartum Preeclampsia

What, Kelli?! POSTPARTUM Preecclampsia?! I thought that in your other posts you said this is commonly known as a condition in pregnancy and can be treated or cured by the woman giving birth. Well, yes. These things are true, but so is the chance of this taking place after birth.

To say that birth can "cure" the condition leads us to believe they we're in the clear and no longer after delivery. Unfortunately, 97% of maternal deaths related to preeclampsia happen in the postpartum period.

97%.

Thankfully, most women with preeclampsia will deliver healthy babies and fully recover from the condition in the weeks after birth. However, some women will experience serious and often, life threatening complications. A woman’s condition can progress to severe preeclampsia, eclampsia or HELLP syndrome quickly. Delivery (even if pre-term) is sometimes a necessary intervention, but once delivered, moms still need to receive care if she is experiencing high blood pressure and any related preeclampsia symptoms.  

Hear that ladies? Remain vigilant after delivery. 

97% of maternal deaths related to preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy occur within six weeks after giving birth meaning that the majority of deaths due to preeclampsia happen AFTER a baby is born, when new moms and dads are least expecting their story to turn tragic.

Delivery isn't always the cure for preeclampsia. Any woman can develop preeclampsia after her baby is born, whether she experienced high blood pressure during her pregnancy or not.

Insist that your healthcare provider monitors your health closely after birth, it could save your life.

Learn, memorize and recognize the following warning signs and seek medical attention immediately. If you can't reach your persona physician, midwife, etc. call 911 or get to your closest Emergency Department and let them know you've recently given birth and are experiencing some/all of these symptoms:

  • Blood pressure higher than 140/90
  • Changes in your vision
  • Stomach pains
  • Severe headache
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Swelling of the hands and/or feet

If you experience any of these symptoms, for sure call 911 or have someone get you to the Emergency Department right away:

  • Blood pressure higher than 160/110
  • Shortness of breath or overall difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Seeing spots

Know the signs. Take action. Save a life, ladies. For more information and frequently asked questions about postpartum precclampsia, visit this page and scroll down a ways.

 

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preeclampsia & hellp

If you've never heard of HELLP, you might've seen the title of this post and thought I'd misspelled something, but nope. Its an acronym that stands for:

H (hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells)
EL (elevated liver enzymes)
LP (low platelet count)

HELLP syndrome was named by Dr. Louis Weinstein in 1982 and it is a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia. Both conditions usually occur during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth.

HELLP syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, especially when high blood pressure and protein in the urine aren't present. Its symptoms are sometimes mistaken for gastritis, flu, acute hepatitis, gall bladder disease, or other conditions.

Globally, HELLP syndrome is estimated to affect as high as 25% of the population which is why it's critical for expecting mothers to be aware of the condition and its symptoms to try and receive an early diagnosis and necessary treatment.

 

Pregnant women developing HELLP syndrome often experience one or more of the following symptoms, which may at first seem like precclampsia:

  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting/indigestion with pain after eating
  • Abdominal or chest tenderness and upper right upper side pain (from liver distention)
  • Shoulder pain or pain when breathing deeply
  • Bleeding
  • Changes in vision
  • Swelling

These symptoms are usually accompanied by high blood pressure and/or protein in the urine and are not things to be ignored. As you've read several times on this blog, I always think its better to play things safe and even seem a little paranoid about things. Be your own advocate for your health and for the health of your baby. If you aren't willing to do it, you can't expect anyone else to do it for you. 

The most common reasons for mothers to become critically ill or die are liver rupture or stroke (cerebral edema or cerebral hemorrhage). These can usually be prevented when caught in time.

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, please see a healthcare provider immediately.

Most often, the "treatment" for women with HELLP Syndrome is the delivery of their baby. During pregnancy, many women suffering from HELLP syndrome require a transfusion of red blood cells, platelets, and/or plasma. Steroids can be used in early pregnancy to help the baby's lungs mature. Some healthcare providers may also use certain steroids to improve the mother's outcome, as well. 

Much of the information you've read here can be found on this site and if you'd like more detailed information about HELLP, it is an excellent resource. 

Yes. HELLP (and Precclampsia) can be scary, life-threatening to a mother and/or her unborn child and these things are far too often missed in prenatal and postpartum care. This post is more of a dire one, but its so important to give you the facts and educate you about what can happen. I believe knowledge empowers and I hope that by reading this you feel more well-equipped to take on what could potentially affect your pregnancy or the pregnancy of someone you know. 

Did you have HELLP? Do you want to share your story? I'd love to hear from you.

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preecclampsia

May is Preecclampsia Awareness Month.

This will be the first of four posts related to Preecclampsia. Preecclampsia is a very serious, often very frightening condition during pregnancy and it is important to know some of the facts about it for when/if you or a loved one becomes pregnant. Preeclampsia is sometimes referred to as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension so it is wise to make yourself familiar with all three terms. Read on to learn more about the condition, common risk factors, warning signs and treatment options. 

Facts

Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs during pregnancy and affects both the mother and her unborn baby. It is a condition that can progress rapidly and is characterized by elevated blood pressure, swelling in various parts of the body and protein in the urine. The cause of Preeclampsia is still not fully understood, though the disease was recognized and described nearly 2000 years ago.

If undetected, Preeclampsia can lead to Eclampsia which is one of the top five causes of maternal deaths, affecting an estimated 13% of maternal deaths worldwide.

Approximately 5-8 % of pregnancies are affected by Preeclampsia which means that more than 6.6 million women worldwide suffer from the disease.

In the United States Preeclampsia is responsible for approximately 18% of all maternal deaths.

Preeclampsia causes 15% of premature births in industrialized countries and it the number one reason doctors decide to deliver a baby prematurely. 

Risk Factors

  • Women who have had more than one pregnancy.
  • Women who are obese.
  • A medical history of chronic high blood pressure, diabetes and/or kidney issues.
  • Previously diagnosed hypertension, kidney disease, connective tissue disease (i.e. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Pregnancy in early teems or past the age of 40

Warning Signs

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, warning signs of Preeclampsia aren't noticeable. Women might experience frequent headaches, blurred vision, upper abdominal pain and/or unexplained anxiety... but many pregnant women complain of these things and aren't preeclamptic so it can be hard to detect.

Dramatic weight gain, an inability to urinate freely (or a great decrease in amount released), and persistent nausea, often paired with abdominal pain may be reasons to watch a woman more closely for the development of Preeclampsia which typically (but not always) occurs in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.

Treatment

The only true way to "treat" severe Preeclampsia is for the woman to give birth. Doctors take the baby's gestational age, the stage of the baby's development and the mother's overall health condition before proceeding with plans for early delivery, of course. 

If detected early enough and the mother has a good home support system, sometimes she can manage mild Preeclampsia with bed rest, frequent OB visits, and she might need to monitor her blood pressure at home on a regular basis.

If you're pregnant (or someone you know is pregnant) and end experiencing any of these problems  or if you've read through this and question if you have Preeclampsia, call your healthcare provider right away. And if the person on the phone doesn't take you seriously, ask to speak to someone else in the office and carry that on until someone hears you out and gets you an appointment as soon as possible. Maybe its nothing, but maybe its something and its always better to play it safe when your life and the life of your unborn child is concerned.

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cesarean interview #7

What an amazing month this has been hearing from the brave women who've been so kind to share their birth stories with me and all of you. I hope that by reading through these real life accounts of birth you've not only learned something new, but have also realized that you're not alone. Whether you've given birth vaginally or through a surgery like the women I've featured this month, you're likely to have encountered some of the same thoughts and feelings as they have. Birth unites us as women and more than anything, we have this incredibly miraculous superpower in common. Let's stop comparing and shaming and replace that with holding each other up and finding that the list of our similarities as women far outweighs the list of our differences.

The final interview of the month is from my dear friend Lindsay. I met her when her first child was a few months old and we hit it off right away. When her second child was born, she had just moved halfway across the country and I couldn't support her in the ways I wanted to as she recovered from birth. Its been a journey with her as she's processed her birth stories over time and I'm proud of how far she's come.

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? I have two children who were both born via cesarean.

  2. If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were the others planned? If so, what was the reason? If not, what happened in the birth that ended up resulting with a repeat cesarean? I had my first via cesarean, which was not as I planned and so tried for a V-BAC with my second child. I labored naturally all night and then after another nearly four hours of pushing, my baby girl's heart rate started to drop (similar to what happened with my son and my first birth) and the doctors were very concerned because she was not descending. I was rushed into an emergency cesarean and my uterus ruptured immediately. My daughter was not breathing on her own but she began breathing fairly quickly so they did not have to intubate her. We had survived.

  3. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? So hard to answer... I would not say I was happy with my experiences of having two cesareans, but that I have over the years made peace with how my births went and that I am beyond grateful to have two beautiful, awesome (if exhausting at times:)) children. I think that in my first birth I would have liked to have more knowledge and information to empower my decisions before going into it.. I had read and made a birth plan, but I do think having a doula might have helped though my midwives were amazing. Once my son's heart rate began dropping multiple times, my "plans" went out the window and I only cared that he was brought to this side of Earth safely!

  4. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I definitely carried shame and maybe embarrassment for years about not having birthed naturally-often brought on mostly by my own expectations of what ideally motherhood should start as (which I soon learned is that motherhood is full of ideals and ideas that can be overwhelming and NO one can live up to what is "ideal",  that's the part of us all being human in my opinion that can level the playing field in a wonderful way). 

  5. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? I was not able to do skin to skin with my first child- I remember them putting him close to my face as tears rolled down but the fact that I was strapped down on the table was so frustrating- at that point I was so out of it because of the epidural (huge impact on me where I felt nearly paralyzed from the neck down), and so again my thoughts of what I wanted that first hour to look like disappeared (I don't think I was informed as I was with my second about the importance of that first hour).. I was not able to have any skin to skin contact with my daughter as she was rushed to the NICU and they were trying to save me from a complete hysterectomy (they were able to repair my bladder and uterus). It was so hard to not be able to even see her or touch her, again not what we planned.

  6. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? There was no clear drape in either cesarean.

  7. If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? I was not able to try nursing in the first hour with either, and with my daughter they began giving her formula before I was even able to see her (it was hours but I had not been able to consent). 

  8. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? I don't know of recovery from a fully natural birth so I only have my experience. However, with my second cesarean, I had labored and pushed so much that I had the pain of the incision from the cesarean as well as the lovely pains from pushing too (though I wouldn't have traded being able to experience the natural birth experience for less pain). It was incredibly frustrating to feel like there was "less I should do" because of having had surgery and for me it added an emotional weight and sense of shame that I wasn't able to mother the way I wanted those first few days and weeks. With my second, I learned to listen a little less to others and trust my body more but still had to be careful.

  9. If your cesarean was planned, did you feel well-prepared for the procedure itself, what to expect regarding recovery and was your healthcare provider willing to work with you to get the birth experience you desired? Neither were planned so while I felt I had great providers (especially for the first birth), I think it might have been helpful to even talk about it ahead of time so there may have been less surprise, fear and more knowledge and feeling empowered on my part. I think in my mind there was a sense of denial about it being a possibility (because I didn't want it to be an "option") but in reality it might have prepared me a little more to feel like I could have some sense of control when things felt very out of control.

  10. What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth? (If its too hard to narrow it down to three, list more!) 

    1. There is NO easy. Cesareans are not the "easy way out". Bringing a child into the world, whatever way possible is the most incredibly, amazing, challenging thing a human can do (in my humble opinion).

         2. To medical professionals: The person in front of you is not just another medical record or patient, this person is a person who has fought to bring her baby into this world, treat her and this baby with respect and dignity; Slow down and treat them as people (that is why you went into this field I hope, you maybe like people); Give them space to make informed decisions. To family members: Give space and support, less words and "wisdom"... women know their own bodies and have done an amazing thing by giving birth, so support and trust them.

     3. Helping women feel freedom to share their birth story without shame and with power can unite us so we can encourage and learn from one another (I have this great friend, Kelli Blinn who taught me a thing or two about this and is continuing to do amazing work). 

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cesarean interview #6

Today's questions were answered by yet another wonderful neighbor of mine, Pam. I've gotten to know her through chats at the playground, lots of text messages, frank conversations about the highs and lows of life, and some social hangouts. Her oldest is five years old and her youngest was born in September of last year. Like so many mamas I speak to, much of Pam's first experience with labor and delivery was traumatic and it absolutely bums me out. I hope that one day we all live in a world where first-time birth stories involve far less disappointment, trauma, heartache and grief. 

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? 3 children all delivered via cesarean

  2. If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were the others planned? If so, what was the reason? If not, what happened in the birth that ended up resulting with a repeat cesarean? I had my 1st cesarean after 30+ hours of labor, an unreal amount of pitocin and other drugs, and declining maternal health. Another doctor came in to consult. His opinion was there was a slight chance vaginal labor could still be an option, but if it was they would need forceps and the delivery would likely cause a fair amount of trauma both to my body and the baby. I remember feeling that my family and medical staff wanted a vaginal delivery for me because they knew that’s what I hoped for so they kept pushing for it. It never occurred to me that I could say let’s stop this and do a cesarean. Once the other doctor offered cesarean as an option I remember feeling very certain it was the best plan.

    My second cesarean was scheduled, however after a regular office visit the doctor sent me to the hospital to deliver early because of my declining health. I never questioned having a second cesarean. It felt like the safest option for me.

    I remained healthy throughout my third pregnancy. We scheduled a cesarean fairly early and I really didn’t question it until the final weeks in my pregnancy. All my numbers were good, I was actually going into delivery healthy. I did ask my doctor if she would consider doing a vbac. We discussed it and ultimately she said no. I was ok with that answer, I wasn’t really sure it was what I wanted but I knew I needed to have a conversation about it.

  3. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? My first was very traumatic. I went into it very ill and exhausted from hours of labor. Because of the pregnancy complications I wasn’t allowed to eat or get out of bed for 24 hours post delivery. I was also not allowed to be alone with my baby for the 1st 24 hrs. I was confused, sore and pretty sick.

    My second was a completely different experience. But I wasn’t prepared for the lack of support. Because I had been under pretty intensive care with my first I wasn’t able to decipher what was “normal” and what was the “exception.”

    My third was seamless in comparison. By this point my body knew what to expect, my expectations were realistic.

  4. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I ask this because many women have shared that they’ve almost felt bullied by other women who had vaginal births and have been told that cesarean was “the easy way out” or “not real childbirth”. I hate to even bring this up, but its a real thing in our culture and I’d love to hear your take on this if it is something you have experienced. No. I have mourned that I won’t experience a vaginal birth and along with that I have experienced judgement about my sadness.

  5. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? My first no. Second, a nurse held her on my chest for a few minutes, the baby was swaddled. My third we were skin to skin within 8 mins of delivery. I think part of this was because I started the conversation early and often. 

  6. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No

  7. If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? My first I really don’t know. My second yes. Third she began to nurse on the operating table. 

  8. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? For my first it was overwhelming and I was not prepared at all. I was exhausted and sore. I was both physically and emotionally drained and really no one in my network seemed to understand what I was experiencing. Many tried to be supportive, but just didn’t know how to support. My second was easier than my first, but still painful. My third felt easy by comparison. 

  9. If your cesarean was planned, did you feel well-prepared for the procedure itself, what to expect regarding recovery and was your healthcare provider willing to work with you to get the birth experience you desired? My preparation only came with experience and subsequent cesareans. 

  10. What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth? (If its too hard to narrow it down to three, list more!) 

    *The scars are both physical and emotional.

    *I grieved not being able to deliver vaginally.

    *I don’t think your body ever completely recovers.

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a letter

This morning I want to address the mamas out there who have had cesarean sections (or c-sections). Grab a cuppa your favorite drink, get cozy and take a minute to breathe and read some words of love from yours truly.

Dear Mama Bear, 

I'll just come out and say it: Some women feel shame, disappointment, resentment, guilt or a sense of failure after having a c-section and well, this is so sad to me. Regardless of how your baby enters the world, you gave birth to new life that was once inside you and is now out and free in the world! You're a mother, your baby is your baby. Period. There are no strings attached when your baby is born via an incision made by a physician. It doesn't matter. For some, its the best option for birth due to health issues for Mom or Baby, the need for an emergency c-section, the position of the baby, etc. and for others it is just a preferred option for birth. And it is all okay. Women are amazing, fierce, incredibly creatures who should only be celebrated and encouraged after birth, nothing else. 

If you've ever felt "less than" among your friends who gave birth vaginally, I want you to shed that negative lie right now. Maybe those mamas did have an amazing birth experience and wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Maybe. Or maybe, and probably way more than you think, they probably have parts of their birth stories that they don't love too and wish they could've done things differently. For some women, it can be easy to make the birthing process sound all peachy when underneath, they're crying and feeling their own sense of shame, guilt or disappointment over the process. 

My hope is that one day women will be able to rise above - above the noise of self-doubt, above the stress and fears of what others think of them, and waaaaay above the need to make someone else feel bad about themselves so that we can feel good - and leave the childbirthing experience feeling supported, loved and able to hold our heads high. I hope you always have at least one safe woman to talk to and that you'll pay it forward, being a safe refuge for other mothers who come after you. 

You're magnificent! Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Love, Kelli

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cesarean interview #5

Today we'll hear from my younger (and only) sister, Kristi. When she gave birth to her first, she lived in Michigan, Since then, she's added two more kids to her bunch, but now she's in the Central Ohio area and we're all a lot happier having her and her family much closerl

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? I have had one child via emergency cesarean.

  2. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I don't know that I'd say I was 'happy' with the experience since it was an emergency and completely unexpected, but I was relieved that the hospital staff was experienced and everything turned out okay. I was induced 4 days prior to my delivery date due to concerns the doctor had about the baby not having grown much in the previous week.  I was given an oral medication to induce labor and everything was fine in the beginning. After about 4 1/2 hours my blood pressure was sky rocketing and the baby's heartrate was dropping, so the decision was made to perform an emergency cesarean. 

  3. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I ask this because many women have shared that they’ve almost felt bullied by other women who had vaginal births and have been told that cesarean was “the easy way out” or “not real childbirth”. I hate to even bring this up, but its a real thing in our culture and I’d love to hear your take on this if it is something you have experienced. I have not personally experienced shaming due to having a cesarean.  In my case when people heard about my situation they were more concerned.

  4. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? I was able to do skin to skin with my son in the recovery room but not immediately after the procedure in the operating room.  If I remember correctly it was only a few minutes before the nurses brought him to me.

  5. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation?There was a drape up during the procedure but it was not a clear see through drape.

  6. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? The recovery experience was about what I expected. The nurses as well as my OBGYN  spoke with me quite a bit about some of the difficulties I would have, ( pain while sneezing or coughing, needing to sit with a pillow against my abdomen to help ease discomfort, constipation, being unable to drive right away or lift anything heavier than the baby,  etc) so I wasn't totally in the dark. It was tough being at home with an infant, my first child, and not being able to do as much as I wanted with him.  It was painful for me to get up with him several times during the night, I couldn't bend easily to place him in the bassinet or change him.  It made me feel a little helpless.  Luckily my husband was able to take quite a bit of time off of work and he filled in where I was lacking. 

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cesarean interview #4

Today we'll hear from sweet Maggie who gave birth to her first child, a daughter, a little over a year ago. I met Maggie sort of by happenstance through mutual friends just a few days before her daughter was born. Soon after the birth I got to visit with her in the hospital and she later became one of my clients... and a friend! 

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? One child born via cesarean.

  2. Was there a reason your baby was born by cesarean? I was diagnosed with chloestasis when I was 37 weeks pregnant. I was 0cm dilated and 0% effaced when my doctor informed me I needed to be induced immediately. After being in labor for 40-hours, pushing for four long excruciating hours and trying to suction the baby out three times with no success I told my doctor I had no energy left to give. We both agreed it was time for an emergency c-section.

  3. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I was so happy to be almost done with the birthing process; I was tired, hungry and utterly exhausted, so a cesarean sounded heavenly at that point! The recovery was far more involved than what I had anticipated. Being 14-months post-pregnancy, I am so pleased with how my body and scar have healed. I still experience numbness, but knew that going the c-section route was what was best for myself and the baby.

  4. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? Thankfully, I have never experienced any shaming or insensitive questioning from others.

  5. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? Unfortunately, I was unable to do skin-to-skin due to the head trauma my baby experienced from the suctioning. It is something I still struggle with, but I was able to the following day in the NICU.

  6. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No, a blue tarp was provided. My husband and I both wish that was an option!

  7. If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? Again, because my baby's condition was unclear after she was first born I had to start pumping right away. Thankfully, I was able to attempt breastfeeding the following morning in the NICU.

  8. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? I definitely wasn't prepared for the amount of recovery that was ahead of me. The not driving for 8-weeks was particularly frustrating. Because our birthing story was so traumatic, I was very emotional (and still am!) and not being able to do the physical things that I used to after coming home from the hospital was difficult.

  9. What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth? (If its too hard to narrow it down to three, list more!) 1.) Embrace it - wear your scar with pride! 2.) Women with c-sections work just as hard as women who have vaginal births 3.) Keep up with your medicine - just because you aren't in pain or discomfort at that moment doesn't mean you won't be in an hour.

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cesarean interview #3

These questions were answered by my neighbor, Molly. She has two boys the same ages as my two kids and they all go to school together. In the last year I've gotten to know her more, mostly through chats on the playground after school or play dates for our boys. I love how just by ten simple questions I'm getting to know the women I've interviewed better and I'm really thankful for everyone's participation.

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? 

    2 children. Both born by cesarean.

  2. If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were the others planned? If so, what was the reason? If not, what happened in the birth that ended up resulting with a repeat cesarean? 

    If not, what happened in the birth that ended up resulting with a repeat cesarean?

    Both were planned. First son was breech. With my second, I felt more comfortable knowing how everything would go based on prior experience. I got an extra day at the hospital, which I especially appreciated after my first as a transition to post-baby life. Doctor would have allowed VBAC but I wasn’t really interested.

  3. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I was happy with both experiences.

  4. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I ask this because many women have shared that they’ve almost felt bullied by other women who had vaginal births and have been told that cesarean was “the easy way out” or “not real childbirth”. I hate to even bring this up, but its a real thing in our culture and I’d love to hear your take on this if it is something you have experienced.    I am familiar with this. I don’t feel as though I’ve experienced it from anyone else. I probably do more self-shaming on this by assuming people think these things. I know that they lived in me for over 9 months and they came from me.

  5. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? No.

  6. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No. There was a drape but it was not see through.

  7. If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? I did breastfeed but definitely wasn’t able to do this within the first hour for either child.

  8. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? I imagine whether you deliver naturally or by c-section one is drained both physically and emotionally. My recovery went well, probably better than expected as I didn’t have any complications. For my second, I knew what to expect and recovery went just as well.

  9. If your cesarean was planned, did you feel well-prepared for the procedure itself, what to expect regarding recovery and was your healthcare provider willing to work with you to get the birth experience you desired? 

    Both were planned. In general, I had no idea what to expect. I think that’s what I wanted. I really trusted my doctor and I felt comfortable with her guiding me. When I found out my first was breech I just felt like I had no control over it. My husband read up on methods to “turn” the baby and I wasn’t really interested in pursuing those. I felt more in control by setting a date and time and just working toward that date. I would have had a much harder time just waiting for labor.

  10. What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth? (If its too hard to narrow it down to three, list more!) 

    It is major abdominal surgery.

    Your core takes a long time to fully strengthen. Almost 5 years after my 2nd surgery, my core finally feels strong again.

    It took a very long time for the nerve endings to repair themselves. The area around the incision felt “numb” for a VERY LONG TIME.

    I hate to hear of women who labored for many hours then having surgery. I think the recovery in those situations would be harder.

    Motherhood comes in many forms and fashions whether delivery is natural, through surgery, adoption, etc.

     

     

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black mamas are dying

Yesterday concluded Black Maternal Health Awareness Week and to say that my eyes have been opened and my heart has felt heavy in the last eight days is a serious understatement. The statistics are out there, the evidence is real, the stories are aplenty and the heartache is felt across the nation. Black women are dying - as they welcome a child into their lives - and frankly, its ridiculous.

Black women are 243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than their while counterparts. 

243%.

Why, you might ask?

Black women are less likely to have insurance and if they are eligible for something like Medicaid, they'll often lose coverage once the baby is born. 

Black women are more likely to have chronic health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc. which can mean that giving birth is far more dangerous than a woman who doesn't have these problems. 

Facilities often aren't in as good of condition or aren't of high quality as those where white women deliver which can lead to higher rates of life-threatening conditions.

Black women often feel disrespected, talked down to, an overall lack of support, devalued, discredited... Need I go on? NO ONE wants to be treated this way or feel this way and NO ONE should be handled in this manner!

Specifically in Ohio...

(The following information was taken directly from Cleveland Regional Perinatal Network.)   

"In 2009, the pregnancy-related mortality rate was 17.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to an all-time low of 7.2 per 100,000 live births in 1987. Ohio’s preliminary pregnancy-related mortality rates are at least comparable to the national rates and are likely higher. Causes of this increase in mortality are not completely understood. Factors which play a role include an increase in underlying chronic diseases along with maternal age in the obstetric population.

Ohio re-established a Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review (PAMR) system in 2010 to ensure that all maternal deaths are identified and preventive actions developed. A review had not been done in Ohio since the 1980’s. The Ohio PAMR was developed with funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and is now supported with funding from the Title V Maternal and Child Health block grant. It has completed four years of review. The fifth is underway."

Making sure you really caught what you just read:

In 2009: 17.8 deaths per 100,000 live births

compared to 

1987: 7.2 per 100,000 live births - what had been an all-time low.

Come on! We have to wake up! We have to take a stand! I hate to say it, but I think that our stats, almost ten years after the 2009 information are worse.

How can you help? Stay tuned for another post about local organizations that are working towards towards an end to this ghastly epidemic.

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cesarean interview #2

The next mama that we'll hear from is my friend Sarah from college. We've traveled the world together, laughed so hard we cried and our sides hurt and we've wept with each other in some of the lowest moments of life. I'm thankful for her honest participation.

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? I have one child and he was born via C section.
  2. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I was very nervous at first to have this type of birth but I didn’t have a choice due to the heart rate dropping every time I had a contraction so of course I knew this was best for my son. 

  3. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I ask this because many women have shared that they’ve almost felt bullied by other women who had vaginal births and have been told that cesarean was “the easy way out” or “not real childbirth”. I hate to even bring this up, but its a real thing in our culture and I’d love to hear your take on this if it is something you have experienced. No, I didn’t have anyone make me feel less bc of C section. 

  4. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? No, unfortunately I was not able to do skin to skin right away but later after I left the OR I did.

  5. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? Yes

  6. If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? Not within the hour, it took several hours for me to get to nurse. 

  7. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? Recovery was harder than I thought. The next morning getting out of bed was very emotional. I knew then, I would have to take it easy so I could recover and be available for my baby. 

  8. If your cesarean was planned, did you feel well-prepared for the procedure itself, what to expect regarding recovery and was your healthcare provider willing to work with you to get the birth experience you desired? The C section was not planned but we knew after a couple hours of contractions that we were going to the OR. The anesthesiologist came in to talk with me and the doc talked me through what to expect. 

  9. What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth? (If its too hard to narrow it down to three, list more!) It’s okay to have a c section. You are no less. Recovering is hard so take it easy. Let other people help you. 

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cesarean interview #1

Earlier this month I reached out to women in my circle and asked  if they'd be interested in answering a few questions regarding their experience with birth. Thankfully, several of them agreed to help me with this little project and I'm happy to bring you their thoughts here over the next few days! 

Each mama received the same ten questions and they were encouraged to answer as many or as few as they wanted, giving as little or as much detail as they felt comfortable with. Vaginal birth is often what we see depicted on TV or in movies, it's what the celebrities write about or what many women around us experience, but there's another side. I wanted to shine a light on cesareans this month and normalize it a bit.

Renee was the first to reply to my message and vulnerably shared details about when she welcomed her two sons into the world. Read on to hear from her directly. (Many people refer to cesareans as cesarean sections and abbreviate it to C/S which you'll see below.)

  1. How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? Two children. Both were C/S.

  2. If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were the others planned? If so, what was the reason? If not, what happened in the birth that ended up resulting with a repeat cesarean? The first C/S was not planned but the second was. I did not want to attempt a V-back since my first baby was 9 lb 15 oz and my OB said my second baby would be the same size; and he was at 9 lb 14 oz. After my first son was born my OB informed me that his head may have fit through the birth canal but that she likely would have needed to break his clavicle to get his shoulders out if we had done a vaginal birth. The reason we had the first C/S was due to an induction the night before my due date and laboring for 30 hours with only progress of 2 cm. So eventually we decided to just go get him.

  3. Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I was happy with my second C/S, but not the first so much. The first time since it was unplanned, I had been awake for so long and on anesthesia that I don’t remember much and felt delirious. I also remember feeling immense pain during my first C/S, not just the standard pushes and pulls. I think my anesthesia was not working properly. The pain came after he was born during the closing up procedure. My second C/S was much better. It was planned and was in the afternoon so there was time for rest and preparation. The anesthesia also worked well that time.

  4. Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I ask this because many women have shared that they’ve almost felt bullied by other women who had vaginal births and have been told that cesarean was “the easy way out” or “not real childbirth”. I hate to even bring this up, but its a real thing in our culture and I’d love to hear your take on this if it is something you have experienced.    I have not personally felt shame from other people, only internally. I’m a woman who lives by “shoulds” on a daily basis, so of course I went through the thought process: “I should have had a traditional birth”. I remember crying after deciding to have the surgery the first time after the 30 hour labor with no progress bc it wasn’t my plan. I eventually got over it when I saw how big my son was and realizing that my small body and my sweet baby would have likely gone through hell if we had done a traditional birth. I hold on to that today whenever I feel jealous of women who had a natural birth.

  5. Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? I honestly don’t remember having it with my first born, I’m sad to say. I know for a fact we had skin to skin in post op for two hours. With my second, I know for sure we did have skin to skin during the closing up portion of surgery.

  6. Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? The first C/S was a blue drape with no window. The second surgery had a blue drape and a window flap that they opened whenever he was delivered so I could see him.

  7. If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? Yes.

  8. What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? My first recovery was a long road but that was because I had fallen on my wet front porch steps a couple weeks after surgery and took a hit to some nerves in my back that I have never fully recovered from. I am currently still in recovery from my second C/S and it has been better than the first time, although more challenging since I am chasing an almost three year old around all day.

  9. If your cesarean was planned, did you feel well-prepared for the procedure itself, what to expect regarding recovery and was your healthcare provider willing to work with you to get the birth experience you desired? The first time felt more like a blur, so yes and no. The second time I would say yes and it felt more collaborative.

  10. What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth? (If its too hard to narrow it down to three, list more!) First, It’s okay to ask for help, say “no” to things, and know your limitations. Even though you have an infant, your recovery is just as important. Second, A mother is a mother is a mother, no matter how that baby came into this world. Third, Belly-bands were my best friend. Fourth, It takes a few days to learn how to pee and shit again, be patient ;)

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World Doula Week!

World Doula Week kicks off today and more specifically, today is World Doula Day!

The purpose of World Doula Week (WDW) is to empower doulas all over the world to improve the physiological, social, emotional, and psychological health of women, newborns and families in birth and in the postpartum period. March 22nd was chosen because it is close to the spring equinox which represents the return of fertility in many cultures.

There's a LOT of information in this article from Midwifery Journal, but I found it to be super interesting. If you need some new reading material, check it out!

Labor Doulas, Postpartum Doulas, we're all in this for the same reasons: We care deeply about mamas and their babies and we want to see the best possible outcomes for each family. And the statistics are out there. In 2013 The Seacoast Doula Group sought to answer the question: “Is there evidence-based research backing the advantages of having a postpartum doula?” The following is taken directly from their site:

"Research by experts tells us what many have long suspected: that those new parents who have support and feel secure and cared for during this time are more successful in adapting than those who don’t. Studies have shown that cultures in which women are cared for by others for a defined period of days or weeks and are expected only to nurture themselves and their babies during that time have superior outcomes in postpartum adjustment (1-2). We know that women who experience support from their family members, care providers, counselors and peer groups have greater breastfeeding success (3-10), greater self-confidence (11-15), less postpartum depression (16-21) and a lower incidence of abuse than those who do not (22-24).

There is also evidence indicating that timely referrals to competent, appropriate professionals and support groups can have a significant positive outcome for the family (11, 18, 20, 21, 25). Parents benefit from education on what to expect from a newborn, baby-soothing skills, feeding, bonding and attachment and coping skills (3, 13, 26-30). Rather than being told to “help out”, partners and other family members benefit from concrete instruction and role modeling on how to support a woman during the weeks after birth. Research tells us that support for and from the partner can have a significant impact on their partner’s own experience as well as the emotional adjustment of the mother (3, 8, 17-21, 31-36). (References)"

It is my great privilege to get to serve families as a doula, its some of the best kind of work on the planet. 

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Pregnancy after loss

I'm taking a break from my series on the pelvic floor to touch on a topic that's near and dear to my heart: Pregnancy after loss. 

Having experienced our own loss, my husband and I know what it's like to then find out that you're pregnant again... and the wide range of thoughts and feelings that come with that. In 2008 we very suddenly and tragically lost our first child who was born still on Thanksgiving Day. Not that a loss of this magnitude is EVER fair, but to me, it being our first excited, anticipation-filled pregnancy felt like a really. low. blow.

I had the loving support of my husband, a few dear friends and some family, but there always seemed to be a key piece of my support bubble that was missing. No one I talked to really "got it" and when I did attend a loss support group, it was not the right fit for me in that particular stage of grieving. I wish I had known about PALS: Pregnancy After Loss Support.

March is Pregnancy After Loss Month and the folks over at PALS offer helpful resources and a community for women (and their partners and families) as they navigate the often confusing emotional roller coaster of journeying through pregnancy after a loss. 

Taken from the PALS site: "In the world of pregnancy after loss there is a story of hope about a precious new life, and it’s the story of the rainbow baby. It is based on the understanding that the beauty of the rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. The clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides hope and promise of new life ahead.

As we trudge out of the dark storms of winter and into spring with the hope of new life blooming, Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) is proclaiming the month of March as PAL Awareness Month, to acknowledge the difficult journey of balancing joy and grief during a subsequent pregnancy after loss."

My husband and I had our own Rainbow Baby just over a year after we lost our son. Our daughter was born healthy and continues to thrive as a strong, beautiful, intelligent brave young lady who makes us proud all the time. I'm so grateful for the chance I was given to be her mother, to actually get to know the life that grew inside me for so many months. One of the biggest things I kept coming back to after our son was delivered as that I spent so much time while pregnant dreaming about him and wondering what he'd look like, how he'd act, etc. that I felt cheated and robbed when his life was cut so short.

This post might make my experience seem like it has a perfect ending and it's all tidied up with a pretty bow on it now. And I suppose that those things are true. But that's not the whole story. I'm so glad there are groups like PALS throughout the country that center on the love and support that people need after experiencing great loss and get them the help they need to be able to tap into the great joy that can come after sorrow. 

If you or someone you know is pregnant after the loss of a pregnancy or infant and you want somewhere to turn, there's help out there. Here are just a few local and national organizations that you could try:

  • Groups through PALS, state by state
  • POEM (Perinatal Outreach and Support for Moms) - A fabulous Central Ohio group
  • Various Pregnancy and Infant Loss groups throughout Central Ohio
  • Carrying Tender Angels lists a retreat center where you can getaway to process a bit as well as other non-profits in Columbus to help in your journey
  • The excellent work and support of Dr. Jessica Zucker and her #IHadAMiscarriage movement

 

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pre-pregnancy pelvic floor health

What's that, you say? You never considered pre-pregnancy pelvic floor health before you read the title of this post? Oh, what was that? You didn't even know this was even a thing? Well, lady-friend, join the club. I know I was pretty clueless pre-pregnancy as were many of the women in my circle. So! Here I am breaking it down to let you know some simple things you could do pre-pregnancy to try making your downstairs as healthy and ready for pregnancy and birth as possible.

Ensure that your body is ready to carry a baby by addressing any pain or problems associated with posture or weakness before pregnancy. Many women, myself included, don't even realize that they have an issue because maybe "it's just always been that way" or they assumed it was like that for everyone. Listen, I don't want this post to make you become paranoid, wondering if you have problems. I hope that more than anything, this post is educational and points out the types of issues that many women face on a regular basis that simply don't have to be the every day norm.

1. Strengthen your pelvic muscles. To strengthen your muscles, use pelvic floor contractions (aka: Kegels). I recently learned that I had been doing these exercises all wrong. For years! To do them correctly, one gently squeezes the sphincter muscles (rather than the buttocks and thighs like I had been doing). These exercises help prevent urine leakage when a woman sneezes, coughs, jumps on a trampoline, etc, and can help reduce pelvic pain during pregnancy. Please note that for some, doing Kegels incorrectly can worsen conditions such as incontinence, pelvic pain, and even lower back pain. This is why it is important to consult a women’s health physical therapist before beginning an exercise program. And lucky for those of you readers in the Central Ohio area, one of the posts in this series will be a list of professionals around town who can help with this very thing! If you can't wait til the post is released, leave a comment here or contact me through the Contact tab on my website and I'll hook you up.

2. Focus on your core. Core exercises can help prevent a common problem called diastasis recti, where the abdominal muscles separate, leaving a dome-like presence in the abdomen and/or a palpable gap between the muscle. Sound awful? It is! As your belly grows throughout pregnancy, the abdominal muscles along either side of the belly button can be forced apart. If they separate too much, it might create low back pain, pelvic pain, or other issues as your body tries to compensate for weaker core muscles. 

A note for those who might really love doing workouts focused on the core (and for those who don't): Sometimes, exercises like sit ups can actually increase the likelihood of developing diastasis recti, incontinence, and back pain during and after pregnancy. If you're curious about if you could be that person, be sure to mention it to your physical therapist so that she/he can get you on the right exercise plan to a healthy and strong core.

 3. Just breathe! A physical therapist can help prepare your body and mind for a healthy pregnancy by simply guiding you through and teaching you some relaxation breathing. If done well, your core and pelvic floor muscles will contract automatically as you exhale fully, and this can aid in core stability and health.

4. Exercise regularly. Exercise helps reduce stress hormones in your body and boosts your muscle strength and endurance — just a couple things that'll come in handy when it comes time to carry any extra baby weight. Once you're pregnant, regularly participating in low-impact activities like walking, swimming, biking, or using low-impact exercise equipment. When the muscles and ligaments that support a woman's pelvic organs become weak, the repetitive motion of running can cause those organs to descend and cause serious problems. This is known as pelvic organ prolapse. Physical therapists strongly recommend that women wear undergarments or compression shorts that support the pelvic floor, both during and after pregnancy. 

5. Sit up straight! Poor posture can have a major effect on every part of your body. A physical therapist can evaluate your posture and suggest muscle-strengthening exercises and lifestyle modifications to help with this. Healthy posture habits before pregnancy will better prepare your body for the extra weight of pregnancy and reduce your chances of lower back pain and pelvic discomfort.

Stay tuned for part three in this series where we'll go over some tips for an optimal pelvic floor while with child!

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pelvic floor 101

This is the first in a series about the female pelvic floor (PF). This is something I'm still learning about myself, but I find the information absolutely fascinating and wish I had known these things years ago. Its all too good not to share!

The female pelvic organs include the vagina, uterus, bladder, urethra, and rectum. These organs are held in place by muscles of the pelvic floor and there are many layers of connective tissue that also give support. 

There are some excellent images to illustrate all of this on this site. (Warning for the squeamish: In addition to black and white drawings, there are a couple of color photos of real female anatomy.) That link probably gives you way more information than you need, but I'm a visual learner and I find images like this really helpful.

The PF is important in not only providing support for the organs listed above, but also in maintenance of continence -aka- being able to control when you pee and poop. It expedites birth by resisting the descent of the presenting part of the PF, causing Baby to rotate forwards and navigate through the pelvis. Without a healthy PF, many women encounter a multitude of issues such as incontinence, sexual dysfunction and/or discomfort, complications in pregnancy and birth, even pelvic organ prolapse where the pelvic organs protrude in or outside of the vagina.

Again, this is incredible information I wish I had known years ago before even considering to conceive the first time around. Sure, thousands of women go throughout their pregnancies and probably most of their lives without knowing even a fraction of what I've touched upon here today and they turn out just fine. But. What if there's more? What if there were a few simple habits we could try to set in motion that could help us get a PF that bounces back from childbirth, sickness, sex and injury a little faster, a little stronger and a lot more functional? 

"Well, just what does a healthy pelvic floor even mean?" you might ask?

Stay tuned for part two in this series where I'll help you find answers to that question!

 

 

 

....You can watch her short video here.

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healthy snacks

Not only is it important to get adequate sleep each night, but the foods and drinks that you put into your body count too! The sleep thing is quite tricky once Baby arrives and unfortunately, mostly out of your control in those early weeks and months. So, what you eat becomes that much more crucial. Here are some suggestions for easy, healthy snacks to have on hand when your little love has been born. Enlist helpers to make sure these types of foods are easily accessible to you all hours of the day and night (nibbling on something small while Baby is up for feedings at night is totally approved!). Better yet, hire a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula to not only prep the snacks for you, but help you plan them out, shop for them and put them away in the kitchen! This is one of my favorite tasks as a doula and I'd love to help you in this way too!

The first several weeks after birth is not the time to focus on getting back to pre-pregnancy weight or worrying about your figure. Keep in mind that for nearly ten months your body changed drastically to conceive, incubate and birth a brand new human being so cut yourself some slack! Don't compare yourself to other mamas whose baby weight "just comes right off" after giving birth. Their body is different from yours, their experiences, their highs and lows, the ways their body metabolizes things, its all different than your body and it is only your body that you need to think about as you recover from birth.

Drinks

  • Blah, blah, blah. We all know "Water first to quench your thirst." but sometimes plain ol water is too boring for me! I like to keep a stash of organic lemons, limes and oranges on hand and squeeze a bit of their juice into my water from time to time. Our family also loves many of the sparkling waters from Trader Joe's that don't have any calories or added sweeteners. The carbonation is fun to switch things up sometimes. 
  • Smoothies can be a fun treat and can be an extra way to get protein, good fats and fruits and veggies into your system. 
  • Herbal teas like what Earth Mama Organics offers or teas such as red raspberry leaf, rooibos, stinging nettle, ginger or chamomile are great to have on hand.
  • You could also have soda, juice, coffee drinks or dairy products, but I'd advise drinking these in moderation. The caffeine in soda and coffee isn't always so easy on your system (or your baby's) right after birth and it might be better to introduce those slowly. Juice can have lots of sugar which will taste good in the moment, but makes your body work harder to stabilize your blood sugar levels and it'll often lead to some sort of body crash later on. In the first weeks with Babe at home, you don't need any added things that make your body crash - you'll do that all on your own! As far as dairy goes, this is also something that can be especially hard on your baby's gut and might cause you some bloating or bowel issues in ways it might not have prenatally. With anything, experimenting slowly is wise, keeping track of how things make you feel after you drink them.

Foods

  • Fresh veggies, cut up and easy to eat on the go. You could have some hummus, guacamole, salsa or baba ganoush on hand as a dip if you're into that sort of thing. 
  • Fresh fruit, cut up and easy to eat on the go. You could dip your fruit in a nut butter or Greek yogurt dip.
  • Nuts
  • Homemade granola
  • Cubes or slices of cheese with crackers
  • Granola, Luna or Lara Bars
  • Dried fruit like banana or plantain chips, dried apples or mangoes, etc. 
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Salad bar items. For some this would be a meal, for others, its a good snack option. Have pre-washed salad greens on hand with toppings you like stored in separate containers. Having everything washed, chopped and ready to mix together takes the "work" out of making a salad in the moment and gets lots of good foods in ya!

The list of healthy snack options could go on and on, but for now, I'll leave you with these. It really is important what you put into your body after you've given birth. If you ran a marathon, you'd be conscious of the foods and drinks you consumed right after the race, wouldn't you? Giving birth is the same type of physical feat for most women and your body needs to be handled with respect, wisdom, patience and care.

You're strong and powerful, Mama! Put foods into your body that can be described in the same way!

 

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5 healthy recipes for the postpartum period

A couple of years ago my family and I followed the Whole30 Program, pretty drastically changing our diet for the month. While we don't eat that strictly on a daily basis now, I do still stick to many of the ideals presented in the program and I often cook Whole30-compliant meals for us.

Recently, I've decided that when I make meals for new mamas and their families, I'm going to cook this way for them as well. Maybe they tolerate sugars, grains, dairy, etc. just fine, but by avoiding many of those ingredients, I ensure that they're getting meals that are nutrition-packed without the fillers so many of us often rely on in our cooking such as pasta, rice, or bread, to name a few. If you're one who leans on pasta, rice, etc. in your meals on a regular basis, more power to ya! And don't get me wrong, I ADORE some simple carbs way more than I care to admit! I just take the stance of trying to feed new mamas whole foods meals when I can.

Here's five of my favorite go-to recipes for my family and new mamas. For your convenience (and to save time typing everything out), I've included links for each recipe. They're all the same as what you'd find in this book, which would be a great thing to add to your cookbook stash!

  • Chicken Chowder - Note: This does not work well in a slow cooker. I learned that the hard way!
  • Chili - I add 1 cup of uncooked, diced butternut squash to this as well as a 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce. I cook it on low in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours and serve with slices of ripe avocado and occasionally, organic tortilla chips. I don't even miss the beans and pre-made chill seasoning packet that my mother used to make chili throughout my childhood!
  • Shepherd's Pie
  • Harvest Grilled or Baked Chicken Salad - In the colder months I cover a baking dish with foil and bake the chicken at 375˚F for 20-30 minutes or however long it takes to reach an internal temp of 160˚F.
  • Chicken Hash

 

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eat to feed your need

I highly recommend the book The First Forty Days - The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou. Not only is the layout and presentation beautiful and calming, but its chock full of great information, nutritious and out-of-the-box recipes, ancient traditions that have been passed on and helpful tips. I wish I had this book when I was pregnant so that I'd have had this information and new perspective on things as a new mother. 

I really like and this passage from the book:

"The matriarchs of China knew that the kitchen is where you heal the people you love. Using food as medicine was in their bones, and the ingredients they tossed in the pot weren't added just for their taste: They brought priceless benefits of greater vitality, beauty and longevity...
Furthermore, consuming speciality dishes for certain seasons of your life such as puberty, pregnancy or old age was pure common sense - as obvious as wearing certain clothes in January and others in July. In this Tao, or balanced way, of eating, your diet was chosen to address the body's shifting needs, balance out any extreme states, or replenish any lacks - not just to feed the sudden urge for, say, spaghetti and meatballs.
For the new mother, this meant meals rich in iron to rebuild blood, protein to repair tissues and support hormones, fatty acids to enrich the breast milk, vitamins and antioxidants to speed tissue healing, and therapeutic herbs and spices to counter inflammation or boost milk flow, if needed. She couldn't take a few pre- or postnatal vitamins and consider the job done - her daily meals and drinks had to truly do the job of nourishing and building her up...
The way you eat after giving birth can fuel, build, and heal you, and it is often the humblest food that does it best.

Start with good proteins to fuel you and help with milk production if you're breastfeeding. Eat light in the first two to five days after birth, gradually adding in more protein, good fats and slow-releasing carbohydrates. If you're not sure what slow-releasing carbohydrates are, see the link and excuse the obnoxious ads that are on the site, the info is good though! Ask others to help keep you fed and assist with meal/snack preparation because believe it or not, feeding yourself might not always be at the top of your priority list (but needs to be)! Or better yet, hire a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula to come in and help ease your load. The meal prep and having easy-access foods on hand is one of my favorite tasks as a doula!

Its also helpful to include a little bit of grain and beans into your diet after the first week or so after birth. If you live a grain-free life, then you'd skip that, of course, but if not, a little bit is okay to start with. Some mothers worry that beans and legumes might cause gas in the newborn and that is a legit concern. A newborn's gut is brand new and it is harder for them to break down and digest certain foods, but it doesn't mean that you as the mother have to avoid them completely. Introduce things into your diet slowly and consciously, making note of how it makes you feel and if your baby seems to tolerate it well. Give yourself two or three days with each new thing you add back into your diet. If you're paying attention, you'll be able to see right away if its a good thing to eat for you and/or your baby.

As much as possible, eating locally-sourced, organic foods is what's healthiest, but I realize that's not always possible due to your budget, access to local farmers, etc. Here's a list of what's known as The Dirty Dozen, the top foods that are the most contaminated that one should try to buy organic. The site also references The Clean Fifteen, foods that are safer to buy if they're not organic. Again, all of this in moderation and when/how you can afford it. Organic or not, if you're conscious of the good proteins, fats, etc. that you're consuming, you're far better off than many people who merely consume food just to consume it. 

In closing, another quote from Ou's book:

"... birth and mothering is not a one-size-fits-all experience - every woman has her own way of doing it and her own needs to satisfy... listen to yourself and select dishes and drinks based on what you feel your body or mind needs to be comfortable, vital and calm."

Stay tuned for a future post with suggestions for what foods and drinks you could enjoy in the days immediately following the birth of your little one. This is a lot of information, I know, but I feel it is so vital to women in our culture and something that is often overlooked. Like I said before, I wish I had known these things when I was pregnant. I sure didn't approach nutrition this way after giving birth. If I can influence even one mama to just think about doing things a little differently and with great intention after birth, I'd be happy.

 

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