5 Important Things to Know about Life during Pregnancy

Deciding whether to go through with a pregnancy and to give birth to a little miracle is one of the toughest choices any woman can and probably will make. The outcome of the decision is one that will change a life forever. These helpful steps will help you weigh the pros and cons of doing the right thing before and after giving birth to a baby, ranging from finances and emotional readiness to nutrition and making sure that the future father is ready for the arrival.

Life During Pregnancy: What to Expect Before and After Birth
1. Successful conception
First of all, congratulations for conceiving successfully! If you and your partner were thinking about starting a family, then you are obviously sure of your decision and are aware of what it takes to raise a child. But if you didn’t plan this, you have a lot of thinking to do, and a few tips are waiting right here!

2. The cost of raising a child
The costs of raising a child are what most couples call “mouth-opening”. According to a few statistics, it takes approximately $218,000 to raise a child until the age of 18, which will give you a good idea about what kind of funds you will need to provide to make sure your child lives a healthy and happy life. You and your partner will need to figure out lots of schedules, and it is recommended to create a budget to control spending and to make sure that most of it goes into prenatal care and then, of course, the care of your child.

3. Emotional exhaustion
Then comes the emotional exhaustion. Looking at your cute little bundle of joy sleeping in your arms is an unrivaled feeling, but so is having to deal with all the loud noises, the created messes, and the necessary cleaning, every day for at least the next few years or so. All of this will create a great feeling of exhaustion and will make the day seem 10 hours longer, but this is where your partner should come in and help you out in a time of need. You may feel like screaming and crying all day because of depression or because of the loss of freedom, but remember that the baby is the most important person right now, and you will be rewarded for your troubles.

4. Healthy eating
Supplying healthy and nutritious meals is a very important part of having a healthy pregnancy, and later, a healthy baby. The best prenatal vitamins include Vitamin A, which helps in bone and tooth growth and can be found in milk, eggs, and plenty of vegetables, Vitamin E, which helps form muscles and red blood cells and can be found in vegetable oil, spinach, and in certain cereals, Vitamin C, which can help build a healthy immune system and can be found in strawberries, potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes.

Your daily eating plan should also include Iron, which can help prevent low birth weight and premature delivery and can be found in beef, pork, and dried fruits, Protein, which helps in the reparation of cells and can be found in most animal foods, and Zinc, which helps regulate the amount of glucose in the blood and can be found in red meats, whole grains, and dairy products. All of these will provide a healthy diet, and are highly recommended for the mother and the baby during as well as after pregnancy.

5. Communication
Speaking to your partner about the baby can be a tense conversation, because he may not have the same idea in mind as you. He might be looking forward to a baby-free life, or in general, may not want to be responsible for the baby. Or, he might be very excited and want to help you in every way. There are plenty of different emotions that can come out of a future father, and whether they are good or bad, they need to be talked about, and some agreements need to be made. This step is very important, as you will not be able to handle a pregnancy alone, and will need all the support you can get.

There are plenty of aspects of pregnancy-related problems to be stressed about, and there are a lot of things to be excited about as well. Being able to become a mother is a gift that needs to be cherished, and only the best has to be given in order to raise a happy and successful child. Are you ready, future moms and dads? A journey awaits, and you will never forget it!

Program aims to boost prenatal care in rural US

Dr. Ellen Hartenbach’s program is meant to provide moms in rural areas with critical prenatal care.  (iStock)

A program meant to address the shortage of OB-GYNs in rural America could help many families who are faced with an hours-long — and often dangerous — journey to the nearest qualified hospital. Dr. Ellen Hartenbach, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, launched the first rural obstetrics and gynecology residency in 2016, aiming to train doctors in the rural communities that they will eventually practice in.

“Residents who train in certain settings are more likely to locate their practices in similar settings. We want to give them experience in these underserved areas,” Hartenbach previously said, in a post on the school’s website.

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Since the program’s launch, Hartenbach said other medical schools in the country have shown interest in beginning similar initiatives across the U.S. According to the school’s post, nearly half of U.S. counties do not have an OB-GYN, and the country may be facing a shortage of possibly 22,000 by 2050.

“Our goal is to have OB-GYNs practicing throughout the state of Wisconsin and making sure that everybody’s getting the right prenatal care and that they’re actually able to deliver in hospitals that are closer to their home,” Hartenbach told NBC News, calling it a national crisis.

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Hartenbach believes her program will help the staff at hospitals without maternity wards, especially when dealing with complications.

“We can’t really predict which one of those women is really going to get in trouble at the time of their delivery,” she told NBC News. “That’s one of the difficult things and that’s why you need experts who can be there you know right when they need to be.”

Government announces Medicare-funded mental health assessments for pregnant women

From November, pregnant women will have access to Medicare-funded assessments during their pregnancy and within two months of giving birth, ABC News reports.

The new program, developed in response to recommendations made by a taskforce set up to examine the Medicare Benefits Schedule, was welcomed by Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon.

“Healthy mothers who are functioning well are more likely to take good care of their babies,” he said.

“Not a year goes by where we don’t learn more and more about the importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life. They are critical in setting up a human being for good health for the rest of their life.”

New mothers will soon receive free mental health assessments. Picture: Jay TownSource:News Corp Australia

He added: “To identify women who might already be depressed, but at the very least identify that group of women who are at increased risk of postnatal depression, and invest wherever possible in preventing it happening.”

The program will hugely benefit women in rural areas, where finding follow-up treatment after surgery can often be difficult.

Under the current system, only specialists are allowed to bill Medicare for post-surgery consultations. But under the new system, GPs will be able to as well.

The Government said it was adopting other recommendations made by the taskforce, but has not revealed the details.

NSW birth policy ‘traumatising’ women with excessive forceps use

Two weeks overdue with a large baby on board, the first-time mum wishes she was offered a caesarean when things were not looking good, but Ms Hagan believes the push for a “normal birth” took precedence and her son had to be delivered by forceps as a result.

Not only was she torn “right through” with a third-degree perineal tear but she began haemorrhaging and was rushed to theatre for emergency surgery. Ms Hagan, of Newcastle, was also left permanently damaged with a prolapsed bowel, uterus and bladder.

April Hagan believes the push for a “normal birth” put her and her son’s life at risk. Picture: Sue GrahamSource:News Corp Australia

“I have to wear a pessary to stop my organs falling out. 100 per cent I should have had a caesarean, I was hugely overdue, my baby was over four kilos and I know now the damage that was caused by ripping my son out of me,” Ms Hagan, 28, said.

 

Last week in the UK, the Royal College of Midwives officially renounced their so-called “campaign for normal birth”, admitting the use of the word “normal”, and the pressure from midwives to resist medical interventions such as caesarean sections, had made some women feel like failures, and was contributing to post-natal depression.

The UK moves followed the preventable deaths of 11 babies and one mother who had died in one maternity unit. An independent report the influence of a small number of individuals were overzealous in pursuit of natural childbirth which led to “inappropriate and unsafe practice”.

Dr Hannah Dahlen, a Professor of Midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and an executive member of the Australian College of Midwives described the reporting of the Royal College of Midwives move as “fake news” in a tweet saying: “For all those UK midwives feeling hammered this week by Fake News remember ‘thinking is difficult which is why most people judge’.”

Dr Hannah Dahlen’s tweet.Source:Supplied

In Australia, Ms Hagan, and some experts, are beginning to question the Towards Normal Birth policy instituted by NSW Health in 2010 to reduce the state’s caesarean rate, which some midwives have argued is more expensive and has longer recovery times than vaginal birth. One in three women in NSW has a caesarean.

The policy aimed at “promoting normal birth” came with targets to increase vaginal birth to 80 per cent but experts say it has contributed to “an epidemic” in forceps deliveries.

“I felt they wanted him to come out the normal way not matter how much damage they did, but I now know 50 per cent of women who have a prolapse had (previously had) a forceps birth,” Ms Hagan said.

RELATED: WHY DRUGS AND FORCEPS AREN’T MIRACLE CURE

While the policy has failed to reduce caesarean rates, forceps deliveries have quadrupled at some hospitals, with one in 10 babies born at The Royal Women’s Hospital and Royal North Shore now delivered with forceps, a rate Hans Peter Dietz, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Sydney University said is “among the highest in the world”. At the Royal Prince Alfred, forceps deliveries have risen from two per cent to eight per cent.

Next month, former Sydney mum Amy Dawes, who now lives in Brisbane, is launching the Australasian Birth Trauma Association to provide an online support forum for mums who have been injured from vaginal birth.

Ms Dawes, 33, had a forceps delivery at Royal North Shore three years ago. Her pelvic floor muscle was torn off the bone.

Amy Dawes’ daughter Eliya had a forceps delivery three years ago. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Ms Hagan believes she should’ve had a caesarean with her son being over four kilos. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

“If I’d had a caesarean I would have felt I failed because we hear all the bad things about Caesareans but no one told me the risk of vaginal birth. I was not told of the risks associated with normal birth. I thought I was the only one but there are thousands,” Ms Dawes said.

Professor Dietz has called for a review into the Towards Normal Birth policy because “the ideology of vaginal birth at all costs” has led to obstetricians having less input in labour wards.

“In some instances that means obstetricians are called into too late,” he said.

“The focus on lowering caesarean rates has led to a marked increase in forceps delivery. The forceps rates at Royal North Shore (11 per cent) are some of the highest ever documented in large hospitals in Australia.”

Prof Dietz, who specialising in treating women with prolapse, has also questioned the targets of reducing caesarean rates by encouraging women to attempt a vaginal birth after caesarean, known as VBAC.

Prof Dietz said a study published on a VBAC clinic at St George Hospital documented two deaths he felt were unnecessary.

The study, which was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2014, showed that of the 160 women who attempted a VBAC, one in three eventually needed an emergency caesarean, one in five needed an instrument delivery and two babies died.

“One baby died when the uterus ruptured which is the standard complication with VBAC, we have known that for 100 years that is the risk of VBAC. The second baby died at 40 + weeks, a stillbirth that would not have happened if she had a repeat caesarean, which would have happened at 39 weeks. I do not think it can be disputed that VBAC caused the death of those two babies,” Prof Dietz said.

Ms Hagan wants Australia to follow UK’s lead and back off the push for a normal birth. Picture: Sue GrahamSource:News Corp Australia

Spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives Professor Jenny Gamble rejected the notion that doctors were sidelined saying “midwives and obstetricians work together to provide care, there is not a provision to lock them out”.

“What is really clear is there is a cascade of intervention, if you induce a woman, she has an epidural, there is clear evidence if these things flow through you are more likely to end up with forceps, vacuum or caesarean than a normal birth. It doesn’t stack up you are increasing forceps birth because you are trying to improve the number of women who give birth normally or vaginally,” Prof Gamble said.

But both Ms Dawes and Ms Hagan want Australia to follow the UK lead and back off the push for normal birth because of the judgement surrounding intervention.

“I’ve spoken with women who say they have trouble saying they had a caesarean, there is so much emphasis on how you birth the baby,” Ms Dawes said.

Spokesman for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Vijay Roach said the focus needs to be on what the pregnant woman wants rather than ideology.

“There are two parts, safety and respect and we need to ask the woman what she wants and what is important to her. Obstetricians are risk adverse and some midwives have a tendency to believe birth should be intervention free. We don’t ask the woman enough what she wants,” Dr Roach said.

Why the Trump administration is cutting teen pregnancy prevention funding

Most teenagers feel uncomfortable talking about sex, but not 16-year-old Bryanna Ely.

As a youth leader for the Buffalo, New York-based teen pregnancy prevention program HOPE Buffalo, Ely talks to not only other teens but also adults. She explains how they can help teens when it comes to their emotional, physical and sexual health, abstinence and birth control.
“It’s definitely made me more comfortable around health providers, because I was very nervous and not willing to talk about it, but then once I joined HOPE Buffalo, it’s an easy subject to talk about. Well, not that easy, but it’s easy enough to talk about that I don’t feel so uncomfortable,” said Ely, who will be entering her junior year in high school this month.

Bryanna Ely, third from the right, with other HOPE Buffalo youth leaders who help organize educational and community programs for teens in their community with a focus on emotional, physical, and sexual health.
While volunteering with HOPE Buffalo at a local community center, Ely said, she remembered meeting another teenage girl, sharing sexual health information with her and feeling like she made a difference.
“She took in all the information, and she said she would not get pregnant until she was 28 or 30,” Ely said. “I joined HOPE Buffalo because I wanted to make a change in my community and make sure that these teenagers who didn’t have a voice had a voice.”
Yet federal funding for such teen pregnancy prevention programs in the United States is now on the chopping block.
Instead, the US Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that it’s continuing to review best approaches, which it says “will be guided by science and a firm commitment to giving all youth the information and skills they need to improve their prospects for optimal health outcomes.”
Among the leadership within the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Tom Price and Valerie Huber, chief of staff to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, have been proponents of abstinence-only education programs.
‘Took me completely by surprise’

Around the Fourth of July, Stan Martin, project director of HOPE Buffalo, received a notice from Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health that indicated funding would end next June, after just three years, instead of continuing to fund the program for the expected five years.
Other grant recipients of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program across the country received the same notice.
The Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program currently funds 84 grants to reduce teen pregnancy across clinics, schools and communities, by implementing and evaluating prevention programs and supporting technology- and program-based approaches, according to the office’s website. Their end date is now June 30.

US teen birth rate drops to all-time low
Meanwhile, funding for “capacity-building” assistance providers that help organizations develop and deliver programs was eliminated effective immediately, said Lauren Ranalli, director of the Adolescent Health Initiative at the University of Michigan, which provides assistance to HOPE Buffalo and other teen pregnancy prevention programs across the country.
“This news took me completely by surprise,” Ranalli said.
“My immediate thought was really about all of the incredible work that was in progress with grantees in South Carolina and Oklahoma and Baltimore and Buffalo and Los Angeles and so many other locations,” she said.

Your kids actually want you to talk to them about sex
Martin said HOPE Buffalo will be turning to local partners for help. The organization already partners with community centers, public schools and faith-based groups.
“The community itself, they’re demanding that adolescents have access to these resources, to this information, regardless of funding,” Martin said.
Moving forward, “our youth leadership team, they’re heavily involved in every decision that we make. They’ll be educating the community in terms of what this program means to them,” he said. “I think it’s our duty as caring adults that we provide a sense of purpose or hope for adolescents.”
Ely hopes HOPE Buffalo continues, she said. “It has changed my life completely.”
Officials spar over teen pregnancy

Health and Human Services said in an emailed statement to CNN that an evaluation of previous first-round teen pregnancy prevention programs, which were active from 2010 to 2014, revealed that those programs were not as effective as thought.

Abstain from abstinence-only sex ed, experts advise
“The very weak evidence of positive impact of these programs stands in stark contrast to the promised results, jeopardizing the youth who were served, while also proving to be a poor use of more than $800 million in taxpayer dollars,” the statement said.
“The poor evaluation results were the reason that the Trump Administration, in its FY 2018 budget proposal, did not recommend continued funding for the TPP program and HHS hit the pause button on it,” the statement said. “This action gives the Department time to continue its review of the program and the evidence, to ensure that should Congress continue it, the program provides positive reinforcement of the healthy decisions being made by a growing majority of teens.”
Many researchers, program directors and city health officials argue against hitting “the pause button.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviews Secretary Tom Price 03:47
“If the justification for cutting short the current grants is the result from the last round of grantees, then it misses two key big points,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a grantee of federal funds.
When analyzing the results from the first round of evaluations from a scientific perspective, those previous results were actually impressive, Albert said, “and (the Office of Adolescent Health) learned from the evaluation results and is using that knowledge to strengthen the current projects.”
“Once the first round of evaluation results were published, the Office of Adolescent Health transparently shared results and strongly encouraged grantees to shift to the most effective models. Grantees have done that, which means that the models that current grantees are implementing are very different and stronger than the mix of models used in the first round,” Albert said.

’16 and Pregnant’ = fewer pregnancies? 02:47
“The way that OAH has learned from results and used them to strengthen the TPP Program is exactly what you’d expect of a high-quality evidence-based initiative,” he said.
In other words, he said, it is important not to confuse the success of the overall learning and development process with individual program models that were evaluated.
Members of the Big Cities Health Coalition, a coalition of health officials from the 28 largest cities in the US, wrote a joint letter to Price last month urging him to reconsider the decision to cut the project period and funds.

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The letter indicated that teen birth rates in the US dropped to a record low last year, following a long-term trend, and the letter suggested that reducing funding for teen prevention programs might reverse that trend.
“Cutting TPPP funding and shortening the project period will not only reverse historic gains made in the US in reducing teen pregnancy rates, but also make it difficult to truly understand what practices are most effective in our communities across the nation,” the letter said.
On the other hand, the Health and Human Services statement said that while teen birth rates are at record lows, sexually transmitted disease and infections are at record highs, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, Albert said that “there are plenty of reasons” not to give up on the existing teen pregnancy programs quite yet.
‘Another attack on women’

“Rates of pregnancy and births among teens in this country far, far outstrip those in other comparable countries. Our rates, for example, are twice as high as in England, about seven times as high as in Japan,” Albert said.

Births to older moms rise as teen birth rate drops
“With all the progress that has been made, there remains great and profound disparities in teen pregnancy and childbearing in this country, by race and ethnicity and by geography,” he added.
For instance, parts of Texas, including Dallas, have higher teen birth rates than the rest of the country, according to an epidemiologic study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology in June.
The study found that a cluster of teenage births in and around Fort Worth, Texas, between 2006 and 2012 represented a teen birth rate 58% higher than the rest of the contiguous country, even after adjusting for poverty differences.
Statewide, Texas was found to have the highest prevalence of repeat teen births in the country in a CDC report from 2013.
“That alone demonstrates that funding is needed,” said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, who signed the Big Cities Health Coalition letter.
Regarding the cuts in funding, he said, “I think it was short-sighted and really another attack on women as it relates to focusing on women’s health.”

Teens are still having sex, most use contraception
As for other cities, Baltimore is expected to see about 20,000 students lose access to comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention programs and education due to the funding cuts, said Dr. Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner, who signed the Big Cities letter.
When Wen learned about the cuts, she initially thought it was a mistake, she said, and now she disputes the conclusions that were put forth in the Department of Human and Health Services’ statement.
“This grant allowed us to have comprehensive reproductive health education in middle schools and high schools throughout our city. … In terms of evaluation, we’re only a few months into the implementation. So we don’t know. We don’t have the data yet about the full potential of what we can achieve,” Wen said.
“We see it as being irresponsible to cut this program now, especially because the justification from the older model is wrong, and so we highly contest this statement” from the Department of Health and Human Services, she said.

US fertility rate hits a record low
Patty Hayes, director of public health for Seattle and King County, said she has seen the teen prevention programs have a positive impact in her community.
“We have been so successful in King County with our teen pregnancy rates reducing by 55%” since 2008, said Hayes, who also signed the Big Cities Health Coalition letter.
“If something works, you invest in it,” she said. “We need for our community to respect science, to move forward with this and to make sure that we are not moving backwards. … I’m very wound up about this.”
As for the Department of Human and Health Services’ statement, Hayes said she was shocked by the way the department characterized the program.
“Their comments show they are not even aware of the focus of grantees who are doing research like ours. The point of evaluation is to learn what works, in what contexts and with which populations,” Hayes said.
“Clearly, evidence-based programs play an important role in reducing teen pregnancy,” she said, adding that since the first round of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants were awarded in 2010, the teen birth rate has continued to fall.
Looming layoffs

The nation’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program was established in 2010 with a congressional mandate to fund not only youth-focused programs but also independent evaluation studies that contribute to the field’s understanding of where, when and with whom programs are most effective.

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Dr. Christine Dehlendorf, a family physician and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, has been developing such research and evaluating a teen pregnancy prevention program called Speak Out.
The program includes educating teens about intrauterine devices and other forms of long-acting reversible contraception. A survey published by the Urban Institute last year found that many adult women don’t even know that much about IUDs.
Now, Dehlendorf has to break the news to the teens involved in her research that Speak Out may no longer continue due to funding cuts.
“I really feel like not being able to evaluate and disseminate this intervention is an insult to those young people who have put in their time and their expertise in helping us figure out how to accomplish our goals,” Dehlendorf said, adding that she also will not be able to obtain scientifically valid results from the research.

Kids raising kids: How can we help? 03:35
“Addressing stubborn public health problems requires innovative approaches — and this means that by definition, there will be variation in how successful programs are,” she said. “Science requires taking risks, doing formal evaluations and then applying the results. That is exactly what the TPP Program was designed to do, and it has had success in improving our understanding of how to improve teen’s reproductive health.”
Sarah Verbiest, executive director of the Center for Maternal & Infant Health in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, pointed out that cutting funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs also could bring along layoffs.
“When you think about it, that’s a lot of people that are trained, that know these communities, that work in these communities and also who are now going to be needing to find work themselves,” Verbiest said.
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While Verbiest has no personal connection to the funding cuts, she said that, as the mother of 17-year-old and 20-year-old children, she finds it difficult to see such teen pregnancy prevention programs disappear.
“We talk about how parents should be having these conversations. As a parent of a 17-year-old, I can say that yes, it’s really important I share my values with my children, and we definitely do, but it’s not easy talking about specifics with them,” Verbiest said, adding that this is where programs can play a role.
“It’s important for us all to think comprehensively about this,” she said. “We really have to get to real conversations about how can these programs work for communities.”

How to Optimize Your Pregnancy and Birth Experience with Mama Natural Genevieve Howland

Today I’m talking with Genevieve Howland, the fierce and funny lady behind the super successful “Mama Natural” YouTube channel and blog. I couldn’t be more excited! Genevieve is not only a great friend to me but to so many women she has never even met. Her funny but informational videoshave inspired and empowered millions of women to embrace natural pregnancy and parenting.

And now her advice will reach more women than ever with the first ever week-to-week pregnancy book from a natural perspective. Genevieve’s new book The Mama Natural Week to Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth is the first weekly guide out there (in my opinion) to really combine today’s medical insight with the ancient wisdom of natural childbirth practices.

And with C-section rates in the U.S. being about twice as high as they should be (a whopping 30% in 2015), this book couldn’t be more timely!

The Mama Natural Way: Optimize Birth and Empower Women

So, what if you’re a C-section or epidural mom? Does that disqualify you from a natural, healthy birth? Should you forget about taking a listen to the podcast/checking out the book?

The answer is, definitely not!

I’ve had a C-section (and Mama Natural herself was a C-section baby!). As much as I can’t stop talking about what I love about natural labor (and midwives, doulas, and other birth subjects I’m passionate about) I have had hospital births, a C-section birth, and home births, and you know what? … I’m so grateful for options.

“Natural” as we’re using it here just recognizes that pregnancy and birth are a normal and wondrous biological process that’s been around since time began.

In fact, I love how Genevieve talks about optimizing birth with all the tools and knowledge available to us. She truly wants every woman to feel educated and empowered to plan the birth she wants … and have the support she needs if things turn out differently.

Here are just some of the questions Genevieve and I try to tackle in this Healthy Moms episode!

In This Episode, You’ll Learn

  • Why in a world of epidurals you might even consider an unmedicated birth
  • Mama Natural’s take on which standard pregnancy procedures are medically necessary … and which are less so
  • Why ultrasounds don’t really improve birth outcomes
  • “Belly mapping” and ways to get baby into good position
  • 7 exercises to get pelvis aligned and balanced for labor
  • Pros and cons in the great home vs. hospital birth debate (yes, we go there!)
  • How chiropractic can help with birth and which kind of practitioner to look for
  • Simple birth plan tips (and how to increase your chances it gets read and followed)
  • The purpose of vernix and why it’s great to leave it on baby!
  • Why red raspberry leaf tea may or may not be all it’s cracked up to be
  • Why Dad’s health matters too!

Resources We Mention

  • Book, The Mama Natural Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth (2017)
  • Free Mama Natural week to week pregnancy guide emails

Have a tip or story about what helped you most preparing for birth? Let me and Mama Natural know in the comments! We all have wisdom to share!

Special Thanks to Today’s Sponsors:

This episode is brought to you by Paleovalley. This company makes one of my favorite on-the-go snacks to give to my kids. Paleovalley beef sticks are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef naturally fermented the old school way. In fact each beef stick contains a billion CFUs of probiotics plus high levels of omega-3s. Go to paleovalley.com/wellnessmama and use the discount code WELLNESSMAMA10 to get 10% off. Or, get up to 40% off when you purchase in bulk, which is how I order.

Paleovalley cows are never given antibiotics, hormones, or grains and their products are gut-friendly, paleo-friendly, gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free (wow!). So, again, check it out paleovalley.com/wellnessmama, with the code WELLNESSMAMA10 to get the discount.

This episode is also brought to you by StudioPress Sites. This platform makes setting up and running a blog super easy, and I wish I had it when I started! Basically it’s an all-in-one solution all for one monthly price, without all the headaches that come with trying to learn it all yourself. It includes hosting, themes, plugins, and much more. Even if you have already started blogging, this tool may save you time and money and be an upgrade from what you currently have. So check it out at wellnessmama.com/studiopress.

88: Pregnancy Exercise, Diastasis, and Pelvic Floor Health with Lorraine Scapens

My guest Lorraine Scapens has been a personal trainer for over 20 years and her focus has always been on pregnancy exercise. She now has an amazing website and exercise program designed specifically for moms in this stage of life.

 

In this episode, she explains something many of us wonder about: the right kind of exercise to do (and when) during and after pregnancy.

As a trainer, Lorraine knows how to avoid and fix diastasis and pelvic floor problems. She explains (in her beautiful Australian accent!) these commonly misunderstood or even unknown postpartum issues, as well as a plan for an ideal “4th trimester” recovery.

You all probably know how I feel about birth, and I can’t wait to dive into this topic!

Prepping for Birth: The Key Role of Pregnancy Exercise

Fun fact: It takes the human body 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover after running a marathon.

I think we can all agree that 9 months of pregnancy (although we all know it’s really more like 10!) plus labor and birth is like running the toughest marathon … and then some! Just like a marathon, it takes regular physical exercise to prepare and recover as best we can.

Plus, birth isn’t really the finish line. There’s still the crucial work of postpartum healing to be done. Now imagine how much longer it takes our bodies to recover when we seldom sleep, often breastfeed, and have to keep up with balancing the demands of a newborn and daily work/life.

It’s an incredible feat, to say the least, and moms deserve all the support and care they can get during this time.

Following Lorraine and her work has taught me a lot about pregnancy exercise and how it’s truly key for both mom and baby’s health. Just 20-30 minutes of pregnancy exercise every day boasts all these benefits:

  • more sustained energy
  • improved posture
  • reduction in back and hip pain
  • release of tension and stress with an increase in “happy hormones”
  • better sleep
  • increased blood flow to placenta = better nutrition and oxygen for baby
  • better positioning of baby for birth
  • baby better equipped for labor and birth (being used to higher heart rates)

And the list goes on!

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • the mechanics of how our bodies change during pregnancy
  • best ways to get a safe and effective workout while pregnant (and when to back off)
  • how pregnancy exercise benefits baby too
  • the true timeline of postpartum recovery (we all know it’s not 6 weeks!)
  • 5 key steps to an optimal postpartum recovery
  • how to recognize diastasis recti and the 3-prong strategy to fix it
  • pelvic prolapse: what it feels like, what it means, and why our medical system might not catch it
  • how to manage 80-90% of “leaking” issues post-pregnancy (you all know what I mean)
  • Lorraine’s popular method for “No More Mummy Tummy”
  • all about Lorraine’s pre- and post-pregnancy exercise programs  (hint: no ab crunches involved!)

Pregnancy Exercise Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Sometimes it seems difficult to judge what is safe and what isn’t when it comes to pregnancy exercise. After all, we have someone other than ourselves to worry about!

Lorraine’s targeted prenatal and postpartum programs take the guesswork out of pregnancy exercise and lead moms step by step to optimal recovery and health. But I love her reminder that when you get right down to it, exercise can be simple. Just get up and move for 20-30 minutes a day and you’ll get many of the benefits.

Of course, pregnancy exercise comes with some extra precautions. What is “safe” exercise in pregnancy leaves some room for interpretation, but Lorraine advises avoiding contact sports or activities with increased risk for falls, bumps, or accidents. Use caution and common sense together with your doctor or midwife’s advice.

Do you find it hard to exercise during and after pregnancy? Do you have tips to share with other moms about what pregnancy exercise has worked for you?

Resources We Mention

Here are some of Lorraine’s targeted Pregnancy Exercise programs:

  • Fit2BirthMum – A comprehensive pregnancy exercise and wellness program with 60 pregnancy-safe workout videos designed to support mom and baby week by week through pregnancy.
  • Birth2FitMum – A safe, guided 12-week exercise program tailored to postpartum recovery, including healing diastasis recti, incontinence, and other common postpartum problems.
  • SuperFitMum – An advanced exercise program for moms 6 months or more postpartum looking to get super fit!
  • Also check out Lorraine’s popular 14-day programs, No More Mummy Tummy and Turn Your Baby!

Article: What You Need to Know About Prolapse During and After Pregnancy

Special Thanks to Today’s Sponsors

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me mention them before. I have been using and loving and Instagramming their products for years. They have an amazing instant mushroom coffee.

I know it sounds weird, but hear me out! It’s not only the best instant coffee I’ve ever tried, it’s also pretty high up on the list of best coffee I’ve tried, period! It’s made with superfood mushrooms like Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Chaga mushrooms. And these mushrooms have some big health benefits, plus give you energy and mental clarity without the jitters from traditional coffee.

If you aren’t a caffeine person, they also have a variety of mushroom teas and other caffeine-free products. I love them so much that I reached out and they agreed to give a discount to my listeners. So, go to foursigmatic.com/wellnessmama and use the code “WellnessMama” to get 10% off.

This podcast is also brought to you by Thrive Market. If you live in a real food desert like I do, it can be difficult to find certain organic foods, specialty foods, or allergy-friendly foods. Thrive Market is my solution to this problem. They carry thousands of the non-perishable foods that I use most often at discount prices.

I think of Thrive as a combination of Costco, Amazon, and Whole Foods. They are online like Amazon, have a yearly membership fee to unlock discounts like Costco, and carry high quality foods like Whole Foods.

I order from them regularly and highly recommend them. Check out all of their products and grab a free jar of coconut oil here.

The Pregnancy Diet

Pregnancy Diet

Unsurprisingly, a lot goes into making a baby. The good news is there’s something you can do to help yourself have a healthy pregnancy and baby: Eat a healthy pregnancy diet. By following a few guidelines dedicated to baby’s wellbeing and yours, you’ll experience some impressive benefits:

  • For baby: Helps improve the odds baby is born at a healthy weight, boosts brain development, descreases risk for certain birth defects (including neural tube defects like spina bifida) and, as a bonus, could result in better eating habits after birth as your baby grows to be a potentially picky eater.
  • For you: Decreases the odds you’ll experience some pregnancy complications (anemia, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are less prevalent among women who eat well), makes your pregnancy more comfortable (a sensible diet can minimize morning sickness, fatigue, constipationand a host of other pregnancy symptoms), balance your emotions (good nutrition can help moderate mood swings), improve your odds of a timely labor and delivery (you’re less likely to go into preterm labor) and a speedier postpartum recovery (a well-nourished body bounces back faster and has less pounds to shed after delivery).

Luckily scoring these benefits is relatively simple. The foundation of a healthy pregnancy diet is the same as the average healthy diet: a balanced mix of lean protein and calcium, whole grains, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (with usually a little more calories and nutrients to nourish baby).

SEE THE INFOGRAPHIC: Pregnancy Nutrition 101

Of course, it’s the rare woman who eats well every day, week in and week out, for all 40 weeks of her pregnancy. (Who could? What world does that woman live in?) So don’t stress about it, and don’t feel guilty — the following is a framework for healthy eating, not a strict curriculum to follow (and you’re not being graded). Follow these principles as closely as you can, as often as you can, to have the healthiest, most nutritious pregnancy possible.

11 Best Foods to Eat While Pregnant

Even if you’re already packing an alphabet’s worth of vitamins and minerals into your daily meals, you might still worry that you’re not taking in enough of the nutritional right stuff — especially if your appetite hasn’t quite gotten up to speed just yet. Enter these “nutritional superstars” — pregnancy power foods that pack plenty of nutrients into just a few bites, making them especially effective when efficiency is a priority (as when you’re too sick to eat much, when you’re gaining weight too fast, or when you’re not gaining quickly enough):

1. LEAN MEAT

The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of every cell in your and your baby’s bodies. High-protein foods also keep your hunger at bay by stabilizing your blood sugar, which is why you should aim for three servings (that’s about 75 grams) of protein per day. Lean meat is an excellent option, since it’s also high in iron, critical to help your baby develop his red blood cell supply and support yours, too (blood volume can increase by as much as 50 percent when you’re pregnant, which is why anemia during pregnancy is so common). Iron also helps build baby’s brain by strengthening nerve connections. A little goes a long way, so add a bit of beef, pork or lamb to veggie-filled soups, salads and rice or noodle dishes.

Don’t eat meat? Check out these protein-rich foods for pregnant women. Iron-rich vegetarian options include dark leafy greens, cooked dried beans, quinoa, lentils, dried fruit and tofu.

Tip: Pump up your iron absorption by pairing an iron-rich food with one that’s high in vitamin C (like red bell peppers, citrus, tomatoes, strawberries or kiwi).

2. LENTILS

One of the most important nutrients for pregnant women is a B vitamin called  (known as folic acid when you take it in a supplement) — and lentils are packed with it. Folate is vital to forming your baby’s brain and nervous system and has a powerful protective effect against neural-tube defects like spina bifida, a birth disorder in which part of the spine is exposed. Lentils also boast protein, vitamin B6 and iron. Plus they’re the most intestine (and spouse) friendly legume which readily absorbs a variety of flavors from other foods and seasonings. Eat as a side dish or toss into salads, soups and stews.

Don’t like lentils? Spinach is also rich in folate, along with iron, vitamin A and calcium. It comes completely ready-to-eat in prewashed bags. Eat it raw, in a salad, as a wilted bed for fish or chicken, or layered in lasagna.

Tip: Because the benefit of folate is so significant — and most effective very early in pregnancy (usually before you even know you’ve conceived) — most cereal, pasta, bread and rice products are now fortified with folic acid, and it’s a major ingredient in prenatal supplements.

3. YOGURT

Your baby needs calcium  for his growing bones, and you need it to keep yours strong and to help your muscles and nerves function. Aim for about 1,200 mg (that’s four servings) every day. One of your best bets? Yogurt: cup for cup, it contains as much calcium as milk — plus it’s packed with protein and folate. The active cultures (i.e., good bacteria) in yogurt can also help prevent stomach upset as well as yeast infections (which are more common in pregnancy). Blend yogurt with fruit into smoothies, layer with granola in a breakfast parfait, substitute for sour cream or mayo in sandwich fillings, dips and salad dressings, or simply spoon it out of the carton.

Is your diet dairy-free? Try these ideas for downing more calcium.

Tip: To get the most calcium out of each serving, look for products that are also fortified with vitamin D, which boosts absorption.

4. WILD SALMON

Cold-water fish like salmon is packed with omega-3 essential fatty acids, most importantly a type called DHA. These healthy fats are “essential” for a number of reasons: The body can’t make them on its own, they help metabolize fat-soluble vitamins like A and E, they may help reduce the risk of prenatal depression, and they’re critical for the development of your baby’s eyes and brain (both the brain and retina are primarily composed of DHA). The Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency encourage pregnant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces (two to three servings) of fish every week. Opt for wild salmon, sardines, herring and farmed oysters, which are all high in omega 3s and safe for pregnancy. Cook or serve it up with acidic ingredients like sour cream, fruit salsa or lemon juice.

Not a fan of fish? Try these other omega-3-rich foods, including tofu, enriched eggs and walnuts.

Tip: Avoid large ocean predators including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, fresh tuna, sea bass, tilefish, mahi mahi, grouper and amberjack, which can be potentially high in toxins like mercury and dioxin.

5. AVOCADOS

Loaded with folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 (which helps baby’s tissue and brain growth as well as eases morning sickness), avocados are a delicious way to get your vitamins. Spread some ripe avocado on your whole grain roll as a healthy substitute for mayo.

Tip: Keep in mind that avocados are high in fat (though the very good kind) and calories, which makes them filling — but be careful not to overdo it unless you’re having trouble gaining weight.

6. OATS

Oats are full of fiber, B vitamins, iron and a host of other minerals. Along with other complex carbs, they’re also packed with fiber (helpful if you’re dealing with constipation). Fill your breakfast bowl with them, but don’t stop there — add oats to pancakes, muffins, cakes, cookies, even meatloaf. Aim to eat plenty along with a variety of other whole grains (whole corn, rice, quinoa, wheat and barley) to up your dose of a slew of baby-building vitamins and minerals.

Tip: Another whole grain that’s an easy way to up your intake: Air-popped popcorn. Its starchiness can help quell nausea, too!

7. EDAMAME

These green pods are actually cooked soybeans — and they taste so much better than they sound. Packed with protein, calcium, folate and vitamins A and B, edamame can be scooped up by the handful as a snack (salt them lightly, and you’ll never miss the chips), or tossed into just about anything you’re cooking, from soups, to pasta, to casseroles, to succotash, to stir-fry.

Tip: Edamame makes a great gas-free stand-in for beans.

8. NUTS

Nuts are chock-full of important minerals (copper, manganese, magnesium, selenium, zinc, potassium, and even calcium) and vitamin E, plus they’re easily portable, making them a filling on-the-go snack. Even though they’re high in fat, it’s mainly the good-for-you kind. So in a nutshell, go nuts with nuts (a little if you’re gaining quickly, liberally if you’re gaining slowly).

Tip: Nuts are a versatile super-food — toss them into just about any dish: salads, pasta, meat dishes, baked goods and more.

9. CARROTS & PEPPERS

Carrots and red peppers are packed with beta-carotene, which the body converts it to vitamin A — critical for the development of your baby’s eyes, skin, bones and organs. They’re also a good source of vitamins B6 and C, plus fiber to keep things movin’. Both are perfect for munching on the go, with or without dip. Carrots also shred neatly into almost anything (from salads to meatloaf to cakes to muffins). And sweet red peppers are perfect in salsa, stir-fries and pasta dishes; or roast (with a little olive oil, garlic, and lemon) and add to sandwiches, salads or antipastos.

Tip: Watch your intake of “preformed” vitamin A. It’s found in some supplements, fortified foods, medications and skin products (look for the word “retinol” on the label as a clue). Unlike beta-carotene, which is completely safe during pregnancy, excessively high levels of preformed A can increase the risk of birth defects.

10. MANGOS

Good news if your stomach does flips at just the thought of veggies: mangos contain more vitamins A and C bite for delicious bite than a salad. It’s a perfect complement to both sweet and savory dishes. Blend it into smoothies or soups, chop it up in salsas or relishes, simply scoop and enjoy.

Tip: Like bananas, this tropical favorite is also packed with magnesium, which may help relieve a common pregnancy symptom: leg cramps.

11. WATER

OK, it’s not technically a food — but getting enough is just as important to your health as any nutrient. Water has lots of benefits for you and your growing baby: building new cells, delivering nutrients, flushing toxins and more. Water also makes your tummy feel full, so you’re less tempted to reach for chips or cookies, and it can help with constipation during pregnancy. Plus the dangers of dehydration are real: It can up the risk of early labor. So fill up one of those stainless-steel water bottles and take it wherever you go.

Tip: Water from all sources counts (100 percent juice, milk, soup, tea), so don’t stress too much if two quarts a day of plain water is, well, too much to swallow. Focus instead on total fluid intake.

Of course this is just a short list. There are plenty of other nutritious powerhouse foods to choose from — grains of all kinds, seeds, yams and winter squash, apricots, kiwi (one small kiwi contains as much vitamin C as an orange, plus it’s unparalleled for its laxative effects), papaya and much more.

One last word to the wise: How much you eat is as important as what you eat. If you’re starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight, you don’t need any extra calories in the first trimester, only 300 extra calories a day in the second trimester (about a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt and a whole-wheat English muffin), and 500 more in the third trimester. If you’re underweight to begin with, or are carrying multiples, your doctor may suggest you eat a bit more; if you’re overweight, a bit less. Following her recommendations will help keep your pregnancy weight gain on track — which in turn lowers your risk for having a baby who’s too small or too large and reduces your risk for complications like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Does paracetamol taken in pregnancy affect masculinity?

Taking paracetamol when pregnant ‘makes boys less manly, less aggressive and lowers their sex drive’,” reports The Sun.

But the alarming headline doesn’t explain that the research was in mice, nDoes paracetamol ,taken ,in ,pregnancy ,affect ,masculinityot humans.

Researchers gave daily doses of paracetamol to pregnant mice, and looked into the effect on their male offspring.

They measured an area of the brain linked to male behaviours. They also carried out experiments to test how typically masculine their behaviour was, such as how much they urinated around their cages, bit other male mice, and copulated with female mice.

Importantly, the study only found that paracetamol had any effects at the equivalent of doses three times higher than the recommended maximum for human adults.

When mice were given the equivalent of the maximum daily dose for humans, paracetamol had no discernible effect in their offspring.

Paracetamol is commonly recommended for pain and fever relief for pregnant women, as it’s thought to have fewer risks for the baby than other drugs.

Most women would only take paracetamol for a day or two as needed during pregnancy – not every day, as in this study.

This study doesn’t provide evidence that standard-dose paracetamol, used from time to time as needed during pregnancy, carries any risk to a developing male baby.

Get more information on taking paracetamol in pregnancy.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Universidade Federal do Paraná in Brazil, Icahn School of Medicine in the US, and INSERM in France, and was funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research.

It was published in the peer-reviewed journal Reproduction and is free to read online.

Several UK media headlines were incorrect and scaremongering, not making it clear that the study was carried out in mice – for example, The Sun claimed that paracetamol “makes boys less manly”.

Headlines aside, the media coverage did go on to explain that the study had been carried out in mice, and gave a reasonably accurate overview.

But most of the coverage stated that the mice had been given doses of paracetamol “comparable” to doses recommended for humans, including pregnant women. The Mail Online says: “Taking paracetamol at recommended doses could harm the masculinity” of an unborn boy.

The statement that mice were given “comparable” doses came from the study’s press release.

In fact, the study found no significant effects in mice given the equivalent of the recommended dose in humans, and only those given three times the recommended amount for humans showed brain and behavioural changes.

What kind of research was this?

This animal experimental study carried out in mice aimed to see whether taking paracetamol during pregnancy could affect the development of the male foetus’ brain and male behaviour in later life.

Animal studies like this can give an indication of the possible biological effects of a drug, but results in animals don’t always translate into the same effect in humans.

What did the research involve?

Researchers fed pregnant laboratory mice daily with either plain water, water laced with standard-dose paracetamol, or water laced with high-dose paracetamol from the fifth day of pregnancy till they gave birth.

They then tested the behaviour of the male offspring when they were eight weeks old. They carried out experiments to assess typical masculine behaviour in mice, such as:

urinating to mark territory
aggressive behaviour towards other males
sexual activity with females on heat
After death, the brains of the male mice were also examined to calculate the size of an area called the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SND), which is typically larger in male animals than females.

Researchers looked for differences between mice given plain water and water laced with different doses of paracetamol.

The doses were designed to be “comparable” to those taken by humans. The standard dose of 50mg per kg of body weight is in line with the maximum dose recommended for adult humans.

The higher dose of 150mg per kg body weight, although three times higher than the maximum recommended dose, was still “in the range of human exposure”, the researchers said.

The behavioural tests were carried out only on mice whose mothers had taken high-dose paracetamol.

The tests included:

recording the distribution, size and number of urine spots left around a cage
introducing an “intruder” male mouse into the cage of a study male mouse and counting how often the study mouse sniffed, attacked, rattled his tail at, and bit the intruder mouse
introducing a female mouse in heat into the cage of a study male mouse and counting how often the study mouse sniffed, mounted and copulated with the female mouse
As well as paracetamol, the researchers tested the effects of aniline, a pollutant used in industrial processes thought to have similar effects to paracetamol.

What were the basic results?

Researchers found no difference in the size of the brain SND between mice whose mothers had been fed standard-dose paracetamol and those who’d had plain water.

But mice whose mothers had the high-dose paracetamol had 50% fewer cells in the SND area. Aniline produced the same effect.

Mice whose mothers had been fed high-dose paracetamol and control mice whose mothers had plain water were tested in behavioural experiments.

In these tests:

paracetamol-exposed mice urinated fewer, but bigger, drops when scent-marking their cages
paracetamol-exposed mice sniffed and rattled their tails at intruder mice less, and didn’t bite them
paracetamol-exposed mice copulated with female mice less often and didn’t ejaculate
How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers say paracetamol has an “anti-androgenic effect” that “could also include an effect on the masculinisation processes of the brain”. They say this may cause “reduction in male sexual behaviour and lack of ejaculation”, as well as “differences in aggression”.

They say that, depending on the method used to compare human doses with mouse doses, “these exploratory experiments have relevance for human health”.

Conclusion

Headlines like those in the media about this study are likely to alarm pregnant women who have taken or may need to take paracetamol in pregnancy.

While the study’s results can’t be dismissed altogether, there are three important things to bear in mind:

Studies in mice don’t always translate into results in humans.
The doses of paracetamol that produced the effects in mice were the equivalent of three times higher than the maximum daily dose for adult humans.
The pregnant mice were fed paracetamol every day throughout the last two-thirds of their pregnancy.
Most pregnant women take paracetamol at the recommended dose, and for only a short time to manage pain or fever, when they need it. Nothing in this study suggests that women should stop doing that.

Pregnant women have few options when it comes to managing pain or fever, and it’s important that they can take medicines they need that are unlikely to harm their baby.

Not treating pain or fever could be distressing for the pregnant woman, and carry greater risk to the overall health and wellbeing of the mother and pregnancy than not using short-term pain relief.

Current UK advice is that pregnant women can take paracetamol. But as with any medicine taken during pregnancy, it should be used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

How much you can take depends on your age, your weight, the type of paracetamol you’re taking, and how strong it is.

Adults can usually take one or two 500mg tablets every 4-6 hours, but shouldn’t take more than 4g (eight 500mg tablets) in the space of 24 hours.