Not your typical list of pregnancy do’s and don’ts, last year we published 28 posts/days to a healthy pregnancy and birth that guarantee results. As social media is not always the easiest to go back through archives of posts, we felt to reproduce those 28 tips here on our blog in a groups of seven (7) days/posts over the next four (4) weeks.
Day 1: Work Your Lymph System
Well, I ended getting sick this week, so thought I’d start the first of 28 days to a better birth and pregnancy with something that will help you stay healthy during pregnancy and afterwards. It involves moving the lymph system. The lymph system is the super-garbage collector in the body. Though unlike the circulatory system, which is able to pump the blood around on its own, the lymph system only moves if we do. Our major lymph nodes are in the armpits and groin area, so moving in those areas is important.
The following webpage has a great, free stretching workout for the arms that will help move the lymph in that part of the body. To move it in the groin area, walking is the best thing you can do. So get up and move, and hopefully sickness will pass you by during your pregnancy. http://www.restorativeexercise.com/move/#alignmentsnacks
Day 2: Stay Hydrated
Having experienced myself the effects of pre-term labor and dehydration, I can tell you that making sure you have enough to drink can be a big deal during pregnancy. Make a goal today to drink eight 8 to 12 oz glasses of water. I like to get the big 32oz. jugs and keep it out throughout the day.
For your birth: if you are wanting to eat and drink during labor, make sure you talk to your doctor about this. While research has not held up the idea that women should abstain from food and drink, many doctors still restrict their patients to ice chips only. Usually a doctor will fall back on what they are typically used to doing during labor, so you will want to find someone that typically allows drinking.
What to put in the bag: sports drink, protein shake, or something to boost your energy. Some small snacks that are easily digestible. Honey sticks are a great example of something that can give you energy, but not overfill your stomach.
Day 3: Sleep
Getting enough sleep is always hard during pregnancy, but important. In fact it is so important that lack of sleep may have an effect on the chance of having a longer labor or a c-section. Here are a few tips to help when you need more sleep:
- If you have restless leg syndrome, try increasing your folate or iron. This seems to help decrease the symptoms that are keeping you awake.
- For heartburn, Tums are usually recommended, but you can also work on your alignment to decrease the pressure in your abdomen. One good way to do this is by learning to breathe with your rib cage (see link below). Also, limit your foods that are more likely to cause heartburn (e.g., spicy foods).
- Relaxation techniques: foot massage as you are going to sleep works really well to help relax the body, so if you have someone that is willing to do that for you, ask! 🙂 If not, use a tennis ball and roll your foot across it for a few minutes right before you go to bed. Try doing 5-10 minutes of deep breathing exercises right before you go to bed. Also, I have a preference for learning to carry your own weight as the baby grows, which means alignment. If you build up your strength to do this, a lot of your aches and pains that usually come with pregnancy are not as severe.
- Make sure you eat a small protein snack before you go to bed. This will help keep your sugars stable at night and prevent waking up from low sugar levels.
During labor: I know how exciting the beginning of labor can be. There is no way we want to just stop everything and sleep when we think we are going into labor, but for most people this is really what they should do. Unless you are laboring fast and hard, take some time to take some cat naps instead of trying to push the labor to go faster. Use ways to relax in between contractions to allow your muscles more rest. These can include deep breathing, hot compresses, getting in the tub, or the use of some oils.
To bring in the bag: lavender oil – this can be diffused into the air or put in the bathtub to soak in. It is great at helping you to relax and get the rest you need.
Day 4: Be Mindful
Since Sundays are a day for me to connect to something larger than myself, I thought I’d post a few ways to help you do that in your pregnancy and birth.
One is just a simple breathing activity. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and close your eyes. As you breathe in, imagine your air coming into your lungs and then pulling down deeper into your belly to surround your baby. Imagine the air you breath bringing oxygen and life as your baby grows inside of you. Then gently breath out. Do this for about ten minutes to help you connect with your baby.
Another one is to help you extend love to yourself and others. It is called loving kindness mediation and comes from the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness. Instead of explaining it here, follow the link to a recording that you can listen to. follow.http://palousemindfulness.com/disks/lovingkindness.html
Both of these things are good to do during birth when the going gets tough and you need something to give your labor meaning.
For the bag: Make sure that you bring anything that may help you connect to your spiritual aspect. This can be something religious, like a cross or icon, or something that just reminds you that you are not alone. Make sure you bring anything that you may need to meet these spiritual needs.
Day 5: Breath, Decrease Anxiety
We did some breathing yesterday, but today I want to focus on the fact that sometimes pregnancy and labor make it hard to actually take a breath. The main thing you want to do with this, is give yourself more room to breath. So, I’m posting Katie Bowman again because that is her specialty. The things she mentions are untucking your tailbone, and dropping your ribs. This can help with a lot of things, but it also creates more space to allow you room to breath.
Anxiety can also cause you to feel breathless, and this can be a cause of a decrease in oxygen getting to your baby during labor. So doing things to decrease anxiety can help you breath better and oxygenate better during labor. During pregnancy, you can practice learning how to slow down your breath when you are feeling anxious.
Use this during labor whenever your heart starts to race and you feel your breathing increasing. This actually tricks your body into thinking that you aren’t scared, so all your fight or flight hormones level off. Of course one of the best ways to help with anxiety is to hire a doula:) They know a lot of good tricks.
To put in the bag: a comfort item from home to have around when your fears start to surface.
Day 6: Eat
Some of the best advice I ever heard about food was this: Eat real food. (Much of the food you find in the stores is not real food, but processed or with a lot of added stuff in it.) Eat mostly plants.
I like this because it covers most of what we need to be doing when we are pregnant, and it is simple.
The other simple advice I will give to have you focus on is this: make half your plate fruits and vegetables today.
Lastly, I’m including a video to help you eat mindfully. It is a great way to look at your cravings and what you are eating and why.
During birth: look again at my post on drinking during labor (Day 2). Most research upholds eating during labor. If you would like to have this option make sure you find someone who not only says they will do it, but has done it, and often, or perhaps even encourages it. You may not always want to eat something, but it is good to have that option.
What to put in the bag: some light snacks for your partner. Something like a granola bar might be good. Also some change to buy a heavier meal if they would like it.
Day 7: Process Pain
This is such a huge topic, but I’m going to try my best to give you just a few snippets. In my course, I teach that there are various reasons we feel pain. Here is a blog post where I show one of my student’s response to an assignment on pain. It gives a great example of the different things that cause us pain. http://www.trainingdoulas.com/pain-in-labor-theories-and-practice/causes-pain-childbirth/
There are three main areas: physical, emotional, and cognitive.
Physical: this comes from the contractions and stretching of tissues in and near the uterus. A great way to help alleviate this pain, is make sure you have your uterus in the optimal position beforehand (see previous videos on alignment), and use different positions during birth.
Emotional: This has a lot to do with the fear-tension-pain cycle. Fear or anxiety can cause your body to tense up, release hormones, and work against itself. That then leads to more pain. Here’s a great link to a handout on fear and how to help work through it before hand.
Cognitive: This one is difficult to work with because it involves our own culture and what has been deeply embedded in our belief system surrounding birth. This comes from the stories told, the movies we watch, the way people respond to pain in general and birth specifically. All this creates a picture in our heads of what birth is an should be. Very often in our culture, birth and the pain of birth is seen as traumatic, uncontrollable, undesirable, and that it creates a huge amount of suffering. If you are trying to combat negative images you have grown up with, positive affirmations are a useful way to do this. I like to use affirmations that are true regardless of the situation. Things like: “I am strong,” “my body was meant to birth,” “I can relax,” or “I accept myself and my birth.” Also, listening to positive birth stories is a great idea.
To put in the bag: make sure you include some positive affirmations for your mp3 player.