The Two Main Types Of Nourishment For Labor

Nourishment In Labor: The Food, and The Support

There are two main types of nourishment in labor. The nutrition, hydration, and calories that you physically consume. And the support team that surrounds you during your labor.

 

Nutrition as Nourishment In Labor

There are many scientific studies and opinions on the best type of nutrition for labor. The most important factor to consider is identifying what your body is craving, and how it makes you feel when you consume it. As discussed in Ice, Ice, Baby, when you are birth in a hospital, it is very common to only be permitted ice chips until baby is born. Then that first meal postpartum becomes your victory meal where you can eat anything you want.

The Four Main Sources Of Energy

Labor is called “labor” because it is a very physical task that involves a lot of energy. And, as you know, we get our energy from food.

It’s important to stay amply hydrated in pregnancy and labor. I don’t actually know anything that takes in enough fluids, me included. Dehydration can cause additional cramps and contractions, and who needs that when you’re already having plenty of sensations already? Consume fluids during pregnancy and early labor. If you don’t like the way water tastes, you can try beverages with electrolytes or foods (such as fruits) that have a high density of water.

If you know that you are in early labor but think you still have awhile to go, you will want to eat foods that are high in fats and proteins. Fats and proteins create a feeling of being full, and are slow to metabolize. So they will keep hunger pangs at bay if it is a longer period than you normally go without eating again.

Other forms of nourishment include foods that are lighter in nature, but are higher in carbohydrates and sugars. It is normal for your hormones and contractions to make you very nauseous and disinterested in food. But if you are hungry, and your medical team approves, you can eat items like juices and frozen or fresh fruits. Carbohydrates and sugars metabolize quickly and provide a quick boost of energy. Sometimes in labor, the quick boost in energy is magical. However, carbohydrates and sugars have a quick rise in blood sugar, and therefore, may involve a crash.

Many people like light fare during labor, and enjoy mixing up a combination of fats and proteins with carbs and sugars. Examples include apples and nut butter, bread and cheese, or sauteed vegetables mixed with some quinoa or rice.

 

Nourishment From The Birth Team: Nourish The Heart, Nourish The Mind

When you think of the experiences, memories, and feelings that make you feel the best, I’m sure you think of love, happiness, contentment, and feeling safe and secure. Those are the feelings that a woman in labor deserves.

We need to trust that she knows what she is doing. She knows her body. She knows her mental state. She knows her emotional state. And it’s our job to encourage her.

Honestly, the hardest relationship to navigate in labor is the relationship between the mother and her partner. Because both members of that relationship want it to go smoothly. They want to help. They have different ideas of how it’s going to go. They even have ideas of how they want it to be. Many women and their partners spend hours planning their birth and their plan for co-parenting. It can be hard on the partner to see their partner working to birth their baby and something doesn’t go according to plan. And it’s so normal to be scared when that happens.

The important thing is to always create moments, even in the chaos, that create love, happiness, contentment, and security.  Both the mother and the partner need that. And it’s traditional that the partner takes care of the mother, and the best doulas, nurses, and doctors will include an inclusive environment that makes the entire family feel supported while having their needs met.

Massage For Pregnancy, Birth, And Postpartum Recovery

The Benefits Of Massage During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s body is constantly changing. Her center of gravity changes, and she will experience some very common aches and pains that are associated with the position and weight of her growing baby. Relaxation is one aspect of massage. It is also a powerful tool for natural and easy pain management. In my opinion, massage paired with chiropractic care is one way to rock your world.

Prenatal massage enhances the functions of your joints and muscles. It also improves your circulation. Increased circulation  can increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients received by both the mother and the baby. An increase in oxygen and nutrient availability stimulates the function of the lymph nodes and helps reduce and eliminate toxins in the body. A boost of oxygen and nutrients also helps to increase immunity.

I recently wrote a blog about acupressure, in which I talked about the benefits of acupressure for relieving the symptoms of common pregnancy complaints such as morning sickness. Skilled massage therapists utilize your acupressure and trigger point placements to increase your endorphins and pain response. Which means that those types of bodywork help combat pain and discomfort, as well as creating a sense of comfort and relaxation once those points are activated.

 

Some of the most common discomforts of pregnancy that could benefit from massage are sciatic pain, back pain, carpal tunnel, management of acid reflux, constipation, and issues in the sacroilliac joints (hips).

 

Massage also helps with depression, anxiety, and mental and physical fatigue. It is normal for a woman to feel heightened feelings of anxiety, or to experience physical discomforts that make her rest not as refreshing as it was prior to pregnancy. Massage can help you to find balance.

Massage In Labor

The benefits of utilizing massage in labor are very similar to the list for prenatal massage. The endorphins released by massage in labor helps to release some of the sensation of labor contractions. Because of utilizing massage already in pregnancy, you have formed a mind-body connection that is very beneficial in labor. If you have a really stellar experience with your massage therapist, her presence may help you feel more calm and relaxed because s/he is familiar to you.

Adrenaline is one of the hormones involved with our fight & flight responses. Due to the fact that we are mammals, it’s normal to have some adrenaline going in labor. Oxytocin is the hormone of love, which is very highly present when we birth a baby. Oxytocin is the hormone that makes orgasms feel like the best thing ever. And the birth of a baby is one of the highest doses of oxytocin you will receive. Oxytocin plays a heavy role in the cocktail of hormones for labor. It helps you to bond and feel love for your baby, among other factors. So, massage helps to reduce the amount of adrenaline, and increase the amount of oxytocin in your body.

Massage As A Tool For Postpartum Recovery

The American Pregnancy Association talks of the benefits of postpartum massage. In addition to the above benefits, massage utilized during postpartum recovery helps with hormone regulation, reduced edema and swelling, better sleep, and improved breastfeeding (if breastfeeding is a choice that you’ve made).

Lighting As A Comfort Measure In Labor

Lighting Is An Environmental Factor

As I discussed in the blog Environment: Preparing Your Birth Space,  lighting is a strong environmental factor. Amazingly, the brightness of the room you birth your baby in can affect you mentally, emotionally, and physiologically.

Mammals Are Programmed To Go Cave Woman In Labor

One of the reasons women experience the nesting urge in their late third trimester is because their brain is literally telling them to make a safe place to welcome baby. It’s not even something that a woman has control over. Of course, she has control in how that feels for her, what colors she likes, and what her preferred baby items are. But her brain and hormones are essentially telling her to hunker down. If you’ve birthed a baby before, you’ll remember a sense of hyper awareness in the days before welcoming your baby. And a spidey sense of smell. All of your senses feel extremely heightened.

Women Want A Birth Cave That Is Safe and Comfortable

When we labor and give birth in spaces with harsh lighting, it creates a feeling of openness and being too open. But when it is dark, we feel cocooned. If you notice that women will cover themselves with blankets like a shawl in labor, they are naturally trying to cocoon themselves.

During transition, which is the most intense part of labor, women tend to surrender and yield to their body and their baby. They get glassy eyed and feel like they are having an out of body experience, for lack of a better word. When the environment is bright and people are everywhere, it feels confusing and like they have a lack of control. But when it is quiet, dark, and peaceful, it’s like surrendering to a sort of spiritual experience. It’s kind of like the difference between someone abruptly turning on a florescent light when you’re asleep versus waking up alone in the dark and choosing to turn on a light. The experiences are very different.

Lighting Alternatives

When a woman is just doing her woman thing and going about life, she is more than capable of talking and acting on her desires. So, most of the time she can turn off the light if she wants, or ask someone to. In labor, baby has all of her attention. And she may not be able to tell you or not want to ask you to do something about the lights. Of course, when it comes to medical care, the midwife or doctor wants to see what they are doing for the safety of your family. But there is a significant amount of time in most labors where the lights don’t need to be jarring. (Unless you love them like that, that’s cool, too.)

 

Most lights in a hospital room have a dimmer switch. Sometimes it’s hard to find them because most of the light switches are red and look like you shouldn’t touch the Big Red Button. Understandable. It’s okay to ask a nurse to help you find out how to control the lights when she next comes into the room. In all settings, you can use battery operated candles. Battery operated candles are safe. And you don’t have to remember about them. Over the years, battery operated candles have gotten cheaper and cheaper. It’s possible to have just one as a focal point, or to make a beautiful scene with them. It’s also possible to use flashlights, lanterns, or have the room completely dark based on what the birthing woman is doing. If she’s asleep, she likely prefers low lighting. If she is up and moving around, she may prefer low lighting.

 

Kneeling, And Other Positions For Labor: Can I Move Around In Labor?

 

Kneeling, And Other Positions For Labor

Based on what we’ve seen on television, laying flat on our backs seems like the only option for labor positioning. This is especially true in things that depict hospital births. Hospital births are usually where you see media depicting a woman screaming with her feet up in the stirrups. But there are so many more labor and birth positions available. Before obstetric care in a hospital was the new normal, women often used positions that worked with their intuition and gravity to birth their babies.When you look at anthropological data across cultures, you see women giving birth in a variety of positions. Most of those positions involve some form of supported squat.

Positioning For An Epidural

Epidurals are more common that you’d imagine if you’ve never had one before. And there’s nothing at all wrong with getting an epidural if it feels like the right option for you.

However, having an epidural may limit your movement. Due to the numbing nature of an epidural, doctors prefer that you stay in the hospital bed so that you don’t accidentally hurt yourself. That being said, you can, if you choose, mimic some of the open pelvis positions by laying on your side as opposed to laying on your back.

A nurse, partner, or support person can prop many pillows or a peanut ball between your knees to mimic the open pelvis positions, and to help you rest. Most people do sleep on their sides during pregnancy, so this may allow you to feel more comfortable in order to doze off during labor.

Side-lying positions in labor can be beneficial toward dilation, especially in the event of a cervical lip. It can help speed labor up, if that is your goal. It can give baby more space to turn and descend. And it can help strengthen contractions if they are slowing down, or feel, to you, as if they could be more “productive”.

 

Birth Balls In Early Labor

As we discussed in our post that was entirely focused on the birth ball, there are many positions that can be achieved with a ball. In early labor, birth balls are commonly used for positioning as well as for helping you to establish a routine and rhythm. Doing your best to find a rhythm and tools and tricks that are working for you in labor will provide you with a sense of confidence, control, and peace.

Many women like to bounce or rock on their birth ball during early labor. As discussed in the blog linked above, birth balls can also support your head and upper body during a hands and knees position, and allows you to rock in that position. Your partner or birth team should physically support you during birth ball positions. . Using a sheet or any linen item, a  rope can be made for you. You can wrap the rope around the back of the person behind you, and pull on the rope to help you stay balanced.

Many places also sell stands for the birth balls to go into to keep you from accidentally rolling away. If you want to mimic the hands and knees position of a birth ball in the hospital bed, you can raise the back of the hospital bed very steeply. You can achieve a similar position by kneeling in the bed facing backwards, and putting your hands on the top of the bed and resting your head on your hands. When doing positions that mimic kneeling, just be sure to keep your feet pretty far apart to create as much space as you can in your pelvis.

Seated Positions For Labor

Many women like to labor seated. Some women labor on toilet seats or chairs without arms. With the aid of a birth stool (essentially a chair with a large hole in the seat) many women are even able to push and deliver in a seated position during home or birth center births.

Walking

Walking is very beneficial to women in labor. It utilizes gravity, for one thing. It gives women a chance to be loved on during labor since they need to be supported, especially if mobile in labor. When she is in the middle of a contraction, she will stop walking and likely try to grab onto something for support. Let her grab onto you. And you can hold her and mimic slow dancing with her by just holding her and rocking with her from side to side. With a support person, a woman can also do lunges. If a woman is going to do lunges, it’s usually an intuitive feeling. She will feel some sensation that triggers her body to think that lunges will help. Support a woman as she does a lunge.

 

Squatting

Squatting during labor and/or pushing comes naturally to women. The easiest way to achieve a squat in a hospital room for labor or pushing is to run a long piece of cloth (like a folded lengthwise sheet) through the handle bars of the bed to make a handle for her to grab. Then you raise up the height of the bed as much as possible. She can then do a very low squat while being fully supported by the back of the bed and the rope handles you have made for her. If a partner is sitting down in a chair, a woman can also do a squat by sitting with their knees far apart on that person’s lap and you can support them by wrapping your arms around them.

 

Read Fit Pregnancy’s Position Statement On the Pros And Cons of 11 Labor Positions

 

Jokes And Other Kinds Of Humor In Labor: Laughter Loosens The Vagina

J is For Jokes

Jokes And Other Humor In Labor

“The state of relaxation of the mouth and jaw is directly correlated to the ability of the cervix, the vagina, and the anus to open to full capacity.”

– Ina May Gaskin

 

So Maybe Laughter Doesn’t Loosen The Vagina, But It Does Help With Relaxation

Laughter is the best medicine. Who doesn’t love some good humor whether it’s a good belly laugh, or a corny pun that makes you groan?

When women are in labor, they become very focused on the sensations they are feeling in their body. They also take it very seriously. It’s very natural for women in labor to become very silent and focused in an internal way. A lot of people think that of a woman in labor is silent and still, she must be doing well. Sometimes women would prefer that someone speak to them in between contractions, but don’t know how to say that, or explain what it is they are looking for.

Because of their extreme internal focus on every sensation in their body, women naturally become physically tense as labor progresses. They may start to tense their face, shoulders, and hands, as an example.

By making them laugh, we help get them out of their internal focus. Laughter releases feel good chemicals in the form of endorphins. Studies reliably show that 15 minutes of watching a comedian or other humorous material can increase the perceived pain threshold of a person by 10%.

 

An Open Mouth Helps Relax The Muscles Controlling The Vagina, Perineum, And Anus

As we mentioned in the introductory quote to this blog post, an open mouth helps the rest of the woman remain open. To try this out yourself, clench like you’re trying to hold in urine while inhaling and holding your breath. As you let go of that breath, you’ll notice that the area you are clenching has noticeably relaxed as well.

 

Trying To Fight Against Pressure And The Urge To Push

It’s normal for a woman to fight against pressure sensations and the urge to push because it just feels so new and different. It’s almost like a part of their brain believes that if they clench, maybe they can avoid pushing out a baby. When a woman tries to clench against pushing, it’s normal for her to try to hold her breath. Oxygen is important to both the mother and the baby, for obvious reasons. By loosening her mouth, she is better able to remember to breathe, and the relaxation of her jaw will help the rest of her body to relax.

When a woman is in transition, or is pushing the baby, she will become vocal. She may make moaning noises, or yell, or say a jumble of words. The lower the pitch of the noise, the more that it will help her to release and go with the pressure sensations and urge to push.

 

So, What Kind Of Jokes Are In Your Pocket?

What usually makes your partner laugh? What shows do you watch together that make you laugh? If ever there was a time to rehash the history of your inside jokes, the birth of your baby is it. Not only that, but your joke will always be part of the story of the birth of your baby.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Ice, Ice, Baby

Literally. Your experience is probably going to be, “I fed her ice, I gave her ice, and then we had a baby.”

Ice As Hydration

In most labor settings, primarily the hospital, a woman in labor will be told not to eat or drink in labor. This is primarily due to the possibility that at some point the mother will be given medication or anesthesia that causes her nausea and vomiting. Even water could unsettle her stomach. If she needs to be put under in a medical emergency, she could vomit and aspirate the contents. That is dangerous. This is most of the basis for ice chips only during labor.

But many hospitals will allow the mother to suck on crushed ice to help “wet her mouth”. In many cases, their are fluids in her IV that are assisting with hydration. There is nothing that a woman wants more than ice while in labor. The refreshing, cold, and hydrating nature of it is wonderful to her. You, or someone near by, may have to spoon feed it her in small batches so that she can move around or support her weight in a position. (Think she’s on her hands and knees rocking, and can’t currently hold a cup.)

Cool Rags Are Life

In the coldest situations, you’ll be amazed by how much heat a woman in labor puts off. Labor is exercise. She will sweat and feel warm. Cool rags on the forehead and wiping back the wispy strands of hair in labor could be why your marriage survives. I’m joking, mostly. If you are intuitive enough to provide a cool rag to a woman in labor, she will remember it and love you forever.

Ice Helps With Swelling

After that tiny human emerges, there may be some swelling. Cool compresses can help with the pain and swelling. If you use ice, you want to layer it several times. Because the last thing a woman wants is to push out a human and get freezer burn to her vagina. #nothanks You can use a zip-loc bag to contain the ice so it doesn’t melt everywhere and then wrap it in a rag, an article of clothing, or many paper towels. Just remember that whatever you use is never coming back from that experience, so don’t use your favorite sweater.

Padscicles Are A Postpartum Woman’s Best Friend

If you ever imply to a woman that you are going anywhere near her vagina with ice, she might kick you. Until she’s just had a baby. Padscicles are feminine hygiene products that are wetted with water or witch hazel and placed in the freezer. If you are preparing these for the woman you love, get thick pads, not pantyliners. The woman will need a large overnight level pad to place underneath it so that her panties and clothes don’t get soaked. When it’s time to use the padsicle, it really is as easy as  placing it in her underwear. The witch hazel also helps with swelling. Witch hazel is bought in pharmacy sections of stores as a liquid or as cotton rounds. The liquid is better for this purpose.

Hypnosis For Birth

Hypnosis For Birth

Many families use hypnosis for labor and birth. There are many forms of hypnosis for birth. The most common methods are Hypnobabies and Hypnobirth. Both Hypnobabies and Hypnobirthing are complete childbirth education programs onto themselves. And they are more affordable than you would expect. I am a certified Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Doula. I frequently support families that utilize the Hypnobabies self-study course. If you want a face to face class, there are many Hypnobabies educators in Houston that teach classes. Classes for both Hypnobabies and Hypnobirthing cost about $400-$500 or less for a multi-day course. The Hypnobabies self-study course can be purchased for about $200 where you and your partner work through it at home. Hiring a Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Doula is a bonus.

Birth Hypnosis Sounds Kind of Woo-Woo

I bet hypnosis for birth sounds kind of woo-woo. The most common concern is that it is somehow religious or causes you to lose control. Hypnobabies is entirely secular. Which means that if religion in birth is important to you, you can incorporate it in other ways. Hypnobabies will not make you uncomfortable in that way. Hypnosis in birth is used by people from all religions and all walks of life. And it is completely within your control.  Hypnobabies is a way of naturally preparing for labor. Of course, utilizing Hypnobabies or other hypnosis methods doesn’t require a natural birth outcome. You can birth however you want: cesarean, medicated, epidual, and still use hypnosis for birth.

 

The Benefits Of Hypnosis For Birth

Utilizing hypnosis for birth helps to give you control over your birth experience. Due to the nature of listening to your tracks throughout your whole pregnancy, you are constantly rehearsing, visualizing, and thinking about the birth of your baby. Doing this can help you feel better bonded to your baby before s/he is even born. Hypnosis helps to let you know that your experiences, feelings, and thoughts are normal and valid. It helps you to focus on your body, birth, and baby, and to diminish outside influences that could cause fear and/or anxiety. Furthermore, families that utilize hypnosis in birth say that their births are shorter, less painful, and create feelings of peace and confidence compared to births where they did not utilize hypnosis for labor.

You’re The Boss

I am most familiar with Hypnobabies, so what I am going to describe pertains to that. With Hypnobabies, the mother is able to put herself into varying levels of hypnosis by using her finger-drop technique.

Additionally, her finger drop technique is also a visual cue to the members of her birth team such as her partner or her doula. This visual cue lets us know where she is in her surge (Contraction) and where her mind is. Which helps us cater the care and support that we are offering her.

At any moment, the mother can be deep in hypnosis, in eye open hypnosis, or completely out of hypnosis. And she gets to decide that based on her own needs. Her birth partner(s) learn physical and verbal cues to help her to deepen or reestablish her hypnosis. Hypnobabies focuses on hypnoanesthesia, which is a pain relief that the mother is choosing in her mind to help relax her body.

Hypnobabies Help Parents Bond With Each Other

Sometimes it is difficult in pregnancy to communicate about birth. Each parent has an idea of what birth will be like, what will happen, how they can best support their partner, and what the outcomes will be. I love childbirth education period, but find that hypnosis for birth helps provide a cohesiveness for birth parents that traditional childbirth education does not provide. Because the tracks and practices do not change. They are constant and can help you through pregnancy and birth. Plus, practicing together becomes like a date. It’s a focused commitment to each other and your baby. And, if I’m completely honest, the practices often do put families to sleep. Which can be great for energy restoration during labor or the insomnia nights of wondering if labor is close. 😉

 

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Celebrate Your Inner ‘Tully’

 

The Doula Finally Watched  Tully

While on social media, or when I go to do consults for postpartum doula support with potential clients, I often hear, “Have you seen the movie ‘Tully”?”

 

It took me a long time to see it.  Based on the summary I was given prior to watching ‘Tully’ I was led to believe that the mother hires a night nanny, or postpartum doula, and the doula sleeps with the mother’s husband. Caring as I do about my profession and how we are perceived by the communities we live in, I didn’t want to watch a movie that was going to wreck my vibe and make me yell at the television. But this movie was so much more than this. 

 

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