With a growing (and sometimes overwhelming) checklist for a healthy pregnancy, here’s an easy one: Vitamin D supplementation!
New research shows that taking Vitamin D supplements during pregnancy may help protect against asthma and other respiratory infections.
The study showed that women who had received Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy gave birth to babies with a boosted immune response. This immunity may result in a decreased risk of asthma.
“But I live somewhere sunny… do I need vitamin D?”
Yup. According to Kathy Adams LM, CPM, a midwife at Babymoon Inn, nearly everyone – pregnant or not – could benefit from supplementation.
“No matter how much sun we get, most people are deficient in vitamin D,” she said. “Different people may need different supplementation amounts depending on sex, age, lifestyle, etc. Talk to your doctor or midwife about what vitamin D supplement may be most appropriate for you.”
Read more about the Vitamin D study here.
As your pregnancy winds to an end and you find yourself stocking up on diapers, prepping your bag for the birth center, and finishing your childbirth education classes, there’s one other thing to remember… DATES!
Hop in the car and head to a natural foods store (Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.) to stock up on some dates for snacking during your last few weeks of pregnancy.
The date fruit is the product of the date palm, a tree native to Northern Africa and the Middle East. There are many kinds of dates and each variety is unique in size, sweetness, flavor, and texture.
So why eat dates in pregnancy? So. Many. Reasons.
“They’re a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein,” says Maribeth Diver MSN, CNM, a midwife at Babymoon Inn birth center. “They’re especially rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc, and they contain 23 types of amino acids, 14 types of fatty acids, and fiber.”
But that’s not all. Research has demonstrated significant benefits for pregnant women who eat six dates a day beginning four weeks before their due date.
These women were:
- more dilated upon labor admission
- more likely to have their amniotic sac remain in tact until after labor began
- less likely to be induced or have labor augmented with medication
- less likely to have long, slow, tiring “prelabor”
Eating dates during labor has also been shown to reduce vomiting, increase energy, and shorten the length of pushing. It has also been shown to reduce the amount of bleeding after birth.
Excited about an easier, shorter labor but not sure how to eat six dates a day? Google date recipes or borrow one from Babymoon Inn’s registered dietitian Megan McNamee.
“Dates are a good source of fiber and potassium that can act as a natural sweetener in many recipes,” she says. “My favorite way to use them is by blending them with equal parts nuts like macadamia nuts or almonds until smooth to form an energy ball. Stir in shredded unsweetened coconut or cocoa nibs for fun variations. Roll into one-inch balls and freeze. They’re great straight from the freezer!”
Did you eat dates around YOUR date? Do you feel like it benefitted you during labor?
At some point during pregnancy, it’s inevitable that you will receive advice you didn’t ask for, a horror story you wish you could unhear, or a reminder that things aren’t going to get any easier once your baby arrives. I spoke with a pregnant woman who recently tried to buy a beverage at a local farmer’s market and was refused service because the vendor felt that strongly that she shouldn’t be drinking caffeine, and he let her know allllllllll about it.
So what do you do when the unwelcome advice starts rolling in? Columnist Thalia Kehoe Rowden shared some advice in a recent blog at The Spinoff.
“When the advice that flies towards you is not welcome, for whatever reason, here are some things you can say:
- ‘That’s something to think about [+ change the subject].’
- ‘We’re still figuring that stuff out [+ subject change].’
- ‘Good tip! Now tell me, what was your favourite thing about being pregnant?’
- ‘Actually, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with advice at the moment, let’s talk about something else.’
This is important: you don’t need to engage with every person who wants to influence your parenting, either to take their advice on board or to tell them that you’re not going to. You can just say ‘Hmm,’ and move on, if you want.”
Pregnant people are also often subject to scary stories about birth or parenting. Kehoe Rowden offers some quick and easy responses when a conversation is going in this direction:
“Does this story have a happy ending? Because I’m finding I don’t want to hear sad stories at the moment.”
“I’m going to stop you there. I’m trying to focus on positive birth stories.”
“Please only tell me encouraging things at the moment.”
“I need your support to reassure me. Tell me what went really well.”
If someone in your life feels the need to issue the “just wait” warning when you issue a complaint regarding pregnancy, Kehow Rowden has suggested responses for this situation as well:
“So you’re saying that insomnia in pregnancy might be bad, but it’s only going to be worse when the baby arrives? That’s actually not very helpful to hear.”
“Yes, I’m sure each stage will have its own challenges. My challenge at the moment is [repeat what’s on your mind now].”
“Yes, I know there will be challenges. Please let me enjoy this stage while I can!”
Did you receive unsolicited advice or hear unwelcome stories or comments during your pregnancy? How did you respond?
After experiencing giving birth in both a hospital and a birth center setting, Tieska Jumbo sums up her thoughts about another hospital birth in five words: “Heck No, I Won’t Go!”
In an article for Jacksonville Moms Blog, Jumbo explains why she sought out midwives and a birth center for her second pregnancy.
“I’ve heard women say that giving birth is an amazingly beautiful experience and that they continue having babies because they forget the toil that is pregnancy and labor. After being traumatized by the hospital birth of our first son and going back to work after six weeks, those sentiments did not compute for me. So, when we found out we were pregnant again, I was determined not to give birth in another hospital, nor to return to work so soon. After thoroughly researching my options, I settled on a local birthing center.”
Jumbo listed the personalized approach to care, small staff, and the patience and flexibility demonstrated by her midwives as reasons she would choose birth center care over a hospital birth again. She also found the setting at the birth center to be more conducive to labor.
“Mostly, I enjoyed the privacy of the setting and the ability to create the atmosphere we desired. Our room was big and naturally lit with a with a full-sized bed, artwork on the walls, a chest of drawers, two chairs, a garden tub, and a thermostat. With my music on, I sat on my birthing ball and made figure eights while praying aloud. Before getting us lunch, my husband joined in and we created our peace. Although (midwife) Ashleigh entered periodically to check my vitals, she was very quiet, polite, and sensitive to the mood we’d created. In the hospital, it was virtually impossible to find peace with the noisy machines, different strangers constantly coming in and out, the awful lighting, being limited to eating ice chips and being held hostage by the bed.”
Notably, Jumbo’s first birth in the hospital had included an epidural, but she found her unmedicated birth in the birth center to be less painful.
“Without an epidural or any kind of medical intervention, my water birth was by far easier and less painful than my hospital birth with an epidural. Instead of being discharged feeling traumatized, I left feeling empowered, healthy and strong and like we’d made the best decision for our family.”
Have you experienced birth in both a hospital and a birth center? How did they compare?
In Babymoon’s 5-week Lamaze series, we discuss at length the six “Healthy Birth Practices” that have been linked to better outcomes for moms and babies. One of these healthy birth practices is to avoid unnecessary interventions.
But how does one determine when an intervention is necessary or unnecessary? We recommend using your BRAIN – examining the Benefits, Risks, and Alternatives to an intervention, and then asking yourself what your Intuition says and what happens if we do Nothing (right Now).
In the first of series of her blogs on her web site, Sarah Buckley begins to examine the benefits and risks of an epidural and shares some of the research surrounding this common intervention. Buckley, a physician who also authored Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices, says:
“Obviously, the main benefit of an epidural is the very effective pain relief that most women experience. Because of this effective analgesia, epidurals also reduce stress, and stress hormones, in labour. This can be beneficial when women are experiencing very high levels of stress and pain, which can slow labour progress.”
To understand some of the risks or side effects of an epidural, we first must understand oxytocin. As we discuss in our Lamaze series, the hormone oxytocin – also known as the “love hormone” – is a key player in the process of labor and birth.
Childbirth Connection explains:
“Receptor cells that allow your body to respond to oxytocin increase gradually in pregnancy and then increase a lot during labor. Oxytocin stimulates powerful contractions that help to thin and open (dilate) the cervix, move the baby down and out of the birth canal, push out the placenta, and limit bleeding at the site of the placenta.”
Buckley explains that within the oxytocin “positive feedback cycle” (as illustrated in the diagram), uterine sensations lead to oxytocin release which contributes to stronger contractions, more sensations, and more oxytocin. The cycle continues and helps baby to be born quickly and easily. Oxytocin also activates reward and pleasure centers in the brain.
When epidural analgesia is introduced into the equation during labor, there are no longer sensations to trigger oxytocin release, and therefore levels will decline.
Buckely will explore the consequences of a lack of oxytocin in Part 2 of her series, coming soon.
Read all of Part 1