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It’s that time of year again. We are full speed ahead into cold, flu and allergy season. This season is the first time in 4 years that I can take an antihistamine when I need to. Being sick when pregnant or nursing can be really hard because we have limited options for what we can take and be safe for our children. It is important to remember that the milk glands are also a mucus gland, and they will dry up with any medication targeting your congestion. Another popular remedy is using essential oils and most of those oils are also contraindicated during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and with young children in the home. Here is the routine that I share when asked what I do for a cold or allergies.
First thing I do is make sure that I have PROBIOTICS as a regular part of my diet. A common way that dis-ease can enter the body is through the gut. A good line of defense is to take probiotics in the form of fermented food, eating yogurt or taking it as supplement. Most people have heard of anti-biotics, which is prescribed to fight bacterial infections in the body. It is against bacteria. Well, pro-biotics are in favor of the good bacteria that live in your gut. If you have been sick and needed to take an antibiotic, including an antibiotic IV during labor, you should consider taking probiotics to help replenish the good bacteria that were killed in the process of fighting the disease.
The second thing that I do when I don’t feel well is use my NETI POT twice a day. This gentle form of flushing the sinuses out has reduced the length of my discomfort and made it easier to breath when it wasn’t safe for me to take an anti-congestant. Check out my how to video here –
My mom taught me the next step. I am not sure where she learned it from but since vitamin c is water-soluble it can’t really hurt. As she explained it to me, you take 1000 mil of VITAMIN C starting at the first sign of being sick. Then take it again every hour until you have a bowel movement. She told me that as long as you are not going to the bathroom your body is using the vitamin c to fight the disease. When the vitamin c upsets your GI tract enough to create a movement your body doesn’t need anymore for that day. You repeat this step daily, every day, until you are better. I am the only person in my immediate family who does this and I have a way shorter duration of being sick than anyone else.
My friend Amber Allen taught me step four. She uses STINGING NETTLE capsules to help fight allergies. I happened to have organic stinging nettle herbs on hand and make a tea or infusion, based on how much time I have. The difference between a tea and infusion, in its simplest explanation, is how long you steep it for. You would steep your tea for 2-4 minutes and you would steep your infusion for 4 or more hours. The longer you steep the herbs the more medicinal properties are released and the stronger the potency of the drink. I have no herbalist training to explain why it works, I just know her advice was a godsend while nursing and it worked for me.
Stinging Nettle infusion using a French Press.
Proceed to this last step with caution, if you are nursing. I LOVE this remedy and it is an all over great thing to do daily, unless you are nursing, to reduce the overall congestion in your body. Drink tons of water with LEMON JUICE added to it. I caution if you are nursing because I have not found someone who can answer whether the anti-congestant benefit of the lemon juice will affect your milk supply or not. I have asked herbalists, LLL leaders, lactation consultants and midwives but no one seems to know that answer. Best thing to do is proceed slowly and pay attention to your own body. My body was so fragile with milk supply that it didn’t take much to upset it and I decided to only use this option when pregnant or really, really desperate.
I have heard of other remedies that can be useful but stuck to the tried and true remedies for me. What remedies have worked for you?
Lets start from the beginning. Congratulations, you find out your family is growing; You are soooo excited; You share the news with friends and family; then BAM, all the stories come out. One side effect of getting pregnant is that everyone thinks they have a right to tell you THEIR story. Another is that everyone thinks they have a right to share THEIR opinion. Well, I have news for you. Opinions are just that, an opinion. They are not facts. No one really knows the full story or truth about what happens during their birth. You can have a beautiful birth, anywhere, with any provider and that same location and provider can be another families worst nightmare. Regardless, this open season on stories have you worried and you hear about this person you can hire. What is she called again? How DO you pronounce that? A doula: noundou·la\ˈdü-lə\. Then you learn that this mystery person can advocate for you during your birth. You think this could be the answers to your prayers. Someone who can help you not have all those stories happen. Although a doula often can reduce the risk of unnecessary interventions, what she shouldn’t be doing is advocating.
Stay with me here.
Hopefully you have options where you live. Meaning a choice of provider, hospital, maybe even a free-standing birth center or a home birth. This means you can shop around. That OB that you love and have been seeing since college. Maybe you start to get an uneasy feeling that your comfort and their comfort with birth are two different things. Rather than thinking you need someone to protect you from your doctor, perhaps it is time to shop around and see if you can find a better fit. See, what you don’t want to do is “take your power back” from your provider and give it to someone else, like your doula. You are the boss. You are the one hiring your birth team to SUPPORT you, not to make all the decisions or have the baby FOR you. When you ask your doula to advocate for you, you are asking her to take the lead and fight for you, in essence giving her your choice and power over your birth. She can’t even speak to the medical staff on your behalf, unless you give her a power of attorney, and she certainly can’t lay herself over your laboring body in a sign of protest for things to come. The staff will ask you and your partner what to do and it is up to YOU to decide if or when.
You have to make sure that you trust your birth team before you go into labor. You may not get to choose who is on call at the office or who is your labor and delivery nurse, but you can ask a ton of questions, you can a tour of the hospital several times if you want to, and if it doesn’t feel right, change. If you don’t have many options where you live, prep your partner to be your advocate and voice, not your doula.
So now you are wondering what exactly do you need a doula for, if she isn’t advocating. What your doula actually becomes is your ally. Someone who can walk the path to parenthood along BESIDE you, instead of leading the way. You get to be in charge. You get to call the shots. Your doula follows YOUR lead. She can hold the space for you, give suggestions when needed and remind you of your birth plan, but what she can’t do is run the show. Think of her as the ball girl, at the edge of the tennis court, running out to help when needed, but hiding out of view when you don’t.
In an ideal situation your birth team could look something like this:
There is something that birth providers don’t want you to figure out. That comfort and safety are not synonymous. Just because something makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it is actually not safe. An example often told at a prenatal visit is, “I do not feel comfortable with you going past (insert gestational age here).” Not being comfortable having you go past anything before 42 weeks is not the same thing as not being safe. (Click here to read about postterm pregnancy). Pay close attention to their words. Are they saying it isn’t safe because there is evidence in your pregnancy (like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, etc) or are they saying they are not comfortable. To help explain the difference, I have looked up both definitions online.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary
a: affording or enjoying contentment and security <a comfortable income>
b: affording or enjoying physical comfort<a comfortable chair><was too comfortable to move>
a: free from vexation or doubt <comfortable assumptions>b: free from stress or tension <a comfortable routine>
: the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss
: a device (as on a weapon or a machine) designed to prevent inadvertent or hazardous operation
a (1): a situation in football in which a member of the offensive team is tackled behind its own goal line that counts two points for the defensive team — compare touchback(2): a member of a defensive backfield in football who occupies the deepest position in order to receive a kick, defend against a forward pass, or stop a ballcarrier
b: a billiard shot made with no attempt to score or so as to leave the balls in an unfavorable position for the opponent
c: base hit
Pay attention to their body language and subtle nuances. Notice both what they are saying, along with what they are not saying. If you are at a prenatal appointment, you also have time to go home and do your own research. Remember, if you are going to be an informed patient, you need to actually be informed. This means finding current, scientific, evidenced based research, not just parroting your favorite blog (Unless they link to scientific sites as their sources.) If you are going in and questioning everything but you are not doing your own research, to justify why you are pushing against status quo, you won’t be taken seriously. If you walk in saying CrunchieMama91346875623 said XYZ they are not going to consider you informed. If you walk in and say that you read XYZ on ACOG’s website, they are more likely to respect what you have to say., even if XYZ is the same information on both websites.
One way to become more informed about birth and to navigate the comfort level to safety level conundrum is to ask questions during your prenatal appointments.
Here are 7 questions you can ask at your next doctors visit to navigate the comfort ~ safety conundrum.
What would happen if we delay (1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, etc)?
What would happen if we don’t do XZY?
What alternatives can you suggest?
Can you provide evidence for this reasoning?
Would you follow this recommendation yourself?
Would you recommend your own family member to do this?
Have you had an experience where the negative impact has happened in your practice?
This list is not meant to be comprehensive, it is a starting point to engage in a dialogue about YOUR birth experience. What questions have you found helpful while navigating a birth plan with your provider?
I’m being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed. A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need! It’s a scarf. It’s a drape. It’s a tent. It’s a mat. But it has OTHER uses. Yes, far beyond that. You can use it for squats! For pushing! For binding! Or shaking! Or traction! Or even some rocking!
I found myself calling my collection of rebozos “thneeds” more and more as of late. I am not really sure what I did without it before. Actually, I do. I had a suitcase full of single use props for my prenatal, birth and postpartum visits, never really knowing which one might be needed and having all of them take up way to much space in my bag.
You may be asking “what is a rebozo?” about right now. Rebozo is the name of a Mexican scarf. Birth workers trained in the rebozo technique use this 9 foot scarf in various ways to help facilitate pain relief and support during prenatal, birth and postpartum stages. My first experience with a rebozo was during my second pregnancy. My birth doula, Charlotte Scott, used her rebozo to facilitate relaxation in my womb and abdomen. My son was able to shift his positioning, reducing pain and discomfort the last week of my pregnancy and reducing the length of my labor. During my third pregnancy, I experienced enough discomfort in my back and hips that I did the belly bind for the last 8 weeks straight of my pregnancy. It was a total life saver for me both then and in my early postpartum, as it provided support for my weak core. I wore my rebozo as a scarf for the “fourth” trimester daily and used it in many ways for both myself and my baby.
My husband Matthew and I modeling at a Rebozo Workshop
Wondering why you, as an expectant family, might want to learn more about the rebozo or hire a doula trained in this technique? Here is how you can use a rebozo for 3 stages of your childbearing year and why I would recommend saving room in your birth bag and budget for one more item.
Prenatal love– It eliminates the need to purchase a pregnancy belly band as you experiment with the many options to optimize fetal positioning, baby bump support and reduce back pain all in one. By attending a rebozo class, a trained rebozo instructor can show you how to safely use your rebozo to provide comfort and ease, during those last few weeks of pregnancy. Utilizing belly lifts and binding, you can safely and gently provide comfort for you and your baby. This becomes more important with each subsequent birth.
Remember that your goal is not to force your baby into a specific position. It is to create comfort and support for mama and sometimes this gives baby the opportunity to move into an ideal position for birth.
The Birth Day – You can use the rebozo for everything imaginable at a birth but my favorite is when we just make stuff up along the way. There is nothing more satisfying than working in tandem with a daddy to be, as we support his partner, through the various stages of labor. I do find that it gets used the most when back labor is present but do you know what else it is great for? STAYING WARM!! It is cold in the birth room, as we keep it comfortable for the laboring mama. I always keep an extra one in my bag just for me to wrap up like a scarf or throw when I need it. I see daddy-to-be use it as a throw during his resting down time as well. I also see families use it a lot for PRIVACY. With labor and delivery staff coming and going, it is nice to be able to throw over your body or face during labor so you don’t feel like you are on display for everyone to see. It is easy to forget that this is a personal experience when it is just another day at the office for the staff.
It is always best to take a class or have someone present trained in the rebozo (like your doctor, midwife, doula or friend) when attempting moves found on YouTube or spinning babies. You never want to try to make mama or baby do anything except find comfort unless suggested AND assisted by someone trained in advanced techniques. It is a wonderful tool to assist with squatting, pushing, hip compressions and sacrum support during the various stages of your birth.
Postpartum Support – From baby wearing to nursing, your rebozo has you covered. I have used mine for everything from a “ring sling” style carrier, a nursing cover, a swaddle blanket, burp/ spit up rag, barrier to change a diaper, sun shade, peak a boo curtain and more. No what else it is good for? POSTPARTUM BINDING!! Your pelvic floor and transverse abdominal exercises are the most important to get your core, diastasis recti and reproductive health back in order but wrapping your belly for support in the meantime feels great and reduces your back pain.
As the doula, my favorite techniques with the rebozo are for hip and back pain. What are your favorite uses for the rebozo?
The memoirs of a Lowcountry doula as she guides women on their journey from maiden to motherhood.