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An Experienced Doula’s Tips for a Holistic Pregnancy and Birth

Published on December 16, 2009 by   ·   72 Comments Pin It
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We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong. -Laura Stavoe Harm

Last night I supported one of my doula clients through a natural birth and I’m still buzzing with post-birth energy.   This Mama took an evening prenatal yoga class from 6:30 – 8:00, and was apparently in labor the whole time without fully realizing it. Four hours and fifteen minutes after rolling out of Savasana, she gave birth to her first baby. During her pregnancy, she was a regular at her yoga class and took the right supplements. During her labor, she sipped on coconut water and used hydrotherapy, multiple positions, and focused breathing to manage her pain. All of these holistic practices played a role in her healthy transition into motherhood. In an effort to share the tips and resources I give my doula clients with even more holistic mamas-to-be, I’m teaching a Truly Holistic Pregnancy and Childbirth Series at the New York Open Center in January. When I learned that Girlie Girl Army’s Chloe Jo is sporting her own beautiful baby bump, I wanted to give her and the rest of Girlie Girl’s hot mamas a sneak peek at some of my best and perhaps less well known tips for a holistic pregnancy and birth. Because everyone already knows to lay off the bad habits, get enough sleep, and take prenatal vitamins with folic acid, right? Onward!

via Lamaze Magazine

via Lamaze Magazine

CHOOSE YOUR TEAM WISELY

Find a provider who shares your philosophy about health, wellness, pregnancy, and birth. In New York City, it is typical to choose a homebirth midwife, a midwife practicing in a hospital, or an obstetrician (Ob/Gyn) to provide your prenatal care and attend your birth. My perspective from working with hundreds of laboring women is that your choice for Team Birth is far and away the most important factor in having an experience you feel good about. You also need to know that if your midwife or obstetrician is part of a group practice, it may be one of her/his partners who is actually on call when you deliver. So make sure you research, meet, and feel good about everyone in your chosen provider’s practice.

GET A DOULA

And I’m not just saying that because I am one. When I was a labor and delivery nurse I was awfully doula-ish, but with all of my responsibilities-other patients, charting, sometimes setting up the OR-it was impossible for me to offer the continuous emotional, physical, and informational support a doula does. Also, as a doula I meet women and their partners in their homes for weeks before the birth. I help them pack their labor bags (or prepare for home birth), make sure the ice pack is chilling in the freezer, and may even fire up the blender and teach them how to make a glow-getting green smoothie. This kind of relationship is totally different than one with someone you meet in the midst of transition and hee-hee-who breathing. Studies show that women who have the continuous support of a labor doula have significant reduction in the rates of cesarean deliveries, epidurals, and failed inductions, and a significant increase in feelings of satisfaction with their births.

SUPPLEMENT WITH C

Vitamin C plays a critical role in the formation of collagen, the building block of tissue. Therefore, optimum levels of vitamin C may help support the skin of your growing breasts and belly. Vitamin C is good for what’s going on inside your belly too. Some studies indicate that there is a relationship between low levels of vitamin C and premature rupture of the membranes (PROM), which is medical-speak for having your water break too soon-meaning increased risk of infection and prematurity. These studies show that the amount of Vitamin C in most prenatal vitamins is sufficient to protect yourself, though it’s safe to go up to 1000 mg daily.

VITAMIN D: CHECK IT AND TREAT IT

The latest research on Vitamin D tells us that this essential nutrient is protective of just about everything. Seriously. Everything. Unfortunately, we’re almost all deficient in this wonder vitamin, a deficiency that may begin in utero. Prenatal vitamin D deficiency may play a role in increased rates of cesarean delivery, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and bacterial vaginitis. Risks to the child long-term relate to brain and immune system function. I talked to Dr. Zina Kroner, Medical Director of New York City’s Advanced Medicine, about vitamin D in pregnancy. She referenced a study at the University of Pittsburg that analyzed 400 pregnant women and found 63% of them to have vitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL (levels should be between 50 – 80 ng/mL) including 44% of black women with levels below 15 ng/mL. Based on this widespread deficiency and its potential harm to mother and child, Dr. Kroner told me “checking a prenatal patient’s vitamin D levels is imperative.” When I asked her about cost, she said “insurance will cover the cost if the right diagnostic code is provided. Even if the patient lacks insurance, the cost is approximately $150 at a private lab and labs will usually give a 50% discount if they know that a patient does not have any insurance.” Dr. Kroner believes that “knowing what the level is allows a nutritionally oriented physician to prescribe a more exact dose of vitamin D and decrease the likelihood of undershooting.”

Vitamin D supplementation is probably the most practical way to get your vitamin D, but heading to a tropical beach in the middle of a New York winter is a lot more fun. So if you’re thinking about taking a babymoon, tell your honey that you have to go somewhere warm (nurse’s orders). Your body will produce about 10,000 IU of vitamin D after 20 – 30 minutes of midday sun exposure. Two things to remember for this kind of medicine: don’t burn, and you must expose as much of your skin as possible. Pregnant and topless on the beach? Good and good for you.

STAY JUICY

Coconut water is the new Gatorade. It’s my number one labor beverage recommendation because it’s super hydrating and loaded with electrolytes. The fresh coconut water at New York’s Organic Avenue is hands down the tastiest I’ve ever tried, but Zico (I prefer the mango) or other brands at the grocery store are just fine too.   Fresh is, of course, best.   You can pick up fresh coconuts at just about any health food store or Whole Foods anytime of year.   Learn how to open them easily by watching this short video. Throughout pregnancy, in addition to pure water and coconut water, I also recommend green juices and smoothies, especially those containing celery and cucumber, which may contribute to glowing skin due to their high silica content. Silica also stimulates tissue healing, which can help speed recovery from both vaginal and cesarean deliveries.

Why is hydration extra important during pregnancy? For a lot of reasons actually, let me share two of them. The first is that dehydration can cause uterine irritability. What this usually means is that you feel like you’re in labor, but you really aren’t. So you go the hospital, wait endlessly in triage to be seen, only to be put on an IV and sent home an hour later. Save yourself the trip and keep on top of your fluid intake. The second reason is that if you partake in the conventional medical tests, toward the end of your pregnancy you will likely be sent for Biophysical Profile testing. One of the things this test can indicate is low amniotic fluid levels. Critics contend that the test isn’t all that accurate in terms of measuring amniotic fluid and some believe this can lead to unnecessary inductions. There is good reason to believe some cases may simply be dehydration. Make sure you drink up an hour before your appointment to decrease the chances of this scenario.

I hope these tips help support your holistic pregnancy and birth, and I wish all of the Girlie Girl Army mamas happy, healthy, and peaceful new beginnings.

Andrea Crossman, founder of Holistic Doula NYC, is a holistic RN, doula, and former labor and delivery nurse in NYC.

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Readers Comments (72)

  1. Great advice! Will have to share with my preggo friends.

  2. Rachel says:

    Thanks Andrea! As a midwife I concur that these are wonderful pointers for a healthy pregnancy and supporting positive birth experiences. Knowledge is power!

  3. what a gorgeous article – thank you.

    I’m not planning to have kids for a couple of years but this is all soaking into my consciousness.

    xxDenise
    http://www.rawbrides.com

  4. Bronwyn says:

    As a vegan Mommy-to-be.. I love these tips!! More preggy stuff please! thanks!!

  5. jenni says:

    Congrats on your baby bump, Chloe Jo! And I can’t agree more with Andrea. Natural childbirth is fierce and empowering! xo

  6. Andrea says:

    Hey Glamazons!

    I totally forgot to mention that this mama used acupuncture from pre-conception right through her pregnancy as well, a fantastic supportive therapy. Acupuncture can help relieve pregnancy discomforts (like aches, pains and swelling), turn breech babies, and balance the whole system–I’m all for it. I didn’t want to short you a tip!

  7. Chloe Jo says:

    Andrea – who is your favorite acupuncturist for prenatal in NYC?

  8. Andrea says:

    I really like Sara Frolich, L.Ac who specializes in women’s health issues and also does doula work from time to time, so she really “gets it.” She has an office in Manhattan and is warm and easy to talk to. Here is her website: http://www.acupunctureatwork.net/. Sara will actually be one of the holistic healer guest speakers in my childbirth education class. She’s going to teach the mamas + birth partners some acupressure they can do on their own to help with the process.

  9. anne says:

    Consider this valuable info printed out! onward ho!

    xo

  10. Kali says:

    Andrea, loved the info…really love how you have put all the knowledge you have gained in your life together into one great package. You make me want to become a doula! Keep up the excellent work, if I were to get pregnant, I would so come to NYC to have you be my doula!!!

  11. Kimberly says:

    I’ll add something I did that I believe helped me have a healthy, med-free birth: starting at about 16 weeks, I have a massage at least twice a month, weekly when I could. I didn’t suffer from the back aches so many do — and if your massage therapist specialized in pregnancy massage, as mine did, you will probably get to lay ON YOUR BELLY due to a special table with a supported cut-out for your belly. :) That was worth the price alone.

    Great article, Andrea!

    Kimberly

  12. bitt says:

    great article, andrea! i think a lot of it is good advice for nonpregnant people. and possible for the fathers too. :-)

  13. Jodi says:

    Wow! Fantastic advice Andrea! So proud of you and what you are doing!

  14. Lisa Hapeman says:

    Speaking as a fellow holistic nurse and former classmate of Andrea, I can attest that she is both a knowledgeable and caring person. If I was to have another baby, I would want her there with me! She is an excellent role model of what health care should be!!

  15. I LOVE this article!! This is a great, great help! I’ve already forwarded it to several friends, am wondering if I can share it on my Vegan Bride blog (when I update it) as well!? I am planning to get pregnant sometime soon & being privvy to this alternative birthing information is a source of encouragement & a huge help!! Thanks!
    :) Candy@ your Holistic Agent .com

  16. Andrea says:

    Hey Candy,

    I love supporting vegans! Send me an email (hello@holisticdoulanyc.com) and we’ll discuss. Good luck with your upcoming pregnancy, you’ll be wonderfully prepared! By the way, my good friend Marisa (who is a contributor to this blog too) and her vegan wedding were featured in this great article, you’ve probably seen it, but if not, I wanted to share: http://www.vegnews.com/web/articles/page.do?pageId=32&catId=7

    Andrea

  17. Andrea says:

    Holistic mamas in NYC, I should have mentioned that I have a Meetup group: Holistic Mamas NYC, that you can join: http://www.meetup.com/HolisticMamasNYC/. Our first meetup will be going to the Martha Stewart Show, they invited me and a group of my mamas–if that sounds fun to you please check out the meetup and join us!

    Andrea

  18. denise mari says:

    all LOVE, great write up!

    do you know the difference between the megafoods “baby and me” and the vegan prenatal you listed? also, in your opinion what is the safe amount of Vit A? during pregnancy?

    xoxo Thanks for the mention of Organic Avenue’s LOVE.. i agree, fresh is best!

  19. Andrea says:

    Hey Denise!

    The 4 prenatal vitamins I like enough to recommend on my site are the Deva vegan that is pictured, as well as these brands: Megafood, New Chapter, and Vitamin Code (raw). You will find them here: http://www.holisticdoulanyc.com/Holistic_Doula_NYC/Store.html.

    These are all quality products and it really comes down to personal preference in terms of availability, cost, vegan vs. vegetarian, and raw vs. not raw. Pill burden is also a consideration for some (and factors into cost). For instance, Deva’s dose is one pill a day, and Vitamin Code’s is 3.

    As for vitamin A, you don’t want more than 1500 mcg of preformed Vitamin A in a supplement, however, the prenatals I’m recommending supply vitamin A as betacarotene or mixed carotenoids which are not teratogenic (meaning they do not cause harm to the developing fetus). This distinction is part of why whole foods based supplements are superior to many of the off the shelf prenatal supplement products.

    I hope this helps!

    Andrea

  20. […] © Andrea Rene Crossman, 2009. All rights reserved. A similar article was originally printed as a guest blog on The Girlie Girl Army. […]

  21. being a mom is a real proud thing!

  22. Melody says:

    GREAT article..this is definitely being bookmarked and printed :) Thanks for sharing!

  23. Andrea says:

    Thank you all for the positive comments about this post. Stay tuned here and on the Holistic Doula NYC blog for more holistic pregnancy and childbirth tips. It’s really encouraging to see all the interest!

    Happy holidays mamas!

    Andrea

  24. Reasa says:

    This is great! Thank you for this article. Please keep up more like this. I am 6 mos pregnant with a boy and meeting the protein requirements requires careful planning. Also, I’ve read to avoid soy because of the estrogen like properties in it—so meeting protien needs is additionally challenging when you’re vegan and pregant with a boy. Any nutrional tips would be great!

  25. Chloe Jo says:

    Hi Reasa!
    I’m ALSO 6 mo’s pregs with a boy. Ignore that soy stuff.. eat it! I do! As long as it’s ORGANIC and NON-GMO. It’s MUCH healthier than meat or dairy any day of the week, and twice on Tuesday. It’s easy to meet your daily protein requirement if you have a fortified rice, almond, soy, or hemp milk w your cereal in the am OR almond or peanut butter on your toast. Then lunch – any faux meats or tofu or even a handful of nuts. Dinner – did you know QUINOA (the wonder grain!!) is FULL of protein!!? There are numerous articles on the subject. Use the search engine for this here article. Also read this: http://girliegirlarmy.com/blog/20081201/the-protein-myth/.
    Congrats!!!

  26. Alexandra says:

    Hi Reasa~
    Don’t worry your pretty pregnant head about that! Get a wide variety of protein from vegan sources and you’ll be fine. Stick with the less-processed, organic soy foods like tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milk. You can read any of Ina May Gaskin’s books (www.inamay.com) and she’ll help you feel better about soy. Ina May is the TOP midwife in the country, and has delivered thousands of vegan/veg babies!
    You can also check out http://www.pcrm.org and my new book Living Vegan for Dummies which has a whole chapter on vegan pregnancy, but also on raising vegan babies and kids.
    Be well, eat well, you can do it mama!
    Alexandra

  27. Andrea says:

    Great protein tips Chloe Jo & Alexandra! Reasa, leafy green veggies are great too (and are great for your growing skin) and don’t forget about beans. Bean soups are super easy, hummus is a great choice, and chili is the last meal my most recent client ate before labor and it gave her plenty of energy. A handful of nuts or a scoop of hemp protein in a smoothie is a super quick protein fix too.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy and I’m looking forward to bringing you more interesting holistic tips both here and on the HDNYC blog (click my name to get there).

    Warmly,

    Andrea

  28. Reasa says:

    Thanks again for your tips! I’ve done lots of greens, beans, quinoa, tofu, almonds, sprouted grains, etc and my baby is measuring 3-4 weeks ahead and I’ve only got 7 weeks to go. Plus, I have felt so awesome my entire pregnancy. I haven’t had any unpleasant symptoms other than a growing belly and have maintained great energy levels. If only more OBGYNs and midwifes promoted a vegan diet during pregnancy!

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  71. […] An Experienced Doula’s Tips for a Holistic Pregnancy and Birth […]




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