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  • 17 Oct 2019 5:30 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

    By Michelle Deerheart, Co-Founder of Empowered Parenthood and Consultant Midwife.

    You may be newly pregnant or having your second, third or sixth baby and wanting to change the way you parent and are raising children.  

    You want to learn about secure attachment, how to be empowered in your birthing process, what happens to your body when you give birth, how to set up a successful breastfeeding relationship among many other things.  You need to feel like you are entering into this new journey with your eyes open and fully engaged.  You are ready to learn, you are ready to surrender, you are ready to be guided by this new being that is about to enter your life.  Here are 5 great reasons you should do antenatal classes:

    1. Research
    Research shows that attending antenatal classes can reduce your fear of birth and increase your belief in yourself during the birth process and the likelihood of you having a natural birth.  One study illustrated that antenatal education needed to include more about parental attachment.  Another study showed the importance of childbirth education even before one gets pregnant - potentially as part of sex education in schools.

    2. Reduce your chances of having a cesarean
    The world’s current cesarean rates are too high according to the World Health Organisation, their recommended rate (which is more clinically necessary cesareans) is 10-15%, approximate 2014 rates are China 47%, Australia 33%, America 32%,  and New Zealand 26% and these seem to be increasing each year.  There is no sufficient research or data on how many of these cesareans are ‘unnecessary’.  

    One research paper showed that attending antenatal education can increase your chance of having a vaginal birth and also of breastfeeding your baby.  The impacts of cesarean birth on our babies is available in research and include gut microbiota health, increased levels of autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes, asthma and eczema.  Another potential impact of the global increase of cesarean birth rate is the loss of our innate ability to not only birth naturally but also the impact on feeding our babies naturally.  

    3. Increasing your birth support team numbers
    Having midwife-led classes allow you to have one more person ‘on your side’ during your pregnancy and birth and may help you feel more confident in dealing with the medical model if you need to.

    4. Tools
    Doing antenatal education allows you to learn the pros and cons of various things and to increase the number of tools in your kit to achieve a natural birth.

    5.  Build your tribe
    Attending childbirth or parenting education allows you grow your tribe of like-minded people.  It helps you grow your support network whether that be in person or online.

    So, experience, statistics, and research tell us if you do antenatal education and are empowered going into your birth journey, you can feel like you are the master of your own destiny even though birth is like the most divine practice of surrender.  

  • 17 Oct 2019 5:00 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

    By Claire Cardno, Co-Founder of Empowered Parenthood and Doula.

    So, Mama, you've just had a c-section or your planning on having one and you're looking for ways to have a smooth and gentle recovery.

    First of all, Mama - give yourself a big hug. There can sometimes be a lot of negative stigma around a c-section birth. Birth is beautiful, no matter which way it happens, as long as you feel positive about it.

    Sometimes our babies have other ideas about how they wish to come into this world.  Sometimes we make the choice for whatever reason that c-section is the way to go. There is no need to feel ashamed about your birth, you still 'gave birth' and generally speaking, recovering from a c-section is longer and more difficult than a vaginal birth. So, please don't be hard on yourself. There are definitely some things you can do to speed up recovery, and make it a more pleasant experience. 

    First thing's first... 

    Preparing for a c-section, or in the event of an emergency c-section, your headspace is so important. It's not always possible, in an emergency, to take time to process, so if you can prepare yourself before your birth for the possibility of an emergency c-section occurring then it can reduce some of the fear and anxiety surrounding this intervention that you may not want. Check out our free birth vision workbook, it can help you prepare for your birth in a positive way, so you are mentally and emotionally equipped for making decisions in the moment, even when things go awry. If you are pregnant and planning a vaginal birth, I feel it is so important to prepare for all outcomes in birth, to feel empowered and confident in handling any situation that may arise.

    If your c-section is elected, this does not mean you are not feeling fear and anxiety, that is perfectly normal! Here is a great meditation you can do to help reduce some of that anxiety and bring you to a place of calm and acceptance:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5rUciBHdiI

    Recovery...

    Once you have your beautiful baby on your chest, and you have been able to enjoy a gentle c-section experience, it's now time to begin the recovery process. 

    In hospital...

    Walk around as soon as you can
    Once you have had the operation and you are in your recovery room, try to get up, standing and walking around soon as you can. You don't want to overdo it but it does help to speed recovery to get some gentle movement going. You are going to have a lot of gas from the surgery because when you are sewn up there is a lot of air trapped in your abdomen, so moving around can help this to make its way out.

    Take the painkillers
    You have just had a major surgery on your stomach - take the pain medication on offer! Ask your care provider to keep up with the times you need to take your pain medication, not just when you ask for it, to ensure you keep the pain under control. Check with your doctor or hospital staff to ensure the medication is conducive to breastfeeding and that you won't be too groggy to be able to bond with and nurse your newborn. When you get home, allocate someone at home to give you your pain medication on a regular basis because it is easy to forget while you are occupied with a newborn and already sleep deprived. You do not want to add the pain to that mix. 

    Take a stool softener! 
    Trust me! With the above-mentioned pain medication, you will be blocked up! And even if you're not, you don't want to be pushing or straining to pass stool while you are tender in your abdomen. 

    Drink lots of water
    To further assist above mentioned, but also to rehydrate your body to help heal your body, to help your milk come in and to help flush your body of toxins and move the medication and anesthesia out of your body. 

    Ask for help
    You are likely to be in the hospital for 3-5 days. Utilize having the nurses or midwives available to help you with your baby, or anything you need for yourself and even help to get baby comfortably positioned to breastfeed. If you can, ask to have your partner stay at the hospital with you. This is not always possible, as some hospitals have restrictions, but you may not know unless you ask! Prepare to have extra help when you get home. If possible, have hubby take some extra time off work, or have family rotate coming and helping at home at least for the first two weeks. Even when you get up walking around, after the first week, it will still be slow going and you don't want to over-do it. Have family and friends bring you meals, help with cleaning and washing, look after the baby while you shower, make your bed for you, walk your dog etc. 

    Don't stress yourself with visitors
    Everyone is going to want to come and visit you and your new baby. This is wonderful and of course, you want to share the celebration of your baby's arrival, but it is a good idea to wait at least a few days, even better - when you get home. After you have had your c-section, you will be very drowsy, sore and want to spend some time getting to know your new baby. You also need to sleep! This one is so important. We had family visit the next day, and baby slept peacefully the entire visit. As soon as they left, the baby woke up, we hadn't slept all day, and the baby was awake for the rest of the day and night. We were exhausted! You can never predict in those first few days when you need to be getting your rest in, so you need to bookmark the entire first 48-72 hours to sleeping and recovering from your surgery. Also, don't underestimate the energy it takes to socialize. If you do have visitors, limit to one visit a day and for not very long. This is so important and if you have a sensitive family it might be best to discuss this during pregnancy.

    When you get home....

    Be gentle with yourself
    Use kind self-talk. Take it slow. Give yourself permission to fully relax into your bed-rest requirements. This is your time to heal - the more you try to push yourself, the longer your recovery will take. It can be hard to remove the expectations we place on ourselves about getting "back to it" soon after birth. But enjoy these newborn snuggles, and allow yourself to binge watch some Netflix. Some of my fave things to watch post-C-section were the Harry Potter movies, Stranger Things, and a more recent series to binge is The Good Doctor. 

    LOTS of pillows
    When you have had a c-section, your stomach muscles will hurt, your back may hurt, and getting in and out of bed is difficult.  Remember to use your arms and legs and try not to use your stomach muscles at all to move around for the first couple of weeks. The hospital beds are great because you can sleep semi-reclined but when you get back to your flat bed at home - it's tricky. For two weeks, I personally slept in a recliner chair, because the bed was too tricky. But after that, a mountain of pillows keeping me propped up helped immensely when I needed to get in and out of bed during the night to tend to a newborn. 

    Wrap your belly, support your back
    Having some kind of belly wrap/compression garment is extremely helpful after a c-section - when the pain around your incision has reduced. Mainly to support your back, as your core muscles will be weak. Some hospitals can provide you with a free Tubi-grip, or check out these great Belly Bandit wraps: http://amzn.to/2sG5Z4N

    Wound care
    The last thing you want to deal with in your recovery process is a wound infection. Be sure to keep your wound clean and dry. You will be given wound care directions from your hospital, but I found placing some maternity pads over your wound helped to keep the area clean and dry, especially if you have skin folds or a "mummy apron" that can rub against the wound. I used some Mebo wound repair cream on my c-section scar after 2 weeks, to assist with healing, and reducing the scarring. You can find it here http://amzn.to/2EIeqOn

    Bamboo Underwear
    Choose some that are high-waisted, that sit above your scar which will be at your bikini line. These are perfect to use with your maternity pads (yes you will even need these after a c-section birth) because bamboo is moisture wicking, and antibacterial if you have any leaks it won't smell. They are also very soft, and easy to wash. Just to be safe, get a size or two bigger than you would normally wear, as you are likely to have some swelling and water retention after the surgery. 

    Enjoy your baby
    Whether your c-section was planned or unplanned, the reality remains you now have a beautiful blessing in your arms. Birth trauma, especially if this was an emergency, is common and perfectly okay to feel. Do not feel bad, because your baby is healthy - that is not ALL that matters. Please talk to someone about the feelings of your birth, and allow yourself to feel all the emotions that come up. Enjoy the time you have with your baby, it goes so quickly. This pain you feel and the frustrations of being limited in what you can do right now, are temporary. Soak up the cuddles and trust the process.


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  • 17 Oct 2019 4:30 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

    By Michelle Deerheart, Co-Founder of Empowered Parenthood and Consultant Midwife.

    The holidays are generally a time of connection with family and friends.  it brings family together from out of town that you do not see very often.  and at times, this can also bring tensions, picture this…

    you have a newborn only a few days or weeks old, it is baby’s first Christmas, a special time although all the baby cares about is being on your chest.  your in-laws are coming to stay with you for a week for Christmas and to meet baby.  you get on OK with them but they have very different ideas to you about parenting, for example, they formula fed their babies and have a strong formula feeding family history.  you have chosen to breastfeed, including in public and for an extended time, allowing baby to naturally self-wean.  a common thing i have heard about this generation is that they are not good at censoring themselves or what they say so they can be quite confronting with their views and they let you know that you breastfeeding your baby in front of them makes them feel uncomfortable.

    keep these things in mind these holidays…

    1.  it's you not me

    realise it is their stuff not yours...you cannot control other's words or actions.  you can only control your reaction.  when they say something inappropriate or confronting, physically step to the side and imagine their words whizzing past you and not hitting you, take a deep breath and say something like ‘i know you guys did things differently but we are choosing to breastfeed and to help normalise it by doing it openly, but, I am hearing it makes you feel uncomfortable, would you like me to let you know when the baby needs a feed so you can go and make a cup of tea or something?’

    that way you are acknowledging it makes them uncomfortable and allowing them the space to leave the room if they want to.  this may be a little difficult if you are at their house so instead you could say ‘i know you guys did things differently but we are choosing to breastfeed and to help normalise it by doing it openly, but I am hearing it makes you feel uncomfortable, whilst I would like to not be excluded if baby needs a feed, i am happy to go into the bedroom to feed if you would like me to?’.  this will hopefully illicit a response that means they do not want to ‘exclude’ you and you can feed openly, this is a very good word to use to try and gain empathy and help make steps to change the baby feeding ethos in the family.  

    2.  remove yourself from the situation

    “i better check the food”

    “i better go and check if (inset host here) needs help” (if you aren't at your house)

    “baby needs changing (or a nap), i will just be in the bedroom”

    3.  you are a good parent

    sometimes we just need to hear this as everyone seems to have an opinion or a judgement about something our kids are doing or the stage they are at at the time and what they should or should not be doing or you might be breastfeeding and a family member struggles with that being normal.

    4.  in-law out-laws

    as alluded to above, sometimes our biggest struggle can be with our in-laws, if this is you, breathe, feel your feet on the ground, self soothe, keep conversation topics light and general.  have a code word with your partner when you are reaching your limit - you have the best excuse being pregnant or with a baby or still napping toddler to take yourself off to put them down for a nap and 'accidentally' fall asleep with them too.

    5.  change the subject

    if family stray on to a topic that is contentious, change the subject.  obviously it is better to express than repress your feelings but often times this takes energy to enter into the process and the other party can not actually hold themselves to be conscious participants in a repair or conflict resolution process and expressing will not actually get you anywhere. 

    6.  stay grounded

    we are much less easy to rattle if we are grounded, take 3 deep breaths before you answer a question or remark that makes your blood boil.

    7.  keep visits short

    if you are visiting a family member that there is frequent trouble with then keep the visit short, exchange niceties, small talk, gifts, a cuppa and Christmas fruit mince pies and then high-tail it out of there!  obviously, this is not an option if you are staying at their place or vice versa but refer to above for coping mechanisms!   

    I hope these tips help you traverse the tensions that the holidays can bring and that you make it through with your sanity and family relationships in tact!

  • 17 Oct 2019 4:30 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

     By Michelle Deerheart, Co-Founder of Empowered Parenthood and Consultant Midwife.

    There are many rituals around the world to help bring the New Year in, making "New Year Resolutions" seems to be one of the most common.  Let's bring in a different slant on this and make "New Year's Intentions".  Intentions are a way of bringing what you want into your life. 

    Here are some examples for you to go on:

    1.   Be more present

    Lay down an intention to be more present.  An easy way to start this is when someone talks to you, put down whatever you are doing and really focus on them.  If you can't put it down, look them in the eye and say, "What you have to say is really important to me, can you wait 5 minutes so I can finish this and give you my undivided attention?".  This can make whoever it is, your partner, your child, your colleague, feel important and that they matter to you.  Then when you do listen to them practice active listening.  Here is a great article on how to do this.

    2.   Put your phone down

    Make this new year the right opportunity to become a more disconnected (from phone/screens) connected (to people and your life) you.  I need to take heed of my own advice and do this!  If you have a phone attachment like so many people do these days, make a concerted effort to put it down.  Or not pick it up.  Turn your notifications off.  Set specific times to check your phone during the day.  Don't pick your phone up in the morning until you have physically and verbally connected with your whole family.  Leave your phone behind sometimes.  Reclaim your connected authentic life.

    3.   Start a regular self-care and or spiritual practice

    Perhaps you already had a spiritual or self-care practice but you let it slide because life or babies happened.  Perhaps you are looking to introduce something new.  A few options are:

    • Mindfulness - this encompasses many things - meditation, breathing, being present, taking personal space and self-awareness are some. You would need to look into it and figure out what it means to you and how you would like to embrace and incorporate it into your life.

    • Learn to manifest - learning the art of manifestation or how to 'vision' what you want to bring in to your life are powerful tools to empower yourself with.

    • Yoga - There is an amazing initiative of 30 days of free yoga practice with Adriene, you can find it here. It starts January 1st so is a fabulous time to initiate your new daily practice!

    • Fasting - A number of studies have shown that intermittent fasting has multiple health benefits, you can read a few here. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, please check with your care provider whether fasting is right for you. And note that fasting is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    • Eat consciously - be mindful of the food you are putting into your body. Eat real food. Be present throughout the actual act of eating. Savour the food. Experience the flavours. Make it more than a mechanical process that we must do to survive. Honour the food you are eating for giving your body nutrients.

    • Outdoor love - I do not mean making love outdoors although that would definitely count. I mean making nature your teacher. Really immersing yourself in it. Spending at least 30 minutes outside every day whether it be grounding your bare feet on the grass, sand or dirt. You could walk, hike, meditate or just be.

    4.   Heal an inner wound

    This may be a hard one but we all have inner child wounds that need tending to and healing.  Start a practice of talking to your inner child especially when you notice a reaction from yourself that is probably stemming from your inner child.  These could be strong 'child-like' feelings that are triggered in response to someone (usually a loved one but sometimes work colleagues or even strangers) and their actions and or words.  You may feel a strong physical reaction.  You may feel your inner self pouting, stamping your foot or screaming 'It's not fair!'.  For example, your partner says 'Honey, I am struggling a little bit with the spiciness of dinner, did you put any chili in it?'.  Now, this seems like a completely reasonable and valid question from your partner but invokes a response in you of criticism and that they don't like your cooking and you have been judged unfairly.  This is probably your inner child reacting and perhaps you were criticised as a child by your mother or father.  What does your little person need to hear at this point?  Do a little exercise.  Sit with them for a little bit, put your arm around them, reassure them, 'You haven't done anything wrong', 'You are OK', 'John just does not like too spicy food', 'Next time, we will just put a teeny amount of chili in'.

    Or maybe your inner child feels unsafe or fearful in situations where someone is angry and they cannot deal with conflict.  Conflict is a normal part of relationships and it is how we deal with it, how we repair and reconnect and nurture our inner children within that process.  This is a beautiful article about starting the journey to healing your inner child.

    5.   Express yourself

    Grow your hair.  Cut your hair.  Dread your hair.  Change up your style.  Be your authentic self.  Speak up.  Sing and dance.  Express your emotions.  Learn a new communication model such as Compassionate Communication - it can be life changing especially if your partner learns it with you.  

    6.   Make and nurture social connections

    It doesn't have to be hard to make new friends as an adult.  Many of the friends we do tend to make as adults can be through our children or also online.  If you do make them online, endeavour to make local friends online so you can actually meet them in real life and do things together.  Make an intention to reach out to and meet up with a friend or friends on a regular basis - whatever that looks like to you.  It may be once a week or once a month but make it regular.  Also, as we get older surrounding ourselves with like-minded people, people that 'get us', people that we would be happy to leave our children with gets more and more important so keep that in mind when making new friends or nurturing old friendships.  You may have current friendships that just are not serving you and you may need to let go of them in order to honour your authentic self.

    7.   Raise your vibration

    You may be wondering, what is my vibration and why should I raise it?  Your vibration is essentially your energy frequency or state of being and the higher it is the more positivity that flows through your life.  The lower it is, the heavier life seems and the more negativity can manifest.  Doing any or all of the things noted above will raise your vibration.  Random and unexpected acts of kindness.  As my 9 year old son says, 'try to be kind always'.    Practice daily gratitude.  Introduce regular honouring at your family dinner table, make them specific and current - 'I honour you for your patient parenting and ability to give the kids your undivided attention' or 'I honour you for your tenacity and not giving up when trying to fix your bike today'.

    We would love to hear what are your New Year's intentions or areas of focus for 2018?
    All of us here at Empowered Parenthood are so excited for the new year, all the love, excitement and good times ahead. We are wishing you a safe and happy holidays.

    • 17 Oct 2019 4:00 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

      By Claire Cardno, Co-Founder of Empowered Parenthood and Doula.

      It’s time to play the waiting game..

      Waiting for labor to start is probably one of the hardest parts of pregnancy. You may be uncomfortable, heavily pregnant, everyone keeps asking if baby has arrived (check out our things to say to people who keep asking here) and you are just ready to meet your little guy or girl.

      No one talks about the extremely emotional and bizarre time loop that is the in-between..not quite the same ‘you’ that you once were, on the verge of knowing life is about to change dramatically and your body about to go from one being to two. It’s a deeply sacred and special time, with emotions running high, impatience wearing thin.

      Read below 17 ways to pass through this time with more ease, practice surrendering (a vital skill to practice for labor and birth) and deeply allow this immensely beneficial and yet tricky to navigate time be a little more peaceful..

      1. Meditate – even find a local meditation retreat centre and attend some meditation classes, or crystal bowl sound meditations. Or check out some great guided meditations on our resource page.

      2. Read for pleasure, please no parenting books! This time is for you

      3. Make some beautiful birth affirmation posters, prayer flags or some other special creative piece to be with you while you birth

      4. Catch up with long-distance friends via telephone or Skype.

      5. Write a letter to the baby with anecdotes about your pregnancy and hopes and expectations for him or her.

      6. Create a spa day for yourself.. face masks, warm baths, chocolate, cups of tea and even get your partner or friend to shave your legs for you!

      7. Spend a lazy day at the beach or in nature, just noticing all the sights and sounds you can see around you

      8. Get a manicure and pedicure.

      9. If you're up for it, cook some make-ahead meals that you can pop in the freezer.

      10. Do a gentle prenatal yoga workout. Or just some stretching

      11. Meet a friend for coffee (or lunch, or dinner, or ice cream . . . ). You deserve it.

      12. Get a haircut.

      13. See a movie.

      14. Go op-shopping. I find browsing pre-loved clothing stores very therapeutic, not only can you come across some beautiful gems from previous times, but you are honouring mother earth too by recycling clothing.

      15. If you're already a mom, have a special afternoon with your older kids.

      16. Netflix a funny pregnancy movie, have over a friend or two, and order pizza.

      17. Get together with your own mom and learn about your own birth story if you haven't already heard it.

      So these are some ways to pass this time waiting for your little one to arrive. Remember, baby will come when they are ready to come, and while it can uncomfortable, if you take some time to really reflect and connect, you will see this time is extremely valuable in the transition to motherhood.
    • 17 Oct 2019 3:30 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

      By Michelle Deerheart, Co-Founder of Empowered Parenthood and Consultant Midwife.

      Breastfeeding is hungry work…here are some yummy, nutritious, milk fortifying and increasing recipes for lactating Mamas:

      Mondo Milk Morning Smoothie Bowl

      You can have a smoothie every morning for or with your breakfast – it is a quick easy way to get some great nutrition into you.

      1 cup almond or oat milk

      ½ cup coconut yoghurt

      1 ripe banana

      handful of green leaves (spinach, kale or beetroot tops)

      handful of berries

      quarter of a papaya

      1 T nut butter

      1 T brewer’s yeast

      1 T ground flaxseed

      1 T moringa powder

      1 T protein powder (optional)

      You can get the last three ingredients from an organic wholefoods or health shop.  Blend well and put in bowl topped with scrummy things like cacao nibs, berries, chopped banana, sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds or if that is all a bit much, pop it in a glass and drink!

      Lactation Cookies (Vegan/Refined sugar free)

      These are always a goodie to flick the recipe to one of the new grandmothers or great aunties especially if they love baking and also feeling helpful and they get to do both here!

      ½ cup oat flour (you can make your own and also use gluten free oats by blitzing oats in food processor until fine flour)

      1 cup fine almond flour/meal (you can make your own by blitzing almond in food processor to fine flour – just make sure you don’t leave it too long or it will become almond butter)

      ½ teaspoon baking soda

      ½ cup olive or softened coconut oil (I use coconut or olive oil spread sometimes)

      ½ cup maple syrup

      2 tablespoons ground flaxseed to 2 tablespoons water (left for 5 minutes)

      1 tablespoon vanilla essence

      1 teaspoon cinnamon and or ginger

      2 tablespoons brewer’s yeast (must be no other kind of yeast)

      1/2 teaspoon sea salt

      1 & 1/2 cups oats – gluten free oats if you need to make recipe gluten free

      Optional adds: Vegan chocolate chips, chopped dried apricots, toasted nuts

      Method

      1.    Preheat oven at 165

      2.    Cream oil and maple syrup

      3.    Add vanilla and flaxseed “egg”

      4.    Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl (apart from oats)

      5.    Add wet and dry ingredients and mix well

      6.    Stir in oats and optional extras (if any)

      7.    Place spoonfuls onto greased tray and squash down with a fork

      8.    Bake for around 10-12 minutes depending on how crispy you like your cookies

       

      Salted Caramel Lactation Bliss Balls

      Another great easy snack option is bliss balls.  Easy to make and even easier to eat!

      1½ cups         Dates, pitted (soaked overnight)

      ¼ cup             Almonds

      2 Tbsp            Peanut butter

      2 Tbsp            Ground flaxseeds

      2 Tbsp            Chia seeds or protein powder

      1 Tbsp            Coconut oil

      2 Tbsp            Brewer’s yeast powder

      Big pinch       Seasalt

      1 tsp                Pure vanilla extract

      1 serving        Coconut threads, for rolling

      Blitz all in food processor and roll into balls and roll in coconut.  They will keep longer if you keep in a jar in the fridge...if they last long at all!

    • 17 Oct 2019 3:00 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

      By Gemma Finlay, Mama who is passionate about sharing quality information with other Mamas.

      This might not be news to a lot of members of this site, but yet another study (read this great article on it here) has found that exercise in pregnancy is a good thing. Many of you are probably regular visitors here, so already know that, but it’s surprising how many people still think pregnant women should be kicking back with their feet up.

      Then there’s the vast mass of confusing and conflicting advice (hello internet!) out there around what constitutes a good amount of exercise in pregnancy. What’s too much? What’s too little? What’s safe for the baby? What’s safe for you?

      It’s easy to see why for many women the couch seems a safer place to be. Especially when the advice you get from your doctor or midwife might contradict the advice you get from your mum might contradict the advice you get from your best friend might contradict the advice you read in an online forum or see on Instagram.

      New research on Exercise in Pregnancy out of the University of Madrid says the consensus is exercise is of benefit for both the mum and her developing baby. For the majority of women, exercise should be an important part of pregnancy and is not something that should be feared.

      In fact, there’s much more to fear when you don’t exercise, including a higher chance of weight retention after pregnancy, a higher than average birth weight for your child and the increased chance of inter-generational obesity.

      The University of Madrid researchers believe our historically misguided views around pregnancy (eat for two and don’t exert yourself) are a major contributor to the worldwide obesity epidemic and a whole host of bad outcomes for mums and babies, which can have life-long consequences.

      That’s heavy stuff right? So what should you be doing exercise-wise? Official American guidelines (updated in 2015) suggest 20 – 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week. You want to avoid high-intensity exercise that makes your heart pump at 90% or more of its maximum beats per minute.

      The aim is to get moving but still be able to carry on a conversation. However, studies have found many women aren’t reaching this level of activity, even when incidental exercise like a 10 minute walk to the shops is counted.

      I know how hard this, relatively straightforward sounding, goal can be to meet. If you work in a sedentary job your day can easily be swallowed up with a seated commute followed by a long day at a desk and possibly little time or energy to squeeze in exercise before or after work.

      But finding the time is key, even if you weren’t exercising before pregnancy. There’s been a commonly held belief that if you didn’t work out before you got pregnant, when you’re expecting is not the time to introduce a regime. But now evidence suggests this is the perfect time to start. You’ll reap the health benefits, plus you might find it easier to stay motivated when you know it’s your baby’s health, as well as your own at stake.

      The important thing is to start slowly – 20 minutes might be too much if you’re just beginning so work your way up to a longer workout (or get yourself on the Fit2BirthMum programme, which is designed for all levels and gives you lots of good options to increase your workout as you increase your ability).

      Exercise in pregnancy doesn’t just prevent extra weight gain, there’s also the chance it lowers the risk of a caesarean, breathing problems in newborns and maternal hypertension among other things.

      There are situations where you do need to be careful or avoid exercise – these include conditions like heart disease, persistent bleeding, anaemia and risk of premature labour. But those with gestational diabetes, overweight or obese mums and women with high blood pressure should be able to exercise. Of course, like all situations involving exercise, make sure you’re getting medical advice tailored to your circumstance before you throw yourself into anything.

      There are various forms of exercise that it’s probably best the average pregnant woman avoid – long distance running, frequent heavy weightlifting, contact sports, hot yoga and exercise done lying on your back from the second trimester are amongst them.

      And one thing the article doesn’t talk about (why does no one talk aboutthis!?) is the importance of looking after your body in pregnancy and focusing on exercise that prevents diastasis recti and strengthens your core. You want exercises that will help your pelvic floor function so you don’t end up leaking with every sneeze.

      If you don’t even know what those terms mean then luckily you’re in the right place, check out these articles for more information then pop your sneakers on and head out for a 20 minute blat around the block. 

       

      Managing stress in pregnancy. 

      The importance of probiotics in pregnancy.

      Gemma Finlay has spent her working life in journalism, marketing and publicity. Since having her daughter, Nina, in 2014 she’s become obsessed with all things pregnancy and baby related. Dealing with the physical side of pregnancy made her hyper-aware of the importance of getting good advice about looking after yourself both pre and post birth. She’s passionate about sharing quality information with other mums. Follow Gemma on Twitter

      Written by Gemma Finlay
      https://www.pregnancyexercise.co.nz/

    • 17 Oct 2019 3:00 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

      By Michelle Deerheart, Co-Founder of Empowered Parenthood and Consultant Midwife.

      Christmas is generally a time of mass consumerism and gluttony.  The NZ retail spend in December 2015 was $5.49 billion.  Let’s just think about that for a minute, the 2015 NZ population was 4.596 million - that’s about $1194 NZD for every person including babies and children in NZ.  And how many of the population could not even afford $100 let alone $1000 on each person in their family?  Financial outlay aside, let’s think about the environmental impact on the world from spending $5.5 billion - how many of those gifts were made of and or wrapped in plastic?  How far did they have to travel?  How long were they used for? Where do they end up?

      A few things you can consider this Christmas to make it a beautiful, kind, ethical and conscious occasion for planet and people:

      - Making or buying reusable fabric gift bags 

      - Limiting the amount of gifts you buy your children and focus on experiences and being present with them

      - A lovely wee poem to guide this is “something they want, something they need, something they wear and something they read”

      - Creating a ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’ with your children - every day from December 1st they either put a toy they don’t play with or an item of food into a box and on Christmas Eve you all take it to the local mission, op shop or food bank

      - Do a ‘Kindness Advent Calendar’ with your children - this is a good guide but you can come up with your own one in your family (http://www.kidspot.com.au/things-to-do/activities/christmas-crafts/kindness-advent-calendar-to-print-for-christmas/news-story/1b70a2ee3ef023b4f5331602cbe2b763)

      - Upcycling, repurposing, making Christmas gifts

      - Giving reusable gifts such as stainless steel straws, coffee cups and snack or lunch bags

      - Create your own family traditions - you may not want to uphold or continue the Santa myth - it can be very difficult to explain to your children why Santa brings some children 50 expensive presents ($1194 worth) and then brings other children very few inexpensive presents.  Due to the all-encompassing nature of Santa, a friend of mine came up with a great solution due to being asked by her children about Santa and why he did not visit them.  She tells her children that it is a game that some families play and that they need to play along to keep the game going for those children and not spoil it.  But they (her children) know that it is pretend and not real.

      We have put together this ethical gift guide to try and lighten the impact on the environment while being able to gift beautiful and thoughtful presents for the whole family.

      Silvercap Dolls

      SIlvercap Dolls are exquisitely made, waldorf inspired dolls that are produced by hand with natural materials.  You can ask to have a doll made to your specific requirements too so that you can get a doll that looks like your child or niece or nephew.  Watch their eyes bug out when they unwrap one of these rad wonders for Christmas.

      https://www.facebook.com/Silvercapdolls/
      https://www.etsy.com/nz/shop/Silvercap

      Freedom Kids

      Freedom Kids is the home of fun, ethical and gender-neutral clothing. All the colours and all the clothes for every body!  We try to deal only with small businesses: many of our labels are just one person: the designer, the creator and the seller all rolled into one (aka superpeople). All the clothing we stock is ethically made, gender neutral and allows children to play freely.  You will find beautiful, colourful and joyful clothing here to buy as gifts that kids want to wear!
          
      https://www.freedomkids.co.nz

      ReCreate

      ReCreate clothing is ethically produced in their sewing training and production centre in Cambodia. As a New Zealand Registered Charitable Trust and members of the Fair Trade Association (FTAANZ) they are committed to providing fair and empowering employment under excellent working conditions.  ReCreate's fabrics are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), as well as denim sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), so you know that their garments are kind to the environment as well as the people who make them.  Not only is ReCreate clothing ethical, organic and sustainable but it is beautifully and skillfully made, has a lovely energy and fabulous contemporary designs - you can buy gifts for the whole family here!

      https://recreatestore.co.nz

      John Kalb Pottery

      John has studied pottery full-time in Dunedin in New Zealand. John has worked for 9 years part of the year in Sweden and part of the time in New Zealand.  Working as a full-time potter since 1980 and has a workshop in Invercargill, New Zealand.  Also sells at art and craft markets and to shops and galleries.  With the help of water and fire the clay is transformed from a soft to a hard form. This process still fascinates him. It is a challenge to retain the natural qualities of the clay and to have a harmonious blend with the glazes that is both pleasing to the eye and functional.  Pottery is a beautiful art form and a wonderful long lasting gift.

      www.ceramicsinharmoni.com

       Citizen Leathe

      Citizen Leather’s creator Layla Cann loves nothing more than creating beautiful new bags from discarded / outdated Genuine Leather Jackets.  There’s nothing she loves more than hunting through the opportunity shops and online auctions sites to find that perfect pre-loved jacket begging to be turned into a one-off Citizen Leather Creation.  Layla also make beautiful bespoke commissioned pieces - you may have a leather jacket, vest or even a couch (it has been done by Layla!) in the family you could have it remade into gorgeous leather bags to memorialise the person/item.

      http://www.citizenleather.com/shop.html

      Pip Pottage Designs

      Pip Pottage Designs is focused on creating ethical home wares and baby goods that don’t compromise design, style or your wallet.  It’s the creative outlet of Pip Pottage, a self taught surface pattern designer who’s passionate about leaving the world in a better way than she found it. Pip creates beautiful pieces that can be gifted to anyone in the family and will last for an age.

      https://www.pippottage.com/collections    

      Joe Mcmenamin

      Joe is a high school Art teacher, artist and father of 3 kids aged 8 and under. He has been living and teaching Art in Wellington for the last 13 years.  Joe’s work is a mixture of drawings on plywood, paintings of art and film icons such as the Mona Lisa and Darth Vader, and Limited Edition prints. He has a distinctive flowing, organic pattern that he uses in a lot of his work, that he has developed over the years.  Joe’s prints look stunning in any room of the house and had recently had his ‘Fox’ print featured on The Block NZ.  You can also purchase gorgeous Aotearoa inspired Christmas cards that he has created.

      https://felt.co.nz/shop/joemcmenamin?page=1

      The Natural Parent Magazine

      The Natural Parent is the leading parenting magazine both online and in print, for conscious parents.  It is thoughtfully published and features inspirational and empowering information and articles to support parents on their gentle parenting journey.  A subscription is a awesome gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.    

      http://thenaturalparentmagazine.com/subscribe/

      Sparkle Stories

      Another subscription that is an enchanting children’s gift idea is Sparkle Stories.  Sparkle Stories enrich the story life in your home, bring delight to holidays and seasons, and offer a quality experience during everyday quiet times.  And at Sparkle, they offer more than stories. Many of their stories have accompanying Recipes, Crafts, Nature Projects and Educational Tutorials. So the story-fun continues well beyond the listening time!

      https://www.sparklestories.com
      https://www.facebook.com/sparklestories/

      NZRaw

      Looking for some lovingly made ethical skincare or makeup to gift this Christmas?  Don’t go past NZRaw with their amazing Lipstick Lab with superbly coloured vegan lipsticks.  All products are lovingly and individually handmade here in New Zealand.  This wholesome company aims to make cruelty free cosmetics affordable, luxurious and available to everyone.

      https://www.lipsticklabnz.com
      https://www.facebook.com/NZRAWSKINCARE

      Bunny & Morepork

      Bunny & Morepork is a Mama in Taranaki who finds joy in creating charming prints including personalised birth announcements.  This Mama is inspired by nature and especially enjoys painting animals and flowers.  All the watercolour images in the prints are hand-painted by her.

      http://bunnyandmorepork.bigcartel.com
      https://www.facebook.com/bunnyandmorepork/

      SilverCircus Clothing

      Specialising in recycled, retro and natural fabrics and offering my own take on children’s wear, from carefully tailored knickerbockers, coats and dresses to screen-printed tees and hoodies.  SilverCircus Clothing is all locally made,  has a pop-up shop in Petone, Wellington and also sells online.  Ange, the brains and seamstress behind SilverCircus can also make commissioned items if what you want is not available.  Great christmas presents include sunhats, t-shirts and the comfiest undies for the kids and Mama! 
          
       https://www.facebook.com/SilverCircusClothing/
       http://www.silvercircus.co.nz/welcome/

       La Petite Chocolat

      Who doesn’t love chocolate for Christmas!  Tantalise taste buds with their beautiful organic craft chocolate and let the endorphins release fill you with all the good feelings.  Have a look at their website and all the amazing flavours and chocolatey goodness try not to drool!

      https://lapetitechocolat.co.nz
      https://www.facebook.com/LaPetiteChocolat/

      http://theregister.co.nz/news/2016/01/christmas-cheer-how-decembers-retail-sales-fared
       
      www.empoweredparenthood.com

    • 17 Oct 2019 2:49 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)

      Check out our previous post 'Surprising things about childbirth'

      First postpartum poo
      This does not have to be as scary as we think it will be.  After birth, you need to be well hydrated (drink up to 3 litres of water a day) for a few reasons, making your urine diluted so it does not sting when you pee, making sure your stool is soft when it does come and also for breastfeeding as your body needs to make milk.  It is entirely normal not to poo for a few days post birth because your body has cleared out prior to labor (and during birth generally) and your body is also moving it’s organs back into their usual space and concentrating on involuting your womb and so can take a little while to build up a stool to pass.  The other thing you want to do is eat well, lots of veges, wholegrains and less meat and carbs to help make a stool that is easier to pass. Then you want to wait until you know you really need to go, go and sit on the toilet, if you have any sutures in your perineum, you can hold a clean maternity pad with gentle pressure where the sutures are.  This is not because you will pop any sutures but because it can make you feel more comfortable and reassured. Next, you wait. Only do little pushes until your sphincter opens as then your stool will come with ease without straining.

      Also, if you have any haemorrhoids try and deal with them in the first few days before your first poo so you don’t have to worry about that as it can be painful when you poo past haemorrhoids.  A great natural remedy for haemorrhoids is weird but true...potato. Grate a clean and peeled potato, and soak it in witch hazel for at least an hour, then if the haemorrhoid is poking outside, you put the potato directly onto the haemorrhoid (kind of like in your crack), weird I know but you want good coverage and contact with the haemorrhoid.  However, if the haemorrhoid is just on the inside of your anus, you will need use an apple corer to make a potato ‘tube’ to gently insert into your bottom - not too far and you may need to cut it in half to leave a centimetre or two poking out so you can grab it. You might be thinking, but what if I can’t grab it, let’s be honest, it will come out with your next stool, it ain’t staying in there!

      That the feeling of emptiness in your womb when baby earthside can surprise you
      After baby is born your belly still protrudes quite a bit but is wobbly and a bit like jelly while your womb is involuting and your organs are going back to their rightful homes and also, you may have gained extra weight during pregnancy.  If you are breastfeeding, your body will generally ‘bounce back’ after a few weeks, although some women are days and some are months. Every woman and pregnancy is different. Seeing your baby belly disappear, not feeling the reassuring baby movements and the feeling of emptiness can be startling.

      Baby birth recovery sleep
      Generally speaking, if left undisturbed on your chest for the ‘golden hour’ after birth your baby will latch themselves usually around an hour old, have a good long feed (sometimes up to an hour) and then have what is called the ‘birth recovery sleep’ which can be around 4-5 hours.  PLEASE ask that no one visits you in this time as YOU need to recover too! And once your baby wakes from this recovery sleep, they will want to feed a LOT so you NEED this sleep. I know it is hard to say no to visitors but in those first few weeks, you need to learn to prioritize your sleep over anything else apart from feeding yourself and baby.  One thing you could do is make an agreement with your partner and or birth support team that they do not tell anyone the baby has been born yet (you know your family and whether they will respect your no) OR just say baby has been born but Mama and baby are recovering and please NO visitors until tomorrow morning (depending on time baby born) when you will be more than welcome to visit.

      Breastfeeding can feel ‘weird’
      If this is the first time you have breastfed before, it can feel strange having your baby suckle on your breast for the first time and so frequently.  Some women have very sensitive nipples or an overactive letdown which can be really painful when you initially start breastfeeding. Yes, our bodies are made to nutrify our babies through pregnancy and breastfeeding but that does not mean it is a completely magical experience for everyone.  Some women absolutely adore the bonding and beauty of breastfeeding and feel amazingly empowered being able to breastfeed and do it with no issues. However, some women really struggle with the feeling of breastfeeding and potentially from inappropriate or lack of support do not find it an empowering experience.

      Newborn babies can feed almost constantly on their second night of life, sometimes earlier and sometimes two or three nights in a row depending on when your milk comes in
      Believe me, when I say sleep whenever you can.  As I said above, prioritize sleep over everything except feeding yourself and your baby.  Initially, babies will generally sleep better during the day than the night and you need to teach them night and day.  You can do this by having separate sleep spaces, in the morning you bring babies basket or bassinet into the lounge, it’s light, it’s noisy, they will still sleep but will get used to daily noises.  Then at night usually at the start of when your baby starts their 2 hour cluster feed earlier in the evening - pretty much every baby will do this to stockpile on the sleepy hormone milk that is produced at this time before their first nighttime sleep, you take baby into the bedroom, it’s very dark, it’s quiet, you talk in whispers and engage less with your baby than you do during the day.  This is to make it a marked difference for baby and for them to learn about the diurnal patterns we tend to live by, Also, babies tend to feed more during the night and sleep more in the day in the first while so once your milk is in the other thing you can do is try and get more calories into baby during the day, so wake them 2 to 3 hourly to feed to hopefully switch baby into feeding more during the day and less (4 to 5 hourly) at night.  Although I will say that every baby is different and to a certain extent we have to surrender to their ‘routine’, not an imposed one that may just create more drama and stress.

      When you breastfeed after birth, your womb involutes and can feel like contractions - these get more painful for each subsequent baby
      Once your baby is born, your womb has to shrink from its current size housing your baby, fluid and placenta back to its pre-pregnancy size which is about the size of your fist.  In order to do this, it involutes when you are feeding. This involuting can feel like labor contractions and for some women are incredibly painful. Some women don’t really feel them or aren’t phased by them but the more babies you have, the more painful they can be.  Drinking postpartum tea can help this process by quicker and less painful. Taking the analgesia offered if this is painful for you can be a good idea too.

      Feeling rage, sadness or anxiety when your milk is letting down is a thing
      D-Mer or Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex is something that is not well known by both women and care providers.  It can elicit (sometimes intense) feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety or rage when your baby first latches onto the breast and your milk letdown is initiated.  There is no treatment per se, more awareness that this is a thing and that it will pass quickly after the letdown initiation and that you are not crazy. D-Mer has been linked to inappropriate dopamine activity.  Whilst there is no treatment specifically for D-Mer that has been identified, there are two possibilities. Our gut health is inextricably linked to our mental health so taking good quality and specific probiotics could help.  There is some preliminary research being done using Milk Thistle in the treatment of Body Dysmorphic Disorder which is also linked to inappropriate dopamine activity so there may be some relief from taking Milk Thistle which could also help with your milk supply.

      Babies losing weight in the first few days is normal
      It is normal for babies to lose up to 5-7 % of their birth weight on average.  Some babies may lose very little, some more than 7% and some not at all. Also, important to note at this point that babies who’s Mamas have had IV fluids in labor may lose more weight (10% +) and this is because the IV fluids Mama receives cross the placenta and the baby is born being heavier than they actually are (sometimes 100-200g) and then baby passes the fluid as urine in the first few days and ‘loses’ that weight.  This can sometimes mean that the baby is put on to a complicated feeding plan causing a lot of stress and loss of sleep to the Mama and may mean baby is given formula unnecessarily.

      Little girls getting a “mini” or “pseudo” period in the first few days is a thing
      With the massive amount of hormones having a party in your body after birth, they can do the same with your newborn’s body, boys and girls can get swollen breast buds and girls can have a tiny little ‘period’, this is a few drops of blood sometimes with mucus that comes out of her vagina and is found in her nappy.  This should only be a few drops over a couple of days, if more than half a teaspoon or longer than 5 days, talk to your care provider.

      Research shows that babies get 4-15ml of colostrum in their first 24 hours of life
      That could be less than a teaspoon, generally, a baby does not feed in the first few days because they are ‘hungry’, they feed because it is their instinct to feed and feed and feed to bring your milk in so that can be satiated.  The main reasons we have colostrum is to further populate baby’s microbiome and to allow them to pass meconium (their first few stools) and not for hunger. Healthy term babies are born with a pad of brown fat on the back of their neck that is laid down in the third trimester which is what they ‘live on’ in the first few days while they are waiting for the milk to come in.

      Breastfeeding babies get the milk volume they need over a 24 hour period - same with sleep
      Sometimes baby will feed for 10 minutes and sometimes for an hour, baby will get different volumes of milk at each feed dependent on length and effectiveness of feed.  Some babies can get 50 ml of milk out in 10 minutes and some take an hour to get the same. Try not to let your baby feed longer than an hour as the energy they expend extracting the milk will be more than the calories they receive from the milk.  Obviously, cluster feeding is a different situation so I mean consistently feeding for an hour or longer.

      It can take weeks to feel like you have nailed breastfeeding - don’t expect to nail it in the first few days
      Breastfeeding is an individual journey that needs gentle, thoughtful, skilled support and some prior preparation.  Although, antenatal expression of colostrum can help teach you about your body it is actually difficult to fully prepare yourself for the wild ride learning how to breastfeed is.  And remember your baby is learning too. Successfully breastfeeding is one of the most amazing and accomplished feelings and with the right support and dedication, aside from any medical or mental reasons meaning you can’t breastfeed, you CAN DO IT!  You have got this!

      You can bleed for up to six weeks postpartum
      Again, one of those things that are changeable for each woman, some may only bleed for a few days and some for 10 weeks but most around 4-6 weeks.  If your bleeding (lochia) gets very heavy and you are changing and soaking a pad an hour or your lochia smells very bad/strong then you need to talk to your care provider straight away.

      When your cycle returns, you ovulate FIRST then have your period 2 weeks later
      This is Fertility 101 that not every woman knows but should.  And this is how there are many ‘whoopsie’ babies with women getting pregnant very quickly after they have just had a baby.  Exclusively breastfeeding offers some protection but is not foolproof especially if you have daily gaps of 6 hours between feeds.  Many women can not tell when they are ovulating and so do not know they are ovulating when their cycle first arrives and with ovulation generally comes horniness so of course you may have sex and have a false sense of security because you are exclusively breastfeeding and you haven’t had your period yet and BOOM, hello baby.

      That you do have to change your lifestyle, you can’t just expect that a baby will just insert into your life and it stays the same
      I can’t say it enough, a baby will change your life irrevocably.  It is both rewarding and challenging. If you are a career woman or a woman that likes to be in control of things or thinks they will keep up the same lifestyle as pre-baby and that baby will just insert into their lives, you need to absolutely need to stop and do a realistic check-in with yourself and your partner.  Your baby is an equal member of your family and needs to have its own special place. They need secure attachment developed as babies to be able to grow into resilient, balanced, heart centered young people and adults. They need to have kindness and love in relationships modeled around them. They need patient, respectful and understanding care.  When babies are born, they need you for EVERYTHING. They do not really become independent until their teens and even then still need you but for different reasons. Read about different child development stages, research things that you are not sure about, ask other parents about what they did but always do what feels comfortable and right for you and your family.

      Sex after birth can be uncomfortable for a while or it can feel better than before!
      Many women find sex after birth painful as breastfeeding can inhibit natural lubrication of the vagina.  Some women find it less painful than before birth because of physiological reasons that are alleviated with a natural birth.  Women who have had cesareans or bad perineal cuts or tears may want to wait longer than is usual. The key to postpartum sex is that you feel totally ready and healed, use lots of lube and take it slow.  Your partner needs to be understanding of this as sex may not be the same for a little while postpartum, like if pre-pregnancy you liked vigorous sex, you may not be able to do that for a few months after birth.  As with everything, keep those communication lines open and be open and honest and gentle with each other.
       

      I hope you have enjoyed this little series on surprising things about pregnancy, birth and after birth and that you have learnt something you did not know to put you in a better space for your upcoming or subsequent childbirth journey.  Stay tuned for our next post about ‘How to save your bottom in birth’.

    • 17 Oct 2019 2:30 PM | Michelle Deerheart (Administrator)
      By Tammi Heap, Homebirth Midwife.

      Diabetes is classed as a global crisis of sorts, with soaring incidences around the world.  Sadly, the state of our mental health statistics experienced, are equally rising at startling levels.  In pregnancy, the statistics for New Zealand families/whanau, show our rates are increasing also at an alarming rate.

      In 2015 I wrote the article “probiotics nutrition matters” for the homebirth in Aoteroa magazine discussing the health benefits of probiotics in health.  Two years on, and the growth of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia during that time, are concerning.  Health officials state pregnant women are both coming into pregnancy, in poorer health, with higher risk factors throughout pregnancy.  

      As a midwife myself, I strongly encourage the use of probiotic foods in pregnancy (before and after).  From looking at my own practice, I have noticed a reduction in pregnancy related aliments, improved pregnancy experience and mental well bring, along with no increase in gestational diabetes, or alteration in perinatal maternal mental health outcomes.   Greater maternal satisfaction appears to have increased in family wellbeing, especially in stress response times.  I have only seen benefits for probiotic use, with no adverse or negative effects.

      The period during pregnancy and breastfeeding, continue to remain as one of the most important, and nutritionally, demanding times in a woman’s life. Women who eat a healthy diet for the year prior to pregnancy, are shown to have a significantly lower risk of having a baby with birth defects. 

      As midwives, we talk to pregnant women about the importance of nutrition.  Sub-optimal diets equal depleted women, resulting in nutrient depleted children, therefore introducing susceptibility to both acute and chronic conditions to develop.  Nutrient poor foods in pregnancy increase the risks of children experiencing mental health problems later into childhood and adulthood.  Eating a highly nutritional diet, along with daily consumption of probiotic foods, set us up for good moods, balanced energy levels, good sleep, and an optimal stress response level for the things the day may bring.

      Following on from international studies, a joint study was conducted here in New Zealand by the Universities of Otago, Wellington, and University of Auckland.  In April of 2017, their study showed significant results in the clear links to probiotics role in reducing incidences of gestational diabetes developing.

      “Using the current New Zealand definition for gestational diabetes, 6.5 per cent of the women had diabetes in the placebo group, versus 2.1 per cent in the probiotic group. This is a 68 per cent reduction,” says study leader Professor Julian Crane from the University of Otago, Wellington.

      Fermented foods contain large numbers of both, crucial macro and micro nutrients, helping to restore and keep our body in optimum health. Fermented foods are probiotic rich. Probiotic foods help the regulation of glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, plus also improves the regulation the inflammatory pathways.

      The best way to ensure optimal gut flora is to regularly consume traditionally fermented foods, which are naturally rich in probiotics. A non-exhaustive list includes, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented veggies, natto, kim chee and miso. Homemade probiotics foods are shown to contain the highest yield of the strains of good bacterias, compared to commercially bought fermented foods.

      Consuming fermented foods and probiotics during pregnancy can provide the following benefits.

      • Prevention and treatment of yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and bacterial vaginosis

      • Prevent and treat constipation and diarrohea (which may in turn, reduce the risk of prolapse due to straining)

      • Maintenance of healthy digestion with less wind and discomfort

      • Can help reduce the risk of preeclampsia

      • Reduce risk and improve events of perinatal and post-natal anxiety and depression

      • Can help to prevent and/or manage obesity and excessive weight gain in pregnancy which in turn can help a return to pre-pregnancy weight.

      • Increased energy from production of vitamin B12

      • Healthier skin, since probiotics improve eczema and psoriasis

      • Healing from leaky gut and inflammatory bowel disease

      • Reduced risk of premature labor

      • Improved placental health

      • Improved blood glucose control, prevention or reducing gestational diabetes, and subsequent diabetes development later in life

      For babies in the womb, a maternal diet high in probiotic foods can provide:

      • The growth of beneficial gut flora in babies born by caesarean or those that are not breastfed

      • Healthy regular bowel frequency and bowel motion consistency

      • Resistance to tummy infections

      • Lowered instances of colic or irritability, with recorded reductions in crying time by up to 75%

      • Optimal immune function with improved recovery from illness.

      • A favourable environment for the absorption of nutrients, eg, increased energy from production of vitamin B12

      • Lowered risk of childhood allergies, including eczema and asthma

      • Reduced risk of ‘failure to thrive’ and reduced risk of childhood obesity.

      • Improve the symptoms of colic, decreasing average crying times by about 75 percent

       

      Twenty five percent of women suffer from some level of depression during, or following birth (perinatal and anxiety depression Aoteroa). Increased periods of stress, anxiety and depression can be worsened, or created by a chronic gut health inflammation, leading to activation in the areas of the brain associated with mental health and behavioural disorders.  Studies have shown a clear link with how probiotics can both prevent and reverse stress responses in the brain.  The probiotic enzymes within the gut (intestinal microflora) help to increase the hormone serotonin in the brain (the pleasure and stress lowering hormone).  In addition, research highlights the importance of Vitamin D levels in its role also to reduce and prevent perinatal and postnantal depression, and that by taking a probiotic vitamin d levels can be increased by more than 25%

      As a midwife I recommend to my clients consuming fermented fruits and vegetables, along with milk based kefir foods as the ideal regular use of probiotics.  As kombucha and water kefir based drinks still can contain some residual sugars, this I reccomend during pregnancy to be consumed as a treat drink.  For women with a family history of diabetes or thrush/candida histories, I advise to omit these drinks.

      Probiotic foods in my eyes are one of the easiest and cheapest ‘self care’ practices we can do for our own feel good factor, to help us feel great, both physically and mentally.  Like a favourite song, or pair of slippers..... the warm internal snugglies are on my daily ‘feel good, to do’ list.

      Sources: 

      http://www.hrc.govt.nz/sites/default/files/early_pregnancy_probiotic_supplementation_with_lactobacillus_rhamnosus_hn001_may_reduce_the_prevalence_of_gestational_diabetes_mellitus_a_randomised_controlled_trial.pdf

      Probiotics may reduce risk of gestational diabetes http://www.otago.ac.nz/news/news/otago642259.html

      http://www.pada.nz/

     

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