Aka de-mystifying the vaginal steam
You’re pregnant and you go to each prenatal appointment diligently. You are so excited to meet your new sweet baby. What will they look like? What will their personality be like? And more importantly for the moment, how is birth going to be? You go to a birth class that helps you feel prepared and confident as you go in to labor. And then, there is your baby, in your arms just like you’ve been waiting for.
Now you’re home with your partner and your baby. The first night home you barely get any sleep. It’s been a few days and you still haven’t been sleeping and your body feels sore (an understatement for sure!). You are terrified to have a bowel movement, you’re constipated and have hemorrhoids. You’re anxious about how to care for your baby and it all feels overwhelming. How are you supposed to be caring for this baby, being up all hours of the night feeding and changing diapers while also healing your own, tender postpartum body?
This story is not to scare mothers. This is a reality that far too many women experience. Right now during pregnancy moms concentrate about how to prepare for the birth. Reasonably so, birth is one of the most intense physical events you will ever go through. But ultimately birth lasts anywhere from a few hours up to a few days. Postpartum is the rest of your life.
In order to avoid common stories like the one I outlined above, we need to shift how we prepare for postpartum. Postpartum planning should be a part of every pregnant woman’s planning. I just mentioned that birth is one of the most intense physical events you will ever go through. A marathon may be something that you can easily imagine that is also physically intense. Would you run a marathon without a plan of how to heal your muscles and nourish your body afterwards? I’m guessing you wouldn’t.
It’s similar, and even more important to plan for what’s to come after your birth. Your body needs more nourishment and care than any other time in your life.
Postpartum mothers deserve proactive medicine. It’s common knowledge that postpartum mamas are susceptible to depression, anxiety and physical ailments like hemorrhoids, incontinence, pain with intercourse, and digestive problems after giving birth. All of these things are preventable if the mother is given the right care and support.
I can tell you the importance of postpartum planning from my two very different postpartum experiences. When I had my first baby, my body felt terrible and after having my second baby, I felt really good. What was the difference? I spent my second pregnancy planning for postpartum. I put together a whole postpartum rejuvenation plan that I diligently put into practice once my baby was born. It was incredible how nurtured and supported I felt during that second postpartum time and I wish that for you too.
Are you pregnant?
Do you want to set up a postpartum plan that helps you feel grounded, empowered and replenished after giving birth? Do you want to avoid common health problems like incontinence and depression after birth? You can. I have a postpartum planning session that’s just for you!
As I researched postpartum care practices I read about what many other cultures currently do to support postpartum mamas. As I read about these other traditions, I started noticing patterns. A beautiful picture began unfolding before me. These cultures were thousands of miles away from one another, and yet there were overlapping core tenets describing how to care for the new mother.
These cultures around the world have developed traditions over thousands of years. These traditions focus on surrounding the new mother with a holistic healing plan that helps her body, mind and spirit gracefully move through the transition of being pregnant, to being a mother.
Here is a glimpse in to 3 universal postpartum traditions.
Mothers are kept warm in a variety of ways. Warm teas and broths are brought to her just after birth and kept going for the first month to three months postpartum. She is always kept warm with heaters, blankets, and warm socks on her feet. Herbal baths or steams are made for her. It’s of top importance that she not be near a draft and is bundled when she needs to go outside.
When a woman gives birth she loses a lot of blood and fluids and she is in a fairly depleted state. Many cultures have very specific foods that are given to the mother immediately after birth to help replenish her. Special broths and spiced ghee (clarified butter) are two examples.
For the next few weeks to few months foods that are easily digestible, warm and nutrient-dense are given to the new mother. Healthy fats, proteins and whole grains are priorities. Herbs and spices are also added to the new mothers diet to help with her digestion.
The immediate postpartum time (the first one to three months after birth) are not meant for the mother to go on any diets such as low-calorie or low-carb. This is a very special time to focus on loading the mother with nutrient-dense calories.
Lastly, it’s universal to use medicinal herbs to help the mother heal and repair after birth. Sometimes the herbs are given in the form of medicinal teas, sometimes as spices in food, and other times used in baths and steams. Medicinal herbs are wonderful for the new mother because they have direct actions to help balance hormones, improve digestion, aide the uterus in going back to it’s original shape and help the mother regain energy and peace of mind.
Do you come from a family that has special postpartum healing traditions? Please share in the comments below!
Do you have a young baby?
Do you feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unsure how to help your body heal after birth? That’s exactly where I come in. Head on over HERE and we will develop a plan that will help you feel nurtured, cared for and most of all, healed.
Are you pregnant?
Do you want to make sure your postpartum time makes you feel grounded and empowered? Do you want to avoid common health problems like incontinence and depression after birth? Head over HERE and sign up for one of my vibrant postpartum prep sessions.
Holding on to extra fluids during pregnancy is not fun! Your body is already changing in many ways and that extra swelling can make you feel so much more uncomfortable.
Pregnant during the summer? The heat can usually make the swelling even more cumbersome. Luckily there are a few simple changes you can make to help keep all that swelling manageable.
Here are 3 simple ways to reduce swelling during pregnancy
1. Drink raspberry leaf tea
Raspberry leaf tea is a wonderful tonic for pregnancy. One of it’s many benefits is that it is incredibly nutrient dense. The extra vitamins and minerals from the tea will help your body absorb fluids better which will reduce swelling.
2. Put your legs up the wall
This may sound funny to do, especially if you’re 9 months pregnant, but it works! Place some pillows on the floor, lay on your back and keep your legs up the wall. This helps tremendously with circulation. Most women who are struggling with swelling feel it most in their lower legs and feet. By keeping your legs up the wall, you’re helping redistribute the fluids.
3. Add electrolytes to your water
That extra swelling may be telling you that your body needs some help absorbing the water that you’re drinking. Adding electrolytes is perfect for increasing absorption. And it’s really easy! Just add a splash of fresh lemon juice or a (small) pinch of salt to your water.
P.S. If you do have a lot of swelling, make sure to check in with your doctor. Sometimes the swelling can indicate that other things are happening in your body and you want to talk with your doctor to make sure it’s all normal.
Hi! I'm Dr. Potter!
Are you trying to get pregnant, currently pregnant, or healing from childbirth? Wonderful, I'm so happy you are here. It's my passion to help mothers feel honored and cared for during this tender time.
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Guest post by nutrition-guru Anna Bohnengel
Mama, life is moving fast. You’ve got a sweet, soft bundle of baby squirming in your arms and it’s already time to start thinking about making another.
Eeeek! It’s all so exciting, but also kind of scary!
Take a deep breath, because you got this. You were made for this. And there is so much you can do to fortify your mama superpowers. The first of which, is eating well.
Growing another human, whether in your belly or on your breast, takes a lot out of you. The World Health Organization recommends waiting two years between pregnancies to rebuild your nutrient stores. Whether you have two years to wait or not, take this time in-between babies to indulge in nourishing yourself.
This is not a time for deprivation!
You can get your body back later. Right now, focus on treating yourself to the most nourishing, health-enhancing foods you can get your hands on. See just how good you can feel from the inside out.
Tip: Ignore the ‘pre’ in prenatal vitamins and take them before during and after pregnancy. If you know another babe is on the way, there’s no reason to stop taking them!
Here are three particularly nutrient dense foods to replenish your nutrient stores post-partum and make sure you’re set up to thrive the next time around:
This pretty pink fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty-acids and vitamin D, nutrients that are in short supply in the typical American diet, yet they are essential to a healthy pregnancy. Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation in mom while boosting the baby brain development. Vitamin D enables calcium absorption for strong bones. Both nutrients help protect you from post-partum depression.
Recipe: Lemon-Dill Salmon Cakes
Eggs (with the yolk!)
Eggs are a nutrition powerhouse. They provide vitamin D, zinc, B-vitamins, protein, antioxidants, and too often overlooked, choline. Choline is important for cell formation and cognitive function. This nutrient is also needed in higher quantity during pregnancy and breastfeeding. To meet your choline needs, dish up three (yes, three) eggs a day.
Recipe: Mediterranean Egg Muffins
From greens to root bulb, beets are packed with nutrients mamas need. The greens have much needed calcium and folate (think spinal cord development in baby) and fiber (keeping mom regular). The deep purple beetroot provides iron to keep fatigue at bay.
Recipe: Beet-Avocado Smoothie
Anna Bohnengel is a registered dietitian and co-founder of Alavita Perinatal Nutrition. Trained at the National Institutes of Health, she has spent most of her career at Oregon Health & Science University.
She has years of experience helping women achieve their healthiest, happiest self with a fresh, simple and results-driven approach to eating good food. As a new mom herself, she is now dedicated to helping women feel confident and nourished as they venture into mamahood.
By Angela Potter
I find it hard to talk about weight loss and postpartum because I don't want to come across as someone who is perpetuating the idea that every woman needs to get back to their pre-baby weight right away (or at all!). Birth changes us in so many ways and we come out on the other side women who are changed, and who are stronger because of it.
That being said, I understand how hard it can be to watch your body change drastically in just a matter of months.
With my patients, I help them make gentle changes to help their bodies naturally lose the weight without going through a lot of drastic diet changes.
One big way to do that is work on boosting the metabolism.
Boosting metabolism helps your body use the food that you eat more efficiently (aka burns calories better!). It also helps your body use your food for it's intended purpose which means you're getting use out of all the vitamins and minerals you eat.
When your metabolism is sluggish, that can lead to stomach cramping, bloating, an inability to lose weight, or even weight gain.
Boosting metabolism can support weight loss in a healthy way that involves making some really small changes to your regular diet. Stay tuned on the blog for more information about how exactly to do that!
By Angela Potter
Giving birth is an incredibly special time. You have just been the portal for a soul to enter in to the world. That is no small feat and your own recuperation after birth needs to be well-tended to. There is one act of self-care in those early days of motherhood that often goes overlooked.
That act of self-care is to do a digital detox.
Consider signing off of your phone and computer for as long as feels comfortable to you. Maybe it's a few days, maybe a week, or perhaps a full month.
If doing a full digital detox is not an option for you, consider these two areas:
1. Social media
Many social media accounts focus on portraying only the perfect moments. You are bound to see photos of mothers and families who look like they have it all together. When you're in that sweet newborn stage with your baby it is also full of a lot of sleepless nights, tears and emotions. The last thing you need is to compare yourself with other families.
2. The news
Your number one focus once you've given birth is to care for your newborn and for yourself. The transition of welcoming a new person in to your family can often be overwhelming. While staying up to date on current events is important, it may be an added source of stress for you. Consider asking your partner or a friend to share news with you that is of upmost importance, but to update you on other events once you're ready.
By Shira Fogel
Using signs to communicate with your pre-verbal child is one of the best things you can to do to
promote attachment parenting, reduce stress and create a lasting bond with them.
When your baby starts signing, everything becomes easier because they have learned that using their hands to communicate is quicker and more effective than crying or whining.
Here are 3 ways that signing with your baby can reduce stress
1. Are you constantly playing the guessing game with your baby by wondering why they
When you teach them to sign with you, you’ll empower them with the ability to tell you when they are: hungry, needing a diaper change, teething, bored, scared etc. One of my students recently told me: “I want my child to be able to tell me what she needs so that I can meet her needs faster. It’s frustrating not knowing how to soothe her.”
2. You will be able to understand and respond to them much quicker
As language starts to emerge (imagine an 18-month- old child), your toddler is often very
hard to understand while the muscles in their mouths are still continuing to fine-tune
Did he just say “duck” or “truck?” When an undecipherable word is combined with a sign, you are able to immediately interact back with your child rather than try and guess what it is he was trying to say. This, in turn, eliminates a potential opportunity for a temper tantrum based on a communication break-down. Signing saves the day!
3. Boosting the bond with your child
This is quite possibly the biggest benefit of them all! Boosting the bond with your child which, in turn, also creates a greater emotional intelligence. Emotions such as happiness, sadness and empathy are all shaped by how your infant is cared for and nurtured.
Having a strong bond with your baby doesn’t just reassure them, it actually affects their biological systems that help them adapt to stress. Although this process continues to develop as
children get older, these early experiences are essential for establishing your child’s
emotional wiring in their brain. Simply put, teaching your baby how to sign is good for
their brain and overall development!
Shira Fogel began to research baby sign language when her daughter was a baby and too young to talk. Shira’s daughter absolutely thrived with her newfound way of communicating and consequently became a very early speaker as a result of signing.
Shira eventually became certified by a speech and language pathologist and started her own company called Tiny Talkers. It is her vision to spread this knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL) with other parents who want to be less frustrated, give their child a gift of communication and have a greater bond with their child/children.
By Angela Potter
How many of you have a bowl of oatmeal in the mornings because of its good fiber and then an hour later you're hungry and want a second breakfast?
Oatmeal is a great source of fiber which can help with hormone balance and digestion. On the other side, it doesn't have much protein or fat in it which can cause your blood sugar to crash.
Cue hunger and irritability.
How does this oatmeal recipe help change that and improve metabolism?
1. It is filled with healthy fats and good protein which helps balance blood sugar.
2. It has warming spices that help improve digestion.
Try this recipe to feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the day.
I like to put a lot of intuition in to my cooking. Often, a recipe looks different every day because of my preferences and what I have in the kitchen. Use this as a guideline to create a recipe that you love!
By Angela Potter
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of oats (or try a multi-grain mix for a more nutrient-dense breakfast!)
- A spoonful of yogurt
- A tablespoon of coconut oil or butter
- A spoonful of nut butter - try peanut butter, almond butter or cashew butter
- A handful of blueberries (fresh in the summer, frozen in the winter)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- A small pinch of cayenne
- Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, add the oats and reduce to a simmer.
- While the oats are simmering, add the yogurt, coconut oil or butter, nut butter and blueberries to your breakfast bowl.
- When the oats are almost done cooking, add the spices and mix well.
- When the oatmeal is finished cooking, add to your bowl of goodies and mix well.
By Angela Potter
Fact! Breastfeeding your baby can be an effective form of birth control. Breastfeeding as contraception is helpful in the early postpartum months but must be used wisely and within some guidelines.
Here are the guidelines to use breastfeeding as contraception:
1. Your baby is exclusively breastfed, no solid foods or formula.
2. Your baby is 6 months or younger
3. You are breastfeeding your baby every 4 hours a day and 6 hours at night.
If your period starts even while you are following these guidelines, you will need to switch to a different form of birth control.
I also like to remind people that all forms of birth control come with a small chance of pregnancy. The only way to truly avoid pregnancy is surgical removal of reproductive organs or abstinence.