One of the most common complaints I hear from new moms in Upper Back pain and this new sensation of tingling or numb hands.
While it can sometime mean other things, the first thing I check for is to see if there are knots or areas of tension in the chest muscles and neck muscles. Most often I find knots and tight muscles in the chest (known as the pec muscles to massage therapists).
Releasing these muscles can help a lot in reducing pain in the shoulders or upper arm as well as tingling or numbness sensations in the hands. These knots and tight muscles are compressing on the nerves that lead to the hands.
So how do these muscles get this way?
Hours of infant feeding. Whether you are breastfeeding, chestfeeding or bottle feeding- you are holding baby in a cradle position most of the time and hunched over looking at them.
Rocking, soothing and holding baby to sleep or while they sleep. That fourth trimester we spend a lot of time holding babies and that is exactly what they need and what we are supposed to be doing. They need to be close to their parents. But the posture that comes with it can wreak havoc on our bodies.
Co-sleeping. Some parents choose to sleep with their babies in their beds and the position often assumed by the parent is on their side laying on one of their arms or having it straight out.
The thing all of these postures have in common are that they tense up the pec muscles or shorten them leading to tension and knots, (Or you might hear me say trigger points) as well as weakened upper back muscles. Again leading to more knots which can cause pain!
So I work to release all of these muscles reducing your symptoms!
Now there’s nothing we can do to stop this cycle of bad posture during the early days of parenting with a newborn. Sure you can wear a carrier some of the time to relieve your arms but ultimately the best thing to do is to strengthen your upper back muscles and counter the bad posture with some daily stretching that only takes a few minutes of your time.
Here are some great stretches that are my go-to recommendations for new parents:
(And yes these pictures are taken in true mom style complete with kids and messy house!)
“Doorway stretch”. This one stretches the chest/pec muscles.
2. Modified Downward Dog.
This is a strength based pose that I picked up in yoga class. I often recommend yoga poses for clients in their homecare because yoga is really great for strengthening those postural muscles that weaken out in daily life and cause pain. This one focuses on countering slouchy postures and strengthens the back muscles and upper back.
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I get asked all the time how to get labour started from pregnant women who are either trying to avoid a medical induction or are so uncomfortable they can’t bear to be pregnant any longer. Some of these women are asking once they hit 36 weeks because they fear going past their due date.
While it is best to wait and let nature take its course, I understand the frustration and sometimes stress that comes with being past your due date or trying to avoid other medical interventions like Pitocin induction.
Just to set the record straight, here are some pretty mind-blowing statistics on due dates from Evidence-Based Birth after conducting a study:
“In a significant study published in 2001, Smith looked at the length of pregnancy in 1,514 healthy women whose estimated due dates, as calculated by the last menstrual period, were perfect matches with estimated due dates from their first-trimester ultrasound (Smith 2001). The researchers found that 50% of all women giving birth for the first time gave birth by 40 weeks and 5 days, while 75% gave birth by 41 weeks and 2 days. Meanwhile, 50% of all women who had given birth at least once before gave birth by 40 weeks and 3 days, while 75% gave birth by 41 weeks.”
Evidence on going past your Due Date, Rebecca Dekker from Evidence Based Birth (6)
Pretty wild right?!
Before you even try any of the following techniques, I will say something that is kind of cliche.
Why? Because there is so much damn truth in it!
Baby will come when baby comes.
When your body is ready when baby is ready and when your psyche is ready, baby will come.
You can try all the things in the world, but if your body, baby and mind aren’t ready- it’s not gonna work.
The second point is timing. Don’t wait until you are 40 weeks to start some of these techniques as they often don’t just work their magic overnight. You may want to start them at 36 weeks to let them do their thing. And some you better not try until you’ve reached your due date or you’ve consulted with your health care provider, as they can work quickly.
People don’t give enough credit to the mind when it comes to when you will go into labour. Mentally, if there are certain things that need to fall into place before you can let go and go into labour – it might not happen. Mentally, if you have so much fear surrounding childbirth and you are wound up with stress – maybe the only way your body can go into labour is with a pitocin drip because it is not creating that oxytocin naturally. Mentally, if you need certain people around – your husband to be in town, your parents to be close by to help care for older children, (or maybe you need them to leave because a watched pot never boils) – these are things that typically hold up labour.
I’ll use my second pregnancy as an example. I felt like I was about to go into labour any day after 37 weeks. But my body was hanging on. My sister was supposed to watch my toddler while I was in labour and she wasn’t back from Hawaii yet. My husband worked during the day. Sure enough, a few days after my sister returned from her trip I went into labour on a Saturday while my husband was home. All the conditions were right in my mind, and my body could let go, and I was relaxed. Let’s face it though – this scenario was almost too good to be true. In my first pregnancy, my best friend was visiting a week before my due date, and I was really craving my house to myself the days before my due date so I could go within and let go.
So I’ll ask you this. Instead of asking “How can I get labour started?”, take some time in self-reflection to ask yourself the following:
“What do I need to feel safe and supported for labour?”
“What do I need to let go of, so that my body and mind is ready to have this baby?”
“What fears around childbirth and being a new parent are holding me back from letting nature take its course?”
That should be the first step in getting labour started naturally. Here are some of the natural methods that are out there to help initiate spontaneous labour. I wouldn’t necessarily do all of them. Pick one or two, as always do your own research and make an informed decision.
Raspberry Leaf Tea.
We’ve all heard of it. But it’s not going to work after drinking 1 cup a day after your due date. There’s actually not much research to prove its effectiveness but they say for it to be effective you want to start drinking it early on in pregnancy and have 2 cups a day (or more) for best results. You can start drinking it as early as the 2nd trimester however most people prefer to wait until the 3rd trimester. Starting at 34 weeks is a good time. It acts to tone the uterus and pelvic muscles to encourage more effective contractions. It’s effects are gradual which is why you generally have to start drinking it early and have more than 1 cup here or there.
There have been some cool studies done on eating 7 dates/day from 36 weeks gestation until labour begins. Generally speaking, they have found that eating dates before labour increases the degree of cervical ripening when the women arrived at the hospital as well as higher levels of cervical dilation. Additionally, the women who ate dates had shorter early labour, were more likely to have spontaneous labours, and less likely to need pitocin for labour augmentation. A small study showed that the women who ate dates also had less postpartum bleeding. So eat your dates! Unless you have gestational diabetes. You may want to avoid them in that case. (1) Dates on their own aren’t many people’s favourites. Check out my Recipe for Brownies that uses a lot of dates to get your dates in!
3. Evening Primrose Oil.
EPO contains prostaglandins while helping the cervix to ripen. (4) Typical dosage is 500-2000 mg per day starting at 38 weeks. (5) You can either take it orally or insert capsules vaginally for absorption.
There’s a homeopathic remedy called EZ Birth. I took it with my first pregnancy, and that labour was far from easy. That being said, midwives have been recommending them for ages, and they work wonderfully for many to help prepare the body for labour and with the intensity that comes with it. You can start taking them daily at 38 weeks and into childbirth to help with pain management.
Semen contains prostaglandins which we know help ripen the cervix and get it ready for labour. Achieving orgasm also helps stimulate uterine activity. Women who have sex during pregnancy are less likely to go past 41 weeks. (3)
6. Castor Oil.
This has been found to work effectively in women who are past their due date and works quickly. There is a good chance the pregnant person will go into labour within 24 hours of taking the castor oil. Although it is pretty unpleasant and may cause diarrhea and nausea. I would suggest that if one is wanting to try this, you talk with your doctor or midwife first.
7. Nipple Stimulation.
Either using your hands, a breast pump or otherwise- nipple stimulation increases oxytocin levels which is the hormone that helps labour get going. In general, studies have found that in first time birthing women who are low risk, nipple stimulation results in fewer c-sections and fewer augmentations with pitocin, and aids cervical ripening. (2)
8. Midwife Cocktail.
I’ve merely only heard of this, and while researching it, I didn’t find too much in the way of statistics or how to use it. I did, however, find out that it is a combination of lemon verbena tea, apricot juice, almond butter and castor oil. I’ve heard from various people including a midwife that it is highly effective. This is not something you would want to do before your due date or without first consulting your doctor or midwife. Once you’ve ingested it, labour could begin within the next 24 hours.
9. Membrane Sweep.
You can ask for one with your midwives, or your doctor may offer one as you approach your due date. This option is somewhat natural, depending on what your definition of natural is. During a vaginal exam, the practitioner may use a finger to sweep around the opening of the cervix (if it is open) separating the membranes around the baby inside the uterus from the cervix. It can be pretty uncomfortable, and it doesn’t always work. It has been shown to reduce the length of pregnancy by 1-4 days and can reduce the chance of a pregnancy going past 42 weeks. (7) You can read more about that here.
While there’s not a ton of evidence or research around these bodywork techniques for labour induction, we know that labour preparation with the use of acupuncture, acupressure/reflexology can be beneficial. It works for some, and not for others. It creates the optimal environment in the body for labour to begin spontaneously.
I’m not an acupuncturist so I can’t speak for that, but in Reflexology we are working to get that oxytocin flowing, releasing tension and getting energy flowing in the pelvic area, and stimulating the uterus when the time is right all while activating that parasympathetic nervous system to put the birthing person in a state of relaxation. I’ve seen it work with my clients.
Massage itself is amazing to help prepare for labour. Why? Because you are RELAXING and getting into that parasympathetic nervous system state that you need to be in for labour to flow with ease. This is where we want to birth from. I’ve worked on pregnant moms before I even knew how to work specific points for labour initiation, sometimes on their due date or days after and they go into labour within hours. One of my friends came and saw me a day after her due date and specifically said, “I want this baby to stay in there for as long as possible! No labour initiation!” So I avoided all the spots and sent her home and she texted me later that day to tell me her water broke! Her body was ready.
One of the most valuable and noticeable benefits of reflexology is improving digestion.
Time and time again one of the most noticeable things people report after having a reflexology session is that they had a great bowel movement afterwards.
When your digestion is poor or sluggish, your whole system suffers. Without good digestion, you can’t absorb enough nutrients to give you the energy and vitality you need to keep your other organs and systems in check.
And chances are, even if you don’t have any noticeable digestive issues, you probably have some things to work out in the digestive systems of your feet!
Typically in a combination session, clients will get a shorter reflexology session, but I always include the digestive system as one of the key areas to work. In a full reflexology session, every area of the body is worked on the foot as well as some extra time on areas needing balancing.
And if you’re pregnant, reflexology is a safe treatment for things like heartburn, indigestion and constipation!
So, WHY do our digestive systems need some extra LOVIN’?
1) Processed foods, poor diet and poor food combinations. 2) Eating too quickly or in a hurry when eating and not chewing food enough. 3) Unknown food sensitivities disrupting the lining of the small intestines that create inflammation, bloating, leaky gut, etc. 4) Lack of water intake. 5) Imbalance of gut flora from antibiotic use. 6) STRESS!!!
In our society today, we often operate at higher levels of stress. Even when you don’t think you’re stressed, you probably have some degree of stress. For example, driving in traffic which most of us do daily, can be stressful!
In a state of stress the sympathetic nervous system is activated, AKA your fight or flight response. In this state, your body prepares by drawing your blood supply away from the trunk of your body and into your limbs so you can either run or fight.
You may have heard of this innate biological response that has historically been used to protect man from getting eaten by lions, tigers and bears – OH MY!
Unfortunately, this once helpful biological response hinders your digestion. So when you are stressed the energy that should be used to digest your food is instead directed away from the center of your body.
Reflexology works to reduce this stress response in the body and activates the parasympathetic nervous system AKA your Rest and Digest Response. It is in this state that your blood supply is directed towards the trunk of your body, and your energy is being used to heal, rest and digest!
So what can you do to have better digestion, and therefore more regularity in your bowel movements, less bloating, indigestion, etc.?
1) Eat a proper diet full of wholesome foods: high in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and proteins, and carbohydrates if you so choose. There’s a lot of different types of diets out there nowadays, and I don’t recommend any particular one over another. You gotta do what feels right for you, but no matter what you choose please make sure it has vegetables in it and is low in processed foods.
2) Chew your food. Slow down while eating your food. Take some of the burden off your stomach, intestines and digestive enzymes.
3) Take a probiotic that has a good amount of good bacteria. You can find these in your grocery store, health food store or at a Naturopathic Doctor office. Head over to Holistic YYC for recommendations on brands and types.
4) Digestive enzymes will help you digest foods that are hard on your system.
5) Apple Cider Vinegar: 1 tsp a day can do wonders for aiding digestion and elimination.
6) Eat Fiber. Either from vegetables, fruits, or grains- fibre will help keep things moving along. Add in some ground flaxseeds to your smoothie or chia seeds to your pudding for an extra boost.
7) ZenGest: this blend of essential oils are great for soothing tummy upsets and promoting regular digestion.
Regular reflexology treatments can help with improving digestion and regular elimination(among many other health benefits).
Consider reflexology like an “oil change” or “teeth cleaning” appointment for your body. With health, maintenance is key! If your body breaks down after years of neglect, it can be a lot harder to get back to healthy. Instead, invest a little time and money into yourself to maintain and improve your health and wellbeing.
Ideally, you should be able to take 15-30 minutes a day for yourself to do something for YOU.
Don’t have time?
Here’s the thing. You will never have the time if you don’t make the time. You need to make the time. Here are some ideas for you that may take 15-30 minutes a day: 1. Start a meditation practice.
Never done it? Download an app such as Headspace, Calm or my new favourite 1 Giant Mind that walk you through how to meditate and help you establish a habit.
2. Do some yoga or move your body in a way that feels good for you.
If you like running, make time to go running.
If you like to hike, go hiking.
Even if you just dance in your kitchen – it doesn’t matter what you do just that you move your body.
As far as yoga goes, hop on Youtube and find a yoga video that’s up to twenty minutes long. Fifteen minutes of yoga every day is better than one hour once a week. Gaia is a great subscription website like Netflix that has yoga, meditation and spiritual documentaries.
3. Get out in nature get some fresh air, restore balance and ground your energy.
Sit on a park bench, go for a leisurely walk, or soak in the sun on your deck. Plant your feet in the soil.
4. Watch a silly movie or go see a comedy show and LAUGH!
Nothing is better than a good laugh or some brain fluff to take your mind off things or relieve stress.
5. Make time for things you love doing.
Got a hobby or a creative passion? Make time for it.
Especially if you are working a job that sucks your soul out. Sorry if this is your situation and you can’t change it in the near future but make time to do things that make your heart happy and feed your soul.
6. Take a bath.
Use bath bombs or bath salts that smell delicious and envelope your senses.
7. Create something.
Make a collage, colour in an adult colouring book (a great form of meditation) or cook something new.
8. Go for coffee with a friend you feel connected to.
If they don’t live nearby schedule a phone date. Connection is so good for the soul.
9. Pamper yourself.
If pampering yourself is your thing, do it.
Go out and get a manicure, have an afternoon of shopping for clothes that make you feel GOOD, or get your hair done. Even just getting some stuff to do an at home facial or nail polish to do your own nails-make time to pamper yourself, if that’s your thing!
10. Read a Book!
Maybe you like to read self-development book to better yourself. Maybe you’d prefer to get lost in a fictional thriller. Whatever it is, curl up with a cup of tea, cozy slippers and a blanket and dive in!
11. And lastly, who doesn’t love a good massage?
Get regular bodywork done to take care of sore muscles, release tension and stress, balance and take care of your body. You only get one body – take good care of it! Reflexology, Acupuncture, Chiro, or Physiotherapy are also forms of bodywork that can help you keep moving and grooving 😉
If you are in need of a good massage or reflexology session, reach out to me 🙂
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My second pregnancy is when I really started to rely on essential oils for everything. From stress to a stuffed up nose, to mood swings, insomnia, nausea to physical back pain. I later used it during labour and into the postpartum period. I started using essential oils with my son when he was two and a half at the time and he still loves having oils put on him. Whether it’s his spine or his feet – he loves it. He even intuitively picks the right oils for himself – without being able to read or anything. He always surprises me! Here are my top oils that I used on the regular during pregnancy and what they are good for. 1. Balance-Grounding Blend
For grounding, relaxation and relieving anxiety, fear or feelings of overwhelm. It’s got a really nice woody and sweet aroma that helps create feelings of calm, grounding you into your body and at peace in your pregnancy. I used this a lot when I felt scattered, overwhelmed or stressed.
For relaxation, calming, and sleep. When used during labour it can reduce anxiety, provide pain relief, lighten the mood, and can even ease contractions in early labour(1). It was the main oil I used in the hospital room during my second birth, and everyone who came into the room after the baby was born was commenting on how lovely the room smelled. It created such a lovely ambience in the room. I also used it for pain relief on my lower back throughout pregnancy to calm my muscle tension.
Amazing for relaxation, sleep and calming. Similar to lavender (because it has lavender in it), it is a blend of calming oils that soothe the soul. I put this in my bath a lot at the end of a long day or diffused at bedtime to help me fall asleep.
Uplifting and Energizing, orange is great when you need a little boost. Whether you’re feeling fatigued (as pregnant women often do) or a little blue or lacking motivation, orange is a great oil to help boost your mood and energy levels. It doubles as a natural cleaner, disinfecting surfaces and killing germs.
Great for aches and pains – Pregnant or not. As a massage therapist, I used Aromatouch all the time with my clients. The smell is amazing, it helps with any inflammation, muscle or joint pain and is safe to use during pregnancy. It does contain peppermint, however, so it is not recommended postpartum. Peppermint is said to affect milk supply, so it is best used cautiously in nursing mothers.
Feeling stuffed up? Sick with a cough, cold or a runny nose? This oil will work wonders to help give you some relief. While you can’t take any over the counter cold medicine while pregnant, this is a great one to diffuse to kill germs and help you breathe better. I often would put it on a diffuser pendant on days when I felt congested.
This is an oil not to be used during pregnancy, but to wait until labour starts or after 40 weeks. It is a uterine tonic that assists with effective contractions. It may help strengthen contractions once they’ve started. I used this in early labour mixed with Geranium and Lavender to help strengthen contractions, calm the nervous system and strengthen labour. I laboured at home for about 8 hours, and once I got to the hospital it was go-time! I feel like the blend of oils helped me remain calm and relaxed at home until it was time to go.
Helpful for mood – depression and anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum. It has so many amazing benefits, but this is what I used it for. Frankincense is also known for its skin healing benefits, and I made a Postpartum Spray with it and Lavender to use on the perineum to encourage tissue healing and soothing.
Both of these blends could be used for energy or uplifting mood, but have a very different aroma. I liked to diffuse them on days when I was low energy or lacked motivation, or was feeling down. Could be helpful to use with prenatal depression.
10. Geranium For self-love and heart connection with the baby. I used Geranium a lot during my first pregnancy in the bath. It’s got a floral smell that is sweet, and it relates a lot to your heart chakra. I would use this time in the bath to connect to my baby and meditate on self-love and being gentle with myself. During my second pregnancy, I added it to my labour rollerball along with clary sage and lavender to help me feel calm. I referenced a Book called Essential Oils for Pregnancy, Birth & Babies written by Midwife Stephanie Fritz. Her website also has a ton of useful information, and she is a trusted source when it comes to using Essential Oils during Pregnancy. To check out her Blog, click here.
If you’d like to find out more or would like to have a custom rollerball made JUST for you contact me at email@example.com If you want to order any of the oils mentioned above, CLICK HERE. Study: 1-Nursing Times magazine March 2. 1994-Using Aromatherapy in Childbirth For more helpful tips, information and resources straight to your inbox sign up for my updates below!
You’re about to embark on an incredible 9 month journey where your body will undergo some beautiful changes, and some maybe not so much. While your calorie demands do increase slightly, your nutrient demands are at an all-time high. Here are my Top 5 Supplements that I took during my pregnancy and ones you should consider taking too.
You’re building a tiny human and ensuring quality materials are being supplied will help your baby grow big and strong and support you through every transition stage of your pregnancy. Quality over quantity! First off, I will say that you should always talk with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement, especially during pregnancy. This is more of a disclaimer than a warning. Nearly every label on vitamins, minerals, supplements, and prescription medication includes this disclaimer because there are no studies to deny or confirm adverse effects (because researchers are ethically banned from doing experimental studies on pregnant or nursing women).
Having said that, if you decide to up your nutrient density and feel comfortable taking supplements, here are my recommended top 5 that I even included in my pregnancy.
Among the many changes you’ll go through, indigestion, bloating and constipation is probably going to be the first unpleasant ‘gift’ you’ll receive. Usually, due to a hormonal surge of progesterone, your bowels may become sluggish. Combat this with increased cravings for sugary, sweet, processed or convenient foods, and you’ve got a recipe for some uncomfortable tummy times. Probiotics are ‘friendly’ live cultured bacteria that help to populate your gut flora and assist in fighting bacterial invasions and virus attacks. They help create a balanced gut biome that will break down and absorb your nutrients from food more efficiently, which aid in the prevention of many digestive disorders including IBS, leaky gut syndrome, and Candida. Studies have shown that women taking probiotics during pregnancy are linked to children with fewer allergies and a more robust immune system.
Among the plethora of different probiotics on the market, I’ve found that these two reputable brands offer good quality products.
Genestra’s HMF Intensive is my number 1 recommended probiotic for individuals, pregnant or not. I love that there are decades of science backing these, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Nigel Plummer Ph. D, arguably an incredible Global Authority on Probiotics. It’s vegan and highly adaptable to the natural human gut flora and contains 25 Billion CFUs (colony forming units).
Renew Life Critical Care 50 Billion is my number 2 recommended probiotic for those who want a more economical option. While it does contain 25 extra billion CFU’s than the HMF, it is made up of different strains. Although it’s not a vegan source, I do like that there are multiple strains from different vegetables that offer secondary bacterial support in conjunction with the primary probiotics from animal sources.
Calcium helps build strong bones; this is nothing new. But Calcium and Magnesium are also essential in the proper functioning of nerve and muscles cells. That may be something new to you. So we are building a baby with a fragile skeletal system and want to make sure that we’re getting enough calcium for strong bones, but also ensuring baby is getting enough nerve, and muscular support will help those bones get even stronger. When baby punches, kicks, and flinches, the muscles are pulling on the bones and causing an internal strengthening reaction. Strong muscles and fast reaction times will help baby develop their senses and form new connections in the brain.
High-quality fats are so important to consume during pregnancy. Not only is your baby building their brain and nervous system, but they’re also trying to put on weight to help with protection outside of the womb. Omega 3s two main players that you want to look for on labels are DHA and EPA. DHA supports the structure of cells, especially the cell membrane where EPA helps the function of cells and reduces inflammation. DHA is one of the key compounds in omega 3s that help build a strong nervous system for baby. Choose Omega 3s with higher concentrations of DHA compared to EPA during pre- and postnatal. Omega 3s are definitly one of those supplements you want to make sure is the highest quality. I like the balance of EPA/DHA of Renew Life’s Super Critical Omega 3 and it’s 5-Star rated IFOS Score. Buying low quality, cheap versions won’t guarantee you purity, accurate EPA/DHA concentrations, and protection from rancidity. For more information, check out 5 Tips for Buying the Right Omega 3 Fish Oils.
If you’re reading this in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta Canada you’ve probably heard about vitamin D deficiency. Researchers from the University of Calgary determined that 100% of Canadians are deficient in vitamin D at least some part of the year and a 2010 Stats Canada report suggested that more than a million Canadians suffer from serious healthy issues due to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is also one of the few supplements recommended by the Canadian Pediatrics Association. Vitamin D acts similar to a hormone in the body as well as a vitamin. It helps to boost the immune system, build strong bones, aid in nutrient absorption and restore beneficial gut flora. Seratonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are those feel-good neurotransmitters made in the gut and transported to the brain and vitamin D supports the manufacturing of these mood-boosting chemicals. Low levels of vitamin D is associated with seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, and depression. The good thing is when you’re taking is, your baby is getting it! The liquids and emulsions are by far more superior than the tablets, but here are a few that I recommend. The Genestra Vitamin D Mulsion 1000 comes in a ‘lemon pie’ or mint flavor for those who detest normal oil-based ones and for those who don’t want liquids at all, there are good tablet forms as well.
Multis are generally among my ‘meh’ list for supplements for the everyday person, but during pregnancy, they’re a must. There are very few good quality multis on the market in my opinion and that’s largely due to mass production and quality of ingredients. It’s hard to squeeze so many nutrients into a single pill that is tolerable to swallow. Manufacturers of supplements have to choose which are the most important ingredients to use in each multi and then determine how much of them can feasibly be packed in. Prenatal vitamins are usually pretty good at concentrating on the most important nutrients to use. I cannot stress enough, quality over quantity! I have a video on 5 Tips for Buying the Right Vitamins that will help guide you. There are a couple multis I do like and have taken throughout my pregnancy. Melaleuca Prenatal Multi + Min is my number 1 favorite but can be hard to find unless you have an account with them, whole foods Mega Foods Baby and Me and SISU Supreme Multi Expecting come in at second best. If you’re not used to taking multis with iron, they can be constipating at first while your body adjusts. Some women opt to get multis without iron and take the liquid form instead, as it’s more tolerable on the bowels. SISU makes a multi without iron, and a great liquid form is the Salus Floradix Liquid Iron + Vitamins.
Vitamin C helps both mom and baby in a multitude of ways. It’s immune building for baby and helps mom fight off bacterial and viral attacks. Vitamin C is needed for thousands of processes in the body and contributes to bone growth, hair, skin and nail health, teeth and gum support and tissue repair to name a few. If you’re eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, than Vitamin C shouldn’t be something you are required to supplement, but I like to recommend it as a cognitive booster and stress management aid. Some vitamin Cs can be hard on the tummy, so I like the SISU Ester C Supreme (citrus-free)or Ester C-1000’s. They’re chelated with calcium so it’s gentle on your stomach and the extra calcium helps if your multi’s aren’t supplying the reccomended daily dose.
Supplements are just that… supplemental to your diet. Focus on getting most of your nutrients from whole, fresh food sources instead of relying on a pill to make up for the late night 7-11 Chimichurris. If your diet is already stellar, you should notice a nice pep in your step when you add in good quality vitamins/minerals.
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Functional Health and Nutrition Advocate, modern-day hippie, wife and new mom.
Holistic living isn’t all about hemp skirts, eating organic mung beans and smelling like patchouli. I’m here to help real people cut through the bullshit and just live a kick-ass healthy life, naturally.
Yep, you read that right! Birthing CAN be an amazing experience. Here are some of the tools and resources I used to prepare me for birth the second time around. These are merely just tools you can use (or not use) depending on what you feel you need for your birthing experience. Try one, none or all of them!
Book: The Calm Birth Method by Suzy Ashworth. This book is based on the hypnobirthing methods but was so important in helping me shift my mindset around birth from fear to trust.
Meditation and Visualization: Hypnobirthing Home Study Course, Pt. 4 Breathing and Birth Visualization by Kathryn Clark. This was just one meditation I downloaded on my phone and every day during the last month of pregnancy I would listen to one or more of the tracks while having a nice relaxing bath. It really helped me to envision how I wanted to feel during the birthing experience.
Practicing breathing and relaxing my pelvic floor. This was HUGE for me. I saw a pelvic floor physiotherapist during the last half of my pregnancy and we focused a lot on breathing techniques and releasing the muscles of the pelvic floor. And then I would practice this while doing the meditations I mentioned above to prepare my pelvic floor for birth. I took this with me through labour and it was SO helpful. I breathed down my baby in 7 minutes once I was fully dilated without once holding my breath and “pushing”. That’s almost a conversation for another blog post but the gist of it is that when you hold your breath, push and bear down you are actually tightening the muscles of the pelvic floor and contracting them. This makes no sense because you are contracting and narrowing the opening for the baby to come out. Relaxing those muscles and breathing the baby down allow the uterus to naturally contract and push the baby down out that opening while it stretches to allow for this.
Essential Oils. I will definitely expand on this in another article, but the 2 essential oils I used during labour were Clary Sage and Lavender. I used Clary Sage at home during early/active labour to strengthen the effectiveness of my contractions. I had a really long labour first time around with stalls, and ineffective contractions and I didn’t want this to happen again this time around. Clary Sage is great to amp things up if they slow down or if you want to increase the effectiveness of each contraction. It won’t induce you, but can be used after labour starts. Still-not recommended to be used in pregnancy until you go into labour. I also had this huge paper bag full of different oils to bring with me to the hospital once it was time and when it came down to it, my intuition said “All I need is lavender right now to calm me the F*** down!” once we arrived. Transitioning to a new setting brought me out of my groove a bit and I just knew I needed to relax to let things happen and to decrease the intensity of what I was feeling and Lavender helped with that. It’s such a calming, relaxing oil and everyone who came into the room afterwards was commenting on how lovely the room smelled!
Affirmations. I found affirmations that I wanted to think and hear during labour to help me stay positive and glued them to a poster board. I shared them with my birth partner before birth and told him-this is what I want to hear when things get tough and I want to give up. I brought them to the hospital to look at in case it was going to be a long haul.
Birth Preparation Workshop(or community of pregnant women-prenatal yoga, birth classes, etc.) I attended a Birth Preparation workshop before my second child was born. Sharing experiences, visions and hopes and fears with other pregnant women helped me so much to normalize everything that goes on during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I highly recommend finding a counsellor or workshops with people outside of your birth support team to help identify fears, concerns and worries and work through them ahead of time. Even just giving them a voice helps them to dissipate so much. Hearing other people speak about things also helps you realize things that you never did before. Many pregnant women find community in Birth and Babies classes the first pregnancy, but second, third or fourth time mamas, it can be useful to find that elsewhere. Whether its a prenatal yoga class, birth preparation workshop or other group.
Birth Doula. I didn’t have one the second time around, but I did for my first pregnancy. There are so many benefits to having a doula even if you are with midwives. I love what doulas do, and am in the process of becoming one! The doula we had was such an amazing support person during our first birthing experience and had such a positive impact on us. We truly could not have done it without her and I can’t picture how it would’ve gone without her there. She however went on to become a midwife and we just decided not to have one the second time. But there are so many pros to having one. They help to emotionally support mama and the birth partner, they can help you decide on birth choices, they provide a ton of facts and evidence to help you be informed, they’re great with pain management techniques, all of it! Stay tuned for another post about Doulas!
Hopefully this gives you some tools to explore during your pregnancy that can help you prepare for the upcoming big day.
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I thought my first pregnancy was uncomfortable, but I was in for a real surprise with Baby #2!
I did all the things, massage, chiro, etc., and decided to go see a pelvic floor physio in my 2nd trimester just to see what it was all about. I figured I work in this industry, and I have the health benefits, what better way to learn what a pelvic health physio actually does than go see one?
I had some pubic symphysis pain, SI joint pain and low back pain, but I also wanted just to get assessed and see where my pelvic floor was at before having my baby – because I had heard it was a good thing to do AFTER having a baby. It turned out to be a good thing I did this during pregnancy because it was a huge piece of the puzzle for me in having an empowering birthing experience and learning more about my body.
Well, what did I learn? I learned that kegels were not the thing for me to be doing during pregnancy and that there is such a thing as too much tension in your pelvic floor. It blew my mind when she told me that I needed to focus on relaxing the muscles in my pelvic floor to prepare for birth. And the more I worked on this, the less pain I had in my hips, low back and pubic area. Fascinating right?
It is important to remember that each person is unique in their needs during their pregnancy; thus a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist is a great resource to assess your body’s needs. Some people might need to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles in their pregnancy, while others might need to learn how to relax them.
During the later stages of pregnancy, you want to learn how to lengthen and relax your pelvic floor muscles to prepare for birth. Pelvic Health physiotherapists know all about the muscles and ligaments in the pelvis and how to assess for weakness or dysfunction in these areas. Pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, hold your pelvic organs in place, and squeeze around the vagina and rectum. These muscles act like a sling running from your tailbone to your pubic bone. Often, pain or symptoms felt in the lower back, hips, pubic bone or tailbone could be due to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Here is some basic information on the pelvic floor and what it does, signs of dysfunction and who pelvic floor physio is for:
In talking with clients in session I get a fair amount of questions about Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy. I thought I would get some of these questions answered by an expert in the field, my physiotherapist herself!
In sessions, I may also refer clients to a Physiotherapist if any pain or discomfort during pregnancy or postpartum is not getting better with massage alone.
FAQ answered by Leah Milne over at Lakeview Physiotherapy in Calgary, AB:
Q: What are some common reasons why women come to see you during pregnancy?
There are so many! I’m lucky to see a lot of women who come because they want to learn about their bodies, and want to know what they can do throughout their pregnancy, and postpartum to take care of their pelvic floor to prevent problems. We can even teach techniques to help during labour and delivery like perineal massage, breathing techniques, optimal positions for labour and delivery.
I do also see a lot of patients during their pregnancy for pain. This could be lower back or tailbone pain, pubic symphysis pain, abdominal pain or rib pain and discomfort. A lot of times these problems can be from issues with alignment and/or muscular imbalance. A thorough history and assessment can guide treatment of the patient and help improve symptoms. Just because you are pregnant does not mean that pain is normal, and most of the time there is something that we can do to help to manage the discomfort!
Another reason that patients will come to see a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist in their pregnancy is Urinary or fecal incontinence. For some, it was pre-existing to their pregnancy, but for others, symptoms may start in their pregnancy. Again, a thorough history and assessment is key, and we can often find ways to improve symptoms and prevent a future worsening of the problem.
Some patients will also come in with increased symptoms of discomfort during intercourse. This can be due to many factors, including, hormonal changes, changes in the tension of the Pelvic floor muscles (think too tight, or too loose), as well as pressure related changes that could be part of the pregnancy or more posture and tension related. Again, this is something really important to have checked out, especially if you are planning for a vaginal birth!
Q: What happens during an assessment? Do you do an internal exam – is it mandatory?
Generally speaking, an internal, vaginal examination is the gold standard assessment tool for pelvic health physiotherapists, as we can get the most accurate assessment of what is going on in the pelvic floor. There are however reasons when we would not do an internal vaginal assessment, for example: during the earlier stages of pregnancy when an ultrasound has not been able to clear out any issues with baby or placenta position, or if the person is too uncomfortable lying on their back. Some people might also be uncomfortable with this type of examination, thus in cases like this, we can modify our examination to the patients’ comfort level. For example, we can get a sense of the pelvic floor muscles function by palpating over the tailbone or inner groin area, we can also look at the pelvic floor contraction and how the person is engaging the muscle. A big part of our job is education and awareness; we can often give feedback, or advice without doing a full internal examination.
Q: What does labour prep look like with you?
There is so much to know and learn about labour and delivery! Everyone is unique in their experiences and fears as well as in their body and pelvic floor. A history and assessment are where we usually start to see if there are any things that we need to focus on for that individual. Some things that we would often cover are:
How to relax and release the muscles of the pelvic floor
How breath can be used to increase and decrease tension in the pelvic floor
Optimal positions for labour and delivery (again, this may vary depending on the person)
Optimal positions for pushing and how to push.
Preparing the pelvic floor for labour and delivery,
Postpartum recovery and care.
Q: When and why should women see you postpartum?
The best time to check in with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist is around 6 weeks postpartum. At this time, most of the swelling and discomfort has subsided, and we can get a good assessment of the true function of the pelvic floor. Plus, it is still early enough to take advantage of the body’s natural healing and make any necessary changes early on, before other habits have been formed.
I would always say to come in sooner than later, especially if you have any concerning symptoms that need to be addressed! Don’t wait!
Q: What if everything seems “normal.” Should someone still see you before or after baby? What are the benefits?
Pregnancy itself puts a massive strain on the body, think about how much your core muscles expand and change during this time! The way that your body functions is going to change! Knowing how best to use your new body, especially as it is healing is very important. It is also important to note that symptoms might not arise right away. Often patients start to notice symptoms when they begin to do more activity! Thus, I would always recommend making sure that you know where your body is at, and how to use it optimally BEFORE increasing activity levels, even if you feel great!
Q: What is the deal with kegels anyway and why does every book recommend you do them?
Kegels can be a really good exercise for the right person, but they are not suitable for every person. Instead of thinking of the Pelvic Floor muscles, let’s think of your butt muscles instead. Some people have a tight and overactive butt muscle, and this may or may not cause them problems, while others might have really weak glutes. Do you think that the same exercise is going to be suitable for both types of people? The answer is obviously NO! Of course not! Plus, just like there are lots of ways to strengthen the butt muscles, there are also lots of ways to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles! And what exercises are right for you will depend on your body and the types of loads and demands that you put on your “system.”
Quite honestly, there is limited research in the Pelvic Health field, but it growing quickly. There is some pretty good evidence that shows poor pelvic floor strength has a correlation with stress urinary incontinence. With this research, everyone has “jumped” on the kegel bandwagon! But unfortunately, we have not talked about what a “kegel” is? How do you do it properly? What should it feel like when you “kegel,” how should they be done and when should you do them? And we have most definitely not talked about who should do them and who might need to steer clear!
Before you start “kegeling,” I would recommend visiting a pelvic health physiotherapist to see if you would be a good candidate for pelvic floor strengthening. Kegels are more than “squeezing your vagina.” A pelvic floor physiotherapist can tell you if you can engage and relax your muscles well, how to use your breath and posture to optimize the function of your pelvic floor and how this will relate to the things that you do day-to-day!
Fall is in the air, the kids are back to school and routines are being re-established. I don’t even have kids old enough to be in school and I love how life just seems to go back to “normal” in September. Things just seems more routine, structured, less chaotic and I have more time for ME. Anyone else?
This is always such a great time to re-establish self care practices that seem to get forgotten during the summer. Everyone is so busy going here and there, travelling, camping and enjoying the sun that normal everyday things like regular self-care get forgotten about.
But what is self care really? When someone asks what you do for self-care, how do you respond?
Most people would give an answer like go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, watch a funny movie, get your nails did, or get a massage!
And those are all really great things to do – especially that last one!
Really, though, self care is the art of practicing self love. In talking to people who struggle to find the time for self care and upon digging deeper what we actually discover is that people struggle to find themselves worthy of taking time out for themselves. They feel guilty when they do.
Give that a minute to sink in.
As moms we give, give, and give some more. It’s so important to give back to ourselves in order to fill our cup as well as allowing ourselves to receive. Ever heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup?” Well, I’m here to remind you it’s true.
Do you ever feel guilty sitting in the tub thinking that you should be doing something else?
Do you struggle to go to a yoga class because that means your significant other will have to put the kids to bed?
Do you feel bad when you drop your kids off at the babysitter or dayhome because you want the afternoon to yourself but instead just feel like your kid will feel neglected?
Here’s the thing: when you make time for yourself you can show up more fully as a human, a mother, a partner, a sister, an employee, and the list goes on!
I get it. Sometimes the days get away on you when you’re dealing with babies, toddlers or older kids. But self-care doesn’t always require a ton of time.
Here are some self care tips that don’t involve a lot of time at all but rather a shift in your mindset to one that makes choices from a place of self love and honouring yourself.
Saying no and having boundaries.
Don’t say yes to All. The. Things. Only say yes when you really mean it and when you want to do that Thing. Don’t overcommit and maybe you will have time to do some yoga in your living room or get out to that class! Being a people pleaser doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Do you. Have boundaries on what you can and can’t do and stick with them.
Take some time away from your phone.
Set your phone to vibrate. Answer it only when you want to. That’s why they invented voicemail. Take breaks from Social Media. I always have my notifications turned off and I check in when I want to. Don’t be a slave to your phone! Be present with the ones you love and disconnect from your phone.
Watch your thoughts.
This means being aware of your inner critic. We all have one. No one is perfect. But the difference lies in whether or not we allow that voice to rule our lives. Tell it to take a hike and replace that thought with something kind. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your child. Yeah. Let that sink in. You definitely wouldn’t say that nasty thought to your child.
Delegate and ask for what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner to throw in the laundry or cook dinner. Got company coming for dinner and need that last ingredient? Ask them to pick it up. I’m sure they won’t mind, in fact, people love to help so tell them how they can.
Choose foods that nourish you and help you feel healthy.
Make a conscious choice to choose the option that is lower in sugar, has more vegetables, less caffeine….whatever! Think good, better, best.
Get help before things get bad.
This could be your mental or physical health. Why walk around in pain, agony or even sadness if there are professionals out there waiting to help you? Reach out. Often if you catch things early you can recover more quickly. I am a big fan of preventative wellness.
Call a friend or make regular time to catch up with your girlfriends.
Women are wired differently. Men have a more typical response to stress – fight or flight. Women do, too, but not so much. When women feel stressed they “tend or befriend”. The best way to produce oxytocin in your brain is to connect with another human being by nurturing or helping them, OR by having a chat with a close friend and venting about what’s REALLY going on. None of that surface crap about the weather.
Drink enough water to stay hydrated.
Go to bed earlier. Get enough rest. When you are tired, rest. Even if you don’t sleep, put your feet up for a bit or lay down in bed and close your eyes.
Take 3 deep breaths to reset and release stress throughout your day if you are having “a moment”. You know those moments when you spill all the breast milk you just pumped and the dog crapped on the carpet and the babies screaming and the toddler’s cutting his own hair.
When you make your health and wellbeing a priority in your life and take the time you need for self-care, the ripple effect it has on your family and your kids is hugely influential. You are role modelling for them what it means to take good care of yourself and create healthy habits. And you don’t have to do it alone. So whatever you need, whether its a yoga class, acupuncture, Chiro, counselling, or a spa day-make the time and book it in.