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Tag Archives: med-free birth

I Love Water Aerobics!

I already love prenatal yoga, but for about three weeks now I’ve also been taking a weekly water aerobics class at the community center down the street. I had some trepidations at first, but this class is actually pretty awesome! Sure, I’m the youngest one there (by far!) and the music they play is atrocious (think The Macarena) but I love it more and more each time I go to a class.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI’m too cheap to buy a maternity swimsuit so I just wear my bikini. Some people look at me kind of funny – are they trying to answer the “fat vs. pregnant” question? I’m not really there to impress people so I’m okay with this.

Some of my favorite things about water aerobics:

  • It’s so low-impact that I don’t feel like I’m doing much. I mean, I push myself, go at my top speed and flex my muscles to make sure I am getting something out of the whole thing, but when I get out of the pool I don’t feel exhausted or sore like I sometimes do when I get off the elliptical. It isn’t until I’m back home on the couch that I start to notice my muscles are a little tired.
  • Water resistance is great – I can “turn up” the resistance by flexing my feet or moving my palms to push the water as I move. Or, I can lessen the resistance my moving my palms to cut straight through the water.
  • It’s great for the core muscles because I have to fight to maintain control of my balance. It’s so easy to let my hips move from center because I can move with the water, but it is such a better workout to fight against the water to keep my core upright.
  • Luckily I’m in the water so I can’t fall over! I can’t really hurt myself either, other than over-straining or something.
  • I’m covered by water up to my neck, so I don’t at all feel self-conscious about my belly hanging out or my big ol’ boobies bouncing around!
  • I like that I can work as hard as I feel like working and no ones knows either way. If I’m feeling pumped (which I have been so far!) I can crank up the intensity without alienating my neighbors. Or, if I’m feeling tired or slow, I can ease into it and once again, no one is the wiser.
  • At first I had some leg cramps but only because I kept pointing my toes. Now I try to flex more at my ankles and I don’t have that problem anymore. But, if I do have a cramp, I can stop for a second and massage it out and no one really notices.
  • Also, I sleep so great after being in the pool for an hour!

Plus, some things I learned about while I was reading about the benefits of water aerobics:

  • Did you know that being in the pool for awhile actually reduces swelling? I heard this from my midwife too. Apparently the water pressure helps to push the excess water out of your body. Yet it somehow hydrates too – I know this because I pee a LOT after water aerobics. Like, once before I change, once after I change and a couple times in the 30 minutes after I return home. I do drink water during the class but not that much water. It’s weird.
  • This NY Times article from 2008 describes a study (though a poorly-executed study, but a study nonetheless) which found that pregnant women who exercise using water aerobics are less likely to take pain medication during labor and delivery – 27% of women who exercise opted for drugs versus 66% in the non-exercising control group.
  • This article from Women Fitness also outlines some great tips and reminders for water exercise.

I’m so glad I’ve finally started to shake up my routine with this class. I highly recommend it!

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Book Review: Active Birth

This book is so great I literally read it twice. I finished the book and just flipped it right back to the first chapter and starting reading it again. I checked the book out from the library but I’m even thinking about buying it because it is that good. I want Mr. Handsome to read it to so he can help me keep its principles during my labor.

PhotobucketActive Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas is all about moving around and basically getting off your butt (literally) during labor and delivery.

Let me back up: a lot of books about labor talk about listening to your body and doing what comes natural. They talk about moving around to facilitate labor and encourage you not to be embarrassed about assuming (for lack of a better work) “primitive” positions for delivery, such as squatting. They talk about labor in a very touchy-feely way which really, is all fine and good, you should listen to your body, but it gives a sort of flighty vibe to the whole thing.

This book is not like the others. For one, it is very much grounded in science (I like science). Ms. Balaskas proves that labor is much more easy if you move around and assist your body during contractions rather than lying back on a table as in most hospital labors. Did you know that the uterus actually tips forward during a contraction? So if you’re lying on your back the muscle has to work even harder to do what it has to do. But if you’re upright you can bend yourself forward a bit and help yourself out. You can even slow down your labor a bit if needed by coming all the way forward, like an all-fours position.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppScience is in delivery, too. Ms. Balaskas clearly shows how the bones and muscles of the pelvis just open right up when you’re upright or bending over. But if you’re lying on your back the sactococcygeal joint slips the coccyx (science talk!) forward, narrowing the pelvic opening (the bones push together creating less space for baby to pass through).

This info about helpful positioning for labor and delivery is enough to make this book great. But wait – there’s more!

Like Choosing Waterbirth, there are whole chapters devoted to yoga and breathing exercises for pregnancy (one chapter for each). I felt like the poses in this book were a bit more basic than in Choosing Waterbirth, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. They’re perfect for later on in pregnancy when you don’t feel like contorting your body too much at all. Nice and simple. (To be fair, I don’t have Choosing Waterbirth at my side for a direct comparison. I’ve already returned it to the library.)

I love when I book has a chapter about the three stages of labor and delivery because I learn something from every explanation. This one is quite extensive and one of the main reasons why I chose to read the whole book all over again. Not only does it contain insights about what is happening to you and the baby during each stage, it reiterates helpful positions based on stage and situation (like squatting to help move the baby down and open the cervix if things are moving slowly).

There’s a small section about pain-reducing drugs but it isn’t scary – some books present this information in a way that you sort of think they almost want to scare you out of using it. (Hey! Who’s Having This Baby Anyway? was kind of like that. Although it was a very thorough account of each drug and its pros and cons.) This book is more like, “here are the drugs that are available, but you won’t need them because you’ll be such an awesome active birther.” I like that it’s pumping me up for success rather than scaring me into success.

I could go on and on about  the things I love about this book, really. There’s a chapter on waterbirth that is great so I can’t wait to read Ms. Balaskas’ next book, The Waterbirth Book.

If you can’t tell, I highly recommend this book. It’s for sure in my top three pregnancy books that I’ve read so far, it’s actually probably number one. Read it!

Next review:

Book Review: Choosing Waterbirth

A few years ago, a friend of Mr. Handsome and mine told us her waterbirth story (over beers you tend to talk about anything after awhile!). It was such an amazing story that I swore right then and there that I would pursue the waterbirth option in the future if given the chance.

Now that I have been given the chance, ie we are pregnant, have a healthy pregnancy, are seeing the hospital midwives, etc, I’m totally taking the opportunity to birth this way.

Naturally, I’ve been looking for books on waterbirth to supplement the class we’ll be taking in June, however these books are a bit few and far between. Waterbirth isn’t anything new but it has been somewhat slow to gain frequency, especially in this country. I’ve been cruising the local library looking for books on waterbirth. So far I’ve found two so I’ll be reviewing those over the next week or so.

PhotobucketThe first book I found is Choosing Waterbirth: Reclaiming the Sacred Power of Birth by Lakshmi Bertram.

This was a good book for not just an overview and testimony of waterbirth but also preparation for birth and some postpartum tips as well. It has a very “free spirit” sort of vibe – this is good for natural childbirth, of course, but it is very noticible in this book!

The author very much emphasizes natural methods of relaxation not only during birth but as preparation for birth and dealing with day-to-day life in general. There’s a whole chapter on yoga poses which are illustrated and explained well. Plus, it made me feel good that most of the poses I already incorporate in my yoga routine. She also gives a couple great birthing exercises that I’ve been using. They are great!

The chapters on waterbirth helped to answer a lot of the questions I’ve had about this method, such as how big the tub should be, how high the water level should be, when to get in the tub, when to get out, etc. There’s information on some of the perceived risks and how the mother’s body and the baby’s instincts mitigate these risks (such as how babies won’t try to breath in the water and how low the risk of infection is). The chapter on the three stages of labor and delivery was also excellent.

The author publishes six waterbirth stories – all five of her own children’s births plus her sister’s waterbirth. I love reading birth stories. It’s great to hear a first-hand experience. For me, I can’t imagine a better way to prepare than by learning from others’ stories.

This book is a great overview of waterbirth. It helped to answer some of my questions and it gave me enough knowledge to think of more questions, which I think is great. I hope the next waterbirth book helps to give me even more knowledge about what I’m wanting to get myself into. By the time our class roles around in June (and our birth in July!) I think I will be a well-prepared student.

Next Review: Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas

Repressed Birth Story Memories?

Is it possible that I may have conveniently left out parts of my last birth story when I wrote it nine years ago? Things that I didn’t write down at the time because maybe I didn’t think were significant? Things that I only lately have begun to remember due to all the reading I’ve been doing?

Nine years ago, I didn’t know anything about the birth process. I didn’t know anything about inductions or drugs that were used other than there were things that could take the pain away. I didn’t research the side-effects of any interventions and I completely trusted medical professionals to watch out for my best interests. I was so young, so naive!

Reading back on my birth story, the only things I noticed as interventions were the artificial breaking of my water and the vacuum-assisted delivery (due to almost three hours of pushing because I couldn’t feel anything due to the high dose on the epidural). But the more I read the word “pitocin” the more I remember it being a part of my labor with Kiddo1.

I remember a conversation occurring upon my admittance to the hospital that went something like this:

Nurse: We can give you some pitocin to speed things up if you’d like.
Me, shrugging: Well that sounds pretty cool.
Nurse: Okay.

I don’t remember a conversation about side effects or risks (although, to their credit, we didn’t ask either). I don’t remember advisories about the strength of dose and the fact that the dosage could be adjusted. I don’t remember basically having my labor induced, even though I was progressing normally (or at least I’m pretty sure I was, at the time, since I admitted at 5 cm). I only remember having the drug suggested and then contractions TAKING OFF. I also now remember the constant monitoring of the “belly belt” and how I was confined to a bed but didn’t complain at all, really (unless you count the crying and screaming, but that was due to pain of constant contractions more than anything else). As far as I can remember, I was a model patient and, frankly, those nurses were lucky to have me!

I feel two things about this memory of receiving pitocin.

On the one hand, I feel upset at the hospital. I feel like speed and convenience were more of a priority than my and my unborn child’s well-being. As far as I can remember, this drug was offered and given very soon after I was admitted, so the hospital staff didn’t even wait to see how I was progressing before wanting to speed things up. I wonder how my labor and delivery would have been different had I been more educated and refused the offer for the drug.

On the other hand, I feel encouraged for this upcoming birth. Knowing what I know now about pitocin, my contractions shouldn’t be on top off each other like they were last time. They shouldn’t be as painful either. Bonus! However, my labor could progress a bit slower. Here’s how I’m altering my expectations:

  • Expect a longer labor this time.
  • Expect a labor with a more natural progression.
  • Expect to be able to rest between contractions, at least at the beginning.
  • Expect different feelings, perhaps with less pain or more manageable pain.
  • In short, expect an entirely different experience.

This memory makes me so happy to have chosen to educate myself this time around. I’m happy that Mr. Handsome and I have picked a hospital and care group in my midwifes that backs my decision to labor and deliver without interventions of drugs, artificial induction techniques, constant monitoring and other “modern conveniences.” I’m happy that I am approaching this labor with an entirely new attitude and set of expectations. I will not fear pain. I will submit to the natural process and allow my body to guide me. Above all, I will learn from my previous experiences and be grateful for this second chance at an empowering birth!

Sure, a circumstance my arise that would warrant the use of drugs, monitoring, etc. but I will be able to make the right decisions this time. If anything, this memory is encouraging me to get what I want this time around!

Book Review: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

PhotobucketIna May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin has two parts. The first half is a collection of positive birth stories from women who conquered childbirth without the use of pharmaceutical aids like an epidural. The second half is called “The Essentials of Birth” and basically goes over the capabilities and power the body contains and can use during childbirth.

This is a great book for those contemplating a drug-free childbirth. The birth stories alone are inspiring and even empowering. The accompanying pictures are a little, well, unconventional (ie, revealing) and there’s certainly a surprise at some turns of the page! But hey, you’ve got to get past that soon enough anyway right? Plus it’s always good to be prepared!

There are some great tips embedded within the birth stories – stuff to help deal with “the rushes,” which is what the group of midwives call contractions, such as walking, leaning on a helper, squatting, etc. The stories don’t really focus on the pain of childbirth. Rather, the focus is overcoming the pain and finding the strength within oneself to not only survive but enjoy the birth experience. After reading these stories I know that it is certainly possible for this to be a positive, even enlightening, experience!

The second half of the book explains some of the pointers from the birth stories in more detail. At times it seems like the chapters are geared toward students of midwifery, and I’m sure they use this book too (a Doula friend of mine who is studying midwifery saw that I was reading it and commented that it’s a really great book, so I know the students are reading it!). However, most of the time when Ina May is addressing the reader she is obviously envisioning a pregnant woman as her target.

This book very much has a home birth or birth center slant. Ina May is the principal midwife in a community known as “The Farm” located in rural Tennessee. People live on The Farm in what I can imagine is a sort of sustainable community (grow their own organic food, help each other out, that sort of thing) and people also come to The Farm specifically to give birth with the awesome staff of very knowledgeable midwives. The statistics they’ve accumulated are impressive, such as a very low two percent c-section rate (the national average is about 30%). Home birth is very much the preferred environment to Ina May, so be prepared for that if your plan does not (or cannot due to insurance reasons) include home birth.

The varieties of drugs for reducing pain and inducing labor are also discussed. This is the one area of the book that I felt was a bit frightening (none of the birth stories were as scary as the drugs!). I understand that these drugs do have side effects and really aren’t idea for the mother or baby, but if I do have to have them for some reason I think all the knowledge I now have about them (between this book and Hey!LINK) could cause some anxiety.

The rest of the information more than makes up for the scary drug parts, though. Positions for productive labor and pushing are taught. The uselessness of episiotmies is reviewed. Even the orgasmic powers of birth are disclosed! All of this is motivating enough to want to give natural childbirth a try!

I checked this book out from my local library but I will probably either check it out again or see if I can get a cheap used copy somewhere. Mr. Handsome just started reading it when I had to take it back (it was on hold by others so I couldn’t renew – sad face) and all the information would be very useful for him too so I’ll definitely get it again somehow. I have a feeling that I’ll forget all this great info in the heat of the moment so I’ll need him to be armed with it too!

Overall, this is an excellent book and a must-read for those contemplating or dead-set on a drug-free and positive birth experience.

Next review: Choosing Waterbirth by Lakshmi Bertram

Donating Cord Blood

Donation has always been an act that is near and dear to my heart: might as well let someone else reap the benefits of my unused and/or unwanted stuff! I’ve donated my time, my son’s toys and clothes, my office-wear, my hard-earned dollars, I’m a registered bone marrow donor and I plan to donate my body to science when my life is over. (For real, med schools struggle to find cadavers and they are such a useful tool for the students. I took an anatomy class once and I learned far more in two days of lab than I did from the books!)

So when I read about donating cord blood while we were TTC, it became a goal of mine to get involved. If you’re pregnant and don’t plan on banking your baby’s cord blood (we don’t feel that it is right for us), then you’ve got to check it out. Follow the link for more info as there are some restrictions.

Benefits:

  • Help save a life
  • No waste!
  • Feel good about giving
  • It’s free!
  • It’s painless!
  • All you’ve got to do is give birth! Easy, right?

It’s also quite possible that, if you eventually do need the cord blood that you donate, you can find your deposit again. At the very least, you are likely to find a match within the public cord blood bank.

Mr. Handsome and I are really excited to take advantage of this option this time around. We’re supposed to register with Be the Match about a month prior to delivery, so just to be safe I’m going to inquire around late May/early June (I tried to register already but I was told that paperwork changes limit registration times). Hopefully our cord blood will be of use to someone, somewhere!

Book Review: Hey! Who’s Having This Baby Anyway?

PhotobucketThis review is for Hey! Who’s Having This Baby Anyway? by Breck Hawk. I thought it was a great title so I picked it right up!

At first, this book seemed like it would be all about home births. I have nothing against this option, but it isn’t what we’ve chosen so I didn’t want to read a whole book that doesn’t apply to me.

However, I was pleased to find that only the first chapter really dealt with home birth, and the issues presented could be applied to hospital births too, such as learning all you can about the “physical, psychological and emotional process of labor, birth and postpartum recovery.” The following chapters were great surveys of things like labor pain medications, herbs, natural labor and pain management, VBAC, homebirth (okay I guess there’s one more chapter on this but I skipped it), waterbirth, birth plans and breastfeeding. Lots of information!

The book doesn’t go too in depth about any one subject in particular (although the chapter on waterbirth was excellent and information). Rather, each chapter brings up the many subtopics with some high-level information on each and encouragement for the reader to research further if desired.

PhotobucketSome chapters have workbooks at the end to help you have a quick glance and checklist to questions to ask a potential physician or midwife and all the things you need to include in a birth plan. Since this book has so much information (over 300 pages worth!) it helps to have these quick-reference pages so that you don’t have to read the entire chapter over again in order to get your checklist.

The chapter on labor pain medications was a bit hit-and-miss, to be honest. It is quite clear that the author is not a fan of the epidural or other serious pain management drugs. She frequently refers to the possibility of a “blue, floppy baby” as the result of using these types of medications. Now, I had already decided to do my absolute best to forgo these drugs this time and rely on natural methods exclusively. But if I hadn’t already made that choice I would probably be scared out of my mind at this point! I mean, the whole childbirth thing is terrifying enough as it is (that’s the only reason I had an epidural the first time around!) that it just seems wrong to add further anxiety. However, it is good to know your options and the benefits and risks of each choice, which I believe is the author’s only intent with the warnings in this chapter.

Overall this is a great book about all things birth. I’m glad I’ll have it around as a reference guide as childbirth looms in my future.

Next review: Before: Short Stories About Pregnancy from Our Top Writers