prenatal

FUN PREGNANCY FACTS THAT PROVE THE HUMAN BODY IS AWESOME

 

Calling all biology nerds!!!

We dedicate this week’s blog post to all of the weird, mind-blowing, and just plain awesome biology fun facts about pregnancy. Just the fact that the human body is able to create life is pretty awesome in itself – but it doesn’t stop there! So make “womb” for some super cool pregnancy biology facts (ba dum bum tssss) 😉

1. The old wive’s tale about pregnancy heartburn being linked to a baby having a full head of hair is NOT just a myth!

Don’t believe us? Check out the science 🙂 There’s a lot of folklore surrounding pregnancy, but this myth actually happens to be true! Throughout pregnancy your body experiences much higher levels of estrogen than usual because it is produced and released by the placenta. These estrogen levels can vary from parent to parent. Among many things, estrogen stimulates hair growth. So parents producing larger amounts of estrogen will generally have a baby with more hair. In order to prepare for labor, estrogen also helps loosen and relax the body, which happens to include the sphincter that connects your stomach and esophagus. A looser sphincter means more heartburn! So it’s not necessarily that the baby’s full head of hair is  causing heartburn, it’s that the higher levels of estrogen are causing both of them independently of each other.

2. Babies can cry in the womb

Pretty wild, huh? This was discovered accidentally in a research study initially looking at the effects of tobacco and cocaine use on pregnancy. When the researchers played a loud and jarring sound against each mom’s belly while observing their baby through an ultrasound, a large number of the babies startled and opened their mouths as if to cry. This led the researchers to believe that the physical instinct of crying may be a behavior that develops in the womb, while the actual sounds of crying arrive after the baby is born.

3. Pregnancy can reduce symptoms of IBS!

Two of the defining characteristics of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are: high amounts of inflammation in the gut, and abnormal populations of bacteria in the digestive tract. In general, inflammation is a handy defense mechanism that your body uses as a second-line of defense (only second to physical/chemical barriers like your skin, mucus membranes, the acidity of your stomach etc…). It’s your body’s version of “Battle Mode” against invaders and making the mad-dash to heal tissue damage. With IBS, the body increases inflammation to try to repair the irritable tissue and destroy bacteria/viruses trying to leak from the intestines. As a result of this, a lot of the healthy bacteria needed for digestion are killed and unhealthier balances of bacteria are left to grow. Along with the added inflammation, this causes the diarrhea, cramping, bloating, and mucus in the stool that are common in IBS. During pregnancy, your immune function decreases enormously. This is why pregnant parents are more likely to catch colds, the flu, and other nasty illnesses! This sounds scary, but it’s actually a really clever mechanism the human body has developed to prevent your immune system from seeing your baby as an “invader”. Your baby does have different DNA after all! Decreased immune responses mean less inflammation, and as a result, fewer of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS! Especially since the healthy bacteria are left to grow and be happy. Pretty cool, right? If your inner immunologist and microbiologists are geeking out, take a look at the study that discovered this!

4. If you’re taller than 5’5 you’re more likely to have twins. 

In particular, fraternal twins! And because of this, countries with taller populations tend to also have larger rates of twins. This is all thanks to a protein called IGF (aka Insuline-like Growth Factor). When the body is ready to grow, such as during puberty, the liver releases the protein IGF to help elongate bones. Shorter people have been found to have lower levels of IGF while taller people have higher levels. IGF also makes the ovaries more responsive to the hormone that triggers ovulation (Folicle-Stimulating Hormone). As a result, with more IGF and more stimulation of the ovaries, taller people are also more likely to release more than one egg at once!

5. The placenta is the only organ in the human body that’s not intended to be lifelong

The placenta is a well-known part of pregnancy, but many people forget that it’s actually an organ! It’s not just a layer of tissue between the baby and parent. It’s considered an endocrine organ because it releases its own hormones and consists of multiple types of tissue. So essentially, humans grow an entirely new organ solely for pregnancy, which is pretty cool! What’s more, the placenta is the only Temporary Organ that exists in the human body. Every other organ is supposed to last for the duration of our lifetime.

6. Subsequent pregnancies are easier on the immune system than the first pregnancy

For this cool fun fact we have to dip our toes in a bit of immunology. The immune system has two different branches: the Innate Immune System (general), and the Adaptive Immune System (specific). The innate immune system is the first-line of defense against outside pathogens that aims to clear away invaders and repair damaged tissue as quickly as possible (e.g. physical and chemical barriers such as skin, mucus membranes, inflammation, etc…). The adaptive immune system is much more advanced. It sends out a specialized team of immune cells that are tailored to each specific threat. Once the threat is cleared, the adaptive immune system holds on to cells that remember how to destroy that pathogen so it can be destroyed more efficiently next time. In order to do this, immune cells need to be able to differentiate between “self” and “non-self” cells. This becomes a bit more complicated during pregnancy, since the baby’s DNA is technically “half self” and “half not-self”! Key players in navigating this dichotomy are regulatory T cells, which are part of the adaptive immune system. Regulatory T cells prevent the body from overreacting by scaling back an attack when it’s no longer needed (e.g at the end of a cold), and intercept if misguided cells try to attack “self” tissues. During pregnancy, cells from the baby travel all around the parent’s body and frequently come into contact with regulatory T cells. These regulatory T cells tell the rest of the immune system not to attack the baby’s cells and tissues. Even after pregnancy some of these memory-holding regulatory T cells will be stored in the body, so that during the next pregnancy the body will be able to suppress its immune response more quickly and efficiently. With the suppression of immune responses becoming more effective and and less defensive against the baby with each pregnancy, subsequent pregnancies often have fewer negative complications/symptoms. For more info check out this awesome article!

7. A baby’s stem cells are stored in their parents’ body for the rest of their lives

And what’s even cooler, those stem cells can even travel around the body to help heal damaged organs and tissues! So regardless of how many pregnancies you have, and no matter how long those pregnancies lasted, each baby’s cells are stored in your body for the rest of your life.

8. The populations of bacteria in the digestive tract change drastically throughout each trimester 

The human microbiome is awesome. For anyone new to Microbiology, a microbiome is a community of microscopic organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc..) that inhabit a given location, and in this case, different parts of the human body. A healthy microbiome is a delicate balance where each species of bacteria exists in just the right amount so that the community can coexist while not being harmful to their host human. Unless the microbiome is altered in some way (such as through antibiotics, certain illnesses, or extreme stress), the gut microbiome pretty much stays consistent throughout adulthood. The balance of bacterial species also tends to be similar for anyone in a given society/culture. During pregnancy, the body goes through a series of changes caused by the increase and decrease of different hormones and neurotransmitters. All of these hormones, neurotransmitters, immune factors, and the biological functions triggered by these molecules have enormous effects on the delicate balance of bacteria living in the digestive tract. While an increase in pregnancy hormones may provide an ideal living environment for some bacteria, it creates a hostile living environment for others and causes them to die out. This leaves room for other bacteria to grow in their place, and as a result changes the balance. The cool thing is, the pregnancy hormones select for bacteria that promote fat gain and decrease sensitivity to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels. This particular microbiome, which would put non-pregnant parents at high risk for cardiovascular disease, is actually super healthy for pregnant people because it helps facilitate the growth of a baby and the production of breast/chest milk. During the third trimester of pregnancy, the microbiome changes again to favor bacteria associated with increased inflammation. This is most likely to maximize the amount of nutrients going to the baby in this last stretch of pregnancy. What’s even COOLER, is that researchers took samples of pregnancy microbiomes and put them in the intestines of non-pregnant mice. The mice then started showing increased fat gain, increase inflammation, and decreased insulin sensitivity even without the hormones associated with pregnancy. This suggests that the microbiome itself plays an enormous role in driving the biological functions of the body! 

9. The foods you eat frequently during pregnancy are more likely to be your baby’s favorite as they get older

Although the placenta acts as a barrier, it’s not a perfect barrier. Flavors of food can cross through the placenta and into the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby! As a result, your baby swallows these flavors and starts developing their taste palate before they’re even born. Research has found that exposure to these flavors during the prenatal period have a profound effect on a baby’s taste preferences as they make the switch to solid food! This also might explain why people from different cultures can have such different flavor preferences!

10. Your heart grows bigger during pregnancy

And we don’t just mean metaphorically upon seeing your beautiful little one. In order to transport enough oxygen to both you and your baby, your blood volume increases by 30-50% during pregnancy! To accommodate this, your heart actually grows larger.This is why pregnant parents also tend to have higher heart rates than parents who are not pregnant.

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11. Increased levels of the hormone relaxin causes muscles and tendons to become more flexible/limber

This is in preparation for labor so that your pelvis, joints, and soft tissues (such as the cervix) can stretch more easily to accommodate the growth and birth of a baby. This is also why some parents go up an entire shoe size during pregnancy! By loosening the ligaments and tendons in your feet, relaxin allows the bones and muscles to expand and flatten out more. So your feet aren’t technically “growing” a whole shoe size they’re just stretched out due to the decrease in tension in your tissues. Swelling and fluid retention also contributes to this. As handy as relaxin is, it’s also one of many reasons that we recommend avoiding high impact exercise during pregnancy because it increases the likelihood of broken bones. But as long as you’re listening to your doctor and not wrestling or playing football during pregnancy, you should be fine!

12. The bumps on your areolas help your baby initiate breastfeeding/chestfeeding

If you’ve ever looked closely at your chest or breasts, you’ll notice that your areolas have little bumps. Some people have more bumps concentrated around the edges, and some people have more bumps towards the area around the nipple. These bumps are called Montgomery’s Tubercles. If you lay your baby on your chest shortly after birth and leave them to their own devices, you’ll notice their heads will start to bob back and forth as they slowly bob and squirm towards the nipple.This is because Montgomery’s Tubercles release the same scent as amniotic fluid. Your baby, smelling the familiar scent of amniotic fluid that they associate with comfort and safety, bobs back and forth towards the scent. Ultimately, this draws them to the nipple even when they can’t open their eyes and helps start the initiation of breast/chestfeeding!

13. After birth, your temperature regulates to match what your baby needs

Of course you’ll be sweating up a storm after pushing your baby out. But for most parents, their core body temperature will actually increase for just those few hours after birth to help warm up the baby. This is one of many reasons that skin-to-skin is so important! Those little guys are tiny and need all the warmth they can get! Skin-to-skin has been proven to be way more effective at regulating an infant’s body temperature than an incubator.

14. Digestion slows down during pregnancy

This is all due to the hormone progesterone. Progesterone, which is at much higher levels during pregnancy, slows down digestion to help the intestines absorb more nutrients for both the parent and their baby. Unfortunately, this slower digestion is also why constipation is so common during pregnancy. Progesterone is also the culprit when it comes to causing the excessive daytime sleepiness that many parents experience during pregnancy.

If any of these facts have tickled your interest, feel free to send us a message! We’re always happy to geek out with fellow birth-nerds and biology-nerds 🙂 If there’s one thing we can attest to as doulas, it’s that

 

The human body is pretty freakin’ awesome.

 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM YOGA

Happy Thursday everyone!!! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight is highlighting the wonderful Marlene McGrath!! Not only is she an amazing mother, but she’s also an incredible prenatal and postpartum yoga instructor. We HIGHLY recommend checking out her classes. Plus, she’s located right here in Ann Arbor!

MARLENE MCGRATH

To find balance in her job as a hospital social worker, Marlene began studying and practicing yoga in 1991. Now, Marlene is the mother of 3 teenagers, and teaches yoga full-time to students ages 18-99 with a specialty in prenatal and postnatal yoga. You can find her full class listing at: yogafocusannarbor.com !

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I was a yoga teacher before having children, but during my first pregnancy realized how much yoga helped me stay connected to my changing body and cope with labor, birth, and recovery. I then decided to pursue more training to specialize in teaching yoga to pregnant and postpartum women.

If there was one myth you could “bust,” what would it be?

The myth: that pregnant women just need to deal with significant discomfort and pain during pregnancy, that it is just part of being pregnant.

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

Working in my garden, walking my dog, having outdoor adventures with my children, family, and friends.

What moment are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of the moments when I see my children negotiate difficult experiences.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

My hope is that women who practice yoga during their childbearing years develop a knowledge of and relationship with themselves that will serve them through parenting and all the transitions to come later in life.

 

THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW, PLEASE TAKE A SEAT.

People have a lot to say about pregnancy. Between the recommendations, cautionary tales, shoulds, shouldn’ts, educational literature and things your coworker says “Will Make You The Worst Parent On The Planet.”  Everyone has an opinion. In all honesty, we’ve worked with so many parents who have been thoroughly freaked out and terrified by the horror stories that other parents, family members, and friends have told them about their own pregnancies. Of course these loved ones mean well and they just want those they care about to be safe! But sometimes adding that extra two cents can do a lot more harm than good by making pregnancy way more stressful than it needs to be. We’re here to give you strategies to manage the sea of opinions that might try to sweep you off your feet throughout pregnancy and parenthood.

So what should you do when you’re being bombarded by opinions from those around you?

First of all, DO NOT GO ON WEBMD.

We cannot stress this one enough! Talk to your care provider, doula (if you choose to have one) and people you trust if you have concerns. Reading an article that says you’re already dead will probably not help matters much.

To help with feelings of anxiety in the moment, we introduce to you the “Thank you for letting me know” technique.

This technique was coined by my magnificent roommate: Maggie. She’s your friendly neighborhood list-enthusiast and an accomplished educator of today’s 12-year-old youth. In other words, she is an expert at managing chaos. A few months ago after an exhausting day at work, she gifted me one of my favorite coping strategies to pass on to stressed parents. Maggie walked through the door, dropped her backpack, looked at me, and in a moment of exasperation said

“I swear, the phrase that I use the most at my job is ‘Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.'”

She went on to describe the chaos of her classroom; the consistently hilarious but exhausting interruptions of 12 year olds as they test the boundaries of social interactions, rifle off internet memes, and erupt in Fornite dances. To all of which, while suppressing laughter, Maggie’s response is “Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”

“Miss Jones!!! Sarah ate 10 packets of ketchup even though you said not to and now she has a stomach ache!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. 

“Miss Jones!!! Jerrell is laying on the floor for fun and he doesn’t feel like moving!!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. (Also Jerrell get off the floor).

“Miss Jones!!! Timmy buried his head in the snow and now his face is super cold!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. 

Believe it or not, this mindset has helped so many of our clients. I think it goes without saying that we don’t want you to take up yelling  “THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW PLEASE TAKE A SEAT” at every person who expresses an opinion.

But the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by someone else’s input on your pregnancy, birth, or parenting philosophies just follow these steps:

  1. Take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale.
  2. Pretend the unnecessary feedback/anecdotes/judgments are 12-year-old Sarah eating ketchup packets
  3. Tell Sarah “thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”
  4. Picture the intrusive opinion (aka Sarah) stepping aside and physically taking a seat
  5. Take a few more deep breaths

It sounds silly, but it’s actually a really helpful  way of centering yourself through visualization. Plus it’s a generally recommended coping mechanism for anxiety! The “Thank you for letting me know” strategy allows you to acknowledge outside input but not let it overwhelm you, wrack your confidence, or disturb your sense of calm. This way you can see the situation for what it is, set the unnecessary information aside, create healthy boundaries, and focus on what’s important. Even vocalizing “Thank you for sharing this with me, but I’m going to continue parenting in the ways that make sense for me” can be a great boundary to set with loved ones as your due date draws near.

So there you have it. Whether you’re a new parent, a parent-to-be, a seasoned parent, or just someone who struggles with anxiety, you now have a new possible tool to add to your Mental Health Tool Kit 🙂 

 

A note to every teacher out there:

When we think of superheroes, we think of Superman flying majestically through the sky or Batman mysteriously watching over Gotham City. But not all heroes wear capes. Within the walls of our schools work some of the single most dedicated, inspiring, and transformative individuals in the country: the kids themselves, who have the power to shape our future, and the superhero teachers, who have the power to shape the futures of our youth. This post is a shout out to all of the amazing teachers out there. The life-changing, and future-changing work you do every single day is not lost on us at Tree Town Doulas. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: PRE AND POSTNATAL YOGA

Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight will be shining on the founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, the fabulous Elise Bowerman!!! Elise is truly one of a kind. When she’s not busy running the Sweet Momma Yoga studio, she’s spending time with her family and instructing incredible Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Classes. Within the walls of her studio, she facilitates parents finding peace, empowerment, resilience, and reassurance within themselves and between each other as a community. So if you’ve been feeling the pressure of pregnancy, parenting, or just life in general lately, look no further!

ELISE BOWERMAN

Elise Bowerman operates the only Southeast Michigan Registered Prenatal Yoga School (RPYS) offering teacher training for anyone who’d like to specialize as a Prenatal (and Postnatal) Yoga teacher. As founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, she provides a one-stop-shop for those looking for Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes, and for the RPYS graduates a platform to build their business faster than if they were starting from scratch. Elise has been practicing yoga for 20 years, teaching (even Prenatal Yoga) for over 10 years, and holds the following credentials with Yoga Alliance: E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP. You’ll find Elise in Livonia (the city she grew up in) every Monday night for Prenatal and ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga classes; and twice a year offering the 85-hour Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training at her home in Bloomfield Hills.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

The women in my life, including my mom, weren’t capable of offering the emotional or physical support I needed to feel normal, healthy, and confident as a mother; and as a woman. Plus, being depressed and anxious left me feeling alone and afraid most of the time.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes was where I found practical information and connected to other birthers to help figure out what the heck I was doing! It gave me reassurance to keep going through the long days.

Basically, on a deep level – I’m offering what I never received. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed and afraid becoming a mother. By offering time to tune-in, connect with the breath, the pulse of self + baby, and community in which we all belong – I’m breaking the broken cycle women in my family were unable to tap in to, in hopes my children are empowered if they become parents one day. 

 

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

The myth: one must be ’zen’ or athletic to participate in Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga. These classes are designed for our busy lifestyles and all fitness levels! In fact, most participants are brand new to yoga!

You wouldn’t expect to go to the gym before you get in shape, right? Same thing for the yoga practice… it’s called a practice for a reason. We meet ourselves on the mat to see what we’re bringing in that moment. Observing how we feel mentally and physically. Then we explore! We notice our thoughts, invite some new thoughts in, move our bodies to see if the movement provides support, a challenge, or simply curiosity to explore more. There’s no need to be ‘calm’ before coming to class. There’s no need to touch your toes, either. It’s the process of the practice that keeps us coming back for more.

 What do you enjoy doing when not working?

Now that our kids are nine and seven a greater sense of time apart has developed compared to the five and under years… So, I’m basking in it! These days I love watching movies with my hubby and kids on the weekends. During the summer I’m outside tending to our yard; staying connected with nature, and appreciative to all it has to offer. I love our home and yard. Maintaining it keeps me grateful for all our the blessings. During the school year a morning highlight is enjoying breakfast or lunch with mom-friends after a yoga practice together. Then coming home to no one else around… I really love that part. After school hours I’m running around with the kids 🙂  #momlife

What moment are you most proud of?

On a personal level my proudest moment was birthing my daughter with no interventions. I knew I could do it, and when I did (peacefully), it ignited a passion to share with other birthers the possibility to birth with trust, understanding, and peace. 

Professionally I am most proud of the moment – actually moments – when former Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga students join in my Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course so that they may provide the empowerment they received when they were students. When students become the teachers they are such a force of nature thrilling to witness!

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga is open to all birthers; well, that’s not completely true… I have students who haven’t given birth join in ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga because it really isn’t about parenting or birthing… it’s about the desire to spend time to decompress and connect with the ‘core’ of the body and self. In our classes we are focused on building confidence through education, the practice of yoga, and the connection to one another. This yoga supports however and wherever someone births. As teachers, we are holding a light to help our community birth and parent with love.

CLASS IS IN SESSION

Who’s hype for August’s Childbirth Education Classes? THESE DOULAS ARE!!

At Tree Town Doulas, we HIGHLY recommend taking a Childbirth Education Class of some shape or form before you give birth. Whether it’s an online course, a hospital tour/class combo, a condensed course for busy parents, or the full 8-weeks complete with demonstrations. No matter how many books your read, or how many tutorials you watch, these classes are truly invaluable. So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to take a Childbirth Education Class, here are some of the amazing benefits they bring parents:

  • Learning about your options. We fully believe that you should have your baby on your terms and no one else’s (except maybe the baby’s because babies really do have agendas of their own). The key to this is knowing your options and alternatives. Because, ultimately, YOU are in control of your body. A childbirth education class walks you through the options/alternatives you’ll have available during different situations in childbirth. And while you might not remember every little detail, classes give you the tools to ask the right questions so that you can get the information you need to make an informed decision in the moment. 
  • Addressing fears and concerns. Everyone’s body is different, and for this reason every birth is different. This ambiguity can be a huge source of anxiety for parents, and understandably so! Attending a childbirth education class provides the unique opportunity to ask questions real-time right as they come up, and receive validation from other parents who are also going through the same thing. Childbirth books and literature are incredibly helpful and necessary, but they tend to be geared towards the general public. A class will allow you to address concerns and ask questions that are geared more towards you specifically!
  • Building confidence. Confidence is key! And every parent deserves to trust in themselves. Classes not only boost confidence by creating a more concrete image of what labor can look like, but they can also teach you strategies to make your labor your own. 
  •  Building community. Finding out you’re pregnant can be overwhelming for some parents. For this reason, one of the greatest benefits of childbirth education classes is a sense of community. Whether that’s through having fears validated by another parent, or making a new parent-friend. Never underestimate the comfort that can be found in knowing that someone understands what you’re going through!
  • Tailoring to your specific needs. On the flip side, parents can also feel intensely anxious about the social aspect of childbirth education classes. But don’t be discouraged! Many birth work agencies offer online courses or one-on-one childbirth education classes that you can tailor to YOUR needs (here you can check out the classes offered by Tree Town Doulas!).This is also a wonderful option of you have specific medical conditions or social identities that are often overlooked in classic childbirth classes. EVERY parent deserves to feel validated and seen, so this can be a wonderful option for LGBTQ+ parents, Parents of Color, and parents with disabilities who might not otherwise find the representation they need and deserve.

 

  • Enhancing communication skills with your labor partner. Childbirth education classes don’t just prepare parents and their labor partners for birth in “theory,” they also give you the opportunity to explore methods of support together in practice. Communicating verbally is one thing, but supporting and communicating can be very different when a person is in physical pain. Many of the exercises in childbirth education classes are geared towards enhancing this communication and increasing your bond with the person supporting you through labor. 
  • Hands-on learning. Childbirth naturally comes with a lot of adrenaline. That means that when your contractions actually start, it’s easy for all of the information you learned about childbirth to just fall right out. In a childbirth ed class they’ll have you practice comfort strategies and labor positions in person, so that when you’re actually in labor it’ll already be committed to your physical memory. That way, you won’t even have to think about it! 
  • Exploring hospital facilities and their go-to practices. One of the perks of taking a class at the hospital where you plan to give birth, is that you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the location. That way it’s less hectic when you’re actually in labor! You’ll also be able to ask questions about the hospital’s go-to procedures. This is of the utmost importance because birth philosophy is everything. Whether you’re planning to give birth with minimal interventions, or through a planned C-section, it’s so important to make sure that your providers will support you along the way when it’s time to birth your baby. 
  • From a doula’s perspective: Even if you’re thinking of hiring a doula, we STILL recommend signing up for a class! You’ll definitely be able to go over questions in your prenatal visits, but we highly recommend learning as much as you can ahead of time. That way when you show up for your prenatal visits, you won’t have to spend as much time rehashing the basics and your doula can tailor your prenatal visit to your specific needs.

Hopefully by this point we’ve got you convinced of the immense benefits that come with attending a class. Of course these benefits apply to Childbirth Education Classes in general, but if you’re interested in signing up for a Childbirth Education Class through Tree Town Doulas, feel free to take a gander over to that part of our website!

There’s still room in Cynthia’s August Childbirth Education Classes, so mark it on your calendars!

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: BIRTHWORK GALORE

On this lovely Thursday afternoon, we shine our Community Spotlight on the amazing Jessica English!!! If you’re looking for a birthwork super hero, you’ve pretty much found her! When she’s not running Birth Kalamazoo, she’s doing amazing work training doulas, childbirth educators, working as a doula, and advocating for parents in her community. So if you’re interested in any of these things, keep on scrolling! 🙂

Jessica English, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), PCD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Jessica English trains birth doulas for DONA International and childbirth educators for Lamaze International, traveling the country from Ann Arbor to Honolulu. She is one of just 48 advanced DONA birth doulas worldwide, and she still attends births and also cares for families as a postpartum doula. You’ll find her every Tuesday night teaching her 8-week childbirth class in Southwest Michigan, where she runs the state’s first and longest-running doula agency, Birth Kalamazoo. As a trainer, Jessica has also developed specialties in coaching doula agency owners and teaching hands-on labor support techniques to nurses. You can learn more about her trainings at heartsoulbirthpros.com or explore her agency at birthkalamazoo.com.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

Very simply, I had a great birth. After going through IVF and having this very high-tech conception with my son, I knew I wanted a low-tech birth experience. I did everything I could to stack my deck for my best chance at a great birth experience, including an independent childbirth education class, long walks every day, a midwife and a doula. 

After my son was born (such a beautiful, straightforward, physiologic birth), my doula said to me at our postpartum visit: “You’ve had a birth experience not many people in our culture get to have. I want you to think about what you’re going to do to share that with other people.” I wasn’t sure where to go with that, because I had a great job in public relations at a university, and a new baby that I had no idea how to take care of. But her challenge stuck with me, especially as I connected to other new parents who were not having great births – actually, their births were often pretty traumatic. 

I decided what I could do was teach, which seemed like a nice little sidelight in addition to my full-time job. I got trained and certified as a childbirth educator, and then my students started asking me to come to their births. That led me to train as a birth doula, which led me to… all the things. I’ve been doing this work for 14 years now, and I don’t miss university PR one bit. I’m so grateful I found my calling. 

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I’d love to bust a couple of myths! 

For birth professionals (or future birth professionals), let’s bust the myth that you can’t make a full-time living as a birth professional. I have trained so many doulas and childbirth educators who are absolutely thriving in their home communities. I love watching them each find their niche and develop their own unique mix of services. This is heart work, but it absolutely can be financially rewarding too. Even for those doulas who are called to exclusively support under-resourced parents, I’ve watched them found or join nonprofits that can support them while they support families. 

For parents, I’m not sure if I’d call it a myth or a misconception, but I definitely see an assumption that if you just read enough, learn enough, practice enough, and hire the right doula, you can have a positive birth with any provider or any birth place. No! At least not unless you have a whole lot of luck working for you. The provider and birth place you choose will have an immeasurable impact on your birth experience, from the messages they send you about your ability to birth, to your risk of being induced or having a cesarean. And that doesn’t even address how you’re likely to be treated during your birth. I’ve seen such a huge difference in philosophy and approach among the providers in my area. If you want to know who the most respectful, patient and natural-minded providers are in your area, ask the doulas. 

OK, actually, I have one more for parents… I think especially in the Midwest, we have this pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth that families don’t need professional support postpartum. I understand that we are very capable here in the heartland, but new mamas and other parents need so much TLC — and not just for a few weeks, but for several months after birth. If we can take better care of the whole family, we can increase bonding and confidence, and potentially head off postpartum mood disorders. It’s not a badge of honor to talk about how terrible it was after your baby was born; it’s a tragedy, and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’d like to see people investing at least as much in birth and postpartum doula care as they might in their wedding or a new vehicle. Your birth and your settling-in time with your baby are 1,000 times more important.

You asked me for one myth, I hope you don’t mind that I gave you three. There are just so many myths that need busting!

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I’m in a very busy work season of my life, but I also have two amazing teenage boys and a husband that I love to spend time with. I’m a travel hockey mom times two, which is great fun (and super intense). We also love to fish or do anything on the water, whether that’s summers in Michigan or spring break on one of the out islands of the Bahamas (I call it the “rural Caribbean”). I’m part of a sweet little book club that rarely reads books together anymore but still meets often. And I love a nice glass of cabernet or rosé.

What moment are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the way my doula trainings have grown over the years. That’s not an exact moment, but a series of many moments, sharing my passion and seeing new doulas light up. It was a revelation to find that I have a unique talent for training adults, and it’s such a gift to me to help other people get started in this amazing field.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

Informed choice (consent or refusal) is the legal and ethical right of every person giving birth. Childbirth educators should be teaching it, doulas should be supporting it, and providers should be practicing it — every time, for every parent (especially for black women and other women of color, who are even less likely to receive respectful care than everyone else). That’s the hill I’m willing to die on.

 

 

MAMA ON THE MOVE

We interrupt your daily internet adventures to bring you a video of this amazing pregnant mama kicking butt on the dance floor:

 

We wish we could dance like Chachi! When this video first came out, there was some controversy about whether or not it was safe for a pregnant mom to be shaking her tail feathers (flawlessly, we might add) out on the dance floor like this. Well we’re here to debunk some myths and share some fun facts about prenatal workouts and exercise!

FUN FACT #1: It is completely safe to exercise during pregnancy

Especially if you were active before you found out you were pregnant. In fact, doctors actually encourage it regardless of how active you were before pregnancy! Not only will exercising build up your endurance for labor, but it will also improve blood flow, help position your baby, and decrease the risk of birth complications. So essentially, Chachi’s got the right idea! If your body can push out a baby, it can handle a little exercise 😉

FUN FACT #2: Labor is like a marathon.

 Especially if you have a long labor, fatigue from contracting and pushing for so many hours can easily become your Mount Everest during childbirth. You would never run a marathon without training, so why do it with labor? When it comes to carrying a tiny human in your uterus for 9 months, there’s a lot of stigma around prenatal exercise and it’s incredibly common to become overly cautious. Some caution is good, but there’s no reason to keep you confined to the sofa for the whole 9 months. Unless your doctor has explicitly instructed you to do so, that’s actually one of the worst things you can do! Gotta keep those muscles nimble and flexible 🙂 Pregnant parents need at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week to facilitate a healthy pregnancy, so it’s actually pretty important to keep moving and to stay active during each trimester. As far as pregnancy-friendly forms of exercise go, we highly recommend swimming, walking, dancing, yoga, pilates, strength training, or riding a stationary bike! Whichever form of movement makes sense for you and your body 🙂

FUN FACT #3: Prenatal exercise can help alleviate unpleasant symptoms and help you have a smooth labor

Whether you’re walking for 15 minutes a day or jamming it out at zumba, keeping your body in motion has been known to have amazing effects on the pregnancy/labor experience. Including the following:

  • Easing back pain by strengthening the muscles that are usually strained/thrown off-balance by your baby growing so quickly
  • Relieving any swelling in the limbs by ramping up the movement/ use of fluids throughout your body
  • Easing constipation by increasing blood flow around the body which causes the intestinal muscles to contract and push more waste through
  • Sleeping better (because who isn’t tired after a good workout? 😉 )
  • Increasing strength for labor which will allow you to explore more birth positions and improve your comfort while you’re birthing your baby
  • Shortened labor by equiping your body with extra flexibility, strength, and endurance for the more taxing parts of labor
  • Developing breathing/mindfulness techniques for labor
  • Decreasing the likelihood of an emergency C-section 

AN IMPORTANT REMINDER: Listen to your body!!

Your body will tell you very clearly when it’s time to take a break or call it quits for the day. If you’re someone who is already very active and athletic, your normal workout routine should be fine for the majority of your pregnancy as long as you’re not over-exerting yourself or doing risky activities. If you haven’t exercised for a while, try building up to it by doing 10-15 minutes of exercise per day. When we say “stay active during pregnancy” we don’t mean that you need to build a 6-pack over your baby bump (if that’s even possible – what a strange image). All you need to do is get moving enough to work up a sweat and get those muscles moving! You should absolutely not be in pain, feel shaky, or have any incontinence due to exertion while you’re exercising. If you feel any pressure in your lower pelvis, or are experiencing incontinence when you move/exercise, please contact your doctor!

FUN FACT #4: As long as your doctor has not said otherwise, exercise does NOT increase the likelihood of miscarriage or premature labor

Staying active actually DECREASES the likelihood of developing preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes, which are two of the big causes of pregnancy complications and premature labor. We definitely want you to avoid activities that put you and your baby at risk though, so unfortunately it’s time to put the skiing, horseback riding, basketball playing, scuba diving, heavy lifting, hot yoga, gymnastics, and other high-impact sports away for the next 9 months (so sorry for all of you dare devils and adrenaline junkies out there). But as long as you’re in the clear with your doctor, you are good to indulge in the safer forms of exercise!

There are, however, a few scenarios in which exercise is NOT safe during pregnancy.

This includes if you are currently or have previously experienced: certain cervical conditons, certain heart or lung conditions, anemia, gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, placenta previa after 26 weeks, bleeding during the 2nd or 3rd trimester, if your water has broken, or if you are having multiple births.

But as long as you’ve gotten the OK from your doctor,

 

It’s time to move that body!

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: CHIROPRACTIC CARE

This week’s Community Spotlight is giving a special shoutout to the wonderful Dr. Andrea Hoglen!!! Dr. Andrea does truly incredible work with parents from all walks of life. So if you’ve been looking for some amazing quality prenatal/postpartum chiropractic care, keep on reading!

DR. ANDREA HOGLEN

Dr. Andrea is a chiropractor who practices in Plymouth, Michigan. She utilizes the Webster Technique for pregnancy, as well as a number of gentle chiropractic and muscle techniques for expectant moms and babies. She is supportive of moms regardless of their birth plan, and she is passionate about supporting moms throughout their journey of motherhood. She is a runner, a crafter, a military wife, and a loving mom to one energetic 3 year old boy.

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I have always been passionate about supporting moms and babies! I took all of the maternity and pediatric courses that I could when I was in school. I had the opportunity to support moms and babies in my practice for years, but having my own son made realize how important it really is for moms to get musculoskeletal care during pregnancy and postpartum. I don’t really know how moms can go without!

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

I think there is a lot of misconceptions about chiropractic. People are afraid that it is unsafe for pregnancy or babies. People fear that they will have to go back forever. Both of these are wrong. There are specially designed techniques that are not only safe for pregnancy, but like Webster Technique, actually relieve pain during pregnancy and may help with optimal fetal positioning. I never assign anyone to care “for life” but many of my patients choose to return for occasional wellness visits just like they go in for a dental check-up.

What do you enjoy doing when not working? 

I love spending time with my son in nature. We love riding bikes, hiking trails, swimming, and playing. In addition, I do a lot of volunteering. I help teach safe baby wearing, I serve on the board for my local Chamber of Commerce, and I frequently teach at local moms groups.

What moment are you most proud of?

When my son was born. Isn’t that always the answer? But really, the whole journey of my labor brought so many elements together. I had been treated with chiropractic my whole pregnancy, I had my doula and my midwife. I had the whole birth team and I did “everything right” (if there is such a thing!). But in labor, my son got stuck sunny-side up and it stalled my labor. So my chiropractor and good friend came to adjust me during labor. During the adjustment, my son finally was able to turn and my labor progressed very rapidly. Within a very short span of time, he was earthside. Obviously a lot changes in that moment when you become a mother, but I also learned how much that I, personally, could do to help support mothers in that transition. These days I tell my patients to call me if something like that happens to them (or better, have their doula text me throughout their labor) and I have been known to make hospital visits for moms in labor. So not only did the birth of my son change my personal life, it changed my practice as well.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know. 

You don’t have to struggle! Chiropractic can help with so many facets of new motherhood. Whether its back and pelvic pain during pregnancy and postpartum, or neck pain from holding a newborn and staring at their sweet face. It can also help babies too! Some babies struggle to nurse because they can’t turn their head completely or open their jaw fully. There are gentle, painless solutions that are safe for you and your baby!