Shorten Labor by Eating This Fruit

Did you know that you can increase your chances of a shorter and easier labor just by adding a particular fruit to your diet in the last few weeks of pregnancy? One study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who ate dates in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy dilated faster and had faster labors compared to those that did not consume dates.


The Study

The date and pregnancy study was carried out at Jordan University of Science and Technology, who studied 114 women from February 2007 to January 2008. The date consuming group (69 women) consumed at least 6 date fruits per day in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy compared to the non-date consuming group (45 women) who had none. The two groups were similar in terms of gestational age and maternal age.

The date consuming group were more dilated upon admission to the hospital, had a higher proportion of intact membranes, a greater rate of spontaneous labor, a lower rate of induction, and an average of 7 hours shorter labor compared to the non-date consuming group.

The researchers concluded that eating dates in the last month of pregnancy can reduce the need for induction and augmentation of labor and may shorten the overall duration of labor.

Researchers believe that something in the dates mimics the hormone oxytocin, a hormone involved in labor, among other things.


Date fruit (phoenix dactylifera) comes from a date palm tree which has long been cultivated for its fruits. Date fruits (which contain a hard seed inside) can be soft or dried and enjoyed in a number of ways. Dates are a terrific source of potassium and also contain sugar, protein and a number of vitamins and minerals. They can serve as a great natural sweetener. Dates can be stored in a glass jar in a cupboard or in the fridge.

Date Recipes

Date Energy Balls

These vegan and paleo energy balls are a quick and easy treat, perfect for snacking! These would also make great labor snacks.

Makes: 24


  • 2 cups walnuts, or other nut/seed of choice
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups soft Medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 t vanilla extract

In a large food processor, process the walnuts and coconut until crumbly. Add in remaining ingredients and mix until a sticky, uniform batter is formed. Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons, then roll between your hands to form balls. Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then place in the freezer to set for at least an hour before serving. Store the balls in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for an even longer shelf life.

You may also roll them in shredded coconut or cocoa powder before chilling.

Date Walnut Bread


  • ½ cup blanched almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large Medjool dates, pitted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped

In a food processor, mix together almond flour and coconut flour. Add salt and baking soda. Next add the dates until mixture resembles coarse sand. Add eggs and apple cider vinegar. Lastly, pulse in walnuts. Transfer batter to a mini loaf pan. Bake at 350° for about 28 to 32 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 2 hours before removing.

Chocolate Cranberry Power Bars


  • 2 ¼ cups pecans, lightly toasted
  • ¼ cup cacao powder
  • 15 large medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 10 drops stevia
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (you can add more if you like)

Blend pecans and cacao powder in food processor until combined and coarsely ground. Add in dates and process until blended into dry ingredients. Process in vanilla, stevia and agave until well combined. Stir in dried cranberries with a spoon.

Press mixture into an 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Freeze for 1 hour, or until firm, then cut into 16 squares. Enjoy!

How to make a belly mask

We’ve talked about henna art as a way to celebrate one’s beautiful body in pregnancy, and today we’re talking about how to make a belly mask or belly cast.  A belly mask is a beautiful way to capture the shape of your body in the weeks before birth (and you can certainly make one sooner if you wish!).  You may wish to have this be part of a blessingway or baby shower, or it may be a private creation you share with a good friend, relative or partner.  (It’s helpful to have someone to help you!)

Making a belly mask is easy to do and inexpensive.  It can get a bit messy; however, so you might consider creating this work of art outside or indoors with proper covering on the floor.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 rolls of plaster gauze (available at a local craft store; also used for making face masks)
  • small jar of vaseline
  • an old bucket
  • warm water
  • a few rags
  • drop cloth or old shower curtain liner (if doing inside)
  • soft measuring tape

Here is how you do it!

  1. Gather all of your supplies and fill your bucket with warm water.
  2. Remove your clothes from the waist up (you can keep a tank top or bra on if you are doing this in a group setting and prefer this).  You may also want to take off your pants, wear a bikini bottom, or wear old pants you don’t mind getting messy.
  3. Stand on the drop cloth or shower curtain if creating your belly mask inside.  If you are outside or in a garage, you can use a hose to wash away the drips of plaster.
  4. Measure horizontally across the areas you want to cover, including your belly and possibly your breasts.  (Some people make a bowl out of just the cast of their belly, while others like to have their breasts included in the mask as well!) Cut the strips of gauze to match the varying lengths.  You will want to cut enough strips for each location to make your cast 2 to 3 layers thick.
  5. Once you have measured out the gauze, rub your belly and torso with a thin layer of vaseline.  This will prevent the gauze from sticking to you and/or tugging on your skin as you remove your completed belly cast later.  (FYI: you don’t need to rub vaseline on your pubic hair, the gauze doesn’t stick well to hair.
  6. Follow the directions on the gauze package, dipping the strips into the warm water and then applying them to your belly.  You can begin anywhere you like.  The idea is to make overlapping horizontal layers leaving no spaces uncovered.  Continue adding gauze until you have your desired shape.
  7. Allow the cast to dry for about 5 minutes and remove from your body.
  8. At this point, you can smooth out the edges by folding them back.
  9. Place in a dry protected place to complete the drying process.  It takes about 24 hours for the belly mask to dry completely.
  10. Once the belly cast is dry, you can leave it as is, or paint it with acrylic paints.  You may want to have someone spray it with lacquer or glaze for extra protection.  If you must spray it yourself, please do so in a well ventilated area.

This website has some beautiful artistic inspiration and surely you could find ideas on Pinterest.  Have fun!

Minnesota births at homes and birth centers rise more than 150 percent

Press Release by MCCPM

St. Paul, Minn.—The number of Minnesota babies born outside of a hospital setting rose by 156 percent from 2004 to 2012, according to birth certificate data from the Minnesota Department of Health.

More than 1.3 percent of births (904 babies) in Minnesota in 2012 occurred outside of a hospital—mainly in homes and freestanding birth centers—up from 0.5 percent of births (366 babies) in 2004.

press release graph

Births occur outside of hospitals more frequently in greater Minnesota than in the Twin Cities metro area. In 2012, 1.7 percent of babies born in greater Minnesota counties were born outside of hospitals, while 1 percent of babies in the seven-county metro area were born outside of hospitals, according to health department data.

Nationally births outside of hospital settings have increased since 2004. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of births occurring outside of hospitals increased from about 0.9 percent of U.S. births in 2004 to about 1.4 percent of U.S. births in 2012, its highest level since 1975. In 2012, 53,635 births in the U.S. occurred outside of a hospital, including 35,184 home births and 15,577 births at birth centers.


About the Minnesota Council of Certified Professional Midwives

The nonprofit Minnesota Council of Certified Professional Midwives promotes, protects, and preserves midwifery as practiced by certified professional midwives in the state of Minnesota. The council is committed to safe maternity care provided in an out-of-hospital setting. For more information, visit

Estimated Due Dates

DueDateWe live in a culture where we seek to make everything measurable and predictable. Just as we might expect our favorite TV show to come on at 7pm sharp, our work day to end at 5pm on the dot, and so on, many of us want or expect our pregnancies to begin and end in a predictable way. Yet, with birth (and death), there is the element of mystery, of the unknown, to which we must humbly surrender. There is also the fallibility of the methods we have in estimating birth dates.

While the great myth that babies are supposed to be born on their due dates pervades our cultural consciousness, this expectation or assumption is at the very least misleading, often causes undue emotional burdens on birthing families, and at its most serious holds the potential to cause serious harm to a woman and her child. Focusing too much on a due date, particularly in conventional maternity care, can create a situation that increases the likelihood of unnecessary fetal testing, unnecessary induction and cesarean, and other serious risks, not to mention undue mental and emotional stress for mama and her partner.

We love the saying “babies are born on their birth dates not their due dates.” Babies are born when they are ready to be born and when all those factors that influence birth timing converge on a specific given day. We’ll talk below a great deal about the scientific understanding (and lack thereof) of birth timing, but even without these details, it is important to remember that babies are born on their birth dates not their due dates! and that there is a great range of what is considered normal gestational duration for the human being.

Naegele’s Rule: the not-so-gold standard in due date estimation

Due dates are most widely calculated based on something called Naegele’s Rule. Trouble is, use of this rule is considered outdated and inaccurate for many women.

This rule was developed by an early 1800s German doctor named Franz Karl Naegele who concluded, based on his personal observations (not any methodical research), that pregnancy lasted 10 lunar months, or 40 weeks. His calculation assumes that pregnancy lasts 280 days from the first date of the last menstrual period, the LMP, or 266 days from ovulation, which he deemed always occurs on day 14 of a woman’s 28 day cycle.

Naegele’s Rule follows this formula: (LMP + 7 days) – 3 months = Due Date

This antiquated method is the standard in determining due date, yet only 3 to 5% of babies are actually due on their due dates. There are some major flaws with this nearly universal way of determining due dates:

  1. It assumes that pregnancy lasts the same duration for all women.

The duration of pregnancy varies based on many factors including:

  • Whether a women is having a first or subsequent baby (some estimates suggest pregnancy is an average of 5-10 days longer for first time birthing women)
  • The race of the mother. For example, one researcher noted that black women tend to have pregnancies shorter by 8.5 days compared to white women of similar socioeconomic status.
  • Number of babies. Women carrying twins, for example, have a shorter pregnancy on average, than women carrying a single fetus.
  • Nutrition
  • Substance abuse
  • Mother’s age
  • Mother’s size
  • Mother and baby’s health

Experts also submit that additional factors, which we don’t fully understand, may also be at play.

  1. It assumes that reports of one’s last menstrual period are 100% accurate

Naegele’s rule depends on the accurate recall of the first day of a woman’s last menstrual cycle. While many women are good at such recall, there is room for error here. Inaccurate memory, the possibility of interpreting post-conception spotting as a period, and unrecognized pregnancy loss can all alter what might be reported as one’s last menstrual period.

  1. It assumes all women have 28-day cycles and ovulate on day 14.

This method of calculation assumes that all women have a 28-day cycle and all ovulate on day 14 of this cycle. But we are not machines. Many women have cycles that do not match this 28-day trend. Recent discontinued use of oral contraceptives, current use of other medications, stress, travel, as well as other physical and lifestyle factors can all impact the length of a woman’s cycle and when she ovulates.

This method of due date calculation assumes a woman ovulates on day 14. This too is not often the case. Ovulation can take place as early as the 7th day and as late as the 20-30th day of a woman’s cycle.

Many women are unaware of when they ovulate, but some women are attuned to/understand how to determine ovulation based on regular charting of their waking basal body temperature, cervical fluid changes, and other indicators. (Learn more about the fertility awareness method/FAM online or in the book Taking Charge of your Fertility by Toni Weschler). Ovulation dates may help inform a due date calculation, as can known dates of intercourse. However, many practitioners prefer to rely on LMP, as reported ovulation dates and intercourse dates carry a margin of error in many provider’s minds.

  1. It assumes conception takes place during ovulation.

While ovulation is the time of heightened fertility, conception does not necessarily take place on the day of ovulation (or even the days just before or after). Healthy sperm can survive in fertile quality cervical fluid for up to 5 days, which can change the date of conception and alter a due date by several days.

Mittendorf’s Rule

In the late 1980s, a doctor named Robert Mittendorf reviewed the records of 17,000 births (his practice was composed primarily of second generation Irish-Americans). He found that most healthy, white, private-care, first time birthing women with regular menstrual histories experienced pregnancies lasting an average of 288 days from LMP to birth, (or 274 days from ovulation to birth) a full 8 days longer than Naegele’s Rule postulates.

Thus, Mittendorf’s rule follows this formula: (LMP – 3 months) + 15* days = Due date

*use 10 days if a women is not white and/or if she has given birth before

Again, this supposes that a woman knows her LMP and that her cycle is 28 days with ovulation on day 14. It also doesn’t seem to suggest any definitive information on women not belonging to the same population as was studied by Mittendorf.

Early ultrasound measurements

Early ultrasound (in the first trimester) can also be used to determine gestational age of a fetus. Early cell generation occurs at the same pace in all human fetuses until about 6 to 8 weeks of gestation. Beyond that, individual genetics set in and the rate of growth is unique to that individual.

While ultrasound before week 8 can be used with some accuracy (some say

greater accuracy than with Naegele’s rule), one researcher estimates that ultrasound dating accurately predicts the date of birth in less than 5% of all pregnancies, with delivery within 7 days of this estimated due date occurring in only 55% of pregnancies. Not a particularly reliable alternative, some would argue. (And ultrasound exposure may pose additional risks to a fetus.)

It should also be noted that second and third trimester ultrasounds are not accurate in determining length of gestation and can also be inaccurate in determining fetal size.

Other informants of gestational age

Other sources of information, while less precise, can help us learn about gestational age including physical estimation of baby’s size by a qualified care provider, quickening (or the onset of fetal movement felt by the mother), and detection of fetal heart tones.

Wide range in normal development

Even if one were to know with total accuracy the first date of LMP, the date of conception, and early fetal age, they still may not be able to predict with accuracy the date on which baby will be born. This is because there is a normal range of gestational age in humans that spans several weeks (generally considered 37 to 42 weeks). Just as every baby doesn’t sit up, sprout their first tooth, or walk at the exact same age, babies don’t all require the exact same amount of time in the womb. Some take more and some take less, and science hasn’t figured out all the reasons for this.

Problems with inaccurate due dating

Medically speaking, due dates are used to determine when prenatal tests should best be performed, what ranges of results are considered normal, whether baby is growing at a healthy rate, and whether a baby is premature or postmature. While pregnancy dating may help us gain insight into the health of baby, inaccurate dating can cause a number of problems.

Certain prenatal tests must be done during a certain window of time during pregnancy. Inaccurate pregnancy dating can result in inaccurate prenatal tests. For example, fetal heart rates become measureable at a certain week. If a fetus is thought to be older than is it, and fetal heart rate does not register as expected, a problem may be suspected in a case where there is no problem. This can lead to unnecessary testing and concern about a healthy fetus. The AFP test/triple screen test is another test that must be done within a certain window of gestational time. With this test too, inaccurate dating can yield unreliable and misleading test results.

Inaccurate dating can lead to unnecessary induction and/or cesarean, especially in cases where a care provider relies too heavily on a due date calculation to make medical decisions. Labor is induced in over 13% of all US births, with post-date pregnancy (after 40 weeks) being the number one reason given. According to ACOG, 95% of all babies born between 41 and 42 weeks of estimated gestation are born safely without complications. Even after the 42nd week, only a very small percentage of babies have complications due to postmaturity.

Babies can be born premature due to unnecessary interventions, which carries many risks to the health of baby. It is estimated that up to 10% of neonatal intensive care unit admissions are due to iatrogenic prematurity (that is, caused by unnecessary medical interventions to bring labor on before baby is mature). There are ways to reduce the risk of unnecessary interventions, such as amniocentesis and allowing a woman to go into spontaneous labor before intervention. The risk of iatrogenic prematurity and newborn lung disease in infants delivered by elective cesarean before labor begins is 30% compared to 11 percent for those whose mothers go into labor first.

Inaccurate due date calculation or over reliance on this date as THE date baby should ideally be born causes undue psychological burdens on women and their families. So many women feel this tremendous pressure to deliver their babies on or before that magical due date day. Women are often told that baby is mature at 38 weeks and to expect their arrival any time in the next two weeks. When that due date comes and goes, many women feel like something is wrong or they are somehow to blame for not having yet birthed. Many people make so many work or family plans around that magical due date that women can feel additional pressure and a lot of guilt for “inconveniencing” people when birth doesn’t happen exactly when they expect it should.

While we tell our mamas, especially first time mamas, to expect to go over their due date by 7 to 10 days, we know that the overwhelming social pressure (and often physical readiness on mom’s part!) still makes it difficult to relax in those days past the due date. It can help to better understand due date calculation and the truth that there is a wide range of normal. At Health Foundations we are very proactive in watching mamas and babies who go beyond 40 weeks, but that is prudence and not pressure to birth or worry that something is amiss.

Postmaturity risks

While the risk of postmaturity complications is relatively low, it can be helpful to know what these risks are. Postmaturity syndrome is characterized by:

  • Diminished functioning of the placenta
  • Reduced amniotic fluid
  • Large size of baby (or, conversely, sudden fetal weight loss)
  • Increased risk of meconium aspiration (when baby inhales amniotic fluid containing its first stool)
  • Hypoglycemia in baby

There are a number of tests care providers offer to monitor mamas and babies in the 40-42 weeks of pregnancy to diagnose postmaturity syndrome.

While our estimations of due dates are far from perfect, this practice doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and does offer us some value. We think it is most helpful to find a care team that doesn’t regard the due date as this fixed time before which babies should be born. After all, it’s not a deadline (we have plenty enough of those in our lives, don’t we?) it’s a guess date. It may serve many families to think about the due window. It certainly would better reflect the reality that birth presents us.

And remember 100% of babies are born on their birth dates, but only a very small percentage are born on their estimated due dates.

Flower essences

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAFlower essences are an amazing and lesser-known healing resource that can be quite amazing for expectant and new mamas, and, really, anyone.  We offer a line of flower essences by Santosha Birth and Wellness that are specifically for conception, pregnancy, birth and motherhood.  We also have a new acupuncturist that is trained in the use of flower essences.  With all the buzz about flower essences, we wanted to share a bit more about what flower essences are and why they are so wonderful for the childbearing cycle.  

What are flower essences?

Flower essences are type of botanical medicine that works on the energetic level (like acupuncture does) to positively affect the emotions, energy, and deeper soul levels. Flower essences are especially suited to helping people overcome obstacles, heal the past, reduce negative thoughts, actions and perspectives, cope with changes and challenges, and achieve greater joy and peace. Put simply, flower essences are energy medicine—they safely and effectively address root causes of emotional and physical issues to bring healing and growth on all levels (physical, emotional, mental and soul).

Odorless and virtually tasteless, a flower essence is an infusion of flowers stabilized in water and a small amount of brandy to preserve. 

What is the history of flower essences?

Flower essence therapy has been used by indigenous people for centuries and have been thoroughly studied and developed in the West for over a century. Dr. Bach, a British physician and homeopathic doctor, was the first to develop a robust system of flower essence therapy in the early 1900s. His system included 38 flower essences and his blend, Rescue Remedy® is the most famous of all flower essences. Dr. Bach’s early death left room for further development and refinement of this system and additional flower essences have been added to this healing system.

Master herbalists such a German healer Julia Graves (creator of the Lily Circle) and Flower Essence Service, among others, have continued Dr. Bach’s legacy, producing high quality flower essences that yield profound results. The Lily Circle (used in Santosha’s blends) is exceptionally well suited for female archetypal issues and those surrounding birth and motherhood, but are equally powerful and healing for all people.  

Why flower essences?

There are so many reasons why flower essences are an incredible healing tool, especially in the childbearing cycle.  

They are safe: Because flower essences work on the energetic rather than biochemical level, they don’t pose the same risks that some pharmaceuticals, herbal tinctures, and essential oils may pose. This makes flower essences particularly attractive for treating issues that may arise in the childbearing cycle, when other treatments may not be advised. Flower essences are completely safe for use in pregnant women, birthing women, nursing women, newborns, infants, and children (and even pets and plants, evidence shows!). There are NO known contraindications.

They are gentle: Flower essences are gentle, they don’t work by force, nor do they overwhelm the body or mind. Flower essences are subtle, yet powerful and profound in the positive change they produce.

They address root causes of physical ailments and emotional/spiritual conditions. Flower essences often get to the source of one’s physical or other ailments. By addressing underlying emotional/mental/energetic/spiritual factors contributing to dis-ease or challenges, flower essences heal the deeper levels of one’s being and when they are healed, the body follows. What better time than pregnancy to clear out what doesn’t serve us and make room for greater wellbeing in parenthood? The healthier and happy we are going into parenting, the better we can be for ourselves and our children!

How do you use a flower essence?

Flower essences are commonly taken by mouth, with 4 drops taken orally 4 times a day. This is a general guideline—a person in an acute situation (e.g. labor) may take an essence as frequently as every 10 minutes as needed. Taking an essence frequently is the path to desired change. Because there is a small amount of brandy in the essence, some pregnant women or sensitive individuals may prefer not to take the essence directly under the tongue. You can add an essence to beverage—covered water is best (but tea or juice can also be used). For those that wish to avoid ingestion entirely, flower essences can be sprayed or applied on to the skin, clothing, bedding or air. One can also take a flower essence bath.

How long should one use a flower essence?

Many flower essence practitioners note a definite cycle period in taking a flower essence, typically two to four weeks though this can be longer or shorter for some and depending on the reason for use.

Can flower essences be used together with other healing modalities?

Flower essences can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies to enhance a healing process. They have been used with great success by flower essence practitioners, naturopathic doctors, massage therapists, psychologists, medical doctors, veterinarians, and other health care practitioners.

How do I learn more?  

If you want to learn more about flower essences, you can speak with us at an upcoming appointment or contact Santosha Birth and Wellness directly at  

4 of the most important pregnancy foods you never hear about

Bone brothHere at Health Foundations, we emphasize the importance of a healthy diet before and during pregnancy because we’ve seen again and again how much of a difference good nutrition makes in the health of mom and baby, including a reduced risk of c-sections, easier labors, quicker postpartum healing, and so much more.  And the benefits aren’t just relegated to the childbearing year.  Babies who receive good nutrition in the womb are at a lower risk for many serious diseases in their child and adulthoods, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, autism, and ADHD.  Science is finding the crucial role nutrition plays in epigenetics, or the factors, such as chemical reactions, that influence gene expression.  Cutting edge studies are finding the importance of the gut microbiome in overall health for both babies and adults.  

So in that spirit, here are five foods that you might not find on the list of best pregnancy foods but are actually some of the best foods you can eat when expecting (and when planning to conceive).  

1.  Traditional Fats:  

We went through a phase in our collective history during which everyone feared fats.  And we still haven’t quite recovered.  But many kinds of natural fats are not only good for you, they are essential to your wellbeing.  Across cultures, you will find fats emphasized in fertility and pregnancy diets.  Good fats include ghee, butter, dairy fat (full fat dairy products), avocados, and coconut oil.  Used in moderation, these healthy fats can do a world of good for you and baby.  They can support maternal skin health, optimizing your body’s response to the stretches and effects of gravity that pregnancy impose.  Healthy fats in pregnancy also lower the risk of childhood allergies for baby, research shows.  Additional studies show that health fat consumption in pregnancy can lower the risk of baby later developing autism.  

2.  Organ meats:

Okay, we are not a culture that commonly enjoyed organ meats.  In fact the words alone may turn people off.  But meats like liver are super foods when it comes to baby making (we’re talking pregnancy here, folks).  Organic, grassfed and/or free range organ meats are some of the most nutrient dense foods absolutely loaded with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fat.  They are particularly rich in the nutrients that help keep our brains healthy and grow healthy well-functioning baby brains– i.e.  the essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docasahexaenoic acid), and AA (arachidonic acid). Liver is one of the best sources of folate, which is SO crucial in pregnancy (and supplemental folic acid pales in comparison to food-sourced folate in terms of health).  Liver and other organ meats are also tremendous sources of:

  • high-quality protein
  • fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • vitamin A, which is rapidly depleted during periods of stress
  • All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • A highly usable form of iron, so important in pregnancy
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
  • Purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA

One of the easiest and tastiest ways to eat liver is through liver pates.  Here is a tasty recipe for Chicken Liver Pate.  Here is one for a delicious Beef Liver with fig, bacon, and caramelized onion.  While not as ideal as consuming as food, desiccated liver in capsule form is also available.  

3.  Bone Broth

Beloved by the burgeoning paleo health movement, bone broth has numerous benefits for both mamas and babies (and the rest of us!)  Bone broth has shown to offer the following benefits:

  • builds, rebuilds and repairs our connective tissue, including joints, tendons and ligaments
  • improves hair, skin and nails
  • strengthens bones
  • heals and promotes a healthy digestive system 
  • supports optimal nerve health
  • great for the immune system
  • good source of protein
  • supports brain health
  • boosts fertility
  • and much more

Because broth supports the nervous system, endocrine system and brain function, consuming it while pregnant helps the developing fetus build healthy organs.

Bone broth is cheap and easy to make yourself.  You can use the bones from a whole chicken you have cooked or can get soup bones from the coop. It is best to use high quality bones to make bone broth– those from healthy (grassfed or free range), organic sources.  This is not a difficult thing to do in Minnesota!  There are many great recipes out there for bone broth.  Here is one simple way to make and enjoy bone broth throughout the week.

4.   Fermented foods

Fermented foods are some of the best sources of probiotics one can get from food (which is a superior source of all nutrients, compared to supplements, in virtually all cases).   Fermented foods are great for maintaining a healthy digestive system in pregnancy, which many of us know can go awry when we are expecting.  Eating these probiotic-rich foods is also great for gut health and the immune system and can positively impact your child’s gut health and overall wellbeing.  Fermented foods also increase your body’s ability to absorb the maximum level of nutrients from the foods you eat.  You can make your own fermented foods or there are some great (and quite tasty!) options available at co-ops, Whole Foods, and other health markets.  Examples of fermented foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Plain yogurt
  • Kombucha

Here’s to you and your family’s health, mamas!

Why salt is important in pregnancy


The medical community used to suggest that pregnant women limit salt (sodium) intake in pregnancy for three reasons. One, they believed salt intake contributes to bloating. (In fact, inadequate salt intake can cause bloating.) Two, that salt would increase water retention (Salt actually helps us regulate the right amount of fluid retention). And three that it would increase blood pressure. (Some studies have actually shown that additional salt intake can lower blood pressure in pregnancy.) These all are all issues that can develop in pregnancy and the thinking went that salt would only exacerbate them.

The medical community has changed its recommendations on salt intake in pregnancy due to growing evidence of its importance in maternal and fetal health. In fact, adequate salt intake is crucial for human health and especially important in pregnancy.

The importance of salt for the body

Salt is such a key nutrient it is actually one of the five tastes for which our mouth has receptors (in addition to sweet, bitter, sour, and umami). Salt is crucial to proper enzyme functioning, hormone production, the movement of proteins, and myriad other essential bodily functions.

The importance of salt intake during pregnancy

Salt plays a crucial role in the maintenance of increased blood volume in pregnancy, which is essential in pregnancy. Inadequate salt intake can restrict blood volume and negatively impact the growth and function of the placenta. When the ability of the placenta to function is impaired, the baby’s growth, development and even life are imperiled.

Insufficient salt intake can also increase the risk of preeclampsia and fetal death.

Appropriate salt intake by mom in pregnancy helps ensure adequate birth weight, optimal development of fetal nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, and metabolic function, and more.

A 2007 study illustrated that inadequate intake of salt during pregnancy increased the risk of low birth weight (with infants having correspondingly low sodium levels). Low birth weight increases the risk of many health problems later in life, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Salt is very important in pregnancy because it aids the development of glial cells in the brain and supports overall brain development and function in babies.

A 2002 study of premature babies found that those who were supplemented with sodium/salt during their first few weeks of life all experienced greater memory, learning, language, coordination, IQ and behavioral skills as children. This highlights the importance of salt in brain development.

Additional studies have found that pregnant women who consume too much or too little salt birth babies with a greater risk of kidney problems, which can also result in heart problems.

Optimal salt intake in pregnancy

Although it is important to consume enough salt, consuming too much salt and salt of poor quality (i.e. from processed foods) can also contribute to maternal and fetal health problems.

The medical community today suggests a daily salt intake of 3000 milligrams per day for pregnant women and the general population (without specific health concerns related to sodium). This means that there is no need to restrict your salt intake in pregnancy. (Unless otherwise recommended by your care provider)

All salt is not created equal

Many junk foods can contain chemical salt derivatives, such as monosodium glutamate and processed salt. These poor quality salts pose greater health risks than natural salt and can be linked to heart disease and other health problems.

When consuming salt in pregnancy (or anytime) it is best to limit processed foods and reach for natural salts, such as sea salt or Himalayan pink salt. Salting your food to taste is a general guideline that works for many pregnant women. You can also speak with your midwife about your salt intake if you are curious about the optimal amount and where you land in this range.

The important take home point is to remember that for most women, pregnancy is not a time to decrease salt intake; in fact, salt is crucial to her and her baby’s well being.


Henna belly art in pregnancy

Henna pregnant belliesHaving henna art lovingly applied to your belly (or any part of your body) when pregnant can be fun and special way to celebrate your pregnancy.  This event can be planned as part of a baby shower or blessingway or you may choose to do it with a friend, family member, or your partner.  Recently a few of our mamas had henna art applied on their bellies and wanted to share their experience here!

What is Henna?

pregnancy belly hennaHenna, or Mehndi (in Sanskrit), is a natural dye made from a particular flowering plant, which is often mixed with additional ingredients such as essential oils, lemon juice, turmeric, and/or other natural ingredients. Henna has been used for centuries (some say for up to 9000 years) to dye skin, hair, fingernails, and fabrics. In Ancient Egypt and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia (including India and Pakistan), and Europe (e.g the Roman Empire) henna was used for cosmetic purposes—history has it that Cleopatra used henna.  It was also used by people who could not afford jewelry, but wished to adorn their bodies.  Henna was, and still is, often used in rituals such as holidays, birthdays and weddings in these areas.

One of the most popular rituals was and remains the Mehndi night when the bride and her family and friends get together to celebrate the upcoming nuptials.  They play games, listen to music, and dance; while the bride gets extensive henna patterns applied on her body.  Guests often receive smaller designs as well.

Tradition says that so long as the henna stain appears on the bride, she doesn’t have to do any housework!  Perhaps that rule could be extended to pregnant mamas who have their bodies adorned with henna art.

henna tattoo pregnancyHere in the West, henna was popularized in the 90s and many celebrities have sported henna designs over the last few decades.  Women in the West currently use henna to dye their hair or adorn their skin for weddings, during pregnancy, during illness (some people make crowns on their heads during the chemo process if hair is lost), and just for fun.

Henna is essentially used to create a temporary tattoo that lasts anywhere from five days to three weeks, depending on what parts of the body are adorned, how it is applied, and other factors. Hands, feet, wrists and ankles tend to stain the best.  Henna is considered safe to use in pregnancy and while nursing.  It is always a good idea to find a reputable henna artist who uses high quality ingredients.

Health Foundations Mamas’ Henna Story

Recently two fabulous Health Foundations mamas, Liz and Rochelle, thought belly henna would be a fun way to celebrate their pregnancies.  Due within a month of each other, it was a great way for them to come together and celebrate their upcoming births!  They found a local henna artist named Tasia, called her up, and set a time around 37 to 38 weeks (for the mama furthest along)—it was super easy.  She sent them lots of examples of henna belly art before they met, so the ladies could choose the design they liked the best.  Coincidentally, both mamas chose the same design; although each was executed a little differently.

The henna artist came to their home, which they loved!  Each belly took about 1.5 hours and cost between $40 and 60.  Liz’s two little girls each got a small design for about $5.

Rochelle reports that the experience was fun and super relaxing.  The henna, which Tasia makes herself, smelled amazing, like lavender. Tasia only does henna above the belly button for religious reasons, but she has a friend who will do full belly henna.

Both mamas thought having a henna day was a really fun way to honor their pregnancies.



Henna stain left after initial art is applied

Henna stain left after initial art is applied

Physical changes in pregnancy

Every woman’s body undergoes significant transformation during pregnancy. While all women’s experiences of bodily changes in pregnancy are unique and depend on their physical health, nutrition, genes, activity level, lifestyle, level of support and outlook on life—there are some changes that occur in pregnancy that are fairly universal. Today we document those common physical changes in pregnancy.

Knowing what is common in pregnancy can help us to accept and embrace what is happening to our bodies as they rapidly change before our eyes. At prenatal visits, we welcome all of your thoughts, questions and concerns about how your body may or may not be changing throughout your pregnancy.

Digestive Changes in pregnancy

Any of the following changes in the digestive system can occur in pregnancy:

• Increased sensitivity to smell and taste of foods
• Changes in food preferences
• Aversions to some foods and cravings for others, even those you may not have disliked/preferred prior to pregnancy (some of these may be indicators of nutritional deficiencies)
• Nausea
• Constipation
• Slow digestion
• Change in appetite
• Bowel changes
• Indigestion
• Heartburn
• Gum and other dental changes, including gum bleeding and sensitivity may occur

Breast changes in pregnancy

The following are common changes in a woman’s breasts during pregnancy:

• Sensitivity, tingling, and tenderness immediately following conception and for the first weeks of pregnancy. This can be a first indicator of pregnancy for many women, though not all women will experience this.
• Increase in breast size, often in the first half of pregnancy. This increase may be considerable and can cause some discomfort for some women and none for others.
• Montgomery’s tubercles: raised bumps around the areola (preparation for milk production~ these small glands aid in nipple lubrication)
• Nipple sensitivity
• Yellow or cream colored discharge later in pregnancy—this is colostrum, your first milk.
• More visible veins on your chest and breasts
• Breasts may feel a bit lumpier than normal. This is due to enlargement of the milk glands. If you are worried about any lumps that seem abnormal, always ask your midwife about them.
• Enlargement and darkening of the areola

Vaginal changes during pregnancy

It is common for the following changes to occur as early as the first trimester:

• You may not notice this ,but it is common for the vaginal canal to become more purple in color
• Vaginal discharge increases
• Some women may experience yeast infections due to this increase in vaginal fluid
• The vagina and vulva become engorged during pregnancy due to increase blood flow to the area
• Increased sensitivity, which some women experience as pleasurable.
• Some light spotting after sex—because the cervix also becomes engorged and softens, it can bleed slightly if touched or scraped, and this is okay. If you are concerned about any vaginal bleeding, call your care providers.

Urinary tract changes

• An increase in the frequency of urination, even at night. This can be totally normal and may be particularly noticeable in the first and last trimesters. If this frequency is accompanied by other symptoms such as discomfort, burning, itching, backache, uterine contractions, or flulike symptoms, contact your care provider.

• Stress incontinence. Some women notice that they lose a little urine with coughing, sneezing, running or jumping. This can be a sign of pelvic floor weakness, which is important to address for your short and long-term wellbeing. (Talk to your care providers for more information.)

Uterine changes

The uterus grows from the size of a small pear and weight of a few ounces to the size of a watermelon and the weight of a couple pounds. What a remarkable organ.

• By 12 weeks of pregnancy, the top of the uterus, called the fundus, reaches above your pubic bone
• By week 20, it reaches above the belly button
• By week 36, it will be pushing against the diaphragm at the top of the rib cage
• Baby drops down slightly in the days and weeks before birth as it shifts into place in preparation for its grand entrance.

Other physical changes in pregnancy

• Read more about skin changes in pregnancy in our previous post.

• Joints can feel looser during pregnancy due to the hormonal changes taking place. For this reason it is important not to over stretch while pregnancy and to be mindful about possible joint instability. Joints may feel tender, “mushy,” or uncomfortable.

• Enhanced sensitivity to sound and touch are common in pregnancy.

• Nasal congestion is common due to hormonal changes.

If you have questions about physical changes you may be experiencing in pregnancy, don’t hesitate to ask us about them at your next visit.

Recipe: Ice Cream for Pregnancy!

Many of our clients know our famous “no ice cream in pregnancy!” rule.  We recommend that our pregnant clients strictly limit or totally cut out ice cream, because its high fat and caloric qualities can spell trouble for mom and baby…we’ve seen it time and again!

Well, fortunately, like many rules, there are loopholes in the no ice cream rule!

In one of our recent childbirth education classes with the lovely Rochelle Matos, one of our families brought in ice cream for everyone to share…but it’s not exactly ice cream… its gluten free and vegan-friendly and its packed with protein, which all mamas and babies need.  It isn’t as loaded up with fat, calories, and sugar like regular ice cream. ice cream in pregnancy This recipe is for a HEALTHY cookie dough blizzard, modeled after, and drastically improving upon (health-wise) the flavor of a DQ blizzard, in which many Minnesotans love to indulge.  The DQ version has 2.5 times the amount of calories, more than 3 times the amount of fat and carbs, over 7 times the amount of sugar, and only one-sixth the fiber and one-half the protein of our healthier alternative (see below for the numbers).  In addition, our version is made with healthy and unprocessed ingredients, which are much better for mom and baby.  (Seriously, most of the ingredients in those DQ blizzards don’t sound anything like real food ingredients!)

Enjoy this delicious alternative to ice cream and feel free to get creative, making different flavors, and experimenting with fresh or frozen fruits, honey, or other healthy additions.


For The Cookie Dough:
  • 1/2 cup of raw cashews
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein isolate, or a vegan protein powder (Growing Naturals Raw Yellow Pea Protein, which you can get at the Coop, is divine)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water
  • 1 ounce of dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa or more)

For the ‘Ice Cream’:

  • 2 bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 6 ice cubes
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon natural almond, sunflower, or peanut butter


Cookie dough balls (makes 20 balls, each serving of ice cream calls for two)

  1. In a food processor, mix cashews, oats, and protein powder. Pulse until a flour consistency is reached.
  2. Add maple syrup and almond milk and pulse a few more times.
  3. Add in the dates and process until well combined.  Batter should resemble a thick sticky paste.
  4. Transfer mixture to a bowl
  5. On a cutting board, cut chocolate into small chunks with a knife and fold in chocolate into mix.
  6. With wet hands (important step!), roll cookie dough into small round balls. Place on a plate or cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
  7. Freeze cookie dough balls for at least 3 hours. (Extras can be kept in the fridge)

Ice Cream (makes 2 servings)

  1. Peel bananas and cut into quarters and freeze. Once frozen, you are ready to make the ‘ice cream’.
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine banana, almond milk, ice cubes, and nut butter. Blend until smooth.
  3. Transfer to lidded container and freeze for 2 hours or until firm. (if left longer and hard to scoop, just thaw on the counter)
  4. Once your ‘ice cream’ is thick and scoop-able, divide between 2 glasses.
  5. Drop in a couple cookie dough balls to each glass, and enjoy!

Nutritional Information

Calories: 388
Fat: 12g
Carbohydrates: 42g
Sugar: 16g
Fiber: 6g
Protein: 33g
For comparison, a medium DQ cookie dough blizzard has 1,030 Calories, 40g Fat, 157g Carbs, 117g Sugar, 1g Fiber, 17g Protein


Breech babies

breech babyWhile it is not common, only 1 in 25 babies present this way at birth, we wanted to talk a bit about breech babies today and ways to encourage optimal fetal positioning during pregnancy.  Most babies will move to a head-down position in the weeks prior to birth, although not all.  Breech presentation is when the baby, instead of being positioned head-down, presents with his or her buttocks (and sometimes knees or feet) first, closest to the birth canal.

Though many babies have been safely delivered from the breech position throughout time, this type of birth scenario is considered out of the scope of birth center practice.  In cases of breech birth at the birth center, we transfer to the care of a hospital-based team.  However, there are many ways to encourage baby to move into a more optimal position if they are breech and ways to lower the risk of breech presentation before it occurs.

Reasons for breech presentation

Many believe that babies will get into the best position possible given the space they occupy in the womb.  This space can be affected by mom’s pelvic alignment and ligament length.  For example a twist, or torsion, of the pelvic joints can throw the uterine ligaments out of balance.  Broad ligaments may also be too tight and can hold a baby in a breech position.  Uterine tone can affect fetal positioning, as can the amount of amniotic fluid present.  Mom’s physical and emotional experiences can also affect baby’s position in the uterus (such as a car ride, or emotions such a fear, grief, or a sense of safety).

Fortunately, many babies that are presenting breech late in pregnancy flip before labor begins.  In these cases, they are often aided by the increased relaxin hormone levels made by mom’s body at the very end of pregnancy, which can relax her ligaments and uterus enough to allow baby room to shift.

In some cases, the natural shape of mom’s uterus, which may have a center membrane (septum) or a heart shape (bicornate) may contribute to breech presentation.

Evidence also indicates that women with a history of breech presentation in their personal or family history may have a greater chance of breech.

The location of the placenta, such as with placenta previa (placenta covers part or all of mom’s cervix), can also increase the likelihood of a breech presentation.

A short or wrapped cord may also be preventing a baby from getting into optimal position.  (This scenario is rare and doesn’t necessarily indicate an impending danger during birth.)

Lastly, premature birth also increases the risk that a baby will be born breech.  However, only 3 to 4 % of babies born between 37 and 42 weeks present in the breech position.

Types of Breech Positions

There are four ways a baby can present breech:

  • Frank breech: the buttocks presents first with legs extended towards baby’s trunk
  • Complete breech: the buttocks presents first with the legs folded so feet are close to the buttocks
  • Footling: one or both feet present first
  • Kneeling: when both knees present first, with the feet folded up behind baby’s thighs.

Oblique (diagonal) and transverse (lying sideways) positions are not considered breech presentations, although these positions carry their own risks.

Natural ways to help a breech baby turn

Before 30 weeks many babies are breech and it is generally not a concern at this time, as most of these babies will get into position in plenty of time before birth.  Midwives are trained and experienced at feeling for fetal position at every visit in the later months of pregnancy.  Breeches are often addressed between 32 and 37 weeks of pregnancy.

It is important to manage situations of breech presentation with the guidance of an experienced care provider.  Together, mom and care provider can talk about the options and what actions might be most appropriate, safe and beneficial to you.  Many factors, such as gestational age, known or suspected cause of breech, mom’s physiological health, and positioning may affect the course of action with a breech baby.

Homeopathy, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture and moxibustion) can all assist in cases of breech.  In fact, many of these treatments utilized throughout pregnancy can help prevent any of the pelvic conditions that may contribute to breech.  A particular technique of chiropractic care known as the Webster technique has high success rates in turning breech babies.

Mayan abdominal therapy is another modality in which women have experienced success in turning a breech baby.  Massage, particularly myofascial release, can also be helpful in preventing or addressing breech.

Mothers can use certain positions to help turn a breech baby or prevent a baby from becoming breech in the first place.  This includes what is called the forward-leaning inversion.  Spinning babies is a great resource for more information about this.

In cases where low amniotic fluid is the case, women can increase their fluid intake and modify their diet (again with support from an experienced care provider) in addition to receiving bodywork.

You may also been seen by an OB for an External Cephalic Version (ECV) in which a doctor manually turns the baby head down through the abdominal wall.  This may be a good choice for some women after other options have been explored.

If you have questions about breech babies, please feel free to speak with us at an upcoming appointment.

Collective Wisdom: Preparing for Baby

BlogIcons_CollectiveToday’s Collective Wisdom post asks our mamas-to-be:

In what ways have you prepared for your baby’s arrival so far?

I’ve read books on childbirth and newborns.  I’ve taken childbirth classes. (Michaela)

Driving around with an empty carseat.  Getting the nursery ready.  Splurging on a cute diaper bag. (Lindsay D.)

Washed clothes, bought diapers, picked out some cute things for her.  Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  (Hanni Go)

Hypnobirthing classes, prenatal yoga, found the perfect doula, change from hospital to Health Foundations. (Angie Murphy)

Decorated the nursery, hired a doula, found day care, taken childbirth education class, and infant CPR class. (Cassie)

Reading lots of books, forums on, reading, attending Parent Topic Nights at the Childbirth Collective, hiring a doula.  (Leah)

I have been practicing yoga, reading lots of books—not just about pregnancy and labor but lots about the postpartum and babies, getting his room ready, and meditating.  Oh and we hired a birth doula and are considering a postpartum doula.  (anonymous)

How have you (or how did you) prepare for baby’s arrival during your pregnancy?

Collective Wisdom: Describing our Ideal Birth


While it is impossible to know all the elements that influence our perception of birth, our thoughts and intentions can be powerful shapers of our birth experience.  Imagining the conditions under which we wish to birth is an empowering experience in pregnancy.  While many aspects of our birth and delivery are beyond our control, we can manage our own minds and expectations: herein lies tremendous power.  How we envision our birth matters even if it doesn’t go exactly as we imagine it.

This week, we asked our mamas-to-be…

“What words would you use to describe your ideal birth?”

These were the answers we received:







Fully Present
















What words would you use to describe your ideal birth experience?

Collective Wisdom: Birth Affirmations





Birth MantrasA birth mantra or affirmation is a positive statement and intention for the pregnancy or birth experience. A mama may select her own affirmation or affirmations and repeat it/them to herself or out loud during times of relaxation, upon waking and going to sleep, during the birth experience, or any time she needs encouragement during pregnancy or labor.

Positive birth affirmations can profoundly affect our outlook and our experiences—the thoughts we choose about our birth can seep into the unconscious and powerfully influence our actual experiences.  They can calm, relax, encourage and support us as we move through our journeys of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood.

Birth affirmations tend to be the most powerful when they are set in the present tense (as if they are happening to us right now).  Writing them down in a journal or something you hang in your space and repeating them often also make affirmations more potent.  During labor, you may even want your support team to repeat your chosen mantras to you.

We asked a few of our mamas-to-be to share their current or favorite birth affirmation.  Here’s what they shared:

I was made to do this – Leah

I get to make all the decisions about my birth – Cassie

I am strong.  I can do this! – Hanni

I trust my body – Angie

I am strong enough – Michaela

Here is a list of other birth affirmations expectant mamas can browse to find something that perfectly resonates with them.

What is your favorite birth mantra?  How have birth affirmations helped you through pregnancy and birth?

Collective Wisdom: Why Did you Choose a Birth Center?

BlogIcons_CollectiveIn addition to our “Meet the Health Foundations Family” feature interview series, we are also excited to introduce another new blog feature this year.  We’re calling this one “Health Foundations Collective Wisdom.”  In this series, we are gathering wisdom, insight, and knowledge from our Health Foundations patients—mamas, mamas-to-be, and their families.  We hope you enjoy the collective gathering of YOUR wisdom, sweet families!


Why did you choose to have a birth center birth?

“We wanted the best personal care possible and to feel like we were more in control of our choices and care throughout pregnancy.”—Amanda Stitt

Hearing the statistic that 33% of hospital births ended in C-sections scared me.  As I read more about medical interventions being overly used by doctors, I knew I wanted to avoid those things and being at a birth center with a midwife would help that.  I liked the idea of being able to make my own choices in a comfortable non-hospital setting.”—Cassie

“Attention to mom and baby is much better.  Birth is considered normal and not a medical emergency”—Vanasse

“We always intended to have a natural birth and had our first child at a birth center.  It was an awesome experience so the second time around there was no question!”—Liv

“We wanted a normal birth process.  Our first was at the hospital and it felt out of control.  I felt like a lab rat.”—Toni R.

“I liked the home-like environment, ability to have a water birth, and the midwives.”—Katie

If you would like to contribute to our Collective Wisdom posts, Aubrey has questionnaires at the center you are welcome to complete them and return them to her or your midwife any time!  You can also post in our comments section.

Next post’s question: How did you share the news of your birth with your partner?

Stay tuned!

Reducing Pain in Pregnancy

Many of us experience pain during pregnancy…but is it just an unavoidable part of being pregnant?  Not necessarily.  In fact, our bodies are well-designed for pregnancy (if it truly wrecked us we wouldn’t have lasted long as a species!).  Our lifestyles, however, cause us to use our bodies in a way that strains our tissues—sitting for long periods, wearing heels, not walking often enough, and more.  Add pregnancy to the picture and it’s no wonder many women experience aches and pains in pregnancy.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your aches and pains and enjoy the physical experience of pregnancy more.


We all know the stereotypical image of a woman in late pregnancy—belly thrust forward, back arched, feet waddling like a duck.  None of this is natural, nor is it ideal for our bodies.  In this position, our spinal discs and our nerves can be compressed, causing a whole host of problems.

Moreover, it is not just enough to exercise in pregnancy, its important to do so with good alignment.  Carrying our bodies in the right way, all day, is important to staying healthy always, and especially during pregnancy.

Consider these alignment tips for standing, sitting, and walking. (These are good tips for everyone, by the way!)


Poor alignment plus the added weight of pregnancy can really stress the joints, spine, ligaments, muscles, and nerves.  Try these tips:

  • Shift your pelvis back in space so that your weight rests into your heels instead of the middle or front of your foot.  Think about stacking your bones on top of each other, from your heels all the way to the shoulders and head.  You should be able to lift your toes off the floor.  Your knees should not be bent.  Check your ribs to make sure they are not thrusting forward (if you can still find ribs!).
  • Untuck your pelvis.  Though we’ve been taught this is good posture, it is actually bad for the body.  Allow for the natural curve of the low back.  Though you may feel at first that you are sticking your booty out, it is actually optimal alignment (it not only relieves back pain and a host of other ailments, it prevents “flat bottoms” by toning the hamstrings and glutes and supports a healthy pelvic floor)
  • Wear only flats or negative-heel shoes, such as Earth brand shoes.  These put your toes a bit higher than your heels, helping to decompress your lower back.  Heeled shoes throw your body out of alignment (and potentially mess with your balance!)


If you must sit for long periods of the day because of work or your other daily activities, consider a standing work station to use for at least parts of your day (see ideal standing position tips above).  If a standing work station is not possible, consider using the last five minutes or so of every hour (you can set an alarm) to stand up, stretch your calves and other muscles, and walk around if possible.  You may also want to sit on large exercise ball for some or most of the day.

seated alignment

While sitting, roll your weight forward onto your sit bones instead of tucking your tailbone under and sitting on it.  Your sit bones are the ones you can feel in the middle of each buttock if you feel for them.  You can also feel for the tailbone at the midline and explore how your seated posture affects the tailbone.  You want it untucked (facing more downward than out the front of your body).  This can also foster optimal fetal positioning, which can impact your birthing experience greatly.


Keep the following tips in mind as you walk throughout the day:

  • Keep your torso upright, not pitched forward.
  • Let your arms swing naturally and relax your shoulders.
  • Walk with your feet facing forward

beautiful pregnant woman on a meadow with blue sky

Simple Movements for Pregnancy Aches and Pains

In addition to these alignment practices, there are additional simple and gentle exercises you can do to ease pain during pregnancy.  Here are a few.  Aim to complete these exercises three times a day or more, working up to holding them for 30 to 60 seconds.

Upper body tension

Your lungs’ decreased real estate in your body and new habits such as sleeping on your side can cause stress in the neck, upper back and shoulders.  Try this simple stretch:

Palms up, place your hands on the back of a chair.  Walk your feet slowly back until all four limbs are straight and your legs are hip-distance apart, feet parallel pointing ahead. Back your hips up until your torso is fully extended and your hips are behind your feet.  Take deep breaths and feel the sides of your rib cage expanding.

Hip and pelvic pain

Keeping the deep hip rotator muscles underneath the buttocks and around the lower hips flexible can help reduce hip and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Here is a simple seated exercise that can help.

Sit in a chair with feet on the floor bring one ankle over and just above the opposite knee. Check to make sure your pelvis is untucked (see above), it will want to tuck if your hips are tight.  Sitting at the edge of a rolled towel can help you get into the correct position.  Work to get the ankle and knee of the lifted leg parallel to the floor.  Switch legs and repeat.

Tight or sore hamstrings (upper backs of your legs)

Hamstrings often get tight in pregnancy. Stretching these large muscles will create space in your knee joints and ease leg tension.

Stand barefoot, feet hip distance apart and facing forward.  Place your hands on the seat of a chair, palms down and straighten your legs.  Put your weight into your heels and untuck your pelvis, creating that natural curve in your lower back.  (You may want to check in a mirror.)

Swelling and pain in the lower legs and feet

Tight calf muscles can lower the circulation in the feet and legs, so by stretching them, you can increase blood flow and circulation, reduce discomfort, and decrease swelling in the ankles.

Place a thick rolled-up towel/yoga blanket or yoga mat on the floor and stand facing and just behind it. Place the ball of one foot on the mat or towel and lower the heel to the floor. Straighten both legs, keeping the thigh muscles relaxed. Then take a small step forward with the opposite leg. To increase the stretch, move the front foot further forward. Do this on both sides.

There are many other stretches and poses that are great for pregnancy and labor preparation, such as squats and tailor’s or cobbler’s pose.  More on those in a future post.

Be well mamas!

Information for this post is primarily based on the fantastic work of Katy Bowman, check her out here and here.

Benefits of probiotics in pregnancy, postpartum and for baby


Probiotics (which roughly translates to “for life”) are beneficial forms of bacteria/microbiota that can assist the human body in preventing and treating many types of illness and disease—from cancer to diarrhea.  We have these beneficial bacteria in our body naturally, but supplementation can greatly support the body in health and healing.

While nearly everyone can benefit from consuming probiotics, using probiotics is especially important and advantageous during pregnancy and once baby is born.  Read on to learn all about the amazing benefits of probiotics for mom and baby.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria living in your body that help protect against illness.  We can take supplements of these beneficial bacterial or obtain them from some food sources.  There are hundreds of different strains of probiotic, which are all important to overall health.  Certain strains are particularly good for pregnant women and others best for new mamas and babies.

While we typically think of probiotics as being good for digestive health, they do more to promote health in the body.  Probiotics are found lining the mucous membranes of your digestive, urinary, and vaginal tracts.  This last one is particularly important in pregnancy, because we want to foster healthy vaginal tissues before and during delivery (more about why below).

Additionally, probiotics are key to a healthy immune system.  These beneficial bacteria make up approximately 70% of your immune system, making them an important part of your daily defense mechanisms.  Ensuring a healthy balance of good bacteria in the body can foster overall wellness.

 Probiotics in pregnancy

Regular use of probiotics in pregnancy can offer women many benefits.  These benefits include lower risk of:

  • illness (colds and flu)
  • constipation
  • gestational diabetes
  • preeclampsia
  • urinary tract infections
  • yeast infections
  • premature labor

Use of probiotics in pregnancy has also been found to keep levels of Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep) low.  Group B Strep is a common bacterium of the vaginal lining, but if levels of these bacteria get too high at the end of pregnancy it can pose some risks to baby.  When this issue presents itself, it is often managed during labor/delivery with antibiotics.  However, steps in pregnancy, including probiotic use, can reduce the risk of this condition.

Healthy vaginal flora is crucial to baby’s health.  Babies are born with a sterile gastrointestinal system and exposure to mom’s vaginal flora is their first exposure to the bacteria their systems will be colonized by.  Healthy vaginal flora helps give baby’s immune system a good start.  Babies also continue to receive beneficial bacteria through breastfeeding, being held skin to skin, and via saliva exchange (think pacifier “cleanings,” shared spoons, and the like) in the first year.

Postnatal Probiotics Benefits 

Recent studies have found that consuming probiotic supplements beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy and continuing their use through at least the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding can help women lose weight after the birth of their baby.  Supplements with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were linked to less central obesity (defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or a waist circumference over 80 centimeters).

Probiotic use can be especially important if you need to take antibiotics for any reason in the postpartum period (really any time you take antibiotics, you can benefit from use of probiotics).

When mamas consume probiotics, the health benefits also find their way into breast milk and are passed on to baby. Breast milk is actually the source of our first immune-building “good” bacteria.  Since baby’s gut bacteria continues to culture throughout the nursing time, it is great for mama to continue taking probiotics in the postpartum and as long as she breastfeeds.

Probiotics for baby 

In addition to receiving probiotics via breast milk, probiotics can also be given to baby directly.  Supplementation to baby can take a few forms: you can add a bit of probiotic to a bottle of milk, you can take a little probiotic on your finger to give to baby orally, or you may even put a little on your nipple and baby will ingest it during a feed.

Probiotics have numerous potential benefits for babies including the prevention and treatment of:

  • allergies
  • asthma
  • eczema
  • food sensitivities, especially in infants with a family history of allergy
  • colic, one study found decreased crying times by up to 75% (look for product containing Lactobacillus reuteri)
  • diarrhea
  • ear infection
  • illness (colds and flu)

Research shows that good probiotic exposure in infancy can actually help optimize baby’s weight later in life.  Early probiotic exposure may modify the growth pattern of the child by restraining excessive weight gain during the first years of life.

Probiotics: Sources and Guidelines

Different blends of different strains of probiotic may be optimal depending on whether you are pregnant or taking them in the postpartum (or giving to baby).  We have a few excellent supplements at the clinic and we can talk to you further about what to look for in a probiotic.

Generally speaking, recommendations tend toward 1 to 10 billion Colony Forming Units for infants, and 10 to 20 billion CFU for older children and adults. To achieve and maintain a therapeutic effect, probiotics must be used consistently to ensure a sufficient and consistent population levels over time.  It can be difficult to say exactly what dose is ideal, as products vary.  Different probiotics have been shown to be effective at different levels.  Products containing a higher number of live probiotics may not be better than one with fewer.  It’s best to go with a reputable high-quality brand, ideally one that has been vetted by your health care professionals (such as us!).

There have been no reports of adverse reactions to supplementation of probiotics in moms or babies.

Food sources of probiotics

While supplementation is great, there are also many foods rich in probiotics.  Fermented foods are particularly rich in probiotics.

Food sources of probiotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Spirulina (with other great benefits in pregnancy and in general)
  • Miso soup
  • Pickles
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha tea

If you have questions about probiotics, be sure to discuss them with your midwife at your next appointment, give us a call, or stop in.  We’d be happy to talk with you further about what to look for in a probiotic or connect you with a great supplement we carry.


Learning begins before birth

In the following 2011 TED talk, science reporter, author, and mother Annie Murphy Paul discusses the latest scientific evidence gathered from the fields of biology and psychology suggesting that some of our most important learning about the world happens before we are even born.

An emerging field known as Fetal Origins posits that what we experience in the womb can be a significant predictor of our health and well being for the rest of our lives.  Some of the most interesting stories Paul shares in this talk involve maternal nutrition and emotions, particularly in the third trimester, and how these have a lifelong influence on baby.

Far from using this information to cast blame or judgment on expectant mothers, the speaker hopes this fascinating area of discovery will help us promote greater health in future generations.  We’d add to that the hope that it may improve the quality of women’s experiences in pregnancy and foster greater care and support of pregnant mamas, not only for the wellbeing of their babies, but for the mamas too.


Skin Changes in Pregnancy

pregnant-bellyWhile we all expect certain things to change about our body during pregnancy—we will gain weight, our bellies will grow larger, our breasts will change—some physical changes may come as a surprise.  For some of us,  our skin changes, our feet grow, our hair changes, or other seemingly non-reproductive related changes transform our bodies.  Today, we’ll take up common changes to the skin that may occur during pregnancy.


Skin itchiness can be common in pregnancy and can affect the abdomen, breasts, hips, thighs, and/or back.  This is often due to the skin stretching to accommodate your growing baby.  Also, increased sweating and decreased bowel function may cause the skin to work harder to eliminate toxins.  This affects the liver (responsible for processing toxins and an increased hormonal load), which may cause the skin to itch.  Itching may also be related to stress.

 Things that may help relieve itchiness include:

  • Using mild or no soap and avoiding skin irritants in beauty products.
  • Using a loofah or body brush may stimulate the skin and clear away dead cells.
  • Exercise will help get your circulation going, helping to get to the root of what causes the skin to itch
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Ensure you are getting Essential Fatty Acids in your diet, which can improve moisture and reduce inflammation.
  • Cocoa butter and coconut oil are great moisturizers and can aid with stretch marks too
  • Calendula oil can reduce itching and irritation

The pregnancy “glow”

Not just an old wives’ tale, the pregnancy glow is actually a physiological phenomenon.  Pregnant mamas carry an increased blood volume, which causes the cheeks to take on a blushed appearance.  Increased oil gland secretion also gives the skin a waxy luster.

The mask of pregnancy

Some women develop patches of skin discoloration known as chloasma sometime in the second trimester.  These spots, often brown or yellowish, appear on the face, particularly on the upper cheeks, nose, chin and forehead.  This skin change in pregnancy is the result of pregnancy hormones (estrogen and progesterone) stimulating melanin (skin pigmentation) production in an uneven fashion, giving the appearance of a blotchy tan.  Darker skinned women and brunettes may also develop dark circles around the eyes because of this change in melanin production.  While this skin change cannot be prevented, limiting sun and other UV exposure can help lessen the effects.


For some women, they notice their skin improves in pregnancy, while for others it is the opposite.  If you notice an increase in breakouts, you may want to consider the following:

  • Avoid abrasive scrubs or exfoliants; pregnant skin is too sensitive for these
  • Opt for milder, oatmeal-based facial scrubs
  • Do not use Accutane or Retin-A, which can cause serious birth defects.

A small percentage (about 1%) of women experience itchy, red, acne-like breakouts on their belly, thighs, bottom, and limbs.  This tends to stop and go throughout the second half of pregnancy and typically resolves soon after birth.

 Linea nigra

For women who are not aware of this possible pregnancy skin change, it may come as a surprise when a faint line begins to appear vertically down the belly and grows darker and darker as the weeks go on.  This line is known as the linea nigra and is common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes.  It can grow from the belly button downward, or upward, or both.  It is sometimes straight and sometimes meanders a bit!  This line typically fades within the first months following birth.  Some people speculate that this line appears as an evolutionary “route marker,” helping newborns navigate their way to the breast after birth.

Along those same lines, the areola and nipples also darken in color during pregnancy, perhaps to create a contrast babies are most adept to see when newly born.  Some women find that their areolae remain a bit darker than they were before pregnancy.

Skin tags

Skin tags, caused by hyperactive growth in a superficial layer of skin, can develop in pregnant women, much to their surprise.  These tiny polyps are harmless and are often found where skin rubs on skin or clothing, such as the armpits, inner thighs, neck folds, bra line, and other areas.  These often disappear in the months following delivery, though they can be removed if they are bothersome.

Moles and Freckles

Many pregnant women notice that existing moles, freckles and birth marks grow bigger or darker during pregnancy.  New moles may also appear.  While this may just be part of pregnancy for you, be sure to consult with a dermatologist if moles seem particularly dark, raised, or have irregular borders.

Red palms and soles

Called palmar erythema, redness and itchiness of the palms and soles of the feet may occur in pregnancy, as early as the first trimester.  This is not a harmful condition.

Heat rash

Pregnant women are more vulnerable to heat rash caused by overheating, dampness from excess sweating, and the friction of skin against itself or clothing.  Heat rash is characterized by a reddish, pimply, irritated appearance of the skin and commonly strikes in the breast creases, the inner thighs, and the armpits.

Spider veins

Some women notice the development or increased visibility of spider veins, small squiggly purple or red capillaries just below the skin, during pregnancy.  These can develop on the limbs or the torso and are caused by pregnancy hormones.

It’s also common for spider veins to appear on the face or in the whites of the eyes during delivery due to intense pushing.  These are called nevi and often disappear sometime after birth.

If you have questions about skin changes in pregnancy, be sure to discuss with your midwife at your next appointment.

Ten Tips for Partners at Birth

dad at birth 2While we tend to focus on preparing mama for birth, it is also essential that papas, partners or any other labor supporters to feel prepared.  While it would take the length of a book (or more) to fully prepare papas and partners for the birth experience, here are ten quick and easy essentials to keep in mind.

1.  Be responsive to your partner’s cues and protect her space.  Follow her lead.  Do what you can to ensure she is feeling safe and supported.  Keep the lights dim, the room quiet and the atmosphere calm.

2.  Minimize questions, distractions, and instructions (from yourself and others) especially during contractions.  Don’t take silence personally, it is probably a sign that she is going inside and focusing on the monumental task she is undertaking.  Silence is often a really good sign.

3.  Help her to be comfortable.  Suggest position changes regularly.  Observe her alignment and support her head, torso, low back, arms, hips, knees, and feet as needed.  Keep her warm, but offer ice packs or a cool cloth if she gets too warm.  Use comfort techniques you’ve learned together before the birth.

4.  Maintain your center and your stability.  Find your own breath.  Tend to yourself so that you can tend to her.  Do so discreetly so it doesn’t serve as a distraction.

5.  Take her to the bathroom hourly.

6.  Help her keep the pitch of her voice low and monitor her facial and physical tension.  Help her relax.

7.  Give her encouragement and tell her you love her.  You might even kiss if it feels right.  Feelings of love from mama help her release oxytocin, which can help with labor.

8.  If her breathing gets rapid, shallow and panicked, model a slow, even, deeper breath for her.  Maybe try to make eye contact with her as you do this, it can help to ground her.

9.  Keep her hydrated and nourished.  Offer regular sips of water (you can do so without words).  Offer labor snacks in early and active labor.

10. Help her maintain her rhythm.  Let her find what works best for her and find ways to support her there until its time for her rhythm to change again.

What other advice would you give to papas and partners for labor & birth?