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 babycenter.com, reading birthwithoutfearblog.com, 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?