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.

 Itching

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.

Acne

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.

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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?

Leg Cramps in Pregnancy

Pain in the LegLeg cramps are a common condition in pregnancy.  These bothersome cramps can be the result of circulation changes, carrying extra weight, or mineral deficiencies.  They can also be caused by lack of exercise or, conversely, exercise that is too vigorous.  In the case of the former, this lack of exercise also decreases the body’s mineral absorption, compounding the problem.

Leg cramps in pregnancy are often worse at night.  Some women experience sharp strong cramps, while others may have dull, vague, achy, pulling, restless leg sensations.

Muscle spasms that cause leg cramps in pregnancy are often caused by a lack of calcium, magnesium, and/or iron.

When a muscle cramp strikes, these may help in the moment:

  • Stand up and place your foot flat and push your heels into the ground.  Massage the muscle vigorously and firmly.
  • Flex your foot by gently holding it and curling your toes up toward your knee.  Massage the calf.  You can do this standing or lying down.

Don’t massage an area that has varicose veins.

Here are some other ways to get some relief:

  • Avoid pointing your toes, as this can bring on cramps
  • Walk daily and do leg exercises, such as leg lifts and lunges.  Swimming is also great.  This encourages circulation and reduces cramping.
  • Elevate your legs for 20 minutes a day to improve circulation, with your legs above your heart.  Elevate periodically throughout the day when possible.
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Soak your feet in hot water at the end of the day (consider adding wintergreen or camphor oil, and/or fresh grated ginger root)
  • Use a hot pack (rice pack, hot water bottle, etc) on the affected area
  • Prepare a compress of lavender essential oil to the affected area
  • Increase your fluid intake to 2 to 3 liters a day
  • Sleep with your feet raised above your head, by padding the end of the bed or propping the mattress up at the bottom.
  • Reflexology can help improve circulation and reduce and prevent cramping
  • Massage the affected areas, especially before bed.  Massage with an oil containing St. Johns’ Wort, arnica, and chamomile (available at co-op)

Dietary recommendations

  • Speak with your midwife about supplementing with liquid calcium/magnesium.
  • Eat foods high in calcium and magnesium: Spinach, Broccoli, Tofu, Dairy, Sardines, Tahini, Cooked egg yolks, Dried figs, Watercress, Cashews, Parsley
  • Vitamin E can reduce cramping.  Check with your midwife to be sure it is safe to take 200IU per day.  Whole grains, eggs, cold-pressed oils, sunflower seds, molasses, and wheat germ are some vitamin E rich foods.
  • Vitamin C deficiency can also cause leg cramps.  Make sure it is safe to take 2,000 mg daily.
  • Salt deficiency can also cause leg gramps so salt your food to taste with sea salt.
  • Herbs rich in calcium include nettle, chamomile, oatstraw, and dandelion leaf.
  • Speak with your midwife to see if black haw or cramp bark tincture is appropriate for you.

Colds & Flus in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman illness

Well, its that time of year…with the cold weather comes the cold and flu season.  Unfortunately, pregnant women are not immune to these common illnesses.  The good news is that, so long as a pregnant woman stays nourished with foods and fluids, colds and flus do not generally pose any threat to mom or baby.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as:

  • A fever
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Persistent coughing

It is a good idea to contact your care provider.

 Preventing Colds and Flus

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is the best approach to preventing illness during pregnancy.

Basic self-care to prevent illness includes:

  • Eating nutritious and whole foods
  • Getting enough rest and sleep
  • Reducing stress
  • Getting regular moderate exercise
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • STAY WELL HYDRATED!

Of course, situations and factors outside of our control can make maintaining all of these elements difficult.

 First signs of illness: Take a time out

Excusing ourselves from our daily responsibilities at the first sign of illness can go a long way in preventing or reducing the duration and severity of our illness.  If possible, step away from all that can be left for another time—turn off the phone, ask for help with other children, take a sick day at work, cancel social engagements and do what nurtures you.  That could be taking a warm bath, enjoying a warm cup of tea, snuggling into bed with a good book or movie, listening to soothing music, some gentle yoga poses, a long nap, or something else.

Eating and drinking during illness

For some of us, colds and flus wipe out our appetite.  While this may be a natural by-product of the body’s fight against illness, our babies still need nourishment!  For this reason, it is important to continue to eat even when you are feeling sick.  If food doesn’t sound the least bit interesting, try clear veggie or meat broths, soups or plain toast.  Miso, chicken noodle soup, and veggie soups can actually be healing during illness.

Same goes for drinking, it is paramount to the health of you and your baby that you continue to consume an adequate amount of fluids—your baby needs amniotic fluid and your kidneys need this nourishment.  In fact, your body may actually begin contractions under the stress of dehydration.  Aim for a full glass of water, tea or broth every 1-2 hours, more often if you have a fever.

 Herbal and Dietary Treatment of Illness in Pregnancy

  • Vitamin C: Take 250 mg every 2 hours, not to exceed 2,000 mg in the first trimester and 4,000 daily in the second and third.  Don’t take Vitamin C at these levels for longer than 5 days.
  • Echinacea: This herb, safe in pregnancy, boosts the body’s immune system very effectively, especially if taken at the first sign of illness.  You can purchase Echinacea tinctures at the co-op, natural health food store, and Whole Foods.  Take one drop for every 4 pounds of body weight (140 pounds / 4 pounds = 35 drops, for example) you can repeat this every 4 hours or more often for acute illness.
  • Garlic, lemon, ginger, green onions:  all of these foods can be consumed to boost the immune system during illness.  Garlic is a bactericide, good for treating many kinds of ailments.  Ginger tea is a great natural treatment of illness.
  • Kudzu Root: Sold in chunks or as a powder, this starchy root is good for reducing fever, relaxing the muscles, taming the tummy, and soothing inflamed nasal, throat, and lung tissues. You can make Kudzu root tea by boiling a cup of apple or pear juice, adding 1 teaspoon of root powder which has been diluted in 2 tablespoons of cold water.  You can add cinnamon or ginger for warmth.

 Natural Cold Tonics

Full of immune boosting goodness, these mixed can be sipped safely at the first sign of illness:

“Terrible Tonic”

  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of purified water

Add all ingredients to a mason jar, shake and take 3 tablespoons 6 times a day.

Cold and Flu tea

In a pan, gently boil one quart of water, adding:

  • 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 2-3 chopped green onions
  • 1-2” of minced/grated/sliced fresh ginger

Let gently boil for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and add:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of honey, or to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice, or to taste
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper

 Over the Counter Medications Considered Safe in Pregnancy

When all else fails, over the counter medications may be desired.  As with herbs, many over the counter medications are not considered safe during pregnancy.  Talk with your provider about what over-the-counter medications are best for your situation.

15 Reasons to do Yoga in Pregnancy

yogaMany of us know that it is important to be active in pregnancy—it’s good for mom and it’s good for baby.  Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise for mamas-to-be.

In a nutshell:

Physically, yoga helps make muscles more supple, increase joint mobility, and improve posture, all crucial given the colossal changes that happen to the body in pregnancy. With improved posture comes better breathing and circulation.

Yoga and labor have many things in common, which makes yoga excellent practice for labor.  Yoga has many psycho-spiritual benefits, which can help a woman navigate the tremendous transformations of pregnancy and motherhood.  Being in a yoga class also offers community, which can be just as important as the actual practice of yoga.

Here are 15 specific reasons to do yoga in pregnancy.

Ways that yoga helps in pregnancy:

1.  Helps you carry your baby optimally.

2.  Helps to prevent backache

3.  Facilitates unrestricted breathing, resulting in good blood oxygenation for mom and baby

4.  Helps mom discover movements that alleviate pregnancy discomforts such as heartburn, leg cramps, or headaches.

5.  Better blood circulation, lowering risk of problems such as varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and fluid retention

6.  Helps combat fatigue

7.  Physical pain can be diminished through regular practice

8.  Increased self awareness and awareness of baby.  Becoming more body aware and aware of your baby and its energy can help you foster a bond with baby even before birth.

Ways that yoga helps a woman prepare for labor:

9.  Many yoga poses also happen to be ideal birthing positions, practicing before hand offers strength, comfort and familiarity with these positions.

10. Yoga helps you move to your edge and sometimes beyond, finding grace and ease in physical difficulty.  This is a beneficial skill in labor.

11. Yoga helps connect you to your body, giving you confidence and courage in its abilities and helping you develop a deeper awareness of what’s happening in your body

12. The focused breath work of yoga can help you find a breathing rhythm that works for you in labor.  Breath is SO key in yoga and in labor!  In yoga, you can also practice moving breath in your body—for example, moving breath down, which can also be vital in labor as you breathe your baby down.

13.  Yoga brings a shift in consciousness out of your thinking mind and into your more embodied, instinctive mind.  This, too, will be a benefit in labor, as it requires that you release thoughts and let your body express its wisdom (a wisdom that knows how to birth your baby!)

14. Yoga offers practice in releasing stress, tension and fear.  It encourages feelings of peace, safety, and presence.  All of this is good for labor.

15. Yoga makes the body strong, helping it through labor and helping create optimal conditions for healing after labor, regardless of what labor and birth brings.

What benefits of yoga have you discovered in your pregnancy and birth?

Did you know we offer prenatal yoga at Health Foundations?  The first Friday of every month our lovely yoga instructor leads a candlelight prenatal yoga class from 7pm to 8:15pm.  Join us next month!

Pregnancy-yoga

Stay tuned for an upcoming post with some of the best yoga poses for pregnancy and their benefits.

***As with all forms of exercise in pregnancy, it is imperative to listen to your body and honor your needs and abilities at this time.

Anemia

bloodtube

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin (what the midwives check throughout your pregnancy) is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia — like fatigue — occur because organs are not getting what they need to function properly.

Supporting the nutritional needs of a developing fetus, building a significantly greater blood volume, and other changes make pregnancy a common time for women to experience anemia.

Effects and Potential Complications of Anemia in Pregnancy

Without treatment, anemia can cause a number of problems for mom and baby.

For mom:

  • Greater fatigue in labor
  • Increased problems with even modest blood loss at birth
  • More difficult, slower postpartum recovery
  • Increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage
  • Greater risk of postpartum infection
  • Trouble establishing a milk supply

For baby:

  • Growth retardation
  • Lack of sufficient iron in their own bodies, which can potentially lead to anemia
  • Neural tube defects (with folic acid deficiency)

Symptoms of Anemia

  • Dizziness
  • Constant significant fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness of the fingernail beds, skin, and mucous membranes
  • General weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Frequent colds or infections
  • Other symptoms depending on the type of nutritional deficiency

Causes of Anemia

During pregnancy, nutritional deficiency is a common cause of anemia.  While many people are aware of the connection between iron deficiency and anemia, there are actually three types of nutritional anemias: iron deficient anemia, folic acid anemia, and vitamin B12 anemia.  Because B12 anemia is rare, we will focus more on prevention of anemia caused by iron and folic acid deficiency.

Before covering these, we should also mention that given the marked increase in blood volume during pregnancy (50% greater than pre-pregnancy volume), it is natural for the red blood cell count to drop in the middle of pregnancy, simply because the blood becomes more diluted.  (The red blood cell count remains stable but the blood volume increases.)

But we digress.  Ideally, we recommend that women have blood work and a nutritional assessment prior to conception (see here for more about preconception planning) to determine their pre-pregnancy blood counts and begin eating optimally for pregnancy (some women are iron-deficient going into pregnancy).  However, a simple blood test during pregnancy can help us diagnose anemia and determine the appropriate action to take.

Treatment of Anemia in Pregnancy

Often, nutritional supplementation is our first course of action to address anemia in pregnancy.  As with most issues, prevention is preferred to waiting until a condition manifests and treating it, so let’s talk about dietary prevention of anemia (you can follow these before conception, during pregnancy, and even after birth, especially if you’ve experienced blood loss or are healing from birth).  These same dietary principles apply when treating anemia as well, though additional iron supplementation is commonly advised.

Dietary Prevention and Treatment of Anemia

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin found in the following foods, which can be eaten throughout pregnancy:

  • Dark leafy greens** (aim to consume two large servings per day)
  • Wheat germ
  • Molasses
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Root vegetables**
  • Beans
  • Milk
  • Liver (organic liver is preferred as animal liver is prone to high concentrations of environmental and systemic toxins)
  • Spirulina
  • Herbs such as nettles and dandelion

**To obtain the highest amounts of folic acid through vegetables, consume them raw, steamed, or lightly sautéed.

Iron

Iron is essential in pregnancy to ensure the red blood cells can adequately oxygenate both mom and baby.  Baby also stores iron in its liver prior to birth and will depend on these iron reserves for the first 6 months of life, since breast milk is naturally low in iron.

Iron supplements are often suggested during pregnancy.  In pregnancy, it is difficult to get enough iron solely from your diet to treat anemia.   We recommend a plant based iron supplement that is well tolerated and does not cause the more common side-effects such as constipation and gastrointestinal upset seen when taking synthetic iron.

Regardless, consuming iron rich foods is an ideal way to build your blood and increase your iron to prevent or help in treating anemia in pregnancy.

Iron Rich Foods include:

  • Organic red meat and dark meat chicken and turkey contain the highest amounts of iron (and also provide lots of protein).
  • Beans and legumes (which also contain protein and lots of fiber)
  • Eggs
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (which also have minerals calcium and magnesium and chlorophyll, which dramatically reduce symptoms of anemia)
  • Seaweeds (such as kelp/kombu and dulse)
  • Berries and cherries
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Dried fruit (organic and unsulphured) such as peaches, apricots, raisins, prunes and figs
  • Nettles (Urtica diocea), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) are high in iron and powerful blood builders.  They can be taken as advised by your midwife as teas or in capsule form.
  • Nutritive Syrups such as Floradix or local herbalist-made syrups may also be an option

Given that dark leafy greens are excellent sources of both folic acid and iron, a great way to prevent anemia in pregnancy is to eat your greens! 

greens

Can’t stomach the thought of a rabbit’s smorgasbord on your plate?  Get creative.

Ways to sneak greens into other foods:

  • Chop up greens and add it to your pasta sauce or lasagna
  • Mix cut-up spinach into an omelet/eggs
  • Add small pieces of kale to your chicken soup
  • Sautee garlic, onions, or shallots in butter or olive oil.  Add greens. Cook them until wilted and soft. Add a splash of white wine or vinegar and cook until the flavors blend.

In addition to diet, cooking in a cast iron pot/pan can increase the iron content in foods.  Regular exercise increases the body’s need for oxygen, which causes the body to respond by allowing iron to be absorbed more easily.

 Tips for Iron Absorption from Food and Supplements

Because iron is not always well utilized by the body, follow these steps to optimize iron absorption in the body:

  • Eat iron with Vitamin C rich foods
  • Avoid caffeine, which inhibits iron absorption
  • Carbonated beverages may reduce iron absorption
  • Insure proper hydrochloric acid in the stomach.  A good acid level helps with digestion and absorption.   Avoid drinking lots of liquid at meals and use vinegar in your cooking or as a supplement with meals (apple cider vinegar is great).
  • Help prevent the destruction of red blood cells by eating vitamin E containing foods such as nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, whole grains, high quality oils, avocados, soy, sea vegetables.
  • Avoid calcium ingestion with iron, e.g. milk antacid, prenatal supplements

Always speak with your midwife if you are concerned or have questions about anemia, optimal nutrition and intake of folic acid and iron, and related issues.  Anemia in pregnancy is manageable and it is much better to discover it and treat it before birth, to give you and baby the best chance at a healthy, happy pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

Types of Childbirth Education

shapeimage_2Rochelle Matos, Health Foundations Childbirth Educator and owner of With Love.

At Health Foundations, our patients receive lots of education about childbirth throughout their routine prenatal care.  While the midwives at the birth center spend much more time talking with and educating patients compared to what is routinely offered in the conventional maternity setting, there is so much to learn about pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.  For this reason, we encourage our families to take childbirth education courses.

As a Health Foundations family, you receive as part of your care two education courses: one in Early Home Care (of everything we want you to know about postpartum) and another in Managing Complications.  You also have a breastfeeding visit with a lactation consultant in your third trimester.  However, the more you can arm yourself with knowledge, the better prepared you will be for pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

Childbirth education is a great way to prepare for labor and birth, help you make informed decisions, learn how to relax and cope during labor, name and work through your fears, help partners understand how to support mamas, and more.  Additional preparation classes may focus on specific issues such as breastfeeding, newborn care, prenatal yoga/exercise, baby wearing, cloth diapering, etc.

Health Foundations offers a childbirth education series that is designed specifically for families choosing to deliver out-of-hosptial.  We have classes for both first-time families as well as refresher courses!  We are also fortunate to live in a community with AMAZING birth resources.  To name just a few, the Twin Cities is home to The Childbirth Collective, Blooma, Welcome Baby Care, With Love, and so many more great birth educators and supporters of families giving birth and raising children in our community.

There are many amazing childbirth education classes offered in the Twin Cities.  To help you determine what may be right for you, here is a brief description of some of the popular types of childbirth education courses offered here and around the country.  Note that some local businesses and birth professionals offer their own “brand” of childbirth education courses, which can also be terrific.   The Childbirth Collective also offers donation-based Parent Topic Nights, which focus on different aspects of childbirth.

Lamaze 

When many of us think of Lamaze, we think about a specific breathing technique used in labor.  Lamaze has changed a lot in its 50+ years, moving from a method-based childbirth program to an evidence-based philosophy of childbirth.  “Today’s Lamaze affirms the normalcy of birth, acknowledges women’s inherent ability to birth their babies and promotes Lamaze healthy birth practices.”

Lamaze affirms women’s ability to give birth naturally and free of routine medical interventions but does educate women on interventions that may be necessary in some birthing situations.

The Bradley Method 

The Bradley Method also believes that childbirth is a natural process that can happen free of medical interventions (in most cases) with proper preparation.  This method emphasizes the importance of the husband or partner to the birth process, discusses diet and exercise in pregnancy, and covers natural coping and relaxation techniques for labor.  Most Bradley courses are 10 to 12 weeks long.

ICEA-based classes

The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) “is a professional organization that supports educators and other health care providers who believe in freedom to make decisions based on knowledge of alternatives in family-centered maternity and newborn care”.  This organization certifies childbirth educators.  The ICEA doesn’t necessarily promote a particular set of techniques for managing labor, so you may want to ask the educator what will specifically be covered in the course.

Hypnobirthing® The Mongan Method

HypnoBirthing® is a childbirth education course that embraces birth as normal and natural and refutes the idea that birth must be accompanied by pain and suffering.  This childbirth education program emphasizes relaxation, visualization, and self-hypnosis techniques to help women and their partners achieve a calm and comfortable birth experience.  Mamas using this technique will often listen to hypnosis audio recordings during pregnancy to prepare for the use of self-hypnosis (with or without the recordings) during labor.  The class is typically taught in 5 weekly sessions.

Birthing from Within

Birthing from Within is a spiritual and creative-based education experience that sees birth as a rite of passage, seeks to prevent or minimize emotionally difficult births through compassionate and honest preparation, sees value in and recognizes the profound impact of women’s birth stories, suggests expressive means of preparing for childbirth, and supports holistic prenatal care that is informative and transformative.

Calm Birth

Founded in mind/body medicine, Calm birth is a method of meditation for pregnancy and childbirth.  The course covers the physical, emotional and other benefits of meditation before and during labor and birth and offers guided meditations to help women and their partners prepare for a calm and conscious childbirth experience.