In addition to regularly visiting your chiropractor during your pregnancy, consider these nine holistic paths to strengthen your mind, body and spirit for your upcoming birth.
Homeopathy is a gentle system of care that has been around for hundreds of years. Because there are no side effects, nor is there any risk of addiction or toxicity, homeopathy is safe for pregnant women and babies. Homeopathy is rooted in the belief that the body knows how to heal itself, and the mind and body will work together in that process.
The main sources for homeopathic remedies are plants, animals and minerals. These are extremely diluted to the point where even a trace amount is undetectable. Homeopathic doctors receive years of training in thousands of remedies, and are able to offer a very specialized level of care.
Some of the areas in which homeopathy may assist during the prenatal and postpartum stages include fertility, morning sickness, heartburn, constipation, helping a breech baby to turn, induction of labor, overcoming breastfeeding challenges and managing postpartum depression. There are also remedies to assist children through various life transitions. Homeopathy has a wide scope and remedies exist for virtually every mental, emotional and physical ailment.
Piper Martin, B.Ed., DS Hom.Med. • PiperMartin.com
Naturopathy is based on the principle that the body knows how to restore itself to full health. Treatments can include a mix of nutritional counseling and supplementation, herbal medicine, flower essences, essential oils and homeopathy. Returning your body to optimal health is a process of treating the original cause of ill health, removing blockages to this healing ability and improving the functioning of all the systems in the body. The approach is holistic, encompassing all aspects of being: physical, mental, emotional and environmental.
There are many reasons it can be a good idea to work with a naturopath throughout your pregnancy. These include the emotional (e.g. working through feelings that can arise during pregnancy using Bach flower remedies) or physical (e.g. using homoeopathic remedies to support the nervous system physically). Naturopathic remedies can ease many pregnancy-related discomforts, from cramping, morning sickness and nausea to more serious conditions such as infections and high blood pressure. Natural remedies are a good alternative to medications, particularly during pregnancy, as they are more gentle on your body and your baby, and have no side effects when prescribed properly.
Louisa Glindemann, AdvDN, AdvDBM, DNut, DRM, DAroma MATMS, MNHAA, MADC • YourNaturopath.com.au
The theory and practice of acupuncture is based on a holistic healthcare system that has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years to diagnose, treat and prevent illness and to maintain health and wellness.
Acupuncture includes a diagnostic process that considers the person as a whole, rather than focusing on any individual symptom. Once areas of disharmony are identified, stimulating the appropriate points with very fine needles (the size of a strand of hair) restores the body to optimal energy flow, called qi [“chee”], which relieves symptoms and restores health.
Acupuncture treatments safely support a woman through each trimester of her pregnancy. Because qi is the body’s energy system, it contributes to the proper functioning of all bodily organs and physiological processes, including reproduction. Acupuncture treatments throughout pregnancy can balance the mother’s qi, thus supporting both the health of the mother and the developing baby.
There is strong evidence indicating that acupuncture is effective at offering relief for some of the most common prenatal and postnatal symptoms, including morning sickness, nausea, heartburn, fatigue, constipation, anxiety, edema, insomnia, carpal tunnel, sciatica, gestational diabetes, breech presentation, delayed labor, lactation issues and postpartum depression.
Acupuncture can provide a safe and effective alternative, without side effects, for women seeking holistic care and wellness during pregnancy.
Lynn Keating, L.Ac. • acuportpw.com
HypnoBirthing is a complete, 12-hour childbirth education course for couples, in which the premise is that fear and tension are the cause of labor pain. Women and their birth companions gain a deep trust in normal birth and learn easy self-hypnosis techniques, because focus and relaxation, the defining attributes of hypnosis, are powerful tools for remaining calm and maintaining control. What makes HypnoBirthing unique is that the course is centered on the most important birthing organ: the brain. For the laboring mother, a single fearful thought can result in a surge of adrenaline that can tighten her cervix, increase pain, decrease oxygen to her baby and stall labor. When confidence and trust are the woman’s primary emotions, her birthing body secretes oxytocin instead. Oxytocin is the endorphin that promotes pleasurable emotional and physical responses that accompany intimacy and bonding.
We have all heard that seeing is believing. But in truth, believing is seeing. When a woman is convinced that she is capable of birthing her baby calmly and with confidence, she is far more likely to experience that outcome. Evolution has spent three million years perfecting childbirth. Our job is to trust in this process, allow our minds and bodies to relax, and watch the miracle unfold.
Cynthia Overgard, MBA, HBCE • HypnoBirthingCT.com
The word doula [“doo-lah”] comes from a Greek word meaning “woman servant,” but in the modern context refers to women who provide nonmedical support to childbearing women. Doulas attend births in all birth facilities. The doula acts as liaison between parents and practitioners during the birth, and supports the couple through a natural, satisfying, non-invasive childbirth experience.
A labor doula has more than 40 hours of specialized training to support pregnant women before and during labor. Most doulas will meet with the couple two or three times before the due date, during which she will review their birthing options. She will be on call 24/7, starting two weeks before the due date, and she will often visit the couple’s home after the birth to support the mother’s breastfeeding. When labor is underway, she provides emotional and physical comfort measures, including breathing and relaxation techniques and finding the optimal positions for labor and birth. Although she cannot interfere with any medical practice, she can provide parents with information to make informed choices and can facilitate communication with healthcare providers so that the birthing mother is always aware and in control as her labor progresses.
Studies have shown that using a doula tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications, less need for pain relief or interventions, greater success with breastfeeding and a lower incidence of postpartum depression. To find a doula in your area, go to dona.org.
Alice McNulty, R.N. • MoonSpiritDoula.com
During pregnancy, one of the most noticeable physical changes is the new distribution of weight. The breasts enlarge, uterus grows and hips expand, while the lumbar curve of the spine exaggerates. Without the proper support and movement, these postural changes can cause labor and delivery to be much more stressful than need be.
To create the healthiest pregnancy possible, it is best to integrate massage, stretching and movement into each day. Movement, in the form of a gentle walk, is very important to ensure that the baby settles into the correct position for birth and you remain limber and loose for a stress-free delivery. Prenatal massage can come in various forms, ranging from a traditional Swedish massage to light massage work that could include other modalities. While preparing for the second and third trimester, the Mercier technique (a deep-tissue type of massage) can help to prepare a woman’s pelvic muscles for birth. Many massage therapists are trained not only to do massage but various other modalities as well. It is best to seek out a therapist who is certified in Mercier or Bodywork for the Childbearing Year.
Jennifer Mercier, Ph.D. • MercierTherapy.com
A midwife provides holistic care to pregnant women with a personalized, loving touch. She spends at least one hour at each prenatal appointment to find out who you are, what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and what’s important to you. A homebirth midwife wants you to have the safest, most beautiful, empowering and peaceful birth possible—right in your home, where you and your baby can birth calmly in a setting that is familiar and comfortable for you.
A homebirth midwife knows that the moment a woman walks out her front door to head to the hospital, she has unknowingly decided upon her first unnecessary intervention. For millions of years, women have been having babies without tools, tubes, tests, chemicals, machines, drugs and doctors. All your ancestors had babies; other mammals continue to birth without interference. You can, too.
Midwives can obtain midwifery certification through a variety of different paths, and their philosophies can very greatly. Because some midwives practice more like med-wives, it is important to ensure that the person you choose is in keeping with your own beliefs. As she advises you, take note of whether she is coming from a place of trust rather than fear. Listen to her language, her advice and her warnings. Does she have a deep appreciation and respect for natural birth? Is she successful at supporting women without interventions, without inducing labor and without unnecessary tests? Make sure she speaks with you about good nutrition and helps you to make choices in your life that will support a wonderful pregnancy and help ensure a good birth and a healthy baby.
Each baby gets only one chance at being born. This is why your relationship with your midwife should be based on deep care and mutual respect. That’s when you know you’ve found the midwife that you and your baby deserve.
Nancy Wainer, CPM, HBCE, CC • BirthdayMidwifery.com
Prenatal yoga offers a wide range of benefits for both you and your baby. Many women find their way to this beautiful dance of breath and movement when they discover they’ve been blessed with the opportunity and responsibility to birth a new life.
The physical change that takes place over the course of your pregnancy is both miraculous and humbling. Through the focus on alignment and breath, yoga can help relieve many of the mild discomforts of pregnancy, including back, hip and joint pain, swelling, nausea, breathing difficulties, fatigue and insomnia. In addition, yoga improves posture, stability, flexibility, strength, endurance and relaxation. This creates more space for your baby as you find yourself increasingly relaxed. As a result, your developing baby not only receives more oxygen but also finds himself in a cozy, safe, and nurturing environment in which he can thrive.
But the physical benefits are only one reason to practice. The emotional and spiritual benefits are just as compelling. When you practice yoga, you learn to surrender to and fully embrace your pregnancy and birth with a sense of equanimity, joy and inner strength. Most important, you learn to tune into your wisdom deep within—the mother’s wisdom that teaches you to trust your body, your heart and, above all, the connection between you and your baby.
Nina Antolino Jagetic, RYT, BE, MBA
From the moment you learn you are pregnant, prenatal pilates will help you achieve the strength, energy and endurance to guide you through pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
Pilates is an exercise method that focuses on building strength and flexibility, as well as sharpening the mind/body connection. Key pilates principles, including breathing, concentration, whole body movement, alignment and relaxation, help facilitate a more comfortable pregnancy and delivery by making you feel strong, calm, and more in tune with your body and your baby. By activating and strengthening your core, the deep muscles that stabilize your pelvis and lower back, your everyday movements will become easier and more balanced.
Pilates is an extremely individualized form of exercise, especially during pregnancy. Movements are simple, and modifications are made throughout pregnancy to accommodate changing energy levels, a growing belly and varying levels of stability around the pelvis and spine. Exercises that focus on the arms and upper back help prepare the mother for long stretches of holding and nursing infants. Proper spine alignment and pelvic stability will cut down on common aches and pains felt as a result of loosening ligaments around your joints. Stretching and release work help to alleviate tension in the body and foster relaxation.
Prenatal pilates is a wonderful way to prepare your body and your mind for this exciting time in your life. You will be treating yourself and your baby to a truly rewarding experience with benefits that will last a lifetime.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #24.
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