Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Can acupuncture help my labor?

Have you ever tried acupuncture? Many swear by it, while skeptics and the needle-averse raise their eyebrows. Check out this overview of how pregnant people use acupuncture for labor and birth – and what the research says.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine, or a treatment that falls outside of conventional western medicine, but can be used alongside it. Acupuncture originated in ancient China, and has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from depression to chronic pain.

To treat a patient, a licensed acupuncturist stimulates certain points on the body, usually by inserting a very thin needle. The theory says that by stimulating these points, the acupuncturist encourages the flow of an energy called qi, or chi, along paths through the body called meridians.

How do people use acupuncture during pregnancy and labor?

The list of ailments acupuncturists treat is long enough to be its own article. And while research is incomplete, it looks promising, with many wide-scale studies finding it at least moderately effective in treating pain and nausea. Pregnant people use acupuncture to treat:

·         Morning sickness,

·         Headaches,

·         Insomnia or other sleep-related problems, and

·         Lower back pain.

For labor, acupuncture is used to:

·         Lessen labor pain,

·         Induce, or start, labor, and

·         Augment, or speed up, labor.

What does the research say about acupuncture during labor?

Studies on acupuncture during labor are mixed, and scientists agree that more research is needed. But, an overview of studies that Evidence Based Birth just pulled together found some promising results. Several studies found evidence that acupuncture increases cervical ripening, the process by which the cervix softens and becomes more flexible in preparation for birth. One study found that acupuncture shortens the duration of labor.

To hear about these studies in more detail, check out the video from Evidence Based Birth. []

Is it safe?

The medical consensus on acupuncture is that it’s safe and at least moderately effective – that’s why many insurance companies cover acupuncture to treat pain and nausea. Birth-related acupuncture research also finds no evidence of adverse effects aside from the normal, expected side effects of acupuncture that practitioners are trained to manage. But, research on acupuncture during labor and birth has almost always been conducted on people with low-risk pregnancies.

If you’re interested in exploring acupuncture for your pregnancy-related symptoms or to use during labor, talk to your doctor or midwife. And, talk to your doula! For Your Birth doulas have great recommendations for acupuncturists and other practitioners. 

What Doulas Do

So, what does a doula do, anyway?

In Greek, the word doula literally means women’s servant. In a nutshell, that’s our role.  Birth doulas continuously support women – and, increasingly, people of any gender who are having children – throughout labor and birth. But since doulas are nonmedical birth professionals, there’s often confusion about what that support looks like.

First, your doula will help you prepare.

Most doulas will meet with you at least once well before your due date. At For Your Birth, that means two prenatal consultations in your home where your doula will answer your questions and get to know you. These visits allow your doula to learn about your goals, preferences, and expectations, and to help you draft a birth plan to give you the best chance of the birth experience you want. Then, in the three weeks before your due date, your doula will be on call 24/7 to answer questions, reassure you, and connect you with medical providers and resources.

Your doula will stay with you through labor and birth.

From holding your hand through early contractions, to when you finally hold your baby in your arms, your doula will be by your side. While nurses, doctors, and midwives focus on your health and safety, doulas offer nonmedical physical, emotional, and informational support. That support may look different at different births, but it includes things like:

·         Physically supporting you as you change or hold labor positions,

·         Guiding your breathing through contractions,

·         Giving you a massage,

·         Fetching things that you need or want like music, ice, or candles,

·         Reminding you of pain management ideas you brought up during prenatal conversations,

·         Reminding you of questions you may want to ask medical providers about proposed interventions,

·         Reminding you of your birth plan, and how you planned on handling different scenarios,

·         Taking pictures,

·         Comforting, reassuring, and encouraging you,

·         Or holding the bucket when you puke!

There are plenty of other ways your doula may help, too. The idea is that we stay with you from start to finish, focusing solely on making sure you get the best experience possible.

And, your doula will support you after your baby comes.

Birth doulas working with For Your Birth offer 24/7 on-call support for two weeks after your child is born, plus a home visit. We can celebrate with you, get you in touch with any medical help or information you need, and help you emotionally process the whole birth experience. Many For Your Birth doulas can also give breastfeeding help.

Postpartum doulas and more.

Not all doulas are birth doulas, and many offer other types of support along with labor support. At For Your Birth, you can get a postpartum doula to help you in the exhausting weeks after birth by doing things like laundry and meal preparation. We also offer childbirth education and breastfeeding counseling.

Common Interventions - Pitocin

At some point during labor and birth, you’ll likely be faced with the choice of whether to accept a medical intervention. So, it helps a lot to learn ahead of time what the common interventions are, their risks and benefits, and, if you don’t want them, how to avoid them.

Your doula will know all about these interventions, and will be available before and during labor if you want to ask questions or discuss. But we want to give you an overview of one of the most common interventions used to start and speed up labor – Pitocin.

What is Pitocin?

Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone your body naturally produces during labor. Both Pitocin and oxytocin cause your uterus to contract during labor. Pitocin-induced contractions quickly become much more powerful and frequent than naturally-occurring contractions.

When is it administered?

Pitocin may be used to induce labor if you’re past your due date. Or, it may be used to augment, or speed up, a labor that is thought to be moving too slowly.

There’s a problem with the idea of slow-progressing labor, though – a lack of standardized, evidence-based guidelines for how long it should take labors to progress. Many hospitals used to use a graph called the Friedman Curve, developed in the 1950’s, but it’s been debunked by organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as outdated. So, different care providers and hospitals have very different ideas of what constitutes a slow labor.

How is Pitocin administered?

It’s administered by IV, usually starting with a very small dose that is then increased incrementally. As your contractions are monitored, your care provider might increase, decrease, or even stop Pitocin doses.

What are the risks and benefits?

Based on a review of eight randomized, controlled studies of over 1,000 low-risk, spontaneous labors, Pitocin reduces delivery time by an average of two hours. That’s probably the main benefit of this intervention – it speeds up labor.

But, the same review found that Pitocin does not reduce Cesarean sections. It also doesn’t reduce instrumental deliveries, where the doctor or midwife uses an instrument like forceps or a vacuum to assist with the birth. Other studies have shown that the drug comes with risks and adverse effects like:

·         Increasing the discomfort or pain brought on by contractions,

·         Increasing the risk of uterine atony, condition that results from the uterus failing to contract to deliver the placenta,

·         And decreasing the baby’s supply of oxygen from the placenta during labor.

How can you avoid Pitocin?

If you’re trying to avoid using Pitocin to induce labor, consider:

·         Discussing with your care provider alternative ways to induce labor, like nipple stimulation, sex, castor oil, or gentle exercise.

·         Discussing with your care provider how long you can safely wait past your due date if you prefer not to induce.

If you want to avoid using Pitocin to augment labor, try:

·         Using comfort and relaxation techniques during labor like soft lighting, music, deep breathing, moving, and changing positions. Labor progresses more quickly when you’re relaxed.

·         Laboring at home for as long as you’re comfortable before moving to the hospital, or discussing the option of a home birth with your care provider.

·         Starting a conversation with your care provider ahead of time about Pitocin and how you can avoid it.



Meals to Make and Freeze Before Your Due Date

Meals to Make and Freeze Before Your Due Date

In the weeks before your due date, it may seem like the to-do list is miles long. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the demanding schedule that faces parents of newborns. Make things gentler on yourself and your family by preparing and freezing nutritious, filling meals ahead of time. That way, no matter how exhausted you get taking care of the new baby, you’ll be well-fed. And, you can use would-be cooking time to enjoy the new family member!

Quick tips

If this is your first time preparing freezer meals, keep these tips in mind:

·         Store food in a container that is as close to airtight as possible.

·         Disposable aluminum trays, sealed with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, are great for casseroles and pasta dishes.

·         Sealable, plastic freezer bags or Tupperware containers work for soups and stirfries.

·         Don’t forget to label your meals, especially if you’re making a bunch.

·         When you’re ready to eat your freezer meals, you probably want to thaw them in the fridge overnight before heating them up in the oven or on the stove.

And remember, you can also do yourself a favor ahead of time by enlisting a postpartum doula. We can help you with meal prep, washing dishes, doing laundry, changing diapers, and more.

Now, onto the meal ideas!

First, the classics.

There are certain make-ahead freezer meals that any list would be incomplete without. You can’t go wrong with:

·         Lasagna, which is so hearty and comforting. Try Happy Money Saver’s Homemade Easy Lasagna [], but consider layering in some frozen spinach to add a dose of iron.

·         Chili, as long as you keep it on the mild side. Real Simple’s Sunday Night Chili [] will give you that classic Southwestern taste you’re craving.

·         Tuna noodle casserole, which can be such a hit with kids. Consider adding some peas and carrots to Better Homes and Gardens’ Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole [].

·         Mac and cheese is another kid-approved dinner. Toss in some veggies before freezing if you like – broccoli, peas, spinach, or any other favorite. Try William Sonoma’s Make-Ahead Macaroni and Cheese [].

Comforting soups.

Soups and stews can warm and comfort a stressed out new parent, but beware of too much dairy or potatoes – those ingredients don’t freeze well. Instead, try:

·         Lentil soup for something as simple as it is nutritious. The Kitchn offers a great Red Lentil Soup [] recipe.

·         Spring veggie soups may be a better option if your due date is during the warmer months. Eating Well offers a tempting Garden-Fresh Asparagus Soup [] recipe.

·         Meatball soup is so filling and soothing. Try Community Table’s 30-Minute Light Italian Meatloaf Soup [] for a quick and healthy version.

Vegan and vegetarian freezer meals.

There are plenty of great meat-free recipes that do great in the freezer, too! See how you like:

·         Broccoli Quinoa Casserole from Eat Good 4 Life [] for a hearty yet healthy option.

·         Butternut Swash Black Bean Burgers from Jerry James Stone [] are one of many freezer-friendly veggie burgers.

·         Or, Kale and Quinoa Minestrone from Cooking Classy [] is vegan and gluten-free. 

Dads and Doulas

Dads and Doulas

Father’s Day is coming up, so it seems like a great time to show some love to dads and co-parents. We’ve come a long way since the days when fathers were expected to sit in the waiting room during the birth of their children. It’s wonderful that, nowadays, so many partners are excited to be involved in this memorable event – even if many are understandably nervous. Let’s explore some of the ways that dads and doulas work together, and how doulas can offer priceless support to both parents.

We share your vision.

You probably both have some goals in mind about how you’d like your birth to go. Your doula’s job is to help make that ideal birth happen. That includes your vision of the type of support you, as a couple, want your partner to provide. So, if Dad wants to physically support you in different positions, or give you a massage, your doula can show him how. If your partner is more comfortable keeping things organized and offering verbal reassurances, she can do that while your doula helps in a more hands-on way.

The key is to communicate. There will be ample opportunity to share your expectations with your doula ahead of time, so don’t be shy!

We take the pressure off.

Doulas are the only labor support professionals who offer continuous, round-the-clock support. That means we can take care of some of the tasks that might exhaust or distract your partner, so they can focus on you. Say you need someone to field text messages from grandparents, grab a cool wash cloth, or even take over hand-holding while your partner grabs something to eat. Your doula can take these types of tasks off your partner’s hands so he can devote more time and energy to you.

We also take the pressure off by reassuring your partner. In the haze of a contraction, you don’t want to be responsible for explaining to your partner that the moaning really is normal. Let your doula take care of that.

Two types of expertise.

Your doula is knowledgeable about and comfortable with the process of birth. And few people know better than your partner the types of communication and comfort you respond to. Together, they make an unstoppable labor support team.

How to make the most of the dad-doula relationship?

Enlisting the help of a doula can help enhance your partner’s involvement. Here are some things to remember to ensure you get the most out of your doula’s services.

·         Communicate with each other about your fears. If either of you is worried about how the introduction of a doula might change your dynamic, talk about it ahead of time. Set clear expectations of the type of support you want from each other and from your doula.

·         Ask your doula for the labor support that’s right for you. If you need privacy at some point, want to learn a massage or pressure technique, or don’t understand why something is happening, ask.

·         Set clear goals for how you want the birth to go, what kind of support you want from your partner, and what kind of support you both want from your doula.

Get Awesome Labor Support For Your Birth!

Many folks in labor expect that their nurses will give them all of the support that they need.  And many nurses want to be hands-on and physically supportive to you throughout your labor.  However, the demands of the job require nurses to do a lot more data entry and checking vitals and a lot less comforting and physical support.

You hired your doctor or midwife for expert clinical care.

Your partner will be there to provide loving support and an intimate connection.

As your doula, we’ll bring skills and experience to the birth support team. And we’ll even hold the bucket when you puke!

Epidural Information, Not Judgement

As your doula, we’re down for helping you time when to get the epidural or for helping you cope without it.  It’s totally your call.  Ask us for our best epidural strategies that we use with SO MANY of our clients!

In this infographic, Lamaze International answers these 3 burning questions about the epidural: When’s the best time to get itl?  Is it effective? Are there side-effects?  We’re so excited to share this with you.  It’s the number one topic when we teach our childbirth classes.

Read it and make the decision that’s right for you!