There’s a lot of debate around elective caesarean sections versus natural birth. One thing I think we can all agree on is that a woman should have the right to choose what type of birth she wants, free of judgment or guilt, whether it’s a home birth or an elective c-section. Even before becoming pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted a midwife and natural birth.
However, it’s not enough just to say you want a natural birth, because in the end, it’s not always your decision. As I learned throughout my first pregnancy, not everything will go as planned, and while it’s important to roll with the changes, there are things you can do to help properly equip your body for a healthy pregnancy and healthy birth.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, well you also need a village to prepare for the birth of a child, or at least a team of health practitioners and specialists. On my team is a nutritionist (myself), an acupuncturist (my colleague Eileen Fauster), a team of midwives, a physiotherapist and a chiropractor. In this five-part series blog, I will discuss how each of these has helped me prepare for a healthy pregnancy, healthy birth and ultimately, a healthy baby.
Good nutrition is key for before, during, and after pregnancy. Ideally, you will want to see a nutritionist prior to getting pregnant for a preconception cleanse. For more information on why this is important, check out our blog here.
If you are not already eating healthy before getting pregnant, it can be very difficult to change your diet after becoming pregnant. Nausea and pregnancy cravings often get in the way of the best intentions. You also want to avoid any kind of detoxification during pregnancy, as this can actually cause harm to the fetus. If you missed the opportunity to do a detox before becoming pregnant, it’s best that the toxins stay stored away in your fat cells for now and you worry about doing a detox later on. However, you can still do your best to eat healthy all throughout your pregnancy and a nutritionist can guide you on how to do this without over-stressing yourself and your body.
Feeding your body lots of good food in the last trimester is one of the best ways to prepare for a natural labour. Focus on blood-sugar-balancing foods such as gluten-free whole grains (eg brown rice, quinoa, millet), beans and legumes. Make sure to eat enough carbohydrates to keep glycogen stores topped up. Avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as heavily-processed foods, dairy and wheat. Make a point to eat lots of iron-rich foods (greens, beets, grass-fed beef, spirulina). Basically, you are preparing for your labour the same way an athlete will prepare for a sporting event. Which is why hydration is also important.
Most athletes know that if you go into a game or event dehydrated, it will be almost impossible to re-hydrate while being active. So, since you don’t know when labour will begin, make sure you are constantly hydrating your body. Drinking adequate amounts of water will also help with bowel movements and prevent water retention.
In addition to eating healthy food, I’ve also been drinking red raspberry leaf tea daily, a uterine tonic to help prepare for labour and prevent excess bleeding.
During labour itself, the focus should be on staying hydrated and energized with simple, easy-to-digest food. In the early stages of labour, small meals and snacks rich in protein are fine. As the labour progresses, switch to something water-rich, like fruit or coconut water during active labour. If you are unable to eat anything during labour due to nausea, popsicles are a good idea.
Check out our easy “popsicles for labour” recipe below!
What makes these ingredients so beneficial?
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Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments are very effective for optimizing fertility and helping the body prepare for pregnancy. During pregnancy, acupuncture can also be effective for nausea and dizziness and it certainly helped me during my first trimester. In the second-half of pregnancy, acupuncture can be effective in alleviating hemorrhoids and back pain. In the last weeks of pregnancy, acupuncture can help to ensure a smooth delivery. Post-partum, acupuncture can help stimulate lactation, if ample breast-feeding is a concern.
Where acupuncture is singularly invaluable is in turning a breech-positioned baby. A breech baby means that the baby is positioned to exit bum-first or feet-first; neither is considered optimal for a vaginal delivery. In fact, most hospitals and OB-GYNs will not allow women to attempt a vaginal birth, and will conduct a caesarian section instead.
While my babies turned on their own, working with Eileen Fauster, I have seen many clients have their breech babies turned after just a few acupuncture-moxibustion (aka moxa) treatments. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the combination of acupuncture and moxibustion (the burning of herbs) has a tonifying and warming effect, which promotes movement and activity. Most effective in the 32nd to 35th weeks of pregnancy, this warming effect will encourage the baby to become more active and to somersault into the head-down position.
Acupuncture-moxa treatments can also be used to reposition transverse-positioned babies, a situation wherein the baby has its shoulder or back pointing down, or is lying sideways across the abdomen. Learn more about our Acupuncture for Breech Baby Treatment.
In our continuing blog series on Holistic Birth Planning, our next blog discusses the benefits of physiotherapy, chiropractic adjustments and perineal massage.
Our upcoming blogs will discuss:
Want more information? Check our programs for fertility, pregnancy and early childhood here.