Baby Wearing – Part 1

Baby Wearing

USA 1920s
1950s – American Woman Carrying a Baby

Many cultures have used baby wearing for a variety of reasons.  Some cultures have lost the wisdom behind its use, and many have gravitated to more modern ways, such as the use of a stroller or pram to bring babies along with them on walks and to the store.

In pre-historical times mothers had to devise ways to forage and hunt while carrying for babies. Skins, bark, hand-woven reeds, or bark would have been constructed to assist in keeping baby close and safe. When woven fabrics were invented, women would have utilized long woven wraps or shawls to tie their babies into carrying positions either next to the chest or on their back.


A few words for baby carriers in various languages exist:

Amauti: an Inuit back pouch that was incorporated with the coat, the pouch created when cinched at the waist.  The baby was then held high up on the back lying on a bed of fur within the pouch.

Dakkohimo or onbuhimo: a Japanese carrier using cloth and straps that would go over the shoulders. It was worn either on the front or the back.  It could be used by the mother, siblings, or grandparents.

Mei tai:  Chinese fabric panel with for straps attached at each corner.  The bottom two straps are tied at the waist; the upper two crisscross either for front-carrying or back carrying. The fabric panel supports the whole torso.

Podaegi: used by Koreans used a blanket-like appearing traditional wrap that has straps.  Infant through toddler-aged were back-carried.

Kanga: a rectangular cloth that wraps around both mother and baby to assist back-carrying used in Kenya.

Selendang:  A rectangular batik cloth that is tucked and folded to form a sling is used by the women in Indonesia.

Can’ic’ik’oƞpa: The Lakota “cradle board” using two attached boards for carrying.
The Welsh kept their tradition of blanket-wrapping until the 50s, when it almost died out.  It is seeing somewhat of renewal today. You can see images here: Celtic Baby Carrying

Around the early 1900s the use of baby carrying or wearing became out of fashion, because of social ideas.  It was thought that only poor persons used this method.  It was deemed a method of “spoiling” a baby, to spend so much time in such close contact.

To continue on this topic see: Part 2

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Anovulation and Irregular Cycles

No two females are the same.  Women have cycles that vary.  It is dependent on if she is an adolescent girl, just coming off the pill, breastfeeding, or is approaching menopause.

Women who live in close proximity do tend to cycle together.  You will notice this as you become more aware of your cycle, and your body.


A Typical Cycle

In what is considered a “normal” cycle, the release of the egg occurs in a predictable pattern.  After your menses, “under the influence of rising estrogen, you’ll usually have several days of no cervical fluid, building up to progressively wetter fertile-quality cervical fluid (103)”.  After the egg is released the cervical fluid will dry quickly. Then the pattern starts again.

Different Phases of Anovulation

Adolescence

The average age of American girls to begin menstruation is 12 to 14 years old. At this age, the onset of menses may not be due to the release of an egg.

One of the characteristics of cycles in teenage girls is the fluctuation of the estrogen cycles.  Therefore the cycle of a teenager is not predictable. The distance between menses and duration may vary, with some anovulatory cycles in between.

Breastfeeding

When breastfeeding “on demand” a woman may not have menses for months.  Every time the baby is breastfed the hormones that trigger ovulation are triggered. But, in order for it to work, the baby must feed regularly when baby indicates hunger (no supplementation).

A woman could go a year or more without a change in temperature, experiencing the same cervical fluid.  The reason that she would not see the good kind of cervical fluid, at first, is that prolactin will lower the estrogen levels and keep the fertile quality cervical fluid from being produced. The trick here is, to be able to notice if there is any change in the cervical fluid, which will indicate that ovulation is soon to resume.

Premenopause

Premenopause occurs prior to Menopause, when all ovulation and menses cease. It often will last for years. During this time, her cycles may start to be very different than usual. At first, the cycles may shorten because of more frequent ovulations and shorter luteal phases. As time goes on, the length of the cycles increases as the number of ovulations become more infrequent.  Finally the cycles end altogether.  If the woman is 40 or older and she has had no menses for a year or more, she is said to be in Menopause.

Other Major Causes of Anovulation

Illness

Normally, illnesses do not affect your cycle.  When illness affects your cycle depends upon the phase of your cycle you are in when you become ill, if before ovulation it may delay or cause no ovulation to occur… If after ovulation, it will rarely cause any problems.

A fever will not affect your ability to chart or interpret it.  There are other fertility signs. Not only that, you can still tell whether the temperature affected your cycle in either delaying or preventing the cycle.

Travel 

Travel is notorious for causing an effect on the cycle.  Some women do manage to be regular like clock-work despite traveling.

Your body may interpret traveling as a stressor.  Some women may find that they have an extended cycle while others do not ovulate at all…in fact stop menstruating altogether.  Despite all this, and the fun of travel, you will find charting using all three signs is beneficial to notate the ambiguities.

 Exercise

Heads up!  Strenuous exercise is a well-known cycle buster!  It can delay or stop ovulation.  Exercise mostly affects competitive athletes with low body fat ratios.  For women, it is mostly those who are runners swimmers, gymnasts, and ballet dancers that have issues.  But metabolism, thyroid, and diet must be ruled out first.

Weight Loss or Gain

To maintain normal ovulatory cycles, a woman’s body weight should be a minimum of 20% body fat.  This is in order to have the body store estrogen and to allow for androgen conversion into to the kind of estrogen necessary for ovulation.

Women who are extremely thin, especially those with anorexia, tend to have their menses stop.  This is due to not having enough estrogen to cause ovulation.

Stress

Long cycles are often caused by stress. Stresses can be either psychological or physical. Stress tends to delay ovulation rather than cause an earlier ovulation cycle. Therefore, the later the ovulation occurs the cycle becomes longer. If stress is severe it can cause ovulation to stop altogether.

Medical Conditions

A variety of medical conditions can cause menses to cease.  These are:

  • Elevated prolactin
  • Pituitary gland problems
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome

A common and useful way to determine the cause of anovulation is with a Progesterone Withdrawal Test.
NOTE:

For both breastfeeding and Premenopause, the use of FAM as your contraception method can be tricky at best.

Natural Contraception – Part 3

chart


The Four Rules

  1.  First Five Days Rule

You are safe during the first five days of the menstrual cycle if you have had an obvious temperature shift about 12 to 16 days prior.

This applies to the first five days of the cycle. Any bleeding after should be considered fertile whether you bleed or not. Bleeding in that 5 day period is true menstruation, not spotting or abnormal bleeding.

This rule can only work if you have been charting your cervical fluid and temperature for awhile. You cannot rely on this rule if you are approaching menopausal age and if any of the signs of menopause are present[i].  This is due to the hormonal fluctuations that occur in Premenopause.

If your last 12 cycles were 25 days or shorter, you should then assume only 3 days are safe.  This precaution is due to the fact that you could ovulate earlier.  You would not be able to detect cervical fluid change due to bleeding.

  1. Dry day Rule

    Before ovulation you are safe any evening of every dry day[ii].

    Dryness[iii] is determined by periodic checks of cervical fluid throughout the day. There should be no wet or any kind of fluid.

It must not be “sticky” either.  Although sticky fluids may not be conducive to fertility, err on the safe side. Many women cannot distinguish between the sticky fluid and the wet fertile cervical fluids.  But if you have a couple “sticky” days and then return to dry, you are then considered safe on the dry days.

on the day after intercourse you chart that day with a question mark if semen or spermicide is present, these tend to mask cervical fluid. Because the fluids are masked that evening is considered fertile, since you cannot determine “wet” or “dry” cervical fluid.  But if by the end of the day after intercourse you are dry and have been all day, you are safe.

Remember: sperm cannot survive with a dry cervix.  The longest that the sperm stays alive is just a few hours. The sticky fluid of the cervix is just about as inhospitable as a dry cervix, so the risk is low.

  1. Temperature Shift Rule

    You are safe the evening of the 3rd consecutive day your temperature is above the cover-line.

You are infertile starting at 6 p.m. the third consecutive night that your temperature is above the cover-line.   If the temperature falls on or below the cover-line during that three day time frame, you must start your counting over until  it is above the line again.

If you develop a fever due to illness, you cannot consider yourself safe until you have had and recorded three days consecutively of normal temperatures above the cover-line.  If you have had no obvious thermal shift use a more conservative rule.  This would mean you would consider yourself safe only until the evening of the third day you are above the line.

  1. Peak Day Rule
    You are safe the evening of the 4th consecutive day after your peak day

Your peak day is the last day of “wetness”.  On the chart mark “PK” in the peak day column.  Subsequent days should be marked as “1”, “2”, “3”, etc., in that same row.  You should record them only in the evening after having observed your cervical fluid.

You are considered safe on the 4th consecutive day following a “peak day”after 6 p.m. Draw a vertical line on the 3rd and 4th day to indicate your being safe from day four.


Putting it all together

  • The peak day of cervical fluids typically occurs a couple of days before the temperature rises.
  • Before ovulation, the cervical fluid is the critical fertility sign to observe
  • But after ovulation , it is the temperature that is a critical sign.
  • The rules that apply to ovulation will often work in harmony with each other, so the the 3rd evening of high temperatures will coincide with the 4th evening after the peak day.
  • However:
    • If there is a discrepancy between the two post-ovulatory rules, always wait until both signs indicate infertility.
    • If it is critical that you avoid pregnancy, do not take the chance of unprotected sex!

 

[i] Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, etc.

[ii] After 6 p.m.

[iii] No fluids present, the slight moisture at the vaginal opening is not “wet” per se.

Natural Contraception – Part 1

chart

Many women have said to me “Oh, charting is just too much bother”.  Well, is it too much bother to pencil in your eyebrows and put on lipstick before you leave the front door? This is YOUR body, it is your health we are talking about.  Once you get the blank charts, it probably will take you five minutes. Easy peezy… like tying your shoe laces!

Waking Temperature

Why do it?

  • you can see when you are ovulating
  • tell when you can have safe sex without unwanted pregnancy
  • see when you are no longer fertile (Great for when you want a “green light” for safe sex” or when you are trying to get pregnant, it is not gonna happen…
  • indicates when you will get your menses
  • potential issues with period

How to do it
glass thermometer
When you first wake up, before you drink water or anything else.  Everyday, including during your menses. If possible, take your temperature at the same time each day. Note the time on your chart. The later in the day, the higher the temperature…so if you forget to do the temperature upon waking, you need to note the time.

If your thermometer is digital, make sure to wait until it beeps.  The reading would then be more accurate. A glass thermometer, should be left in the mouth a full five minutes.  Shake it down the night before or at least remember to do so before you take the temperature for that day.

Take your temperature ORALLY.

Also note on your chart if you have had unusual events in your life, such as: stress, illness, are traveling, or you are moving. These events can affect your temperature.

 

Our Gynecological Health – Part 2

Normal VS Abnormal Bleeding

Normal menstruation lasts about five days and usually will follow a pattern, here are two variations:

Light –> heavy –> medium –> light –> very light
Heavy –> heavy –> medium –> medium –> light

Also, some women may spot (ordinarily brownish) or bleed at other times in their cycle besides actual menstruation. Spotting is one of the most misunderstood aspects of a woman’s cycle. A common mistake is to assume any type of bleeding episode is menstruation. True menstruation occurs after ovulation, about 12 to 16 days after. Any other type of bleeding is either anovulatory bleeding, what is considered normal spotting, or is symptomatic of a problem.
Ovulatory Spotting

Light bleeding may occur right around ovulation in some women. It is not only normal, but an indicator for fertility, a sign that tells where the woman is in her cycle. It results from a sudden drop in estrogen, just before ovulation. It occurs more in long-cycles.

Anovulary Bleeding and Spotting

Once in a while an egg is not released. It could be due to the estrogen not reaching the level for the egg to release. When this happens the drop in estrogen will cause light bleeding.

For women over 40, the cause is a decreased sensitivity to FSH and LH hormones. This would result in these women not ovulating. The progesterone level is not able to sustain the lining and some spotting or bleeding may occur.

The way to know if actual ovulation did occur, is to chart the temperature. As a reminder: the temperature pattern is: low before ovulation, followed by the high temperature after.

Implantation Spotting

So when a woman notices spotting rather than bleeding a week after her temperature shifts she might want to consider a pregnancy test. This may be an indication of “implantation spotting”, because as the egg burrows into the lining of the uterus, a bit of spotting may occur. If temperatures remain high for another 18 days or more, this is an indication that the corpus luteum is viable.

Breastfeeding Spotting

After the initial flow of birth has stopped, some women may have some bleeding about six weeks postpartum. This is due to the withdrawal of hormones that were high during pregnancy.

Also there may be a fluctuation of hormones while breastfeeding because of the needs of the baby. The temporary imbalance of hormones may cause women who breastfeed a few anovulatory spotting.

Other times

• After office procedures
• While on the pill
• Or during postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy

Our Gynecological Health – Part 1

First of all, we women have left all the charting of our gynecological health in the hands of our doctors. We can keep our own records, at home.

I will be posting a .pdf file of a chart you can use as a “master sheet” of your exams and an example chart to assist you in filling it out. Use it to keep track of your weight, blood pressure, general gynecological health (which would include the breast exam, pap test, vaginal culture, etc.).

Much of what we see in our doctor’s charts, may seem to be a problem, only because we women do not understand or are taught about normal feminine health. We can understand them better when we see what actually are the “true” gynecological conditions.

These “True” Gynecological conditions would be:

• Vaginal infections
• Abnormal bleeding
• Premenstrual syndrome
• Breast lumps
• Endometriosis
• PCOS
• Nabothian (cervical) cysts

“…charting enables a woman to understand her body in a practical way (Wescheler, 230)”. A woman who charts every day is so aware of what is normal for her own body, that she can actually assist her doctor determine what is not normal based upon her symptoms. Keeping the chart of her menstruation cycle assists her In well-being, and working with the doctor.

Normal Healthy Cervical Fluid VS. Real Vaginal Infections

We live in a culture that advertises douche and sprays for vaginal “discharge” giving women the idea that they are “dirty” all the time. Douching and sprays only act to confuse the identity of healthy cervical fluid and what would be a real infection.

Wescheler explains in her book, that doctors say you don’t need either. On a talk show she watched, she says that the doctor stated that the infections from these products were “…enough to send his children to college (Wescheler , 231)”. Then there is also the yeast infection products that women self-diagnose and take every month for a “recurring” problem.

But, using the chart, detection of an actual infection will be easier, and discovered earlier. You can get treatment before discomfort sets in. Secretions mid-month are normal, but late in the month may indicate infection.

Symptoms of Vaginal Infections That Can Be Distinguished from Normal Cervical Fluid
Once you have routinely charted your normal cervical fluid, an infection can be distinguished by the unpleasant symptoms that set them apart from what is normal. Vaginal infections can range from STIs (See: The Effects of Sexually Transmitted Infections on Pregnancy) to a variety of forms of Vaginitis and of course the generic “yeast infection”.

• Abnormal discharge
• Itching, stinging, swelling, and redness
• Unpleasant odor
• Blisters, warts, and chancre sores

Avoiding Infections

Besides the consequences of douching, you should not wear clothing that is damp or too tight, as these create an unhealthy vaginal environment. Also you should wear cotton underwear, or at least cotton crotch underwear as these allow your body to breathe.

For more information see: Part 2

Sphincter Law – Part 2

doula at work

Sphincters May Close Suddenly if the Owner is Frightened

The sudden contraction of the Sphincters is a fear-based reaction, as a part of the fight-or-flight response of adrenals. The Adrenaline/catecholamine level will rise in the bloodstream when frightened or angered.

If a female animal in the wild is in process of birth, the birth process will reverse if the animal is startled by a surprise encounter with a predator. Humans can do the same thing.

In her book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina describes a situation where during labor a woman developed a fever; soon it became apparent that there was a bladder infection. She was seven centimeters dilated, but stalled in labor. So Ina chose to transport her to a hospital.

The laboring woman was examined by a doctor that was rough…who stated she was only 4 centimeters. Her dilation retracted from 7 to 4 centimeters as an automatic response to the roughly-handled internal exam…a natural self-protection, evidence of the function of the sphincter function.

What Helps the Sphincters?

• Trust, comfort, familiarity and safety
• Laughter
• Slow and deep [abdominal] breathing
• Immersion in warm water which calms and relaxes
• Relaxation of the mouth and jaw
o Relax the throat and jaw by singing
o Release an audible low moaning sound (similar to the sounds of lovemaking)
o “horse-lips” similar to the tone that horses make when they make that sound with their lips flapping, or “raspberry” sound.
• Relaxed labor supporters

~This information was taken from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Ina May is an internationally known Midwife, who has delivered babies and written books on Midwifery and natural childbirth. She works at THE FARM, in Tennessee.

Sphincter Law- Part 1

doula at work
In birth work, obstetricians use the Law of Three Ps:

• Passenger (baby)
• The Passage (the pelvic structure and vagina)
• And the Powers (strength of uterine contractions)

From these Ina Gaskin believes stems the misunderstood capacity of a woman’s body from both the pregnant woman and the doctors who work with them. From the misunderstood capacities are the causative factors leading to all the interventions and procedures that now create problems in birthing, such as: Cesarean sections, Forceps use, vacuum extractors, etc.

The blame is placed upon women, for what obstetricians see as “dysfunctional birth”. Women have birthed for eons without a hitch; doctors perceive having a baby as “a problem of physics rather than a millions-of-years-old physiological process (168)”.

The Basics of Sphincter Law

• They function best when the atmosphere is private, and familiar.
• They do not open “at will” and do not respond to commands such as “Push!”
• When in the process of opening (relaxing) they will suddenly close down if a person is upset, frightened, humiliated, or self-conscious. This is the reason why in most traditional cultures women assist women in birth.
• If the mouth and jaw are relaxed, there is a direct correlation to the ability of the sphincters opening in the cervical and vaginal area (or the anus, for that matter).

What are the Sphincters?

These are a grouping of muscles that surround the rectum, bladder, the cervix and vagina. Each has a function for the body. These muscles remain contracted to keep the openings of certain organs held shut until something needs to pass through.

How do they work?

They work in conjunction with the brain. The brain has two sections that directly influence the functions of the Sphincters. These sections are the neocortex and the brain stem (or “primal” brain).

The brain stem is the portion that is directly connected to hormonal functions, and more instinctual. The hormones it releases (related to birth) are oxytocin (the main ingredient in the drug Pitocin, used to induce labor), endorphins, and prolactin.

Whereas the neocortex stimulation works to inhibit the brain stem from hormone release. It is “stimulated” during labor by asking too many questions of a woman in labor, bright light, and failure to protect her privacy during birth.

The sphincters work with the brain stem (and its many hormonal excretions) by a relaxation response. They respond to emotions. A good example of this relaxation response is what happens when toilet functions are interrupted. Everything gets held in, and it takes a while to relax again, right?

~more on the “Sphincters” next week!

Pain in Childbirth – Part 1

father in delivery room
Biological Purpose of Pain

The human body responds to pain with either the response to flee, or the response to stand and fight. Some responses are automatic, such as the immediate withdrawal of the hand when burned accidently. External pains can be avoided.

But, what is known as visceral (ves-er-al) pain cannot be escaped. These are ones from the internal organs, and the uterus is an internal organ. This is in the case of normal and natural function, not a diseased state.

Extreme hunger or excessive thirst are due to physiological imbalance. These can be painful, but satiated by eating and drinking.

How Pain is Felt

On the body surface and on the outside of various organs are nerve endings. These were heightened during man’s primitive days, as sensors when man was attacked by creatures with tooth and claw. Certain exterior areas are very sensitive such as the neck, under the arms, abdomen, and chest.

The internal organs also have receptors, but only register with pain mechanisms when the external area is severely injured. The interesting thing is “the intestines and uterus can be burnt, cauterized, handled and moved without any sensation of discomfort to the patient,…(34)”. But if either has been torn or stretched the receptors respond with pain. The question we have to ask is why only during birth is the sensation of pain felt…a normal function.

The nerves send the information to the part of the brain called the thalamus. Here the intensity of the pain is interpreted. Then they are sent to the outer cortex of the brain to be balanced and qualified. The response to the messages from the Thalamus would be dependent upon the magnitude of the message by the Thalamus. The strongest response is fear, which brings about the most motor responses.

The thing to emphasize here is that this response is recognized in the normal and uncomplicated labor. The degree of neuro-response mechanism is determined by the state of the particular woman who has the pain. One may get a sense of total agony, and feel she is in great discomfort. While another woman may sense that it is not intense agonizing pain. It depends on the mental state of the person.

For the woman in birth the first time, the pain sensation will cause tension. This tension sets the stage for a flight reaction, that causes the uterine muscles that are circumventing the lower portion of the uterus to tighten. The longitudinal muscles are then constricted.
It is the longitudinal muscles that work to assist the fetus to be expelled at birth. The circulatory muscular portion of the uterus causes the longitudinal muscles to struggle in the effort to dilate the cervix. They work in opposition rendering the lower portion of the uterus and outlet resistant to dilation. The two opposite reactions in the muscular structure is then interpreted by the brain as pain.

Therefore, the fear OF pain produces ACTUAL pain.

We are so conditioned to believe that childbirth must be painful. Even Hollywood’s depiction is of childbirth as a painful ordeal, showing women screaming in agony.
It does not have to be this way…

Pain in any other part of the body at any other time is an indicator or “alarm” that something is not right. In labor it is also…an indicator that you need to RELAX.

Pain in labor releases a hormone that inhibits labor.

Protein Foods

Protein Foods

(with the protein foods containing the most essential amino acids first).

Proteins
Eggs (preferably organic, or at least “free-range”)
Milk
Fish (preferably:
Poultry (preferably: baked, broiled or stewed)
Tofu & other beans
Oats (preferably not quick cooking)
Nuts (especially almonds)
wheat
cornmeal

Protein Food Combinations

(to assure best usage of the most Amino Acids found in the food /Proteins )

Beans + Wheat
Beans + Rice
Corn bread + Beans
Corn tortillas + Beans
Lentil Curry + Rice
Pea Soup + Wheat (bread)
Pasta + milk and/or Cheese
Cheese + Wheat (cheese sandwiches)
Macaroni + Cheese
Garbanzo dip (hummus)
Sunflower seeds, peanuts, roasted soybeans (snack foods)

_______
“Diet for a Small Planet”. Fig.14, page 176
Ibid. page 181 (Chart)