FYI for native women

Just an FYI for all of you…

 

Midwives Resistance: How Native Women are Reclaiming Birth on Their Terms

Mana Preconference/for native midwives

2 FULL DAYS:

Indigenous Midwifery: Ancestral Knowledge Keepers – $150. (Proceeds go to Native American Midwives Alliance)

When: October 14-15, 8:00-5:00PM

Indigenous Birthworkers Network Birthworkers who are Midwives, Doulas, mothers…

Midwifery is On the Rise In Native Communities

Nicolle Gonzales CNM ~ Blessingway of a Native American Midwife  Video

Midwives of Color

2018 American Indian and Alaska Native National Behavioral Health Conference

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Asparagus

green-asparagus-1331460_1920
Asparagus spp.

Fresh Shoots – A. Officinalis.

Useful for mild cases of cystitus, fluid retention and for slight cases of edema. After urination you can smell a distinct aroma that is caused by t breakdown of asparagus in the system.

It is an excellent source of folic acid and selenium.

Dried Root – A. Racemosus / Shatavari (Ayurvedic Medicine)

Shatavari means “she who possesses a hundred husbands” due to its usages. Used for debilities associated with female sexual organs. It has rejuvenitory properties. It can assist with fertility issues.

About Shatavari

Recipe with Fresh Shoots

Prepare shoots for cooking. While preparing pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet lightly with oil. lightly spray shoots and roll in raw sesame seeds, lay on the cookie sheet spread slightly apart. Bake until the seeds are a golden brown. Enjoy.

Baby Wearing – Part 2

Why would it be of benefit to you as a mother to carry your baby, using any method?

It would assure you that continuity is available for your baby.  After nine months of carrying the fetus, where gentle rocking motions were constant, it would make sense to allow for this continuity to continue outside the womb.

You and your baby are bonding in the first few months after birth. Babies need to feel, smell, and touch you for assurance.  It stresses baby to have separation from you.  Yet, you need to get things done, right? Baby-wearing allows for both!

It assists in cognitive development (Gross-Loh, 46) when you carry your baby. The baby is in a calm state, content, and observing all the time while learning about their world.

You learn about your baby as well. The attachment of mother and baby is strengthened; mother is able to understand baby’s cues easier which develop a mutual trust.
Let’s take a look at some of the various methods used (by country):

Mexican women use the Reboso, a traditional shawl wrap that usually would be given to girls at Menarche and worn as a shawl or neck wrap until needed for carrying a baby. The Lakota use a cradleboard, the Japanese and Malasian women carried babies on their backs…

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Things to Consider:

In the first six months after having a baby the hormone relaxin may be in your system. It is important to be aware of “postural adaptations that may adversely affect your spinal joints (Ohm, 18)”.  If feeling Fatigued or feeling muscles tightened (such as tightened muscles of the neck or shoulders).  Jeanne Ohm recommends a chiropractic visit.

When you are using your baby wrap, sling, or carrier consider your back.  The higher up and closer your baby is, the more comfort you will feel.

Consider the type of carrier you will use. Of great concern are the types of slings that are like a pouch and hand low, with lots of material.  It is potentially dangerous for the baby as the baby may lie in a “C” position with his/her chin tucked towards the chest.  This position can potentially cause breathing issues, or asphyxia (suffocation).

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 2

The Fertility Awareness Method [FAM] works as a contraceptive only if you choose to either postpone intercourse or use a barrier method when you are fertile. You should be aware the method is most effective when you abstain.

chart

Here are the reasons why:

  1. If the barrier method is going to fail, it will fail when you are in the fertile phase. ALL contraceptives have a failure rate.
  2. Using barriers with spermicides during the fertile phase can mask your cervical fluid.


Drawing the “Cover Line” For Charting

The purpose for charting your temperature is determine when ovulation occurs.  Your temperature rises on the days after.  But to accurately do this, you need to draw a cover line.

The instructions are as follows:

  • After your menstruation ends and when charting your temperatures, always notice the highest temperature of the previous 6 days.
  • Identify the first day your temperature rises at least 2/10ths of a degree above the highest temperature
  • Now, go back and highlight the last 6 temperatures before the rise
  • Draw the coverline 1/10th of a degree above the highest of that cluster of 6 highlighted days


Charting Cervical Fluids

 Day 1 of the cycle is the first day menstrual bleeding. Brown or light spotting prior is considered a part of the last cycle.

  • The graph below shows how the various types of cervical fluids are recorded in your chart.
    Note: Menses are marked with
    * while spotting is marked (*)


Menses:  Red Blood Flow

Eggwhite          
Creamy          
Sticky          
Dry, Spotting or Menses *        


Spotting: Brown, pink, discolored

Eggwhite          
Creamy          
Sticky          
Dry, Spotting or Menses *  (*)      

Nothing:

Eggwhite          
Creamy          
Sticky          
Dry, Spotting or Menses *  (*)  —    

Sticky:

It is opaque, white, or yellow, and occasionally clear.  Can be thick.  The main quality is stickiness or lacking true moisture.  It can be crumbly or flaky like a paste, of gummy and rubbery (similar to rubber cement). When separating fingers it forms peaks.

Eggwhite          
Creamy          
Sticky        fill in box
 
Dry, Spotting or Menses  *  (*)  —    


Creamy:

Milky, cloudy, white or yellow in color.  Is “creamy” like lotion.  Can be wet, watery or thin in nature.  Does not form peaks when separating fingers.

Eggwhite          
Creamy      
 fill in
Sticky        fill in
 fill in
Dry, Spotting or Menses *  (*)  —    

Eggwhite:

Usually it is clear, but can have opaque streaks in it.  Very slippery and wet like an eggwhite. Feels like extreme lubrication in the vaginal opening.

Eggwhite        
Creamy      
 fill in
Sticky        fill in
 fill in
Dry, Spotting or Menses *  (*)  —    

NOTE: There would be an additional column on the right side, but due to constraints in page size, is omitted. The last column not shown has “eggwhite, “creamy”, and “sticky” boxes filled in.

 

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

Miscarriage – Part 1

MISCARRIAGE

A miscarriage is when a pregnancy spontaneously ends. It usually occurs before the 28th week of gestation. Miscarriages occur in approximately 20% of all pregnancies in the United States.

Many women have a miscarriage early in a pregnancy, without even realizing it. The miscarriage just seems to be a “heavy” period. Teenage girls and middle age women are the most common age groups. Miscarriages are more common early on than after the first trimester.

Those women who tend to miscarry repeatedly, or those women who really desire a baby, the loss of a baby can be devastating. Because so many people do not discuss the loss of a baby through miscarriage women do not know what to expect or what to do.

Although painful to think about, and it sounds rather blunt, a miscarriage is nature’s way of preventing an unhealthy baby from being carried to term. It may seem hard to accept, but we should realize that our bodies have a wisdom of their own and prevention of a miscarriage will not be effective with an unhealthy baby.

Other causes for miscarriages include:

• Hormonal imbalances
• Cervical looseness ( called “incompetent cervix”, a medical term)
• Infections
• Nutritional deficiencies
PREVENTING A THREATENED MISCARRIAGE

The signs of a threatened miscarriage include spotting, bleeding, or cramping which may also include a backache. These symptoms may begin suddenly or develop slowly. They can last just a few hours, or may last for days. The spotting or bleeding may be all that occurs. Or the symptoms may be more severe and cause fear that the baby will be lost. A physical exam is not wise at this point as it may stimulate the uterus further. Chances are a woman will still have the symptoms of pregnancy (breast soreness or tenderness and nausea) after spotting or bleeding. Although not always a good idea, the use of the Doppler may help reassure that the pregnancy is still viable.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

• If You are having contractions or are bleeding / spotting, do get off your feet and rest. Get up only when you need to go to the bathroom.
• Avoid lifting heavy objects and abstain from sexual activity until all signs of a miscarriage have been gone for at least a week
• Warm (not hot) baths will release tension and anxiety, and bring relief to lower back pain.
• Take time, while resting off your feet, to connect with the baby and tell the baby you want him/ or her. Send your baby your love. This may or may not be helpful, but you will feel comforted and assured you are doing all that you can for the pregnancy. Let the baby know you want the baby but also reassure the baby that if he or she must go, you understand and give permission.
• If you are unsure about the pregnancy to begin with, this is a good time to come to terms with having or letting go of the baby.

DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS

• To prevent a miscarriage, avoid all cold-natured and cold temperature foods. Cold has a downward moving, heavy force…causing an excess of downward flow in the pelvic area.
• It is better then, to eat warmer foods that are nourishing, such as soups. Also emphasis should be on whole grain stews, hot cereals, root vegetables, and dark greens until all symptoms have been gone at least for a week. For beverages: warm tea (preferably the pregnancy teas) and room temperature water should be consumed.
• Vitamin E is thought to assist placental attachment to the uterus…reducing the likelihood of spotting or a miscarriage. Take up to 800 IU of vitamin E for about three weeks. If you have a heart disease, do not exceed 50 IU per day without discussing the supplementation with your doctor.

Pain in Childbirth – Part 2

father in delivery room

What contributes to PAIN in labor?

Fatigue

Muscles that are stretched, hurt. The muscles of the uterus work faster, the blood and oxygen flow is lessened. When there is tension, the uterus works even harder and fatigue sets in. The tension of the surrounding muscles has created a “brick wall”. So, relax.

Tension

The stretching of the lower uterine portion and the intense contractions of the upper uterine muscle are what is thought to be the source of the pain felt. But these muscles actually have very few pain receptors. You would not feel the pain unless the muscles were forced to work in an unnatural manner. If tense and fearful the nerve endings of the muscles and tissues around the uterus send messages to the pain receptors. There is a direct correlation of tension to pain.

Tired muscles

The biochemistry of the muscle is imbalance when tired. It creates tension that sends out more electrical activity. The physiological changes will lower the point at which the muscle will hurt.

The outlet is too small, or baby too big

These actually do not need to be an issue. Usually the position of the baby or laboring mother, are the causative factor of pain. The pain messages are signaling that something isn’t right. What will help is a change of position of the mother.

Get out of the horizontal position, to a vertical one, and things will change. The baby is assisted (most of the time) to re-position him/or herself in the womb to facilitate birth without as much pain. As stated in a different hand-out, just doing this type of change in position opens the outlet by 20%.

Fear

Information is out there on all the things that “can go wrong”. We are not taught that birthing is a natural process; we women are pummeled with media and other females telling horror stories about birth.

There is a shroud over the whole process of birth, making it seem to be a great mystery. What is needed is correct information.

Your uterus is a magnificent muscle which is affected by the neuro-hormonal pathway that connects the brain, the circulatory system and the uterus. Fear causes an alteration of the pathway creating a reduction of blood and oxygen to the brain. This results in the tightening of the cervical opening of the womb.

Fear unbalances the hormones of the body. Being fearful causes the release of labor inhibiting hormones. These are the stress hormones of the adrenal glands that when in stress, we release hormones that are the fight-or-flight mechanisms. Animals also have them, and the hormones are released to stop labor allowing them to find a safe place for birthing. These then block the labor enhancing hormones . This lengthens the labor and increases the pain felt.

A well-informed, correct education about birthing will assist you. Make sure your labor supporters also have been educated so that their fear is not surrounding you when you are in labor.

Occasionally, the sensation of pain will continue, even after all the relaxation techniques are implemented. This may be due to a tightened psoas muscle or mal-aligned hip. Both can cause tension in the body, and / or problems with the baby being delivered easily. These two issues can be checked, and remedied.

The Natural Pain relieving Narcotic: Endorphins

“Circulating throughout the body are natural hormones that relax you when stressed and relieve pain when you hurt (138)”

What is sad is that most women do not know about these hormones, or that they can activate them when needed. In the 1970s studies were being done for drug addiction and the presence of these hormones in the receptor sites of the brain (for morphine-like substances). What was found was that the nerve cells that are attached to receptor sites, had chemical pain relievers that acted to dull the sensation of pain in the cells. Here is how they can work for you:

As you probably know, Endorphins are raised during exercise and well, labor is strenuous exercise!

  • When the abdomen contracts in labor, the Endorphin level is raised.
    o This is especially true in the second stage of labor.
    o They are the highest after labor, and two weeks beyond.
    Endorphins are highest during vaginal birth, not so much when labor was started but delivery was cesarean.
  • Endorphins are higher in newborns that had signs of fetal distress during their delivery.
    o Baby also receives Endorphins during birth.
  • The release of Endorphins also will stimulate the production of prolactin, the hormone that relaxes and creates the “mothering” sensation.
    o Prolactin regulates milk production, which boosts the interaction with baby and mother.
    o These hormones are what researchers think are the cause of the “birth high”.
  • Mothers who had surgical birth have lowered hormone levels, which would account for the delay in milk supply after cesarean birth.
  • Endorphin production is directly tied to a person’s emotional state.
    o So if stress and anxiety are not resolved the body increases the stress hormones, Catecholamines, which counteract the relaxation produced by Endorphins.
    o Like commercial narcotics, Endorphins may behave differently woman to woman, which is why some women may feel more pain than others.
  • Injectable narcotics give you a bit of blast of pain relief, whereas Endorphins give you a steady dose throughout labor.

Women in labor are very aware of the natural hormone effects and describe the experience as a “natural high”.