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.

 

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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 2

AFTER A MISCARRIAGE

Miscarriage is a loss as much as a full-term pregnancy where the baby is stillborn. Allow yourself to grieve the loss. Those who know ahead of time, when early signs of miscarriage is observed or during premature labor, will begin the process of grieving. This is called “anticipatory grief” and it assists you to prepare for the loss. Don’t feel bad if you have a sense of relief, the uncertainty is now over and you may feel relieved your baby’s ordeal is over.

Other people may not understand your sense of loss, unless they too have had a miscarriage. You may feel alone and isolated. Don’t keep to yourself as this can add to your feeling of doubt, and sense of self-blame.

Many people will expect you to ‘to be back to normal and may say things like ‘aren’t you over this yet?’ or ‘Buck up—no use crying over spilt milk!’ Because you are still grieving so intensely, these remarks can make you wonder if your feelings are silly or unjustified (41)”. Try to surround yourself with people who will listen and care, avoiding those people who are very insensitive.

If the baby miscarried late in the second trimester, you may have memories to grapple with. Such as, when you first heard you were pregnant, the ultrasound that showed you the baby is a boy or girl, and when you first felt the baby move. These types of things are important things to remember in the process of grieving.

You may wonder how long this process will take. It depends upon you and how well you work through the grieving process! Allow yourself the time to work through the shock, anger, denial, your memories, etc.

REFERENCES:

Davis, Deborah L. PhD. Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: surviving the death of your baby. (1994) Fulcrum.

Romm, Aviva Jill. The Natural Pregnancy Book: herbs, nutrition, and other holistic choices (2003) Celestial Arts

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.

Stress, Part 3

Stress

stress

Stress and Pregnancy

This is a huge transitional period for the family unit, and usually characterized as stressful. Due to new roles to learn, adjustments within the family unit, communication patterns are re-established. These shifts may trigger biologic changes, hormonal function shifts, and immune system vulnerability.

The whole family unit is thrown off it equilibrium due to restructure of family roles, adjustments to family goals, physical and emotional changes that pregnancy may bring. This is the case for the average and normal situation and pregnancy. What about other circumstances or high risk pregnancy?

If the pregnancy is from an already stressful situation such as a rape or domestic violence has occurred, the stressor of pregnancy brings additional problems. Decisions need to be made to assist the mother, if other children are involved, their safety attended to.

In high risk pregnancy situation, stress is further aggravated if hospitalization is required. “High risk” is a label given to those whom the health of the baby or mother to be is threatened.

The pregnant mother’s ability to adjust and or adapt to the situation may be in jeopardy by the excessive level of stress. The mother must understand the causative factors in being labeled high risk and accept the situation in order to have a good outcome. As well as the pregnant mother, all other family members need to assess, accept, and readjust to this prognosis.

Unfortunately, pregnancy on the reservation is almost always considered high risk. This is due to poverty, gang activity, teenage pregnancy, alcohol consumption and drug abuse.

Only YOU can change this! Change the additional stressors in your life, and then you can change the outcome of your pregnancy and delivery!

Women with Disabilities -The Healthcare Team- Part 2

Interviewing the Doctor

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Here are some questions you may wish to ask:

What are the pros and cons of pregnancy for me?

If the doctor is opposed, ask why?

What do you know about my disability, and what access do you have regarding it?

Do you have experience with the pregnancy and delivery of babies with disabled women? How much?

In what way will you be working with my regular doctor?

If there are unusual symptoms that arise, who should I call if I am not sure if those symptoms are pregnancy or disability related?

How will labor and delivery be affected by my disability?

Will there be a need for treatments that differ from the usual types, due to my disability, and how will we get the cooperation of the hospital for those treatments?

Do you think I may need a caesarian section? Why? Would you set a date, or wait for labor to begin spontaneously?

Can I get a referral for genetic counseling?

The physical exam

Besides the questions suggested previously, the examination is also another time to decide on the doctor who will tend to your care. How the doctor behaves during the examination and time taken to let you know what he/she is doing in that exam will assist in your final decision.

Does the doctor ask you questions during the exam? Are you treated with sensitivety and consideration? Are the questions the doctor is asking relative to your level of sensation, mobility, and flexibility? Regarding your comfort?

The doctor’s partners

If the doctor has partners or a physician that they use when they are not available, you will need to schedule an appointment with them on one of your regular visits, as early as possible. See if they also are “on board” and will be responsive to your needs and care.

You will need to feel comfortable with any one of these doctors, in case they are the one in delivery with you. It would be much more comfortable to have a familiar face, and know if they also will support your needs.

How to “Trust the Process” in Childbirth

Trust the Process

Trusting is a big word. We oftentimes say we trust others, but do not even trust our own selves. The nurturance of our babies and bonding that would be necessary in utero, assists in developing a trust between baby and mother. But before working on the baby-mother bond learn to trust your own instincts.

Science has determined that the mother-baby bond is essential after a child is born. But what about the significance of bonding while the baby is growing inside the uterus? This is the essential missing information not communicated to women in our modern times.

Due to the obsession of the over-technological world we live in, we forget to listen within. We tend to not realize important knowledge lies inside our psyches. We avoid listening to our bodies. The cues are there, we just do not stop to listen.

The pregnant body is communicating what it needs all the time, and, believe it or not, the unborn baby is, too. All we have to do as mothers is learn to listen, give ourselves permission to trust the connection, and take the time to respond (Peters & Wilson, 22).

For survival, the baby must begin to adapt to its environment while in the womb in order to survive. There are special molecules that act as messengers, to allow the mother to communicate to her baby in utero. Components such as hormones and neuro-peptides cross the placental wall, sending information to the fetus.

Emotional intelligence is taught to the fetus via this mechanism. So he or she learns the whole range of emotions via the mother. Her responses teach the fetus. She sets the tone, so-to-speak for coping within the world.

Creating the bond with the fetus is a spiritual act that transcends the normal functions of mothering. How one adjusts to life, begins during the prenatal period.

Researchers and clinicians have found that prenatal and birth experiences of the mother, effect the birthing patterns she has with her own babies. These would include cultural patterns imbedded in the lives of the family. We can prevent “life-constricting patterns (McCarty, 9)” that are developed while in utero by addressing these issues and healing our own birth traumas.

This scientific approach closely parallels the work of John Upledger in his ground-breaking work with Cranio-Sacral and Somato-Emotional Release therapies. His theory is that the body stores memories at the cellular level.

Have you ever massaged someone, or been massaged, and a small soft-tissue lump is discovered that almost feels like it “crackles”? That is a “energy cyst”. When released it creates an emotional response, and the muscular tension abates. It is thought this “cyst” holds the memory of the injury. In Unpledger’s book, he states that traumatic injury can be fully healed by the release of these “cysts”.

I have come to look upon this phenomenon as ‘tissue memory’. By this I mean that the cells and tissues of the body may actually possess their own memory capabilities. These tissue memories are not necessarily reliant upon the brain for their existence [[Upledger, 64].

I would consider this muscular and tissue intelligence. If Upledger’s theory is true [and is likely, due to hundreds of patients having experienced his work] then it is an important aspect to consider for the mother and the mother-baby bond.

There are four essential KEYS to developing the mother-baby bond, and learning to be aware of and trust your own instincts.

Being: an awareness of thoughts and feelings
Observing: a state of mindfulness
Nourishing: involves all the things women do to tend to their emotional and physical needs.
Deciding: to make an active participation in creating your own reality. A conscious agreement
to make decisions based on deep inner-listening.

Steps to making the conscious agreement are:

1. Separating ourselves from all external influences (even for a few moments in the day)

2. Get quiet and pause. A few deep breaths in order to connect to your “source”

3. Listen. What is your gut saying to you? How does your body feel? How is your body reacting? How does your baby react to what you are feeling, physically or emotionally?

4. Then decide and commit. This is when you honor your feeling and that of your baby. Make a decision that will be in harmony with the messages your intuition says.

Through this practice, then you will develop a trusting respect for your own intuitive thought process, allowing it to guide you. You have several months of your pregnancy to find your awareness of self and of your baby.

When the day comes for labor to begin you take this newly-developed self-awareness, the bond you created between you and baby, and the education you have gained about safe birthing practices to trust fully the process of labor! “Listen” to your own self, and what your baby is telling you.

Relax into labor, BE with it. OBSERVE what is transpiring within your own body, and NOURISHING your emotional / physical needs while you are in labor. Then DECIDE. Decide to trust your instincts, trust your body (which is wonderfully made!), and to trust your bond you’ve made with your baby…

COMMIT to Trusting the Process.

REFERENCES:

McCarty, Wendy Anne. Ph.D. , R.N. The Call to Reawaken and Deepen Our Communication with Babies: What Babies Are Teaching Us. International Doula. Summer 2004, Vol 12.

Tracey Wilson Peters, CCCE, C.L.D., and Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CCCE. The Mission Piece: Consciousness and the MotherBaby Bond. Pathways to Family Wellness. Issue 31, Fall 2011

Upledger, John E., D.O., O.M.M. Your Inner Physician and You. 2nd Ed. North Atlantic Books. 1997

Body Mechanics- I

START WITH GOOD POSTURE

As the baby grows in the womb, your center of gravity will shift. The additional weight in the front could create a swayback posture, causing discomfort on the lower back. The following suggestions to assess and alter your body mechanics will assist in having less discomfort.

STANDING POSTURE

Head

Keep your head up. Looking down all the time will throw off your balance. Of course, you will want to look at the new bulge as it grows but doing so all the time will make your posture off balance.
Keep your chin level. When your head is held correctly, the shoulders will follow as well as the back.

Drop your Shoulders

Allow the shoulders to rest in a natural position. To do this relax the shoulders. If you tend to wear your shoulders up around your ears or slouched forward, your whole body will be off balance.
Try to avoid “throwing back” your shoulder blades. This will cause back problems. You may need to have someone massage the shoulders to allow them to relax into the correct position.

Avoid Tensing / Swaying the Lower Back

As your baby grows the weight will cause your back muscles to contract as a counter-balance of the shift in weight to the front. The tension of the muscles contracting may cause a backache.
A slight curvature of the back is normal. Avoid an exaggerated curve as it will cause a “swayback”. If there was chronic pain of the back before you were pregnant, it will only get worse from pregnancy. You may need to get Chiropractic attention if you already tended toward a “swayback” before pregnancy or if you had back issues prior.

Tilt your Pelvis Forward

Pull your abdominal muscles in, tuck in your buttock muscles, and tilt the pelvis forward. Doing this will counteract tendency of the lower back to arch abnormally.

Relax the Knees

Bend your knees slightly. Avoid locking them.

Exercise for Pregnancy Health

Throughout the pregnancy year (pre-natal through post-partum) the woman’s body is in physiologic adaptation. Pregnancy is not an excuse to become sedentary, rather a time to “amp up” the exercise program. Exercise increases cardiac output, increases oxygen consumption, and changes the blood-flow distribution.

Doing a good exercise routine will not only assist the body in adapting to pregnancy, but assist in labor preparation. Your body’s muscular / skeletal structure changes in pregnancy. To have the ability, strength, and fortitude for birth a woman should do stretches, walking, squats, and other routines of exercise.

Doing these will also prevent many of the problems of pregnancy. Some of these would include:

• Calf cramping
• Tight back muscles with back fatigue and pain.
• Swelling of the ankles
• Pressure on the bladder
• Finger tingling or numbness
• Discomfort of the upper back due to breast size changes
• Spasms in the groin
• Itching due to stretched skin
• Tightening of the hip flexors (muscle group)
• Pressure and hyper-extended knees
• Sway or hollow back

There are some women who should not be doing exercise, especially rigorous exercise, during pregnancy. Also, each pregnancy should be assessed individually. Consult with your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program. If you had regularly exercised prior to pregnancy it would still be wise to talk to your healthcare provider.

For the childbirth education course, exercises that are included may differ greatly than a full-on prenatal exercise program (unless the instructor is certified in the latter. In a childbirth education coursework, the exercises emphasized are those that would prepare for delivery, reduction of third-quarter pregnancy discomforts, and enhanced post-partum recovery. These are not intended as the sole exercise done by a pregnant woman but as an addition to the physical activity already being done by the pregnant woman.

The first portion would address posture. Good posture is important not only for standing, but also sitting (whether in a car, or at the computer). After posture would be the Pelvic-rock, Squatting, and abdominal Strengthening; along with several stretching exercises for the legs, buttocks and arms.

Recommended recreational exercises would include:

Walking (varying the pace each time), running, cycling, and dancing (especially belly dancing).