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.

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!

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)

Varicose Veins

WHAT ARE THEY?

Varicose-Vein

Varicose veins occur when the valves (that keep the blood flowing one way through the vessels) have become weak, which allow the blood to pool in the veins. This “pooling” causes the veins to become lax and distended.

CAUSES:

  • May be due to diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Heredity
  • Hormone changes can cause the laxity of the valves
  • Pregnancy can be a predisposition for some women
    -Because there is a congestion of the blood in the lower extremities due to pressure from the uterus.
    -The return of blood from the legs to the pelvic area is reduced by the heavier uterus.

They are most common in the legs, ankles and feet. They can also show up in vulva (Vulvar variscosities) and anus (as Hemorrhoids). They become more pronounced as the pregnancy advances.

The vulvar variscosities usually are not noticible until birth. Some women notice the large ones during pregnancy. A gentle birth and hot compresses applied to the large distended veins will reduce damage or trauma to the veins. Occasionally bleeding or hematoma (internal pooling of blood) can occur and will require medical care.

Hemorrhoids become evident after birth, normally. So the use of gentle birthing will help with these as well. Constipation will aggravate hemorrhoids, and should be treated (although, following a good diet will reduce constipation due to the additional fiber from foods).

Usually the varicose veins will empty quite quickly after pregnancy. They are quite common during pregnancy, and usually repair is not considered during that time.

RECOMMENDATIONS

• Eat well, and drink lots of water
• Exercise! Exercise improves the circulation, and assists in both the prevention of and treatment for varicosities.
-Brisk walks for 30 minutes each day
-Or ride a stationary bike for the same length of time as walking
-Swim
-Yoga
-Belly dance moves such as pelvic rocks, and rolling/rocking the hips in a figure-eight.
-Dance!
• At least 20 minutes twice a day with feet elevated higher than the heart
• Do NOT sit in one place for too long. This would encourage insufficient pelvic and leg circulation.
• If you have severe varicose veins use support stockings (you can find them at a drug store.
• Use visualization to reduce the size and number of the varicose veins.
• You need to consider who / what is your support. You are not superwoman, and will need support during this very exciting time in your life!

CAUTION: Never massage the varicose veins! Massaging the veins can cause clots to dislodge and lead to an embolism. Embolisms are dangerous! If you see signs of phlebitis (swelling, heat, pain, infections around the veins) you should see the doctor or midwife right away.

DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS

Follow the “baby wise” diet . Be especially careful to eat whole grains, high quality proteins, fresh vegetable and fruits as often as you can.

• Vitamin C with bioflavonoids is vital for assisting the walls of your veins to be strong.
• Foods with high vitamin C: citrus fruits, rose hips, dark green leafy vegetbles, cherries, alfalfa sprouts, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, tomatioes, and green peppers.
• An additional 2,000 mg. of C with bioflavonoids can also help
• Vitamin E also is good for the vascular system. Take 200 to 600 IU a day. If you have heart or blood pressure problems begin with 50 IU and work up to 400 IU over a three month time-frame.
• B complex vitamins. Whole grains, nutritional yeast (I take mine in orange juice), and yogurt (its helps maintain intestinal integrity ).
• Green Vegetables…romaine (stop eating the low-vitamin Iceburg variety) lettuce, butter lettuce, turnip greens, kale, collards, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and turnip greens. Steam these, do not boil!

HERBALS

• Nettle leaf tea (One herb in the “Pregnancy Tea” blend I use) . Infuse by making 1 ounce of herb to 1 quart of water and allow to steep for 2 hours. Drink a cup to up to a quart a day depending on severity.
• Garlic, onions, oatstraw, calendula, motherwort, can also be consumed. Please consult an herbalist for guidance on their use.
• Kelp. Kelp can be added to soups or taken in a tea form.
• Deficiencies in essential fatty acids may make the varicose veins worse. Take 500 mg. of one of the following oils once each day: evening primrose, flaxseed oil, black currant oil, or borage oil.

REFERENCES:

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

Lowdermilk, Dietra Leonard and Shannon E. Perry. Maternity and Women’s Health Care, 9th ed. (2007) Mosby.

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!

Stress, Part 2

Stress

stress

Social and Family Stress

Social stress can be an actual threat or that what is perceived as a threat. These are within ones social environment. This could be relationships at work, conflicts at school, or interactions that occur within a person’s society.

Inside the family unit certain life events can affect the family directly or indirectly. Some of the stressors could be things that are deemed “normal” such as a birth in the family.

Stressors could be caused by ambiguous facts, such as an illness of unknown cause in which the doctor states the person will die at some time. Also, there are stressors that are caused by nonambiguous facts such as the onset of a severe storm and its aftermath.

Volitional stressors are things such as divorce, things that members of the family may cause or control the end result. Chronic stressors are events that occur over an extended time, such as a handicapped family member. Acute Stressors are temporary, such the hospitalization of woman giving birth. An isolated stressor is a singular event, such as the arrest of a family member.

Family stressors can proceed a crisis within the family but not all family stress leads to a crisis. Here are four indicators that a family is in a crisis:

• Members within the family are no longer able to function with their family roles
• Family members cannot make decisions and solve problems
• They are unable to give care to each other in a way usually seen
• A shift from family to individual survival

Co-Sleeping

co sleeping

Co-sleeping as defined here is “bed sharing”. It means to share the bed with your infant, for the purpose of breastfeeding, as well as bonding. This could encompass the use of the crib or bassinet in the bedroom (in general) or beside you when you sleep or not.

In Gettier’s article, she distinguishes between those parents who intentionally share the bed nightly, and the parents who are reactive bed-sharers. A ‘reactive bed-sharer shares the bed due to having “child sleep difficulties and / or to ease nighttime feeds (9)”. This would occur less regularly and are for shorter periods of time. Those parents who regularly sleep with the child, have the child in their bed for the full night.

SAFE BED SHARING

• If there are two parents within the household that choose to bed share both parents must agree to be
vigilant and responsive to the infant.

• Babies who are born small for gestational age should avoid bed sharing

• If the mother smokes, she should choose same room sharing, not bed sharing if she does not
shower nightly.

• Bottle feeding parents (without breastfeeding) should also use room sharing [never prop the bottle].

• Think of the safety of the baby, and suffocation. If you have a bed set, remove the mattresses (placing
headboards, et al into storage temporarily) and move the mattresses to the center of the room.
Babies and roll and move, get wedged between the mattress and headboard (or mattress and wall)
and suffocate.

• If you choose to keep the head and foot boards , eliminate the spaces that are between mattresses
and the head or foot board.

• Older children and pets should not be sleeping in the bed with the infant.

• Co-sleeping is not recommended if you are or have been drinking. Nor is it a good idea to share your
bed with baby if you’re doing recreational drugs.

• Bed sharing should be on a firm mattress, with no duvets or heavy bedding. Infants need to be away
from pillows or other bedding that may obstruct the infant’s breathing.

• NEVER co-sleep on a couch, recliner, or chair.

• NEVER LEAVE A BABY ALONE ON AN ADULT BED.


There benefits to bed sharing.
These include: higher percentages of breastfeeding rates, longer feeding times, increased feeding during the night. Keep in mind, babies tummies are small and they would therefore feed more frequently.

It is known that there is a greater immunological benefit in breastfeeding. It is known to be a “protective factor against SIDS (Vennemann et al 2009, Gettier, 10)”. Mothers who breast feed longer are less likely to develop breast cancer as well.

Babies who bed share are awake for shorter time periods than those who sleep separate. It is thought that bed sharing assists in a “synchronization between mother in terms of arousals and sleep stage shifts (McKenna and Mosko 1994, Gettier, 10).” Both mother and father seem to get much more sleep with bed sharing, than those who do not.

REFERENCES:

The Careful Decision to Bedshare. Lee T. Gettier. (2010) International Doula. Vol. 18, Issue 1

*A more detailed document is available at the Hokṡiyuhab Oti Childbirth Education Classes*

Sexually Transmitted Infections – Part 1

Chlamydia Trachomatis

This is a highly transmittable disease. It is difficult to diagnose, and the symptoms are nonspecific. It is very expensive to culture.

It is important to identify this disease early. Without doing so and not getting treatment, it can lead to salpingitis or pelvic inflammatory disease.

It increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy and tubal factor infertility. If this disease has infected the cervix, it can cause a cervical inflammation leading to ulcerations…increasing the risk of HIV infection.
Women under the age of 20 are at highest risk for infection. They are 2 to 3 times more likely to have it.

Risk Factors:

Multiple partners
Not using barrier methods of birth control

Cervical cultures should be taken at the first prenatal visit. The use of silver nitrate on the newborn may not be sufficient to prevent the transmission of this disease from mother to infant. Early culture and treatment is a must.

Treatment

For cervical, urethral, and rectal infections: doxycycline or azithromycin.
If the woman is pregnant: erythromycin or amoxicillin.
If she has HIV, treatment would be the same as those without.