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Motivational Tea Scrolls can be printed free, clipped, and added to each cup of herbal tea (or your favorite relaxing drink) for daily inspiration.  Various formats from quotes, tip, scripture...etc., plus new additions regularly, will keep your daily cuppa inspirational for pregnancy, motherhood, and beyond.

Add motivational tea scrolls to gifted tea blends for blessingways, baby showers, and postpartum gift boxes.  Print these out for your loved one (scrolls for mom and dad) to give them a surprise moment with every glass.

 

Pregnancy safe herbs are easy to find.  If you're pregnant, this may be the first time you've tasted the herbal waters as you look for ways to improve your nourishment or find a warm alternative to your morning cuppa.  Learning more about how to safely select and use herbs in pregnancy and throughout the childbearing and parenting years was a strong drive for me completing The Science & Art of Herbalism course through Sage Mountain.

Are Herbs Safe for Pregnancy?

That's a general question for such a broad range of herbal choices.  So, the general answer is, yes, most herbs are safe for pregnancy.  Herbs are food - they're not pharmaceuticals.  That is, they are a whole plant - and we're not talking about essential oils, here.  We're not talking about extracted constituents from an otherwise safe herb for pregnancy.  We are talking about the whole herb, and like food, whole herbs are designed to provide the body with nourishment so the body can work optimally.  The more you move away from whole herbs, the more you have to think about in terms of type, dosage, and quantity.

What are Herbs Safe for Pregnancy?

Generally, you're looking for tonic herbs, as in toning to the body.  This doesn't mean toning like muscle-contracting, it means toning as in providing the body with optimal nutrients.  In addition to toning, using herbs that have a long history of herbal use will be a great place to start.  These tonic herbs are typically drank as a tea or infusion steeped for at least 5 minutes, and up to overnight, drank 1-3 times a day.

Tonic herbs that are considered generally safe for pregnancy include:

  • Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus)
  • Strawberry Leaf (Fragaria vesca)
  • Nettles (Urtica dioca)
  • Oat Straw (Avena sativa)
  • Hawthorn Leaf & Berries (Crataegus spp.)

What are Herbs Safe for Pregnancy Specific Conditions?

While tonic herbs are herbs that can be used generally through all trimesters to nourish the body, there are some pregnancy-specific conditions that herbs can be used to treat, and these are intended to be used topically or as a tea drank 1-3 times daily  as needed.

Morning Sickness

  • Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita)
  • Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale)

Anxiety & Sleep

  • Oat Straw Tincture in Milky Stage (Avena sativa semen)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Stretch Marks & Topical Skin Health

  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Comfrey (topical only) (Symphytum officinale)

When are Herbs Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

When to use herbs during pregnancy is really dependent upon your personal health.  Most herbs have far less side effects than commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals; however, we can still choose what we put in and on our body with knowledge and a few things to keep in mind.

  • Tonic herbs are generally safe during all trimesters
  • The second trimester is typically the safest for using stronger herbs as there is an increase of risk of miscarriage in the first trimester and an increase of preterm labor in the third trimester
  • Avoid oxytocic and anthelmintic herbs unless under the direction of your care provider
  • Be cautious of most emmenagogue herbs, especially during the first and last trimester
  • Be cautious of introducing new herbs if you have a history of miscarriage
  • Be cautious of strong laxative herbs (yes, this includes castor oil)
  • Be cautious of herbs with high volatile oils (i.e. essential oils), particularly avoid internal use of essential oils.  In moderation, these herbs in whole form are generally considered safe during pregnancy when they do not fall under other caution categories
  • Be cautious of bitters and avoid strong bitters
  • Be cautious of your personal allergies to plants
  • Use 3 quality sources for reference (not google and not "this is good for this" lists and not random people in mom groups) and make an educated decision based on your current situation

Let thy Food be thy Medicine

There are so many herbs safe for pregnancy.  This list is just the tip of the teapot when it comes to all the herbs you have for nourishment, calming, and pregnancy-specific conditions.  The bottom line is, start learning and finding your quality resources and choose foods, and herbs, that are generally nourishing throughout the day so that you are being provided with optimal nutrients more than just a few cups at a time.  If you are looking for personal guidance choosing herbs during the childbearing years, get in touch.

Other Resources for Herbs Safe for Pregnancy:

  • Herbs for the Childbearing Year - Susun Weed
  • Herbal Healing for Women - Rosemary Gladstar
  • AvivaRomm.com
  • Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine - David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG

Mushroom Coffee?  Herbal Coffee?  Mushroom Hot Chocolate?  No way, you say?

Coffee.  Caffeine.  Morning Cuppa.  Chai.  [Black] Tea.  What is it about those deep dark flavorful aromas that we love to fill our sit down and sip time?  Why is it that with all the energy-boosting methods out there, we turn to caffeine the most?  With the push of a button, that's all we need now for our favorite flavor.  Around every corner you see another coffee shop popping up to fill this addiction.

Kicking the coffee habit during pregnancy or breastfeeding is a great idea...  putting that idea into a practice can be another story, though.  I'm a sucker for the smell of coffee... the flavor... the depth.  I could just sit in a coffee shop just for the smell.  My favorite ice cream blend is chocolate & brownies with a scoop of coffee ice cream.  It is simply intoxicating.  Nevertheless, I cannot drink it regularly.  I will use it after a long birth, or a stressful night.  I'll use it when it gets super cold and there's snow all around and I just want that experience standing on my porch in the crisp morning.  Autumn is a weakness for me, for sure.  And that's why I have this Mushroom Herbal Coffee blend.  I can get my fix, and feel nourished while doing it.

While the consensus is one cup of coffee per day during pregnancy or breastfeeding may be OK... it is not the ideal.  Caffeine, and acidic foods, in any addictive manner can be detrimental to adequate hormonal balance and overall health.  It causes a draining affect on the body and creates a dependency for circulation and tension-relief.  Coffee and black tea can deplete the body of nutrients through their diuretic affect, even when they're decaffeinated.  Coffee and black tea can make it harder to stay hydrated, which effects multiple health aspects, and can effect your milk supply.  Starting out the parenting journey with overall healthy sleep and nutritional habits will be crucial to your future health.  Want to sleep when the baby sleeps?  Need to mellow out your moods?  Try this delicious mushroom herbal coffee alternative to help you break the caffeine, and preservative habit.

This is not just another herbal coffee blend.  This mushroom coffee mix is naturally decaffeinated and nourishing on multiple levels, wonderful for all ages, and can spice up any cool night around the fire.  That being said, as with all herbs that stimulate the digestive and diuretic nature of the blood - they can be overdone.  You can use these blended with coffee to slowly work your way to reducing the caffeine in your daily routine.  Then you can reduce the amount you're relying on these types of drinks altogether where they eventually turn into a treat now and then.  Anything that makes you feel as if you need it to function, be motivated, or relax daily is detrimental to your overall health.  Use sunshine, movement, sleep, and social connection along with a well-balanced habit of whole foods whenever possible to nourish your mind and body, and these treats for now and then or special occasions.

Mushroom Herbal Coffee Key Ingredients

Roasted Dandelion Root - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

Dandelion is well known as a liver-supporting herb able to help the body detox while not depleting the body of potassium like many diuretics.  While non-roasted dandelion is the best medicinal form, using a roasted dandelion (even 1/2 roasted and 1/2 not) is a key ingredient in this mushroom herbal coffee blend for a bitter rich flavor.

Roasted Chicory Root - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

Chicory root has long been used as an herbal coffee replacement and additive.  You'll see this soft blue colored flower blanket the roadsides through the summer as with most liver-supporting herbs, it grows well in poor soil working to improve the soil conditions for future plants, just as it can improve the conditions of the body for future health.

Roasted Chicory Root gives this blend a dark rich color and the bitterness you know well from your favorite cup of ahh.

Roasted Carob - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

While there are many coffee alternatives, unfortunately, some do lack the rich flavor that we know so well in coffee.  Roasted carob helps to bring back that richness in this mushroom herbal coffee blend.

Carob is often used as cocoa replacement.  You can get it in powder or chopped form, and even sweetened carob chips for cookies.  We're using the chopped form here for flavor and boldness.  It isn't quite as rich as cocoa, but brings a depth to this blend with many nutrients included such as magnesium and calcium.

Burdock Root - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

Burdock root, like dandelion root, is wonderful for the liver and detoxification system.  If you're experiencing skin-eruptions and other skin-conditions in pregnancy, burdock is a great support to the liver so it can do its job of removing toxins.  It also has a nice bitter flavor, building up that coffee replacement profile.

Ground Milk Thistle Seed - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

Milk Thistle Seed doesn't give this blend much flavor at all; maybe a little nuttiness if anything.  This addition is almost purely for the work it does on the liver.  While most of the other herbs in this blend support the liver through their diuretic and elimination nature, milk thistle has the added benefit of actually improving the liver's ability to regenerate so it functions better overall.  The beauty of the liver is that it has the ability to improve its function and even reverse diseases that are often thought of as incurable.  Because so many in our world aren't nourishing themselves by not only reducing meats, repetitive foods (mono-diets), and reduced processed foods alongside adding healthy doses of greens and a variety of whole vegetables and fruits, they become more and more reliant upon supplementation, medication, and intervention.  Our body only functions if we nourish it well and regularly.  Balanced nourishment (through food, movement, sleep, spiritual and social connection) are the foundation to full-body function.  With that foundation, milk thistle can improve the time the liver regenerates and may also support the body's ability to prevent pregnancy complications like acne, mood imbalances, PUPPS, cholestasis, HELLP and pre-eclampsia.

Reishi Mushroom - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

It is a common belief that a pregnant woman has a decreased immune system.  What if, they were simply not nourishing their body and due to the extra energy to gestate a baby, they became more susceptible to illness?  Reishi is very nourishing to the entire immune system helping you to avoid and fight off viral infections and other disease.  Reishi, like many mushrooms, has a mild flavor and gives this blend more depth.

Cordyceps Mushroom - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

Cordyceps are packed with antioxidants and are also thought to improve muscle efficiency in the body, including the circulation system.  They can also help to balance blood sugar levels, something many women are concerned for during pregnancy.  Cordyceps, in powder form, build texture in this blend with more flavorful depth.

Maca Powder - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

Maca is known for improving the health of the blood.  It is high in potassium, b-vitamins, vitamin c, manganese, and iron (even protein).  Maca can also help to balance moods.  The Maca Powder in this herbal coffee blend has a sweet buttery flavor to the mix.

Raw Cacao - Mushroom Herbal Coffee

While not a part of the basic blend, adding raw cacao gives this a mocha or hot chocolate option for kids and adults alike.  There is conflicting information as to if cacao actually contains caffeine or if it only contains a substance that stimulates similarly to caffeine.  Regardless, it adds a bit of an energy boost and depth of flavor.  Why raw cacao?  Because it has more nutrients.  There really isn't a big different in the roasted form many are familiar with (cocoa), but we keep it raw for the deeper flavor.  In fact, a lot of the this vs. that are looking at the differences in chocolate vs. cacao - two completely different products.  That's like comparing eggs vs. cake.   It does depend on where you get your cacao or cocoa from, but we prefer to stick with raw cacao for this blend when we can.  Cacao is high in magnesium and antioxidants, improving the nutrient profile of this mushroom herbal coffee blend.

I hope you enjoy this easy peasy mushroom herbal coffee mix and share your favorite way to enjoy with me on social media!

Mushroom Herbal Coffee & Hot Chocolate

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Headaches in pregnancy are common, but as with most "symptoms" of pregnancy, they shouldn't be expected.   In most cases, pregnancy headaches are caused from dehydration and hormonal imbalances - not just from pregnancy changes but underlying nutritional issues.  There are a lot of natural ways to remedy a pregnancy headache; here are a few.

Hydrate for Pregnancy Headache Relief

Dehydration can be a significant cause of a headache.  Your body needs not only the fluids but also the electrolyte balance of healthy foods in the fluids to work efficiently.  Your urine should be fairly clear at all times of the day.  Your body should be filtering toxins well enough that your urine is not overly concentrated in the morning; this applies to prenatal vitamins causing concentrated toxins in the urine as well so be sure you're supplementing with whole foods supplements only as needed and getting most of your nourishment from whole foods.  Not only should you be drinking water, but also eating hydrating foods like cucumber, watermelon and bone-stock-based soups.

Stress Release for Pregnancy Headache Relief

Tension headaches are common in pregnancy (and parenting).  Schedule time in your busy day to walk, journal, and have some "me time" for emotional balance.  Get adequate sleep and select a lifestyle of movement and nourishment that promotes healthy hormonal balance.  "It's just your hormones" might be physiologically accurate for stress in pregnancy, but it isn't because you're pregnant.  Unfortunately, pregnancy may just be one of the first times we notice underlying physical health complications that have been manifesting for years.  Pregnancy takes a lot of energy and if you're not providing your body with a nourishing environment, it won't feel nourished and can be a significant cause of stress headaches.  If you're day is super scheduled, block in some intentional relaxation time for walks, yoga, prayer or any activity that gets you into a space where you don't have to be "on" so much.

Cut the Sugar for Pregnancy Headache Relief

While temporarily a change in sugar intake may increase a headache - sometimes the cause can be from sugar withdrawal - a few days after cutting the sugar should have you feeling much better.  Like with all foods, sugar changes the way your body works and in this case happens to change it in a way that alters your blood, blood flow/pressure, and blood sugar rather significantly.  Likewise sugar increases yeast and other undesirable bacteria levels in your body and as these start to die off with a healthier food balance, a pregnancy headache can be a common side effect.

Sugar includes processed sugar itself (which is the worst) as well as a high carb diet full of breads, crackers and pastas.  Rebalance the processed foods and try to eliminate processed sugar altogether.  Switch up the sweets to whole foods like fruits or sweetening baked treats in moderation with bananas and dates; don't just replace sugar with more concentrated sugar like honey or maple syrup.  Increase your protein intake (to a balanced degree focusing on a plant-based selection of snacks) to reduce your sugar cravings.  Add lemon to your water to help support the liver and process the sugar in your body.

Chiropractor and Bodywork for Pregnancy Headache Relief

When the body is out of alignment and life is packed full of activity the muscles, ligaments and bones get tight, twisted and off balance.  Not only do misalignment and body tension cause physical pain, they also increase perinatal risks (including difficult births) and prevent nutrients from reaching necessary body systems for whole body function like digestion, gestation, immune function and a common cause of pregnancy headaches.  You may need to start with a chiropractic adjustment or two and follow up with various forms of body work like fascia release, prenatal massage and often physical therapy in conjunction.  You may need to choose flatter shoes, move more and move better and relearn aligned movement for headache relief and whole body function.

Herbal & Natural Therapies for Pregnancy Headache Relief

After all the other lifestyle choices are in check (or while working through them) you may find support with herbal therapies.  You may start with a blend of herbal powders as a supplement to your day such as nettles, spirulina, or chlorella.  Other herbal teas that may provide headache relief include:

  • Hot foot bath and a cool cloth on the head and neck
  • Peppermint Tea warm or cool (NOT the essential oil orally)
  • Essential oil of peppermint diluted to no more than 5% EO and rubbed on the temples
  • Lavender essential oil diffused or whole herb lavender added to a warm bath or hot foot bath

You may need to work through a few options and lifestyle changes before you find something that not only consistently supports you through a headache but that gets to the root cause of the problem if prenatal headaches are consistent with you.

 

What is your favorite way to relieve a headache?

It's getting close to the colder months as we wind down summer and that means it's time to start thinking about prenatal flu remedies.  Why now and not in winter?  Now is when we prevent our bodies from being overtaken by cold and flu viruses, especially if you've been indulging a little too much this year.  A body that is balanced and working well is a body that doesn't "get sick."  Getting sick basically means the body is using so much of it's energy for other tasks that it is incapable of destroying bodily invaders be it viral or bacterial (keeping in mind that most bacterial infections are actual bacterium that are already present in our body and simply outgrow the good bacteria).

Preventing the Need for Prenatal Flu Remedies

First things first, prevent yourself from getting sick.  Eat the whole rainbow - meaning whole foods of all colors.  Sprout your grains and legumes, if you eat processed foods - process them yourself and limit your consumption (including breads... especially breads and bread-like foods).

Significantly limit or eliminate processed sugar and sugar alternatives.  Sugar causes inflammation.  Inflammation is our body's way of healing, it is a significant part of our immune system; however, when our body is always inflamed because of a food we eat (or other illness, or damaging air and chemicals or...or...), that means our white blood cells and immune system are working where they shouldn't be working, especially when we're met with a virus.

Eat your greens, especially.  All the colors are important, this is important to remember.  The color of your food determines the phytonutrients and minerals, and whatever else we don't know scientifically, in your food that gives it its nourishing abilities.  Green, however, is the one food source available in all habitable places at all times of the year.  All the other colors are sporadic and seasonal to a different degree.  Different green foods will grow at different times, but this color is significant.  This color is created from substances that clean and heal your body, improve your detoxification and digestive systems (needed for toxin elimination), and boost your immune and anti-inflammatory systems.

Support detoxification and digestion.  This should go without saying but I want to reiterate this here.  Your digestive system, especially over time, will create gaps between the unourished cells and allow allergens to move through the intestinal walls if you're not always eating whole and balanced.  Everyone will have a varying degree of this happening, some more than others due to lifestyle choices (including movement).  Breads, pastas, and processed foods (including dairy) wreak havoc on the digestive system, especially in high amounts.  Reduce these, if not eliminating.

Bone Stock Prenatal Flu Remedy

When prevention doesn't cut it, heal it with food... seriously, "let thy food be thy medicine."  We prevent by eating well and we heal by eating well; there is no other safer option for pregnancy or any other time.  If you're worried about any herbal or medicinal remedies, stay on top of the lifestyle choice game.  Beyond that, let's start with a basic food staple; bone stock.  More robust than chicken or beef broth which is made with the meat and water; bone stock contains the gelatin and collogen from the ligaments and the minerals from the bones.  The minerals support the body, of course, but this gelatin and collogen help to heal the digestive system to reduce inflammation and allergens from leaking through the intestines which can cause chronic inflammation, i.e. constant immune system activation (and less immune system fighting those viruses of which you're coming into contact).   You can also add in organ meats, vegetables, and herbs to your bone stock to enhance the flavor and body supporting abilities.

Basic Bone Stock

  • Leftover bones (Best way to accomplish this is to buy a whole chicken, roast it, pull off the meat and store the bones in the freezer until you have enough to use or make small batches at a time)
  • Spices and vegetables as desired (peppercorns, garlic cloves, chopped onions, carrots and vegetable peels, mushrooms, nettles, bay leaf - which needs to be removed after cooking...etc.)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar optional

In a large pot, or a crock pot, add your bones and spices.  Cover with enough water to have about 1 inch of water above your bones.  Add about 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar per quart of water.  Cook on low, covered, for 3-4 hours or overnight in a crock pot.  The vinegar is optional, but will help pull minerals from the bones faster for reduced cooking times.  Strain and jar your bone stock in glass jars.  They'll last at least a week in the fridge for cooking into rice or making soup or drinking as a tea.

Fire Cider Prenatal Flu Remedy

Fire Cider is a very very old food preparation commonly made by herbalists and gardeners alike.  While you may find some trademarked look alikes, rest assure you can #freefirecider and make this in the comfort of your own home for a fraction of the cost and keep this tradition alive.  Take some of the most basic food spices you utilize and preserve them in Apple Cider Vinegar for whole body bacterial balance and immune support, as well as a tastey addition to soups and salads.

Fire Cider

  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1 Head Garlic
  • 1 Cayenne Pepper (or +/- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder per jar to taste).  Other hot peppers can be substituted at varying amounts according to their scoville unit - no need to overdo this.
  • Approximately 1/4 Cup Horseradish Root, Chopped
  • Approximately 1 Small Ginger Root, Chopped
  • 16 oz. Raw/Unfiltered Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (Bragg's is a good brand - use the best or this won't be a healing food)
  • Raw local-to-you Honey, to taste

Chop everything together - use a food processor if you'd like.  Fill glass jars 3/4 of the way with the chopped vegetables.  Pour Apple Cider Vinegar over to fill the jar and place a tight-fitting lid over top.  Let this mixture macerate... infuse... for a minimum of 2 weeks (though you can start using it anytime, it just won't be as strong) and 4 weeks is better.  After 4 weeks, strain and compost your chopped vegetables.  Blend raw local honey to taste.  ***This will be SPICEY without honey and should only be used in small amounts at a time - think medicinal quality***.  Bottle your #FireCider for storage in a cool dark place for about a year or so.  Note: Many prefer to leave the honey out for varied options such as adding a tablespoon to soups, a teaspoon

***Note: Many prefer to leave the honey out for varied options such as adding a tablespoon to soups, a teaspoon to tea, or to blend with honey and/or olive oil as desired at the time of use.  This is very very intense without honey.  In some cases, this intensity (no more than a small shot glass full) can be an amazing remedy for sinus pressure, head colds, and sinus infections.  This intensity is not ideal for all, especially for mothers who may be suseptible to uterine contractions or a history of miscarriage and it is not advised to use it in these strong quantities during pregnancy.  In many cases, itt may just cause heart burn with this strength and isn't needed to be a quality kitchen remedy.  Don't mistake the mild flavor honey (or tea or soup) can bring to this delightful remedy, it still carries the immune boosting properties when blended.

Increase Vitamin A and C Prenatal Flu Remedy

Fire Cider is packed full of Vitamin C and one of the many reasons it is a wonderful remedy to have on hand.  Vitamins A and C are both amazing for the immune system and can be easily obtained from many delicious foods.  Keep in mind, we're not talking about enriched, fortified foods here like ascorbic acid.  We're talking the real deal from real whole foods.

  • Orange & Yellow Fruits & Vegetables such as lemons, peppers, oranges, carrots, sweet potato, squash and similar.
  • Greens such as nettles, red raspberry leaf, kale, spinach, seaweed and similar, especially bitter tasting greens that stimulate digestion and whole body function.

Don't just opt for the fruits themselves.  Spend your money on organic or wild gathered foods so you're not taxing your detoxification system with pesticides and include the bitter peels that stimulate the liver (the toxin-cleansing organ), kidneys, and digestive system.  Keep in mind, also, that essential oils of citrus such as lemon in your water is not only damaging to the digestive system due to the inability to mix with water, but the oils don't contain Vitamin C - they have beneficial properties, but are better eating with the fruit itself as a whole food.

 

Nettle Infusion Prenatal Flu Remedy

Nettles is AMAZING!  Have you heard this before from me?  If not, scour around Esali Birth a bit more!  Nettles is packed full of vitamins and minerals - more amazing than Red Raspberry Leaf - and both of these together make a wonderful prenatal tea.  Nettles is believed by many herbalists to be the only herb needed for any ailment.  It is anti-inflammatory, helpful in reducing chronic inflammation and seasonal allergies when taken for long term.  It provides the body with most of the vitamins and minerals needed for whole body function during pregnancy and beyond.  Steep 1 teaspoon of the dried leaf in 1 cup of water for at least 10 minutes (better to just make a whole quart at a time letting it infuse longer than 10 minutes if you have time) and drink 3 cups daily for prevention, and 1/4 cup every 15 minutes when you're not feeling well.

Also, add this to bone stocks, soups, rice or any other nourishing foods you're eating preventatively or throughout an illness.  Makes a great tea when nothing else sounds good warm or iced (though warm is better during an illness).

 

Echinacea Prenatal Flu Remedy

Echinacea, while widely known as a cold and flu remedy, actually has very little scientific support as a general immune system booster and is being rapidly diminished as an herbal plant due to its over-harvest (often being harvested for its roots).  If you have allergies in the asteracea family, this one is not for you, but otherwise when used as needed can be very helpful for getting symptoms under control.  When it is used, people often use it daily as a tonic, which is not needed and possibly harmful, or blended with goldenseal which can be harsh on the internal system especially in this excessive use.  Goldenseal, with the exception of specific circumstances we won't be covering in this post, should not be used during pregnancy because of its strong bitter an alkaloid content.  The key to using Echinacea root is to take a 1/4 dropper of tincture or bring 1 tsp dried root  in 1 cup of water to boil and simmer for 10 minutes, drinking 2-3 times daily at the very first signs of upper respiratory infection, flu or cold symptoms which may stimulate white blood cell production.  If the symptoms progress, discontinue use.

 

Elderberry Prenatal Flu Remedies

When we're talking the actual flu, Elderberry reins supreme and what you'd reach for when those first symptoms have already passed.  Sambucus nigra, elderberry, has many many medicinal uses from its flowers to leaves and the tasty treat we'll explore here, the berries.  Black elderberry is widely used for its antiviral properties for both reducing symptoms of viral infections as well as reducing duration by increasing cytokine production.

Elderberry can be used in tincture, tea, tablet, or more well known as a syrup.  Dried berries can be simmered for 2-3 minutes to reconstitute and then squeezed in a cheesecloth to express the juice.  This can be taken in teaspoon form, or more commonly blended with honey, to taste (though usually kept rather sour) to sweeten and used as a syrup, in tea, or in a spoonful at 1 teaspoon 2-3 times daily.

 

General Herbal Prenatal Flu Remedies

You really can't just find a list of "this herb is good for this condition" and go from that.  To make them really work, you need to know a little about your personal constituents and the nature of your symptoms.  Also follow how you feel.  If you're hot, use cooling herbs and food.  If you're cold, use warming herbs and food.  Use the following chart as a guide to better selecting herbal remedies for cold and flu.

Herb Choice Gen. Support Prevention Onset Cough & Throat Congestion
Echinacea
(cooling)
X
Elderberry
(cooling)
X X X X
Slippery Elm X
Marshmallow X
Nettles X X X X X
Fire Cider
(warming)
X X X X X
Raw Local Honey X
Ginger-Lemon Tea
(warming)
X X X
Garlic
(warming)
X X X X X

 

Stress Relief Prenatal Flu Remedies

Last, but not least... but here instead of first because I want to make sure you really remember this one... it is quite important.  Stress beats down the immune system like nothing else.  When we're stressed, we don't eat well, sleep well, or act well.  When we don't eat well, our cells and immune system isn't nourished.  If we don't sleep well, our whole system is taxed and most importantly, our detoxification system will not rid the toxins in our system to allow our energy to be used for healing.  All of this stresses our adrenals and causes us to have hormonal and mood fluctuations preventing normal daily function almost impossible.

  • Take it easy.
  • Take time off... work, parenting, "life"ing as my good friend would say. Find someone to help with the kids, the chores, the errands, the everything.  If nothing else, try working from home if at all possible.  We're in a new era - ask your boss, you never know what might be possible.  It happened with me and I never thought it was possible!
  • Become friends with fever.  Fever is the body's way of killing viruses and bacteria.  High fevers aren't ideal, no - but neither is downing OTC or Rx medications.  Benefits of fever is a post for another day, but do some research here and you may find a lot of valuable info. as to the amazing abilities of your body (and your baby's).
  • Sleep and allow your body to fast for a short period of time if that's what it desires.  Short periods of fasting when craved by the body is the body's way of screaming "I need my energy for something other than digestion."  Take food back to basics, sip on bone broth for hydration and electrolyte balance and nourishment, and you'll be back to ravenous eating in no time.  The key here is to make the food you do consume count so that your body can handle a little stress.

 

What is your favorite prenatal flu remedies?

 

For many of us, pregnancy is the first time in our life we start thinking in more natural ways.  Maybe we swayed towards DIY or natural before, but being a new mom really makes us start thinking about our impact the choices we make have on others.  Here are some must-have DIY Herbal Remedies for New Moms you can use in pregnancy, for babies, in your diaper bag, and beyond.

Chamomile Oil - DIY Herbal Remedies for New Moms

German Chamomile is one of the most well known "child's herbs" that is both gentle and powerful.  Chamomile is often used as a tea to soothe an upset stomach, working well for griping and anxiety-related stomach discomfort as well as inflammatory responses, as with allergies.  This is due to its antispasmodic, carminitive, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and bitter nature, meaning it can soothe cramps and irritating contractions and is wonderful in prompting peristalsis of the intestines to improve digestion during pregnancy and in the baby stages (though keep in mind bowel irritations in babies may likely be due to breastfeeding issues that need addressed).

Here we're going to make a basic massage oil with a simple long oil infusion of chamomile for daily prenatal and postpartum abdominal massage as well as the very helpful baby I Love You massage for gas bubbles.  This infusion method can be used for any herbal oil, including the 3 Sisters Salve below.

  • Place about 1/2 cup of chamomile flowers and leaves in a glass jar (you can make more if you'd like - its up to you).
  • Cover completely with oil making sure to cover the herbs with an extra 1 inch and using high quality olive oil.  Add a tight fitting lid.
  • Keep in a warm location, shaking at least daily to be sure the medicinal properties of the herbs get infused into the oil.
  • After at least 2-4 weeks, strain (you can also keep the herbs remaining in the oil if you'd like to continue infusing).  Store in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

If you don't have 2-4 weeks, place the herbs and oil in a glass pot (stainless steel and non coated if you don't have glass available).  Place on the absolute lowest heat possible on your stove and heat for 1-10 hours.  If you have an electric candle warmer, you can alternatively place the herbs and oil in a glass jar and let it heat over the warmer for extended periods as well.

With any method, the oil should have a strong scent of the herb with touched and rubbed on the skin.  Chamomile is rich in volatile oils and the oil will work more powerfully with a stronger smell.  You can even strain the herbs and add more herbs in after the infusion period is over, repeating the infusion steps, for a double strength.  When all else fails, use chamomile essential oil with

I wouldn't recommend chamomile essential oil infusions simply because of the strength differences between the essential oil and the whole herb as well as the chemicals lacking in the essential oil.  For the sake of information, however, if you decide to use an essential oil for this, dilute no more than 10 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce of carrier oil.

Use your whole herb oil infusion daily for a gentle abdominal massage, best provided to you by someone on your birth team that will have a close connection with you during that time.  You're not only receiving skin-soothing benefits and optimal fetal positioning possibilities, but the increase of #oxytocin between you and your support people for more trust and labor progression support.  During postpartum, this can be used on your abdomen to support healing as well for whole family massage, including your new addition.

3 Sisters Salve - DIY Herbal Remedies for New Moms

Along with chamomile oil, this ancient blend is one for the first aid kit and the beauty kit.  The 3 sisters salve blends Calendula, St. John's Wort, and Comfrey, 3 ultra healing herbs.

Calendula is one of the most gentle, and powerful, skin healing herbs available and another well-known child's herb.  You can use calendula in tea, fresh in salads, or garnished on the first birthday cake.  Calendula is soothingly immune and liver supporting as well as antiinflammatory and increases circulation when used topically in areas to promote cell regeneration and wound healing.  Score for stretch marks and boo boos!

St. John's Wort (specifically, Hypericum perforatum) is often known as the herb for depression and anxiety, but more historically used for its healing skin benefits.  St. John's Wort has pain reducing abilities, anti-inflammatory properties, and is known for healing wounds, bruises, varicose veins, and mild burns (including sunburn).  Score again for stretch marks, common pregnancy discomforts, and again boo boos and child activity support!

Comfrey leaf, given an uncharacteristically bad reputation for internal use by some poorly conducted studies and bad internet blog content spreading, is an extremely well known bone healer (often referred to as knit bone) and general herbal healer.  Comfrey has anti-inflammatory and demulcent properties speeding wound healing and supporting proper scar formation (though not to be used for deep wounds).

Here we're going to make a salve - a thickened oil, basically, for easy application and convenient carrying.

  • Use the oil infusion directions from the previous remedy, using equal parts Calendula flower, St. John's Wort, and Comfrey leaf (totaling 1/2-1 cup of herbs) and make an oil infusion.  Play with your favorite oils like jojoba oil, evening primrose oil which is an excellent scar tissue healing oil, or olive oil.  If using coconut oil, try blending this with something else as coconut oil is known to change the consistency of salves where it may melt in your carrying bag when it heats up later causing an absoulte mess (don't ask me how I know) or getting so hard in cooler weather your salve won't rub on easily.
  • After you've made your oil infusion, strain the herbs.
  • You'll need beeswax bars or pellets - whatever you prefer.  Pellets will melt faster reducing you're need to heat your oil too much.  You'll want 2 parts of your oil infusion to 1 part beeswax.
  • On super low heat, melt your beeswax into your oil.  Take a spoon and dip it into the oil and then place it into your freezer or refrigerator for about 2-3 minutes.  Take it out and rub it on your skin.  If it's too hard for you, add more oil 1 spoonful at a time, if its too soft, add more beeswax about a teaspoon at a time and repeat as necessary until its the consistency that you prefer.
  • Pour into screw-on lid tins, lotion tubes, or lip balm tubes.  Use this for chapped lips, acne, stretch marks, muscle rubs, vericose veins, scratches, burns, perineal scarring, and eczema.
  • Though this herbal blend is excellent for diaper rash, when using for this purpose, use the oil infusion blend only and skip the beeswax salve so you don't trap moisture.  Like lanolin, beeswax doesn't allow much oxygen through and it can make conditions like thrush and yeast thrive when these conditions really need a lot of oxygen and air (remember, most humans out of diapers don't mess with diaper rash because their bums are clean and dry).

Lavendar Infused Witch Hazel Wipes - DIY Herbal Remedies for New Moms

Last but not least, every new mom is looking for the best bum tools.  Air for pee, and water for poop is really the best way to go.  Diaper free and limited diaper usage goes a long long long long way.  You absolutely can start teaching your baby to use a toilet from day one - it mostly just takes a little effort on your part (though, so does changing diapers, and definitely potty training after possibly a few years of learning to pee and poop in your pants).  Elimination communication (i.e. good old fashioned use less diapers techniques) is mostly about sitting your baby on the toilet no less than every 2 hours, when they wake up and after they nurse and whenever they seem like they need to go (which you can start to figure out if you have the time).  When that's not an option or you just don't go for it and water isn't cutting it, witch hazel and lavendar are great options followed by plain olive or coconut oil as a salve (though be sure to read up on oil use with cloth diapers so you don't damage your cleaning routine).

Witch hazel is incredibly astringent and also anti-inflammatory.  You're probably used to seeing it as a facial toner and can also be used to help dry the bottom region when wiping. These properties help to reduce diaper rash.

Lavendar is soothing in many forms, and a great antibacterial and antiseptic.  It has historically been used for various sores, burns (even harsh scalds preventing scarring and promoting healing), bruises, bites, and various aches even headache.  For these reasons, it can help soothe diaper rash of various kinds.

  • Purchase high quality witch hazel extract.  The key is to find a witch hazel distillation that only has about 14% alcohol in the final extract so it has the lowest amount of alcohol and is more soothing to the skin (you can purchase this through MountainRoseHerbs.com or check your local drug store and read the label).  You can make you're own if you have witch hazel growing near you or purchase the herbs, but we're going simple here and just purchasing the witch hazel already made.
  • Fill a glass jar halfway with dried lavender flowers (you don't have to limit yourself to lavender - any of the previously mentioned herbs can be used in this blend, too).
  • Cover with the witch hazel extract adding about 1" above the dried flowers.  Give it a little stir and add more extract if needed.
  • Cover with a tight fitting lid and shake daily.  Check it after a day and add more extract if the dried flowers soaked up too much of the liquid.  Shake and infuse for 2 weeks then strain and start another infusion so you always have this ready when you run out.
  • Place in a peri bottle (or any bottle of your choice, but a peri bottle makes a great wipe wetting bottle for the diaper bag).  Squirt on your wipes as needed.

 

What are your favorite herbal remedies you use for your family?

Receiving an iron supplement is incredibly common in modern pregnancies.  The intention is that they will prevent prenatal anemia and as such prevent complications of childbirth such as postpartum hemorrhage.  Unfortunately, much of modern obstetrics have totally missed the mark on perinatal health and wellness, especially when it comes to iron supplement options, necessities, and certainly prevention.

Is my iron supplement necessary during pregnancy?

Your body only contains around 3-5 grams of iron and it is said that pregnant women need to consume approximately 30 mg daily of iron to retain this amount.  Though, this doesn't really tell us what type of iron is helpful or how to obtain this much.

Let's think about this for a minute in a very simple way:

  • Are you taking a prenatal vitamin that contains iron?
  • Are you eating processed fortified foods like bread, cereal, granola bars, or anything in a package or bottle?

Hmmmmm... that might at least get you started deciding, maybe not if your iron supplement is necessary but if the ones you're already taking are working.

Now, let me ask you another question... Are you eating a lot of iron-rich foods?  We'll get to that in a minute.  First, let's explore iron's role in the pregnant body.

Iron is responsible for, but not limited to, the following biological processes:

  • Red blood cell production
  • Being a part of hemoglobin (protein in red blood cells) to bind to oxygen to transport from the lungs to body cells
  • Binding to carbon dioxide to transport to the lungs for exhaling
  • Converting blood sugar to energy

Basically, iron is pretty important to whole body function, but let's think about this a little more.

Total blood volume increases by around 60-70% of the normal blood volume prior to pregnancy.  During pregnancy, however, this is not just red blood cells, but mostly plasma.  Red blood cells for the mom carry oxygen for the mom (gestating baby creates their own).  Red blood cells increase around 18% of the normal blood volume to accommodate the mom's organ changes (especially the skin, kidneys, and uterus) as well as blood loss during and after birth.  The excess plasma allows the red blood cells to "float" and be carried to the necessary cells.  More importantly, plasma is necessary to carry salt, protein and enzymes as well as transport nutrients and hormones to necessary cells - functions crucial to the body, especially with the changes of pregnancy.  In order to filter toxins, nutrients must be quality and hormones must work well for whole body function.  Because of the higher increase of plasma to red blood cells, hematocrit levels should decrease as the pregnancy continues.  The rough numbers are hematocrit (HCT - red blood cells) 33+ and hemoglobin (HGB - amount of hemoglobin per red blood cell) above 11.  Note that a mom that has extra red blood cells with adequate plasma increase as well can handle more blood loss than a mom that isn't increasing her volume.

Because of the higher increase of plasma to red blood cells, hematocrit levels can appear to decrease around the end of the 2nd trimester resulting in a majority of women being prescribed an Rx iron supplement or being told to take some form of iron to increase their red blood cells and being labeled as having pregnancy anemia.  In cases where mom is otherwise healthy and she is eating a well-balanced diet, this higher plasma ratio is ideal and allows mom to secrete fluid through pregnancy and especially through the birth process.  In fact, a hematocrit level that rises throughout pregnancy could indicate complications that your plasma levels are not increasing to an adequate level and you can experience complications such as toxemia or shock, among others.

Pregnancy anemia similarly can cause the same complications as well as intrauterine growth restriction, toxemia/eclampsia, placenta abruption, premature rupture of the membranes or preterm labor, oxygen deprivation, increase in infections, prolonged labor, and postpartum hemorrhage.  Additionally, we have to look at true medical anemia and actual nutritional-related anemia.  A mother with low HCT or HGB levels needs to be considered with her personal increase in blood volume from the beginning of pregnancy as well as the quality of her diet.  As such, and most importantly, we have to remember that hematocrit and hemoglobin are not specifically iron, and as such we have to realize that low iron isn't always, or usually, the case of low hemoglobin levels which we'll discuss more in the Preventing Iron Supplement Needs in Pregnancy.

Types of Iron and Iron Supplements

If you're prescribed an iron supplement, determining which supplement to take is important after you've determined if they're necessary.  Let's look at the types of iron we get from food and what the supplements are doing to recreate that.

Heme Iron - This is iron that is from the hemoglobin found in animal foods.  You don't need a lot of meat to get a lot of iron from this source.

Non-Heme Iron - This is iron found in plant-based foods.  You need more plant-based foods to absorb more iron from this source.

Heme iron makes up for about 1/3 of dietary iron intake; however, in the United States, approximately 50% of iron intake is actually from iron-fortified foods.  What this really means is, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is significantly lacking in real whole plant-based foods which may have a better overall effect on blood levels...

While it is said to be easier to absorb heme iron, this type of iron can increase oxidative stress and is a part of foods that can be more difficult to digest.  Simply eating a lot of steak isn't the best nutritional choice we can make for preventing toxemia and pregnancy-related conditions.  Likewise, our body will only regulate the amount of iron intake from non-heme iron, further supporting a mostly plant-based lifestyle.  If we eat a high-meat diet, this iron is not regulated in the body and the excess heme iron can cause many of the complications it is trying to prevent as well as neurological conditions similar to most heavy-metal excess complications.

The most common types of supplemental iron are ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate (ferrous meaning elemental iron and more easily absorbed than ferric citrate).   Ferrous gluconate is water-soluble and assumed to be better absorbed than ferrous sulfate.  Ferric citrate is not absorbed well by the body at all.  All supplemental iron forms tend to be very constipating, increasingly so in pregnancy due to other factors such as compressed digestive tract and possible dietary concerns.

Preventing Iron Supplement Needs in Pregnancy

Reduce your toxin load - The ability to increase blood levels is linked to the body's ability to metabolize nutrients and remove toxins from the body.  The spleen is also responsible for creating blood cells as well as immune function and it isn't a coincidince that women having difficulty with blood levels also have difficulty with infections (UTI and yeast infections being more common one in modern pregnancy) and viruses.

Support detoxification - See previous note and just a little more added here to say that a well-balanced diet of whole plant-based foods supports detoxification.  Adequate sleep also supports detoxification as this is when the liver does most of its work.

Increase your green and body-cleansing foods, including herbal teas - This goes along the same lines as detoxification and reducing toxins.  The dark leafy greens and all plant-based foods allow all the organs to function at their optimal level.  Likewise, dark leafy greens are great sources of natural iron.  Folate is found in almost all the same foods that iron is found in (dark leafy greens being one of the main sources) and low folate levels will mimic anemia symptoms so be sure you're not actually low on quality foods and folate before reaching for a possibly unnecessary supplement.  Folate is typically seen as the supplement folic acid, but don't be fooled - natural folate is digested differently and works differently than the synthetic form (folic acid).  You need folate to create new cells, including blood cells, so your anemia may be caused by a lack of greens and other folate-rich foods.  Nettles and Red Raspberry Leaf are some of the best tonic (nutrient-rich) herbal teas and herbal foods to consume during pregnancy (and for the whole family).

Heal your gut - The ability to avoid inflammation and absorb nutrients heavily relies on a healthy gut.  Reduce inflammatory foods like excess of anything and mono diets and be sure to eat soothing to the digestive system foods like bone broths, marshmallow root tea, and herbs like nettles.  Take a probiotic if necessary and reduce or eliminate sugar (something that messes with blood sugar levels and causes immediate inflammation).

Support digestion & eat well-balanced meals - If you eat meat, pair it well to maximize digestion.  Meat takes a long time to digest so avoid high levels in the evenings.  Add acidic foods with your meat (like steak and pineapple) to maximize digestion.  Overall, eat all the colors of the rainbow for all the body's vital nutrients and be sure to get enough plant-based foods.  The vitamin c in these acidic foods helps iron to be absorbed also.  Reduce or eliminate diary, black tea, and coffee (even decaf), especially when eating iron rich foods or taking an iron supplement as the calcium can inhibit the absorption of iron.  Remember that beans and legumes need to be sprouted for maximum digestion.

Iron Supplement Alternatives

Excluding medical anemia, most pregnancy anemias are dietary and lifestyle related.  Here are some options for adding additional iron into your diet above the prevention and treatment actions previously listed.

  • Floradix - This is a mostly plant-based iron supplement with the addition of ferrous gluconate that tends to be a little easier on the stomach.  Of course, eating adequate dark leafy greens in your lifestyle would increase what floradix is doing without the added ferrous gluconate, though some prefer this concentrated option and Rx alternative.
  • Chlorophyll - Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants and due in part to its similar molecular structure to heme (part of the hemoglobin structure) and has the ability to increase hemoglobin.  It also helps improve digestion and detoxification among many other benefits (though for some the concentrated amount stimulates the bowels too much and causes regular discomfort).  Of course, eating adequate dark leafy greens in your lifestyle would increase chlorophyll without the concentrated form, though some prefer this concentrated option.
  • Cast Iron Cooking - Cooking with cast iron is shown to increase the iron absorbed into the body.
  • Vitamin C Regimen - Vitamin C supplements, though containing their own set of risks, helps dietary iron to be absorbed.
  • Vitamin B12 Regimen - Vitamin B12 is necessary for red blood cell creation and found in animal foods, including eggs.
  • Vitamin B6 Regimen - Vitamin B6 is necessary for blood cell creation and found in animal foods and starchy vegetables.

Food Sources of Iron

Supplement or not, a varied diet is important to obtaining the nutrients the body desires for whole body function.  Here is a list of food sources of iron:

Heme Iron Food Sources

  • Grass-Fed Meat
  • Fish
  • Pasture-Raised Poultry
  • Liver
  • Eggs from Pasture-Raised Poultry
  • Liver, Bone & Vegetables combined into a hearty soup or base stock

Non-Heme Iron Food Sources

  • Dark Leafy Greens (Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, Kale, Spinach, Chard, Broccoli/Broccoli Greens, Turnip Greens...etc.)
  • Sprouted Legumes
  • Sprouted Beans
  • Peas, green beans, peppers, rice.... plants properly prepared!

 

 

Allergies in pregnancy are common, often even being felt for the first time in our lives.  Why is this?  Our energy is being used to grow a baby, and that means balanced nutrition is even more crucial than before.  Likewise, allergies may continue on after pregnancy if you remained stressed, overscheduled, or low on nourishment.

Basics of Allergies in Pregnancy

First things first.  Look at your schedule.  Are you working full time?  How much help do you have with the normal daily tasks of your life?  Are you running around, joining all the play dates, or going on multiple vacations?  Pair down.  This is stress.  You don't have to feel anxious to be stressed.  A kiss can be "stressful" - so don't think you're immune.  Say no now to avoid excessive stress later.  Rest, rejuvenate, and practice self-care routines.  Be sure your body not only has the energy needed for your lifestyle, but reserves for illness and allergies.

Next, allergies are an inflammation response.  This is related to nutrition in a lot of ways.  You must not only avoid adding toxins to the body, but also enure you're eliminating the toxins that are already present.  If you do not eliminate routinely and only add in balanced whole foods, your detoxification - i.e. anti-allergy - system can't function at full force.  Your gut may need some healing as well to reduce inflammation responses and reduce symptoms of allergies in pregnancy (and beyond).

Symptoms of Allergies in Pregnancy

Many times, especially if you've never experienced allergies before, you may mistake your allergies in pregnancy for a cold.

Look for:

  • Scratchy throat
  • Itchy eyes
  • Gooey eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Sniffles
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue

Soothe Allergies in Pregnancy

  • Reduce or eliminate sugar.  Sugar causes an immediate inflammation response and will only make symptoms worse or cause them in the first place.
  • Reduce or eliminate dairy.  Humans aren't designed to digest other mammal's milk.  It effects all of us in some way, even if its just chronic inflammation and congestion.
  • Drink a nettle infusion.  Stinging Nettles are known for healing just about everything in the body due to their nutrient-punch, but nettles are also amazingly anti-inflammatory.  While they work best if this regimine starts about 6 months prior to allergy season, they can help in the process, not to mention being superbly nourishing as a pregnancy tonic.
  • Heat up some hearty bone stock - BONE STOCK.  Boxed sodium-filled chicken broth is not what you're looking for.  You want a stock made with the bones - something that will gel up a bit when it cools and concentrates.  If its gelling up, then gut-healing nutrients are added to the liquid.  This gut healing reduces inflammation response from allergens - everything from the dairy you may need to avoid to the pollen in the ragweed.
  • To your bone stock, add raw chopped garlic cloves, a pinch of thyme and slices of organic lemon with the peel.  This adds doubly duty by supporting the liver, soothing the throat and balancing bacteria to help avoid sinus infections.
  • Make a warm cup of ginger lemon tea - soothing, healing and digestive promoting to help eliminate toxin build-up.
  • Make a cup of marshmallow root tea.  This soothes the throat as well as helps sooth the digestive tract and help to close gaps in the intestinal lining that allow allergens to seep through.
  • Eat something spicey.  Don't overdo it, but ingredients in soups like Apple Cider Vinegar, Cayenne Powder, or some Horseradish Sauce with your fish can help clear the sinuses and soothe a stuffy head while adding healing properties as well.

What is your favorite way to prevent and soothe allergies in pregnancy?

Doula Bag Esali Birth

Labor Doula Bag Basics

When it comes to the basics, your doula bag should carry items for you (food, extra clothes, unique tools for supporting...etc.).  A labor bag that the parents pack should carry items for them (think toiletries, extra clothes, birth ball, food, money...etc.).  The best items in a doula bag or general labor bag really depend on the types of women and births you most often attend and the style of care you provide.  I'm mostly using my hands and my presence while supporting births, but it is nice to have a little bit of extras since they fit in the bag.  Likewise, it's not uncommon for me to attend births in the country 30 minutes from the nearest hospital and I'm usually the only other person present for a decent amount of time so I like to have a little extra tools available to me.  I would encourage you to know how to use the items well in your bag before adding them, particularly if you are adding herbs to your tool kit.  Ultimately, though, you'll probably add a lot more items to your bag when you're first starting out and eventually come to find a few tools to be your most common go-to items for the area you practice in the most.

What is the best Doula Bag to use?

I LOVE camera back packs.  I use these for my desk job also because I work from home and homeschool - which means I might be in the office, at home, or at a park and I want to throw everything in it.  For the doula bag, they just keep everything so organized and easy to access so they're super convenient all the way around with moveable hook and loop dividers.  I have a few different brand styles, but I prefer the style shown in the header image because it doesn't taper at the top and has a lot of extra compartments great for carrying cash/debit cards, keys, food, notepad, or smaller items I might want to grab from my purse.

Doula Bag Must Haves

Essential Doula Bag Items:

  • Extra change of clothes - shirt, pants, and maybe under garments.  You never know if you need refreshed or have water from a tub or amniotic fluid on you.  An extra pair of scrubs are nice too and then you kind of have uniform without bothering the rest of your wardrobe.
  • Herbs for tea and herbs, oils, and tinctures for emergency or extra supportive scenarios - I use a travel cosmetic case for herbal teas that I cycle through often for freshness - that's the little red case you see.  I use a travel essential oil mini case - that's the green zipper pouch you see.  I'll talk more about these in a minute.
  • Food Items - because you need a quick pick me up, or sometimes a whole pot of soup and it might not be available.

Herbs (Red Case) Whole or Tinctured (not essential oils)

  • Red Raspberry Leaf - If its early in labor, I do tend to make a cup of tea for mom or whomever else.  It's emotionally calming, it's nutritive to the whole body, and it is far from clinical.  This can also be used for immediate postpartum.  Red Raspberry Leaf is a wonderful tonic (nutritive) herb which can be light on the stomach while also providing necessary nutrients for labor.
  • Nettles - Same as above while packing a bigger punch.  Great for reducing bleeding postpartum as well.
  • Dandelion Leaf - supports the liver and good for postpartum, especially if mom needs a bit of encouragement to pee over the first week.
  • Chamomile Flower - Soothes muscle tensions, especially in the digestive area helpful for nausea and support sleeping.
  • Separately, though usually blended together (steeped prior to birth if we might be wary of postpartum hemorrhage - stressed mom, long labor, tired mom...etc.) - Equal parts Shepherd's Purse (this is an oxytocic herb that helps to contract the uterus in case of hemorrhage), Yarrow (this herb helps the blood to clot in case of a hemorrhage or vaginal tear), and SWEET/True/Ceylon Cinnamon (NOT Cassia - cassia/kitchen cinnamon thins the blood too much due to high concentrations of coumarin which are not high in true cinnamon).  Cinnamon is helpful for women that may have a very cool constitution (thin, pale, often chilled extremities).  This is a nice postpartum tea blend as well.
  • Black Tea or Instant Coffee - for a quick pick me up drink for the birth team.
  • Doula Power Energy Tincture - for  a quick pick me up and mood balancing needed for long labors and for functioning after a long labor for the birth team.

Herbs (Green Case)

This is a case that holds 8 miniature dropper vials that I mostly use for essential oils though I also have some tinctures.  I also have a roller ball of olive oil for massage and diluting essential oils and a general salve tin for tear healing or as a lip balm - which is better than a stick of lip balm because I can more easily put it on a cotton swab or whatever is available to not contaminate the jars.

  • Olive Oil - for diluting essential oils and general unscented massage (I prefer olive to coconut because it has a longer history of medicinal use and I don't have to purchase something that has been processed in order for it to remain one consistency).
  • Lavender Essential Oil - For calming and anxiety related relaxation as well as rest support.
  • Rescue Remedy (Tincture) - For calming support (though I honestly haven't seen much benefit from this myself).
  • Peppermint Essential Oil - To help ease nausea during labor.  To help if the mom has to pee, especially postpartum thus reducing risks of postpartum hemorrhage from a uterus that can't contract efficiently.
  • Lemon Essential Oil - Uplifting when the birth environment gets a little too drab and everyone needs a pick me up to keep things going. Also helps with nausea during labor.  This can also be blended (equal drops) with peppermint and lavender for allergic reactions and itching (like with medication reactions or cholestasis).  (FYI - Though some people put this in their water for flavor, it isn't a great practice because it can't properly dilute and irritates the stomach.  Likewise, you don't get vitamin C from the essential oil so it doesn't help in that regard either).
  • Chamomile Essential Oil - For muscle tension (also helpful for a newborn that has tight muscles making it hard to breastfeed) and rest support.
  • Valerian Tincture - For anxiety and rest support.
  • Shepherd's Purse Tincture - For oxytocic needed (contracting the uterus) postpartum hemorrhage (NOT for induction or during labor).
  • Yarrow Tincture - For flowing blood postpartum hemorrhage.

Sometimes I may have pre-blended tinctures for scenarios like hemorrhage and after pains relief - but all of these mentioned can be used along with other techniques so it isn't necessary.  I just like having something available if I'm the only one at the birth or out in the hills of WV.

Food Stuffs

  • Protein bars, of the healthy kind, are well worth it for their compact nutrition.  I found these wonderful sprouted - fruit only sweetness - protein bars that are wonderful from Thrive Market.  It is really nice having something good for me, no condensed whey or soy protein, and that won't make me crash like a sugar-loaded bar will do.
  • Honey sticks - because sometimes they just taste good in tea or coffee and I just don't like white sugar that's often available.  They can make nasty herbs taste better.  They can also be a great pick me up for the Mom (and baby) that might be getting low on blood sugar - or anyone else that might need this pick me up as well.  A uterus doesn't work well when it doesn't have a healthy source of glucose (common in a long labor), which may increase risks of hemorrhage so this is a simple way of keeping something in the system even if mom doesn't want to eat (typical during labor as the body needs to focus on getting baby out, not digesting food).
  • Cucumbers or coconut water for natural and healthy electrolyte balance without overloading the body with salt (which may cause water retention, but not necessarily hydration and electrolyte balance).
  • Sometimes I grab a box or jar of soup if I have it available - and it has been glorious when I have this for a long labor or where nourishing food isn't available.
  • Gum or Mints - Because you never know how coffee or protein bars might make your breath smell to a laboring mother or anyone else for that matter.
  • Lip Balm - If you use a swab this can be used by multiple people (you and mom...etc.) without unecessarily sharing germs.  A blend of St. John's Wort, Comfrey, and Calendula in olive oil and beeswax makes a nice healing skin salve for various scenarios such as perineal tears and postpartum nipple damage issues.

Doula Bag Optional Items

  • Flex Straws - Making staying hydrated much easier for mom so she doesn't have to tip a glass back.
  • Tennis Ball - for pressure and massage so the hands don't get tired.
  • Birth Ball or Peanut Ball - for sitting with a moveable pelvis, for leaning over in various positions, for sitting on behind a squatting mother, and the peanut ball for propping the legs more easily in side lying positions.  These are common tools, though most clients these days (as well as birth locations) already have these or clients prefer to walk around - so carrying one around that needs stored or blown up is just not my thing.  A ball can easily be taken to selective births as needed.
  • Infusion Glass - This is not shown, but I usually strap a water bottle and Libre Tea infusion glass to the front of my bag for hydration and making tea or fruit infusions.  I don't have to worry about finding a tea ball or making a paper tea bag - plus no leeching from plastic cups.  Grab on of these in the Esali Shop!
  • Baby Wrap - About a size 4 woven wrap - for rebozo work, comfort relief, repositioning baby, wrapping around a pelvis for hip squeezing, and postpartum babywearing if it looks like the parents need some extra support... or postpartum belly wrapping if the mom needs extra abdominal support.
  • Yoga Strap - used similarly as a baby wrap, but a little easier to maneuver.  Myself or Dad can hold this up around the back over the shoulder in the front - up on a bed or other piece of furniture - and mom can hold the bottom like a birth rope for a supported squat that's easier on our arms and better for relaxing her bottom.  These are great for stretching the lower back and hamstrings and various parts of the pelvic region during prenatal appointments or to help a funky birth position.  Depending on the birth location, there might be something this can be hooked around to be used just like a labor rope.
  • Battery tea lights - because they can feel relaxing, and why not?  Many birth locations don't allow real candles, or we don't want to worry about one being knocked over or forgotten to be blown out.  They can allow that calm and dark space oxytocin prefers while giving the birth team a little bit of light to maneuver around.
  • Note pad and pens for taking birth notes, especially if I'm going to be the only one there for a while.  I'm not focused on this because supporting mom is my priority, but there are times this is helpful not only when relaying information to the rest of the birth team, but also for processing a birth during postpartum and having a really good understanding of the order of events with the family.
  • Some print out cards of tip reminders for positioning in case I'm tired - or the rest of the birth team needs something to reference (great for dads and family members).
  • Hair ties - because my hair is crazy long and its common for my tie to break.  Also because the mom might need one herself and may have forgotten one in her bag or lost it.
  • Digital camera and phone charger - I often take birth photos when doulaing.  It isn't my main focus, but it is something I offer.  I also want to be sure my family can reach me for emergencies and keep a phone charger on hand.
  • Surgical gloves - because sometimes I check baby's tongue ties postpartum to foresee any breastfeeding issues if things aren't feeling OK to mom.  I don't like to do this too soon because I don't want to mess with baby unnecessarily, but commonly used during postpartum visits.
  • Feeding Tube - just in case someone offers the Mom a nipple shield I have backup available.  I also use this bag for breastfeeding and postpartum consultations and like to keep those on hand for a finger feeder as one of the least invasive ways of mom getting a break from nursing without damaging the latch with other artificial nipples.  When they are needed - its nice to not have to wait 2 days to get them by mail.  I also keep some Dr. Jack Newman breastfeeding guides in here as well, though not pictured.  My doula support includes breastfeeding support and postpartum care, so having these items come in handy.

Those are the basics.  Sometimes I might add a few extra items - usually a different herb or extra food item or something specific the mom may have requested.  Maybe an extra camera battery, but nothing too extreme.  The bag is mostly my personal convenience and comfort items rather than items I ever really use much.  I might throw in a book I'm reading for a time where mom is sleeping or wants some privacy.

 

What's in YOUR Doula Bag?

prenatal acne esali birth

Prenatal acne doesn't have to be an expected part of pregnancy

Most symptoms of underlying conditions in pregnancy are treated the same - as an expected part of this phase of life.  Like these other symptoms, prenatal acne is an indicator of more than a skin-deep issue.  It isn't uncommon, either, for us to have similar underlying issues being displayed in various symptoms depending on our personal constitution.  Though hormonal changes of pregnancy may play a role in experiencing prenatal acne, this isn't the real cause.  Our body was designed to provide us with outward signs, like pain, bruising or blemishes to understand inner conditions.  Let's talk about some of the most common causes of prenatal acne including prenatal acne prevention and natural prenatal acne remedies.

Food Imbalances Cause Prenatal Acne

In general, you need to eat a well balanced diet of nourishing whole foods in all the colors of the rainbow to ensure that your body has the nutrients it needs for full body function.  Look outside - no matter what time of year it is you'll see green (unless you're living in a city that deprives you of your natural environment - and that's an issue in itself).  If you're eating high amounts of meat, you'll tax your liver.  If you eat too many grains (especially unsprouted and highly concentrated like bread, pasta and crackers) you'll miss out on vital nutrients.  If you eat fruits and not vegetables, you're not cleaning and nourishing your body.  We'll talk a little more specifically about common acne-encouraging foods below.  You'll probably hear a lot of women say their prenatal vitamin did wonders for their skin and nails during pregnancy.  Kind of funny if a supplement is making that drastic of a difference as your diet may have you missing many nourishing foods.

Artificial and Processed Foods Cause Prenatal Acne

Your body is meant to digest food, not fake stuff.  It is kind of that easy.  The more additives you find in your food, the more your body will become angry and show symptoms of this internal congestion and contamination.  For some women, this might be increased pain and discomfort, sluggish feeling, and general fatigue.  For others, they experience brittle or discolored nails and skin as well as various forms of prenatal acne (and acne as a PMS experience prior to or during their menses).  While some prenatal vitamins may pick up some of the slack of your diet, for others it can cause long term toxin and liver overload and increase acne during pregnancy.  Stick to whole foods properly prepared and if you need a supplement, stick to a totally whole foods supplement.

Dairy Causes Prenatal Acne

Many humans are allergic to cow's milk.  It is made for baby cows, so it would make sense that their significantly high ratio of muscle to other tissue would require very different nutritional needs than a human body.  You may also see this allergy in the form of keratosis pilaris, hard plugs of skin and oil in the pores along the backs of the arms, backs of the thighs, and various parts of the body.  Eliminating dairy altogether, including cheese, is really the best approach though you'll notice a big change if you use a balanced rotation of mostly dairy alternatives (goat's milk, nut and rice milks...etc.) and cow's milk only on occasion.  Sometimes, it is simply the excess of food choices our body can't handle.  It really prefers a varied diet, rather than a mono-diet.

Sugar Causes Prenatal Acne

Sugar, as with all allergen foods, causes an immediate immune response in the body and taxes the digestive system, especially the liver.  Concentrated sweets overload the circulatory system and blood sugar balance and your body works on the internal health while possibly neglecting the external health.  Sugar changes the pH level in your body which is a big contributor to skin health.  Sugar is also a stimulant which brings me to my next point...

Stimulants Cause Prenatal Acne

Most foods stimulate the body, of course, but some do this more than others like caffeine, sugar and spices such as peppers and ginger.  Stimulants increase the circulation and digestive system causing toxins that are present to more quickly move through the body.  However, if the body is overloaded with toxins from poor choices or medications these toxins just keep circulating and don't actually get eliminated and you'll at least have to experience this stimulated circulation before the elimination occurs anyway.  Someone experiencing acne needs to tone down the stimulants significantly (to a level which may be different in each of us) while reducing overall toxin load and support the liver's function.  Any amount of caffeine (including coffee, black tea, matcha, steroids...etc.) can cause this reaction.  Any amount of sugar as well.  Of course reducing any amounts will help, but you may need to totally eliminate these from your lifestyle until you can at least not crave these as a perceived necessary part of your diet.

Liver Health Influences Prenatal Acne

As we've seen previously, toxin overload causes many of the symptoms modern humans experience including adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and skin issues like peeling and flaky skin, yeast complications, and especially prenatal acne.  This is the same for teen acne, acne during your period or PMS, and other skin blemishes.  Environmental toxins from cosmetics to household products and your local environment all move through your body and to your liver.  Your liver and digestive system have a big job to clean and heal.  Remove unnecessary toxins the best you can with alternative options and maybe a little perspective change of daily needs.  Focus on well balanced meals, high in dark green and cruciferous vegetables, low in meat and significantly limit the processed foods, even if they seem to be labeled as "healthy."  Without a healthy liver and without healthy lifestyle choices, there isn't any amount of remedy that can stop prenatal acne.  There might be prescriptions available now, but the long term effects of these liver toxins are both well known and undesired or not known and under widespread experimentation on people like you and your teen children.  Look around you - you should see green no matter the season you're in or where you live.  If you don't see green, seek it out.  Greens are our body's internal cleansers.  They are the best liver supporting foods available for daily use.  All healthy foods especially vegetables and fruits do this - but greens are supposed to be a part of the diet all year long - follow nature's design, it knows best.

Natural Treatments for Acne

Skin Care Routine for Prenatal Acne Treatment

Our [healthy] skin has amazing abilities to heal and cleanse itself.  We really don't need to do anything else other than support this through healthy habits.  Gentle exfoliating now and then is helpful, however, to help remove dead skin cells and to feel refreshed while cleansing the exterior during interior changes.

Avoid makeup.  If you do not wish to stop this practice altogether, at least be sure you're using all natural (completely natural, not just one real ingredient plus 5 fake ones) mineral based and herbal skin care products.  Excellent bases for makeup are rhassoul, kaolin, and bentonite clays will help to pull impurities and nourish the skin.  They can also reduce excess oil, though be cautious to reduce the oil too much - this natural oil helps to clean and moisturize the skin.

If you use a pillow, get a fresh pillow case every three days.  Sleep on one side one night, the other side the next night, and then wash and renew.  This prevents bacteria from growing and old oils and skin buildup on your pillow and face.

Wash with warm water only every day.  If you do wear makeup, olive oil or coconut oil are great makeup removers.  Avoid soaps, even natural.  They are very drying.  Hot water is very drying.  Use a gentle cloth when wiping before bed and in the morning.

Gently exfoliate no more than 1-4 times a month.  Use a natural, very gentle, exfoliating sand or sugar scrub at most, or a gently exfoliating brush or cloth.  Don't scrub - use gentle circles.  This isn't always necessary for every skin type.  If you mostly have smooth skin other than a few blemishes, this can overdo it.

Supplements for Prenatal Acne

In addition to a plant-centered balanced diet, there are a few supplements that can be beneficial to add to your daily routine that are also safe for pregnancy.

Milk Thistle Seed is an incredible liver rejuvenating herbal food.  It is not only safe for pregnancy, but highly encouraged as a routine prenatal supplement.  The liver is at the basis of all skin conditions such as acne and eczema, so when we start to see some of these early signs of the need to support the liver, milk thistle seed is definitely one you want to reach for if you're pregnant or not.  Take about 1 tablespoon of the seeds daily.  You can take these in supplement form, tincture form, throw them on a salad or into your green smoothie.  These seeds nourish the function of your liver and help the liver cells to regenerate more effectively.  You're not only helping with preventing and healing acne, but you're also helping to prevent bigger concerns such as HELLP syndrome and Pre-Eclampsia.

Yellow Dock and/or Dandelion Root help to stimulate the function of the liver to rid the body and blood of toxins.  They nourish you with many nutrients and can be roasted with your other root vegetables or decocted for therapeutic use.  They are bitter, which is an indicator of their function for cleansing the body and supporting the liver.  These balance sweet processed foods and they will increase urine output.  Unlike other diuretics, however, these do not deplete the body of potassium, but instead provide potassium and many other vital nutrients like natural bio-available iron.  Because of this stimulation, however, be sure you're drinking 2 quarts of water daily and eating hydrating soups and fruits.

Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, or Fish Oil can help to provide the body with healthy fats it may be missing.  When we aren't getting enough healthy oils, it is more difficult for us to digest our food and obtain necessary nutrients.  Olive or Coconut oil can be a wonderful skin moisturizer as well and make a great base for calendula or a blend of calendula and St. John's Wort for an incredibly healing topical salve.

Homemade Clay Mask for Prenatal Acne Treatment

A clay mask can help to draw impurities from the skin and pores and tighten pores to help prevent dirt clogs and blackheads.  This can be beneficial no more than 1-4 times per month, and always after a steaming cleansing facial.

1 part = whatever measurement you prefer (tsp, cup, handful...etc.)

  • 1 Part Rhassoul Clay
  • 1 Part Bentonite Clay
  • Optional 1/2 Part (of any individual or any total combination of ) rose powder, witch hazel powder and/or calendula powder

I'm putting this below with a strong disclaimer.  You may add 1/4 part to 1 part sweet cinnamon powder if you'd like. This is also a stimulant so if you have severe acne or other internal toxin overload, this addition is not for you.  Also, this gets HOT.  If you have sensitive skin, avoid this.  However, sweet cinnamon (this is not cassia cinnamon) has wonderful healing properties through antimicrobials and antivirals.  It also increases circulation to the area it is added which improves oxygen flow to the skin and promotes healing of acne.

Mix all that together making as little or as much as you need.

Using your homemade clay mask

  • Place a small amount of the clay (about 1/2 Tablespoon) in a clean dish and add warm water (about 1 Tablespoon).  Do not use any metal utensils to touch the clay - but mix the clay and water and let that sit and re-hydrate  Adjust water/clay amounts to make a pudding-like consistency.  Any herbs you've chosen to use may change the amount of water you need to re-hydrate.
  • Be sure any makeup has been removed.
  • Gently wash with a gentle cloth to remove any dead skin and oils.
  • Steam your face with a hot wet cloth for 3-5 minutes to help open up all your pores.
  • Cover your face with the re-hydrated clay and let completely dry.  Your skin will get tight and it may feel a little odd through the drying process but you won't recieve all of the clay benefits if you don't let it completely dry.
  • Once dry, gently remove with warm water.
  • Finish with some cleaning splashes of cold water and a rose water or witch hazel toner (be sure these are all natural toners).

You can also use this blend as a spot treatment overnight with the same steps just only re-hydrate a tiny amount and leave on until morning.

Homemade Blemish Oil for Prenatal Acne Treatment

For spot treatment overnight or under makeup, a simple essential oil blend can be used as a blemish oil for acne.  Use a quality brand of essential oils - there are many (don't let trendy marketing gimmicks fool you; there are a lot of options for high quality pure essential oils).  The following is for a 2% dilution - if you believe you might be sensitive to the oils, just cut the total amount of oil drops to 1/2 the amount listed below with the same amount of base oil

  • .5 oz Glass Dropper bottle
  • 9 total drops of either a blend of (or either one of) Lavender and Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Fill remainder of bottle with Olive Oil and/or Jojoba Oil

When needed, drop one drop on a clean finger and rub over your blemish to spot treat overnight or during the day. (I don't wear makeup often and my skin doesn't like makeup on my face so if I do wear makeup on the rare occasion I will put this as a base layer before wearing makeup).

 

What is your favorite skin care routine?  Have you noticed a change in your skin with your activity level, what you eat, and cosmetic products like shampoo, lotion, or hair care?

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