Nourishment is the New Routine in Prenatal Care
Safe doesn't exist. But, nourished bodies do.
If you haven't heard me say it before, you're hearing it now. There are no guarantees in maternity care (or life). Much of western standard routines have no basis in evidence and even those that are supported with evidence have no guarantees of being able to prevent or treat complications. Much of the maternity practices happening throughout the world today were simply started with a notion that something might be a good idea and from there it was deemed mandatory and then mothers listened without question.
This isn't inherently wrong, but the false sense of safety that is created is quite misleading.
Question. Answers lead you to informed decisions.
So, where does that leave us?
You are the only one responsible for you, and the incredible thing is, there is a LOT you can do with that. The fact that what we think is improving maternity outcomes really isn’t can provide us with a significant sense of confidence. It is our bodies and lifestyle choices that are doing the work, and mostly they do a really great job.
Nourishment is the foundation of treating complications.
We know our goal is prevention… err, it should be. That isn't the case with all styles of care. But, if you're reading this, then we are at the same place in desiring to know what we can do to prevent complications.
We need to be nourished in three areas: Spirit, Mind, Body.
Being at peace with life, death, difficulty, joy, surrender, and influence is something I think we are all working towards in this life. Peace. We cannot control birth. Especially in the US, I think this perspective is strong and permeating through other cultures that are looking to the US as a model. Our whole focus is independence and controlling our outcomes and yet people are struggling with the reality that this control really isn't possible (sometimes having a really hard time grasping this inability when it is first discovered that we don't control our outcomes even though we can influence them).
This is why I use the term birth "guide" instead of birth plan. Knowing your priorities helps you make decisions that support those priorities. Being honest with what actually supports those priorities is the first step. Knowing how to get information and how to make decisions is the next. This doesn’t always mean getting information from doctors, midwives, moms, science, or evidence. Most of the information is knowing where to guide our spirit. These actions bring our spirit to that place of peace.
Our mind needs to unlearn a few cultural myths. Birth isn't supposed to be painful. It might be hard work, uncomfortable, and tiring. It might also be joyful, orgasmic, and exhilarating. Pain, however, is an indicator that things aren't going straightforward.
Pain is a tool our body has at communicating with us and our care team.
So, if we allow our minds to relearn birth psychophysiology, we will be setting ourselves up for empowering instinctual birth. We must unlearn previous birth stories, work through trauma, and fill our space with people and energy that nurtures our perspective. This has nothing to do with "natural" vs "medicated" or surgical birth. It has to do with us being in an emotionally healthy space. We need to be able to have motivation to work through difficult times, positivity to enjoy every moment that we are able to enjoy, to be thankful in those situations that feel negative, and to be resilient when we must use our ability to make decisions in the moment and move through trauma.
Our physical bodies are not at all like our ancestors. It is a bit preposterous to imagine a culture that mostly sits indoors in front of screens would be anything like a culture that mostly moves in nature to survive. That being said, it only takes a few lifestyle changes to really help our body to work in our, and our baby's, favor. Get up, move more. Stretch. Change your position. Go outside. Get bodywork. Use a rebozo, a pregnancy belt, and active birth positions to support your baby's movement through your body. The incredible thing is, your body is incredibly adaptable, especially when Spirit and Mind are well-nourished.
OK, so that gets you through prevention. Now, the idea would be not to get to a complication, but we know that complications are, in fact, natural and we can be prepared for them (even moreso when our spirit, mind, and body have been nurtured.
I've seen my fair share of complications and difficult births. Whether it is a mom healing from a cesarean, a baby being helped to take their first breath, or a mother bleeding too much, the important thing to remember is that nourishment is at the core of healing.
I think the place where I see this ring true so much is with bleeding (be it immediately after birth or in the weeks following birth). I've seen pitocin, cytotec, catheters, a plethora of herbs, grape juice, chlorophyll, words, IVs, the placenta, and hands to treat this complication.
There is first of all the need to understand that moms are going to bleed some. Moms have up to 1500 extra mL of blood created through pregnancy. Some of this is in the placenta, some of it is going to and from the placenta, and some of this is nourishing other organs in the body. Once the placenta is birthed, this extra blood is no longer needed and the extra blood nourishing the placenta is no longer needed. The demand on the other organs drastically decreases as well. You’re going to lose some blood. Think of it as a cleansing.
The amount of blood this particular mother can handle is the next thing we need to understand. A mother being able to “handle” blood loss is purely dependent on her state of well-being. If a mom is happy, bonding with her baby, feeling well, looking well, she's handling it.
The ability to stop bleeding in any capacity works in three ways:
- The immune system heals trauma. A diminished immune system (be it from malnourishment, other illness, or stress) is going to have a more difficult time healing trauma. The only way to support the immune system is through nourishment.
- In birth, the hormonal system works synergistically with the immune system to make the uterus small and firm and to heal the now severed circulatory pathways that were feeding the placenta. We balance the hormonal system through nourishment and supporting psychophysiological birth. The more a birth moves away from psychophysiology, the more the hormonal system is going to be out of balance.
- Something like a full bladder or piece of the placenta or a clot is moved out of the way so #1 can take place. Get it out of the way.
- A tear is repaired.
Yes, there are other contributors to bleeding that are rooted in genetics, epigenetics, and long-term nourishment, but these are going to be the most common.
Out of all of the methods to stop a mom from bleeding, my experience is that pitocin is the least beneficial. Nevermind the fact that although pitocin may reduce bleeding immediately after birth and yet it causes late-onset hemorrhage if pitocin is going to work, if Pitocin was going to work, all the other methods would typically work, too. Therefore, if bleeding is to the degree that we actually need to do something more than nourish the mom with food, hydration, a piece of the placenta, or oxytocic herbs, using Pitocin, in my humble opinion, is just a waste of time especially since it contributes to a decrease in bonding and complications with breastfeeding.
We see this time and time again through all sick-care situations when an IV is the basis for stabilizing a patient. Likewise, in birth, a dehydrated malnourished mother is beginning labor outside of physiology. This is why midwifery care at births often routinely includes a midwife encouraging hydration and eating every 3-4 hours. This nourishment is the foundation for preventing one of the most common complications in childbirth. Especially at home, we want to keep mom within the range of physiology. In other settings that restrict a mom from eating and drinking in labor, well, there aren’t even words for this approach. Causing a known common complication to potentially prevent a rare complication is just asinine.
We heal from nourishment. Your body is completely capable of this. In all ailments, what we ingest is the foundation of all our cells, bacteria, hormones, immune system, and whole-body function. Hydration (which is more than just drinking water) is one of the most important.
When there is a basis for nourishment within the treatment, nourishment works the best. When a medication is needed, it is buying a mother time to build up the nutrients so her body can begin the process of healing and come back to homeostasis because we must consider the health of the mother over the weeks after birth and into the first year of parenting (and, of course, long-term wellness).
Nourishment is the new routine in prenatal care.
You might be going monthly to your provider for prenatal care, but are they focusing on holistic wellness? We know that above anything else, above prenatal supplements, blood pressure, urinalysis...etc., nutritional counseling improves prenatal outcomes more than anything else. Let's start there. Let's make nutrition and hydration the new prenatal routine (in more than just the 1% of families planning home birth).
So, pack your labor bags full of nourishing foods and tell the staff "thank you for your advice" when they tell you their policy says you can't eat (or, better yet, find a birth location that has policies that actually support physiology). Hydrate. Eat well. Nourish yourself, mothers. YOU take care of you.
If you want a little guidance along the way, head over to www.MOVbirth.com and schedule some perinatal care, locally in the Mid-Ohio Valley and virtual anywhere!