Great Green Smoothie

In my classes I talk a lot about nutrition during pregnancy.  I really feel like nutrition is very important at all times in our lives, however, pregnancy is often a turning point for many women.  It’s a point when they first begin to look at what they are putting into their bodies for the first time.

I encourage all moms (pregnant or not) to eat a balanced diet, consisting mainly of whole foods.  I have my students track what they eat over the course of their childbirth education, and try to help them come up with ideas to fill in the gap where their nutrition may be lacking.

One area that I’ve notice many moms struggling with is eating enough leafy greens.  At this time of year, greens are just coming into season again, but one can only eat so many salads before they grow tiresome.  I wanted to share my favorite recipe for a simple green smoothie, so yummy,  even kids (at least mine) will be begging for you to make more.

This recipe was given to me by local midwife, Jen Anderson-Tarver, but I’ve played with it a bit to suit personal tastes and moods.

To a blender add:

1/2 pound kale, tough stems removed
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sliced frozen peaches, or approx. 1 frozen peach, unsweetened
And 1 of the following of your choice:  either 1 whole carrot, 1/2 a banana, OR 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Blend until smooth, pour into glasses and enjoy!

The original recipe calls for the half a banana, but I don’t really care for bananas in smoothies.  They are a bit too sweet for me.  So I substitute the carrot, which is a little sweet, but not too much.  The blueberries are a good choice if you don’t want your smoothie to actually be green… great for those with an aversion to green foods.

This is the smoothie my four year old and two year old ask for over and over.  My husband usually makes it with a carrot for me, and they like it just fine.  They’ve even bragged to the neighborhood kids about how good it is.  So if you’re having trouble getting enough greens in your diet, try a green smoothie – yum!

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Book Review: Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Before I had children, my husband and I discussed me getting off the pill, not so we could have kids, but so I could quit taking hormones, as I had done for three years straight.  I knew that taking hormones wasn’t good for my body and that oral contraceptives have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

At that time, I didn’t really know any other methods of birth control except abstinence (which wasn’t going to happen), and condoms.  As you might guess, this situation is what led to my being pregnant with our first baby.

I was (and am) thankful to have him, but I was not quite ready to have another right away, so I started looking at natural birth control methods that actually work.  Now don’t laugh.  I know we all know some family with a dozen or so children who were using the rhythm method of “birth control.”  That is not my idea of birth control!  There had to be something better, right??

Well there is!  I was fortunate enough to read Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler.

OH MY GOODNESS!  Why the heck didn’t they teach us this in sex ed all those years ago?  I learned an awful lot about my own body that I had never known before.  Weschler writes, in practical terms, how easy it is to prevent or achieve a pregnancy without the use of hormones or other drugs, simply by observing your body, and knowing your cycle (not the typical 28 day average, I might add).  This book is incredible!

Women need this book.  We need to teach it’s lessons to our daughters.  Weschler teaches you in simple terms about your anatomy, your monthly cycle (which is more than just 5-7 days of bleeding) and gives you an easy system for tracking your cycle to either achieve or avoid pregnancy without the help of doctors or ovulation kits.  I was totally blown away by this book, and it really helped me on my journey towards whole-person health.

Ms. Weschler takes the book one step further by providing you with her website, TCOYF.com, where you can track your cycle online, or print off charts for your use at home, as well as providing up to date fertility information and community forum.  All in all, Taking Charge of Your Fertility is highly recommended.

Crazy Pregnancy Dreams

One thing many pregnant moms are surprised to find is that they often have vivid and sometimes very strange dreams.  During my third pregnancy, I had a lot of dreams about labor in odd situations.

Once I dreamed that I sat in my midwife’s home waiting my turn to give birth, as she called her clients in one by one, had them squat and then caught their babies.  Just before it was my turn, a mom came in in advanced labor, and I let her cut in front of me while I hung out, waiting on my yoga mat.  I was totally cool with this arrangement.  My husband got there and I told him he was just in time, as I was next.  Another dream involved me just hanging out with my midwives, going to book stores and coffee shops… while I was in labor.  When I shared these dreams at prenatal appointments I felt a bit like Dorothy waking up from Oz – “and you and you and you were there.”

But not all pregnancy dreams are so low key, pleasant, or easy to share.  During my first pregnancy I had a downright disturbing dream that my baby was born looking like a pig and that the hospital staff took her away and feed her whole peas and chopped carrots.

Worries over being a good parent and lack of sleep can cause crazy dreams of your newborn baby talking or otherwise doing things they could not developmentally do yet, or worse.  It is not uncommon for these kinds of dreams to carry over into the postpartum period as well.

Some pregnancy dreams are surprisingly sexual.  There’s a saying in the natural birth community that “what gets baby in, gets baby out.”  Apparently my subconscious took this literally and I once dreamed that my husband and I had to conceive on a hospital table with doctors, nurses and interns all observing, taking notes, charting, and doing cervical checks.  Finally, they rushed in at the last minute to drop the bottom of the bed and make sure conception happened in a position easy for the doctor observe.  Um… yeah.  No.

All of these represent themes that are common for pregnant women to dream about.  But what causes such weird and vivid dreams?  A study was done in 2007 that linked a pregnant woman’s increased hormone levels, increased anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns (have to go to the bathroom yet again?) to the dreams.  Many pregnant women experience a heightened level of stress or excitement during pregnancy, contributing to the list of things our subconscious that to work through during our dreams.

Bizarre dreams during this time in your life may be a window into your feelings about birth and parenthood.  Perhaps you are excited about giving birth.  These vivid dreams may provide you an opportunity to explore those feelings further, enjoy it.  The increased hormones often lead to sexual dreams for the first time during pregnancy, sometimes with partners other than your own, or even movie stars.  Or, at times a mother’s negative feelings or fears may not otherwise arise until her birth and these dreams may be providing an opportunity to get these fears or anxieties out in the open ahead of time so they can be dealt with and resolved.

In any case, if you are having strange dreams during your pregnancy, be comforted in knowing you are not alone.  It’s very common for women to have these dreams.  it may be helpful (or at the very least, entertaining) to keep a dream journal.  If you find recurring themes, talk about them with your partner and care-providers.  You may be happy to find the more disturbing dreams go away after they are discussed out loud and your feelings acknowledged.

Keeping Your Body in Balance: Squats and Pelvic Floor Strength

A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Mama Sweat blog about pelvic floor strength and not doing Kegels.  Mama Sweat interviewed Katy Bowman, who is the director of the Restorative Exercise Institute.  The article was fascinating, discussing why traditional Kegels can actually do more harm than good.

A lot of people were shocked by her revelation that our bodies are designed to work as a system, that “YOU REQUIRE YOUR BUTT MUSCLES!”  One of the best quotes from the article is this:

“There aren’t any extraneous parts on the body! Every muscle is really a pulley that is holding your skeleton just so. When you let your glutes go, you allow the bones of the pelvis to collpase into themselves. The squat is the most effective and natural glute strengthener–using the full range of motion and your body weight. It is entirely more effective than any gym machine or contrived exercise. The hunter-gathering folks squat multiple times a day (or at least once in the morning), so they had a nice routine down over a lifetime. Doing this four to five times a day, every day of your pregnancy will improve the delivery as well!”

So what’s a girl to do?  It can be confusing when you hear “do Kegels” and then the next day (bear with me, I know what I posted yesterday), you’re hearing “don’t do Kegels.”

Well, folks, there’s a reason that I posted Kegel exercises yesterday.  Because you still need to do them.  But you should not do them alone.  Not as in Kegels-are-fun-to-do-with-a-partner, though I suppose that could be true.  But as in, you should not be only doing Kegels and neglect to do other pre- and postnatal exercises. And not just 2 billion flex and release exercises per day either.

Pregnant mamas should be squatting like crazy (postpartum moms typically do this naturally chasing after babies).  This is why your childbirth educator talked about it during the first week of class.  Dr. Bradley wrote about it.  Hunter-gatherer societies did it as part of everyday life.  They squat.  Squatting prepares your muscles to give birth.  Not just your leg muscles.  Squatting balances the kegel exercise – pelvic floor strength involves the glutes too! Even Katy Bowman said,

“Add two to three squat sessions throughout the day (anywhere). The glutes strengthen and as a result,they pull the sacrum back, stretching the PF from a hammock to a trampoline. Viola!”

Katy did a follow up interview with Mama Sweat on the topic, and you can read that here.  I was very intrigued by what I read there.  So I poked around on Katy’s website, katysays.com.  It is filled with all kinds of wellness tips and exercises.  Recently she posted more about the pelvic floor.  Tips for women like not wearing high heels (it disrupts the allignment of the entire body) and, get this, not sitting on your sacrum!

That’s right, sit up straight.  Have good posture.  Your mother’s been right all these years.  To quote Katy’s website,

“In addition to your pelvic floor muscles, your organs are also held in place by ligaments.  One major ligament to the uterus is attached to the sacrum, so if the sacrum is pushed into your pelvic bowl, the uterus moves down.  Even a diligent exercise program can’t override the constant and displacing physical pressure.”

The easiest way to avoid sitting on your sacrum?  Get off the couch.  Tailor sit (a.k.a. indian style) on the floor.  Get an exercise ball for your desk.  Didn’t your childbirth educator mention this one too?  There’s a saying that the couch is the number one cause of c-sections today.  While no studies have yet to be done on it (and, although there’s a measure of jest here), I’m pretty sure bad posture and it’s tie to pelvic floor strength could be a real contributing factor.

So, yes, Kegel on, but balance yourself (preferably on a birth ball) with tailor sitting, and squatting.  Everyday.  Ditch the high heels and the comfy couch.  Your pelvic floor will thank you for it!

Advanced Kegel Exercises

Lots of doctors, midwives and birth professionals often recommend women do Kegel (a.k.a. the pelvic floor, the PF, the pubococcygeus muscle or the PC muscle) exercises during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Here are a few compelling reasons why they do so.

  • Kegels can help shorten labor
  • Kegels can prevent incontinence
  • Kegels can prevent or correct vaginal or uterine prolapse
  • Kegels can increase sexual pleasure

Sounds like a good deal right?  Flex that little PC muscle and get lots of great benefits!  What woman doesn’t want a shorter labor or better sex? And the exercise is easy to do. Continue reading

Birth Philosophies

Diana Korte, author of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, said “If you don’t know your options you don’t have any.”

It is important to remember when choosing a care provider that not only do you have lots of options, but that you have the power to hire, fire, and change care providers anytime during your pregnancy and prenatal care.

Below are some generalizations on two very different ways of viewing pregnancy and birth-related care. Continue reading

Leg Cramps During Pregnancy – What You Can Do

Lately, I’ve noticed my pregnant Facebook friends complaining of a common pregnancy discomfort:  leg cramps.  Some call them charley horses, they usually happen in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, and they can wake you from a sound sleep.

So what causes them?  Why are they common among pregnant women?  It’s thought that they are caused by circulation problems, or simply the increase of blood circulation during pregnancy.  They are also believed to be caused by the increase of weight during pregnancy, which explains why they are often worse in the second and third trimesters.  Additionally, a decrease in exercise or pressure from the growing baby and uterus on your blood vessels may contribute. Continue reading