Cramp bark is one of my favorite female herbs (read: herbs for pms!) It’s a uterine antispasmodic, which means it relaxes the uterus. Best taken as a tincture or tea, it can be useful for painful periods, cramping or threatened miscarriage. It combines really well with valerian root (also relaxing and antispasmodic), vitex (for hormone regulation), and wild yam (helps the liver process estrogen). It can be taken while pregnant (for threatened miscarriage) and I know of no known contraindications like breastfeeding, but check with a knowledgeable care provider if you’re taking medications or have special conditions. Can be taken multiple times a day during heavy cramping. I have a “Mama Maurer’s Moon Tincture” with motherwort (for mood), vitex (for regulation), cramp bark (for cramping), raspberry leaf (for uterine toning) and valerian root (for relaxation).
Mama Wellness Tip this week – magnesium. A lot of women are magnesium deficient and aren’t aware. In particular in pregnancy. This can show up as:
- Muscle spasms
- Restless Leg Syndrome
A lot of practitioners say that the best way to absorb magnesium is transdermally (via skin) by using magnesium lotion, and/or taking mineral baths. The lotion is fairly easy to make yourself too. Though I really enjoy the baths (especially with sore muscles), I always found taking magnesium in the form of magnesium citrate is the best way to quickly feel some anxiety relief, nausea relief and constipation relief. Calm is my favorite brand – as it comes in a fizzy powder form and absorbs quickly! Not to mention keeping it on hand for that dreaded postpartum poop! (You know what I’m talking about… I had zero problems!) It’s also necessary for bone health and absorption of vitamin D.
Almonds, avocados and brown rice contain magnesium so those are great to keep including in your diet as well.
This time of year I’ve seen a lot of women come in with runny nose, sneezing, sinus headaches. When you’re pregnant you can’t take all those anti-histamines, and really they’re only suppressing symptoms anyway. What you want to do is manage the mast cell response. These are the cells in your immune system that are hypersensitive to your environment and react when you encounter an allergen that your body doesn’t like. They begin a process called degranulation where they release arachindonic acid causing an inflammatory response. These compounds are different for different individuals, in response to different allergens.
Over the counter drugs mostly try to block the receptors once these compounds have formed, or try to block the compounds from being formed. Unfortunately there are a lot of side effects and they don’t treat the underlying cause of inflammation – the mast cell instability. Herbal remedies help to decrease the inflammation by stabilizing mast cells.
One of the best herbal remedies is Goldenseal, as it nourishes the mucus membranes so well, but it’s not safe for pregnancy.
Safe herbal tonic for allergic rhinitis:
- Dandelion (supports healthy liver function – immune system response)
- Milk Thistle (supports healthy liver function- immune system response)
- Nettles (strengthens tissues, contains calcium and lots of iron, soothes hayfever response)
- Licorice (nourishes mucus membranes and bronchial pathways, soothes upper respiratory system)
- Chamomile (sedating, antibacterial, anti-inflammatroy, toning for the liver, uterus and endocrine system)
You can drink a tea with this combination, or purchase the tinctures (herbal extracts) to take daily. Chamomile is very soothing to mucus membranes (unless you’re allergic to chamomile) and can be inhaled via steam if the tincture has been placed in a cup of hot water.
All of these are safe for nursing mamas as well.
You’ve probably been told to keep taking your prenatal vitamin postpartum. But did you know that breastfeeding mamas have very different needs than a pregnant mama? Everybody’s worried about your nutrition prenatally, but a lot less worry about nutrition for postpartum mothers unless there’s a concern about food allergies for newborns. I think it’s a lot more important than that! Paying attention to our nutrients and nourishment postpartum can help prevent postpartum depression and increase longterm reproductive health.
In fact, the amount of milk a new mom produces in the first 4 months is roughly equivalent to the same amount of energy she used the entire pregnancy creating a human being! That’s crazy. It was a surprising statistic to me. Your prenatal vitamin might not cut it. You’ll also need to increase the amount of food you eat, and choose foods that are healing for the first 6-12 weeks.
Things to focus on with your diet and supplementation:
- Extra B vitamins: especially B6 for seratonin and melatonin production.
- Organic kelp: Supports your thyroid – which decreases function usually around month 4 postpartum (why some women have hair loss). A healthy thyroid keeps your metabolism going well and wards off mood swings. The iodine in kelp helps to support brain development in baby.
- Vitamin C and copper : both good for development.
- A small amount of fermented foods: to help metabolism and digestion. Not too much though – they can produce gas which is particularly uncomfortable if you’ve had a surgical birth.
- Bone broths: If you’re not a vegetarian the minerals found in bone broths are irreplaceable to healing postpartum. Stock your freezer now and have a few sips or bowls of soup made with it each day.
- Avoid sugar: You’re gonna want it. You’re tired and exerting more energy now with your new little one nursing and possibly an older child or a few of them. But just say no! Having sugar postpartum can lead to that crash feeling, increased anxiety and feelings of depression.
- Fish oils: Especially in the interest of warding off baby blues and keeping your immune system up, add in the fish oils. I really think Fermented Cod Liver Oil is the way to go – the fermentation process maintains the most nutrients and it’s sourced really well.
- Herbs: There are too many to list here! A good one to start with is chamomile, as it aids with after birth pains and induces a feeling of calm or even sleepiness in some.
One supplement I recommend often (and it’s a newer one) is New Chapter PostNatal. They ferment they’re whole food sources and add in supportive herbs. You might also encapsulate your placenta, drink a little beer for hops and possibly lactation teas. I could go on and on!
Need your New Mama Guided Meditation? Click here.
Ready to find hormonal balance and wellness postpartum? Click here to schedule your Blissful Mam Breakthrough Session now!
Malasana or garland pose is one of those classic poses that a lot of people can do, and has a variety of benefits. Here are a few that will likely apply to you!
- Creates a feeling of being “grounded” and safe (as it deeply activates and connects you to the root chakra).
- An easy pose to locate and strengthen your pelvic floor.
- Relieves lower back pain. Especially for people who sit at a desk all day and have poor posture!
- Opens your hips and pelvis for conception and birth.
- Enhances circulation to the pelvis and womb.
- Lubricates knee and hip joints.
- Encourages deep breathing.
Here are my tips for maximizing the benefits of malasana!
- Use a support under your perineum (especially if you have Symphisis Pubis Discomfort, are late in pregnancy,or have knee issues. ) This helps increase that feeling of connectedness, earthiness and grounding. You can use a blanket, pillow, block or bolster.
- Use your breath (in and out through the nose, or ujayyi breath if you’re familiar with it) to really use your pelvic floor. One of my teachers used to call them “elevator kegels“! On either the inhale or the exhale, lift up on the pelvic floor (that sensation like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine), and then use the opposite breath to slowly release. See if you can continue without pause between breaths or movements of the pelvic floor.
- Lean against a wall while doing this for a whole other world of support. Allow everything to totally release.
- Relax your jaw. The hips and the jaw are intimately connected to each other. Notice what happens if you tense up your jaw, where else in your body do you feel that tension? Now notice what happens if you release it? Pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana) is another great posture to notice the hip-jaw connection. This is especially important to practice if you’re trying to get pregnant or are pregnant! It’s why we kiss before sex – it loosens everything up down there. The throat chakra (being able to express ourselves and our needs well) is related to the root chakra (feeling safe and provided for). It’s much easier to conceive (i.e. welcome a new being into our bodies) when we feel that we are safe to be able to express our needs and have them met.
- Practice daily and hold the pose through any feelings of discomfort (emotional or physical). *Pain and discomfort are different things. If you feel pain, especially in your knees, stop! And ask your teacher how to modify or if you should skip the pose.* Humans tend to carry a lot of feelings of disappointment in the pelvic/hip area, and women even more so. Notice what emotions come up for you, acknowledge them, breathe with them, honor them, and let them go.
People generally look confused, sometimes surprised when I tell them I use my art therapy degree to help improve people’s chances of getting pregnant, the health of their pregnancies and their birth outcomes. Here are the reasons I think that’s true:
- The idea of creating “art” seems intimidating after the age of 8.
- Isn’t art therapy for children/people who can’t speak/ intensely traumatized people?
- It feels totally unrelated to our very medical idea of birth.
But the truth is, we need to be paying more attention to the mental health of mamas and babies just as much as the physical health. The New York Times posted a powerful article about prenatal depression last Sunday. Postpartum Depression affects an estimated 11-25% of mothers (depending on who you ask), higher for low-income families. This is about 1.3 million women compared to the 800,000 who will be diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (something we screen everyone for.) We also know that when mamas are stressed out during pregnancy they have children with higher rates of anxiety disorders and other seemingly unrelated issues (like heart problems).
It’s a big deal. Why are we only worried about having mother and child breathing on the other side of the birth-day and nothing else? People are starting to understand what some midwives and wise women have known intuitively for decades and centuries: what we think is not separate from what our bodies do. They are one and the same. The Internationally renown midwife Ina May talks about the effect of safety and emotions on having a safe labor. Pam England talks about in Birthing From Within how creating art can help your labor and postpartum go smoothly.
Creating art during conception and pregnancy can help you:
- Reveal subconscious obstacles to getting pregnant or having an empowered birth.
- Bring relaxation.
- Find your voice – what you really need and express it.
- Visualize what birth or pregnancy will be like (visualizing helps you reach your goal -ask any athlete!)
- Get around your conscious thoughts of what you should think, feel or do and get to the root of what you really think, feel or want.
Here are a few examples of how art has helped me and clients understand ourselves, our bodies and our births much better.
I realized during my 40th week of pregnancy that I still hadn’t fully grieved my miscarriage. I was having ltos of prodromal labor or Braxton Hicks for blocks of 4 or 5 hours at a time and it was making me nuts! I carved out an hour of time to just “draw it”. Whatever that meant. I ended up with an image of a couple sitting, and a rainbow going from their lap to the heavens. I cried for an hour and felt so much relief. all my pre-labor stopped until I went into labor 5 days labor. It was hugely powerful for me to grieve that to be able to have the super smooth labor I did.
Amy was in my Holistic Pregnancy Retreat Day – the first one I did. I asked everyone to draw a mandala of what they wanted for their birth. (Mandalas are circular images lots of cultures use to represent the universe. You can fill them with whatever you like. Often they have repeating geometrically features.) She explained that she had a hard time not envisioning a clock while drawing her empowered birth. She in fact, had drawn a clock – with images at the edge of her circle at 12, 3, 6, and 9. When we asked her why she said “I guess I’m feeling like I have to have the perfect, short labor and birth. My friends are OBs and they think I’m crazy for wanting to have an unmedicated birth.” We were able to help her see that there is no such thing as a “perfect birth” and that no matter how her labor went, her friends were unlikely to change their minds. Even if it went “perfectly” they’d probably say she was a weird exception. This brought a lot of relief and she was able to feel much less pressure going into birth.
Nichole was getting ready for her 3rd un-medicated birth. She and I worked together for awhile during pregnancy and she confessed one day she had been doing lots and lots of unnecessary shopping. She was accumulating tons of stuff and didn’t know why. I asked her to do a drawing of herself as “the pregnant woman”. When we talked about how small her drawing was, what she didn’t like about it and what was missing from this woman (her hands for example), she was able to see that what she felt was missing was her grandmother (who had attended her previous 2 births before passing on a few years before.) She was trying to fill up that support gap with stuff. She was so relieved. We found a way to incorporate her grandmother into her birth preparation and labor and she went on to have an amazing and smooth labor and delivery.
Jen was trying to get pregnant and feeling like something was off emotionally. There was stress from her job, the pressure to get pregnant and also the weird knowledge that nothing was “technically wrong” with her that would prevent pregnancy. I asked her to draw “Conception as a landscape”. She sketched a neat little scene with a shining sun, blue sky and rolling green hills. When we talked about it she said the word that kept coming to mind was “cultivated” rather than organic or wild nature. This was a comfort to her as we talked about how she is cultivating the a fertile mindset as well as a fertile body. We also talked about her use of crayons and how it made her feel connected to “her 7 year old self”. When we talked about being a seven year old she told a story of talking to God on the school bus and hearing from him. Her mother had unknowingly told her that she was just hearing things. We realized together that what she is now cultivating is her connection to God and the spirit – being able to listen to her intuition and trust he is taking her down the right path.
Here’s how you can get started using art to get in touch with your emotional obstacles to conception or an empowered birth.
DIY isn’t for everyone – it takes a village to not only raise a child but raise a mama too. Schedule Your Blissful Mama Breakthrough Session and let me guide you.
If you’re one of my mamas suffering with heavy periods, or painful periods (especially associated with Endometriosis or PCOS). These few poses are for you!
It’s an easy sequence of just 3 main poses you can do at home. Make sure to breathe, breathe, breathe, in through your nose and out through your nose!
Over the past few years I have become increasingly interested in uteri (yup, that’s the plural of uterus). After becoming a Doula in 2011, and adding to my Yoga certification prenatal training, I began to spend most of my time thinking about the womb: what it does, how it does it and how we can take better care of it.
I know when I was growing up “getting your period” was not discussed much. As teenagers we talked about with sarcastic annoyance, only slightly masking our actual excitement at being part of the grown up club. In my twenties it was more of a nuisance than anything else – a year of intense exercise and eating too little took it away; it was the thing that mean you weren’t pregnant; it was the thing that made the trip down the shore a little more complicated or for some of my friends the thing that kept you out of school for a day in pain.
I didn’t really really know much about it until I was a doula and miscarried myself and really started to wonder why. Why does it last as long as it does? Why does it repeat? How does it affect other parts of my body and how do other things affect my cycle? If only I had space to address all those things here! I can tell you that loving your period will help you to love yourself more. It will help you understand your body on a deeper level and appreciate it, no matter how much you may feel it is a machine (and possibly a broken one). Loving your period will help you release body shame, emotional baggage around being a woman, possibly even begin to heal from a difficult pregnancy or birth. It’s certainly a good place to start! So here’s what I WILL share with you today: what my studying, personal experience and work with clients has helped me discover – ways to really love your period.
1. Don’t cook.
I hate cooking when I have my period. Though I no longer get any PMS symptoms, I still feel (as I like to say) very “resty” the first day of my period. And I think there’s a good reason for that. It’s meant to be a day of rest. Sure, we can’t all climb into a red tent and burn sage and drink wine (but, ohmyword do I ever want to!) You can however, plan for a night off of cooking. Have a crock pot frozen meal ready to go or plan for your spouse to pick up that duty that specific day. If you don’t normally do the cooking – choose that other household chore you usually take care of and take a day off.
2. Start over.
Every month (hopefully anyway) you get a chance to start over. Your body literally sheds dead weight and makes room for something new. If you’re trying to get pregnant, each period can feel like a loss, I get that. But with every loss is a new opportunity to do something new and different. If you don’t bleed with the new moon, you can still use the start of bleeding as a time to set an intention for your next cycle. What do you want to accomplish in the next 4 weeks? What is your heart’s desire? What do you need?
My last two intentions have been “to stay the course” and “to take out the unnecessaries”. The first was about not trying to add in a million new ideas to my business or to our life for that matter, and just “let the water boil” as my coach would say. The second was about taking off the schedule the things that weren’t really serving my bigger goals or weren’t really working no matter how much I wanted them to. What’s your intention this cycle?
3. Stay warm.
A little more practically, period is similar to postpartum when you’re bleeding and losing things from your body. Staying warm is very useful to your health (keep circulation moving, mentally keeps you from feeling fatigued), but also useful for reducing cramping and pain (you grip muscles more when you’re cold). So if you plan to go for a crisp morning jog or hike, save it for next weekend. Sip warm tea.
4. Go with the Apana Vata flow.
In Ayurvedic medicine the belief is that women live longer because they are given the opportunity to naturally detox every single month. What a gift! The energy that eliminates toxins in the body (and mind) is called apana vata. To get in line, don’t do any inversions in your yoga practice, sip lemon water and get rid of any emotional baggage weighing you down. Have a little dark chocolate but skip the sugary overload as it will make cramps worse, interfere with natural detox, and increase feelings of depression.
5. Don’t waste it.
Use this time as a built-in appointment for self-care. That silly magazine you’ve been wanting to read but you never do because you’ve got other things to do? Today’s your day. Need a pedicure but been putting it off? Schedule your appointment for the start of your cycle. If you can avoid it – skip big parties and major work events, schedule project deadlines nowhere near your bleeding time (try the full moon instead!)
I hope that this helps you enjoy your cycle, and actually find it a time of nourishment and deeper self-awareness! If you don’t have someone to walk you through your fertility or postpartum hormonal wellness, let’s get in touch! Schedule your Blissful Mama Breakthrough Session with me now by clicking here!
Be well Mamas!
Happy Mama Wellness Wednesday! Here’s your Mama Wellness Tip for this week. This one is a holistic fertility, holistic pregnancy and holistic postpartum gem.
Lemon Balm is one of my favorite mama herbs! Safe for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding seasons of life, it can help to reduce tension and relieve a headache. The large amounts of essential oils in Lemon Balm (or Melissa) have an antispasmodic effect and can therefore help with digestion and gas relief. Combined with Nettle Leaf it’s a great allergy tonic for pregnant women.
But my favorite thing about Lemon Balm is it’s light, lemony flavor. I add it to otherwise grassy or bitter tasting herbs when I’m drinking something medicinally. I think it’s this taste that contributes to it’s ability to help with depression and insomnia. (Two things that are my high priorities for all categories of clients: mamas trying to conceive, pregnant women and new mamas!) Because it tastes so delicious I recommend taking it as a tea or decoction. It tastes great with almost anything and is good iced as well.
Mama Maurer’s Moodalicious Tea
- 2-3 parts Lemon Balm
- 1 part Motherwort
- 1 part Red Raspberry Leaf
Though I’ve never studied Feng Shui, I’m willing to bet practitioners would agree with me that clutter physically, leads to (and is often caused by) clutter emotionally. Ever notice how it’s hard to think when your office is a mess? How can I cook an amazing meal when the kitchen is dirty?
My tip this week: clean out the clutter. It’s the perfect time of year! Summer is warming up, you can be outside and get some sunshine and toss out the junk. We don’t need most of what we think we do. I heard a great sermon the other day that talked about a man who was healed and suddenly able to walk and dance and in the very next verse he was “leaning” on someone near him. “What are you leaning on that you no longer need?” The pastor asked.
Boom. Ummmm… a lot of things! What isn’t serving me any longer that maybe once did, or maybe never did? Cleaning out your space physically can help to inspire a spiritual and emotional de-cluttering. One coaching client described to our private facebook group how she was finally cleaning out the room they had intended for a nursery a long time ago and has since collected clutter and junk. She cried and it was freeing for her to empty that space out, create some room for hope and possibility again.
We need to clean out the clutter to make room for the new- even if it’s scary! You can do it mama!