Mama Wellness Tip – Is that headache actually depression?

prenatal headache

Ever get a chronic headache for awhile or a mysterious back pain that won’t seem to go away?  Sometimes there is an underlying cause that doesn’t get much attention: depression and anxiety.  Many women have symptoms like unexplained headaches or low back pain that seems unrelated to any kind of change in diet or movement.  Sometimes these symptoms can accompany feelings of depression or anxiety or they can be the sole symptom.  How do you know?  Checking with a therapist, midwife, naturopath or other trusted care provider is a good place to start, especially if you’re having other more severe symptoms (like suicidal thoughts) or the headaches are accompanied by dizziness, nausea or swelling.  But here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Is the pain accompanied by a life change of any kind?
  • Are you having feelings of resistance to anything in your life (old or new) such as going to work, exercise or group meetings (particularly ones you used to look forward to)?
  • Do you experience this pain at specific times of day or with specific people?
  • Is the pain dull and irritating or sharp?
  • Does rest help?
  • Does self-care help relieve it (like journaling, meditation or a yoga practice)?
  • Does it improve or disappear when you spend time in a nurturing environment?
  • Does it worsen in certain environments?

If several of these questions are a yes, the underlying cause or a portion of it, could be psychological.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you have depression but it does mean that your emotions are trying to get your attention!  Write down your answers to these and then write a list of ways you might incorporate more steps towards making changes that help you understand and heal whatever is going on emotionally!

Seeds for Hormone Health

foods for fertility

There are all kinds of things you can do to help balance hormones before, during and after baby.  Herbs, supplements, yoga, meditation, medication.  But one of the simplest is to increase foods in your diet that help to remove excess estrogen, protect the body from xenohormones (synthetics that bind with estrogen receptor sites and inhibit the liver’s ability to remove excess estrogen), contain blood nourishing iron and vitamin C to help with iron absorption, and omegas for healthy cell membranes.

Some of my favorite foods for this are a few easy-to-eat seeds. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which helps to support progesterone release and also omega-3 fatty acids.  Flax seeds are high in lignans and omegas, helping to block excess estrogen.  Sesame seeds are also high in lignans and sunflower seeds contain selenium – a trace mineral that aids the liver in detoxification.  Best if eaten raw, (and especially in the case of flax seed – ground), added in small amounts daily to smoothies, yogurt, or soaked cereals.   I have been craving pumpkin seeds the entire 14 weeks of this pregnancy so far!

Twist for Release – Yoga Pose for Detox

Yoga Pose Tip: Marychasana C

This deep twisting pose is incredibly cleansing for your internal organs.
If you’re suffering from PCOS, blockages in your fallopian tubes or bad PMS symptoms this pose is great for you. It compresses (cutting off prana and blood flow to) the liver, ovaries, womb, and then releases, flooding with fresh energy and oxygen!

If you cannot get your elbow to the outside of the knee, just hold that knee with your hand. Don’t strain to turn the head, let it be the natural extension of the pose. Keep the straight leg active.

When to do it:

  • After you’ve warmed up your spine and practiced some breathing exercises.
  • In the morning before eating or at bedtime (on an empty stomach).
  • During the first half of your cycle (pre-ovulation) if you’re trying to conceive, or all the way up to your period if you’re not.

When NOT to do it:

  • When you’re actually bleeding.
  • If you’re during retrieval or implantation days if you’re using those methods.
  • If you’re pregnant (you can modify by sitting in easy seated pose and just gently twisting to each side with one hand behind you and one hand on your knee.)
  • The second half of your cycle (post ovulation) if you’re trying to conceive. (You don’t want to continue to overstimulate the ovaries, instead focus on poses that encourage implantation!)

ENJOY!

New Mamas – Don’t Take Your Prenatal

mama wellness tip postpartum vitamin

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!

Yoga Poses for a Heavy Period

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!

Click here for more Yoga Poses for Fertility or here, for 5 Ways to Love Your Period.

How to Love Your Period (and why you should)!

period health

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!

Mama Wellness Wednesday – Clutter and Conception

holistic fertility tips

 

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!

Mama Wellness Wednesday – Exercise and Hormonal Health

postpartum hormones

Did you know that strenuous exercise can send your adrenal glands into red alert and drive inflammation?  This can also make you insulin resistant – a major problem for women who already suffer PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) that is thought to be caused by insulin resistance in the body.

If you’re trying to get pregnant or restore hormonal health postpartum, starting or going back to a vigorous routine of exercise (like running, kick boxing etc.) might cause more harm than good.  I remember trying to lose weight for a few years and struggling!  Running a lot, eating really well and still just feeling tired and the weight didn’t budge.  My adrenals were way over taxed.  What made the difference was minimizing stress on my adrenals – a yin yoga practice, slow cooked “warming” foods, and better sleep.

  • If vigorous exercise is your stress reliever, instead find a yoga class with an instructor you like.
  • Minimize stress on your adrenal glands by taking out sugar and caffeine from your regular diet.
  • Practice mediation a few minutes a day to help support healthy endocrine function!

If you need help navigating through the stress of fertility or healing postpartum, let me help.  Schedule your Blissful Mama Breakthrough Session here to get started.

The Truth About Stress and Fertility

According to my research,  7.4 million women have used infertility treatments between 2006 and 2010.  That’s a lot of women who are seeking help of one form or another to get pregnant.  It’s definitely something on our minds.

There are a lot of reasons why this might be happening.  I don’t have time to go into all of them here, but the list includes things like: waiting longer to attempt pregnancy, endocrine disruptors in our environment, endocrine disruptors in our food, high levels of chronic stress, synthetic hormones, lack of adequate information on our cycles and disconnection from the natural lunar rhythms that our bodies respond to.

fertility stressWow. That’s a lot to take in. And that list certainly isn’t decreasing anyone’s stress level. One mama I spoke with yesterday said “I spent hours online yesterday when I got my test results back. I can’t think why this would happen to me.  I feel dirty or broken in some way.  I’m overwhelmed!  There’s chemicals in my skin care, poison in our food.  And am I also supposed to leave my job that I enjoy because it’s a high stress job??”

Oh I feel for you, mama!  It is overwhelming and beginning is usually the hardest part isn’t it?  Let’s start here, with some big questions about stress and fertility.

1. Do I need to leave my high stress job and meditate in an ashram for a year?

Short answer is, no.  Long answer is – there are a lot of other follow up questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you love your work?
  • Why are you at a high stress job?
  • Define “high stress”.
  • Is there another line of work that you would prefer to do and you’re not for some reason?
  • Do you use your work as an excuse to avoid self-care?

“Stress” is a relative term.  Each woman experiences stress differently and tolerates or even enjoys different levels of stress. Many stay-at-home mamas would call their work “high stress” and yet they don’t have the option (nor do they want to) quit!  Being on-call as a doula presents a certain amount of stress into my life.  For me, I choose to attend only a few births a year and focus on my coaching and yoga programs. Other doulas enjoy being at births all the time, and for them, the trade of “higher stress” brings higher reward. fertility stress

On the other hand, I worked with a pregnant mama who quit her job because she felt the negativity there was interfering with conception.  Turns out she was right- she conceived a short time after leaving.

This question can only be answered by you.  LIsten to your intuition, pray about it, seek out the counsel of other wise women. And explore options that might not be as drastic or black and white as work there or don’t work there.

2.  If I keep my “high stress” job, will yoga even help?

Yes!  If your active or stressful job creates lots of yang energy in your life (masculine, busy, active), your yoga practice can and should introduce the complementary yin energy (slow, introspective, soft, receiving).  There isn’t a magic potion for balance (i.e. 3 yoga classes negates 3 crazy work days) the yin/yang symbol represents the constant flow of the two energies where sometimes one is dominant for a reason, and other times the other takes over.

Fertility is achieved most often with a healthy dose of yin/yang energy – masculine and feminine.

3. How can stress actually interfere with fertility?

This one is a bit more complicated in that there are many factors involved.  The general idea is that high levels of cortisol and adrenaline (from stress) disrupt your adrenal function, which in turn disrupts the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) system.  When your body believes it is under attack for long periods of time, the rest of the endocrine system is interrupted.

We often respond to stress by ignoring our normal signals to eat properly.  Lack of sleep and high stress has been shown to increase feelings of sugar cravings.  (This is why we joke about eating too much chocolate when we’re stressed out.) When we eat the sugar we get a little buzz that soothes it temporarily but sets us up for a nasty cycle of cravings.  When insulin levels are too high in the body they mimic ovarian hormones and cause the ovaries to be confused and stop producing estrogen. This can also decrease your chances of fertility, especially if you’re overweight or under weight.

And then there’s the inflammation. A great deal of infertility is due to blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids and endometriosis.  All of these are related to inflammation in the body.  And all are aggravated by stress.  This is why research has shown that a yoga practice, and decrease in inflammatory foods helps to decrease pain and symptoms as well as heal some of these conditions.  chakras christianity happy chakras happy womb

In Western philosophy the factors above allow stress to breakdown your healthy endocrine system. In Eastern philosophy stress interrupts the proper flow of prana or life energy throughout your body, and emotional factors play a huge role.  For example, we carry feelings of disappointment in our hips, and often feelings of anxiety in our heart chakra.  Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda (the yoga health science) both believe that there is an energy channel between the heart and the womb.  If you have experienced a great deal of disappointment and anxiety (who hasn’t?!) and have not adequately dealt with it or found healing there, this channel will be blocked and conception will be very difficult.

4. The Biggest Question : Where to start managing stress for fertility?

Breath.  Breath and more breath.  Pranayama or breathing exercises provide a myriad of different things for you.

  • Increase oxygen flow.
  • Decrease cortisol levels and adrenalin levels.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Bring body awareness.
  • Minimize pain.
  • Decrease inflammation in the body.

The best part about breathing?  It’s free.  It can take as little as 2-3 minutes a day. Wanna get started?  Download your complementary Abundant Mama Guided Fertility Meditation here!

How to start building baby’s immune system Now.

newborn immune systemIt’s easy to think we can isolate areas of our lives; to think that what we eat doesn’t affect our mood, that what we hear doesn’t affect our beliefs, that what we think doesn’t affect our future.  But it’s just not true!  We are spiritual beings in physical bodies and all of the parts of our lives affect other parts of our lives, but also the lives of those around us.

When we think of birth as an isolated event, or pregnancy as a time-out from normal life, we miss out on the magic of the continuum; we miss opportunities for creating joy and wellness.

For example, did you know that how you birth can actually affect your child’s immune system?  Recent studies have begun to reveal that the human microbiome is becoming less and less diverse.  What this means is that the human body is mostly comprised of bacteria, and that with our overuse of antibiotics, antibiotics in food, and the lack of bio-diversity in our food (like GMO crops) we are diminishing the kinds of bacteria in our body. This leads to a weak immune system.

We acquire almost all of our bacteria in our system at birth.  This means your little one’s immune system will immediately be populated by bacteria either from your birth canal (if you have a vaginal birth) or from the OR (as in the case of a cesarean birth).  Some studies are even being designed to see if babies born surgically and given a piece of gauze that has been swiped in mama’s vagina have better gut populations and therefore stronger immune systems!  (There’s a whole documentary about this.)

So how can you help your tiny human have a strong immune system starting now? I know there’s no way to guarantee avoiding surgery of course, but there are things you can do to help build your own healthy bacteria so not only are you healthier, but so is baby!

1.  Eat fresh, homemade probiotic rich food.  (Kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee)

2.  Avoid antibiotics during pregnancy and during labor.

3.  Avoid meats and dairy products that you don’t know the source (you want dairy and meat from cows that not only haven’t been treated with antibiotics but also haven’t been fed GMO feed).

4. If it’s an option for you, having a homebirth obviously avoids baby being exposed to the superbugs in a hospital.

5. You can also take a strong probiotic, especially if you have some gut-healing to do!  (I like Garden of Life’s probiotic line.)

 

Do you have a mama wellness guide to take you through conception, pregnancy and postpartum?  Schedule your Blissful Mama Breakthrough Session now, stop worrying about how to sort through all the information out there, and start creating the best for you and your little!

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