Take Our Fun Birth Quiz!

This quiz isn’t meant to be a black and white set in stone determining factor of where you should give birth but it is meant to get you thinking about some of your daily preferences based on your personality and how they might play into your labor experience! Take the quiz and let us know what you think of your results! We’ll follow-up with some great educational content to help you prepare for an informed and empowered birth experience!

Quiz photos by Monet Nicole Birthing Stories

Fertility Awareness Method (FAM): Natural Birth Control

This guest post was written by Austyn Smith

The book “Taking Charge of your Fertility” by Toni Weschler provides deep insights into what happens in a woman’s body during a typical menstrual cycle. Learning about these changes in detail helps women become very in tune with their body’s physical signals of fertility (or lack thereof). In part one of this series, we discussed using Toni’s Fertility Awareness Method to help in troubleshooting infertility issues naturally, and ultimately achieving pregnancy. In part 2, we will discuss using this same method as a means for birth control.

Natural Birth Control After Baby

I have successfully used the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for natural birth control for over four years, and have loved it. It entails charting your body temperature, your cervical mucus, and your cervical position as a means for noting your fertile and infertile times, and then planning intercourse accordingly. Although this method is not for everyone, it can be a great option for women who prefer not to use traditional birth control or have adverse reactions to it (myself). Using this method does require a bit of planning and consistency in order to be effective, so it is ideal for the organized or schedule-driven mama.

Plan on charting two full menstrual cycles before you begin using this method so that you can get a true understanding of charting, how it works, what it all means, and identifying your own body’s cues and signals of fertility. During each cycle you will be taking a daily basal body temperature (you need a special thermometer for tracking), recording cervical mucus, and cervical positioning (optional). A sample chart of a typical cycle is below.

sample fertility chart

As a reminder, there are three phases of a typical menstrual cycle: the pre-ovulatory infertile phase, the fertile phase, and the post-ovulatory infertile (luteal) phase. I recommend re-reading FAM part 1 to review the basics of the signs of fertile and infertile phases, before continuing on. I also highly recommend reading the book in detail before trying this method in order to get a clear picture of the procedures in detail. At any rate, here is an overview.

Phase One: Pre-Ovulatory Infertile Phase Rules

The first phase of a cycle begins on the first day of bleeding during your period. During this phase, there are two rules to follow.

First five days rule

You are only “safe” to have intercourse during the first 5 days of a menstrual cycle if you have had an obvious temperature shift 12-16 days prior.

Having this shift means that ovulation has indeed occurred and the bleeding you are experiencing is not ovulation spotting or implantation bleeding. Remember sperm can live for up to five days in a fertile environment, so any time after these first five days consider yourself potentially fertile, even if you are still bleeding. You may consider yourself “safe” beyond the first five days if you then keep the second rule.

Dry Day Rule

Before you ovulate, you are safe on the evening of every dry day—meaning you do not have any cervical discharge during the course of the entire day. If you have been dry and then have intercourse, the next day you must be careful since semen may mask cervical discharge. If at the end of a day after intercourse you have been dry all day, consider yourself safe once again (remember, sperm cannot survive in a dry environment).

Phase Two: Fertile Phase

Ideally, you are only having unprotected sex when you know for sure you are in your infertile phase. If you do decide to have sex during your fertile phase, you will need to use a barrier of some type (like condoms—we are huge fans of these), or explore other areas of arousal and climax without penetration. A woman’s egg once released survives only 24-48 hours. However, if the uterine environment is right, sperm can survive for several days, so there is a range on either side of ovulation day where you must consider yourself potentially fertile. To err on the side of caution, assume most women have an 8-10 day range of fertility. As a basic review, the signs of fertility include:

  • Cervical mucus changes from dry to sticky, then creamy, then eggwhite (extremely fertile), to sticky or dry, and finally menstruation.
  • Cervical positioning changes from firm, low, and closed to soft, high, open, and wet and then closed and low again.
  • Basal Body Temperature Shifts: a spike of several tenths of a degree which remains high for 3 consecutive days will indicate that ovulation has occurred. Remember you need a special thermometer for tracking.
  • Ovulatory Pain: Some women experience cramping in the lower abdomen on one side indicating ovulation is occurring.

Phase Three: Post-Ovulatory Infertile Phase

During this phase remember the Temperature Shift Rule.

Temperature Shift Rule

You are “safe” the evening of the third consecutive day your temperature is above the coverline.

Review how to chart temperatures and calculate coverline here. Essentially, the first day there has been a temperature rise by 2/10 of a degree, and has stayed elevated for 3 consecutive days, you can be sure you have ovulated. Highlight the previous 6 temperatures, and identify the highest of those. Draw your coverline on the chart that is one degree higher than the highest of those temperatures.

You are considered infertile at 6pm on the third consecutive night your basal body temperature is above the coverline. If your temperature is on or below the coverline during those 3 days, you must start over once your temperatures are back above the line. Remember, sex is still okay, only you must use a barrier method.

There are a few exceptions to these rules that will throw your body off a little bit—being sick, traveling, breastfeeding, or sleeping poorly for instance. So definitely review the book in detail before trying out this method.

Monitoring and charting fertility signs not only helps women understand their fertility in a very detailed manner, but can also serve as a diagnostic tool for infertility, as well as a means of natural birth control. It can be a great alternative for women who do not want added hormones, surgery, or the pressure of remembering to take a pill for birth control. I have found great success in using the Fertility Awareness Method both to prevent pregnancy, and to achieve pregnancy when I want to conceive. You may find a copy of Toni Weschler’s book here, and more information and community resources about using the Fertility Awareness Method at Taking Charge of your Fertility or ovagraph.com.

World Breastfeeding Week 2017

It’s World Breastfeeding Week and I’ve really been blown away by all of the amazing collaborations, articles, events and general awesomeness surrounding this week and bringing awareness to Breastfeeding. Here are some of my favorite things from the week.

Facebook LIVE party for supporting moms and a HUGE Giveaway with Sarah Wells Bags! I loved how real Sarah is when she shares her journey of exclusively pumping for her first daughter and how it inspired her breastpump bags (be sure to check out the newest gorgeous floral design she just released for WBW!) as well as my chat with Sarah Wells at the end of this week’s podcast episode!

sarah wells bags

Awesome article about why this week matters!

Around 2,000 women came together to breastfeed their babies in the Philippines to promote the health benefits of breast milk. If you want to attend a Latch On event, you can find one near you!

This free WBW nursing guide including a Survival Guide for the first two weeks of breastfeeding.

This kickstarter to bring breastfeeding awareness around the country – you have to see the RV and their clever #putaboobonit campaign!

Some of my favorite episodes that talk about breastfeeding struggles: one, two, three.

 

Lower Back Pain During Pregnancy

Lower Back Pain during Early Pregnancy & Beyond

This guest post was written by Dr. Heather Allen. Dr. Allen received her Master of Physical Therapy from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2001 and graduated with her Doctor of Physical Therapy from A.T. Still University in 2009. She is a licensed physical therapist in Texas. Dr. Allen has a varied clinical background with experience in neurological rehabilitation, cardiovascular rehabilitation, and women’s health. Dr. Allen’s current focus is teaching in academia.

It is estimated that at least 80% of the general population will experience low back pain at some point in their life. It is extremely common for a woman to experience low back pain during her pregnancy. This is due to the changes that occur to a woman’s body during pregnancy. First, our center of gravity is altered due to the weight and location of the baby, especially during the third trimester. Secondly, our body produces more Relaxin (a hormone that allows our joints and ligaments to loosen in preparation for childbirth). Thirdly, our abdominal muscles are stretched due to the growing baby and these muscles are unable to provide normal stability. Finally, our movement patterns are altered with all activities of daily living.

Treatment Options for Lower back Pain

Treatment options are limited during pregnancy since it is best to err on the side of caution. Most pain medications are contraindicated during pregnancy. The general rule of thumb regarding treatment modalities is to avoid any modality other than heat or ice near the baby. A recent study by Keskin et al. (2012) indicated that TENS was more effective than exercise and acetaminophen for pregnancy related low back. Therefore, a TENS unit may be a possible treatment option. This is one that we have used and love!

Whether you are pregnant or not, correct body mechanics are very important. If you are picking up a small light object from the floor, you should use a golfer’s lift technique (how a pro golfer picks up a golf ball from the ground). If you are picking up something heavier such as a toddler, you need to squat down and keep the object close to you. It is important to lift with your legs, not your back. If you are carrying an object, you should keep it close to your body. It is important to sit in a chair that has good lumbar support. After sitting for more than 30 minutes, you should stand up and walk around the room. Our bodies are meant to move, and if we stay in static positions for too long, it will make our low back pain worse.

babymoon retreat

Sleeping During Pregnancy

Towards the end of pregnancy, it is very difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. After 20 weeks, a woman should no longer sleep on her back or stomach. This can be a challenge for women who normally sleep in these positions. When you are sleeping on your side, you can put pillows between your knees and a pillow behind your low back. Some people also find it comfortable to hug a pillow(s) in this position.

Exercises for lower back pain in pregnancy

There are a variety of exercises that can be helpful throughout pregnancy. Walking is a great way to exercise throughout your pregnancy. Swimming and water aerobics put minimal stress on your low back. Standing back extensions can be very helpful to maintain our lumbar extension. It is important to perform core exercises such as pelvic tilts in standing or sitting. You can perform alternating arm and leg lifts in quadruped. It can also be helpful to trade in your desk chair and recliner for a birth ball. We love this one!

Our core consists of our low back muscles, abdominal muscles, and pelvic floor muscles. As previously mentioned, our abdominal muscles are severely affected by pregnancy. Many pregnant females experience diastatsis recti (vertical separation of the abdominal muscles). The pelvic floor is an often-forgotten component of the core. One purpose of the pelvic floor is to support the internal organs above it, and thus it is crucial to strengthen this muscle group during pregnancy with Kegel exercises. Likewise, strong pelvic floor muscles can assist during delivery.

A women’s health physical therapist can be an excellent resource for treatment of low back pain during pregnancy. Likewise, physical therapists are trained to provide customized exercise programs, posture analysis, and body mechanic training. A physical therapist can also determine if a maternity support belt would be of benefit to you.

Sources: Keskin, E.A., Onur, O., Kiskin, H.L., Gumus, I.I., Kafali, H., & Turhan, N. 2012. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation improves low back pain during pregnancy. Gynecologic & Obstetric Investigation, 74, 76-83.

Amazon Prime Day – Best Deals for Baby, Kids + Mom

Amazon Prime Day – Best Baby, Kid and Mom Deals

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial – First of all make sure you are signed up for Prime! Here’s a free way to try it out!

Baby Deals

Amazon has an entire section of baby deals going live throughout the day! Some favorites are this tiny fold-up travel stroller, this carseat carrier for travel, these ear protectors, this outdoor shaded play yard, and this baby carrier!

Honestly there are SO many baby deals it’s too much to list plus new things are popping up quickly while other things are selling out so just head over to the baby section and search for what you need!

Kid Deals

I’m getting these star projector night lights for my kids that are more than half off! (almost sold out!)

Organic cotton toddler pillow (68% off!)

Kindle for Kids Bundle (20% off)

Camera Drone that you can control with your phone! (extra 20% off at checkout)

Mom + Home Deals

Kindle Paperwhite ($30 off) This is the lowest price I’ve seen on this and would make a great Christmas gift. My hubby loves his – all other readers hurt his eyes after a while but this one is great!

Echo Show + Security Camera bundle ($75 off) – Can also double as baby monitor!

I really wish I still worked at an office and needed a lunchbox because this one is SO cute!

Ridiculously comfortable sandals that you can even get away with wearing to work or date night!

Kindle Unlimited (40% off)  – Access to thousands of books and many titles come with “Kindle Unlimited With Narration” so you can also listen via the Audible app. Even better, it’s smart enough to let you seamlessly switch between reading and listening, which is so awesome for kids just starting to read!

Smart Lock ($50 off) – Gamer changer for people who have babysitters, house sitters or AirBnb their home.

Tile Key & Wallet Locator (20% off) – This has been a lifesaver for our family (ok mainly just my husband!). He uses it almost every day.

Pelvic Floor Health and Resources for Pregnant & New Moms

This guest post was written by Alina Horrocks who holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

I am a mother of 3. I am also a physical therapist. My background is mostly acute (hospital) care. I’ve shifted from working full-time as a PT, to being a stay at home mom. When I became fully immersed in the “mom world” and was meeting other fairly new mothers, I was surprised at how many of these women were having pelvic floor issues (mainly incontinence).

In my experience as an OB/GYN patient, none of my providers really took any time to explain the importance strengthening the pelvic floor or the correct way to do it. In talking to several friends, that has been their experience as well. Many ended up seeing a Women’s Health specialist PT for incontinence issues postpartum, and they were very surprised at what they didn’t know about their own body and how simple the treatments are.

Women’s Health & Physical Therapy

Having had the advantage of going to PT school, I at least knew a little about my pelvic floor and the Women’s Health specialty within the world of physical therapy. It is a fairly new but growing specialty. But even in school, the amount of curriculum dedicated to Women’s Health and/or pelvic floor issues was minimal. I’ve had to really do a lot of my own research and take some extra courses to learn more.

A systematic review published in 2014 found that “PFMT (pelvic floor muscle training) during pregnancy and after delivery can prevent and treat UI (Urinary Incontinence)”. This research shows the benefit of exercising the pelvic floor, but the problem is that our current healthcare culture doesn’t promote much preventative education in this arena.

What I want all mothers and mothers-to-be to know

I think many women just accept the fact that some urine leakage after having a baby is expected. Many women do experience this, yes….BUT that doesn’t have to be the case. Urine leakage is a dysfunction of the pelvic floor and there is treatment available!

There are physical therapists that specialize in Women’s Health that can help with all kinds of things (urinary and bowel incontinence, breast cancer, lymphedema, pelvic girdle pain, pediatric pelvic health, male incontinence and pelvic health, sexual dysfunction, pregnancy and postpartum, to name a few…). However, you may have to seek them out. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has a Section on Women’s Health (SOWH) where you can look up therapists who’ve been specially trained and certified – look for someone with a WCS after their name (Women’s Health Clinical Specialist). For more info, go here.

Performing a pelvic floor contraction

Think about pulling the whole area from your pubic bone to your tail bone “up and in”. Another description I’ve heard is to “stop the flow of urine”, but actually I think a more accurate description is to “stop the passing of gas”. The contraction needs to include the muscles around the vagina as well as around the anus. You should not be holding your breath or contracting the abs. If you have difficulty doing this or are unsure if you are doing this correctly, you may want to seek out a Women’s Health specialist.

high risk pregnancy

Exercise your pelvic floor

  • Quick flicks – contract your pelvic floor as hard as you can.
  • Sustained contraction – contract your pelvic floor and hold the tension starting for 5 seconds and working up to 10+ seconds.
  • Elevator – contract and lift up your pelvic floor little by little, like you’re going up floor by floor in an elevator. When you get to the top, or your maximal contraction, don’t just completely release the tension. Instead, control and let down the contraction little by little (or floor by floor) until you are completely relaxed.

You can perform these exercises sitting, standing, or lying down. Like any exercise, start small and build up. I recommend 2-3 sets of 5-15 reps of these exercises a day. Perform these consistently, maybe there is something already in your daily routine where you could incorporate your pelvic floor exercises. For example, when you brush your teeth, take a shower, cool down from a workout, nurse your baby, or watch commercials during your favorite TV show. Practice these both during pregnancy and after.

Co-Contractions

Once you are confident you are correctly contracting the pelvic floor, try doing it while pulling your belly button into the spine (contracting the transverse abdominis). Also, try contracting your pelvic floor while walking or going up and down steps.

Find a Physical Therapist

Try doing these simple exercises on your own and if more help is needed or other issues arise, a physical therapist can really help. Most states these days don’t require a prescription from a doctor to see a physical therapist so you can go directly to a specialist for an evaluation.

Our bodies go through so much during pregnancy! And we give so much to be mothers! My hope is that we can create more awareness in our communities on ways women and mothers can take care of themselves and also to let them know there are people to help.

This guest post was written by Alina Horrocks. Alina graduated from Texas Woman’s University in Houston, TX with a Doctor of Physical Therapy in 2010. She has worked primarily in the hospital setting, helping inpatients regain and improve functional mobility. She welcomed her third child last year and is now using her professional and personal experience to help other moms take care of their bodies during pregnancy and beyond.