This month I read Ancient Map for Modern Birth by Pam England.

Favorite Quotes:

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

“Get the facts then you can distort them as you please.”

-Mark Twain

Main Takeaways:

There were definitely some good nuggets of information throughout the book that I found were helpful. I tried to capture all of the items I found helpful in the notes below. You can tell the author has a passion for helping women prepare for birth. For me though, the book was a little to crunchy/hippie…which says a lot because I would say on a crunchy/hippie scale of 1-10, I am probably a 7 or maybe even an 8. I am all about doing ‘the most natural’ in majority of contexts. However a lot of the book was designed around picturing yourself as a mythic warrior. A couple examples of things that are too hippie for me includes: making a birth power sculpture, keeping a pregnancy dream journal, and going on a color walk. The book is also really long. I hate to give a negative review, but I do feel like there are other natural childbirth books that I have read that were much more helpful than this one turned out to be. Again, there was some good nuggets sprinkled throughout the book that I did find helpful and and enjoy.

My summary of notes:

  • Ask your heart’s question throughout the day and make the question to where the answer cannot be yes or no.
    • How can I avoid cesarean?
    • How can I cope with the pain?
  • Holistic preparation for birth and parenting requires cultivating a balance among 3 ways of knowing: intuitive, modern, and personal.
  • Maternal instinct/intuition is in your gut and bones, not in your thinking mind. But we come from a culture that values scientific knowledge and dismisses intuitive knowing. Social conditioning has taught us not to trust ourselves without checking with someone else first.
  • Modern involves being savvy about hospital and medical norms and how to give birth in this framework. Being aware of cultural norms and social pressure.
  • We tend to believe medical recommendations arise purely from science when they usually come from a variety of belief systems.
  • Personal knowing is being intimately familiar with your habits, assumptions and beliefs.
  • Figure out where you are at with which knowing you lean towards and be open to the other knowings.
  • The placental clock is more influenced by how the pregnant women perceives and responds to stress.
  • Low stress during first trimester can reduce chance of miscarriage.
  • Author questions safety and accuracy of ultrasounds. Because of this she suggests:
    • limiting number of medical ultra sounds you get.
    • Avoid all unneeded scans.
    • avoid ultrasound in first trimester
    • don’t have long scans
    • postpone ultrasound if you have a fever
    • purchase a Doppler to hear heartbeat
  • Carrot Juice Study:
    • One study had first group of women drink carrot juice in last trimester.
    • Second group are carrots during lactation.
    • Third group did not invest carrots.
    • When babies turned 6 months old and were given carrot flavored cereal.
    • Babies who has been exposed to the carrots in utero or in Brest milk showed greater preference for carrot flavored cereal than the group that was not exposed.
  • It’s important to have a healthy liver to be able to metabolize and excrete extra pregnancy hormones.
  • To send enough oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to your baby through the placenta during second half pregnancy.
    • This will happen if you have a sufficient amount of protein and salt to increase albumin.
    • If you don’t have enough albumin your kidneys try to compensate but if that doesn’t work because there is not enough water and salt to convert then this causes swelling in feet and eventually hands and face.
    • Additional consequences could include: pre-eclampsia or HELLP syndrome.
  • You can get a blood test done called “serum albumin”. Normal range is 3.5-5.5 per 100 CC serum. It’s a normal test for pre-eclampsia but not for preventative.
  • Salt your food with whole natural sea salt (not processed table salt).
  • You usually will gain between 28-40 lbs
  • Eating healthy food is more important than how much weight you gain.
  • If you are very athletic/active during pregnancy you will need extra protein and calories.
  • Recent research shows the mothers prenatal diet literally programs her baby’s lifelong appetite, weight gain patterns, and metabolism at a cellular level.
  • Nutrients essential to your baby’s brain development are DHA and omega 3 fatty acids.
  • 3 ounces /day of cold water clean sourced fish like: sockeye salmon, herring, or sardines
  • Fish oil supplements:
    • The label should say it is molecularly distilled and free of containment, Mercury, and pesticides.
    • Studies show that children whose mothers took DHA supplement during pregnancy scores higher on intelligence tests than those who did not.
  • Avoid soy foods as they contain plant estrogen which acts as hormone disrupters.
  • Some studies show eating 6 dates a day during last 4 weeks of pregnancy can positively enhance labor (shorten labor, advanced dilation, reduced bleeding)
  • (The author has a ‘healthy eating guideline list’ on page 70, but I don’t fully agree with it. I have learned more about nutrition from other sources that are experts in the area of nutrition.)
  • Take time daily or it least once a week for time to be alone, peaceful and get refreshed. Either in nature, reading a spiritual book, taking a candlelight bath, etc.
  • Practice Circular breathing
  • Tips for choosing birth attendant (doctor, midwife, doula) in chapter 14
  • Chapter 15 is about choosing birth place
  • Important to maintain correct posture to release the psoas muscles.
  • Pregnancy belts may help relieve pain and inflammation in lower back.
  • Understanding birth will be painful and develop coping strategies.
  • Try a mindfulness practice.
  • It’s possible that different women experience different levels of pain because the individual biological variation in their pelvis nerve map.
  • Try to get 30 min exercise 3 times a week when pregnant (nothing crazy: walking, yoga, etc)
  • Visualize your body opening, or seeing yourself engaging your heart, body, and mind in the process of birthing and coping, is different from repeating positive affirmations.
  • Practice pain coping:
    • do ice contractions
    • daily meditation
    • download live teaching of NFA guided practice and practice daily.
  • Birth tiger safari:
    • Identify the things you are worried about/Hope won’t happen.
    • Then notice your thoughts, visions and feelings when you consider the possibility.
    • What would it mean to you if it happened? (That you are weak/failure, etc)
    • Now imagine entering scene as birth warrior who doesn’t judge herself or others.
    • Journal how you changed. What your new positive self belief is.
  • Examples of what birth warriors have done:
    • asked for opinion
    • focused on breath
    • asked for epidural
    • changes positions
    • rested on side
    • unclenched jaw
  • Birth plan: Instead of just writing “don’t offer me pain medication”. You can have some methods due how you plan to cope with pain and how nurses can help.
  • For treatments/drugs find out:
    • In what ways might this help
    • what are advantages and disadvantages
    • what if I post poned it one hour?
    • other options?
  • Post partem:
    • ensure time for cocooning and seclusion
    • arrange for meal train
  • Early vs active labor:
    • active is usually contractions less than 5 minutes apart and/or dilation of 6 centimeters or more
  • Nurturing touch and massage during labor helps to reduce anxiety, fear, and pain.
  • Hot bath can reduce pain. Get in once in active labor.
  • Make a list of 7 things you will bring to your labor (can be physical like jewelry, aromatherapy, etc or can be like attitude, etc
  • Labor positions: laying on back can be painful and not encourage labor progression. Optimal positions:
    • standing up leaning against something
    • sitting upright with hips higher than knees (on edge of bed, ball, chair)
    • squatting
    • side lying using peanut ball (good if you need to rest, have had epidural, etc). Studies shown to reduce pushing stage and reduce cesarean.
  • Epidurals:
    • 2 kinds: continuous and patient controlled. Patient controlled (where patient pushes button when she feels its needed) use 30% less medication.
    • no evidence that epidurals negativity affect the baby
    • there is a risk of sudden drop of blood pressure
    • several hours after epidural it’s 5-8x more likely that patient may have a temp over 100.
    • if the baby is affected by this then emergency cesarean is needed
    • there is no clear evidence that having an epidural will increase chance or cesarean. Some studies shows it helps some shows it worsens.
    • there is a higher risk for breastfeeding problems when you have had pain medication in labor
  • “When weighing the benefits of pain relief near the end of labor, consider whether the added stress of being confined to a bed and enduring further interventions is worth a few hours of rest and lessoned pain.”
  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • what is motivating me to plan to have, or to avoid to having, an epidural?
    • how do I view other women who have epidurals in normal labor?
    • what am I (already) telling myself it would mean about me if I had an epidural in labor?
  • Eat 2 dates right after birth of placenta. A study shows that women lose less blood. Also loss of blood leads to drop in blood sugar. Dates can help raise glucose.
  • Perineal relief sitz bath. Buy premixed herbal sitz baths or make your own by purchasing loose herbs. Use 1/2-1 ounce of the following:
    • comfrey leaves (softens, soothes, build new cells)
    • Yarrow flowers and leaves (antibacterial properties, decreases swelling)
    • marshmallow root (soothes swollen tissues)
    • Uva Ursi (antibacterial properties, decreases swelling)
    • rosemary leaves (a mild antiseptic)
    • Rose petals or lavender (a nice touch)
  • Women who are not breastfeeding may ovulate as early as 27 days after birth so good to think about birth control plan before having sex
  • Expect to have a period 12 weeks after birth
  • Hormonal birth control can sometimes interfere with milk supply, especially in first 6 weeks
  • Find out what hospital serves for dinner and plan for someone to bring us something if we can’t eat that
  • Recipe for mother warming soup (page 356)
  • Vernix:
    • Vernix is the waxy cream cheese like substance on the baby’s skin. It helps temperature regulation, immunity, prevention of water loss, a moisturizer high in vitamin E, and a unique scent apart of mother baby bonding.
    • It also contains surfactants that keep the airway sterile during child first breaths.
    • And it serves as a barrier to bad bacteria that can be found in hospitals sometimes.
  • Indian tradition – baby massage:
    • soft dough ball (size of lemon) made from flour, a dash of turmeric, and almond oil
    • gently run over baby’s body every day the first 6 days. A little more pressure after 6 days old.
    • this can help regulate sleep and wake cycles, boost immunity, and reduce fussiness
  • Placenta customs:
    • no science to support claimed benefits of encapsulated placenta
    • in history humans didn’t have the instinct to eat it like animals do
    • instead there are studies that show eating cold water fatty fish (salmon, herring, or sardines) or supplementing with high quality fish oil can reduce post parted depression by 50%
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