3-5% of Americans are vegetarian, and I'm one of them!
(Well, strictly speaking, I'm a pescatarian. I do eat fish.)
People have a variety of reasons for choosing vegetarianism, from ethics to environmentalism to religion to health to personal preference. But when you're growing a whole new person, you may wonder: is it still safe and healthy, for both my baby and me, to continue being a vegetarian?
The answer is yes! You can continue being a vegetarian and still meet all of your and your baby's nutritional needs. It may take some careful planning and thoughtful eating, but you can do it!*
Just keep these guidelines in mind:
Be sure to get enough iron.
Iron is important for your red blood cells to do their job of circulating oxygen throughout your body! Eating a diet rich in Vitamin C will help you body absorb iron more efficiently. Vegetarian sources of iron include:
Track your sources of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is crucial to the healthy function of your nervous system, among other roles. Since vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal sources, you may need to plan carefully to make sure you're getting enough.
Vegetarian sources of vitamin B12:
Protein is important!
The American Pregnancy Association recommends 75-100 grams of protein per day during pregnancy. There are plenty of vegetarian sources of protein, so make sure to include them in your diet! Here are some ideas to get you started:
Choose a variety of healthy foods.
Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike should follow this advice: eat a balanced range of healthy food choices throughout your pregnancy. Limit unhealthy snacks and eat a rainbow of delicious, nutritious foods!
Always talk with your care provider.
As a doula, I love to provide informational support to my clients. However, I'm not a medical care provider, and I don't know your unique medical history. Be sure to have conversations with your midwife or OB about your diet and health throughout your pregnancy!
Now you have the Reader's Digest version of being vegetarian during pregnancy. If you decide it's the right choice for you, please do more research and make a plan for meeting your nutritional needs! You can start with the references listed below.
*Note: Some people may choose to take a break from vegetarianism while pregnant. If your intuition tells you that's the right choice for you and your baby, then do it!
Your Vegetarian Pregnancy by Dr. Holly Roberts (available in my lending library)
So, your due date has come... and gone...
First of all, let's be clear about EDDs, or Estimated Due Dates (also called Estimated Date of Delivery). You can tell from my italics that the term estimated is critically important in understanding due dates!
Where do due dates come from?
An EDD is calculated as 280 days past the first day of your last period. EDDs can also be determined by measuring your baby during an early ultrasound, which is a more reliable method.
Here's the thing about EDDs calculated as LMP (last menstrual period) + 280 days. There's lots of room for error with that approach. Many women misremember the first day of their last period and do their best to guess. Even if you're sure of your LMP, using this day to calculate a due date assumes that you ovulate on day 14 of your cycle and have 28 day cycles. The whole idea of EDD = LMP +280 days is also based on little sound evidence. Back in 1744, Dr. Boerhaave, a professor from the Netherlends, looked at data from 100 women and concluded that most people gave birth within about 280 days of their LMP (although he didn't specify whether LMP meant the first or last day of the menstrual period. In 1812, Dr. Carl Naegele further popularized this process of EDD calculation, but he used the last day of the period as the LMP. In the 1900s, obstetric textbooks started using the first day of the period as the LMP.) So the very process by which due dates are determined isn't very specific, and is based on very limited data!
It's tricky, then, if we take an EDD to mean much more than an estimate of when baby might arrive. As Rebecca Dekker of Evidence Based Birth concludes,
"Based on the best evidence, there is no such thing as an exact “due date,” and the estimated due date of 40 weeks is not accurate. Instead, it would be more appropriate to say that there is a normal range of time in which most people give birth. About half of all pregnant people will go into labor on their own by 40 weeks and 5 days (for first-time mothers) or 40 weeks and 3 days (for mothers who have given birth before). The other half will not."
Instead of fixating on a due date, you may prefer to refer to your EDD as a "guess date," or think more about your "due month" than a specific day.
Now that we have a better idea of where due dates come from and what they do--and don't--mean, let's talk about being "overdue."
As evidenced above, there's nothing magical about the 40-week mark. It's actually more likely that, if you wait to begin labor on your own, you'll give birth a few days past your EDD than on the due date itself. Babies aren't considered "late term" until you reach the 41 week mark, and "post term" doesn't apply until babies are past 42 weeks gestation. Induction for being "overdue" isn't recommended until you're at least 41 weeks pregnant.
It's almost as if pregnancy is trying to teach us the vital parenting skill of patience.
So, what's the takeaway?
Pregnancies aren't like final projects or rent due dates. No points are deducted or fees added for going past your due date. A due date just gives an estimate of when your baby is likely to be born, but really doesn't mean anything definitive. My advice is to schedule a week full of pampering and things to look forward to on your due date and the few days past it. Plan on getting food from your favorite restaurant, going for a walk in your favorite spot, connecting with friends or family. Practice some of those comfort measures that will come in handy during labor. Snuggle up with some great birth books. And know that your baby and your body will work together to signal when it's the right time for baby to come!
* * * * *
This whole business of calculating due dates and going past your due date is really quite complex. Now that you've been introduced to the topic, I recommend digging into it more with these two articles from Evidence Based Birth: The Evidence on: Due Dates and The Evidence on: Inducing for Due Dates.
When I say the words healthy eating, what are your first thoughts?
Eating healthy can seem like such a battle! No one seems to agree on what "healthy eating" really means, old habits can be hard to kick, and being pregnant can sometimes be rough enough to feel like you can justify eating whatever you want!
Let's break it down to five simple things you can start doing right now to give your diet a healthy boost! Your body will thank you! You'll feel better, and you'll be more confident that you're giving your baby the best start you can!
1. Drink. Water.
It's so important to stay hydrated during pregnancy! Your body needs water to pump all of your blood (you have 1.5 times your normal blood volume during pregnancy!) around your body to get all the good nutrients to your baby and get rid of any waste. Being dehydrated can also cause pre-term contractions, which is a scare no one wants to have to deal with!
If plain water isn't your favorite, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime, or mix it up with some herbs or fresh cucumber slices. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day. You can do it! Carry around a water bottle, and make sure you have water cups or bottles in various rooms around the house so there's always water within arms' reach.
I also find that when I drink enough water, I make healthier choices about what I eat. So that's tip #1!
2. Focus on What You ARE Eating (Not On What You AREN'T Eating)
It can be so frustrating to feel like you have a mile-long list of "off-limits" food and drinks. Instead of worrying about what you shouldn't eat, you'll feel much happier if you focus on the healthy food choices you are making. Rather than agonizing over missing out on sweets or soda, shift your focus. Plan out a yummy, nutritious breakfast. Stock up on healthy snacks. Find food that you enjoy that is also good for you, so you worry less about what you're missing out on and focus more on enjoying the good food you're feeding yourself and your baby!
3. Choose Fresh Fruits and Veggies!
As I kid, I LOVED vegetables.
Yep, you read that right. Loved them! And I still do! In the summer, I would eat toast with tomatoes for breakfast and tomato sandwiches for lunch. My sister and I would play truth or dare so that we could dare each other to go pick us fresh peas from the garden. Broccoli has always been a favorite. Salad is legit my FAVORITE food. No joke. Yum... just writing this is making me want some!
What's the trick? I really believe it's because I grew up with a GIANT garden and got to taste the best of the best of vegetables and enjoy their freshness and flavor. Finding good-quality, fresh produce can make a huge difference in how enjoyable it is to munch away on fruits and veggies.
Summer and fall are a great time to find your local farmers market and buy some delicious food! The Provo Farmers Market is on Saturdays from 9-2, and at my visit last week I got some DELICIOUS peaches and plums and saw a huge variety of garden-fresh vegetables. Put it on your calendar and check it out! Note that there are some changes from the "norm" for COVID-19. Wear a mask and follow the one-way traffic signs so that it can stay open all season!
4. Find Your Favorite Protein
Protein is critical during your pregnancy! Find out what your favorite proteins are, and make sure you eat plenty every day. (The American Pregnancy Association recommends 75-100 grams per day!) Try pairing two incomplete proteins (e.g. rice and beans, peanut butter and whole grain bread) to get a complete protein. Here are some ideas for proteins to get you thinking:
And check out this post for more about being a vegetarian during pregnancy.
5. Kick Cravings with Go-To Favorites
Find some favorite healthy snacks for when you're craving junk food. I often find that if I want a sweet treat, an apple with peanut butter will hit the spot, and I feel way better after eating it than I do after giving into cravings!
If you sometimes eat too many cookies or potato chips, don't throw in the towel on your healthy eating plan. Keep moving forward with nutritious choices and give yourself grace to be imperfect--we all are!
Many of you may know that in addition to birth, my other passion is language. I believe that language is powerful and influential, and I dig into why this matters in the realm of birth over at my other website, Birth Words. I have a variety of offerings through Birth Words, from a podcast to classes for birthing families and birth professionals, and lots more.
I thought I'd update you all here with news from the Birth Words August newsletter, because there are a couple of exciting announcements relevant to birthing families! Check out the relevant bits below:
*NOTE: Check out the browser version of the full newsletter HERE!*
A new FREE PDF download for you!
6 Questions for a Better Birth
Six questions about language to ask yourself as you prepare for or support the BEST birth possible.
Visit www.birthwords.com to get this PDF in your inbox!
Birthing families, this one's for you!
(do you hear the drum roll?)
I've got a book coming for you!
Birth Word for Birthing Families will take your mind and heart on a journey from pre-conception through postpartum. At every stop along the way, we'll think about the impact of our words and the language that surrounds us.
If you want to be the first to know when the book will be available, sign up here!
This post is the fourth in a series about comfort measures for labor that appeal to each of the five senses. Today, we're focusing on the sense of touch! Check out these six ways that touch can help you manage labor.
(Photo by Isaac Ordaz on Unsplash)
In early labor, it may feel nice to have someone (your husband/partner, doula, friend, etc.) to lightly run their fingers along your arms, shoulders, back, or other places. The backs of the fingers work well for this, and the light, stroking motion should feel like a pleasant tickle, encouraging you to release any tension you may be holding. A head massage tool, like this one, gives a similar sensation for your scalp. Some people (e.g. me) love it, and some people (e.g. my husband!) hate it.
Counter pressure during labor relieves the stretching and contracting sensations, invites you to focus your attention somewhere else, and can give baby more room to descend. There are tons of different types of counter pressure, and lots of places where a little pressure gives great relief: head, shoulder, knees, tail bone, hips, and more! If you're the one giving counter pressure to someone in labor, always ask to know how much pressure feels good--it may be a lot more than you'd guess!
Get the Oxytocin Flowing!
(Photo by Annette Sousa on Unsplash)
Oxytocin--the love hormone--makes you feel SO good, AND it keeps labor moving along! Kissing and cuddling can be an effective way to make labor as enjoyable as possible, and it will bring you closer together as you enter the next stage of parenthood!
Heat and Cold
(Photo by Pixabay)
During labor, both hot and cold can be helpful for different purposes. A heating pack on your lower back can feel great during contractions, and as you get closer to meeting your baby, a nice cold compress on your forehead or shoulders may feel fantastic.
(Photo by Yellow Kite Lifestyle Photography)
Sometimes the comfort of a hand on your shoulder or a nice leg rub can feel great in between (maybe even during) contractions. Comforting touch can add a sense of security and safety for you--which is critically important as you open your body to bring your baby into the world!
No, Thank You
(Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash)
It's also possible that you won't want anyone to touch you at all during labor! You may turn inside yourself and find outside touch distracting or uncomfortable. It's important to have a birth team that you trust to be responsive to your needs in the moment, because it's hard to predict what exactly you'll want during labor!
What kinds of touch do you expect you'll like during labor? Or do you think you'll prefer a hands-off labor?
We've been preparing for this event for a loooong time. After multiple attempts to reschedule, we're excited to be offering this class in person at the beautiful Aspenwood Manor! You'll have a cozy spot six feet apart from other couples, and we'll have hand sanitizer on tap. :)
Join us for an engaging evening designed to strengthen your relationship and preparation for birth.
Whether it's your first baby or your sixth, come learn how to make every stage of labor progress more smoothly. You will move beyond feelings of uncertainty to claim your power as life-giving agents.
You'll learn and practice hands-on comfort measures so you can work together as a couple during labor.
A decadent dessert of warm Chip cookies served with locally made gourmet Rockwell ice cream will be provided, along with fresh fruit and cheese.
We're excited to see you!
"I have never felt more intimate and in love with my husband than I did during the labor and birth of our child."
-Sarai L., previous client
It's been a while since I've posted here. Honestly, I've been pretty overwhelmed by the way the world has turned upside down in the last couple of months. I have struggled to know the best way to respond. Doula work has slowed for many of us, as most hospitals have limited hospital visitors (support people) to just one person. I've fortunately been able to support clients at a home birth and at the one hospital in my county allowing two visitors, and have advertised virtual doula support. But I'm so happy to say that better times are coming to Utah birthing families. And it starts tomorrow!
You can read all the details here, but hospital policy is changing to allow TWO support people (visitors) at all Intermountain Healthcare facilities, so long as they are in good health, complete a screening (answer a series of questions--no long q-tips up the nose!), and meet a few other guidelines.
If you're looking for a doula now that we're able to be back in the hospital with you, Mary Caplin and I would love to set up a free consultation to see if we're a good fit!
Today, in the third post about comfort measures for labor that appeal to each of the five senses, we’ll be looking at your sense of taste… or at least, what you can do with your mouth to benefit your labor!
Eating During Labor
(Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash)
Laboring and giving birth are hard physical work! You wouldn’t want to go for a long hike without anything to eat—your body would be tired and hungry, and it would make the hike feel ten times harder! The same is true for labor—you need energy from food to sustain you through it!
There may come a time in your labor when food doesn’t interest you, which is why it’s especially helpful to eat during early labor when you have an appetite. Don’t eat anything overly heavy or greasy, but do make sure you’re giving your body energy for the life-giving work it's doing!
Some people have concerns about the safety of eating and drinking during labor because some hospital policies have restricted it due to a concern about potential aspiration if emergency anesthesia was needed. Updated research and updated anesthesia technology show that low-risk birthgivers should have the right to choose whether to eat and drink during labor (you can read a detailed summary of current research and recommendations here, at Evidence Based Birth).
(Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash)
Drinking water or other liquids during labor is important! Dehydration can interrupt healthy labor patterns and lead to fatigue. Drinking plenty of water also ensures that you’ll be getting up to empty your bladder frequently throughout labor, which helps you progress through labor. (An empty bladder gives the uterus space to do its job, sitting on the toilet naturally relaxes the pelvic floor—a necessary part of cervical dilation!, and moving around helps baby descend and encourages your body to keep doing the work of giving birth!) There's no need to be extreme or drink excessive amounts of water; just be sure to stay hydrated!
(Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash)
Okay, so this one has nothing at all to do with your sense of taste. But another thing that you can do with your mouth during labor is “sound out” your contractions/surges. When you feel that tightening sensation, open your mouth and make low, unrestricted sounds. High-pitched sounds can tighten the muscles in your throat, jaw, and surrounding area. Increased tension means increased pain, so let it go! (And read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth for a description of “sphincter law” and how releasing your throat muscles also encourages your cervical muscles to relax and expand!)
(Photo by Dave Phillips on Unsplash)
Honey sticks are my secret weapon for a quick energy boost when you’re past the point of interest in food. So pack several in your hospital bag, or ask your doula if she carries them—I always do!
Today’s post is the second in a series considering comfort measures that appeal to each of the five senses.
Let’s consider the sense of hearing. What are some things you can do during your labor that will bring you comfort that appeal to your sense of hearing?
Listening to Music
(Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels)
Studies indicate that listening to music may be an effective way to help manage discomfort during labor. The most important thing to remember about music selection during labor is that it’s personal. You should choose and listen to music that is positive/relaxing/motivating for you! So, put together a playlist of your favorite songs, and you may find that listening to them helps to set a positive tone, give you energy, distract you when needed, and ease any anxiety or tension!
(Photo by lascot studio from Pexels)
Sarah Buckley, author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, says, “avoid talking to the laboring woman unless absolutely necessary.” There are points during labor when you may not want to hear anything so that you can be more deeply in tune with your body and what’s going on inside of you. You may want to turn off the music and request that no one speaks. Having conversations with your birth team about this possibility beforehand will make it easier to request if silence becomes your preference during labor. Ask your partner or doula to share your request for silence with nurses, other family members, and anyone else in your birth space.
Sometimes, though, you’ll want to hear reassuring words from others and from yourself. Make sure the people in your birth space are aware of the power of their words and are mindfully using them to add to a positive birth experience! This is SO important! (So important that I have a whole other website and weekly podcast about this topic!) Check out my Birth Words podcast and other resources at www.birthwords.com for more resources about the power of words!
The post about visual comfort measures mentions that written affirmations can be helpful. You may also want affirmations spoken to you, or you may want to repeat them to yourself over and over again. During your pregnancy, find phrases that center you and help you feel confident and calm, and repeat themselves to yourself multiple times each day. As your labor begins, these phrases may become anchors for you that you can continue to hold on to throughout the course of your labor and birth.
Visualization Exercises/Hypnosis Tracks
(Photo by Krivec Ales from Pexels)
Visualization exercises take advantage of your mind’s ability to create and enjoy visualized scenes that bring you comfort, relieve anxiety, and increase relaxation. Some visualizations exercises walk you through your favorite season or have you imagine hiking to a mountain’s summit! Others guide you as you mindfully relax every portion of your body. Others describe the vibrant colors of a rainbow. The possibilities are endless, and you can choose exercises that appeal to you!
Hypnosis during childbirth is really just another variation of these relaxation exercises. You can listen to pre-recorded tracks or have a support person read scripts that guide you through deep relaxation exercises. If you’re interested in more hypno/birth resources in Utah county, visit http://www.hypnobirthingutahcounty.com/ or https://curtismethod.com/.
(Photo by Pixabay from Pexels)
During your pregnancy, consider which sounds bring you a sense of calm and comfort. Maybe you love listening to the sound of ocean waves or rainfall. For some, listening to the sound of baby’s heartbeat brings comfort, while the constant sound of the fetal monitor is distracting to others. Consider what you anticipate will be best for you, and come prepared with a recording to listen to. Popping in headphones can be a great way to tune out distracting stimuli in your birth space.
What other auditory comfort measures have you considered? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Today’s post is the first in a series of five: we’ll take a look at each of the five senses. For each sense, we'll consider some tools that appeal to it that can invite comfort and calm to your labor and birth.
Let’s start with what often seems like our dominant sense: sight.
(Photo by Bekka Mongeau from Pexels)
I encourage my clients to consider their own feelings and beliefs about birth, work through their worries and concerns, and discover the power of their own beliefs about their strength and ability in birth, then turn these into affirmations. Affirmations are personal to your journey and unique, but here are some examples of some that may be centering and affirming:
I am giving life!
My body is designed to birth.
Each surge brings my baby closer to my arms.
My body releases and opens as my baby descends.
I am powerful and flexible.
I am a co-creator with God.
My contractions are not stronger than me because they are me.
Again, those are just examples, and your affirmations should speak specifically to you. If none of those do, work through why they don’t, and grab on to some positive words that do speak to you! And when you’ve found your affirmations, write them down, print them out, make them look nice, and post them where you’ll see them often during pregnancy. Take them with you to your birth space and have someone hang them around the room to affirm your truth as you birth.
For more about affirmations, you can check out this podcast episode I did at Birth Words, and you can also order customized affirmation cards.
Dim or Natural Lighting
(Photo by Hakan Erenler from Pexels)
Birth is an intimate experience. Harsh lighting can interrupt the flow of oxytocin and make the whole process feel much more clinical and much less personal. So turn down the lights, and consider lighting some candles (or, in the hospital, using LED candles) or hanging a string of lights.
(Photo by https://www.instagram.com/Didssph/)
This comfort measure doesn’t have to do with what you’ll actually see with your eyes, but what you visualize in your mind. Imagining calm, serene scenes, or places that are personally meaningful for you, can bring comfort during your labor. Sometimes, these visualizations will be guided my someone else, as your partner or doula reads aloud to you or describes a favorite place. But if you’ve practiced visualizing pleasant images before labor, you may be able to take yourself there without another person verbally guiding you through it.
I’ve found some fabulous visualization exercises in this book. And this podcast episode talks a bit more about the power of symbols and imagery that you can incorporate in your visualization.
The Faces of Loved Ones
(Photo from https://www.pexels.com/@pixabay)
It’s important, during labor, to surround yourself with those you love—people you feel comfortable around and supported by. Inviting people into the birth space who bring up feelings of discomfort or tension will likely slow your labor and make you less comfortable, both physically and emotionally. So, during this important time, surround yourself only with people who will create a feeling of warmth and love.
So carefully choose your birth team: friends and family you feel safe with, a care provider who respectfully cares for you, a doula that you feel emotionally connected to, a photographer who you feel comfortable with, etc.
Also, if there are loved ones who can’t physically be with you, you may want to bring pictures of them. Perhaps you admire a grandmother and her picture would bring you strength, or maybe you have young children that you don’t want in the birth space, but keeping their pictures with you will comfort you.
As you prepare for your labor and birth, consider if there are any other visual comfort measures that you’d like to have in your birth space. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Hi, I'm Sara. I'm a birth + postpartum doula serving Utah county. I'm a twin mom (plus one!), natural VBACer, and birth lover!