Posts Tagged: Women’s Health

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Listen Up: Your Cervical Mucus Is Trying To Tell You Something

Vaginal discharge, cervical mucus, leukorrhea- it all refers to the same thing. Hereafter I’ll refer to it as “CM” (cervical mucus). It seems that generally speaking, women I see in my practice either are quite unaware of what changes in their CM mean or are worried that any CM is a sign of infection.  I hope this article will help to de-mystify your discharge and, just maybe, make you feel a little amazed by it. Possibly even happy to see it? By knowing what to look for and what it all means, you can feel more empowered and make better decisions. Read more

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Recommended Reading: Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth

I was completely blown away by this book and have been enthusiastically recommending it to every last one of my pregnant patients since reading it early this summer. As far as I’m concerned, it should be required reading for all pregnant women, whether you’re planning on a home birth with a midwife or a hospital birth with an OB.

A little background: The author, Ina May Gaskin, is a Certified Professional Midwife who co-founded a community in rural Tennessee in 1970 called The Farm. Sounds pretty hippy-dippy, right? Yeah, it is! But keep reading. These hippies know things that you need to know. Ina May as well and her team of midwives have handled over 3,000 births at The Farm, with astonishingly low rates of c-sections and other intervention (vacuum, forceps, Pitocin, etc). For more information and their complete statistics, here is the link to their website.

I loved this book because the tone is non-judgmental and the facts are laid out clearly to help you do everything within your control to get the best outcome in a situation where ultimately, you must surrender control. This includes surrounding yourself with the birth team that makes you feel the most supported.  Ina May gives you the lowdown on possible birth interventions that may be necessary so that you are already familiar should your doctor recommend them. Having the knowledge before you’re in the situation can greatly alleviate anxiety when faced with needing to make a quick decision.

This book begins with about 125 pages of the birth stories of women who gave birth at The Farm, written by the women themselves. These stories let you see how varied a normal, healthy birth can be. They eliminate the worry that “if my birth doesn’t go this way, something must be wrong”.

Ina May then delves into topics including:

  • Prenatal care and what all those tests really tell your doctor (and which ones you might be able to skip if you desire)
  • Choosing a caregiver- whether it’s an OB or midwife, plus tips on deciding who else will be present at your birth (doula, partner, other family members)
  • Facts on VBAC’s (vaginal birth after cesarean)
  • My favorite chapter: “The Sphincter Law”- it explains how anxiety and fear can actually reverse the labor progress that has been made already, and how to guard yourself against this happening! This is really amazing, useful stuff.
  • Techniques you can easily use to make your labor progress more smoothly and efficiently
  • What actually happens in labor, and what to do once you are in labor (call the doctor? Wait it out?)
  • What Pitocin and epidurals do

To summarize, this book has the ability to make women feel more empowered about giving birth. You’ll also feel less afraid of the unknown and what could go wrong (Ina May has a great way of explaining what could happen without creating unnecessary fear). In my work with pregnant women, I’ve found that everyone has some degree of fear around the process and wants to do everything they can to ensure things go smoothly (for herself and baby).

After reading this book, I truly got the feeling that birth is a normal process that a woman’s body is designed for, and felt inspired to confidently relay this information to my patients!

Can Acupuncture Really Induce Labor?

Over the years I’ve gotten many calls from frantic women (and sometimes their husbands) who are 40 or 41 weeks pregnant, some who are even scheduled for medical induction in a matter of hours. They all want to know- can Acupuncture help you go into labor in order to avoid induction? The answer is yes… and no. Read on, I’ll explain.

The ideal situation is when a woman comes for regular acupuncture (1-2 times a week) beginning at week 36. I call this “Labor Preparation Acupuncture”. I have a few goals with these sessions:

  1. To help with any pregnancy related discomforts such as low back or hip pain, insomnia or swelling.
  2. To use acupuncture points which get the woman mentally and emotionally relaxed and in a place where she feels ready and optimistic about giving birth.
  3. To stimulate acupoints which aid in relaxing and opening the pelvic region as well as influence cervical ripening (dilation and effacement).

In my experience, women who follow this schedule tend to go into labor more or less on time (and avoid needing a medical induction) and have shorter labors with fewer complications. Acupuncture treatments gently and gradually send your body a message to get ready for labor. Your body is doing this all on its own, but acupuncture helps it happen more seamlessly and helps you to feel more relaxed and ready when the time comes. And YES being mentally relaxed has a HUGE and very real effect on the progress of labor (see this book for more information).

But what about those women who were mere hours away from being induced- can acupuncture help them? I’ve certainly had many cases where I’ve been able to use acupuncture at the last minute to help women go into labor- it’s powerful stuff! However I’ve seen much greater success, by far, with 3-4 weeks of regular sessions leading up to the due date. Rome wasn’t built in a day my friends, and acupuncture is not the same thing as Pitocin. Thankfully!

I’d also like to take this opportunity to encourage all women to get a birth doula as well as a postpartum doula. Read more about doulas and what they do here and here. And, the best way to avoid unnecessary interventions in labor (such as c-sections and episiotomies) or to achieve a VBAC is to choose your hospital based on its maternity procedure statistics. In New York State, they are found on the Department of Health’s website here.

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Breath, Mantra & Music: 3 Holistic Ways to Help Improve Your Sleep

The following is a special guest blog post by Maya Benattar, a music therapist and psychotherapist here in New York City. Her website is www.mayabenattar.com. Thanks, Maya!

 

There are a lot of reasons why people may have trouble sleeping- anxiety, stress, too much caffeine, hormonal shifts. We live in a fast-paced society where lack of sleep is often seen as a badge of honor.

If you’ve ever had a sleepless night (or many!), you probably know all too well the feelings that arise when you can’t get back to sleep and you really want to! Sometimes we can do everything “right”- no caffeine after 2pm, less screen time in the evenings, warm milk, lavender- and sleep can still be elusive. Read more

Managing PCOS Naturally

What is PCOS?

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It’s an endocrine (hormonal) disorder characterized by infrequent or absent periods, multiple cysts on the ovaries, obesity and high levels of androgens (such as testosterone and DHEA-S), which leads to excess facial and body hair, hair thinning or male pattern baldness and acne. Many PCOS patients have insulin resistance, which means that your body isn’t able to properly absorb and process sugars and other carbohydrates. Other complications include type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, depression and difficulty becoming pregnant. Read more