Eco Living Magazine presents:
Preconception Care – exploring the need in the modern context
By Karen McElroy, Naturopath & Medical Herbalist
Intro: A holistic approach to preconception health care is vital for a healthy conception and pregnancy.
The term ‘preconception care’ relates to the time prior to attempting conception, whereby health is optimised in the hope that a couple will conceive easily and attain a healthy pregnancy and birth.
There is perhaps a greater need for preconception care today, given such things as inadequate diets, a polluted environment and our often stressful lifestyles. A truly holistic approach to reproductive health must address these factors.
It takes approximately 115 days to fully develop sperm in men, whilst the development of an individual ovum takes about 100 days in women. So the health of a couple in the three to four months prior to conception can play a big part in the health of these germs cells and the subsequent health of the developing embryo and eventually the health of the baby. This idea is the cornerstone of preconception care.
Foresight (The Association for the Promotion of Preconceptual Care) in the UK, is an association who have carried quite a lot of research into treating couples in the preconception period to increase their chances of both conception and a healthy pregnancy outcome.
Couples following the Foresight programme are given the following advice:
- Avoid contaminants in food and water, such as pesticides, some food additives and bacteria, by eating a nutritious, whole food organic diet.
- Identify and correct trace mineral deficiencies and heavy metal toxicities.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, street drugs and other non-essential medication.
- Screen for genito-urinary and other infections (eg: Rubella, toxoplasmosis, etc.).
- Identify any other problems, eg: due to allergy, malabsorption, candida and /or parasites.
Couples wishing to start a family are encouraged to follow a programme which looks at these areas and identifies and corrects potential areas for concern, after which the pregnancy can be started with a normal, strong sperm and ovum, the embryo can implant in a healthy uterus and can develop in optimum conditions. There will be no danger from nutritional deficiency, or damage from heavy metals or other toxins or viral, and/or bacterial disease.
Foresight has found that under these conditions it is possible to have uncomplicated pregnancies resulting in strong and healthy babies. This approach to preconceptual care can be applied as a means of improving general nutritional status and fertility in any couple planning to have a baby, regardless of previous history. The results of Foresight’s three year study found the preconception programme to be particularly successful for 80% of the couples in the study – including many couples who had previously experienced problems with recurrent miscarriage or unexplained infertility. Even some couples who had unsuccessful attempts at artificial methods of conception, such as IVF, were able to conceive naturally.
Couples wishing to conceive can benefit from having a consultation with a qualified naturopath or herbalist. They will provide a thorough assessment of your diet and lifestyle and advise on any changes necessary. Also if there are any underlying health issues for either partner relating to reproductive health such as poor sperm count or gynaecological conditions, herbal and nutritional remedies can be prescribed. A preconception check-up with a doctor is also advisable – this may include blood tests to check folate and iron levels, rubella immunity and a PAP smear.
Reproduced with thanks to www.joyousbirth.info The Australian Homebirth Network – a great community resource, providing support and information on birth traumafor women who have experienced birth trauma, as well as info and support for an empowered birth.
©Eco Living Magazine.
Eco Living Magazine presents:
Heading: Lotus Birth
A gentle birth for baby.
By Sam Pearson
Lotus Birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after the third stage of labour so that the baby remains attached to both cord and placenta until they naturally separate from the umbilicus, exactly as a cut cord does. This practice, named by the woman who brought it to the western world, Clare Lotus Day, is sometimes referred to as the fourth stage of labour, non-severance or the second birth.
Lotus Birth is practiced by some Indigenous Australian tribes the !Kung tribe in Africa and occurs in some parts of Russia and India. Some species of monkey also do not sever their baby’s cords. However, cutting a baby’s cord once the placenta has been birthed is a widespread and ancient practice. Lotus Birth is a new tradition in the western world and while uncommon is becoming more popular as many parents are returning to natural birth practices.
In past times there have been some very good reasons for severing the cord when a baby was born. It would have been essential from a survival perspective to avoid attracting predators, so placentas along with all other traces of birth would have been quickly removed. Detaching the cord and placenta also meant that a new mother was more mobile in the event that she did have to flee from a predator.
Another reason for cutting the cord was hygiene. When living in isolated tribal situations, new mothers and their babies were not vulnerable to infection. Eventually, humans began living in larger communities but it took time before we learned to manage large populations hygienically. These days, unless you are living in unclean conditions, and particularly if you are birthing at home amongst familiar germs, infection is not an issue. There are no recorded cases of infection with Lotus Born baby’s cords or placentas. When you cut the cord you create an opportunity for infection and while this risk is very small it is completely avoidable with a Lotus Birth.
A third reason we traditionally cut babies cords is cultural. Human practices throughout history, such as not allowing a baby to take colostrum, binding a baby, early weaning and cutting babies cords all interfered with the early mother/infant attachment. Detached practices served the purpose of creating more aggressive people and, therefore, superior warriors. This was advantageous when conquering the natural world and other tribes, and meant survival of our own group of people.
Lotus birth slows down the process after birth, bringing awareness to the needs of the baby, allowing intimacy and integration to occur. Lotus Birth is seen as a way of prolonging the birth of the baby, extending their transition into the world in order to make it as gentle and gradual as possible. Lotus born babies seem to be very aware of their placenta and will sometimes flinch, even when asleep, if their placenta or cord is touched. Parents report that their Lotus babies are more serene than most newborns and notice a definite change in their demeanour when their cords detach, reporting that they become more aware and less settled. Some cultures believe that energy passes between the baby and its placenta long after the placenta has ceased to be a functioning organ. No matter what significance the parents see in leaving the placenta attached it seems that a common impact of lotus birth is the difference in the way the baby is treated.
Some parents, while not following through with a complete Lotus Birth, are choosing to delay cutting of their baby’s cords. The baby continues to get oxygenated blood from the placenta even after the centre of the cord stops pulsing. Umbilical cords can continue to pulse at the umbilicus for much longer than the centre of the cord – about 2 to 3 hours longer. The deeper vein remains open and it is believed that the baby’s body closes the umbilical vein when the baby’s blood volume has reached the right levels. Waiting until the placenta has stopped functioning altogether means, there is no need to clamp before cutting because all the vessels have closed naturally.
Physiological benefits of delayed cord cutting include:
– More maternal antibodies received by infant.
– The baby receives full benefits from the placental blood including platelets that clot the blood, plasma (proteins of the blood), white cells to fight infections, red cells that have iron and carry oxygen to all cells, stem cells that replace worn out cells, hormones and enzymes and iron reserves.
– Less Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), especially in premature infants.
– Less chance of infant brain damage (i.e., cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, autism).
– Higher infant blood pressure.
– Less need for blood transfusions for premature infants.
– Less chance of organ damage from schema in premature babies.
– Improved infant renal (kidney) function.
Some reasons parents choose a Lotus Birth include:
– Improved breastfeeding success rate.
– Possible faster healing of the umbilicus.
– To avoid unnecessary risk of cord infection.
– Because the parents don’t want to cut the cord, preferring a completely natural intervention-free birth.
– No need to worry about clamping or cutting the cord.
– Respect for the baby and placenta/spiritual reasons.
– Encourages maximum mother/baby bonding.
– Facilitates baby mooning by limiting visitors (many will prefer to wait until the cord separates).
– To promote mother/baby attachment, less passing around of the baby.
– To allow the most gradual and peaceful transition into this world for the baby.
– Baby is kept very still, the environment kept very quiet and mother gets maximum rest.
Care for the cord and placenta during a Lotus Birth
– After the third stage of labour, the placenta is inspected as usual to check that is it intact.
– Care must be taken to keep the placenta fairly level with the baby until the Wharton’s jelly, a rich source of stem cells, has solidified; hence no more blood transfusion is occurring. This occurs several minutes after the cord has stopped pulsing.
– The placenta is drained for the first 24 hours in a sieve over a bowl kept next to the baby.
– After this the placenta should be washed in warm water ensuring blood clots are removed and gently pat dried.
– At this stage the placenta can simply be placed on a clean cloth and left air dry naturally, but is usually salted daily to improve the drying process and wrapped in a placenta cloth. Sometimes essential oils, dried flowers or powdered spices can also be applied for preservation. The placenta may be kept in a placenta bag made especially for the purpose.
– The placenta will become drier, smaller and lighter every day and the cord will become brittle until it falls off naturally.
Care should be taken when handling the baby to ensure the placenta remains close to the baby to avoid tugging on the cord. Dress your baby in loose clothing that does up at the front. Nappies should also be kept loose with extra nappies underneath your baby if required. When feeding or cuddling your baby ensure the placenta is carefully placed to avoid it slipping. Babies appear to be sensitive to when their placentas and cords are being touched so be nice, treat their placentas gently and remember to create as peaceful as environment as possible during this time of transition.
Supplies for a Lotus Birth are very straight forward and what you on hand in your own home already will suffice.
A common supply list would include:
– A large bowl to birth the placenta in.
– A large sieve to strain the placenta for the first 24 hours.
– A bunny rug, terry cloth nappy or other fabric to use as a placenta cloth.
– Sea salt, dried flowers, dried herbs or essential oils if desired.
– A placenta bag if desired.
A placenta cloth is used to wrap a baby’s placenta during a Lotus Birth. It can be made of any breathable fabric and often a cloth nappy is used. A placenta cloth serves to absorb fluid and contain any salt, herbs, spices or dried flowers that have been used to pack the placenta to aid the drying process.
Many parents choose to enclose the placenta either on it’s own or wrapped, in a placenta bag. The mother-to-be usually prepares a placenta bag as part of her preparations during pregnancy. It can be as simple as a clean pillowslip or custom made with a cord cover. It must be large enough to contain the fresh placenta and larger if you plan to pack the placenta with salt and cover with a placenta cloth before placing into the bag. It can be made from any breathable fabric and of any design that pleases the mother. Some are very plain and others intricately decorated perhaps with motifs that are symbolic to the baby’s family. A placenta bag might also be borrowed and some are used over and over, shared by friends and washed and stored after use to be saved for another Lotus Birth.Nearly everyone can have a Lotus Birth. The only medical reason for cutting a baby’s cord is if the cord has torn or in the incidence of placenta previa. Whether you are having a homebirth or a hospital birth you have the right to request that the cord not be severed. C-section babies can be removed from the womb with their umbilical cords and placentas intact and unclamped.
The average time for a Lotus Birth baby’s cord to come off naturally is 3-10 days after the birth. Research has found that there is a direct relationship between the time the cord is cut after birth and the number of days it takes for the navel to heal. When the umbilical cord is cut immediately the average length of time required for the navel to heal is 9.56 days, when cut after the cord stops pulsing it is an average of 7.16 days and when later, as in a Lotus Birth, the average time is 3.75 days.
It is totally a personal preference what happens to the placenta after it has detached from the baby. Once the placenta comes off it can be further dried to preserve it indefinitely or placed in a freezer to keep for future use. It can be wrapped in a breathable piece of cloth to dry out naturally or the process can be sped up by using an oven, the sun, or in a dehydrator. The dried placenta can also be powdered and encapsulated for postpartum nutritional Chinese medicine. Some families choose to honour the placenta by burying it and often perform a ritual, which may include planting a tree over the placenta. If doing this with a placenta that has been salted it is best to choose a species that is tolerant of high levels of salt in the soil such as a native coastal plant.
Today, there are no medical or cultural reasons for cutting a baby’s cord. It could be said that for the future preservation of our species and planet it is sensitive rather than aggressive people that are needed. We are learning that a close attachment with our mothers as a child is vital if we want to produce adults who are in tune with their natural instincts and interested in nurturing their relationships with others as well as caring for our planet. One of the ways we can achieve this new way forward is by giving up our detached parenting practices and moving towards more gentle ways of life. As life starts with birth the best way of making changes towards a more nurturing world is by beginning with the most gentle of births and continuing with the most attached and gentle parenting.
“Lotus Birth” – (AUS) by Shivam Rachana is available from Greenwood Press
“Prenatal Yoga & Natural Birth” – (USA) Jeannine Parvati Baker
©Eco Living Magazine
Eco Baby Stuff Reviews
Baby Lavender Lotion
Using nature’s gentle botanicals, this lotion is a gentle way to complete the bathing ritual and to restore moisture back into your baby’s skin. With 100% natural and active ingredients to nourish and support your skin, you can trust Invoke Natural Skincare products on your baby’s beautiful skin. Products are not tested on animals and are vegetarian and vegan friendly. There are no synthetic ingredients, such as Sodium Lauryl, Laureth Sulfates, colours, fragrances or preservatives, so the products are gentle enough for babies. The Baby Lavender Lotion is part of Invoke Natural Skincare’s Mums and Bubs Range, which feature products that centre around the natural calming and soothing properties of lavender and chamomile essential oils to help encourage a content baby. Available in 50ml for $8 or 125ml for $16, visit www.invokenaturalskincare.com.au.
Funky Little Monkeys!
At Gecko Tots, they step outside the square with funky kids designs. Vibrant colours and patterns to create fun clothes for the special little people in our lives. The uniquely designed babies and children’s clothes are made out of 100% cotton, which is ideal for our Australian climate. Cotton is also kind to children with sensitive skin. Range includes baby and children’s clothes, toys, accessories and bedding in beautifully designed bright fabrics. Fabrics are hand printed and all clothes are handmade with love. The great colours allow you to mix and match to enable your child to dress in a fun and unique way – true to their individual personalities.. All garments are designed by owner (and mother of 5 children – youngest is 2.5!). The fabrics are manufactured, printed and sewn in “sweatshop free” environments. About 72 families benefit directly from this venture in India, Indonesia and Australia. To clothe your kids in freedom and sunshine visit: www.geckotots.com
“Little Tacker, Naturally” is a beautiful range of products for babies & children. Using gentle & mild ingredients that nourish, protect & repair the delicate skin that children have. Try the Precious Bundle Baby Cream for perfect top and bottom care in a handy tube that is easy to apply to a wriggling baby. A vital ingredient in the range is Mandarin EO – well known to reduce anxiety & restlessness, for peaceful times for the whole family. Also available are Relax-a-Bub Massage & Bath Oil, Nighty Night Bubbles, & Sleepytime Bedroom Spray. W:www.coonawarralavender.com.au
Skin Things Baby Range
“Natural Baby” gift pack (4 pc)
An ideal gift for mum & baby. Includes a super sensitive soap bar, 250ml of baby wash, 125ml baby oil, and the fantastically gentle SkinThings baby balm presented in a delicate white gift bag. The baby balm is a delicious combination of nourishing plant oils and soothing essential oils of lavender and chamomile – Ideal all over moisturiser as well as a healing nappy balm. The Baby Wash is nice and gentle for delicate skins – and the purest essential oil for a baby massage – great for bonding. A beautiful welcome gift for any lucky baby. Order online at www.skinthings.com.au
Nappy Road Test Special
Sandman Night Nappy from Sustainable Hemp Products
“I have just spent a few weeks trialling the Sandman Night Hemp Nappy with wool cover from Sustainable Hemp Products. I usually use terry squares with a booster system at night, and polar fleece wraps. My son, at almost 11mths, is a moderate wetter – some nights heavy. My current nappy system works most of the time, with the occasional very wet nappy ‘leaking’. When I first saw the new nappy, it looked big and bulky, and I thought it would never dry! I liked the pattern on the outside of the nappy, and the wool cover looked funky. I was initially bemused by all the snaps, but quickly realised that there were actually a great design that would enable the nappy to be used over a lot of growth time. I washed the nappy and all the inserts, and to my surprise, everything dried in the same amount of time as the boosters I currently use! Rainy weather meant this happened around a slow combustion stove. The knitted wool cover came pre-lanolised, and as yet I have not had to re-lanolise it! The nappy and both inserts all dried in a day! Once I put the nappy on, I found it to be much less bulky and more fitted than I assumed it would be. The snaps made getting it on a breeze, and the all in one cover was a lot better than doing up velcro and watching as my son undid it behind me. In the morning, the nappy itself was wet, but my son’s bottom was dry, and he had no rashes! We gave up using liners because he got rashes from them. The soaker was mildly damp, but his clothes were dry. Over several more uses, I have found this nappy to be up to scratch. No matter how much he wets in the night, his skin is dry in the morning, as are his clothes. This nappy seems to hold a lot of wee!
Summary: Easy to wash, fairly quick to dry, easy to put on, and works well as a night nappy. Excellent customer service as well. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Linda, NSW
©Eco Living Magazine.
Eco Living Magazine presents:
So you’ve had a baby, what happened to sex?
By Jan Roberts
If you’ve just had a baby you might be wondering whatever happened to sex. Rest assured that many women are relatively sexually uninterested after childbirth and during breastfeeding. In fact it’s quite normal and is Nature’s way of spacing out your children in the most effective way. Studies show a wide variation of sexual behaviour among women after childbirth. Every woman is different and no response is ‘normal’ or better than another.
In fact, in some cultures, post-childbirth sexual abstinence is compulsory, and it is considered ‘bad form’ for children to be born very close together. For example, in Sierra Leone sexual abstinence lasts for a full year, in some Pacific Island cultures it lasts for two. Although some women experience a highly charged vitality, even in the first few days after birth, and find their sexual energy also heightened, there are many reasons why you may be less sexually motivated than before.
The factors involved include hormonal changes, your new role as a mother (and your joint role as parents), your levels of energy (or fatigue), your emotional state, physical problems resulting from childbirth, your new body image, your possible fear of another pregnancy and your partner’s attitude to it all. As well as letting your body and libido recover at their own rate it’s important to understand why you feel the way you do.
While you’re breastfeeding, raised levels of prolactin are produced by your pituitary gland. This is the hormone that controls lactation and also has a sedative effect. Another result of increased prolactin production is that ovulation is delayed. In the absence of an ovulation cycle, normal ovarian hormones such as oestrogen won’t peak once a month to trigger the release of an egg, and this affects your sexual motivation which is highest at ovulation.
Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for the ‘let-down’ reflex, is the same hormone that is released at orgasm, and its release during breastfeeding may make you less likely to look for sexual satisfaction with your partner. Part of the delight you take in your new baby will be sensual. The skin-to-skin contact, so vital for him, is also exquisitely pleasurable for you. This, coupled with the intense feelings of love you feel, will probably mean that you are emotionally and physically focused on your child, and on your breastfeeding relationship.
It’s a common joke that birth control in the postnatal period is mostly achieved through ‘baby interruptus’. The best way round this is to keep your baby in (or at least near) the bed with you. In this way he can still sense that you are close, and will stay peacefully asleep. Even if he does wake, you can tend to him without too much disturbance. This arrangement also overcomes the problem of sleep deprivation. A breastfed baby will want to feed more often, so, in order that this doesn’t affect your sleep too adversely, keep your baby in the family bed, or at least within reach, so you can satisfy his hunger without getting out of bed.
However well you manage your night time feeds, you may still find at the end of the day, or at any time when you can relax, that all you want to do is sleep, and that sex is the furthest thing from your mind. Obviously the best plan is to sleep when your baby does, but this may not leave much room (or desire) for sexual activity. If you and your partner feel like ships passing in the night, make ‘appointments’ to at least meet and talk, and arrange to set aside special times to get together. These times may not necessarily lead to sex, but they will set the right intent for a time when libido is restored and you feel ready to resume regular sexual activity.
©Eco Living Magazine