Pregnancy is a fantastic time in a woman’s life. Her body becomes a nurturing home for a precious life, providing everything needed until the baby is ready to make their entrance into the world. To watch the growth of a pregnancy occur is quite amazing and can be seemingly simple. However, the start, progression, and ending of a pregnancy all involve a special and specific interaction of a variety of hormones that flood a woman’s body from even before the time the sperm meets the egg. Parents Magazine identifies six major hormones that play a major role in pregnancy.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin is a hormone many women first come to know when using an at-home pregnancy test. These tests measure the level of this hormone in the urine, and if high enough, indicate to the women that pregnancy has been achieved. This hormone is made by cells in what eventually form the placenta. The level of hCG in the body double about every two days, reaches its highest level around 60 to 90 days, then decreases to a stable level for remaining of the pregnancy. One job of this hormone is to sends signals to the ovaries to stop producing eggs. Its main role is to allow the corpus luteum, which is a cyst on the ovary, to continue to make estrogen and progesterone until the placenta is mature enough to handle to the production of these hormones. The level of hCG begins to decrease once the placenta takes over the production of estrogen and progesterone.
No other hormone is more associated with women than estrogen. Responsible for critical fetal development, estrogen allows for the organs and body systems in the fetus to develop. Estrogen also triggers the growth of the adrenal gland of the fetus and the hormones that it produces. Additionally, it allows the uterus to be responsive to oxytocin. Pregnant women can experience nausea, spider veins, changes in skin, and an increased appetite due to high levels of estrogen in the body.
Encyclopedia Britannica explains that progesterone plays a critical factor in a woman becoming pregnant as it allows the uterine wall, or endometrium, to thicken which allows for implantation of a fertilized egg. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxes all the smooth muscles in the body which includes the wall of the uterus. Blood vessels in the body also become relaxed which contributes to the dizziness, lower blood pressure, and some gastrointestinal issues that pregnancy can bring such as gas, heartburn, nausea, and constipation. Progesterone is also responsible for the rise in hair growth on the body during pregnancy.
Oxytocin is the hormone associated with labor. The uterus becomes sensitive to the hormone as the pregnancy prepares to end. It is responsible for stretching the cervix as well as stimulating the nipples for milk production to occur. Women who do not go into labor naturally often require the use of Pitocin, which is the artificial form of oxytocin.
This hormone’s name indicates its function as it is responsible for relaxing certain parts of a pregnant woman’s body. Relaxin increases by about ten times through the duration of pregnancy, and it allows for the ligaments in the body to loosen. This is essential as the pelvic bones must have the flexibility to successfully allow the baby to pass through the birth canal. Relaxin also allows for the uterus to relax in anticipation of childbirth. This hormone can cause some women to become clumsy during pregnancy. Also, it is the cause of the feeling of looseness in some body parts such as the hips, ankles, knees, and shoulders that some pregnant women experience.
After pregnancy, women can produce milk to nourish their young. The hormone prolactin allows for this milk production to occur. Prolactin is produced in quantities 10 to 20 more times than when a woman is not pregnant. During pregnancy, prolactin ensures that the breast tissues are ready to be utilized. After pregnancy, the hormone allows the body to release milk through the nipples.
Pregnancy brings an entire cascade of hormones, all of which are required to perfectly orchestrate the amazing process of childbirth. These hormones can bring a variety of changes, many of which can be uncomfortable, to pregnant women. However, these effects are short-lived and usually thought of as being minor when compared to the amazing result of bringing a child into the world.
When it comes to natural beauty for expecting mothers, coconut oil is the holy grail. This nourishing oil is safe for use in expectant mothers for a wide range of applications, including hair and skin care. It is both gentle and soothing and may be applied directly to the body.
Learn more about the benefits of coconut oil and how it helps nourish dry hair and prevent stretch marks.
Coconut Oil for Hair Care
Coconut oil can be used to repair dry and damaged hair as well as soften and prevent stretch marks on the belly. During pregnancy, women often experience changes in their hair texture and growth. Most find that due to the rise of estrogen, their hair grows more quickly, is stronger, and more healthy. These changes are often short-lived, however. After giving birth, estrogen levels drop rapidly, leading to dry, brittle hair, and in some cases, hair loss.
Coconut oil is rich in caprylic and lauric. These fatty acids are ultra-moisturizing, making them an excellent solution for dry, brittle hair. As an added benefit, massaging coconut oil into the scalp also allows it to penetrate the cuticles on the fingertips, leading to healthier nails!
Moisturizing Hair and Scalp with Coconut Oil
Before washing your hair, apply coconut oil to the scalp. Massage it in for about three minutes. Using a comb, comb the hair from the root to the ends to distribute the oils evenly throughout the hair shaft. Place a warm towel over your head and allow the oil to sit for up to thirty minutes and then wash as usual. You may repeat this process once or twice a week.
Coconut Oil for Stretch Marks
As your pregnant belly expands, your skin expands with it. If the skin is dry, rapid expansion can lead to stretch marks. Daily full-body moisturizing is highly recommended to aid in the prevention of stretch marks and to increase skin elasticity, and coconut oil could be a big help.
It’s wise to continue using coconut oil, even postpartum, to help your skin “snap back” to its original state.
Coconut Oil as a Skin Cleanser
Skin changes during pregnancy can be attributed to hormone fluctuations. Help your skin by washing it regularly, especially the face. Coconut oil makes for a great moisturizing facial cleanser that’s gentle on the skin.
Rub coconut oil in between the palms. Apply directly to the face. Massage in gentle, small circular motions. Wet a muslin cloth with warm water and wipe the oil from the face. Pat dry with a soft towel.
Expecting mothers all over the world are raving about coconut oil and how it helps nourish dry hair and prevent stretch marks. It’s an all-natural product that is a genuine health and beauty staple. To check out some more tips on the journey to giving birth to life, be sure to see our blog!
Stress seems to be a normal and somewhat expected part of our lives in modern America. Pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period are typically times where the stress only tends to increase. We all know the effects of stress and anxiety in the body of a non-pregnant body. During pregnancy, many of those effects are amplified and pregnancy poses a whole unique set of risk associated with chronic stress and anxiety. Because of this, deliberate and intentional stress reduction in pregnancy is very important for the well being of the mother and the baby.
It’s important to note that the stress itself is not the problem – the amount of stress we experience is the problem. In truth, a little bit of stress is healthy. It creates a fight or flight response in our bodies that is essential to our survival. However, when that fight or flight state is the only state of being we live in, our health is at risk – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period all are affected by stress in different ways.
The effects of stress in pregnancy are being researched all the time, so we know more now than ever about its effects. It seems the more we know, the more apparent it becomes that reducing stress and anxiety is vital to a healthy pregnancy. For instance, we now know that at its worst, stress has the ability to affect the baby’s growing brain and sometimes inhibit the development of certain parts of it, though that is known to be in only extreme cases.
Cortisol, when produced by the mother, creates inflammation in both the bodies of mom and baby. Chronic inflammation is now known to be a cornerstone for a variety of serious health conditions. In small amounts, stress in pregnancy is not harmful, but there is no known “threshold” of safety for stress levels, nor is there a way to objectively measure that. Knowing this, doing your best to have a balanced and calm pregnancy can only be beneficial.
During labor, stress inhibits oxytocin, which is an essential hormone needed for labor to progress. When a mother is tense or stressed during labor, her contractions are not as effective because the stress inhibits the effectiveness of those contractions. Doulas work hard with mothers to reduce anything that contributes to stress during labor because relaxation is required for labor to progress.
During labor, stress inhibits oxytocin, which is an essential hormone needed for labor to progress. When a mother is tense or stressed during labor, her contractions are not as effective because the stress inhibits the effectiveness of those contractions. Doulas work hard with mothers to reduce anything that contributes to stress during labor because relaxation is required for labor to progress.
After birth, mothers desperately need rest and rejuvenation. In reality, this is a time where most mother’s anxiety begins to skyrocket. Between healing from birth, learning how to breastfeed, caring for a new baby, sleep deprivation, and her continued demands within the functioning of a home, life gets overwhelming – and stressful – quickly. In many cases, the pressures of this new life mean that postpartum depression isn’t far behind. Stress also has the ability to slow a woman’s postpartum healing process. A postpartum doula can relieve a significant amount of that stress by helping mom navigate life with a newborn as well as help with the chores.
So with all these well-known effects that stress has the ability to cause, what are some effective ways to reduce your stress in pregnancy?
This is a whole topic unto itself that deserves its own blog post. But a simple, effective way to reduce cortisol levels and scale back the fight or flight effect on the body is to do deep breathing. This exercise is not only beneficial in pregnancy, it is great practice for labor and birth. Physiologically, the lower part of the lungs activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the state of relaxation and grounding we should live in for almost the entirety of our lives. It is the opposite of high stress and fight or flight. Deep breathing is an important and useful practice that anyone can do. Even just a few deep breaths will help to bring you back to a state of balance.
In the fast paced world we live in, you’ll never fully escape stress during your pregnancy. You should never feel guilty for feeling some stress or anxiety during your pregnancy, labor, or postpartum period. Life happens. Doing your best to give yourself a little extra TLC and trying to be deliberate about reducing your stress and anxiety during this time will go a long way for you and your baby. And hang in there – this is but a short season of life.
HCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is what a woman’s body produces during pregnancy within the wall of the placenta. Once embryo implantation takes place against the uterine wall, HCG production begins. It’s at this point that pregnancy tests start working because HCG levels in a urine and blood sample are tested. Around eleven days following conception, pregnancy tests can pick up this hormone in the blood. It isn’t until around twelve to fourteen days following conception, however, that a urine test can pick up HCG levels.
When HCG begins surging through a woman’s body, it’s responsible for all of the pregnancy-related symptoms they often feel: fatigue, breast tenderness, emotions off-kilter, and nausea. These symptoms usually occur during early pregnancy, but can sometimes last throughout.
What Should Expecting Moms Know About HCG?
What is the Purpose of HCG?
The hormone responsible for preventing periods is HCG. Without HCG to trigger progesterone providing a thick lining for the uterus, pregnancies would be at risk because the lining could begin to shred. The placenta is formed by cells HCG produces. Therefore it is not typically present in the body unless women become pregnant. Under most circumstances, a woman’s HCG levels will double every two days upon conception. Throughout the progression of her pregnancy, these levels will slow down to every four days. However, the rise continues right up to her eleventh week.
Should a High HCG Level Cause Concern?
A couple of reasons could lead an expecting mother to have high levels of HCG. One reason could be that the pregnancy date was miscalculated. Another reason could be that she’s carrying multiples. Health care providers will recommend repeat testing to check for changes in the HCG level within 48-72 hours. None of these reasons, however, should cause the expecting mother to have concerns.
What About a Low HCG Level?
In these situations, this could be indicative of a miscarriage. This reading could also be because the pregnancy date was miscalculated. A blighted ovum or an ectopic pregnancy could also lead to low HCG readings. In each of these cases, tests are conducted by your OBGYN or Midwife to receive confirmed results. These tests are often down in conjunction with others to include blood, ultrasound, and others to help develop a clearer understanding of why the HCG level is low.
For those who have a history of miscarriage or are bleeding, it may become routine for your provider to check your HCG levels. Under normal circumstances, however, HCG levels aren’t checked routinely unless other problems arise.
Tips for HCG Levels
Expecting mothers can’t do much about their levels. Therefore, you’re causing yourself undue stress by worrying and agonizing over if they’re too high or too low. A high or low level of HCG has no link to miscarriage.
The only way to definitively know what your HCG level is to have your health care provider perform a blood test. It’s essential to remember, though, that these levels can change throughout the day, as well as from one day to another. HCG levels can also vary from week to week. Keeping that in mind, it will not provide you with much information if you only receive one blood test. The only information you’ll be receiving is what your HCG level is on that particular day. When you are given multiple blood test that is spread out over a period and can determine a pattern, it’s then that you can see a better indication of the pregnancy’s viability and status.
Why are “Her” Levels Higher Than Mine?
If you have a friend, sister, cousin, or whoever else that you know with HCG levels that are higher than yours, this is nothing to worry yourself over. These levels rise and drop off at different ranges, thus making what is “normal” differs for every woman. Therefore, it’s pointless for pregnant women to compare their HCG levels with each other. No part of their pregnancy is going to be alike, including hormone levels. So, if you’re an expecting mother who has found herself differing from others around her who are pregnant, it probably means nothing at all.
How is All of This Meaningful to Me?
The bottom line is simple. The only time expecting mothers should be worrying about their HCG levels is if their OBGYN tells them to do so. HCG has no actual effect on a woman’s pregnancy, itself, and it’s only responsible for nourishing the growing placenta.
When a woman has higher or lower levels of these hormones, their pregnancy will not experience any changes. However, the reason for these levels could be multiple pregnancies.
Expecting mothers don’t have to worry about their HCG levels having an impact on gestation or causing a miscarriage. It’s impossible to change HCG levels using dietary measures or supplements and, even if it were possible, the levels would not change the baby or pregnancy in any way.
The primary function of HCG is to provide confirmation of a woman’s pregnancy and, once this takes place, it can be forgotten about. The only time it really needs to be given any thought to is if advised to do so. Expectant mothers have many other things to think about without having this to add to the mix. Ignore other expecting mothers who are making attempts to compare their HCG levels because this information isn’t useful.
Want to learn more about the process of pregnancy and birth? Check out our educational classes, where you can learn and prepare for pregnancy and labor!
While you may have adjusted to your pregnancy during the first seven months, as you enter your eighth, things often become more complicated. The fetus will become more active at this stage and will often double in weight during the last four weeks. Remaining comfortable is difficult during this time and sleeping can become particularly difficult. However, getting a good night’s sleep is essential in your eighth month of pregnancy because it helps you to feel better, along with ensuring your unborn child remains strong and healthy. Here are some ways to make sleeping at night an easier process during this time.
Replace Your Bedroom’s Ancient Mattress
Zzzz’s. Zzz are VITAL! This is a great time to replace your bed’s old, degrading mattress with a more supportive one. At the same time, you might want to buy a new box spring for your bed. If you buy a high-quality box spring and mattress, these items will probably last for ten or more years. More than enough time to adjust to your newborn’s schedule and see you through sleepless nights with toddlers. This is an excellent investment, so you can also enjoy a fantastic night’s sleep during your eighth month of pregnancy and help you adjust after they are born. And if you have decided on co-bedding with your newborn – a version of cosleeping – a firm, comfortable mattress is essential as part of suggested safety.
Create a Relaxing Environment
The eighth month of your pregnancy is an excellent time to create a more relaxing bedroom. You may not have time to create a soothing environment after your baby is born, so make time to create a space you love now. After having your new bed delivered, it is time to replace the old bedding with new blankets, bedspreads, and sheets. You may want an entirely new décor scheme in your bedroom, so you can replace pictures along with hanging new curtains over the windows. Find ways to make your bedroom your own before your baby becomes a joyful permanent accent.
Visit a Day Spa for a Professional Massage
There is nothing like a SPA DAY! Now is the best time to treat your body to a professional massage. Make sure to inform the massage therapist about your pregnancy so they can plan bodywork that is appropriate at this stage. Many massage therapists who specialize in pregnancy massage will have a table or pillow-shaped specifically for your pregnant belly. If you can’t recline on your stomach, you can often recline on your back or with a pillow under a side to enjoy a much needed massage on your neck, shoulders, arms and legs. Alternatively, you can sit in a special chair while the therapist works on your tender back and hips.
Monitor Your Meal and Snack Times
During your eighth month of pregnancy, you may have problems with indigestion as the fetus grows and presses against your stomach. You should monitor your meal and snack times to avoid indigestion, especially at night. Instead of eating large meals, consume smaller meals and snacks. In addition, avoid spicy and greasy foods that can lead to indigestion.
Hire a Doula for Support
To have an easier pregnancy, you should hire a doula who understands how to help you with your mental and physical changes. A doula is typically a woman who may have had one or more children herself, but most importantly has specialized training to help you with problems such as poor-quality sleep during your eighth month. Doulas can provide an assortment of advice to help you sleep better each night as well as help plan the rest of your pregnancy and delivery.
It is important to sleep well at night during this stage of your pregnancy so you can enjoy the time you have before becoming a parent. If you’re anything like me, lost hours of sleep increase the grump. Use as many methods as possible to sleep better so you will have an easier and more comfortable childbirth and parenting experience.
All of the literature available to pregnant women today encourages them to “talk to your doctor or midwife.” This is sound advice. A good relationship with a well-matched, compatible care provider is of utmost importance in your pregnancy and birth. Yet the fluidity of those terms being used together can give the impression that the two are one and the same. It seems to suggest that your care will be only slightly different with a midwife than it would be with a doctor.
The reality is much different. Doctors and midwives approach pregnancy, labor, and birth from two profoundly different foundations of training. When it comes to the actual labor and birth, their training drives their decision making, and the approaches they take could not be more different.
Doctors tend to practice what is known as “active management” of labor and midwives mostly practice “expectant management” of labor. Of course there are exceptions, but by and large, this is what you will find in your doctor or midwife. Your choice of care provider matters more than you may think – and it’s worth it to understand the difference between the two approaches before hiring a doctor or midwife.
“Active Management of Labor” was invented in Dublin during the 70’s. It was the first method used to define labor, determine what is “normal” for clinical purposes, and establish protocols to keep women’s labors within its defined set of “normal.” Active management of labor protocols was not based on evidence, yet they were fully embraced as such without question. Active management of labor made its way to the United States soon after it was invented in Dublin.
According to Midwifery Today: The basic [abbreviated] principles are: diagnosis of labor based either on painful contractions and complete cervical effacement or broken water; one hour after admission, progress is assessed and amniotomy (water broken) performed; cervical dilation must advance by at least 1 cm per hour or oxytocin is started and increased until mother has 5-7 contractions every 15 mins; maximum labor length is 12 hours; a midwife stays with each woman throughout labor; the midwives manage labor, senior staff consults; induction is rare; pain medication is available but discouraged.
Unfortunately, the only pieces of the program that survived the Atlantic crossing (from Dublin) were routine amniotomy (breaking the water), the liberal use of oxytocin, and the time limit on labor. Other parts–the continuous support of an experienced woman, that residents did not make decisions, the minimal use of epidurals (5%), the minimal use of induction (<10%), not using painful contractions as the sole diagnosis of labor–did not make it…. Moreover, the Dublin doctors expected women to give birth vaginally….
In short, active management of labor is committed to the defined process, and to keep a woman’s labor on track with the arbitrary definition of “normal”. It does not allow for the many variations of normal in labor, and the goal is for a woman to have her baby within a certain time frame, whatever the cost.
Expectant management of labor, by contrast, is the approach that midwives tend to take. In this approach, the attendant sees birth as a normal and uncomplicated process that only requires intervention in a small number of cases. In contrast to the active management approach, a midwife sees normal birth with a wide range of variation. Birth does not need to be confined to a set standard, especially so long as the mom and baby are both doing ok.
An expectant management approach can also be called the “wait and see” approach. Rather than jumping on the use of interventions right away, a care provider who practices expectant management may take a step back and allow the birth process to unfold the way it needs to, provided that safety is of utmost importance.
To demonstrate the difference between active management and expectant management, imagine a woman is in labor and the labor slows down. By definition of the active management approach, the woman’s labor is now “stalled” and requires synthetic oxytocin in order to stay on track per the definition of labor. She is given intravenous Pitocin, her cervix is checked every hour to ensure “proper” progress, and she has now become a high-risk case due to the use of medication. Furthermore, she has now started what can quickly become the snowball of interventions.
An expectant management provider, however, would see a slowed labor through a different lens. She may see it as the laboring body giving mom a rest. She may see that the labor has, up until this point, been working on positioning the baby properly, and she may just leave well alone. She approaches it from a respect for the birthing process rather than seeing or feeling the need to make the labor conform to a pre-set idea.
Not all care providers are the same, and certainly, there are going to be doctors with a more expectant approach and midwives with a more active approach. Active management of labor has been the standard used and taught to doctors and hospitals for so long that creating change toward a more expectant approach is slow, but change is fortunately happening.
Until then, make sure you know you are hiring the right provider for you. Interview them thoroughly. Understand the differences between the two approaches, and carefully decide which is right for you. Your choice of care provider is a crucial one, and as a doula, I’m always willing to help match you up with a provider whose values align with yours, whether that be expectant or active.
Most women in pregnancy see one care and support provider, and in America that is usually an obstetrician. They attend their prenatal appointments, stay away from sushi and blue cheese and call it good. Unbeknownst to them, there is a whole world of additional care support available to women that they often times don’t even know about! They can see an OB, a Midwife or a Family Practitioner for their primary prenatal care. In addition, pregnant women can benefit from the services of a chiropractor, a prenatal massage therapist, a nutritionist, an acupuncturist, a naturopath, a monitrice, a doula or a prenatal yoga class. All specialists have something unique and valuable to offer women in their pregnancy.
Obstetrician. Obstetrics is a surgical specialty of medicine. OB’s specialize in high risk, abnormal, and pathological pregnancy and birth. They are perfect care providers for women with preeclampsia, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, cancers or other complications.
Midwife. A midwife is an expert in normal pregnancy and birth. The World Health Organization recommends that all women who are experiencing a low-risk pregnancy seek the care of a midwife. This is because low-risk birth with a midwife is known to be safer and less complicated. It also frees up obstetricians to focus more energy on the high risk and complicated cases that they are specialists for. Midwives are known for developing relationships with their clients and for providing personalized care rather than standard care. There are options for midwives; Certified Nurse Midwives who work within hospital settings and Certified Professional Midwives who support families in home birth.
Family Practitioner. Many women will choose a family practitioner for their primary pregnancy care. FP’s who care for pregnancy will generally have rights at a hospital. The care they give will be similar to that of a midwife. They do not generally do surgery, but they can manage all other aspects of pregnancy and birth.
Chiropractor. Chiropractors are a must for pregnancy. Many people mistakenly believe that chiropractors only work on the back, when in reality chiropractors are specialists in the skeletal balance of all kinds. When the relaxin is flowing during pregnancy, it doesn’t take much for joints to become out of balance. This can lead to all sorts of discomfort, especially in the hips. A chiropractor can be a tremendous help in keeping women comfortable. Chiropractic care is safe through all of the pregnancy.
Prenatal Massage. A compliment to chiropractic, prenatal massage can help keep pregnancy comfortable. As joints stretch, muscles stretch and discomfort increases, prenatal massage can help loosen and balance all the growing parts of a woman’s body. When combined with chiropractic care, prenatal massage can really help women feel as normal as possible as they progress in pregnancy.
Nutritionist. A woman’s body is growing a human! It makes sense that the building blocks to accomplish this feat could use some gentle guidance. Proper pregnancy nutrition can help prevent a myriad of pregnancy related complications. Your body needs ongoing nourishment for itself as well as your baby! Furthermore, a pregnant woman’s physiology is different than that of a non-pregnant body. A nutritionist who is trained in pregnancy can help your pregnancy to be as healthy and uncomplicated as possible.
Acupuncturist. Acupuncture is a branch of eastern medicine that is not widely understood in the western world. Nonetheless, its effectiveness cannot be argued. Acupuncture is based on the theory that your Qi (pronounced chee) must be balanced for optimal health. We now understand Qi to be electromagnetic energy in a body, so it’s not all fantasy. Many health problems are thought to be the result of unbalanced Qi. Acupuncture is safe in pregnancy. At the end of pregnancy, it is a very effective form of natural induction.
Naturopath. A naturopath is a practitioner that uses many natural types of healing and nutrition to bring balance to the body. Their healing approach is generally holistic – seeing the body as one whole functioning organism where all parts are connected. Some naturopaths specialize in varying types of natural health. Some may include nutrition counseling, homeopathic remedies, herbal remedies, etc.
Doula. A birth doula is a specialist in pregnancy and birth support. A doula is an expert in connecting a pregnant woman with all the resources she may need in her pregnancy to be fully informed. During labor, a birth doula will stay with a laboring couple throughout the course of labor to provide physical and emotional support throughout the birth. A doula is not a medical care provider, so she does not use clinical skills that nurses, midwives, and OB’s employ.
Montrice. A monitrice is similar to a doula in the way she works to offer prenatal education, support, and physical comfort, but is also trained to perform a limited amount of clinical skills such as maternal blood pressure, fetal heart tones, cervical exams for dilation, and abdominal palpation to assess the position of your baby. A monitrice will offer these services while laboring at home, but once she accompanies you to the hospital, her role becomes strictly non-medical by offering doula support.
Prenatal Yoga. One of the best and most effective ways to prepare for labor is through prenatal yoga. While most forms of exercise tend to be safe throughout all of the pregnancy, yoga is particularly good for pregnancy because it combines deep focused concentration, relaxation, and physical exertion. A prenatal yoga instructor will usually do a mental and physical exercise as a practice for labor during their class. This practice is of tremendous benefit as a woman prepares for labor.
A pregnant woman has many options for pregnancy specialized care. Making use of the many available options can bring balance, comfort, health, and support to a pregnancy and birth.
What Is All This Testing?
Prenatal care is important. We all know that. It helps to ensure a healthy pregnancy, baby, and birth. That’s the goal, right?At your prenatal visits, you generally undergo routine exams and testing that vary depending on where you are at in your pregnancy.
Testing that throughout your pregnancy is sometimes overwhelming and confusing. This is certainly the case if the tests are ordered but not discussed in detail.
So what are all those tests? What are the benefits, risks, and are there alternatives? What will happen if I decide to opt out of these tests? This post will give you some information into some of the tests that are offered, why they are, and what you can do.
Tests performed at each prenatal visitThere are two critical and simple tests performed at every prenatal visit. These two can alone communicate a great deal about your health and your baby’s health to your care provider. Your urine is tested and your blood pressure is taken. Monitoring simply these two things can go a long way toward ensuring mom and baby’s safety.
The urine test is done to look for signs of diabetes, dehydration, bladder or kidney infections and preeclampsia by screening for levels of sugars, ketones, bacteria, and proteins. High levels of sugars may indicate gestational diabetes, which may develop around the 20th week of pregnancy. Higher protein levels may suggest a possible urinary tract infection or kidney disease. Preeclampsia may be a concern if higher levels of protein are found later in pregnancy when with high blood pressure.
Your blood pressure can tell your provider about several things about the state of your health during pregnancy. It is normal for a woman’s blood pressure to rise slightly throughout pregnancy because her blood volume is also rising. Blood pressure monitoring is important because it is a primary symptom of pre-eclampsia.
What about all the rest of those tests that they are ordering? What are they looking for in the blood tests? Glucose test? Amniocentesis?
Here is a quick list of some of the standard prenatal tests that are recommended in pregnancy:
This is sometimes, though not always, done early in pregnancy, then repeated at the 6-week postpartum checkup. Its purpose in pregnancy is the same as any other time that the test is performed. Pap smears are recommended to look for abnormal cell growth on the cervix that would indicate cancer.
Gonorrhea culture (GC):
The GC is usually done at the same time as the Pap smear. The presence of gonorrhea in the vagina during birth can seriously infect the baby’s eyes. Whether or not mothers have a positive GC, eye drops administered to the baby after delivery to prevent them from becoming colonized. Gonorrhea is often asymptomatic, so as a result, every woman is tested.
This is what your provider is watching when they get your blood tested:
A.) Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia, or iron deficiency. Hemoglobin (HGB) values should be above 11.0 and the hematocrit (HCT) should be 33 or more. This test is usually repeated between the 28 and the 32 weeks of pregnancy.
B.) Blood samples are also drawn to check your blood type and rhesus group (Rh factor), which will be either positive or negative. If the mom’s Rh is negative, the baby’s father should also be tested.
C.) Antibody test to check your immunity to infectious diseases: rubella, measles, cytomegaly virus, toxoplasmosis, hepatitis, and AIDS.
D.) RPR is the test for syphilis.
E.) Afp Screening. This is a blood test to detect neural tube defects only. This includes anencephaly, microcephaly, hydrocephaly and spina bifida.
This test is usually recommended between 15-17 weeks, though not every woman will be advised to have it. Amniocentesis can identify down syndrome, trisomy 18, and other chromosomal defects, so most women over age 35 are advised of their options for genetic testing, including amniocentesis. It is performed by inserting a needle through the abdomen into the amniotic sac to withdraw a sample of amniotic fluid for testing. It is a common procedure, but it carries several risks, Rh sensitization, infection, leaking amniotic fluid, and in a small number of cases, miscarriage.
Glucose Tolerance Test:
This is a test that is usually done between 26-28 weeks to rule out gestational diabetes. Protocols vary for this test, but usually, it involves fasting, drinking glucola (a very sweet, sugary drink), then checking blood sugars after the test. There is little evidence to support the Glucose Test, yet it is recommended for all women in pregnancy.
Ultrasounds can be performed for many reasons. In early pregnancy, ultrasounds can be recommended to check the gestational age of the baby and establish a due date. Around 18-22 weeks, ultrasound can reveal the sex of the baby. Many physicians are now ordering late term ultrasounds to measure the baby’s growth, though these are very inaccurate measurements.
What you should know about prenatal testing
Before taking or refusing any test, you should ask your provider, “How will the results of this test change your plan of care for me?”
For instance, if you choose to opt out of the glucose test, will your provider then be anxious and wanting to induce you early? Or if you choose to have amniocentesis, and the test comes back with a positive for down syndrome, will the provider recommend termination?
If your decision to have the baby will not be affected by the results of the test in any way, is there a reason to have it done?
Much prenatal testing is done to monitor the health of you and your baby. However if for any reason you feel that a particular test or screen is not right for you, you have the right to opt out of any test.
Being aware puts you in the fulfilling position of taking responsibility for your care. The more active you are in your personal care, the more empowering the whole pregnancy experience becomes.
Want more choice in your care? Check out Home Care Midwifery!
This week I’ve taken some major heat from those desiring to educate on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder via several social medias after releasing my blog post, “Pass the wine? The study suggests moderate drinking in pregnancy increases mental health” which played Devil’s advocate by referencing supportive findings on both sides of the fence regarding consumption of alcohol in pregnancy.
I assumed this may receive some negative kickback due to the very controversial and sensitive topic. Perhaps even misinterpreting the message, marking the wrong enemy and arguing a doula’s attempt to present a full spectrum of evidence based research on the topic many parents are secretly, and not so secretly questioning, is against a moral and ethical responsibility to promote healthy pregnancy, births, and babies.
Without possibly reading the content, the blog became retweeted with hashtags stating it was incomprehensible and irresponsible providing misinformation. I thought to myself, “Gee, wouldn’t they want a pregnant woman considering an alcoholic drink to click on my blog post and then find they also have access to FACT SHEETS from the National Institute of Health to support the opposition as well?”
My references are from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health. American Academy of Pediatrics states, “There is no KNOWN ABSOLUTELY safe amount of alcohol” in pregnancy. The wording is referring to an absolute and a big question mark meaning they haven’t determined what it is or IF there is one.
Though one systematic review in 2007 of 40+ studies suggested babies were born healthy to women who admitted to consuming alcohol at a moderate rate (1-2 drinks per week) while pregnant, it has still remained the recommendation to abstain completely as scientists have not determined if or what threshold causes FASD. And wouldn’t it be unethical to push for determination in a controlled study? Yes.
There is also another systematic review of 21 studies which claims a link of alcohol consumption in pregnancy and childhood leukemia.
Most referenced documents pushed at me as a form of education were pieces from organizations with noble agenda because, yes, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder is indeed 100% PREVENTABLE. But they are agendas nonetheless. I completely and wholeheartedly sympathize with the angst and associated pain with being a caretaker to a loved one who is a victim of FASD.
The fact is some women will consume alcohol during pregnancy. Fortunately for some, not every sip has lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Spectrum Disorders.
I’m not here to shame anyone. In fact, I hope that any expectant woman would feel comfortable enough to ask me to help them find the evidence because they have or are considering indulging in that adult beverage and would like to make an informed decision on whether or not they will lift that glass. And the only way to have that level of trust is by offering nonjudgmental and compassionate support.
And that’s what the blog was all about – YOUR Informed Decision with a full spectrum of EVIDENCE and MY support.
Please do not use blogs to make important decisions about your body and baby. if a blog post peeks your interest look for referenced research links from REPUTABLE and UNBIASED authorities such as US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, Cochrane, World Health Organization, The American Academy of Pediatrics, etc. and research yourself.
I have made an informed decision to stop engaging with those who feel they need me to take their side because of their personal pain because, really, there is no winning in that situation. Their pain is truly difficult, real and heartbreaking – and anything 100% not for them is 100% against their reality. If only these adoptive parents had a doula supporting them in their lives… unconditional support.
As a professional birth doula, never offering medical advice and instead providing reputable evidence and unconditional support of women’s autonomy throughout pregnancy, birth, and parenthood without judgment is part of a Doula’s Code of Ethics. We trust every woman is fully capable of making the best decision for her and her baby.
My opinion doesn’t matter; PERIOD. My guidance to discovery for yourself WILL.
The statement of the amount of alcohol to cause FASD is unknown is directly from a reputable source: the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors and found directly on the National Institute of Health which states “Scientists have not established the minimum amount of alcohol needed to produce harmful effects in exposed children (Roebuck et al., 1999). Clearly, the safest approach is to completely avoid alcohol during pregnancy.” which can be found here: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/NASADAD/PrenatalBrief2.htm
A 2007 review (You may find at the US National Library of Medicine here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17233797)included 46 studies which assessed whether consuming alcohol during pregnancy led to problems in pregnancy or birth including miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction, premature, low birth weight or birth defects. It found no adverse effects on the child when the mother consumed low levels of alcohol during pregnancy.
Another review measuring similar outcomes – small fetus, low birth weight and preterm birth – found that consuming up to one drink per day had no effect on babies, but more than one drink a day did lead to increased risks for the baby across all three categories. (Still looking for my original source for this…)
One review concluded alcohol consumption during pregnancy led to negative outcomes for children. The review – which included a total of 21 studies – examined the association between alcohol consumption during pregnancy and childhood leukemia. It found at levels as low as one drink for a week, maternal alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia. You can find here at the US National Library of Medicine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20447918