18 May Seven tips for an awesome pregnancy
Nine months (give or take) of no hangovers, no periods, no birth control concerns, a credible excuse to get out of anything you don’t want to do and the superpower of growing a human — pregnancy has its perks! As an acupuncturist specializing in pregnancy, an experienced doula and a mama of two spirited blondies here are my tips for an awesome pregnancy:
- Hire a doula! Doulas are incredible. Regardless of the type of birth you think you want, having a doula will be helpful in more ways than you can imagine. You will get to know your doula over several prenatal visits. They will be at your birth as well as follow up with postpartum visits. At your birth, your doula will hold space for you and your partner providing you a general sense of security with their presence. Your doula will help you cope with labor both physically and emotionally. They will also offer nonjudgmental support and information about your choices and options. Your doula is an intuitive wealth of information who is well connected to the resources in your community that will benefit you in pregnancy and postpartum. Research even confirms that having a doula present at your birth is associated with fewer interventions and better birth outcomes! If you live in Portland, check out the amazing doulas on my referrals page.
- Ditch the fear. Sure, it’s natural to be afraid of the unknown and for most of us childbirth is seriously unknown territory but pregnancy and birth have an unfairly negative reputation in our culture. A good place to start is being selective about the books you chose to read. For example, one of the most popular books What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a fear based book that would make even a midwife think twice. There are some amazing positive pregnancy and birth books out there. Ask your doula for a recommendation or check out a few of my favorites on my reading list.
- Say no thanks to the birth horror stories. A client recently told me she was having dental work done at 34 weeks pregnant and her dentist told her an hour’s worth of emergency cesarean and unwanted induction tales while her mouth was stuck open. It may be uncomfortable to speak up, but these folks need to be told they are doing a disservice to humanity to be telling birth horror stories to pregnant people. Get your mama bear on and put them in their place or simply say you are choosing to expose yourself only to positive birth stories in pregnancy. Speaking up will not only spare you the expense hearing another negative birth story but will hopefully make that person think twice before doing the same thing to another pregnant person.
- Get acupuncture! Yeah, I may be biased but acupuncture is seriously amazing in pregnancy! Actually, I chose to pursue a master’s degree in acupuncture and east Asian medicine because I saw its benefits as an ally in pregnancy. Believe it or not, acupuncture feels good and people love it. Just a couple needles gets you out of fight or flight mode and into a more relaxed state. From there we can address all kinds of common pregnancy annoyances such as nausea, heartburn, pelvic pain, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and insomnia. Acupuncture, and a heat therapy called moxibustion, can also help encourage poorly positioned babies to change position – even breech babies! Weekly acupuncture starting at 35 weeks can help to prepare your body for an efficient labor and birth. Acupuncture in pregnancy offers a quiet moment to be in your body, mindful of sensations and helping to build the trust in your body that is necessary for a smooth labor and delivery. To read more about what acupuncture can do in pregnancy, check out this blog post.
- Do you love pregnancy? Talk about it! As a culture, we love to talk about the difficult parts of pregnancy. By hearing our friends and family always highlighting the tough parts of pregnancy, we are setting ourselves up to expect pregnancy to suck. But guess what, it doesn’t have to! I recently met a first time mom at 38 weeks coming in for labor preparation acupuncture. I asked her how her pregnancy has been and she looked at me and hesitantly said it has been great quickly followed by asking if that was weird. It’s like we are afraid to even say we love being pregnant because we are trained to believe pregnancy is miserable. Another mama kept complaining about morning sickness in her first pregnancy and when her mother asked her if she had been throwing up or just nauseas she said neither and actually couldn’t put a finger on any particular negative feeling she just thought everyone was supposed to be morning sick so she likely was too. As soon as she let go of that she felt great. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to love everything about being pregnant but try to talk about the parts you do love as much as the parts you don’t! This will improve your state of mind and help lay the groundwork for those in your community whose ideas of pregnancy and birth will be shaped by your experience.
- Celebrate! You made a human and are growing it, that’s amazing! Celebrate any chance you get! Celebrate with the things you love — walks in the forest, day trips to the beach, warm mugs of tea, occasional sips of wine, as much sex as you want (you don’t have to worry about birth control!), prenatal massage, baby showers, blessing ways, whatever gets you feeing the warm fuzzies. Though as a doula, it is my job not to project my own experience on my clients but the one thing I consistently wish I had done differently is getting some quality photos of my super pregnant self. Professional (or semi-professional) photos are a great way to celebrate especially if something unexpected comes up at the end of pregnancy like a breech baby or warranted medical induction. Some great pictures will help you always remember the best parts of pregnancy.
- Find your tribe. Parenting is hard. It takes a village and it helps when your village shares your values. While you are pregnant is a great time to build connections. Find other parents who want to cloth diaper, birth naturally, exclusively bottle feed, are hoping for scheduled cesarean births or whatever your jam is. Community is key! Prenatal yoga, early parent support groups and childbirth education classes are all great places to start.
While I hope more and more mamas can feel awesome about their pregnancies it is equally important to acknowledge that for some folks pregnancy is incredibly difficult. If this is your experience, go easy on yourself. If you know someone who is really struggling through pregnancy offer wholehearted support and compassion. All of the suggestions I offer are still applicable even if the goal is simply to survive pregnancy.
In pregnancy it is easy for the greater picture to be overshadowed by the day to day changes and sensations. Surround yourself by people, books, stories and places that make you feel loved, respected, supported and reminded that what you are doing is simply awesome.