Yoga/Relaxation Exercises

When I was pregnant the first time, I read every book from the library that I could (as long as they weren’t too fear-mongering and anti-home/natural-birth). One of the books I read had some yoga/relaxation exercises in them. I’m not sure which book it was, but I think it may have been Choosing Waterbirth. [I remember that it was written by Aviva Jill Romm, and was about water birth… but none of the books by Romm sounded right, so I think I misremembered. 🙂 This one sounds right, and it is in my old library.] Anyway, when I had the book, I wrote down the yoga/relaxation exercises and kept a copy of it in my computer. It was pretty neat, but I never liked that I had to watch the clock to know how long I had held a position, or keep count to know how many times I had done a particular move. One of the things I did recently, was to make an audio file of the exercises, so I could put it on an mp3 player, and just do the exercises with voice guidance, and not worry about counting or timing anything. [See below.]

For the past five years, I have basically not even looked at this — perhaps I dragged it out a few times when I was pregnant the second time, but I don’t remember doing it. This time, however, I started looking through my “birth and baby” files, and came across it. Even before I knew for sure I was pregnant, I thought I’d start doing these exercises, because I remembered it as being relaxing, and making me feel good and refreshed. And perhaps it helped me have an shorter labor the first time.

After I found out I was pregnant, I did the relaxation exercises for a few days, and then one day I didn’t do them. The next day was the first day I started spotting. Then the next few days I did the exercises, and had no spotting. Then again, for whatever reason, I didn’t do the exercises, and that night I bled red. As part of “taking it easy,” I didn’t do the relaxation exercises or anything else (“just in case” somehow squatting or whatever had been bad) — even though I didn’t think it was due to that, I tried to eliminate anything I thought might possibly have contributed; and these exercises were one thing I knew I had not done in my early pregnancy, even though I did them in later pregnancy. And each night I bled (although not much). Always in the back of my mind, though, was the realization that, rather than bleeding when I did the exercises, I only bled when I did not do the exercises.

Call it a coincidence. Call it superstition. But I started doing the exercises again, and haven’t had any spotting much less any bleeding since. You’d better believe I’m going to do these exercises every day. [I know. I know that doesn’t have anything to do with it! I know that! But I’m still going to do them… just in case.]

Below is the link so you can listen to it (and I think you can also download it to your computer, if you want to put it on your mp3 player or burn it to a CD or something). I believe that these moves are fairly mild and basic, but there are some things to keep in mind:

  • during pregnancy, your body makes relaxin, which helps your pelvis to loosen and move for birth, but also can make it easier for you to overstretch and overextend your body during stretching exercises, so please do not hurt yourself!
  • some of these exercises talk about “walking your torso down to the floor” while you stretch your legs — do this in moderation, taking into account your current level of flexibility and the size of your belly (if pregnant) — 35 weeks is not the perfect time to begin working on the splits — you will hurt yourself
  • late in pregnancy is also not the time to begin squatting for the first time in 20 years! You may wish to skip the squatting entirely, or at least support yourself with your hands, or only do a partial squat.
  • Squatting is beneficial, but if you’re not used to it, you are more likely to hurt yourself by overdoing it. Go slow, and work up to it.
  • Some of the moves are supposed to be held for 20, 40, or 60 seconds — if this is too much, feel free to come out of the move early — this is not some sort of competition, and you won’t get any points for hurting yourself by overstretching!
  • if the deep breathing causes you to feel lightheaded, stop
  • and, of course, consult your midwife, doctor, or other health professional before beginning this or any other exercise 🙂

Now, without further ado, here is the 30 minute relaxation exercise mp3:

[Update — I did end up miscarrying soon after writing this.]

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The Allure of Bedrest

Before anyone gets hot under the collar about me thinking that lying in bed day in and day out for weeks or even months on end is “alluring”, let me start off with a disclaimer. No, I do not think that it is! While I’ve never had to endure bedrest, I have had some periods of sickness in my life that made being housebound or bed-bound extremely boring after just a few days. Even being able to watch TV constantly became irritating. I remember one sickness in particular when I was actually wishing I could go back to school! “So, if you don’t mean that, what do you mean?” Simply this.

When I had the previously mentioned episodes of spotting in this pregnancy, I started turning over in my mind anything and everything that I might have done to cause it. Even though part of my brain told me that there was nothing I did that caused it. After all, everything that I had done in this pregnancy, I had done at the same time in previous pregnancies (more or less — sometimes much more!), and hadn’t had a problem with it. But still I wondered: Ok, so I hadn’t done aerobics exercises, but maybe the abdominal toning exercises had caused it? I had gone up and down stairs a lot right before I noticed the red bleeding the first time, so maybe that was it? Surely it wasn’t sitting on the exercise ball!… was it? Ok, so I picked up my three-year-old when he was crying. Bad mommy! And I had done my yoga/relaxation exercises that I had discovered midway through my first pregnancy and hadn’t done in early pregnancy either of my other times — could that have caused uterine bleeding?

And that is what I mean when I refer to “the allure of bedrest.” There is the idea that somehow, something you did caused or at least contributed to the spotting (or miscarriage), and if you can just somehow figure out what that thing was and stop doing that, then you can make sure you don’t do that thing again. In my case, I did try to take it easy after the first case of red bleeding (as in, mostly sitting, sometimes lying down, minimizing trips upstairs, absolutely not picking up anything heavy, and no sex), and it seemed to help — the bleeding was minimal, lightening both in quantity and color as the day went on, and stopped before the day ended. But when I bled again in the middle of the night, after having done nothing more vigorous than walking ten feet from my bedroom to the bathroom, I figured maybe bedrest wasn’t helping. But I’m still trying to take it easy — in particular, I still am not picking up anything heavy. Just in case.

There may be some benefits of bedrest, in specific instances — I don’t know all the ins and outs, whys and wherefores, good and bad about bedrest, based on particular symptoms and risk factors. My mother-in-law swears that bedrest enabled her to maintain her first pregnancy (my husband and his twin brother) after she hemorrhaged in her first trimester. And there is often the thought, among both mothers and doctors, that “it can’t do any harm, and it might do some good.” However, that’s not always true! — I was reminded of a study I’d read about, done in Australia, of women pregnant with twins, undertaken to see if hospitalization with bed-rest, in the absence of any risk factors other than twin gestation, made any difference in their pregnancies, and specifically in the rates of preterm birth. [“The effects of hospital admission for bed rest on the duration of twin pregnancy: a randomised trial” The Lancet, Volume 326, Issue 8459, Pages 793-795] It did. Women who were randomly placed on bed-rest had a significantly higher risk of preterm birth than women who were randomly assigned to continue life as normal.

But for myself, I will say that had I not sat down and “tried to take it easy” when I started spotting and bleeding, I probably would wonder if perhaps I would have stopped, had I done so. There still remains an allure of bedrest.

[Update — I did end up miscarrying soon after writing this.]

So he’ll look like his dad…

When it comes to circumcision, one of the main arguments for circumcising is so that the boy will look like his dad. Uh-huh. First, many boys don’t see their dads naked as a matter of course. Secondly, there is a lot more different between an adult male and a small boy — do men shave their chest and body and pubic hair, so that their sons will look like them? Or give their sons doses of testosterone, so that they’ll develop body hair when they’re three, so they don’t notice a difference between themselves and their fathers? For what it’s worth, neither my five-year-old nor my three-year-old have ever mentioned any difference between their uncircumcised penises and their father’s circumcised one; nor have they mentioned pubic hair, and rarely mentioned chest or body hair! And they’ve taken showers with him on occasion, so, yeah, they’ve seen him naked. But many families are more… modest (?), and wouldn’t allow parental nudity around children, aside from breastfeeding.

How far should we take this “so he’ll look like his dad” reasoning? I know many families who have adopted across ethnic lines. One (white) family adopted twin boys from Korea. Should they have undertaken plastic surgery to “correct” the boys’ eyes, so that they would look like their dad? Or give them green contact lenses, so they have the same color, not the dark brown they were born with? Should they have a procedure done to lighten their skin, so that they look ethnically white? Or a tattoo procedure so that they have freckles? Or a perm, so that they have wavy hair like their dad, instead of straight?

Even in adoptive families who adopted within the ethnicity, should my brown-haired friends dye their blond son’s hair, so that it looks like his dad? Or get plastic surgery on his nose, so that he’ll look like his dad? Or change his ears?

What if a father loses his pinky finger in some sort of accident? Should we cut off all of his sons’ pinky fingers, so that they don’t feel odd? Oh, yeah — that makes sense!

Animation from Circumstitions.com which has lots of great resources. Also Birthing Care Providers has many resources as well.

So, really, if it is not important at all for a son (biological or adopted) to look like his father in things that are constantly visible, like hair color, eye color, skin color, shape of the eyes, nose, head, ears, etc., why is it suddenly so important for them to have matching genitalia, when it is usually not visible to either father or son? If a child can handle being different from his dad in color or ethnicity, how much more should he be able to handle being different in something that is usually hidden? And if the father can handle having a son who is different in color, ethnicity, or some other feature, why is necessary for them to have matching penises?

Also, I had heart surgery when I was a baby, so I have a scar running the length of my sternum, or breastbone. It is very visible when I wear a bathing suit or any shirt with a modestly low neckline. [But my children have never mentioned it either. It’s just a part of who I am, just like the color of my hair or eyes, to them.] Should my daughter, if I ever have one, be sliced from stem to stern, just so her chest will look like mine? What doctor would countenance such a medical decision for no benefit, and with such an inadequate reason?

If you want to read some of my other posts on circumcision, click here. Also, Dr. Sears has a good article about circumcision, and the lack of any medical benefit for it.

You may have read or heard that being circumcised may reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Perhaps, but not likely, and I’ll tell you why. Most researchers that look at circumcision are very biased towards circumcision, so their results may be suspect merely for that. Also, many critiques of the published studies have highlighted serious or even fatal flaws in the studies. The main problem I have with it, though, is that the United States has among the highest rates of circumcised males (aside from countries that practice routine religious circumcision), but it also has a very high rate of HIV and AIDS — more than many European countries, where circumcision is much more uncommon. If circumcision were that protective, then the US should have much lower rates of HIV/AIDS — at least lower than Europe and Japan and other countries where routine circumcision is not practiced. And finally, in one study I read about, circumcised males in one country in Africa actually had higher rates of HIV transmission than uncircumcised males, and it was probably because these circumcised men thought that having part of their penis removed would keep them from acquiring or spreading AIDS, so they did not use condoms regularly. After all, if you’re “protected” because you’re circumcised, then you don’t need no stinkin’ condom! Except… you do. So, just like teenagers drive their cars too fast and don’t wear their seat belts because they think they’re invulnerable or invincible, and end up killing themselves or others, if men think that circumcision has made them invulnerable to AIDS, then that increases the odds of engaging in risky behavior while lowering the likelihood of them taking more precautions.

Iatrogenic Prematurity

This month is Prematurity Awareness Month, and although I missed the “calling all bloggers” Prematurity Awareness Campaign for Nov. 17 [I just didn’t feel like writing about it — sorry — nothing “sparked” in me at the time], since that time, I’ve gotten “sparked” about iatrogenic prematurity. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it just means “doctor-caused” prematurity.

The March of Dimes is the main organization leading the Prematurity Awareness campaign, but I have to admit to being a little perturbed that they didn’t speak more strongly about the one cause of prematurity that could be most easily changed — iatrogenic prematurity, caused by elective inductions and C-sections.

It’s possible that “iatrogenic prematurity” might include necessary or beneficial cases of babies born by induction or C-section too soon — for instance, a baby who suddenly stops moving at 34 weeks and is obviously compromised. But for my purposes, I’m restricting it to medically unnecessary inductions and C-sections.

Here is one link: Why do women deliver early? Did you catch the discussion on elective inductions and C-sections? No? Not surprising — it receives only the briefest of mentions. However, this March of Dimes article, “Why the last weeks of pregnancy count” does dwell on the topic a bit more. Elective C-sections and inductions are (thankfully!) not one of the four main causes of prematurity, but iatrogenic prematurity could be stopped tomorrow. And I think that’s important to note.

Some doctors have a laissez-faire attitude about inductions and C-sections, and have no problem with either as soon as the mom hits 37 weeks. Perhaps that attitude is changing a bit, since research has demonstrated that infant outcomes are much worse in several different areas if the baby is born unnaturally at 37 weeks, compared to 38 and especially compared to 39 weeks. [And when I say “unnaturally,” I’m meaning, by induction or C-section — babies born to women who go into labor naturally at 37 weeks do as well as those born at 38 and 39 weeks, naturally — it’s the unnaturally early births that are the problem. When the woman goes into labor, that is an evidence that her baby is actually ready, as opposed to having reached some arbitrary date on the calendar.] Some doctors may even do an elective induction or C-section at 36 weeks. I read a story some time ago about a woman who had a late-term fetal demise in her first pregnancy, so opted for an elective induction at 36 and a half weeks. She thought he was ready “enough” — that it was “close enough” to term for him to be born. Her baby was in the NICU for 6 weeks, and had long-term health problems (mostly related to his lungs and breathing), because he was not ready.

A woman’s dates can be off, which could really cause problems with her baby, if she electively induces or has a C-section at 37 weeks (or even later). What if her little one would have been born naturally at 41-42 weeks? That’s 5 weeks early. And if her dates are off, it may be even earlier. There’s a lot of brain, lung, and body development that happens in those last few weeks, that ought not be circumvented without an awfully good reason. Although rare, “superfetation” — conceiving a second baby many days or even a month after the first baby was conceived — is also a possibility, as Abby Epstein found out. What if she had gone by “I thought I was pregnant a month ago,” even though that baby died, and her later-conceived baby lived? Perhaps they were conceived at the same time, and this was just “vanishing twin,” but perhaps some of these super-long gestation times one occasionally reads about were actually due to undiagnosed superfetation with a hidden/missed miscarriage. Could happen. I remember in reading through some of the causes of death listed on the CDC linked birth-death certificates, that one hospital-born baby born at 42 weeks died due to “extreme prematurity.” It could be a typo — perhaps it should have been “24 weeks”; or maybe the code was entered wrong. Or maybe the mother’s dates were miscalculated. Or maybe she happened to skip a period prior to conception, so she thought she was at 42 weeks, when she was 6-8 weeks earlier. I wonder, though, if she was induced because she was “42 weeks” and her baby was nowhere near ready. Unlikely, but possible.

Then there’s this little gem of an article: Many Women Miscalculate Time to Full-Term Birth. One paragraph reads,

“About one-quarter of new mothers surveyed in the study considered a baby born at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation to be full term, while slightly more than half of women considered 37 to 38 weeks full term.”

Only problem is, that’s not what the question was. Here’s the actual question (also from the article):

“What is the earliest point in pregnancy that it is safe to deliver the baby, should there not be other medical complications requiring early delivery?”

It didn’t say “when is full term?” It asked “when is it safe?” Ok, so define “safe”. Most babies will do fine born electively at 34 weeks. Obviously, not all will — some will die that would have lived; of those who live, some will have long-term negative effects related to their prematurity. If safe is some sort of “beating the odds” — well, 90% of babies born at 30 weeks survive, and the odds go up every week. Many (perhaps even most) of these babies will not suffer long-term negative effects (like cerebral palsy, blindness, etc.) which used to be so common at this age, but now are more common with preemies born at earlier gestational ages; and the risk goes down with age. Even fewer babies born at 37 weeks will have problems, than those born at 36, 35, or 34 weeks. Does it mean it’s “safe” for them to be electively induced or sectioned then? Well, sure, compared to preterm babies; but not compared to 38-weekers, or 39-weekers. But again, babies are naturally born at 37 weeks all the time and have no long-term problems compared to babies naturally born at 38, 39, 40, 41, etc. weeks And if a woman goes into labor at 36 weeks, doctors will not try to stop the labor. I daresay that many people would say, “If the doctor won’t stop labor at 36 weeks, then it must be safe for the baby to be born then.” Is that a wrong supposition? Yes, if you’re talking about elective inductions; perhaps no if you’re talking about natural labor.

I will also note that the question was not, “When is the earliest point in pregnancy that an elective induction or C-section should be used?” Had this been the question, I would have answered “never” if that was a possibility 🙂 or else “39-40 weeks,” if that were the latest time frame given. However, in the question that actually was used, I probably would have answered 37-38 weeks, because that’s “term”; or possibly at 36 weeks — if the woman goes into labor at that point, the doctor won’t stop it, after all. Not because it is best for the baby to be born at that point, but because I don’t know if it totally meets the threshold of “unsafe” for the baby to be born early. Not optimum, but perhaps “safe.” Is it “safe” to drive a car? Almost everybody would unhesitatingly say “yes!” but people are injured and killed in car wrecks every day. And some people are injured or killed as pedestrians, who would have lived had they been in a car. “Safe” does not necessarily mean “absolutely no risk,” because as probably everybody over 12 understands, there is almost nothing in life that is completely risk-free.

Although there were several good parts of it, this article was irritating on a few points, including the following:

Misconceptions about what constitutes full gestation and how soon it’s safe to schedule an elective induction or cesarean delivery are contributing to increasing numbers of premature births in the United States, said lead study author Dr. Robert L. Goldenberg, professor of obstetrics and director of research at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Ah, yes — blame the mother! I feel so sorry for these poor spineless doctors who just can’t stand up to the strong woman who demands an early end to her pregnancy, regardless of how much damage it does to her baby. You know how thoughtless and uncaring women are! They don’t give a rip about the baby they’ve just spent the last 8-9 months of their lives growing! Odds are, they’ll leave the baby at the hospital and just walk away!

Ok, so maybe the sarcasm was a little heavy in that last paragraph, but seriously, folks!! It makes me want to scream! Sure, some women are selfish and truly don’t care about their babies — after all, some women abuse alcohol and use illicit drugs while pregnant. But I daresay that if doctors tell most women that their baby will be twice as likely to die (or whatever the actual rate is), if born electively prior to 37 weeks, or even in the early term period, and will be 3-4x more likely to have serious morbidity, that would put a curb on elective inductions. Some women may have legitimate or quasi-legitimate non-medical reasons for induction — husband home from Iraq for two weeks, previous stillbirth in the term period, severe pregnancy discomfort, and maybe others. [The  McCaughey septuplets just celebrated their 12th birthday (I remember because they were “due” the same day my sister was due with her first child), and they were born two full months early. In an interview soon after the birth, their mother, Bobbi, said that she just couldn’t stand the nausea and other side effects of the pregnancy itself and the drugs she was on to maintain the pregnancy. She held on as long as she could, knowing that every day they were inside her, it would be better for her babies; but finally she just couldn’t take it any more. That doesn’t apply to most women.]

So, yeah, educating women about prematurity and the problems babies have when born too early (by the babies’ clocks, even if not by the doctor’s calendar!) will help, because it will likely reduce the number of women wanting an early end to their pregnancy, and those who look at their due date as an expiration date. But women could not induce if doctors did not allow it! Inductions and C-sections don’t schedule themselves. Last time I checked, women can’t call the hospital and set up an induction or C-section without their doctor’s approval. They also don’t perform themselves — doctors (and nurses) have to perform an induction or a C-section. So, why does this article have such a strong tone of “it’s all the women’s fault!”?

I’ll say it again — iatrogenic prematurity could be stopped tomorrow, if doctors wanted to.

And the winner is…

Two weeks ago, I started the second giveaway for a copy of Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy, available at www.breastfeedingwithcomfortandjoy.com. Today, I drew the name of the winner, from all entries received:

Congratulations to the winner, and thank you to all those who participated!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that all of you will have a wonderful and blessed holiday, as we return thanks to God for all the blessings we’ve received this year and all time.

Breastmilk contains Stem Cells

Which means that formula is a very, very distant second place substitute for breastmilk! Click here to read the story.

In light of the untold benefits of breastmilk, it is important that hospitals (being where 99% of American women give birth) support breastfeeding women. Instead, there is subtle (and sometimes not so subtle!) undermining of women in various ways. One of these ways, is by sending women home with a “diaper bag” or some other sort of bag, filled with all sorts of things designed to get them to choose formula — samples and coupons, at a minimum. There is an alternative: Healthy Baby Bounty Bags! This link has a sample letter you can print out and send to your hospital, to let them know about these breastfeeding support bags, as well as a picture of them and more information.

~*~*~

Today’s news of my pregnancy — no more bleeding, no more red, only slight spotting, of brown, and very little to none of that within the last 24 hours. Thank you, everyone who commented! Your experiences have helped me feel better. Will keep you updated…

[Update — I did end up miscarrying soon after writing this.]