Pregnancy

The Importance of Support in the Pre and Postpartum Period with Kristin Revere The MyBaby Craniosacral Podcast

The Importance of Support in the Pre and Postpartum Period with Kristin Revere

Kristin Revere and Meaghan Beames chat about support in the pre and postpartum period  Meaghan is the host of The MyBaby Craniosacral Podcast.

“It’s all about knowing options and building your own dream team of professionals based on however you choose to birth your baby and parent your baby.”

Kristin Revere, owner of Gold Coast Doulas, discusses the importance of having a comprehensive support system during the pre and postpartum period. She highlights the various services offered by Gold Coast Doulas, including birth and postpartum doula support, lactation consulting, and sleep consulting. She also discusses the need for accessible resources and expert referrals to help parents navigate the challenges of pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood. Kristin’s new book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby, provides a wealth of information and options for parents, as well as valuable insights for birth and baby professionals.

Episode Timestamps:
•The locations and services provided by Gold Coast Doulas {01:00}
•Kristin’s motivation for writing the book “Supported” {04:35}
•Becoming A Mother course {08:00}
•The challenges of finding support and overcoming resistance to alternative therapies {10:35}
•Postnatal recovery and the importance of a support team {12:30}
•Importance of knowing your referrals very well {16:40}
•The need for affordable or pro bono services {20:40}
•Understanding that you can’t do everything on your own; taking a team approach {24:00}

Welcome to the MyBaby Craniosacral Podcast, where I share stories of the babies I’ve treated, tips for professionals and parents, and demystify this amazing healing modality.  I’m Meaghan Beames, your baby body work mentor.  I’m obsessed with all things babies, birth, healing, and plain old being a human.  Join me while I sink deep into craniosacral therapy.  Now let’s get into the episode.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the My Baby Craniosacral Podcast.  I am your host, Meghan Beames, and on today’s episode, we have Kristin Revere, and she is the owner of an all-things medical and pre- and postpartum period mom and baby services, really, in West Michigan.  I would love, Kristin, for you to share with our audience a bit about yourself and your business.

We are a full service doula agency.  My agency is Gold Coast Doulas.  So we support families with judgment-free support from conception through the first year, but if you look at our sleep consulting services, we really work with toddlers, so up to age five.  And we do offer everything from classes to lactation with our IBCLCs to birth doulas as well as day and overnight postpartum support.  Our core focus is helping families get sleep, so most of our postpartum doulas are working overnight with families.  We work with NICU babies, twins, triplets, and cover a large area, not only West Michigan for postpartum but also northern and southwest Michigan Lakeshore communities.

Do you have a home base, or is this all mobile services?

Our office is in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  We, of course, support our clients wherever they have their babies, so we work in hospitals, support home births, birth centers.  And then for the postpartum support, we are going to the clients’ homes and helping them in person.  Sleep consulting is a virtual service most of the time unless families bring us in to do some in-person work on getting their nursery to be more appropriate for sleep.

It sounds like you have a lot of people working for you.

Yes, we have 26 subcontractors.  They all own their own businesses and work through Gold Coast.  Some of them are registered nurses and work in the hospital.  I have a speech pathologist on the team.  Others work as nannies part time, and then some doulas take work primarily through Gold Coast.  Outside of the IBCLCs on our team, the nurses do not take a medical role.  They are acting as postpartum doulas and within that scope, so overall, our agency is nonmedical support for families.

I love that.  It’s almost like you have medical support without it being medicalized.  That’s beautiful.  For some people, it provides a sense of safety because sometimes being in the medical system feels unsafe for some people.

Right.  Certainly, there’s a lot of fear surrounding childbirth, especially after the pandemic, so families do like that continuous care, and there is so much evidence that doulas reduce interventions and increase satisfaction regardless of the outcome.  Certainly, our postpartum doulas can help process the birth, show feeding support.  All of us are trained to support basic lactation and refer out if our clients are having trouble to other therapists to be able to help make more of a successful transition, regardless of how they choose to feed their baby or choose to parent.

The point for this episode today is actually about the book that you wrote called Supported.  I would love for you to share with us why you made this book in the first place and just describe what it is.

Our book launches on Mother’s Day.  Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.  I felt like there was nothing like it that really shows families and also birth and baby professionals all of the resources.  We’re very, again, judgment-free support focuses, so it’s not leaning one way.  I feel like a lot of books on the market are either focused on home births or parenting a specific way, and we have no approach.  So these are your options, and build your own dream team of professionals based on however you choose to birth your baby, parent your baby, and be able to have a support system, whether it’s communicating with family members, setting boundaries, or hiring professionals like yourselves.

Yeah, and I love having all of those options all together in one space so that people aren’t just getting lost in the Google rabbit hole and not knowing where to go.  I think one of the biggest things that parents say is that there are so many people giving me advice, and I don’t know which one to choose.  So I think of Amazon where you can have those comparatives at the bottom of the screen where it’s like oh, all of these things.  And your book is kind of like that, where you’ve got all those options.  You can choose – I like to call it choose your own adventure.  I love it.  So Supported comes out on Mother’s Day.  I’m very curious, because I would love to be able to write a book, as well.  But I also think that some of our listeners might have the question, how did you come about writing this?  What was your process like for that?

Yes.  Well, I should say I have a journalism degree.

Oh, that’s helpful.

So I can write.  But I’ve always imagined that I would have a book.  I just never thought it  would be about birth and baby.  I have a career in politics.  I’ve done advertising sales, nonprofit fundraising before having kids and falling in love with this work as a doula and agency owner.

That’s a bit of a 180.

Yeah, for sure.  But I feel like women’s health is the most pressing need, and supporting mothers in whatever they decide to do, whether it’s become a stay at home mom, go back to work, start their own business – there’s just not enough support in that process, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four.  And certainly childcare is a huge issue, and maternal mortality.  I don’t think, even though my kids are now 11 and 13 and 22, that I would be – you know, it’s not just a fad or just something I’m going through while my kids are young.

No, and now that we know too much, it’s hard to go back, right?  Now that we know so much.  Yeah.  So before we got on here, you were talking about how you created this course, and you knew that there was just a book in there.  And also, with your business, you have those courses, those online courses for parents, am I right?

We have some self-paced classes, like our Tired As A Mother sleep class.  There’s a breastfeeding class and newborn survival that are all recorded with live calls.  And then the Becoming A Mother course came out of the pandemic when we had to cancel all of our in-person classes, like Comfort Measures and HypnoBirthing, and pivot to virtual.  So we had this time and decided to be able to impact not only our current clients with a sense of community when they were pregnant and feeling very isolated but wanted to serve more women and mothers.  So the course has a workbook, and it’s all about prepping for birth and baby, and I cover all of the pregnancy and birth planning, and then Alyssa, who co-created the course and co-wrote the book, is a sleep consultant, so she covers all of the newborn aspects and postnatal prep that should be done and focusing on that important time after baby and planning and budgeting and figuring out your childcare options and so on.  We divided the course equally, and the book is also divided equally.

It’s amazing.  So you just took bits and pieces from the online course and created a book with it?

Yes.  And the course is called Becoming A Mother, and in the course, I have 30 expert videos, and one is a CST therapist.

Amazing!

Talking about what craniosacral is.  We wanted to have experts, so a car seat safety technician, a mental health therapist talking about signs of PMAD.  So we already had all of these experts assembled in the course, and then our students have lifetime access.  Some of them are on baby number two since the course launched, and they’re back in the course and they’re going through videos of things that are relevant to them in the moment.  Or they might want to hop on some live calls with us with questions.

That’s amazing.  The word that I was thinking was like, wow, they must feel so supported.

Yes!  And we couldn’t use Becoming because Michelle Obama has an amazing book called Becoming.

But that’s what your book is about; about feeling supported and making sure that you are supported in all of the ranges of this parenthood realm.  We are not taught how to make sure that we have that village.  We’re just told you should have a village.  But we have to make it.

Exactly . And I don’t feel like our friends prepare us enough.  Things are so different than when our parents had us.  Everything from safe sleep to feeding; it’s all changed, which is why I have a Grandparents class to help educate them.

I would love to have a grandparents class for craniosacral to be like, you might be extremely judgmental of your kids right now, taking their baby to a craniosacral appointment, but let me tell you something: you need to hold your judgment because this is going to help everyone involved.

Your industry is similar to, say, seeing a pediatric chiropractor and resistance there, or anything that might not be considered mainstream.  Even pelvic floor physical therapy has some resistance from family members or friends.

I’m a massage therapist as well, and our parents or even our grandparents, they were just told to ignore things that were happening in their body.  It will just go away.  Don’t worry about it.  But our generation is like, no, I can’t just ignore it.  I realize that this is keeping me from doing things, and I would like to actually enjoy life, rather than repress and suppress everything.  So I’m happy with the shift!

And not be in pain feeding your baby.  All of the things!  Dealing with colic.

Yeah, I’m going to listen to my baby.  If they’re scream crying, I’m going to listen to them, and I’m going to try to help them.  I’m not going to just tell them that they’re being manipulative.

Right.  Exactly.

Well, I love that you have this book coming out.  I think it will be really helpful.  And you were mentioning that it’s for people who are planning that pre- and postpartum period, but you also said before we got in here that it’s also great for health professionals.  So there’s one section of the book that talks about having a list of health professionals for that postpartum – actually, probably for the prenatal, as well.  But having a list of professionals and what their importance is – can you talk a bit more about that section of the book?

Yes.  That postnatal planning is often not as focused as taking childbirth classes, prepping for a baby shower, and even prepping for the birth.  So we get into all of the experts, not only in preparing for birth and supporting during pregnancy, but also in that postnatal recovery time and caring for newborn to toddler and all of the experts that can be brought in outside of your regular pediatrician, OB-GYN, or midwife, depending on who you’re working with.  And so we get into lactation, craniosacral therapists, pelvic floor physical therapy, and just the importance of budgeting for these experts and figuring out what your benefits are and what might work with health savings, flex spending, and then really getting the potential, no matter if it’s an easy birth and baby sleeps well, to have this team supporting you.  Oftentimes, to many of these appointments, you’re able to bring baby with you, so you don’t have to navigate childcare.  And obviously, with CST, the baby is getting treatment, but I know there are some massage therapists in my area that you can bring your baby to your massage appointment after giving birth.

That’s amazing.  Yeah, we do that too.  We do a parent and baby package.  So you bring your baby.  We’ll give them a CST treatment, and usually, they just fall asleep right after their treatment, so they sleep for an hour beside you or on a sleep mat on the floor, something like that.  And then you get your massage or your CST treatment.  It’s beautiful.  I love doing those ones.

It definitely is all about knowing options.  I do feel like certainly doulas – this would be a helpful resource for doulas, but other professionals with the resource section and different helpful apps would find that it would be beneficial.  Some people don’t even know much – they may know what a birth doula is, but they may not know how a referral to a day or overnight postpartum doula can make a difference in the mental health and even in a couple’s relationship and their stability.  If they’re not getting sleep, they’re going to fight more.

Absolutely.  So it breaks down the importance of each of these health professionals?

Yeah.  Exactly.

That’s wonderful.

And when and how they should be used, when to reach out, how to pay for them, all of it.

Amazing.  I wish that there was more of an emphasis on planning on the postpartum period.  I hear a lot of parents being like, nobody told me.  I didn’t know that my baby was going to possibly have reflux.  I didn’t even know.  And they’re scrambling after the baby comes, but they felt so prepared for the birth.

Yes.  Again, there’s a lot that happens before that six week appointment after giving birth, and oftentimes, you’re isolated.  Your partner is going back to work.  You might have a little bit of family support, but then you’re left to figure it out on your own if you don’t have a postpartum doula.  So really having that knowledge and access to trusted resources in your community are key.  And then other health professionals knowing how we can all work together and refer our clients and patients, depending on the provider, to be able to better holistically care for mothers in this vulnerable time.  And for babies.

For me, when I’m training people in this, in CST, something that I emphasize is getting to know these people you’re going to be referring out to.  So not just understanding what they do and what their name is, but actually getting to know them on a personal level so that you know who you are referring out to, as well.

It’s huge.  Absolutely.

There have been times where there was a team that I was referring to, and then the feedback I got from parents was like, I didn’t really like my experience there.  And I was like, well, thank you very much.  I will not be referring to them anymore.

Sometimes it’s personality.  It’s not even that they weren’t an expert in their field.  They may have done everything right, but if they don’t connect emotionally during such an emotional time, it may be a good resource for a different patient or student.  But not necessarily for that individual.  And we try to go on personality as well as the experience that our clients are looking for.  Again, knowing your resources.  I know that everyone’s got different approaches, different specialties within their field.  So there are so many different reasons for knowing your referrals well.

Yes.  I mean, you wouldn’t send someone who you know has really high anxiety to somebody who doesn’t have a great bedside manner.

Exactly.

But you wouldn’t know that unless you got to know that health professional.  But if you had someone who was a straight shooter who needed all the information and was fine with it, you would absolutely send them there.

Yeah.  It’s like if you look at the DISC, for example, the personality assessment.  Not everyone is going to get along with a D or they may not want an I who will talk their ear off.  They may want someone who’s very sensitive and more of the S and the caretaker.  So we find that when I match doulas with families and really trying to find the ideal personality based not only on the mother but also the partner.

Yeah.  Because it’s not just a dyad, right, especially if there are two parents.  It is a triad or maybe even more because of other kids involved.  So keeping in mind that there are multiple personalities and dynamics. 

So you said you’ve got CST in there, physiotherapy.  What other health professions do you have that you like to have a list of?

So certainly different specialties within chiropractic care.  If you’re looking for a Webster certified chiro or a pediatric.  Dieticians, pediatric dentists are big parts of it.  All of the different mental health experts, whether it’s a relationship struggle or PMADs or posttraumatic stress after a traumatic birth.  Whatever our clients are going through.  And then for me, car seat safety is a big issue, and then just looking at even navigating where you can deliver your baby, who can deliver your baby.  Explaining all of the options, like what is maternal fetal if you are high risk, and OB, certified nurse midwife, who works in the hospital, or a certified professional midwife who attends births at home.  Really, all of the options that you would have for support.  And then looking at fitness classes and prenatal yoga and some of the classes you can take with baby after healing.  Things like, of course, pelvic floor physical therapy and getting physical therapy during pregnancy and those types of options.

All of these things are so incredibly important.  I understand that not everyone is going to be able to afford or have resources or money to pay for these things, but my desire with CST and training as many CST practitioners as possible is that when there are a multitude of them, there are also more who can give out either free services every once in a while or work on a pro bono or work on a sliding scale.  And I think that more and more people are joining this postpartum career in the postpartum field, and it’s wonderful.  It’s wonderful that we do have this list of health professionals.

Yes.  And then hopefully maternity benefits and paternity benefits keep expanding.  Some self-funded insurance plans cover doulas, and then there’s Carrot Fertility and Progyny.  Yes.  So things are starting to shift, and I know that there’s support for adoption in some benefits and fertility.  Hopefully, things can expand even more to include CST.

I hope so.  I really do, because the body work aspect is, I think, undervalued.  You know, people think that babies come out a clean slate, and that is – that couldn’t be further from the truth.  That’s partly why we do need this list of health professionals is because this baby has stored trauma in their body and it’s coming out as symptoms and distress, right?  And I wonder – not that I want to put other professions out, but I wonder how many parents would not have such a difficult time if they knew all of the resources that they had available to them.

Exactly.  That’s why I’m hoping the book is a starting point, and then people will have more access.  Not everyone can afford to join my Becoming course, but most everyone can buy a book or borrow.  This will be on Kindle.  There’s a hardcover, a paperback, and then in mid-June, it will be out on audiobook.  So if you have an Audible account, you can listen.

Amazing.  Well, I do, so I’ll probably listen.

Awesome.

That’s the thing, that it needs to be accessible.  This information should be accessible.

Exactly.  And just knowing national support groups and parenting groups and all of the options and resources and what I consider would be evidence-based information.  This is only my personal experience as a doula, as a business owner, and a mother.  So I’m not speaking in a clinical perspective.  But I feel like, again, after lots of work trying to refer books for my clients, there’s nothing like it.  The closest thing would be What To Expect When You’re Expecting, which was written by a mom, and isn’t really covering all of the things that we cover in this book.  Not so much about assembling the experts.

Right.  That is so incredibly important.  We were speaking earlier before we came on here, and I did my doula training when I was – oh, how old was I?  I was 30.  And they focused strongly on having that referral source, your list of referral sources, before you start taking clients, because these parents are going to be struggling and they are going to need the help, and you need to know who you’re sending your people to.  You need to have that ready for parents because you can’t do everything yourself.  And we’re not supposed to do everything ourselves.  It’s better to have this team approach.

Yes.  And birth doulas, we follow up and have a postnatal appointment with our clients within two weeks of when they deliver.  So again, a great time to give resources and support in that way.  And then postpartum doulas are supporting right when they get home, as long as they need.  For us, since we work through the first year, sometimes we don’t even begin work until parents are going back to work from their leave and want to get rest and support.  They may have had a lot of family support initially, or their partner may have some leave time.  So we’re not always there early, but there’s still a lot we can do as far as giving resources and referrals.

Yeah, that’s amazing.  Well, thank you so much for speaking with me today.  I know that your book is needed, is necessary, and whoever is listening, Mother’s Day, Supported comes out, so keep your eyes open.  I believe this episode will go live right around that time, so hopefully we can get more sales driven to you, some more clicks on your link.  We will share all of the information for you, Kristin, in the show notes so that people can find you.  Other than that, where do you think people would be able to look for your information?

So the book will be on Amazon, so you’ll be able to find it.  There’s a preorder for the ebook right now, but the actual print book will not be up and live until Mother’s Day.  The Gold Coast Doulas website, which is www.goldcoastdoulas.com, does have a page for the Supported book, and also the Becoming A Mother course if anyone is interested in that.  And I’m on social media, so Instagram, Facebook, @goldcoastdoulas.  And then of course, I have the Ask the Doulas podcast, where I’ll be having you on soon.

I know!  I’m so excited!  I can’t wait to share more about CST!

The podcast is all about interviewing experts like yourself in the birth and baby space.

Amazing.  Well, I feel grateful that I’m able to be seen as that expert.

Definitely!  Thank you so much, Meghan.  It was great to talk with you!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Listen to the podcast

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby

The Importance of Support in the Pre and Postpartum Period with Kristin Revere Read More »

Tender Seasons Fearless Nightgown shown in light green

Meet the Visionaries: Unveiling the Minds Behind Tender Seasons, Michigan’s Maternity Wear Icon

Guest blog post by Kayli Joann, Founder & CEO of Tender Seasons.

I stared in the mirror in disgust at the baggy, “cute” nightgown I had purchased for a little getaway with my husband. I was very pregnant and excited to get out of the house for a weekend! I had been on the search for something cute to make me feel pretty and more myself for my husband. This boxy, baggy, “pregnancy/nursing-friendly” nightgown that I had just gotten in the mail was such a disappointment. There had to be better options, I had scoured the internet for hours it seemed to try and find something that I felt confident in, to no avail. 

300x300 holding bb to feed in lace bra by Tender SeasonsAnd that’s how it started. A few months later, newly postpartum and feeling very much a stranger in my body – I sat down with my sketchpad next to our son, sleeping peacefully in his bouncy seat, and started to sketch the very first design that would become a total game changer in my life. Here was born the Fearless Collection nightgown that started Tender Seasons. There had to be better options out there for moms. Something to make us feel confident and pretty in this season of life that is so fragile. We so often feel like we are living in someone else’s body as we navigate pregnancy and postpartum in so many different ways. I just felt like I could do better, to design options for women that would put a total 180 spin on the normal designs for nursing-friendly, and postpartum wear.

It wasn’t long before I asked my sister-in-law to join me on this new adventure, I needed a partner to help me bring my dream to life. And what better option than a fellow mom that was no stranger to postpartum life, who also happened to be family and a dear friend. It became such a work of love for both of us, a passion to do better and make better options for moms that fueled body positivity in multiple ways! We poured our heart and soul into getting Tender Seasons off the ground. Everything from designing our website, to cultivating new product ideas, to photo shoots and product testing. It became so much of what we lived and breathed. 

Since that day, we have strived to keep the vision that started it all alive and thriving. To design maternity and nursing wear that combines comfort, functionality, and allure. Our goal is for you 
to feel beautiful and confident throughout every stage of motherhood”.

We have since designed more nightgowns, nursing bras, baby swaddles, and even commissioned a friend to make our famous all-over-baby balm that continues to be a mom favorite. 

This has not just been about starting a business to help our families financially, or provide a sense of purpose to “mom life”. Tender Seasons has been a game changer in the lives of so many women. We want to create a sense of belonging and community here. For moms to feel confident using our products. To know they’re beautiful and strong in every single season of motherhood. It’s not easy, each phase brings new challenges, hills, and valleys. We want moms to know they aren’t alone!

We’ve now been honored to be mentioned and loved in so many households across the United States. Our business has grown enough now that we are able to give back as well! Now, when moms shop with us, a portion of their purchase goes to a non-profit called Carry Them Ministries. A body of incredible people who have come together to provide nutritional and breastfeeding support to moms and infants in Nigeria. This has always been a dream of mine, to give back. And seeing it come to fruition is absolutely an emotional experience. We are working towards the day when Tender Seasons will be a casual household name in the world of mom brands. We’re getting there! 

We hope and pray always that our designs can make a difference, and that when moms put on our nightgowns or nursing bras they feel absolutely beautiful; because they truly are.

Meet the Visionaries: Unveiling the Minds Behind Tender Seasons, Michigan’s Maternity Wear Icon Read More »

Jessie Jaskulsky holding a baby

5 Things to Know About Surrogacy – Guest Blog by Jessie Jaskulsky

Gold Coast Doulas asked Jessie Jaskulsky to guest blog on the topic of Surrogacy since March is Surrogacy Awareness Month. Jessie is the mom of Lily and Luna. It is through her first-hand experience with surrogacy that she is passionate about simplifying the process for others. Having gone through this beautiful but wildly complicated process twice, Jessie is motivated to help others create the family of their dreams.

 

March is Surrogacy Awareness Month and the perfect time to learn more about the beautiful gift of surrogacy. Whether you or someone you know are experiencing infertility, here are five things you need about this beautiful pathway to parenthood. 

The Difference Between Gestational and Traditional Surrogacy

Gestational Surrogacy is when the surrogate undergoes an embryo transfer and carries the baby for the Intended Parents. The embryo is created by combining the egg from one person (typically the Intended Mother or egg donor) with the sperm (typically the Intended Father or sperm donor) in a lab (fertility clinic). The gestational carrier does not have any biological connection to the baby. Traditional Surrogacy, on the other hand, is when the surrogate has a biological connection to the baby. In most circumstances, the egg is from the surrogate and the sperm is from either the Intended Father or donor sperm. It is important to note that traditional surrogacy is banned in several states whereas gestational surrogacy is legal in 47 out of 50 states (Michigan being one of the states where it is illegal). 

 

Where to Find a Surrogate 

Matching with a surrogate can be done in a variety of ways. Intended Parents can find a surrogate with the help of a surrogacy agency, a surrogacy consultant, or independently. An independent journey is when an agency or consultant is not used and the Intended Parents manage the entire process by themselves. In these instances, the surrogate is either someone the Intended Parents know or met through social media. The length of time it takes to match with a surrogate can vary greatly depending on the method you choose. Even within one of these options, there is still significant variability in the time to be matched with a surrogate.

You Follow the Law Where the Baby is Born 

Regardless if your surrogate is known (i.e., friend or family member) or someone met through an agency, you will need a legal contract. Since Michigan is a state where surrogacy is not (yet) legal, you would need to find a surrogate living in a “surrogacy-friendly” state. Your legal representation is typically in the state where the baby will be born (i.e., where the surrogate lives). There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, in states where the laws for surrogacy are written favorably, some will try to argue jurisdiction for the state where the embryo transfer occurred. 

The Cost of Surrogacy 

The cost of surrogacy can range from $125,000 to $175,000 based on a variety of factors. Examples include surrogate compensation, whether your surrogate has “surrogate-friendly” health insurance (otherwise the Intended Parents need to purchase her a supplemental policy), type of journey you pursue (independent vs. using a surrogacy agency). There are grants available (pro tip- check out Resolve to find available ones in your state) and financing options to help with the high cost of surrogacy.

Surrogates are Evaluated Physically & Psychologically 

Once you’ve matched with a surrogate, the surrogate will also be evaluated by a psychologist or social worker who is trained in ART.  The exact assessment may vary based on the fertility clinic you are working with and their specific requirements. Most surrogates can expect an assessment that has two components; a session with the psychologist and completing a questionnaire that is part of a more formal measure such as the MMPI (Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory). 


The Intended Parents’ fertility clinic will review the surrogate’s medical records and schedule a time for her to come to the office for an evaluation. At the evaluation, they will test her and her partner for infectious diseases and undergo a urine drug test. They will also meet with the Reproductive Endocrinologist to review the surrogate’s medical history and discuss the surrogacy process. Lastly, they will evaluate the surrogate’s uterus by either ultrasound or HSG hysterosalpingogram) to visualize the uterus and fallopian tubes.

If you are thinking about beginning a surrogacy journey, we’d love to meet you and learn about your unique circumstances. You can schedule a complimentary consultation here. Not ready to meet but interested in learning more? Download our free surrogacy e-book here.

5 Things to Know About Surrogacy – Guest Blog by Jessie Jaskulsky Read More »

Heidi McDowell headshot

Did you forget something?

Gold Coast Doulas asked Heidi McDowell to guest blog on the topic of preparing your body for childbirth. Heidi is a yoga teacher at Mind, Body, Baby, a doula, a wife, and most importantly, a mama. Her goal is to create a community space for you that feels safe, supportive, and empowering. She holds certifications in Fertility Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Postpartum Yoga, and Children’s Yoga. She is also a certified Postpartum and Infant Care Doula and a Labor Doula. She is one of two Yoga Alliance Certified Registered Prenatal Yoga Teachers in all of West Michigan. This is the highest credential in the field of Prenatal Yoga.

 

You find out you’re expecting and immediately begin to prepare in all of the ways you know how. You make the doctor’s appointment, the registry list, prep the nursery, hire the doula, and sign up for your childbirth education class. Does it feel like you forgot something? That’s because you did. 

What about your body? You’re preparing to run a marathon aka give birth and you haven’t done any intentional body preparation. And I’m not talking about seeing the chiropractor or getting a massage (do that too). But I am talking about intentionally moving, balancing the tissues, practicing positions, and learning tools to ensure you’re empowered and physically ready to run this race. 

As a prenatal yoga instructor, birth doula, and Body Ready Method trainer I get asked a lot of questions about how to prepare for delivery. As an expecting mom and yoga teacher I thought I had done all of the work during my pregnancy. After 52 hours of labor I was left wondering what I had missed. I never want someone else to feel like they could have done more to feel empowered and physically ready. That’s why my best tips always involve prenatal body preparation. 

Have you heard of your psoas? It’s a big muscle that connects the top of our bodies to the bottom. Did you know it runs over the top of your pelvic inlet on both sides? It is between your baby and your birth canal. In order for spontaneous labor to occur and progress these muscles need to be out of the way of your baby. Sitting, biking, running, lifestyle habits, sports can all contribute to imbalance and excessive tightness of these muscles. An easy way to release this muscle is to stand on a yoga block with one foot and allow the other leg to pendulum swing freely front to back.

How about your sacrum? That triangle-shaped bone in the center back of your pelvis. It’s this amazing trap door that can either get in the way or out of the way when baby is at different levels of the pelvis. If your muscles are restricted in the glutes and low back this bone is likely stuck and unable to move. My favorite release is called a hip hinge. From standing begin to “hinge” at the hips like a broomstick was glued to your spine. Feel the release throughout the entire posterior body.

Tissue takes time to change. You should begin to move your body in intentional ways throughout pregnancy. This will allow your body the ability to open and release your baby when the time comes. Consider preparing your body with low-impact prenatal yoga classes. When practiced with a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher classes should be so much more than just yoga modified for a belly. There’s a reason why it is the number one most prescribed form of prenatal movement by doctors and midwives. 

Did you forget something? Read More »

Pregnancy Loss image for Gold Coast Doulas Podcast

Pregnancy Loss

Remember the story of Pandora’s Box? In Greek mythology, the story goes something like this: Pandora, told she could not open the lid of a box given to her or her husband from Zeus, finally lets curiosity get the best of her and opens the box. Immediately, out comes all the troubles that humanity would ever experience—pain, conflict, war, etc. and when Pandora finally is able to shut the lid, only one thing remains in the box: Hope.

​This story is still used today as a way to explain that even in the midst of complete horror and tragedy, hope still remains. In my motherhood journey, hope has been a positive, calming source that also at times hangs around, making things way more complicated.

​So, let me try to explain my story in brief. My husband and I get married in August 2016 and when we say “I do,” I have already been off of birth control for about three months. Knowing that we were not young kids (I was 34 and my husband was 39), we did not feel like we had any time to lose. I remember saying “I do” and hoping we would have a little one in our arms on our 1st anniversary or at least, one on the way. Months of infertility followed until we went to seek out fertility testing, which led to a diagnosis of infertility with an unknown cause. Infertility treatments followed with me finally getting pregnant on our first round of IVF, only to miscarry shortly thereafter.

After switching doctors, on the 3rd IVF cycle, I got pregnant with our daughter Colette. When I was 21 weeks pregnant, I was hospitalized with a diagnosis of severe preeclampsia, where I stayed until Colette was born via emergency c-section at 24 weeks, 5 days. She spent her very short nine-day life in the NICU before she died. There were no answers, no reason to explain why I had developed preeclampsia and even worse, no real plan as to how to avoid it and to intervene if necessary.

We went back to trying, first naturally and then with another round of IVF which was not successful. After we found out the transfer had failed, my husband was crying in my arms and I strangely felt relief. I was terrified of being pregnant again, still not sure I could trust my body, but desperately wanting a child we could bring home and raise. Eventually, we used a gestational carrier to bring home our rainbow baby, Elliott, who is two years old and absolutely the love of my life.

More recently, after Elliott had turned one, we decided we wanted to have another child and it seemed like everything was again in our favor. Our same surrogate was available and we started the process again, planning to bring Elliott’s baby brother or sister home. But, the stars were not in our favor this time and after failed and canceled cycles and way too many obstacles, we decided it was best for our family to stop and to be happy with our two children, one in heaven and one here with us.

These days, I struggle with what this decision means long term. I worry about Elliott not having a living sibling and if that will affect him personality-wise or if he will feel deprived of the experience. I think about how I will never have a daughter with me here to raise. And the biggest thing that I spend time thinking about is that I will never be pregnant again, I will never know what it is like to experience pregnancy at all past 24 weeks or to experience pregnancy that was not life-threatening after 21 weeks.

The hope that sustained me through our journey, that told me even when I went to the darkest places of thinking I would never be a mom or we would never have a child that was made up of the two of us, is gone. In its place is a hope that I struggle to understand and accept. As much as getting pregnant and going through a pregnancy scare the hell out of me, and believe me it does, there still remains this tiny hope that it will just happen, that when I least expect it, all of a sudden I will be pregnant and that because this surprise, perhaps divine occurrence will make sure that the pregnancy is smooth sailing.

Yet, I know the reality of such occurrence will not magically or divinely ensure that my pregnancy will be fantastic or even healthy or safe or last more than a mere blip of time. I even know that my vision and fantasy of being pregnant is not at all in line with my experience in real life. I hated being pregnant, I hated that everything made me sick, I hated how exhausted I was, I hated that my sense of smell was so strong, I hated that clothes did not fit sometimes one day to the next, I hated that my back hurt and my feet ached. But, most importantly, the same fear that caused me to point our family in another direction and use a gestational carrier is still very much a fear and one that medical science cannot solve at this moment in time. So, I know that accepting the decision to stop trying is best for my health, both mental and physical, for my husband, for our son, and for our daughter, but that little morsel of hope still eats away at me some days and for that, I really wish Pandora had left peace in the box instead of hope.

_________________________

Michelle Valiukenas is the proud mom of her angel Sweet Pea, who she lost due to miscarriage, her angel daughter Colette Louise who she lost at nine days old, and her only living child, her rainbow baby, Elliott Miguel. Inspired by her journey with Colette, Michelle and her husband founded The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation, whose mission is to improve outcomes of pregnancy, childbirth, prematurity, and infancy, as well as aid in the grieving process through financial assistance, education, and advocacy. Their flagship program financially assists families dealing with high-risk and complicated pregnancies, NICU stays, and loss. The organization’s ability to help families relies on donations and grants and they are grateful if you are able to donate. Michelle also participates and advocates on issues of maternal health, maternal mortality, infant health and safety, and pregnancy complications. Michelle lives in Glenview, Illinois with her son Elliott, husband Mark, and dog Nemo.​

 

 

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Yoga pose for pregnancy

Top 3 Yoga Poses for 3rd Trimester

Cervical checks aren’t quite the crystal ball some providers make them out to be.  The truth is, we don’t know how your birth will unfold. But by preparing your body you are creating balance in your pelvis and enhancing your baby’s chances of a smoother, more efficient birth! As a labor doula and prenatal yoga teacher I have witnessed how effective body balance work is for my pregnant clients. 

Here are my 3 favorite yoga moves to do to get your body balanced for birth:

Thoracic movement with 360 breathing:

Yoga poses for third trimester

Super simple and often overlooked. Opening the ribs makes space for baby and organs to move up which releases tension in the pelvic floor, the back, and ultimately helps the sacrum have mobility to move out of the way during delivery. Breathing down feel baby lift, ribs expand, heart space lift, and back body widens. 

Rocking Cat / Cow with a kickstand:

Yoga pose for pregnancy

These poses can release tension in the lower back and help maintain mobility of the spine and pelvis. The extended leg is gaining length through the adductors which connect to the pelvic floor – lengthening and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. From a table top pose extend one leg to the side, rock forward into cow, inhale, and back into cat (almost childspose) exhale. 

Leg Dangling:

You can do this with a book, yoga block, and even a curb. This pose helps release tension in the psoas muscle. The psoas plays a big role in how labor can progress. Since the psoas runs behind and cradles the uterus, tightness can cause an imbalance of the uterus and encourage pelvic misalignments. This would interfere with the baby’s position and descent, and could possibly lead to a longer and more challenging labor. Standing with one foot on an elevated surface, allow your free leg to swing back and forth gently and dangle. Allow the hip to drop. 

You will never regret doing the work that may give you and your baby the best chance at a more functional birth with less interventions. Where do you want to spend your time and energy- in the delivery room or in the yoga studio? 

Heidi McDowell

FOUNDER | MAMA |FERTILITY, PRENATAL, POSTPARTUM YOGA CERTIFIED | DOULA

She/her

Heidi is a yoga teacher, a doula, a wife, and most importantly, a mama.

Her goal is to create a community space for you that feels safe, supportive, and empowering. She holds certifications in Fertility Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Postpartum Yoga, and Children’s Yoga. She is also a certified Postpartum and Infant Care Doula and a Labor Doula. She is one of two Yoga Alliance Certified Registered Prenatal Yoga Teachers in all of West Michigan. This is the highest credential in the field of Prenatal Yoga.

IG & FB: @mindbodybabyyoga

 

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Lisa Newhouse sitting in a chair in front of a window holding a dog

Meet our new birth doula, Lisa.

What did you do before you became a doula/consultant?

I had a 20+ year career as an Occupational Therapist. Much of my career as a therapist, was at Mary Free Bed Hospital working in the wheelchair and custom seating department. Approximately 7 years ago, I completed my master’s degree and became an academic advisor. I worked at Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University until the initial months of Covid. At which time, I resigned due to family needs.

What inspired you to become a doula/consultant?

I have always enjoyed professions that allow me to help others. I knew I wanted to do something that would feed my soul a little more, and I also knew that I had a desire to be involved with helping women and children. The doula profession has been on my radar for a while now and the time seemed right to go with my heart and pursue this career.

Tell us about your family.

I have a blended family that consists of four children from my husband’s previous relationship, two children from my previous relationship and one child together. All our children, with the exception of the youngest (15 y/o), are adults and most have families of their own.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

My husband and I love to travel and have many favorite spots! I would say that we enjoy traveling internationally and South Africa was one of our favorite trips.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.

I really enjoy music, particularly live music, and I find it hard to name who would be my top 5. I can say that I have three artists that I have seen live a few times and every time it has been so fun! The first artist is U2, that I have seen two times. What I love the most about U2 is how they always fill me with hope. A couple other artists that I have seen a couple times is OAR and Michael Franti. I have seen both of them at Meijer Gardens and both artists put on a fabulous show!

What is the best advice you have given to new families?

To always lead with love. At the end of the day, we all make mistakes or can think of something we wished we would have done differently, but I firmly believe that it is always going to be ok if you lead with love.

What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?

I am not completely sure, but I think it would be my ability to anticipate what someone needs in the moment. I have always been good at reading or sensing when someone needs something and responding appropriately.

What is your favorite food?

I am a real foodie! I like just about anything that is local and fresh. However, I do have a real love for ethnic flavors and in particular Mediterranean.

What is your favorite place on West Michigan Gold Coast?

I have two favorite places on the west coast. Saugatuck holds a very special place in my heart because my husband and I were married there! We also love Petoskey, not only is it beautiful, but we have an annual camping trip with friends there every Labor Day. So, we have wonderful memories in both spots!

What are you reading now?

I am a voracious reader! I typically have a stack of 3-4 books at any given time that I am reading. I am in two book clubs, one that primarily focuses on non-fiction and the other fiction. The last couple of books I just read was Brene Browns Atlas of the Heart, love her so much and everything she writes! I also, just read The Sentence by Louise Erdrich.

Who are your role models?

I have always admired and tried to emulate women who have weathered the storms and did what needed to be done. I believe there is nothing more formidable than a woman who is doing what is right and necessary for those she loves.

 

Meet our new birth doula, Lisa. Read More »

Anja's Stem Cell Collection Kit with three babies

Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells Through Cord Blood Banking

Stem cells are special human cells that have the potential to become many different types of cells, such as brain cells, muscles cells, and more. These cells have the potential to treat, or even sometimes reverse diseases that have left patients of the past without effective options. Umbilical cord blood banking provides potential treatments for many of the medical conditions we hope our children and family members never have to suffer through.

What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking refers to the freezing and storage of umbilical cord blood and tissues. In the time leading up to delivery, there is a transfer of powerful stem cells and other immune-boosting cells between the mother and fetus. These cells remain in the blood and are often discarded with the umbilical cord and placenta.
Cord blood and tissue banking involve collecting the blood and tissues that contain these cells and freezing them for a later date, when they may be used to treat a variety of illnesses that were previously thought to be difficult to treat or incurable.

Did you know? Umbilical cord blood banking is OB, Midwife, and Doula recommended!
Types of Stem Cells Obtained from Cord and Tissue Banking
There are two main types of stem cells acquired during cord blood and tissue banking: hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells.
Hematopoietic Stem Cells
Hematopoietic stem cells are obtained through umbilical cord blood banking and are approved by the FDA to treat a variety of illnesses, including blood disorders (e.g. sickle cell anemia), immune disorders (e.g. multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis), and cancer (e.g. lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma). There are also over 1000 ongoing clinical trials examining other use cases.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells
Mesenchymal stem cells are found in the umbilical cord tissue, placenta, and bone marrow. They are powerful stem cells used to treat a variety of chronic and progressive medical conditions, including lung disease, Autism, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and hair loss.

Public vs. Private Cord Blood Banking
While you have the option of receiving cord blood or tissue from a donor via a public cord blood bank, serious side effects may occur. There is a high risk of incompatibility, which may result in a range of significant acute or chronic symptoms.
Since the body is meant to attack foreign bodies it sees as dangerous, a condition called graft- versus-host disease may develop as a result of a stem cell transplant from a donor. This occurs when donor stem cells see the transplant as an immune system invasion. The body rejects the healthy new stem cells, leading to harmful symptoms and sometimes death.
By using stem cells you’ve privately banked that are at least a partial match, you greatly reduce the risk of developing such complications. When banking your cord blood and tissue for future personal use, the cells are always a match for who they came from. They may safely be used as a treatment for family members as well.
Siblings have a 75% chance of being a match, while parents are always a 50% match for their children. Extended family, such as aunts and uncles, also have a probable chance of being a partial match, which could have a significant impact, should they need treatment.

How Can Recipients Benefit From Private Cord Blood Banking?
Significant improvements have been observed in medical conditions with the help of stem cells. These improvements include but are not limited to:
● Reversing Type 1 Diabetes
● Significantly improving symptoms of Crohn’s disease
● Improving motor function in children with cerebral palsy
● Promoting CAR T-cell therapy, an immunotherapeutic cancer treatment
● Aiding in heart failure treatment
● Showing protective effects on hair loss

How To Store Your Cord Blood and Tissue Stem Cells
To bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood, cord tissue, or placenta, order a collection kit before your due date. Store the kit at room temperature and bring it with you to the hospital. When you arrive at Labor & Delivery, tell the admitting nurse that you plan to collect your stem cells. Before birth, tell your healthcare provider that you have the kit ready for collection.
Your collection kit from Anja Health has everything you need and their stem cell banking experts will help guide you through the process.
Use the discount code GOLD to receive 90% off the price of your collection kit!

After the birth of your child, the team at Anja Health will collect your kit from the hospital and take care of everything, including viability testing, optimization, and cryogenic storage in their AABB-accredited, FDA-approved lab in New Jersey.
If the time comes, you’ll be glad to know you have the stem cells to help your child or other members of your family when they’re in need!

 

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Alyssa Veneklase, Postpartum Doulas of Gold Coast Doulas, assists a mom of triplets

Gold Coast Doulas is Expanding Our Reach!

We have been listening to our clients and trusted health practitioners, and we are expanding our day and overnight postpartum and sleep consulting services to Northern Michigan and Southwest Michigan starting in April of 2022. Michigan postpartum doula services and support will expand along the Gold Coast of Michigan, covering 300 miles of the western shoreline.

Gold Coast Doulas is proud to announce that we will serve beach towns from Niles in the Southwest to Harbor Springs in Northern Michigan. Our doula agency is focused on exceptional service and support for families. We are currently looking for exceptional postpartum doulas who reside in Southwest and Northern Michigan.

In a recent article from Petoskey News, the Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce President comment “Adding to any health services in the area is beneficial for our residents, and helps our region be somewhere you can truly live, work and play year-round.”

Northern Michigan postpartum doula lakeshore cities covered in the expansion include: Bay Harbor, Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Cadillac, Suttons Bay, Petoskey, Traverse City, Frankfort, Manistee, Ludington, Silver Lake, and Pentwater.

Southwest Michigan postpartum doula lakeshore cities include: South Haven, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Stevensville, Lakeside, Coloma, Union Pier, Sawyer, Three Rivers, New Buffalo, and Niles.

Gold Coast Doulas has always had the intention of expanding and have been deliberate in our expansion plan. In Northern and Southwest Michigan, Gold Coast Doulas will focus on providing postpartum services like feeding, sibling care, household tasks like light housekeeping, meal preparation, and running errors. The primary focus in these lakeshore cities is on day and overnight postpartum doula services and sleep support. Gold Coast Doulas will continue to offer birth services, lactation, and classes to our West Michigan clients.

If you are interested in partnering with us or becoming a day and overnight postpartum doula, contact us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com.

 

Gold Coast Doulas is Expanding Our Reach! Read More »

Woman wearing jeans, a white tshirt, and a jean jacket sits on top of a desk in her office

Preventing Preeclampsia with Proper Nutrition

Preeclampsia is a prenatal and postpartum condition that is hallmarked by gestational hypertension and the presence of protein in the urine. It occurs in approximately 5-8% of pregnant women and can be life-threatening. Women who have had preeclampsia with a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing it again.

The symptoms of preeclampsia can be varied and confusing. Edema (specifically pitting in the ankles), sudden weight gain, headaches or vision changes are all common complaints amongst patients with this condition, but presentation varies on the underlying cause.

Research has shown that nutritional deficiencies may play a role. [1] There have been several studies linking different nutritional deficiencies with an increased risk of developing gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. In this article I will address the individual nutrients linked in these studies, as well as nutritional principles to get you started.

NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES ASSOCIATED WITH AN INCREASED RISK OF PREECLAMPSIA

Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for the proper development of the placenta from mid first trimester on. We see significantly lower levels of magnesium in preeclamptic patients. [2] Not only is Magnesium necessary for many of the other nutrients, like Calcium, Sodium and Potassium, to function properly, it is also necessary for the hormone receptors to accept certain hormones. Without proper levels of Magnesium, sodium and calcium build up in the blood causing increased blood pressure and increasing the risk of preeclampsia. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and deficiency can cause tightening of the blood vessels. The demand for magnesium grows exponentially from 28 weeks of gestation through childbirth.

Calcium: Calcium supplementation in pregnancies at a higher risk for preeclampsia has been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia [3] as well as reduce the maternal mortality risk due to preeclampsia. Calcium supplementation help prevent dysfunction in the placenta by affecting Nitric Oxide Pathways. [4] Calcium also interplays with a other nutrients associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia, Vitamin D/K/Magnesium.

Zinc: Zinc is an important mineral for hormone development and immune support. It is one of the most essential minerals for pregnancy. Deficiencies are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and stillbirths. Too much copper or iron can deplete zinc (there is a tricky balance), it is also necessary for proper B6 absorption. Zinc is the catalyst for the millions of enzymatic reactions that are occurring as your baby develops. It is also necessary in protein synthesis (protein is what your oxytocin is going to be made from). Zinc plays a role in the formation of red blood cells, and deficiency can lead to anemia. All things associated with preeclampsia. A 2015 study found lower zinc levels in preeclamptic mothers. [5]

Manganese: A new study, published in 2020, may possibly be bridging the gap among manganese deficiency, oxidative stress, and preeclampsia risk. This study was led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The analysis found significantly lower levels of manganese in early pregnancy increased the likelihood of the development of both gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. [6] This is the first paper linking manganese to preeclampsia. Manganese makes up a very important enzyme called superoxide dismutase that helps to reduce inflammation in the placenta.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a hormone. It is formed from cholesterol in the diet which interacts with the UVB rays to create Vitamin D. It is a fat soluble vitamin in the diet, and there MUST be a fat present for absorption. We do know that Vitamin D plays a significant role in the regulation of the hormones of our body. The role of Vitamin D in hypertension is still not fully understood, but we know there is a connection between low Vitamin D preeclampsia. There is an interesting correlation between winter pregnancies (lack of sunlight) and preeclampsia rates. Vitamin D is necessary in the formation of several enzymes produced by the placenta, which are missing in preeclampsia. Vitamin D is necessary for Calcium and Phosphorus to function. Supplementing with Vitamin D is associated with a decrease in preeclampsia risk. [7] Vitamin D and K work together, and in combination with Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium. Without vitamin K, these nutrients cannot work together correctly.

COQ10: A 2003 study found a marked decrease in CoQ10 in women with preeclampsia. [8] The theory is that increasing oxidative stress “consumes” the CoQ10, decreasing mitochondrial function. Interestingly, this difference is more prominent in women living at altitude than women living at sea level, [9] and with age.

Folate/B12: Homocysteine is a byproduct of the methionine cycle. This is cycle is the “methylation” cycle and is dependent on folate and B12. [10] Homocysteine increases cardiovascular inflammation, and the decrease in proper methylation affects the stability of the placental cells and their function.

Sign up now for our BECOMING a Mother online course! Gain confidence and reduce fear in pregnancy, labor, and early parenting! We’d love to see you there!

HOW TO PREVENT PREECLAMPSIA WITH DIET

The idea that diet influences the onset of hypertension and preeclampsia is a huge component of the functional medicine approach to chronic disease. Bear in mind that the development of the blood vessels between the placenta and the uterus begin early in gestation. In prevention, it is important to begin proper nutrition prior to conception. This doesn’t mean that it cannot develop later, or that severity in symptoms cannot be prevented during gestation. The placenta is growing for several months, as your baby develops, and at any point proper nutrition can be used to grow these blood vessels properly, create healthy blood flow, and relax tense blood vessels and stabilize placental function, all to lower hypertension and preeclampsia risk.

Here are my top guidelines for preventing preeclampsia through diet.

REDUCE PRESERVATIVE SODIUM: Research shows that once you have come into a hypertensive state, you are more sensitive to sodium and will react stronger than you would out of the hypertensive state. Typically, because there is an imbalance in the sodium levels in the cells and out of the cells (in the blood). This imbalance causes a strain on the blood vessels and increases blood pressure. Preservative sodium is different than sea salt sodium, or table salt. This synthetic form of sodium is more difficult for Magnesium to transport and becomes built up in the blood more quickly. Learn to read the labels. Synthetic preservative sodium is found in most packaged products.

REDUCE EXCESSIVE AND ADDED SUGARS: In a natural and balanced diet, our body needs sugars. Fructose is a fuel for the brain, and Glucose is a fuel for every cell in our body. But in excess, or not properly balance, these fuels become toxins. In our society, we consume excessive amounts or processed and packaged foods that are full of refined flours and sugars, and typically lead very sedentary lives. These inactive lives and diets rich in unused fuels causes excessive weight gain, hormone disruptions, and internal damage. Stick to natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and fruits and fruit juices when needing to sweeten a recipe. If you are craving sugar, it could mean that you are not consuming enough vitamins and minerals, or you are not balancing with enough fat. When your cells are malnourished, you will crave sugar.

LEARN TO LOVE FAT: Many nutritional fats work as anti-inflammatories in the body. Without a proper level of good fats in our bodies, our hormones cannot function (Our hormones are made from fats!), our brain slows down (over 60% fat), our nerves become hypersensitive to stimuli, and our cells become weak. During pregnancy fats and cholesterols are even more important. They are the building blocks of the hormones that sustain pregnancy.

TASTE THE RAINBOW, AND I DON’T MEAN SKITTLES: What I mean is embrace the rainbow of colors found in fruits and vegetables. Foods that are rich in color are also rich in nutrition. They are also higher in antioxidants. Greens, Reds, Yellows, Blues, Purples, all of these colors are associated with nutrients and antioxidants.

SPICE IT UP: Use herbs to flavor your meals. There is such an amazing array of herbs out there that not only add vibrancy to our meals, but are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Parsley, Cilantro, Oregano, Lemongrass, Curry, Fennel, Dill, Mint, the possibilities are endless. Stimulate your body and your brain with these intense flavors, not added sugar. Many of these herbs are also important sources of pregnancy important nutrients (parsley – Vitamin K), others are specifically known to help treat hypertension (Basil, Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Parsley, Dandelion)

CHOOSE QUALITY NOT QUANTITY: The adage of eating for two is a misnomer. The baby growing inside you, at the most, needs 300 extra calories a day at its biggest. What we do need is more nutrients that sustain the health of your body…not calories. Excessive meals are hard on the system and put strain on the body. Often those consuming poor diets, or nutrient deficient diets, find themselves craving more food, even though they are eating large amounts of calories (well over what they need). This is because the foods they are consuming are nutrient deplete but high in carbohydrates and sugars, and the cells are actually STARVING for nutrition. Choose nutrient dense foods and smaller amounts over large amounts of poor-quality foods. You’ll be surprised at how much your food cravings and excessive hunger go away when your cells are getting the correct amount of nutrients.

STAY HYDRATED: Water makes up the majority of our body (80+%). It is a cooling, and lubricating mechanism. When we are deficient the body can heat up and dry out, causing friction and inflammation. Dehydration also causes an increase in pain perception, and reduction in blood flow to the brain. Over time, chronic dehydration can affect the neurotransmitters of the brain. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, causing mood swings and depression. During pregnancy, your body is making and filtering amniotic fluid, which is a combination of water Vitamin C, E, and other electrolytes. You need to consume enough for your needs, the amniotic fluid, and your developing baby. The old adage of eating for two, should really be drinking for two, which would be more accurate. A little drink to absorbing more and peeing less…. add fruit, lemon, trace minerals, etc.…to your water. Tap water is lacking in naturally occurring minerals, they are removed during filtering, and processing. Traditional peoples didn’t carry around and fill 32 oz water bottles 2-4x per day…they didn’t have to, the water they drank was more nutritional with little bits of soil and debris which aided in absorption.

Sarah Thompson founded Sacred Vessel Acupuncture in 2012, after years of working alongside western medicine physicians. Sarah has dedicated her practice to those with complicated conditions, and those seeking to improve their health. ​​She brings over 20 years of experience working directly with medical doctors in the fields of Pain Management, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and advanced studies in both Acupuncture and Functional Medicine.

Want to know more? Pick up her new book, Functional Maternity – Using Functional Medicine and Nutrition to Improve Pregnancy and Childbirth Outcomes.

 

Citations

1. Grum T, Hintsa S, Hagos G. Dietary factors associated with preeclampsia or eclampsia among women in delivery care services in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: a case control study. BMC Res Notes. 2018;11(1):683. Published 2018 Oct 1. doi:10.1186/s13104-018-3793-8

2. Kharb S, Goel K, Bhardwaj J, Nanda S. Role of magnesium in preeclampsia. Biomed Biotechnol Res J 2018;2:178-80

3. Hofmeyr GJ, Lawrie TA, Atallah AN, Duley L, Torloni MR. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochran Database Syst Rev. 2014;6. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001059

4. DeSousa J, Tong M, Wei J, Chamley L, Stone P, Chen Q. The anti-inflammatory effect of calcium for preventing endothelial cell activation in preeclampsia. J Hum Hypertens. 2016;30(5):303-308. doi:10.1038/jhh.2015.73

5. Ma Y, Shen X, Zhang D. The Relationship between Serum Zinc Level and Preeclampsia: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):7806-7820. Published 2015 Sep 15. doi:10.3390/nu7095366

6. Liu T, Hivert MF, Rifas-Shiman SL, et al. Prospective Association Between Manganese in Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Preeclampsia. Epidemiology. 2020;31(5):677–680. doi:10.1097/ EDE.0000000000001227

7. Fogacci S, Fogacci F, Banach M, et al. Vitamin D supplementation and incident preeclampsia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Clin Nutr. 2020;39(6):1742-1752. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2019.08.015

8. Teran E, Hernandez I, Nieto B, Tavara R, Ocampo JE, Calle A. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation during pregnancy reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;105(1):43–45. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2008.11.033

9. Teran E, Chedraui P, Racines-Orbe M, et al. Coenzyme Q10 levels in women with preeclampsia living at different altitudes. Biofactors. 2008;32(1–4):185–190. doi:10.1002/biof.5520320122

10. Mujawar SA, Patil VW, Daver RG. Study of serum homocysteine, folic Acid and vitamin b(12) in patients with preeclampsia. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2011;26(3):257-260. doi:10.1007/s12291-011-0109-3

 

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Physician holds a skeletal pelvis while educating a patient in a doctor's office

Pubic Symphysis Pain In Pregnancy

What is it?

Pain in the groin or pubic region. In pregnancy, your ligaments increase in laxity to allow more movement of the pelvis in preparation for childbirth. Add the increased weight from the growing baby and you can end up with pain in the pubic region!

What to do:

Avoid activities that cause your legs to be spread far apart because this can put extra strain on the pubic symphysis. For example, some painful activities might include taking long steps while walking, getting in/out of the car, or walking up stairs. While it’s likely impossible to avoid these activities all together, you can modify them fairly easily to help decrease discomfort. The key is to remember to keep your knees squeeze together during painful activities.

  • When navigating stairs, try taking it one stair at a time with a step-to pattern. Or if that’s still painful, you can try going up sideways one step at a time
  • When getting out of bed, squeeze a pillow between your knees and roll to your side. From there, let your legs down over the side and push through your arm to a sitting position.
  • When getting in to the car, back up to the seat and sit down first. Then lift both legs together into the car as you swivel in. You can even place a plastic grocery bag on the seat to help you swivel more easily. Reverse this as you get out.
  • Take shorter steps and imagine if your pelvis was a bowl of soup. Try to keep things as level as possible to not pour out the soup.

Exercises

By stabilizing the major muscle groups that support your pelvis, you can help to decrease some of your discomfort. Complete the following exercise program 3x a day. If the exercises increase pain or discomfort, hold off and talk to your physician about starting physical therapy to keep you mobile during your pregnancy.

  • Abdominal stabilization (transversus abdominis, external and internal oblique, and multifidus muscles) — Sitting with your feet resting on the floor, gently pull in your lower abdominal muscles as if you are hugging your baby. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times, continuing to breathe normally.
  • Pelvic floor — Sitting tall, squeeze to close around your openings. Lift and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Breathe normally throughout.
  • Gluteus maximus muscle — Sitting or standing, squeeze buttocks together. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  • Latissimus dorsi muscle — Sit on a chair in front of a table or a closed door. Grasp door handle or table with both hands and pull toward you. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  • Hip adductor muscles — Sitting down, put your fist or a rolled towel between your knees. Squeeze knees together. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.

About

Amanda Collins is a licensed physical therapist at the Hulst Jepsen Pelvic Rehabilitation Center in Hudsonville.Amanda earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2015 and has spent the past few years working with both orthopedic and pelvic pain patients. She has experience treating patients with a variety of conditions including chronic pain and many post-operative conditions. Her passion has always been in pelvic health and she has experience treating women with pelvic pain, urinary urgency and frequency, stress urinary incontinence, pregnancy, and postpartum-related issues. Amanda has completed Sarah Duvall’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist certification and loves working with newly postpartum women as they navigate their changing bodies. Though Amanda loves manual, hands-on treatment, she also enjoys teaching people how movement can improve their conditions.

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Woman sits at her kitchen counter in front of her laptop

Affordable Ways to Help a Loved One Through a Pandemic Pregnancy

While we’ve had nearly a year to adjust to the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, having a baby presents new challenges. Women who are pregnant have to worry about contracting COVID-19, surviving their pregnancy with limited social support, and staying safe at the hospital. If you know someone who is pregnant right now, check out the following budget-friendly tips to learn how you can offer your support!

Budget-Friendly Gift Ideas

You don’t have to spend much to make your pregnant loved one feel special. Stick to heartfelt gifts like comfy clothes or DIY baby blankets.

  • Look for comfortable maternity clothes at budget-friendly retailers like Old Navy.
  • Save money on your gifts with an Old Navy promo code.
  • If you have a little more room in your budget, consider gifting a birthing workshop, breastfeeding class, or online birth course from Gold Coast Doulas.
  • If money is really tight, make your own gift!

Give Your Time

Instead of showering your loved one with pregnancy gifts, offer your assistance with errands and household chores.

  • Help your loved one plan their nursey and save money with DIY nursery décor. 
  • If your loved one feels okay having you in their home, offer to do some cleaning around the house. 

Offer Words of Support

Even if you cannot visit your pregnant loved one at home, you can offer kind words and meaningful support over the phone or video chat.

  • Ask her how she’s feeling and let her open up about her emotional challenges.
  • Avoid saying anything judgmental or scaring your loved one with your own pregnancy horror stories.
  • Instead, tell her she looks beautiful and that she’s going to be a great mom!

Keep it Up After the Baby Arrives

Many parents find that support tends to drop off a couple of weeks following the birth of their baby. This is a great time to check in and find out how else you can help.

  • Hire a doula to offer support after the baby is born. Gold Coast Doulas offers Postpartum Doula experts, who help with night nanny, baby nurse, and post-birth recovery services. Similarly, you could arrange for a Sleep Consultation to help your family establish a customized sleep plan to help everyone get more restful slumber throughout the coming months. Both of these services offer invaluable support to new parents.
  • Send her a meal delivery from a local restaurant — and save money with some simple hacks. 
  • Call her to check in and make sure she isn’t feeling lonely.
  • If your loved one is struggling with postpartum depression, learn how to help.

Pregnancy can be stressful, especially when you’re grappling with the challenges of having a baby during a pandemic. Women who are pregnant right now are facing considerable trouble accessing support and staving off loneliness. Be there for your loved one in whatever way you can!

Emily Graham is the creator of Mighty Moms. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.

 

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Strength in Motherhood

How the Pandemic Positively Affected Working Out From Home!

The original owner, Marissa Andersen, and I (Sarah Greidanus) soon-to-be owner, went into 2020 knowing that it would be a big year for our business – FIT4MOM Grand Rapids. Marissa was passing on the reins to me after being in the helm for over 8 years. The transition was underway and everything was scheduled to change hands smoothly. And then Thursday, March 14 brought the news that schools were shutting down and not returning for at least 3 weeks. As a fitness company that caters to moms with young children, we knew it would be hard (and probably unsafe) to continue offering in-person classes with extra kids around who were off from school, even though there were no other shutdowns happening at the time.

No one yet knew the magnitude of what this pandemic would bring, but we did know a few things – 1) moms were scared and needed their community now more than ever and 2) we needed to be creative in order to continue to provide this community.

Over the next two days, we spent hours together at Sarah’s kitchen table mapping out a plan of what the next few weeks could look like. Little did we know that the decisions we were making would change the course of our business and the lives of everyone in this community for a year and counting. Prior to last March, FIT4MOM Grand Rapids operated solely as an in-person fitness company, with additional in-person activities for moms with or without their kiddos. In years past, we had offered an occasional virtual workout on social media when weather prohibited us from meeting in-person. But that was the extent of our experience in the virtual world.

In just two days, those kitchen table meetings produced a brand new FIT4MOM experience but with all of the same love and support that the community has always known!

  • We switched all 13 classes we offered to a Zoom platform – class formats were altered slightly toaccommodate smaller spaces and minimal equipment, and class times were rearranged to accommodate for at home learning conflicts.
  • We offered weekly virtual mom hangouts (like trivia, coffee chats, games, etc) to give moms space to relax, have a few laughs and most importantly connect in a disconnected world.
  •  We arranged virtual craft playdates and story times to occupy kids so moms could shower or enjoy coffee in peace, and also so the kids could have a sense of connection with the outside world as well.
  •  And most importantly, we didn’t miss a beat. Our instructors didn’t hesitate to jump on board and recreate their living rooms, kitchens, and basements into virtual fitness studios.

The first week was a bit tumultuous for us, with technology hiccups and the creation of new systems and processes, but our clients were able to count on at least one thing in their lives staying consistent. We had countless notes of thanks from our village for continuing to provide support and a shelter in the storm, like this one from Christen K.

“When COVID hit and FIT4MOM went virtual, it opened so many doors for my fitness and mental health! I was now home with my kids 24/7! What inconvenienced some was my biggest blessing. I am able to join classes safely from home without the extra driving time. An hour workout is back to an hour and not an hour and 40 minutes. I don’t have to pack the kids and all the things to keep them entertained. They can play in the house, watch a show or come outside with me. I have been able to make virtual classes work 5 out of 6 days! I sign out of my class and into my kids zoom. If it doesn’t work to attend a virtual class live, the library of recordings is always accessible! I love attending the live classes because it adds a level of community and enthusiasm. It has helped me remain social and sane!

I hope some sense of virtual stays in the future as it allows me to be a part of this awesome Mama community.”

Fit4MomsNow fast-forwarding 12 months, our classes and events are still going strong! We still offer 13 classes a week, with both prenatal and postnatal options in a wide range of formats. We are currently completely virtual but are looking forward to the spring when we will be able to meet outdoors again in a socially distanced format. While we would prefer to be able to see each other in-person, there definitely have been some perks to our virtual classes – like not worrying about snow days, rolling out of bed right into an early morning class, and having a complete library of past class recordings!

We have continued to offer a lot of fun activities for moms with virtual candle making, The Price is Right, and secret Galentine’s Day porch drop offs. We have lots of fun for the kiddos too with virtual crafts and some outdoor playdates. And we are excited to be launching a new program in the spring!

Overall, adjusting to the pandemic has been hard for us just as it’s been hard for fitness companies around the country. But we are so grateful for a supportive team and village of clients who have been there to support us through it all. This village has shown we can stay strong no matter what is thrown our way!

Check out any of our FIT4MOM locations in the Greater Grand Rapids Area: :

FIT4MOM Grand Rapids
Sarahgreidanus@fit4mom.com

FIT4MOM West Grand Rapids – Hudsonville, Allendale, Jension, and Grand Haven
brittneyjewett@fit4mom.com

FIT4MOM Holland
Kyriaphenix@fit4mom.com

 

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Alyssa Veneklase and Kristin Revere sit in an office while podcasting together

What I Wish I Knew: Podcast Episode #104

Kristin and Alyssa, owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about the things they wish they had known before having a baby.  Listen to this fun episode packed with advice and lots of little gold nuggets of information for new parents!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin.

Alyssa:  And I’m Alyssa.

Kristin:  And we’re here today with a fun idea of what I wish I would have known before pregnancy and having a baby.  And this is inspired, actually, by your newborn class, Alyssa.

Alyssa:  That’s kind of why I created it, yeah, because there’s so many things that it’s like, why did nobody tell me this?  Or if only I had known, this would have been so much easier!

Kristin:  Yeah!  So I will start.  We’ll go through, like, the top five things that each of us wished we would have known before having kids.  So my number one is no PJs, especially if you’re registering, that have snaps on them.  You want zippers.  Snaps are a pain in the middle of the night.  They’re noisy.  They might wake your baby.

Alyssa:  Same with Velcro.  But, yeah, I never really thought about snaps and doing that in the dark.  It can be really tricky.  I’ve had it where, you know, the top button is — or the top snap is hooked to the second one, like everything’s kind of off because you’re doing it sleep-deprived.

Kristin:  Yeah.  So Alyssa, what would you say?

Alyssa:  One of the things I remember the most is a friend told me to have pads on hand, and she actually had just had a baby, like, two months before I did.  So she’s like, you know, ran to the bathroom and said, here, I actually have some left.  I never used them.  I’m like, what do I need these for?  And she said, well, afterwards, you just kind of leak, and there’s blood and who knows.  And I’m thinking, okay, whatever.  So I brought them home.  But then I was one of the, what, 25 or 30% of people that your water actually breaks.  So I wore them for — gosh, my water broke at, like, 4:00 in the morning or something, and I had — I didn’t go to the hospital until noon, so I had, like, eight hours of slow leak.  So I wore the pad constantly, and then afterwards, it’s almost like spotting or like a light period.  And I didn’t know, too, you could put, like, witch hazel or something on it and freeze the pad, kind of like in a — like, around a melon or something so that you could sit on it.

Kristin:  Yes.

Alyssa:  I didn’t know that.  I didn’t do that, but that’s kind of an afterthought, too.

Kristin:  Similar to what they give you, but without the witch hazel, at the hospital.  The ice pads and ice diapers if you have more abrasions.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  A client told me that they had heard — or a student in my class, the adult diapers, they kept those around for leaking or spotting or water breaking.  Any of the things.  So having something around like that was probably one of the best things that I was told that many people aren’t told.

Kristin:  Right.  I had one of those pads for my car when I was driving in case my water broke.

Alyssa:  Oh, you sat on it all the time?  That’s actually a good idea.  You could buy those puppy pee pads or something.

Kristin:  Yeah.  I had a long commute to Lansing with my first pregnancy, so it was like, if my water breaks, I’m just…

Alyssa:  I actually thought about that as I sat in my office, you know, the couple weeks before I was due.  Like, what if I — that will be so embarrassing if my water breaks and I’m sitting in my chair.  Had I thought about that, I probably would have sat on something, just to save myself some embarrassment, I guess.

Kristin:  And my number two tip is to look into childcare as soon as possible.  If you plan to go back to work full time or are looking for a nanny or a nanny share, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, don’t delay until your third trimester.  It’s so hard to find help.  And in that in between time, of course, you can have a postpartum doula, day or night.  But that childcare search and nanny search is time-intensive.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It takes forever, and it’s the last thing your brain is capable of doing when you have a newborn at home.

Kristin: Exactly.

Alyssa:  So if you have to go back at 12 weeks, you can’t — you can’t start at 6 weeks, looking for childcare.  A, you probably you won’t find it, or you’re going to have to settle for something that you don’t necessarily love, and that’s the hardest thing to do is you have to leave your baby for the first time.  You want it to be with somebody that you 100% feel comfortable with and trust.

Kristin:  Yes.

Alyssa:  You don’t want to have to settle.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  I wish that I would have taken a breastfeeding class, and I wish I knew there was lactation consultants that actually come to your home because I suffered through — I got mastitis twice, and even though I knew enough about breastfeeding to know, like, the whole supply and demand thing, in the fog of new motherhood, I was nursing and pumping because I was, like, oh, my gosh, my boobs are so full, and I just need to drain them.  And I was, like, doing the worst thing possible because I’m producing then twice as much, which then I got mastitis, and my boobs were so swollen that it was hard for my daughter to eat then, and then my one nipple got really cracked and sore and it was bleeding one day, and I just remember sitting in the rocking chair sobbing, and my husband came in and was like, oh, my gosh, what can I do?  But had I just taken a breastfeeding class, I would have probably more easily reminded myself like, oh, yeah, it takes a couple weeks for this whole process to, you know, adjust and my body to adjust to what baby needs and that I didn’t have to sit in that rocking chair by myself and cry, and my latch was wrong.

Kristin:  Right.  Kelly saved me with both of my kids.  I had mastitis as well and thrush, and —

Alyssa:  You know, I knew about Kelly Emery.  Or maybe I didn’t until after.  I might have found her because she did Baby and Me yoga classes.  She was one of the only ones, like, seven and a half years ago that did baby.  So I think I might have found her after the fact.  I wish I had known about the lovely Kelly Emery before.

Kristin:  Yes.  We’re lucky to have her at Gold Coast, along with Cami, of course.

Alyssa:  What’s your next one?

Kristin:  So I highly suggest, based on personal experience, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, hire a birth and postpartum doula.  With my second pregnancy, my doulas were some of the first to know that I was pregnant, before family.  And I needed resources, and they were there emotionally and to connect me with resources in the community.  So I recommend hiring early, especially as doulas get booked up quite early.  Like, we’re working with clients with due dates in late March, and as we’re recording, it is August.  And so thinking about if a team or individual doula takes two clients or even four a month, how quickly they can get booked up.  So hire your doula early, and same goes for postpartum.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I don’t think I even fully understood what a doula was or did, you know, eight — almost eight and a half years ago that I got pregnant.  And if anything, I knew what a birth doula was but didn’t know enough to even consider looking into one or hiring one.  And, of course, now that we do what we do, it’s a no-brainer.  But I’m not having any more kids.

Kristin:  Right.  Same.

Alyssa:  But if I was to do it all again, absolutely.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So what about you, Alyssa?

Alyssa:  So this wasn’t, like, a big deal, but I didn’t really know what to expect with the baby’s cord and how it fell off and what it looked like, and I don’t do well with blood and scabs.  It just turned into a big, giant, thick, button-sized scab.

Kristin:  Yes.  It’s gross.

Alyssa:  It really grossed me out, and then just falls off, and I remember finding it in her diaper or something one day.  But I’ve also reminded and I always tell people in my class about, if they’ve ever watched Sex in the City — oh, gosh, what’s her name?  The redhead?  I don’t know.

Kristin:  Miranda.

Alyssa:  Miranda.  She has a baby, and the cord falls off, and then the cat finds it and is batting it around the house, and I — it’s like one of those, oh, my god, I’m going to puke in my mouth kind of situations.  But I didn’t know how gross it would be to me, but I’m just squeamish when it comes to scabs and blood.  But, yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect with that.

Kristin:  And then you have to know to, like, flip the diaper down so you don’t cause more irritation.  I didn’t know that at first.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We go over a lot of that.  And they make diapers now, too, that have little tiny cutouts where the belly button is, and they’re very, very small, for newborn only, but you only need one little package of them because if it falls off within the first week, you don’t need many of those.

Kristin:  And my advice is, with the registry, don’t — it’s not your wedding registry.  You don’t need to register for all the things.  Babies don’t need all that much.  And so my suggestion is to register for a meal service, a doula, classes, lactation support, versus all of the onesies and the high chair and things you don’t need until much later.  I mean, some things are essential.

Alyssa:  Car seats, stroller, yeah.

Kristin:  You know, if you’re going to wear your baby, the different carriers are great.  You know, a diaper bag.  There’s some things that — you know, a thermometer, that are important to have.  But you don’t need all the things.

Alyssa:  I know.  I always see on baby registries, like, spoons and bibs and bowls.  Like, you realize your kid — it could be a year.  You know, you might start solids at six months, but they’re not sitting up at a table by themselves for probably 12 months.  So it’s a lot of wasted money for something that’s going to sit in a closet for up to 12 months unused.

Kristin:  Exactly, especially if you’re in a tight space.  Where do you put all that stuff?

Alyssa:  Right.  Definitely.  Like, have people spend money on support and food.  Bring me food!  And send someone to watch my baby and pick up my house and care for my toddler and let me rest or take a shower.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  Or sleep all night.  So one thing I learned later into have a newborn was to always pack two extra sets of clothing for the baby or at least, you know, maybe not two full outfits, but a couple extra onesies.  And then I also would pack one for myself.  Like, something — yoga pants and a T-shirt.  Something that was easily folded up, because I can’t tell you how many times I either — you know, you’re out and about, and you get spit up on, and of course, it will be, like, yellow spit up on a black shirt.

Kristin:  Of course.

Alyssa:  That everyone can see, and then it stinks like crazy.  Or she’d have a blowout on my lap, and then the poop would come out the diaper onto my pants, and now I have puke on my shirt and poop on my pants.  So I would just always have — even if it’s just in my car, an extra set of clothes for me, as well.

Kristin:  That applies for birth doulas.  I always have an extra set of clothes in case I get fluids or water breaking.  So, yeah, wise advice.  And my advice is, for those of you that aren’t prepared for baby poop, meconium is really interesting for a first-time parent.  It is so dark and sticky and hard to, like, wipe off.

Alyssa:  Like, what did my baby eat?  Tar?

Kristin:  Right!  For breastfed babies, in my opinion, breastfed poop does not smell and is quite easy to deal with, but then you introduce food or formula, and things get totally different.  It’s like, okay, I got through the meconium, then I had my breastfed baby, and now food is like, what?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We do talk about that.  Breastfed baby poop doesn’t — exclusively breastfed babies — the poop doesn’t smell.  And that’s another thing.  On the registry list, the very expensive diaper genie with the expensive refills — you don’t even need to use that in the beginning.  You can literally throw in in a little trashcan and just take it out at the end of the night or even every couple days.  The second formula or solids are introduced, it’s a whole new ballgame.  It stinks, and you’ll want to use that diaper genie.

Kristin:  Agreed.

Alyssa:  My last one, again, is kind of about breastfeeding because it was tricky for me in the beginning, but I wish that I didn’t buy — like, I bought nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing dresses, all the things, and there were just so many layers and levels to this breastfeeding thing that I could never do it in public because I had to, like, undo the nursing bra, which was under the other shirt, which — I would always have to go somewhere private.  But then I found these nursing tanks, and there’s like a shelf bra in them, and I could have worn like what I’m wearing now, like a frilly, flowy shirt, and you lift that shirt up.  You have the tank on underneath to cover your belly, and very nonchalantly, you breastfeed your baby.  Nobody even knows.  Oh, and the covers.  All these — I had this thing that looked like an apron.  I put it over my head, and it was this cloth, and then baby’s whipping it all around.  And in my class, I tell people, you’re basically waving a flag to everyone, saying, I’m about ready to breastfeed.  Look right here.  Whereas if I would have just nonchalantly unclipped, put her on, nobody would even notice.  So there’s too many things, and the more things you buy, the harder it makes it, I think.  It’s simple.  Keep it simple.

Kristin:  I agree.  I always used tanks, and obviously, for larger-chested women, that may not be as much of an option support-wise, but I even labored in tanks, and, you know, speaking of labor, my biggest advice is don’t give birth, unless you’re birthing at home and it’s not as big of a deal, in a sports bra.  If you’re at the hospital, there’s no way to get it off.  If there’s an IV line, it often has to be cut off.  So a nursing tank, again, that has the snaps or a nursing bra if much easier.

Alyssa:  People wear a sports bra because they’re comfortable and think, I’m just going to labor in this because my underwire bra is not the most comfortable things.

Kristin:  But then you can’t get it off for skin to skin.  It’s so tight.

Alyssa:  Right.  I just think I didn’t wear a bra.  Free flowing.

Kristin:  Yeah.  I was pretty much that way toward the end.  Started out modest, and then it just all changed.  So we would love to hear your top five things that you learned.  You can always reach out to us, and maybe that will make some future episode ideas.  But we’re happy to share other advice in Alyssa’s amazing newborn class, and for those who are expecting twins and triplets, we have a multiples class.  And, of course, labor advice is given in HypnoBirthing, and we have the breastfeeding and pumping classes that also give some very helpful tips.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So check out our classes.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Thanks for listening!

Kristin:  These moments are golden.

 

What I Wish I Knew: Podcast Episode #104 Read More »

Alyssa of Gold Coast Doulas sits with a woman on a bed in a child's room

Creating a Safe Sleep Space: Sound Machines

Alyssa Veneklase talks with Lisa Tiedt, Building Biologist and owner of Well Abode, about creating health sanctuaries in our homes.  You can view this video on YouTube.

 

Alyssa:  All right.  Today, I’m here talking to Lisa Tiedt.  She’s a Building Biologist, and, as you know, I’m a sleep consultant, so we’ve partnered a few times to talk about how to best create a sleep space, not just for a newborn but for toddlers, as well.  So tell us what a Building Biologist is.

Lisa:  A Building Biologist is a person that comes into any built environment, which could be a home, an office, a school, and it assesses it for anything that directly impacts the health of the people who live or work within those spaces.  So the type of things that we look at are air quality, reducing manmade electromagnetic fields (EMFs), as well as water quality.

Alyssa:  Okay.  So what do want to talk about today?

Lisa:  So for today, what we really want to do is create a sleep sanctuary for you and your family.  We have taken a look at three things that are typically in a child’s sleep space that really increases the EMFs in that space.  We want to get those as low as possible because those are challenging to the central nervous system, the immune system, the brain, the heart, and all the inner cellular communication because all of those require or rely on frequencies, as well, electrical pulses within the body.

Alyssa:  And as we’ve talked about before, sleep is the time when your body kind of regenerates.  So if you don’t have a safe space for your body to actually rest and regenerate and rejuvenate, then that’s when all of those disruptions happen because they’re being bombarded by all the things we put in the rooms, right?

Lisa:  Yep, that we don’t think about.  Sleep is the absolute most critical time for your body to be in homeostasis.  So you just want your child’s body to be able to naturally do whatever it’s trying to do in terms of rejuvenation and development.

Alyssa:  So a sound machine is one thing that I recommend to every single sleep client.

Lisa:  Yes.

Alyssa:  So we’re going to talk about different sound machines today, and then she actually has her little handy — what do you call that?

Lisa:  It’s a gaussmeter, and it measures AC magnetic fields.  And for a sleep space, you want to be anything less than 0.2 milligauss (mG).

Alyssa:  Okay.  So do you want to get right into it and tell us about —

Lisa:  Let’s get right into it.

Alyssa:  Okay.  I’m going to move this a little bit.

Lisa:  So I have an example of a sound machine here that is particularly high in EMFs and specifically AC magnetic fields.  So first I’m going to turn on the gaussmeter, and it’s at 0.3mG, which is a really good measurement for a sleep space.  Now, this is the Dohm sound machine —

Alyssa:  But didn’t you say we want to 0.2 or lower?

Lisa:  Yes.  So this is kind of coming down here.  We’re at about 0.25mG.  And there’s other things that are happening within the building that’s affecting the sleep space, too, but we’re just going to focus on the sound machine today.

Alyssa:  Okay.

Lisa:  So when we turn this on, you will see that the —

Alyssa:  Whoa.

Lisa:  These Dohm sound machines are particularly high in EMFs.  So this one is measuring at about 900, 920.  920 milligauss!  And we want to be at 0.2.  So the Dohm machines, if you want to create a sleep sanctuary for your child, is not one that I recommend.  If you have one of these, I would actually exchange them for a different model.  I have two examples here that are really low in EMFs.  The first one here is the HoMedics.

Alyssa:  Which is, by the one, the one I recommend to everybody.

Lisa:  Which is — okay.  Great!

Alyssa:  Even before speaking with you!

Lisa:  Oh, excellent!  Excellent.  So we’re totally on the same page.  I’m going to turn this on.  So the milligauss here is 0.15.   So this is just a pristine environment for your daughter, and when I turn the HoMedics sound machine off, it does not increase the field at all.  So this is one that I recommend, and obviously, there is, you know, different sounds that you can do here.  The other one that I recommend is called the LectroFan, and both of these you can get on Amazon.  This one has the same effect as the HoMedics brand, which is essentially nothing, in terms of increasing the AC magnetic field.  The other thing that I like about this one is you can charge it and — it’s portable.  You can take it with you in the stroller or whatever.  So these are just a little bit of a different kind of use case.  But this is just one example of — with a little bit of information, what you can do to help lower the EMFs within your child’s sleep space and help them help their body develop and rejuvenate as it wants to.

Alyssa:  Thank you!

Lisa:  Thank you.

Research 
To learn more about the health impacts of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs) check out the BioInitiative Report. It has a 19 page Summary for the Public & Charts which is the preeminent summary. The full 1,500-page report authored by an international panel of M.D. and Ph. D. scientists and physicians, analyzes +3,800 scientific, peer reviewed studies showing adverse health hazards of electromagnetic radiation, especially with children. Diseases and disorders include cancer, neurological diseases, respiratory diseases, behavioral disorders i.e. ADD and autism, immune dysfunction, Blood-Brain Barrier permeability, reproductive failure & birth defects, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, muscle/joint pain, chronic inflammation and many more.

 

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Positive First Response Pregnancy Test

Signs of Early Pregnancy

This blog is written by Jessica Kupres, BSN, RN, CLC, CBE a Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast.

As you lie in bed thinking about your day and putting your brain to rest, you might think about the great presentation you gave today. Did you put the clothes in the dryer? When was your last period?…. When was my last period? Was it over a month ago? Am I pregnant?!

The best indicator of pregnancy is taking a pregnancy test. Today’s home pregnancy tests can be over 99% accurate, and many can be taken even before you miss your period. You can even get them at the dollar store. But what are the symptoms you might experience that mean you could be pregnant?

Remember that everyone is different, so you might have one, none, all, or a handful of symptoms. Probably the most common first indicator of pregnancy is a missed period. Every month your body prepares for pregnancy by thickening the lining of the uterus, and when no fertilized egg implants into the uterus, the additional lining sheds, and you have your period. This can be a little tricky, though, because 15-25 % of women will have implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is when you have a small amount of bleeding or spotting as the fertilized egg (zygote) implants or anchors itself into the uterine lining. For all three of my pregnancies, I took and had a positive at-home pregnancy test at the start of my “period” which was actually implantation bleeding, and not a period at all.

But let’s say you’re lying in bed, don’t have a pregnancy test at home, and may or may not be spotting. What other symptoms might imply you are pregnant? As soon as your body recognizes you are pregnant, it starts going into overdrive and your hormones quickly shift to prepare for the pregnancy. You might be surprised how quickly your breasts change. They might feel tender or swollen, and you might notice your nipple and areola, which is the area around the nipple, become darker. Surprisingly, this is already in preparation for childbirth, when the darkened nipple and areola become a “bullseye” for baby to easily see and help him or her latch on for breastfeeding!

You might also noticed an increased need to urinate. You might think this is something that comes with a large uterus pushing on your bladder, which it does later in pregnancy, but at this point, your new pregnancy hormones and increased blood supply cause your kidneys to filter more fluid and increase the need to urinate.

You might also notice an increased sense of smell, or changes in food preferences. All of the sudden you may crave a lot of potato chips, and the smell and taste of chicken may send you running to the bathroom, even though chicken was a favorite food before. For me, I have always been a chocoholic, but for the first 14 weeks of my first pregnancy, the thought of chocolate was repulsive to me. And along with food and smell aversions, you may have nausea and/or vomiting. This may or may not be directly linked to food or smells, though. Many women find they get nauseated, or have morning sickness, if they get too hungry in the first trimester. That’s why it was originally associated with the morning… you are probably hungry from not eating all night, so might have morning sickness. A helpful trick might be to have some crackers by the bed, and eat a cracker or two before you move or get out of bed. This may help ease this hunger related morning sickness. Unfortunately for many, though, morning sickness doesn’t just stick to the morning. Some may experience it all day.

In early pregnancy your body is working really hard to get everything set for a healthy pregnancy, and as such, you may feel an overwhelming fatigue. You may also experience increased irrationality, mood changes, headaches, dizziness, or faintness. When this happens, it’s best to sit or even better, lie down, if you are not feeling well. Your body temperature may also increase slightly in early pregnancy, though not high enough to be considered a fever. Some of the less talked about symptoms of early pregnancy may be increased gas, constipation, and a change in vaginal discharge.

Finally, you might notice some insomnia in early pregnancy. Your mind may be racing with all of the questions and excitement pregnancy brings, making it hard to fall asleep. So as you lie there trying to fall asleep, you now have a good list of symptoms you may experience in early pregnancy. And if you are still wondering if you are pregnant, it is probably a good idea to take a home pregnancy test and call your health care provider if it is positive!

Photo: First Response Pregnancy Test

 

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Woman laying in a hospital bed

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

This post was written by Lauren Utter, a ProDoula trained Birth and Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast Doulas.

Finding out you are pregnant can bring an array of emotions – planned pregnancy or not. Maybe you’re excited because you have been waiting for this day. Maybe you are surprised because a baby wasn’t on your radar. Maybe you’re fearful – of what your pregnancy will be like, how you will look, if the baby is going to be okay, or how you’ll feel.

All of these feelings are normal. Being pregnant causes your body to change. Not just a growing belly, but new hormones, cravings, thoughts, and illnesses. 70-80% of women suffer from morning sickness. At least 60,000 cases of extreme morning sickness, also known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), are reported (the number of cases is actually higher as many are treated at home). Perhaps you wonder if this is how all pregnant women feel or is it just you? Or maybe you question your ability to handle nausea and pain. Do you feel as though others minimize how you are actually feeling- giving you tips that you have relentlessly tried?

Morning sickness is difficult to deal with; it’s exhausting and frustrating, but there are many differences between HG and morning sickness. Women with HG lose 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight. Morning sickness doesn’t typically interfere with your ability to eat or drink, whereas HG often causes dehydration from the inability to consume food or drinks. Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, while HG lasts longer – sometimes through the whole pregnancy. A woman with HG is more likely to need medical care to combat symptoms.

HG is often described as debilitating, making everyday activities like working, walking, cooking, eating, or caring for older children hard to do. Not only are women having difficulties eating and drinking, but taking their prenatal vitamins is often difficult, too, which results in a lack of proper nutrition. Because of severe dehydration and insufficient nutrients, headaches, dizziness, some fainting, and decreased urination can present as greater symptoms of HG.

On top of all the physical signs of HG, secondary depression and anxiety may also be present. There are potential complications that arise when HG is present. We talked about malnutrition and dehydration, but some others include neurological disorders, gastrointestinal damage, hypoglycemia, acute renal failure, and coagulopathy (excessive bleeding and bruising). Fortunately, with effective treatment these complications can be managed or even avoided completely.

While there is no cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, there is a variety of treatments including medications and vitamins, therapies (nutritional, physical, infusion), bed rest, alternative medicine, chiropractic care, massages, and more. Not all women and cases respond to treatments in the same way. Caregivers typically believe early intervention, even prevention, is most effective.

Medical providers work with each woman to discuss which treatments work best for them. Common medications offered to women suffering from HG are antihistamines, antireflux, and metoclopramide. Because HG can be traumatic and highly stressful, 20% of mothers experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Early intervention proves to be effective, and your OB/GYN, primary care doctor, or a mental health specialist are fantastic resources for mothers experiencing symptoms of any mood disorder. Along with medical professionals there are many forms of support and resources. There are several Facebook groups of women who are suffering or have suffered from HG. This is a great way to feel supported by knowing you are not alone.

The website Hyperemesis.org is equipped with resources, facts, and blogs from other sufferers and their organization, HelpHer, are leaders in research for HG. The HER Foundation puts on events throughout each year for women and their families to come together.

Another great support system is hiring a doula. Doulas offer support through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Through pregnancy we can be there for bed rest support, informational, and emotional support. We provide you with evidence-based resources, and factual information. With this information, women suffering from HG can self-advocate for proper testing and treatment that best suits their pregnancy journey. During the postpartum time, not only do doulas help with infant and family care, but doulas are trained to notice signs of PMADs and will provide you resources that can assist you through recovery.

Doulas want to see you be successful, confident, comfortable, and healthy. I know I can’t be the only one who pushes aside her feelings, physical and emotional, and says “Oh, I’m fine” or “It’s nothing.” Our bodies are designed to “tell” us when something is wrong. Here is a tip: start logging your symptoms, from a single headache to daily nausea and vomiting. This will help your medical provider reach answers. Trust your body and trust your intuition, strive for testing that you believe is necessary, and find your people.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

 

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Mother holding and kissing her baby

Top 10 New Parent Essentials

Did you notice that this list doesn’t say “Baby Essentials”? Nope, it’s not an error. YOU are the single most essential thing in your baby’s tiny life. While you process all the feels over this game changing reality, I’ve got your back with some advice on essentials that will ease your transition so that you can experience a little more rest, comfort, and peace of mind. 

#10: A comfortable chair and a selection of board books
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this place over the next several years, feeding, snuggling, consoling, reading, and likely sleeping. Start building your collection of books early and add to it often. Your baby will love the sound of your voice, they will love the expressions on your face, and most of all they will love the time spent on your lap, together. Begin cultivating a love of reading and language from the beginning!

#9: Stroller
The sheer number and price range of strollers on the market is staggering. This market reflects the many priorities of consumers. As a Michigan Mama, I often take into consideration the age of the baby when they are born because it determines the need for a car seat system. For example, any baby born around October isn’t going to see too much stroller time before May, so a carseat system isn’t too important and a bassinet, even less important. On the other hand, a baby born in May will need the additional support and a parent will likely enjoy the ease and mobility of a safe travel system.

#8: Baby Bjorn
Sometimes a stroller isn’t ideal; maybe you enjoy trail walking or you simply prefer that intoxicatingly sweet fresh baby smell right under your nose. In that case, consider a Baby Bjorn Carrier.  My 4th child basically lived in this from 6 weeks to 6 months, maybe longer, no one’s judging. Bottom line, get yourself a way to hold a baby while also having the ability to answer the phone, make dinner, or fold a basket of laundry.


#7: CuddleBug Wrap
Similar to the Baby Bjorn, the CuddleBug Wrap allows for close proximity and easy access to kisses, but is considered a soft wrap. This wrap is breathable, yet structured enough so that it provides great support inside or outside. Unsure how to use a soft wrap? No worries, contact Gold Coast for referrals to places where you can learn how to baby wear and sometimes even borrow them for free.

#6: Summer Deluxe Baby Bather
I love running a bath, closing the bathroom door so that all the warmth stays in, and then placing newborns through older babies in this baby bathing seat. Now, if you’re looking for bells and whistles, this seat may not be for you, but I’m a simple gal who likes portability, fast-drying washable mesh, and a fresh smelling baby.

#5: Pacifiers
Sucking is an innately soothing practice for a baby. Why not have one or two on hand to try? My favorite is the MAM, but try not to overthink it.

#4: Swaddle Wraps
I Love the Aden by Aden and Anais 100% cotton wraps for Summer Babies. A tight swaddle gives babies a safe and secure feel, which often lends itself into better sleep. This alone qualifies the wrap as something you should buy several of.

Pro Tip: Some swaddles have zippers on the bottom that allow for easy access to diaper changes and also mean that you don’t have to un-velcro during the night, buy these! 

#3: Black Out Curtains
In order to help shape healthy sleep habits, it’s helpful to be able to make a room pitch black during daytime sleep. Daylight sends a physiological message to our brains to wake up and can impede daytime naps.

#2: White Noise Machine
No, not the kind that has birds chirping or sings lullabies. A low, steady, white noise that has the ability to sound like a dust buster when employed. This single purchase will add hours of sleep to your life and that, my friend, is precious.


#1: (DRUMROLL….) A DOULA!
Doulas are for “that kind” of parent… you know the kind who welcome support, encouragement, peace of mind, rest, and stability during a vulnerable time. Use one and then recommend that your girlfriend, sister, brother, neighbor- use one, too! 

This blog is written by Jen R., a local doula in the Grand Rapids area.
Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. 

 

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Stylish scandinavian newborn baby room with toys, children's chair, natural basket with teddy bear and small shelf. Modern interior with grey background walls, wooden parquet and stars pattern.

Planning a Nursery During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Today’s guest blog is written by Isabella Caprario, Content Marketing Specialist at Porch.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all feel uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen or what steps to take next. We only know that the best way to end this madness is to sit at home and take all the necessary precautions to be able to take care of ourselves and our family. Stay home and stay safe.

Being quarantined can feel a bit overwhelming. We may feel stressed or anxious about being locked up in our homes, but it definitely doesn’t have to be that way! We must focus on the positive. I firmly believe that we will become better humans, more responsible with our environment, and above all think more about others than ourselves.

For future parents that still have to continue planning a nursery for their baby during this pandemic, there is no need to panic or worry! In this post, I will give some tips, recommendations, and activities to create the perfect nursery for your needs and those of your baby.

Where to start:
At this point, surely you already have defined the place, space, and distribution of what the nursery room will be like; and if not, the first thing that we should consider is, what is the space/place that would be most suitable for the baby?

To answer this question, the most important things to take into account are the following:

  • A place/room that is close to yours and is easily accessible.
  • The room has enough light during the day, can be darkened for naps and bedtime, and is isolated from any type of noise that may scare or awaken the baby.
  • It must have the right temperature for the baby to feel comfortable and safe in his/her new space.
  • It has to be a pleasant and comfortable space for parents as well.
  • The room must have the necessary space to have everything that the baby requires, such as a crib, a diaper station/changing station, chair for feeding, and a space to accommodate clothing.

Once we have defined the most appropriate place for your baby, we go to the next step which would be to choose a theme, if you wish. This allows you to purchase accessories and decorate the nursery based on that theme.

Getting started:
The best place to get creative ideas is Pinterest. Here you can find color designs and everything you need for your nursery. If you do not already have an account, I recommend you get one so you are able to create a board and save all the ideas that you like the most.

Tip1: “Less is more”. Go for a minimalist look since it helps to make a room seem wider, cleaner, and more organized. It will help you save money and look more luxurious at the same time.

Taking into account how we want to distribute the nursery, colors, furniture, and accessories, we can start planning online purchases.

Choosing the right furniture:
Since we currently can’t leave our homes during the pandemic, luckily, we can still shop for the furniture and accessories that we need. Online stores are still open and many are offering sales!

First of all, we must create a list of our favorite online stores. Creating this list will help us to make a comparison of prices and items between stores. Once this comparison is made, we can remove from the list those stores that have very high prices, those that do not offer a wide variety of products, or those that are lower quality.  It is up to you how you prefer to discard possible online stores.

Tip 2: Use an excel spreadsheet to organize your options. Write down the description of the product, where you found it (online store link), delivery time, delivery cost, how many units are available (enough stock), and price. This planning will help you with budget reduction and delivery time frame.

Also, keep in mind that some online stores will guide you when choosing furniture and accessories and can create a package with discounts and other extra benefits that will help you save money if you place your order in advance.

Get ready for some DIY Projects:
There is no more perfect time than now for some DIY projects at home. A DIY project can be quite therapeutic and will also keep you occupied throughout the day. Your mental health will thank you.  You can exploit your creativity and forget for a moment about what’s happening outside. It can also help you relax and feel productive.

Some DIY ideas to try:

  • Baby blanket arm knitting tutorial. This so much fun and easy to do at home. You will find tutorials on Youtube and Pinterest.
  • Nursery name sign. You can show how creative you are with this activity.
  • Make a nursery mobile. Here you can find different materials you would like to use, like paper, or glitter, etc.

Tip 3: Keep in mind that you should look for DIY projects that you can make at home with the things that you already have. Do not do very large projects that might make you feel overwhelmed because you lack the necessary materials or it’s simply not coming out as you would like.

Planning your nursery is a very fun and relaxing activity, despite being in a difficult situation. It’s better to smile and spread that happiness and positivity to your family and your baby on the way.

Isabella Caprario is a SEO Marketing Specialist and does Content Marketing at Porch. She has an International MBA, and her hobbies are reading, writing, and music. 

 

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A new mom and dad pose in a hospital room with their newborn baby

Virtual Birth Support: Podcast Episode #95

Sam & Justin recently had their baby boy, Judah, in the hospital in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  They describe their experience in the hospital as well as how beneficial birth doula support was throughout pregnancy and then during labor and delivery, even though support was virtual instead of in-person.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

 

Alyssa:   Hi, welcomes to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast, and today I’m talking to Samantha and Justin, who recently had a baby at a hospital in this midst of this Coronavirus pandemic.  We’re going to talk to you about what that was like.  Gold Coast is not attending births after Governor Whitmer’s declaration that we have to stay at home, and we don’t know when the order will be lifted.  So we kind of just wanted to get a sense of what it was like for you two to go through this whole process.  How far along were you when you hired us?

Samantha:  Pretty early when we found out.  We knew when we were trying to get pregnant that having a doula was something that was really important to us, as well as a midwife and just trying to go that more natural route.  So the minute we found out we were pregnant, it was kind of getting things in plan.  So I would say after the first trimester after we kind of told everybody.

Alyssa:  So you hired pretty early, and that was before all this crazy virus stuff happened.  And you worked with Kristin and Ashley as your birth doula team.  Even before all this stuff happened, what did support look like through the majority of your pregnancy?

Samantha:  It was wonderful.  Being a first time mom, obviously, you have a ton of questions, and I just didn’t want to be the person to be blowing up my midwife all the time, plus it’s hard to get ahold of them.  Our midwife was through Spectrum, so obviously you can’t just pick up the phone and call her.  It’s not as easy.  So being able to have a team of doulas that, any question I had from — I had artisan cheese one day and freaked out thinking I did something wrong.  So to be able to text them things like that and just have that reassurance all the time was awesome, as well as after every appointment, they wanted updates on what’s going on with baby, so it was just that extra support and knowing that they’re there no matter how stupid the question was.

Alyssa:  Well, and as a first time mom, I think we feel like all of our questions are stupid.  Oh, I hear the baby!  Hi, Judah!  So, yeah, obviously, because of this, we’re on speakerphone, and they’re at home and I’m at my home because nobody can go into work.  You guys are quarantined at home with the baby, which is probably kind of a blessing in disguise, maybe.  You can actually kind of hunker down and just focus on bonding and feeding and all these great things without visitors.  But like you said, Grandma comes over and she can’t see the baby!  That’s so hard.

Justin:  It’s been a blessing for dads, I think, especially because I would have had to go back to work today.  I am working, but it’s from home and it’s slower, and I’ve got some time to help support Sam and build my relationship with Judah, too, so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for — I mean, it sucks, but it’s been nice.

Samantha:  And as a new mom, you’re hunkered down.  I mean, I was planning on not leaving my house for a month, anyway, so it’s kind of nice, especially during this quarantine time, because you’re quarantined anyway with a newborn, so it gives you something to do and keep occupied with.

Alyssa:  Right.  Well, and focus on the positive, right?  Like, there’s so many negatives that we can be focusing on, but you’re stuck at home with a newborn baby.  Boohoo, right?  This is what you’ve been looking forward to for nine months!

Samantha:  Exactly, exactly.

Alyssa:  So your support during pregnancy really would have been the same, Coronavirus or not, because it’s a lot of text and phone calls and emails, right?  It’s all virtual, anyway?

Samantha:  Yeah.  Yeah, that wouldn’t have changed, and like I said, they were available pretty much 24/7, so it was just nice to always have them in our back pocket when we needed them.

Alyssa:  Right.  Tell me about the labor, then.  What happened when you were at home, and how did that support, the actual virtual support after finding out that your doulas can’t support you in person, how did virtual support look then once labor began?

Samantha:  So we came up with a plan that we would utilize anything that we needed.  If we needed to do a video chat, we had my laptop ready to go to bring to the hospital.  But once labor started, we kind of — before I went into labor, we talked over, you know, what are the signs, when we should contact them, how long I wanted to labor at home; all that stuff that we would have done anyway if it was just normal circumstances.  So when I went into labor, it was the middle of the night, of course, and we texted both of them and ended up calling Kristin.  She was the one who answered, and we told her how far apart the contractions were.  She could hear, you know, how I sounded and could tell that they were ramping up.  You know, you can just — moms — everybody says moms have the telltale sign of when contractions aren’t a joke anymore.  So, yeah, she said, yep, sounds like you’re really getting in the swing of labor.  She told me to get something to eat before I went to the hospital and kind of gave us some tips before we — as Justin was packing the bag and getting our bags in the car, some tips I could do before we headed out the door.  And so we did that and then headed to the hospital, and from the moment we got there in triage, I had a couple — well, of course, birth is always unexpected, but I had a couple things come up that I wasn’t expecting to happen.  So from the moment we were in triage, we were in constant contact with Kristin and Ashley, whether it was me or — it was actually mostly Justin.

Justin:  Yeah.  I actually took — like, I would step out of the room a few times just to call her.  There was just a couple moments there when we were down in triage where she was uncomfortable, and the room is a little small.  It was hard to get into that calm state of mind that we were looking for.  So without trying to stress Sam out, I stepped out of the room and just called Kristin.  I was, like,  hey, you know, what are some things I could try to, you know, bring her back into this calm state of mind that we’ve been working on forever.  It was great.  She gave us some positions to try, some things to talk to the nurses about.  Like, she knew there was a tub down in the triage area, so she said to go ask them to use the tub.  So it was good to have them just there — just any questions we had, just to call real quick.

Samantha:  Yeah.  And we had a couple unexpected things, because I wanted to labor naturally, but we had some issues.  I had a LEEP procedure a couple months ago.  Well, not a couple months ago; about a year ago, but that caused some scar tissue that made my labor really difficult.  So we had to have the conversation of having an epidural because my labor was so erratic and my body was under a lot of stress.  So that decision we talked over with the doulas.  And then having Pitocin brought in, which was also something that was on our “absolute no” list, but it was nice to be able to call Kristin.  Spectrum was wonderful, too.  I mean, the nurses and midwives were great as far as giving us all the information we needed and then giving us time to talk it over.  But having Kristin there to be able to call and say, here’s what they’re telling us, here’s what we’re thinking — to have that reassurance from them was huge, especially because our birth plan changed so much, and it was upsetting for me, especially.

Alyssa:  Right.  That’s hard when we get into this mindset of, like, here’s my plan and I’m going to stick to it, and baby or your body says otherwise.  To have an expert to ask those questions and give feedback that’s not — and I think that’s one thing a lot of people thing, that doulas are there to tell you what to do.  It’s more about asking you the right questions so you can figure out what’s right for you.

Justin:  Just having that — just having that information so that we can make our own decision.  Just having them giving us all the proper information we knew everything that was at stake and we could make a better, informed decision.  It was a huge help.

Alyssa:  Right.  Knowledge is power in this instance, for sure.

Samantha:  Yeah, and even the positions.  Once I did get the epidural and Pitocin, we still wanted to do a really low dose of Pitocin to try to have my body naturally ramp up contractions, so Ashley and Kristin sent us a bunch of pictures of positions we could try.  They were always available for Facetiming and virtual, as well, but we never needed to.  But to have that in the back pocket was comforting, as well, that if we needed to virtually see them face to face, knowing that we could do that was very comforting for me, especially.

Alyssa:  So once you actually moved from triage to the labor and delivery room, you said you didn’t actually have to use Facetime or anything.  Was it more of you, Justin, were in contact with them because Sam was in active labor?

Justin:  Yeah.  It was a lot of text messages and a few phone calls.  If it was something we wanted to all talk out together, we’d call, or if it was just a quick question, I’d just shoot them a message real quick.

Samantha:  And I definitely think if I didn’t need — if I wouldn’t have had the epidural, we definitely would have utilized Ashley and utilized some of our HypnoBirthing techniques to help me get through labor and probably would have used virtual face to face more, but just because things moved so fast as far as me needing some intervention, it again changed our plan as far as utilizing the doulas a little bit differently.  But, yeah, it was constant contact throughout the whole labor process, and it was actually nice after I did get the epidural.  I was able to then talk to them and tell them what’s going on and what kind of positions I can try and different things like that.  So the plan changed a little bit, but staying in constant contact with them didn’t.  It was pretty consistent throughout the whole labor process.

Alyssa:  And what about when you got to the point where you were ready to push?  Was there anything they could do to support you during that time?

Samantha:  Well, we planned on having them Facetime for that, but my pushing went very quickly.  I only pushed for about 30 minutes, and we didn’t even — when we started, it was — we texted them saying, oh, they want us to do some practice pushes, and 30 minutes later, we were messaging them saying, well, baby’s here!  So, yeah, we had the whole plan set up for them to help — especially because I had an epidural, they were really going to help me try to breathe baby down, which is what we ended up doing, but to have them face to face so they could see what was going on.  But it just ended up happening so fast that we weren’t able to do that.  But after baby came, we were in contact with them, telling them his birth weight and all that stuff, and once we got up to the room, letting them know how latching was going as far as breastfeeding.  So it was just the best experience possible, especially because I was so devastated, you know, being nine months pregnant and all this emotional — that’s emotional in itself, and then to find out your birth plan is completely blown to smithereens…

Justin:  Two weeks before we even go to the hospital.

Samantha:  Yeah, two weeks before the hospital.  It was just terrifying, but to have them there in that virtual sense was everything because it would have been a very different experience if we weren’t able to have them at all, that’s for sure.

Alyssa:  So let’s say a couple just found out they’re pregnant, and they knew they wanted a doula, like you, but then they have this worry.  They’re going to do the hospital birth; they want a doula, but the doula may or may not be able to be there.  What would you say to a family who’s kind of on the fence about hiring a doula because of the current situation?

Samantha:  I would say, hire.  Hire a doula because, yeah, the situation has changed, but I think even more in this time, you need that extra support more than ever, especially because, in my circumstance, my midwife wasn’t even able to be there.  I had a totally different team because of the way they split up her team, so not only is your birth plan changed, but then my midwife who I’ve been seeing for the last nine months wasn’t able to be there.  So just to have that team, that constant contact, still stay the same even though they’re not there in person, was just a huge comfort and relief for me.  And especially for Justin.

Justin:  I was going to say, for the fathers-to-be out there, I think it’s even more important for them.  We went through a lot of the classes and stuff, and we had good knowledge going in, but you get in the heat of the situation, and you know, her surges and contractions were starting to really hurt her, and I didn’t know what to do in that situation.  So we had this whole plan, and I was doing my best to stick to this plan, and when you get thrown that curve ball, having someone to turn to and just get that reassurance.  I might have made the right decision in that situation, but just to have them say, “Yeah, you did,” or, you know, this is — “Yeah, you did do a good job there.  This is what’s going to happen.  Here’s the outcome.”  Just having that extra sense of security in this very unsecure time is a huge benefit.  Even though they’re not there, it was almost like they were, and it was very helpful, especially for the dads that sometimes might feel a little lost.

Alyssa:  Right, which usually, most of them, I feel like, they do probably feel a little bit lost.

Justin:  Especially the first time.

Samantha:  Yeah, and it takes the pressure off, too, you know, just because I’m telling him one thing, and he’s trying to say, you know, it’s going to be okay, but for him to then reach out to the doulas and say, you know, here’s what’s going on, and for them to not only give me reassurance but him was a game changer, for sure.

Alyssa:  And like you said, you’ve built a rapport with them throughout your pregnancy.  I didn’t know that your midwife couldn’t be there either!  So without your doulas, you would have not had your midwife either, and you would have literally been in a hospital with a bunch of nurses who you’ve never met, and that was it.

Justin:  Right.  Exactly.

Samantha:  And thankfully, we had an amazing team.  Our nurses and midwives that we ended up getting were amazing.  But also, you’re going — it’s your first time.  You’re laboring.  It’s new.  And then you have a whole bunch of strangers, so you’re throwing that mix in it.  So having the doulas there that we’ve had throughout the whole pregnancy, virtually, even though they couldn’t be there, was such a comfort because it just — you had somebody to turn to that you know.

Justin:  One more thing, too, is the hospital — I don’t know about other hospitals in the area, but Spectrum — it was like a fortress.  It was so clean and locked down in there.  We kind of forgot this whole thing we even going on until we left.  I mean, I went down in the cafeteria a few times, and every time I went down there, a whole different section was being completely pulled out and cleaned.  There was no visitors walking around.  There was no one walking around.  I mean, it really did feel like a fortress.  Even getting into the building, we had to go through a couple security checkpoints, so if anyone was worried about the hospital part of it, I think that especially Spectrum, that I know of, I think they’re doing a very good job of keeping everything separated, and the sections of the hospital that need to be cleaned and all that.

Alyssa:  That’s a good point.  For those who maybe have that as a main point of fear for them, delivering in the hospital, they’re doing everything right.  I mean, they obviously want to keep their patients safe and healthy.  It’s got to be weird to walk through that hospital and hardly see anybody because there’s no visitors.

Samantha:  It was weird pulling up because they have the whole security detail, and it was, like, “Why are you here?  What’s going on?”  It was very weird, but like Justin said, it ended up — I almost was sad to leave, just because you’re in this clean, sterile bubble, and like I said, we almost forgot about this whole Corona thing because you’re in — you are — you end up being in the bliss of having your baby, even though it’s such a scary time.  But having — you know, right after he was born, we talked with Ashley and Kristin, and then it was just kind of that blissful — we went up to the room, and they’re doing a very good job.  Obviously, things change, but I think they have it pretty locked down.

Alyssa:  That’s great.

Justin:  They’re definitely out in front of it.

Alyssa:  So then you guys go home, and usually, they do a postpartum visit, but I’m assuming they did that virtually, as well.

Samantha:  Yes.

Alyssa:  Did you have that already?

Samantha:  We did.  From the moment we got home, too, we were in constant contact with them, from them asking how he was sleeping.  I had a couple questions just as far as my recovery and what I could do for comfort as far as that goes, just because as a new mom, you just don’t really expect the discomfort.  I kept thinking, you know, I didn’t have stitches or anything like that, so I thought, oh, I’m going to be good, but you don’t realize what you’ve put your body through.  So it was just nice to have them there so I could say, I’m feeling — you know, what can I do about this pressure that I’m feeling?  I’m having some pain and discomfort here.  To have that support on the postpartum aspect, because, you know, this whole time leading up to the birth, you’re thinking pregnancy and delivery and labor and all that, but postpartum support is also huge, and they really, really helped with that, giving me ideas and tips of helping my milk supply come in.  It was just — they’ve been wonderful.  And we just had our virtual visit with them face to face, and that was great to be able to see them.  They could see the baby.  And then to tell them the birth story, since they weren’t there — I mean, they were there, but they weren’t.

Alyssa:  They got bits and pieces but finally got to hear the whole thing.  That’s great.  Well, is there anything else that you wanted to add or that you think other parents should know?

Samantha:  I just think if you’re on the fence, I mean, nothing — I had this whole — I thought I planned for even the most unexpected in pregnancy, and I definitely didn’t because pregnancy can change in an instant.  But I think that’s why even more now in these times to have that extra support and to have a doula because we plan on having another child, and I’ve already said to them — I said, well, hopefully you guys will be there in person for our next baby!  But I couldn’t imagine going through labor and birth and even through pregnancy and postpartum without having a doula and support, and I think Justin feels the same way.

Justin:  Absolutely.

Samantha:  It’s like having your best friends to be able to talk to, and it’s such a comfort, especially —

Justin:  But a best friend who’s also very knowledgeable!

Alyssa:  Your best friend who’s knowledgeable and judgment-free and can give you all the best support.

Samantha:  Yeah.  And especially because my birth plan changed so much in the sense of having to have interventions, which I didn’t think I was going to, so that was even more unexpected, and to be able to — you know, you’re in the rush of the moment, and I was really upset, and, you know, you get down on yourself as a new mom thinking you’re failing in some aspect.  To be able to have them — obviously, Justin can sit there and tell me all day that I’m doing the right thing, but to have somebody else who’s not only gone through that experience but seen other women and giving me advice and telling me what I’m doing and the decisions I’m making are right for me and my baby was such a relief and such a comfort because it’s such an emotional time, and when things aren’t going already as planned, and then you throw in more wrenches into the mix, it can overwhelming.  So to have them as support was just everything to me.

Alyssa:  Thank you so much for sharing!  I wish that I could see little Judah, too.

Samantha:  I know!  I know.

Alyssa:  It’s really hard!  But, yeah, focus on bonding with that little guy.  How’s breastfeeding and everything going?

Samantha:  Breastfeeding is going good.  We’ve had to supplement a little just because he’s such a peanut, but, again, they’ve helped with that, as well, just because that can be hard as a mom.  You know, you think, oh, breastfeeding is going to be this simple thing, and it’s hard.  Being able to talk it over with people — they’ve given me some great articles, and I had a virtual meetup with some new moms that Kristin suggested, a team that I should join in on, and that was really helpful.  I got some great tips from that, and to not only see new moms who delivered around the same time as I had, and that was all virtual and really cool to be able to hear from them.  You know, they might not be going through the same issues as I am, but to hear they’re also having questions and not knowing what to do was really reassuring because you can get stuck in this loop of, why is this not working for me?  What am I doing wrong?  Why is it so easy for everybody else?  And you don’t realize other moms have, you know, if not the same issues, then different issues.  It’s all different for each person.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s not easy for everybody else.  It just seems like it is.

Samantha:  It does, and it’s easy to get down on yourself and think, oh, you know, woe is me, why is it not working for me?  But to be able to have not only doulas but then give me other resources to be able to reach out to was also great, as well.

Alyssa:  That’s awesome.  Thank you for taking the time to share your story!

Samantha:  Of course!  Thank you

 

Virtual Birth Support: Podcast Episode #95 Read More »

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 Reduce Your Risk!

 

Reduce Your Risk by Megan Mouser, NP.
March 31, 2020

STATISTICS COVID-19
With statistics regarding the novel coronavirus changing daily (and even hourly), the most up-to-date information can come from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control. To date, at the time of this publication, there have been over 163,000 cases in the U.S. alone with over 2,860 deaths. Michigan appears to be an emerging epicenter for COVID-19, making our efforts to reduce the spread of this virus even more emergent.

WHAT ARE WE SEEING? WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
Locally we are beginning to see an increase in cases. Today there are 108 presumed positive tests with 119 tests pending. You can find local updates for Kent County on the Access Kent website.

With coronavirus being a new (novel) virus, very little is known about best practices. This is why you are seeing information and decisions varying day to day. The clinical picture for those suffering from this virus can range dramatically from very mild symptoms (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe illness resulting in death. Current treatment options are fairly limited, however new therapies and studies are emerging. Even with recovery from the illness, long-term consequences are possible. Coronavirus is also very easily transmitted, even without an individual ever presenting with symptoms. This is why socially distancing and practicing preventative measures is so important! In regards to healthcare resources here in West Michigan, we are preparing for a large influx of possible patients from this virus which will put a strain on our healthcare resources if we do not slow the spread. We are already beginning to see this in the metro Detroit area.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
We cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (if not available, use hand sanitizer with at least a 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol content), covering your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your face, cleaning “high touch” surfaces daily, limiting your contact to only people in your household, and practicing social distancing by remaining at least 6 feet apart from anyone else if you absolutely must go out.

I also think it is important to recognize that this is a very stressful time for many of us and it is important for our overall health to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves including getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, eating a nutritious and healthy diet, getting out for some fresh air (while maintaining social distance), reaching out to our support systems, and allowing yourself some “slack” regarding loss of control and frustrations.

In regards to specific populations, this virus does pose a higher risk to people who are older or have other serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. Women who are pregnant are also considered at increased risk, however to date limited data is available regarding this illness during pregnancy. Coronavirus has not been shown to cross into amniotic fluid or into breastmilk at this time. However, if a pregnant woman became ill with the virus, additional precautions would certainly need to be taken at the guidance of your healthcare team. While on the topic of pregnancy, we can rest assured that healthcare providers and hospital staff are working diligently to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19. While locally there has been visitor restrictions in place at the hospitals, your support person (as long as healthy) will be able to support you through delivery and hospitalization at this time.

Infants are also considered to be more at risk for not only COVID-19, but illness in general due to underdeveloped immune systems at birth. I would encourage all new parents to continue to practice not only standard precautions (including hand washing, cleaning surfaces, avoiding sick contacts, etc.) but also to continue to restrict visitors to the home after delivery to only members of the household. While this is certainly a time to celebrate your new addition, our primary goal is a healthy baby and family!

As for older children and teenagers, we know that this is very challenging time with the cancellation of schools or daycares and changes to routines and schedules. The risks for these age groups from coronavirus continues to be present, therefore as difficult as it can be to enforce and practice social distancing, it is imperative for parents to not only model this behavior but to also help our children understand why this is necessary. In a time of uncertainty, parents can continue to lessen anxiety in children by discussing together as a family, remaining calm, and continuing to offer love and support.

As a community we all share responsibility to continue efforts to reduce the significant risk from COVID-19!

Reputable Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 
World Health Organization

Megan Mouser is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner serving the Grand Rapids area since 2014.  Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing through Northern Michigan University and went on to obtain her Masters of Science in Nursing through Michigan State University.  She has over a decade of experience working with infants and children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and most recently seeing both adults and children in her outpatient family practice office. She also volunteers her time teaching graduate students as an adjunct clinical faculty member with Michigan State University School of Nursing’s graduate program.  Megan is passionate about preventative medicine and creating strong relationships with her patients and families in order to provide personalized, high-quality healthcare. Megan resides in Grand Rapids with her husband Matt and two golden doodle rescues “Max” and “Marty”. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, being in nature, cooking, and gardening.

 

COVID-19 Reduce Your Risk! Read More »

MJ wooden letters with a picture of two embryos

A Journey Unlike Any Other

To all of the couples who have had retrievals, transfers, and IVF schedules postponed or affected by the Corona virus outbreak my heart breaks for you. IVF is no small or easy journey; it takes a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical state. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It’s expensive and stressful. It’s all the feels at once every single day.

My journey with the Fertility Center of West Michigan began after my son was born. I suffer from secondary infertility. My son was conceived naturally and born in May of 2012. I began doing hormone therapy to conceive again a year after he was born. Unfortunately every pregnancy I had resulted in a miscarriage. We did several months of hormone therapy and endured four miscarriages. Unfortunately we never made it to IVF, instead my then husband and I divorced in 2016. I remarried in 2018 and in January of 2019 my Husband, Matt, and I began working with the Fertility Center again doing the hormone therapy for 6-months, which again resulted in another miscarriage. It was time to step up our game.

After taking a break in April of 2019, Matt and I decided to travel and take some time away from the constant thought of trying to get pregnant. It had become a chore and that can be so hard on a marriage. When December rolled around we decided to get on the IVF list and signed up for March of 2020. During this wait I began doing something for myself, I started taking a close look at my own health and began to prepare my body for pregnancy. Starting IVF at 35 years old made me a senior citizen in this setting. My body had changed immensely since my first pregnancy. So I began working with my coworkers at Grand Rapids Natural Health to address my thyroid and hormone issues as well as my food sensitivities and stress. I began weekly acupuncture sessions that I planned to do all the way through IVF and into pregnancy. I was working out to build my body’s strength to carry a baby and to create healthy habits I could continue into my pregnancy. I also began sharing my journey with the world via Instagram.

Sharing my journey was very important to me. Working in the health industry I notice too often that these sensitive topics are not spoken about enough and I wanted to share my story in hopes that my own vulnerability might help others along their journey. I wanted to empower women to talk about their pain, their loss, and their sadness instead of hiding it from the world. I found once I started to share my journey that there were so many others like me out there. I didn’t feel that I was carrying that burden alone anymore which was incredibly comforting.

When February arrived they started me on birth control. During this time we did our mock transfer and Endosee. I was thankful for the mock transfer because it calmed my nerves and answered a lot of my questions in regards to how the procedure worked. Since I have undiagnosed infertility an Endosee was performed to make sure that my uterus looked healthy and had no underlying problems that may prevent me from getting pregnant. We then met with Dr. Young and our nurse who walked us through every detail of our care during this process. Since my problems weren’t about getting pregnant, but more about keeping a pregnancy, our plan was a little different than what they were use to seeing. They decided, because of my age and history of miscarriages, that they would transfer two embryos. Our chances of twins are now much higher since twins are on both sides of our family, my age, this being my second pregnancy, and because we are transferring two embryos. As scary as that sounded we took our chances and agreed to the two embryo transfer. From there we waited for my period.

During our wait I began getting myself organized, ordering medications, supplements, syringes and needles for injections, and sharps containers, all of which were provided by our pharmacy. I found so many wonderful resources along the way to help me organize and reduce the stress of injections. My favorite was My Vitro. My Vitro is a small business that have created organizational items that help make the process of IVF a bit smoother. I was so thankful for their Caddy and mat. It helped me organize everything I needed everyday in one place. They also offered the gel hot cold pads to use before and after injections to ease the pain of the needle pokes. They were a great resource for support since they were a couple who had also been through the IVF journey and created products they wish they had had when they were going through it.

When February 28th arrived I began my injections. I started with two evening injections. The Follistem and Menopur injections were used to increase the number of follicles and to help with the quality of the eggs. I did these every night between the hours of 6pm and 8pm in the belly, until I was instructed to stop using them on day 10. Alongside these injections I had blood work and Ultrasounds every other day to measure my progress and determine exactly when I would be ready for my trigger shot and retrieval. On day six of my cycle we introduced an injection of Cetrotide, which was also administered in the belly daily in the morning hours between 6am and 10am. Cetrotide inhibits the premature LH surge to prevent ovulation from occurring while the follicles are maturing. By March 6th my ultrasounds and blood work had become a daily routine instead of every other day. By March 7th I was done with my Follistem & Menopur injections, and by March 8th I took my last injection of Cetrotide and was instructed to take my trigger shot. The trigger shots consisted of two injections, hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadatropin) and Lupron, one in the belly and one in the muscle of the upper thigh. These two injections were used to trigger ovulation, help the eggs to mature, and make it easier to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries.

Monday, March 9th I had my last ultrasound and no injections that day which I was so thrilled about because I had a really hard time with the injections making me physically ill, causing migraines and vomiting. Everyone reacts differently to the medications and they all have different side effects. Some women don’t have any trouble with the medication, others do and that was just how my body reacted to them. Our retrieval was scheduled for the morning of March 10th and we were ready to rock. The procedure went beautifully with the successful extraction of nine eggs. Three of the nine were immature; six were mature and ready for fertilization. We did a two-day fertilization process and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), a technique for in vitro fertilization in which an individual sperm cell is introduced into an egg cell. We were thrilled to hear they all fertilized beautifully.

Thursday, March 12th was our transfer date and our two little embabies transferred smoothly. After our transfer we would continue injections of Progesterone up to the day of our pregnancy test. If we were not pregnant we would stop taking the progesterone. If we were pregnant we would continue injections for 11-weeks in the muscle of the upper booty. Progesterone is the hormone that is needed to maintain the lining of the uterus and to help support a pregnancy. Now it was time to go home, rest and wait.

After our transfer was complete, our 2-week wait had begun but I had never anticipated what would happen next. That Friday morning, I woke up to the school closings due to the Corona Virus. Our State was gearing up to take action against the spread of this deadly virus that seemed to be doubling in cases overnight. By Monday morning I read with tears in my eyes a message from the Fertility Center of West Michigan that they were suspending initiation of new treatment cycles and strongly recommended patients consider canceling upcoming embryo transfers due to lack of data on the risk if pregnancy complications when COVID-19 is acquired during first or early second trimester of pregnancy. My heart sank. I was terrified for my embabies who just days earlier were tucked into my uterus, and devastated for all the mamas out there that I had met and connected with along my journey. They had supported me every step of the way, they had become sisters and friends throughout this time and now in an instant their worlds, hopes, and dreams came crashing down.

The same day that we were informed that the Fertility Center would be postponing future cycles and transfers, we found out we were pregnant. It was a bittersweet experience at first but I have decided to make it the light that has come out of these dark times. People are dying, losing jobs, and unable to hug loved ones but through it all I was able to finally create life amongst all the turmoil and that is the most beautiful thing in the world. I am taking this time at home and resting, accepting this time as an opportunity to bond with my son before he has to share me with another baby and that is such a gift. I am taking care of my mental, emotional, and physical health and working hard to create a healthy environment to grow a baby in. April 7th is our first ultrasound and my husband will not be allowed to attend it with me to keep down the amount of exposure at the clinic. As disappointing as that is, I am thankful that they are taking these precautions and count my blessings everyday that we have even made it this far because I know so many would love to be in our shoes.

So I ask you to be gentle with yourself, be forgiving, and be kind. Allow yourself to break down and cry, you have earned it. But also be strong, be safe, and be vigilant because your time will come. Take this time if you are able to show yourself some self-care. Eat healthy, exercise, and brain dump into a journal so you can sleep soundly at night. Reach out to me, or a friend along the way, when the days get hard because you are not alone and your story needs to be heard so that others do not feel alone in this time of isolation.

Jen Smits is the Office Manager at Grand Rapids Natural Health.

 

A Journey Unlike Any Other Read More »

Alyssa Veneklase and Kristin Revere sit in an office while podcasting together

Coronavirus Update on Doulas: Podcast Episode #94

Kristin and Alyssa, Co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, give an update on doulas and the coronavirus.  How is this affecting birth doulas in the hospital and postpartum doulas in the home?  They also talk about virtual classes such as Mama Natural Online to help new parents stay prepared while social distancing.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas.  You are here with Alyssa and Kristin, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about the coronavirus.  I’m going to let Kristin do most of the talking just to kind of update our friends and clients on the current status.

Kristin:  Yes!  So we are happy to share the protocol within Gold Coast on how we are keeping our doula team, our childbirth educators, and our clients healthy.  We are recording this on March 17th, so things are changing daily, and by the time you listen to this, the information that we’re giving you may be a bit different.  But we did want to respond quickly and have notified all of our clients about our safety protocols.  With birth doula clients, we are doing all our prenatal, our free consultations, and our postpartum meetings virtually.  So our clients now know that they are talking to teams by phone or Zoom meetings or Facetime, whatever the preferred method is.  We’re still giving you that same time and attention; just keeping you safe and healthy during this critical time.

We had been working with area hospital administrators and with the governor’s office to make sure that we were able to support our clients in person, and again, this may change by the time you’re listening to this, but we had a day yesterday where we were told birth doulas would not be able to support in the hospital.  So we contacted all of our clients and made a plan to support in the home before and support virtually in the hospital.  Through work with the governor’s office and area administrators, we were able to obtain entry into area hospitals.  So starting today, that is not an issue.  With the executive order from the governor’s office, a partner and a doula are allowed to admit into area hospitals.  There will be a health screening, and we’re going through credentialing processes with every hospital having different requirements, but we plan to support our clients.  This is as of today, and again, if the outbreak continues, we may need to rely on virtual support.  Because Gold Coast has a big team of birth doulas, we will monitor symptoms of coronavirus and the flu, as we have always done, to assure that a healthy doula will be attending the birth.  We’ll be doing the best we can to isolate our team.  We’re staying home with our families.  We’re not going out into the public unless we need to get provisions.  Going from there to ensure that we’re able to support our clients during this time when they need the emotional and physical support of doulas now more than any time.

Alyssa, I know that in postpartum support, we have made some accommodations as well, and part of that is some of our clients had contracts that were about to expire, and we’ve talked to them about delaying support, and with our postpartum doulas, who our clients want us in the home, we are of course making sure that the doulas are healthy.  We’re using sanitization methods.  If we’re doing cleaning, we’re cleaning doorknobs and handles at our clients’ homes.  We’re coming in with clean clothing, taking our shoes off, as we always do, and using whatever precautions our clients want us to in their home with caring for baby and caring for the mother.  And, again, with our postpartum doula team, we have a lot of doulas.  So if a doula has any symptoms of coronavirus or the flu or even a cold, we are sending in a healthy doula to replace the scheduled doula.  Do you have anything to add to that?

Alyssa:  No.  I mean, nothing’s really changed in that regard.  All of our clients get that same kind of care.  It’s just extra — I guess maybe an extra added step at this point.

Kristin:  And as a sleep expert, part of what we do as postpartum doulas, both daytime and overnight, is allow our clients to rest.  Now, with your sleep certification, I know you focus on newborns and toddlers and so on, but let’s talk a bit about the importance during this time to keep your immune system strong and getting sleep for families.

Alyssa:  Yeah, the problem with sleep deprivation is your immune system starts to decline, and more than ever right now, it’s important to keep your immune systems healthy.  So that means still going outside and getting fresh air, getting exercise.  But you also need sleep.  And with a newborn and/or a toddler at home, that can really be trying.  So the beauty of my sleep consultations is that I don’t need to do it in person.  We can do it via phone and text.  So if that is an issue, you can call me still for that.  But regardless, you just have to focus on sleep.  You have to get your required amount of sleep, and your kids need to be going to bed on time.  I know this feels like a big vacation for them, but you need to have a set bedtime and awake time.  I mean, if we’re going to be in this situation for three to six weeks, they are going to become sleep deprived.  They are going to become little monsters.  It’s going to make your days even harder, but then again their immune systems could start to decline.

Kristin:  Right.  And, again, we do offer sibling care, so we can help with snacks around the house, and we have noticed that a lot of West Michigan families tend to have family support of grandparents or other family members, and now with some of the guidelines for keeping the elderly safe and away from children, I know my kids are being distanced from my parents due to my father’s heart condition and so on.  And so we can come in when you are relying on your family right now and take some of that burden off of you and your partner.

Alyssa:  I have canceled all family functions.  A birthday party, a sleepover.  You know, my parents called and offered to help, and “thanks, but no thanks.”  We’re stuck at home anyway.  There’s nowhere I can go, nothing I can do.  So, yeah, we’re just kind of laying low at the house.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And so people are obviously isolating, canceling things, and we’re able to — we do offer bedrest support, so we are able to do virtual bedrest support if that is something that a client is interested in.  Or, again, support in the home with childbirth education.  We can do mini classes virtually or in home and provide sibling care for our clients who are on bedrest and need to feed their other children, especially now that daycares are closing and schools are closed at least through April 10th, if not longer.  And so we’re adapting as best we can and keeping our team safe.  For clients who are not part of our current childbirth series that has now gone virtual, our Hypnobirthing class started out in person, and due to the coronavirus, we’ve turned that into an online class with our instructor.  But we are an affiliate for Mama Natural, so we wanted to talk about that as an option for clients who are not able to take a hospital childbirth class or take Hypnobirthing or a different child preparation method.  You can go onto our website and sign up for our online affiliate program through Mama Natural and take the class online. We’ve gone through the class.  I personally went through the entire curriculum, and my clients have used it and have had success, so that is a great option during this time when we need to isolate and be at home and still want to prepare our clients and have our clients feel like they’re ready for this birth.

Alyssa:  And Kelly Emery, our lactation consultant, also offers an online pumping class and a breastfeeding class.

Kristin:  Perfect!  So there are some things you can do, and again, things are ever changing, but as of right now, all of the area hospitals are limiting visitors to one support person, so your partner or family member and a doula who is credentialed in area hospitals.  So in the postpartum units, you are not able to have siblings visit or family at this time.  Everything is limited to protect the health workers and the patients.  So it is good to have these conversations with family members.  I always tell my birth clients at prenatals that now is the time to express whether or not you want visitors in your birth space, and now knowing some of these plans have changed, if you have family members flying in, you may want to delay, or if you have older family members or immune-compromised caregivers, then now is the time to have these discussions rather than having disappointment at your due date if you’re due this spring.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  They won’t even be able to come in, and probably family members can’t even fly in at this point.  We’re getting close to that.

Kristin:  Yes.  Domestic travel is limited and could be delayed indefinitely.  So we’re just taking things day by day.  But we want you to remain calm and positive about this and go with the flow, so try not to take in too much negative media and use this time to focus on connecting with your baby.  And if you have other children, reach out to us if we can help.  We’re here for you.

Alyssa:  I think it reiterates the importance of an agency like Gold Coast Doulas being professional and certified and insured and, like you said, credentialed so that we can get into the hospitals.  The hospitals trust us.  They have a list of our certified doulas’ names.  They might ask for a federal ID number.  They might ask for certification; proof of certification.  These are all really important things to consider when hiring a doula anytime, but especially right now.

Kristin:  Yes!  Stay well, everyone !

 

Coronavirus Update on Doulas: Podcast Episode #94 Read More »

Kaysie Lancaster

Staying Fit and Healthy During Your Pregnancy

My name is Kaysie, and I am currently 20 weeks pregnant. This is my 4th pregnancy and the first one where I have maintained a very healthy and fit lifestyle. I am a mom of three – 16, 13, and 7. After my last child was born I was the heaviest I had ever been and I knew I wanted better for myself. I wanted to set a good example for my children as they grew up. It took a year to lose the weight but almost 6 years to be in the best shape of my life, and I continue to maintain it!!

After I had lost the weight I competed in the NPC bikini competition in 2017 just to say I got up on stage and did it!! Even though the stage was not my favorite, the road it took to get there was what made me who I am today. I surrounded myself with women that empowered me and supported me. After a lot of hard work and dedication, I decided I wanted to be the light for someone else in a tough spot. I wanted to be the woman that supported and empowered other women to be the best versions of themselves. In 2018, I received a certification as a group trainer. Along with that, my knowledge of nutrition has put me in a place to teach others how important their food choices are along with exercise.

I think most of us know how important it is to stay healthy and fit throughout our lifetime. Whether we choose to execute this or not is the hard part. To some it comes easy and natural. To others it may be a very difficult task to complete daily. Now that you’re pregnant, it’s even more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and some type of daily exercise.

Personally, I am in the gym 4-6 days a week and my workouts last 1.5 hours-2 hours consisting of cardio warmup/HIIT, strength training, and stretching. I eat 1700-2000 calories a day and I carb cycle two days of the week and I drink 90-120 ounces of water daily. I choose to eat organically 98% of the time.

If you’re new to exercise, I don’t recommend starting out as heavily as I do. Even though my body has been used to doing hard exercise for a long time, I keep an eye on my heart rate and don’t go over 150 per my OB’s recommendation.

Here are some tips you can try daily to ensure you continue to have a healthy and fit pregnancy.

Exercise at least 30 minutes daily
(please talk to your doctor/midwife/OB before starting a new exercise routine)

Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily. If you weigh 140 you should be drinking at least 70 ounces if not more.

Eat lots of veggies, some fruit, organic grains, and limit your fat content. Stick to healthy fats like avocados and nuts. (I personally chose to buy all my foods organic.)

Stay away from sugars. Try to only consume sugars from fruits and veggies

Get a good night’s rest.

Stay positive. Surround yourself with people that support you, uplift you, and motivate you to make positive choices for you and your family.

For more health and fitness tips. follow Kaysie on Instagram.

 

Staying Fit and Healthy During Your Pregnancy Read More »