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Holistic Pregnancy Consultations

photo credit: Elizabeth Manatad
photo credit: Elizabeth Manatad

Pregnancy is such an amazing and overwhelming time in a woman’s life. Growing another human is a huge responsibility. Many women choose pregnancy as a time to turn their lives around and eliminate bad habits, eat more nutritionally, and remove toxins from their lives, so they can create an optimally healthy environment for their baby. A benefit of having a healthy pregnancy is a lowered risk of interventions during birth. During a pregnancy support consultation, I will meet with the mother 4 times-one in each trimester, and then again for a postpartum visit. Each visit is designed specifically to each mothers’ individual needs. If you are interested in scheduling a consultation, or just want to find out more information, please email me at angelina@wildearthherbals.com

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Ten Moons: Herbs for Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a transition. Not only for the new life that is created, but also for the woman who is becoming a mother. Whether it is her first time or her 5th, this is a sacred time for the woman to nourish and honor her body. So many women choose pregnancy as the time to start making healthier choices in their lives. They not only have themselves to worry about, but they also want to give the best possible start to their baby. It makes sense that during this momentous transformation period, the woman chooses to remove some old bad habits and learn new healthy ones that will carry on throughout her and her children’s lives.

One way that some women choose to take their health into their own hands is to save modern medicine as a last resort and use herbs and other natural remedies first. Let’s start with the most common thing that all pregnant women are encouraged to take: the prenatal vitamin. This is a gigantic horse pill that makes the average person gag, much less someone who has a sensitive stomach anyway! And how do we know exactly what we are absorbing and what is going to waste, so to speak? Pills have to travel through our digestive system, get broken down, and then some of it goes to our blood stream, and the rest goes, well, I don’t need to draw you a picture. Herbal infusions (strong teas brewed for several hours) like all liquids, get assimilated much easier and faster. So, after making sure you are eating nourishing foods-lots of proteins, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, if you drink a nice well rounded pregnancy support tea, you will be sure that your are receiving all the vitamins and minerals your body deserves. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged teas in convenient little tea bags, but how long have they actually been sitting there? My favorite way to make teas is to buy each individual herb and then blend it myself. For each cup. That way if I need a bit more of something, I can add it! For instance, if I’m low on calcium, I’ll add more nettles. Drinking 1-4 cups of tea a day not only is nourishing to your body, but to your soul.

Morning sickness is major complaint during pregnancy that many women are looking for natural ways to support. Recently, the FDA has issued a “potential safety issue” regarding using a popular anti-nausea medication. So, of course-alternatives are needed. One school of thought is that since the excess level of hormones in a women’s body during pregnancy is causing the nausea and vomiting, that helping the body process those hormones better will curb the morning sickness. One way to do that is to strengthen the liver. A very effective and gentle way is to use milk thistle seed in a tincture (herbal extract, usually in alcohol). Using milk thistle seed along with making your you are eating small frequent meals that are high in protein, and drinking your pregnancy support infusion, you should be able to reduce your morning sickness significantly.

One of the biggest constituents of most pregnancy teas is red raspberry leaf (RRL). Not only is RRL rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin E, it is a wonderful uterine tonic. Your uterus is a muscle and it needs to be nice and strong to effective birth your baby. One way to help strengthen and tone your uterus is to drink strong RRL infusions during the last month of your pregnancy. I usually would steep one ounce (in weight) of RRL in a quart of boiling water overnight. The next day, I would drink the entire quart throughout the day. This is only appropriate during the last month of pregnancy, as excess RRL can cause Braxton-Hicks contractions.

The postpartum period is a time that the mother really only needs to focus on nourishing herself so she can properly nourish her baby. She should not be hosting, cleaning, cooking, or any of those things that our society thinks women should magically be able to do! Continuing your pregnancy infusion during the postpartum period is a good idea-another idea is to have a postpartum tea that is nourishing, energizing, and soothing all at the same time (recipe below). This is wonderful to make by the gallon and drink hot or iced-great for the entire new family (except the baby)! Another great way to support your well being after birth is a bath. A blend of herbs to help facilitate healing, reduce inflammation, and encourage relaxation brewed into a bath tea is a lovely addition to any bath (during pregnancy, postpartum, menstruation, Tuesday, etc).

For women who choose to breastfeeding and are struggling with true supply issues, some herbs will help encourage milk productions. *Note: If you have a normal supply (most women) do not use herbs to increase your supply. Over supply is a real problem!  Herbs to increase milk supply: Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Fennel Seed, Alfalfa, Oatstraw, Goat’s Rue (only in tincture).

Lastly, while a lot of herbs are safe and gentle, not all of them are. Some herbs are very beneficial for people who are not pregnant, but could pose a threat to a pregnancy. Some common herbs to avoid during pregnancy: pennyroyal, osha, blue cohosh, black cohosh, cottonroot, tansy, yarrow, tulsi, ephedra, valerian, mugwort, angelica, feverfew, sage, and wormwood.  Some of these listed are used by midwives to facilitate labor, so only use them under the guidance of your care provider.

Recipes

Pregnancy Tea:

  • 3 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 3 parts Nettles
  • 2 parts Dandelion Leaf
  • 1 part Oatstraw
  • 1 part Alfalfa
  • 1 part Rosehips

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Awesome Mama Postpartum Tea

  • 3 parts Lemon Balm
  • 3 parts Comfrey
  • 2 parts Chamomile
  • 2 parts Hibiscus
  • 1 part Rose Petals and Rose Hips
  • 1/8 part Lavender Buds

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Pospartum Sitz Bath

  • 1 part St. Joan’s Wort
  • 1 part Comfrey
  • 1 part Uva Ursi
  • 1 part Calendula
  • 1 part Shepherd’s Purse
  • Yarrow

Steep one ounce of herbs in a quart of boiling water for 45 minutes. Strain (very important!! No one wants to clean herbs out of a bathtub!) and add tea to bath with sea salts.

**This article is for informational purposes only. Any advice given has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to treat or diagnose. Consult your primary care provider.

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The Nourished Mama

One of the most important things a pregnant woman can do to ensure that she remains healthy during pregnancy is eat properly. My previous pregnancies were full of convenience foods and constant indulgences. Now, it’s not to say that you have to beat yourself up if you treat yourself to some ice cream or mac n’ cheese every once in a while. But, when we are faced with issues like Gestational Diabetes and Pre-eclampsia, it really is up to us to make sure we do everything we can to avoid them. This is not just for the health of our babies, but for our own health, as well.

Like I said, I didn’t really focus on my eating habits during previous pregnancy. I’ve been an off and on healthy eater for a good fifteen years. But those off years really took a toll on my health. My thyroid was shot and I’ve steadily gained weight-I’m at my ideal late term pregnancy weight right now at 4 weeks pregnant. NOT good.

My goal is to only gain a net of 10-15 pounds this pregnancy. The thought is that if I lose unhealthy weight while I’m gaining healthy weight for the baby, it should even out in the end.

HOW in the world can I do that, you ask? Well, through research and advice of a friend who went through the same thing, it really isn’t going to be that difficult (talk to me in 6 months!). If I focus on lots of protein, healthy fats, cooked greens, fermented foods, and fresh fruits and veggies, I should shed off those bread and beer pounds I’ve accumulated over the last 15 years.  I will be eliminating most grains (bread, rice, pasta, corn, etc), juices, refined sugar, and a good bit of dairy (except some cheese, homemade yogurt, and raw local milk).

I have a huge sweet tooth. I love chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cakes-you name it. I have heard that eating protein when you have a sweet craving will help, but sometimes, I HAVE to have chocolate (YOU know what I mean). For those instances, i have an emergency bar of 85% dark chocolate. Just one little square is all I need to quiet those urges. AND, dark chocolate is good for you, right? Right.

Here is an example of a good protein filled breakfast: left over pork chop, 3 scrambled eggs, 1/2 an avocado (healthy fat!), and a blob of homemade homegrown salsa.

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Next week, I will post an example meal plan. I find that I work so much better when I have a guide. Not only is it easier to go shopping, but there is no staring at the fridge wondering what in the world I am going to eat today.

 

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Pregnancy Tea

So, the first thing I do every evening before bed is prepare my pregnancy support infusion. I allow it to steep overnight to extract the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals from the herbs.

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The next morning, I strain the infusion and sip on it throughout the day.

For every blog, website, or source you go to, you will find a different recipe for pregnancy tea.  One thing I can guarantee they all have in common is Red Raspberry Leaf (RRL). RRL is like the workhorse of herbs for female reproductive health.  It has been used for centuries as a uterine tonic. Along with being rich in vitamins and minerals (calcium, iron, phospohorus, potassium, and vitamins B, C, and E) RRL’s active ingredient is the alkaloid fragarine. Fragarine (when combined with the rest of the plant’s constituents-NOT isolated as an extract) tones and relaxes the pelvic and uterine muscles.

The next herb that I always include in my pregnancy tea blends (and drink it almost daily when NOT pregnant) is Stinging Nettles.  I love nettles for it’s high mineral content. It is a great source of iron, calcium, Vitamin A, and chlorophyll. It is also excellent for water retention, which is a common complaint during pregnancy.

Dandelion Leaf is typically in my blend, as well. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals (vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and potassium). It is also amazing for your digestive system and is an excellent liver tonic.

Next on my list is Oatstraw. This is one of my absolute favorite plants to work with. Oatstraw helps with dryness (you know what I’m talking about!) and is a mild nerve tonic. It is so nice and relaxing without being a sedative.  It is also very rich in calcium and magnesium (hence the relaxation-making!).

Finally, I love to add some Rose Hips. Rose hips are chocked full of vitamin C and taste delicious!

Recipe

  • 3 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 3 parts Stinging Nettles
  • 2 parts Dandelion Leaf
  • 2 parts Oatstraw
  • 1 part Red Clover
  • 1 part Rose Hips

Mix thoroughly. Use about 1/2 cup per quart of boiling water. After you strain it, you can sweeten however you’d like. Lately, I’ve been adding some lemon juice and fresh grated ginger to my infusions. I’ve been craving this lemon-ginger tea, but it has hibiscus in it, and I’m not too keen on using hibiscus during pregnancy unless blood pressure issues are present.

This blend is also wonderful for postpartum, breastfeeding, or really anytime you are feeling like you need to be nourished. Hot or cold, steeped for 30 minutes or 8 hours, sweetened or not-this tea is definitely a must have for women.

 

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Natural Healthy Pregnancy Series

A good friend of mine suggested that in conjunction with my own impending pregnancy, I should do a blog series on how to be as healthy and natural as possible during pregnancy.

As an herbalist and a doula, I am constantly answering questions on herbal or natural remedies for common pregnancy complaints and issues. While sometimes the answer is as easy as “eat more protein” or “don’t take tulsi while pregnant”, sometimes, it requires a little more in depth discussion.

I firmly believe that as a community, we are charged with helping one another through our issues. And that is what this is about. Hopefully, through my journey, others will have questions answered and a source of information to go to.

Those of you who know me personally may remember that my last pregnancy was dreadful. I gained a lot of weight, was in pain through most of my pregnancy, had blood pressure and blood sugar scares, and ended with a cesarean section due to placenta previa. While diet and herbs could do NOTHING to change the fact that I NEEDED a c-section, it very well could have prevented a lot of other issues I faced. I normally eat very well, but I fell off the wagon HARD during my last pregnancy.

This time around (which is more than likely my last) I am determined to be the healthiest I can and to avoid resorting to or needing medical interventions.

This series will include recipes on how to make your own pregnancy teas (or links to buy them *wink wink*), herbal tips on how to deal with common complaints (nausea, heartburn, hemorrhoids, etc) and also optimal nutrition so you can be nourished and grow a beautiful baby.

So, whether you are already pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, know someone who is pregnant, a birth worker, or just like learning things, welcome!