Updated: Dec 6, 2022
This is my personal reflection on pregnancy and preparation for childbirth (it is not intended for everyone). I believe whatever your path, decisions should be based on knowledge, love, and appreciation for your body.
Pregnancy/childbirth is not a pathology – it is natural.
I know that my body knows what to do – the child knows what to do – I do not allow unnecessary intervention that interferes with my body’s innate intelligence and rhythms.
I have chosen to have a home birth, assisted by midwives because I want and need freedom over my birthing experience in a place of comfort.
Did you know, in Connecticut 11% of births are attended by a midwife? Higher than the national average. There is a growing trend of midwifery due to better health outcomes, and women are looking for options in a developed nation (yes, the United States) that has the highest maternal mortality, infant mortality, and preterm birth. Countries with integrative and supportive maternal care like Japan, Iceland, Finland, South Korea, and Norway have the lowest maternal and infant mortality rates according to the World Health Organization.
In place of the allopathic hospital birth, I have chosen to:
Wait post-39 weeks, or until the baby is ready. It is common for first-time mothers to carry 42 weeks. The child will choose when she is ready, and the timing will not be dictated by healthcare insurance companies;
To labor as long as needed (not worrying if the hospital needs my bed);
To labor in a non-static position, not tied to a bed. I want to dance, move, use water therapy, and message;
To give birth in a place of comfort: free to move, enjoy food and drink, aromatherapy, and familiarity;
To allow me and/or my partner to catch the child – together to have first contact with the new life;
To partake in Wise Women Traditions and herbalism to ease pain, and to truly be present in the experience;
To support practicing and skilled midwives who have learned the art and medicine of childbirth over thousands of years, honoring and respecting women. Midwives are supportive even after the birth, offering numerous home post-partum checkups and breast-feeding assistance;
To hold my baby skin to skin right away, uncleansed with vernix (that white coating) and all. The vernix acts as an anti-infection and anti-inflammatory coating, insulates and moisturizes till the child has time to acclimate to their new surroundings;
Delayed cord cutting to allow the child to receive all the beneficial blood and nutrients to the very last drop;
To hold and use my placenta as a rich source of hormonal therapy post-partum;
To decline induction and C-section operation, unless there is a threat to myself or my child. The rate of C-sections in the United States is largely unnecessary prompted by the unnecessary intervention that intervenes with the natural birthing process;
Avoid injections and vaccines before the child’s immune system is ready to accept and build an immune response.
My personal prenatal tool-kit:
My professional prenatal and birth team includes two supportive midwives, a naturopathic doctor to run full-blood panels every trimester, and a maternal chiropractor (for joint discomfort and to ease childbirth by aligning the hips properly). If I wasn't my own herbalist, I would add that to the list too;
Supportive pillows are a must. A good body pillow has offered belly, hip, and knee support to ease hip pain and make me feel snug;
A good quality swiss-water decaf brew, my go-to is Purity Coffee, and a triple screened for safety (sans mercury) ceremonial grade matcha like Pique Tea (because I need some caffeine and love the taste of coffee);
Lots and lots of belly butter and body oils to help prevent stretch marks. Formulations rich in rosehip, tamanu, olive oil, and shea butter are applied to the body twice a day as early as possible in pregnancy. Luckily a close friend and herbal crafter makes amazing customizable body butters to keep me well stocked (you can find her on IG @naturali_nourished);
Yoni birth-preparation serums are used for message to soften and stretch vaginal tissue to prevent tearing. Used three months prior to birth once a day. You can make your own, or I trust the brand Living Libations;
Milk thistle capsules to help clear excess hormones and keep my skin free of hormonal acne;
A very high-dose vitamin C product to add to my skincare regime to prevent hyperpigmentation (a.k.a., "pregnancy mask"). Most vitamin C serums on the market are not shelf-stable and oxidized, so I opted for a powder-based (stabilized and potent) option by Agent Nateur;
Speaking of skincare, I have dropped the evening retinol and replaced it with high-dose lactic acid and bakuchiol to revive the skin and encourage cell turnover (a.k.a., wrinkle prevention);
Clothes! Vintage and second-hand maternity jeans and stretchy dresses from ThredUp, or affordable options at Target;
A supportive belly band to reduce unnecessary belly stretching, and support back and abdominal muscles that can be worn over clothing;
Personalized mineral-rich loose-leaf tea to support the growing child, and uterine strength (scoop in the red raspberry leaf, please!);
A good protein powder to keep up with protein needs, and tastes good enough to "hide" vegetables I have aversion to in pregnancy. Just blend it all up. My go-to is Dr. Axe;
One of the best pregnancy nutrition books I have read is Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition by Lily Nichols (recommended to me by my midwife);
Lots of compression stockings to avoid varicose veins - along with daily movement, exercise, and elevating the feet for at least 10-minutes a day;
Psyllium powder, yellow dock, chia seeds, and marshmallow root powder mixed in water are taken every morning to prevent and combat constipation. Just be sure to wait 1-2 hours before taking supplements and medications.
In our conventional mainstream model of care, the mother is forgotten after the child is born. Did you know, the Fourth Trimester is often said to dictate the health of the mother for the next forty years? Let us not forget - a healthy mother, a healthy child. If you are interested to learn more about Fourth Trimester care and nutrition I recommend the book, The First Forty Days by Heng Ou.
Here is my personal post-partum checklist:
Again, while all emphasis is on the child, we are not to forget the mother. The health of the mother dictates the health of the child and the act of motherhood should never be one of sacrifice. Motherhood, as we should all be reconditioned to believe, is one of change, joy, and unfathomable love.
Yoni soothing serums. Yoni soothing serums to help moisturize and heal compromised tissue post-birth;
Herbs for yoni steaming to encourage healing, soften vaginal tissue, and prevent scaring;
Lined cotton (organic cotton preferable) underwear for post-birth bleeding;
Belly binds (an Indigenous Mayan practice) to help realign the uterus, reduce bladder incontinence and vaginal bleeding, and support abdominal muscles. I'll be using Bellibind;
Herbs and tonics to encourage healing and breast milk production such as fenugreek and blessed thistle;
Pre-made soups free of gluten, dairy, goitrogens (like beans) that are easy to digest and warming;
Lavender sticks for spiritual baths – a warm bath to bring heat and circulation back into the body. Yes, the lavender sticks are for gently hitting the skin and releasing the warming aroma and oils into the skin;
Warming massage oils encourage lymphatic drainage, stimulation and return heat back to the body;
A scalp massage oil or serum to encourage new hair growth and scalp help;
Specialist therapies for pelvic floor recovery; chiropractic services for mother and baby; and a naturopathic doctor to run full blood panels for post-birth deficiencies and hormones;
A house cleaner to alleviate house chores, and allow me to spend time with my child, rest, and recover (because not everyone gets maternity leave in the US);
A stocked pantry of bone broth; ghee; and warming carminative spices to aid digestion.
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends, but if I was not, I would get a post-partum doula. If you find yourself needing support - don't go it alone. Post-partum doulas can help transition you into your life of motherhood holistically.
Have questions? Feel free to reach out, and comment. Email email@example.com
Written by Dr. Ashley Bissonnette-Murphy, Ph.D., MPH, CHES, Certified Health Education Specialist, and Community Herbalist based in Connecticut (USA). Her specialty is holistic community healthcare, ancestral medicine, nutrition, and herbalism. Her work has been featured by The International Witches Magazine, the Witch Way Magazine, the Brave Daughters of Providence, VisualMag, and the Boston Women's Market.
I do not receive paid endorsements from companies, product recommendations are made because I personally use and enjoy them.
This article is not intended to prevent, diagnose or cure and is for educational purposes only.