Every new pregnancy comes with a set of decisions, from names and doctors to birth plans and nursery color schemes. On the forefront, obviously, is choosing a health plan that will be the most beneficial for both mom and baby. In a world of infinite advice and information resources, it can be difficult to decide which route to take.
One area to take into consideration is the ever-expanding information on holistic pregnancies and alternative health treatments. Holistic pregnancy focuses on not only the physical aspects of nutrition and health, but on extending health to encompass emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns. It also focuses on the perspective that pregnancy is a natural cycle to the female body, and thus its symptom’s progression can be trusted.
The University of Minnesota distinguishes this from the term “natural childbirth,” which could mean various things to both the medical community and expectant mothers. It can be defined, as the university states, as “a complete avoidance of medication or interventions” but also as simply labor without caesarian section or the use of instruments such as forceps. The holistic approach focuses on both limited intervention and a focus on factors beyond the physical.
A major pillar of the holistic approach to pregnancy is the use of a doula. A doula is a certified professional that provides emotional, physical and informational support before and during birth. As opposed to a midwife, another holistic oriented pregnancy professional, doulas offer support, but do not participate in any medical analysis, or the delivery of the baby.
Doulas of Kansas City is a non-profit network of around 30 birth and postpartum doulas whose mission is to “make a positive difference for pregnant women, new mothers and their families through education, nurturing and advocacy.”
Kansas City-area doula Melanie Brindle, who began her career as a certified massage therapist in 2000 and eventually became a certified childbirth educator in 2004, advocates the beneficial effects of doulas to mother, father and child.
Among these, she says, are shorter and less complicated labors, a decreased need for pain medication and clinical birth procedures such as forceps or cesarean sections, and offering additional emotional support to both parents during labor.
Prior to labor, doulas work with families to develop birth plans, exist as a consistent supportive force from pregnancy to labor and provide physical relief via massage.
“In my twelve years of experience in the birth community, I have never had anyone regret hiring a doula,” Brindle says.
Hypnosis is another increasingly popular option during pregnancy and labor. Relaxation techniques such as hypnosis, along with acupuncture and water births, were reported in a March article by Emily Walker for Med- Page Today, to be linked to fewer side effects during labor such as vomiting, the use of instruments and cesareans.
Epidurals and gas were shown to increase these effects; however, they were shown to aid in pain management effectively.
Fit and Healthy Pregnancy is a team of Laura Flynn, a mother and career nutritionist, and Michelle Ladd, an exercise physiologist and holistic lifestyle coach. The team developed an online lifestyle system for pregnant women that includes recipes, exercise routines based on fitness level, and e-mail correspondence with the women for advice.
The package also includes two hypnosis CDs that act as both stress relief and preparation for labor. The company’s website touts it as a tool to “welcome your baby into the world in a calm and connected way,” and “disconnect from the pain…and focus on the joy of the experience.”
Another crucial element to a healthy pregnancy plan is a steady vitamin plan. Calcium, phosphorous, folic acid and iron are among the top vitamins and minerals that one should amp up the dosage of during pregnancy. In an article for Natural Holistic Health, Dee Braun emphasized the importance of researching for whom specific vitamins are targeted. Some prenatal vitamins target deficiencies over specific vitamins more than others.
Beyond the bottle, organic and vitamin-rich foods are a substantial source of the extra nutrients expectant mothers will need. Some holistic die-hards heavily advocate moms-to-be to favor nutrient dense foods over vitamins.
These include, but aren’t limited to, leafy vegetables like raw spinach, legumes, nuts, chickpeas and full fat yogurt. Livestrong.com also recommends asparagus and wild salmon.
There are millions of decisions to make during a pregnancy. In a world where alternative health options are increasing available, it is important to remember that alternative avenues are worth exploring. They may make a lasting impression on not only your lifestyle, but also the new addition to your family’s as well.