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Can Advocating for Your Health Plan Lead to Discrimination?

hospital procedure discrimination

Researchers have been studying what factors may contribute to women experiencing poor hospital visits when giving birth, and have found that refusal of certain procedures leads to discrimination by doctors or nurses.

When thinking about what to include in your hospital bag, a birth plan may be a significant part. Detailing aesthetic choices such as music to be played, who to have in the room, whether you want to use a tub, or if someone will be taking video and photos. But birth plans can also include more serious conversations such as epidurals, episiotomies, cord cutting, and c-sections. Using a birth plan can help communicate desires and concerns in the delivery room, but it is not always guaranteed that the intended plan will be followed.

Because of the Internet, more women are advocating for their health and develop a more comprehensive plan, and doctors record seeing more mothers become active participants while in labor. Despite this, many women report an increase in discrimination from nurses and doctors during their hospital stay if they refuse a specific procedure or course of treatment in delivery.

According to a research study by Laura Attanasio of the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, she found that for women who decline procedures, they reported having a poor hospital stay and a higher reporting of discrimination likely due to being labeled as uncooperative or non-compliant. These numbers were even worse for women of color who reported five times the amount of poor treatment due to race or ethnicity when compared to White women.

Racial Implicit Bias

Women of color already expend more energy trying to overcome racial stereotypes in the hospital, such as insurance-based bias, or not being seen as an “angry Black woman” simply for speaking up about their concerns and preferences for treatment.

Labor and the moments following birth are precious. Pain or trauma experienced during this time has been shown to lead to higher rates of postpartum depression. Agonizing over how you were treated during a crucial and sometimes scary moment can have lasting affects. Attanasio stated that the experience many women have while giving birth is their first real encounter with a hospital system, and can inform their opinion of the medical community for years to follow. Given the horrific rates of maternal mortality and morbidity amongst Black women, it’s clear that more implicit racial bias training for health care staff should be implemented across the country to address this issue that affects all mothers.

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Sleep Tips for Pregnancy

Sleep Tips For Pregnancy Image

Pregnancy is the beginning of exciting changes in your life and body. Unfortunately, each trimester comes with unique sleep challenges that you’ll need to address. We’ve laid out some sleep tips that are helpful during pregnancy and after along with a break down of the sleep challenges you’ll face in each trimester.

Sleep Tips for Anytime

Sleep Environment

A sleep-supportive bedroom should be dark and quiet. You might need blackout curtains or a white noise machine to reduce outside distractions. Pregnancy can also cause you to feel too hot so try to keep the temperature between 60 to 68 degrees.

Bedtime and Bedtime Routine

The human body loves consistency so try to keep a regular bedtime and create a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself. Meditation, gentle yoga, and a warm bath are a few ideas you might want to consider.

Turn Off Screens

Electronic screens emit a bright light that suppresses sleep hormones. Turn them off two to three hours before bed to stay on track for your bedtime.

Sleep Challenges by Trimester

First Trimester

Once you get pregnant, your progesterone levels skyrocket causing daytime sleepiness. Though the fetus is still small at this point, nighttime bathroom visits start because implantation puts extra pressure on the bladder. Additionally, you may experience pelvic pain and tender breasts that make it hard to get comfortable at night.
First Trimester Sleep Tips
  • Nap: A short 15 to 30-minute nap won’t interfere with your sleep at night and can counteract the fatiguing effects of progesterone.
  • Limit Your Afternoon Fluid Intake: Stop drinking fluids about four hours before bed to prevent nighttime disruptions. However, make sure you stay well hydrated the rest of the day.
  • Address Morning Sickness: Morning sickness can strike any time, including bedtime. An empty stomach can aggravate symptoms so keep some crackers or pretzels on hand

Second Trimester

In general, the second trimester is when you’ll have the easiest time sleeping because fatigue and morning sickness subside. You now enter the world of heartburn and leg cramps.

Second Trimester Sleep Tips
  • Avoid Acidic and Spicy Foods: Acidic foods like lemons and tomatoes are common culprits of heartburn, but spicy foods can be triggers too. Watch your chocolate, caffeine, and carbonated beverage consumption as well.
  • Stay Upright After Eating: If possible stay upright for four hours after eating to prevent sleep disruptions. You may need to sleep with a pillow behind your back to keep that upright position during the night.
  • Stretch Leg Cramps: Your partner can help you stretch out leg cramps or you can use the wall. If you use the wall, make sure clear a path before bed so you don’t trip in the dark.

Third Trimester

During the third trimester, leg cramps continue and the need to urinate increases due to the growing pressure on your bladder. Pelvic and back pain become a comfort issue at this point. Twenty percent of pregnant women also develop sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). While restless leg syndrome will disappear after pregnancy and poses little risk to your baby, if you suspect OSA, characterized by loud snoring and pauses in your breathing, talk to your physician. The hormone surges that accompany OSA can be harmful to your baby.

Third Trimester Sleep Tips
  • Reduce Nighttime Fluids: Reduce your fluid intake starting four hours before bed.
  • Iron-rich Foods and Prenatal Vitamins: Restless leg syndrome has been linked to iron deficiency so make sure you’re taking your prenatal vitamins and increase your intake of iron-rich foods.
  • Sleep on Your Left Side: Sleeping on your left side increases circulation to your baby and improves your breathing and circulation. You can also try sleeping with a pillow between your legs to reduce discomfort.


You might have to make some habit or schedule changes to get more sleep, but it’s worth it. Adequate sleep will allow your body to focus on the important work of growing another human being. We hope these sleep tips assist you during your pregnancy and beyond!

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Well Woman Health

Nurse comforting mama patient
well-woman health care

The fourth-trimester. AKA postpartum. You’ve heard us talk about the importance of this stage in motherhood; it’s the stage that is overlooked by many doctors, media, and even moms. Now an ally of woman’s health is also using the phrase fourth-trimester to raise the visibility of how vital it is to prioritize well woman health during this period.

A recent convening of the Presidential Task Force on Redefining the Postpartum Visit Committee on Obstetric Practice headed by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) has produced a revolutionary article on the topic of optimizing postpartum care for the 21st Century American woman. The revolutionary part? Make it woman-focused, and woman-led.

Research has shown that women feel there is an “intense focus on women’s health prenatally, but care during the postpartum period of infrequent and late”. There’s no shortage of stories from women noting that in all their prenatal visits the topic of a postpartum care plan is rarely discussed. ACOG, in their May 2018 journal, recognizes that as many as 40% of women do not attend any postpartum visit, which leads to health disparities and an expanding array of future complications that healthcare professionals are just now realizing are tied to inadequate postpartum support. Heart disease, stroke, and future depression are among the handful of medical issues that impact women even a decade after birth, and doctors are finding that identifying and managing these issues within the first 3 weeks of delivery can positively affect a mother’s future health on the path of being a well-woman.

The holistic approach that ACOG recommends to all women is to have contact with a care provider within three (3) weeks postpartum for an initial assessment. At this visit, and new mother can consult with a healthcare provider to create a comprehensive approach to an individual woman’s needs going forward concerning a battery of health and wellness concerns. This care system planning should begin during the prenatal phase to create a postpartum plan that involves identifying who the mother’s care provider will be, address health issues (especially chronic ones), mood disorders, and external care support like friends and family.

It Takes a Village

The phrase “it takes a village” has loosely defined traditional approaches to postpartum care for decades. Robust family leave programs in other countries has underscored the poor maternal mortality rate that is scarily rising in the U.S. Today. 23% of employed women return to work within 10 days postpartum, putting a strain on a mother’s ability not only to find childcare, but find the ability to schedule a doctor appointment. Delaying these initial visits lead to undetected co-morbidities that put a woman’s life at risk.

While we wait for federal policy changes that allow for a full paid 6 week leave and well-woman health maintenance, technology can create a safety net in the interim. Phone calls, text messaging, and apps can be powerful reminders for appointments and follow-ups. Simply checking in about how a mother’s mood is, how feeding is going, and if she’s experiencing any adverse physical conditions can make a mom feel supported and be more apt to open up about any problems or concerns.

Bottom line, every woman’s health is as unique as she is, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to her postpartum journey. Putting as much planning into a postpartum care plan that goes into researching strollers is as instrumental to the health of a mother as it is to a baby. When a mother’s health is compromised, caring for her little one is made more difficult because small tasks like climbing stairs, doing dishes, and feeding are all potentially impacted when the fourth-trimester isn’t valued and respected. Policy changes are needed to correct an imbalance in maternal healthcare, especially for women of color, to make sure the future of postpartum care is woman-focused.

We’re wishing you Well-Woman Health!

By Anna Pederson

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Veganism & Pregnancy

the pregnant vegan

Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Clinton, Ariana Grande, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Alec Baldwin, Stevie Wonder, Miley Cyrus, Jared Leto, Brad Pitt, and Madonna all have something in common. Yes, they’re all famous, but they are all also known vegans.

5% of people in the United States identify themselves as vegetarian. 2% consider themselves vegan. Now, two percent doesn’t sound like a big deal, until we note that two percent of the U.S. population is an estimated 6 million people.

Vegetarians are those who avoid meat, while vegans avoid meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products altogether, opting for a strictly plant based diet (fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, seeds, and nuts).

The term “vegan” was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson and five other non-dairy vegetarians when they gathered to create a new word to describe this new subcategory of the vegetarian diet and lifestyle. Dairyban, vitan, and benevore were all early candidates, but ultimately the group settled with a combination of the first three letters and last two letters of the word vegetarian — “vegan.”

The Vegan Society describes Veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

Main Street Vegan notes that we are currently in a boom time for veganism with the rise of popular vegan related publications like Skinny Bitch and The China Study timed with the release of influential documentaries like EarthlingsVegucated, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sickly & Nearly Dead, and Cowspiracy. Not to mention the exponential growth attributed to the rise in vegan blogs, podcasts, and social media.

Veganism is at an all time high, but with substantial popularity comes substantial critique. Kat Von D, tattoo artist and cosmetic company founder of Kat Von D Beauty recently shared a glimpse of this while sharing her pregnancy with the online world.

This is my body. This is our child. And this is our pregnancy journey. -@thekatvond

“[I]f you don’t know what it’s like [to] have people around you think you are ridiculous, try being openly vegan. And, if you don’t know what it’s like to have the entire world openly criticize, judge, throw uninformed opinions, and curse you – try being an openly pregnant vegan on Instagram, having a natural, drug-free home birth in water with a midwife and doula, who has the intention of raising a vegan child.. ” Von D captioned under an Instagram photo of her cradling her pregnant belly.

Is it safe to eat vegan while pregnant?

The short answer, yes.

The longer answer is still yes. It is relatively safe for Mamas to be vegan during pregnancy, but like every pregnancy, there are risks that can occur when Mamas don’t pay special attention to their diet, with or without meat and dairy.

the vegan plate guide to healthy diet

Medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), all greenlight plant-based eating. They believe that the diet can be healthy and nutritionally adequate with proper planning. They all heavily advise that vegan moms pay attention to their nutrition intake so that all the proper nutrients are being consumed as nutritional deficiencies are more pronounced during vegan diets because pregnancies require specific amounts of certain vitamins and minerals.

“There’s no stage in life where nutrition matters so much as it does during pregnancy. After all, you’re providing the nutrition necessary to support two lives,” writes Reed Mangels (PhD, RD) at the top of his vegan pregnancy diet guide.

Mangels notes that the nutrients a pregnant vegan woman should especially be aware of are: protein, vitamin B12, folic acid, iron and zinc, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D. OB-GYNS will monitor these nutrients during pregnancy regardless of whether the person is vegan or not. The trouble being that the standard diet most doctors base their nutritional assumptions on include the regular consumption of fish, meat, and some dairy. Meaning those who eat a vegan diet need to scale up from the normal recommendations. Women who do not eat meat during pregnancy are especially at risk for iron and B12. The good news is that these nutrients as well as the others listed can all be fulfilled with the aid of supplements, fortified food, and high quality prenatal vitamins.

Iron, for example, is a mineral that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the fetus and also protects pregnant women from anemia, and is found in high concentration in red meat, pork, fish, and eggs. But plant based sources like prune juice, blackstrap molasses, spinach, raisins, and iron-fortified cereals are also great iron-rich options. To help absorb the iron contained in food it’s recommended to eat vitamin c-rich foods as well, such as red peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, and sprouted grains.

Luckily, there are many guides available online to help Mamas find vegan alternatives to all the nutrient requirements. Always always always consult with your doctor about your dietary needs if there are any changes in your diet that you are unsure about.

To all our mamas out there who are vegan or thinking about the vegan pregnancy route, yes, a vegan pregnancy is possible! However, like every part of the pregnancy journey, be extra mindful and open to what your body needs.

Written by Joyce Torres

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Postpartum Depression Information Sheet

Postpartum Depression
woman postpartum depression

It may seem like everyone is talking about Postpartum Depression. With the increased advocacy from celebrities, the possible availability of a new medication specifically designed for PPD, and more studies done on the real effects and pervasiveness of the illness, it might feel like it’s all anyone wants to discuss when the conversation of pregnancy comes up.

This radical shift from keeping the topic in the shadows to a dinner table discussion is proof of the work that mental health advocates, doctors, and moms have been doing to shed light on the dangers of PPD. 20% of all new moms are medically diagnosed with the condition, which means so many more could be suffering in silence.

The reason so many women keep their depression to themselves is that it’s a confusing time of major life changes that introduces a lot of stressors. Being able to distinguish between normal stress and depression can be a challenge. Knowing what to look and listen for in your own thoughts and mood before you give birth can lead to early detection or even prevention. The earlier PPD is recognized, the better the treatment results.

PPD patient information sheet

With a mission of providing support and treatment for pregnant or postpartum woman and her family, the Postpartum Stress Center has provided a comprehensive list of assessments for medical professionals to use in determining the presence of depression in women they see. The Postpartum Stress Center created a patient information sheet designed to give you the tools to assess yourself. Bring this sheet to your doctor office to make sure all the issues are addressed at your appointment.

Common, but not normal

The emotions and thoughts that accompany PPD are common, but they are NOT normal. They cause long-lasting and far-reaching disruptions of your life the lives of your loved ones. Furthermore, there is a 5% mortality rate for either the mother or infant in extreme cases. But PPD is also NOT your fault. It is a complex combination of risk factors both external and biological that cause this condition. But remember it is treatable. Enlist your healthcare provider, partner, and emotional supporters in the awareness of postpartum depression. And tell them about any history you may have had with past battles with anxiety or depression.

Most woman are keenly aware of making it look like they have it all together after the baby, and are not likely to make others aware of depressive thoughts. Educating your friends and family even before baby arrives is important so they can be there for you, even if you don’t feel like you’re able to ask them for help.

By Anna Pederson

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Can Inflammation Teach Us About Pregnancy Stress?

inflammation and stress postpartum
inflammation and stress postpartum

Presented this past week at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in San Diego, CA, researchers from the Ohio State University presented some groundbreaking research that may link stress during pregnancy to increased inflammation, a major indicator of Postpartum Depression.

Lead author of the study, Benedetta Leuner, explained how areas of the brain that are used for mood regulation showed signs of inflammation in rodents that were used as models for Postpartum Depression after being exposed to stress during pregnancy with their pups.

On average, between 15 and 20% of women will be diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, meaning a larger number of those who suffer silently may be even larger. Despite the significant population of moms who have PPD, still very little is known about the exact cause. Doctors and medical professionals know that it is most likely to manifest from a complex matrix of indicators such as traumatic delivery, pain, history of depression and anxiety, medical conditions, and lack of support. But researchers from OSU indicate through their study that stress, and the inflammation generated by stress, may play a larger role that previously thought.

Leuner noted that studies have been done on the immune system and inflammation to better understand how it affects mood. Though much of the inflammation levels were being tested in the blood, and the results were mixed.

The subjects that exhibited external signs of stress, like anxious behaviors and decreased awareness of their pups, mimicked behaviors that are often found in women who are struggling with depression themselves. And when compared to other rats who were not stressed during their pregnancy, the test subjects were found to have inflammation markers on their brain tissue that indicated stress had affected the mood center, or medial prefrontal cortex. Additionally, Leuner and her team noted that the presence of stress related inflammation might change how immune cells in the brain function.

As opposed to previous studies, there was no inflammation found in the blood of the subjects, which could lead to better research on how the immune system and stress plays a role in mood disorders, specifically PPD.

Stress is often a major culprit behind the exacerbation of many illnesses and diseases like headaches, heart conditions, diabetes, and sleeping disorders. And as most moms can tell you, pregnancy on its own can be a trying time for mental and physical health, especially if a woman already has a medical condition. Inflammation has been a hot topic lately as researchers slowly discover all the ways it can negatively impact a body. To help combat high inflammation levels, most doctors recommend cutting out and adding specific foods, such as the following:

Foods to Avoid:

  • refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • French fries and other fried foods
  • soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
  • margarine, shortening, and lard

Foods to Increase in Your Diet:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

courtesy of Harvard Medical

Obviously diet is not the cure-all for stress related illnesses, as many stressors can be caused by environmental factors. But an inflammation reduced body can at least aid in better mood regulation and help combat Postpartum Depression.

By Anna Pederson

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Diet During Pregnancy

Food During Pregnancy

One of our favorite moments here at Mama Strut is when we get to collaborate with thought-leading mamas trying to help other mamas. There’s a lot of confusion around how to eat when pregnant and there is so much information to take in. That’s why we decided to ask an expert in nutrition and mama-to-be to help shed some light on diet during pregnancy.

“Natural, organic and unrefined foods speak a language your genes understand. And when your food communicates nicely with your genes, they’ll express themselves properly and healthily so you can begin feeling that you’re actually living and not just surviving.” ― Thorbjörg HafsteinsdottirIntroducing Anna

Welcome! My name is Anna, and I run the website and the Instagram @TeachEatRepeat. I am an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and I help women reduce symptoms of inflammation, like bloating, stomach distress, and weight gain, through small food and lifestyle changes. I used to be a classroom teacher, and it was while teaching I discovered I had an autoimmune disease, and as a result, discovered the power of whole foods in my health.

When my husband and I were thinking about getting pregnant, I delved into the WIDE WIDE world of pregnancy nutrition, to see what I could do to get my body ready to conceive and also carry a healthy and happy baby. While there are MILLIONS of suggestions, and pieces of advice out there, I think there are a few main tenants that can really help put you, your baby, and your family on the road to success.

Did you know that the pre-natal environment you provide for your offspring through what you eat, drink, breathe, or stress about is what your child will come to expect of the world he/she is about to enter?

It literally shapes them for life.

Deep Breath. I said that, but I also want you to relax. Millions of healthy babies are born to moms who are malnourished because of circumstance, eat fast food every day, and who don’t exercise. That said, when you know better, you do better. My goal with this article is to help you find the balance between ideal and sustainable—perfect nutrition and what’s workable in your real, everyday life.

Your motto during pregnancy should be: do YOUR best. (In fact, I would argue that pre-natal nutrition is perhaps MORE important than during your pregnancy). Don’t compare your fitness or diet to anyone else’s because everyone’s body handles pregnancy differently, depending on what her unique little baby needs. In your first trimester, you may not be able to stomach a lot of these foods, and that’s okay. Chronic stress about not eating a healthful diet is going to be WORSE for your baby than eating a pizza, or chicken nuggets, or a bagel (can you tell I speak from experience?)  Focus on what you CAN eat, and try to make it as high of quality as possible. Only want mac & cheese? Try the brand “Banza” which is made from chickpeas, so it contains more fiber, protein and vitamins than other pastas!

The Breakdown

There are so many ways you can consider pregnancy nutrition: by macronutrient values, by micronutrient values or even by categories of food. But I’d rather you focus on food quality. Focus on, real and whole foods, (closest to the way nature made them.) Think of skin, not package! If your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it…don’t eat it! Here are the foods you should focus on:

  • Vegetables – nutrient-dense, low in calories, low in fat, loaded with water and full of phytochemicals (compounds in plants thought to have anticancer and anti-inflammation properties). Vegetables give us LIFE. (Organic is best)
  • Fruits – loaded with many beneficial compounds, nutrients, flavonoids, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and polyphenols (micronutrients that we get in plants that can help with digestion, weight management and lifestyle disease prevention). They are nature’s sweet treat. (Organic is best)
  • Whole grains and starchy vegetables – a major source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals, and B vitamins. They help stabilize our blood sugar and provide all kinds of benefits to the body and brain
  • Legumes (beans) – supply our bodies with many important nutrients, antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals. They are high in protein and when combined with grains, they make a complete protein.
  • Nuts and seeds – loaded with fiber, phytochemicals, protein, healthy fats, and polyphenols.
  • Unprocessed foods – the more natural the better. Stay away from boxed foods as much as possible. They are loaded with all kinds of junk.
  • Organic – (meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, milk, nuts, beans, etc.) Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
  • Fermented foods rich in probiotics – For example Kefir, miso, kimchee, sauerkraut and yogurt. Be careful of added sugar in flavored yogurt or kefir.
  • Meats from grass-fed animals and eggs from cage-free, organically fed chickens – higher in omega 3, rich in DHA, vitamin A, D, E, K, higher in CLA (fat- burning) and higher in tryptophan, which helps with sleep and mood.
  • Good fats – cold pressed olive oil, wild fish, virgin coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. If you have a hard time digesting nuts or seeds, you can soak them for 6-7 hours. Get your omega 3’s!
  • Fiber-rich foods – 20-30 grams a day from complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.

This is a huge list. When composing your meal, try to think….Do I have a…

  1. Protein
  1. Green veggie
  1. Starchy veggie or fruit
  1. Source of healthy fat

If you do, your meal is healthy, and you don’t need to worry about counting anything. I wish you a healthy, and happy pregnancy! For more information, please visit my website or email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

The materials and content within this blog post are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This article is going to focus on real, whole-foods, rather than supplements or individual nutrient recommendations. Your dr. can tell you how much of each nutrient he or she recommends, as the recommendations are generally standard, but only your dr. can read your blood tests and know what you’ve got enough of or what you’re lacking.

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Every Mama is an Athlete

Every Mama is an Athlete!

Guess what, every mama is an athlete! Most of us have experienced this at least once in our lives: stepping up to the starting line for a race, walking on stage under the hot glare of lights, sitting down to an exam that might determine our future. We can probably count the number of truly self-defining moments with our fingers but often forget about the countless hours, sleepless nights, and thoughts of doubt that have taken us back a step so that we can move forward two more. The greatest competitors in the world face these challenges daily as they push their bodies further than they thought possible. And as a mama, or mama-to-be, you’re already an athlete.

Pregnancy is the training. Birth is the event. Postpartum is the recovery. You’ve been training your body for 9 months getting ready for birth, a big event that will be a defining moment in your life! And like an athlete, you express your body and heart in one go, which means taking time to recover your body on its own timeline and using support when you need it. A lot of mamas talk about how crazy it is that so much awe is shown towards pregnant bodies, but a lot of that respect goes away after having a baby. Why is that? We need more open and honest discussions about how important it is to advocate for ourselves to reduce the stigma that comes with a postpartum body. A body that is proof of incredible concentration, commitment, and strength.  

Postpartum is a wild ride, and you have to respect the journey. Recent mom and Olympic athlete Kikkan Randall was the only member of the 244 person USA team that competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics to have given birth. A professional skier since age 19, Kikkan was used to a regimented and vigorous training schedule that got her body and mindset in top shape. As told to USA Today Kikkan spoke about how even though getting active as soon as possible was important to her. She started getting active by taking walks a few weeks after birth, but  she realized her body had changed and she needed to focus on strengthening inner core muscles to protect her back, something she never had to worry about before.

We’re not all world class Olympians with trainers and personal nutritionists, but moms need a support team that give you the tools to get you back in the game. Internationally ranked tennis player, and new mama, Serena Williams shocked the world with her birth story when she opened up about near death complications following an emergency c-section. Serena admits that she’s always been hard on herself, but feeling like she was “trapped in her own body” for nearly 6 weeks after she left the hospital, feeling defeated. You wouldn’t feel ashamed icing your shins after playing a knock-out round of tennis, so why does that stigma carry over to icing your body after giving birth? In a handful of athlete recovery studies, compression garments, heat/ice therapy, diet and stretching are the most highly recommended methods of making sure you don’t suffer lifelong consequences that sometimes don’t manifest for years. Unsurprisingly this comprehensive system is the most highly endorsed approach to postpartum recovery. Let’s take a cue from these badass athletes and advocate for our bodies just as strongly!

Our bodies are capable of amazing things. So much prepping and planning goes into the big day, which make sense, you have almost an entire year to prepare! We take the vitamins, the lamaze, the prenatal yoga and swimming classes. When focus swings from pregnancy to baby, it’s important to give yourself the same level of commitment and attention. An Olympic ready body is a lofty goal, but your health at any stage in your postpartum journey is our goal. Whether you’re running a marathon, running for office, or running after you’re little one, MamaStrut is there to support you every step of the way. Every mama is an athlete, you got this mama!

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How Painful Is Labor? More about Labor Pain.

Mama Strut Blog Labor Day - How to manage labor pain

labor painOn the one-year anniversary of my third and last labor, I look back on how I coped with the labor pain. This reflection brings up the question every first-time mama-to-be wants to know: how painful will labor be and what can I do to help myself cope with labor pain?

Maybe it’s the result of Hollywood depicting wild birth scenes or maybe it’s the abundance of unsubstantiated information on the Internet, but many mamas-to-be are developing a deep anxiety about birth – sometimes even months before delivery. This fear won’t only ruin your pregnancy, but can actually make birth more painful and more likely to end in an intervention. So, instead of focusing on the fear of pain, let’s explore how you can cope with labor instead.

You’ve Got This, Mama

To be clear – birth is a big deal and painful, Pain is a four-letter word, but not a negative one. It’s a way to express a physical sensation to others. Describing how your body feels during labor will help your caregivers provide the right support. No one should be negatively judged because they find birth painful (birth shaming and pain management are related topics that should also be addressed in light of dialogs that rank birth success depending on the amount of intervention or type of management dispensed).

Simply put, a successful birth is a healthy one for mama and baby. Do not listen to anyone that judges your birth choices.

There Are Many Options For Coping With Labor

Because labor is difficult and painful, there are numerous natural and pharmacological ways to help manage it. The degree of labor pain varies from mama to mama – contractions can range from “sensations” or menstrual cramp-like discomfort, to an intensely excruciating experience that, in the moment. you can’t imagine surviving. But don’t worry, you can’t die from labor pain.

Labor Pain Is Not Constant

The good news is that unlike any other types of pain you have felt throughout the course of your life, there are actually pain-free breaks between contractions. These breaks allow you to rest, breathe, and prepare yourself for the next contraction, as well as communicate with your support team.

Labor Pain Intensity Has Stages

Another important fact to keep in mind is that intense contractions warm up your body, starting slow and far apart and increasing in intensity.  This progression in intensity and frequency actually helps your body cope with them. Recognizing that you have managed through the last contraction will give you the confidence that you will be able to manage through the next despite the fact that it may be more intense.

It’s Not Pain, It’s Progress

Knowing what’s happening to your body during labor will help you see the pain as progress on your birthing journey, and not a sign of the body being in distress like other kinds of pain. The pain felt as the uterus contracts to help your baby exit is a positive thing – but because we have associated pain with something destructive happening to our body our entire lives, we are hardwired to interpret labor pain as a threat. Mentally recognizing that labor pain is different will help you view it as positive.

My personal birth mantra (which started off as a joke between me and my doctor) was “It’s not pain, it’s progress.” As I repeated this in my head throughout labor, it helped me focus on the task at-hand and even chuckle after a massive contraction that hurt like hell. Many mamas have report repetition and rhythm as coping mechanism to help keep them in the zone.

That being said, it is still pain and reducing that pain will increase your birth outcome and even your chances of postpartum depression. (citation)

Here are some things to consider when it comes to coping with labor pain:

Mama Musts

  • Be educated, informed, and prepared about birth and your pain management options.
  • Surround yourself with people (doctor/midwife/partner/doula) that support your wishes.
  • The positioning of your body and mobility can reduce pain – walking, squatting, and not lying on your back can reduce pressure and pain.
  • Create a calm labor and birthing environment (hospital/birth center/home birth), taking into consideration who is there, noise level, and familiarity for your personal comfort.
  • Do your best to have your baby in the optimal position for birth. See
  • Keep hydrated but not overly hydrated – not getting enough fluid during labor can be detrimental; having too much IV fluid can lead to swelling, making birth more difficult.

Natural Methods

  • Ice and heat therapy are tried and trusted ways to relieve pain, ease cramps, and relax muscle tension.
  • Some mamas-to-be prefer massage, while others in the heat of labor might not want to be touched, so talk to your support team about listening to your cues prior to the big day.
  • Water in the form of a tub or shower can help relax muscles, reduce gravity pressures, and ease tension.
  • Movement and changing positions in labor can provide relief from pressure.

Pharmacological Support

  • Nitrous Oxide provides anxiety and pain relief, and is self-administered, so you can decide how much is right for you. Studies have not shown any significant risks to the fetus or mother, but side effects can include dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Talk to your doctor beforehand about which intramuscular opiates – pain relieving drugs – are available to you, how they are administered, and the pros and cons of each.
  • An ambulatory (walking) epidural is a lower-dose epidural, which allows you to retain sensation in your legs so you can move around.
  • An epidural analgesia delivers pain medication through a tube inserted into the epidural space in the vertebral canal.
  • A spinal epidural delivers a local anesthetic in the lower back, just outside the spinal cord, to reduce sensations in pelvis or abdomen .
  • A local analgesia is injects pain-relieving medication directly to specific area of the body.

No matter which path you anticipate, keep in mind that when you are in the midst of labor, you might end up using a different coping mechanism or a combination of methods. The best way to prepare is to be educated – and open-minded – about all the ways you can cope with labor and remember, you got this mama!