Nothing will send you to Dr. Google faster than cramps during pregnancy, especially during early pregnancy. Fortunately, cramping during pregnancy is usually perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
In this article, we’ll discuss the answers to the following questions, and much more:
Cramps during pregnancy are perfectly normal. In fact, some mamas with perfectly healthy pregnancies experience cramping in all three trimesters.
Before we go any further, though, if you’re experiencing cramps coupled with dizziness, unusual discharge, back pain, or abdominal pain, contact your healthcare provider. These could be a sign of a more serious concern, and they’ll be able to tell you what steps you should take next.
What Do Cramps During Pregnancy Feel Like?
The uterus is a muscle. And just like any other muscle, it’s prone to cramping and pain.
Similar to how we can get Charlie horses or sore muscles, we can experience cramps and pain in the uterus and the surrounding pelvic floor muscles and ligaments that support the womb.
Pregnancy cramps often feel a lot like period cramps—an aching, tightening feeling, felt in the lower abdomen, upper thighs, or lower back, that can be constant or come and go.
What Causes Cramps During Pregnancy?
There are many reasons women experience cramps during pregnancy throughout all three trimesters:
Some, but definitely not all, pregnant women experience implantation cramping—a dull pain that can happen one to two weeks after a fertilized egg burrows its way into the uterine lining. Because this happens so early in a pregnancy, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet. For this reason, implantation cramps are easily mistaken for ovulation cramping, PMS cramps, or some other minor passing pain.
Progesterone is a sex hormone that plays an important role in fertility and maintaining pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, the placenta is the main producer of this hormone. When progesterone levels are low, cramping (and possibly bleeding) may cause the lining of the uterus to thin and weaken.
You may suspect low progesterone levels if you’re spotting or have recurring miscarriages. Up your vitamin B and C intake (try camu camu powder), plus eat more foods rich in zinc. Your provider may also recommend progesterone supplements.
Gas, bloating, bowel changes
GI discomforts of all kind often cause cramps during pregnancy. The hormonal combo of low motilin and high progesterone levels slow down how quickly food moves through the stomach and intestines, which can lead to both gas, bloating, and constipation.Unfortunately, you can expect these kinds of cramps throughout your pregnancy.
Because the uterus is is a muscle, it’s susceptible to muscle cramps caused by mineral deficiencies. Deficiencies of nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, sodium and even calcium, which play a role in muscle contraction and relaxation, can result in cramps during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, it’s always a good idea to discuss any herbal use with a healthcare provider or a clinical herbalist who is knowledgeable about herbal use during pregnancy.
Certain essential oils
Many midwives and those familiar with the use of herbs in pregnancy and labor turn towards essential oils for their powerful effects on body systems, but sometimes these powerful effects can lead to cramping.
Be sure to consult with someone who is well-versed in the use of essential oils before deciding to use essential oils during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, cramps during pregnancy can signal pregnancy loss. But please know that cramping without any other symptoms does not necessarily mean miscarriage. Statistics are on your side: In one study, 85 percent of participants experienced cramps during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, but only 28 percent miscarried.
If you are concerned or suspect that you may be having a miscarriage, reach out to your healthcare provider for further evaluation. Check out this post to verse yourself in the signs and symptoms of miscarriage.
Poor alignment of pelvis or uterus
An imbalance or poor alignment of the pelvis or the uterus can cause a domino effect of other complications, such as fetal malposition (breech or posterior presentation, for example) and pelvic or lower back pain.
What causes misalignment? When some muscles are loose and some muscle are tight, it results in an uneven pull on the ligaments and muscles surrounding the pelvis/uterus. The softening effects of pregnancy hormones on the muscles and ligaments can also throw off this fine balance.
The rapid growth of a pregnant woman’s body causes her skin, ligaments, and muscles to stretch, causing aching, itching, spasms, cramps, or sharp, shooting pains. It’s not rocket science to understand why this stretching can cause discomfort in some women.
Get in touch with your healthcare provider if these sensations are prolonged or concerning.
Round ligament pain
A network of ligaments, including the round ligament, supports your uterus. As pregnancy progresses, the round ligament stretches to accommodate the growing baby and womb. Round ligament pain is described as a sharp, shooting pain that can be felt on either side of the lower abdomen. This pain is usually brought on by sudden movement or exercise such as rolling over in bed, sneezing, or even having an orgasm.
Lightning crotch is a catch-all phrase for a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain that occurs in the pelvis, rectum, or vulva. Causes can include baby’s movement, round ligament pain, and mineral deficiencies.
By about 20 weeks, it’s common for pregnant women to experience Braxton Hicks contractions. These types of contractions are sometimes called “false labor pains,” and are the body’s way of preparing for labor.
Braxton hicks are felt higher in the uterus and start out as mild tightening in the front of the uterus. Unlike real labor contractions, Braxton hicks are irregular, infrequent, and do not dilate the cervix. Read more about Braxton hicks, including how to get relief, in this post.
When the baby is in the final stages of growth, a few things start to happen:
Baby gets stronger and that means stronger kicking and movements. For some women this can be very uncomfortable. This movement can also trigger the uterus to contract, causing cramps during pregnancy.
Baby runs out of room, so these kicks and movements feel more pronounced. Again, this can be uncomfortable and cause some women to cramp.
Regular or frequent contractions or uterine tightening, often painless
Ruptured membranes (your water breaks with a gush or a trickle of fluid)
How to Relieve Cramps During Pregnancy
Even the slightest bit of dehydration can lead to muscle cramps during pregnancy. The Office on Women’s Health recommends pregnant women drink at least 10 cups (2.4 liters) of fluids daily.
Use gentle heat
A warm bath is a trusted and time-tested go-to for cramps during pregnancy. Make a warm bath even more therapeutic by adding epsom salt. The magnesium in epsom salt promotes relaxation of muscles. Keep the water lukewarm—pregnant women should not soak in water over 100 degrees—and limit your bath to 10 minutes.
You can also apply a warm compress or water bottle to sore areas for 10-15 minutes.
Stretch and strengthen
The following activities can all help your body move through discomfort associated with cramping, spasming, and aching during pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga classes: Many yoga studios offer special classes for pregnant women. If you can’t find one in your area, there a plenty of good prenatal yoga videos to stream on YouTube.
Walking: Aim for just 15-30 minutes per day. Go slow—the important thing is you’re moving.
Pregnancy pilates: This exercise is safe during all trimesters of pregnancy and can help you build strength, balance, and stamina—all bonuses during pregnancy and labor!
Swimming: Swimming in natural bodies of water is easy on joints, but provides great full-body exercise.
Mineral deficiencies, even subclinical levels can lead to cramps. By eating plenty of mineral-rich foods and herbs, along with proper prenatal supplementation, you can prevent and relieve cramps during pregnancy.
Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Without enough oxygen, muscles cramp. Getting enough iron from food and supplements will ensure your body has the iron it needs to deliver oxygen to all your cells including the ones that make up your uterus. Couple iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods to increase absorption. Keep in mind: Plant-based sources of iron can be difficult for the body to absorb—you can try a supplement (with your provider’s approval) like Blood Builder to help.
Iron-rich foods include:
Grass-fed red meat
Beans, peas, lentils
Nuts and seeds, like cashews, almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds
Dried fruit, like raisins or prunes
Vitamin C-rich foods include:
Wear a belly band
Wearing a belly band specifically designed to give your belly a little bit of extra support goes a long way towards relieving cramps during pregnancy. Just don’t wear one for more than 3 hours a day—this can actually weaken your muscles.
Easier said than done, but so very, very important. High levels of stress can result in a lowered immune system, high blood pressure and/or premature birth. (source) Cramping during pregnancy is often associated with those complications, so please do yourself a favor and make time for self care.
Though exercise during pregnancy is your great for your health and the health of your baby, too much isn’t a good thing. Some perfectly safe and enjoyable things, like sex, can cause cramps during pregnancy. Sex, while typically encouraged throughout pregnancy (as long as it’s something you desire and enjoy) can cause the uterus contract. Not enough to induce labor before it’s time, but enough that you might experience discomfort. Only you know what is “too much” for you, so take the time to check in with your body and know your limits.
According to ACOG, you should stop exercising and contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:
Feeling dizzy or faint
Shortness of breath before exercising
Calf pain or swelling
Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
Fluid leaking from the vagina
When Is Cramping During Pregnancy a Concern?
If cramping during pregnancy is persistent or increasing with pain, or is accompanied by the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider for further evaluation:
I know you only want the best for your baby, but try not to jump to the worst-case scenario. In the vast majority of cases, cramping during pregnancy is normal. That said, you should always check in with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about cramps during pregnancy.
When you’re in the home stretch, an unexpected diagnosis can throw you for a loop. But since 1 in 4 healthy women are colonized with Group B Strep, a GBS diagnosis is a very real possibility for many pregnant women. So what happens if you test positive? Read on to learn all about Group B Strep treatment to increase your chances of having the natural birth you desire.
I Tested Positive for GBS. Now What?
Most providers in the United States treat Group B Strep in one of two different ways.
Preventive Group B Strep treatment
This conventional form of treatment is the most common the U.S., where health officials say the risks of GBS outweigh the risks of antibiotics. This form of Group B Strep treatment often includes automatic IV antibiotics, like Penicillin and Ampicillin, during labor if mama tests positive for GBS. According to the CDC, the antibiotics work best when administered for at least four hours before delivery.
These medications are usually safe for both mom and baby, but up to 4 percent of women may experience a mild reaction like a rash. In rare cases (approximately 1 in 10,000) antibiotic use can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, fever, or more severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis.
Though the chances are much slimmer, research shows antibiotic use doesn’t guarantee baby won’t get GBS or an infection from it:
When antibiotics are administered during delivery, baby has a 1 in 4,000 chance of developing an infection from GBS.
Without antibiotics, baby has a 1 in 200 chance of developing an infection from GBS.
The risk-based approach to Group B Strep treatment
Even if you test positive for GBS at your 35-37 week prenatal appointment, research shows this can change.
Between 17 and 25 percent of women who have a positive swab at 35-37 weeks of gestation will be GBS negative at delivery.
Because of this, Group B Strep treatment with antibiotics is not necessarily the norm around the world. In the UK, for example, health authorities say that if all women are screened for Group B Strep, this automatically increases antibiotic use during labor, which has its own set of risks, including infection and antibiotic resistance. (source)
In the U.S, some providers will allow this wait-and-see approach. Instead of giving antibiotics to every GBS positive case, the doctor will assess mom’s risk factors, including:
Clear signs of infection during labor, like fever of 100.4 or higher
Pre-term labor (before 37 weeks)
Ruptured amniotic sac (water breaking) 18 hours or more before delivery
Having a previous baby who developed early-onset GBS disease
If mama shows no signs of infection, baby will be closely monitored for 12 hours after delivery for signs of infection.
Note: Exact protocol for your Group B Strep treatment will depend on the policies of the birthing place, so it’s important to discuss your options before labor begins.
How to Treat Group B Strep Without Antibiotics
If you test positive for GBS, the following strategies promote healthy vaginal flora, which may lower your chances of having GBS at delivery and passing it on to baby. No matter which method of Group B Strep treatment you and your healthcare provider decide on, these home remedies are worth a try with your doctor’s approval.
Up your daily intake of fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut, pickles, Kefir, and yogurt
Or, target GBS locally by using a probiotic capsule as a suppository before bed.
Bacteria comes and goes, so you should continue to take probiotics until you go into labor. Even better, continue taking probiotic supplements while breastfeeding to further transfer good flora to baby. (source)
Chlorhexidine wash (Hibiclens)
In the medical world, the jury is out when it comes to the effectiveness of using chlorhexidine to cleanse the vagina before and during birth. It’s a standard medical practice in some parts of Europe, and there is some evidence that it does reduce the rate of infection from GBS and other medical conditions. Still, some practitioners are wary of this technique, because it only temporarily cleanses the vagina and rectum.
For maximum effectiveness:
Mix 2 Tbsp. Hibiclens (4% chlorhexidine solutions) with 20 oz. sterile water in a periwash bottle
Slowly instill the solution into the vagina with very gentle pressure (this can be self-administered or assisted by your spouse or midwife)
Wash the exterior of the rectum separately
Repeat every 4 hours through labor
Garlic is thought to have antimicrobial properties, and one small study suggests garlic was able to kill Group B Strep bacteria within 3 hours. More research needs to be done, but it seems like a promising alternative.
For maximum effectiveness, try:
Garlic paste: Mix 1 glove chopped and 1 teaspoon honey. Swallow this without chewing it. Repeat several times a day, preferably with a meal.
Eat garlic: Chop fresh garlic and add to salad, dressing, vegetables, and almost any savory dish.
Garlic elixir: Add ½ Cup Honey, ¼ Cup apple cider vinegar, and ½ bulb garlic to a blender. Blend until liquefied. Take ½ tsp. up to twice each day.
Garlic suppository: Peel a garlic clove and insert it into the vagina. Sleep with it in overnight, before removing. Rotate with probiotics. (Don’t forget to get your doctor’s approval first.)
Herbs such as Echinacea may boost the immune system, and a healthy immune system naturally wards off colonized bacteria. Since mama’s antibodies are passed to baby through colostrum and breast milk, a strong immune system in mama means a stronger immune system in baby. You can also try elderberry syrup, which works the same way.
For maximum effectiveness, try taking a 1/2 tsp. of Echinacea tincture two times each day for no more than 6 weeks.
A root used for centuries in Chinese medicine, Astragalus is an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body from physical, mental, and emotional stresses. There haven’t been any studies on the effectiveness of Astragalus in the treatment or prevention of GBS, but it has long been used to fight bacteria and viruses, as well as support the immune system.
For maximum effectiveness, take a 1/2 tsp. of Astragalus tincture two times each day.
Studies suggest vitamin C supplementation after 14th weeks can strengthen the amniotic sac and help prevent the membrane from rupturing prematurely. This is important with a GBS diagnosis, since baby is more at risk of contracting GBS after the water breaks.
Use a natural, food-based source of vitamin C, like camu camu powder. Just one teaspoon of this camu camu powder contains over 600 mg of vitamin C, over 1,000 percent of the RDA of this vitamin.
Studies suggest GBS can penetrate the placenta’s collagen-rich membrane. When ingested, collagen can help protect joints, improve gut health, and improve liver function. Though scientific data is lacking, it makes sense that collagen may also help strengthen the amniotic sac.
To get more collagen, try:
Collagen peptides: Collagen peptides cost less than collagen supplements and are easy to add to any recipe. Try Vital Proteins collagen.
Collagen-rich recipes: Check out this post for my favorite collagen-rich recipes, including smoothies, waffles, and tea.
“The literature provides a single case of early onset newborn Group B Strep (GBS) among 4,432 waterbirths, suggesting that low-risk women who give birth in water may have a far lower rate of newborn GBS than women who have a dry birth.” — source
Incorporate cultured foods that support healthy gut and vaginal health, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc.
Drink plenty of water: A pregnant women should aim for at least 10 cups of water each day. Dehydration can lead to complications, including preterm labor.
Dealing With a GBS Diagnosis
A Group B Strep diagnosis can feel like the end of your natural birth plan, but it doesn’t have to be. Try the above home remedies to balance your vaginal flora, but remember some things are out of your control. Many healthy mamas get a Group B Strep diagnosis. Work with your healthcare provider to find a Group B Strep treatment plan that best complements your natural birth plan. Your health and that of your baby’s is what’s most important.
Plus, what a positive GBS diagnosis means for your pregnancy and your baby
What is GBS During Pregnancy?
GBS is NOT the same bacterium that causes strep throat, which is from group A.
Our bodies have all kinds of bacteria in them, particularly in the bladder, vagina, intestines, and rectum. GBS is a type of bacteria found in 25 percent of all healthy adult women.
Women who test positive for GBS during pregnancy are considered to be colonized (aka carriers), meaning the bacteria lives in their body without causing illness. The bacteria can come and go, without causing health issues or symptoms for most people. However, it is a bacterium, so there can be serious risks for those who are vulnerable, such as babies, elderly people, and those with chronic medical issues.
Note: There are many references for GBS during pregnancy—Group B Streptococcus Infection, Group B Strep, Baby Strep—that all mean the same thing. For consistency, we’ll use the two most common terms—Group B Strep and GBS.
What Causes Group B Strep?
An adult can get Group B Strep from food, water, or things you touch. Although it can be sexually transmitted, GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease. Like germs from a cold, GBS is simply passed from person to person through everyday contact. (Source)
A GBS diagnosis has nothing to do with a woman being clean or not!
How is GBS Diagnosed?
At every prenatal appointment, your healthcare provider will test your urine for protein, sugar, and bacteria. In heavy colonizers, GBS may show up during routine urine screenings. (The same is true for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.) Approximately 2-7 percent of pregnant women test positive for GBS in their urine during these appointments.
But most people won’t get diagnosed with GBS until their healthcare providers does a swab test between 35 and 37 weeks. In some cases, your provider may let you test early. This way, if you test positive, you can take action to try to rid your system of the bacteria.
During the swab test, your healthcare provider will:
Use a sterile swab to swipe from your vagina to your rectum.
Send the sample to the lab for analysis. This usually takes 24-48 hours.T
The test itself only takes a few seconds, but it checks to see if the bacteria has colonized the vaginal canal or rectum, both of which can affect baby. Once the result of your Group B Strep test are in, your doctor will generally provide the results over the phone, though they’ll want to schedule a follow-up appointment if you test positive.
If you test positive for GBS, your healthcare provider will offer one of two methods of treatment: preventive (most common in the U.S.) or risk-based.
Check out this post for more information about your treatment options, plus home remedies to promote healthy vaginal flora before birth.
GBS During Pregnancy: Risks and Complications
It’s important to know that even if you have GBS during pregnancy, your baby will probably be healthy.
Even if mama has Group B Strep and is NOT treated, there is only a 1-2 percent chance that baby will get an infection. Antibiotics during labor further decrease the risk to about 0.2 percent.(source)
That said, GBS should be taken seriously, because infections can be life-threatening for baby.If baby contracts an infection from GBS, it is usually treatable, but it can be serious and very scary. Complications range from fever to more critical issues, such as pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis (an infection of the fluid and lining of the brain). In 2-3 percent of full-term babies, a GBS infection is fatal. (source)
How Does Baby Get GBS?
Baby can contract GBS if he/she comes in contact with fluid that contains Group B Strep bacteria.
Baby will come into contact with bacteria during the time between the water breaking and delivery, since a woman’s rectum and vagina are where colonized GBS is most often found.
In rare cases, the bacteria can cross through the amniotic sac before it’s ruptured. (source)
The good news? The vast majority of babies will not develop an infection. Though approximately half of babies may be colonized, only 1 in every 200 babies born to a GBS-colonized mother will actually develop an infection. (source)
Can Baby Get GBS During a C-Section?
If you are GBS positive and your water breaks, baby can be colonized with Group B Strep—regardless of whether you end up having a vaginal birth or a C-section. This is because the physical barrier protecting baby, aka the bag of waters, has been compromised. The longer baby remains inside the mother after her water breaks, the higher the risk of infection (for both mom and baby).
How to Prevent Baby From Getting Group B Strep After Delivery
There’s no 100 percent effective way to prevent Group B Strep from passing to baby if mama has it (hey, even antibiotics aren’t foolproof!). Still, there are a few things to help give baby the best chance at fighting the bacteria.
Delay baby’s first bath: The waxy, cheese-like coating baby is born with, called the vernix, has natural antibacterial properties. This research found the vernix contained substances that target a large variety of pathogens, including Group B Strep. So, don’t wash it off, rub it in!
Practice skin-to-skin: Ask your healthcare provider to place baby on your bare chest immediately following delivery. Research suggests skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care, may reduce the risk of baby being colonized by bacteria. It also reduces stress levels and stabilizes blood sugar, breathing, and blood pressure.
Breastfeed: Immediate breastfeeding can help protect baby, because colostrum—early milk—is loaded with immunological components. In fact, research suggests its primary function is to be immune-boosting rather than nutritional.
Be Aware of Late Onset GBS Positive in Baby
If your birth went fast or you weren’t able to get onto antibiotics, it’s possible for baby to come into contact with GBS bacteria. In some cases, baby may not present symptoms of infection until 7 days or up to 12 weeks after birth. This is called Late Onset GBS. (source)
Warning signs include:
Blank or trance-like expression
Bulging fontanelle (soft spot)
Sensitivity to bright light
Stiff body or involuntary jerking movements
Pale or blotchy skin
Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
How About You?
Did you test positive for GBS during pregnancy? How did GBS during pregnancy affect your childbirth? Share with us in the comments below.
Even though it’s not as likely, you most certainly can get pregnant while breastfeeding.
In most cases, breastfeeding women are not fertile (not ovulating) for approximately six weeks immediately following birth.
In some cases, breastfeeding further delays fertility because it often suppresses ovulation.
How? When you’re breastfeeding, your body produces prolactin to help make milk. This hormone suppresses hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, that facilitate ovulation. The more you breastfeed, the more prolactin you produce and the less likely you are to become pregnant.
Can You Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding When Using LAM?
LAM stands for ‘Lactational Amenorrhea Method,’ a temporary amount of time after birth when the body does not menstruate.
Most breastfeeding moms experience lactational amenorrhea for at least the first few months of exclusive breastfeeding. Though not as common, some moms experience LAM for well over a year. It’s different for everyone, based on how their bodies function.
How Effective is LAM?
LAM can be a highly effective form of birth control if understood and used correctly, though even with perfect understanding and use, it is not a 100 percent method.
Studies show LAM is 98 to 99.5 percent effective when used properly. There are three conditions that must be met for this method to work:
You must be exclusively breastfeeding your baby. This means no formula and you must put baby to breast at least every 4 hours during the day and at least every six hours at night.
Your baby must be under 6 months of age.
You must not have resumed your menstrual cycle yet.
If any of these conditions change (return of period,formula feeding) or your baby is older than 6 months, you can assume that LAM is no longer a reasonable or effective method of birth control for you.
But there’s a catch…
The problem with LAM is, other studies suggest many women don’t know enough, if anything, about LAM to rely on it as an effective form of contraception.
When Do You Get Your Period After Giving Birth?
Some women get their period as soon as eight weeks after birth, while others may not get their period for a year or longer.
It’s difficult to know when the body is gearing up for the return of its menstrual cycle, and a woman may ovulate before the obvious return of her period. Because of this, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding even if you haven’t had your period yet.
To learn more about your period after pregnancy, check out this post.
Signs You’re Ovulating Even If You Don’t Have Your Period Back
For most women, menstrual blood will be the first indicator their fertility is creeping back, followed by ovulation.
For others, ovulation will occur before the the tell-tale sign of bleeding.
When the latter happens, women who aren’t using any other method of birth control may conceive before they even know they’re fertile.
Note: When your period does come back while you are breastfeeding, it might not look or feel the same way it did before you were pregnant.
It may be:
lighter or heavier
more brown, pink or yellow-hued
longer or shorter
different in regularity (it may come every 28 days or randomly)
Over time your menstrual cycle should return to your normal pattern, but in the meantime, you may still be fertile.
If You’re Not Ready for Another Baby…
If you’re asking can you get pregnant while breastfeeding because you or your partner aren’t ready for another baby, think about what form of birth control is right for you. I have an entire post on natural birth control options for you to consider.
If You Want to Try for No. 2
On the other hand, if you’re asking can you get pregnant while breastfeeding because you want to conceive again, be sure to give your body time to fully recover from childbirth.
Experts suggest waiting at least 1 year, preferably 2 before trying again.
If you’re ready for number two, you can take the following steps:
Increase baby’s solid intake. Try increasing baby’s solids intake if he or she is enjoying food and older than 6 to 8 months. This will decrease the demand for milk, which affects hormone output and puts you one step closer to fertility.
Encourage baby to sleep through the night. It also helps to have a child who is sleeping all night, as you will need to rest when pregnant.
Optimize your diet and lifestyle for fertility. You can also follow some of the lifestyle and diet recommendations in this post to balance hormones and boost your fertility.
Start taking prenatal vitamins (if you aren’t already). Your body has spent a long time nourishing another life. Start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as possible to ensure you have enough folate and other nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy.
Poop may not be glamorous, but checking a baby’s diaper is an indicator of baby’s health. Everything in that diaper means something: color, consistency, and frequency. So if baby stops pooping, you might wonder if baby is constipated and what causes constipation in babies?
What Causes Constipation in Babies?
If you slack a bit on your water consumption, eat too many bananas, or indulge in too many processed grains, you may experience a bit of constipation. Sometimes it’s easy to figure out the cause of our own bowel issues, but what causes constipation in babies?
Transitioning to solids
It’s common for babies who are transitioning to solids to experience constipation, because their digestive systems are adjusting to the new diet.
Wait until baby displays signs of readiness (like reaching for your food) and is at least 6 months of age to give solids or purees. If baby becomes constipated, he may not be ready for the transition quite yet. Cut back on solid foods and boost your breastfeeding.
Feeding constipation-causing solids
Some foods produce hard, firmer stools and can result in constipation problems. You don’t have to cut them out entirely, but both bananas and applesauce, popular first foods for babies, can back baby up. The pectin in applesauce, for example, pulls water out of the stool, making it harder for baby to pass. It can also cause stomach cramps and gas.
Though you may have heard that bananas are good for constipation, it depends on whether the banana is ripe. They can contain high amounts of starch, which contributes to constipation. Don’t give bananas to a baby dealing with constipation.
Too much rice cereal
Though often recommended by pediatricians, rice cereal is not a great choice for baby’s first solid. Besides being high in arsenic, cereal is usually made from white rice and is, therefore, very low in nutrients, including fiber. Babies immature systems also have a hard time digesting grains. Try these foods instead.
Sometimes the cause isn’t what baby’s eating—it’s what mama is eating. Studies suggest that chronic constipation in children can be a result of a cow’s milk allergy. Other signs of a cow’s milk allergy or sensitivity can include baby eczema, hives, or excessive spitting up.
If you suspect your baby is sensitive to dairy or other allergens, slowly cut out dairy and other potential triggers from your diet. An elimination diet can help pinpoint what your baby is reacting to. A lactation consultant can help guide you through the process.
Incorrect formula ratio
If baby drinks formula, double check to make sure you’re using the correct ratio of powder to water. An imbalance can contribute to dehydration, which can cause constipation in babies.
Try a new formula
If a bottle-fed baby is constipated, sometimes it’s as easy as changing out the formula. Some babies don’t do well on a cow’s milk formula, but thrive on a goat’s milk one. Experiment and see if that helps baby’s bowels.
Sometimes a little dehydration is all it takes to cause constipation. If baby is steadily gaining weight, you probably don’t have to worry about dehydration. But if baby is not gaining weight, has a poor latch, or is excessively fussy, he may not be getting enough milk. A lactation consultant can help determine whether or not baby is getting enough to drink and can help establish a plan of action.
Although rare, chronic constipation be a result of medical conditions including allergies or thyroid disorders. Consult your child’s pediatrician if you suspect a problem.
What to Do If Baby’s Constipated
Now that you know what causes constipation, you probably want to know how to help baby through it. If you suspect your baby is constipated due to one of the above factors, check out this post to get natural remedies for constipation.
Moringa is getting tons of buzz lately. But don’t think all this attention and praise means it’s a totally new superfood or supplement—it’s anything but. This tried-and-true edible plant has ancient roots.
If it’s new to you, read on to learn more. In this article, we’ll explore:
What moringa is
Why it’s so popular right now
The health benefits of moringa
Where to buy it and how to use it
Plus, side effects you need to know about
What Is Moringa?
The leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and root of the moringa plant have been a source of food and medicine for thousands of years. It’s high in antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds.
The plant is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, as well as the tropics. In those areas you’ll find it fresh, but you’re more likely to find moringa in capsule, oil, tea, seed, and powder form in the U.S.
Health Benefits of Moringa
Used traditionally as medicine, we’re only now beginning to study the health benefits of moringa scientifically.
What we do know is the plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly protein, vitamin B6, B2, vitamin A, magnesium, and iron. These nutrients work to support overall health and well-being. It also packs powerful antioxidants, like vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, and chlorogenic acid, to protect cells from oxidative stress and damage.
Here’s a deeper look at how this all helps our bodies:
Lowers blood sugar
Multiple studies show consuming the plant can improve blood sugar response. This is likely, at least in part, due to its fiber and protein content. This nutritional profile helps down and level out blood sugar spikes. (source, source, source) And balanced blood sugar is crucial for hormonal health, a healthy weight, and energy levels.
As with all plant-based foods, a number of studies show moringa contains phytochemicals that act as anti-inflammatories. (source, source) Because inflammation is at the root of many diseases, the plant may help protect the body from longterm issues like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and even chronic pain.
Moringa may also lower cholesterol, thanks to high levels of fiber and plant sterols. In a rabbit study, it lowered cholesterol and reduced plaque in the arteries as effectively as medication, without the side effects.
Protects against arsenic toxicity
During one promising study, scientists gave moringa to mice exposed to arsenic. Amazingly, the plant mitigated the usual effects of arsenic, including cardiac, liver, and renal function problems.
While the exact mechanisms at play are unknown, scientists speculate that the plant’s high antioxidant levels and plentiful phenolic acid compounds counter the damage arsenic wreaks on our delicate biochemistry.
Increases sex drive
A 2015 study found moringa improves sexual function—in stressed-out mice anyway. The exact mechanism is unknown, but the plant appears to increase libido.
Increases breast milk production
Early evidence suggests that taking 250 mg of a specific moringa supplement (Natalac) twice daily after childbirth increases milk supply, but it’s important to note that safety and efficacy haven’t been sufficiently studied yet. (source)
Supports brain health
Thanks to high levels of antioxidants, like vitamin C and vitamin E, moringa counters the oxidative damage underlying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It’s also a nootropic, a substance that improves cognitive function and memory.
Protects the liver
A couple of studies suggest that the plant’s large quantities of antioxidants and phytochemicals may support the health of our largest detoxification organ, the liver. (source, source)
How? Oxidative stress and inflammation act as two of the driving forces behind liver damage. Moringa’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties protect against that hepatic damage.
Boasts antimicrobial properties
This plant produces antibacterial substances to protect itself from bacteria in its environment. We receive these same antibacterial properties when we eat or apply it topically. In fact, in a 2011 study, researchers discovered that moringa extract inhibits the growth of S. aureus, V. parahaemolyticus, E. faecalis, and A. caviae.
Traditionally, many use moringa as a poultice to speed wound healing. We now have research to support what those who have used this plant for years have always known: Applying moringa to wounds can enhance wound healing.
By promoting coagulation, moringa encourages blood clotting at the site of a wound. This shortens the time it takes to repair damage and speeds wound healing time.
Reduces the severity of asthma
In one of the few human clinical trials on the plant, adults with asthma took 3 grams of moringa twice daily for three weeks. Moringa not only reduced asthma symptoms, but also reduced the severity of asthma attacks. (source)
As a protein-rich food, moringa packs an assortment of amino acids. Some of which (most notably tryptophan) are the backbone of sleep-inducing hormones, like melatonin, priming the body for improved and more restful sleep.
Moringa Side Effects
In the amounts normally eaten as food, the leaves, seeds, and fruit are safe to enjoy.
Add it to water or milk/milk alternative, hot or cold, to make a tea or latte. (Some say it tastes a lot like matcha.) Try my golden milk latte recipe, but use 1 teaspoon of the powder in place of turmeric paste.
Stir it into pasta sauce. It works really well in my pesto—simply add 1 teaspoon of moringa powder per batch.
In this post, we’ll answer all of your questions including:
How accurate are pregnancy tests?
What is the most accurate pregnancy test?
Plus, what is the best early pregnancy test?
How Accurate Are Pregnancy Tests?
Fun fact: Ancient Egyptian women used to take urine-based pregnancy tests to find out if they were pregnant. Of course, their tests consisted of urinating on barley to see which seeds sprouted faster—not quite the same thing as running to your local drugstore to pick up a test! (source) Despite the very unorthodox method of testing, researchers at Harvard University believe these women were on to something: The hormones in the urine of a pregnant woman encouraged the growth of barley.
Today a pregnancy test, a tool that checks your urine for the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG will do the trick—and with much more precision.
But when it comes to accuracy, there are two things to consider: sensitivity and timing.
Some pregnancy tests, especially drugstore brands, have very low sensitivity levels. This means that there must be more hCG present (i.e. over 100mIU/hCG) before the test will read as positive; these high levels are not present until 7-10 days after a missed period.
Other pregnancy tests have very high sensitivity levels. This means they can detect lower levels of hCG sooner. You may be able to get an accurate result sooner if you use one of these tests.
If you’re ever wondering how accurate are pregnancy tests, just remember: All pregnancy tests are accurate if you follow the instructions about when to test. What type of test you choose has more to do with how long you feel you can wait!
Most Accurate Pregnancy Test
If you’ve ever seen the sheer number of tests available in the family planning aisle of the store, you know there are many pregnancy tests out there. And when you think you might be pregnant, you’re almost certainly wondering how accurate are pregnancy tests? And which one is the most accurate?
Ideally, opt for a sensitive test. The most sensitive tests are capable of detecting very low levels of hCG to give you an accurate result earlier.
A perennial favorite, the First Response Early Result has an analytical sensitivity of 6.3 mIU/mL, which can provide an accurate result up to 6 days before a woman’s missed period (about 7-10 days past ovulation).
In fact, a 2011 study found that the First Response Early Result (FRER) demonstrated a sensitivity as low as 5.5 mIU/ml (source) and could detect more than 95 percent of pregnancies on the day of your missed period. (source)
Since most women want to know as soon as possible, these tests are very popular. Lots of mamas shared their experiences with this test with us:
I got a positive with a FRER 9 DPO. — Carla P.
With my second son, I had a positive test at 8 DPO. It took two more days for the digital to pick it up. — Margaret T.
I always use the FRER and start testing at like 7 DPO. These are the ones that always turn positive first, usually by day 8 or 9. I have 5 boys, and this is always my go-to for testing. — Erin M.
Pregnancy Test Comparison Chart
How Accurate Are Digital Pregnancy Tests?
Have you heard of “line eye syndrome?” It’s a phrase that’s often used if you’ve stared at a pink or blue dye test for so many hours that you’re not sure if you actually see a second line or if your eyes are playing tricks on you. Enter digital pregnancy tests. With a digital test, there is no eye straining, no line detection, and wondering “Is there a line or isn’t there?” With a digital test, you only have to read: “Pregnant” or “Not pregnant.”
But digital tests aren’t as sensitive as some of the other tests and require more hCG to return a positive result.
According to a study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion, the Clear Blue Digital pregnancy test was able to detect 25 IU/I (99% accurate from the day of your expected period), and all of the study participants were able to interpret the results with 100 percent accuracy. These tests are popular because they are easy to read, they just aren’t as accurate when it comes to early testing.
Tip: Test with the cheaper tests first. If you want to see the words “pregnant,” use the digital test a few days later.
How Accurate Are Wondfo Pregnancy Tests?
Many mamas who are charting (to achieve a pregnancy) start testing around 7 or 8 DPO to try and catch the first hint of a second line. But all of those pregnancy tests can get pricey. If you plan to test early, consider Wondfo pregnancy tests. At $9.95 for a 25-count package, these tests are just $0.39 each.
These test are low-frills—just test strips—but are still fairly sensitive at 25mIU/hCG. A pregnant mother may have 25mIU/hCG in her urine around 10 days after ovulation, and about 100mIU/hcg about 10-14 days after ovulation. (source)
Note: The Wondfo product literature states that in order for the test to be true to that 25mIU/hCG sensitivity, you must make sure that you have the authentic product and not a counterfeit. Double check your product against the image color/size on the product website to ensure you have the real deal.
Is Pink Dye or Blue Dye More Accurate?
It’s a myth that blue dye tests do not work as well.
Remember, accuracy has to do with how sensitive the test is (which should be listed on the box or product information of the test) and when the test is taken. The dye is not what makes the test more or less sensitive. (source)
There is nothing wrong with blue dye tests, and they are often just as sensitive as pink dye tests. In fact, a blue dye test provides an accurate result (from the missed period day) with over 99 percent accuracy. (source)
So why are the forums filled with little love for the blue dye tests?
It’s due to the evaporation line. An evaporation line forms when the urine on the testing area begins to dry, leaving a very thin and faint, grayish line. Since gray is closer to the color blue than pink, an evaporation line can sometimes be mistaken for a positive pregnancy test.
Tip: If you’re worried about evaporation lines, never read a pregnancy test after the specified time on the instructions, or alternatively stick with the FRER pink dye test.
The Alternative to At-Home Pregnancy Tests
The most accurate and most sensitive pregnancy test isn’t a urine test; it’s a blood test.
Although modern pregnancy tests are very accurate when used correctly, there is a little wiggle room for error. For instance, if you take the test too early, or if you don’t use the first morning urine (which has the highest concentration of hCG), or if you take the test incorrectly (i.e. not getting enough urine on the dip stick), you might receive a false response. If you really need an answer ASAP, see your healthcare provider or visit a lab for a blood test.
Blood test sensitivity
Blood tests can detect hormone levels as low as 5mIU/ml. However, most doctors only confirm pregnancy when the readings reach between closer to 25mIU/ml, which is about 10 days post ovulation. (source)
Cost and location of blood tests
Blood tests are a little more expensive than a urine test, but they are readily available at labs. For instance, Healthchek is a lab that offers an hCG test for $35 (source), while Direct Labs offers the test for $49 (source). You can also check with your ob-gyn or midwife, since many doctor’s offices have on-site labs for these purposes.
Can You Get A Positive Test and Not Be Pregnant?
When it comes to pregnancy tests, false negatives are much more common than false positives. Still, it is technically possible to get a positive pregnancy test and not be pregnant. This usually happens as a result of an underlying condition, like a UTI, cyst, or recent miscarriage. Learn more about what can cause a false positive in this post.
How accurate are pregnancy tests? Repeat after me: All pregnancy tests are highly accurate. If you want to test early, consider the FRER test. If you don’t get a positive pregnancy test right away, you may just have to wait a few more days to test again.
Natural mamas know what they eat during pregnancy matters and pay careful attention to their pregnancy diet, avoiding unsafe seafood and abstaining from alcohol. But what about cheese during pregnancy?
If you’re confused about what is and isn’t okay, let’s cover:
The big deal about cheese during pregnancy
Why pasteurization matters
Safe cheese during pregnancy
Cheese to avoid during pregnancy
Can You Eat Cheese During Pregnancy?
Cheese is a great source of calcium, so why is there so much talk about cheese you shouldn’t eat during pregnancy?
Some cheese isn’t safe during pregnancy, because it poses a higher risk of bacteria growth, like listeria.
Listeria, a type of food poisoning, can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Most people shake it off in a few days, but young children and pregnant women are more susceptible to listeriosis, the illness caused by the bacteria listeria. According to the CDC, pregnant women are ten times more likely to be infected. If the infection enters their blood, it can pass to their baby and cause miscarriage, stillbirths, or preterm labor.
The problem with pasteurization is that it can also kill good bacteria and destroy important amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in food. Still, when it comes to cheese during pregnancy, the FDA, USDA, and ACOG all recommend eating pasteurized cheese and following the guidelines below.
Cheese During Pregnancy: What’s Safe to Eat
Because some cheese is made with pasteurized milk or is cooked before being served, you don’t have to swear off cheese entirely while you’re pregnant. Here’s a look at some of the cheeses you can enjoy during pregnancy.
All hard cheeses, whether they’re made with pasteurized or unpasteurized milk, are generally safe to eat during pregnancy. According to the NHS, hard cheeses don’t have as much water in them as soft cheeses, making it much harder for bacteria to grow.
Hard cheeses you can eat while pregnant include:
Soft, pasteurized cheese
As long as they’re pasteurized, many soft cheeses are perfectly safe to eat during pregnancy.
Below is a list of soft cheeses typically made with pasteurized milk:
Goat Cheese (without the rind)
Prepared cheese spreads
Cheese During Pregnancy: What to Avoid
Some cheeses are strictly off-limits for pregnant women. Here’s a look at some of the cheeses you shouldn’t consume during pregnancy.
Soft, mold-ripened cheese
This type of cheese contains a high water content, which tends to breed listeria. It’s also less acidic than hard cheese, and since acid kills bacteria, the cheese is more likely to harbor bacteria. These soft cheeses aren’t recommended, even if they’re pasteurized.
You can tell if a cheese has been mold-ripened—it will be soft to the touch and have a white or moldy looking rind.
Examples of soft, mold-ripened cheese to avoid include:
Goat cheese with the rind
Soft, blue-veined cheese
This type of soft cheese isn’t recommended during pregnancy, even if its pasteurized. The “blue” in these cheeses often comes from specially-injected bacteria that promotes oxygen circulation and makes mold grow. Though this works to ripen the cheese faster, it can introduce unwanted bacteria.
This type of cheese includes:
There are many smaller, lesser-known or widely available cheeses that fall into this category. If you see the word “blue” or “bleu” in the name, you can assume it’s not safe to eat during pregnancy.
Soft, unpasteurized cheese
During pregnancy, it’s best to stick with cheeses that have labels and come from factories inspected by the USDA. This rings true, whether the cheese is made from cow, goat, or sheep’s milk.
Queso fresco and queso blanco, common in the Mexican diet, are made from raw cheese and also fall into this category. In fact, hispanic women are 24 times more likely to get listeria than other women.
The Exception to the Rules About Cheese During Pregnancy
You can have soft, mold-ripened, or blue-veined cheeses if you cook the cheese thoroughly to kill any bacteria.
Try oven-baked camembert or brie. Just make sure to cook until it’s piping hot throughout, not just melted. Most bacteria that causes food poisoning cannot survive above about 165 degrees. (source)
Don’t drive yourself crazy, and do the best you can. You could eat perfectly and still get listeria from spinach or something that has no warnings during pregnancy. Just be thoughtful about what you’re putting in your body and source your food from reputable places.
Doctor’s offices are usually pretty high-tech places. Ultrasound machines, blood pressure machines on wheels… it seems like everything is digital these days. So it’s a surprise to see an old-school paper tool like the pregnancy wheel.
You might wonder: What’s that for? Let’s break it all down, including:
What is a pregnancy wheel?
Where to buy a pregnancy wheel online
Why a pregnancy wheel isn’t the gold standard anymore
Plus, more modern options
What Is a Pregnancy Wheel?
Health professionals use the pregnancy wheel to determine a baby’s due date.
It looks like something you might have used in a high school math class: two circular pieces of cardboard attached by a brad. The months and days of the year are on the outer wheel to calculate due dates. Plus, information on fertility, screenings, and your baby’s size are on the inner wheel.
How to Use a Pregnancy Wheel
Like most due date calculators, a pregnancy wheel uses your last menstrual period as a benchmark. A pregnancy wheel is an incredibly simple tool to track your pregnancy and baby’s progress. Here’s how to use it:
Find the arrow labeled “first day of last period” on the inner wheel and move it to point to that date.
Now all of the other important dates in pregnancy, from conception to hearing your baby’s heartbeat, to your due date, will align with the appropriate dates.
Where to Find a Pregnancy Wheel Online
If you think a pregnancy wheel is a helpful tool to have, they’re easy to find and buy online. You can find rather inexpensive models on Amazon and on midwife and nursing supply websites.
Why the Pregnancy Wheel Isn’t the Gold Standard Anymore
But let’s get real, who needs a laminated paper wheel when you can just download an app? Many of the apps on my list of the best pregnancy apps tell you everything you’d find on a pregnancy wheel, and more.
In general, there’s been a technological shift towards digital due date calculators, even by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“ACOG supports the use of the EDD Calculator and will transition away from the physical plastic wheel in favor of this modern reinvention.” (source)
Try the Mama Natural Due Date Calculator Instead
The Standard Due Date Calculator
Based off Naegele’s Rule, Mama Natural’s due date calculator assumes a pregnancy lasts 280 days. It calculates due dates off a regular, 28-day cycle, with ovulation occurring on day 14. This type of due date calculator is most widely accepted, because it is much easier for a woman to remember her last menstrual period than it is for her to pinpoint ovulation or conception.
The Advanced Due Date Calculator
But some women, especially those who have irregular or longer cycles, may need to calculate their due date differently. That’s why Mama Natural also has an advanced due date calculator. This due date calculator incorporates the length of your luteal phase, your height and weight, age, and lifestyle factors to get a more accurate due date.
Red raspberry leaf tea is said to be a magical elixir that helps make natural childbirth easier. It’s been proven to make labor faster and reduce complications, but getting the recommended two cups per day ain’t easy—unless you have the right red raspberry leaf tea recipes at your disposal.
The Best Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Before we get dive into the recipes, you’re going to need your tea. Whether you prefer bagged or loose tea, here are two great organic options.
Red raspberry leaf tea has a wonderful flavor that is very similar to black tea (without the caffeine). If you like tea, it tastes great plain, hot or cold. Try this simple red raspberry leaf tea recipe:
Put in refrigerator and let cool. Add the juice of two lemons to your cold tea and mix well. Drink 2 cups a day.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Orange Cooler Recipe
This delicious recipe is great for summertime. A pregnant mama needs extra fluids and minerals in hot weather so this tea is sure to satisfy!
Take 4 tablespoons of loose red raspberry leaf (or 4 tea bags) and place in 1 quart Mason jar.
Boil 4 cups of filtered water and add to your tea.
Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Strain tea or remove tea bags.
Let the tea cool off a bit and then add 2 TB of raw manuka honey.
Put in refrigerator until use.
With each cup serving, add 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice and a wedge of orange for added vitamins, minerals and refreshment.
Labor Day Tea Recipe Video
Here’s a super quick video that shows how to make red raspberry leaf tea. I made this special Labor Day Tea recipe right before giving birth to my third baby.
Labor Day Tea Recipe - Red Raspberry Leaf Tea - YouTube
This is one of my favorite red raspberry leaf tea recipes for the end of pregnancy. I drank this very strong red raspberry leaf tea brew the few days before Paloma’s due date. I had an amazing birth with very strong and effective contractions.
Only drink this tea right around your due date (use our due date calculator here) and with the approval of your midwife or doctor. You don’t want to overstimulate your uterus before baby is ready.
Labor Day Tea Recipe
1 1/2 cups of loose red raspberry leaf tea (or 24 tea bags! Yes, it’s a strong brew)
4 cups of filtered water
Put 1 1/2 cups of loose RRL tea in a pot on the stove.
Some moms keep red raspberry leaf tea recipes or other blends of medicinal teas on hand during the postpartum period for added nutrition. This tea combination is great for boosting vitamin K, iron, and magnesium levels. It can also help ward off nausea associated with early pregnancy symptoms, like morning sickness.
3 parts peppermint leaf (or Fenugreek, if nursing)
2 parts nettle leaf
Use the same ratio as basic red raspberry leaf tea recipe.
Mix together and store in an airtight container.
Having Trouble Getting Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Down?
If these red raspberry leaf tea recipes still don’t do it for you, focusing on all the ways the tea nourishes your body can help. Red raspberry leaf tea helps strengthen the uterus and the pelvic area, priming your body for labor and childbirth. It’s also rich in readily absorbable vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, E, and A, a variety of B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.
To read more about the health benefits of red raspberry leaf tea, its uses during pregnancy, and how much red raspberry leaf tea to drink, check out this comprehensive post.