Silvia Lasnik*, Certified Yogabellies Teacher in Warwickshire, reached out to key figures in the local parenting community to chat all things pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. This week, she spoke to Jo Isherwood, writer of the parenting and lifestyle blog Cup of Toast (www.cupoftoast.co.uk). Jo is the mother of three children and an active voice in the central Warwickshire area as well as online.
What is your role in the parenting community and why, in your opinion, is it so important ?
I write the Parenting and Lifestyle blog, Cup of Toast. Through it I have frank conversations on social media, along with publishing posts of interest to my audience on my site. I think that being honest and showing as many sides as possible to the parenting journey is so important. It’s easy to think that everyone else has it all together when really we’re all just doing the best that we can and that looks different from family to family.
What are your top tips when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and motherhood?
Relax. Listen to the experts and try not to Google everything! Recognise that some days you will need a bucket full of patience that simply won’t be there, and teach yourself how to manage those days. Trust yourself, and listen to your instincts. Never compare yourself to someone else. If you’re unsure ask. If you’re still concerned ask again. Understand that it’s ok to have bad days, and off days, and days when you feel as though you’re coasting. That’s life, you will also have good days and great days and super productive days.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d give a new mum?
It’s ok to say no. It’s very hard to turn down visitors and refuse cuddles but those early days are so important. They can be very difficult, with hormones and sleepless nights, but they are also the time when you form the most magical relationship with your child. It might not feel like it at that point in time when days slip into nights, and fall into days again, but those moments will stay with you for a long time.
What is your personal birth and parenting philosophy and why?
My birth and parenting philosophy is to trust myself. To trust my body through pregnancy and childbirth and recognise if I needed help. As a parent to trust that I am doing a good job, even when it doesn’t always feel that way. There will be things that I don’t get right but if I am setting a good example of forming positive relationships, using good manners and working hard then I hope that I’m on the right track. Focusing on lifelong skills rather than specific targets. If my children are happy then I’m happy!
What are your thoughts on preparing for birth?
I think that it is very important to prepare well by focussing on relaxation. Use yoga breaths, a yoga ball, gentle stretching and calm walks to get in the zone. Really listen to your body and get used to the movements of your baby. I’m certain that all of this stood me in good stead in the labour room three times over!
What are your top tips for returning back to work after having had a baby and working around your family?
Initially I chose not to return to my work and my career after having my children, with the exception of the odd pro bono case. When my youngest turned two though I felt as though I was ready for something more and started my blog. Through that I have begun to write more regularly and for other people. It’s not easy, my children do see me working on the computer from time to time or fixed to my phone. For the most part though it is flexible so I can still do the school runs and play groups and work in the evenings after they are in bed. My top tip would be to set yourself some boundaries and make sure that you have some time off for you. Also to recognise that there will be moments when it feels really tough but the long term balance makes it worth it.
*If you’d like to find out more about Silvia’s yoga classes for women, please contact her on email@example.com or via her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/yogabellieswarks)
Here are five easy to try yoga postures to do at home. Remember that unless you are an experienced yoga practitioner with an existing practice, you should not undertake yoga until 14-16 weeks gestation. I highly recommend if you are completely new to yoga, then you should join a special prenatal yoga class.
Cat Curls (Bidalasana): Bidalasana helps relieve lower back pain and to release the length of the spine, a common problem during pregnancy. Get down on your hands and knees with hands placed directly under shoulders and knees under the hips.
Inhale and lift your heart, stretch back through your tail and concave your spine.
Exhale and roll your spine, lowering the head, pressing through the hands back to straight back. Cat Curls in pregnancy differ from your normal cat curl as we don’t curl the abdomen towards the floor, after curling up we simply return to flat back or table top. Repeat following your breath – Inhale as your curl the spine up and exhale back to flat back.
Childs Pose (Balasana): From any kneeling position, sit your tail back toward your heels. Take the knees as far apart as you need to to make your bump comfortable. Sit back as far as is comfortable and rest your head toward the mat. If you can’t reach your head to the mat, rest your chin on your hands. You can stack your fists and rest your forehead there or use a block if you can’t quite get down. Otherwise, you can stretch your arms out long in front of you and lower your head all the way to the mat. Avoid balasana if suffering from sciatica.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)- Baddha Konasana is a classic pregnancy yoga posture and is excellent for helping to open up the hips and pelvis in preparation for birth. This is a posture that be practised at night while reading a book or watching TV and is especially important for the later stages of pregnancy in the third trimester.
Sit on your mat with the soles of the feet together. Bring your heels as close to the groin as possible and pull the shoulder back and down away from the ears to straighten the spine. Hold the feet with the hands and (with a straight spine) begin to gently bend forwards from the hips – only as much as is comfortable – please do not squish your baby! Remember to breathe in and out through the nose.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukkha Svanasana): Downward dog can be practised with feet wider apart than normal to accommodate your bump, although ideally no further apart than hip width.
Push into the palms of the hands and pull up on the hip bones. When and if ready, takes the heels to the mat. It’s fine to keep the knees bent when pregnant and focus on stretch from hands to hips, lengthening the back.
Only hold any inversion for 5 seconds during pregnancy and if you feel dizzy or nauseous at all, come back down onto the mat and into child pose and relax.
Yoga Squats (Malasana): Squats are great for building strength and stamina during pregnancy and in preparation for birth. Many women like to squat while birthing. As you get bigger in pregnancy, use props such as blocks, bolsters or a
Rolled up blanket to rest your bottom on. Focus on relaxing and letting your breath drop deeply into your belly. Stand facing the back of a chair with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed outward. Squat
toward the floor as though you were going to sit down in a chair. Contract the abdominal muscles, lift your chest, and pull the shoulders back and down. Most of your weight should be toward your heels. This can be done against the wall for support. Remember to avoid wide legged postures if suffering from pelvic girdle pain or PSD.
Me at a particuarly low point this week, sporting a stylish heat pack and bad hair combo
I am so excited to be pregnant with my second child, we are absolutely over the moon. 8 years after my first pregnancy, we are going to welcome another mini MacDonald into the clan, a sibling for Caelen. We didn’t plan to have such a huge gap, but life being as unpredictable as it is, we suffered some losses before we finally hit the jackpot with this little bean. So yes, I am so, so grateful and happy to be so pregnant and even so ill, with this little winner
That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like absolute crap.
I’m currently 8 weeks pregnant and have only just managed (at 10am) to hobble out of bed, suck on some dry toast and sip some mint tea. As I’m typing these words, they are swimming in front of my eyes and I could easily be on a rubber dingy in the middle of a choppy ocean right now.
As soon as I discovered I was pregnant, I made sure all bad things were eliminated from my diet, bought a whole stack of new books on pregnancy nutrition, and made sure I was on top of my healthy mama game. Around 6 weeks, this all went out of the window and I’ve basically just been eating whatever will stay down, plus my multivitamin. But oh, the guilt! Try not to be too hard on yourself ladies, this nausea should sort itself out around the end of the first trimester, so just do what you can get through it and keep functioning. Aim for the healthiest food choices when you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get your five a day for a couple of weeks.
I know I’m not the only woman out there suffering, so I wanted to share with you some of the remedies I’ve tried to help morning (ha-ha – all day) sickness, what works for me and what doesn’t. Remember this is just my experience and different things work for different people.
Get out of bed slowly!
I cannot emphasize this one enough and if you already have a baby who squeaks in the middle of the night, it’s hard not to just jump up and run when you hear them. Do so at your own peril. This is my morning routine now and it makes a huge improvement to how my day goes:
1. Roll slowly onto your right side. Stay here 2-5 minutes, just let your tummy settle. If you have heartburn and need some Gaviscon, try sucking on that now. 2. Slowly, slowly slide up to half sitting in bed. Prop yourself up with cushions. Now you can crack open a packet of rice crackers and suck on them, taking intermittent sips of Ribena or apple juice. This will help to gently line your stomach and balance your blood sugar levels and stabalise that horrible sea sick feeling. 3. This should all take about 10 minutes, more if you have it. Then gently ease yourself to the side of the bed and slowly get up to standing. 4. Once you are up, try some herbal tea or luke warm water and some dry whole-wheat toast. Eat little and often throughout the day to avoid that empty, rumbling feeling in your tummy.
Drink Peppermint or Ginger Tea
This is an oldie, but peppermint and ginger tea both genuinely help to settle my tummy and take away the nausea. If you can get your lovely partner to bring a cuppa to you in bed for you to sip before you get up, even better. I find that one before bed also helps.
Adapt Your Yoga Practice
Just because you don’t look pregnant yet, doesn’t mean that you have to carry on as normal. If you are ill, you shouldn’t be forcing yourself through a full primary series. We are often reminded that ‘pregnancy is not an illness.’ Well, the symptoms can sure mimic illness. Be patient with yourself, slow it down, lie on your yoga mat and just cry/sleep if you have to.
In the first trimester, meditation and gentle hypnosis are your friend. Focus on bonding with your baby and breathing deeply to help alleviate the nausea and dizziness. If you can manage some adapted sun salutations, that’s fantastic. Even a gentle walk is great if you are very poorly, but try to keep moving a little every day. Exercise will honestly make you feel better once you get started. If it’s just not possible, then be patient with yourself and do what you need to do.
Wear Acupressure Wrist Bands
For both pregnancies, these have been a permanent feature for me. I only take them off to jump in the shower and they genuinely do work. You can buy them in any pharmacy or Boots store or even Amazon, and you might see them labelled as sea sick bands (same feeling.) Wearing sea bands applies pressure to the P6 point on your wrist and can help relieve nausea throughout the day. Make sure you wear them at the correct point: 3 fingers width below the top wrist crease.
Try Liquid Prenatal Vitamins
In my first pregnancy, I found that I couldn’t stomach tablets or capsules of multivitamins and folic acid. The minute they hit my stomach, it was toilet time. I did however discover liquid prenatal vitamins, so you just take spoonful’s instead of capsules and it makes a huge difference to me. Another top tip is to take them just before you go to bed, in case even the liquid causes some nausea.
Hypnosis for Nausea
I’m a big fan of hypnosis for many things, including morning sickness and childbirth. I’ve only just started using our Birth ROCKS morning sickness MP3 recording but I’m starting to feel gradually better, especially while listening to it and it definitely helps me sleep better.
I also tried a morning sickness app called ‘Morningwell,’ which you can download to your iPhone. It had some good reviews and so I gave it a bash, but it wasn’t for me. It basically sounds like electronic supermarket music and is extremely irritating. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to ping-pong-plinky-plink for 45 minutes 4 times a day, so I gave up on that one pretty early on.
Certain aromatherapy blends and smells instantly make you feel better during pregnancy. The smell of ginger and peppermint tea I’m sure are a large part of why they are so effective. I’ve been burning a lemon and peppermint blend the last few days by my desk and the smell is beautiful and definitely helps to ease the nausea. I’d recommend 2-4 drops of lemon and 3 drops of peppermint in your burner for a clean, nausea easing scent. Another pleasant blend I use, is 2 drops orange and 3 drops lavender.
I hope that you find some of these tips helpful and I’d love to hear any more that you have. Stay strong mamas, this is only a couple of weeks/months of our lives, so please rest up and show yourself some love and I’ll try to do the same. If you’d like more natural pregnancy and yoga advice from me, you can check out my book, YogaBellies for Pregnancy, available in paperback or Kindle
Now if you are anything like me, you spent most of your pregnancy checking your pregnancy phone app and reading books on pregnancy and birth: “At 9 weeks, baby is the size of a peanut and you will start to notice your rounded belly,” etc.
Once baby arrives you may think to yourself, ‘I’m not really sure what happens now.’ There isn’t a baby bible, but there are a few important things you will want to know about once baby arrives.
Bonding with baby when they first arrive is really important. Bonding is really a continuation of the relationship that began during pregnancy. The physical and chemical changes that were occurring in your body reminded you of the presence of this tiny person. Birth cements this bond and gives it reality. Now baby is actually here!
Tips for Bonding
• Put baby straight to the breast or chest for skin to skin contact if possible. This can aid the bonding process from the beginning.
• Make eye contact with your baby. Gaze at baby (as if you will actually be able to stop) and speak to them and acknowledge them as a person. Interact with baby from day one.
• Show respect for your baby and teach them respect for themselves by explaining to them exactly what is going on around them. For example, I would say to my son, “Okay wee guy, I’m going to take this nappy off now and put on a new one, is that okay?” I would wait for him to respond and eventually, they do actually start to squeak in response so you are effectively having a conversation with them.
• Touch your baby. Loving touch is so important for new-borns and gentle stroking and practises such as baby massage are great for helping baby heal from any birth trauma and also gently eases them into the world outside of your tummy. Babies can often become overwhelmed with the barrage of sensations they experience after birth. Reassuring touch can help to ease this transition
Once Baby Arrives…
Why Should I Wait Until The Cord Stops Pulsing to Cut It?
Several studies now suggest that new-born babies gain several benefits from waiting to cut the umbilical cord until at least two minutes after birth. This has now become the general procedure; however if it’s something you feel strongly about you may want to put it in your birth plan.
Waiting until the cord stops pulsating could result in better blood counts and iron levels for your baby. If the cord is cut prematurely, often baby will gasp for air and/or not receive all of the nutrients they receive from the placenta.
You’ve got your Baby…Now here comes the placenta
Once baby has been born, the placenta is still attached inside of you. At some point after baby has arrived, the placenta will detach from the uterus and then be ‘birthed’ also. This is called the “3rd stage of labour” and can take a couple of minutes or up to an hour.
You will experience a few more surges (which you won’t notice as you will be too busy gazing at your beautiful new baby) and then out pops the placenta. It is very dangerous for mum for any of the placenta to be left inside and if the placenta does not detach, it may have to be manually removed during surgery. Unfortunately, I had this pleasure after the birth of my son, but was just so happy and high about his arrival that I barely noticed.
Once the placenta has been expelled, the uterus contracts firmly, closing off the open blood vessels which had previously supplied the placenta. Without this wave, rapid blood loss could cause a big problem and be dangerous for you also.
You will know the baby is on its way down the birth path when you start to experience a fullness in the pelvic area. Some women describe it as a bearing down or a weighty feeling. Some women don’t notice what is known as transition at all.
This is the point during birthing when you are completely dilated (10cm – yes WOW!) and baby is ready for exit. This part can be pretty intense with the waves often right on top of each other without a break in between. Please remember this is also the shortest part of labour, usually lasting 15 minutes to half an hour.
An important thing to remember at this point is that if birthing gets to the point where you think, “This is unbearable! I can’t go on!” Then this means it’s almost over! Please remind your birth partner to tell you this when you say it.
Try your best not to push until you have to. You can breathe baby down for most of the birth instead of pushing. During my birth, I think I had 3 or 4 pushes as baby’s head was almost out. This allows the cervix to relax and open and lessens the chance of tearing the perineum.
Often women feel very hot or cold, sweat a lot, feel nauseous or vomit. You may shiver or shake, have hiccups, burp a lot and be just unable to feel comfortable in any position. This is also the most common time for the bag of waters to break naturally.
“I had a terrible experience first time round with my labour……waters broke and I didn’t go into labour myself so I was induced 2 days later……18 hours later I had a forceps delivery and I haemorrhaged (2 transfusions needed). Needless to say with my 2nd son I was petrified of labour. BUT this time I had the most amazing experience! I went into labour myself (6 days late and booked in to be induced) and progressed quickly at home. I arrived at the hospital at 9.45pm and baby Jude appeared into this world at 11.36pm. I did it all by myself with a little gas and air. My body told me when to push which felt amazing! I got home the next afternoon on a total birthing high! I can actually say I loved my labour this time! Xx”
This blog is adapted from the revised edition of Birth ROCKS by Cheryl MacDonald, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
2. You probably won’t feel the need to eat or drink as much at this stage. Try to keep your fluid intake high so that you don’t become dehydrated and something like a lolly pop can be great to stop your mouth from becoming too dry.
3. You will begin to become engrossed in the birth, focusing and tuning into your body and the surges.
4. You probably won’t want to speak to anyone and everything may seem a bit surreal. This is often known as ‘labour land’ and it feels like a lovely, fuzzy place, created by all of those amazing hormones rushing around your body and your deep breathing too.
5. You will also find that as your waves become more intense, you are less likely to be concerned by how you look or sound to other people. You may pee or poo during contractions and you probably won’t even notice and you definitely won’t care. Please don’t worry about this, nobody will mention it to you afterwards and it’s not a big deal, I promise.
6. No matter how long you find yourself in labour, there are usually consistent emotional and physical stages that most women experience. Midwives are usually very good at recognizing and identifying these signs and will guide you through them.
This blog is adapted from the revised edition of Birth ROCKS by Cheryl MacDonald, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
Here are a few practical tips on how foam rolling can help reduce pregnancy aches and pains.
Roll away the pregnancy aches
Foam rolling is a form of ‘self-myofascial release’ and an inexpensive type of self-massage you can do from the comfort of your own home.
It’s administered by using your own body weight and a high density foam roller to tackle knots in your muscle tissue. And foam rolling isn’t just for gym goers or athletes, as it can also benefit pregnant women by helping to release tension on trigger points and the surrounding tissues, leading to better blood flow, potentially increased muscle activation and improved sleep quality.
Cheryl MacDonald, yoga expert and founder of YogaBellies, says pregnant women can use a foam roller before and after exercise, dependent on their typical regime.
“Foam rolling is a perfect before or after yoga or exercise and is enhanced further by stretching afterward. The more consistently you foam roll, the better your results will be,” she told Cover Media.
For women new to foam rolling, Cheryl recommends choosing a 2-in-2 foam roller as the soft inner tube can be used to apply gentle pressure and the textured outer can be used for different muscle groups as desired.
“Using a high density foam roller, target muscle groups like the hip flexors, lats, glutes, calves, hamstrings, quads and the upper back. Always be sure to roll slowly, take your time to allow yourself to release any tension. Begin to relax before you begin. Foam rolling should be tender, but not unbearably painful,” she explained. “As with any new exercise, be sure to consult your care provider first.”
Cheryl’s top tips for foam roller newbies:
– Find some space on the floor, and sit on a yoga mat if this provides more comfort.
– Position your foam roller on the muscle group you want to target e.g. under the buttocks.
– Aim to keep your body in a stable and comfortable position and keep your spine neutral.
– Slowly roll until you find a tender place, keeping your body nice and relaxed.
– Keep breathing! Allow tension to release in surrounding tissues, about 30-60 seconds on each area. Spend more time if you desire.
– Keep moving onto other muscle group you want to target.
Childbirth actually starts weeks before you feel your first contraction. Your body starts to prepare for birth in a range of different ways that you may or may not notice. Even if you don’t notice or see any of these things, they are still happening. The ’signs’ of labour can be an indication that you will be about to give birth very soon, but the time scales vary greatly. For example, ‘a show’ can happen weeks or hours before you go into labour. The main thing to know is that things are moving in the right direction.
1. Warming Up For Labour
In the third trimester you may become aware of a tightening of the uterus, coming in irregular waves or after you have drank raspberry leaf tea. These practice surges or contractions are also known as Braxton-Hicks and are not real contractions at all. These waves are important to prepare the uterus for the upcoming labour. Think of Braxton Hicks as toning and strengthening the muscles of the Uterus in preparation for the big event, the same way you may be practising yoga to grow strong. Braxton Hicks don’t hurt and often precede the start of labour. I personally didn’t feel the point where they became actually labour.
‘False Labour’ is the term used to describe a period where you may actually have a number of regular Braxton Hicks for a few hours at a time. False labour is still toning up and strengthening the body in preparation for giving birth.
You know it’s the real thing when your contractions are around 5 minutes apart and regular. They will gradually become closer and closer and the waves more intense. If you suspect these are still Braxton-Hicks, try having something to eat or going for a walk about. If you find this changes the regularity of the surges or that they disappear, then these are just practice contractions.
2. Leaky Boobies
You may get a fright when you notice that your breasts are secreting a thick yellow fluid. This is known as colostrum. Colostrum is what you produce before your milk ‘comes in’ and will be your baby’s first food. Colostrum is amazingly good for your baby and has a very high concentration of protein and antibodies from your immune system, which protect your baby from illness for the first few days. It also acts as a laxative to help move the meconium (baby’s first poo) out of their digestive system. The high levels of vitamins and minerals found in colostrum may also be important for protecting baby and in furthering their development. This is why everyone tells you that breast feeding is so important in those first few hours (weeks, months etc. etc.)
3. A Bloody Show: Eek!
It’s not as bad as it sounds and it’s actually a very promising sign that baby is en-route. It does have an unfortunate name though. A bloody show is basically bloody mucus from your cervix which loosens and comes out as the cervix begins to thin and dilate. You may notice it when you go to the bathroom. Generally, a bloody show is a small amount of bright red blood and may contain a few small clumps, so don’t be worried if you see this.
4. Toilet time
As the body prepares for birthing, it starts to clear itself out. This could result in mild diarrhoea, always a joy.
Quick Things You Can Do In the Final Furlong to Make Birthing Easier
1. Perineal massage: massaging and toning the perineum to make sure that it doesn’t tear during childbirth and ‘pings’ back into shape. Just like exercising your perineum.
2. Drink raspberry leaf tea: raspberry leaf tea has been shown to speed up the second part of labour when drank from around 28 weeks. Please refer to the label on the tea/capsules you are using as the dates advised often vary.
3. Yoga for strengthening and opening: Strengthening the leg muscles for squatting and strength bearing and also focusing on opening the hips and pelvis for comfortable birthing.
This blog is adapted from the revised edition of Birth ROCKS by Cheryl MacDonald, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.