40 Ways to Induce Labor

40 Ways to Go Into Labor

Hey there friends!

As many of you know, my due date is fast approaching and we are busy preparing for our little girl to arrive. It’s funny how everyone starts coming out of the woodwork when it’s close to your due date- sharing their stories of how to get labor going, encouraging you to start early, etc. Unlike the necessary and good practice of preparing your body for birth, stimulating labor early isn’t necessary- the body will take care of it on it’s own when baby is ready! However, if you’re past due and getting desperate- here’s a great list of supposed ways to induce labor- from the commonly practiced to the ridiculous. Enjoy!

Please know that I am not a medical professional, and I am not attempting to give medical advice. Please only use these methods under the supervision of your birth professional. Also, some affiliate links are used- no charge to you, but supports this little blog! Thanks!

PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
Walking
Running
Running UP Steps
Jumping Jacks
Walking curbs (one foot on, one foot off, switch sides often)
Walking sideways up stairs
Use a breast pump
Nipple Stimulation
Sex
Off-roading
Pedicure
Foot/Ankle Massage
Driving on train tracks
Bounce on a birth or exercise ball
Hula Hoop
Dancing
High knees
Lunges
Jump on a trampoline
Handstands
Tell your body to go into labor/focus energy
Don’t think about going into labor
Rub your belly in a clockwise circle for 1 min, then do lunges for 3 min, repeat

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture
Acupressure
Chiropractor
Membrane sweeping
Induction Massage

THINGS TO EAT
Spicy Food
Labor Cake
Eggplant (particularly eggplant parmesan)
Eating until you’re stuffed
Balsamic Vinegar
Certain dishes at specific restaurants (the “preggo pizza”)
Eating fresh pineapple (a lot of it)
‘The Huston Method’: Popcorn, Wine, Sex
Eating dates

SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBS
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Evening Primrose Oil– taken orally or inserted vaginally
Herbal Tinctures or Supplements (black or blue cohosh, false unicorn)
Homeopathics
Clary Sage Oil
Castor Oil
Laxatives

Have another suggestion you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list! 🙂

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.

Call the Midwives

We began my pregnancy by seeing my normal OBGYN, one member of a large practice in Owings Mills. The practice delivers at Sinai and I’m sure would’ve provided me with state-of-the-art medical treatment. This is the same practice that walked me through my missed miscarriage last year, as well as the scary diagnosis and eventual removal of the large mass on my right ovary.

When I went in for my first prenatal appointment, I expected to be met with smiles and perhaps even a shocked reaction- after all, it was less than a month since my surgery, and I was already pregnant! However, I was met with blank stares, eyes staring at a computer screen that didn’t recognize me or remember me. In fact, the very doctor who I had seen just a month before several times for my ovarian mass had to look at my records to confirm that I did in fact have the surgery I claimed to have had. The doctor had no recollection of me.

My second appointment was the “ever-important” internal exam. Little did I know that I had been switched from my normal female doctor (who, unbeknownst to me, retired from OB practice) to a male doctor without my permission- and had to endure yet another uncomfortable situation as my poor husband sat in a small chair while I was examined. It was mortifying for us both.

It was around this time that I began researching other birth options in Maryland- everything from simply switching OB practices to home birth. I quickly learned that Maryland is an extremely difficult place to have an intervention-free birth for several reasons:

-Having a midwife attend a home birth is “illegal” unless it is a Certified Nurse Midwife who is backed by an Obstetrician. To my knowledge, there are only a few that practice in the entire state, and I’m not sure that any of them are taking new clients, particularly first time mothers. This leaves mothers with dismal options for home birth- having an “illegally attended” birth with a midwife (which many women do and have great success and healthy babies), or having an unassisted home birth. I’m not exactly sure what the “illegality” of the whole thing can lead to- probably that you can be charged with negligence if something happens to your baby, or perhaps the midwife can be held liable- I’m not 100% sure. But, I think that, for some women, these are the right choices- to have a home birth, with a midwife or unassisted- but not for everyone.

-There are only a handful of free-standing birth centers in the state- two that I am familiar with. There are various hospital “birth centers”, staffed by midwives and outfitted with more natural birth tools, such as tubs, but because they are attached/part of hospitals, their clients must adhere to hospital guidelines- which, depending on the hospital, can significantly change the birth experience for many mothers (though many mothers absolutely love this experience, and I don’t discount that whatsoever). This also effects the after-birth experience for the parents and baby, with certain interventions being much more routine (vaxing/Vit K/eye gel given without parental consent, pitocin for placenta delivery and uterine shrinkage, formula supplementation without parental advisement). Again, these choices are completely right for some families, and many people choose to include all of those things in their after-birth care plans. However, not every family chooses these things.

-Lastly, C-Section rates throughout the state of Maryland are higher than the national average. Nationwide, close to 1 in 3 women
gives birth via cesarean- and that’s not including elective/planned cesareans. Induction before truly necessary is wildly popular, even though a recent Harvard study found that the average gestational period for a caucasian woman is 41 weeks 1 day. I have seen far too many family members and friends get induced, get epidurals, and get cesareans- it just seems normal at this point. I think that’s the problem- in most places, it IS normal. And sometimes it is completely necessary. But it doesn’t have to be!

So, taking all of this into consideration, we have decided to birth our sweet baby girl at Special Beginnings Birth Center in Arnold, MD. This is perhaps the most controversial choice that Matthew and I have made thus far (at least that I’m letting you in on haha)!  Staffed with Certified Nurse Midwives with years of experience, complete with three beautiful birthing suites with big beds, tubs, birth stools towel warmers, and a full kitchen, the place is absolutely stunning.  The only drawback: it’s located almost exactly an hour away from our apartment!

We began our research into this birth center first by talking to people we knew who have been there- most of whom gave glowing reviews, and those who didn’t were really looking for a home birth experience, and ended up going that direction in the end.

Next, we took a tour– and this is where everything changed. We were given a tour of the birth center and then given the opportunity to ask the midwives questions.  It was amazing! So many of the things I was prepared to fight with an OB about- movement and eating during labor, Vit K and eye gel, vaccinations, routine circumcision, delayed bathing, etc- all of the choices that I wanted to make for my child were encouraged, and even assumed to some degree, by the midwife staff. It was like breathing a sigh of relief as I realized that I could have the natural birth I wanted without having to fear that the baby would be stuck or smeared with something or treated in a way I didn’t feel was necessary.

We have had two appointments with midwives at the birth center so far, with a third coming up next week. The experience has been so encouraging and healing! I love the focus on nutrition and exercise as well as medical information. I can have as few ultrasounds as I would like (though we have actually had many more than I intended). Their holistic approach to pregnancy, as something that is natural and not a illness or medical emergency, brings so much peace to my heart as I remind myself that the Lord created women to bear children. Pregnancy isn’t a bad thing, and with the right preparation I can trust my body to do the work it needs to do.

A huge part of this decision has been learning to “insert grace” into our birth plans. Do I fault mothers who make choices that are different from my own? Absolutely not. Is it totally possible that something goes wrong and I need to have a medicated birth or a cesarean? Yes. And if that’s the case, I will take it in stride, as I know that medicine is a good thing and saves many lives- perhaps my own, or my baby’s. It’s the grace that I am striving to understand that will allow me to accept what happens, but also strive to be as prepared as possible and make the most sound decisions I can with the information I have now. It’s not easy! But I am glad to be questioning and learning and growing in this process.

I’m so excited for this journey and I can’t wait to share my experiences along the way!

Husband-Coached Childbirth?

bradley

From the moment a woman announces her pregnancy, she is bombarded with advice from other mothers and horror stories of labor and incompetent husbands and breathing techniques that did little more than frustrate and break concentration. Because we are choosing to give birth in a birthing center (more on that later), I strongly desire to be as prepared and educated as possible before going into the birth of my daughter. The problem is, there are so many choices of “methods” and “classes” that all claim to do that! Here are a few of the options presented to the expectant mama:

Lamaze– What your parents probably think of when it comes to childbirth classes. I don’t actually know anyone who has had a baby in the last few years that has taken a Lamaze class. Lamaze focuses on breathing and movement strategies to make a natural birth more comfortable, but also educates women on interventions as well. Classes are typically 12 hours of instruction, broken down over several class sessions, and are held in large groups (typically around 12 couples).

The Mongan Method (Hypnobirthing)- focuses on deep relaxation and a degree of self-hypnosis, coupled with visualization. Not as crazy as it sounds, and I have had a few friends who tried hypnobirthing and loved it, including some hardcore home birthing mamas! My favorite part is the “anchoring” effect that the husband is supposed to have- when he even touched the wife, she is to associate him with strength and serenity, and immediately be focused. Classes are typically 5 weeks of 2-3 hour classes, and are available in group or private settings, depending on your instructor.

Birthing From Within– A very spiritual approach to childbirth, probably the most “hippie” of them all. I actually read the Birthing from Within book a few weeks ago, and if you can wade through the semi-crazy, hallucinogenic art therapy-esque chapters in the beginning of the book, there are actually some great and helpful suggestions in there as well. They also have meaningful ideas for baby showers called “blessingsways” that I am going to try to incorporate into my own showers this fall/winter. Six one-hour classes.

International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)- This is a pretty generic child birthing education organization, and the content of the classes varies depending on the instructor.

There are a few other options, but these seem to be the most popular, at least within my circles! So, what are we choosing? We’ve decided to study The Bradley Method- and our classes start tonight!

The Bradley Method is a philosophy based on years of research and observation by obstetrician Dr. Robert A. Bradley. The classes consist of 13 weeks of 2 hour classes, which focus on nutrition, exercise, pain management techniques, coping through proper body positioning and movement, education of the stages of labor, and birth rehearsals. Of all of the classes I mentioned above, Bradley seems to be the most holistically based, but also seems to give the most practical preparation as well (don’t you want to have a birth rehearsal?)

The role of the husband (or partner) is integral in the Bradley Method. Also dubbed “Husband-Coached Childbirth”, the labor partner is basically trained to be a doula and labor coach- to remember the things that the mother may forget in the heat of labor, and to know how to tend to each stage of labor’s specific physical and emotional needs. The coach is also responsible for the mother’s preparation- making sure that she is held accountable to Bradley’s nutrition standards and performing the designated exercises as often as portable to give the body the best preparation for the birth event.

There are two Bradley Method books that I have read- one, Husband-Coached Childbirth, written by Dr. Bradley himself, seems to be the book that started it all. The book is actually written to the father, though as mothers I think it’s good to read as well. It explains the development of his philosophy, the success that he has seen in his practice, and the various techniques used to achieve a peaceful, natural labor. I don’t think that reading this book alone is enough to fully prepare you for the birth, however- it is best used in conjunction with classes, as I think it was intended.

The second book, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, written by Susan McCutcheon, is much more detail oriented, outlining specific nutrition guidelines showing photos of the different exercises (almost every time with a completely naked pregnant woman, so be aware), and going into great depth about each of the stages of labor. This book is written to the couple, and addresses both the mother and the coach at times. If you don’t have time or money to take a full Bradley class, but want to be educated on the philosophy and prepare your body using these techniques, I highly suggest this book. In fact, I know some couples who completely skipped the classes, just read this book, and had beautiful, natural Bradley births!

In short, here’s why we are choosing the Bradley Method:

The support of our community. We really, truly know a large number of couples who have used this method successfully and loved it. Veteran Bradley parents can’t seem to speak highly enough about the experience, and I value that a lot.

-The development of the husband and wife team. Many birth education options focus on either the mother “doing it herself” or with the help of other experienced women, and leave the husband on the sidelines. While I certainly see the merit of having other experienced women at your disposal, this simply isn’t what I envision when I think of a graceful, Biblical childbirth- diminishing the husband’s role? In our marriage, we work as a God-ordained team, and I think that should transfer to the birth event as well.

-The importance of nutrition and exercise. If you’ve ever read this blog you know how important this is to me, so there’s no surprise here. The Bradley exercises are simple but effective (think kegels, full squats, pelvic tilts), and the nutrition is comprehensive. For example, I am supposed to eat two baked potatoes a week- with the skin on- to help with mineral and iron consumption! I just never would have thought of that. Thank goodness for Bradley 🙂

-The time commitment to the classes– thats more than 24 hours! While this may deter some people, I am excited to fully immerse myself, have plenty of time to chew on what I am learning, ask questions, and practice. I feel confident that if anything is going to prepare me, these classes will.

-Birth rehearsals. I am fully aware that you can never truly rehearse your birth, as birth, by nature, is very unpredictable. However, if you can get the main coping and support techniques down for the various stages, it will be much easier to deviate when the time comes and incorporate something new. Our birth center also holds mandatory birth rehearsals right in the labor rooms- that will be exciting!

-Emphasis on breastfeeding. I haven’t actually started the class (like I said, we start tonight!), but one of our required textbooks is La Leche League’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. This is a small point, as I already had the book to read anyway, but it makes me feel better to know that they emphasize things that I find very important.

I can’t wait to go to class tonight and start this journey! I look forward to sharing what I am learning along the way 🙂

Pregnancy & The Beauty of Grace

Hello again, friends!

As you can see clearly by scrolling down for about 5 seconds, I haven’t blogged at all since before I was pregnant.  The past six months have been a roller coaster for me health-wise, beginning with a scary month of medical testing that ended with my right ovary and fallopian tube being removed, continuing on to miraculously getting pregnant less than a month later, and…well, here we are, almost 22 weeks along with our sweet baby girl!

ULTRASOUND

When I found out I was pregnant, I had grand plans of continuing my health and exercise plans all the way through my pregnancy- juicing each morning, whole foods at each meal, yoga three times a week, basically chaturanga-ing my way to the birth of my child.  Boy, was I in for a surprise! While I felt excellent for the first few weeks, around 5.5 weeks I woke up with nausea and vomiting and literally didn’t stop until 13 weeks- no matter what hour of the day. If I so much as thought about juice, vegetables, or exercise I would throw up.  All my body could handle was carbohydrates and dairy, normal “nausea killers” made my nausea worse, and it was really all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.  It was honestly hard not to feel depressed or tell myself that I was a bad mother– I wanted so desperately to be giving my baby the active, healthy mom that she deserved, but my body quite literally couldn’t handle it.

I think that’s the first big lesson I learned through pregnancy- grace abounds! It didn’t matter that I laid on the couch all day and more or less subsisted on organic spaghetti-o’s (I promise I only ate organic ones!), my baby was still growing strong and healthy, and my nutrient levels remained optimal. When I was too tired to even stand through one song during Sunday morning worship, the Lord met me as I journaled, seated in the back of the sanctuary where I could run to the bathroom if needed.  And by the time I was able to return to my yoga practice in the second trimester, I found that much of my strength and flexibility remained.  Grace.

BANANA

Throughout my pregnancy, I have really struggled with trusting the Lord to provide for Matt and I, particularly as we look forward to next year when our sweet girl arrives.  Many of the decisions that we have made regarding care for our daughter, or things that we want to strive for, are not the cheapest options, though we are confident in our choices and that the Lord will bless them.  But I really can’t pretend that I haven’t been plagued with the thought that maybe I can’t be the mother that I feel I should be because I don’t have the money to buy the quality of things I think are best for her.  This has led to all kinds of sin in my heart- jealousy, bitterness, frustration, not trusting the Lord. And yet, as the weeks have gone by, I have seen time and time again where the Lord has provided these things for us- many things I thought I would never be able to have, like a wooden high chair, baby carriers, or cloth diapers.  He has eased my mind along with this, revealing my sins and showing me that His grace and love is the best standard for what a mother should be, and that I will rob myself of joy if I hold myself to any other standard, no matter how rational it may seem.  He has taught me to be honest in my weaknesses, that His strength may be made perfect instead.

All of this to say- I have learned, and am certainly still learning, a lot about myself, the Lord, and motherhood! There are SO MANY decisions to make, and sometimes trying to navigate all of the options is overwhelming and scary, particularly when trying to make sound, Christlike decisions that reflect a respect for the body and for creation.  I hope to walk through my pregnancy health experience, book reading,  and decision-making on this blog in the next few months as I continue to learn through the Lord’s grace.  I welcome your advice, opinions, and experiences, as I pray that you welcome mine.  I hope that you, or maybe someone you know, will be encouraged, challenged, or enlightened.  Above all, I pray that you see the Love that is the standard for all I am striving for, and that we might point one another to His likeness!

Humbly Yours,
Karli

Help Me! Detox

One of the most important tools of a health regimen is the knowledge and time to detoxify. I do think that this is important in all aspects of life, but doing a cleanse for your body is something that can’t be approached lightly or without planning. I’ve found some great resources and have been through detoxes a few times now, and I want to share my experiences with you today!

These days, we are completely bombarded with toxins and things that don’t belong in our bodies- from the food we eat to pollution in the air to what we use to clean our homes, its virtually inescapable. Especially during the holidays, its so attractive to try to ‘get away from it all’- well, with a cleanse, you can give your body the break that it has been craving.

While you can go into virtually any store and buy a boxed ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ these days, I am a firm believer that the most effective way to cleanse and rebuild your body is by carefully choosing food and placing exercise over a controlled amount of time. My detoxes usually consist of juicing whole fruits and vegetables for one or two meals per day and eating freshly prepared meals for the rest of the day- avoiding dense carbs (breads and pastas), dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and meat. It seems like a lot, but it is amazing how quickly the body adjusts and heals itself in just 3-5 days. It resets the digestive system, cleanses the lymph system and clears mucous membranes, increases energy, and boosts the immune system.

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If you are new to juicing, be sure to read up on how to juice certain fruits and vegetables, and what tastes good together. For example- anything with grapefruit will be very sour! For just starting out, stick with a mostly vegetable based mix, with a fruit or two to your taste. One of my favorites is Carrot, Celery, Cucumber, Spinach, Apple, and Orange. If you don’t have a juicer, you can buy frozen fruits and puree them in a blender or food processor, and throw some spinach in there for good measure (don’t worry, you can’t taste it). As for your other food, stay simple, but remember: spices are a great tool, as many spices have great health benefits. Try to avoid salting food if possible.

This is what a typical day looks like for me during cleanse:

On Rising: Hot water with lemon and a pinch of cayenne (I do this daily- alkalizes the body, stimulates digestion, and aids in detoxification, among other benefits)

Breakfast: Fresh juice, sometimes mixed into a smoothie. Juice what you can, then add in whole things that are hard or unnecessary to juice to a blender- bananas, berries, avocadoes, spinach. I also add in supplemental whole foods- whole raw oats, chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, and powdered cinnamon and ginger. Puree it all together and you have yourself a powershouse!

Exercise: yoga, swimming, pilates, or light running (helps continue cleansing)

Immediately after workout: homemade protein ball for muscle recovery (or, sub banana and natural nut butter- avoid commercial protein bars)

Lunch: Another juice smoothie, or a green salad with fresh vegetables and oil/vinegar dressing, or a homemade vegetable soup

Dinner: Roasted or steamed veggies, fruit salad, vegetable soup, quinoa with veggies, homemade chickpea curry with quinoa, brown rice with spices

Evening: Detox Bath

Before bed: Caffeine-free tea, such as lavender, chamomile, or senna leaf

Throughout the day, I make sure to drink lots of water and several cups of herbal tea. There are special detoxification blends of tea that can further your process. Some people like to use a gentle laxative tea before bed each night to help with cleansing the digestive system the next day. Traditional Medicinals makes a readily available Senna Leaf tea that doesn’t taste terrible and gets the job done- they also have a good Everyday Detox blend.

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My favorite part of the day is bathtime! I have a beautiful, ancient clawfoot tub that I put to good work in this apartment. Here’s my recipe for the best detox bath, swish it all around and stay in as long as possible:

2 cups Epsom salts

At least 1 cup baking soda (more if you want!)

10 drops tea tree oil

5 drops lavender oil

A teaspoon of powdered ginger

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When exiting the tub, be slow and careful- the detox bath can (and does) make you a wee bit lightheaded if you get out too fast. But, that’s how you know its working!

Another thing I like to add in daily are some quick but effective yoga poses. The best and easiest for detoxification are seated spinal twists– sitting on the floor, turn your head over your shoulder and continue to twist your body as far as comfortable, using the opposite hand to the knee to further the stretch. This causes a sort of ‘wring-out’ effect on the major organs- much like you wring out a dishrag- and allows for fresh blood flow. I also like to end my days with a simple, relaxing inversion– lay on the floor, hips to the wall with legs going up the wall, so that your body makes a 90 degree angle. Stay as long as comfortable and enjoy the relaxing effect!

Repeat this, or a personal variation, each day for 3-7 days. Don’t be surprised if, for the first few days, you feel some ill effects– sluggishness, headaches, a touch of nausea, indecisive bowels. This is very normal, and will be heightened depending on how drastic a change the cleanse is from your everyday diet. Cleanses draw out and remove toxins from our bodies- toxins that will make us feel icky until they are gone. By day 3 you will start feeling much, much better! But, remember that even if you can only cleanse for one day, your body will still be healthier than it was if you weren’t cleansing at all!

Help Me! Anxiety

One of the most debilitating health issues that I have struggles with (and, sometimes, still do struggle with) is anxiety. It reached a head after Matt and I had been married for about a year, and I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I had always been the type of person that didn’t get stressed out, let things roll off my back, and was all-around easygoing. Suddenly, my heart would race if Matt wasn’t getting over to an exit lane quickly enough, or if I couldn’t find my dog, or for really any reason at all. I wasn’t myself and I didn’t know how to handle it.

One quick doctors appointment later (with a primary care that I had never met before, I might add) I had a lovely little pill to take that would solve my problems- at least, that’s what I was told. In the three months I took the medication, I only had negative side effects and never felt that my anxiety was alleviated. To make matters worse, I stopped taking the pills cold turkey, which made things much worse before they got better (apparently, my doctor should’ve told me not to do that, but that never happened). I became very aware that I had only done my body harm, and that I wasn’t going to get better (or at least manageable) without some life change.

One of the biggest things that I did (and most effective) was to eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars. I was so, so addicted to coffee, and I love dessert like no other, so this was very difficult for me. However, caffeine and sugar both put the nervous system under stress, which allows anxiety to thrive. Instead of coffee in the mornings, I drank some anti-anxiety tea. You can make your own; any of these herbs work well (starred ones taste better than others):

Valerian

Kava

Lavender*

Chamomile*

Dandelion (young leaves, older taste bitter)

Lemon Balm*

Oats*

St. John’s Wort

Vervain

Many of these are available in blends or solo bags from Yogi teas or Traditional Medicinals, both of which are becoming readily available in local supermarkets. Make sure that you read up on how to prepare certain herbs- some must be boiled (like Valerian) while others are steeped like normal tea!

A hidden gem in the natural health world is a magnesium supplement called Natural Calm. Magnesium has an almost immediate calming effect, and this supplement (a powdered drink mix, much like Crystal Light) delivers deliciously. I loved having some before work, or before bed, or really anytime I needed a bit of a calming boost. Most health stores will carry it, and I have even seen it at a supermarket here and there. Very well worth it.

In addition to cutting out certain foods and adding in others, I strived to avoid processed foods and instead add whole foods into my diet- a change that now has become lifestyle for me. Our bodies readily receive the nourishment they need via whole foods, instead of having to drudge through processed foods for the sub-par nutrition available there! Keeping our bodies whole helps us function as we should.

Another key part of my recovery was the addition of exercise into my daily routine. I fell in love with yoga (thanks to the lovely Debra Corso), started rock climbing, and generally tried to stay as active as I could. Not only did this take my mind off of stressors in my life, but the exercise helped my body to function properly, which allowed me to handle situations with grace and ease that was hard to come by beforehand. These days, I practice a bit of yoga in my home, and run 3-5 times a week.

The most important part of my battle with anxiety has been conversations with people that care about me, love the Lord, and help me to focus on what is important. Christian counselors are invaluable if you are struggling with anxiety- the time that I spent speaking with trusted people about my struggle, the more I realized that focus on Christ and his Kingdom was necessary and missing from my life. Regaining vision for my life and praying through panicky situations helped me tremendously.

Please understand that I write these things from my experience and studies, not from a professional standpoint. My experience with anti-anxiety medication may vary drastically from someone else’s, nor can each persons case be treated the same. These are simply changes that helped me, and I pray that they help someone else, too.

Peace be with you,

Karli

Easy Health Tips: For Ladies Only

But seriously, if you’re a dude, just stop reading. You don’t want this.

Ok, let’s get real. Periods suck, and our coping mechanisms suck worse- popping pills with who-knows-what long term effects, medications that could affect our long term fertility, binge eating terrible (yet delicious) things, laying on the couch in agony? Is there really no other option?

Since I first got my period, I can remember lying on the floor of my bedroom trying not to move and positioning heating pads on my back and belly to try to relieve the pain. Painkillers didn’t help, so soon I just didn’t bother. I just accepted that one or two days a month would be hell and I would just have to get over it.

In the past few years, however, experimenting with diet and alternative medicine has not done away with the pain and discomfort entirely, but certainly has made it manageable. I hope maybe some of these tips will help you!

CUT OUT caffeine, sugar, alcohol, processed foods-especially the week before your period. All of these things mess wi your body and prevent it from being in a place to properly function. Eat whole foods and drink plenty of water.

STAY ACTIVE. This is the hardest for me, but it really is worth it. Even taking a short walk outside in the morning can lessen cramping for the day and help things to flow smoothly-literally. There are also many yoga poses recommended for dysmenorrhea (heavy cramping) including child’s pose, bridge, wide squat, and pigeon. Be careful, though, to avoid inversions while on your period. This is a great sequence to try at home.

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wide squat pose

AVOID HORMONES LIKE THE PLAGUE. So many women in the US struggle with hormone imbalances caused simply by eating foods and using products that contain hormone disrupting agents. This includes meats that aren’t organic, many cosmetics that are filled with chemicals, perfumes, and conventionally grown produce, among other things. This is a fascinating subject, one that Jillian Michaels tackles thoroughly in her book Master Your Metabolism. Key points-eat organic. Be careful what you put on your skin and what you clean your house with. This is all effective how your hormones work and likely making your periods worse.

GET TESTED for a serious hormone imbalance. I found out a few months ago that I gave a hormone imbalance, and I now use a little cream before I go to bed and it has made everything substantially better- shorter, lighter periods, less cramping, less PMS before my period. Be careful, however, with treatment options- synergic hormones are dangerous and can cause even more damage in the long run as your body starts to adjust to the new hormone level. Look for a bio identical hormone replacement that works with your body to boost your levels. I like Emerita Pro-Gest, and I have heard good things ago Arbonne ProLief.

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TRY A TEA. There are many readily available tea blends for treating period symptoms, I have tried most of them and always had good results. My favorite is Traditional Medicinals Female Toner. You have to drink a lot (2-4 cups per day) of these teas to really get the benefits, but it is so worth it.

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DETOX BATHS with things like Epsom salts, activated charcoal, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda help pull toxins from your body that could be disrupting your hormones, interfering with bodily processes, and making your periods worse. The heat and relaxation of a bath don’t hurt, either!

BE BRAVE and try some alternative equipment. Tampons have always been the easiest thing, but they could be causing unnecessary discomfort by plugging things up rather than letting them flow. Pads avoid this traffic jam effect, and there are many great companies that make reusable pads that are easy on the pocketbook. I can’t stand the diaper feeling, so I have moved to a Diva Cup with great results- check them out here.

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Do you have any tried and true tricks to share?

Staying Healthy on the Road: Tips for Traveling and Eating Well

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part of our travel route home tonight

Two weeks ago, I embarked on a two week journey with my husband and our close friends a the band, Willet, toured around the Midwestern US. At first, this was a difficult transition for me- I love to cook, and really value being in control of my diet and activity level. Being limited with food options, prearranged lodging, and long days got to me, but I quickly realized that I needed to let go of my control and embrace the opportunity. I could still be in control of my body, I just needed to be intentional and careful! So, with that in mind, I want to share some of my lessons learned from my first two weeks on tour:

-It is easy to eat mindlessly, and calories add up faster than you think. While, on the whole, I think that counting calories is a bad idea, I do think that having an idea of what your body needs and being mindful of what you are putting into your body is necessary for everyone. A few days into the trip a few of us downloaded a calorie counting app to aid in that process, which was eye-opening for everyone. We have to think about what our body needs, and what it doesn’t need, and eat accordingly. Which brings me to my next point…

-It is really important to stay true to a whole foods diet as much as possible. Traveling make us especially susceptible to fatigue, illness, adrenal exhaustion, among other things. Processed foods and increased caffeine intake can completely wipe out our immune system, while whole foods can make it stronger and better able to face the challenges of travel.

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we we thankful for a green room with a fruit platter

-Hydration is key, even if it means that you stop to pee more often. Drinking water helps the body naturally detoxify, and the more often you are doing that, the better. Hydrating also makes sure that basic body processes are functioning at optimum level, and maintains an even energy level. Not drinking water just isn’t a good idea.

-Fast food will always be terrible, but anywhere you go, there are at least a few good options, like salads or yogurt parfaits. My personal favorite is Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad-the half portion makes a great meal by itself. Gas stations almost always have a healthy food selection of granola, trail mix, protein bars, fruit, or yogurt. It’s all about willpower.

-You have to be prepared. I hardly ever take conventional medicine, but I use medicinal teas and essential oils frequently. Before leaving, I packed a small bag with a few of my most common remedies, and I was able to continue to avoid conventional meds because I was prepared when I needed something. Sleepless nights were taken care of with lavender oil and chamomile tea, sinuses with eucalyptus, anxiety with kava root tea, and cramps with raspberry leaf tea. There’s something for everything, if you are willing to try!

-Exercise can make or break a trip. I started focusing on doing daily cardio about halfway through my trip and I noticed a by difference in my mood and energy level because of it. I aimed for 30-45min of cardio, and 10-15min of concentrated strength sequences per day. It’s fun to mix it up, too- running in new places, swimming laps at a pool, trying a new class at a gym.

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a pretty stop: st louis, mo

Next week we begin the first leg of a two month tour- and I am sure there will be more lessons to learn! What are your favorite ways to stay healthy when traveling? <