I’m a big believer in the midwifery model of care for pregnancy and childbirth and have so much to say about how empowered and genuinely cared for I felt during my own experience. During each of my monthly appointments with my midwife, I met with her face to face for an hour. She got to know me and my husband very well. She visited our house. When I had questions, she not only took time to answer them, she also recommended books, articles and other resources if I wanted more information. We talked about my physical health, but she also understood that my emotional health was just as important. She asked about stress in my life, my plans postpartum for taking care of myself and whether I’d had any type of sexual trauma in my past that might come up during labor. From the minute we got to the hospital the day I delivered, she helped advocate for us and was at my side for more than 18 hours. She’s exactly what I needed to feel prepared, safe and seen.
It’s nearly impossible to boil down all of her advice into one post, so this list is limited to tips you might not come across in other resources unless you know where to look.
- Take a probiotic to help prevent Group B Strep. According to Genevieve Howland in The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth, roughly 25 percent of women are carriers of Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep or GBS). It exists naturally in the intestinal tract, urinary tract, vagina and/or rectum. It almost never causes any symptoms or health issues, but it poses a serious, even life-threatening risk to newborn babies if exposed during labor. That’s why all pregnant women in the U.S. are tested, usually between 35 and 37 weeks. At week 24, my midwife suggested that I start taking Fem-Dophilus, an oral probiotic for vaginal and urinary tract health that can help prevent Group B Strep. Incidentally, my test came back negative. For women whose test comes back positive, they are administered antibiotics to kill the bacteria. And of course, antibiotics come with their own set of side effects, including yeast infections for mom and baby, possible allergic reactions and the impact to the gut microbiome, which is important because babies who are born vaginally pick up protective bacteria with long-term benefits.
- Drink NORA tea while you’re pregnant. My midwife recommended NORA tea, named for its ingredients: Nettle Leaf, Oatstraw, Raspberry Leaf and Alfalfa Leaf. I purchased the individual herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and brewed a quart every day beginning about halfway through my second trimester, although you can begin anytime after 16 weeks. The tea can improve the strength of contractions, release of the placenta after birth, lactation and bleeding postpartum. My midwife prefers NORA tea to the more mainstream Red Raspberry Leaf tea since NORA tea is more potent. This article provides an in-depth description of NORA tea’s benefits as well as the recipe I used.
- Plan to have 3 adults for every newborn to help postpartum. Leading into my final trimester, my midwife was adamant that I should plan to have someone in addition to my husband to help in the weeks following birth. She stressed that the ideal ratio is 3 adults for every baby; the adults could be family members, friends or a postpartum doula, depending on what resources you have available. One person can be responsible for household chores, running errands and taking care of older children and/or pets. The second adult can “mother the mother,” making sure that she is fed, hydrated and comfortable. That division of labor makes it possible for the mother to focus on her own health and healing and tending to and bonding with the baby.
- After childbirth, be serious about getting rest. Midwives advocate for a significant rest period following childbirth. Ayurveda recommends at least 10 days in bed. In the Chinese culture, new mothers stay inside and rest for one month. My midwife said that I should spend one week in bed and one week within arm’s reach of the bed, and she said I should wait three weeks before going outside. This length of time is seen as a luxury in Western cultures, but there are physical and emotional consequences when women don’t take the time they need to heal. In Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin says, “Stay close to home, don’t entertain, and rest. This is your best way to prevent extra bleeding and the emotional-physical crash that often follows being up and around too early. There are lots of good reasons why traditional cultures all over the world respect the need for new mothers to take some time to allow their bodies to make the transition from pregnancy to new motherhood.” For information on longer-term consequences, I highly recommend The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr. Oscar Serrallach.
If you’re interested in learning more about the midwifery model of care, you can find more advice from midwives here.