A friendly PSA on clean beauty and pregnancy

I’ve used clean beauty and personal care products for years. Once my partner and I decided to try to get pregnant with our first child, I committed to using clean products, including cleaning and other household products, exclusively. During my current pregnancy, I’ve gone a step further by educating myself and becoming more selective about what classifies as “clean.”

I love that brands like Sephora offer a clean label to make it easy to find safe products, but turns out, their standards aren’t always as discerning as I’d like. Instead, I now rely on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. It’s an incredible resource for finding out how clean your products actually are; you simply search for a product or brand, and the results include a 1 out of 10 overall rating as well as detailed categories for cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies, etc. It might sound like information overload, but it’s actually extremely user friendly. Look for the label EWG Verified which is their highest stamp of approval.

I’ve been so surprised by the results of my searches, and it’s really helped me make decisions about where to spend my money. (For the record, Beautycounter and Honest Beauty are the safest brands I’ve come across.)

Needless to say, I’ve been phasing out some of my old products in favor of cleaner replacements recently. As I’ve been reading labels on the new products, I noticed something that makes this process even more tricky: just because a product is clean, it’s not necessarily safe during pregnancy. For example, I ordered Honest Beauty’s Vitamin C Radiance Serum, which is EWG Verified, but after getting it in the mail and reading the packaging, I realized it contains Gallic Acid, which is considered unsafe during pregnancy.

I’ve written before about product categories and specific ingredients that are unsafe (or questionable) during pregnancy. From that list, I’ve found that two categories tend to be the most troublesome:

  1. Any products that are smoothing or brightening tend to contain either alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Most alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are considered unsafe during pregnancy, except for glycolic acid (7% concentration or lower) and lactic acid (5% concentration or lower). AHAs that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy are mandelic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) is the category of acids that classifies salicylic acid, which you should avoid during pregnancy.
  2. Sunless tanner. Some sources say that sunless tanner sits on top of the skin and isn’t absorbed, so it’s safe. I’ve found other sources that say dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, could penetrate the skin. Most of the “cleanest” sunless tanners I’ve found contain DHA, so be on the lookout if that’s an ingredient you’re hoping to avoid.

Admittedly, finding conclusive information on this topic can be a confusing and frustrating process. When in doubt, look it up or check with a dermatologist or another expert you trust.

Pregnancy recipe: leafy green soup

Leafy greens vegetables like kale, spinach and collards are packed with vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, C, K and E along with iron, fiber, calcium and folate) that pregnant moms and babies need.

This soup is one of my favorite ways to consume a ton of vegetables in one meal. It’s easy to make and modify based on what vegetables you have in the kitchen. You can eat it warm or chilled.

Serves 4.

  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 pound fresh English peas, shelled (about 1 cup)
  • 8 ounces spinach, tough stems discarded (about 6 cups packed leaves)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Heat 4 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, zucchini, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add stock, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add peas, and return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in spinach. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach has wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Working in 2 batches, puree pea mixture in a blender, filling no more than halfway and adding up to 2 tablespoons water to each batch to achieve desired consistency. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Spinach and Pea Soup.

Advice & resources for an evidence-based birth

When I was pregnant with our daughter, I started researching standard of care practices in prenatal care as well as labor and delivery. My research started with curiosity about ultrasounds, and from there, I really started questioning everything. Into my second pregnancy, I’m still doing research and finding new information all the time. My biggest takeaways from the experience are:

  1. Quite a few care practices, even ones that I assumed were perfectly fine, are considered controversial because of the health outcomes for mom and/or baby. I realized really quickly that my most important job as a pregnant mama was doing my homework so that I could make educated decisions. Knowledge is power.
  2. You have the right to decline care. Regardless of how information is presented to you, you have the final say. Fight for your rights, and enlist your loved ones and/or birth worker to advocate for you.
  3. Once you decide which care practices you are and aren’t comfortable with, find the best providers that align with your vision. Not everyone has a ton of options based on location, insurance and other resources, but try to make the most of what’s available to you. You’ll find so many differences doctor by doctor, practice by practice and state by state. For instance, during my first pregnancy, we lived in California, and I was put under an enormous amount of pressure to do prenatal testing….and they made us jump through hoops to opt out. In Georgia where we live now, prenatal testing is more of an opt-in approach.

In terms of care practices to research, I recommend starting with:

  • Ultrasounds, particularly the 20-week anatomy scan 
  • Glucose test during the third trimester to test for gestational diabetes (There are alternatives to the typical formula; my midwife gave me grape juice.)
  • Daily baby aspirin (81 mg) for birthers over 35 years old
  • RhoGAM shot during pregnancy for people with a negative blood type
  • Methods for inducing labor
  • Medications given during labor such as epidurals and Pitocin
  • Episiotomy
  • Delayed umbilical cord clamping
  • Hepatitis B vaccine for newborns, administered immediately after birth
  • Vitamin K shot for newborns, administered immediately after birth, and the alternative oral Vitamin K treatment
  • Antibiotic eye ointment for newborns, administered immediately after birth

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope that it illustrates the point: you have the right to question what goes into your body and the body of your baby, particularly if your gut instinct says “no.” For instance, my OBGYN told me at the end of my first trimester to start taking Baby Aspirin every day because I was considered geriatric at 35 years old. She said that it has been shown to decrease the risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a very serious condition, but one that I don’t fit the risk profile for. And as someone who rarely takes medicine when I’m not pregnant, the idea of taking medicine every single day for my last two trimesters made me very uneasy.  I followed her advice and began taking it but stopped after a couple of months because I had a nagging feeling in my body that it wasn’t the right thing for me. Listen to that voice and find resources that help you make informed decisions that are right for you.

Doing your homework is critical, regardless of whether or not you follow medical advice. One decision that was especially complicated for me was the  20-week anatomy scan. Ultimately, the uneasiness about exposing the baby to the ultrasound outweighed any benefits of the scan for me. It was a difficult decision. In fact, I scheduled and then canceled multiple appointments. I was torn because at that point in my pregnancy, the birth center where I wanted to deliver couldn’t take me as a patient unless I agreed to the 20-week anatomy scan. (The birth center made it very clear that their requirements were set by the state, and that in most cases, not evidence based). Knowing that one decision would change my entire birth plan made it especially complicated. (You can read my birth story here.) Make sure you know those details in advance so that you can make tradeoffs for yourself. 


My midwife recommended the website Evidence Based Birth, and I found it incredibly balanced and helpful. I’ve also started listening to their podcast.

Natural birth books are another really great resource to find out more information on your care options, the pros and cons of each and alternatives to standard practices. Whether you plan to have a medicated or unmedicated birth, you will learn so much about all aspects of birth, pain management and how to feel empowered throughout your pregnancy. My favorites are listed here. They’re super informative and non-judgmental.

9 baby registry MVPs

When I first pulled together the baby registry for our first child, I spent hours researching the best products and reading blogs like this one. Once our baby arrived and we had a chance to put everything to use, I realized there were gaps in the list and things that would work better for our family. I’ve created a list of registry must-haves; some you’ll find on other lists because they’re flat-out amazing and some you might not…at least I didn’t. That said, all babies are different and your needs and routines will be different than ours, so what works for us might not work for you!

  1. Treatments for mom. I deeply regret not including gift cards for massages, chiropractic work, physical therapy and/or acupuncture on my registry. It’s a lovely, thoughtful way to recognize mom and give her a nudge to do something for herself. By including it your registry, you help shift the perception that these treatments are necessary for healing and recovery, not luxuries. A healthy mom is the best foundation for a healthy baby.
  2. Help with the household. Keeping a household running with a newborn around is tough. In the early days as a new mom, I would’ve traded all of the outfits and swings and blankets we got as gifs for a warm meal and a hot shower. Unless you have an actual village to help you with meals, cleaning and errands, I recommend adding gift cards for food delivery, cleaning services and (if you’re really lucky) a postpartum doula. If you do have a village nearby to support you, here’s some advice on getting help from them.
  3. Homeopathic remedies. I wish that I’d spent more time researching and buying homeopathic options so that I had them on-hand when I needed them. Our daughter suffered from colic during the first two months, and this Colic Calm Homeopathic Gripe Water was a miracle. It gave our baby instant relief within minutes and also helps with gas, upset stomach, reflux and hiccups. We recently purchased Camilia Boiron Teething Treatment as an alternative to Motrin Infant Drops; we’ve had to dose her more often with the Camilia drops but they’re a lot more gentle on her digestive system than Motrin was. And so many parents rave about Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath for boosting immunity and neutralizing colds and flu before they start. Here’s a great article on DIY therapeutic baths for kids.
  4. Sensory and developmental toys. One item you won’t need on your registry is stuffed animals; my daughter received dozens of stuffed animals as an infant, including at least six white bunnies. Don’t get me wrong. I adore stuffed animals, and they look precious in her nursery, but she’s seven months old now and has never played with one of them. Do yourself a favor and register for toys that promote your baby’s learning and development.
  5. Board books. Speaking of things you won’t need on your registry: any books that aren’t board books. Your baby will be rough on books, rip the pages and chew on the covers. While it’s tempting to get all of your favorite kids’ books now, you won’t be able to enjoy them until much later. I’ve also been surprised at how much our daughter craves variety with the books we read to her; she definitely gets board with repetition. I highly suggest focusing on board books and stocking up on them.
  6. Kyte onesies. Kyte onesies are our absolute favorites. They’ve got zippers instead of snaps, the fabric is super soft and they’re lightweight enough to wear under swaddles and sleep sacks. This is all you need for the first three months!
  7. Wraps and carriers. We’ve gotten so much use out of our Solly Baby wrap and Ergobaby carrier. The wrap was great to wear around the house; my husband carried our daughter constantly in her newborn days, and it helped so much with their bonding. It settled her, and I’m convinced she got some of her best sleep in it. Once she grew out of the wrap, we started using the Ergobaby carrier more (around four months) and are still using it now (seven months).
  8. Swaddles, sleep suits and sleep sacks. We swaddled our daughter from the very beginning, and it was a life saver for getting her to sleep. (Here’s a great step-by-step video we used.) A friend of mine recommended the double-swaddle method, which we eventually used because our little one was very skilled at breaking free of her single swaddle from a young age. Around three months, she graduated from her cloth swaddle and we started using the HALO Micro Fleece Sleepsack Swaddle. It mimics the feel of a swaddle, but it’s got velcro and a zipper, making it easier to take on and off for diaper changes in the middle of the night. We used it for about six weeks until she was able to pull her hands out. The final transition outfit we used was a Baby Merlin’s Cotton Magic Sleepsuit. She wore it for about a month until she was able to roll over in her crib, but during that month, we absolutely loved it.
  9. Soaking tub. We took friends’ advice and didn’t buy a traditional newborn bath tub. Baths in the early days were typically fast and functional, so we just laid her in the bath tub on a folded towel until she was starting to sit up more independently, around five months. By then, she was loving bath time and her bath toys, so we wanted to spend longer and needed a better way to keep her warm and comfortable. I got a Munchkin Sit and Soak Baby Bath Tub that we absolutely love. It has a built-in seat with back support so my husband and I can focus on washing and playing instead of trying to keep her in a seated position. She’s sitting upright, so she can play and splash, and it’s easier to keep her warm because she’s more submerged. It also saves water because we’re filling up a mini tub. She squeals and gets so excited for bath time every night.

Pregnancy timeline for health and wellness

When I was pregnant with our first child, I created a “pregnancy by the month” note in my phone where I kept a running list of classes, books, wellness activities and other milestones so that I could consolidate all of the things I’d read from 100 different sources in one place. Looking back, it was definitely my unique form of nesting, but it was also super helpful.

Below is a less detailed version of my list that I’m hoping will be a helpful starting point for you as well. Note that before 18 weeks, I started doing 30-minute walks and some form of yoga, barre or stretching every day, which I did throughout my pregnancy.

Pregnancy on a budget

Everyone talks about how expensive babies are, but my partner and I found that actually we were spending more money starting with pregnancy. I’m seven weeks into my second pregnancy and have been giving a lot of thought to where we spend our money and where we can find cheaper alternatives this go round.

Two things I would not cut corners on are high-quality vitamins and my acupuncture visits because they have a direct impact on my health and the health of my baby.

Below are a few ways to consider cutting back that will contribute to your overall wellness. If you’re looking for other ideas, you also can read about nine healthy habits for pregnancy and childbirth, all of which are either inexpensive or free.

YouTube prenatal yoga and barre classes. I’ve found several really safe, free workouts on YouTube that I did throughout my pregnancy. In my third trimester, I worked hard to do my daily squats. This video from FIT by Larie was challenging but never felt like I was straining my body or overexerting myself. She offers really good cues for how to safely do the exercises and great modification options. I also did this Yoga with Adriene video many, many times. That said, I’ve done barre classes for years and am trained in yoga, so I have a strong foundation in proper form and how to listen to my body. I do not recommend beginning yoga, barre, Pilates or any other exercise during pregnancy without first consulting with you doctor or midwife.

Library books. It’s easy to spend a small fortune on books about pregnancy. I bought SO MANY books based on online reviews without really knowing what would work for me. I highly recommend visiting your local library to flip through their selection, narrow down your list and rent the books that resonate with you. You can takes notes as you read them and consider purchasing the most helpful ones if you think you’d like them as a reference later. I’ve listed a few of my favorites here.

Foam rolling. According to FitBump founder Kira Kohrherr, “Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release in which pressure is applied to certain body parts to relieve pain. At a base level, foam rolling increases circulation, which oxygenates the muscles. The fluid that is transferred through the motion brings oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which is ideal during pregnancy.” I can say firsthand that foam rolling was a great alternative to massage during my first pregnancy and helped reduce aches and pains in my back and hips during my third trimester. I didn’t have any swelling issues, but foam rolling can help alleviate that as well. Here’s a link to a simple video with 5 ways to foam roll during pregnancy. Be sure to check with your doctor or midwife if you’ve never used a foam roller before and read about the two areas to avoid (because they could trigger contractions).

Mental health. I’m a big fan of therapy and can’t say enough about how it can help prepare men and women for the enormous transformation into parenting. But not everyone has the time or resources to seek counseling or therapy. As an alternative, I highly recommend journaling and/or talking to a close friend that you trust about how you feel about pregnancy, labor and becoming a parent. Articulating your expectations, fantasies and fears can be incredibly powerful. This is especially important if you’ve experienced sexual trauma or other unprocessed emotions that could come up.

Midwife Pam England, author of Birthing from Within, advocates that pregnant women and their partners create art to explore their emotions and misconceptions about birth. She writes, “Four things stand out from my work helping mothers explore their art. The first is that pregnant women unconsciously accept scientific and/or television images of birth. Few women acknowledge or even know what their own image of birth is. Yet it is their images, whether ignored or acknowledged, that will determine how they prepare for and experience pregnancy and birth. Second, while exploring their birth art women often realize the value of spiritual and psychological support from other women during pregnancy and labor, and begin to seek or welcome that support. Third, during the quiet, reflective process of making birth art, mother become more aware of their unborn baby. They report more maternal feelings and a greater sense of bonding. And finally, women express gratitude to be heard, acknowledged and given time to reflect on their inner process.” Her book includes birth art prompts, suggested art materials, examples and tips on how to get started.

My pregnancy nighttime routine

Nighttime sleep doesn’t always come easily, especially towards the end of pregnancy. I’d never struggled with insomnia until the end of my third trimester. So, through trial and error, I created a nighttime routine to help signal to my body that it was time to rest and to make myself as physically comfortable as possible.

8:00 pm: warm milk with molasses. I love having a warm, cozy beverage after supper. Since molasses is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals, I started mixing it with warm milk over the stove (about a cup and a half of milk to a tablespoon of molasses). So relaxing and good for you as well!

9:00 pm: warm shower. I’ve always preferred to shower at night, but especially during pregnancy. It really helped put me in bedtime mode, and the warm water relaxed my muscles.

9:20 pm: tart cherry juice. I’ve written about tart cherry juice and its incredible sleep properties before. Every night, immediately before bed, I mixed about two tablespoons of tart cherry juice with warm water to help me sleep. I swear it works like a charm!

9:25 pm: heating pad. My neck, shoulders and upper back are my problem areas and where I hold tension. I kept this neck and shoulder heating pad plugged in beside my bed and fell asleep with it on low every night. It helped relieve my discomfort and felt so soothing.

9:30 pm: pregnancy pillow. This pregnancy pillow helped support my growing belly and aching back and hips during my last two trimesters. Highly recommend.

2:00 am: stretching. Inevitably after falling asleep, I would wake up several hours later with back and hip pain. The only thing that made me feel better was light stretching. My go-tos were a forward bend (with my hands on the edge of our bathtub), cat/cow, a deep squat, butterfly, head to knee pose and a figure-four stretch. That combination really worked for me.

4:00 am: Ensure Plus Nutrition Shakes. At least once during the night, I would wake up hungry. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, I kept a stash of Ensure Plus Shakes by my bed for convenience. They have 27 vitamins and minerals and 16 grams of protein. That was amazing for me because I struggled to get enough protein in my diet, and during pregnancy, you should aim for at least 50-75 grams of protein per day.

How I blended a mother blessing with a baby shower

Mother blessings, or blessing ways, are a Navaho tradition that acknowledges the transition of a woman into a mother. It’s a sacred ceremony that celebrates and blesses this rite of passage. The purpose is to support a woman emotionally and mentally for birth and beyond. I first heard about mother blessings in my postpartum doula training, which is fitting since the focus of that work is honoring and supporting the mother, not just the baby.

When I got pregnant, I decided to blend the traditional baby shower with a mother blessing, choosing the elements that felt meaningful to me. I was very conscientious about cultural misappropriation, so I made sure that a big focus of the ceremony was educating guests on the history of mother blessings and the meaning behind each element. I also chose May 8, 2021 as my date because it was American Indian Day which felt like another way to honor the heritage.

Since my mother blessing took place during COVID times, I decided to host it virtually. That’s important because I had to adapt a few elements of the ceremony accordingly. I’ve made note of those below.

Labor necklace. I asked each guest to select a bead for me. During the mother blessing, each person shared a sentiment that the bead represented, things like strength, groundedness, my paternal grandmother who I was very close to, etc. I used those beads to create a labor necklace that I wore during labor.

Flowers. I wore a flower crown during my mother blessing which felt so feminine and ethereal. The crown also changed my appearance, which symbolically represented the transformation from woman to mother.

Henna. Typically, the mother receives henna or some other belly paint during the ceremony, but since mine took place virtually, I decided to get henna on my belly the day before. I didn’t know exactly what design I wanted, so I told the artist that I felt so at one with Mother Nature during my pregnancy — the divine gift of creation — so she gave me the tree of life. It felt so empowering!

Red cord. We sent red pieces of thread along with the invitations. They represent the umbilical cord, a web of life that connects us all. We asked my guests to wear the thread around their wrists for the remainder of my pregnancy and to send me positive energy when they looked at it. Once I delivered, they could cut the cord to represent the cutting of the umbilical cord. Again, since my ceremony was virtual, we mailed the thread in advance; if your ceremony is taking place in person, you could

Meaningful readings. I asked my cousin to close my mother blessing with the poem “A prayer for one who comes to choose this life” by Danelia Wild. I don’t think there was a dry eye after she finished!

Nursery tour. Let me be clear, a nursery tour is NOT part of a traditional mother blessing, but I decided to include one. Because of COVID and the fact that so many of my friends live all over the country, I knew not many people would actually get to see my nursery. Specifically, I wanted to point out a couple of decorations that were significant to me, including my paternal grandmother’s rocking chair and a collection of framed photos of our baby’s great-grandmothers. I truly believe that our loved ones are always with us, and I wanted my daughter to feel the love and strength of her ancestors. (And she NEVER is fussy in her nursery; I don’t think that’s a coincidence.)

Depending on what feels sacred and supportive to you, other elements include prayer, singing, lighting a birth candle, burning sage, pampering the mother (for instance washing the feet or a mani/pedi). If we had all been in person, I would’ve loved to sit in a circle with a cup of tea to hear memories, wisdom and advice from my guests.

Gift guide for expecting moms

It’s that time of year! Below are the best products I used during (and after) pregnancy, plus a bonus gift idea that I regret not getting while I was expecting. Happy Holidays!

This pregnancy pillow helped support my growing belly and aching back and hips during my last two trimesters. And after the baby is born, the pillow can be used for breastfeeding, as a baby lounger (create a circle, cover with a blanket and place the baby in the center) and as a protective bumper when the baby is learning to sit.

We used our yoga ball throughout pregnancy, labor and postpartum. I swapped out my desk chair and sat on the ball while I worked. It helps strengthen your lower back, supports your pelvis and helps with the baby’s position (which is super important towards the end of pregnancy). During labor, I kneeled on it and leaned forward over it for support. You can also bounce on it during contractions to help speed things along. After our baby was born, an Occupational Therapist suggested that we bounce our daughter face up on it to help relieve gas. I was always too nervous to try to balance her on the ball like that, but my husband did it basically every night for the first two months. It was sometimes the only way she would fall asleep. (We got ours from TJ Maxx; they have really good prices.) Here’s a great article on choosing the right sized ball based on your height.

I love, love, love The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth and recommend it to everyone I know. It is so comprehensive, so accessible and such an easy reference guide. Don’t be intimidated by the word “natural” in the title; Genevieve gives advice that’s appropriate for all types of birth plans, not just non-medicated ones. The book has recipes, simple descriptions of complex healthcare terms and great advice for maximizing your health during and after pregnancy. I loved the ritual of reading the book at the beginning of every week, and the content was always spot on for the growth of the baby, how I was feeling and the decisions we were making at each stage.

Everyone swears by Hatch Belly Oil to nourish the skin and help prevent stretch marks. It’s made with calming botanicals like calendula, which is healing and soothing for the skin, so it’s safe for mom and baby. It’s a little on the pricey side, so it would be the perfect luxurious gift!

Beautycounter is the only clean brand I know of that’s Environmental Working Group (EWG) Verified for its skincare and makeup products. EWG is an amazing resource for information on a product’s toxicity, allergens, supply chain and animal testing policies. Clean products are important for everyone, but especially while pregnant, breastfeeding and even before trying to conceive.

I think MORROW+MINT has the most gorgeous alternatives to the utilitarian nursing bras that we’re all accustomed to. The brand focuses on designing bralettes that are as comfortable as they are beautiful. What an uplifting way to support a new mom! You can buy their gift cards online.

Other than not getting acupuncture to help with morning sickness during my first trimester, my only regret from pregnancy is not keeping a pregnancy journal. I love the idea of chronicling your pregnancy journey, your transition into a mother and all of the little details (cravings, dreams, growth milestones, etc.) that you’ll never want to forget. This Growing You journal is such a sweet, gender-neutral heirloom that can later be passed on to baby.

The 4 best pieces of advice from my midwife

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.