Showing posts with label ZenBirth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ZenBirth. Show all posts

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Importance of Folic Acid in Pregnancy

We hear a lot about folic acid and its vital role during pregnancy. But do you actually know why it’s so important? 

Let's have a look at why you should pay attention to these important nutrients both before and during your pregnancy.

What is folic acid, or folate? What's its role?

You may be most familiar with 'folic acid'.  Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate.  Folate is naturally occuring in foods we consume, and you can also get it is a natural supplement.  Folic acid that is a synthetic version of folate.  Whether you chose folate or folic acid, they are both part of the B complex of vitamins, specifically B9. You can explore the differences between folate and folic acid here.

In pregnancy, folate is essential to the development of the baby's spinal cord and nervous system. It helps to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). Since the spinal cord and nervous system are amongst the first things to develop in the baby, it's important that women take a daily supplement of folate or folic acid both while trying to conceive and during the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy. It's difficult to get enough folate just from your diet so a supplement is needed, either as folate or folic acid. The human body does not store folate, and because of this, we need to consume it every day to ensure that we have enough in our system.

Deficiency in Folate

A deficiency in folate can increase the likelihood of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Women who have an increased risk of carrying a baby with a neural tube defect are usually advised to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams (5mg) of folate or folic acid each day until they are 12 weeks pregnant. You may have an increased risk if:

·        you or your partner have a neural tube defect 
·        you previously had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
·        you or your partner have a family history of neural tube defects
·        you have diabetes
In addition, you should consult your GP for advice if you're taking anti-epileptic medication, as you may also need to take a higher dose of folate or folic acid. Your GP or midwife may also recommend additional screening tests during your pregnancy.

Daily recommended dosage

Women are advised to take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms of folate or folic acid while they are trying to conceive and should continue taking this dose for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's spine is developing. However, it is safe to continue taking folate supplements after 12 weeks.

On rare occasions some people find that supplements give them an upset stomach. If you take more than the recommended amount of folate or folic acid by accident it shouldn't cause any problems. Because it is a water-soluble vitamin your body will just naturally excrete any it doesn't need.

Having a good diet helps

As well as your daily supplement, you can also find high amounts of naturally-occuring folate in broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, brown rice and  green leafy vegetables. Other useful sources of folic acid include fortified breakfast cereals, some bread and some fruit, such as oranges and bananas.

Stay healthy, stay happy!
Zakia Mance
Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner


Monday, 16 October 2017

The Power of Smoothies

How often do we hear about the benefits of eating more fruit and veg? And do we do it? Probably not, most of the time. Of course, we mean to.  But life is a juggle and we often don't make time for the things we know are good for us.

This week on the blog, Zakia helps us to make getting healthier both easy and delicious.

Fruits and vegetables are essential to our well-being, especially if you are pregnant or have recently had a baby or are breastfeeding. Mothers really need to replenish their stores of nutrients as growing a whole little human being and nourshing them takes a significant amount from you.  One of the easiest ways to increase your daily consumption of fruit and veg is to make your own smoothies. And this can also be really great for the rest of the family too.  

How to make smoothies?

You don’t need any fancy equipment, all you need is a hand blender or standard blender.  If you have anything fancier, that's great. But it's not essential.  

You will also need a selection of fruit and veg that you can easily blend. These can be fresh or frozen.  Use good quality ingredients, including seasonal and/or organic if possible.  Consuming fruit and veg in a liquidised form means most of the nutrients are absorbed directly into your blood stream.  So the better-quality stuff you use, the more you are maximising the nutrients you are consuming with each smoothy.

I would avoid putting more than 5 different fruits or vegetables in one smoothie because we don’t want the body to have too many different things to process at once. Simply put your selection of fruits and vegetables in the blender, add a bit of water or almond milk and whizz it in the blender.

When to consume them?

To get the greatest benefits from your smoothies, avoid eating solid food an hour before and after having your smoothie. This is to allow the body to absorb all the vitamins and minerals.

You can make batches and freeze smoothies too.  So when you are busy you can easily defrost and have a quick daily dose of vitamins and minerals when you are on the go. 

If you find some greens too bitter, add an extra banana or mango. For mamas that are breastfeeding, this is a wonderful way for baby to get all the goodness directly. And, don’t forget, Vitamin K is present in most leafy green vegetables.

Some Yummy Recipes

Super green: 3 small bananas, 2 handfuls of spinach leaves, 1 apple and water

Raspberry dream: 2 pears, raspberries, 4 or 5 leaves of kale and water

Kiwi delight: 4 very ripe kiwis, 1 banana, 3 stalks of celery and water 

Stay healthy, stay happy!

Zakia Mance, Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner

Monday, 2 October 2017

Healthy Vegetarian and Vegan Pregnancy

Being pregnant brings a plethora of questions regarding what women should eat or how much they should eat. In today's blog, Zakia helps us understand how to get a nutritionally-balanced diet as a vegetarian or vegan during pregnancy.  

So you're pregnant and thinking about how to best nourish youself and your growing baby bump.  There are many guidelines on nutrition during pregnancy and it can be quite overwhelming for women to know what’s best for them. It’s even more true for vegetarians and vegans.  Even the most committed and knowledgeable may face doubts when pregnant. Let’s have a look at what each group needs to be aware in order to enjoy a healthy pregnancy. 

A healthy vegetarian diet during pregnancy

If you eat a variety of healthy vegetarian foods, you should be able to get all the vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients that you and your baby need. Have something from each of these four main food groups every day:

·        Fruit and vegetables - a combination of fresh and frozen vegetable is fine, and try to have five portions a day. A glass of fresh fruit or vegetable juice counts as one portion.

·        Carbohydrates - these starchy, filling foods include wholegrain bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Wholemeal and wholegrain options are healthier, will fill you up and help to prevent constipation.

·        Protein - eggs, beans, pulses and nuts are also a good sources of iron.

·        Dairy - these milk, cheese and yoghurt, if you are not lactose intolerant

It's especially important to include enough vegetarian protein, iron and calcium in your diet. Try to eat one or more of these sources of iron every day: green vegetables and pulses.
Avoid having tea and coffee with your meals, as these drinks contain tannins and polyphenols, which make it harder for your body to absorb iron from vegetables. However, if you have food or drink that is rich in vitamin C with your meals, such as orange juice or broccoli, it helps your body to absorb iron.

What to be aware of when vegan and pregnant

One of the most common questions asked if you are vegan is how do to get enough proteins in your diet.  During pregnancy, you should you get around 75g of protein daily. Proteins are essential to the growth of your cells, so it’s no wonder they are an important part of your pregnancy diet. Getting enough protein is vital to your baby’s growth. 

The third trimester of your pregnancy is when your baby’s brain will be developing. Proteins high in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA provide the nutrients necessary for proper cognitive activity and growth. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to get an adequate amount of protein during those last few months of pregnancy. Good sources include chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds and walnuts, and try to use rapeseed oil for cooking.

The other question vegans get asked often is about calcium and vitamin D. Most people think the only good source of calcium are dairy products but the best bioavailable forms of calcium are from dark leafy vegetables like kale, as well as from almonds and sesame seeds. Calcium also works with other vitamins like vitamin D, so make sure you are also benefitting from some sun exposure and eat vitamin D rich foods (fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks, sesame seeds and tahini, pulses) brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law) dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots
The regular use of vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods is recommended for all pregnant vegans as vitamin B12  is found primarily in foods of animal origin and plays an important role in the developing foetus. Fortified cereals are a good source and of course you can take specially formulated food supplements for vegans.

A vegetarian or vegan diet doesn’t mean your health or your baby’s health is at a higher risk of being depleted of essentials nutrients. If you choose carefully, your sources of proteins and have a diet rich in dark leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and good oils you are set to give  your baby and yourself a very healthy start.
Stay healthy, stay happy!
Zakia Mance
Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner


Monday, 25 September 2017

Your story. Your voice. Your truth.

Today on the blog, Gina reflects on birth experiences may people have, the importance of being able to speak about these experiences, and being truly heard and supported. 

As an antenatal educator, I've been teaching pregnant couples for over six years now and I've taught nearly 400 couples. I also ran a Positive Birth Movement (PBM) group in London for three years, and I've been running another PBM group in Kent for the last two years. So I've had many, many birth stories shared with me over the years, both in a professional capacity, and also in passing when acquaintances (like mums at my kids' school) discover what I do for work. It is both my job and my passion not only to listen to these stories, but to truly hear the feelings and emotions behind what each parent has to say when they share their story.

In this blog, I want to reflect on the importance of both speaking your truth, whether you had a positive or negative experience, as well as the importance of being heard with compassion and without judgement.

Why share your birth story?

Many parents can benefit from sharing their birth experiences.  

The most obvious reason to talk about birth is if you had a traumatic experience. Talking about it can help you with coming to terms with upsetting memories and emotions. Sadly, I've heard people share many negative birth experiences, including some truly heart-breaking stories.  The one common factor for all of these individuals is the need to speak their truth in their words when they feel ready and safe. Speaking helps healing. A wonderful father that I met has spoken widely about his family's experience of losing their baby girl. And his sharing of their story has helped other families as well as his own. 

Maybe you feel disappointed with how your birth went, but it wasn't particularly 'traumatic'. It's possible that you have negative feelings about your birth experience, and your baby is now here safe and well. You may have been told, 'well, baby is here safely, that's the most important thing'. Of course, every parent wants their baby to arrive safe and well, and that is everyone's top priority. But you, your experience and your feelings also matter.  

Having a negative experience of childbirth can leave you with unresolved feelings for many years. Mothers sometimes feel guilty for having negative feelings, perhaps having trouble bonding with baby or struggling to settle into the role of mum. Dads or birth partners sometimes feel guilty and upset because they looked on helplessly whilst mum endured a difficult delivery.

Infant loss, still birth, birth trauma, negative birth experiences - these can leave an indelible mark a family, and simply taking that step to speak about it with a trusted individual can be hugely transformative.  For some parents, it can make all the difference, by releasing that pain and those fears, feeling able to enjoy one's life and family as it is now, and perhaps even feeling ok about trying for another baby again. It can feel empowering to begin the healing process and allow your life to move forward. 

Do you have a positive birth story to share? 

Positive birth experiences need space and acknowledgement too.  Why?  Your positive story may be a personal triumph over your fears and anxieties, moving past a previous negative birth, dealing with the loss of a baby or other complex feelings and difficulties.  Your positive birth deserves to be acknowledged and heard in the same way as those who experienced trauma and loss. 

It's hard to believe, but parents often feel guilty about sharing positive stories. Of course, in sharing your own positive story, you don't want to make others feel bad if they had a negative experience.  If you are hearing someone else's story, remember that their story is not a judgement or critique of you or your story.  If you feel that way, it is important that you find a safe space to share and heal from your own experience.  

If you share your story and you feel judged negatively as a result, maybe someone has heard your story as a criticism of their story, even though that wasn't your intention.  Remember that kind of response is about the other person's own unresolved feelings. They need space to heal. Telling one's story is about articulating, accepting, finding peace. And it can also be about celebrating your own journey and experience.  

Sharing positive birth experiences has the power to transform how those around you approach birth. Positive Birth groups are 100% committed to this.  FInd your own wonderful safe place to get support for all of your choices and all of your experiences.  Facilitators of these groups are registered with the PBM and are responsible for creating that confidential, non-judgemental space for the parents that attend the meetings.   

Mindset is a powerful thing.  Going into birth well-informed, prepared and supported can make even the most sudden change of birth plan more manageable. I've had clients unexpectedly need to be induced or have an emergency c-section, but because of good preparation and support they are able to report these births as positive experiences, even though things did not go to the original 'plan'.

'Holding Space' and Feeling Safe 

In the birth professional world, we talk about 'holding space' for our clients.  This means providing a space for you that feels safe, where parents feel 'held' and able to be and express what they need to, in whatever shape or words that comes. For mothers and fathers alike, creating a safe space where they are completely accepted and respected can be the first important step towards healing. 

It's a big responsibility to hold space for those sharing birth trauma and loss, and even positive experiences.  Any good birth professional understands the importance of being able to listen without judgement, without inserting one's own feelings or experience, and always with unconditional love and compassion.  This is what my ZenBirth team and I are committed to, and it's what we put into everything we do to help parents on their journey to meeting their babies.

My experience of hearing and listening to birth stories is that it is incredibly moving and has helped me to grow personally and professionally.  I have observed the process of parents releasing negative emotions around previous birth experiences.  Liberating oneself from these things can help couples acknowledge what went well during the birth and how joyful it was to welcome their child into the world, at the same time as recognising reasons why the delivery did not go as planned and eventually coming to a point of acceptance and peace.  Talking things through helps you to both gain clarity and lift the burden of those negative feelings and emotions. 

Whoever you share your story with, it is important that you feel listened to and that the person is committed to holding space for you that is safe, confidential, non-judgemental and truly focussed on you.  Remember there is always support out there, whether you are a parent or a birth professional, or both.  There are some organisations listed below that provide excellent information and support.  

Wishing you well. Remember that you and your story matter, always.
Gina xx
Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, focusing on women's history, writing and feminism. Since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Birth is a Feminist Issue

Your voice is important. It is right that you should feel informed, in control and call the shots during your pregnancy, during the birth and in your life

Remember that just because you are pregnant, doesn't mean you have to hand over your power to someone else.  Growing a baby and giving birth are amongst the most powerful and empowering things you will ever do.

You and your baby are the most important people during your pregnancy and you have the power within you to learn about what is right for you, to gather good evidence-based information, to make the right choices for yourself and to assert your voice so that you get the care and the birth that you want. 

In this short video Gina explains why, for her, birth is a feminist issue. 

Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, focusing on women's history, writing and feminism. Since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK.

Monday, 5 June 2017

That gut feeling!

Research shows the important role that the gut plays in keeping us healthy and happy.

There is a profound dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain and your immune system, starting from birth with baby's development of gut microbiota. Zakia explains this important relationship.

Where does it all begin?

Let's start with a mini biology lesson. Trillions of bacteria live in your child's (and your own) gastrointestinal system, many of which are good bacteria that keep the gut healthy. These bacteria have been there since birth, when your baby's gastrointestinal tract became colonized with good, bad and benign bacteria (known as flora). This happens when baby passes through the birth canal during a vaginal delivery, during which baby picks up some of your microbes.

If you breastfeed your baby, you help your baby build up more good bacteria, because breast milk contains substances known as prebiotics that promote the growth of healthy bugs. Prebiotics are also found in high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Once your child weans and starts on solid foods, the gut microflora will change, and then remain pretty much constant throughout his or her lifetime.

Why is it so important to have healthy guts?

  • It helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.
  • It helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K).
  • Scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the 'happy hormone' are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life.
  • It helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
  • It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.

What can disrupt the gut flora?

-        Antibiotics, for instance, can kill both bad and good bacteria in your child's gut flora. "About 20 to 30 percent of kids develop diarrhoea when they take antibiotics," says Daniel Merenstein, M.D., director of research in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.

-        Various diseases can disturb this otherwise fixed amount of microflora.

-        Poor diet: sugary and processed foods, lack of fruits and vegetables.

How to help your little ones maintain a healthy gut, and trust their gut?

Always start with food. Teaching our children the importance of eating wholesome, unprocessed, unrefined food is crucial to help them develop healthy eating habits. Keep to a strict minimum of sugar, fizzy drinks, processed and salty foods. Increase foods that are gut friendly, including vegetables, good oils, good proteins (fish, lean meat), wholegrains, fruits, fermented foods and drinks, such as Kefir.

Teaching a healthy approach to eating will help your children as well. Teach them about eating slowly and enjoying their food, rather than just scoffing quickly whatever is available. Eating slowly make them more aware of their body and teaches them to recognise when they are full. Explain what different foods can do to their body and mood, by all means give them the odd chocolate bar as a treat, but do also explain why it is an occasional treat.

Science is only confirming what naturopaths and nutritionists have known for years: that good physical and mental health start primarily in your gut. So look after your children’s gut flora, and yours too.  And this will help the whole family live a healthier and happier life.

Stay healthy, stay happy!
Zakia Mance
Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner


Monday, 15 May 2017

Empower yourself. Empower your birth.

You can do this! 

Founder of ZenBirth, Gina Potts, talks about how you can empower your birth.

Read more about Gina and the many empowering ZenBirth birth stories here

Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, and since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Should I just have the Epidural?

It's a big question: should I just have the Epidural to block it all out ?

Most of us have had other women tell us: 'oh, just have the Epidural!', 'why wouldn't you have it?'  But have you found yourself saying to them, or yourself: 'I'm not sure I want it', or asking: 'what happens when I have one?' or 'what effect will it have on baby?' or 'how will I manage the sensations of childbirth?'

This week, we look at Epidural. What it is. What it does. The Pros, Cons and Alternatives. 

Epidural: what is it and how does it work?

Epidural is an anaesthetic which is used for pain relief during child birth, as well as in some kinds of surgery including c-sections.  Epidurals are administered by injection into the spine and this is always done by an anaesthetist in the hospital.  When a woman decides to have an epidural during childbirth, she will first be put on a drip, sited in the arm, so that she can be given fluids during the epidural.  Then she will be asked to be in a leaning forward position, or lying on her side.  A local anaesthetic will be used to numb the skin where the injection will be given.  A needle is then placed between the vertebrae of the spine, usually in the lower part of the back, in order to insert a plastic tube called an epidural catheter.  The catheter is left in whilst the needle is removed.  A line is then inserted in to the catheter which delivers the epidural drug into the woman’s body. The pain relief effect is usually reasonable quick, taking full effect in about 20-30 minutes. 

Epidurals can be delivered in differing dosages, having more or less pain-relieving effect.  The higher dose will numb must of the lower half of the body and it won’t be possible to stand.  A lower dose epidural can be used, which is called a mobile epidural, and this provides a lower level of pain relief whilst allowing the woman to have use of her legs and to move around. Regardless of the dosage, the woman will need to be attached to a monitor, strapped around the woman’s tummy, throughout the labour.  This is in order to keep track of how baby is handling the labour and also to detect when contractions are happening. 

What are the pros and cons of Epidural? 

Epidurals provide effective pain relief, but do impact upon the progress of the labour.  Because epidural relaxes the muscles, and the uterus is a set of muscles, it can make labour less efficient.  So epidural can cause labour to be longer.  The woman is less likely to feel the sensations of her contractions, so the midwife or doctor may need to coach her to push when the monitor indicates contractions are happening.  Coached pushing may be more forced than mother-led pushing, so tearing may occur as a result.

The benefit of epidural is that it is an effective form of pain relief, including partial or complete loss of sensation in the whole lower half of the body.  The woman would not feel the contractions or urges to push.  It also enables a woman requiring a c-section to have no sensation, whilst remaining awake during the whole procedure.  The woman is then able to receive her baby immediately once baby emerges.  

Risks and side effects of epidural may include: discomfort when the needle and catheter are inserted, numbness in the chest and stomach areas and also in the legs, the legs may not be strong enough to stand where a high dose is used, low blood pressure, light-headedness, nausea, loss of bladder control, itchiness, headaches, temporary or permanent nerve damage, labour can be slow and less effective, higher occurrence of emergency c-section, baby may be less alert than usual at birth and baby may take longer to effectively breastfeed, other more serious effects and complications that should be discussed with your medical care provider. 

What are the alternatives

Many women choose to avoid having an epidural due to the implications it can have for both mum and baby.  Learning about the physiology of childbirth is useful. Understanding why you are experiencing certain sensations can help you embrace, rather than resist, what you are feeling as you birth your baby.  You may dedice to prepare yourself with tools to help you manage the sensations of childbirth. Different labour and birth positions can make birthing easier. Relaxation techniques and using breathing can help your body ease into the sensations, and allow your baby to emerge more gently.  Things like massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and other alternative therapies can help you to maximise your feelings of relaxation and calm. If your body is relaxed and free of tension, the birth will be easier. Being supported by a caring and supportive birth partner, together with a birthing environment that helps you feel safe and secure can also help your birthing to progress smoothly and gentlyThese are all things that hypnobirthing courses cover. 
Whatever you decided to do, make sure you educate yourself before your baby's birthing day.  Making informed decisions helps to make the birth experience much more positive regardless of the route you choose.

Gina x

Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, and since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK.