Homemade Energy Bites - for pregnancy and postpartum.
Aren't they lovely and tasty looking? :) I whipped up a batch today to take to a friend who recently had a baby. I found the recipe while looking for postpartum meals. These would also be great to make up for pregnancy and for those middle of the night breast feeding or pumping sessions. The recipe would double and triple quite well as long as you had a large enough bowl. Make up a bunch for pregnancy and beyond!
I found the recipe on moneysavingmom website and tweaked it. The following is what I did (I will also post the original recipe at the end).
2 cups oatmeal
1 heaping cup peanut butter
1/3 heaping cup honey
1 1/4 cups coconut flakes
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix all ingredients together. Roll into balls. (I found this harder to do than it should have been! :)
To freeze: Place energy bites on a cookie sheet and freeze for one to two hours. Remove from cookie sheet and place in an airtight container.
To serve: Remove desired number of energy bites and thaw at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. Can also warm for 30 seconds or so in the microwave. Or, just eat straight out of the freezer.
Original recipe here
What is the difference between midwives and doulas? This is the second most common question I get asked (the first being “You are a what?? What is that??). The simple answer is: medical - a midwife does the medical side of birth, a doula does not.
A midwife is a medical professional. Most midwives have extensive medical training. A certified nurse midwife (CNM), for example, has a nursing degree (and passed all those nursing exams) and then went on to midwifery school – more training, more testing/exams, more learning and best of all: catching babies! You can have a midwife as your healthcare provider instead of an OB/GYN. A midwife has a model of care that is different than an OB/GYN (that is another blog post!), which focuses on the mama and baby and has a more holistic approach. It generally means less medical interventions and more time spent with each laboring woman.
Midwives are on-call for your birth. They are also who you can see for all your prenatal appointments. There are birth center, home and hospital midwives. Midwives come once you are in active labor (for the most part) and work to stay with you until an hour or two after your baby is born (sometimes more, sometimes less). Hospital midwives might have multiple laboring mamas and have to spread their time between them (that sometimes happens to birth center and home birth midwives as well). A midwife is usually with you before they “catch” your baby, and they spend time coaching and supporting laboring women. They also help with breastfeeding and postpartum care. Midwives are wonderful people and health care providers. I highly recommend them!
A doula does not do any medical care or support. A doula provides emotional, physical and informational support. A doula is on-call 24/7. A doula discusses your fears, hopes, dreams, concerns, questions with you at length. A doula is with you from the beginning. A doula is there holding your leg during labor, doing hip squeezes, helping you stay cool by fanning you for hours on end, massaging your legs, your neck, your arms or back. A doula is there supporting your partner with food, emotional support and giving ideas/tips so your partner can support you better. A doula holds the partner when he is crying in the corner because his wife lost a lot of blood, and now everyone is okay and he can’t be strong any longer. A doula spends hours on her knees supporting you while you labor in the tub. A doula gives massages to your family who has been with you for the last 30 hours. A doula helps you write a cohesive and clear birth map. A doula empowers you. A doula encourages you. A doula holds your hand. A doula holds space for you. A doula watches as you find your inner strength and beauty and roar your baby out. A doula cries with you while you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. A doula takes pictures of the emerging baby, the new family, the support team. A doula is there, present, the whole time. A doula doesn’t have other laboring women that she has to spread her time between (normally – that is what back-ups Doulas are for!). A doula is there to focus on you as long as you need her, in whatever way you need her.
A doula works with the partner. A doula works with a midwife. A doula works with nurses. A doula works with an OB/GYN. A doula works with the family of the laboring woman –the mother who is a retired L&D nurse, or the mother-in-law who has only had c-section births, the dad who is so strong and silent in his support, the sister who laughs and supports, the cousins who just want to see the baby. A doula also protects the laboring woman and her birth space. A doula turns the lights low, shuts the door to keep the noise down, whispers, murmurs words of affirmation, silently holds a hand, rubs a shoulder or moans with the laboring woman as she moves her baby down. A doula does not tower over the laboring woman, instead a doula is always down on her level or lower.
A doula (usually) has also had extensive training and if they are a certified Doula (like I am), they have also met the extensive qualifications and passed the certification process through a trusted organization. Doulas aren’t usually nurses (although some eventually go that route). Doulas can be a doula anywhere - hospital, home or birth center. There are doulas that work only in one place or the other, and their are hospital-based doula programs. Most doulas, however, are independent and work with clients in all situations and from all walks of life. Doulas support you through whatever labor/birth choices you make and experience. A doula can support a woman under going a c-section, having a vaginal birth, requesting medication or going for an un-medicated birth. A doula supports all woman and all birth experiences.
Doulas provide benefits for all families. According to a 2013 Cochrane Database Systematic Review, “continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labour and birth.” (read full article here).
As one of my clients said to me “my husband is my right hand and my doula is my left”
More on Doulas from the web:
DONA – What is a Doula? https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula
DONA – Benefits of a Doula: https://www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/benefits-of-a-doula
Why Pregnant Women Love Doulas: https://www.bellybelly.com.au/pregnancy/doulas-what-is-a-doula
Nursing School - Difference between Midwives and Doulas: http://www.allnursingschools.com/articles/doula
Breast milk! It really is liquid gold and you want to take the best care of it that you can. We all know the phrase "no one cries over spilt milk" was never created by a mama! I have cried over spilled breast milk every time.
I have used the Medela Pump in Style and the Spectra. I used the Medela with my first (pumped and breast fed) and the Spectra with my second (I am exclusively pumping). The Spectra is by far the better of the two. It doesn't pull, it gentle suckles. It has numerous settings and choices for how it is suckling and how hard. It is quiet! Multiple people have commented on how quiet it is. I get more milk from the Spectra (had to use the medela for a weekend when I forgot my Spectra). I also don't feel like a cow! (Can I get an amen!?) The spectra is less expensive. Both should be covered through your insurance. Make sure you call and get directions on how to get a free pump! Some companies make you buy the pump and then reimburse you and some companies will purchase it for you from the beginning. Also, most insurance plans will cover a new pump with every baby! (Never hurts to have a back-up!)
To get the most out of your pumping time, it helps to use moist heat on your breasts and to massage your breasts. This article talks all about breast massage to increase pump supply- it is an easy "trick" and helps every time! Also, make sure you are relaxed and drink lots of water! If you are dehydrated your milk supply will drop. Here is another article with a bunch of pumping tips, including find a great pump, know your pumping rights and look at your baby or photos of your baby at the beginning of your pumping session. Get those oxytocin hormones working! :) This article is geared towards exclusively pumping mamas and goes into more of the science behind breast milk production. And lastly, an ode to all you mamas who are exclusively pumping.
For mamas who are planning on going back to work and are pumping at work, check out this article from balanced breastfeeding. Lots of good information and tips.
If you are going to pump exclusively, or at work, you will want to buy a pumping bra! Believe me, it makes it so much easier to pump when you have a bra to hold everything in place so you have your hands free to read, look at your phone, or type on the computer (I've done it all, including driving while pumping, working on my computer while pumping and holding my babies while pumping.). You can find one online at Amazon here. There are various styles to chose from.
Breast milk Bags:
I have used numerous brands of breast milk storage bags. Most of them are the same. They freeze fine, they store great and are easy to write on (I use a sharpie). I hated
I really like Nuk and Lansinoh brands. They can be found at most places and online. They seem to have the thickest bags that hold up the best in the freezer. They do not leek and they seal easily. They are easy to pour from and usually don't spill everywhere (you do have to be careful though).
I did not like the Avent or Medela brand. They are thin. They have a really long pour spout which does not tear evenly (you tear it to open to put the breast milk in) and so it was always a mess to pour. The medela brand tore all the time after it was frozen. I lost so much milk. It is too thin.
I have found that people who use bottles are usually very particular about the bottles they use. Babies are also known to be picky about the bottles they like. I currently use three different brands in my house, have researched bottles for hours and talked to lots of mama friends. I recommend you buy one bottle at a time until you find the one you love and your child loves. It is also depend on the age of your child, if they are colic-y and if they are using bottles and breast feeding.
Munchkin Latch are the closest to breast and nipples that I have found. They move around like a breast, they release more milk if a baby pushes against the nipple of the bottle and they have the availability for lots of movement/give. They also have an anti-colic valve. They are on the more expensive side. They only come in one size (8 ounces). They do not have any designs or colors. We like these bottles the best. They took some getting use to. My husband had a harder time getting use to using them with our son than I did. Our son also loves them. I think they are definitely worth the extra investment. (*site note- I have found that putting them in the dishwasher can cause them to leak out the bottom for a while. I just hand wash them - with a bottle brush - and they do not leak from the bottom anti-colic valve) You can find them in stores - Target and Fred Meyer and online - Amazon and Diapers.com. I would recommend these bottles if your child is breast feeding some times and using a bottle some times.
We also use, and have lots of friends who happily use, Dr. Brown bottles. Dr. Brown bottles come in varying sizes, shapes and materials-glass and plastic. They are one of the only bottle companies that make glass bottles. Dr. Brown's are known for their anti-colic piece inside the bottle. You do have to put it in and take it out. You can use them without the anti-colic piece. They are min-price I would say. The glass are more expensive. They do not have designs or multiple colors. They can be found at most stores including Target, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and online.
We also use Nuk orthopedic bottles. We started using these when our oldest had to switch to formula at 10 months. They are not a fancy bottle. They come in numerous designs and colors and are pretty inexpensive. They can be found at most stores including Target, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and online. Nuk also makes toddler cups and transition bottles/cups.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) Names Doula Support as Associated with Improved Outcomes for Women in Labor
Doulas have been helping woman in preparing for labor, birth/labor journey and postpartum for hundreds of years. They might not have had the title "Doula" but women have been helping, supporting and encouraging other women since the beginning. Science is now behind the awesome benefits of labor support and Doulas!
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist has once again endorsed improved maternal/fetal health outcomes for doula support in labor. The committee opinion report titled Approaches to Limit Intervention During Labor and Birth released this month highlights several factors that can lead to improved outcomes and higher patient satisfaction for women in labor. Additionally, the report was endorsed by The American College of Nurse–Midwives and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.
The report states: Evidence suggests that, in addition to regular nursing care, continuous one-to-one emotional support provided by support personnel, such as a doula, is associated with improved outcomes for women in labor. Benefits found in randomized trials include shortened labor, decreased need for analgesia, fewer operative deliveries, and fewer reports of dissatisfaction with the experience of labor (1, 17). As summarized in a Cochrane evidence review, a woman who received continuous support was less likely to have a cesarean delivery (RR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.67–0.91) or a newborn with a low 5-minute Apgar score (fixed-effect, RR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.50–0.95) (1). Continuous support for a laboring woman that is provided by a nonmedical person also has a modest positive effect on shortening the duration of labor (mean difference –0.58 hours; 95% CI, –0.85 to –0.31) and improving the rate of spontaneous vaginal birth (RR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.04–1.12) (1)
Also included in the report were recommendations on delaying hospital admission in the latent phase of labor, suggestions for using nonpharmacologic pain management techniques (for pain or fatigue in latent labor) including massage or water immersion, frequent position changes to enhance maternal comfort and optimal fetal position, as well as recommendations for hand-held Doppler devises for fetal monitoring in healthy labors.
This is great news and will hopefully speed things along in regards to insurance companies and public knowledge of Doulas. Doulas are a tool and are beneficial to all laboring women. Who is your Doula?
“A life well lived it usually messy”
That sentiment is on a kitchen towel my mother-in-love recently purchased for me. I love it. I feel it encompasses my life. J I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. I went over to a friend’s house to borrow cookie sheets and she opened the door with “I’m a hot mess today!” I was just thinking she looked great (she got the “hot” part right) and was admiring her tree. My sister-in-love recently asked for prayer because she “was a mess” due to recent circumstances. And I’ve told my awesome husband that I feel like I am “a hot mess” (to borrow from my friend). I also heard a family member mention that if only she hadn’t fed her child so many preservatives (in food) when he was younger, he wouldn’t be this way.
I was devastated when I heard that. Being an outsider, I can see that this family member did their absolute best and the particular way this child is, and has been from birth, has nothing to do with preservatives and everything to do with genetics. Being an outsider, I also saw the beauty in my friends “hot mess” and was enjoying hanging out with her. Being an outsider I can see my friends and family are doing their absolute best with their children, family, and life. I enjoy watching their journey. But I get it. I feel the feelings they do. I say the same things they do. I put pressure on myself, blame myself, obsess over things…I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it. My friends and family do it. Why?
Is it society? Is it internal pressure? Is it something in our make-up gone array? Is it our children, our family, our partners? What makes us feel as though, as women, we need to apologize for the messiness of life? Life is messy! “A life well lived is usually (almost always) messy.” It’s a fact. It’s a joy. It’s a mess. J I don’t think we should apologize for it. I would say, 90% of the time, when my friends say “I’m so sorry my house is a mess…” I’ve been admiring it, I’ve been thinking it looks great, I’ve been enjoying their life. Most of the time, when I say to my husband in exasperation “our house is a disaster!,” it really means we spend 6 minutes picking up toys (& socks) and its clean again! (I can’t wait for our babies to reach the age where they can finally begin to pick up their own toys…although I’m not excited about the “fights” that I am sure will ensue around picking up their toys.)
I read a book recently and it had a story about “The Moms Club.” The rules are easy to understand but harder to follow. I also think everyone should follow them. One of the rules is “don’t judge other moms/families.” Another is “don’t clean your house before other mom club members come over.” I think both of these should just be rules of life. Don’t judge other moms/families. Haven’t we all been there? And, if people are coming over to hang out, eat dinner, etc, don’t spend hours cleaning your house. Sure, pick up the dirty clothes and wipe down your toilet, but otherwise? Don’t clean! We have toys on the floor at our house; your toys aren’t offensive. We have coats by our door, it is cold outside; your coats don’t offend us. Don’t succumb to the pressure to have a “perfect” house when people come over, especially other Moms.
And what is perfect anyway? My perfect includes toys on the floor, handprints on the walls and color pages on the table. Why? Because my husband and I struggled for 5 years to get pregnant, we had years where we believed we would never have children, I cried for months. Now, I cherish the things that remind me that we do have children, two miracle babies, who steal my heart every day. Their laughter erupts and my heart bursts with delight. Are there times I don’t want to be around them? Sure! I am human. I do need time to rejuvenate myself and my marriage. But I wouldn’t trade toys everywhere, hand prints on the walls, and food in the carpet for anything! My life is messy. I have children. I have an awesome husband. I have family and friends. I have feelings, needs, desires, dreams, fears, emotions. I have a life! I want to live a life well lived, mess and all. Who is with me?
So, to help myself, and anyone who wants to join me, in living a messy life and enjoying it I’ve come up with a couple ideas/goals:
Share your messy life stories below! I’d love to hear from you.
Have you seen the stunning photos flooding social media under #normalizebreastfeeding? They are all beautiful and unique. They are called a tree of life "brelfie" - breastfeeding selfie with a tree of life going from the mom (breast milk) to the baby (helps baby grow and blossom). :) Quite clever if you ask me! They show a different point of view, story, journey and family. I can't get enough! Did you know breastmilk contains over 700 bacteria species?? So cool! (To learn more, visit the livescience article).
Do you know how the tree of life brelfies all started? A mom and photographer named Cassandra. She lives in California. Cassandra says: “I currently am nursing my 13 month old daughter and I plan on allowing her to naturally wean. After celebrating my 12 month anniversary of nursing my daughter, I wanted to commemorate with a nursing photo that I could hang on the wall. I had recently learned about how breast milk was considered a living organism and that having fascinated me, I chose to try and incorporate that into our photo. We had a rough beginning when we started nursing so this was something that was truly special to me. I came up with the idea to use Photoshop and create a flower, with the vines going from my breast to her brain. A metaphor for her having “blossomed” into this beautiful child. While nursing her one day, I took a photo of her on my cell phone and decided to play around with it, kinda work out the idea I had come up. I looked into photo editing apps that were similar to Photoshop so I could draft my idea and found the Picsart app. I was able to add a flower to the photo, but didn’t really like the way it looked. That is when I decided to try a tree instead. It gave it a kind of artsy look through the app’s many filters they offer and I just fell in love with it. I had originally intended to take a professional photo with my camera and do this all on the computer, but I really loved what I had created."
She had never shared a photo of herself breastfeeding (which I am sure most of us can relate to), but decided to share the beautiful image she created to a breastfeeding support group. Overnight she had women sharing her picture, creating their own and asking her to edit their pictures into beautiful works of art. So far she has edited over 800 images! What a kind and beautiful soul! To share with us her ideas, talents, and support.
Cassandra goes on to say: I don’t want to just normalize breastfeeding, I want to naturalize it. I feel like the word normalize means that it wasn’t normal to begin with. I feel that if we can naturalize it, women will feel more comfortable to nurse in public without judgement and get support when needed. I recently read a statistic online that by 6 months of age, only 18% of babies are still breastfed. I can’t help but wonder if breastfeeding had been more naturalized in society, these women would have nursed longer (assuming they did not stop for medical reasons of course). Naturalizing breastfeeding is crucial. Breastfeeding is natural and beneficial and absolutely beautiful. No one should ever be embarrassed by it" Preach it, sister!
As a person who struggled for months to breastfeed my daughter, and then was forced to wean at 9/10 months because I was pregnant again and my body stopped producing milk, I cherish those memories of my time breastfeeding. Even through the stuggle, the tears, the nipple shields and the sleepless nights. :) I breastfed in public and was not embarassed, at least I did not set out to be. I am a femininist, I am strong, I am independent, I am not ashamed of my body! And yet...the first couple of times I breastfed in public, I covered up with a blanket, I found the seat most away from everyone else, I felt myself getting embarassed and felt my cheeks get hot! Me?! I was shocked at the feelings that over took me without my permission. But I kept on, I finally got rid of the blanket, because I mean really! I could not breastfeed with that thing, I felt like I flashed more breast and skin trying to keep covered than I did when I just breastfed naturally. (Not to say that there is anything wrong with using a cover or blanket. If you are more comfortable that way, use it! Just please use it because it makes you more comfortable, not because it might make the stranger near you more comfortable.) The more I breastfed in public the more comfortable I became with myself, my body and my baby. I was just feeding my baby after all. I did not have one person say negative comments to me. It was not until later that I learned my husband would intimidate everyone around us who would even dare to look at me in a negative way, whenever I breastfed. :D (What a supportive partner!).
If you have had someone say a negative comment to you, I am sorry! We've all had negative comments of one kind or another; about our breastfeeding, our weight gain during pregnancy (are you sure you aren't pregnant with twins?!), the spacing of our children ("girl, get some cable, it is cheaper!"), how we raise our children ("you're doing what with vaccines?!") or even what our children look like ("he must look like his father.." "do you think he will lighten up at all?" "who does she look like?"). Sheesh people, keep it shut! :) What happened to the old antage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" Have we raised generations who did not grow up watching Bambi? Bambi is filled with life lessons! :)
May I encourage you to stand up for you! For your baby! For your rights, and your respect! However you choose to feed your child(ren), my hat is off to you! #fedisbest Thank you for taking care of your child, for loving and caring for your children. Thank you for standing up in the face of adversity and negativity. Thank you for focusing on the good. Because, you know what? The good is normal! If you think about it, how often do bad things happen to you? Is it that often, or do we just notice them and become focused on them because they aren't the normal? I know some days it feels all bad...I've been there and will be there again, but a child to love is always good. Look into their eyes on your bad days. See their pupils dialted (did you know your pupils dilate when you look/see something/someone you love?? even a baby's pupils will dilate <3). Believe in them! Believe in love!
Let us all work together to #naturalizebreastfeeding and #normalizebreastfeeding and all types of feeding and to, most important of all, support one another! We can relate. We can understand and empathize with one another. Reach out this week to a mom friend, or a new mom you don't know yet. Share your beautiful picture to open the dialogue and ask to see her beautiful picture. Work to encourage. #breastmilkfromabottle #formula #breastmilkthroughatube #breastfeeding #fedisbest.
How to Create Your Own #TreeOfLife Edit
Share your #brelfie in the comments!!! I would love to see them all!!!
Awesome Normalize Breastfeeding Campaing Blog
1. The placenta is the body's only disposable organ
The placenta is made from the same cells that make the baby - sperm and egg. Some cells differentiate into the baby and others go on to form the placenta. The placenta does its job supporting and nourishing the baby and when it is no longer needed, it is expelled, making it the body's only disposable organ.
2. The Montgomery glands in the areola produce a lubricant that smells like amniotic fluid
Those tiny bumps that people see on their areolas are called Montgomery glands and their purpose is to produce a natural lubricant that protects the nipple and areola. That specialized lubricant smells just like amniotic fluid, which is what the baby has been smelling/tasting for the entire pregnancy. The baby is attracted to the smell of "home" and this helps the baby to navigate to the breast for nourishment after birth.
3. The baby recognizes voices while in utero
The baby becomes acquainted with the voice of the pregnant parent as well as other voices that it is frequently exposed to. If the partner sings to the baby on a regular basis, the baby will soon recognize that distinct voice and song. After birth, the partner can repeat the song they have been singing to the baby in utero and this familiar refrain will be recognized by the baby and help calm and soothe the baby, as well as lower the baby's stress levels.
4. The baby starts labor
Even today, it is still not known exactly how a pregnant person's body starts labor or when it will happen, but recent research has revealed that there are two proteins in the fetus' lungs that are produced when the lungs are mature. These proteins seem to produce an inflammatory response in the uterus that begins the labor process.
5. The full term pregnant uterus is the strongest muscle in the human body
A non-pregnant uterus is the size and shape of a pear. But at full term, that uterus has grown to the size and shape of a watermelon in order to accommodate the mature fetus. At this point, it is the strongest muscle in the human body. It takes a lot of work to dilate the cervix and get that baby out through the pelvis. During the pushing stage of labor, the uterus does about 80% of the work, with the laboring person adding that extra "umph." If a woman was unconscious, and in labor, their uterus would still be able to push that baby out without any additional pushing effort from the pregnant woman.
6. Amniotic fluid and breast milk change in taste based on what the pregnant woman is eating.
The baby is tasting and swallowing amniotic fluid in utero, and drinking breast milk for nourishment after they are born. The mom's diet influences the "flavor" and taste of both of these liquids. A varied and interesting diet during pregnancy means the amniotic fluid has a variety of different tastes, and the same goes for breast milk after birth. Eat "around the world" using a variety of foods and seasonings and your baby enjoys the results too.
7. A mother's chest can heat up or cool down depending on the needs of the baby
After birth, when the newborn is placed on the mother's chest skin to skin, the mother's chest area has the ability to flush and heat up or even cool down based on feedback from the newborn's skin and body temperature. This allows the newborn to adapt to maintaining their body temperature with extra help from the mother at the start. Another great reason to have that uninterrupted skin to skin immediately after birth.
8. A 35 week baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks
The last weeks of pregnancy put the finishing touches on the baby and let it enter the world ready for life on the outside. There is an amazing amount of brain growth that occurs in the last few weeks. The maturing fetus adds another one-third of it's brain weight in those last few weeks, which is why is one of many reasons why it is so important to prevent preterm birth.
9. Squatting opens the pregnant woman's pelvic outlet 28%
Changing positions during labor and pushing is very important. Doing so allows the baby to move down through the pelvis. When a laboring person squats, they are able to increase the diameter of their pelvic outlet by 28%, which is approximately one to two centimeters.
10. The capacity of a newborn's belly is the size of marble
When babies are born they are usually ready to eat within a very short while. Colostrum, baby's first food, is at the ready and provides everything that the baby needs for nourishment and hydration. Newborns need to eat frequently because their bellies are very tiny. A just born baby's stomach capacity is about five ml, (one teaspoon) which is approximately the size of a marble.
I get excited about placentas. I can't help it! They are amazing, cool, life giving and an organ. A woman's body grows a child and a placenta in 8-9 months! The placenta is what protects, nourishes, and supplies the baby. While I don't expect most people to get as excited as I do about placentas, I thought I would share some really cool facts to at least get you interested.
-The placenta is also called "tree of life" due to the fact that is literally gives life to the fetus/baby (via blood, nutrients, oxygen, etc) and because of how it looks. If you look at the picture above, the umbilical cord is the trunk of the tree and all the veins are the branches.
-Every minute about 20% of the mother's blood supply flows through the placenta. Every minute!
-The placenta grows 32 miles of capillaries (any of the fine branching blood vessels that form a network between the arterioles and venules).
-Spread out, the tissue formed to exchange oxygen and nutrients would cover 120 to 150 square feet.
-The mother's blood and the baby's blood never mix! Thanks to the placenta.
-Trophoblasts cells (from the outer layer of the embryo) create the placenta and pave the way for the placenta to gain blood supply. They are very invasive and will even "pave" themselves over the pathways of the mother in order to create a pathway for the placenta.
-The placenta plays the role of many organs while supporting the baby/fetus in the uterus, including liver, kidney, endocrine system and the respiratory system.
-The placenta has also been called the "chronicle of intrauterine life" (by scientists) because it tells a story of what has gone on in the life of the fetus/baby during development (especially if something goes wrong).
-The placenta acts as a gland - secreting numerous hormones that are essential for baby's growth, labor, and to establish breastfeeding. Some of the hormones include: estrogen (responsible for increasing blood flow and stimulating uterine growth), progesterone (helps to maintain the uterine lining), relaxin (responsible for causing the mother's joints and muscles to relax and stretch in preparation for labor/birth), and the Human Placental Lactogen (responsible for increasing mother's metabolism).
-The placenta has cells from both the Mom and the Dad (from the sperm).
-The placenta provides some immunity and infection protection for the fetus/baby.
- The placenta does not contain any nerve cells, so it cannot be under the direct control of the brain or spinal cord. The placenta develops and functions without being connected to your brain — how amazing!
-The placenta is the only disposable organ. It comes out when it has done it's job (and what a fine job it does, too!)
Grady, Denise. "The Mysterious Tree of a Newborn's Life: The Push to Understand the Placenta." The New York Times [New York]. 14 July 2014 The New York Times Web. 28 May 2016
Pyanov, Maria. "What is a Placenta? 10 Amazing Placenta Facts" BellyBelly 25 January 2015. Web. 28 May 2016.
There has been a lot of media coverage and panic over the Zika virus. Kaiser Permanente even called their pregnant mamas in California and played a prerecorded message about the Zika virus, A lot of the information was from the media and not really helpful. Where do you turn when there is so much panic about this seemingly new virus? Are you parents, friends, or family calling you and freaking out? Have you cancelled any and all trips?
I have some good news. The Zika virus has been around for 70 years and has never thought to be a public health risk. Most people who contract the Zika virus have no symptoms, or think they have a mild case of the flu. Over the decades it has infected tens of thousands of people without any cases of microcephaly (babies born with abnormally small heads and corresponding learning and developmental problems) being reported.
Rebekah Wheeler, RN, CNM, MPH puts together a great article on the Zika Virus combining all the science and facts that we know this far. In it, she explains why there is a sudden link between Zika and microcephaly.
"There was a Zika outbreak in Brazil in 2015, with between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Brazilians getting the virus (FRAMEWORK, S. R. 2016). At the same time, local health officials in northern Brazil noticed that there was a sharp increase in rates of microcephaly. Brazil usually sees about 150 cases of microcephaly each year, but in 2015 that number was above 3,000, a massive increase (FRAMEWORK, S. R. 2016). Researchers began to suspect, due to the fact that the Zika outbreak happened at the same time as the increase in microcephaly cases, that perhaps contracting Zika during pregnancy might be the cause of microcephaly in the fetus. What they don’t know, and may never know, is how many of the babies with microcephaly were exposed to Zika in utero. This may never be possible to measure, as Zika does not stay in the bloodstream for more than about 12 weeks (FRAMEWORK, S. R. 2016).
Regarding the suspected link between Zika infection and microcephaly, it is very important to know that this is a suspected link, not a proven one. In fact, experts from the World Health Organization are being very careful to say that the link between Zika virus and microcephaly is a suspected one, but has not been confirmed in any scientific study. Microcephaly has historically been known to have multiple non-Zika causes, including Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders, exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking in pregnancy, maternal malnutrition and some severe maternal infections. Further cause for caution in assuming a causative link comes from Colombia, where they have had more than 3,000 cases of Zika but no increase in microcephaly rates."
We do not know that Zika causes microcephaly. There have not been conclusive studies or evidence found that actually prove that Zika causes microcephaly. Studies are being done by the CDC. Scientists are working to discover the link, if any, between the two. As of right now, pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should be careful, but there is no need to stay inside and cancel all travel plans.
Reasonable Steps to Avoid Zika
(from Rebekah Wheeler, RN, CNM, MPH)
Rebecca Wheeler goes on to say in Part 2 that she does not think it likely that the Zika Virus and microcephaly will be found to be linked. She says "there are factors about Zika that make it unlikely to be a frequent risk, and that also point to a very small likelihood of it causing microcephaly in most cases:
I hope this has helped to put your mind at ease. While pregnant women have to be careful about and avoid so many things, I do not think the Zika Virus should not be at the top of the list, especially for women in the US.
To read the full articles by Rebekah Wheeler, RN, CNM, MPH, visit Science & Sensibility - Part 1 and Part 2.
Doula Rachel has put together a blog of resources, info-graphics, and articles, with an occasional self-published blog. Enjoy!