A birth story video

Thanks to my lovely clients for allowing me to share this video.

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Post Natal Depression: why are women sad when everyone thinks they should be happy?

 

A woman gives birth in hospital and just a few hours later walks out of the ward carrying the baby, both wearing very little clothing. It was in the middle of winter. She and baby are later found dead, mother having jumped off a bridge. What lead to this extreme acting out? Was it impossible for this woman to become a mother? Why did she sacrifice her newborn baby?

 

We will not know the truth about her story, but with no shadow of a doubt she would have been diagnosed with Post Natal Depression or Puerperal Psychoses. Regardless of these diagnostic categories, and whether or not she was indeed labelled by them; they would have allowed for pharmaceutical drugs to be prescribed that don’t necessarily cure or improve wellbeing. She might have been on medication but ultimately her life and her baby’s were not saved.

 

Becoming a Mother is mostly related to a happy and fulfilling time in a woman’s life. She experiences her body’s incredible ability to develop, carry and deliver new life. Women experience such an intense bodily transformation: anatomical changes in the vagina and perineum; the opening of her cervix by 10cm to allow passage; the breasts engorged with milk; the stretch marks on the skin. Pregnancy and childbirth are responsible for a huge rush of hormonal changes that affect the woman’s physical wellbeing and state of mind.

 

It is commonly known that on the third or forth day post partum a mother’s milk will come in and the rush of prolactine and progesterone hormones can produce quite an overwhelming feeling, also known as the baby blues. Women can be tearful and feel sad for a day or two but this usually goes away at the first sight of their baby’s face, or even their smell. Post Natal Depression, on the other hand, may start off as Baby blues, but if the unexplained sadness, tearfulness, insomnia, lack of appetite and difficulties bonding with the baby persist, then there is much need for seeking therapeutic help.

 

So why are some women overcome by sadness when they should be happy? Women can feel incredibly elated and empowered by the experience of childbirth, or quite the opposite, they may be traumatised by it. This may have a direct consequence in how the new mother bonds with her baby and how this bond will take shape, for example if she is breastfeeding or not. Therefore, how a woman sees herself, her transformed body, and how she feels towards her baby are incredibly important factors to her wellbeing post partum. Women may be feeling like failures for not being able to birth vaginally, or not being able to breastfeed, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Needless to say that her own personal history, her childhood memories and her relationship with her own mother and her partner, have a direct link to her experience as a new mother. There may be pressure on oneself to be different or better than their own mother, and there may be anxieties and worries around patterns of behaviour that one doesn’t want to repeat. The relationship between a couple also changes dramatically after the arrival of a baby and a new dynamic is often observed.

Placentophagy- would you really eat your own Placenta?

 

 

img_6213The Placenta is a pretty amazing organ developed by the woman’s body in order to feed her foetus. It grows with the baby in the womb, and it remains attached to the uterus providing the baby with it’s much needed oxygen and nutrition via the umbilical cord. Following the birth of the baby, there is also the birth of the placenta. Whilst the baby’s health is checked after birth, so is the placenta, for it should be whole. If there are bits of it missing, the mother will need some urgent medical attention. It should look like a fresh bit of juicy meat with veins that resemble a tree.

 

Some cultures treat the placenta with very special care and they go as far as giving it a ceremonial burial. This is because some people, like the Hmong from China for example, believe that the placenta is the baby’s first clothing and it must be buried at the family’s home where the soul can find it’s after life garment once the person is deceased. If the soul can’t find its placenta clothing it will remain wondering in the afterlife.

 

Some western women may also choose to bury their placenta, but if they are in a town where stray dogs or even foxes roam around, they may wake up to find it gone! In most cases the placenta is disposed of in hospital, together with other bodily waste. Unless, of course, the woman is planning on eating her placenta. She will request for it to be handled carefully and hygienically, placed in a sealed container and ideally put in the fridge or a bag with ice cubes.

 

There is no scientific evidence to prove that eating your own placenta is beneficial, however plenty of women out there are doing it. There are different methods of placentophagy: you can cook a piece of your placenta like if it were a steak, seasoned with salt and pepper; or, you can prepare a raw placenta smoothie by adding a small piece of placenta flesh to a big bunch of frozen red berries. If you are worried about feeling like Hannibal Lecter or tasting bloody berries in your drink, then perhaps the new trend of placenta encapsulation is the one for you.

 

After Mad Men star, January Jones, declared she had swallowed her placenta capsules, this was sure to be a hit amongst women all over the world. Women who have trained in placenta encapsulation usually provide this service. They will cook, cut, and dehydrate the placenta, turning it into a powder. This dried placenta powder is compressed and put into capsules for women to swallow as they please, although they do come with an expiry date.

 

Ok, but why? Some women swear by it. They feel energised, happy, hormonally balanced. Some say they skipped the baby blues all together and ensured their breasts were full of milk for their babies. If you are still not convinced placenta encapsulation is for you, let it be known that you can also make a tincture. The magic alcoholic potion lasts for a lifetime!

 

Oxytocin – The amazing love hormone

oxytocin_molecule

What does sex, childbirth, and breastfeeding have in common? They are all activities regulated by Oxytocin, a neuropeptide produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland. The love hormone is also known as the hug hormone, the cuddle chemical, and the moral molecule. So why all the fuss about this chemical?

 

Science has recently paid more attention to the amazing effects of Oxytocin and perhaps to how much our human characteristics are owed to it, since we now know it helps regulate our social behaviours and our emotions. Some researches will say that it is responsible for the propagation of our species, and through evolution it has taken on a more central role in complicated aspects of our reproductive behaviour. OK, but how? For one, it is thought to be the hormone responsible for the pleasure we feel when we have an orgasm. It can also be related to how the uterus moves helping sperm reach its destination.

 

The love hormone is released in large amounts during labour and after nipple stimulation, facilitating childbirth and breastfeeding. But it doesn’t stop there! Oxytocin is anxiolytic and plays a role not only in romantic attachments but in the empathy we feels towards others. Studies have found that couples in romantic relationships have larger amounts of Oxytocin than single people, and the high levels could last up to 6 months. This explains feelings of calm, trust, and happiness we may experience when we are in love.

 

Interestingly, Oxytocin is a shy hormone. It can be quickly overridden by its mirror image stress hormone- adrenaline. These two hormones share the same receptors, so it’s either one or the other taking control. We are either feeling very calm, loved, and trusting; or we are scared, fearful and in a “fight of flight’ mode. This is very important in childbirth, because in order for labour to progress a woman needs Oxytocin, however is she is frightened, not feeling safe or loved, the hormone will shy away, and Adrenaline will kick in, sometimes stopping labour all together. This makes sense evolutionary-wise since a woman in the wild would have been able to stop labour if a predator was around her.

 

Bearing in mind that Oxytocin is secreted in rhythmic pulsations, it is important to remember it operates in a positive feedback loop. The more it generates feelings of calm, love and pleasure, the more it is secreted. This information is key in respect to labour, for there are ways a woman can ensure she has an Oxytocin fuelled birth, such as hiring a doula and learning Hypnobirthing techniques.

 

One can also think of ways to improve their romance and sex life by considering how the hormone works. Oxytocin is shy, so perhaps dim lights, sweet melodies, a bubble bath, a relaxing massage, followed by lots of touching could reinforce the positive loop of hormonal interaction which will not only reach a climax but could guarantee the continuation of our species!

A heavy human load or a bit of non-fiction

Mother of 3 - Mãe de 3

We had not left the house in two days. I promised myself and my 2 year old we’d go for a walk this morning. For my sanity and hers. It’s no simple task getting ready to go out with 4 month old twins and a toddler in the winter. It takes me a while to get everyone ready and wrapped warm whilst toddler runs around screaming and refusing to cooperate.

It was already 11am but I thought we could at least spend an hour outside before lunch time. I wasn’t going to give up easily. I thought to myself ‘I can do this!’ So first let’s get toddler ready. Jumper on. Good. Coat. Great this is going fast. Gloves. Takes ages to get her tiny little fingers in the right places. Hat. Where is the hat? Found it.
‘Put in on.’
‘No mummy.’
I put her hat on she takes…

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