What everyone should know about Cesarean Birth

I first met my Obstetrician when I was 15 weeks pregnant. Since I was pregnant with twins it was suggested that my perinatal care be provided by the “high risk” OB in town. In this first (very brief) meeting, I was reassured that so far things looked good, but given I had not yet had children it would be in my babies’ best interest, particularly that of baby B, to be delivered via Caesarean section.

At this time in my life, I was over half way through my PhD, so my inquisitive mind needed to know, “what is the evidence to substantiate a C- section is in the BEST interest of baby B”?

In response, I was given a somewhat detailed answer pertaining to a recent five-year research trial that determined consistently poor outcomes for baby B when delivered vaginally. I accepted this, agreed to the recommendation and as I left my appointment, I was given a card with my scheduled Caesarean section date indicated.  In a way, it was a bit of a relief. My trust in our health care system at the time translated to me not giving much thought to the type of birth I would have.

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However, I am most grateful (especially now!) that my naturopathic doctor did. In addition to helping me conceive, she ensured that “despite my impending Caesarean section”, I would be armed with the best possible health strategies for my future children.

What did she mean? She was talking about the microbiome. Delivery through the vaginal canal is the time when a baby ingests some of the first bacteria that will colonise its guts. But babies born by C-section miss out on this process, and end up with a different set of bugs – including some from the hospital environment.

Tons of studies have found evidence that this C-section microbiome could make the child more vulnerable to problems later in life, such as asthma, food allergies and even obesity. We are finally coming to understand how important the collection of bacteria in our guts is for our health.

microbiomeIt is only now that I understand how important certain aspects of her plan were – probiotics!! My children are now five years old and it’s only in the last two years that I’ve given more thought to how they were brought into the world, and how I was duped by the very care system in which I work. In retrospect, I was not given accurate information on what was in my babies’ best interest. Rather, I was offered a recommendation based on a biased perspective, one that medicalizes birth, disrupting our precious evolutionary fabric in the process.

My increasing knowledge and understanding of the microbiome has stemmed from one of the many hats I wear – a professor of pathophysiology at McMaster University. Simply put, the scientific evidence is now very clear: a well-functioning microbiome is the key to health – it represents the foundation and the evolutionary matrix that allows us to exist. This important new research SHOULD be transforming our health care approach, especially as it relates to perinatal care.  Almost one third of babies born in North America are now delivered by C-section. These babies can still receive the microbes they’re missing — and hopefully some of the health benefits — by being swabbed with their mother’s vaginal fluid shortly after birth.

The microbiome (gut microbiota of humans – formerly known as gut flora) represents a diverse set of bacterial species (approximately 1000-1150). These micro-organisms control our immune system as well as metabolism – they are everything! Here’s a video explaining how the microbiome is the future of medicine. Colonization of the intestine with important bacteria begins at birth, mainly due to transfer of bacteria from the mother, but also from the environment – to which the influences are many. Mode of birth, place of birth, breastfeeding and antibiotic use have been clearly demonstrated to influence the composition of the microbiota.

So, what exactly are the implications regarding Cesarean section? We still don’t have all the answers. What we do know, is that when your baby’s gut is colonized by the micro-organisms in the hospital operating room rather than from you, it doesn’t bode well for the long term health of your child. More disturbing is the fact that this is now understood to have a multi-generational effect.

So, what can we do with all of this information? As I said, our conventional practices that medicalize birth require a major upheaval. It is not to say we never need medicalization – of course there are times when medical intervention saves lives. This is where our current systems approach shines. However, the pattern of routine unnecessary intervention is a big issue and frankly the health of our population is suffering as a result.

Regardless of where you fit in the perinatal care process, you need to be informed. Beyond being informed, you need to be supported and empowered to make the best decisions. Thankfully our bodies are designed to adapt towards a state of wellness. We do however need the correct guidance on how to get there in a world of conventional practices that are hazardous to our health. I am so grateful to now be working with an incredible team in a one of a kind centre called The World of my Baby (the WOMB), who can provide this much needed help.

Healthy Chocolate Dessert Recipe

Seriously, this healthy dessert is AMAZING. They’re called “Healthy Pea(not) Butter Cups” and taste like Reese’s Pieces but only better. Thank you to Jesse Lane Wellness for creating a delicious chocolate dessert recipe that someone like me (with a gazillion food allergies) can actually eat and enjoy. They are gluten free, egg free, dairy free and peanut free and they were easy to make! No baking required.  Tastes. So. Good.

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So what’s in them? Well, here’s an idea in the picture below. The ingredients are a bit different from what you might typically use. But don’t let that deter you! Carob powder (helps digestion!), coconut flour, nutritional yeast (super high in vitamin B12!) and sunflower seed butter (a natural mood booster). You might think these flavours would be bizarre together, but they come together beautifully to form a decadent, delicious and incredibly satisfying snack or dessert (or breakfast if you’re feeling frisky and want something awesome to pair with your espresso.) I’m a self-professed chocolate snob, and this does the trick. Using a small amount of organic liquid stevia (NOT Truvia, which is processed) instead of refined sugar is also a great option, especially for those dealing with candida issues. 

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Jesse you have truly outdone yourself with this one. I can’t wait to try the other other healthy dairy-free dessert recipes in your new e-cook book!  High five lady. I’ll be making this one again and again 🙂 xo

HEALTHY PEA(NOT) BUTTER CUPS

Healthy Pea(not) Butter Cups melt in your mouth and are a million times better than the processed sugar laden version. They have a creamy sunflower seed butter center that is nestled in a stevia sweetened carob shell. If you have never tried sunflower seed butter or carob, you will find that they are a match made in heaven.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Chill Time: 2 hours | Serving Size: 6 large or 12 small butter cups

Carob Shell Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup carob powder, sifted

15 drops liquid stevia

1/4 tsp vanilla

Sunflower Seed Filling Ingredients

3 Tbsp sunflower seed butter

1 1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1-3 Tbsp coconut flour

1/4 tsp powdered stevia

Pinch salt

Directions:

1. To make the carob shell, whisk the melted coconut oil, carob powder, stevia and vanilla together in a small bowl.

2. Pour a third of the carob shell mixture into a muffin pan lined with paper or silicone liners and place in the freezer to set.

3. While the base is hardening, make the filling by stirring together the sunflower seed butter, nutritional yeast, 1 Tbsp coconut flour, stevia and salt. Depending on the consistency of the sunflower seed butter you are using, add additional coconut flour until the filling becomes a wet dough.

4. Remove the muffin pan from the freezer and roll the filling into balls. Place a ball into each base and flatten it into a smooth disk.

5. Top with the remaining carob shell mixture and freeze for 2 hours to set.

6. Store in the freezer in an air tight container and serve cold.

 

Womb Wisdom: Connecting to your Monthly Cycle

In particular cultures throughout history, a woman’s cycle has been deemed as shameful, disgusting, and dirty. It is considered taboo. Today, some women feel as though their menstruation is a nuisance – dreading the time of bleeding and the days leading up to it.

The truth is, our womb carries tremendous wisdom if we choose to tap into it. In some cultures, the female menstrual cycle was welcomed as a blessing and celebrated as a great gift of fertility and femininity. Our ancestors honoured menstruation by sitting together in a circle, reconnecting to the Sacred through prayer, meditation and communion.

As women, we are biologically connected to the cycles and rhythms of the moon. Many women even refer to their menstruation as their ‘moon -time’. The words ‘menses’, ‘moon’ and ‘month’ all come from the same root word meaning to measure. For centuries, humans measured time by the light of the moon. Each lunar cycle is 29.5 days – roughly the average length of our female cycle. When we connect to our cyclical nature, we are able to better understand our natural fluctuations – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This rhythmic blueprint is the source of all creation and a doorway to healing, transformation and growth.

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Like the moon, our cycle can be broken down into four main phases: the beginning (new moon), rising (waxing moon), peak (full moon), and dissolution (waning moon).

While every woman’s cycle is a bit different (menstruating and ovulating during different phases of the moon) – below is a general outline of the four phases. In each phase I have described what is happening physically in our bodies, how we may be feeling mentally, emotionally and sexually, as well as recommending yoga postures to support each phase.

The Beginning  (Days 1-7: Menstruation)

Like the new moon, this phase symbolizes the deep, dark and mysterious parts of ourselves. Although it is considered the beginning of a new cycle, it is also an ending. It is a potent time to draw our attention inwards and connect to the depth within. During this phase, it is important to take time to be still, relax and reflect. In the resting of our body and mind we create space for rejuvenation.

Physically:

On day one, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. The belly and breasts are swollen and the uterine lining sheds (menstrual blood) as a way to purify the body from toxins that may have built up over the last month. The discarding of our menses symbolizes the release of what is no longer serving: thoughts, ideas, emotions, ways of being, expectations, etc. Our body is literally letting go of old energy so that we can create space for the new. Restorative and yin yoga along with yoga nidra and meditation are suggested during this time to support the experience of moving inwards.

Mentally:

We may feel tired and lack overall drive. This is a great time to reflect on what you would like to leave behind and well as what you would like to bring forward. Accessing other realms is easier during this phase. Intuition, sensitivities and insights are heightened. This is a period of gestation. During this cycle phase it is important to reduce external distractions (social media, computer work, TV, social events, etc.) and to carve out time to dream. It is a time to ask ourselves what we want to bring forward and to set intentions for the next cycle.

Emotionally:

Self-care is extremely important during this cycle phase. If we do not take time to be alone, feelings of irritability and distress will arise. The need to clear away the past may become transparent through a desire to clean our spaces and enjoy hot baths. Journaling and giving ourselves permission to let emotions flow can help clarity.

 

Rising (Days 7-14: Pre-Ovulation)

Physically:

This phase starts after bleeding has stopped. For some, it may be felt during the final days of menstruation.  Estrogen levels are building, eggs are maturing and the uterine wall is thickening. Our body feels lighter and renewed. Because our body has the capacity to do more, it is a great time to start a cleanse or a new workout.  Stronger yoga practices are encouraged to regain strength in the body- especially inversions as they increase circulation to the abdominal region, including the uterus, and restore the endocrine system.  We tend to feel sexiest during this time, so wearing tighter and more playful attire can boost your confidence as you step into your power.

Mentally:

Because our energy is starting to move outward, we have an opportunity to be incredibly productive during this phase. This is the time to take action on the intentions set during the previous week.  This is a period of inspiration and motivation; when our mental acuity is sharp.  It is important to stay focused on the projects you are creating but be careful not to over commit!

Emotionally:

As our light increases, we also feel more attractive and willing to connect with others. It is a great time to be social, attract a lover or collaborate with potential business partners. Because we tend to be more positive during this time, communication and heart to heart conversations can be powerful.

 

Peak (Days 14-21: Ovulation)

Physically:

There is a shift happening at this time. Our eggs are being released from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes for fertilization.  Our body is open and ready to create! We may feel very primal, sensual and full in our beauty. Dress in a way that accentuates your body and makes you feel beautiful. In your yoga practice, standing poses and backbends help support the overall feeling of abundance and totality.

Mentally:

During this phase, our ability to create and bring something into the world is at its peak. As much as possible, allow projects to unfold naturally.  Mental activity may still be high, so engaging in intellectual conversations is important.

Emotionally:

There is a slight shift happening in our energy. In some way, our energy is still moving outwards – making it a great time to make new friends and nurture and support your loved ones. However, at the same time, our energy is starting to pull inwards – so we may feel vulnerable. Make sure to honor your emotional needs during this time.

 

Dissolution (Days 21-28: Pre-Menstruation)

Physically:

If womb fertilization does not happen, estrogen and progesterone  levels begin to drop. Women experience different physical symptoms during this time depending on their unique hormonal makeup.  Some may feel tired, sluggish and bloated. Try to eat light. Practice meditation and restorative inversions like legs up the wall, shoulder stand, and plough pose to nourish and refuel your body.

Mentally:

This is a powerful and potent time to tune into the esoteric realms. Our intuition is incredibly high. It can be a great time to acknowledge what is and isn’t working – but do not make any major decisions. Use the active mind to stir inspiration and creative ideas for the future.

Emotionally:

Emotions range depending on your unique balance (or imbalance) of hormones. Anxiety, depression, irritability and moodiness are common indications that this phase has begun. Practice patience and honor your emotions by creating space for self-care. Stick to your daily routines and spend time alone.

Month by month – listen, observe and tune into your natural ebb and flow. Remember, every woman’s cycle is different. If you are taking birth control or are postmenopausal – this wisdom is still accessible! As you become more aware of your energy during each phase, you can gain insights into your innermost Self and increase understanding of the ancient wisdom of your body.

If you are interested in learning more about your cycle, here are a few suggested readings/teachings that I have found helpful:

  1. Red Moon” by Miranda Grey
  1. The Feminine Design Course” with Ashleigh Sergeant

LADIES: Do you know that your cycle can be a doorway to deep healing and transformation? The source of all creation, the womb is exquisitely designed to carry profound information and insight. When we tap into the natural rhythms of our body we unlock ancient wisdom and feel more in sync with the Divine.