You might notice that a pregnant person has especially lustrous and thick hair. This is because of the high levels of estrogen and increased blood volume; during the nine months of pregnant, normal hair loss just…doesn’t happen.
After the baby (or babies) is born, hormone levels and blood volume decrease dramatically, but in terms of hair loss, that doesn’t start happening until at least a couple days after the baby is born, and sometimes up to a couple of months!
But this re-start of regular hair loss doesn’t mean that they’ll go back to the normal amount of hair loss – there are nine months of no (or low) hair loss to make up for! The walls of the shower, the pillow, the hair brush – it starts to feel a little scary to see the massive quantities of hair being lost, especially if you weren’t aware of the phenomenon.
One of the ways to help mitigate is to get a short haircut.
(This has the added benefit of not getting your hair in baby burp-up, because no matter how chill your baby is and how little they burp-up, they still will occasionally, and if you have long hair, it WILL get in it.)
With my first child, I wore my hair in a ponytail until she was 4 months old. (And even then, I occasionally got my hair stuck in a sticky wet mess on my shoulder.) At that time, I read an article about a baby that had almost lost a toe because one of the mother’s long hairs had wrapped around the toe inside the sock.
So I chopped off my hair. Better not to risk it. And I deeply regretted not getting it cut earlier. It was so much easier to deal with!
Now, with my second child, I cut it off just before he turned 1 month. I’m barely noticing the hair loss (at 2 months, it is still possible that it hasn’t reached maximum loss yet) but compared to when I had long hair, I doubt I will notice unless it starts falling out in clumps.
Longer hair definitely makes the hair loss seem more extreme.
Shorter hair also reduced the amount of stress on your hair follicles. Less weight, less brushing, and fewer forceful hair styles (pony tails, braids, etc) means less hair loss.
There are cases of extreme hair loss – large patches of missing hair, higher levels of hair loss for more than a year – and in those cases, see a doctor. It could be related to a hormone imbalance or a vitamin deficiency.
There are things you can do to help lessen hair loss other than chopping your hair off. Diet, supplements, reducing stress, and modifying hair care routines can all help. See the references for more details.
But how do you choose your doula? Where do you find one?
If you have a midwife, most offices keep a list of doulas
that work in the area. Even OB/GYN’s are beginning to come around to the idea
of doulas as partners in the birthing process and asking at your doctor’s
office could be a good place to start.
Ottawa is home to the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Center,
located on Walkley Road. It can be a huge resource for parents looking for
birth options and for links to local doulas. On the third Wednesday of every
month, if you have a midwife, you can attend their Choice of Birthplace seminar and it can be very informative if you
are on the fence about where you want to birth and the type of birth you are
looking for. Especially for a first-time parent.
There is also word of mouth. Ask around among other pregnant friends, see if anyone recommends someone, and doing a google search for doulas in your area can also give you a place to start.
Finding a doula and choosing a doula are two different
things. It’s a good idea to interview your doula options, ask about their
previous experiences, their training (if they have any), maybe some references
if they are really new. But when it comes down to choosing your doula it’s
about connection. You might connect with the one who has 14 years experience or
you might connect with the one who has just finished training and is looking
for some experience. Pay close attention to how your gut feels about the doula.
“I think connection is one of the most important things,”
says Anderson, “because it’s very intimate giving birth. You need to be careful
with who you have there and the people who are there should be on your side and
you should feel good about that.”
The process of birth can be an incredibly empowering
experience for women, and a doula can help avoid traumatizing pitfalls that can
stay with women long after the labour is over, affecting their mental health by
increasing the chances of postpartum depression and making it more difficult
for a mother to connect with their newborn in the days and weeks that follow.
Whether you enlist a doula to support you in your labour or
not, please do your homework on what your rights are and be aware of the
cascade of interventions that can lead to a less than optimal outcome for both
mother and child. Medical advancements have saved a lot of children, but when people
rely too heavily on machines and stop listening to their bodies, the scales tip
back towards there being a potential for more trauma due to unnecessary
interference. The US has some of the most medicalized births, relying very
heavily on machines and interventions, but they also have worse birth outcomes
than some third world countries, so those machines do not necessarily know
better than a woman’s body what it needs to do.
Doulas have many tools in their repertoire that can help a
woman in labour.
“When I first go to a birth, I observe what my client is
doing and ask her some questions,” says Anderson. “For instance, if the mother
says the pain is all in the back, I would start straight away with
counter-pressure and ask her, ‘does that feel better?’”
Communication with your doula is key. Anderson will check in with her clients repeatedly about what is working, what’s not, and will change up her techniques accordingly. She can offer the use of a TENS machine, which can help some woman cope with the pain better. Anderson will also remind the labouring woman to stay hydrated, to rest, to breathe.
It’s not uncommon in birth for emotions to come up.
“If somebody gets really emotional, if they need to cry, I
tell them, ‘Just cry’,” says Anderson. “I can ask them questions as to what’s
coming up, what are you worried about and sometimes they’re very valid
And if something comes up on the medical side, Anderson can
help remind the woman or the couple that it’s okay to ask questions. Rarely is
there ever anything in birth that requires such an immediate response that
there isn’t time to ask questions and find out what’s happening before making a
“Sometimes in a hospital setting people can find it
overwhelming where [information] is often presented as ‘this is how it is’ and
some people have a hard time going against it,” says Anderson. “Sometimes it’s
really hard to collect your thoughts when people are looking at you waiting for
an answer, so I might say to them, ‘Ask for five minutes’.”
The discussions a couple has with their doula at their
pre-meetings, as well as work they did on the birth plan, will make all of this
easier to navigate, as there will be a bond and the couple will already be
privy to a foundational understanding of the choices they may face during
“Many times, at the hospital,” says Anderson, “the nurses
would say to me, ‘You’re really lucky because you got to know these people. I
just met them and they’re in labour’.”
The support a doula can provide for the non-birthing partner
is amazing as well.
“[Partners] have a hard time because they feel like ‘oh, my
love is in this much discomfort and I can’t do anything’. They feel helpless
and that’s a difficult place to be.”
Doulas can help partners learn massage and counter-pressure
techniques to help reduce pain, which gives the partner something to do and can
help them feel more connected to their labouring partner and the birthing
experience as a whole. Doulas can remind partners to breathe and to take time
to rest, eat, or drink, especially if it’s a long labour as was the case for
Chris Brown’s wife Debbie. Her labour went on for several days and they were
sent home from the hospital a number of times, plus there were other
complications such as meconium, a complication where the baby poops inside the
amniotic sac and runs the risk of aspirating it into their lungs before they
“I actually hyperventilated and left,” said Brown. “I think
it was because I was afraid for Debbie and the obvious pain she was
But he credits their doula with providing them with a lot of
information ahead of time, that allowed he and his wife to navigate the
overwhelming elements of their daughter’s birth.
“She was genuinely there for us when we needed her and she
did provide a lot of comfort and knowledge,” says Brown.
There have been some studies conducted on birth outcomes for
woman with labour support and while some of the results are harder to quantify,
in general most woman did better with continuous labour support. According to
the Journal of
Perinatal Education, “Doula-assisted
mothers were four times less likely to have a low birth weight (LBW) baby, two
times less likely to experience a birth complication involving themselves or
their baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding.”
(At the end of the article there will be an additional of list of resources and recommended reading that you might want to explore if you are contemplating a doula for your next birth.)
Pregnant women often say that what matters most is the
health of their baby or babies. Our society focuses heavily on the arrival of
baby often to the detriment of the mother. One of my favourite quotes is, “the
moment a child is born, the mother is also born,” and according to the internet
it is attributed to Osho, a controversial
figure. But the quote captures a truth about childbirth.
The woman is as integral to the process of birthing as the baby is, and her importance and her need for support is just as important as the health of the child. The act of labour is a symbiotic relationship between the woman’s body, mind, and soul working along with the movements of the newborn descending through her birth canal. The more we can allow that process to happen unhindered and for women to be free to listen to the intuition of their bodies, often the better the outcomes are for both the mother and child.
Unfortunately, our highly medicalized birthing system in
North America has forgotten the power of the female body – but this is starting
Women are remembering, they are learning to trust themselves,
and they are demanding more support. One of the forms that support might take
is a doula.
“[A doula] is somebody who helps you see your strengths,
helps plan, helps craft questions for your healthcare provider,” says Courtney
Holmes, the family outreach and birth companion support worker at Mothercraft Ottawa.
“They really help instill a sense of confidence and empowerment moving through
Mothercraft Ottawa provides doula services to at-risk women
in Ottawa. At-risk includes new immigrants and low-income mothers. The support
the doulas provide those women is invaluable.
“How women feel about their labour and delivery is a huge marker
for postpartum mental health issues afterwards,” says Holmes.
Pia Anderson, a local doula and
Hypnobirthing teacher, has been a doula for over 14 years and has supported
hundreds of women physically, emotionally, and informationally through their
journeys of birthing their children.
Anderson tries to meet with each family at least three times
prior to the birth. This helps build her relationship with the woman and her
She is a big supporter of a birth plan, not because she
expects everything will go according to the plan, but it gives a chance for the
woman and her partner to explore their options and be aware of the different
scenarios that might come up, as well as to explore questions they might want
to bring up with their healthcare provider. It also gives them a chance to
voice any fears or worries. Anything that can be addressed ahead of time or can
be anticipated to come up during the birth, can help increase the chances of a
positive birthing experience.
Anderson worries about the mothers who make a birth plan
that they are too attached to.
Birth is not a predictable process and getting too
entrenched into an idea of how it should go, ie. having your heart set on a
“natural” birth (meaning no epidural, vaginal delivery, etc…) can set a woman
up for disappointment if anything deviates from her vision. The birth plan is a
great tool for educating yourself on what could happen and to help you be
prepared for various outcomes, but it’s important that it’s viewed as a tool to
help create an optimal birth in spite of anything that happens, and not a carved
in stone agenda. Very few births go completely according to plan.
Melaina Landriault is a mother of three in Ottawa. Her first
birth was a c-section as her daughter was full breach and stuck, but her two
subsequent pregnancies were homebirths with doulas. Her second birth didn’t
quite go as planned. It was supposed to be a hospital birth, but the hospital
sent her home thinking she was still hours away from delivery. Her daughter had
“I delivered her myself,” says Landriault. “[My doula]
caught the baby!”
“We really believed what the doctor and midwife had told us
and I’d never birthed before,” continued Landriault. “Then I remember pushing
and [my doula] was like ‘Don’t push!’ and I was like, ‘I can’t stop this!’”
Landriault’s daughter was born in her living room with only
her doula to support her. Her midwife arrived after the birth and an ambulance
arrived to check everyone out as well.
This is not a typical scenario for a doula and most doulas
will actively avoid a birth without any medical practitioners in attendance,
but this one thankfully had a happy ending.
Unfortunately, if a doula attended a birth with no medical support and it didn’t have such a happy outcome, the doula could be open to a lawsuit with devastating results and charges could even be laid if the outcome is deemed the fault of the doula in any way.
Doulas are not medical practitioners and should never provide medical advice on your pregnancy or how you choose to birth. They can provide information to help you make a decision and will direct you back to your OB/GYN or midwife for answers, but they should never tell you how or how not to do something. The main goal of a doula is to support you in whatever choices you make and to help you achieve the best outcome for your birth so that everyone, including the mother, is healthy.
Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 in two and four weeks respectively.
One of the benefits of being the author of this blog is if I have a question about my own health, researching doesn’t feel like a waste of time because I can then write about it.
One of the negatives of being the author of this blog is that everyone knows what is going on with my health. (Not that every post is about me. I usually say if it is.)
Good thing I don’t mind sharing?
So I’m pregnant.
Is anyone surprised? I guess you haven’t seen me lately.
I’m 35 weeks and 6 days today.
It’s also our ten year anniversary, but that’s irrelevant to my health. I’m just excited about it and want to share.
The thing about being so close to the end of the pregnancy is that, well, you’re close to the end. Very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it’s so cool to feel movement from another being inside of you and you’re never alone (that doesn’t really go away if you have a clingy baby/toddler). On the other hand, you’re sore, it’s hard to move/roll over in bed, and the number of doctor’s appointments increases dramatically (a pain to get to and a pain to arrange around your schedule).
Today, I want to talk about soreness. Specifically the soreness that comes once hormones like relaxin kick in.
Relaxin is pretty great, to be perfectly honest. It’s the hormone that loosens the ligaments and muscles in the hips and pelvic region and allow for the human body to stretch enough to deliver a baby vaginally. Remember, the pelvic area, on a regular day, is only so big. The bones have to be able to accommodate the head and shoulders in order to push a baby out. Hence, relaxin.
However, relaxin starts its work in the third trimester (usually. Sometimes it’s early). So not only are you gaining extra weight from the baby gaining weight, but your ligaments and muscles are no longer supporting you the way that they did before. This can cause quite a lot of pain.
Enough that there’s a name for it.
Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).
I’d like to make a quick note here that although this is most often referred to as a symptom of pregnancy, you can have it and not be pregnant.
So how can I minimize the pain from SPD?
Avoid triggers like standing or sitting for too long, crossing your legs, and lifting or pushing.
Whew. That’s a lot.
But you do a lot with your hips without realizing it.
Physiotherapy is very helpful. Your physiotherapist can give you exercises that will help to minimize the pain and recommend other ways of improving muscle function and joint stability.
Personally, the things I find the most helpful are icing the outside of my hips and doing Kegels. Even if it hurts at the beginning of my Kegel reps, by the time I get to rep 5-6, I feel so much better. Sleeping with a pillow between my knees has helped immensely as well, especially since I don’t normally lie on my side – I much prefer sleeping on my stomach. Not exactly an option right now for some reason.
I hope this helps those of you who are feeling pain, and for those who know me, it helps you understand why I wince every time I move to stand up or try to get into a car. (Widening legs or taking a big step is rather painful for me, especially at the end of the day.)
If you’re not in pain and don’t know me, I hope you at least found this interesting.
It occurred to me the other day that I don’t remember what to do if my water breaks. That didn’t happen with Dragon.
And hey, look at that, I need a topic for my Blush blog this week. If I’m going to research it anyways, might as well write about it, right?
What is the “water”?
In pregnancy, the water is the amniotic fluid that fills the sac that protects the baby in utero. This protection is both macroscopic (bumps and falls) and microscopic (keeps bacteria and other foreign microbes away from the baby).
How does water “break”?
The membranes of the amniotic sac tend to tear or rupture during labour, allowing for the amniotic fluid (water) to leave the body.
Will it be like in the movies, where there’s all of a sudden a huge pool of fluid on the ground?
Apparently this is rather rare (10-15% rupture before labour starts, and only a fraction of THOSE experience a gush of fluid). It will most likely feel like a sudden popping sensation followed by a slow trickle of fluid. Contractions are most likely going to be the first sign of labour, not the water breaking.
What’s the difference between “water” and urine?
The amniotic fluid is usually clear with a slight yellow or pink tinge and odourless (or sometimes sweet-smelling). If it is green or brown, it means the baby had a bowel movement and the health care team in charge should be notified. Urine is yellow (usually) and has a scent.
You can find out more about water breaking too early, what to do if labour doesn’t start, etc in the references. Check it out if you’re concerned or interested.
The way we treat babies inside is slightly different than outside. Here’s a list of the top five differences according to my observations.
5. Input and Output
Oh the joy of not caring when or how a baby eats or poops. While pregnant no one really thinks about it much except for how cool/weird a process it is. But once the baby’s out EVERYONE tells you how to do it and how you’re doing it wrong.
Sometime soon after birth kicking goes from a joyful, “OMG” moment to an annoyance and eventually a real pain. Tiny toes and fists hurt.
3. Control to Judgement
When the birthing parent is pregnant there are laws, rules, and pressures to make them do specific things. In most cases, it’s to protect the baby. Unfortunately, sometimes they prioritize the baby over the birthing parent instead of protecting both.
However, once the baby is out, the health and mental health of all parents is often ignored or considered secondary to the baby. Resources that would be available before disappear and the laws change completely.
2. Abstract to Concrete
The ultrasound, the kicking, the heartbeat, and even (for some) the growing of the baby is all sort of unreal and abstract. You’re afraid to believe and it all seems like a big prank.
Then the baby arrives and you have a baby… Like it’s there and it needs you to do stuff. Where are this kids parents? Wait, that’s us… And you now that you believe, you’re afraid. It eventually settles back to real from surreal, but it’s always a little bit of a shock.
The thing that’s growing has your affection, a deep feeling of attachment, and terror. It’s completely impossibly there. But you don’t Love it yet.
Then it comes out and your heart melts at this tiny, wrinkled, screeching, proof that you don’t know what you’re doing. And sometime between holding them and going home you realize you’d die or kill for them. But you don’t Love them yet.
I’m not sure the exact moment it happens, but sometime after the birth and before the first year, they smile, or wiggle, or something else and you suddenly feel like squishing them or howling in joy, and just like that you love them.
He was given to me by my grandfather when I was born, and he is VERY well worn. I haven’t really slept with him since I was a teenager (possibly earlier, but I don’t remember the exact age when I stopped cuddling him in my sleep).
I am cuddling my Teddy because I need the extra support between my arms as I lie on my side, otherwise my rib cage feels like it’s being crushed. And Teddy is exactly the right size to give that support and allow for easy rolling over.
Chest pain was not something I experienced in my first pregnancy. Heartburn, yes. Feeling like my upper arm was too heavy and crushing my sternum, no.
This seems to be a fairly common symptom, or at least, it was easy to find a reason why I was feeling this way. The expanding uterus puts pressure on the diaphragm, causing the rib cage to widen. Poof, pain. It’ll go back to normal once the baby is here because my internal organs will go back to their normal places.
If I had to guess, I would say that the placement of the placenta is what is causing the differences between this pregnancy and the last. The last one, I had an anterior placenta (forwards), and this time it’s up top.
last time, I couldn’t stand the pain and nausea of being on my stomach, even at the very beginning; this time, I have woken up on my stomach several times and the only thing that hurts is my back
last time, no chest pain; this time, chest definitely hurts
last time, baby was mostly on the right side of my body (I felt very lopsided in third trimester); this time, baby is hanging out at the very bottom almost constantly (we’ll see what happens in third trimester)
last time, didn’t really grow out very much; this time, I feel like I’m already the size I was when I delivered
Hmm…that last one doesn’t really fit the hypothesis – you’d think the anterior placenta would mean a bigger belly because it’s taking up more room.
Back in August, I asked the moms of Dragon’s due date group if they had any super early warning signs that they were pregnant. I’m talking about before a missed period and before an hCG test would show a positive.
It seemed like an appropriate time to ask, as many of the moms were announcing second (or third) pregnancies.
I got an excellent response. Many of the moms had unusual early pregnancy symptoms, as the only symptom mentioned pre-week 4 in any of the research I did was mild cramping/spotting.
mild cramping and spotting can happen as early as 1 week after the last menstrual period (LMP)
Uncommon (according to my informal research done on the subject)
ovaries hurt when sneezing or coughing
breasts hurt/get hard/sore
abdomen hard/cramping/pulling feeling
couldn’t drink/taste coffee (taste sensitivities)
extreme lower back pain
tasting blood (copper taste in mouth)
sensitive to smells
there are tons more
Lots of these “uncommon” symptoms show up later in pregnancy-related research. So why is there only one symptom listed pre-week 4?
There are a couple reasons for this, one being that it is hard to study people who don’t know they’re pregnant yet. Another, in my opinion, is that every pregnancy is so different, even in the same family, so the results are varied that it’s hard to publish because there’s no consistency.
Or you could be like me, and have no symptoms at all until I see a positive on the pregnancy test. Does that mean my symptoms are psychosomatic? Perhaps. And that is pretty hard to prove.
A friend of mine recently told me that she’s pregnant (woo!!!) and I asked her to let me know if she thought of anything that made her go “Wow! I didn’t know that!” about pregnancy.
She said this:
“In my second trimester, I’m going to get recommended to a physiotherapist. I didn’t do it for my first, but I really think I should for my second.”
That really made my day.
Because, while my pregnancy with Dragon was pretty mellow, I did have pain in my hips when my ligaments shifted to accommodate the pregnancy changes. And it never ONCE occurred to me to go to a physiotherapist for it.
It seems pretty obvious now.
I thought I should do some research into why it’s recommended, and if there are any risks.
Please note, I am not in the medical profession. If you have any questions about whether this is right for you, please see your doctor. I don’t know your medical history, whether you are considered high risk, or other factors.
Searching for resources on physiotherapy during pregnancy was difficult, to put it mildly. Most of the sources I found ended up being written by physiotherapists on how to exercise safely while pregnant. Since I thought that was also important information, here is the best article I found on that subject.
Physiotherapy is recommended to prevent and help lessen pain in the lower back and joints of people who are pregnant. It will also help prepare for labour.
A good physiotherapist will also give home exercises to do to keep mobility up and pain down.
Risks that I found seemed to be related only to exercise in general (if you’re bleeding, stop; if you feel increased pain, stop; etc). However, any physiotherapist will tailor their routine to your needs and that of your body.