Prenatal & Labor Massage Benefits

Pregnancy often causes a variety of aches, pains, and occasionally unpleasant health conditions come along with the territory. It is fairly well known that prenatal massage therapy can help ease some of those common physical discomforts. Prenatal massage can improve blood circulation, reduce swelling, improve lymphatic fluid drainage, and relieve muscle, joint, and nerve pain; however, did you know that some of the lesser known benefits of massage during pregnancy can also extend past the prenatal period and have a positive effect on your labor and your newborn’s health, as well?

It’s true! Current research shows that massage therapy drastically decreases cortisol levels in pregnant subjects. Cortisol is a stress hormone. When our bodies are stressed, unfortunately our unborn babies are often stressed too. People who are depressed or stressed during pregnancy are more likely to experience preterm labor and infants with low birth weight. In the groups of people who received regular massage during their pregnancy, there was a decrease in excessive fetal activity, which indicates that the unborn baby’s stress decreased when the expectant parent’s did.

The reduction of cortisol in the pregnant person and baby as a result of prenatal massage had several significant benefits:

• The premature birth rate decreased by 75%.
• Low birth weight decreased by 80%.
• Depression and anxiety in pregnancy decreased.
• Postpartum depression rates decreased.
• Bonding between the birthing person and their infant was enhanced.

IMG_7916

Massage during labor has also been shown to have several benefits:

• Back and leg pain was significantly decreased during phase 1 and 2 of labor.
• Length of labor was decreased by 3 hours on average.
• Less need for pain medication.

This is truly incredible information! To experience a much shorter and less painful birth is a huge advantage of receiving massage during labor, but how does it work?

There are several reasons massage is believed to have such a profound effect on labor duration and overall pain. The first is likely because of something known as the ‘gate theory’. When experiencing a massage, your brain receives the message that you are feeling pressure. Pressure messages travel to the brain more quickly than pain messages do, so when the message of pressure from the massage reaches your brain, the metaphorical “gate” is closed to the message of pain from labor. Another reason massage may decrease the length of labor and the amount of pain experienced is hormonal. Massage cause an increase of oxytocin, a hormone essential to labor, which promotes uterine contractions that dilate the cervix. Massage also produces endorphins which help to relieve pain and increase a sense of calm.

When stress hormones such as cortisol are reduced, and labor and pain relief hormones are increased, more optimal conditions for pregnancy and birth are created in the body. As a result of these important findings, we know that prenatal massage and massage during labor are proven to be immensely beneficial to both the expectant person and their infant.

To learn more or schedule an appointment with our licensed massage therapist specializing in prenatal massage, click here.

Alexandra Bravo, LMT, CLC
Owner, Bravo Birth DFW

Open House Party + Fall Festival

39149842_1116000991883410_5598186259097845760_n

The first day of fall: leaves crunching under your feet, pumpkin spice lattes brewing, a cool breeze in the air. Well, maybe not a cool breeze here in Dallas-Fort Worth, but you get the idea. Bravo Birth DFW, in partnership with Precision Chiropractic, and Birth|Fort Worth, is bringing in the new season with an Open House Party + Fall Festival on the first day of fall. We would love to have you and your families join us for snacks, pumpkin decorating, live demonstrations, free mini-massages, and TONS of prizes.

Important Details

Location:
Precision Chiropractic
4255 Bryant Irvin Rd. #101
Fort Worth, TX 76109

Time:
Saturday, September 22, 2018
1-4 p.m., Come and Go

Prizes:
If you would like to be eligible to win prizes, please bring a package of newborn diapers to donate to the local non-profit The Natural Way Birthing Project, which provides childbirth education and other resources to families in need. Each package of diapers you bring will earn you an additional entry into the prize drawing, so bring as many as you can! Some of the prizes we have up for grabs so far are gorgeous nursing bras donated by Tarrant County Breastfeeding Coalition, organic lactation cookies from Dulce Organically Sweet, lash tint and brow makeover courtesy of The Lash Lady, flotation therapy session at At Peace Floatation, and an Ergobaby carrier from Precision Chiropractic, with several more prizes still to be announced! If you would like to stay in the loop for the remaining prize announcements, please RSVP on the Facebook event page to receive notifications.

Pumpkin Decorating:
Please be sure to bring your own pumpkin. Feel free to paint it ahead of time, if you like. In an effort to minimize the mess we will not be providing paint, but we will have all the craft supplies your heart desires so you can properly glam your gourd!

Mini-Massages:
Bravo Birth DFW will be offering free, 10 minute upper body massages in the massage suite every half hour. All you have to do to receive one is select your preferred time slot on the sign up sheet and consent waiver provided. We are looking forward to providing a little relaxation in your day!

Live Demos:
Dr. Aliena Davis of Precision Chiropractic will be demonstrating edema taping that is used in regular appointments during pregnancy to improve swelling in the hands, feet, and ankles. Carolyn Dixon, LMT, a skilled massage therapist of nearly 20 years, will also be demonstrating the basics of infant massage for parents and caregivers.

Other Information:
Children are always welcome. Feel free to bring the whole family or leave the kids with a babysitter and have some adult only time. We will have some simple kid-friendly activities to keep them entertained. You do not have to be a current client of any of the above businesses. This event is open to the entire community!

Can’t wait to see you there!

Alexandra Bravo, LMT, CLC

Delicious Pregnancy Green Smoothie

Leafy green foods and protein should be two very important aspects of a pregnant person’s diet; however, during pregnancy, it can be difficult to incorporate all the nutritious foods our bodies need every day. Not only do many people experience food aversions and have little to no appetite in the first trimester, you may also be low on energy and not entirely motivated to plan out well balanced meals. Combine that with the fact that the majority of us live incredibly busy lives that don’t allow for a lot of extra time to cook each meal from scratch and it can be a recipe for unpleasant and unwanted health problems. Enter this delicious green smoothie recipe that doesn’t taste like freshly mowed lawn clippings. Bonus: you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy it!

IMG_7630.JPG

I will be the first to admit that if you want to stay fuller longer, its best to eat your greens instead of blending them up to drink them, but if you find yourself struggling to meet the recommended daily intake for vegetables or protein, this green smoothie can help tremendously. The nutritional benefits are still abundant and here’s why:

Kale
Kale is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and calcium. Fiber can improve the dreaded pregnancy constipation. Vitamins A and C are important for a well-functioning immune system, that is generally weaker during pregnancy. Vitamin K strengthens your blood vessels, which is necessary when your blood volume increases.

Spinach
Also low in calories, spinach is rich in folate and iron. Folate is an essential nutrient in pregnancy because it can prevent certain birth defects and decrease your chances of premature labor. Iron can help prevent anemia, which is common during pregnancy. Spinach also contains calcium which is important for you and your growing baby’s bones.

Cucumber
Not only does cucumber greatly improve the taste of this green smoothie, it’s made up of 95% water, as well as magnesium and potassium. All three of these work together to keep you well hydrated. Cucumbers also contain several antioxidants, which have a variety of benefits relating to organ function, disease prevention, and your overall health.

Avocado
Just like many of the above green foods, avocado is high in Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. What makes it unique compared to the other ingredients is it’s high fat content. This type of “healthy fat” is shown to reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol. It’s a key ingredient to this smoothie recipe because it’s going to help keep you feeling full and satisfied longer.

Mango
Mango adds a touch of sweetness to the recipe, but it won’t spike your blood sugar levels because of its low glycemic index. The enzymes in the fruit help to improve digestion.

Coconut Water
Coconut water is another excellent way to ensure hydration and prevent constipation. It can also help treat heartburn because it neutralizes acid in the body. It’s preferable to using juice in a smoothie because it is lower in sugar.

Lemon Juice
The lemon in this recipe really helps to neutralize the bitterness of the leafy greens without adding a noticeable sour taste to the drink. Lemons are powerful detoxifiers and promote a healthy immune system.

Protein Powder
In pregnancy, experts recommend 75 to 100 grams of protein a day. Protein is essential for fetal brain development. Any type of protein powder should be fine for this purpose, but if you don’t already have a specific brand you’re partial to, Rainbow Light makes a great plant-based, vegan protein powder formulated for pregnancy and postpartum.

IMG_7631.JPG

Recipe
Yield: 2 Servings
Serving Size: 8-10 ounces

1 cup kale, packed
1 cup baby spinach, packed
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 cup coconut water
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 scoops of protein powder (optional)

Put the ingredients in your blender in the order they’re listed and blend until smooth! This recipe makes two 8-10 ounce servings, so you can share the other portion with your partner or children or you can save it in the refrigerator for yourself for the following day. It still tastes delicious, just make sure you stir it first, in case the protein powder settles.

IMG_7629

Pregnancy can be extremely depleting on the body. It’s crucial that we care for ourselves so we’re functioning at our best. Eating well by incorporating green foods and protein is a great way to help us thrive in pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood.

Alexandra Bravo LMT, CLC
Owner, Bravo Birth DFW

Early Labor | What I Wish I Knew

Welcome to part three of our blog series entitled What I Wish I Knew. This series explores various topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting that parents wish they would have known more about before they experienced them. You can find part one here and part two here. Our first two installments of this series addressed common postpartum issues, but today we’ll be addressing birth, more specifically early labor. When we asked our doula clients and social media followers about what they wished they would have known more about before going through labor, many parents expressed their uncertainty in knowing how to identify early labor signs, as well as what they should do when it begins.

What is Early Labor?
Early labor is the first stage in the labor process, during which your cervix begins changing. It is also sometimes referred to as pre-labor, or the latent phase. During pregnancy, a normal cervix is firm, closed, long, and pointing toward your back (posterior). In early labor, the cervix begins to soften (ripen), open (dilate), thin (efface), and move forward toward the birth canal. This begins to occur through a complex series of chemical and hormonal changes in the body. Early labor is defined as the period of time that your cervix is between 0-3 cm dilated. It is generally the longest and least physically demanding stage of labor.
Uterine-Cervical-Prolapse-During-Pregnancy.jpg

How Do I Know if I’m in Early Labor?
Oftentimes, early labor is so mild that you may not even notice it. Other times, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

• Menstrual-like cramps
• Low back ache
• Increased pressure in pelvis or vagina
• Fluid leakage from vagina
• Inconsistent contractions or contractions 10 or more minutes apart
• Increased vaginal discharge
• Bloody show
• Loss of mucous plug
• Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

If you think your water has broken, notice more bleeding than light spotting, experience severe pain, or a decrease in fetal movement, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.

What Should I Do in Early Labor?
Birth is often likened to a marathon. In a marathon, you want to avoid exerting all of your energy at the very beginning, so you will have the stamina to make it through until the end. The same is true for birth. If your mind and body become too fatigued early on, labor may become more difficult than necessary. So if birth is a marathon, rather than thinking of early labor as the beginning of the race, it may be helpful to think of early labor as the day or two leading up to the race. You will want to hydrate, eat well, rest as much as possible, and go about your life as usual. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to do anything to get active labor to begin. The time for that may come later on, but this is likely the only stage of labor that you’ll have the opportunity to rest comfortably through, so be sure to take advantage of that as much as possible. Although the thought of finally being done with the discomforts of late pregnancy and meeting your baby may be exciting, try to avoid doing too much physical activity which could exhaust you before the more strenuous work needs to be done.

In a high-risk or special circumstance pregnancy, you will want to discuss with your provider during your pregnancy what you should do in early labor. Some conditions may necessitate monitoring or intervention.

Doulas and Early Labor
If you have hired a birth doula, it may be a good idea to touch base with them during early labor. Although you likely will not need them to come to you right away, your doula can still be of importance during this time. They can help you differentiate between early and active labor, offer support and encouragement, and answer any questions for you. Communicating with your doula also allows them to begin to prepare themselves to be with you in a timely manner when you request them further along in labor.

4 Reasons Why Moana’s Grandmother is a Doula

If you’re two years behind the times, and haven’t yet seen Disney’s animated film Moana, then you may want to skip reading this post, head straight to Netflix, and watch it immediately. You’ll probably want to watch it another 10 times after that. It’s okay, we’ll wait. Otherwise, if you’re already a fan, or don’t mind spoilers, then read on.

Moana is the story of a strong and adventurous teenage girl who embarks on a dangerous journey to save her entire island of villagers and the deteriorating environment by navigating through the ocean, defeating mythical creatures, and defying the odds, with minimal help from anyone else. Yes, there’s the demi-god Maui who begrudgingly lends a hand for selfish reasons, but Moana’s grandmother, the self-proclaimed “village crazy lady”, also plays integral role in Moana’s journey to self-discovery. We’re pretty sure Gramma Tala is a doula. Here’s why:

1. She’s all about education.

IMG_6462.JPG
As the movie begins, you find Gramma educating toddler Moana and a group of village youngsters about their ancestors. Although many in the village may think that these stories are myths or outdated, she wants her students to be equipped for the challenges they may face ahead. Much like a doula, she provides them with the information and tools they need to make important decisions in the future.

2. She has no agenda.

IMG_6466
As Moana grows, everyone else in her life tries to steer her toward a particular path. While well-intentioned, they don’t trust Moana to know what’s best for herself. Her father tells her it’s dangerous to leave the island and her mother tells her it’s just not meant to be; however, Gramma gives her options and tells her to follow the voice inside her. No pressure. No agenda. Only constant, unbiased support, just like a doula.

3. She gives the best pep talks.

IMG_6465
As Gramma falls ill and prepares for her spirit to leave her human body, Moana begins to doubt that she’s capable of accomplishing the daunting task ahead. Gramma’s encouragement gives her the confidence boost she needs the leave the island and save her people. She even provides the affirming mantra that Moana repeats throughout her journey to help her push past her doubts and prevail. Doulas have tons of affirmations and positive words to remind you of all that you’re capable of, even when you may doubt yourself.

4. She’s consistently supportive.

IMG_6464
Near the end of her journey, after being defeated by the monster Te Kā and abandoned by her partner Maui, Moana decides the path she’s been on isn’t right for her anymore, despite tremendous effort. Gramma returns in spirit form to remind her she’s been with her all along and to assure her she’ll remain by her side no matter what Moana decides to do. Gramma tells Moana without judgement, “If you are ready to go home, I will be with you.” She supports her in making the decision that is right for her in that moment, and reminds her once again to trust the voice inside, even if that means a change in plans. Moana is affirmed in her abilities and sings, “You remind me that come what may, I know the way. I am Moana!” A doula supports their clients in the decisions they make in their journey, whether it be in pregnancy, birth, or parenting.

Eventually, Moana is victorious in what she set out to do, even though there were challenges to be met and revisions to her plan. In true doula fashion, Gramma was the strong, steady presence helping her along the way, but in the end, only Moana knew the best path and put in the hard work it took to restore the heart of Te Fiti.

IMG_6468.JPG

In birth and in parenting there are many unknowns and challenges, similar and dissimilar to what Moana faced. Despite the differences between this fictional story and your personal experience, you can be assured that with Bravo Birth DFW you will receive the same level of education, motivation, support, and non-judgment that Moana received from Gramma Tala the Doula.

*We do not own the rights to the story of Moana or the images from the film.