Tag Archives: wellness

How to optimize your chances for a normal labor: a mind-body approach

Pregnancy_bellyoxytocin Oxytocin

In my obstetrics  practice, I have many patients that come in wanting to what they can do to optimize there chances for a normal labor and minimize the need for an induction of labor.  I really hope that you are not reading this at 39 weeks of pregnancy, because the truth is, you might be starting a little late, but better late than never.

When it comes to labor, my own midwife, she had a catch phrase that I have since adopted: “Baby comes out the same way it got in”…Yup, that’s right, SEX. And lots of it. Ob/Gyn physicians induce your labor with use of a drug called Pitocin. This is a drug that mimics the hormone your own body produces in labor, which is called “Oxytocin” (shown above). This hormone stimulates your uterus to contract. As the levels of Oxytocin go up, more and more oxytocin hormone receptors are made in your uterus and over time, your uterine muscle cells become more and more sensitive to this hormone and labor builds.

Guess what? This is the same hormone that you feel when you get a hug, have an orgasm, and just feel generally “warm and fuzzy”. Now there are a lot of other hormones and pain receptors activated at the same time in labor so labor is by no means meant to feel nice, but generally speaking there are ways to encourage oxytocin as you are approaching your due date.

While sex is one of the ways to increase Oxytocin, nipple stimulation is another, so if you don’t have a partner, no problem. Masturbation will release the same hormones as well. Now, I think I may know what you are thinking, “I don’t feel sexy…”, but who does when they are 9 months pregnant. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. Once you get started it won’t matter and you will end up enjoying yourself.

There is one more element to enticing a natural labor to come on and that is that if you are extremely stressed or anxious, your body is pumping out the anti-labor hormone, and that is Cortisol, or stress hormone. Babies don’t like to come out when this hormone is high. They think you are at war, or about to be eating by a tiger, which would not be a good time to be born. Therefore, stress reduction is very important near term. If you are extremely stressed and busy at work, you might want to start slowing it down. And don’t just use the time to put together baby furniture. Take some time for yourself and for relaxation. Some folks may need professional help to do this and that is fine too. In general, most can get some exercise (exercise burns cortisol), lots of rest (also reduces cortisol), and maybe get a massage from a prenatal provider (releases oxytocin). Basically, just do whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Make the baby think it is coming out to a world of roses and sunshine.

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

Support @EWG’s creation of a new food database and get tips on avoiding chemicals in pregnancy

As a gynecologist, I really value the service that the Environmental Working Group provides for me and my patients. Several years back, they even worked directly with me to create a patient information sheet with how women can reduce their exposure risk to harmful chemicals when women are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. With diseases like Autism Spectrum Disorder and Cancer on the rise, and a poorly regulated chemical industry where harm must be shown before a chemical is taken out of public use, the importance of the work they do cannot be overstated to a public that is often left finding ways to protect itself. In situations like these, grassroots is the only way. This is why I am voluntarily supporting them without their solicitation and hope you will too. They have a great database called Skindeep where you can check out the health risks of the beauty products you use everyday. They also have databases on keeping a healthy home, healthy cleaning products and and sunscreen guide. Having a food database will be that much better for those of us want to know what we are putting into our bodies. After all, you are what you eat.

You can check out their website at EWG.org

Or donate $10 here to support the completion of the database:
https://donate.ewg.org/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=7631&track=201409FDB3NG&utm_source=201409FDB3NG&utm_medium=email&utm_content=first-link&utm_campaign=fund

Here is the patient information they gave me for protecting my pregnant patients as well if you want to use it for yourself or your patients:

The Environmental Working Group

Tips to Reduce Chemical Exposure in Pregnancy

Pollutants in a pregnant woman’s food, air, water or consumer products
can cross the placenta from her body to her child at the most vulnerable time of life. Follow these tips to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

Eat Right

Fruits and veggies – Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy organic when you can to reduce your pesticide consumption. Check out EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, especially the Dirty Dozen list of high-pesticide fruits and vegetables. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

Meat and dairy – Eat low-fat dairy, lean meat, and meatless protein-rich foods to reduce exposures to pollutants that build up in animal fat. Choose brands without added antibiotics and growth hormones when possible.

Ditch the can – Choose fresh food over canned, packaged and processed food to avoid bisphenol A, a synthetic estrogen, and other artificial additives and package coatings that can leach into food. Read labels to find foods with natural ingredients and lower sugar, sodium and trans fats.

Safe seafood – Choose low-mercury fish such as salmon, tilapia and pollock, rather than higher-mercury tuna and swordfish. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can damage the developing brain and nervous system.

Iodine – Use iodized salt for home cooking. It counters perchlorate and other chemicals that can disrupt the thyroid’s growth hormones critical to a baby’s development.

Storing and cooking – Store food in glass containers. Don’t microwave in plastic, since plastics additives can migrate into your food.
Drink plenty of SAFE water
What’s in your water – Get your water quality report from EWG.org or your local utility. Test your water for lead.
The District of Columbia and Maryland have some of the highest levels of trihalomethanes in the country. This has been linked to miscarriages and birth defects – such as low birth weight, small body length, small head circumference and neural tube defects. This can be removed by using a carbon filter or by boiling your water.
Filtered tap water – Skip bottled water, which costs more and isn’t necessarily better. Filter your tap water instead.

Filter choices – Choose a filter that’s certified to take out your water’s pollutants. Carbon filters are affordable and remove lead and toxic chemicals created by treatment processes at municipal water utilities. Reverse osmosis filters cost more but take out substances that carbon can’t, like arsenic, chromium and perchlorate.

Reuseable Containers – Drink from stainless steel or BPA-free plastic containers when you’re on the go, and check out EWG’s Safe Drinking Water Guide for more tips. http://www.ewg.org/BottledWater/Bottled-Water-Quality-Investigation/Safe-Drinking-Water-Guide

Choose Better Products, Avoid Chemical Heavy Chores

Cosmetics – Cut out non-essential personal care products. Choose fragrance-free productswith the fewest ingredients possible. Find safer products in EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Clothing – Wash maternity clothes before wearing. Clothing is often coated in the factory with chemical treatments.

Green cleaning – Leave shoes at the door to avoid tracking dirt and dust-bound pollutants into your house. Clean with fragrance-free brands. Don’t use unneeded, harsh and caustic products, such as bleach discs for toilet bowls, air fresheners (open a window instead), harsh oven cleaner (use baking soda) or drain cleaners (use a drain snake). Use a wet mop and a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner to avoid breathing in dust.

remodeling – Avoid remodeling if your house was built before 1978, when lead house paint was banned. Dust from sanding old paint is a common source of lead exposure. If others do the work, make sure they wet-sand chipped areas.

Pumping gas – Don’t breathe gasoline fumes. Ask your partner to fill the gas tank, or use full service.

For more information visit:

http://www.pregnancyawareness.com

http://www.ewg.org

Green Health for a Green Planet: My favorite ways to go green through healthy living

Here are simple ways we can save our planet while promoting our own vitality and longevity. Taking these steps for better health will also contribute to conservation of nature on our beautiful planet.

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#1 Go Vegan:  Nutrition is one of the optimum ways we can save the planet while improving our health.  As a physician, the most interesting field for me to see evolve is the field of nutrition. Once thought to have no bearing on health by the field of medicine, doctors now agree that a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do for promoting health and wellness. The healthiest diet for prevention of chronic disease and for longevity is a vegan diet and the silver lining is that it is also beneficial for the planet. Eating lower on the food chain leads to more efficient energy use, greater diversity of plants and animals, and reduced pollution of our water from nitrogenous animal waste. In addition, a plant based diet provides us with the whole foods and nutrient balance that our bodies have evolved to thrive on. Ecosystems benefit from diversity, and as it turns out, so does the ecosystem of bacteria that exists in your own body so be sure to eat a diet rich and varied in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. To learn more, check out the documentary Forks over Knives, or pick up the new book on making the transition to a plant based diet. Want to do one better? Go organic! Check out the dirty dozen list from the Environmental Working Group to find out which organic fruits will give you the best bang for your buck related to pesticide reduction. Have access to a community garden? SAVE THE BEES and GROW YOUR OWN VEGGIES! Sign the petition to promote vegetable gardens everywhere.

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#2 Get into Nature: The benefits of getting into nature are far reaching. For one, you are likely to be exercising which is the other most important thing doctors recommend you do for your health. Live in a city? no problem, hit the park, green space of any kind will still give you the benefits. If you have access to a community garden, you’re loving it, not only are you benefitting from digging in the soil, you will also be providing food for dying bee and butterfly populations as well as improving the nutrient content of your vegetables. Heart rate variability, which is an indicator of heart health and balance of the parasympathetic and sympthetic nervous systems, increases when you are in nature. Preliminary studies have shown that “earthing”, basically walking barefoot on dirt, leads to positive physiologic changes. (Just watch out if you live in an area with pin worms).  Hate bugs? …try a lemon eucalyptus based bug spray, recommended by the CDC to prevent tick and mosquito borne disease, and don’t forget the sunscreen! Check out the free database on Skindeep.org for non-toxic sunscreen options. Want to become more involved in conservation itself? Check out The Nature Conservancy volunteer activities in your area.

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#3 Mindful Awareness and Meditation: Living mindfully allows us to separate from habitual thinking and behaviors. All too often we function on autopilot, allowing automatic behaviors and primal feelings to drive our actions and behaviors.  Being mindful, living true to our core values and making conscious choices about how we spend our money, our time and our energy can help us to make important health changes like the ones I mention here. It can also make us more compassionate which is probably the most important value to have in our work protecting the planet. If you haven’t jumped on the meditation band wagon yet, or still think it is not something you are capable of in our non-stop stimulating culture, it might be easier than you think.  I recommend the Jon Kabat Zinn book Full Catastrophe Living or one of his youtube videos as an introduction to mindfulness and meditation. You can also check out free guided meditations from UCLA’s Semel Institute.

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#4: Bike! As much and as often as possible. If you follow this blog you have seen the “carternative” my husband has created to cart us around town. This contraption has improved our quality of life ENORMOUSLY. We don’t have to look for parking, we save on gas and parking tickets, and we usually get where we are going faster, or as fast as in a car. This is especially true for urban environments. Any time you bike instead of turning on your car, you are reducing carbon emissions, not to mention reducing oil consumption while exercising your body and calming your mind. Don’t want to arrive at work all sweaty? Consider an electric assist on your bike. Check out this blog that covers bikes as transportation as well.

#5: Shop Less: Excess consumption and a BUY BUY BUY culture contributes greatly to carbon emissions, global warming and landfill waste. Shopping less is healthy for your wallet as well as your mental health. A very interesting study published in the Chicago Journals by Rik Pieters found that materialism and shopping lead to loneliness which in turn led to more shopping.  Still believe in retail therapy?  Try consignment stores and thrift shops instead. They are a great way to reduce waste while benefiting others, find a Goodwill or Salvation Army near you. Studies show that giving to others can makes you happier, particularly if you give directly to someone you know so there is added incentive to simplifying and cleaning out those closets.  Having willpower difficulties in curbing that shopping habit? Try the book Willpower Instinct here to learn more about how you can curb cravings and increase your willpower.

If you are interested in implementing some of the changes I mention here, remember, persistence AND positivity pay off! Take time to observe how you can be successful at making the changes and always prepare for what could go wrong and sabotage your success ahead of time. Finally, be sure to focus on the rewards, there are plenty of silver linings with these changes.

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GREEN HEALTH=GREEN PLANET!!!


© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.