A week ago, I had to admit myself into the hospital for dehydration. It was the third day of my menstrual cycle and I was having the worst uterine contractions I've ever experienced. The pain led to extreme nausea and vomiting for two days straight and because I couldn't keep anything down I was in and out of consciousness. In the hospital bed with my family surrondining me and the doctor discussing Birth Control and a Myomectomy, I was upset with myself. It was my wake up call to pay more attention to my health. I have been having heavier bleeding and painful cramps every month for a year now and I have been ignoring it until my body forced me to pay attention. Over the last few years as a Doula I was learning and teaching my peers about Uterine Health and I was not walking the talk. I am lucky enough to have a large community of birth workers and healers around me but I am also aware of how inaccessible information about uterine health is. So listed below are the things that I am going to do to avoid birth control and major surgery on my reproductive organs. This list is centered on MY issues but are helpful for yours as well. Consult with your local midwife and/or herbalist for a care plan specific for YOU.
Also helpful for PCOS, Endometriosis*
Ginger, Turmeric, Lemon Tea
- 1½ cups of filtered drinking water.
- 1 teaspoon of fresh grated turmeric root (or ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder)
- 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root (or ½ teaspoon of ginger powder)
- ½ a lemon (juiced with peel)
- 2 to 3 twists of fresh black pepper ( Necessary step)
- 1 tablespoon of raw honey or to desired taste.
Read about the benefits here
Medicinal herbs are my go to for healing my body (also used for fertility and labor). Pharmaceutical drugs can be stressful on your liver. I purchase my herbs from Karen Rose, owner of Sacred Vibes Apothecary based in Brooklyn,NY. I HIGHLY recommend hiring her for a consult if you are unfamiliar with the practice of medicinal herbs.
Zymactive is a proteolytic enzyme which helps to break down proteins that cause inflammation. Fibroids in their simplest form are a product of inflammation so as those proteins get broken down they also break down and release. Papaya is also full of these enzymes.
Evidence based information here
Nutrition and Hydration
During this time I am officially (and hopefully foreva) cutting out processed meats, refined sugars and dairy. Stay out of the bodega yall. I am also drinking at least 2 liters of filtered water a day. What you eat and what you don't eat is important.
Here's a video on healing for PCOS and Cysts
Castor Oil Pack
Castor oil packs are for reducing inflammation and increasing circulation. They are excellent for the lymphatic system and assist in improving circulation, stagnation and elimination of benign tumors in women, especially those who suffer from uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts. Using castor oil packs will also increase lymphocytes cells in the body which are used to fight disease and eliminate various wastes including the toxins that may be contributing to common side effects of having fibroid tumors.
Here's a video on how to use
Mental health is often the last thing we pay attention when transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. Stress, anxiety, depression play huge roles in our reproductive health. Along with exercising, I am taking more time in my life for moments of silence and breath. The breath is also medicine for the body and we don't take enough of it. If you want to get nerdy about it, The Science of Breath is a great resource.
- Sit on a chair with your legs parallel and your feet directly under your knees.
- Rest your hands on your thighs, or cradle your abdomen in your hands, or place your right hand over your heart—whatever feels right.
- Sit tall, finding length between your sits bone and the crown of your head. Relax your rib cage and your shoulders, find ease between your eyebrows.
- Start to notice your inhalations and exhalations. Notice if you are holding your breath anywhere and without judgment, see if you can relax there.
- Think about one thing that you need in this moment and one thing that you need to release.
- When you are ready, lengthen your inhale and breathe in what you need.
- Exhale slowly, gently and fully through an open mouth releasing that which does not serve you in this moment.
- Repeat 5 more times, slowly. Do not rush this because it can increase cortisol.
- Come back to an easy, natural breath focusing for a minute or so on what you need in this moment before returning to your activities
Essential Oils and Tinctures
Herb Pharms reproductive health tincture has several herbs that support a healthy function of your reproductive organ.
Clary Sage helps balance your hormones and great for pain management. I'll be using it massage my lower abdomen. Don't forget to dilute it with a carrier oil.
More resources on managing and preventing Fibroids here
This episode explains the function of the cervix in the role of fertility, why we chart its changes in the fertility awareness method, the historic & cultural understanding of the role of cervical fluid, and information about long term impacts on the cervix when using contraceptive devices.
Reproductive Justice for Black Women, Latinas, More Critical Than Ever
Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Natural Birth Equity Collaborative; Karla Gonzales Garcia, COLOR
For the past three years, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR, along with dozens of partners, has hosted a Halloween-themed social media conversation on Twitter about the frightening facts and the disparate outcomes in health, wealth, safety and well-being that reproductive-justice warriors like Sister Song have been fighting to address for over two decades. #ScaryStats is part awareness raising and part call to action to invite people to do something about injustice and oppression in their communities.
#ScaryStats is also about sounding the alarm for black mamas not surviving the birth of their children in a country that spends more per capita on health care than any other nation in the world. People of color, LGBTQ people, undocumented immigrants and those who live at the intersections of these identities navigate a nation that reminds them every day that whether they live or die is not a priority.
This is not hyperbole; this is fact:
- Latinas make 55 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
- Black women make slightly more, at 67 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
- Indiscriminate raids, mass deportations and border checkpoints are placing disabled children in the crosshairs of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and tearing them away from their families.
- It is safer for women to have a baby in Bosnia than in the United States.
- One-third of transgender people in the U.S. (pdf) report living in extreme poverty. People in Flint, Mich., still don’t have clean water.
These facts are not just inconvenient statistics; they are manifestations of horrible policies imagined by powerful lobbying firms and approved by local, state and federal legislators who, too often, put their own personal beliefs and political agendas ahead of the needs of their constituents.
#ScaryStats is about sounding the alarm for black mamas not surviving the birth of their children in a country that spends more per capita on health care than any other nation in the world.
That is not just scary; it is terrifying. And the Twitter conversation was about shining a light on the struggles faced by women of color and other people living at the margins of power. It was about making it clear that #BlackLivesMatter and that black women are facing a public health crisis. It was intended to amplify the very real harms caused by our broken immigration system and lack of fair workplace policies.
Of course, social media trolls committed to proving how morally bankrupt they are were quick to attack. Anti-abortion trolls tried to hijack the conversation in order to shame people for accessing abortion care or supporting abortion access. As is often the case, they were too busy demonizing providers and people who need care to actually consider truly listening to and supporting women.
Planned Parenthood Black Community, a forum to lift the specific needs of black women and communities of color and to emphasize the efforts to ensure the health, rights and dignity of black people, became the focus of the Twitter attacks after it shared information about the maternal health crisis that black women in the United States are facing right now.
And, be clear, this is a human rights crisis.
More black women have died in childbirth this year than from abortion-related complications in the past 15 years combined. Much more needs to be done to protect and expand access to the full range of reproductive health services that black women need—including abortion—and make sure that people are aware that maternal mortality is an issue that needs some very real attention.
Read more here
By Iresha Picot
2012: I trained to become a birth doula after a yearlong stint providing services as a full-spectrum doula at a clinic in center city, Philadelphia. I left the birth workers training, feeling prepared and ready for the offerings that I had for the mamas to-be. I had my birthing balls; I had my rebozos, a rolling pin and oils. I felt equipped and confident in guiding the mamas along in bringing forth life. I just needed to show up, and be present for the labors.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the onsite mental health training that came along with the birth work. I had read extensively about post-partum stressors that developed into mental health issues, but none of the literature points to the mental health issues the mothers’ exhibit before the birthing process even begins. The prenatal work. (Side note: I’m also not new to emotional work. I have worked for several years as a Clinician in behavior and mental health). In my mind, I prematurely separated my mental health work from the birth work. I compartmentalized them as being mutually exclusive. And yet, almost every mother that I have provided prenatal service to, ended up in long, intensive conversations of childhood and present day traumas with me.
Birth work and mental health work often intersect:
--There was the sista who grow up in foster care homes of eminent abuse, most of her life and was planning to give birth while still residing in a shelter.
--The mama who told me that she had no positive models of women in her family. They all were drug addicts. She had been on her own since age 17.
--The woman who had been kidnapped and raped while standing outside one summer night in North Philadelphia.
Many of these mothers have never thought about entering therapy, as age old stigmas kept them from seeking out help (“Only weak women go to therapy”, “I’m not crazy”). Others didn’t even know where to begin. I found myself putting the birth plans to the side, and using my best practices of listening to these mamas’ stories, offering up support, affirming to them that their fears were valid, and bearing witness as they vocalized their challenges.
Birth work is emotional work. We need more people--more mothers, to enter into a space of healing. One reoccurring theme I have found with mothers, who have suffered from trauma, is that they believe that they are broken beyond repair, and that bringing forth new life into this world, would signal a new start to making things right for once. But when we are the same people, who haven’t worked through the issues that bought us to the women that we are now, we aren’t offering our children anything new.
I recently read something on Instagram that said “I want to raise children who doesn’t have to recover from their childhoods”.
What better gift to offer to our children then to be healed, whole people.
Seek out professional mental health support. Therapist comes in many models—Community Outpatient, Private Practice, post-partum hotlines, and talk therapy apps.
Join an online and in person support groups for new mothers, breast feeding mothers, peer support, etc.
Write your past pain into existence.
Ask for help (its ok!)
My first introduction to Doulas was the Business of Being Born documentary on Netflix. Several months later I was attending a 3 day Training in Austin, TX by a DONA instructor. I was the only Black person and person of color in the training. I had been present for a few births prior to this training and couldn't help but feel as if I was missing a large chunk of what it meant to assist a person during childbirth. I knew it had to be more than battery candles, essentials oils and the business of aspect of being a Doula. The training left me unprepared to work with people who I felt really needed a trained advocate in the room with them. Where my presence meant not only lower chances of a c-section but also decreased chances of obstetric violence, birth rape, maternal morbidity, death etc. To me, a Full Spectrum Doula is more than a day training on abortion. It's also being fully educated on racial disparities in birth and the women of color who were "Doulas" before the Greek definition. Who did this work for the survival of their community and not repeat the same capitalistic nature of health providers and hospitals. It's knowing how to navigate having a client with open ACS cases or intimate partner violence. It's providing a safe space for teen pregnancy. It's having the language to educate Trans and Gender Nonconforming people. It's having the resources for rural/abandon communities. It's knowing how to assist any and every person, advocacy.
By Jacqueline Howard, CNN
Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy pregnancy diet, providing vitamins and fiber. Yet some might also come with pesticide residues.
Among women undergoing infertility treatment in the United States, consuming more fruits and vegetables with high amounts of pesticide residue was associated with a lower chance of pregnancy and a higher risk of pregnancy loss, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday.
Pesticides are pest-killing substances often applied to fruits and vegetables to help protect them -- and us -- against harmful mold, fungi, rodents, weeds and insects. There has been growing concern that exposure to pesticides can be tied to certain acute and chronic human health concerns.
"Most Americans are exposed to pesticides daily by consuming conventionally grown fruits and vegetables," said Dr. Yu-Han Chiu, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and first author of the study.
"There have been concerns for some time that exposure to low doses of pesticides through diet, such as those that we observed in this study, may have adverse health effects, especially in susceptible populations such as pregnant women and their fetus, and on children," she said. "Our study provides evidence that this concern is not unwarranted."
Yet the findings should be digested with caution, said Janet Collins, executive vice president of science and regulatory affairs for CropLife International, a trade association representing the manufacturers of pesticides. Collins was not involved in the study.
"The JAMA research publication does not show a direct link between pesticide residue intake and pregnancy outcome, as the authors state. This is a hypothesis generating study, and as the authors recommend, we agree that before a definitive outcome can be established the issues require further study," she said in an emailed statement.
How harmful are pesticide residues?
The study involved 325 women between 18 and 45 who were undergoing infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the researchers said.
The women completed a diet assessment questionnaire and had their height, weight and overall health measured, while the researchers accounted for confounding factors that could influence the study results, including their intake of supplements and residential history.
The researchers analyzed each woman's pesticide exposure by determining whether the fruits and vegetables she consumed had high or low levels of pesticide residues, based on reports from the US Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Data Program, which monitors the presence of pesticides in foods sold throughout the United States.
Some fruits and vegetables with a low amount of pesticide residue include avocados, onions, dried plums or prunes, corn and orange juice. Those with a high amount include fresh plums, peaches, strawberries, spinach and peppers.
The researchers found that, compared with women who ate less than one daily serving of high-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables, those who ate 2.3 servings or more had 18% lower probability of getting pregnant and 26% lower probability of giving birth to a live baby.
Consuming fruits and vegetables with a high amount of pesticide residue was positively associated with the probability of losing a pregnancy, the researchers found.
However, consuming low-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables in lieu of high-pesticide-residue foods was associated with higher odds of pregnancy and giving birth, the researchers found.
"Although we did find that intake of high-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables were associated to lower reproductive success, intake of low-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables had the opposite association," Chiu said.
"A reasonable choice based on these findings is to consume low-pesticide-residue fruits and vegetables instead of high-pesticide-residue ones. Another option is to go organic for the fruits and vegetables known to contain high pesticide residues," she said. "It is very important to keep in mind that, as far as we are aware, this is the first time that this association is reported, so it is extremely important that our findings are replicated in other studies."
However, purchasing organic fruits and vegetables can be costly, said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor and director of the Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the study.
"This is more difficult for those already vulnerable due to their socioeconomic circumstances. Avoiding pesticides becomes an 'environmental justice' issue, making it all the more important to reduce use of pesticides throughout agriculture and adopt more sustainable and health-promoting methods for food production," Hertz-Picciotto said.
She added that the new study was "very well-executed, thoughtful and thorough" and that although replicating the study would be desirable, the findings provide strong evidence that certain pesticides are associated with reproductive concerns.
"The limitation of this study is that the participants were seeking fertility treatments, and hence the results pertain specifically to reproductive potential in a certain subset of women," she said.
Wash your fruits and veggies
Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the study, said he was surprised with the findings.
"Going into the study, I was positive that we would find absolutely no relation between exposure to pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables and adverse reproductive outcomes," he said. "While I think we need more studies to confirm or refute our findings, I am now more willing to pay the extra money for organic apples and strawberries than I was when we started this project."
The study found only associations between pesticide residue and pregnancy outcomes -- not a causal relationship.
The study also has some limitations. For instance, the women's diets were assessed using self-reports, which leaves room for error, and the women were trying to become pregnant through infertility treatments. More research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among women trying to conceive naturally. Also, more research is needed to connect specific pesticides with the infertility treatment outcomes seen in the study.
The Alliance for Food and Farming, a nonprofit organization comprising organic and conventional farmers, notes on its website that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and that "the mere presence of pesticide residues on food does not mean they are harmful."
In general, the Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming fruits and vegetables for good nutrition but following safe handling tips, including thoroughly washing fresh produce under running water before preparing and eating.
On the other hand, "the observations made in this study send a warning that our current laissez-faire attitude toward the regulation of pesticides is failing us," wrote Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health and professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in an editorial accompanying the study in JAMA Internal Medicine.
"We can no longer afford to assume that new pesticides are harmless until they are definitively proven to cause injury to human health," he wrote. "We need to overcome the strident objections of the pesticide manufacturing industry, recognize the hidden costs of deregulation, and strengthen requirements for both premarket testing of new pesticides, as well as postmarketing surveillance of exposed populations -- exactly as we do for another class of potent, biologically active molecules -- drugs."