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  1. Postpartum recovery

    Post-birth recovery

    So you’ve had your baby – and he’s gorgeous, of course. But what about you? Over the next few days, weeks and months, you will start to feel more like your old self, both physically and mentally (hard to believe, but true). Give yourself a helping hand and take extra care of yourself as well as your baby.

    Much depends on the type of birth you had, but even a straightforward vaginal birth can leave you feeling a bit battered. Long labour, instrumental deliveries, episiotomies and C-sections will add to this.

     

    The first few days

     Take arnica tablets to help reduce any bruising.

     Apply soothing compresses (cloths soaked in cool or warm water with a few drops of witch hazel, tea tree or lavender oil) to reduce inflammation.

     If it hurts when you urinate, pour a jug of warm water over the affected area to relieve the stinging sensation.

     If sitting is uncomfortable, use a valley cushion to relieve pressure.

     Use ice packs or gel pads to reduce swelling.

     Start doing pelvic floor exercise (kegels) as soon as possible; this will improve blood flow to the area and help restore muscle tone.

     If you had a C-section, start moving around as soon as possible.

     

    The next few weeks

     Keep getting as much rest as possible – and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

     Start gentle abdominal exercises with guidance from your midwife; these will help the natural process of contracting your abdomen after the birth.

     When you feel ready, resume your sex life (usually not recommended until about six weeks post-partum), but take things gently, especially if you’ve had stitches. And don’t forget contraception…

     Keep any wounds (episiotomy, C-section, tearing) as clean and dry as possible to encourage the healing process and prevent any risk of infection.

     

    The next few months

     Keep eating well, and get as much rest as you can.

     Assuming all is well, resume your usual exercise routines (but don’t go too mad at first or you’ll end with torn muscles!).

     If you’re going back to work, make sure everything is in place, such as childcare and any renegotiations you need to do with your employers.

     Don’t ignore your partner: your relationship is still important, even if your baby is now taking up much of your time.

     Make sure you get some ‘me’ time, by visiting friends and, dare we suggest, having a night out.

     Enjoy being a new mother!

     

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  2. 5 steps to a better birth

    Whether you’re planning a high-tech hospital birth or want to stay in the comfort of your own home, spending time thinking about what might happen on the big day is advisable – being informed puts you in charge of any decisions that need to be made.

    1. Be well read: visit your local library or spend time online learning about pregnancy and birth, your pain relief options and their relative pros and cons. Even if you’re not sure it’s for you, knowing about water birth, self-hypnosis, epidurals and all those other terms you’ve heard will help you feel that whatever decision you make is the right one for you.

    2 Ask, ask, ask! Don’t be afraid to quiz your midwife, doctor or anyone else involved in your pregnancy, especially if you feel they’re blinding you with science. Their job is to help you at this time, so do tap into their knowledge as much as you feel you need to.

    3 Plan: while it’s impossible to say how you’ll feel on the day, writing a birth plan will make you weigh up your options and leave you feeling empowered and in control – but do be aware that your plan is a best-case scenario, and events may overtake you during labour.

    4 Choose the right birth partner: Your partner may seem the obvious choice and will almost certainly want to be there to see your new baby, but if your partner is squeamish, for example, it might not be the ideal choice. 

    5 Expect the unexpected: your labour won’t be the same as your best friend’s, your mother’s or your worst enemy’s. Birth is unpredictable so do listen to the advice your caregivers are offering and do be prepared for anything!

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  3. Feelgood remedies for your pregnancy

     

    What’s the alternative?

    Many women turn to alternative therapies during pregnancy, whether to help with problems such as backache or morning sickness or simply to help them feel calm and relaxed. Before undergoing any therapy, do make sure that your practitioner is qualified and experienced in treating pregnant women.

    Acupuncture

    This branch of Chinese medicine can be used from early in pregnancy to alleviate morning sickness, heartburn, pre- and postnatal depression, lower back pain and anxiety. It can also be used during labour for pain relief and to help boost energy levels – but do check that your hospital is happy for your acupuncturist to accompany you. One form of acupuncture, moxibustion, is sometimes used to turn breech babies: here the herb mugwort, in the form of a stick, or ‘moxa’, is placed on an acupuncture point and burnt (it will be extinguished before it burns the skin!). 

    www.acupuncture.org.uk

    www.acupuncturecouncil.com

    Aromatherapy

    Here, essential oils are used to promote general wellbeing and alleviate specific ailments, such as morning sickness and fluid retention. Different essential oils have different effects, so it’s probably best to check before using, especially as some are not safe for use either throughout pregnancy or at certain stages. Oils can be massaged into the body when mixed with a carrier oil – this works best when done by an experienced masseur using appropriate techniques, by burning essential oils in a vapouriser, or adding a couple of drops to a relaxing bath.

    www.aromatherapycouncil.co.uk

    www.expectancy.co.uk

    Aromatherapy oils to avoid during pregnancy:

     Clary sage

     Rosemary

     Majoram

     Sage

     Thyme

     Juniper

     Melissa

     Myrrh

     Comfrey

     Jasmine

     Basil

    Chiropractic/McTimoney chiropractic

    Chiropractic literally means ‘done by hand’ and involves the manipulation of the spine to ease back pain. As well as helping during pregnancy, it has been shown to reduce the length of labour; after pregnancy, your chiropractor can help ensure that your stretched out joints and loosened ligaments return to normal.

    McTimoney is a particularly gentle form of chiropractic, which makes it especially suitable for pregnant women. Treatment is recommended from the third month of pregnancy onwards.

    www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk

    www.mctimoney-chiropractic.org

    www.chiropracticusa.net

    Reflexology

    Massage of specific points on the feet and hands to treat the whole body, based on the principle that all the bodily structures including organs and glands are represented in these ‘reflex areas’. The aim is to encourage the body’s own recuperative powers. Stimulation of specific points releases blockages in the energy pathways and improves nerve function and blood supply throughout the body. In pregnancy it can be used to boost energy levels, alleviate musculo-skeletal problems, relieve heartburn, reduce oedema (swelling) and normalise hypertension.

    www.britreflex.co.uk

    www.aor.org.uk

    www.reflexology-usa.org

    Homeopathy

    Based on the principle that a little of what is making you ill can cure you, homeopathic medicines come in minute doses, which will trigger your body’s natural healing system. It is safe to self-prescribe for common ailments, but a qualified homeopath will be more helpful. In pregnancy, homeopathy can be used to treat morning sickness, constipation, mild urinary problems, diarrhoea, heartburn, anaemia, varicose veins, backache, cramps, thrush or emotional distress. It can also be used during labour to alleviate panic, encourage contractions, or even slow them down. Your homeopath can prescribe a labour kit and advise what you should use and when, or she could accompany you at the birth.

    www.homeopathy-soh.org

    www.britishhomeopathic.org

    www.trusthomeopathy.org

    Massage

    The Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that expectant women who are massaged throughout pregnancy have better sleep, reduced anxiety and stress, less back pain and fewer labour complications. Properly tailored pregnancy massage can be very effective in relieving discomforts such as backache, headache and constipation and is useful in combating anxiety and promoting relaxation and general wellbeing. Research has shown that it is an effective form of pain relief and some women find it helpful during labour.

    Osteopathy

    A holistic treatment that emphasises mechanical, structural and postural factors in the healthy functioning of the body. Osteopaths use a range of manipulative techniques to help the body find the most natural balance possible. It can bring great relief, freeing the body of unnecessary tensions and strains that may compromise the ability to adapt to the changes.

    Osteopathy is particularly beneficial in pregnancy as it can help your body adapt to the changes that are constantly taking place in terms of weight distribution and posture.

    www.osteopathy.org.uk

    www.osteopathic.org

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  4. Pregnancy feelgood

    Feelgood pregnancy

    People may talk of the healthy pregnancy ‘glow’, but you could well spend your time feeling less than perfect. Because of all the changes taking place in your body, there are many common ailments, from constipation and heartburn to backache and morning sickness. On the plus side, you’re unlikely to suffer all of them, and some will be particular to certain stages of pregnancy, so will pass. And there are plenty of ways of alleviating the symptoms…

    Morning sickness

    Nausea is no respecter of the clock and can strike at any time – and can range from slight queasiness to extreme vomiting. It’s most likely to occur when your blood sugar levels are low, so eating little and often can help, especially if you eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, which will release their energy more slowly, sustaining you for longer. Some women find that foods and herbal teas containing ginger or mint are helpful. If you have sea bands (the elastic bands worn to counteract seasickness), try wearing those. Alternatively, find the anti-nausea pressure point three finger-widths from the wrist crease on the inside of your arm and press down gently, ideally four times a day for ten minutes at a time. Homeopathic remedies may also help: try a 6c potency of sepia, pulsatilla, nux vomica or ipecac every two hours or consult a homeopath for more advice. If your vomiting is severe and you feel unable to keep anything down, see your doctor, as you may suffer dehydration.

    Constipation

    The hormones that prepare the pelvic muscles for labour tend to slow down the digestive system, thus leading to constipation. If you’re suffering, don’t just sit there feeling uncomfortable, but keep moving. Exercise is beneficial, whether it’s a gentle stroll or a few lengths of the pool, as is drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fibre-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

    Heartburn

    This is common in the later stages of pregnancy, as your growing bump puts pressure on your stomach. Spicy, fried, rich or yeasty foods can exacerbate the problem, so avoid these, and opt for alkaline foods such as yoghurt or milk. Pineapple and papaya (pawpaw) contain beneficial enzymes, while herbs and spices such as anise, caraway, dill and fennel can help digestion – use them in your cooking or find a herbal tea that contains them. 

    Backache

    With the hormone relaxin softening your muscles and ligaments in preparation for the birth plus the extra weight you’re carrying around your middle, it’s no great surprise that many women suffer backache during pregnancy. First and foremost, try to keep your back straight when you’re standing, and do try to keep moving and changing position during the day. Sitting on a birth ball will help as it encourages gentle movement and hip rotation. Or try doing a few pelvic tilts: stand with your feet hip width apart, bend your knees and place your palms down on your lower back. Breathe out, move your hands down, tilting your pelvis up and tucking your bottom in. Return to the start position and repeat. Ask your partner to massage your lower back; a few drops of lavender and geranium blended into 30 ml sunflower oil should relax you nicely.

    Water retention

    Swollen legs and ankles are common in late pregnancy, but only a worry if accompanied by high blood pressure and protein in your urine. Try to make time to sit with your feet up, and if possible, have a foot bath: add eight drops of camomile, geranium, neroli or lavender oil to warm water and soak for 10 minutes. Follow with a cooler foot bath to improve circulation. Massaging in a decongestant foot cream using firm strokes upward towards the heart will also help (get your partner to do this if you can’t reach your feet any more!). Nettle tea is also good, as are fennel and horseradish.

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  5. Organic food during pregnancy

    Is organic best?

    If you’re looking to reduce your exposure to chemicals, eating organic is an obvious way to start. Organic foods are grown with the use of synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides and all animals are reared without the routine use of antibiotics. While only four chemicals are used on organic crops, some 430 are used on non-organic crops. And while ‘acceptable’ levels of these chemicals in the food we eat are laid down by regulations, it’s worth bearing in mind that these are based on adult consumption; you may not wish to expose your baby to that level of risk, especially as little is known about the long-term risks of exposure to multiple pesticides.

    In the UK, Soil Association research has found higher levels of vitamin C, minerals and phytonutrients in organic food, while organic red meat has higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, which helps prevent cancer and reduce heart disease. Organic chickens have been found to contain 25 per cent less fat than non-organic ones, and organic milk full-fat milk contains at least 64 per cent more omega 3 essential fatty acids, vital for brain function, heart health and supple joints.

    Organic food is more expensive than non-organic, so if you don’t feel you can afford to go totally organic, choose the items you buy the most of, such as milk, bread, pasta and certain vegetables, and look out for money-saving offers on other items.

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  6. Your pregnancy diet

    It’s often said that you are what you eat, and while you’re pregnant this is also true for your baby. What you eat while you’re expecting impacts directly on your baby’s development in the womb and, ultimately, to his health as an adult. Studies have shown that a diet high in salt, sugar and fat (all the things we know we should be avoiding anyway!) during pregnancy can lead to overweight infants with long-term health problems. So, normal healthy eating rules apply, although you may want to modify the way you eat through the day.

    Your appetite will probably increase from early pregnancy, and it’s a good idea to eat when you feel hungry, as it’s one of the best ways to combat queasiness (sounds crazy, but it’s true), so go for five or six smaller meals a day, rather than two or three large ones. This will also ensure that your energy levels remain stable through the day (as long as you keep it healthy).

    The greatest temptation when you’re pregnant is to ‘eat for two’, but beware! You don’t actually need any extra calories in your normal daily diet until the last three months, when an extra 200 per day will suffice. Most women gain 8-15kg (18-32lb) during pregnancy, but do bear in mind that this is just an average. If you gain too much weight, you may be at risk of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, but if you gain too little there is an increased risk of low birthweight and prematurity.

    What to eat

     Carbohydrate-rich foods for energy, eg, bread, pasta, rice, couscous.

     Protein-rich foods, eg, fish, lean meat, beans, pulses.

     Fresh fruit and vegetables, for their vitamin and mineral content – choose a mix of colours to ensure a good mix of nutrients.

     Fish contains proteins, minerals, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids; try to eat two portions a week, and make one of them an oily fish, such as mackerel or salmon (but don’t eat more than two portions of oily fish per week).

     Iron-rich foods, eg lean meat, dried fruit, nuts, to help ward off pregnancy anaemia.

     Vitamin C-rich foods, eg, citrus fruit, blackcurrants, broccoli, to help your body absorb the iron in your diet.

     Calcium, for your baby’s development as well as the health of your bones and teeth; find it in dairy products, green vegetables and fish with edible bones.

     Foods rich in omega 3 and 6, eg, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, linseed, flaxseed, hemp oil and oily fish. These oils are essential for brain and nerve function in your baby as well as preventing allergies.

     Keep rehydrated by drinking plenty of water, herbal tea and juice throughout the day.

     

    What to avoid

     Too much tea and coffee: caffeine affects your absorption of vital nutrients such as iron; some research has also shown a link between caffeine and low birthweight and miscarriage. Try to restrict your intake to two cups of tea or coffee per day – and beware of hidden caffeine in chocolate, some medication and energy drinks.

     Too much alcohol. Some experts recommend abstaining completely, others say that 1-2 units, once or twice a week, is safe. All agree that getting drunk is an absolute no-no.

     Too much salt: excess salt intake can cause fluid retention and high blood pressure, both bad news during pregnancy. It also increases the amount of calcium secreted by your body. Try to keep your total daily intake to 6g (1 teaspoon) – do check labels on prepared foods as these tend to be high, and if you need a flavour boost, reach for the herbs and spices, not the salt cellar.

     Soft, unpasteurised and blue-veined cheeses, eg, Brie, Camembert, Stilton. These can harbour bacteria that can cause food poisoning and stillbirth, miscarriage or severe illness in newborn babies. * Bagged salads and ready meals may also harbour bacteria, so wash all salads and reheat ready-made foods thoroughly.

     Raw or partially cooked eggs may harbour salmonella, so should be avoided, but as eggs are an important source of protein, don’t cut them out completely, just cook them thoroughly.

     Liver (including pâté and liver sausage) contains the retinol form of vitamin A, which can cause birth defects.

     Shark, swordfish and marlin contain high mercury levels, which can hinder your baby’s development.

     Raw seafood such as oysters or sushi that has not been made with previously frozen fish.

    Further information

    Feelgood Foods for Pregnancy by Lyndel Costain and Nicola Graimes (Ryland, Peters & Small)

    Healthy Eating for Pregnancy by Amanda Grant (Mitchell Beazley)

    The Yummy Mummy Pregnancy Cookbook: Healthy Food for You and Your Baby by Hope Ricciotti (Dorling Kindersley)

    Natural Pregnancy by Zita West (Dorling Kindersley)

    www.babycentre.co.uk

    www.babycenter.com

    www.eatingforpregnancy.co.uk

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  7. Plastics and harmful substances in a nursery

    In a nursery the bed can hold and let go of hazardous chemicals. The mattress might contain flame retardants and a mattress cover in plastic terry may contain harmful phthalates. Foam may contain solvent residues from production. Try to avoid composite wood products in a nursery that might contain formaldehyde. It can cause nose and throat irritation, breathing trouble, and other health problems. 

    lf the vinyl flooring or wallpaper in the nursery is made of PVC it can contain harmful substances such as phthalates and other sub­stances that make plastics soft. Vinyl may encourage growth and give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

    What you can do:

    Air the mattress before use.

    Since many chemicals get caught in the dust it is important to vacuum regularly.

    Choose a paper-based or natural-fiber wallpaper variety.

    More tips can be found at: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/give-your-baby-best-start#1

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  8. Making the journey to preschool more eco-friendly

    Did you know that clothes and shoes labeled as waterproof are often made of plastic treated with chemicals to resist rain and bad weather? In addition to this, school bags in imitation leather may contain harmful phthalates that make plastic soft. The same applies to t-shirts with prints that contain PVC.

    Plastic can also be found in the car when you give your child a ride to preschool. The instrument panel is usually made of plastic foam covered with PVC and can contain both phthalates and flame retardants. The upholstery and cushions can also be treated with flame retardants.

    What you can do?

    Walk or bike to preschool if you are able to do so.

    If you go by car, run the first minute with open windows.

    Avoid parking your car in direct sunlight. The chemicals inside your car is more toxic once exposed to extreme temperatures.

    Avoid clothes, shoes and bags made of PVC.

    Choose eco-labeled garments.

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  9. Composting the Eco by Naty diaper

    Today, bio-based materials are of huge interest due to global warming. We want crops and plants to grow and we need reduced CO2 emissions. By using renewable materials and avoiding fossil based materials, we can ensure both. Many disposable diapers on the market consist of fossil based materials with little to none renewable material. Our disposable diaper is made of 51% renewable materials.

    Our diaper has components that are biodegradable and each of these components will biodegrade in an industrial compost. A biodegradable product is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms resulting in biomass e.g soil.

    The Eco by Naty diaper is as such not fully compostable. If you decide to compost the diaper in a home compost be sure to remove the non-biodegradable parts and you will get perfect soil for flowers. The diaper should not be thrown in the designated bin for industrial compost even though a major part of it will biodegrade. The non-biodegradable material will end up at the composting site which will jeopardize the process.

    Thankfully there are good alternatives appearing in different countries that can properly compost our diapers. Two examples are www.gogreenbottom.com/home-nappy-recycling/ and www.soileddiapers.ca/. They use technology to split and make use of the diaper. The useful polymers will be recycled and the compostable parts of the diaper is broken down to soil. By increasing the renewable content, less CO2 will be in the air either way the material goes.

    That’s the Eco by Naty philosophy.

    We go green without giving up performance! 

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  10. How to avoid flame retardants in your living room

    Furniture and carpets can be treated with a so-called perfluorinated chemical that makes the fabric less sensitive to dirt and water. Your furniture can be treated with flame retardant in both the padding and the fabric. Remnants of this chemical often end up in the household dust and air and is linked to a number health concerns. This chemical can later be found in the breast milk.

    In addition, the television or the computer's plastic casing can contain flame retardants and old appliances may contain the most dangerous varieties. The plastic around the wires can contain hormone-disrupting phthalates. 

    What you can do

    Ask in store for furniture without flame retardants.

    Avoid furniture that is impregnated with perfluorinated chemicals.

    Consider repairing furniture that have holes that are exposing the foam stuffing.

    Natural materials such as wool have fluid-repellent properties without impregnation.

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