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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Au Naturale: A New Kind of Supplement

One of the many perks of having a doula, or labor assistant, care for you before, during and after the birth of your child is that you become aware of options that exist outside of the mainstream.

Our first meeting with Dawn was a little on the daunting side. As a lay midwife, it’s her job to get a sense of my medical history in order to figure out the best way to support me in the birth experience of my choice and also to be prepared for potential complications that may arise.

I’m not sure if all of Dawn’s consultations are over two hours, but mine was. It took me a solid hour just to explain my medical history and laundry list of current ailments. I felt like one of those retirees who shares their trials and tribulations with anyone who shows the poor judgment of asking, “how are you today?” To her credit, though, Dawn did a great job of keeping a straight face.

We discussed my previous surgeries and the residual effects of each. I explained reactive hypoglycemia and my desire to labor at home for as long as possible because I’m concerned that the hospital’s protocol on limiting birthing women to ice chips and minimal clear liquids will put me at risk of an episode that could lead to an unnecessary C-section. We discussed my anemia, my vitamin D deficiency, my body’s tendency to retain water, my hospital anxiety stemming from my last surgical experience and just about everything in between.

We spent a lot of time discussing how I manage my hypoglycemia and which foods work at which stages. She encouraged us to make sure the fridge is stocked with all of those items by my third trimester so we can be prepared. She also gave us a variety of natural remedies to consider taking during the pregnancy to improve my outcome.

Chlorophyll for Anemia
For my anemia, she recommended liquid chlorophyll. Natural health experts believe chlorophyll to be molecularly identical to hemoglobin with the exception of the center atom. In hemoglobin, the center atom is iron; in chlorophyll, it’s magnesium. The thought is that this means chlorophyll can actually help do the job of hemoglobin (important for women like me who don’t have enough). The side effect of this is more energy and general well-being. Chlorophyll is also known to detoxify blood and increase the number of red blood cells in the body. It’s also known as a natural internal deodorant.

I found a moderately priced liquid chlorophyll supplement at Raley’s in the natural foods section over the weekend. I started taking it on Sunday and have faithfully drank two tablespoons a day ever since.

I expected it to taste similar to wheatgrass juice, which is known to be high in chlorophyll, iron and vitamin K. I like wheatgrass juice a lot, but jaunting to Jamba Juice every morning is neither practical nor cost effective. This bottled supplement from Raley’s seemed like a decent compromise.

I bought the “natural flavor” (mint is also available), and I also bought a bottle of acai juice as a chaser just in case it was dreadful. Initially, the chlorophyll is very sweet and finishes with a flavor I can only describe as “mud.” It’s like you just chowed down on some grass – dirt and all. You’re even left with bright-green lips as a reminder. The acai juice definitely helps afterward. All in all, though, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I have found it tastes better cold than at room temperature, and I’ve survived so far.

I have noticed increased energy during the day and possibly some reduced fluid retention. I feel different enough to continue taking it. We’ll see how my next set of labs come out to determine whether it’s truly effective in improving hemoglobin and red blood cell counts.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea for Uterine Toning
Vitamin D deficiency is a side effect of the malabsorptive nature of the type of gastric-bypass surgery I had in 2005. Recently, scientists have linked vitamin D deficiency with an increased occurrence of emergency C-sections. Though no research has yet been done into why vitamin D deficiency can result in C-section births, the current hypothesis is that it’s due to muscle weakness.

Vitamin D is known to promote muscle strength. The uterus is one giant muscle that must contract repeatedly in order to bring a baby into the world the ol’ fashioned way. If a woman doesn’t have enough vitamin D, it’s possible she won’t have the uterine strength or stamina to birth a baby naturally.

Red raspberry leaf (commonly consumed as a tea) is known to strengthen the uterus. It’s often found as a primary ingredient in herbal teas marketed to expectant women. I found a box of 24 tea bags at the Vitamin Shoppe for $4.99 – lower than what prenatal teas typically cost (about $6 for 14-16 tea bags). I now drink a mug of red raspberry leaf tea each morning. It doesn’t taste bad, but I wouldn’t call it delectable either. It is what it is.

Dandelion Tea for Liver Health
Detoxifying one’s body is always a good idea, but when you’re pregnant, your body has to handle a lot of extra waste until the baby develops organs stronger enough to supports its own systems. That’s one reason pregnant women retain excess fluid.

Dandelion tea is known to be a strong detoxifier, particularly for the liver. I’m now drinking a cup a day of this (right after the raspberry leaf tea) as well. It’s not pleasant, but I’ve survived so far. I can’t describe the taste other than to say it’s not good. But I found it at the Vitamin Shoppe for an affordable price, and if it truly works, I would say it’s worthwhile.

So far, that’s the extent of the supplements I’ve tried. Dawn also recommended alfalfa, garlic and fish oil, but I can only take so many pills a day before I’m not longer able to fit food in my tummy. And the available pill space is currently taken up by my prenatal vitamins and iron supplements. So we’ll see how the next few weeks go, and then proceed from there.