Our First Hello

A new year...a new batch on Mindful Motherhood moments to bring to you each and every month. The style of the graphics are a wee bit different, much more in line with our new look on social media thanks to our rockstar designer Tiffany!, but the sentiment is the same.

You matter

You're important

You are enough

And you are so incredibly and deeply loved.

This month, we are reflecting on the very first hello that we had with our babies. Take a moment this month and write it down...in a journal...on a scrap piece of paper. Sit and write about those first kicks, hiccups and the butterflies you felt when baby was first saying hello.


With my first pregnancy, I remember that first kick very distinctly. I was sitting in a chair at the salon, waiting for my hair to be dyed by my ever lovely stylist, April. I thought maybe it was gas, but then it happened again and again.

Hand to my stomach, I waited and sure enough...he was kicking. I was 14 weeks along, has just been in the hospital for a big bleed, so these first few kicks were incredibly welcome. Back then, we called him Bug. Now, we call him Owen.



Lexi's Birth Story - World Prematurity Day

A HUGE thank you to Nicole McCullough, Lexi's amazing mom, for sharing this story with us!!  Today, we honour babies like Lexi and mamas like Nicole - along with the hospital staff that take life saving measures to ensure these little lives have a chance!

After a devastating loss we were ecstatic to find out we were expecting again. I was admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks for dangerously high blood pressure. While admitted we also found out our little rainbow baby also had IUGR (Intrauterine growth restriction). I was told I would be in the hospital for the next 3.5 months until she was born. After only 5 days in the hospital my condition worsened and I developed HELLP Syndrome. I was told to contact my family because they would be taking me in for an emergency C-Section as it was the only option to save both of our lives. My daughter was born in November of 2012 rather than March of 2013.


Lexi came into this world weighing a mere 500 grams, had no respiratory effort and required ventilation. The Doctor told my family that we were very lucky as they don’t often attempt to help babies weighing less than 500 grams. During her first few weeks of life and her 109 day NICU stay, Lexi battled pneumonia, suspected sepsis, Bilateral grade1 IVH , RDS with PIE, BPD, Persistent PDA, mild pulmonary hypertension, stage 2 ROP, anemia and apnea to name a few. Our little miracle could only breast feed in the NICU up until 2 days before discharge when she was finally able to master the bottle (Haberman).

Finally, 10 days after her actual due date, we got to bring Lexi home! It was an exciting yet scary day. As much as we were excited to have Lexi home with us it almost felt like we were leaving part of our family behind. Her primary nurse, we referred to as her "NICU" mommy, was exactly that. They treated Lexi like their own. The nurses , neonatologists, social workers and NICU Respiratory Therapists are amazing at what they do and we are forever grateful for the exceptional care they provided for not only my daughter but for us as well. We have returned to the NICU every year around Lexi's birthday with donations for the babies and families as well as a birthday cake from Lexi to the NICU staff.

We are so thankful to have been able to keep some of our favourite ladies in Lexi's life! Lexi had many follow-up appointments after leaving the NICU and she continued to amaze her Doctors and Specialists. Our little preemie decided she could do things according to her actual age rather than her adjusted age and just after her 1st birthday she took her first steps and hasn’t stopped running since.

Lexi looks up to her older brother and he loves her to pieces. I’ll never forget the first time he saw her, he said “she’s so cute” and whispered “grow bigger baby Lexi.”

Although I still struggle with PTSD from our rollercoaster of a journey, I have my amazing little miracle & support of my family to get me through my days. Knowing we can provide hope and inspiration to other families of tiny little miracles helps me get through tougher days. Sometimes things don't go as planned but you learn and grow from your journeys

Body Image During Labour

9 months

40 weeks

Body changes during pregnancy happen relatively quickly when you take a step back and think about it. Inside, organs are shifting and moving around to make room for a human life that will grow from a poppyseed into a watermelon in just 40 or so weeks.

That's a huge amount of change so it stands to reason to think that it can be difficult to wrap your head around and feel comfortable in your own skin.

Much like the article earlier this month which deals with your identity fare you have a baby, the physical manifestation of that identity is that body that you lovingly (or not so lovingly) look at every day.

Keep in mind that while your body is changing rapidly, it is also doing something truly incredible. It is building a life. Your body now has two heart beats, two sets of lungs and organs. Your body is growing a brand new organ to sustain the new life inside you.

Your body is amazing.

While things will shift and move, while hips may not go back to their narrow state pre-pregnancy, you body is beautiful and it is working hard.

Celebrate it! Every stretch mark, every bump. Every new inch that you discover.

Celebrate it and embrace it, for it is building life.

Seasonal Changes and Pregnancy

Pregnancy lasts 40 (ish) weeks, which means more than likely you are going to experience at least one if not two seasonal changes during the duration of your pregnancy. What can you expect?

First and foremost, depending on your estimated due date, you may have a bit of a baby belly during the winter months. This means slippery sidewalks, lack of sunshine, and cumbersome winter clothes. Be aware of your surroundings and always err on the side of caution!

One thing to keep in mind to help with seasonal changes is to keep your wardrobe simple. A basic pair of maternity jeans (we love the ones from Thyme Maternity!), a few sweaters and a few tank tops are really all you should need to get you through the bulk of your pregnancy. Heavy maternity coats, unless you live somewhere particularly chilly, are likely an unnecessary expense.

If you're between sizes and maternity clothes aren't quite your jam with the full belly panel, think about going up a size from what you would normally wear for things like tshirts, sweaters and leggings. Forever21 is a great place for inexpensive, trendy pieces that you need for only a short time.

As summer approaches, do whatever you can to stay hydrated and cool. Crank the AC at your office or home, put some fruit in your water bottle, and invest in an inexpensive kiddie pool for the backyard.

Seasonal changes can be difficult to manage while you are pregnant, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that it's temporary, and that your comfort is the biggest priority.

Third Trimester and Your Doula

So, it's just about baby time! You've entered your third trimester and the nesting has kicked in. Baby showers are in full swing and you're anxiously awaiting signs of labour.

But how do you know what to expect? Even moms who have had babies before often wonder about the start of labour, and this is a great time to turn to your doula.

Starting around 32-36 weeks gestation, your biweekly appointments with your health care provider will turn into weekly ones. Monitoring of both mom and baby will likely be a little more frequent and there are some tests coming that your provider may or may not recommend.

Having a doula there to answer questions and help you figure you would like your process of birth to go can be incredibly helpful. If you haven't been to this stage of pregnancy before, you likely have a lot of questions brewing! Here's where your doula comes in, with support and experience, to ensure you questions are answered in a timely manner and to let you know what your options are.

At this stage of pregnancy, options are a huge thing and if you don't know what they are, you have none.

Starting around 37 weeks or so, you will likely be asked about your birth plan. We like to call it Wishes and Options, because the overall plan is to have a baby.

Talk to your doula and ask you questions. The ones that keep you up in the middle of the night and the ones that pop into your head in the middle of the day.


Get the answers you need and make a list of options that interest you. Stewart the conversation and get ready.

The best is yet to come!

First Trimest and Your Doula

You may be surprised to hear that we get doula inquiries for early pregnancy support, but it's true! Emails, texts and phone calls start coming as early as 4-6 weeks gestation, and for multiple reasons.

Pregnancy After Loss

Single Moms

Out of Town Family

There are loads of reasons why the inquiries come, but one thing is constant; early pregnancy support is vital to a healthy and happy pregnancy and postpartum.

What can your doula do during the first trimester?

  • research morning sickness remedies
  • visit you at your home if you are feeling unwell, tending to any household chores, cooking etc.
  • provide consistent support and answer questions

During the first trimester, prenatal appointments with your health care team will likely be monthly and there's a good chance you will have questions or early pregnancy symptoms creep up that you might want support with.

Your doula can do that, provide compassionate support right when you need it.


Shannon Moyer Szemenyei | Sweet Stella's

This year has been one of expansive growth. We've added a brand new team to serve the Toronto area, have expanded our services in London and added more doulas to serve you, and have taken things online to serve the international birth community with our podcasts, meditations and online courses.

We've become stronger, smarter and more supportive.

We've carved out things that are important to us, both individually and as a team.

We've built something really incredible here this year, and we thank you with every ounce of our beings for joining us and being a part of it. If it weren't for you, and your constant want for better and more, Sweet Stella's wouldn't be.

So, cheers to you. Cheers to us!

We wish you continued health and happiness, abundance and joy, as you enter and go through 2017.

Expect to see more greatness from our team!



Prenatal Mental Health Check-In

So it's December....which means shorter hours of sunshine, cloudy days, snow and cold (at least here in Ontario).

Mental health in general during the winter is a challenge thing. The environmental factors that impact mental health are at a massive low in the winter months; when the days are dreary, we feel that in our bodies and minds.


Now is a great time to check in with your mental health status during pregnancy before the stress of the holidays hit.

How are you feeling?

Be honest here. Let down your guard and be honest. It's ok to say that you're not enjoying every moment of pregnancy. It's ok they be absolutely euphoric about pregnancy and you upcoming birth.

No matter how you are feeling.....

it. is. ok.

Take a few minutes to find your breath today. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, anticipating a stressful holiday season. Or if you're quickly approaching birth and time seems to be flying by you.

After you've found you breath and have felt your heart slow, start planning out some self care activities to carry you through the most stressful time of year. Pregnancy itself is stressful, add in the holidays and family dynamics, potential for judgement and it's easy to see how your mental health can become compromised and difficult to manage.

However you are feeling, today and in the coming weeks, it is ok.

Acknowledge it and find your breath. Find a way to slow the pace of your heart. Check in with yourself every so often throughout your pregnancy, especially during the winter, and be honest.



Winter Pregnancy Safety

I remember my pregnancy Graeme well, and not just because it was after a loss but because it was a winter pregnancy between months 2 to 6!

Being pregnant in Canada during the winter is a huge challenge. You want to get out but the roads and sidewalks are slippery. It's cold and you're not sure how to dress. You want to stay active, but how?


After the first trimester fatigue passed, I was determined to keep up with running but that meant slippery surfaces and inconsistent weather. Then there are the times where the days seem to only last for a few hours and by the time you are home from work or whatnot, it's dark and the coziness of the couch and Netflix is calling your name.

If you want to stay active during the winter months of pregnancy, be mindful of a few things.

For footwear, consider putting extra traction on your running shoes. Head to your local running store for their individual recommendations and tell them what your goals are. If you are like me during pregnancy, maybe you're running three times a week and still training for races through your 8th month. Maybe you just want to take the dogs out for a walk every evening. No matter what your goal is, make sure you are wearing shoes that have extra traction for slippery surfaces.

Layering is the easiest way to dress for pregnant in winter. Consider thin layers that are easily tied around your waist or chest. Bring or wear a cheap pair of thin gloves that can be taken off and stuffed in a pocket when you overheat. I used to feel like I was overheating a lot during pregnancy when I was running, but having layers allowed me to take off simple things like ear warmers, gloves, a long sleeved tee shirt to make sure I was comfortable at all times.

Always always always tell someone where you are going and take you cell phone with you. If you can, take a mophie or battery backup with you just in case.

Lastly, follow your instincts. If you're not feeling up to you scheduled run or walk on a particular day, stay home. Pregnancy isn't the time to push your limits but is the time to listen to your body and your instincts.

Stay safe and warm. Be smart. And when all else fails.....






Childbirth Education From the Comfort of Your Own Home!

Dreading prenatal class in the dark days of winter? We have an online workshop that is the perfect solution to those who would rather stay cozied up at home in their pajamas, yet still want to learn about all of the incredible options that they have for their birth!

Birth Prep Info | Sweet Stella's

birthPrep takes you through everything from positions for labour and birth, comfort measures, what to expect in the first 24 hours following birth and some simple strategies for your postpartum transition.

We've created a series of conversational videos, a PDF handbook, various worksheets and then open the floor for questions. Once you complete the online course , simply email us with your questions and one of our very capable doulas will be in touch with you to make sure you get all the answers and guidance that you seek!

To find out more about birthPrep or to register for the course, click here!



Pregnancy After Loss

There are so many aspects to pregnancy and parenting that just aren't talked about. You know the things I'm talking about; the ones that happen every day and no one wants to talk about because they're hard. They stir up emotions that we would rather bury and hide from.

Today we are talking about pregnancy after loss.


It's a time of such mixed emotions. A time I remember well. After the guilt and grief, numbness and pain came this time where we were supposed to be overcome with joy when we found out we were expecting again.

It had only been six weeks or so. The pain was still there from losing the one we would never meet. How on earth we were supposed to be overcome with joy?

I was overcome, all right. With fear. With anxiety. With a secret worry that we would lose another.

Pregnancy after loss is scary. While absolutely you greet each little milestone with open arms and joy, there's a huge amount of fear that comes with it. And then the questions start.....

Is it too good to be true?

When is something going to go wrong?

Something will definitely go wrong, right?

But the answer, truly, is that nothing bad is necessarily going to happen just because it happened before.

If you are pregnant after a miscarriage or some type of pregnancy loss, take it one day at a time and surround yourself with a support network that makes you feel happy, calm, good and confident. A network of people who will acknowledge and validate those fears and worries and who will give you the space you need to express them.

Be gentle with yourself and take it day by day.

Know that the fear and worry is totally normal, and it won't always be there. Sure, once baby is here a whole new crop of worry will surface, but the fear of pregnancy loss and miscarriage will cease to be.

Live and appreciate each sweet moment. Each kick and hiccup. Each roll and push. These are the moments that remind you that you are having a healthy pregnancy and that the fear holds no place for you.

If you ever need support, know that it is there and we hold you with compassion.



Stress Relief During Pregnancy

As hormone levels are out of whack during pregnancy, so are stress levels. Things that were never a trigger for you may cause an extreme amount of stress during pregnancy, so being prepared and filling your toolkit with stress relief exercises is a great thing to do in the early stages of pregnancy.

The first step in creating your stress relief toolkit for pregnancy is to think about the activities that you enjoyed prior to becoming pregnant. Maybe it was going to the gym or hitting the trail for a hike. Perhaps it was exploring a local bookstore or coffee shop. Maybe even a trip to the salon or spa for some pampering. Whatever gave you stress relief prior to pregnancy is a great place to start for what will give you relief during pregnancy.

Take it day by day. As your body and hormones change, so will your needs.

Then, think about the foods that you're loving right now that give you all the good feels. Chocolate, ice cream, pickles, salads, fruit, cake, cheese. Whatever it is that you're craving, tuck a few things away in your fridge or pantry so you have emergency stores for when your stress levels are high.

Finally, practice your breath and visualization. Breathe in evenly for a count of four and picture a place that brings an extreme amount of calm for you. It might be a beach, or wherever your partner proposed. It could even be your own home! Wherever you feel calm, grounded and centred, bring that place into your mind and breathe.

When all else fails, there's always Netflix, ice cream and napping!


5 Things You Should Know About Home Birth

Thinking of having a home birth for your baby? We've compiled a list of 5 simple things that you should know and consider if you're thinking that this way of birthing is right for you.

Having a home birth means being able to create your environment

While is same is true of hospital births, birthing at home means having even more control over your environment. You are in familiar surroundings, which instantly lowers stress and keeps adrenaline low, letting oxytocin flow. To prepare, think about what your ideal environment looks like, smells like and feels like for birth. This may be the smell of a freshly baked batch of cookies, the blanket that you love to curl up with on the couch during movie night, or photos from your favourite vacation spot.

Embrace all of what this environment will be for you. Set up those pictures, wrap yourself in something lovely and comforting, bake cookies (or have your doula bake you cookies!).

Home birth can be messy

Well not can be, it is! All birth is messy! Have a shower curtain (or a few) on hand to protect your home and surfaces the best that you can and don't worry...everything can be cleaned!

Visitors may want to come earlier since you're already at home

This is definitely something we see with our home birth clients, and we encourage you to consider it carefully. At the hospital, if you've given birth in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning, chances are you won't be sharing the good news and visitors won't be knocking on your door much before noon. With a home birth, visitors seem to think that because you're already at home, you're free game for visitors. If you want space following the birth of your baby, you're perfectly within your rights as a new (or new again) parent to not share your news until you're ready, or post a sign on the door indicating when you will be accepting visitors.

Home birth isn't for everyone

If you are having a particularly difficult or strenuous pregnancy, are considered high risk or simply do not want a home birth, that's perfectly fine. There are loads of different conditions such as elevated blood pressure, prior cesarean birth, and prior significant postpartum hemorrhage, that make home birth a less than ideal option for some women. If you're still wanting a low intervention birth and to control your environment, discuss what your options are with your medical team and make a plan that includes as much of your home birth ideals as possible.

Only midwives attend home births

If you're considering a home birth and are under the care of an obstetrician or family physician with maternity specialty, chat with them about your options as only midwives (at least in Ontario) will attend home births. A simple transfer of care may be all that you need to carry your home birth wishes!

Remember! This is your body, your baby and your birth. Only you know what is right for you!

Having a doula present at your home birth provides a great deal of benefits, and we mesh incredibly well with the care of a midwife. While they are tending to your medical needs, we can provide emotional and mental support.

Put us to work! We're happy to head to your kitchen and make food to keep everyone energized. We can run out and grab supplies if they are needed. We can entertain older children if they are at home during the early stages of labour.

We can hold the space and help with the environment.

Wishing you all the best for a happy, safe, and healthy home birth!


birthPrep: Pregnancy and Birth Education...online!

Did you know that you can take the full birthPrep: Pregnancy and Birth Education course from the comfort of you own home??

What can you expect from the online course? This course was created from a love of supporting and empowering women and their families throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

Be gentle and kind with yourself. No two pregnancies are the same, and no two families are the same. We encourage you to make the decisions that work best for you in this moment, knowing that it is perfectly ok for those decisions to change later on.

birthPrep will take you through....

  • What to Expect During the Final Stages of Pregnancy
  • Signs of Labour and the various Stages of Labour
  • Comfort Measures for Labour and Birth
  • Labour Positions and Why They Matter
  • Your Options During Birth
  • Standard Hospital Procedures
  • Interventions and Why They May Happen
and so much more!

What are you waiting for? Register today and work through this conversational, compassionate and research based prenatal education course at your own pace! Our team is here to help and support you along the way!


What Is It Like To Be On-Call?

We are often asked during our consultations what it is like to be on-call, so I thought it would make an interesting editorial piece.

So, what's it really like to be on-call, and when does that even start? What does it mean?

Well, the on-call period for our clients really starts from the time that a family contracts our services to the 6 weeks following the birth of their baby. Now....typically, early on-call is lots of emails and texts, and as mama approaches 36/37 weeks gestation, their phone number gets moved to our favourites list with the loudest ringtone we can find in our options.

We answer every text and email promptly, and once that 36/37 week gestation time hits, we answer the phone regardless of the time of day.

So, what is that like from our perspective?

It's like every other day of the year.

While certainly our senses are heightened and we are filled with excitement and anticipation for our clients, we have a few rules surrounding the on-call time in the later stages of pregnancy.

We don't leave the city limits (unless planned prior to contract)
We don't drink alcohol
We have our ringer on high at all times (with vibration on as well)
We go to bed early
We make plans for backup and backup-backup child care
We have our bag packed and by the door
We have a change of clothes laid out in the bathroom for middle-of-the-night changes

In a few words, the on-call time is amazing. It is so exciting when the phone rings (regardless of time of day) and we are called into action. Witnessing birth is something truly incredible, and we wouldn't trade those moments for anything in the world.


New Classes Starting Soon!

We have three new classes coming to North Yoga & Wellness in just two weeks, and they have something for everyone.

Shannon leads our Mindful Motherhood series, a class written specifically with mama's in mind. Over the course of an hour, for four weeks, we will spend time sharing our stories of motherhood, talking about who we are now and who we aspire to be. We will celebrate the small victories, and acknowledge the moments where we feel less than.

Each class will end with a meditation, where you can indulge in some weekly self care, sink back into the yoga mats, cozy up with a warm blanket and just be.

birthPrep is our four week childbirth education and birth prepartation class. This round is being led by Birth and Postpartum Doula Lisa, who provides a safe environment for parents to get to know their options, discuss them openly and find the path that is right for them.

There is no right or wrong way to birth your baby, or raise your family. We are here to help you navigate all of the options, provide you with nonjudgmental support and the information you need to make empowered decisions.

Shannon wraps up our Sunday classes with a fantastic four week session, Meditation for Stress Relief. Open to beginners and more advanced meditation practitioners, men and women alike - there is something for everyone at this practice.

Using soft spoken words, visualizations, candlelight, warm blankets and a safe environment, we encourage you to indulge in an hour of self-care time, let go of thoughts that don't serve you in a positive way and let the stress melt away.

To register for any of these classes, email us! info@sweetstellas.com

Meditation for Pregnancy and Birth

While birth can be chaotic and unpredictable (not always!), mentally preparing yourself for labour and birth can be a wonderful tool in finding a bit of control over your process.

When we set out to design a mala with Laure from My Mala Necklace, we wanted it to incorporate all of the elements that make up a mom.


Sometimes these elements are difficult to find in ourselves, but by practicing a bit of meditation, holding your mala beads close to your heart and feeling the stones warm to your touch and energy, you might be surprised at what you find.

The courage to endure
The strength to push through
The calm and stillness between breaths
An intense amount of patience
And love
Abundant and unconditional love

In our meditation classes and on our podcasts, we talk about a love not only for those around us, our baby inside our belly, but also a love for ourselves. This is exceptionally important during pregnancy when our body is not our own, our hormones are raging and we are preparing for the unexpected.

Be gentle and kind with yourself
Hold yourself with an open heart
Be confident in your birth process

Whether you need to harness some confidence and inner strength (lava), feel some abundant and unconditional love (pink quartz), or inspire a sense of peace and calm for your birth (howlite), all of these elements live inside you. They grow with every breath you take, with every beat of your heart.

With every touch of your mala beads, these elements ignite within you and they prepare you for a beautiful birth experience, calm transition into motherhood, and the strength to endure, with patience and love.


Tour of our Doula Bag

Another new feature this year...a look inside our doula bag! Every month, we will feature a different item from our doula bag, explain why we have it, what we use it for, and how it aids in your birth experience.

A photo posted by Shannon Moyer-Szemenyei (@sweetstellas) on

Gum and Lollipops

These are items time and again that I consider actually taking out of our doula bag, but then all of a sudden...whamo! Mom gets sick to her stomach, or the air in the birthing suite at the hospital is just unbearably stale and Mom needs a lollipop to suck on.

Or....in a mad dash to get out of the house, I forget to brush my teeth!

Sometimes when labour is long and exhausting, and Mom unfortunately isn't allowed to eat anything and doesn't want another cup of ice, a lollipop or piece of gum is a nice alternative.

Essentially, life happens and sometimes all you need is a piece of gum to freshen up, or a lollipop as a distraction while you're having contractions and labouring in the tub.

No matter the reason, we have you covered.We stock peppermint Pur gum that is aspartame free, and a variety of lollipops, from cherry to rootbeer, strawberry to watermelon. My favourite lollipops are the Jolly Rancher ones, as they are incredibly flavourful!


Home Remedies for Colds during Pregnancy

It is that time of year again, yup you guessed it! Cold and flu season! ICK! Cold and flu season sucks in general, but it is HORRIBLE when you are pregnant. There are not a whole lot of things you can take that are safe for a baby. Fear not! There is no need to suffer through it! Here are some home remedies to try out. 

Chicken Soup – No surprise here right?  I don’t know about you but my Grandma makes an amazing chicken soup and it always makes me feel better.

Neti Pot – You mix a warm saline solution and pour it through your nasal passages. It clears out all the junk and helps you breath better! This may be a little on the gross side, but since it is only saline it doesn’t affect your baby!  If you are too afraid to try a neti pot there is a squirt bottle version available now too or you could hold your head over a bowl of hot water and the steam will have a similar effect.  

Keep Hydrated – This one probably isn’t all that surprising either, but when you aren’t feeling well it is easy to put this on the back burner.  Keeping hydrated is very important during pregnancy because dehydration can cause contractions. 

Honey, Lemon, Ginger Tea –This mix is amazing because the honey is an anti-viral and will help soothe your throat, the lemon has vitamin C and the ginger is an anti-inflammatory.  Can’t get much better than that!

Hot Compress – Applying a hot compress to your sinuses or sore muscles will ease your pain and tenderness.  The heat will take down the swelling and help clear out your nasal passages.

Night-Time Humidifier - Having a humidifier will make it easier for you to breathe at night and they are great for babies too.  Why not buy one for the nursery early and test it out on yourself.

Sleep with Head Held High – When you are congested it is hard to sleep on your side. It is hard enough sleeping when you are pregnant as it is.  So, prop that head up so you can breathe easier.  Even if that means you are basically in a seated position, that’s ok! Do whatever it takes to get that much needed sleep.

Hopefully you do not catch that awful cold or flu this season, but, if you do, hopefully some of these tips will help you through it.


*disclaimer: these tips for managing colds during pregnancy do not replace the care and medical advice of your health care professional. Before attempting any home remedy, please consult your doctor or midwife.

Oxytocin: The Super Hormone

For most people, the term "oxytocin" is not new. The Love Hormone, as it is often called. It makes you feel happy and relaxed, calm and confident. And yes, lovey. It is no surprise then that this hormone takes the lead during labour and birth. All of the feelings that it elicits aid in the natural progression of labour. When released from the pituitary gland, it travels through the bloodstream, to the uterus (which is a muscle), and tells it to contract. This pressure pushes down on baby, nudging baby's head against the cervix, which causes it to thin and open (effacement and dilation, respectively). As the baby is putting more and more pressure on the cervix, oxytocin is once again released into the bloodstream, repeating the cycle. What makes oxytocin even more amazing is the fact that it also has a tendency to lessen your experience of discomfort, pressure, tightening, or pain. Naturally occuring oxytocin actually causes labour and makes it more manageable! This clearly grants it Super Hormone status. Want to help this Super Hormone do its best work? Here are the top four ways to support your body's natural production of oxytocin

1. Physical contact during labour
Given its nickname, it is no surprise that you can increase oxytocin levels with physical, loving contact. Oxytocin production can be stimulated through various types of sensory stimulation, such as a caring and reassuring hand on a back or shoulder, Light Touch Massage, hand holding, and kissing. You may have heard that dancing during labour is encouraged, as it can help baby wiggle their way down the birth canal. Dancing also makes us feel good! Try busting a move to your favourite song and not cracking a smile! Those happy feelings bring on a more positive outlook on your experience, and also - you guessed it - help stimulate that wonderful hormone. Not only do these physical elements cause a topical sensation which stimulates production at a base level, but they also create a feeling of safety, love, and happiness

2. Mentality
There is no underestimating the power of the mind when it comes to labour and birth. Your relaxed, calm, confident state will allow your physiological processes to fulfill their very important roles - this includes the production of oxytocin. Working on your mental preparedness during pregnancy is imperative. Practice self-care, physically and emotionally. Take a prenatal fitness class, eat well, and know you are doing all you can to prepare your body to grow and birth your baby in the best way you can. Take the time to work through any negative feelings you may have (stress, fear, anxiety) about labour, birth, or transitioning to parenthood. Meditate, breathe, visualize your positive birth, recite affirmations. Begin to focus on the joy and the excitement. Increase your feeling of control and empowerment by educating yourself. All of these things will help you feel relaxed in the moment, and as that moment approaches. This will help get and keep that oxytocin flowing!

3. Food and Drink
This is two-fold. First, you should focus on fueling your body properly and giving it the care and love through nutrition that it needs. Labour and birth is hardwork, and your uterus is a very hardworking muscle. Let's help it out by staying hydrated and consuming healthy snacks throughout labour. Treat your body well, and it will most likely reciprocate. Second, choose foods that could stimulate oxytocin production. Yes, they exist! While all food can potentially have an oxytocin-boosting effect based on your enjoyment of the experience, apples and chocolate are two that can specifically bring on this reaction. Apples can give estrogen levels a kick, which in turn increases oxytocin, while chocolate works the same way with dopamine (NOTE: there are other foods that increase estrogen levels such as wheat, pasta, tomatoes, and garlic, but these are very rarely consumed by labouring women. Almost all would like to eat chocolate!)

4. Lighting
Just like food can work to create collaborating hormones, so can environmental elements, such as lighting. Melatonin, which is naturally produced by dim lighting, quiet surroundings, and a calm atmosphere, boosts oxytocin levels. For this reason, lighting cannot be underestimated during your labour and birth. Shut the blinds, turn off the lights, and get those candles lit. You'll feel relaxed and comfortable in no time, and your natural hormonal processes will work hard to get things going. Keep this going regardless of being at home or at the hospital, and also after baby has been born. You need that continued oxytocin to (1) help make progesterone, which will stimulate lactation and (2) to encourage your uterus to continue to contract to expell the placenta, control bleeding, and reduce to its pre-pregnancy size.

Your body's ability to naturally create this wonderful hormone is pretty amazing. It is hardworking and multifaceted. It causes contractions, increases pain threshold, reuces anxiety and blood pressure, and promotes lactation and healing.  Your body knows how to make it, but you can also take control of your experience by giving it a helping hand. Use this knowledge to become Oxytocin's trusty sidekick. And although I don't see a comic book or movie franchise being created based on Super Hormone, I have to say - I think you two make a pretty dynamic duo