July 5, 2017
[05:12] About Genevieve Howland
[10:27] How Genevieve Changed Her Habits
[15:15] Taking Chocolate & Coffee While Pregnant
[18:41] Regarding Calories During Pregnancy
[25:09] On Toxins While Pregnant
[30:25] On Pregnancy Tests
[33:31] Exercising While Pregnant
[38:47] Exo Protein/Onnit
[47:07] On Acupuncture
[49:44] Using Technology When Pregnant
[54:48] Flying While Pregnant
[57:44] Sex When Pregnant
[59:54] Taking Placenta Post-Birth
[1:07:19] On Birthing Centers
[1:16:30] End of the Podcast
Ben: Well, this is a quite fitting podcast episode because I just walked in from my barn in the backyard where my little goats Toffee and Caramel each just had triplet, little babies. That's right, and I'm going to eat the placenta. No I'm just kidding, I'm not going to do that. I might maybe centrifuge it and inject it, but either way, whatever I decide to do with that darn placenta, it's pretty relevant to today's show because in today's show, I interview a woman who wrote a book about sex, coffee and chocolate while pregnant and babies on airplanes and yes, even eating placentas, and much more.
She's called the Mama Natural, you're going to dig this episode, whether you have kids or you don't have kids, or you want to have babies or you don't know how to have babies, or you wonder where babies come from. Anything like that, you will love today's show, but I have to tell you about something that has just about nothing to do at all with babies. Way to crank your muscle gains to new heights by flooding your muscles with a maximum amount of amino acids, without actually increasing your protein intake by a single gram. And if you're taking a hundred plus grams of protein 'cause you're that guy or gal at the gym every single day from shakes and supplements and bars and you're not getting the results that you'd expect, and instead you feel bloated and gassy and maybe even get the runs or feel like you're crapping out of straw all day, that's where this stuff comes in.
So this is a one-two combo supplement package. Part one is made up of masszymes which are these proteolytic enzymes. Incredibly effective at breaking down protein. Part two is something called P3OM which is the only nutritional supplement that exists in probiotic form that's been shown to assist with the protein assimilation, of any proteins that you eat. Especially combined with these enzymes, and you get a 10% discount on the one-two combo of MassZymes and P3OM probiotic. How? You ask? Go to bengreenfielfitness.com/biopt. That's bengreenfielfitness.com/BIOPT. That's automatically going to give you 10% off of your order of MassZymes and this P3OM probiotics, bengreenfielfitness.com/biopt, and you don't need a discount code. You just go straight there. That's pretty handy, huh?
This podcast is also brought to you by a sampler pack of my favorite mushrooms on the face of the planet. I had a guy over at my house yesterday, and he woke up and I just basically had a whole range of mushrooms out in the counter for him. Not those kind of mushrooms, mushrooms that you put into coffee. Like a mushroom, hot cacao mix, cordyceps mushroom elixir, lion's mane, great little nootropic, chaga, wonderful for the immune system, reishi which I personally use for sleeps and napping, and of course the world famous, low acidity, low caffeine but incredible pick-me-up, mushroom coffee. You can get all of this in what is called the mushroom sampler box. So you too can set it out on your kitchen counter for dumping lots of goodness into your coffee or your tea. To do this, you go to foursigmatic.com/sampler because these mushrooms are made by Four Sigmatic, the best mushrooms on the planet, FOURsigmatic.com/sampler, and that will get you instant access to this amazing sampler pack that I've just talked about.
Alright, you've got your mushrooms, and you’ve got everything you need to get swole. Now let's go make some babies, baby.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“They swan mom, and they placed that fluid into the baby’s mouth, or they will even put it on the mom's nipples for breastfeeding, and this helps to populate the babies gut, it helps to inform their immune system, it helps with that establishment and the strengthening of their microbiome.” “There's conflicting evidence, there's lots of different voices out there, but there have been two studies that have linked high EMF exposure. One showed that the babies that were born had higher rates of asthma. There was another one that showed higher rates of miscarriage, and this again were women that were exposed to high levels of EMF.”
Ben: Hey folks, its Ben Greenfield, and lately, I've had a keen interest in all things babies and childbirth. I'll let your own imagination go absolutely wild about why that might be, but in the midst of researching childbirth and how to have a baby the right way, not only have I found myself giving advice to plenty of friends who have approached me about more than just say muscle building or fat loss or jumping over a fire during a Spartan race but also about things like raising, as I've said in the past, a tiny superhuman. I, of course, have twin boys, they're nine years old and my wife and I had, perhaps it will fill you in on today's show, quite the adventure giving birth to those little fellas, but my guest on today's show is a much, much bigger wealth of knowledge than I am.
I actually just finished her tome, I suppose it could be called, on natural pregnancy and childbirth. It's called “The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth”. I happen to be on vacation with my kids and my wife in seaside Oregon, so I spent the six-hour drive down going through her absolutely, excellent book that I now think just about every, or really every expecting parent especially mother should read and should own because it's chockful of things that I never had heard of before and things I'd never considered before. Everything from the accuracy of home pregnancy test to the best natural remedies for morning sickness to flying when you're pregnant and how to mitigate the issues with smart technology and radiation with babies, having sex while pregnant, the best stretches and moves. Even things like eating placentas and gentle cesarean sections. All sorts of things I hadn't really considered before when it comes to babies and when it comes to childbirth.
So the author of this book is a woman named Genevieve Howland, and Genevieve not only has tens of millions, literally over sixty million views on her YouTube channel which is both hilarious and informational when it comes to natural pregnancy and parenting, but she herself was at one time a self-described cigarette-smoking, junk food junkie, a sugar addict, overweight with her health in tatters, and she discovered the healing power of real food and natural living and eventually gave birth to her two kids in a birth center with a mid-wife and a doula, and now she's all over the place. She's been featured on Dr. Oz, ABC News, the Daily Mail, and her and her husband Michael run a natural pregnancy blog and a YouTube channel.
So I'm going to give you a link to her YouTube channel to her book and all her resources if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/mamanatural. But long story short is that just about every pregnancy guide book out there is conventional, it's fear-based or it's written, no offense guys, by male physicians who are pretty deeply entrenched in the medical model of birth and this book is far, far different. So I'm stoked about today's conversation. Welcome to the show, Genevieve.
Genevieve: Thank you so much, Ben. I am so excited to be here.
Ben: Yeah, and as we were talking about before the show, we're both kinda out of our elements, so here's my scenario and then you describe yours. I am in the Seaside Oregon Public Library where I had called early to rent that little private room that I could do recordings in as is my MO occasion when I travel. Turned out the room was full because they are tutoring delinquent children, whatever that means, and so I'm out here basically amongst the aisles of the bookshelves trying to avoid any dirty looks from people who are trying to study. And I'm also with my portable microphone setup, which much to my cheek grin is echoing extremely loud in my ears. So every time that you the listener, are hearing me talk, I'm getting that echo back to me about ten times over. However, I'm going to remain lucid. I've got my Pellegrino sparkling water, I've got my Stevia, and that's all I need to rock and roll, baby. And Genevieve, I know you're out of your element too. Where are you?
Genevieve: Yeah, we're actually up north. We're in Chicago, and I'm at my parents' house. I'm up in my dad's office hidden away. We're on total lock down downstairs 'cause the kids are just about to come in. I unplugged all the phones 'cause I just don't want any interruptions, but yeah. My head is three inches from the wireless router, it's hot as hell up here. I'm like okay, let's do this, but I think I'll be okay. I think we'll be able to get through this.
Ben: Same story, that's why I'm here. We're literally sharing a three-bedroom house with four families. Each family has an average of about three and a half, four kids. I've lost count, but it's a mad house over there. Last night I slept on a futon, literally surrounded by children. So earplugs were a necessity, but it is fun, and that's what we're here to talk about, right?
So there's so many things in your book that I had a hard time when I was driving down the Oregon yesterday, figured out the main questions that I wanted to ask you, but before we even jump into my first question, and I'm going to try and go chronologically through some of the more intriguing sections of pregnancy that you talk about in the book. Tell me about your own detox from being, like I mentioned, you describe as a cigarette-smoking, junk food junkie to a mom. And not just a mom, but a mom who gave birth in a very natural way.
Genevieve: Yeah, I mean it's pretty amazing where I come from. So it started in the end of high school where for me, sugar is like a drug. It's like an alcoholic with alcohol, so while some people can have a cookie or two, I want to have the whole package, and I just started binge eating, and at that time, there wasn't a lot of people talking about it. It was either you were anorexic or you were bulimic, but no one just ate food. Just sit inside of themselves, and just gain weight and more and more weight, so it was also very lonely 'cause I felt there wasn't a lot of people I could talk about my issue, and it really was a coping mechanism, you know what I mean? To deal with life and emotions and all that kind of stuff, and growing up and things like that. So I went to college, I gained the Freshman 40. College is an absolute nightmare 'cause it's like you have this little past. You can go into the cafeteria anytime, and it's just like a smorgasbord of carbs and sugar.
And finally by God's grace, I think it was the end of 1998 where I literally was in my biggest pants. I couldn't even button them, I was binging all day. I tell people I had my Last Supper which was a McDonald's super-sized meal, and I was like I cannot do this anymore. I just finally hit a bottom, and I did realize about a year earlier that sugar was my trigger, and I had little periods where I would give up sugar, and then after a while, the cravings would go away. But then eventually something would happen, I would just go back to that crutch. So anyway, it was on New Year's Eve actually, 1998 in my largest pants, at home. All my friend are going out, and I'm just like I cannot do this anymore. I'm literally killing myself, and I was sixty pounds overweight and home with the dog, and so I was like I will do anything not to eat like this anymore, so I just started one day at a time.
I cut out the sugar, I went to a nutritionist, I got a food plan. I was like what should I eat? And I started to go to different support groups, and I saw a little therapy and just got to more of the root of why I was eating, and the thing that's pretty incredible is once you make that decision, and it's a really deep soul decision, then before I knew it, I had a month of no sugar and then three months and then six months and then a year and then five years, and it just becomes a lifestyle. Just how overeating and the sugar and all that was a lifestyle, this new way became my lifestyle. And so still to this day, it's been eighteen years, I still have not consumed white sugar. Through the years, I've been able to add back in raw honey or little maple syrup, but I still don't even do those too much, but as long as I stay away from sugar then it's totally fine. Then it was a whole journey of learning about real food and good nutrition and balance and how to just eat well, but it really started with just giving up the sugar, and then the weight just flew off.
Ben: How old are your kids now?
Genevieve: My son is six and a half, my daughter is three and a half.
Ben: Okay, cool. So you were able to defy the notorious Coca Cola and sugar cravings even through pregnancy?
Genevieve: Yes. Yeah, I mean the thing is once you get balanced and once it had been so many years that I had not consumed sugar, by the time I got pregnant, literally it had been over ten years by the time that I got pregnant that I had been free of the junk. And I also gave up other things like caffeine and nicotine [14:45] ______ dabble with smoking and stuff and would use it as a crutch. I would use to use it to try to diet and lose weight, so I gave up the nicotine, I gave up the caffeine, the NutraSweet, all the junk. And once you cling yourself out, then you just don't have the same type of cravings. So yeah, my pregnancies, I craved healthy foods, and we'll talk more about cravings and stuff later, but yeah. It was pretty miraculous, so each day I' just so grateful not to be in that place and be free.
Ben: Now what about, and here we go. We're going to delve into the science right now. What about chocolate because I've seen some evidence that chocolate can actually do things like improve placental function or decrease the risk of preeclampsia, that type of thing? What is your thought on chocolate while pregnant, and beware, you can create a lot of enemies based on your answer here.
Genevieve: I know, I know. So chocolate is an amazing food in the sense of anti-oxidants and it's got good fats and it's delicious and there’s actually was a small study done that showed that women who were pregnant who consumed chocolate had happier babies and just felt happier about motherhood and just were less stressed. And so researchers don't really know if it's just because chocolate does have endorphins, and it feels so great. It's so delicious, so they don't know whether it was really their perspective of their child or whether their child truly was a happier, less colicky baby. But either way, there has been some science to back up the benefits of chocolate when you're pregnant. And most chocolate is pretty low in caffeine, but you do want to be aware of that, so you don't want to be pounding the ground. I don't know, it's just a hundred percent cacao chocolate bars all day long, but definitely enjoy an ounce or two of chocolate when you're pregnant.
Ben: Yeah, and actually I had an interview with this guy who is a proponent of coffee, a big proponent of coffee. He's the brother of… I'm blanking on his name now. He went into how Philosopher Voltaire would drink 63 cups of coffee per day.
Genevieve: Oh my gosh.
Ben: I'll hunt down his name and put a link to this in the show notes. He's the brother of a very famous guy. I don't know why the Dalai Lama is jumping, why not the Dalai Lama? Another guy who's quite well known in the natural medicine industry, and I'll hunt down his name for you here in just a moment. But anyways when we were talking, he said that you could get away when pregnant with coffee, as long as you were drinking about under 200. Deepak Chopra's brother. That's right, Deepak Chopra, not to be confused with the Dalai Lama. Anyways though, he claimed it that women actually could consume coffee while pregnant, as long as they kept it under 200 milligrams. What is the latest on coffee, caffeine and pregnancy when it comes to that?
Genevieve: Yeah, I think 200 is a good number. Some studies showed 300, some showed maybe even 150, but I think basically the consensus is 200 which is still conservative, but it's a safe limit for moms. So many women consume coffee while they're pregnant, many women are fine. It is interesting that some women who love coffee as soon as they hit that first trimester, they have an aversion to it, and that is the wisdom of the body and trusting that. So a lot of women naturally will cut back, they're just not as interested in it. They might have a weak cup or something like that, but yeah. Generally speaking, coffee can be safe, caffeine can be safe. Two hundred milligrams, in my research, that was the safe threshold.
Ben: Okay, got it. Now the other thing that I think should be taken into consideration with these chocolate studies is that I believe flavanol is the active component of the chocolate, and in many cases when you see these studies on chocolate, they're literally using flavanol, and not actual chocolate. Interestingly enough in some of these studies, so it should all be taken with a grain of salt or grain of flavanol in this case. But regarding eating in general, so we know that some amount of chocolate can be healthy, and we know that up to 200 milligrams of caffeine is probably okay, and you don't have to completely forgo coffee, but what about calories in general? And I know you get into this in the book a little bit. Do new moms really need to be eating for two, or is there some more precise way to figure out how many calories you should be eating? Do you just let yourself eat ad libitum to appetite, keeping your fingers crossed that you're going to grow a healthy baby and not get diabetes, do you have to count your calories? What's the best way to figure out calorie-count when you're pregnant?
Genevieve: Yeah, so that's a great question. So first of all when I hear eat for two, my skin crawls because that's such an old school term, but we still hear it all the time, and really if you're a woman that's eating 18 to 2,000 calories a day, you don't want to be eating 4,000 calories a day. That's hard to do, and it wouldn't be good unless you're a professional athlete or something like that. So the whole eat for two is a better way to eat in consideration of two. You know now you have this child growing inside of you. You want to be making good choices, nutrient-dense choices to the best of your ability. That first trimester, that can be tough. If you're not feeling well, carbs are really good. They taste really good and they help sometimes with that acid stomach and stuff. So you just do as best as you can, and that's why you’re pre-pregnancy diet's important, and then usually by the second and third trimesters, you're feeling better and just really focusing on good nutrition then.
In terms of calories, the general recommendation is in the second trimester, three hundred calories more, and then in the third trimester, five hundred calories more. But I find women naturally gravitate. I mean they naturally will just eat more, and they don't really have to get into counting the calories. They'll be checking out their doctor or their midwife, and if their weight is auto-line in terms of either too much or too little, they can make tweaks. But it is really incredible that when you become pregnant, the body's wisdom can really take over, and I really believe in the validity of a woman's cravings. Now if she's craving Lucky Charms or Twinkies, then I don't trust the woman's set of cravings. But if she's craving red meats or salads or pumpkin seeds or whatever it is, go with it, and just embrace it.
For me, my second pregnancy, I am not a milk drinker. I never have been. I just don't like the way it tastes, and all of a sudden in my first trimester, I was craving milk. I drink a quart of milk a day. Now this is actually a recommendation from the Weston A. Price Foundation. I remember seeing that and be that is crazy. Who would drink that much milk? And there I was drinking a quart of milk a day, but as soon as the first trimester passed, I never had another craving, I never drank it again. So anyway, I like women to follow their cravings as long as they're relatively, real food, and it can be nourishing. Because I think again, our bodies are so intelligent and they can guide a mom and what she really needs.
Ben: Now one thing that you mentioned there, and that's great advice. You said by the way, how many hundred calories in the first versus the third trimester?
Genevieve: So now first trimester, they generally say you don't really need more calories. The baby is so small, but again in my first trimesters, I probably did eat more. At least with my first pregnancy, and so again, don't get too worried about it, and some of it is like a faith walk. It is amazing how the body takes care of itself. I remember I got into my third trimester, and I gained thirty something pounds. I'm thinking oh my gosh, I'm going to be at forty five pounds. I was just getting concerned, and it was the last six weeks. I don't think I gained one pound, and the midwife's like that's totally normal. It can definitely happen, you're losing amniotic fluid. It's totally fine, so she wasn't concerned. But it totally worked out, I gained thirty five pounds which was good for my frame and everything like that, and it's good.
So there is almost like, your body kinda balances out usually. Sometimes that doesn't work out, so the first trimester, no additional calories. The second trimester, three hundred. The third trimester, five hundred.
Ben: And you mentioned you were drinking milk, and I think we should bring up this idea that the idea of the placental barrier. How it actually is permeable to a lot of pollutants and pesticides and PCBs, BPAs, all sorts of different acronyms rolling out of my head and heavy metals. I know that can be an issue, but when it comes to something like milk for example, were you concerned about that? Did you select organic milk, or were you careful about whether it was pasteurized versus non-pasteurized? How careful does a mom need to be when it comes to toxins like this?
Genevieve: Well you know, I think all moms should be cautious obviously, and it's such a personal risk reward type situation, and with these cravings, I actually had access to really, fresh, really delicious and really safe raw milk. And I had been getting it for years. My son drank it, my husband drank it, so I had seen and I knew their safety standards and I knew the farmers and everything like that, so I felt safe drinking it. There's been studies that show that raw milk is actually low risk food when it comes to contamination. However, there are always those cases where it can be contaminated, so again a woman has to weigh the pros and cons, and make that choice. To me, I felt like it was the cleanest, the freshest, most bio-available milk I can find. So again, no doctor or midwife is going to recommend drinking raw milk. That's going to be something that would not be recommended, but I felt comfortable given the relationship and the history I had with this particular farm.
Ben: Now you have a whole section in your book about toxins and about how when you find out you're pregnant, one of the first things you should do is a home detox and also a body detox with personal care products and what you're smearing on your skin, etcetera, to ensure that your body isn't in a toxic place for the baby or the home is in a toxic place for the baby, and I think a lot of people already know that they shouldn't necessarily be using chemical cocktails to clean their home, but are there things that you think, even among healthy and aware moms fly under the radar when it comes to toxins or chemicals?
Genevieve: I think that's a great question. I guess what I would say is thinking about okay, you're going to want to try to have a baby, so a couple of months before, really start thinking about that and really start even six months before. Get really intentional about your diet, get really intentional about your sleep. Insomnia can hit women when they're pregnant because there's so many hormone changes, and there's so much crazy change within your body. So if your sleep is totally dialed in and you're getting awesome rest and you have such a good foundation. Then when you get pregnant, you can ride the waves of things easier. And the same thing about caffeine and alcohol consumption, stuff like that. Some women love having a glass or two every night before or after dinner, whatever. Or they love a couple of shots of espresso or whatever.
So the last thing you need is in the first trimester to be like with drawing and to have caffeine headaches, whatever. So if you can start dialing things back and just getting in a lifestyle that's pregnancy-friendly before you get pregnant is just going to make that transition really smoother and easier, and the final thing I said, and this to me is so huge that women are given this gift of a menstrual cycle. And in a lot of ways, it informs us of our balance and about our health and our vitality and our fertility. So ideally, we should be able to sail through each month like there's a rhythm to it. You will notice some mood changes or some different things, but generally speaking it should be pretty seamless and not a big deal. So if you're someone who gets really bad cramps or migraines or nausea with your period or with ovulation or if you have a really heavy periods or really erratic periods. Twenty days, twenty five days, thirty days and all over the place, that's a clue. This is an opportunity to get more in balance, so that when you get pregnant, you just might not have as many complications. You might not have as much morning sickness. All those things could be easier.
Ben: Okay, but what about the actual toxins themselves? Are there toxins that when it comes to things that are particularly, you think, damaging for the baby? Or things that are particularly notorious for crossing the placental barrier or things that women should be even more careful with than they would be if they weren't pregnant? When it comes to avoiding, are there things that you think are big red flags that more people should know about?
Genevieve: Well, I would say mercury definitely is something you want to be concerned, just very much aware of 'cause that is a very true risk for your baby. So seafood consumption is still recommended but just picking the right types of fishes, not eating Ahi tuna and sushi and things like that or high mercury fish. So I definitely think mercury is something that you definitely want to be aware of. I also would say just all of the, for example, there was a small study that showed that women that were hairdressers had higher rates of miscarriages and different complications with their pregnancies. So exposure to hairsprays, any of those chemical, really intensive beauty products. Things like that, you want to steer clear of. So teeth whitening, eyebrow extenders, and conventional deodorant that goes into limp system. So I just think that those things obviously are important to steer clear of, and you just generally don't want to be doing a lot of detoxification when you're pregnant. So this is not a time to be doing saunas or coffee enemas or just different things that are going to be flushing and dumping toxins into your system.
Ben: And is that because they wind up in the placenta?
Genevieve: Well, there are some debate about what actually crosses the barrier and stuff like that, but when your body gets into detoxification mode, it wants to cleanse, it wants to purge, and that could include your babies. So you don't want to be in a detoxification mode. You can do gentle things like exercise or rebounding or some skin brushing thing like that, but it's not a time to be undertaking detoxification measures.
Ben: Okay, so if you found out you're pregnant, basically don't go do the Ben Greenfield Fitness 17 Way on Detoxing My Body Podcast.
Ben: Okay, good to know. (chuckles) Note to self all you mothers out there, dads, it's probably okay. And actually I know that you do have a lot of tips for dads for increasing sperm count and things like that in the actual book, so guys, don't tune out. This is actually a good book for you to check out too, but one thing probably relevant to both moms and dads is something relevant to me lately. Again opening a kimono, my wife and I actually thought we were pregnant for about two months until literally two weeks ago because she tested positive three times on a home pregnancy test. Not one of the HCG blood test that you can order from a laboratory which I think are a bit more accurate from what I understand, but it was a home pregnancy test. How common is that?
Genevieve: You know that's really wild 'cause I have not seen that that often. However I was looking on Amazon, the different pregnancy tests, and I've seen this now a lot where women are I'm heart broken. I thought I was pregnant. This test told me I was positive, I really don't understand how this could happen because generally speaking, we should not be producing HCG, and that's what these tests are supposed to be detecting.
Ben: Urinary HCG, right?
Genevieve: Yeah. I mean it's more common that you're seeing people are getting negatives, and they end up being pregnant, you know what I mean? That's a lot more common, so I'm not as familiar what would trigger these positive tests when you weren't pregnant. I mean, did your wife check it out and see what was causing that?
Ben: Well, she wound up getting a blood test for the human chorionic gonadotropin, this HCG, and the way I understand it is when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining or when you get that implantation, you get the formation of the placenta, and the placenta starts producing HCG. That gets into the bloodstream, it gets into the urine, so it should go up quite a bit. But what happened was she took a home pregnancy test, and I was not doing any type of HCG lotions or anything like that myself, so I don't think I could've gotten HCG on the test. Yeah, they flagged her as pregnant for several tests in a row, and then she got the blood test, and it flagged as negative. So it's really interesting.
Genevieve: Hah! That’s so wow.
Ben: Anyways though, kind of a complete aside but I would say in my own experience, it looks like perhaps for some reason, these blood tests that you order, and we just ordered one from Direct Labs, just an online wholesaler lab test, it appears to be a little bit more accurate than a urine test. I wasn't sure if you'd know the answer to this, but for you people out there who want to do the double check and make sure, it looks like it maybe blood could be the way to go here.
Genevieve: Blood is much better.
Ben: Perhaps there's a doc who could pipe in the comments section, and let us know why that might be, but I found it quite interesting. Okay, so I want to move onto some practical tips. Let's start with exercise. We, of course, have some very fit moms who are listening in. We've done podcast episodes in the past that I'll link to if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/mamanatural. I've interviewed women who are crossfitting while pregnant for example, but what's your take on exercise and pregnancy and particularly your claims that if you exercise while pregnant, you will wind up having a smarter baby?
Genevieve: Yeah, I think exercise is wonderful when you're pregnant. Some women like myself, I actually am drawn to exercise because you feel so powerless in so many ways. Your body's being taken over, and it just feels good to move it and to just get your circulation going, and it'd boost your mood. Just everything, it's good for elimination, so I’m a huge believer in exercising while you're pregnant. There's very few circumstances where you should not exercise. In terms of the level of what you do, it's really what you did before you were pregnant, you can continue on to a certain level.
I mean, it's really again as the mom's exercising, she's finding herself so severely winded and just really uncomfortable and feels lightheaded. That's a sign. Okay, I've pushed it too hard. Again, I don't think pregnancy's a time to be trying to be personal best and stuff like that but is definitely a time to be active, and it does help the baby. There was a study done in University of Montreal that compared moderate exercisers with those who did not, pregnant women, and the women that exercised, and this was literally twenty minutes, three times a week. So we're not talking a lot of movement. They found that their babies had more cerebral activation, so there was more brain activity. Just more going on there, so they concluded that exercise actually can help your baby’s brain function.
Ben: That's interesting, I wonder if, and by the way the photograph I've seen of that study's hilarious. It's a baby with their head covered in electrodes. I assumed they were doing a QEEG or something like that, it's hilarious. I can see this tiny, little bald head covered in these electrodes. Anyways though, I'm wondering if that's because the brain-derived neurotropic factor which is like this miracle grow for the brain if that crosses the placental barrier on a similar way that toxins do or what exactly is happening, but it's very interesting. I would imagine that it could wind up in the breast milk as well.
Yet another reason to exercise while pregnant, and my wife did a lot of swimming. That was her go to which we found when we researched it is actually quite therapeutic for the baby. They like that movement of the water, that swing of the water back and forth, but and again I will link to it in the show notes, there is a gal out there named Cassandra Forscythe who has a website called Girls Gone Strong and she's a strength conditioning specialist. She's a registered dietitian, she's a certified sports nutritionist and she wrote a book called “The New Rules of Lifting for Women”, and during that podcast episode, she actually detailed her crossfit routine that she followed while pregnant.
So I think you need to be careful with that especially even not from a stress standpoint, from a bio-mechanical standpoint in terms of your SI joint, your hips, etcetera, making sure you take good care of those. But either way you look at it, I'm a fan of swimming, she's a fan of crossfit, you're a fan of exercise, and what I fund fascinating was that you actually see an increase in child intelligence when you do that, so yet another reason to move. Eat chocolate and exercise.
Genevieve: Yeah, that’s also like any exercise, water is awesome because you have that buoyancy. There's even some, I believe it helps the baby move around in utero better. If the baby's breached, it can help it flip a baby, but anything too that helps your pelvis area. Keeping that balanced, aligned, the modern world especially when you worked in an office and you're at a desk all day, that's really not a great position to be in as you're growing this baby. So if you can get things like an exercise ball or medicine ball or birthing ball on sit on instead of a chair that can really engage your core, engage your pelvis.
Ben: What is a birthing ball?
Genevieve: We call them birthing balls, but I think they're called exercise balls or medicine balls. They're like those big, blow-up balls that people use to work out and they roll on it. You know what I'm talking about? So in the birthing community, they're called birthing balls 'cause they're really awesome to labor and to use when you're actually giving birth.
Ben: How would one use that during labor?
Genevieve: Well, you can lean over them and sway your hips and open that. Some people just like to sit on them and do contractions, just sitting on the birth ball. What else? Some people just like to sit and rock back and forth, in the rhythm of labor, but a lot of women like to use them when they're pregnant just because again, it activates that part of their bodies in a better way than a chair would.
Ben: Hey, I want to interrupt this podcast about babies to instead talk about bugs. That's right, bugs. Did you know that 80% of the world, but not really Americans are people in industrialized societies because we think all we can eat is cows, they eat bugs, and bugs are some of the most environmentally sustainable protein sources in the world? They require a fraction of the land and the water and the feed is cattle dew, pound for pound. They're the protein of the future, and if you mix them correctly, they taste really good, and I have a recipe utilizing one type of bug called a cricket.
It was developed by an award-winning, three Michelin-starred chef, the former head of R&D at The Fat Duck which is ranked the number one restaurant in the world during his tenure, and these bars are Paleo-friendly, no-gluten, no-grains, no-soy, no-dairy, no-refined sugar, extremely high in protein and a host of other minerals that crickets have to offer one. They're called Exo Bars, and you can get a sampler pack with all of their popular and amazing flavors including banana bread and including peanut butter and jelly. Just saying, you may want to throw those into your cart. You get the whole sampler pack for less than 10 bucks. That's almost 25% off, so you can go discover the all the hype of this bug eating is about. Here's how, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/exoprotein. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/EXOprotein.
This podcast is also brought by something that might go quite handily along with those crickets for cooking. The MCT oil that has been magically emulsified by our good friends over at Onnit, and they actually have a brand new version of this complete non-dairy creamer that you can put in coffee and that you can put about anywhere else. I've put it on salads, I've put it on meats. They've got emulsified MCT oil which means you don't have to mix it or stir it or blend it like you do other MCT oils. It's doesn't make the nasty bubbles or the foamy fat at the top. It just emulsifies, magic becomes part of whatever you're eating, giving you all the benefits of all the ketones and healthy fats that produces without any of the mess. Their new flavor is called Cinnamon Swirl. If you try any of their flavors, try Cinnamon Swirl or Pumpkin Spice, those are my top flavors, and you get a 10% off of these or any of the fine supplements that Onnit sells. Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/onnit. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/ONNIT, that'll automatically save you 10%. And now back to today's show.
Ben: Now, I would imagine when it comes to the actual movements for preparing for pregnancy, especially when we're talking about a natural pregnancy which I now want to delve into your take and experience with a natural pregnancy here in a little bit. This idea of a yoga squat, do you know what I'm referring to? I think it's called Malasana in yoga, or Malasana as a true yogi would say. The side that you're in the same position as you would be if you were on a squatty potty. It's a stretch I personally do in the mornings. It helps out quite a bit with the bowel movement, getting down to that low position, getting your butt to the ground, feet wide, and toes turned out pushing the adductors out to either side with your elbows. For childbirth, I know that's a good stretcher move, but are the other good stretches or good moves specifically to allow one to be able to withstand the rigors of a natural childbirth if they decided they're not just going to, pardon the expression, get the baby cut out or lay back on a table and just push with an epidural?
Genevieve: Yeah, anything with the pelvis. So there's butterflies, they're really good where you put your feet together and your legs are in front of you and you rock your legs back and forth. It's hard to explain how to do the movement, but if you just google butterflies, you'll understand the movement. Okay, so pigeon pose, puppy pose. Pigeon pose to me was one of my favorites 'cause it just opens up your hips in such an awesome way.
Ben: And puppy poses is also like that relaxed child pose almost, right?
Genevieve: Exactly, so those are really good. I know Katie Bowman, she's a huge movement person, and she really loves squats for pregnant moms, so those are really good. So I think all those help. I found also, this is going to sound really weird, but red raspberry leaf tea as an herbal tea, but it's also a uterine tonic, and the first pregnancy I didn't really drink it. The second pregnancy I was religious about drinking it and I got a huge in my contractions. My uterus was amazing. My contractions were so efficient and so strong, and my first birth they were weak and irregular and fickle.
So anyway, red raspberry leaf tea has been known to be this uterine tonic. It strengthens the pelvic area, it really tones those muscles, so I encourage women once they hit their second trimester to start drinking it, and my midwife was such a huge bully. She's like this is what helped me with each of my births, and I didn't listen to her the first time. But the second time I did, and it made a really big difference.
Ben: Yeah, I understand. That's supposed to be pretty good for morning sickness as well, right?
Genevieve: Yeah, some women find that 'cause it could be balancing for hormonal things, and there's also some good minerals that can help with morning sickness. If you could choke it down, that's the thing. There' a lot of great things for morning sickness, but sometimes people are so sick that the thought of drinking tea makes them want to go to the toilet. But yes, if they can drink it, it can also be helpful. The one thing about it, and that was what freaked me out, my first pregnancy is the uterine, I don't want to say stimulant, but I remember drinking it. I think I was eight weeks pregnant or ten weeks pregnant, and I felt some uterine cramping and it freaked me out. So the general rule of thumb is if you can wait to the second trimester, it's probably safer I guess. There's been no studies that show that it leads to miscarriage, but I think the conservative approach would say second trimester would might be better to start on it.
Ben: And be careful again when it comes to metals because tea is one of those things. Tea and protein powder are two things that tend to be very high in metals and toxins if you're not careful, so choose your tea wisely. I'll try and hunt down some metal-free, red raspberry leaf tea, and get that in the show notes for those of you who are concerned about that.
Now when it comes to morning sickness, if you could choose one to two additional must-haves or best natural remedies to have on hand for morning sickness, what would you choose?
Genevieve: That's so hard because there's so many different angles you can go, but I would say anything that you can do to help support digestion. I think a lot 'cause that's where all of our symptoms come up. It's the nausea, it's the acid stomach, and it’s the indigestion. So supporting digestion, so sour foods. I found for me with one of my pregnancies. I would eat my meal and I would feel fine, and then right after I finish it, I just started to feel gross and just nauseous and just yuck. And so I would cut up a grapefruit like a little kid does, with the orange slices and the smiley face, and would just eat the grapefruit after each meal, and it was like a game changer. So grapefruits in particular are like, I don't know if you heard of the gallbladder flush or the liver flush. It’s like [46:15] ______ you drink grape fruit juice as a part of this because it does stimulate the gallbladder. It stimulates your bile production, so any kind of sour food will really do that. Lemons or raw apple cider vinegar, there's even an Urban Moonshine created a bitter that is safe for women, so it's a form of herbal concoction.
Ben: Yeah, that's perfect. That's actually an excellent digestif, it's great by the way in alcoholic drinks too. Sorry pregnant ladies, but I've interviewed the folks from Urban Moonshine on my show before. I spoke in Vermont, and I found their product in Vermont when I was speaking there, and I interviewed them. I'll hunt down the interview and put a link to it in the show notes. But yeah, it's the folks at Urban Moonshine. They do a bitter, that's great, but you were about to say something else?
Genevieve: Yeah, the other thing I would just say is acupuncture. So I think that's very balancing. I go to an acupuncture, and he's amazing. He told me a story of a women hospitalized on fluids and IVs and different things. But anyway, she, and this happened with every pregnancy, and then she starts seeing him, and it was like night and day. She was able to eat again, she wasn't sick, so there is something to acupuncture. The balancing they've shown it in studies. It can help reduce nausea. The thing about it though, you have to go pretty regularly. So if you were on an acute situation like a couple times a week would be great. And then as you get a little bit stabilized once a week and then eventually you could stop, but I think that acupuncture is a great tool that's safe and that could be really effective.
Ben: Yeah, and I've actually personally been experimenting a bit with electrical alternatives to acupuncture, meaning that I interviewed people who recently developed an energy medicine device that uses a very low level, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. You hold it up against different meridian points, and it acts very similarly to acupuncture. I've done both acupuncture as well as this, and the cool thing about this is of course you don't have to get into your car and haul your butt over to an acupuncture clinic or hunt down acupunctures in schedule, but the interview that I did was with a gal named Wendy Myers.
It' a scanner, it's a NES Health Scanner. I believe the actual device is called a My Health. Really interesting though, I've been playing around with it a lot as an alternative to things like acupressure or acupuncture. I don't know anyone who has used it while pregnant, but for those of you who want to listen to what’s called a NES Health interview with Dr. Wendy Myers. We talk a little bit about energy medicine, how you can target some of the same meridian points, including some of the nausea ones with basic pulsed electromagnetic filter. Granted it's an expensive device, I think it's a $2,000 device. But I mean if you get a lot of acupuncture, I suppose it could add up.
Genevieve: Do you feel like it's helping you and do you notice the difference?
Ben: I do, I've used it for digestion and at this point also foot pain that I've gotten from racing, and I'm currently experimenting for low back pain. I just flew back from Bulgaria, and right after I got off the plane, I raced a Spartan race and I think my sacroiliac joint was locked up after sitting for 22 hours while travelling, so I've been using it on the back with some success as well. That's technology though, and you talk about smart technology in the book, and I don't think that's something many pregnant women think about. But when it comes to smart technology, phones, computers, Bluetooth, what's the evidence out there, what are the best practices when it comes to pregnancy and smart tech?
Genevieve: Sure, of course with EMFs and all that, there's mixed opinions, there's conflicting evidence, there's lots of different voices out there. But there have been two studies that have linked high EMF exposure. One showed that the babies that were born had higher rates of asthma. There was another one that showed higher rates of miscarriage, and this again were women that were exposed to high levels of EMFs when they were pregnant. So I think it's important to take a conservative approach. It's just there's no way about it, but we live in a very high tech world, so it can be challenging. I think whenever you talk about this moms, you're like don't take my iPhone or I'm not going to live in a cave or what's that really mean? And there's a lot of simple things moms can do.
Just one simple thing, like a lot of my friends drives me crazy. They'll take their iPhone and they'll put it in their bra, and I'm like what are you doing? Don't put that, put it on airplane mode. Don't carry it on your body, so simple things like that. The other thing is it's really tempting when you're pregnant, and I know this 'cause I did this with my first child until I knew better, to use your belly as a table, you know that I mean? So you put your laptop on it, and you're working away, and the thing is it is hot as it can be, and the fan's going off. Like one example, one company is called Belly Armor, and they make blankets you can use. You just literally put it over your belly, it's a shielding mechanism.
Ben: Belly Armor? Interesting.
Genevieve: Yeah, Belly Armor.
Ben: Okay, yeah I see. You can get these on Amazon, and those actually offer some amount of protection against EMF?
Ben: Interesting, and I've used in the past of course because that's one of my pet peeves is when I see someone frying their gonads with their laptop, and I realized the laptop is, based on the name, designed for your lap. But at the same time, what I use is a device called a HARApad. It's basically a HARApad, and there are other variations of this. I interviewed folks from this company called Defender Shield that makes some of these type of things, but it's an anti-radiation pad. It's got different layers of tech in it that stave off, in my own experience, the propensity for one's balls to hurt once your laptop has been in your lap for about a half hour, and my wife uses one, I use one, and it's one of those things where I just don't want some of my body's relatively important organs exposed to EMF, and I agree. This is all the more important for someone who has a growing human inside of them. So this is called Belly Armor?
Genevieve: Yeah, Belly Armor. Just one company, there's other companies that create this, but I like their stuff. I think they make good quality shielding materials. The other thing to think about, and I don't know if a lot of moms think about this, but ultrasounds and Doppler. These are forms of radiation too, and you know nowadays, if you go to probably just a traditional OBGYN, you might be getting four ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy. One in the first trimester, one in the second, third, maybe even another one at the end of the third. So they have shown in studies ultrasounds do not improve birth outcomes, so there really isn't a lot of evidence for having ultrasounds in some way which sounds kind of crazy, but it's true.
Having said that, sometimes they are medically necessary, and sometimes women like to peak at their baby. They want that experience, and that's completely understandable. What I always tell moms is that okay if you want to minimize it, just get one ultrasound, wait 'til that mid-pregnancy scan, and I remember my midwife told me 'cause some women were going into eighteen or twenty weeks, and everything they could see was fine and great, but there was one thing that wasn't fully developed, so they had to go back in and get another one to see that one thing again. So my recommendation is always go at twenty two weeks. Most midwives or doctors will be fine with it, and you're pretty much guaranteed that all of the body parts that the doctor needs to see will be fully in bloom, and you'll only have to get it done once.
So that's a little tip, the other thing you can do with a Doppler is sometimes you'll go in, and they'll try to hear a heartbeat at eight weeks or ten weeks, and it's frankly a hit or miss situation. It's very tricky that very early to hear a heartbeat, and it's just wasted radiation exposure. So wait until twelve, fourteen weeks, hear the baby's heartbeat 'cause there is something magical about hearing it, and it make you feel like you're not crazy and like okay, I actually am pregnant, but then just stop. You don't have to do it again until twenty, twenty two weeks, and then you can ask your doctor or your midwife to use a fetoscope, and this uses no technology, no electronics.
Ben: It's called a fetoscope?
Genevieve: Yeah, a fetoscope. So it's basically like a stethoscope, but it's designed for the womb, and they can hear the heartbeat that way.
Ben: Okay, got it. What about airplanes and flying?
Genevieve: Well that's interesting. There actually was a new study done, it was published in 2015. It's actually on the CDC website, but it showed that flight attendants did have double the risk of miscarriage, and this particular study when compared to those. They were considering being a flight attendant a physically demanding job, so when they compared to other people that don't have demanding jobs, they had double the risk. So some of that, they might be at midnight flight, their circadian rhythm can be all over the place. They've got to be on their feet all day. I mean it is a more challenging job than a desk job, but it also is that cosmic radiation exposure, so you want to if you can, and the thing is no shielding device is going to offset that. That's just something that is the nature of the beast when you fly.
So even the FAA, they recommend to not exceed twelve cross-continent, round-trip flights or seven long transcontinental flight during your pregnancy. So that was their recommendation, and if you could do a lot less, that would be better.
Ben: Yeah, there's even an interesting article, and I'll link to it if you go to the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mamanatural. There's an article that you can read for free online. It's really interesting, it's called “A Darker Side of Hypermobility”, and it goes into not just for babies, but also for grown humans like me, the issues with being able to hop on a plane at any point and jet across the globe. Not just from a circadian rhythm standpoint, but from a community standpoint, from a social standpoint, from a long term health standpoint, from a gut-microbiome standpoint. So yeah, there are so many variables there that could contribute to something like a miscarriage.
I agree, I don't think you could say that it would be for sure. Something like solar radiation, but when we gave birth to our boys, Jessa and I had this bright idea that we wanted them to be little world travelers, and we took them to Thailand, and Chile, and Peru, and Mexico, and all over the globe until we realized that not only was it not that healthy for their little circadian rhythms, but they didn't really give a crap if they were in the backyard in Washington State or in Chile, they couldn't appreciate. It was expensive, and I grew more and more nervous about the health effects. Even for myself, I'm really considering beginning next year to dial back to just travelling four times a year to events that are only hell yes events, just because I do think there is this dark side to hypermobility as inconvenient as that may seem, so it's an important consideration. I'm glad you address it in the book.
Now moving onto something a little more fun than radiating yourself and miscarriages, and morning sickness, what about having sex while pregnant? Are there any risks or anything like that? I mean, I know you have a whole chapter in the book on it, but tell me what your thoughts are on that, and why you would even bring that up in an entire chapter?
Genevieve: Sure, I want to think there's a lot of misconceptions about sex, and women can get fearful. I mean it's pretty much very similar to exercise to me. With very few exceptions, sex is perfectly fine, perfectly healthy, and you can go on as usual. During pregnancy, it's like have fun. In fact, I mean I know for myself it was the only time in my life I can identify with a teenage boy. It was so awesome, sex during pregnancy actually can be some of the best sex of your life for women because you have more blood flow, and you are more sensitive. It really can be amazing, so some women have this sexual revolution when they're pregnant, and who would have thought, right?
I mean most people don't think of that, but obviously in the first trimester, you can be tired or if you're nauseous, you might not be having sex a much. But the second trimester, the third trimester, I'm sure gets interesting towards the end. If you get really big with your wife having twins, I can imagine you have to be a little bit more inventive maybe, but have fun with it, enjoy. The only thing we found during the research that could be dangerous, and this is one thing you do not want to do, is you don't want anyone to blow directly into your vagina. So I don't think that happens very often.
Genevieve: Yeah, just something to think about if your wife gets pregnant again, and it can cause something called an air embolism, and there have been some deaths as related to this. So that is the only thing we found, and now again, there are some special circumstances. If a woman's extremely high risk, if she's on extreme bed rest, things like that, but this is truly the exception. For most women, you're totally golden.
Ben: Okay, this heard on The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. Do not blow into one's vagina while pregnant. That's actually good advice. Now what about, another fringe concept, this idea of post-birth, eating the placenta. I hear all sorts of things back and forth about the nutrient density of it. We didn't do it for various reasons including the fact that I can tell this story and you can tell your birthing story. We wound up giving birth at the hospital, and I don't like to eat things that were exposed to all the nurses and staff and everything else in the hospital, but what's the evidence or the idea behind the concept of eating the placenta?
Genevieve: Yeah, so the thing about eating the placenta, when I first heard of it, it did not appeal to me at all, but in my community, so many women have raved about it, and women that struggled with post-partum depression, with low milk supply to the point where they couldn't nurse their kids to having a harder time healing and recovering and having energy. Their lives are transformed by just consuming their placentas, so definitely peaked my mind. There might be something to this, I want to look into it, and there really isn't a lot of evidence or have been a lot of studies. It really isn't an ancient practice. Even those, I think that there is this idea that it is. The placenta has been revered, and it's been honored in cultures and stuff like that.
Ben: Sure, and dogs do it.
Genevieve: Yeah, it's just it wasn't that common this whole idea of placenta consumption, but having said that, my take is do it. Get it encapsulated. Of course, there's hardcore moms that will freeze it, and save off chunks and put it in their smoothies and eat it that way.
Ben: I know some people will encapsulate it. I believe that the Kardashians did it, or at least one of them did it.
Genevieve: Yeah, so encapsulation is very palatable, it's very easy to get down. Do it, the thing that's so nice about it. I did it with my second birth, and if you like it, you can take it. If you don't like it, you can stop taking it, and it gets out of your system very quickly, but it's just like a nice little insurance policy that could potentially help, you know what I mean? ‘Cause you never know how you're going to be post-partum, and it's just nice to have it and it's also not to go back. This is like a medical waste, hospitals will just dump it. You can't go back and get it. So it's a couple of hundred dollars. From the feedback I received, I think it's worth a shot if you're open to it, and then try it. If you like it, great. If you don't then you can stop taking it.
Ben: Are there vitamins that are supposed to be in it? Is it a storehouse of fat cellular vitamins or anything like that?
Genevieve: Yeah, it has iron, it definitely has nutrients. I mean it is similar to an organ meat, right? So they've got the fat cellular vitamins. It also has its hormones and different things, so some women actually will make a tincture also of their placenta, and they'll use it during menopause. So that's interesting.
Ben: Yeah, I guess for me, I would imagine let's say it does have the same nutrient density as other organ meats do when you look at things from a peer-like survivalist or conservational or zombie apocalypse standpoint, like it would make sense to waste not, want not. I would just say that you would need to be careful. For example, and I know I've bought it up a few times so I might as well tell the story now. We had several doulas, we had a midwife. We had the whole little water tub with the turtles on the cover of it for the home water birth, and we had everything set up for a home birth. I believe we even had one of those stability balls in our little birthing room there in the house. We took the course where the husband helps the wife to breathe. I forget the name of it.
Genevieve: Is that Lamaze?
Ben: Yeah, we took the Lamaze course. I was there helping my wife for over ten hours. I sustained bruises for a couple of weeks, her sharp elbows digging into my thighs as she pushed multiples with her tiny, petite little hips. She would have been that woman who would have died in the Wild Wild West giving birth, and after ten hours, absolutely nothing. And we kept checking the hearts over and over again, the babies were fine, but Jessa was fading and we were getting pretty concerned. So we wound up getting in the car, driving to the hospital and undergoing a C-section to get the twins out, and it was a nightmare at the hospital.
We requested that the twins stay with us and be breastfed, and I'd wake up in the middle of the night, the nurses had taken him to the station. Thy were feeding them soy milk and injecting glucose into them and all sorts of nasty things happened to them, and we eventually had to make a special request to just get out of the hospital as soon as possible, so we can get the kids out of what is in my opinion, one of the more dangerous places to be, granted there are times when a baby does need to be in ICU, but that wasn't the case with our kids.
The idea was we had trouble getting them out, but after that, we didn't need much help at that point. So we were one of those folks who started off with the natural childbirth and then had to wind up doing it at the hospital via C-section, and of course we supplemented with probiotics and colostrum and breastfed, did all the things to ensure that the kids had their gut microbiota restored to the point that it would've been at had they done a vaginal birth and had been able to swallow a little bit of mom's fecal matter going down the birthing canal and all that jazz, but ultimately, it was a very unpleasant scenario giving birth in the hospital. And of course, I at that point wouldn't have been interested in eating the placenta having gone through that experience. For you personally, you gave birth to your kids naturally or did you use one of these birthing centers?
Genevieve: Yeah, I was in a birthing center, and those are really nice 'cause they're designed just for birth. You're not going to have other patients there. It's just for birth, they're really cozy, they have big queen beds and big tubs. It's just designed for birth, and midwives run them, and I'm really sorry that you guys had such a bad experience, and that's what I hear from a lot of moms, and that's my passion is just that when you walk into a hospital, you have to be prepared because they will just come and bombard you with all these interventions and this and that. Certain hospitals are great, but other hospitals are not so great, and it's a lot of added stress for parents because they have enough on their plate with just dealing with their wife and the wife themselves going through this really intense process. The last thing they're thinking about is fending off people or trying to negotiate.
So that's why I like birth centers because it's designed just for birth. It's for low risk births, it has all of the accouterments of home, and the thing is birth is incredibly primal, it's very hormonally based, and if you get into a situation where you're afraid, where it's too shocking, it’s this and that, your adrenaline is going to start going, and literally your birth will stop. Your labor will stop because it's a design of survival because you're not going to give birth if a predator's chasing you or something. So you get into a hospital, it's the fluorescent lights and the BPs and this and the nurses are coming, and it's so crazy and it's bright. It's not indicative for natural birth, right? It should be dark and quiet and safe and cozy and soft, and that's to me what birth centers recreate.
Ben: Now you have a whole section in your book about how to hunt down a natural birthing center and a lot more information about natural birthing centers, but let's say someone does need to have a C-section. I believe you also have a section on there on an alternative form of a cesarean section that I hadn't heard of before, but I think you just referred to it as a gentle C-section. I think, what is that?
Genevieve: Yeah, so I’m a huge believer. I’m a C-section baby myself, okay, and so I was actually an elective C-section baby. So your wife actually gave your sons a benefit for just going through 'cause she did go through some birth, ten hours of it. So any amount of birth is beneficial for babies. So anyways, gentle cesarean, so I'm a huge believer. It's like you could always redeem things, right? So some women need cesareans, they will literally die. In fact the WHO, if they see percentages less than ten percent in certain area, they get concerned that those communities don't have enough medical care and people are dying basically. So thank God we have cesareans, they save lives, but there have been study after study after study that show that C-section babies have higher risks of inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, even cancer. And I really believe a lot of this is gut-microbiome driven.
Ben: Well yeah, and if I could jump in, I think part of it is probably that. Part of it is that parents do not do a good job restoring adequate microbiome status via the use of things like probiotics and breastmilk. And also I think that the type of parent who would automatically opt for an epidural and a C-section might also be the kind of parent who would stray away from natural childbirth and maybe not live as natural a healthy lifestyle anyways? I think that might be part of it as well. There might be a lot of confounding variables there. They might be the average McDonald's, Coca Cola chugging type of person eating a standard American diet, so there's that as well to take into consideration, but yeah it is a valid point. C-sections are not the healthiest thing for a baby.
Genevieve: Right, and what a blessing that your sons have you guys as parents. You reestablish and you help them, and that's the whole thing. That's what the gentle cesarean's about. It really puts the focus on the family and the birthing mom versus making it this medical procedure. So even the way they place the [1:09:49] ______ isn't a way that the mom is not blocked in seeing the birth and also holding her baby after birth. They have see-through drapes 'cause they do like to create a sterile, surgical field, so they have these drapes up, but they're see-through. So again the mom can see.
In fact, two nurses, I think they're out of Ohio. They created a drape that's see-through, and it even has a little flap where they've [1:10:12] ______ passed way after he or she is born. So that's another thing that's really wonderful, the mom is part of this experience. The doctor also is just really cool, he'll make the incision and then let the baby squirm out. It recreates the baby getting squeezed through the birth canal which helps them get rid of a lot of fluids. They pick up a lot of fluid from being in a sack of fluid for nine months, but it also just helps them get out of their lungs, and it's good for them. So that's another thing that's cool that they recreate. They also delay the cutting of the cord. Usually if you have a C-section, they cut the cord immediately, and there's actually a lot of benefits for leaving the cord intact ‘til it starts pulsating, so for several minutes. So they do that, they do immediate skin-to-skin contact that alone is a great way to help your baby's microbiome because they pick up a lot just from your skin, and they do something in the vaginal swap, and this is really what it sounds like.
They swab mom, and they placed that fluid into the baby’s mouth, or they will even put it on the mom's nipples for breastfeeding, and this helps to populate the babies gut, it helps to inform their immune system, it helps with that establishment and the strengthening of their microbiome. So that's super cool, and so it basically supports that first hour after you give birth. Ideally it should be this magical hour where you're bonding, you're connecting, and you guys are flooding each other with endorphins from the skin-to-skin contact. The skin-to-skin contact also helps to regulate the baby's heart rate and breathing and even blood sugar, so it's really beneficial for both the mom and the baby and the dad. The dad should get in on it, and in most C-sections, they whisk baby off. They clean them, they wrap them, they put them in a heater, and they're busy sowing up mom. While they do all of this, they're literally sowing up mom as the mom is breastfeeding and as the mom is in skin-to-skin connection with her child. So it's super cool, it's one of my passions, but it's really not common. It's so new school, it's in less than one percent of hospitals. There's a long way we have to go with it, but it's a really awesome way to do a C-section.
Ben: Yeah, I love it, and I know in your book, you have a lot of information on these natural birthing centers and also ways to get one of these gentle C-sections. So you guys can access the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mamanatural, bengreenfieldfitness.com/mamanatural.
Genevieve, I have kinda an interesting question for you. Because you're pretty immersed in the natural pregnancy movement and in the birthing industry, I guess you could say. Do you think there's anything really interesting coming down the pipeline in terms of ways that you think women will be giving birth differently five or ten years from now, whether that's robots and artificial intelligence or whether it's something a bit more natural than that? What do you see coming down the pipeline when it comes to this industry of childbirth or the way that humans actually bring other humans into the world?
Genevieve: Well I think that's an awesome question, I think, God willing, gentle cesareans will become the norm in hospitals. I think even Western med is really now seeing the power and the importance of the microbiome, so I think I would love to see that, and I think we will eventually get there. I also think home births and birthing center births will continue to grow because just more and more studies come out about their safety, about how they're actually safer. There's better outcomes for baby and mom and most low risk situations, so I think we’re going to continue. We already are seeing an increase in home births and in birth center births. That's just going to continue, so I think eventually we will get to a day where women don't give birth in hospitals unless it's a medical emergency, unless they do need a cesarean, and then it'll be a gentle cesarean. So when we get to that day, it'll be a very happy day, but I just think that like in Europe, most women are giving birth outside of the hospital. The hospital is for sick patients, for people that need emergency care, for surgery, things like that. Not for a very ordinary, yet very miraculous process of birth.
Ben: So you don't think that women will be using oculus rift to go through their childbirth and replicate that and practice everything before they actually go in and give birth?
Genevieve: Well maybe, I mean that would be pretty cool.
Ben: I just made that up on the spot.
Genevieve: I love that, I mean I did that. That's why one of my things for pain relief is really practicing when you're pregnant. Breathing, meditation, visualization, and then you can simulate birth, you know what I mean? Even before you give birth and really imagine it and get all your senses involved, but this is through your own imagination and through breath and through visualization. So yours is a more tech way of doing that, but yeah. I think all that's hugely helpful just to imagine it, to envision it, and then it will become that.
Ben: Interesting. Well, Genevieve, this is fascinating. Your book was a super fun read, and again, if you're expecting, if you plan on expecting, if you want to be expecting whatever or if you know someone, this book is called “The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth”, quite a mouthful, but quite a good book as well. So give it a read, I'll link to it in the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mamanatural. In addition to everything else we talked about from what I'm able to hunt down for red raspberry leaf tea to my interview with the folks at Urban Moonshine and Wendy Myers to Belly Armor to that article about hypermobility, my interview with the guy who did the coffee podcast and much more. So check all of that out at bengreenfieldfitness.com/mamanatural, and in the meantime, Genevieve, thanks for coming on the show.
Genevieve: Thank you so much for having me, Ben. It was so fun.
Ben: Awesome, alright folks. Well I am Ben Greenfield along with Genevieve Howland signing out from bengrenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
For the last half-century, control over childbirth has been in favor of doctors. Many pregnancy guidebooks are conventional, fear-based, or written by male physicians deeply entrenched in the medical model of birth.
But change is underway. A groundswell of women are taking back their pregnancy and childbirth and embracing a natural way. Genevieve Howland, the woman behind the enormously popular Mama Natural blog and YouTube channel, has created an inspiring, fun, and informative guide that demystifies natural pregnancy and walks mom through the process one week at a time.
Her new book, The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth, is the modern (and yet ancient) approach to pregnancy and childbirth. “Natural” recognizes that pregnancy and birth are normal, and that having a baby is a wondrous biological process and rite of passage – not a medical condition. This book draws upon the latest research showing how beneficial and life-changing natural birth is for both babies and moms.
Full of weekly advice and tips for a healthy pregnancy, Howland details vital nutrition to take, natural remedies for common and troublesome symptoms, as well as the appropriate (and inappropriate) use of interventions.
Peppered throughout are positive birth and pregnancy stories from women of all backgrounds (and all stages of their natural journey) along with advice and insights from a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) plus a Registered Nurse (RN), doula, and lactation consultant. Encouraging, well-researched, and fun, The Mama Natural's Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth will be an essential companion for women everywhere to embrace natural pregnancy and reap all the benefits for both baby and mama.
With over 60 million views on her YouTube channel, Genevieve Howland’s funny but informational videos have empowered millions of women to embrace natural pregnancy and parenting. But Genevieve wasn’t always “Mama Natural.” Once upon a time, she was a cigarette smoking junk food junkie. A sugar addict, she was 60 lbs. overweight and her health was in tatters.
Through a long road of detox, Genevieve discovered the healing power of real food and natural living. This transformation spread into every area of her life – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Genevieve gave birth to her two children in a birth center supported by a midwife and doula. Today, Genevieve is on a mission to help moms and moms-to-be live happier, healthier lives. Along with her husband Michael, she runs the web’s most popular natural pregnancy blog and YouTube channel. Their work has been featured on Dr. Oz, ABC News, The Daily Mail, and more.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-Whether you can really eat chocolate and drink coffee when you're pregnant (you'll be surprised at the answer)…[15:30 & 17:45]
-Whether new moms really need to be eating for two (and if there some more precise way to figure out how many calories you should be eating)…[19:20]
-Why Genevieve drank raw milk while she was pregnant…[23:50]
-If you find out your pregnant one of the very first things that you should do to ensure that your home or body or not a toxic place for a baby…[25:30]
-The surprising truth about the accuracy of home pregnancy tests…[31:00]
-Whether it is really true that if you exercise while you're pregnant you will have a smarter baby…[33:45]
-The best stretches or moves to prepare a woman's body to give birth…[41:30]
-One of the best teas to drink for uterine health while pregnant (and some of Genevieve's top natural remedies for morning sickness)…[43:20 & 45:25]
-How a new mom should treat smart technology like phones, computers and ultrasounds to protect a growing baby…[49:40]
-The link between pregnancy, airplanes, flying and miscarriage…[54:45]
-The intriguing evidence about having sex while pregnant (and one thing you definitely shouldn't do during pregnancy sex)…[57:50]
-What Genevieve thinks about the concept of eating the placenta…[59:55]
-How to mitigate the damaging effects of a C-section (and natural C-section alternatives)…[63:00]
-What to expect in the child birthing industry five to ten years from now…[73:00]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
–HARApad Laptop Anti-Radiation Pad, Cell Phone Shield and iPad Anti-Radiation Shield
biOptimzers – Crank your muscle gains to new heights by flooding your muscles with maximal amino acids without increasing your protein intake. Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/biOpt to automatically get 10% off your order.
Four Sigmatic – Try out the Reishi Elixer for extreme relaxation without any grogginess. Use promo code BENGREENFIELD at FourSigmatic.com/greenfield to get 15% off your order.
Onnit – Get 10% off ANYTHING, from functional foods to supplements and beyond, at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/ONNIT
EXO Protein – Tasty and sustainable protein bars made with cricket powder. Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/exoprotein to try a sampler pack with all their most popular flavors!