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Mom Squad with Rhondda Smiley (Doula and Yoga Instructor)

August 1, 2017
mom squad, rhondda smiley, smiley birth services, doula, yoga, breastfeeding, naturopath toronto, toronto naturopath

Meeting Rhondda blew my mind! I peppered her with question after question, because she’s just so knowledgeable about birth and catered her practice to truly helping mom in all aspects of her pregnancy. From prenatal yoga to supporting breastfeeding after birth, this woman does it all! Grab yourself a cup of tea and dig in – there are so many great pearls in this interview!

When can a woman begin prenatal yoga?

Whenever she feels like it. During the first trimester, she may choose to be conservative in her practice, watch her energy levels, and avoid twists, inversions, or jumps. Listen to what your body has to tell you. Yoga during pregnancy is a wonderful path to cultivate your own deep inner knowing of what’s right for you, your body, your baby and your pregnancy.

Does every yoga class have the same sequence, or do you modify it based on the yogis?

I don’t teach a set sequence. I like to change things up from class to class.

We do usually begin with some attention to the breath and a short mindfulness practice, to release tension and arrive to our practice. Then there’s a few minutes to check in with each other. Each person has an opportunity to share any news from the pregnancy or how they are feeling, whether they are working with any particular issues in their body and so on. Then I can tailor our practice to accommodate those individual needs.

Every class includes poses to bring the pelvis into healthy balance, movements that flow with the breath, standing postures that build the strength to power you through labour, and of course a yummy svasana or restorative pose to end on a relaxing note.

Is there one universal yoga pose that is beneficial for each trimester?

While there is never one-size-fits-all, a wide kneed child’s pose can be helpful to many during all stages of pregnancy. It helps to keep the pelvis open and relieves low back tension. It allows for a deep breath that moves through the belly, back and pelvic floor. It may encourage baby to move into an optimal position for labour. If it feels too crowded to bring your forehead down to the ground, you can support your upper body by resting on your forearms, a firm cushion or birth ball.

Why is a doula a great support to have during a birth?

There are soooo many reasons! But here are three that are key.

A hallmark of doula care is continuous support. As your doula I’m with you from early labour, through active labour and delivery, straight through until an hour or two after the birth, with no shift changes or extended breaks. I’m usually the only person on your care team who’s with you for the whole journey once labour starts, and that continuity can be just the reassurance you need.

My number one job is to do all that I can to ensure that the birthing person feels safe, nurtured and heard. The rest of your care team – your doctors and nurses or midwives –  have the physical health and safety of you and your baby as their primary role. Good clinical caregivers may also provide emotional support – but it’s not their first priority. When they are called to attend to your clinical needs, I will always be there to support your very real emotional needs. How you feel during your birth experience matters. The mind-body connection means that when you feel safe and at ease, you unleash a physiological response that allows your body to labour efficiently.

And then there’s this. A doula and a birth partner – whether it’s a spouse, parent or friend – make a match made in heaven. Your partner knows you, and I know birth! Partners – I’ll share with you my best tried and true comfort measures to keep her at ease, making you look like a rock star in her eyes! I could never replace you, and in fact do all I can to encourage connection between you. I also know you may be feeling overwhelmed and support you with information, experience, and breaks!

So many of my clients – and especially their partners – tell me after their birth, “I knew it would be great to have you there, but I had no idea how much you would offer me”.

What is a postpartum doula, and what does she do?

Think about a postpartum doula like having your BFF over – but one who knows ALL about babies! As a postpartum doula, I share experience, hands-on help, information and encouragement with parents of new babies. When I arrive to a postpartum visit, I look and listen to find out what is most needed in the household so that everyone can feel as nourished as possible in body, mind and spirit. I follow your lead and support your choices for what works best for your family without judgement.

What does that look like? An old hand who can tell you about normal newborn behaviour and development. Experienced support as you learn the ropes with breastfeeding. Warm arms to soothe your baby while you take a nap or shower. A friendly reminder to keep yourself fed and hydrated while bringing you a drink and nutritious snack. An extra pair of hands while you balance the needs of your new baby and your toddler. A companion who accompanies you to the pediatrician or midwife’s office, or runs a neighbourhood errand for you. An insider who knows all the best local resources. A compassionate ear who will help you process the tremendous changes you and your family are moving through.

Most expectant parents are so focused on the birth that they haven’t given much thought to how they are going to manage once baby is here. Parents who don’t have the support of near-by friends and family can benefit from booking a postpartum doula before the birth, as will any family that is feeling overwhelmed once baby has arrived. As a postpartum doula, I don’t take over the care of your baby. Rather, I share tools and impart confidence as you learn how to satisfy the unique needs of your baby.

Some doulas – yours truly included – even provide overnight support. This can be a lifesaver if you’ve got twins, your partner is away or sick, or just to help you get caught up on some much needed sleep!

What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day off right?

Before I get out of bed, when I’m still lying there and thinking about what the day may hold, I try to consider how what I’m going to do may be of service to others. It’s so easy to wake up, map out the day, and think, “what do I have to look forward to today, what am I going to get out of it?” Instead I try to start the day by breaking that self-centred impulse and begin with the most positive motivation I can fire up.

What’s your favourite self-care practice?

Breathing. No, really!

The moments when I pause to take even just a few rounds of full, conscious breath make SUCH a difference. Even just ONE good breath can totally change how I’m feeling in my body, my feelings, my energy level, my state of mind, and how I am in my present situation.

Making time to spend a little longer exploring my breath is like a trip to the spa for my mind and body – delicious! And it’s always available! You don’t need to go anywhere, change your clothes, buy anything, get a partner, be in any particular position… It’s always available to us – right here, right now.

What is your favourite yoga pose?

I’d like to think that I’m like the mother of many children who is when asked, “which one is your favourite?”, replies “which ever one I’m with right now”. But I do really love to spend time in child’s pose.

How can moms connect with you?

Website: www.smileybirthservices.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/smileybirthservices/
Instagram: smileybirth

Because I believe that the best way to get to know someone is face-to-face, I offer a complimentary in-person consultation for moms who’d like to find out more about how doula care can add value to their birth experience. I take the time to listen to what’s important to them, answer any questions about doula care and see if we’re a good fit, because in the end Mom’s comfort level is the first priority. Moms can connect with me at www.smileybirthservices.com to book a session.

On your way out

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Other #MomSquad members: Angelique Montano-Bresolin, Olivia Scobie, Beth Yarzab, Stephanie Kishimoto

Guide to Postpartum Thyroiditis: Why you may not be feeling like yourself!

April 11, 2017
postpartum thyroiditis, naturopathic doctor toronto, female friday, naturopathic doctor danforth

Becoming a mom for the first time (or again!) can be incredibly exhausting. Not only are you raising a human being, but you’re also in the postpartum recovery phase! Moreover, you’re likely exhausted from a lack of sleep, worried about producing enough breast milk, losing hair, having difficulty losing weight and may be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression. Many of the symptoms that new moms experience are also seen in thyroid conditions – like postpartum thyroiditis.

Postpartum thyroiditis is a thyroid condition that occurs in women who previously had a thyroid disease or just delivered a baby. This is a disease of the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck which produces hormones that regulate metabolism and helps control the body’s organs. 

Phases of Postpartum Thyroiditis

During postpartum thyroiditis, a mom might switch between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism may occur 1-4 months after delivery, while hypothyroidism may occur 4-8 months after delivery. 

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid is overactive and overproducing T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones), with a low thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). 

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Tremor
  • Weight loss

Signs of Hyperthyroidism

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased sweating
  • Fast heart rate
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Fine, brittle hair
  • Thinning skin
  • Increased menstrual cycle length
  • Scanty menstrual flow

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid function is under active and isn’t producing enough T3 or T4. Moreover, TSH level is elevated because it’s trying to ‘turn’ the thyroid on and produce more hormones. 

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Unexplained weight gain or 
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Constipation
  • Intolerance to cold temperature
  • Tender, stiff or weak muscles
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in joints
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating and impaired memory
  • Irritability
  • Decreased libido
  • Infertility

Signs of Hypothyroidism

  • Reduced resting body temperature
  • Goitre
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails
  • Dry skin
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Irregular menstrual periods

Lab Tests for the Thyroid

Diagnosis of a thyroid condition involves both symptoms and blood work. Ideally women should be getting a thyroid function test prior to pregnancy (as the thyroid can have important implications in neonatal neurodevelopment), and should be tested at least 3-6 months postpartum. 

Moms should be tested if they have a history of autoimmune conditions (like Type 1 Diabetes), a history of thyroid disease before or during (any) pregnancy, or experiencing postpartum depression. 

  • TSH: Thyroid stimulating hormone is the best test for both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. In hyperthyroidism, TSH will be decreased while in hypothyroidism TSH will be increased.
    • Optimal range for TSH is 1-2 mIU/L (non-pregnant patients)
  • Free T4: This is the storage form of the thyroid hormone.
    • Optimal range is 14-18 pmol/L (non-pregnant patients)
  • Free T3: This is the active form of thyroid hormone. The thyroid should be making T3 and the peripheral tissues (like the liver and kidneys) should be converting T4 to T3.
    • Optimal range is 5-6 pmol/L (non-pregnant patients)
  • Anti-TPO: This is the antithyroid peroxidase antibody, which will be elevated in autoimmune thyroid disorders. It signifies autoimmune thyroid disease, and the higher the level, the greater oxidative stress within the thyroid gland. It is an indicator of future thyroid disease. 

Treating Thyroid Disorders

Treating the thyroid can be incredibly tricky and should be accompanied by support through a MD or ND. Nevertheless, there are things you can start to do at home to support and optimize thyroid health!

Decreasing Inflammation

Because it’s thought that women who develop postpartum thyroiditis likely have an underlying autoimmune thyroid condition, it’s best to adopt as much of an anti-inflammatory diet as possible.

The fix: Eliminating gluten and dairy (which can be highly inflammatory), may be positive step towards improving thyroid health. 

Chronic stress is incredibly inflammatory and affects our thyroid by actually ‘slowing’ the body down to conserve energy. The stress hormone, cortisol, causes an increase in thyroid binding globulin (TBG) which binds the active thyroid hormone and prevents it from doing its job. 

The fix: We all know that being a new mom can be incredibly stressful, so communicating with your partner, asking for help, and taking a bit of time for yourself whenever you can may help in reducing stress levels.

Decreasing Toxic Load

Toxins may interfere with thyroid function. This includes heavy metals (cadmium, mercury, lead) which may lower T3 levels, halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine) which may interfere with iodine uptake, and BPA which interferes with endocrine function. 

The fixCostume jewellery has been shown to contain cadmium, and can be absorbed via our skin through chronic exposure. Fluorine can be found in tap water, as well as toothpaste. Whereas bromine may be found as an additive in food products such as dough. When drinking, it’s ideal to drink filtered water out of glass or stainless steel bottles (even if your plastic bottle claims to be BPA-free!). Storing food in glass containers rather than plastic containers or packages. 

Keep in mind that if your interested in completing a heavy metal detox, it’s is not advised during breastfeeding, as breastmilk is a route of elimination for metals.

Tracking Body Temperature

Normal body temperature is 37.0C (98.6F). As previously mentioned, it will be low in hypothyroidism (everything is slowing down) and high in hyperthyroidism (everything is speeding up).

The fix: We want to restore the body’s normal temperature. This is not a treatment per se, however tracking your body temperature throughout the day (at waking, in the afternoon, and in the evening) will help give us a baseline average of what your temperature is. As you progress with treatment, we can continue to track the temperature to see how your body is responding! 

Next Steps

As I previously mentioned, in order to determine if you have postpartum thyroiditis it’s best to look at your symptoms and blood work. Moms should also remember that many factors can affect the health of the thyroid – for instance an iron deficiency can decrease levels of thyroid hormone and prevent conversion from the inactive to active form. Plus, iron deficiency can also be a cause for fatigue and hair loss!

Because the thyroid plays such a critical role in our health, it’s important to work together with a health professional (like a ND!) to go about healing and restoring normal thyroid function. With my patients, I take a look at their entire health history to see what exactly is being affected by suboptimal thyroid levels and how to go about healing – rather than tackling everything at once and potentially causing the body more stress. 

So if you’re a mom experiencing exhaustion, hair loss, depression or even a low body temperature – it could be because of your thyroid! Book an appointment with a ND because this doesn’t need to be your new ‘normal!’