Category: Pregnancy

Dear friends, supporters, and community members,

BirthWays was founded in 1977 in response to the low-birthweight epidemic of the time. Through classes and outreach BirthWays served pregnant people in preparing for their birth and having healthier pregnancies.  

Over the years, BirthWays has continued to strive to meet the needs of pregnant people and new families. As we assess the needs of our community today, we have decided to focus on matching families with the professional support they need on an individual level. In order to best utilize our resources as an all volunteer organization, the board of directors has decided to stop offering public classes and put our energy into cultivating and expanding our Volunteer Doula Program,  Meet the Doula Nights and referral programs. Given this change, we have also decided to no longer have a physical space in North Berkeley and instead go into the communities we are hoping to serve. 

We believe as the issue of the late seventies was low-birthweight the issue of today is  the discrepancy in care of people of color and the institutionalized racism resulting in a maternal mortality rate for people of color being four times that of white people. 

We ask our community to support us in the transition to provide people with the professional and individualized support they need in pregnancy and early parenting. We are grateful for our community and for the trust local families have put in BirthWays as they prepared to grow their families. We look forward to keeping you updated with our progress and growth. 

In thanks,

BirthWays Board of Directors

New Mom’s Group – Please contact Stacia at staciadoula@gmail.com.

By: Simona Fino

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead

Most everyone acknowledges the importance of a village, yet our American culture places more value on the individual or nuclear family, which makes it difficult for many to truly believe our village is available. Women especially are encouraged to “do it all.” But can we do it all? Can we be expected to succeed as parents with such limited support? What would life be like if we had true village support?

The first step to building a strong community is to acknowledge that our villages are an essential component of a happy life. For many, this isn’t easy. In a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” society, asking for help is a sign of weakness, being indebted to others is a negative thing, and asking family and friends for support is encroaching on their personal freedom.

However, quite the opposite is true in many cultures around the world. Asking for help is a sign of strength and knowing your limits and being indebted to others is a positive thing creating a symbiotic relationship with people you love. Asking for support gives your family and friends the opportunity to feel useful and experience the joy of helping others.

Maintain Connections and Offer Support

A village is important for all phases of life but especially as families are created, because that is often when community is needed most. The next step is to build strong community, maintain connections and offer support. Below are some practical ways to maintain positive and supportive connections with friends and family:

  • Call friends and family and make plans to spend quality, one-on-one time together such as sharing a meal or enjoying a walk or hike in nature. One hour of quality time is far better than several hours of Facebook check-ins.
  • Offer direct support to those in your community when you see a need or even ‘just because’. Don’t wait for others to ask for help but instead make the first move. Offer to take their children for a couple of hours; call those going through rough times and ask them what they need; offer to grocery shop or bring a meal over to an elder or parents with a new baby; offer to weed someone’s garden or help them with a project (always more fun with help!). Should you receive an offer for help say “Yes, please!” and “Thank you!”
  • Already have a baby or child? Encourage childcare trades with several nearby families and start by making the first offer. This is a great way to connect with other parents and get to know each others’ children.
  • Ask Aunties and Uncles (aka friends you really love) to watch your baby from those very first newborn days. Nearly everyone loves to spend an hour holding a newborn and if they are spending time with your little ones consistently they will develop a sweet and special bond that is wonderful to watch grow. These friends will learn how to care for your little one, you will learn to let go and trust, and your little one will learn they have many loving adults in their world whom they can count on to take care of their needs.
  • Maintain connections with friends who don’t have kids. Spend one-on-one time with them, letting them know their friendship is appreciated. Ask them to get involved with your family by spending time with your little ones – encourage them to be aunties & uncles!
  • Demonstrate that you are taking care of yourself and then offer to support others in taking care of themselves. “Would you mind watching our daughter for a few hours over the weekend so we can go out on a date? We’d be happy to reciprocate so you can also get out!”
  • Express gratitude! Everyone likes to feel appreciated and useful so let your friends and family know how much you appreciate them by telling them.
  • Friends and family live far away? Send snail mail cards offering emotional support and love. A short but thoughtful card is usually more appreciated and meaningful than an electronic message.

Ask for Help

The third step to building strong community is learning to ask for help. This is a big challenge for most of us.  But we can change our beliefs and come to understand that asking for help is a positive thing. Start by asking for small things from close friends and family and then, become brave, and ask for more. The more you practice, the easier it will become. An ask can also include an offer: “Might you be available to take my baby for a few hours so I can get some things done around the house? I’m free Saturday next week to take your little one if you’d like.”

Let Go

The final step to building strong community is learning to let go.  Allowing someone else to care for you and your child is important. Trust your friends and family can take good care of your little ones and they will. Hover over them and they will lose faith in their own abilities. They may not do things exactly the way you do and that is okay. Let go and appreciate all the wonderful things they bring to your child’s world. Personally, I like to keep in mind the simple fact I cannot teach my daughter everything. My friends and family have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom and I’m ever so grateful they are sharing it with her.

As you build your strong community and become part of giving and receiving support you will find parenting, and life in general, becomes simpler and more joyful. Remember, it really does take a village!

  • Acknowledge the need for your village
  • Build your community by maintaining connections and offering support
  • Ask for help and express gratitude
  • Let go and enjoy your village support!

If you’ve found these tips helpful, let me know! And I would certainly love to hear what has worked for you. Please share your tips by replying at http://wp.me/p5gqHr-4Q.  To learn more about caring for your family naturally and simplifying your life, sign up to receive my newsletter and blog posts at http://www.simonafino.com


 

Simona is a certified Postpartum and Birth Doula offering families support through pregnancy and beyond. She brings simplicity into family life by offering organizational and de-cluttering assistance as well as help in creating family rhythms around food, sleep and play.

By: Lila Ann Frechette

Loving our bodies can help us love our lives. We can support this love with a daily practice that is as much an exercise in cultivating compassion, as it is of nurturing physical and physiological wellness. By lightly oiling your body for five to fifteen minutes, you can revitalize your nervous system and dispel stress—perfect to do right before getting in the shower.

The Practice
Massaging oil on your body can be done as a quick covering starting at your head and working your way down to your toes, or it can be done as a mindful meditation, massaging oil on the individual parts of your body and appreciating how each part serves you as a whole. A thin coating of oil is all it takes. Use long strokes on your limbs and circular strokes on your joints.
Hint: Warming the oil adds to the delight. Heat the oil by immersing the bottle in a bowl of warmed water, enjoy.

Dry skin is vulnerable to outside elements and irritation. This burden of irritation strains the nervous system and adds to an overall sense of distress. Fortunately, these body-oiling practices are beneficial to your skin, keeping it supple and maintaining its integrity as a source of protection. With longer practices, you will likely also experience a deepened sense of self-compassion and mindfulness.

By tending to your body in this way with oil and massage, you acknowledge and reinforce the boundary of what is yours and what is not yours. This is the ideal opportunity to choose what best supports and nourishes you.

Be selective in what you let in. Olive, sesame, and coconut oil are all good oil options. Sesame is warming and especially nice during the cool winter months. Coconut oil is a good ally for those with heat conditions, like eczema, showing up in their skin. Keep in mind that what you put on your skin is assimilated and becomes a part of you, if only temporarily.

Think of this daily dose of self-care as a blessing of compassion, wellness, and protection. In Sanskrit the word sneha means both “oil” and “love”. As you massage the oil on your body, consider the significance of this action and the effects of enveloping yourself in love.


Lila Ann Frechette works as an ally to women’s wellness. Providing hands-on healing, compassionate support, and effective self-care suggestions. It is her desire to assist you to find ease in your body, move thru challenges supported, and ultimately open up to your full potential. Lila Ann is a massage therapist, a Maya abdominal therapies practitioner and a holistic lifestyle consultant. Lila can be reached at: Lunabeebody.com or (510) 861-2572.

By: Dr. Ariel Provasoli

As you may know, during pregnancy many women experience discomfort from all the changes their bodies are going through. It’s not unusual to hear soon-to-be moms sharing about back pain as the baby grows into new places and their center of gravity shifts. These drastic changes can cause an imbalance in the spine and also aggravate imbalances that previously went unnoticed as the hormone relaxin increases and the body’s joints loosen.

Here are nine tips you can use to help prevent mild achiness.

  1. Move Your Body: If you are working at a desk or sitting still, get up and take a break several times an hour. You can go on a short walk, get a glass of water or stand up and do some shoulder rolls. When you sit, use a small wedge or a hand towel folded into thirds and placed under your sit bones. Using this support will tilt your pelvis forward, slightly lifting and lengthening the muscles that flex your hips and tighten as your baby grows.
  2. Lift Properly: Chances are you have a little one who wants to be picked up or if this is your first pregnancy you aren’t experienced in what your physical limits may be quite yet. When you lift, be sure to keep your spine straight and hinge at your hips, drop your behind low so your chest is close to what you are picking up and hold it close to you. The further away the object is from you, the more strain it will put on your spine. Avoid twisting to reach for something in the car or while doing laundry or loading a dishwasher.
  3. Stand Well: Your abdominal muscles are changing and the loss of their engagement can cause low back pain as well as pubic bone pain. While you’re standing you can still engage those lower tummy muscles and relieve discomfort by softening the backs of your knees and tucking your tailbone down toward the floor. This shift will create some relief by removing the curve from your lower back, which is being exaggerated by the weight of your baby.
  4. Exercise: Regular exercise during your pregnancy will help get your body’s natural endorphins going and it will also help keep your endurance up to prepare you for labor. Walking, swimming, prenatal yoga or pilates, and some bodyweight exercises and cardio are all great. Getting regular adjustments will help keep your joints moving and properly aligned so you can do these activities pain free.
  5. Rest Well:Living in the beautiful Bay Area it’s easy to do, do, do. NOW is the time to get good rest. Rest can be taking a nap, getting a massage, having a day with nothing planned, or reading a book (not being on a computer reading). Rest is equally as important as sleep.
  6. Meditation: By taking time to calm your mind or disengage from all the new information you may be getting from every angle about your pregnancy and what to expect, you are creating space to check in with your breath, yourself and your baby. Using visualization and breath can be the most self supportive things you can bring to your birth and clearly visioning what you desire will help you to create a calm, confident space for yourself before you embark on your birth journey.
  7. Sleep Right: Sleep is a common issue for pregnant women and to make it more comfortable start with your mattress: it should be supportive and not too soft. Side sleeping with a fort of pillows will best support your body. Place a pillow between your knees and arms so you have something to hug. A thin pillow placed under your ribs where your waist is, and maybe something under your growing belly will help support those areas too.
  8. Under Do It: You’ve heard people say, “I just over did it today.” A goal I like to suggest is to Under Do It. This is an opportunity for you to check in with yourself throughout each day and ask yourself where you’re at: physically, mentally and emotionally. If there’s too much going on, you are on the brink of being overwhelmed or you’re starting to feel physical discomfort ask for help or delegate a chore to someone else. And if a friend, family member or doula offers their help, accept it. Getting assistance won’t push you beyond your limit and your body and baby will thank you.
  9. Ask Me: Pain, whether in your back, pelvis, neck, or hands and feet is never normal, especially during pregnancy. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, please consult with a chiropractor who specializes in prenatal care. This specific work is largely focused on assisting women feel more comfortable throughout their entire pregnancy by removing imbalances in the body. Chiropractic adjustments are gentle, safe and naturally remove interference which may be in the way of your body’s own self healing capabilities. Regular chiropractic care during pregnancy assists with reducing pain and discomfort. I would be happy to answer questions you may have or find the right person to work with you through my extensive network of perinatal practitioners.

Implementing these tips can help prevent injury and lead to a more comfortable pregnancy while creating a calm environment for you and your baby. Remember the most important way you can take care of your baby while pregnant is to take care of yourself.


Dr. Ariel Provasoli, Family Chiropractor, provides gentle, holistic chiropractic care for the whole family, specializing in pediatrics, pregnancy and postpartum care. Please contact us via our website: www.berkeleyflow.com to schedule your complimentary 60 minute phone consultation on Creating Your Ideal Pregnancy or an appointment at Flow Chiropractic and Family Wellness Center.

By: Virginia Watkins

Gestation and childbirth are no easy task, even at the cellular level. Your body needs specific foods to replenish nutrient stores, help you feel more energized, and to support the healing process. If you are breastfeeding, eating a nourishing diet not only helps you feel better, it can increase the quality of your breast milk.

Besides filling your pantry and fridge with nourishing foods, it’s important to make time to eat. Ask your partner or a friend to take your baby for a walk while you sit down and enjoy a meal for twenty to thirty minutes. That simple act can feed you in many ways; it supports better digestion; the body can absorb nutrients more efficiently in a more relaxed state; and mindful eating leads to more satisfaction so you’re more likely to eat the amount that you need.

Here’s a list of five foods you can buy or easily make, some yummy serving suggestions, and how they benefit you and your baby.

    1. Cultured dairy
      Organic whole milk yogurt and kefir help replenish calcium stores. Their supply of healthy fat and protein also stabilizes blood sugar levels, resulting in more energy and better moods. While some women are not able to digest milk, cultured dairy contains much less lactose than regular milk and has beneficial probiotics. These healthy bacteria strengthen the immune system and help with nutrient absorption.
      Calcium, in particular, is used in utero for growing bones. Even if you’ve taken calcium supplements before and throughout your pregnancy, food remains the best source of absorbable calcium.
      Serving Suggestions: To reduce processed sugar intake, look for plain organic whole milk yogurt and kefir. Use bananas and berries as natural sweeteners or a spoonful of preserves, local honey, or maple syrup. Add crumbled walnuts or slivered almonds for an even greater nutrient boost.
    2. Mollusks (oysters, mussels, and particularly, clams)
      These two-shelled morsels contain more iron than liver or red meat. If you’re not a meat or mollusk eater, spinach and molasses are good sources of plant-derived or heme-iron, but they still provide less iron than animal foods, which contain more absorbable heme-iron.

      During childbirth, women commonly lose blood, which can result in an iron deficiency. Without enough iron, a postpartum mom can feel sluggish and depleted, and even become anemic. Since most postpartum moms are also sleep deprived, it becomes more important to support energy levels with adequate iron intake. After having my children, I could feel my energy levels improve postpartum when I ate liver and other iron-rich foods; I even craved them.
      Serving Suggestions: Squeeze lemon on your oysters or add clams to tomato sauce as vitamin C improves the body’s ability to absorb iron.

    3. Dark Leafy Greens
      Looking for a great source of calcium that’s not in a pill or glass? Fresh greens such as rainbow chard, beet greens, dino (lacinato) kale, escarole and arugula are some of my favorites. For convenience, look for the pre-washed varieties. These foods provide a wide spectrum of valuable minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. They’re also good at stabilizing blood sugar levels.Serving Suggestions: Steam greens gently in a covered pot or skillet with a little water or broth; remove center rib of kale or chard and chop thinly to use in salads with a 30-Second Homemade Vinaigrette (see recipe below); add to wraps; or mix greens in warm grain salads with quinoa, millet, or farro.
    4. Natural Sugars
      It’s 3pm and you need a boost. Instead of reaching for foods with processed sugar or a sweet caffeinated concoction at your local café, keep a variety of fresh seasonal fruit on hand. If you’re looking for gluten-free alternatives, try roasting Japanese sweet potatoes and delicata squash; I find these sweeter and more delicious than the other varieties.
      Fresh fruit and starchy vegetables contain important nutrients and fiber that slow down digestion, reducing a blood sugar spike. Without the spike and crash, energy levels remain more stable and less erratic.
      Serving Suggestions: Bring along a piece of fruit when you leave home for a healthy snack on-the-go. Eat your fruit with some nuts. The combination of fruit and nuts will further reduce a spike in blood sugar levels and also satisfy hunger for a longer period of time.Cooking Tip: Preheat oven or toaster oven (it cuts off automatically) to 350 degrees, scrub potato, yam, or squash and place on a tray. Cook for 30-60 minutes depending on the size. The flesh should pierce easily with a fork when done. Serve with coconut oil, nutmeg or cinnamon, and sea salt. With squash, slice open and remove seeds first.
    5. Nuts and Seeds
      Choose your favorites and keep on-hand in a container in your stroller, car, or purse. Hunger may strike unexpectedly if you are breastfeeding. Look for raw or roasted as roasting doesn’t decrease the nutrient content significantly. Choose salted or unsalted; salt is essential for proper cellular function.

      Nuts contain good-quality fats, protein, and fiber, all of which assist in stabilizing blood sugar levels. They are easy to tote and to eat with one hand for a snack if you are holding your baby with the other.

      I recommend almonds for their superior calcium content, walnuts for their high omega-3 content and versatility (soaked and toasted walnuts are my go-to nut), pumpkin seeds for their high zinc levels, which helps with tissue repair, and sesame seeds for their high calcium content.
      Serving Suggestions: Hummus contains tahini, a paste made with sesame seeds, so if you like hummus, eat it with sugar snap peas, carrots (scrubbed but not peeled as most of the nutrients are in the skin), and cherry tomatoes. These veggies are all easy to prepare and are full or phytonutrients. Personally, I prefer dipping carrot sticks in roasted salted almond butter for a yummy high-calcium snack.

30-Second Homemade Vinaigrette
Makes about ¾ cup

  • 2 Tbs aged vinegar such as sherry (my favorite), red wine, or champagne vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea or mineral salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

Shake together in a sealed jar until well blended. Shake again as needed.

It does not need to be refrigerated. Both vinegar and olive oil are shelf-stable ingredients.

This week make a commitment to try at least one or two of these foods recommended here. Start with what appeals to you most and notice if you feel more nourished.


Virginia Watkins completed her post-graduate studies in Nutrition Education at Bauman College in Berkeley, CA. While an undergraduate at Duke University, she studied French cooking in Montpellier, France, continuing an early fascination with food. In addition to working with families and individuals, Virginia has spoken to hundreds of people in community talks and workshops, organizes grocery tours, and teaches hands-on, in-home cooking classes to individuals and groups. She is also the mother of a two well-fed boys, ages five and eight.