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Staying Clean Without The Chemicals

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Have you ever read the ingredients list on your shampoo bottle? Do you know what is in the toothpaste you use? Have you ever wondered how safe the chemicals in your kitchen or bathroom cleaner are?

Conventional hygiene and cleaning products contain some pretty questionable things. Most are unpronounceable, and definitely can’t be made outside of a lab. Think about how many products you use in one day; toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizer, lotion, perfume/cologne, deodorant, make-up, make-up remover… and that’s just personal hygiene products! Chances are you also have that cupboard under the sink chock full of various cleaning products; stuff specially made for counters, toilets, glass, tile, ovens, floors, walls, carpets, dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid.. and not to mention laundry detergent, stain remover, fabric softener, and dryer sheets.

Talk about a toxic overload! We take these things for granted; it’s just ‘what you do’ isn’t it? But the effects of these products on our bodies is serious business. The toxins in these chemical cocktails can cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, birth defects, infertility, and disorders of the brain or nervous system, among other things. If you want to read how this happens, Chris Kresser’s post on toxins is a good start. I’m not going to tell you the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of it all- there are many articles and books on the subject already. I’m just going to tell you what I’ve personally been doing for the last 2.5 years to lessen my chemical load.

In addition to the health implications, buying all these products can get expensive. If you add up how much money you spend in a year on household cleaners and personal hygiene, you may be surprised at the amount. The methods I use are not only good for you, but super cheap! We only spend about £60 per year.

HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS

I use vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, olive oil, and/or Charlie’s soap powder for everything.

Most cleaning is done with my homemade all-purpose cleaner; a mixture of 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar, with a few drops of essential oil added for scent. I make a tea tree version (which is naturally antibacterial) and a lavender one. It gets used on kitchen surfaces, windows and mirrors, inside the fridge and microwave (which has now been put away since we never use it), on the toilet, sink, and bath, on the floors, cupboards, and nearly anywhere else I want to clean. Vinegar is primarily composed of acetic acid and has many cleaning uses, according to the Wikipedia page.

Castile soap is traditionally made from olive oil or laurel oil and can be used to clean floors or dishes. You can add castile soap to water for another all-purpose cleaner.

For laundry, I use Charlie’s soap powder. There are several recipes online for making your own laundry powder, but Charlie’s is cheap enough and easy, which is essential with a newborn! Charlie’s is safe for use on cloth nappies and is very concentrated. 1 tablespoon is all you need for a full load of laundry- really. A £15 1.2kg jar lasts us 6 months, and that is doing laundry every day or every other day. Charlie’s also makes a range of other products, including liquid detergent, stain remover, and dishwasher detergent.

Sometimes Caleb’s gNappies get stained, even after going through the wash. When this happens, I boil them in a pot on the stove, with a teaspoon of baking soda added to the water. The stains come out instantly. Baking soda can also be used to dissolve stubborn messes, such as stains on the inside of the oven. Add vinegar for an extra boost. Baking soda is also great at neutralizing odors; sprinkle some on the carpets before you vacuum, or keep an open box in the fridge.

You may be wondering what I use olive oil for. We have a lovely wood dining table and set of chairs, and olive oil is a gentle and effective furniture polish.

PERSONAL CARE

The only products I generally use are; castile soap, coconut oil, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, and Salt of the Earth crystal deodorant.

Castile soap is not only a great household cleaner, it cleans bodies and hair too! I use it as a body wash and shampoo, as well as a hand soap. It’s safe for babies and children, as well as adults. Dr Bronner’s castile soap comes in several different scents. My favorites are citrus and peppermint.

Coconut oil is the only thing I put on my skin. It’s a great moisturizer plus it smells delicious! It is also purported to prevent sunburn when used as a sunscreen (if we ever get sunshine strong enough to burn skin, I will try it and let you know!). While I don’t use conditioner (who needs it? My hair feels no worse now than when I used conditioner every day) I do sometimes use coconut oil as a hair mask. Apply melted oil to hair from root to tip. Leave this on for as little as 15 minutes, or overnight if you want. You will probably need to wash your hair a couple times to get it all out, but you will be left with lovely, soft hair! Coconut oil is also a very effective make-up remover! Put some melted oil on a cotton ball and watch as your make-up disappears.

Olive oil can also be used in place of coconut oil for any of these things. In fact, Jeanne Calment who is known for having the longest confirmed lifespan ever, ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food and rubbed onto her skin.

I use Tom’s of Maine Propolis and Myrrh Fennel Fluoride-Free toothpaste. It tastes nice but not overpowering like regular toothpastes, doesn’t have the nasty chemicals or fluoride that conventional toothpaste has, and the price is alright. A little goes a long way, and a tube generally lasts me 6 months. However toothpaste is easy enough to make yourself, too. Coconut oil + baking soda + essential oil is a popular recipe.

Deodorants and antiperspirants may seem innocuous but most contain aluminium, among other harmful ingredients. This heavy metal can cause nervous system disorders and is connected to Alzheimer’s disease. Also, antiperspirants suppress your body’s natural release of toxins through sweat. Since I switched to eating paleo, I don’t sweat or smell much (pregnancy notwithstanding). A lot of paleo folks have found this to be the case. I don’t need any heavy-duty deodorants, and I find crystal deodorant works well for me. This handy FAQ page from one company sums up how it works. If you don’t like the idea of using a salt crystal, coconut oil mixed with baking soda makes a good deodorant. There are other recipes online which call for a few more ingredients, if you want to get fancy!

I don’t use perfume or wear make-up, except on special occasions. I know many people aren’t willing to forgo these things. In that case, consider switching to less-harmful products, such as essential oil and mineral makeup. The Skin Deep Database  is a fantastic resource which “creates online safety profiles for cosmetics and personal care products. Our aim is to fill in where industry and government leave off. Companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish. The U.S. government doesn’t review the safety of products before they’re sold. Our staff scientists compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases.” There are over 79,000 products in their database, rated on a scale of 1-10 (10 being most toxic). Find out how your favourite products rate, and find less-harmful alternatives.

There are many other methods and products available for household cleaning and personal care, such as soap nuts or homemade dryer sheets. You can even make your own makeup! I do really like to keep this as simple as possible though, so I haven’t tried many of those options. You may wonder if all this actually keeps our environment clean enough. Since switching 2.5 years ago, I’ve been sick twice. I had a sinus infection after having surgery two years ago (which I attribute to being in the hospital), and I had a mild cold while I was pregnant. My partner has been sick just as infrequently. Our son is 15 weeks old and has never been sick. That is proof to us that we don’t need all the antibacterial, antimicrobial, harsh products marketed to us.

Are you considering switching from any conventional products to natural ones? What would be the hardest thing for you to give up? Remember that it’s okay to start small and make a gradual transition. Any reduction in exposure to toxins is going to boost your health!

My Very Un-Natural Birth

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Let me say from the outset: This is not a feel-good birth story. This is not a model on which to plan your next birth. This is also not intended to scare anyone. It is only the story of my first birth, how it went so off course, and how I got through what could be considered the worst time of my life.

Pregnancy and birth has always interested me. I have many birth-y friends, I read a lot on the topic, and before I ever got pregnant, I had lots of ideas about how I may like to handle labour and delivery. When I actually got pregnant, I spent my time preparing for birth in all sorts of ways; yoga and yogic breathing, visualisation, meditation, sitting on a birth ball, talking about my feelings and expectation with my partner, Dan, and attending a weekly holistic pregnancy and birth group (Run by http://mamakind.org/ . Highly recommended if you live nearby).

Pregnancy was enjoyable. I loved my baby, I loved my body, I loved my partner and how I felt. I didn’t even mind the 17 weeks of morning sickness that much. I was otherwise healthy, eating lots of good foods like fermented cod liver oil, grass-fed butter and meats, eggs, a range of vegetables, coconut oil and herbal teas. My birth plan also went hand-in-hand with the hunter-gatherer lifestyle the paleo way of eating seeks to emulate. What could go wrong, right?

The gist of my plan was that I would have a calm, hands-off, unmedicated home water birth with a midwife and doula present (my fantastic doula was Ruth Willis , whom I can’t recommend highly enough). I would catch my baby and initiate breastfeeding right away. We would delay cord clamping. I would have my placenta encapsulated. We would decline Vitamin K injections and antibiotic eye drops for our baby.

What actually happened can’t even be considered the opposite of that. My ideal birth and the birth I had were so different as to be two alternate dimensions. While still pregnant, I tried to prepare for every eventuality because I didn’t want to be so stuck on my ‘ideal’ that I neglected to consider the real possibility of something going wrong. I talked through what I would do if I had to be transferred to hospital, if I needed medication, and (shock, horror) even if I needed a c-section, which I was vehemently against.

It all started on the morning of Friday, December 28th.

I was in my 31st week of gestation. Upon waking, I felt a little trickle of fluid. ‘Weird,’ I thought, but knowing cervical fluid can change and thin in the third trimester I chalked it up to that. It was such a non-concern that I didn’t mention it at my midwife appointment that afternoon. The next morning, I woke up and the same thing happened. I got up to walk to the bathroom and felt another tiny trickle. This time I was a bit concerned, and called my local Maternity Assessment Unit. The midwife on the phone advised me to put a pad on and count baby’s movements, and call back in an hour to update her. I did so, and despite not losing any more fluid she asked me to come in because I thought the baby was moving a bit less than usual.

Arriving on the unit, I was hooked up to a fetal monitor and had my obs taken. Everything was normal. The midwife asked to see the pad I was wearing. I showed her but there was nothing much on it, so she said everything was fine and I could go home. I asked about the origin of the fluid and she said it was probably just watery cervical mucus. I am still upset that the hospital did not test to check whether or not this fluid was amniotic fluid, and decided a guess on their behalf was sufficient.

Two days passed, still losing tiny amounts of fluid every so often. I was obsessively checking every time I went to the toilet, and I was half-convinced my waters had broken and it was amniotic fluid, but also thought maybe I was overreacting and it was nothing. On New Year’s Eve I began losing more fluid. Every time I went to the toilet, fluid would trickle out. My partner tried to convince me it was just wee, I think because he was scared of the implications if it wasn’t. We were celebrating the holiday at a friend’s house, and I was getting very anxious about the fluid loss. I spoke to a friend on Facebook who was also pregnant at the time and she said if it were her, she would go in to be checked. I decided then I would go to the hospital first thing in the morning.

Dan and I left for home shortly after midnight, and during the short walk I could feel wetness coming out with each step. When we got home, every time I sat down then got back up, there was a noticeable wet patch where I’d been sitting. I decided I needed to go into hospital right then instead of waiting until morning, and called the MAU again. The midwife agreed that I should come in to verify that my waters had gone.

When we got to the MAU, we were put in an examination room and I was again hooked to a fetal monitor. The baby was fine, thankfully. A while later, the doctor came in the room and asked to do a vaginal exam. As soon as she placed the speculum, a huge gush of fluid came out and she said, ‘Yep, those are your waters.’ At which point I burst into tears. She explained to us what would happen next, including the risks of the condition (Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes, or PPROM) and that I would need to stay on the antenatal ward for awhile. I was given the first of two steroid shots then, to help my baby’s lungs develop faster. We also discovered that I was Group B Strep Positive, so would need IV antibiotics during labour.

On the ward, I was put in a bay with 2 other women and given a few moments to get settled. It was now 5am and I had to say goodbye to Dan as partners aren’t permitted to stay overnight. After he left, I laid in bed and cried for awhile, until the midwife came to give me a handful of antibiotics. I spent two and a half days in hospital, constantly leaking fluid, having fetal checks every couple hours, and being pumped full of antibiotics to prevent infection from setting in, which is the biggest risk of PPROM. I also had an ultrasound and the baby looked fine, with an estimated weight of 4lb11oz.

Dan and I were shown around the Special Care Baby Unit because the chances were that our baby would have to spend some time there after being born. We were given a lot of information on what to expect for the labour, birth, and immediate postnatal period. I knew that if my body went into labour, the hospital would not try to stop it, but let it continue as I had now reached 32 weeks, which is the cutoff point for stopping labour in women with PPROM. Studies have shown it to be no more beneficial to keep the baby in, if it is born at or beyond 32 weeks. Also, if I went into labour it might be due to an infection, in which case delivery would be imminent for our safety.

Finally on Thursday evening I was discharged, with twice-weekly outpatient appointments scheduled until I gave birth. I had managed to keep it together and stay positive while in hospital. I received so many supportive messages, texts, and visits from friends and family and I knew the survival rate was 99% so my baby would in all likelihood live. Although the midwives said I didn’t need to be on bed rest, I had done my own research from my hospital bed and felt differently. I knew the more I walked around, the more it brought on mild cramping that I wanted to avoid. I was hoping to make it to at least 34 weeks.

Once home, Dan prepared my ‘nest’ in the living room so that I wouldn’t have to move at all, except to use the toilet. I settled in that night, and for the next two days I vacillated between terror, anguish, and acceptance. It was hard to relax when I spent nearly 24 hours laying down, with plenty of time to think about everything that could happen. I did have my first outpatient appointment that Friday, at which it was discovered my white cells were slightly elevated. However, the midwife put that down to the treatment I’d had in the last few days rather than infection.

One positive thing about this time was the conversation I had with my midwife. She sounded confident that I could still have my home water birth if I managed to stay pregnant until 37 weeks (when I would be considered full term). My doula was also incredible during this time, visiting me every couple days to talk, plan, and give me a homeopathic remedy to calm my nerves.

On the night of Saturday, January 5th, just after midnight I began having very mild contractions. I decided to ignore them, try some deep breathing, and go to sleep. By 5am they had stopped, but I got up to use the toilet and had the biggest gush of waters I’d ever had. It was all over the bathroom floor and I was soaked. I called the hospital but the midwife said it was normal, and that the baby was constantly making fluid so the loss would be replenished.

I took that and the contractions for what they were; a warning that my body would soon go into labour. That day I made sure everything was in place for the arrival of our baby, including sending Dan to collect all the last-minute items I hadn’t got around to buying yet. There was so much I still wanted to do, thinking I had 8 more weeks to prepare.

After midnight on Sunday the 6th, 10 days post-PPROM, the contractions started again. They kept waking me up, but were still mild. I tried to ignore them, practice deep breathing, and hope they would stop. I got up at 5am and tried walking around, but that made them stronger. I knew that meant these were real labour pains, and not practice contractions because real contractions tend to get worse upon walking, while false labour pains tend to lessen in intensity. The amniotic fluid had also started to change. It was getting darker and smellier- both signs of infection. I called the hospital yet again (by this time they were on speed dial in my phone) and they advised me to come in.

Driving to the hospital I timed my contractions; 5 minutes apart. They weren’t awful, but I did have to concentrate a bit harder to continue speaking through them. Dan and I got to the hospital, all our bags and birthing stuff in tow. I was shown once again to the MAU examination room and hooked up to the fetal monitor. The monitor picked up my contractions and the baby’s heart rate, which was good. The doctor confirmed infection had set in by doing a vaginal exam, and advised labour was the best course of action. I was 32 weeks + 3days.

Dan called our doula to come to the hospital, and we were shown to a delivery suite. Funnily enough, the entire pregnancy I had a feeling our baby would be born on a Sunday. In the suite, I was cannulated and put on IV antibiotics for the GBS+.  I was told to lay on the bed and was hooked up to the fetal monitor. My birth plan was dissolving before my eyes, and I felt helpless to change that, given the circumstances. PPROM is so rare (1-2% of all pregnancies) that I hadn’t even bothered to read about it during pregnancy.

During the next hour I saw many doctors, midwives, and other staff and we were given a dizzying amount of information. All of the morning’s events stressed me out so much that my contractions stopped. Dan and I were scared for our baby’s wellbeing, but excited to become parents. Ruth arrived at 9am. We tried everything to get my labour going again; aromatherapy, massage, pressure points, breathing, and homeopathy. The doctor had already mentioned augmentation (ie- Pitocin/syntocinon) and I knew if my labour didn’t pick up, this was going to be a difficult day spent refusing medical intervention.

While I was trying to stimulate contractions, the midwife came in every 15 minutes to check the fetal monitor. She kept telling me that the baby’s heart rate wasn’t being picked up because of my position (I was moving around and the only way the monitor could pick up the heart rate was if I laid still on the bed in a particular position). I felt pressured to just lay on the bed so the monitor could do it’s job- even though I wouldn’t be free to do mine! It was impossible to really get into labour with the constant interruptions. At 10:30am the doctor came back into our room and said she wanted to start me on Syntocinon. I declined, but did agree at noon to have a VE to check my progress. I was not dilated at all, but was effacing.  I still felt very calm at this point, and declined the doctor’s suggestion of Syntocinon again.

I went for a walk outside the hospital with Dan and Ruth to try to get my contractions going again. We walked for around 45 minutes, and my contractions did pick up while walking. On the way back in, I took the stairs 2 at a time, which brought them on even more. Once back in the delivery suite, I found a position which intensified the rushes (sitting on the birth ball, leaning over the bed). Dan was putting counter-pressure on my lower back while they were happening, which made them even more powerful. It felt amazing, and I wanted to keep going. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere. They were getting stronger and moving up my belly. I knew something was happening.

Unfortunately, the midwife came in again to check on me and told me that I wasn’t actually having contractions since they weren’t being picked up on the (f*^%*) monitor. The midwife asked if the pain was starting at the top of my belly and working its way down during a rush. I said no, they were low down. The midwife said it wasn’t a contraction but probably a ‘bearing down’ pain (whatever that is..). At this point my lovely doula piped up and said, ‘When I was in labour with my daughter, I never had the type of pain you’re describing.’

After another VE, which found my cervix still closed but more effaced, the doctor suggested augmentation for the third time. I took some time to talk with Dan, and told him that I felt it was inevitable to have it because although I knew I could bring on stronger labour on my own, the midwife and doctor wouldn’t leave me alone long enough to do that. At 2:30pm the Syntocinon was started on the lowest dose. I was told to lay still in bed so the monitor could pick up baby’s heart rate, and for the next three hours the dose was increased every half hour. I didn’t have a single contraction in all that time. I had some mild cramps, but that was it.

The midwife checked my temperature and said it had gone up. She also said the baby started having decels (periods where the heart rate had dropped). My gut instinct said the decels were being caused by the Syntocinon, but I knew what was coming next; the doctor was going to suggest a Caesarean section. I told this to Dan, along with my feeling that I had resigned myself to that outcome. The risk of infection to my baby was not something I felt comfortable gambling.

At 5:30pm the doctor came back in and said, ‘I think we need to get this baby out.’ and I consented to the surgery. I went numb and wouldn’t look at anyone. I just stared ahead while the anaesthetist came in to prep me on what would happen during my spinal block. Half an hour later I was sitting on the operating table in theatre, with Dan nearby in scrubs.

The anaesthetist tried placing the spinal, which involved injecting a local anaesthetic into my spine, followed by the long needle which actually induced the spinal block. She tried 3 times. While trying again and again the needle kept poking various nerves, causing my legs to kick out and spasm of their own accord. It was incredibly painful, and although I was trying very hard not to, I started crying. I couldn’t look at Dan at all, or the crying got worse. I also needed to stay completely still while the spinal was being placed, which was hard to do with a face full of snot and tears. Finally a second anaesthetist came in to try. He got it on the first attempt, which I am grateful for. The spinal took longer than the actual ‘getting the baby out’ part.

I was laid on the table, the curtain was put up dividing my head & chest from the rest of my body, and the doctor made her incision. It was the weirdest sensation I’ve ever experienced. I knew I was being cut open, and I could feel a lot of vigorous pushing (the surgeons pushing my guts out of the way to get to the baby) but there was no pain. A few minutes later my baby was out! Caleb John was born at 6:25pm weighing 4lb10oz. As soon as I heard his cry, I looked at Dan and tears welled in my eyes. That was our baby crying! What an amazing, completely overwhelming sensation.

My wonder and elation was short-lived, as they cut Caleb’s cord straightaway and took him to the examination table to check him over. He needed a bit of help breathing, so they gave him oxygen. He was given a vitamin K injection as well. Before they whisked him away to the special baby unit I was allowed to quickly see him (and noticed his slight cone-shaped head; he WAS trying to come out!). I gave him a kiss on his tiny, warm, red cheek and told him I loved him. Dan followed Caleb to the SCBU to make sure he was okay, while I laid on the table and got stitched back up. That took far longer than the actual delivery.

Afterward, I was wheeled into recovery, where I was told my spinal needed to wear off before I could see my baby. Dan came back after awhile and told me Caleb needed to be ventilated. A while longer, the consultant came in to give us a run down of Caleb’s condition. He said he wasn’t worried, and that although our baby needed help breathing, he was otherwise healthy. The consultant also gave us two pictures of Caleb that the staff had taken, so that we could see what our son looked like. There was a tube down his throat, wires connected to his chest, and his face looked swollen but he was still the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and he looked just like his daddy.

I willed my legs to move so that I could see my son. It was torture sitting there, knowing he was nearby. I had only seen his face for a moment before they took him, and I was dying to get a good look at him in person. Eventually, the anaesthetic wore off and I was washed and wheeled into the SCBU to see my precious baby. Caleb looked so small in the incubator and he was asleep due to the morphine they had given him. I wasn’t allowed to hold him so I had to settle for stroking him through the arm holes in the incubator. While there, the nurses explained that I would need to start expressing breast milk, to help my supply come in. Caleb couldn’t nurse because he was so tiny, and ventilated, so I had to make sure my breasts were being stimulated with the pump. I was also told that the infection had set into my placenta and had been traveling down the umbilical cord. It hadn’t reached Caleb which we were grateful for. This meant, though, that I couldn’t encapsulate my placenta.

Afterward, I was taken to what would be my room for the next 5 days. Thankfully, I had my own private room. The midwives wouldn’t put me on a ward with other ladies, because they all had normal deliveries and their babies stayed with them while on the postnatal ward. It was bad enough that I could hear the cries of those newborns down the hall from me, constantly reminding me that my baby was in a plastic shell where I couldn’t reach him, hooked up to all sorts of medical equipment.

My room wasn’t designed for couples, so Dan had to go home that night. My first night as a mother, our first night as a family, was spent apart with two of us in hospital. This isn’t what I had pictured at all. When I finally fell asleep, I was woken up just a few hours later by a horrific nightmare that made me sob and sob. I dreamt Caleb had died, and even though I knew he was fine, when I woke up and couldn’t check on him it was the worst feeling in the world. I felt acutely the lack of bonding which typically takes place during the immediate postnatal period. Everything felt very wrong.

Nearly every single point of my birth plan was turned on its head. Even though I felt like I was well-informed and treated respectfully during the birth (albeit pestered with interventions constantly), it was still beyond worse than what I ever thought would or could happen.

I am grateful that I ate such a nutrient-dense diet during my pregnancy though, because it undoubtedly helped Caleb to be as strong and healthy as he was (and is). Many babies born at his gestation are much smaller, much sicker, and need more intervention. Caleb was on a ventilator/C-PAP for only 9 hours. He was also transferred to a lower-dependency unit the day after he was born. The consultants said to expect a SCBU baby home around their original due date (which would be 40 weeks gestation). Caleb only spent 18 days in SCBU, and came home 5 weeks early, at 35 weeks exactly. He also began trying to breastfeed when he was 3 days old (32+5 gestational age).

When all this happened, and immediately afterward, everyone I spoke to kept saying ‘At least you and he are both okay, and that’s what matters.’ It’s true; he and I are both alive and relatively well. But that is not ALL that matters. I was traumatised by the labour and delivery I had, and by the ensuing weeks when Caleb was in the hospital. I missed out on so much, and that is time I can never have back. I didn’t get to hold my son until he was 15 hours old, and I didn’t get to be in a room by myself with him until he was two weeks old. The staff wouldn’t ‘let’ me breastfeed him initially (until I just ignored them and did it anyway). I completely missed that bonding time with him right after birth, and I was not the first person to touch or hold him, bathe him, or feed him. In fact, until he came home I didn’t even feel like he was really mine.

Sure, what happened to me is rare. However, the cause of my PPROM was an unnecessary surgery on my cervix that I was scared into having when I was 19. That surgery, and various ensuing complications in pregnancy, are pretty common though. The over-reliance on medical ‘solutions’ for everything in life is what caused this. It took me until I was 24 to discover an ancestral lifestyle. Maybe if our society had not abandoned that lifestyle in the first place, I and other women like me wouldn’t have to recover from these horrific and traumatic birth events because they wouldn’t happen in healthy bodies untainted by too much modern medicine. We have strayed so far away from what is natural and right that this is the result; a serious pregnancy complication, and a mother and child separated in the critical post-birth period.

How many stories like mine do we need to read before we realize that we’ve been sold down the river by our governments and regulating bodies? They have convinced us that we need this or that treatment, pill, diet, or product. What we really need is a nutrient-dense ancestral diet, good quality sleep, lower stress levels, and the kind of life that allows us to follow our natural, physiological needs (such as not sitting for 8+ hours per day).

My story does have a happy ending though. I am now the mother of a beautiful, healthy, thriving little boy and I can provide the upbringing I know to be best for him.

The Best Diet During Pregnancy

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Before we get into today’s post, I’d just like to say that I am shocked this blog is still getting a regular number of hits despite my sporadic posting. My intention was to update once a week but alas, life is getting in the way. So for all of you who are reading: thank you!

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A topic many women want to know more about, but of which there is shockingly little written, is the best diet for pregnancy. In this post we are going to look at the differences and similarities between the current conventional wisdom on this topic, and the paleo or ancestral advice given for pregnant women.

Mum-to-be’s want to ensure they are giving their little ones the best start in life, and that begins before your baby is even conceived. Most sources will tell you that a woman should adopt a healthy diet no less than 6 months prior to conception. We know not all women get this chance; some pregnancies are a surprise and mum may not have been eating particularly well in the time before this. Conversely, if you are thinking of, or trying to conceive it is never too soon to get healthy. Don’t think you have to wait until a certain point to get serious about nutrition. In actuality, sooner is better because the healthier you are, the better you are likely to feel and the smoother your pregnancy and labour is likely to go.
I adopted a paleo lifestyle 18 months before I got pregnant and it has helped me tremendously. The changes I’ve made directly led to me conceiving. I say this with confidence because for 3 years prior to the switch, I had unexplained infertility. This means that although doctors, gynaecologists, and reproductive endocrinologists tested me for everything, and in every way they could (including an exploratory surgery to look at my reproductive organs), they could find no explanation for why I wasn’t getting pregnant. Having always wanted a family, it was a painful time for me both physically and emotionally. I quickly realized that if I were to ever have children (without using the IVF offered to me), I was going to have to fix myself. This is what initially spurred my quest for health, and subsequently led me to the paleo lifestyle.

Please note that an optimal pregnancy diet is not too different from an optimal diet in general. The foods that constitute a healthy paleo diet are the same for everyone. Pregnant women may just need more of certain nutrients, such as vitamins A and E.

If we listen to advice given by the pinnacle of mainstream conventional wisdom, the NHS, it would seem the best thing for a mother-to-be is a large number of ‘healthy whole grains’ along with plenty of beans, fruit, vegetables, and some protein and dairy, with small amounts of sugar and fat. While there is some overlapping advice, a paleo pregnancy diet is very different to this. I’ll first list the NHS recommendations, and then we’ll explore the paleo option.

1. Carbohydrates: The NHS advises pregnant women to get plenty of starchy carbohydrates which should ‘be the main part of every meal.’ They say: “Starchy foods are an important source of vitamins and fibre, and are satisfying without containing too many calories. They include bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, sweet potatoes, yams and cornmeal. These foods should be the main part of every meal. Eat wholemeal instead of processed (white) varieties when you can.”

This is the biggest difference between what the mainstream believes and what proponents of a paleo lifestyle believe. Grains are unhealthy and unnecessary. The vitamins and fibre you supposedly glean from grains you can find in other foods; namely fresh fruit and vegetables. Nutrients are also more bio-available in these other foods, meaning your body has an easier time absorbing and using them. Grains have nothing beneficial in them that you cannot find from a better, cleaner source. Most mainstream nutritionists will tell you that grains are necessary and healthy because they contain B vitamins, vitamin E, and fibre. However, grains also contain anti-nutrients in the form of lectins, gluten, and phytates. To read why these substances are harmful and best avoided, check out the explanation by Mark Sisson, creator of Mark’s Daily Apple, of why grains are unhealthy.  Also, f you’ve heard the mainstream advice that carbohydrates are the best antidote for morning sickness, check out this post from Peggy the Primal Parent, who has a different take on things.

If you are worried about getting enough B-complex vitamins, they are found in meat, liver, eggs, and vegetables. Liver is a rich source of B-vitamins including folate, and contrary to popular belief, liver is not dangerous during pregnancy. That myth was born from a now widely-discredited study that focused on synthetic vitamin A toxicity during pregnancy. Also, it is extremely hard to overdose on naturally-occurring vitamin A, especially in the presence of adequate vitamin D intake. A word on folate: This is different to folic acid, which all midwives will advise you to take prior to conception and during pregnancy. Folate is the naturally-occurring version of folic acid, whereas folic acid is a supplemental form of folate. To read an excellent article distinguishing the two, and why it is important to do so, see Chris Kresser’s explanation.

Vitamin E is found in palm oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and almond oil. Palm oil is the most concentrated source of vitamin E. Sunflower seeds, almonds, and pine nuts are also good sources. Lack of vitamin E may inhibit the ability to conceive. Inadequate levels of this vitamin (along with vitamin A) may also cause longer gestation than normal and a failure to lactate.

I get asked about fibre a lot. People wonder if I don’t eat grains, where do I get fibre from? Fruits and vegetables have plenty of fibre in them. If you are interested in comparing the fibre content of fresh produce to that of grains, go to a site where you can look up the nutritional content of food, such as Paleo Track.

2. Fruits and vegetables: “Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables because these provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre, which helps digestion and prevents constipation. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – these can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.”

In regards to this advice, there isn’t much difference between mainstream and paleo. It’s generally accepted that fruits and vegetables are good for you, contain a lot of important nutrients, and are very healthy for both mum and baby. The main difference is that from a paleo perspective canned, dried, or juiced versions are not considered optimal. Canned food has had the nutrients leached out of it, and many cans contain BPA and other harmful chemicals which get into the food, and thus into your body (and your baby). I would advise avoiding tinned food if you can help it. Fresh versions are always the best, but flash-frozen is a good substitute if fresh isn’t an option for you. You can also buy fresh produce while it’s in season and then can it, or cook and freeze it, to use later.

If we look at what types of nutrients fruits and vegetables provide us, we find leafy green vegetables are a good source of folate, strawberries and seaweed contain iodine, and kale, strawberries, citrus, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower all contain vitamin C. You can also get vitamin B6 from bananas. By eating a varied and colorful array of fruits and vegetables, you should be getting plenty of vitamins and minerals that you and baby need.

I want to specifically mention vitamin A: it is very important both before conception and during pregnancy. Inadequate levels of vitamin A in utero can cause severe sight impairment or blindness, hearing impairments, dental arch deformities or cleft palates, club foot, longer gestation periods than is normal, long and difficult labour, and failure to lactate. Lack of vitamin A is also associated with poor mental health and disposition. Although liver is the richest source of vitamin A, you can also get it from vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, and dark leafy greens such as kale.

3. Protein: “Sources of protein include meat (but avoid liver), fish, poultry, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts. Eat some protein every day. Choose lean meat, remove the skin from poultry, and cook it using only a little fat. Make sure eggs, poultry, pork, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. Check that there is no pink meat, and that juices have no pink or red in them. Try to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish such as sardines or mackerel.”

The first thing I have to do is set the record straight on liver once again; it is truly nature’s multivitamin and one of the best foods you can possibly eat, pregnant or otherwise. A few ounces per week would contribute a lot toward a healthy diet during pregnancy. Beans and pulses are not eaten within a paleo framework, for much the same reason grains are not eaten. They contain anti-nutrients and don’t provide anything you can’t get from other sources. Nuts are full of good fats and moderate protein, but because they also contain high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids which are inflammatory, I would not recommend eating a lot of them.

The best sources of protein are organic, grass-fed, and/or pastured meat and eggs, and wild fish/seafood. I would echo the sentiment above that pregnant women should eat protein every day, and go further to add protein should be eaten at most meals. Meat and eggs contain vitamins A, B6, B12, D, K2, zinc, folate, and iron. The best sources of these are liver and egg yolks. Egg yolks also contain a very important nutrient for pregnant women called choline. To read more about choline, see Chris Masterjohn’s posts about it on his Daily Lipid blog.

Where the advice between mainstream and paleo differs drastically is when mainstream advises choosing only lean meats and avoiding the skin. There is no good reason to do this. Saturated fat from natural sources like animals is fantastic for you and baby. Eat fatty meat and chicken skin without worry. You need saturated fat and these are great sources. This is a hard pill for many people to swallow, because it is drilled into us that Fat is Bad! It’s actually the biggest food lie we get fed, aside from the lies about ‘healthy whole grains.’ To read more about saturated fat, see Mark’s Definitive Guide To Saturated Fat.

I would like to mention that there is not necessarily a need to thoroughly cook all meat and eggs. Runny yolks, rare steak, and sushi can all be part of a healthy pregnancy diet. The source of your food is vital though. For example, I buy my meat from a local organic farm and I am confident in their products. I will eat their meat raw or undercooked. I buy the best eggs I can find and I eat runny yolks. If I were eating feed-lot meat or eggs from caged hens fed a poor diet, I would not do this. As an added safety measure with meat or fish, you can freeze it for a minimum of 2 weeks to kill off any pathogens, and then eat it raw when it thaws. I know many pregnant women would not feel comfortable doing this, which is perfectly fine. But for those who want to, just know it is not inherently unsafe, especially if you choose quality sources.

I have not given suggestions for vegetarian protein sources as I personally do not believe that vegetarian diets are healthy. I would like to borrow a quote from Dr. Weston A. Price on this topic which sums up my feelings: “It is significant that I have as yet found no group that was building and maintaining good bodies exclusively on plant foods. A number of groups are endeavoring to do so with marked evidence of failure.”

4. Dairy: “Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt are important because they contain calcium and other nutrients that your baby needs. Choose low-fat varieties wherever possible.”

It really frustrates me that the NHS are telling pregnant women to eat low-fat foods. Fat is necessary for life; you cannot live without it. Fat also does not make you fat. Cholesterol does not cause heart disease, and in fact is so vital that our bodies produce it so that we never run out. There is never a good reason to choose a low-fat version of anything.

Dairy is a food that sits on the fence in the paleo/primal world. Strict paleo followers will eschew dairy, but many primal people think dairy is okay in moderation. I personally think it’s okay to eat if your body responds well to it, and as ever the source is important. Grass-fed, organic, raw dairy is the healthiest kind you can eat. (For those in the UK, Red23 sells raw dairy online, delivered to your door.) If you don’t have access to raw dairy, organic pasteurized versions are the next best thing. The best quality dairy contains high levels of vitamins A, D, and K2. Weston A. Price talks a lot about this particular set of vitamins in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Although dairy does provide vitamins and calcium it is not necessary for a healthy diet. If you want to avoid dairy but are concerned about getting enough calcium, why not drink calcium-rich bone broth? Peggy the Primal Parent has a great post on getting enough calcium while being pregnant and dairy-free.

5. Sugar and Fat: “This includes all spreading fats (such as butter), oils, salad dressings, cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, cake, puddings and fizzy drinks. You should eat only a small amount of these foods. Sugar contains calories without providing any other nutrients, and can contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay. Fat is very high in calories, and eating more fatty foods is likely to make you put on weight. Having too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease. Try to cut down on saturated fat, and have foods rich in unsaturated fat instead.”

Let us make an important distinction right now: sugar and fat are not on par with one another in the nutritional stakes. Not. Even. Close. It’s common for conventional wisdom to demonize both, but fat gets an undeserved bad rap. Once again I will say: Fat does not make you fat. Cholesterol does not cause heart disease. Sugar, on the other hand, is a toxic substance that provides no essential nutrients. You and baby are far better off without sugar.

The above advice from the NHS seems to lump together unrelated foods. Butter, cream and oils are all natural foods that have their place in a healthy pregnancy diet. (There is one unhealthy oil however; vegetable or canola oil is inflammatory crap in a bottle. No one, pregnant or otherwise, should be eating that stuff.)

The salad dressings, margarine, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, cake, pudding, and fizzy drinks they mention are all heavily processed foods and are devoid of nutrition. They recommend eating only a small amount of these foods, but I would suggest that you try to eliminate them altogether. They don’t provide anything we need, but they do harm us.

Although our cultural and societal take on pregnancy seems to be that it’s a chance for a woman to eat whatever she wants in any quantity now that she’s ‘eating for two’, I think we need to remind ourselves that these 10 months are actually about growing a person. It’s pretty selfish to use that as an excuse to eat a bunch of crap. Our babies deserve plenty of body-building nutrients instead of foods that are going to harm them. The only difference between sipping a cocktail or smoking a cigarette during pregnancy, and eating a poor diet full of processed and fast foods and fizzy drinks during pregnancy is that the latter is socially-approved. All of those things have a negative impact on our babies and ourselves.

That being said, I don’t think a woman should feel too guilty for eating a less-than-optimal treat once in awhile. Pregnancy is a hard time for us physically and emotionally, and while eating a nutrient-dense diet will help ease that, it’s only natural to occasionally want comfort food. As long as it remains a rare treat, those foods are not going to have a massive negative impact on you or baby during pregnancy.

To summarize the perfect pregnancy diet; eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, eggs, and seafood, and good quality dairy. The quality of food during this time is especially important, as organic versions contain fewer pesticides, antibiotics, and other nasty ingredients we don’t want our babies receiving. It’s also important to stay hydrated during pregnancy so drink plenty of fresh filtered water. Some herbal teas are great for pregnant women as well. I recommend nettle, peppermint, ginger, lemon, rooibos, or red raspberry leaf (in the 3rd trimester only).

Avoid grains, beans, pulses, processed foods, and any fizzy drinks or drinks that contain added sugar. I know it may be hard, especially when you are slogging through weeks of morning sickness, poor quality sleep, and low energy, but the better your diet the better you will feel and the healthier your little one will be.

I feel pregnant women do not need a prenatal vitamin if their diets are nutrient-dense, and most prenatals include poor-quality versions of nutrients (such as folic acid, not folate). However, I would recommend a select few supplements during pregnancy. The #1 supplement that I would suggest is Green Pastures Blue Ice Royal Blend which is a blend of fermented cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil. It is high in vitamins A, D, and K2 and is based on Weston A. Price’s original formula. I would also recommend a vitamin D3 supplement if you think you may not be getting adequate amounts. I don’t get much sunlight where I live so it is impossible for me to make adequate amounts. I like NOW! Foods brand 5000IU capsules. I don’t take them daily, but I might take a few per week to top up the amount I get from food. Finally, if your midwife advises you to take an iron supplement during pregnancy, in my opinion the best one is Floradix Floravital liquid iron supplement. It’s gluten-free, easier for your body to absorb, and has no unpleasant side effects (unlike the typical iron tablets which are known to cause constipation).

 

Pregnancy can be a difficult time for us physically and emotionally, but if you feed your body a nutrient-dense diet you and your baby will reap the rewards. The far-reaching effects of nutrition in the womb are still not fully realised by many people, but it is vitally important to give your body and your baby the best food you can during this time.

Mindfulness in our diets

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How much time do you spend thinking about food? Do you worry about where your food comes from, or how it got to you? Do you think about the food you eat whenever you feel sick, stressed, happy, or sad? If you eat food you haven’t cooked, do you wonder what quality of food you are receiving, or the conditions in which it was prepared?

Being mindful of what we eat and how we procure and prepare that food can make a big difference in our health. Mindfulness means having an awareness of the reality of things. What does this have to do with our diets?

Let’s use the Five W’s concept found in journalism (who, what, where, when, why, and how) to break down the standard Western approach to nutrition:

     WHAT We Eat: Never in history have people relied so much on packaged, processed, and fast foods. The majority of calories in a standard Western diet come from wheat, corn, soy, rice and sugar. We eat foods that are marketed to us in TV commercials, magazine ads, posters or billboards, or coupons from the supermarket. An average shopping cart is full of tinned or packaged items made with preservatives, additives, artificial colours and flavours, chemically-altered ingredients, and other unpronounceable things that renders the end product a non-food item by all accounts. The fresh produce has been conventionally grown and saturated with pesticides.  The conventionally raised meat has been fed poor-quality commercial feed which contains antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, and protein supplements normally made from soya bean meal. Caged hens fed a diet of soy and corn produce poor quality eggs and their meat is slimy, tasteless, and watery.

 Outside the supermarket, we have limitless options to feed ourselves in the form of fast food joints and restaurants that serve   ammonia-washed beef, pink sludge chicken nuggets, reformed watery sandwich meat, drinks filled with syrups created in labs, and foods cooked in rancid seed oils. Even our gas stations (or petrol garages for the Brits) sell food, so you and your car can refuel at the same time! The truth is the average person has no idea what they are putting in their mouth.

We eat only a small portion of the edible food available in the world, and unfortunately it is the wrong portion! Tasteless and potentially harmful wheat, corn, rice, and soy now constitute a majority of the typical person’s calories, instead of the variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy we could be enjoying. Moreover, eating a typical Western diet will not provide a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals. We are not thriving on this diet, we are simply surviving.

     WHERE We Eat: As our lives become busier and more fast-paced, we feel forced to eat wherever we can. This means we are guilty of eating outside the home a large portion of the time, feeding during transit (car, bus, or train), sitting in front of a TV or movie screen, at work, shopping, walking to or from somewhere, or while we are doing other activities.

How many of us actually sit down at a table in our house, in a quiet room free of LED screens and distractions, and just eat? How often do you share a meal with your family without one of you trying to ‘multi-task’ on your phone or computer?

     WHEN We Eat: We are surrounded by food. This makes it possible to eat any time of day, no matter where we are. We eat on arbitrary schedules (I.e. I have breakfast at 7am, we eat dinner at 6pm every night). We eat on breaks at work regardless of hunger. We eat during other activities or travel. We eat when others around us are eating, or when people tell us to eat. We eat when we’re not hungry.

     WHY We Eat: We are constantly receiving messages to eat via TV shows or adverts, newspapers, movies, or billboards. We turn eating into a social event or celebration when we’re with other people. We eat out of boredom, sadness, stress, or even happiness. We are driven to eat by chemical imbalances in the body, insulin spikes, or hypoglycaemia. Some of us eat due to intoxication, and many of us eat because the food on offer is free (at conferences, meetings, weddings, or parties).

     HOW We Eat: In our modern world, we no longer prioritize family meal times or taking the time to enjoy a meal (unlike many European countries where meals can last 3-4 hours). More often than not we consume food quickly, mindlessly, out of cartons or tins, without stopping for breath or putting our forks down, and without being involved in the process. It would be accurate to say many people inhale their food, rather than enjoy it.

 By being mindful and present whenever we deal with food, we can change where, when, why and how we eat. We can ask ourselves; How will this food affect my health? Where did this meal come from? When was this harvested, and is it fresh? Why am I eating this; am I truly hungry? Through this process, what we eat will naturally change. When we repeatedly tell ourselves that we deserve to nourish our bodies with fresh, healthy, ethically and organically raised foods, we change our expectations and standards.

When we are in tune with our body and have a calm awareness of the relationship between the foods we eat and our bodily functions and sensations, we can recognise just how ill the effects are of a standard Western diet. How many people recognise that the following problems are a direct result of their diet?

Indigestion, acid reflux, bloating and gas, bowel problems,  dry skin and hair, skin irritation and acne, joint pain, inflammation, arthritis, nail and hair brittleness and growth, fertility problems, frequent illness, chronic pain, poor energy levels, poor insulin response, low sex drive, mood changes, irritability, anger, depression, anxiety, memory problems, diabetes, asthma, dizziness, numbness in the extremities, heavy or irregular periods, PMS, eye twitching, anaemia, excess weight, mucus overproduction, yeast infections,  bad breath, tooth decay.

These symptoms (and more) are indications that our body is not being well nourished.

We have lived with these side effects for so long -since childhood for many of us- we no longer know or recognise what constitutes good health. We overmedicate in an effort to mask the symptoms but rarely seek to remove or rectify the root cause. By weaning ourselves off drugs and junk food, we are forced to deal with the full effects of stuffing ourselves full of poison, making us less willing to do it again. However hard you think it will be to give up your favorite foods that make you ill, it does not compare to living a life riddled with disease, illness, and possibly an early death.

Mindfulness is an antidote to delusion, and when we practice it we can no longer fool ourselves into thinking our diets are not that bad or our symptoms are not so serious. We need to understand that feeling like this is not normal.  This empowers us to take control of our health through our diet, which is the #1 source of disease and illness. By changing your diet, you can change almost everything else.      

The standard Western diet needs to change. But first, our lifestyles and relationship with food need to change.

Whooping cough vaccine and pregnant women- The answer to our prayers?

Let’s kick off this blog with a controversial and heated topic, shall we?

Vaccines have recently become a favorite topic of mine. With a baby on the way, I wanted to be prepared and know where my partner and I stand on this issue so when the time came, we wouldn’t feel overwhelmed or pushed into a choice we weren’t comfortable with. So I have been reading as much as I can about vaccines, their side effects, and what they are made of.

In the news today an article is proclaiming ‘Whooping Cough Vaccine to be Offered to Pregnant Women!’ The article states this pertussis outbreak is the worst in 20 years, resulting in 9 babies this year dying. As a result all pregnant women between 28-38 weeks will be offered the jab at their routine antenatal appointments. They say it is a temporary measure until disease rates fall again. It then goes on to use the ‘dead baby’ tactic* to scare people into thinking this is a good idea.

Because babies under 8 weeks of age cannot be immunised due to their underdeveloped immune system, the hope is that vaccinating pregnant women will cause them to produce antibodies to the disease, which then would be passed to their fetus via the placenta. The Department of Health “insists that the injections are entirely safe and there is no risk of harming the unborn baby or causing complications in the pregnancy.”

Here is the problem; the Department of Health has absolutely no evidence that vaccinating pregnant women with this jab is safe and risk-free. Indeed, NO vaccine is risk-free (just look at the manufacturer’s pamphlets for each vaccine). There have never been vaccine safety trials conducted on pregnant women, because no one will do them! It’s dangerous and unethical. Also, pregnant women are routinely told that getting vaccinated during pregnancy is risky. This bit of advice is taken directly from the NHS Choices website, in response to the question, “Can I have travel vaccinations during pregnancy.”

“Ideally, you should try to avoid visiting destinations which require vaccinations while you are pregnant. This is because very little research has been carried out into the effects of vaccinations on unborn babies.

The Department of Health’s view must be that being protected from pertussis is safer than the unknown risk of getting vaccinated during pregnancy. But that’s an opinion, not backed up by any research. I’m gonna need more than just a guess before I put my unborn child or myself at risk.

Another issue is that the Department of Health says this is a temporary measure until disease rates fall again. However with or without extra vaccinations, the disease will fall. All diseases follow a pattern; a natural rise and fall over time. With pertussis, outbreaks usually occur every few years, and then die down again. If they knew this, why have they waited until now to warn the public or put extra safety measures in place? The article states:

“The Health Protection Agency  is unclear as to why this outbreak is so severe, but rates tend to go up and down every three or four years. If they are low for several years and few catch the infection, everyone’s immunity goes down.”

What I especially don’t understand is that according to the official figures given by the Department of Health on their website, the pertussis outbreak of 2012 is actually less fatal and less likely to infect infants compared to last year. In 2011 the total number of reported cases of pertussis was 1,118. Of those, 115 were infants under 12 weeks old (that’s just over 10% of the total cases). Of those 115 infants, 7 died from the illness (a death rate of 6%). In 2012, the total number of reported cases thus far is 4,791- 4 times as much as 2011. However, only 302 cases were in infants under the age of 12 week (6% of total cases, compared to the previous year’s rate of 10%). Of these 302 cases, 9 babies have died this year (a death rate of just under 3%, down from the previous year’s figure of 6%). Why introduce the vaccine to pregnant women now, when a lower percentage of babies are dying from this illness compared to last year? This also shows that the majority of people catching pertussis are people over the age of 12 weeks; that is, the very people most likely to be vaccinated. Why are vaccinated people still getting sick?

That question leads us to another contradiction; the HPA’s assertion that if cases of pertussis are low for awhile and few people catch the ‘wild’ disease, then everyone’s immunity goes down. Excuse me? Did they just undermine the entire rationale behind immunisation? I think they did!

The DOH and HPA (and CDC and WHO..) all tell us that vaccines are vital to public health because getting these shots produce antibodies to the wild disease, thus protecting us from actually contracting it. But here, the HPA is saying that because fewer people caught the disease, everyone’s immunity goes down. Why is that? Shouldn’t the vaccine protect everyone from the wild disease? Not necessarily. In the manufacturer’s leaflet for the whooping cough vaccine it plainly states, “As with any vaccine, a protective immune response may not be elicited in all vaccinees.” In other words, this might not protect you from the disease. Even if you get immunised, you might still be at risk. This is true of all vaccines.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation, says: ‘We’ve got a situation where there isn’t a choice. We’ve got a real problem and we’ve got babies dying. We have a solution available to us that has a strong safety record.’ So the DOH feel they have not got a choice in this matter, that they must be seen doing something about the outbreak.  However, what they are essentially saying is that a risky, untested choice is better than none at all. I don’t agree. And where is the evidence to back up his claim that giving the whooping cough vaccine to pregnant mothers has a ‘strong safety record’? Maybe the manufacturer has conducted trials or observed reactions in pregnant women, and that is where David Salisbury is getting his information? Let’s take a look, shall we?

The article mentions the name and brand of the ‘whooping cough vaccine’ that GP’s will be giving to pregnant women. It’s called Repevax, and is made by Sanofi Pasteur. What the article fails to point out is that Repevax contains not only the whooping cough vaccine, but also vaccines for DIPTHERIA, TETANUS, AND POLIO. Surely the DOH should mention that they intend to give pregnant women not only a vaccine against whooping cough, but against several other diseases as well?! You may be wondering why they don’t offer pregnant women a single vaccine just for whooping cough. The government no longer purchases single vaccines for anyone on the NHS because they are too costly and might undermine the message that vaccines are safe. There is no single pertussis vaccine to give. This also means, for example, if you receive an emergency tetanus shot in hospital you will be getting Repevax; 7 diseases in 1.

The other ingredients in this vaccine make me question whether it is safe for anybody, much less pregnant women. In addition to the 7 diseases this vaccine contains (diptheria, tetanus, 3 types of polio, and 2 types of whooping cough), it also contains: Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 80, aluminium phosphate, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, streptomycin, neomycin, polymyxin B and bovine serum albumin.

These other ingredients are in most other vaccines. They are not abnormal additions, and act as emulsifiers, adjuvants, etc. Although they are routine, they are far from safe. Streptomycin, neomycin, and polymixin B are antibiotics. Phenoxyethanol is a compound used in antifreeze and has been linked to infertility. Polysorbate 80 is a compound which has also been linked to infertility as well as being a causative agent of a pregnant woman going into anaphylactic shock (according to this PubMed article). Little research has been done to test the safety of Aluminium in vaccines, but it is known to be toxic to the brain, bones, and Central Nervous System. It is also implicated in dementia and chronic fatigue syndrome (or ME as it’s also known). Formaldehyde is carcinogenic,  glutaraldehyde is a preservative that is used to disinfect medical and dental equipment, and for industrial water treatment. Bovine serum albumin is a fancy way of saying cow protein. I don’t want any of these ingredients directly injected into my body. Do you?

Most shockingly of all, the information published by the manufacturer of the vaccine goes on to say,

“The effect of REPEVAX on embryo-foetal development has not been assessed. […] The use of this combined vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy.”

What the!?! But..?! I’m practically foaming at the mouth here. As a pregnant woman I am not only deeply insulted but SCARED that the Department of Health, the body in charge of introducing this vaccine to pregnant women, “insists that the injections are entirely safe and there is no risk of harming the unborn baby or causing complications in the pregnancy.

The Department of Health estimates that the immunisation programme will cost the taxpayer around £10million. It’s too bad they weren’t proactive, knowing outbreaks occur every 3-4 years. They could have used some of that money to fund safety trials to back up their completely baseless and dangerous claims. Also, let’s not dig too deep into the fact that GP’s are being paid per vaccine they give. That won’t motivate any of them to scare or bully women into getting it, surely… (By the way, this happens with standard vaccines, too. We’ll save that for another blog post).

If you are a pregnant woman deciding whether or not to get this vaccine, or someone close to you is in that position, please share this information. Every person has the right to know what they are signing up for when they receive medical intervention, especially when something so precious as a new life is on the line.

*The dead baby tactic is when someone uses infant death rates or the prospect of death to scare women/parents into complying with their demands, i.e- ‘your baby could die if we don’t perform a C-section immediately’ or ‘X number of babies have already died from this disease.. do you want yours to be next?’. It’s unethical and in most cases untrue, and it’s a form of emotional blackmail.