Mother and Child
Thrive Birth Center Blog

Tips for Surviving Colic

Mother and ChildThe oh-so dreaded colic. How do you know if ones baby has colic, you may ask? You will know. High pitched screams for hours on end, rocking your baby with a soft soothing touch to no avail, and the pain that seems to seep through those screams, you will know.

From a holistic perspective, when working with colic you must take in all aspects of health that could be contributing factors. Most often, we look to the foods. What are we eating or drinking that is causing this distress? And what can I do to end this madness? But there is much more than just the food. Holistic nutrition embodies ALL influences. Here are a few of the most common.

  1. The baby could be reacting to your diet, as food allergies/sensitivities are common in infants. Don’t worry, these foods are often only problematic for a short period of time. Common trigger foods are tomatoes, chocolate, coffee/caffeine, dairy, spicy foods, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collards, onions, garlic, peppers, and sometimes nuts and grains. I have also seen a few cases where cucumbers, eggs, and beans were the culprit. The underlying message would be, while these are the most common culprits, it could be anything. Keep a food journal, be specific, and start to notice if you see any patterns. Your body will speak to you, just be patient and present enough to listen.
  2. Your baby is developing a digestive tract, virtually bare at birth, and may simply be lacking the beneficial microbes to digest & assimilate your breast milk. Eat fermented foods everyday, with every meal if possible. The beneficial microbes are transported through your breast milk and help to build up a healthy gut for your little one. There are probiotics designed especially for infants that you can buy at your local health food coop. You can swab the probiotics in the baby’s mouth or put them on your nipple and your baby will ingest the microbes through breastfeeding.
  3. Stress is a well known cause of digestive disorders, and stress comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This could be physical stress, reacting to a stressful environment, mental stress… The list goes on and on. Transitioning from a warm & cozy womb life to life on the outside world can be a bit stressful, no matter what. Nervine Herbs (herbs that help support the nervous system) are great additions to help reduce stress and calm the nerves. Lavender is a wonderfully calming nervine herb that is safe for you to drink as tea while breastfeeding. You can also dilute pure, organic lavender essential oil into some coconut oil and rub on baby’s feet or belly. 1 drop of essential oil per 1 oz of coconut oil, and a little goes a long way.
  4. The birthing process can be long, and the baby’s head/neck can often be crammed into undesirable positions, resulting in nerves/spine being a little out of whack. Cranial sacral work is a must! Cranial-Sacral Therapy is a form of gentle bodywork, using soft therapeutic touch to manipulate the joints of the cranium, yielding unbelievable results. For referrals to our favorite cranio-therapists, please call Thrive’s front desk and we will get you connected!
  5. There is always the possibility that baby may be taking in too much air as she eats. Learning about infant tummy massage can be a great tool, and is nice even after gas issues go away. Babies THRIVE with touch. In addition to aiding with colic, massage can help to enhance growth, promote optimal nervous system development, and support immune health.
  6. Support your digestive system with herbs that ease gas, also known as carminatives, as well as herbs that will SOOTHE the digestive tract. Drinking fennel tea is a great place to start. Dill, caraway, anise, slippery elm, lemon balm, lavender, and catnip are all also great herbs to use.

Be kind to yourself and breathe. Know you are doing an amazing job and take time to nourish yourself.

~Tessa Mancini Gillen, our beloved nutritionist, herbalist, educator and creator of Mama’s Meals on Wheels, a home delivery service for highly nutritious postpartum meals for the whole family. Please call our front desk to inquire about any or all of her services!

Herbal Love
Thrive Birth Center Blog

From Garden To Breast

Herbal Love

This is my first Spring in Sonoma County and though I grew up in the nearby countryside of Point Reyes, I’m struck every day with how unique and lovely my new home is. Greenery and hillsides abound, everyone seems to have a dog, and eating local, organic food is the beautiful, wonderful norm.

I serve as the Postpartum Support Coordinator at Thrive, seeing clients as both a Midwife and a Lactation Consultant. We often discuss how basic foods and herbs can support them through various phases of the breastfeeding experience, and in honor of Spring I’d like to share a few of my favorites with you.

  • Green cabbage for engorgement! When a birth parent’s milk first comes in it often does so with overwhelming enthusiasm, leaving them painfully full and making it difficult to latch their babies well. Organic green cabbage can be a total lifesaver at this stage, as the leaves fit the shape of the breast perfectly and the enzymes in the leaves actively ease the fullness and pain. If cold feels good, then the cabbage can be stored in the fridge, or even the freezer. As the leaf does its work it will literally cook on the skin, and it is ready to be changed when it is totally wilted. New breastfeeders with engorged breasts can safely use these leaves day and night, until their milk production eases back to a more comfortable level and begins to regulate to the amount baby is asking of them (this usually occurs within a few days).
  • A calming tea of lavender and lemon balm to help your milk let down! Most people know by the time they give birth what an important role Oxytocin plays in labor and birth. Many are not aware, however, that this hormone continues to play an essential part in breastfeeding. When you bring your baby to your breast and they begin to head bang and grab at your chest, this is actually very purposeful. These movements cause you to release oxytocin, which in turn causes your alveoli (the milk producers in the breast) to contract, sending the milk down the ducts and out the nipple. Voila, baby-induced let down reflex! This process requires the same kind of relaxation and lack of inhibition that labor does. New parent nerves and common breastfeeding struggles can stress everyone out, and sipping a cup of a soothing tea while you settle in to nurse can make all the difference. Lemon balm and lavender are both safe for breastfeeding and make a lovely hot or iced tea for any time you could use a little extra help letting down and/or letting go.
  • DandelionDandelion! We’re all familiar with kale chips as a nourishing snack… what if you could have a lovely Tupperware (glass, of course) chock full of these on your nursing side-table, but made in a way that would not give your sweet new babe a gassy belly? Now you can, if you follow nutritionist and herbalist Tessa M. Gillen’s recommendation, and make dandelion chips instead! Dandelion leaves can be found easily in most local fields, and when picked young can be a delicious and liver-nourishing treat. Follow the same directions you normally would to make kale chips, but no massaging necessary since the young leaves are already tender. Believe me, they’re delicious, and totally worth (asking someone to make) the effort!
  • Get to know your herb garden, local herb stores, herbalists, and lactation consultants! Many know of the lactation-inducing qualities of fenugreek, but this herb must be taken in great quantities and with vigilant consistency for best results, and is contraindicated for anyone with thyroid, clotting or blood sugar issues and for those who are allergic to peanuts. I like to begin with a few others that are much more forgiving, and often equally effective, if a client is looking for a boost in their milk supply. Many of these can be found in your own garden (or on the shelves at Thrive, if you aren’t actually cultivating a little galactogogue garden on your windowsill), and in lesser quantities in your basic over-the-counter nursing tea. Some of my favorites include Milk Thistle, Raspberry leaf, Oatstraw, Goat’s Rue, Blessed Thistle, Fennel Seed, Nettle, Alfalfa, Chamomile, Sesame Seeds, Dill Seeds and Flax Seeds.
    Please consult a lactation consultant if you are concerned about your milk supply. Thrive offers both in-home and on-site consultations, as well as a weekly support circle for all issues postpartum, including breastfeeding, newborn care and post-birth recovery.

Thank you for joining me on this little journey, it has been a treat. Speaking of treats, I think I might go pick some dandelion leaves now, but I’d love to hear what your favorites are too. Please leave a comment down below, or come in for the New Parents Support Circle and let me know in person!

~Rebecca Plum, LM, CPM, IBCLC

Taproot Medicine
Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Taproot Medicine, an Interview with frieda kipar bay

Frieda Kipar Bay is an herbalista and medicine maker working in Sonoma County. Thrive is honored to sell her medicine and has a deep trust in it’s ability to support and sustain families. A little from frieda’s website: “Taproot Medicine began with my deepest friend, pregnant with her first child, needing a little iron boost. I concocted a (mighty) tasty syrup packed with iron, and watched how tiny sips off the bottle fortified my dear friend during pregnancy. Word spread, and more bottles were made for mothers and menstruating women alike. As each new person took a sip, I witnessed smiles broaden and breath deepen. It’s this human response that has lead me to offer my medicine more widely, and enter this sticky world of selling some ‘thing’ to someone else. I called that stuff “strong woman syrup”, in honor of that deepest friend, the strongest woman I know.”

Below is an interview with frieda about her medicine, motivation, and tips on staying connected with the plant world. We hope you enjoy her wisdom and can come in soon to sample her syrups!

~Happy Birthing
Kelly Gray, Director of Perinatal Education at Thrive 

Taproot Medicine
Taproot Medicine, Honoring The Connection Between Plants and People

Kelly: Tell me about your syrups and how they might benefit our growing families at Thrive? 

Frieda: This medicine was formulated with the birthing mama and healthy child in mind. The Strong Woman Syrup directly effects iron levels in the body–which is so important for growing a baby–and is also made with plants that nourish and tone all the systems of the body. hawthorn to calm the heart, marshmallow for a juicy gut, milk thistle to support the liver, I could go on and on. It’s the kind of medicine that pretty much jumped out of my hands the moment I made it, and I just continue to follow it around as it finds it’s way into others’ hands.
The wellness syrup was formulated as my son started gnawing on the shopping cart handle, and I thought about how many other grubby little kids did the same thing. This formula builds immunity and provides some deep nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamins C, B, and A. It’s also got as much apple cider vinegar that I can get in it, which my grandma used for everything and anything. It’s so good for the compromised or developing immune system, and I use it as the sole sweetener for my young child. It’s food medicine!

Kelly: One of the things that really strikes me about your medicine is how good they taste- what type of feedback do you get from kids?

Freida: The main reason this stuff works is because people take it. Medicine doesn’t have to taste good, but it’s so much more effective when it does. Most kids love this stuff and require some surveillance with how often they reach for it. The only kids I’ve had who don’t like it are 8-10ish year olds, who have been less exposed to alternative sweeteners or herbs. I think it’s a good idea to get kid’s pallets tuned to herbs, it makes them better medicine takers overall.

Kelly: Do you have any tips for parents who are looking to further their children’s relationship with dirt and the plant world?

Frieda: Be not afraid of the natural world! get on your belly, take your shoes off, pick up the earthworm…model for your children how good it feels to be woven into the earth, not just living on top of it. I think the wisdom of being in “touch” with the earth goes deeper that we can know.

Kelly: When I was looking at your website, I noticed your commitment to selling your medicine locally for local people. Why is this important to you and has this created any particular challenges or benefits? 

Frieda: It just doesn’t feel right to ship my medicine to people when there’s so many of us right here! It also feels good to let this medicine be local, not pushing it or trying to extend it beyond where it’s made. You can’t just get the Pacific Ocean shipped to the Ozarks, just because people want it, and I feel the same way about this plant medicine. I do routinely have to turn people away who want to order from the east coast, but I feel like it’s an important statement to make in support of local community.

Kelly: I have a bottle of your Strong Women Syrup in my refrigerator and it might be one of my favorite things in there. On the bottle, it encourages you to take a deep breath and make room for the plants entering your body. Can you tell me more about this and how this works?

Frieda: My first herb teacher, Gail Julian, told me that you’ve got to make space in your body for the medicine to enter. For me, this means clearing my mind for a moment, settling my nervous system, maybe even letting the image of the actual plants come into view. Just like food–it tastes so much better when I slow down and let all my senses be a part of the experience!

Frieda Kipar Bay
Frieda Kipar Bay
Thrive Birth Center Blog

Mental Health Support for Moms and Moms-To-Be At Thrive Birth & Family Wellness Center

The following article was written by our beloved Tina Stanley, a licensed therapist who supports our client’s mental health at Thrive. To schedule an appointment or visit one of her support circles, please call our front desk and we will make registration easy for you. 

Did you know that women are especially vulnerable to mental health problems during pregnancy and postpartum? This may seem surprising since we like to focus on the aspects of those times that are joyous and fulfilling. But even under ideal circumstances, the experience of pregnancy, giving birth and mothering an infant bring profound physical, mental and social changes, adjustments and challenges. As a psychotherapist, I know this time in a woman’s life is powerfully evocative of unresolved psychological issues. This creates an amazing opportunity for healing and growth, while also bringing challenges and risks for a women’s emotional and mental stability.

Up to 80% of women experience the “baby blues”, a normal passage of feeling weepy, moody, and irritable that occurs in the first weeks after birth and resolves on it’s own. But 15-20% experience more problematic and persistent symptoms, that may include persistent depression, anxiety, insomnia, inability to enjoy life, or feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Troubling thoughts are also very common and can be repetitive and intrusive. Although postpartum depression is the most well known label, it may be more accurate to use the term perinatal mood disorders, which can begin during pregnancy and include depression or anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress. These disorders do not necessarily resolve on their own and in fact, may worsen over time. However, they are very treatable!

Many complex factors can contribute to a woman’s risk for a perinatal mood disorder. The following are risk factors that can make individual women more vulnerable:

  • previous history of depression and anxiety
  • sensitivity to hormonal changes (including PMS)
  • lack of social support
  • other life stressors, i.e. moves, financial or relationship difficulties, etc.
  • history of childhood abuse or trauma
  • previous experience of birth trauma
  • Postpartum psychosis is much more rare, affecting less than 1% of women and is characterized by confusion, delusions and being out of touch with reality. Postpartum psychoses is what generates headlines and sometimes makes women afraid to seek help for the much more common symptoms discussed above. Women should know that postpartum psychoses is a separate illness from postpartum depression or anxiety disorder and these more common disorders do not “turn into” psychoses.

Unfortunately, there are still strong barriers for women to admit they need help. Many women feel internal and external pressure to present themselves as competent, cheerful, and well-functioning, particularly in their roles as mothers. It can be hard enough anytime to identify oneself as depressed or anxious because of continuing stigma about mental health problems. But to do so during pregnancy or postpartum is often doubly challenging. Women are afraid of being judged or even seen as unfit mothers. We need to change this by speaking more freely of our struggles. Healthcare providers need to be more aware and take the time to find out how women are really doing, beyond the initial “I’m fine” which may be very inaccurate.

Women need and deserve help for perinatal mental health problems. Help can include increased support from friends or family, support groups, individual psychotherapy and/or medication. Family and friends can help by listeningwithout judgment, not offering unsolicited advice and encouraging women to reach out for help. Counseling for the couple may be appropriate and by the way, men are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety during the transition and adjustment to fatherhood, as well.

At Thrive, we offer a variety of enriching services for pregnant and postpartum women, including a support group for women who are struggling with depression and anxiety, as well as individual, couple or family counseling.
I facilitate our ongoing Friday morning group, “Surviving and Thriving through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety”. Topics include tools for self-care, mindful awareness of self-talk, and acceptance of imperfection. Together we create a safe space for sharing feelings, questions, and experiences. Women can join at any time, drop-ins are welcome and the first meeting is free.

If you a mother of a baby or toddler and are struggling to cope with worries, irritability, fatigue, sleep deprivation, difficulty enjoying your baby, or feeling bad about yourself, give yourself the gift of reaching out for support.
Try not to worry as much about questions like “do I have postpartum depression?” and just focus on “do I need or want some help and support?” You are not alone and we can help!

Call us or visit our website for more information. Or feel free to drop in on any Friday morning at 10:30 a.m.

Thrive Birth Center Blog

Are All Omega-3 Fatty Acids Created Equal? The Mahina Maven explains…

We are joined for this blog post by one of our favorite nutritionalists, Tessa Mancini Gillen, B.S. Biology, CNC, Herbalist. Today, Tessa takes a moment to explain why understanding your consumption of omega-3s is crucial for parent and infant health. Tessa will continue this conversation and more in her upcoming class, Pregnancy and Postpartum Nutrition, which is scheduled for Saturday, November 8th at 3pm in our Wisdom and Movement Center. Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Happy Birthing~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center 

Omega-3 fatty acids. By now, I’m sure you have all heard of these anti-inflammatory players. These fatty acids are essential for your health and vitality, and your body does not produce them on its own. You must obtain these guys from food, period. Research shows that there is a direct relationship between consumption of these perishable fatty acids and intellectual potential. Not to mention their role in the prevention of postpartum depression and in preterm labor. These fatty acids are prenatal & postpartum superfoods. A definite must for the nutrition plan, but are all sources of these fatty acids created equal?

I spot images of flax seeds and chia seeds posted on online health sites daily, all boasting of their omega-3 concentrations. While these foods do indeed contain Omega-3 fatty acids, they do not contain all components. There are 3 main components in Omega-3 fatty acids. The main component found in plant sources (flax seed, chia seed, walnut, and hemp seed) is called ALA. The predominant components found in fatty fish & fish oils are called EPA & DHA, both critical for brain function. These are the real key players during pregnancy and early childhood development, and yes you heard right, they are found in fatty fish & fish oil.

Now many make the argument that ALA, the omega-3 fatty acid found in plant sources, can be converted into DHA/EPA. While this can be true, they do so at an incredibly low rate, and only when ALL sufficient enzymes are present, which is rare as many people are deficient in not just one, but several of these enzymes. (Mercola, 2014) So if you want to ensure that you are getting the good stuff, fish & krill it is.

According to Dr. Mercola, wild-caught salmon & very small fish (sardines, anchovies) are fine to consume on a regular basis while pregnant & nursing. (Mercola 2014) He does note avoiding farmed salmon, as it contains only half of the omega-3 levels of wild salmon, while containing a range of toxic contaminants. In addition to wild-caught salmon & small fish, Dr. Mercola emphasizes the consumption of krill oil. This oil contains phospholipids that increase the absorption of the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, which means that you can consume less, and still receive all the benefits. It also contains a potent antioxidant (astaxanthin) which prevents the highly perishable fatty acids from oxidizing. Krill oil has been shown to be 200 times more resistant to oxidative damage when compared to fish oil. (Mercola, 2014)

Your brain is 60% fat, and DHA alone makes up approximately 20% of your brains cerebral cortex. It is literally put together & developed out of Omega-3 fatty acids. So you can see why consumption is of great importance during conception and early developmental years.


  1. Larsen, Hans. MSc ChE. Omega 3 Oils: The Essential Nutrients.http://www.mercola.com/beef/omega3_oil.htm
  2. Mercola. DHA From Omega 3 Fats Linked to Intelligence in Children. http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/dha-from-omega-3-fats-linked-to-intelligence-in-children/
  3. Miller BJ, Murray L, Beckmann MM, Kent T, Macfarlane B. Dietary Supplements for Preventing Postnatal Depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24158923


nettle bliss bites
Thrive Birth Center Blog

Mahina Maven Chronicles: Bringing Nettle Into The Kitchen

In follow up to our first post by the Mahina Maven, we are proud to bring you this nettle recipe developed by Thrive’s nutritionist, Tessa Mancini Gillen, B.S. Biology, CNC, Herbalist. Let us know what you think of the recipe in our comment section, and be sure to sign-up for one of Tessa’s classes on nutrition for pregnancy and postpartum time, breastfeeding and menopause. You can email me for a complete schedule at kelly@thrivebirth.com.

Happy Birthing!~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center 

nettle bliss bites

Bringing Nettle Into The Kitchen

Food is a source of pleasure, a mesh of aromatic explosions, tantalizing textures, and flavor sensations that dance together. But food is also fuel. With every bite, you make the choice to fuel your body with high-octane foods that will make you feel better, smile wider, and sleep deeper or with foods that will deplete your energy and vitality. Instead of focusing on what we shouldn’t drink, shouldn’t eat, shouldn’t do, lets focus on what we can do that will make a difference in our health. We can create rich, decadent, soul satisfying foods that nourish every cell in the body. So, where do we start? Well, in the kitchen of course, but instead of reaching for the familiar rosemary, basil, garlic, thyme, hey, maybe even turmeric, I challenge you to try something new. A good place to start is with the lesser known nettle plant.

Nettle is a mini vitamin factory that provides brain boosting benefits, is loaded with iron, gives you a surge of serotonin, and has natural anti-allergenic qualities. It contains more protein than any other plant found in temperate regions. This stinging sensation is a very valuable asset in the kitchen. While many of us may be familiar with nettle tea, or its use as a tincture, nettle is an amazingly versatile plant that can be regularly incorporated into your diet. The possibilities are endless. Toss it in a soup, throw it in a processor for your morning super smoothie, blend the leaves into a divine pesto, whip them into a savory tapenade, or simply roll up some nourishing Nettle Bliss Bites. These are super easy to make, and are great for anyone desiring improved health. Go ahead, fuel up and bliss out!

Nettle Bliss Bites


  • ¾-1 cup dried Nettle
  • 4 ½ tablespoons Flax Seed
  • 2 tablespoons Chia Seeds
  • 1 Jar of SunButter (This is a butter made out of sunflower seeds. You can substitute Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, or any other nut butter desired.)
  • ½ cup raw honey (local honey can provide seasonal allergy relief)
  • 1 cup Coconut Butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup shredded Coconut
  • 1 Vanilla Bean- scrape out the powder from inside the bean.
  • Dark Chocolate Chips, Cacao, Cinnamon, Shredded Coconut, Goji Berries, or other additions.


  • Powder the Nettles & Flax Seeds in a spice/coffee grinder.
  • Transfer the powdered mixture to a food processor and add all other ingredients..
  • Split the dough into 2 parts.
  • Add 1 Cup Cacao nibs, or dark chocolate chips, and mix until evenly distributed.
  • Set both mixtures in the fridge for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Take mixtures out and roll the dough into balls. Use 1Tablespoon of dough per ball.
  • For the mixture without the cacao/chocolate, roll the balls in a plate of shredded coconut, chopped up goji berries, or a sweet & savory spice mix of your choice.
  • Keep refrigerated. Enjoy!!
Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Thrive Birth Talk with Franchesca Duval on Fertility Awareness

For our third installment of Thrive Birth Talk, we met with Franchesca Duval to talk about her Fertility Awareness workshop which she will be offering at Thrive. In this workshop, Franchesca helps women and partners bridge the gap between science and spirituality while teaching them how to avoid or achieve pregnancy through the Billings Method of ovulation tracking. We wanted to hear from Franchesca on her thoughts regarding the cultural and personal significance of tracking your own ovulation, plus a little bit about what folks can expect to gain from one of her workshops. We know that you’ll enjoy this interview! If you’d like to sign up for one of her classes you can email me directly for more information at kelly@thrivebirth.com 

Happy Birthing!~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center 

Kelly: What exactly is Fertility Awareness and why are you drawn to teach it?

Franchesca: Fertility Awareness is the process of learning how your reproductive system works so you can read your own signs of fertility and avoid or achieve pregnancy. When a lot of folks think of Fertility Awareness the first thing that comes to mind is the rhythm method which is extremely flawed and a great way to get pregnant if you do not want to. The method of Fertility Awareness I teach is called the Billings Method, it is 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy. The science behind the method is solid, it can be tailored to any womans cycle and the information is easy to understand.

While I was in college I saw a lot of women go on birth control for weight or acne regulation who were not sexually active, and those women were not fully educated as to what they were taking and how it would effect their physical, mental and spiritual health over the years. I became passionate about teaching this method because I recognize the need for another voice in the world letting women know that there are options other than chemical contraceptives available to them.

There is an interesting campaign by the makers of chemical birth control which says that it liberates women because it gives them reproductive choices. I challenge that campaign and say that the greatest liberation to women is allowing them to ovulate AND educating them on how to prevent pregnancy so their fertility is truly in their hands.

Kelly: A lot of women say to me, “I’m really fertile, that wouldn’t work for me” or “I want to be able to have sex all the time so I can’t practice that.” How do you respond to these types of concerns?

Franchesca: These are great common concerns that have easy solutions. First of all, every woman has a variable window of fertility each month. Some women may skip ovulation all together one month while another will have seven days of fertility in which she needs to avoid unprotected sex. No matter how fertile a woman is, she will only be fertile for one window each month (ovulation can only occur once each cycle) so there will always be time before and or after a womans fertile cycle for unprotected sex.

To the folks who say that they want to have sex all of the time I say go for it and do the best you can to protect yourself, if you feel the absolute need to connect with your partner while you are in your window of fertility then use a condom and know that if the condom breaks there is a high likelihood that you will get pregnant. If you are uncomfortable with using condoms than expand your sexual play, there are many ways to have sex without going all the way to intercourse and most of my couples find that a woman’s fertile time is a great opportunity to get creative and try new things so their love life stays fresh and fun! We gain a great deal of empowerment when we know we are fertile and make choices accordingly as opposed to shooting in the dark and trusting our fertility to a device or chemical outside of ourselves.

Kelly: From a very young age, many women who are sexually active or are considering becoming sexually active are signed up for medicated birth control and given little to no education about how their cycles work. Do you think it’s important to break away from this model of healthcare, and if so, why?

Franchesca: I absolutely believe it is important to break away from this model of medicating our girls early. Chemical birth control plays with our endocrine system, specifically our pituitary and pineal glands which a lot of spiritual traditions believe are our gateways to God and our highest selves. I get a lot of students who say that while they were on birth control they were depressed or felt directionless, as if they were missing a large part of themselves. No one talks about birth control’s role in these emotions and a lot of girls get put on anti-depressants needlessly. Most chemical birth control prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation each month which leads to young girls having a flatline in their emotions and power. When we ovulate we are at the peak of our focus, alertness and attractiveness, women who are ovulating will knock any presentation  out of the park because they are at the height of their personal power for the month. Young girls who are on chemical contraceptives are robbed of the opportunity to step into that place of power and do not find it until much later in life when they go off of the pills to try and conceive.

I believe that every woman deserves the chance to be taught how her body REALLY works so she can make the decision to go on birth control or have an IUD with confidence that it is the right decision for her and not just because it is what is available.

Kelly: How can partners benefit from Fertility Awareness and what do they need to know about it?

Franchesca: This method creates a level playing field of responsibility with contraception where both partners can make the decisions about the best days to have unprotected sex. Gone will be the days of the woman being 100% responsible with her pills or the man being 100% responsible with the condoms. The couple get to deepen their communication and talk it over together with a clear picture of what is going on with the womans fertility and not fumble around in the dark, guessing when the fertile window actually is.

Men are not doing the day to day sensing and observing that the women will do but they can chart for their ladies. Having the man ask each night what the most fertile sign of the day was is a great way to have him involved so he can help make the decision about unprotected sex. There are great apps for the iPhone, even websites that allow women to track their cycles so a man can check remotely to see if she is entering her infertile time and know to come home with some flowers and sweet moves to put her in the mood!

Kelly: Now the fun question. Really, better sex for the woman and the man? Do tell!

Franchesca: Most couples who are trying to avoid pregnancy have a low level of anxiety around sex because they know that every time they unite there is a chance of pregnancy occurring. Men in particular suffer from not being able to be fully present in the act because they are focusing on pulling out or the condom breaking. When a woman has mastered the Billings Method she will know with complete confidence that she is infertile and when her and her man can have reckless abandon in their lovemaking. The man is able to be fully present with his lady when he knows there is no chance of pregnancy, allowing for a deeper connection in intimacy which every woman craves. The juiciness is put back into the relationship and every month the couple gets to get excited for unprotected sex in the infertile time while exploring other options during the fertile time.

Lisa Flato class photo
Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Thrive Birth Talk with Lisa Flato on Yoga, Art, Food and being a Mindful Mama

Welcome to our second installment of Thrive Birth Talk. This week we are joined by one of our yoga instructors, Lisa Flato, to talk about the merging of yoga, art and food in her Mindful Mama workshop. If you’d like to hear more about one of our workshops, or have a specific question for one of our instructors, please email me directly at kelly@thrivebirth.com.

Happy Birthing!~ Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center

Kelly: Tell us about the essence of your Mindful Mama workshop.

Lisa: I created the Mindful Mama workshop as a way for pregnant mamas to have a place to gather and share communally in the experience of being pregnant with the myriad of changes we all go through. I firmly believe the practice of yoga while preparing for labor, delivery and motherhood is a powerful way to connect deeply with your baby and yourself. It’s a time to tap into and cultivate your intuitive power, as well as the benefits of physically preparing for the work ahead. We also take the time to create a piece of art, inspired by birth and motherhood. I had this vision that the mamas may want to create a sacred space in preparation, and the art created during the workshop would be a part of this space, in their home or birthing place.

At the end of the workshop we share in a meal that I have prepared. I’ve always enjoyed cooking for people, and I truly love to nurture the mamas in this way.

Kelly: Many of our readers know the benefits of yoga and meditation for the pregnant mind and body, but can you tell us more about the importance of art and sharing food?

Lisa: In our busy hectic world, I feel one of the things lacking for some of us is an expression of our creative selves. The feelings and desires to make, dance, sing, and create are ever present, but the actual act of taking time out for it can be challenging. I want the mamas to have a piece of themselves that they can take home. An expression of how they are feeling. To experience joy, laughter and deep connection in creating art from their hearts. Sometimes the project is to draw, collage, sculpt and sometimes it’s more of nurturing themselves with a homemade aromatherapy rice soak. It’s always a piece they’ve taken the time to sit and think about, to craft with their hands, and simply to sit with.

And what better way to nurture someone then to feed them? Mamas are spending so much time and energy, literally, growing, and taking care of these precious beings, not to mention other people in their homes, and I want them to feel nourished and taken care of, plane and simple.

Lisa Flato class photo
Mindful Mamas at the end of the workshop.

Kelly: Who should take this workshop?

Lisa: This workshop is appropriate for any expecting mama. The standard for a yoga practice is to be very gentle and slow for the first 12 weeks while pregnant, however I feel that if you have a strong practice, and/or a strong desire for time with yourself and community, then you are most welcome. We always modify accordingly. Truly any skill level is appropriate, beginners to advanced. The poses have many modifications, but in general I teach a gentle nurturing style of Hatha Yoga that will definitely help the mama to build strength, from the physical level to the emotional and beyond.

Kelly: What kind of feedback do you get from participants after class?

Lisa: Women who have taken part of the workshops really enjoy the feeling of community and gathering in a group to practice and share. For those who have come throughout their pregnancies, they’ve enjoyed the different pieces of art they’ve collected and one mama even sent me a picture of a vision board we did that she framed and placed in the new baby’s room. They appreciate being fed a meal that is simply presented and that they didn’t spend any energy thinking about. Especially for mama’s with other children at home, this feels like a luxury!

Kelly: This workshop creates a special ritual for the pregnant woman that allows her to connect with herself, her baby and her community. What are your thoughts on ritual and initiation around birth in our culture?

Lisa: All of us need time to slow down, time to reflect, time to simply be. The transformational journey that a women must go through in order to prepare for the role of MOTHER, is one paved with lots of information, concerns and opinions. I like to offer a time for creating sacred space, cultivating intuition, designing rituals to bring into the laboring zone, and supportive ways in which we can lift each other up as women to build strong communities built of trust, faith and sisterhood. Not only in our own bodies and selves, but also in each other.

Thrive Birth Center Blog

The Mahina Maven Chronicles: Brain Health For Baby and Mama

Welcome to the first installement of The Mahina Maven Chronicles, brought to you by Tessa Mancini Gillen, B.S. Biology, CNC, Herbalist. Tessa will be teaching classes in nutrition for the child-bearing years, as well as the whole family and women transitioning through menoapuse, plus cooking and gardening classes. In this blog series, Tessa will teach us about food that is in season and how to prepare it for optimal health. If you have a question for Tessa, please email me directly at kelly@thrivebirth.com. 

Happy Birthing! ~Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom and Movement Center

Nettle boosts your metabolism, helps to burn fat and increase energy, puts a little pep in your step with a serotonin surge, and is anti-allergenic to ease seasonal allergies.


Brain Health

Mom’s diet and nutrition during pregnancy is critical for optimal brain functioning of her baby. Seventy percent of the brain’s growth occurs during fetal life, setting a foundation for every aspect of development as an infant, child and adult. Studies have confirmed that the fetal brain is indeed influenced by what the mother eats during pregnancy. Three-quarters of the permanent structuring and development of the brain has already occurred by birth, and the first five years of childhood continue this formation. Several nutrients are vital in this process, but choline (converting to acetylcholine) takes center stage. Our ability to remember, especially long-term memory, depends on brain cells being able to make new connections. One key messenger is involved, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine has been shown to play a very particular role during brain growth and cognitive development, regulating critical aspects of maturation of the neocortex, hippocampus and cerebellum, all parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. Studies have shown that maternal dietary consumption of choline enhances memory and learning functions in the fetus, changes that endure across a lifespan, enhancing memory and learning function for the rest of your life. Early deficiencies in choline result in memory and cognitive deficits that also persist across a lifespan. Both pregnancy and lactation significantly increase the demand for acetylcholine, and how acetylcholine performs within the fetus is determined by the concentration in the mother.

Highlighted Plant: Stinging Nettle

This plant is an energy changing, brain boosting, super stinging, whole body vitalizer. With usages so broad that virtually every body system benefits, Nettle may be my favorite plant. And for me, that is a bold statement.

For starters, the entire plant can be used, leaving no waste. The roots, leaves, and stems can all be harvested (carefully to avoid the formic acid sting), and the benefits of each seem endless. This stinging sensation contains more protein than any other plant growing in temperate regions and is a vitamin factory. The seeds are highly nutritious containing protein, essential fatty acids, and enzymes. Nettle boosts your metabolism, helps to burn fat and increase energy, puts a little pep in your step with a serotonin surge, and is anti-allergenic to ease seasonal allergies.

But the real reason Nettle is featured today is its connection to acetylcholine. Nettle is one of the very few plant sources that contains this neurotransmitter. One more bonus: it’s safe to drink in pregnancy. Just think, with every sip of this earthy, energy building tea, you are giving your baby a little brain-boosting sip as well. So drink up!
~Tessa Mancini Gillen, The Mahina Maven, B.S. Biology, CNC, Herbalist

1. Albright, Craig. Tsai, Amy. Friedrich, Claudia. Choline availability alters embryonic development of the hippocampus and septum in the rat. Developmental Brain Research.Volume 113, Issues 1-2, 12 March 1999, pg 13-20
2. Garner SC, Mar MH, Zeisel SH. Choline distribution and metabolism in pregnant rats & fetuses are influenced by the choline content of the maternal diet. The Journal of Nutrition. Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. 1995
3. Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science & Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press.2003 pg. 591
4. Zeisel SH. The Fetal Origins of Memory: the role of dietary choline in optimal brain development. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17212955

Thrive Birth Center Blog, Thrive Birth Talk

Thrive Birth Talk with Jes Morell, creator of the RISE workshop

This is the first installment of our new series, Thrive Birth Talk, that will be shared on our blog. This series aims to educate the public about our amazing classes and services that our educators and practitioners offer in Thrive’s Wisdom & Movement Center. If there is a practitioner or workshop that you would like to learn more about, please email me at kelly@thrivebirth.com.

Happy Birthing,
Kelly Gray, Director of the Wisdom & Movement Center

Jessica Morell is a DONA certified Birth Doula, a Lamaze certified Childbirth Educator and she holds an International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) certification in prenatal fitness.  She is the creator and director of The RISE workshop, an early sex-ed class for ‘tween’ girls.

Jes, as she goes by, will be one of Thrive’s on-site massage therapists, teaching families the art of infant massage and offering her RISE workshop at our Wisdom and Movement Center. I sat down with Jes to discuss her workshop and why it’s so important to guide and support our young daughters as they transition through puberty.

Kelly: What is the Rise Workshop and who is it for?

Jes: RISE is an acronym for Reproductive Information/Scientific Education, and is a reproductive self-awareness and self empowerment class for tween girls, generally ages 9 – 13. The class is designed for young women entering puberty. In a comprehensive, nurturing and informative environment, girls are introduced to an overview of the anatomy of their reproductive systems. The class continues with an in-depth explanation of menses and the physical, emotional and psychological changes girls may be feeling at this important time in their lives.

Kelly: How might young women benefit from taking this workshop?

Jes: Young women may enter the class feeling anxious or shy about talking about these personal subjects but they leave feeling joyful, informed and empowered because they understand from a scientific perspective exactly what is happening in their bodies.  They also get a chance to express, through the spirit portrait that is created as part of each workshop, their emotions, feelings and responses regarding this amazing time in their lives.

Kelly: As an educator, what’s your favorite part of running this workshop?

Jes: The sheer joy and fun I see the girls express once they realize they are truly in a safe and supportive environment.  They have so many questions that they don’t always even know how to put into words.  So often the girls are ‘creeped out’ by talking about things like tampons and their periods.  By the end of the workshop they often glue the tampons opened like blossoms, onto their spirit portraits or just generally express ease and confidence with the material.  This fills my heart with gladness!

Kelly: How is education and support like your workshop different from the support you and your peers received while growing up?

Jes: I was horrified to have such personal material, I felt very, very shy about my period as a young women, discussed in a co-ed class room by a male teacher who was insensitive, abrupt and dismissive of the realities that young women face at this time in their lives.  So many women my age did not get good, comprehensive or helpful information about what was happening with our bodies, as young women.  We were not taught with respect, sensitivity or care about how confusing, bewildering and exciting all these changes can be.  I’m deeply committed to providing this most important of information in respectful and nurturing way.