Holistic Pregnancy Panel

natural pregnancy

photo credit: meaganjean

I’m really excited today to bring you a holistic health panel based around the subject of pregnancy. So often information regarding pregnancy is focused around fear that a woman begins to doubt her body’s ability to go through pregnancy and birth without medical help. So I contacted three ladies I knew would bring not only solid information to the table, but also because I knew they could help calm and dispel some of the fears many women have.

*It’s important to note however, that the opinions and advice given are not to be taken as medical advice. If you have specific questions regarding your personal care, please consult with your health care practitioner. What you can do is use the following information as a launching pad for your own research, or as the beginning to open dialogue with your OB or midwife, so that you can come to conclusions you feel comfortable with.

Meet the Panelists:

natural living momsAmy Bale is one of our contributors here at NLM as well as a mom of two {with one on the way}, and a chiropractor by profession at Wilcox Family Chiropractic in Kentwood, MI.

Shannon Pawson, CPM is a midwife serving clients who wish to have a homebirth. She couples in the West Michigan area providing: total midwifery care for normal pregnancies, childbirth education, as well as assisting with breastfeeding and mothercare after the birth.You can find out more about Shannon at Your Homebirth.

Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a traditional Naturopathic Doctor at Elder & Sage, a natural remedies shop located in the East Fulton Business District in Grand Rapids. She is a member and former chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation and also teaches at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Kathryn has done numerous public speaking engagements, taught several classes on natural health and healthy cooking, maintains a website and blog about natural health, has written several articles for local publication and is a highly respected professional in her field. Kathryn and her husband have two beautiful daughters both born at home.


1. Do you recommend a pregnant woman take any particular supplements?

Amy – I always recommend a good quality whole food supplement along with fish oil. Folic acid is also extremely important before conception and into the first trimester. If you know you are going to be trying to get pregnant in the near future, I recommend to start taking all of these right away.

Shannon – Nutrition is so particular with each individual – I do not have a particular supplement that I recommend to every woman. I do complete diet diary sheets with each woman and make recommendations based on that. The most common recommendations I make are for whole food based prenatals, floradix for those who are sluggish or with iron deficiency anemia symptoms, and for digestive enzymes for those dealing with gastroinestinal issues.

Kathryn – Most of my supplementation suggestions are tailored specifically to the mother and her individual requirements but I almost always suggest red raspberry leaf. Red raspberry is the “mother herb” which helps anywhere from nausea and blood building in early pregnancy to reduced pain and blood loss in labor and even building breastmilk for the newborn. Often some gotu kola for brain development and hawthorn berries for the heart are beneficial in the first trimester as well as a good essential fatty acid supplement like fermented cod liver oil and butter oil from Green Pastures. Just before the due date I will often recommend a Nature’s Sunshine product called 5W which is used during the last five weeks of pregnancy to help prepare the body for labor.


2. What tests or procedures (adjustments) do you normally recommend in pregnancy?

Amy – In chiropractic care pregnant women are treated essentially the same as any ‘normal’ patient for the first trimester or so. Once it becomes uncomfortable to lay on your stomach we have a special table which drops in the middle to accommodate a growing belly. As joints start to relax due to hormonal changes especially in the 3rd trimester, less force is usually needed to make adjustments. Webster’s technique is a an adjustment that has been shown very effective in turning breech babies. I like to check this on most women starting in the 3rd trimester to insure proper vertex (head down) position of the baby for delivery.

Shannon – At every prenatal I have the mothers perform a urine test which is a simple stick that is dipped into the mothers urine to test for protein, glucose, blood, nitrite or leukocytes. I belive it’s a non-invasive way to monitor for different possible complications and is a helpful indicator on how the mother’s body is reacting to certain food groups in the diet.

I don’t have any particular other tests that I normally recommend (such as glucose tolerance or ultrasound). I try to explain the testing that most medical settings will offer, their reasons for offering them, the procedures and possible complications of each test and what the outcomes may lead to. Then I go on to explain why I am comfortable with not having the particular test done. Always the family is the deciding factor on what testing or procedures are performed.

As for procedures – I do monitor momma’s blood pressure, any swelling that she may have, measure the height of the uterus, feel the baby through the belly to estimate size, growth and position, and listen to the sounds of the fetal heart tones at each prenatal. If necessary I may also check the mother’s temperature and pulse.

Kathryn – Whatever tests and procedures the parent’s feel comfortable with or feel are necessary. Because I am not a medical doctor I can’t make any recommendations but when my clients ask my opinion on whether they should get a certain procedure or not I typically ask them whether or not the results would change their plans. For example if the parents know they want to have this baby no matter what physical or mental limitations might be present then perhaps the test or procedure in question might not be necessary. But even if it only offers peace of mind and a reduction of stress for the parents I would say it is worth it.

3. What common tests or procedures aren’t really necessary?

Amy – As far as chiropractic goes we don’t do really do any tests or procedures specifically for pregnant women, but you would definitely want to avoid x-rays if you know or think you may be pregnant.

Shannon – I think it depends on what the definition of necessary is. For example, I think some families ‘need’ to have the ultrasound to ‘see’ the baby in order to have the peace of baby is growing fine. Some families really want the comfort of some common tests or procedures – making them necessary for that family then or maybe even just for that pregnancy.

In my practice I am very comfortable not offering or having ultrasounds, glucose tolerance tests, Group B Strep testing, hemoglobin finger pokes, vaginal exams, non-stress testing or genetic screening for a majority of the families I work with.

Kathryn – When an individual is fully informed of all of the risks and benefits of a particular test or procedure and they choose to proceed, I would say that it was necessary. My primary goal is to make sure my clients are fully informed so they can make their own choice. Of course women have been giving birth to babies for a long time and nature is marvelous in its inner workings. However, modern lifestyles and modern stressors do play a significant factor. It is important to take each case individually because what is unnecessary for most may be crucial for some.


4. What do you recommend for normal pregnancy aches and pains?

Amy – Exercise is a great way to stay feeling good during pregnancy. Walking and light weights along with yoga and other stretching can go a long ways in keeping you feeling good. Chiropractic adjustments will help, especially with low back/hip pain, headaches, sciatica and carpal tunnel symptoms that some women experience during pregnancy.

Shannon – My first step in most pregnancy issues is looking at the diet – if we can change the symptoms with diet changes that’s great and my normal first step. Then depending on the family and their comfort level and the symptoms I will recommend herbal or homeopathic or maybe even referral to another specialist. Chiropractic, Yoga (or just mindful stretching) and regular exercise, along with diet changes and increasing water intake, are my most common recommendations.

Kathryn – Probably the best remedy is someone to listen and share! We really need our community of women (and men) who have experienced and can share all of the joys and miseries of life. My go to remedies are homeopathics for nausea like ipecac, nux vomica, or arsenicum although some women do better with ginger or peppermint teas and essential oils. For headaches, not drinking enough water is the usual culprit although constipation or liver toxicity can also cause headaches so again I would need to address the individual. General soreness can often be relieved by myofascial release, cranio sacral work or just a general pregnancy massage.


5.What pregnancy and birthing books do you recommend?

Amy – Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck is a good one for nutrition advice and I also like the Bradley Method books for basic information about the physical aspects and what to expect during labor and delivery.

Shannon – I recommend authors: Ina May Gaskin, Henci Goer, Aviva Jill Romm, Suzanne Arms, Susun Weed, Dr. Sears ~ and pretty much anything that says Natural on the cover 🙂

Kathryn – I highly recommend anything by Ina May Gaskin or Penny Simkin. I really like “Birthing from Within” by Pam England and the Sears do a nice job on addressing issues from pregnancy through childhood. For a lot of my moms I tell them to go home and watch home birth videos on YouTube. Even if they aren’t planning a homebirth these videos can give them the encouragement that their body knows what to do and to trust in that. I think reading too many books can sometimes be overwhelming and scary, particularly when they talk a lot about the things that can go wrong. I don’t like to put that kind of energy into a birth.


6. Do you recommend any certain childbirth classes?

Amy – We took the Bradley Method birthing classes and I was very happy with them. I didn’t especially use many of the relaxation techniques during labor, but the classes went well beyond that and really educated my husband and myself about what to expect during labor and delivery and I think that helped the most.

Shannon – I don’t recommend a particular class above any other – but I do really like the Bradley or Brio because of the scope of education they offer. I believe education is great – so anytime a family wants to learn more I encourage it. Lamaze, Birthing from Within, Hypnobirthing – all of the different childbirth classes have good information and will be absorbed differently by each family. Education is an asset at all times in life – pregnancy is a great opportunity for a woman to learn more about her body.

Kathryn – I like what I have seen from the Bradley Method but overall I think many parents can do just fine on their own as long as they have a conscious caregiver like a midwife for a homebirth or birthing center and maybe a doula for a hospital birth.


7. What alternative therapies do you recommend during pregnancy?

Amy – I obviously think that chiropractic care can help contribute to a more enjoyable, less painful experience of pregnancy, along with insuring alignment of the pelvis and lower back to allow the baby to descend properly during the birth process.

Shannon – I recommend chiropractic and yoga the most. I have a great chiropractor I work with that does the Webster technique and we have had great success with that particular technique in helping to encourage babies into optimal positions. From time to time I will recommend other therapies – but acupuncture is not easily accessible for pregnant women in my area and most chiropractors work with massage therapists as a vital part of their practice – so if massages were recommended it would more likely come from the chiropractor and not me.

Kathryn – Oh, I think any alternative therapy can be a good complement to a healthy pregnancy. Again as long as you are well-informed and the therapist is skilled in dealing with pregnancy issues I think alternative therapies can bring a lot of relief for the mom and have some wonderful benefits for the baby as well. I recommend all of my pregnant clients get at least one pregnancy massage once a month if they can!

8. What dietary guidelines do you give your pregnant patients?

Amy – Protein, protein, protein, preferably in whole food form. 80-100grams per day. Also lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and good fats, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.

Shannon – Eat healthy, fresh, whole foods and limit processed, junk, empty calorie foods. And drink lots of water – they should float everywhere they go and should be able to pee on command.

Kathryn – Dietary guidelines can be so confusing and misleading. What is good for the general public is not necessarily the best for pregnant women. Traditional cultures always saved the best and most nutritious foods for pregnant women and children. Protein intake needs to be much higher than average and I would never recommend a low-fat or fat-free diet for a pregnant or nursing mom, those fat soluble vitamins are crucial for the developing brain and nervous system of the infant. The dietary guidelines that I give most often are simply this: EAT REAL FOOD! If you look at the ingredients list on a package and it is a mile long with words that are unpronounceable, it’s probably not that good for you. But, if it is a short list and you can recognize most of the ingredients as having come from a plant or animal it’s pretty good. And the best foods have no label at all! Processed and packaged foods deplete our bodies of so many important nutrients. Probably the most important thing to reduce or avoid altogether is sugary foods and white flour based products. I also highly recommend avoiding all trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils as these can wreak havoc on a developing nervous and hormonal system and will also reduce breastmilk production.


9. Instead of medical induction, what tips do you give moms for getting labor started?

Amy – Foot/ankle massage, sex, herbal or homeopathic remedies (only under supervision from your healthcare provider)

Shannon – Attempting to get labor started – is induction. 🙂 I often say that I have never had a woman pregnant forever – and I encourage families to trust in the body’s timing and wait. If they are set on encouraging things – I first try to talk them out of it – then I would offer suggestions of sex, nipple stimulation, acupuncture, chiropractic, walking, and visualization. Always with the reminder that none of these (or even medicinal induction means) will work if the body isn’t ready.

Kathryn – There are so many risks involved in inducing labor before mom and baby are physiologically ready that my best recommendation is to wait if you can. There are often some very good reasons that mom is not able to wait and for that I do have a homeopathic regimen that I recommend using arnica, caulophyllum, and cimicifuga. There is also a great essential oil blend using clary sage that can get things started, especially when used in conjunction with the reflexology points on the ankles. Again, there is a Nature’s Sunshine product I recommend called 5W that can be used the last five weeks of pregnancy to prepare the body for labor. I always like to remind my moms that any induction method is not 100% effective and all of them can cause more intense labor pains or a precipitous delivery.


10. What is one thing you tell every pregnant woman?

Amy – Trust your body. Women were made specifically to carry and birth babies and we need to remember that. We’ve been lead to believe that there needs to be some sort of medical intervention even for the most low risk, normal births and that is certainly not the case. You were made to do this and you can!

Shannon – You can only do what you can do. There is so much we have no control over in pregnancy and birth ~ take ownership of the things you can control ~ what you eat and how you treat your body.

Kathryn – Congratulations! Pregnancy is an exciting time and women need to be supported emotionally, physically, mentally and more. It can be scary and it can be exhilarating and it can even be boring at times! But the most important thing to remember is that you CAN do it.

At every prenatal I have the mothers perform a urine test which is a simple stick that is dipped into the mothers urine to test for protein, glucose, blood, nitrite or leukocytes. I belive it’s a non-invasive way to monitor for different possible complications and is a helpful indicator on how the mother’s body is reacting to certain food groups in the diet.

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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

About donielle

Donielle is a natural momma of two, lover of real foods, and owner and editor of Grand Rapids Natural Living and Naturally Knocked Up. You can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up some nourishing foods, cuddled on the couch reading books to the littles, avoiding the laundry and Mt. Saint Dishes, or tapping away on the laptop. Her husband puts up with her sometimes crazy "hippie" ways, but loves her regardless. Welcome to my home away from home.


  1. Thank you for the good info! I find it curious about the glucose tolerance tests, as I know the midwives that I have worked with, find an alternative test to teach women about glucose levels in pregnancy has been so useful in preventing transfers in later pregnancy and prevented complications.


  1. […] Talk about Why didn’t anyone tell me? Excellent information from the Holistic Pregnancy Panel at Natural Living […]