Pregnancy 101

. June 30, 2014.
    With so many products and services out there for pregnant women and new moms, and so much advice floating around, how do you know what’s really best for you? We talked to local experts about lesser-known, not often talked about, or even slightly controversial options for pregnant women!

Placenta Encapsulation

courtney blake

Expert: Courtney Blake, Owner of Mother’s Own

Mother’s Own was started by Courtney Blake in July 2012 when she was searching for placenta encapsulation services during her own pregnancy and had a hard time finding any in the area. Placenta encapsulation helped Courtney avoid postpartum depression and increased her milk supply after her daughter’s birth, and she decided to share this method of achieving postpartum wellness with other moms in the Ann Arbor area.
Though many women may feel squeamish about the handling of their placenta, Courtney assures them that she adheres to a strict sanitation policy in creating the capsules, and says, “I use supplies that can either be fully sanitized or are disposable.  I never work on more than one placenta at a time.”
Women who consume placenta pills postpartum have reported several benefits that they attribute to the pills – “Most Moms report a boost in energy within a few hours of taking their first capsules.  Placenta encapsulation and consumption has also helped with lactation, postpartum depression, decrease in amount of postpartum lochia (bleeding) and an overall sense of well-being and peace,” Courtney explains.

     For more information on placenta encapsulation and the services Courtney offers, check out her website at

Indigo Forest


Expert: Beth Barbeau, Owner

Indigo Forest is a unique, seven-year-old class studio and boutique that aims to “support moms and families in feeling more empowered, to trust their common sense, and to give some support for really engaged parenting,” shares owner Beth Barbeau.
Indigo Forest offers a number of classes helpful to pregnant women, new moms, and even classes to continue learning long after your children are walking and talking. Classes touch on a range of topics, including how to have a successful VBAC, breastfeeding, natural health, and they even offer a free nursing café every Wednesday afternoon from 2-3 PM. Best of all, they supply the products talked about in their classes right there in the boutique.
Beth is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about postpartum care, something that women are often unprepared for. In a nutshell, Beth advises women to “plan and strategize. Rest lavishly with your baby after the birth for a long time!” According to Beth, during pregnancy and postpartum women need “space and time to unravel” in order to be healthy and well.

For more information on products and services offered at Indigo Forest, or to set up a one-on-one consultation with Beth or another one of their experts, visit

What is your best advice for new moms and dads? What is the one thing you wish you knew if you were doing it over again?

Baby wearing! So many benefits
for momma, baby and dads too.
So many great options at local baby stores. You just gotta try it!
Heather Somers-Strozesk, Saline

Everything is temporary
(yes the baby acne goes away).
Any worries you may have now will soon pass and new ones pop up but pass once again. The infant stage is over so quickly!
Marieka Kaye, Ann Arbor

Trust your instincts!
Katherine Kobylak Dunlop, Ypsilanti

Ann Arbor Doulas


Expert: Deb Rhizal, Doula & Owner of Pregnancy Arts

For emotional support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum, look no further than Deb Rhizal, a doula since 2004 and founder of Pregnancy Arts, the home of childbirth classes, doula services and pregnancy consultations. “I love being there to support the transition that is happening in the life of the family, not having a clinical focus on mom and baby, but having a social focus on strong family foundations and women’s experiences during birth, and babies’ and partners’ experiences during birth, and how they can be drawn together and gain confidence during the birth experience,” Rhizal shares.
A doula is not a midwife, who is a clinical caretaker and medical RN whose task is to deliver the baby with a holistic mindset. “Doulas are there to focus on emotional support, encouragement, listening to families, understanding the values that are important during birth and then being there to help educate them on their options and how to make those things possible at the birth” she explains. Doulas also advocate for the decisions made by the family during the birth, and offer ongoing postpartum support as well.
One of the main concerns families have about hiring a doula is the role of the husband or partner at the birth. However, Rhizal assures that there is a big difference between a person who is there to offer unconditional love who has never witnessed a birth, and a doula, who is “hired to come in with their knowledge of the birth process and what might facilitate the birth process, and how they might be able to offer suggestions or ideas.” Modeling how to offer helpful support during labor is a great benefit to mom and her partner, and eases the stress and uncertainty that some partners can feel during labor and birth.

For more information on doula support, visit

The Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor

barbara robertson'

Expert: Barbara Robertson, Owner  

Though the bottle versus breast debate may be daunting, there are many benefits to breastfeeding, “for baby, mom and our society,” according to Barbara Robertson, a board certified lactation consultant. Breastfeeding has been found to help prevent gastrointestinal issues for baby, among other illnesses, and has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other diseases for mom as well. It also can strengthen parent-child attachment, and saves a pretty penny for families bogged down with the cost of a new baby – formula costs parents about $2,000 for one year!
The Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor supports new moms every step of the way as they give breastfeeding a try. “There are many reasons that mothers might get off to a rocky start,” Barbara explains. “We can help with soreness, milk supply, or latching problems. We offer prenatal breastfeeding classes, we offer support groups, private consultations, sell breast pumps, replacement parts, and have an amazing selection of nursing bras and tanks.”
For new moms, Barbara has this piece of advice: “Become educated, surround yourself with people who support your goals, and get help if you need it!”

Visit for more information of the benefits of breastfeeding, and services offered by Barbara and the team at the Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor.

Prenatal Yoga

marlene mcgrath

Expert: Marlene McGrath, Prenatal Yoga Instructor

  Exercise can be anxiety-ridden for some women during pregnancy, due to discomfort or uncertainty as to what is safe for mom and baby. Prenatal Yoga is the perfect option for women looking to stay active in a way that is safe and conscious of the changes going on in the body during pregnancy. Prenatal Yoga can help alleviate the discomforts of pregnancy, using gentle stretching and postures to ease lower back pain, swelling in the hands and feet, and discomfort in the hips.
Yoga during pregnancy can also help to prepare the new mom for labor. “Restorative yoga postures practiced by prenatal women promote relaxation of the body, focus of the mind, and awareness of the breath. These practices can be useful during labor and beyond,” Marelen McGrath, prenatal yoga instructor, explains. One benefit that is often overlooked is the social connection and mutual understanding women find in prenatal yoga classes.
Amidst the overwhelming amount of advice given to women during pregnancy, prenatal yoga can help women to filter all the advice with an inner listening. “Yoga helps to balance the influx of external information and advice about pregnancy, birthing, and mothering,” says McGrath, “by learning to develop an inner listening and trusting of their own wisdom and inner knowledge.”

To join a class with Marlene, visit

University of Michigan Health System

katherine gold

Expert: Katherine Gold, M.D. Assistant Professor in the Departments of Family Medicine & Obstetrics and Gynecology

   Postpartum depression is something many women face after giving birth, however the line between the commonly experienced “baby blues” and clinical depression is not always clear. “Baby blues are the milder ups and downs that many moms have after they deliver a baby,” explains Katherine Gold, assistant professor of Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan. With depression, however, moms “have more severe symptoms. They might feel more sad than happy, they may become extremely fatigued, they may lose their appetite, they may stop enjoying things, stop enjoying their baby or being a mom,” Katherine goes on to say. “Unlike baby blues when someone might feel tearful one day and joyful the next day, often people who get postpartum depression find that this feeling that they are not adequate comes in and just doesn’t go away.” Though there are many factors that contribute to postpartum depression, including a history of depression or a lack of support, sleep deprivation is a big factor that can be overlooked. Getting support from family and friends to give the new mom a break to catch up on her sleep can work wonders to improve her mood and sense of well-being. However, if you or a loved one may be suffering from postpartum depression, go see your primary care physician, family doctor, obstetrician or midwife as soon as possible for treatment and support.