Oxytocin -Fun Facts

Pregnancy A-Z Series

Many articles and blogs have been devoted to oxytocin and the role it plays in pregnancy and birth, such as causing uterine contractions and playing a role in bonding with your baby. Rather than repeat well articulated material I decided to compile some interesting and fun facts about oxytocin.

  1. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and was “discovered” in 1906 by Sir Henry Dale, who found a pituitary extract stimulated uterine contractions in cats.
  2. In the 1950’s Vincent du Vigneaud explained the chemical structure of oxytocin and shortly after the oxytocin was synthesized, or produced chemically.
  3. Synthetic oxytocin, commonly known as Pitocin, does not cross the blood brain barrier. This may explain why some people experience induction or augmentation with synthetic oxytocin as different than with self produced oxytocin.
  4. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and transported to the posterior pituitary
  5. Basal levels of oxytocin increase 3-4 fold during pregnancy.
  6. Oxytocin pulses increase in frequency, duration, and amplitude during late pregnancy throughout labor. The oxytocin peaks, however, did not correlate with individual contractions. There is more at play in labor than simply oxytocin.
  7. During the studies that were done, oxytocin was also found in the cerebral spinal fluid, meaning that the oxytocin is also released into the brain as well as into the blood circulation.
  8. If you were worried about synthetic oxytocin not crossing into the brain, you will be relieved to know that it seems natural oxytocin levels do increase to nearly normal levels after infusion of synthetic oxytocin up to 10 mu/min and were very similar to physiologic labor.
  9. Oxytocin pulses continue after the baby is born to help the placenta be birthed, prevent bleeding, and even to warm the chest for skin to skin time!

Oxytocin is an amazing hormone and plays a large role in bonding, relaxation, our reward center, orgasms, lowering anxiety, promoting pain relief and more. Oxytocin also plays a crucial role in our reproductive system and labor and birth. There is a lot we don’t know yet about labor, such as what prompts it to begin on its own. We do know that no matter how a baby is born, unmedicated, via a surgical cesarean, augmented with synthetic oxytocin — that our body already has a high level of oxytocin prepared for us to bond with and love our babies. I hope you enjoyed reading a few facts about oxytocin, I enjoyed compiling them. Source

Not intended as medical advice. All Rights Reserved, Kimberly Sebeck Knoxville Doula


Nipples In Pregnancy

Pregnancy A-Z Series

You’re pregnant! One of the first symptoms many people experience during pregnancy is sore or swollen breasts. Hormones in your body are already preparing your body for lactation, or nursing and this can cause some sensitivity or tenderness. Wearing a supportive bra can help minimize some of the soreness and sensitivity.

What else can occur to your nipples and breasts during pregnancy? Here are a few things:

Your nipples and areolas (the skin around your nipples) may darken.

Your breasts may enlarge. Not everyone’s does, though, and it is not an indication of how successful breastfeeding will be.

Your nipples may stick out more and the nipples and areolas may enlarge.

Montgomery’s Tubercles, which are small glands on the surface of the areola, may become raised bumps. This is normal.

You may leak colostrum, the first milk. It is a yellowish thick substance and is the first milk baby receives. Most people will notice leaking towards the end of pregnancy or perhaps not until baby arrives but leaking can occur earlier.

Veins on your breasts may be darker and more noticeable due to increased blood supply to your breasts.

Myth: To prepare for breastfeeding you should “rough up” your nipples by twisting, pinching or rubbing your nipples with a washcloth.
Do not do this! Your nipples are perfectly prepared the way they are. Those Montgomery’s Tubercles secrete an oil designed to lubricate your nipples — rubbing them harshly with a washcloth scrubs this natural lubricant away. “Roughing them up” can lead to sores and chafing which is getting you off to a bad start. Although this myth began with the good intention of helping women deal with sore nipples from breastfeeding we now know that we can prevent or deal with sore nipples in nursing by a good latch and good breastfeeding techniques. It is far better to consult with an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for help and assistance with breastfeeding. You can even set up a meeting with some of them prior to your baby’s arrival. If you are local and need a recommendation for an IBCLC please reach out.

All Rights Reserved, 2020 Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula


Making a Birthing Space

Pregnancy A-Z Series

What are some ways to create a cozy and encouraging birth space? Here are a few ideas:

Birth Affirmations printed or drawn out. You can find birth affirmations online and print them or you can have your friends/family make some for you at your (perhaps virtual) baby shower. Tape them to the walls of your birthing space or string them up as a decoration. Looking at them throughout your birthing time will remind you of your strength and the love of our family and friends.

Low lights. Oxytocin flows more freely at night. You can mimic the feeling of nighttime by keeping lighting to a minimum by turning off harsh lighting. While candles/open flames are not permitted at a hospital or birthing center, there are led candles that add a nice touch. If you are going to a hospital, have your doula or significant other in charge of finding out where all the light switches are and finding out how to minimize harsh lighting.

Does this image relax you?

Wear your own clothing. There are a few companies that make birthing gowns specifically for labor and delivery to replace uncomfortable and ill fitting one size fits all hospital gowns. Or you can wear your own clothes — make sure that the clothing is something that allows for freedom of movement, freedom of monitoring, immediate skin to skin, is something you don’t mind getting messy, etc. Not everyone will want to wear their own clothing and that’s ok, too, but if you do, go for it.

Essential oils — scents can really play a role in our mood. Some hospitals and birth centers are supplying essential oil diffusers but even if they aren’t and you don’t feel like packing one, you can bring a few cotton balls to drop your favorite oils onto. Forget your cotton balls? Drop a few drops of oils onto a washcloth. In your labor scents can seem stronger or different so it is best to start out with your oil on a cotton ball or washcloth rather than directly on your skin in case the scent bothers you unexpectedly.

Comfort items — a favorite soft blanket, a good pillow, lip balm, hair ties, rice packs, massage tools, a good robe, etc.

Music — years ago we had to make play lists! Now you can make a play list but you also have a world of music at your finger tips too so if your mood changes you can simply change up the mood music as well.

Privacy. No matter where your birthing place is, privacy will be important. If you are going to the hospital you can put a polite and respectful sign on the door asking that voices and noise be kept to a minimum as well as the door shut. You can decide if you want to allow students in the room. No matter where you are giving birth you can thoughtfully decide who of your family and friends you want to be there supporting you and who will contribute to a calm and encouraging atmosphere. (due to covid-19 most hospitals now have limitations on visitors).

These are just a few tips! Enjoy making your birthing space comfortable, beautiful, and right for you!

All Rights Reserved 2020, Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula


Lanugo/Newborn Body Hair

Pregnancy A-Z Series

Some parents are curious through the pregnancy if their baby will be born with hair. They are usually thinking of scalp/head hair and not body hair, but babies can be born with fine hair on their bodies, known as lanugo.

What is it?
Around five months of gestation the fetal hair follicles produce this first hair, believed to help keep baby warm. Around the seventh or eighth month most babies have shed the majority of this hair as they get closer to term. The latin word for lanugo means wool, fluff, or down, depending on which translation you use.

What happens to the lanugo hair?
It is thought that the hair falls off/sheds in the womb, the baby ingests it and it becomes part of the first bowel movement, known as meconium.

Is it normal?
Yes, very normal. If your baby is born with fuzzy hair on its body there is no cause for concern. The hair will fall out very quickly and should be gone by the time the baby has reached 4 months of age. Because lanugo tends to shed in the womb closer to full term, the earlier a baby is born the more lanugo they may have. Full term babies can still have lanugo however!

This post is written for educational purposes, not medical advice. Always consult with your medical provider if you have concerns.
All Rights Reserved 2020, Kimberly Sebeck
, Knoxville Doula


Kick Counts

A-Z Pregnancy Series

Have you felt your baby’s movements in the womb yet? What did they first feel like? Some women say they feel like gas or bubbles. Others say they feel like a fluttering. I remember when I first felt my daughter moving it felt like a butterfly lightly brushing their wings inside of me. As baby grows that changes into some harder and more noticeable movements and outright kicks and jabs!

Medical professionals recommend by the third trimester (28 weeks) that pregnant people begin counting baby’s kicks as a non invasive and at home way to monitor your baby’s habits and movements. It’s also a way to spend some time bonding with baby.

How do you do kick counts?
Get relaxed and time how long it takes to get 10 movements.

What counts as a movement?
Kicks, rolls, jabs, those movements you feel.

How do I record the information?
You can mark it down in a notebook or use an app like the free one on Count the Kicks

What’s normal?
Most of the time you will reach ten “kicks” or movements in 30 minutes but if you haven’t reached ten kicks within two hours or there is a noticeable change in your baby’s established pattern, give your provider a call. Your provider may have suggestions like drinking something cold or sugary or bringing you in and putting baby on a monitor. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Some Tips:
Set aside time every day and try to do it at the same time when baby seems to be most active. Often this is after a meal or in the evening. If the movements are starting off slow, try drinking something with ice or sugar (if gestational diabetes isn’t a concern) and lay on your left side for increased blood flow. Remember as your baby grows larger near the end of pregnancy sometimes the movements become more subtle as they have less room for strong kicks. This is why knowing your baby’s established patterns can help to notice more subtle movements — or if there is a marked change.

This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice. Always check with your provider for more information about kick counts and changes in baby’s movements.

All Rights Reserved, Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula 2020


Joyful Affirmations for Labor

A-Z Pregnancy Series -J

Babies bring so much joy. Their smell, their sweet faces, their little sounds, kissable toes. But when society as a whole discusses the process of bringing them from womb to earthside there are very mixed reactions and many of them negative.

Particularly now in this time of a pandemic I felt it was important to focus on fostering a sense of joy for labor and birth and appreciation of how our body and our baby work together in order for baby to be born.

Birth is work! My work as a hypnodoula has brought me the mindset to view it as hard work but a work that can be enjoyable. Just as someone puts for the effort to accomplish any great feat or hard work, like running a marathon or climbing a mountain, or finishing a degree, there is work involved but also a sense of joy and accomplishment.

“It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been there, but to watch a woman access her full power as a woman to give birth is awe-inspiring, and I never get tired of being witness to it. It’s an honor to watch that transformation take place.” Julie Bates, CNM

What are some ways to increase a sense of joy leading up to the time of birth? Acknowledge there will be work involved, the very word labor is defined as productive work from Vocabulary.com. What could be more productive than toiling to birth your baby? Your work has a purpose and that work will end with your baby being in your arms.

I will welcome my baby in peace and joy.

We are designed to give birth to babies. About 360,000 babies are born every day in the world. You can do this. You will do it. You are not alone.

Countless women have given birth before me. Their courage and strength are with me.

What about during the birth process itself?

Stay in the moment. Take each phase as it comes. Welcome each surge, each contraction. Some of you might think this sounds a little far fetched but really try to embrace the process. It has to do with that retraining of the mind. With every squeezing of your uterus you are getting closer to your baby being born. Your baby is working with you also, moving into certain positions, feeling the contractions too.

Good strong contractions will help me meet my baby.
“Remember that each labor contraction is caused by a wave of oxytocin coursing through your body. So, very literally, each birthing surge is a surge of love. Allow yourself to meet each surge with the same warmth, intimacy and acceptance that you would experience during a kiss or a loving embrace.” Lauralyn Curtis

What about people who require a cesarean or have their birth plan change? You too can receive your baby with joy. Joy that we have the medical technology to keep you and your baby safe. Joy that in most cases partners are able to be in the operating room for support and to see their baby be born. Joy that you are a strong and wonderful mother.

“The strength that is displayed in labor and birth is something that no one can EVER take from you in your life. Elixir of courage.” –Desirre Andrews

May you find joy during your pregnancy and during your birth! If you would like more information please look into Hypnobabies a complete childbirth course focused on a peaceful joyful birth.

*A caveat- Birth trauma is real. This blog is not intended to discuss or diminish birth trauma. Its intent and purpose is to foster a sense of joy and share birth affirmations. Should you or someone you know be struggling with birth trauma please reach out to a professional.

Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula
All Rights Reserved 2020


Isolation Postpartum Prep

Pregnancy A-Z Series — I had planned to interrupt my A-Z Series to focus on some blogs pertinent to the covid-19 pandemic but then I realized I was to the letter I. The information I wanted to get out was how to help families prepare for a postpartum reality in times of Isolation. 

We spend months preparing for birth and sometimes forget to prepare for postpartum

Before this time of social distancing most of us could at least partially rely on family, friend, and community to help us out postpartum. Some of us hired help in the form of postpartum doulas or night nurses.  Now we may be on our own or the help may be significantly lessened.  Let’s create a plan to make the postpartum period smoother.

  • Nutrition! You will need good nutrition to heal and have energy to care for yourself and your newborn. Prepare some meals ahead of time. For those of us who are daunted by the idea of spending days in the grocery store (not even a wise idea at this point) searching down ingredients and hours in the kitchen creating freezer meals, try this instead: every time you cook a meal that can be frozen, double the recipe and freeze it. Have someone create a Meal Train for you — people can drop off food for you or add in restaurant delivery with no contact options. Once baby is here, if you make a protein shake or fruit smoothie, make double to have for the next day, same with oatmeal, etc.
  • Postpartum Healing. Begin collecting items you will need such as postpartum pads, hemorrhoid cream, etc. This previous blog offers tips for some of the items you may need. Frida Baby offers a collection of postpartum recovery kits for vaginal or cesarean birth. Some ob/gyn providers are opting for telehealth postpartum visits at this time. If this isn’t answering your questions — reach out to them.
  • Rest. The postpartum period is a time to heal after pregnancy and birth and to get to know your baby. While some household tasks are a must, let the others go. They can be caught up later. At the same time when you feel like it try to get some gentle movements in like a walk with baby in pretty weather. It will get you some fresh air and vitamin D.
  • Baby Items. Again, Frida Baby offers great collections of needed baby items like nail clippers (my favorite clippers!). Newborns don’t require much — food, clothing, diapers, a place to sleep, a few blankets. This is a reasonable article explaining the basics but every family is different and some items do make life easier! Ask your seasoned mom friends for their suggestions, or consult with a Newborn Care Specialist or Postpartum Doula if you have questions.
  • Breastfeeding/Feeding Support. IBCLC’s — International Board Certified Lactation Consultant’s are worth their weight in gold. Most hospitals have them on staff so ask to see one when you are in the hospital. In our area in East TN we have several who are offering virtual consults and advice. My go to recommendation is Candy Scarborough, IBCLC She can work with you for all feeding issues and advice in a non-judgmental and supportive manner and offers breastfeeding classes regularly, which I recommend you take prior to birth.  We do have others in the area as well so every family can have the support they need.
  • Online Classes. It may feel scary to have hospitals and local childbirth educators canceling classes right when you need them the most but there are online options. As a postpartum doula I offer virtual support. Tinyhood and Lamaze are  offering free classes for breastfeeding and new parents (time relevant so check to make sure the offer is still valid). Tinyhood also offers an infant CPR class for a very reasonable fee. Remember that you aren’t alone! If you need someone to Zoom you through that first newborn bath or fingernail clipping or just have general newborn care questions, please contact me to see how we can work together.
  • Support. If you haven’t already, consider joining a good online support group. If you are in the East TN area we have so many! On Facebook:

While giving birth during this pandemic and the surrounding isolation may be a challenge, we have some wonderful supportive tools to support you. Please don’t feel alone or unsupported. These suggestions are just the most basic, this blog could be much longer with suggestions like hiring an occasional housekeeper, sending laundry out, creating activity baskets for older siblings, etc, so there are still other creative suggestions! May you enjoy your baby and your time with your sweet new family. You’ve got this!

Green Leaves Grocery List

Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula, 2020
All Rights Reserved


Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum -A-Z Blog Series


“Morning sickness” or periods of nausea and vomiting is a well known factor in the first trimester of pregnancy. Hyperemesis Gravidarum, however, is defined at American Pregnancy Association as: 

“a condition characterized by severe nauseavomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. “

How can you tell the difference? Upwards of 50-70% of pregnant people experience some “morning sickness” which typically includes:

  • Nausea sometimes with vomiting
  • Nausea and some vomiting that goes away around 12 weeks
  • Vomiting that does not cause severe dehydration/electrolyte imbalance
  • Nausea/vomiting that allows you to take in nutrition/keep some food down

Hyperemesis Gravidarum complication typically includes:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Nausea/vomiting (severe) throughout the pregnancy
  • Vomiting that causes severe dehydration/electrolyte imbalance
  • Vomiting that may keep you from keeping any food down, preventing nutrition

Additional Symptoms of HG: headache, confusion, decreased urine output, fainting, extreme fatigue, weight loss of 5% more of pre-pregnancy weight, anxiety/depression, rapid pulse, and more.

While some milder versions of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) can be treated at home with dietary changes, antacids, rest, and prescribed medications, some cases require hospitalization. When someone is hospitalized with HG they can receive IV fluids, nutrition, and medication.

Why does this happen? No one is 100% certain. It is suspected that it is related to the rise of hormone levels. There is no known way to prevent it but there are ways to manage it. If you have HG it is imperative you speak to your pregnancy provider. Because every person who has HG will need a plan from their provider and potentially medication, along with the risks/benefits of such medication, this blog will not offer suggestions on self management.  For more information and resources, please visit Help HER.

HG is difficult to experience. You may have expected to send your partner out for late night runs for cravings instead of feeling sick. You may feel depressed and anxious, worried about you and the baby’s health. You may feel stuck in your house or at the hospital. Ask for help from your circle of support in the form of visitors, housekeeping, other sibling care if applicable — reach out! Rest as much as you can. Speak to your provider about any options available to you for relief. As hard as it may be to believe while going through it, HG will not last forever.

Kimberly Sebeck, HCHD, Knoxville Doula,
All Rights Reserved 2020


Grandparent Tips -A-Z Series


Congratulations, Grandma and Grandpa! Or Mimi and Papa! Or Mamaw and Papaw!
No matter what name you choose to go by you are about to enjoy the wonders of a grandchild. Snuggles, sweet smiles, coos, and then giving the baby back while you get to enjoy a full night’s sleep.

A recent study said that somewhere around 81% of grandparents today are engaged with their grandchildren and that is wonderful news. Studies have also shown that has benefits for everyone — grandparents tend to live longer, children have a wider family circle and tired parents have a support system.

How best to support, though? Read on for some tips!

  1. Times have changed! The “rules” regarding feeding babies, safe sleep practices, feeding methods, and much more are likely different than when your “baby” was a baby. Read up on these changes at American Academy of Pediatrics or take a grandparents class in your area! In East TN Area: 
  2. Car Seat Safety. So much has changed even in recent years concerning the safety and laws surrounding car seats. Be sure to check your state laws and make sure a car seat is installed properly. In Knoxville there is a monthly Child Safety Seat Checkpoint Schedule . Car seats expire and break down, too, Never buy a used/second hand seat — they could have been in an accident and even a minor fender bender can render them ineffective.
  3. Helping the new family adjust. This is not the time to simply be a guest in their home. Offer to do the dishes, bring dinner, or start some laundry while mom rests. Good rest and nutrition help make happy and healthy parents. Speaking of…
  4. Postpartum Mood Disorders. You can help watch for any signs of postpartum mood disorders in the new mom. If you are unfamiliar with the signs or symptoms or concerns you can read about it at Postpartum Support International. 
  5. Listening to and honoring the parents methods. Yes, things are different. No, you are not ancient and obsolete. Things change quickly in the world of babies! As a postpartum doula I am continually updating my information — something I would have recommended five years ago is no longer recommended as new information comes out or a recall is issued. You have the loving touch and heart of a grandparent and the means to bond as no other person can with your grandchild.

Enjoy that grandbaby!

Kimberly Sebeck, HCHD, Knoxville Doula,2010
All Rights Reserved


Finding — A-Z Series


It seems to me that becoming a parent is a lot about Finding.

Finding out you’re pregnant. Finding a childbirth provider. Finding a childbirth education model that appeals to you. Finding how overwhelming the choices are when it comes to breast pumps, pacifiers, bottles, even swaddling blankets– and then making choices. Finding out where every bathroom is when your bladder is full, or if you have to vomit (thanks, “morning” sickness). Finding you cry at the drop of a hat. Finding out every bit of it was worth it when you saw your baby for the first time. Finding out you can go with less sleep than you imagined possible. Finding your village. Finding your rhythm through those first nights, weeks, months.

The Free Dictionary defines the word “finding” as “something that has been found”

You have been found as a mother, a new experience but something that was already in you waiting to come forth. What a beautiful thought.

Underneath it though is this description for the word “findings”:

“Small tools and materials used by an artisan”

You, my dear, are an artisan. You have the tools and materials to create works of art. And as any artist, your skills grow as you use them. Believe in your abilities and capabilities.

Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula 2020
All Rights Reserved