News from AABC

  • The Importance of Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy After Natural Childbirth

    posted on October 3, 2017

    Did you know that pelvic floor physical therapy is standard of care following childbirth in some countries?

    Austin Area Birthing Center is proud to partner with Sullivan Physical Therapy in offering pelvic floor physical therapy on site, every Thursday afternoon, for pregnant and postpartum clients at the AABC South location.

    Issues treated:
    Urinary frequency, urgency, leakage
    Pelvic pain, abdominal pain
    Scar pain
    Pain with intercourse
    Low back/ pubic symphysis pain/ tailbone pain
    Constipation, fecal/ gas leakage
    Diastasis recti
    Safe return to fitness activities
    Postpartum healing check-ups

    Call and make an appointment: 512-335-9300

  • What Should I Take When I’m Expecting?

    posted on March 9, 2016


    In general, most women are well-nourished. If they have a well-balanced, whole-foods diet, they don’t really need much in the way of supplements.  Prenatal vitamins are designed to ensure that moms don’t get deficient as their baby takes what it needs from your body as it grows. But some brands can cause an upset stomach or require that you take five a day. Try your store brand as it won’t be too expensive. If you are forgetful about taking pills, buy those that only require you to take one a day.

    Folic acid is a great idea, since it can be hard to get by diet alone if you aren’t consistently eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily, especially your dark green veggies like broccoli, kale, spinach and collard greens. Plus, if you have morning sickness, veggies are sometimes not top on the list for appetizing foods. Folic acid is water-soluble, so if you are eating enriched cereals, be sure to drink the milk! Plus, you’ll be getting your daily calcium that way. 400-800 micrograms of folic acid daily is recommended for your childbearing years, and more if your family has a history of Spina Bifida—this is to prevent birth defects and help in neurological development in your baby. It helps you keep your bodily functions going as well!

    We also recommend at least 300mg of DHA, which is an omega fatty acid. This is included in some prenatal vitamins; if not, purchase it as a separate supplement. One good brand is Nordic Naturals. Made from anchovies and sardines, it has a nice lemon flavor. If you are a vegetarian, there is a form made from algae. Fish oil is not only essential for neurological and eye development, it’s also been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases and depression!

    The liquid supplement Floradix is an easy-to-absorb iron and B-vitamin complex. You can try a sample at all Austin Area Birthing Center locations.Another liquid supplement called Bliss features folic acid, B6, and ginger, which may help with nausea.



    Since it is stored in your body, vitamin A intake should be limited to prevent toxic levels. In fact, it is safest to eat carrots and orange squash, and sweet potatoes to get your vitamin A. Most prenatal supplements have lower doses such as 500 units or less. Vitamin D is also necessary for absorption of calcium. 400-4000 units is recommended depending on how much sun exposure you are getting.  If you are wearing sunblock or have dark skin it is best to go on the higher end of the range. This is best absorbed in D3.  Check labels and ask your own midwife if you’re unsure about Vitamin D dosages. Daily requirements are about 1000-1500 mg daily. Try to keep track of what you are getting from your food labels so you don’t overdo it. Iron is best absorbed as Ferrous Sulfate with about 500 mg of vitamin C.

    Once you find what you like, it is a good idea to take it to your midwife visits so that they can verify that what you are eating and taking all add up to great nutrition for you and baby!

  • The Myth of the Due Date, Explained

    posted on March 2, 2016

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    An Austin Area Birthing Center mom recently wrote to us: “Help! I have three different due dates, and I don’t know which one is right!”

    Here’s how that can happen. The average pregnancy lasts about 280 days or 40 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period. But babies grow at different rates: some may arrive 2-3 weeks before the predicted due date, and some 2-3 weeks after. The baby was conceived after the menstrual cycle began—but the mystery is exactly when fertilization occurred.

    Calculating the due date is important for a few reasons. One is to prevent induction of labor for a baby more than two weeks late (post-term). Another is to attempt to stop preterm labor (before 37 weeks). Finally, many tests and procedures are based upon the appropriate age of the baby.

    Before ultrasound, one the best ways to calculate a due date was Naegele’s rule. Pregnancy calculators are based upon it. Count back three months from the first day of the last menstrual period, and add 7 days. For example, if the first day of the last menstrual period was February 20, then the estimated due date would be November 27.

    However, Naegele’s rule and pregnancy calculators are based on a 28-day cycle and assume that ovulation occurred on day 14. For many women, cycles can be much shorter or longer, and ovulation generally tends to occur later rather than earlier. Sperm can also live for up to five days in the woman’s body prior to fertilization. So even when the date of intercourse is known, that is not necessarily the date conception occurred.

    As ultrasound has become more sophisticated, pregnancies can be identified earlier.  Due dates can be calculated more specifically when performed early in the pregnancy because new babies begin growing at about the same rate. Once the pregnancy is more than 20 weeks, fetal growth can vary greatly, and by the third trimester, using an ultrasound for dating can be off by 3 or more weeks.

    In women with long or irregular cycles, or if pregnancy occurred within three months of using hormonal birth control, then using the “last menstrual period” calculation won’t be as accurate as a first trimester ultrasound for dating. Even with regular 28-day cycles and a certain knowledge of your last period, women who underwent first trimester ultrasound for dating more likely delivered within 7 days of the ultrasound estimated due date than the due date calculated from their period.

    In general, if an ultrasound was performed before the 14th week, and the estimated due date is 5-7 days different from the last menstrual period calculation, the ultrasound due date should be used. From 14-20 weeks, if the two due dates are as much as 10-14 days apart, the ultrasound date should be used.

    It is really not uncommon to have been told several due dates. The important thing to know is how the due dates were calculated, and whether they are within a few days of each other.  Always talk with your provider about the due date and let them know as much as possible about your cycle frequency, when you think you conceived, and if you’ve had an ultrasound prior to visiting them for the first time. The rest is up to Mother Nature!


  • Adjustments for Two: Can I see a chiropractor while pregnant?

    posted on February 24, 2016

    midwife measuring belly

    Back pain is an inconvenience that often comes with the joy of expecting a baby. During pregnancy, the abdomen and pelvis undergo physiological changes to create the ideal environment for the developing baby. As pregnancy progresses, the body is also releasing a hormone called “relaxin,” which loosens ligaments that support the pelvis. This loosened state allows the pelvis to widen so the baby can pass through the birth canal. However, it also loosens the overall structure of the body, allowing misalignment in the bones of the spine, resulting in muscle spasms and nerve sensitivity.

    Once this back pain is known to be caused by the pregnancy—and not related to any bleeding, spotting, unusual discharge, fever, or pain when passing urine—then it is ok to visit with a chiropractor. But it’s important to discuss your plans with your midwife!

    Some chiropractors take a specific interest in prenatal and postnatal care, and get additional training. Chiropractors that have been trained to work with pregnant women may use tables that adjust for a pregnant woman’s body, as well as techniques that avoid unneeded pressure on the abdomen. During the later part of pregnancy your midwife will determine the position of the baby, if the baby is found to be breech—when the baby’s buttocks are sitting in the pelvis—midwives often recommend chiropractor care in conjunction with specific exercises as a first step to encourage the baby to turn. Establishing pelvic balance and alignment can be managed by the chiropractor.

    The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reported in its July/August 2002 issue that when chiropractic doctors used the “Webster Technique” to turn head-down babies, there was an 82% success rate.

    Please speak with your Austin Area Birthing Center midwife at your next appointment if you are planning chiropractor treatment, to see if chiropractic treatment is appropriate for you. At AABC you will find plenty of business cards of chiropractors that clients have recommended!

  • Midwife Morning Sickness Remedies

    posted on January 13, 2016

    prenatal care

    One of the most common questions our midwives at Austin Area Birthing Center get from moms is, “How do I stop morning sickness?” Morning sickness affects up to 80% of pregnant women and, as you probably have discovered, isn’t confined to just the morning.

    The weird thing is, no one really knows what causes morning sickness. Theories include a vitamin B6 deficiency, a biological adaptation to keep us from eating foods that might harm our developing baby, the increased burden on the liver with pregnancy, and even just plain old hormones. Luckily, the nausea and vomiting that accompany pregnancy usually subside around weeks 12-16 of your pregnancy.

    If you’re reading this and you stomach is rolling, the thought of waiting until week 12 for these feelings to go away probably isn’t very comforting. Luckily, our midwives have seen hundreds of cases of morning sickness, and we’ve picked up a few tricks that have helped our moms. Here are a few remedies to help morning sickness go away.

    1)  Eat small, bland, frequent meals, at least every 2 hours.  Low blood sugar may make your nausea worse.

    2)  Consider adding a B6 supplement or B complex to your daily regimen. 25 mg every eight hours should be sufficient.

    3)  Ginger gum, candied ginger, or ginger capsules may help settle your stomach.  You can take a 250 mg capsule four times a day. The FDA recognizes ginger as safe in pregnancy, even though some sources have linked it to interference in blood clotting. Studies have shown that pregnant women who took ginger in their first trimester did not have any significant increase in pregnancy related complications. Ginger contains proteolytic enzymes that have been shown to have antiulcer and antiviral effects. Ginger is a great ally!

    4)  Acupressure bands, “sea bands,” may provide you with some measure of relief. You can buy these at your local pharmacy or health food store.

    5)  Lemon essential oil, wafted under your nose when you begin to feel sick, may be of some help.

    6)  Eat a small meal (maybe almond butter on whole wheat toast) before getting out of bed in the morning. Our blood sugar level is often lowest in the morning and this little boost of calories may prevent nausea upon rising.

    7)  Lastly, consider boosting your liver function with daily nettle tea. Nettles are blood builders and liver cleansers, and also help increase the body’s production of Vitamin K. Be sure to drink tea made of nettle leaf and not nettle root.

    Hopefully these morning sickness remedies can make your early weeks of pregnancy a little bit easier! Remember to let your midwife know if the nausea and vomiting are so severe that you cannot hold down food or fluids.

    Occasionally pharmaceuticals or IV fluids are merited.  We can prescribe some wonderfully effective medicine for severe nausea that is safe for the baby and is quite a breakthrough in the last few years. You don’t have to suffer like your mother or grandmother did!

  • Austin Midwife Spotlight: Joanne Chiwaula

    posted on January 6, 2016

    joanne chiwaula

    With our Austin Midwife Spotlight series, we’re giving our beloved midwives an outlet to express why they love what they do. Today, we’re spotlighting Joanne Chiwaula, RN, CNM, MSc. Joanne did her undergraduate studies at Brown University and obtained her RN, MSc and CNM from the University of California, San Francisco. She spent more than nine years in Africa, first practicing as a midwife in Malawi, then teaching nursing and midwifery in Ghana. Joanne remains passionate about pregnancy care in Africa and started her own nonprofit to support mothers there – African Mothers Health Initiative.

    What, in your opinion, separates a true birth center from a hospital birth experience?

    It is not the location that makes the difference but the policies and practice.  AABC is an accredited birth center providing true midwifery care.

    How does the level of personal care differ between an OB/GYN and an AABC midwife?

    Midwives believe that healthy pregnancies and normal deliveries are best supported when care is provided in partnership with women and their families. This means that midwives prioritize active participation of women and their partners.  Midwives strive to do as much or more listening as educating and evaluating.  Simply put, women more time with the midwife prenatally (i.e. longer visits) than they would with an OB, midwives also strive to be accessible to the families in their care.

    How does AABC being around for 28 years set it apart from other birth centers? Is there something about it that’s unique to the fabric of Austin?

    The longevity of the birth center is something very special.  It is well known and respected by Austin women but it is also known and respected by other obstetric practices in Austin.  In the cases when women must transfer, midwives at AABC are allowed admitting privileges.

    Why did you want to become a midwife? How do those ideals guide your work today?

    I studied international development in my undergrad and I wanted to provide compassionate care to women who needed it most.

    What’s your favorite part about working at AABC?

    It is wonderful working with a group of kind intelligent women who practice evidence based care and strive to provide the best care for their clients.  I love having the freedom to provide true family centered care.  AABC is a beautiful place to work and to deliver.

    What advice do you have for moms choosing where to have their birth?

    You should choose a setting where you feel safe and where you trust your providers.

  • Aromatherapy During Pregnancy

    posted on December 28, 2015

    duval road location

    There are many ways of dealing with the natural aches, pains and nausea associated with pregnancy. As a true birth center that’s focused on natural birth, we like to provide our Austin Area Birthing Center moms with natural resources that they can use to help make childbearing a little easier. The practice of aromatherapy has many antiviral and mood lifting benefits which can aid you as you go through the journey of pregnancy. Under the guidance of our trained midwives at Austin Area Birthing Center, we can help you decide if aromatherapy is right for your pregnancy and what essential oils to use.

    The Benefits of Aromatherapy

    Aromatherapy is the traditional practice of using essential oils extracted from plants, leaves, bark, flowers and roots to alleviate psychological and physical ailments. Considered a form of alternative medicine, aromatherapy has been utilized for thousands of years in the treatment of skin ailments, to increase energy or as a sleep aid. Many modern healers today from doctors to psychologists to midwives have began to use aromatherapy to alleviate stress and anxiety and help along the healing process to soothe aches and pains.

    Types of Aromatherapy

    The essential oils from aromatherapy can be used in many versatile ways to best soothe your pregnancy aches:


    What momma to be doesn’t want a good, long massage to relieve some of the stress on your body? Diluting certain oils and using it during a massage can help the oils enter the skin pores and provide an especially relaxing massage experience.

    The Bath

    Taking a long hot bath is certainly one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to implement the soothing qualities of aromatherapy. Dilute a few drops of essential oil in 4 – 8 oz of coconut milk before adding to your bath so the oils can properly emulsify in the water. Use calming oils such as lavender or chamomile. Geranium is great for balancing hormones and emotions on particularly stressful days.


    Adding essential oils to a humidifier or diffuser, or vaporising them in an oil burner, allows the oil to enter directly into the sinus and respiratory system, ideal for someone who suffers from congestion, sinus issues, allergies, or asthma. This is also great to help with stress relief and excellent for a boost of energy if you are feeling fatigued.

    Aromatherapy During Pregnancy

    Even in the healthiest pregnancies, you may have pregnancy pains, including – headaches, aches and pains, nausea, constipation, and insomnia. Here at Austin Area Birthing Center our trained midwives can assist you in finding essential oils to relieve some of these ailments in a natural way – making for a happier you and healthy baby. Some oils that are recommended include:


      • Black pepper for aches and pains
      • Cyprus for swollen ankles
      • Mandarin or Citrus oils for constipation
      • Eucalyptus for stuffy noses
      • Chamomile for insomnia
      • Tangerine for fatigue
      • Lemon for nausea



    An easy way to combat morning sickness on the go is to place a couple of drops of lemon oil on a cotton ball and keep it in a small plastic baggy. When a wave of nausea hits, just take a quick whiff!

    Aromatherapy During Labor

    We believe in helping relieve the pain of labor in the most natural, healthy ways possible for the mother, and aromatherapy can often be utilized as a natural way to cope with childbirth. Research has shown that essential oils such as black pepper and lavender can alleviate some of the pain during labor. Frankincense on your palms during the first stages of labor and is excellent for calming.

    Aromatherapy After Birth

    You’ll want to avoid essential oils around sensitive tissues after birth. At AABC we offer our own perineal herbal bath blend which is perfect for soothing those tender areas.

    Risks of Essential Oils

    There are certain essential oils to be avoided during your pregnancy (particularly during the first trimester) and, because a pregnant woman’s skin is particularly sensitive, it is crucial to dilute the essential oils with a fat soluble substance like milk or coconut milk or a carrier oil, such as olive or almond oil before adding to a bath or applying to your skin. Some essential oils are toxic or extremely potent and may cause damage if ingested or improperly applied. Always tell your midwife if you are using essential oils at home or during massage. Our midwives will be able to help you select the proper essential oils for you and your baby and aid you in proper application and usage to create the best experience for the both of you.

  • Austin Midwife Spotlight: Kimberly Sennet

    posted on December 21, 2015

    kimberly sennet

    With our Austin Midwife Spotlight series, we’re giving our beloved midwives an outlet to express why they love what they do. Today, we’re spotlighting Kimberly Sennet, RN, CNM, MSN. Kimberly has a master’s degree in Nurse Midwifery from Johns Hopkins University and previously worked as a midwife at a low-income clinic in Las Vegas. Kimberly brings a wealth of experience and education to our Williamson County birth center.

    What, in your opinion, separates a true birth center from a hospital birth experience?

    In my opinion, one thing that separates a freestanding birth center from a birth center within a hospital is the difference in protocols. Typically, the hospital is more restrictive with certain aspects of labor such as diet. At AABC, we encourage eating and drinking while in labor. Additionally, we provide complimentary childbirth education classes for our clients, which helps prepare families for the hard work of labor.

    How does the level of personal care differ between an OB/GYN and an AABC midwife?

    One of the hallmarks of midwifery care is education. Therefore, I believe any woman coming to AABC will receive a ton of education from her midwife, all with the hopes of increasing her autonomy so that she can have the birthing experience she desires.

    How does AABC being around for 28 years set it apart from other birth centers? Is there something about it that’s unique to the fabric of Austin?

    I am relatively new to Austin (just over 1.5yrs) and from what I have observed, AABC is absolutely cut from Austin cloth. The motto of the city is ‘keep Austin weird’ and I take that to mean Austinites do not conform to the norm and AABC is no exception. For instance, many of us are well versed in homeopathics and can provide more non-traditional options to take care of common ailments in pregnancy, and let’s face it, there can be ailments.  

    How did you find out about AABC?

    I learned about AABC via the good old internet. And once I learned about it, I knew I wanted to become a part of it.

    Why did you want to become a midwife? How do those ideals guide your work today?

    I initially wanted to become a midwife because birth is fascinating to me. As my understanding grew, I also saw it as the prefect vehicle to become a champion of women. To this day, I strive to educate women during their pregnancy. Birth is one of the most profound and intimate moments in a woman’s life and I remain absolutely humbled each time I participate.

    What’s your favorite part about working at AABC?

    Honestly, that my colleagues all get along and respect each other. We midwives midwife each other.

    Do you have any favorite memories from your time at AABC?

    My favorite moment is a selfish one, but it was of my own birth. The labor was fast, the birth was even faster, and it was a perfect day.

    If you could tell expectant mothers one message, what would it be?

    My only advice is that you do a bit of research on where and with whom you plan to have prenatal care and birth your baby because that can make the difference between a good birth and a great birth.

  • Why Williamson County

    posted on December 16, 2015

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    Austin Area Birthing Center Williamson County has only been open for a few weeks now, but we’ve already delivered five babies there, with no hospital transfers needed! We’re so excited about our new location and can’t wait to see an Austin Area Birthing Center community blossom in Williamson County. Austin Area Birthing Center founder Jean Stokes explains why we opened a third birth center and how it fits into our mission of providing the best prenatal care in Austin.

    What was your inspiration for opening a birth center in Williamson County?

    Our Duval birth center was getting too crowded and we were having to turn women away every month. We noticed that about a third of those moms lived in Williamson County, so we had a choice. Our options were to either expand the Duval center and make a megacenter or open another birth center and offer the same personal and boutique care that we strive for. We obviously decided on the latter option.

    When it came to finding the location – it had to be close to a hospital, affordable and high end – luckily, we found the perfect spot in Williamson County.

    What lessons did you learn from building the first two centers that you applied to the Williamson County birth center?

    We made a few mistakes with the first two centers, just little awkward things that you don’t think about. For instance, a birth center does require soundproofing! Little choices like having kitchenettes in every suite, the location of the bathrooms and separating the teaching studio from the other parts of the center are all things that we learned from Duval and William Cannon.

    What feature of the Williamson County location are you most excited about?

    The kitchen is so pretty that I can’t get my eyes off of it. It’s a big chef’s kitchen – you can make anything you want in it!

    What was the inspiration for the decor in the birthing suites?

    The designer, Billy, and I came up with the Urban Retreat, Hill Country and Tranquility Suite themes and decorations. All of our centers have rooms with unique themes that make everything feel a little more personal.

    How does the care at Austin Area Birthing Center Williamson County differ from the care you might receive at an OB/GYN or hospital?

    When you come to our birth center, you’re going to give birth and have your checkups at the same location. The staff that takes care of you prenatally is going to be the same one that is with you when you deliver your baby. You get all of the same lab tests, ultrasounds and checkups that you’d get at a doctor, but you get much more time with your provider. Pregnancy is wonderful and natural, but it’s also stressful and a little scary. We think that you need that one on one emotional connect with your caregiver to make it less traumatic.

    Another major difference is that if you go to a doctor, you’re not going to channel yourself right into constant community and classes that last for two years. That’s a big part of what we offer.

    What advice would you give to mothers who are looking at different ways to have their baby and prenatal care?

    I would tell them not to be afraid. It’s a normal thing. You should remember that midwives view pregnancy and birth as normal – until proven otherwise. Then we move to plan B, no problem. Physicians, on the other hand, view pregnancy and birth as a medical emergency until proven normal. That mindset makes a huge difference in the care.


  • Understanding Ultrasounds

    posted on December 10, 2015


    As a true birth center, we provide mothers with the same level of prenatal care that you’ll find at a doctor’s office, in a comfortable, supportive, midwife-led environment. That means that when you come in for checkups, we run all of the important tests, labs and screenings pregnant women need, including ultrasounds! We have in-house ultrasound machines at each Austin Area Birthing Center location and, thanks to our great relationship with Dr. Sina Haeri of North Austin Maternal Fetal Medicine, we have access to great ultrasound techs to conduct and interpret your ultrasound! This is uncommon in the birth center world, but we believe in providing our patients with the highest level of care possible.

    You’ve probably already had an ultrasound, but if not, or if you just want to know more about the process, then read on!

    What is an ultrasound?

    An ultrasound, also called a sonogram, is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to generate an image of the inside of your body. Technically, the procedure is called an ultrasonography procedure, ultrasound refers to the high frequency sound waves and the sonogram is the actual image that the waves generate, but most people just use ultrasound and sonogram interchangeably to refer to the procedure.

    What is an ultrasound procedure like?

    There are two types of ultrasound for pregnant women – transvaginal ultrasounds and the anatomy scan ultrasound that you see in movies and on TV all the time.  

    Both types of ultrasounds are painless and relatively short. Transvaginal ultrasounds are conducted with a transducer probe that is inserted into the vagina. This is the kind of sonogram you’ll get during the early stages of pregnancy.

    Once your baby has grown a bit more, when you come in for an ultrasound, the technician or doctor will rub some ultrasound gel on your tummy so that the machine can get a good reading. The person running your ultrasound will show you the scan and point out interesting things to you. Ultrasounds are hard to interpret to the untrained eye, but your doctor or tech will know exactly what’s going on. Once the scan is done, all you need to do is clean off the gel and you’re done!

    When do I get an ultrasound?

    Typically, pregnant women get their first ultrasound in the first trimester, once they determine that they are pregnant – around 6 to 8 weeks along. This is a transvaginal ultrasound, and you may be asked to come in with a full bladder, as the liquid in your bladder helps the soundwaves of the ultrasound machine get a clearer picture. This first ultrasound helps get all of the important stuff out of the way – you’ll get a more accurate idea of the date of conception so you can start charting milestones, you’ll know if you’re having more than one baby and the doctor or tech will be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat!

    During your second trimester (around 20 weeks) you’ll get a comprehensive anatomy scan. This is the ultrasound as you probably imagine it – lying on a table with goop on your belly. At this point in your pregnancy, the ultrasound will reveal a detailed image of your baby! The person running the scan will check every part of your baby to make sure that development is on track. This is also the scan where you can find out the sex of your baby if you so choose!

    If you haven’t run into any complications in your pregnancy, you probably won’t have any more ultrasounds before the baby is born!

    At Austin Area Birthing Center, we aim to give moms the best care and community possible before, during and after pregnancy. By offering ultrasounds to our mothers, we’re able to make sure everything is healthy and help them see and bond with their baby before he or she arrives!

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