Sunday, December 27, 2009

Purpose of the areola

When my first child was born it was still common thought that you had to clean and cleanse and disinfect the nipple area so that the child doesn't get sick. But the nipple and areola (dark circular area around the nipple) have a very important function and doesn't need extra help to stay clean. If you over clean you can irritate the nipple so much that soreness and cracking can occur, to the extent of bleeding. During pregnancy, if the mother decides that she will breastfeed, it is a good idea to stop using soap around the areola and nipple area as to avoid drying out. You can also take a sun bath so as to stimulate the skin of the areola.

The aroela has a very important purpose. It helps to support the nipple and also contains Montgomery's glands which help to keep the nipple moisturized during breastfeeding. Within the areola, there are sebaceous glands, sweat glands and modified mammary glands (glands of Montgomery). These glands produce small elevations on the areola surface. The sebaceous glands enlarge during pregnancy and secretes oily material, which acts as a lubricant for the areola and nipple. The breasts are specialized organs, their primary function is to produce milk for nutrition of the infant and baby.

The special glands in the breast are called tuboalveolar glands, which are modified sweat glands. Each of these glands end in a lactiferous duct (2–4 mm in diameter) and opens up through a small hole onto the nipple. Deep to the areola, each duct has a dilated part called the lactiferous sinus, in which milk can accumulate and remain in the nursing mother. Cells which are important in contraction movements, called myoepithelial cells, are present in the gland and help in secreting fluids.

In most cases, a breast is usually slightly larger or smaller, higher or lower or of different shape to the other side. When fully developed, the female adult breast is composed of 15–20 lobes of branching glands. These lobes are separated by bands of connective tissue, which radiate out from the nipple. There is lots of fat tissue within the breast. The amount of fat determines the size of the breast. The fatty tissue gives the breast its soft consistency. This is why the size of a breast does not automatically suggest that a woman may or may not experience problems with producing enough milk. The stimulation from the babies suckling is what regulates the milk production.

This is why women who had a breast reduction wouldn't know before hand whether they would successfully be able to breast feed. You wouldn't know whether care and attention was taken to leave the ducts and glands carefully intact. Here is were patience and trial really takes the role.

The darker pigmentation of the areola also serves it's purpose. The colors range from slightly pink to darker. The pigmentation depends on your ethnic background. The darker coloring of the areola is the beckoning for the baby to know where he has to go. Right after the baby is born put baby on mommies tummy and don't cut the umbilical cord. Leave baby and you will see that baby will slowly try to make his way up mommies tummy and try to latch on all by himself. It may take a while but babies are programmed for survival. The areola lets baby know that the nipple is there and this is where he has to latch on to get milk. But the dark pigmentation also serves another purpose, the darker the skin color the less likely it is for soreness and cracking to develop with all the extra stress the nipple will experience. This is why the areola is darker in color to the rest of the breast.

It's a shame that in our modern times the breast is viewed solely as a sexual object/organ and not to the full potential of it's innate purpose: to breastfeed our infants and babies.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Labors best kept secret

While partaking in an open house/information evening from a midwifery practice from a friend of mine, I was inspired once again with something so interesting I had to dedicate weeks of my almost non existing free time to research.

She was explaining all what she had to offer and which types of experiences she had encountered in her years of practice. That's when she said the delightful words that drove me to inspiration: orgasmic birth! I have never before heard about such births being possible. Even as open minded as I thought I was, the concept was almost embarrassing. I imagined this "mother" lying in a hospital bed, having an orgasm in front of a bunch of strangers - and doctors, no less. Yet I was definitely intrigued. If conception feels good, why not childbirth? One of the expectant mothers that was there had asked how is that possible? Isn't birth "supposed" to be painful? Well this lead to a very informative discussion. I was determined to research and inform also!

It is very much possible to experience pleasure instead of pain during labor. As always it is how the event is prepared for and perceived by the expectant mother and her support system. The thing is that as children we are "programed" to expect pain during labor. It is all around us. In the movies the woman is rolled into the delivery room screaming, stories from moms who have experienced labor are also almost always goring with how painful it was. So we ourselves "expect" labor to be painful, but it doesn't have to be. It could be filled with pleasure and love.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, a board-certified OB-GYN and author of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" and "Mother-Daughter Wisdom," said orgasms during labor are caused by basic science. "When the baby's coming down the birth canal, remember, it's going through the exact same positions as something going in, the penis going into the vagina, to cause an orgasm," Northrup said. "And labor itself is associated with a huge hormonal change in the body, way more prolactin, way more oxytocin, way more beta-endorphins -- these are the molecules of ecstasy."

Northrup says that women's expectations can have a large effect on how pain is perceived.

"Whenever you expect pain, you tense up your muscles, your stress hormone levels go up and that increases pain," she told ABC news.

One mothers comment on her birth was: "I didn't feel pain, I was in bliss, because I felt safe, because I felt empowered."

Biologically, you are designed to receive great pleasure from your body not only during lovemaking and intercourse, but in birth and breastfeeding, too....Birth offers sexual pleasure on a continuum from pleasant sensations to an intense birth climax as your baby slithers into the world of your waiting arms. -From A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer

On the hormonal level we know which hormones kick start labor and we know which also give us the height of orgasm. It's just that these two seemingly different events are supported by the same hormone. It causes the uterus to contract in both instances.

I'm not saying that every woman who is trying to achieve natural child birth should try for an orgasmic birth. That would be an unrealistic expectation on my behalf. I am just intrigued that there are those women who can achieve it. That there are other options out there for us to experience. That labor and delivery doesn't have to be painful. It can bring husband/boyfriend and wife/girlfriend together on a whole new level. That pleasure is achievable in every corner and crevice of our lives. If only we let it come to us and embrace all that life shows us it has to offer.