Healing Mind, Healthy Woman

As the season of high stress kicks into gear, Harvard professor Alice Domar's words are worth remembering:

Daily practices of mind-body medicine -- ranging from relaxation to emotional expression to simply being good to yourself -- are no different than sound nutrition and regular exercise. They are genuine forms of health maintenance, with the potential to treat illnesses as well as to prevent them from developing in the first place.

We've all heard this, but Dr. Domar has actually proven the truth of her statement in her research. She is the executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, whose tagline is "Grounded in Science, Guided by Compassion" (great, right?), and Dr. Domar is renowned throughout the world for proving that mind/body techniques and support groups help women get pregnant, improve life expectancy for breast cancer patients and reduce the impact of conditions like migraines and heart disease.

Translation - taking care of yourself, talking with other women, expressing your feelings, and connecting on an emotional level, all contribute to your health and wellbeing in a scientifically proven way. (Sounds a bit like blogging, doesn't it?)

On a personal note, it took me five years to get pregnant and to this day, I credit Dr. Domar whose book Healing Mind, Healthy Woman: Using the Mind-Body Connection to Manage Stress and Take Control of Your Life transformed my approach to whole, involved process. My heart goes out to the great bloggers who write about infertility, like Stirrup-Queens, The Maybe Baby, and Infertility Diaries, and I hope Ali brings ideas and comfort to them as well.

This month, as we kick off BlogHers Act with the launch of the fantastic new mini-website, we're profiling some of the groups making a difference on maternal health here in the US and around the globe.

UbuMama, the White Ribbon Alliance and Teaming Up all bring a particular understanding of the mind-body connection to the health of pregnant women around the globe.

UbuMama, the zulu word for motherhood, is the brainchild of Imagine Chicago (Chicago Mom Blogs take note!) and is "an arts-based project dedicated to facilitates storytelling by women who share their birthing stories and opinions of what should be done in their community to ensure that every woman has a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery." UbuMama gathers women together to tell their stories, create maternity gowns depicting the challenges of birth and motherhood, and learn about safe practices.

These networks of women are transforming communities because the women are talking about taboo topics, learning about their bodies and health, and finding ways to advocate locally for better healthcare and resources. Visit the website to read the birthing stories of women around the world.

UbuMama is being sponsored by The White Ribbon Alliance and Teaming Up.

The White Ribbon Alliance supports safe motherhood programs around the globe (the white ribbon is dedicated to the memory of all women who have died in pregnancy and childbirth). Everywhere I turned at the Women Deliver conference people were talking about the on-the-ground work of The White Ribbon Alliance and the positive impact of their programs. Throughout their website are moving stories of Alliance's involvement in communities around the globe. Here's a link to the story of an 18 year old community health care worker who is being ostracized from her community for attending high school and traveling by bicycle to care for people in her community.

Teaming Up is a new and growing, U.S.-based program for college athletic teams to partner with women in communities with the highest maternal mortality rates. Last year, the Yale Hockey team raised money for an UbuMama project in South Africa, and this year, Princeton is supporting Kenya, Yale is supporting Nepal, Providence is supporting Tanzania, and Quinnipiac is supporting Bangladesh.

These programs are getting to the heart of the matter in the truest sense of the word. For the women being helped, the connection with other women, shared information and local advocacy is often life-saving.

For all of us, as we travel, cook, entertain, eat and visit with family and friends over the holiday, let's each find some downtime for ourselves -- and feel good about it. And as hard as it might be to do this, here's the reminder that it's not selfish to relax and put our feet up -- it's the strong and responsible thing to do for our health and wellbeing.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Emily McKhann
Website: The Motherhood
Blog: Been There
BlogHer Contributing Editor: BlogHers Act

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