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013: Vanessa Merten of the Pregnancy Podcast
20th November 2016 • Your Parenting Mojo - Respectful, research-based parenting ideas to help kids thrive • Jen Lumanlan
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Are you pregnant?  Thinking about getting pregnant?  Do you love Your Parenting Mojo and wish there was a show that could help you to understand how scientific research can help you make decisions about your pregnancy?  Well, there is!
In this episode we chat with Vanessa Merten, who hosts The Pregnancy Podcast.  She uses scientific research to examine – sometimes controversial – issues from all sides to help you decide what’s best for you.
And best of all, she goes beyond looking at individual issues to really synthesizing the outcomes of the research in a way that will make your decision-making much more powerful.  Do you know how receiving IV fluids during your delivery could lead to a pediatrician making the judgment that breastfeeding is not going well and you should supplement with formula?
If you want to understand this as well as the links between all kinds of other issues related to your pregnancy, listen in to this interview with Vanessa and then head on over to The Pregnancy Podcast at


Dominguez-Bello, M.G., De Jesus-Laboy, K.M., Shen, N., Cox, L.M., Amir, A., Gonzalez, A., Bokulich, N.A., Song, S.J., Hoashi, M., Rivera-Vina, J.I., Mendez, K., Knight, R., & Clemente, J.C. (2016). Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer. Nature Medicine 22(3), 250-253. Full study available at:


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Jen:                                      [00:22]                   Hello and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. Today’s guest, Vanessa Merten wrote to me after she heard my podcast to telling me about her podcast and as soon as I listened to it, I knew we had to work together. Her show is called The Pregnancy Podcast and let me say right now that this is an altruistic episode for you, dear listeners, because I am not pregnant and not planning to get pregnant either, but when I listened to the pregnancy podcast, I realized that Vanessa is essentially doing the same thing that I’m doing in Your Parenting Mojo, but for the stage before the baby is born and just after, which is to say that she looks at a particular issue and examines it from all sides using scientific research as her guide, so while my listeners are probably here because they already have a child, I realize that many of you may be thinking about having another one. Maybe you didn’t have the time to do much research before your first baby or maybe you didn’t know there was research out there that could guide your choices, or maybe you did the research, but it was several years ago now and you’re not sure how things might’ve changed in the intervening years if so, the pregnancy podcast is for you. Welcome Vanessa. I’m so excited to have you on the show.

Vanessa:                            [01:36]                   Jen, thank you so much for having me. I am really excited to be here.

Jen:                                      [01:41]                   Thank you. So tell us a bit about yourself. Why did you start the pregnancy podcast?

Vanessa:                            [01:45]                   Oh, I am a mom to my son Reef who is two; he’s just a few months younger than your daughter and when I was pregnant I felt like there was so much pressure to do what everybody else was doing and it was like, well, if everybody does things this way then this must be the right way to do things and like you, I’m very research minded and I really believe strongly in making informed decisions. So that mentality pretty much ruled my pregnancy and I just dove into as much research as I could find about everything and it really set me out on a different path than I had started from and made me make some different choices and…

Jen:                                      [02:26]                   Like what, what kind of choice did you make that was different?

Vanessa:                            [02:28]                   Well, I ended up doing a natural birth in a birth center which was different than every other person that I knew at the time. And it’s challenging. I think, you know, some parents that do choose to go that route. You have friends telling you, well that’s awesome, but you’re crazy. There’s absolutely no way I would consider that I’m getting an epidural as soon as I walk in the hospital… Which is completely fine. You know, there’s no, no one size fits all for birth.

Jen:                                      [03:01]                   Yeah, I remember when I was doing the tour of one of the hospitals, all the mothers there were new mothers and we’re all, you know, natural birth is we’re going to do. And there was one mother who had had a baby before. He was new to the system and she was like, tell me what paperwork I need to sign to get the epidural as soon as I walk in the door and we’re looking at her like, what do you know that we don’t know?

Vanessa:                            [03:23]                   Yeah. So the more. But the more research I did on everything, you know, the more confident that I became in the decisions that I was making, even though they happen to be different than everything that my friends and family around me were doing. But it was hard to find good research and evidence that doesn’t have a bias behind it.

Jen:                                      [03:43]                   So how do you do it?

Vanessa:                            [03:45]                   You know, kind of like, like I think you do with your podcast. I just start out with, if I’m doing a topic on inducing labor, you know, I start off with, let’s go to the very basics like what is inducing labor, what are the different methods available and then go back and look at research for different methods and look at what there is showing evidence that yes, this is a possible thing or what are the possible side effects and just really trying to look at all sides of those issues.

Jen:                                      [04:18]                   So in the podcast, how do you decide what topics to focus on? Because for some episodes I know you do a q and a format and you have the little short ones at about five minutes. And then you also have full episodes at about 20 minutes. So how, how do you sort of decide which topic you want to put into which type of episode?

Vanessa:                            [04:35]                   The Q and As I kind of added… I have so many listeners email me questions and I love.

Jen:                                      [04:42]                   Oh, that’s awesome.

Vanessa:                            [04:42]                   I love being able to help them get their questions answered and help them find research on questions that they have, but I can’t do 10 episodes a week. I wish I could, you know, there’s so much content out there, but it takes time and, and like your podcast, every episode I have the full episodes…it’s a master class. It’s very research intensive and, and that just takes time. So if it’s a question that applies to probably the majority of expecting moms and there’s a lot of content out there on it that I liked to do a full episode if it’s, you know, a mom has a question about, I have like an abnormality with my placenta and I’m not sure how that’s going to affect my birth. Then if it’s a specific question that maybe won’t apply to everyone, it still gives me an opportunity to answer that question and you know, maybe there’s another mom out there with the same question and that answer can kind of help her out too.

Jen:                                      [05:39]                   Right. And you also have the 40 Weeks podcast, right?

Vanessa:                            [05:42]                   Yeah, I do. I’m like, I am a little bit of a podcast junkie. The 40 Weeks, there’s just a five minute episode for each week of pregnancy. And it’s just kind of, you know, what’s going on with you, what’s going on with baby and, and then a tip for Dad at the end of that episode.

Jen:                                      [06:01]                   Okay. And I should mention to my listeners that if you search The Pregnancy Podcast on iTunes, the 40 weeks prep podcast actually tends to be the first thing to pop up and that is static, is that right? You’ve, you’ve recorded those things and that doesn’t change, whereas you’re adding new episodes to The Pregnancy Podcast, right? Right. Yeah. So, um, so if you, if you search for the pregnancy podcast on itunes and you see that 40 weeks, then by all means go ahead and listen. But if you want to see the stuff that’s updated regularly, you have to just, I think scroll over to the right hand side and you’ll see the pregnancy podcast and it has a similar logo. So that should help you find it. So I think a lot of moms kind of start with the, you know, the typical What to Expect kind of sites and Baby Center because we don’t really know where else to look. Uh, so I’m curious as to what you think about the information that’s posted on those sites and whether you’ve noticed anything being promoted on their sites that maybe goes against some of the scientific research you’ve read?

Vanessa:                            [06:55]                   Yeah, I think sites like what to expect when you’re expecting and baby center. They do a good job of providing a lot of information on a lot of topics and, and they explained things in pretty simple terms, which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but I don’t think that they do a great job of really painting the complete picture and really diving into the research and evidence behind a lot of things. And I also don’t think they do a great job of really connecting all the pieces. You know, an example of this would be you have, you can read in one section about getting IV fluids during your birth. And that’s something that’s really common and then you know, and another section you’re reading about breastfeeding, well they’re not linking up that there’s a connection between the two and a few get IV fluids during your birth, your baby is going to be retaining some of those fluids, those fluids are going to be lost in the first 24 hours and it’s a possibility that it’s going to look to your care provider, like your baby is losing weight too rapidly and breastfeeding is not going well.

Vanessa:                            [08:00]                   And then suddenly they’re saying, you know, well maybe we should consider supplementing with formula and mothers just aren’t getting this information. So I think that that, those type of websites, they’re good for, you know, just a skim-the-surface kind of understanding of a lot of things going on with birth. But I don’t think that they do a great job of really connecting the pieces together well and, and giving parents a good idea of how everything pregnancy birth is really so interconnected and how one thing can affect another.

Jen:                                      [08:34]                   Yeah. I learned that from your show, that specific piece of information. And, and that would have been very relevant to me. I had a natural birth but had IV fluids and yeah, my daughter lost a lot of weight in the first few days and the lactation consultants were pretty worried and we were struggling with latch as well. So maybe there was a secondary issue there too, but it’s definitely possible that it could have been just that she was losing some of the fluid that she got during the delivery.

Vanessa:                            [09:01]                   Yeah. And there’s, there’s been a lot of push to get the medical community to start looking at the 24 hour weight of the baby after birth. And you know, there is research that backs this up, but research, you know, even once it’s done for it to get out, to make changes, especially in the medical community, that does not happen overnight.

Jen:                                      [09:25]                   I’m, I’m wondering also how often you found the scientific research that you read goes against common wisdom and the people that. The things that people just think are the way it is. What are some findings that have really surprised you?

Vanessa:                            [09:38]                   The findings that surprised me most are the ones that really go against what we’ve accepted is just part of kind of routine care. So, you know, we have ultrasounds which are amazing. It’s, it’s great technology; we can use ultrasound to diagnose things that we couldn’t decades ago, but it’s become this routine part of prenatal care and you have a lot of expecting moms getting multiple ultrasounds that aren’t necessarily medically indicated, and there’s quite a bit of research and some animal studies showing that there is potential for some negative effects from the ultrasounds. And I think what surprises me most is that, you know, these aren’t being talked about and they’re not challenging our current way of doing things.

Jen:                                      [10:27]                   No, they’re really not. It’s like, you want to see what’s happening with the baby today? Oh, let’s do an ultrasound.

Vanessa:                            [10:32]                   Yeah. And it’s, you know, having that little sonogram picture, it’s a hallmark part of being pregnant, you know. But, and like I...