Archive for the ‘birth prep’ Category

Childbirth Education Myths 3

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

books-150x150To read the whole series, begin with Childbirth Education Myths 1.

MYTH #3: “The hospital class will be good enough.”
One of the best ways to be prepared for birth is to learn about birth. What happens in the normal, physiologic process? How do interventions (medical or non-medical) affect that process? What is the difference between the medical model and the midwifery model? Under what circumstances will each model benefit you? These are topics a hospital class will likely not tackle.

1) Limited information.
Hospitals often teach what is available at their facility. This makes sense, because hospitals are in the business of selling medicine. Their maternity department offers the medical model of care, and hospital childbirth classes reflect that. Their instructors are employed by the hospital, and the hospital has direct control over their curriculum.

The class offered at a hospital is more likely to focus on when to get to the hospital, what to do if your water breaks, protocols for epidural placement, and what to expect in a cesarean. They may cover logistics like where you go to get admitted, what happens there, and where you get moved around to. They will make sure that you are familiar with the routine protocols and procedures, which can be beneficial if you are planning to birth there.

They may or may not offer much information on non-medical pain management, the physiology of birth, doulas, or birth plans, as these are not things normally offered in hospitals.

2) Alternatives to the medical model are not offered.
Generally speaking, hospitals do not employ care providers like chiropractors, naturopaths, independent midwives, or other more holistic-minded care providers. If they do, they may not think to refer you for care from any of these areas, as they are not part of the medical model of care for birth. To learn about non-medical options, a local independent childbirth educator is going to be a wealth of resources and information for you.

3) Informed Choice vs. Informed Consent
Many hospital classes cater to the majority, who are anticipating the status quo American birth: Start labor, get epidural, have baby. While there is nothing wrong with a woman choosing that model, many hospitals operate under the assumption that this is the only model that interests women. Thus, they spend more time preparing moms for what to expect at the hospital than they do preparing them to cope with labor in whatever way seems right to her. If a mother wants something outside that model, a hospital class may not be the best fit for her, and she may feel as though she is sitting in a “How To Be Good Patient Class,” rather than a comprehensive, evidence-based, balanced childbirth class.

4) Availability of Instructor
Independent childbirth educators are often available by phone and email between classes, to help with homework, provide resources and referrals, and to answer questions. Hospital instructors may not have such ready availability. Their class sizes are usually much larger, so their ability to give one-on-one attention or instruction may be severely limited.

Questions to Ask Childbirth Educators:

  • What curriculum do you use, and what is it based on?
  • How much experience do you personally have in this hospital attending births? Do you have any experience working with the independent midwives in town to offer a balance in models of care?
  • Is this class going to teach in-depth about the physiological birth process?
  • How much time is devoted to labor coping techniques?
  • Are you a certified instructor? With whom?
  • Are you available for questions or concerns outside class? Can you refer to outside providers, and if so, whom?

In short, it’s not a bad idea to take the hospital class — just don’t let it be an exclusive source of information. There are a wealth of independent organizations that do an excellent job at preparing you for birth. There are methods like Bradley and Hypnobirthing, as well as comprehensive courses by Lamaze and CAPPA. (We’ll address method classes in this series as well, so stay tuned!)

For more on this topic, we found another excellent perspective here: 5 Reasons Not To Take Hospital Chilbirth Classes

Where did you take your childbirth classes? How did they help or hinder your understanding of birth? Did you have a good experience with the hospital?

Warmly,
Team Preparing For Birth

Childbirth Education Myths 2

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

To see the first post in the series, click HERE.

books-150x150MYTH #2: “I hired a doula, so I don’t need any kind of childbirth class.”
More and more women are hearing about the benefits of having a doula on their birth team, and that is fantastic! As a doula, I would never do anything to dissuade a family from hiring a doula. However, just like her care provider, a woman’s doula should not be considered her primary source of comprehensive education. While many doulas are also childbirth educators, and are walking birth encyclopedias, there are many reasons that a birthing woman should look to a class for in-depth education.

1) Childbirth Educator is a different scope of practice and not the doula’s primary job.

A doula’s primary job is informational, emotional, and physical support throughout a woman’s pregnancy, labor, birth, and immediate postpartum period. Her scope is limited, and while some education will be a natural consequence of her relationship with her clients, it is not the primary objective. When it comes to the informational support, a doula’s primary role is to find out the individual needs of her client, then refer to resources relevant to her situation (including childbirth classes), so her client can educate herself.

2) Though a doula will spend time educating her clients, the education will not be comprehensive in nature.

Most doulas only offer two or three prenatals at about an hour each, but even if there are more than that, as well as phone and email support, it will not be enough to create a solid foundation of general birth knowledge for a client to base her decisions on. In contrast, a childbirth class is often 10 hours or more of hands-on education, creating that solid, needed base of information. Doulas build on this bedrock, tailoring their support to supplement your knowledge.

3) Even doulas who happen to be educators cannot provide all your education within framework of doula fee.

Doulas know that we can’t cover all the bases adequately within the bounds of our doula-client relationships. If our clients have taken a good comprehensive class, they benefit from being familiar with information so that in labor, they can recall that info for themselves with minor prompting from their doula. Doulas know that active labor is not the time for a 45-minute information bomb! It’s better if our clients have that information ahead of time, tucked away and ready to pull out when it’s actually needed.

Doulas who are educators often offer private or group classes at a discounted rate for this very reason.

4) Doulas know that childbirth classes are a key way to encourage active participation from the woman’s chosen birth partner, and making the birth team dynamic more effective.

Partners are more likely to be able to attend classes than they are to attend doula prenatals, and will learn more about their own place on the birth team through role-playing, relaxation exercises, labor practice, and hands-on support techniques. Doulas adjust their support to the needs of their clients, and an active, educated partner, makes the entire birth process go more smoothly, because the doula won’t have to educate on the fly during labor. She can just encourage and remind the birth partner of what they already know.

So, if you have hired a doula, fantastic! Ask her for recommendations in childbirth education, or ask if she offers classes for an additional fee. You will never regret having both a good class, and a doula.

Where did you find your childbirth classes, and how did they help you grow in your knowledge of birth, the process, and what you wanted for your birth experience? Did your doula encourage you to take classes?

Warmly,
Team Preparing For Birth

Childbirth Education Myths 1

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Over the next several weeks, Team Preparing for Birth will be debunking some common myths surrounding childbirth education classes. Check back every Monday to see the newest post.

books

 

 

 

 

MYTH #1: “I’m having a homebirth, and my midwife will do all my education.”

Home birth families often see childbirth classes as an extra, rather than a valuable and necessary tool to help them have the birth they are hoping for. The most common objection they have is that they will be able to get all the education they need from their midwife. While midwives do educate their clients to some extent, this perception that they can (or should) cover everything is a myth, for several reasons.

1) Education is not a midwife’s job.

Just as obstetricians are not childbirth educators, neither are midwives. Just because midwives are more likely to do more education than an obstetrician, does not mean they give comprehensive education, and they should not be expected to. That is not their job.

Rather, a midwife’s primary job is to maintain the clinical safety and health of the mother-baby dyad. This will involve some education, yes, but only as a by-product of good midwifery care.

A good midwife will encourage her clients to be active participants in their care by reading, taking classes, and educating themselves proactively, instead of passively relying on the lack of intervention common to home birth. Midwives want clients who are thinking women, who take responsibility for their own care, and who can integrate what they learn in practical ways.

 

2) The reality of transport.

Another downside to relying solely on your midwife for childbirth education is the preparation for hospital transport. Realistically, around 10% of women and babies need something that cannot be offered at a homebirth, for whatever reason. It is not a midwife’s job to prepare you for the hospital.  Her job is to prepare you for birthing safely at home. Therefore, an expert on the hospital system is needed to prepare a birthing woman, in case of a transport. Most midwives spend very little time in the hospital, due to the low transport rate, so their expertise on local practices may be limited.

On the other hand, childbirth educators work very hard to stay up-to-date on all policy changes, protocols, and the general attitude of the staff in local hospitals. They often work (or have worked) as doulas, and have regular opportunities to interact with staff in the local hospitals that midwives simply don’t have. (This is not a criticism, merely a reality.)

While a midwife can go over what a typical transport looks like in her practice, a good childbirth education class will be able to prepare the client for what a hospital birth will look like. She can help the client to understand how to navigate the environment, and teach her how to communicate with the staff effectively.

 

3) The birth tool belt.

Midwives know that most women need a wide array of pain management techniques available to them, since an epidural is not an option at home. While a midwife will teach her clients the importance of stress management, emotional health, and relaxation, there is no substitute for a good independent childbirth course where you can actually practice tried and true techniques from all kinds of sources. This creates a solid foundation of knowledge, provides varying perspectives, and allows the birthing pair time and space to learn or review valuable tools for labor.

 

4) Prenatal appointments can only cover so much.

Even though midwifery appointments are much longer than typical obstetric appointments, it is still a very limited amount of time for a woman to learn all she needs to know about birth. Not to mention the birth partner, who may not be able to attend very many of the appointments. Childbirth education can fill in the gaps, empower a birthing pair, and provide opportunity to practice valid techniques in a real-world environment.

It is never wise to assume that your care provider will simply take care of everything, no matter who they are. Leaving the decision-making and responsibility solely in your midwife’s hands is not fair to her, to you, or to your baby. You owe it to yourself to take a proactive approach to childbirth education.

 

Dad Matters – A doula’s perspective

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Many men in our culture are fairly apprehensive about birth. Most have never seen a real birth, or talked about it outside of sex ed. They are often nervous about birth itself, seeing their partner in pain, the what-ifs, and all that may come after. They doubt their ability to support their partner in her journey, and wonder if they’ll be strong enough.

In fact, they often doubt and fear and wonder just as much as their partners do, but are often not allowed to express it, because they’re not the ones giving birth, so they feel that they don’t really matter. They may feel like they don’t have much voice in the process, and are just expected to go along for the ride, smiling and nodding whenever the experts speak.

Yet, at the same time, they are expected to know everything about birth, protect their partner, communicate her wishes, and support her physically and emotionally without pausing for breath.

Many worry that they just can’t live up to all of that. It really is an awful lot to ask of one human being, after all. Especially since history shows us that there have always been many support people surrounding a mother during birth.

Still, many men don’t realize just how much they are capable of. They don’t realize that they matter, too, and that they can enter their partner’s birthing space with confidence, ability, and strength to meet the challenges of supporting a labor and birth.

 

So, how do we help fathers to step into the birthing space with confidence?

 

We free them to be who they are, that’s how. We let go of our expectations, and help them to form their own expectations and desires for supporting the birth of their child. We help them to see that they alone can define their role in the drama and sacredness of birth.

I would suggest two important things that may help a father gain confidence and acquire tools to help him fulfill the role he wants to play during birth: 1) Independent childbirth education classes, and 2) Hiring a doula.

The more a man knows, the less he will fear birth, and taking Childbirth Classes is one of the best ways to lower anyone’s fear level in anticipation of birth. Many men appreciate information given in practical, interactive ways, and independent childbirth classes are often right up his alley. He can join with like-minded dads, ask questions, and have his concerns addressed more readily.

Information is a great, big factor in helping couples manage their stresses and fears regarding birth—as much for the father as it is for the mother. As an educator, at the beginning of a series, I usually see high levels of apprehension, which quickly fade from week to week, to be replaced by realistic expectations and informed confidence in both parents.

This is just as powerful for the father as it is for the mother. When Dad has confidence in Mom’s ability, she believes in herself all the more, and Dad begins to see that he has power to influence her for the better! Dad is able to acclimate himself more readily to the realities of birth, and begins to realize that he is an important part of her support team. Perhaps the most important part.

He feels a little more ready to step into his support role, and probably has clarified what he wants that role to look like. He will feel more confident about what he can do, and more realistic about what he might not be able to do.

 

In which case, he may begin to consider…

 

Hiring a Doula to help him fill in the gap in the support team he might not be able to fill himself. If he participates in choosing and hiring a doula, he is much more likely to have his own expectations met, as well as those of his partner. When Mom and Dad are both fully supported, Dad is far freer to just be and do what his partner needs him to be and do.

While he will likely remember a lot of what he has read and learned about, that information may become secondary to him during the birth, and take a backseat to more immediate concerns in his mind.

He may become simply focused on loving this woman who is birthing his child. And why shouldn’t he? Why should he have to remember every counter pressure technique? Every massage technique, position change, or even the water jug and bendy straw? Why shouldn’t he be the face close to hers, his eyes beaming his love, concern for, and confidence in her?

A doula allows Dad to be front and center in the support role he always wanted to fill for Mom, in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual relationship in this particular moment. If he wants to be the Expert – he ought to be equipped to do that. If he doesn’t, then he needs the space and freedom for that, too. Or anything in between.

When he is free, all his anxieties and apprehensions tend to fall away, and he finds that birth is a challenging, beautiful, amazing space to be in with his partner. He finds that he is strong to meet the challenge, just like she is. Together, they grow in strength and confidence, becoming truly ready to meet this tiny new person they have made.

Doulas help open wide the door, making the birthing space more navigable, understandable, and pleasant for fathers. This, in turn, can only benefit the mother as she is able to rest in the support of her birth team. She no longer feels concern for her partner, because he shows no reason for her to be concerned. She is able to just birth.

Then, we can just step back and watch, as he exceeds all the expectations we have laid on him, and as he steps into Fatherhood in the way that makes the most sense to him and his new family.

Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE

Scavenger Hunt Contest

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Preparing for Birth is having an online scavenger hunt to ring in December.

 

You could win this cute pocket diaper.

 

Here is the scavenger hunt:

Answer:

1)      How many births has Desirre Andrews attended?

2)      Name a doula that is working through Preparing For Birth?

3)      How many on average gel capped pills can be made from a placenta?

4)      What breast pump brand does Preparing for Birth have for sale?

 

Answer these and provide a link to the source:  

5)      What is the most common risk of induction?

6)      What is an evidence based reason for induction?

7)      What is the Bishop Score used for?

8)      What are Daniel Berwick’s three principals of patient centered care?

 

Find:

9)      A picture of a child nursing in a funny position.

10)   A picture of artwork that’s at least 100 years old depicting a woman in labor.

 

Bonus Questions:

1)      What is your favorite pregnancy or childbirth related blog?

2)      What is your favorite pregnancy or childbirth related book?

Send your entry to nichole@prepforbirth.com by 9pm Wednesday December 5th.

The winner will be announced Thursday, December 6, 2012, and must be able to pick up the prize in person. Everyone who enters will get a coupon for a free birth or postpartum plan session with one of the doulas from Preparing For Birth.

F.E.A.R.

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I have been thinking on the F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) acronym.  What else can it mean? Fear itself can be a positive or a negative. Fear can be a stumbling block or a motivator.

I enjoy coming up with affirmations and words that alter the view especially as it relates to pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. I have been and know so many who have fear thrust upon them by friends, provider, family, strangers or have deep fear from previous experiences or from the unknown lurking ahead.

Take my words, come up with others and make your own acronyms to work with the FEAR surrounding you, inside you and take away its power.

 

F                      E                     A                     R

Feeling, Freedom, Fix, Fire, Fierce, Forge, Find, Fortitude, Frame, Fight, Force, Free, Forever, Forgive, Feel, Fearless

Everything, Exist, Eradicate, Excite, Envelop, Empowered, Encourage, Enhance, Expectation, Effort, Exquisite, Endearing, Encourage, Enhance, Effort, Expectation, Exquisite, Equal, Excel, Expert, Ease, Engage

Admit, And, Am, Advocate, Amplify, Armed, Above, Answer, Awareness, Act, Assist, Attitude, Ally, Appear, Admire, Ask, Alter, Apprehension, Action, Alive

Rest, Respect, Rise, Release, Rage, Rights, Ready, Resonate, Relief, Repair, Rely, Resist, Rejoice, Roar, Risk, Release, Re-frame, Rephrase, Remain

 

Please share additional words you come up with!

Writing Your Own Birth “Plan”

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

A birth plan has more than one purpose. It begins as a value clarification exercise, then becomes a communication tool with your care provider and ultimately a guide of needs and desires during labor, delivery and postpartum. Even if your birth location does not ask for birth plans, it is a good idea to write one for your own benefit.

Step 1

Clarifying your needs, wants and desires. Here are the  Birth Menu of Options and Assessing Your Feelings we use in class  to begin the value clarification process.  The birth menu is most helpful when you begin by crossing out what you are not interested in, highlighting the items you know you want and circling what you need to research. The AYF worksheet is for you and your husband/partner/non-doula labor support person to go over together to ensure you are on the same page and open up conversation. Doing this prior to 35 weeks of pregnancy gives you more time to coordinate with your care provider or birth location. If you have a doula or are taking a childbirth class, she/he can help you in this part of the process as well.

Step 2

Write down in order of labor, delivery, immediate postpartum and in case of cesarean needs and desires. Your plan really needs to be within one typed page for easy reading and digesting by care provider and staff. The only items that must be listed are care options that are outside of usual practices, protocols or standing orders. Here is the Sample Low Intervention Birth Plan we use to help you see a finished format and types of pertinent information that may be necessary to list.

Step 3

Take your written plan into your care provider. This is a conversation starter, a beginning, a partnering tool. As I encouraged above, early to mid 3rd trimester gives you more flexibility in communicating with your provider and setting your plan in motion. It also gives you opportunity to change providers or birth location if you cannot reach a comfortable agreement.

Step 4

Make any changes.Finalize.  Print out final copy.  Give one to care provider, have one in your bag for labor and birth, give one to doula (if you hired one). Though this is not a binding or legal agreement it can go a long way toward the type of care and birth you want.

Step 5

Gestate peacefully until labor begins!

Tips to finding the right “childbirth” class

Friday, October 14th, 2011

If you were my best friend, I would tell you there is not any one-size-fits-all “childbirth” class.  Education can be foundational to informed decision making and better outcomes for both mother and baby.

I encourage you to go about choosing a class series in the same way you would choose a provider or birth location. Do some investigating and even interview the educator.

In the search:

  • Get referrals from:
    •  Women who have had or wanted the type of birth you are desiring
    • From local birth groups or doulas
    • Your provider
  • Do a web search for classes in your area. There may be many offerings of differing methods and philosophies outside and within the hospital setting.
  • If  you are thinking about a hospital sponsored course, find out if it is a comprehensive series or a what happens to women once they get to our hospital class? This is otherwise known as a good patient class.
  • Check out the course website, then call or email the instructor to get a feel for her style and philosophy. Even a hospital based educator should be able to call you back or email you.

Before paying and registering:

  • How long is the series?
    • A comprehensive series is between 12 and 24 hours of instruction and a minimum of  4 class sessions up to 12 class sessions. The condensed express classes of one or two partial days are not designed for good retention or appropriate processing. It IS worth the investment of time.
  • When is the class? Day of week and time of day needs to fit into your lifestyle. Again, I encourage your investment over a period of time versus a one-day class. If you cannot find a fit, consider a private class. It is important to have classes finished by 35 or 36 weeks pregnant.
  • Where is the class held? Classes may be held in like-minded businesses (chiro office, yoga studio, doula office), in home, care provider office, birth center or hospital.
  • What organization is the instructor trained and certified with? Though certification is not required, it can be very important what training and background an educator has. If instructor is certified, check out the organization’s philosophy and beliefs.
  • What does the instructor’s experience involve?
  • What is the instructor’s philosophy and style?
  • What is the cost of the course? Classes can cost anywhere from free through a hospital to a few hundred dollars. It really can be a wide range. Find your comfort level. Though expect to invest in a good class. Free or low cost classes are often not comprehensive in nature.
  • What is the course content? A comprehensive class should include a variety of topics, such as, pregnancy basics,  common terminology, normal physiologic changes, emotional health and connection, exercise, nutrition, prenatal testing, birth plans, informed consent, communication skill building, overview of spontaneous labor and birth, labor milestones with comfort and position strategies, overview of all options in labor and birth, labor partner role,  immediate postpartum, navigating first weeks postpartum, overview of infant feeding, infant norms, medications and interventions, cesarean, unexpected events, role-playing scenarios, relaxation practice and local/online resources. It is usual to expect homework on top of class time as well.
  • What are the birth outcome statistics for class participants? It may be difficult though to get true data whether a philosophy-based or method-based class.
  • What is expected of me as a class participant?
  • What do I need to bring?
  • Who may come with me?
  • Is there a lending library?

Low Intervention Birth Plan

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

A birth plan has a few real purposes. It can act as a values clarification exercise for you and your partner. Then it is a vehicle to open communication with your care provider about your needs, desires, wants for labor, birth and postpartum.  What you want and need matters.

 A brief one page plan with an opening paragraph with bullet point information specific to individualized care and desires not usually within your care provider’s standing orders or usual protocols of the birth location.

I advise you take the written birth plan to a prenatal visit at least a month prior to your given estimated due date. This gives time for conversation, to have a clear understanding of expectation and agreement.

If it becomes apparent that you and your provider are not on the same page, you then have time to seek out another provider that fits you and you fit with.

Remember it is not a legal document that your location of delivery or care provider must adhere to.

=======================================================

Birth Needs and Desires for: _______________________. 

Care Provider:_________________.

Estimated Due Date: _________________.

I am planning on a no to low-intervention labor and delivery.  I plan on being mobile, lightly snacking, drinking orally, and having ___________ present.   I understand that intermittent monitoring of me and my baby will be necessary.  I want to be fully consented for any procedure that may come up and fully participate in the medical care for myself and my baby.  I understand that there is pain management available to me, I will ask for it if I so desire.

  • I plan on wearing my own clothing. I will ask for a gown if I change my mind.
  • I would like a saline lock in lieu of a running IV.
  • Limited vaginal exams after initial assessment.
  • In the event an induction and/or augmentation is medically necessitated-
    • Ripening – Foley Catheter instead of Cytotec (misoprostol), Cervadil or Prepadil
    • Pitocin – A very gentle and slowly administered dosage increase.
    • AROM – will only consent to if an internal fetal monitor is a must.
  • Spontaneous pushing and delivery in any position I am most comfortable with.
  • External pressure and/or compresses instead of any perineal or vaginal stretching.
  • No cord traction or aggressive placental detachment, including deep uterine massage.
  • Delayed cord clamping for at least 10 minutes or until my placenta spontaneously detaches (baby can receive oxygen or other assistance while still attached to me).

Postpartum and Baby Care

  • Request that my baby is on my belly or chest for assessments and warmth (even oxygen can be given on me)
  • Delayed bathing
  • Delaying vaccinations including eye ointment and vitamin k.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding, no pacifiers, sugar water, or formula. I will hand express if necessary. I will hand express if needed to syringe feed my baby.
  • No separation from me unless absolutely medically necessary not just protocol.

Cesarean: In the event a cesarean becomes necessary and is not a true emergency requiring general anesthesia.  I would like to keep the spirit of my plan A to plan C so the delivery can be as family centered and intimate as possible.

  • Only essential conversation related to the surgery and delivery
  • Lower sterile drape or have a mirror present so I may see my baby emerge
  • Only one arm strapped down so I may touch my baby
  • Pictures
  • Aromatherapy as I desire for comfort, abate nausea and to mask surgical odors
  • Baby to stay with me continuously in OR and recovery
  • If baby must leave OR for treatment, my partner/spouse goes with baby and I would like my ____________ to stay with me so I am never alone.
  • Breastfeed in OR and/or recovery
  • Delayed immunizations
  • Delayed washing and dressing of baby
  • No separation from me except what is absolutely medically necessary
  • I am willing to hand express if baby cannot get to breast right away.

This “plan” may be copied, pasted and edited  for use by others.

Interviewing Your Home Birth Midwife

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Interview Questions

  •  Why are you a midwife?
  •  What is your training? Are you certified? If yes, with whom and why? If no, why not?
  •  Are you licensed in the state of _____?
  •  What is your scope of practice?
  •  Are there any circumstances (physical, emotional, and/or spiritual) would you not take a woman as a patient?
  •  When would you risk out a patient?
  •  What is your style of practice (laid back, hands on, managing)?
  •  How much time will be spent with me during each appointment? Do you come to my home or do I come to your office?
  •  At what intervals will you see me during pregnancy?
  •  What can I expect at a prenatal visit?
  •  What routine tests are utilized during pregnancy? What if I decline these tests?
  •  What herbs or supplements do you like your patients taking during pregnancy?
  • At what point in labor do you normally arrive?
  • What positions are you comfortable catching in? Birth stool? Hand/Knees? Squatting? Standing? Water?
  • What does your cord clamping protocol look like?
  •  What do you do in the event a complication arises during labor or birth?
  • When would you transfer a patient?
  • What percentage of your patients do you transfer to the hospital? Cesarean rate?
  •  How are post-dates (post-42 weeks) handled in your practice?
  •  Do you ever encourage induction by pharmaceutical, herbal, AROM or other natural means? If yes, please describe.
  • What does postpartum care look like for me and my baby?
  • Do you have a midwifery student or an assistant that attends births with you? If so, what is her role?
  •  Who would attend me if you are ill, had an emergency or are at another birth?
  •  Briefly please describe the types of births you are most and least experienced with.
  • What if I hire a doula? Are there restrictions on the doula I may hire? If yes, why? What is your perception of the role of a doula at a home birth?
  • Do you have a back-up physician?
  • What do your fees cover?
  • Do you take any insurances?
  • Should I take childbirth education classes? Do you recommend any? What do you cover?

Points to ponder afterward:

  • Did you feel immediately comfortable and heard at the interview?
  • Was MW willing to answer questions in detail without being annoyed?
  • Are you comfortable with her scope of practice?
  • Are her expectations of you reasonable?
  • Are your expectations of her reasonable?
  • Are you able to take full responsibility for your decisions with this midwife?

All Rights Reserved Desirre Andrews Preparing For Birth 2011

Could this be labor?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

For first time mamas, previously induced mamas or those who have loads of prodromal labor, getting a handle on the nuances of when labor is going to start or if it is lasting labor can be really confusing. There is no way to know exactly when labor is going to start, but there are many things to look out for that can give clues and signs that onset of  labor is sooner rather than later.

Here are my favorite categories to look at and simple ways to decipher what is going on with your body at the end of pregnancy.

Remember to take a look at the whole puzzle picture not just one piece.

  • Vaginal Discharge:
    • Loss of mucous plug (after 38 weeks);
    • Steady mucousy output;
    • Thin and watery mucous;
    • Blood tinged – similar to the beginning or very end of a menstrual period. This means there is effacement and ripening of the cervix going on and even a bit of dilation happening.
  • Contraction Characteristics:
    • Longer and more intense contractions that most often find a pattern;
    • They do not stop or even increase with activity change;
    • Sudden increase or onset of regular Braxton-Hicks;
    • Low period crampiness, pelvic heaviness, off and on backache, thigh achiness.
  • Other symptoms
    • Increased nesting;
    • Insomnia or excessive tiredness;
    •  Flu-like symptoms;
    • Intuition/Instinct;
    • Loose bowels;
    • Weight Loss in the last week.
  • Testing out contractions for possible labor:
    • Change activity level – if resting get up and move, if moving sit down and rest;
    • Drink a large glass of water;
    •  Eat a snack, preferably higher protein;
    • Take a bath or shower.

After doing these things if contractions continue and increase in intensity over another hour or so likely labor is becoming established. Congratulation! As always, contact your care provider at the agreed upon time.

A Guide to Finding Your Doula

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Building a labor support team is part of conscious preparation during pregnancy for your labor,  birth and life with the very newborn. Hiring a labor doula continues to gain in popularity for the expecting family. Your doula comes alongside you in pregnancy through labor and delivery with some additional early postpartum follow-up.  For additional after birth support, a postpartum doula is a great addition.

Step 1: Finding a Doula

  • Inquire with friends, family, local support/informational groups (for example – ICAN, LLLI, Birth Network, Birth Circle, Cloth Diaper store), childbirth educators, care providers, prenatal massage therapists, prenatal exercise instructors, lactation experts and chiropractors for referrals.
  • Use your favorite search engine and type in your city or area name with the keyword doula
  • Search training and certifying organizations such as CAPPA, DONA, ICEA ToLabor , Birth Works and Birth Arts International
  • Search general doula sites such as All Doulas, Doulas.com, About.com, Doula Match or Doula.com

Step 2: First Contact

Once you have located local area doulas, the next step is  to make contact. You will likely find that most doulas are women though occasionally you will find a male doula in your area.  After visiting any websites; phone or email only the doulas that most interest you and fit your particular needs.  Generally there is not much need to contact more than three perspective doulas.

During your initial phone conversation or in your email be sure to include:

  • Full name
  • Contact information
  • Estimated Due Date
  • General location where you live
  • Care Provider
  • Birth Location
  • Top needs and desires for birth
  • If referred, by whom
  • Any financial considerations

Step 3:  Setting up the Interview

I encourage after the phone or email contact and response, set-up in-person interviews with the doulas you found most compatible with you.

  • Unless the doula you are meeting has her own office, interviews are usually held in a public place such as a coffee house, restaurant, library, park, or shopping center. If you meet at a place where beverages or food will be ordered you can offer to pick up the tab for everyone if you desire, but it is never expected.
  • Your partner, husband or other support who will be attending the birth needs to be at in-person interview if at all possible.
  • Expect the interview to be approximately an hour and to be free of charge.

Step 4: The Interview

The interview is to gain more detailed information from the doula, as well as, share more  about yourself and what you want.  It is customary for the doula to either email ahead of time her client packet or bring it with her to the interview. It may include her professional profile, client agreement, services, and support details, as well as, additional offerings.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • Why are you a doula?
  • What is your philosophy of childbirth?
  • Where did you get your training?
  • Are you certified? Why or why not?
  • How long have you been a doula?
  • What is your scope of practice?
  • What types of births have you participated in?
  • What types of birth locations have you been to?
  • How many births per month on average do you attend?
  • How many clients would max you out in a month?
  • Have you ever missed a birth? Please explain why.
  • Do you specialize in working with a specific type of clientele or birth plan?
  • What has been the most challenging birth you have attended? Why?
  • How do you work with my husband/partner/other support?
  • Have you worked with my provider before? If yes, please describe the experience.
  • How many prenatal visits would there be?
  • In general, what is covered in the prenatal visits?
  • Will you help me make a birth plan?
  • Please explain how your fee is structured.
  • Do you accept barter?
  • Do you have a back-up and do I meet her ahead of time?
  • When do you go on-call?
  • Do you labor at home with me?
  • What do you do if I am induced or need to schedule a cesarean?
  • When will you see me postpartum and what does it include?
  • What are your expectations of me as a client?
  • How long do I have to decide before you would contract with someone else around my EDD?

Of course that is a fairly long list of overview questions. Brainstorm some of your own. The interview is not meant to be a free prenatal visit, it is simply to find out if you and the doula are a fit personality wise and in how she practices.  Most doulas do not expect to be hired on the spot. You  need time to think and process after each interview. If a doula is pressuring you to hire on the spot because she fills so quickly, that could be a red flag and cause for you to take a pause.

Step 5: Hiring the Doula

Within 1-2 weeks,  contact the doula you would like to hire and proceed and those you did not choose to let them know you have hired someone else so they will not be holding your EDD space open any longer.

Details to be clear about when initially hiring your doula:

  • Sign and return the agreement/contract she gave you at the interview (if applicable).
  • Return any intake paperwork by mail or email.
  • Payment  – First portion of fee is usually paid upon hiring a doula.
  • Ask her usual business hours and contact preference for non-emergencies or labor related needs.
  • Let her know your contact preferences and all phone numbers to reach you and your spouse/partner or other support.
  • Set the date and time for the first prenatal appointment. Give her directions if your home is not easy to find.
  • Get clarity on what routine contact she would like from you (updates after care provider appointments, etc.)

Happy doula-ing!

Picking Your Care Provider – Interview Questions

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Being an active participant in your pregnancy and birth journey begins with choosing your provider. You can begin the search for the right provider fit prior to becoming pregnant, in early pregnancy or anytime before your baby is born. So much of how your pregnancy and birth unfold are directly related to your care provider so this is really a key element. Every provider is not the right fit for every mother and vice verse. If you already have an established provider relationship, these questions can be used as a re-interview tool.

When asking these questions, take care to really listen to the answers. If a provider will not meet with you prior to you becoming a patient, that can be a red flag.

______________________________________________________________________

Begin by expressing your overall idea of what your best pregnancy, labor and birth looks like to provider.

  • What are your core beliefs, training, experience surrounding pregnancy and birth?
  • Why did you choose this line of work?
  • What sets you apart from other maternity providers?
  • How can you help me attain my vision for pregnancy, labor and birth?
  • If I have a question, will you answer over the phone, by email or other avenue outside of prenatal appointments?
  • How much time will you spend with me during each appointment?
  • What routine tests are utilized during pregnancy? What if I decline these tests?
  • What is the average birth experience of first time mothers in your practice?
  • How do you approach the due date? What do you consider full term and when would I be considered overdue?
  • What are your patient intervention rates? (IV, AROM, continuous monitoring, episiotomy, etc.) Cesarean rate? VBAC rate? Induction rate? What induction methods are used? When are forceps/vacuum used? These numbers are tracked.
  • What positions are you comfortable catching in? Birth stool? Hand/Knees? Squatting? Standing? Water? How often do patients deliver in positions other than reclined or McRoberts positions?
  • How do you feel about me having a birth plan?
  • What if I hire a doula? Do you have an interest in who I work with or restrictions? If yes, why?
  • Do you have an opinion on the type of childbirth or breastfeeding class I take? If so, what and why?
  • Are you part of on call rotation or do you attend your own  overall? Will the back-up or on-call CP honor the requests we have agreed on?
  • Are there any protocols that are non-negotiable? If you cannot refuse – you are not consenting.
  • What if I choose to decline a recommended procedure or intervention in labor or post birth, how will that be viewed?
  • When will I see you during labor?
  • What postpartum care or support do you offer?
  • Will I be able to get questions answered or be seen before the 6 week postpartum visit?

Points to ponder afterward:

  • Did you feel immediately comfortable and respected at the interview? If already with a CP, do you feel comfortable, respected and heard at each appointment?
  • Were there red flags or white flags?
  • Was or is care provider willing to answer questions in detail without being annoyed?
  • Is choosing your care provider based on your insurance or lack of insurance?
  • What are you willing to do in order to have the birth you really desire? Birth location?
  • How much responsibility are you willing to take for the health care decisions for you and your baby?

Blessing the Mother…..

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Blessing the mother ease the period at the end of pregnancy and ease the transition into postpartum.

Ideas that bless before and after birth:

  • Freezer Meals
  • Organizing Fresh Meals for end of pregnancy through first month post birth.
  • Buy baby wearing gear for her.
  • Organize a Blessingway
  • Write down encouraging and affirming words in a beautiful card.
  • Listen to her.
  • Buy her a baby wearing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding class, etc. to her desires as a surprise.
  • Organize housecleaning party for end of pregnancy and once or twice postpartum.
  • If she has other children, have them over to give her a rest.
  • Donate toward her doula, midwife or doctor.
  • When she is postpartum, visit her and prepare a variety of snacks so she is never without food.
  • Offer to run errands after the baby is born.
  • Offer to give her time to shower.
  • Buy her a reusable water bottle so she drinks enough fluids.
  • Give her permission to phone you during odd hours after the birth if she needs support, advice.
  • Offer to dog sit or take care of any pets as needed after the birth.
  • Check in on her about 3 weeks after birth to see how she is doing emotionally and physically.

What other ideas do you have to add? Please leave me a comment.

A Cesarean Plan

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Cesarean is often the last thing we want to think about during pregnancy. Most of us think it will not happen to us. Having a plan, an idea of what to ask for, to know there are ways to bridge the gap between Plan A and Plan C can be very beneficial to both mother and baby.

There is no way to make a cesarean just like a healthy vaginal birth, and frankly, that ought not be the goal. It can be however a much more family centered, family bonded, more respectful and humane experience.

Speak to your provider ahead of time about needs and desires. If you know you are having a cesarean ahead of time, meeting with the Nurse Manager and the anesthesiology department can be useful in obtaining what you want. Have the conversations, create partnerships.

Below is my latest version of a family centered cesarean plan  that can be used for a planned or unplanned cesarean delivery. All requests may not be feasible in all areas, but even small changes can be helpful.

It may be copied and pasted into your own document for personalization, however I do ask that you credit the source if you are an educator, doula or related professional using it as a sample.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Name: Jane Doe

Estimated Due Date: January 1, 20XX

Care Provider: XXXXXX

We are seeking to make a cesarean delivery as special, low stress and family centered as possible.In the event a true emergency and general anesthesia is needed, I understand that some of my requests cannot be honored.

JUST PRIOR TO/DURING DELIVERY / RECOVERY –

  • I would like to meet each staff member in the OR by name who will be participating in the cesarean.
  • I may ask my _________ for aromatherapy to help with nausea, surgical smells and stress.
  • I ask that only essential conversation be allowed.
  • I would like to play ______ music in the OR if it won’t be a distraction to those performing surgery.
  • I would like my ______________ to take photos and/or video of the birth of my baby.  I respect that the surgeon and anesthesiologist may not want the entire surgery on video, however I would like a record of my baby being born to make it as special and personal as possible.
  • Explain all medications that will be used to me. I prefer a bolus and oral medications versus a PCA afterward.
  • Please lower the drape so I may view my baby coming out of me and hold my baby up so I can see him/her at the moment of birth.
  • Request my arms not be strapped down so I may touch my baby freely.
  • I would like my baby to remain connected to the placenta after manual extraction, as the cord will continue to pulsate for some time. I would like my ___________ to cut the cord after 10 minutes post delivery or the cord has stopped pulsating near the umbilicus.
  • I would like my baby placed skin to skin on my chest immediately with basic assessments being done while on me. My husband (partner/family member can hold baby there with a warm blanket over my baby and help maintain the sterile field.
  • I would like to breastfeed in the OR or as soon as possible in recovery.
  • I would like for my ________________ and baby to stay in the OR with me while surgery is completed and remain in recovery with me.
  • If the baby needs medical assistance requiring leaving the OR, I’d like for another person (doula, friend or family member) to attend me in the OR while my ___________________ goes with the baby, so my baby nor I will have to be alone.
  • In the event baby needs to leave the OR, I would like the wipe down towel(s) to be placed against my chest skin and baby to be pressed on me for fluid and odor transfer.
  • Asking for a delay in eye ointment and Vitamin K until after the first hour of bonding time or I am waiving all immunizations and eye ointment.
  • In the event of a hysterectomy, please do not remove my ovaries or anything else that is not medically necessary

REGARDING BABY

  • In the event the baby requires medical attention beyond that of a healthy baby, please inform me (husband/partner/family member) verbally what is needed or will be needed so I can actively participate in choices made for my baby’s care.
  • In the event of  a need for separation of my baby from me:
    • Limit the number of persons who touch or attend my baby to only those on staff as needed and my _____________.
    • Request my baby not be bathed or fully dressed until I have the opportunity to smell, touch, cuddle, etc. with my baby and I am able to participate in the bathing.
    • I plan to breastfeed exclusively, so no pacifier, formula, sugar water should be given to my baby.
  • No tests shall be performed or medications administered, etc. without my ________________ consent & prior knowledge

Thank you for honoring my requests for me and my baby.

Preparing For Birth, LLC

All Rights Reserved 2011

Know Your Score – Before an Induction

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Knowing your Bishop’s score prior to agreeing to an induction when not medically necessary or setting the stage for a medically necessary induction can make a great difference in expectations, additional interventions and understanding for the process as a whole.  Knowing your score can help you determine the type of induction or whether or not to be induced at all.
Your score is based on a vaginal exam that takes into consideration the areas listed in the chart below.


Dilation, Effacement, Consistency and Position all have to do with your cervix. Station is telling where the presenting part of baby is in relation to the ischial spines. (sitz bones).

Are you a good candidate for induction based on your score? Do you need a ripener? Are you a VBAC mother?  What other factors are working in your favor or against success?
Induction is not an easy or guaranteed process. You can see the criteria toward success is telling even without discussing the additional risks leading to additional interventions, medications and/or cesarean.

Additional links and information on induction can be found in this previous post http://prepforbirth.com/2009/08/12/preparing-for-labor-induction/.

Birth Plan Sample

Monday, February 28th, 2011

A birth plan is designed to facilitate communication between you and your provider, especially necessary if you are  birthing outside the home environment.  Secondly, it is to offer information on the individualized care you as the mother would like during labor, birth and immediately postpartum for you and your baby.

It should be brief (no more than one page) and only have the bullet point information that is specific to individualized care and desires not usually within your care provider’s standing orders or usual protocols of the birth location.

It is important to take a written birth plan to a prenatal visit at least a month prior to your given estimated due date in order to have a clear understanding of expectation and agreement. If it becomes apparent that you and your provider are not on the same page, this gives can give time to seek out another provider that fits you and you fit with. Remember it is not a legal document that your location of delivery or care provider must adhere to.

 =======================================================

Birth Needs and Desires for: _______________________. 

Care Provider:_________________.

Estimated Due Date: _________________.

 

Labor

I am planning on a no to low-intervention natural birth.  I plan on being mobile, lightly snacking, drinking orally, and having ___________ present.   I understand that intermittent monitoring of me and my baby will be necessary.  I want to be fully consented for any procedure that may come up and fully participate in the medical care for myself and my baby.  I understand that there is pain management available to me, I will ask for it if I so desire.

  • I plan on wearing my own clothing. I will ask for a gown if I change my mind.
  • I would like a saline lock in lieu of a running IV.
  • Limited vaginal exams after initial assessment.
  • In the event an induction and/or augmentation is medically necessitated-
    • Ripening – Foley Catheter instead of Cytotec (misoprostol), Cervadil or Prepadil
    • Pitocin – A very gentle and slowly administered dosage increase.
    • AROM – will only consent to if an internal fetal monitor is a must.
  • Spontaneous pushing and delivery in any position I am most comfortable with.
  • No cord traction or aggressive placental detachment, including deep uterine massage.
  • Delayed cord clamping for at least 10 minutes or until my placenta spontaneously detaches (baby can receive oxygen or other assistance while still attached to me).

Postpartum and Baby Care

  • Request that my baby is on my belly or chest for assessments and warmth (even oxygen can be given on me)
  • Delayed bathing
  • Delaying vaccinations including eye ointment and vitamin k.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding, no pacifiers, sugar water, or formula. I will hand express if necessary.
  • No separation from me unless absolutely medically necessary not just protocol.

Cesarean: In the event a cesarean becomes necessary and is not a true emergency requiring general anesthesia.  I would like to keep the spirit of my plan A to plan C so the delivery can be as family centered and intimate as possible.

  • Only essential conversation related to the surgery and delivery
  • Lower sterile drape or have a mirror present so I may see my baby emerge
  • Only one arm strapped down so I may touch my baby
  • Pictures
  • Aromatherapy as I desire for comfort, abate nausea and to mask surgical odors
  • Baby to stay with me continuously in OR and recovery
  • If baby must leave OR for treatment, my partner/spouse goes with baby and I would like my ____________ to stay with me so I am never alone.
  • Breastfeed in OR and/or recovery
  • Delayed immunizations
  • Delayed washing and dressing of baby
  • No separation from me except what is absolutely medically necessary

This “plan” may be copied, pasted and edited  for use by others.

Creating a relationship 10 minutes at a time

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

It has occurred to me through my time with doula clients and students,  that many care providers serving hospital birthing mothers do not ask any questions of their pregnant patients during the 7-10 minute prenatal visits that lead to a substantive working relationship.

I have also learned that too often the pregnant “patient” does not know to tell her provider anything about what is going on in her life or pregnancy since she is not queried first.

Thinking there must be a way to better bridge this very real separation to solid patient-provider relationship building, I am drawing from my work as a midwife assistant in the making of this tip list.

Pregnant mothers your provider needs to know so much more about you and your pregnancy than blood pressure, weight, fundal height and fetal heart tones. I encourage you to freely offer the below information at every appointment to grow personalized care, advisement and support.

1) Appetite/Diet/Supplements – tell your provider if your appetite has increased or decreased between visits. Do you have food aversions? Are you taking any supplements or want to take supplements?

2) Sleep habits – tell your provider how you are or are not sleeping.  For example, are you having trouble falling asleep, falling back to sleep or staying asleep.

3) Nausea – Do you continue to have nausea? When? How often? Does it correlate with anything in particular?

4) Hemorrhoids – if you have them or not. What you are doing for them.

5) Varicose veins –  Are there veins sticking out or causing issue anywhere in your body?

6) Bowel habits – Are you experiencing normal or abnormal bowel habits?

7) Exercise – What have you been doing? Do changes need to be made?

8) Stress – Is there anything in your life that is really stressing you? Stress can impact pregnancy health. Important to discuss.

9) Related Providers – Are you going to any pregnancy related providers (such as chiropractor, acupuncturist, yoga, etc.)?

10) General  – Are you feeling well or not. Do you need more information or referrals?

There is so much more to you than a pregnant uterus. You are a holistic person who needs to be treated as such. I would venture that something much more individualized can come out of your care with simple sharing!

Here’s to whole care!

Say What? Getting a handle on birthy terminology.

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

So often I am in conversation and forget that everyone does not eat, drink and sleep birth related information like my peers and I do.

I have put together a list of useful terms and definitions to take the “What?” out of navigating the host of terms surrounding pregnancy and birth.

  • AROM – Artificial Rupture of Membranes – using a finger or tool to open the amniotic sac to to allow the fluid to release.
  • Birth Center – Free standing location usually run by one or more certified nurse midwife. True birth centers are almost always independently run. They are not overseen by a hospital or in a hospital. May be near a hospital. Often set-up like a home birth space and epidurals or other pain medications are not available.   Hospital “birth centers” are labor and delivery floors not birth centers in the true sense of the term.
  • Bloody Show – Mucous and blood mixed together as dilation and effacement occurs.  Starts off as blood tinged mucous and becomes heavier as labor progresses.
  • Braxton-Hicks – Practice contractions that do not dilate or efface the cervix often felt at the top of the uterus versus the bottom.
  • CBAC – Cesarean Birth After Cesarean – This is a repeat cesarean after a woman desires and tries to have a vaginal birth after cesarean.
  • Cervix -The lower portion of the uterus that provides an opening between the uterus and the vagina. Also known as the neck of the uterus that softens, effaces, dilates and changes position during labor.
  • Cesarean – Baby born via a surgical incision made through the abdomen into the uterus.
  • Contraction – Tightening and loosening of your uterus. Productive contractions are often felt at the bottom of the uterus, start out like period cramps and progressively grow stronger, longer in length, and closer together.
  • Doula – Is an assistant who provides various forms of non-medical and non-midwifery support (physical and emotional) in the childbirth process. Based on a particular doula’s training and background, the doula may offer support during prenatal care, during childbirth and/or during the postpartum period. A birth doula provides support during labor. A labor doula may attend a home birth or might attend the laboring at home and continue while in transport and then complete supporting the birth at a hospital or a birth center. A postpartum doula typically begins providing care in the home after the birth. Such care might include cooking for the mother, breastfeeding support, newborn care assistance, errands, light housekeeping, etc. Such care is provided from the day after the birth, providing services through the first six weeks postpartum. In some cases, doula care can last several months or even to a year postpartum – especially in cases when mothers are suffering from postpartum depression, children with special needs require longer care, or there are multiple infants.
  • Effacement – The thinning of the cervix which occurs before and while it dilates.
  • Endorphins- Any of a group of peptide hormones that bind to opiate receptors and are found mainly in the brain. Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain and affect emotions.
  • Epidural - A medical method of giving pain relief during labor. A catheter is inserted through the lower back into a space near the spinal cord. Anesthesia is given through this catheter, and results in decreased sensation from the abdomen to the feet.
  • Episiotomy – A surgical procedure to widen the outlet of the birth canal to facilitate delivery of the baby and avoid a jagged rip of the perineum. (Natural abrading or tearing is preferred and episiotomies are not evidence-based to be used except under specific circumstances).
  • ERCS – Elective Repeat Cesarean
  • First Stage – Early, Active, and Transition. This encompasses the effacement to 100%, dilation to 10 centimeters/complete, position movement of cervix from posterior to forward as contractions begin while staying longer, strong and closer together prior to pushing and delivery.
  • Foley – A foley catheter is used to release the bladder if a woman unable to urinate due to an epidural, post surgery, or with a swollen urethra post birth.  It can also be used for successful cervical ripening in lieu of cytotec.
  • Fourth Stage – First hours after placenta is delivered.
  • Fundus –  Top of the uterus. During labor contractions the fundus thickens and gets more firm as the strength of contractions increase and dilation increases.
  • HBAC – Home Birth After Cesarean
  • Ina May’s Sphincter Law -Tapping into the concept that if one sphincter is open and relaxed, the others will also open, relax and be able to handle, quite adequately, the task at hand. This also includes the aspect of birth requiring privacy, sacredness, and honor as well so a woman feels safe, unwatched and supported.
  • Induction – To attempt to artificially start labor usually by pitocin, artificial rupture of membranes with or without cervical ripening (Cytotec, Cervadil, Prepadil or Foley Catheter).
  • Intervention – Anything that does not exist in a spontaneously, naturally occuring labor and delivery that is done.
  • Kegel Exercises – Named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, consists of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor (sometimes called the “Kegel muscles”).
  • Lochia – Post birth bleeding that though a wound site from the placenta detaching from the uterine wall, it mimics a heavy and long menstrual period.
  • Midwife – Is a person usually a woman who is trained to assist women during pregnancy,  during childbirth, and postpartum as well as the newborn post birth.  There are many types of midwives – some work in the home, at birth centers or in the hospital.
  • Miso – Misoprostol is the pharmacological name for Cytotec a drug used for cervical ripening and induction though a controversial, off and against label used ulcer Medication
  • Mucous plug - The mucous that blocks off the non-dilated and non-ripened cervix for protection.
  • Natural Birth – Labor and vaginal delivery free from intervention except for intermittent fetal monitoring. In the hospital only a saline lock and intermittent monitoring. Can also mean no monitoring.
  • Obstetrician – Is the surgical specialty dealing with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate post birth time.
  • Oxytocin – A hormone made in the brain that plays a role in childbirth and lactation by causing muscles to contract in the uterus (womb) and the mammary glands in the breast. It also plays a role in bonding with mate, child, and socially.
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles -The sphincter mechanism of the lower urinary tract, the upper and lower vaginal supports, and the internal and external anal sphincters. It is a network of muscles, ligaments, and other tissues that hold up the pelvic organs.  Includes bladder, rectum, vagina and uterus.
  • Pelvis -The basin like cavity formed by the ring of bones of the pelvic girdle in the posterior part of the trunk in many vertebrates: in humans, it is formed by the ilium, ischium, pubis, coccyx, and sacrum, supporting the spinal column and resting upon the legs.
  • Perineum – The area between the anus and the vulva (the labial opening to the vagina).
  • Pitocin (oxytocin injection, USP) is a sterile, clear, colorless aqueous solution of synthetic oxytocin, for intravenous infusion or intramuscular injection.
  • Placenta -The organ that develops during pregnancy that transports nutrients to the fetus and waste away from the fetus. The placenta is attached to the uterus and is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord.
  • PROM – Premature Rupture of Membranes – when the amniotic fluids releases before labor starts.
  • Prostaglandin – Any of a group of hormone like fatty acids found throughout the body, esp. in semen, that affect blood pressure, metabolism, body temperature, and other important body processes such as cervical ripening.
  • RCS – Repeat Cesarean
  • ROM – Rupture of Membranes
  • Saline Lock/Buffalo Cap/ Hep Lock – Is the apparatus that the IV line hooks into.  It is silicone tubing that is lightweight with a plastic needle that stays under the skin to allow easy vein access.
  • Second Stage – Pushing phase after cervix is completely dilated to delivery of baby.
  • SROM – Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes during labor.
  • Stripping membranes –  Pressing the amniotic sac away from the inside of the cervix.
  • Third Stage – Delivery of baby to delivery of placenta.
  • UBAC – Unattended Birth After Cesarean
  • Umbilical cord – The cord that transports blood, oxygen and nutrients to the baby from the placenta.
  • Uterus -The muscular organ in which a fertilized egg implants and matures through pregnancy. During menstruation, the uterus sheds the inner lining.
  • Vagina – A muscular canal between the uterus and the outside of the body. Also known as the birth canal.
  • Vaginal Birth – Baby born vaginally with or without medication and intervention.
  • VBAC – Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
  • WBAC – Water Birth After Cesarean

Grateful For My Birth(s) Carnival

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

I am so thankful to all of the submissions I received for this Why I am Grateful for my Birth(s) blog carnival. I have found no matter what a woman can learn something and be grateful for something in every birth experience no matter how difficult or wonderful. Enjoy these quips and please go to their blogs to read in completeness.

Tiffany Miller of Birth In Joy says in an excerpt from her post The Most Important Piece, “I am thankful that Mom believed in my ability to breastfeed my new baby, even though it hurt at first. She never told me that I had so severely damaged her nipples, as she tried to learn with no support whatsoever during my own newborn days. Nary an ounce of bitterness did she carry from that time. She knew and accepted that my path was my own, and supported me completely.” She goes on to further outline how the mentoring and support of her mother paved her way.

How grateful she is for all four natural births and her mother’s unwavering assistance. Assistance and presence she could never imagine doing without.  Just beautiful and shows how important in our lives are the ones who came before.

Kristen Oganowski of Birthing Beautiful Ideas in her post Your Births Brought Me Here writes this gorgeous, tear inspiring letter to her two children about what amazing changes they spurned in her own life, in the very life that they would come to know. Without one birth, would the other have come along the way it did?

Here is an excerpt: “When you both were born, I called myself: Graduate student (unhappily).  Teacher (happily).  Feminist (always).  Mother (timidly). Today I call myself: Doula (happily).  Birth and breastfeeding advocate (unflinchingly).  Blogger (smirkingly).  Writer (finally).  Feminist (permanently).  Mother (confidently).  Graduate student (temporarily). Your births brought me here, to this place where I am (finally) content and impassioned. All wrapped up  with a Love, Mom.

Our next post is by Sheridan Ripley of Enjoy Birth. She writes very plainly about how grateful she is for varied experiences that give her insight to what other women experience and that she is better able to support them.

Here is a peek.

  • If I had only amazing natural birth experiences would I have judged those moms who choose epidurals?
  • If I had only vaginal births would I have understood and fought so hard for VBAC moms?
  • If I only had easy times creating that nursing relationship with my boys, would I have been as supportive of my moms struggling with nursing?

Very poignant and open…..

We come to Bess Bedell of MommasMakeMilk.Com came to a place of self-awareness, peace and a fierceness to help others in her experiences. Like others her heart grew and expanded with her own knowledge and walk. A strength and confidence awoke in her to the benefit of so many coming after.

My two births birthed a new women. A mature women who has opinions, knowledge, experience and a passion in life. If I had not had my c-section I may never had given VBAC a second though. The lack of VBAC support and availability would probably never have entered my radar. My second birth showed me that success and perfection are not the same but both are wonderful and I can be happy for and embrace a mother and her experience even if it wasn’t a completely natural, completely med-free birth. Both of my experience have prepared me for the future. My future of birthing, and next time I plan on birthing at home, and my future of educating and supporting pregnant and birthing mothers.

And lastly my own blog post entry. I know I rarely speak of my own births in any detail unless it is one on one. As a community member, advocate, doula, educator, I strive NEVER to be an intervention on a woman. Today I decided to give a small window into my own experiences and why I am grateful. Please read and comment freely – Grateful For My Births.

Thank you so much to those who submitted posts. The openness of other women allow all of us to learn, grow and share as we are meant to within a healthy society. We are not there yet, but I have a hope that through this sort of connection, we are healing some brokenness.

In reading all these posts, not one is the same, not in tone or style, but every woman was changed positively in the end.

Why Childbirth Education?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

I sit here and ponder Why childbirth education is important?. I am an educator because I think it can be a vital piece to the preparation puzzle prior to welcoming a baby.  I use the word “can” versus “is” due to the fact that all educational offerings are not created equally.

It is known that only a percentage of expecting mothers attend a childbirth class series. Perhaps they believe the staff will explain everything when they get to the hospital, they really have a deep trust in the process and are reading up on everything, or since they are having a home birth that additional education is unneeded. Whatever the reason, women are not getting the foundational information that can be incredibly helpful toward confidence, ability, decision making and mothering far beyond the birth itself.

A good childbirth class series (or rather perinatal class) is well worth the monetary and time investment for most first time mothers and can benefit those who have already birthed.  My post on choosing a childbirth class is a good jumping off point to figuring out what type of course suits the individual expecting mother (her partner or labor support).

A class series worth the time and effort will be comprehensive in nature, not just covering labor and birth. What does that look like? A class that covers midway third trimester pregnancy through 4-8 weeks postpartum. It is content that is deep and is applicable to real life.

A sample of course content:

  • Pregnancy Basics
  • Common Terminology
  • Normal Physiologic Changes and “helps”
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Prenatal Testing
  • Birth Plans
  • Informed Consent
  • Communication and Self-Advocacy Skill Building
  • Overview of spontaneous Labor and Birth
  • Labor milestones with Comfort and Positioning Strategies
  • Overview of all Options in Labor, Birth and Postpartum
  • Labor Partner Role
  • Immediate Postpartum
  • Navigating first weeks Postpartum
  • Overview of Infant Feeding and Norms
  • Bonding
  • Medications and Interventions
  • Cesarean and VBAC
  • Unexpected Events
  • Role-playing Scenarios
  • Relaxation and Visualization Practice
  • Local/Online Resources

How the educator reaches her class is fundamental to the learning process and take away of participants.  I encourage women to interview the potential educator. Finding the right fit in a class is no different that in provider, doula or birth location.

Even if a woman knows she wants an epidural, TAKING A GOOD CLASS is vital because she will be having a natural birth the epidural is on board and her Plan B could very well be a natural birth. Being prepared will only serve her well in the fluid process known as labor and delivery.

Gaining knowledge that will help a woman to partner with her provider, address her own needs fully and help her to define her own birth philosophy gives her a leg up on being responsible and in charge in her own health care and even outcomes.

The vast scope of what a solid class series can offer an expecting mother (her partner or support person) is incredibly valuable and can not be understated. A class that provides for encouragement, comfort, safety, respect, connection, structure, evidence-based information and real life application can plant seeds and prosper skills that will carry a woman well into her mothering years. These skills are for life, not just for labor and birth. I am stunned often by how birthing knowledge carries me in daily ability with my own family.

Here’s to happy and deep learning!

Choosing Your Childbirth Class

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Being a childbirth (perinatal) educator is a position that affords great opportunity to positively influence women in the childbearing year and far beyond.  It is also a great responsibility that ought include: self-assessment, continuing education, evidence-based curriculum, the ability inform with discernment and the willingness not to teach a good patient course.

With all of this in mind, it is important that pregnant women choose their childbirth class wisely. There is not any one-size-fits-all class.

How does one go about choosing a childbirth class? I encourage you to go about choosing a class series in the same way you would choose a provider or birth location. Do some investigating and even interview the educator.

Off to a good search:

  • Get referrals from women who have had or wanted the type of birth you are desiring.
  • Check out your local birth groups and get referrals.
  • Ask your provider for a referral.
  • Do a web search for classes in your area. You may be surprised that there are many offerings method and philosophy based outside and within the hospital setting.
  • If thinking about a hospital sponsored course, find out if it is a comprehensive series or a what happens to women once they get to our hospital class? This is otherwise known as a good patient class.
  • Check out the course website then call or email the instructor to get a feel for her style and philosophy. Even a hospital based educator should be able to call you back or email you.

Before registering for a class series:

  • How long is the series? A minimum of 12 hours is needed to be a comprehensive series. At least 2 different class sessions over two different weeks, but  preferably a minimum of 4 class sessions. You may find classes up to 12 sessions. Be wary of condensed one or two day classes as there is not enough time to process information and retain it well. It IS worth the investment of time.
  • When is the class? Day of week and time of day needs to fit into your lifestyle. Again, I encourage your investment over a period of time versus a one-day class.
  • Where is the class held? Classes may be held in like-minded businesses, in home, care provider office or hospital.
  • What organization is the instructor trained and certified with? Though certification is not required, it can be very important the training and background an educator has.  Check out the organization to make sure you agree with it.
  • What does the instructor’s experience involve?
  • What is the instructor’s philosophy and style?
  • What is the cost of the course? Classes can cost anywhere from free through a hospital to a few hundred dollars. It really can be a wide range. Find your comfort level. Though expect to invest in a good class. Free or low cost for everyone is often not comprehensive in nature.
  • What is the course content? A comprehensive class should include a variety of topics, such as, pregnancy basics,  common terminology, normal physiologic changes, exercise, nutrition, prenatal testing, birth plans, informed consent, communication skill building, overview of spontaneous labor and birth, labor milestones with comfort and position strategies, overview of all options in labor and birth, labor partner role,  immediate postpartum, navigating first weeks postpartum, overview of infant feeding, infant norms, medications and interventions, cesarean, unexpected events, role-playing scenarios, relaxation practice and local/online resources. It is usual to expect homework on top of class time as well.
  • What are the birth outcome statistics for class participants? It may be difficult though to get true data whether a philosophy-based or method-based class.
  • What is expected of me as a class participant?
  • What do I need to bring?
  • Who may come with me?
  • Is there a lending library?

I hope you find this list helpful and are able to find the just right fit. I look forward to your feedback.

What’s a doula to do?

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

There is such a deep chasm and fracture within the doula community regarding in-hospital and out-of-hospital birth. On the one hand there are those who say anything goes in supporting women and their choices. On the other, there are those who say no doula should support a woman in the hospital environment because it is a “bad and dangerous” place to birth,  or at the very least should get kicked out if she is doing her job “right”.

Who is right? This is where it gets tricky to be sure.

With upwards of 98% of the birthing women going to the hospital in the United States, are WE really within the general doula scope of practice by taking such a hard stance of ignoring those women in need? Who is benefiting here? It is well known, that I am all for a doula deciding her practice style, what scenarios she is best suited to support within, and knowing who she is best able to support.  But to abjectly say, no doula should ever support a woman in a hospital birth, is to me akin to very interventive practitioners who believe that birth is inherently dangerous and a trauma waiting to happen. Thus, viewing every women and baby through high-risk lenses and subjecting them to high-risk protocols where there is no medical need encourages more intervention and higher-risk scenarios to actually occur.

Who does this serve taking such a hard line? Perhaps those speaking it, thinking they are pressing for the greater good. Definitely not the mothers who need the support and assistance navigating a sometimes difficult and stressful system. The mothers and babies are caught then between a rock and a hard place. Then they are effectively forced to go without support and help. The truth is women having hospital births NEED DOULA SUPPORT MORE than women choosing an out-of-hospital option.

Bottom line: I make no claim that it is an easy task to doula within the hospital environment. It is not. It can be brutal. Imagine for a moment, really, close your eyes and think of what happens, what you witness as a doula when you are there — then think of all the women who have no doula present — what happens to them? What do those women experience? What do those babies experience? Now, open your eyes and breathe for a moment. It is not pretty is it?

Right there is what keeps me taking hospital birthing clients. It requires very open communication and immense work prior to labor during prenatals running through scenarios, detailing needs and desires, making certain informed consent and refusal is understood for a variety of procedures, medications, and cesarean. A mother needs to be well-versed in how to use her self-advocacy voice as does her husband, partner or other main support person.

Looking at the flip-side now.

So the other ideal, er rather idea, is that a doula should support anyone and anything because she is a doula poses other issues in my mind.  I do not see anywhere in the job description that this is what a doula ought do.  Any one doula cannot be the right doula for every mother or scenario. This way of thinking can fall into  a cookie-cutter way of practicing, thinking one can be all to everyone. Doulas are people too. Each has individual abilities, biases that need to be addressed, history and points of view.

I think it has been mistaken that a good doula is one that has no say in how she practices or who she is best to serve.  I believe there is a doula for every type of scenario and mother. It is a very individual pursuit and fit.

I know some amazing niche doulas out there who support only high-risk mothers, multiples, same-sex couples, in-hospital birthers, planned cesareans….. The list could go on.

Honestly, I will say there are some amazing doulas who can work under this very open practice style effortlessly and with excellence.  I applaud those doulas, though I think that is the minority and most are not able to keep it up without finding a comfort zone long haul.

Childbirth is such a deeply intimate and intense process with so many variables, being the right fit all the way around is necessary in my humble opinion.  I have seen doulas deeply wounded and traumatized by what happens in the birth room. Sometimes that is unavoidable, but through years of interaction with many doulas, the running thread is that the doula had misgivings even during the interview that this was probably not a good fit but chose not to refer the mother out to someone she knew was better suited for whatever the reason.

Are women and babies really being served best under this model of practice? This is for you to go ahead and answer for yourself.

Bottom Line: Women and babies need individual care whether from a doula, nurse, or care provider. Can a doula be all things to all mothers? Some, I am sure. Overall I believe not. For the health of a doula and the health of her ability to practice and support well, finding the “comfort zone” can make the difference for the mother, baby and doula. Why? Because doula work is such an intense giving of oneself (emotionally, physically, even spiritually). A continual self-assessment needs to be done just where her true and honest “comfort zone” is. By doing this, a doula is caring not only for herself by avoiding burnout, but also for her future clients and her ability to care for others with excellence and utmost professionalism.

The Best isn’t Better. Usual is where It is at.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

There has been much ado surrounding the language of breastfeeding being normal and usual versus the best for baby and mother in great thanks to Diane Weissinger. It is so valuable to recognize that while we all desire to be the best, we often hit the normal everyday averages in life. We are comfortable reaching a goal that seems more attainable. Best or better can feel so far out of reach where average and usual seem quite in reach most of the time. None of us generally want to be below the average or usual. Thus the language of the risks of NOT breastfeeding is so vital.

I would like to see the same type of language revolving around pregnancy and birth as well.

In the overall picture here is the usual occurrence: Ovulation leads to heightened sexual desire, which leads to sexual activity, which leads to pregnancy, which leads to labor, which leads to birth, which leads to breastfeeding…..

So how do we look at language as an important part of our social fabric and belief systems surrounding this process?

Let us look at contrasting statements of what is often heard and how a positive point of view can be adapted.

Pregnancy is: a burden, an illness, an affliction, a mistake, something to be tolerated……

Pregnancy is: a gift, wonderful, amazing, part of the design, someone to grow…..

Labor is: scary, worth fearing, the unknown, unpredictable, painful, to be avoided, to be numbed from, to be medicated, to be induced, out of control, unfeminine…..

Labor is: what happens at the end of pregnancy, hard work but worth it, manageable by our own endorphins and oxytocin, an adventure, not bigger than the woman creating it, to be worked with, worth be present for, is what baby expects……..

Pushing and Birth are: terrifying, physically too difficult, only works for women who are not too small, short, skinny, big, fat, young or old, responsible for pelvic floor problems, out of control, horrible……..

Pushing and Birth are: what happens after dilation completes, to help baby prepare for breathing, bonding and feeding, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, able to occur in water, standing, laying down, squatting, on hands and knees, often most effective when a woman is given the opportunity to spontaneously work with her baby and body, not always responsible for pelvic floor issues, amazing, hard work, worthwhile, sets the finals hormonal shifts in motion for mother and baby……

Is it really BETTER? I say no. It is usual and normal.

  • Spontaneous labor is not better – it is the expected usual occurrence at the end of pregnancy.
  • Unmedicated labor and birth is not better – it is what the body mechanisms and baby expect to perform at normal levels.
  • Unrestricted access to movement, support and safety in response to labor progression is not better – it is the usual expectation to facilitate a normal process.
  • Spontaneous physiologic pushing is not better – it is what a woman will just do, in her way.
  • Spontaneous birth is not better – it is what a mother and baby do.
  • Keeping mother and baby together without separation is not better – it is what both the mother and baby are expecting to facilitate bonding, breastfeeding, and normal newborn health.

Denying the norms and adding in unnecessary interventions, medications and separation is creating a risky environment for mothers and babies. Thus increasing fear, worry,and even a desire to be fixed at all costs.

Perhaps even worse, an atmosphere has been created where the abnormal has become the expected norm and the normal has become the problem to be eradicated.

Bottom line, our language matters and will help shape for the positive or negative the future of birth.

That Pesky Due Date

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Women and babies are not made with a pop out button like some Thanksgiving turkeys indicating being done. That pesky due date becomes such great topic of debate. It can lead to unnecessary interventions (such as induction, provider change because of regulations or cesarean), emotional unease (I am broken, this baby is never coming, I am LATE one minute past 40 weeks), physical distress by way of decreased pregnancy change tolerance, and mess with a woman’s work schedule (when to start maternity leave or return to work date).

Prior to home pregnancy tests and ultrasound dating, the due date was much more of a due month. Now it seems everyone has bought into this mysterious due date being something very hard fact and unfailing.

Henci Goer wrote a tremendously helpful article called “When is that baby due? ” several years back that sheds light on this very issue. She states: “When it comes to determining your due date, “things,” as the Gilbert and Sullivan ditty goes, “are seldom what they seem.” The methods of calculation are far from exact, common assumptions about the average length of pregnancy are wrong and calling it a “due date” is misleading. Understanding these uncertainties may help to curb your natural impatience to know exactly when labor will begin.”

The most common way women are finding out the due date of their baby is by using an online calculator such as this:

However, this even from the federal website does not take into consideration ovulation, only length of cycle (which is an improvement over straight up LMP dating).

So how do women handle this notion of a due date? I asked the question and here are some responses.

  • KZ –    “Last time, I told everyone my due date, and when E had other plans, I got the, “Have you had that baby, YET?? How long are they gonna make you go?” *cringe* This time, I’m wising up and saying Spring. That’s it. Spring.”
  • SL – “I used a “due season”. I told my three year old that the leaves would change on the tree and we would probably have Thanksgiving dinner and she would be here sometime after that. :)”
  • KMC-M -“I love the Ish… december-ish”
  • CLM -“I always give very generic answers to avoid the annoying “aren’t you due yet???” comments. I’ve also written on Christmas cards … “baby #3, due Spring 20??”. Once I was due at the very end of July. My well meaning neighbor was asking … “are you STILL pregnant?” on July 4th. Ugh.”
  • LE – “Whenever someone asked my due date I always said, “he’ll come when he’s ready” or “when God decides he’s ready”
  • SC – “Mid to late month was the closest I’d get.”

Seems these particular women either have previously gotten bitten by the pesky due date or learned in the first pregnancy not to put too much stock in an arbitrarily determined date. I say good for them!

As a midwife assistant, I now participate in the baby assessments. Some of these post birth assessments gestationally date baby. Often the dates are different than the due date assumption. Some earlier and some later.  This happens even with women who knew exactly when the last menstrual period, ovulation, and conception occurred along with cycle length.

Only the baby (and God according to my belief) knows the due date aka when he or she will press start.

Early is not one day prior to 40 weeks EDD just as late is not 40 weeks and 1 day over EDD. Full term pregnancy is defined as 37 weeks-42 weeks gestation.

I think it is high time “we” layoff pressuring mamas and their babies. “We” must stop trying to evict them earlier than they desire without a true medical reason. One day to any adult is nothing, but even a day to an unborn baby coming earthside can mean the difference between alive and thriving.



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