Archive for the ‘birthing’ Category

Dilation Isn’t Everything: The many jobs of your cervix.

Monday, May 18th, 2015

BESTA mother waits patiently on the small triage bed while the nurse concentrates on what her fingers are telling her about the progress of this labor. After a minute, she pulls her fingers out, and chirps brightly, “You are 5 centimeters dilated!” She flips her gloves into the trash can and turns to the computer to chart.

It’s a universal experience going into a hospital in labor. The progress of labor is reduced to a number between one and ten, and nothing else. An hour later, after being admitted to her room, the mother is told she is “still only a 5.” Once again, she isn’t a mother, she is a number. She is left alone to contemplate that, and to deal with it as she may.

Most of us tell our birth stories in terms of this number. “I was stuck at 5 forever!”

What if I told you that this number means very little when it stands alone? What if I told you that your cervix does a whole lot more than just dilate? What if I told you that there are more ways to measure progress in labor than that ubiquitous range of centimeters?

Well, it’s true.

My preceptor and mentor, Desirre Andrews says:

“There is a mystery surrounding cervical dilation and changes prior to and during labor. I like to think of it as the jobs of the cervix. The cervix does so much more than simply opening.”

So, the next time you have a baby, and you are facing a vaginal exam, make sure you ask about what else your cervix is doing!

1. Effacement
Hold up your pointer finger. Touch the second knuckle. From there to the tip of your finger is about the length of your cervix. In order for the cervix to dilate completely, your cervix has to shorten, or “efface,” completely. This is measured in percentages. If your cervix only reaches from the tip of the finger to the first knuckle, you are about 50% effaced. This process must happen before dilation can even occur. In many women, it occurs at the same time or it overlaps dilation. In first time moms, we often see effacement first, then dilation quickly follows. What if our mother was told that, while she was “still 5,” she went from 50% effaced to 90% effaced? That’s progress, people!

2. Ripening
Touch the tip of your nose. (You didn’t know this would be so interactive, did you?) That’s about the texture of a closed, uneffaced cervix. That’s no good for dilation, and it has to soften, or “ripen” in order to do its other jobs. This primarily happens before labor, but can also happen throughout labor. The texture of your cervix must work its way to the softness of your relaxed lips, and then softer still to match the texture of the inside of your cheek. We call cervixes at this stage “soft like butter.” Yet another measure of progress. If our mother were still at 5, but her cervix was much softer and more difficult to feel, that’s progress!

3. Position
To protect your baby, your cervix points towards your tailbone (posterior) during pregnancy, and sometimes even early labor. In order to open and allow the baby to move through it, your cervix must shift its position until it is pointing directly into your vagina (anterior). If our mother were told that though she were “still 5,” but that her cervix was easier to reach, this job has been done, and she has made progress!

4. Dilation
Last, but not least we have dilation. Your cervix must open up from a tightly closed position, all the way up to “10 centimeters.” Really, it’s not 10, though. At this point, nothing can be felt except baby’s head. It’s often now simply called “complete dilation.” The thing to realize about dilation is that it cannot happen unless the cervix is doing all of its other jobs already. They often happen seemingly in tandem, but sometimes a mother will be “stuck at 5” while her cervix is effacing, softening, and moving forward. Once those jobs happen, dilation is a downhill race to the finish (though it may not seem like it).

So, the next time you consent to a vaginal exam in labor, make sure you get more than a number. Ask about effacement, softness, and the position of your cervix. Your cervix is amazing and has a lot more to do than just open. Make sure it gets all the credit it deserves!

Were you informed of the various ways the cervix works before and during labor? How might this change the way you approach your future pregnancy care?


EMAB and Doulaparty Team Up

Friday, June 22nd, 2012



Join the #doulaparty on Twitter or follow along at, June 22nd 6pm PT/9pm ET to kick off summer birth work with something extra special!


I am very excited that Earth Mama Angel Baby is sponsoring this weeks live chat. EMAB has amazing products for all types of birth professionals and families.


A note from the EMAB Team:


Are you a midwife, doula, nurse or obstetrician looking for pure, safe products to comfort postpartum mamas and brand new babies? You’ve come to the right place! Earth Mama Angel Baby offers safe alternatives for your clients who are concerned with detergents, parabens, 1,4-Dioxane, artificial fragrance, dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers and other toxins. Earth Mama products are used in hospitals, even on the most fragile NICU babies, and they all rate a zero on the Skin Deep toxin database, the best rating a product can receive. Earth Mama only uses the highest-quality, certified-organic or organically grown herbs and oils for our teas, bath herbs, gentle handmade soaps, salves, lotions and massage oils.

Earth Mama now offers a Birth Pro Cart for wholesale pricing available for birth support professionals! Join Earth Mama Angel Baby on the #doulaparty chat Friday June 22 to talk about their new shopping cart plus answer any questions you may have. Earth Mama will be giving away Postpartum Bath Herbs and Monthly Comfort Tea, Mama Bottom Balm, Mama Bottom Spray, and a grand prize of their new Travel Birth & Baby Kit!

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.

Grateful For My Births

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Focusing on Thanksgiving, I asked others to submit a “Why I am Grateful For My Birth(s)” blog post.  In the spirit of that, here is my own blog posting. Stay tuned for the Carnival of posts to be up by Thanksgiving morning.

I myself have had four varied labors and births, one of which could be considered a “normal” and natural birth experience.

From my first labor and birth, I learned that maternal ignorance no matter the intention can get you into the OR  I had to travel 45 minutes to my birth location, was only a 2 cm but nurse admitted me because she did not want me to go all the way home (she of course did not tell me that or we would have rented a hotel room nearby to labor in), I then allowed the same nurse to perform AROM at 3 cm’s because she figured it could speed things up because early labor you know is slow often for first time mothers.Walked stairs for hours but….. Now came the pitocin because my waters were broken and I was not moving fast enough. Then came horrid, blinding back labor. At some point I got a partial dose of fentanyl. Then another. Finally in transition about 20 hours in, I thought I wanted the epidural. I did not get one as I was complete and pushed for nearly four hours. Then finally after a failed vacuum assist to rotate his head and help me I ended up in a cesarean for deep transverse arrest for an acynclitic, deflexed baby head.

Baby number 2 27 months later and I was for sure in no way going to get to the hospital before I was in very well established labor. VBAC, whatever, I knew if things were okay. I would never have pitocin in labor again or have my waters broken. So I labored beautifully, with no fear, hey there was some ivory tower mama left in me still. After having contractions work up to 2 minutes apart and 90 seconds long, I decided it was time to leave. My husband ran back in the house and put a water proof pad on my seat (what a very intuitive man). On the way during the 15 minutes ride to the hospital, my water broke, I mean BROKE – kaplooey. Yep water proof crib pad saved the passenger seat if our minivan. In triage I was checked and behold I was a stretchy 9 cm’s. Everyone was so happy. A VBAC good for you mama. No saline lock. Some monitoring. Then the trouble started.  The on-call doc came in and was impatient. I pushed for about an hour (mind you I was a VBAC) and when he was low enough she cut an episiotomy and used forceps on him.  Very little conversation, my husband just said she insisted and there he was. So a natural labor and almost natural birth. I still felt great. Episiotomy was far less painful than surgery…. I got my VBAC. Though  my baby ended up in NICU overnight because of forceps. That was awful. We were both very mad after we could process it. He nursed well nonetheless. Took him home the next day.

Labor and birth number 3 is told in detail on my blog post A Woman’s Voice Birthed Into Fullness so I will not report on it here.

My 4th labor and birth had me in the place of I am arriving at the hospital very late in labor even though this time I was a 1VBA2C mama. Funky contractions of a few hours each over three nights including one trip to the hospital thinking it MUST be labor, had me sitting at 7 cm’s dilated WITHOUT being in labor. How did I know that? I asked my midwife to check me every day after the short bout of contractions. I just laughed and laughed about being in “transition” dilation wise but not being in labor. On the fourth night of when the contractions started, I said OKAY I am having this baby. I did some nipple stimulation and acupressure over an hour, next thing I know 3 minutes apart contractions then closer. We got to the hospital I was 8 cm’s, walked for a half hour. Then I was 9 cm’s and pattern was back strong. Midwife came. After some odd and funny asides. I allowed AROM baby was +1 and in good position. She promised me. PROMISED me as I glared her down that this would not cause another cesarean. Baby was in perfect position. Gulp. OK. I trusted her and knew she did have our best interest at heart. No baby did not fall out. Have I mentioned I have an android pelvis? I was completely shortly after that and pushed. He was born about 45 minutes later. That for me was such a short amount of time to push. He was in my hands and on my chest with the exception of maybe two minutes for FIVE hours post birth. FIVE. He had about a 14.5″ head and came out over an intact perineum.  I was, well, normal, everyday, usual. Yep. I basked in the no nonsense aspects of it.

I learned so much through all my labors and births. Through #1 that though I made many excellent choices in my care provider and birth location, heck we even took out of hospital independent birthing classes, that maternal ignorance and a willingness to believe no nurse would do something that could cause harm was really am ivory tower point of view that women can just have babies. I knew I could birth, but knew I needed to know even more.

Through #2 that on-call providers can be dangerous people and that I COULD birth.

With #3 my voice came into being. I turned into who I am now. Like a butterfly with the roar of a lioness.

And #4 oh my baby. I became normal, just like every other woman who had a natural labor and birth. Just another birthing woman. Not special. I really liked that title.

Yes I am grateful or I would not be the advocate, doula, educator, flag waving proponent of informed consent AND refusal, strive to help and support women in their childbearing years…. oh so much more. I am grateful because in all of this I have found my calling.

Thank you to K, L, J and D for being my sons.  Thank you to bad on-call doc, well meaning but harmful nurse, horrid nursery staff, and C.E. the midwife who believed in me and my body as much as I did.

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!

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.

Do It Your Way – Birth That Is

Friday, September 10th, 2010

In the past months I have become very aware of the deep notion in our birth culture, and yes even in the natural birth circles, that there are so many do it this way and don’t do it this way put upon women or she is wrong or not quite right.

The truth is, women do a variety of things in labor and birth. They do not all need the same education, need the same type of support, need to birth in the same type of location, or look the same during the process.

Women sometimes prefer:

  • Touch and movement
  • Solitude
  • Sound
  • Quiet
  • Bright light
  • Dim light or darkness
  • Smells
  • Lack of smell
  • To eat
  • To drink orally
  • Deep connection with those around her
  • To have direction and encouragement
  • To do it her own way with no outside input
  • To vocalize
  • To be inward
  • To have clinical assessment
  • To have no clinical input
  • To have a care provider
  • To be her own care provider
  • To catch her own baby
  • To have another person catch her baby
  • To be coached through labor and pushing
  • To physiologically push and deliver her baby
  • To have a doula present
  • To be totally alone
  • To have a crowd around her
  • To have it be very intimate
  • Birthing at home
  • Birthing at a birth center
  • Birthing at the hospital
  • and many, many things

It breaks my heart to see women beating up other women under the guise of being helpful.  Women are not plug in play in need of a prescription to make her do labor and birth right. We need to trust that women will do what is most beneficial in labor and birth when the space and opportunity is given to do so.

Bottom line: We need to stop making women feel badly for just doing what they want to do. We need to encourage women to trust their instincts. We need to continue to give women information on healthy birth. We need to not make it about US and let go of other women’s choices.

Technology and the Prenatal “Diet”

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

In westernized countries, television and the internet have almost completely replaced the generational teaching and learning found in the “circles” of the past. Women would gather over sewing, quilting, canning, and life events including pregnancy and childbirth. They offered support, told their stories, spoke of family life, shared their everyday knowledge, wisdom and expertise while the children played at their feet.

At first glance it seems that through these technologies women are able to gain vast amounts of incredible knowledge regarding childbirth.  There are very popular websites, message boards and forums to meet and greet other women who are expecting the very same month.  Any topic is available to explore. Excellent places for a sense of community and belonging. The information is so prevalent that some women even eschew childbirth classes because they feel well enough prepared from all the exposure. Fantastic to be sure, at first glance.

Upon a deeper look  with a critical eye at the most popular shows and on-line communities, it becomes pretty obvious that overwhelmingly the messages and scenes actually have little to do with real encouragement and instilling confidence in a woman’s design and inherent ability to birth.

Let’s start with the satellite/cable television shows on the learning and health channels. Stop for a moment and think of what occurred during the last episode you viewed.  Did you see a spontaneous labor from entry to hospital to birth without augmentation, epidural, or any other intervention except for intermittent monitoring and perhaps a saline lock (IV port) placed? Was it an induction with an epidural? Was it a cesarean or a vaginal delivery? Did she have adequate support? Was her background given in any detail? Who made the decisions? What about informed consent? Was the laboring woman paid attention too or were the machines heeded more? What sort of comfort measures did she employ? Was she ever out of bed? Who delivered the baby?  What response to her baby did the mother have? Who saw her baby first? With that clear memory in mind, how did you feel after viewing it? What thoughts came to your mind? Now consider that essentially all of the births shown take place in a hospital. In fact any birth that does not, is often touted as extreme or some other like descriptive.

Let’s move on for a moment.

Now let’s take a look at the most popular pregnancy websites, message boards and forums where women connect with one another.  The “conversations” and threads are filled with all things related to the impending birth. Chatter about baby showers, maternity leave, body changes, vaccinations, previous experiences, breastfeeding, nursery preparations and so much more. Really anything under the prenatal sun. Inspecting further though, there seems to be an inordinate amount of discussion regarding the need for scheduled inductions and cesareans and very little conversation or even support for natural or spontaneous labor and birth.

With intervention appearing to be the ruling majority within the technological communities and filling the television, how is a pregnant woman feeding her eyes, heart, and mind on this type of diet supposed to feel confident, uplifted and excited about her upcoming birth? I am uncertain that she can with the seeds of inadequacy, fear, brokenness, helplessness, and lack of options being sewn into her being at such an alarming ratio.  Sometimes yes interventions are needed, however, in practice it isn’t a need for many women and babies.

These shows and internet locales are like junk food. Like all junk food they are not to be an integral part of a healthy prenatal “diet” that will be encouraging, expand useful knowledge, grow confidence, spark self-advocacy, promote self-awareness, ignite excitement, and offer joy to the expecting mother.

How can an expecting mother improve her “diet” regardless of the type of birth she is planning? What are the better places to “shop”?

  • Turning off the TV
  • Check out and attend local groups and support meetings. Educational sessions and workshops are often free of charge. For example: Doula Groups, ICAN, Midwifery Groups, Birth Network, Birth Circles, and similar.
  • Try some different message boards, forums and sites. See Blog Roll and Resources listed on this site.
  • Seek out positive free videos to watch on You Tube.
  • Talk to women who have birthed in the hospital, birth center and at home. Get a variety of positive stories.
  • Try some different reading on for size.
  • Rent or borrow movies from Netflix, a doula or childbirth educator, such as, Business of Being Born, Pregnant in America, or Orgasmic Birth to name a few.
  • Take the challenge to learn about and be open to the variety of birthing techniques, locations, options and provider types that women are utilizing.

Bottom line, the most prevalent “food group” in a diet is going to positively or negatively affect the parts and the whole of the journey to having a babe in arms.  No matter what the mother and baby live with the outcomes from the birth. Enriching the prenatal “diet” is not a guarantee of outcome or path to the birth. It does however give much more possibility and opportunity for both mother and baby to have a better birth and start together.

Rethinking the nature of intervention in childbirth

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

There is much awareness and conversation of what the routine interventions are that can occur during the labor and birth process within the hospital environment.  These interventions can include induction, augmentation with Pitocin, epidural, or cesarean. In all my professional and personal roles, I am privy to a great amount of pregnancy and birth stories. Within these experiences there are many “silent” yet obvious interventions that are hidden in plain sight under the guise of protocol, practice and societal expectation.

My current list of hidden in plain sight interventions in no particular order that can make a difference on how a woman labors and ultimately delivers her baby is below.

  • The uniform -Asking and expecting the mother to give up her clothes for the hospital gown.
  • Who’s on first? – If care provider is part of a large practice or on-call group a woman may have never met or have any knowledge of the person who’s practice style and philosophy is helping to guide and steer her labor and delivery. On-call CP may or may not adhere to the birth plan the laboring woman worked out with her own CP.
  • On a short leash – Continuous monitoring even if she is not high risk, medicated, or being induced/augmented.
  • The big drag around – Requiring IV running with absence of medical need.
  • Staying put – Asking or requiring the laboring woman to stay in bed for ease of staff without medical need.
  • Ice chips and Jello – Disallowing snacks and sometimes even actual water even though labor is hard work.
  • The marketing tool – Disallowing the laboring woman to get into the touted tubs or showers since it isn’t convenient for staff and she will not want to get out.
  • One is enough – Limiting the amount or type of support persons a woman is allowed to have with her.
  • I know more than you – Treating the laboring woman as if she knows nothing or shouldn’t know anything.
  • If you don’t… – Instead of giving informed consent and refusal, telling only what bad could, maybe happen.
  • Attitude and atmosphere – Negative, non-listening, lacking compassion, leaving the door open, ignoring requests, and the like when a woman is laboring.
  • Only if you ask – Though some wonderful practices are in place, they are only offered if a laboring woman or postpartum mother ask/insist on it.
  • Bait and switch – The official tour of labor and delivery and the reality of labor and delivery don’t fit together.
  • New with bells and whistles – The pretty with all the fancy bells and whistles like wi-fi, flat screen tv’s, etc. have to be paid for somehow. Because of this investigate the intervention rates there.
  • Routine vaginal exams – By and large VE’s are very subjective and can vary greatly between one person to the next on how they score a VE. This variation can deeply affect the course of a woman’s labor and delivery.  Women birthing in the hospital really only “need” a VE upon entrance for assessment of where she is in labor, if she desires an epidural/IV narcotics, if she is having a very prolonged labor, or if she feels pushy.
  • Pushing the epidural – When a woman is moving, moaning, making noise or just doing her thing in labor and it causes the staff discomfort or worry.  It could even be that anesthesiologist is going in to surgery and it can only happen now.

Simply because a societal norm is birthing at the hospital, as well as, what routinely goes on there, doesn’t mean the hidden in plain sight interventions are wise or harmless.

My goal here is to give pause and broader thinking to what intervention means for labor and delivery as another tool in planning and preparing for childbirth with eyes wide open.