Archive for the ‘birthing’ Category

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.  http://prepforbirth.com/2009/07/30/birth-videos/
  • 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. http://prepforbirth.com/books-videos-and-more/
  • 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.

Some thoughts on birth and being a consumer.

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

While “teaching” childbirth class the topic of being a consumer is addressed often in a variety of ways.  I have a firm belief that a woman has the ability to understand, be well educated, and make her own decisions. It is in no way in my job description to tell someone else how she must birth or how to do it in the right way.  She is the one who needs to take the information, explore it and apply it to her self and situation.  Being a consumer in her childbearing year is a key component.

I have a great and deep sense of obligation to give truthful, helpful, real life applicable information to the families I am blessed to work with.  Because of this my mantra is,  “You go home or stay home with your baby and are the one who must live with the decisions and outcomes from them. Not the doctor, midwife, nurse, doula, educator – no one else.  We all go home to our own lives. So if you have to live with all that happens then do your best to choose wisely to what you can live with.”  No mother escapes the outcomes and the legacy it leaves behind forever no matter who makes the decisions for her. Even if it seems easier at the time to allow others to call the shots, I can hope the epiphany of this will help the pregnant woman to push for what she really needs and wants instead of being a passenger in her own process.

Birth options are integrated into prenatals and/or class structure as we discuss birth philosophy, birth planning, re-interviewing care provider, realistic expectations for chosen birth location, and interventions and medications.  Most often I find that women have no idea that there are so many options available for the asking or available in a reasonably close proximity to our local area.  This tells me that care providers expect the burden of knowing the options is to be on the pregnant woman to find out about, explore, and ask for.  She may find that in this process she and her care provider/birth location are either well on or not on the same page with her needs and desires.  This is where she can decide if needed to seek another provider and/or birth location.  There almost always is a way, it may mean more work, effort, and at times out of pocket expense. Some women choose to relocate, ask for help with out of pocket expenses in lieu of baby shower gift, petition insurance to cover the “right” provider…

Really as a consumer the burden is on her to find the right fit and go for it.  It is not for her to fit into whatever is the local expectation for her as a birthing woman.  This comes down to something akin to buying a car because the dealer tells you this is the car you must buy because everyone else has bought it and even though it clearly does not suit your needs, you still buy it.  I have never heard of that happening, yet I hear of women day in and day out having this sort of exchange from prenatal care through the birthing day with their care provider and/or birth location staff.

When it comes down to it, I really want women to have what is individually needed and desired. Who is paying the bills? Who is keeping the hospitals, birth centers, ob/gyns and homebirth midwives in business? Those caring for birthing women ought sit up and take notice. You all wouldn’t exist without birthing women paying for your services.

Every provider or birth location has a practice style, protocol base,  etc.  So why not honestly explain expectations, protocols, practice style in detail at the first visit or during the tour so the mother who is hiring you or birthing at your location can decide whether or not right off the bat if this is a solid fit? No one provider or location is going to fit with every mother nor is every mother going to fit with every provider or location.  Whatever a provider or birth location is good at, expects,  and is striving to be, put it out there so the mother coming in knows what she is buying in to.

My dream is that every birthing woman will know all the options and subsequently exercise her want to the care she desires even if it means walking with her cash or insurance card, since ultimately she lives with all that transpires positive, negative, or in between.

Building Your Birth Support Team

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

As practice through the ages and evidence shows, support during the birth process can be greatly beneficial to both mothers and babies. It is not about having an experience. It is about healthier emotional and physical outcomes for mothers and subsequently for babies as well.  Putting together a support team is not as simple as inviting a family member or friend along. There are many components to consider as this is the most intimate time to allow others to share in except for the conception of your baby.

Prior to putting together your Labor Support Team (LST):

You and your spouse/partner are generally the only persons who can speak on your and the baby’s behalf unless another individual has a medical power of attorney for the labor and postpartum time period. Learning how to be a self-advocate is an important piece of the support team puzzle.  Answering very specific questions prior to looking at who ultimately will be with you at your birth will be helpful to you in addressing specific needs, goals, philosophy, and expectations.

  • What education and self study are you doing during pregnancy?
  • Do you feel confident and equipped to birth your baby?
  • Are you confident and at ease with your provider?
  • Are you comfortable with his or her requirements and practice style?
  • Are you comfortable with the policies, requirements, and protocols of your birth location?
  • Do you have special circumstances or health concerns?
  • When you close your eyes who do you see being the most supportive of you and your choices?
  • Are you a single mother or is your spouse/partner deployed?
  • What type of help does your spouse/partner or your main support person need?
  • How involved does your spouse/partner or main support person need?
  • What type of physical support do you need (massage, positioning help, any chronic pain or health issues to contend with?)?
  • What type of emotional support do you require (affirmations, encouragement, quiet and positive, no questions asked, reminders…)?
  • What type of educational/informational support do you expect to need?
  • Are you comfortable discussing needs and desires with provider?
  • Do you feel confident in addressing the staff at a hospital or birth center?
  • Do you have a birth plan?
  • Planning a natural birth?
  • Planning an epidural in your birth?
  • Traveling a distance to your birth location?
  • Are there any specific cultural barriers or needs that ought be addressed?
  • What other considerations or needs might you have?

Now that you have answered the questions, it is likely a much more clear picture why being specific about your LST is so important.  This is an opportunity to look at and personalize what is needed in labor.  It is not for anyone else to decide what it will look like, who is going to be there, and who is not going to be there.

Putting together your LST

The birth of a baby is only less intimate than the act of making the baby. Inviting anyone into the area surrounding this event can affect the process positively or negatively. Privacy, comfort, safety, and honoring the birth of a baby are a must so choosing the person(s) to take the journey with you needs to be well thought out. Some candidates for a LST are on the below list.

  • Husband
  • Partner
  • Mother/Father (other family members)
  • Friend
  • Older Children
  • Doula (skilled and trained labor support)
  • Care Provider (OB, Midwife or Family Practice Doctor)

Many on the list are pretty obvious choice considerations. The best person(s) to have around you during labor and birth will aim to provide what you need physically, emotionally, and by way of information while supporting your decisions and desires without bringing in negativity, fear, bias against what you want, distrust for the process, anger, a sense of undermining, etc. Your support team can make or break the outcome of your labor and delivery simply by what he or she brings into your birth.  Your birth is not about any one elses satisfaction, background, needs, wants or the like. This is your birth, your baby’s birth.

The one person on the list you may or may not have heard of is the labor doula. The labor doula was born out of this need.  Essentially this is a woman of knowledge and skill in pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum (yes there are a few men in who are labor doulas as well) who comes alongside a pregnant woman (family) offering education, physical support and emotional support to both the mother and partner/husband/other support.  A doula does not take away from a husband or partner during the process.  Doulas are shown to decrease interventions, cesarean, epidural use, narcotics use, need for induction, and increase satisfaction, bonding, breastfeeding success, and more! For more information regarding labor doulas, click here  http://prepforbirth.com/2009/08/09/what-is-a-labor-doula-what-does-she-or-he-do/.

From the Birthing Front

Here is a sampling from women who have birthed, are pregnant or attend women in birth who answered the question “Why is having a supportive birth team important?

“I didn’t realize that I didn’t have the right kind of birth support until it was too late. This in no way is meant to say that my practitioner, or the staff, or my husband were not supportive . . . they were, but I didn’t have anyone on hand to advocate for my needs. Even though I prepared extensively for a natural birth and hired a CNM, I ended up having a cesarean. I firmly believe that the most important member of your hospital birth team is your doula.” Kimberly J.

“…because a woman in labor is in the most vulnerable state of her life. When I was in labor I needed someone holding my hand telling me I could do it… telling me all those incredibly intense sensations were, indeed, normal. I was vulnerable, and my support team protected me and supported me as I gave birth.  “For me, feeling “safe” didn’t just mean feeling safe physically… it meant feeling emotionally safe to welcome the vulnerability that labor brings and thus to be able to let go” Lily B.

“Because it means the difference between a baby and mom being healthy vs. the million of things that can go wrong if a mom is stressed, confronted, or generally ignored.  Support during birth, whatever that means for the mom, is more important in my hunble opinion than support during pregnancy. Giving birth in a hostile or unfriendly environment is dangerous.” Rachel A.

“Birth is one of the biggest events that define a woman’s life. When she is in labor her senses are heightened by the hormones going through her body. Her perception of those around her will make or break her birth experience. A trained experienced birth team knows how to keep the emotions of both professional and non professional people positive and empower the woman to birth not only her baby but a stronger more confident self into being.” Amber-joy T.

“A supportive birth team can mean the difference between a physically healthy birth and a birth that can take months to recover from. Regardless of the actual events at a woman’s birth (vaginal birth, cesarean, medicated, non-medicated, home, hosptial, birth center), a supportive birth team can also mean the difference between having a happy, rewarding, and empowering birth and a birth in which the birth is not owned by the mother emotionally. Mental health can be more important than physical health and more costly to treat down the road. Always take care of yourself emotionally.” Nora M.

“Birth is such a vulnerable and powerful experience. I remember that I had to tap into a side of myself that I had not yet known until birth. Every *vibe* from others around me affected my state of mind during the process. Without the complete support of my birth team, and husband, I would’ve when that point of surrender hit, given into the doubts and crumbled under the pressure; But becauseI did have a supportive team, I was empowered to press forward and experience the most amazing moment of my life uninhibited.” Julie W.

So now take a moment to think about who will offer you what you need and help you attain what you want in labor and delivery.  Having continuous support no matter the type of birth you want is important because you and your baby matter.  Your birth matters.

Preparing For Birth: Quotes about Childbirth

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Here is a compilation list of childbirth related quotes and sayings that I find powerful, interesting, affirming, or simply thoughtful.  Please feel free to respond with your own favorites.  The author of the quote does not need to be famous. I would be happy to expand the list. Enjoy!

Birth may be a matter of a moment. But it is a unique one. Frederick Leboyer

If you lay down, the baby will never come out! Native American saying

In men nine out of ten abdominal tumors are malignant; in women nine out of ten abdominal swellings are the pregnant uterus.  Rutherford Morison

Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.” William MacNeile Dixon

No one who has ever brought up a child can doubt for a moment that love is literally the life-giving fluid of human existence. Smiley Blanton

On the birth of her 2nd son Owen. ‘I wanted to give birth as opposed to being delivered!’ Ricki Lake

Do it afraid. Krista Cornish Scott

Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers ~ strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength. Barbara Katz Rothman

Having a highly trained obstetrical surgeon attend a normal birth is analogous to having a pediatric surgeon babysit a healthy 2-year-old. M. Wagner

Water birth is one of many lovely ways to enter the world. Judy Edmunds

The parallels between making love and giving birth are clear, not only in terms of passion and love, but also because we need essentially the same conditions for both experiences: privacy and safety. Sarah Buckley

The effort to separate the physical experience of childbirth from the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of this event has served to dis empower and violate women. Mary Rucklos Hampton

The wisdom and compassion a woman can intuitively experience in childbirth can make her a source of healing and understanding for other women. Stephen Gaskin

It is true that naturally occurring labor can feel larger and greater than the woman birthing.  This is not so as she creates from within the very hormones that increase the strength, power, and frequency of her work of labor. That is the good news, it is from her, for her, by her.  Desirre Andrews

We have a secret in our culture, it’s not that birth is painful, it’s that women are strong. Laura Stavoe Harm

The knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on an acceptance of the process. Anonymous

We try to give a birthing woman freedom to find the right position for her own needs and comfort. Unfortunately, in our society we think of birthing as something done while lying down. Michel Odent

Only with trust, faith, and support can the woman allow the birth experience to enlighten and empower her. Claudia Lowe

Natural childbirth has evolved to suit the species, and if mankind chooses to ignore her advice and interfere with her workings we must not complain about the consequences. We have only ourselves to blame. Margaret Jowitt

Never underestimate the power and determination of a pregnant woman who is told she cannot. Desirre Andrews

Birthing is the most profound initiation to spirituality a woman can have. Robin Lim

Women’s bodies have their own wisdom, and a system of birth refined over 100,000 generations is not so easily overpowered. Sarah Buckley

Babies are bits of star-dust blown from the hand of God. Lucky the woman who knows the pangs of birth for she has held a star. Larry Barretto

No other natural bodily function is painful and childbirth should not be an exception. Grantly Dick-Read

Birth is an experience that demonstrates that life is not merely function and utility, but form and beauty. Christopher Largen

Women today not only possess genetic memory of birth from a thousand generations of women, but they are also assailed from every direction by information and misinformation about birth. Valerie El Halta

One is constantly having to balance the high expectations of modern health care with the need to respect the human soul. This is especially so with birth. Benig Mauger

There is no way out of the experience except through it, because it is not really your experience at all but the baby’s. Your body is the child’s instrument of birth. Penelope Leach

“Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.” William MacNeile Dixon

A woman can only enter a hospital while not in labor for a non-medical induction by her own two feet.   Desirre Andrews

“A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.”” Grantly Dick-Read

“Birth is powerful…..let it empower you” Anonymous

“Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.” Gloria Steinem

“Deep within each woman, lies the Knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions.” Unknown

The pains of childbirth were altogether different from the enveloping effects of other kinds of pain. These were pains one could follow with one’s mind. Margaret Mead

To enter life by way of the vagina is as good a way as any. Henry Miller

The need to pursue healthy birth options and birth rights for women and babies doesn’t end with our own births for women will always birth after us. Desirre Andrews


Shocking quotes regarding maternal choice to VBAC birth

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Joy Szabo has been in the news lately for desiring a second VBAC for her fourth baby (vaginal birth, emergency cesarean, and vaginal birth).  She has been denied locally in her area of Page, AZ to have a vaginal birth. Due to this situation, the International Cesarean Awareness Network has been assisting her in fighting the VBAC ban along with seeking out additional options.

After reading the latest article regarding Ms. Szabo, I am completely dumbfounded by the remarks made by other readers of her story.  I am stunned by how it seems the general populous regards a woman’s autonomy and medical rights.  I am also including positive comments as counterpoint. Where do you fall?  What do you believe? Many of these comments point me in the direction of what is so wrong with the system.  That of physician and hospital trumping patient.

You decide is the comment pro or con?

“…..it seems like many people do not grasp malpractice and insurance companies. This is not about the hospital, but about medical professionals and hospitals not wanting litigation. Can you blame them? After spending tens of thousands of dollars on an education before making a dime, I would do what I needed to to avoid a lawsuit, too! … we go to doctors because they DO know what is best for our health! Like another poster said, in health care, the customer is NOT always right.”

“My son was born by c-section, then my daughter vaginally, with no adverse affects. While I agree it’s the doctor’s decision to take the risk or not, it seems over-the-top conservative. Does the doctor’s insurance premium go up if this procedure is performed? Then charge more and give the patient the option.”

“C-sections are done in the US more routinely than in any other developed country but our infant mortality rate is not lower but higher. Doctors do not want to deliver on weekends, at night, if the mother is one week over her electronically determined due date. Yes complications can happen, more so if you are made to stay in a bed hooked up to monitors, a monitor screwed in to the baby’s head, your water broke prematurely, inducement before the baby or mother are physically ready to give birth. All of this leads to more injuries and deaths than needed. Doctors look upon birth as an illness, not the process that it is – an inexact human birth. I am not suggesting giving birth in a field alone, but a c-section has a greater risk than the V-Bac especially if she has had one already. C-sections for true emergencies yes, otherwise no.”

“Did anyone else notice that when they list the risks of a C-section, they failed to mention that the mother is 4-7 times more likely to DIE than with a vaginal birth.?!?!?! They also fail to mention all the potential complications to her health, the roughly 30% rate of problems following the surgery (some severe enough to require rehospitalization) and the challenges associated with caring for children while recovering from major abdominal surgery.  Good for this mom and I hope more mothers will take courage from her”

“This story is exaggeration. If the woman wants a vbac, she just has to show up at that hospital in labor and refuse a section. They can’t force her to have a c-section no matter what they would prefer she do. You can’t force a woman to have a c-section under any circumstances, so as long as the docs and nurses say she and the baby are tolerating labor, she has no reason to fear being forced into an operation.”

“I worked in the hospital for 5 years and then in a birth center for the last 4 years. I had to get out of the hospital because I started feeling guilty about my complicity in that system in which so much goes on behind closed doors of which the patient is never informed. I’ve had docs tell me in the lunch room that they are doing a c-section because they have an important golf game, fishing trip, or hot date. Then they go into the room, lie to the woman and say, ” oh your baby is too big, your progress is too slow, it’s never going to happen.” the woman believes them and thanks them so much for saving their babies lives. Over and over and over again. In Miami we have over 50% c-section rate, and it’s way more convenient for the docs. If VBACS are not allowed at more and more hospitals, the rest of the country will soon be like it is here…..”

“I find this decision by the hospital(s) to not do a VBAC as a little crazy. My older brother was born (in 1955) by C-section; both me (in 1958) and my younger brother (in 1962) were born vaginally. NO COMPLICATIONS. It could be done 50 years ago, but not now??”

“The risk of MAJOR complication from a second cesarean is TEN TIMES that of the risk of uterine rupture in a VBAC mother. Someone please explain to me how an “elective” repeat cesarean is safer than a VBAC? Especially since more than 75% of uterine ruptures occur PRIOR to the onset of labor. How is a scheduled cesarean at 39 weeks (which is the ACOG recommendation) going to save the mother who ruptures at the dinner table at 34 weeks? Using their logic, we should all go live at the hospital the moment we become pregnant after a previous cesarean, just in case our uterus blows up and we need an OB and an anesthesiologist “immediately available”.”

So what do you think?  It worries me that is seems the mother’s rights do not count for much. That in some of the comments the idea of  forcing a cesarean is no big deal if it makes the doctor’s position safer.

I think that most people are woefully under educated on childbirth and what safety really means.  A conservative physician errs on the side of evidence not defensive practice.  Do your own research. Be your own advocate.

Preparing For Birth – The Passage from She Births

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

The below writing in my opinion is one of the most eloquent and beautiful takes on labor and birth I have read.   I am using it by permission of the author, Marcie Macari from her book She Births.   I encourage you to go to her site and see her offerings.  Inspiring and fantastic. Thank you Marcie for allowing me to bless others.

I have and will continue to use this piece as a visualization with clients and class participants.  Enjoy!

“The Passage” from She Births by Marcie Macari

The earth shook. The women gathered.

The chanting of The Women Of a Thousand Generations began,  their hands intertwined.

I breathe low, moaning deep through my body to touch the depth of sound they generate.

And for a moment I am with them.

“We’re here-with you, you are one of us-you can do it!”

One of them

I breathe.

The coals glow-mocking my strength

Embers flick their tongues tormenting my courage.

I step onto the coals-

The Women Of a Thousand Generations push closer to the embers- their faces glowing from the coals.

I keep my eyes on them, focusing on THEIR ability to push through the pain, to keep walking in spite of their fear- remembering that they made it to the other side.

I find MY courage and step again.

I feel the embers, and wince.

The Women start beating a drum.

I find their rhythm in my abdomen, and slowly move forward:

One step- look at the face.

Second step- focus on the eyes.

Third step…

I see the African dancers, rehearsing their steps as I walk my last few.

I see the circle being set-the fire at the center,  the food and festivities.

This will be the stage for my welcoming into this elite group- this Women Of a Thousand Generations.

My heart swells.

I am close to the end now, and my body starts to shake-

Spirit stronger than flesh.

I want to give up-to step on the cool grass

And off these coals.

I look for the faces, and my eyes meet theirs.

One of them smiles.

She who is With Woman, reaches out her hand

Her face is the clearest, eyes at my level.

“Listen to your body and do what it tells you” She says-no trace of concern.

The chanting changes: “Listen to your bo-dy”

In rhythm, hands are again joined, like an infinite chain.

I realize just how many have gone this way before me.

The one who smiled places her hand on the shoulder

of the One who is With Woman- with me, and I breathe,

stretching out my hand to grasp the outstretched.

I am about to cross over-

Silence comes over the Universe.

I near the end-

my body aches,

my mind is empty of everything but that last step.

Last step.

Hands grasped.

Cool grass. On my toes, cooling my feet-

my arms reach out to claim my prize-

“Reach down and take your baby.”

I hold him to me tightly, and proudly take my place in the chain.

I am now a Woman Of a Thousand Generations.

The celebration begins.

Excerpt from She Births: A Modern Woman’s Guidebook For an Ancient Rite of Passage, by Marcie Macari.

“There is more to Birth than the physical process of having a baby. Birth is a Spiritual Rite of Passage for women, offering an opportunity for profound transformation. She Births challenges each woman to consider how their Birth Choices profoundly affect not only their lives individually, but the world as a whole.”

Preparing For Birth – Affirmations

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Guarding what you put into your eyes, ears, and mind is such an important part of pregnancy and birth.  As women we learn socially, from one another.  When we allow the pervasive negativity (TV, horror stories, fearful education, good patient education, unsupportive comments, etc.) to take root we lose so much inborn knowledge and wisdom of all the women who came before.  I encourage you to read the below affirmations, use them, tweak them, and then write your very own. Place affirmations everywhere that you are. Encourage others around you to also speak them to you. whenever you think of labor and birth, recite your affirmations.  Build in the positive at any opportunity. If someone gets a negative experience out to you, stop and ask what she would have or could have done differently if she was able.

  • I will take labor one contraction at a time. I can do ANYTHING for a minute or two.
  • I am able to make the best possible choices for a healthy, joyful birth.
  • I TRUST my body to labor smoothly and efficiently.
  • My design is PERFECT to birth my baby.
  • I trust my baby and body to choose when labor will begin.
  • I will receive the start of labor and I will labor well.
  • I accept the unknown of labor and birth.
  • My baby already knows how to labor and come into my arms.
  • I am well equipped to mother my baby.
  • I can make choices and decisions based out of love/evidence not fear.
  • I embrace the concept of healthy pain.
  • I am welcoming my contractions.
  • I have enough love to go around.
  • There is always enough love for me.
  • I am strong, confident, assured, and assertive and still feminine.
  • I am helping my baby feel safe so that she can be born.
  • I am a strong and capable woman.
  • I am creating a totally positive and new birth experience.
  • My pelvis is releasing and opening (as have those of countless women before me).
  • I am accepting my labor and believe that it is the right labor for me, and for my baby.
  • I now feel the love that others have for me during the birth.
  • I will treat my mate lovingly during the birth.
  • I will have exactly who I need supporting me for my birth.
  • I am birthing where I will be the safest, most peaceful, and most encouraged.
  • I have a beautiful body. My body is my friend.

If you would like to add to my list, please email me at desirre@prepforbirth.com.

Preparing For Birth: 35+ and Pregnant

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Hourglass

The disturbing trend in treating ALL  “advanced maternal age”  mothers (over 35 at the time of impending birth) high risk continues to grow despite lack of evidence to do so.

My original post from 3.5 years ago still rings true today.

They are being subject to weekly Biophysical profiles or Fetal Non-stress tests tests that are normally reserved only for high-risk mothers and babies from as early as 32 weeks in pregnancy.  On top of the scans, these mothers are often pressured to agree to an early delivery of their babies by means of labor induction or cesarean even without other risk associations.  This is growing more and more prevalent especially for women over 35 who are first time mothers.

I have heard even from women that at their first OB appointment they are being told they will be induced at 39 weeks as a standard of practice and expectation for signing on with said provider.  The seed of fear and worry is being planted that their growing baby will die if the pregnancy goes to 40 weeks or longer.  What a way to start out a provider/mother relationship.  I would call that a red flag of immense proportion.

So what really is the big deal with “old” mothers?  This study Advanced Maternal Age Morbidity and Mortality correlates various medical issues with “AMA” mothers though the biggest hot button is an elevated yet unknown cause of perinatal death.  This statement alone has caused a huge shift in the way these mothers are viewed regardless of  overall pregnancy health and absence of any known risk associations. ACOG’s February 2009  Managing Stillbirths maintains there is a risk to older mothers with no explanation as to why there is a risk, what the percentage of  risk increase is or any prevention protocols.  Seems dodgy since the other groups noted in the bulletin have all the data included.

There are some serious problems with any practitioner taking this study and applying it across the board to “AMA” women.  The study even says so much, “It is important to note that the findings of this study may not be generalized to every advanced-maternal-age obstetric patient in the United States. Although the FASTER trial patient population was unselected, meaning that patients were not excluded based on any confounding factors such as race, parity, BMI, education, marital status, smoking, pre-existing medical conditions, previous adverse pregnancy outcomes, and use of assisted reproductive care, there may have been significant patient or provider self-selection.” So the population could have been skewed from the get go by provider or patient selection, along with the fact that it seems the only point of homogeneity is present in that most of the women were Caucasian.  Throw all these women in a pot and see what happens?  Next step is to make protocols and change practice style upon weak findings?

The study also shows an increased risk for cesarean by “AMA” mothers.  “As with prior literature, this study demonstrated that women aged 40 years and older are at increased risk for cesarean delivery. Older women may be at increased risk for abnormalities of the course of labor, perhaps secondary to the physiology of aging. It is possible that decreased myometrial efficiency occurs with aging. Nonetheless, maternal age alone may be a factor influencing physician decision making. It is uncertain whether the increased rates of cesarean delivery are due to a real increase in the prevalence of obstetric complications or whether there is a component of iatrogenic intervention secondary to both physician and patient attitudes toward pregnancy in this older patient population.” Very interesting. So “old” women are perceived as being unable or problematic so they have less successful vaginal birth outcomes. Now that is a self-fulfilling practice style with a huge dose of ageism thrown in.  I also wonder what the cesarean rate in this age grouping is going to be due to these protocols.

Let’s get to the perinatal and neonatal death risks.  The study says: “Studies regarding an increased risk for perinatal mortality in women of advanced maternal age have been controversial. In this study, the increased risk of perinatal mortality was not statistically significant for patients aged 35–39 years (adjOR 1.1). Age 40 years and older was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of perinatal loss (adjOR 2.2). There were only 119 stillbirths and 37 neonatal demises in total. As a result, we could not draw any meaningful conclusions about the etiology or timing of perinatal mortality in women of advancing maternal age. The reason that advanced-maternal-age patients may be at increased risk of perinatal mortality is unknown. The failure of uterine vasculature to adapt to the increased hemodynamic demands of pregnancy as women age is a proposed explanation. So in conclusion, we have no idea why this might occur and have no way of counseling “AMA” mothers to lower the risk especially those over 40. Another noteworthy thought is that this study had 79% under 34 year old women, 17% 35-39 year old women, and only 4% women over aged 40.  So with such a small grouping ALL women considered “AMA” are being put under very heavy handed protocols to delivery their babies in the 39th week of gestation.

In closing, I find it difficult to believe that anyone who reads this study would change practice style because of it and move pregnant patients who are otherwise maintaining a healthy pregnancy without risk associations to a high risk model of care. Amazingly the study itself says the same thing, “In summary, the majority of women of advanced maternal age deliver at term without maternal or perinatal adverse outcomes.” And, “The role of routine antenatal surveillance in women aged 40 years and older requires further investigation because these women seem to be at increased risk for perinatal mortality, including stillbirth. Although the likelihood of adverse outcomes increases along with maternal age, patients and obstetric care providers can be reassured that overall maternal and fetal outcomes are favorable in this patient population.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Since the original posting – – – instead of women being told they must be induced in the 39th week they are now being “offered” non-medical, cesareans as a first course of action.  This sort of pressure is not evidence-based or even medically ethical in my opinion.

Preparing For Birth – Has episiotomy been replaced by this practice?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

In recent months I have noticed that during the end part of pushing and through delivery, care providers and/or nurses are doing very, very aggressive vaginal and perineal stretching.  This is not the gentle perineal massage I have seen in the past.  Even though I do not believe even that is necessary, it certainly was a far cry better than this.

To demonstrate, take your index and middle fingers from both hands and place them in your mouth on both sides with fingers facing in an outward pulling position inside your cheeks.  Now pull outward, stretching your cheeks and lips while “massaging” the inside.  Start gently, then get more aggressive. This is happening while soon a large malleable and smooth object will be pressing along those worked tissues.

How long do you think it would take for you to become swollen and bruised from this activity?  Can you imagine that there might be small tears and abrasions would be present from this if you continued for up to 30 minutes?

Now imagine after all that activity you have a large object in your mouth inhabiting the entire area including the widely opened and stretched lips. Next instead of you gently pushing the object out under your own control and power, you are told to NOT push it out but to allow for it to be removed for you. So imagine you already hyper extended lips being pressed further open with quite some force until it move through your open mouth.

How do you think the over worked, sore, possibly swollen,  and forcibly stretched tissues will react? Do you imagine tearing and damage?

Incredibly challenging and graphic descriptors to be sure.

Now imagine the alternative, there is no stretchy and pulling.  The large malleable and smooth object enters the space slowly so your mouth has time to adjust and accommodate it.  As the object approached your open lips, you slowly offer pushes to allow your lips to slowly stretch more than the norm.  Though it may sting and pull it is bearable.

Imagine now what your tissues would be like after that?  Sore? Some abrasion or some natural tearing?  Swollen a bit?  Even some bruising? Sure in reality you could be.  Accommodating a human baby through your vagina is a different experience than the usual.

How did the two processes sound to you?  To me I would much prefer the second one. Hands down.  How about your husband or partner?  Do you think this would be remotely decent to witness and then think ahead to actually having sexual activity with you again?

Though in my area, I rarely see an episiotomy done, I do see this very aggressive handling of the vagina and perineum routinely now.  To add to this, I am seeing more tearing severe tearing as well. When I ask the women about how their bottom is healing and feeling, I hear about more soreness, swelling, and bruising in the women who experience this.

So what do you do about it? Saying no to episiotomy during appointments and in making your birth plan is not enough.  Talk to your care provider ahead of time about the type of care you expect in late pushing and delivery. Talk to the nurse who is with you when you begin pushing. Tell your husband or partner to be on the look out for this aggressive technique so you can say NO. I also find that having warm compresses covering your perineum and vaginal opening can help abate it to a degree.

Here’s to a much healthier vagina, labia, and perineum post birth!