Improving your epidural birth

November 18, 2010 at 8:46 am

Back in August, a close friend from college specifically requested that I do some posts for women like her who plan to have epidurals. So I wrote the first in a supposed series of “Improving your epidural birth” posts, encouraging pregnant women to “hire wisely” when choosing a care provider.

This morning I got feeling bad that I haven’t written any more posts for that series, and I suddenly realized that I have! In fact, the vast majority of the posts I’ve written over the last six months are on topics that would be of interest to all women, not just those who choose to forgo pharmaceutical pain relief in childbirth. And scanning three+ years of posts on my old blog brought up many more.

So, with all of that in mind, I give you some of my best tips for improving your epidural birth (besides carefully choosing a care provider), gleaned from my blog (and other helpful sites) over the years.

1) Prepare your body for pregnancy.

The more I learn, the more I realize that the groundwork for a really wonderful birth experience must be laid long before labor begins. When you nourish and take care of yourself, your body will be stronger and better able to perform its vital functions in pregnancy and childbirth. A strong, healthy body is much less likely to suffer complications that can have a detrimental and traumatic impact on your birth experience.

Many of the same things that will best prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy will also improve your chances of conceiving—eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low on processed foods, maintaining a healthy weight, optimizing your body’s levels of key nutrients (vitamin d, magnesium, essential fatty acids, and folate).  Making these dietary and lifestyle changes habits before conception will make them much easier to maintain throughout the coming pregnancy and beyond. 

Preventing postpartum hemorrhage: a follow-up

August 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm

After publishing my last post, “Preventing postpartum hemorrhage naturally,” I was lying in bed thinking, and I realized I should have talked about the importance of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding to keep oxytocin levels high, reducing postpartum bleeding. Then this morning I got a lovely comment from Sherry reminding me about Michel Odent’s recommendations for preventing postpartum hemorrhage. So I whipped out my copy of Odent’s Birth and Breastfeeding to refresh my memory (it’s been about five years since I read it).

Darkness

I’ll admit that I was originally a little hesitant to suggest that low lighting might make a difference in preventing postpartum hemorrhage. Of all the tips I mentioned in my last post, that was the one I felt least confident about. I even asked my husband, after he finished reading the post, whether he thought I was “way out in left field” on that one. So I was relieved, as I skimmed through Odent’s book this afternoon, to find that his views support my “left field” suggestion. He says:

The need for privacy does not end when the baby is born. An environment that enhances the delivery is also needed immediately afterwards, so as not to disturb the first contact between mother and baby. . . . The best way to avoid haemorrhage is to enable mother and baby to stay in close contact in a warm, dark, and silent place—and get rid of any observers. The contact with the baby’s eyes and skin helps the mother to secrete the hormone necessary to stimulate the ‘placenta ejection reflex.’ When the baby suckles the nipple, the reflex is reinforced. (Birth and Breastfeeding, p. 46-47, emphasis mine)

Hopes for next time

August 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I was chatting with another birth-loving friend the other day about how we “thought we knew so much” the first time we attempted “natural” birth.  I had definitely studied and prepared myself, but, seven years down the road, I can’t help but see my first-time-mother self as a naive birth novice.  That was the beginning of my childbirth obsession, but I had no idea back then just how deep the “rabbit hole” was going to go… and still it goes deeper.

Each of my births has been an improvement upon the last one, with fewer interventions, faster recovery, more intense bonding, etc.  So, naturally, I’m looking for ways to make birth #4 even better than the rest.  I will be seeing the same midwives I chose for my last birth, Mary and Nedra. I tried to be open to intuition and inspiration about choosing a care provider. I didn’t want to choose out of habit… just because I chose them last time. But my gut always came back to them. I don’t think I could feel safe enough with anyone else, and it’s so nice to not have to start from scratch because they already know me, my family, my body, my house. Plus they’re phenomenal midwives (see my old blog for a post I wrote all about them). So… drawing on all that I’ve learned over the last seven years, and assuming that I remain low-risk and complication-free throughout the duration of my pregnancy and labor, here are my plans, hopes, and goals for this next birth…

Got lecithin?

August 4, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Partway through my first pregnancy, I started having pain in my pelvis. It wasn’t the normal round ligament pain. It started in my lower back and radiated through my whole pelvis into the hip joints. When I walked or climbed stairs, it was especially bad. Eventually, I could hardly walk without excruciating pain, lasting for weeks. I asked my doctor about it, but I think all he told me was, “That’s normal.” Thanks, doc. It sure didn’t seem “normal” to me. If only I had met my friend Meredith way back then!

Meredith and I met at our doula training in February of ’09. Some time afterward, when we were hanging out at one of our houses, she started telling the story of how she switched from a doctor to a home birth midwife mid-pregnancy (with her second baby). She began by describing some pelvic pain she had been experiencing and how her doctor was no help to her. Bells and whistles started ringing in my head… Hey! That happened to me too! I had almost forgotten about my first pregnancy pelvic issues until she mentioned hers.

Mothering my children, healing myself

July 28, 2010 at 8:08 pm

The way I mother my children is unusual in mainstream American culture (but common among my readers).  I share my bed with my babies, I could never endure “cry-it-out” (even for a few minutes), I breastfeed on-demand for an extended period of time, I practice “nighttime parenting” by soothing or nursing my babies and toddlers back to sleep every time they awaken, I hold and carry my wee ones as much as possible (often in slings/wraps), I respond as quickly as possible to their cries of distress, and I rarely leave them with anyone besides my husband.  Some might say I take Attachment Parenting to an extreme.  There are probably those who would even say I take it to an unhealthy extreme.  I certainly haven’t had a decent night of sleep for, well… years, and date nights with my husband are very rare.  Some might assume I am driven to these extremes because I believe other parenting styles to be unethical (or evil), because I’m trying to be better than everyone else, or because I’m pursuing an unrealistic vision of “perfect” motherhood.  But they would be wrong.  Understandably…. because they don’t know my history (or my gene pool).

Good-bye, Gerber

July 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Click on the image for more info.

Last summer, when my son was approaching six months old, a friend introduced me to the “baby-led weaning” concept, and I was almost immediately sold. Basically, baby-led weaning approaches the introduction of solid food from a developmental (and common sense) standpoint. Its proponents argue that a baby shouldn’t be given any food other than breastmilk (or formula) until that baby can feed him/herself (usually this doesn’t happen before about 6 months). Or, in other words, babies’ digestive systems will be truly ready to process solid foods when they are physically able to pick up food, take it to their mouths, chew/mash it, and swallow it. Makes sense, huh? No doubt it’s the way human babies began eating food for thousands of years. At least until rice cereal appeared on the scene.

Treating mastitis

July 21, 2010 at 2:59 am

Most women who’ve given birth and subsequently nursed their babies have at least heard about the possibility of developing mastitis (if not experienced it themselves). I have, on one occasion, developed what appeared by my estimation to be mastitis. It started out with what seemed like a plugged duct. I had experienced a plugged duct before, so I nursed frequently on that side while massaging the painful area. Eventually the pain was accompanied by flu-like aches all over my body. I didn’t want to wait around for the fever to start, so I immediately opened up my Nursing Mother’s Companion to see what suggestions were there. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t offer many concrete natural treatments and encouraged women to see their doctor for a prescription of antibiotics to avoid having the infection progress into an abscess. I have only taken antibiotics twice in my memory–once for an ear infection as a teenager and later for a supposed UTI (which was probably not actually a UTI in retrospect). I am not a big fan of antibiotics, and I think we all know they’re over-prescribed, over-injected, and largely responsible for the scary super-bugs we keep hearing about. So, needless to say, I didn’t want to go to the doctor and get a prescription.

Breastfed baby growth

July 21, 2010 at 1:47 am

I’ve noticed a trend in my own experience and among my friends whose babies are breastfed for at least a year. Our babies grow much more quickly in the first few months and then their weights taper off or plateau. They follow a completely different trend than the growth charts you see in the pediatricians’ offices.

I’ve heard so many stories from friends and family of their doctors being concerned about their babies’ growth between 6 months and 18 months. ‘Cause they pretty much stop gaining weight and just start getting taller and thinner. So the doctors recommend formula supplementation or tests to check for problems. But nearly all the moms have said that they’re sure their babies are fine… they’re happy, reaching developmental milestones, etc. With all the childhood obesity out there, you’d think doctors would be delighted to see thin, thriving, smart little babies! Fortunately, our doctors never showed too much concern.

Pacifier

July 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm

As I rocked and nursed my baby to sleep about an hour ago, I got thinking about something an OB said to me the morning after my first daughter was born. He was an OB I had never met before. I can’t even remember his name. But he was one of the doctors from the practice where I had received my prenatal care. I suppose he was the one on-call that morning, so he was doing the postpartum hospital check-up rotation (or whatever they’d call it).

It was early in the morning, still dark. Dr. Whatshisname was asking how breastfeeding was going, I think. We’d had a rough start and some latching troubles, but I don’t think my response to his question was an unusual one: “I’m feeling some nipple soreness.” Of course I was! Nursing hurts like the dickens in the beginning. Even when you’re doing it right. At least it has for me. Every time. Maybe it’s not painful for everyone, but I have met very few women who haven’t experienced soreness in the beginning.

Bugs and guts

July 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I’ve been wanting to post about birth and healthy guts for a while now. Years ago I read an article that had a profound impact on me. It was Jeff Leach’s “C-sections, breastfeeding, and bugs for your baby.” His piece changed the way I viewed the birth canal. Cesareans aren’t just another way to give birth. Being born through an incision bypasses an extremely important step in the birth process–being colonized by the “base population” of the mother’s vaginal and fecal microflora. Following birth, breastfeeding continues the transfer of healthy microflora (probiotics) from the mother to the infant.

Mothering at the breast

July 18, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Back in January, my baby was admitted to the hospital with a bizarre rash and swelling.  During his illness and our hospital stay, I’d say he was at my breast at least 70% of the time.  When the nurse wanted to give him an I.V. for fluids, fortunately I asked, “Are you worried he’s becoming dehydrated?”  After assuring her that he was breastfeeding almost constantly, they agreed to hold off on the I.V. as long as I kept track of all his feedings and he continued to have lots of wet diapers. So they gave me a chart to mark all his “feedings.”  It was kind of a joke.  When a baby is almost constantly nursing both day and night?  Ha.

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