Cervical scar tissue and cesareans

September 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm

One of my most popular blog posts is one I wrote just over a year ago called “Cervical scar tissue.”  In that post, I shared important information about how scar tissue from various procedures (LEEP, D & C, etc.) can potentially impact future birth experiences, causing labor to stall for hours or days if the scar tissue isn’t massaged by a caregiver to help it release and allow the cervix to dilate completely.  I also said:

I have a hunch that cervical scar tissue is likely contributing greatly to the rising cesarean rate. . . . Unfortunately, doctors aren’t usually around while their patients labor, so massaging the scar tissue rarely happens. Instead those women far too often get stamped with “failure to progress” after a long, exhausting labor, and sent to the operating room.  Many spend the rest of their lives believing they’re incapable of giving birth vaginally. (Cervical scar tissue)

And now I’m even more convinced than ever that a large percentage of today’s cesareans and “failed” VBACs are happening as a result of cervical scar tissue. A comment from Lauren on my post has alerted me to something alarming:

Baby shower basket essentials

August 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm

After ten years as a momma, I’ve learned a thing or two.  For instance, I’ve learned that a lot of the things on most soon-to-be parents’ baby registries (and in some of their carefully decorated baby nurseries) are non-essential.  There are really very few things most new parents/babies need, and some of the best essentials aren’t really available for baby shower presents (boobs, for instance).  It has been a while since I attended a baby shower for a first-time momma, but next time I’m invited, here’s what I wish I could afford to load into a pretty basket for her, though I’ll probably settle for just one or two items from the list…

1) Emergency Birth Kit

As I posted back in January, even in the absence of a large-scale disaster, on just an ordinary day-to-day basis, sometimes a birth happens too quickly to make it to the planned location or before a qualified birth attendant can be present.  You’d never be sorry that you had birth supplies on hand.  I know I was glad I had a kit for the car when I drove to my midwives’ office in labor last time! I’d also include a print-out of the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ Giving Birth “In Place”: A Guide to Emergency Preparedness for Childbirth.

Reducing childbirth pain?

June 30, 2011 at 6:08 am

It has never been easier getting from 0 to 9 centimeters as it was for me during my fourth birth. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was at 7, 8, 9 centimeters.  I’ve thought a lot about that fact over the past four months, wondering… what made the difference? I can really only speculate, but these changes might at least partially explain the reduction of labor pain I experienced:

1) Prenatal exercise

I was in much better shape starting out this pregnancy than I have ever been in my previous pregnancies.  I continued running approximately three mornings a week until about halfway through my pregnancy.  Then I walked and hiked to keep myself active, though not as regularly.  As I’ve shared before, prenatal exercise has so many benefits, including: reduced need for pain relief, decrease in maternal exhaustion, and shortened labor.  It may not be safe for all pregnant women, but I was grateful to be able to exercise through my pregnancies and grateful to have midwives who urged me to keep running and walking.

Healing your home

May 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm

So… air pollution. We hear so much about the global warming debate, but we rarely hear about how toxins in our air may be impacting human health and happiness. This subject has been on my mind a lot over the past week, and I felt impressed to do some digging about it. How are those toxins impacting pregnant women and their babies?  And how can we protect ourselves?

What I found was that prenatal and early exposure to air pollutants has been linked to a growing number of health and behavioral issues. Here are a few:

Preterm birth

“For the first trimester, the odds of preterm birth consistently increased with increasing carbon monoxide exposures and also at high levels of exposure to particulate matter . . . . Women exposed to carbon monoxide above 0.91 ppm during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy experienced increased odds of preterm birth” (Source).

Reduced fetal growth

“Over the past decade there has been mounting evidence that ambient air pollution during pregnancy influences fetal growth. . . . We found strong effects of ambient air pollution on ultrasound measures” (Source).

You are what you think

April 23, 2011 at 5:15 am

Another one from the archive, an August 2009 post:

I was sitting at the table eating dinner the other day, and my baby boy started acting like he was ready to nurse. I started thinking about taking him over to the couch to meet his request, and BOOM my milk let-down. I’d wager most nursing moms have experienced this chain of events hundreds of times.

That experience got me thinking. All I have to do is think about nursing my baby and my body responds within seconds. The salivation reflex is similar. You start thinking about something delicious and BAM… your mouth is ready for it with a gush of saliva.

And that got me thinking about how interconnected our thoughts and our biological processes are. Our thoughts can create almost instantaneous physical reactions! How amazing is that?! And how frightening too. It all depends on what you are thinking about.

Building a better bond

February 19, 2011 at 7:28 am

It is now officially my “due date.” I’ve never been pregnant this long before. My other children came 9 days, 5 days, and 10 days early. All of my mother’s six children came either 9 days or 6 days early. I’m not certain, but I think all of my sister’s kids came early as well. I was under the impression that the women in my family “cook ‘em fast.” So my husband and I have been quite surprised to see this pregnancy continuing as long as it has. But I’m totally OK with that. I’ve learned some important things over the past week, and I feel I have God’s and my baby’s wise choice of timing to thank for those valuable blessings. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.

You may be aware from prior blogposts (Pitocin on the Brain, On loving baby slime, Mothering my children, healing myself) that bonding with my freshly-born babies has been a struggle for me in the past. With each child, the bond has come more quickly, but it has still never happened as quickly and strongly as I would like it to. My past experiences have led me to believe, at times, that I’m not capable of experiencing that instant “love at first sight” some parents speak of. But it doesn’t keep me from fantasizing about experiencing it. Especially when irrational fears creep up in the recesses of my consciousness filling me with doubts that I’ll even be able to love this new baby at all.

I’m ready now

February 13, 2011 at 6:01 am

For weeks whenever anyone has asked me, “Are you so ready for this baby to come?”  my immediate response has been an adamant, “No! I wish I had two more months! I’m not ready!” I’ve been nesting for quite awhile and crossing things off my before-the-baby-comes to-do list every day (only to think of more things to add and then cross off), but, beyond the physical preparations for the birth and postpartum period, I haven’t felt an ounce of readiness. Each night as I have gone to bed, wondering whether a birth would be waking me soon, I have felt an overwhelming lack of surety… a feeling that not everything was in place… a yearning for something to bolster me and give me the foundation I need to give birth in peace in confidence. Today it came.

Busca’s birthing brew

February 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Since August, I’ve been concocting a birthing beverage in my head. A couple of nights ago, my husband and I tried it out.

It’s a lot tastier than it looks. :-)

First I’ll give you the recipe, and then I’ll explain the why-to’s…

Growing, Glowing, and Going: Midwife’s Orders

January 31, 2011 at 6:45 am

During our home visit last Thursday, my midwife, Mary, mentioned that the baby is still “really high.” Since two of my births have started with my water breaking, we definitely don’t want the baby’s head high much longer since the cord could easily prolapse. She told me to do lots of walking to coax the baby down into my pelvis.

We went on another hike at South Mountain at the beginning of January, but I haven’t been getting much exercise since then. So Mary’s advice was just the nudge I needed to get myself back out there and “going” again.

The weather was gorgeous here in the Valley of the Sun today. Can’t beat 72 degree weather in January. So we took a nice two mile walk/bike ride before dinner. It felt really good to be getting some fresh air and exercise again. The forecast is threatening rain and cooler temperatures this coming week, but I’m hoping we can get some more walking in. Come on down, baby. Pretty please?

Fear containment

December 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm

A little over two years ago, I wrote a post about facing my deepest fear surrounding my upcoming home birth: a dead baby. It’s interesting how each pregnancy is different, and the things we worry about can also be very different.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to pee (again) sometime after 5:00 a.m. My kids were all still sleeping, so I headed back to bed, but I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Suddenly I was overcome with wave after wave of fear rolling through my head. I’m afraid I’ve “used up” all my positive birth luck. I’ve had three great vaginal birth experiences. For whatever reason, I feel like I can’t expect them all to be good. I’m afraid I’m “due” for a difficult birth experience. I’m afraid it’s my turn to see the other side of birth… the complicated side where unexpected things happen and you end up going to places and doing things you never dreamed you would.

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. 

Protecting your perineum (from the inside out)

November 9, 2010 at 9:04 am

IMG_36311Someone I love gave birth last week for the first time. We talked on the phone about her experience a few days later. While she felt really good about how everything went, she was hurting. An episiotomy+tearing, back pain from her epidural, plus the normal pain associated with initiating breastfeeding were wearing on her. Having experienced some severe tearing with my first birth, I gave her my solidarity. Recovering from perineal trauma was some of the most excruciating physical pain I’ve ever experienced! I’d take labor pains over that any day.

During our phone conversation, she mentioned that one of the nurses at the hospital had asked her if she ate meat (she does eat a little, mostly chicken). Seems like a strange question, but apparently the nurses at that hospital had noticed a trend among the women they attended in labor: in their experience, women who were vegetarians were more likely to tear. A statement like that calls for some follow-up research, no? I jumped on it and starting digging around in the scientific literature to see what dietary substances are associated with increased skin elasticity. I never really found a clear-cut answer to the vegetarian question, but I did find lots of other cool information.

I’ve posted before about how to prevent tears from the outside in, but now I know a whole slew of ways we may be able to protect our perineums from the inside out. These are some dietary additions you may want to make if you’re hoping to prevent tears (and improve your skin and health in general):

Building a Baby Ready Body

October 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Just a quick post to let you know about a pre-pregnancy eCourse being offered by Michelle at Find Your Balance starting October 21. I’ve always believed that diet and lifestyle can have a great impact on fertility, so I’m thrilled that Michelle’s eCourse will be sharing helpful information on that very topic to help women prepare for pregnancy. I’ve really enjoyed Michelle’s blog over the last few months. She shares mouthwatering whole food recipes and a wealth of helpful information on nutrition and wellness. Click here to view more details

Cervical scar tissue

September 8, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Last Friday I saw my midwives, Mary and Nedra. We finished the whole urine, weight, blood pressure, fundal height, heart tones routine in about fifteen minutes, and I asked a couple of questions about vitamin K and ultrasounds, and then we just got chatting. Quite a bit of time passed, and their next client didn’t show up, so we just kept on chatting. I could have stayed all day, I think. It was so great to have extra time with them.

I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but Mary started talking about the cervixes of women who have had a LEEP procedure. I didn’t know what LEEP was, so she explained that it’s when they go in and cut away abnormal cells from the cervix. Then bells and whistles started going off in my head because I remembered reading several months ago about how having procedures done on your cervix can create scar tissue that often proves troublesome during childbirth. My midwives said they’re seeing more and more women with cervical scar tissue.

When I first learned about cervical scar tissue’s impact on labor, I thought: women need to know this! I did share a link on facebook and in the sidebar of my blog, but then I let it slip to the back of my mind. After the chat with my midwives on Friday, I felt driven, again, to spread the word. With more and more women approaching childbirth with scarred cervixes, this information is more important than ever. In fact, I have a hunch that cervical scar tissue is likely contributing greatly to the rising cesarean rate.

Why hire a doula?

July 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

[Re-post from the old blog.  Originally published in April of 2007.]

When I gave birth for the first time, I didn’t know what a doula was, but I recently realized that the care and support of a “doula” is what actually carried me through that birth.

Her name was Eve. She was the labor and delivery nurse assigned to me when I entered the hospital for my oldest daughter’s birth. She was gentle, unassuming, and kind. When I told her that I was hoping to “go natural,” she mentioned that she could offer positions to try and techniques to cope with the pain of labor. She said she had given birth without drugs before, and knowing she was supportive and experienced gave me courage.

As labor progressed, Eve showed my husband how to provide counter-pressure to ease the discomfort of contractions. She pulled out the rarely-used, water-proof telemetry monitor so my husband could spray my back with hot water in the shower. When I got out of the shower, she brought in a birth ball and helped me to sit and rock on it. Later, she coached me to keep my vocalizing low, deep, and relaxed instead of high-pitched and tense. When I doubted myself and contemplated drugs as I struggled through the hardest contractions, she said, “Why don’t I check you first—you might be almost fully dilated.” Sure enough, I was only a couple of centimeters from the end. She told me that, in her experience, it felt good once you could push (and she was right). She rubbed my feet and sat by my side through those last intense contractions, encouraging me with her reassuring words. Although her shift ended before the pushing started, she chose to stay with me until after the birth. Ultimately, I did it! Giving birth for the first time without complications or drugs was one of the most empowering experiences of my life.

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