Birth Junkies: the next generation

November 20, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Speaking of my daughter… we had another birthy conversation over lunch yesterday. We got talking about her dream again, and then, between bites of her lunch, she asked me, “Mom, do you think you should have this baby in the hospital or at home?” Before I even had a chance to respond, she said, “I like home better.” When I asked her why, she kind of giggled and said, “If you went to the hospital, your baby would be caught by a doctor!” Her facial expression made it clear that this was not the ideal scenario in her mind. Then she said, “It’s better if a midwife catches your baby. Or if YOU catch it.”

You might think I spend my time brainwashing my children with my particular birth philosophy, but I really don’t. And I know there are countless wonderful obstetricians who catch babies every day. We’ve never had a conversation about the pros and cons of different types of care providers with our kids before. I also find it so interesting that she never says anyone will “deliver” my baby… only that someone will “catch” it. I know I’ve talked about babies being “delivered” many times, so it’s not that she hasn’t been exposed to that terminology. So so interesting. She also happens to be obsessed with birth YouTube videos. I couldn’t even count the number she has watched with me, always saying, “Let’s watch more!” The sounds and bodily fluids don’t frighten her in the least. She loves all things birth-related. :-) That’s my girl.

Suicide: the silent thief of mothers

September 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm

A story my sister-in-law told several years ago has been on my mind today. She had been living in Denmark as a missionary and had a strong feeling one day that they needed to stop and visit a particular friend who had recently given birth. Upon their arrival at her home, the woman (visibly distressed) started crying and explained that she had become overwhelmed with thoughts of harming herself or her new baby, so she had been calling out to God to please send help. My sister-in-law’s arrival likely prevented a horrible tragedy that day.

This story was on my mind because of an alarming fact I discovered for the first time today. For so long I have read and believed that hemorrhage was the leading cause of maternal death. And hemorrhage does, in fact, account for a large portion of maternal deaths–25% of them, according to the World Health Organization. What I didn’t know was that there is (more specifically in the developed world) a larger and more disturbing cause of maternal death.  According to the 1997 to 1999 Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths conducted by British medical researchers, the leading cause of maternal death (within pregnancy and the year following childbirth) wasn’t hemorrhage.

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.

Preventing postpartum hemorrhage naturally

August 25, 2010 at 4:39 am

Childbirth involves blood loss. There’s no way around it. How much blood a woman loses is the potentially dangerous variable. Postpartum hemorrhage accounts for the majority of maternal deaths worldwide. Fortunately, in the United States where maternity care is more readily accessible, most postpartum hemorrhages are not fatal. But they do happen, regardless of where you give birth.

So what do we know about postpartum hemorrhage?

Who is most at risk of experiencing a postpartum hemorrhage soon after giving birth?

  • Women with pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Women who experience a prolonged second stage of labor
  • Women who are induced or have their labors augmented with Pitocin
  • Women whose babies are delivered via vacuum extraction
  • Women with “large for gestational age” infants

(Source: Obstetric risk factors and outcome of pregnancies complicated with early postpartum hemorrhage: A population-based study)

Improving your epidural birth: Hire wisely

August 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm

A former college roommate and beloved friend came into town this past weekend and stayed with us Saturday night. As we chatted late into the night, she made a request. Could I created some more basic posts for women like her who don’t spend all their free time devouring birth-related media… women who aren’t sold on the “natural” bit (at least not yet)… women who plan to get epidurals but still want to improve their birth experiences? I thought that was a great idea. I think I’ll call this series: “Improving your epidural birth.” And here’s the first installment…

The first, and perhaps most important, tip I would offer to pregnant women (whether they want epidurals or not) is this:

Hire your care provider wisely.

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…

Avoiding tearing and episiotomies

July 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Giving birth for the first time was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. My water broke, my contractions started, everything progressed smoothly, and, less than six hours later, my baby girl was born. It was an ideal birth experience, except for one thing. That one thing made my next few weeks of recovery extremely painful. I tore. I really tore.

Despite the painful recovery, this was actually the lesser of two evils for me. Though some caregivers continue to cut episiotomies in as many as 80% of their patients, medical research does not support routine episiotomies. Studies from as far back as the 80s made it clear that routine episiotomies have no benefits and carry real risks. One of the most detrimental risks is that episiotomies can lead to further tearing, sometimes extending into the anus. These fourth degree anal tears almost never occur without an episiotomy. In addition, a spontaneous tear may only reach into the surface layers of skin, while an episiotomy cuts into far more layers. Episiotomies are rarely warranted and should be reserved for those unusual emergency cases. Ultimately, even without all the evidence, I just didn’t want someone cutting me. I knew, going into my first birth experience, that if I had to choose between them, I would choose to tear. And, tear I did.

Away in a manger

July 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Originally posted November 2009:

We had a fun little family night last December. We sang some Christmas songs around the piano, made a Christmas ornament, and then watched The Nativity–a short depiction of the birth of Jesus. Here’s a YouTube version (this one has been put to music, but the original actually has the actor’s voices and animal sound effects).

Birth in the standing position

July 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm

A statement out of a recent Midwifery Today E-Newsletter reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to blog about ever since my doula training in February of ’09. Dutch midwife, Gre Keijzer, explained:

In my view, starting the second stage in a standing position can be seen as a preventive measure against the occurrence of shoulder dystocia. If it does occur, it can be easily corrected without having to perform all sorts of heroic manoeuvres.

I’ve become somewhat obsessed in the last year with giving birth in standing positions. My fascination began when my doula trainer, Mary, shared a handout adapted from an article by Jean Sutton called, “Physiological Second Stage or Birth Without Active Pushing.”

The irrelevance of home vs. hospital

July 18, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Ever since a conversation last night with my brother and sister-in-law, I’ve had this phrase going through my mind:  “It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with.”  It seems to me that traumatic births often prompt couples to choose an alternative path for subsequent births.  For those who experience that trauma in the hospital, home birth often provides the healing they seek.  Because of the trauma my brother and his wife suffered following their home birth (and I do think my brother has some valid and genuine post-traumatic stress), they will likely have all of their subsequent children in hospitals [<—actually, 2015 update, they had another home birth].  I think it’s just human nature to associate those intense frightening emotions with the place where they occurred regardless of whether the place contributed to their occurrence.

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