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…

Breaking the silence

January 26, 2011 at 6:18 am

A conversation I had with a friend on Saturday followed by watching this TED Talks video (shared with me by said friend) has got me thinking a lot about what it’s like becoming a mother and adjusting to that new life after giving birth for the first time.

I’ve found it interesting, over the years, to notice a trend among the moms I know.  After having their first babies, these women smile and appear to be weathering things so well (I did it too), but a year or two later they open up and reveal how much they had been struggling with the adjustment to motherhood… the moments of resentment, despair, mourning for the loss of their old life, wondering whether they’ll ever feel themselves again, etc.

It makes me wonder why.  Why do we feel incapable of talking about our feelings honestly while we’re experiencing those difficulties?  Why does it take a year or more before we feel comfortable opening-up about what it was really like?

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.

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)

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)

Electrolyte replacement

August 18, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Getting fluids in early labor

Pregnant women and women in labor often need electrolyte and energy boosters.  While many recommend using Emergen-C or sport drinks like Gatorade, here are some alternatives which might be more suited to a laboring woman’s needs:

  • Homemade electrolyte drinks
  • Midwife Kim Mosny recommends this “Labor Aid” recipe…

    * 1 qt. water
    * 1/3 c. honey
    * 1/3 c. juice from a real lemon
    * 1/2 t. salt
    * 1/4 t. baking soda
    * 2 crushed calcium tablets

    Here’s another similar recipe including magnesium (I assume it’s also added to a quart of water)…

    * 1/3 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh-squeezed)
    * 1/3 cup honey
    * 1/4 tsp. sea salt
    * 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    * 1-2 calcium/magnesium tablets, crushed, OR 1 Tb liquid calcium/magnesium supplement

  • Coconut water, “nature’s electrolyte,” an isotonic beverage (having the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood).
  • [Coconut water] was significantly sweeter, caused less nausea, fullness and no stomach upset and was also easier to consume in a larger amount compared with [carbohydrate electrolyte beverage] and [plain water] ingestion. In conclusion, ingestion of fresh young coconut water, a natural refreshing beverage, could be used for whole body rehydration after exercise. (Saat, et al, 2002, Rehydration after Exercise with Fresh Young Coconut Water, Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Beverage and Plain Water)

  • Vitalyte (a.k.a. Gookinaid), an electrolyte drink created by biochemist and marathon runner, Bill Gookin
  • I am very impressed with the successful use of VITALYTE for fluid and electrolyte replacement in labor, often in cases in which the only recourse would have been intravenous fluids. -Jonathan McCormick, MD, Ob-Gyn

    We have now successfully used VITALYTE for treating morning sickness (including hyperemesis with twins), pre-term labor (by correcting fluid and electrolyte imbalance) and pre-eclampsia (for increasing fluid volume and sodium intake). I am very pleased, don’t care if we ever create an RCT to “properly” study it all. -Marla Hicks, RN, midwife (source)

What do you drink in labor?

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.

Honey for healing tears

July 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Back in January of ’09 I read this great little tidbit in the Midwifery Today E-News:

Raw honey is a great remedy for first-degree [perineal] tears. Honey’s thick consistency forms a barrier defending the wound from outside infections. The moistness allows skin cells to grow without creating a scar, even if a scab has already formed. Meanwhile, the sugars extract dirt and moisture from the wound, which helps prevent bacteria from growing, while the acidity of honey also slows or prevents the growth of many bacteria.

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.

On loving baby slime

July 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I’ve got this theory. I’m not going to suggest that I’m the first to come up with this. It’s only “new” in the sense that it’s “new” to me. I’d love to see it tested with some research on mothers and infants.

A few weeks ago I got thinking about the profoundly intense bond I developed with my son following my home birth. I had never experienced anything like it. Sure, I developed a deep love for my daughters, but it took much longer and came far less naturally. I have come up with many possible explanations for the intensity of the bond with my son…

No Pitocin to interfere
* More intense oxytocin rush being in a comfortable, private setting
* Immediate and prolonged skin-to-skin contact
* First feeding within 15 minutes of birth (I can’t remember exactly, but it was the first thing we did after holding him and delivering the placenta.)
* No hospital staff coming in and out of our room at all hours

As I was thinking, I realized another factor I hadn’t thought of before. My baby boy spent his first 20-ish hours of life still smelling of birth (it’s a sweet smell) with amniotic-fluid-and-vernix “gel” in his hair, and even bits of blood here and there (I should clarify that he was wiped with dry towels following his birth, so he wasn’t slimy). Sounds gross, but we didn’t really want to bathe him in the wee hours of the morning and didn’t get around to it until the next evening. Even then, we didn’t use any soap. Just rinsed his hair with water (not all the waxy vernix came out) and did a quick sponge bath. So I’d wager he still “smelled of birth” until the first shampoo eight days later. For over a week, my nose and brain were bathed in those primal smells.

Research indicates that babies are highly attuned to their mothers’ smells. They are imprinted on the smell of amniotic fluid, and the areola of the breast carries a very similar smell. In fact, an infant who is placed between his/her mother’s naked breasts immediately following birth (and left there), can find the nipple and latch on without any adult assistance. Just through his highly developed sense of smell and instincts! (If you’ve never watched this amazing process, you simply must. I found this YouTube video with the “breast crawl” in action. I am hoping to experience it with my next baby!) It has also been shown that infants are calmed and cry less when exposed to the smell of amniotic fluid.

What about mothers? When a mother gives birth (particularly without intervention), she experiences the highest oxytocin rush of her lifetime. When oxytocin is released, other processes are working behind-the-scenes as well. Oxytocin is tied to memory and smell. It is the “bonding” hormone in large part because humans become “bonded” to those with whom they experience surges of oxytocin. And the brain/body remembers those individuals largely through the olfactory triggers that are present when the oxytocin-surge-bonding takes place.

It is nearly standard practice to clean infants within a few hours of birth. And it is almost a given that Johnson’s baby shampoo will eliminate all but a trace of that amniotic-fluid-and-vernix coating babies come smothered in. If the smells of the womb and birth have a profound influence upon infants, why not mothers? Wouldn’t it make sense that biology/God/Mother Nature would also instill within her instinctual responses to those primal smells? In fact, an olfactory-oxytocin-maternal-instinct connection has been demonstrated with rats.

I’m now completely convinced that smell played a huge part in the rapid and intense bonding and maternal drive I experienced with my baby boy. Any future babies I have will spend at least as long smelling of birth. I don’t care how gross anyone thinks it is. Just try taking in a long breath of a freshly-born baby’s head and tell me it doesn’t smell good to your core. I’m in no hurry to wash it away. No hurry at all.

UPDATE 9/24/2013:

Yippee! Scientists are studying this phenomenon!

“The scent of a newborn baby really does tap right into the pleasure centers of a woman’s brain, whether the smell comes from her own baby or someone else’s, scientists have discovered. The new findings have been described in a study just published in Frontiers in Psychology” (Source).

Some related links:

New baby smell creates ‘very strong’ bond in mom’s brain, study finds
Tie between oxytocin and smell
Rub It In: Making the Case for the Benefits of Vernix Caseosa
Bonding Matters: The Chemistry of Attachment
Amniotic fluid smell
Optimal position for breastfeeding (lying down with baby on chest)

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