Saturday, November 22, 2014

"I Realized That I Had Been 'Powerbirthed'" - Further Testimonial of a Supposed Non-Existent Practice

Ever since I watched the Powerbirth promotional video, in 2009, I have watched as women came out of the woodwork to talk about their traumatic experience with the technique - only, most didn't know that it was a "technique" or had a name at all. They only know what was done to them by a person they had trusted.

Recently I attended a birth in which a family member asked about my training, and once she learned that I was not trained here in Southern Utah (To my knowledge, I am the only midwife in the area who was not trained here), she began to tell me her story. As I cleaned up the birthing tub that had just been used, she explained how a friend had passed on information from my blog about Powerbirth, and her friend had asked her if that's what had happened to her. She said that she hadn't known anything about "Powerbirth", so she didn't think it had anything to do with her. And then she began reading the explanation of what midwives have done to women - forced pushing with their knees hiked up, and the midwife manually dilating the cervix.

This woman recounted how she was checked to be 2cm dilated, and the midwife (I won't name names) asked her if she wanted to have labor go quickly or slowly. She said that as a first time mom, of course she wanted to have the baby soon, so she told her that she wanted to go quickly. She said the midwife instructed her to pull her knees back as far as she could, and to push as hard as she could, while the midwife stretched her cervix. She said, "It was horrible." And even more sadly, it was discovered during her next labor that she had scarring on her cervix from what was done to her by her first midwife.

Yet, the midwives who have, and still do practice this method/technique, deny that this is what is done. The Powerbirth founder cries out for people to read the Powerbirth manual, in which there is no mention of forced pushing or manual cervical dilation. And one midwife has publicly denied these practices, saying that women have lied.

Each time I think that these stories won't affect me nearly as much, I have yet another woman tell me her story of trauma, deception, and outright manipulation. It makes me angry, as midwives have no business calling themselves such as they so egregiously violate women and put babies at such risk of harm ... and it breaks my heart as that is the experience that some women walk away from, thinking these things are simply normal for home birth.

To any woman who has read any of this and questioned your birth experiences ... you're not alone. Even if you don't ever decide to speak out, you are not alone. And this violation is not what home birth and midwifery is about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

It's that time of year again. I woke up at 3am feeling like I had swallowed some razor blades. I went to bed with a slightly scratchy throat, and woke up to full blown awfulness. While I am not pregnant, I have already had two clients ask me what they can do for illness while pregnant.

In our home, we rarely use medication. Instead we use foods, herbs, and essential oils. Many of these are not only safe while pregnant, but are often much more effective than anything you'll find over the counter, and safer than antibiotics or pharmaceutical medications.

So what are the best options for the cold or flu while pregnant?

1. Raw Garlic

I know. It sounds hard to stomach - and it can be. However, the active element in raw garlic is Allicin, and it is a natural antibiotic. This antibiotic though only kills the bad bacteria, leaving the good bacteria to help fight the illness. Here are some ways to eat/swallow garlic:
        • Use a garlic press and press a clove of garlic onto a spoon. Swallow it and chase with juice. I have found that orange juice works well to cover some of the garlic taste.
        • Drown the pressed or chopped garlic in a teaspoon of honey (raw honey is best, but use whatever you have), and swallow.
        • Chop 2 cloves of garlic to add to your favorite guacamole or hummus dip. Eat away!
        • Cut an onion in half, and place in a small saucepan. Add enough water to cover the onion. Add 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped. Add juice from 1/2 a lemon. Let it simmer on low, covered, until the onion is transperent. Drink. This is actually quite delicious, in my opinion!

2. Elderberry / Sambucus Syrup

This stuff is awesome. It contains high amounts of vitamins A, B, and C and helps to stimulate immune system function. It is safe while pregnant, and you can even make it yourself! You just want to be super cautious about fully removing the stems before processing. You can also buy it affordably here.

3. Sea Salt / Neti Pot 

This is especially helpful for sore throats and sinus infections. Add about a 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to 1 cup of warm water (you can add 1/2 teaspoon of honey if you can't handle the taste) and gargle. Do this 2-3 times per day to loosen mucus, and reduce bacteria in the mouth and throat.

Neti pots can be especially useful in sinus infections. You can find a neti pot HERE. And HERE you can find a recipe, and video instructions.

4. Essential Oils

Essential oils are GREAT to use when sick - especially with a diffuser. NOW brand just came out with an oil diffuser for under $40 that works just as well (if not better) than the much more expensive brands that I have bought in the past. I can get at least 3 hours of diffuse time from mine, as it uses 1/2 cup of water.

Some great blends for illness (and I don't endorse one brand over another):

        • 10 drops of Eucalyptus, 10 drops of Tea Tree, and 10 drops of Lavender.
        • 10 drops of Camphor, 10 drops of Lavender
        • 10 drops of Eucalyptus, 10 drops of Tea Tree, and 10 drops of Lemongrass

You can also make your own chest rub by diluting 5 drops of camphor and 5 drops of eucalyptus in 1 cup of carrier oil (I use coconut oil). You can rub onto the chest and soles of the feet.

5. Lots and Lots of Rest 

We are a busy culture. Constantly on the go. A cold takes a real toll on the body, especially when you're pregnant. Getting plenty of rest (even if you have to break a rule and have a full movie day with kids while you camp out on the couch) and drinking plenty of fluids is going to be essential in kicking the cold or flu as quickly as possible.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Options in Childbirth: Does It Really Mean What You Think It Means?

Just over a year and a half ago, I spoke at a VBAC information event at Dixie State University. To my surprise, the labor and delivery hospitalist along with a nurse or two showed up. The hospitalist and one of the nurses asked several questions - unfortunately while I was in the middle of my presentation - of which some I clarified, and some of which I disagreed. What stuck with me more was something she said a few times - she said that hospital birth can be just like home birth, if women just ask for it to be so.

While I will wholeheartedly agree that sometimes, with a midwife who does not respect autonomy, home birth can be just like hospital birth in some ways, I cannot agree that hospital birth here in our small town, can be like home birth for whomever (low-risk) asks for it to be so.

Why do I disagree?

1. Dixie Regional Medical Center does not allow for complete refusal of an IV line - they are adamant that women receive a hep-lock just in case an emergency occurs.

2. DRMC does not allow for water birth. You may labor in the tub, if you happen to get into one of two rooms with a tub, but there are no exceptions for birthing in the tub. I know of a doctor who tells his patients that he cannot force them to get out, but what he does not tell them is that the tub can be drained in 90 seconds, and the nurses will drain the water immediately.

3. It is hospital preference to break the amniotic sac (water) within a few hours of admission for all patients - and is often presented as a benefit (can speed up labor, etc) without giving patients full disclosure of risk, which also includes a subsequent time limit since they worry about infection after the protective barrier is gone.

4. I have heard of some fathers/partners being able to catch their own baby, but it is rare and certainly not encouraged. You need to have the right doctor, and the right circumstances in order for this to happen.

5. You will not be able to eat and drink freely without either sneaking food, or repeatedly defending your right to do so.

6. Achieving a successful VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) depends on so many factors, that the odds seem nearly stacked against many women. IF circumstances line up perfectly - right size baby, no blips in prenatal care, right doctor who is not only 'VBAC friendly' but actually VBAC supportive (HUGE difference), right pregnancy week, right amount of time in labor, zero variation in how baby sounds during labor, etc - you might just end up achieving a VBAC.

7. You are highly unlikely to have a full hour, completely uninterrupted, with baby immediately following birth. Right doctor, right nurses, right circumstances...maybe, if you're adamant and repeat your wishes often.

8. You are unlikely to be able to refuse routine checks and tests on baby, without receiving information about how risky it can be to forgo. (I personally cover tests, options, etc prenatally and don't need to ask again after the family has done research and made a decision).

9. Depending on the season, your children are not likely able to be present for the birth.

10. Intermountain Health Care has a policy in place which bans photography and video at the time of birth. It is my understanding that you are allowed to photograph or video tape before and after, but not during birth. This is again, something that can vary widely. Some doctors allow it (there's that pesky word again - allow), others strictly reinforce the policy. It will also depend on the nurses in the room at the time of delivery.

I am not vilifying hospital birth. I am incredibly grateful for the technology and skill of hospital staff, when a hospital birth is medically warranted or chosen. I needed the hospital with my last baby.

What I am saying is that a simple statement, such as, "hospital can be just like home for those who ask", is risky. It may give women false hope, only to find that there was much fighting for this simple right, and/or the right doctor, right nurses, right circumstances.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Baby PSA

It's summer in Southern Utah (and all over, obviously), which brings temps often between 105-110 throughout the summer. It's HOT. But it's not just hot for adults, it's hot for everyone. Even that itty bitty new baby. The general rule of thumb for summer with a newborn is to dress her how you're dressing.

This is why I want to cry every time I see a new mama whose new baby is not only fully clothed in the summer heat (meaning onesie, shirt, pants, socks), but also has one of those adorable car seat covers draped over the car seat for the duration of a shopping trip to Target, Costco, or wherever.

Image from Cluck Cluck Sew Tutorial

Mamas, I know you mean well. I do. But imagine if you were baby. Not only is it hot out, but someone has you fully dressed, even if in light clothing. Now you're in a car seat - lying on fabric that is going to heat up with your body temp as well as the heat outside. Add to it a cover that cuts off any fresh air. So now not only are you hot, uncomfortable, but you're shortly going to be recycling your own CO2.

I'm an advocate for leaving car the car. I recommend baby wearing baby instead. Yes, it gets hot, but baby is still going to be more comfortable on you, barely dressed (think a diaper and onesie), breathing fresh air throughout the shopping trip. And you can find slings in breathable summer fabrics! But if you can't, or choose not to wear your baby ... please only use the cover for the wind and/or sun outside, and flip it back during your shopping trip so that baby has fresh air and isn't exposed to even higher temps under the cover.

Same goes for nursing covers, mamas! Sure, they may be super cute. But they're unnecessary, and they lead to the same as the above. Only now baby is cradled against fully body heat, in the heat of summer, and cut off from fresh air. There are a number of ways to nurse very discreetly without wearing a cover. In fact, wearing a cover screams, "I'm NURSING!" (which, I personally don't care whether or not people know what I'm doing), whereas most people don't even know what you're doing when you nurse discreetly. It usually looks like you're just cradling your baby.

This summer (and always), please remember that babies need fresh air more than you and I do. They are still regulating their tiny bodies, and we need to do whatever possible to not hinder this. Cute covers just aren't worth overheating your baby, and drastically decreasing fresh oxygen intake.

For rules on appropriate breastfeeding, read this. It's hilarious!  ;)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Value of Waiting

One of the most valuable things I have learned in the past 7 years of attending births, is to wait and do nothing. Yes, the emergency skills are incredibly important. Yes, knowing when to step in and intervene is incredibly important.

But in my opinion and experience, it is even more important to learn that when everything is going beautifully, you do nothing. Even if labor is on the longer end of normal. If baby and mama are doing well, do nothing. Check heart tones as often as mama has agreed to, provide emotional or physical support if mama needs it. But otherwise, do nothing. If you need to bring a crossword puzzle or a knitting project or a book to keep your hands busy, do it. But don't interfere with the beautiful dance of hormones just because you feel like you're doing nothing. You should feel like you're doing nothing, because nothing is exactly what's needed in the vast majority of normal births.

When I have couples thank me after a birth, I tell them that I really didn't do anything. Because most of the time, I don't. And I'm quite happy with that fact. There have been a few recent births in which I have needed to step in and be more hands-on, and it is hard for me to do. I am constantly weighing whether or not anything could have been done differently to have avoided things leading up to needing intervention. At a recent birth, I should have asked the large number of family members present, to go upstairs earlier than I did. Their presence was clearly inhibiting her labor. I saw it, my apprentice saw it. Yet, I didn't want to overstep my bounds because I know that this mama had wanted her family there. In the end, it was necessary, and should have happened sooner. And I will be writing soon about what the consequences can be with having too many people in the birthing space.

Doing nothing is what, again - in my opinion, all Midwives should strive for in the vast majority of their births. If they learn to do nothing, women are learning at the same time that their body works beautifully as it was made to work in birth. This is what is essential in women taking back their birthing rights in our culture. They must first learn that the birth process works most efficiently when left alone. They don't need vaginal exams, being told when/how to push, they don't need someone else catching their baby (unless mama and her partner don't wish to), and they certainly don't need someone assaulting their baby with a towel and a bulb syringe and a stethoscope as soon as the baby is out of the womb.

I say that it is one of the most important things to learn, because it is one of the hardest. During a longer labor, it is hard to not want to check dilation to see what progress mom is making. But there are other ways that can measure the progress of baby's descent without being invasive. There is the ever-so-interesting "purple butt crack line" (purple line on natal cleft), but the most telling is where you are finding fetal heart tones. You'll notice that it'll start somewhere near where the usual spot is, from prenatal appointments. Then as labor progresses, you'll find it lower in the belly. After mom has been laboring well and is vocalizing low through contractions, you'll find it in the center of the belly, above the pubic bone. This clearly shows the descent progress of the baby, without ever stopping mom's hormonal dance to put your hand up her vagina. And at this point (once heart tones are found right over pubic bone), if mom needs a boost of energy and resolve? She can check herself, and will, more often than not, find baby's head not far inside of the vaginal opening. I have watched a mom go from utterly exhausted and feeling defeated, to a sense of renewal and excitement when she feels her baby's head for herself.

Walk through the checklist - Does baby's heartrate sound normal and reactive? Is mom's blood pressure normal (I usually only check upon arrival, unless I have a client whose blood pressure has been elevated at the end of pregnancy)? Are you noticing descent progress via heart tone location? Is mom making progress as far as contractions being consistent and becoming more intense? Does mom have the option of total privacy?

If all are normal - do nothing. :)