Archive for June, 2011

The Internet is NOT a childbirth education class! It’s great for factual information, but not for training for the biggest event of your life. Can you imagine if the New York Yankees or the Detroit Redwings started having “virtual practices”? It’s just not the same thing as trying out new positions for birth, talking through (or crying through!) real feelings, or feeling a childbirth educators hands on your hips to demonstrate a “hip squeeze” (something partners can do that often helps reduce labor pain). So pregnant women: take a class!

(And when you read this article below, know that my book “Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds” addresses natural birth for twins and explains why a birth plan is not a straightjacket, but a wonderful tool for pregnant moms-to-be):

Most Pregnant Women Don’t Know Squat About Childbirth

Posted by Jenny Benjamin 

on June 15, 2011 at 1:53 PM

woman in laborPregnant women may spend hours researching car seats and strollers, they take their prenatal vitamins and know to steer clear of tuna and hot dogs and deli meats, they spend months creating the perfect nursery decor. And yet, according to a recent study, a vast majority of first-time mamas-to-be can’t answer basic questions about childbirth.

When I read this article, my first thought was, “For shame! How could a pregnant woman not be informed about epidurals, episiotomies, and c-sections?” Then, I realized that, in more ways than I’d like to admit, that woman is me!

I’m a journalist — it’s my JOB to be inquisitive, to do research, to ask questions. Of course, I’ve asked my doctor a ton of questions about what’s happening to my body, what’s normal, how my babies are doing. And yet,when it comes to childbirth, I’m like “let’s get to that later.” Of the bajillion classes that I’ve taken — from breastfeeding to infant CPR — not one has been about childbirth! In fairness, maybe it’s because I always assumed that I’d have to have a c-section anyway (twins), and didn’t feel like getting into the nitty-gritty about where my vital organs will go while my babies are cut out of my belly. But, I found out about a month or two ago that I might very well be able to deliver my babies vaginally, so that excuse just doesn’t fly anymore.

Yesterday at the doctor’s office, he told me that I needed to start thinking about if I wanted to try for a vaginal delivery, even if it meant I’d then need a c-section to take Baby B out. Since Baby B is head up, he’ll have to get pulled out by his feet, if he can even exit through the front door. We still won’t know what’s possible until we get closer, but for now, my doctor told me to start thinking about if I’d be okay with the possibility of a vaginal delivery of one baby, followed by a c-section for the other.

On the way home, I called my Mom and asked her what her thoughts were. This is a woman who delivered both of her children vaginally, without an epidural. Immediately, she started asking questions: “Well, what is safest for the babies? What is safest for you? Does an epidural mean no pain, or will you still be in pain if he’s reaching up into your uterus to yank the baby out? What will the recovery be like for a vaginal delivery followed by a c-section? Can he tell you if you’ll definitely be able to deliver just Baby A vaginally?” I hate to admit this, but I hadn’t asked ONE of these questions. Not one! Granted, I still have some time (I hope!), and my doctor and I agreed that we would talk about it more in length once we had a better sense for how things were progressing. But, still!

Why didn’t it occur to me to ask any of those questions right then and there? I’m a smart girl and I want what’s best for me and my babies. So what’s going on with me? If I had to guess, I’d have to go with total freakin’ paralyzing fear! Childbirth is scary, it’s daunting, and as much as we like to think that we can plan the whole thing out, at the end of the day, we have very little control over what ultimately happens.

Honestly, in this day and age, I know very few women whose birth scenario went according to plan. I’ve heard of many women whose babies were in distress and had to come out ASAP via c-section. I know many women who went through 30-plus hours of labor, and ultimately had to deliver their child via c-section. A couple of friends tried for a home birth, only to get rushed to the hospitalat the 11th hour (and again, have a c-section). Of the friends who did have a vaginal delivery, all ended up with an epidural, even those who swore they’d go without. Plus, I’ve been told by other twin moms that you have to let go of what your ideal birth scenario might be because twin deliveries are different and complicated and very rarely follow a set plan. From what I hear, it’s hard for a pregnant-with-twins mom to even have a birth plan — I think it may lead to more disappointment than anything else.

That being said, there are some things that I do know: If I am lucky enough to go the vaginal birth route, I want an epidural. I know that I want to try and breastfeed my boys as soon as I can. I want only my husband there (aside from doctors and nurses), but I want him next to me, not checking out the action down below. As for everything else, a lot will just have to be wait-and-see. In the meantime though, I realize that I do need to take my fingers out of my ears, push my fear aside, and ask my doctor all of those important questions that will help me make the best decision on my own labor and delivery. Maybe I can’t be wedded to a plan, but I do need all of the information.

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Three thousand midwives are gathered today in Durban, South Africa.

Think about that! Three thousand midwives, from all over the world, are gathered in one city, determined to bring healthy birth to every corner of the world.

If three thousand midwives can be in Durban, think about how many more midwives there are in the world who stayed home to catch babies. That is the amazing number! So many more than three thousand. Thousands and thousands of women have made it their life’s work to guide babies into this world with love, care, compassion, and deep respect for the rhythms of nature. Midwives are doing this work, yet they remain largely invisible. In some places, they are even still persecuted. I was so happy to give birth to my second child in Ontario, where midwifery is not only legal, but fully supported by the government.

No wonder, then, that the president of the International Confederation of Midwives comes from Canada, eh?

So many modern women in Canada and the United States and Europe think the word “midwife” refers to uneducated women from the 1700s who helped women give birth before modern medicine stepped in. My undergraduates invariably pronounce “midwifery” “MID-WIFE-ERY” when I teach about birth in medical anthropology. They’ve never seen or heard that word before. (They can usually pronounce “obstetrician” just fine!)

I am so grateful that I live in 2011, so that I have access to obstetricians AND midwives. We are SO blessed in our time. And in our place.

The balance between midwifery (the science and art of low-risk pregnancy and birth that requires low-tech watching and waiting, mostly) and obstetrics (the science and art of high-risk pregnancy and birth that requires high-tech interventions) is what makes birth so safe in our modern world. Ironically, the places in the world where there isn’t enough midwifery, like the United States, and the places in the world where there isn’t enough obstetrics, like rural Africa or rural India, suffer from the same problem: bad birth outcomes. Why is that? Well, when we treat a low-risk pregnancy like a high-risk pregnancy we create bad outcomes. And when we treat a high-risk pregnancy like a low-risk pregnancy we create bad outcomes.

Worst of all, of course, is when a pregnant woman has no access to care at all.

We desperately need more midwives in the world! You can follow the International Confederation of Midwives in Africa this week at http://www.internationalmidwives.org.

Here’s a taste from their press release:
Midwives from over 111 countries will gather today at the International Confederation of Midwives Triennial Congress in Durban, South Africa. They will call for governments worldwide to take the necessary steps to end to needless deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth. Congress will start with an inaugural rally and march at 1.30pm on the 18th June, when 1000 Congress delegates and supporters will walk for 5km through the city. This is the first time ICM has held a Congress in Africa. The event and the march represent a show of solidarity with mothers and midwifery colleagues across a continent which has some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world. According to global estimates around 364,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth each year. 99% of these deaths occur in low resource countries.

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Of course I worried that the Internet was overtaking books as the source of pregnancy and labor information… but I found this gem in the Listening to Mothers Survey II that says otherwise. First-time mothers buy childbirth books and read them. Yay!

“Books were the most important source of information about pregnancy and childbirth for first-time mothers, while experienced mothers relied most on their own prior experiences. Far more mothers were exposed to childbirth through TV shows than through childbirth education classes. As they neared the end of pregnancy, most women felt confident and a majority also felt fearful about their upcoming birth.” This is from the landmark study, Listening to Mothers II.

So hopefully this will auger well for my book “Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds” which is out and available now! [See amazon.com, amazon.ca in canada, and nicolasbooks.com for an independent bookseller who is willing to give 15% off to birth professionals.]


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I am putting together some information on becoming a doula here. Perhaps you love the idea of supporting women in birth or perhaps a sister or friend or cousin is pregnant and wants you to come with her when she gives birth to her baby.

There are many ways to become a doula and you do NOT NEED to be certified in order to help a woman in labor. As my mentor in Russia said, “Being with women in birth is as old as humanity. No one needed to be certified to do this for hundreds of thousands of years!” That said, in our technological and accreditation-hungry age, many novice doulas feel better prepared if they have taken a training workshop before attending a birth. There are several large organizations which specialize in training doulas and childbirth educators. Each one has its own set of rules and its own philosophies of birth. You can learn more at their websites. The two biggest organizations are DONA and CAPPA, but that does not mean they are the best. Many of the smaller programs are wonderful, too.

Here are some resources if you are thinking of traveling this path.

For DONA International birth doula training workshops this summer, check out this web page with 69 offerings across the United States. You can also search in Canada or other locations at DONA’s website: http://www.dona.org/workshops/workshop_results.php?doulas=birth&region=Show+All+in+US&start_month=06&start_day=07&start_year=2011&end_month=09&end_day=01&end_year=2011&sort=City&x=17&y=8&workshop_type=1

Birth Doula Skills Workshop, June 21-24, 2011 ABOUT BASTYR UNIVERSITY Bastyr University, located north of Seattle, Washington, is an accredited institution, internationally recognized as a pioneer in natural medicine. visit http://www.bastyr.edu or http://www.bastyrcenter.org.

CAPPA labor doula training workshops across North America: http://www.icappa.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=8

Birth Arts International workshops (and distance learning options):  http://www.birtharts.com/classdates.htm#june

I wish you well on this path to helping women in birth!

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