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I recently welcomed my fourth child into the world

I am absolutely ecstatic to announce that I had my fourth kid, and 2nd daughter in January 2015. She was welcomed into the world by her older brothers and sister with so much love.

Of course as a doula and prenatal teacher, I was very interested in putting all the skills I teach in my classes to good use in my own labour.

First of all, right from the beginning of my pregnancy, I wanted to choose the best health care provider that would be a good fit with my birth preferences. This is one of the most important things I tell my clients that will affect the kind of birth you have. Don’t just choose any random maternity care provider. Find the ones who best fit with the kind of person you are, and the kind of birth you want.

Secondly, birth can be unpredictable, so when things don’t follow the textbook version of labour, you have to make informed decisions regarding what to do. There are ALWAYS options. When my water broke and my labour didn’t start for over 24 hours, it was stressful because, of course, as a mom, you naturally worry. But I kept reviewing my options and the potential risks of all the options available and kept discussing things with my midwives. Just to be clear, I felt totally fine with having any medical intervention that was clearly necessary and helpful, but I also know when interventions are not entirely necessary. There are always risks to both sides – having a medical intervention or declining it. In my situation I had the options of going to the hospital to start an induction, using non-medical ways of starting labour (herbs/ acupuncture etc which can be highly effective), or simply waiting it out. That’s another reason moms love having a doula with them in pregnancy and labour – if unexpected situations arrive, the doula can often talk moms through the decision making process, empowering them with a range of information on options so that moms can make an informed choice and feel good about it.

I knew the risks and possible outcomes of all scenarios and decided to take various herbs to get labour started. I also know that emotions and ’emotional blockages’ can have a huge impact on labour. So with the help of my doula friend, I worked through any deep seated emotions I was having that could have been blocking my labour from starting. That was EXTREMELY helpful because after I realized a huge emotional block I was holding, and then let it go, my labour started soon after.

Thirdly, of course, is all the pain coping strategies I teach. Once labour started, the first half was the easy part. The key for that is to keep focussing on staying completely relaxed. Holding on to any tension or resistance will cause pain. I was able to feel no pain at all for the first half of the labour by breathing out all the pressure waves and making a low toning sound. You can try it now, just let yourself sigh with a deep sound. You naturally let all your tension go and you feel more grounded. Remember fear in labour = adrenaline = pain = more fear = more pain. You have to keep the adrenaline out of the equation in labour and keep deep breathing away any tension or pressure you feel building up. Pay attention to your body.

homebirth labouring mom As contractions intensified, I moved around, feeling for whatever positions felt more comfortable. Sitting, squating, standing, lunging, leaning forward on furniture, sitting backwards on the couch, swaying my hips etc. I was chatting with my doula, friend, mom, and midwives in between contractions. Eventually, I felt like leaving the living room and going up to my bedroom. In labour, women naturally experience a going within. They feel like they are going deeper and deeper inside themselves as labour progresses. A woman starts using more of her primitive, instinctual brain and less of the cerebral cortex. It is the instinctual part of the brain which controls the natural process of labour. Labour flows more smoothly when a woman is undisturbed so she can smoothly go deep within herself. Any distractions that pull a woman out of this state of mind will slow down the labour and also create unnecessary pain sensations. Bright lights, too much talking, asking questions, talking about time (which is a cerebral concept), telling a woman what to do so she can’t listen to her own body’s instincts, disturbances like frequent blood pressure checks, vaginal exams etc. will all take a woman away from her “labour land” state of mind. And to the labouring woman, this feels quite irritating.

I told my midwives that I wanted a very hands off approach to my birth. I didn’t want any unnecessary disturbances such as internal dilation checks or them telling me what to do. But having them there in the background helped me feel safe in the rare situation where medical help might be needed. It is important for birthing moms to feel safe and supported. That will lead to a smooth labour process. Anything that makes them feel worry, fear or anxiety will cause a slowing down of the labour process, or even complications.

homebirth labouring momOnce I got to my bedroom, the lights were off with just a dim light on in the bathroom. My older daughter had woken up by this point and she lit some candles to add to the mood of the room. My mom made sure the music playlist I had put together for the birth was still playing. I had complied a series of songs that I found both inspiring and relaxing. I love music and I find it helps me set the tone for focusing on feeling good. In labour, you want to take your attention off the pain sensations and replace them with anything that makes you feel good. My doula was massaging my sacrum while holding a hot pack on my lower back. My husband rubbed my back and shoulders. That all felt really good. By this point, I was not feeling zero pain, like in the earlier part of the labour, but all these things helped take the edge off the intensity of contractions so they were completely manageable.

People often tell me that I’m brave to have a homebirth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, in terms of pain management, homebirth is often easier to manage because I feel more comfortable at home and there are so much fewer disturbances to my instinctual state of being. In terms of safety, solid evidence shows that homebirth is as safe, if not safer, than hospital birth, as long as it’s a healthy pregnancy, there are trained care providers in attendance, and a hospital is less than an hour’s drive away if there is a need to transfer. Here in the lower mainland, BC, Canada, we are so lucky to have a fantastic midwifery system that functions relatively smoothly at home or hospital. If you feel more comfortable having a homebirth, definitely go for it, or at least look into it. If you feel safer and more comfortable in a hospital, then hospital is the place for you. Birthing moms should be in the place that is more conducive to them feeling safe and supported. You have to know yourself, and know what you prefer. It doesn’t matter what anybody else does. It only matters what kind of experience you want and how you’re going to get it.

waterbirth home birthEventually, my contractions got pretty strong and I wondered if getting in the bathtub with warm water would help. I wasn’t particularly planning a waterbirth, but I always keep my options open. The warm water does take the edge of, but of course, labour is still a pretty intense and powerful process. At one point I joked with my midwife, “So you brought an epidural with you, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, it’s just in my back pocket,” she smiled.

“Oh good. I wouldn’t want to be crazy enough to have a natural birth.” ūüôā

(Just in case you didn’t know, you can’t have an epidural or any other drugs at a homebirth because of the risk those things entail.)

I remember, through one contraction I just swore the whole way. Then for the next one I struggled to remember what the purpose of all the pain was. Oh yeah, to open the cervix and let the baby out. So I started chanting “Open, open…” through the whole contraction, while visualizing my cervix opening fully, quickly and easily. Soon after that I started to feel worried. I had the presence of mind to remind myself that this was a normal emotion during transition (the last bit of the dilation phase before the pushing phase). I was worried that this would go on forever and the baby would never come out. It’s common to have this rush of irrational feelings in transition, and a doula often reassures a labouring mom that this is a natural part of the process and it’s good sign that means things are progressing. It is important for the mom to go back to her state of feeling safe and relaxed instead of letting the worry and the adrenaline intensify. Again, smooth, fast and instinctual pushing phase vs. prolonged and worried pushing.

homebirth, waterbirthI soon began to feel “pushy”, meaning I felt like pushing a little at the peak of each contraction. I let the midwives know so they could get ready and everyone else too. My younger two kids were woken up so they could be present for the birth. I tried different positions in the tub – on my back, side, hands and knees, until I found the most comfortable position for myself, which just happened to be squatting facing the width of the tub instead of lengthwise so my feet could push against the side while my back rested on the other side.

Pushing contractions feel different than dilation contractions because you’re not just trying to relax through each one. You’re actually actively pushing with each one. And in a drug free birth, you can feel the powerful force of your body pushing instinctively. It’s not something you can stop. It’s like one mom said, it feels like you’re body is just vomiting the baby out. It’s so strong and so involuntary. In a drug free birth, no one has to tell the mom how to push. Her body just does it. Pushing feels way more fun than the dilation phase before it. I felt very powerful.

Once the baby’s head was low enough in my pelvis, I could feel it. It was definitely a strange sensation and I exclaimed to all the 10 people who, by now had piled into my bathroom, “It feels like a bowling ball.” I put my finger in and felt the top of the baby’s head less than an inch away. A couple more pushes later and I could feel her head crowning. This feels like a burning sensation as the perineum stretches around the baby’s head. I expected this part to take a while, as it can take several pushes to slowly push the head out. But my body just kept going and in one push she went from completely inside to completely out. I had planned to catch her myself if possible, but she came so fast. No one was quite ready for that. Luckily my husband was speedy quick in catching her and lifting her out of the water and onto my tummy. She was happy and content sitting on my tummy, looking around.

homebirth, waterbirthWe hadn’t found out the gender, so it was very exciting to look down and see it was a girl. My daughter finally got the sister she had been hoping for for so long. Here’s the picture that captures the sheer intensity of emotions of that moment right after birth – relief that it’s over, exuberance over the new person you are meeting, and for me the shock of how fast she came out and surprise that I got the girl I wanted.

It was a lovely family experience to have all my kids there, my mom, sister-in-law and friend. My husband caught the baby, my daughter took the photos, my older son cut the cord and my younger son helped the midwife weigh the baby. My kids will all grow up knowing that birth is just a normal, natural and safe part of life. Not something to fear. By the way, I wanted to wait till after the placenta was out to cut the cord, or at least until the blood in the placenta had finished pumping to the baby, instead of cutting the cord immediately. This is so that she can get her full blood volume and have a gentle transition to life on the outside.

Once I got out of the tub and walked back to my bed, I birthed the placenta and breastfed my baby before letting everyone else have her for some cuddles. My mom made me a nutritious, yummy smoothie with a tiny piece of placenta blended in. Having a bit of placenta reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

It was a lovely morning. I stayed in bed all day snuggling my new sweetheart. And the other kids were just over the moon excited with their tiny sister. Plus they got to take a day off school. ūüôā

newborn baby holding mom's finger

 

 

 


 

What the heck is Birth Trauma?!

Birth Trauma

Birth Trauma is a topic that has been weighing on my mind quite heavily the last couple of days. There have been ongoing protests outside BC Women’s Hospital in the last few months, and more are planned for different locations and hospitals around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. The protests certainly caught my attention with this video on you tube Birth Rally at BC Women’s Hospital.

 

 

I know Birth Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of a birth experience exists, but this was the first time I was seeing people openly speaking out with terms like “Obstetric Violence” and actually naming the doctors who imposed unnecessary medical procedures on women without their consent. Seeing the signs just gives a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg. It’s hard to understand exactly what they mean until you take a closer look at what happened, why and how it causes the actual experience of Trauma. Then after that, the important question of, “What do you want to do about it?” needs to be asked.

One of the organisers of the events, Kalina Christoff, has also provided a detailed explanation of what exactly happened that caused her distress, what she did after to start a dialogue with hospital staff, and why she eventually felt like holding rallies was the only way left to create change for other women. You can read her story here : Vancouver Birth Tauma.

 

Untangling the mess

The term ‘Birth Trauma’ can refer to two things – physical damage to babies during birth; and the psychological damage to mothers during birth. Of course, there is also psychological damage to babies that can happen during birth but since that is harder to study, research in the area is relatively new and scarce. The content of this article will be about birth trauma to mothers. (I believe that mother-baby are not separate and what causes stress and harm to mothers, causes that to babies as well. And when mothers are treated well, babies are treated well. You can’t stress the mom out and say you’re doing it to take care of the baby. The mom’s stress will stress the baby out too.)

The general public has a perception of what Birth Trauma means. They usually assume birth is pretty painful and can be so unbearable that it can be traumatizing. So an epidural seems like a pretty good solution. Or they may think that women may feel traumatized only when their babies are injured or die during the birth process. While these events may happen, there is a much more multi-layered dynamic.

First of all it helps to understand the process of Labour and Birth as made up of two distinct processes

1. The natural course of events that would take place if there was no human intervention, and

2. The human intervention that takes place, usually in the form of medical procedures, some minor and some major, both of which can alter the course of the natural process itself.

 

What Causes Trauma?

While the natural process may be painful and difficult, that in itself does not cause the experience of trauma unless there is some cause for strong anxiety or fear. The more common cause for feeling traumatised is feeling the loss of power over your own body and situation when people do things to it that are outside your control. That is the cause of all trauma – Feeling Powerless over your own situation.

In other areas of life, you can see how certain types of situations can cause people to feel traumatised. Eg. Bullying, for example, where the victim feels like they have no power to prevent the bullying, War is another situation where people can feel traumatised, both the civilians who have no control over the events in their lives, and the soldiers who have to obey orders and do things that may not necessarily choose themselves.

 

So how can trauma happen in a birth situation?

Firstly, during labour and birth, the moms are in a vulnerable state. They are dependent on the care providers for helping them and their babies safely through the process to varying degrees. They also have some level of trust that their care providers will take care of them appropriately. Physically, they are vulnerable because they are in pain, half-dressed and may be exhausted and not thinking straight.

While most of the time, care providers are motivated by moms and babies best well-being, the fact is that they are also human. Just because we, as a society are trained to believe that we should always trust doctors, doesn’t mean that every doctor will never abuse his/her power. They are human. It would be ridiculous to think that everything a doctor does is always for the safety of moms and babies in birth. It’s not unreasonable to realise that there are other factors that effect decisions doctors, nurses and midwives make in labour. For example, scheduling, time, other patients, being tired, not wanting to do extra work, differing payment amounts for various procedures, peer pressure, lacking in experience or knowledge about certain situations, and as Kalina experienced, needing to train student doctors, nurses and midwives.

This leads to a heck of a lot of medical procedures done that kinda, maybe needed to be done, but probably not. Things are done to speed things up, make extra money, train students, get it over with so they can go home, go to sleep or go on to the next patient. The thing is, nobody is going to come right out and say that. They say things like, “The baby could be in danger,” “The baby’s heart rate is not looking good,” “It’s best for you and your baby,” and so on. Most mothers and fathers would not have the background knowledge to know the difference between a real problem, and a fudged one. They might happily agree to any procedure thinking it was saving their baby’s life. That probably won’t lead to feeling traumatised unless the procedure directly or indirectly causes some unexpected damage or pain, and the mom realises later on that the procedure may not have been necessary.

Many times, the risks to procedures are not explained before they are done. This can eventually lead to women feeling like they have no control over their situation because they don’t know what could happen or what they are agreeing to. Agreeing to a membrane sweep, induction, forceps, c-section and many other things has unwanted risks, but women are not told about them before they are agree to it. Worse still, it is common for membrane sweeps to be done by some doctors at 38 or 39 weeks without even informing or asking the woman’s permission. Forceps of vacuum can be great if the baby’s life is clearly truly in danger, but in those iffy cases where maybe, sorta the baby may be starting to show signs of distress, are the risks of forceps greater than the risk of waiting and trying other methods? Forceps can hurt the baby as well as cause permanent damage to the moms pelvic floor resulting in incontinence. If the mom is saying no, and the doctor does it anyway, can you start to see why some women say the way they were treated in labour was a violation just like rape?

 

birth trauma

 

That’s what causes the feeling of trauma and powerlessness. That’s what causes post-traumatic stress disorder after birth and ¬†some cases of post-partum depression. It is estimated that 4% of women have post-traumatic stress disorder after birth. But birth is a funny thing in human experience –

1. It is one of the few things that only women do. Probably if men did it too, it would be handled a totally different way.

2. It is a private event behind closed doors so the birth is not in public awareness.

3. You may learn how to fix basic things in your car, how to do your own accounting, how buildings are made even though you are not a mechanic, accountant or engineer. But, even though every single person on earth is born, shockingly very few people learn any basic knowledge about birth. Most of what they know is from the media, which is saturated in complete misinformation. Because of this fact, the decision making power over decisions about your own body and baby in birth is often handed over to health care professionals. This is a huge amount of power.

4. Unlike war, which is associated with death, birth is associated with being a happy time with a new baby. It is extremely confusing for both moms and other people when the joy and love is totally mixed up with trauma and horror over the way they were treated.

So because birth is quite different than most things in human experience, the general public cannot even comprehend why some moms could have birth trauma. This is quite clear when you start to mention Homebirth. The most common response is, “Why would anyone want to give birth at home?” “To avoid the risk of having my decision making power over my own body and baby completely violated, duh! What else, would it be?”¬†

I have seen births with complications where the medical staff was awesome, focused and committed to honoring the mother’s wishes within the realm of safety. For example, there was a baby who was having a little trouble breathing and they figured it would be better to take her to the nursery. It was important to the mom to have a few precious moments to see and touch her daughter before she was taken away. The hospital staff totally respected the mom’s request and understood how important it was. They took a lot of care to explain and comfort the parents about everything that was happening with their baby in the nursery so that the parents would not be overcome with worry. It was very touching.

In other situations, however, I have seen medical staff get annoyed with moms’ reasonable requests and feel that they are unimportant. The attitude is that it doesn’t matter how moms feel. They should just be grateful to have a live baby.

The thing is this, there was a study done which showed women’s experience of birth was influenced most by the way they were treated by the people around them, not so much the length of labour, the amount of pain or even the outcome of the birth. Women can have extremely long, painful labours, and feel really good about them if their care providers and support people treated them with respect and dignity. Women can go through miscarriage and stillbirth, and even though that may be very upsetting, can feel soothed by care providers who treat them in a caring way and involve parents in making decisions. Women may have a short, straightforward labour and a healthy baby but feel terribly about their birth experience if care providers were brusque, demeaning or disrespectful to the moms.

As I am writing this, an article is published int he New England Journal of Medicine.¬†Court-Ordered Care – A Complication of Pregnancy to Avoid.¬†It highlights cases where mothers are forced by courts and doctors to undergo medical procedures supposedly for the health of their fetus. Now for the people who can’t see the stupidity and violation of that, I don’t know what else to say. But I know one thing, there is no one in the world who cares more about the safety of her baby than the mother herself. Mothers are not stupid. They are completely able to make decisions about what’s best for their babies and would do whatever they felt was necessary. The doctor doesn’t always know what’s best.

 

If you or someone you know feels like they have birth trauma, please read Kalina’s page¬†Recovery from Birth Tauma.¬†If you would like to talk to someone, you can call me at 604 809 3288, or email kaurina @ prenataljourney.ca.¬†

 

Kaurina Danu is a Birth Doula and Prenatal Class teacher is the Surrey / Langley area. She works to empower mothers who want to make informed decisions about their pregnancies, births and parenthood.

 

 

How to know when Vaginal Exams in Pregnancy and Labour are useful and when they are harmful?

Vaginal Exams ¬†are commonly done in labour by nurses, doctors and midwives to find out how dilated the labouring mom’s cervix is. Other terms that refer to the same procedure are¬†VE’s,¬†Internal Exams or¬†Pelvic Exams.¬†It is basically putting two fingers in the vagina all the way up to the cervix to feel :

1. How DILATED (open) the cervix is

2. How soft and short the cervix is (EFFACED)

3. Which direction the cervix is facing – POSTERIOR (to the back) or ANTERIOR (to the front, when labour progresses)

4. Where the baby’s head is in relation tot he pelvic bones (STATION)

5. And what position the baby’s head is facing.

While this can be a very useful procedure to find out very useful information, women also need to understand the full picture.

First of all, the damn thing hurts. It ranges from slightly uncomfortable to downright excruciating. Now remember, in nature female animals and humans don’t regularly go around sticking things up their cervix to cause even more pain and irritation when doing one of the most difficult and intense jobs in their lives – giving birth.

Secondly, it is not an exact science. It is not as if they are putting a ruler in down there. They’re just feeling around and making an estimate with their fingers and their experience.

Thirdly, having too many done can introduce germs and cause an infection, especially if several are done after the water has broken. In general, VE’s should be kept to a minimum and used wisely, but after the water has broken, this guideline should be followed even more strictly. I have seen some births where The rupture of membranes happened days before birth (called premature rupture of membranes), but there was no infection because they were extremely careful to avoid internal exams and instead assess progress by external signs. And I have seen births where the rupture of membranes happened normally at the start of labour * but an unnecessary number of pelvic exams were done, only to cause infections in the mom so that they had to have cesareans.

* Note¬†: Most labours start with contractions and the water breaks towards the end of labour (around transition which is between 8 – 10cm dilation). Only 20% of labour start with the water breaking and then contractions follow soon after. If contractions don’t start within 12 hours of the water breaking, it is called Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM).¬†

Be wary of having students nurses, doctors or midwives at your labour. They need to learn how to do VE’s effectively, so they do one, then the mentor does one to make sure they’re estimate is right. Then when there is a shift change, the new person might want to do another one. All of this is unnecessary and simply risky once the water has broken.

Some caregivers do internal exams towards the end of pregnancy because they want to guestimate how soon you’re labour will start. Some caregivers don’t do any internals before labour because they¬†don’t see any point in it. They figure labour will start when it starts. There are some changes that take place before labour. The thing is, there is no way of knowing when labour will start because the changes can take place, but then no action may happen for weeks, or no changes may happen and then in a very short time, everything can happen and labour can be quick.

About.com provides a brilliant article in their Pregnancy and Childbirth called The Myth of Vaginal Exams. 

Labor is not simply about a cervix that has¬†dilated, softened or anything else. A woman can be very dilated and¬†not¬†have her baby before herdue date¬†or even near her¬†due date. I’ve personally had women who were 6 centimeters dilated for weeks. Then there is the sad woman who calls me to say that her cervix is high and tight, she’s been told that this baby isn’t coming for awhile, only to be at her side as she gives birth within 24 hours. Vaginal exams are just not good predictors of when labor will start.

Some practitioners routinely do what is called stripping the membranes, which simply separates the bag of waters from the cervix. The thought behind this is that it will stimulate the production of prostaglandins to help labor begin and irritate the cervix causing it to contract. This has not been shown to be effective for everyone and does have the aforementioned risks.

So another reason some caregivers do weekly pelvic exams from about 37 weeks onwards is, if the cervix is slightly dilated enough to fit a finger in, they might try separating the amniotic sac from the uterus to try to hasten the start of labour. Some caregivers ask for permission before doing this, but some don’t even inform the women about what they are doing. So if you do not want his done, make sure you discuss it before allowing a pelvic exam in pregnancy. A lot of women get fed up with being pregnant and want this procedure done in hopes of speeding up the start of labour. But not all women want to do that. Know what you want and let your caregiver know what you want.

Fourthly, the results of a VE can be very discouraging if they aren’t what you expect. A woman who is in intense labour with contractions coming one on top of the other may be feeling that she’s in transition, yet have a VE say she’s only 6cm. This can be discouraging. The thing is, she may actually progress very quickly to 10. Where you are now has no relationship whatsoever with how fast you are going.

The fifth thing to consider will¬†help you determine when a pelvic exam might be useful and when it might be useless or harmful –¬†Will the information from the exam help us make a decision about the course of action ?

A lot of vaginal exams are done just for the heck of it to “assess progress”. Most of the time this is unnecessary and leads to unnecessary cesareans. Sometimes there may be no dilation for hours. There can be several reasons for this :

  • The baby might be rotating into a better position to fit through the pelvis. To understand how the baby’s rotation can help it fit, watch my video at¬†Understanding Optimal Fetal Positioning.
  • The mom might be feeling anxious or stressed, which can inhibit labour from progressing. To understand how emotions can effect labour,¬†Read my article.
  • Or there may be a genuine problem that cannot be solved except with medical intervention.
So the question to ask your caregiver if they are suggesting an exam that you are unsure about is, “What will you find out from the exam and what might you do based on what you find out?”

Usually two basic VE’s are done in labour, although sometimes even these are not necessary. One is when you get to the hospital, or if you are having a homebirth, when the midwife gets to your house. They usually do a VE to check if you are in active labour (4cm or more). Before active labour, the hospital will send you home, and the midwife will go home. Early labour can take hours and there is no point of being in the hospital before then unless there is some medical problem. If you are past 4cm, they will get you a room in the hospital, or the homebirth midwife might call the second midwife to get ready to come.

The second VE may be done when you feel an overwhelming urge to push. They may want to make sure there is no cervical lip left before you start pushing. In both these cases, action will be taken based on the results of the VE.

Other times that a VE may be useful are when a mom is really asking for medical pain relief. The amount of dilation will determine what kind of pain relief (epidural or morphine) may be appropriate or whether labour is close to the end and maybe no pain relief is necessary.

The thing is, some VE’s are done just for the sake of charting purposes. There is a ridiculous theory that dilation ought to be at least one cm every 2 hours. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that different people do things at different rates and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

The important thing is to limit the number of VE’s done by figuring out if the information they provide will help you and your caregiver make decisions about what to do next. Don’t take the results of VE’s to seriously. Don’t get discouraged if it’s not what you expect. (I know that’s easier said than done.) And try to have only one person do the VE’s in labour instead of different people and different opinions.

 

To find out more about prenatal education, natural birth information or doula support in labour in Surrey or Langley BC email kaurina @ prenataljourney.ca or call 604 809 3288.

 

Don’t fall into the trap of “The Big Baby Fear”!

When I had my second kid, who was 9 pounds at birth, I thought that was pretty big. In fact, most of the doctors and nurses at the hospital were also surprised at his size. But then I started meeting tons of women who said to me, “9 pounds! That’s nothing my baby was 10 and a half.” One woman even said, “I had my 11 pound baby naturally no problem.” My midwife told me about a 5 foot woman she had as a client who had a 12 pound baby at home with no tears on her perineum.” Recently I read about the woman who gave birth naturally to a 13 pound baby. I started to think that 9 pounds wasn’t so big after all.

After talking to hundreds of pregnant women, however, I can safely say that most expecting moms, and their doctors have a paranoid fear of “The Big Baby. They are afraid the baby will be too big to come out get stuck. ¬†I’ve even heard some women and one doctor say that they are afraid a large baby will make contractions more painful. This makes no logical sense whatsoever. But what about the worry that the baby might be too large to fit through the pelvis?¬†Is this fear justified? It may be, in certain situations, but I would like to point out how there are other factors that are even more important than simply the baby’s size. In this video I explain how the baby’s position, or the way it is facing is more important than it’s size.

The position the baby is in is greatly influenced by the position the mom is in during labour. So moms can help baby to get into a good position by being upright, forward leaning or lying on their left, instead of lying back. This can be a challenge if mom has an epidural or morphine. This is why avoiding epidurals or narcotic analgesia as much as possible during labour, can help speed up labour and avoid cesareans.

Some other factors that affect the baby’s ability to easily fit through the pelvis have to do with the pelvis itself. If a mom has a big pelvis, there may be no problem. If she doesn’t have a large pelvis, or if the baby is not in an optimal position, then again, mom can get into upright positions that open the pelvis more to expand the pelvic outlet and help baby pass through.

You know how you start to feel your joints getting looser and falling apart in pregnancy? That’s due to the hormone relaxin. Relaxin softens the ligaments holding joints together, so that the pelvis can move and expand a little bit during labour. For example, squatting can expand the pelvic outlet by 33%. So squatting or other pelvic opening positions can be excellent in labour of baby is coming very slowly. Please not that if things are going really fast, do not¬†get into a squatting position, cos then things are going to go too fast.

Hope this information help! If you would like to get more useful info or to take prenatal classes in Surrey, Langley or the Lower Mainland, email info@prenataljourney.ca or call 604 809 3288.

 

 

How Emotions Affect Labor and Birth – Part 1

We all know things like poor nutrition, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol and drugs can have negative effects on the course of pregnancy and the chances of having complications in labor and birth. We’ve also been told that we should try to reduce stress levels when we’re pregnant because stress can have a negative impact on the health of the pregnancy. But just how important is your emotional health to the health of your baby? And do emotions play a significant role in whether you have a smooth or complicated birth?

This is a relatively new field of study, but it is increasingly becoming evident that health in general, and in particular, health in pregnancy, birth and post-partum is not only influenced by physical factors, but by emotional factors as well. This is an important new perspective because it means that when we’re experiencing upsetting situations, it may be detrimental to our health to just “sweep it under the carpet”. Learning how to process emotions, resolve negative issues and promote positive emotions may be as important as eating well, exercising and avoiding smoking or alcohol.

How do Emotions Affect Labor and Birth? Many professionals in the field of birth, such as French Obstetrician, Michel Odent, have observed that when laboring women feel safe, supported, and respected, they tend to experience less pain, have less complications in labor, bond more easily with their infants, have fewer problems breastfeeding, and feel more positively about themselves as mothers. Laboring women who feel anxious, stressed, unsafe or unsupported tend to experience more pain, have more problems with their labors, take longer to bond, have more difficulty breastfeeding and have less confidence in their mothering.

Yup, you heard me right. Negative emotions can cause labor pain to feel wwwwaaaaaayyyyyyyy worse!

Negative emotions can cause complications in labor. What?! Are you kidding?!

Think about it. When we’re afraid, in danger or stressed, we produce Adrenalin, the fight or flight hormone. Adrenalin inhibits or slows down body functions that are not critical for immediate survival, fighting, or running away. When mammals are in labor and a predator is in the area, the mammal mom produces adrenalin which inhibits labor. This is helpful because 1. She can run away to a safer place, and 2. She wouldn’t want to have her baby near a predator who might then eat her baby.

Fear, or similar emotions, produce adrenalin. Adrenalin can slow down labor. So fear, anxiety or feeling unsafe can slow down or stop labor. You’ve probably heard of many women who had cesareans because they’re labors “weren’t progressing”. We don’t know if one of the causes could have been anxiety. More research into this needs to be done.

A recent study, featured in the Globe and Mail, shows that women who fear childbirth are more likely to have a cesarean.¬†Click here if you want to read the article. What the article doesn’t explain is how to resolve those fears prior to birth.

Some useful questions to ask are, what causes fear and anxiety in labor (I’m sure you have a whole list in mind), and HOW do we resolve those negative emotions and promote positive ones? You can start your list about that too. We’ll talk about that in my next post¬†How Emotions Affect Labor and Birth –¬†Part 2.

Speaking of positive emotions, the flip side of this anxiety-adrenalin discussion is the love-oxytocin discussion. Interestingly, oxytocin, the hormone that starts and controls contractions in labor, is called the love hormone because it is also produced when breastfeeding, bonding with infants, falling in love, making love, getting a massage, thinking about something you love, talking to your best friend and who knows what other things.

Loving feelings, relaxation, relationship bonding promote the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is necessary for effective contractions. Therefore it makes sense, and often is the case in practice, that women who feel loved, safe and supported have smoother labors. Obviously, women find it helpful to have their partners with them in the delivery room, assuming their partners are loving and relatively calm. That may also be one of the reasons that doulas are so effective at reducing the need for interventions in labor. Doulas provide continuous support throughout labor and are focused on mom’s emotional needs so she can resolve her anxiety and enhance her feelings of support.

So if you are pregnant, use this article as an excuse to do whatever it takes to feel good ūüôā And if you are upset or anxious about something, don’t sit with that for too long. Do whatever you do to feel better. Talk to your caregiver, talk to a friend, have a bubble bath, get a massage, go for a walk or talk to your doula.

Leave your thoughts in the comments box below, or contact me at 604 809 3288 or info@prenataljourney.ca

© copyright 2011 Kaurina Danu The Prenatal Journey

Review of One World Birth videos

September 1st was the launch of the new internet video channel One World Birth. I decided to take a look at some of the videos.

The videos are all short clips of interviews with various experts from Europe and America discussing their views on topics around birth.  There are some well known natural birth names РIna May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Sarah Buckley, Sheila Kitzinger and so on. It brings to awareness the polarity that sometimes exists between people who want to promote natural birth as much as possible, and people who want to promote medical intervention in birth as much as possible.

I would like to think that moms who really need medical intervention can get it, and moms who don’t really need it aren’t pressured into having it, whether cesarean, induction, pain meds, fetal monitoring, IV, episiotomy etc. But often the definition of “really needing medical intervention” is the area of debate. There are some situations in birth, although rare, where doctors or midwives all agree are serious problems which require medical intervention. There are some situations where all doctors and midwives agree no medical intervention at all. But the majority of situations in birth fall into the grey area. Different caregivers disagree on the course of action.

The videos on One World Birth begin to bring to light some of the problems in maternity care and the solutions. The Revolution in Birth is one particularly interesting video. I love what they say about how improving maternity and the way mothers and babies are cared for during this important transition in life, will improve society as a whole.

“The topic of birth should not just be a topic for doctors, midwives or pregnant women. It should be a topic for all those interested in the future of humanity.” ¬†– Michel Odent, MD

“Natural birth has become an endangered species. And we need to save it because the future physical, emotional, mental health and well-being of our culture depends on it.” ¬†– Sarah Buckley, GP

I also quite liked the section “60 Sec Experts” where 3 doulas only have 60 seconds to answer common questions about childbirth –

How painful is childbirth?

How to relax during birth?

How do I know if breastfeeding is working properly?

Is a doula a midwife?

What’s the difference between braxton hicks and contractions?

Is it better to tear or be cut?

 

I’m looking forward to more videos on One World Birth. It will be interesting to see the development of the topics as the film makers travel around the world.

 

 

© copyright 2011 Kaurina Danu The Prenatal Journey