Tag Archive | natural birth

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

 

 

 


 

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.

 

What Exactly Is “NATURAL BIRTH”?

Every expecting parent at some point has some discussion about NATURAL BIRTH. But talking to sample of people quickly reveals that different people have different ideas about what the heck natural birth even is. On the surface, it would seem like not a complicated concept, but in reality the different definitions of natural birth can cause some confusion.

Some people define it as not having pain meds, some people define it as not having any major interventions eg. induction, forceps, meds. Some people define it as any non-cesarean birth. And some feel it is when women birth in a way that is listens to their own natural instincts ie. laboring and birthing in whatever position they feel like, having no interventions, staying home if that makes them feel safe etc.

There are different kinds of people, so there are different kinds of ideas of “natural”. It all depends on the mom’s lifestyle in general, how natural she wants to be. I don’t think there can be one definition.

The problem I see is that in situations where women are restricted to semi-reclining in bed, with a fetal monitor on, maybe induced, having their ‘progress’ continually monitored, being told about all the things that could possibly go wrong etc, that creates extremely uncomfortable and PAINFUL laboring conditions. If those women define that as “natural” and then go on to say, “It was hell! Just get the epidural!” it portrays a pretty inaccurate picture of natural birth.

If we truly take a look at birth in nature, like in other mammals, tribal societies or any one who gives birth listening to their instincts, we find that not a single mother labors or births lying back. It is simply the most painful position to be in, as well as the most likely position for baby to get stuck. Not a single mother goes to a place to give birth that makes her fearful or anxious, or is full of strangers.

So the thing is, because medical practices in birth in the last 100 years have shaped our cultural perception of birth, we now have a very skewed idea of what natural means.

What does NATURAL BIRTH mean to you? Is your preference of the kind of birth you want influenced by your image of what natural birth is? What kinds of stories have you heard about natural birth and other people’s experiences? Were they, “Natural birth was the best experience of my life!” or, “Natural birth was the worst experience of my life!” Do other people’s stories influence the way you expect your birth experience to be?

“Laborland” and the art of letting go of resistance to contractions

“Laborland” is a place doulas, midwives and mothers talk about when they refer to the mental and emotional state of labor. It is a state unlike anything in normal, everyday life. It was the journey to this state of mind that I found so fascinating when reflecting on the birth of my children.

It felt like a journey to a place deep inside myself. That was one of the reasons for the name “The Prenatal Journey”. It seemed that labor felt very irritating when people were disturbing me, talking to me, taking blood pressure and so on. When I closed myself off from everyone and went inside myself, I found the stillness in the eye of the storm. I didn’t feel much “pain” anymore. The further into labor I went, the deeper into the state I was.

I was inspired to write this post after reading an article by Nancy Salgueiro called Getting To Labor Land.

“In labor the mother needs to be in control of what is happening around her, who is there and what they are doing.¬† This needs to be dictated before she goes into labor and she needs to know that she can trust her desires are going to be respected so that she can completely let go of that control while in labor.

If she feels safe and knows the people around her will honor her requests and desires she will be able to let go of those things outside herself.

She needs to be able to completely surrender to her body and the sensations without conscious thinking.¬† This is how she will be able to go to what is called ‚Äúlabor land‚ÄĚ.

Labor land is like a deep meditative state. It is like an out of body experience except that it occurs so internally, totally within your body and in the meditative part of your mind.  Being in this state allows the mom to get into the rhythm of her contractions and to develop a routine of what works for her to stay on top of the intensity of her labor.

It is important that no one tries to talk to her or pull her into her conscious mind when she is in labor land.¬† This can take her out of her zone and make it more difficult for her to deal with the sensations she is experiencing.”

To read the rest of the article go to Getting to Labor Land.

I noticed that when I was in laborland, my sense perception was different. I couldn’t actually hear or see very well. If someone was more than a meter away talking to me, I couldn’t quite focus on what they were saying. I also couldn’t hear most of the music or see the candles by the time I got to active labor. That’s why the doula who was so fantastic at my birth spoke to me right next to my ear. I could focus on that.

Another thing I noticed was that I had a heightened perception of other people’s emotions. Even though I couldn’t see or hear them clearly, I could sense what people in the room were feeling even if they were far away. It was helpful when they were feeling caring, supportive and believing in my ability. But when they were worried on my behalf or focused on mundane discussions with other people, it shook my confidence and focus.

The reason for this shift in mental/emotional states

There is a reason for this shift in awareness. Birth, like other instinctive functions, is programmed into the lower mammalian brain. There are different parts of the human brain, some of which we share with other animals. The highly developed neo-cortex is where all the conscious thinking, speech, language, sight and sound is processed. But birth requires the use of the mammalian part of the brain. All mammals instinctively know how to give birth. they don’t have to read books, attend prenatal classes or watch other females of their species to learn. It is instinctive. Human females have the same part of the brain and the sooner they leave the neo-cortex the sooner they will labor from their primitive brain.

It can be difficult to do that sometimes, especially with a lot of distractions pulling us back into conscious thought. And also our own lack of trust in our instincts and natural abilities.

It may be easier to understand if we think about the emotional / mental state of a similarly instinctively programmed function – sex. Sex is very similar to birth in more reasons than just one being the beginning and the other the end product. Sex is a function that is programmed into our mammalian brains for the survival of the species. But we can probably remember times when we had sex with our attention in the conscious, cerebral part of the brain. Compare that with how it feels the times we have sex while not in our conscious thoughts, but acting from pure animal instinct. That’s very similar to birth. You can birth from the neo-cortex and think your way through, and probably have a harder and more painful time, or you can surrender to your natural instinctual self and know that it knows what to do and it will do it well. Deep within you, you are programmed to give birth and know exactly what to do at every point in the 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