Posts Tagged ‘childbearing years’

Improving Birth National Rally for Change Overview

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

On Monday, September 3 I had the awesome opportunity to engage with passionate women (and a few men) outside a local hospital in Phoenix, AZ. The commonality among us was that we are all unequivocally devoted to improving childbirth in the US. We were in fact joined by men and women in over 100 cities across the US all united together by our desire to provoke positive change within our country’s maternal health care system. The rally was organized by the Improving Birth Organization. It was not a protest, but rather a peaceful public awareness event intended to promote Evidence Based Maternal Health Care.


What exactly is Evidence Based Maternal Health Care?

The Improving Birth Organization defines it as “care that is provided that has been proven by reliable research to be beneficial to mothers and babies, reducing the incidences of complications, injury and death”(, 2012).  The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health states that “Evidence-based maternity care uses the best available research on the safety and effectiveness of specific practices to help guide maternity care decisions and to facilitate optimal outcomes in mothers and newborns”  ( In other words we want don’t want maternal health care decisions to be driven by cost, convenience, or fear. We want the needs of pregnant women and babies to be respected deeply and responded to with great integrity. We want families to be well informed consumers of the health care system and be well support throughout their childbearing years.

So what exactly did we do?

We stood outside a hospital (although not because we were targeting that particular hospital; rather it was chosen because it was a central gathering place and had high traffic volume) holding up signs with different sayings on them about childbirth. The Improving Birth Organization provided rather specific guidelines on what the signs could say. The signs were intended to be positive, non-confrontational messages about birth. The five suggested slogans were:

Evidence Based Birth
Know Your Options
Birth Matters
Vaginal Birth After C-Section
Lower the C-Section Rate

There were also explicit instructions given on interacting with any members of the press, if given the opportunity to. Basically we were asked to avoid sharing negative personal opinions and stick to facts and personal experiences. The goal was to spread wisdom as opposed to fear of childbirth. Nor did we want to convey hatred of the medical community. We were also to be clear that we were NOT promoting home/natural birth per say; the focus was on evidence based maternal care (which includes home/natural birth).


All in all it was a great event that I am sooo glad I attended. To be honest the morning of the rally I kind of felt like bailing. I could think of a million and one excuses not to go. The day before the rally we had just gotten back from a 12 week trip. I was tired and had a bunch of unpacking to do, mountains of laundry, tons of mail to sort through, there was no food in the house, the kids were beyond cranky from disrupted sleep while traveling; it seriously tempting to think all of those things needed my attention more than the rally. But once I arrived at the rally site I knew it was exactly where I needed to be that morning. The women there were simply amazing; they were incredible, yet humble advocates! Some of them were there as professionals who work in the birth community. Others were there due to their own personal experience with birth. There were babies and children present serving as constant reminders as to the heart of our cause.

It was a hot and sunny day in Phoenix (as most days are), but we didn’t complain. We found shade where we could and remained devoted to the two hour time frame of the rally. Two security guards from the hospital approached us and kindly requested we stay off the grass while holding signs, but other than that there were no confrontations to be had. Sometimes cars honked at us or passengers waved at us. A bus load of male college students shouted funny things to us from their open windows, but it was all in good spirits and made us laugh.

I was so honored to be a part of this movement and feel that even if ONE woman is impacted because of our efforts, then a BIG difference was made!

Anyone else attend the National Rally for Change on Monday? If so I would love to hear your experience!


3 Simple Pre-Conception Preparations

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Congratulations! You are thinking about getting pregnant! 🙂 The period in a couple’s life when they are hoping to expand their family is certainly an exciting time. While it may be a little ways away for your family, there are things you can do in advance to optimally prepare your body for carrying new life and it’s never to early to start!

Make Healthy Food Choices: Nutrition is probably the number one most important thing you can do to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. The awesome part of this is that it is something you can completely control; what you put into your body is 100% yours to decide! Of course eating well is important for everyone no matter what phase of life, but it is especially important for women during their childbearing years. If you want to make changes to your current diet, my suggestion would be to ease into it. Drastic dietary changes are often only temporarily sustainable efforts. Perhaps start by simply adding more whole foods into your diet? One idea might be to start your morning with a green smoothie? It’s a really easy way to get in a ton of nutrients. Another factor that influences healthy food choices and the relationship we have with food, is the common belief/misconception that healthy foods don’t taste good. If you believe that then you are less likely to select a healthy food and go straight for the junk foods which you know tastes good, right? Who woudn’t choose something yummy over something bland and tasteless? Eating is supposed to be a pleasurable experience! However I assure you eating healthy can be delicious, succulent, invigorating, and pure decadence! If what is healthy to you is boring, perhaps experiment more with foods and flavors? You might also try imposing more mindfulness into meals as described in this post. Another mental shift in eating is to focus on how foods make you feel after consuming them; really looking inward and examining how your body responds to foods. You might discover that healthy foods help you feel more vibrant and energetic as well as provide clarity of mind.  By attributing those positive qualities to the foods we use to fuel our bodies, we change our relationship with food. No longer does a donut look appealing…it starts to look like something that is going to make you feel heavy, sluggish, and unfulfilled. By changing the way you eat before getting pregnant, you are filling your body with optimum nutrients needed to grow and nourish a healthy baby. And you are setting yourself up for continued healthy food choices during pregnancy and postpartum. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding are a lot of work for your body and properly fueling your body can positively impact all three!

Increase water consumption: While this goes hand in hand with healthy eating, it is definitely worthy enough of separate mention. Water is quite healing and restorative to our bodies. Through large consumption of water we can help remove toxins from our body. One great way to start your day is to drink a large glass of water upon awakening. You have likely went 8 hours or so through the night without consuming any water so your body would graciously welcome a large glass of water each morning. Try to figure out a way throughout the day to have water readily available and accessible to you. Often this means carrying a water bottle with you. Investing in a quality water bottle that is easy to fill, clean, and drink from is definitely worthwhile as it is likely to directly impact how  much water you consume. By increasing water consumption during the pre-conception period, you are setting the stage to do so during your pregnancy. Staying properly hydrated during pregnancy can actually prevent some pretty serious medical issues. Something as simple as drinking water can change the course of your pregnancy, so bottoms up! 🙂

Be Active/Exercise: Again when you consider how much work carrying and birthing a baby is on your body, having a healthy strong body becomes even more important. If the idea of exercise means going to the gym and hating every minute of it, then of course you won’t be motivated to do it. However if you open yourself to the idea that there are hundreds of different ways to be active, you might find a type of exercise you actually enjoy such as hiking, biking, roller-blading, skiing, running, dancing, power-walking, yoga, volleyball, softball, tennis, swimming, surfing, etc. If exercise is infused into a recreational hobby, it becomes less of a ‘chore’ and something you are actually passionate about and willingly/happily devote time to. In addition to the direct health benefits of exercise, by engaging in physical activities we become more attune with our bodies which obviously carries great advantages during pregnancy and childbirth.

What are some ways you prepared for pregnancy? Would love to hear your ideas!


Selecting Maternal Health Care Partners

Friday, September 30th, 2011

When you discover you are pregnant, you face an array of important choices. It can be an overwhelming process at times to sort through all the information provided during pregnancy. The maternal health care partners that support you during this process have a big impact on your experience. Therefore be selective in the care providers you choose! Mothering begins during pregnancy! It is the first time you can consciously make decisions that directly affect your child. Prenatal care, labor, and birth can nurture a sense of empowerment in women and thus motherhood is positively impacted. You are able to approach mothering with a deeper awareness and a stronger consciousness.

Prenatal appointment with midwife done right in the comfort of my own bed

Maternal Health Care Partners include the following professionals:

An obstetrician (OB) is a medical doctor and the most commonly used type of maternal health care provider by women in the United States.

A midwife supports women during their childbearing years to provide health care during pregnancy, labor, birth, and post-partum. The word midwife literally means “with woman”. Rules and regulations for midwives vary widely per state so if you want to work with a midwife it’s important to understand your state’s guidelines for midwifery care. There are midwives who do homebirth, those who work at birth centers, and some who work in hospital settings. Check out Midwives Alliance of North America for more information.

A doula is a non-medical labor, birth, and post partum support person. They are educated and trained to provide a laboring mother physical and emotional support. There is a strong evidence base of positive birth outcomes and successful breastfeeding when a doula is used. Check out DONA International for more information about doulas.

Lactation Specialist
If you intend to breastfeed, creating a community of support is extremely beneficial. This can include professional support through a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant has training, knowledge, and expertise in helping you establish successful breastfeeding. If you are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding, a Lactation Consultant can be a wonderful resource. Check out the International Board of Lactation Consultants Examiner for more information.

Childbirth Educator
A childbirth educator undergoes training and completes a certification process to provide pregnant woman with information about pregnancy, labor, and birth. Typically information is shared in a classroom-like format to a small group of women/couples who are at similar stages in their pregnancies. The information from a childbirth education class can help woman/couples better understand the changes that occur during pregnancy, the stages of labor, the pros/cons of medical interventions, and the basics of breastfeeding. Check out International Childbirth Education Association for more information.

An hour after birth...sharing in the joy and happiness with my midwife

Mutually reciprocated respect and trust is the foundation of a positive patient-provider relationship. As in all relationships, effective communication is a key ingredient. If you ever leave a prenatal appointment feeling discouraged, confused, or upset, honor those feelings as valid. Call your care provider and/or schedule another appointment in attempt to resolve any concerns as soon as possible. If you continually have negative interactions or experiences during prenatal appointments, consider choosing a new care provider.

Even if you are very far along in your pregnancy it is okay to make a change. I cannot emphasize this enough! So often I hear stories of a woman feeling discontent with the prenatal care they receive but unsure what to do about it. Then they often go on to have a dissatisfying birth experience with that care provider. If you are in that situation, grant yourself permission to explore all your options. Please don’t continue to receive less than optimal maternal health care. Pregnancy and childbirth are a sacred a time in your life; a time that deserves kind, compassionate, attentive, dedicated, and supportive health care partners. They exist abundantly and it’s worth the extra effort it may take to find the right match for your growing family.

What do you enjoy most about your health care partners? Did you have a doula, a childbirth educator and/or a lactation consultant? What was your experience?