Posts Tagged ‘maternal health care’

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”(http://www.improvingbirth.org/the-evidence-shows/, 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”  (http://www.who.int/pmnch/topics/maternal/ebmaternitycare/en/index.html). 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!

-Sarah

8 Tips to Prepare for a Drug-Free Birth

Friday, April 27th, 2012

A growing number of pregnant women desire to have a drug-free, intervention-free birth. While there is ample information available regarding the benefits to both mother and baby of having a drug-free birth, information on how to optimally prepare for an unmedicated birth seems less accessible or tangible. Subsequently many pregnant woman are unsure how to prepare for the birth they desire and are left to “hope things work out”. Or they fall under the “trust birth” spell, that proclaims simply trusting the process of birth and your body are the magical answer to the mysteries of birth. While trust is an important part of the equation, there are additional ways a woman can actively prepare herself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the birth she desires.

1. Develop a Positive Support System – Immerse yourself in the natural birth community to the greatest extent possible. Talk with women who have given birth without drugs to hear their stories and experiences. These women can offer an abundance of wisdom regarding birth beyond what any textbook can provide you. Surround yourself with caring, compassionate individuals who support the birth you desire. Avoid circles/conversations that convey messages of doubt, negativity, anxiety, or trauma around birthing without the use of drugs. Fill your heart and mind with empowering birth stories that make you feel excited about your upcoming birth.

2. Select a Supportive Care Provider – The maternal health care partners that support you during pregnancy and birth have a big impact on your experience! Therefore I encourage you to be highly selective in the care provider you choose. Take time to interview several different care providers to find one you are comfortable with and will provide the type of care you desire (and deserve!). Also don’t be afraid to switch providers at any time during your pregnancy if you start to have doubts about your care provider. I have even heard remarkable stories of women switching care providers during labor because they did not like how they were being treated by their care provider. If you are unsure how to find a care provider start by asking for referrals from friends who have had positive birth experiences. Although keep in mind that each woman’s needs during pregnancy and birth are highly unique so what was a good fit for a close friend may not necessarily be a good fit for you.

3. Take Good Care of Yourself During Pregnancy – Eating well, exercising gently, staying well hydrated, getting proper rest, and minimizing stress during pregnancy all have a direct impact on childbirth. Something as simple as getting ample fluids can help prevent some potentially serious medical conditions during pregnancy. Know that pregnancy is a special time in your life that requires extra special care; remember YOU are the sole source of nurture/nutrition for a new life. Make caring for yourself a high priority because in doing so you are also caring for your baby.

4. Watch Videos of Drug Free Births – Sadly in our modern society most of exposure to birth is from TV shows or movies that don’t depict birth in an authentic way. Yet we cling to these depictions because we are hungry for information about birth. Even reality TV shows don’t accurately portray birth as they are carefully edited to ensure an element of drama and suspense. Instead hop on youtube and search for natural birth videos to see what birth really looks and sounds like.

5. Take a Childbirth Education Class – Attending a childbirth education class can be an invaluable tool to preparing for childbirth. In addition to better understanding the mechanics of labor, you will also learn various pain coping techniques. Research the various approaches available (ie- The Bradley Method, Hypnobabies, Birthing From Within, Lamaze, etc) and pick one that best suits you.

6. Practice Relaxation Techniques throughout your Pregnancy – There are many different effective relaxation techniques women can use to cope during labor, however you need to learn and practice them in advance. Make the time to practice frequently during the course of your pregnancy, particularly when you experience any discomforts associated with pregnancy.

7. Hire a Doula – A doula is a non-medical labor, birth, and postpartum support person. A doula is educated and trained to provide a laboring mother physical and emotional support. There is a strong evidence base of positive birth outcomes when a doula is used. Check out DONA International for more information about doulas.

8. Avoid Artificial Induction – Statistics demonstrate that artificial inductions leads to higher rates of intervention including use of pain medication and cesarean. To the greatest extent possible allow labor to start spontaneously. If for some reason you do need to be induced consider starting with the least invasive methods.

What tips do you have for a pregnant woman who desires an unmedicated birth? 

-Sarah

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:

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

Midwife
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.

Doula
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?

-Sarah