C-Section

Why We Love The Business of Being Born (And You Should, Too!)

Business of Being Born Banner

Did you know that the US currently has one of the highest infant mortality rates among industrialized nations? Though you may find this to be shocking given the wealth of our nation and available technology, this issue is among several concerns about birth in the US that Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein set out to explore in their documentary, The Business of Being Born. This cutting edge documentary was created with the intent to provide women with a thorough examination of the current state of the birth industry in the United States. Through raw footage of empowering homebirths, candid interviews with mothers, doctors, midwives and other health professionals, and an analysis of common hospital birth practices, Lake and Epstein have created a provocative and informative film that is a must-see for all women. 

Why They Created It:

Ricki Lake initially sought to create a film examining common birth practices in the US after her own first birthing experience left her feeling unsatisfied and like something was missing. Interested in the factors leading to the decline of the use of midwives and the increase in the use of medical interventions, including C-sections, Lake hoped to expose some of the reasons women feel unequipped to have a natural birth. Epstein, a strong proponent of natural homebirth directs the documentary while pregnant herself and as you see in the end provides viewers with a firsthand account of why it is necessary to be flexible sometimes with your birth plan in spite of your own wishes.  

Why We Like It:

This film is all about empowering women to realize the tremendous and natural capabilities of their own bodies without intervention. Through extensive and awe-inspiring footage of natural births, The Business of Being Born successfully shows that women need not fear childbirth and that they have the strength within themselves that they will need to birth their baby. The post-birth euphoria that the new moms experience in the film is palpable through the screen and allows viewers to see some of what they might be missing should they feel pressured to undergo a cascade of medical interventions at the hands of their doctors. Lake and Epstein also take a look at the potential motivations for hospitals to encourage the use of interventions and in some cases even favor the use of Cesarean sections to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit. This film is beautifully feminist yet will appeal to any individual who is expecting a baby and wants their partner to have the dignity of the choice to have a childbirth that is best for her and her new baby. 

What You’ll Learn:

The Business of Being Born is a treasure trove of interesting facts about the history of childbirth in the United States, the decline of midwifery and the rise of and reasons for the medicalization of birth. A few topics explored in the film include:

  • The cascade effect of childbirth interventions 
  • The reasons many obstetricians are ill-suited to attend to natural births 
  • The economic implications to hospitals when allowing women to follow their body’s natural birth plan without intervention
  • The risks associated with repeat Cesarean sections
  • The primal bonding mechanism of the natural birth process
  • The relationship between the growth of technology and the changes to the childbirth industry in the US
  • The power, pride, and strength a woman experiences through natural birth.

The Take Home Message:

All women deserve the right to make informed decisions about their childbirth experience. Whether you choose to birth at home, in a birth center or at the hospital, you are entitled to the right to be educated, empowered and supported in the process. Lake and Epstein have created a powerful film that boldly personifies this mission through real life accounts, professional commentary, and raw footage. The Business of Being Born is a must-see for all women expecting a baby. This December, Health Foundations is thrilled to welcome the esteemed creators of this cutting edge documentary to our EVERY WOMAN CAN event at Aria. Lake and Epstein will give the keynote address during this night of celebration, community, and empowerment. For more information about EVERY WOMAN CAN, visit our website at http://www.everywomancan.co/.

Five Things to Expect During Your Postpartum Recovery

As mothers and mothers to be, we typically spend a great deal of time planning and preparing for our child’s birth. We read books, take prenatal classes, write birth plans, pack bags, wash, fold and organize baby laundry and so much more in preparation for the big day. Very few of us however, give much thought to what the postpartum period will be like for OUR bodies. Consumed with the excitement of our baby to be, we may forget that once we bring home our bundle of joy we too will need care, rest and healing as we recover from the amazing feat of giving birth. Here are 5 things to expect from your postpartum recovery.

  1. Heavy bleeding: As your body sheds the uterine lining and also bleeds from where the placenta was attached, you will experience heavy bleeding known as lochia. You may see blood clots in this bleeding and it will likely appear bright red at first. The intensity of the bleeding should subside with time and gradually turn to spotting before it stops. Typically, this should last approximately 2-6 weeks after you give birth. To prepare, stock up on heavy duty overnight strength sanitary pads, mesh panties and even adult diapers can be a great option. This applies whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section.
  2. Some pain and discomfort: Take a moment to consider what an incredible thing it is that your body is going to birth a 6-10 pound baby. With this incredible miracle comes hard work and its fair share of aches and pains. Whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, you can expect to experience some cramping, soreness, muscle aches and joint pains. With a vaginal delivery you may also experience some burning and soreness of the perineum and with a C-section, pain at the incision site and abdominal pain as you recover from major surgery.
  3. Hormonal side effects: As your body seeks to adjust hormonally after giving birth, you will likely experience a few unpleasant side effects. These may include fluctuating emotions and weepiness, hot flashes, night sweats and chills, and continued feelings of clumsiness from the production of the hormone relaxin. Give yourself some grace during this period as you may not feel like yourself despite your excitement over your new baby. If you are concerned that the baby blues may be developing into something more serious like postpartum depression, contact your midwife, doctor or a counselor for support. There are many wonderful resources available for women suffering from postpartum depression. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  4. Breast changes: As your milk comes in after baby is born, you may experience some engorgement and sore nipples and breasts as your supply adjusts to meet baby’s needs. You may also notice that your nipples appear darker. If you are recovering from a C-section, breastfeeding can initially be more challenging due to pain from your surgery and having to find a position that is comfortable for you and your newborn while you heal. Fear not though, it will get easier with time and your milk supply will adjust as you and your baby find your rhythm. Consider having nipple pads on hand for leaking breasts, cooling pads or ice packs for sore breasts and a nipple cream for aching and cracking nipples. Be sure to signup for our next Pumptalk 101 class if you have extra questions or would like some more suggestions.
  5. Constipation, incontinence, and frequent trips to the bathroom: Depending on how you delivered and your own personal recovery, you may experience a period of constipation following giving birth and/or urinary or fecal incontinence. A vaginal delivery can cause temporary nerve damage around the bladder making it more difficult to sense when you need to go to the bathroom. You may also have weakened bladder muscles, hemorrhoids and though less common, tears to the anal sphincter causing fecal leakage. Conversely, you may also experience constipation due to the slowing of your metabolism and digestive tract. Talk to your doctor or midwife for effective ways to manage these various side effects.

It’s not uncommon for the postpartum period to be filled with excitement, exhaustion, trepidation and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Make sure that amidst all the emotions and adjustments, you allow time for your own care and recovery. Your body has just undergone the incredible journey of childbirth and needs time to rest and heal so that you can focus on caring for your new, beautiful baby. 

The Top Five Fears about Having a Natural Birth

Natural Water Birth

While birth is a natural and normal experience that a woman’s body is created to do, it is common and expected to have fears leading up to your delivery. You may be feeling anxious about your ability to handle the pain, or wondering what will happen if something goes wrong. You may be worried about how you will recover from pushing a 7-10 pound baby out of your body and what you will feel like afterward. Rest assured these fears are not only normal but even healthy when they motivate you to better prepare for the experience. Here are the five most common fears about having a natural birth and how to alleviate them as best as possible. 

  1. What if I tear? Unfortunately, the chances of tearing when having a vaginal birth are high, about 90 percent. The good news is that about 99 percent of those tears are minor and superficial, requiring only a couple of stitches if any at all. While tearing may be inevitable for most women, there are some ways you can help prepare your body for the big task of pushing baby out and reduce the chances of more severe vaginal trauma. These techniques include doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly, practicing perineal massage, laboring in water, choosing a birthing position that aids in baby’s exit, placing a warm compress on the perineum when crowning begins and following your body’s lead and natural instincts when it comes to pushing. Even if you do experience some tearing or the need for a few stitches, your vagina and perineum will heal in about a week to ten days.
  2. What if I can’t handle the pain? While we won’t say that you’ll experience a pain-free childbirth, we can say that there are certainly ways to prepare yourself for the experience and natural ways to manage pain during labor and delivery. These ways include: 
    • Surrounding yourself with loving and supportive people who can help you stick to your wishes of a natural birth and provide any assistance you may need during labor and delivery. 
    • Hiring a doula to assist in your birth. Women who have delivered with the support of a doula report having less overall pain and fewer interventions.
    • Using any number of natural labor pain management techniques including massage, hypnosis, acupressure, laboring in water, guided relaxation, breathing exercises, and even the use of nitrous oxide to give you some temporary relief.
    • Prepare ahead of time. Whether this involves writing a birth plan, taking birthing classes, or having your partner learn special massage techniques, take the time to prepare for your birth as you would any other major event in your life.
    • Lastly, remember that your body was miraculously designed for the job of delivering your baby so you are already more prepared than you realize.
  3. What if I don’t make it to the hospital or birth center in time? While just about every movie that contains a birth scene depicts a woman frantically racing into the hospital in the 11th hour being rushed into the delivery room right in the nick of time, in real life labor takes time. In fact, the average amount of time active labor takes is about 8 hours and perhaps even longer if it’s your first. More likely than not, you will have plenty of time to get where you need to be for your delivery and probably even enough time to check over your bag, take a shower and drop the dogs or other kids off with a neighbor or grandparents. Not to mention, you will likely also have plenty of warning signs that baby is preparing to make his debut from intense cramping and contractions to back pain and possibly even your water breaking.
  4. What if I poop during the delivery? You may not have voiced this concern to your care provider yet but we know you’re thinking it. All women seem to worry about this one! Having a bowel movement when pushing a baby out is a completely normal and unremarkable thing given the basic physiology of the body. While the thought may horrify you (or your partner) rest assured that your midwives or doctors will not even be the slightest bit phased if you deliver more than you had planned on. If you are feeling particularly anxious about this possibility, try sitting on the toilet in the early phases of labor to empty yourself out before the pushing phase. It’s not uncommon for your midwife to recommend this strategy and it may help circumvent the issue. But, if it does happen, we guarantee you won’t care at all in all the excitement and adrenaline of the moment.
  5. What if something goes wrong? This is a big one for most expectant moms and understandably so. There are so many things that could happen during childbirth and most of them are not things we can plan ahead for. First off, trust that you have surrounded yourself with capable and compassionate professionals who have the best interest of you and your baby at heart. Should complications arise, your birthing team will know what to do and what the next steps should be. Discuss possible obstacles that may arise and how you would like to handle them ahead of time. Learn about what changes to the plan may be made in the event that you or your baby is experiencing any sort of distress. If one of your biggest fears is having a C-section, consider factors such as having a care provider that is supportive of natural birth, using a doula to assist in your birth and delivering outside of a hospital setting--- all which may reduce your chances of it occurring. Try to be flexible going into your delivery. While birth plans are an awesome way to detail your preferences and wishes for your birth experience, it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time that things may not go exactly as planned.
Natural Birth w/ Midwife

It is completely normal to have fears leading up to childbirth. The best way to address those fears is to educate yourself through speaking with your care providers, taking classes, reading books and talking to friends who have experienced different types of births. It’s also important to familiarize yourself on the reasons why you have decided that you want a natural birth. The ‘why’ behind your desire to deliver your baby naturally will help you find the strength that you’ll need during labor to keep going. Just remember that despite your fears, you are strong, you are able bodied and you were created to do this. For questions about how you can have the natural birth you’ve always wanted contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

When Your Birth Doesn’t Go As Planned

Woman Contemplating Feelings

Whether you had hoped for a home or birth center delivery and needed to transfer to the hospital, or had prepared for a natural birth and ended up having a C-section, births that do not go according to plan can be disappointing. Many mothers spend their pregnancies preparing for and creating a detailed birth plan in the hopes of having the experience they’ve always envisioned for themselves and their baby. Despite the best laid plans, birthing classes, and providers, sometimes our bodies and our babies have other plans in mind. When your birth doesn’t go as planned, it’s not uncommon to experience some negative emotions along with the excitement you’re feeling about the new baby. Many women who have experienced some form  of birth trauma  or unexpected intervention report feeling disappointed, angry, guilty, frustrated, indifferent and sometimes even resentful towards their baby or their body. These feelings usually follow birth experiences that felt out of their control, traumatic or unexpected such as having an episiotomy or emergency C-section. If your birth experience has left you feeling as though your body failed to do what you had hoped it would do, here are some ways to cope with those negative emotions and acknowledge the strength and courage in your journey.

Writing Birth Story
  1. Acknowledge your feelings: This can be difficult to do when everyone is expecting you to be overjoyed by the arrival of your new baby. However, if you are experiencing disappointment, sadness, guilt or anger about the way your delivery unfolded, it’s important to take the time to allow yourself to experience those feelings without judgment. Giving birth may be the single most important event in your life thus far and it is okay to feel sadness about any part of the labor or delivery that was traumatic or upsetting to you. If you try to push away your negative feelings about the experience, they will likely resurface at a later date as unresolved issues. 
  2. Take steps to process your grief: It is perfectly normal to experience grief following a traumatic or upsetting birth experience. It is important to allow yourself to experience the grief so that you can move forward feeling as though you have processed your feelings. Talking to your midwife or doctor and asking questions so that you can better understand and process your experience is one way to work through what you may be feeling. Two cathartic ways to process grief following birth are: telling your birth story to a trusted friend or family member or writing down your birth story. Writing or telling a detailed account of your experience can help you process your feelings of disappointment or guilt and also help you identify  all of the moments (there are so many!) of great courage and strength.
  3. Surround yourself with loving and supportive people: Limit visitors in the early weeks following your delivery to people who can be sensitive to your feelings and your experience. While not intending to be unsupportive, people may make comments suggesting that the only thing that is important is that you have a healthy baby. You can gently remind them that the experience was important to you and you are not ready to discuss it further at this time. You can also ask your partner to help play gatekeeper in the early days staving off unnecessary visitors and unsavory comments.
  4. Acknowledge the strength and courage in your story: Even if your birth didn’t end the way you had hoped, do your best to remember the amazing work that your body did. Whether you labored for 18 hours before ultimately having a C-section, endured hours of natural labor before electing to have an epidural, or had to undergo any number of interventions that were frightening or upsetting to you, your body has done an amazing thing. There is also an incredible amount of strength and courage in having to let go of your birth plan and have a birth experience that feels completely out of your control. Whatever your story is, whatever the intervention or unplanned turn your birth took, your body has done a miraculous thing.
  5. Ask for help: Whether you would like extra support from your partner, your provider, a friend to listen or to seek out a new moms’ group in your area, make the effort to reach out for help and comfort. The postpartum period, despite the awe and excitement of a newborn, can be an isolating and overwhelming experience. Adding grief from your birth experience to this mix may be too much to handle on your own. If at any point your grief begins to impact your ability to function throughout the day or seems to overwhelm the joy you have for your new baby, see your doctor or a therapist for an assessment for Postpartum Depression. Although the baby blues are a normal experience in the weeks following delivery, moms who have experienced a traumatic birth experience are more likely to develop Postpartum Depression. Ask for help right away if you feel like you might be experiencing Postpartum Depression. Click here to learn more about Postpartum Depression

If you’ve experienced a traumatic or disappointing birth experience, don’t suffer in silence. There are many women out there whose birth plans have not gone according to plan and who are left feeling guilty, angry and even depressed. There is no shame in a birth that does not go as planned and no shame in grieving the experience you did not have. Remember that you gave it your all and that is enough; that you are just as strong, powerful and amazing as all of the other mamas before you. At Health Foundations, we are here to support you throughout your pregnancy, delivery and postpartum period, regardless of whether or not your delivery took place with us, in the hospital or in the operating room. We are here for you. Contact Health Foundations to schedule a free consultation with a midwife or to find support.

 

Eight Ways to Avoid Unnecessary Interventions During Labor

Newborn with Mom

Avoiding unnecessary medical intervention is one of the most important factors in having a naturalbirth. Unfortunately, in many US hospitals, interventions are common and all too often hastily decided upon. Consequently, the rate of C-sections nationally is about 32.7 percent. The term “cascade of interventions,” refers to the domino effect of one intervention, leading to another which leads to another, resulting in a series of unplanned and undesired repercussions. If you are hoping to have a natural birth experience, knowing what you can do to reduce your chances of unnecessary interventions is important. Here are 8 ways you can increase your odds of achieving your desired natural birth experience by avoiding unnecessary birthing interventions.

  1. Create a birth plan: Creating a written copy of your birth plan will help ensure that everyone on your birthing team knows and respects your wishes and expectations for your birth experience. Although it is important to remain flexible should complications arise, a birth plan is a great way to familiarize your care providers and any participating family members or friends with specific preferences you have including avoiding unnecessary medical interventions.
  2. Use a midwife: Because of the level of specialized care, support and priority placed on natural birthing, using a midwife can increase your chances of having a natural birth by up to 95 percent. Your midwife will help prepare you physically and mentally for an unmedicated childbirth, reducing your anxiety and likely lessening the pain you will experience.
  3. Take birthing classes: Choose classes that focus on natural birth techniques to help equip you with the tools you will need to achieve an intervention free, natural birth experience.
  4. Choose a care provider and birth setting that encourage natural birth: In addition to using a midwife, choosing to birth at a birth center with a low rate of interventions versus a hospital can be a wise decision if you are hoping to have a natural birth. Hospitals often place time limitations on labor and may pressure you to opt for interventions that hasten the process if it has been drawn out too long. A birth center that is supportive of natural birth is more likely to let you labor as long as you and baby need.
  5. Hire a doula: A doula provides physical, emotional, and educational support for the mother during pregnancy and the birthing process. Research shows that having a doula assist you in your birth can reduce your chances of electing to have an epidural by up to 60 percent and cut your chances of having a C-section in half. To learn more about the many benefits of hiring a doula for both mom and baby, check out this article.
  6. Research natural alternatives for pain control: Techniques such as self-hypnosis, deep breathing, guided imagery, yoga and massage can offer non-invasive alternatives to help lessen the pain and keep you calm and relaxed during labor. Practicing these techniques during pregnancy can help prepare you for the big day once it arrives.
  7. Practice perineal massage: Utilizing massage to stretch the area around the vagina during pregnancy can help prepare you for childbirth and potentially shorten the labor process and accelerate your delivery. Begin your perineal massages after week 34 of pregnancy using warm olive oil as a lubricant and relaxing music to calm you. Having your partner help if you are comfortable with it is a great way to get them involved in birth preparation. 
  8. Know your rights: You may find yourself feeling pressured in the heat of the moment when a medical intervention is suggested during labor. Educating yourself beforehand and knowing that you have the right to accept or refuse any procedure, test, medication or treatment will help empower you to make the decisions that are best for you, even under pressure.

Having a natural and normal birth is a noble and attainable goal. Preparation during pregnancy can only help your chances of achieving your desired birth plan. At Health Foundations, we value the natural and miraculous nature of birth and seek to empower women to realize the awesome abilities of their bodies without intervention. To learn more about how Health Foundations can support you in your goal of natural birth, contact us for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are committed to supporting you throughout your pregnancy, birth and beyond.