Labor Interventions

Top 10 Benefits of Water Birth

Water Birth Couple

Photo Credit: Swaddle Shots Photography

The use of water immersion during labor and birth has become an increasingly popular option in the natural birth community due to the many benefits to both mom and baby. For baby, being born into water closely replicates the womb environment creating a gentle birth setting. And for mom, laboring and birthing in water has many benefits ranging from its soothing nature and pain relief to easily being able to reposition your body to follow its natural inclinations throughout labor.

At Health Foundations Birth Center, we frequently have women who desire a water birth. Our midwives are highly experienced in supporting women who wish to labor and/or give birth in water and both of our birthing suites are equipped with large built-in tubs that are available to you throughout your experience. Here are the top 10 benefits of having a water birth:

  1. Warm water during labor and delivery has been found to greatly reduce discomfort and increase relaxation for mom. The soothing nature of water helps mom to not only feel weightless but to experience the calming effects of hydrotherapy.
  2. Because mom is better able to relax during labor, less stress hormones are released and the body is able to produce more endorphins which have pain reducing effects. 
  3. The buoyancy experienced in a water birth allows mom to move about freely and follow her body’s natural urges. This consequently can help the pelvis open and the baby descend into the birth canal more easily. 
  4. Water immersion has been shown to lower blood pressure caused by anxiety. Because less stress hormones are released due to the calming nature of the water, many women report they are not only able to relax more physically but mentally as well. 
  5. Another benefit of the buoyancy effect of water is that it has been shown to improve blood circulation leading to more efficient uterine contractions and ultimately a shorter labor duration. 
  6. Improved blood circulation also creates better oxygenation of the uterine muscles and more oxygen for baby during labor. Improved oxygenation of the uterine muscles is also associated with decreased pain for mom. 
  7. Water creates more elasticity to the perineum typically resulting in a lower incidence of perineal trauma and the need for stitches or an episiotomy. Water has also been shown to aid in relaxing the pelvic floor which is beneficial when it is time to push.
  8. Women who birth in water report feeling more in control of their bodies, the progression of labor and the birth of their baby. Because they are able to conserve energy due to increased relaxation, they often feel more clear-minded and strong when it comes time to push the baby out. 
  9. Water births have been shown to reduce the likelihood of needing unplanned interventions, anesthesia, pain medications, and C-sections.
  10. In addition to the many amazing benefits a water birth provides for mom, perhaps one of the greatest benefits is the stress-free, calming and gentle welcome it provides for baby. Birthing in a warm water tub offers an environment that is similar to the womb where baby has snugly lived for nine months.

We are thrilled to be able to offer the option of water birth at Health Foundations and invite you to contact us for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center to learn more. The remarkable physiological and psychological benefits hydrotherapy provides to mom and baby make water birth a truly special birthing option for you and your family.

Photo Credit: Raven Ivory

The Quick Guide to Natural Childbirth

Natural Birth

If you have decided on or are considering birthing in a setting like a freestanding birth center, it perhaps has to do in part with your desire to have a natural birth experience. It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of childbearing women are considered low-risk and are great candidates for a natural birth. But what is a natural birth exactly and what does it entail? Are there really worthwhile benefits to it and how much pain will I experience? These are all important questions when considering your birth plan. Here are the whos, whats, wheres and whys of the choice of natural birth.

What is a natural birth?

Natural birth is a vaginal birth that is free of pain medication and has minimal, if any, medical interventions. With a natural birth, the mother is in control of the labor process; she is a part of each and every decision, including when it’s time to rest, change positions and push, with her care providers acting as support throughout the process. 

Why do women choose to have a natural birth?

There are many reasons women choose to have a natural birth. Whether you are expecting your first baby or had a past birth experience that left you wanting to try something different, here are a few of the top reasons moms choose natural birth:

  • To have a sense of control over the birthing process
  • They view birth as a natural, normal, non-medical event
  • To have a sense of presence and awareness during birth
  • To have the ability to move about freely during labor
  • To have the ability to follow the lead of your body’s natural instincts
  • Less invasive
  • To avoid unnecessary medical interventions
  • To avoid undesirable side effects of pain medication to mom and baby (such as drowsiness, a drop in blood pressure or nausea)
  • To avoid undesirable side effects of pain medication on labor (such as slowing or stopping the progress)
  • A sense of empowerment
  • Reduced risk of certain interventions such as the use of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin), forceps and vacuum extraction
  • The ability to eat and drink throughout labor

Where do women have natural births?

While you can absolutely have a natural birth in a hospital setting with the right supportive team and a clear birth plan, you might find that a birth center is more conducive to your goal of a natural delivery (It is important to note that some hospitals call their labor & delivery units "birth centers"...this is not what we are referring to). Birth centers place a strong emphasis on empowering women to realize the amazing capabilities of their own bodies without intervention or pain medicine. Another option for natural birth is having your baby in your own home. This approach typically includes the attendance and care of a midwife. 

Who can have a natural birth and who attends them?

As previously stated, approximately 85 percent of women are considered great candidates for a natural, vaginal delivery. However, in order to plan for a natural delivery, a woman should ideally have a low-risk pregnancy with few complications or other existing serious conditions. 

A natural birth can be attended by a doctor or midwife, along with a birth assistant and a doula, depending on your setting and personal preferences. Continuous care and support from a midwife or doula throughout labor has been associated with lower rates of the use of pain medicine, incidence of C-sections and other interventions in addition to shorter labors and greater overall satisfaction with the birth experience.

How do women cope with the pain of a natural birth?

Every woman will experience the pain of childbirth differently. Fortunately, there are many alternative forms of pain management that can be used during a natural birth instead of medication or an epidural. Here are just a few of them:

Nitrous oxide for Labor Pain
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Water immersion/water birth
  • Massage
  • Relaxation
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Visualization
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga
  • Changing positions
  • Distraction
  • Visual imagery
  • Meditation
  • Walking
  • Hypnosis
  • Birthing ball

Consider taking child birth preparedness classes that focus on natural birth and pain management. The better prepared you are, the more tools you will have to help you achieve your goal of a natural birth.

What if something goes wrong?

The most important thing with any birth plan is to approach it with flexibility and a willingness to heed the advice of your caregivers who have you and your baby’s best interest at heart. While having a natural birth is typically very safe, complications do arise occasionally where medical interventions are not only suggested but necessary. Beginning with a caregiver that you trust is an important step to helping you feel confident and comfortable in the event that a change is made to the plan involving unexpected interventions. Just know that no matter what course your birth ends up taking, whether it is perfectly natural or ends in a C-section, you and your body have done an incredible, life-giving thing. There is no shame in a birth that does not go as planned.

For questions about natural birth, prenatal and postpartum care and all other women’s care services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Our goal is to support you in realizing your body’s tremendous strength and potential.

10 Cool Facts About Nitrous Oxide for Labor Pain

Nitrous Oxide In Labor

Rapidly increasing in popularity in the US, nitrous oxide is a safe and affordable option for pain relief during labor in both hospitals and birth centers alike. With both anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) and analgesic (pain reducing) effects at low doses, nitrous oxide is becoming the choice of many women who want to forego or postpone more invasive options like an epidural yet wish to have some relief from pain intensity throughout labor and birth. Here are ten cool facts about the use of nitrous oxide during labor that you may not know!

  1. Nitrous oxide was commonly used for pain relief during labor in the US up until the 1960s and 1970s when the use of the epidural rapidly popularized. With the rise of epidurals, the use of nitrous oxide became virtually obsolete until around 2011 when midwives began bringing the practice back. You will now find nitrous oxide available for pain relief during labor in over 100 hospitals and over 50 birth centers in the United States. 
  2. While the use of nitrous oxide for labor pain plummeted in the US with the inception of the epidural analgesic, the practice remained commonplace in other areas with sophisticated healthcare systems around the world such as Australia, Europe, New Zealand and Canada.
  3. While many believe that the nitrous oxide received during labor is the same as what you receive at the dentist, it’s actually less concentrated. When you utilize nitrous oxide during labor, the gas you are receiving is 50 percent N2O and 50 percent oxygen. Dentists use varying concentrations of nitrous oxide for their patients but can use up to 70 percent N2O and only 30 percent oxygen.
  4. Another way that nitrous oxide for labor is different than the nitrous oxide you receive at the dentist is that during labor it is controlled by the woman only. You will be given a handheld mask that contains a demand valve which opens to release the nitrous oxide when you inhale. When you exhale, the valve will close. This allows the woman in labor to use the nitrous oxide when she feels she needs it and to place it aside when she does not. This is much different than an epidural which is inserted into your spine and typically gives a continuous dose of analgesic throughout the rest of labor. Conversely, once you remove the nitrous oxide mask during labor, the effects will dissipate in about five minutes.
  5. While epidurals typically remove or greatly lessen the pain of labor, women who have used nitrous oxide report that they still feel the pain but their perception of it is altered. Because of the anxiety-reducing effects of the nitrous oxide, many women are better able to handle difficult contractions and other painful parts of the process with its use.
  6. You may begin using nitrous oxide for pain relief at any stage of labor or even post-delivery. There is no cut off in the process of labor when the treatment becomes unsafe making it a great option for moms who wish to try to make it as far as they can without any sort of medical intervention. Some mothers even decide not to use it until they are undergoing repairs following the birth for any tears occurred.
  7. If there was not an initial need for continuous fetal monitoring of your baby prior to your decision to use nitrous oxide, there will be no need for continuous monitoring after. You will still be free to move about, change positions, use a birthing ball or tub or any other position you wish to labor in after you have used the nitrous oxide. Your midwife or doctor will just want to ensure you are not experiencing any dizziness from the treatment before you go walking around but this is a quite uncommon side effect.
  8. There has been no evidence found that the use of nitrous oxide during labor slows the progression of labor at all. Particularly because you are able to move about freely in positions that are conducive to birthing, baby is able to further make his way into the birth canal. Nitrous oxide also does not impede the body’s natural production of oxytocin which is necessary for labor to progress.
  9. One of the most important factors to know when considering the use of nitrous oxide during labor is that it is safe for both mother and baby. Unlike certain narcotics that are often used during labor such as fentanyl, there is no risk of depressing baby’s breathing with nitrous oxide. It also should not negatively impact the infant’s alertness upon delivery and consequently, there should not be an effect on his ability to breastfeed and bond with the mother or father during the time period following delivery.
  10. Although unfortunately many insurance companies do not cover nitrous oxide treatment for labor at this time, the cost of nitrous oxide is significantly cheaper than having an epidural. And, unlike an epidural which requires a hospital birth and the presence (and a bill from) an anesthesiologist, nitrous oxide can often be offered at a birth center by a midwife.

If you are considering alternative options for pain control during labor, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife to discuss the benefits and risks associated with the use of nitrous oxide. We’d be happy to give you a tour of our Birth Center and answer any questions you might have about delivering at our Center and becoming part of the Health Foundations family.

 

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.