Birth Center

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

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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/.

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.

 

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. 

10 Reasons a Birth Center Might Be For You

Photo Credit: Rochelle Matos -  withlove.mn

Photo Credit: Rochelle Matos - withlove.mn

If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you may be considering your options for birth. While the majority of babies in the US are born in hospitals, there’s another option available for women who wish to birth in a homelike setting but desire many of the resources and safeguards of a hospital. This option is called a birth center. Birth centers are designed for healthy women seeking a natural birth experience under the care of midwives instead of obstetricians. Midwives embrace the idea that birth is a natural and normal process and should be approached under the wellness model of pregnancy and birth. Birth centers are able to provide routine, woman-centered care that focuses on the natural, physiological process of birth and seeks to minimize unnecessary interventions. While birth centers are not equipped for emergency medical procedures like C-sections or other serious complications, they are typically located in close proximity to a partnering hospital for quick transfers when necessary. If you are hoping for a natural birth experience in a non-medical environment yet under the care of licensed midwifery professionals, a birth center may be for you. Here are 10 reasons you should consider delivering at a birth center.

  1. You’re hoping for a natural, intervention free birth: At birth centers, pregnancy and childbirth are seen as natural and normal events. Midwives seek to empower and support women in doing what their bodies were created to do without unnecessary intervention. According to the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, the rate of C-sections for low risk births is only 6 percent at birth centers in comparison with 27 percent of low risk births in a hospital setting.
  2. You want to have a midwife instead of a doctor: Midwives are uniquely positioned to provide personalized care to mothers during pregnancy and birth that not only focuses on physical health, but also emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing. Midwives are trained professionals that support women in having optimal pregnancies and birth experiences with minimal medical intervention. Births that are attended by midwives tend to have lower rates of C-sections, episiotomies and perineal trauma.
  3. You believe hospitals are for sick people: If you are hoping to bring your baby into the world in a more homelike environment but you want the expertise and resources of skilled professionals, a birth center may be for you. In many countries around the world birth is not seen as a medical event at all but a natural, normal experience in life. Birth centers offer many of the safeguards and equipment of a hospital without the medical environment.
  4. You want to have a water birth: Though some hospitals do offer the option of a birthing tub, it is more commonly available at birth centers. Laboring and delivering in water has many benefits from pain relief, improved cervical dilation and a soothing transition for baby from womb to world.
  5. You want to be able to eat and drink during labor: While most hospitals will restrict your intake during labor due to the risk of needing general anesthesia for a C-section, most birth centers encourage you to nourish yourself as needed to keep up your energy and stamina.
  6. You want to save money: While you should check your insurance policy to confirm benefits and birth center coverage, delivering at a birth center is typically less expensive than delivering at a hospital. Reasons for the difference in cost include a shorter length of stay and fewer interventions among other variables. Typically, your out-of-pocket cost at a birth center will be about a third less than that of a hospital birth. 
  7. You do not want to have continuous fetal monitoring: While your midwife will likely intermittently monitor your baby, you will not be hooked up to a fetal monitor for the entirety of your labor like you may be at a hospital. This enables you to move about freely throughout your labor to the positions that offer the most relief and comfort. You also will not have to worry about any invasive internal monitoring or unnecessary cervical checks. 
  8. You don’t want to deliver on your back: Midwives are typically more flexible in encouraging the mother to birth and labor in whatever position her body tells her she should. Laboring and delivering on your back has been found to be one of the least conducive positions to helping baby move naturally through the birth canal. 
  9. You don’t want to feel rushed: In a birth center you will be encouraged and supported in laboring as long as your body needs. Rather than hastening the labor process with interventions, midwives embrace the natural normal process of childbirth in which you place trust in your body to know what it needs to do and at what pace.
  10. You want your family (or friends) involved: While a hospital may limit the number of individuals allowed in the room for your birth, at a birth center you will be welcome to have whomever you feel you need to support you in your birth experience. Birth centers will often involve the family during prenatal appointments and during labor realizing that the birth of a new baby is a family experience to be shared.

If you are a healthy woman experiencing a normal pregnancy and feel that a birth center may be more in line with your hopes and plans for natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support and empower you from pregnancy to postpartum and beyond.