passionatural

Passionate About Natural Living


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3 Essential Ingredients for your Ideal Birth

 

cordeliabirthdayps copyWhenever I meet expectant parents, I get a crazy look in my eye, my heart begins to race, and I want to spew out all that I have learned about pregnancy and birth. I want to share all the things that I wish I knew early on in my pregnancy or better yet, before getting pregnant. However, I usually hold back from giving my birth sermon because I know that expectant parents are probably already getting flooded with unwanted advice. I don’t wish to add to the unwanted advice. I don’t want to be annoying or condescending. So instead of ranting to those who do not care what I have to say, I will passively sit and write this post with hopes that those who do care will read. Here is my list of 3 Essential Ingredients for your Ideal Birth.

Let go of fear. We have been conditioned to fear childbirth and it is reinforced EVERYWHERE. It’s reinforced by lazy writers (Downton Abbey season 3 anyone?) and by loved ones with the best intentions. When I decided that I wanted to have a natural birth, I had to fight the fear being placed on me by those I am closest with. My mom told me that it is something I could do for subsequent children, but it would be too painful for my first. My sister told me of a neighbor who waited off on getting an epidural while in labor because she wasn’t in pain, but couldn’t get one when she was in pain, thus having to endure an excruciating transition and a severe tear. It’s natural to fear the unknown, but ultimately we do more harm than good when we harbor these fears within ourselves and encourage the fear in others. Fear based decisions can hold us back from achieving our goals. I’ve heard of way too many women who make fear based decisions in childbirth that ultimately keep them from having their ideal birth. Release your fears concerning birth and allow yourself to dream. You can have a painless birth. You can have a birth that brings you closer to the divine. You can have a vaginal delivery after a cesarean. If other women have done it before, believe that you can too. Maybe there will be unforeseen events, it’s possible. Do not dwell on the improbable worst case scenario, rather prepare yourself for the best possible scenario. We often get what we focus on.

Have a clear vision of your ideal birth. Your baby’s birth day can be something beautiful, serene, and unique, a day that will ultimately change you and your family for the better. Realize that there are birth options. Your birth deserves as much thought and planning as you put into your wedding day. Study the options and form your own passionate opinions. Where will you birth? What will you wear? Who will be attending? Will you and your body be treated with respect?  What will you eat and drink? You have the right and the responsibility to protect how you, your body, and your baby are treated. An epidural is not the only way to mitigate pain. You can decline routine cervical exams. You don’t have to watch your baby get pricked by needles on his or her first day of life. The hepatitis B vaccination can be delayed or refused. You can administer vitamin K to your baby orally instead of injecting them with a syringe. You do not need to be strapped on a hospital bed for monitoring. You can move about freely in accordance to what feels best to you. You can labor, even birth, in a bath. You can get a massage. You deserve to feel pampered, loved, and cared for on this day. Take a few minutes every day to meditate and visualize your ideal birth. You can make it happen.

Find a care provider who will honor your vision. Once you have an idea of how your ideal birth will go, write it out. Prepare your birth plan with care and discuss it with your care provider as early as possible. I felt uncomfortable with the first doctor I visited. So I fired him. I found a new doctor and she discussed every aspect of my birth plan with me. She shared with me legitimate concerns over some items in my birth plan and gave me hearty approval over others. Overall, discussing my birth plan with her greatly increased my confidence in her ability to honor my wishes and it increased my confidence in my ability to achieve my ideal birth. Though your care provider may not agree with you on every detail of your ideal birth, be sure that he or she respects your vision. Be sure to check his or her background as well. If you want a natural birth but your doctor has a high rate of administering c-sections or inducing their clients, it is likely that he or she will not honor your vision. If you suspect that your doctor will not honor your vision, do not be afraid to hunt out a new care provider. If that is not a possibility, consider hiring a doula who will be your advocate.

“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” -Ina May Gaskin


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Prepare for a Lovely Childbirth: 10 Reasons to Hire a Doula

I briefly considered hiring a doula for my daughter’s birth. I realized that while in labor, Tim and I might be a little distracted.  I thought it would be nice to have someone present who would help oversee that my lengthy birth plan was followed and respected. However, I valued my privacy more than the birth plan. I felt uncomfortable about hiring a stranger to be present at such an intimate, pivotal moment in my life. I even felt hesitant about inviting my own mother.

I debated whether or not I should invite my mother until the morning that my water broke. Thankfully, I did invite her. Though she is not a professional doula, she has been present for nearly all of my sister’s births (I believe that’s been about seven that she’s witnessed, as well as the six births that she personally went through). I deeply believe that if my mother wasn’t continually holding my hand and assuring me that I was healthy and doing a good job, I wouldn’t have had the natural birth that I had planned for.

I don’t mean to downplay the role that husbands play at birth. My husband never left my side throughout the entire labor. He even laid beside me on the hospital bed when contractions were at their most intense. I know I wouldn’t have had the birth that I wanted without him. But I believe that having someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in childbirth to be continually present for the laboring mother is one of the strongest tools a woman can use to have the lovely birth she desires.

In addition to my opinion from my personal experience, I have outlined a list of ten reasons why you should hire a doula for your childbirth. All of the studies I cite I have summarized from The Doula Book by Marshall H. Klaus, M.D., John H. Kennell, M.D., and Phyllis H. Klaus, C.S.W, M.F.T. All of the studies observe first-time mothers that were randomly assigned to groups that would either receive support from a doula or have routine hospital care.

10 Reasons to Hire a Doula for Your Childbirth

  1. Protect birth preferences. A doula is your advocate. Typically a doula will meet with you before your estimated due date to discuss options in childbirth and to understand your preferences. If you are planning to have your baby at a hospital, it will likely be a struggle to keep your idea of a lovely childbirth if it varies from hospital protocol. For instance, despite having gone over my birth preferences with my care provider during several prenatal appointments and despite my husband handing a birth plan to every nurse present during my labor, I was “coached” to push, when I specifically stated that I would like to follow my own natural urges. Also, despite my request that I keep my placenta, it was nearly thrown out. You can make your birth plan very lovely, printed off on delicate paper and scented with rose petals; chances are that no one, except you, your partner, and your doula will actually read it and care about it. Keep in mind that you and your partner will be preoccupied during the intensity of labor and birth and will probably not be physically able to politely remind your doctor/midwife and nurses about all of your preferences.
  2. Lower risk of requiring a Cesarean section. Today in the United States, the average rate of a woman requiring a C-section is about one in three.  The World Health Organization recommends that this rate “should not be higher than 10-15%.” To further quote the WHO, “caesarean delivery was associated with high maternal and neonatal complication rates and increased health-care costs.” A study was performed in an obstetric unit in Cleveland that showed that “the mothers supported by both their partner and a doula had a cesarean delivery rate of 14.2 percent compared to 22.5 percent in the control group, a highly significant difference.” Perhaps this should be reason enough that you hire a doula, but I said I’d give you 10 reasons.
  3. Lower epidural rateEpidurals, while relatively safe considering that a few decades ago a doctor would offer ether or chloroform, are not risk-free. One side effect associated with getting an epidural is a fever. A fever is also indicative of a very serious, albeit rare, infection. If the mother has a fever, there is no way to differentiate if she is reacting to the epidural or the infection, thus leading to the over-prescribed use of antibiotics for all laboring mothers with a fever. If you have read Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome, you too will be wary over the use of antibiotics at such an integral time in your baby’s soon-to-develop digestive system.  In addition to the antibiotics, the infant is also kept for a longer period of time in the hospital to observe any other signs of infection. Longer period of time in the hospital equals lots and lots of money. Also, longer period of time in the hospital equals longer period of time in the hospital. Another potential adverse effect of routine epidural use is that if the epidural is administered early on in labor, the baby receives a small dosage of the drug. It has been reported that this can cause sluggishness in the newborn, which can disrupt feeding behavior.According to the Cleveland study, mothers with doulas had a lower epidural rate of 67.6 percent; 76.8 percent rate of mothers who didn’t have a doula, a  significant difference. Also, in a study performed in a Houston hospital, mothers with doulas that developed a fever in labor was 1%, compared to 10% fever in the no doula group.
  4. Shorter length of labor. According to the Houston study, mothers with doulas had an average labor of 7.4 hours while those without doulas had an average labor of 9.4 hours. Shorter labor- need I say more?
  5. Lower chance of requiring forceps. While forceps can be a useful tool to avoid a C-section, I think it’s an understatement to say that most expectant mothers would prefer their birth to be forceps-free. Forceps often mean an episiotomy and longer post-birth recovery time for the mother. The use of forceps can also injure the baby ranging from bruises, to facial nerve injury, or in rare cases a broken clavicle. According to the Houston study, the use of forceps in childbirth with the doula assisted mothers was 8 percent; 26 percent for the mothers without a doula. 
  6. Less need of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin or Syntocinon). Synthetic oxytocin is often administered in childbirth to shorten the time a mother spends in labor (keep in mind that its use is being reevaluated, as it does shorten labor time, but does not decrease the number of interventions such as C-sections or forceps use, see here). While it’s generally considered to be safe, it is like any drug in that it has a list of known side-effects. One of which being that synthetic oxytocin creates much more intense contractions that are increasingly difficult to endure without an epidural. Other side-effects include nausea and hemorrhaging. Excessive dosage of synthetic oxytocin can lead to brain damage or death in the baby. In the Houston study about 17 percent of mothers in the doula group were given synthetic oxytocin, compared to 44 percent of mothers without doulas.
  7. Less pain. According to The Doula Book, a study conducted in South Africa “indicated that the doula-group mothers reported less pain during labor and at twenty-four hours after labor.” 
  8. More positive outlook about motherhood. According to the South Africa doula study there were highly significant differences between the doula-supported group and the control group within maternal perceptions of the baby and of self. The Doula group was more likely to believe that their baby cries less than other babies, that their baby is special, easy to manage, clever, beautiful, and that the mother regards baby as a separate, sociable person by 6 weeks. The doula-supported mothers are also more likely to report that they feel close to the baby, pleased to have baby, that they are managing well, that feel they communicate well, that becoming a mother was easy, and that they can look after the baby better than anyone else.
  9. Better emotional welfare following the birth. The South Africa doula study observed that mothers who had the support of a doula were less likely to exhibit signs of anxiety and depression and more likely to show higher levels of self esteem following the birth. 
  10. Stronger relationship with partner. The South Africa doula study also asked mothers about their feelings regarding their partners. 85 percent of the mothers who were assisted by doulas reported that they were satisfied with their partner since the baby was born, only 49 percent of the women without doulas felt this way. 71 percent of the doula-assisted mothers reported that their relationship with their partner was better right after birth, while only 30 percent of the control-group mothers  reported the same.

 

While I understand that the studies I have cited may have flaws, I believe that the 10 reasons I have listed to hire a doula are true. Having a knowledgeable lady stay with you for the entirety of your labor and birth will greatly influence you to stay positive and to keep your confidence about your strength, your body, and your baby.

To find a doula in your area, check out DONA International. If finances are an issue, consider a doula-in-training.

Click here to learn more about doulas from a humorous radio interview.