I'm trying to gather everything into one place. We'll see how it goes. So, this blog will continue at my website at the following address (for now): http://www.kimwildner.me/fearless-birthing.html


Mass Media and Birth

I guess I wasn't the only one thinking about how media influences our expectations of birth! Vicki Elson actually probably got the wheels turning before I even started working on my communications degree because she's written about the topic for ALACE. However, I'm very excited to order her new DVD, Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. the Real Thing, which can be seen here:

I am especially excited because I just wrote a paper on this very thing a couple of months ago. (I can't say I was excited about my sucky grade, but I thought I'd post it here simply because it is relevant.)

The Impact of Mass Communication on Women’s Perceptions of Birth
Kim Wildner, April 15, 2009

Mass communication both reflects and shapes the cultures in which it exists. It seems logical that women’s experiences of the important events in their lives would likewise be reflected and shaped by mass communication. Birth is one such experience.

Perhaps since the invention of the printed word, mass communication has been integral in determining the core beliefs that will impact a woman’s perceptions of her birthing experience. Indeed, by accident or by design, for better or for worse, mass communication has been very influential in changing the way birth is viewed, and not just by women.

The Bible was probably the first book to mention birth, even before the advent of the printing press. Though it would be unlikely that women themselves were reading the text, it would have served as instruction none-the-less, as it would have been the guide by which clergy ministered to their flocks.

The printing press made the Bible more widely available in the 1400s and 1500s. The availability might have qualified it as ‘mass communication’ at this point, but it would still take time for literacy rates among women to catch up. Still, it is important to explore what the Bible actually says about birth because it is an instance where mass communication profoundly influences women and their birth experiences.

It is commonly thought that painful birth is the curse for Eve’s sin of eating the apple in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:16 tells us, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (King James Version)

John 16:21 also tells us that birth is painful. In fact it is mentioned several times in the Bible that birth is painful. Yet, as Helen Wessel discovered when she researched the original biblical language in writing The Joy of Natural Childbirth: Fifth Edition of Natural Childbirth and the Christian Family, the word translated as ‘pain’ (estev) for all the passages regarding birthing is used elsewhere in the Bible…but translated as ‘toil’. Wessel asserts that before interpretations beginning between in about 200-400 A.D., there was no mention of Eve’s curse. (Wessel, 1994)

Before the Bible, women got their information regarding birth from the village ‘wise woman’ or midwife. Knowledge was passed from woman to woman, mother to daughter. However, in Witches, Midwives and Nurses, A History of Women Healers, a sinister plan is revealed. (Ehrenreich, English, 1973) The Church set out not only to reinforce the idea of women as evil and birth as a curse, but the beloved midwives were demonized as well.

The Malleus Maleficarum, or “The Hammer of the Witches” was written in 1486 by priests James Sprenger and Henry Kramer. These men decried midwives as the greatest threat to Christianity and declared them witches, in part for the heresy of helping women find comfort in birth, because according to the Bible, suffering in birth was God’s will.

The Malleus Maleficarum, as translated by Montague Summers in 1928, is still available through major booksellers, and according to Merskin in Witch-Hunts, and Persecution of the Other, (Merskin, 2007) has sold 60.5 million copies in 44 languages. Granted, despite these eventual numbers, this would not have been a work read by the laity then or at any other point right up to the present. However, with the leaders of the Church well versed in the evils of women through the work, it very much would have influenced the culture in which they lived.

Efforts to influence women through mass communication became more refined in the early 1900s. Dr. William Sadler, a prominent physician who wrote for women’s magazines of the time, published a book in 1916 titled The Mother and her Child. (Sadler, 1923) This book was intended for a mass audience, and he emphatically cautioned against use of midwives, portraying birth as a very dangerous medical event with a physician the very minimum requirement, preferably in attending women in the hospital. (Sadler, 1916)

The problem is that at the time, infant mortality was higher for doctors (and highest yet for hospital births) than for midwives. Dr. Levy, in the American journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children (Kosmak, 1918) stated:

Of the babies attended by midwives, 25.1 per 1000 died before the age of one month; of those attended by physicians, 38.2 per 1000 died before the age of one month; and of those delivered in hospitals, 57.3 per 1000 died before the age of one month. These figures certainly refute the charge of high mortality among the infants whose mothers are attended by midwives, and instead present the unexpected problem of explaining the fact that the maternal and infant mortality for the cases attended by midwives is lower than those attended by physicians and hospitals. ( pp. 44)

So, if midwives had better outcomes, why would Sadler and other doctors utilize the mass communication tools of the time to exert a considerable effort convincing women then were in grave danger at home with midwives? Doctors had decided they needed more ‘teaching’ material (i.e. women) and that the midwives were interfering with their access. Meeting notes from the American Association for Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality (1913) explain:

Another very pertinent objection to the midwife is that she has charge of 50 per cent of all the obstetrical material of the country, without contributing anything to our knowledge of the subject. As we shall point out, a large percentage of the cases are indispensable to the proper training of physicians and nurses in this important branch of medicine. (Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality, 1912. Paragraph 2 of ‘Elimination of the Midwife’)

The mass communications campaign to disparage the midwife and drive women into the hospital to birth so that doctors might use them for teaching purposes was so successful that most women to this day give birth in the hospital, thinking the reason they should choose the hospital is because it is safer and that the reason birth moved to hospital was for safety reasons.

In fact, even today, it is not safer to birth in the hospital than at home. In 2005, the British Medical Journal published a study by Johnson & Daviss, Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America that supported previous findings, which were that mortality (death) outcomes for women attended by midwives at home and doctors in the hospital were essentially the same, except that in the hospital women and babies were injured (morbidity) more often. (Johnson & Daviss, 2005)

This study came on the heels, and was possibly a response to, a study that was published in the U.S. and widely publicized through assorted mass media outlets. That 2002 study was titled Outcomes of Planned Home Birth in Washington State. (Pang, Heffelfinger, Huang, Benedetti & Weiss, 2002) However, just as in previous attempts to discredit safe birthing alternatives, devious tactics were used to sway public opinion.

Just as in the early 1990s, when infant deaths that occurred under a physician were attributed to a midwife if she’s been anywhere near the mother in labor, and in 1978, when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a press release declaring “Out-of-hospital births pose a 2-5 times greater risk to a baby’s life than hospital births,” using health department statistics that included stillbirths, late miscarriages, infant abandonments and infanticide (Stewart, 1981, pp 222.), the Pang study, as the 2002 study become known, was intentionally misleading by basing conclusions on flawed methodology.

For one thing, the title doesn’t just insinuate, but flatly states outcomes of planned homebirths. The authors actually admit right in the paper however, that since Washington state birth certificates (the source of their statistics) do not identify planned home births, that the authors defined ‘planned’ for themselves. They also clearly state that they include babies from 34 weeks gestation. However, midwives do not attend births less than 37 weeks gestation at home. Births at 34 weeks gestation would likely be precipitous (fast), premature babies with no birth attendant at all. As in the 1970s, any out-of-hospital birth is included, because the birth certificates do not include a way to differentiate between midwife-attended and taxi cab births. (CfM, 2002)

Interestingly, results of another homebirth study were also released in 2002 by the Canadian Medical Association. (Janssen, Lee, Ryan, Etches, Farquharson, Peacock, & Klein, (2002). They concluded, as other researchers have, “There was no increased maternal or neonatal risk associated with planned home birth under the care of a regulated midwife.” Somehow, this study didn't make it to major news outlets.

But the propaganda persists. Again, more recently ACOG and the American Medical Association (AMA) used access to major news outlets and the internet to ‘inform’ the public that homebirth and midwifery are unsafe, despite all of the evidence from around the world to the contrary. (Hunter, 2008; Wagner, 2006)

Again, we could ask ‘why?’ when 100% of the countries with better outcomes than the U.S. have midwives attending birth? (Wagner, 2006) Economics provides one answer.

Rikki Lake is making women stand up and take notice of their viable birthing options with her DVDThe Business of Being Born. (Scelfo, 2008.) In this documentary, Lake explores how women ended up in hospitals, tethered to IVs and electronic fetal monitors, submitting to a plethora of interventions that not only do not make birth safer for mothers and babies, but in some cases inflict pain and introduce complications. (BBC News, 2009; Enkin, Keirse, Neilson, Crowther, Duley, Hodnett, & Hofmeyr, 2000)She followed this with a just released book, Your Best Birth
followed by a just launched web community called My Best Birth.

But Lake went further. She initiated a media blitz that has been so effective that originally, she was named in the position statement issued by ACOG, and later by the AMA, that once again deemed homebirth and midwives unsafe, forcing Lake to respond in a Huffington Post blog. (Lake, Block & Epstein, 2008)

At a time when cesarean rates are rising due to skillful manipulation of women through the media (Park, 2008; Reichman, J., (2007), and mass communication is informing women that breastfeeding confers insignificant benefit to babies (Celizic, 2009) when science refutes that on a regular basis (Madden, 2008) it is essential that parents begin to recognize how successful the media is at shaping the beliefs that will impact their children’s lives forever.

The average woman doesn’t tend to read the books like Obstetric Myths versus Research Realities by Henci Goer, or Born in the USA: How a broken maternity system must be fixed to put women and children first, by Marsden Wagner. She reads What to Expect When You’re Expecting, because it’s handed out at their doctor’s office as a continuation of the mass communications machine. My personal observation is that they don’t read the books that will actually help them make good decisions because the last 100 years of constant and effective use of mass communication has convinced them there is nothing wrong with the system, despite the fact that infant mortality rates are some of the worst in the developed world, with 45 countries losing fewer babies (CIA, 2009), and maternal mortality rates worsening as well (Medical News Today, 2007).

Birth is portrayed negatively in books like Midwives, (Bohjalian, 1998) where there is just enough fact mingled with fiction to make an impossible story plausible for the reader, and in movies and television, too.

Unarguably, birth is horrible for a large number of women, so some would say the media is only reflecting reality. Yet we’ve just seen that our expectations are subtly imprinted with what others want us to believe. What if there are other voices that have gone unheard; voices of women who have birthed safely, and in ecstasy, sometimes even painlessly?

There are, and their always have been, around the world and throughout time. Judith Goldsmith give us many examples in Childbirth Wisdom: From the World's Oldest Societies. (Goldsmith, 1994) of women briefly stopping work to birth their babies easily, then returning to their tasks; of labors so short and painless that women birthed even while asleep.

Dr. Lamaze, Dr. Bradley and Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, in the 1940s and 50s would all come to believe that birth didn’t have to be painful, after seeing painless birth in other cultures where the women didn’t expect to feel pain. The incident involving Dick-Read that led him to come to this conclusion is that as a new doctor, he attended a poor women in labor and offered her chloroform. She refused, asking “It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t meant to, was it?” (Grantly-Read, 2005). These voices were present, but not heard, largely because there was no concerted mass communication effort.

Today, movies and the internet are making women question what they thought they knew. Born in the U.S. A., a documentary that critically examined routine intervention in birth, was actually shown on the PBS program Independent Lens. What Babies Want: An Exploration of the Consciousness of Infants brought in the ‘star power’ of Noah Wiley (of E.R. fame) to help us understand that what babies experience in their earliest developmental phases actually impacts their entire life. Pregnant in America: A Nation’s Miscarriage used a Michael Moore type approach to investigative reporting on the Nation’s maternity care, and Orgasmic Birth: The Best Kept Secret not only showed women that birth can be blissful without drugs, but got airtime on ABC’s 20/20. (ABC, 2009)

Women have been assailed with magazine articles, books, movies, and propaganda issued as 'press releases', all telling them that one of the safest options they have is unsafe. The indoctrination is so complete that the lie has become accepted as a self-evident truth, and to question it paramount to heresy.

So we come to the 21st century with firmly entrenched beliefs that birth must be painful and very dangerous. Is this the truth, or is it the result of carefully crafted mass communication; disseminated information meant to keep women fearful, manifesting the painful, frightening experience it in the process? For the one thing that most assuredly will create pain and complications is fear, by the mechanism of introducing adrenaline into the mammalian birth.

Circumstances are different now than they were 100 years ago. Women are smart, savvy consumers with far more available resources. Exposed to an idea with merit, they have the ability to research their options. They can vote, they have buying power and they have decision-making power over most of their reproductive options. It remains to be seen if they will choose to make decisions based on a very successful mass communications strategy, or will they become part of a new wave of critical thinkers who can rise above the noise and make decisions based on solid evidence. At least now, for every contrived ‘news’ story like, Are Home Births Dangerous? AMA Says Women Should Use a Hospital-Some Doctors Disagree, which aired on ABC News to bolster ACOGS position (Hunter, 2008), there is usually a credible source to refute it, like Lamaze, Intl. who posted, Is Home birth safe? Talking points related to: ACOG Statement on Home Birth on their website. The question is, will families bother looking if they don’t recognize the effect mass communication has on them in the first place?

ABC, (2009). Birth orgasms: Women speak out. 20/20. Retrieved April 9, 2009 from

American Association for Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality: Transactions of The Third
Annual Meeting, (1913). Digitalized notes found April 9, 2009 at
The quoted text is approximately half way through the document in the second paragraph
under the subheading ‘Elimination of the Midwife’.

BBC News, (2009). No risk from eating during labour[sic]: It is safe for most healthy women to eat during labour[sic], research has found. Retrieved March 25, 2009 from

Bohjalian, C., (1998). Midwives. Vintage Contemporaries.

Celizic, M.,(2009). Is breast-feeding really best? Some women are questioning whether the
health benefits are worth it. Today Show. Retrieved March 16, 2009 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29718562/

CfM, (2002). “Planned” home birth study misrepresented in the press. Citizens for Midwifery
Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from http://cfmidwifery.org/pdf/PangStudy.pdf

CIA, (2009). The World Fact Book. Retrieved April 12, 2009 from

Ehrenreich, B., English, D., (1973). Witches, midwives and nurses: A history of women healers. Feminist Press.

Enkin, M., Keirse, M., Neilson, J., Crowther, C., Duley, L., Hodnett, E., & Hofmeyr, J., (2000).
An Effective guide to pregnancy and childbirth, Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 28, 2009 from http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ClickedLink=329&ck=10218&area=2

Goldsmith, J., (1994). Childbirth wisdom: From the world's oldest societies. Talman Co.

Grantly-Read, D., (2005). Childbirth without fear: The principles and practice of natural childbirth. (4th ed.) Pinter & Martin Ltd

Hunter, A., (2008). Are home births dangerous? AMA says women should use a hospital-
some doctors disagree. ABC News, retrieved March 28, 2009, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Story?id=5340949&page=1

Janssen, P., Lee, S., Ryan, E., Etches, D., Farquharson, D., Peacock, D., Klein, M., (2002). Outcomes of planned home births versus planned hospital births after regulation of midwifery in British Columbia. Canadian Medical Association Journal, retrieved April 12, 2009 from http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/166/3/315

Johnson, K., Daviss, B., (2005). Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America. British Medical Journal, 330:1416.

Kosmak, G., (1918). The American journal of obstetrics, and diseases of women and children. Pp. 44. Digital copy archived; retrieved April 6, 2009 from

Lake, R., Block, J., Epstein, A., (2008). Docs to women: Pay no attention to Ricki Lake's home birth. The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ricki-lake-jennifer-block-and-abby-epstein/docs-to-women-pay-no-atte_b_107845.html

Lamaze, Intl. (2009). Is Home birth safe? Talking points related to: ACOG Statement on Home Births, February 6, 2008. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from http://www.lamaze.org/ChildbirthEducators/ResourcesforEducators/TalkingPoints/IsHomeBirthSafe/tabid/654/Default.aspx

Madden, C., (2008). Breast milk contains stem cells. Science Network, Western Australia. Retreived March 27, 2009 from http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20081102-16879.html

Medical News Today, (2007) Maternal mortality rate in U.S. highest in decades, experts say. Retrieved April 9, 2009 from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/80743.php

Merskin, D. (2007) The Malleus Maleficarum, Witch-Hunts, and Persecution of the
other" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, San Francisco, CA Online . Retrieved April 4, 2009 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p170386_index.html

Pang J, Heffelfinger J, Huang G, Benedetti T, Weiss N., (2002). Outcomes of Planned Home Birth In Washington State: 1989-1996. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 100(2):253-259.

Park, A., (2008). Choosy mothers choose caesareans [sic]. Time Magazine. Retrieved March 30, 2009 from, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1731904,00.html

Rooks, J., Mahan, C., (1999). Midwifery and Childbirth in America. Temple University Press.

Reichman, J., (2007). Why so many women have C-sections: About 30 percent of U.S. births are Cesareans, but are they necessary? Today Show. Retrieved March 28, 2009 from,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17796664//

Sadler, W., Sadler, L., (1916). The mother and her child. A. C. McClurg & co. Chicago
Archived copy found April 4, 2009 at http://www.scribd.com/doc/2396329/The-Mother-and-Her-Child-by-Sadler-Lena-K

Scelfo, J., (2008.) Baby, you’re home. New York Times online, retrieved April 11, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/13/garden/13birth.html

Stewart, D., (1981). The five standards for safe childbearing. NAPSAC Intl., MO

Wagner, M., (2006). Born in the USA: How a broken maternity system must be fixed to put women and children first. University of California Press, CA.

Wessel, H., (1994). The Joy of natural childbirth: Fifth edition of natural childbirth and the Christian family. Bookmates International Inc.



The year is slipping away from me!Between work, school and the transition of my daughter graduating,it's been a crazy ride so far!
I'd like to say all that is keeping me away from blogging, and in part it is, but quite honestly Facebook is to mostly to blame! It is so easy to pick up a news item, that at one time I would have put on here to kvetch about, and just hit the 'share' button on FB. It's great! Through other people I've been keeping up on so much more that's going on 'out there'. However, that means I'm reading more and writing less.
In any case, one of the things I have had the opportunity to take part in was a Service-Learning project.
Service-Learning is a program wherein students volunteer to help provide service to the community in such a way that it also augments their curriculum.

This year, I was invited to participate by pairing with nursing students.

The students decided to prepare materials for women seeking out information on water birth to that might be included on this page as a local resource.

The students were Amanda Rasmussen, Michelle Babiash, and Faye Lindert. They each researched a different aspect of water birth (i.e. risks/benefits, details of finding a provider, technical aspects, etc.) and then created a Power Point presentation, a brochure and a handout.

The following link should bring up the Power Point version of their work.

These young women did a great job and I am honored to have been able to work with them to serve our community in this way.



Events at the Fond du Lac Center for Spirituality and Healing

I have been too darn busy to post anything here for awhile, but it's all because exciting things are in the works!
I have been assisting in the planning of some great events at the Fond du Lac Center for Spirituality and Healing
We have a Mom's Movie Night, for mothers and others interested in seeing birth as it is meant to be.
We have a Natural Parenting Series, which focuses on natural wellness from pregnancy through the first three years. In these times when so many people are either out of work or lacking insurance, staying well inexpensively is of paramount importance!
Finally, we have a presentation on the Mind/Body connection, which explains how to minimize stress during these trying times.
The schedule can be found on my web site where there are also links to the posters with all of the pertinent information.
Soon, I'll get back to commentary on current birthing news! I've been collecting all sorts of tidbits over on Facebook. :-)


Welcome Baby Rowan!

Rowan was born October '08, but as noted before, I'm still catching up with all of the '08 babies.

I don't have pictures of Rowan or the official birth story yet, but I did talk to his mom, Lisa, and she was very happy with her HypnoBirthing(R) experience. Her body went into labor spontaneously the day before a date scheduled for induction. It was a natural birth, on again/off again for some time, then 'really intense' at the end. I'll post more when I know more.

I have to give a big thanks to Kiko and Emily for bringing Hanako and sharing their birth story with the class that just concluded.

This is Hanako Lily at 3 months:

Emily was on the computer during labor, not sure if she should call Kiko at work or not. She did, and they arrived at the hospital at 7 cm. Hanako was born pretty quickly thereafter. They never even had time to get the cameras and stuff out of the car, so no pictures of the big day! I have such gratitude that they shared this experience with the expectant parents, because as they shared the story they positively glowed. Thank you again!

Zanna was born in MAY! She looks so much like mommy in this picture you wouldn't believe it!

Zanna's mom, Jamie, also states that she was pleased with her birth. They arrived at the hospital at 4 cm with surges that were, "...not painful, but caused to me to take a minute and catch my breath." Jamie states, "If we wouldn't have come to HypnoBirthing I don't think I would have been as calm about the whole process or as
informed about the choices that I could make."


Midwifery Today Widget


Baby Pictures!

The above photo is of baby Natalie, November 2008 HypnoBirthing baby and her pretty mommy Dawn.

This is Jackson, October HypnoBirthing baby, who is a great example of the idea we use in class of 'If you are taking a trip to Florida, you plan a trip to Florida, not Mississippi. If however, you end up taking a detour into Mississippi, you deal with the detour.' (Or variations thereof)

Jack also has a cute-as-a-bug mommie, BTW, but I LOVE this picture of Jack and she just doesn't happen to be in this one.

Anyway, Jack's mom did a bang up job of growing a nice-sized boy who was probably almost 1/10th her size by the time he was born. (I said she was cute as a bug, and not much bigger besides.) This might not have been a problem; in fact, I had no doubt he would enter the world in the usual way. However, he also decided to come into the world mooning everybody. His dad is quite a funny guy, perhaps he got that from him? There just wasn't room for the little guy to move into a better position, so he was born by cesarean. He and mom did great.

Jackson is such a sweet, mellow little guy! And I don't think I'm biased just because I'm rather fond of his parents-who are friends of ours-too.

I have some pictures of some of the other babies born while I was peddling fast to keep up with life, but I have to get permission from parents before I put them up. I hope it will be soon! I think some moms will want to share stories too.


Without us, this study will be meaningless!

There is a new study about to commence that will follow children's health from life in utero through age 21. Read more here: Largest-ever study of U.S. child health begins Hope is to see how environment interacts with genetics to impact health
Ostensibly, the reason for the study is to figure out what plagues our youth.

However, if they only study 'what every body else does', they will never figure out how to make our children healthier! They need a substantial group of selectively vaccinated, home-birthed, breastfed, organically fed, attachment parented, holistically doctored kids if they want to know how to avoid ear infections, diabetes, autism, etc.

Who do we need to contact to make sure this happens?


Orgasmic Birth on 20/20

I would have titled this post "Happy New Year" considering I'm doing a bit of catch-up before I blog about the show and the chatter resulting from the show, but the new year is already 4 days old!

I've been such a slug about posting here of late. It's been weeks since I originally found out about the ABC show and shared the news. I will say that for most of December I was working my butt off and was nowhere near my computer (and if I was, research or cogent thought were beyond my capability at the time). After that I was on the road for a few days, then sick, then preoccupied with Wii. That's the update in a nutshell.

I did not teach any classes over the last couple of months. I think the Universe knew that would push me over the edge with work and school. The last HypnoBirthing(R) baby reported to me was a home-birth on November 20th. Welcome Natalie Marie!

Aiden James and Jackson arrived in October (two other babies were due on October, but I have not received birth announcements so I have no names as of yet), Hanako Lily in September (likewise, no birth announcements on the other two that were due that month), Brittany Faith in June (one other due that month), Zanna Lirien in May, and Lillian Grace in March. There is one baby due any time now also. When I touch base with the other families with new arrivals, I'll post. I'm vowing to do better and welcome these babies here in a more timely manner in 2009!

Oh, and I've been preoccupied with Face Book. I originally joined just to keep up with some wonderful friends in New York who have little boys who are growing up way too fast. Then Sheri Menelli discovered the birth-work networking capabilities. There is no stopping Sheri once she gets going! Once I 'friended' her (because she really is my friend) I met all sorts of well-connected people who are keeping me in the birthing loop, which is how I even found out about the ABC 20/20 program on Orgasmic Birth.

The entire program was about birthing and parenting options that don't often get a lot of exposure. I thought all were were fairly represented...and the responses to the pieces revealing.

I would think that women would be at the very least intrigued by the idea of ecstatic birth. Even if they aren't interested in what can make birth pleasurable instead of agonizing so they can have an orgasmic birth, I would think they'd at least be curious as to why it happens or why nature would provide such a 'hormonal blueprint of labor', what the benefits to mom and baby might be, and what is sacrificed when it is interrupted.

But some of the comments were downright hostile! Not only are some women saying orgasmic birth is impossible despite the fact that women in the film spotlighted in the 20/20 piece are enjoying themselves very much, but other comments I've seen say that elective paraplegia is better! I was astounded when I read that! The woman who wrote that had two horrific natural births and one with an epidural. And of course since her experience is the definitive word on what is possible in birth, that's the end of that discussion.

One person commented on how gross it was for the child to grow up thinking their birth was enjoyable for their mother. Yeah, so much better for a child's psyche to grow up being told your birth was the worst possible, tortuous thing your mother ever endured.

The same person who said feeling nothing is better than feeling pleasure also commented on the segment regarding home-birth, saying that women who give birth at home are selfish and ignorant because hospitals are so much safer. Another echoed that, saying that her baby was born not breathing and would have died if born at home.

There were others who were concerned that the segment implied that homebirth equals unassisted birth. I didn't come away with that perception, but the title was misleading. It read, "Mothers-to-be saying no to modern medicine" which is not the case at all. Giving birth at home does not mean that a woman wouldn't transport if a complication arose. Choosing to birth at home does not mean that a woman (or her family) doesn't believe in modern medicine, or even that she does not take prenatal care seriously. It simply means that she understands that hospitals are for the sick and injured, we go there when we get sick or hurt, and birth is neither an illness nor injury.

In any case, often when I tell people my daughter was born at home, I hear comments about how 'brave' I was, followed by some dire birth emergency someone narrowly averted only through the quick action of the doctor.

"The cord was wrapped around my baby's neck and he would have strangled if he was born at home." (Babies don't breathe though their windpipes yet, they don't strangle. If the cord is around the neck, as it was with my daughter, it's not such a big deal; we just unwrapped it.)

"My baby wasn't breathing! Without the doctor, my baby would be dead!" (Maybe. But maybe the mother took narcotics in labor which depress breathing efforts. Maybe the doctor immediately cut the cord instead of waiting for it to stop pulsing and the baby wasn't ready to breath, but now that his oxygen source has been cut off, he needs help.)

"My baby had a life-threatening infection! We needed to be in the hospital!" (OK, but consider this: a baby is immune to the germs in his own home, but is very vulnerable to the super germs in hospitals, especially if his gut is colonized with them instead of the good healthy bacteria from his mom, and the colostrum to fight the bad germs.)

"My baby was premature!" (If naturally premature, a legitimate reason to be in the hospital. If the baby or babies were removed early because of induction or surgery, intentionally--as is often the case with healthy twins--or unintentionally because the ultrasound was wrong, as it very often is, then the doctor/hospital created the disaster before they fixed it. This is of great concern to the March of Dimes, who is trying hard to prevent premature births. Reporting on this, the St. Louis Beacon points out in an article with a section titled: Early induction of labor and Cesarean sections

"Pregnancy is popularly spoken of as lasting nine months. Therefore, many women think term is at 36 weeks, when really normal term is between 39 and 40 weeks. They will schedule delivery at around 36 weeks at their or their physician's convenience, believing that the baby will be fine.

However, according to Dr. Dave Stamilio of Washington University, late preterm births are much riskier than full term births. These babies are 4-7 times more likely to have feeding difficulties, respiratory distress syndrome, temperature instability, or other medical conditions.

Physicians and hospitals should schedule deliveries only when the baby is determined to be full term by such standards as fetal lung maturity. At the symposium, one audience member suggested a public campaign emphasizing that the brain does most of its maturation in the final weeks of pregnancy. Publicists could point out that "the womb is the best bike helmet."" (Seltzer, J., 2008. St. Louis Beacon.)

People need to keep something in mind: an obstetrician, the most sued professional in the US, is not going to tell you he messed up but then he fixed it, even if that is indeed what happened. Most of what is considered 'routine' technology for birth in the US has been shown to be useless or harmful for healthy women and babies, so the chance that an emergency was created and not encountered are pretty good.

But there are a couple of reasons he won't tell you this. For one thing, he's trying to avoid being sued. In this litigious society, people sue doctors for things that aren't even their fault, so if something IS, why would they own up to that?

For another, if he can convince you that without him your baby would have died, you will adore him. Not only will you pick him as your caregiver next time, you will be convinced that anyone who doesn't do the same is crazy, and you'll say so on message boards whenever you hear about anyone who has made another choice. I'll give you an example. Just the other day I heard the 'reason' it was 'a good thing I was in the hospital' was because the birth was a 'dry birth', meaning the amniotic bag released some water. She knows this is a bad thing because her doctor told her so...even though there is no such thing as a 'dry birth', Amniotic fluid is continuously replenished as long as the mother is hydrated. You'd be surprised how often this particular one comes up, often with part of the story being that the doctor broke the water! In any case, the purpose of the amniotic fluid is NOT to 'lubricate' the birth canal. It is to protect the baby.

That is not to say that doctors don't save lives (because invariably, when anyone dares to say that doctors are human, someone else will insist that means to acknowledge it is obviously anti-doctor), but to say that people should do some research if they are going to comment on a subject.

Because here's the irony: homebirth couples typically do far more research about birth, both here and abroad, then the people who call them selfish and clueless. Ask a homebirth mom and she'll tell you about every risk and benefit of her decision, and back it up with statistics. She has a plan for every contingency, and she takes responsibility for her actions.

Ask a healthy mother off the street who is choosing to birth in a hospital where the US ranks in infant or maternal mortality. Ask her what the possible immediate and/or long-term affects of pitocin, or cytotec, or nubain, or stadol are. Ask her how accurate a late ultrasound is in evaluating 'due date' or fetal weight. Ask her what the effects of early separation are on her infant. She doesn't know or she wouldn't be there, unless she is taking a HypnoBirthing class (because we teach families how to effectively and respectfully communicate with caregivers who may be unfamiliar with natural birth, and support them in finding a better fit if that proves non-productive) or has a really special physician who practices evidence-based care.

Another women felt the need to remind those poor, selfish homebirth mothers (who I guarantee are more informed than she) that there is another person to consider here...the baby. Like they never thought of that. Homebirth mothers I know made their decision to birth at home BECAUSE it's not only safer for baby, (for I'm sure the commenter knows that 41 countries have better infant mortality rates than the US and they all include midwives and homebirth as options for safe maternity care) but far less traumatic for baby. She stated that if 'one baby' was saved by being born in the hospital, it should be standard of care. Using that logic, I wonder if her stance would change if she considered that hundreds of babies die needlessly every year BECAUSE they were born in the hospital, due to some of the routine interventions mentioned above. Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must be Fixed to Put Women and Children First, by Marden Wagner, one of the doctors featured in Orgasmic Birth breaks it down to real numbers that represent real babies and moms.

I believe that everyone has the right to choose where and with whom they will birth. I just believe that they owe it to their baby to actually make truly informed decisions.


Cudos to ABC!

I went to the 20/20 website to see when they will air the upcoming piece on Orgasmic Birth and what did I find? A bunch of great birth coverage!

Trying to Take Back Childbirth is an excellent expose' of the costs, both literal and figurative, of medical-ized birth, and there's another on homebirth, featuring Ricki Lake.

Another one on homebirth explores the financial and political motives of ACOG on the opposition to homebirth, and another examines the pros and cons of surgical deliveries pretty fairly. I was disappointed in that one only because they kept using breech birth as a reason babies needed to be born surgically. Sometimes they are, but vaginal breech birth, while the complication rate is roughly double that of a head-down vaginal birth, is no where near the 5 times greater maternal mortality rate associated with surgery, providing the circumstances are favorable. This means the caregiver must be familiar with assisting with a breech (most doctors are not these days) and the breech scoring criteria should be met. The article made it sound like it was always deadly in days when surgery was not the norm.

I was a breech baby born vaginally, and I assure you I'm not dead, nor am I mentally incapacitated...at least on most days.

It's nice to see so many great stories in mainstream media, but we have a ways to go before we can expect to see women urged to birth at home, as in Scotland, England and elsewhere.


Random acts of kindness...

So, I'm at work, and I hear a woman say, "I can't help it; I'm crying" and employees saying, "Did you see that? That makes coming in today worth it."

What happened?

A very pregnant woman who was just talking to another customer about how her husband was 'downsized' into a lower paying position at just the most stressful time. (I mentioned she was about to pop, right?) She is approached by an elderly male customer who overheard her. He says, "Good luck with the new baby" and gives her $100 bill. When she gets over the shock of it and goes after him to say she can't possibly accept, he's gone.

Random acts of kindness. It make up for random acts of stinginess.


5 things more important than the 5 usual rules to avoid colds and flu

From October until about March mainstream media will feature articles about keeping kids healthy during cold and flu season. The same tried and true advice is always the same, so let’s review:

1. Wash your hands! Bugs are everywhere, and teaching children to wash their hands often minimizes exposure.

2. Get plenty of rest. This is just common sense. We are more susceptible to lots of things when our bodies don’t get this time to rejuvenate. This rule of thumb could include minimizing stress, which for children means not making them go to school and daycare when they are sick.

3. Eat right. Again, this is common sense. If we don’t provide the building blocks of health through the food we eat, we make ourselves easy targets.

4. Stay home if you are sick! This includes keeping your kids home when they are sick. This does NOT mean sending them to daycare when they are too sick to go to school. It means keeping them home! Not only are they more comfortable and able to recuperate at home, it is not fair to spread their contagion to the other kids!

This particular rule as some add-ons:

If your child has been given a fever reducer, cough suppressant or other cold medication that suppresses symptoms, it does NOT mean they are better! It means their symptoms have been suppressed. They are still sick. They are still contagious. Do not take them out in public!

I have heard parents and co-workers justify being at work and school sick by saying it’s just unavoidable that stuff is ‘going around’. No, it’s not. Typhoid Mary used the same justification! Well, ok, she didn’t think she was sick either because she wasn’t symptomatic. She was a ‘healthy carrier’. However, see previous paragraph for the modern equivalent of people thinking they aren’t contagious just because they aren’t symptomatic.

In any case, she kept spreading Typhoid because she insisted on going to work. She left a wake of illness and death. Epidemics and pandemics spread because people do not think about those they might expose. If you are sick, stay home!

5. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics! I talk to a lot of parents, and I can’t believe, with everything we know about the dangers of the overuse of antibiotics, that parents are still being given antibiotics for colds, flu and ear infections. This topic is deserving of an entire article, it is just that important. In fact, there are several great articles on just antibiotics and childhood illness, so I’m linking to a few:

Holistic Pediatric Association

Dr. Greene

No antibiotics for ear infections (MSNBC)

Doctors are still over-prescribing antibiotics, even as campaigns are encouraging parents to refuse. Do your research and know when to say no.

Finally, a book that every parent must read is Healing Childhood Ear Infections: Prevention, home care and alternative treatment, Dr. Michael Schmidt

5 ways to boost immunity long before exposure to illness

What if hand-washing was the last line of defense in a long line of things you could do to optimize your child’s immune system and minimize disease? What if you could make choices throughout the childbearing year, before your baby is even born and immediately after, that would impact your child’s susceptibility later in life?

There are actually 5 things mothers have much more control over than the germs that may end up on their child’s hands. Make no mistake; some of this information has not been readily available, so it’s likely a large number of parents will not have had access to it in their decision-making process. For those parents, hand-washing and the other four rules are the best line of defense. The immune system continually identifies new pathogens so that they can be recognized later and a preemptive strike launched.

Parents who start out with the information to follow have an opportunity to get a head start, but those tips, like hand-washing, to minimize exposure are still important. But if one child can be spared the pain of one less ear infection, or one less parent must endure the helpless feeling of holding a feverish child one less time, then this article will have served its purpose.

Your child’s immune system

Step #1-Optimize your diet in pregnancy. If possible, consult with a nutritionist who is familiar with the Brewer Pregnancy Diet or at the very least educate yourself on proper pregnancy nutrition. Since the vast majority of pregnancy complications are directly or indirectly related to nutrition, by doing so you may just avoid a lot of other problems too! Prenatal vitamins are no substitution for feeding your baby good food every single day of your pregnancy.

A child’s immune system starts developing in the womb. What the mother eats--or doesn’t (Moore, 1998; ScienceDaily, 2004) while pregnant, and what she is exposed to(Hinterthuer,2007) can have long lasting effects on the health of the child. Mothers today may be told to gain more, or less, weight in pregnancy, but the importance of how they do so is rarely discussed. The standard American diet is filled with non-nutritive calories that not only do nothing to contribute to the health of the fetus, but in some cases actually contaminate the developmental process.

Step #2-Plan to have a natural birth.
There was a time when the way babies got in there and the way they got out was just assumed. If a woman needed surgery, obviously something had gone awry and either the life of the mother or child had been in jeopardy. Understanding that there is often a grieving process when the birth process is circumvented, people would reassure the mother by saying, “It doesn’t matter how the baby arrived, as long as he’s healthy.” In cases where the benefit of surgery outweighed the risk, that’s a comforting statement, because the alternative would be that the baby wouldn’t have arrived at all.

When narcotics became common in birth, mothers who refused them were asked, “Are you sure you don’t want us to help you out with a little something. Why be a martyr?” The implication being that there is no reason to have a natural a birth. There are many, many, benefits to a natural birth to both mother and baby. There are many reasons non-medically indicated inductions and cesareans cause problems later in a child’s life. It is no longer appropriate to tell mothers it doesn’t matter how the baby is born, because it does. Obviously, the mother who required intervention has bravely made a difficult decision, and we need to support her and applaud her courage. Putting decisions of convenience and life-or-death decisions in the same category does a disservice to everyone.

Non-medically indicated inductions (meaning the mother is tired of being pregnant, the doctor is leaving for vacation, or simply to fit the birth into a schedule) and elective cesareans, meaning women just don’t want to labor or birth, are a rising concern in iatrogenic (doctor caused) prematurity. (Fuchs, Wapner, 2006). Premature babies get sick more often (Sears, 2008), and this propensity can last into childhood. So Part A of Step 2 is to ensure your baby doesn’t arrive early, either by choice or by chance.

Use your pregnancy time to get as healthy as you’ve ever been, not as a time to “eat whatever I want since I’m going to be fat anyway and I can’t do this at any other time in my life.” I know from personal experience it's tempting. I spent more than 10 years of my life ruining my body with a diet cola and cigarettes in an attempt to stay thin. When I got pregnant people actually encouraged me to eat. Yea! Yes, I allowed myself to eat real food...and the junk I never allowed myself before, too. Don't do it!

But I digress.

Avoid inductions and scheduled cesareans unless they are truly medically indicated. Take an out-of-hospital childbirth class to learn your options. Take a HypnoBirthing® if you are afraid of pain in labor.

Part B of Step 2 is to avoid surgery. One reason for that is just because it increases the odds of prematurity, which we’ve discussed, but there are other reasons as well, one of which is that a natural birth colonizes the gut of the neonate with beneficial bacteria (Biasucci, Benenati, Morelli, Bessi & Boehm), which kick starts the immune system. If the baby is deprived of exposure to the mother’s bacteria through natural birth, they may also be at increased risk of asthma later in life. (Reuters)

Babies delivered surgically do not go through the tight squeeze of the birth canal that 'hugs' the baby and clears his lungs out and gets him ready to breathe, so cesarean born babies are more likely to have ‘wet lung’ which can lead to infection. The study on asthma didn’t mention it, but I’d have to wonder if this has anything to do with the increased risk of asthma, too.

Part C of Step 2 is related to part B: surgeries only take place in the hospital. Doctors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and hospital acquired infection I high on the list of reasons. (Leduc, 2002) Being in the hospital means babies are exposed to hospital germs while they are vulnerable, as are mothers. Any time they are cut…as in episiotomy as well as abdominally they are open to infection. Just say no to scalpels!

Part D of Step 2 is that induction and surgery both increase, if not insure, that there will be narcotics or ‘cain’ derivatives used, which is just one of dozens of birth interventions common in U.S. birth, both vaginal and surgical, that impair the ability to breastfeed. (Kroeger, 2006) This leads into another step in optimizing immune system function in your child, breastfeeding, but chronologically on our list of options, it isn’t next. That would be:

Step #3: Let your baby have his cord blood! The reason that cord blood is important is that it contains ‘stem cells’. These cells are important because they are adaptable and may be helpful in a number of medical advancements.

However, this adaptability becomes even more important if we consider that the placenta and the blood in it belong to the baby. There is roughly 100 ml of blood in the placenta and cord that is required to suffuse the brain, lungs and heart with oxygenated blood when fetal circulation switches over as the baby begins to breathe on his own, which is one reason why it is important NOT to cut the cord right away. The other reason has to do with the immune system, hence the relevancy to the matter at hand.

That blood contains stem cells that also belong to the baby. Those stem cells are meant to move into the bone morrow where white blood cells are made. Thus, stem cells are designed to help the immune system develop properly. If we cut the cord early, either because of antiquated protocol or to harvest stem cells for a possible future illness, are we creating those very illnesses? At the very least, we know we are hindering the baby’s natural immune responses. The question is for how long?

Step #4: Breastfeed your baby. Again, this is one of those topics that has been written about extensively because it is so incredibly important. I’ll just hit the basics here: bottle fed babies are five-times more likely to get sick; mother’s milk has at least 100 ingredients that artificial baby formula does not have, including live antibodies that are specific to pathogen exposure of each mother and baby.

In short, breastfeeding, perhaps more than any other decision here, lays the foundation for a baby’s fully functioning, healthy immune system. Without it, not only is your baby more vulnerable to illness as a baby, but this vulnerability last throughout a lifetime. (Jackson, Nazar, 2006) When mothers are trying to determine if they can take time off of work long enough to establish a strong breastfeeding relationship, they may want to consider how often they will need to take off work to tend to a sick child over the course of 18 years.

Step #5: Reconsider vaccines. I’m not talking about rejecting immunization altogether, but how we give them, and if every kid should get them. When we look at risk factors for certain populations, I think it is up to each parent to weigh the risks and benefits and make their own decisions.

Warning! Rant! It’s slightly off topic, but for those who advocate compulsory vaccination citing ‘herd immunity’, let me point out that while my child has only had antibiotics twice in 17 years, she is still at the same risk of contracting MRSA as everyone else because the vast majority of parents overuse antibiotics, which is what causes resistant strains of disease causing organisms. My kid is just as exposed as any other when parents insist on sending their kids to school and daycare sick. If I’m supposed to shoulder the risk of death to my child to preserve the health of other kids, their parents should at least be responsible enough to shoulder their fair share of the responsibility for keeping my kid disease free, which doesn’t even involve a possibility of death…just a day off work! That said, my kid IS vaccinated, but I chose to minimally expose her and spaced it very carefully, which IS on topic. End Rant

Vaccines suppress the immune system. When a vaccine is administered, the immune system gets busy identifying and attacking the new bug that’s been introduced to the system. While the system is busy doing that, it is less able to fight other things the host might be naturally exposed to. There is some question as to whether there is long-term damage to the immune system (Mercola) and that perhaps we aren’t trading minor childhood illnesses for major adult illnesses. We don’t know if it is the timing of the vaccination, the ingredients, or the number of vaccines administered that might contribute to the suspected problems.

After careful consideration, my husband and I came to a compromise we were comfortable with. We did not shoot a multitude of toxins into our newborn. She was breastfed and attachment parented for about the first two years, so she was minimally (and selectively) exposed to illness and protected through passive immunity (she was protected to everything I was exposed to since I made antibodies and she got them through my milk).

When she began riding her bike (and falling off) we got her a tetanus vaccination; singly, without diphtheria and pertusses components . Then we waited another 7 or 8 years until we figured her immune system was fairly mature, and got the rest. Part of the reason we decided to do it then was her father started to travel to places where certain diseases were more prevalent and we thought we may travel with him on occasion. Thus, the benefit outweighed the risk at that point, in our opinion. Also, she was in high school with college not far behind, soon to be exposed to who-knows-what.

I know someone who has lost a child to a vaccine reaction. For those who say they could never live with themselves if their child got a disease that has a vaccine, I have to say it breaks my heart to see sweet and loving parents who did what most parents do without a second thought living with the grief that it wasn’t a random illness that took their child, but a shot they approved. Still, they do not presume to tell any other parent what choice is right. They advocate exactly what I have: know your options; weigh the risks and the benefits as they exist for you and your child in your particular situation. I won't say I know how they feel, because I haven't lost a child. But I do have empathy and of course I have thought about how I would feel in both scenarios.

Rules in action

The reason I wrote this article is that someone requested I teach a class on how to naturally keep kids healthy. This person asked me to do so because of our unique story.

That said, here is how our experiences differed from the ‘norm’. Our daughter got sick, a cough and a cold, for the first time just before her first birthday. According to About.com: Pediatrics, it is “…normal [emphasis mine] for young children to have six to eight upper respiratory tract infections and two or three gastrointestinal infections each year.” I would estimate that is pretty much what I see with friends and family. However, I emphasized 'normal’ because I don't believe it is. I think it is ‘typical’ for kids to be sick that often, due to all the ways their immune systems are unintentionally sabotaged from before birth, but not normal in a child who has a normally functioning immune system...meaning as nature designed it to work.

My daughter got her first, and only, earache when she was just over two years old. She did not receive antibiotics. Many children have had so many ear infections by then they already have tubes in their ears, a practice which has recently been called in to question. Well, actually it was called into question before 1991 because I read about it then.

In her 17 years, my dau had antibiotics twice. Once, it probably wasn’t necessary and we made the decision simply because we were sleep deprived and desperate. She had just entered the germ-pool called ‘school’ and, because this is how the immune system works (ask any first year teacher who spends the first year sick) she got a new crud weekly for about the first two months until her immune system recognized the crud as old crud. The second time we agreed to antibiotics, it was necessary and I have no doubt. It was for a cut on her finger that became infected.

She had been prescribed amoxicillin at nearly every doctor’s visit, even "well-child" visits and the visit for a broken arm, (No doctor, it's not an ear infection, it's a freakin' broken ARM!) but I didn’t fill most of them. I knew that fluid in the ear did not equal an ear infection, and even when she did have a cold, that an antibiotic was not a cure-all. I filled a couple, figuring if she didn’t get better in a few days (or got worse) I’d give them, (the doctor refused my request to do a culture in the office) but she always got better. I finally got tired of fighting with that idiot and hired a smart doctor. By the way, not only is she not hearing impaired (unless you count selective hearing), her average composite score for her ACT, which she took when she was 12, was 2o; the average for high school juniors/seniors is 20. Obviously she didn’t suffer academically from fluid in the ear, and her speech is impeccable, if somewhat cheeky.

Throughout her childhood, she got sick once or twice a year. Once I found the smart doctor, I decided enough with the ‘well-child’ scam (since we were not on a vaccine schedule there wasn’t much of a point anymore and I got tired of being harassed by the nurses about my parenting decisions) I only took her in if she was sick enough for a visit, and once every couple of years just so they’d remember her. Although, I have to say, when I called to get her vaccinated when she was 13, they asked me if I was sure she was a patient there because they couldn’t find her file. She had been moved to the storage shed because it had been about 4 years since she’d been in I think. She just hadn’t been sick with more than a 24 hour bug or a cold in all that time.

The year after being vaccinated, she was sick all the time. By ‘all the time’ I’d say 6-8 times that year, maybe a little more. I won’t assume that’s because of the vaccine any more than I’d assume the tinnitus my husband’s experienced ever since he had to get shot up with a mystery soup of vaccines for a trip to China caused his misery. I do wonder, but either way, we made the decision, we live with the consequences.

Besides, there was a lot going on in her life that year. Then we had a pretty decent year or more, and now this year, she’s sick pretty often again. Maybe she’s making up for lost time. However, I will say, I’d rather tend to a sick teen than a baby or toddler who can’t tell me what hurts.

So that’s why my friend asked me to speak about keeping kids well naturally. We’ve done it, by luck or by design or a little of both, but everything I’ve outlined above I’ve done myself. In my daughter’s entire 17-year existence, she’s been sick less than most kids are in their first three years…and it’s primarily been in the last 3 years for her.

Eighteen years ago I began researching. I continued to research throughout my child’s life, to determine whether or not our decisions were still appropriate. I hope she continues to do so as she begins to make her own decisions.

It could be luck, and I know our one experience is purely anecdotal, but I believe these things have kept our daughter healthier than she might have otherwise been. I believe this because we made our decisions based on not just the research, but the experiences of parents who shared their stories of raising kids this way before us. We’ve never been perfect; we fed her organic originally, but eventually she found Taco Bell and we caved. And just like every other parent we hope that the decisions we’ve made don’t come back to bite us in the butt. However, if something should happen, we feel confident that we did the best we could with the research and resources we had.

Nature has carefully constructed an optimally functioning immune response. We certainly can remain reasonably healthy much of the time by following the first 5 guidelines put forth at the beginning of this article. However, if we know how to maximize the development of a healthy immune system from conception on with the last 5 decisions, we are way ahead of the game…and so are our children.

Archer, K., 2007. Childbirth: By convenience: More births are fit into schedule. Tulsa World. http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?articleID=070825_1_A1_World08150&allcom=1,1,1

Biasucci G, Benenati B, Morelli L, Bessi E, Boehm G. Cesarean delivery may affect the early biodiversity of intestinal bacteria. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18716189

Fuchs, K., Wapner, R. (2006) Elective cesarean section and induction and their impact on late preterm births. Clinics in perinatology, vol 33 (issue 4) : pp 793-801. United States. http://www.find-health-articles.com/rec_pub_17148005-elective-cesarean-section-induction-impact-late-preterm-births.htm

Jackson M, Nazar A. (2006). Breastfeeding, immune response and long-term health J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2006 Apr;106(4):181-2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16627775

Hinterthuer, A., (2007). Flu-Fighting Fetuses. ScienceNOW Daily News. Retrieved November 6, 2008 from

Kroeger, M., (2004). Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding: Protecting the mother and baby continuum. http://books.google.com/books?id=GJmt1XX3H-kC&dq=kroeger,+breastfeeding&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=oWgtSr27lW&sig=IYLN9fF1nH9GoIVAJUDxl8dRnw4&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

Leduc, M., (2002).Healing Daily, http://www.healingdaily.com/Doctors-Are-The-Third-Leading-Cause-of-Death-in-the-US.htm

Mercola, (n.d.) Vaccine and Immune Suppression http://www.mercola.com/article/vaccines/immune_suppression.htm

Moore, S., (1998). Nutrition, immunity and the fetal and infant origins of disease hypothesis in developing countries. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (1998), 57, 241-241.Retrieved November 6, 2008 from http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FPNS%2FPNS57_02%2FS0029665198000391a.pdf&code=bce5aeb25c2213cba239898b8d35813a

Reuters, (2008). Cesarean delivery may increase kids' asthma risk http://in.reuters.com/article/health/idINPAT36945620080703

ScienceDaily (2004). New Study Suggests Link Between Maternal Diet And Childhood Leukemia Risk. Retrieved November 6, 2008 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/08/040824014510.htm

Sears, (2008). Immune system boosters. Parenting. http://www.parenting.com/article/Pregnancy/Health/Ask-Dr.-Sears-Immune-System-Boosters

Sears. Breastfeeding http://www.askdrsears.com/html/2/t020300.asp

Ontogeny of the immune system

Guilt-Tripping Mothers

I often hear that I can’t tell mothers about ecstatic birth because they might feel guilty if they don’t have one. Just a few blog posts ago, I wrote about the same argument being used regarding research about telling mothers that what they eat in pregnancy is important to the health of their babies later. Not just ‘you are what you eat’ but ‘your baby is built by what you eat’. The author of the article I mentioned saw that as blaming the mothers and objected.

So when I hear good parents being told, “If you had only [insert abc routine technology] then we could have done [xyz intervention] and you wouldn’t be here now.” It annoys me a little. No, it annoys me a lot. Especially when I little bad science is thrown in. I’ve known doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, childbirth educators and lactation consultants all to be guilty of this. One couple who is very close to me intended to have a homebirth, but ended up in transport. The midwife then proceeded to criticize every recommendation that doctor made that the parents followed with comments akin to, “If you had only done what I said, you wouldn’t be here, and you shouldn’t do what he says because...” WTF?!

What is important is that the parents feel they’ve made their own best decisions. It is not the place for others to insert doubt. If the parents later wonder or question their decision, it is then appropriate to support them in their quest for answers. Part of our growth process is that we do wonder if we might have done something differently. It is still up to the parents to travel their own path to resolution without anyone else’s determination of what might have been right or wrong. As Maya Angelou says, “We do the best we can with what we have, and when we know better, we do better.”

The parents who come to my classes are loving, intelligent people. They research their options and make their choices, and sometimes the choices they make are to opt out of routine intervention and utilize appropriate technology only when it becomes appropriate to their situation. Saying,” If you had only…” is totally about placing blame and making parents feel bad so they ‘follow the rules’ next time. There is no other point to saying it. It doesn’t help in decision making in the moment, it doesn’t change the outcome…it just places blame.

One of these instances might be ultrasound. Some parents have done their homework and are fine with a medically indicated use of this technology, but not routine use. They’ve weighed the risks and the benefits and have determined that if the benefits outweigh the possible risks, certainly they would have one done. To later, after the fact and with hindsight being 20/20, say “You know, if you would have had an ultrasound we would have known this was going to happen and could have done something” is really not helpful.

Ultrasound is a great tool for a lot of things, like determining fetal lie if there is a question as to how the baby is positioned. Palpation is adequate for most cases because, well, babies move for one thing. Assuming the possible risks of ultrasound to tell you something that may or may not be the same tomorrow means the risks outweigh the benefits. IF palpation suggests a fetal position that might be corrected, then the benefits may outweigh the risks. But palpation is accurate more than 85% of the time, so to say afterward, if this baby is one of the other 15% (or if this baby has moved INTO a breech position after correct assessment via palpation...and how would one know that?) is just not helpful.

In other cases, ultrasound is just notoriously inaccurate, like in determining a baby’s size (accurate only to TWO POUNDS in either direction) or gestation (accurate to within TWO WEEKS in either direction-yes a month time span). I hear women all the time saying “Well, my due date changed again” after an ultrasound, to which I ask, “How many times did your conception date change?” Due dates don’t change! Babies come out when they are ready, and not all of them will be at 40 weeks.

In fact that is another pet peeve…women being told that such-and-such happened because they were ‘overdue’ when in fact they have not even reached 42 weeks. NORMAL HUMAN GESTATION IS BETWEEN 38 WEEKS AND 42 WEEKS. Babies that come at 38 weeks are not early; they are right on time. Babies that come after 40 weeks but before 42 weeks are not late. They are right on time. 40 WEEKS IS JUST AN AVERAGE. Less than 5% of babies will come exactly on their “due date.”

In a study of 56,317 women, it was determined that there is no advantage to inducing labor before 42 weeks, and in fact, inductions at 41 weeks increased complication rates. (Alexander, McIntire, Leveno, 2000) Notice that the date on that study is 2000 when many women were being induced at 41 weeks; now women are being induced at 40, 39, 38 and even 37 weeks. This is such a problem in our nation’s failing grade on premature birth, that review of this practice is one of the solutions to reducing prematurity from the March of Dimes. (Medical News Today, 2008)

The worst case mother guilt-tripping I think I’ve heard is the doctor who, while walking beside his patient on the way to OR for a cesarean due to a placental abruption said to her, “See, I told you; you should have quit smoking.”

Sure, everyone knows you shouldn’t smoke while pregnant, and yes, he had told her that. But a) he didn’t tell her what the complications might be…just that it causes small babies, which many mothers do not understand means oxygen deprivation and placenta malformation and b) even if he had told her, she didn’t quit. What exactly was the point in telling her, essentially, ‘this is all your fault’ on the way to the OR when she’s scared and uncertain as to whether she or her baby would even survive?

Which brings me back to my original point: there is no point beyond making women feel guilty about something they cannot change. The only reason to say stupid things like this is to make them compliant little patients the next time around.

Alexander J, McIntire D, Leveno K, (2000). Forty weeks and beyond: pregnancy outcomes by week of gestation. Obstet Gynecol. 2000 Aug;96(2):291-4. Retrieved November 21, 2008 from http://www.greenjournal.org/cgi/content/full/96/2/291

Medical News Today, (2008). March Of Dimes Releases Premature Birth Report Card For US: Nation Gets A 'D'. Retrieved November 21, 2008 from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/129225.php


Sheri Menelli Needs Your Birth Story!



Neurophysiology of the Childbearing Year: Maternal and Infant Responses

Considering the importance of the changes taking place in the brain during the childbearing year in both mother and baby, it would make sense that we would thoroughly understand the implications of the disruption of those natural processes and further, that we would avoid such disruption if at all possible.

Obviously, if there is a medical need for a life-saving intervention, disruption is unavoidable. In such cases, there are ways to lessen the severity of problems arising from such a disturbance. However, here I wish to address nature’s plan for a smooth transition, and the routine (thus avoidable) ways in which such a plan is often thwarted.

With 93% of women reporting routine interruption of labor through electronic fetal monitoring that keeps them strapped to the bed, (Lothian, 2003) and 34% of women undergoing surgical birth (ibid.) despite the World Health Organization’s admonitions that cesarean rates should not exceed 12-15%, (Wagner, 2006) we really need to explore the ramifications of such routine use of technology.

In 1983, Dr. Thomas Verny founded the Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH) to examine the possible repercussions of such meddling. Verny, author of The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, suspected that babies were conscious beings even before birth. It had long been assumed that babies were born ‘empty vessels’ so to speak; they didn’t think or even feel pain. David Chamberlain, a Boston psychologist and co-founder of the APPPAH explains in Babies don’t Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Medicine that this determination may have come about because the early experiments (sticking babies with pins) were done on babies whose mothers had been anesthetized during birth. Because the babies were also anesthetized, having received the same dose of medication as their mother, it stands to reason that the babies would not react to painful stimuli. However, the researchers instead concluded that babies don’t feel pain, reinforcing the pervading belief that what happens to them during birth is simply not important.

However, Chamberlain and Verny weren’t buying it. Nor were Dr. Michael Odent, Joseph Chilton Pearce, Dr. Fredrick Wirth or others.

In The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit, Joseph Chilton Pearce explains that human fetal brain growth follows the pattern of other mammalian species:

“If a pregnant animal is subjected to a hostile, competitive, anxiety-producing environment, she will give birth to an infant with an enlarged hindbrain, and enlarged body and musculature, and a reduced forebrain. The opposite is equally true: If the mother is in a secure, harmonious, stress-free, nurturing environment during gestation, she will produce an infant with an enlarged forebrain, reduced hindbrain, and smaller body.” (Pearce, 2002. Pp. 115)

If babies have perceptions, and their brains are being shaped before birth (Wirth, 2001) through the experiences of the mother, some thinking people began to wonder how the birth process might affect brain growth. Again using what was known about other mammalian parturition, some postulated that if interruption of the natural processes of birth and natural infant feeding had detrimental consequences in other species, perhaps it did in human babies. And if that was so, then perhaps human mammalian mothers also suffered in some way. Nearly a century after routine medical interventions were introduced into birth, researchers finally started to wonder if we were creating problems for mothers as well as babies and if so, how?
For instance, beginning with the onset of labor, we know that 41% of women participating in the 2006 Listening to Mothers Survey began their labors medically induced. (Declercq, Skala, Corry, & Applebaum, 2006.) Eighty percent of those inductions were chemically induced with Pitocin, an artificial form of oxytocin. (ibid.)

There are many possible ramifications of the introduction of pitocin. The artificial substance does attach to chemical receptors in the uterus, therefore it does cause uterine contractions. However, it does not cross the blood-brain barrier, so it does not act exactly like naturally produced oxytocin, nor does it pair with other neurotransmitters to change behavior like naturally occurring oxytocin does. It seems it may also ‘take up’ receptor sites for endorphins, thus not only creating pain, but blocking the body’s own response to lessen pain.

To see how this impacts the physical process of birth first, it might be helpful to explain that current obstetrical practice encourages ‘active management’ of the third stage of birth. ‘Third stage’ is the final part of birth wherein the placenta is birthed. ‘Active management’ includes administration of pitocin, early cord clamping, and cord traction to ‘guide’ the placenta out. The rationale behind active management is that it reduces bleeding, which is the primary concern of third stage. Of course it would be if the hypothalamus was no longer making oxytocin because the brain wasn’t getting the message to produce. Thus at least 41% of women are being ‘managed’ in such a way as to interrupt the bonding process-oxytocin has been called the ‘love hormone’, and when paired with prolactin facilitates motherly love (Fisher, n.d.)-denying the baby about 100 ml of blood that he or she needs to perfuse his or her vital organs, not because third stage is dangerous, but because first stage (labor) has been meddled with. If we keep in mind that if pitocin is administered not only during inductions, but augmentation of labor (to make labor go faster), that number of mother-baby pairs impacted would be far higher.

Karen Strange, Certified Professional Midwife and Neonatal Resuscitation instructor explained during a HypnoBirthing® Conclave presentation this author personally attended (October, 2008) that undisturbed, the immediate period following birth is when the baby’s brain gets the message to ‘fire and wire’. It is the surge of oxytocin, along with beta-endorphin release and prolactin that help the mother and baby to fall deeply and immediately in love. Prolactin optimizes brain growth and according to Dr. Sara Buckley is important in neuroendocrine development in the growing baby, (Buckley, 2005) which she feels maybe be why breastfed babies have higher IQs and is reason to breastfeed as long as the baby’s brain continues rapid development; usually 2 or 3 years. Alarmingly, she also shares Dr. Michel Odent’s observations that:

“…the functioning of the oxytocin system, which is still developing in the baby at the time of birth, reflects our ability to love ourselves and others. Odent has suggested that many of our society’s problems-our current epidemics of drug addiction and teenage suicide, for example-may be traced back to the widespread and unprecedented interference with the oxytocin system of mothers and babies at birth.” (Buckley, 2005. Pp. 17)

While the possible implications of the disruption of the natural process is staggering from the perspective of the child, mothers suffer as well. Buckley discusses this in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering as manifesting in a number of different ways, such as increased incidences of postpartum depression. Mary Kroeger, in Impact of Breastfeeding: Protecting the Mother and Baby Continuum notes that most breastfeeding difficulties originate with routine birthing interventions. She devotes each chapter to common interventions and explains exactly how it disrupts the breastfeeding experience. Considering what we now know about the many ways in which breastfeeding encourages brain growth, separate and apart from the 100 or more ingredients found in mother’s milk that are not found in formula, (Williams & Stehlin, n.d.) anything that causes problems in breastfeeding should be avoided.

Neurological damage isn’t the only issue with alterations in natural birth and breastfeeding patterns. Nature has fine tuned the transition from womb to world so delicately that even our immune systems develop and function sub-optimally if the process is disturbed. (Penders, Thijs, Vink, Stelma, Snijders & Kummeling, et al., 2006). But even if our brains are the only thing effected by the casual disregard for natural birth and breastfeeding so prevalent today, isn’t that enough? If maternal and infant behavior is predicated on a hormonal cocktail entitlement that few receive, which the research suggests it is, (Russel, 2007) shouldn’t we be basing maternity care practices on said research? Shouldn’t there be some requirement to show that any non-medically indicated interventions are safe and effective? Because according to A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy and Birth, available in its entirety for free at ChilbirthConnection.com, much of what is done to women and babies routinely has not only been shown to be ineffective, but is dangerous as well. This conclusion is supported by the fact that infant and maternal outcomes have worsened, not improved as most might think, as routine use of technology has increased. (Wagner, 2006)

What we know is just the tip of the iceberg. Shouldn’t we be trying to understand if attachment disorders in children, postpartum depression in mothers, child neglect, abuse and abandonment, or learning disorders might stem from the needless interruption of the birthing process? Wouldn’t it be less expensive and easier to minimize the number of mothers and babies suffering by not messing with the hard-wiring taking place at the time of birth instead of trying to fix what’s broken later? Shouldn’t we at least be willing to consider that nature has a plan that usually works, and intervene only when it doesn’t?

Perhaps with the 30 years of research regarding the symbiotic relationship between mother and baby in the childbearing year we have thus far, we should implement protocols that protect that delicate balance and bring the ecstasy back to birth.
Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon. While evidence-based maternity care is still just an ideal we strive towards, there are people working diligently to inform parents of the weight of their pregnancy and birthing decisions. Debbie Takikawa produced What Babies Want, a documentary that features many of the experts mentioned here. Debra Pascali-Bonaro and Kris Liem just released Orgasmic Birth: The Best Kept Secret, a phenomenal DVD, while Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova lectures world-wide on the concepts laid out in her educational DVD Birth As We Know It. All of these works take the scientific evidence and distill it into language that speaks to the hearts of parents. These are hopeful reminders that we can get back what has been lost, and heal what has been harmed…if we only choose to listen.


APPPAH, (2009). Association of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology and Health website, retrieved Oct 1, 2008 from http://www.birthpsychology.com/

Buckley, S. (2005). Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. One Moon Press. Australia.

Chamberlain. D., (2005). Babies don’t feel pain: A century of denial in medicine. Retrieved October 6, 2008 from http://www.terrylarimore.com/BabiesAndPain.html

Declercq, E.R., Skala, C., Corry, M.P., Applebaum, S., (2006). Listening to
mothers II: Report of the first national U.S. survey of women’s childbearing experiences. Maternity Center Association, New York. Retrieved October 11, 200 from

Fisher, D., (n.d.) Falling in love: The chemistry of the first breastfeed. Retrieved October 4,2008 from www.breast-feeding-information.com/the-chemistry-of-the-first-

Kroeger, M., (2004). Impact of Birthing practices on breastfeeding: Protecting the mother baby continuum. Jones and Bartlett, Massachusetts.

Lothian J., (2003). Listening to mothers—The first national U.S. survey of women's childbearing experiences. Journal of Perinatal Education, 12(1).

Pearce, J., (2002). The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit. Park Street Press. Rochester, Vermont.

Penders, J., Thijs, C., Vink, C., Stelma, F. F., Snijders, B., & Kummeling, I., et al. (2006). Factors influencing the composition of the intestinal microbiota in early infancy. Pediatrics, 118(2), 511–521.

Russell, J., (2007). The maternal Brain. British Society for Neuroendocrinology. Retrieved October 12, 2008 from http://www.neuroendo.org.uk/content/view/23/11/

Verny, T., (1981). The secret life of the unborn child. Summit Books, New York.
Wagner, M., (2006). Born in the USA: How a broken maternity system bust be fixed to put women and children first. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Williams, R., Stehlin, I., (n.d.) Breast Milk or Formula: Making the Right Choice for Your Baby. Retrieved October 10, 2008 from http://www.fda.gov/fdac/reprints/breastfed.html

Wirth, F., (2001). Prenatal Parenting. Regan Books/Harper Collins. New York.


Personal Moment

There's been a lot in the news lately that relates to birthing, breastfeeding, moms and babies, but I haven't been home long enough (without other more pressing needs to attend to, like school) to blog on these.

However, right here I want to take a moment, before I have to leave yet again, to brag about my family.

My daughter sold her first photograph. She is a fabulous photographer already (at 17) and I know she will be selling many more, but this was her first and it was a big deal. Thanks, Ashly, for supporting her work!

Next, my husband was just notified that he passed his (hugely difficult) test to be designated a Six Sigma Black Belt. This is a big deal! When we married, he was a laborer on a factory floor. While supporting our family, solely after our only child was born, he worked his way through college. He's currently very near completion of his Master's. Anyone who has been through college knows how hard it is to take on a full course load, work a full-time job, and still make time to maintain the relationships that make for a strong family. He's done all that. This year we celebrated 23 years together.

So, I just wanted to make this non-birth related announcement because I'm very proud of my husband and child, and wanted everyone to know how great they are!!!


Angelina's Controversial Breasts

Sometimes I just can't believe what people choose to complain about.

Angelina Jolie's breasts are fine for public viewing unless they are being useful? Jolie has a fabulous body that she works hard to maintain. I don't blame her for showing it off a bit, and I don't blame people for admiring it. But of all the sexy images of Jolie, I think the absolute most stunningly beautiful one I've seen yet is the one that is currently causing controversy, and that could be the cover of W magazine with Jolie breastfeeding one of her twins.

It is a gorgeous photo that her husband took. In it, there is less visible breast than I've seen here or here. It is obviously not a sexy photo, but one in which mom is flooded with oxytocin and prolactin; mothering hormones. Just look at the serenity in her face!

People, this is the intended use for breasts! Whether you believe God (Goddess/All that Is) put them there, or that we evolved just like all other mammals (mammary glands/breasts=mammal) the human female body makes the perfect food for new human babies; always warm, always sterile, never needs mixing, highly portable, safe (and attractive )container and best of all FREE.

And this is controversial?