12.12.2008

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.

12.10.2008

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.

11.21.2008

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
http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/601/2

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
http://jeeves.mmg.uci.edu/immunology/CoreNotes/Chap17.pdf

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

11.13.2008

Sheri Menelli Needs Your Birth Story!

http://smenelli.wordpress.com

11.03.2008

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.

Resources

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
http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ck=10397

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-
breastfeed.php

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.

10.28.2008

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!!!

10.11.2008

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?

10.10.2008

Blaming Mothers?

Today Slate Posted an article titled Womb Raider: Do Future Health Problems Begin During Gestation?

There are a few things that amaze me about this article. The first is that it took so long for such research to be done. The second is that such research should need to be done at all. The body that that the baby will have for his or her entire life is built from two single cells that come from the mother and father. Every single thing that a mother eats, drinks, smokes and thinks builds that body on a daily basis. How anyone could think otherwise seems ludicrous to me when there is so much research out there. I just attended a conference where we were shown how the baby reacts (via ultrasound) when mother and father fight, and it should come as no surprise that it stresses the babies out!

The Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health has been looking at the impact of maternal hormones and lifestyle choices on the fetus and newborn since 1983. In Birth As We Know It Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova explains this as being immersed, quite literally, in the mother's 'juices'. She speaks to the limbic imprinting that is taking place during birth and immediately after, as does What Babies Want and Orgasmic Birth. Sarah Buckley explains the physiology of ecstatic birth (and why it is important to both mothers and babies) in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. Likewise, Dr. Micheal Odent has been doing research for over 20 years. Dr. Fred Wirth took complicated information on 'fetal brain architecture' and made it understandable in Prenatal Parenting.

Besides all of that, it just makes sense for crying out loud!

So, this article was specifically about whether or not a mother's weight gain in pregnancy had anything to do with later obesity in the child. It did, says the study. However, some questions I would ask (that were not addressed in the abstract, which is all I had access to) might be: Did the women gain weight eating a healthy diet or a diet high in empty calories (like sugar)? Did the mothers breastfeed? What was the child's diet like in the 3 years that they were followed?(Wait! they are thinking of recommending that mothers gain less weight in pregnancy based on the prediction...after only three years of observation...that these kids will be fat adults?!)

Besides the study being poorly done, from what I could see, there is the reaction by the Slate author. He says that this information has a 'blame-the-victim' quality. I guess I see it more as a call to better educate and support mothers. How can we help mothers and babies enjoy their journey more if we don't tell them how current choices impact future outcomes? How can we create programs to support under-served populations if we don't acknowledge that there is a problem that has a solution? He says,

"That impulse is understandable. It's easier—for parents, doctors, educators—to say an obese toddler has a slow metabolism than to teach the family better eating and exercise habits."


I guess what I don't understand how telling a mother she needs to eat better and exercise more in pregnancy is any different than tell her she needs to make sure her kid eats well and exercises. Either way, isn't the mother blamed (by the logic of the Slate author)? She's a bad mother if she lets her get fat by eating junk and playing video games, or she's a bad mother if SHE eats junk food and plays video games. The difference, as I see it, is that IF there MIGHT be a correlation between how them other takes care of herself in pregnancy and the predispositions the baby may have, we can prevent those issues by educating her early. Oh, and in the process nearly eliminate pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth, since those are nutritionally based problems as well.

Of course what our babies are exposed to while they are being built has future implications. Of course how they are birthed and handled immediately after birth matters. How could it not? When are we going to start making the changes that will allow mothers and babies to optimize the gifts nature provided to make the transition to the outside world smoother, instead of denouncing the research as guilt inducing?

10.08.2008

HypnoBirthing Conclave

Here I document the ever eventful adventures of...well...me.

First of all, I'll state outright that I hate traveling alone. I’m also not overly enamored with pre-dawn morning. Or, if you want to look at the glass as have full, I love sleep. Either way, this adventure started at 2:45 am on Thursday night, er…Friday morning. (It was dark. There were stars. In my opinion, it was still technically the night before.)

Now, originally my husband and I were going to fly together. We determined that was going to be too expensive. Then, we were going to drive. But it was going to require too much time off from work for him, and it really wouldn’t be less expensive with that time and gas as high as it is. So, off I go to TX.

Yes, it is my business trip, my CEUs, my commitment to make a presentation. Really, he goes spelunking while I’m working and keeps me on track when he gets back to the hotel. He books the trip details; he makes sure I get from point A to point B, etc. I CAN do it all myself. I just prefer it when he is my personal assistant. :-)

Despite all that, I arrived without incident; no TSA hassles, my flights were all on time, and I made it to my seat before take off at my connection. (Please notice that all probable issues relate to commercial air flight. I’m starting to wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to either get a pilot’s license or get rich enough to hire private planes.) I also didn’t sit trapped in metal tube on a runway with someone hacking up a lung, making it obvious that I was breathing contamination, so that was nice.

When I got to the airport, my worries about the next leg (my anxiety revolves around getting lost in big cities) were totally put to rest because Heather Hilton and her merry band of kidlets came to my rescue! How better to start the weekend than to meet 5 wonderful children (who were absolute angels!) and see Heather (likewise an absolute angel, as well as wonderful midwife and friend) again, knowing that I didn’t have to find the right shuttle, wonder if a cab was clocking extra miles, banking on my ignorance, worrying about getting lost, or that we’d actually get to the right hotel of a similar name. If you can’t tell, none of my fears are irrational. They are things that have happened to me, usually while alone. (I know, I know…I need to change some belief pattern and stop manifesting this stuff.)Or as a guy I know would say, "Tap on it!" (He knows who he is.)

Heather got me to the hotel and I finally relaxed a bit. Well, to be honest, I fell asleep. I did say this journey began in the middle of the night, right? I later went downstairs to join the festivities.

It was so nice to see so many familiar faces! It was nice to meet new practitioners too, to be sure, but this year especially, since a beloved practitioner’s passing, it was good to see people who have been around since I started attending these things in 2003.

The conclave team did a great job. Thank you so much for those of you who worked so hard to make this happen! The workshop selections were wonderful. I think I learned more at this conference than any past HypnoBirthing® conference.

Friday night we had a lovely reception, followed by a viewing of Orgasmic Birth by Debra Pascali-Bonaro (www.orgasmicbirth.com). It was phenomenal! I heard people saying it was too long, and indeed some people got up and left. Considering the content was so amazing, I’d have to guess they left not because they didn’t like it, but because their butts were tired of sitting, after a day of travel for most of us. I’ll have to watch it again when I’m not whipped and see. In any case, it is a must see! (Review to come.)

The conference kicked off with a presentation by Karen Strange, who is a dynamic speaker. Her presentation was Birth’s Perfect Design. There was so much in this presentation that it was almost too much to take in, but Karen’s personal style kept us engaged. I was especially interested in the Neonatal Transitional Physiology. She explained how and why the placenta, cord and blood therein belong to the baby, and why disruption of the birth sequence, including the birthing of the placenta and the initiating of breastfeeding which completes the sequence, are detrimental to baby. She also went into great detail in explaining how neural pathways are created through those first few moments after birth. She explained that it causes the brain to ‘fire and wire’ and that the first latch is more than just feeding, it is ‘brain wiring’. I now know what I want to research for my psychology class!

I didn’t attend anything in the next session, as I was presenting something myself, but Pat Sonnenstuhl , CNM did a presentation on Sexuality in Pregnancy and Birth that I would have attended if I could, so she shared her notes and handouts with me.

My presentation went well I think. At least I got decent feedback. I was excited about the topic anyway, so if that ignited others about the reaching more people, I’m happy. Half the workshop was a primer on communication with different ‘publics’ and what we need to know about them to expand our influence. Included was a tiny bit about how different audiences process information, which I’ve written about here on the blog before, so I won’t go into it again. Suffice it to say when you get a room full of 25 or 30 bright people and toss out an idea, the idea grows into something incredible. I expect we all left that room with some ways we might bring HypnoBirthing further into the mainstream, particularly how we might benefit from the influence of HR departments trying to cut costs in the area of health care.

I was pulled up short by one attendee who pointed out that none of we covered in the second half was applicable to her, since she was from the UK and their PR problem would be completely different. She was absolutely right. I didn’t even think about the fact that this was an international conference. We had people from Ireland, Canada, the UK, Singapore, India, and I don’t even know where else. I know at past conferences Mexico, France and Australia have been represented. In any case, shame on me for not thinking about that. I’ll have to learn more about how maternity care works in other countries to see if I can have a wider perspective at the next conclave.

I then attended a workshop on Rapid and Non-verbal Hypnotic Leads with Teresa Van Zeller and it was GREAT! I am so excited to put these techniques into practice!

The dinner Saturday was good, topped off with chocolate decadence. The entertainment was not something I was into, but everyone else seemed to be having a good time. I could have been tired, or it just wasn’t my thing. I don’t know. I only stayed because there was an East Indian group prayer for Mickey and Gene (the founder of HypnoBirthing and her husband) that I felt was important and wanted to attend.

Sunday was a busy day. I had planned to start out my morning with Laura Shanley’s presentation on unassisted birth. I’ve spoken with her online and really wanted to meet her, but I got caught up in something else and didn’t make it.

I did get to Diana Durocher’s class on Endorphin Production for an Orgasmic Birth. I actually had heard enough about orgasmic birth by this time, but I love Diana! She’s so smart and funny I just had to attend her session. There will be at least one line from her presentation that will be pilfered (and she has approved said pilfering) with attribution.

My next session was with Jackie Foskett on how to get HB into hospitals. I think some people had expectations for this presentation that were other than the presenter intended, if some of the questions and comments I heard were any indication. Jackie’s presentation and notes were quite detailed, and I would think quite successful in getting into a hospital to teach…if the hospitals were ready to invite HypnoBirthing in. I think some people wanted to know how to break a sort of invisible barrier that keeps administrators from seeing HypnoBirthing as valuable to their clientèle and the bottom line (which of course it is to both). Jackie was clear that if that barrier exists, it simply isn’t the right time to approach the institution.

I retreated to my room after that last session. As an introvert, I charge my batteries by being alone, or surrounded by a known environment. I didn’t have my husband, my knitting (because my sock needles are so obviously a terrorist threat) or a known environment, so I had to get time alone to breathe whenever I could. That time was limited from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. When I did get to my room Sunday evening, I sort of cocooned and tried to absorb all that had come at me over the weekend.

Unfortunately, as nice as the public areas of the hotel (Double Tree Hotel in Austin, TX) were, spending more time in my room only made me realize the filth I'd been sleeping in. The room was disgusting. I had noticed it wasn't very clean right away. At first I thought I was just being nit-picky at the peeling plaster and stickiness on the baseboards. So what if the bed didn’t have that nice bleach crispness; I pulled back the sheets, and the only nastiness was on the comforter, which is typical. Gross, but typical. (Sometimes I can’t stop myself from watching those investigative reports on Dateline even when I know the information is going to creep me out.) I didn’t flip the mattress, but also didn’t see obvious signs of bed bugs either, so I just made ‘you have a strong immune system’ my mantra and reminded myself that I wasn’t camping with the scorpions and I did have a hot shower. I didn’t want to complain and have housekeeping clean the toilet with my toothbrush or something. (I also rarely return food to the kitchen for fear someone will spit in it. Perhaps that’s too much information about my paranoia? I’ve worked in restaurants. Believe me, it’s not paranoia.)

When I had first arrived at this room, I noticed a snag in the carpet…or so I thought. On the last night (after my room had been ‘cleaned’) I realized, that wasn’t a snag in the carpet; it was a small pile of what could have been omelet (maybe…I didn’t dare get too close to inspect) that just happened to be the same color as that part of the carpet. Knowing that the room couldn’t possibly have been even vacuumed the entire time I’d been there, despite having been ‘serviced’ made me wonder when the last time it HAD might have been. I remembered the muddy footprint my foot made on the floor-towel after walking through some water I dripped on the tile in the bathroom the day before. At the time, I didn’t think about it, but I had shoes on the entire time I’d been out of the room. Any dirt on my bare feet had to have come from walking around in the room. I called my husband just to share the ‘ick’ factor, and of course he told me to change rooms, but considering I was leaving the next morning, I just checked the bedding more closely and packed. I didn’t sleep well that night though.

All in all, the conference made it all worthwhile. It really was that great. For any HypnoBirthing instructor who hasn’t made it to a conclave yet, you really must go. So much work goes into providing us all with the opportunity to share and grow and better serve our communities! It is a wonderful place to take your teacher training because you get to meet experienced practitioners and immediately learn about how to make the most of your new practice. You leave feeling so energized and ready to go out and share the wonders of HypnoBirthing with everyone you meet!

Dog Food Recall

I have wonderful stuff to share from the HypnoBirthing(R) conference I just returned from, but this post is more urgent.

About three weeks ago, our dog started doing weird stuff, like she wouldn't walk with us. She'd stop after a block and plunk her butt down and refuse to continue. She's got a bit of an attitude, so while it was odd, it was within the realm of her personality to be uppity.

She began itching incessantly. She's had allergies before, so we did what our vet had said to do before and gave her Benydryl, but it didn't seem to help. Ultimately, it was another expensive vet bill to get a stronger anti-histamine and an antibiotic so the spots raw from itching didn't get infected. The vet said at that time she seemed to look great other than that.

Next, she had the runs, and she vomited a couple of times, not long after, but she also often does that. She's had intestinal issues since we brought her home from the pound, and anything from emotional upset to snarfing something up in the yard can set it off. Honestly, she would have been dead along time ago if we weren't constantly pulling garbage out of her mouth. So, again, we didn't worry too much.

But then she had a day and night of A LOT of vomiting, this time bile, and she didn't look so good. Not connecting all of the stuff that had happened in the last week or two (because remember, this dog has issues and none of any of that was abnormal, taken alone...and we've spent more money on vet visits for this dog than we did in 10 years with our pure bred German Shepard and we've learned to recognize and deal with the issues)we figured it was a doggie bug of some sort, so we stayed up with her most of the night and fed her ice cubes to keep her hydrated and hoped she would make it to morning for another vet visit.

I left for the conference the next day. My husband kept an eye on the dog. He cooked chicken and rice for her all weekend, and gave her plain yogurt periodically, but she didn't eat or drink much. This is diet usually snaps her out of it when she gets sick. And he said it did help a little , but still, she's not herself and there are times when she seems to be in pain. It is at this point we finally start to wonder if this isn't just the 'usual' pain in the butt stuff, but if she is really sick. The last few weeks start to connect and look like one symptom picture instead of a bunch of typical days in life with Dharma. As I'm telling this to my aunt, she suggests it might be Dharma's food. Now, we bought Nurto food because she had problems with wheat, and she's eaten this food since she was a baby because anything else makes her soooooo sick. But my aunt tells me there is a dog food recall and suggests I check it out. I do.

It is then I find this:

Dog Food Recall


and this:

Dogs and cats getting sick and dying on Nutro

With this in front of me and in hindsight, it is now easy to see what is wrong with my poor dog!

I hope we caught it in time. Some of these people spent thousands in vet bills and still lost their precious friends because it seems there's nothing to do but stop the continuing damage and try to reverse the damage that's already been done.

We are now cooking for our dog. I looked up proper proportions (40% lean meat, 30% veggie, 30% starch) and we are feeding her the homemade stuff. However, last night, she was up puking again, and then again this morning. She hadn't for a few days, but then again, she wasn't eating or drinking much.

If we caught this in time, we could be on a slow road to recovery. Otherwise we are just keeping her comfortable and less hungry while she walks the green mile. People with pets, if they are acting funny, think about contaminated dog food before anything else! If Dharma wasn't such a sickie on a regular basis, we might have thought to do so sooner, but now that we know what we do, maybe it can help someone else.

Dharma appreciates any healing thoughts you'd like to send her way.

10.02.2008

2009 HypnoBirthing Schedule

I'm embedding my Google Calendar here, which will include events and class schedules. You can also find a calendar and registration forms on my website.

10.01.2008

PPD or PTSD?

Now back to our regularly scheduled Birth Bitch:

I’ve been doing some research for a psychology class I’m taking. I chose to look at the impact of birthing practice on postpartum depression/post-traumatic stress disorder (PDD/PTSD). My reasoning is thus: if we know the perception of trauma in birth increases postpartum mental health issues, and we know how to make birth not just less traumatic, but actually an ecstatic experience, we can reduce the rate of maternal adjustment issues that impact not just mothers, but babies, families and society.

I made this decision because I had just watched Monty Python’s Miracle of Birth from the Meaning of Life.



It struck me (as it has every time I watch this) how odd it is that comedians in 1983 could plainly see that inserting routine, useless and potentially harmful technology into the birth process, while disengaging the mother because she’s ‘not qualified’ to participate, could contribute to ‘PND’ (Post Natal Depression-British for Postpartum Depression). I wanted to see if an idea commonsensical enough to be present in satirical humor 25 years ago had been seriously examined.

One would think that if there was research to suggest certain procedures were unnecessary or harmful, they would be discontinued. Unfortunately, one would be wrong. We already know that invasive, routine birth interventions disrupt bonding and breastfeeding. (The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding; Delivery Self-Attachment; What Babies Want) Yet, practices persist. It would stand to reason if the processes of birth and bonding were disrupted, the mother and baby would be affected as we know other mammalian mother-babies are.

Prevalence and Predictors of Women’s Experience of Psychological Trauma During Childbirth (Soet, Brack & Dilorio, 2003; Birth 30:1) examined how often women experienced trauma during birth, what caused the trauma, and to look for ways to prevent such things.

Of the 103 women in the study, 34% felt traumatized by their birth experience. 1.9% of those met the criteria for PTSD diagnosis.

A PTSD reaction included “…nightmares, intrusive memories, depression, anxiety, difficulty bonding with the infant, fear of sexual intimacy and avoidance of future childbearing…” and possible “…long-term bonding problems.” Other studies were cited that put the rate of a PTSD reaction as high as 6%.

There were three pre-existing factors contributing to trauma were lack of social support, previous sexual assault and the expectation of pain.

Other predictive factors were pain (although 74.8% had epidurals), feelings of powerlessness (Monty Python nailed it) “expectations, medical intervention and interaction with medical personal”.

I was confused by the part that said, “A sick (n=15) or stillborn infant (n=1) was delivered in 17.4 percent of the cases. By the time of the follow-up interview, all [emphasis mine] babies who had initial complications were at home and were described as healthy by the mothers.” I get that a sick or stillborn infant would be a significant factor in a negative perception of the experience, but how is a stillborn infant then described as healthy?

The title of the next one, Psychological trauma symptoms of operative birth(Gamble & Creedy, 2005; British Journal of Midwifery, April) is pretty self-explanatory. At the time of publication, US cesarean rates would have been around 24%. They are now at 32%, even though as the article correctly states, the World Health Organization recommends no more than a 10-15% rate.

The study of 400 women found that those who had emergency cesareans or “operative vaginal delivery” (most likely referring to episiotomy, but perhaps forceps or vacuum extraction as well…unless I missed it, it was not specified) to be more likely to suffer PTSD, with cesareans being 6 times more likely.

The conclusion? “Results of this study provide evidence that the use of obstetric procedures during childbirth significantly contribute to the presence of acute trauma reactions in the postpartum.” It goes on to cite other studies that have come to the same conclusion as far back as 1979. In fact, studies done in 1979, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997 and 2000. And yet here we are in 2008 with rates of intervention just as high, and operative deliveries even higher…with NO improvement in outcomes. Hm.

Two others, Post-traumatic symptoms after childbirth: What should we offer?(Slder, Stadlmayr, Tschudin & Bitzer, 2006; Journal of Psychosomatic Obsterics & Gynecology 27:2) and Post-traumatic stress following childbirth: A review of the emerging literature and directions for research and practice(Bailham & Joseph, 2003; Psychology, Health & Medicine 8:2) came to similar conclusions, but this is depressing the hell out of me so I’m not going to comment on them. It’s not just that we’ve known all this for so long and haven’t acted on it, thus dooming millions of women, babies and families to suffer needlessly. That’s disgraceful, of course. But I find it appalling that the US doesn’t even seem to considering these studies worthwhile enough to look into the possibility that routine obstetrical interventions applied with such a cavalier attitude are harming our most vulnerable. All of these studies were from Europe. One more reason to seriously consider the life of an ex-pat.

Finally, Shelia Kitzinger commented on PSTD in birth in her commentary, “Birth as rape: There must be an end to ‘just in case’ obstetrics.” In it, she compares the descriptors rape victims and PTSD victims use. Sadly they are nearly identical. She also notes that it is unnecessary routine obstetrical intervention that is causative in the perceived trauma in birth, and notes that while we know which routine interventions are harmful or useless, in obstetrics it takes an average of 15 years before evidence changes practice. Though, the Monty Python bit was done 25 years ago. The research began 30 years ago. Why are women still being brutalized in birth?

9.26.2008

Really?

PETA's mission is a good one: stop animal cruelty, help people understand the environmental impact of their dietary choices, and help people be healthier. None of those things are bad. I agree with all of them. I don't' live a perfect life, but most of the choices I make are with these things in mind. Not all choices, but most.

However, how can you not get that by acting like lunatics you loose people who agree with you and repel those who don't?

Throwing paint on a person wearing a fur coat is willful destruction of private property. I don't own a fur coat. I don't agree with the torturous deaths that lead to fur coats. But if I did, and someone trashed my coat, I'd be pissed and I'd prosecute. Using that logic, why don't people holding stock in oil come to homes of PETA members and smash their solar panels? That's just stupid. Educating people is important. Annoying them is counter-productive.

Equating meat eating with Jeffery Dahmer is likewise unwise. Not nonfactual, but culturally inappropriate to say the least. In different times and different places eating people may be a sign of respect or a ritual of war, and really, what is the difference between eating the meat of dogs and cows? Hindus are as appalled with us as we are with the eating of German Shepards in China. However, in the here and now, the yuck factor supersedes the historical and anthropological parallels and the message is dismissed by the very people it was intended to shock and convert.

So, what led to this rant? The news that PETA has proposed that "...Ben & Jerry's use breast milk in its ice cream." Really? Obviously, PETA members know that this is fiscally impossible, just to look at the logical first. Mother's milk is liquid gold and very expensive. Even if it were possible, immediately there would be feminists protesting the use of women as dairy producers.

But come on! This stunt at its very core makes PETA look like IDIOTS, even knowing it's a publicity stunt. Many people are nauseated by the idea of giving their own babies the milk specially made for them, let alone making a consumable, mass market product from it! Granted, they are woefully misinformed and culturally indoctrinated to the point that they are making less than optimal choices for their babies. There is abundant scientific evidence that there is nothing as beneficial as human mother's milk for human babies. Knowing that doesn't change the cultural perception. It is what it is and you need to meet people where they are. Grossing them out isn't going to win any converts.

Likewise, there is abundant science to show that cow's milk causes a whole host of health problems, not just in babies, but in adults as well. Yes, babies need mother's milk. If I want breast milk ice cream, I'll make my own thanks.

I live in WI and I know (thanks to California Milk Producers) that I live in a state full of depressed cows. I see their babies in boxes, not knowing they are merely 'veal'...a by product of the milk humans consume. That is more likely to persuade me to give up my yogurt than the latest PETA stunt.

The facts PETA wants to disseminate are sound. Too bad no one will listen to a bunch of loonies.

It's dangerous to think 'it can't happen here'

China has been in the news for tainted formula and tainted baby food. With tainted US products coming out of China not such a distant memory, why even risk the health of a newborn?

US formula has been recalled as dangerous many times as has baby food.

Mothers milk is free, pre-warmed, sterile, always available and as pure as the mother's diet. Even if the mother's diet and environment are less than optimal, her milk may contain trace amounts...not poisons in amounts that will sicken and kill her baby.

Who needs a medical degree?

Once again, a 9 year old steps in to save the day and receive her mother's baby during a precipitous birth. This time the baby is premature and tiny, still everything turns out ok.

HypnoBirthing in the News again

In August, HypnoBirthing(R) was in the news again in a video about Painless Birth.

And should have been mentioned in this story about Stress in Pregnancy because HypnoBirthing isn't just beneficial for quicker, more comfortable birth with fewer complications, but helps babies stay inside until they're done!

I wish every woman would welcome the idea of HypnoBirthing. Not every woman would have a painless labor and birth, but every woman would have the best birth possible for her, which many are not getting now considering "at least 1.5 million Americans fall prey to hospital error every year." (MSN Health and Fitness; content provided by Forbes.com)

The message? Stay out of the hospital unless you're sick! If you must go (because you are sick or injured, not healthy having a healthy baby), read YOU: The Smart Patient.

Yay for the New England Journal of Medicine!

At least someone is using some commonsense when it comes to the HPV vaccine! No, I'm not jumping on the bandwagon to shoot my daughter up with this mess. Unless/until someone can assure me it is safe and effective, no way. And so far, it's not looking good for those willing to toss caution to the wind. Europe has been watching the US closely before jumping on-board, and what they see isn't pretty. The risks are high and the efficacy is unknown, so I was glad to see the NEJM encouraging caution and that the news actually picked it up.

The Big Cost of Little Babies

ABC News had a video news clip Saving Premature Babies in August 2008 and I felt there were a couple of things worth commenting on.

Minimizing prematurity is definitely a cause worthy of a newscast. Women need to be educated in how everything from their diet to their stress level increased the chance of prematurity because these are things they can largely control. They may need assistance or tools to cope, but most of the things that cause prematurity are preventable.

The problem I had with this particular video was that they keep harping on the importance of prenatal care as prevention. If prenatal care as it is currently defined in the US today actually improved outcomes, that would be great. However, Prenatal Care Does Not Improve Outcomes.
The American College of Physicians even recommended fewer visits and fewer ultrasound 10 years ago.

Effective prenatal care is how the woman cares for herself and her baby. If we spend as much time and money educating women and helping them make good decisions as we do on wasteful and useless routine technology, we'd have better outcomes.

The other problem I had was with the statement "Doctors say if every premature birth could be delayed even one week, the infant mortality rate would go down dramatically." (Vargas)

The statement is true, but it isn't the mothers who don't get prenatal care that account for the largest number of premature births...it is the women who DO see a physician and are induced.

Dr. Kenneth Trofatter explains in his Health Line blog:

"Late preterm birth now constitutes about three-quarters of all preterm deliveries. This amounts to more than 300,000 deliveries per year! Many of these deliveries are by elective cesarean section and many others result from cesarean section as a consequence of failed labor induction..."

I just get annoyed when the public is misled by people supposedly providing factual news.

To be fair, the same reporter did a similar report on prematurity in poor communities that was much more accurate and balanced.

I'm losing my grip!

It's been ages since my last confession...er...I mean blog.

A couple of months ago I added a 4th job to my schedule. At the time it seemed like a good idea. I only conduct HypnoBirthing(R) classes every other month and the occasional odd time for those couples that don't fit into the traditional scheduling. My hypnosis clients were not economically scheduled, so I figured I could condense appointments to one or two very full days a month. My Internship only takes up two days per week and I enjoy it so much it hardly seems like work. And the job I thought I applied for was Calligrapher, which I also enjoy. It was a part-time position personalizing Christmas bulbs. I thought, "How hard can it be?"

Unfortunately, the job included retail, which I absolutely abhor. I'm no good at it. It takes a special person who enjoys the unpredictable and dealing with a wide assortment of personalities. That is not me. I'm not a people person. I'm a hermit who enjoys researching, writing and being in controlled environments with a script, like public speaking on topic I know very well or teaching a topic I know very well. I need to channel my 'Inner Sheri' (my extrovert friend) just to get through a retail shift. It's exhausting. The job is 90% stuff I hate and 10% calligraphy or pricing, which I enjoy because it's solitary.

I am scheduled for half my weekends, all weekend, as well as more hours than I can handle during the week, especially now that school started and I have 8 hours of class each week plus assigned work. Within a week of working retail I remembered why I went back to school. Within two I knew I was in deep over my head and not doing so well at keeping afloat.

Every body says I should just quit, but calligraphy is a really obscure talent that they really need someone to do. Sheri says I'm taking a job away from someone that needs it by staying. Maybe. They are short staffed and haven't found other people who can do calligraphy yet. I like the people and don't want to leave them in a lurch. I gave my word that I'd help and I find that hard to break. The manager is trying really hard to work with my insane schedule, which helps, but it's not so much the regular schedule, but the weekends that are killing me. On the weeks that my husband travels and then I work all weekend, I barely get to see him. We haven't been together a quarter century by stealing an hour here and there if we can get it. We need to have time together that isn't all about bills and if one or the other of us has done laundry.

He says there is nothing worth sacrificing my sanity, and if I worked that hard for myself I'd be much better off. Probably.

So far I am figuring out ways to make it sort of work except that I am incredibly tired and I haven't had time to work on my book or other research/writing projects I have in my head. That is what's making me lose my grip. When I don't get the opportunity to get all this out of my head, it almost seems like...how can I explain it? Like pressure, I guess. Like at some point my brain is going to make me stay up all night just to drain it all into my computer, and then I'll collapse. I don't have time for yoga, knitting, Wild Divine or any of those things that keep me healthy and balanced either, including blogging and walking the dog. The poor dog! She was getting walked 2-5 miles a day and the luxury of being in the house with a constant companion. Now she's alone out in the garage all day and is lucky if she gets a walk around the block. My husband and dau have always had busy lives, but I was the hub that sort of kept it all running smoothly. It's not running quite as smoothly these days, even though they are helping out a lot.

Anyway, I might have reached my last straw. I may just have lost two HypnoBirthing clients because I'm having difficultly working even more in and they needed personalized schedule. That just won't do. HB is what I'm trained for, it's what I love and I hate to have even one woman who wants to enjoy the wonders of a HypnoBirthing miss out because I'm trying to accommodate a minimum wage job that means nothing to me simply because I can't walk away or say 'enough'.

So, now that I've bitched about a bunch of stuff that is totally within my control that I've done nothing about, Sheri would ask, "When are you going to do something about it?" I don't know.

What I do know is I have about a half dozen absurd tidbits I want to post here, but I've wasted time kvetching, so now I have to get ready for work. Hopefully I'll get a chance to get back on tonight.

7.31.2008

How many parents hate their newborns?

Men's Health has an article today (July 31, 2008) titled, "I Hate My Newborn Baby!": A new dad confesses: They're not always bundles of joy

It is true: babies are not always perfect. Sometimes the babies are wonderful, but our expectation of what babies actually are is often unrealistic. However, in the case of this article, which is heartbreaking and all too common, the suffering of the baby and the parents was probably avoidable.

How many parents think it's 'normal' for babies to scream in agony for 19 hours a day? How many sleep deprived parents schlep to the doctor's office on weekly basis switching formula in an effort to stop their baby's pain due to "a little intestinal distress" that "is fairly common and nothing to worry about".

Eventually, the doctor decides perhaps the baby has a milk allergy and switches to a soy formula, which makes the baby so much worse the parents decide they'll have to take him to the E.R., but just before they leave, he falls asleep and all is well from that point on.

A milk allergy. That's sort of an understatement. Human babies are not designed to consume cows milk, which is what formula is made of. In fact, the advice is to not give babies under one year cows milk. But because it is common for parents to give babies artificial baby milk to infants, newborn pain and suffering is now considered 'fairly common and nothing to worry about'.

Parents need to know that it doesn't have to be that way so they don't have to feel the guilt of hating their babies.