Pregnancy

Mama’s Guide To A Gentle Birth

I’m a mother to two little girls. I’ve had two home water births, and attended the birth of one baby at home, and paced the halls of the hospital outside the theatre of a c-section like an expectant father. That is my hands on experience with childbirth. I am not trained as a midwife, not a registered Doula. I am just a mother. I do not get paid to make decisions over someone else’s birth or child. No, I’m just a mother, who has to live with the consequences of every decision I make for the birth of my babies, and for the rest of their lives. And that is a powerful motivator. I can’t think of a stronger reason to be confident in my decisions for the birthing and the raising of my babies.

Mamas Guide To A Gentle Birth

So is this a disclaimer? No. It’s a challenge. It’s me saying don’t just take anyone’s word for anything. Do your own research, make your own decisions. Where, how, with whom and when you birth your babies may be the biggest life changing decision you’ll ever make.

So why should you listen to me? Well, you shouldn’t. My wish for you is that as you read more and learn more, you’ll find questions you didn’t know you needed to ask, and then you’ll find the answers that work for you in your situation.

A midwife once told me that the most beautiful births she’d attended were those of mothers who were informed about birth. Take responsibility for the birth of your child. No one else in the whole world will be as affected by that day as you will, whether you’re immediately aware of it or not.

My Story

We conceived Ameli in December 2008 and I knew I was pregnant before the first test showed a positive result. I tested, because I suspected. I just didn’t feel well. At 5 weeks pregnant, after a scan for spotting, I was sent home to miscarry in peace. For 18 weeks, I spotted, waiting to lose my child, and debilitated by a horrible condition: Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I threw up 20 times a day, and lost a ton of weight. My whole life was turned upside down by this sickness. I visited my doctor a number of times, and each time he told me ‘pregnant women get sick’ and ‘deal with it’.

It was my sincere doubt that this could be ‘normal’ that led me to investigating pregnancy and child birth. A colleague asked me if I was planning a home birth, and it was the first time I’d even heard that was possible. I began investigating Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and during the hours of not wanting to move for sickness, I began reading, reading, reading. I read about homebirth, about freebirth, and about waterbirth, and knew it was what I wanted.

I had an amazing, inspiring, incredible, peaceful, beautiful home water birth on the 4th of October 2009. I had my first real contraction a full 48 hours before my daughter was born into my waiting hands, but it was the most transformative experience of my life. Not just having the baby, but how I had the baby change everything about me. It gave me a faith, belief and confidence in myself and my ability, and a passionate admiration for she that is woman.

Two and a half years later, after another horrendous pregnancy, much worse than the first, I gave birth to Aviya, my second little girl. Her birth was very different. It was fast, powerful, when I think of it, I think of a thunderstorm crashing waves onto the shore. She was ‘late’ by the medical profession’s definition, arriving in a hurry at 42 weeks and 5 days.

Both of these births have led me to a deeper understanding of myself, yes, but of women in general, and of the gift of womanhood. If the information I share with you today – none of which you couldn’t have found for yourself, had you been looking – can take you just one step in the direction of experiencing the power of bringing life into the world in a way that empowers you, whatever your method, place or time of giving birth, then I will be happy.

Giving birth is not just about having a healthy, happy baby. Ask a mother who had a traumatic experience, or a painful experience, or endured humiliation, or felt vulnerable or even neglected, ignored or abused, and ask a mother who has suffered depression, shock or grief over her birth experience, and she will not tell you that nothing else matters. Yes, her beautiful baby will be the highlight, and the prize, but if that can be achieved through beauty and power, then all the better. And like with anything else in life, your chances of success are hugely increased by preparation.

As an athlete prepares for a race, so you need to prepare yourself mentally for giving birth. I’m Not Trying For A Homebirth, I’m Having One is about just that. While I was planning for a homebirth and wrote it so, you can apply the principles to any birth plan.

In any business proposal, you have to write a plan. There’s no difference in birth plans. Writing a Birthplan: The Where, The Who And The Documentation. A birth plan doesn’t guarantee you a specific list of demands, but it gives you something to focus on and to work through those things you didn’t know you needed to know. Here’s some advice on How To Write A Birth Plan And Why You Should.

A birthplan will help you think about things such as Pushing During Childbirth – Should it be Spontaneous or Directed, and whether your Newborn Needs Additional Vitamin K or not.

Having a baby may be the most natural thing in the world, but we’re not the natural people we once were. We don’t do much manual labour anymore, so our babies move into the ‘wrong’ position for birth, we don’t have the physical stamina we used to, so birth takes more out of us. It may be something we’ve done for generations, but we’ve not done it the way we do it nowadays for very long, so don’t miss out on Preparing for a natural childbirth.

The first thing people think of when they think of birth is pain. This is so unfortunate and is a gift handed down to us by generally male interference in the birth process, and media. Birth does not have to equate pain. And where there is pain, there are also Pain Relief Methods In Childbirth.

People also have a mental image of a woman lying on her back in bed. I’ve had two sitting up in a pool births, and when I think of birth, I still think of the Hollywood version of sweaty screaming with your legs in the air. But that’s not real life. There are many different Positions For Labour And Childbirth and becoming familiar with them will make a huge difference to your labour particularly, but also the birth – work with gravity, rather than against it.

Where you give birth is really important. If you go to a hospital with a very high surgical birth rate, you are very unlikely to find the support that you need for a vaginal birth. If you want a homebirth, you sometimes have to fight for it. This is important stuff. You don’t buy a camera off the cheapest bloke on the internet. You don’t buy high value items off an eBay seller with no feedback rating. Why have a baby with no research into the ‘seller’? Natural homebirth vs. Natural hospital birth

 If you’re having a homebirth, here’s list of Things To Prepare For A Homebirth and a Laobur Plan or Checklist for your homebirth.

Who you have with you is equally important. I strongly recommend a Doula, if you are able as she is there to look after you, not your baby. The word ‘doula’ means ‘servant girl’. While a trained Doula is amazing, a friend who has been there and if possible has had the kind of birth you want to have is perfectly sufficient. Just as you wouldn’t take financial advice from a bankrupt friend, don’t take birth advice from someone whose ideals are different to yours, especially not at the time you are most vulnerable! The Doula Path

What Does The Birth Partner DO At A Birth? Well, that differs from person to person, but here are some thoughts. One of the things they or your Doula could do is help administer Herbs for use in Childbirth so that, with any luck, you can minimise your need for chemical drugs.

Fear is a big problem in birth, because your Adrenaline ‘over rides’ your feel good hormones, causing labour to stall and problems to arise. For me, I Had A Perfect Birth – Now I’m Scared Of Trying Again is about how I had a perfect birth the first time round, and I was really scared of it all going wrong the second time. Some women fear how having something ‘the size of a watermelon coming out something so small’ will affect their sex lives later. Here’s an honest look atNatural Childbirth: Changes In Sex Life.

Concern over how an older sibling may react can impact on not only the birth, but when you go into labour too. Stress can prevent the body from letting go for long enough to go into labour. Here’s a list of Books To Prepare Children For Childbirth, Homebirth Or Waterbirth. There’s also a list of Great Youtube Birth Videos For Children and Activity Pack Ideas For Older Siblings At A Birth

But, what if it’s too late, and it’s all gone wrong? Rebirthing: (For Emotional Healing And Breastfeeding Reintroduction) might be what you need to recreate the birth bond between mother and baby.

No two births are ever the same, and one of the biggest surprises babout birth and children is how different and unpredictable both can be, but even if nothing goes to plan, planning for the birth that suits you can only ever stand you in good stead.

My Body, My Choice With A Backup – A Look At IUD’s

After I had my first son, I knew that I would want to get pregnant in the future but not right this minute and I wanted some assurance that it would not happen. I had been on hormonal birth control prior to having children and I was not happy with what it had done to my body over the 10 plus years I used it and I also did not like the possibility that it might mess with my precious milk supply.

I was much too lazy and forgetful for the charting and NFP that we had learned about through our Pre-Canaan classes before I was a mom. As a new mom I barely remembered to take my prenatal vitamins and I was exclusively breastfeeding, which in itself is a form of birth control called ecological breastfeeding or LAM but I wanted to be sure.


Just look at all the little doo-dads we have used over the years for IUDs

I couldn’t rely on knowing when my cycle would return in order and I wasn’t ready to trust my body to know when a cycle was coming. I don’t like and have never liked condoms and besides I am allergic and need to use only one specific brand. Who has time as a new parent to remember to put one on when you find that one moment of together time? That wasn’t going to work. So what is a newly natural minded mama to do?

I decided on an IUD or intrauterine device. I opted for the non-hormonal copper unit because I hated the hormone birth control and there was still the risk of interfering with milk supply. I was still taking a chance that I might have a reaction to copper since my skin reacts to cheap jewelry and I never really had copper around me before – luckily I didn’t.

I barely felt the insertion and I was only aware of the device being inside me for a few hours after. We weren’t completely positive when we would like to have another child (I was thinking in another year, he was thinking talk to me after we’ve been parents for a bit) so I liked that it could be left in for up to 10 years or it could be removed before that.

It contained no hormones so it was not interfering with my body in that way. It would however physically block sperm from meeting the egg or the egg from implanting.

Paragard packaged prior to use

I chose to use the IUD for around a year. By then I had seen some side affects from it and I really never saw the return of my period because I was using the IUD and breastfeeding. Maybe there is something to LAM after all? But we decided to add another member to our family.

I was expecting to feel some discomfort from the removal but I did not feel anything. That could be attributed to having a vaginal birth prior because some women do complain of discomfort during insertion and removal.

Overall though I was happy. I was not constantly worried that I was going to get pregnant before I wanted to but I also did not feel the way I did on hormonal birth control with the ups and downs of mood swings. After the birth of my second child this will definitely be a consideration for me again because just like every pregnancy is different, every post-natal menstrual cycle is different and I’m not taking bets that breastfeeding will work the same way again.

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Information About The Author:

AUTHOR BIO: Shannon R writes at The Artful Mama and is Co-editor of Natural Parents Network’s Reviews and Giveaways. She writes about her choices in natural parenting as a working parent to a toddler and soon to be new baby.

 

Maternity Photo Shoot With Urbanvox

*This is NOT a sponsored post

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have seen a few of these pictures already, and if you’re a follower on Facebook they’ve surfaced there a few times already, but now, as my little Aviya uncurls and loses her new born look, I’m finally ready to share some pictures with you from our maternity shoot.  I hope you enjoy them. (more…)

Pushing During Childbirth – Spontaneous Or Directed?

Despite having had an amazing home water birth with my first child, and having watched a few feature film lengths of birthing videos on youtube and around the web, whenever I think of childbirth, I still have the mental image of legs up in stirrups and nurses and doctors and pale looking fathers urging a screaming mother to ‘push, push,push!’ Such is the level of our indoctrination by TV, really!

The reality can and should be much different though. For a start, when a woman has sensation in her lower body, (i.e. hasn’t had strong pain medications) she knows all too well when to push. In fact, it’s physically impossible not to push. Your body just does it and there’s no stopping it.  The picture you see on TV is what happens when the mother-to-be has had an epidural and can’t feel the natural urges to push.  You then have a nurse, midwife or doctor looking at a screen to monitor when the contractions have started, and telling the mother to push. (more…)

Does A Newborn Need Additional Vitamin K?

(Q16 on the birthplan: Would I like my baby to be given a vitamin K injection?)

During my pregnancy with Ameli, I learned everything I could about everything pregnancy and birth related! I wrote a book full of notes, typed it all up and kept it with my birth plan so that if I had to have a justification for my decisions at any point, I’d have it on hand. I was blessed with an amazing midwife who didn’t even question my choices, so I never needed them, but here are my notes on Vitamin K… maybe you’ll find them useful. These notes formed the basis of my decision and are only intended to provide reference materials to start you off on your own research.

Vitamin K is routinely given because:

“The problem of bleeding into the brain occurs mainly from 3 to 7 weeks after birth in just over 5 out of 100,000 births (without vitamin K injections); 90% of those cases are breastfed infants because formulas are supplemented with unnaturally high levels of vitamin K. Forty percent of these infants suffer permanent brain damage or death.”Linda Folden Palmer, DC in International Chiropractic Pediatric Association Newsletter September/October 2002 Issue

Vitamin K may be needed when:

  • Premature clamping of the umbilical cord deprives babies of up to 40% of their natural blood volume, including platelets and other clotting factors
  • The use of vacuum extractor or forceps causes bruising or internal bleeding, which uses up the baby’s available clotting factors
  • Antibiotics are used in the birth, as they inhibit the baby’s generation of clotting factors.
  • C-Section

There are alternatives to a vitamin K shot:

For breastfed infants, an oral vitamin K preparation (Konakion MM) given in 3 doses of 2mg at birth, 7 days, and 30 days of life results in higher plasma vitamin K concentrations than a single injected dose at birth (although my current midwife doesn’t agree with this statement). The preparation must be Konakion MM, which contains lecithin and glycocoholic acid; vitamin K require emulsification and the presence of bile salts for its absorption.

For formula fed infants, formula contains enough vitamin K that no supplement should be necessary.

Arguments against the routine use of vitamin K – three main observations (Falcao):

Vitamin K1 Injection (Phytonadione Injectable Emulsion, USP) (10 mg/mL)

Nature seems to go to a lot of trouble in regulating the baby’s vitamin K levels: the level at birth gradually rises over the eight days following birth to a higher level. It is almost as if nature very specifically wants the baby to have a specific level of clotting factors at birth, followed by a higher level of clotting factors a week after the birth.

This may be related to the fact that in a physiological birth, where the baby gets all the blood from the placenta, the baby’s blood is a little thicker; this is especially true in the 72 hours following birth, since the babies naturally become a little dehydrated until the mother’s milk changes to a higher volume flow, so the blood is thicker.

There has been some association between vitamin K injection and childhood leukaemia. (Parker) Theoretical observations are that precise levels of vitamin K are required to regulate the rate of cell division in newborns and that excessive levels of vitamin K disrupt this regulatory process, thus increasing the possibility of leukaemia and other childhood cancers. (While a few studies have refuted this suggestion, several tightly controlled studies have shown this correlation to be most likely1,2.The most current analysis of six different studies suggests it is a 10% or 20% increased risk. This is still a significant number of avoidable cancers.3)

Follow up research indicated that the leukaemia might have been related to mercury used to preserve the vitamin K solution. Further research in 2003 found that there was no definitive link between childhood leukaemia and Vitamin K, but also that ‘small effects cannot be ruled out’.

Research shows that babies who contract meningitis are more likely to die if they have higher clotting factors. It’s not clear whether this is due to genetic factors or whether it applies to all babies who receive vitamin K. ( I can’t find any actual links to this research, despite it being mentioned all over the web!)

The warning label on Vitamin K injections is pretty scary too:

Severe reactions, including fatalities, have occurred during and immediately after the parenteral administration of Phytonadione. Typically these severe reactions have resembled hypersensitivity or anaphylaxis, including shock and cardiac and/or respiratory arrest. Some patients have exhibited these severe reactions on receiving Phytonadione for the first time. The majority of these reported events occurred following intravenous administration, even when precautions have been taken to dilute the Phytonadione and to avoid rapid infusion. Therefore, the INTRAVENOUS route should be restricted to those situations where another route is not feasible and the increased risk involved is considered justified.

Dangers of excess Vitamin K:

When a baby is born gently, without any intervention, antibiotic, or trauma, and no apparent bruising, and is breastfed, there is no need for Vitamin K. Administering vitamin K to these babies – especially if they are formula fed – can lead to excess Vitamin K, which in turn may lead to newborn jaundice.

Signs Suggesting Need for Vitamin K after birth:

  • bleeding from the umbilicus, nose, mouth, ears, urinary tract or rectum
  • any bruise not related to a known trauma
  • pinpoint bruises called petechiae
  • black tarry stools after meconium has already been expelled
  • black vomit
  • bleeding longer than 6 minutes from a blood sampling site even after there has been pressure on the wound
  • symptoms of intracranial bleeding including paleness, glassy eyed look, irritability or high pitched crying, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, prolonged jaundice.

(This list is written by Jennifer Enoch. Midwifery Today. Issue 40.)

Natural alternatives:

Keep the umbilical cord attached until it stops pulsing. Do not cut it prematurely, as average transfusion to the newborn is equivalent to 21% of the neonate’s final blood volume and three quarters of the transfusion occurs in the first minute after birth. (As Vitamin K doesn’t cross the placenta, this should make no difference to Vit K levels, but will help with iron levels etc.)

When breastfeeding (or just before starting), make sure to eat plenty of leafy greens or take a vitamin K supplement – vitamin K does not cross the planceta in pregnancy, but does enter breast milk in feeding. Anti-acids (used for heartburn) decrease the absorption of Vitamin K in the body – bare this in mind if you have lots of indigestion during pregnancy and be sure to increase with Vitamin K intake from around 38 weeks of pregnancy, as this will help prevent against haemorrhaging too.

Nettles are rich in Vitamin K – made into a tea you’ll get everything you need. Otherwise try a Nettle soup.

Conclusion:

My conclusion on this sensitive matter, based on the information available to the public and its potential impact on my own family, is thus:

Nature says a baby doesn’t need large amounts of Vitamin K, but that delayed cord clamping and the transfer of oxygenated blood gives the child enough resources to cope with the effects of a ‘normal’ birth. If the mother has been consuming Vitamin K in some form or another, it will immediately begin transferring through her colostrum, which is rich in Vitamin K and breastmilk and by eight days of age, baby will have the ‘right’ amount of Vitamin K (and since formula is fortified with vitamin K, formula fed babies shouldn’t require it at all) – since the disease it is meant to prevent doesn’t tend to occur until between 3 and 7 weeks I personally question the need for the injection.

At the same time, bleeding kills almost 2 in 10,000 babies, and this is the closest I could find to statistics as to deaths from the injections ** although we know that they have occurred. It says so on the label.  So really, the conclusion is inconclusive.

Every parent has to make their own decisions on this, but for me and mine, we’ve decided against vitamin K injections unless something in the birth necessitates it. We’ve also decided to follow natural alternatives, such as breastfeeding and a high maternal Vitamin K intake and to keep a close eye on the signs of bleeding as described above. 

** The FDA database contained a total of 2236 adverse drug reactions reported in 1019 patients receiving vitamin K by all routes of administration. Of the 192 patients with reactions reported for intravenous vitamin K, 132 patients (69%%) had a reaction defined as anaphylactoid, with 24 fatalities (18%%) attributed to the vitamin K reaction. There were 21 patients with anaphylactoid reactions and 4 fatalities reported with doses of intravenous vitamin K of less than 5[emsp4 ]mgs. For the 217 patients with reactions reported due to vitamin K via a non-intravenous route of administration, 38 patients had reactions meeting the definition of anaphylactoid (18%%), with 1 fatality (3%%) attributed to the drug.

 

References:

 

L. Parker et al., “Neonatal vitamin K administration and childhood cancer in the north of England: retrospective case-control study,” BMJ (England) 316, no. 7126 (Jan 1998): 189-93.

 

S.J. Passmore et al., “Case-control studies of relation between childhood cancer and neonatal vitamin K administration,” BMJ (England) 316, no. 7126 (Jan 1998): 178-84.

 

E. Roman et al., “Vitamin K and childhood cancer: analysis of individual patient data from six case-control studies,” Br J Cancer (England) 86, no. 1 (Jan 2002): 63-9

Further Reading: 

 

Labour Plan Or Checklist For A Homebirth

I’m not a list person. There’s something about spending time making a list that irritates me. It takes my hubby about as long to make a to-do list as it takes me to just do the stuff on the list. Yet, when it came to my last pregnancy and labour, I made a list long before the day of things to do when contractions start.

This list will differ from person to person, but I thought I’d share it with you, in case you’re not sure what to do ‘next’.

In Hollywood, your waters break in a great gush and everyone rushes off to hospital in a mad dash. In reality, very few women’s water’s break in the shopping centre, on the train or as you’re about to set off on holiday. Of course it does happen, but for the most part, in real life, you have time – if your waters even break before contractions start!

Without further ado, my list for what to do when I go into labour if you’re having a homebirth: (more…)

What Does The Birth Partner DO At A Birth?

What does the birthpartner do at the birth?

That’s a really simple question, actually, with a ridiculously difficult answer, because the variables on it depend on the birthing woman, the environment, the birthing assistants, experience, relationship and about as many other things as you can imagine!

*For the purpose of this post, the birth partner is assumed to be the dad, but can be anyone the birthing mother wants or needs!

Never the less, men, especially, often find themselves completely hands off and lost when it comes to the birth of their babies. You only have to watch an episode of One Born Every Minute (which I strongly recommend as a contraceptive, but not as birth instruction!) to see how dads can feel uninvolved and at a loss when it comes to childbirth. (more…)

Positions For Labour And Childbirth

(Q6 on my birth plan – positions for labour)

(Q9 I would like to be in the following position to give birth:)

I sat in a hospital waiting room during my first pregnancy, waiting to see someone when a couple came in looking for labour ward. Her waters had broken and they were trying to find out where to go. They waited for the receptionist, and while doing so, were looking at the posters on the wall. The one just beside me had a whole variety of labour positions depicted in pictures. The woman said to her partner, “Hey, look here. You can have the baby in all these positions. You don’t have to lie down.”

My jaw dropped.

I’m sorry if this sounds judgemental, but I struggle to fathom how you can get to that point in one of the biggest occasions in your life and not know something as simple as labour positions.  Especially when your position during labour can have such a huge impact on your experience of childbirth.

Humans are the only mammals that try to give birth on their backs. It’s illogical as it defies gravity.

In The Business of Being Born, Michael Odent, the reknown doctor from France, explains why doctors want women on their backs – it makes their job of observing and interfering much easier.  He shows, in the video, the best position for a woman, which has him low down –hard on his back, but better for the labouring woman.

In reality, the best position for a labouring woman is the one she’s comfortable in. I spent most of my pregnancy with Ameli practicing squatting so I could give birth in that position. When it came down to it though, I found having my back out of the water to be excruciating and ended up delivering in the pool, sitting bolt upright. An illogical position, but a perfect one for me. (more…)

Breastfeeding A Toddler During The Third Trimester Of Pregnancy

Breastfeeding during pregnancy is an interesting experience.  More so with a child that’s able to talk to you. Really, if scientists want to fully understand breastfeeding, the production of milk during pregnancy and the changes in milk during that time, they need a core group of mothers breastfeeding children with communication skills. I don’t think there’s any more reliable evidence.

At around 20 weeks – I don’t remember exactly when, Ameli was nursing away happily one day, when she unlatched, looked at me with an obvious question mark on her face and said ‘that’s not milk, it’s something else’. Then threw herself at my nipple and guzzled away before pulling off again and saying, “what is it?” (more…)

Pregnancy Week 25 – Some Things You Didn't Know

Dear Baby,

I have a confession to make. I haven’t written much lately, not because I’ve not had anything to say to you, but because I’ve been so unfocused. My days have been filled with housework, paid work, Ameli, personal things, things and more things going on, occupying my mind, fighting for my attention and dragging me away from you.

I feel bad though, because you deserve to know everything. You deserve to know my hopes, my fears, and my life as it is right now, as I feel you kicking and squirming inside me.

You deserve to know that I treasure every bump, ever movement, and that I relish it with a bittersweet excitement. Bittersweet, because I want to hold on to that feeling, knowing that you’re the last baby I’ll feel squirming, and kicking. Excitement, because it’s a miraculous thing and I’m so thrilled by it. It brings a smile to my heart and my lips, no matter what else is going on in my head. (more…)

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