Rate your doctor, midwife & hospital on The Birth Survey

If you’ve given birth in the United States in the past three years, you are eligible to participate in The Birth Survey. Thanks to The Birth Survey: Transparency in Maternity Care, “women can now give consumer reviews of doctors, midwives, hospitals, and birth centers, learn about the choices and birth experiences of others, and view data on hospital and birth center standard practices and intervention rates.” If enough women take this survey, it could have a serious impact on maternity care in the U.S.

The survey was developed by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services or the CIMS. “Our goal is to give women a mechanism that can be used to share information about maternity care practices in their community while at the same time providing practitioners and institutions feedback for quality of care improvement efforts.”

tbs_button1_5×2.jpgFrom The Birth Survey:

We are dedicated to improving maternity care for all women. We will do this by 1) creating a higher level of transparency in maternity care so that women will be better able to make informed decisions about where and with whom to birth and 2) providing practitioners and hospitals with information that will aid in evaluating and improving quality of care.

Can I just say I really wish this type of resource had been available when I was pregnant with my daughter? If I had been able to read about my OB’s episiotomy rate for one, I think it may have helped me pass her by and find another doctor who’s intervention rates were more in line with the type of birth I was hoping to have. My doctor may be a great surgeon, but I felt that she was cut-happy and performed an unnecessary episiotomy that I still doesn’t feel right 4+ years later. Since my daughter was born more than 3 years ago I cannot complete the survey to rate this particular doctor, but boy, oh boy, do I wish I could to help other women with their choices.

However, on a positive note, I was able to rate the midwife that was in attendance for my son’s home birth 20 months ago. She received a glowing review from me and I am hopeful that the information I shared in the survey will influence women as well, just in the opposite direction.

The survey itself goes into quite a bit of detail about your prenatal care, labor, birth, and postpartum care with a doctor or midwife as well as asks you to rate the hospital or birthing center in which you gave birth (though you may complete it for home births as well – as I did – you just aren’t rating a facility in that case). I believe it took me about 30 minutes or so to complete. A very nice feature, especially for busy moms, is you have the option of saving your answers and returning to it later, something I definitely took advantage of.

I believe The Birth Survey has the potential to make a real impact on the maternity care in this country and I hope that many, many women will take advantage of it to share their experiences and their knowledge with other women. I really feel it is every woman’s duty to share her experience in an effort to educate others and, in turn, hopefully improve the quality of care. As Citizens for Midwifery points out, “For years, consumers have enthusiastically shared online reviews of movies, restaurants, products and services, but readily available information about maternity care providers and birth settings was nearly unattainable–but no longer.” Doesn’t it just make sense that there should be some sort of resource to compare care providers so that we can all make educated choices for our health and the health of our babies?

Heather at Meet the Heathons shares my excitement and optimism about the survey:

I am SO excited that this is FINALLY getting done. It was my dream as a public health graduate to do something like this. I’ve heard rumors that there are efforts to do this sort of thing for ALL types of medicine. So that say you needed a knee replacement, you could look up the hospital/doctor and see their success rate, compare prices, methods, etc… How AWESOME would that be. It would be one step towards changing health care in America– but I won’t get started on that one!

Giving Birth With Confidence says, “Hats off to the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, the incredible women working within community based birth networks throughout the US, and to all the women who are sharing their birth stories. Finally, there is hope that birth, and women’s decisions about care provider and place of birth, will no longer happen ‘in the dark.'”

Upon completion of the survey, I found it interesting and helpful that there were additional resources listed for women who may have experienced negative feelings about their birth while taking the survey. Had I been taking it for my daughter’s birth instead of my son’s, I am sure a lot of the anger and negative emotions I have had in the past about the care I received during that time may have been brought to the forefront. (Heck, I’m experiencing some of them just writing the little bit that I did about it.) While it sucks that women may experience these feelings, it’s good to know there are resources available to help them deal with them.

If this survey brought up traumatic feelings for you regarding your labor, birth, or postpartum experience we encourage you to seek help from a licensed mental health professional who specializes in birth trauma. The following resources may also be helpful to you www.postpartum.net, www.ican-online.org, and Solace for Mothers.

Now let’s spread the word. Activistas says, “Share your story, voice your opinion, mamas. It’s important, and it feels really good (kind of like having a baby!). If you don’t, how will your experience help others?”

If you’ve given birth in the past three years, will you take The Birth Survey? Will you forward it on to your friends? Will you add a button to your blog? Let your voice be heard!

Other bloggers who have written about The Birth Survey:

Think Mama Think
Faith Walker
Mama Knows Breast
Finally Living Deliberately
…And a doula, too

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Home birth is a choice that the AMA wants to outlaw

 

choice.png

Whether or not you’ve had a home birth or would choose one for yourself in the future, I think most women would agree that they should have the right to choose where they give birth. Just as every woman is unique, every baby is unique and every birth experience is unique. What works best for one woman will not work best for the next. Some women feel the most comfortable giving birth in a hospital with an OB. Some feel comfortable birthing with a family practitioner or midwife in a birthing center. Others feel comfortable birthing with a midwife at home. All of these are options are safe choices, so why is the American Medical Association (AMA) trying to outlaw home birth?

Are they scared that Ricki Lake is raising awareness that women have options with her movie The Business of Being Born? They specifically cite Ricki’s and other celebrities’ home births in the media. “There has been much attention in the media by celebrities having home deliveries, with recent Today Show headings such as ‘Ricki Lake takes on baby birthing industry: Actress and former talk show host shares her at-home delivery in new film.'” Ricki responds to the AMA here, and, over on the Huffington Post, Ricki, Abby Epstein and Jennifer Block have posted Docs to Women: Pay No Attention to Ricki Lake’s Home Birth. Are they scared that women might question the establishment and demand better care for themselves and their babies? Are they scared that they might (gasp) lose money? Are they scared that women might take back birth?

I’ve done a lot of research over the past few years regarding home birth and, of course, came to the conclusion that it was a good choice for me and my family. I’ve also written extensively about my research regarding home birth and my own home birth story as well. I would never say that it is the right choice for every woman, but it do believe it’s a woman’s right to know what her options are, do her research and decide what is best for her and her baby. I do not believe it is the AMA’s right or the ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) right to tell a woman where she has to give birth. As Steff Hedenkamp from The Big Push for Midwives states, “a law dictating where a woman must give birth would be a clear violation of fundamental rights to privacy and other freedoms currently protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

So what now? What can we as women, or men who support women’s right to choose, do? You can sign the Keep Home Birth Legal petition and I also encourage you to spread the word about this. Feel free to grab the button (which links back to this post) and put it in your sidebar or blog about this on your own blog. Get the word out there that the AMA is trying to take away our rights. Home birth is a choice. Let’s keep it that way.

I’ve been trying to get the code for the ‘Home birth is a choice’ button to work, but to no avail. If you’d like to add the button to your sidebar please email me – amygeekgrl AT gmail DOT com – and I’ll send it to you directly.

And if you feel like a debate today, check out the lively discussion on this topic going on over at BlogHer.

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Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

Bloggers UniteToday bloggers around the world are uniting to blog about human rights. “Bloggers Unite For Human Rights challenges bloggers everywhere to help elevate human rights by drawing attention to the challenges and successes of human rights issues on May 15.”

I won’t have my human rights post up until later this evening – better late than never – but for now I want to share what others are blogging about today. Also be sure to check out CNN’s coverage of Bloggers for Human Rights and leave a comment with a link to your human rights post and I will add you to the list. Thank you.

What other bloggers are raising awareness about today:

To learn more and get involved, visit Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights tomorrow (May 15)

Bloggers UniteBloggers will Unite to raise awareness about Human Rights tomorrow. Will you take part? What will you write about? I’m still tossing around ideas on the topic I will tackle (there are so many to choose from), but I wrote over at BlogHer yesterday that it would be a great opportunity for people to write about maternal health or the relief effort for the people of Burma.

If you do blog about human rights tomorrow, please leave me a comment with the link to your post. I’d love to read it and compile a list of what all of my readers are raising awareness about.

Thank you. 🙂

Edited to add: By the way, I probably am not going to get to publish my post until the afternoon on Thursday since I didn’t get the opportunity to write tonight like I had hoped, thanks to a very wakeful little boy (who’s teeth will likely be fine by the way – per the dentist). 😉

There’s more to birth than doctors

Cross-posted at BlogHer

It seems odd to me now that there ever was a time in my life when I didn’t have much knowledge about birth or birth care providers, but when I became pregnant with my first child that’s exactly where I was at. I knew that I wanted to try for a natural birth, but I didn’t know much more beyond that. And so I found myself an obstetrician since that was what “everybody” I knew did. I didn’t have any local mommy friends at the time to offer up their recommendations, so I made my decision on an OB based on the experience a coworker and his wife had. He told me that their OB had let him catch the baby, and since that was something my husband Jody and I had talked about wanting to do and seemed pretty open-minded to me, I figured we would give her a try.

While I don’t recall interviewing this obstetrician per se, she seemed nice enough – though in retrospect her bedside manner was seriously lacking – and she seemed OK with our plans to have a Hypnobirth. In fact, with a few minor exceptions, she agreed to all of our desires on our birth plan and we figured she’d be a good fit for us. After all, she was saying all the right things, so we had no reason to doubt her. Little did I know that when it came time for me to give birth, all bets would be off.

When my time to give birth arrived, my OB’s true colors came shining through and, when reflecting on the experience several months afterward, I felt violated, disrespected, upset, duped and resentful. Yes, I had given birth to a healthy baby which is ultimately what every woman hopes for, but I believe the process and birth experience matters too and mine was seriously lacking. I was left wondering, could there have been another way? A better way?

Back up a few months to the Hypnobirthing childbirth preparation classes my husband and I attended, where I learned of a couple expectant mothers who had plans to have a midwife at their birth rather than an OB. At the time I didn’t know much about midwives – who they were, what they did – and was happy enough with my OB, so I didn’t bother finding out more information. For example, I had no idea that there was a difference between the type of care a midwife provides and that of an OB. I didn’t know what kind of training or schooling a midwife might have. I didn’t know that there were different types of midwives. I didn’t know if midwives attended births in hospitals and/or birthing centers or just at home. I really didn’t have a clue and I have a feeling that I was certainly not alone in that regard.

Here in the United States, giving birth in a hospital with a doctor is the norm. Yet in the majority of cases a midwife-attended birth in a birthing center or at home is just as safe. However, many women have never heard of midwives or what they have heard is often full of misconceptions.

It wasn’t until I had given birth to my daughter, officially joined the “mommy club,” and made some mommy friends of my own that I began to hear more and more about midwives and learn about the role that they play in helping women prenatally, during birth and postnatal.

A midwife attends a woman in labor - from The Business of Being BornI was fortunate in that one of my best friends ended up deciding on a midwife-attended home birth for her second child. She had such a wonderful experience that when I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to leave my new OB (even though she was a far cry better than my previous one) and have a midwife-attended home birth as well.

Thankfully, the word is slowly getting out and more people are learning about the value and importance of midwives thanks to Ricki Lake’s documentary “The Business of Being Born,” which I highly recommend all women and their partners see. It’s available on Netflix.

Here’s a bit more about midwives to help clear up any misconceptions.

What is the role of a midwife?
According to Midwives Alliance of North America, “Midwives are trained to provide comprehensive prenatal care and education, guide labor and birth, address complications, and care for newborns.” You can read about the different variations of midwives at MANA.

Why choose a midwife?
“Throughout most of the world, and most of history, women have labored and birthed with midwives. It is only in the last few decades that it has become common in the U.S. to birth in a hospital setting with a doctor. Being pregnant and giving birth are normal life processes for which a woman’s body is well-designed. Midwifery care has been proven to be a safe and nurturing alternative to physician-attended hospital birth.” – MANA

How does the care of a midwife differ from that of a doctor?
Midwives practice using the Midwifery Model of Care which is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes. This is a fundamentally different approach to pregnancy and childbirth and is in stark contrast to the standard Medical Model of Care.

The Midwives Model of Care includes:

  • monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle
  • providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support
  • minimizing technological interventions and;
  • identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention

The application of this model has been proven to reduce to incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section.

The women I know who have experienced both the medical model of care and the midwifery model of care prefer the midwifery model. Personally, when I saw my midwife for my prenatal care I felt like a real person, rather than just a number (which is how I felt at one OB’s practice, that I left I might add). I loved that my prenatal appointments with my midwife lasted an hour at a time and never felt rushed. I loved that I formed a bond with my midwife and that she knew me (and my daughter who accompanied me to all of my prenatal appointments) before I gave birth.

MamaAudrey at Deconstructing Motherhood remarks about her decision to go with a midwife and birthing center instead of a doctor and hospital:

I felt like I was in control of my pregnancy at the birth center and that my voice was important. At my doctor, I felt like just another number with a voice that needed to be silenced when heard. Thus began my prenatal care with nurses and midwives.

Mary at My First Pregnancy Ever agrees that there is a big difference between the two models of care.

And I think I can now rant about why I love my MW better than my doctor already. I went to my doctor on the 7th and saw the MW on the 9th. Both were very nice to me but you can so see the difference in their scope of practice.

She goes on to compare and contrast the two visits.

Ultimately the decision on who to have attend her birth is up to the mother, but it is my hope that women might learn from my mistakes and do their research ahead of time. Interview more than one doctor and/or midwife until you find one that is right for you. Knowledge is power.

Related links:
Midwives Alliance of North America
The Big Push for Midwives
Citizens for Midwifery
Midwifery Today
Motherbaby International Film Festival
The Business of Being Born

Blogs by Midwives:
Close to the Root by Kneelingwoman
Navelgazing Midwife
The Journey of an Apprentice Midwife
Homebirth: Midwifery Mutiny in South Australia
Midwife: Sage Femme, Hebamme, Comadrona, Partera
Meconium Happens

* Photo credit: Business of Being Born

U.S. mothers are dying. Why don’t we know that?

Cross-posted on BlogHer

This past week as I wandered, or you might say stumbled, around Stumble Upon familiarizing myself with the layout and realizing the potential to find a lot of great blogs, I came across an article that stopped me in my tracks. I wish I could say it was a fabulously uplifting story, but the reality is that it was the complete opposite.

I want to pause for a moment here and take this opportunity to note that I did not write this with the intent of scaring pregnant women. There is already enough fear surrounding childbirth in this country and I don’t wish to contribute to it. However, I feel strongly that the information below needs to be brought to light and so I wrote this with the intention of raising awareness and educating those who are interested.

A couple of years ago Orlando mother Claudia Mejia checked into Orlando Regional South Seminole hospital to have a baby. The birth went well, but then something went wrong, very very wrong. Ms. Mejia was told she contracted streptococcus, a flesh eating bacteria, and toxic shock syndrome and if she wanted to live, she would have to have both sets of limbs amputated. No further explanation was given. Twelve days after giving birth she was transferred to Orlando Regional Medical Center where she became a quadruple amputee, unable to hold or care for her new son. She has since filed suit against the hospital asking for answers as to how this could have happened. It appears that a judge ruled in favor of releasing her records in April 2007, but I was unable to find any more information to indicate if that ever happened.

This is no doubt a major tragedy, but what I find even more disturbing than the fact that this happened is that it did not seem to get much media attention. Why is that? Had Ms. Mejia been famous, more affluent, or Caucasian would it have made national headlines? Or would that even make a difference?

Unfortunately, this scenario of obscuring maternal complications and mortality appears to be the norm in the United States, rather than the exception.

Not two weeks before, I read an article by pioneering midwife Ina May Gaskin titled “Masking Maternal Mortality” in the March-April 2008 issue of Mothering magazine. Gaskin asserts that “the number of American women who die as a result of pregnancy and birth is almost four times higher than it should be” and says that begs the question, “Why is no one talking about it?”

The last time I recall hearing about a maternal death in the news was in the spring of 2007 when Valerie Scythes and Melissa Farah, two friends and teachers from the same school, both died following c-sections at Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, N.J. Had they not had the coincidences of knowing each other, both having been at the same hospital, and dying within weeks of each other, would either of their deaths have received media attention?

The maternal death rate in the United States is the highest it’s been in decades – 13 deaths* per 100,000 live births and, even more startling, for black women 34.7 deaths per 100,000, in 2004. Gaskin asserts it also may be seriously underreported. According to the Center for Disease Control in 1998, “there is so much misclassification in the US system of maternal death reporting that the actual number could be as much as three times greater than the number officially published each year.”

A significant part of the problem is that the 50 states are not required to use the same death certificate and only 21 states ask on their death certificate some version of this question, “Was the deceased pregnant in the week or months preceding her death?”

Another issue noted by the CDC is that physicians often do not fill out the cause-of-death section of the death certificate accurately enough. Additionally problematic is the US autopsy rate has dropped to less than 5 percent, there is usually no external review process when a maternal death takes place and hospital employees with knowledge about the death are generally warned to stay quiet about it.

How can we possibly expect to have accurate reporting under those conditions?

Contrast this with the United Kingdom where every three years the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists publishes a book titled “Why Mothers Die.” In addition to providing detailed, accurate numbers for each category of maternal death, “Why Mothers Die” also makes recommendations regarding what should be done to reduce the number of deaths over the next three years. The book is available to the public in bookstores, so anyone and everyone can have access to this information.

Also in sharp contrast to the US, when a maternal death occurs in a hospital in the UK, a team of people who do not work at the hospital is dispatched to review all of the woman’s records.

Where does that leave us here in the US? We have a mother who was forced to become a quadriplegic unable to get answers from the hospital as to why. We have an underreported rate of mothers dying from pregnancy and birth complications, often without any kind of outside review. And according to the CDC we have no improvement in the maternal death rate since 1982. Yet none of these stories are getting the kind of media attention they deserve.

To help draw attention to the underreported maternal death rate and lack of media interest, Gaskin started The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project. Whenever she receives documentation that a US woman has died from pregnancy- or birth-related causes from 1982 to the present, she arranges to have a quilt square made to honor her. The quilt, which can be viewed virtually online and is up to 85 squares, “acts as the voice for women who can no longer speak for themselves.” It is quite sobering to view, even online. The last square was just added one month ago.

Perhaps by raising awareness and demanding more information, we can turn the tide in this country.

She who has health has hope; and she who has hope has everything. — Arabic Proverb

 

Related links:
Refuse to be a Womb Pod: The Top Five Underreported Birth Stories for 2007
Banana Peel: I think I’m moving to Iceland…
The Lactivist: Go to Give Birth, Come Home with No Limbs
USA Today: Answers prove elusive as c-section rate rises
SouthCoast Today: At 67, hippie-midwife who changed childbirth in America still crusades for natural method

* Ina May informed me that since she wrote the Mothering article, the most recent figure for the maternal death rate has risen. It’s now at 15/100,000 births.

Helping African girls stay in school – one pad at a time?

Cross-posted at BlogHer

In 2007 FemCare, the Procter & Gamble (P&G) unit that makes Always pads and Tampax tampons, started a program called “Protecting Futures” to donate Always disposable sanitary pads to girls in southern Africa in hopes of keeping African girls in school. In Africa, where adequate menstrual supplies are generally nonexistent, it is not uncommon for girls to use newspapers, rags or camel skin to try contain their period. Rather than risk the embarrassment of bleeding through their clothes, many girls stay home from school during their cycle each month, which can lead to them falling behind in their studies and possibly dropping out of school altogether. Always, as well as Tampax currently have commercials encouraging people to buy their products to help these African girls stay in school. Two of the commercials can be viewed here.

In addition to donating disposable sanitary pads, P&G will donate fresh water; build bathrooms near the schools so the girls have access to privacy and incinerators to deal with the waste that will be generated from the disposable pads, packaging, etc.; start a health, hygiene and puberty education program; and provide the girls with healthcare.

What’s in it for P&G a New York Times article asks.

A great deal, marketing experts say. For one, girls who use free pads today can turn into paying customers when they grow out of the school programs. They could persuade their mothers and aunts to use the products.

“When you need to change a culture, it’s good strategy to start with the younger generation,” said Jill Avery, an assistant professor of marketing at the Simmons School of Management.

And the program sits well with the Kenyan government, which has cut tariffs on Procter’s sanitary pads. Lisa Jones Christensen, an assistant professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, who is familiar with Procter’s philanthropy programs, says that Procter receives special treatment when its containers hit Kenya’s docks.

“No one is saying, ‘Just unload the pads, leave the boxes of Tide,’ ” she said. “This program is giving P&G a license to operate in Africa for all its products.”

There is a payback in the developed world, too. “The idea of keeping an African girl in school resonates strongly with our consumers,” Ms. Vaeth said.

They aren’t the only skeptics. A. at A Changing Life wonders what the girls will do once they no longer have access to the pads.

I started to wonder if Tampax or Always are really suited to a life of poverty or near-poverty in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The costs of continuing provision will be high and who will cover those costs when the girls leave school? How will they manage when the facilities provided at the school are no longer available to them? I can’t help feeling that there is little altruism in Procter & Gamble’s efforts, and that they are hoping to turn the girls into paying customers.

Vanessa at Green As A Thistle feels P&G “are missing the bigger picture.”

I mean, it’s great that they want to help girls out with this difficult time of the month and make sure they stay in school, but is the best way to do that with bleached wads of cotton and disposable plastic? It made me fret, I must say.

Maia at Touchingly Naive believes it is wrong to push Western products on these women and “to make women in developing countries believe (as we already believe) that they need Western pads and tampons instead of more sustainable and/or traditional solutions.”

What do you think? Does Procter & Gamble have any business getting involved here, whether it is in the name of education or not? Could they be causing more harm than good?

Goods for GirlsDeanna Duke of Crunchy Chicken took issue with the environmental impact of all of the disposable pads (and possible pollutants emitted from the incinerators) and, after mulling it over on her blog, decided to take action. She started Goods 4 Girls, a web site to organize the collection and distribution of new reusable menstrual pads to African girls.

Goods 4 Girls was started to seek out donors to sew or purchase new, reusable menstrual pads for donations to areas of Africa where these products are needed most. Providing reusable supplies not only provides a more environmentally friendly alternative for these young women (in areas of adequate water supply for washing), it reduces their dependence on outside aid organizations to continue providing for their monthly needs. Working in concert with aid and relief organizations, we identify areas of need and have the ability to distribute the donations where they are most needed.

Some might wonder why Goods 4 Girls is focusing on reusable menstrual pads rather than menstrual cups like the DivaCup or Keeper. Deanna says it is “because of potential hygiene issues, using a reusable menstrual product that gets inserted into the body requires additional education and “processing” such as cleaning the cup with boiled water. Additionally, we are culturally sensitive to potential taboos with young girls using an insertable product.” That and other questions are answered in the FAQ.

Goods 4 Girls has received positive responses from several organizations, but one of the primary ones they will be working with is located in Uganda. The relief organization had this to say about the current situation in their country:

The girls’ problems in South Africa are not different from those in Uganda, except that it is worse here. We recently watched a TV program which highlighted this problem in the villages to the extent that some children missed their end of year exams because of their inability to contain their menstrual outflows or had never even used a pad at all!

Your offer has come at the right time and we pledge our full support and cooperation in this endeavor. Our target areas are firstly and foremost the schools both in towns and villages, with the latter taking priority.

If you are interested in learning more about Goods 4 Girls and how you can help, I encourage you to read more here. To add a banner to your site and help spread the word, please see the contact page.

It’s not every day you’re quoted in an ABCNews article

Preschoolers Behaving Badly: Expulsions Rise

No, no, no. Please don’t get the wrong idea. Ava did NOT get expelled from preschool or any such thing, but I did get the opportunity to contribute my thoughts regarding a Yale University study that showed bad behavior and preschool expulsions are on the rise. Check out the top of page 3. Go ahead. I’ll wait. 😉

While I wish the journalist would’ve used more of what I said regarding gentle discipline, I felt that I came across sounding OK. (Hopefully it doesn’t make Ava sound like a bully either because she is certainly nowhere near that. She is a 3-year-old and she does react physically and emotionally at times, as I suspect most 3-year-olds do.) I would’ve loved to talk more about the type of preschool (Waldorf-inspired) Ava attends (which is a small in-home play-based school), but that wasn’t really germane to the article. Or was it?

One of the things I love about Waldorf preschool (and the Waldorf philosophy in general) is that it encourages imagination and creativity through free play and natural toys. Things like learning letters, numbers and how to read are not a part of Waldorf preschool. In fact, they don’t believe in teaching kids to read and write until they are *gasp* 7 years old. Honestly, when I learned that, my initial thought was that it seemed kind of late. However the more I thought about it and the more I learned about Waldorf the more it made sense to me.

Kids are only kids once. Why do we have to rush them into academia? Why can’t we let them be kids? Being a child should be about exploring his/her world and learning through play and imitation. They have the rest of their lives to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. That being said, I also acknowledge that different types of schooling and education work for different kids and Waldorf is not for everyone, but it seems to fit well with Ava so far. I feel fortunate in that we each have a choice regarding what works best for our children.

While I don’t know if we will continue with Waldorf education past preschool, I do know that holding off on formally teaching reading until age 7 doesn’t seem that odd to me anymore. I don’t want to deny Ava (or Julian) the experience of being a child where they can play, explore, and imagine to their heart’s content. In the meantime it’s not like Ava isn’t learning letters, counting, numbers, etc. at home. I mean, it’s a part of life and she’s definitely exposed to it, but I am happy that for her preschool is a place where she can play and explore her creativity and imagination. It works for us. 🙂

Birth doulas make a difference

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” — John H. Kennell, MD

If I could do my daughter’s birth all over again – a birth that, because of a pregnancy complication I developed (HELLP syndrome), included numerous interventions – I would have hired a doula. I’d done my birth homework and for some reason I didn’t think I needed one nor could afford one, but as I have since learned, having the right doula at your birth can be worth her weight in gold. I think if I had had a doula present at Ava’s birth, I would have come away from the experience feeling like I had been better informed (we were left in the dark about so many things) and more of an active participant in my labor instead of a passive recipient. But as the saying goes, live and learn. I have learned and now I will share what I’ve learned with you.

Doula (pronounced doo-la) is a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant.” Doulas are trained and experienced in childbirth, though they do not handle the medical aspects of it; those are reserved for a midwife or doctor. The role of a birth doula is to provide support for the woman and her partner during labor and birth. This support may include physical support such as suggesting different positions for laboring, giving massages or instructing the woman’s partner how to massage her, breathing with her, getting food and drinks for the woman and her partner, etc.; emotional support in the form of reassurance and comfort; as well as informational support such as explaining different medical options, risks and benefits, and possibly suggesting natural techniques to achieve the same results. It is often said that a doula mothers the mother.

The ‘Enjoy Birth’ blog has a post called “Get a birth doula” that explains the type of support a doula can offer including:

Resource for Comfort Measures: Having a doula is like having your very own talking birthing guide. Doulas know what can help during birth and how to do it. Your doula can either perform these comfort measures herself, or help your family or friends to support you with comfort measures. Your birth partners will feel more confident knowing that they are doing the right thing.
Constant Encourager: A doula not only encourages the mother to keep going, but she encourages the labor support to keep going as well. The process of labor can sometimes be long. A doula can keep you and your partner focused during the most intense part of labor.
Helps Explain Options: A doula is also a source of information about ways to handle your birth. Medical attendants don’t always have time to get into all the options available, and rarely give all the risks and benefits for the options they do give. A doula can help you understand what options are available, and what the pros and cons are. This can help you make better informed decisions.

There are many benefits to having a doula attend your birth.

Proven Benefits of Doula Care

Decreased medical intervention in labor*:

  • Reduces need for cesarean by 50%
  • Reduces length of labor by 25%
  • Reduces use of artificial oxytocin (pitocin) by 40%
  • Reduces pain medication use by 30%
  • Reduces the need for forceps by 40%
  • Reduces epidural requests by 60%

Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were**:

  • Less anxious and depressed
  • Had more confidence with baby
  • More satisfied w/ partner (71% vs 30%)
  • More likely to be breastfeeding (52% vs. 29%)

*These statistics appear in A Doula Makes the Difference by Nugent in Mothering Magazine, March-April 1998.
**Statistics from What is a Doula?

Photo courtesy Tammra McCauley
Photo courtesy Tammra McCauley

I’ve heard countless stories from women I know – both in person and on the Internet – singing the praises of their birth doulas. Every one of them feels their birth experience was more positive as a direct result of the support offered by their doula.

Alma from Chicago Moms Blog reflects on her birth and the help she received from her doula – “her hero” – in her post Not Without My Doula.

“It (labor) was really hard, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my doula, Tricia Fitzgerald. … her dedication and support was worth far more [than] the typical going rate for a doula.

She also squelches the myth that a doula tries to take the place of a woman’s husband or partner.

Doulas don’t monitor or deliver babies; they’re dedicated to mothering the mother, helping her achieve the birth experience she wants. And contrary to what some people think, your doula will not displace your husband. Rather, she just may keep you from cursing out your well-meaning partner who just can’t seem say the right thing or rub you the right way.”

I think it takes a very special kind of woman to be a doula and Leigh, a fairly new doula and mother of two young daughters, is definitely one of those special women. Leigh writes beautifully about each of the births she attends on her blog Mere Mortal Mama and I soak up every one of them. She seems to possess an ancient wisdom that allows her to be extremely in-tune with her clients. She is committed to helping them achieve the birth they desire. Here’s an excerpt from her most recent birth, that of a teen mother:

And then that moment comes; the moment when you notice the slight shift in energy of the room and know it is time to be fully present for your client. I glue myself next to the bedrail and remain over her for the duration of labor. I breathe in deeply with her and exhale slowly, offering the most hushed of encouraging words. We establish a pattern together quickly: we breathe, she cringes and tightens her brow a bit, I press a firm thumb on her forehead and smooth her brows, she relaxes and breathes out. I stroke her hair as the surges release; she lets out a cleansing breath. Our fingers entangle as she rests between the surges.

I whisper breathy words and phrases into her ear and have no idea where they are coming from. Upon speaking some of them, her head nods in barely perceptible understanding – her eyelids fluttering closed – and so I stick with those.

And it is those moments where ego and heart humbly meet, swollen like a balloon about to burst. Two women, in rhythm to the song of labor, swaying into words and sinking into breath; connected through the pulse of birth.

I believe that – “two women … connected through the pulse of labor” – sums up simply and perfectly what the experience of having a doula is meant to be. I think that all women and their partners should consider giving themselves the gift of a doula.

To learn more about doulas, including how to find one in your area and questions to ask when interviewing a doula, see the additional resources below.

Additional resources:
DONA (Doulas of North America) International – Learn more about doulas as well as find doulas in your area
CAPPA: Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association
How to hire a doula – Questions to ask
How Dads/Partners and Doulas can work together to support the birthing mother
Information about Postpartum Doulas who’s role is to help a woman through her postpartum period and to nurture the family

Cross-posted at BlogHer: BlogHers Act

add to sk*rt

High hopes for The Business of Being Born

Cross-posted at BlogHer: BlogHers Act.

It’s just over a month now until the release of The Business of Being Born to DVD a la Netflix* on Feb. 12, and I, for one, am counting the days. There are 36.

As a self-confessed “birth junkie,” I’ve been excited about this movie since I first learned about it back in May of 2007.

For anyone unfamiliar with the premise of the film and how it came about, here’s a little background. Actor Ricki Lake had two very different birth experiences (one in the hospital and one at home), and over the past several years considered becoming a midwife to help make a difference. However, after learning about the years of schooling and training involved, she felt that she could bring about more change by using her time, celebrity status (and her money) to make a documentary about birth. Lake recruited filmmaker Abby Epstein for the project.

The Business of Being Born explores the business aspect of birth and the way that American women have babies. The film includes a history of obstetrics, the history and function of midwives, footage of several natural births (including Ricki Lake’s home birth), interviews with people “on the street,” doctors, as well as birth advocates like Michel Odent, Ina May Gaskin, and Robbie Davis-Floyd, and more.

The film is about empowering women to know what their choices are when it comes to birth. As Ricki said in her interview with The Huffington Post, “I hope this film educates people and empowers them to really know their choices in childbirth. We do not want to make any woman feel bad about the outcome of her birth, or the choices she made (or will make).”

It is my hope that because this movie has the potential to appeal to all women and anyone who is concerned with women’s rights, it will reach the masses, not just the midwives and birth activists out there. I believe that having a choice when it comes to birth is a woman’s right. It is also a woman’s right to know what her options are, as well as have access to all of the information about what is healthiest for her AND for her baby.

While the media would often have us believe otherwise, birth is a normal, natural process, and in most cases women require minimal assistance and no intervention to give birth to a healthy baby. Of course there is always the exception, but I believe birth should be treated as normal until proven otherwise, not as a potential emergency waiting to happen.

While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the film even though it’s been shown a handful of times around me locally (always at my kids’ bedtime it seems), I have been enjoying reading reviews and observing the different perspectives the reviewers have based on their personal (and professional) backgrounds. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what they wish was or was not included in the film, but the overall consensus is that this is a wonderful film.

The Navelgazing Midwife had a unique perspective on the movie since she’s been a midwife for the past 15 years and a doula for 23 years and thus is much more observant of the intricacies of birth than a lay person may be. I enjoyed her “insider’s” point of view and critique. Despite disagreeing with some aspects of the film, overall, she was very pleased and concluded that “she (Ricki Lake) did a beautiful job and I am proud to call her our own. She knows her stuff.”

Another midwife, newer to the profession, from Belly Tales wrote “overall I thought the film was truly amazing; it brought tears to my eyes on several occasions. Rather than being far out on the left fringe as I had feared, I was actually blown away by how mainstream and accessible it was. It begins with the assumption that the audience knows absolutely nothing about birth and the business of birth in this country, and then moves on from there, using a simple and easy-to-understand, yet powerful and engrossing format and narrative.”

Tanya Lieberman, host of the Motherwear blog, Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and breastfeeding advocate, came away from the film believing change in the current birth system is definitely needed and said, “the only people who can change this trend is us.” She makes the point that to bring about change we need to vote with our feet, which is why she believes it’s so important that the masses see this movie – to realize that they have choices.

Despite the fact that I’ve read several articles and reviews about the film and consider myself fairly well-versed in the history of obstetrics and midwifery, I am still so excited to see it, especially for the beautiful footage of normal birth. I watched a lot of birth videos in preparation for my son’s home birth and got emotional just about every time a baby was born. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of my time watching The Business of Being Born with a tissue in hand as well.

Birth is such an amazing, beautiful, raw and emotional event, and I truly hope that this movie will be seen not only by the “birth junkies” such as myself out there, but by the mainstream population – the couple who is newly expecting, the woman who is dissatisfied with a previous birth experience, the medical community, and anyone who is interested in learning about birth – as well. I think it has the potential to bring about change for the better. Change, that I believe, is so desperately needed.

Rest assured I will be writing about this film again once I’ve had the pleasure of viewing it. And I will add my own review, as a woman and birth junkie who has experienced both a hospital birth and a home birth, to the list. Until then, the countdown continues…

*While the film is not going to be released on DVD until Feb. 12, you may add it to your Netflix queue at any time.