Follow-up to TODAY show guest post: childbirth resources


If you are visiting from the TODAY show blog, welcome and thank you for visiting. 🙂 If you haven’t yet read my guest post on the TODAY show, you can read it here: Viewer: Learn more about cesarean births. I’d love it if you would like to contribute to the discussion and leave a comment over there.

Because there was only so much information I could include in my guest post, I’ve put together some additional resources here for those of you who are interested in learning more about c-sections, VBAC, giving birth vaginally to larger babies, and more. I believe in informed consent. Knowledge is power.

Information about Cesarean Sections and VBAC:

  • International Cesarean Awareness Network – “The International Cesarean Awareness Network is a non-profit advocacy and support group whose mission is to improve maternal and child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, provide support for cesarean recovery, and promote vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).”
  • Childbirth Connection’s Cesarean Section Resources
  • The Reality of C-Sections by A Mama’s Blog – Heather writes about the many things about c-sections that she didn’t know and wished she had been told before she had her own c-section, as well as includes pictures of actual c-sections (something we didn’t get to see on the TODAY show).
  • VBAC Facts – Jennifer, teacher of The Truth about VBAC classes, deeply believes that women, after educating themselves on the risks and benefits, should be the ultimate decision makers on their medical care – not OBs or insurance companies.
  • Maternal Death Rates Rise, C-sections Now Considered a Factor – another post by Heather from A Mama’s Blog
  • The Unnecesarean – The Unnecesarean provides information about preventing an unnecessary cesarean and resources for making fully-informed decisions about childbirth while offering an irreverent take on the maternity care crisis in the United States and beyond.

Giving Birth Vaginally to Large (Macrosomic) Babies – Information & Birth Stories:
Although your doctor may suspect that you might have a larger baby, that does not mean you should automatically schedule an induction or a c-section. Ultrasound exams are notoriously inaccurate for predicting the weight of a baby and can be off by a pound or more in either direction. There’s no way to know how much a baby will actually weigh until it is born and weighed. If you are told you are going to have a large baby, weigh the risks and benefits of any intervention and make the choice that is right for you and your baby.

  • Big Baby Bull****
  • Baby Julian – My son (pictured above) was born at home and was a surprise footling breech. He weighed in at 9 lbs. 8 oz., and was 22 inches long.
  • Baby Lazlo – Justine gave birth to her 11 lb., 23-inch son at home
  • Baby “D-Man” – Kat’s son weighed in at 11 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Baby “Muski” – Kate’s son was a VBAC and weighed 10 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Baby Peggy – Annette‘s daughter was 9 lbs., 6 oz.
  • Baby Jaxon – Jaclyn’s son weighed 9 lbs., 4.4 oz.
  • Baby Iris – Sybil‘s daughter was 9 lbs., 14 oz.
  • Baby Mikko – Lauren’s son was 11 lbs., 13 oz.
  • Baby Emma – Jessica’s daughter was 9 lbs., 2 oz.
  • Baby “Boychick” – Arwyn‘s son was 10 lbs., 6 oz. and born at home
  • Baby Julian and Baby Emma – Annie‘s two kiddos (not twins) were 9 lbs. and 9 lbs. 8 oz.
  • Baby “Junior” – Candace’s son was 10 lbs., 4 oz. and sunny side up
  • Baby “M” – Jennifer’s son was 9 lbs., 10 oz. – a home birth after cesarean (HBAC)

Additional Childbirth Resources:

  • Business Of Being Born – A documentary that “interlaces intimate birth stories with surprising historical, political and scientific insights and shocking statistics about the current maternity care system.”
  • Pushed Birth a book by Jennifer Block – “The painful truth about childbirth and modern maternity care”
  • Ina May Gaskin – Author of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. “Discover the proven wisdom that has guided thousands of women through childbirth with more confidence, less pain, and little or no medical intervention.”
  • Doulas of North America – A doula is “a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.”
  • Considering an induction? Use the Bishop’s Score for Labor Success – “This tool measures certain components with regard to the mother’s cervix and baby’s position to evaluate her readiness for an induction and ultimately increase the chance of having a vaginal birth. This scoring system can also be used to determine the likelihood of spontaneous labor.”
  • Post-Partum Crotch Care 101 – A humorous, but very practical list. This is one of those things that nobody ever talks about, but is good information to have.

Are there any childbirth resources YOU think should be on this list? Leave a comment and let me know. Thank you. 🙂

Disclaimer: The information included on this blog is not medical advice and should be used for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a medical professional (doctor or midwife).

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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

Guest post: Shot from the Heart

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. This guest post is from Stephanie of Adventures In Babywearing.

Shot From The Heart
By Stephanie Precourt, Adventures In Babywearing

My decision to not vaccinate my children is something I get asked about a lot. This seems to be one of the hardest subjects to “agree to disagree” upon. Whether it is with your doctor, your mother, or your friend. I get the impression that when someone hears we do not vaccinate, they feel like they must put up their defenses and explain why they do. And all too often they think not vaccinating is neglectful and alarmist. But most of these people have never met someone with a vaccine-injured child. And many times they have not really researched- both sides or any side at all.

I do not vaccinate for a few different reasons that include adverse reactions immediately after vaccination for one of my children, neurological issues in my oldest son, as well as several years of research on the subject.

But I would never criticize those that do vaccinate. I understand that neither choice is easy. I am so glad that we at least have a choice and I hope everyone is making an absolutely informed choice- one made on their own and not only with the help and instruction of their doctor.

Some of the most common false assumptions parents have about vaccines are based on fear, and not on truth. They think their child won’t be able to attend school. You can see your state’s laws regarding that right here. Many parents think that since the mercury has been removed from vaccines, there’s nothing to worry about anymore. But not all mercury has been removed. You can see the CDC (Center For Disease Control) vaccine ingredient listing here. And one of the scariest thoughts of all is that your child will die if they get the chicken pox, measles, or tetanus. If you do your research on all the diseases children are “immunized” for and see the true statistics and treatment options, it’s not so scary anymore. To people like me, the ingredients alone in just one shot is what is frightening.

When we all are informed, aware, and concerned, then good changes can start happening. Until then, why shouldn’t they just continue giving your baby shots with formaldehyde, aluminum, and thimerosal if no one’s complaining?

Doctors and the men and women running our government are human. They can be helpful, but they are not God. They do not know everything- how something will turn out tomorrow or in five years. In the end, only you as the parent are the one who will be held accountable. Go with your heart, your gut, and your instinct, and above all, make your choice an informed one.

Stephanie blogs daily at Adventures In Babywearing. You can also read more of her posts on the subject of vaccines in depth here.

Ain’t no power like the power of the mama

About nine months after I had my first child, I went (with the kiddo in tow) to my first Mothers Acting Up meeting. It was my first foray, at least post-children, into an organized activist group. While the timing wasn’t right for me to become a regular bottomlogo.jpgmember, I gleaned a piece of knowledge from that meeting that I think will always stay with me. That is that mothers as a whole are a very, very large group, and if they use their power for good, they can become a force to be reckoned with.

That little gem has stuck with me over the years especially as I blog. Once I became a mom, specifically a stay at home mom, I had more time to think about the things in the world that I wanted to make better and the ways that I could make a difference, no matter how small, in the life of my child or the life of another mother or child. That was actually my motivation behind starting my blog in the first place. I came to realize that, in the words of Edward Everett Hale, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

I often think about all of the power we as women and we as mothers have and wish there was an easy way we could harness it. Thanks to access to the Internet, getting involved and harnessing that power is easier now than ever before. If you are looking for a way to affect some change for the better in your world or the lives of children around the world, chances are there is an organization out there that’s right for you.

Here are some of the mother-centric advocacy groups out there:

MomsRising

… is working to bring together millions of people who share a common concern about the need to build a more family-friendly America. Started in May of 2006, MomsRising has gained over 140,000 citizen members and is rapidly growing. More than 85 national and state organizations have signed on to be aligned with MomsRising.

Our members are bringing important motherhood and family issues to the forefront of the country’s awareness. We are working to create both cultural and legislative change. It is time to break the logjam that has been holding back family-friendly legislation for decades and to advance workplace policies that will support families.

MomsRising offers easy entry into citizen advocacy and is bringing the power of online organizing to motherhood and family issues.

Mothers & More

…is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of mothers through support, education and advocacy.

We address mothers’ needs as individuals and members of society, and promote the value of all the work mothers do.

Mothers Acting Up

…exists to inspire and mobilize mothers (and others) to advocate on behalf of the world’s children.
MAU inspires, educates and engages mothers — a gigantic force to be reckoned with— to prioritize children in our corporate and public policies. MAU believes that when mothers lead, generations of global citizens will follow.

Children’s Defense Fund

…The voice for all the children of America. The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

CDF provides a strong, effective voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves.

We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities.

When Ava was just shy of a year old, my husband with Ava on his shoulders and I walked in the annual Mothers Acting Up Mother’s Day parade on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colo. The parade was followed by a rally in front of the courthouse and it was a pretty powerful event to be a part of as I celebrated my very first Mother’s Day as a mom. As the mothers (and others) walked in the parade we chanted, “Ain’t no power like the power of the mama and the power of the mama don’t stop.” Remember that, mamas. The power is ours for the taking. We are women. Hear us roar.

Activist mommy bloggers and other activism sites:
Moms for Modesty
Mojo Mom
Eco Child’s Play
Moms Speak Up
MOMocrats
Nature Moms Blog
PunditMom
Healthy Child, Healthy World
Feminist Moms
Mothers Acting Up (blog)
Attachment Parenting International

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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

Mother’s Day + Economic Stimulus + Comment Love = 3 Occasions to Donate to Save Women’s Lives

Cross-posted on BlogHer

After reading Denise‘s BlogHer post last week that the gift of maternal health is the perfect Mother’s Day gift, I thought “this really is perfect!” I blogged it and suggested that not only is it a great cause, but it is also a great consumerism/stuff-free gift, something that I feel, in our consumerism-driven society, is so important, but so often forgotten.

I had plans (and still have plans) to donate in my mom’s honor for Mother’s Day. I knew it wouldn’t be a surprise to her since she faithfully reads my blog, but what I wasn’t expecting was that she would beat me to the punch and make a donation in my honor first! My mom chose to honor me for Mother’s Day with a gift to Help Afghan Women Deliver Healthy Babies Safely, a cause that I would’ve chosen myself. My mom said that she thought I would “appreciate that much more than flowers or anything else” and, aside from perhaps a massage (*wink*), she is right. I am happy my mom chose to donate as a gift to me and I hope she will be happy when she receives that email saying I’ve donated as a Mother’s Day gift to her as well.

Speaking of honoring women on Mother’s Day, Jen Lemen suggests honoring a woman you admire by making a donation in her name and then telling her about the ways she’s inspired you. She wrote a wonderful “primer to help you make a perfect match between that woman who inspires you and an organization that’s changing the world.”

Aside from Mother’s Day being the perfect opportunity to donate to Global Giving, Britt Bravo recently asked, “Will You Donate Your Economic Stimulus Check?” Britt said, “FinancialAidPodcast suggests paying down your debt, putting it in a savings account, or donating to a charitable organization.” BlogHer Community Manager Denise left a comment suggesting people use their economic stimulus checks to make a donation to Global Giving. Another wonderful idea.

Smtwngrl at Writing: My Life recently came up with a very creative way to raise money for Global Giving. She originally vowed to donate $0.10 for each comment she received between May 5 and May 9 to one of the Blogher-supported organizations (for a maximum donation of $100). However, after realizing that her original goal may have been a little too lofty, she upped the ante, “In addition to my $25 Mother’s Day donation in my mother’s name, for every unique commenter each day this week (May 5th through May 9th) I’ll donate $1 (up to $100) toward the maternal health cause that receives the most votes.” What are you waiting for? Head on over there and get the comment love a flowing. You still have three days to get those comments in and spread the word.

In addition to the original five worthy maternal health causes (see below), Lisa Stone announced earlier today that BlogHers Act and Global Giving have added the Myanmar relief effort to provide emergency relief to thousands and thousands of people devastated by Cyclone Nargis. The storm has killed over 22,000 people, thousands more are presumed dead, and the million who’s lives have been spared are without shelter and with only a few days food supply. Lisa encouraged everyone to donate and blog this.

She also announced that BlogHer and Global Giving will be matching your donation. “Whichever of the now six projects recommended via the BlogHers Act fundraising widget receives the most donations between now and the end of the week will get a $1,000 donation from BlogHer, which Global Giving has agreed to match. The other five worthy projects will also get a donation of $200 each from BlogHer.”

Karoli at Odd Time Signatures answered Lisa’s call to action and donated to Global Giving again, this time to the Myanmar people, blogged it and encourages others to “please dig deep” and “consider rounding up your loose change around the house, under the couch, hidden in old handbags, wallets and drawers.”

I think it’s important to note that no amount is too small. Every little bit adds up and can help the people, including mothers and children, in Myanmar, as well as other maternal health projects around the world. We’re at $3415 donated so far. How much more can we raise between now and Mother’s Day? How will you help?

More about each of the BlogHers Act/Global Giving projects:

Provide Emergency Relief – Myanmar Cyclone Victims: Donate as little as $10 to support urgent disaster relief efforts by helping provide food, clean water, and supplies for those affected by the cyclone, which has killed thousands and caused extensive flooding and damage.

Maternal Health Projects:

* Mother and Child Clinic in Nepal: $10 – 2 days’ operating costs for the Clinic OR a year’s worth of care for 5 women and children

* Help Afghan Women Deliver Healthy Babies Safely: $25 – 20 women will have improved quality of life through reproductive healthcare and education

* Ensure Healthcare for 40,000+ Displaced Darfurians: $25 – Trains 2 Traditional Birthing Attendants (includes 3 training sessions and training materials)

* Empower Women to End HIV/AIDS Stigma, South Africa: $50 – 2 women living with HIV/AIDS can receive counseling

* Noon Meal Improves Girls’ Learning in Burkina Faso: $15 – Provides a noon meal for 50 students for one day.

Take Action Now:

1) Grab a button or donation widget to place on your blog.

2) Share this information with your readers by blogging about maternal health, the Myanmar relief effort, or the individual project you’re supporting.

3) If you blog it, leave your link at the bottom of this post, so others can read your thoughts on these issues. (And so we can feature you on BlogHer.com and in our newsletters.)

4) Donate to save women’s lives, today.

Is your child’s sunscreen doing more harm than good?

The Centers for Disease Control recently came out with some bad news for nearly all Americans who use sunscreen. A recent study shows one of the commonly used ingredients in most sunscreens (for adults, children as well as babies), a chemical called oxybenzone, has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. In fact according to the study, 97% of Americans are contaminated with this chemical. Another study has showed oxybenzone is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Also worth noting is “oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.”

Boy in the sunNo FDA regulations
The last time the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the safety of oxybenzone was in the 1970s. It republished its evaluation in 1978, and announced plans to develop comprehensive standards for sunscreen safety and effectiveness. However, it’s been 30 years now and the Agency has yet to issue final regulations. “Instead, it encourages manufacturers to follow draft guidelines that the Agency has delayed finalizing at the behest of the sunscreen industry. As a result, sunscreen manufacturers in the U.S. are free to market products containing ingredients like oxybenzone that have not been proven safe for people.”

No special safety standards for children
What really frustrates me is that many sunscreens are marketed specifically for babies or children, and one might expect that because of this they are somehow “safer,” yet they contain the same chemicals as those sunscreens made for adults. There are no special safety standards for babies/children’s products.

Additional cautions must be employed when considering the effects of oxybenzone on children. The surface area of a child’s skin relative to body weight is greater than adults. As a result, the potential dose of a chemical following dermal exposure is likely to be about 1.4 times greater in children than in adults (SCCNFP 2001). In addition, children are less able than adults to detoxify and excrete chemicals, and children’s developing organ systems are more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposures, and more sensitive to low levels of hormonally active compounds (NAS 1993; Janjua 2004). Children also have more years of future life in which to develop disease triggered by early exposure to chemicals (NAS 1993). Despite these well-documented concerns regarding children’s sensitivity to harmful substances, no special protections exist regarding ingredients in personal care products marketed for babies and children.

What does this all mean? Is YOUR child’s sunscreen safe?
If you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database web site, I highly suggest you do so. Products from skin care to baby care, from make up to hair care and oral care (and more) are ranked on their hazard level.

Skin Deep lists 607 skincare products containing oxybenzone. Please check the list to find out if yours or your children’s is on it. Again, I’m frustrated and disturbed that one of the worst sunscreens on the list is one specifically for babies – Walgreens Baby Sunblock.

California Baby sunscreenSo what IS safe?
Here is a link to a list of the sunscreen best bets for kids.
I was relieved to find the brand and type we have been using since Ava was about 9 months old – *California Baby SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year Round – is on the list (the California Baby Sunblock Stick is also on the list and might be easier to apply. I’ll be looking into getting some of that, especially since we’re nearly out of the lotion.). I’m thankful that many of the mommies I know (which is where I got the recommendation for California Baby in the first place) do their homework when it comes to safe baby/child skincare products.
*You can purchase California Baby sunscreen and other products at health food stores like Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage and apparently Target carries it too, or order directly from the California Baby website.

Avoid these ingredients:

  • Oxybenzone – In sunlight, can produce allergy- and cancer-causing chemicals
  • DMDM Hydantoin – Allergen and irritant that can form cancer-causing contaminants
  • Triethanolamine – Allergen and irritant that can form cancer-causing contaminants

Safe Sun Tips

  • Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the greatest amount of ultraviolet light exists.
  • Wear Hats. Each inch of hat brim can lower your lifetime risk of skin cancer by 10%. A hat brim of four inches or greater is recommended.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Sunglasses with UV-blocking filters are very important.

Final thoughts
It’s frustrating when the groups that are supposed to be looking out for our health and that of our children let us down, but it’s things like these that reaffirm my belief of questioning authority. The best piece of advice I have is to arm yourself with information and trust your instincts. If dousing yourself or your child in chemicals doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. Find another way. In this information age where so much is available to us at the click of a mouse, it can be easy to find healthier and safer alternatives. Knowledge is power.

For more information, please check out: Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

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Green Tip of the Week #18 – The Story of Stuff

This week’s green tip is to take 20 minutes and watch The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard. With Earth Day just around the corner, I think it’s important to take a look at all the stuff we have in our lives and the The Story of Stuffstuff we might want to buy in the future and become aware of exactly where it comes from, what’s in it and who/what is affected by it’s production. Warning: This video will make you think.

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

After hearing about it for ages, I finally took the opportunity to watch it a couple days ago and I’m really glad I did. It’s a video I think EVERYONE should watch (yes, that means you and you too!) and reflect on the next time we go to make a purchase.

What are you waiting for? Go watch it. 🙂 Then come back here and tell me what you think about it.

Help Afghan women safely birth healthy babies

You may or may not have read that yesterday Lisa Stone announced that BlogHer has teamed up with Global Giving in an effort to save as many women’s lives as possible between now and Mother’s Day. There are several worthwhile causes to support, and myself and others will be blogging about them all month on BlogHer. One of the projects is helping Afghan women safely birth healthy babies.

Afghan women and children

In the country of Afghanistan a woman dies of pregnancy-related causes every 27 minutes of every day. That’s 53 women every day and nearly 20,000 women per year or 1,900 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the World Health Organization, in 2000 Afghanistan had the seventh worst maternal mortality rate in the world.

In the province of Badakhshan, “a woman faces almost 600 times the risk of dying in childbirth than do her counterparts living in North America. Of the thousands of infants left motherless, 75 percent will perish either during, or soon after, delivery.”

One of the reasons for the abysmal mortality rate is gender discrimination. In Afghanistan men are seen as superior to women and sons are preferred over daughters. This translates into high rates of female illiteracy and malnutrition. Because of the preference towards sons, daughters are often married off early, while they are still children themselves. “More than 40 percent of Badakshani women are married before the age of 15 and often long before their immature bodies can cope with both the demands of sex and the rigors of childbirth. Girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s.”

The terrain of the country is also a problem. Eighty percent of the population live in rural areas which translates into remote and rugged terrain, where roads are poor or don’t exist at all. According to the Population Reference Bureau, only 14% of births in Afghanistan are attended by skilled personnel.

Because many women are without access to basic reproductive education, let alone modern methods of family planning, they are unable to choose when and how many children they have. The contraceptive use among married women, ages 15-49, is just 10%.

This Global Giving project for Afghan women can make a real difference. Creating Hope International and the Afghan Institute of Learning offer “lifesaving health services and medical interventions to pregnant women and babies through three rural clinics in Afghanistan, including on-site baby delivery for high-risk cases. CHI/AIL also educate women about their reproductive health so that they can make healthy choices during pregnancy and delivery.”

I think it’s important to note that the project is sensitive to Afghan culture and works with the community leaders before any programs are implemented. According to Global Giving:

AIL uses a culturally sensitive approach in providing health education and health services to Afghan women and children. They provide education and services in local settings that are safer and easier for women to access. They use mobile clinics to reach patients who cannot safely travel to the nearest health clinics. They employ female health providers because of a cultural preference in Afghanistan that women receive health care from other women. AIL works with community leaders and local men before implementing new and historical controversial programs, and begins new programs only at the request of communities.

As a result of this project 12,000 Afghan women will receive pre- and post-natal care, midwifery, family planning services, education on women’s reproductive health, delivery kits for home delivery, and assessment and intervention for high-risk pregnancies.

To learn a bit more about the Afghan women’s project and the role AIL is playing in education, take a look at this video of a birth attendant training class outside of Kabul: Afghanistan: New Births, New Hope.

A donation of $25 means 20 women will have improved quality of life through reproductive health care and education. For $50, 40 women will have healthier babies because of reproductive health care and education. And for a donation of $85, one woman will be trained as a community health worker and will assist 9,000 women annually. It’s amazing how such a small amount from us can make such a huge impact in the lives of people half-way around the world.

BlogHers Act NowTake action:
Now I pass the torch on to you. Please consider donating, adding a button or a widget (check out my right sidebar) to your blog and/or blogging about this project to help spread the word. If you do any of those things, be sure to leave a comment (and a link to your post if you blog it) below. Together we can make a big difference in the lives of so many women and children.

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