Thursday, March 31, 2011

Doulas and Cesareans

I have written about how a doula can help with different plans for hospital births and for homebirths. A post by Navelgazing Midwife made me realize that I left out yet another group of women. A follow-up guest post Doula-ing for Cesareans on Navelgazing Midwife's blog by Kristen French, of Central Washington's own Three Rivers Birth Services, (small world, huh?) addresses this much better than I ever could. A lot of people assume a doula can't really do anything for a woman having a cesarean, but Kristen's comprehensive post does a great job of explaining otherwise.

Here are a few key things a doula can help with for a cesarean:
  • helping the mother understand the procedure and prepare emotionally for a cesarean
  • helping the mother develop a birth plan that allows her cesarean to be a special birth for her and her baby in whatever ways he woman would like. Kristin's guest post contains a list of options, and some possibilities are shown in this amazing video:

  • supporting the mother in the moments just before the surgery, where intense emotions are likely to arise
  • helping the mother develop strategies for coping with the emotional intensity of the cesarean experience
  • being present in the OR, if the hospital will allow it
  • if the mother and baby must be separated, staying with the mother while the father stays with the baby
  • helping with establishment of breastfeeding, which is often more difficult after a cesarean because the incision can make it necessary to use less common breastfeeding positions
  • helping the mother process emotions from the birth to help her memories of it be as positive as possible

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Traditional Birth Secrets: Dancing Your Baby Out

When a woman is giving birth, moving her hips can be helpful for her to feel more comfortable and can encourage rotation and descent of the baby. In childbirth education, we try to teach women how to do "hip circles" during pregnancy, but it usually feels a bit awkward. Some cultures have got it figured out: teach these movements to girls long before they ever become pregnant as part of fun dances, and then it will be natural to do it during birth. Many traditional cultures have dances that teach movement of the hips or abdomen, including the hula and other dances from the Polynesian Islands, the various dances of Latin America, and Middle Eastern "belly dancing."

Dancer discovers link between birth and "belly" dance in 1961

Morocco (Carolina Varga Dinicu) is a world-renowned dancer, choreographer, dance researcher, and dance instructor in the Mideastern and North African styles of dance (she does not use the term"belly dancing," because she considers it offensive. She prefers the traditional name, Raks Sharki, or its correct translation "Oriental Dance"). Creator of the acclaimed dance company and school, Morocco & the Casbah Dance Experience, Morocco has won multiple awards for her work. She has dedicated over 50 years of her life to studying, performing, and preserving traditional dances from these regions. Morocco says she hopes to keep performing, teaching, writing, and lecturing "'till 6 weeks after I'm dead."(quote from Morocco's bio, used with permission) Click here to see a video from 2006 of Morocco dancing the Bahlam Beek and Drum solo.

In the 1960s, Morocco had some interesting experiences that allowed her to discover that two of the movements in Oriental dance, the "flutter" and the "camel," were based on movements women instinctively do during childbirth. She learned that these movements were historically part of childbirth rituals, a tradition that was continued only in small villages at that time, where women surrounded the birthing women and did these movements so that she could easily imitate them. In 1967, Morocco had a rare opportunity to witness a birth in a Moroccan village where this tradition was still practiced. The entire (very interesting) story is told in her article, Dancing the Baby Into the World.

Videos of Women Dancing during Birthing

The video below shows Elisa, who stars in The Perfect Pregnancy Workout, Vol 3: Belly Dance for Labor narrating video footage of herself in the hospital during the birth of her first baby. She talks about how her dance training and practice helped her remain mobile and comfortable during her birth.

In this video, Catherine is about 8 cm dilated with contractions 2 minutes apart. She is using a TENs machine, so you can see when her contractions start and end by when she pushes the button, but she doesn't stop dancing! She danced for much of active dilation, and her baby was posterior before the dancing, and rotated anterior during it.

This video shows Alexandria, in the hospital a few hours before the birth of her first baby, dancing to a lullaby version of the Guns 'N Roses song Sweet Child o' Mine. She took a class that combined moves from various types of world dance. She has two contractions during the dance, and keeps dancing right through them without missing a step! I can't even tell when she is having them!

You can read Alexandria's birth story by clicking "show more" beneath the video on YouTube.

If you are interested in finding an instructor near you or in getting certified to teach a prenatal dance class that focuses on birth empowerment and incorporates dance movements of traditional dances from around the world, including the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean (the method Alexandria in the last video took her class in), visit

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reality Check: The Brewer Diet is Not Evidence-Based

Many Childbirth Education methods teach that following the Brewer Pregnancy Diet will reduce the expectant mother's risk of complications, including pre-eclampsia. I have promoted the Brewer Diet myself in the past. The truth is that the Brewer Diet does not have any good research out there backing it up. Dr. Brewer's statistics from his patients are very un-scientific. It is hypocritical for people to accuse obstetricians of not following evidence by requiring intravenous fluid and continuous fetal monitoring (procedures not proven to be beneficial), and at the same time encourage pregnant women to follow a specific nutritional plan that has no randomized controlled trials backing it up. "But isn't good nutrition always a good thing?" you ask. Well, yes, but there are some specific problems with the Brewer Diet itself (many of these I learned from reading a comment response by Navelgazing Midwife on her blog post, Hypocrite in the Middle).

Drawbacks of the Brewer Diet:
  • The Brewer Diet can create stress in the pregnant woman by encouraging her to agonize over all of her food decisions. I would think that stress could have the opposite intended effect by actually causing high blood pressure.
  • The Brewer Diet is a lot of food. It is not natural or healthy for women to eat more than they feel hungry for. There is some concern that the caloric requirements of the Brewer Diet may grow overly large babies in women who are adequately nourished.
  • The high amounts of protein in the Brewer Diet may put stress on some women's kidneys, if their kidneys are over-taxed, and women usually do not know whether or not their kidneys are over-taxed.
  • There are many, many women who have followed the Brewer Diet and still gotten pre-ecampsia.
  • Claiming that the Brewer Diet prevents pre-eclampsia equates to patient-blaming and making women feel like their pre-e diagnosis is their fault.
Instead of promoting a specific one-size-fits-all diet, why don't we focus on a few sound nutritional principles?

Sound Nutritional Principles for Pregnancy:
  • Try eating frequent small meals during pregnancy. This may help with nausea (no guarantees, though) and will accommodate for the decreasing size of your stomach as your baby grows. Listen to your body about how much to eat.
  • Avoid eating too many high-carb and sugary processed foods (white bread, baked treats, etc.) and opt instead for whole grains--oats, multigrain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, etc.
  • Include protein in your diet each day, but don't worry too much about getting a specific number of grams. Meats, eggs, dairy, beans, and nuts can all be good sources. Many beans and nuts are not complete proteins by themselves, but create a whole protein when eaten along with whole grains. (Edited to Add: Experts now recommend 60-80 g of protein for pregnant women. If you don't eat much meat and/or dairy, you may want to keep track to be sure you're getting enough.)
  • Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially ones where the flesh is colorful, not just the skin. Leafy greens are especially healthy--romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.
  • Include healthy fats and oils in your diet, but remember that a serving of fat is very small and there is some fat in other foods you are eating.
  • Have water on hand throughout the day and drink enough that you are not getting thirsty.
If you are at risk for high blood sugar, have insulin issues, have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes before, or have a history of large babies, there are other considerations for you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unexpected Parenting Lessons

I had an interesting experience recently that is a bit off topic from my usual posts, but since birth is about becoming a parent, I thought it wasn't totally inappropriate to share here.
One day, towards the end of my children's and my recovery from an icky cold/cough, my daughter was using drawers and chairs to climb around in the kitchen, and I discovered her with a bowl and a wisk trying to combine cornstarch, salt, and an egg. (Yes, she is very independent for a three year old.) At first I was angry at her for making a mess, but I soon realized that she was, in fact, showing an interest in baking, so I decided to stop yelling at her, get out my measuring cups, and let her help me bake something.

Since I suspect my son is has a problem digesting dairy, if I was going to bake, I needed it to be something without dairy and something without margarine, since I was out of Earth Balance vegan margarine (did you know that many commercial margarines have whey in them?). I decided on the Amazing Vegan Brownies recipe from One thing I love about this recipe is how food-storage friendly it is--everything in it can be stored for a long time since it doesn't use milk, eggs or even any milk or egg substitutes. (and I had just a few weeks before this taught a lesson for a Relief Society activity on the importance of and how to start a home supply of food). The taste and texture were a little strange, but they were still brownies to me. My husband thought they were awful, but he pretty much hates all "health food," especially unusual desserts.

When the brownies were in the oven and I was cleaning up the kitchen, I thought about the Waldorf idea that parents should try to incorporate their children into their daily work routines. I haven't completely figured this out yet, but I like the idea of involving my kids in my chores instead of putting on a movie or a TV show off the DVR (we have 90+ episodes of Dora the Explorer recorded) for them while I work. My daughter watched a lot of tv while the sickness went through the house--of course that makes sense when she was so sick she couldn't get up to play, but she was getting better and I didn't want her to get too used to it, so making the brownies was a good opportunity for us to actually do something. I haven't fully figured out involving her in my cleaning, but she does like to help scrub the toilets when I do swish and swipe, likes to help wipe the table, and she will help me make beds sometimes. She also loves to help me bake, and there are lots of things she can do--I let her dump the ingredients into the bowl after I measure them.

As I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I noticed that my daughter had disappeared to her room. I went to check on her, and found her sitting on her bed looking at a book. It was one of my favorite picture books, The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman. I thought, "Of course!" We had just read the book at bedtime the night before and in her cooking experiments, my daughter was trying to apply what we had read in the real world to the book. By baking with her, I had just taught an integrated literacy/math lesson without realizing it! The Seven Silly Eaters is about cooking and baking. It tells the story of a mom of seven children who each only eats one food, and the mother works constantly to keep them all happy by making each food for each child. In the end, they combine the foods together and make a cake. A recipe for the cake is on the authors website, and I hope to make it with my daughter some time to further expand her experience with the story (though I will have to use a milk substitute in it if I make it while I'm still dairy-free).

I learned from the experience to always pay attention to what my children show interest in, (even if they are making a mess with it) because where there is interest, there will be opportunities for learning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chile becomes 45th country to join Human Milk 4 Human Babies milk sharing network

Fellow Childbirth International Emma Kwasnica founded the mother-to-mother breast milk sharing network Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network (formerly Eats on Feets GLOBAL--I believe the name change occurred because of a trademarking issue, but I actually prefer the new name). The network is rapidly expanding, and yesterday, Chile became the 45th country to create a HM4HB facebook page! To see a list of all current chapters, click here, and if you are interested in helping to support this cause by becoming a co-admin for a page in your area, visit The HM4HB Global Network page on Facebook.

Friday, March 11, 2011

You're invited to join Zulily!

Zulily is an online store with great deals on awesome brands for apparel and other great products for moms, babies, and children. Discounts are exclusive to site members, but the account is free--you just need to enter your name and an e-mail address and create a password. They send you daily e-mails with what the new sales are for that day, which is great, because the sales are all limited-time and products tend to sell out fast! I recently bought my daughter some adorable green sunflower mary janes from Pippytoes on Zulily for only $18.99 plus tax and shipping (they retail for $35.00).

The best thing about Zulily is that you can invite friends using a special link, and when they make their first purchase, you get a $15 credit to put towards any of their already discounted products! If you would like to take advantage of this great members-only online store, please click here to sign up for zulily using my invite link!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Son's Magical Birth Story

My son is one year old today! In the spirit of Pam England's #2 Way to Change Birth in Our Culture, I wrote a magical birth story for my daughter last month to celebrate her 3rd birthday. I decided to also write one for my son to celebrate his birth today.

My Son's Magical Birth Story

After we moved to a new state while I was pregnant with you, I found a really great obstetrician, Dr. I, who I knew would help us have the best birth possible. I was really looking forward to your birth, as I used Hypnobabies to prepare to have a gentle birth without having to use medication. The first time I listened to the Hypnobabies Special Place relaxation track, you became very active in the womb and I knew you wanted me to know you were your own unique spirit who would bring something special to our family.

The day before you were born, I felt a need to get the house ready for you, so I did some cleaning. When I woke up from taking a nap with your sister that afternoon, I began to feel the pressure waves telling me you were on your way to meet us. I listened to the Special Place track again and you moved a lot again during it and I felt very connected to you.

As your father drove me to the hospital late that night, it was cold, but clear out. Dr. I and our nurse Dianne did a wonderful job creating a calm atmosphere in the room where you would be born, just like I wanted. My womb was very close to completely opened when we arrived in the room. The water that surrounded you in the womb came out of the birth canal not long before you did. Your father's kisses helped me relax so that I could open the last bit I needed to for you to come out. You were truly born into a room full of love. With no medication numbing me, I felt very deeply "in the moment" as you came into the world into the hands of Dr. I. Before you were even all the way out, I reached down and grabbed you under your arms and pulled you up to me so that I could hold you. I was so happy you were here and so proud of myself for having a drug-free birth. Your dad did such an amazing job supporting me while I gave birth to you. He was so excited and proud to meet his first born son. You looked at him like you knew him already.


I hope you will learn from the example shown you by your father of how to love a wife, and grow up to be just as wonderful of a husband and father as he is.

I love you, my Little Man, Happy First Birthday!

Photo by Jordan and Chelsea (JCPhotography, Utah)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Quick Things

1. Rixa of Stand and Deliver had her baby! It's a girl! Part 1 of the birth story, including video of her catching her own baby, is up on her blog. Rixa uses the Hypnobabies program some, but adapts it to fit her own needs. She has said before that she doesn't use it to try to avoid feeling pain, but to instead embrace whatever sensations she experiences.

2. MamAmor dolls is having a giveaway! If you don't know about MamAmor, you should! They are handcrafted dolls that can be pregnant, give birth, and breastfeed. Check out the MamAmor Doll Shop to see some of the dolls and doll accessories. Also, see Rixa's review of the custom doll she ordered for her daughter as a gift to celebrate the birth of the new baby. Then go to the Doll Giveaway at the MamAmor Blog, and enter to win the contest to win this $135 doll for FREE (you only pay shipping!)