I had prenatal groups gather in my home. Pregnant women and those with babies
and young children would come, sit around, drink tea, and share their collective
wisdom and stories. Even though American society currently supports birth education,
I have found there's no better way to learn than from other women and men who
have a wealth of experience and information to share. I have seen women and their
families grow in confidence, awareness, and understanding of the pregnancy process
by listening to others, considering carefully and sifting through information.
This learning process is very transforming and empowering. Friendships develop
Groups typically consist of six pregnant women, one father, three children ages
two to four and two midwives. Visiting relatives are always welcome. We ask that
everyone arrive promptly to the meetings, which last one to two hours. We exchange
names and begin with a simple question: Any stories, questions or information
for the group? The only rule we have is that we must stick with one topic at a
If a member is reluctant to share difficult past experiences, we must provide
a nonjudgmental atmosphere and directly ask for the story. The facilitator may
lead a bit but mostly follows the direction the speaker takes. It takes time to
build the trust to share pain, and the facilitator must be sensitive to this process.
We also encourage participants to keep a journal.
Having babies and children in the group is essential. When tears begin to flow,
very young children invariably give hugs and kisses. As for the unborn babies,
we check them at the end of the discussion. We check blood pressure and encourage
the parents to include the baby in their talks.
My real work as a midwife has been to get out of the way, and let women do their
work. In such an intimate group setting, boundaries must be maintained and the
process turned back to the participants. The midwife's role in this is to be a
guardian. We bring the circle together and facilitate the linking. Then we slowly
back away from the circle and extend our arms to protect and watch over them.
- excerpted from "Group Prenatal Care" by June Whitson, Midwifery Today Issue 24
When a woman comes under your care, assume she's undernourished. The majority
of women have no idea that diet is important, even today. And if a woman comes
to you late into her pregnancy and you haven't seen her before, it is never too
late to get her started on the nutrition program to prevent toxemia. Never. Tell
your women to learn to graze. Small, frequent feedings is a fine way to increase
dietary volume and value. Tell them not to pass the fridge or the fruit bowl without
having a glass of milk, just one more egg, a small sandwich, an apple. The only
guideline I ever gave was "Eat according to your appetite (good foods), salt
to taste, drink to thirst (I caution against drinking too much water), be active
and exercise, and rest when you're tired."
Every aspect of labor is easier of the woman's diet was good during her pregnancy.
Women who eat conscientiously and train to become "birth athletes" do
not exhibit a lot of pain during delivery, and they find breastfeeding far easier
as well. Tell women that if they eat enough calories, the protein goes to the
baby and to the breast, where it belongs.
- excerpted from "What Can Midwives Do?" by Tom Brewer, Midwifery Today Issue 40
Health professions can have a spectacularly positive effect on the emotional
state of pregnant women through their vocabulary, their attitude and even their
body language. They can also encourage, or even organize, events that are outside
the framework of medical consultations. In the maternity unit at the Pithiviers
hospital in France, we used to meet around the piano and sing together on Tuesday
nights: pregnant women, young mothers and newborn babies, midwives, cleaning ladies,
secretaries, and so forth, could join the group. After singing, and often dancing,
there was an atmosphere of happiness and even euphoria. Such sessions were probably
more beneficial for the growth and the development of the fetuses than would be
a series of sophisticated ultrasound scans or a Doppler screening of placental
The brain is mostly made of fat. This means that its basic needs must be first
expressed in terms of lipids. Without being too technical, we must recall that
the brain of the fetus has a real thirst for highly unsaturated fatty acids, particularly
those of the omega-3 family. The mother-to-be can use two ways to satisfy the
huge demand for such fatty acids.
The first is direct: have a diet rich in preformed, highly unsaturated omega-3
fatty acids. This means eating sea fish from the beginning of the sea food chain
such as sardines, pilchards, herring, or common Atlantic mackerel.
The second is indirect. It is to make sure that the maternal body will be able
to transform the parent molecule of this family, which is abundant in the land
food chain, into longer and more desaturated molecules. Yet certain hormones,
such as cortisol, are blocking agents of the metabolic pathway of unsaturated
fatty acids. People who are not happy release cortisol at a higher level, typically
when they feel dominated by somebody (e.g., an authoritarian spouse) or by a situatoin.
We con conclude, from modern scientific data, that it is better for a pregnant
woman to be happy.
- excerpted from "Eat Sardines, Be Happy, and Sing!" by Michel Odent,
MD, Midwifery Today
Check It Out!
A Web Site Update for E-News Readers
INTERNATIONAL ALLIANCE OF MIDWIVES: Click here to learn more about how Midwifery Today promotes international midwifery.
PLAN: Read this feisty, honest, empowered woman's manifesto for birth!
HOMEBIRTH PACKAGE with
T-Shirt: One spiral-bound book, one booklet, six conference audiotapes, Home
Sweet Homebirth T-shirt.
The Farm Midwifery Workshops
The Farm Midwifery Workshops, taught by Ina May Gaskin and The Farm midwives,
strive to teach the skills and knowledge you will need to make the birthing environment
safe, pleasant and responsive to the needs of women and their babies.
For more information with dates, curriculum, and fees, write to us:
The Farm Midwifery Workshops
P.O. Box 217
Summertown, TN 38483
What's black and white, read by birth professionals around the world, filled
with informative articles and inspiring birth stories, and shows up in your postal mailbox four times a year?
A Midwifery Today subscription!
Subscribe now and
make sure you receive every exciting issue! Just $50/year U.S., $60 in Canada,
$75 for all other countries.
Midwifery Today's Online Forum
As a new doula, I'm curious to know how other doulas feel about suggesting/offering
herbs (to calm nausea, strengthen uterus, for overall health) to their pregnant
clients. I consider a huge part of my role to be nurturing and empowering a woman
to learn about and take care of her body. But I also realize this may become sticky
if my client is working with a doctor (or midwife) who opposes the use of herbs
or with someone who doesn't communicate well with me. This could also be a problem
if the mother has some kind of condition that she didn't share with me. I am also
wondering about the legalities of using herbs.
To share your thoughts and experiences, go to Midwifery Today's Forums.
Question of the Week (repeated)
Q: Has anyone developed her own system for newborn
gestational age assessment? The New Ballard Scale seems more elaborate to me than
is necessary for term babies who are born at home. I know that experienced midwives
can quickly look over a baby and estimate the gestational age, but for now I would like to find a concise format to document characteristics for EGA.
- Amy Kieffer, student midwife
Send your responses to:
One of my students described attending a hospital birth in which the physician
applied pressure to the big toe of a woman who had just delivered. She said it
helped the placenta to separate. Does anyone know about this practice and the
details of where to press, etc.?
- Anne Katz, RN PhD
Winnipeg, MB, Canada
I had a tubal reversal that seems to have been unsuccessful because of scar
tissue. I would like to know more about Bromaline--how it works, where to buy
it, how to use it, etc.
- Tammy Kimble
Re: Zinc deficiency and overdue babies [Issue 3:44]: I was zinc deficient with
my second baby, and she was 17 days overdue. Labour was slow and sluggish, a side
effect of low zinc. My daughter, now nearly four, still gets white flecks occasionally
on her fingernails (zinc deficiency). I encourage women (before conception) to
watch their zinc because it is involved in over 300 different processes. Women
whom I have spoken to with late/slow labour babies who then had sufficient zinc
before the next baby had much quicker and easier births.
- Veronika Robinson
Does anyone know of any research that says massaging the uterus before the placenta
is out either prevents or causes hemorrhage? An OB and I have different styles.
I am encouraging her to not massage the uterus because it avoids causing a PP
hemorrhage. She is not convinced by information printed in books stating not to
massage unless there is scientific research to back it up. She thinks there is
no harm in doing the massage because nothing in the research literature says not
to. I cringe at her aggressiveness and would love to find something to convince
her to stop this practice.
- Lis Worcester
I had a student who had a long birth and was fully dilated for a long time before
pushing her baby out. Now she is experiencing pain and bleeding with intercourse.
She describes part of it as her "cervix hurting." Her midwife said she
would heal. She also says she has acquired two hernias from either pregnancy or
labor. They aren't huge but they are enough to affect her flute playing, which
is her livelihood. The doctor who discovered them says they won't get better.
Her midwife said they will close up. Any comments or suggestions for these problems?
- Amy V. Haas, BCCE
Re: Story of two births [Issue 3:44]:
I have no doubt that much of the relative ease with which you gave birth is
owing to your positive attitude and preparations. But birth is one of life's great
mysteries and every birth is full of gifts and perfection, even if we do not see
it. Many women have prepared wonderfully and still had difficult deliveries and
As women, it behooves us to support one another. Your sister-in-law prepared
for birth in the way that felt appropriate to her. And she, like you, on some
level, was given an experience of labor and birth that simply was what it was-
not only a reflection of preparedness or psychic state in the end so much as the
perfect experience needed at the time, full of its own hidden gifts. When we judge
each other for the way we prepare for or give birth or we allow our egos too much
self-congratulation for how much "better" we did it, the Universe/Spirit/God
may in turn bring us a difficult experience of our own to bring us back to a state
of compassion and humility. In Sufism, there is the jalal and the jamal, the difficulty
and the beauty, given by God at different times in life according to what is needed
for growth. But the wise seeker welcomes both without judgment and accepts the
gifts inherent in both. This surrender is one of the great
lessons of birth.
- Julie Cooper, CD, PLCSW, healer, mom-to-be
The sentence at the end of the birth story jumped out at me: "You can't
control birth, but you can make an impact on how it will be from your thoughts
and feelings." I plan to use this as my opening statement for future childbirth
education classes. It is such a powerful message. So many women want to control
the labour and birth processes and this statement is a great introduction to the
fact that it can't be controlled any more than we can control the sun and the
moon. But we can have an impact--either negative or positive. It really is up
to each of us as individuals.
It is obviously her position that being relaxed and at ease with her body contributed
to an easy birth and her sister's uptight attitude about birthing resulted in
her difficult delivery.
I tend to agree with Abbie, but I think I should point out another possible
explanation. Perhaps Abbie could be so relaxed about her body because she was
feeling well and her body sent her signals that her pregnancy was proceeding normally
and her delivery would go easily and quickly. With those kinds of signals it would
be easy to relax and really get into the pregnancy with journaling, meditation,
information-gathering and all the other things she did.
Contrast that withher sister-in-law whose, body was perhaps not handling pregnancy
well. Her body was signaling to her that she was going to be in for difficulties
later on and so she was very uptight and worried. She had no desire to learn everything
she could or do meditation or journal because she was facing up to the horrible
delivery her body was signaling. Water delivery, homebirth, and everything else
would have been impossible or even dangerous for her. Meditation and journaling
would have focused her fears in bad ways. Concentrating on horror stories of survivors
was her way of mentally preparing herself.
I'm afraid I was once quite insufferable with some of friends who ended up with
c-sections. Now that I am studying variants of folate metabolism in great detail.
I am see that some women with perfectly normal-appearing early and midpregnancies
may well carry a genetic complement that puts them in the path for complications
like preeclampsia, no matter what they do "right" during pregnancy.
I'm sure we've all seen women who did everything "wrong" and then dropped
their babies with ease.
I try to no longer look upon women who insist on hospital deliveries in level
four health care facilities with NICUs and specialists in attendance "just
in case" as psychological cowards, out of touch with their bodies. I no longer
think they go on to have complications because they are essentially neurotic about
childbirth and unable to "open" or "give themselves" to the
experience. Learning what I have about the genetics involved, I try to see them
as women who are, in fact, very much in tune with their bodies and who sense they
are going to get into trouble because of their personal genetics. They want to
have everything there they may need right at hand for when they do get into difficulties.
Maybe these are the women who 100 years ago would have died in childbirth instead
and their choice is wise, saveing their lives and the lives of their babies.
Childbirth is about choices and education and one of those choices is the choice
made by Abbie's sister-in-law. Instead of judging her we should give her the benefit
of the doubt. She may well have known exactly what she was doing and may well
have made the best and safest choice for her and her baby. We need to support
whatever choice the mother makes and trust her to know best what she needs.
- Natalie K Bjorklund
EDITOR'S NOTE: Only letters sent to the E-News official email address,
will be considered for inclusion. Letters sent to ANY OTHER email addresses will
not be considered.
Midwifery Today E-News is published electronically every Wednesday. We invite your questions, comments and submissions. We'd love to hear from you!
Write to us at:
Please send submissions in the body of your message and not as attachments.
Click here to subscribe to Midwifery Today E-News
For all other matters contact Midwifery Today: PO Box 2672-940, Eugene OR 97402
Remember to share this newsletter
Need to subscribe, unsubscribe, or otherwise change your E-News subscription?
Then please visit our easy-to-use subscription management page!
On this page you will be able to:
- Subscribe to any of our email newsletters
- Unsubscribe from any our email newsletters
- Change the version (text or HTML) that you receive
- Change the email address to which newsletters are delivered
If you have difficulty, please send a complete description of the problem, including any error messages, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn even more about birth!
Subscribe to our quarterly print publication, Midwifery Today. Mention code 940 U.S.: $50 1 year $95 2 years
Canada/Mexico: $60 1 year $113 2 years
All other countries: $75 1 year $143 2 years
E-mail email@example.com or call 800-743-0974 for information on how to order.
To order Midwifery Today products mentioned in this issue, send a check or money order to:
Midwifery Today, Inc.
PO Box 2672-940
Eugene OR 97402 USA
To pay by Visa or MasterCard, send your information to: 1-800-743-0974 (orders only)
Fax: 541-344-1422 For other matters, you may call:
541-344-7438 Or email us:
Editorial for E-News:
Editorial for print magazine:
For all other matters:
This publication is presented by Midwifery Today, Inc., for the sole purpose of disseminating general health information for public benefit. The information contained in or provided through this publication is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be, and is not provided as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Midwifery Today, Inc., does not assume liability for the use of this information in any jurisdiction or for the contents of any external Internet sites referenced, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advertised in this publication. Always seek the advice of your midwife, physician, nurse or other qualified health care provider before you undergo any treatment or for answers to any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.
The content of E-News is copyrighted by Midwifery Today, Inc., and, occasionally, other rights holders. You may forward E-News by e-mail an unlimited number of times, provided you do not alter the content in any way and that you include all applicable notices and disclaimers. You may print a single copy of each issue of E-News for your own personal, noncommercial use only, provided you include all applicable notices and disclaimers. Any other use of the content is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Midwifery Today, Inc., and any other applicable rights holders.
© 2001 Midwifery Today, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Midwifery Today: Each One Teach One!