There is a great way to check for the vertex and flexion of the baby's head before labor. I was taught this hands-on skill three decades ago. My midwife partner, Monika, and I enjoyed the prenatal process of checking for this in the palpation process. It is/was called "checking for cephalic prominences." I could not find it in any textbook except a really old, 1975 version of Textbook for Midwives, by Margaret F. Myles. She was our best reference in the 1970s, when I was a happily practicing homebirth midwife.
I was surprised when I taught it at our roundtables in Denmark last year. Out of the 75 people, mostly midwives, who attended my three roundtables, almost no one knew about it. So, I want to share it with you. According to Myles, "To determine if the vertex is presenting the two cephalic prominences, the occipital and sincipital, are located. The higher one will, if on the opposite side from the fetal back, be the sincipital and this denotes a vertex presentation, head flexed. In the face presentation the higher cephalic prominence will be on the same side as the fetal back." This is just another way of knowing what is going with the baby. One of the important reasons to know this ahead of time is because if the baby is in an unfavorable position you have time to correct with various exercises. Join us at the Philadelphia conference to learn many more hands-on skills. This also will be easier to show you in person.
Birth is a process that probably lasts about a month or more, when you think of how the baby works his/her way into position, mom's body prepares with the uterus thickening at the top and thinning at the bottom and the cervix prepares itself to dilate for the final pushes in this process. It is such an amazing, divine plan and in this day and age so easily disturbed—possibly as never before. I think induction, possibly in any form, can disrupt this plan, interrupting the baby's process of positioning and getting ready to be born. As Carla Hartley says, "Birth is safe, interference is risky."
— Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today magazine
Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.
Jan's blog: community.midwiferytoday.com/blogs/jan/default.aspx
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Giving Birth the Natural Way: A holistic approach to natural childbirth!
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Training midwives and other birth attendants how to perform low-cost interventions, including neonatal resuscitation and kangaroo (skin-to-skin) care could save more than one million babies lives each year, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Major global causes of perinatal mortality are asphyxia at birth, low birth weight, and prematurity. Low-cost interventions … may effectively reduce deaths from these causes, the researchers noted. It has been estimated that introducing these interventions as a package might decrease perinatal deaths by 50% or more.
Noting that, annually, there are approximately 3.7 million neonatal deaths and 3.3 million stillbirths worldwide, with nearly 40% of deaths among children younger than 5 occurring during the first 28 days of life, the researchers examined results from a study that trained midwives in Zambia using the World Health Organizations Essential Newborn Care course.
The study tested the hypothesis that improving birth attendants skill level and knowledge of baby resuscitation would lower death rates during the first seven days after birth, among babies who weighed at least 1,500 grams and were born in rural communities in developing nations.
A systematic review of the literature suggests that perinatal mortality may be decreased by training birth attendants, the researchers stated. Thus, wide-scale implementation and evaluation of evidence-based interventions are needed to improve perinatal outcomes, particularly in rural settings, where more than 50% of neonatal deaths occur.
— Waldemar, Carlo A., et al. Newborn-care training and perinatal mortality in developing countries, New Eng J Med 362: 614–623.
Read here: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/362/7/614
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Position of the mother during [birth] can significantly influence the development of babys facial slant. The most common position for the [birthing] mother, especially in maternity hospitals, is the recumbent position. Mother lies flat on her back on a thinly padded metal delivery table, with her legs bent in the air. This position is most efficient for the obstetrician or birthing attendant. However, it is the most compromising position for the birthing baby. The mothers tailbone is fixed in one position and is unable to tip out of the way as babys head grinds by it. Gravity is also disengaged as a birthing tool. The mothers uterine muscles must increase the intensity of their contractions in order to assist the babys passage through the tight tube of the birth canal, causing babys head to grind with greater force against the mothers tailbone. This will usually increase the degree of facial slant.
Positions that ease the birth of the baby and present the fewest compromises to the structures of the birthing baby include:
This position is often used for the natural delivery of a breech baby. This position places the majority of the mothers bones above the baby and out of the way of most bony contact. Gravity pulls the baby downward into the soft tissues of the mothers abdomen. The kneeling position is used to stretch the muscles of the mothers birth canal to make it easier for the baby to pass through. This position will often relieve back pain during labor and can be used as an alternative position. Its major drawback is that gravity is again working perpendicular to the intended exit.
This is perhaps the oldest and most widely practiced of all birthing positions. It fully utilizes gravity in the direction of exit, the uterine muscles do not have to struggle as hard, and the mothers tailbone has the ability to tip out of the way as the babys head passes. Although the squat position has been practiced widely throughout the world, especially among ethnic peoples, its use is discouraged in the United States. This position is very inconvenient for the birthing attendant. In the 1980s, however, a number of avant-garde maternity hospitals provided squatting poles for their maternity rooms, allowing a return to this more natural style of delivery.
— Justine Dobson, DC, LMT
Excerpted from "Birthing Choices," Midwifery Today, Issue 33
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How would your baby like to be born?
In How Will I Be Born? Jean Sutton explains the principles of optimal fetal positioning in a clear and straightforward matter. Written for expectant parents, this book is packed with helpful advice and information, including an informative chapter on posterior position. A must-read for all pregnant moms and a book for the practitioners lending library.
Learn about mother and baby care from Anne Frye.
Care of the Mother and Baby from the Onset of Labor through the First Hours after Birth is packed with over 1300 pages of detailed, otherwise hard-to-find information. You'll find a discussion of basic anatomy and physiology, an excellent chapter on fetal-to-newborn cardiopulmonary transition, information about supporting a woman through each phase of labor, a discussion of complex and uncommon labor situations and much more. This book is the second volume in Anne Frye's Holistic Midwifery series.
For Mothers Day, put the gift of beautiful birth in her hands
Give Brought to Earth by Birth, a collection of black and white photographs by Harriette Hartigan, one of the world's master birth photographers. It makes a beautiful gift for your midwife or doula, for expectant or new moms, for grandmothers and for anyone who loves babies and birth. And remember to order a copy for yourself!
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Read these article excerpts from the most recent issue of Midwifery Today newly posted to our Web site:
- The Question of Homebirth—by Sister MorningStar
Since when do we need an expert to tell us where we are comfortable? Since when do we need an expert to tell us with whom we feel relaxed and open and able to poop or make love or birth a baby? Since when was there an animal that didnt know how to protect itselfto flee or scratch and bite or growl when it isnt comfortable?
- My Journey into Planned Homebirth in Venezuela—by Fernando Molina
Having my first son, Fernando Javier, at home back in 1983 was one of the most challenging times of my life, but also opened a door to the sacred pathway I would follow in the years to come. The experience assured me that homebirths were possible and safe, in spite of what they teach us in medical schools.
Read this book review from Midwifery Today newly posted to our Web site:
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Q: What was the longest second stage youve experienced, and how well did mother and baby pull through?
— Midwifery Today staff
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Q: My son, my first child, was born early at 35 weeks and no one was ever able to tell me why. My labor was very fast once my water broke (2 hours). He had to visit the NICU at the hospital for over a week due to respiratory and feeding issues. I want a homebirth this time around so badly. What natural methods can I do to increase my chances that Ill go to at least 37 weeks this time around? Thank you.
— Jill Klink
A: Hi Jill,
You might want to check out the article, Prematurity Is Preventable! on reducing prematurity through proper pregnancy nutrition, which was published in Midwifery Today, Issue 72.
— Amy Haas
Responses to any Question of the Week may be sent to E-News at any time. Write to email@example.com. Please indicate the topic of discussion *and the E-News issue number* in the subject line or in the message.
Dear Midwifery Today,
Is there anyone interested in traveling to Bolivia to attend a birth in June? I have a client who is moving there in April and she is a candidate for a lovely homebirth, but lacking a midwife. If anyone is interested, please contact me!
Also, feel free to contact me if you know someone there or a midwife who would be willing to travel. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Mhairi Colgate
Dear Midwifery Today,
Shanti Uganda is looking for an amazing midwife volunteer in Uganda to help our project coordinator get our newly constructed birth house up and running. With the birth house built, we will now be taking the next two months to prepare for our expected opening in June 2010. This position is open to existing midwives who are willing to help with our staff orientation, establish our prenatal education program and work with our project coordinator on our birth house guidelines and needed supplies.
For more information, please contact Kristen, our project coordinator via e-mail at email@example.com
The Shanti Uganda Society www.shantiuganda.org
Dear Midwifery Today,
Thank you so much for your articles on Ultrasound and Autism. I included a link to the articles in the monthly newsletter I send out to more than 700 of my past and present Bradley Method and prenatal yoga students. I found the response from some of my students surprising. Some were angry, some were scared, all were astonished and made to think. Some asked me why this information isnt in the mainstream. Good question. Maybe because ultrasound is a big money maker for lots of people. I appreciate getting your newsletter and passing along the information. Waking up my mothers-to-be is challenging but rewarding.
— Liza Janda, E-RYT, AAHCC www.yogajanda.com
[Editors Note: The following letters are in response to Jan Trittens editorial, Healing after a Traumatic Birth (Midwifery Today E-News, 12:6), which posed the question, Is it possible to heal after a traumatic birth?]
Dear Midwifery Today,
In response to Jan Trittens last editorial, I dont believe it is entirely possible to completely heal after a traumatic birth experience, as the trauma continues long after the birth is over.
My trauma continued as I became very ill after the birth, my daughter was ill and suffering with seizures and food allergies and intolerances, crying syndrome and various immune difficulties, my relationship with my partner ended most likely due to the severe postpartum depression, caused by a reaction to the drugs during the birth. Due to the physical trauma during the birth, I also completely lost my sexual drive or any desire to continue having children. During this time I also had to change my career mid-stream as a single, or co-parent with those responsibilitieschallenging to say the least. The trauma continues like a domino effect throughout my life.
Looking back over the past 14 years since the birth of my daughter, I can truly say that what does heal the wound is when I hear another mother say that because of the childbirth book I wrote and my television channel, she feels calm and confident about the upcoming birth of her baby.
I heal a little each time a mother says to me that reading my book allowed her to heal enough from her first birth to risk a second baby. I heal a little bit more when the charity I created 10 years ago raises more funds for childbirth education for the public. And I heal a little bit more when I have the opportunity to speak and show films to rooms full of bright, young university students open to looking at birth in a whole new light. When the healing is complete, I may find another path in life. I am sure this healing process has kept my passion alive through the years.
Looking back, part of me is grateful for my traumatic birth experience. Because of that, my daughters birth experience and her daughters birth experience will be very different. If I had been able to accomplish the birth that I dreamed ofthe midwife-assisted waterbirth in the free-standing birth centerI am sure I would have picked up my non-traumatized baby and myself with my partner after the birth and went home without a backward glance.
Because of my traumatic birth, thousands of women have had and will have an easier birth in the past and upcoming months and years. All of this helps make me feel a little bit better and so, so very grateful for my family, my career and the opportunity to gather our womens wisdom together to assist each other.
Without your traumatic experience, Jan, and mine, I would never have had the opportunity to meet a kindred soul, such as yourself, and to consider myself very lucky to have known your brave and generous spirit. Thank you for all you have done for our mothers and babies throughout the years. We are blessed to have you in this community. Your contribution to our collected wisdom on childbirth is truly a great gift to our world.
— Gail J. Dahl, executive director of the Canadian Childbirth Association
Dear Midwifery Today,
I do believe it is possible to heal from a traumatic birth and Ill share how I did it.
I had planned a homebirth with my fourth baby. My three older children were from a previous marriage and 17, 18 and 20 years old. (I wasnt allowed a midwife with my first husband). I had a midwife with my fourth child and all seemed well.
Around 32 weeks, during my prenatal visit, I insisted that something wasnt right; my belly seemed to have stopped growing, even smaller somehow. So I went for an ultrasound. They did the scan and were saying, Congratulations, everything is fine, so I repeated my unanswered questions, How big is she? How much does she weigh?
The technician took a few measurements and went off to get the doctor again who took his own measurements and then shattered my world, saying, The baby weighs about two pounds; you have to go to the hospital right away so they can take her out! Shell grow better out! I felt as if I had been thrown off the exam table and pushed out the door. I called my midwife, who sent me to the hospital. The doctor did an NST and I was told to go home and wait, they would get back to me. A week went by before I was contacted. I was dying inside, not knowing if my baby was going to be okay. I went back on the following Friday and they did another ultrasound and NST. The doctor explained that the blood stopped flowing between pulsations but the baby wasnt showing any signs of distress. So, I was told: come back tomorrow and Sunday or Monday well send you to the childrens hospital and theyll decide how to proceed.
My anxiety grew
by the next morning I thought I couldnt breathe and my blood pressure had gone up. What was supposed to be a 15-minute test turned into a weekend in the hospital before being transferred to the childrens hospital.
On Monday my husband met me downtown for the test and the technician doing the scan looks up at us and said, Its serious, you know. The blood flow is reversed and shes dilated all the vessels in her brain. Shes got to come out now. I didnt want a c-section and told them my last was born within three hours. So they agreed to let me try to deliver vaginally. They gave me a dose of steroids to help develop the babys lungs and I had to wait 24 hours to receive a second dose before delivering. (What happened to now?)
That evening they came to my room and said they were going to put a catheter in my cervix and blow up the balloon to dilate my cervix and prepare it for delivery. I refused, saying if they started the contractions now I wouldnt have received the second dose of steroids and they would not have time to work. They came back and gave me the second dose (12 hours early) and insisted I have the procedure done. I reluctantly went with the nurse.
I was met by a student who had never performed the procedure. She had to start over three times and my contractions started quite violently. Now they were a little worried.
I was monitored for an hour and sent back to my room
but after an hour the thing fell out and I was dilated to 3 cm. They told me to lie down and not move in hopes that the contractions would stop and they would not put it back in.
I was supposed to be induced first thing in the morningwhich dragged on until 2 pmwhere a replacement receptionist called me on my room phone and said, Mrs. Brown, were ready to induce you, please come down to the delivery room.
Once inside the delivery room they proceeded to hook me up to the Pitocin drip, antibiotics just in case and magnesium sulphate (because my BP had gone up for two days and was normal now.) My midwife arrived while all this was going on. I refused the magnesium sulphate and the young resident said, Then well refuse to treat you. Then he asked if I wanted an epidural
again I refused so he snickered, Women usually end up screaming for it by the second contraction. I wanted to kick him.
Fortunately he was stopped by the attending from breaking my water since the baby was still floating around.
The instant the magnesium sulphate hit my veins I felt terrible, and I was not allowed up from bed.
If magnesium sulphate is used to stop labour when given before 5 cm dilation, why the heck would you give it while giving Pitocin when trying to start labour? Well, that is something that never occurred to the resident, so he kept upping my Pitocin until I felt myself slip awayand it wasnt like fainting. Then I heard them say they lost the babys heartbeat and this brought me back. The attending had rushed back in and stopped all meds
and told the student to wait before starting them up again and to do so slowly.
Wed been at this from 2 pm until midnight and I was only at 5 cm.
Then I felt the babys head touch down during a contraction. The resident insisted on breaking my water, and screwing a monitor onto the babys head. So I told him to hurry up because I wasnt going to endure a contraction lying on my back. He screwed it in so tight that he pulled a cylinder of skin from the babys scalp. So he had to try again. Once it was done, I sat up, one leg off the side of the bed to the floor, the other knee bent and I leaned on my midwife. She felt my body stiffen during the contraction and whispered in my ear to push during the next contraction. When the next one came along, I pushed and lay back down on the bed to let Zoey out. Marie-Paule had grabbed my husbands arm so he could see his daughter arrive and the doctors stared over my head at the monitor indicating they had once again lost the babys heartbeat. They never even saw her lying on the bed.
The next three weeks were a struggle and a fight to be able to breastfeed my tiny 2.5 lb baby and leave the hospital because their ideas and my instincts were not on the same wave length. We went home and my midwife continued to follow Zoey who did extremely well and is a healthy and very much alive 22 month old today without any medical or developmental problems.
I on the other hand felt angry and violated by the experience. I felt as if I had been screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to listen to me when I knew there was a problem with the baby, and then being ignored by the resident because apparently he knew more about me and my body then I didand being threatened by him?!
The technique that really helped me move on was called reframing the past. It was something I had read and decided to give it a try.
Basically, you go back to the incident as a kind of observer and identify your needs at that time. For example, I needed to be heard and I needed to be respected. I needed someone to stand up for me and say no. I would have needed them to not go into overkill with procedures that caused more harm than good.
We cant change what was, but in identifying the needs according to the situation and being honest it really helped me. It brings understanding and I know for sure that if ever something similar was to come again I would stand tall when needed and have more control. My husband and midwife helped, too, when I discussed how I felt about what happened and when I identified what I would have needed, my role and theirs.
Last month I lost my baby, Emma, at 30.5 weeks. My water broke at 30 weeks (on a Tuesday) and I was sent to the hospital, then transferred to another hospital. They gave me Betamethazone to mature her lungs. (The neonatologist said later that since she found herself without water she naturally secreted cortisone to develop her lungs and the injection wasnt really necessary, not to mention that this medication is used for people with auto-immune diseases so their immunity doesnt attack their body
a stupid thing to give a baby in an infection high-risk situation.)
By Friday my fluid started to smell and I told my nurse. Then it started coming out pink. The babys heart rate went up to 178 (it was around 140 before this) the nurse went to tell the doctor who was at the nursing station. Then I started having cramps, but no contractions. The babys heart rate went back down to 140 but was so weak we couldnt hear it. The nurses tried changing Dopplers, changing nurses, brought in the NST machine, changing nurses again, then Dopplers. Finally, almost eight hours later, they brought me for an ultrasound. The doctor turned the monitor to me and said, This is the heart, theres no activity. The babys dead. And after a pause, he said, Now you have to deliver it.
Then she told me the baby was head down. And yet, my dead child with no more amniotic fluid came out feet first.
Ill let you know if I can get over this loss.
— Debbie Brown
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