Birthowl’s natural childbirth

Appreciating The Placenta
October 17, 2008, 5:56 pm
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The placenta is a beautiful organ. It is the only organ that develops and grows within another organ. It is responsible for growing a healthy baby. It is the bridge between a mother and her baby in the womb. In some cultures, it is called the called bucha-co-satthi, meaning baby’s friend.(1) Others see the placenta as the baby’s protective older sibling.(2) For these reasons alone, it is unique, amazing and beautiful.

The baby and the placenta are made from the same cells, which are formed through combination of the egg and the sperm. Once implantation occurs on about day six after fertilization, the gestation period begins and the fertilized egg and the placenta begin to develop separately, still connected. The placenta stays attached to the uterine wall while the fetus has the ability to move around the uterus.

The placenta is the fetus’s only source of food, blood, oxygen, vitamins and nutrients. All of these vital resources are carried from placenta to fetus via the cord. These resources come from the mother’s bloodstream, which is why a healthy nutritious balance of whole foods is so important during pregnancy. Iron is especially important because iron increases the hemoglobin level in the blood; hemoglobin carries oxygen in the body. Once the baby is born and the cord stops pulsing, that baby is no longer getting its oxygen from the placenta. When baby takes a first breath, the lungs begin to work and baby begins breathing on his or her own. In order for the baby to receive all the blood and oxygen required, the cord must stop pulsing before being cut.

The placenta is an incredibly important and spiritual piece of life. It has many uses, both spiritual and medicinal. It can provide whatever is needed and should not be wasted. We are responsible for treating the placenta with respect for everything that it has done.

Kelly Graff is a student at Birthwise Midwifery School.

Photo by Mayouska


The Birthing Dance

Come to me, My Child
Secret longing of my inner heart
Breath of spirit
Wandering the cosmos
Choosing your next lifepath
Seeking sanctuary in my wonb
Visions of you stir my dreams
Your gentle essence drifting inward
Merging into matter
Coming into consciousness
Birthing into being
Your tender wisdom speaks
The ancient knowledge of a mother’s power
Our bodies grow together
Two as one
Turning round, in birthing dance
You lead me
Opening the circle corridor
Descending into unhindered ecstasy
Into my arms

Judie C. Rall

Picture by Carnaval King

Upright positions useful for labor and birth

The laboring woman can make the most of these positions by combining them with movement, chanting, natural breathing, visualization and massage. However, she should be able to rest whenever she feels like it, particularly in early labor. Encourage her to follow her inner urges. Her instinct and intuition will guide her when she allows her body’s wisdom to take over.

Standing and Walking – Stimulates contractions. The downward force of gravity assists the baby’s head to descend which in turn helps to dilate the cervix. Will also help to increase the efficiency of contractions and lessens discomfort, particularly when she leans forward with each contraction.

Helpful in early labor when the baby is in a good position – sometimes used for most of the labor.

Sitting upright and leaning forward on a firm chair, stool or toilet seat. Can be very comfortable. Her body is well supported while upright; good downward force. A nice position for being massaged because the back is so accessible.

To relax and to be in control with minimum effort.

Kneeling – An instinctive position particular in active labor when contractions are strong. Gives a sense of being literally on top of the contractions. A way of increasing privacy and concentration. Helps to feel centered. Easy to relax forward over a pile of cushions, a beanbag or a chair; makes it easy to change into different positions like standing, half kneeling – half squatting, squatting and all fours.

Helpful when labor starts in the night or when the woman is tired, needs privacy or seeks comfort.

Induces a feeling of control and release. Can be helpful for internals.

Particularly useful for active labor or for helping a posterior baby rotate.

All fours – lessens the force of gravity, thus reducing the speed of descent while providing the baby with enough space to move on; lessens the intensity of the contractions; allows for a wide range of movement, facilitates the ability to produce low noises and helps to feel centered; helpful in rotating a posterior baby.

Induces a feeling of control, makes breathing easy and gives privacy. Good when suffering from vulval or varicose veins.

Knee – Chest – Takes pressure off the back. Slows down a violent or extremely fast birth, thus helps to cope. Helps to create a time-out when needed. Extremely valuable in helping a baby to turn to a better birth position and to heal a swelling on the cervix (4).

Least pressure. Good for focusing and privacy or to take some time out. Can relieve pressure on the baby. Best position for an anterior lip to go down.

Lying on Side – If labour is progressing well she may choose this position for comfort and a slow, gentle birth. Good resting position for a long birth. Take care that she rolls fully to the left side into the recovery position with cushions to prop up her head, right leg and under her right arm; use a small cushion as a wedge under her left hip.

Make her comfortable with big cushions in her back, to rest her arm on. Keeping her left leg long while the right leg is bent and flops right over to the left as in the recovery position, put a small wedge under her left hip.

Picture by Bolinhanic – “Theresa in Labor”

Waterbirth: Mom catches own baby
October 11, 2008, 8:08 pm
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Posterior Position and the Fetus Ejection Reflex

Two facts regarding posterior  position have been authoritatively confirmed by published prospective studies.

The first fact is that worrying pregnant women about the position of their baby in the womb is useless. A large Australian randomized controlled trial involving 2547 pregnant women has eloquently demonstrated that hands and knees exercise with pelvic rocking from 37 weeks’ gestation until the onset of labor does not reduce the incidence of persistent occiput posterior position at birth.

The second fact is that fetal position changes are common during labor, with the final position established close to birth. This is the conclusion of a prospective study of 1562 women to evaluate changes in fetal position during labor by using serial ultrasound examination. Among babies who were posterior late in labor, only 20.7% appeared to be posterior at birth.
Finally, when the mother had no epidural, the overall rate of posterior position at birth was only 3.3%, although this study was conducted in conventional departments of obstetrics, where the basic needs of birthing women could not easily be met. The rate was 12.9% in the epidural group.

When taking into account these two well-documented facts, focusing on the right question becomes easy: what factors can influence the rotation process during labor?

The answer is simple: The factors that can facilitate the rotation process are those that make a typical fetus ejection reflex possible.The passage toward the fetus ejection reflex is inhibited by any interference with the state of privacy. The ejection reflex does not occur in the presence of a birth attendant who behaves like a “coach,” an observer, a helper, a guide or a “support person.”

The fetus ejection reflex can be inhibited by a vaginal exam, by an eye-to-eye contact or by the imposition of a change of environment. It does not occur if the intellect of the laboring woman is stimulated by rational language (e.g., “Now you are at complete dilation; you must push”). It does not occur if the room is not warm enough or if the lights are bright. The best situation I know for a typical fetus ejection reflex is when no one is around but an experienced, low profile, silent, motherly midwife sitting in a corner and knitting.

The image of the “knitting midwife” should not be understood in a literal sense. Instead, it symbolizes the authentic midwife as a protective mother figure whose own level of adrenaline is maintained as low as possible.
Noticeably, when the conditions for an ejection reflex are met, most birthing women find spontaneously complex and asymmetrical bending-forward postures that probably play an important part in facilitating the rotation of the baby’s head.

Persistent posterior position at birth will become exceptionally rare on the day when the meaning of privacy is understood and authentic midwifery has been rediscovered.

– Michel Odent, MD, excerpted from “Occiput Posterior Position Should Be Exceptionally Rare at Birth”

Gracious births
May 5, 2008, 7:00 pm
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by Judy Edmunds

Midwives try to convey these simple truths: Birth is not a clinical exercise. It is not a medical procedure. In nearly every instance, it should not be major surgery. Nor should it even routinely include minor surgery. Rather than being a time of weakness with beds, shots, fasting, IVs and wheelchairs, it is a time of energy and strength. Raw power. Mightiness. Courage. Sometimes our victories are great: a beautiful home VBAC after doctors had convinced the woman her body was defective. Sometimes the victories are small: a routine hospital birth, yet no drugs were taken to dull the senses. Still, considering the tales of woe amassed in Nancy’s book, we see we have work to do, a long way to go. Birth abuse continues to take place. In fact, how many hospital birth horror stories have you heard? And yet, how many times have you been asked, “Just what, exactly, does a midwife do?” or “Mid-what?” Considering that only a small percentage of women choose to birth at home, we recognize that many women don’t even know what this choice could mean for them.

Prenatal love
April 23, 2008, 7:00 pm
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How to provide a prenatal environment that nurtures your growing baby.

By Thomas R. Verny with Pamela Weintraub

Where do we first experience the nascent emotions of love, rejection, anxiety, and joy? In the first school we ever attend—in our mother’s womb. Naturally, the student brings into this situation certain genetic endowments: intelligence, talents, and preferences. However, the teacher’s personality exerts a powerful influence on the result. Is she interested, patient, and knowledgeable? Does she spend time with the student? Does she like him, love him? Does she enjoy teaching? Is she happy, sad, or distracted? Is the classroom quiet or noisy, too hot or too cold, a place of calm and tranquility or a cauldron of stress?

Numerous lines of evidence and hundreds of research studies have convinced me that it makes a difference whether we are conceived in love or in hate, anxiety or violence. It makes a difference whether the mother desires to be pregnant and wants to have a child or whether that child is unwanted. It makes a difference whether or not the mother feels supported by family and friends, is free of addictions, lives in a stable, stress-free environment, and receives good prenatal care.

All these things matter enormously, not so much by themselves but as part of the ongoing education of the unborn child.

Nurturers and Managers
Having a baby is, for most people, an act of faith. It represents a belief in a better tomorrow, not just for themselves but for the world. But unless we actively improve our understanding and treatment of the unborn baby and the young child, that faith will go unrewarded because we may blindly pass on to our children the neurotic parenting we ourselves may have received. One key to parenting is flexibility. Those who can adapt to their baby’s wants and needs will be nurturing and responsive. Those who cannot change their lives to accommodate the child—who expect the baby to adapt to them instead of the other way around—may be too rigid and uninvolved to parent well.

These days that task is harder than ever, given the frequent necessity for both parents in a family to work. As parents who work, we delegate responsibilities—including the care of our children and our homes. To keep our lives afloat, to juggle all the elements, we tend to become as managerial in our private lives as we are in our jobs.

It is during pregnancy that parents—those who work as well as those who don’t—must create a balance for living. I urge both partners to examine their commitments and to create a plan for increasing their time away from work so they can spend more time at home with the baby.P