Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Countdown has begun

So, I am now 35 weeks and on bed rest.  I've been on bed rest for almost 2 weeks now and, frankly, it's driving me crazy.  It's funny how all I wanted a month ago was to lay in bed all day and do nothing...and now that I have to do just that...I'd rather be up and cleaning.  :D  Never satisfied, am I?

Things are going very well, right now.  Babies are strong and healthy and getting bigger, but we need them to stay in for a couple of more weeks.  The closer to 40 weeks, the better.  Although, I do have to confess that I sometimes find myself wishing they'd come sooner than later.

I never realized just how difficult it can be to carry twins.  I've had 3 pregnancies already and while I've hit the "discomfort zone" with all of them, it was usually only about 2 weeks before I gave birth.  Not so in this case.  I hit the discomfort zone about 3-4 weeks ago and I still have several weeks to go.  I cannot walk from one side of the house to the other without getting out of breath.  Driving is a thing of the past as I cannot fit behind the wheel any longer and depend on others to get me stuff I need from the store (or to pick up my older son from preschool).  Sometimes just having a lively conversation with friends is enough to get me to take a few deep breaths before diving in again.  My belly is measuring at 47cm and makes sleeping at night a pipe dream.  Not comfortable on my back to sleep sitting up...but laying on my side gives me those muscle stitches (never mind trying to roll from one side to the other, LOL).  And, of course, there is the getting up to pee every hour or so at night.  Heartburn is my constant companion (and usually shows up, uninvited and unwanted around 1am).

I do want the twins to come when they are ready, and I will do everything I can to make sure that I do not overdo anything to make them come early...just, sometimes, I need to rant about the discomfort.  I just have to keep reminding myself that everything I am going through is normal, healthy, and short-lived (even though it doesn't feel like it right now).

The fun thing is cuddling up with the kids and watching movies (although I have to admit watching Go, Diego for the 100th time is getting a bit old).  We play games and just talk.  It is a very nice change to my regular go, go, go style.  My oldest has become my biggest helper, getting me the things I need (water) and just keeping me company.  My younger two are more entertainment with the things they say and do (constantly moving and jumping around).

It's amazing at how quickly they learn my physical limitations.  My youngest (my biggest "troublemaker") loves to do stuff he isn't supposed to do and then take off running, knowing that I cannot catch him.  He does this when I'm trying to get him dressed or dried off.  It drives me crazy at times.  But, one of these days, soon, he's going to do this and I'll be able to catch him.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing the look on his face as he realizes his dashing sprees with me are over.  :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Itchy Pregnancy

A few weeks ago, I got Norovirus and ended up in the hospital due to severe dehydration due to vomiting for hours and not being able to drink even sips of water.  It was not fun.

Even though I was given 2 bags of Electrolyte Fluids and felt eons better (and looked human, again), I started getting really itchy about a week later.  I don't mean that my belly was a bit itchier than normal from accommodating twins.  I mean that the soles of my feet would itch so bad that I would wake up at night and spend 30-40 minutes scratching them.  It didn't alarm me, at first, because I was just getting really rehydrated and I was sure that my skin suffered some kind of "drying out" and that the cause of all of my itching was dry skin (winter and dehydration really do a number on you!).

So, 2 weeks later, I was still itching.  I'm not dehydrated and I could not sleep some nights because the itching was so bad.  Of course, it only really happened at night.  I started to think that maybe one of the twins was sitting on some nerve or something and causing it.

It wasn't until this past Friday, when I got a "Your Pregnancy This Week" email that I started to think something was up.  I rarely read them as they refer to more single births, but scrolling really fast through the email, I saw "itching during pregnancy".  I stopped and read the whole paragraph which, paraphrased, said "If you have these symptoms during pregnancy, you should notify your care giver immediately....symptom, symptom, symptom, itching, symptom, symptom, symptom."

It was then that I realized that the itching I was experiencing may not be normal or "good".  I called my midwife immediately and told her about my itching.  She told me it could be several things, but we would go the "easiest" route first to see what happened.  She told me to send my husband out for Milk Thistle (which is a supplement that is good for liver support).  She said that if I took the pills and the itching went away, it would mean that my liver is being over-taxed.

And, sure enough...the same night, I was able to get more sleep because the itching went away.

After reading up on this (there is a website for Itchy Moms), this problem happens all too often and being that most women itch from bodily changes (skin stretching, etc) this symptom is overlooked and can have disastrous consequences (premature birth and stillbirth are some consequences).

Basically what happens is that the bile salts get into the blood stream and cause the itching.  It is the liver being over-taxed by the amount of estrogen in the body.  It can be managed and usually disappears after birth (sometimes taking a few weeks).

There are diet suggestions (which can be found on the Itchy Moms website) that can help with this (increasing fruits/veggies that support liver function).  Along with homeopathic supplements.

I cannot stress how important it is to communicate with your care provider.  If you have something going on that concerns you, it is your right to get an answer to it (even if it means demanding that they order tests).  And, please remember that sometimes the "smallest" things can mean something more, especially if there are other symptoms.  For me, I just had itching...but after talking with my midwife, I found that it was worse at night, in the soles of my feet and lower legs and cooler showers helped.  So, one annoying symptom actually was more that I wasn't even aware of.

I will be going in for liver testing within the next week or so.  I will also be going in for follow-up testing after the twins are born.

Again, please talk with your care provider regarding any concerns you my have with your pregnancy.  If something goes on in your pregnancy that causes you to stop and think about it (and be a bit concerned), you should contact your care provider and share the information.  Do not think that you are "over-reacting" or that it's probably nothing.  It may be nothing...but, better safe than sorry, right?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Natural Birth in a Hospital

Several people have asked if having a birth plan in a hospital is even worth the trouble.  I would like to answer this with a yes and a no.

Most doctors roll their eyes when you bring in a birth plan.  You become "one of those people".  They will usually look at your birth plan and tell you all the ways that it is impossible, but will encourage you to "try" anyways.  Now, I'm not saying that every doctor will do this, but the vast majority will.

The things I learned when I had my daughter at a hospital (8 years ago) was that in addition to a birth plan, you have to have knowledge of what you want and how to get there.  For instance, if you want a natural birth, you need to start (sooner than 9 months pregnant) practicing whatever technique you wish to employ to attain your natural birth goal.

But, the first thing is the birth plan.  Write one.  Take your time.  There are tons of sample birth plans online.  Read as many as you can and then alter them to make them fit your goals (the link above has an interactive birth plan that can help you).  Even if your doctor doesn't give your birth plan a lot of weight, it will help clarify what you do or do not want/expect during your own birth/labor.

Visit the hospital and view their labor and delivery rooms.  Be sure to ask them if all the rooms are just like what you are being shown or if this is the "sample" room.  I made this mistake and when I went on a tour of the hospital that my daughter was born at, the room looked big and perfect for what I'd need.  When I actually got induced and got stuck in a room, it was about 1/3 the size of the room I was shown and had hardly any room to move around.  It was miserable.  So, clarify the actual size of the birth rooms.  Remember, when you are giving natural birth you are going to want room to walk around, use a birthing ball, etc.

Talk to whomever is going to be your support during birth.  Make sure you are both on the same page.  It does no one any good if your support does not understand what you are wanting during labor/delivery.  Believe me when I say that by the time you hit transition, you are not going to be as aware of your surroundings to be making many decisions.  There are some great books for birth partners to read to help them understand the process a woman's body is going through:
  1. Husband-coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley
  2. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg
  3. Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England and Rob Horowitz 
  4. Having a Baby Naturally by Peggy O'Mara  
It is so important to spend time reading up on pregnancy and labor.  Get to know your body.  Pay attention to all of the little changes that are happening.  So many women go through their entire pregnancies without much thought about the changes that their bodies are going through.  They are not aware of the stages of labor and are completely caught "off guard".  You do not have to have a painful labor, but you have to prepare.  The only way to really prepare is to read, read, read, and ask tons of questions.  Pregnancy is not a spectator sport!  ;)

Get to know your doctor.  Ask as many questions as you can.  Find out what his/her c-section rate is.  Find out when they decide to move on to a c-section.  Do they deliver breech babies?  Will you be allowed to use a bathtub for part of your labor or a shower?  Will you be able to push in whatever position feels best for you?  Write your questions down and ask them all.  As you are going through the answers to your questions, start writing your birth plan remembering that the doctor is supposed to be there to guide you along in your birth, not to take full control of it (unless something goes wrong).

Find out what birth method suits you the most (Lamaze, Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, etc) and start practicing it as soon as possible.  You cannot "master" these just within 6-8 weeks.  Take the courses and spend more time rehearsing.  As you get closer and closer to labor, you'll be utilizing the techniques you learned more often, but don't just go to the class and then forget about it until you go into labor.  Practice makes improvement and the more you practice, the more prepared you will feel.

A natural birth is possible in the hospital, but you have to do your research.  You have to prepare.  Make sure you have people around you who will support your ultimate goal, even if the hospital staff does not.

I do want to add that when you go to check in at the hospital, you should read the admission consent forms thoroughly.  Most of them will give "blanket" consent for everything the hospital staff deems appropriate--no matter what your birth plan says.  So, read that consent form before signing it and make sure that you are not signing off on ignoring your birth plan.  Most hospitals will allow "pre-registration" and send you the paperwork in advance of admission.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Vaccine Industry's Free Pass

I've been following this debacle about the Vaccine Courts, and the parent's (assumed) right to sue a Vaccine Manufacturer in a civil court.

I do want to talk about is this "law" that seems to be preventing families from suing the vaccine manufacturers for harm to their children/loved ones.

Did Congress mean to block civil suits brought against the vaccine industry?  Or was it setting up a "special court" to hear the vaccine injury cases and not trying to block the civil actions?

It's a very good question and one I wish I could answer.

It all started in 1986.  Congress passed an act or a law that said parents/individuals/children who were adversely affected by vaccines would go through a special court that would determine what compensation they would get for the damage caused by a vaccine.  Now, in order for a parent to get compensation in the case of a vaccine injury, the evidence must be researched by the HHS (Health and Human Services)--which comprise the CDC and National Institutes of Health.  It sounds like a good idea...to have such distinguished government agencies working on your case; unless, of course, they are also the defendants and they are also used to test the "safety" of vaccines.  How many cases have been dismissed because there was "no cause found"?  It's ludicrous, really. (you can read a bit more at PRNews)

Where do the awarded funds come from?  Does it come from the vaccine manufacturers?  No!  It comes from each individual that receives a vaccine.  So, every time you get a vaccine (or get your child a vaccine) you pay an additional "tax" that goes into the compensation fund.  In essence, you are paying into a fund that will allow you to dip into it should you have an adverse reaction.  I still find it humorous that the vaccine manufacturers don't contribute a dime to the compensation...it's all paid by the vaccinated.  That's like paying an additional "tax" on every piece of clothing, every toy, every crib, every car you buy so that if someone gets hurt, they can be compensated, without touching the bottom line of the very industry who made the product.  Nice, huh?

So, in the recent months, the parents of Hannah Bruesewitz have sought to sue the vaccine manufacturer, Wyeth--a division of Pfizer--because their Vaccine Court case was dismissed citing that there was not enough "proof" that the vaccine caused any injuries.
"She was a healthy 6-month-old baby when she received a vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Within hours, she suffered scores of seizures and has been developmentally impaired ever since. Her parents claimed her injuries were caused by the vaccine, which was developed in the 1940s, and that the manufacturer, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, had declined to substitute another, safer and more modern, vaccine.  When the special vaccine court ruled that there was inadequate proof the vaccine caused Hannah's injuries, her parents then sued in state court,"
Now, in state court, the parents would have the ability to subpoena all records from the vaccine manufacturer to learn what the company already knew about the vaccine.  I find it a little alarming that parents are not given that right/option in vaccine court!  They have to prove harm in the vaccine court, but they cannot subpoena vaccine manufacturer records?  Their cases are being "tested" by the very entities that do the preliminary "safety testing" of the vaccines before they hit the market?  And the court is supposed to be unbiased?  How is this possible?

The Supreme Court is currently deciding on how to rule in the case of vaccine injuries.  The lawyer for the manufacturer is stating that if the Supreme Court allows every parent who believes that their child has been harmed by a vaccine to file suit, it will put the industry out of business.  I, personally, find that very hard to believe being that the vaccine industry is currently making billions of dollars a year (predicted to hit about $39 BILLION by 2013)--they've not been successfully sued in a court of law for over 15 years.  If they paid out 1/4 of the amount they are making, it would hardly put them under.  I mean, the Vaccine Industry is claiming that the vaccines are very safe.

But, I have to ask.  Why is there a shield in front of the vaccine industry, anyways?  If you make a product, shouldn't you be fully liable for that product?  If you cannot stand behind the safety of the product, then maybe it should not be on the market!  Vaccine manufacturers have been touting the "safety" of the vaccines for years.  Parents have been claiming vaccine damage for years.  If you buy a car and its defect causes death or disability, you have the right to sue the car manufacturer.  If you buy a crib and your child dies as a result of a defect, you have the right to sue the manufacturer.  It is believed that if a company is held wholly liable for the defects of their products, they will work harder to make sure that there are as few defects as possible.  You can even sue a gun manufacturer if they sell a gun that is "too easily modified" into a more powerful weapon that kills a loved one!  This is not the case in the Vaccine Industry.  They keep releasing products onto the market that are untested, unknown and touted as the next best thing...and there are no repercussions to the damages these vaccines can cause (Gardasil, being the most recent along with the H1N1 vaccine).

Wouldn't you, as a parent, want the right to hold the manufacturer, of whatever product you purchase, liable for their negligence in their products?  Do you not believe that you should have the right to pursue damages in a court of law, should it come to that?

Let's step back and look at the banking industry.  How do they compare?  Well, take a look what happens to an industry that runs unchecked and mostly unregulated.  The housing bubble?  The collapse of the economy?  These all could have been prevented.  While I do believe that each individual must be responsible for themselves, it doesn't change the fact that not having someone, unbiased, keeping tabs on what is going on...will cause disasters of epic proportions.  There are members/chairpersons/advisors of the FDA/CDC who either own stock in a vaccine--hence making it valuable to them to have the vaccine marketed--or otherwise have some kind of financial ties to the very industry in which they are supposed to regulate.  None of the agencies that are supposed to be "keeping tabs" on the vaccine industry are unbiased...none of them has any interest in keeping the vaccines safe or off the market.  For crying out loud!  Several years back, a Rotovirus vaccine was pushed on every infant.  It was called Rotoshield.  What happened to that vaccine?  It caused a host of adverse side effects.  Most notably, it caused the infants' intestines to become so blocked that they would rupture.  This vaccine was available for 15 months!  There were reports of over 100 babies that were severely adversely affected by this vaccine.  How much money did the manufacturer make?  I can definitely tell you how much they paid out in damages:  $0  The money that parents did get for compensation was from the very fund that they put their own money in to.

I'm not a litigious person.  I think our society overuses the court system on lawsuits that just don't belong.  If someone can walk into a store, pour water on the floor and then "fall" and sue the store (no matter how baseless the claim is), then why can't a parent sue a vaccine manufacturer if they feel that a vaccine harmed their child?  Some things deserve to see their day in court.  Vaccine injuries should be one of them.  And not just a day in court; a fair, unbiased day in court.  Hold the vaccine industry liable for their products.  Maybe then parents can be assured that the Vaccine Industry is doing everything it can to make a safe, viable product that will not cause harm.  Maybe then, they'll stop rushing products off the production line that are severely undertested at best and negligent money makers at worst.  Prevent individuals who hold any interest in the Vaccine industry from serving on any board that will vote to put a vaccine on the market.

These changes can happen.  But, you have to make your voice heard.  Do not let the Vaccine Industry hide behind their curtain of money while the general public is served dangerous and deadly vaccine cocktails, just so they can make a quick buck.  Your health and your child's health is certainly worth more than that.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

2nd Trimester and already ready to pop

I'm 25 weeks today...and I'm measuring at over 38 weeks.  I'm completely out of breath more often than not, my back hurts and I'm more than happy to go to bed at 8pm.

So, I knew that having twins would take a "little more" out of you but never did I ever imagine that it would take this much out of me.

The boys are totally taking advantage of my slower moving.  Don't want to get dressed?  Just run.  I'll never catch them.  I'm relying on my husband more and more to help me get the kids up and ready in the morning (my daughter and my older son both go to school).

Some days I feel like I can conquer the world...and other days I feel totally conquered.  I hate sitting for too long because then it hurts my back...but I cannot stand for too long because that hurts too.  I go to the chiropractor several times a week and have a "call and show" thing going on.  But, I always feel so much better when I leave and I prefer to go in the evenings and it helps me sleep better.

And, sleep...ahhhh...sleep.  I have 3 kids that all sleep fitfully through the night and I cannot.  Why?  Because my belly is so big and it's harder to get comfortable.  Sometimes I finally get comfortable and then I get massive heart burn...so the only way to get sleep some nights is by sleeping in the recliner...but then it hurts my back...I find myself wanting the babies born sooner than later.  I sometimes wonder how in the world I'm going to make it to January.

But, then there are the good things.  My husband does a lot more housework.  :)  Always a plus!  And my kids are having fun listening to the babies' heartbeats...and guessing which end is up.  They give me names (Yes, Elmo was suggested, as was Diego LOL) and they all kiss my belly.  I am amazed at how much anyone can love a little soul they have never met.

The other day, I was sitting down with my feet up and my youngest crawls into my lap and laid against my belly, tired and ready for a nap.  The twins didn't care for the crunch and starting kicking, punching and he sits on my belly and taps them back and then lays on my belly again and laughs as they kick and punch against him.

And then there are the days where I feel completely overwhelmed with the thought of having 5 kids running around the house (4 of them age 4 and under).  But, I'm constantly reminded that things always have a way of working themselves out.  I sit on the deck and watch the kids play together.  How they fight, but protect and watch out for each other.  How they are close and yet their own person and I am reassured that while the first 6 months may be the hardest, the rest of my life will be spent in awe at the amount of sharing, fighting, compassion, protection and love that they'll show each other.  I look at larger families and know that my kids will have the love of many and they'll never be alone.  I look ahead to the future and see the immense amount of love...and I can't help but smile and feel completely blessed.

Life is definitely good.

Have you worn your baby today?

Me with my daughter (then 4) and my son (then 6 months).

A friend on Facebook posted this link: Baby Carrier Industry Alliance

And since I'm all for Babywearing, I figured I jump into the mix with a blog of babywearing of my own!

In the 8 years I've been a parent, I have tried many slings, carriers, etc.  I have two, out of the dozens that I have tried, that I highly recommend.

The first one is the Moby Wrap.  I love this wrap.  I'm using it in the above photo.  It's everything I want and nothing I don't.  I wraps around my body and my baby so securely, so snugly, so perfectly that it's hard not to fall in love with it immediately.  My only dislike about this wrap is the back carry.  I could not get my boys to stay on my back while I wrapped them in, but also because my boys were constantly up and down.  For them, as infants, the Moby was a life saver.  But once they became a part of the mobility crowd, the Moby did not fit my needs, as well.

So, then I found the Ergo Carrier.  This is perfect for the back carry.  I would just "swing" my kids up onto my back, pull the staps up and go.  In fact, it worked perfectly with the Moby.  How?  Because when I had my boys, they were 18 months apart.  I would wrap myself and my newborn in the Moby.  Then I would put my toddler on my back and pull up the Ergo (I wish I could find a picture of this...I know I have one somewhere).  There were times we were out (myself and my 3 kids) and both boys would be sleeping (the Ergo has a "sleep hood" where you pull it over the sleeping child's head and it keeps their head from falling back) and I was still able to be out and about with my daughter.  Now, I do have to say this:  I did not like the Ergo for a newborn.  Even with the infant insert.  Why?  I always felt that it allows too much "slouch".  Baby couldn't really be supported as well, I felt, as the Moby--which would wrap them and keep them from slouching down.  So, I only used the Ergo for when they could sit up on their own and were mobile.  But, I do have friends who swear by it for the entire time a sling/carrier is needed.  Preference, but it's completely safe either way and it just depends on how you feel with the carrier vs. a wrap.

For myself, personally, the Moby and the Ergo are all that is needed.  Now, some people prefer the Mei Tai (not to be confused with the drink).  I did try this carrier and while it was good, it just wasn't for me.  Although I do know a lot of people who prefer the Mei Tai over the Ergo (again, preference).

Still, there are others who prefer the Ring Sling.  I tried this sling and it just wasn't as comfortable for me to use.  I tend to prefer carriers that distribute weight evenly across my back and shoulders.  Obviously, with the ring sling, one shoulder will take the weight.  This always caused my back to feel "off"...so this sling ended up in the donation pile.

Of course, no sling/wrap/carrier is safe if you do not use it properly. And there are some slings that just are not safe (remember the Infantino Sling Rider?).  Just because a carrier/sling/wrap gets a lot of "stars" online, doesn't mean it's a great sling.  You have to try the slings on yourself and make sure you are comfortable with the safety and comfort of the sling (and keep in mind that whatever carrier/sling/wrap you decide on should keep the baby upright and fully supported without "hiding" their face).

Not all carriers are alike.  And not every great carrier is great for everyone.  More and more stores are carrying a variety of carriers (I noticed that Babies R Us is now carrying the Moby Wrap and Ergo in addition to the BabyBjorn).  Use this to your advantage!  Really try them out and see how they work for you.  Most stores have a 30 day return policy, so you can take your choice home, try it out in "real life situations" and see if it works for you.  If you cannot do this, Craigslist always has a bunch of Ergos and Moby Wraps for sale (please do not buy "knock-offs" from anyone, as their safety cannot be ensured).  Ask around in your community and see if there is a local babywearing mom who will help you.  I remember when I had my 2nd, so many people commented on the Moby Wrap and were genuinely interested in it.  There were numerous times I actually unwrapped myself and my baby and let the other mom try it on with her child (and several times I saw the same mom a few weeks later with the wrap).

The next issue I wanted to touch on was the statement that slings "reduce the incidence of PPD in mothers".  I'll make a very short comment on this, since I do have personal experience here (which I blogged about here).  Babywearing didn't do that for me.  I still got a full blown case of PPD (in my case, it was more aptly named PPTSD).  HOWEVER, I will say that because I was so adamant about babywearing, I believe that I held my 2nd child (and 3rd) MORE even though I had PPD/PPTSD.  More than I would have if I wasn't babywearing.  I can imagine the stress my little guy was going through during that time and I hope that wearing him and keeping him close to me, despite my issues, helped give him a sense of love and closeness that I was, otherwise, unable to give him at the time.  So, while I disagree that babywearing can prevent or reduce PPD, I do believe that babywearing can help during PPD.

Babywearing is very important.  It keeps your baby close and warm (just like they want to be) and allows you to still do what you need to do.  Despite what a lot of people say, you cannot hold a baby too much.  It does not prevent them from being independent--all of my kids were worn as much as possible and they are all very, very independent.  In fact, I believe it helps with their independence as long as the parent respects when the child wants to get down and explore and when they want to be held.  Babywearing instills that sense of safety that a child cannot get from being in an infant seat or stroller, and while those items do have their place, I believe that babies really need to be held close to the ones who love them.  Everyone can successfully wear their baby and I think that most people who do, will find that it agrees with their lifestyle pretty well (we can keep doing most of the adult stuff we need to do and still hold and cuddle our bundles of joy).  But the thing I love the most about babywearing (well, besides the closeness)?  I don't have to cart a stroller around.  Frees up the trunk and is more easily maneuverable.

Overall, I really do believe that babywearing makes for a happier parent and a happier baby/child.  What better way to keep you little one close while still having 2 hands to do the things you need to do?  :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Formula is good for...beetles??

It's true!  At least in the case of Similac!!

The latest debacle was Similac and its formulas that could contain bug parts or bug larvae.  The consumers were "reassured" that ingesting this formula, even if it was tainted, would not cause harm.

I have to whole-heartedly disagree here.  Do they mean to tell me that a newborn who has a "new" digestive system is not going to get sick off of these bugs parts/larvae?  Well, there have been numerous reports of babies getting sick!  "Mild gastrointestinal distress" sounds like no big deal, right?  Until you know what it's like to be up all night with a baby who is suffering from such a mild discomfort.  And if a parent has been feeding the contaminated lot for several days and this is on-going...well, no fun for the parents or the babies.

According to Abbot Laboratories, 99.8% of the lot was uncontaminated/unaffected.  But, the recall affects 5 MILLION containers.  And if 99.8% if them were fine...that's still 10,000 CONTAMINATED containers.  While the number doesn't sound very high, that's about 10,000 families/babies who were using contaminated formula (including hospitals).  

Why did it take Similac one week to notify everyone.?  But my other question would be more along the lines of: why are they releasing such an important product without testing the lot prior to distribution to verify its safety?

Even if you are not a formula feeding parent, you should be outraged at this.  There shouldn't be "well, that's why you should breastfeed...".  It should be outrage and supporting your local representatives, etc to crack down on manufacturers of baby formula to have tighter, more strict, quality control.

Get on top of your congressperson and state representative and make sure that the formula companies do not buy their way out of this.  And be sure to keep an ear out for a response to the Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's letter to Similac.  He gave them until October 7th to respond.

Do not let the formula companies get away with this.  If you formula feed and you did not get a tainted lot, you should still protest this.  There are far too many babies out there who depend on the sustenance of formula to ignore this problem.

You can make a difference, but you have to speak up.  There is a Facebook page dedicated to this and a New Orleans mom who has begun a class-action lawsuit against Similac (and Sam's Club).

Have you purchased Similac and need to know if the lot you purchased was affected?  Here is a list of the lot numbers that were recalled:  Similac Recalled Lot Numbers

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Didn't you have that baby, yet?

Well, if you're looking at someone who is extremely pregnant, I would venture to say no.  LOL

How many times have we had someone call every day and ask if we've gone into labor the moment we hit 38-40 weeks (if this is your first pregnancy, it will happen)?  "Weren't you do on x date?"  Is usually the question you hear the most.  But, so is, "Wow, you're really late!"  But, you're probably not, and this is why:

We have all been taught that the Estimated Due Date (EDD) is 40 weeks from your last menstrual cycle.  This "figure" is based upon a 28 day cycle.  And we all know that every single woman ovulates at exactly the same time every month and that no one's cycle is longer than 28 days.

Or is it?

The reason that the 28 day cycle was used is because it is the 'average'.  Some cycles go longer and some not that long, but it looked like a pretty "even" number.  The doctors in the old days used this to give a general idea of when a woman could possibly go into labor.  Most women go into labor, naturally, between 38 and 42 weeks.  But, as time has gone on modern medicine has decided that if a baby was not born by 40 weeks, it meant that the child could die, the placenta would deteriorate, etc...all of those fun, encouraging things they tell a mom they want to induce/section.

Now, my cycle is *about* 32 days.  I track it pretty good, it's been pretty dependable and it does change every couple of years.  But, on average, it's 32 days.  Every single one of my babies was born late.  My oldest was born at 43 weeks (induced), my 2nd was born at 41 weeks and 3 days, and my 3rd was born at 43 weeks.  My younger kids were spontaneous (they came when they were ready).  My oldest was induced because of a ripped bag.  But, this made the doctors all too happy as they were trying to induce me right at 40 weeks.

Now, the kids are all very, very healthy.  There were no complications with any of them (the placenta was in great shape for all of them).

The estimated due date is just that...an estimate.  So, the next time you go to your doctor and he/she starts hassling you about inducing, just smile and nod and then leave.  Most homebirth doctors/midwives will not even consider inducing before 42 weeks (43 at the latest).  In fact, even ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) states that doctors should not be interfering in normal, uncomplicated pregnancies before 42 weeks is up.

But, the fact remains that the baby's lungs are the last vital organ to develop.  Since everyone needs their lungs to be developed as much as possible, isn't it best to allow your body to tell you when everything is a go?  Let's face it...if there were problems that necessitate an earlier induction, you would do it.  But, if they check on baby and heartrate is fine, amniotic fluid is fine, placenta looks/sounds good and everything is still a go...do you really think it necessary to be induced just because of your due date?

Not every baby needs to be born at 40 weeks.  Not every mom will go into labor within 40 weeks.  You do have the right to know WHY the doctors are pushing for induction.  Is the baby showing signs of distress (low heartbeat, etc)?   If so, then maybe induction is best.  But, if there are no "distressed" signs (as was in my case with my oldest), then it may be better to allow baby to come on its own.

For more information on the EDD (and why it's not the "do or die" date), see here and here.  :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Delayed Cord Clamping and Why You Should Do It

I was talking to a friend who is due any time now and she said that during her last visit (last week) her doctor mentioned that they do not "infuse" the baby (some refer to it as "transfuse"), it's not their procedure and it takes too much time.  She asked me what the doctor was talking about.

Infusion is when you birth the baby and then allow the placenta to transfer the remainder of the blood within it to the baby.  This accomplishes a couple of very important things (from Midwife's Thinking Blog):
  • Provides the extra blood volume needed for the heart to direct 50% of it’s output to the lungs (8% before birth). This extra blood fills the capillaries in the lungs making them expand to provide support for the alveoli to open. It also aids lung fluid clearance from the alveoli. These changes allow the baby to breath effectively.
  • Increases the number of circulating red blood cells which carry oxygen. This increases the baby’s capacity to send oxygen around the body.
You can see how important this is...especially if a baby is born by C-Section (well, at any time).  During natural birth, the baby is massaged through the birth canal.  This helps expel any fluids in the lungs to prepare the baby to breathe oxygen.  During a C-Section, this does not occur and the fluid needs to be manually removed, but the massaging action also stimulates the baby's body, increasing the blood flow.  By prematurely clamping/cutting the cord it prevents the baby from getting even more of what he/she needs to breathe effectively outside of the womb.  It's easy to see why so many C-Section babies are NICU'ed for respiratory issues.

If you need something to take review on your way to the doctor's for this conversation, see these websites/articles:


For those of you who prefer actual scientific studies, see "Delayed Cord Clamping" on the Birth Balance Blog.

And watch this video with Dr. Stuart Fischbein.

You can insist on infusion in the hospital.  This is not illegal and it is not against the rules of the hospital.  It is simply a way for the doctor to be done with the birth faster, although waiting an extra few minutes will make no big difference to the doctor/nurses and a whole lot of difference to the baby (unless, of course, there is an emergency to deal with). 

This is something that needs to be discussed with your doctor/care provider in advance.  So, make sure this topic is covered.  Print up the importance to the baby for infusion and talk it over with your doctor.  Most midwives will, however, do infusions, as they prefer to wait until the body is ready and are not on a "time crunch".  It is still important to discuss this no matter who is going to attend your birth.

You have every right to demand that your baby be allowed to benefit from the infusion or that the placenta is allowed to stop pulsing on it's own before the cord is clamped and cut. 
An extra few minutes after birth is a short time to wait to ensure your baby has as much as they need to begin the first moments of their lives. 

Besides, you'll never notice the time because you'll be too busy admiring the beautiful baby in your arms.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Postpartum Depression...it's not just an excuse.



If you have had a traumatic event in relation to your birth, please seek help.  There is help available and you do not have to "heal alone".  You can visit this website or this website for more information, or you can contact your midwife/OB/healthcare provider for some referrals to help you deal with the event.  Whatever you do, you do not have to do it alone.


Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: "PPTSD is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth, and symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event." --from www.postpartum.net

I've been finding a lot of discussions about PPD (postpartum depression) and thought that, since it's something I have personal experience in, I should write about this.

The homebirth of my 2nd child was very easy and I have no regrets about it.  I did end up having issues with delivering the placenta and the events that ensued to get that done were nothing short of extremely traumatic (both physically and emotionally).  Even though I can not remember a lot about what happened, I still "feel" it.  They occasionally come up unexpectedly every once in a while.

When I was first recovering from my labor/delivery, no one told my husband, my family, or myself that I should probably look for someone to talk to about the trauma.  I mean, I was physically ok.  I felt tired, but ok.  As the weeks went on, I couldn't snap out of my funk.  I had trouble getting out of bed, took all of my effort to get into the shower, on a good day I would brush my teeth and put some clothes on.  A lot of people wrote off the lethargy as recovering from a very difficult after birth, being a mom to two kids, on and on...but no one ever thought depression, much less PPTSD (honestly?  No one even knew about this).  Even my husband thought I was a "little depressed", but I now had a newborn and a pre-schooler to take care of and he thought that I would eventually "snap out of it".  But, the truth is that I felt numb.  I felt "dead".  I could feel feelings, but I didn't feel connected. 

The thing about PPTSD (and most other forms of PPD) is that it sneaks up on you.  You don't realize you have it.  You feel depressed, lethargic, angry, annoyed, irritated...but it is usually not so bad that you say, "Hey, that's not a normal response...I must have some PPD or PPTSD."  It gradually gets worse.  As time goes on and the memories or feelings sit inside longer, the depression, anger, irritability and fear set deeper and deeper.  You hit a "comfort zone" within the depression and then just keep going deeper.

I was pretty good at "hiding" my depression for a few months (although I didn't consider it hiding anything and thought it was more of "acting normal").  As my emotions became more and more suppressed, it became harder and harder to do.  I was angry at everyone...and no one.  I was sad about everything...and nothing.  I wanted to die, but I didn't want to leave my kids.  I remember sitting by myself, late at night, and trying to imagine how my kids would turn out if they didn't have me around anymore.  My temper was boiling over and lightening quick.  I was irritable, unpredictable...and just not myself.

I remember days where my 2nd child would be crying and I just couldn't bring myself to really comfort him.  I would hold him, but I just couldn't "connect" and soothe him.  I remember one night when my son kept waking up crying...I was so mad that he kept waking me up.  I was so mad that I left the room (he was about 7 months old at the time) shaking.  My husband got him and comforted him, not understanding why I left him alone in the room crying by himself.  I couldn't bring myself to tell him how angry I was at him, how guilty I felt for being so angry with a him...an innocent baby.  How badly I wanted to not be a mom anymore.

There was something eating away at me, and although I could feel it--this numbing sensation, I could not stop it and could not pinpoint where it was coming from.  I couldn't explain it.  How do you explain something that you do not understand?  I could not even put the words to what I was feeling.  I wanted to feel close to my son and I wanted to cuddle him and snuggle him...but I just could not connect.  I wanted these things, but I felt too numb to feel them.

It was soon after this that my nightmares started.  They were few and far between at first (the first few months...from about the time my 2nd was 8 or 9 months old).  However, at this time, I had found out that I was pregnant with my 3rd child.  I think it just made my depression worse.  The nightmares happened every couple of weeks, and so I just wrote them off as "hormonal".  It was enough to upset me, but not enough to "scare" me.

It was hard for me to deal with the kids at that point.  I just wanted them to leave and leave me alone.  I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.  I felt this way, but I didn't know why I felt this way.  I would keep thinking the same thoughts over and over to keep myself from thinking about dying, running away, or from remembering the pain.  "Pick up DD from school" was typical for the morning so I wouldn't forget to get my daughter from her pre-school.  "Change baby's diapers, nurse him, put him down for a nap."  Thinking the same thoughts over and over were the only things to keep me moving at that point.  It was the only way to keep my mind from going over the pain of my afterbirth.  As soon as I stopped thinking inane thoughts, it would come flooding back.  And I never remembered the details...I remembered the pain, the fear, the uncertainty, the numbness, the disconnect...but never the details.

One night, I was about 8 months pregnant (my 2nd child was about 16 months old), I had the most disturbing dream where I jolted out of bed in the cold sweats.  In my dream, I had just had a baby and a few weeks afterward, I literally exploded like a bomb.  I remember standing there and I kept hearing this ticking noise.  The closer my children got to me, the louder the ticking got.  They got to me and wanted me to hug them and the ticking stopped and I exploded and the explosion killed all of my kids.  It scared me to the core of my being and it scared me enough to wake my husband up and tell him that there was something seriously wrong with me.  That something was not right.

A few days later, we came into contact with the woman who, literally, saved my life.  Her name was Ellen and she was a retiring Homeopathic Doctor.  I originally took my 2nd child to see her due to some chronic congestion and we got to talking about my depression and what had happened.  It was at that point that I realized just how bad it was getting.  I had no life, I let go of all of my friends because I just didn't have the energy to "keep up the facade", my children were never sure of which mom they would get at any given time (angry, sad, sleepy, etc).  It was no way to live.  Not for anyone.

She got me started on homeopathic remedies for helping put my hormones back into balance (stress, depression, etc. all alter hormone balances) as well as helping me clean up my diet even more.  I talked with her whenever I had questions about which homeopathic remedy was needed.  As I began to take the remedies, and I finally released some of the fear/anger/etc. that I was holding on to, it was then that I saw that there was a different way.  A different life that I was slowly shrinking from.  I had the option of going down farther into my depths of despair or breaking the comfort zone and moving upwards, again.  As much as I had problems with moving upwards, it's really where I wanted to be going. 

I also started doing EFT (emotional freedom technique).  I saw an EFT practitioner and he helped me release a lot of the fear/anger/frustration/etc. that had been building up inside for so long.  The days seemed brighter and the kids seemed more relax and I felt alive, again.  I felt like I was getting back to the person I used to be.  I still have my depressed days, but they are happening less and less.

I know that I cannot look back and wish it was different because there is nothing that I can do about it.  It happened and all I can do is make sure that I am aware of my state of mind, my state of being, and making sure that I am the best person/mother I can be.  I have to be aware that I am communicating with those around me, especially when I start to feel uncomfortable/angry/fearful/numb.  I strive to remember that I am not alone and that there are others around me who are willing to help, but I have to ask.  I do not have to sacrifice myself and it does no one any good when I do that.  I am human and not perfect and I cannot strive for perfection, but I can strive to be better tomorrow than I am today or was yesterday.

Before I went through this, I used to think that mothers who suffered PPD (includes Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Postpartum Psychosis) were just using it as an excuse (ie. Andrea Yates).  "How could you not know this?  How could those closest to the mother not see this?  She must be lying because someone who is "that bad" could not have possibly hidden it for so long..."

But, from my own experiences, the demons and the feelings are all inside.  By the time they bubble up enough for people to see anything, the PPD is much more serious than realized.  I believe I was truly lucky that I had the dream I had and that it shook me to my core; it made me really realize that whatever I was feeling/doing/thinking...it was not taking me in the direction I wanted to go.  I realized that something was very, very wrong.  I see, now, how strongly and severely it can affect someone...all while those who love them the most don't realize it...don't see it because there is, really, nothing to see.  And when the depression/psychosis hits after the arrival of a baby, most of the "symptoms" are written off as normal due to lack of sleep, etc.

I think it should be required that any close family member (hopefully as many as possible) are given a check list of what to look for in depression (and not just assume that they will "seek help if they need it").  It's that change that the loved one thinks something is wrong, but are not sure.  Those are the times when someone needs to come in and talk with the mother.  Especially for mothers who have a traumatic birth experience.  Having a traumatic birth experience does not mean the mother had a bad doctor, or the labor was horrendous--although that most certainly can be the case.  It means that, for whatever reason, the mother felt traumatized.   That trauma needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Taking it a step further, it's important to make sure that the mother has a constant stream of support.  A network into which she can depend on/tap into when she needs the help.  People who just are there because they want to be and can be.  It does take a village to raise a child.  But raising a child is not solely dependent upon teaching that child or nurturing that child.  It is also lending a hand to the parents of the child, nurturing and supporting the parents.

There are people out there who fulfill this role (postpartum doulas, midwives, etc.) and other individuals.  If you feel that something is wrong, it is always, always better to look into it and deal with it immediately than hope it will get better.  Baby blues (the "downs" after a baby is born due to a drastic drop in hormones, etc) is normal for the first several days after a baby is born, but if the mother is still feeling the blues more than a few weeks or so later it is strongly advised to seek professional help.  While some of the depression issues can be handled by balancing the hormonal, vitamin and mineral levels, some of the issue is probably emotional and needs to be dealt with accordingly, as well.  You do not need to take prescription drugs to deal with depression, but it does need to be dealt with.  In my case, I was able to deal with the depression by using homeopathic/naturopathic means.  I know of some others who have used prescription drugs.  It does not matter how you work through the depression, it's just important to do so.

There is a great article in the current Mothing Magazine ("Beating the Baby Blues" in the September/October issue) about Depression.  Its main focus is that breastfeeding helps mothers overcome PPD, due to the hormones released and the closeness they get with the baby, even if they are depressed.  Breastfeeding moms are more apt to hold their baby more/longer (even when not breastfeeding) than formula feeding moms (who are depressed).  I do like this article because it also lists "breastfeeding safe" medications based upon studies done by a doctor who has explicitly tested all types of drugs for this very issue (for more information, please visit Breastfeeding Online)

In our current society, most new moms are sent home from the hospital (or visited at a homebirth) after a few days...and everything "goes back to normal".  But, the new mom needs a lot of support (regardless if it's her 1st child or her 4th).  I know that was my downfall.  People had assumed that since I'd "been there, done that", I didn't need much help.  But, I had more than just newborn demands on my time, I also had a very active preschooler.

The best help for a new mom is listening...do not offer advice, do not tell her how she can do things better (unless she's asking), but just let her vent...about her birth, her breastfeeding issues, housework, husband, the baby crying/not crying/too many wet diapers/not enough...whatever.  Let her get all of that off her chest.  And then ask her what she would like to have help with and do whatever you can to help her.  I know one friend whose family members all pitched in to have the house cleaned once a week (and paid extra to make sure dishes were washed) for a full 2 months.  Each family member also brought over homemade foods that could be used that night and stored for later use (and they also helped stock the freezer with foods before she gave birth, as well).

PPD (and all of the disorders that fall beneath it) is a very serious issue.  It does need to be addressed and the best way to do that is by ensuring that the new mom has the help she needs.  We all love to dote on and cuddle the new baby and, very frequently, we forget about the mom.  Next time you visit a new mom, let her keep the baby and offer to do something for her...whether it's a load of laundry, dishes or cooking her a nutritious meal/snack.  It could even be taking the older kids (if she has any) to the park or outside for the day.  She doesn't necessarily need help taking care of the baby, but she is going to need help taking care of herself.

Postpartum Depression comes in all shapes and sizes.  If you or someone you know is concerned about PPD, please seek the help of a qualified professional.  You do not have to do this alone.

For more information about PPD, please visit this website. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Shock of the Twins

So, a few months ago, my husband and I agreed that we were done having kids.  My husband was making arrangements to take one for the team and I spent my days getting rid of all our baby stuff, all the maternity clothes, everything.

Of course, within a few weeks of having given away the very last item, I started to feel pregnant.  I told my husband that we were going to have a 4th child joining us and while we were a bit shocked, we settled into the thought of a bigger family.  A couple weeks later, I started having heavy bleeding and cramping (which I never get) and so I figured that the pregnancy was just not meant to be.  I bled for 5 days--although I noticed that there were really no clots/tissue/etc.  I decided that it was probably forthcoming and I would just need to relax and "allow the process".  But, the bleeding stopped...and my belly grew.  At this point, I was concerned that there may be something wrong, so I booked an appointment with my OB and went in almost a week later (knowing that if any other changes were to happen--severe cramping, fever, etc. it was ER time).

I had a blood test done and the doctor said, "Are you sure you had a miscarriage?  Your HcG levels are still really high...and are you sure about your last menstrual cycle?"  I assured her that there was no way it was implantation bleeding (it was way too heavy, went on for too long and was accompanied by a lot of cramps)...and yes, my LMC was right on.

So, she sent me to the hospital to get an ultrasound.  Since I had to schedule with the hospital, it took another week to get an appointment.  By this time, it had been almost 3 weeks since my bleeding and my belly grew more and I figured I had a vanishing twin.

On the morning of my appointment, I checked in and went into the Ultrasound room.  I laid down on the table, endured the freezing cold gel on my belly and looked at the screen.  I about fainted when the tech asked if I knew I was carrying twins.  TWINS?  I started crying, "But, I already have 3 kids...how am I going to deal with twins?"  She looked at me and smiled and said, "Hey, they look pretty good to me."  And then I told her about the bleeding and the cramping.  I could have sworn it was a miscarriage.  How could there still be twins?  Is it possible to have all that bleeding and cramping and not miscarry either one?  She didn't really know the answer...until....

She was measuring the twins (to tell gestational age) and came across a 3rd sac.  Yes, a 3rd.  It was misshapen and she looked at me and said, "Well, it is possible there were 3 and you actually did have a miscarriage.  This is a sac of fluid...it's not as big as the other ones, but you said you had the bleeding and cramping about 3 weeks ago..."

I couldn't even say anything.  Triplets.  All 3 in their own, individual sacs.  What are the odds?  On one hand, I was sad to lose one...a miscarriage is not easy.  But, on the other hand, I was suddenly relieved I "only" had twins.  It's amazing at how a change in circumstances changes your perspective.

So, yes, now...we have 3 beautiful children (8, 3 1/2, and 2) and are having 2 more beautiful children (due in January 2011).  It'll be a full house, but at least we won't be bored--although I must admit that it took a couple months for me to not feel so overwhelmed and to start getting excited about the twins.  And, yes, my husband is seizing the moment and getting fixed soon so we won't have to have another shock like this next year.  :)

I do plan on having a homebirth for my twins.  I am not above getting a C-Section if needed, as I know twin births can have a higher incidence of something going wrong.  But, I am fully preparing for a  homebirth...I'll deal with the rest later.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Down-side of Epidurals

"Epidural analgesia is one of the most striking examples of the medicalization of normal birth, transforming a physiological event into a medical procedure."
World Health Organization

*Please note that I have gathered my information from numerous sites/sources and have them all listed/linked at the end of this blog.  If you have any questions, please let me know.  Thank you.*

Epidurals became more widely used by laboring women in the 1970s. 

Nowadays, the number of women who request epidurals for their labors are compounding yearly.  In 1975, 20% of laboring women were using Epidurals.  Today, almost 80% of women rely on Epidurals for pain relief.

Let's take a look at the side effects, to the mom, from the Epidurals:
  • Hinders the body's ability to release Oxytocin.  This natural occurring hormone in the body helps the uterus contract.  Most women who get an epidural will also need the synthetic form of Oxytocin, called Pitocin.
  • Along with the hindering Oxytocin comes the risk of "preventing" the mom to bond with baby after birth.  Oxytocin is called the "Love Hormone" and in natural birth, the body is flooded with this hormone, helping the mom bond with her baby. With epidural use, this is hindered.
  • Hinders/prevents the body from releasing other hormones called catecholamines.  These hormones are normally released during times of stress (and not just in laboring women).  These hormones are what give you that "final rush" or renewed strength to push at the end of labor.  With the epidural hindering the body's release of these catecholamines, laboring women often need assistance to birth their babies (from vacuum/forceps extraction to C-Sections).
  • Postpartum Urinary/Bowel Dysfunction is when the mom loses the ability to control her bladder/bowel movements.  This can last anywhere from a few hours to a few months.
  • Uncontrolled shivering is a very common side effect (and reported to be very uncomfortable).
  • Loss of perineal sensation and sexual function.
  • Postpartum Backache which can last for months or even years.
There are other, more serious side effects (though rare) that should still be taken into consideration:
  • Epidural abscess is when a pus pocket is formed between the outer membrane of the spinal cord and the bones of the spine. 
  • Meningitis or MRSA
  • Blood clots are rare, but can pose a big problem if the clot travels (heart/lungs/brain).
  • Drop in blood pressure.  This happens with the administration of epidurals in almost half of the women who receive it.  Having the blood pressure drop can cause fetal distress due to an inadequate oxygen supply (via blood/placenta) but also can cause respiratory issues for mom and baby and sometimes even cardiac arrest.
  • Urinary Retention is an issue during labor for several reasons: having a bladder that becomes too full will hinder the dilation of the cervix and the rotation of the baby's head (in natural birth, the mom has frequent urges to empty her bladder for this reason).  A full bladder also increases the risks of mom having a bladder and/or urinary tract infection after birth.  In order to prevent the risks of an over-filled bladder, a catheter will be inserted when the epidural is administered.
  • Increase the chances that your upper body will feel itchy.  Women who have this side effect are given the option of taking another drug to combat the itchiness.
  • Nausea/Vomiting is extremely common with epidurals.  It does not, however, usually last long.  You may be given a drug to combat the nausea, but the side effect of most anti-nausea drugs is drowsiness.
  • Fever is not as common (only affects about 15% of all women who get epidurals) but the risks increase the longer the epidural is being utilized.  Epidurals hinder the body's ability to sweat (which is very common in naturally laboring moms) and sweat is the body's way of releasing excess body heat.  The danger to the excess heat is that it adds more stress to the baby.  This may cause the baby's heart rate to fluctuate and become erratic, increasing the odds that a C-Section is needed.  Most moms who get an epidural induced fever are also given antibiotics to prevent infection.  Fevers during labor may also prompt the medical team to give the baby antibiotics (and possibly a stay in the NICU).
  • Inability to effectively move around.  This is true in 100% of epidural cases and this can hinder the natural processes of labor, increasing the odds of needing birth assistance (vacuum/forceps) and/or an emergency C-Section.
  • Spinal headache is reported in about 10% of epidural uses.  Some spinal headaches can be mild and some spinal headaches can be debilitating (where you must stay laying down and prevent yourself from any sudden movements).  These spinal headaches can last a few hours, weeks, and in some rare cases, months.
  • Some studies have shown that there is an increased risk with postpartum hemorrhaging with the use of an epidural.  A British study found that epidural use almost doubled the chance of having postpartum hemorrhaging.
There are other very rare, but very serious side effects that can happen, including:
  • Allergic shock due to sensitivity to epidural medications.
  • Cardiac Arrest due to a sudden drop in blood pressure (which will also affect the baby).
  • Convulsions
  • Respiratory paralysis
  • Death
A big concern of mine was the possible side effects on a newborn baby.  While I have not been able to find many studies on the effects of an epidural on a newborn, "it has been noted that possible problems to the newborn are rapid breathing during the first few hours of life and vulnerability to low blood sugar." (Wikipedia).

Despite women being constantly reassured of the "safety" of epidurals, very few woman are given the possible side effects of epidurals.  If you read over the list and decide that the epidural is still your choice to help with birth pain, at least you are making an informed decision.  I do wonder, though, of all the women who are made aware of the possible side effects, how many would have still chosen an epidural.

There are other ways of managing labor pains.  The vast majority of labor pains can be managed through movement (walking, squatting, rocking, etc) and through guided visualizations/meditations.  When you learn to listen to your body and desired positioning, the "pain" factor diminishes immensely.  It has been proven that practiced visualizations and meditations also help to calm/quiet the mind enough to allow the laboring mom to go through the contractions without "fighting" the contraction.  The more relaxed the rest of the muscles of the body are, the more easily the uterus can contract effectively and less painfully.

There are other, drug-free, alternatives to pain management in child birth.  Did you know that dehydration and hunger increase the pain of childbirth?  This is why it is so important that laboring mothers are drinking plenty of fluids and eating when she desires.

Epidurals can be a very useful tool for emergency procedures, but there are very real risks to using an epidural.  The more you know about the possible side effects of epidurals; the more you know about alternative pain management during labor, the more informed your choice can be when it comes time to make the choice. 

Please note that I may not have included all possible risks and encourage you to do more research into the risks of an epidural.

Monday, August 30, 2010

From the beginning

I became a big advocate for natural birth with the birth of my first child almost 8 years ago.  I had her in a hospital and I felt that, while I had a natural birth, it could have been "better".  I didn't care for the care I got (although, it was great care).  I felt that I was being herded in, measured and rushed out--always reminded that the doctor who took the most "care" of me would probably not deliver my baby.  My doctor never really spent a lot of time with me and when I made it known that I was working towards a natural birth, I got "the look", a chuckle and the reassurance that "only 20% of new moms can have a completely natural birth.  Most give up and want the epidural or other drugs to deal with the pain."  That turned me off really fast...but it was too late to change doctors and at the time, I didn't know there were other options.  Everyone I knew got pregnant, went to an OB, went into labor, went to the hospital and had the baby.  I didn't know about home births, or midwives.  Honestly, I didn't even think to look.

I was finally induced at 43 weeks (although the doctors of the practice took turns telling me what a horrible mom I was for not inducing at 40 weeks, I'd have a dead baby, etc) with Pitocin, I actually cried.  Everything I had read about Pitocin ended in two words: Cesarean Section.  This was not what I wanted and honestly, it's not what I prepared for.  I spent months preparing for natural birth and I was determined to have a natural birth.

I was induced at 5:00pm and had my daughter at 4:01am.  Despite the constant interruptions from the nurses, the anesthesiologist and the super strong Pitocin contractions, I did give natural birth.  But, when it was all said and done, I felt more exhausted by the constant interruptions from the hospital staff than I did from the labor.

The one thing I realized throughout this whole process is the importance of having someone who is supportive of your goal.  Someone to run interference with the unnecessary interruptions (if you are hospital birthing) or someone to give you a pep talk, rub your back, help you relax.  In the end, it really does not matter who fulfills that role.  Your husband, a doula, a midwife, your mom/sister/aunt/uncle.  You need someone who is committed to your ultimate goal.  My husband ran interference for me, as much as possible, in the hospital.  He turned the lights on and off as I wanted, same with the CD.  When I wanted to get out of the bed (I was hooked up to an IV line for the Pitocin) he helped me maneuver around with that.  He was there to rub my back during my massive back labor, he rubbed my shoulders, got me food (yes, food and the doctor was not happy about that, LOL) and whatever I wanted to drink.  He was up with me the entire time, doing whatever I needed.  We practiced the Bradley Method for months together and he would help me with the visualizations and meditations; help me to relax my mind enough to let my body do what it needed, and knew how, to do.  Natural birth is not easy, but it is doable, especially if you have someone who believes in you, your body's ability to birth, and has practiced your birth method (Lamaze, Bradley Method, Hypnobabies, etc) continuously for a few months.

It was after this experience that I realized that there had to be more to birth than what I experienced.  In my mind, natural birth is when the people in supporting roles realize that this process happens naturally and they fully support it.  They do not tell the laboring mom how she's going to be begging for drugs later; they give her different positions to help relieve the pain.  They do not confine her to the bed and tell her not to move around; they encourage movement and water and help when she needs it.  They do not constantly interrupt her to take her pulse, ask how she's doing; they learn to watch for the signs and cues.  They can do this because they've come to know the mother; she's become a person to them, someone they want to support and not just some number on the obstetrical chart.

I felt that the births I've always wanted were what I got when I had my homebirths.  My midwives knew who I was and when they needed to lend an encouraging word.  They helped support my husband in his supporting role of me.  They didn't give me a schedule of labor, they let everything run it's course all while keeping tabs on the baby by listening without disruption.

I have had all 3 of my children naturally, and while each birth taught me something more about myself, the one thing it has consistently cemented into my mind and my heart is that, as a society, we need to support laboring moms and the natural process of birth.  I do believe that C-Sections are an important part of the equation, but there are very few reasons to have a true emergency C-Section.  If we can get to the point where women have a choice of where to birth and have the support to birth naturally in any setting, then that is when the overall maternity care in this country will go from abysmally bad to good.  

No one should have to fight for the right to have a natural birth...in a hospital setting or outside of it.