Epidurals: Not so Horrible After All?

I like to do things naturally, really. I like natural food, natural medicine, natural cleansers, natural births. But epidurals… well I really like epidurals. I’ve given birth three times and gladly taken the epidural each time. And every time I hear something about how awful it is to subject your body and your baby to the pain-numbing pleasure of an epidural… well, I just kind of ignore it.

So I’m rather pleased to read The Truth about epidurals by ,which relates that “concerns voiced by natural birthers are exaggerated.” And that’s a relief, because I’ve been really concerned that I was missing out on something, as I dozed through my contractions.

Ms. Moyer enumerates some of the main concerns that have been voiced about epidurals:

  • Epidurals and other pain-relieving drugs contribute to the over-medicalization of motherhood. They argue that such treatments create a snowball effect, necessitating additional interventions and intrusions: IVs, synthetic oxytocin to speed up the labor process, catheters, blood pressure monitors, and electronic fetal monitors.
  • Epidurals make it more difficult for women to push when it comes time to deliver.
  • Epidurals lengthen labor.
  • Epidurals’ numbing effects on pelvic muscles increases the risk of cesarean section, a surgery entailing a long recovery, risk for post-op infection or hernia, and future pregnancy complications.
  • Epidurals prevent newborns from suckling properly, which could impair nursing success.

After examining the available research, Ms. Moyer cuts down these popularly held beliefs. Epidurals today (which are different than those administered 20 years ago) do not impede a woman’s ability to push. Epidurals have been associated with c-sections, but not as a direct cause. One study showed that women with epidurals did, in fact, dilate more slowly and take longer to deliver, but they were no more likely to undergo C-sections than women who did not have drugs. You can read her article for a complete review of studies and findings.

So now I’ll throw in my personal experience for what it’s worth! My first birth was induced at 42 weeks. I took the epidural, pushed for about 5 minutes, and delivered a lovely, healthy baby who had no trouble nursing. My next two births were also aided by an epidural, and again I had no trouble pushing them out, and they also breastfed without any apparent side-effects. No C-sections, thank God, and no post-delivery complications. It is definitely possible that the epidurals lengthened my labor, but if you can’t feel the pain, does a little extra time matter?

I have great respect for women who birth naturally without any drugs at all. I still envy them a tiny bit. I kind of want to know what that feels like. But I’ll probably take an epidural again if given the choice.

feature image: Womenshealth.gov

Save a Bundle on Your Little Bundle!

How can something so tiny cost so much? New parents have been known to spend $4,500 and upward, for just the basics– a crib, mattress, and baby furniture, clothes, wipes, diapers, formula (if not nursing) and other miscellaneous items.

If you are looking for some ways to save– not skimp– on your baby, here are some tips to try!

http://images04.olx.com/ui/7/20/51/1286809290_127851951_3-Nursery-Decor-Baby-Gear-and-more-For-Babies-Infants-1286809290.jpg

feature image credit

1. Breastfeeding: It’s free, and it will save you $1,200 in formula costs! That’s big, but even more important is the fact that by breastfeeding you will pass along important immunities to fight diseases, as well as DHA/AA, two critically important fatty-acids that aid in mental and heart development. See www.LaLecheLeague.org for more information.

Total annual savings: $1,200

2. Formula: If you must bottle-feed, then by all means use store brand infant formulas – these milk and soy-based formulas made by Wyeth Nutritionals are sold by most major retailers under the store’s own proprietary name.  The FDA tightly regulates all infant formulas, and so all of the standard first year formulas are nutritionally equivalent. The only difference is the price! Store brand formulas sell for up to 40% less than the national brands. See Storebrandformulas.com for more information.

Total annual savings: $500

3. Clothes: Many parents spend $500 or more on their baby’s clothes. But if you wear your baby in a sling, no one will even know what he’s wearing!  Babies don’t care what designer label is in their clothes, but they do care to be worn close to their mother. Dr. Sears encourages all of his patients to wear their babies in specially design slings, which creates a special bond of trust between parent and child that actually enhances the mental development of a child. See www.attachmentparenting.com for more information!

Total annual savings: $250

4. Diapers and Wipes: Diapers and wipes can cost over $1,000 during the first year. Once again, you can save up to 30% by using store brand wipes and diapers.

Total annual savings: $300

5. Baby furniture: Stay out of high-end specialty baby shops that sell the latest crib, mattress set, and changing tables, where you will end up with a big bill and several weeks of waiting for your furniture. The best place to buy baby gear is at mass retailers where they sell a high volume of quality baby furniture that they stock at every store. As such, their margins are lower, saving parents a bundle.

Total potential savings: $500

5. Know what you DON’T need: Liz Pulliam Weston at MSN Money points out that many things that people buy for their baby are simply unnecessary. A second-hand, waist-high dresser works great in baby’s room, and can double as a changing table if you put a changing pad on top!  A simple willow basket inside the cabinet replaces a diaper stacker. One car seat and a base for each car is great instead of one car seat for each car. And those coordinated crib sets are cute but mostly useless- bumpers, pillows, and fluffy blankets are not recommended for infants!

6. Go with hand-me-downs! Family and friends may be a great source of baby clothes and other gear that’s free and still in near-perfect condition. You can also find clothes, name-brand strollers, toys and other baby gear for a fraction of the new price by shopping at consignment shops, thrift stores, and garage sales. Don’t worry about germs, just about anything can be thrown in the wash or sprayed with disinfecting cleaners.

7. Free entertainment: Parents.com points out that your local library can be a great source of free mommy-and-baby activity.  Some offer mom-and-baby yoga classes and weekly story time for pre-walkers, wooden puzzles and other toys, and, of course, lots of great books.


Hair Loss After Pregnancy

Although you may put “hair loss” and “pregnancy” together, it is usually after birth that women begin to notice their hair is falling out at a faster rate than usual. During pregnancy, on the contrary, a woman’s hair tends to be fuller and more luxurious than usual! If you are experiencing unusual hair loss during pregnancy, this may be due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

http://thedandruffcure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/beautiful-hair-style051.jpg

American Pregnancy explains that this condition actually has a name: Telogen effluvium is the excessive shedding of hair that occurs one to five months following pregnancy. It affects almost half of all childbearing women, but like most changes during pregnancy, it is temporary.

If you are concerned about thinning hair, American Pregnancy recommends a few things you can do to reduce hair loss after pregnancy:

feature image credit

The Case Against Planned Inductions

The last few weeks of your pregnancy are not “optional.” They are an important time for your baby’s development which should not be cut short by an early induction. If there are valid medical reasons for labor induction, your health-care provider will help you decide on the best course of action. But if you just want to schedule an induction for the sake of convenience or any other non-medical reason, here are some things to consider:

http://www.babyannouncementwording.org/wp-content/uploads/baby2-300x300.jpg

feature image: Baby Announcement Wording

1. Less than 10% of babies actually arrive on their “due date.” Experts agree that a normal pregnancy lasts between 38 and 42 weeks. About 7 out of 10 babies are born after their due date! There is NO way to predict with absolute accuracy what day your baby will be born, you will have to trust your body and your baby to let you know w hen it’s time!

2. Unless you have had a first-trimester ultrasound, gestational dating is largely inaccurate. Later ultrasounds can be off by 2-3 weeks, meaning an induction at 38 weeks might actually be taking place sooner than intended.

3. First time mothers are more often overdue than not! Even 42 weeks PLUS is “normal” and is not a reason to rush into an induction.

4. The last few weeks that a baby spends in utero are an important time for baby’s development, most importantly brain development. A surge of hormones in your baby’s body might play a part in initiating labor.  According to Lamaze, research indicates that once your baby’s lungs are fully mature, he releases a protein that tells his mother’s body that it’s time. A baby born even a few weeks early is at an increased risk for breathing problems, admission to special-care nurseries and breastfeeding difficulties.

5. Which brings us to our next point: Full-term babies (39-40 weeks) are healthier! According to Time: “It’s kind of surprising that insurance providers haven’t curtailed the practice of early elective deliveries entirely as babies born sooner tend to have more health complications and cost more. Even babies delivered at 37 to 38 weeks can end up costing 10 times as much as a full-term newborn, according to the March of Dimes. One study found that reducing early elective deliveries to under 2% could save close to $1 billion in health care each year.”

6. An induced labor is likely to be longer, more intense, and more invasive than a natural labor. You will need IV fluids and continuous electronic fetal monitoring. You will be more likely to use an epidural to deal with the intense contractions. Inductions don’t always work according to plan, often necessitating  forceps, vacuum assistance, and c-sections. Relative to c-section babies, babies who go through labor are born more alert and are better able to breathe and latch on at the breast. (Read this article in Time.com)

7. Better in than out! All of my babies were over-due, and 3 children later I have come to the conclusion that babies are much less trouble in the uterus than out! That is my own personal opinion, of course, and I do love my children dearly!

Bottom line: Be respectful of your baby and let him be a player in his own birth. The safest birthing option for you and your baby is to wait for labor to begin on its own, and in this way you’ll give him the best possible start as he enters our world.

Are Hopsital Births Now “Scarier” Than Home Births?

AP reports that home births are on the rise by a dramatic 20 percent, from 2004 to 2008, accounting for 28,357 of 4.2 million U.S. births. And lest you think it is only the tree-huggers or families who are uninsured and can’t afford a hospital birth, think again.

Sherry Hopkins, a Las Vegas midwife, has attended the home births of many well-educated, affluent, informed women, including a pediatrician, an emergency room doctor and nurses. Home births are the new “it” thing to do.

“I do think there’s a backlash against what’s happening in hospitals,” said Gina Crosley-Corcoran, a Chicago blogger and pre-law student, who gave birth to her third baby (a V-bac) at home. “Women are finding that the hospital experience wasn’t a good one.”

http://images.glam.com/glampress/family/topics/home_birth.jpg

image credit

The hospital birth experience does seem to be becoming increasingly invasive and drug-dependent.  There are relatively minor inconveniences such as being poked by needles, fetal-monitoring, and being told what position to labor in. Then there are bigger concerns such as cord-clamping,  inducement, soaring C-section rates, and brachial plexus injuries. And then there is the matter of comfort: birthing mothers want to feel at ease in their own surroundings, going at their own pace, without interference from doctors who want to speed things up so they won’t miss dinner.

Dr. Joel Evans, a board-certified OB-GYN who supports home birth, calls the medical establishment “resistant to change, resistant to dialogue, resistant to flexibility.”  For many women, hospital births have become a stressful, medicalized experience where every birthing woman is treated under the same protocols.

Home births are not for everyone, especially those who are high-risk. Emergencies do happen, so it is important to be close to a hospital in case you need to be rushed there. An informed decision, careful examination of the pros and cons, together with expert advice, is always the way to go.

Robbie Davis-Floyd, a medical anthropologist at the University of Texas at Austin and researcher on global trends in childbirth, says: “Women who are truly educated in evidence-based maternity care understand the safety and the multiple benefits of home birth.”

Read more: Home birth on the rise by a dramatic 20 percent

If you have had a home-birth of are thinking of having one, we’d like to hear about it! Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Brachial Plexus Injuries: A Preventable Newborn Injury- Please Read!

Three out of every 1,000 babies born in the USA suffer from injuries that could have been prevented. More children are inflicted with Brachial Plexus injuries at birth than suffer from Down’s Syndrome, or Muscular Dystrophy, or Spina Bifida.  The terrifying reality is that Brachial Plexus injury is a doctor-cause damage, occurring when a baby’s head is tugged or twisted in order to pull him out of the mother, damaging the delicate nerves in a newborn’s neck.

Symptoms may include a limp or paralyzed arm; lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist; and a lack of feeling or sensation in the arm or hand. The tragedy is that most of these birth-related injuries are preventable.  Like many of today’s problems, a little bit of education can go a long way.

http://www.freewebs.com/connecticuterbspalsyandbpicircle/BPIHOMEalexyss.jpg

The problem is that a baby’s shoulders can become lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bones. Some practitioners panic and start pulling on the babies head. They call it “gentle traction” but it is hardly gentle.  In order to help shift the baby’s position, the mother needs to change positions, and this will help the baby to “slide out like a little fish.”

How? Laying flat on your back during labor is the WORST position for childbirth.  Although it is deemed most convenient for doctors, it narrows the birth canal by up to 30% and makes it much harder to push the baby out. Simply rolling over on your side, standing up, squatting, kneeling, or getting down on all fours will help. But never, never, never let anyone pull on your baby’s head.

C-section babies can also be injured.

Why aren’t more people aware of Brachial Plexus injuries?

The United Brachial Plexus Network explains that the reasons are complicated and include the following:

* Since there is no mandatory reporting or tracking of this injury, the widely stated assumption that the injury is usually transient cannot be validated.
* Misconceptions exist regarding the life-long implications and disabilities associated with this injury.
* Birthing practitioners do not want to take responsibility for enabling these injuries through medicinalized labor protocols.
* Medical providers are resistant to the idea that this injury is often preventable.
* Birthing practitioners have succumb to the belief that brachial plexus injuries are an unpreventable and acceptable risk of vaginal childbirth.
* Patient’s guardians often feel the injury is minimized by hospital personnel and are usually told the injury will go away after a few days or weeks.

Please watch this 5-minute video and visit the United Brachial Plexus Network website for more information. A full-length 25-minute video is available there.

Postpartum Danger Signs to Watch For

The weeks after your baby is born are full of wonder and worry. You may feel all sorts of conflicting emotions and uncomfortable physical sensations. Most of these physical and mental states are all within normal range, but sometimes there are complications. Call your health care provider right away if you experience any of these warning signs:

  • Depression: You feel extreme sadness or despair,  have delusions or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
  • Bleeding: Your bleeding isn’t tapering off, continues to be bright red after the first four days, resumes after slowing down, contains clots bigger than a quarter, or has a foul odor.
  • Fever: You develop a fever, even a slight one. A low-grade fever may be something benign, but it can also be a sign of a serious infection, so play it safe and call.
  • Stomach pain: You have severe or persistent pain anywhere in your abdomen or pelvis, or  afterpains that get worse instead of better.
  • C-section pain: You have worsening pain or soreness that persists beyond the first few weeks, or redness, swelling, or discharge at the site of your c-section incision.
  • Vaginal pain: You have severe or worsening pain in your vagina or perineum, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, or swelling or discharge from the site of an episiotomy or a tear.
  • Breast pain: You have pain or tenderness in one area of the breast that’s not relieved by warm soaks and nursing. Or you have swelling or redness in one area, possibly accompanied by flu-like symptoms or fever.
  • Abnormal urination: You have pain or burning when urinating; you have the urge to pee frequently but not a lot comes out; your urine is dark and scanty or bloody; or you have any combination of these symptoms. (Stinging after the urine comes out and hits a bruised or torn area normal.)
  • Leg pain: You have severe or persistent pain or tenderness and warmth in one area of your leg, or one leg is more swollen than the other.
  • Headaches: You have severe or persistent headaches.
  • Vision problems: You have double vision, blurring or dimming of vision, or flashing spots or lights.
  • Vomiting: You have severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Tenderness from IV: The site of your IV insertion becomes painful, tender, or inflamed.

When to call 911 (or local emergency number) instead:

  • You have shortness of breath or chest pain, or are coughing up blood.
  • You’re bleeding profusely.
  • You’re showing signs of shock, including light-headedness, weakness, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, rapid or shallow breathing, clammy skin, restlessness or confusion.

For more Postpartum information, visit Baby Center

feature image

Checklist: What you need to Buy for Baby’s Arrival

Layette (baby clothes, for those who need translation!)

  • 8-10 bodysuits or onesies (like little undershirts that snap at the crotch)
  • 4-6 one-piece PJ’s
  • 2 blanket sleepers for winter nights (these are like little wearable sleeping bags, very handy for drafty daytimes, too)
  • 1-3 rompers or other “dressy” outfits
  • 4 pairs of socks, or booties (I find that socks often fall off and get lost. You’re better off with footsie pajamas if it’s cold weather)
  • 2-3 hats (sun-hats with brims for summer baby, warm  hats that cover ears for winter baby)
  • Bunting bag or fleece suit for winter outing

http://www-davincicrib.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/baby-boy-clothes1.jpg

image credit

Nursery

You can skip some of this for a while if you plan on keeping baby nearby (which is best in my personal opinion), either in a bedside bassinetter or in your own bed.

  • Crib, cradle or bassinet (follow safety guidelines)
  • Firm, flat mattress that fits snugly into crib
  • 2 washable mattress pads
  • 2-4 fitted sheets
  • 4 soft, light receiving blankets
  • 1-2 heavier blankets for winter
  • Comfy chair for nursing, or pillows to prop yourself up in bed
  • Baby monitor, if you will out of hearing range of baby’s room
  • Nightlight (this is for you, to make nighttime feeding and changing easier)
  • Dresser for storing baby clothes and paraphernalia
  • Swing or bouncy chair

Diapering station

It’s nice to have a changing station where you have everything handy for changing your baby. But you can always improvise by putting a changing pad down on your bed or on top of a dresser (never leave baby alone there, of course).

  • Changing table or cushioned changing pad
  • Changing table pad cover
  • Diaper pail and liners (optional but handy)
  • Diaper cream
  • Unscented baby wipes (these are supposed to cause less irritation, although simply rinsing baby’s bottom in the sink is even better!)
  • Disposable newborn-size diapers, or 6-10 dozen cloth diapers and 6-8 diaper covers

Bath

Again, you can improvise when baby is small by plugging up a  bathroom sink,  lining it with a towel (to keep baby from slipping around) and filling it with warm water.

  • Baby bathtub
  • Baby shampoo (can use for hair and body)
  • 2-4 soft towels/hooded baby towels
  • 2-4 soft washcloths

Feeding

For nursing moms:

  • 1-3 nursing bras (Start with one size larger than your maternity bra, as breasts swell right after birth. After a couple weeks you can purchase additional bras.)
  • Nursing pads (bra inserts that protect you if you leak)
  • Nipple cream (alleviates soreness for beginner breast feeders)
  • Nursing pillow (props baby up so you don’t hurt your back by curling up over him)
  • Pump and milk storage bags (in case you ever need to leave baby for an extended amount of time)

For bottle feeding mothers:

  • 10-16 bottles and nipples, both four and eight ounce
  • Liners, for disposable bottles
  • Bottle warmer (cuts down on nighttime trips to and from the kitchen)
  • Bottle sterilizer (some dishwashers have one)
  • Bottle brush
  • Formula (if not nursing)
  • 4-8 bibs
  • Burp cloths/cloth diapers
  • High chair (not necessary until baby can sit up on his own)
  • 2-4 pacifiers

Medicine Cabinet

  • Baby nail clippers
  • Cotton balls (to clean baby’s nose, ears, umbilical cord)
  • Baby thermometer
  • Bulb syringe/nasal aspirator
  • Infant acetaminophen (Tylenol) and medicine dropper
  • Antibiotic cream and sterile gauze (for circumcision care)

Travel

  • Infant or convertible car seat
  • Stroller (reclining for infants)
  • Diaper bag
  • Changing pad
  • Baby carrier/sling

If you can check off most of the things on these lists, then  you are probably ready for for the stork’s special delivery. Congratulations!!

Postpartum: Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster

You’ve just given birth! This is a huge moment in your life, one of the most memorable things you will ever experience.  You may find it hard to sleep… or you may find it hard to stay awake! You may feel blissfully  happy… or tense and irritable. You may feel madly in love with this new little creature… or overwhelmed by your new responsibilities.

photo: Sears portrait studio

It’s all OK. It’s all normal. Here are some of the emotions you may be feeling right after your baby’s birth:

Thrilled. You are on a natural high. It’s hard think or talk of anything but your baby. You  may feel compelled to tell your birth story to anyone who will listen, followed by a detailed account of every yawn, diaper change, and feeding.

Overwhelmed. Taking care of a baby is a 24-hour-a-day job, and it’s all yours now. You may be worn out from labor and birth, but there’s not time for a vacation now! The first few months are the hardest, but soon you’ll be out of the postpartum fog and back on a bit more normal schedule!

Let down. After the emotional highs come the emotional lows. Feeding and caring for your baby may not be as easy as you hoped it would be. You may feel a twinge of sadness about no longer being pregnant. And it may be difficult to share the baby with your partner, family, and friends.

Weepy. They call them the “baby blues” and it’s totally normal. All the sudden changes in your life and in your hormones may cause you to feel anxious and worried about your ability to care for your baby, which may be followed by guilt. Be sure that you are being well cared for and have lots of support.

Beat up. Nearly every muscle, joint, and organ of your body was worked overtime to push the baby out. No wonder you feel battered from head to toe. You can expect your body to feel the effects of delivery for at least a few weeks, longer if you’ve had a c-section. You may have popped some blood vessels in your eyes or face from the intense pushing, which will disappear in a few weeks. You may look and feel washed out, pale, and exhausted. This too shall pass.

Feeling faint. The end of pregnancy brings a sudden shift in blood volume and total body fluid; it takes a while for your cardiovascular system to adapt and compensate for changes in position. So you may feel lightheaded and dizzy after delivery, especially when changing position from lying to sitting, sitting to standing. Until this woozy stage subsides (usually after a day), you may need to seek assistance when getting out of bed or walking.

Shivers and shakes. Immediately after delivery, many women experience chills and whole-body shakes, probably due to a resetting of the body’s temperature regulating system after a long bout of hard work. Rest and a warm blanket will help these chills subside within a few hours after delivery.

Bleeding and vaginal discharge. After birth, the uterus continues to discharge leftover blood and tissue, called lochia. In the first few days the discharge is comparable to a heavy menstrual period, and it may contain a few clots. After a week it becomes reddish- brown and thinner, then changes from pinkish to yellowish-white. Any activity that stimulates the emptying of the uterus, such as standing, walking, or breastfeeding, will also increase the amount of discharge.

To get yourself back on track, it’s important to get a lot of rest. Try to accept any help that’s offered to you. Relax and relieve sore muscles by soaking in a warm bath or getting a massage.  Replenish your energy by eating nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water. To get your mind off your aches and pains, focus on the miracle of your new baby and the new joys in your life.

For more of Dr. Sears’ postpartum information and advice, click on any of the links below.

Emotional Changes You May Feel
Postpartum Depression
Common Postpartum Changes
Easy Ways to Relieve Postpartum Stress
When to Call Your Doctor About Postpartum Bleeding
What to Do If Bleeding is Heavy
Afterpains: Normal or Not?
8 Ways to Get Your Urinary System Working Again
8 Tips to Relieve Nipple Soreness
4 Ways to End Postpartum Constipation
5 Ways to Reclaim Your Pre-pregnancy Weight

After Content Ad