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

Preparing Kids for a New Baby

A baby or young toddler may not really understand that there’s a baby growing in your belly. And he also has no concept of time. So it’s not necessary to clue him in until you are nearing the end, otherwise you may hear every day, “Is the baby coming out yet?” Since the concept of a new baby is pretty much out of their range of understanding, you don’t need to spend much time preparing him for it.

Older toddlers and children should definitely be clued in to what’s happening in a way that will make them feel involved and excited. Life will be very different after the baby is born, so your kids should be prepared, and hopefully looking forward to the new addition.

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image from hypeplug

Here are some ideas from Dr. Sears to introduce the topic and learn about new babies!

1. Arrange to be around very young babies. This lets your older children hear how they sound, see what they look like, observe you holding one now and then, notice that they need comforting, and learn about nursing.

2. Talk about the new baby. Once your belly is really big, eight months maybe, talk about the new baby. Referring to the baby as “Suzy’s new baby” will add an extra degree of protectiveness instead of competition.  Let her feel kicks, help her talk or sing to baby, and stroke your belly.

3. Show her simple children’s books about new babies. Show pictures of when she was a tiny baby and tell her about all the things you did for her. Say things like “Mommies hold tiny babies a lot because they need that.”

4. Tell older toddlers and preschoolers about the baby early on in the pregnancy. The older the child, the sooner you can tell him; very young children may be confused or disappointed when the baby fails to arrive the next day. With an older toddler or preschooler, try all of the toddler suggestions above, and in addition, use the diagrams in books on birth to talk about how the baby is growing, month by month. You’ll be surprised by questions like “What part did baby grow today, mom?”

5. Depending on the age and level of understanding, tell your child why you are feeling so tired, grouchy, short-fused, impatient, and whatever else you feel while pregnant: You might say, “Baby needs a lot of energy to grow, and that’s why mom is tired and sleeps a lot…” Or, “The hormones baby needs to grow make mommy feel funny…”

6. Expand on what newborns are like. For example, let them know babies cry (some cry a lot) and they like it when you talk to them and make funny faces. Explain to them “You can help me change the diaper, bathe baby and dress baby. Babies can’t do anything for themselves for a long time, and they can’t play games until they grow bigger. They need to be held a whole lot, just like I held you when you were little.”

7. Take them to your doctor’s appointment. Children close to three should be able to behave well at the visit to your healthcare provider and may learn from this visit. For older children already in school, include them on special visits, such as the three-month visit when you are likely to first hear baby’s heartbeat, the visits at which your practitioner has told you will include an ultrasound, and several visits toward the end, so they’ll catch the excitement and be more tuned in. Prenatal bonding cannot be overdone for siblings old enough to understand.

8. Give a hands-on demo. Usually by the fifth or sixth month, older children can feel their baby brother or sister move. During times of the day or evening that experience tells you your baby moves the most, lie down and invite your children to feel the show. Let them guess which body part they are feeling.

9. Encourage baby bonding. Invite your children to talk to and about the baby. If you already know the gender and have chosen a name, you can encourage them to use it when referring to the baby. Or you can welcome the baby nicknames your child invents. Babies can hear around 23 weeks of age, so this is a good time for the kids to start talking to the baby so he or she will get to know them. After about three months of this, their voices will be very familiar to the baby still in utero, and bonding will already be under way. Studies show that babies tend to turn toward voices they recognize right after birth.

10. Know your limits. Realize that it’s impossible to give other family members the same degree of attention they are used to while you’re pregnant. Sooner or later the children will realize that they must share mom with another tiny taker in the family. Fortunately, pregnancy provides you with plenty of time to prepare your older children for what life will be like after the baby arrives. Getting them used to helping you while baby brother or sister is still inside is actually another good tool for bonding. The children will have invested their time and energy already even before baby comes, and the baby will have more personal value to them.

For more pregnancy, birth, & parenting info, visit Ask Dr. Sears.com!

Why More American Women Want to Give Birth at Home

When a pregnant woman decides that she wants a home birth, family and friends are usually shocked, and the first questions are often, “Is that safe? What if something goes wrong?”

In today’s age of medicine, pregnancy and childbirth are often as a disease or a problem that has to be “fixed” rather than the completely natural process it actually is, says Dr. Mercola.  For the 75 percent of women who have normal pregnancies, a knowledgeable and experienced midwife may be more qualified to attend birth than an obstetrician.  For some women, giving birth at home is preferable and possibly safer than doing so in a hospital.

“Safer than a hospital?” you may be asking suspiciously. The fact is thatobstetricians are trained to use surgical interventions that are often unnecessary in a normal pregnancy and delivery, and can cause more harm than good when used inappropriately. If you take a look at some statistics, you may start to see things differently.

99 percent of all U.S. births occur in a hospital, yet the United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates of any developed country (6.3 deaths per 1,000 babies born). In the Netherlands, one-third of deliveries occur in the home with the assistance of midwives, yet the infant death rate is  only 4.73 deaths per 1,000.

In terms of your own safety, maternal mortality rates rose more than 54 percent from 2000 to 2005 in the United States, while decreasing in other developed countries. One reason suggested for this scary fact may be the incredibly high rate of C-section in the United States, which accounts for nearly one-third of all births. It is actually the most commonly performed surgery in the US!

The World Health Organization states that no country is justified in having a cesarean rate greater than 15 percent, but the rate in the United States is nearly 32 percent, which even worries The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

A C-section should be used only as a last resort.  One study found that a woman’s risk of death during delivery is three to five times higher during cesarean than a natural delivery, her risk of hysterectomy four times higher, and her risk of being admitted to intensive care is two times higher.

Obviously, C-section rates are lower among home births, as well as midwife-attended births. Women who delivered at home also have fewer interventions and greater freedom in choosing their birthing style. As long as you have experienced a healthy pregnancy, a qualified midwife is a very safest birth attendant, and your home may very well be the best place for you to deliver.

If you are planning a home birth, it may be challenging to find a birth attendant you feel comfortable with. It is rare to find an obstetrician that will agree to a home birth in the United States. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) can legally attend home births in any state, but most choose to practice in hospitals instead.  Only 27 states currently license or regulate direct-entry midwives– or certified professional midwives (CPMs)– who have undergone training and met national standards to attend homebirths. (Find the legal status of CPMs in your state here.)

In the other 23, midwife-attended births are illegal.  A campaign is currently underway to expand state licensing of CPMs so that women who want a home birth can choose from a qualified pool of applicants, but until that happens you have a few legal options for homebirth:

  • Find a certified nurse midwife (CNM) who attends homebirths in your state or in a nearby state (then travel to that state to give birth)
  • Find a CPM who is either licensed by your state or in a nearby state (then travel to that state to give birth)
  • Use a CNM but give birth in a hospital or birth center (a compromise)

To find a midwife in your area, try:

  • Midwives Alliance of North America
  • Mothers Naturally
  • American College of Nurse-Midwives
  • Midwifery Today
  • BirthLink (Chicago area)

For more information: Should American Women Learn to Give Birth at Home?

image credit

Reflexology & Acupressure to Induce Labor

There’s no reason to worry if your pregnancy progresses past 40 weeks, but it may make you antsy to give birth already! In addition to that, if you are nearing 42 weeks and your doctor starts talking about an induction, you may want to do something to start your labor naturally.

Reflexology and acupressure are both safe and often effective means of stimulating labor. They are similar in that they both work by applying pressure to certain points on the body. Acupressure involves the whole body, while reflexology focuses on the feet, hands, and ears (primarily feet). Additionally, they are based on different concepts of energy flow throughout the body.

Precautions

  • The following pressure points should not be accessed before you reach your 40th week of pregnancy.
  • Always check with your doctor or midwife before doing anything to stimulate contractions
  • Pressure points may feel tender, but it should not hurt you. If you feel pain, reduce pressure and make sure you have the right spot!
  • If a contraction starts, stop the pressure and wait until the contraction ends. Then you can apply pressure again.

Reflexology Points

Thumb Point: Press firmly on the center of your thumb for a few minutes, then switch to the other thumb. This is one of the most effective points used in reflexology for inducing labor.  It stimulates the pituitary gland to release oxytocin, one of the main hormones that causes the uterus to contract.

Arch of Foot: This point is located inside the arch of the foot, just in front of the heel. Apply firm pressure, but not so hard that it causes pain. This point is  also very helpful in relieving intense pain during childbirth.

Inside Heel: Apply pressure to the point just inside the heel of the foot, aligned with your ankle. If it feels tender you’ve found the right spot.

Between Toes: Apply pressure one finger’s-length below the point between the big toe and the second toe. This point will also be tender when you find it.

Acupressure Points

Webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Press or massage the top of this webbing. This point affects the large intestine which surrounds a portion of the uterus, stimulating contractions.

Shoulder muscle. Press and massage the highest point of your shoulder muscle.

Inside ankle. Find the point four finger’s-width above the inside of your ankle. Apply pressure; it helps ripen the cervix and strengthen weak contractions.

Outside ankle. To help the baby descend toward the pelvis, put pressure on the point between your ankle bone (outer ankle) and Achilles tendon (which runs up the back of your leg).

Lower back. This point is actually located one finger’s-width above your buttocks crease.  Feel for a small indentation and massage for a minute.

Roof of Mouth. Using your tongue, press on the roof of your mouth with your tongue as far back as you can. This is a handy one you can use as you go about your daily routine!

feature image from holistic therapy room

Reasons They Won’t Give You an Epidural

Many women out there love their epidural! Epidural anesthesia uses an injection of drugs into the epidural space in your lower spine.  An epidural works by blocking the transmission of nervous system signals to your brain, thereby limiting or suppressing your feelings of pain.

Epidural anesthesia has become the most common form of pain medication for labor and birth, but it’s not for everyone.  Here are some common reasons an epidural might not be right for you:

  1. Your Body Type: Sometimes, the doctor has no easy access to the epidural space. Factors that might make it difficult to find the right spot include obesity, scoliosis, scar tissue, unusual spinal archtecture or previous surgeries.
  2. Drug interactions: Some medications, such as blood thinners, can make an epidural risky or ineffective.
  3. Existing health issues: If you have a low platelet count, or other blood disorders, there is an increased risk of internal bleeding in the spine.
  4. Timing: In some hospitals, anesthesiologists are available only at certain hours of the day, or certain days of the week. They may simply be busy and unavailable. Also, if you come into the hospital in advanced labor, or with a very quick labor, there might not be time to get an epidural in place.
  5. Infection: If you have an infection on your back, you definitely don’t want your anesthesiologist putting a needle through that area.  It might cause the infection to spread to the spine and other areas of your body, which could lead to major problems.
  6. Heavy bleeding or shock: Often, having an epidural lowers blood pressure. Therefor, if you are bleeding heavily or are suffering from shock, your already lowered blood pressure can make the situation even more dangerous.
  7. Hospital restrictions: Some hospitals have policies about when you can have an epidural. Some stipulate that you must be at a certain point in labor (for example, four centimeters dilated) before an epidural can be given. Others may decide that epidural should not be given after a certain point of labor (for example when you’ve reached full dilation).

Source: About.com

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Should Dad *Really* be in the Delivery Room?

It seems that some Dads can be clueless as to proper delivery room etiquette, as displayed in a recent post, “What NOT to Do While Your Wife is in Labor.” It might be bad enough that some women just want him OUT. Nevertheless, these days it seems almost sacrilegious to suggest that daddy not be present at the birth of his child.

Should men be allowed to witness their children’s birth?  This controversial question seems to be one that depends heavily on each spouse’s temerpament and ability to cope with pain and stress. While many women would never consider giving birth without their husbands, there must be many more who wish he wasn’t there. Conversely, while some dads would be devastated at missing the birth of their child, there are others who would secretly breath a huge sigh of relief at being excluded.

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“Barely survived the delivery” Tshirt by Zazzle

I came across a very interesting article by Michel Odent, a top obstetrician, on why men should NEVER be at the birth of their child. You can take a look at it here, and it is an interesting read, whether or not you agree with him.

Dr. Odent states: Having been involved in childbirth for 50 years, and having been in charge of 15,000 births, I have reached the stage where I feel it is time to state what I – and many midwives and fellow obstetricians – privately consider the obvious… That there is little good to come for either sex from having a man at the birth of a child.

Personally, I have delivered two babies in the presence of my husband, and was a wonderful source of support and comfort to me. I also think it was a positive experience for him (although maybe I’ll ask him about that later, just to clarify!).  Then again, I gave birth in relative comfort (I have to say I love that epidural) but I’m sure it would have been a much more stressful experience for both of us if I’d done it without.

Dr. Odent talks about his observations as to why it is better that husbands stay out of the delivery room, and let their wives birth in peace. The phenomena of men being present at childbirth is relatively recent, beginning in the 70’s, as more and more women started to give birth in the hospital. Up until that point, it was mainly a woman’s event, with the mother surrounded by other women including her mother, aunts, sisters, or midwives. The husband was left to boil the water, pace the hallway, and smoke his pipe.

Although there is a lack of scientific study on this subject, Dr. Odent has observed that often men are a hindrance to the ease of his wife’s labor, causing it to be are longer, more painful and more likely to result in intervention.

This may be for two reasons. One, a woman in labour needs to be in a quiet, private world where she doesn’t have to think or talk.  When she tries to “share the experience”, with her husband, the focus is taken off her personal experience and directed toward including, intuiting, and often soothing, her husband.  This complicates the process.

The second reason is that, quite naturally, the sight of his wife in pain causes dad to release the stress hormone adrenaline.  No matter how much he tries to appear relaxed and positive, he cannot help but feel anxious.  And anxiety, even hidden under a reassuring smile, is contagious. His tension prevents the woman from being as relaxed as she needs to be during labor, making the process longer and more difficult.

Then there is the affect that childbirth has on the father. No doubt the miracle of childbirth is something beautiful and uplifting, a family bonding experience that some men wouldn’t give up for anything.

But for others, the experience may be more traumatic than they’ll admit. Dr. Odent  says that over the years he has seen something akin to post-natal depression in many men who have been present at the birth.  This will cause them to exhibit strange behaviors, like take to bed for a week after the baby is born, leaving their wives to care for the newborn. Or, they may try to escape to the golf course or local bar.  In extreme cases, the experience may even cause deeper psychological damage, or lead to divorce or the father abandoning his family.

One last point that Dr. Odent makes, is that there are some things we prefer to do in private, in order to preserve a degree of modesty and mystery.”And,” adds Dr. Odent, “For the benefit of our sex lives, it may be worth adding childbirth to this list.”  I don’t think I need to elaborate on this point…

He sums it up by saying, “It is time to go back to basics, and turn modern convention on its head.  When it comes to the delivery suite, men would be well advised to stay away.”

These observations are based on one man’s personal experiences, and not on large scientific studies. But it doe give you something to think about! What’s your opinion?

The value of Homeopathy during Pregnancy & Childbirth

Some women choose to live with the discomfort of morning sickness or heartburn, rather than seek treatment, because they are concerned about the possible side effects on their unborn child. But there is another safe alternative. The Society of Homeopaths says that the gentle system of homeopathic medicine is ideal for pregnant women.

Homeopathy is based on treating each person as an individual, with highly diluted substances given in mainly tablet form, which trigger the body’s natural system of healing. Based on your experiences and symptoms, a homeopath will match the most appropriate medicine to you.  Homeopathic medicines are safe for your growing baby (and even your newborn) because only a minute amount of the active ingredient is used in their preparation.

These remedies can help you feel healthy and energetic, which in turn has positive effects on your baby. A mother who is full of vitality and energy provides her baby with the ideal conditions in which to thrive.

Homeopathic medicine during Pregnancy

Physical and emotional changes during pregnancy may cause a variety of health problems. The following list includes some common symptoms that may be helped by professional homeopathic treatment:

  • morning sickness
  • nausea
  • mild urinary problems
  • diarrhoea
  • heartburn
  • anaemia
  • varicose veins
  • backache
  • cramps
  • thrush
  • emotional distress.
  • raised blood pressure

Homeopathic medicine during Labor & After Birth

In addition to the conditions listed about, homeopahty can help you through labor, after-birth healing, breastfeeding, and even before you get pregnant– during the conception stage. Some of these situations include:

  • cervix which is slow to dilate
  • pain
  • excessive bleeding
  • retained placenta
  • labor that is too fast
  • metal and physical exhaustion
  • after-birth shock or exhaustion
  • after-birth pain and soreness
  • post-natal ‘blues’
  • stitches and scars
  • sore, cracked nipples
  • breast infections (mastitis)

Homeopathic medicine for your Baby

Babies tend to respond quickly to homeopathic treatment. There are homeopathic remedies to help relieve mild discomforts as well as more serious problems. Consult a trained homeopathic doctor if want homeopathic treatment for your baby.

  • babies who are bruised from a long labor or a forceps delivery
  • colic
  • teething
  • diaper rash
  • ear infections
  • fever
  • side effects from vaccinations

Remember, it is especially important during pregnancy to take care of your over-all health. Eat well from a wide range of foods, take a vitamin and mineral supplements if needed, avoid smoking and alcohol, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly.

Click this link to view a detailed list of homeopathic remedies associated with pregnancy & childbirth.

Choosing a hospital to give birth

When you choose your obstetrician, you are also choosing the hospital at which you’ll give birth, More 4 Kids points out. Your doctor will have admitting privileges at a certain hospital, so you have to start thinking about which hospital to deliver at before selecting your obstetrician. You may have to switch doctors in order to deliver at the hospital you want.

You can start your research by asking your current gynecologist about good hospitals. It should be less than an hour away, and easily accessible by car. It is especially beneficial if the hospital is easily accessible by the interstate system, since you will not want to experience traffic while you are in labor. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you should make sure that your hospital has a neonatal intensive care unit. Hospitals that use the latest neonatal-care technology are also a plus, in case of complications. The comfort and privacy of the delivery rooms, infant care, visitor rules, and other services may be factors to consider.

The questions you ask should be tailored towards your needs, and should always serve the purpose of opening up the lines of communications between you and your birth team. Some of the answers might be dependent upon your practitioner, while other policies will be determined by the hospital or birth center. These policies can have serious impact on how you labor or give birth, including your postpartum stay. Here are some questions from About.com to help get you decide what you need to ask of your place of birth:

Labor & Birth

  • Do you offer any type of classes? Who teaches them? What is the cost? Do you have specialty classes?
  • Where do I go when it’s time for labor? Is there a different place at night?
  • What paperwork needs to be completed prior to admission for labor? Is there other paperwork to be done? Can it be done prior to labor?
  • What will I need to bring with me when I’m in labor? Will my chart be sent over or will I need to hand carry it?
  • Do you have a triage system? How long does one usually stay in triage?
  • What types of birthing rooms are available? Can I labor, give birth and recover in one room?
  • What types of comfort measures do you encourage? Is there a tub or shower in the birth room? Do you have access to birth balls, music, squat bar, etc.?
  • What type of food or drink is allowed? Is there a kitchen area for myself or my family? Am I allowed to bring food or drink from home? Do you provide clear liquids like popsicles, broth, Jell-o®, etc.?
  • Are IVs required? What about a saline lock to provide access to my veins instead? Who would make this provision if it’s not a standard policy?
  • What type of medications are available should I choose medication? What IV medications are used? Do you offer epidural anesthesia? Is there a special class to take for the epidural? Do you have anesthesiologists who only do obstetrical anesthesia? Do you have 24 hour anesthesia available on site? Can I have a pre-labor consult with the anesthesia group if I have special concerns?
  • Do you have visitor policies in labor? Do you have policies about siblings?
  • Are cameras and film equpiment allowed? Are there any parts for which we should turn it off?
  • What type of fetal monitoring do you offer? External? Internal? Doppler/fetoscope? What are the hospital policies on monitoring in labor?
  • How often do you experience an overflow of patients? What happens if all of your birthing rooms are taken?
  • Do you utilize students or residents in any way?
  • What is your hospitals induction rate? How many patients receive augementation in labor? What is your episiotomy rate? Epidural rate? Forceps/vacuum rates? Cesarean rates? VBAC rate?
  • Do you have doulas on staff? Do you have a listing of doulas?
  • To whom should I send my birth plan? Does it need to be signed by my doctor or midwife? My pediatrician?

Cesarean Birth

  • Can my partner stay with me for a cesarean birth? My doula?
  • Can we have photos of the birth?
  • Will I be able to watch the surgery via mirror? Could the drapes be lowered?
  • What is the policy about pre-operative medications? Post-operative pain relief?
  • Will the baby be available to me during the surgery time? In the recovery room? When can I begin nursing?
  • If the cesarean is planned, what is the admission procedure?
  • Will my partner be able to go with the baby, should s/he need to leave the room?

Postpartum

  • Will I have the same room postpartum that I did for labor and birth?
  • Are all your postpartum rooms private? Will I ever be moved from my room?
  • Do the rooms have showers or tubs? What about sitz baths?
  • Can members of my family stay over night? Is there an extra charge for this?
  • What pain relief options are available postpartum? Does that differ if you’ve had a cesarean birth? What about nursing moms?
  • What is the average length of stay for a vaginal birth? A cesarean birth?
  • Is there a policy for early discharge?

Baby Care

  • What is your policy on rooming in? Are there times that the baby cannot be in our room?
  • Do pediatricians do their visits at the bed side? When would this not be appropriate?
  • Do you have a lactation consultant? Is she available seven days a week? What are her hours? Does she see every nursing mom? Is she certified?
  • What are the policies about breastfeeding babies and bottles/pacifiers?
  • Are their sibling visitation policies?

image: The Brooklyn Hospital Center

Obviously, the level of care and sensitivity of hospital staff should be your first priorities. But beyond that, there are many other perks that you might want to look into. Some hospitals offer private suites (for those who are willing to pay) rather than a room that holds several women. Some private suites even offer amenities such as whirlpools and HDTV. Often, these suites also permit you to spend the entire duration of your labor and delivery in the same place, which is known as a Labor Delivery Recovery Postpartum (LDRP) room. You may also be cared for by one or two nurses who have no other patients, and so you will receive more personalized care. It is important to reserve a private room as early as possible in order to raise your chances of having it at your date of delivery.

Hospitals offering private suites also offer premium services such as:

  • lactation (breast-feeding) consultants
  • 24-hour anesthesiologist care
  • a private nursery for keeping your infant near you after the birth
  • 24-hour room service (new mothers can be hungry at odd hours of the day and night!)
  • permission for siblings to watch the birth
  • 24-hour visitors (unless the mother or infant is in need of more medical attention)
  • massages that last from fifteen minutes to two hours
  • free parking for visitors
  • new-parent classes for parents to learn about infant care.
  • special support groups such as new mothers groups, new fathers groups, and even new siblings groups.

After you have made a list of hospitals that interest you, it is a good idea to schedule visits with them. Many hospitals offer group or individual tours for their maternity centers. During your visit, scrutinize the facilities for cleanliness, because hygiene is essential when your baby is born and is vulnerable to infection. You should arrive at your tour with a list of questions, though it is likely that many of these questions will be addressed during your tour. In addition, you should ask for a brochure or pamphlet of the hospital’s policies and regulations for maternity patients, so you can brush up on them before your delivery date. During your visit, be careful not to be taken in by the luxury of the facilities—make sure first and foremost that the hospital has the resources to successfully treat your infant in case of emergencies.

For more information visit More 4 Kids and About.com: Pregnancy & Childbirth.

Can doctors predict Postpartum Depression?

If you could find out while pregnant that you had a tendency toward postpartum depression,it could be a real lifesaver, literally. You would be able to prepare for it in advance, identify and deal with the symptoms, and make sure you have the help you need to stay healthy and properly care for your new baby.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum Depression is a common psychological side-effect of childbirth. As many as one in five new mothers in the U.S. experiences postpartum depression shortly after childbirth, leading to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Another seven percent of women battle major depression after giving birth. If not properly diagnosed and treated, postpartum depression can lead new mothers to attempt suicide, neglect or even harm their newborns.

Can it really be predicted?

But now, researchers at the University of California, Irvine said they can fairly accurately predict which women will later suffer from postpartum depression, using a simple blood test. This type of screening test could one day become part of a woman’s standard prenatal care, along with the gestational diabetes screen, which is typically performed around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

This would work by measuring the level of a hormone produced by the placenta around the 25th week of pregnancy.  The study found that women with higher levels of placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH) midway through pregnancy were more likely to develop postpartum depression. The blood test correctly identified 75% of those who had future postpartum depression symptoms.

In pregnant women, the placenta pumps out 100 times more CRH than is normally produced by the hypothalamus. The hormone has been nicknamed the “placental clock” because it is thought to prepare the woman’s body for childbirth, said psychologist Ilona Yim, who worked on the study.

Levels of CRH and other hormones drop after the mother gives birth, which Yim said causes hormone “withdrawal” that can create havoc with the endocrine system.

“It puts the whole system out of whack,” she said in a telephone interview. (Reuters)

Other risk factors for postpartum depression include a history of depression or premenstrual syndrome, stress and anxiety during pregnancy, a lack of social support, and fluctuating hormone levels. The presence of high levels of CRH in the body triggers a variety of reactions, including an increase in the production of stress hormones, like cortisol. This can lead to the development of mental disorders, such as severe depression.

While antidepressant drugs can sometimes relieve postpartum depression, Yim urged a preventive approach, such as having at-risk women learn relaxation techniques common in prenatal yoga classes, and bolstering the emotional ties they may need. (Reuters)

You know what they say about an ounce of prevention… If doctors really can predict and watch for postpartum depression, it seems that could save many families much grief. It will be intereting to see what comes of this important study!

Preparing for Post Pregnancy

Many pregnant women are extremely busy packing for the hospital, decorating their nursery, and planning their childbirth experience. They don’t give any thought to the period beyond delivery, and how they will handle the stresses of being a new mother. According to Sylvia Brown at About.com, most childbirth preparation classes do not provide future mothers with enough warning about the upheaval that they are about to undergo. The most important thing to remember is that the postpartum period is a time of transition during which we must take care of ourselves. In addition to the stress of childbirth itself, including C-sections, stitching, and long labors, there’s the fatigue that all new mothers need to cope with.

Your body will need time to get back to it’s original state. The first six weeks are a time of healing, re-balancing and recovery. It takes the genital organs from six weeks to two months to return to their original size and function. The pregnancy hormone relaxin, which increases the size and elasticity of connective tissues, will remain in a new mothers body for up to five months. This is why a new mother’s joints are so fragile.  Prolactin, the hormone which produces milk in breastfeeding mothers, has a similar effect. In 66 percent of women, the vertical abdominal muscles have separated and take at least six weeks to heal.  Although you may be anxious to loose weight and get back into shape, your body needs rest and you should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routines.

Due to the enormous hormonal upheaval of a new mother’s body, 80 percent of women will experience the “baby blues.” The most common symptoms are tears, often for no apparent reason, mood swings, hypersensitivity, difficulty in concentrating, anxiety, feelings of discouragement and vulnerability, restless sleep patterns. This is not an illness and can be treated with rest and support.  However, postnatal depression is a psychiatric illness which affects one in ten new mothers and must be treated with medication and therapy.

Sylvia Brown has three tips for overcoming fatigue.  Theoretically they should work wonders, but unless you have live-in help or a mother around the corner, I don’t know many women who can indulge in this advice. But here they are anyway, maybe you can find a way to incorporate some of them.

  1. Planning ahead before the baby’s birth — Who will help with household chores? Who will take care of the older children? Who will you be able to leave the baby with to get out of the house for a short break? ask your friends for baby-sitting or housekeeping help as a baby gift. Or maybe for someone to shop, cook a meal and wash the dishes for you.
  2. Sleep whenever you can (ideally, you should have two naps a day in the first few weeks). If the baby is napping, drop everything and sleep as well. Nothing is more important than your rest.
  3. Recreation: get out of the house, do some sort of “adult” activity each day, even for 45 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how this can lift your spirits.

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