August 9, 2013

Fear In Labor

by Cathy Daub, BWI President

A few weeks ago when I was seeking donations for the silent auction at our recent Celebrating Birth event, I walked into a store. The woman at the counter was about seven months pregnant with her first baby. We started talking about her plans for giving birth. As I was leaving, I mentioned, “Just remember to keep moving in labor as much as you can.” She looked back at me with tears and a quivering voice saying, “I’m so afraid of labor.” I was only in her store for about eight minutes.

I remember that my due date for my first child fell on the date of the Boston snow storm in 1978 that shut down the entire city of Boston for three days. No traffic could move on the roads so if I went into labor, I wouldn’t be able to travel. I would have to walk a number of blocks to a hospital nearby and enter as a walk-in. To further complicate matters, my daughter was breech. In spite of all of this, I don’t remember being afraid of labor. I had confidence that I could handle whatever happened. My body ended up being wise by going into labor three weeks later.

What has changed since then? Back then, a cesarean was still considered an emergency procedure. The epidural and induction rates were much lower but the rates of episiotomy were much higher. Today episiotomy rates are much lower and epidural and induction rates are much higher. Of greater concern, however, is a changing societal belief that a cesarean is safer, easier, and more convenient than a vaginal birth. Some women opt for cesareans to avoid possible damage to their pelvic floor musculature.

Birth has become an industry that is governed more by economic, financial, and legal incentives, rather than true medical reasons. For example, what would be the reason for administering an epidural to a woman fully dilated and with the baby’s head crowning? I was with a woman in labor walking the hallways of the hospital with her. Not many women are walking the halls in labor. But then as the contractions began to become stronger, she requested an epidural and the nurses weren’t surprised – in fact they were expecting it. With many hospitals today having 90% epidural rates, the medical team may have seen few if any women laboring and birthing normally without medical procedures or obstetric drugs.

In BirthWorks we empower women by reminding them that they were born with the knowledge about how to give birth and that birth is instinctive. What is instinctive doesn’t need to be learned. Rather, we help them to have more trust and faith in their body knowledge that already knows how to give birth. This is a unique approach and one that decreases fear and increases confidence. If you want to help empower women in birth, become a part of the solution by joining our childbirth educator and/or doula programs. Become a respected childbirth educator and/or doula in your community and help pregnant women become more confident about their ability to give birth.

I have recently been hired to teach childbirth preparation classes at our local hospital where there are about 5,000 births a year. Their rates of cesareans, epidurals, and inductions are very high. They currently have two childbirth preparation classes, one that is two hours in length and the other that is four hours in length. I am bringing in an eight week (16 hour) course. It is in the proposal stages now and will take some months but when I begin, I’ll let you know how it goes.

August 2, 2013

What is Primal Health?

By Mali Schwartz

Michel Odent, pioneer of Primal Health
In thinking about how birth has been viewed throughout the ages, it wasn’t that long ago that childbirth was considered a mystery – one that engendered both fear and joy. The process of how an embryo developed in the uterus or how the actual birth could impact the development of the baby was not known but guessed at. Slowly the feeling of awe that the birth process was held in was peeled away layer by layer as modern technology and scientific research paved the way toward a clearer understanding of this process.

Today the mystery of birth has been uncovered. In our country it is common to have the doctor schedule an ultrasound where prospective parents can find out the gender of their baby, although some elect not to find out and to be surprised at the actual birth. While finding out the sex of your child is one of the outcomes of modern technology, wouldn’t you like to have access to even more essential information regarding the future health of your baby?

The subject of primal health has been the focus of birth activist Michel Odent who sits on the advisory board of BirthWorks International. The definition of primal health is that our health is to a great extent shaped at the very beginning of our life. Odent’s primal health research can be accessed by going to the Primal Health Databank.

A series of event helped Odent pursue his interest in primal health when in the early 1980’s he was asked to speak in Oxford by McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health. Odent shared the message that a new kind of research was needed to test the hypothesis that our health is to a large extent shaped at the very beginning of our life. When Odent met Niko Tinbergen, a pioneer and Nobel Prize Winner in the field of ethology who had explored the risks of autism in relation to how a child was born, it encouraged Odent to write a book entitled “Primal Health” the first edition of which was published in 1986.

The advent of advances in computer sciences helped to facilitate a new generation of research. Odent’s objective was to compile all studies in the medical and scientific literature that belong to the framework of primal health research. Odent explains that while there have been other studies conducted in this area, “one of the main differences is that our key word is “health” instead of “disease”. My first preoccupation has been to understand the genesis of a good health.”

In 1998 Odent created, a website that has as its objective “to convince anyone that prenatal ecology is the most vital aspect of human ecology, and that the period inside the womb is the life period with the highest adaptability and vulnerability to environmental factors.” Scientists are currently questioning the critical time periods for genes-environment interaction. A new concept called ‘gene expression’ has helped to clarify why some of our genes express themselves, while others become silenced.

This new avenue for scientific research has created a new function for the Primal Health Research Database. The database has become a unique tool to provide clues regarding how the critical time period of conception and fetal development in the womb relates to the state of health, pathological conditions, and personality traits of an individual into adulthood. Primal health research can even impact the naming and classification of diseases which before was mostly based on descriptions of symptoms, on altered functions or on altered organs.

Primal health is an avenue of research whose time has come. I invite you to read up on this important topic to find out about the connection between womb ecology, various birth methods, hormones such as oxytocin and what influence these variables can have on a baby’s health throughout its life span.