Categories
Birth Pregnancy

Natural Sacred Birth

Natural childbirth for healthy, low-risk women is the only natural function of the human body that typically occurs in the hospital. “Why is that?”, you may ask. Because our culture has co-opted Birth, babies, and women’s bodies for the benefit of capitalism – Big Pharma, Insurance companies, and Hospitals – the Trifecta of the medical-industrial complex. That is the only reasonable explanation as Women’s bodies have been successfully birthing live babies for literally millennia – else how would we be here? Birth has only been happening inside hospitals for about one hundred years and studies have shown that it’s safer to birth outside the hospital to avoid the unnecessary interventions that lead to worse outcomes. 1,2

Doctors are taught to fear birth

Medical schools have also contributed to the situation by instilling a climate of fear surrounding Birth mostly related to potential litigation. They believe that if the doctor is taught how to control birth, then they have control over being sued. In addition, natural birth is not taught to OBs because their focus is surgery. They are surgeons; the interventions they advocate frequently lead to surgery, and this is where they shine. Obstetricians are surgeons and if you are seeking the care of a surgeon, you are likely to have surgery. Very simple.

Birth cannot be controlled

Interventions in childbirth give the illusion of control over a natural bodily function that cannot be controlled. Women’s bodies will open and release the baby inside when the body and the baby are ready. This is normal, natural childbirth in a nutshell. Even the women doing the opening and releasing have no control over the process. The only control that is possible and productive is the act of surrender to this most basic bodily function. When a woman is able to fully surrender to every aspect – when and how – then when her body and the baby are ready, it will happen. The more surrendered a woman is to the process, the more efficient it is.

Thirty-eight percent cesareans in Palm Beach County

Our community (and there are many like ours) has not embraced this principle. It is very typical for women to be induced at 38 or 39 weeks of pregnancy for a myriad of reasons. We know that when labor is induced before the body and baby are ready, then things can go wrong. The body may not fully dilate no matter how much cervical ripening is chemically encouraged or how much Pitocin is given. Often the baby will not be able to tolerate the cocktail of chemicals involved between the induction drugs and the inevitable epidural. A woman may enter the hospital wanting a natural birth, but very few are able to tolerate the torture of hours of fasting, limited mobility and abnormally strong and consistent contractions, not to mention the flow of strangers into the room, the bright lights, uncomfortable bed, etc. An epidural is the only relief she can get in the hopes of maintaining her dream of vaginal birth. Palm Beach County has an average Cesarean rate of about 38%. That’s more than 1:3 women walking into the hospital expecting a vaginal birth and ending up having surgery to have their baby!This is NOT because Birth is dangerous. This is because our community has a culture of meddling with an otherwise normal, natural process. And that meddling leads to dangerous birth.

ACOG supports VBAC

The national organizations that oversee and regulate birth providers have reasonable recommendations regarding things such as vaginal birth after cesarean and breech birth. But the local OBs tend to disregard these reasonable and evidence-based recommendations. One example of how our local OB community rejects recommendations by ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the national organization for obstetricians and gynecologists), is with VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) candidates. ACOG recommends that doctors offer vaginal birth to women who have had 1 or 2 previous cesareans. They also don’t recommend inducing labors for VBAC candidates. Yet many OBs in our community still recommend repeat surgery for these women or insist that they birth by 39 weeks. They routinely induce VBAC candidates at 39 or 40 weeks which can lead to the very complication that they fear – a ruptured uterus. Also, there is no solid evidence that a woman with more than 2 cesareans is not a good candidate for a VBAC, but there are very few OBs that are willing to “allow” these women to attempt a vaginal birth.

ACOG supports out of hospital birth

Another example of how our community defies the national recommendations is through a document is known as The Levels of Care document that was endorsed by both ACOG and SMFM (Society of Maternal and Fetal Medicine, the obstetric specialists). In this document, it is recommended that all healthy, low-risk women birth outside the hospital in Birth Centers. If the situation changes, the woman is transferred to a higher level of care – one where the ability to perform a cesarean or other interventions such as Pitocin or epidural is available. There are even higher levels of care such as Intensive Care where caring for someone who is on life support machines is available and not all community hospitals have this option for women during or after childbirth, so she would have to be transferred from the lower level hospital to a higher one. The idea is that we have lots of birth centers, less of the community hospitals and only one or two regional centers to care for the very complicated cases. However, our local OBs do not encourage their healthy, low-risk women to birth outside the hospital. Rather, they look for reasons to elevate a woman’s risk and encourage interventions such as unnecessary inductions.

Birth is sacred

Birth is a sacred event that happens to each of us only once as we enter the world. How it happens is important for the one being born and for the one giving birth. If we are going to see a world that is healed from all of the devastations of poverty, war, climate change, and abuse it has to start with how we care for those giving birth and being born. I have grown up in my Midwifery career hearing the saying that ‘Peace on Earth begins with Birth’. We have to honor the process and respect both mother and baby by not causing pain and trauma but rather supporting, facilitating, and protecting the process. This can happen more easily out of the hospital in a woman’s home or in a birth center. However, I have not given up hope that we can shift the culture of childbirth within the hospital by spreading information and demonstrating a better way. We do this by supporting birth centers and encouraging the growth in the number of birth centers in our community.

Support the ‘birth’ of Gentle Birth Centers

I’m happy to announce the addition of a new birth center in Wellington – opening soon. Gentle Birth Centers will be teaming up with Midwife360 to create an integrated practice of home, birth center, and hospital care for healthy, low-risk candidates. We plan to open this spring and are located within a mile of the nearest hospital. Let’s change birth together!

Categories
Birth

What to Expect From a Home Birth

So you’ve decided to have your baby in the comfort of your own home. What should you expect? As a CNM who has provided home birth services for nearly 6 years, I am going to provide you with an overview of the general expectations that await you in this experience.

We visit your home 

Your provider will come to your home at least once during the prenatal period to assess home readiness for birth. We like to see that our clients have acquired all of the supplies that were recommended, including the kit of supplies that was provided by our practice. Some examples of supplies provided by the practice are sterile gauze, sterile gloves, a peri bottle, chux pads, a fish net (for pooper scooper if having water birth), a waterproof mattress cover, and potentially other items depending on the practice. The items that you are responsible for include a drinking water safe water hose, adapter for the faucet, receiving blankets for the baby and towels of various sizes, snacks for the laboring person and birth team, adult diapers or maxi pads, a waterproof covering for the floor and extra padding for under the pool. We like to see that the intended birth space is clean and clutter-free and in an intimate space where the birthing couple can get privacy if desired. It should be in close proximity to the bed and bathroom.

What happens when you go into labor? 

Once you have decided that you are in labor you will be in contact with your midwife and doula. We like our clients to set up a group text with their partner, doula, midwife and assistant so communication is transparent for all involved. This way the laboring couple are not asked the same questions by different people and everyone knows what’s going on. Typically the doula will arrive first, and if the laboring person desires a cervical check to see where things are at, the midwife or assistant will come to do a labor check. We will assess her contractions, her coping, when she last ate/drank/used the bathroom. We listen to fetal heart tones, take vitals and get an overall feel for what’s going on – including the emotional environment. 

Sometimes we have to reassure the partner more than the laboring person of the normalcy of the situation. If the cervical exam isn’t 4-6cm and the labor doesn’t seem to be progressing quickly, the midwife will leave and the doula may stay to help the couple perform some Spinning Babies circuits. Usually the doula will help to set up the tub when it’s time and let the couple know when it’s time to call the midwife back. At any point, if the couple wants the midwife to come, we will come and assess the situation.

Active Labor 

Once the laboring person is clearly in active labor, the midwife or assistant will stay and perform checks on the baby’s heartbeat and mother’s vitals on a schedule at least every half hour. We listen for a period of time through and after the contraction to get a feel for the response of the baby to the contractions. We are watching for anything outside of the normal range as well as for specific things like maternal bleeding, fever, or lack of coping. We have many tools we can employ – depending on the midwife and her range of experience. 

Our Toolbox 

We use herbs, homeopathic remedies, essential oils, posture changes, and of course, hydrotherapy. We make sure she stays well hydrated, well nourished, and well rested – these three elements are crucial to avoid exhaustion which is a laboring person’s enemy. Sometimes we use alcohol to aid relaxation and sleep if mom becomes exhausted and her labor is stalling out. Once she gets rest she is much more capable of continuing and usually the labor will pick up on its own. We have found that labor has its own waxing and waning rhythms much like each individual contraction and it works much better to flow with it rather than trying to force it to conform to some ideal pattern.

A note on hospital transferring 

If at any point along the way the laboring person changes her mind about being at home, for any reason, we will shift gears and transfer to the hospital setting. Of course we first assess if she is in transition as many people have doubts about their ability to birth in the crucial moments just before the baby makes his final descent. However, if we determine that she is no longer comfortable at home we will get her quickly into the car and to the hospital of her choice. We call ahead to give report and accompany her to the hospital.* Once there, we would stay until her care is fully transferred to her new care provider or until the baby comes if financial arrangements have been made.

Staying home 

Most people are happy to stay home as this has been something they have prepared for physically, emotionally, and spiritually, sometimes for years. Most also birth in the tub if they have rented one and are comfortable in it. 

Whether in the water or on land, baby comes out as slowly and gently as possible with lots of encouragement and coaching from the team. We have found that the slower the expulsion of the head and body, the less trauma to the mother’s vagina, labia, and perineum. Contrary to what we hear from our clients who transfer to us, we are well equipped to sew almost any tear that happens during birth. We carry Lidocaine for numbing and sutures for sewing.

“Self Starters” 

Most babies are what I like to refer to as ‘self starters’. They will spit or cough and utter a birth cry and then they are breathing. Most of them do not cry as their birth has been so gentle they have no reason to cry. We know when to employ helpful measures such as postural drainage, stimulation, rescue breaths, and suctioning and are fully equipped to perform a full on cardiac resuscitation on the newborn if necessary. 

I have seen 1 instance out of 250 home births, and 0 instances out of the over 1600 hospital births that I have assisted in my career of babies needing full on cardiac resuscitation. BIRTH IS A NORMAL, PHYSIOLOGIC FUNCTION OF A WOMAN’S BODY THAT RARELY NEEDS HELP FROM OTHERS. As long as the body is healthy with no underlying medical problems, giving birth outside the hospital is actually safer for the mom and the baby.

Post Birth Procedure 

We keep a close eye on both mom and baby right after birth, assessing vital signs and mom’s bleeding every 15 minutes or more often as needed. We carry 3 different drugs to treat hemorrhage, and one of them, methergine, we have both pill and injectable form. We will not hesitate to call 911 if there is any emergency event that requires hospital intervention. We stay for 3-4 hours after the baby is born, assessing vital signs and the baby’s transition. 

Once the placenta is birthed, we ensure that mom has eaten, showered and urinated. We perform an Eldon card so we know the baby’s blood type and can make recommendations for jaundice prevention or give Rhogam to the mom as needed for Rh negative moms. We make sure the baby is breastfeeding well and the parents are comfortable in their new roles. 

Postpartum Visits 

After the birth we make sure our clients know that they can call us for any problem with mom or baby and that we will be coming back to the house between 24-48 hours after the birth. At that visit, we perform the CCHD**, jaundice, and weight checks. We give the Vitamin K injection if the parents have chosen to have it. We would give the Rhogam shot if Mom is Rh negative and baby is Rh positive. We assess breastfeeding again and refer to the pediatrician if there are any concerns with the baby. We assess moms bleeding and comfort and any issues with depression. We return again to the home at 1 week postpartum to reassess all of the above concerns for the mother. And we will schedule the final postpartum visit at 5-6 weeks in the office to talk about family planning, pap smear schedule and any other concerns that arise.

This article gives an overview of what to expect when planning a home birth. Stay tuned for more educational articles from Midwife360!

*There have been a few instances where we have not accompanied a client to the hospital. These were rare and individual circumstances and not the normal scenarios.

** CCHD = Critical Congenital Cardiac Defect A screening test performed on the baby between 24-72 hours after birth to rule out any critical congenital heart defects.

Categories
Healthcare

The Health Insurance Rant

Health Insurance A Lose:Lose Situation for Consumers and Providers

How did we come to this juncture where we are supporting the lumbering giant that is the insurance industry particularly as it relates to healthcare? I am an NPR person; I listen to NPR when I’m driving in my car and I heard a piece yesterday that really got me upset! They were talking about the rising cost of healthcare insurance. All of the big companies were planning on raising their rates next year and  Humana was going to be raising their rates higher than everyone else – like by 40%! It is predicted that for someone earning around 27K, their premium would be about $150/m. I remember when I earned less than 30K per year and paying out $150/m for health insurance would have been extremely difficult. So that’s one thing. The other, more important thing that really concerns me – and this, my friends, is the elephant in the room – is how the heck did we get to this place where we support this industry that has absolutely nothing to do with our health?

Difficult Contracting

I have been running my own small healthcare practice for 2 ½ years now. I have been struggling for recognition and compensation from these insurance companies from day 1. Achieving in-network status was the first thing. Cigna updated my new tax ID with my NPI (National Provider Identifier – a national registry that lets them know that the person is legit and bestows a unique identifying number) and we were good to go right away. I thought that all the other companies would do that. However, I found out that even though I’d been providing care for their members for nearly a decade. All of the other companies required me to apply for a contract, and most of the big guys denied me initially. Aetna came around after my national body (ACNM – American College of Nurse-Midwives) wrote a letter for me. Humana is just starting to consider a contract – after multiple Humana members applied for a gap exception for coverage for my care. Blue CrossBlue Sheild won’t even talk to me, doesn’t contract with non-MDs and is extremely difficult to deal with – even for their members. The rest of the companies fell somewhere in-between and eventually granted the in-network status.

Difficult Reimbursement

The next insult is the rates that I am bound to accept now that I have achieved the holy grail of in-network status. My clients pay their premiums and want to use their insurance plan. However, they are subject to their deductibles and co-insurance amounts which require a certain amount of investigation to discover and interpret. The industry standard requires those of us providing maternity care to refrain from billing any services until after the baby is born. This puts all maternity providers in a precarious position because everyone knows that most people are not as keen to pay for a service once the job has been completed. So the trick is to estimate what the insurance company is going to say that the client owes (the deductible and co-insurance up to the amount that is in the insurance contract for the service) and make payment arrangements for this to be paid off prior to their due date. This is irrespective of my charge for the service. If we overestimate, then we have to refund money to the client. If we underestimate, then we have to try to collect for the services that have already been performed.

The Game of Claims and Coding

Submitting forms and getting paid is the other side of this game. The act of submitting a claim is like a ritual or a game – literally. They will deny payment if the coding isn’t correct, but they won’t tell you what’s wrong with it. Most providers pay someone to do this for them and they have to subscribe to a billing platform that electronically submits the claim through one of several national clearinghouses that pass it along to the insurance company. If a paper claim is submitted, it has to be on a particular form that is printed in red ink – if the ink isn’t red, then they won’t accept the claim. All while the status of the claim is communicated to the provider through many forms that are generated, printed, and mailed. So much paper! So many people involved who are making an hourly wage!

Keep the Money Between Consumers and Providers

The bottom line is that all of this detracts from the relationship between me and my clients. The longer I participate intimately with this system, the more I am confused as to the purpose of the insurance industry in health care. Instead of paying out large sums of money for insurance premiums to people whose only job is to move paper around (accept or deny claims and issue checks or take-back letters) we could be using that money to pay for health care. Obviously, the industry is making money – record gains even – and that is off the backs of their members and their providers. I think those folks ought to find another career and we should move away from this cumbersome system.

#getridofhealthinsurance #protectsmallhealthcarebusiness #dontgetbetweenmeandmymidwife

Categories
Pregnancy

Creating Value in Childbirth

Costs of Care Creating Value Challenge

In 2007, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) proposed a framework for optimizing health system performance known as the “triple aim”. The three components are:

  • Improve the experience of care
  • Improve the health of populations
  • Reduce the per capita costs of healthcare

At Midwife360 we hit the bullseye on all three! Now, where is that friendly OB who wants to play with us?

It’s time to apply the IHI triple aim to childbirth!

It is well known that the American childbirth culture is very expensive with very poor performance AND little of what happens to birthing people in hospitals is evidence-based.

Childbirth for low-risk healthy women (who comprise the majority of people giving birth) benefits from less, rather than more technology. It is, after all, the only physiologic human function that has been relegated to hospital care. Achieving good outcomes usually goes hand in hand with a positive experience of care and this can be done in a very low-tech, inexpensive way by creating teams of home birth midwives and OBs.

Comfort is key

ACOG approves of home birth under certain conditions – choosing the appropriate client, with a CNM, in an integrated environment. As giving birth is much like making love, it is easier to imagine this happening in an environment where the birthing person feels the most comfortable – whether that be her home, a birthing center, or a hospital. So creating a culture that truly supports choice for birthing people without removing the option of access to a higher level of care can be accomplished by having a care team of a homebirth midwife and OB with hospital privileges.

Recreating home

Short of that, making hospital labor rooms more homelike – dimmers on the main lights, several options for water immersion (large shower, birthing tubs), small refrigerators in the room, and a second bed for family members or the doula to use – and updating care to reflect the evidence and patient preference are all absolutely necessary to achieve the IHI triple aim.