Categories
Pregnancy

COVID-19 and Pregnancy

This is a crazy time that we are living in. Although it is not surprising for those who have been paying attention… mono-farming crops practices are unsustainable and factory farming of animals is inhumane, fraught with horrific abuse, torture, and disregard for the ultimate health and welfare of the animals and inevitably leads to disease and negative health outcomes for the humans who eat them. Fracking, deforestation and oil pipelines have wreaked havoc on this planet and destroyed entire ecosystems on a global scale. We have endangered the oceans by our irresponsible fishing practices and despicable habit of dumping our waste in the oceans the world. Therefore, we have seen devastating fires on multiple continents.

We have been raping and pillaging the earth for a long time in the name of technology. In the name of instant gratification and utter disregard for nature. Add to this the ability of world travel for the masses. Is it no wonder, that now we have a virulent, deadly virus that spreads so easily by simple human contact? That we are plagued by a world where we have become afraid of contact with one another. Now, paranoid that an accidental bump in a grocery store or neglecting to wear gloves when pumping gas make us paranoid that we have contracted the dreaded SARS-CoV-2 virus. And could either become deathly ill or spread it to countless others by association, or both? And we are watching the numbers of those testing positive growing by leaps and bounds to nearly 1 million cases. The US now outranks the world in a number of positive cases. NY now has as many infected people as in all of China.

A Silver Lining

It appears, however, that pregnant women (contrary to what we have seen in the past with some other coronaviruses) are not getting more critical infections than other people. Elders, those with co morbid conditions (diabetes, high, blood pressure, COPD, smokers, asthmatics and those with weak lungs, maybe those who take ibuprofen, immunocompromised people, etc) would be at higher risk of contracting a critical form of illness from this virus than otherwise healthy pregnant people. Also children, other than those less than 1 year old, are less likely to get a severe form of the illness. We don’t know how it might affect fetuses in the 1st or 2nd trimesters who are exposed in the womb. But we do know that it is not found in amniotic fluid, placentas, breast milk, or cord blood of newborns. So we believe it is not transmitted from mother to baby. If common-sense precautions – such as good hand washing and wearing a mask for a parent who suspects exposure, exhibiting symptoms, or tests positive for COVID-19 – are followed, it is unlikely that an infant who co habitats with parents immediately after birth will get a critical form of sickness.

Infant Bonding and Labor Support are Human Rights

Breastfeeding confers immunity for other contagious diseases and is usually recommended as best for parent and baby. Baby’s are better able to regulate their heart rate, respiration, temperature, and blood sugar if allowed skin to skin contact and early breastfeeding. It is a birth parents right to choose rooming-in and skin to skin breastfeeding with her newborn versus handing the baby off to be “watched” in the NICU with no evidence of ill health. Evidence-based birth has a waiver you can bring with you to the hospital if pressured to release your healthy baby for separation as a COVID-19 precaution. Let’s not separate babies from their birth parent and source of best nutrition, and healthy immune and emotional newborn response.

The other parameter to watch is the restriction of support people for the pregnant person. In my opinion, based on common sense, what we know about the human Microbiome, and the laws of infectious diseases (this one in particular as it is slowly revealing its characteristics to us) is that people who cohabitate tend to share their microbiota – good and bad ones. Close contact is how this disease spreads. Assuming most people are practicing social distancing and protecting themselves and their loved ones – particularly if they are expecting a baby into the household – the pregnant persons significant other will not increase the health workers risk any more than the pregnant person herself. In fact, we know that under normal circumstances, nurses spend about 30% of the labor with the client. Having their significant other would increase the laboring persons comfort and safety by providing constant companionship helping them to the bathroom, with position changes, and overall comfort. Let’s not just have a knee jerk reaction to isolate laboring people out of fear of the unknown.

What YOU Can Do

Please socially distance yourself other than essential contact. Don’t go to the hospital unless you are having trouble breathing. Do go to a drive-through testing site or hospital if you have trouble breathing. Wear gloves and a mask if you have one, a bandana will work in a pinch. Practice generous hand washing for 20 secs and remove clothing and shower immediately upon coming home if you’ve had exposure to unknown people. Take supplements that promote a healthy immune response, and eat responsibly to encourage and support your health. Meditate and be happy, the world needs it!

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
Birth

Top Ways to Prepare for a Positive Birth Experience

The top ways to prepare for a positive labor and birth experience begin long before the actual labor starts. At Midwife360, we talk about our “Recipe for Success” when we are discussing a client’s birth plans. 

The core of our recommendations include self-education through reading books and online resources (see the reading and web organization list at the end of this article) and commitment to a healthy lifestyle through clean eating and regular exercise. We strongly advise eliminating processed foods, dairy, and inorganic foods. Through clean eating and regular exercise, it is likely that there will be an absence of disease processes such as diabetes and high blood pressure which can make a pregnancy cross the line into a truly high-risk status. If the pregnancy can be maintained in the low-risk status range, then recommendations such as induction of labor are more easily declined. 

Our “Recipe for Success”

Our “Recipe for Success” also includes hiring a doula and taking a deep meditation for labor course such as Blissborn or Hypnobabies. Many times the doula will be the one who teaches these courses. Doulas are invaluable as educational resources and typically have a wealth of information regarding comfort measures and labor preparation activities. They will meet with the client usually two times prenatally and will be the first to show up at the labor. They help with labor support if things are not progressing, and will let you know when to call the midwife or leave for the hospital. Meditation or hypnosis is a tool that can be used to cope with the surges of labor. It helps to keep the mind occupied with positive thoughts to allow the body to perform the work of releasing the baby unimpeded.

Positioning of the Baby 

The most common reason that labor doesn’t progress is the positioning of the baby. We recommend becoming familiar with an online resource called “Spinning Babies” that teaches postures that can be used prenatally to help ensure proper positioning of the baby in relation to the mother’s bony pelvis. This will ease the baby’s passage and create a more efficient labor process. Your doula will most likely be familiar with this resource and have the ability to guide you through the postures as well as know when to employ them in labor.

Using a Birth Tub 

The final recommendation in our “Recipe for Success” is to use a birth tub for labor and birth. The benefits of hydrotherapy have been recognized by midwives and laboring women for years. Some people call it a ‘liquid epidural’ as the sense of relief is so great when entering a warm tub of water in active labor. Sitting on a yoga ball or stool in the shower can have some of the same sense of relief, but immersion in water is better and helps lift the belly to remove the heaviness caused by gravity. Also, releasing the baby into the water helps with vaginal and perineal stretching and reduces tearing.

Visiting a Chiropractor and Acupuncturist 

In addition to the “Recipe”, we strongly recommend developing relationships with a chiropractor and acupuncturist who are skilled in caring for pregnant people. Get regular massages and take yoga classes or do yoga at home. All of these adjunctive therapies contribute to a body that is well adjusted and free from muscular and energetic blockages that can inhibit the passage of the baby when it’s time for birth. 

Preparing for a positive labor and birth experience ideally starts before pregnancy. However, with a determined mindset and a willingness to do the work, preparation for a positive experience can easily be accomplished in the 40 weeks of pregnancy. Decide where you want to give birth and hire a care provider that you trust. Check out the resources listed below and prepare to have an amazing, informed, respectful labor and birth experience!

Categories
Birth Pregnancy

Birth Your Own Way

I saw a Facebook post recently, a fundraiser, for a woman who wrote about her search for a provider who would assist her in having a vaginal birth for her 4th baby after having 3 previous cesareans. For whatever reason (VBAC ban, or just no supportive providers to be found) she moved 3 states over just to give birth with a supportive provider. It seemed from the post that they actually moved their family to that location to be in proximity to this supportive provider. Due to moving during the pregnancy, they did not have the funds to pay for the birth upfront, thus the Facebook fundraiser.

How did we get here?

How is it, in our medically advanced culture, that someone has to actually move to a different state to achieve this kind of support? I know that we don’t have supportive providers in our community here in south Florida that would support a vaginal birth for someone with 3 or more previous cesareans. Though, I know that I would support such a person under the right circumstances. Those circumstances are that the pregnant person has to be in excellent health with a healthy, otherwise low-risk pregnancy. She has to be fully committed to her birth plans, to the point of saying “I am doing this with or without you”. In other words, fully committed to the choice for an out of hospital birth.

While there is no guarantee for the outcome, an otherwise healthy low-risk pregnancy has little added risk for VBAC or other complex physiologic circumstances like twins or breech. With good counseling on risks and benefits and the understanding of the limits of any guarantees, clients should be free to make the decision to birth outside the hospital in these situations. Actually, clients should be free to make the decision to birth vaginally and should be able to access a supportive provider wherever they feel the safest – whether that is in the hospital or outside of it.

I am a provider that supports VBAC, twins, and breech for a vaginal birth.

I have found that my sister midwives are not happy that I do this. They report feeling threatened by my choices to support these births out of the hospital due to the possibility that any bad outcome would reflect negatively on the birth community as a whole. They believe that if I have a bad outcome I am giving home birth a bad name. I believe that I am giving people options they would not otherwise have. There are only about 2% of people that choose to birth out of the hospital. Most of those that choose home birth are die-hard home birthers who would not go to the hospital unless someone’s life was in danger (literally). They understand that there are no guarantees in life (or birth) and they typically have educated themselves on the risks and benefits of out of hospital birth and willingly, gladly, sign the consent waiver for home birth under complex physiological circumstances.

Enter the twins

I recently assisted a couple with twins who wanted very little prenatal surveillance, and home birth with mostly a hands-off approach. She went into labor the day she turned 40 weeks. The first baby came fairly quickly and it was the most serene beautiful water birth! Soon after, we attempted to get FHT (fetal heart tones) for Baby B and were unable to locate them for a few minutes, then when we did finally find them, they were very low – the 60s. Mom was instructed to push to try to encourage baby to come quickly, and within minutes, someone called out, “head’s out!”.

When I reached over to touch, it was obvious that it was not a head, and I tore the sac to find 2 legs unfolding into the water. I instructed Mom to get out of the tub as it was a surprise breech (baby had been head down at the last ultrasound at 28w) and I was concerned because of the low FHT. The baby then came fairly easily, but her placenta was sitting on her head and plopped out right after her – complete placental abruption. This is likely the scariest and most serious complication that can happen at home. Luckily Baby A and mom were doing well, no bleeding noted and Baby A was transitioning beautifully.

We immediately began going through the NRP steps that we learn and practice for just this eventuality. We also called 911 as a baby that requires CPR needs to be closely monitored for 24 hours in case there are further issues with the heart and breathing. The paramedics arrived within 6 minutes and by then she was only requiring breaths with the bag and mask as her heart was beating on its own at the appropriate rate.

It was difficult to watch her go without the ability to witness her recovery, but we had no choice as we still had the first baby and mom to care for. One assistant and the dad accompanied the baby to the hospital, the rest of the team stayed at the house. Ultimately, she made a full recovery. She began breathing on her own before they even arrived at the hospital, and was discharged home the next day due to a lot of questioning by and the determination of her parents. She seems to be completely normal and adjusted to life outside the womb.

This couple had 3 previous birth center births and were only having a home birth because their favorite midwife was unable to support a twin birth at her birth center. They were completely uninterested in a hospital birth. I’m pretty sure they would have chosen to birth at home with or without trained medical assistance. Had there not been someone trained in neonatal resuscitation present, their baby could have died. I wonder how our community would have felt about that?

When I help clients with a breech baby, or twins, or VBA3C or 4,5,6,7C or VBAC twins or breech, or past 42w. They tell me there’s no way they will birth in the hospital or no hospital provider will give them a chance to try for a vaginal birth. I believe it’s better to have a trained provider than for them to try a free birth and have a tragic outcome. If there’s a tragic outcome anyway, they have taken full responsibility for their choices.

Think about the big picture

However, I truly believe that our job as out of hospital birth providers is to monitor and observe the big picture at all times and identify an emergency before it becomes one in order to access the proper medical care. This means that we are alert and focused on one mom and her baby(ies) at all times during the experience. This is why we love to work with doulas. It gives us the luxury to arrive in active labor, which is the ideal time to be sharp and ready as birth becomes more imminent.

While I do not relish the added stress of caring for a more complex physiologic situation. I do believe in women’s bodies and the birth process as an inherently normal, natural process. In situations such as those with previous uterine surgery, twins, breeches, or post dates, it is unlikely that there will be any major complications if the pregnancy is healthy and otherwise low risk.

In every situation, as long as the provider is on her toes, focused and present, a major complication can be handled without turning into a tragedy. This is why I will support these clients. I wish more of my colleagues could do the same. I understand that the CPMs would be risking their licenses to do so, but this is not the case for my CNM and OB counterparts. In their case, the fear of birth and mistrust in women’s bodies limits their understanding of what is possible and safe. I have found that many people are seeking healthier living, especially when they are growing a baby. Many are super open to discussions of the importance of a healthy diet, adequate water consumption, and exercise in pregnancy, which all lead to safer birth for everyone.

Don’t judge anyone for their choices in birth. Not when they choose a repeat cesarean or even primary cesarean, and not when they choose home birth – no matter what their circumstances. Every client has their own reasons to choose what is right for them and their families. And don’t judge the providers that help them when they have a track record of good outcomes. It is better to have a trained provider present and we shouldn’t have to hide or suffer unwarranted criticism for our willingness to help.

Categories
Birth Pregnancy

Natural Birth After C-Section

Can I have a vaginal birth if I already had a c section?

The short answer is, “YES! YOU CAN!” While the long answer requires a conversation about various risks – risks of a VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean, AND risks of repeat surgery. Unfortunately, it is the second set of risks that are routinely left out of the conversation when you speak with a hospital provider (OB or CNM) about it. And, also, unfortunately, these same providers often offer the VBAC and then find a reason at the end of the pregnancy that either induction of labor is ‘necessary’ (not the best plan for a successful VBAC) or a repeat surgery if the pregnancy goes beyond 39 or 40 weeks. 

Where can I have a successful VBAC?

This drives many women to seek an out-of-hospital birth provider for their planned VBAC, even though everyone agrees that the hospital is the best place due to the easy and quick access to emergency services. Since VBAC is prohibited in Birth Centers, this leaves home birth as the only option. And home birth is not for everyone. It is certainly not the best idea for someone whose main reason for choosing it is to avoid the hospital. It is always better to run towards something rather than running away from something. In other words, the choice to have a home birth should be driven by the desire to have your baby in the comfort and safety of your home, not by the fear of the hospital.

Successful home birth requires dedication and preparation

We have seen a situation like this where the client chose to have her baby with us because of her fear of having another c section and her inability to find a hospital provider who would support her decision to birth vaginally. She did not have a doula or take a birth preparation class. (These are 2 of Midwife360’s 3 keys to successful, efficient birthing. The 3rd is using the birth tub.) Consequently, she was unprepared and unsure when her labor did start, and did not request the midwife presence in a timely manner. She birthed on the toilet and her baby actually went into the toilet! They had the midwife on the phone throughout the process and she was able to guide them verbally (the part about the toilet came out later!) and everything turned out well. 

This is an example of how normal the process is for most people – even those who have had previous c sections – and for most babies. Babies are resilient and born to survive and know how to start breathing with little to no help in most cases.

Most predictions by OB providers are wrong

“Your baby is breech, and even if it turns, your pelvis is too small to push. There’s an 80% chance you’ll have to have a c section if you try, and then it would be an emergency surgery, which is more dangerous. So let’s just schedule the c section as this will be safer.”

I’ve heard this same speech from many clients over the years. This particular client told us this story of her first birth – the baby turned out to be 5#5oz. When she got pregnant the second time, they said she would have to have another surgery – it would be safer, they said. “But my mom had a c section and then pushed my brother out right after – he was over 10# – can’t I at least try?” “No”, they said, “it’s not safe”. There was no discussion of the risks of surgery, all focus is on the risks of trying a vaginal birth.

You can do it!

When this woman got pregnant a third time, she knew that she could birth her baby vaginally. She drove an hour away from her home to find a provider that believed in her and would support her. And although she did not take advantage of the 3 keys to success, (she used the birth tub only), she was so determined and dedicated that she was able to adequately prepare herself mentally for the big day. She was able to birth an 8#3oz baby vaginally in the birth tub with her sisters, husband, mother-in-law, and daughters all present and cheering her on! She pushed for over 2 hours, but barely tore and the baby came out quickly with no problems.

Our bodies and our babies are made for birth

When will OB doctors and other birth providers stop telling women what their bodies cannot do? Women are created with the social imperative to create life and deliver it to the outside world. Among many other things, we are very well designed birthing machines! If you didn’t know this already, then you do now!

Be empowered, be informed, stand up for yourself and your baby!

Categories
Healthcare Pregnancy

Call to Action

My name is Fadwah Halaby and I am a certified nurse midwife serving families in Palm Beach and Broward counties. I offer well-woman care with a holistic touch as well as pregnancy and birth services with birth in the clients home. This is a choice that any woman can make and a viable option for all low risk, healthy clients and even with some that have a more complex physiologic pregnancy – such as previous cesarean, twins, or breech.

Pregnant people have human rights too!

The bottom line is that we all agree that everyone should have certain rights by virtue of being human – we call them human rights. And these rights are repeatedly denied to many pregnant women because her care provider has decided:

  • that he or she is not comfortable with a given situation
  • has decided on a particular course of action
  • is determined to force the client to comply

This has gone so far in some cases as getting a judge to order a forced cesarean surgery by deeming the client incompetent to make decisions for her own body and that of her baby. It is ludicrous to imagine that a person who has conceived and grown a baby in their womb for 40 weeks does not have the best interests of that baby in mind when making decisions regarding the birth of the baby. No one has more of a vested interest in that baby than that pregnant person. And no one has more of a vested interest in the woman’s body than the woman herself. We have a right to choose to birth at home, in a birth center, in the hospital or anywhere else a person would choose to birth. This is a basic human right and is upheld in the laws and rules of our state.

What is not supported by our laws and rules is the right of that pregnant person to have the trained and licensed provider of their choice attend to them in any of these settings.

Nurse Midwives are trained to practice independently

As a certified nurse midwife (CNM), I am trained and licensed to attend to women in any of these settings. I have maintained hospital privileges without any negative incidents for more than 8 years and over 1600 births. Yet now that I am attending to women in their homes, I am not allowed to continue to care for them should they require a transfer to the hospital either before or during labor. ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the OB/GYN national organization) recognizes women’s right to choose their place of birth and makes a recommendation that if a woman wants to birth at home she should be a healthy, low-risk candidate, choose a CNM to attend her, and birth in an integrated environment. [ACOG Committee Opinion on Home Birth] And this, my friends, is the missing piece of the puzzle. The lack of integration makes out of hospital birth less safe for everyone.

Transferring from home to hospital is fraught with anxiety for both clients and home birth care providers

How many times have you heard stories of “train wrecks” – home birth transfers to the hospital when things have gone far past the point of being OK? Midwives dropping clients off at the door or not participating in the transfer at all are tales that are told by hospital personnel about home birth transfers. It is true that the out of hospital provider is bound by duty to shift location to the hospital once they feel that it is no longer safe to be at home and if it is for an emergent reason, then the 911 system should be employed to make the transfer. If it is for a non-emergent reason (as 90% of home to hospital transfers are), then the transfer can happen by private vehicle. In both cases, the hospital should be alerted and records sent ahead to facilitate care for the client and to give the receiving provider as much advance information as possible. The provider should accompany the client and be prepared to give a concise report of the relevant details and reasons for the transfer. This is considered a hand-off and according to JCHAO [Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation] is where most critical incidents happen.

One solution

Giving APRNs (Advanced Practice RNs or Nurse Practitioners) the ability to practice to the extent of their training (why are we being restricted from that in the first place?!) would make this situation much safer. By allowing the clients chosen provider to be a member of the team once the transfer to the hospital becomes necessary. I have not been able to maintain hospital privileges, not due to any malpractice or incidents. This is purely due to not having an obstetrician who doesn’t have a financial stake in me or my practice being willing to “take responsibility” for my actions. Really, why should anyone else take responsibility for my actions?

I am trained to work to the extent of my scope of practice like any other healthcare provider. To make decisions, prescribe medications and tests and to interpret those results and determine when consultation, co-management, or referral is necessary. LIKE ANY OTHER HEALTHCARE PROVIDER. There is no worry that OBs will start trying to treat people for heart failure – they would refer to a cardiologist. If they try to work outside their scope of practice, then they are appropriately reprimanded or relieved of their license to practice. We understand that we would be held to the same standards. However, to require me to find a doctor willing to take responsibility for my work and to require that they sign my application for hospital privileges places an undue burden on me and is effectively restraint of trade. This has to stop now.

Please support Senate Bill 972 and HB 871 to increase the number of health care providers and contribute to reducing the costs of health care. Reach out to your Senator and Legislator with a postcard, email, and/or phone call today! Click here or below to find your elected official now.

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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