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Things You May Find At Your Midwife's Office

 

The list below shares with you 15 wonderful things you may find during prenatal care visits with midwives, especially those who practice in relatively small group private practices, out of hospital - in free standing birthing centers and home settings across the United States. Other countries may have slightly different models, but authentic midwifery practice shares many common core philosophies of care, so I suspect there would not be much difference.  They are:

  1. Time – as in actual time for connecting and developing a relationship with your midwife; so that you can ask your questions and speak about your concerns. Time for the midwife to ask you the questions she needs to make assessments about your health and wellbeing, so she can best guide and support you.

  2. Continuity of care - the midwife (or one of the 1-2 partners, if in a small group practice) you see during your prenatal visits will most likely be the midwife who attends your birth.

  3. A big heart - your midwife will give you every ounce of her heartfelt knowledge, expertise and care for you and your baby. You may just feel so close with your midwife after a while, she is like your best big sister or wise friend, and her office is a safe space for you to share, laugh, or cry about anything.

  4. Education - your midwife will teach you and your loved ones about your body, what’s happening, what to expect along your childbearing journey, and what you can do to make it easier, healthier, more positive. This includes diagrams and models of pregnant moms and babies, placentas, umbilical cords, membranes and pelvises. Your midwife might just have a mirror for anatomy lessons of your own body if you are interested....like in seeing your cervix.

  5. Tea and healthy snacks for everyone.

  6. Inspirational quotes, affirmations and art about pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding, baby wearing and parenting.

  7. Pictures of graduates on the wall and/or in photo albums.

  8. A collection of thank you notes and birth stories (I call them love letters) in collages and/or scrapbooks.

  9. Midwifery and holistic health text/reference books and a lending library of books and movies on pregnancy, natural childbirth, breastfeeding and newborn care.

  10. Enough seating arrangements for the whole family and even some friends, as well as toys and books for the little ones.

  11. Hands - your midwife’s hands are skillful both in their assessment AND the supportive touch they offer.

  12. Tools - all the supplies and knowledge of how to use them, that could possibly needed for your journey. These include equipment such as blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, fetoscope, Doppler and gel for checking baby’s heart rate, scale, measuring tape for assessing the height and growth of your uterus, and lab supplies for checking your blood, urine, screening for infection and pap smear AND so much more! If she uses an exam table, the stirrups will be covered with oven mitts, and it will probably have a nice comfortable and decorative sheet and pillow on it, with a stool for climbing up and down or for the little ones to be involved.

  13. A boutique, where you can buy needed items like supplements and natural remedies, books, affirmation cards, birth kits, and rent a birth tub.

  14. Office and birth assistants - your midwife may also have students, apprentices, and even have a doula or two to choose from; she may have space to host childbirth classes, pregnancy and postpartum support groups, prenatal and postpartum yoga, parenting groups and all sorts of relevant helpful workshops and community events.

  15. Needed medical and midwifery knowledge and clinical skills; and she will also be familiar with and use a variety of holistic, alternative and natural modalities that can help you during and after pregnancy, birth and beyond.

As you go about choosing your midwife and planning for your birth, you might want to ask yourself what is important for you from the above list. Does your midwife or obstetrician offer some of these things, or what you feel you want and need?  Start writing down your questions and your preferences now in a journal, so when you meet her - you have them handy. My online Love Your Birth course will not only help you prepare for having optimal health in pregnancy and beyond, but will also help you to hone in on your own inner calm, joy and strength, as well as empower you with ways to speak your voice, and ideally avoid unnecessary interventions, medications or surgery. It will guide you get clear on what you really want, and make informed decisions given all your available options.

 

Healing VBAC Birth Story

 
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“My first birth was a natural birth gone wild - my sons leg came out after 24 hours of natural labor - - so this VBAC was soooooo healing for me!!!!

I still cry thinking about both births!” Kimberly Spair of Reclaimers of Health

Here is a glimpse into my birth story, written by Birth Doula https://philadelphiabirthdoulas.com/ 

VBAC baby girl arrived on November 9 after 48 hours birthing!! (Vaginal birth after cesarean!) Past her October guess date it began November 7 at 8 pm and after exactly 48 hours of unmedicated birthing, Hypno-baby Braelyn Mae arrived our world at 7:55 pm naturally at 9 lb 4 oz. After over a day of consistent pressure waves (contractions) exhausted still at 4cm, mom released her emotions and fears about a repeat cesarean. Her first birth was scary and traumatic. She expressed her fears and replayed trauma of her first birth with us. We honored her, we reminded her that this is a new beautiful birth, and that she was doing it.

Birth was filled with beautiful intense emotions, physical challenges, consistent counter pressure, and mom continued to change positions, in and out of the birthing tub, using her natural instincts and accepted every suggestion to birth her baby. Mom pushed for 4-5 hours and then her moment was here… she reached down and their beautiful baby girl was in her arms.

“Fear is what got me through. I was MORE afraid of a c-section and more trauma. My birth was extremely hard-but not traumatic! I guess I can say “old fear” because I had very little fear of going naturally.” She shared and released her fears with us although what WE saw throughout her entire birth was fear that she overcame with COURAGE, STRENGTH, DETERMINATION, AND CONFIDENCE.

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It was an honor and joy to be part of this special family’s beautiful birthing. They mean so much to me. We were fortunate to have a calm, supportive environment and to work with an incredible midwife. All birth is beautiful, all birth is unique. Going on 6 years as a doula this birth experience was truly unique to any birth I’ve had the opportunity to support. I can’t possibly describe this 2-day birth in an announcement. One strong mama! Mama, You inspire me and I thank you for inviting me in to be a small part of your pregnancy and birthing journey. So proud of you. You did it! Thank you for sharing your birth as I know you inspire many other families. Congratulations to a very special family of four. #VBAC #Hypnobabies #unmedicatedbirth #VBACaccomplished #VBACthat #wowbirth #ilovewhatidoula

Was your birth upsetting or traumatic? Do you have more questions about processing your birth and need help healing? Arrange some time to chat with me. I’d love to answer your questions and help you heal and get yourself back - I have a program specifically got you, that can also include this revolutionary and last natural healing modality called Clarity Breathwork.  Helping women heal from birth trauma is one of my passions and areas of expertise. 

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This is why excellent childbirth education is a must, why planning for your birth is so important today, and is a major reason why I created my Love Your Birth course. It is a comprehensive online course that teaches women what they need to know about planning and carrying out the birth that they want in all settings - the hospital, birthing center or at home. It’s a course on how to have a holistic, healthy pregnancy for the body, mind, and soul - and is how I have guided thousands of women and their families in my midwifery practice for over 21 years. It contains a rolodex of my favorite resources with over 200 of the best books, movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world!  Be prepared to do some research on your own, but knowledge restores your power. I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy and birth that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering pregnancy and birth that you want. 

You can get a free nugget from my course - all about creating your ideal birth plan here. A huge part of preventing birth trauma is getting clear your birth preferences, knowing the pros and cons about all the tests and procedures, all the interventions your may be faced with, so you can make informed decisions - rather than simply give over your body, your choice and voice to your health care providers and institution you choose.

In looking for that supportive birthing space I talked about earlier, seek care providers and settings that have a low intervention rate (low rates of medical interventions like inductions and epidurals, low rates of cesareans, etc.)—their practices are more likely to be in line with your goals.

I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote.  But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby.

For more info on the Bellefit girdle, check out my blog about it hereHave a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)!

I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.

 

Understanding Epidurals and the Benefits of a Natural Birth

 
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We’re discussing the pros and cons of epidurals! What is their place in the medical world and should they be as commonplace as they are?

Modern medicine today encourages epidurals like water. This doesn’t make epidurals inherently bad - they are simply being misused and overused. It is time we tell the truth about epidurals. Physician, neonatologist and researcher Dr. Michael Klein, points out in his three part Science and Sensibility blog analysis of the evidence

on epidurals, “Women need to be accurately and completely informed of their choices for pain relief in labour before they can provide their true consent. No matter how well intended, epidural analgesia increases the likelihood that women will have a variety of other interventions, especially if the epidural is given without specific medical indications….When used routinely as a first line agent, epidural analgesia can create problems that could have been avoided.”

Epidurals can be literally life-saving in a dire situation when a cesarean birth or medical induction of labor is needed, and there are times when they are indeed warranted, but there are serious concerns about their use in a childbirth process that is proceeding normally and healthily - when their risks outweigh their benefits.

I will hopefully give you an enlightening look at the different sides of epidurals, including the situations when they are very necessary. You making an informed decision for yourself, is what’s important here. But do your research.

Learn more about the intricate process of labor and delivery, as well as what your mind and body are doing during each stage, the purpose of its sensations and how to best cope with them. I go into this thoroughly in my online Love Your Birth course. The more you really understand what is going on, the less you will fear it, the more you will trust and lean into it. And know your strength and capabilities. You’d be surprised at what you’re able to withstand and overcome!

It is crucial to prepare for coping with natural labor, even if you think you will want or need an epidural, as you will still have to experience parts of labor, it is not always an option depending on your health history, the anesthesiologist does not often come right away, and the epidural does not always work adequately.

How do Epidurals Work?

An epidural is an injection of a large needle in the lower back that pierces the covering of the spinal cord. Medications are injected through a tiny catheter threaded through the needle, into space surrounding the spinal cord and then they infuse the nerves nearby. These medications consist of usually a regional anesthetic and an opiate.

The anesthetic drugs temporarily block the sensory nerves which usually create the numbing and this, in turn, inevitably blocks the motor nerves with some degree of paralysis. The opiates are included because they increase the effectiveness of the anesthetic, allow for less dose required, while working to decrease the blockage of motor nerves at the same time.

The Cons

The true downturns of using an epidural occur in a birth that is perfectly healthy and normal are many, according to the research. This will then lead to a cascade of other risky and dangerous interventions just by taking a drug in which there was no need in the first place. In fact, epidurals increase the risk of requiring a C-section, especially when given too early - but there are plenty of other reasons for this.

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According to Dr. Kelly Brogan’s research, there’s been a 60% rise of C-sections since 1996. A study has shown that a prolonged second stage of labor is the main reason for most C-sections. This prolongation can be directly linked to the use of epidurals, for many reasons, including a mom’s decreased ability to push effectively and her needing to be in supine positions that make birthing more difficult, as it goes against gravity and pelvic capacity is at its smaller dimensions.

Related: The Unnecesarean Birth Story - How It Might Have Been Prevented

What happens after this prolonged stage? A myriad of interventions to “help” induce the birth: “food and drink restriction, immobilization, IV fluids, bladder catheter, medications to augment labor, and continuous monitoring.” All of these will only encourage the need for even more intervention, like vacuums, forceps, episiotomy and increased probability of more severe perineal tearing into the anal sphincter and rectum, or major abdominal surgery. All medications, invasive interventions and operative deliveries risks birth trauma and injury to the baby as well as the mother.

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Epidurals prolong all stages of labor. They increase the incidence of fever for mom, which leads to IV antibiotics in case of infection that most likely is non-existent. Antibiotics disrupt the microbiome and lead to all the associated health risks of interfering with the healthy balance of bacteria within the body for both mom and baby. It can also lead to signs of fetal distress, which then lead to other interventions from needing oxygen to emergency surgical delivery.

This drug administration does upset the normal hormonal balance during labor. While the very nature of an epidural is to alleviate at least some of the pain and so easing a good chunk of stress, some stress during labor is actually quite good for both mother and baby.

Cortisol (the stress hormone), for example, lessens mom’s exhaustion; it gives the mother energy to push, and heightens her euphoria and sense of excitement—a big part of the natural birth experience which we’ll get into a bit later—and this euphoria actually increases bonding with the baby. For the baby, the healthy “stress” of being born turns many biological processes on during the whole birthing process, like the breathing instinct at birth, which eases transition to adjusting to life outside the womb. No surprise that babies may need more assistance to breathe.

There are so many effects that also take place in the aftermath of the birth since an epidural is a narcotic that’ll pass from mother’s circulation, through the placenta into the baby’s bloodstream.

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Evidence supports risks to the baby from epidurals, that include reduced muscle tone, poor feeding, jaundice, withdrawal, and sensorimotor impairment. Epidurals have been linked to failure to establish breastfeeding and this is not to be taken lightly, as breastfed babies have much healthier outcomes and less health risks than formula fed babies. Newborns also can get a fever and increased heart rate from the epidural, without having an infection, but separation from mom and extensive work-up in the neonatal intensive care unit ensues for evaluation, including blood tests, spinal tap, and precautionary IV antibiotics.  Renowned childbirth educator Penny Simkin highlights that “epidurals can result in short - term subtle neurobehavioral effects, such as irritability and inconsolability and decreased ability to track an object visually or to shut out noise, bright light. There are no data on potential long-term effects....Decreased infant responsiveness may lead to long-term consequences for the parent-infant relationship... (risking) labels of “difficult child” or “incompetent mother” (self imposed or by others).” 

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The mother can experience some annoying but distressing side effects - mostly from the medications entering her bloodstream and/or administration error, like itching, nausea, shivering, spinal headache, residual numbness, tingling and weakness, backache, as well as alarming side effects, like difficulty swallowing and breathing, rare permanent nerve damage, convulsions, respiratory paralysis, cardiac arrest, and even death. Evidence based care expert Henci Goer points out in her ongoing evaluation of risks and benefits of maternity care, that epidurals cause, “Somewhere between 1 in 1,400 and 1 in 4,400 women to experience a life-threatening complication.”

This is some very scary stuff! And yet, epidurals aren’t so much the problem as are our society’s tendencies to consider them such a benign and advised common practice for the majority of laboring women.

Epidurals necessitate hospital birth, and eliminate the home and birth center option, which are associated with better health outcomes physically and emotionally for mom and baby, when it comes to low risk healthy childbirth. Dr. Klein poignantly elaborates on the concerns that epidurals have medicalized birth so much so, that they increase the demand on the nurse to pay greater attention to the technology of all the resulting interventions, and consequently have less time, experience and skill to provide needed hands-on and emotional support for the laboring woman.

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Disruption of the normal hormones of labor with epidural use can cause the laboring mom to feel detached from her own childbirth process and to becomes more of an observer than a participant. Studies indicate that women who had an epidural may have had less pain, but were most dissatisfied with their experience even up to a year later. The provider and nurse can no longer assess labor progress by observing the mother and must rely on the monitor - which makes the experience more impersonal - and vaginal exams - which are invasive and increase risk of infection. Use of epidurals and the anesthesiologist alone raise the cost of care, and it increases exponentially with the cascade of hospital interventions that result.

So, when are epidurals medically appropriate? In an urgent or concerning health situation when there are serious complications, but not in a normal, healthy, natural birth. They can be also psychologically appropriate, in individual cases.

The Pros

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One of my founding philosophies in helping women to have a safe, healthy and transcending birth experience is that a birth (of any kind, in all settings!) isn’t a medical procedure—it’s a natural and miraculous process of life. It’s not in and of itself a dangerous crisis.

That being said, I’d like to affirm that an epidural has its place in childbirth.

When a labor isn’t proceeding normally, when there’s a prolonged or arrested labor or the mother is experiencing exhaustion, extreme pain and/or anxiety, the compassionate use of an epidural could be the answer, and can enable her to relax, rest and progress to vaginal delivery. There could be a real medical need for medications to help induce or augment labor, which make labor sensations much more painful.  As a last resort, an epidural can help relieve the pain and stress from an emergency situation.

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A woman suffering from preeclampsia, for example, who receives an epidural anesthetic, will likely not have a prolonged second stage of labor. Epidural tends to lower blood pressure, which is a benefit in cases of hypertension.

An epidural could also be an advantage during a major operation like a cesarean;  in most cases, it carries much less risk than general anesthesia and is a great alternative to being unconscious from the high doses of those medications.

Epidurals can provide relief or reduction of pain without impacting mother’s mental state. Since birth by C-section is still a birth, an epidural can help the mom stay fully alert and pain-free during this operation. She’ll be involved, fully capable of holding and bonding with her baby even after a C-section operation, as opposed to being put out from a general anesthetic.

Keep in mind that I’m speaking of C-sections that are necessary because of endangering complications and serious issues. This is not the same as C-sections that are caused by epidurals themselves like we spoke about before. Cesareans in and of themselves are supposed to be the last resort, and indicated for serious life threatening health problems —the fact that we have them more and more often in America and that they are treated as a normal procedure during a labor is a sore reflection of our society’s ideas of pregnancy and birth.

Related: How to Plan, Have, and Rock Your VBAC

How do You Prepare for an Epidural-Free Birth?

 Photo by @senhoritasfotografia

Photo by @senhoritasfotografia

Not only is a natural birth the healthiest way to go but science is more and more discovering ancient truths about birth.

The women who come to me want to have their pregnancy and labor in their own way and they don’t want to numb themselves to the healthy and normal sensations of giving birth. It is, in fact, your own birthright as a woman to have this right of passage into motherhood. The women I work with want to feel that empowerment and the high of successfully bringing their child into the world on their own.

Understanding what your body is capable of can begin to give you the confidence you need to begin planning your natural birth. My Love Your Birth course can help you prepare for the entire process from beginning to end. You’ll equally learn how to cope with and handle labor pains...so much so that you can love your experience no matter how challenging. The right preparation really begins with a shift in mindset, not just about labor but in what your body is capable of doing.

“In labor, such high-levels [of beta-endorphins] are released and help the laboring woman to transcend pain, as she enters the altered state of consciousness that characterizes an undisturbed birth. In the hours after birth, elevated beta-endorphin levels reward and reinforce mother-baby interactions, including physical contact and breastfeeding as well as contributing to intensely pleasurable, even ecstatic, feelings for both.” -Sarah Buckley, MD.

 Photo by @senhoritasfotografia

Photo by @senhoritasfotografia

My rate of successful women having natural births is 93%--the other 7% of cases had complications that required medical attention or surgical intervention. But, in over two decades practice as a homebirth midwife, I’ve never once had  transfer a mother to the hospital for an epidural or any other pain medication because she couldn’t cope with sensations of normal labor. Never once! It is not that women who come to me have different bodies. It has more to do with how well they prepare themselves in advance, their attitudes and mindset, and how they are cared for and supported during birth.

Women are able to do what comes naturally when they are prepared, supported and encouraged to follow their own desires for their birth. Women have been giving birth naturally around the world since the beginning of time. Today we interfere more with it, and sometimes we get in our own way. Have faith that your body and nature both have your back—they were designed to know what to do! We just need to step aside. That takes advance preparation in the modern world, as well as care providers and settings that will have the same philosophy and expertise.

The physicality that is required to give birth has been compared to the performance of an endurance athlete! There’s an inherent strength in every woman to go beyond what she knows herself to be capable of. And when she does that, she is darn proud of herself; she has discovered her strength and capacity she can draw on for the rest of her life.

Learn as much as you can about what that is, about yourself and your body. The pride and joy that a woman experiences after giving birth naturally is overwhelming. So many mommas are overcome with their own capability to bring their child into the world.

Don’t deprive yourself of the sensations and transcending experience. You are able and you are supported!

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I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote.  But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby. For more info on the Bellefit girdle, check out my blog about it hereHave a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)! I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.

 
 
 

How to Prevent and Heal Birth Trauma in Babies

 

In part two of birth trauma in babies, we’ll be looking at how to prevent birth trauma in the first place for your little one. We’ll also look at how to help your baby heal from trauma, if it did already happen.

Your baby will learn about care, love, and healing; it’ll benefit him or her for life!

How to Prevent Birth Trauma in Babies

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In terms of prevention, a healthy pregnancy and beautiful natural birth are sure ways of encouraging healthy outcome and without birth trauma for you or your baby.

So, let’s quickly look at what you can do to promote a healthful and deeply fulfilling experience, while preventing any need for intervention that can lead to traumatic experiences.

Having a Natural Birth

So, what can you do to put in place the kind of birth that will support you and your baby to come into the world as nature intended?

Begin with preparation in pregnancy.

Attend my webinar on preventing birth trauma.

In it, I go over crucial tips that’ll help you develop a comprehensive plan and prepare for a natural birth. You must prepare well in advance, like you would for running the 26 mile marathon, or your own wedding.  If you want to succeed in getting what you want - rocking and loving your experience and have a healthy outcome physically and psychologically - you can not afford to just wing it. Not in today's world. 

Yes, your body knows how to give birth, when we get our modern minds out of the way and we are with people and in settings that support it and do not disturb it when everything is normal and healthy. 

Look for a midwife or doctor and birth setting setting with high rates of successful natural births, without routine unnecessary interventions, that completely allows you to have your voice, and respects and supports your decisions.

You may need to learn a complete mindset shift, especially if you do not know anything about natural birth, or have not been around it as women were throughout history; this is extremely important if you don't feel confident, have lots of fear and do not feel supported.  Although underestimated, preparing your mindset is also a powerful and a foundational place to begin when creating your birth plan and getting ready for your birth. When you set your intentions for your experience, you’re more likely to manifest what you want. 

The mindset plays a huge role in the success of famous athletes, performers, as well as business men and women - they all have coaches to help them with that so they become the rockstars they are. You do not need to be famous or perform. But you do need to take back your birth so you can have a healthy one that you love, and without trauma. Your ability to do this rests in your attitude and mindset, that needs to transform and be different than the herd mentality.

And do hire a doula - who can be your coach for your big day. It is another must.

Do any of the following situations apply to you?

  • It is your first baby,

  • It’s your first time planning a natural birth,

  • You want a vaginal birth after cesarean birth, or

  • You already had a traumatic birth and want to plan for a much better, and completely different, experience next time around.

If you answered yes to any of the above, then I recommend you take my online Love Your Birth  course as it goes over all of this in much greater depth. I literally teach you how to transform your mindset so that it serves you on this journey of a lifetime.

The lessons in the course come from my extensive experience guiding and and empowering women and their families in my practice. They’ve led to the awesome birth experiences that I have been honored to witness for over 20 years.

All mamas who have been through it benefited from it immensely. Take a look.

What to Do During and After the Birth

Babies are way more capable than we give them credit! Your unborn baby—when he or she is ready—is naturally inclined, with the help of your body's labor, to move through the birth canal of their own will and effort, when given the opportunity. 

 Photo by @senhoritasfotografia.

Photo by @senhoritasfotografia.

In part one of this birth trauma in babies blog series I discussed how babies are actually more alert, cognizant and sensitive than we realize. If we interrupt the birthing and postpartum process when all is well, with any kind of medical or surgical procedures, testing and interventions, the baby will feel terrified, unsafe, their own agency taken away, their space violated and threatened. Then the trauma reaction ensues! Interventions that can cause trauma can include drugs, internal electrodes on their head, forceps, vacuum, cesarean, immediate cord clamping, suctioning their airway, rough handling, or separation from mom. All the more so when there are complications and interventions are truly needed. 

We need to be sensitive to the baby’s psychological experience when giving care during and after the process of delivery. In the womb and certainly as a newborn, baby is fully aware and conscious and is even more vulnerable to trauma than an adult, as baby's nervous system is still developing.

In addition to the prevention mentioned above, we can help minimize risk of birth trauma by creating a homey and private atmosphere for both mom and baby - in all settings.

That includes dim, soft lighting, and a quiet, peaceful, slow paced environment.  Also, if a mom feels loved, honored, supported and cared for, if she feels calm, safe, intimate and sensual, she’ll not only labor real well, but also will have yummy hormones that pass over to baby, so baby is bathed in them and feels this as well.  Check out my birth trauma series about mothers for more on how we can prevent and heal trauma in moms.

When I talk about gentle care, I’m talking about gentle handling, soothing reassuring voice and touch, eye contact, being held, breastfeeding, and a lot of skin-to-skin contact with mom or partner —this should begin after birth.

 Photo by @sehorhitasfotografia.

Photo by @sehorhitasfotografia.

Don’t cut the cord immediately either. That is baby's life line to oxygen, blood volume and essential nutrients and immunity to help baby transition to life outside the womb. Clamp it only after the pulsing stops or the placenta is birthed. 

Babies also love relaxing music and bath water - and who wouldn't like flower petals floating around, the ambiance of real or electric candles, and a delicious light scent of lavender or citrus?  If you have a water birth, watch them open up, move their arms and legs, and look around when held in the birthing pool. 

This is a sacred time for meeting, connecting to and bonding with each other, so unplug from your phone and computer, and have someone else in charge of spreading the exciting news and taking pictures.

If a cesarean birth is needed, it can be gentle, to simulate a family-centered, natural birth as much as possible, so it feels like a huge personal celebration rather than an operation. These same concepts apply however baby comes into the world.

Furthermore, any procedures or exams that need to happen after the baby’s birthed can be done at mom’s bedside while she’s holding and soothing her baby, explaining what’s going on if something is being done to either of them. A healthy baby needs to stay with parents at all times and not be rolled away in an isolate crib, taken to the noisy and brightly lit nursery of strangers for any examination or intervention. 

How Can Babies Heal from Birth Trauma

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In today’s technological world, there are more stressful, scary, drug-induced labors and surgical births than ever before, especially here in the United States. Healthy birth has become an impersonal medical and/or surgical event, a potential crisis waiting to happen in an intensive care like setting in many hospitals; is not a normal, beautiful part of life, the humane, cozy, family-centered celebration it once was.

At least there are some improvements happening here and there, such as:

Needless to say, a lot of healing needs to take place in the last several generations, once birth was moved to hospitals in the early part of the 1900s!

Let’s take a look at some of the things we can do to help heal birth trauma in babies.

After the Traumatic Birth

In working with traumatized babies and infants, the most important thing in giving care is love. This may seem obvious but don’t take this parental superpower for granted!

As a parent, lead with your heart. It is full of wisdom and does not lie, but rather sends you in the right direction.

When interacting with your baby, always have tenderness, comfort and compassion in mind—for yourself and your baby! The more compassion you have for yourself, the easier you can extend it to others in abundance.

Practice Kangaroo Care - while in the hospital, if intensive care is needed, and definitely at home. This simply involves holding baby (clothed in a diaper only) against your skin and cover yourselves with a blanket. Its benefits are well documented and can be done safely despite baby's attachment to medical devices in the NICU, depending on baby's condition. Basic closeness, touch and attention improve their health and healing immensely.  

Your baby needs to know that even when life gets difficult—because it will—there’ll always be love. You can provide ongoing reassurance you are there for your baby. Talk to your baby in a soothing manner, and allow them to tell their story with their body and in the nonverbal way that they do. They have much to say without the ability to talk. 

Their excessive crying or “fussiness” is not simply difficult baby behavior—they’re trying to tell us something. Validate their scary experience and let them know that they’re safe now. Sing to them. Rock them. Calm them.

Take a look at renowned midwife Karen Strange’s resources on baby trauma healing. She is an expert and international educator in neonatal resuscitation and works fully from the baby’s perspective. You can begin using these incredible tools of connecting with baby in pregnancy. 

Working with a Therapist

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In treating traumatized babies, Dr. Graham Kennedy tells us that a therapist will be observing and interacting with the affected baby through movement as well as through “hands-on palpation using craniosacral therapy.”  Therapists skilled in somatic experience and cutting edge trauma healing modalities for babies are ideal. You can find a list of some wonderful ones here. 

Usually, the movements the baby begins to make are similar to those he or she made in the womb during labor, but this time giving us the story of what happened to them.

“Working with babies involves holding a space in which they feel supported enough to begin to tell us the story of what happened to them, what they experienced and where it became difficult or even traumatic.” (Graham Kennedy, November 2008)

This reenactment can have a profound change on the baby’s brain, rewiring them to experience what they would have experienced in labor were they to have had a stress-free and intervention-free experience.

There are many possible imprints and effects of birth trauma, but they can all be healed. This is well backed by much literature, science and research, especially as we are growing in our understanding of trauma, its impact and how to heal from it when we get stuck in trauma responses. 

For example, down the line, you may notice your infant or young child having trouble starting or completing tasks (or both!). This may be an effect of their birth having been interrupted—this may have caused your baby trauma, it is stored in their bodies, and now they’ve learned to carry with them a certain passivity.

Babies born by forceps, vacuum or cesarean may later on feel they have to be rescued, can't do it alone, support is painful, get angry with authority, being controlled or manipulated, or they may not want to be here at all - and that can impact every aspect of their lives.

Babies who were drugged from their moms getting pain medication, may suppress their aliveness, have issues with addiction, feel spacey, out of it and trouble being conscious in their own lives.

Babies who spent time in an incubator away from their parents, feel separate and alone, have deep longing for connection and touch, develop a psychic wall of protection, and are easily triggered by abandonment.

In later childhood through adult years, this can be completely resolved with Clarity Breathwork - I do sessions locally in my practice, and online for the global community. 

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The trauma response is an important part of our lives and it is our brain’s and body's way of protecting us at the time of perceived danger. It is a normal instinctual reaction in animals, including humans of all ages, and does not become a disorder unless it is interfered with and suppressed.

It does however, need to be treated with expertise for complete effective healing. If there is a traumatic response dysfunction, it is not a life sentence. You don’t have to hold on to those scripts anymore and neither does your baby. Full recovery is possible.

Healing birth trauma in babies is one of the most caring and giving things we can do for our children. 

Do you want to heal from trauma, inner stress and emotional pain that is negatively impacting your life? Let me help you! Attend my free webinar to learn how you can heal your own birth or other trauma, get yourself back and reclaim your inner calm and joy that is your birthright!

 

What Does Birth Trauma in Babies Look Like?

 
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Babies aren’t simply the adorable bundles of joy whose lives begin on the day they’re born. They are the thinking and feeling beings that have a big job to do in transitioning from momma’s womb to the outside world.

Keep reading to learn how this natural yet huge transformation that is birth, oftentimes, is a traumatic experience for them in modern times!

When thinking of trauma, we largely conjure up images of disastrous and catastrophic situations. There is a significant amount of research, however, that shows us that the any highly intense situation - especially where there is overwhelm, fear and helplessness - can have just as significantly a traumatic effect on our health.

And, we generally know that the traumas that have the deepest roots in our lives are the traumas that happen the earliest, all the way back to experiences of young childhood - including birth and womb time - when we were fully conscious but not yet verbal.

This may sound overly dramatic but it is now backed by science and solid research. Being born is a big and tender step in our life. We don’t pay enough attention of the psychological impact of childbirth on newborns—we assume that babies are not aware and won’t remember the pain of transition made even more difficult by maternity and newborn care given without this sensitivity.

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While it may not be written in our conscious memories, experiencing birth remains in our very cells, and is certainly within our subconscious - influencing much of our behavior, reactions and perspectives later on in life. How we relate, in our adult lives, to stress at home or work, pressure from loved ones, how we go about making our toughest decisions can very well be traced back to how we experienced birth, when our response to stresses within our nervous system were developing.

Let’s take a look at how a baby should experience birth and why he or she may have a traumatic experience instead. In looking at why a baby experiences trauma, we’ll delve a bit into the possible causes and symptoms that come with birth trauma in babies. This is the starting point for why we should begin to rethink who babies are and what they’re trying to tell us!

The Dynamics of a Normal and Healthy Birth

 Photo by @senhoritasfotografia

Photo by @senhoritasfotografia

“The birth process is more than just the means through which we come into this world. It is the first major period of transition in our lives. This transition from our experience of being intimately connected with our mother, whilst in the womb, to gradually separating and individuating, once we leave the womb, affects us not only physically but also emotionally and psychologically. The effects of this transition can range from mild to severe depending on the nature of the birth.” (Graham Kennedy, EnhancingTheFuture.co.uk)

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On the physical level, birth happens naturally by a complex series of biological events believed to be initiated by the baby.  When baby is ready, it is their biological priority and they navigate their way down the birth canal with the help from the contractions of mama’s uterus, her instinctive pushing, gravity and mobile positioning. An immediate connection to the mother and breastfeeding are crucial after birth to begin bonding and for the baby’s healthy development.

Basically, anything that interrupts this entire process can be experienced by the baby as invasive, overwhelming and really scary.

Related: Birth Trauma for Moms: What is it? Symptoms and Prevention.

Birth itself is tough enough without even considering interventions. Going down the birth canal includes twisting, turning in the body as well as with the head and neck, not to mention all of the compression and pressure the baby feels. But we as a species have handled it just fine, born into a calm community of love and support, soothed in the warmth and comfort of mama’s chest, quiet surroundings, soft lighting, demand breastfeeding and babywearing.

If the baby feels overwhelmed and frightened at any time, this feeling can be kept locked into their bodies as trauma until they work it out of their system after birth. But, it also can impact them for a long period of time, developing into behavioral and learning difficulties in the child’s later years.

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We know from decades of research in neurology, embryology, and psychology, that newborns are born fully aware and conscious. They are exquisitely sensitive – even more vulnerable to acute or chronic stress and trauma than adults. Consciousness actually begins in the womb. We have known for years, that drugs, alcohol, nicotine, poor nutrition, and certain infections in mom can drastically affect the unborn baby – altering DNA and genetic expression, as well as physical, mental  and emotional development. What mom eats, drinks, breathes, thinks, feels, and experiences goes right to the baby. So does her stress hormones.

We are learning that trauma from high impact experiences during childbirth is not only stored as nonverbal memories within newborns, it impacts their life at a critical time in their development, affecting short and long term physical and mental health – their entire neurological system, from their learning capacity to mental orientation, emotional stability and stress management. The fight or flight stress response creates a strong memory in babies and leads to  similar responses to similar cues until resolved in their nervous system. 80% of children with sensory processing disorder, ADHD, developmental delays and autism have a history of birth trauma. This is staggering.

“Babies are far more conscious and aware, even as newborns than we realize. They are also incredibly sensitive to what is going on in their environment. Unlike adults, babies do not have the option of fighting or fleeing as a response to threatening or overwhelming circumstances. As a result, the only option left available to them in these circumstances is to freeze. This makes them much more vulnerable to the effects of overwhelm and traumatization than adults, or even older children.” (Kennedy, 2008)

So, what are some of these threatening and overwhelming circumstances?

The Damage of Today’s “Technological” Birth

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The typical hospital birth today will include an array of drugs and procedures just to get started! These are administered to the mother for inciting stronger, more frequent contractions, sedation for sleep and anesthesia to numb the pain. But, a baby is, of course, susceptible to anything the mother has been given since its conception all the way through to the breastfeeding stage.

In additional to being flooded with stress hormones that mom feels from her own fear, the manner in which she is treated and interventions she doesn't really want, babies experience actual trauma from the aggressive way they are often ushered from the comfort of the dark cozy womb attached to their mother, to the world.

Just think for a newborn, what is like to for them to:

- get drugged to induce labor, to make contractions stronger and more intense for them,

- get drugged to numb the pain, sedate, or destroy their microbiome of essential healthy balance of bacteria within them

- feel a hook to break the water bag around them,

- have an internal probe screwed on their head to monitor continuous heart rate and contractions,

- be pulled out by forceps, vacuum, or cesarean,

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- have their umbilical cord  immediately clamped off, cutting off their lifeline of blood volume and oxygen, (other nutrients, antibodies and stem cells to boost their immunity) as they  transition to using their lungs instead, as independent human beings, then often they then have to be resuscitated

- be born into a world of bright lights, rough handling by strangers who disregard their experience

- get tubes stuck down their throats to suction them,

- have their ability to see blunted by abx ointment in their  eyes,

-  be  given vit k shot and hepatitis vaccine injections, poked for other blood tests,

-   get probes put on them for screening procedures

-   be taken to the nursery away from their  parents with strangers left alone for hours in hospital isolettes/cribs,

-  be given formula and pacifiers instead of their mother’s breastmilk and skin to skin comfort….and this is routine and standard  in most US hospitals and some other parts of the modern world. I am not even including the effects of NICU treatment and procedures (even if  necessary), or being strapped down for medical circumcision.

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“Additional medication is put in the baby’s eyes immediately after birth. For many years physicians used a caustic solution of silver nitrate. After much consumer pressure, they began to use a painless but vision-blurring antibiotic ointment. Babies are given antibiotics and other drugs during their hospital stay—perhaps even to counteract common hospital pathogens. Technology may mandate fetal scalp monitoring via an electrode screwed into the baby’s scalp while still in the birth canal, or delivery via vacuum extractor, an increasing practice now that the use of forceps is officially discouraged.” (David Chamberlain, Babies Remember Birth, PathwaysToFamilyWellness.org, Issue 44)

And, this doesn’t include the effects of the environment the baby’s born into. The light is too bright and too harsh in the delivery room and nurseries, and the noise level is also much too high. There are possibly needle injections to administer vitamins but also to draw a large blood sample for testing.

“Physical handling will be rushed and disorienting, while compulsive wiping, washing, weighing and measuring all irritate. If the baby is not already crying, a cry must be provoked (babies were often held upside down and slapped on their backs)” (Chamberlain, Babies Remember Birth, Issue 44)

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The standard birth today just doesn’t encourage a safe, quiet, intimate, and private environment for mother and baby to flow naturally within it. This type of maternity care definitely does not promote trust or give baby the message it is safe, kind or comfortable to be here. It certainly does not help to enable a tender bond to develop between mother and baby. It actually elicits their instinctual stress response of fight or flight. And when there is fear of harm, overwhelm, helplessness and inability to fight or flee, their nervous system gets stuck in trauma.  It’s no wonder that some babies are so “fussy” or won’t breastfeed with ease or are experiencing colic.

“While in the hospital, all mothers and babies are on professional turf where everything is regulated by hospital protocol designed not for patients but for staff. […] Even in the most lenient hospital environments, parents must expect to insist upon continuous contact with their baby, as well as privacy, or they will not get it. […] The mental and emotional damage done by birth technology to infants in the last century has followed our babies into childhood and right into adulthood, and has made necessary the development of reconstructive therapies for body and mind.” (Chamberlain, Babies Remember Birth, Issue 44)

Why do we need these reconstructive therapies? What kind of effects come with birth trauma in babies?

What Kind of Effects is the Standard Birth having on Our Babies?

When looking at birth from a baby’s perspective, it does indeed sound traumatic and unfathomable, but these practices are all too common and routine.

Common practices do not make common sense and contribute to poor outcomes  - the US ranks near the bottom as compared to other modernized countries in terms of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality, despite high rates of medical and surgical interventions. In the United States, 23% of all births performed in a hospital are induced; this means the mother is given drugs and chemicals to induce more frequent and intense contractions. And, 65% of those women will also be given epidurals on top of that to cope with the unnaturally intense pain from the medications. Furthermore, 33% of births in America wind up in a C-section. These numbers no longer seem ordinary when compared to natural births in which 95% of them will deliver healthy babies without intervention.

Although babies can’t verbally explain their trauma to us, the symptoms they endure for their traumatic birth are the language with which we can begin to translate for them a solution. Think of an adult in a stressed or post traumatic state—perhaps poor appetite, trouble sleeping, expressions of angst, irritability, and irregular breathing come to mind. Well, a baby is not so different. Don’t mistake these symptoms as those of simply a “fussy” or “difficult” baby:

-increased heart and respiratory rate;

-increased startle response, reactivity, jerky movements;

-irritability, fussiness, being inconsolable, excessive crying (here, a baby is usually labeled as “fussy” or “difficult”) or no cry at all;

-poor sleep or excessive sleep;

-feeding difficulties;

-bonding issues, decreased eye contact, glossed divergent eyes.

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“‘Most parents and professionals consider it ordinary for infants to awaken during the night, cry for long periods, have gastrointestinal distress, or be irritable. Few parents or professionals have seen trauma-free babies, so few have experienced babies who are symptom-free.

In addition, few have glimpsed the human potential that is possible when babies are freed from the bonds of early trauma.’

The effects of early trauma do not have to be a life sentence. With appropriate therapeutic support, they can be fully healed. Nor is there an age limit beyond which these early traumas can be treated.” (Kennedy, 2008)

We’ve assumed, for a long time, that baby’s are little, cute and albeit empty and emotionally unfeeling creatures when they come into the world.

“Leading researchers now sing the praises of infants. Harvard’s Berry Brazelton calls them ‘talented’; Hanus Papousek, a German pioneer in infant studies, calls them ‘precocious’; famed pediatrician Marshall Klaus calls them ‘amazing.’ Professor T.G.R. Bower, one of the most innovative of all infant researchers, declares that newborns are ‘extremely competent’ in perception, learning, and communication.” (Chamberlain, Babies Remember Birth, Issue 44)

And, the research to fully understand who these amazing beings are is still unfolding and is only now gaining momentum.

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In the meantime, how do we help our babies heal from birth trauma or help them avoid it altogether? In part two of this series on birth trauma in babies, we’ll take a look at how we can prevent birth trauma and how to heal it if your baby is already dealing with it. Preventing birth trauma for moms -  Birth Trauma for Moms: Prevention and Healing - will go a long way in preventing it in babies.

If you’d like to know the secrets to a holistically healthy and joyful birth without any of the birth trauma, then sign up for my FREE ONLINE MASTERCLASS today! It matters how you and your baby experience birth. Birth Trauma is real and impacts your life more than you realize. Millions of moms and babies are silently suffering in a culture that often fails to recognize the psychological impact of birth and most routine modern day maternity care on babies and birthing mothers. You must do what you can to prevent it. Learn how! Come join my FREE ONLINE MASTERCLASS WEBINAR and learn all about birth trauma for moms and babies. Discover 5 simple but crucial things you can do right now to drastically reduce your risk! Register Here!

I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote.  But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby. For more info on the Bellefit girdle, check out my blog about it hereHave a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)! I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.