Making Informed Choices

You know informed choice is a legal right but how do you make those choices? Here’s some guidance to help you get information and ask questions, so you can be an active participant in your health care.

In my experience, medical staff usually don’t present things as options the first time around but they are happy to answer questions when asked.

How to Avoid Birthing on Your Back

Did you know you don’t have to lay on your back to give birth?

Even though almost no one says, “I want to lay on my back to give birth”, that’s how the majority of women in North America – probably other places too – do it. Why? Because even if they’re in a more comfortable position, they’re told, “OK it’s time to have your baby – get on your back.” 

I’ve seen many people give birth on all hands & knees, squatting, on their side or even standing. Midwives and many doctors know how to catch babies in any position. It’s just a habit for the staff to tell their patients to get on their back.

How can you avoid this uncomfortable and ineffective position?

  1. Don’t get into the position in the first place. It’s hard to get out of it once you’re there.
  2. Just say NO!!!  Or say nothing but give a good emphatic head shake.
  3. When you get bugged over and over, keep saying NO and shaking your head!!

Sounds obvious but saying NO and continuing to refuse is not that easy. Check out my video about the Tend & Befriend Stress Response that makes it so difficult to not just do what we’re told during labour.

Here are a few tips:

  1. We do the thing we’re used to when we’re in a stressful or vulnerable situation – which describes birth for many people. Practise getting on your bed on “all 4-s”. Every night, just get on your hands and knees and do a few little stretches – even 5 seconds – then lay down. It will start to feel normal to get on a bed without laying down.
  2. During labour, crawl up onto the bed and take positions that feel good for you. No one will wrestle you to your back. At least I sure hope not – if that happens, it’s assault.
  3. Ensure you have a birth companion who can advocate for you and help you find your voice and your best position.
  4. Avoid getting on your back for cervical checks when the birth is imminent, as it’s hard to get out of that position. If you know your baby is moving down well maybe there’s no need to check. Many MCP know how to check a cervix in a variety of positions.
  5. If you have an epidural and are confined to bed, there are still many positions available to you.

You don’t need to ask permission to assume positions of your choice!  However, if there’s a medical complication that requires certain interventions or positions, then it may be safest for you to give birth on your back – but those are not common.

Of course if it feels good to be on your back, then great – go for it!  It’s very uncommon but possible. In my dreamy, ideal birth world, everyone would be in the position that feels best for them.  

I’m AE, prenatal educator and doula. You can find all kinds of information about classes, pregnancy, birth and postpartum on my sites listed below.  I wish you an empowering birth. Thanks for watching.

How to Celebrate your Amazing Placenta

There are many ways to celebrate your amazing placenta! 

  • Simply tell it, “thank-you for nourishing my baby” after your birth
  • Ask your doula or medical staff for a “placenta tour” – take pics or video if you like
  • Plant a tree over it
  • Placenta prints
  • Bury it in the earth and do a little ceremony to honour it
  • Cord keep-sake
  • Placenta capsules
  • Tinctures 
  • Smoothie cubes

It’s easy to take it home from the hospital. Just bring a labelled container, ask your nurse to put the placenta in said container, and then keep it cold. If it won’t be used within 3 days then put it in the freezer. The hospital may ask you to sign a “Release of Live Tissue” form.   

Contact me for more information about our placenta services.

Natural Birth Doesn’t Happen by Accident!

At least not in the North American Medical Model, in which the great majority of people give birth. It requires intentional preparation and planning. 

Here are Seven Things that Help Make A Natural Birth Happen:  

  1. Strong determination and mind-set. Birth requires us to dig deep.
  2. Intentional and deliberate preparation and planning
    1. Get informed through good prenatal classes, positive stories to find the faith
    2. A solid birth-plan that communicates your wishes
    3. Learn how the female body works in the birthing process
    4. Understand what makes the pain or intensity of labour increase and decrease
    5. Dealing with past trauma might be required
  3. Advocacy 
    1. Asking questions to make informed choices 
    2. Saying no; being prepared to say no over and over if needed
  4. Tools to deal with intensity
    1. E.g. hypnobirthing, meditation, mindful yoga practise
    2. Positions that help
    3. Touch / massage
    4. Setting the tone in your birthing space
    5. TENS machine
    6. Water – bath, birth-pool (natures epidural)
  5. Dream-Team helps a lot
    1. Support person(s) that:
      1. Are a loving and/or grounding presence 
      2. Aren’t afraid of a birthing person’s pain, sounds, behaviours
      3. Know how to provide comfort
      4. Will advocate for you
    2. Doulas – research shows the presence of a doula leads to:
      1. Shorter and less complicated births
      2. Half the rates of caesareans
      3. Significantly fewer requests for pain meds
      4. Significantly more eye contact and touch between the labouring person and their partner
    3. If giving birth in the medical model, a medical care provider who supports natural birth. Ideally: 
      1. You know them
      2. You feel comfortable with them
      3. Will respect your decisions
      4. Offer shared decision making / informed choice
      5. Their methods and ideas about birth gel with yours
  6. Baby being in the optimal fetal position before labour starts
    1. Big factor in determining length of labour and intensity
    2. Factor in some interventions being used
  7. Some good luck!
    1. Health of mother and baby going into labour
    2. Medical care provider working that day
    3. When labour starts
    4. How long it lasts
  8. Allow labour to start naturally. An induced labour is a completely different experience, usually more painful and birth turns into a medical event. Barring medical reasons, be patient and wait for labour to start on its own. 

No matter how labour goes or what interventions are, or are not used, birth is hard work –  physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But women have been doing it for millennia and you can too!

Delayed (Optimal) Cord Clamping

In spite of a mountain of evidence to support the benefits of leaving the newborn cord intact, immediate cord clamping is still routine care in many hospitals. At the time of birth, up to 40% of the newborn’s blood is in the placenta. Leaving the cord intact for at least 1-3 minutes ensures the baby gets the majority of their blood, including red blood cells, iron and blood volume. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia and neurodevelopmental delays. Adequate oxygenated blood is required to help the baby adapt to life outside the womb, including how their blood circulates and how well they breathe in the first minutes. 

The Cochrane Review, considered the highest standard globally in evidence-based health care information, contains countless articles on the benefits of delayed cord clamping. There are indisputable improved outcomes in babies born at full term and prematurely. 

The placental blood normally belongs to the infant, and his/her failure to get this blood is equivalent to submitting the newborn to a severe hemorrhage at birth.  (DeMarsh, 1941)

Yes, we’ve known since 1941!  Changing practise takes a long time indeed.

6 umbilical cords   Intact cord – birth to 15minutes (Elphanie, 2011)

Benefits of Optimal Cord Care

Benefits and positive effects last well past the newborn period!

  • 40% more blood volume.
  • 45-50% increased levels of red blood cell counts and blood iron levels.
  • Up to 45,000 stem cells (compared to 0 with immediate clamping). Stem cells provide therapeutic benefits to the baby, even into adulthood.
  • Protection from anaemia and iron deficiency for at least 6 months.
  • Better neurological development.
  • More stable vital signs; they thrive better.
  • Preemies are less likely to require blood transfusion, ventilation and oxygen therapy. 
  • Significantly lower rates and less severity of common, major newborn health issues in preemies.

 

What About Jaundice? 

Prevention of jaundice is often cited as the reason to rush the cord clamping. Leaving the umbilical cord intact does not lead to “pathological jaundice” (the kind that makes babies sick). The naturally occurring “physiological newborn jaundice” has no clinical significance, meaning it does not harm the baby. It is normal for healthy newborns to have some jaundice around day 2-3.

Objections by your medical care provider?

The World Health Organization recommends the cord stay intact for 1-3 minutes after the birth (WHO, 2014). 

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist of Canada (SOGC, 2021) states:  Delaying cord clamping for at least 1-3 minutes after delivery allows more of the baby’s blood to return from the placenta into the baby and is usually advantageous for the baby. Delayed cord clamping (anytime beyond 60 seconds after delivery) has benefits to the baby. This is because delayed cord clamping allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the infant, which increases the baby’s red blood cells and iron stores, and reduces the risk of anemia.

“The WHO and the SOGC recommend that cord clamping should be delayed by ≥60 seconds in babies who do not require resuscitation, irrespective of the mode of delivery.” (Armson, Allan, Casper; 2018).

The practise guidelines of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom are to leave the cord intact for at least 1 minute and up to 5 minutes, and to leave it for longer than 5 minutes if requested by the birth mother (NICE, 2016).

Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends a delay in umbilical cord clamping for at least 30-60 seconds after birth, “given the numerous benefits to most newborns” (ACOG, 2017).  It’s not enough but is a big step forward for ACOG, notoriously interventionist.

What About Stem-Cell or Cord-Blood Banking?

Delayed cord clamping can not be done with cord-blood banking.  Here’s some food for thought…

In British Columbia the maximum allowable blood draw volume in newborns is 5% of their total blood volume in a 30-day period. Other jurisdictions have the same guidelines. For example, a 7# baby has approximately 275ml of blood. Medical testing allows just under 14ml of that baby’s blood to be drawn and tested, total, in one month.  

The volume collected for cord-blood banking is normally 60-90 ml or more! That’s more than 5x the allowable monthly blood draws, taken all at once in the first seconds of the baby’s life. 

Have you ever noticed all the pamphlets for cord blood banking companies at your Obstetricians’ office? Have you ever seen any information on the benefits of optimal or delayed cord clamping beside those pamphlets?  “All pregnant women should be provided with unbiased information about umbilical cord blood banking options.” Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist of Canada (SOGC).

Did you know whoever collects the cord blood (usually a doctor or midwife) gets paid to do so by the blood banking company? 

Did you know cord-blood banking is a very expensive endeavor? You’ll pay for the kit, possibly for the courier, and then pay every year to store the stem cells. 

The Geeky Stuff: Basic Newborn, Placenta & Umbilical Cord Information

  • The placenta is nature’s neonatal life-support system.
  • The placenta will deliver oxygen to the baby until their newborn lungs transition to breathing air (30 to 90 seconds in a full-term infant).
  • Placental transfusion (blood moving from placenta to baby’s body) rate: 50% in 1 minute; nearly 100% over the next 2 to 5 minutes.
  • “Delayed” in research ranges from 30sec – 3min, depending on the researcher and study.
  • Newborns cope well with lack of oxygen for up to 20 minutes (only if the cord is intact) but low blood volume can quickly have catastrophic outcomes.
  • For comparison of the fact that up to 40% of the newborn’s blood is in the placenta, adults may go into shock and receive blood transfusions at 15 to 30% blood-loss.

References

ACOG American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2017).  Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping After Birth. Obstet Gynecol 2017;129:e5–10. http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Delayed-Umbilical-Cord-Clamping-After-Birth

Armson, B.A., Allan, D.S., Casper, R.F. (2018). Delayed Cord Clamping and Umbilical Cord Blood Collection.  Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 40 (2), 155.

Asfour, V., & Bewley, S. (2011). Cord clamping practice could affect the ratio of placental weight to birthweight and perinatal outcomes. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology., 118 (12), 1539-40.

Chaparro, C. M., Neufeld, L. M., Alavez, G. T., Cedillo, R., & Dewey, K. G. (2006). Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping on iron status in Mexican infants: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 367 (9527), 1997-2004.

CRYO-CELL International Inc. (2019). Cord blood collection instructions. Florida.

De Marsh, Q. B., et al. (1941).”The Effect of Depriving the Infant of its Placental Blood.” Journal of the American Medical Association (J.A.M.A.), 116(23):2568-2573. doi:10.1001/jama.1941.02820230012004

Fogelson, D. N. (2011). Delayed cord clamping grand rounds. USC School of Medicine, A.P. Dept. Obstetrics and Gynecology. South Carolina: Palmetto Health Grand Rounds.

Frye, A. (2004). Holistic midwifery, vol 2, Care during labour and birth. Portland: Labrys.

Garofalo, Milena; Abenhaim, Haim A. (2012). Early Versus Delayed Cord Clamping in Term and Preterm Births: A Review.  J Obstet Gynaecol Can;34(6):525–531.  http://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(16)35268-9/pdf

Greene, A. (2008). How much blood is too much guideline. Retrieved from Dr Greene: http://www.drgreene.com/article/how-much-blood-too-much-guideline.

McAdams, R.M. (2014).  Obstet Gynecol. 123(3):549-52. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000122.

Mercer, J. S., Vohr, B. R., McGrath, M. M., Padbury, J. F., Wallach, M., & Oh, W. (2006). Delayed cord clamping in very preterm infants reduces the incidence of intraventricular hemmorhage and late onset sepsis; a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics, 117 (4), 1235-1242.

NICE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK). (2016). Clinical guideline [CG190] Intrapartum care for healthy women and babiesPub Dec 2014, revised/updated Nov 2016.  https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/ 

Reed, R. (2011). Cord blood collection: confessions of a vampire-midwife. Retrieved from Midwife Thinking: http://midwifethinking.com/2011/02/10/cord-blood-collection-confessions-of-a-vampire-midwife/

Richmond, S., & Wyllie, J. (2010). European resuscitation council guidelines for resuscitation 2010. Section 7. Resuscitation of babies at birth. J. Resuscitation , 1389-1399.

SOGC. (2021). Delayed Cord Clamping. Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist of Canada.  https://www.pregnancyinfo.ca/birth/delivery/delayed-cord-clamping/

Tolosa, J. N., Park, D.-H., Eve, D. J., Klasko, S. K., Borlongan, C. V., & Sanberg, P. R. (2010). Mankind’s first natural stem cell transplant. J. Cell. Mol. Med. , 14 (3), 488-95.

University of British Columbia – Children’s & Women’s Health Centre of British Columbia. (2013). Pediatric Blood Draw Guidance. Version 3.2.

Usher, R., Shephard, M., & Lind, J. (1963). The Blood Volume of the Newborn Infant and Placental Transfusion. Acta Paediatrica – Nurturing the Child , 52 (5), 497-512.

WHO. (2014). Guideline: Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping – for improved maternal and infant health and nutrition. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Checklist and Tips for Making a Birth Plan

Most people who give birth in a hospital are meeting their medical care team for the first time. Because of the circumstances, the staff do not have the time or bandwidth to get to know their patients in-depth.   

A good birth plan, which I prefer to call “Birth Preferences”, can build bridges with your medical team. It can help them get to know you and quickly understand what you’d like in your ideal birth. It’s also helpful to learn about the policies and practises at your birthplace, so you know what to put on your wish-list.

Your Birth Plan document should be only one page with lots of white space and an easy font – at least 12pt. Use respectful and positive, but firm language. “I prefer….” is wishy-washy for something that really matters to you. 

I recommend you use language that reflects who you are. If you have a great sense of humour, feel free to insert fun and levity in your plan. “If Jamie takes a nap, please kick him when he starts snoring.”

Checklist for an excellent Birth Preferences document

This section includes examples. Feel free to copy them or use your own language. 

  1. Start with an opening paragraph that includes:
  • An opening statement that encompasses your attitudes or overall vision e.g. “We’ve prepared for a natural birth” or “An epidural is part of my plan” or “We’re using Hypnobirthing as a tool.”
  • A statement about consent, such as “We’re open to changes after discussion with the medical staff so we can make informed choices.” or “I will ask questions whenever a procedure is recommended and then need a few minutes alone to think.”
  • A kindness to the staff. “Thank you for supporting us through our birth process” or “We appreciate the work you do.”
  1. An additional opening paragraph if there are special circumstances:
  • Medical conditions that need to be known urgently, such as “Lucy is allergic to penicillin”. 
  • Mobility issues or cognitive considerations.
  • Sensitive issues that may affect your birth, if it feels safe to share. (It’s been my experience that this level of personal sharing makes for better treatment.) “Due to previous trauma, no one is to touch me until I am aware of who they are, understand why and what’s involved, and have verbally agreed.”  Or “Robin faints at the sight of blood, even one drop.” Or “We’ve had a previous loss and do not want to discuss it. Please see the prenatal records.”
  1. Then a short list of points for your wishes. It could be titled, “These are our wishes”:
  • If anyone is joining you, name them. E.g. Your doula or “plus-one” such as a friend or mother.
  • The environment you’d like, such as quiet with dim lights, loud rocking music (bring your own), window blinds open for sunshine, privacy.
  • Continue this section with points that are unique to you. Here are a few of my favorite things from the hundreds of birth plans I’ve seen:
    • I must wear my purple socks at all times.
    • Do not offer pain medications; I’ll ask if I want anything.
    • Please run a bath and encourage me to get in.
    • Minimal cervical checks and only by experienced staff.
    • I will eat if I’m hungry; please provide a waiver.
    • Please provide the squatting bar and recommend positions to keep labour moving.
    • Please coach me through pushing. 
    • I will breathe my baby down and appreciate quiet during the bearing-down stage.
    • Essential staff only; no observers or learners. 
    • Students are welcome.

You get the idea!

  • Cord and placenta plans, if any. E.g. We’d like 3 minutes of delayed cord clamping. Or We’re keeping our placenta. Or Please show me the placenta before disposing of it.
  1. Some people add an “In case of Caesarean:” heading, with things that are important to them such as playing a certain song, delayed cord clamping, requesting someone to take photos if possible, keeping family together as long as possible in the OR.
  1. A closing sentence such as “Thank you for taking time to read this page” or “Thank you for being part of our big day!”

Do not include:

  • Disaster planning language e.g. “… unless something goes wrong.” or “… unless it’s needed”.  It’s a given. 
  • Things that aren’t issues. If your local hospital has a policy that all babies are held skin-to-skin by a parent immediately upon birth and for the first hour (that’s the policy in my local hospital), then there’s no need to ask for that. 
  • A shopping list of all the things you don’t want. You don’t have to tell your medical team that you don’t want an episiotomy or a caesarean – they know that. (Well, unless you’re in a place where episiotomies are routinely done – then add that to the list! In almost every Canadian hospital, episiotomies are not routinely done.)
  • The interventions that are only done after discussion, such as induction, which requires a conversation and signed consent form. 
  • Postpartum care of the maternal or newborn patient. “I will breastfeed” or “I will use formula” do not belong on the birth plan. 

Optimal Fetal Position – Turning Baby Prenatally

Fetal position (position of the baby in the maternal pelvis) at the onset of labour is one of the greatest determining factors of how the birth process will proceed.  The optimal fetal position is pictured below.  A good way to remember the best position is to be able to give your baby a back rub every time you rub your belly.

The terms “posterior” or “sunny-side up” describe a baby who faces out, or is spine-to-spine with the pregnant woman. “OP” is the medical jargon, meaning occiput posterior. The part of the head that enters the pelvis is bigger in this position and the baby doesn’t flex and rotate as well as if they’re in the optimal position.  That can make for a much longer, more painful and more complicated birth.

Problems Related to Posterior Position

  • More difficult for baby to drop into and through the pelvis
  • Pregnancy may last longer
  • Membranes are more likely to rupture before the onset of labour
  • Labour may progress slowly or not at all
  • Back-pain during labour that doesn’t disappear between contractions
  • Increased risk of tearing
  • Increased risk of instrumental or surgical birth
  • Increased stress on baby’s head and nervous system

Some women birth a posterior baby just fine.  Those include but are not limited to, women who’ve given birth without difficulty before, those with an average or smaller baby, a labouring woman who’s able to move about freely and allow her baby to rotate into an “anterior” (the optimal) position.

Fetus in WombBaby in optimal position:  head down and flexed, back out.

Signs of a Posterior Baby

  • Feeling kicks or flutters at the front
  • Frequent urination (more frequent than with anterior pregnancy)
  • Belly appears flat on top or lumpy
  • Your midwife or doctor can tell by palpating your abdomen or by doing an ultrasound
  • Fetal heart-tones may be difficult to hear
  • Head is not engaged or doesn’t drop into pelvis
  • Can be assessed during labour by a cervical check

Factors Contributing to Posterior Position
Babies can assume a posterior position with no risk factors, but the following increase the chances:

  • North American lifestyle – reclining in upholstered furniture, sedentary lifestyle, sitting in cars (it’s interesting to note this position is rare in cultures where pregnant women walk a lot or work bent-over, and lack Lazy-Boy style chairs and couches)
  • Sitting with legs crossed
  • Postural or anatomical issues
  • Issue of uterine / abdominal muscles (e.g. tight psoas)
  • First pregnancy
  • Epidural use early in labour (hinders rotation and descent of baby) is correlated with more than 3x the rate of posterior position at birth (Tully, 2008)
  • Labouring in bed or without adequate movement
  • Baby who was breech and turned to vertex
  • Pregnant person with history of breech or posterior baby
  • Short or tight cord around baby
  • Emotional issues – fear of birth or parenting, not paying attention to pregnancy, family history of breech, relationship issues, financial concerns, stress (Frye, 1998)

Tricks for Turning a Posterior Baby to an Anterior Position
Sometimes there’s an unknown reason for the baby to be posterior and nothing will turn them. But in many cases a baby can be turned. Please ask for details or referrals.

  • Visualization and “talking” to your baby. Focus on letting the baby know it’s easier to get out when facing the other way.  This works especially well if combined with changing your emotional environment e.g. dealing with fears, prepping for birth.
  • Look at a picture of baby in proper position (e.g. Fig. 1), or have it drawn on your belly!
  • Webster Technique with a chiropractor certified in its use. Pistolese (2002) cites an 82% rate of success in relieving the musculoskeletal causes of intrauterine constraint.  It’s beneficial to perform the Webster Technique starting at 35-36 weeks.
  • Sit with pelvis tilted forward – knees below pelvis with straight back. Instead of upholstered furniture, use a birth ball, the floor, a kneeling chair or a regular hard chair or stool
  • Hands and knees – read, crawl around, or do “child’s pose” modified for pregnant belly
  • Pelvic rocking while on all 4’s – gentle “cats and dogs” yoga postures – several times daily
  • Swimming or floating – anything with belly down like a hammock for baby to drop into
  • Movement and exercise
  • Sleep on left side with a body pillow – left leg straight, right leg bent on pillow
  • Homeopathic Pulsatilla 200CH, 1 dose every 3 days.
  • Acupuncture or moxibustion – see a Traditional Doctor of Chinese Medicine or an acupuncturist who specializes in women’s and pregnancy care.
  • Deal with fears around childbirth and parenting
  • Postural management – check out spinningbabies.com for some excellent postures and exercises that encourage babies to assume optimal positions for birth.
  • Exercises to prepare for birth and encourage pelvic floor health, and optimal fetal positioning, such as the Miles Circuit.

References

Frye, A. (1998). Holistic Midwifery, Vol 1, Care During Pregnancy. Portland, OR: Labrys Press.

Ohm, J. (2006). About the Webster Technique. Retrieved from icpa (International Chiroractic Pediatric Association): http://icpa4kids.com/about/webster_technique.htm

Pistolese, R. (2002). The Webster Technique: A chiropractic technique with obstetril implications. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics , 25 (6), E1-E9.

Tayler, R. (2000). Homeopathy for Pregnancy and Childbirth. Ottawa: Ottawa School of Homeopathy.

The Midwifery Group. (2008). Posterior Babies. Retrieved from The Midwifery Group: http://www.midwiferygroup.ca/downloads/position/Posterior%20Babies.pdf

Tully, G. (2008). Occiput Posterior – OP. Retrieved from Spinning Babies: http://www.spinningbabies.com/baby-positions/posterior

Perineum Care and Recovery

Calendula Pads

For swelling, pain, heat.  Make 5-10 pads 6 weeks before due date.
Calendula flowers promote healing and are soothing when applied topically.

  • Calendula Mixture: Make tea from dried calendula leaves (1 full tea ball per cup water steeped for 10 min) or use tincture (20-30 drops per cup water).  Add 1-2 drops of lavender essential oil or some lavender tea to mixture.
  • Partially dip maxi pads – preferably long, organic – in calendula mixture briefly, just to soak top layer. Another option is to use a sprayer to wet the tops.
  • Freeze pads in bowls so they’re curved like the female body. Store in Ziplocs (labeled with your name) in freezer.
  • Bring the pads to birth-place! Hospitals and birthing centers may have a freezer you can use. If not, consider bringing a cooler or just wait to use them until you return home.
  • Apply immediately after birth.

Perineum Care after your Birth

Peri-bottles are one of a new birth mom’s best friends. Kind of like a bidet in a bottle or “A soothing spritz for your lady-bits!” according to Ninja-Mama.

Here are some tips and advice about using peri-bottles:

  • Plan ahead – find out if your local hospital provides one. Most do for use during the postpartum stay and beyond. Your midwife may also provide one for homebirth.
  • If they provide at one the hospital, take it home. It’s not fancy but it works fine.
  • Plan to have one peri-bottle in each bathroom the birth mother will use. The Frida Mom (sold locally at Groovy Mama and Hello Baby) and Ninja Mama are genius peri bottles. Most hospitals provide the one pictured 3rd on the link above, and it’s also sold locally at Jolly’s.
  • Use it every time you use the toilet. Just spray while peeing or after as a rinse.
  • Warmed water or a peri-rinse such as calendula infusion feel best. Room temp will feel cold but it’s okay too.

Perineum Rinse

Soothing and healing for swelling, pain, abrasions, tears, bruising.  It’s safe to use with stitches.  This can be prepared during early labor or ahead of time and frozen/refrigerated.

  • Fill a peri- or spray-bottle with calendula mixture (above), a healing solution (below) or warm water.
  • Hospitals will provide a peri-bottle.  A spritz bottle works too.
  • Squirt solution on perineum after every washroom use, shower/bath, or in between if extra relief is needed. Do not rinse solution off.
  • If urination burns then squirt during urination – start just before releasing urine – or pee in the bath.
  • Allow the area to dry between applications. Air-time or even a cool blow drier can be helpful.
  • Note: if the rectum is sore or stitched, support the perineum with a cloth during bowel movements (like pooping into a cloth).

Sitz Bath

(Not sure why we call it that; it’s just a shallow bath! Full tub works just as well.)

  • Soak your perineum in a bath for 15 minutes, 3 times daily. Shallow water is fine.
  • Add Epsom salt and if you wish to use herbs, add 1-2 cups raw herbs or healing herb tea, ¼ cup tincture, or up to 5 drops of pure essential oil. If you wish to use plain water then spray the healing solution after the bath.
  • Some women like cool water for inflammation while others find warm water soothing. Experiment with temperatures but avoid extremes during the initial postpartum days, and keep the rest of your body warm.
  • Do not sit on a donut-shaped vessel in the bath as it adds pressure.

Healing Herbs

Calendula is healing, along with other herbs such as comfrey, lavender, witch hazel, tea-tree, yarrow.  Feel free to ask me about the various healing properties of the different herbs.  Nice sitz-bath blends can be purchased – look for an Epsom salts base with herbs or pure essential oils; no fragrance or additives.   There are some nice soothing perineum sprays on the market, such as Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray, sold in Regina at Head-to-Heal Wellness and Groovy Mama in Cathedral, or Hello Baby in East.

Recovery from a Difficult Birth

After a difficult birth follow the above recommendations plus:

  • Keep knees together as much as possible for the first 2 weeks, even while walking
  • Avoid stairs
  • Lift nothing heavier than the baby
  • Allow area to “breath” – air time or cotton panties (no synthetics)
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Avoid perfumes, chemicals
  • Avoid straining on the toilet – good nutrition and lots of water, support perineum with a cloth during bowel movements (like pooping into a cloth)
  • See a Physiotherapist who specializes in women’s pelvic floor to heal pelvic floor muscles; recover from perineum tears; avoid or heal incontinence, painful intercourse and pelvic pain
  • Consider seeing a complimentary practitioner who specializes in and is experienced with maternal postpartum recovery, such as a Webster certified chiropractor or an osteopath, to help ensure pelvic organs, bones, ligaments are healthy and aligned.

Angie The Doula – Tips and Recipes for Labour-Aid Drinks

Here are some alternatives to store-bought sport drinks, which are usually full of chemicals and unhealthy ingredients. High quality coconut water is full of electrolytes. Any bone broth works too for Labour-Aid.

Labour-Aid and broths are excellent for hydration, energy and electrolytes.  They help keep the powerful forces of labour progressing.  Stock the ingredients at home and prepare at the first sign of labour.  Or make ahead (this is a great task for someone who wishes to help out) and freeze as cubes, popsicles, or in a bottle, to be thawed and consumed as labour progresses.

Most labouring women prefer their labour-aid chilled and their broths warm.

LABOUR-AID DRINK – basic (recipe shared by many midwives and natural birth books)
1 L  water or Pregnancy Tea
1/3 C  raw honey or real maple syrup
1/3 C  juice, fresh-squeezed from a real lemon
1/2 t  salt, preferably Celtic or Himalayan
1/4 t  baking soda
2 crushed calcium tablets

LABOUR-AID DRINK – easiest (recipe by Head to Heal Wellness)
1L water (for hydration)
1 Tbsp honey (to give us fuel while being active)
1/4 Tsp salt (to replace the loss of electrolytes)
1/4 Tsp baking soda (to replace electrolytes lost)
1/2 a lemon
Combine all the ingredients into a glass container and stir. You can tweak the amounts based on your personal preference and needs. Squeeze as much lemon as you like until you find your favourite ratio. Voila!

These next two versions are from Mommypotamus.  See the website for details of ingredients.

LABOUR-AID DRINK – Lemon Labor Aide
4 C  water
1/2 C  freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 t  salt, preferably Celtic or Himalayan
1/4 C  raw honey (or more to taste)
a few drops concentrated minerals (available at health stores, optional)
a few drops Rescue Remedy (optional)

LABOUR-AID DRINK – Coconut & Lime Labor Aide
3 C  coconut water
1 C  water (or more)
1/2 C  freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 t  salt, preferably Celtic or Himalayan
2 T  raw honey or maple syrup
a few drops concentrated minerals (available at health stores, optional)
a few drops Rescue Remedy (optional)

VEGGIE BROTH
Add fresh or dried veggies (e.g. carrots, celery, onion, garlic – anything) to boiling water
Simmer for 20-30 min
Add 1 T  apple-cider vinegar
Season with any herbs or spices you like
Add salt to taste, preferably Himilayan or Celtic (kelp powder can be used instead)
Blend to smooth consistency or strain veggie chunks out

BONE BROTH
Put bones and any left-over bits, including meat on bones in pot and cover with water.
Add 1-2 T  apple cider vinegar
Bring to boil then simmer (large bones such as beef for up to 24 hours; small animal bones such as chicken only need 3-4 hours)
Strain
Add salt to taste, preferably Himilayan or Celtic (kelp powder can be used instead)
Optional:  Add dried or finely chopped fresh veggies, herbs or spices and simmer for another 30min

Angie The Doula – Postpartum Warning Signs for Mother and Baby

CALL 811/DOCTOR/MIDWIFE WITH ANY WARNING SIGNS.  CALL 911 FOR EMERGENCY HELP!

If you call 911, have someone clear a path for EMT (halls, stairs etc), turn on outside light, put pets away, unlock door, clear driveway.)

Maternal Warning Signs

  • Vaginal bleeding heavy enough to soak a super-pad front to back in 1/2hr-1hr. Note: if blood starts to pour continuously, lay down immediately and call 911;
  • Foul-smelling bleeding or discharge
  • Passing clots bigger than a toonie
  • Temperature greater than 38C (100.4F)
  • Feeling flu-like
  • Uterus is painful to the touch
  • Uterus feels soft and is at or above the navel, and doesn’t respond to gentle massage
  • Sore, red, hot, tender area on leg or calf
  • Painful, swollen, red breasts or red / hot / lumpy spots
  • Sudden and extreme pain on nipples with feeding (may be thrush)
  • Persistent dizziness (call 911 if accompanied by bleeding)
  • Fainting (call 911 if accompanied by bleeding)
  • Feeling depressed, very anxious, unhappy or are crying without reason and cannot sleep or eat

Baby Warning Signs

  • Blue or grey in the lips, face or chest. Call 911.
  • Temperature of greater than 37.4C (99.3F) or lower than 35C (96.6F) (note: consider environment – e.g. is baby wrapped in layers in a hot room?)
  • Laboured breathing
  • Extra-sleepy and has not fed in the past 6-8 hours
  • Has not urinated or passed meconium (feces) in the first 24 hours
  • Yellow skin in the first 24 hours
  • Red patches, pimples or bumps
  • Vomits after every feed
  • High pitched cry or extremely irritable, inconsolable
  • Lethargic
  • Red, hot area around cord-stump; swelling of stump; discharge of pus, blood or meconium
  • Red blood in urine (note – some girl-babies get a little ‘period’ due to hormones)
  • Bright red diaper rash
  • White spots in mouth that don’t rub off (thrush)