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

Birth Support on a Budget

If rates for full doula care seem too high, please read on.  There are many ways I can contribute to you being prepared and supported through your birth. I offer prenatal classes, birth prep consultations, a lower-priced doula package, birth-plan prep sessions, and creative ideas for paying your doula.  Details for all of this are below.

My current fees of $1400-1600 for full doula support are a fair reflection of my extensive experience, skills and knowledge.  Besides the often long and unpredictable hours, there are costs associated with being a professional doula. Some of these are monetary such as training, missing other work-shifts, association fees, parking and all the normal expenses related to self-employment.  Other costs are not measurable, such as missed family events, being on-call (700+ hours per client), and recovery time from long births.  Experienced doulas are worth the expense and in fact are the first to fill their client list.

I also offer a couple of lower-priced doula support packages starting at $900. They are described below and as a doula support packages comparison chart.  

If you wish to benefit from my expertise but the cost is out of your range, then you might be interested in attending prenatal classes or accessing other services such as Birth Plan Preparation, or working with me and one of the doulas I’m mentoring.

Birth Preparation and Support Packages (please see the doula support packages comparison chart for details of what’s included in each)

  • Lower-cost doula mentorship package:  Work with me and one of the newer doulas I’m mentoring for $900. Prenatal preparation is vital for having your ideal birth. Therefore you’ll have all prenatal consultations, including creating a birth-plan and any questions answered along the way, with me and the new doula, who is fully and professionally trained, and meets the requirements of mentorship with me. She’s a professional doula who is building her birth experience. The newer doula will be your primary doula for your labour and birth. We both attend the postpartum visit. (I train Birth and Postpartum Doulas of excellence through Birth Ways International.) Many happy clients have chosen this option.
  • Dial-a-Doula Prep & Birth Support for local or far away clients. Includes everything in the full birth doula support package but with virtual instead of in-person support. I’ve supported people in my own town and as far away as Singapore in this manner! $1000.
  • Birth Prep Package without birth doula support:  I educate and set up clients with the same care my doula clients get. It’s up to you to arrange for another doula or perhaps you are not working with a doula at all.  This involves 3 meetings prenatally to go over options, unpack previous births (if applicable), and create a vision of their ideal birth, and extensive educational support (e-mails, client hand-outs, referrals to local health practitioners, help with birth-plans and sibling-prep), a Directory for the Childbearing Year, a Roadmap to Optimal Birth Prep, and a Postpartum Prep list.  These clients have access to the “client-only” section of my site and lots of great info, and we prepare a birth plan together.  They can also ask me questions via e-mail any time through their pregnancy – to pick my brain or get answers to things that come up along their pregnancy. This is currently $500.

To understand doula fees, please see http://www.cordmama.com/blog/2015/3/23/why-doulas-are-expensive-and-why-youre-glad-they-are

If you have a partner who doesn’t understand paying for extra support, please see http://goodmenproject.com/families/new-dads-advice-just-hire-a-damn-doula-jrmk/

Other Options:

  • We can set up a payment plan.
  • Gift certificates for my services.
  • Raise funds e.g. a collection-box at your baby-shower or Mother-Blessing, or ask people to contribute to your doula rather than buying other gifts.
  • Find a less experienced doula, as they usually have lower fees. See The Doulas of Regina for a listing of local doulas.
  • If there’s no way you can pay for birth support, check out the Doulas of Regina  Relief Fund.  They pay for doulas to attend the births of women who qualify based on financial need.

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Weight and fundal (abdominal) measurements are usually recorded at prenatal appointments. However avoiding weight gain is a concern for many women, even during pregnancy. If the number on the scale is an issue or trigger, people can ask their doctor or midwife to record the number in their chart without telling them. Another option is to decline being weighed; many other things are measured throughout a pregnancy that can provide information about pregnancy health and fetal growth.

There used to be strict guidelines for weight-gain ranges, but an increasing body of research indicates it’s most important to focus on good nutrition and a healthy maternal patient, rather than an exact number of kilos gained through pregnancy. 

There are too many variables to pick an ideal number. Factors include height, pre-pregnancy body composition, bone structure, carrying a single fetus or multiples, genetics, metabolism, health of the pregnancy, diet, activity level, pre-existing health conditions, cultural considerations, age, and pregnancy-related health issues.

Someone who eats well will almost always gain exactly what they need for a healthy pregnancy. 

Where does the weight come from and where does it go?

Many postpartum women are surprised to find they don’t return to their pre-pregnancy weight immediately after birth. Less than half of the weight gained makes up the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid!

Here’s a list of approximate weight distribution for a healthy pregnant woman of an “average-size” with a single fetus:

  • Baby at birth – average of 6-8.5lbs / 2700-3900g
  • Uterus* expands during pregnancy – 2lbs / 900g
  • Placenta – 1.5lbs / 680g
  • Breasts* – may increase by up to 1-2lbs / 450-900g (total, not each)
  • Blood volume* increases by 150% during pregnancy – 4lbs / 1800g
  • Fluid* will be retained by pregnant woman – up to 4lbs / 1800g
  • Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby – 2lbs / 900g
  • Maternal fat & nutrients stores, muscle development* – 7lbs / 3175g (3.175kg)

* These things do not magically disappear through the birth but rather will take some time to resolve. Good thing! It takes months to grow all the extra blood volume and other elements and it would feel quite terrible to undo all of it in a few hours. These things are a normal part of pregnancy. Some people return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight while others do not.

Postpartum Sexuality

Many individuals or couples have questions or concerns about postpartum sexuality. Resuming sexual relations takes time and patience. During the first 6-weeks postpartum, the birth parent’s body is in recovery mode – much more than simply a return to the non-pregnant state!  Almost every culture advocates 6 weeks of abstinence for medical or spiritual reasons. 

After giving birth, some people have no change in libido and a rare few experience an increased drive.  However the majority notice lessening or lack of sexual desire; it’s a normal result of the physical and hormonal changes that accompany birth and post-partum. Most researchers report a return to pre-pregnancy levels of sexual desire, enjoyment, and frequency within a year. The hormones of breastfeeding often lead to suppression of sexual desire. Other factors that play into the temporary decrease in sexual feelings include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Feeling “touched out” due to constant contact with infant
  • Time constrains with duration of sex due to infant needs
  • Loss of privacy as a couple
  • Individuals in a partnership dealing with new pressures such as how to be a devoted parent or deal with increased financial responsibility
  • Many birth-mothers find themselves feeling dependent on their partner partner in new ways – a major mental and emotional adjustment
  • Self-image – postpartum people may feel self-conscious of their body and it’s workings
  • Relationship satisfaction, which is a predictor of postpartum sexual desire and frequency of intercourse
  • Baby blues or postpartum depression

Did you Know?

  • It takes 6 weeks for the placenta attachment site to heal. During that time there’s actually an open wound in the uterus, at risk for infection or injury.
  • The perineum can take 4-8 weeks to heal after incisions or stitches.
  • Vaginal secretions are decreased due to postpartum hormone levels.
  • Either or both partners may feel shy.
  • Jealousy of baby, mother-baby relationship, or partner’s perceived freedom is normal.
  • Nipples may be sore or tender. Breasts may leak breast-milk with sexual stimulation.
  • Some people feel sexually aroused when their milk lets down.
  • It is not normal to have pain with intercourse or using the toilet after 8 weeks postpartum.

The top concerns by both genders at 4 months postpartum include when to resume sexual penetration, birth control, recovery from delivery, and postpartum body image. Have open discussions as a couple.

When to Begin Again…

  • To prevent infection or discomfort, wait until whichever is LATEST:
    • Postpartum bleeding has fully stopped
    • Perineal tears, injuries, sutures heal
    • 6 weeks
    • **Everyone involved is ready physically, mentally, emotionally**
  • Start slowly,  especially in cases of traumatic birth
  • Stop in case of pain or discomfort
  • Patience may be required during the time-period before resuming sexual relations. Try:
    • Mutual caring and love
    • Cuddling, hugging
    • Kissing
    • Other sensual, nonsexual contact such as massage

Challenges to Sexuality

  • Relationship as both parents transition to parenthood
  • Perceived or actual inadequate support and presence of partner
  • No time for intimacy, especially if in survival mode
  • Difficult or traumatic birth, including Caesarean, can have physical and emotional lingering effects
  • Trauma to perineum during birth process
  • Religious or cultural beliefs

Other Strategies

  • Postpartum support to ensure rest and recovery from pregnancy and birth
  • Daily connection and even romance
  • If partners find each other attractive or beautiful then tell them, or find something to compliment
  • Set aside time for sex when neither of you are tired or anxious e.g. weekly date (day or evening) when someone takes baby for a couple of hours, or a weekly rendezvous while baby sleeps
  • Use a lubricant, as it’s normal to be dry or drier than usual, especially if breastfeeding
    • Water-soluble are “healthiest” and help with irritation or sensitivity
    • Silicone-based last longer and are more slippery than water-soluble
    • Avoid petroleum products (Vaseline, baby oil, or mineral oil) as they’re toxic and can dissolve latex condoms or barriers
  • Don’t take it personally if if your partner isn’t interested in resuming sexual relations; this will improve with time as hormones and schedules normalize.

Contact Health Care Provider, such as Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist in Case of…

  • Pain with penetration or using the toilet beyond 8 weeks that isn’t lessening each week.
  • Any questions or concerns regarding sexuality postpartum.

Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

  • Specialists in female pelvic floor care and recovery after birth; also help with prenatal pelvic floor health.

Other Practitioners who can Help

  • Painful penetration may be referred to a pelvic floor physiotherapy specialist or gynaecologist.
  • Sex therapist in case of non-physical or unidentified origin.
  • Couples counselling if relationship is strained.

References

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. (2006, Sep). Postpartum Counseling – Sexuality and Contraception. Retrieved Sep 2011, from Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: http://www.arhp.org/publications-and-resources/quick-reference-guide-for-clinicians/postpartum-counseling/contraception

Calgary Health Region. (2007). From Here Through Maternity. Calgary: Alberta Health Services.

Davis, E. (1997). Heart & Hands (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.

Lim, R. (2001). After the Baby’s Birth – A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women (Revised ed.). Toronto: Celestial Arts.

McCabe, M. A. (2002). Psychological Factors and the Sexuality of Pregnant and Postpartum Women. The Journal of Sex Research , 39 (2), 94-103.

Pastore, L. P., Annette Owens MD, P., & Raymond, C. ,. (2007). Postpartum Sexuality Concerns Among First-Time Parents from One U.S. Academic Hospital. The Journal of Sexual Medicine , 4 (1), 115-123.

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 Ways to 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.

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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

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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.