Optimal Recovery from Caesarean Birth

After a Caesarean birth, you will be given a list of recovery tips from your medical care provider.  The following additional information contributes to optimal recovery following a surgical birth.

Taking care of a baby is a full-time job and deserves recognition as such.  Recovery from major abdominal surgery is also a full-time job.  For most people, in 6-8 weeks life will gain a new normal but it takes longer than that to fully recover from a Caesarean birth.

FOR BIRTH MOM:

REST, REST, REST!

This is essential for recovery. Although you have a newborn (perhaps other children too) at home, do the best you can to rest and recover. Get the support needed to do this, such as from a Postpartum Doula.

  • Sleep while the baby sleeps. I know – ugh – everyone says that and it’s not realistic. But…. really, really try!!! Let the house go for now! Enlist help if other responsibilities prevent you from napping.
  • Lift nothing heavier than your baby for 6 weeks! (A-hem – that means not lifting the baby in the bucket seat either.)  Avoid hard exercise for 6-8 weeks. Listen to your body. Any pain means stop and rest right away. This will be humbling. And frustrating. But it will pay off in a faster recovery overall.
  • Hire a cleaner if you don’t have good live-in support and if you’re in a position to do so. A weekly or bi-weekly cleaning works magic for your sanity.
  • If you wish to introduce your baby to others, then have an open house / meet-baby gathering to entertain all friends at once rather than spend hours daily with visitors.
  • Learn to accept help. Just say thank-you! Ask for help from friends & family. They’d love to make food, babysit siblings, walk the dog, feed the pets, do laundry etc. Your turn to help another will come later.
  • Make a “guest rule”. Any visitors must bring or prepare food (and clean up their mess), and/or do a chore from a list you’ve made. Make it clear they will not be entertained! They are there to help. This gets you help and decreases visitors.

For internal healing:

Osteopathy, Visceral Manipulation Therapy, and CranioSacral Therapy help resolve trauma and restore fluidity to organs & tissues, which speeds healing, decreases pain and facilitates long-term recovery. When internal tissues are exposed to air, adhesions can form. During surgery, organs are shifted from their optimal placement. Wait 4-6 weeks before starting treatment.

If you’re into Homeopathy: Traumeel (drops or tabs) during the entire post-surgical recovery phase, or homeopathic Arnica 200CH first 3-5 days (3 granules once daily).

Emotional Recovery:

Emotions following a Caesarean birth vary. One person may feel completely satisfied with their birth and emotional recovery is not an issue. Conversely, another may feel loss, regret, blame or disappointment. There are infinite factors that lead to Caesarean birth.

Many people will say, “At least your baby is healthy”, but a woman’s birth journey is important too. Give yourself permission to feel sadness about your birth; it doesn’t mean you’d trade your baby’s health for your “ideal birth” nor that you don’t love and appreciate your baby. There’s room for being totally in love, feeling anger or sadness or happiness – all of it!

Some people will assume it’s totally devastating to have a caesarean. Perhaps you are happy with your birth, and that’s OK too.

Other well-meaning folks might say at least you didn’t have to “suffer” in labour or that you got to take the “easy way out”. Forgive their ignorance. Many people don’t realize how difficult a Caesarean birth and recovery can be, often much more so than a natural birth.

  • Rescue Remedy as needed for grief, shock, disappointment.
  • Be kind and forgiving to yourself and allow space for grieving if you need it.
  • Several local health professionals can help with emotional trauma. Some use Flower Remedies, homeopathy, Reiki, other energy work, and/or verbal counselling styles.

For the scar:

  • After the stitches have dissolved and the wound is fully closed, healthy high-quality oil such as rosehip seed oil (Rosa masquetta) on the incision site as often as possible to nourish the skin and decrease scarring. Combine with an essential oil blend to decrease itching, scarring, incidence of thick scarring and to speed healing (eg Blaine Andrusek Scar-B-Gone). If you don’t have these, vitamin-E oil will do.
  • From 6 weeks on, Castor Oil packs over the incision to help with healing. Soak a cotton cloth in castor oil. Put cloth against skin, cover with plastic bag or saran wrap (to protect bedding or clothing), then apply hot water bottle. Leave on for 20-40 minutes daily or until you intuitively feel you’ve had enough. If the cloth is still clean it can be folded away in the plastic and reused. Once the cloth appears to have absorbed toxins use another one. This treatment can be done for as long as you wish – weeks or months.

To Counter the Antibiotics:

While antibiotics can prevent or treat infection, they also lead to an imbalance in normal flora by killing the good bacteria in our gut. Balance can be restored by ingesting unpasteurized, fermented foods (e.g. kombucha tea, kimchi, sauerkraut) or probiotics such as acidophilus powder or caps – high quality only.  That’s the ones found in the fridge at health stores or your holistic care providers office.

  • 1-3 caps or ¼ tsp daily for 3-4 weeks – read the label for instructions. This decreases Candida albicans overgrowth, which in turn protects the digestive system from pathogens and boosts immunity. It protects you from diarrhea, vaginal yeast infections, and painful nipples commonly associated with antibiotics, and will protect the baby from thrush (mouth sores/diaper rash).
  • If you or baby show signs of such side effects, then double the dose until 2 weeks after symptoms disappear, then go back to the regular dose. Make a little paste to apply to nipples or pinkie-finger at feeding time to dose your baby.

Nutrition:

  • Eat whole, healthy foods and lots of them.
  • Continue your high-quality prenatal vitamin for the duration of breastfeeding or 8 weeks, whichever is later.
  • High quality, easily assimilated iron supplement such as Floradix or placenta capsules. You’ll take less of this type of iron, absorb more overall, and avoid constipation associated with most iron supplements. Helps after blood-loss associated with surgery. (Average blood loss is up to 1L of blood after a Caesarean birth, compared with 300-500 ml with vaginal birth.)
  • Eat well and drink lots of water. Continue drinking your raspberry leaf and nettle tea, optimally 3 cups daily, for at least a month. See herb tea recipe, “Essential Herbs for Pregnancy & Nursing
  • Ingest healthy absorbable protein; your body’s doing a lot of rebuilding now.

FOR BABY:

Caesarean birth is also traumatic for the baby. Osteopathy, cranio-sacral therapy and newborn chiropractic care by someone who specializes in newborn-care is essential.

To Counter Antibiotics Side-Effects: Acidophilus powder (see above). Continue for 3-4 weeks. This will decrease Candida overgrowth, which in turn protects the digestive system, boosts immunity, protect thrush (mouth sores), diarrhea, and diaper rash commonly associated with antibiotics. Make a paste from 1/8 tsp and rub on nipples just before nursing, twice daily. Or dip a wet pinkie-finger into the powder and let baby suck it off.

If you’re into homeopathy, there are remedies that are safe and effective for baby too, in case you notice thrush, trauma, or other long term effects.

I teach a variety of Child Birth Education classes and prenatal workshops online for people all over.  I have been a birth doula since 2002, and have helped over 300 clients with their births and over 1000 through prenatal classes. Learn more about my birth doula services, and contact me with any questions you may have.

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. 

Need help to make a birth plan that builds bridges instead of walls?

I can help you sort through your options and find the best wording. Check out my Birth Plan Prep Consultations which are available in person or on Zoom.

Summer pregnancies & hot births!!

Oh, the days are hot and even more so when we’re growing a baby or holding a newborn. If you don’t already know, profuse sweating is a normal part of postpartum recovery even during winter. 

Here are some tips for summer survival with a baby-bump that go beyond the obvious, typical lists – wear loose clothing, do things early in the day, stay hydrated, find AC. I think we all know that by now.  

Summer Pregnancy-Safe Drinks

Growing and/or feeding a baby both take a lot of energy and we burn through more electrolytes and minerals in the hot summer. Sugar drinks are not helpful. Pregnant and breastfeeding bodies are more susceptible to blood sugar shifts and the yeast / thrush infections that result from high sugar intake. I have 2 articles for you for healthy, refreshing and cooling drinks (other than plain old water which is of course, important every day). They’re all nutritive during pregnancy and postpartum recovery – actually any time. Kids and adults can consume these. 

Cooling Essential Oil Body Sprays / Mists

Even though every bottle says “don’t use during pregnancy”, there are a lot of oils that are safe. Consult a certified aromatherapist – that’s me, from way before it was cool (pun intended) to be into essential oils. You can make a spritzer with:

  • mint
  • lavender
  • cucumber
  • lemon – actually any citrus oil.

Add any combination of those to aloe, witch-hazel or a flower water such as rosewater.

If you prefer to buy a spray, check out the perineum sprays such as that made by Earth Mama Organics. They can be used all over, not just your bottom! 

Caution #1: Citrus oils can make your skin more sensitive to sun-burn; only use for an indoor spray.
Caution #2: Many commercial refreshers and cooling sprays contain Eucalyptus, which should never be used near babies and pets. Best to avoid it through pregnancy too. Some types are safe but the most commonly used ones are too strong. 

Angie’s Tips for a Cooler Birth:

  • Put a small wireless fan in your birth bag and/or birth place. Some of my clients use handheld fans and others use ones with a big clip. 
  • If you’re having a hospital birth, i.e. in a scent-free environment, then bring an empty squirt bottle and fill it with cold water for misting. 
  • Ice chips! They’re amazing during labour & birth. Suck on them, put them in a washcloth and use as a cold-pack all over the body, put them in a bowl of water and dip a washcloth in to apply on foreheads and necks, add them to juice and water. I rarely attend a birth without using at least a couple of cups of ice-chips. 
  • Temperature fluctuations are amplified during the birth process. This video has tips to regulate temperature during birth and what the partner / birth companions can do.  

Essential Herbal Tea for Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Women have consumed infusions (tea) of Red Raspberry leaf and Nettle leaf through the ages for a healthy childbearing year, healthy reproductive organs at any stage of life, and to keep their skin soft and supple.  This blend is high in easily absorbed minerals.  If no milk or sugar is added then this drink counts toward your daily water intake.

Drink 1-3 cups of Pregnancy Tea, hot or cold, daily through first 2 trimesters, and 3 cups during last trimester. 

Combine these teas in any ratio you wish, but the general recipe is:

  • 2 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 2 parts Nettle Leaf
  • 1 part Horsetail Leaf (added for calcium & strong bones)
  • Optional: 1 bag or small scoop of lemon, berry/fruit teas (ensure no licorice), mint or lemongrass to change up the flavour.

A batch can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)

  • Most commonly used and well-known pregnancy herb
  • Tones female reproductive system; also pelvic and uterine muscles
  • High amounts vitamin C, easily assimilated calcium and iron
  • Also vitamins E, A, B-complex, many minerals inc phosphorus and potassium
  • High mineral content helps tissues stretch, decreases stretch marks, helps prevent anemia
  • Lower rates of miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage
  • Prepares body for labor. Therefore decreases pain and length of labor.  Doesn’t strengthen contractions but makes them more efficient.
  • Help expel placenta
  • Good for morning sickness
  • NOTE: Red raspberry leaf tea does not induce labour! Not sure where that rumor started but it’s not true. Don’t down buckets of this hoping to bring on labour.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

  • High amounts of virtually all mineral & vitamins needed for health
  • Especially high in A,C,E,D,K, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, sulfur
  • High amounts of chlorophyll (for energy and nutrients, vitamin K)
  • Nourish and strengthen kidneys; gently dislodge and dissolve any mineral buildup
  • Relax leg cramps and muscle spasms
  • Prevent hemorrhage after birth due to high vitamin K
  • Strengthens blood vessels, therefore good for hemorrhoid prevention
  • Astringent for hemorrhoids
  • Increases quality of breast milk

Other herbs high in easily-assimilated vitamins and minerals (alone or added to the above teas) include Horsetail a.k.a. Shavegrass (very high in calcium), Alfalfa and Kelp.

Several other herbs are safe during pregnancy and are tasty e.g. mint.  Some aid pregnancy related issues such as nausea, heartburn, cramping, and constipation to name a few.  These include but are not limited to ginger, chamomile, slippery elm bark, and fennel.  Consult a qualified herbalist with knowledge of pregnancy herbs before taking any.

By the way, this tea is healthy for the males in your life too, and is safe for all ages from infancy on.  It’s a lovely, mildly flavoured drink for the whole family.

Prefer pre-packaged tea?  Health stores and quality Mama/Baby stores sell pregnancy tea, e.g. Earth Mama Organics “Third Trimester Tea” (which you can take in any trimester).

C-19 Updates in Birth and Postpartum Care in Regina

I’ve been keeping in touch with the good people managing the units at Regina General Hospital. Here are all of the recent updates of RGH Labour/Birth Unit and Mother/Baby Units here in Regina, Saskatchewan due to Covid-19. Please note that any of these may change on short notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some additional tips for navigating your birth journey:

I lead RGH Tours live but online multiple times a month.

Article: How to Set Up your Birth Room (i.e. What Your Doula Would Normally Do!)

Easing Labour Pain: An online 2-hr class offered monthly that teaches partners how to provide hands-on birth-support, comfort, and decrease labour pain.

If anyone’s looking for online prenatal classes please contact me. I teach all the sessions live but online so you can ask questions.

*****

Hospital Update

ONGOING SUMMARY of Current Practises in the Labour & Birth Unit and the Mother-Baby Unit:

  • The health region is not on the same timeline of relaxing restrictions as the SK gov’t. Restrictions are still in place at health care facilities.
  • All maternal patients and their designated family members/support persons will be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival at RGH and be required to have a temperature check, wear a mask, participate in hand hygiene and follow physical distancing guidelines.
  • Support persons/visitors who are symptomatic for COVID-19 or who have other risk factors will not be permitted. 
  • Masks are mandatory for partners and support persons throughout the hospital, except for when there’s no staff present in the Mother-Baby Unit. Labouring patients who pass screening are asked to wear masks as long as they’re comfortable doing so. 
  • All waiting rooms are closed. One primary support person is allowed with each maternal patient through registration and the assessment areas. The second support person should wait at home or somewhere outside the hospital until the labouring person is officially admitted and moved to a birth room. 
  • Support people coming in on their own, i.e. not with the labouring patient, can be screened 24/7 at the main RGH doors (14th St entrance). Do not use the ER doors unless you are a patient or are with one.
  • All maternal patients will be offered an optional COVID-19 swab once their admitted to the Birth Unit. Family members/support persons will not be offered a COVID-19 swab.
  • If the maternal patient tested positive for Covid at any time during their pregnancy, then their placenta will be sent for testing. 
  • There are 2 support persons (aged 18+) of the maternal patients choosing, allowed in the BIRTH ROOM; no swapping. 
  • The MOTHER-BABY UNIT allows new families to have 2 additional visitors at a time (11am-8pm). The “no-swapping rule” has been lifted in this unit. Visitors must be aged 18 and over, except siblings of the newborn who are permitted to visit with an adult.
  • Nitrous Oxide / “laughing-gas”/ Entonox is available, “𝑡𝑜 𝑝𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑤ℎ𝑜 𝑠𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑛 (𝑎𝑠𝑦𝑚𝑝𝑡𝑜𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑐 + 𝑛𝑒𝑔𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑃𝑂𝐶 𝐶𝑂𝑉𝐼𝐷 𝑡𝑒𝑠𝑡) 𝑜𝑛 𝐿𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑢𝑟 & 𝐵𝑖𝑟𝑡ℎ 𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑅𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑎 𝐺𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑙 𝐻𝑜𝑠𝑝𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑙.” 
  • Waterbirth is no longer an option in the hospital, even for those under midwifery care. The installed bath-tub is available for comfort in labour.  Waterbirth is an option at homebirths when one is under midwifery care.
  • Breastfeeding is still being supported at RGH regardless of Covid-status. There are plans and protocols in place so that mother-baby can stay together if the birth-mom is at risk, has symptoms, or tests positive for C-19 in the immediate postpartum. 
  • All waiting rooms are closed. Food outlets have limited seating.
  • Galleys are closed to patients/visitors in both units. The nurses will get food for you in the birth unit but not in the mother-baby unit. Bring snacks! There is no access to the microwaves, kettles, food, water-ice machines. There is no access to the big fridges and freezers, but every room has a small mini-bar fridge.
  • The hospital does not provide warming tools other than blankets from the blanket warmer. If you like a hot-water bottle or heating pad, then bring your own. Staff are not allowed to take people’s heating devices to the microwave or kettle. You can use a plug-in device or fill a hot water bottle with hot tap water.
  • Bring what you would normally bring for your birth and hospital stay. Support people will be given a wristband so they can go to car later for extras and car-seat. You are still allowed to bring your pillow, clothing etc. – whatever you need for comfort.
  • Even though community restrictions are being lifted, great care should be taken with newborns once the family is home. Physical distancing and being only with members of the same household are still recommended. Anyone who enters the house can bring in pathogens/bugs.

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A TIMELINE OF PREVIOUS UPDATES

…. just in case you’re curious about what’s been coming and going and happening through the pandemic.  Note that several of these restrictions have been lifted. The list above is current.

June 08, 2022 – Good news! Nitrous Oxide / “laughing-gas”/ Entonox is available again in Regina, “𝑡𝑜 𝑝𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑤ℎ𝑜 𝑠𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑛 (𝑎𝑠𝑦𝑚𝑝𝑡𝑜𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑐 + 𝑛𝑒𝑔𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑃𝑂𝐶 𝐶𝑂𝑉𝐼𝐷 𝑡𝑒𝑠𝑡) 𝑜𝑛 𝐿𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑢𝑟 & 𝐵𝑖𝑟𝑡ℎ 𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑅𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑎 𝐺𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑙 𝐻𝑜𝑠𝑝𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑙.” All maternal patients are screened on the way in (answer the usual questions re travel & symptoms) and then offered a swab-test once they’re admitted to the unit.

March 2022

  • Due to Covid, the Nitrous Oxide (“laughing gas”) is not available. It may be available again, depending on some supply issues. 
  • The Mother Baby Unit now allows new families to have 2 visitors at a time (11am-8pm) and they can be anyone you want. (The “no-swapping rule” has been lifted.)
    That said, postpartum hospital stays are usually short – only 1-2 days. There are many benefits to just resting with your new baby and saving the visitors for once you return home.
  • Note: The Labour & Birth Unit remains as is – 2 support persons per maternal patient, no swapping.

Feb 2022. The proof of vaccination / negative test requirements have been lifted.  Support persons no longer have to show proof of anything. 

Nov 8, 2021, partners, visitors, doulas, support persons, everyone EXCEPT the patient being admitted, must show proof of double Covid vaccine or a negative test within the past 72 hours from an SHA approved tester in order to enter SHA hospitals. Anyone who is not double vaxxed and wants to attend the birth might consider serial testing every 72 hours in order to be ready anytime.  

There are 2 support persons allowed in the BIRTH ROOM. From Saskatchewan Health Authority:

“Effective immediately, expectant mothers and families across Saskatchewan will now be permitted to have two designated family members/support persons present during their birthing experience. Designated family members/support persons are chosen by the mother and family and may include but are not limited to partners, family members, coaches, doulas or cultural support persons.

All maternal patients and their designated family members/support persons will be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival and be required to have a temperature check, wear a mask, participate in hand hygiene and follow physical distancing guidelines. Designated family members/support persons who are symptomatic for COVID-19 or who have other risk factors will not be permitted. The designated family members/support persons must be consistent during the duration of the patient’s stay. They may leave the facility but cannot be switched out for another family member or support person. Only designated family members/support persons will be permitted at this time, other visitors, including siblings, will not be allowed.

All maternal patients will be offered an optional COVID-19 swab upon admission. Family members/support persons will not be offered a COVID-19 swab.

Summer 2020

◆ Support people coming in on their own, i.e. not with the labouring patient, can be screened 24/7 at the main RGH doors (14th St entrance). They do not have to go to the ER doors.
◆A 24-hr support person who’s joining a birth or going to MBU for a maternal patient that has already been admitted can enter through the main 14th St doors at any time, 24/7. No need to go through the ER.
◆ A support person entering the hospital with a maternal patient will be screenedwith the maternal patient.

Please note that while the 14th Ave entrance is open 24/7 with a security guard that can screen and let people in, the registration desk is only open from 6am-6pm. Support people can enter this door 24/7 because they are not patients (don’t need to go through the registration process).
 
If you’re in labour and going to RGH as a patient, then you’ll have to go to an entrance that has an open registration desk. On weekends, holidays and evenings/overnights, that will be the ER.

If you have to step outside and get back in, here’s how:

◆ 14th St main entry has a security person around the clock. If you have your proof of screening and are wearing a band it’s easy to get back in 24/7. If you’ve not been screened yet, I recommend you start at this door. If they are unable to screen you, they will send you through the ER doors instead.
◆ The ER can screen 24/7 but please save the ER capacity for people who need it.
◆ 15th St admitting doors are locked overnight. The doors below MBU at 15th St parking lot are locked 24/7. You can not enter the 15th St side of RGH overnight. If you go out those doors, you’ll have to walk around to the 14th St entry.

If your 2nd support person is not at the birth but is invited to MBU, they will be screened on their way into the hospital. They must be named when you are admitted to LBU so remember to tell your nurse. You must get a coloured bracelet for them. I expect someone has to meet them outside the unit to give them the band that will grant them access to the MBU, but ask your MBU nurse about this.

“If the patient fails screening, she becomes a Person Under Investigation (PUI), therefore the support person now becomes a PUI as they have been in ‘close, prolonged contact with a PUI.’ The support will be sent home, however, the patient may have an alternative support person or people who pass screening. ” That means anyone who has been with the labouring person for more than 2 hours will not be allowed in if they are suspected of C-19/exposure.

Folks – you need to plan for this. Plan C. New support people who have not been with you for more than 2 hours AND who pass screening may be allowed into isolation. They will be gowned, masked, gloved throughout and will not be allowed to leave the isolation room. Food will be brought in.

◆ Again, it’s up to you to ensure that a 2nd support person has been named so they can enter the unit. Ask your nurse about this.
◆ Supports must be 19 years and older. (No, I’m not sure what happens in the case of teen pregnancy, young doulas and so on. This is just what I was told.)
◆ The health region is not on the same timeline of relaxing restrictions as the SK gov’t. Restrictions are still in place at health care facilities.
◆ You’ll see staff wearing masks throughout your stay.
◆ Bring what you would normally bring for your birth and hospital stay. Support people will be given a wristband so they can go to car later for extras and car-seat. You are still allowed to bring your pillow, clothing etc – whatever you need for comfort.

Doctor

◆ Labouring women are asked to wear the mask as long as they can stand to do so. Postpartum patients are asked to wear their masks when staff are in the room.

◆ Masks are mandatory for partners and support persons throughout the hospital, except for when there’s no staff present in the Mother-Baby Unit.

◆ People can wear whatever mask they want to enter the building. Public Health does have recommendations on personal masks (on the SHA site). However, once inside the building, people will go through screening and will be given medical masks to wear in the building (the blue ones with folds). The blue medical masks must be worn in all public spaces and the assessment area.

◆ Nitrous-oxide (“laughing”) gas is available for pain management. If a tank is being used (instead of the tubes that go directly into the wall), then the maternal patient must have a negative Covid swab done prior to use. 
◆ If you or baby are at high-risk for birth complications, you may be asked to use an epidural during labour to avoid the need for a general anaesthetic in case of an urgent/stat caesarean. Best to discuss this with your OB ahead of time so you can learn your options and make a plan.
◆ Waterbirth is currently not an option in the hospital. Midwives are not lending pools out for home birth. If you have your own then waterbirth at home is still an option (contact me for info on where to get one).
◆ The installed bath-tub is available for comfort in labour.
◆ Breastfeeding is still being supported at RGH.
◆ There are plans and protocols in place so that mother-baby can stay together if mom is at risk or has symptoms of C-19 in the immediate postpartum.
◆ Even though some community restrictions are being lifted, great care should be taken with newborns once the family is home. Physical distancing and being only with members of the same household are still recommended. Anyone who enters the house can bring in pathogens/bugs.

◆I always tell people to bring their own hot water bottle or Magic Bag to the hospital. That’s because the hospital does not provide any warm tools other than blankets from the blanket warmer. They are lovely but they are not the same as a hot water bottle. The new update is that the staff are not allowed to take people heating devices to the microwave or kettle. Therefore if people want to use heat it will have to be a plug-in device or they can fill the hot water bottle with hot tap water in their own room. Stay warm and stay well during your visit!

◆ Paid parking has resumed in the RGH parking lots. You will need cash for the main lot. Also, the 15th street parking is reserved only for people who have appointments or are being admitted to the hospital. Vehicles are being ticketed again on the streets around the hospital so no more free parking that way.

◆ There is nowhere for the second support person to wait as all waiting rooms are closed. The second support person should wait at home or somewhere outside the hospital until the labouring person is officially admitted and moved to a birth room.

◆ Partners/support persons will be provided with a mask at the entry doors. (Bring a big paperclip or string if you want to save sore ears.) Check out these tips for saving your ears from mask-pain.  Everyone must wear masks in the hallways. Labouring people do not have to wear a mask once they’re in their patient rooms in the birth unit and the mother-baby unit.

◆ Food outlets now allow people to sit in.

◆ Galleys are still closed to patients in both units. The nurses will get food for you in the birth unit but not in the mother-baby unit so people have to bring their own snacks. There is no access to the microwaves, kettles, food, water-ice machines. There is no access to the big fridges and freezers, but every room has a small mini-bar fridge.

Birth Room

𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐚𝐫𝐞

● Attend appointments, diagnostics (ultrasound, lab) solo. Routine appointments might be done over the phone or spaced out. High-risk and special circumstances will still get the extra care they need.
● Midwifery offices are doing the discussion part of the consult by phone and then a quick in-person appointment for the hands-on part. They prefer pregnant patients attend alone but will allow partners. No other family members/friends/support are allowed.
● Anyone under midwifery or GP care who tests positive for C-19 at any point in their pregnant, birth or postpartum will be immediately transferred to OB care.
● If you’re an early-bird you may be asked to wait in your car until your appointment time.

𝐀𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐚𝐫𝐞 (𝐋𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐫 & 𝐁𝐢𝐫𝐭𝐡)

● Early discharge is being offered as an option for those that are healthy and feel comfortable with newborn care. That means to go home a few hours after your birth instead of staying 24-36 hours.
● Anyone getting a cervidil induction will be monitored and then sent home to wait for labour to start, as per usual, then rescreened at RGH doors and LBU doors upon return.
● Support people are allowed at homebirths but must be screened. If anyone in the home (residents or support people) doesn’t pass screening, then the birth must be transferred to RGH. In that case, the one support person rule applies. Home birthers – screen your people before they come over!

𝐏𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐦 𝐂𝐚𝐫𝐞

● Doors that don’t have an admitting desk are locked tight; security will not let anyone in. That includes the convenient door just below the MBU.
● Families are being asked to stay in their room as much as possible.
● Support people may not visit any other patient areas.
● Food trays are being provided for new moms in the MBU.
● Breastfeeding class in the unit is still running but only birth mother and baby attend, and only up to 3 participants. If there are less than 3 maternal patients, then partners may be allowed to attend.
● Midwives and public health nurses are still providing postpartum home-visits. Some may be done by phone or video, depending on your needs.

Please contact me if you have any questions about this information or any of my services.

5 Ways Labour Pain is Different than Broken-Bone Pain

Some people compare labour pain to that of breaking bones. Besides scaring pregnant people, that’s not an accurate comparison. On the other hand, some women share stories of pain-free birth. Here are 5 ways the sensations felt in labour are different than “broken-bone pain”.

  1. Broken-bone pain is unrelenting and doesn’t go away without strong pain meds; labour pain comes and goes in a rhythmical manner. In fact, throughout labour, much more time is spent in the rest between contractions. Even in advanced labour, most contractions last between 60-75 seconds but can sometimes get to 90 seconds. Then there’s a rest before the next once. In active labour that rest will generally be between 1-3 minutes. In earlier labour that rest will be up to 10 minutes. There is no rest with broken-bone pain. It’s constant.
  2. Broken-bone pain is all encompassing, resulting in the release of stress hormones and injury responses in our body. Labour pain is accompanied by powerful pain-killing hormones such as endorphins. The female body is equipped for labour with strong, naturally occurring hormones that are released as labour progresses. The effect of these hormones has been compared to morphine by physiologists. (However those hormones are not as concentrated and isolated like morphine. Still, that’s a powerful comparison!) Stress makes pain worse.
  3. Broken bones are a terrible injury; labour is a normal human process.
  4. Broken bones are due to an accident; labour is a known and sometimes planned event. Therefore we can prepare for the intensity of labour. There are many helpful tools and strategies for comfort measures that can be done by the labouring person or their birth companions. We teach many of these in our How to Ease Labour Pain Class.
  5. Doulas! Birth doulas can make a significant difference in how labour is experienced and felt. There’s ample research showing the benefits of doula support through birth, including shorter labours, half the rate of Caesareans, significantly fewer requests for epidurals. To my knowledge, there’s no such thing as “broken-bone doulas”. Everyone around someone with broken bones is providing medical care – good thing too. Ideally, labouring people will have someone knowledgeable with them whose only job is to provide comfort and support.
  6. Broken bone pain is measured in weeks and months; labour is measured in hours.

* It’s interesting to note that I’ve only heard men make this comparison. Many pregnant women fear this will be the case but I’ve never heard anyone who’s gone through labour and had a past experience of broken bones say they were the same thing. I’m one of them. A couple of years before being pregnant, I broke my pelvis. There is absolutely no comparison between the two events.

Choices in Planned Caesarean Births

One of the benefits of a planned caesarean is that there’s time to consider options, ask questions and make choices beforehand. 

Many hospitals are willing to take extra steps to make a caesarean birth more gentle and family friendly. The following is a list of practises that are being requested as part of a “Gentle Caesarean”. Yes I’m aware that the very nature of a caesarean and the postpartum recovery do not seem gentle to most people. However I appreciate that there are medical staff working hard to make the experience as positive, healthy and family-friendly as possible.  

  • Watching your baby being born. Clear surgical drapes, surgical drapes with a panel that can be lowered to a clear panel, or having the drapes lowered entirely.
  • Cord cutting. Most hospitals don’t allow anyone other than staff to cut the cord in the surgical field. But they can leave a longer cord and have the partner trim it – like a ceremonial cutting of the cord.
  • Skin-to-skin contact with the birthing parent, from the chest up.
  • Maternal heart monitors on their side or back, leaving the chest available for holding baby skin-to-skin.
  • Music of your choice – played on the sound system or your headphones.
  • Support through the entire procedure, from the moment of entering the O.R. until heading to the recovery room. Most hospitals allow one support person in the O.R. and recovery room. Some allow doulas to come in as well. 
  • Healthy baby stays with the parent(s); family stays together in O.R. and recovery room. In some hospitals babies born by caesarean are automatically taken to NICU or a medical nursery for observation.
  • Photos / videos – always bring your device. There’s often a nurse who is waiting for the baby to be born and will take some photos of the birth, the first time parents hold the baby, etc. There are many beautiful moments to celebrate at any birth, including caesareans.
  • Flora for the baby – vaginal seeding. You might ask for a GBS test a week before the surgery before going ahead with this. Note that this is still new enough that most medical staff will not participate. Plan to DIY.
  • Covid testing options – find out if this is something that will affect your birth. What happens if you take the test or don’t take the test?
  • Any cultural / spiritual aspects you might wish to include. I’ve seen an obstetrician lead a prayer before starting the surgery and have joined the surgical team in singing happy birthday to a newborn.
  • Obstetrician of your choice. Certainly a perk of scheduling your birth. 
  • Volume of monitoring machines – ask for the volume to be turned up or down if it’s reassuring for you, or not, to hear things like fetal heartbeat, maternal heart beat. 
  • Delayed cord clamping – up to 1 min is considered safe with caesareans. (I’ve heard of a hospital that keeps the placenta and baby attached after the placenta is removed – definitely not standard of care in most places. Never hurts to ask.)

In some facilities the things on this list may already be standard care. In others, requesting these things will provide an opportunity for staff to gain a new perspective. Patient safety is the primary concern. Some of these practices may be considered safe or not, possible or not, depending on patient health, the facility and/or the staff working in the O.R.

Speak with your doctor well ahead of time about the things that interest you from this list. 

If you get a sea of “no ways,” then ask why not. There could be valid reasons or it could be one unbending person. If it’s the latter then you might wish to explore working with another doctor or giving birth in a different facility, if that’s an option. 

Doulas and Dads

Although the information here will reassure any partner, this article intentionally addresses dads-to-be. All the quotes, links and videos are made by dads for dads-to-be, about their most common concerns about birth support:  1) Value; why should we pay for a doula if I’m going to be there?  2) Why do we even need a doula; what does she have that I don’t?  3) How will I be included if a doula attends?

Checklist: Things to Learn About Your Hospital / Birthplace Before Labour Begins

This is also available as a Printable Birthplace Checklist.

Ideally, you will learn these things before 36 weeks of pregnancy. 

This list includes things available in most city hospitals, where units are specialized. In smaller hospitals, there may not be a specific birth and/or mother-baby unit and some of the services and amenities listed may not be available. Small town hospitals may have a birth room rather than a unit, and then the family stays in the general acute care unit. Sorting these details out is part of good birth-prep. 

General Planning

  • Name & location of hospital / birth centre
  • Do they offer pre-registration or do you register on the way in?
  • What you need to bring
    • Birth bag / supplies
    • Documents for registration
  • Support people 
    • How many
    • Ages
    • Requirements (e.g. hours, ID)
    • Payment required – covered by provincial health, private insurance, or out of pocket
    • General policies e.g. most hospitals have no-scent policies

Parking / Transit

  • Fees
  • Methods of payment 
  • Hours
  • Apps
  • Street parking? Hours/tickets
  • Access to hospital doors

Entry & Registration:

  • Entry to go in as a patient – which doors to use and hours for each
  • Entry for support persons 
  • Security / screening requirements
  • Documents / ID required
  • Who can be with you?

Birth Unit

  • Floor #
  • Elevator location
  • Path from door to elevator to birth unit
  • Assessment area (documents needed, support persons allowed?)
    • Private or shared space?
  • Support – who can go in, when, and in what areas
  • Caesarean / O.R. – who can be with you
  • Recovery Room / Post-op – who can be with you, how long are you there?
  • Food – Galley / kitchenette & rules
  • Food machines – location, form of payment, products
  • Washrooms for patients – shared or private?
  • Washrooms for partner / other supports
  • Sleeping arrangements
  • Fridges in the room?
  • Wifi?
  • Labour tools such as birth balls, birthing stools, squat bars, electric beds
  • Lighting – windows, blinds, dimmers?
  • Shower / bath – shared or private
    • Supplies – soap, shower curtain etc
  • Where to put your stuff

Mother-Baby / Postpartum Unit

  • Is it the same as the birth room or a separate unit?
  • Which floor
  • Path from the birth unit and also from the entry/exits
  • Length of admission
    • Early discharge and extra nights
  • Visitor policy – hours, numbers, ages
  • Shared or private rooms
    • If there are both, how do you get a private room 
  • Support people – who can stay overnight
  • Sleeping arrangements for baby
  • Sleeping arrangements for partner / support person(s)
  • Entry / exit doors & hours e.g. food run, visitors
  • Food – Galley / kitchenette / food machines
  • Are patient meals provided? How many daily, special requests/diets
  • Washrooms for patient
  • Washrooms for partner / other supports
  • Managing interruptions
  • Fridges in the room or availability of other places to store perishables
  • Security in the room
  • TV / wifi
  • Lighting
  • Shower / bath and supplies
  • What is supplied and what do you need to bring
  • Where to put your stuff

Discharge

  • What is the shortest / easiest way out
  • Need to show a car-seat to the staff?
  • Paperwork requirements
  • Hours

Services and Other Units

  • Food
  • Gifts
  • General supplies
  • Quiet spaces – chapel, multi-faith center, Indigenous services
  • Library
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Special Care Nursery
  • Lactation Consultants
  • Meetings / classes available during admission
  • Special services – e.g. social workers, translators, spiritual/faith leaders, help for special circumstances or unexpected outcomes

Other

  • C-19 policy for maternal patient
  • C-19 policy for partner / primary support
  • C-19 policy for 2nd support
  • C-19 policy for other visitors (if applicable)

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