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!

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)

Angie The Doula – Normal Postpartum Care of Mother and Baby

If you’re concerned, see Warning Signs for Postpartum.

In the first 24 hours after birth it is normal for birth mothers to:

  • Expect a fairly heavy flow for the first 24 hrs, like a heavy period in appearance and scent. Flow should gradually taper in the following few days, then continue lightly for approximately 4-6 weeks.
  • Pass small clots and gushes, especially after lying down for some time
  • Have a firm uterus that feels like a grapefruit below the navel
  • Experience night sweats
  • Urinate frequently
  • Feel exhausted and need rest

In the first 24 hours after birth it is normal for babies to:

  • Breathe irregularly, including pauses and some periods of rapid breathing
  • Spit up mucus
  • Have blue hands and feet with pink body, face and lips
  • Sleep for 4-6 continuous hours after birth then wake up every 2-3 hours to breastfeed
  • Pass stool (but may be within 48hours)
  • Urinate

Postpartum Care – Mother

  • In the first week, only responsibilities should be to eat, sleep and feed and cuddle baby
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps
  • Get assistance with getting up for the first day. Never get up while holding the baby (first 24hours), in case of fainting.
  • Do not lift anything heavier than the baby for 3 weeks after a gentle vaginal birth; 6 weeks after a Caesarean or traumatic birth.
  • Take temperature daily for the first 5 days; twice daily if membranes were ruptured more than 12 hours before birth or in case of traumatic birth.
    • Oral temperature: 15min after ingesting hot or cold, or being in hot water. Put tip under and against tongue to 1 side of frenulum, close mouth and wait for the beep (or 5min for glass thermometer; remember to shake well before use)
  • Light movement is fine during the first 6 weeks. Any increase in cramping, bleeding, or discharge going from brown to red means you’re doing too much!

Uterus recovery:

  • In the first 1-2 days, gently massage uterus (back and forth motion) several times daily to ensure it’s firm like a grapefruit
  • Urinate often
  • Breastfeed often
  • Nothing inside the vagina

Pain:

  • Take arnica to aid with tissue healing
  • After-pains are due to the uterine contractions and tend to be stronger with subsequent pregnancies and during breastfeeding. Lay or sit, apply pressure (e.g. pillow) and heat (hot water bottle), take extra calcium, and consider calling midwife for homeopathy.
  • It’s safe to take acetaminophen (Tylenol x-strength) every 6 hours (for pain) and ibuprophen (Advil) every 4 hours for swelling for the first few days after birth
  • Avoid aspirin, alcohol, herbal supplements with willow-bark as they promote bleeding

Perineum:

  • Keep area as clean and dry as possible
  • Use peri-bottle of warm water and 1 dropper of calendula tincture after using the toilet
  • Wear the lightest pad necessary and change it with every visit to the washroom.
  • Apply frozen calendula pads to perineum/hemorrhoids several times daily for 2-3 days
  • If any tears/suturing to perineum, soak in a clean bath each day with ½ cup of Epsom salts or sitz-bath herbs added. Keep knees together as much as possible, including while walking or on stairs.  Airtime helps speed recovery.
  • Begin light elevator-Keigels and pelvic floor exercises

Nutrition:

  • Drink plenty of water and nutritional drinks, including Pregnancy Tea Blend
  • Eat whole foods – 3 meals and 2-3 snacks daily (just like during pregnancy)
  • Continue prenatal vitamins, acidophilus, essential fatty acids for at least 6 weeks
  • Continue or begin to take iron supplements if they were prescribed

Normal Postpartum Care – Baby

  • Feed when the baby wants but a minimum of every 4 hours around the clock (see “breastfeeding” below). A breastfed baby shouldn’t be offered anything other than breast milk/ colostrum.
  • If baby’s definitely satiated and still wants to suck, it may save nipples to offer a clean pinkie; insert to first knuckle, pad up.
  • Keep the cord-stump dry (fold diaper below) and clean. No need to put anything on it, but calendula tincture is acceptable.
  • When changing diapers wipe from front to back, only once per cloth. Clean folds of skin but do not open genitals and never retract foreskin.
  • Clean baby’s hands, folds in neck, and face with a clean damp cloth daily
  • Bathing is recommended only once or twice weekly with gentle and “edible” soap
  • If fingernails are long then prevent scratching by cutting with newborn-clippers or gently chew them off
  • Keep the baby at a comfortable temperature. If concerned take baby’s temperature.  Put the end of the thermometer at deep centre of armpit, then the hold arm against side until thermometer beeps (or 5min for glass; remember to shake well before use).
  • For plugged tear duct gently but firmly press at the inner bridge of the nose with the pad of your finger beside the baby’s inner eye. Stroke up to remove blocked material, then downward 3 or 4 times to the nostril.  Repeat several times daily until it clears.
  • Sleep with the baby in your room. Baby should sleep on her/his back, on a firm surface away from puffy blankets and pillows.

Breastfeeding

  • Feed baby frequently, usually 10-12 times/24 hrs after first day or so. Baby may have long periods of sleep in the first 24 hrs so may feed less frequently. Feed the baby on cue, minimum every 4 hrs or so. Babies usually nurse for 15-20 minutes.
  • Baby’s mouth WIDE open before latching! If painful, retry the latch over and over until it’s correct.  This will prevent sore nipples. Don’t do even 1 feeding with improper latch.
  • Should feel a pull but not a pinch
  • Breast well supported in one hand, where an underwire goes, away from nipple
  • Baby position: skin to skin, belly to belly, nose to breast, pull in very close so that very little/none of areola is visible, with both baby lips open (not tucked in).
  • Nipple care: Expect nipples to be tender for a few days.  Express colostrums onto nipple /areola after each feed. Allow to air dry.  Do not use soap or chemicals on nipples.  In case of chaffed or dry skin, Lanolin or pure vitamin e-oil can be used (but try the colostrum first).  Change nursing positions
  • If breasts get engorged with milk (hard and full-feeling), apply refrigerated green cabbage leaves, and reapply new ones as they “cook”
  • Avoid the use of pacifiers or artificial nipples

PLEASE CALL IF YOU’RE TEMPTED TO USE FORMULA IN SPITE OF PLANNING TO BREASTFEED

Angie The Doula – Warning Signs During Pregnancy and Labour

Unusual sensations and some discomforts are part of normal pregnancies.  It is important, however, that any of the signs listed below be assessed right away.

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.)

Warning Signs – Seek medical advise soon, at least same day. Do not sleep on any of these or wait for them to go away on their own.

  • Reduced fetal movement that doesn’t respond to stimulation (see below) *
  • Maternal fever and chills
  • Dizziness
  • Persistent and severe mid-back pain
  • Prolonged nausea and vomiting
  • Initial outbreak of lesions or blisters in the perineal area
  • Change from normal urination – suspected bladder infection
  • Vaginal discharge with itching, irritation or a foul smell
  • Signs of bladder infection such as burning or urgent, frequent urination
  • Persistent negative feelings, low moods and/or overwhelming anxiety.
  • Gush of vaginal fluid or suspect ruptured membranes, with nothing felt to be falling out
  • Pinkish, brownish, sparse or suspected vaginal bleeding
  • Signs of labour (regular uterine contractions, waters releasing) before 37 weeks
  • If there’s a colour (yellow, brown, green) or foul odour when waters release

Danger Signs – The symptoms below may indicate a life-threatening condition, and require immediate medical attention.  Get to a hospital right away.

  • Accident or injury such as car accident or a fall (seek medical attention if required)
  • Sudden severe swelling of hands and face
  • Severe continuing headache
  • Visual disturbances (e.g., blurring of vision, spots, flashes of light)
  • Persistent, severe, sudden abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Severe epigastric pain (upper abdomen) – may feel like heartburn but more severe and not relieved by the usual tricks
  • Sudden and severe vomiting
  • Red flowing vaginal bleeding (CALL 911)
  • Persistent thoughts of self-harm, suicidal urges (CALL 911)
  • Convulsions (CALL 911)
  • Gush of vaginal fluid / suspected ruptured membranes, with a cord felt at or outside vaginal opening (cord prolapse) – get on hands and knees with buttocks higher than head (CALL 911)
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* Normal Fetal Movement:  If you’ve been busy or are unsure about movement then relax and have a meal, a small glass of juice or some fruit.  Palpate your baby to induce movement.  Pay attention to the movements.  Babies sleep.  If your blood sugar is low then so is your baby’s.  You should feel at least 10 movements over any 2 hour block and at least 1 in the first hour.   If not then seek medical attention.

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. Really, really!!! Let the house go for now! Enlist help if other responsibilities prevent you from napping.
  • No lifting or hard exercise. Listen to your body. Any pain means stop and rest right away. This will be humbling.
  • Hire a cleaner if you don’t have good live-in support. A weekly or bi-weekly cleaning works magic for your sanity.
  • 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 from woman to woman. One may feel completely satisfied with her 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!

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, 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 an hour 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.

  • 3 caps or ¼ tsp, twice daily for 3-4 weeks. 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, add a third 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 Flora Dix 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. (Women lose an average of 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.

Hospital Birth Room Set-up 101

One of the important tasks I do for my clients is to set up their hospital birth room for comfort, safety and efficiency.  Here’s a list of what I take care of I go into a birth room.  In my local hospital the birth rooms all have a small closet, mini-fridge, blanket-warmer, some empty shelves and an adjoining private washroom with a tub. If you’re DIYing then find out ahead of time what your local birth rooms are like and modify as needed.