I am overdue for sharing another Pro Tip!
The days are short this time of year. And this abundance of darkness reminds me of a great tip to share with you all. There are some great benefits to laboring in the dark.
Melatonin. The first of these is melatonin. It has been discovered that myometrial tissue, the muscle in the uterus, is responsive to the presense of melatonin. And studies have shown that the majority of labor occurs at night. We’ve also found that pregnant women, especially those near term have increased levels of melatonin present. Read more specifics about the role of melatonin in labor and birth here and here. Oh! And watch a great video from Michel Odent on the same topic!
Privacy. The second is privacy. A sense of privacy is really important to laboring women. Birth is an intimate event. Feeling watched can come with a feeling of pressure to perform or act in a certain way and can negatively impact the hormones her body produces and that are needed for labor to progress. Feeling disturbed or interrupted or even exposed or vulnerable can cause stress hormones to rise and even shut down or significantly slow labor. Laboring in the dark is an easy way to gain a sense of privacy even if you are not alone. Read more about the importance of privacy in labor here and here.
Wow! The chemistry of our bodies is pretty cool.
Don’t keep this tip to yourself, friends! Here is a graphic a created to share on your own social media and let others in our secret of the benefits to laboring in the dark!
It’s time for another Pro Tip!
It’s normal to feel afraid when thinking about what lies ahead of you…..what will labor be like? Can I do it? What if something goes wrong? Will I be a good mom?
These feelings will affect you, your baby, and your birth. But, I have good news! There is a way to keep them under control! Having a provider that you trust is a good start. Taking a quality, independent childbirth education class is another big step in the right direction as is hiring a doula to support you. Having a team around you to support and educate you will help relieve some of your anxieties of what labor and birth will look and feel like. Staying active and eating well is good insurance that you will have a healthy and satisfying birth with a healthy mom and baby at the end. Spending time practicing self care and nourishing and preparing your soul for motherhood is also important. Pray, meditate, talk to friends and family, create art, journal….find whatever it is that works for you and do it regularly.
Oh friends! Don’t keep all this information to yourself! I made a little graphic below for you to share on your social media and let all your friends and family in on these pro tips! And be sure to check out the other tips in this series!
I don’t often get so personal on this blog, but I think this topic very much ties into birth so it’s going here. And I am interrupting my Pro Tips series to get something off my chest that has been weighing me down for a good long while.
I am sick, sick, SICK of being ignored, friends. As I chatted with a couple new doula friends a few weeks back, one brought up this topic and she mentioned a personal experience of her own. She said that when she had moved to Houston and needed to get a Texas driver’s license, she looked up what she needed online and brought everything to the DMV. She waited and waited in a long line only to be told she was missing something once she finally got her turn. She asked if there was some way they could help her so that she didn’t have to go back home and gather what was needed and wait in that awful line again and was told no. Then she cried. And you know what happened next? They helped her. Why did they not just help her in the first place?
And since that conversation, I have been paying attention to my interactions with both my kids and my husband here at home. And you know what? The vast majority of the time, I am ignored the first time I say something. And often even the second and third. It is not until I either get crazy mad or really upset and cry that I am taken seriously. WHY???? I am not into the business of husband-bashing. Truth is, my husband is incredible and I love him dearly. But, he doesn’t often take me serious the first time I tell him something. Actually, he doesn’t often even hear me or register that I have said something to him the first time I say it. And it’s not that he’s insensitive or mean or whatever. It’s a strange phenomenon, really. He truly has no recollection of me telling him many of the things I say until I’ve said them two or three or four times and often not until I make a big fuss about it. And you know what? My three kids do the very same thing to me. Just now, as they were doing their chores in the kitchen after lunch and I was doing some work at the computer in our bedroom, I hear the younger two arguing. I listen for a minute and finally call out “What’s going on out there?” Nothing. So I try again, “What’s the matter, kids?” Again, nothing. This time, I just burst. I am MAD. And I go flying out to the kitchen and shout “EVERYBODY STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW!” They all stop and stare at me and I calmly say “Raise your hand if you heard me calling from the bedroom asking what was going on out here just now.” Friends, all three of my dear children raised their hands. And then they all three confessed that they did in fact hear me call out not just once, but two times. And I. Lost. It. Whatever “it” is, is now spattered and sprayed all over my kitchen as I turned into a screeching and screaming monster exclaiming that I am DONE with everyone ignoring me and will not be ignored any longer. Then I took away their screen time indefinitely. Now I have their attention. They’re all crying. But not because they feel bad for ignoring me all the time. Nope, they feel bad for themselves because they can’t watch their favorite TV show today. But I’m going to talk to them once I cool off and explain the very important lesson that I want them to learn here: Everybody’s thoughts and feelings matter and you need to pay attention to them, especially when it is a loved one.
And this is where I can relate this to birth. How many pregnant moms out there sit in the OB’s office with a birth plan only to be refused some of the things they want for their birth? How many expecting moms out there feel like their provider brushes off their concerns, isn’t really listening to or understanding them, is rushed, disconnected, or just too busy? How many pregnant moms out there feel that their OBs talk down to them and treat them like children when they express their desires or concerns for their birth?How many expecting moms out there feel that their husbands just don't understand why some things are so important to them? I am not a betting woman, but I bet it’s a huge number. And I bet it’s a pretty large number of these expecting mothers that just politely shut up at that point. Why? Why is our culture devaluing what women have to say about an event that is so incredibly important and sacred, an event for which we were given the ability to instinctually know what is best for us? Why does our culture generally encourage women to always be quiet and polite and not make a fuss while simultaneously conditioning everyone else to not take women seriously if they are being nice and quiet and polite?
I am telling you that I have had enough. And I’m asking you to join me in that. That doesn’t mean we have to get mean or lose “it” all over the kitchen every day. But, be firm. Don’t just shut up when you’re ignored or talked down to or brushed off. Especially when it’s about your birth. Who cares if everyone around you thinks you’re crazy and doesn’t understand why you want what you want? If it’s important to you, get it! And if you need help in that, or need to have someone totally on your team, who will support you in what you want even if everyone else thinks you’re crazy….hire a doula. That’s what we do. I will support you giving birth hanging from the chandelier if that’s something that’s important to you. You are worthy of being listened to. Your thoughts and feelings are important.
Make yourselves be heard, mamas.
Welcome to my new blog series: Pro Tips! This will be a series of short, simple, but incredibly helpful tips from a birth pro….me.
Today’s topic is that of your physical health. Moms, I’m going to level with you here. Pregnancy is not an excuse to put your feet up and eat whatever, whenever you want. Absolutely listen to your body, eat when you’re hungry and even give into those cravings sometimes. But, you need good, nourishing food while your body is working hard to grow and nourish your baby. Get plenty of good protein, fruits and veggies. You also need lots of water; at least one ounce for every two pounds of your body weight. And remember, that as your pregnancy goes on, you will gain weight, therefore you will need to increase your water intake. Lastly, keep moving your body. It doesn’t have to be super strenuous or intense. Take a walk while enjoying the company of your husband, go for a swim, try out a yoga class with a friend. The act of labor and giving birth is often likened to running a marathon. Would you stand on the starting line of a marathon without having done any training at all and after having eaten nothing but junk food for the last 9 months? Not likely. Take care of yourself, mama. You deserve it. Learning and practicing self-care now will be a valuable skill for the rest of your life. You will not be able to take care of your family well if you are not also taking care of yourself.
Don’t keep all this great information to yourself! I made a nifty graphic for you to share on your facebook, Instagram, pinterest, twitter, and whatever else you’d like so you can let all your friends and family in on these awesome pro tips!
sHey friends, glad to have you back for part three of this series! If you stumbled across this post first and haven’t yet read the first two parts, you should go back and read them now. In part one, we discussed that there is more to contractions than dilating your cervix; contractions are also about building your fundus. And in part two, we talked about the pushing, specifically feeling the urge to push and/or what is called the fetal ejection reflex. Check them out!
Today, we are continuing our discussion about the second stage of labor, otherwise known as “pushing.” Yesterday, we covered the uncontrollable, involuntary, powerful urge to push, the fetal ejection reflex. But, what about those moms who reach complete dilation and then don’t experience that urge?
If mom has an epidural, she either begins to feel a lot of pressure “down there” and then her cervix is checked and if she’s found to be completely dilated, will be coached in pushing her baby into the world. Or, mom may have her cervix checked during a routine check (usually scheduled for every hour or every couple hours) and is found to be complete but, mom’s not feeling any pressure so she is left to “labor down” for another 30min or even more than an hour before the pushing commences. If mom does not have an epidural, either that uncontrollable, involuntary urge to push takes over and the fetal ejection reflex kicks in and she births her baby, or she is found to have a completely dilated cervix during a routine check. In that case, most providers will coach mom to push her baby out. But some providers….the smaller few will wait. They will grab a chair and wait patiently for the fetal ejection reflex to kick in. The main factor to remember in all of those scenarios is that some moms experience an urge to push/fetal ejection reflex soon after their cervix reaches full dilation and some do not, regardless of whether an epidural is being used or not.
So what is the difference? Does it matter whether you feel the urge to push and just go with it or whether you are coached to push before/without feeling that urge? I believe it does matter. You see friends, our bodies know how to birth our babies. There is this phase of labor that is often not recognized or talked about and not every mom experiences it. It’s called the “rest and be thankful” phase. This occurs when a mom’s cervix has fully dilated but she’s not yet experiencing an urge to push. This is when she should REST AND BE THANKFUL. Labor is seriously hard work. And sometimes our bodies need to take a little break between doing all the work of dilating the cervix (and building the fundus!) and pushing our baby out into the world. This phase is good. Its purpose is to build up energy to finish its work. It may also be allowing baby some time to rotate to better fit through mom’s pelvis. But, mom isn’t allowed that rest (and baby the time to rotate) very often. Our maternity care system is impatient. Providers are taught that there is something wrong if anything takes "too long." And the results of not allowing that rest are that it then takes mom much longer to push her baby out that it would have if we had waited for the urge to push. And because our maternity care system is impatient, mom may even end up with a cesarean after doing all of this work and going this far because of that training that something is wrong if it takes "too long." Or mom just ends up being much more exhausted and sore than necessary once baby has emerged, making recovery harder. Also, it has been shown that coached pushing often results in more occurrences of tearing and more severe tearing than in mom-lead, instinctual pushing (aka the fetal ejection reflex!) which also makes recovery more difficult than it needs to be.
With my first VBAC, I experienced a rest and be thankful phase. My midwife knew I was complete. It had been a very very long labor (54 hours) and my baby was possibly, probably not positioned perfectly. I am so thankful that she trusted the birth process and my body’s ability enough to just patiently wait for my body to begin uncontrollably, involuntarily pushing on its own. While we waited, I actually fell asleep. Contractions faded and I napped for I believe around 20min. Then I pushed my daughter out in less than 20min, without any coaching and only experiencing a small tear. With my second VBAC, my water broke as we were on the way to the hospital and then the very next contraction, my body gave a little heave downwards at the peak. He was born just 8 min after we pulled up to the front doors of the hospital. I’m very thankful for that midwife as well, who trusted the birth process and my body enough to just stand back and let me push my baby out without making me submit to a cervical check first. She knew that if I was pushing involuntarily, then my body was ready to birth my baby. And that time, I experienced no tearing. They were both wonderful births.
I’d love to hear about your experiences, too!
What happens during labor? Your uterus contracts. And what is the purpose of those contractions? To open your cervix.
Well yes, but no. Contractions are less about a hole opening up and more about a muscle being built. Stay with me, here. I’ll explain. Let’s start with the fundus. The official definition of fundus is “the part of a hollow organ that is farthest from its opening.” So the fundus is the top of the uterus, farthest from the opening, the cervix, at the bottom. Got it? Good. Now, the uterus is an organ made up of muscle fibers. It is a big mass of muscle fibers all crisscrossing over and under and between each other; some running up and down and some running around it side-to-side. During a contraction, these muscle fibers…..well, they contract, pulling the cervix up and out causing the cervical tissue to thin and then open. As this happens, these muscle fibers start building up at the top of the uterus, the fundus. They are slowly moving from the bottom of the uterus, to the top with each contraction. As they do so, the cervix thins and opens at the bottom while the fundus is thickened and strengthened at the top of the uterus. And with each contraction, the fundus pushes down on the baby. As the fundus gets bigger, the push gets stronger. Once the cervix has finished opening, the fundus has also finished growing and now is a very large, very strong muscle that expels the baby from the uterus.
Pretty cool, right?
Let’s not stop there, though. Let’s talk a bit about pushing.
But, let’s do it Tuesday. I’ll see you back here Tuesday.
*Updated to add links to Part 2 and Part 3
Amber Piller - Professional Birth Doula and owner of Agape Birth Services. Serving Northwest Houston including Jersey Village, Cypress, Tomball, Spring, and Katy Texas.