Cesarean

VBAC Recovery: Better Than I Ever Imagined

Posted on August 7, 2010. Filed under: Cesarean, Vaginal Tear, VBAC inverted t incision |

I knew I didn’t want to have a repeat cesarean unless absolutely necessary. I wanted to VBAC for so many reasons but I now know that my VBAC is even more important and better than I ever imagined. The difference in recovery from an unplanned (and unwanted) c section is so drastically different on so many levels that I had to write a post about it.

The first most obvious difference is physical. I physically feel so much better.  Major abdominal surgery is a much longer recovery than an uncomplicated vaginal birth. I had pain from my c section for over a year. I did have a first degree perineal tear after my VBAC but it wasn’t bleeding so I opted not to have stitches and to instead rest and keep my legs together. The tear took a few days to close, I think about five, but it was only mildly uncomfortable. The worst part of it was that is would sting on occasion if I did too much. Regular cleaning with a peri bottle and limited activity took care of it and it seems to have healed up just fine at two weeks postpartum. Two weeks postpartum after my c section, I could still barely get out of bed unassisted and had to move slowly to avoid pain. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t take the prescribed pain medication but I had a much harder time getting around. I’m really amazed at how good I feel. I knew I’d feel better but the difference is almost indescribable.

Another physical difference is the way my body looks. Part of this is due to the fact that I only gained 30lbs this pregnancy as opposed to the 60lbs I gained when I was pregnant the first time. As of right nowI am only about 10lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight (at two weeks postpartum) and I feel really good about it. My stomach still has the c section flap but I’m strangely ok with it after this pregnancy. A lot of it is a sense of acceptance on my own part. I accept that I’ve had two babies in just over two years. I accept that my first one was a surgical birth and it changed the way I look. After my c section, I felt deformed and disfigured because I developed a flap of fat that now hangs over my underwear. I wouldn’t even let my husband see me completely naked, not once in the more two years that has passed since my c section. After my VBAC I feel like i have given myself permission to stop hating my body. I’m certainly never going to wear a bikini again and I don’t openly walk around naked but I’m done hiding. I don’t feel like I need to any more. My VBAC has given me the confidence to let go and be grateful that I have carried two healthy babies to term and birthed two healthy babies in two very different ways.  My body did some pretty amazing things when it birthed Stella and I can’t be so hard on it anymore. I appreciate that it works and I also appreciate the fact that the flap is a result of my son’s birth. Had he not have been born by c section I would not have the same perspective that I now have.

My labor with Graham was long but not nearly as tiresome or as hard as my labor with Stella. It was long though and I didn’t get much sleep leading into the c section. After the c section, I was so shell shocked by the whole experience that I didn’t get much sleep in the following days. I was absolutely and completely exhausted. I was also so disturbed by the experience that I craved normalcy to the point of going home from the hospital and  cleaning my house. I didn’t allow myself to rest or recover. I felt the need to constantly do something and I didn’t sleep well. Add to that a baby that wanted to nurse every two hours or less round the clock for the first four months of his life and the results are not that great. Since my VBAC, I have been able to get so much more rest. I attribute a portion of this to my body adjusting more easily to the natural changes that occur after a normal birth. The hormonal processes that normally happen during and after a natural vaginal birth happen to help ease both mother and baby from pregnancy to postpartum. I believe my milk coming in just over two days after the VBAC versus six days after my c section are proof of that. I think that the body generally adjusts better when the normal processes happen. It also makes it more real that the baby in front of me is the baby I birthed rather than having my baby brought to me three hours after being lifted out and having a hard to associating him as the same baby that was in me.

Psychologically it all makes sense to me. I birthed Stella. No one delivered her. My husband caught her and passed her to me and I was the first thing she saw. We were not separated and we had an immediate bond. With Graham, the bonding took more time. I feel bad that he didn’t get what Stella has gotten but I do know that he is ok and we are bonded. He is my first born and very special in a different way but Stella’s birth has given me a sense of empowerment that I never had. After this VBAC, I feel like I can do anything.

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My Journey to VBAC

Posted on November 19, 2009. Filed under: Cesarean, Elective Cesarean, Face First/Mentum Presentation, inverted t incision, vbac, VBAC after inverted t incision | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I had a c section with Graham because he was left mentum transverse. This means he put his face into my pelvis first, sideways, with his chin on my left hip and his forehead on the right hip. This is considered a vaginally impossible delivery. I can pretty much attest to that as I had 52 hours of contractions without pain medication of any kind. I was upright and active the entire labor. I didn’t even go to the hospital until my water broke with particulate and thick meonium and even then I was 7cm. Because of all of this, it as very difficult to deliver him once the docs were inside so my uterus was cut a second time. The first cut was the standard bikini incision on the lower segment of the uterus and the second cut was perpendicular to that. It was a vertical cut extended into the contractile portion of the uterus. The result is an inverted T incision style scar on my uterus. This type of cut is reserved for emergency or very difficult deliveries. Only about .4% of c section end in this type cut.

American OBs quote the rate of rupture during a trial of labor in a subsequent pregnancy as 10%, 15% or even higher. It was originally recommended that any future babies were delivered by c section at 36 weeks after an amniocentesis to check for lung maturity. This was very disturbing to me on so many levels. First, I would be purposefully delivering a preterm baby. Graham gestated until 41 weeks and 1 day. By that reasoning, he would have been 5 weeks  early.  It was also concerning because if the rate of rupture was truly that high then was it even  sensible to carry another baby at all?

I started digging around and what I found was the most alarming thing of all. The true rupture rate found by the biggest study ever done on VBACs found a rupture rate of only 1.9%. How could it really be that low? How could I be told something so different previously? Where did the doctors that told me 10 and 15% get their info? I have no clue, I have never been able to find any reference  or study reporting that high of a rupture rate. It kind of made me mad and when I get mad I get determined.  I started reading everything I could find on this type of scar, why the cut is used, what doctors recommend and then I found that women did VBAC with this scar and they did it under the supervision of doctors and midwives that actually supported the idea.  I knew I had to find out all of my options before I could consider getting pregnant again.

I learned through ICAN of Atlanta that there is a doctor in Atlanta that would be VBAC supportive after an inverted t incision. He also support VBAC after multiple cesareans, VBAC after classical incisions, twin VBAC, and does breech vaginal.  His name is Dr. Tate.  I emailed him and talked to him months ago and he was on board when the time came. He was willing to take me as a patient, meet me at the hospital at the onset of labor, only require a saline lock and fetal monitoring and he would stay as long as it took with no pressure how long it took. He was willing to let my body work and do it’s thing without interference. He, like me, believes that the body is capable of birthing without intervention and time constraints and in a higher risk VBAC it is safer to be as hands off as possible.  The level of commitment that he was making touched me and motivated me and  I knew that was the answer. I could go back to the States in my third trimester and live at Ft. Benning and go to Dr. Tate in Atlanta. I finally had some peace of mind.

Then I found out I was pregnant on November 4th.

Yep, that’s right for  all of you that have been guessing, I am pregnant! Due July 15th. It is still very early, I am only 6 weeks along and I didn’t imagine announcing it so soon but I decided that I wanted to blog this experience and I was anxious to get started in case anyone else was going through something similar. So there it is 🙂

Once I found out I was pregnant my brain went in overdrive. I was already planning the move to Georgia in my mind and thinking of all the logistical aspects. I was bummed to have to separate my family for such a long period of time but willing to do it. I had decided that I would pretty much do whatever it took to make this trial of labor, my chance to VBAC happen. For me it is that important. I want my next baby to have a gentle peaceful birth. I want my body to experience labor and delivery the way it was meant to. I want to labor. I want to feel my contractions and my body work and my baby work in sync with it. I know it can do it. I am not afraid of labor, I had a very long labor with Graham,  I know that I can labor. I am not afraid to birth. I am surrounded by birth, I attend births, I know that my body can birth. I want that moment of realization that I birthed my baby myself. I want to hold my baby the instant it’s born, preferable pulling it out myself. I have had 19 months to process Graham’s birth but I will always hurt that he didn’t get to be with me for the first three hours of his life. How terrifying and confusing it must have been for him to go to the arms of strangers and bright lights and to be force fed formula rather than nurse. I want to give this baby a  more gentle entrance, it deserves that. I deserve that.

All that said, I am no fool. I know that I may have to have another c section. If the safety of my baby or my life is compromised, I get that. I have a lot of perspective and knowledge going into this next birth and I know that if we have another c section it is because it was truly necessary and I can live with that.

As all of this was coming out, my friend Karen, suggested that I talk to Dr. Chung. He is a Korean OB that has a solo practice and as the Korean’s say it he has gone the “natural way.” Women seek him out specifically for natural birth. Korea has a 45-50% c section rate and a 90%+ epidural rate for vaginal births. The “natural way” is small population in Korea. Dr. Chung also attends homebirths and has even attended homebirths on post at Yongsan Army Base. This is how Karen and I knew of him. It never occurred to me to ask him but I wasn’t aware that he attended VBACs. Once Karen told me this, I immediately emailed him. He got back in a couple days and said to come see him as soon as possible that he thought he could  help me.

OH MY GOODNESS!!! I couldn’t believe it. I may have the option to stay in Korea and do this! I had a question list a mile long. Everything had to be on my terms and my way. I want to do this but  it has to be as  safely as possible.  Here is the list of questions I used…

  • Approximately how many VBACs have you attended?
  • Of those patients in your practice who wanted a VBAC, how many were successful?
  • What do you think my chances are of a VBAC success, given my childbirth history?
  • What is your rate of cesarean sections and under what circumstances do you usually advise them?
  • Who is your back-up? Is he/she VBAC friendly? Would he/she support my birth plan?
  • What hospital(s) do you have privileges at? (Which would you recommend for a VBAC?) (Natural birth?)
  • What prenatal tests/procedures do you usually require? Recommend?
  • What do you think of Birth Plans/ Preferences?
  • How do you usually manage a postdate pregnancy? Or a suspected Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD)?
  • Do you have a vacation scheduled near my estimated due date?Labor & Delivery
  • What’s a reasonable length of time for a VBAC labor if I’m healthy and my baby appears to be healthy?
  • Do you know any kind of restriction I should expect from the hospital on a VBAC? (Who do I need to have policy exceptions approved through?)
  • How many people can I have with me during the labor and birth?
  • How do you feel about doulas?
  • What is your usual recommendation for IVs? Pitocin? Confinement to bed?
  • What’s your approach if the bag of waters has broken at full term but the mothers feels no contractions?
  • In what percentage of your patients do you induce labor?
  • Approximately how many of your patients have un-medicated births?
  • If my baby is breech will you still consider me for a VBAC? ECV?
  • At what point do you arrive at the hospital during labor/delivery?
  • What labor positions do you recommend to your patients? Do you encourage movement during labor?
  • I do not intend to push on my back. I may stand, kneel, squat or get on my hands and knees. How do you feel about this?
  • I would like to push spontaneously and without coaching or counting. I would like help breathing my baby out to reduce tears. Will you do this?
  • Do you require continual fetal monitoring for VBAC?
  • Do you allow light eating/ drinking during labor?
  • Are you OK with No IV – but a Saline Lock?
  • I would like a for my labor room to be quiet and undisturbed unless medically necessary. How do you feel about this and can you advocate for me to the hospital staff?
  • In the event that I need a c section and there is time, will I be able to have spinal anesthesia rather than general?

The conversation went even further than this list of questions.  I spent well over an hour with Dr. Chung yesterday. I was very pleased to learn that he would be willing to show up at the hospital with me at the onset of labor and stay until about two hours after the birth. NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES. There will be no time restrictions. He said that he envisioned his job in my labor and birth as a back up. He said that he felt like he should be there with  me and if I need him he will be there. I will be laboring unmedicated so that I can feel any changes to my scar if there are any, and he can respond quickly because he will be in the room with me. He said that he understood the need to labor undisturbed and peacefully so he would be sure to keep staff out of the room unless medically necessary and that he would be an unobtrusive and quiet observer unless medically necessary. He has attended Hypnobirthing training and could certify as a Hypnobirthing practitioner if he wanted and that really got me excited. I am going to be using Hypnobabies and while the programs are different they are similar enough in that the laboring women requires peace and quiet and he totally gets that and is on board. He also said that his job was to let the staff know that my case is a special situation and while we do want little interruption that everyone should be on guard to respond to an emergency at any time. I will be doing this at a very large university hospital in Seoul that is also the most natural birth friendly hospital in the city. There will be pediatrics, NICU, anesthesiology, adequate nursing staff and a back up OB in case I get into trouble.  I am also A+ which is great because that blood type is abundant in Korea.

I cannot think of a more perfect scenario given my circumstances.

I would normally be very wary of going to the hospital at the onset of labor and laboring with my doctor present the entire labor but I truly believe that Dr. Chung is going to give me adequate  space and time. I don’t believe that his presence will pressure me. I think it will reassure me. Because I know that he isn’t going to put time restraints on me and he will not augment labor in any way, that I can relax. For me, because I have never had a vaginal birth, I need that security of immediate response and there are not many doctors in the world that commit to a patient the way he is committing to me.  I know that if I have another c section it will be because it was necessary. I know that he believes that my body can do this and that my body can birth but that if there is trouble he is prepared to repsond accordingly. With that kind of support, I know that I can labor quietly and peacefully and without worry.

So, like my friend Karen said yesterday, I have all the pieces in place, now it is time to switch gears to “I CAN birth my baby” and leave behind the “what if something happens.” She is right. I am ready. I can trust that I am in good hands and in the best case scenario possible for a trial of labor.

For me and my family, this is the best decision and one that I have been working on for a long time.  After Dr. Chung and I finished talking yesterday he did an ultrasound and I saw the little tadpole. It finally hit me that I was rally pregnant and not just planning any more 🙂

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Placenta accreta – a risk of cesarean section

Posted on August 3, 2009. Filed under: Cesarean, Placenta accreta, Pregnancy, uterine rupture, vbac | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is a very good article from vbacfacts.com.

“There is this idea that if you don’t VBAC and you schedule a repeat cesarean, that you will be safe from complications.  This is because during a “VBAC counsel,” women are often told of the risks of VBAC, namely uterine rupture, but they are rarely told the risks of repeat cesareans in their current and future pregnancies.

Abnormal placental implantation is one risk of cesareans that only present themselves when you get pregnant again.

Women who expect to only have two children, and thus opt for a repeat cesarean, might think that not VBACing is the safer, and more controlled choice, for them.

But what happens if you get pregnant again?  Now you have had two cesareans, your risk of placenta accreta (where the placenta grows through the uterus), placenta previa (where the placenta grows over the cerivx), and placental abruption (where the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall) all go up.  And here women think they are making the SAFER choice by having a repeat cesarean.

This news article from Canada illustrates this point.

I’ve underlined parts for those who like to skim.”


Complications worry MDs

Surgery carries risks, doctors say

By Sharon Kirkey, Canwest News Service August 1, 2009

Dr. Jan Christilaw was in the operating room the day a routine incision was made into a young mother’s abdomen to deliver her baby.

What happened next, Christilaw says, “is something we never want to see.”

Normally, the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus after birth. It’s lacy almost, and not like solid tissue. “You can take your hands and sort of scoop it up, it’s like breaking cobwebs as you go,” says Christilaw, an obstetrician and president of B.C. Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in Vancouver.

But the placenta had eroded through the wall of the uterus, a condition known as placenta accreta. As soon as they stretched the opening of the uterus to deliver the baby, “the placenta started bleeding everywhere,” Christilaw says.

They couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. The woman was losing two cups of blood every 30 seconds.

The only way to stop the bleeding was an emergency hysterectomy.  The woman was in the operating room for eight hours and lost 15 litres of blood.

It used to be that obstetricians might only ever see one or two cases of placenta accreta in their lifetime. Although still rare, obstetricians across Canada say one of the most feared complications of pregnancy is increasing as a direct consequence of the nation’s rising cesarean section rate.

Virtually all placenta accretas occur in women who have had a previous C-section, and the risk increases with each additional surgical delivery. The placenta attaches to the old C-section scar. Scars don’t have a proper blood supply to feed a placenta, so it keeps burrowing into the uterus until it finds one, sometimes pushing through the uterus completely and into the bladder or other organs.

The condition can be detected by ultrasound, but not always. “You almost never see it in a woman who has not had a C-section,” Christilaw says.

Today, about 28 per cent of babies born in Canada are delivered by caesarean. In 1969, Canada’s rate was five per cent.

More than 78,000 caesarean sections were performed in Canada last year, making it the single most frequently performed surgery on Canadian women.

“We don’t know what the ideal rate is,” says Dr. Mark Walker, a high-risk
obstetrician at the Ottawa Hospital and senior scientist with the Ottawa
Hospital Research Institute. “I think it’s fair to assume it’s lower than
where we are now.”

Walker says changing demographics — older first-time mothers, more multiple births from fertility treatments, more mothers with hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other health problems — are not enough to explain an almost doubling in the C-section rate since the early 1990s.

Neither is there evidence to support the idea that women are seeking
C-sections on demand.
Studies from Ontario suggest less than one per cent of caesareans are for “maternal request.”

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says the vast
majority of caesareans are done for medically valid reasons. But there are concerns that too many are being ordered because labour isn’t progressing quickly enough, and that thousands of “routine” interventions are now being done that increase the odds of a woman needing a surgical birth.

What’s more, the number of women who give birth vaginally after a previous C-section is dropping dramatically, meaning more and more women are having repeat C-sections.

Dr. Michael Klein calls it the industrialization of childbirth, where, in
today’s risk-averse society, women in labour are being treated “as an
accident waiting to happen” and where doing something is always better than doing nothing.

“Physicians and society have helped women basically believe that childbirth is no longer a natural phenomenon, but an opportunity for things to go wrong,” says Klein, emeritus professor in the departments of family practice and pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.

“But the fundamental issue is, we aren’t improving outcomes by doing more C-sections. For the first time in Canada, we are seeing the key indicators for mothers and babies going in the wrong direction.”

Risks to babies range from accidental lacerations when the surgeon cuts into the uterus, to neonatal respiratory distress. Research suggests two times as many babies born via C-section will end up in an incubator with water on their lungs, or with serious respiratory problems compared to babies delivered vaginally, because a C-section interferes with the normal hormonal and physiological changes associated with labour that prepare a baby to take its first breath.

Risks to women include higher risks of hemorrhage requiring a hysterectomy, major infections including blood infections, wound infections and bladder infections, and blood clots in the lungs — and every C-section increases the risk for another.

“If you have a caesarean section for the first birth, the probability of
having one the second time around is huge, because of the difficulty women have in getting a doctor to look after them once they have a uterine scar,
” Klein says.

The worry is that the scar will pull apart during labour, causing a uterine
rupture.

“If you have a catastrophic rupture, you can get into big trouble,”
Christilaw says. “You can have a negative outcome for mom or baby. In severe situations, the baby can die or become damaged — but that’s a very rare outcome.”

Her hospital is encouraging more VBACs — vaginal births after caesarean — in carefully selected women. “In those women who attempt a VBAC, our success rate is well over 80 per cent.”

But less than one in five women in Canada with a previous C-section
delivered vaginally in 2007-08. Eighty-two per cent had a subsequent
C-section.

Christilaw says the only thing preventing Canada from seeing “horrific”
complication rates from C-sections is the fact women are not having as many babies as they once did
.

“A C-section can be a life-saving manoeuvre for a mother or baby. Nobody is saying differently,” she says. “What we’re trying to say to people is, a C-section is not a benign thing. If you need one, that’s different. But you should not be doing this unless you absolutely have to.”

C-sections are frequently the end result of a cascade of interventions that
often starts with inductions.

Tens of thousands of women in Canada have their labours artificially induced every year, often via intravenous infusion of artificial oxytocin. Oxytocin is naturally produced by the human body. It’s what creates contractions in labour. Today in Canada, one in five women who gives birth in hospital is induced.

What doctors fear are stillbirths. But alarmed by the rising rates of
inductions, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada
recently urged doctors not to consider an induction until a woman is at
least one week past her due date
.

Claudia Villeneuve says that women are getting induced “if they’re two,
three, four days overdue.”

“Inductions are rampant,” says Villeneuve, president of the International
Cesarean Awareness Network of Canada. “You have a perfectly normal mom who comes in with a perfectly normal baby, and now you put these powerful drugs into her system to force labour to start.”

The “humane” thing is to offer an epidural, she says. With an epidural, a
woman can’t feel pain in the lower half of her body. But epidurals slow
labour, sometimes so much that labour stops.
“Now you have to get this baby out,” Villeneuve says. Two-thirds of first-time C-sections are done for “failure to progress.”

Klein says epidurals are too often given before active labour is
established.

“The majority of women today get their epidurals in the parking lot.”

Kayla Soares had been in mild labour at home for 24 hours when her
contractions suddenly stopped. Doctors told the Edmonton mother she would have to be induced. She was three centimetres dilated when they started the oxytocin drip.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in the world,” she remembers. “I
wasn’t having contractions at all and then they put me on the oxytocin and every half-hour they would boost it up, so the contractions were coming every minute, pretty much. It was like going from nothing to being in crazy, absolute labour, and in so much pain.” Eleven hours later, she was still just three centimetres dilated. “That’s when they said it was enough, and they were doing a C-section.

“I didn’t want to do it. I was asking, could we just have more time?”

Three weeks later, she still couldn’t get out of bed without help. Her
incision had become infected. “It felt like I was ripping apart every time I
moved. It was a pretty brutal recovery.”

Soares had her second baby in June. “I was dead set on having a VBAC,” a vaginal delivery after cesarean. “It was a fight, an uphill battle the  whole time with doctors.” One obstetrician asked her her shoe size. “She said that because I was a size five and smaller framed that I definitely was going to have another caesarean and that a VBAC wouldn’t happen. She said that because I was a ‘failure to progress’ the first time I’ll be a ‘failure to progress again.’”

Two weeks before her daughter was born, Soares started going in and out of labour. “They had me convinced it was causing stress to the baby even though the tests said everything was fine. They had me convinced it was enough, because I was overdue and they said my incision was going to rupture,” she says.

“They just kind of scared me into having another C-section.”

© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

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Rebirth After Birth Trauma: My Story

Posted on August 2, 2009. Filed under: Birth, Breastfeeding, Cesarean, Face First/Mentum Presentation, Rebirth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This post could be upsetting to someone who is currently pregnant. If you decide to read this and you are pregnant, please remember that many of the birth injuries mentioned are rare. You can also help prevent some of these injuries by preparing your body and your mind for an unmedicated birth as the use of forceps and vacuum extractions are reduced when unmedicated. Also, pushing in an upright or squatting position can help prevent the need for these interventions.

Birth trauma comes in many forms and can occur during vaginal deliveries and cesarean deliveries.  Trauma can be caused by:

fetal positioning
an irregular shaped pelvis
pushing in a supine (on the back) position
a very long or very fast labor
very large fetal head
fetal anomolies
sometimes there are unknown reasons

Trauma can range from mild to severe and can include:

Bruising and Forceps Marks – Sometimes a baby will have bruising on the face or head simply from passing though the birth canal, and from associated contact with the mother’s pelvic bones and tissues. If forceps are used during delivery, they may leave temporary marks or bruises on the baby’s head. Vacuum extraction can also cause bruising to the head, and may cause a scalp laceration. In extreme cases, forceps use can cause depressed skull fractures, which may require surgical elevation.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage – This common birth injury results in bright red band around the iris of one or both of the baby’s eyes. This does not cause damage to the eyes, and usually disappears completely within a week to ten days.

Caput Succedaneum – This is a severe swelling of the baby’s scalp, and is more likely to occur as a result of vacuum extraction. The swelling will ordinarily disappear within a few days.

Facial Paralysis – Pressure on the baby’s face during labor or birth, or the use of forceps during childbirth, may cause injury to a baby’s facial nerves. If a nerve is merely bruised, the paralysis will ordinarily clear up within a few weeks. With more severe nerve damage, it may be necessary to surgically repair the damaged facial nerves.

More severe injuries include Brachial Palsy Injuries, broken bones and brain damage. These are all very rare. Fetal birth injury accounts for less than 2% of fetal death.

When a newborn has birth trauma it often times causes breastfeeding and bonding problems. I learned this first hand in the birth of my own son. He was in a mentum (face first) presentation and I labored for 52 hours before having a c section.  I discuss both mentum presentations and my birth story in separate posts if you would like to read them.

Because of my sons positioning, his face took the force of 52 hours of contractions. His birth by cesarean was violent.  His face was so wedged into my pelvis that he could not move forward and the doctors could  not pull him back out. The OB tried to pull his head out my pelvis with six failed vacuum extraction attempts. It eventually took three different people pulling on his little body at once to get him out. He was swollen to the point that he could not open his eyes, had bruising and abrasions all over his face,  a hematoma, and what we initially thought was a broken nose.  Luckily and thankfully his nose wasn’t broken and he had no long term damage. Today he still had a little bit of a ‘birth mark’ where some of the bruising was (he is 16 months old) and I personally think it was from his birth trauma.

Once he was born he had deep suctioning because we had thick black meconium and of course he was poked and prodded and force fed formula until he puked. He had also had the cord around his neck twice and because of the way his neck was hyperextended with his face first positioning it was very tight. He remembered it and my husband said that when he was in the nursery while I was being put back together, he kept reaching for his neck.

This was a very rough start for my little guy and for the  first two days he was very very sleepy. We had to undress him to make him wake up to eat. He had so many drugs in his system. After that two days, the crying began and he cried so much. I think he was shell shocked. I was shell shocked myself so I totally understood how he felt but I just didn’t really know how to make him feel better. He had complete breast refusal and even though we had no separation, we were not bonding. My body was also in a state of shock and hardly producing any colostrum to make him interested. I didn’t get milk until six days postpartum. By day three after he was born and of not being able to express any colostrum or having any luck getting the baby to quit screaming at the breast long enough to try to latch, we began finger feeding him formula. I refused to give him a bottle because I knew my milk would eventually come in and I didn’t want for him to have nipple confusion. In the mean time, I pumped as frequently as I could with the hospital grade pump.

My milk came in six days postpartum, the day we left the hospital. Because of how difficult our birth was, we stayed twice as long as most other c section birth stay at the Army hospital in Seoul. I guess I just needed to be home and able to relax a little bit but once it came it in I had a big full supply. For the three days that we had been finger feeding the baby I had continued to try to latch him at the breast and he continued to scream. Once we were home and I had my own milk to give him I decided to take a day off from latching him because quite frankly, I was a wreck about it. I felt that at least I could give him my own milk and not formula and for then that would be ok. The next day, my husband borrowed two breastfeeding videos from the nurse that taught the breastfeeding class at the hospital. At that time there was no lactation consultant, so I was own my own in fixing this breast refusal problem.

About halfway through the video, which by the way was Australian and I have no idea what it was called now, a woman with inverted nipples started telling her breastfeeding story. She talked about how difficult it had been and how her baby had been OP (face up) and that she pushed for over two hours and he came out screaming and wouldn’t latch. He developed breast rejection because of her inverted nipples but she didn’t give up. She said that she and her husband decided to perform a ‘rebirth’ and recreate the birth experience that they wanted for their baby. I was fascinated and willing to try anything so when I told my husband that we were doing it that night.

The idea of rebirth is to recreate the birthing experience for the baby so that he can be born in a gentle and peaceful way. We had a garden tub and filled it with warm water and lit candles and warmed the bathroom up. I got in and my husband passed the baby to me. He was seven days old at this time.  As soon as he was naked he was screaming but I put him in the warm water and held him close and he calmed down a little, just to a cry rather than a scream. After a few minutes I put him in the water, floating him around with only his face out of the water. He fought it a little at first but after a few minutes he completely gave in. His entire body went limp. We were completely amazed at this point. We had successfully recreated the womb and he remembered it! This was the most relaxed this baby had been since he was born.

In following the idea of infant rebirth, I slowing began to lift him out of the water. The idea is that the change in temperature and the removal of water from his environment will trigger the hormonal response that is similar to that of what a baby experiences in a peaceful vaginal delivery. I took him completely out and put him to my chest, just as I would have wanted had our birth gone the way we wanted. He didn’t cry or fight it, he just went limp against me. I let him lay quietly for a bit then decided it was time to try latching on again. I used the nipple shield because I wanted it to be as easy as possible for him. I had tried it before but he screamed at the breast regardless. Not this time, he latched right on. He latched and nursed for almost an hour. I was in awe and shock and disbelief.

We continued using the nipple shield until he was six months old. I tried to get him to nurse without it for months but he refused. I didn’t care, he was breastfeeding and I had a great supply. I knew we would eventually get rid of it and we did when he was six months old. As of 16 months old he is still nursing. Our bonding really began that day. I know that you can bond with your baby if you do not breastfeed but we had so much anxiety between the two of us that we needed that moment to begin healing from our traumatic birth.

I would recommend rebirth to anyone who has birth trauma. As soon as you get home from the hospital, get in the water. Get skin to skin. Recreate what you wanted for you and for your baby. Even if the baby didn’t have a birth trauma or injury of any kind, but you did, do it. If your milk is taking a while to come in, do it. It will help your body to relax and produce the hormones necessary for milk production. I truly believe in this process and it’s healing powers and hope that more moms can learn about the benefits of rebirth after birth trauma.

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The Six Care Practices that Support Normal Birth (Part Three)

Posted on July 12, 2009. Filed under: Birth, Cesarean, Epidural, Lamaze 6 care practices, pitocin | Tags: , , , , |

In Part One and Part Two of this segment, I discussed why I believe in the six care practices and the first three of the care practices which include: labor begins on its own , freedom of movement throughout labor and continuous labor support. The six care practices that support normal birth are based on research and evidence based maternity care. This is the healthiest and safest way to have a baby in most cases. In a normal healthy pregnancy most women can and should deliver their babies vaginally and with few interventions. All this medicalization of labor and delivery is not only not necessary, it’s also causes problems.

The fourth care practice is no routine interventions.

No Routine Intervention

Routine interventions are anything that is done or not allowed at hospital that isn’t medically necessary. Evidence based maternity care through research has shown that these interventions are not only not necessary but can cause more harm than good when used routinely. Here is a list of the most common routine interventions.

Restriction on eating and drinking: Back in the day when women were knocked out with general anesthesia food and drink were not allowed in case the woman vomited and inhaled it. Rarely is general ever used any more but it’s still the policy at most hospitals. Women need food and drink to keep their bodies fueled and hydrated for the hard work of labor.

Use of IV fluids: Because of the restriction on drink, the IV fluids are given to keep the mom from getting dehydrated.  IV fluids are just not properly balanced in a way that gives the mom the energy she needs to labor. The intervention spiral tends to begin with the IV and it’s easy access to the vein and it also keeps you tethered and restricts movement.  The IV line does provide quick access to the vein in case of an emergency. One compromise is a heparin lock. It’s the little catheter that put in the vein and shut off without the IV line actually being connected.

Continuous electronic fetal monitoring:  In a normal low risk labor continuous EFM isn’t recommended. Intermittent monitoring, or 20 minutes out of every hour is just as beneficial. With intermittent monitoring the mom is allowed the freedom of movement. Continuous EFM increases the number of inventions without improving outcomes.

Speeding up labor: Artificial rupture of membranes and augmentation of labor:  Speeding up labor sounds pretty tempting but when the water is artifically ruptured (AROM) it increases the pain of the labor and removes the baby’s cusion to move around and get into a better position. Infection risks are increased and most hospitals have a time limit on how long the water can be broken before intervening.  Augmenting labor with pitocin can make labor go faster but it also interupts the normal flow of hormones and makes labor much more painful while increasing the risk of fetal distress.

Epidurals: Epidurals do take the pain away (most times) but can also cause a cascade of other interventions and problems. They increase the risk of an OP baby (sunny side up) because the pelvis is over relaxed and baby finds it harder to rotate and turn without the gravity because mom is stuck in bed. The risk of c section increases and the drugs do reach the baby potentially causing breastfeeding problems. Please see my post To Epidural or Not to Epidural for more details on the risks of epidurals.  There are many other ways to cope with labor. Preparing physically and mentally for labor, continuous labor support and avoiding routine interventions all help make labor an easier process.

Episiotomy: Routine episiotomy can be more harmful than tearing. Tears typically aren’t as bad as the cut would be and they heal faster. Episiotomy frequently causes more tearing and more pain. Avoiding epidurals and upright pushing positions reduce the risk of or need for episiotomy.

Medical need for interventions are occasionally necessary. Routine intervention should be avoided. Learning about the routine interventions and when they may become necessary and writing a birth plan can help reduce the chance of having routine interventions forced on a laboring woman. I think it is also very important for the partner to understand these procedures so that they can assist the mother as much as possible. Research is on the side of the mother when it comes to these routine interventions and discussing the written birth plan before the birth will help the labor go more smoothly.  Hiring a doula can also help keep routine interventions from being carried out as she can remind the mom of what the risks and benefits of the interventions are and of what her wants are.

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“Pit To Distress”

Posted on July 7, 2009. Filed under: Birth, Cesarean, pitocin | Tags: , , , , |

Yes this is a real term that is really used in hospitals. Now I have heard it all. “Pit to distress” is referring to administration of the maximum dosage of pitocin until the fetus is distressed and the mother needs a c section. I am not making this up. Go read about this for yourself here. If you think this would never happen to you, you may want to do some research. If you think this DID happen to you, please share your story.

Edit:

Here is an L&D nurse weighing in on this topic. She confirms that it is in fact practiced and referred to as “pit to distress”.

Here is another spin on it from an L&D Nurse, just to get a different perspective.

Here is a link from VBAC Facts weighing in on “Pit to Distress”

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Breech Pregnancy and Birth Survey

Posted on July 7, 2009. Filed under: Birth, breech, Cesarean, Pregnancy, vbac | Tags: , , |

All North American women who have had breech pregnancies or births are invited participate in an essay-response survey, which takes approximately 15-30 minutes to complete. We are interested in participants who had breech pregnancies (breech babies who turned head-down before birth). We would also like to hear from women who have given birth to breech babies, whether vaginally or by cesarean section; with midwives, physicians, or unassisted; at home, in a birth center or in a hospital. We welcome input from both singleton and multiple (twin, triplet, etc) breech pregnancies and births.

How to Participate:
To take the survey, please visit the Breech Pregnancy and Birth Survey

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EXCELLENT video on how to prevent cesareans!!!

Posted on July 6, 2009. Filed under: Birth, Cesarean, vbac | Tags: , |

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Do You Know What You are Signing? Elective Cesarean

Posted on July 5, 2009. Filed under: Birth, Cesarean, Elective Cesarean, vbac | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Below is a copy and pasted version of a real elective cesarean consent form provided by an L&D nurse on her blog. Often times women sign these when they schedule their cesarean but they sign them without reading it or if they do read it they do not understand exactly what they are reading. Yes, they may see the words on the page but they do not realize that the risks outlined on that page are so very real. I have made some additional notes within the content of the form. My notes are in italics.

Consent for Elective Cesarean Section

A cesarean section (c-section) is the surgical delivery of a baby through an incision in the abdomen and uterus. An incision is made on the abdomen just above the pubic area. The second incision is made in the wall of the uterus. The physician can then open the amniotic sac and remove the baby. The patient may feel tugging, pulling, and pressure. The physician detaches and removes the placenta; incisions in the uterus and abdomen are then closed.

I authorize and direct _______________________________, M.D. with associates or assistants of his/her choice, to perform an elective cesarean section on _______________________________.

(Print Patient Name)

Patient’s Initials

_____ I have informed the doctor of all my known allergies.

_____ The details of the procedure have been explained to me in terms I understand.

_____ Alternative methods and their benefits and disadvantages have been explained to me. How many times are the benefits of VBAC explained? Does the patient understand that with a successful VBAC the risk of uterine rupture (which is initially 0.05%) decreases and that the risk of rupture (before labor and during) increases with each cesarean?

_____ I understand and accept the possible risks and complications of a cesarean section, which include but are not limited to:

* Pain or discomfort

* Wound infection; and/or infection of the bladder or uterus. Bladder infections are very common after cesareans because of the catheter. It is not uncommon to be re-catheterized after cesarean because of the inability to urinate independently. This increases the risk of bladder infection immensely. Obviously the uterus is at risk for infection as it has been cut open.

* Blood clots in my legs or lungs You are four times more likely to develop a clot after a cesarean than a vaginal birth. This may not seem like a big deal to most people but as a person with a hereditary blood clotting disorder and a mother with chronic DVT, and a sister who had a hysterectomy at 23 years old because of a blood clot in her ovary, I can tell you first hand that this is real and it is serious.

* Injury to the baby Babies born by c section 50% more likely to have lower APGAR scores than those born vaginally. About 2% of babies born via cesarean are cut by the scalpel. After my own cesarean my OB told me about a friend that she went to school with that cut a baby on her face so badly that she required plastic surgery. What a nice welcome to the world.

* Decreased bowel function (ileus)

* Injury to the urinary tract of GI tract I have ready many stories of the bladder being cut by the scalpel. If you are not aware, the bladder sits on the uterus and is connected by a layer of tissue that must be separated so that the bladder can be moved out of the way and the uterine incision made.

* Increased blood loss (2x that of a vaginal delivery)

* Risk of additional surgeries

* Post surgical adhesions causing pain/complications with future surgeries Adhesions make subsequent cesareans more difficult and longer to perform. They do not interfere with vaginal deliveries.

* Increased risk of temporary breathing problems with the baby that could result in prolonged hospitalization We were in the hospital six days total as a result of this very thing.

_____ I understand and accept the less common complications, including the risk of death or serious disability that exists with any surgical procedure.

_____ I understand in a future pregnancy that I have an increased risk of complications including, but not limited to: These aspects of cesarean are so very important and so often omitted from the discussion. Risks are increased with every cesarean.

* Placenta previa, where the placenta covers the cervix.

* Placenta accreta, where the placenta grows into the muscle of the uterus.

* This may lead to a hysterectomy and excessive blood loss at the time of the cesarean section.

* An increased risk of uterine rupture (with or without labor) and that this risk increases with each subsequent cesarean section. Uterine rupture can lead to the death of the baby or myself.

_____ I have been informed of what to expect post-operatively, including but not limited to:

* Estimated recovery time, anticipated activity level, and the possibility of additional procedures.

_____ The doctor has answered all of my questions regarding this procedure.

_____ I am aware and accept that no guarantees about the results of the procedure have been made.

I certify that I have read and understand the above and that all blanks were filled in prior to my signature.

________________________________ Patient Signature/Date

________________________________ Witness Signature/Date

I certify that I have explained the nature, purpose, benefits, and alternatives to the proposed treatment and the risks and consequences of not proceeding, have offered to answer any questions and have fully answered all such questions. I believe that the patient fully understands what I have explained.

________________________________

Physician Signature/Date

________copy given to patient ________copy placed in office chart

(Initial) (Initial)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What is not included on the consent form is the psychological effects on both mom and baby when a cesarean is done. The interference with the normal hormonal processes that both the mom and baby go through do have an affect on bonding and breastfeeding. I have talked to some people who say that they had no bonding issues at all and that breastfeeding was easily established after a c section and that is wonderful. However, MANY times this is not the case. Many mothers and babies do have problems. The rate of postpartum depression is higher as well.

Because the c section rate in the US is so high (31% for 2008) many people just assume that it’s routine and simple and safe. So many women are not taking time to fully understand the consequences of a c section. There are medical reasons for them but that is the small minority. Most c sections are unnecessary. Most primary c sections should have never happened to begin with. The data is there, these are not my opinions. I believe that if women were truly informed and educated on the risks and benefits involved in current obstetrical practices that they would take a more active role in their births. For this to happen, we have to start questioning procedures and asking the questions. We have to have a level of awareness and believe in our bodies abilities to birth.

ICAN’s (International Cesarean Awareness Network) Patient Choice Cesarean Position Statement says:

“The International Cesarean Awareness Network opposes the use of cesarean section where there is no medical need. Birth is a normal, physiological process. Cesarean section is major abdominal surgery which exposes the mother to all the risks of major surgery, including a higher maternal mortality rate, infection, hemorrhage, complications of anesthesia, damage to internal organs, scar tissue, increased incidence of secondary infertility, longer recovery periods, increase in clinical postpartum depression, and complications in maternal-infant bonding and breastfeeding, as well as risks to the infant of respiratory distress, prematurity and injuries from the surgery.

All physicians take an oath to “Do no harm”. This means choosing the path of least risk to patients. Medically unnecessary elective cesareans increase risk to birthing women. It is unethical and inappropriate for obstetricians to perform unnecessary surgery on a healthy woman with a normal pregnancy.”

Food for thought…

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Maybe This Will Be America’s Children Someday

Posted on July 2, 2009. Filed under: Birth, Breastfeeding, Cesarean, Pregnancy |

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