Tag Archives: birth interventions

Traumatic Birth, Healing Birth: Melissa’s Story

By Melissa Brennan

imageMy name is Melissa, and I am a mama to four kiddos. I’ve been an Attachment Parenting mama since before I knew it was a phrase. For me, having the “perfect birth” with my first baby was The Most Important Thing Ever. I really can’t stress enough how tied up I was in having a perfect birth: dim lights, soft music, soft voices, at home, with just a doula and my then-husband. I would catch the baby in my arms, and we would cry and laugh, and I would heal so quickly, and life would be perfect.

Editor’s Note: As one of the Eight Principles of Parenting, Attachment Parenting International encourages parents to prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting, which includes informing themselves about healthy birth and birth options. API birth stories are published for the purpose of giving parents a voice in telling their birth stories, and these stories include decisions and understandings that represent various levels of understanding about optimal birth choices. The author’s description of her experiences should not be considered medical advice or representative of API Principles. Representative of the API Principles in this birth story are the pursuit of education, knowledge, and empowerment as a parent to guide the choices that suit the well-being of one’s own family.

Then reality struck. At 20 weeks pregnant, my baby was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction, and I was told I had a placenta previa. This meant immediate bed rest with the strong possibility of a Cesarean section later. I was crushed.

At 35 weeks, though, my spirits were renewed when the doctor found that my placenta had moved, so a vaginal birth was now a possibility. However, since my little one still wasn’t growing very well, I would remain on bed rest and would not be allowed to have a homebirth. My now ex-husband was in the Marines, and “allowed” is the exact word for how pregnancies were handled by our military hospital at that time.

No one asked about my birth preferences, but I had a printed birth plan. It is my understanding that my husband was asked about circumcision, but neither of us was asked about formula, sugar water or pacifiers. My husband was aware of my feelings about circumcision, that I preferred the baby be left intact. I explicitly stated in my birth plan that I wanted to breastfeed within an hour of giving birth and that the baby was not to receive bottles or pacifiers.

Labor came on quickly one night when I was nearly 40 weeks along. I had no pain or even real discomfort, and then suddenly, BAM, full-blown labor. I managed to call my husband, who came home from his second job, saw how very in labor I was, freaked out and called the ambulance. By the time I got to the hospital 20 minutes later, I was 7 cm dilated and fully effaced.

The hospital handled my birth in the same controlling way they handled my pregnancy:

“No! Of course you’re not allowed to get out of bed!”

“What? Why would you want to eat or drink right now? You’re in labor, get back in bed!”

“Yes, you HAVE to have an IV.”

“This is your first baby; you have no idea what you’re doing.”

That last line is what I heard when I said that I thought labor was going a lot faster than I thought it would, and I didn’t think it would be too much longer before baby got here.

Hearing those words was the final straw. I was 19. I was in horrific pain. I was tethered in bed with the IV, monitor and cables so I couldn’t get up or move. I was being talked down to. I started to cry. Then I started to yell. That’s when a nurse walked in and said, “The doctor says you can have this for the pain.” With that, she stabbed me with a needle and emptied a syringe of what I later discovered to be Demerol into my arm.

I remember I was on the phone with my mom, trying to tell her what was happening, but as I was speaking to her, the room became dark, and I suddenly couldn’t hear anything. I was blind, deaf, mute and in horrible, horrible pain. Pain was all I could feel. I passed out.

Then three things happened simultaneously: I awoke; my water broke, gushing green, smelly, meconium-filled fluid everywhere; and I screamed involuntarily.

Nurses came running, the doctor came in and everyone started yelling at me, “Stop pushing! Stop pushing!”

I gritted my teeth and yelled back, “I’m not pushing!” The baby was coming. I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t pushing.

At that point, I reached out for my husband, who was standing off to the side in shock. I put my hand on his arm. A nurse slapped my hand away from him. She said, “He’s your husband, don’t do that to him.” My husband just stared, his jaw agape.

Then, with one tiny push (the only one I was “allowed”), out came my beautiful baby boy. And I passed out.

When I awoke four hours later, my baby had been through the hospital’s baby assembly line: immunization, circumcision, bottle of formula. (Despite my feelings, my husband made the  decision to have the baby circumcised.)

I did eventually establish breastfeeding, but due to the lack of support and lactation services in the small town where we moved just after the birth, breastfeeding was very difficult. We dealt with a month of thrush, hyperactive letdown and oversupply issues. Eventually, Riley went on a nursing strike, and I ended up switching to formula.

I suffered severe postpartum depression lasting over eight months following Riley’s birth. I was in the last days of my marriage, only 19 years old and very much alone. I received no support and no help. I didn’t even know where to go for help.

I am still dealing with the emotional trauma of Riley’s birth. The hospital left me feeling powerless and small. Telling my story helps me feel like I’m doing something about it. I’ve had three more children since Riley, and each birth has been immeasurably better than Riley’s, which has definitely helped a lot.

My second birth was with Mason, a late baby born at just over 42 weeks. It required two procedures and three days to get labor started. I had a pretty aggressive doctor, and I was too overwhelmed to speak up and ask for the C-section I felt I needed. Mason nearly died at birth from complications of shoulder dystocia. He was in the NICU for a few hours, but luckily he recovered quickly and was back with me by the next morning.

I don’t compare Mason’s birth to others, because of the complications. The doctor had no way of knowing that there would be an issue of dystocia. That whole situation came down to what was necessary, and not what anyone “wanted.” I don’t feel bad about his birth or particularly good about it–I’m just thankful he survived.  As far as circumcision goes, Mason’s dad and I discussed it at length, and I agreed to let him make the decision. He chose to circumcise. I am at peace with that decision because I know that someone who loves my son very much made that choice with love. While I don’t think it was the best choice, it was his dad’s choice, not the hospital’s.

My fourth birth was a scheduled early induction to avoid complications, because the doctor and I both suspected that Harry was going to be a big baby. Given the situation with Mason’s birth, we felt good about proceeding with an early induction. Labor lasted just over two hours. I asked for an epidural, but it failed, so I felt every second of those two hours. Overall, I feel good about this birth, too. And I’m happy to say that Harry is an intact [uncircumcised] baby. He just turned two and is still nursing, thanks to all of the wonderful support I received from La Leche League and the local lactation consultants.

However, I think the birth I felt best about was with my daughter, my third child. On my due date, my water broke on its own at around 10 a.m., before contractions started. I took a shower, got dressed, called the sitter, cleaned the house, and just generally took my time getting everything ready for the baby. At about 3 p.m. my husband and I headed to the hospital. I was started on some Pitocin, and things moved fairly quickly after that. I labored while moving around, walking, eating freely, drinking water and juice whenever I felt like it, with my husband holding my hand and rubbing my back. We watched movies and played cards. Labor was intense but manageable, and the nurses were happy to leave me to it. I had telemetry monitoring, so I could go wherever and do whatever I wanted.

By about 9 p.m. the pain was bad enough that I couldn’t walk or talk or move, so the nurse offered to check me. I was at a very disappointing 3 cm, so I asked for an epidural. The epidural must have made my body relax because my daughter was born less than an hour later after only two pushes.

The doctor laid her on my tummy, and they left the cord alone until it stopped pulsing. The nurses asked if they could please take her to clean her up. They had her back to me, weighed, measured, wiped down and swaddled within 10 minutes. The staff cleared the room fairly quickly, and the lactation consultant stopped by to offer support. I was given a breastfeeding kit (not formula), as well as information on renting a pump and getting an SNS (supplemental nursing system) “just in case.” After that, I was left alone with my daughter and my husband for the rest of the night.

No one questioned my authority in making the decisions regarding my care or the care of my daughter. The two interventions I had were both necessary, and I have no regrets about them. I had good friends who offered advice and assistance in the months leading up to Lana’s birth, and I had a husband who wasn’t afraid to stand up for me.

Having what I considered to be a nearly perfect birth experience gave me hope. For the first time, I stopped blaming myself for the way things went with Riley’s birth. I had always felt like somehow I was the problem in that. But I realized it was just those particular nurses and doctors.

I guess if I had to sum it up in one sentence, I’d have to say that the biggest difference was that with Riley’s birth I was treated poorly and I was the least important person in the room, but with Lana’s birth I was part of the team and the person with the most input.

Every Birth is Natural

By Kelly Coyle DiNorcia, API Leader. Originally published in the 2009 “New Baby” issue of Attached Family magazine

Photo: Bas Silderhuis
Photo: Bas Silderhuis

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I had every intention of having a “natural” childbirth. I wanted to labor at home without pain medication, to fully experience her entry into the world. I left my obstetrician’s practice and found a midwife whom I loved and who assured me that the birth I wanted was within my reach.

Of course, life does not always turn out the way we plan. Complications arose, necessitating interventions that eventually led to a Cesarean birth. The whole birth experience was traumatic, and I was angry and disappointed. I spent the first several months of motherhood feeling inadequate and depressed, and missed a lot of the joy that new babies can bring. After much reflection, I came to recognize my two biggest mistakes:

  1. I treated my pregnancy as an impending deadline—Instead of embracing the coming transition, I used those nine months to finish up projects. I was a student, I worked full time, and I was an active and dedicated volunteer –and all these things were important to me. I struggled with the idea that once I added “mother” to my list, something else would have to give because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any of them. I insisted on plowing on … when I developed gestational diabetes, when I broke my foot in the seventh month of my pregnancy, when my feet swelled so much that I couldn’t put on shoes, when my blood pressure began to rise. I refused to stop and rest.
  2. I believed that my body would be permitted to give birth as it was built to do—It is certainly true that women are built, from a biological, physiological, anatomical and evolutionary perspective, to have offspring and that most of the time this can be done safely without intervention. However, what I did not realize was that the modern medical system is not designed to allow that to happen for most women, and that it can take a great deal of education, effort and willpower to fight for a natural birth. Most birth practitioners see birth not as a natural process but a necessity to be endured and sped through if possible, using whatever means are available to move things along. Avoiding this pitfall requires a great deal of preparation and soul-searching.

Deciding on VBAC

With this in mind, I began preparing for my Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) within weeks of my first baby’s birth. I quizzed the surgeon about the location and orientation of my scar, the reasons for my daughter’s failure to descend and my chances for a future vaginal birth. He assured me that the surgery had gone well, and there was no reason I couldn’t attempt a VBAC. At the time, I didn’t know this was doctor-ese for “But your chances of success are about nil.”

I joined support groups. I read. I wrote in my journal. I entered therapy. I learned about the current medical model of obstetrics. I researched how I could take care of myself to prevent many of the complications I had experienced. I waited, and when the time was right, I became pregnant.

“By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated.” Read more by Tamara Parnay in “The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories

Unfortunately, my former midwife was no longer attending VBACs, so I was forced to start from square one and find a new provider. I was frustrated that I had to tell my story over and over and face so many negative reactions from providers who were pessimistic about my chances for success, but I came to realize that this was really a gift. I had the chance to start fresh, carefully consider my options and know that I had given myself the best chance for my desired outcome. I ended up going with the first midwives I interviewed – their VBAC success rate was very high, I felt instantly at ease with them, I liked their office and their hospital, and their backup doctors were incredibly supportive of natural birth and even collaborated with most of the homebirth midwives in my area.

I also asked a close friend of mine who is a doula to be with me during my birth. During my first pregnancy, I thought a support person was an unnecessary luxury, but this time, I knew better: having a woman there who was supportive and knowledgeable, and whose only responsibility was to help me through the process, was a necessity.

A Second Chance

I spent this pregnancy resting, eating well (when I wasn’t vomiting) and preparing myself and my family for the impending arrival of my son. I was able to avoid the medical complications of my previous pregnancy, I attended Bradley classes and when the time came, I was ready.

After a few false starts, labor started on a Friday at about 11:00 p.m. Unlike many of the videos I had seen of women giving birth surrounded by family and friends, I preferred darkness and solitude. While my family slept, I paced, showered, squatted, groaned and bounced. When daylight came, I called my midwife, doula and mother and then woke my family.

By the time I got to the hospital, I was 6 centimeters dilated and was having strong and regular contractions. We were given the room with the birth tub, which I was not able to use because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, and I was allowed to use a fetal monitor that worked by telemetry so I could change position, walk and even shower.

I’m not really sure how long it took, but as darkness fell, the time had come to push. I walked around, squatted, laid on my back and side, and pushed for several hours. Eventually, I looked at my midwife and said, “Check.” But I knew that my baby hadn’t moved, that he was stuck high in the birth canal, that I was headed to the operating room again.

The nurses prepared me for surgery, the surgeon and anesthesiologist came in to introduce themselves, and my midwife helped my husband and friend pack all of our belongings as I struggled against the urge to push, waiting for an operating room to open up.

A little after 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Harrison “Harry” Herbert Francis was born weighing 9 pounds, 1 ounce. He was healthy and robust, and the surgery went well. As soon as I was in recovery, my doula came in to check on us, and my midwife brought my son so I could nurse him, which he did easily and with gusto. He accompanied me to our room, where he stayed for our entire hospital stay.

Every Birth is Natural

When I met my first midwife, she had told me of her disdain for the term “natural childbirth.” She prefers the term “unmedicated childbirth,” because “natural” implies that there exists an unnatural way to give birth. However it happens for you, she said, is natural for you.

“Yeah, whatever,” I thought at the time, “be that as it may, I am going to give birth naturally, like our foremothers did, with no medication, no intervention, just me having a baby.”

Now, I know exactly what she meant. My second birth was not natural in the sense in which that term is commonly used, but I feel like it was as natural as possible under the circumstances.

I am still bitterly disappointed that I will probably never know what it is like to bring new life into the world on my own power, and I regret that I could not spend my children’s first moments of life snuggling and counting digits. Sometimes I feel like a marathon runner who fell within inches of the finish line and just … couldn’t …make… it … across. I hate that I am another statistic of a failed VBAC attempt and that I was unable to support other women for whom this opportunity is becoming increasingly scarce.

On the other hand, I am incredibly grateful to live in a time and place where the medical technology was available to bring my son and me safely through labor. I am empowered to know that I was strong and determined enough to at least make it to the finish line even if I couldn’t cross. And, of course, I am thankful for my two beautiful children. I won’t say that all the rest doesn’t matter as long as we are all healthy, because I believe that our birth stories do matter and that we are entitled to mourn the loss of the birth we wanted but couldn’t have. After all, whenever a baby is born, so is a mother. But in the end, I also believe that we all have the birth we need to make us better parents and people, and I am no less a woman or a mother because of the way my children came into the world.

To read more birth stories from our growing collection–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached Family.com.

The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories

By Tamara Parnay. Originally published in the 2009 “New Baby” issue of Attached Family magazine.


Photo: Benjamin Earwicker
Photo: Benjamin Earwicker

Birthing is a hugely important subject for parents and parents-to-be. We have a great deal to learn from and share with others, but with this subject, due to its potential contentiousness, we may struggle in our attempts to tap into our collective wealth of knowledge and experience. While the purpose of this article is not to sway readers one way or another about where and how to give birth, it does intend to point out the availability of a wide range of firsthand birth stories, which—perhaps more effectively than any other form of childbirth education—encourages and enables expectant parents to inform and prepare themselves.

Cultivating an empathetic environment for the sharing of our birth stories is a first step towards returning to women the wisdom and control of giving birth. These stories are powerful and empowering. Childbirth is one of life’s most marvelous, miraculous experiences. Giving birth is not only about having babies; it’s also about motherhood. In the same light, sharing birth stories is not only about providing or collecting information; it’s also about community.

As for anything so personal, we need to start by providing a non-threatening environment conducive to open, heart-to-heart participation.

The topic of birthing is highly charged. The contention seems to arise mainly between those who have had natural births or homebirths and those who, for whatever reason, haven’t. One side may come across as patronizing, smug and self-serving. The other side may seem insecure, defensive, envious and even ill-informed.

The Best Birthing Option

Expectant parents who have researched and considered all the birthing options available to them, while taking into account their own values and beliefs, are making an informed, proactive decision. They may plan on any combination of options, such as an assisted or unassisted homebirth, a birth center birth, a natural hospital birth, a hospital birth with minimal pain relief, a hospital birth with maximum pain relief, and even a planned Cesarean section. Of course, there may be unforeseen events that could change Plan A to Plan B, and these changes may be completely out of anyone’s control. So, for instance, those planning on a natural homebirth would need to consider the possibility, remote as it may be, of ending up in a hospital having an emergency Cesarean section.

Maternity care providers in all steps of the process, from pre-pregnancy through postnatal care, need to move more in the direction of assisting people in having personalized birth plans and helping them to safely realize these plans. In other words, maternity care providers must consider the family to be an integral part of the decision-making process.

With informed planning, financial considerations need to be taken into account: Some families may not be able to afford private care. Risk factors must also be considered: It may not be advisable to plan a homebirth for a high-risk pregnancy. Some women might desire pain relief, even considering it to be a crucial part of their birth plan. They may not want to experience the pain of birthing. Pain sensitivity may vary greatly from one person to the next, which would mean that some women may not be able to cope with pain as well as others. If pain relief wasn’t available to some women during labor, their birth experience could be overshadowed, even complicated, by their overwhelming inability to cope with the pain. We can never know what another’s experience is truly like. Parents-to-be need to be realistic about their circumstances and thus deserve to be free to make informed and unfettered decisions about their birth plan. Once they have become informed, the best combination of options for any family is that which they feel best suits them at the time.

Natural vs. Medicated Birth, Hospital vs. Home

Some mothers who have experienced a natural birth may find it difficult to understand why others have not, cannot, or do not desire to do so. Some natural birthers have described to me how they were successful at getting themselves into the right zone, pointing out that they had made the right choices; they emphasized that they hadn’t given up when the going got tough; and they described how they felt in complete control during their birth experience.

For some who chose or needed medical intervention, doubts and “what ifs” may creep into their thoughts when they hear natural birthers’ stories, even if they have processed their birth experience and have come to terms with any disappointment they may have felt, assuming they were disappointed at all. I have heard comments such as, “I must not have been able to get myself into the right frame of mind,” “I think I made some bad choices,” and “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.” Their insecurities and defensiveness may actually end up reinforcing and perpetuating the attitude that all women can control every aspect of their birthing experience and its outcome if they really want to.

For some who choose a homebirth, they may feel misunderstood, even humiliated, by hospital birth advocates who consider home birthers to be reckless with their baby’s and/or their own well-being. Comments such as, “It’s risky business to birth at home” or “Something could go wrong, and then your baby’s and even your own life could be in jeopardy,” may undermine the confidence of those who are considering a homebirth.

Competition at the Root of Contention?

What might cause these misunderstandings and ill feelings to develop? Perhaps the answer lies in our culturally driven need to compete.

Western society emphasizes individual competition. Competition is not only prevalent in mainstream settings, it also exists in alternative communities and social circles. Society instills in us the need to compare the many things in our lives in order to determine what’s better or what’s best. Then we generalize that “What’s best for me must be best for you, too.” In setting up a better than/worse than dichotomy, competition stifles our ability to empathize with each other.

According to the article “Competitive and Cooperative Approaches to Conflict” by Brad Spangler on BeyondIntractability.org: “Obstructiveness and lack of helpfulness lead to mutual negative attitudes and suspicion of one another’s intentions. One’s perceptions of the other tend to focus on the person’s negative qualities and ignore the positives.”

Unspoken irrational comparisons might take place, such as: “I had the shortest and least complicated natural birth,” “Oh! My natural birth took longer than hers” and “Oh no! How can I share my birth story? I didn’t even have a natural birth!” For many reasons, everyone loses in competitive situations like this. One unfortunate consequence is that non-natural birthers may feel uneasy about sharing their birth stories. We may all lose out on their valuable input, because we don’t end up having the chance to view the bigger picture.

A competitive atmosphere that develops surrounding the sharing of birth experiences is a clear sign that on an individual level, everyone needs to reflect more on their own birthing experience. If individuals find themselves proving others wrong in order to make themselves feel right, then they need to have a look at possible reasons why. They need to give themselves—and then each other—credit where credit is due, as well as acknowledge their good fortune.

According to Spangler, cooperative conversation is characterized by “‘effective communication,’ where ideas are verbalized and group members pay attention to one another and accept their ideas and are influenced by them. These groups have less problems communicating with and understanding others. … Friendliness, helpfulness and less obstructiveness is expressed in conversations.”

Sharing with Empathy

A practical idea for encouraging a less competitive environment is to discover what we do have in common. So, it would make sense to emphasize the ways we have promoted bonding with our newborns from the time they entered into our lives. It is helpful to “fast forward” to the present time and talk about what we are doing now—and tomorrow—to remain securely attached to our children.

When we can get beyond our feelings of competitiveness, we are able to foster a healthy dialogue because we are more receptive to what others have to say. In a cooperative setting, “members tend to be generally more satisfied with the group … as well as being impressed by the contributions of other group members,” writes Spangler. Through empathic listening, we are less likely to make assumptions about others’ views, motives and feelings and more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. We are able to:

  1. Reflect on others’ birthing experiences
  2. “Try on” their situation—their “truth”—by imagining ourselves in their place
  3. Give validation and empathy, but not in the form of an unsolicited therapy session
  4. Increase our own knowledge of and sensitivity to birthing issues
  5. Help each other move on to our current parenting situations by sharing ideas for remaining as securely attached as possible to our children today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

In a fully accepting and flexible atmosphere, people are safe to make themselves vulnerable by sharing their feelings, needs, disappointments, triumphs and dreams. Natural birthers are able to view non-natural birthers’ experiences and concerns with sincere, unbiased interest and empathy, and they will softly share their own birthing experience. Mothers who did not experience the birth they had hoped for will feel understood because their own birthing stories are validated, and they will be able to share in the joy of other parents who had the birth experience they had hoped for. Feelings of satisfaction we derive from feeling superior are fleeting; the good feelings we receive by helping other people feel good are long lasting.

Even the most informed people can run into unplanned, and sometimes serious, complications during the birth process. By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated. Through our positive and non-judgmental contributions to this contentious topic, we create a collective harmony that enables everyone to leave the discussion feeling good. We bring these good feelings home to our families. Thus, the empathy we have given to each other touches the greatest gift we all receive in our birthing experience: our own children.

To read our growing collection of birth stories–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached Family.com.

Jack Christian’s Birth

By Walker Powell

Walker Powell 1I became pregnant quite by accident when I was a senior in college. I’d never really considered different birth options before, but I knew immediately that I wanted a natural home birth.

I sailed through most of my pregnancy without a single complaint, received glowing reports at my prenatal exams, and avoided the hospital entirely except for a single ultrasound to determine the due date. My boyfriend was amazingly supportive, I think he might have been even more excited than me. I was a little nervous, but I was also looking forward to meeting this creature who had taken my by surprise. I was convinced I would do so at home after a relaxing, peaceful labor.

I read all the traditional natural birth books, but my favorite was Ina May Gaskin’s classic Spiritual Midwifery. At that point, I had never heard of Attachment Parenting, though unconsciously I was already planning an AP birth. Of course, things never work out the way we plan.

At my 38-week appointment, one of my midwives, J., looked worried. I had slightly elevated blood pressure, and the baby seemed to have stopped growing. I didn’t have any other signs of preeclampsia, and the baby was still kicking like crazy, so J. said she wasn’t too concerned. However, she suggested that I see the midwife at the hospital and get an ultrasound. I did, suddenly fearful, but the other midwife wasn’t concerned at all, and the ultrasound only revealed a perfectly healthy baby.

I returned home, worried now that my dreams of a natural birth were falling to pieces. We spent the next few days doing anything we could to get this baby out. Exercise, raspberry tea, herbal supplements, sex, whatever we could think of. Four days before our due date, I hiked to the top of a mountain. There were no contractions, but my boyfriend did propose on the summit under some trees. I said yes.

The following week I was told to go in for a non-stress test because the hospital midwife had realized that she had the wrong due date and was suddenly very worried about the baby’s size. I did, and we passed with flying colors, but no one was satisfied. The midwife suggested an induction but said she’d let us decide. We opted to wait.

That very afternoon she called again to say that the doctors had reviewed my case again and strongly recommended an immediate induction. They could have me in that night, she said. I was caught off guard, unsure what to do. I called my home birth midwives, and we decided together that I should go for the induction.

That night, my fiance and I checked into the hospital birthing center to have our baby. They gave me Cervidil, hooked a heart rate monitor to my belly, and left me to try to sleep in the narrow hospital bed. A nurse came in every hour to adjust the monitor, but I managed to sleep a little.

The following day started slowly. One of my midwives, M., came in the mid-morning and kept us company. We watched TV and relaxed all morning. The birthing center was a welcoming place where we had our own room and were rarely bothered by nurses or doctors. The contractions were starting but they were mild, barely worse than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been experiencing off and on during the last few weeks.

By lunchtime I was restless and didn’t feel like eating. We took a walk instead, out to a scrap of grass behind the parking lot. M. did some moxibustion to speed up the labor because she was worried the nurses would give me Pitocin if they didn’t see some progress. It worked, and within an hour I could no longer talk through the contractions.

I took a long, hot shower with my fiance, swaying with him at each contraction. Things were going well, I thought, though it scared me a little that it hurt so much when I’d barely begun.

Then things got confusing. The nurses made me come back to bed so they could hook up the monitor, take my blood pressure, draw blood, and get a urine sample. There was a lot of hushed muttering. M. looked worried. I was focusing on the contractions and didn’t pay much attention. They drew my blood a few more times, leaving my arms dotted with bruises.

Next they were putting an IV in my arm and telling me I had preeclampsia and that I needed this drug to protect me from seizures. The drug made me feel heavy, so heavy I couldn’t even open my eyes. It also slowed the contractions down so much the nurses had to give me Pitocin as well. The Pitocin made me feel like I was burning up, and my fiance had to wash my face and neck with a cold cloth.

Several hours passed, I think. I couldn’t tell time, nor did I know exactly what was happening.The contractions came hard and fast due to the Pitocin; I never got a break. The nurses asked if I wanted a painkiller, and I said yes–not an epidural, but something that would dull the pain a little. The painkiller let me doze between contractions for a bit. Finally the staff checked my cervix and found that I had only dilated 1 cm. I did feel a little nervous then, but M. took charge. To this day I’m convinced we would have ended up with a cesarean section if she hadn’t been there.

The baby was positioned faceup, which we’d known for a few weeks, so M. suggested I get on all fours while she jiggled my stomach with a long piece of cloth called a rebozo. The nurses weren’t too happy about the monitor getting disrupted, but it only took about 10 minutes, then I was on my back again. Almost instantly, my water broke and the contractions grew much more intense. What seemed like a very short time later, I began to feel the urge to push. The nurse checked me again and with a big grin announced that she could see the head. “Let’s have a baby,” she said.

I was having that baby whether she said so or not.

In a strange moment of clarity, I remembered reading that the pushing stage can last an hour or more. I knew with utter certainty that I was not doing this for an hour. I know that some women prefer pushing because it feels like they are finally doing something, and it was nice to know the end was near, but it hurt far too much for me to want it to last. I think it was about half an hour of pushing, in the end.

They tried to get me to feel the head when it crowned, but I didn’t care. I pushed harder, felt a sharp pain, then the baby slid out in one smooth motion. There was a sudden flurry of action as my fiance cut the cord and the staff swept the squirmy purple body away. As I expelled the afterbirth, I heard the announcement that it was a boy. I remember thinking they must have the wrong baby; I was going to have a girl. I had known that since I’d found out I was pregnant. Then they placed him on my stomach, tiny and wet and perfect, and he crawled right up to my breast and started to nurse.

Jack Christian was born at 11:47 p.m., a little peanut at 5 pounds, 7 ounces and 19 inches long, but perfectly healthy and alert, with his father’s monkey ears and my button nose. We chose to keep him uncircumcised, but at the time I didn’t know enough to have opinions about other routine hospital procedures. I only knew I wanted him with me 24/7, which I believe is the main reason we never once struggled with breastfeeding. The nurses were very supportive of that, which made it easier. Even with his low birth weight and some jaundice, they never once suggested supplementing with formula.

I don’t have any regrets about not getting the natural home birth I wanted, though I would like to try again in a few years with the next baby. I am just glad that Jack was born healthy and safe.  

For two weeks following his birth, I was surrounded by my mom and three sisters. Even though my fiance had to go back to work more than 60 hours a week just three days after Jack’s birth, I was able to relax during those first two weeks.

The rest of his first year was incredibly difficult, and I suffered from postpartum depression for several months, mostly due to my fiance being gone so often and Jack sleeping very poorly. I had almost no support besides online groups, and I think I also had a great deal of trouble adjusting to this enormous and unplanned change in my life. Luckily I discovered AP and can at least know that even when I was at my most depressed, I still gave Jack the best care I could. He is an incredibly happy, healthy, smart and loving baby, the center of my world.

To share your birth story with API readers, see our submission guidelines for more information.


Birth Story Guidelines

Share Your Birth Story


Parents, we invite you to share your childbirth experiences. Sharing birth stories can empower parents to educate others, to break down barriers and help others become more accepting of experiences very different from their own, to heal from the disappointments and emotional pain of their own childbirth, to learn about birth from an Attachment Parenting perspective, and to celebrate the profound experience of childbirth.

Whether you had the perfect birth or one fraught with worry and complications, whether you chose pain relief or birthed naturally without medication, whether the birth was at home or at a hospital, every story is a valuable teaching tool for others and us.

A special note to expectant parents: The remarkable journey of new life is a positive, transformative experience. Pregnancy offers expectant parents an opportunity to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for parenthood. Making informed decisions about childbirth, newborn care, and parenting practices is a critical investment in the attachment relationship between parent and child. You can read about API’s Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting here: http://attachmentparenting.org/principles/prepare.php.

Birth Story Guidelines

As you write your birth story, we invite you to reflect on the following questions. Not all of the questions may apply to your situation. Rather than answer all of the questions, please incorporate some of your reflections within your story, if they are applicable.

  • How did you educate yourself about birth and parenting? What were helpful resources? If you read the API Principle on Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting, what did you find helpful?
  • What did you think would be a certain way, only to find out it was different after you began learning about childbirth, parenting and attachment?
  • What are your beliefs about childbirth and parenting, and how have they made an impact on your choices?
  • What impact did your previous childbirth experiences, if any, have on your thoughts, feelings and decisions?
  • Did you have any negative emotions or fears surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, and how did you process them before the birth?
  • What kind of health care providers and birthing options did you choose and why?
  • What did you hope your childbirth experience would be like?
  • What kind of support did you receive during pregnancy from your partner, family or others? Did you join any support groups or forums?
  • Were there times during pregnancy or childbirth when your instincts were in conflict with what your health care providers suggested or demanded?
  • The childbirth experience: what happened, how did you feel and react, what role did others play in the process?
  • Were there aspects of “routine” newborn care that you felt strongly about, such as bathing, circumcision, eye drops, blood samples, collecting cord blood, and so on? Did your health care provider honor your choices?
  • Did you want to breastfeed? If yes, were you able to? How did your health care providers help or hinder this process?
  • Were there aspects of your pregnancy or birth experience that you regret or would like to have changed? How have you processed and healed negative emotions related to childbirth?
  • What kind of support did you receive after the birth from your partner, family, friends, health care professionals or support groups?


Be Prepared for These Common Childbirth Interventions

By Amber Lewis, staff writer for The Attached Family publications

Common Childbirth Interventions“Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.”
~ Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine, April 1981

Most pregnant women will tell you they have a plan for their labor, but just as parents cannot imagine how their children will turn out as they grow and mature, soon-to-be mothers cannot be guaranteed a perfect birth. Labor experiences are as varied and vast as the types of people who go through them and the children those experiences bring into the world. There are just as many emotions involved in this miraculous experience, and while many births are happy and uncomplicated, others can be deeply disappointing for the parents.

This leads to the question: What to do when childbirth does not go as it was planned to? Continue reading Be Prepared for These Common Childbirth Interventions

The Story of Rachel

By Rita Brhel, editor of The Attached Family publications



Editor’s Note:

This birth story goes along with the article of how I came to Attachment Parenting through my premature daughter’s birth. Find the article, “AP from a Preemie Mom’s Perspective,” in the “Your AP Stories” section of TheAttachedFamily.com or by clicking here.


As my second trimester came to a close at the end of May, with the summer promising to be very hot, I began to wonder how big I would get and how exactly I’d be able to do my busy, active journalism job as my pregnancy progressed. While I was starting to get a little nervous about my due date, August 13, and was sad that I’d miss my usual summer activities of water-skiing and canoeing, I still felt good. Besides some swelling in my ankles, the pregnancy seemed to be going along just fine.

The morning of Tuesday, June 6, everything changed. Pregnancy was no longer nearly as fun or as full of promise for a healthy baby. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. in a pool of blood. My first thought was that I had lost the baby, but as soon as I stood up, I felt a kick. I couldn’t grasp that she was still alive when it was clear from the blood that things were not at all OK.

Fifteen minutes later, my husband Mike had driven me to the clinic in Hartington, Nebraska — only 10 miles away, but the ride seemed like an eternity. The doctor hooked me up to the ultrasound and contraction reader, found the baby’s heartbeat and said everything was going to be OK. However, I would need to go to the hospital to stop the labor that had begun. I was also given the first of two painful steroid shots to quicken my baby’s lung maturity.

Because I was only 30 weeks along in my pregnancy, it was decided that I would need to go to the Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a hospital that specializes in high-risk pregnancies and has a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, a nursery that is able to handle the youngest and sickest babies, basically any baby born before 32 weeks gestation. It was a long ambulance ride up there, one and a half hours away from Hartington. Mike followed the ambulance in the car; I distracted myself from the contractions that were coming every 10 minutes by chatting with the paramedics.

Once I got to the hospital, the perinatalogist determined that I had a placental abruption, a dangerous complication in which the placenta prematurely separates from the uterus, causing the mother to hemorrhage and the baby’s oxygen and nutrient supply to diminish. I also had effaced nearly 100 percent, signaling that labor had been going on silently for longer than just that morning, most likely caused by an incompetent, or weak, cervix. Luckily, dilation had not begun, I was stable, the baby showed no signs of distress and my water had not broken. There was hope.

I was placed on strict bed rest — not even able to go to the bathroom, shut the curtains, or turn on the TV — and put on a powerful dose of magnesium sulfate, a drug that effectively stopped labor but left my body wrecked. The first dose of medicine, put through my I.V., felt like fire running through my veins. I was extremely weak and dizzy, and had to be on oxygen. My heart rate, blood pressure, blood-oxygen levels, urine output and temperature were checked every hour by the nurse; my medicine level checked every four hours by a blood draw; and I could only eat a liquid diet. I still cannot eat Jello to this day. But it worked; I had stopped bleeding and I felt less than four contractions an hour, not enough to cause labor to progress.

The ultimate goal was to delay labor long enough so that my baby wouldn’t be born until the steroids had time to work, at least 24 hours past the second injection. The hope would be that I could stay on bed rest at the hospital until at least 32 weeks, when the survival rate of premature babies jumps up to about 98 percent and complications were less likely and less severe. The survival rate for a 30-weeker was 90 percent but complications were more common and their severity higher.

At one point during my hospital stay, a neonatalogist visited my bedside to give me an overview of the NICU. I had no idea was he was trying to tell me — I thought the drugs would work, the pregnancy would last until my baby was term, my baby wouldn’t need any sort of NICU care. I had never even heard of the NICU before then, and when he asked me if I had any questions, I just stared at him blankly … even though my mind was racing with them.

Thursday, June 8, was the day of truth … in my mind. That was the day I was to be taken off the magnesium sulfate and put on the pill form of procardia, a drug created for heart patients, with the hope that it would keep labor-progressing contractions at bay. Unfortunately, Mike had to return to work on Friday, so I begged for my dad to come and stay with me, instead.

Thursday was a good day. Friday was not. My contractions came back early Friday morning, June 9, with all the intensity they had on Tuesday. At 11 a.m. Friday, I was put back on a magnesium sulfate I.V. with a double dose of the procardia pill and an injection of terbutaline, another anti-labor drug that gave me the shakes. I braved each contraction, with the help of my dad and a nurse as my coaches since I had never been through childbirth classes, with the expectation that the drugs would work. But when the perinatalogist checked my cervix at about 3 p.m., he found that I was 7 centimeters dilated and far beyond the point of halting labor. I had also started hemorrhaging again, and birth was the only sure way that neither me nor my baby would die. It was devastating to hear the doctors say there was nothing more they could do to stop labor and that my baby’s well-being was left to fate.

I was immediately wheeled down to the next floor to prepare for delivery. I was given an epidural, not only for my pain relief and to help keep me and my baby calm, but also to ensure that an emergency C-section would be possible. If the baby showed any signs of distress, it was expected that I would undergo a C-section immediately.

Mike got to the hospital just as soon as the anesthesia started working, but although he had missed most of the labor, he was right in on the action during birth. My time to push came so quickly that he didn’t even have time to scrub in. Wearing a pair of shorts and a sweaty shirt, he helped hold my leg and my hand, telling me how great of a job I was doing.

I had been pushing for 40 minutes when we ran into a snag. The baby was starting to show signs of distress, a slowing heart rate. I was put back on oxygen to help my baby out, but the doctor advised me he’d have to help her out in his own way. He decided to try an episiotomy, but said that if the baby didn’t come out with one pushing cycle, we’d have to do a C-section. After all that work, and especially an episiotomy already done, I did not want that C-section. And, luckily, I didn’t have to have one.

At 10:17 p.m., a little girl with blond hair was born measuring 16 inches long and weighing three pounds, seven ounces, about a pound more than the neonatalogists were hoping.

The Long Wait for William

By Amy McGovern, co-leader of API of Norman, Oklahoma

Amy's family
Amy’s family

I woke up on a Sunday wondering, again, if this was the day my husband, Andy, and I would get to meet William. After church, I tried to rest but kept waking up with repeated mild cramps. A phone call to my mom confirmed the start of labor. Contractions were ten minutes apart. Excited, we took the dog for a walk to speed labor along, but we had to stop because the contractions began to hurt. We tried to play a board game as a distraction, but I had a lot of trouble concentrating because the contractions were really hurting now. I was completely unprepared for how much they would hurt given how mild they had been earlier! And everyone I knew had very mild labors, so I did not expect it.

By the time the contractions were five minutes apart, I was convinced he was coming any minute! I quickly ate, and we dropped off the dog at our neighbors. As we drove to the hospital 45 minutes away, I called both our parents to tell them what was happening. The contractions hurt so much that I still thought William would arrive in the car, but both moms said I was talking too much for that to happen.

When we arrived at the hospital, they said I was only at two centimeters dilated. They were about to send me home but I vomited. The nurse told me that I was not very far along, and she was not convinced labor would keep going on its own. She sent us off to walk for an hour and then come back for a re-check. We started to make laps, but the area was small and we quickly got bored. We pulled out our board game, and Andy made me walk laps after every turn. We played until I was gasping from the contractions coming every three to four minutes. All that pain had to be worth at least a few centimeters, but I had only dilated one more centimeter. It was about midnight and they were preparing to send us home about midnight, when the heart monitor showed a sudden drop and I was quickly admitted. They offered me some pain medication, and the nurse told me that it would help me to dilate if I could relax. I slept for only a few hours.


Twenty-one hours into labor, the Monday morning obstetrician said I was only at four centimeters, so she broke my water. I asked for an epidural, because the contractions hurt far more than I had anticipated. I demanded that my epidural be a “walking one” without really knowing what that meant. First, they broke my water and the obstetrician said, “Oh, my favorite color.” I asked what she meant, and she said it was meconium.

When the anesthesiologist gave me the epidural, I started to relax. Then, all of a sudden, the room was filled with doctors and nurses! I was a bit loopy from the medicine and did not know what was wrong. The nurse and the obstetrician kept repositioning me, and I finally ended up on my knees before they were happy. It turned out that the epidural made William’s heart rate drop. Once he was back to normal, I was allowed up but was monitored wirelessly.

Determined to get William here quickly, we went for a walk by the nursery, which helped motivate me for the upcoming pushing. I knew it would be hard, and I wanted to see all those newborns whose moms had succeeded. We walked for a long time and stopped for a grape popsicle in the afternoon. Worn out, I walked back to my room to eat  stopping once to leak water all over the floor. Apparently, William shifted!

After some rest and another exam that showed I was at seven centimeters, I tried to get up to go to the bathroom. No one had told me that if you lie down, the epidural would go to your legs. I started to fall as I tried to get out of bed but the nurses and Andy caught me. Frustrated, I ended up in bed waiting for ten centimeters. Sometime in this time period, a nurse came in and gasped, “She’s cyanotic! She has asthma, aren’t you worried?” The other nurse just laughed and said, “No, that’s the grape popsicles!”

Finally, around 8:30 p.m., the obstetrician on-call came in, examined me, and told me that I was at ten centimeters. I was at last allowed to push! However, I didn’t feel any urge to push, so they put me on Pitocin. I was too exhausted to really argue. All I knew is that I wanted William to get here soon.

The doctor left me with two labor nurses and Andy. I tried to push when they told me. One of them helped me to stand up, and I tried to use the squatting bar. The nurse got very excited when she could see William’s hair. I was pushing as hard as I could but no other progress happened. I kept thinking, “If I push hard, his birthday will be today!”

After about an hour and a half of pushing, the doctor came back, watched me push, and said, “You are not pushing right,” and left. I wanted to shout at him, “How many babies have you pushed out? I’m doing the best I can!” but he was already gone. Besides, I was really too tired to do anything else.

After three hours of pushing with no further progress, the nurses called the doctor back in and he examined me again. He told me that I had to have a Caesarean section. By this time, it was 11:30 p.m. I was so exhausted that I barely had any energy to move, but I argued with him that there had to be another way. We finally agreed together that William needed to get here soon, for his sake and mine. As we made the decision, the doctor turned off the Pitocin drip, and the contractions immediately stopped.


Around midnight, as the night dissolved into Tuesday, the nurses wheeled me in the OR. I told the nurses that Andy did not like the sight of blood so they whisked him away while they prepped me. However, I was terrified and began to shake uncontrollably, but the kind nurses held my hand and told me it was just hormones. I joked that the extra anesthesia didn’t work, because I could still wiggle my toes.

Andy finally was allowed in when surgery started. I felt a lot of pulling and tugging, and the nurse and anesthesiologist narrated for me. Finally, they pulled William out, but he didn’t cry. I kept asking, “Why isn’t he crying? Is he ok? What is wrong?” They kept reassuring me that he was fine and he was being cleaned out. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team was there, and I suddenly heard a loud wail. I was so relieved! Shortly after that, the NICU team announced, “We are all set! Congratulations!” and they left.

The doctor told Andy that William had been turned 90 degrees and had gotten stuck. Looking back now, I wonder if the reason labor hurt so much was that it was back labor? Apparently this was the doctor’s way of apologizing for telling me that I wasn’t pushing right: by telling me it wasn’t my fault.

The nurses finally held William up for me to see, since I was still being sewed up, and asked me to name him. I was so exhausted and relieved that I started to cry. Andy told them proudly, “William Robin.”

Around 2 a.m., I was wheeled into the very cold recovery room. We called our parents, and my mom tried to talk my dad into coming right then but he told her that he needed to sleep before driving for eight hours. She stayed up the rest of the night researching Caesarean sections, and he drove them up later that morning.

Around 3 a.m., a nurse appeared and said, “It says on your chart you are breastfeeding. Is that right?” She came back with William and said, “Ok, here you go! Twenty minutes on each side!” I had no idea what to do, so she helped to get him latched on and she left. I sleepily watched him for 20 minutes, and she came back to make sure I switched sides. Afterwards, they took him to the nursery. Around 4 a.m., they unhooked me and wheeled me upstairs. Exhausted from labor and surgery, I feel asleep quickly.

Around 7 or 8 a.m., I woke up with a start and demanded my baby now! Andy brought him in, and I finally got to examine him carefully from head to toe. He was wonderful – our sweet William Robin!

The Rocky Arrival of My Twins

By Pam Stone, co-leader of API of Merrimack Valley, New Hampshire

Pam's twin sons
Pam’s twin sons

On a Wednesday afternoon, several weeks before my twins were due when I was on bedrest in the Maternity part of the hospital, I started having contractions about five minutes apart. My doctor was out of town, so his midwife came to check on me. I had dilated some, but she wasn’t certain whether I was going into active labor or if it could be stopped, so I was transferred to Labor and Delivery. Thankfully, my doula, Joan, happened to be visiting at the time and she was able to go with me. I don’t know what we would have done without her.

The fabulous nurses in Maternity allowed my husband and daughter, Greg and Sophia, to keep the room here so that we didn’t have to move our things and they could continue to spend the nights. The covering doctor did not suggest doing anything more to stop the labor since I was beyond 34 weeks. He wanted to wait to see if I was going to go into active labor. So, we were waiting patiently when all of a sudden, I developed unbearable headache and stomach pain like I had never experienced. I was vomiting frequently. Greg was tending to Sophia until his mom could arrive to help, and Joan and the labor nurses were there to give me strength. It didn’t seem long before I was begging for an epidural  not for the contractions, but rather to stop the pain in my head and stomach.

I don’t remember much from around this time, but I know that my lab results came back indicating severe preeclampsia, and the situation suddenly became very crazy. They started me on several medicines, including magnesium sulfate to avoid seizures. I remember the doctor saying that if I were to progress quickly, we could still do a vaginal birth, but that we couldn’t let things go for too long. He said that the best way to stop the preeclampsia was to deliver the babies, Nico and Kian. He broke Nico’s water, and I was given an epidural.

For a short time, things seemed to be back on track. Then, just as quickly, Kian started showing distress at every contraction. The doctor recommended an emergency Caesarean section, and in what seemed like an instant, we were in the operating room and the boys were here! Nico Dennis was born at 10:28 p.m., weighing four pounds, six ounces and measuring 16 inches long. Kian Albert was born two minutes later, weighing four pounds, four ounces and measuring 17 inches long.

Nico did well from the start, scoring 9 out of 10 on his Apgar. Kian struggled a bit. He wasn’t breathing and only scored a 1 or 2 on his first Apgar. I remember someone commenting that it was good that they got him out when they did. Within a couple of minutes he was OK, and he scored a 9 out of 10 on his five-minute Apgar. I was allowed a quick kiss before they were whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Greg went with them.

Back in my labor and delivery room, I wasn’t feeling well. I wanted to go see the babies, but I was too unstable. The side effects of the magnesium sulfate, along with the after-effects of the anesthesia, left me in rough shape. I stayed in my room during the night.

I was able to see the boys twice, for about 10 minutes each, on Thursday. I began pumping milk for them. I was achy and tired and had blurry vision, but I was OK. Then, my stomach became distended and my suture line looked swollen. I began running a fever. I was started on two I.V. antibiotics. That was the beginning of the next downturn, which started Friday morning. The nurses suspected I had a case of hospital-acquired C. difficile, a bacteria that causes intestinal illness, and put me on contact precautions, meaning that everyone who came into the room had to wear gloves and gowns and I couldn’t go to the NICU to see Nico and Kian. It was a very hard day, but Greg kept me updated on Nico and Kian, who were doing marvelously.

The initial C. difficile test came back negative, and I was told that if my fever stayed away for 24 hours, I could go to the NICU again. But before we had time to celebrate, the final C. difficile results came back positive. Nobody was really sure what to do, and there wasn’t an Infection Control doctor in the hospital because it was the weekend. They wouldn’t let me see go to the NICU on Saturday and wouldn’t let me send up any milk for the boys, either. I also wasn’t able to hug, kiss, or even touch Greg and Sophia.

We were told I’d need more antibiotics for ten days. I was still suffering from the side effects of the magnesium sulfate, and adding the C. difficile on top of it was miserable. I cried a lot.

By Sunday morning, I was already feeling a little better. My body was starting to win the battle against the C. difficile, and the effects of the magnesium sulfate were wearing off. I called to talk to the NICU, and they had been able to reach Infection Control during the night. I was going to be able to see my babies! I could breastfeed directly and could send up milk. I was so relieved.

The Labor and Delivery department needed my room, so I moved back to Maternity early on Sunday morning. Finally, my doctor visited on Sunday and removed the contact precautions. Good hand-washing hygiene would do. My platelet count was recovering, so they could at long last remove the epidural catheter, and my doctor began treating the massive rash that had broken out due to an allergic drug reaction. I was allowed to hug my family, and spent several hours in the NICU visiting Nico and Kian. They were fabulous. I met with a lactation consultant and was able to breastfeed them both. Things were beginning to turn around.

Nico and Kian still battled the many challenges that many premature infants face, but today, they are home and are doing well.

Rates of Unnecessary Childbirth Interventions is Alarming

From Lamaze International

BirthDespite best evidence, health care providers continue to perform routine procedures during labor and birth that often are unnecessary and can have harmful results for mothers and babies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent release of birth statistics reveals that the rate of Cesarean surgery, for example, is on the rise to 31.1 percent of all births — 50 percent greater than data from 1996. This information comes on the heels of The Milbank Report’s Evidence-Based Maternity Care, which confirms that beneficial, evidence-based maternity care practices are underused in the U.S. health care system.

What the Research Says

Research indicates that routinely used procedures — such as continuous electronic fetal monitoring, labor induction for low-risk women, and Cesarean surgery — have not improved health outcomes for women and, in fact, can cause harm. In contrast, care practices that support a healthy labor and birth are unavailable to or underused with the majority of women in the United States.

Suggested Labor and Delivery Practices

Beneficial care practices outlined by Evidence-Based Maternity Care, a report produced by a collaboration of Childbirth Connection, the Reforming States Group, and the Milbank Memorial Fund, could have a positive impact on the quality of maternity care if widely implemented throughout the United States. Suggested practices include to:

  • Let labor begin on its own.
  • Walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor.
  • Bring a loved one, friend, or doula to support you.
  • Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
  • Choose the most comfortable position to give birth and follow your body’s urges to push.
  • Keep your baby with you — it’s best for you, your baby and breastfeeding.

“Lamaze is alarmed by the current rate of Cesarean surgery, and furthermore, by the overall poor adherence to the beneficial practices outlined above in much of the maternity care systems in the United States,” said Pam Spry, president of Lamaze International, www.lamaze.org. “We are continuing to work to provide women and care providers with evidence-based information to improve the quality of care.”

Lamaze International has developed six care practice papers that are supported by research studies and represent “gold-standard” maternity care. When adopted, these care practices have a profound effect –instilling confidence in the mother, and facilitating a natural process that results in an active, healthy baby. Each one of the Lamaze care practices is cited in the Evidence-Based Maternity Care report as being underused in the U.S. maternity care system.

A Need for Balance

“As with any drug, we need to be sure that women and their babies receive the right dose of medical interventions. In the United States we are giving too high a dose of Cesarean sections and other medical interventions, which are causing harm to women and their babies. Yet, there are many countries where life-saving medical interventions are under dosed, which can also cause harm,” said Debra Bingham, chair of the Lamaze International Institute for Normal Birth. “Every woman and her baby needs and deserves the right dose of medical interventions during childbirth.”

The research is clear, when medically necessary, interventions, such as Cesarean surgery, can be life-saving procedures for both mother and baby, and worth the risks involved. However, in recent years, the rate of Cesarean surgeries cause more risks than benefits for mothers and babies.

The Danger of Cesarean Sections

Cesarean surgery is a major abdominal surgery, and carries both short-term risks, such as blood loss, clotting, infection and severe pain, and poses future risks, such as infertility and complications during future pregnancies such as percreta and accreta, which can lead to excessive bleeding, bladder injury, a hysterectomy, and maternal death.

Cesarean surgery also increases harm to babies including women giving birth prior to full brain development, breathing problems, surgical injury and difficulties with breastfeeding.

About Lamaze International

Since its founding in 1960, Lamaze International has worked to promote, support and protect normal birth through education and advocacy through the dedicated efforts of professional childbirth educators, providers and parents. An international organization with regional, state and area networks, its members and volunteer leaders include childbirth educators, nurses, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, physicians, students and consumers. For more information about Lamaze International and the Lamaze Institute for Normal Birth, visit www.lamaze.org.