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Friday, May 9th, 2014
As your birth may be fast approaching, you might be getting palpitations (I’m not talking about contractions!) about whether the nursery will be done in time, if you’ve picked the best name for your baby, what labor might be like, how you’ll manage money while on maternity leave, or even whether you’ll be passed up for a promotion while you’re at home taking care of your newborn. It can be super-stressful just thinking about it!
But now imagine living in a developing country where just being pregnant is risky. Globally, 800 women die each day during pregnancy and childbirth, and 99 percent of all maternal deaths are in developing countries. (Pause a minute to let that sink in.) Less than half of pregnant women in developing countries visit a doctor, midwife, or trained birth professional during their pregnancy or childbirth because it’s just too expensive. But for the amount you spend on your weekly coffee fix, you can change that.
Kangu—a non-profit organization that crowdfunds safe births for women in underserviced communities in India, Nepal and Uganda (and which will soon expand to parts of Latin America)—gives you an opportunity to donate as little as $10 towards a woman’s birth in a clean, safe facility as well as prenatal and postnatal care.
The idea for the organization came to founder Casey Santiago, a mom of two, when she was in labor with her first son. “I imagined all the women around the world laboring at the same time,” she says. “It was a very intense feeling—I really felt like we were all in it together, helping each other through the contractions and comforting each other in between them.”
After giving birth, savoring every minute with her son in her arms, she was also haunted by the knowledge that so many women—those mamas that she had imagined laboring with—didn’t have access to the services that she did, and might die as a result. “I knew that I had to find a way to connect with those women and direct resources their way,” she says. “And so, Kangu was born.”
Sadly, most of these deaths are completely preventable, she says. “Many women deliver without proper lighting in unclean environments, with an unprepared family member. The majority of maternal deaths come from excessive bleeding, infection, and high-blood pressure, all of which can be prevented with access to a clean birthing place and a skilled helper by your side.”
To me, though, one of the coolest parts of Kangu is that, instead of just giving to a faceless charity, Kangu allows you to virtually meet the pregnant women who are in need of your help, by giving you their country of origin, names, photos, and stories about their lives and hopes for their babies. While you can give year round, this Mother’s Day, when you give a donation to a mom in need, Kangu will also send an electronic Mother’s Day card to the mama you love, telling her you’ve given your present in her honor. And the gift keeps giving! After your sponsored mom gives birth, “you get updates on the mama and baby, often with a photo,” says Casey, so you can see “how you’ve made an impact on the woman’s life and her baby. You’ve become a part of someone else’s birth story—which is very moving.”
Image of flowers courtesy of Shutterstock.
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birth, Casey Santiago, childbirth, Contractions, Kangu, Labor, maternity leave, Mothers Day, Nursery, pregnancy, pregnant | Categories:
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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Sure, most pregnant women have wanted to kick their partners out of the delivery room for one reason or another (i.e. he’s too squeamish and you’re a little too busy to take care of him too; he’s making inappropriate and/or lame jokes to try to break the tension and keep your mind off the pain; or he’s squeezing your hand even tighter than you’re squeezing his). But would you ever really consider banning him? Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed recently ruled to uphold a mother’s right of privacy and the right to control her body, which says “she is neither required to notify the baby’s father that she is going into labor nor required to admit him into the delivery room against her wishes,” according to the New Jersey Law Journal.
This is a historical case because this subject has never been litigated anywhere else in the United States. In the case at hand, the couple—who are not married—is estranged, but technically this ruling could set precedence for all couples throughout the United States.
The judge felt that if his ruling was in favor of the father being allowed in against the mother’s will, he noted: “It would create practical concerns where the father’s unwelcomed presence could cause additional stress on the mother and child. Moreover, such a finding would also lead to a slippery slope where the mother’s interest could be subjugated to that of the father’s.”
So it seems that the act of carrying the baby inside you actually does come with (even more) privileges. I can’t imagine not having my husband beside me when I gave birth to my son. He was the right amount of supportive, without being an annoying rah-rah cheerleader. He made the best hospital playlist to pump me up when I needed it most. As cliché as it sounds, he was my rock.
But I agree that a woman should have the right to decide who is—and isn’t—with her during that sacred time when you’re giving birth. The last thing you want is something else to cause tension in an already stressful situation that could spike your blood pressure and put your baby in jeopardy. In my opinion, if a husband or partner is abusive, or hasn’t been there to support you throughout your pregnancy, his mere sperm donation should not grant him a golden ticket into that delivery room. So I’m glad this judge, who’s a dude, agrees!
TELL US: Do you think a father has a right to be in the delivery room no matter what? Who do you plan on having in the room with you when you give birth?
Use our Due Date Calculator to find out when your baby will make his grand entrance.
Image of mom and baby courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Monday, February 10th, 2014
For years there have been the two camps of mamas-to-be: Those who want a completely natural birth, free of all drugs, and those who can’t get an epidural fast enough. Now French researchers who’ve studied pregnant mice are suggesting that there is a link between women getting an epidural during childbirth and their children developing autism.
The reason being that when you’re given an epidural, it is blocking your body’s natural release of oxytocin—which helps your uterus contract; is considered the love hormone because it helps you bond with your baby post-birth; and serves as a diuretic, reducing chloride levels. According to the Independent, chloride ions are kept deliberately high in the neurons of the fetus while developing in the womb. But in a natural birth the mother’s production of oxytocin lowers the chloride levels quickly during labor. In the pregnant mice studied, when the oxytocin was blocked similarly to what an epidural does, chloride ions continue to remain high after birth, leading to developmental brain disorders and autism.
However, the study doesn’t answer what happens when synthetic oxtytocin, called pitocin, is introduced into the system. Pitocin is usually given to a woman to help induce labor, either because she is past her due date or the doctor thinks the labor needs to be sped up in order to have a safer delivery.
Another recent study sings the praises of inducing a pregnancy (which is when a doctor gives you medicine like pitocin, or other drugs, to artificially start or speed up your contractions) as a major way to stave off the need for a C-section. Though this is contrary to a British study from two years ago that said the use of pitocin doesn’t lower the risk of a Cesarean section. Their findings stated that the use of pitocin sped up labor by about two hours, but that it did not lessen the need for a C-section or increase the number of unassisted births.
Meanwhile, an anxiety-inducing study was also recently published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, that says inducing a pregnancy can increase a child’s chance of having autism. Researchers say the method used to kick-start the labor process likely doesn’t cause the autism, but it comes from a larger underlying problem with the pregnancy. Studies have found that children are at higher risk for autism if they are born early or very small; if they are in medical distress during delivery; if they have older mothers or fathers; or if they are born less than a year after an older sibling. Autism risk also goes up if a mother has diabetes or high blood pressure; is obese; is exposed to significant air pollution during pregnancy; had low levels of folic acid; or makes antibodies toxic to the fetal brain.
So what’s a pregnant woman to do? Freak out, it seems! And of course, talk to your doctor, read up as much as you can, and make informed decisions about what’s right for you. Epidural or no epidural? To induce or not to induce?
TELL US: Are you planning on having an epidural? Why or why not? If your child has autism, did you have an epidural? Please share your stories below.
Image of woman with newborn courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Friday, February 7th, 2014
As it is, childbirth is a super-scary unknown for first-time moms. Of course you want the cuddly prize at the end. But the step-by-step pain and suffering that gets you said cutie? Not so much. Not to completely freak you out, but the bad news—according to a new study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco—is that a healthy birth can actually take much longer than doctors originally thought.
Usually, OBs intervene and try to speed up labor if it doesn’t seem to be progressing in a timely manner. Often, that’s based on the length of the second stage of labor. As reported in the New York Times, anything over three hours for first-time moms, who’ve been given epidurals, is considered “abnormally long,” as is more than two hours for first timers without an epidural (Yes, getting an epidural seems to prolong birth, but doctors warn not to jump to conclusions, because longer labor could be caused by other factors that influence whether a woman chooses an epidural rather than the epidural itself).
The thing is those times used to judge what’s normal versus dangerous are based on outdated data from decades ago when fetal monitoring was pretty non-existent, medical interventions were the norm, and on average pregnant women were younger and weighed less. According to this new study that compared data from over 42,000 women who delivered children between 1976 to 2008, a normal second stage can actually be more like 5. 6 hours for first-time moms using epidurals and 3.3 hours for those without epidurals; 4.25 hours for women receiving epidurals, who’ve previously had children, and 1.35 hours for repeat moms who didn’t use an epidural. Ugh!
Before I scare you to death, there is a silver lining! If longer second labor is normal, fewer drugs, forceps, vacuums, and C-sections may be needed than previously thought. Now doctors are quick to jump the gun and want to intervene. Not without cause, though. Longer labor does mean increased risk of tearing and postpartum hemorrhage (neither of which sounds very comfortable!). But C-Sections—which are now used for about one in every three births in the US, an increase of nearly 50 percent over C-sections used in the mid-1990s—can also come with big risks for mom and baby. So even though the thought of labor taking even longer is hard to swallow, the need for fewer C-sections is something to celebrate!
TELL US: What’s your biggest childbirth fear? Would you rather have a longer birth, or a C-section? Share your experiences below.
Find everything you need for the perfect nursery at Shop Parents.
Image of mom and newborn courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
This is proof that a mama-to-be is a total warrior and can—and will—do anything to save her baby! While the Philippines was being ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan’s 20-foot storm surges and winds that went up to 170 miles per hour, a 21-year-old pregnant woman was swimming for her life, and that of her soon-to-be daughter’s.
Emily Ortega was in an evacuation center all by herself (her husband was away in the Philippines’ capital of Manila), when the storm flooded her city of Tacloban and the evacuation center she was staying in. The waters picked her up, but she fought back, swimming her hardest and clinging to a post so she would not be washed away and drowned like the 10,000 victims feared to be killed by the typhoon.
I can’t even imagine the panic that must have been running through her entire body. Feeling the water rising, the natural pull of it, taking her further and further from safety. What must have been running through her mind—the fears, the prayers. But she had to put that all aside to concentrate on her precious cargo, and what she needed to do to get them both to safety.
Emily managed to maneuver her way to a dilapidated airport—where her labor was assisted by military medics. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, named Bea (as a dedication to Emily’s mom, who is still missing). Baby Bea’s middle name is appropriately enough, Joy, because when she was born, survivors of the typhoon cheered. It was as if her birth was a beacon of hope, a sign of rebirth, and a start to the rebuilding that will take years for the Philippines to fully recover. More than 9 million people have been affected by the storm, according to the United Nations, and more than 660,000 have been displaced.
But in the midst of all of that devastation, Emily and her husband have their little bundle of Joy to be thankful for; their own little miracle.
If you’d like to help those in need in the Philippines, you can donate to the Salvation Army here or Unicef here.
TELL US: Do you think you would have been as strong as Emily during a typhoon? Do you have loved ones who may have been affected by the disaster in the Philippines?
Image of collage courtesy of Shutterstock.
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birth, childbirth, Emily Ortega, Miracle baby, natural disaster, Philippines, pregnant, Tacloban, Typhoon, Typhoon Haiyan | Categories:
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