Archive for the ‘ Pregnancy ’ Category

Getting the Birth You Want: Can ‘The Mama Sherpas’ Help?

Monday, July 20th, 2015

There is the way you picture your birth going, and then the way it actually goes, and rarely are those two the same.

But the premise of a new documentary called The Mama Sherpas is that maybe, perhaps, our country can inch toward a model where mothers work with both midwives and doctors to have births that are more comfortable, calm, and less of a surprise than, say, the emergency C-sections we so frequently hear about, or the induced births.

Because the documentary is executive-produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, the team behind The Business of Being Born (and the executive producers of the documentary Breastmilk) I first thought The Mama Sherpas might be another championing of home births and natural-everything. But it’s entirely focused on several medical centers where doctors and midwives work side-by-side, in medical settings. There is always an emergency team on the premises if needed, which is reassuring as you watch, for instance, a woman attempt (successfully!) a vaginal breech birth.

Related: Is a Certified Nurse-Midwife Right for You?

The film chronicles plenty of mamas’ labors—yes, there is a C-section, and yes, there is a water birth, and everything in between. The director, Brigid Maher, was motivated to do the film on her quest for a VBAC, a vaginal birth after having had a Caesarean, and she is entirely understanding of the fact that there is a time and place for every kind of medical intervention. Her objection is to women being pushed into a birth they don’t want strictly for the convenience of the doctors and hospital staff. And her love of midwives seems to come from the fact that they are able to devote more time and patience to educating their clients, explaining when something is necessary and when it is a choice.

The takeaway, if you’re pregnant or planning to have another baby, is that finding a midwife who will assist your birth is, at the very least, likely to give you more options than you would probably have working only with doctors and nurses whose job is to standardize the births they facilitate.

Use the firm to be inspired to ask questions, and to appreciate that perhaps we can all have a little more control of our births than we think. It will be available on DVD ($19.99) and iTunes ($4.99 to rent) tomorrow, July 21. In the meantime you can watch the trailer or check them out on Facebook to follow the rollout of the film.

Jessica Hartshorn has been an editor at American Baby magazine for 17 years and yet is still sort of shocked when watching video footage of babies being born.

Image: Courtesy of The Mama Sherpas

Labor & Delivery: Labor & Delivery Timeline
Labor & Delivery: Labor & Delivery Timeline
Labor & Delivery: Labor & Delivery Timeline

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What 86% of Pregnant Women Aren’t Doing (but should)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

They’re not getting a Tdap vaccine, protecting against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. It’s crucial for women to get the vaccine while pregnant (during every pregnancy, in fact) between 27 and 36 weeks, according to the CDC. But during a March of Dimes event last week about the return of vaccine-preventable diseases, one infectious-disease expert shared that only 14% of pregnant women are getting the vaccine. Why is this so worrisome? Because babies are highly vulnerable to pertussis (also known as whooping cough), a disease that can be deadly. In fact, in 2012, when whooping cough cases were reported at the highest rate since 1955, infants were affected–and died–more than any other age group. The only person who can truly protect them? Their mom, before they’re even born.

Babies’ risk of pertussis dramatically decreases once they’ve received all three doses of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccine, by 6 months. Until then, they’re susceptible to a condition that can leave infants coughing so hard they struggle to breathe, and/or make a painful “whoop” sound. Sounds Of Pertussis has an audio clip of a baby with whooping cough that’s downright scary, but I urge you to listen so you can recognize the sound.

If you’re pregnant and your doctor hasn’t brought up getting Tdap yet, please ask. And there’s one more big thing you should do (I know–like you don’t have enough to think about as it is!): Make sure that all of the adults who will be around your baby gets their Tdap shot, too. When researchers can pinpoint how a baby got whooping cough, the answer is the same in 80% of cases: from someone at home. This could be you, your partner, your caregiver, your in-laws, your parents, your sister… you get it. Chances are, at some point in your pregnancy, every one of these people will ask you if there’s anything they can do for you. Here’s your answer! And of course, any siblings, cousins, or other kids who will come in contact with your child should be up to date on their DTaP vaccines, too.

Image via Shutterstock

Kara Corridan is the health director at Parents, and a mom of two daughters, 9 and 6. When she was pregnant, the Tdap recommendation wasn’t in effect, so she feels especially fortunate that her children didn’t get pertussis.

What Does Whooping Cough Sound Like?
What Does Whooping Cough Sound Like?
What Does Whooping Cough Sound Like?

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Why Is the Maternal Death Rate Increasing in the U.S.?

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

woman in third trimesterWorking at Parents means that I have a good amount of exposure to the world of pregnancy and parenthood, so it’s no surprise a lot of thoughts go through my head about “what could go wrong.” When I think about getting pregnant in the future, I get anxious about everything from “Will I have to throw up on the commuter train?” to “Will my child be born with a birth defect?” But something I never really considered is the small but very real possibility that I could die while giving birth to my child.

Living through childbirth seems like something I could take for granted. After all, I live in the United States, a first-world country with amazing hospitals. The truth is that our country is actually experiencing an increased maternal death rate. According to the CDC, the United States had 7.2 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987. In 2011, there were 17.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2013, the number rose again to 18.5. We are the only advanced economy in the world that is seeing a trend in the wrong direction.

The medical community points to several factors that are causing this health crisis. Many pregnant women don’t have access to the health insurance they need, especially in the South. In rural areas, there is also a logistical problem when it comes to medical care. In Mississippi, there are only 160 doctors for every 100,000 people. Babies are sometimes born in route to the hospital because the drive is so long.

Experts also say that how pregnant women communicate with their doctor could literally be a life or death situation. “A big problem is providers don’t always listen to women,” said associate professor at Belhaven University and registered nurse Elise Turner at last week’s Women of the World conference. She told the story of a woman who came to the hospital saying she didn’t feel right, was sent home, and then was found by her neighbor in labor and profusely bleeding. The takeaway for pregnant women is to be direct with your doctor and insist on getting the care that you need. Be sure to have regular check ups and keep the lines of communication open.

The bottom line is that nearly half of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable and yet we are still left with these astonishing numbers. As a millennial, it’s scary to think that it was safer for our moms’ generation to give birth than it is for the current generation. We are in a health crisis, and I hope our country is able to do something about it.

Related: How to Choose an Ob-Gyn or Midwife

Hannah Werthan is the associate social media editor for Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Labor & Delivery: Labor & Delivery Timeline
Labor & Delivery: Labor & Delivery Timeline
Labor & Delivery: Labor & Delivery Timeline

Image via Shutterstock

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DVR Alert: This Docu-Series on Fetal Surgery Is Riveting!

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Like many expecting couples, Shelly and Bobby were excited for their 18-week fetal ultrasound. The Massachusettes couple asked their ultrasound tech to write their baby’s gender on a piece of paper so they could open it—and celebrate the news—later on, together. Instead, they got news of a very different sort: A message that their doctor needed to speak to them, and the devastating finding that their unborn baby girl appeared to have the most severe form of spina bifida possible.

Shelly is just one of the moms-to-be whose story is told in an absolutely riveting new three-part documentary series, Twice Born: Stories From the Special Delivery Unit, which premieres on PBS on Tuesday, March 31st, at 8:00pm ET. The series follows doctors and staff at the fetal surgery center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the families who come to them hoping for miracles.

Thirty years ago, as the series points out, we wouldn’t even be talking about any of this. Doctors who proposed the idea of operating on a fetus were considered crazy. But today, hundreds of prospective patients like Shelly come to CHOP’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment each year to be evaluated to see if they—or more specifically, their fetuses—are viable candidates for fetal surgery. Roughly 150 to 200 are accepted as patients. It’s a life-changing opportunity, and a decision with tremendously high stakes, but the drama, of course, starts well before that point.

I had the opportunity to watch part one of the series before it airs, and I can attest to the fact that it’s must-see TV for any parent or parent to be. There is joy and sadness as Shelly and Bobby and Lesly, another mom-to-be featured in episode one, share their stories and learn whether or not CHOP will be able to help their unborn babies. (Lesly’s daughter developed a tumor in utero that could prevent her from being able to breathe once she’s delivered and the umbilical cord is cut.) There’s the behind-the-scenes insight from the CHOP medical experts, including a touching, unexpected revelation about one of the surgeons’ own experiences as a parent.

And then there’s stunning (and, as the photo above illustrates, graphic) footage of actual fetal surgeries taking place. It’s just mind-boggling to see these doctors at work on the tiniest, most vulnerable of patients and to acknowledge how advanced—and amazing—modern medicine has become. (In related news, now there are even micropacemakers being developed for fetal use!)

I watched the first episode for my job (and you can watch the trailer here), but I’ll tune in to the next two out of genuine interest and fascination. This is reality TV that’s absolutely worth watching.


Erika Janes is the Digital Director of and the mom of two boys. Follow her on twitter: @ErikaJanes1

Image: Courtesy of PBS and John Rotan


Labor & Delivery: Unplanned C-Section
Labor & Delivery: Unplanned C-Section
Labor & Delivery: Unplanned C-Section

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My Doula Was My Birthing Superpower

Friday, March 27th, 2015

woman in laborWhen I share the story of my second birth, I’m often met with stunned faces and questions about how I did it. I gave birth to a healthy, but huge, 11-pound, 2 ounce baby boy at home. I’m no superwoman, but I like to think I had one by my side. For both my births (the first was to a “normal” sized baby at the hospital), I had a doula who helped, comforted, and gave me strength.

Research shows that women who have doulas present at birth tend to have shorter labors with fewer complications and less of a need for caesareans, Pitocin (a drug which induces labor) and other medical interventions. In honor of World Doula Week, I wanted to share what my personal experience taught me about doulas.

1. It’s really, really nice to have someone focused on you.

During labor, the doctor or midwife is focused (mostly) on your baby. Your husband or partner is focused on not freaking out. And the doula is there simply to focus on you. Whether it’s helping you with pain relief, talking you down from the ledge when you find out you’re “only” three centimeters dilated or simply turning off that music that is suddenly SO annoying, she’s got your back.

When I experienced complications post birth, I was scared and started going to a dark place mentally. My husband was with the baby, the midwife was focused medically on me, but luckily my doula was emotionally there with me. She explained what was happening, held my hand and gave me what I very much needed in that moment.

2. They are marriage-savers.

At some point during labor, you’ll probably hit the point where you need to lash out at someone. And that person is probably going to be your partner. Hearing your husband (who got you into this predicament) tell you to “just relax and breathe” when you’re in active labor can make you want to breathe fire. Yet hearing a doula say the same thing can sound lovely and helpful.

When my husband pulled the car around to take us to the hospital, I was in active labor and leaned over the hood to get through a contraction. While leaning down, I noticed we had a flat tire. Suffice it to say, it was good to have a level-headed third party present in that moment.

3. When you forget everything about your birth plan, they’ll remind you.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted an epidural with my first birth—I wanted to play it by ear. I’d never experienced labor so how could I know in advance how it would feel? As it turned out, by the time we got to the hospital, I felt like the idea of the epidural was scarier than just continuing to ride out the waves of contractions. But, the hospital wanted me lying flat in bed with monitors on and I couldn’t manage my pain in that position. I needed to be able to walk. Though I knew my rights and what I could ask for or refuse, all that knowledge left me in the moment and I felt confused and pushed by hospital staff. Terms like “intermittent monitoring” weren’t on the tip of my tongue while in the throes of back labor. While the doula won’t speak to doctors directly for you, she can helpfully whisper in your ear that you don’t have to do that or you could ask for this instead.

4. It’s comforting to see a familiar face during delivery.

With my first labor, I knew there was a good chance my doctor wouldn’t be present at my birth. She was part of a big practice and whoever was on call would attend my birth. I tried to meet as many of the other doctors as possible during my office visits, but still when it came to the birth, a stranger was there to deliver my baby. With my second birth, one of the reasons I decided to use a midwife was because I wanted to know the person who’d deliver my baby. I also wanted my doula to be there again because I liked having someone there who knew how the first birth went down—there was something about the continuity that was comforting. But, as these things go, my baby was two weeks late, my midwife was at another birth when I went into labor, her back-up was also attending another birth and I once again had a stranger deliver my baby. But, I had my doula there whom I knew and trusted and felt a sense of security that helps you to relax and open yourself to birth.

I found my doula to be invaluable at both my births. Not everyone wants or needs one, but if you’re hoping for a natural birth, it’s your first birth, or maybe your last birth didn’t go as planned, you might want to look into hiring a doula. If you’d like to find a doula, a good place to start is with DONA International, an organization that trains and certifies doulas. You can also ask friends, your doctor or midwife, or childbirth educator for recommendations. I found mine at a prenatal yoga class she teaches.

Tell us in the comments: Did you use a doula – what was your experience like?

Labor & Delivery: Natural Pain Relief
Labor & Delivery: Natural Pain Relief
Labor & Delivery: Natural Pain Relief

Image via Shutterstock

Tracy Odell is the General Manager of Parents Digital and mom of two boys who were most definitely worth all that labor pain. Follow her on Twitter at @tracyodell.

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