Mother’s Advocate Mondays begin today with extraordinary birth advocate, Danielle Elwood. Danielle’s passion for safe, healthy birth has led her to become a postpartum doula, seek certification as a Lamaze childbirth educator, begin a blog dedicated to empowering mothers, and actively join the International Cesarean Awareness Network. Through her two birth experiences, she has found the importance of trusting your body and baby to guide you safely through the process — and shared with us a few tips for along the way.
My passion for birth advocacy began two short months after my first child was born by cesarean section. It wasn’t until after I watched Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s “The Business of Being Born” that I realized the experience surrounding his birth truly bothered me. (I was persuaded by my obstetrician to be induced, which made labor difficult, which pushed me to an epidural … and then, cesarean.) When my oldest was 8 months old, I learned that I was pregnant with our second child. I automatically knew — without any question in my mind — that this baby would be delivered vaginally (VBAC). This time, I was going to do everything in my power to avoid a second surgical birth.
It wasn’t until I started to research VBAC (and birth in general) that I found so many ways that women can prevent a c-section from happening, even before labor begins. Doing simple things and taking little steps during pregnancy can greatly lower a woman’s risk for a c-section. I developed a list of easy ways to help lower that risk, which helped me work towards my goal of a VBAC.
Take a Childbirth Education Class
Lamaze, Hypnobirth, CAPPA, Bradley Method — I know — there are so many different kinds to choose from! Whatever your choice, the important thing is to simply take one! Skip the one day birth classes that hospitals typically offer, as most of them teach you about hospital policy, procedures, and how to be a good patient under their care, instead of about the birth process or about natural childbirth.
Interview a number of different providers before choosing who will provide your prenatal care and delivery. Ask them the tough questions — what you really want to know about someone who could potentially be delivering your child, or helping “call the shots” when it comes to medical choices. This will prevent issues with your provider from arising later in pregnancy, or worse, during labor and delivery.
Hire a Doula
Many women don’t have a doula for their birth, for either the lack of available finances, or the fear that having a birth coach will take the spot of their partner or husband. There are a lot of benefits to having a doula at your birth, and having skilled, professional support is always helpful (your partner is probably just as nervous and new to this as you are!). As for the money hang up: There are a lot of doulas who are working towards their certification, and will take clients on for free, or a very low fee. Another option is to ask friends and family to chip in for a doula, instead of buying some of those baby shower gifts many of us will never use!
Read, Read, Read!
Skip “What to Expect while Expecting,” and the books that flood you with cute, antidotal-type jokes. Read about real birth, natural childbirth and the birthing process. There are a lot of great childbirth books out there, and The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has an excellent list of reading material. Of course, it is unrealistic to think a pregnant woman will be able to read all of those books before her baby comes, so some of my personal favorites are:
- “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer
- “Birthing From Within” by Pam England
- “Gentle Birth Choices” by Barbara Harper
- “Creating Your Birth Plan” by Marsden Wagner
- “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin
We are all uncomfortable towards the end of our pregnancies, and sometimes I wonder why women get pregnant again — after baby feet in the ribs, pelvic aches, and never-ending heartburn. (We all know why we do it again!) Elective labor inductions mean not for a medical reason. More than 40 percent of all labor inductions end in a cesarean section, either because the baby is not ready to be born, or the mother’s body is not ready to birth her baby. Remember, a normal pregnancy can last up to 42 weeks gestation. Due dates are not an expiration date.
Avoid Being Restricted to Bed During Labor
Moving around is key for helping your baby to be born. For thousands of years, women have been giving birth in “alternative” positions, which are easier for mom and baby. It wasn’t until recent years that women have been put flat on their backs in bed because it is easiest for the person delivering or catching the baby. What women aren’t being told about this position is it decreases your pelvic size, and doesn’t allow gravity to help your baby come down. Get off of your back and move around as much as you can!
Avoid a Cesarean Section for Breech Presentation
There are many ways to help your baby get into the optimal position for birth before an external version or cesarean delivery may be necessary.
Some things to try before signing up for a scheduled cesarean for breech presentation:
- See a chiropractor certified in the Webster Technique. This has an 86 percent success rate of getting your baby in an optimal position for birth.
- Check out the Spinning Babies Web site.
- Find a provider who will deliver a breech baby.
- Wait for the baby to turn. A baby can turn up until labor itself!
Avoid Routine Third Trimester Ultrasounds for Size
These ultrasounds are notorious for being up to 20 percent or 2 full pounds wrong in either direction, and could label you as having a big baby, which makes most providers push for an early induction or cesarean.
Stay Active During Early Labor
Walk, do light housework, eat — do what you would normally do during the day! This helps both you and baby progress through labor naturally. Have faith in the process of labor and birth!
After all of the preparation for my second child, I ended up laboring for more than 26 hours with several issues. My VBAC dreams turned into a CBAC reality. The difference between this and my first cesarean — this cesarean had to be done for my and my baby’s well-being, so I am at peace with it — and feel like I have the best of both worlds due to my intentions to prevent it.
Danielle Elwood’s birth advocacy began in 2007, with the cesarean birth of her first child that very well could have been prevented. Because of her experience, she became heavily involved with The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), and began writing in hopes of educating other women in her position. She started her work in the childbirth community as a postpartum doula, and is currently working on her certification to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Danielle is a dedicated mother of two small boys, Camden and Benjamin, and the wife of a veteran marine and fire fighter. For more, visit her blog, Momotics.com.