Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hargadon for Congress!

Check out this press release outlining Dr. Mike Hargadon's response to the AMA's resolution calling for anti-home-birth legislation. His words are so right on...

"Is this about safety or better birth outcomes? No, it's about money and it's about the AMA trying to protect its turf, plain and simple. . . . Midwifery is a fast-growing industry. More families are choosing to have births attended by a midwife, rather than by an OB/GYN. It also costs significantly less to give birth outside of a hospital setting. So it comes as no surprise that the AMA would support making homebirthing illegal. They're losing money and losing market share."

"Here you have a group of women who are successful and doing what they love. We need more of this in health care, not less. Midwives are giving people what they want and doing it in an affordable way. But the AMA wants to tell us it isn't safe, and run these successful women out of business or make them subservient to AMA. It's blatantly sexist, it's anti-freedom, and if this legislation passes, it will increase prices."

But I really hope he's wrong about this...

"My hope is that the Congress wouldn't be so foolish as to try to legislate birth choice. But if you want to know what Congress will do, just follow the money. In this election cycle alone, the AMA Political Action Committee has donated almost $740,000 to Congressional candidates and other party committees. My opponent, Congressman Elijah Cummings, has received $5000 in donations from them in the past four years. So my fear is that the AMA has already bought this legislation."

We cannot back down.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wanna improve your odds?

I mentioned back in April that I had been skimming the book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, by James F. Clapp M.D. I was really impressed at that time with the amazing benefits of exercising through pregnancy. But I didn't read the book in-depth. I decided earlier this week that I wanted to take a closer look. Now that I've read several of the chapters and examined the data thoroughly, I am telling you... it absolutely blows me away! Look past the cheesy/dated cover picture, my friends, and read this book! Or, if nothing else, keep reading this blogpost.

There are risks inherent in pregnancy and childbirth, but we can do things to minimize those risks. We all know that good nutrition is essential for pregnant women. Poor nutrition often leads to pre-term and low-birthweight infants as well as pre-eclampsia in mothers. Eating well is one of the absolute best things you can do for your unborn child's physical and neurological growth. But now I'm convinced that exercise may be just as important.

I won't go into all the benefits of prenatal exercise here. I'd just like to focus on one set of benefits in particular--the effects of exercise on the course of labor. You might remember my very early post about the benefits of doulas. Having a doula assist your labor and delivery reduces many chidbirth risks significantly. Prenatal exercise has even more pronounced benefits!

Women who continue exercising regularly through the end of their pregnancies (three times a week for at least 20 minutes at a moderately hard to hard level of exertion) demonstrated the following reduced risks during the birth process...
* 35% decrease in the need for pain relief
* 75% decrease in the incidence of maternal exhaustion
* 50% decrease in the need to artificially rupture membranes
* 50% decrease in the need to induce or augment labor with pitocin
* 50% decrease in the need to intervene because of abnormalities in the fetal heart rate
* 55% decrease in the need for episiotomy
* 75% decrease in the need for operative intervention (forceps or cesarean section)

In addition, check these out...

* More than 65% of the exercising women delivered in less than four hours.
* 72% delivered before their due date (but fewer of them delivered before 37 weeks--preterm--than the control group). The exercising women delivered, on average, 5-7 days earlier than active women who did not exercise regularly.
* Significant reduction in the incidence of umbilical cord entanglement.
* Much lower incidence of fetus passing meconium from distress.
* Umbilical cord blood samples indicated that babies of exercising moms remained relatively stress-free with plenty of oxygen. They seemed to tolerate the stresses of labor and delivery better than the control group.
* The exercising mothers' infants were, on average, 14 oz lighter but overall growth was not compromised.
* Placentas of exercising mothers are larger, more efficient, and healthier-looking.
* Infants born to exercising mothers were more alert postpartum and needed less consolation from others.

(All of these results are taken from Dr. Clapp's studies as reported in Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. See this fabulous book for even more amazing benefits.)

It blows my mind.

Imagine how huge the risk reductions would be if you exercised through pregnancy AND had a doula. Whoah. We can do so much to avoid the pitfalls of pregnancy and birth! It gives me so much joy and hope to know that I am not at the mercy of chance. I have a great deal of power over my circumstances when it comes to pregnancy and birth. It is a wonderful thing to be able to choose to pro-actively reduce risks and bring so much benefit to myself and my babies. I love it!

Alarming incidence of depression and PTSD

Just finished reading a blogpost over at Lamaze's Giving Birth With Confidence blog. They report some alarming facts from Childbirth Connection's "New Mothers Speak Out" follow-up to the "Listening to Mothers Survey II." Listen to this...
Related to the findings on the mental health of new mothers, what struck me most was that at the time of the survey 63% of mothers were likely to be experiencing some degree of depressive symptoms and 18% appeared to be experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress related to their birth experience. Most startling, 9% of the mothers appeared to meet all the formal criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the first national survey of post traumatic stress disorder related to childbirth, and the high number has to be a surprise to most people. Just as troubling a finding, most mothers experiencing symptoms had not contacted a health care professional and only 2 out of 3 mothers who reported that their symptoms interfered with their ability to care for their baby had contacted a professional for help.

The mothers who reported signs of PTSD in the survey appeared to have a higher rate of medical interventions and describe feeling powerless in a threatening environment. I am not surprised. Childbirth educators and doulas have noted for years now the increased incidence of PTSD and have shared with each other women’s stories that seemed to describe a relationship with both the escalating rate of medical intervention..nearly routine induction, unnecessary and frequent internal examinations..and impersonal, routine, and, sometimes abusive treatment of women in labor. It’s not just the stuff that gets done to women…routinely, abruptly, and uncaringly. It’s the powerlessness that women feel in an environment that is inherently frightening at a time when they are vulnerable and literally at the mercy of the system. Gone are the days of kind words and encouragement and loving touch. Now it’s get the job done fast or you’re on the cesarean fast track.

I am appalled. How many more women will have to suffer before enough of us get angry enough to do something about it?!

Monday, August 4, 2008

And you thought folic acid was important...

Folic acid isn't the only thing pregnant women should be concerned about. Omega-3s are right up there on the list of things they should be ingesting daily. Unfortunately, most pregnant women don't. American Chronicle reports, "According to food consumption surveys, 85% of all women are deficient in the EPA and DHA fatty acids [two types of omega-3s]. Among pregnant women, only 2% have diets that meet their needs for EPA and DHA. The rest get less than 18% of the recommended daily allowance"(source). What's the big deal about omega-3s?

1. Omega-3s protect your brain. "Many pregnant women are deficient in a variety of nutrients, including Omega-3 PUFAs [polyunsaturated fatty acids]. In an effort to provide for the baby's needs, a woman may lose 3 percent of her brain mass during the last trimester" (Maryann Marshall, "Omega-3 Fats During Pregnancy Provide an Alternative to Anti-Depressant Drugs," emphasis added). Maybe that explains why many women experience "mommy brain" in the first few months after giving birth?! Which leads to the next point...

2. Omega-3s protect you from depression. Omega-3 deficiency has been linked to depression, and the loss of brain mass resulting from providing the baby's needs (as mentioned above) is thought to be one cause of postpartum depression. Depressed pregnant and postpartum women who were given omega-3 supplements saw significant improvement in their symptoms. (More info here, here, and here)

3. Omega-3s build your baby's brain and other vital tissues. "EPA and DHA are . . . vitally important to the optimum growth and development of the baby's brain, eyes and nervous system . . . . These essential fatty acids make up nearly 70% of a newborn baby´s brain, retina and nervous system" (American Chronicle). Studies show that children whose mothers consume fish (high in omega-3 fatty acids) during pregnancy demonstrate superior cognitive function. (More info)

4. Omega-3s prevent several pregnancy complications. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to pre-eclampsia in mothers and prematurity and low-birth weights in babies.

Omega-3s are amazing. Unfortunately, it isn't always safe to get our daily dose from the local fish market. Mercury and other toxins have made their way into many of the fish available for consumption. How can you safely get your omega-3s? Select only high-quality wild (not farmed) fish or fish oil supplements. Some forms of omega-3 can also be found in plant products like flax seeds, walnuts, and some herb spices. (More info)

So throw back something fishy with your folic acid. It's definitely worth it!

"Omega-3 acids reduce postpartum depression, UA pilot study suggests"
"Omega-3 Fats During Pregnancy Provide an Alternative to Anti-Depressant Drugs"
"Omega-3 may ease depression during pregnancy"
"Omega 3 Fish Oil During Pregnancy"
"Prenatal fish intake benefits kids' brains"