As you move towards one the most life-changing events you will ever experience – giving birth – the abundance of information and advice can be overwhelming. It would be easier to have someone (your doctor, perhaps?) just tell you what to do when you need to do it, right?
But while your doctor has the best of intentions, keep in mind the field of medicine is an establishment. It can be slow to change. It sometimes does things out of habit rather than out of necessity.
If you’re pregnant and healthy, here’s a list of important things you should know about birth. No matter what choices you make, let them be informed choices that are right for you.
1. There are alternatives to the glucose solution used in the Glucose Screening Test
It is absolutely important to test for blood sugar issues during pregnancy, but have you seen the ingredients list for the glucose solution?
- purified water, 50g Dextrose (D-glucose derived from corn), Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate, 0.1%, FD&C Yellow #6. It also labeled as “Gluten Free & Dairy Free”. (source)
- Orange/Fruit Punch/Lemon Lime flavors: Dextrose from corn, Citric Acid from corn, Natural Flavoring (corn), Sodium Benzoate, Yellow #6, Purified Water (source)
- Simply Pure flavor: Dextrose from corn, Potassium Sorbate, Purified Water (source)
- Glucose syrup, maltodextrin, purified water, acidity control compound E330, preservative E211, cola aroma, foodstuff color E150, and carbonic acid. (source)
Also, this drink contains 50 grams of glucose. If the chances are low you’d consume that much sugar/carbohydrates in one sitting during pregnancy your test may not be accurate and you risk a false positive.
If you don’t want to dump all that glucose and all those chemical additives into yours and your baby’s body in one shot, don’t be afraid to ask for (and research) alternatives.
2. Multiple ultrasounds are not necessary for low-risk pregnancies
Ultrasounds are totally harmless procedures, right? Are you sure? Because human studies on the effects of ultrasound in the United States are practically nonexistent due to ethical reasons, so how would you know?
Chinese research conducted over the past two decades sheds some light on the ultrasound issue.
In the year 2000, Professor Ruo Feng, of the Institute of Acoustics, Nanjing University, summarized many of the human studies with regard to the devastating effects of prenatal ultrasound, suggesting the five points of protection below. Feng could be considered the world authority in the field of ultrasound, with his PhD in physics from the University of Leningrad in the former Soviet Republic, and his publishing of more than 186 scientific papers.
1. Ultrasound should only be used for specific medical indications.
2. Ultrasound, if used, should strictly adhere to the smallest dose principle, that is, the ultrasonic dose should be limited to that which achieves the necessary diagnostic information under the principle of using intensity as small as possible, the irradiation time as short as possible.
3. Commercial or educational fetal ultrasound imaging should be strictly eliminated. Ultrasound for the identification of fetal sex and fetal entertainment imaging should be strictly eliminated (emphasis added).
4. For the best early pregnancy [1st trimester], avoid ultrasound. If unavoidable, minimize ultrasound. Even later, during the 2nd or 3rd trimester, limit ultrasound to 3 to 5 minutes for sensitive areas, e.g., fetal brain, eyes, spinal cord, heart and other parts.
Don’t let the study scare you; let it inform you. Discuss with your doctor how many ultrasounds you and baby really need versus what’s “normal” or recommended.
3. Vaginal exams (VE) during pregnancy are not necessary
Absent any medical indications that a woman’s cervix should be checked during pregnancy, it’s an unnecessarily invasive procedure which carries its own risks.
There are definitely real reasons for VE during pregnancy, but if a woman perpetuates a healthy pregnancy, what then would be the reason? So much of the research shows us that fetal and maternal outcomes are much better with the least amount of intervention … it’s a very personal decision to make, but has she actually considered the benefits and risks before allowing the exam to proceed?
Does she know anything of alternatives to the manual VE, such as NST (non-stress test), BPP (biophysical profile), keeping track of kick counts, high level sonogram, or any other less invasive offerings? Does she know that the actual exam itself can bring on internal discomfort associated with cramping and bleeding?
Knowing what the risks and what your needs are can help you decide whether this simple procedure is for you.
4. Your due date is only an estimate
Going past your due date can be scary, sure, but keep in mind a due date is just an estimate. In fact, the traditional way of calculating the estimated due date is NOT evidence-based!
- About half of first-time moms will give birth by 40 weeks and 5 days after the LMP (last menstrual period), with the other half giving birth after that time point.
- About half of moms who have given birth before will give birth by 40 weeks and 3 days after the LMP, with the other half giving birth after that.
- An ultrasound before 20 weeks is usually more accurate than using the last menstrual period, and the accuracy of an ultrasound is highest if it is done between 11 and 14 weeks.
Instead of a due date, we should really be talking about a due week, or even a due month.
Based on best evidence, there is no such thing as an exact “due date,” and the estimated due date of 40 weeks is not accurate. Instead, it would be more appropriate to say that there is a normal range of time in which most women give birth. About half of all women will go into labor on their own by 40 weeks and 5 days (for first-time mothers) or 40 weeks and 3 days (for mothers who have given birth before). The other half will not.
Don’t let anyone stress you out about giving birth “on time” (whatever that means!). Consider giving an estimate (i.e. “early March”) instead of giving friends and family your estimated due date. And if you’re getting close to 41 weeks and your doctor is eager to induce please read this article so you can make a well-informed decision.
5. Birthing outside of a hospital is not only possible, but cost effective and safe
According to a new study at the University of British Columbia birthing at home saves money.
Researchers with UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and the Child and Family Research Institute looked at all planned home births attended by registered midwives in B.C. between 2001 and 2004. They compared them to planned hospital births attended by registered midwives or physicians in which the mothers met the criteria for home birth.
For the first 28 days postpartum, they found planned home births saved an average $2,338 compared to a planned hospital birth with a midwife. Compared to a planned hospital birth with a physician, the savings were even greater: $2,541.
They also found that planned home births were just as safe as hospital births.
The study also compared health costs for babies during the first year of life. For infants born to mothers who had planned a home birth with a registered midwife, first-year health costs were $810 less than those for babies born in hospital with a midwife, and $1,146 less than those for physician-attended hospital births.
These findings follow earlier research by Janssen [lead author] that demonstrated that planned home births resulted in fewer interventions and similar rates of adverse newborn outcomes compared to planned hospital births among women who met the criteria for home births.
It might seem scary, but there are so many resources now for at home births that it’s an option worth considering. Besides, what did human beings do in the 200,000 or so years before hospitals?
6. Eating and drinking during labor is not a bad thing
Were you told you shouldn’t eat or drink during labor? Here’s why:
The only reason doctors don’t want laboring women to eat or drink anything in the hospitals is because of the risk of aspiration — breathing in stomach contents if you vomit under anesthesia — (which is extremely low) if they need a caesarean. Researchers looked at 11,814 women who were given the freedom to eat and drink during labor, with some women requiring emergency C-sections. There were zero cases of morbidity or mortality reported from aspiration pneumonia, even though 22% of women had eaten solid food (source).
Labor can last for hours, and that’s okay! Not eating or drinking for hours only depletes energy stores and makes an already challenging experience more difficult. If you’re thirsty, drink. If you’re hungry, eat. Do what’s best for you at a time when your comfort and care should be what matters most.
7. The umbilical cord does not have to be cut immediately after birth
For healthy, low-risk pregnancies, waiting to cut the cord is risk free and means more nutrient-rich blood for baby to aid in neurological development and to stave off low iron stores. Check out the video above or read this BabyPrepping.com post for more detail.
8. Erythromycin eye ointment is not always necessary
In the late 1800’s, before antibiotics were discovered, approximately 10% of babies born in hospitals across Europe developed opthalmia neonatorum (ON), a type of pink eye that caused blindness in 3% of affected infants. This pink eye, it was later discovered, was caused mainly by chlamydia or gonorrhea, and so the newborn eye drops began.
These days, things are different and there are options.
Erythromycin eye ointment can be reasonably declined if the mother is not infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea and if she is in a mutually faithful relationship with an uninfected partner. It is highly unlikely that a baby that is born by C-section could catch ON as long as the mother’s membranes were intact at the time of surgery.
9. There is no medical need to wash baby right after birth
Do you know what’s on baby right after birth? Amniotic fluid and vernix. What’s vernix, you ask? The biggest reason why babies should not be bathed right after birth.
The power of vernix is truly astounding. Its main benefits are its various antimicrobial properties, which help protect a newborn against a wide variety of infections. A secondary benefit is that vernix is highly moisturizing to such a degree that many cosmetic companies have researched it.
So why wash off baby’s nature-made protective coating with chemical-laden hospital soaps? Don’t bathe – rub it in!
10. There’s no need for baby to even leave your chest right after birth
Skin to skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth does some amazing things. It stabilizes baby’s body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate, and colonizes baby with the same bacteria as the mother.
When a baby or any mammal is taken out of this natural habitat, it shows all the physiologic signs of being under significant stress. A baby not in close contact with his mother (or father) by distance (under a heat lamp or in an incubator) or swaddled in a blanket, may become too sleepy or lethargic or becomes disassociated altogether or cry and protest in despair. When a baby is swaddled it cannot interact with his mother, the way nature intended. With skin to skin contact, the mother and the baby exchange sensory information that stimulates and elicits “baby” behaviour: rooting and searching the breast, staying calm, breathing more naturally, staying warm, maintaining his body temperature and maintaining his blood sugar.
Unless there’s a medical reason for baby to be separated from you, keep them close. Right after birth, YOU are the best thing for your baby’s health!
Pregnancy and labor are challenging in so many ways; make it as easy on yourself as possible – whether by eating during labor or making choices that are right for you despite what the “norm” is. A relaxed mom means a relaxed, happy baby and a calmer, easier birth.
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