America! Maternal Mortality on the Rise

The United States is one of eight countries where Maternal Morbidity is on the rise.  In fact, our rate of maternal mortality has tripled since 1980.  Defined as "maternal death that is associated with pregnancy or childbirth", America now has the highest rate of maternal mortality amongst developed countries.  What a thing of horror.   

There are several reasons that this is occurring, including an increased number of surgical deliveries (which are three times riskier than a vaginal delivery), complications from augmented labors, and dietary deficiencies leading to a rise in preeclampsia and eclampsia.  This is only part of the list that we can see and study.  But the particular issue I want to address today is that of rural healthcare, as maternal death is disproportionately high in rural areas.

Living in a very isolated area, I can attest to the state of rural maternal health in America today.  The nearest hospital is 15 minutes away, a larger one is 40 minutes away, and the nearest urban hospital is an hour and a half drive.  Due to the increasing cost of obstetric services in the US, the closest hospital had to stop offering them a decade ago.  This has left people in my community with the option of driving 40 minutes to a hospital where OB services are offered by on-call family practice doctors OR drive the hour and a half to the "city" where there are in-house Obstetricians.  Add into the equation that 5 months out of the year our area is shrouded in beautiful but dangerous driving conditions.  

This situation leads women into a few undesirable predicaments:

  • delivering on the side of the road, back of an ambulance, in a  rural unequipped Emergency Department OR
  • arriving at the hospital in early labor to find they are 2-3cm dilated and being admitted (they can't very well be sent home!).  Subsequently, for every hour they spend in the hospital during early labor, their chances of interventions and surgical delivery increase.

Let us not forget that rural areas are often very impoverished areas.  Many of these women cannot afford to travel the distance needed to receive prenatal care.  This leads to missed visits (particularly at the end of pregnancy), and therefore, missed diagnoses of possibly fatal conditions such as pre-eclampsia (one of the big killers of mothers), hypertension, and fetal mal-position.

This is a serious problem.  Thankfully, the gravity of this issue has caught the public eye:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been one of the forerunners in offering possible solutions to Maternal Mortality.  Along with AmnestyUSA and countless other respectable organizations, the WHO has offered that an increase in midwifery care will improve outcomes for mothers and babies worldwide, particularly in rural areas.  Indeed, they have said that, "Increasing the number of midwives by 25% will reduce maternal mortality by 50%)."  Properly trained midwives are a very feasible and effective solution to the problem of Maternal Morbidity.  As French Obstetrician, Dr. Odent, has said, 

“If we want to find safe alternatives to obstetrics, we must rediscover midwifery. To rediscover midwifery is the same as giving childbirth back to women.” 

We, as Americans, need to re-evaluate maternal healthcare in this country.  For most, birth is normal and natural, not a condition needing treatment. Do not for a moment imagine that interventions are conveniences without consequences. 

 For the 15% of women in this country who have high-risk pregnancies, I am deeply grateful for a medical system equipped to save lives.  But for the 85% of women who are low-risk, having a baby is the epitome of wellness. Whether you deliver in or out of the hospital, be aware of the benefits and risks of both.  We live in a country where we have many choices, be thankful for them and make wise decisions that are the most comfortable for you.  This is your body and your baby and you have been given the intuition to care for both.  Listen to your instincts, don't ignore them even if medical professionals do.  Find care providers that you can trust and that trust you.

“Experiences have clearly shown that an approach which 'de-medicalizes' birth, restores dignity and humanity to the process of childbirth, and returns control to the mother is also the safest approach.” -Dr. Odent, MD, OBGYN



This Thing Called Maternal

“No, you may not slide down the stairs with the scissors in your hand, honey” slipped easily and calmly from my lips.  This was spoken to the same child who put his now 4-year-old hands on my shriveled stretch-marked postpartum belly and laughingly jiggled while singing, “shake the belly, shake the belly.”  What a fun new game for us…

Supported by my dear husband, my mother, my grandma, my oldest child & my midwife-sister, on October 26th I was delivered safely through childbirth for the fourth time.  I am always overwhelmed with gratitude as I lay in my bed staring at this complete human who just came out of me.  Somehow, I grew this thing, waited 40 weeks for the magic to happen, labored through the longest three inches of life and popped out a human.  The world is a wondrous place.

In the past twelve years, I’ve been a part of the miraculous emergence of over 400 little ones. Women are amazing creatures.  The journey of bringing a child into this world is one of surrender and intuition. From the first waves of nausea to the last surge of contractions, we are learning to embrace the uncontrollable storms of motherhood.  The 9 months of pregnancy are simply a concentrated form of our redefined existence.  This thing changes us. These little people have heard our heartbeat from the inside and then we continue to give that heart to them as they tromp around with it on the outside.

I sit and think on the wonder of it all.  I offer thanks for the joy of life.  I hope that the delight I have now, during nap time, I will have the strength to preserve from 6-8pm (mothers of toddlers, past or present, will know what I mean).  Today I will embrace the now of rosy cheeks and tantrums and made-up games and sleeplessness and little giggles and mopping twice a day and Dr. Seuss.  Today I will bask in this blessed life I dwell in.

Reposted from Dec 26, 2015

Reposted from Dec 26, 2015

Creating Peace in Pregnancy

Women are natural worriers.  In the childbearing years, this takes on many different faces and forms.  If you are having trouble getting pregnant, worry can hang heavy like a cloud over every day, ranging from the more serious "What if I never get pregnant?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I broken?" and leaking into the everyday, "Should I cut out gluten?  Should I do more yoga to release stress?"  If you are newly pregnant, the spectrum changes a little, but the underlying worry remains with its whole armory of weapons to steal your peace.

I love serving first-time moms because they are often very vocal about all the worries and fears that come up.  Everything seems alarming and they want to do it all perfectly.  I recall getting a phone call from a first time mom who was in a panic, "I went to a wedding and I ate 4-5 crackers with brie on them.  When we got in the car, I realized that I'm not supposed to have soft cheeses and I'm freaking out.  Should I make myself throw up?"  Ah, yes, this fierceness is the stuff of motherhood.

Worry comes naturally but peace must be chosen & practiced.  Here are some places to start:

The first is to recognize the worry and try to sniff out where its coming from.  Acknowledge it, honor it, because it is something right about you.  The worry itself is communicating something from within you.  In the example above, the brie was threatening the safety of that woman's baby (at least in her head) and watch out, mama bear!  You and I may laugh at the story and smile at the over-reaction, but at the end of the day, we need to respect the innate desire to protect and provide for the unborn child within her.  Search out your worry-spots and try to discover the interior desire they reveal.

Secondly, cultivate trust.  Trust in your situation, trust in your body, trust in your partner (if there is one), trust in the wondrous will to survive, trust in the Divine, trust that this beautiful life is made of chapters and you have the freedom to move into the unknown with a spirit of peace.  This is cultivated by small daily choices, by breathing deeply into your insecurity and releasing it, and in this day and age, by choosing not to use Google as your life-guide (it will probably only scare you).  Find people in your life who can impart wisdom to you, ask vulnerable questions of peers, surround yourself by those who place a great value in creating positivity.  Embrace the wondrous innate ability your body has to grow and nurture another human being and give thanks that you have been created for this.

This last one is really important. Get comfy with not being in control.  Worry is about control, or the lack thereof.  Pregnancy is the concentrated stuff of the rest of parenting, the microcosm of the world of motherhood.  You'll feel all of the "feels" that will come and go over the next many years of child-rearing - only in super uber duper intensity while you're pregnant.  When a babe is growing within us, we imagine that we can keep them safe and make all the "right" decisions, we think we are in control.  But ask any mother who has had a miscarriage or a difficult pregnancy or has carried past 40 weeks or had their birth preferences shredded into little pieces when labor came - we are only one part of a universal orchestra.  When we give birth to these little ones, we send a large portion of our insides (and heart) to toddle unsteadily into the big world.  The sooner we can learn the limitations of our control, the freer we will become to play our part really well and trust the Conductor to turn all the chaos into a perfect piece of music.

Choose peace, friends.  It will bring you freedom.


Peace Pregnancy