Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Midwives in the News

Midwives Empower Women Through Natural Childbirth
by Jessica Eyre

In an unassuming business park, one of the occupied office spaces -- among title companies and insurance agents -- is frequented by pregnant women getting checkups and having babies.

But there are no nurses, obstetricians or anasthesiologists there. Well, there might be a few nurses, but in this case, they are the patients.

Birthing Your Way is an unregulated birthing suite, operated by direct entry midwife Sherri and business partner Heather, a certified professional midwife and licensed direct entry midwife.

What is a birthing suite?

Birthing Your Way has a room set up where women can go to have a baby. It looks like a bed & breakfast room -- bed, fireplace, overstuffed chairs, candles, soft lighting. But instead of knick-knacks and mints on the pillows, there are birthing aids, such as birthing stools [where a woman sits on a low stool, shortening the birth canal and opening the pelvis, to give birth] and tubs [filled with water to deliver the baby or to help relax the woman during labor].

Women typically spend about 24 hours there, with labor, delivery and recovery. The mother and baby need to be stable before going home, which includes eating, going to the bathroom, feeding baby, and stable blood pressure, among other things.

The goal for Sherri and Heather is not only a healthy mother and baby, but to empower the mother with the birthing process, which they believe creates a bond between mother and child that they will carry throughout their lives.

"A healthy mother and baby should be the minimum standard, not the gold standard," Heather said.

Why a birthing suite or home birth?

"When you go to the hospital, you're on their playground," Sherri said. State health regulations are set that the hospital must follow -- procedures that are there for the "just in case." For many women, those regulations interfere with the experience they want.

"Medicine through the ages has been so great, but it has sreally taken over in birth," Sherri said.

Birthing Your Way is an unregulated birthing suite, meaning it isn't subject to state health regulations.

"That's exactly what our patients want," Sherri said. They don't want constant monitoring or an I.V., which restrict movement for the laboring mother.

"Sometimes that woman needs to walk and have that pelvis move," Sherri said. Other physical manifestations of labor include screaming, throwing up, even laughing -- all of which can help labor progress, tightening the abdomen and relaxing the lower part of the body. Sherri said at a certain stage of labor, she'll start telling jokes, getting the mother to have a good laugh.

Both Sherri and Heather do routine prenatal checkups, but they put an emphasis on education. They teach classes on the various stages of labor and techniques to handle the pain, such as subtle position changes and pressure points.

For example, even if you aren't going to deliver your baby in the water, getting into a warm bath during labor is what Sherri calls a "home birth epidural." Just as a bath helps relax you when you have the flu, getting in the tub can help a woman relax and manage the pain of contractions.

"The more relaxed you are the less its going to hurt and the faster it's going to go," Sherri said. And the more you know about the process of labor, the better it's going to go.

"The process is really empowering to women," Sherri said.

Who is a candidate for a midwife?

"We deliver healthy women," Sherri said. The majority of pregnancies are routine. High-risk women, though need to be under the care of a physician.

"There are usually little signs that get you in the right place," Sherri said, noting that most midwives are spiritual in one way or another.

For Heather, she wants the women who come to her to be certain this is the right situation for them.

"I will never talk a woman into a home birth," Heather said, saying that if a woman has reservations, there is probably a reason for it, even if she goes on to have a normal birth in the hospital. "You never ignore those feelings."

Of the 50-plus births Sherri has done in the past two years, she has had to transport three to the hospital, two of which required a cesarian section.

"Ninety-eight percent of the time, you are going to have a normal birth," Sherri said. "In reality, stuff happens.

"The good stories need to be told. The bad stories are usually embellished."

While any malpresentation -- when the baby's head is not the first to come down the birth canal -- is not good, midwives have successfully delivered breech babies.

"Physicians and midwives need to hold hands better," Sherri said.

For both Sherri and Heather, the important thing is that women can decide where they want to give birth, whether it's in a hospital or not.

"Don't take that choice away from women," Heather said.

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