Thursday, November 27, 2008

What are we thankful for?

This morning I woke up reflecting that we have a lot to be thankful for within the birth world. I'm thankful for:

Natural birth pioneers and writers like Michel Odent, Sheila Kitzinger, Penny Simkin, Ina May Gaskin, Elisabeth Bing, and so many, many more who have devoted so much of their lives to this work.

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Care Services (CIMS), which has worked so tirelessly to encourage mother-friendly care in all birth settings and to spread evidence-based information about healthy maternity care.

Doula training organizations such as DONA, CAPPA, and ALACE, which have trained so many compassionate, skillful, passionate labor support professionals.

Childbirth educators like the wonderful women at Independent Childbirth

Statewide consumer groups like Friends of Missouri Midwives and Ohio Families for Safe Birth that are so dedicated to helping women in their states have access to skilled midwifery care.

My involvement with Citizens for Midwifery, the only nationwide consumer organization devoted to promoting midwifery and making the midwives model of care a reality around the country.

Mothering Magazine, a trusted resource, helpful "friend," and inspiring read regarding all elements of natural family living.

BOLD (Birth, The Play), which lends such a creative spark to public awareness of maternity care issues with its theater for social change model of birth activism.

Devoted birth bloggers like Birth Activist and Woman to Woman CBE and Enjoy Birth and Giving Birth with Confidence.

Midwives like Maria Iorillo and the countless other midwives out there who are "with women" day after day.

Books like Pushed and Our Bodies, Ourselves Guide to Pregnancy & Birth (and also recent treasures like Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart)

Choices in Childbirth and their most fabulous Guide to a Healthy Birth.

Childbirth Connection which has promoted safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care for all women and families since 1918 and offers a treasure trove of wonderful publications free on their wesbite.

Women's courage as they follow their intuition and give birth at home.

I know there are so many more organizations, people, and resources for which to be thankful. What are you thankful for in the birthing community?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grassroots Network: Tell Obama about Midwives Model of Care!

Dear Friends,

If you haven’t heard yet, President-Elect Obama has invited YOU to tell him what you’d like to see in health care reform.

Thank you to everyone who has brought this to our attention!

Read about Obaman’s propososals for health care here. Click on the paragraph under "Present Your Ideas." This will take you to an online form you can use to offer your ideas on health care to the new administration.

You can urge the administration to support increased access to midwives and to take a look at the Midwives Model of Care page on CfM's website ( Issues that could be brought up: The need for accountability for outcomes and costs in maternity care; the need for transparency so women can find out accurate information about the practices of maternity care providers; the need to address disparities in access to care and effectiveness of care. A policy for evidence-based practices in maternity care, including the Midwives Model of Care, would help to address these issues. We also encourage you to suggest that the new administration implement the recommendations of Childbirth Connection's "Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is and What It Can Accomplish." This will bring this comprehensive policy report to their attention.

The more the campaign hears from us about the problems in maternity care and the SOLUTIONS, the better!

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Grassroots Network: Attorneys still looking for VBAC ban victims

Dear Friends,

This is a repeat of a previous GRN message: Attorneys looking for VBAC ban victims. The search is still on, so please forward this to anyone you know that might be interested.

As you are likely aware, many women are denied access to VBAC (Vaginal birth after cesarean) because of hospital policies and outright bans. Attorneys with the Northwest Women's Law Center in Seattle are looking at this issue. One of them asked us to post the following:

"I'm a lawyer with the Northwest Women's Law Center in Seattle. I'm
investigating possible legal responses to bans on vaginal birth after
cesarean at hospitals in the northwest states - Alaska, Idaho, Montana,
Washington and Oregon. If you are currently pregnant and want to have a
VBAC, but are facing a hospital policy that would require you to have a
c-section regardless of whether you want it and whether it is medically
necessary, and are willing to consider working with a lawyer on this, we'd like to talk with you. Please email us at Our services
will be provided free of charge."

Even if you are not in one of the states listed, you can still help by emailing this out to any email lists you are on and asking everyone who receives it to email it to all the lists THEY are on as well so that it is distributed far and wide. Thanks.

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Friday, November 21, 2008

The more things change...

Re: attention paid to obstetrics:

"Learned societies have invited lectures and discussions upon its practice and teaching, and committees have been set up by the government for the purpose of investigating maternal and infant mortality. Medical journals have published a vast amount of literature concerning the abnormalities and complications of childbirth, while the lay press rarely misses an opportunity to bring before the public any information upon the subject that can be gleaned from the transactions of the societies and associations of the medical profession. Vast improvement has resulted in both knowledge and technique, but, unhappily statistics have not shown a relatively pronounced advance upon those of 10 or 15 years ago...But it is generally agreed upon that one of the most important factors in the production of a complicated labor, and therefore of maternal and infant mortality, is the inability of obstetricians to stand by and allow the natural and uninterrupted course of labor. It may be an excess of zeal, or anxiety born of ignorance, but it is an unquestionable fact that interference is still one of the greatest dangers with which both mother and child have to contend."

While the above could have been written today, it is actually from the preface to the classic Childbirth Without Fear by natural birth pioneer Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, penned in 1933! Though I'm familiar with his work, I've just begun reading the book for the first time.

In the introduction, the OB who edited the newer edition of the book says that from Dick-Read he learned the dictum, "Tense doctor = tense patient = tense cervix." Timeless wisdom!

Also in the preface, Dick-Read says, "Thousands of women today have had their babies born under modern humanitarian conditions--they are the first to disclaim any knowledge of the beauties of childbirth..."

On the heels of reading this, I read a birth story in which the mother rested comfortably after the second attempt at an epidural. She was playing solitaire on her cell phone while contracting away and then was surprised and be happy to be told she was complete and could push. Besides the obvious irony of the game she was playing, I know very well that this story is repeated countless times around the country every day and I feel a sense of grief over what has been lost :(

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Unnecesarean Website

New on the birth activism scene is a powerful new website dedicated to the "unnecesarean" (unnecessary cesarean). The site includes a good section about avoiding an unnecesarean.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Articles in Unexpected Places

After enjoying the New York Times article about homebirth this week, I wanted to post about a couple of other articles that popped up in unexpected places for me this month.

The first is an article called Industrial Childbirth that was published in Adbusters. The concluding paragraph is particularly powerful:

"I wish that we talked about it. That we could stop reveling in horror stories and better place our fingers on the reason for our traumatic births – not the curse of Eve medicated to by our benevolent system – but the systematic violence that delivers our babies for fear that we might give birth to them ourselves. For in the process we might begin to understand our own strength and find words for our anger. We might begin to disobey."

Speaking of difficult births, there was also a brief article on this subject in Ode Magazine this month. I was very surprised to see it there, but less surprised to see that it was by Jennifer Block! It is a very short piece in the "Ode to Possibilities" section of the magazine. The piece is about midwives coming to help in Sri Lanka post-tsunami. The midwife quoted says, "Midwives are leaders in their communities, they're the women we trust, they lead us through transition in our lives...They are these things to women all over the world." The article ends with the classic sentiment, "peace on earth begins with birth." According to a search, the article is available online, but when I go to the link it is down. I'm including it here anyway, in case it starts to work!

I've long enjoyed Ode magazine, it is one of my favorites among non-birth related publications. So, I love to see birth getting some attention in its pages.

It is VERY exciting to me to see birth issues touched on in publications like this--birth activists have always know that *birth matters* and it is good to see public confirmation that it does. Birth issues don't need to only be discussed in birth-related publications, they belong everywhere--Ode, Adbusters, the NYT. This is great!

Another unexpected article popped up in my Google Alerts for birth a couple of weeks ago and I've been meaning to post about it since then. The article itself is about the "the truth about Heath Ledger's women." However, what caught my eye in this article were the quotes about birth by the late actor:

"For man, birth is the realisation that you're just a hopeless, useless specimen of life and witnessing this innate, primal strength within women can be such an intimidating experience,"

"When you come out of the birthing experience, you actually have a better understanding of how and why men have over-compensated in society by creating battles and wars and steroids, and why they go to the gym. It's because we want to be strong and tough, and we're not. And it's this endless quest to kind of find this strength that can equal women's. Experiencing those nine months with Michelle was incredibly humbling, and I just relinquish all kinds of respect and power to her. She's incredible."

They article also says that they "opted for a natural birth with a doula, a non-medical assistant."

When I read things like the above, I wonder how society would change if more men had the experience of viewing their partners in this way...

Grassroots Network: MEAC Needs Our Help!

Dear Friends,

This is a beautiful opportunity for you to help midwifery!

The letter below is from national organizations that are directly related to promoting midwifery, and especially direct entry midwifery, in a variety of ways, and you can see that Citizens for Midwifery is right in the list. The letter below explains the situation.

In the midst of hard times in the economy, which are affecting all of us, MEAC seriously needs financial help at this time, as the letter explains. Please make a donation of whatever size you are able. Our help at this time will make a real and positive difference for midwifery education. Make checks payable to MEAC, POB 984, LaConner, WA 98257. I know, everyone is asking for contributions at this time of year. This is a one-time request. Midwifery in the US cannot afford to let anything happen to MEAC's official recognition.

This is one of the only times a Grassroots Message will include any requests for donations. Thank you for any donation you can make!

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Allied Midwifery Organizations

October 2008

Dear Friend of the Allied Midwifery Organizations,

MEAC needs our help!

MEAC is the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council. MEAC promotes excellence in midwifery education by supporting and accrediting midwifery schools around the country that prepare midwives for national certification as CPMs. MEAC is doing exciting, groundbreaking, and vital work for our midwifery movement. Just this month, the Milbank Memorial Fund, a non-partisan institute devoted to health policy analysis, issued a new report titled, "Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is and What It Can Achieve." The report cites data from the landmark study of CPMs published in 2005 and concludes:

The low CPM rates of intervention are benchmarks for what the majority of childbearing women and babies who are in good health might achieve.

MEAC currently accredits eight free-standing institutions and two programs that reside within universities, providing excellent midwifery education for more than 500 matriculating students.

Why does MEAC need our help now?

This year, the U. S. Secretary of Education deferred a decision to extend recognition of MEAC, requesting that MEAC provide evidence of a stronger financial and volunteer base. It is ESSENTIAL that MEAC satisfies the requirements to continue its recognition by the USED. This appeal to you hopes to accomplish two things:

1. Increase the capacity of MEAC's Reserve Fund to cover one year's operating budget ($120,000).

2. Demonstrate to the USED that MEAC has a strong base of support that can be called upon to respond swiftly and effectively in a time of need.

Please help us in this one-time capital campaign. We have come so far in the last decade. We can't let it slip away. Your support is crucial and so much appreciated at this time! Please give generously. Large donations of $500-$1,000 will provide significant support. Smaller donations will help, step-by-step, to achieve this goal. We can do this together- it is an investment in our future!

Sincerely Yours,

The Leadership of the Allied Midwifery Organizations

*Donations to MEAC are tax deductible!
Make checks payable to MEAC, POB 984, LaConner, WA 98257,

Grassroots Network: Home Birth Article in The New York Times

Dear Friends,

The rumors turned out to be true! The New York Times, the nation's paper of record, published a long article on home birth in yesterday's edition. It's available online here. (You must register for free to access the whole article.)

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the article is that the reporter, Julie Scelfo, writes about the increased interest in home birth of late, confirming the sense that we all have in the birthing community. She writes that, "local [NYC] midwives...have been swamped with calls and requests in recent months, in some cases increasing their workload from two, three or four deliveries a month to as many as 10," that one local childbirth education center is seeing twice as many couples planning home birth as they did six months ago, and that ", one of the biggest online purveyors of birthing pools...said its sales have doubled since last year." Also, that "the increase is coming not so much from the dyed-in-the-wool back-to-nature types as from professionals like lawyers and bankers."

The piece is pretty fair-minded, focusing on the increased interest in home birth in NYC, with attention given to both the risks and benefits of home birth; there's also a good deal of space given to the supposed problems of birthing in a small New York City apartment, with neighbors and thin walls and such (although the article goes on at length about these issues, none of the families interviewed report actually having problems with neighbors or mess, etc.).

Let's keep working for midwifery and home birth so that women all across this country can choose the safe option of home birth with a licensed midwife for their families.

Arielle Greenberg Bywater and Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Grassroots Network: March of Dimes "report card" on prematurity

Dear Friends,

Take a look at the March of Dimes map that grades most states in the US a D or E when it comes to prematurity. While the March of Dimes does not specifically mention any role for midwives, this is great ammunition to support increased access to midwives in and out of the hospital for their superior prenatal care and fewer inductions and cesarean sections.

Read the article below, and visit You can sign a petition urging the Federal Government to support research on prematurity, increase access to prenatal care, and calls on "… hospitals and health care professionals to voluntarily assess c-sections and inductions that occur prior to 39 weeks gestation to ensure consistency with professional guidelines."

This is just a baby step, but the March of Dimes is a very big organization. Let’s let the March of Dimes know that we appreciate their work, and ask them to support midwives and the Midwives Model of Care as a way of improving prenatal care and decreasing cesarean sections!

Susan Hodges, "gatekeeper"

Report urges states to tackle preterm birth crisis

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard, Ap Medical Writer Wed Nov 12, 7:39 am ET

WASHINGTON The odds of having a premature baby are lowest in Vermont and highest in Mississippi. The March of Dimes mapped the stark state-by-state disparities in what it called a "report card" on prematurity Wednesday to track progress toward meeting a federal goal of lowering preterm births.

There's not much chance of meeting that goal by the original 2010 deadline, if the "D" grade the charity bestowed on the nation is any indication.

More than half a million U.S. babies one in every eight are born premature each year, a toll that's risen steadily for two decades. The government's goal: No more than 7.6 percent of babies born before completion of the 37th week of pregnancy.

Preterm birth can affect any mother-to-be, stressed a recent U.S. Surgeon General's meeting on the problem. Scientists don't understand all the complex causes.

But Wednesday's report highlights big geographic differences that March of Dimes president Dr. Jennifer Howse called "a dash of cold water."

In Vermont, 9 percent of babies were preemies in 2005, the latest available data. In Oregon and Connecticut, just under 10.5 percent of babies were premature.

Travel south, and prematurity steadily worsens: In West Virginia, 14.4 percent of babies were preemies; more than 15 percent in Kentucky and South Carolina; more than 16 percent in Alabama and Louisiana; and a high of 18.8 percent in Mississippi.

The report urges states to address three factors that play a role:
_Lack of insurance, which translates into missed or late prenatal care. In states with the highest prematurity rates, at least one in five women of childbearing age are uninsured. Early prenatal care can identify risks for preterm labor and sometimes lower them.
_Smoking increases the risks of prematurity, low birthweight and birth defects. Government figures suggest 17 percent of women smoke during pregnancy. The new report urged targeting smoking by all women of childbearing age. About a third of those women smoke in Louisiana and West Virginia, the report says, compared with 9.3 percent and 11 percent in Utah and California, respectively.
_Then there's the trickier issue of so-called late preemies, babies born between 34 and 37 weeks. They're fueling the nation's prematurity rise. While not as devastating as a baby born months early, being even a few weeks early can cause learning or behavioral delays and other problems. And recent research suggests at least some near-term babies are due to Caesarean sections scheduled before full-term, either deliberately or because of confusion about the fetus's exact age.

Howse urged hospitals to double-check that women given an early C-section truly need one for a medical problem, as current health guidelines recommend.
March of Dimes:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Articles About Midwives, Postpartum, & Breastfeeding

Earlier this week, an article came to my attention on the USPharmD website (for people interested in earning their Doctor of Pharmacology degree). The article is called "100+ Essential Online Resources for Midwives" and is a really comprehensive listing! I was pleased to see Citizens for Midwifery on the list :)

Speaking of interesting articles, I also read a very good one called "Mothering Our Mothers." The focus is on caring for women postpartum and what women need during that vulnerable time (to be "mothered" as they learn to mother).

As a related side note, I read in Leaven (LLL Leader journal) this month that in Russia, the law is that children can be brought to their mothers in the workplace to breastfeed every three hours until they are three years old! Fantastic. I could hardly believe it. The article went on to say that many women do not have anyone available to bring their child to them every three hours though and so most wean when going back to work. In another contrast to the US, the article also said that Russian doctors to not allow the distribution of free formula packs in hospitals.