Thursday, April 30, 2009

Autism Links to Ultrasound and Other Obstetrical Procedures

No one wants to believe that there could be complications or problems with using this device that American parents are so in love with!

Simply put, ultrasound changes the way cells grow. Ultrasound has been linked to a number of things, but the one I want to focus on here is autism.

One in every 150 kids has a form of autism in the United States. This rate has grown tremendously over the last decade. Now let's talk about ultrasound for a moment. When I had my first baby, in 1996, nearly 13 years ago, I remember desperately hoping that my insurance would cover it. Back then, they didn't do them unless there was a "medical reason." (I don't remember my "medical reason".) Gradually, the reasons started including things such as accuracy of the estimated due date. Now, everyone's insurance covers ultrasound, usually not just one, but several. I even had a student last year who had a doctor who routinely did ultrasounds every week starting at 36 weeks. Parents are excited about this, not knowing the risks they are taking with their baby's well-being. Rates of increased ultrasound usage correlate with the rate of autism diagnosis. They have both risen dramatically, simultaneously.

I had read about the possible link between ultrasound and autism about 5 or 6 years ago. It made so much sense to me. There has always been warnings linked to ultrasound, but I rarely talk with a pregnant woman who has been made aware of any warnings before having an ultrasound.

For example, a study in 1993 found that babies exposed to ultrasound were twice as likely to develop delayed speech. According to the FDA, "While ultrasound has been around for many years, expectant women and their families need to know that the long-term effects of repeated ultrasound exposures on the fetus are not fully known."

Researchers reported, in 2005, "Obstetric ultrasound should only be done for medical reasons, and exposure should be kept as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) because of the potential for tissue heating. Temperature increases in utero have been shown to cause damage to the developing central nervous system of the fetus." In 2006, a study warned that exposure to ultrasound can affect fetal brain development.

Because there are no obvious deformities or problems at birth, we assume that all is well and "normal." It is likely several months or even years later, as the parents are going through testing, no one asks -- yet -- "How many ultrasounds did you have in your pregnancy?" I think that day will come though. As a side note -- what did you learn from all those ultrasounds? Probably that everything was just fine. Even if you were checking for something periodically, what would the difference have been in just waiting until the baby was born? Rarely can anything be done in utero. So why have all these ultrasounds to begin with?

Ultrasound, just like ANY drug in labor or pregnancy, has NOT been proven to be safe. Think about that for a minute. Take Tylenol for example. Women are told that it is "safe" to take it, but that is not necessarily true. It just hasn't been proven to be unsafe. Ibuprofen, on the other hand, has been proven to be unsafe. We know ultrasound changes cellular growth, we just aren't sure exactly what this means long-term. Links are starting to be made now, finally, after 30 years of use -- and damage.

Other research shows that populations exposed to ultrasound have a quadrupled perinatal death rate, increased rates of brain damage, nerve cell demlyienation, dyslexia, speech delays, epilepsy, and learning difficulties.

One more interesting note about ultrasound and the development of the baby. Ultrasounds, along with many obstetrical testing practices, has a high false-positive rate, meaning that parents are told something is, or may be, wrong with the baby. This causes the production of stress hormones in the mother which can have long-term effects on the baby's neurological development and behavior.

It is important to know that ultrasound is not just the scan where you see the pictures of the baby. Ultrasound includes the doptone used to hear the baby's heartbeat at your appointments with your doctor or midwife. (You can hear the baby's heartbeat with a stethoscope after about 20 weeks. This takes more skill, and if your provider is younger, they probably have no idea how to find the heartbeat of the baby without the doptone. If this at all concerns you, you should request to hear the heartbeat by stethoscope.) Another form, and perhaps the worst of them all, the Electronic Fetal Monitor, or EFM. This is often strapped to the mom for hours in labor, especially if she has drugs in her system. Once again, I have just given you another reason to not have drugs in labor. You'll still be monitored, but only a fraction of the time will be required, or needed.

I have to end this post with a simple, trust your body. Trust your baby. You will be seeing him or her in a short time. The risk of ultrasound simply is not worth it. If your doctor or midwife is pushing you to have more than one ultrasound (I understand wanting one to check things out), examine the reasons and the possible results. Can anything really be done during the pregnancy? Usually not.

For those of you who are curious, I pulled this information from a magazine called "Pathways to Family Wellness". Other obstetrical procedures linked to autism include: mercury in pregnancy, including the Rhogam shot, flu shot, dental fillings, and fish. Other procedures linked to autism: induction, epidurals, restricted laboring positions, forceps and vacuum extraction, C-sections, and umbilical cord clamping. Of all these things, ultrasound was at the top of the list.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Consumer Reports: 5 Things You Shouldn't Buy For Your Baby

Consumer Reports, who I usually respect, has come out with a list of 5 things that you shouldn't buy for your baby. Among them were co-sleepers and slings, stating that these items are dangerous, and even mentioned babies that have died when parents used them improperly. So they have stated that no parent should buy them at all. They didn't say a thing about all the babies that have died in cribs!

They went as far as to state that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib. Evidence-based information will tell otherwise. No where did they mentioned having the crib in the same room as the mother, as this decreases the chances of the baby dying of SIDS. Not to mention for every 87 babies that dies of SIDS, only 3 breastfed babies will die of SIDS. I believe that FORMULA should top that Consumer Reports list.

And the slings... Oh my. I don't even know if this ridiculous claim that they are unsafe is worth addressing, and yet, we can't let it go! They claim that 4 babies over the last 5 years have died due to "skull fractures, head injuries, contusions and abrasions. Most occurred when the child fell out of the sling." Because of 4 babies dying, they are saying that no one should buy a sling? While this certainly is a tragedy, and I do not want to take away from that, the parents I sell slings to are obsessed with making sure they feel secure with their baby in the sling. I have NEVER had a baby fall out of the sling -- not even come close. I have seen, however, babies flip out of car seats when the handle was not locked and the baby wasn't buckled. Accidents happen. Maybe these parents had a faulty, poorly-made brand. Maybe the parents were not shown how to properly use their sling.

For the benefits of babywearing, you can read more about what I have written on this topic.

As for the credibility of Consumer Reports, I do really love my very reliable Toyota Sienna with almost 208,000 miles. They said it was a solid, "reliable" car. At least they got something right.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is Labor About How Tough You Are, Part 2

Sarah, a former student, brought up an excellent point which she posted as a comment under the "Is Labor About How 'Tough' You Are?" post. I want to share her comments before I comment:

"I'm glad you addressed this issue, Donna. Funny. It seems many women get told they must be "tough" to have handled NCB. I can't remember *one* time I've been told that. But most people who don't know me well don't know that I do NCB, either. I don't exactly advertise it! (Perhaps that makes a difference?)

Most of the time, if it does get brought up, women will think I must have had really easy labors. (Especially because I'm so positive about it--I'd love to do it again!) Some will even reply that *their* labors were **hard,** so *they* **couldn't** go natural; essentially cheapening all the hard work that went into my "easy" births.
I've said it before, but these responses remind me of a Napoleon Dynamite favorite quote of mine: "Lucky." Like I just *happen* to have NCB! It's annoying and a little demoralizing. I know I'm not alone in this, because I've had this conversation with my sister. But it seems like it's common with your commenters that people assume they're tough.

Like you say, it isn't about being tough. And, like you say, it isn't about labor being easy, either. I feel like all the education and preparation I did is completely overlooked when people assume that it was easy. (I think this may be why I don't advertise that I "do" NCB to general acquaintances.) It feels like a slap in my face, whatever it is they assume about me. And, no, it never has been that I must be "tough." I almost wish it were! At least that would be a compliment, right? The "easy" assumption is by far the usual response I get. Am I alone among your readers? Please address this issue, if you have anything to say about it! Thank you!"

My friend, Janet, after having a 3-hour labor with her second baby, routinely heard other women say to her, "Well, if I had a 3-hour labor, I could do it without an epidural too!" This totally undermines the work of that mother. Sarah has heard me say a number of times that a longer labor is "easier" than a shorter one. Your body builds up to the longer and harder contractions. Fast labors are usually one contraction on top of another, while the cervix dilates very fast.

I rarely have students go through my class who just decide that labor is too hard, give up, and have an epidural. But a few years ago, I had this woman go through my class who had an epidural when she was dilated to 4 cm. I was so surprised, and disappointed. I'll never forget what she said to me: she said that she thought her labor must have been harder than most women's labors. Aaarrhh!

Deep down, I believe that women know what is the right thing to do -- for themselves and their baby -- but they CHOOSE to ignore that intuition or instinct, and make excuses (my labor was too long, too short, too painful; I have a low pain tolerance, etc.) so they do not have to take responsibility for their actions.

I also liked your commentary, Sarah, on the fact that people believe that if you actually ENJOYED labor, it must have been easy. Part of why I enjoyed my labors was because it was HARD, and I did it! You cannot beat that feeling of accomplishment.

Comments such as these are meant to lessen what you have done. When my friend, Alisa, the one I wished would fail at NCB, had her baby without drugs, I easily could have made up reasons as to why she was able to do it and I wasn't. My reaction was different though, for some reason. I thought, "If Alisa could do it, I could do it!" I wish those of us who choose NCB could inspire that sort of confidence instead of these ridiculous comments that people make.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is Labor About How "Tough" You Are?

Just a quick observation: I have several friends and acquaintances that are avid runners and train for marathons and triathlons. I cannot emphasize enough how awful and painful this sounds to me. I was a two-pack a day smoker for more than 10 years -- smoke-free for 15 years now -- so I never developed a love of exercise, unfortunately.

I routinely have people comment on how high my pain tolerance must be, or how "strong" I must be to give birth without medication. I have to just laugh! This is coming from people who run for three hours straight! I would rather give birth several times over than run to the end of my street!

This is the misconception about labor and birth -- that it is about the pain -- how much you can take. It is about education, as I have said over and over. I truly believe that with conviction, education, and a supportive birth team, ALL women can give birth without medication.

I am pretty sure, however, that I could not run a marathon! Labor "pain" serves a purpose and when a woman understands that, she does not fight it, but works with her body to help her baby out. Labor is hard. I never try to fool women into thinking birth is painless, but it is the most joyful experience in a couple's life.

Anything that is difficult in life ultimately challenges our will and our mind, and often our bodies. I guess I am simply pointing out that women do hard things all the time -- don't miss this opportunity to truly bring your baby into this world with your own awesome power! You CAN do it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Dangers of Prematurity

I have really wrestled with what to write about from the Controversies in Childbirth Conference. We've been so busy around here lately, it's given me time to mull things over.

I will reference a talk given by Lucky Jain, MD, MBA from the Conference. I feel that the information he gave was so astounding, all should be made aware. Briefly, a short biography of Dr. Jain: He is currently the Richard W. Blumberg Professor and Executive Vice Chairman for the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. He also serves as the Medical Director of the Emory Children's Center. In addition, he is an investigator at the Center for Cell and Molecular Signaling and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Physiology.

Obviously, a smart and well-educated fellow.

The information he gave was so well researched, clear, and concise, they let him go over on his time. He is the only individual that was allowed this privilege. I believe that if pregnant women had this information, they would make wiser decisions during pregnancy.

The topic Dr. Jain was speaking on was "Are C-sections Causing Premature Births and Adding to NICU Costs? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Babies are presumed to be "mature" at 34 weeks. He posed the question, is it safe to deliver a baby after this time? The answer is yes and no. 50% of babies born at 34 weeks will be in NICU. While we have decreased the rate of stillbirths in this country, prematurity has dramatically risen.

What are the long term effects of prematurity? Dr. Jain had a very distinct picture of a baby's brain at 35 weeks versus the brain at 40 weeks. There was a HUGE difference. The 40 week brain was significantly more developed.

Studies have found that 74% of handicapped adults were born between 33 and 37 weeks gestation. In addition, babies born before 37 weeks are five times more likely to be in special education by the time they are in kindergarten through fifth grade.

While the baby's body looks fairly well developed in the last trimester, this is the time when the brain is developing. Cholesterol, yes, you heard me right, and good foods, including proteins, are essential in the baby's brain growing and developing. Each week, day, even hour, that a baby stays in the womb is invaluable.

Another interesting item Dr. Jain addressed was Fetal Lung Fluid. I must admit, this was the first time I've heard of this. I took comfort in seeing that most of the other people in attendance didn't seem to know much about it either! According to Dr. Jain, fetal lung fluid is produced to inflate the lungs and pours out into the amniotic fluid. This is how the lungs are checked for maturity during pregnancy by checking the amniotic fluid. When labor is allowed to start on its own (no induction!), the valve that releases this fluid is shut off. The fetal lung fluid levels gradually decrease over the course of days leading up to labor. It really is true that the baby triggers labor. If a C-section is done without the onset of labor, the baby does not receive this message. This is a contributing factor to C-section babies having a more difficult time breathing. According to Dr. Jain, a C-section should NEVER be scheduled to take place before 39 weeks and it is crucial that the dates are correct. He felt strongly that it should be later than that, if done at all. The average in the US is 38.2 weeks, however. Remember, the average means that there are many babies being born on the lower end of that number. According to United Healthcare, if a baby is born before 38 weeks, he is twice as likely to be admitted in the NICU.

I hope you will ponder this information and share it with your friends and family who might be pregnant. The womb really is the best place to grow a baby -- not an incubator in the NICU.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Breastfeeding and the Economy -- Something You CAN Do!

Need more reasons to keep breastfeeding? How about helping out the economy? has a great article on breastfeeding, and the many reasons why you should keep doing it. Click here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Appropriate Use of Intervention & Medication for Labor

By now, you know that I believe that fear is NOT a reason to have an epidural. The lack of education and preparation are the reasons, I believe, that the majority of American women choose to have pain medications in labor. This is also why women are choosing to have a C-section, never experiencing a single contraction -- fear.

You might be shocked to know that I believe that there are appropriate times for intervention and/or medication. I'd like to share such an experience one of my "DVD couples" had this past week. It's been several days since I spoke with her and I've had a birthday party for my 3rd child, a baptism, company, and Easter, all take place since our conversation. Some of the details are fuzzy, but you'll understand my point without all the details.

They were planning a homebirth and this was their first baby. Labor started on its own, as it should, and she labored for a number of hours with contractions about five minutes apart. They spaced out to 10,15, 20 minutes apart after a time. It would pick back up though and continue for hours at five minutes apart again. Several hours into the labor, she had an appointment with her midwife. She had a vaginal exam and found that her water had broken -- probably in the bathtub because she wasn't aware of that happening -- and was told she was 100% effaced and dilated 3 cm.

She continued laboring at home throughout the day. Her midwife checked in on her that evening and still, she was dilated to a three. This is where my memory fails me. I do not remember at what point they decided to go to the hospital, and really, it doesn't matter. She was near the 24-hour mark of water breaking, but everyone was doing fine. Her cervix just was not dilating. When she arrived at the hospital, they did start her on pitocin, but not terribly high. They also started her on antibiotics as a precautionary measure because of the ruptured membranes. It should be noted, there was no sign of infection. She labored this way for 4 hours and still did not dilate past a three.

I just knew this story was going to end with surgery. The doctor, who was the back-up doctor for the LM, suggested at this point that they increase the pitocin and she have an epidural. She had only slept a few hours during the labor and was exhausted. This was a hard decision for her -- I could hear it in her voice when she told me that she consented to the epidural -- but she made the right decision.

She slept during the next few hours while the pitocin took over. The next time she was checked, she had good news! Her cervix was dilating! She labored the last hour without pitocin or the epidural and pushed her baby out on her own.

Had she not listened to her medical team, who, I must add, was giving good advice, she would have had a C-section. Yes, she did not have the quiet, undisturbed homebirth she had planned for, and there will be some emotions there to deal with. But she avoided surgery. Why did this happen to her? Who knows. Maybe it was about the baby's position. Maybe she couldn't relax enough. Maybe she was apprehensive about giving birth at home, even subconsciously. She may never know. But she will, I believe, be able to have a peace about her birth. She used intervention and medication, not because she was afraid of the process, but because she needed that assistance.

I have another example from another DVD couple last fall. This was to be another out-of-hospital birth, but she went almost 3 weeks over her "due date." Her biophysical profile, etc., had been good, up until this point. Her midwife had become concerned, if I remember correctly, with fluid levels and thought she should go ahead and be induced at the hospital. She had a great back-up doctor. This mom was induced and labored without an epidural for many hours. She remained dialated to a nine for several hours when the cervix started to swell. This is not a good thing. They recommended an epidural so she could relax and sleep. It worked. She had a vaginal birth.

Sometimes, we (okay, I) focus so much on the "evils" of medicated birth, we loose sight that it can sometimes help avoid surgery. I would absolutely rather see a mom have a medicated birth than a C-section. These were good doctors who wanted the same thing for these moms. They respected their wishes and were anxious to help them achieve this goal. Many doctors would have just done a C-section on both of these women.

I can honestly say that I don't know what could have been done differently to avoid having medication or intervention in either of these labors. Had they not been planning out-of-hospital births to begin with, they likely would have ended up with c-sections earlier on. I do believe that planning homebirths, even though they both transported, were contributing factors to still having vaginal births.

Both of these women were educated and prepared. It reminds me of something our midwife with our 3rd baby told us: "Birth is 90% in your head and 10% what happens to you."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Personhood USA -- Fetal Rights vs. Mothers Rights

I hope everyone has filled out their Birth Survey. It is ongoing, so if you haven't done so, please do. It's a small way you can make a huge difference. It will take about 20-30 minutes of your time.

Debra Pascali-Bonaro, the director of "Orgasmic Birth", posted this link on her Facebook. I found it to be incredibly powerful and thought-provoking. I wanted to share it here. It is titled "How Personhood USA & The Bills They Support Will Hurt All Pregnant Women."

On a personal note, I have always considered myself to be anti-abortion. I obviously love babies! I've determined that the majority of people do not believe abortion to be a good thing to do. This topic was addressed at the Controversies in Childbirth Conference last weekend in several talks and panels. When you realize how fetal rights interfere with a woman's right to make choices for herself and her baby, you simply cannot condone the anti-abortion laws. They contradict one another.

Let me explain a bit further: If a woman is told her baby is too big (or a number of other examples) and the doctor is recommending a C-section -- for the safety of the baby -- the mother potentially loses her rights because the fetus's life has more value, according to Personhood USA. The doctor is seen as the expert and therefore holds all the power. The mother looses her power to decide for herself. Her baby's life has more protection than her own.

A close friend was telling me about her mother having an abortion many years ago in order to save her own life. It was a devastating event. Under Personhood USA, the fetus potentially has the right to live, regardless of the mother's medical condition. Had the laws provided protection for the baby over the mother, my friend, along with her 3 siblings, potentially could have lost her mother.

Women should be informed of all their options and the implications of their decisions -- and then allowed to make their own choices -- whether that means to have a homebirth, a VBAC, an epidural, or even an elective C-section. She has the rights to make those choices. It's a shame that women have to fight to give birth the way they want to, worrying about the legalities surrounding her birth and the possibility of having a most likely unnecessary surgery forced upon her.

I believe in choice. I believe that our Founding Fathers of this great country intended for us to have the freedom of choosing what is in our best interest, not just for us, but for our families. I do not want to see doctors having more control over how women birth their children. You can imagine how the C-section rate would climb even higher with more states enforcing this Bill.

I don't believe that with the current President and Congress holding power in the U.S. that we will see this widespread, but it is happening around the country, as mentioned in the five states in the story. The implications are more far-reaching than it appears when you first hear about the bill. Fetal rights sound great until you realize how it takes away the rights of the pregnant woman.