Monday, February 22, 2010

More Evidence About the Possible Dangers of Ultrasound

Year after year, the evidence keeps mounting, and yet, I am hearing about women having more and more ultrasounds during their pregnancy. This week, I came across an article in "Midwifery Today" about problems with sound and heat in prenatal ultrasounds. I'll jump through all the jargon and technicalities and just lay it on the line.

If you've ever had an ultrasound -- and who hasn't? -- the technician likely had to keep moving the transducer to keep up the baby. Did it ever cross your mind that perhaps your baby is trying to get away from the sound of the ultrasound? In 2001, research found, when placing a miniature hydrophone in a woman's uterus, the sound from an ultrasound to be "as loud as a subway train coming into the station." Recent research has found the same. High levels of heat are also associated with ultrasound.

A rise in temperature can cause damage to the baby's central nervous system. Repeated exposure shows that elevated heat caused by ultrasound damages fetal brains in other mammals, with the assumption that it can harm human brains as well. I just have to go back to the dramatic rise in autism in the last decade. Personally, I do not believe this is a coincidence. I believe that it is related to ultrasound.

The FDA and a number of medical associations have repeatedly advised against nonmedical or "keepsake" ultrasound portrait studios in local malls across the United States. There are a number of problems with these: The risks are possibly higher at these type of establishments because of the higher acoustic output required for high-definition images. Also, these sessions tend to be longer because the technicians are searching for suitable images. The technicians may or may not have a medical background or even appropriate training.

There is no way to tell if your baby will be affected adversely by ultrasound. Really, consider the reason for the ultrasound. What will you do with the results? Will it make a difference, regardless of what it tells you? Ultimately, is ultrasound worth the risks?

Monday, February 1, 2010

So You Want to Have a VBAC...

Isn't pregnancy a miraculous time in a woman's life? To look down and see your belly grow, and grow, and grow! There are moments of panic when you look at your belly and think, "This has to come out of me!" We all do it. It can be frightening and overwhelming.

For the millionth time -- say it with me -- education and a supportive birth team are the keys to a successful, happy, unmedicated birth. Preparing your mind and your body for labor are crucial, but it does no good if you have a doctor who is determined that you need to be induced or are too weak to give birth without his/her assistance. Surrounding youself with positive energy is an absolute must. An unmedicated labor and birth are hard enough under the best circumstances, but nearly impossible with no education and support.

We've talked about American birth and the scenarios that lead to the majority of c-sections. They often begin with an induction, which leads to an epidural, which leads to pitocin to stimulate contractions, which leads to fetal distress and a mom who can't move around to help her baby out. The c-section "saves" the baby. There are lots of variations of this scenario. Maybe this sounds familiar to you.

Let's say this scenario ends in a c-section, which 50% of births do in North TX (33% nationwide), and most women begin that sentence somewhere along these lines: "I had to have a c-section because..." Let's face it -- had she not had the epidural and the cascading interventions that followed, she very likely would NOT have had to have a c-section. Harsh? Perhaps. I think it is crucial that women -- and men -- come to understand their role and their responsibilities when it comes to birthing their child(ren). They need to understand that by interfering with the natural process, they are (almost always) doing more harm than good.

But they can change their next birth.

Here's another harsh statement: If you want a different outcome, you have to do things differently! You have already been labeled by everyone as a VBACer. That previous c-section will follow you forever. Some providers care and others don't. You make most doctors nervous even though your chance of rupture is the same as a women who goes in for a -- in this day and age -- standard pitocin induction.

If the epidural led you down the road to a c-section the first time, why would you do it again? Maybe you aren't even aware that that is why you had the c-section. Think back to your labor. Often, everything is fine until pitocin or pain medication is introduced. If you were told that your hips were too small or or baby was too big, why would you just take that? Your body grew your baby. It is made to birth your baby. Get up. Walk. Give birth. Squat. Take an active role in your labor and your birth. You can do it. If your doctor says no way, he won't do a VBAC, I don't care if he's a "nice guy" (I hear this all the time!), change doctors! Find that supportive birth team. They are out there!

I routinely hear women ask if they can expect their labors to be like their mothers -- slow, fast, c-sections, etc. -- and most doctors will say there is no correlation. And yet, recently I heard of a women who was told that her mother had c-sections, so she probably needed them too. Her sisters have also all had c-sections. The power of suggestion is an amazing thing. How can the need for c-sections run in an entire family?!

One of my Bradley moms gave birth this past Friday (my birthday, too!) and the day before she had been at her chiropractor's office. This woman had been laboring on and off for a couple of days and was exhausted. Her chiropractor told her to talk to her body and her mind. "Tell your body to stop labor for a while so you can sleep." That night she did just that and she slept for a solid hour and woke up to her water breaking and hard labor. She gave birth about 7 hours later. The mind and body work together in labor. Modern medicine discounts this very important fact and only focuses on the body.

My point - the mind is so powerful. If you want a VBAC, go for it. But it will not just magically happen for you. And it is not about luck. It is about preparation and hiring the right care provider who believes in you! Prepare for an unmedicated birth if you really want that VBAC!

It cannot go unmentioned at this point that even if you hire a doctor who is pro-VBAC, it is vital that his/her hospital and OB group also support VBACs. If you read Allison's story a couple of months ago, we learned how important this aspect of your health-care is. Everyone must be on the same page. When I lived in Albuquerque, I was interviewing a group of midwives at one of the local hospitals and they were so proud of their VBAC rate -- an astounding 92.3%! But they all had the same goal. Supporting women. Encouraging them to push their babies out vaginally! If your OB or midwifery group says they support VBACs, ask them for their VBAC rate. According to CIMS' Mother-Friendly guidelines, that rate should not fall below 75%. That means that at least 3 out of every 4 women will achieve a vaginal birth after a cesarean.

Bottom line. You will birth this baby one time. No second chances. Don't let the American way of not "allowing" you to VBAC keep you from this experience. Make the commitment to yourself, your husband, and especially your baby, that you will not have medication to numb this experience. Embrace it. You and your baby deserve to experience labor and a vaginal birth.