Our conferences are being described by attendees as, “The BirthWorks Experience” and this is different from other conferences they have attended. Our program is based on the practice of human values along with integration of the mind, body, and spirit. This is experienced in all of our conferences and workshops as well as in our training programs. The setting of the Lakeside Inn overlooking the lake was infused with peace itself, thus enhancing the theme of our conference, “Peace in Birth.”
All keynote speakers and presenters focused their talks on the theme of how birthing families and health care professionals can have more peace in birth. They addressed this in a multitude of ways ranging from birthing vocabulary, to mother/baby skin-to-skin contact, to empowering high risk moms, to the importance of comprehensive childbirth education, to avoiding birth-worker burnout, to healing through birth stories and finding peace after experiencing birth trauma to name a few. I will touch on some of the keynote lectures here.
Nancy Wainer explored the world of birthing vocabulary and its effects on pregnancy, labor, and birth. She made distinctions such as “We don’t catch babies, we receive them.” The Bag of waters becomes the “amniotic release.” The mucous plug becomes “Baby Gel.” Is there such a thing as a “Natural Cesarean?” or a “Gentle Cesarean?”
Michel Odent MD discussed how the human placenta transfers antibodies to the mother so that the mother’s microbiota is friendly to the baby. Today most women give birth where there are unfriendly microbes, not colonized in the same way. Today we must ask, “How is our health to be organized?” He said, there are only two kinds of birth: birth at home, and birth elsewhere. Today, we have dysregulation of the immune system comparing only with hospital birth. We need to find new ways to adapt. He went on to say that too often we associate stress as a negative way of thinking, but there are times when we need stress hormones. In a pre-labor cesarean section, babies are not being exposed to fetal stress hormones. For example, corticosteroids are needed for maturation of the baby’s lungs. Also, understanding the birth process means understanding “Neocortical inhibition” which should become part of the birth vocabulary. We need to wonder why birth is so difficult for some women and not for others. It has to do with “Neocortical inhibition.” The neocortex must stop working in labor.” Women need to be protected against key inhibitory functions.
Michel made the trip across the Atlantic at the age of 88. We gave him a tribute slide show of his work through the years, including pictures as a child, and also gave him a journal in which everyone at the conference wrote words of gratitude to him for his lifelong work in birth. When asked the question, “What made you become interested in birth?” he answered, “Oh, I’m not interested in birth – I’m interested in humans but of course birth is a part of human existence.”
Brad Bootstaylor MD: Is one of three obstetricians in Georgia performing vaginal breeches in a hospital setting. His Dads catch babies 90% of the time. He sees birth as a natural event that may or may not need managing. He emphasized the need to always have a conversation with birthing parents in shared decision making, hearing their needs and then discussing how they can work together. Even in an emergency cesarean, the process is important. He said, “I help her to remember that her job is to bring her baby here to the earth.” He shared seven pearls of care some of which were respecting a patient’s values, enhancing physical comfort, providing emotional support, involving the family and especially listening to the mother.
Dr. Bootstaylor said he enjoys his work and brings a positive attitude to women giving birth and their families. He doesn’t think, “Oh my, she’s still here!” He has assisted many women in vaginal breech births thus helping to avoid the major surgery of a cesarean. Above all, he feels a trusting relationship is essential to any birth.
Lewis Mehl Madrona: Being a board certified family physician and psychiatrist of the native Lakota American Indian background, Lewis brings storytelling as a form of healing in his culture and he has applied that to birth over much of his life. He acknowledged that there are both good and bad stories but they are the glue that hold people together. Every story we hear affects our physiology whether we like it or not. If we use it, it grows up; if not used, it fades away. How do we make sense of story trauma? Know that even in the worst trauma, good comes out of bad. This transforms the victim into a hero. What makes people feel better is giving meaning to what happened. You can’t erase a story once it is told. We can also strengthen good stories by retelling them over and over again. Lewis said story-based medicine may treat pain. Listening without interruption and judgment is the greatest gift we can give anyone.
Mary Renfrew: is a leading health researcher and midwife. She has conducted research in maternity care and in infant feeding for over 30 years and her work has informed and helped to shape policy and practice in those fields both nationally and internationally. Her work has a core focus on improving health and care for women, babies, and families and reducing the impact of inequalities. Due to ankle surgery, her fascinating lecture was presented through skype. She spoke about global challenges and developments in midwifery and how to tackle those through evidence and through education thereby moving evidence into policy and practice.
Amber Price: As the only CEO in the country who is also a midwife, Amber had much to share with us about how she is making changes to help pregnant women and women in labor at the Tristar Centennial Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Nashville TN. She said as a society, we dictate behavior for mothers and babies, but instead, we need to teach and not mandate. Below are just a few of the points she made in her talk. View her entire fascinating talk by purchasing it at birthpedia.net/learn
- 52% of pregnant women in the US are obese with BMIs over 50. Hospitals need equipment to meet their needs. If women don’t get what they need, they won’t come back.
- Women think they are going to be treated like a queen in the hospital, but are often disappointed.
- Both women and health care providers feel alone and largely unsupported.
- There is mutual distrust between women and healthcare providers, exacerbated by word of mouth and the media.
- Procedure rather than patient centered care is prioritized by healthcare providers. Women’s reports of care indicate that interventions are routinely imposed on them without meaningful informed consent.
- The difference between home and hospital birth is that birthing women take on guest status. People are in control in their own homes, however, when walking into the hospital, the minute they ask “May I use the bathroom?” or “May I have something to eat,” someone has power over them.
See our next E-news for the Professional Forums held at our conference.