Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

If you’ve read much about preparing for birth, you probably have realized that there tends to be two different “extremes” when it comes to how much or how little you do to prepare your body for the marathon of birth. On the one hand, there are those who feel strongly that you need to “trust your body” to do what it was made to do, and that the addition of herbs and other proactive methods give moms a sense that their body is broken and unable to work on it’s own. The other hand tends to view the whole process of labor and birth as an “accident waiting to happen”, and rushes to medicalize every situation (for example, routinely inducing labor at 41 weeks just because it’s a week past your due date).

My personal opinion (and take this as my opinion-as with anything, you must do your own research and make your own decisions about these suggestions!), is that there should be a balance between these two extremes. I feel strongly that a women’s body was designed to grow, nourish, carry and deliver a baby, and that you can have confidence that this a totally normal and natural process (and not a medical emergency!). But just like any other capabilities your body may have, these abilities can be supported, enhanced and enabled to do their job more efficiently, smoothly and successfully. With that mindset, I’m going to share with you some suggestions on how to support and prepare your body in order to provide you with a greater possibility of achieving a low-risk, normal, natural vaginal birth.

Some of the biggest factors that arise that prevent moms from their desired birth outcome include: pain in pregnancy that prevent them from moving well at the end of pregnancy, going so far past your due date that your care provider feels like an induction is necessary, a long early phase of labor that prevents mom from getting adequate rest and results in exhaustion (which often ends in transport from home and/or an epidural to provide needed relaxation), and a long pushing period that sometimes ends in surgical or assisted delivery. While there are varying factors in all of these situations that can all be prevented, there are MANY things you can do to reduce your risk of these situations occurring, if you just know what to be aware of and how to help your body to prepare!

  • Movement, Alignment and Positioning:

One key factor that makes a difference in your pregnancy comfort level, baby’s ability to descend efficiently, and your overall length of pregnancy/labor is the position of your baby in relation to your pelvis. I highly recommend you find a good chiropractor in your area (for those who are local you can find some recommendations when you click on the “Local Resources” tab) who is certified in Webster technique and works with pregnant moms, and get regular adjustments specifically throughout the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. If your pelvis and muscles are out of alignment, they can keep baby from being able to descend into a position that is optimal for triggering the start of labor, and the ability of the baby to navigate the birth canal, which can then cause labor to stall and/or make it more challenging for you during the pushing phase.

For the best explanation of position and how this can affect labor (and what you can do about it!), I highly recommend that you take the time to watch the Parent Class taught by Gail Tully at Spinning Babies. Once you’ve watched it, check out the Spinning Babies website for more tips and suggestions on optimizing your baby’s position. And finally, if you are getting near your due date (or are past your due date and are waiting for baby!), taking time to complete a few rounds of the Miles Circuit exercises has been shown to improve baby’s position and encourage labor to happen.

  • Exercise:

As they say, you don’t decide to run a marathon and then complete it tomorrow! I think it’s wise to go into labor with a similar mindset as one would in preparing for a long-distance athletic event. Regular exercises that help to strengthen your legs, open your pelvis (think deep squats and lunges) and build your stamina can play a role in encouraging baby to come in good time, helping to improve your ability to handle the rigors of labor and provide you with a much better recovery. Even if you’re only able to include ten minutes of purposeful exercise a day, it will give you great benefits. Here’s one to get you started: 10 Minute Pregnancy Workout. Long, brisk walks and swimming are also great exercises to consider including in yoaur routine.

  • Herbal Supplements:
    • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea has amazing health benefits, besides helping to prepare and tone your uterus making contractions more efficient. I have more information on this great tea in my post over here, and you can begin drinking one cup a day during the 2nd trimester, increasing to 3+ cups per day as you near your due date.
    • Birth Preparation Formula: I have personally had great success taking an herbal supplement during the last 5-6 weeks of my pregnancies that is specifically geared towards preparing your uterus and cervix for labor. Yes, I take it in addition to Red Raspberry Leaf tea. If you have a history of preterm birth, you would want to wait to start this until 36 weeks, and on the flip side, if you tend to go way past your due date, you could begin taking it at 34 weeks up until delivery. The moms that I have had take this tend to have shorter labors, earlier deliveries, and minimal postpartum bleeding (myself included!). There are several different brands available, though I tend to think the tincture forms work the best. My all-time favorite is the  Gentle Birth Formula. You will need 4 to 6oz in order to take it daily for 5-6 weeks, and it’s best to not consume the tincture in the late afternoon/evening, as it can cause contractions that may prevent you from sleeping!
    • Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil: The high GLA content in either of these oils can help to soften and prepare your cervix for labor, which can assist the body in working more efficiently once labor actually begins. You want a “mega” gel-cap with 1000mg or more per capsule, and this can be taken orally every day for the last trimester, and then also inserted vaginally at bedtime during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
  • Abdominal Support:

Some moms just need some extra support for their abdominal muscles, especially if they have had a few babies, or if their babies tend to be large. The muscles that support the uterus and help it to contract efficiently can become stretched (think of a rubberband that has been completely stretched out, and doesn’t quite return to “normal”), and are unable to “hug” baby enough to get a consistent labor pattern started, or even get baby low enough to obtain a good position to begin with! One way to work with this is to consider regularly providing your uterus with support, in particularly during the last 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. You can purchase a maternity support belt (Belly Bandit has some great, albeit expensive options), but many women find that using a rebozo or long scarf/piece of scarf works great, such as is illustrated in this post here  and another option here. The goal is to pull the uterus slightly up and towards you, mimicking the way your muscles naturally pull, with provides a firm, consistent support (which also relieves pressure from your back!).

  • Eating Dates!

The benefit of consuming dates during the last weeks of pregnancy has only recently been discovered. The suggested protocol is to eat 4-6 dates daily beginning around 36 weeks until you deliver. To find out more, you can check out the details of a recent study at Evidence Based Birth and see what Mama Natural has to say here.

With the exception of eating dates (this is newer option I’ve discovered!), I have personally tried all of the above suggestions for my own five pregnancies and births, and have seen many women successfully use these recommendations throughout my midwifery practice over the past 11+ years. I wish I would have known about many of these earlier in my practice, as I think it would have prevented more transfers and unnecessarily lengthy labors. Another side benefit to following these suggestions is that your body is that much more prepared and ready should an induction actually be medically indicated. While I rarely have reason to need to get labor started, when there is this need and the body is ready for labor, then there are many more options available that have a high likelihood of actually working (in case you’re wondering, one method many midwives use is the Midwife’s Brew, but you should never attempt this without discussing the details, risk vs. benefit, etc. with your care provider!). And if you end up needing a hospitalized induction, the above suggestions will also increase the chances that you end up with a successful induction and normal vaginal birth.

2019 Year End Update

2019 Year End Update

img_3054.jpgDear Friends & Clients of Gentle Delivery,

As we come to the end of the year, I have to think about how blessed I have been to work with so many families during 2019 and to experience the special privilege of being involved as you welcome new life into your homes and families. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to participate in these sacred times!

I’m also grateful for the women who have served alongside me as assistants.  Due to a variety of reasons (maternity leave, relocation, etc.) there were a number of faces to the assistant role, and I am thankful for each one! I also enjoyed getting to involve several students who were completing their requirements for certification, and I’m grateful for those of you who allowed these young ladies to participate in your care. A big thank you to Kristina, Marcile, Hannah, and Lynelle, as well as to my back-up midwife, RoseMarie, whose willingness to cover several times made it possible for me to enjoy some quality away-time with my own little family throughout the year.

It’s always fascinating to see how a year plays out and the variety that it can contain. Baby sizes ranged from 6lb 10oz up to almost 9 lb. Families served were expecting everything from baby #2 to baby #7, and I especially enjoyed serving several families for the second and third times-it’s special to be able to work with families for multiple pregnancies, and to see the older babies growing up! As usual, there were fast births (one little lady didn’t wait for me to arrive!) and those who took their time, and smooth pregnancies & births as well as those who experienced numerous complications—we were so thankful to see God answer specific prayers for the health of these moms & babies who are all thriving and doing well now.

IMG_20191112_111510082

One of our recent playdates!

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to continue connecting with clients during our quarterly playdates throughout this past year. If you haven’t joined us, please consider it! You can watch the Facebook page for updates, or email me to be put on the update list. It’s a great way to stay in touch and meet other moms and homebirth babies who are in similar stages of life!

My own family is doing well, and the children are growing up so quickly, making us want to treasure this time we have while they are young. The biggest event in our lives this year was welcoming Tirzah Raquel into our home on December 14! Once she IMG_0933decided to make her appearance she came quickly, and we were once again thankful for Lynelle’s help as there was no way our midwife could arrive in time. I had really hoped to try using the birth pool this time, and was so grateful for how this helped the intensity! (I’ll post her birth story on the website sometime this next year, so be sure to follow so you get the notification, or watch the Facebook page!) We are thoroughly enjoying time to relax and recover as we adjust to adding a fifth child, and our older children are thoroughly smitten with her. It’s so special to see how much they love having a baby sister to snuggle and love on.

IMG_2695    As 2020 begins, I’ll be taking some time off call to concentrate on my own newborn, and to do some traveling as a family. But I’m already looking forward to the anticipated arrival of babies as we head towards the summer months. In closing, thanks again for your support, and blessings as you head into the New Year!

~ Kelsey Martin for Gentle Delivery Midwifery Services

Midwifery and Mom Life: 10 Year Anniversary Interview ~ Part 2

Midwifery and Mom Life: 10 Year Anniversary Interview ~ Part 2

IMG_20180215_135835185-001


Interview: 10 Year Anniversary of Gentle Delivery ~ Part 2

Thanks again to each of you who contributed questions for this “virtual interview” as Gentle Delivery celebrates 10 years of practice! I’ve enjoyed this opportunity to connect with various readers, and I’ve loved hearing from so many of you. If you missed the first post, you can check it out here.  Here is installment two as I continue working my way through the questions entered:

How do you manage being a midwife and a mom?

Sometimes I’m not sure that I do! But seriously, it comes down to having a very supportive and involved husband. I could not do it without his help & support, and without him having a flexible job. He works from home, and generally speaking is able to set his own schedule. Without these key factors, I don’t think it would be possible. We both feel strongly that our children need to be our priority, especially while they are in their young, formative years, and Joel’s job situation allows us to almost always have one parent present. If I need to run off to a birth or client emergency, than Joel changes his schedule for the day and takes care of the children, which greatly simplifies my life! I honestly do not know how midwives serve year after year with a busy client load combined with stress of needing to figure out babysitting, especially at the last minute. A few months ago, I was called to cover for another midwife who had two moms in labor at once, and the second mom was moving fast. Without having the ability to just load up the car with my gear and run, I would have missed the birth! But since Joel was working from home (his office in our basement), I was able to be out the door in ten minutes, and he took over managing the children. His work-from-home arrangement also allows me to sleep in after a birth, and he will sweetly get children up, feed them breakfast, and care for things while I get some rest.

WP_20160314_003

Hot breakfast made by Joel and snuggles with the baby after being gone all night at a birth!

There are also some practical ways we have found that help to maintain balance, as well. As much as I am able to, I schedule appointments during my youngest children’s nap times, and I try to keep appointments confined to one day each week. This way I am limiting the amount of scheduled time I need to spend away from my children, especially since I never know how much unscheduled time I will be away at actual labors/births/emergencies. Another practicality is hiring cleaning help during especially busy months. My husband maintains that if I’m enjoying midwifery work and getting paid for it, then I might as well pay to get some of my other work done, instead of getting exhausted and stressed out! Oftentimes after a birth we will purchase supper (or take the family out) as a way to get some quality family time AND as a way to provide me with some extra time to do paperwork and miscellaneous business projects. I also get help with school, which is HUGE! My school-age children are part of a hybrid model co-op, where the parents help to teach classes, but they also have a classroom teacher who covers the “basics” and stays on top of the school details. If I was homeschooling full-time there would be NO WAY to do midwifery on top of it.

2015-06-032

Each of my children have attended births with me as babies…quite the adventures we’ve shared together!

Balancing midwifery and mom life includes another factor when I have a nursing infant myself. Whenever I interview with potential clients who would be due after I have a baby, I make it clear that if you hire me, you’re also getting my baby.  I always have an assistant or specific helper along who can care for my baby whenever I need to focus all energies on the laboring mom (and who needs a baby crying in the background when they are ready to push?!?), but otherwise I keep my tiny ones close so they can nurse and be with mama as much as possible. Some families are not okay with this arrangement, and that is their choice. I would much prefer they know what to expect ahead of time, and decide if they are comfortable with my boundaries, are there are always other options out there for them to consider!

One more key factor has been working with a midwife who is willing to trade call at times, which provides me with occasional time off to take trips and spend some focused time with my family. Without this arrangement, I would be tied to my phone and location almost 24/7 all year round! But this has allowed me to still spend some quality time making memories with my children, while knowing that clients are cared for, which is a tremendous blessing. While I still try my best to make it to my clients births, it’s also a relief to know that I can go “off call” occasionally for special events such as a school program.

Downloads9

Twice I’ve caught babies just before delivering my own…one time a week before, and another time two days before!

 Is it realistic to consider being trained as a midwife, and starting your own practice as a midwife, with small children? What advice would you give?

This is a good question that deserves considerable thought. I had the opportunity to do my midwifery training when I was single, which was ideal. In my opinion, training to be a midwife was decidedly more of a time and energy commitment than practicing as a midwife. Here’s the reason why: when you are training, you need LOTS of experience. You need to be able to be completely available to your preceptor midwife, and willing to take advantage of every opportunity you can be part of. The only way to get the experience you need to be a good, safe midwife is by spending an incredible amount of time immersing yourself in pregnancy, birth, postpartum and women’s health. There are a number of midwives who did this training while they were balancing a family, but it is HARD, and you need to be prepared that it will take a long time. As a single young woman, I had the flexibility of time & energy which enabled me to finish my studies and obtain my required clinical experience in about two years. But this included spending 18 months at a birth center where we literally immersed ourselves in the world of birth by living, speaking, and breathing everything birth related. Seriously! I don’t remember a day passing that didn’t include a significant discussion about something to do with an ongoing client situation, lab values, birth stories, complications, etc.  This type of immersion would have been impossible had I been trying to spend time with family, and it certainly sped up the training process.

Now that I am an independent midwife, I can make my own decisions about how many clients to take on in a month, what risks I am comfortable with, what my parameters of practice will be (for instance, when I do prenatal appointments, or what seasons I may not be available for first time moms), and when I want to take personal time off to give my family some breathing space. In most apprenticeships, a supervising midwife counts on a student midwife to be available whenever needed, and the student cannot set these types of parameters and still get the training she needs along with keeping a good preceptor/student relationship. So these factors all need to be considered, and I think there needs to be some serious conversation with your husband and family about whether your family is at a good place to make the sacrifices that training would require. I don’t think one will ever regret spending quality time with her children while they are young, but you might regret not spending that time later on!

I would encourage any young mom interested in midwifery to read as much as you can, as learning more about your body and about the birth process is going to be beneficial no matter what. There are excellent books out there that can lay a great foundation of knowledge about how the pregnancy and birth process works. Watch videos & documentaries, read birth stories, connect with other moms and learn about their birth experiences. Look for opportunities to get involved on a small scale. Perhaps you’d be able to provide doula services for a friend, which would give you and your family the opportunity to experience what it is like to live an “on call” lifestyle (ready for mom to leave at any time day or night!), seeing how it works to have mom leave and how to figure out babysitting fast. This would give you a chance to see what this aspect of being involved in birth can be like. I don’t think any birth experience is wasted time, especially if you’re hoping to be a midwife, so slowly looking for opportunities and taking advantage of them as doors open can help as you consider further commitment. Always remember that if God wants to be a midwife, He will make a way for you…but in His timing, and in a way that it will be a blessing to your family. Be patient, pursue the small opportunities as they arise, and see how He directs as time goes on…one older midwife told me once that “women will always be having babies, but you won’t always have young children, so make sure you don’t regret not enjoying them while you have them.” Excellent advice!

I’d also recommend that any aspiring midwife read A Midwife in Amish Country, as Kim does an excellent job of detailing her experience training to become a midwife as a homeschooling mom of young children, relating her experiences and lessons along the way.

How many births do you take on, and why that many?

This really ties in with the whole mom/midwife balance topic, as this is another way we try to walk this line. As a general rule, I cap a month with two due clients. Occasionally I will take on a third, if my family is at a stage where this is more possible, and if I have a slower month before or after. As a mom approaches her due date, her prenatal visits need to take place more frequently, resulting in more mamas needing to be seen each week. Then you factor in a home visit (an additional afternoon besides my usual appointment day), the birth (for anywhere from 3-30 hours), birth paperwork, another visit to their home for a postpartum check, and the frequent contact via phone/text/email that takes place over this time, doing this more than twice a month in additional to caring for other moms is about what I can do and still enjoy my work. Here again, if I didn’t have young children, and all the unexpected things that factor into life as you care for little people, it would be much easier to add more clients due in a month. But I want to enjoy both my own children and the opportunity to do births, and this number seems to be working well for this stage in life!IMG_0031

Thanks for taking the time to read this second installment in this interview series! If you’d like to contribute a question for a future post, feel free to add it in the comments below. As always, thanks for sharing, and feel free to check out Part One if you haven’t read it yet. See you next month!

Preparing for your birth…

Preparing for your birth…

Newborn-Baby-FeetThis information is written specifically to give first time mothers  and first time VBAC moms suggestions for how to improve their chances at achieving a natural, easier delivery. But that doesn’t mean this is just for them! All of these suggestions can help ANY mom as she prepares for an optimal birth!  Pregnancy and  childbirth is such a special and exciting time, and it is also something to be prepared for ahead of time. It is good to keep in mind that a woman’s body was designed to give birth, and that, normally speaking, your body does know what to do to get the baby out. On the flip side, though, is the fact that this is the first time your body has ever experienced this process. Because of this, labor can sometimes last longer, and be more physically demanding, as your body takes the time it needs for all of the muscles and bones to work together and stretch to allow your baby to enter this world. If you have invested time and effort into preparing ahead of time, your body will benefit, both in the labor and recovery processes. Just think, you wouldn’t run a marathon without giving adequate training and preparation-and so it is with childbirth. You must condition your mind and body to give you the best results.

Throughout the pregnancy:

–          Read and educate yourself! Take childbirth classes, together with your husband. This will help you both to be informed about the physical and emotional processes, and allow you to discuss ideals, hopes, and dreams before labor begins. I believe that education can also help to reduce the level of pain, as it helps you to understand what is going on in your body, instead of fearing the unknown. The more you can find out ahead of time, the more able you will be to relax, knowing your body is doing what it was intended to do. There are many books, DVD’s, and classes available-talk with me if you need suggestions!

–          Eat a healthy diet. A diet full of good, healthful foods (vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates), and low in sugars, fats and simple carbohydrates, can help you in several areas. One, it doesn’t build a huge baby. A smaller baby is easier to push out! Secondly, it allows your body to be able to function at it’s optimal ability, as your energy level is increased. Thirdly, good nutrition can build better skin integrity, which decreases your chances of tears.

–          Exercise regularly. Exercise is an extremely important factor, as labor and birth are very much physical events. Stretching, and building up your endurance level throughout the pregnancy will enable you to persevere if your labor gets long and tiresome. Throughout the last few weeks, walking briskly (until your pelvis hurts!) for at least 45 min. every day, can help to encourage the baby’s arrival to happen sooner rather than later.

–         See a Chiropractor-if your body is not in alignment before labor, this can really slow things down and keep the baby from descending. While having regular adjustments can be helpful, it’s an especially good idea during the last 3-4 weeks, as it can help your body to relax and get the baby into the best possible position before labor begins.

–          Visit http://www.spinningbabies.com and try some of Gail’s suggested techniques for helping baby to achieve the best position. Regularly implementing techniques such as inversions and belly sifting can help to reduce your overall labor time by helping your body to stay aligned and encouraging good position of the baby!

–          Practice relaxation. If you can learn to relax, go limp, and let your body work before labor begins, then the better able you will be to do this during labor. Remember, fighting pain and discomfort works against you during labor-you must open up, let go, and relax in order for your uterus to function the most efficiently. And the more efficiently it works, the easier it will be on you! In practicing, pick times of the day when you can work on letting each area of your body go limp. Find out what helps you to relax: water, music, massage, etc., and then have these available during labor.

During the last 5 weeks:

–          I encourage moms to take the following supplements:

  • Gentle Birth Formula ~ this is a specially formulated blend of herbs in a tincture form that work to help prepare the uterus for the upcoming birth. You begin at 35 weeks by taking 2 dropperfulls a day throughout the first week, and increasing the amount to 2 dropperfulls 3x/day for the remaining weeks. Mothers who take this herb usually have more “warm-up” contractions, which help the cervix to begin dilation and effacement before actual labor. This tincture can be purchased through In His Hands Birth supply at the same time that you order your birth kit.
  • Super Primrose Oil or Borage Oil ~ this supplement is in a soft-gel form, and you begin taking 1-2 capsules orally beginning at 35 weeks. Around 36-37 weeks, you may begin inserting one capsule vaginally at night when ready to go to bed. The high GLA content and natural prostaglandin that these oils contain helps the cervix to soften, making dilation easier. It’s a great way to give your body a head-start towards dilation!

In closing, remember to keep yourself hydrated, rest often, and take care of yourself. And when labor begins, try to get some rest before getting excited.   You need to conserve the energy for later. So think about some activities that provide fun distraction (games, movies, going out for supper, etc.), and try to focus on other things until the contractions become consistent and strong enough that you can’t be distracted through them….