|August 1, 2012|
Volume 14, Issue 16
|Midwifery Today E-News|
“Dads and Labor”
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Midwifery Education for a Global Future is an intensive study day designed for existing and would-be midwifery educators, students and anyone who cares about this topic. Elizabeth Davis, Sharon Evans, Gail Hart and Jan Tritten bring diverse experience and approaches that will enhance your knowledge in this area.
Come to our conference in Eugene, Oregon, April 2013. You’ll learn from a great group of teachers, including Elizabeth Davis (pictured), Patricia Edmonds, Sharon Evans, Anne Frye, Carol Gautschi, Gail Hart, Sister MorningStar, Michel Odent and Gail Tully. Classes to choose from cover a wide array of topics, including a full-day Spinning Babies Workshop, a full-day on Mexican Traditions and Techniques and a two-day Midwifery Skills class. Plan now to attend!
In This Week’s Issue
Pregnant women are not sick; they’re pregnant.
— Dr. Robert Bradley
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When I first started my practice, I would actively coach, give foot massage, rub backs, etc. I also seemed to have marathon labors. When I shifted my focus to the father doing the support, my labor time was cut by an average of 10 to 12 hours. The moral seems to be to let the couple who made the baby and grew the baby, birth the baby and they will find their pace more quickly and easily.
— Page Biega
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Fathers in China
It seems that fathers in many places around the world are stepping up and taking a bigger role in both the births and rearing of their children. China is no exception. During a trip there in June of 2012, I spoke to a room full of about 100 couples in a childbirth education class. The fact that the fathers were happily participating in learning about birth spoke volumes.
In several of the Chinese hospitals I visited, fathers were with the laboring moms to offer support and help. Sometimes the midwives feel the hospital wards are too crowded with beds and do not have the space to accommodate fathers. Still, there seems to be a realization in China of the importance of fathers during labor and birth. During my trip I saw that often the father is with mom through labor, but is not invited to the actual birth. It was unclear if they thought the father would faint or what the reasons were for why he was not invited to the birth. Before the 1970s, fathers in the US were not allowed in birthing rooms. Strides have been and are being made here in the US, and there is great hope for China as well.
Carol Gautschi, a midwife and contributing writer for Midwifery Today, was with me in China, and together we went to five births in two different hospitals. We were able to completely lead the births, and at each one we asked that the father come into the birthing room. We are hoping some of the ideas we worked on with the Chinese midwives will continue to stick, including the presence of the dads at birth. I will be writing for the December issue of Midwifery Today about the other miracles that took place in China on this inspirational trip. Meanwhile, let’s give a place of honor to fathers at birth—a place where they belong if desired by the birthing mom.
— Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today
Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.
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More Time in Womb Is Better
A recent study suggests that even for full-term babies, a little more time in the womb may be beneficial for brain development.
The study conducted showed that children born at 37 and 38 weeks, considered full-term, didn’t score as well on third-grade math and reading tests than children born just a week or two later. Experts are saying that the results of the study suggest the definition of preterm babies (born before 37 weeks) should be reconsidered.
Compared with those born at 41 weeks, children born at 37 weeks faced a 33% increased chance of having severe reading difficulty in third grade and a 19% greater chance of having moderate problems in math.
— Tanner, L. 2012. “Early Full-term Babies May Face Later Academic Woes; More Time in Womb Is Better, Study Says.” The Huffington Post. Updated July 2, 2012. Accessed July 11, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/early-full-term-babies_n_1642546.html
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A Note to Fathers: It’s You She Wants
They are nineteen years old and in labor with their first child. Three months earlier they sat in my living room, asking questions and scribbling notes during childbirth classes. In many ways, they seemed to still be children themselves.
But not today. Today they are in labor. As each contraction begins to build, her small body loosens and lets go, her eyes close in concentration, her cheeks flush with effort. I sit and watch as he holds her, tears streaming down his face. Her pain is his pain. They are one in the process of birth.
Between contractions he wipes her face with a cool cloth, gently patting each eye with a tenderness that is like worship. As their labor unfolds I know that I am witnessing more than the birth of a baby. It is also the birth of a woman and a mother; the birth of a man and a father; the birth of a relationship that will never, ever be the same.
What is the role of the father who is present at the birth of his child? Is he a labor coach, advocate or partner? Is he a fifth wheel? A nuisance? A liability? In the 12 years that I have served birthing families in my community, I have heard many passionate opinions about the presence of fathers at birth. Over the years my own understanding of the role that fathers play in pregnancy and birth has developed to become much deeper and more complex as I have served different families, each with their own unique relationship, culture, expectations and beliefs.
In the early days of my work as a childbirth educator and doula, I saw fathers as “labor coaches” who had a unique place in the “birth team.” Many of my couples gave birth in hospitals, so I prepared the fathers in my classes to assist their partners in two ways. First, as a labor assistant helping the mom achieve deep relaxation, working with her body and performing comfort measures such as massage. Some fathers loved doing these things. Others found them to be awkward and even embarrassing. With gentle guidance and encouragement, each father eventually found his own way of participating in his baby’s birth. But one thing was certain: each father was as unique as each laboring woman, and no predetermined agenda of mine was going to result in a cookie-cutter army of labor coaches able to do the job in the same way at each birth!
Read this article excerpt from the newest issue of Midwifery Today, Summer 2012:
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Q: Was the father of your baby present for the birth? What meaning did this have for you?
— Midwifery Today
A: He was there every step of the way and held my hand through every contraction. He was my rock, and I don’t think I could have gotten through it without him there, even with two wonderful midwives by my side!
— Veronica Leonard
A: Not only was he present, he was an integral part of the birth process. We were inseparable at the births of both our children. Our connection grew so strong through labor that I mainly focused on labor and him. I was glad to have the support of the midwives who let us do our laboring together and helped in quiet, unobtrusive ways. I now look back at that connection we had and how it was the perfect beginning to our parenting journey together.
— Gretchen Gossard Graves
A: I could not have done it without him either time! In fact, he was the only one present at the last birth besides my children. It was incredible and empowering, and when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore he gave me the strength I needed to finish!
— Birth Swings
A: I just needed his hand and his voice. My eyes were closed, but I needed his hand so I didn’t feel alone, and I needed his voice to keep me going. I needed to know he believed in me, that I could do it, that he loved me, and it didn’t matter what he said, but the tone of his voice told me everything I needed to hear. I couldn’t have done it without him!
— Colleen Curry, doula
Do not forget that in addition to food for the laboring woman, food for dad is vitally important. Fruit and [more healthful] snacks and drinks should not be forgotten. There have been many times where the father forgets to eat or finds himself running out for food at midnight only to find cold stale fries and an old rubbery hamburger at some fast food restaurant.
— Practical Home Birth, practical help and encouragement for home birthing mothers
A laboring woman is not always in the best condition to make hard decisions or assertive requests. Be ready to step in if the situation calls for it. You may need to ask that her health care practitioner be woken from a nap, that an anesthesiologist be paged or that a mirror be brought in. And if Mom plans to breastfeed, help make sure that she has a chance to do so soon after the baby’s born and that someone’s there to help her if she’s having trouble.
— Baby Center, 10 tips for labor coaches
Many fathers are eager to be involved during labor and birth. Others, no less loving or committed to their partners’ well-being, find it difficult to navigate in uncharted waters. With a doula, a father can share in the birth at a level which feels most comfortable. The doula’s skills and knowledge can help him to feel more relaxed. If the father wants to provide physical comfort, such as back massage and change of positions, and help his partner to stay focused during contractions, the doula can provide that guidance and make suggestions for what may work best.
— DONA International
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Eugene Conference Program
The program for the Eugene, Oregon, conference has been completed. Please save the dates of April 3–7, 2013, for an excellent upcoming conference in our beautiful hometown of Eugene. Come take some of Eugene’s great energy home with you! Our theme is “Weaving Together the Art, Science and Spirit of Midwifery.” With wonderful teachers and great classes, we expect this to be an amazing part of your midwifery and birth education. Classes such as Essential Midwifery, Midwifery Skills, Twins, Breech, Craniosacral Therapy, Communication as an Art Form, Art in Midwifery, Gail Tully’s ever-famous Spinning Babies Workshop and dozens more will ensure there is something for everyone. You can take a peek at the program and particulars here.
Our goal for conference is to organize fun, insightful and inspirational times full of friendship and provide a place where you can receive the best information on many aspects of our calling, which is to help motherbaby have the best prenatal, birth and postpartum periods possible. Whether you are just beginning your journey into this beautiful and important work or whether you are a well-seasoned practitioner, our goal is help you be the best you can be for the families you serve. We are here to help.
— Jan Tritten
I just completed a homebirth that was thought to be twins for several months. I had listened to two distinct heartbeats prenatally and during the birth. The end result was one 8 lb baby girl with two complete knots in the cord. I have been reading that a knot can change the pressure in the cord to sound like two heartbeats. Wow! What are the chances of two tight knots? Baby is great and the placenta looked way over-term. It is amazing what miracles can happen when we give them the chance to unfold. Blessings to all the babies that grow to be healthy against all odds!
— Dragonfly Earth Medicine
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