June 5, 2013
Volume 15, Issue 12
Midwifery Today E-News
“Undisturbed Birth”
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Help your clients have more comfortable labors

Belgium conferenceAttend “Comfort Techniques for Midwives and Doulas,” a full-day pre-conference class with Debra Pascali-Bonaro. You’ll learn about techniques such as the gate control theory of pain, hot and cold compresses, music, massage/touch, acupressure, aromatherapy and the birthing ball. You’ll see demonstrations of a variety of positions and techniques for both first and second stage, and there will be time for hands-on practice. Registrants at previous conferences have raved about this class, calling it fun and informative. Part of our conference in Belgium, 30 October – 3 November.

Learn more about the Belgium conference.

Come to Moscow! Learn about birth!

Russia conferencePlan to attend the “Natural Birth: Skills, Science and Traditions” conference 25–29 June in Moscow, Russia. You will meet amazing and informative teachers from around the world, including Gail Hart (pictured), Carol Gautschi, Sister MorningStar, Elizabeth Davis and Beverley Lawrence Beech. Planned classes include Spinning Babies Workshop, Birth Trauma and Baby Health, Mexican Traditions and Techniques, and Fear: How It Affects Labor.

Learn more about the Russia conference.

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Quote of the Week

Today, where childbirth is concerned, we are like travelers finding out that we are on a wrong path. In this case, usually the best action is to go back to the point of departure before it is too late and to take another direction.

Michel Odent
Excerpted from “Dispelling Disempowering Birth Vocabulary,” Birth Wisdom from Michel Odent, a Midwifery Today e-book.
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The Art of Midwifery

If undisturbed and able to stay instinctual—moving about and pacing her breath—[the mother] will work her baby out as if she were on an island by herself. Confidently, she will twist and turn, bellow or moan, breathe deeply, squat or lie, drink or seek a corner. The most important thing for the midwife during the pushing phase of labor is to refrain from engaging the mother’s thinking brain. Stay sensual with her. If you feel she needs to slow her breathing down or to breathe more deeply, sit nearby and do that. Breathe the way you want her to breathe. She will do exactly what you do.

Sister MorningStar
Excerpted from “Midwifing Second Stage,” Second Stage: The Pushing Phase of Labor, a Midwifery Today e-book.
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Jan’s Corner

Undisturbed Birth

Do we really know what undisturbed birth is? Are most of us able to really refrain from disturbing this ancient and knowing process? Do we get in the way too much, thus causing some of the complications we hope to avoid? I just read Michel Odent’s article for the next Midwifery Today magazine. His idea of undisturbed birth includes not being in the laboring woman’s sight so she doesn’t feel observed. According to Odent, the midwife should sit in the background knitting or doing some other kind of repetitive task in order to keep her own adrenaline low. She is not even to respond in language during transition when the laboring woman says things like, “I want to go to the hospital…take this pain away…kill me!” This is because language stimulates the neocortex of the brain. How many of us have attended a truly undisturbed birth? What about checking fetal heart tones? Can we do that quietly and with a fetoscope so a noisy Doppler doesn’t stimulate the mother’s “thinking” brain? Could we inadvertently be causing complications or even longer labor with our actions, or what seem to us like “midwifery model of care” necessities?

My friend and physician/midwife from Venezuela, Fernando Molina, teaches classes called Magical Beginnings. He says that if we midwives can clear all emotional issues in the prenatal period, birth will happen. His Magical Beginnings course is designed to do that. Italian midwife and teacher Verena Schmid purports the same thing: Get fears and issues taken care of in the prenatal period and the birth will go well. Even if you are not able to clear up the emotional issues beforehand, it is still possible to conduct births in an Odent manner and not hinder what Odent calls “the fetal ejection reflex,” which is the involuntary act of pushing that happens when mothers are undisturbed—they don’t need to be told to push; the body will do so on its own. These are interesting aspects to ponder because the less interference the better, mostly. As we all know, there is that occasional need to intervene. It is always a good idea to reevaluate what we do based on new evidence. The problem is if we are regulated, we have protocols that dictate interference. We use outdated procedures, such as giving oxygen, at births. Regulations cannot move quickly with evidence. That is really very sad for midwifery. I hope you will find ways to help fight this trend.

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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Featured Article

Knitting Midwives for Drugless Childbirth

I cannot forget the time when a woman could give birth in a small, dimly lit room with nobody around but an experienced and silent midwife, sitting in a corner and knitting. The situation was obviously conducive to easy births (Odent 1966).

The Physiological Effects of Repetitive Tasks

It is fruitful to reinterpret such a scene in the scientific context of the twenty-first century. At the April 2004 British Psychological Society conference, Dr. Emily Holmes from Cambridge University presented her studies on the effects of repetitive tasks, such as knitting, in stressful situations. In one study, volunteers were recruited to watch video footage of real car crashes showing dead bodies and a lot of blood. Some participants were given a repetitive task, such as tapping out a complex five-key sequence of numbers on a keypad, to do while they watched. Those who were given such a task experienced fewer flashbacks during the following days than the others. The author concludes from Dr. Holmes’ studies that repetitive tasks are an extremely effective means of reducing tension. Dr. Holmes emphasized that her research was consistent with the actions of notorious French tricoteuses of the French Revolution, such as Madame Defarges, who knitted while watching people being guillotined, apparently never experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder. She also referred to the use of worry beads in many cultures, such as Greece, as a way to cope with stressful situations.

We might translate such findings into physiological language and conclude that when midwives spend hours and hours knitting, their own levels of adrenaline are kept as low as possible. Since high levels of adrenaline are extremely contagious, the progress of labor is to a great extent dependent on the adrenaline levels of those around the laboring woman.

Primary Objective

Such considerations are of paramount importance at a time when we must learn to think long-term and to think in terms of civilization. The aim of any futuristic birth strategy should be that as many women as possible give birth vaginally, thanks to an undisturbed flow of love hormones. The future of our civilizations is at stake.

Michel Odent
Excerpted from “Knitting Midwives for Drugless Childbirth,” Midwifery Today, Issue 71 (also found in Birth Wisdom from Michel Odent, a Midwifery Today e-book)
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Website Update

Read this article excerpt from the Spring 2013 issue of Midwifery Today magazine:

  • Ultrasound: Prematurity and Potential Risks by Beverley Lawrence Beech

    For its prevalent usage, ultrasound has been enormously under-researched. Written by the honorary chair for AIMS, this article is a useful step towards filling the lack of research and data on ultrasound.

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Birth Q&A

Q: Please describe your concept of an undisturbed birth. What does it mean to you? Have you ever seen one or had one personally?

— Midwifery Today

A: One where the mother is in an environment that supports her biological instincts. She is comfortable, trusts the people surrounding her and listens to her body for movement, positions, vocalization and the need for assistance. Yes, I had one and, wow, what a difference from my other birth. I could tell the difference in oxytocin at the moment of birth—the instinctual birth had much higher and profound levels. Both births were at home.

— Danielle Bergum

A: The process unfolds without interruption, with only support and love from those around. Yes, I have seen a few. I have also experienced it.

— Kathryn Barron

A: Great question, Jan, especially when we are celebrating the International Week for a Respected Birth. Our theme this year is Silence. Please…mom is giving birth…baby is being born. That is all there is for an undisturbed birth: love, silence, reverence, trust, empowerment and a “do not disturb” philosophy for the cocktail of love hormones. Indeed I have been honored to see many undisturbed births.

Fernando Molina

A: I have had two. It means, “Leave me the hell alone unless I ask you to do something.”

— Rebekah Costello

A: I always like the births that are just as they would have been if I wasn’t there at all. Homebirth: the standard of care.

Marion Toepke McLean

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Conference Chatter

A Note from the Conference Coordinator

Hello everyone! I am the new Conference Coordinator for Midwifery Today and this is my first contribution to E-News. I was delighted to meet some of you at this past Eugene conference, and I can’t wait until October to see more of your lovely faces in Belgium.

I have been a longtime reader of Midwifery Today, and I was overjoyed to take part in this last conference. What struck me most was the amazing energy that radiated from all of you. The sisterhood and love was infectious! I was able to tear myself away from the registration desk now and again to soak up some of the classes. As a doula, and self-described “birth nerd,” it was such a thrill to sit in on classes taught by such brilliant speakers. I admit, I was a tad star-struck getting to meet so many of the people whose work I have admired.

It’s been a delight to read all of your conference evaluation forms and getting to hear what you loved and what you would like to see at future conferences. I want to let you all know that I am listening, and my goal is to contribute as much as I can to make these conferences all they can be (a big job, as they are already so amazing). Based on your feedback, we’ve got a few new additions to upcoming conferences that I think you will all love, so keep an eye out for those next year.

So, many thanks to all of the amazing attendees and teachers of the Eugene 2013 conference. We are gearing up for our time in Blankenberge, Belgium, in October, and it promises to be just as fantastic. Please feel free to greet me at the registration desk, or you can always drop me a line at conference@midwiferytoday.com with any of your questions or feedback.

— Andrea Goldman

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After experiencing very painful contractions, I called my midwife and she advised me to call back when they were 4–5 minutes apart. We were planning our second homebirth with our third baby. After an hour of continued inconsistent contractions, I called my midwife again and asked her to come because I wasn’t coping very well. Within two minutes of hanging up the phone, I felt the urge to push. I was trying to take my pants off when I reached down and felt a head. Within seconds the rest of our baby was born. My poor husband missed the birth as he was running towels to the dryer and phoning our midwife, who arrived five minutes after our son was born. Talk about a surprise!

— Erin Bolokoski

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