April 23, 2014
Volume 16, Issue 9
Midwifery Today E-News
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Birth Wisdom from Michel Odent

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This e-book is a collection of 24 articles by French obstetrician and natural childbirth advocate Michel Odent. Dr. Odent has been influencing the history of childbirth and health research for several decades and is familiarly known as the obstetrician who introduced the concept of birthing pools and home-like birthing rooms. When you buy this e-book, you’ll be able to read articles such as When Love Hormones Become Useless, Dispelling Disempowering Birth Vocabulary, and Childbirth from a Bacteriological Perspective.

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In This Week’s Issue

UK conferenceImprove your midwifery skills and knowledge

Attend the full-day Midwifery Skills class with Verena Schmid (pictured), Gail Hart, Amali Lokugamage and Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos. Suitable for both beginning and advanced midwives, sessions include Essential Prenatal Care, Complications of Labor and Newborn Complications.

Learn more about the Bury St. Edmunds, UK, conference.

AU conferenceLearn about midwifery skills from around the world

Come to our conference in Byron Bay, Australia, this November. You’ll be able to choose from classes such as Spinning Babies with Gail Tully (pictured), Prolonged Pregnancy with Gail Hart, Rebozo Techniques from Mexico with Angelina Martinez Miranda, and Placenta as Medicine with Jodi Selander. Plan now to attend.

Learn more about the Byron Bay, Australia, conference.

Quote of the Week

Don’t make a baby if you can’t be a father.

National Urban League slogan

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The Art of Midwifery

As midwives, we aren’t going to forget that a baby is being born. Nor are we likely to forget that a mother is being born. But sometimes we need to be reminded that a father is also being born. We must choose not to ignore the father’s significance. Indeed, we need to find ways to include him.

Jan Tritten
Excerpted from “From Jan and Jennifer on Fathers,” Midwifery Today, Issue 51
View table of contents / Order the back issue

ALL BIRTH PRACTITIONERS: The techniques you’ve perfected over months and years of practice are valuable lessons for others to learn. Share them with E-News readers by sending them to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com.

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Editor’s Corner


The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) triennial conference is being held June 1–5, 2014, in Prague, Czech Republic. This is a not-to-be-missed event where midwives from as many as 162 countries gather to share what they are doing in their countries and present workshops, posters and papers.

This is the information from the ICM website:

“The Prague 2014 Congress looks set to have one of the largest country representations, with 1360 abstracts being received from midwives in 85 countries. This is matched by 162 countries regularly visiting the Congress website.

“The top ten countries submitting abstracts for the Prague Congress are: UK, Japan, Australia, USA, Netherlands, Brazil, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada and Spain.”

I have had the opportunity to attend several of these events, and they are a fabulous place to get a pulse on midwifery and birth worldwide. You can go home with many new friends from around the world. Often as many as 4000 midwives attend this conference. I hope to meet some of you there! Here is a link to their site to get you started: http://www.midwives2014.org/

— 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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Conference Chatter

We hope you will be able to attend one of our 2014 conferences, but if you cannot, you still can “attend” some classes with excellent teachers by purchasing MP3 recordings on a USB drive. We will have classes from Michel Odent, Gail Hart and many others available to you in MP3 format on USB drives. We also have hundreds of audio tapes from many of our past conferences.

Here are some conference classes you can enjoy and learn from that we recorded during our 2013 Blankenberge, Belgium, conference:

  • Complications of Labor, Birth and the First Hour after Birth with Tine Greve and Gail Hart
  • Physiological Analgesia in Labor with Verena Schmid
  • Improving Your Practice with Research, Insights and Realities—First Do No Harm with Soo Downe and Michel Odent
  • In-depth Midwifery with Verena Schmid and Carol Gautschi
  • Waterbirth with Cornelia Enning
  • Autonomous Midwifery: The Key to the Future with Jan Tritten, Cornelia Enning and Elizabeth Davis
  • Prolonged Labor with Gail Hart
  • Childbirth Education with Marlene Reyns
  • First Do No Harm with Michel Odent
  • Birth Is a Human Rights Issue with Soo Downe, Debra Pascali-Bonaro and Robbie Davis-Floyd
  • Demedicalizing a Physiological Process with Michel Odent and Verena Schmid
  • Fear in Midwifery and Birth with Debra Pascali-Bonaro
  • Hemorrhage: Prevention and Management with Gail Hart
  • International Midwifery with Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos and Jan Tritten
  • Midwifery in Belgium: Challenges and Opportunities with Lieve Huybrechts and Marlene Reyns
  • Birth and Beyond with Michel Odent
  • Global Trends in Midwifery: The Post Modern Midwife with Robbie Davis-Floyd
  • A New Model of Care for Midwives: The Need for an Independent Theory of Midwifery Care with Verena Schmid

You can purchase the Belgium 2013 USB drive on our website. USB drives from the following conferences may also be purchased:

— Jan Tritten

Keep up to date with conference news on Facebook:

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ICEA Online Doula Certification Program Rolls Out! The ICEA certification program for doulas has expanded to include the option of training within the comfort of your own home. This is a great opportunity for want-to-be-doulas who may not have the ability to attend a training face-to-face. ICEA ~ International Childbirth Education Association For more information, please visit http://www.icea.org

Featured Article

Father Can Make a Difference

Universally, our biological parents represent our connection to the past, our ancestors. An egg and a sperm from one man and one woman create a genetically unique individual with a lineage that stretches back into the mists of prehistory.

On an individual level, however, things are more complex: besides biological parents, there are step-parents, foster parents and adoptive parents. Midwives serve surrogate mothers, who may be carrying an implanted baby not genetically related to her at all, or a baby conceived by artificial insemination who is her biological offspring but who is destined to be raised by the biological father and his partner. We may serve lesbian couples pregnant with donor sperm. Typically these women refer to their children as having “two mothers”; the father is usually uninvolved. Although often single women are partnered with the fathers of their babies, others may not even be sure who the father is. Particularly problematic are babies who are the product of rape. All these situations require great sensitivity and social skills from the midwife.

Such varied circumstances! Reviewing records of the births I have attended in the past year, I find that just over one-third of the women were married, one-third were single and living with the father of the baby, and the remainder were single with the father of the baby not involved or only peripherally involved. Further, the divorce rate in my country is around 50 percent.

What can the midwife do to promote stability and connectedness for babies being born into such an unstable society? Honesty and respect for both mother and father is a good start. People are very “bound up” in their relationships, and the point of view from an outsider who knows them from the intimate perspective of a pregnancy care provider can be helpful.

Here is an example of a situation that I experience regularly. The scene: I have just explained that the woman needs extra rest.

No lifting. Maybe partial or complete bed rest. She may have just given birth, or she may still be pregnant, with bleeding, pre-mature labor, or hypertension. Upon hearing my advice, her partner gets a determined (sometimes grim!) look on his face and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll make her stay in bed!” The coercive intimations of this statement are so offensive to me that it takes me a while to respond. Usually I just look at him for a minute, trying to absorb his affect and figure out what his real intentions may be.

The simple truth is that he or someone needs to do the cooking, cleaning, laundry and child care so that she can get in and out of bed as she wishes and as the needs of her physical condition dictate. But handling the situation requires tact because today’s men, even though they may profess a belief in the “equality of the sexes,” are often very touchy about being told what to do by a woman—[especially a man] who has just stated that he will “make her” stay in bed.

So I just try to be clear. I look at him quietly and say something like, “Please don’t try to make her do anything. She is an intelligent woman and she has a good feeling for what her body needs and what her baby needs.” Then I work with them to assess their resources in as non-judgmental a manner as I can. Who is available to help? Can they hire help, or are family members available? Usually the father is open-minded and quickly agrees to arrange the needed assistance. Other times he seems reluctant to give up an authoritarian role characterized by that old patriarchal motto, “I do what I want, you do what I want.” The midwife is not going to change this couple, but she can inform them of what is needed from an obstetrical point of view and encourage the male partner to respect the woman’s needs and qualities. There is no one right solution to the problem of getting the mother the help she needs.

Babies need their fathers and their mothers. Even people raised from infancy by adoptive parents often have a powerful drive to seek out their biological parents. Demonstrating this fact, my home state has recently passed an initiative petition requiring that birth certificates of adopted children be opened to them so they can attempt to find their birth parents. This initiative came from the [adopted] people themselves and many contributed time and energy to have it passed.

Marion Toepke McLean
Excerpted from “Fathers Can Make a Difference,” Midwifery Today, Issue 51
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Website Update

Read this editorial by Jan Tritten from the Spring 2014 issue of Midwifery Today:

  • Routine Active Management of the Third Stage

    Excerpt: The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and the Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (FIGO), along with many others, have signed on to the idea that women can no longer birth their placentas naturally, and therefore sent out the message that all women should be “offered active management of third stage.” Unfortunately, this “offer” usually turns into a fear-based acceptance because women are often told, “You will die if we don’t do this.” Active management has become routine in many places, with practitioners doing it without any explanation, thereby giving the message that “patients” just aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions.

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Birth Q&A

Q: What do you think is a father’s most important role in labor?

— Midwifery Today

A: At the onset of transition, a woman gets the drench of catecholamines and often she will say, “I can’t!” This is when I encourage the husband to move in close, hold her hands, look in her eyes and lend her his strength. I tell her to pull her strength through him—“Let him breathe for you. Go limp in his love.” Husbands have told me afterward that when their wife got overwhelmed, he felt overwhelmed, too, so having the instruction to share their strength and energy allowed him to move into her space and experience in a meaningful way. Because of this, he felt like he was connected to the birth.

— Margie Wallis

A: I think the most important role for any partner during labor would be for them to be as involved and included as they are comfortable with during the birthing process.

— Deanna Norris

A: Dad or partner is in labor, too. While he is available to support mom and baby and hold space as protector, lover and advocate, his role also involves his own processing. His own labor and whirlwind of thoughts and emotions are a transition for him into his role. The birth process solidifies this.

— Donna Irwin

A: I feel it is helpful if during the pregnancy, the partner is there for emotional support—open to anything she asks for. In labor, I feel the partner’s help will come naturally. Some mamas want to be left alone even without their partner and some want them there every second. It should be organic and not forced—the partner shouldn’t be told he should do this or that. The couple will know what they need to do and how to unfold with one another as the labor and birth progress.

— Zuki Abbott-Zamora

A: Dad knows mom better than anyone else. He is mom’s eyes and ears when she is busy concentrating on contractions. He is her advocate, her physical and emotional support and her reminder that she is not alone. I realize not all dads are super supportive, but the very best births I have attended as a doula are not the easy/fast deliveries, but the ones where moms and dads were teammates, always being kind to one another, both so proud of the other and both so excited about the baby.

— Elizabeth Tucker Merrell Gross

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You want to be a midwife, but where do you start?

Are you an aspiring midwife who’s looking for the right school? Or maybe you’re trying to decide if midwifery is the path for you. Visit our Better Birth Education Opportunities page to discover ways to start or continue your education.

A: That father needs to be present in a way that is true to himself. I don’t really like the word role when it comes to human (and non-human) relationships and interactions. Our relationship dynamics change depending on the situation, the environment, our own state of being, what is needed or life event impacts. Sure, there are general roles, but these can be fluid and shift between anyone present at the birth. The father has a special connection to mother and baby which is to be honored. Yet, we all know of situations where he may not be the closest or most able to offer the support the mother needs. We see the dynamics for what they are, do not judge and help facilitate the most life-enhancing ones.

— Helena Wu

A: Every birth is different, every baby is different, every woman is different and every partner is different. Midwives have to genuinely like the partners. We also have to understand that this is an event in the partner’s life that will be remembered forever. If we want the partner to be born into the role of protector of the family, we have to work within the context of making that partner “King for a Day” no matter what. When we have the context right, we’ll do everything appropriately in the moment for that unique family.

— Gloria Lemay

A: The most important role for fathers is to be present emotionally, physically and spiritually. Remember, he is birthing, too, and needs the space to experience his birth in his way. Not all fathers make good coaches—they are in labor, too. In fact, they need as much support as mothers do while they are in birth mode (and for the most part, they make poor coaches). What a loving present husband can provide better than a woman’s midwife, mom, sister, girlfriend and doula is being able to ground the mother.

— Celesta Rannisi

A: Fathers first need to be honest to themselves and to know their own strengths and weaknesses. Second, they need to be the gatekeeper for mom in labor. Third, they need to support her as she needs. Fourth, they sometimes need to take charge and lead the way because the father knows mom the best! Some of the best births I have been to are the ones where there is intuitive understanding and connection between mom and dad.

— Vijaya Krishnan

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