Natural Labor Induction Methods That Work

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If you’re approaching or have surpassed your expected due date, you may be eager to finally meet your baby. As if your hormones aren’t working hard enough, your feelings of uneasiness continue to grow. The thought of hospital inducement is also a scary topic that many women hope to avoid. However, there are natural labor induction methods that work. Whatever you may be experiencing, inducing your labor naturally at home is very possible and isn’t as scary as you think. There are various natural induction methods that can assist to initiate labor in a natural and safe way. You may have heard everything from exercising, having sex, or ingesting castor oil will help labor start naturally. However, what is genuinely fact, vs what is fiction? Here are several natural induction methods we’ve advised our patients here at Midwife 360 for your pregnancy.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Many women have had success with natural labor induction with sex. This is due to the presence of prostaglandins in sperm. These are the same estrogen molecules present in cervical ripening drugs such as Cervidil. Partaking in sex frequently increases the effectiveness of inducing labor. “Third times the charm” is the natural labor induction strategy motto. For example, the amount of sperm from three ejaculations has the same quantity of prostaglandins as Cervidil. Now routine sex at 40+ weeks can come as a shock to some, it sure beats the alternatives of Cervidil and Pitocin. These medical alternatives can cause more painful contractions and even ruptured membranes or fetal distress.

Self Care

Pampering yourself is a wonderful way to unwind and refocus before the arrival of the baby. While prenatal massages aren’t bad, you might want to concentrate on the feet. Foot massages contain trigger points that have the power to induce labor. Try an assortment of natural treatments like a foot massage, reflexology, and even a pedicure.

Natural Herbs

Midwives and elder medical practitioners have traditionally utilized herbs for induction. Clinical induction approaches incorporate some of the same lines of therapy as traditional herbs. Although these herbs are natural and used for medicinal purposes, they should only be provided by a medical professional or midwife. The safety and effectiveness have not yet been proven for use on their own. However, may utilize a mix of the following herbs/remedies: Evening primrose oil, Caulophyllum, and Cohosh

Keep Things Spicy

Experimenting with spices is a great way to induce labor. Keep in mind these methods are not scientifically proven but have worked for many as a natural approach. Spicy dishes encourage the gastrointestinal system to generate prostaglandins, which cause uterine contractions. Although spicing things up can induce labor, keep in mind that spicy intake can generate unwanted side effects such as heartburn. It is always best practice to discuss with your health care provider if you are unsure of any activity or method you wish to partake in.

Meet the Midwives at Midwife360

Midwife360 was founded in 2014 and has since been a mainstay in women’s health care in South Florida. Midwife360 provides both holistic gynecology and midwifery services such as regular women’s care, family planning, and prenatal care and childbirth. This group of lovely and clever ladies all has a love for combining traditional and modern medical care practices. Importantly, they bring together a practice focused on a strong bond between physician and patient, personalized requirements, and genuine healing.

What If I Have Group B Strep (GBS) While Pregnant or in Labor?

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Group B Streptococcus or GBS is a common bacterial organism found in about a third of people. This bacterial organism is most commonly found in the intestinal tract. However, it can move through the body and colonize the rectum, bladder, and vaginal tract of women. Colonize meaning the bacteria is present, but not infecting the tissues or causing symptoms.

GBS has the ability to give anyone an infection. However most adults, due to having a healthy microbiome, will keep any harmful bacteria in check and will not cause an illness. 

What’s The Big Deal About GBS During Pregnancy?

Decades ago, GBS was the leading cause of infection in newborns and infants. This infection can have devastating effects on a fragile new life, including pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. It can cause bladder, uterine, or urinary tract infections. It can also cause miscarriage and increase the risk of premature labor and rupture of membranes. GBS can also cause stillbirth. 

Newborns can get GBS infection in utero, during birth, or even from healthcare workers and family members. Handwashing is important for anyone who will be holding a newborn baby to prevent spreading GBS or other harmful infections.

The Risks to Baby  

When a baby is exposed to GBS in labor or during birth, he or she has a 50% chance of becoming colonized with GBS. Nevertheless, a small percentage of babies exposed to GBS will become infected and sick.  

Most often, babies become infected through exposure in the birth canal during birth. As well as from bacteria migrating upwards once the water has broken. 

Testing For GBS

As of 2020, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now states that the best time to test for GBS presence is between the 36th and 37th weeks of pregnancy.  This test is done by swabbing the vagina and rectum to determine if GBS is present.

There is also an FDA-approved rapid test that can diagnose GBS in roughly an hour. 

GBS Treatment

To prevent GBS infection in babies antibiotics are used, however, there are associated risks. Many of us know antibiotics are detrimental to our microbiome. Babies receive significant benefits from their mom’s microbiome when birthed vaginally. In turn, affecting the baby’s entire life in a positive way. 

In order to mitigate infections overall, if a laboring mom has prolonged rupture of membranes, a fever, or other infection risk factors, antibiotics will be prescribed even if GBS testing was negative. The treatment is typically IV antibiotics for a minimum of 4 hours before the baby is born. Of course, the time of birth is hard to predict, so typically the hospital will start the antibiotics upon arrival to the hospital.

Treatment has been very effective for lowering the number of newborns who develop GBS infections. There is some controversy concerning antibiotic use during labor and how this can affect babies. 

Is Treatment Harmful For Baby?

Some studies suggest that antibiotics during pregnancy and delivery can decrease the presence of beneficial bacteria in a newborn. Breastfeeding and probiotics can help to boost a newborn’s microbiome. 

Antibiotics can cause problems for mom, including yeast infections or nipple infections. This can complicate and disrupt breastfeeding. Sometimes newborns can develop thrush as well. Allergic reactions are rare, as long as your healthcare provider is aware of any allergies. 

Taking a probiotic during pregnancy and after birth can help to prevent thrush or yeast infections.

Can I Reduce My Chance of Testing Positive for GBS?

Healthy vaginal and gut flora can prevent infection, which could affect the presence of GBS. 

Whether or not it will decrease your risk of GBS, there are other benefits to a healthy microbiome. Mitigating the risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, vaginal and bladder infections during labor, are all benefits. 

Steps to boost your microbiome include:

  • Stay away from processed sugar and junk food
  • Implement 8 servings of leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables into your diet
  • Take prenatal vitamins (zinc, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C)
  • Eat more Lacto-fermented foods (example: sauerkraut, yogurt, cucumber, sourdough bread)
  • Reduce stress
  • Use oral and vaginal probiotics throughout pregnancy

Taking all of these into consideration and doing your best to check every box may not change the status if diagnosed, however, it can help to protect against GBS-related prenatal complications. If you are doing all of the necessary steps and have not tested positive before this can help to prevent GBS colonization and the need for antibiotics.  

For More Information, Contact Midwife360

Midwife360 has been providing holistic gynecology and pregnancy services in South Florida since 2014. The founder of Midwife360, P. Fadwah Halaby CNM, takes pride in offering holistic evidence-based practice for all midwife services such as women’s care, family planning, pregnancy care, and birthing. If you have any questions contact Midwife360 today.

Benefits of Massage During Labor

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Massage is one of the oldest healing traditions. It has therapeutic properties induced by manipulating your soft-tissue or muscles to enhance your general well-being and health. More so, it influences how a woman goes through labor as well as the progression of labor.

There are numerous benefits of the nurturing and sensitive touch of a massage to a pregnant woman during labor, especially if the masseur is in tune with the mother’s body and quickly picks up on cues.

Labor pain is often caused by the contraction of uterine muscles and pressure at the cervix. The pain can be felt as an intense cramping in the lower abdomen, back, groin, or as an achy feeling. Other women experience pain in the thighs, or their sides as well.

Massage helps relieve this pain, anxiety, and muscular discomfort. It is beneficial with low back aches and common leg cramps. Touch techniques to a pregnant woman’s lower back relieve back labor and general lower back pain.

Massage Reduces Medical Interventions

There are risks with medicinal approaches that something unwanted may happen, such as an upset stomach, liver damage, tolerance, palpitations, or nausea. These vary from one patient to another.

With the right massaging techniques, medical interventions, such as forceps, cesarean birth, and synthetic oxytocin hormone are reduced. A masseur can also increase a woman’s pain perception and threshold during labor, thus, reducing the need for pain medications.

Massage Reduces Anxiety

Anxiety is considered normal, however it may be considered a medical disorder when it reoccurs from time to time during pregnancy. Anxiety and depression prevalence in pregnancy doubled between 2015 and 2018 in the US alone. It leads to excessive fear, feeling of apprehension, nervousness, and worry.

Massage during labor is proven to decrease the chances of postpartum depression. It also provides emotional support, reassurance, and decreases fear and anxiety. Typically, after a woman in labor is massaged, they feel relaxed and have enhanced confidence in themselves, and the birth process.

Massage Reduces Labor Pain

In a research study dubbed Pregnancy and Labor massage in 2010, it was found that women who were massaged during labor experienced much less pain. Their labor lasted an average of three hours shorter and with minimal need for medication.

During the study, partners for pregnant women were instructed on how to work the legs and back. It was noted that these were the areas that experience the most pain. They were required to do it every first fifteen minutes of every hour of labor.

Massage Enhances Psychological Functioning

Vagal activity is a process that results in various effects, such as reduction of heart rate, vasoconstriction or dilation of vessels, immune system regulation, glandular activity in the lungs, heart, and digestive tract. Massages help improve oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for reduced anxiety, blood pressure, and it can have a sedative effect.

According to Tiffany Field, moderate massages elicit a significant increase in vagal activity. It increases cerebral flow in various brain regions concerned with stress and depression regulation. Psychological stressors reduce vagal activity during pregnancy, but increased vagal activity decreases blood pressure, cortisol, and heart rate.

Massage Speeds Labor

Massaging helps reduce the need for the augmentation of contractions with synthetic oxytocin. When using an effective stimulating-abdominal massaging techniques, the strength and frequency of contractions may also increase.

Final Word

Most massaging techniques are safe during pregnancy and labor, though there may be exceptions. If you have any queries about massage during labor, it is best to talk to your healthcare provider. Above all, the benefits of massaging during labor precedes ignorance of the same by far. It is a great way to reduce labor pain and ease the journey of a pregnant woman.

Home Birth: Is it Possible to Have a Breech Birth at Home?

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What is a Breech Birth?

A breech birth is when the baby is in position to descend bottom first instead of head first.  Believe it or not, 3–5% of pregnant women at term (37–40 weeks pregnant) have a breech baby. Medical professionals will often consider this to be a high risk for natural birth however with proper monitoring and birth assistance there is no difference.

What Causes a Breech Birth?

The breech position is normal and throughout your pregnancy your baby will move around and change position (you may notice this during your ultrasound). However as the body prepares for birth your baby often moves into a head down position.

Baby’s Choice

In some cases, the body and baby make the choice not to turn into a cephalic (head down) presentation. Though it is rare, it can be completely normal and nothing to worry about with the assistance of a professionally trained midwife and doula. Your certified nurse midwife, Obstetrician-gynecologist (obgyn), or a maternal-fetal specialist will determine the causation ahead of labor to ensure there aren’t special measures that need to be taken.

Amniotic Fluid

The amniotic fluid in your uterus plays a role in your baby’s ability to move around.  Your baby may have too much or too little space to move around as a result of your uterus having too much or too little amniotic fluid.

Uterine Abnormalities

Another reason for breech birth is an abnormally with your uterus. Sometimes it’s a deformity in the shape. Other complications, such as fibroids in the uterus or placenta previa also can cause a breech birth. In cases like this, you and your medical team know months in advance to your labor preparation.   Which brings us to the next question…

Is it Possible to Have My Breech Birth at Home?

The answer is often, yes. It is possible to  birth a breeched baby naturally in any setting entirely depending on the reason your baby is breech. The reason and your risk level should be explored by your team of birth professionals before a decision is made.
Photo Credits: First Light Doula Services
Mama would like to remain anonymous
Axel Alexander
7 lbs 6 oz, 19 1/2 inches
Born on Jan. 29th at 2:01am

Born at home during a planned breech birth.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for my wonderful birth team , they didn’t try to discourage me for one second when realizing at 37 weeks that my baby wouldn’t move from the breech position because there wasn’t much room. Although I tried everything he remained in the same spot. I was given the confidence with the experience and expertise from my wonderful Midwife and her amazing assistant midwife by cheering me on, while learning the proper hypnosis techniques I learned with my amazing doula My breech birth was simply 2 hours long, with beautiful meditation music in the background, essentials oils in the air, and relaxing ambiance in my husbands & my very own bedroom; it was intimate and beautiful.”

Top Ways to Prepare for a Positive Birth Experience

The top ways to prepare for a positive labor and birth experience begin long before the actual labor starts. At Midwife360, we talk about our “Recipe for Success” when we are discussing a client’s birth plans. 

The core of our recommendations include self-education through reading books and online resources (see the reading and web organization list at the end of this article) and commitment to a healthy lifestyle through clean eating and regular exercise. We strongly advise eliminating processed foods, dairy, and inorganic foods. Through clean eating and regular exercise, it is likely that there will be an absence of disease processes such as diabetes and high blood pressure which can make a pregnancy cross the line into a truly high-risk status. If the pregnancy can be maintained in the low-risk status range, then recommendations such as induction of labor are more easily declined. 

Our “Recipe for Success”

Our “Recipe for Success” also includes hiring a doula and taking a deep meditation for labor course such as Blissborn or Hypnobabies. Many times the doula will be the one who teaches these courses. Doulas are invaluable as educational resources and typically have a wealth of information regarding comfort measures and labor preparation activities. They will meet with the client usually two times prenatally and will be the first to show up at the labor. They help with labor support if things are not progressing, and will let you know when to call the midwife or leave for the hospital. Meditation or hypnosis is a tool that can be used to cope with the surges of labor. It helps to keep the mind occupied with positive thoughts to allow the body to perform the work of releasing the baby unimpeded.

Positioning of the Baby 

The most common reason that labor doesn’t progress is the positioning of the baby. We recommend becoming familiar with an online resource called “Spinning Babies” that teaches postures that can be used prenatally to help ensure proper positioning of the baby in relation to the mother’s bony pelvis. This will ease the baby’s passage and create a more efficient labor process. Your doula will most likely be familiar with this resource and have the ability to guide you through the postures as well as know when to employ them in labor.

Using a Birth Tub 

The final recommendation in our “Recipe for Success” is to use a birth tub for labor and birth. The benefits of hydrotherapy have been recognized by midwives and laboring women for years. Some people call it a ‘liquid epidural’ as the sense of relief is so great when entering a warm tub of water in active labor. Sitting on a yoga ball or stool in the shower can have some of the same sense of relief, but immersion in water is better and helps lift the belly to remove the heaviness caused by gravity. Also, releasing the baby into the water helps with vaginal and perineal stretching and reduces tearing.

Visiting a Chiropractor and Acupuncturist 

In addition to the “Recipe”, we strongly recommend developing relationships with a chiropractor and acupuncturist who are skilled in caring for pregnant people. Get regular massages and take yoga classes or do yoga at home. All of these adjunctive therapies contribute to a body that is well adjusted and free from muscular and energetic blockages that can inhibit the passage of the baby when it’s time for birth. 

Preparing for a positive labor and birth experience ideally starts before pregnancy. However, with a determined mindset and a willingness to do the work, preparation for a positive experience can easily be accomplished in the 40 weeks of pregnancy. Decide where you want to give birth and hire a care provider that you trust. Check out the resources listed below and prepare to have an amazing, informed, respectful labor and birth experience!

What’s wrong with the Medical Model of childbirth?

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Let me tell you a story…

Let’s talk about what’s wrong with the current Medical Model of Childbirth. We recently attempted to assist a client to achieve a successful home vaginal birth after 2 previous cesareans. She was a little more than one week passed her due date, and she had tried to induce her labor with castor oil. The oil didn’t seem to do much, but her water broke and she was having contractions soon after. Her labor progressed quickly, but her baby remained high in her pelvis and it took a lot of maneuvering with Spinning Babies postures (Walcher’s Brim is a great one for this problem) and the baby finally began moving down into the birth canal.

Things take a complicated turn… 

However, after hours of pushing, seeing the head and thinking that the baby was coming any minute, she began having some bleeding. It was significant enough that the midwives elected to transfer by 911 to the hospital. All of mom’s and baby’s vital signs were good, but unexplained bleeding in a mom with 2 previous cesareans is a potentially life-threatening sign. Our job is to recognize potential emergencies and get to the hospital before the train wrecks. This momma continued to push in the ambulance, and within minutes of getting into the hospital she pushed her baby out! 

Hallelujah!!! The baby came through the door, not the window! 

But wait…The baby was a bit shocked, but instead of allowing him to get his full placental transfusion and administering PPV (Positive Pressure Ventilation)* with a bag and mask to help the baby inflate his lungs, they immediately cut the cord and rushed him over to the warmer to tortuously stimulate him into taking his first breath. I had a hard time watching the video due to the roughness and lack of respect afforded this brand new being. 

How does this impact our society?

For the nurses and midwives on duty, it is just another case, just another hour in their day. However, for that baby, it is his BIRTH. That happens to every one of us just ONCE in this life. We clearly do not appreciate the importance and significance of this event for our species. I am frightened to see the future generations coming up in the world when they have embedded in their primal memories this episode fraught with pain and fear and separation from the source of their sustenance. We are not building generations of people who will have love and trust as their core values. Else wise we must figure out how to overcome a beginning like this. Prolonged skin to skin contact with both parents initially and prolonged on-demand breastfeeding with baby-led weaning will both go a long way to repair the damage.

Hospital L&D should be a place that all women feel comfortable, respected, and supported… The other thing that really bugged me about this experience is that when the midwives showed up (they followed the ambulance), they were greeted by a seasoned L&D nurse who was shaking her head and clearly upset by the situation. She said something to the effect that the client is an RN at their facility, and that she should have known better than to attempt a home birth. Really!?!?! Excuse me, but maybe your facility should do a better job at supporting women with their choices so they wouldn’t see home birth as their only option. 

We at Midwife360 would be happy to encourage our VBAC moms to birth in the hospital. We acknowledge that it is the safest place to be for someone with a complex physiologic pregnancy. We also believe that the way someone is treated during their pregnancy, labor, and birth will have far-reaching consequences for them, their baby, and their entire family. It can mean the difference between having postpartum depression or not. It can mean the difference between successful breastfeeding or not. It can mean the difference between having a vaginal or cesarean birth. On an individual level and ultimately on a societal level, these things matter!

What’s wrong with the NICU?

The next situation evolved because the baby had a ‘lesion’ on his head. It was in such a position that it was likely caused when he was trying to get under her pubic bone and the length of time that he was in the birth canal. Neither parent had a history or tested positive for herpes – which is what the hospital providers were worried about. They started the baby on an antiviral, and on an antibiotic, since mom was GBS positive and had received her antibiotics just shy of the 4 hours recommended by the protocol. The baby was not sick and had no abnormal WBC (white blood cell) nor a positive culture. They insisted on performing a spinal tap for this well-baby because they were sure he had herpes somewhere that was gonna kill him. The mom knew her baby was fine, but every time she said she was taking her baby home, the nurse practitioner would tell her that her baby could die. This baby spent 10 excruciating days in the NICU and received multiple doses of antivirals and antibiotics, with multiple IVs in his little body, and endured a spinal tap – FOR NOTHING! A huge NICU bill later for a normal baby with a skid mark on his head. I believe we can do better in our hospitals. 

What can we do? 

Expose the neonatologists who up-sell services for healthy normal newborns and get evidence-based care into standard practice. We must not stand for this medical model of childbirth any longer! This family was so relieved and ecstatic for the vaginal birth they knew was possible, only to be traumatized and beaten down by having to advocate and protect their new baby. It doesn’t have to be this way! It’s up to individual parents who have these types of experiences to write letters and submit evaluations of their experience to the hospital and local media. Also, seek out respectful maternity care and demand respectful newborn care as well. We as a society can do better for our pregnant people and newborn babies!

*This is giving the baby breaths with the bag and mask and is the first step in neonatal resuscitation. 5 long slow breaths.

High-tech Childbirth is Not Always Better

Baby girl few minutes after the birth

America excels in high-tech medicine

When it comes to healthcare and medicine, America is the greatest country in the world. If you get into a car crash or have a heart attack, or need a life-saving surgery, then you are very grateful to have that happen in the US of A. However, this statement is not true if you are pregnant and healthy. It is well known that the US scores shamefully low on the two standards used worldwide to evaluate how well a country is doing in the area of childbirth – infant mortality and maternal mortality. And it’s not a mystery as to why this is the case. We know that the standard interventions performed on pregnant women in the hospital on low-risk, healthy moms and babies are not evidence based. Withholding food and fluids by mouth.  Limiting movement and positioning in labor.  Use of continuous fetal monitoring for low risk labors.  Non-medically indicated inductions.  Immediate cord clamping.  Overuse of Pitocin for labor augmentation. All of these standard interventions can lead to perceived and real problems that trigger the cascade of events leading to an operative delivery – forceps, vacuum extraction, or cesarean (and occasionally a cesarean with forceps or vacuum delivery!).

Low-tech better for physiologic childbirth

When it comes to childbirth, high tech is not better than low tech. I have been privileged to attend many out of hospital births and many more in hospital births. Even a ‘normal’ birth in the hospital typically comes with continuous fetal monitoring and epidural. And unless it is the middle of the night and the lights are kept dimmed, the nurses use intermittent monitoring, the cord is left alone for at least 10-15 minutes, and the baby is kept on the mother AT ALL TIMES, no hospital birth worker has truly witnessed natural birth. There are many, many videos of home birth on the internet and it can be seen time and again the beauty and wonder of birth as it is meant to be.

Out-of-hospital birth should be first-line care for all low-risk childbirth

We have such great prenatal care standards, that any significant problem with the mom or the baby will most likely be detected prior to labor so that a baby that may need more high tech assistance can be born in a place where she can receive that assistance in a timely manner. It is so unlikely that a healthy mom and baby will have a major life-threatening problem during the birth process, that out of hospital birth and midwifery have been approved through legislation in most states. And statistics have proven that most transports from an out of hospital setting are done for non-emergent reasons. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have suggested that the out of hospital Birth Center should be the first level of care for healthy pregnant women. They recommend only moving up the chain to a hospital capable of performing a cesarean if there are risk criteria that have been demonstrated.

Low-tech interventions for childbirth

So that means in order to fix the problem, more doctors need to be trained in the low tech hand skills that are truly helpful to laboring women. These include Leopolds maneuvers (feeling the baby from the outside to determine it’s position), which, when performed properly, can assist the provider to be able to tell not only the baby’s position but if there is adequate fluid around the baby. Keeping hands out of the way other than to provide warm compresses during the actual birth. Turning a breech baby to avoid a breech delivery. Even being able to perform a breech delivery – these are skills that are slowly being lost to us because they are not being taught in medical schools. And delayed cord clamping is probably the single most important non-intervention that can be supported at a birth! We have been complacent, and have allowed an intervention – immediate clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord (that typically happens in the course of surgical birth) – to become standard of care for all births without studying the effects. It is part of the OB culture and doctors and CNMs are taught to do it without question. This is what happens when you put surgeons in charge of a physiological event.

Women’s complacency has really been the main cause of our loss of control over our bodies and our labors. It is time for us to stand up and reclaim our bodies, our labors, and our births. Support your local midwife, demand respect and evidence based care. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and prepare yourself for an out of hospital birth – it will transform your life!