Today we’re very happy to share the birth stories of Kathryn Higgins, Motherlove’s founder. Already an expert in the power of herbs for lifelong health by the time her daughters were born, she used a number of herbs before, during and after her labors.
I decided to have a home birth with my first child. We lived in the mountains in Colorado, far from a hospital. When my water broke and I went into labor, my husband and I drove to my midwife’s home in town, where we would be closer to a hospital in case of any unforeseen emergency. An intense, 30 hour labor, gave me plenty of opportunity to use my pain relieving tinctures of crampbark and scullcap. But I had only dilated to three centimeters, and it was time to go to the hospital. Now, hooked up to fetal monitors and pitocin, my cervix still would not dilate. Our first daughter (Silencia Deva) was born by cesarean with her head was tilted back, and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times. I was told she would have suffocated had she ever entered the birth canal. I was grateful for the herbs which helped me through a long labor, as well as for the medical expertise that saved our lives. As soon as I returned home from the hospital, I put mashed comfrey leaves on the cesarean cut and today I happily have no visible scar.
I was confident that I could have a successful vaginal birth with my second child, but my husband was not willing to try a home birth again. The local hospital had beautiful birthing rooms where I was encouraged to use my herbal tinctures during labor when I needed them. Soon after the birth of our second daughter, I took crampbark tincture to prevent any afterbirth cramping and slow after birth bleeding. I continued to take this tincture several times a day for three days.
Our second daughter’s (Zenna Serene) heart defect was discovered the day after she was born. The sitz bath and homeopathic arnica were invaluable to me, as I walked and sat comfortably through three days of tests and many appointments.
I was two weeks overdue in my third pregnancy. After consulting with my nurse midwife, I took a dose of blue cohosh tincture. Six hours later I went into labor. When we arrived at the hospital, once again I was only dilated to three centimeters. But in less than an hour of soaking in a warm tub, with my oldest daughter pushing the pressure points on my lower back, I was ready to push. The birth of our third daughter (Jasmin Jencine) went very quickly. I walked and squatted as we waited for the placenta to expel. But unknown to us at this time, the placenta had adhered to the uterine wall at my previous cesarean scar, and I was hemorrhaging internally. The warm blood came gushing out as the doctor on call prepared to do an emergency hysterectomy. My husband squeezed a dropperful of fresh shepherds purse tincture into my mouth. Almost instantly the bleeding “miraculously” stopped, and an incredulous doctor removed the placenta with a D&C, instead of the planned hysterectomy.
So remember to call on herbs to help you, as they did me, minimize the pain, promote rapid healing after the birth, and reduce the need for any unnecessary drug intervention, as you go through this joyous time of transformation.
Millions of women experience stress incontinence after having a baby. And millions more will develop incontinence as they age. But there’s a lot you can do about it, and our podcast discussion this month is all about that.
Tanya spoke with Tasha Mulligan, physical therapist and personal trainer, and creator of the Hab-It: Pelvic Floor DVD. She’s passionate about helping women like herself rehab their pelvic floors and reverse stress incontinence.
They spoke about how the pelvic floor is related to incontinence, how to properly do Kegels, how rehabbing your pelvic floor is about much more than Kegels, and answered lots of your questions!
We’ve been reading legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin’s fascinating new book Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta.
Unlike her other recent books, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, this latest book isn’t a practical guide for moms but a policy statement which spells out her recommendations for changing our maternity care system. It also includes a history of obstetrics/midwifery care, explores sexuality and birth, and discusses feminism and birth, among other topics. And as with her previous books it’s spiced with captivating birth stories from her many years of practice.
But the heart of the book is a call for women to come together to fix the ways in which our maternity care system is broken. Gaskin details these problems with U.S. maternity care:
A rising maternal mortality rate (near tripling in California between 1996 and 2006), which doubles the risk of mortality for mothers birthing today compared to their mothers. This increase is occurring despite despite the fact that the U.S. spends more on maternity care per capita than any mother country in the world.
A flawed mortality reporting system which, according to the CDC, could mask a rate up to three times what is currently reported. This lack of reliable data leaves the system poorly equipped to make changes necessary to lower the rate.
High rates of unnecessary induction and other interventions in labor and birth, leaving mothers unable to labor and birth normally, and leading to poor outcomes.
The highest recorded cesarean rates, which far exceed recommended levels for safety of mothers and infants.
Here are her recommendations for reform, presented in detail in Birth Matters:
Establish woman-centered maternity care (including midwifery care) as a human right.
Revise medical education to train doctors in the support of normal birth before they study related pathologies.
Establish maternity care standards to ensure evidence-based practice for all women.
Salary physicians instead of paying them based on the number of births they take on.
Make birth centers available to mothers in all parts of the U.S..
Ensure that every maternal death is accurately reported and reviewed.
Give consideration to the young mothers who give birth without knowing they were pregnant.
Recognize postpartum home as a necessity, to avoid preventable outcomes ranging from mortality to postpartum depression.
What do you think of Ina May Gaskin’s recommendations? What would you add or subtract? How have the problems she outlines affected you?
If you’ve had a vaginal birth, taking care of your (likely sore) bottom can be a bit of a job in the early days after your baby’s birth. Here are some simple things you can do to relieve pain and bounce back quicker:*
Cold compresses. Many moms use ice packs to reduce swelling and soothe pain in the early hours after birth. Be sure to wrap cold packs in a soft cloth or other soft material so that the cold pack doesn’t directly touch your tissues. Some moms wet and freeze their pads to create convenient cold compresses.
Sitz baths. Warm water, especially when infused with healing herbs, can do wonders for tender tissues. You can make a sitz bath in a bathtub or with a basin that fits over your toilet seat (in the hospital, ask your nurse for help with this). Added to your bath, our Sitz Bath and Sitz Bath Concentrate soothe sore perineal muscles, reduce swelling, slow bleeding, and help ease the discomfort of hemorrhoids. Our Sitz Bath Spray can be sprayed directly on your perineum an offers the same relief. All of our sitz bath products have a zero rating (zero toxins) on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database and are made with 100% certified organic ingredients.
Witch hazel. Witch hazel is an herb which is soothing to sore, swollen tissue, and especially helpful with hemorrhoids. You can buy witch hazel soaked pads. You’ll also find witch hazel in our organic Rhoid Balm, which relieves swelling and itching during pregnancy and after birth, and in our sitz bath products.
Peri bottle. Many moms who have had tears, stitches, or episiotomies find it soothing to spray their perineum (front to back) with warm water after or during urination. Peri bottles make this easy. It can be especially helpful to use a peri bottle while urinating if you have stinging pain when using the toilet.
Medications. Your health care providers can discuss over the counter and prescription medication options that are safe for breastfeeding. If you have additional questions about pain medications and breastfeeding, you can call the Infant Risk Center for free information from a knowledgeable and breastfeeding-friendly pharmacist.
* This post is not intended as medical advice. For medical advice, seek the recommendations of your health care provider.
We’re very pleased to share a podcast interview with Jennifer Block, the author of Pushed: The Painful Truth about Modern Maternity Care.
Pushed shines a bright light on the state of maternity care in the U.S., from record-high induction and cesarean rates, to the legal obstacles to midwifery. Whether you’re expecting a baby or want to advocate for change, you’ll want to read this book.
Tanya Lieberman spoke with Jennifer about the ways in which moms are ‘pushed’ or denied care, the projection that the cesarean rate will hit 50%, recent changes in recommendations for VBAC, and what mothers can do to avoid getting ‘pushed.’
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