Friday, January 29, 2010

Study Shows that Many Women Do Not Understand the Importance of the Last Few Weeks of Pregnancy to a Baby's Health

Recently a study was done to estimate women’s understanding of the definition of full term and the gestational age at which it is safe to deliver a baby. 
 A national sample of 650 insured women, who had recently given birth, were surveyed about their beliefs related to the meaning of "full term" and the safety of delivery.
  Twenty-four percent of women surveyed considered a baby of 34–36 weeks of gestation to be full term, and 50.8% believed full term to occur at 37–38 weeks of gestation.  Only 25.2% considered full term to occur at 39–40 weeks of gestation. 

In response to, “What is the earliest point in pregnancy that it is safe to deliver the baby, should there be no other medical complications requiring early delivery?” 51.7% choose 34–36 weeks of gestation, and 40.7% choose 37–38 weeks of gestation, while only 7.6% choose 39–40 weeks of gestation.

 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that elective deliveries not occur before 39 weeks of gestation. However, many women believe that full term is reached before 37 weeks of gestation, and most believe full term occurs before 39 weeks of gestation. 

Nearly half believe it is safe to deliver before 37 weeks of gestation, and almost all believe it is safe to deliver before 39 weeks of gestation. The data reported here suggest that many women believe that term is reached early and that a safe delivery does not require waiting to 39 weeks of gestation.

This is a major problem, because many babies are born before they are ready to meet the world. 
Perinatal educators should make it a priority to help women understand that, in normal pregnancies, labor should begin on it's own.
Heathy Birth Practice #1 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Choose LIFE

I am the woman on the video who made a sad and misinformed choice to abort my first baby. It is the biggest regret of my life. I have spent the last 25 years helping other women make informed decisions about pregnancy and birth and I would be remiss not to include this information. Many women have abortions for everyone else, their boyfriends or husbands, or their parents. Some women have been coerced into decisions they would have never made, had they had support, love, acceptance and practical help to continue the pregnancy and parent their children or release them for adoption to loving families.

Women need to know that there are ramifications to choosing abortion. For many, there are physical and emotional consequences that last for many years, even for a lifetime. Abortion can seriously impact your next experience of pregnancy and birth. Some women have never been able to conceive again. All women who have experienced abortion need skilled maternity caregivers who understand their special needs.

if you are silently suffering from a loss of a baby through abortion, please seek help. Email me at and let me help you find it in your area.

For more information on how a previous abortion can impact your pregnancy and birth, please see my article here:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Should Eat & Drink What You Choose During Labor, According to the Best Studies

You  should be allowed to eat and drink what you want during labor, say Cochrane Researchers. They carried out a systematic review of studies examining the practice of restricting food and fluid intake during labor and found no evidence for any risk for healthy women.

For many years eating and drinking during labor was thought to be dangerous and most obstetricians restricted what women in were allowed to eat and drink, due to concerns about fatal damage to the lungs caused by “Mendelson’s syndrome”, where regurgitated food is inhaled under general anesthesia during Cesarean sections.

The Cochrane Systematic Review, which included five studies and a total of 3130 women, looked at the evidence for restricting food and drink in women who were considered unlikely to need general anesthesia.   They found no evidence of any risk associated with eating or drinking.

“Since the evidence shows no harms, there is no justification for restriciting eating and drinking by women who are at low risk of complications,” said lead researcher Mandisa Singata, who is based at the East London Hospital Complex in East London, South Africa. “Women should be able to make their own decisions about whether they want to eat or drink during labor, or not.”

Full citation: Singata M, Tranmer J, Gyte GML. Restricting oral fluid and food intake during labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD003930. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003930.pub2.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BIRTH Stories, Panel One

This collection of twelve 3x3 inch beaded motifs is, I hope, the first of many more. The collection started as a way for women to express their feelings or experiences of pregnancy and birth in a time when there is a huge women's health crisis in maternity care.

The artsists and titles, starting from the upper left corner and working down from left to right are:
Diana Mains Welte "Baby Bump, Cherish the Gift"
Paula Motsinger Meyncke "Placenta Heart"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "My Body Rocks"
Diana Mains Welte "Here We Go"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "Labor Spiral"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "Doulas Know Squat"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "I Can VBAC"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "PUSH"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "A Cruel Cut"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "Episiotomy V-Section WHY?"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "BabyMoon"
Kathryn Lane Berkowitz "Peace on Earth Begins At Birth"

As an artist, a birth activist and conference speaker I plan to use this panel, and the others to follow, to raise awareness about the need for transparency and reform in maternity care. If you would like to contribute a square to this project, please leave a comment and I will give you more information on how you can participate.

Unwind your Body/Mind with Watsu During Pregnancy

Watsu, a portmanteau of water and shiatsu, is a form of body massage performed while lying in warm water (around 35 °C or 95 °F). The receiver of Watsu treatment is continuously supported by the therapist while he or she rocks and gently stretches the body. Because it is performed in the water, the body is free to be manipulated and stretched in ways impossible while on the land.
The benefits of water therapy for the expectant mother are many, including deep relaxation, the ability to tone and stretch the muscles and joints in a gentle manner with lower risk for injury, less edema, the practice of learning trust, less anxiety, better sleep, improved immune response and pain and tension release.
To find a qualified Watsu practitioner, go here :

Monday, January 18, 2010

All Cesareans, Needed or Not, Put Women at Greater Risk of Serious Complications Including Death

Whether medically necessary or not, the latest information from WHO is that all cesareans “put women at increased risk of adverse events, including death. Any operative procedure increased the maternal mortality and morbidity index (defined as blood transfusion, hysterectomy, internal iliac artery ligation, or death or ICU admission) to a greater extent than spontaneous delivery”.

Thee US c-section rate is 31.8%, half of those being elective procedures, and that rate continues to rise. WHO recommends “optimal cesarean section rates” to be between five and ten percent, with greater risks for women in countries whose percentages rise above 15.

 Why are more and more mothers in the US delivering their babies via c-sections given the risks or morbidity and mortality? Childbirth Connection offers the following reasons:

  • Low priority of enhancing women’s own abilities to give birth
  • Side effects of common labor interventions
  • Refusal to offer the informed choice of vaginal birth
  • Casual attitudes about surgery and cesarean sections in particular
  • Limited awareness of harms that are more likely with cesarean section
  • Providers’ fears of malpractice claims and lawsuits
  • Incentives to practice in a manner that is efficient for providers
To learn how to prevent an unnecessary cesarean, go to this link, Mothers Advocate, and print the free booklet on how to have a safe and healthy birth. Your life may depend on it.
Mothers Advocate FREE Print Materials

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    The Benefits of Chiropractic Care for a Safe and Healthy Birth

    Chiropractic care can help a woman's body prepare for a safe and healthy birth. This four minute video from the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, discusses how it can help. The ICPA's mission statement:
    Engaging and serving family chiropractors worldwide through education, training, and research, establishing evidenced based practice, excellence in professional skills and unity in a global community which cooperatively and passionately participates in advancing chiropractic for both the profession and the public.
    You can find a practitioner here:

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Choosing Thomas

    Sometimes when you make the most difficult choice, you get the greatest joy as a reward. This is a very bittersweet story about unconditional love. It is very emotional, so please be advised that this is the very raw and real story of the birth and passing of a little baby boy with a genetic birth defect. His parents remarkable love and joy in the midst of unspeakable sorrow is amazing to behold. I believe every life is precious and significant. Many families are confronted with unexpected outcomes in pregnancy, and this is one such story.

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Bad Birth Feng Shui = "Stripping Membranes"

    Bad Birth Feng Shui = "Stripping Membranes"

    feng· shui
    The Chinese practice of choosing and arranging work and living spaces to promote balance, comfort, etc., as in locating building sites or placing furniture.

    For the sake of this entry today, "Birth Feng Shui" refers to choosing and maternity care practices and strategies to promote balance, the flow of positive energy, normalcy and health in the birth process.
    Today I have taken excerpts from a handout I found, and added my own comments, in parenthesis. here we go :

    "Stripping" membranes, is a (barbaric, medieval) method used to try to start labor. The health care provider sticks her or his finger into the cervix -- the mouth of the uterus -- and uses the finger to separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix. It is done (often without your prior consent) in the office during a regular pelvic exam. (which is an excellent reason to avoid them like the plague until 42 weeks )

    Hormones are released when the bag of water is separated from the uterus. These hormones may (or may not) soften the cervix and prepare the uterus to contract. It may (or may not) start contractions and help the cervix open. (or it may hurt like H-E- Double Hockey Sticks and do little else)

    Your health care provider may "strip" your membranes if he or she feels that continuing the pregnancy is dangerous for your health or your infant's health. Sometimes membrane "stripping" is done to prevent you from going past 42 weeks of pregnancy.

    Your health care provider may offer (or may commence to do it without offering) to "strip" your membranes one time. Or your provider may offer to "strip" your membranes every week when you come into the office. If it is very important that you start labor, your health care provider may see you every 2 days in the office and "strip" your membranes each time. (Oh GOODY.)

    Having your membranes stripped will not put you into labor right away. It may not put you into labor at all. If you do have your membranes "stripped," expect to be uncomfortable and slightly crampy during the procedure. You might feel mild cramps or contractions for up to 24 hours after your membranes have been "stripped." (or you might feel horrible mind-splitting pain and become so exhausted that you can't cope with normal labor) You may also have slight spotting for up to 3 days after your membranes are "stripped." This bleeding can be reddish, pink, or brown and may be mixed with mucus. (are we having fun yet?)

    If you have severe pain or bright red bleeding that soaks through a pad in an hour or is running down your leg, call your health care provider right away. (OK, so you may have been "stripping my membranes" every 2 days, and this happens and I am supposed to call YOU to help me?)


    • The cramping that may occur in the 24 hours after your membranes are "stripped" can make it hard to rest or sleep; this means that you might lose some sleep before actually going into labor. ( BAD fung shui for normal birth !)
    • Some people worry that membrane "stripping" may cause the bag of water to break or cause mothers or babies to become sick.

           How well does "stripping" work ?

    Membrane "stripping" is done because some studies (but not all ) show that labor may start sooner if membranes are "stripped" than if membranes are not "stripped." This is especially true if a woman is already 41 weeks pregnant.

    You may want to be "stripped" if ?

    • You are sick and your health care provider says it would be safer for you to have your infant now.
    • Your infant is sick and your health care provider says it would be safer if your infant was born now.
    • You are 42 weeks pregnant.
    • You are almost 42 weeks pregnant and you are planning to have your infant at a birth center or at home where you will not be allowed to labor after 42 weeks of pregnancy.

    You may not want to be "stripped" if ?

    • You have been told that it is not safe to have your infant vaginally. (Then why the H%$# would you be "stripping me anyway ?)
    • You have had unexplained vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy.
    • You have been told that you need to have your infant urgently and that it would be safest to have your labor induced by using medications. ( I am not sure what is behind this sense of "urgency", I need more information, please )
    • You want to let your pregnancy and labor unfold naturally and there is no medical reason to have your labor induced. (BINGO!)
    • If you have had a vaginal culture that says you have group B strep, or GBS in your vagina, you may not want to have your membranes stripped; there are no studies that have shown stripping membranes is harmful if you have GBS in your vagina and no studies that have shown it is safe if you have GBS in your vagina, so this is a decision you should make with your provider. (WHAAAAT???? So, basically, it's a crap shoot ?)

    Other considerations...

    • Sometimes, at the end of pregnancy, it seems the pregnancy will never end -- we can all become impatient and wish we could make labor begin; membrane stripping may cause you to lose sleep and be uncomfortable in the days before your labor starts -- the best way to get ready for your infant and for labor is to remain as rested as possible. (DUH ! So, why are you torturing me ?)
    • Most women deliver their babies by 41 weeks of pregnancy. Fewer than 3 of 100 women will go past 42 weeks of pregnancy. Membrane stripping to prevent going past 42 weeks of pregnancy is not usually needed. (Yeah, that's because most women are induced by 40 weeks !)
    To read more about a Randomized Controlled Trial which shows more of the disadvantages of this practice see the Science and Sensibility blog at

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 4-10, 2010

    Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 4-10, 2010

    Sponsored by the National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA), the week is intended to educate all women about folic acid, which can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine.  NCFA has updated its Web site with resources for the week, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, sample articles and a press release.  Materials encourage women of childbearing age to take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid every day, even if they aren’t planning to get pregnant.  Since approximately 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, starting to take folic acid before pregnancy begins is an important way to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) by up to 70 percent.  NTDs are birth defects of the brain or spine which occur in the first weeks of fetal development.  For more information about Folic Acid Awareness Week, go to
    Source : National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition