Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Series: On the “Independent Track” to Becoming a Lamaze Trainer

December 2nd, 2014 by avatar

By Jessica English, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA)

Last month, LCCE Jessica English began the path to become an independent trainer with Lamaze International, as part of the just opened “Independent Track”  trainer program.  This new program helps qualified individuals become Lamaze trainers – able to offer Lamaze childbirth educator trainings which is one step on the path for LCCE certification.  She’s agreed to share her trainer journey with us in a series of blog posts; “On the Independent Track to Becoming a Lamaze Trainer”, offering insights at key milestones in the process. If this is a program you are interested in, look for information in 2015 on how to apply for the 2015 cohort.- Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

When I first saw the invitation to apply to become an independent trainer with Lamaze International, my heart leapt! As a doula trainer, I’d long wanted to extend my training work to include childbirth educators but I’d heard the process to become a Lamaze trainer was complicated. The announcement that landed in my inbox said that there was a new, simplified pathway to becoming an independent Lamaze trainer. As I prepared to launch a new business venture that included many facets of my skill set: DONA birth doula trainings, childbirth classes, business training/coaching sessions and more, it seemed so clear that becoming a Lamaze trainer fit right in with my path. Yes! Count me in!

© Tanya Strusberg

© Tanya Strusberg

I was “in” wholeheartedly, but I still needed to apply and be approved. The application asked about our qualifications and our vision for a Lamaze program. Several days before the application deadline, Laura Ruth in the Lamaze office told me that they’d already received a lot of applications. My nerves set it! The closer the deadline came, the surer I was that becoming a Lamaze trainer was the right path for me; I hoped the review committee would agree.

The wait to hear back was blessedly short. Less than a week after I submitted my application, I heard back from Lamaze International that I’d been approved as part of the first cohort of independent track trainers. How exciting! I immediately started laying plans to travel to Washington, D.C. for the “train the trainer” session, praying that my November doula clients would either have their babies before I left or wait for my return. I also needed a sub to teach my own Thursday night childbirth class.

Thankfully, three babies came in nine days, I found a fantastic sub, and I headed to D.C. with a clear calendar. (Thank you for aligning, birthy stars!) I arrived Wednesday night and met my roommate, Trena Gallant from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Before our official training ever began, our informal education started with the opportunity to share stories and techniques as experienced educators and (doula) trainers. My LCCE heart was already bursting!

I’d been curious from the beginning about who would be in the training, and it was fun to watch the room fill Thursday morning. Several of my fellow DONA-approved birth doula trainers were in the group, there were a handful of other folks whose names I recognized, and I saw a few new faces. The 12 of us hailed from the United States, Canada and even Australia. Everyone participating in the training was an experienced educator, and we had several accomplished Lamaze trainers and leaders in the room to help guide us as well. I was excited know we’d have the chance to connect throughout the weekend.

The morning began with ice breakers and climate setters with our experienced facilitator, Tom Leonhardt. Once we all felt comfortable together, we dove into the science of adult learning. Even as an experienced educator and trainer, I enjoyed the chance to reanalyze how adults learn. One of the things that I love about Lamaze International is its emphasis on evidence-based information, and this training was no different. There’s great science on adult learning, and Lamaze ensures that your trainers understand how to use that science to help new educators create great classes. I appreciated that the training itself was highly interactive – implementing the same proven techniques we were discussing. I picked up some new ideas and other information was reinforced. I was able to explore my own teaching style and its strengths and weaknesses. An expert facilitator, Tom guided us and brought us back to task when we ventured just a little too far down an occasional rabbit hole.

Saturday was spent on additional teaching analysis and introduction of the primary objectives for our Lamaze curricula. Another reason I adore Lamaze is that they lay down core objectives for educators and then allow each LCCE to teach in his or her own way. I discovered that the trainer process was similar. Each trainer will complete a needs assessment for her community, region or country. We are tasked with using a planning table to detail content for each objective, then listing our teaching techniques and evidence-based resources. In part because all Lamaze International training seminars qualify for nursing contact hours, the process of getting your training program accredited is rigorous – just another reason that Lamaze is the gold standard in our field! I could see the work ahead.

On Saturday afternoon we broke into pairs and developed an assigned training module. Each team delivered its 20-minute teaching session beginning Sunday morning. My partner and I volunteered to present first, which allowed us to fully enjoy the rest of the presentations without any thoughts about our own session. What a delight to watch so many incredible educators work their magic! I think we all picked up techniques and language from one another. We reminded ourselves again and again that we were training educators and not parents. That was an interesting shift, as we’ve all been teaching families for years or even decades. We glowed with the praise from our peers and humbled ourselves to received constructive feedback on what could have gone better. What an excellent model for us to follow as we prepare others to teach!

Saturday ended with an exploration of best practices in dealing with challenging participants. I love that Lamaze International wants us to explore these issues with new instructors! Being a great childbirth educator is about so much more than just understanding birth. The science and art of teaching are critically important to our work and Lamaze International is devoted to helping to build truly great teachers around the world.

As I said goodbye to my new colleagues Monday afternoon and wound my way through a weather-challenged journey home, my thoughts turned to next steps. As my new venture- Heart | Soul | Business ramps up, I’m carving out time to work on my Lamaze curriculum. Branding and marketing are on my mind as I solidify plans to combine birth doula workshops, childbirth educator seminars and advanced business trainings to help other birth workers thrive in this heart-centered work. My background is in marketing, public relations and business administration, so that trifecta of trainings feels like the perfect combination!

A variety of questions remain for me. Which cities need childbirth educator, doula and business trainings? How can I help to even further distinguish the Lamaze name in an increasingly crowded marketplace? What are the pieces of a kick-butt curriculum that will help grow strong, confident educators who can make a difference in diverse communities and in their own unique styles? What will it be like to work on that curriculum with Lamaze International’s amazing lead nurse planner, Susan Givens? I’m strongly committed to continuing to teach families and attend births in my home community, but how will those commitments balance with an increased travel schedule?

Stay tuned, friends. I’m diving in and I’m excited to have you along for the journey.

About Jessica English

jessica english head shotJessica English, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), is the founder of Heart | Soul | Business. A former marketing and PR executive, she owns Birth Kalamazoo, a thriving doula and childbirth education agency in Southwest Michigan. Jessica trains birth doulas and (soon!) Lamaze childbirth educators, as well as offering heart-centered business-building workshops for all birth professionals.

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Lamaze International, Series: On the Independent Track to Becoming a Lamaze Trainer, Uncategorized , , , , ,

Exclusive Q&A with Rebecca Dekker on Evidence for Inducing Labor if the Water Breaks (PROM)

November 20th, 2014 by avatar

Today on Evidence Based Birth, occasional contributor Rebecca Dekker, Phd, RN, APRN, provides a comprehensive research review – What is the Evidence for Inducing Labor if Your Water Breaks at Term?  When membranes are released at term, before a woman is in labor, this is referred to as premature rupture of membranes, or “PROM”.  There does not seem to be a consistent agreement amongst doctors and midwives on what is the appropriate protocol for women who experience PROM.  Rebecca examines the research and helps us (and the families we work with) to understand what might be acceptable options when PROM occurs.  I had a chance to preview the article and ask Rebecca some additional questions that I had.  Her review article along with the questions/answers here can help you to provide the families you work with an update of the most accurate information available. What are you currently sharing with patients, clients and students about best practice around PROM?  What are you seeing in your communities?  Will this information change what you are saying? – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

CLOSEDSharon Muza: What approach do you suggest women and families take in discussing this scenario (PROM) with their health care providers both prenatally and in the moment if PROM should occur?  How can they assure themselves that they will receive evidence based care in either situation?

Rebecca Dekker: Given that one in ten women who give birth at term will experience premature rupture of membranes (PROM), it is important to talk with your health care provider ahead of time about what their recommendation is for PROM that happens at term.

Evidence suggests that in women who meet certain criteria, both waiting for labor to start on its own and inducing labor immediately are evidence-based options. If you hear things like, “You must” do this or “You’re not allowed” to do this in relation to PROM, and those recommendations don’t line up with the evidence, then you may want to seek a second opinion before you go into labor!

Similarly, if you find out that your birth setting has strict requirements for giving birth after PROM (for example, you MUST give birth within 24 hours or you’re required to have a Cesarean, or we NEVER induce for PROM even if it takes you a week to go into labor), then you may want to look into a different birth setting.

The best-laid birth plans are often sidelined by PROM. If you are facing strict rules—either by your provider or hospital—that do not take into account your individual clinical situation, preferences, values, and goals, then you might face pressure to conform to their policies, procedures, or standard practices.

On the other hand, if you know you have a trustworthy care provider and birth setting who will provide you with accurate, evidence-based information about your options, and actively elicit and respect your preferences, then experiencing PROM does not have to be a bad thing!

SM:  Women are often told that a “sterile speculum exam” does not increase their risk of infection after PROM.  What would you say to this?

RD: We found limited evidence that a “sterile speculum exam” does not introduce extra bacteria to the cervix. In one small research study, five women had two sterile speculum exams, and their cervixes were swabbed to check for bacteria after each exam. There was no increase in bacteria on the cervix after the second speculum exam (Imseis et al., 1999).

In contrast, when they swabbed the cervix before and after a digital vaginal exam done with sterile gloves, they found a doubling in the number of types of bacteria on the cervix after the exam. There was also an increase in the growth of bacteria when they cultured the post-exam swab.

So for some reason, vaginal exams using sterile gloves are more harmful than exams using a sterile speculum. The researchers did not say why this might be, but my guess is that perhaps it has to do with the fact that the speculum is made out of a material that does not easily transfer bacteria.

Here’s a funny story for you—when our Evidence Based Birth retreat team was working on the literature search for PROM, we were talking through the whole problem with vaginal exams and the increased risk for infection. One of the clinicians on our team wisely pointed out that it’s not that the gloves are dirty (they’re supposed to be sterile)—it’s that the sterile gloved hand is touching the outside of the vagina and then those germs are delivered by the glove to the cervix. One of us called it the “hostile vagina” syndrome. That term made us laugh really hard.

But in the end, we decided that women’s vaginas aren’t really hostile (and we’re tired of people blaming childbirth problems on women’s bodies!)—it’s that clinicians are using their sterile gloved hands to push bacteria from the lower vagina up to the cervix. Instead of calling it a hostile vagina problem, let’s call it a hostile exam problem!

SM: While conducting your research, did you come across any information that mothers with malpositioned babies were more likely to experience PROM?  How about more PROM during a storm with an extremely low barometric pressure in place?

RD: After an extensive search, we could not find any research that directly looked at the relationship between posterior-positioned babies and the risk of PROM. I did find this book written by Johns Hopkins Medical Center in 1916, where they mentioned anecdotes about posterior babies and PROM. There was also one paper published in 1994 that found 21% of mothers with persistent posterior-positioned babies started labor with PROM. But we have very little evidence to go on here, so not sure if we can say with any certainty whether there is a relationship or not.

There is very little evidence on the topic of PROM during storms with low barometric pressure. This relationship is theoretically possible, but the evidence is limited. I found two studies that found a correlation between low barometric pressure and PROM—however, both of these studies were limited by retrospective (looking backwards in time) designs (Akutagawa et al., 2007; Polansky et al. 1985).

I’m not sure if the barometric pressure relationship with PROM has any clinical relevance, though—what are we going to tell women? Avoid storms at the end of pregnancy?

SM: You wrote that researchers found that 8-10% of women will have PROM, but anecdotally, many HCPs, doulas, CBEs etc., state that it happens more frequently than that.  Do you think it could be higher than the 10% stated, and why do you think experiences do not align with the research?

RD: The reference that most people point to for the one in ten number comes from a really interesting paper published by Gunn et al. in 1970. In this article, they reviewed all of the previous studies on PROM, and they also looked at the rate of PROM in their own institution. Gunn et al. found that previous researchers reported incidences of 2.7% to 17%, with most incidences falling between 7% and 12%. In their own review of medical records at UCLA during a ten year period (1956-1966), they found an overall PROM rate of 10.7%. This rate included preterm and term births, and they defined PROM as the water spontaneously breaking any time before the start of labor.

In the Evidence Based Birth blog article on PROM, we spent a lot of time discussing the known risk factors for PROM. You have to take into account the fact that this 10% is an average, and it may fluctuate depending on risk factors. For example, if you live in an area where most clinicians are doing weekly prenatal vaginal exams starting at 36-37 weeks and routinely stripping the membranes, then you are probably going to see a higher rate of term PROM.

SM: If you could design a study that wanted to determine the best practice for PROM, how would you go about it?

RD: I actually think that the Hannah (1996) TermPROM study was really well designed (with a few exceptions that would need to be changed), and future researchers can learn a lot of lessons from how they went about looking at induction versus expectant management.

If we were going to conduct another study, it would obviously need to use modern protocols for Group B Strep screening, and a better definition of chorioamnionitis.  We also don’t know what would happen if care providers kept their hands out of the vagina—one-third of women in the Hannah study had vaginal exams right away when they entered the study. So making it part of the study protocol to keep those hands out of the vagina at the beginning would be important.

I would also like to see this topic studied in various settings with both low and high Cesarean rates. The Hannah study took place in countries and hospitals where the C-section rates seemed to be pretty low overall—about 15% for first-time moms—which isn’t great, but it’s much lower than the one in four primary Cesarean rate we have in the U.S. It’s quite possible that the Hannah findings about Cesarean rates are NOT generalizable to the U.S. and other countries where Cesarean rates are very high.

Finally, I would love to see a secondary data analysis from the AABC Birth Center study about outcomes from women who gave birth in U.S. birth centers after experiencing PROM. This would not be a randomized trial of course, but it could give us really great information about the general rate of complications women might experience if they give birth in a low-intervention setting with PROM.

SM: In the research you examined, is there any information about women who had PROM in a previous pregnancy more likely to have it again?  (i.e., is this just how labor starts in general for those women.) 

RD: In the studies that we did review, I did not find  any research about this topic.

SM: Given that the risk of a prolapsed cord is around or less than 1%, (and some risk factors make that more likely: breech baby, SGA, preterm, multiples, polyhydramnios for example) what should women consider when they are told by their HCPs to come in immediately after PROM, even when there are no contractions and labor has not yet started.  (I am assuming that is why they are told to come in immediately, even though prolapsed cord would be an obstetrical emergency, not a “head this way now” thing.)

RD: I would recommend finding out more information about your care provider’s intentions and treatment protocols. Prolapsed cord is really rare (reported range with PROM is 0.3% to 0.6% per Gunn et al.’s 1970 extensive review of the literature) and it’s an immediate, life-threatening emergency for the baby, so if they are saying, “You can take a shower, but then you need come to the hospital,” then that can’t be what they are worried about.

As a mother, I would want to know, “Why do you want me to come in immediately? And what are you going to do when I get there? Are there medical reasons (such as GBS) that I need to come in for right away?” Are they just going to verify that the water is broken with a sterile speculum exam and do a quick check with the monitor to make sure baby is doing okay? Are antibiotics indicated? Will the mother be given the choice of induction versus expectant management, and be told that if she wants to, she can wait for labor to begin either at the hospital or at home? Or are they going to insist that she start the induction process as quickly as possible? This is where it is really helpful to know the standard procedure that is practiced in your birth setting, and how rigid their protocols are.

Looking at the evidence that we have available to us, it seems that waiting 6 to 12, or maybe 24 even hours at home for labor to start is probably not going to be harmful—as long as the mom is GBS negative, the fluid is clear, and she is monitoring her temperature and baby’s movements. It is also certainly evidence-based to go in and get evaluated (after all, that was the protocol in the Hannah and Pintucci studies that have given us evidence on the safety of waiting).

It’s best if you figure this out ahead of time—before you experience PROM. It takes honest and careful communication with your care provider, and that discussion simply has to take into account your own personal situation, risk factors for infection, and preferences. It’s so important to find a care provider you can trust, consult with them, and ask their opinion about any information or research you have uncovered. Have open discussions about the evidence with whomever you have hired to take care of you, but find a trustworthy care provider! I can’t emphasize that enough.

ImprovingBirth.org just launched a really great article about how to find care you can trust, and I highly recommend reading it!

SM: Have you read anything about the amniotic membranes being able to reclose after breaking?  I have heard that sometimes if there is a high leak they will “repair” themselves?

RD: Yes, this is possible. In the Gunn et al. (1970) literature review, they referenced studies from the 1950s and 1960s claiming that a break can happen in the membranes in an area above the lower uterine segment. The break can then re-seal itself so that no more fluid loss occurs.

Then in 2006, Devlieger et al. published a review of the literature in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on the topic of membrane healing. If you’re interested in this topic, I would recommend reviewing their article, although it mostly focuses on the possibility of resealing the membranes after preterm premature rupture of membranes (not term PROM).

SM: For all the childbirth educators reading this post – what key points should they be sure to cover during class to help their families feel prepared if PROM should happen to them?

RD: Evidence shows that in women who meet certain criteria (single baby, head-first position, clear fluid, no fever or signs of infection in mother or baby, negative Group B Strep test), waiting for labor to start on its own for up to 2-3 days is as safe for the baby as inducing labor right away, although the mother is more likely to get an infection herself. In other words, both inducing labor and waiting for labor are evidence-based options. Families need to know that their preferences and values matter in this situation, and if they are in a setting where the care provider has strict rules that “must” be followed, their preferences might not be honored.

However, you have to keep in mind that as always, there are caveats with the information about the safety of waiting for labor to begin. In the most recent study that we have (Pintucci et al., 2014) showing great outcomes with waiting for labor to begin on its own, women did their waiting in the hospital, and started antibiotics at 24 hours. In the Hannah et al. (1996) TermPROM study, women in the “expectant management” arm of the study came to the hospital first, were assessed and had a non-stress test, and then were given the choice to go home and monitor their temperature there, or stay in the hospital to wait for labor to begin.

Finally, probably the single most important thing that women need to know is to not let people put hands up your vagina after your water breaks! That is the single most important risk factor for infection, and hands need to be kept out as much as possible. A vaginal exam when your water first breaks with PROM is not necessary, and is probably harmful, and can cause infection in you and your baby. Sterile speculum exams are probably okay.

The more vaginal exams you have after PROM, the higher your risk of infection. Keep all hands out!!

SM: Anything else you would like to add or include as a follow up to your informative article?

I want to publicly thank Alicia Breakey, a brilliant PhD candidate from Harvard who is about to graduate very soon (and is looking for a position in maternal health!). Alicia served as first-author on this blog article, and I really couldn’t have published it without her diligent help. I’d also like to thank our clinician expert, Angela Reidner, MSN, CNM, who was also a co-author with us.

Photo source: By Saltanat ebli (Own work) 


Akutagawa, O., Nishi, H., & Isaka, K. (2007). Spontaneous delivery is related to barometric pressure. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics275(4), 249-254.

Devlieger, R., Millar, L. K., Bryant-Greenwood, G., Lewi, L., & Deprest, J. A. (2006). Fetal membrane healing after spontaneous and iatrogenic membrane rupture: a review of current evidence. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology195(6), 1512-1520.

Gardberg, M., & Tuppurainen, M. (1994). Persistent occiput posterior presentation-a clinical problem. Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica,73(1), 45-47.

Gunn, G. C., Mishell, D. R., & Morton, D. G. (1970). Premature rupture of the fetal membranes. Am J Obstet Gynecol106(3), 469-483.

Hannah, M. E., Ohlsson, A., Farine, D., Hewson, S. A., Hodnett, E. D., Myhr, T. L., … & Willan, A. R. (1996). Induction of labor compared with expectant management for prelabor rupture of the membranes at term. New England Journal of Medicine334(16), 1005-1010.

Imseis, H. M., Trout, W. C., & Gabbe, S. G. (1999). The microbiologic effect of digital cervical examination. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology,180(3), 578-580.

Pintucci, A., Meregalli, V., Colombo, P., & Fiorilli, A. (2014). Premature rupture of membranes at term in low risk women: how long should we wait in the “latent phase”?. Journal of perinatal medicine42(2), 189-196.

Polansky, G. H., Varner, M. W., & O’Gorman, T. (1985). Premature rupture of the membranes and barometric pressure changes. The Journal of reproductive medicine30(3), 189-191.

Stapleton, S. R., Osborne, C., & Illuzzi, J. (2013). Outcomes of care in birth centers: demonstration of a durable model. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health58(1), 3-14.


Looking Ahead to 2015 Conferences – Is Your Event Listed On Our Conference Calendar?

October 30th, 2014 by avatar
2014 conference

Sharon Muza & Jeanette McCulloch present@ Lamaze/DONA 2014

I just received, via email, my contact hour documentation from my attendance at the Lamaze International/DONA International Confluence that was held in Kansas City, MO this past September.  In addition to conferences being a wonderful place to network with colleagues, participate in engaging learning opportunities and travel and explore a new city, most conferences also offer the opportunity to be awarded the continuing education/contact hours that I need to maintain both my Lamaze certification and my DONA birth doula certification.  Both of these recertifications require renewal every three years, and I am working on my Lamaze recertification now, due by the end of December.

At the same time as I am closing out the 2014 year, I am looking at the available conferences scheduled for 2015, planning out my year, allocating both my financial resources and my available time.  I am going to be sure to plan on attending the Lamaze/ICEA Joint Conference scheduled for September 2015 in Las Vegas, NV.  I am looking for other opportunities as well!

Is your organization offering a conference or workshop that other birth professionals, including childbirth educators, doulas, nurses, midwives, physicians, lactation consultants, counselors, and others involved in maternal infant care would want to know about?  If so, please be sure to submit your organization’s event using our online submission form, so we can get it posted in our maternal health, birth, breastfeeding and postpartum conference schedule.

Take a look at what is listed now, check back regularly for new additions and start to plan what conferences are the ones that you don’t want to miss!  Let us know in the comments section what plans you have made for attending a 2015 conference. What looks exciting to you?


Mary Jo Podgurski, EdD, LCCE, Receives National Award for Work With Teens

October 21st, 2014 by avatar

Mary Jo Podgurski, RNC, EdD, LCCE, FACCE has been selected to receive the 2014 Carol Mendez Cassell Award for Excellence in Sexuality Education by the Healthy Teen Network.  Dr. Podgurski will be in Austin, Texas on Wednesday, October 22nd to accept the award at this year’s Healthy Teen Network conference: Synergy: Achieving More Together.

© Mary Jo Podgurski

© Mary Jo Podgurski

The Healthy Teen Network builds capacity among professionals and organizations through education, advocacy, and networking so that they can assist all adolescents and young adults, including teen parents, to have access to the services and education that allow them to make responsible choices about childbearing and family formation, and are supported and empowered to lead healthy sexual, reproductive, and family lives.

Dr. Podgurski could not be more deserving of this award. Her impact on the lives of the young people lucky enough to have been exposed to or participated in one of Dr. Podgurski’s programs is profound.  This woman is has a heart of gold.  At the top of Dr. Podgurski’s CV is the following statement, which so clearly speaks to what drives and shapes her work and her heart:

Perhaps the most important biographical fact needed to know about me deals with joy. I am blessed to spend my days interacting with young people and I treasure every moment; I believe deeply in their wisdom. My primary mantra is simple: Each person is a person of worth. Actually that tenet translates well to my primary value – that all must be respected, regardless of age, size, race, ethnicity, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, socio-economic status, education, religion, or position in society. My papa was my spiritual guide and he taught me that we are “all in this together.”   

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the Director of The Washington Health System Teen Outreach and President and Founder of the Academy for Adolescent Health, Inc. Her undergraduate education is in nursing and education, her master’s work was in counseling, and her doctorate is in education. She began volunteering with pregnant teens in the 70s and has created numerous youth development and education programs using reality-based, interactive educational techniques that are evidence-based and empower youth. Teen Outreach programs have reached over 18,000 students annually through in-school sexuality education in all 14 Washington County school districts. Since the Outreach began she and her team have taught over 231,000 young people in-school comprehensive sexuality education in four counties and 38 schools in Western PA. The Outreach has mentored over 7,000 young parents and trained over 10,000 peer educators. She directs a monthly Adolescent Advisory Board of 75 teens, maintains an active peer educator group (since 1995), and produces original teen educational dramas through the Real Talk Performers. The Outreach’s Ambassador for Respect Program was created in 2006 and models respect throughout the county; the 2013-2014 focus was Respect for Older Adults and the 2014-2015 theme is Smash the Stereotypes.

© Mary Jo Podgurksi

© Mary Jo Podgurksi

During 2010, Dr. Podgurski introduced her Real Talk for Real Teens™ trainings on sexuality education for school staff; these trainings provide activities, lesson plans, and PowerPoint presentations for 5th and 6th graders, middle school and secondary school students. Her educational/mentoring programs for pregnant and parenting teens (PPT) reach over 150 young parents annually in three counties. The PRIDE (Parenting Responsibly with Dignity and Empowerment) PPT Program and a program for expectant teen fathers entitled REAL Dads: Strong Fathers, Strong Families Program involve intensive, weekly mentoring contact with professional staff and young parents. The PPT Program averages an 85 – 94% high school graduation rate; over the last decade students in the program have experienced a 3% or less repeat pregnancy rate. The ECHO (Educate Children for Healthy Outcomes) early intervention program she created in 1999 provides intensive educational mentoring on a weekly basis for youth in grades 7 – 12. Founded on the evidenced-based antecedents for early childbearing (history of abuse, internal and external poverty, foster placement, and generational teen pregnancy) ECHO served 581 at-risk young women between 1999-2009. Only three of those young people experienced a pregnancy and all three were 17 or 18. ECHO clients are typically seen for 4 – 5 years. ECHO is currently being evaluated with help from Susan Philliber Associates.

I have had the privilege of meeting Mary Jo several times over the years at various childbirth functions and conferences.  The magic that this wonderful woman possesses is clear from the minute you meet her.  If you are lucky to spend some time with her, her, you cannot help but see her special powers!  When you talk to Mary Jo, she makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world.  You are heard, listened to and valued.

nonnie podgurskiMary Jo dreams big and makes things happen!  The depth and breadth of what she has accomplished is so expansive. In addition to her extensive program development history, she is an accomplished author, with works that include Inside Out: Your Body is Amazing Inside and Out and Belongs Only to You, a body-positive, child-centered, interactive, child abuse prevention program, is a result of her experience with survivors. Her publications include Games Educators Play One and Two, and What’s Up as YOU Grow Up?  In 2014 she authored a cutting edge children’s book on the challenging topic of gender/gender identity. Nonnie Talks about Gender is unique, interactive, and pertinent to today’s culture. Her latest books are Real Talk for Real Teen Parents: A Real Life Workbook for Young Parents, and Real Talk for Real Teens: #communicate, an interactive collection of scenarios to inspire adult/teen communication.  Mary Jo Podgurski is also a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and a Fellow in the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators.

Mary Jo Podgurski, please accept my personal congratulations and those of the entire Lamaze International organization, as you accept the 2014 Carol Mendez Cassell Award for Excellence in Sexual Education.  We could not be more proud of you and we honor the work you are doing.  It is making a difference in the lives of many.  Thank you for all you do.



Awards, Childbirth Education, Uncategorized , , , ,

Q&A with Newly Elected Lamaze International President – Robin Elise Weiss

October 16th, 2014 by avatar

Lamaze International has a new board president and we would like to introduce you to Robin Elise Weiss. I am so delighted that Robin has assumed this role and I am confident that she accomplish great things during her term.

“Childbirth education is one of the most foundational elements of a safe and healthy birth.” – Robin Elise Weiss

© Robin Elise Weiss

© Robin Elise Weiss

Robin Elise Weiss has been elected President of Lamaze International, a nonprofit organization that promotes safe and healthy birth. Weiss is the mother of eight children and brings more than 25 years of expertise in maternal child health and building online communities to her role. She is a PhD candidate, author of more than ten books, and a leading online expert in pregnancy and childbirth. Robin will serve a one-year term beginning in the Fall of 2014.

“Childbirth education is one of the most foundational elements of a safe and healthy birth,” said Weiss. “As president, my goal is to build on the more than 50 years of incredible work and accomplishments of Lamaze by further expanding our capacity to meet parents where they – increasingly – can be found: online. I also want to ensure that Lamaze is addressing the needs of all families, by even further developing our educators both in numbers and diversity.”

In her role as president, Robin will oversee governance of Lamaze International, working with the board and committees to ensure that Lamaze programs and activities continue to fulfill the organization’s mission to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy.  Robin will be also supporting the Lamaze vision of “knowledgeable parents making informed decisions.”

“Robin is a respected pregnancy and childbirth expert with years of experience as a Lamaze educator teaching both expecting parents and aspiring new educators. She brings natural leadership skills and social media expertise to her new role as Lamaze president,” said Linda Harmon, MPH, and Executive Director of Lamaze International.

Robin received her undergraduate degree in Reproductive Health, and Masters in Public Health from the University of Louisville. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Public Health Management & Systems Science, also from the University of Louisville. Robin has been an innovator for the past 20 years on the Internet, consistently recognized for her significant role in providing unbiased childbirth education information online, including being the owner and creator of one of the first childbirth websites available.

Weiss is the author of more than ten books including: The Complete Illustrated Pregnancy Companion, The Better Way to Care for Your BabyThe Everything New Mother’s First Year, The Everything Pregnancy Fitness BookThe Better Way to Breastfeed, and The Everything Getting Pregnant Book. She is also the winner of Lamaze International’s prestigious Elisabeth Bing Award for outstanding contribution to childbirth on a national level and the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) Forum Award and the Lamaze International’s Presidents Award for her work with The Birth Survey. Robin lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and eight children.

I asked Robin a few questions about her thoughts on Lamaze International, her hopes and goals for the organization and some key messages for families and educators.  Join me in learning more about Robin she begins her term as Board President.

Sharon Muza: What are some of the opportunities and challenges that face our organization currently and what plan do you and the board have to meet these challenges?

Robin Elise Weiss: Last spring we had an amazing strategic planning session. I am so excited about all of the opportunities that lay ahead for us, and the fact that we all had similar mindsets about what the biggest challenges were, and a great variety of things to help us combat them. One of the things that we have a plan to address is to help increase the number of educators, in order to increase the number of women we reach with the Lamaze message. As a part of this plan, it’s important that we make that obtainable both as potential educators and as potential class attendants. This means thinking outside of the regular classroom and typical childbirth class attendee.

© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

SM: When you think of the many recent accomplishments of Lamaze International, what are a few that you are most proud of? Why?

REW: One of the many things that Lamaze has worked really hard on is to build a great online presence. We all know what the data says about women’s online habits when it comes to parenting and health. Lamaze has built a great reputation with blogs like Giving Birth With Confidence for the consumer, Science & Sensibility for the educators and birth professional; as well as a variety of other means of simply being there, including Twitter accounts, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Having ourselves out and about online gives women a chance to see that Lamaze International is an active and vital force, something that they want to have as a part of their birth, thus reaching out to their local Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Being online is something that is huge part of my life, and obviously, I’ve been talking to women in this space for over 20 years. Lamaze is a leader in this area.

I am also really excited about the Push for Your Baby Campaign. It launched last year with the video and has included a series of infographics. These are designed to be quick, evidence based ways for women and families to get information and to help build that faith in Lamaze.

 SM: Why is it more important than ever to pursue and maintain certification as a childbirth educator with Lamaze International?

REW: The push for evidence-based care is one that means that all levels of care, from education to execution of the medical side need to be in sync. As we often see with doctors and midwives, it can be really difficult to stay abreast of the vast amount of information that is published in this field on a daily basis. A certification with Lamaze is the bedrock of an education that is based on evidence, but also strives to continue to increase the knowledge levels and stay up-to-date with science and the changing landscape. Maintaining your Lamaze Certification means that you know that Lamaze is helping you filter out the noise and focus on great content that you need to know to be an amazing educator. We do that in a variety of ways, not the least of which is our Journal of Perinatal Education, Inside Childbirth newsletter, our blogs, and other social media platforms.

SM: What do you believe distinguishes Lamaze International from other childbirth education organizations? For educators? For families?

REW: Lamaze International has set a high bar for the childbirth educator. In 2015, Lamaze turns 55. The changes that have happened in birthing children in the last 55 years are astounding and I am not sure that anyone could have predicted where we would be today. That said, Lamaze has always maintained that a knowledgeable childbirth educator was the cornerstone of helping families prepare for their birth, which certainly hasn’t changed in the past 55 years. But something as basic having a loved one with you when you give birth is taken for granted, that wasn’t always so.

Lamaze International reaches families through the Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. This is the gold standard by which all other programs are judged. We are a highly accredited certification and maintenance of that certification. You won’t find a once and done philosophy here. This keeps us on our proverbial toes.

SM: How important do you think it is for Lamaze to sit at the table with and be recognized as a serious player amongst maternal infant health organizations? Do you feel like we are there or do we have some growth in that area?

REW: The good news is that Lamaze does sit at that table and is taken seriously. Certainly there are some organizations that are more likely partners than others, but we are certainly reaching out. Just this past year, I’ve personally seen Lamaze interacting with organizations like DONA International, the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and many others. There is always room for growth, and we will continue to reach out where it makes sense. (Don’t forget to mark your calendar for our joint conference in 2015 with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)!)

There has been a large growth in the number of researchers and research that we take part in as an organization. This will continue to grow as we move forward.

SM: How can our members share with the public that this is not your mama’s Lamaze? That our organization and education offerings have moved beyond the stereotypical breathing exercises that seemed our trademark in decades past?

REW: This is one of those places that you need to simply be out there and be visible. Have your elevator speech, or speeches planned. You will get a good feel for what questions are pervasive in your community. You’ll get questions about the breathing. (I like to explain that as an LCCE, my job is to teach a variety of ways to deal with labor, not simply something like breathing, but also being active physically, and involved with your care.) You might get told that they don’t need a childbirth educator for whatever reason. (This is the perfect place to insert what makes you and your class unique! Hello – Talk up the Six Healthy Birth Practices.) Figure out what’s going on in your community and be ready.

You can also be proactive. Get out and talk about Lamaze International and what you are doing locally. Never hesitate to give a quick presentation someplace. (Yes, I’m known for traveling with a baby and pelvis for an impromptu class!) Offer to teach a quick 10 minute class on a topic at the local library (Give them a list of books to have available ahead of time!), or bookstore. Talk to others in your area and support one another, this is even better if you already have a birth network.

And social media and your online presence is also important. Share the links from our blogs and social media, particularly the infographics. These are great to put on your website, send in an email to a potential client, use as books marks, use the social media sharing buttons around the site. Share, share, share!

SM: Tell us something unusual about you that we might never know!

REW: Thanks to social media, I am not sure that I have anything unusual that’s not known. So let me tell you about something of which I am very proud – I was a Military Police Officer in the 101st Airborne Division. Being an MP has been a really unique facet of who I am as a professional and as a mother. I love to explain that I came to birth from a science perspective – the biology, chemistry, and physics – it just all works! What I didn’t understand was the touchy, feely stuff; that was difficult for me to learn. Now I feel like I have just the right amount of everything going for me – the science, the presence, and the sensitive side.

Please join me in congratulating Robin Elise Weiss on her election as board president and offer her good wishes as she begins her year of service in maintaining Lamaze International as the premier childbirth education organization.




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