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Lamaze International Introduces Online Parent Learning Center!

July 24th, 2014 by avatar

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.37.54 PMLamaze International has been working hard for many decades to make childbirth education classes available and accessible to a wide variety of women and their families.  Our training programs provide opportunities for men and women all around the world to complete a workshop and become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) in the hopes that these educators can go on to teach Lamaze classes in their communities.  Despite new educators being added to the ranks all the time, many families are unfortunately still not able to find a Lamaze class in their community.  Some families, for a variety of reasons, may be unable to logistically attend an in-person class.

“This new online parent education initiative supports a key strategic imperative in Lamaze International’s newly adopted strategic framework – Innovate Education and Expand to the Childbearing Years. Through optimizing digital technology, expanding content offerings and providing online delivery, we hope to reach more women earlier in pregnancy and throughout their childbearing years with Lamaze education.” – Michele Ondeck, Lamaze International President

Lamaze International is pleased to announce that families who cannot attend an in-person class now have another option for Lamaze childbirth education.  The Lamaze Online Parent Center launches their first class, “Safe and Healthy Birth: Six Simple Steps” this week.  This online class offers an opportunity for parents to learn about the practices that support safe, normal, healthy birth and is based on the the Six Healthy Birth Practices that we all know so well and teach about in our classes.

This first online class has been developed by Lamaze International subject matter experts using the innovative online learning platform created by Thought Industries. Great care has been taken to create an online class that is interactive, engaging, informative and offers evidence based information in an easy to learn, understandable way for parents desiring an online option for their childbirth class.  Discussion forums, downloadable documents that support the curriculum, videos, interactive activities, stories, quizzes and more all come together to create an enriching online learning environment.

Parents participating in this online class are encouraged at many points to seek out an in-person Lamaze class in their community to access the skills and expertise of local LCCEs to help them to have a safe and healthy birth.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.39.13 PM

The concept of online learning is more attractive than ever for today’s parents who view their smart phones, tablets and laptops as the perfect devices for accessing information when and where they want it. We are poised to meet the need of this new style of learner with our Lamaze Online Parent Center.  Birth professionals and families can explore the class in a quick preview and discover all the material that is covered.  Families can enroll right away and start and move through the class at their convenience. Families can also sign up to receive notification when the additional classes are launched.

After the launch of the “Safe and Healthy Birth: Six Simple Steps” online class, families will be able to participate in additional classes scheduled to be launched later this summer.  The new class topics will include “Prepared for Pregnancy: Start Off Right,” “VBAC: Informed and Ready” and “Breastfeeding Basics.”

 ”This initiative sets the stage for broader engagement with parents through online education, offering content in bite size pieces. It creates opportunities for educators to engage with parents in the online classes as moderators, to use as pre-work or an add-on to in person classes or private consultations, to serve as content experts for future class development, and as a referral source for in-person Lamaze classes where they are available.” - Lamaze International Education Council Chair Allison Walsh

Take a moment to look around the Lamaze Online Learning Center, peek at the pilot course and consider how these online classes can be an asset for parents to take advantage of, in addition to in-person participation. The “Prepared for Pregnancy: Start Off Right” course will hopefully generate primary interest in Lamaze offerings and motivate more families to seek out classes offered by Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators local to them. As always, you can count on Lamaze International to continue to be a leader in evidence based childbirth education.

 

Childbirth Education, Healthy Birth Practices, Lamaze International, Push for Your Baby , , ,

Lamaze Releases Useful New Infographic: “No Food, No Drink During Labor? NO WAY!”

July 22nd, 2014 by avatar

piece Lamaze_RestrictedFoodDrinkInfographic_FINALToday, Lamaze International releases their newest infographic “No Food, No Drink During Labor? NO WAY!” This useful infographic is available on both the Lamaze International for Professionals website and the Lamaze Parents website. The most recent Listening to Mothers III survey indicated that 60% of women did not drink and 80% did not eat during labor! (DeClercq, 2013) The common practice of restricting food and drink for laboring women is outdated and not supported by evidence.  Unfortunately, most laboring women still face resistance from health care providers and facilities when they desire to eat or drink during their labor.

Lamaze International is hosting a Twitter Chat today, July 22nd, 2014 at 9 PM EST.  Professionals and parents are invited to participate in this live Twitter discussion moderated by Kathryn Konrad, MS, RNC-OB, LCCE, FACCE (@KkonradLCCE) and Robin Weiss, PhDc, MPH, CPH, CD(DONA), CLC, LCCE, Lamaze International’s President Elect. Tonight’s topic is “Restrictions in Labor” including this infographic on eating and drinking along with last month’s infographic on moving in labor (“We Like To Move It, Move It!”) Follow the hashtag #LamazeChat.  New to participating in a Twitter chat?  Check out this article for information on how to participate and get the most out of your experience.

Lamaze International’s Healthy Birth Practices, first released in 2009, discussed in great length the benefits to moving and changing position in labor in the 2nd Healthy Birth Practice: “Walk, Move Around and Change Positions Throughout Labor“ as well as the risks to restricting food and drink in the 4th Healthy Birth Practice: “Avoid Interventions That Are Not Medically Necessary.”

These useful infographics complement the Healthy Birth Practices, are easy to share on social media and can be used in the classroom as a poster to help parents to understand how to have the safest and healthiest birth possible.

Won’t you take a moment to check out this newest infographic and share with the expectant families that you work with!  Consider sharing it on your favorite social media outlet (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) and making it available in your classrooms!

If you have an interesting way you are using these infographics, or would like to just share your thoughts on the infographic topics, please let us know in the comments section. I would love to hear how you use this info in your practice.

Click here to download the newest infographic “No Food, No Drink During Labor? NO WAY!”

You may access all the infographics available here!

References

Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., Applebaum, S., & Herrlich, A. (2013). Listening to mothers III: Pregnancy and birth. New York, NY: Childbirth Connection.

Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, informed Consent, Lamaze International, Maternity Care, Medical Interventions, Push for Your Baby , , , , ,

Evidence Supports Celebrating the Doula! Happy International Doula Month!

May 15th, 2014 by avatar
© Serena O'Dwyer

© Serena O’Dwyer

May is International Doula Month and I am delighted to recognize and celebrate this important member of the birth team today on Science & Sensibility.  A birth doula is a trained person (both men and women can be and are doulas) who supports a birthing person and their family during labor and birth with information, physical and emotional support and assistance in women finding their voice and making choices for their maternity care. A postpartum doula is a trained professional who supports the family during the “fourth trimester” with emotional support, breastfeeding assistance, newborn care and information along with light household tasks as postpartum families make adjustments to caring for a newborn in the house.  Birthing families  traditionally have received support from family and community going back hundreds of generations.  In the early to mid 20th century, as birthed moved from home to hospital, the birthing woman was removed from her support. In 1989, the first doula organization, PALS Doulas was established in Seattle, WA, and then in 1992, DONA International was founded by by leaders in the childbirth and maternal infant health field.  Since then, many other training and professional doula organizations have been created around the world and the number of doulas trained and available to serve birthing and postpartum families has grown substantially.

© J. Wasikowski, provided by Birthtastic

© J. Wasikowski, provided by Birthtastic

Doulas and childbirth educators have similar goals and objectives – to help birthing families to feel supported, informed , strong and ready to push for the best care for themselves and their babies.  Some childbirth educators have trained as doulas as well, and may work in both capacities.  It can be a wonderful partnership of mutual trust and collaboration.  In fact, Lamaze International, the premier childbirth education organization and DONA International, the gold standard of doula organizations have joined together to offer a confluence (conference) jointly hosted by both organizations in Kansas City, MO in September, 2014. An exciting time for networking, continuing education, learning and fun with members of both organizations.

© Sarah Sweetmans

© Sarah Sweetmans

While the profession has grown considerably since those early days, the most recent Listening to Mothers III survey published in 2013, indicates that only 6 percent of birthing families had a trained labor support person/doula in attendance at their birth. (Declercq, 2013)  The most recent systematic review on the impact of doulas on a woman’s birth experience found that birthing women supported by a doula were:

  • more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births
  • less likely to have intrapartum analgesia or regional analgesia
  • less likely to report dissatisfaction
  • more likely to have shorter labors
  • less likely to have a cesarean
  • less likely to have an instrumental vaginal birth
  • less likely to have a baby with a low five minute Apgar score

There were no adverse effects reported. (Hodnett, 2013)

When the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal- Fetal Medicine (SMFM) released their groundbreaking “Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery” Obstetric Care Consensus Statement in February 2014, one of their key recommendations to reduce the primary cesarean rate in the USA was the continuous presence of a doula at a birth. (Caughey, 2014)

Continuous Labor and Delivery Support

Published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula. A Cochrane meta-analysis of 12 trials and more than 15,000 women demonstrated that the presence of continuous one-on-one support during labor and delivery was associated with improved patient satisfaction and a statistically significant reduction in the rate of cesarean delivery. Given that there are no associated measurable harms, this resource is probably underutilized. – ACOG/SMFM

dianne hamre doula

© Dianne Hamre by Kristen Self Photography

Doulas do a great job of supporting mothers, partners and families during the childbearing year and helping to improve outcomes for mothers and babies. The research shows it, the experiences of families confirms it and now ACOG recognizes the important role that a trained doula has in reducing the cesarean rate in the United States.  Childbirth educators can share this with students and maybe the next time birthing families are surveyed, the number of families choosing to birth with a doula with have risen significantly!

Doulas, thank you for all you do to support families!  You are providing a much needed service and improving the birth experience for families around the world.  We salute you!

How do you discuss doulas with the families you teach and work with?  Do any educators have doulas come in to help during class time?  Please share your experiences and let us know how it works out for you and your students and clients.

References

Caughey, A. B., Cahill, A. G., Guise, J. M., & Rouse, D. J. (2014). Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 210(3), 179-193.

Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., Applebaum, S., & Herrlich, A. (2013). Listening to Mothers III: Pregnancy and Birth; Report of the Third National US Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences. New York, NY: Childbirth Connection.

Dekker, Rebecca. “The Evidence for Doulas.” Evidence Based Birth. N.p., 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 14 May 2-14.

Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5.

 

 

 

2014 Confluence, Childbirth Education, Confluence 2014, Doula Care, Healthy Birth Practices, Lamaze International, Maternity Care, Newborns, Push for Your Baby, Research, Uncategorized , , , , , , , , ,

The Science Behind the Lamaze Exam and the Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator Credentials

May 1st, 2014 by avatar

Last week, around the world, candidates for certification sat for the Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator exam.  That test represented the culmination of weeks, months and often years of planning, preparation, studying and hard work.  While the results are still some weeks out, I thought it would be interesting to learn about the science behind the Lamaze exam and what makes it the gold standard of childbirth educator certifications from Judith Lothian, PhD, RN, LCCE, FACCE, the chairperson of the Lamaze Certification Council Governing Body. Today’s families deserve the best, so they can push for their baby, with all the evidence and research that stands behind the LCCE credentials of their childbirth educator. Learn more about attending a Lamaze workshop and explore becoming an LCCE yourself so you can offer families in your community the gold standard of childbirth education. – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.
LCCE

Lamaze International is extremely proud of the fact that the Lamaze certification examination is the only examination for childbirth educators that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).  Achieving and maintaining this accreditation is a rigorous and ongoing process.

Accreditation by NCCA assures you that the exam you take will accurately measure the competencies of a childbirth educator. The seven competencies of a Lamaze Childbirth Educator are supported by job analysis research that is done every 5-7 years. The last job analysis was conducted in 2012. The results of that analysis were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Perinatal Education. Lamaze members may access the full journal online after logging in to the Lamaze website. Basing the exam on the results of a job analysis is an important way to ensure that the exam accurately evaluates the competencies of a childbirth educator. Fairness is a very important issue and to that end NCCA has evaluated our policies, our procedures and the actual exam, including the construction of items and the exam itself as well as the evaluation of its performance. The NCCA stamp of approval is a vote of confidence that experts in the certification field believe that the Lamaze certification policies are fair and that the certificate examination accurately evaluates the competencies of a Lamaze Certified childbirth educator.

Lamaze is the only childbirth educator certification program that has received NCCA accreditation. Professional standards set by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence describe the difference between professional certification and assessment based certificate programs. “Professional or personnel certification is a voluntary process by which individuals’ pre-acquired knowledge, skills, or competencies are evaluated against predetermined standards. The focus is on an assessment that is independent of a specific class, course, or other education/training program. Participants who demonstrate that they meet the standards by successfully completing the assessment process are granted the certification.” The American College of Nurse Midwives and the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants are examples, like Lamaze, of professional certification.

In contrast, an assessment-based certificate program is a non-degree granting educational program that provides instruction and training to help participants gain specific knowledge and skills and then evaluates achievement of expected learning outcomes and awards a certificate to those who successfully pass the assessment. Childbirth educator certifications, other than Lamaze, are assessment-based certificate programs. Because of this, many educators who have childbirth educator credentials from other organizations  choose to sit for the Lamaze exam.

Why is this important? It assures you that the certification examination has met the rigorous standards of professional certification, that the exam is fair and actually measures what it is should to insure that you indeed have achieved the competencies to practice as a Lamaze childbirth educator.

The certification exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions and the questions reflect the essential information a childbirth educator should know (the competencies of a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator). An inside look at the process of item writing and exam construction and evaluation will give you a taste for how rigorous, and interesting, the process actually is.

The exams are put together by a test development committee that meets twice a year for 4-5 days. The committee includes expert childbirth educators, a public member who is not a childbirth educator, and, often a novice childbirth educator (a high scorer on a recent exam). Using the test blueprint (based on the latest job analysis) the committee writes questions and then a smaller group “constructs” individual exams from the item bank of questions.

nccaDraft items are written in small groups, usually 2 or 3 educators. It is actually very, very difficult to develop a fair question that measures knowledge and skills that are important for the childbirth educator to know. It is tedious work and challenges all of us without exception! Once a small group has developed an item they think has potential it is, often with great trepidation, presented to the entire committee for discussion. Leon Gross, PhD, the psychometrician (a testing specialist) is at the meetings and at this stage he will often point out potential psychometric issues related to the items, including things like “it’s too long”, “there is extraneous information,” “could there be 2 answers?” In developing and evaluating each item we ask ourselves: Is it clear? Is there only one right answer? Do we know the right answer (if we don’t then we most definitely do not use it)? Is there any overlap in the answers? We edit each draft item for content and language, keeping in mind, that the distracters (the wrong answers) should be “plausable”. It is an extremely honest and often raucous process! We all have to be prepared to have our questions torn apart! It helps to have a sense of humor and remind ourselves of the importance of the process. Then the committee decides to either put the questions in the permanent item bank or not. The entire process is done with expert psychometric support.

Our philosophy, in the writing of the items, in the evaluation of the items, and then ultimately choosing the items that will be on each exam, is that we only test what is really important to know. There are no intentional “trick” questions. It’s important to know that if the committee struggles with identifying the correct answer it is automatically not used. And, the questions are written in order to evaluate the competencies of what we constantly refer to as the ‘just good enough candidate.’ So, this is most definitely not an exam where you have to be an “expert” to pass. In order to pass this exam you need to be “just good enough”. This exam is intended to measure competencies of a beginning childbirth educator.

When the committee decides to put a question in the item bank we then establish the level of difficulty for the question. We look at each correct answer and then we look at distractors, the wrong answers. We discuss the distracters related to how plausible this distracter would be to a candidate who is just able to pass the exam. This is an example of the process:

What is the capital of Maryland?
1. Baltimore
2. Chevy Chase
3. Annapolis
4. Fredricksburg

There is one correct answer and three distracters. If you know the capital of Maryland, this is a very easy question. It’s straight recall. If you, however, don’t know what the capital of Maryland is, then you will be tempted to go for a plausible but wrong answer. The correct answer is Annapolis, but Baltimore is a plausible answer because it’s the largest city in Maryland and, of these four choices, it is the most well-known city. For someone who does not know for sure that Annapolis is the capital of Maryland they would be tempted to think it was Baltimore. Therefore, we would label Annapolis the correct answer and Baltimore a “sophisticated distracter”. We aim to have at least 50% of the exam questions with “sophisticated distracters”. The more questions with sophisticated distracters the higher the level of difficulty of the exam. It’s important to know this to understand how the passing score is determined for each test administration.

This exam is criterion referenced which means that the passing score is determined before the test is given based on the level of difficulty of the questions on the exam. Candidates who sit for the exam are never compared to each other and the passing scored is determined by how difficult the questions are, not a predetermined passing score. Candidates are evaluated against a standard not against the scores of the other candidates sitting for the exam. The more items on the exam that have sophisticated distracters, the higher the level of difficulty, the lower the score you need to pass. The fewer items with sophisticated distracters, the higher the score is that you need to pass the exam. The pass score, the cut score, for passing the Lamaze certification exam has over the last years ranged 70 to about 75.

After the exam is given, the exam is scored and reviewed by the psychometrician. A detailed statistical analysis is done. There is an analysis of each item on the exam. How many testing participants got the answer right? What distracters did those who got it wrong go for? The item analysis also identifies what percentage of the high scorers got the question correct and what percentage of the low scores got the question correct. A “good” question statistically is one that discriminates between the high scorers and low scorers. This means that you would expect a high percentage of the people that did well overall on the exam to get a question correct and those that did not perform as well on the overall exam to get the question wrong. If we find that there is an item that most of the low scores got correct and only a few of the high scorers got that question correct, we would wonder why.

After the psychometrician reviews the overall exam and each item, he will flag the questions that may look like they may not be “performing” well. The small group that constructed the exam meets by conference call to discuss both the flagged items and the comments the candidates have made related to the exam. Every comment is reviewed. Whether or not we keep an item, or don’t keep the item, is the decision of the committee. We also look at the performance of the exams that are translated into other languages and look at how individual questions performed for instance in Spanish compared to in English. We try to determine if there are cultural differences or whether there are translation problems. At times a question may be deleted from scoring in a language other than English and not in the English exam. Once we determine if there are items we will drop then the psychometrician will re-score the exam and determine, based now on the questions that remain on the exam (and their level of difficulty), a final cut score. It takes about 6 weeks to get exam results. During that time the certification team is working hard to make sure your exam is fairly evaluated.

The rigor of developing the exam, including the job analysis, and then the scoring of the exam are only one part of the requirements for NCCA accreditation. In addition, our policies and procedures related to everything from exam eligibility and grievance procedures, as well as confidentiality issues and the qualifications of both the staff and volunteers involved in the certification process, are rigorously evaluated. The end result, we hope, is a valid, reliable, fair certification exam that protects the value of the LCCE credential, and, most importantly, assures women and their families that the Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator is competent. NCCA accreditation is a vote of confidence that we are indeed doing what we intend.

Are you an LCCE?  Can you share why you chose Lamaze International and your journey?  Are you considering becoming a childbirth educator?  Have you explored Lamaze as an option?  I invite you to consider certifying with Lamaze International and achieving the gold standard for childbirth educators. – SM

About Judith Lothian

@ Judith Lothian

@ Judith Lothian

Judith Lothian, PhD, RN, LCCE, FACCE is a nurse and childbirth educator. She is an Associate Professor at the College of Nursing, Seton Hall University and the current Chairperson of the Lamaze Certification Council Governing Body. Judith is also the Associate Editor of the Journal of Perinatal Education and writes a regular column for the journal. Judith is the co-author of The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. Her research focus is planned home birth and her most recent publication is Being Safe: Making the Decision to Have a Planned Home Birth in the US published in the Journal of Clinical Ethics (Fall 2013).

Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Guest Posts, Journal of Perinatal Education, Lamaze International, Lamaze Official Guide Book, Push for Your Baby, Research, Series: Journey to LCCE Certification , , , , , , ,

Cochrane Systematic Review Supports Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice #2- Walk, Move Around And Change Positions Throughout Labor

December 19th, 2013 by avatar
Image Source: © Sharon Muza

Image Source: © Sharon Muza

Today, author Henci Goer takes a look at a new Cochrane Systematic Review; “Maternal positions and mobility during first stage labour” and finds that the results of this review support the 2nd Lamaze International Healthy Birth Practice: Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor. Families taking Lamaze childbirth classes learn how they can promote physiologic birth by using a variety of positions throughout their labor, but women don’t have to take a childbirth class to know that walking and trying different positions reduces pain and speeds up labor.  Intuitively, women respond to the needs of their baby and their body during labor.  Henci examines the review and shares some of the benefits that were found in the women who followed the 2nd Healthy Birth Practice to promote safe and healthy birth. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager.

Advocates for physiologic care in labor will be pleased, although not surprised, to know that a Cochrane systematic review supports mobility and upright positioning in first-stage labor (the cervical dilation phase) (Lawrence 2013.) The review includes 18 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comprising 3337 women not having epidurals at trial entry and 7 trials comprising 1881 women in which all participants had epidurals or combined spinal-epidurals at trial entry.

The body of data poses challenges in analysis and interpretation. Trials were published between 1963 and 2012 and conducted in 13 countries. As reviewers note, this means that they took place in highly varied cultural and healthcare contexts, equally varied expectations on the part of staff and laboring women, and with evolving healthcare technologies, all of which could influence results. In addition, comparison “treatment” and “control” groups also varied widely and overlapped among them. So, for example, one trial compared walking with remaining in bed in whatever posture, including upright postures; another compared walking with recumbent postures; and still another combined sitting and walking as upright postures and compared them with recumbent postures. That being said, here is what the reviewers found:

Compared with recumbent postures and bed care, upright postures and walking in women without epidurals at trial entry:

• Shortened first-stage labor duration by a mean difference of 1 hour 22 minutes in women overall (15 trials, 2503 women) and by 1 hour 13 minutes in first-time mothers (12 trials, 1486 women). In women with prior births (4 trials, 662 women), duration differed by only 34 minutes, and the difference just missed achieving statistical significance, that is, statistical analysis shows that the difference is unlikely to be due to chance. By comparison, rupturing membranes, commonly used to “get the show on the road,” had no effect on first-stage duration in women overall (5 trials, 1127 women) (Smyth 2013), and too few women were reported according to first-time or prior births to draw meaningful conclusions.

• Decreased likelihood of cesarean delivery (14 trials, 2682 women) by 30%. Likelihood decreased by 20% in first-time mothers (8 trials, 1237 women) and 40% in women with prior births (4 trials, 775 women), but the differences didn’t achieve statistical significance probably because aggregated numbers were too small (underpowered) and cesarean rates too low to detect a difference. By contrast, rupturing membranes increases the likelihood of cesarean surgery by 30%, a risk that misses achieving statistical significance by a whisker and probably would have achieved significance had not so many women assigned to “conserve membranes” actually had their membranes ruptured (Smyth 2013).

• Reduced use of epidural analgesia (9 trials, 2107 women) by 20%.

• Didn’t increase satisfaction or decrease complaints of pain, but only one small study (107 women) measured satisfaction, and among the three trials (338 women) evaluating pain, women reported less pain in two of them, but in the third (201 women), which comprised 60% of the population overall, participants assigned to sit or walk were not allowed to lie down at any time during first stage. Bloom et al. (1998), by far the largest of any of the trials at 1067 participants, wasn’t included in the pain and satisfaction assessments probably because they took a different approach. They asked women who walked whether they would want to walk in a future labor. Ninety-nine percent said “Yes,” which would seem a ringing endorsement of ambulation.

• Showed no evidence of increasing maternal, fetal, or neonatal harm. In fact, one small trial (200 women) reported significantly fewer admissions to neonatal intensive care.

Benefits were maintained when subgroupings of upright postures were compared with subgroupings of recumbent postures, as for example, walking compared with recumbent/supine/lateral or sitting and standing, squatting, kneeling, or walking compared with recumbent/supine/lateral.

No benefits were found for walking or upright postures (7 trials, 1881 women) in women who had epidurals or combined spinal-epidurals at trial entry. This doesn’t really mean much, though, because in some trials, substantial percentages of women assigned to walk didn’t actually do so, and in others “ambulation” was defined to be as little as 5 minutes of walking per hour.

The review leaves some questions open: Can mobility be used to treat delayed progress? Should women with ruptured membranes be allowed to walk? What about women at risk for fetal compromise? To the first question, it makes sense to encourage walking and upright positioning as a first-line measure to treat progress delay. The alternatives, rupturing membranes and oxytocin augmentation, have potential harms while walking and position changes don’t. To the second, when upright, gravity would tend to bring the presenting part downward to block the cervical opening, thereby protecting against umbilical cord prolapse. A common sense approach might be to monitor fetal heart tones throughout a contraction upon the woman first assuming an upright position and repeat whenever she returns to an upright position after lying down. To the last question, studies would need to be done, but rupturing membranes increases risk of fetal compromise by releasing the fluid that prevents umbilical cord compression (you can’t compress a liquid), and augmentation increases contraction intensity, which also could increase risk of compromise in a vulnerable fetus.

The true benefits of mobility are almost certainly much greater than the review shows. This is because RCTs are analyzed according to “intent to treat,” that is, participants are kept with their assigned group regardless of their actual treatment. To do otherwise would negate the point of random assignment, which is to avoid bias; however, when substantial percentages of participants receive the treatment of the other group, as is the case with many of the mobility RCTs, it both diminishes differences between groups and makes it harder to detect a significant difference between them. This was a problem in all the mobility RCTs, not just the ones where women already had regional analgesia on board. Again, take Bloom et al. (1998): among women assigned to walk, 22%—approaching 1 in 4—never walked at all, and of the women who did, the mean time spent out of bed was an hour mostly because of policies that kept them in, or returned them to, bed.

The reviewers conclude:

[W]e believe wherever possible, women should be informed of the benefits of upright positions, encouraged and supported to take up whatever positions they choose, they should not have their freedom of movement options restricted unless clinically indicated, and they should avoid spending long periods supine (p. 23).

It isn’t enough, though, to advise women that it’s a good idea to stay mobile and stay off their backs unless staff follow through on not restricting freedom of movement. As matters currently stand, conventional hospital labor management couldn’t do a better job of restricting mobility if that were its intended goal. To turn that around, hospitals would need to:

• Provide an environment conducive to mobility, including ample space for moving around and props such as birth balls, rocking chairs, and cushions,

• Provide comfort measures such as hot and cold packs, private showers, and soaking tubs to reduce and delay use of epidural analgesia,

• Train staff in encouraging and providing physical assistance in changing positions, in the use of mobility props, and in how to provide emotionally supportive care,

• Welcome doulas who can share the burden of providing physical and emotional support,

• Use intermittent listening to fetal heart tones except when continuous monitoring is medically indicated,

• Reserve IVs for medical indications, which would mean allowing women oral intake of fluids and calories, and

• When mobility-inhibiting interventions are required or the woman desires an epidural, minimize their impact by such measures as telemetry monitoring, inserting IV catheters in the forearm rather than the hand or wrist or using saline locks instead of IVs, and encouraging women with epidurals to assume upright positions and change positions periodically.

In other words, promoting mobility in labor is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Floating below is the vast bulk of providing physiologic care. That won’t be easy for a number of reasons.

For one thing, medical research principles require that investigators define the intervention under evaluation precisely and maximize compliance with its administration. But this is the direct opposite of women doing what instinctively feels best in an environment that encourages their experimentation and is free from elements that inhibit or restrict them. We have no trials that compare this style of care with conventional medical-model management, which means we don’t have data showing the true degree of harm arising from confining and circumscribing mobility in labor or the magnitude of the benefits to be gained with promoting it. Without that knowledge, there is little incentive to change.

For another, in the topsy-turvy world of medical-model research, maternal movements and physiologically normal behaviors are framed as “interventions.” This means that being up and around and having the freedom to labor in the positions of the woman’s choice has to prove itself, not confinement to bed and positioning restriction. What is more, to institute change, the “intervention” must prove itself superior according to medical model concepts of improved outcomes, or conventional management stands, however much that management lacks an evidence basis. This explains how Bloom and colleagues could entitle their trial “Lack of effect of walking on labor and delivery” despite walking having no harms and 99% of women who walked wanting to do so again in a future labor.

Finally, powerful forces line up against instituting the sweeping changes that would be required to convert to mobility-friendly care. Inertia is one. People will generally resist change even when it benefits them personally, which in this case it doesn’t. Economics is another. The costs of maintaining a 24/7 obstetric analgesia service demand that most women have epidurals while any renovation expenses, such as providing private showers, soaking tubs, or telemetry monitoring, would not be reimbursed. Hospital culture is perhaps the biggest obstacle of all. “This is the way we’ve always done it” and “what is must be right” are potent impediments to improvement. Specifically, so long as reducing cesarean rates isn’t a shared, strongly-held goal—and a cursory glance at hospital cesarean rates shows that it isn’t in most hospitals—motivation to change will be low.

All of this is to say that reform won’t be easy, not that it can’t be done, and, I would add, the wellbeing of mothers and babies obliges us to try. In that interest, can we crowd source strategies? Are any hospitals in your community mobility friendly? What are their practices and policies? Have any of you been involved in projects to increase mobility in labor, and if so, what went well and what would you do differently?

References

Bloom, S. L., McIntire, D. D., Kelly, M. A., Beimer, H. L., Burpo, R. H., Garcia, M. A., & Leveno, K. J. (1998). Lack of effect of walking on labor and delivery. N Engl J Med, 339(2), 76-79. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9654537?dopt=Citation

Lawrence, A., Lewis, L., Hofmeyr, G. J., & Styles, C. (2013). Maternal positions and mobility during first stage labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 10, CD003934. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003934.pub4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24105444

Smyth, R. M., Markham, C., & Dowswell, T. (2013). Amniotomy for shortening spontaneous labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 6, CD006167. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006167.pub4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23780653

 

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