24h-payday

Archive

Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Non-Drug Pain Coping Strategies Improve Outcomes

July 17th, 2014 by avatar

 Today, contributor Henci Goer reviews a recently published study in the journal Birth, that compared the outcomes of births in women who received non pharmacological pain management techniques with women who received the “usual care” treatment.  The researchers found that maternal and infant outcomes were improved.  Take a moment to read Henci’s review to get a glimpse at the results and her analysis.- Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager

© Patti Ramos Photography

© Patti Ramos Photography

In 2012,  the Cochrane Database published an overview of systematic reviews of forms of pain management that summarized the results of the Cochrane database’s suite of systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of various pain management techniques. Reviewers reached the rather anemic conclusion that epidurals did best at relieving pain—no surprise there—but increased need for medical intervention—no surprise there either—while non-drug modalities (hypnosis, immersion in warm water, relaxation techniques, acupressure/acupuncture, hands on techniques such as massage or reflexology, and TENS) did equally well or better than their comparison groups (“standard care,” a placebo, or a different specific treatment) at relieving pain, at satisfaction with pain relief, or both, and they had no adverse effects (Jones 2012). Insofar as it went, this finding was helpful for advocating for use of non-drug strategies, but it didn’t go very far.

Fast forward two years, and we have a new, much more robust review: Nonpharmacologic approaches for pain management during labor compared with usual care: a meta-analysis. Its ingenious authors grouped trials of non-drug pain relief modalities according to mechanism of action, which increased the statistical power to determine their effects and avoided inappropriately pooling data from dissimilar studies in meta-analyses (Chaillet 2014). The three mechanisms were Gate Control Theory, which applies nonpainful stimuli to partially block pain transmission; Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control, which administers a painful stimulus elsewhere on the body, thereby blocking pain transmission from the uterine contraction and promoting endorphin release in the spinal cord and brain; and Central Nervous System Control, which affects perception and emotions and also releases endorphins within the brain.

Overall, 57 RCTs comparing non-drug strategies with usual care met eligibility criteria: 21 Gate Control (light massage, warm water immersion, positions/ambulation, birth ball, warm packs), 10 Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control (sterile water injections, acupressure, acupuncture, high intensity TENS), and 26 Central Nervous System Control (antenatal education, continuous support, attention deviation techniques, aromatherapy). Eleven of the Central Nervous System Control trials specifically added at least one other strategy to continuous support. More about the effect of that in a moment.

Now for the results…

Compared with Gate Control-based strategies, usual care was associated with increased use of epidurals (6 trials, 3369 women, odds ratio: 1.22), higher labor pain scores (3 trials, 278 women, mean difference 1 on a scoring range of 0-10), and more use of oxytocin (10 trials, 2672 women, odds ratio: 1.25). Usual care also increased likelihood of cesarean in studies of walking (3 trials, 1463 women, odds ratio: 1.64).

Compared with Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Control strategies, usual care was associated with increased use of epidurals (6 trials, 920 women, odds ratio: 1.62), higher labor pain scores (1 trial, 142 women, mean difference 10 on a scoring range of 0-100), and decreased maternal satisfaction as measured in individual trials by feeling safe, relaxed, in control, and perception of experience.

We hit the jackpot with Central Nervous System Control strategies (probably because female labor support, which has numerous studies and strong evidence supporting it, dominate this category [19 labor support, 6 antenatal education, 1 aromatherapy]). As before, usual care is associated with more epidurals (11 trials, 11,957 women, odds ratio: 1.13), more use of oxytocin (19 trials, 14,293 women, odds ratio: 1.20), and decreased maternal satisfaction as measured in individual trials by perception of experience and anxiety. In addition, however, usual care is associated with increased likelihood of cesarean delivery (27 trials, 23,860 women, odds ratio: 1.60), instrumental delivery (21 trials, 15,591 women, odds ratio: 1.21), longer labor duration (13 trials, 4276 women, 30 min), and neonatal resuscitation (3 trials, 7069 women, odds ratio: 1.11).

© Breathtaking Photography http://flic.kr/p/3255VD

© Breathtaking Photography http://flic.kr/p/3255VD

The big winner, though, was continuous support combined with at least one other strategy. Usual care in these 11 trials was even more disadvantageous than in central nervous system trials overall with respect to cesareans (11 trials, 10,338 women): odds ratio 2.17 versus 1.6 for all central nervous system trials, and instrumental delivery (6 trials, 2281 women): odds ratio 1.78 versus 1.21 for all central nervous system trials.

The strength of the data is impressive. Altogether, Chaillet et al. report on 97 outcomes, of which 44 differences favoring non-drug strategies achieve statistical significance, meaning the difference is unlikely to be due to chance, while not one statistically significant difference favors usual care. And there’s still more: benefits of non-drug strategies are probably greater than they appear because on the one hand, “usual care” could include non-drug strategies for coping with labor pain and on the other, many institutions have policies and practices that make it difficult to cope using non-drug strategies alone, strongly encourage epidural use, or both.

The reviewers conclude that their findings showed that:

Nonpharmacologic approaches can contribute to reducing medical interventions, and thus represent an important part of intrapartum care, if not used routinely as the first method for pain relief…however, in some situations, nonpharmacologic approaches may become insufficient…the use of pharmacologic approaches could then be beneficial to reduce pain intensity to prevent suffering and help women cope with labor pain…birth settings and hospital policies . . . should facilitate a supportive birthing environment and should make readily available a broad spectrum of nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic pain relief approaches. (p. 133)

No one could argue with that, but a persuasive argument alone is unlikely to carry the day given the entrenched systemic barriers in many hospitals. States an anesthesiologist: “While there may be problems with high epidural usage, in the presence of our nursing shortages and economic or business considerations, having a woman in bed, attached to an intravenous line and continuous electronic fetal monitor and in receipt of an epidural may be the only realistic way to go” (quoted in Leeman 2003). The Cochrane reviewers concur, writing that using non-drug strategies is “more realistic” (p. 4) outside of the typical hospital environs.

So long as this remains the case, attempts to introduce non-drug options are likely to make little headway. As Lamaze International’s own Judith Lothian trenchantly observes:

If we put women in hospitals with restrictive policies—they’re hooked up to everything, they’re expected to be in bed—of course they’re going to go for the epidural because they’re unable to work through their pain. . . . I go wild with nurses and childbirth educators who say, . . . “[Women] just want to come in and have their epidural.” I say, “And even if they don’t . . ., they come to your hospital, and they have no choice. . . . They can’t manage their pain because you won’t let them.” (quoted in Block 2007, p. 175)

Success at integrating non-drug strategies will almost certainly depend on addressing underlying factors that maintain the status quo. Can it be done? You tell us. Does your hospital take a multifaceted approach to coping with labor pain? If so, how was it implemented and how is it sustained?

Resources

Block, Jennifer. (2007). Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Chaillet, N., Belaid, L., Crochetiere, C., Roy, L., Gagne, G. P., Moutquin, J. M., . . . Bonapace, J. (2014). Nonpharmacologic approaches for pain management during labor compared with usual care: a meta-analysis. Birth, 41(2), 122-137. doi: 10.1111/birt.12103 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24761801

Jones, L., Othman, M., Dowswell, T., Alfirevic, Z., Gates, S., Newburn, M., . . . Neilson, J. P. (2012). Pain management for women in labour: an overview of systematic reviews. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 3, CD009234. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009234.pub2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2241934

Leeman, L., Fontaine, P., King, V., Klein, M. C., & Ratcliffe, S. (2003). Management of labor pain: promoting patient choice. Am Fam Physician, 68(6), 1023, 1026, 1033 passim. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14524393?dopt=Citation

About Henci Goer

Henci Goer

Henci Goer

Henci Goer, award-winning medical writer and internationally known speaker, is the author of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth and Optimal Care in Childbirth: The Case for a Physiologic Approach winner of the American College of Nurse-Midwives “Best Book of the Year” award.An independent scholar, she is an acknowledged expert on evidence-based maternity care.  

Childbirth Education, Doula Care, Epidural Analgesia, Guest Posts, Maternity Care, Medical Interventions, Newborns, Research , , , , ,

Evidence on Water Birth Safety – Exclusive Q&A with Rebecca Dekker on her New Research

July 10th, 2014 by avatar

 

Evidence Based Birth , a popular blog written by occasional Science & Sensibility contributor Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN, has just today published a new article, “Evidence on Water Birth Safety“ that looks at the current research on the safety of water birth for mothers and newborns.  Rebecca researched and wrote that article in response to the joint Opinion Statement “Immersion in Water During Labor and Delivery” released in March, 2014 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  I had the opportunity to ask Rebecca some questions about her research into the evidence available on water birth, her thoughts on the Opinion Statement and her conclusions after writing her review. – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

Sharon Muza: First off, is it waterbirth or water birth?

Rebecca Dekker: That’s actually good question! Research experts tend to use the term “waterbirth.” Google prefers “water birth.” So I used both terms in my article to satisfy everyone!

SM: Have you heard or been told of stories of existing water birth programs shutting down or being modified as a result of the recent AAP/ACOG opinion?

RD: Yes, definitely. There was a mother in my state who contacted me this spring because she was 34 weeks pregnant and her hospital decided not to offer waterbirth anymore. She had given birth to her daughter in a waterbirth at the same hospital two years earlier. With her current pregnancy, she had been planning another hospital waterbirth. She had the support of her nurse midwife, the hospital obstetricians, and hospital policy. However, immediately after the release of the ACOG/AAP opinion, the hospital CEO put an immediate stop to waterbirth. This particular mother ended up switching providers at 36 weeks to a home birth midwife. A few weeks ago, she gave birth to her second baby, at home in the water. This mother told me how disheartening it was that an administrator in an office had decided limit her birth options, even though physicians and midwives at the same hospital were supportive of her informed decision to have a waterbirth.

In another hospital in my hometown, they were gearing up to start a waterbirth program this year—it was going to be the first hospital where waterbirth would be available in our city—and it was put on hold because of the ACOG/AAP Opinion.

Then of course, there were a lot of media reports about various hospital systems that suspended their waterbirth programs. One hospital system in particular, in Minnesota, got a lot of media coverage.

SM: Did you attempt to contact ACOG/AAP with questions and if so, did they respond?

RD: Yes. As soon as I realized that the ACOG/AAP Opinion Statement had so many major scientific errors, I contacted ImprovingBirth.org and together we wrote two letters. I wrote a letter regarding the scientific problems with the Opinion Statement, and ImprovingBirth.org wrote a letter asking ACOG/AAP to suspend the statement until further review. The letters were received by the President and President-Elect of ACOG, and they were forwarded to the Practice Committee. We were told that the Practice Committee would review the contents of our letters at their meeting in mid-June, and that was the last update that we have received.

SM: What is the difference between an “Opinion Statement” and other types of policy recommendations or guidelines that these organizations release? Does it carry as much weight as practice bulletins?

RD: That’s an interesting question. At the very top of the Opinion Statement, there are two sentences that read: “This document reflects emerging clinical and scientific advances as of the date issued and is subject to change. The information should not be construed as dictating an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed.” But, as you will see, some hospitals do see this statement as dictating an exclusive course of treatment, and others don’t.

I have heard that “opinions” do not carry as much weight as “practice bulletins,” but it really depends on who the audience is and who is listening. In other words, some hospitals may take the Opinion Statement word-for-word and feel that they must follow it to the letter, and other hospitals may ignore it. A lot of it probably depends on the advice of their risk management lawyers.

For example, a nurse midwife at a hospital in Illinois sent me a letter that their risk-management attorneys had put together to advise them on this issue. (She had the attorney’s permission to share the letter with me). These lawyers basically said that when a committee of two highly-respected organizations says that the practice of waterbirth should be considered an experimental procedure, both health care providers and hospitals are “charged with a duty to heed that statement,” unless they find research evidence that waterbirth has benefits for the mother or fetus, and that the evidence can override the Committee’s conclusions.

On the other hand, another risk management lawyer for a large hospital system told me that of course hospitals are not under any obligation to follow an ACOG/AAP Opinion Statement. It’s simply just that—an opinion.

So as to how much weight the Opinion Statement carries—I guess it is really dependent on who is reading it!

SM: How would you suggest a well-designed research study be conducted to examine the efficacy and safety of waterbirth? Or would you say that satisfactory research already exists.

RD: First of all, I want to say that I’m really looking forward to the publication of the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) data on nearly 4,000 waterbirths that occurred in birth centers in the U.S., to see what kind of methods they used. From what I hear, they had really fantastic outcomes.

And it’s also really exciting that anyone can join the AABC research registry, whether you practice in a hospital, birth center, or at home. The more people who join the registry, the bigger the data set will be for future research and analysis. Visit the AABC PDR website to find out more.

I think it’s pretty clear that a randomized trial would be difficult to do, because we would need at least 2,000 women in the overall sample in order to tell differences in rare outcomes. So instead we need well-designed observational studies.

My dream study on waterbirth would be this: A large, prospective, multi-center registry that follows women who are interested in waterbirth and compares three groups: 1) women who have a waterbirth, 2) women who want a waterbirth and are eligible for a waterbirth but the tub is not available—so they had a conventional land birth, 3) women who labored in water but got out of the tub for the birth. The researchers would measure an extensive list of both maternal and fetal outcomes.

It would also be interesting to do an additional analysis to compare women from group 2 who had an epidural with women from group 1 who had a waterbirth. To my knowledge, only one study has specifically compared women who had waterbirths with women who had epidurals. Since these are two very different forms of pain relief, it would be nice to have a side-by-side comparison to help inform mothers’ decision making.

SM: What was the most surprising finding to you in researching your article on the evidence on water birth safety?

RD: I guess I was most surprised by how poorly the ACOG/AAP literature review was done in their Opinion Statement. During my initial read of it, I instantly recognized multiple scientific problems.

A glance at the references they cited was so surprising to me—when discussing the fetal risks of waterbirth, they referenced a laboratory study of pregnant rats that were randomized to exercise swimming in cold or warm water! There weren’t even any rat waterbirths! It was both hilarious and sad, at the same time! And it’s not like you have to read the entire rat article to figure out that they were talking about pregnant rats—it was right there in their list of references, in the title of the article, “Effect of water temperature on exercise-induced maternal hyperthermia on fetal development in rats.”

These kind of mistakes were very surprising, and incredibly disappointing. I expect a lot higher standards from such important professional organizations. These organizations have a huge influence on the care of women in the U.S., and even around the world, as other countries look to their recommendations for guidance. The fact that they were making a sweeping statement about the availability of a pain relief option during labor, based on an ill-researched and substandard literature review—was very surprising indeed.

SM: What was the most interesting fact you discovered during your research?

RD: With all this talk from ACOG and the AAP about how there are “no maternal benefits,” I was fascinated as I dug into the research to almost immediately find that waterbirth has a strong negative effect on the use of episiotomy during childbirth.

Every single study on this topic has shown that waterbirth drastically reduces and in some cases completely eliminates the use of episiotomy. Many women are eager to avoid episiotomies, and to have intact perineums, and waterbirth is associated with both lower episiotomy rates and higher intact perineum rates. That is a substantial maternal benefit. It’s kind of sad to see leading professional organizations not even give the slightest nod to waterbirth’s ability to keep women’s perineums intact.

In fact, I’m puzzled as to why keeping women’s perineums intact and uncut is not perceived as a benefit by anyone other than the women themselves. And here is the heart of declaring waterbirth as “not having enough benefits” to justify its use: Who decides the benefits? Who decides what a benefit is, if not the person benefitting? Who should be weighing the potential harms and the potential benefits of waterbirth, and making an informed decision about their options? Should it be the mother? Or should it be the obstetrician?

SM: What can families do if they want waterbirth to be an option in their local hospital or birth center and it has been taken away or not even ever been offered before?

RD: That’s a hard question. It’s a big problem.

Basically what it boils down to is this—there are a lot of restraining forces that keep waterbirth from being a pain relief option for many women. But there are also some positive driving forces. According to change theory, if you want to see a behavior change at the healthcare organization level, it is a matter of decreasing the restraining forces, while increasing the driving forces. Debunking the ACOG/AAP Opinion Statement is an important piece of decreasing restraining forces. On the other side, increasing consumer pressure can help drive positive change.

SM: Do you think that consumers will be responding with their health dollars in changing providers and facilities in order to have a waterbirth?

RD: I think that if a hospital offered waterbirth as an option to low-risk women, that this could be a huge marketing tool and would put that hospital at an advantage in their community, especially if the other hospitals did not offer waterbirth.

SM: The ACOG/AAP opinion sounded very reactionary, but to what I am not sure. What do you think are the biggest concerns these organizations have and why was this topic even addressed? Weren’t things sailing along smoothly in the many facilities already offering a water birth option?

RD: I don’t know if you saw the interview with Medscape, but one of the authors of the Opinion Statement suggested that they were partially motivated to come out with this statement because of the increase in home birth, and they perceive that women are having a lot of waterbirths at home.

I also wonder if they are hoping to leverage their influence as the FDA considers regulation of birthing pools. You may remember that in 2012, the FDA temporarily prohibited birthing pools from coming into the U.S. Then the FDA held a big meeting with the different midwifery and physician organizations. At that meeting, AAP and ACOG had a united front against waterbirth. So I guess it’s no surprise for them to come out with a joint opinion statement shortly afterwards.

My sincere hope is that the FDA is able to recognize the seriously flawed methods of the literature review in this Opinion Statement, before they come out with any new regulations.

SM: How should childbirth educators be addressing the topic of waterbirth and waterbirth options in our classes in light of the recent ACOG/AAP Opinion Statement and what you have written about in your research review on the Evidence on Water Birth Safety?

RD: It’s not an easy subject. There are both pros and cons to waterbirth, and it’s important for women to discuss waterbirth with their providers so that they can make an informed decision. At the same time, there are a lot of obstetricians who cannot or will not support waterbirth because of ACOG’s position. So if a woman is really interested in waterbirth, she will need to a) find a supportive care provider, b) find a birth setting that encourages and supports waterbirth.

You can’t really have a waterbirth with an unwilling provider or unwilling facility. Well, let me take that back… you can have an “accidental” waterbirth… but unplanned waterbirths have not been included in the research studies on waterbirth, so the evidence on the safety of waterbirth does not generalize to unplanned waterbirths. Also, you have to ask yourself, is your care provider knowledgeable and capable of facilitating a waterbirth? It might not be safe to try to have an “accidental” waterbirth if your care provider and setting have no idea how to handle one. Do they follow infection control policies? Do they know how to handle a shoulder dystocia in the water?

SM: What kind of response do you think there will be from medical organizations and facilities as well as consumers about your research findings?

RD: I hope that it is positive! I would love to see some media coverage of this issue. I hope that the Evidence Based Birth® article inspires discussion among care providers and women, and among colleagues at medical organizations, about the quality of evidence in guidelines, and their role in providing quality information to help guide informed decision-making.

SM: Based on your research, you conclude that the evidence does not support universal bans on waterbirth. Is there anything you would suggest be done or changed to improve waterbirth outcomes for mothers or babies?

RD: The conclusion that I came to in my article—that waterbirth should not be “banned,” is basically what several other respected organization have already said. The American College of Nurse Midwives, the American Association of Birth Centers, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Midwives have all said basically the same thing.

How can we improve waterbirth outcomes? I think continuing to be involved in clinical research studies (such as the AABC registry) is an important way to advance the science and provide evidence on which we can base practice and make more informed decisions with. Also, conducting clinical audits (tracking outcomes) in facilities that provide waterbirth would be important for quality control.

SM: Let’s look into the future. What is next on your plate to write about?

RD: I recently had a writing retreat with several amazing clinicians and researchers who flew from across the country to conduct literature reviews with me. We made an awesome team!! The topics that we have started looking at are: induction for post-dates, induction for ruptured membranes, and evidence-based care for women of advanced maternal age. I can’t decide which one we will publish first! The Evidence Based Birth readers have requested AMA next, but the induction for ruptured membranes article is probably further along than that one. We shall see!!

SM: Is there anything else you would like to share with Science & Sensibility readers on this topic?

RD: Thanks for being so patient with me! I know a lot of people were eagerly awaiting this article, and I wish it could have come out sooner, but these kinds of reviews take a lot of time. Time is my most precious commodity right now!

Has the recent Opinion Statement released by ACOG/AAP impacted birth options in your communities?  Do you discuss this with your clients, students and patients?  What has been the reaction of the families you work with? Let us know below in the comments section! – SM.

ACOG, American Academy of Pediatrics, Babies, Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Home Birth, informed Consent, Maternity Care, New Research, Newborns, Research , , , , , , , ,

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 , , , , , , ,

April is Cesarean Awareness Month – Resources and a Test Your Knowledge Quiz

April 10th, 2014 by avatar

fb profile cam 2014April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an event meant to direct the American public’s attention to the United States’ high cesarean rate. 32.8% of all birthing women gave birth by cesarean in 2012. A cesarean delivery can be a life-saving procedure when used appropriately, but it takes one’s breath away when you consider that one third of all women birthing underwent major abdominal surgery in order to birth their babies.

Professionals that work with women during the childbearing year can be a great resource for women, pointing them to evidence based information, support groups and organizations that offer non-biased information to help women lower their risk of cesarean surgery, receive support after a cesarean and work towards a trial of labor after a cesarean (TOLAC) and achieve a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) for subsequent births if appropriate.

Here are my top suggestions for websites and resources every birth professional should have on their short list to share with students and clients when it comes to cesarean awareness.

1. International Cesarean Awareness Network – an international organization with almost 200 volunteer led chapters, (most in the USA) offering peer to peer support for cesarean recovery and VBAC information by way of a website, e-newsletters, webinars, online forums, Facebook groups and monthly meetings in the community.

2. VBACFacts.com – Led by birth advocate Jen Kamel, this website is big on research and helps consumers and professionals alike understand the evidence and risks and benefits of both repeat cesareans and vaginal birth after cesarean, including vaginal birth after multiple cesareans.

3. Lamaze International’s “Push for Your Baby” – is a great resource for families to learn about the Six Healthy Care Practices, what evidence based care looks like and how to work with your health care provider to advocate for a safe and healthy birth. Also Lamaze has an wonderful infographic that can be shared online or printed.

4. Spinning Babies – Midwife Gail Tully really knows her stuff when it comes to helping babies navigate the pelvis during labor and birth. Many cesareans are conducted for “failure to progress” or “cephalopelvic disproportion” when really it is a case of a malpositioned baby who needed to be in a different position. This website is a wealth of information on what women can do to help their babies into the ideal position to be born, prenatally and during labor. It includes valuable information about helping a breech baby turn vertex. This is important, because finding a health care provider who will support vaginal breech birth is like finding a needle in a haystack.

© Patti Ramos Photography

© Patti Ramos Photography

5. Childbirth Connection – This website is a virtual goldmine of evidence based information about cesareans and VBACs including a valuable guide “What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know about Cesareans.” There are questions to ask a care provider and includes information on informed consent and informed refusal.

6. Cesareanrates.com is a great website run by Jill Arnold for those who love the numbers. Find out the cesarean rates of hospitals in your area. All the states are represented and families can use the information when searching out a provider and choosing a facility. Jill’s resource page on this site is full of useful information as well.

7. Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean –  The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists along with the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine recently published a groundbreaking document aimed at reducing the first cesarean. While fairly heavy reading, there is so much good information in this committee opinion that I believe every birth professional should at least take a peek. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Test your knowledge of the facts around cesareans and VBACs with this informative quiz:

As a birth professional, you can be a great resource for all your clients, helping them to prevent their first cesarean, providing support if they do birth by cesarean and assisting them on the journey to VBAC by pointing them to these valuable resources. You can make every day “Cesarean Awareness Day” for the families you work with, doing your part to help the pendulum to swing in the other direction, resulting in a reduction in our national cesarean rates and improving outcomes for mothers and babies. What are your favorite resources on the topic of cesareans and VBACs? Share with us in the comments section.
Images

  1. Patti Ramos
  2. creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by Neal Gillis
  3. creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by remysharp
  4. creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by mikeandanna
  5. creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by mikeandanna
  6. creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by Kelly Sue
  7. creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Marie in NC
  8. creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by lucidialohman
  9. creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by soldierant
  10. creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by emergencydoc
  11. creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Mwesigwa

Awards, Babies, Cesarean Birth, Healthcare Reform, Lamaze News, Maternal Mortality Rate, Maternal Obesity, New Research, Research, Webinars , , , , , , , , , , , ,