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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 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 , , , , , , , , ,

Remembering Dr. John Kennell and His Great Contributions to Mothers and Babies Worldwide

September 5th, 2013 by avatar

It was with great sadness that I read about the death of Dr. John Kennell on August 27, 2013 in Cleveland, OH.  Dr. Kennell, a pediatrician and researcher, had a long history of contributions to the field of maternal infant bonding and attachment, especially at birth and in the early postpartum period  

Every time a mother opens her arms to receive her newborn baby on her chest (in line with Lamaze Healthy Care Practice #6) at the moment of birth it is a credit to the work of Dr. Kennell and his colleagues, especially his longtime collaborator,  Dr. Marshall Klaus.  Dr. Kennell examined and researched the connection (both physiological and emotional) of the newborn and its mother.  As a result of his research, the practice of separating mothers from their babies for hours or even days after birth has all but disappeared in the USA and many places around the world. Prior to Dr. Kennell’s work, little was understood about the newborn’s innate need to be close to and kept with its mother as it made the transition to life on the outside.

Our results reveal suggestive evidence of species-specific behavior in human mothers at the first contact with their full-term infants and suggest that a re-evaluation is required of the present hospital policies which regulate care of the mother and infant. (Klaus, 1970)

Additionally, Dr. Kennell helped clarify the importance of families connecting with their babies who did not survive or died shortly after birth.  Suggesting that time to hold, examine, and say goodby to a baby who passed away was helpful in processing grief and coming to terms with their loss,  has changed how stillbirth and neonatal death is handled in our hospitals.  For babies who are in the neonatal intensive care unit, the importance of promoting mother-infant bonding and attachment is now recognized as a critical part of the care plan.

Dr Kennell’s research has caused hospitals to completely change the methodology of the birth and postpartum experiences for the babies born in there facilities, supporting contact during the first hours and instituting a “rooming-in” policy that allowed mothers and babies to stay together during the postpartum stay.  Even NICU facilities are accommodating parents with couches that turn into beds right on the units, near the babies needing care special care.

These observations suggest that there may be major perinatal benefits of constant human support during labor. (Rosa et.al. 1980)

Dr. Kennell was one of the very first scientists to research and investigate the benefits of continuous labor support for birthing women, and along with Dr Klaus, Penny Simkin, Annie Kennedy and Phyllis Klaus, founded Doulas of North America, which later became DONA International, a well respected, worldwide doula organization committed to training both birth and postpartum doulas and providing a doula for every woman who wants one.  Since being established in 1992, DONA International has certified over 8000 birth and postpartum doulas and has members in over 50 countries around the world.  Many, many thousands of women have birthed with the support of doula, enjoying the benefits observed by Drs. Kennell and Klaus when they first started their research, and documented again and again since then; shorter labors, lower cesarean rates and reduced interventions. (Kennell, et. al. 1991)

If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it. – John Kennell, M.D.

 

© http://flic.kr/p/tvZYD

Dr. Kennell was the co-author of several books, including ”Bonding: Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence” and “The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have A Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth.” as well as a goldmine of research papers.  He was known for his gentle, caring and compassionate nature as well as his brilliant mind and wonderful sense of humor.

Please join me in extending the deepest sympathies of birth professionals everywhere, to Dr. Kennell’s wife, children and their families during this time of loss.  The memory of this esteemed doctor will live on in the work we all do to improve the childbirth experiences of women everywhere.  I am grateful that I have the chance to continue in some small way, the legacy of the brilliant contribution that Dr. Kennell made to women and babies worldwide.  Dr. Kennell’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers,  donations be made to DONA International or HealthConnect One. Dr. Kennell’s full obituary can be found here.

Please share  in the comments section, the impact that Dr. Kennell’s work has had on you.  He was very important to all of us.

References

Kennell, J., Klaus, M., McGrath, S., Robertson, S., & Hinkley, C. (1991). Continuous emotional support during labor in a US hospital. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association265(17), 2197-2201.

Klaus, M. H., Kennell, J. H., Plumb, N., & Zuehlke, S. (1970). Human maternal behavior at the first contact with her young. Pediatrics46(2), 187-192.

Sosa, R., Kennell, J., Klaus, M., Robertson, S., & Urrutia, J. (1980). The effect of a supportive companion on perinatal problems, length of labor, and mother-infant interaction. New England Journal of Medicine303(11), 597-600.

 

 

He is a featured speaker on this DONA International video. In it, Dr. Kennell

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” 1998
The Essential Ingredient: Doula

shares his great respect for the doula’s role in establishing a strong foundation for mothers and babies.

 

Our hearts go out to Dr. Kennell’s family, especially his wife Peggy. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to DONA International or HealthConnect One, which were his passions. Further details about how to make donations in his honor will be available on our website soon.

 

Rest in peace, Dr. Kennell. Thank you for all of the gifts you offered up to the world. Our lives are transformed because of you.

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Doula Care, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, Healthy Care Practices, Infant Attachment, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Newborns, Transforming Maternity Care , , , , , , , , ,

Do We Need to Turn Up the Volume on Lamaze’s Healthy Birth Practices? What The Listening to Mothers III Survey Tells Us.

May 14th, 2013 by avatar

Childbirth Connection’s Listening to Mothers Initiative just released the Listening to Mothers III (LTMIII) results late last week.  For the third time in the past 11 years, this organization has gone out and queried women on a variety of topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum and breastfeeding.  They have questioned thousands of women to accurately assess how the actual experiences hold up against what we know to be best practice and evidence based maternity care. I have relied on the past two survey results frequently during my professional career in maternal health and am thrilled to have the new survey results now available.

I thought it would be interesting to run some of the LTMIII results through the filter of Lamaze International’s Healthy Birth Practices.  The Healthy Birth Practices were most recently updated by Lamaze in 2009, and consist of six simple, evidence based practices that greatly contribute to keeping birth safe and healthy for mothers and babies. Each easy to remember practice has its own short video that parents can watch that talks about that specific care practice and safe alternatives.  Additionally, each Healthy Birth Practice has an accompanying Practice Paper with all the citations for the peer-reviewed, gold standard research that supports that particular practice.

Some useful links and information upfront

Listening to Mothers I

Listening to Mothers II

New!  Listening to Mothers III

Survey Questionnaire 

Major Study Findings

Interesting facts before we get started

While the LTMIII survey only looked at 2400 women,  please be aware that one percentage point change in results would represent approximately 40,000 mother/baby pairs, based on a US birth rate of around 4 million births a year.

35% of women had not intended to be pregnant at the time of this pregnancy, including 5% who stated that they had never intended to become pregnant at all.

52% of those planning to get pregnant did have a preconception meeting with a health care provider, (which could be viewed as a wonderful time to determine if this health care provider might be a good match for their maternity care needs.)

85% of women based their maternity care provider on insurance requirements or restrictions.

78% of women worked with an obstetrician (this has dropped over the course of the three studies.)

9% of women worked with a family practice doctor

8% of women worked with a midwife who practiced in a hospital, as one of the requirements of the study was that the mother was having a hospital birth.

The average length of time spent actually in a prenatal appointment, with health care provider or their nurse was 32 minutes.  (OB: 31 min, Family Practice/MW 35 min.) I was pleasantly surprised that it was this long, I expected less.

Over the course of the three studies, the cesarean rate of study participants went up, (24% to 31%), the VBAC rate went down and labor augmentation was cut in half from 53% to 26%.  More women used nitrous oxide for pain relief during their labor in the most recent study (6%, up from 2% in the first study)

30% of the women chose not to ask a question that they wanted answered at least once during their prenatal appointments.

Overall, women were unable to make choices in line with the Healthy Birth Practices, and did not know that deviating from these practices was not evidence based and resulted in increased interventions.

Let’s see how things stack up

Healthy Birth Practice 1: Let Labor Begin on Its Own

http://flic.kr/p/C21Dk

Research shows that in the absence of medical issues, mothers, babies and labors do best when labor starts spontaneously on its own. The final few weeks of pregnancy are vital for the putting the “finishing touches” on baby and helping to make the transition to life on the outside as smooth as possible.

41% of all women surveyed attempted a medical (involved a care provider) induction and of those induced, 74% were successful, (the woman went into labor) for an overall medically induced labor rate of 31%

Reasons why women were induced

  • 44% were full term
  • 19% wanted to get the pregnancy over
  • 11% wanted to control the timing of birth
  • 16% were induced for a large baby (note: the average weight of these babies induced for suspected macrosomia was 7 lbs 15 ounces.)
  • 18% were induced for being “overdue” (note: the average gestational age of those babies induced for being overdue was 39.9 weeks)
  • 18% were induced for a maternal health problem

Interestingly, 26% of women had their due date changed toward the end of their pregnancy; 66% of those were given an earlier due date and 34% were given a later one.

68% of women had a late third trimester ultrasound to estimate fetal weight

Healthy Birth Practice 2: Walk, Move Around and Change Positions in Labor

http://flic.kr/p/6PqM3M

Women with the ability to move and change positions are able to use this movement to help cope with the pain of labor.  Access to water in the form of a shower or tub can be a valuable coping technique.  Having access to intermittent fetal monitoring or telemetry movements can facilitate movement and promote labor progress for many women.

Only 43% of women walked around after being admitted to the hospital in labor

40% of women used position changes and movement for non-pharmacological pain relief

Healthy Birth Practice 3: Bring a Loved One, Friend or Doula for Continuous Support

Many women will thrive in labor if surrounded by a caring, supportive birth team.  Adding a skilled birth doula to the team has been shown in many studies to improve the outcome of birth and reduce interventions and cesareans.  While more and more birthing women are aware of a doula, many are still not having one in attendance at their birth.

99% of mothers had at least one support person present, (most often this was a partner, then a family member or friend)

6% women used a doula

75% of mothers were aware of what a doula does and of those 75% who knew, 27% would have liked a doula supporting them at their birth.

Healthy Birth Practice 4: Avoid Interventions That are Not Medically Necessary 

http://flic.kr/p/4v3Zeh

Although research shows that routine and unnecessary interference in the natural process of labor and birth is not likely to be beneficial—and may indeed be harmful—most U.S. births today are intervention-intensive.

98% of the women had at least one ultrasound during pregnancy and 70% had three or more over the course of their pregnancy

68% of women had a late third trimester ultrasound to estimate fetal weight.

83% of women had some type of pain medication

67% had an epidural or spinal, and 92% of those who did reported this to be “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful.”

62% of women surveyed had an IV during labor

51% of women had one or more vaginal exams in labor. (I was surprised at this, I would have suspected higher)

47% had bladder (Foley) catheters

31% of women had a labor augmented with pitocin

50% of birthing women had their labor either induced or augmented with pitocin

20% had their membranes ruptured artificially (AROM)  after labor began

36% of women had their labor started or augmented by AROM

1% of women requested and had a maternal request cesarean for non-medical reasons

40% of women drank fluids during their labor

21% of the women ate during labor

85% of women birthing vaginally did so without forceps or vacuum

87% of women responding had at least one of the five big interventions (attempted labor induction, epidural, pitocin augmentation, assisted delivery with vacuum or forceps or cesarean.

60% of the women had at least two of the above five interventions listed above

Healthy Birth Practice 5: Avoid Giving Birth on Your Back and Follow Your Body’s Urges to Push

http://flic.kr/p/p3jx

Women push most effectively when permitted to push in the positions that feel best for them.  Allowing the baby to “labor down” even after reaching full dilation until moms feel the urge to push can help women to push a baby out quicker and under their own steam.  Pushing in positions that allow the pelvis to open as much as possible and making space by getting the sacrum out of the way can help promote descent during pushing.

68% of women surveyed birthed on their backs

23% birthed in a semi-sitting position

8% gave birth in a position off their back, either side-lying, squat or hands & knees

Healthy Birth Practice 6: Keep Mother and Baby Together; Its Best for Mother, Baby and Breastfeeding

Experts now recommend that right after birth, a healthy newborn should be placed skin-to-skin on the mother’s abdomen or chest and should be dried and covered with warm blankets. Any care that needs to be done immediately after birth can be done with your baby skin-to-skin on your chest.  This early time together promotes breastfeeding, helps stabilize the newborn’s temperature and blood sugar and also offers a unique chance for high levels of natural oxytocin that promote bonding and help with immediate postpartum bleeding.

47% of mothers responding had their baby in their arms within the first hour

40% of mother-baby pairs were not skin to skin when they were first held

33% of all babies were with hospital staff the first hour

60% of mother-baby pairs roomed in together

18% of babies spent time in the NICU

25% of babies spent their days with mom and their nights in the nursery

49% of mothers who stated that they intended to exclusively breastfeed were given formula samples or offers.

29% of newborns were supplemented with water or formula during the hospital stay

Summary

After reading through the LTMIII report, I found myself discouraged by the current results.  It was clear that women were making choices and/or being informed by their care providers to choose practices that have long been known to create a cascade of interventions, do not improve outcomes for mothers or babies and are not evidence based.  For the majority of the women who responded to this survey, the Healthy Care Practices are still a pipe dream and not a reality in their hospitals and with their current providers.  I know change comes slowly, and it can take years for protocols to catch up with the evidence but frankly, after reading the summary of how things did or did not change over the course of the three studies I was still shocked.

Have you had a chance to go through the study yet?  What were your thoughts?  Anything surprise you?  Can you share a bright point that you noticed?

Join us later this week as I examine what the LTMIII survey had to say about childbirth education and how women are receiving pregnancy and birth information and from where.

 

 

 

 

Breastfeeding, Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Doula Care, Epidural Analgesia, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, Healthy Care Practices, Lamaze International, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Medical Interventions, Midwifery, New Research, Newborns, News about Pregnancy, Research, Transforming Maternity Care, Uncategorized , , , , , ,

Medicaid Coverage for Doula Care: Re-Examining the Arguments through a Reproductive Justice Lens, Part One

March 28th, 2013 by avatar

by Christine H. Morton, PhD and Monica Basile, PhD, CPM, CD(DONA), CCE (BWI)

Last month there were great discussions after a study was published by the University of Minnesota, examining the potential cost savings to Medicaid if doulas worked with Medicaid clients, helping to reduce interventions and cesareans.  Today and next Tuesday, regular contributor, Christine Morton and her colleague Monica Basile, take a look at that study and another from Oregon, and share thoughtful insight about topics that might still need to be addressed if costs savings were to be effectively realized in a two part blog post. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

____________________________

 

http://flic.kr/p/5eqPFL

How can doula supported births help reduce the cesarean rate and realize cost savings within Medicaid-funded births? Two studies published last month offer the opportunity to address this complex question.

We support the goal of increasing access to doula supported care to childbearing people of diverse racial/ethnic and class backgrounds, and we are pleased that discussions are taking place about how doulas may be able to help reduce racial disparities in maternal and infant health. We recognize that work toward these goals requires policy advocacy, which depends heavily on economic arguments for the benefits of doula care.

However, by limiting the discussion of benefits to the economic impacts of reduced cesareans, advocacy for Medicaid funding of doula supported births—without specifying the doula model of care and without according true value to the doula’s impact—may have unintended consequences for individual doulas, and the organizations that represent them.  One such consequence may be that the resulting system will continue to perpetuate a model of economic marginality and potential exploitation for the doulas who serve a low income population of childbearing people.

The AJPH study by Katy Kozhimannil and colleagues in Minnesota received a lot of media attention when it appeared last month, even live coverage in the Huffington Post.  This study compared 1,079 selected Medicaid doula patients in Minnesota to Medicaid patients nationwide for their total cesarean rates.  They found that doula clients of a community program in Minnesota had a rate of 22.3% while national Medicaid had 31.5%.  The authors reported three scenarios, all assuming that if states reduced cesarean rates, by offering doula services, there would be varying levels of cost savings, depending on the cesarean rate achieved, and by reimbursing doulas between $100-300 per birth.

In our view, the Minnesota study design raises several methodological questions, which are applicable to this study and to future research on doula-attended births. We outline those questions here, as well as raise several more substantive concerns about the implications of the study’s stated conclusions.

  1. Why did the researchers not compare Minnesota Medicaid doula clients to Minnesota Medicaid women who gave birth?  Minnesota has a much lower rate of total cesarean that the US as a whole (27.4% during this time period), and this would have been a better matched comparison.  A better comparison would be doula attended births vs. non-doula attended births at the same facility.  It is not clear from the study whether the doula program whose data was utilized served women at one or multiple hospitals in Minneapolis. 
  2. Why did the researchers not limit their investigation to primary cesareans?  Doulas typically support women in labor rather than women undergoing repeat cesareans.  The total cesarean rate includes repeat cesarean so it will be much higher than the primary cesarean rate, which is more applicable to doula clients.  Including total cesarean rates means that the researchers are comparing a limited universe (doula support of women in labor) to all births (thus including repeat and primary cesarean).   The data source for this study, (Nationwide Inpatient Sample), however, does not have this information.
  3. Cesarean rates are very dependent on the parity distribution of the birthing population, so first time mothers need to be compared to first time mothers and multiparous women to multiparous women. This information is not available in the data source used by the researchers, but in future studies of this type, it is critical to verify that the proportion of each is the same in the intervention and control populations.
  4. States are implementing a number of payment reform models to reduce cesareans among women covered by Medicaid, with limited success.  In part, that is because cesareans are influenced by a number of factors, with payment incentives only one.  (Many of these issues are covered in the CMQCC white paper on improvement opportunities to reduce cesareans, which argues that a multi-pronged strategy is necessary). 
  5. Because hospital rates of cesarean have been shown to have high geographic variation in a number of studies (Baicker 2006; Main et al 2011; Caceres 2013; Kozhimannil 2013), it may be more feasible to have comparison groups of hospitals with similar primary cesarean rates.  Until we understand what accounts for variation in cesarean rates between institutions (unit culture; facility policies and protocols), it may be premature to assess the independent effect of labor support by a trained doula.

While doula support is associated with fewer cesareans across the board (Hodnett 2012), the methodological issues described above are likely to over estimate the benefits of doula-attended births in terms of reducing the cesarean rate for Medicaid covered births.  This, in turn, raises questions about the purported cost savings.  In the Minnesota study, the cost breakpoint is no more than $300 dollars for the doula per birth.  In most cities, doulas charge well above this amount for fee-for service care.

A cost-benefit analysis by Oregon Health & Science University researchers for the Oregon State Legislature was presented at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine in February 2013, which found that doula care in labor provides a cost benefit to payers only when doula costs are below $159.73 per case.  In that study, data sources are not entirely clear, but do seem to come from the OHSU facility where a hospital-based doula program is in place.  In that program, doulas are on call on weekends only and come to assist in a labor when requested by the woman during her prenatal care or when she arrives at the hospital.  A case-control study claiming the benefits of this doula model at OHSU was published as an abstract, and although it claims “women receiving doula care were statistically less likely to have an epidural during labor (p = 0.03), have an episiotomy (p = .03), or cesarean delivery (p = .006) and on average, doula attended women had a shorter hospital stay compared to the control group (p = .002),” nowhere does it show what the actual rates were.  This is important, because, they are likely to be relatively low overall, given that OSHU is a teaching hospital, with midwives and family practice physicians providing maternity care.

There are several types of doula models; not all have the same components.  The community-based doula model, as exemplified by the HealthConnectOne approach has a solid evidence base. This model employs doulas who are trusted community members, and provides extensive prenatal and postpartum support in addition to continuous labor support.  Doulas work collaboratively with community organizations, have extensive training in experiential learning and cultural sensitivity, and are paid a wage commensurate with their value and expertise, serving an important workforce development and grassroots empowerment function. Some so-called community doula programs do not incorporate all these components.

Hospital-based programs usually assign or utilize an on-call doula, who has not met the mother in advance and is not likely to follow up postpartum.  Some advocates of Medicaid doula programs utilize the community health worker (CHW) model, which seems to mirror the community-based doula (CBD) model but with important differences.  The American Public Health Association has defined CHWs as “frontline public health workers who are trusted members of and/or have an unusually close understanding of the community they serve.”  Yet, despite their widespread utilization in public health over the past several years, the conditions of their training, job opportunities, and even job description are idiosyncratic, and highly varied, and this “lack of CHW identity and standards of practice has led employers to contribute to the confusion about who CHWs are and what they do.” While the CHW and CBD models offer important job opportunities to members of under-resourced communities, their wages are often on the low side, with full time work paying $35,000 to $42,000 annually.  According to a health careers website, “CHWs often are hired to support a specific health initiative, which may depend on short-term funding sources. As a result, CHWs may have to move from job to job to obtain steady income.  This short-term categorical funding of health services is a challenge to the stability and sustainability of the CHW practice.”

In cost-benefit or cost effectiveness studies, it is critical to clearly specify the doula model of care on which the economic model is based.  It seems the doula model in the Minnesota study incorporates extensive pre and post partum contact and that there is an attempt to match doulas and clients in terms of race/ethnicity and language, but this is not always possible.   The study does not indicate what the doulas in the Minnesota program were paid, however, and that information was unavailable on their website.

Before we move to the topic of reimbursement, we want to note that the type of doula model is critical for assessing the benefits of doula-attended births.  The research clearly shows different outcomes for doulas who are affiliated with hospitals compared to those who work independently (Hodnett, 2012).  If a cost benefit model shows little gain in terms of outcomes, or yields a price point in the low hundreds of dollars, it may be that findings are affected by the assumptions embedded in the calculations.

More fundamentally, however, we argue that doula benefits cannot be captured solely through an economic model.  Neither should doulas be promoted as a primary means to reduce cesarean rates.  Both strategies (economic benefits and cesarean reduction) for promoting doulas have significant barrier.  In part two of this topic, running on Tuesday, April 2nd,  we discuss our concerns about reimbursement and program sustainability alongside a caution against relying too heavily on arguments that position the doula as primarily a money saver and cesarean reducer.

References

Baicker, K, Kasey S. Buckles, and Amitabh Chandra. Geographic Variation In The Appropriate Use Of Cesarean Delivery: Do higher usage rates reflect medically inappropriate use of this procedure? Health Affairs 25 (2006): w355–w367; doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.25.w355

Caceres, Isabel A., Mariana Arcaya, et al., Hospital Differences in Cesarean Deliveries in Massachusetts (US) 2004–2006: The Case against Case-Mix Artifact, PLoS ONE 8(3): e57817. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057817

Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub4.

Kozhimannil, Katy Backes, Michael R. Law, and Beth A. Virnig. Cesarean Delivery Rates Vary Tenfold Among US Hospitals; Reducing Variation May Address Quality And Cost Issues, Health Affairs 32, NO. 3 (2013): 527535; doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1030

Main EK, Morton CH, Hopkins D, Giuliani G, Melsop K and Gould JB. 2011.  Cesarean Deliveries, Outcomes, and Opportunities for Change in California: Toward a Public Agenda for Maternity Care Safety and Quality.  Palo Alto, CA: CMQCC.  (Available at http://www.cmqcc.org/white_paper)

Pilliod, Rachel; Leslie, Jennie; Tilden, Ellen; et al. Doula care in active labor: a cost benefit analysis. Abstract presented at 33rd Annual Meeting/Pregnancy Meeting of the Society-for-Maternal-Fetal-Medicine (SMFM), San Francisco, CA, February 11-16, 2013, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume: 208 (1); S348-S349.

About the authors

 

Monica Basile

Monica Basile has been an active birth doula, childbirth educator, and midwifery advocate for 17 years, and holds a PhD in Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. Her 2012 doctoral dissertation, Reproductive Justice and Childbirth Reform: Doulas as Agents of Social Change, is an examination of emerging trends in doula care through the lens of intersectional feminist theory and the reproductive justice movement.

 

Christine Morton

Christine Morton

Regular contributor Christine H. Morton, PhD, is a sociologist whose research on doulas is the topic of her forthcoming book, with Elayne Clift, Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-emergence of Woman-Supported Birth, which will be published by Praeclarus Press in Fall 2013. For more on Christine, please see Science & Sensibility’s Contributor page.

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