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5 Business Practices of Successful Childbirth Educators

June 26th, 2014 by avatar

by Robin Elise Weiss, PhDc, MPH, LCCE, FACCE

Robin Weiss, childbirth educator and president-elect of Lamaze International shares some very smart business tips for being a successful childbirth educator, regardless of whether you work for a large hospital system or teach independent classes. Check out her advice below and share your own suggestions in our comments section. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager for Science & Sensibility

Being in childbirth education is an amazing profession. As a childbirth educator, we are privileged to be with families as they learn and prepare for one of the most exciting journeys of their lives, that of giving birth. Many childbirth educators began this path as a calling, and have had to stumble through the business aspects. It can be difficult to separate the calling from the business.

The good news is that there are five things that you can do that will greatly improve your business acumen and help you become successful in all facets of your profession.

1) Get educated

A formal education in childbirth prepares you to teach and for your certification examinations. However, other than quick mentions of finding clients and paperwork, there is often little information given towards having a business and running it well. There are many questions that you might have from settling on a business name, incorporating, taxes, license fees, or office space. These are questions that have widely varying answers, but that are very specific to where you live and how you practice. Finding a local resource for education is an imperative. Many groups that are willing to help small business owners, like SCORE. They offer free classes and counseling to help you get started.

2) Have back up

Back up in this case refers to your certifying organization. Having an international organization behind you will open many doors. While a hospital of doctor’s office may not know you, the name of an organization such as Lamaze International is well known. The people that you are applying to work with know of the high standards that Lamaze International sets forward in their educators.
There are also special benefits to being a member of a professional organization. This can include referrals for clients in your area, continuing education, conferences, and other things of professional interest. In addition to these benefits, there is also the satisfaction of being with like-minded people.

3) Give Referrals

Referrals may seem like something that does not fit in this list. But following the old adage of it being better to give than to receive is only partially true. I would amend it to be that when you give, you also receive. Keep a local resource list handy and feel free to give it away to anyone who would like it. Also be quick with personal referrals for those with complementary business practices. Think about lactation consultants, doulas, midwives, and doctors in your area. Be sure to ask the person to whom you give the referral to say that you sent them. This shows others in the area that you appreciate their services. Consider asking for their cards to pass out when asked for referrals.

4) Be present

Attend all of the local functions that you are invited to attend or that you can apply to attend. This can include baby fairs thrown by hospitals, guest speaking for various groups from nursing education to mothers’ groups. Being seen in public and having lots of people get to know you is beneficial. It has two benefits, 1) to get to know others in the community and to give back, and 2) to let people know about your services.

5) Be prepared

You should always be prepared with at least two things: your business cards and your elevator speech. Multiple business cards is a no brainer. Don’t be so thrilled with your cards that you are afraid to give them out. (I did this when I first started!) Give them out like candy. Need to give another mom your number for a play date? The back of your card works as a great white space!
Your elevator speech is a 1-2 minute long summary of what you do. Be prepared so that the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, you can quickly and confidently tell them. You can practice this after writing it out at home if that helps you. Some childbirth educators say that they’ve even made a video to watch themselves give this mini-speech to help make it more natural.

In the end, do not let the business side of your calling be a barrier. There are ways to build this side of your skill set and to be both a great childbirth educator and a great businessperson, with just a few steps.

About Robin Weiss

robin weiss head shotRobin Elise Weiss is a childbirth educator in Louisville, KY. She is also the President-Elect of Lamaze International. You can find her at pregnancy.about.com and robineliseweiss.com

Childbirth Education, Continuing Education, Guest Posts, Lamaze International , , ,

Series: Welcoming All Families – The Need for LGBTQ- Specific Childbirth Classes

June 24th, 2014 by avatar

By Kristin Kali, LM, CPM

© Kendra Quinn

© Kendra Quinn

Today on Science & Sensibility, as part of the occasional series, Welcoming All Families, midwife and educator Kristin Kali, LM, CPM shares information on holding a childbirth class that is designed specifically for LGBTQ families.  Kristin discusses the benefits of holding an LGBTQ class, provides some resources and offers additional information on content designed to meet the specific needs of LGBTQ families.  - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

Take off your childbirth educator hat for a moment, and consider your own personal experience. If you are a member of a culturally marginalized group, (and if you do not identify as a member of a marginalized group – imagine) you know the difference between being in a space where you are welcomed and respected, versus being in a space with others who share a similar cultural experience, who speak a common language, and who have aspects of everyday life in common. In a space that is welcoming yet mixed, you may only discuss things you hold in common with those around you, unless you are willing to teach others around you in order for them to understand you and your experience. But if you are in a position of vulnerability, such as being pregnant, or in a class to prepare you for giving birth, you are not likely to discuss things that the people around you simply do not understand or do not have a context for.

Imagine being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer person who is going through pregnancy, with many of the same physiological concerns as any pregnant person, and with many of the same needs and desires, including the desire for a healthy baby, a positive birth experience, and a childbirth class to help assist in attaining that goal. Yet, although you have much in common, if you are in a class of primarily heterosexual couples, or even a class with many different types of families, some of the primary aspects of your experience of bringing this baby into the world and becoming a parent will not be shared.

© Firestone-Kahn 2013

© Firestone-Kahn 2013

Now put your childbirth educator hat back on again. As a childbirth educator, you might be thinking, “Well, there are many unique circumstances that people have when they come to a childbirth class – people may be coming from having dealt with infertility, military wives whose husbands are away at war, women who are giving birth as single moms. We are together to learn about giving birth, so that’s mostly what we talk about when the group comes together.” I invite childbirth educators to imagine any one of those unique scenarios, and envision if the class was full of people who had that scenario in common. How powerful would that be? What might be discussed in the safety of others who truly understand this experience? How might that affect the empowerment, strength and resolve of someone who is preparing for the prospect of giving birth and becoming a parent?

I can tell you, after 9 years of teaching specialized childbirth classes for LGBTQ families, that it is very powerful. When people live in a culture where their relationship may not be honored with the right to marry, when a child is born and a parent is not legally recognized as a parent and they have to prove themselves worthy to a social worker just to gain legal parentage (or perhaps legal parentage is not allowed in their state at all), when they didn’t simply have sex with their partner, rather they used all of their savings and maxed their credit cards just to get the funds for sperm so that they could conceive, it is such a relief to be in a group that has the same common denominator. More than that, it allows for camaraderie, and issues that are unique to families like theirs to be discussed.

In my childbirth classes, the families introduce themselves to each other with the “usual” information, such as name, due date and place of birth. However, before we get started with introductions, I briefly talk about the transformation of self that happens when a person becomes a parent, and as a person’s gender is so central to who they are, of course gender is central to that experience. I invite the introductions to include stating the pronoun that they prefer people to use in reference to them, and also what they plan for their baby to call them – maybe Mom or Dad, but perhaps a different word that more closely matches their gender such as Baba or Dadmom or anything else.

The second thing we do is share conception stories – I’ll bet this is not something discussed in heterosexual or mixed groups! But for the LGBTQ families in my class, the pregnancy experience started way before that little one was growing inside, and sharing these stories candidly establishes normalcy when the situation is not viewed as “the usual way” by society. Furthermore, families may be still be carrying emotional aspects of their conception process in a way that can impact the birth itself, or the partnership during the transition to new parenthood. Sharing conception stories brings me, as the instructor, up to date. It lets me know what happened for each family in the process of getting to this class, and anything important that I need to watch out for or hold space for with each parent-to-be.

Throughout the class, after setting the stage for open discussion and creating such a sense of safety, participants are likely to ask the important questions that they may not otherwise have asked. People feel free to be exactly who they are, not a guarded sense of “how much can I share about myself and not have the other parents look at me weird or be a spectacle”. We cover all the aspects of labor and birth that would be covered in any childbirth class. In fact, my class is based on a popular curriculum. I just bring together LGBTQ families and specifically discuss topics that are unique to this group within the context of the curriculum.

What makes an LGBTQ childbirth ed class so special? I will let the parents speak for themselves by sharing some of the feedback and comments I have received after class:

“There is something wonderfully supportive about being surrounded by other queer families. It created a truly safe and inclusive space where our LGBT experience was at the center, and not just touched on as an aside or an exception to the norm.”

“I am so grateful for this class. Going in as a queer family, not having to translate from everyone else’s ‘normal,’ not needing to explain our family was great.”

“As a gender variant pregnant woman, this class provided support and community that is often lacking in society at large.”

“I needed to voice fears and have time to ask questions in a non-judgmental space.”

“It’s not just about using neutral pronouns and terms (like “birth parent” instead of “mom”). It’s  great to be in a room full of queer folks who understand my experience, so I feel like my queer specific questions are adding to the group’s experience rather than distracting or pulling the class off on a tangent.”

As an educator, it is important to be able to inform people about what to expect, and to be able to hold people as they explore their thoughts and feelings in relation to the class material. While LGBTQ families may have a lot in common, each family is unique. There is a broad range of family structures, conception histories, gender issues, co-parenting strategies, and interpersonal dynamics to explore, all in relation to giving birth and caring for a newborn.

For those who are interested in teaching childbirth classes for LGBTQ families, there are a number of considerations. Are there enough families in your community to support an exclusive class? Even if you are an LGBTQ person, do you have experience working with a variety of LGBTQ people in the process of becoming parents? Are you able to name common birth and postpartum dynamics that come up in lesbian partnerships, for transgender parents, and extended co-parent families?

You can educate yourself by reading books about LGBTQ family- building:

The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy and Birth
And Baby Makes More
Confessions of the Other Mother

Attend an LGBTQ cultural sensitivity training that is specific to birth and family-building:

MAIA Midwifery LGBTQ Cultural Sensitivity Trainings

Check out websites and blogs about LGBTQ parenting:

http://www.mombian.com/
http://www.lesbiandad.net/
http://itsconceivablenow.com/
http://www.milkjunkies.net/

I do not recommend that non-LGBTQ allies teach this specialized class. Instead, enthusiastically refer LGBTQ families to a specialized class if there is one in your area, explaining the value that so many families have found in attending a childbirth class with other queer families. (Read about ways to make your mixed class supportive for LGBTQ families here and a lesbian couple’s CBE class experience  here.)  The sense of safety that is created when a marginalized group gathers exclusively allows something to happen that would not happen in a mixed group. Being in “safe space” provides a sense of common understanding that goes way beyond welcome and acceptance. It allows for dialogue regarding a common lived experience and a shared cultural identity. There is a sense of knowing – not needing to explain the things that to an outsider could be explained, but would not truly be understood without direct, lived experience. Kind of like becoming a parent.

If you are interested in teaching childbirth classes for LGBTQ families in your community, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Are there educators in your community who teach LGBTQ childbirth classes?  Maybe you are one of those educators?  Do you see the need for such classes in your community?  Share your experiences and observations with our readers on specialized classes such as this. – SM

About Kristin Kali

© Kristin Kali

© Kristin Kali

Kristin Kali, LM CPM is the owner of MAIA Midwifery and Fertility Services, a fertility-focused midwifery practice that provides holistic, individualized care. MAIA serves all families, with specific expertise in serving LGBTQ families, single parents by choice, transgender parents and those conceiving over 40. Fertility consultations, classes and support groups are available in Seattle, Oakland, and online.

Kristin is a Certified Professional Midwife through the North American Registry of Midwives. She is a Licensed Midwife in California and Washington. Kristin is a graduate of Seattle Midwifery School and a member of the Midwives Association of North America, National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, California Association of Midwives, and Midwives Association of Washington State.

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Parenting an Infant, Series: Welcoming All Families , , , ,

Childhood Sexual Abuse as a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression- Part 2: The Educator’s Role

June 5th, 2014 by avatar
© CC Smoochi: http://flickr.com/photos/smadars/4758708634

© CC Smoochi: http://flickr.com/photos/smadars/4758708634

Kathy Morelli, perinatal mental health expert and S&S contributor is sharing information about the impact of childhood sexual abuse on women during the childbearing year.  Tuesday, in Part 1,  Kathy discussed the brain changes that can occur as a result of such abuse and today, Kathy shares the impact during the childbearing year and the role of the childbirth educator.  - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

How do these underlying biological changes affect a woman during the childbearing year?

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and a woman’s subsequent reproductive life, including menstruation, pregnancy, birth and ongoing sexuality, occur at different times, maybe even in different decades, in a woman’s life. Yet, in clinical practice and in the research, these issues are intertwined.

In general, the research indicates that women who experienced childhood sexual abuse have more emotional distress in pregnancy, which directly impacts their physical health, which then impacts their pregnancy and leads to more medical interventions (Lev-Weisel, Daphna- Tekoah, and Hallak, 2009).

The somatic, body-based feelings in pregnancy can be re-triggering to a woman who has deep, non-verbal somatic memories of childhood sexual abuse. It’s important that women receive sensitive reproductive care, both physically and emotionally. An unaccepting attitude from her healthcare providers can trigger deeply held feelings of helplessness, fear, low self-worth and shame and actual flashbacks, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Lev-Weisel, Daphna- Tekoah, and Hallak, 2009).

The obvious sexual themes resonate on multiple levels: body-based, emotional and psychological. Yet, there hasn’t been lot of research about how a history of childhood sexual abuse impacts a woman’s mental health during pregnancy and postpartum. However, what research exists, finds that women who suffered from childhood sexual abuse have an elevated risk of postpartum depression (Lev-Weisel, Daphna- Tekoah, and Hallak, 2009).

There are a lot of body-based feelings in pregnancy that could be re-triggering to a woman who has deep, non-verbal somatic memories of childhood sexual abuse, even if she is being treated with respect and kindness in the present day.

Pregnancy

Prenatally, simple things such as the position of a woman’s body as she lays on her to be checked vaginally can bring back non-verbal emotional memories of past abuse. The baby moving inside her body might cause intense joy, but might also create an underlying, non-verbal uneasiness.

Birth

Childbirth is an intense experience; a time of hormonal, physical and emotional exertion. Due to the pre-existing priming of early trauma memory networks – an intense distressful emotion, a particular scent, or a body position – can trigger flashbacks to earlier traumatic experiences. Feeling powerless, not heard, or disregarded by healthcare providers during childbirth, can activate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Her present day feelings of powerlessness and fear are amplified by pre-existing traumatic memories (Beck, Driscoll & Watson, 2013).

Remember the disregard by the medical professionals may just be due to the rush of the medical team as they attend professionally to a medical emergency. The medical protocol doesn’t have a person assigned to talking and listening to the mother during the event, so she feels disregarded (Beck, Driscoll & Watson, 2013).

However, even if she is being treated in a kind way, your client’s body positioning or a scent can recollect something from her past trauma. In an uncanny and timeless way, her body and mind remember the past and take her back to feelings of fear and helplessness. She may wordlessly freeze or panic, for what seems to be no present day reason.

Postpartum

Postpartum, there are physical, emotional and psychological factors feeding emotional health. As has been noted over and over again, a pre-existing personal depressive or anxiety disorder (PTSD is in the spectrum of anxiety disorders) will set up the body up for another episode postpartum. Drs. Deborah Sichel and Jeanne Driscoll (2000) say the brain chemistry “remembers” its previous old depressive pathway and finds its way back there. Plus, there’s a major swing in hormonal activity in your body as you adjust from high levels of pregnancy and birth hormones to pre-pregnancy levels. This adjustment is different for all women, depending on whether or not they are breastfeeding and on their individual differences in metabolism and individual sensitivity level to their own hormonal shifts (Sichel and Driscoll, 2000).

For new parents who grew up in an abusive home, there’s the added challenge of the emotional and psychological work required to examine and modify negative repetitive childhood patterns. It’s not an easy task for your client as she evaluates her past behavioral, emotional and psychological patterns and replaces them with new and more positive patterns about family life and parenting. This adds another level of complexity to parenting a newborn, itself a major lifestyle adjustment.

Adjusting to a new lifestyle with an infant and baby care is physically and emotionally challenging. Feelings of frustration emerge as your client adjusts her schedule yet again to accommodate her baby plus the endless touching and carrying may leave her feeling like her body isn’t her own anymore. Breastfeeding may feel triggering to some women if it invokes past experiences.

A Childbirth Educator Can Help

Childbirth educators can play a key role in helping a woman who has survived childhood sexual abuse to proactively manager her experience of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.The good news is that, even with all these challenges, it’s important to realize that your client’s childhood sexual abusive does NOT define her. There are many aspects of the self that compose her constellation of self-definition.

The human mind and body are plastic, so the past isn’t destiny. Remember to factor in the resiliency of human nature. With patience and perseverance, human beings can move beyond survivorship, learn to bloom and move into the “thriving” phase.

However, learning to thrive is not an easy task. There are no “five steps” here! Managing the effects of an abusive childhood is an ongoing, deeply personal experience. It’s honorable life work, and highly individualized. As your client moves along her healing path, she’ll choose what feels right for her.

She can work positively on herself and experience post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth is inner growth through personal development. It’s possible for her to experience this growth arising from her painful experience, with her own inner work.

Below are some positive ideas you may want to keep in mind as you teach your childbirth education curriculum to a diverse set of families. Your raised consciousness will help create an inclusive space for women survivors CSA to enhance her experience of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

Be sensitive to the emotional aspects of working with someone recovering from CSA.

Help her honor the importance of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood

  • Encourage women to honor their experience of childbirth as the important developmental life passage it is. CSA survivors may tend to dissociate and dismiss their experiences
  • Encourage women to interview some providers. Have a list of referrals of gynecologists/obstetricians/midwives that you know are open to and sensitive to working with women recovering from CSA
  • Encourage women to give themselves the respect of investigating the hospital or birth center where her provider practices
  • Allow women to have the freedom to have a personally honorable birth experience, in any manner that birth happens
  • Allow women to feel that they are not less of a woman or a mother, however the birth experience happens. Each woman gets to choose her path in childbirth. Not other people or the unseen, but felt, social pressures.
  • People heal individually at their own pace.
  • Don’t pressure women to use her childbirth experience as a healing ritual. Childbirth is a life-changing experience, and each woman gets to choose how to experience this. If she wants to explore the idea of birth as healing, encourage her to be open to many options. But birth is unpredictable, don’t put this out there as the only way to define healing. There are many paths to healing.
  • Help her by doing what you’re best at: demystify childbirth while accepting her choices. Don’t impose your personal agenda about what is right and wrong for her birth experience
  • If she has alot of anxiety about childbirth, honor her by encouraging her to put in the emotional work with a mental health professional. Childbirth education, while important, may not be enough to manage anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Prenatal fear of childbirth increases the likelihood of postpartum depression.
  • Encourage her to develop a daily, holistic relaxation practice to counteract the effects of stress imbalance

Discuss postpartum planning in your curriculum

  • Have a babymoon/postpartum plan in place
  • Encourage women to practice self-love by allowing time to rest
  • Encourage women to gentle with themselves – pregnancy and childbirth puts body and mind through a lot of hormonal changes!
  • Educate her about hormonal changes. Hormonal balance takes at least three months to come back to pre-pregnancy levels. The hormonal adjustments are individualized; it also depends on if the mother is breastfeeding or not.
  • Educate women to protect her fourth trimester, and help her body shift to-wards balance:
    • Rest; develop the mindset of being, not doing
    • Practice good nutrition with whole foods and good supplements
    • Get help: If she can afford it, time with a postpartum doula or a baby nurse will help her achieve balance and rest
    • Don’t underestimate the power of sleep; discuss sleep planning
    • Practice mindfulness and relaxation to counteract the inevitable chal-lenges of caring for a new born and the emotional change of identity in motherhood
  • Complementary care is nurturing, safe touch helps rebalance the body and mind
  • Social support is important. Have resources available. Women who “Tend and Befriend” in real life and online help mothers feel supported, Women and birth circles are important resources.
  • Expect emotional ups and downs
  • De-stigmatize professional help; there’s a lot of professional help available. If she feels very sad or anxious, it’s ok to seek help.

As a childbirth professional, you can positively affect your clients and their families. Know that childhood sexual abuse,  though prevalent, doesn’t define people, they can work through it to experience positive personal growth, through resilience and post-traumatic growth.

References

Beck, C. Driscoll, J., and S. Watson (2013). Traumatic childbirth. New York: Routledge Press.

Lev-Weisel, R., Daphna- Tekoah, S., Hallak, M. (2009). Childhood sexual abuse as a predictor of birth-related posttraumatic stress and postpartum posttraumatic stress. Child Abuse and Neglect, 33, 877-887.
Perez-Fuentes, G., Olfson, M., Villegas, L., Morcillo, C., Wang, S. & Blanco, C., (2013). Prevalence and correlates of child sexual abuse: a national study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 5(1), 16-27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854279

Plaza, A., Garcia-Estave, L., Ascaso, C., Navarro, P, et al. (2010). Childhood sex-ual abuse and hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis in postpartum major depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 122, 159-163.

Sichel, D. & Driscoll, J. (2000).Women’s Moods. New York: Harper Paperbacka.

Yampolsky, L., Lev-Wiesel, R., & Ben-Zion, I. Z. (2010). Child sexual abuse: is it a risk factor for pregnancy?. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 66(9), 2025-2037. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05387.x

Childbirth Education, Depression, Guest Posts, Maternal Mental Health, Perinatal Mood Disorders, Postpartum Depression , , , , , , , ,

Childhood Sexual Abuse as a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression – Part 1

June 3rd, 2014 by avatar

Childhood sexual abuse can play a key role as a risk factor for postpartum depression.  Kathy Morelli takes a look at the impact of this horrible childhood event on a woman during her childbearing year.  Today, in Part 1 – we learn how the brain actually undergoes changes as a result of the trauma experienced.  On Thursday, Kathy Morelli will discuss how the woman who has experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and what affect that has on her during the childbearing year,(pregnancy, birth and postpartum)  along with information and tips  for what childbirth educators can do.  Join us on Thursday for Childhood Sexual Abuse as a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression – Part 2. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.

© CC Michelle Brea: http://flickr.com/photos/itsallaboutmich/451493421

© CC Michelle Brea: http://flickr.com/photos/itsallaboutmich/451493421

Woman to Woman Support

As I’ve said in my previous articles about Perinatal Mental Health, Lamaze childbirth professionals are very often the first point of contact for pregnant and new mothers. You’re an important resource in your community about pregnancy and childbirth, so becoming educated about the signs of perinatal mood/anxiety disorders and having an awareness about the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse (12% -20% of women) is an important aspect of your knowledge base. This article is meant to:

  • Increase awareness about the emotional aspects of surviving childhood sexual abuse (CSA)
  • Present a broad overview about the research regarding CSA
  • Present how CSA impacts a woman holistically, over her lifespan
  • Present how CSA impacts a woman specifically during childbearing
  • Discuss the complex recovery process from CSA
  • Generate ideas about whom to add to your community resource and referral list
  • Encourage being effective and supportive while preserving your own personal, certification and/or licensure boundaries

Remember, you may be the first person with whom she feels safe enough to discuss her personal history, even before her healthcare provider and sometimes even before her family. You can help out by being positively aware, being appropriately supportive and providing a list of contacts in the community and online.

Holistic View of a Woman’s Emotional History

Whenever a woman comes into my office for help for feelings of emotional and somatic distress during her pregnancy, childbirth experience and postpartum, I look at her life holistically, across her lifespan. I don’t assume, but I wonder, if she might be in that estimated 12% – 20% of women who have been sexually abused in their lifetime.

Is there a likelihood that past abuse affects how a woman feels about herself during pregnancy and childbirth and can be an underlying causative factor for antenatal depression or anxiety?

The research literature about the link between a woman’s past childhood sexual abuse and distress during pregnancy is scarce, but emergent research does show a connection.

How does a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) intersect with postpartum depression? This is a complicated question, but I’ll try to list some influential factors.

The HPA Axis is Modified: Fear and panic of CSA alters internal stress response

In general, research shows us that people who suffered from childhood sexual abuse (CSA) have a higher incidence of emotional, psychological and social distress, in addition to post-traumatic and physical, or somatic, symptoms. Specifically, research shows us that adult survivors of CSA suffer from higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular symptoms (Plaza et al, 2010).

Women who have suffered past childhood sexual abuse suffer more unexplained gynecological symptoms, such as recurrent pelvic pain and more painful periods and sexual dysfunction than women who don’t have a traumatic sexual history (Lev-Weisel, Daphna- Tekoah, and Hallak, 2009). The stress and fear from childhood abuse manifests later on in adult life on all levels: body, mind and spirit.

What are some of the physical processes underlying this distress on the body and mind levels?

Researchers believe that long-term negative emotions, such as fear, panic and pain, cause an over-activation of the neural pathways in the brain associated with these strong emotions. The internal production of neurotransmitters, which affect mood, is affected. So chronic emotional stress impacts brain health.

The brain communicates with the pituitary and adrenal glands via the feedback loop called the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Cortex Axis (HPA Axis). The pituitary and adrenal glands are responsible for hormone production, which, in turn, affects the brain and our emotional state (Plaza et al, 2010).

During long-term childhood sexual abuse, the HPA Axis is continually activated and, with overactivation, the stress response becomes chronic, persisting throughout a lifetime. Thus, the chronic over-activation of the fear and pain response underlies anxiety disorders and chronic pain syndromes across the lifespan (Plaza et al, 2010).

During pregnancy and postpartum, hormonal changes are very dramatic, so there’s an additional adjustment for the mind and body to cope with. Thus, the hormonal changes during pregnancy also impact brain health via the pituitary and adrenal glands feedback loop.

Brain Development is Modified: Fear and panic of CSA can inhibit encoding of memories

Research shows that chronic fear and stress in childhood can actually inhibit the growth of some brain structures. In fact, some parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, which is in charge of memory, are smaller in CSA survivors than people who were not abused in childhood. So, recollection of childhood memories is impaired.

In addition, brain imaging shows brain development is hindered in that there are less robust connections between the emotional part of the brain and the upper part of the brain (Plaza et al, 2010).

How do these underlying biological changes affect a person’s emotional health?

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse survivors are known to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which has a constellation of symptoms on many levels: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, somatic pain, flashbacks and dissociative episodes.

Events that occured long ago in a woman’s life can still play a large role in her mental and physical health when she is pregnant, birthing and in the postpartum period. Join us on Thursday for Childhood Sexual Abuse as a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression- Part 2: The Childbirth Educator’s Role.- SM

References

Beck, C. Driscoll, J., and S. Watson (2013). Traumatic childbirth. New York: Routledge Press.

Lev-Weisel, R., Daphna- Tekoah, S., Hallak, M. (2009). Childhood sexual abuse as a predictor of birth-related posttraumatic stress and postpartum posttraumatic stress. Child Abuse and Neglect, 33, 877-887.
Perez-Fuentes, G., Olfson, M., Villegas, L., Morcillo, C., Wang, S. & Blanco, C., (2013). Prevalence and correlates of child sexual abuse: a national study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 5(1), 16-27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22854279

Plaza, A., Garcia-Estave, L., Ascaso, C., Navarro, P, et al. (2010). Childhood sex-ual abuse and hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis in postpartum major depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 122, 159-163.

Sichel, D. & Driscoll, J. (2000).Women’s Moods. New York: Harper Paperbacka.

Yampolsky, L., Lev-Wiesel, R., & Ben-Zion, I. Z. (2010). Child sexual abuse: is it a risk factor for pregnancy?. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 66(9), 2025-2037. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05387.x

Childbirth Education, Depression, Guest Posts, Maternal Mental Health, Perinatal Mood Disorders, Postpartum Depression, Uncategorized , , , , , , ,

Midwifery As A Birth Option? – Tools for Educators to Share with Families

May 29th, 2014 by avatar

By Nasima Pfaffl, President, Citizens for Midwifery

midwife care

© Richard Kimbrough

Childbirth education students are typically attending classes in the last trimester of their pregnancy. Most likely, they have established care with a health care provider months ago. Families may receive care from obstetricians, family practice doctors or midwives and find themselves sitting next to each other in class. Conversations may come up in class about the type of care they are receiving. Some families, for a variety of reasons, may be considering changing providers. The educator may be asked what is the difference between the different types of providers who might help them with their birth. Today, guest contributor Nasima Pfaffl shares information about the midwifery model of care, for those families that are interested in pursuing care with a midwife. In future posts, a family practice doctor and an obstetrician will explain more about the type of care they provide. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.

At Citizens for Midwifery, we get frequent requests for information about birth with a midwife. Is it safe? What training does a midwife have? How is midwifery care different than other care?

We’ve pulled together some of our favorite resources for you to use as you educate families about their birth options. We hope you’ll share with us your favorites that we’ve missed, in the comments section below.

Are there different kinds of midwives?

Yes. There are two main categories of midwives in the U.S., nurse-midwives, who are trained in both nursing and midwifery, and direct entry midwives, who trained as midwives without being nurses first. The majority of direct entry midwives are Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs); but this category also includes Certified Midwives and Licensed/Registered Midwives. The legal status of direct entry midwives varies in different states. The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) has good information on the kind of care direct entry midwives provide.

Direct entry midwives include highly trained and very competent midwives; however, anyone may call him/herself a midwife at this time, and if you are looking for a midwife, it is up to you to find out if the midwife is qualified and experienced to your satisfaction. If a midwife is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), you are assured that s/he has met specific requirements for certification (and recertification every three years).

Consumers can learn more about the CPM credential and why state licensing of midwives is important from the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). Many states are also working on bills to license CPMs (check your state here at the Big Push site). The National Association of Certified Professional Midwives has resources about how CPMs practice and how midwifery organizations are working to integrate CPMs into the health care system.

Is midwifery care safe?

Midwifery care is generally provided for people who are at low-risk for complications during pregnancy and birth in one of three settings: hospital, home, or birth centers.

Many of the questions around safety center around home and hospital births. A recent study of birth center births found that people experienced very low cesarean rates, and stillborn and newborn death rates comparable to rates seen in other low-risk populations.

A growing body of research shows that, for low-risk  people, home birth results in fewer interventions for the birthing parent and is safe for the baby. Citizens for Midwifery summarized the recent study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health.  Judith Lothian also wrote a good summary in a previous post on Science & Sensibility. A helpful bibliography that outlines the research – and the quality of that research – around home birth can provide additional information.

What does midwifery care look like?

Midwifery care in the United States varies widely by provider and setting. The Midwives Alliance of North America is launching a series of videos called “I am a Midwife” to educate consumers on common questions about midwife led care, including safety, training, how midwives collaborate with other health professionals, and how midwives and families work together to make decisions about care. You can watch the video and sign up for updates here.

 

Brochures describing the Midwives Model of Care are also available from Citizens for Midwifery. These brochures can be very helpful in describing the kind of care midwives provide.

Is midwifery care available in my community?

This depends on what kind of care you are looking for. Midwives are available in many, but not all, hospital settings. You may need to search a few different resources to get a complete picture of what is available in your community.

The Find A Midwife Tool from the American College of Nurse Midwives can help you locate certified nurse midwives and certified midwives.

Mothers Naturally’s Find A Midwife Tool can help you identify midwives who are members of the Midwives Alliance of North America. They have members of all credentials.

The Birth Center locator will find the 10 birth centers closest to you (which could be quite far, depending on the legal status of your state).

If you have families in your classes exploring pregnancy and birth care with a midwife, these resources that you can share may answer questions and help them to decide what type of provider is the right one for them.  What resources do you like sharing in your classes on the different types of care available?  Let us know in the comments section. – SM

About Nasima Pfaffl

Nasima Pfaffl HeadshotNasima Pfaffl, MA is a medical sociologist with a focus on social movements and women’s health. She is a second generation home birth mom. She is the current president of Citizens for Midwifery and has served on the board since 2006. She worked for the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council as their Accreditation Coordinator. She served on the MAMA Campaign steering committee, on the Birth Network National Board, the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services Leadership Team (Board), and as the Grassroots Advocates Committee Co-Chair and Survey Team Lead for The Birth Survey. Nasima focuses on coalition building and utilizing capacity building technologies and tools to make midwifery advocacy organizations stronger, more effective and able to create the change needed in our broken maternity care system. She lives in Florida with her son, daughter and husband. Nasima can be reached by email - nasima@cfmidwifery.org

 

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