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Henci Goer – Fact Checking the New York Times Home Birth Debate

February 26th, 2015 by avatar
home birth

© HoboMama

An article in The New York Times Opinion Pages – Room for Debate was released on February 24th, 2015.  As customary in this style of article, the NYT asks a variety of experts to provide essays on the topic at hand, in this case, the safety of home birth. Henci Goer, author and international speaker on maternity care, and an occasional contributor to our blog, takes a look at the facts on home birth and evaluates how they line up with some of the essay statements. Read Henci’s analysis below.  – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager

As one would predict, three of the four obstetricians participating in the NY Times debate “Is Home Birth Ever a Safe Choice?“assert that home birth is unacceptably risky. Equally predictably, the evidentiary support for their position is less than compelling.

John Jennings, MD president of the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, in his response- “Emergency Care Can Be Too Urgently Needed,” cites a 2010 meta-analysis by Wax and colleagues that has been thoroughly debunked. Here is but one of the many commentaries, Meta-Analysis: The Wrong Tool Wielded Improperly, pointing out its weaknesses. In a nutshell, the meta-analysis includes studies in its newborn mortality calculation that were not confined to low-risk women having planned home births with a qualified home birth attendant while omitting a well-conducted Dutch home birth study that dwarfed the others in size and reported equivalent newborn death rates in low-risk women beginning labor at home and similar women laboring in the hospital (de Jonge 2009).

The other naysayers, Grunebaum and Chervenak, in their response – “Home Birth Is Not Safe“, source their support to an earlier NY Times blog post that, in turn, cites a study conducted by the two commentators (and others) (Grunebaum 2014). Their study uses U.S. birth certificate data from 2006 to 2009 to compare newborn mortality (day 1 to day 28) rates at home births attended by a midwife, regardless of qualifications, with births attended by a hospital-based midwife, who almost certainly would be a certified nurse midwife (CNM) in babies free of congenital anomalies, weighing 2500 g or more, and who had reached 37 weeks gestation. The newborn mortality rate with home birth midwives was 126 per 10,000 versus 32 per 10,000 among the hospital midwives, nearly a 4-fold difference. However, as an American College of Nurse-Midwives commentary on the abstract for the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine presentation that preceded the study’s publication observed, vital statistics data aren’t reliably accurate, don’t permit confident determination of intended place of birth, and don’t follow transfers of care during labor.

As it happens, we have a study that is accurate and allows us to do both those things. The Midwives Alliance of North America study reports on almost 17,000 planned home births taking place between 2004 and 2009 (Cheyney 2014b), and therefore overlapping Grunebaum and Chervenak’s analysis, in which all but 1000 births (6%) were attended by certified or licensed home birth midwives. According to the MANA stats, the newborn death rate in women who had never had a cesarean and who were carrying one, head-down baby, free of lethal congenital anomalies was 53 per 10,000, NOT 126 per 10,000. This is less than half the rate in the Grunebaum and Chervenak analysis. (As a side note, let me forestall a critique of the MANA study, which is that midwives simply don’t submit births with bad outcomes to the MANA database. In point of fact, midwives register women in the database in pregnancy [Cheyney 2014a], before, obviously, labor outcome could be known. Once enrolled, data are logged throughout pregnancy, labor and birth, and the postpartum, so once in the system, women can’t fall off the radar screen.)

We’re not done. Grunebaum and Chervenak’s analysis suffers from another glaring flaw as well. Using hospital based midwives as the comparison group would seem to make sense at first glance, but unlike the MANA stats, which recorded outcomes regardless of where women ultimately gave birth or who attended them, hospital-based midwives would transfer care to an obstetrician when complications arose. This would remove labors at higher risk of newborn death from their statistics because the obstetrician would be listed on the birth certificate as the attendant, not the midwife. For this reason, the hospital midwife rate of 32 per 10,000 is almost certainly artificially low. So Grunebaum and Chervenak’s difference of 94 per 10,000 has become 21 per 10,000 at most and probably much less than that, a difference that I’d be willing to bet isn’t statistically significant, meaning unlikely to be due to chance. On the other hand, studies consistently find that, even attended by midwives, several more low-risk women per 100 will end up with cesarean surgery—more if they’re first-time mothers—then compared with women planning home births (Romano, 2012).

Hopefully, I’ve helped to provide a defense for those who may find themselves under attack as a result of the NY Times article. I’m not sanguine, though. As can be seen by Jennings, Grunebaum, and Chervenak, people against home birth often fall into the category of “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.”

photo source: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by HoboMama: http://flickr.com/photos/44068064@N04/8586579077

References

Cheyney, M., Bovbjerg, M., Everson, C., Gordon, W., Hannibal, D., & Vedam, S. (2014). Development and validation of a national data registry for midwife-led births: the Midwives Alliance of North America Statistics Project 2.0 dataset. J Midwifery Womens Health, 59(1), 8-16. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12165 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24479670

Cheyney, M., Bovbjerg, M., Everson, C., Gordon, W., Hannibal, D., & Vedam, S. (2014b). Outcomes of care for 16,924 planned home births in the United States: the midwives alliance of north america statistics project, 2004 to 2009. J Midwifery Womens Health, 59(1), 17-27. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12172 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24479690

de Jonge, A., van der Goes, B. Y., Ravelli, A. C., Amelink-Verburg, M. P., Mol, B. W., Nijhuis, J. G., . . . Buitendijk, S. E. (2009). Perinatal mortality and morbidity in a nationwide cohort of 529,688 low-risk planned home and hospital births. BJOG 116(9), 1177-1184. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=1177%5Bpage%5D+AND+2009%5Bpdat%5D+AND+de+jonge%5Bauthor%5D&cmd=detailssearch

Grunebaum, A., McCullough, L. B., Sapra, K. J., Brent, R. L., Levene, M. I., Arabin, B., & Chervenak, F. A. (2014). Early and total neonatal mortality in relation to birth setting in the United States, 2006-2009. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 211(4), 390 e391-397. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2014.03.047 http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(14)00275-0/abstract

Romano, A. (2012). The place of birth: home births. In Goer H. & Romano A. (Eds.), Optimal Care in Childbirth: The Case for a Physiologic Approach. Seattle, WA: Classic Day Publishing.

Wax, J. R., Lucas, F. L., Lamont, M., Pinette, M. G., Cartin, A., & Blackstone, J. (2010). Maternal and newborn outcomes in planned home birth vs planned hospital births: a metaanalysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 203(3), 243.e241-e248. http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378%2810%2900671-X/abstract

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 She is the 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.  

 

 

Babies, Evidence Based Medicine, Guest Posts, Home Birth, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Midwifery , , , , ,

Care Model Innovations – Changing The Way Maternity Care Is Provided

February 17th, 2015 by avatar
© Serena O'Dwyer

© Serena O’Dwyer

Amy Romano was the original community manager, editor and writer of Science & Sensibility back when this blog was first established by Lamaze International in 2009.  After a healthy stint in that role, Amy has since moved on to other positions and most recently can be found in the position of Vice President of Health Ecosystems at Maternity Neighborhood, a technology company providing digital tools and apps to maternity health care providers around the world.  Additionally, Amy has been focused on finishing up her MBA at the same time.  (Talk about multitasking!)

While moving on to other things, Amy has not stopped blogging and I have been enjoying her most recent series on care model innovation in maternity care in particular and healthcare in general.  The series started in October of 2014, and Amy just published the seventh post in her ten post series. The entire series is part of Amy’s school work toward receiving her MBA.  That is a great blend of combining her degree program with her work, with her passion and interest.

Amy decided to look at four care models in particular: Nurse-Family Partnership, community-based doulas, midwife-led maternity services, and CenteringPregnancy. In talking with Amy, she shared that one of the things that really struck her is that these evidence-based care models are all very much relationship-based. She is more convinced than ever that trusting relationships are the “secret sauce” of good birth outcomes.

The posts available in the series so far include:

  1. What is care model innovation?
  2. The case for care model innovation in U.S. maternity care
  3. Care models that work: Nurse-Family Partnership
  4. Care models that work: Doulas as community health workers
  5. Care models that work: Midwife-led maternity services
  6. Care models that work: Group Prenatal Care
  7. Early examples of payment innovation in maternity care

And those posts yet to come:

8.  More mature payment reform models: An overview
9.  Driving community-based care through payment reform
10. The data infrastructure required for care model transformation

Particularly helpful are the references and learning resources that Amy includes in each of her posts, where the reader can go for more information and to dig deeper into the programs and research that Amy used to substantiate her research.

Changing the maternity care model currently in place is a critical piece for helping to improve the current status of both maternal morbidity and mortality as well as neonatal morbidity and mortality in the USA, which despite our abundance of resources, still has our world ranking in these categories shamefully at the bottom of the list.

According to Amy:

We’re in the midst of a “perfect storm” right now, with implementation of health care reform and lots of forces changing healthcare to be more patient-centered and integrated with community services. If ever there was a time when midwifery care, doulas, physiologic birth practices, etc., were going to take hold, that time is now.

As I have been reading Amy’s series, I have been struck by how some of her posts have reinforced the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices themes, in particular #3 – Bring a friend, loved one or doula for continuous support, and #4 – Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.

I asked Amy to share what her thoughts on what the role of the childbirth educator was in this time of transition.  Her response:

I think childbirth educators have lots of opportunities in the new healthcare landscape, but it will require a shift in thinking for some. New payment models will reward team-based care and CBEs have an important potential role as valued members of these teams, helping to implement shared decision making, help with care navigation/coordination, and extending educational offerings to postpartum/parenting, special conditions (e.g. gestational diabetes), etc. 

Amy Romano

Amy Romano

We need innovative ideas, forward thinking, and the ability to examine what we are currently doing with a critical eye, if we are to design and implement maternity care programs that improve outcomes and utilize resources more effectively to help mothers and babies.  As Amy highlights, there are existing programs that have shown great results and deserve the opportunity to be implemented on a wider scale.

Take some time to read the seven posts and come back to the Maternity Neighborhood blog to catch the final three when they become available.  Share your thoughts about what Amy is discussing as she rolls out the entire series.  And, consider what your role will be in the changing landscape of care that women receive during their childbearing year.

Babies, Childbirth Education, Doula Care, Healthcare Reform, Healthy Birth Practices, Maternal Mortality, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Midwifery, New Research, Newborns, Research , , , , , , ,

BABE Series: Putting the “Tee” in Teaching Fetal Positions

February 12th, 2015 by avatar

Today, in our monthly series, “Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators” (BABE), regular contributor and LCCE Andrea Lythgoe shares a fantastic, interactive idea for helping families to better understand the different positions their baby can be in and the abbreviations used to refer to these positions.  If you have a great BABE idea that you would like to share with Science & Sensibility readers, please contact me and I will be in touch with you. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

Why I made it

With the increasing popularity of websites discussing good positioning for the baby late in pregnancy and during labor, I found that I started fielding a fairly large number of questions in my classes like “What does it mean if my baby is ROA?” or “My sister said she hopes my baby isn’t OP. What’s that?” I also noticed more care providers talking about positioning when I would attend births as a doula, and quite often I had to interpret those conversations for my clients.

TeachingTeeWithBabyOne day such a question came up in class, and in order to best answer it, I grabbed a stack of nearby sticky notes, wrote letters on them, and stuck them on my body. It worked! I could see people grasping the concept. I did it a time or two more and then began to make it a regular part of my class.

But the sticky notes had their own problems. Sometimes, they wouldn’t stick well to whatever I was wearing that day. Sometimes they stuck too well and there was that incident where I stopped at the grocery store on the way home, not realizing I still had several sticky notes all over my body, until someone pointed it out. I started thinking about other options.

How I made it

I bought an oversized cotton T-shirt that is large enough to wear over my regular clothing. I found iron-on letters at a craft store and just followed the package directions to place the letters like this:

“A” on the front of the shirt, a few inches above the hem.

“P” on the back of the shirt, a few inches above the hem

“T” on either side of the shirt, a few inches above the hem and just in front of the side seam

“R” on the right side, near the T

“L” on the left side, near the T

How I use it

I use this in the fourth night of my seven week series, just before we discuss posterior babies and the variations that position can cause during the labor process. It might also work in a discussion of the basic physiology of birth, or any time the question comes up from your students.

© Andrea Lythgoe

© Andrea Lythgoe

To prepare, I generally put the shirt on over my regular clothes before class or after the break. I also put a label on the back of the baby’s head, using masking tape and a sharpie.

First, I show the baby and point out the “O for Occipital bone” on the baby’s head. I discuss how this spot is used as a marker to identify the baby’s position, and refers to how the baby’s occiput is positioned in relation to the mother’s body.

Then I point out the letters on the shirt, explaining what each one means. I take a minute to clarify the difference between a transverse LIE and the occipital bone pointing to transverse, reminding them if they are ever confused which transverse it is, they should ask for clarification from their doctor or midwife.

I then show them the most common positions for baby to be in when labor begins and review the normal motions baby does to move through the pelvis.

I write three spaces on the board (as if we are playing hangman) and tell the class that when health care providers talk about the baby’s position as the baby moves through the pelvis, they typically use two or three letters.

The middle one is almost always “O” with a head down baby, so I fill in the middle slot with the O.

I then tell them that the last one is where the baby’s occiput (or “O”)  is relative to the pelvis. I hold the baby in an OA position and ask them which letter from my shirt would explain where the O is pointed. They easily get it and I write the A in the last space.

Then I shift the baby slightly to my left and add the modifier L to the front.

Draw another set of three blank spaces, and move the baby to LOT, and repeat the process much faster. By this point, there is usually someone in the room who is eager to fill in the blanks.

Ask for a volunteer to come up – anyone can do this. I hand the baby to the volunteer and ask them to show me the OA position on themselves. Then I ask them to show me another position, maybe ROA. If the volunteer has caught on and has the right personality for it, I’ll give them other positions to do rapid fire until they laugh.

© Andrea Lythgoe

© Andrea Lythgoe

I always end with the volunteer showing the OP position. I then transition into talking about OP babies and how some babies will spend part of labor rotating around to a position that facilitates moving down through the pelvis easier, and the discussion continues. At some point in that discussion, I turn around and hold the O on the baby’s head next to the P on the shirt, so it reads OP and reinforces visually what that means.

How Parents Receive It

Most of the time, the families start grasping the concept as I write the letters on the board in the first example, and by the time I have a parent volunteer up at the front they are all on board chiming in with answers. My favorite is when we do the rapid fire positions, and everyone is verbally helping the partner like something out of “The Price is Right.” It doesn’t always get there, but I love it when it does.

I find that as we move on to our next topics, that the parents will use the letter abbreviations to ask questions and clarify their understanding. I’m confident that they will be able to remember and understand the terms through their third trimester and into labor and have more clarity when their provider mentions the baby’s position.

Do you think that you might use this “BABE” idea in your classroom?  How would you use it?  Would you make any modifications?  How do you teach this topic in your classes? Share your thoughts in our comments section. – SM

Babies, Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Series: BABE - Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators , , , ,

Series: Building Your Birth Business – Free Website Content for Your Site from NIH

February 3rd, 2015 by avatar

HSS NIH

Having a blog or articles of interest on your website that are available to your students, clients and potential customers is a win-win situation for a birth professional. A win for your clientele because they are provided useful information and news important to them on the topics of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. A win for you, because providing this information creates engagement and positions you as an expert and a source of evidence based information.  Having useful content also increases traffic to your site. But writing this content takes time, requires research and can be very intimidating for some of us.

As part of our occasional series on building your birth business, I wanted to share a great service that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Health and Human Services Division provides that can be a valuable time saver and help you to grow your business by increasing visits to your website and offering useful information to those who stop by.

NIH HSS exampleThe National Institutes of Health provides free web content that is up to date, accurate and easy to read. Even better, NIH provides a simple system that allows you to embed (place inside your website) content that you decide is important to your customer base.

Benefits of using the NIH Content Syndication Service

  • Material presented has the look and feel of your website
  • Content is updated automatically as new information or research is available, without any effort on your part
  • Time saving because you do not have to write personalized content
  • You can add your own thoughts and commentary
  • You control the topics, selecting only those you want to appear
  • You control the placement of the material on your site
  • Engagement and interaction occurs on your site, in the form of comments and dialogue
  • You can choose infographics, videos, podcasts and other multimedia offerings
  • Material is available in Spanish and in English

If you don’t find a topic you are looking for, you can request that specific information be provided for future use.

Step by step instructions are provided on the NIH website

How to Add Free Web Content from NIH to Your Website will provide everything you need to know to get started. After you register, you can browse all the topics that are offered or search for a subset of topics relevant to you and your business. You copy and paste a small snippet of code into your website and after you publish, the new material is exactly where you want it. The options are endless, you can use this material on your resource page or even drip it out slowly as part of your blog. Best of all, this material is designed for you to use in this way.  There are restrictions on using material from other sources, but this content provided by NIH is meant to be used in this way – and all the sourcing and credit appear automatically. You are also able to search for and use material from other sources in using the advanced search options.

Here is a topic I have embedded on toxoplasmosis and pregnancy for you to see how it works:

Why don’t you give it a try! Place something of interest on your website  using the NIH Content Syndication Service and then share the link in our comments section! Let us see how it looks! If you allow comments on your embedded article, I will try and leave a comment!

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Maternity Care, New Research, Newborns, Series: Building Your Birth Business , , ,

“Pathway to a Healthy Birth” – Using Consumer Materials from Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing Report in Your Classes.

January 22nd, 2015 by avatar

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 6.01.46 PMLast week, Dr. Sarah Buckley in coordination with Childbirth Connection released a new research report, “Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for Women, Babies and Maternity Care.”  This massive tome gathers in one place, all the current information available on the role of various hormones on pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding and postpartum and provides information on what happens to the processes when interventions are introduced.  Well known childbirth educator Penny Simkin reviewed the report on Science & Sensibility on January 13th and then Michele Ondeck followed up with an exclusive Science & Sensibility interview with Sarah Buckley later in the week.

I think that everyone will acknowledge that this report is a remarkable and valuable piece of work, but at over 400 pages if you take into account all accompanying documents and with a bibliography consisting of over 1100 sources, the typical pregnant woman is hardly going to be keeping a copy on their bedside table for some light reading before drifting off to sleep.  Today on Science & Sensibility, I would like to highlight the resources and tools that Childbirth Connection has thoughtfully provided that are geared specifically for the consumer.  Childbirth educators, doulas and health care providers can access and share these materials with their students, clients and patients.

Pathway to a Healthy Birth – How to Help Your Hormones to Do Their Wonderful Work – consumer booklet

This 17 page colorful consumer booklet is written in easy to comprehend language and illustrated with attractive photographs that show a diverse collection of families.  Families are introduced to the hormones of birth and postpartum; oxytocin, beta-endorphins, catecholamines and endorphins.  Each hormone has a brief description and a short explanation about the role it plays in childbearing.

Families are told that events can interfere with the intended actions of the childbearing hormones.  Birthing women are encourage to think about how activities around them during their labor and birth may interfere with hormones and prevent the hormones from working effectively.

Women learn that hormones prepare her body for an efficient labor and birth.  The booklet addresses how women’s bodies are prepared by some hormones to handle the pain and stress that may accompany labor. They also find out that the hormones help prepare their babies for the newborn transition.  Infant attachment and maternal behaviors are also supported by the role of the hormones.

Follow Angela’s Birth Story

Families are introduced to “Angela” and read about her labor and birth story.  The story shows how the hormones allow the labor and birth to unfold in support of the normal processes and how small things can have a big impact and disrupt the process.  For example, The transition from home to hospital reduces the intensity and frequency of Angela’s contractions as a result of interference with the normal hormonal process.  The story is filled with lots of strategies to encourage and allow the hormonal effects as they are intended to occur.

It is easy to see from Angela’s story, that while labor and birth are hard and do involve pain, with the right support and environment, along with best practices that endorse physiological birth, Angela is able let her body do the work it is designed to do, and have a birth that is very satisfying to her.

“What’s Happening”

Accompanying the story is an easy to read guide that demonstrates exactly what the hormones of childbearing are doing at each particular point in Angela’s story.  Explanations of the role of each hormone as things unfold help families to understand how what happens in their own birth can affect their own birth story and outcome.

What Can You Do

The next portion of the brochure offers steps that families can take to help them identify providers and facilities that support physiologic birth.  Lists of questions to ask, tips for making a hospital room comfortable and private, interview questions for their doctor or midwife, how to pick a childbirth class, find a doula, how to determine if medical procedures are necessary and explore less interventive alternatives and more are all there in an easy to digest format. Included are valuable links in the final section that makes the booklet resource rich.  There are many web links to get more information about all the topics covered above.  This makes the booklet an ideal handout for a childbirth class, doula consultation or meet and greet with potential health care providers.

Infographic

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 6.03.49 PMThere is a consumer infographic that can be printed in a size suitable for hanging in a classroom or office, or provided in a smaller format that makes a great accompaniment to the above booklet.  The infographic identifies things that can keep a woman on the “pathway” to a physiological birth and what can steer her away from the pathway.  There is a lot of similarity between the points made in this infographic and the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices.

One teaching idea

After discussing the role of hormones in labor and sharing the infographic as a visual aid, I can easily see how an educator can play a game with her class – making and distributing cards to class members with scenarios on them, and asking families to share if those scenarios and activities are making it easier for the mother to stay on the physiological pathway or what steers her further away and having the students identify which hormones are affected.

We have a responsibility as childbirth educators to share the important role the hormones of childbearing play in supporting healthy mothers, healthy births and healthy babies.  Using the Pathway to a Healthy Birth consumer booklet and accompanying infographic as part of your teaching materials provides a simple to understand but effective tool for conveying this information to the families you interact with.

How do you see yourself using these consumer products in your childbirth classes?  With your doula clients?  Please share your ideas for teaching, discussing and using this material and covering these topics with the families you work with.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Healthy Birth Practices, Infant Attachment, Medical Interventions, Newborns, Research, Transforming Maternity Care , , , , , ,