Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘caesarean’ Category

This is a guest blog by Helen Potter.

There are several reasons why a woman may have a caesarean section. A planned section may be scheduled because of the position or health of the baby, the mother’s medical history or at her request if she has had a previous, traumatic vaginal birth. An emergency section usually occurs because complications have arisen during natural labour. A ceasarean section is a major operation that requires incisions through the abdomen and uterus and so the significant recovery period is well accepted by medical professionals and society in general. However, the emotional after effects of this type of birth remain less acknowledged and far less discussed. The silence and stigma surrounding mental health after a c-section can be detrimental to new mothers who’ve not only just been through major surgery, but now have a newborn baby to care for too. Here are just a few of the emotional issues that may arise following a c-section.

Shock

It’s extremely common for the body to go into shock immediately after the surgery is carried out. Many women report shaking from head to toe as medication from the epidural and affect the muscles. But further on into the recovery process many women experience delayed shock, especially when the c-section was carried out in emergency circumstances. They spend so long preparing for their labour, writing birth plans and building up expectations so when things don’t go to plan it can be a huge surprise. Using a debriefing service following a c-section can be a good way to come to terms with the experience and understand why it had to happen.

Guilt

A study carried out by Channel Mum found that one in five mothers said that opting for a ceasarean would mean that they’d ‘failed’ and with that sense of failure undoubtedly follows feelings of guilt. Outdated social views can lead to women believing that a drug-free, natural labour is the most honourable way to give birth. Some women even report that having a caesarean has made them to feel like less of a woman and less of a mother. Of course this is untrue and all that really matters in labour is that mother and baby both come through the process safely.

Post natal depression

Although all women who go through childbirth are at risk from postnatal depression, studies show that women who have an emergency caesarean are up to six times more likely to suffer from the condition. The longer recovery period and feelings of guilt, failure and lack of control over their own body are all thought to contribute to this, alongside the hormonal changes that all new mums face. It’ is important to speak to a health visitor or GP if you think you could be suffering from postnatal depression. Self help advice, medication and therapy can all help to alleviate the symptoms.

Trouble bonding

Some women report that they have struggled to bond with their babies following a caesarean section. There are several theories for this. Biologically, research indicates that they miss out on the release of the hormone oxytocin (otherwise known as the love hormone). Immediately after natural childbirth the release of this hormone is higher than ever and missing out it can impair the initial bonding process. In addition to this, skin to skin contact (vital for developing early closeness and bonding) is rarely possible straight after a c-section and in many cases the baby is taken away and checked over while the mother recovers. On a more practical level, the long recovery process can sometimes render a new mum unable to carry out day to day care of the child which can make her feel disengaged from her new baby.

Fear of future pregnancy

Sometimes all of these factors combined, along with the physical pain of a c-section, can make women so fearful of a repeat performance that they choose not to become pregnant again. Of course this can be a devastating choice for a woman who really wants another baby. After a c-section, the probability of a natural birth next time is good – research indicates 60-80% of women can potentially go on to have a vaginal birth after a ceasarean (VBAC). But there are risks and these, alongside the fear of another c-section, can be enough to put some women off for life. If you feel like this but still long to expand your family it is important to talk to your GP or debriefing service to familiarise yourself with all of the facts so that you can make an informed choice.

Citation Section

NHS Choices, Ceasarean section, accessed 25.02.16

Metro, Thousands of women with postnatal depression suffering in silence, accessed 25.02.16

The Royal College of Midwives, What is the purpose of debriefing women in the postnatal period, accessed 25.02.16

The Daily Mail, The women made to feel guilty because they didn’t have a ‘perfect’ drug free birth, accessed 25.02.16

NCBI, Increased risk of postnatal depression after emergency ceasarean section, accessed 25.02.16

Psychguides, Living with postpartum depression, accessed 25.02.16

Mail Online, Women who have ceasarean section ‘less likely to bond,’ accessed 25.02.16

Mayoclinic, Vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC), accessed 25.02.16

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Pregnancy

“The condition of having a developing embryo or fetus in the body.”
“The process by which a human female carries a live offspring from conception until childbirth.”

Pregnancy is referred to as a gestation period – the time between conception and birth. Approximately 40 weeks (280 days). Measured from the first day of the last menstrual period. For women who use a procedure that allows them to know the exact date of conception (such as in-vitro fertilisation IVF, or artificial insemination) the gestation period is 38 weeks (266 days) from conception.

Pregnancy is divided into three stages – called trimesters, each lasting about 3 months.

An embryo is a multicellular diploid (has two sets of chromosomes) eukaryote (an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes) in its earliest stage of development; from the time of first cell division until birth. In humans, it is called an embryo until about eight weeks after fertilization (i.e. ten weeks after the last menstrual period or LMP), and from then it is instead called a fetus.
Embryo is the term used to describe the developing baby in the first 8 weeks and the term Fetus is the term used after 8 weeks until birth (when all the structure of the baby and systems of the body such as the digestive and nervous systems have developed).

Facts at 24 weeks
24 weeks is the legal cut off gestational age for a legal abortion (although abortions or terminations can be carried out later in the pregnancy on medical grounds).

COMPLICATIONS OF PREMATURE BIRTH
Babies born after 34 weeks have a low risk of problems although they are sometime slower to feed.
A baby born before 33 weeks will have more serious problems such as immature lungs.
Very premature babies (born under 28 weeks) need to be delivered in a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit.
Doctors have been able to improve dramatically the survival hopes for babies born as early as 22 or 23 weeks.
However, very premature babies face a huge battle at the start of life. They are at risk of serious conditions including:
* Hypothermia, due to lower levels of fat
* Low blood glucose, which can lead to brain damage
* Respiratory distress syndrome – which can cause blindness
* Brain haemorrhage
Long-term they may have cerebral palsy and have sight and hearing problems.
They are also more likely to have motor impairments and co-ordination and concentration problems.

Birth
Occurs at around 38 weeks after fertilization, so 40 weeks pregnant. Term is considered to be 37 – 42 weeks gestation. The fetus has developed enough to survive easily outside its mother’s body. Babies are usually born head first but occasionally are born breech.

http://www.babycentre.co.uk/v1027487/inside-pregnancy-weeks-28-37

There are a variety of birthing methods; the majority of babies are born by a natural vaginal birth but some labours might need help such as
Ventouse, Forceps, Caesarean section.

The process of natural birth involves what is known as “labour” the baby passing from the mother’s abdomen through the vaginal passage and into the world. There are three stages of labour:

Stage 1: The cervix has to open and stretch around the baby’s head until it is 10cm open.

Stage 2: The baby has to come out, either by the expulsive efforts of the uterus and the mother breathing the baby out, or by her actively pushing the baby out.

Stage 3: The placenta or afterbirth has to be expelled.

Linked blog posts:

https://midwifevalerie.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/so-you-are-pregnant-preparing-for-the-birth/
https://midwifevalerie.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/the-big-day-the-birth/

I’ve just been listening to the latest episode of The Archers where Helen has just had an emergency caesarean section for pre-eclampsia and thought that it would be a useful subject to write about.

I think it is fantastic that the subject has been covered by the radio programme and on the whole they have got it right (wouldn’t expect anything less from The Archers!) but I would like to add a bit more.

Pre-eclampsia is a potentially serious condition of pregnancy that we are still learning about.  For serious pre-eclampsia the only treatment is to deliver the baby (sometimes prematurely), however for most pregnancies the pre-eclampsia can be monitored and the labour may well start normally and spontaneously, or the labour may be induced around your due date and you may well have a normal birth.

Pre-eclampsia is one of the things that your midwife is looking for antenatally and is usually characterised by a collection of symptoms: raised blood pressure, protein in your urine, swelling (oedema), headaches, visual disturbances and upper abdominal (epigastric) pain.

Many women will experience one or more of these symptoms without developing pre-eclampsia, but if you have two or more symptoms or feel concerned you should definitely speak to your midwife urgently.  For example many women will have a headache or some swelling and this is normal during pregnancy – it is usually only when you have several symptoms that pre-eclampsia is suspected and you will then be referred to hospital for further investigations including blood and urine test and monitoring of the baby’s wellbeing.

Women at increased risk of pre-eclampsia include:

  • Those in their first pregnancy
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having certain blood clotting disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, or an autoimmune disease like lupus
  • Having a close relative (a mother, sister, grandmother, or aunt, for example) who had preeclampsia
  • Being obese (having a body mass index of 30 or more)
  • Carrying two or more babies
  • Being younger than 20 or older than 40

However if you fall into any of these categories you are still more likely NOT to get pre-eclampsia.

There is some evidence (though not mainstream) that pre-eclampsia may be prevented by eating a really healthy diet and by increasing your protein and salt intake.  It may also be beneficial to stop work slightly earlier in your pregnancy and not to overdo things at the end of the pregnancy.

More information on the dietary aspect can be found at https://midwifevalerie.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/dietary-suggestions-for-pregnancy-from-tom-brewer/

I guess the first choice is where do you want to give birth, at home, in a birthing centre or in a hospital?  Although you may be asked this at your first appointment you can actually decide at any time, even when you are in labour (although it may be easier if you make plans earlier).

There are so many factors to take into account, but the most important thing is to give birth where you feel safest.  Labour is a very instinctive, hormonal event and if you are scared or unhappy with your environment you will not labour so easily.

Homebirth:

There are many benefits to be gained by giving birth at home.  The woman is in familiar surroundings and is therefore more relaxed allowing the birthing hormones to work properly.  Labour is usually shorter, less painful and the mother is more likely to have a normal birth (so less need for ventouse, forceps or caesareans), she is more likely to breastfeed and less likely to suffer postnatal depression and she is more likely to report that she is satisfied with her experience.  These claims are backed up by research and evidence can be found at www.nct.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/research/roepregnancy-birth

Birth Centre/Midwifery Led Unit:

These are often seen as a half-way house between home and hospital.  They have many of the benefits of home, a more relaxed environment but if you are concerned about the privacy aspect of birth (for example if you live in a shared house, or are concerned about the neighbours) or the mess (which in reality is rarely an issue) then a birth centre may be right for you.

Birth Centres are only an option for women whose pregnancy is defined as “low risk” which means that the birth is expected to progress without complication.  Should a complication occur you will need to be transferred into a hospital where more advanced help is available.

Hospital:

Many women choose to give birth in hospital because they believe it to be the safest place.  Of course it is true that the hospital will have advanced facilities if needed however you should also bear in mind that sometimes these facilities are over-used and that just by setting foot in a hospital you increase your chance of using some of that help!  If you choose to give birth in hospital my top tip would be to stay at home as long as possible.

Waterbirth:

I think the use of water in a labour and birth can be hugely beneficial.  I recognise that not all women will want or need a waterbirth, but I would strongly recommend all women not to rule the use of water out.  It may be that you use water by having a bath or shower in labour; it can be hugely comforting to have shower water jetting onto your tummy or back whilst in labour.

As I see it, if we are achy or tense a bath is usually helpful.  It works in just the same way in labour; water is usually relaxing.  Another benefit is that women are much more mobile in labour and have their weight supported by the water making it easier to move around.  Lastly (dare I say it) if you are in a birthpool no one can interfere with you!  You are in your own space and are much more in control of what happens.

Most hospitals now have at least one birthing pool and if it is something that appeals to you I suggest you discuss it with your midwife and let the labour ward midwife know as soon as you arrive at the hospital.  For homebirths there is a considerable choice of birthpools available, for example rigid “bath” type pools that come with and without water heaters and inflatable pools.

Active birth:

Most midwives will agree that by being as active as possible you give yourself the best chance of having a normal birth.  In early labour listen to your body – if you can rest then do so, if you can eat then have something to eat and also make sure you drink plenty and pass urine frequently.  As the labour progresses keep changing position as your body directs; some women want to squat, be on all fours, pace around … most importantly change your position don’t just take to bed.  Being active and gravity will help you baby find its way through your pelvis and may well shorten your labour.

Antenatally it is helpful to prepare for the labour by undertaking gentle exercise, perhaps walking, swimming or yoga.  I wish you a lovely birth wherever you decide it should be!

Guest blog by Susan Quayle

I became interested in reflexology about fifteen years ago when I bought Laura Norman’s book, The Reflexology Handbook: A Complete Guide. At the time my sister-in-law was pregnant and had morning sickness so badly that she was bed ridden and under threat of hospitalisation. I got my book out and looked up morning sickness in the back and worked the reflexes it showed – having no real idea of what I was doing – and the result was instantaneous. She felt much better than she had for weeks.

It would be a further twelve years before I would work on feet again but this time it would be to train as a reflexologist. About a year after I’d qualified I received an email asking if I would be interested in attending a course in Maternity Reflexology. By this time I’d had two children and was the bearer of double C-section scars so was very interested in what maternity reflexology could offer the pregnant woman. I went along to the course expecting something amazing but not  really prepared for the actuality of how utterly brilliant reflexology is for pregnancy and labour. I came away thinking that Maternity Units were crazy not to have maternity reflexologists working alongside midwives or midwives trained as maternity reflexologists.

Reflexology is fabulous for for everyone but is utterly perfect for pregnancy and labour. They really go together like, like….mother and baby!

Apart from the very serious conditions that are potentially life threatening to mother and/or baby there isn’t a pregnancy related condition that can’t be alleviated and, more impressively, prevented with reflexology. Because pregnancy isn’t an illness but a temporary condition the usual parameters relating to conditions such as oedema, constipation and other digestive related problems, even gestational diabetes, are different from at any other time and if caught in time respond extremely well to reflexology. I say caught in time because some conditions such as oedema need to be treated early as they worsen on a daily basis.

During a treatment mums drift off into deep relaxation, babies squirm excitedly before relaxing with mum into a blissful baby/mummy zone of bonding. During this relaxation blood pressure reduces, energy is restored and reserved, anxiety levels drop and a sense of self and safety permeates the body. Reflexes are worked to balance the internal organs and systems of the body and allow the free flow of blood and energy to every cell of their being. I am always amazed at how early in pregnancy it is possible to feel the subtle changes that take place in the mother’s body – usually the liver and spleen reflexes as the volume of blood increases to produce the growing baby’s blood supply.

I have had many successes with morning sickness, heartburn and fatigue, SPD, constipation, reducing blood pressure, oedema, early onset labour (this treatment was to stop labour at 33 weeks), re-starting labour 5 hours after it had stopped, lack of sleep, discomfort, positive mental attitude toward the growing baby and also toward the mother’s own body image. Regular treatments can also result in a faster labour with less need for pain relief – studies have been done to back up these claims. Women I have treated with regular treatments feel very in touch with their babies and their pregnancies, they tend to say that their labour was easier than previous ones and that they felt more relaxed about the whole experience. They also say that their babies are very relaxed and laid back and that both mother and baby have found breast feeding much easier than in previous births. Reflexology promotes healthy pregnancies, healthy mothers, faster births often with less need for pain relief, happy mothers and happy babies.

I often feel great sadness that I didn’t know about maternity reflexology when I was pregnant as both my birth experiences were over-medicalised and with the use of reflexology might not have been. So this is the message that needs to get out there to all pregnant women – there is help out there to complement and work alongside normal medical practices. You are not ill – you are pregnant and you are doing what your body was made to do. Reflexology can help you to have a happy, healthy pregnancy and baby.

Susan Quayle is a Complementary Therapist based at the Exeter Natural Health Centre in Devon. She is a founder member of Maternity Reflexology South West who work tirelessly to promote maternity reflexology. She lives with her husband, two children, cat and chickens.

To find out more about her visit her website at http://www.lovereflexology.co.uk

I guess this may be more useful if you are planning to hire an Independent Midwife as with the NHS there is less choice, but you still do have a choice of midwife and should remember that if you don’t get on with your midwife you can ask the local Supervisor of Midwives (at the local maternity unit) to help you to find a new midwife.

If looking for an Independent Midwife, I would suggest that you start by looking at www.independentmidwives.org.uk where you can enter your postcode to find the midwives who live closest to you.  This website will then lead you to look at the midwives own websites and you should get a “feel” of the midwives from their websites.  The next step is to email or telephone your favourite midwife(s) to have a chat with them, again this should help you to gauge whether they might be the right midwife for you.

The midwife will want to know where you live (to ensure that she is able to travel to you), she will also want to know when your baby is due (to ensure that she is free at that time) and whether it is your first baby.  If you have had a baby/babies before I would expect her to ask about your experience.  She will also be keen to know where you plan to give birth.

Questions you may like to ask of the midwife include:

How long have you been a midwife? / An Independent Midwife?
Do you like homebirths/waterbirths?
Do you have additional skills (hypnosis training etc)?
What would happen if my baby is breech/I am expecting twins?
What is your normal birth rate?
What is your caesarean rate?
What is your breastfeeding rate?
What is your homebirth rate?
What is your transfer rate?
How much do you charge?
What can I expect from you?
Antenatal care? Labour and birth care? Postnatal care?

I would expect an Independent Midwife to outline the issue of the lack of professional indemnity insurance to you.

If you enjoy speaking to the midwife, I would suggest that the next course of action might be to arrange a consultation.  The midwife will usually be happy to come to your home to meet you and your partner to discuss things in more detail.  Many midwives make a small charge for this meeting to cover their time and petrol costs (this meeting make last a couple of hours) and will be an opportunity for you to ask any questions of the midwife and again to enable you to decide whether she is the right midwife for you.  Most midwives will deduct this fee from the final balance if you decide to book with them.

Some women do “interview” a couple of midwives, and this is perfectly acceptable and perhaps a sensible approach as it will be an important relationship.

An Independent Midwife’s fee may seem expensive, particularly when you can get a similar service for free on the NHS, but I always say to clients that you won’t have many babies and it is important to get things right!  It may be better to employ a midwife and wait a bit longer for the new car or foreign holiday!  An Independent Midwife will usually give you a lot more time than an NHS midwife is able to; she will see you more frequently and give you longer appointments.  The other main benefit is that you will see the same midwife throughout your pregnancy, birth and postnatal period.

I wish you well in your decision-making whether you choose an NHS or Independent Midwife, and if I can be of any help to you please feel free to email info@3shiresmidwife.co.uk

Homebirth

Posted on: July 17, 2010

There are many benefits to be gained by giving birth at home.  The woman is in familiar surroundings and is therefore more relaxed allowing the birthing hormones to work properly.  Labour is usually shorter, less painful and the mother is more likely to have a normal birth (so less need for ventouse, forceps or caesareans), she is more likely to breastfeed and less likely to suffer postnatal depression and she is more likely to report that she is satisfied with her experience.  These claims are backed up by research and evidence can be found at www.nct.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/research/roepregnancy-birth

The British Government policy is to encourage homebirth www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_073312) and in the Netherlands 30% of babies are born at home – would they really be supportive of homebirth if it were so dangerous?  A large retrospective cohort study from the Netherlands in 2009 http://www.welbornbaby.com/images/Home%20Birth%20Netherlands.pdf confirmed that the planned place of birth was not the main factor in contributing to perinatal morbidity and Low-risk women should be encouraged to “plan their birth at the place of their preference, provided the maternity care system is well equipped to underpin women’s choice”.  Furthermore, also published in 2009 was another study, from Canada http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090831130043.htm which showed that planned home birth in low risk women were comparable to hospital births.  Both these studies concur with the latest US study http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100701072730.htm demonstrating that women who plan home births experienced significantly fewer medical interventions including epidural analgesia, electronic fetal heart rate monitoring, episiotomy, and operative vaginal and caesarean deliveries. Likewise, women intending home deliveries had fewer infections, perineal and vaginal lacerations, haemorrhages, and retained placentas. Data also showed that planned home births are characterized by less frequent premature and low birth weight infants.

This same American study is often quoted by obstetric practitioners because a conclusion read that infant mortality was trebled by planning a home birth, but suggested “it was because of an increased need for resuscitation among home births and therefore, the personnel, training, and equipment available for neonatal resuscitation represent other possible contributors to the excessive neonatal mortality rate among planned home births.”  The methodology of this study has also been severely criticised www.nct.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/policy/choiceofplaceofbirth.

In conclusion, planned home births are very safe.  It is the presence of trained midwives with correct and necessary equipment that is most important factor, rather than location, in regards to safety of mother and baby.


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