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Cheshire Birth and Postnatal Doula Nikki Mather, talks about her visit to Paramana Doula with Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers and just ‘being’ a doula.
I am not always known for being the quietest of people around friends and family and can have some wildly wacky and opinionated thoughts and discussions when it comes to topics I am passionate about. In a stark contrast, when I am with women and their families, I am calm, quiet, relaxed and just ‘be’. I listen well, I support wholly and my aim is to enable informed decisions to be made by the women I support. That does not make sense for most people who know me, they cannot understand how I can be so different in my doula role and with the women I have supported over the years with breastfeeding and I guess it is just my way of dealing with the energy flowing around and within me that allows me to direct that energy appropriately.
When I did my first bout of doula training, or preparation course, what totally resonated with me is that one key ability a doula needs to hold in her toolbox is to just ‘be’, sit quietly, inconspicuously be present but not make a fuss, not make a noise and literally just protect the birth space. I enjoy quiet, I enjoy peace and often ‘switch off’ whilst knitting or crocheting, using tools to turn off my active mind help me to relax and is important to me when supporting families that I am present for them. Birth needs an uninterrupted space, protected space, sacred space, families to feel safe. When women are able to feel safe, birth can move forward efficiently. A doula can hold that space for a family.
This weekend I have been very blessed to experience many hours of another doula course, Paramana Doula, with Dr Michel Odent and Doula Liliana Lammers, and everything about just ‘being’ was reinforced. Women *need* different things during labour and childbirth, however a common theme to enable smooth transition is quiet, peace, darkness….and for their support network to just be all of those things, facilitates that transition.
While Michel talks about the physiology of birth, (in his dreamy French accent which almost makes me want to sleep!) which humans have been doing for centuries, he also speaks of the very many things that society has brought into childbirth via cultural changes which inhibit the normal, physiological process of birth. Intervention, forceps, synthetic oxytocin; instead of supporting women in labour can hinder and prolong the biological processes that physiologically, women are born with and have the instinct to use, if allowed. Cord clamping is an example if another process which has been done for many, many years but which does not allow for the physiological process of birth to be completed naturally and research shows optimum cord clamping, or even lotus birth should be favoured where at all possible.
Listening to Liliana speak of her 400+ births over the past 15 years whilst working as a doula in London only fires me with more energy to support women with their choices; support them to make informed choices and allow them to experience the physiological, biological norm in childbirth. Be by the side of women who are fired up to do more research, ask more questions, find the answers *they* need to support their decisions. Listening to concerns and ‘being’ that calming presence can make a huge difference to a woman’s birth experience and that of her whole family. Undisturbed birth needs to make a come back!
I feel one weekend with Michel and Liliana was not enough, I feel I could listen to them both for an eternity because everything they spoke about resonated so well. I do hope our paths cross again in my time as a doula, I do hope I can only take a segment of what they offer, from their course, and apply it to my own practice. Women deserve to have the births they want amd wish for, the births in which they are very capable of facilitating in whichever way that is, wherever that may be, from a natural birth to a caesarean, I can just ‘be’ there to support their transition into motherhood.
Two pink lines -excitement! Awaiting your first midwifery appointment-anticipation, excitement and nerves like jelly-emotions coming together all at the same time, am I really pregnant? First fetal scan appointment-the want to ‘see’ your baby, the rush of messages from friends and family asking for copies of the black and white picture that result from your scan visit, the relief when you are told everything is ok and come back for your routine appointment at 20 weeks for further tests……
The female body is made for childbirth.
The problem with modern day screening, is that confidence of the female body is washed away with the flush of the loo after seeing those pink lines after your missed period. Tests for this, scans for that, research has shown that for every tests done, more tests may crop up and as a result, stress, worry and anxiety start to become the focus of what is meant to be one of the happiest moments of your life.
Some of the reasons for fetal monitoring are:
- date of expected delivery-sizing on scans is largely inaccurate and can cause worry about a range of things from growth abnormalities to whether or not baby is ‘due’ and induction/intervention is needed
- discovery of abnormalities-which can result in false positives and unnecessary termination
- to detect placenta previa-low lying placentas tend to move up and around the womb as the pregnancy progresses-early diagnostic using scans can cause anxiety and stress-the vast majority of women will have symptoms of placenta previa and so is one instance where a scan may be useful if symptoms are present
- checking the sex of the baby-a personal choice and not medically required
The Risks of Fetal Monitoring
The issue becoming apparent to many is that the dangers of fetal monitoring are never discussed. There are no leaflets designed to show the risks you take by consenting to the routine monitoring of modern day pregnancy and birth. The risks of ultrasound-significant temperature increased directed through the abdominal wall or vaginally causing damage to the developing fetus such as brain haemorrhages, developmental anomalies and other postnatal affects such as low birth weight, early ovulation, perinatal death and neurological effects from dyslexia and speech delay to a prevalence in left-handedness (Michel Odent)-are not discussed in the hospital waiting rooms or hotel reception rooms of boutique keepsake scans.
Ironically, the tool used to diagnose Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IUGR) is another associated risk of using Doppler-a 30% increased risk according to this Australian study of pregnancy where Doppler screening was used during their pregnancy. Mothers and babies receiving 2 or more Doppler scans during pregnancy were twice as likely to experience perinatal death as a result in a large UK study.
The odds stacked up….against ultrasound
These astounding risks have more and more research stacking up against the use of ultrasound scans in pregnancy. Women are still not made aware of those risks in the UK at least, and many countries now have private companies offering tailor-made packages to ;view your baby’ or ‘determine your babies sex 100%’ by way of ‘colour’ or 3D/4D Doppler technology.
So, now we have additional scans added to the risks of having 2 or more diagnostic scans during pregnancy causing risk. Upon a report into ultrasound imaging by the BBC, Kevin Martin, president of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, said: “Our view is that ultrasound should only be used by those qualified to do so, who are in a position to ensure it is carried out safely. Ultrasound should not used solely for producing souvenir videos in the first trimester because the baby’s cells are still differentiating at that stage. If there’s no obvious medical benefit to the baby at that stage, it should not be put at any risk.”
If that is not enough ultrasound dosing to the usual 2 scans minimum in pregnancy, plus the dangers of the ’boutique scan’ we then have the ‘home Doppler’ enabling you to listen to your babies heartbeat at home….I think at this point I just need to remind you that ‘routine tests’ during pregnancy are not mandatory and are part of your choice of how you manage your pregnancy.
To use a handheld doppler effectively requires great skill and training-something which a regular parent would not be in possession of. False reassurance that baby is fine whilst using these gadgets can defer parents from seeking urgent medical attention as inexperience will result in your hearing the mothers heartbeat instead of the fetal heartbeat. The dangers of home monitoring simply are not marketed along with their product which, quite frankly, is careless and irresponsible of their marketers.
A spokeswoman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates but does not licence the machines, said: “Members of the public using foetal monitors at home are unlikely to have the necessary knowledge or experience to use the device effectively and if they are concerned about the health of their baby they should seek medical advice.”
21st Century Pregnancy
The problem is, with parenting becoming the fashion accessory of the 21st century, gadgets and electronic items to ‘enhance’ your pregnancy experience are going to be in the mainstream. Despite the warnings, mothers will still go out and buy equipment they believe will put their mind at rest. In a stark contrast, if women were taught from an early age to trust their bodies to do exactly what they are made to do, there would not be the made rush to go out and buy such equipment, if the boutique keepsake scans were regulated, there would not be any unnecessary exposure to ultrasounds, increasing the risk of dyslexia, brain damage or death.
Use ultrasound with caution-if a problem is suspected, medically indicated ultrasound, used in minimal exposure, can support the health of you and your baby-in all other instances the dangers of ultrasound scans and dopplers MUST be researched fully for you to make an informed choice.
Odent M. Where does handedness come from? Handedness from a primal health research perspective. Primal Health Research 1998;6(1):1-6.)
In society today there is such a huge difference when it comes to parenting styles in a variety of different communities. Should we be falling into the commercial world of prams, bottles, formula, baby food jars, bouncers-as society we seem to do as others do, or should we be nurturing our offspring by moving away from what is considered ‘normal’ and prepare our children for adulthood on a biologically normal pathway; listening to our own bodies and the needs of our babies.
Babies, toddlers, children; no manual!! Why no instructions?
Gina Ford’s ‘Contented Little Baby Book’ tells us she can fix all the problems which stem from Mother Nature’s omission of an instruction book by supplying us with her self devised code, a manual in order to complete the ritual of parenthood and survive that first year, without every experiencing parenthood herself. Working with 12 hour time periods, 7am-7pm, Gina Ford tells us that strict feeding regimes and sleeping patterns are the only way our babies should be nurtured-leaving babies to cry for periods of time so they can ‘adapt’ into self-settling techniques by being ‘taught how to sleep’.
The issue with this is that babies, quickly become despondent, amd as clever as they are, realise that crying is actually a waste of time and energy. In order to conserve energy, they tend to then fall asleep exhausted from the crying and screaming, with the harsh reality that their caregiver will not be there for them in times of distress. Recent studies over the past few years show that ‘controlled crying’ or ‘crying it out’ can be damaging to neurological connections and the continually rapid development of the newborn brain. Sleeping with our babies, whether co-sleeping in the right conditions or sharing the room with baby not only ensures baby’s needs are immediately met but it cannot be ignored that this practice, which is the norm in large communities across the world, reduces the risk of SIDS-Sudden J
Infant Death Syndrome-no mention of that though as co-sleeping would go against the grain of and follow the trend of the abundant non – evidence based ‘advice’ of the Gina Ford Philosophy.
Feeding babies on a schedule, instead of feeding on on baby’s cues can be just as damaging, irrespective of whether baby is receiving breastmilk or formula. Gina tells us that feeding 4 hourly is the norm and must be regulated. Feeds must be at 7am, 11am and not a second earlier, and do not dare to enter the separate-room-on-the-other-side-of-the-house your baby is crying in, should they dare to awaken before Gina says they should. Picking your child up at that point-your child has won, according to Miss Ford. Evil, coercing, manipulative babies! *tongue firmly in cheek*.
Brought into the brightness of day, is the Gina Ford assumption that you have birthed a milk-guzzling, sleep depriving, screaming human into the universe to disrupt your life for the rest of eternity! Unfortunately, what could have been a great book *cough* ended up telling mums that baby was broken or their parents were inadequate-6 feeds in a 24 hour period, especially in a breastfed baby, will most likely be detrimental to the breastfeeding dyads relationship; regular feeds are needed to ensure your supply is sufficient and your babies needs are met when you parent in a child-led environment.
The Gina Ford suggestion of expressing milk to ‘see how much baby gets at a feed’ is irresponsible and inaccurate, and is just one more way for a mum to doubt her body and the skills evolution has supplied her with.
Gina Ford’s way of making a living is to force new parents into feeling inadequate and unable to cope, using her regimented, prescriptive regimes and schedules. She disappointingly underpins the societal belief that babies should sleep through the night from day 6, should take 6oz on week 6 and will not settle unless they are left alone and cry themselves to sleep six times every day. When these ridiculous and somewhat dangerous routines fail, parents feel they have failed themselves, their families and their babies.
What happened? What happened to nurturing our young? Biologically caring for our young, keeping them close, sleeping, eating and drinking with them, comforting them. It all came to a stand still when society started to get busy and began to use the tips, tricks and commercialised baby rearing objects of a ‘let-somebody-else-mind-the-baby’ ideology; prams and cots, separate rooms and bouncers-anything to avoid picking your baby up and giving them the love and security needed. Arms to hold, hands to caress soft faces, breasts to comfort and feed and nurture.
Instead, the likes of Gina Ford have stepped into the long line of other ‘experts’, existing only to berate and ridicule biological nurturing of the newborn. Cuddle, pick up, feed, kiss, cuddle again; listen to your instincts, and follow what you feel is right for you and your baby. One day, humans everywhere will accept biological norms. Time for a change; EDUCATE.