Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home Birth Just as Safe or Safer Than Hospital Birth

A new study by Canadian researchers published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) concludes that planned home births with a midwife in attendance have comparable or better outcomes than hospital births in Canada.

The researchers explain:

"Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician."

Canadian families who chose to give birth at home suffered from fewer iatrogenic complications, according to the study which compared data from over 2,500 births in British Columbia. Women birthing at home were less likely to experience:

-Electronic fetal monitoring
-Augmentation of labor (this is a fancy way of saying drug-induced labor, which can be very painful and have other negative consequences)
-Assisted vaginal delivery

Better for the Mother, Better for the Baby

The researchers write: "Compared with women who planned a midwife-attended hospital birth, those who planned a home birth were less likely to have a newborn who had birth trauma, required resuscitation at birth, or required oxygen therapy beyond 24 hours."

You can read the entire study here.

So should you consider a home birth? Yes. Even the most conservative birth advisors will tell an expectant couple to labor at home for as long as possible to avoid unnecessary complications at the hospital. Ina May Gaskin, perhaps the most famous midwife in America, estimates that the first stage of labor (that is, before pushing) usually takes at least 15 hours but in a hospital women are rushed, stressed out, and on a time line. They are told their bodies are inadequate or they are having "failure to progress," even though normal, healthy labors can take three or four days and this kind of negative feedback can discourage a laboring woman and make her doubt herself and her body's ability to birth. If an animal in nature is laboring and senses a predator (comparable to a discouraging doctor in a hospital), her labor will stop. In America, the more a doctor intervenes, the more money the hospital makes. How can we trust people who have a vested monetary interest in medicalizing labor to make the right decisions?

Birth is a natural process that women have been doing successfully (out of the hospital) for thousands of years.

The safest thing you can do for your wife, yourself, and your baby is stay home.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cup of Comfort looking for couples essays

A call for submissions from writer moms and dads to write about being in a couple. You can read more about it at their Website but here it is for any readers who have a loving vibe going on and want to try their hand at getting published:

A Cup of Comfort® for Couples:
Stories that celebrate what it means to be in love

It is said that love works in mysterious ways. And this anthology will reveal the many mysteries as well as the inner workings of true love. Of course, being a "happy couple" involves more than being in love, and making a romantic relationship work takes more than romance. So this book will feature uplifting true stories with a balanced mix of tones—romantic, poignant, humorous—and on a wide range of topics: From falling in love to the secrets of lasting love. From celebrating special moments between you to overcoming bumps in your relationship. From experiences that brought you closer together to experiences that threatened to tear you apart. From endearing rituals to challenging changes. From sparkling new love to glorious golden love. Or any other topic that speaks to the joys, the challenges, and/or the nature of a romantic partnership that works for you. Narrative essays preferred. Story Length: 1000–2000 words.

Deadline: October 20, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't Cut Off Your Newborn's Penis

This op-ed ran in the Ashland Daily Tidings a few weeks ago. Our stance on circumcision is definitive: it's an unnecessary procedure that has no proven medical benefits and it is not something any dad should decide to do to his newborn. If a boy wants to decide to cut off his foreskin as a sexually active adult, we should leave that decision up to him.

Keep America's baby boys intact
By Jennifer Margulis
Guest opinion
August 26, 2009

On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a meeting in Atlanta as part of a four-day conference on HIV prevention to discuss how to urge non-circumcising communities in American to circumcise. At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has long remained neutral on the subject, is currently revising its guidelines in favor of circumcision. Growing up Jewish in America, I never questioned circumcision. But now, after having children and seeing how grown men in my life continue to suffer psychologically because of a procedure done to them as infants, I've come to believe that circumcision is not only unnecessary, it's a painful and traumatizing procedure that should not be done in infancy, if at all.

Deciding whether to circumcise is a decision that every American parent of a boy faces, though the majority simply choose to follow the doctor or hospital's recommendation.

According to an Aug. 24 article in the New York Times, approximately 79 percent of all adult American males are circumcised. According to Intact America, a nonprofit organization trying to stop routine circumcision in America, circumcision is the most common surgery performed in America and it happens to more than 1 million newborns a year, more than 3,000 times a day, or once every 26 seconds.

Before my brother Zach's wife gave birth to their third child, I started receiving frantic emails from a 28-year-old male relative whom I'll call J. "Do you know if they are planning to circumcise?" J. wrote me. "Could you find out about it? Could you tell them not to? Could you talk to them?" As the due date approached, the messages become increasingly desperate, as if J. felt that circumcision were a matter of life and death. At the same time, J. was ashamed for being so worried. He asked not to tell anyone that he was inquiring; he said he felt embarrassed and couldn't talk to my brother directly. He begged me not to mention to his mother, especially, how worried he felt about Zach's baby.

J. himself is circumcised. Circumcision is part of my family's cultural heritage. All of my relatives, including my father, my uncles and my grandfathers, have been circumcised. In the Bible, God actually commands Abraham to circumcise his male descendants. Practicing Jews hold what is usually a festive ceremony, called a bris, on the eighth day of a boy's life during which his foreskin is removed either by a doctor or a mohel, a rabbi trained in circumcision. Even in countries where circumcision is not the a norm, the majority of Jews choose to circumcise.

Yet it is not for traditional reasons that health officials want to see an upswing in American circumcisions. Recent health studies in Africa suggest that circumcised heterosexual men are less likely to get an HIV infection than their non-circumcised counterparts. Circumcision proponents also argue that urinary tract infections are less likely among circumcised men, and that it is necessary for cleanliness. They discount the pain involved in the procedure and argue that it creates no lasting damage.

Those in favor of circumcision for medical reasons are wrong. First of all, the procedure is painful, even with the administration of anesthesia. Anyone who has ever witnessed a circumcision (you can watch one on the internet if you don't believe me) and heard the high-pitched scream of a newborn having the tip of his penis cut off knows that this surgery causes terrible pain. For the week that the cut is healing, a baby is peeing and defecating on a raw, open wound. Circumcision is also dangerous. Just this past March a jury in Atlanta awarded $1.8 million in damages to a boy's parents after a seriously botched circumcision.

It's also a procedure that causes lasting regret in some grown men. J. feels so badly about being circumcised that he is on a campaign to stop all of us having children from circumcising. Other men I know wish their parents gave them the option to choose instead of forcing them to undergo a painful procedure as one of their earliest life experiences. If there really is a correlation between circumcision and HIV prevention, then we should let adult men choose to have the procedure done once they are sexually active.

My brother's baby turned out to be a girl. But my own son is not circumcised and if the baby I am carrying now, due in October, is a boy he will not be either. Forced circumcision of newborns is wrong. Let's not impose trauma on newborns and instead give adult men the right to choose.

Jennifer Margulis is a professional writer and the co-author of "The Baby Bonding Book For Dads." Read more about her at www.jennifermargulis.net.

Monday, September 14, 2009

When a Newborn is in the NICU

It's daunting for anyone who is not part of a hospital staff to walk into a NICU -- the intensive care unit of the hospital for newborn babies. First there is the protocol of having your identity checked and then the ritual of hand washing (usually 1-2 minutes with warm water and antibacterial soap).

Then there's the place itself: little tiny preemies and other sick babies in incubators attached to machines that fire off statistics about their vital signs. Bells are always chiming and these horrible alarms start ringing when a baby stops breathing or shows other signs of distress. The exhausted doctors and nurses rush around looking stressed out trying to keep every little charge in their care alive.

If it's bad for friends and relatives, it's that much worse for parents. The NICU is not a place anyone wants to go.Several new studies show that for parents with premature babies the stress and trauma of having a baby whisked off to the NICU can last for years afterwards, according to an article published in the New York Times. The article cites several scientific studies indicating that a NICU experience can create lasting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Though many children who come early have few if any problems, being born premature (which is defined as pre 37-weeks gestation) can lead to a host of lifelong health problems and retardation.

In America these days we seem to do everything to keep premature babies, even micropreemies who may not have a chance at a normal life, alive. We use aggressive intervention and the latest "advances" in medical technology.

Sometimes this absolute determination to keep a baby that did not get a chance to gestate fully alive seems misguided. If a child is going to grow up to have terrible health and other problems and a poor quality of life, is it fair of us to try to defy nature in every way we can to keep that baby alive?

To read a detailed article on premature birth first published in Pregnancy Magazine, click here.

To read a first-person account of visiting a friend's baby in the NICU, click here.