Pain Processing in Newborn Infants/The Pains of Youth (repost)

I came across this article in relation to circumcision, but it bears importance for our overall treatment of newborns as well.  They DO feel pain, they feel it more strongly and widely in their bodies than we do, and it may negatively effect their nervous system development for the rest of their lives.  Sometimes pain is unavoidable, and we do what we have to help our children have healthier bodies, but when it is medically unnecessary, why negatively impact your child?

blessings, Ursula

Feature: The pains of youth

2 April 2009 By Mun-Keat Looi

Crying baby

As recently as the late 1980s, clinicians mistakenly believed that newborn babies did not feel pain. We are now beginning to understand just how different pain processing is in infants, progress that promises tremendous clinical benefits for those in intensive care.

Pain, unpleasant though may be, is an important function of our body, warning us if something is wrong or of a hazard to be avoided. It is tied in with our sense of touch and how we perceive different stimuli, and efforts to understand it have yielded tremendous clinical benefits, not least in the quest for better pain relief for patients.

One would assume that newborn babies, at their vulnerable stage in life, are particularly sensitive to pain. Yet, surprisingly, until the late 1980s it was widely assumed among clinicians that newborn infants did not feel pain.

“Largely it was based on ignorance – a rather simplistic view that if you can’t remember something then that means that you don’t process it,” says Maria Fitzgerald, Professor of Developmental Neurobiology at University College London. “There was a general view that all that babies did was cry and make a fuss, moving their arms and legs about.”

Professor Fitzgerald was among the first researchers to investigate infant pain. Her work is particularly pertinent given the number of babies that enter intensive care – particularly those born prematurely – needing to undergo a number of essential, but painful, procedures.


Audio: Professor Maria Fitzgerald of UCL on infant pain [2’56].

Early change

Our pain pathways undergo extensive structural and functional change after we are born. At first, the nervous system is not fine-tuned, with nerve cells underdeveloped and connections and circuits still raw.

“In very young babies there is a very strong, exaggerated, behavioural response to pain, much stronger than you would see in an older child or adult,” says Professor Fitzgerald.

Her latest research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, has revealed a fundamental difference between infant and adult pain pathways.

As adults, when we detect a painful stimulus, the sensory nervous system in the spinal cord suppresses the signal to a certain extent, reducing the intensity of the pain and helping us to detect exactly where it is in the body. Also, when the brain receives the pain signal, it sends inhibitory information back to the spinal cord.

But in newborn babies, this system has the opposite effect.

“The brain actually enhances the pain inputs rather than suppressing them. It’s a complete reverse of what happens in an adult,” says Professor Fitzgerald.

This makes sense in terms of development: a lot of sensory input at the early stages of the brain’s development helps the synapses and nerve pathways to grow. However, if the input is repeatedly painful, there can be damaging consequences.

“The importance of this is that if infants undergo a lot of painful procedures – as those in intensive care often do – far from the brain being able to control the pain that is coming in, if anything it enhances it,” says Professor Fitzgerald. “We don’t know if it is necessarily more painful, because we don’t know what babies feel, but certainly there is more of a painful input going in.”

Sensitivity paradox

What long-term effects does repeated exposure to pain have on a developing nervous system? Research has uncovered a strange paradox.

Children that have undergone a lot of intensive care when young seem to be less sensitive to things such as touch and temperature. But they are more sensitive to new pain stimuli.

“It’s quite an odd and complicated picture, almost like a contrast. The child is relatively less sensitive in its body but hypersensitive, it seems, to a new pain,” says Professor Fitzgerald.

Studies have also shown that if young rat pups have an injury, then later in life they are more sensitive to repeated injury in that same place.

“You might find that not surprising, but actually if you do the same thing in adult life they don’t maintain that long sensitisation,” says Professor Fitzgerald. “There’s something about having an injury very early in life that does seem to produce a very long-lasting sensitivity in that injured area.”

From tests to treatment

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The fact that the infant nervous system is, in a sense, receiving more pain than in adults intensifies the need to look for better analgesics (pain-relieving drugs) for newborn babies.

Morphine is used during surgical procedures, but there are few approved infant pain-relief treatments. One, sucrose, is essentially just a sugar solution that encourages sucking, which has a sedative effect.

“Sucrose does pacify an infant, but when you’re doing repeated painful procedures day after day, it’s insufficient,” says Professor Fitzgerald. “It’s not really reducing the pain. We need to do some real trials of analgesics in young infants.”

But how do you measure how much pain an infant is feeling, and how effective the analgesics are? Even in adults pain measurements rely on a patient’s subjective descriptions: how much it hurts, or if it feels better or worse. Babies cannot describe what they feel, and their relative fragility rules out the use of techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging that require large equipment.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, Professor Fitzgerald’s team are working with colleagues at University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London on a combination of near infrared spectroscopy and electroencephalography. These measure the oxygenation of brain tissue and the electrical activity of neurons in the brain, respectively, both of which provide a more direct measure of pain than observing behavioural responses. Importantly, neither is invasive and both can be done cot-side.

“We’re trying to develop systems that we can use in human infants which will provide real measures of the outcomes of clinical trials,” says Professor Fitzgerald. “Once we’ve got that, then we can begin to translate the basic findings.”

Our new knowledge about the infant inhibitory system now needs building on, with better measures of how exactly it works. It’s the first step toward clinical treatments, with researchers then perhaps able to look for ways to re-establish inhibition in injured infants, or to stop the pain enhancement effect from happening in the first place.

Pain remains unpleasant, but research into it continues to further our understanding of human development and bring relief to all, old and young.

Original article:

Language, Choices & the Birth/Parenting Community

As parents, I believe we all experience the stress of having our choices doubted or disapproved, as well as the relief and often subsequent camaraderie that follows meeting parents of a similar ilk.  Pregnancy, birth and parenting bring this up so strongly for us not just because we want the best for our children, but because these life events are deeply transformational rites of passage.

The two major ‘camps’ are the medical, western model of birth and the natural birth movement.  This dichotomy creates a strong picture of the “Other”, the one that “I” am NOT:

I would never give birth at home–it’s too dangerous!

Bottlefeeding mothers aren’t as dedicated as breastfeeding mothers.

Parents who don’t vaccinate their kids are taking risks with their kids’ lives

Etcetera, etcetera.  Can you hear the shouting yet?  As I write this, I recognize the place in myself that wants to be right, that wants to convince.  But it is from somewhere deeper than that ego place that I want to communicate and connect from.  I want to hear the story of every mother/family I come across.  Because in these stories, the places where we have been wounded, the places where we feel shame because we made a decision we probably wouldn’t make now, can begin to soften when we offer compassionate company to one another.

We all need to learn a new language.  When we think we know what is right for someone else, we can learn to ask more questions, to open our ears and hearts to the real stories.  When we feel fear, doubt or anxiety about what we have experienced, we can learn to be vulnerable and self-reflective about these emotions instead of attacking someone whose individual choices reflect back questions about our own.  One excellent resource to help us change the way we communicate–and how we understand our own emotional landscape–is Non-Violent/Compassionate Communication (NVC).  Developed by Marshall Rosenberg, NVC creates a space where everyone is heard, where everyone has the chance to be validated for his or her own emotional experience and needs.

There is no one way we will ever all give birth.  I do look forward to the day when normal, physiological birth is respected and supported, and the violence that pervades much of our modern, western birth practices is seen for the barbary that it is.  As part of my contribution to this outcome, it is my intention to continue removing the plank from my own eye around how I communicate about birth and parenting.  The zealousness I feel can fuel my work, but it is humility and compassion that will cross boundaries and connect me to others.

All women who give birth are transformed.  Remember that when you see someone parenting in a way unfamiliar to you.  Be strong, speak and listen from your heart, and connect to a woman who is innately more your sister in this journey than your adversary.  Unjustices committed against women, children and families around birth and reproductive health will only be healed by standing together to assert the truth of our collective humanity.

PS:  As I finish writing this I note that I have focused on the communication between parents around different choices.  All that I have said can and needs to be applied by birthing professionals as well, on any ‘side’.

PPS:  I have included links for a number of articles I read in the past weeks that got me thinking more strongly about all of this.  If you know of any other articles that contribute more food for thought to this discussion, please add a link to them in the comments.

“I won’t ask you why you didn’t breastfeed”

“If you are happy with your choices, why does mine bother you so much?”

“Peaceful Revolution:  Motherhood and the $13 Billion Guilt”

“Breastfeeding Nazis”

Center for Non-Violent Communication:

And finally something funny, because we all need to laugh at ourselves and lighten up:

“Dos and Don’ts of Parenting Babies”

Breastfeeding Court Letter, by Katherine A Dettwyler, Ph.D., Anthropology

Breastfeeding is what mammals are meant to do.  We human mammals shouldn’t have to defend or justify this instinctive, and biologically normal act.  But in western society we often do, sometimes even in court.  I repost this letter, hoping no one will have to use it but wanting it to be available should you ever need this support.

blessings, Ursula

Letter for Court Cases
(in support of extended breastfeeding)

by Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D.

Department of Anthropology,
Texas A&M University and
Department of Anthropology,
University of Delaware, Newark, DE

Prepared by Kathy Dettwyler, in the process of being updated — December 2007. Can be downloaded and sent to lawyers, judges, social workers, ex-spouses, pediatricians, family physicians, etc. If you would like a signed paper copy, please send a legal-sized SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) to K.A. Dettwyler, 1 Orchard Ave., Newark, DE 19711-5523. Contributions for photocopying costs are encouraged/welcomed. Please do not call me to tell me your story — I have, unfortunately, heard it all way too many times before. Please visit for links to issues concerning breastfeeding and divorce/custody/visitation/family law/etc.

DATE: March 2005

TO: Whom It May Concern

FROM: Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology Texas A&M University, Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE,

RE: “Extended” Breastfeeding

I am a biocultural anthropologist who has conducted research, since 1981, on cross-cultural beliefs and practices concerning infant/child feeding, growth and health, as well as the evolutionary underpinnings of human feeding practices. I am the acknowledged world expert on extended breastfeeding and weaning from both evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives.

My research concludes that the normal and natural duration of breastfeeding for modern humans falls between 2.5 years and 7 years. Some children nurse less than 2.5 years, and some nurse longer than 7 years. It is quite common for children in many cultures around the world to be breastfed for 3-4-5-6-7 years, including quite a few in the U.S. (see below). My research on the age ranges for natural weaning has been published in a peer-reviewed scholarly book, and in the medical journal Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology (2004), and I have presented my research at many scientific meetings and conferences to audiences of anthropologists, doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, and other health care professionals.

In addition, my research has been used to counter charges of child abuse and “inappropriate parenting behaviors” in many court cases, especially involving divorce and custody disputes, where fathers may accuse the mother of “inappropriate parenting by virtue of extended breastfeeding” as a strategy to gain custody of children, or may simply claim that ‘continued breastfeeding’ is not relevant to shared custody arrangements.

At this point (2005), all of the research that has been conducted on the health and cognitive consequences of different lengths of breastfeeding shows steadily increasing benefits the longer a child is breastfed up to the age of 2 years, and no negative consequences. No research has been conducted on the physical, emotional, or psychological health of children breastfed longer than 2 years. Thus, while there is no research-based proof that breastfeeding a child for 3 years provides statistically significant health or cognitive benefits compared to breastfeeding a child for only two years, there is no research to show that breastfeeding a child for 3 years (or 4-5-6-7-8-9 years) causes any sort of physical, psychological or emotional harm to the child. This has recently been confirmed in the 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics “Recommendations for breastfeeding the healthy term infant” (see below).

Breastfeeding a child beyond the age of three years is not common in the United States , but it is not unknown. It is more common than most people realize because families that practice extended breastfeeding often do not tell others, who they fear will be judgmental. A breastfeeding child of 3 or 4 years or older will typically only be nursing a few times a day – usually first thing in the morning, before nap and bedtime at night, perhaps more often if they are sick, injured, frightened, emotionally distressed or developmentally delayed. It is quite easy for even close friends of the family to be unaware of a continuing breastfeeding relationship. A pediatrician who is vocal in his non-support of breastfeeding may not even be told if a mother in his practice continues to breastfeed. Thus, “extended” breastfeeding – beyond three years – seems more rare and unusual in the United States than it really is.

It is quite feasible for divorced parents to work out shared custody or visitation arrangements that allow the father to have ample time with his child while not sacrificing the breastfeeding relationship the child has with its mother. There is no reason why the child cannot have close relationships with both parents, including spending substantial amounts of time with both, without weaning having to take place before the child is ready.

Breastfeeding and co-sleeping with children are perfectly normal and healthy behaviors, practiced by many people in cultures all around the world, and in the US .

In conclusion, there is no research to support a claim that breastfeeding a child at any age is in any way harmful to a child . On the contrary, my research suggests that the best outcomes, in terms of health, cognitive, and emotional development, are the result of children being allowed to breastfeed as long as they need/want to. Around the world, most children self-wean between the ages of 3 and 5 years, but given that the underlying physiological norm is to breastfeed up to 6-7 years, it is quite normal for children to continue to breastfeed to this age as well, and the occasional “normally” developing child will nurse even longer. Children who nurse for more than a year or two tend to regard their mother’s breasts as sources of love and nurturance and comfort, and are more or less immune to the broader society’s attempts to culturally define breasts as sex objects.

I will be happy to provide more information and input on this subject if needed. You can contact me at (302) 738-5631 or (302) 388-7836/cell or by email to: More information can be found on my web site at:

In any specific court case, there will be many factors to which outside observers are not privy, and many different perspectives that must be brought to bear in deciding what is in a child’s best interests. As a general rule, the child who is allowed to breastfeed as long as they need is the lucky child, one who has a mother who deeply cares for and respects her child. In the absence of neglectful or abusive circumstances, a child and mother should never be punished or criticized for breastfeeding longer than the cultural norms, and a child should not have to lose the breastfeeding relationship with its mother just so the father can have the child for overnight or weekend visits.

Expert Recommendations on Duration of Breastfeeding

What do pediatric nutrition experts at the national (United States) and international levels recommend concerning how long children should be breastfed?

World Health Organization: “two years of age or beyond” )

Promoting appropriate feeding for infants and young children

10. Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond . Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production.

American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement, Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk, PEDIATRICS Vol. 115 No. 2 February 2005, pp. 496-506, :

Recommendations on Breastfeeding for Healthy Term Infants (#1-9 and 11-15 removed)

10. Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. 30 , 34 , 128 , 178 184 Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child . 185

    • Complementary foods rich in iron should be introduced gradually beginning around 6 months of age. 186 187 Preterm and low birth weight infants and infants with hematologic disorders or infants who had inadequate iron stores at birth generally require iron supplementation before 6 months of age. 148 , 188 192 Iron may be administered while continuing exclusive breastfeeding.
    • Unique needs or feeding behaviors of individual infants may indicate a need for introduction of complementary foods as early as 4 months of age, whereas other infants may not be ready to accept other foods until approximately 8 months of age. 193
    • Introduction of complementary feedings before 6 months of age generally does not increase total caloric intake or rate of growth and only substitutes foods that lack the protective components of human milk. 194
    • During the first 6 months of age, even in hot climates, water and juice are unnecessary for breastfed infants and may introduce contaminants or allergens. 195
    • Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births). 196
    • There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer. 197
    • Infants weaned before 12 months of age should not receive cow’s milk but should receive iron-fortified infant formula. 198

American Academy of Family Physicians: ” Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired. . . If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.”

AAFP Policy Statement on Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the physiological norm for both mothers and their children. The AAFP recommends that all babies, with rare exceptions, be breastfed and/or receive expressed human milk exclusively for about the first six months of life. Breastfeeding should continue with the addition of complementary foods throughout the second half of the first year. Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired. Family physicians should have the knowledge to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. (1989) (2001)

AAFP, Specific section on nursing the older child:

Nursing Beyond Infancy

Breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is currently not the cultural norm and requires ongoing support and encouragement.85 Breastfeeding during a subsequent pregnancy is not unusual. If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the woman’s personal decision. If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned. Breastfeeding the nursing child after delivery of the next child (tandem nursing) may help to provide a smooth transition psychologically for the older child.61

References cited

61. Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding: a guide for the medical professional. 5th ed. St. Louis : Mosby, 1999.

85. Powers NG, Slusser W. Breastfeeding update 2: clinical lactation management. Pediatr Rev 1997;18(5):147-161.


“Extended Breastfeeding Survey” —

A survey of “extended breastfeeding” – beyond three years – was conducted by Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4352. The data summarized below come from the United States , and most were collected between December of 1996 and March of 1998. Most of the respondents were middle- and upper-class, well-educated, and of European ancestry. These data have been published in “When to Wean: Biological Versus Cultural Perspectives,” in the medical journal Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology , Volume 47, Number 3, pp. 712-723. In addition, I have reported on them at a number of professional conferences.

In brief, during the late 1990s, I surveyed 1,280 children in the US who breastfed for a minimum of three years. The mean age of weaning for these children was 4.24. years, with a median of 4.00 years, a mode of 3.5 years, a standard deviation of 1.08 years, and a range of 3.00 to 9.17 years . The half-yearly break down of ages at weaning was:

3-3.49 years 297 children

3.5-3.99 yrs 286 children

4.00-4.49 yrs 213 children

4.50-4.99 yrs 162 children

5.00-5.49 yrs 154 children

5.50-5.99 yrs 58 children

6.00-6.49 yrs 50 children

6.50-6.99 yrs 17 children

7.00-7.49 yrs 22 children

7.50-7.99 yrs 7 children

8.00-8.49 yrs 7 children

8.50-8.99 yrs 2 children

9.00-9.49 yrs 5 children

To quote from the Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology article: “The demographic characteristics of the sample indicate that in the United States, extended breastfeeding is most often found among middle-class and upper-class women, women who work outside the home, and women who are highly educated. . . Areas of the country with relatively large groups of mothers and children nursing beyond 3 years of age included Seattle , Washington ; Salt Lake City , Utah ; College Station , Texas ; and Wilmington , Delaware .”

Selected References

Dettwyler, K.A. 2004 When to Wean: Biological Versus Cultural Perspectives, Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology , 47(3):712-723.

Dettwyler, K.A. 2001 Weaning. Breastfeeding Annual 2001 . Washington DC : Platypus Media.

Dettwyler, K.A. 2001 Believing in Breastfeeding. ORGYN , XII(2):42-45.

Dettwyler, K.A. 1999 Evolutionary Medicine and Breastfeeding: Implications for Research and Pediatric Advice. The 1998-99 David Skomp Distinguished Lecture in Anthropology , Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 47405.

Dettwyler, K.A. 1995 A Time to Wean: The Hominid Blueprint for the Natural Age of Weaning In Modern Human Populations. In Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives , edited by Patricia Stuart-Macadam and Katherine A. Dettwyler, pp. 39-73. New York : Aldine de Gruyter.

Dettwyler, K.A. 1995 Beauty and the Breast: The Cultural Context of Breastfeeding in the United States . In Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives , edited by Patricia Stuart-Macadam and Katherine A. Dettwyler, pp. 167-215. New York : Aldine de Gruyter.

Last updated March 22, 2004, by kad. Contents copyright 1999-2004 Sue Ann Kendall and Kathy Dettwyler. Thanks to Prairienet, the Free-Net of east-central Illinois , for hosting this site from 1999 through 2004.

Avoid Preeclampsia With Proper Diet (repost)

Avoid Preeclampsia With Proper Diet

Can Preeclampsia be prevented?

Preeclampsia is a condition that affects 5-7% of pregnant women, most often first time mothers. It is a potentially dangerous condition that must be monitored once it is detected. Although preeclampsia can strike rapidly and with no symptoms, there are generally a number of warning signs to be on the lookout for including:

  • Protein in urine
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Headaches, dizziness or fainting
  • High or elevated blood pressure
  • Excessive edema or swelling
  • Ringing in the ears

Pre-eclampsia often causes preterm birth and can also compromise the blood flow to the uterus which can result in growth problems before the baby is born. More extreme cases of pre-eclampsia can result in serious health problems to the mother including stroke, coma and death. This is why urine and blood pressure are tested weekly or bi-weekly during prenatal wellness visits.

“Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading global cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 deaths each year. ” Preeclampsia Foundation

There is no cure for preeclampsia. It can only be managed once it is diagnosed and doctors will have to weigh the health of the mother against the term of the baby to decide how to best handle it because birth or death is the only way to end preeclampsia. A recent study did find that low doses of aspirin may be useful in the treatment of preeclampsia but you should only take aspirin under the supervision of your doctor since aspirin has its own side effects.

Preeclampsia is a potentially deadly condition once it develops and no one will argue that point. The real question is whether or not preeclampsia and other related conditions can be prevented with proper diet. We believe the answer is yes, based on the actual cause of preeclampsia in the first place.

Protein spilling in the urine is one of the first signs of preeclampsia. That would lead many people to believe that women with the condition have an excess of protein in their diet but the reverse is actually true. Pregnant women who do not consume enough protein will actually begin to breakdown their own body tissues to provide protein for their growing baby.

“Very simply, if you are not getting enough protein (80 to 100 grams per day), and if you are not getting enough calcium/magnesium, your liver cannot function properly, and the tissues of the body begin metabolizing themselves to provide for your protein needs, specifically kidney tissue. Some of the protein that is broken down is excreted into the urine, which is why there will be protein in the urine. Blood pressure and edema (swelling) are due to poor mineral balance, specifically calcium/magnesium imbalance. ” Unhindered

This is why proper nutrition and protein intake is extremely important during pregnancy. Here are some tips to stay on track nutritionally during pregnancy:

1. Get 80-100 grams of protein a day. Some excellent protein sources are whey protein, hemp protein, beans, peas, nuts and nut oils and butters, seeds and their oils, organic whole raw milk from grass fed cows or goats, organic vegetarian eggs from free range chickens (safe to eat raw), wild Alaskan salmon, organic whole milk dairy products & cheese (preferably raw), brewers yeast, wheat germ, wheat grass, aloe vera juice and of course animal meat if you are not vegetarian but please choose meat that is organic, free range, grass fed for the sake of the animal and to avoid feeding unnecessary antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals to your baby.

If you eat these items on a regular basis then not only will you have no problem meeting your protein requirement but you will also be getting a slew of other vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that are crucial for proper fetal development.

2. Take a food based prenatal supplement, green superfood or both.

3. Take coral calcium with magnesium and take epsom salt baths for extra magnesium absorption

4. Drink tons of filtered water and do not limit your salt intake. Never use table salt whether you are pregnant or not. Always use sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt.

Even if you do everything right nutritionally, it is still very important to monitor your blood pressure and urine protein whether you are doing your own prenatal care or you are under the care of a midwife. If your levels or readings become elevated, it is important for you to remain vigilant as preeclampsia can quickly develop into a very dangerous, life threatening condition.

original post:

“Cervical Scar Tissue: A Big Issue That No One Is Talking About” (repost)

Cervical Scar Tissue – A Big Issue That No One Is Talking About.

by Doula

In my first year of being a birth doula, I had this client. She desperately wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). She told me how in her first birth that she was in labor for hours. Waters broken, Pitocin, epidural, tubes and wires coming from every direction. During her extremely long ordeal the only change to her cervix was the effacement (the thinning of the cervix). Her cervix never opened at all. I assumed at the time that this was because her baby was just not ready to come out. This time could and would be different. She would wait for labor to start. We would stay at home and labor where she was comfortable. When the day came, that is exactly what she did. Her labor seemed to be moving right along. When we got to the hospital I expected they would tell her that she was 4-5 cms. Instead what we got was, 100% effaced but only a finger tip dilated. I think I may have even gasped out loud. I immediately started beating myself up in my head. How could I have read her labor so wrong? 6 more hours would pass with her, her husband and I working hard. Moving from the birth ball to the shower and I swear every inch of that hospital room in between. After 6 hours, still a finger tip dilated. Obviously there is something wrong with her cervix, but what. No one seemed to know. Not the two different nurses that we had the pleasure of getting to know or the doctor who we saw just once when he was coming to explain that she would be having yet another c-section. This is one of those moments in my career that I really wish I knew then what I know now.

I have never stopped thinking of her. There has always been this part of me that wanted to call her and say “I know what it is now, can you have another baby so we can fix it?” I just know this would not make her feel any better. Instead, I keep her close to me whenever I ask the question now during each and every prenatal visit, “Have you ever had any procedures done to your cervix?” Every single birth professional that is assisting clients should be asking this question.

Look, I’m not a scientist, researcher, doctor and anything else that would know how to study this stuff. What I am is a doula that has had the pleasure of attending over 100 births. I know that the client I mentioned above was not the only one who had a c-section because of scar tissue during my earlier days. I can look back and think of all the clients that seemed to be in transition (7-10 cms) but when checked were still only 4cm. Stuck there for hours and hours. Then wondering for days after their c-section if there was something I could have done differently to help.

A New Day!

The day that changed my life as a doula forever, my very own sister was having a baby. She was having her second baby. I told her how great it would be and it would be so much faster than her first. When she started having surges just a few days before her due date, we were excited. I went to her home (3 hrs away) and stayed the whole weekend. She had surges off and on all weekend but nothing really steady. I went home after three days and decided that maybe my being there was freaking her out. For the next week, she had surges every day. I kept telling her it was going to be great. All this work would get her cervix open slowly and gently.  Then she visited her midwife. She was just a finger tip dilated. I chalk this up to my sister being a big drama queen. All the surges have been Braxton Hicks! The next weekend comes and I find myself making the drive because this time her water broke. Now we know this baby is coming. She has mild labor, 7 minutes apart for 16 hours. Nothing is changing. I suggest we head in. Something is just not right. We get to the hospital and a different midwife she has never met comes to check her. 100% effaced but only a finger tip dilated. What?! Are you kidding me?! Then the words that changed my life. “Have you even had any procedures done to your cervix?” My sister says “yes, I had cryo surgery done a couple of years ago to remove pre cancer cells”. Midwife “ok well that makes sense, you have scar tissue on your cervix, and I can feel it.” Huh? Scar tissue on the cervix? Why had I never heard of this? My client from before comes rushing back to my head. Of course! The midwife proceeds to explain to my sister that she is going to try and massage the cervix and break the scar up. With some discomfort for my sister, she went from a finger tip dilated to 3 cms in a matter of minutes. An hour later she was 4 cms and an hour after that my nephew was born. Once the scar tissue had completely released, she flew to 10 cms.

As you can imagine, I asked that Midwife a ton of questions. I wanted to know all I could about this scar tissue stuff. Besides “massaging”, what can you do before hand? She shared her knowledge with me. Told me that HPV is so very common and more and more women are having these  standard procedures done, but are never informed that it most likely will leave scar tissue. Although less common, this includes women who have ever had a D & C after a miscarriage or abortion.

Once I was armed with the knowledge, my successful VBAC rate shot up as did my vaginal birth rate in general. I would ask the question and if the answer was yes, I would tell them what I knew. I would suggest that they mention it to their doctor so that if anything came up during labor, would he or she be willing to massage the cervix. Also I learned from that Midwife that evening primrose oil taken orally and vaginally would help break up the scar tissue before labor. (Orally taken the entire pregnancy and vaginally each night only after 36 weeks).

Since this very important day 3 1/2 years ago, I know I have prevented c-sections. Several times in the hospital I have asked the doctor to please, when he is checking mama to feel for scar tissue.  Almost every time the doctor has said “oh yeah, I feel some sort of knot here” or some other variation of that statement. This then leads to a question of; can you try and rub it out?

Why Doctors aren’t talking about this is beyond me. I honestly think they don’t know that it is an issue. I don’t believe it is something they are being taught in medical school. We all need to start talking about it because unless women are being asked the question, they just don’t know.

Written by: Doula Dawn Thompson

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