Originally published in Allens Creek Living, August 2015
Prior to getting pregnant I had no need to interact with health care providers except for annual exams. More than 25 years ago, when I got the ecstatic news that my husband and I were going to have a baby, I was fortunate to be a relatively healthy person doing a very normal thing: growing and giving birth to a baby, but I was unprepared for the choices I needed to make about staying healthy and getting the best care possible during pregnancy.
According to Amy Haas, a Rochester-area independent childbirth educator for almost twenty years, "Pregnancy is a natural alternative state for a woman's body, but it does place stress on us. So we have to work to stay healthy and low risk. It is important to focus on what is in our control, such as diet, exercise, avoidance of harmful substances, and education."
Pregnancy and birth are not without their risks. Although deaths are rare, birth is still an event that carries us close to life and death consequences. Obstetric medical doctors and certified nurse midwives are trained to watch for risks and use interventions as needed.
However, unless the mother or baby is diagnosed with a health risk (such as diabetes or congenital malformations) most of the time these interventions are not required. Birth attendants can be trained to practice evidence-based care while they monitor the birthing mother, using interventions only when medically necessary. Avoiding unnecessary episiotomies, epidurals, vacuum extractions and c-sections helps to keep both baby and mother as healthy as possible as they enter the next phase of natural child-rearing: breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is more successful when mother can move around comfortably and baby is not drowsy. Some interventions (such as routine suctioning) can interfere with the baby’s instincts for sucking properly on the nipple.
Advocating for your baby’s optimal health begins as soon as the mother knows she is pregnant. Choosing a trusted care provider to guide the family through the natural process of bringing a new member into the world is the first of many choices that impact the long term health of the whole family. There is a lot of information to take in about the different styles of obstetric care during pregnancy and delivery. Here are good places to start:
Rochester Area Birth Network: www.rabn.org
Evidence-Based Birth: evidencebasedbirth.com