Cesarean Scar Care Webinar

I just attended the Cesarean Scar Care Webinar with Isa Herrera via the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN).  What a terrific benefit for subscribers (it was free), a great introduction to ICAN for folks who aren’t subs, and a great cost ($15) for non subscribers.

Herrera is the author of Ending Female Pain and performs physical therapy in New York City.  I was excited to attend this webinar because 5 months post cesarean, I still have a LOT of pain and tenderness, especially on the left side.  I imagine this has a lot to do with E’s position in utero.  Herrera said that an uncomfortable lie can cause more adhesions, so obviously I have a lot of work to do to break up those adhesions and get to healing!

Herrera states:

“Women coming to me are often not getting the tools and advice they need . . .” to recover from cesareans.

Sad but not surprising.

Something I previously misunderstood:  according to Herrera the abdominal muscles (the recti) are not cut during surgery.  Instead, they are pushed to the side.

Something else I didn’t know:  during a cesarean 8 layers of fascia and connective tissue are cut.  From what I previously learned, it’s the damage to the fascia and connective tissues that compromise the uterus the most.

Something of which I am skeptical:  Herrera hypothesizes that regularizing and rehabilitating the scar tissue and adhesions may reduce the risk of uterine rupture in future pregnancies and labors.  The reason that I am skeptical is that from what I know about scar formation and healing, scar tissue NEVER approximates undamaged tissue.  Scar tissue organizes differently from undamaged tissue.  On the other hand, it is possible that with Body Talk or acupuncture or other healing modalities that damaged tissue can be restored.  And it’s not like my arm splits open every time I use it, and I have a large gnarly scar on it!

Herrera talked us through a number of exercises and stretches that should help break up adhesions and encourage healing.  The ones that I plan to start using immediately are “long strokes,” “longitudinal stretches,” and kegels while drawing in my abs.  I’ve also started using my Wii Fit and have found that the exercises there have woken up my core a bit.  I am also massaging lavender oil, purchased from Young Living because of the medicinal-grade quality, into the “damaged” areas.

For more information on cesarean scar care, purchase Herrera’s book.  Also, check out the websites http://www.apta.org and http://www.pelvicrehab.com.

Hospital VBAC: The Don’t Forget List

[NB: Most of what I've written below applies specifically to the hospital venue.]

We all know the books to read when preparing for a VBAC or the videos that will help us gain confidence in our ability to give birth vaginally.  We all know to pack our hospital bags, including our mental focus recordings, and bring a copy of our birth plans.  We all know that we need a doula with us, one who is experienced supporting VBACing women. 

Many of us even know that we need to talk powerfully about our upcoming VBACs.  “I’m trying for a VBAC” is not nearly strong enough.  Replace that with “I’m planning a VBAC.”  Did you birth the first time with “I’m gonna try to give birth vaginally” going through your brains?  Probably not.  I myself never doubted my ability to give birth naturally.

Anyway, I digress.  In addition to constructing a clear but concise birth plan, you need to also do the following:

  1. obtain a copy of the hospital’s VBAC consent form; review it and make changes as you see fit; give a copy to your care provider and bring a copy with you to the hospital
  2. obtain a copy of the hospital’s cesarean consent form; review it and make changes as you see fit; give a copy to your care provider and bring a copy with you to the hospital.  My hospital doesn’t have a cesarean consent form.  They have you sign their generic “invasive procedure” form which I find unacceptable.
  3. discuss the modifications you’ve made to the above forms with your care provider(s)
  4. especially if you’re NOT married, make sure your will is in order
  5. make sure you bring a medical power of attorney in case medical decisions need to be made and you are incapacitated

Bruce Flamm’s VBAC consent form appears everywhere on the internet.  I personally didn’t find it sufficient, but it is a place to start.  Here’s a great post - an actual cesarean consent form with some added commentary from the blogger.  I’ve taken this form and modified it so that (1) consent is not given for elective cesarean; (2) consent is withheld until the situation would arise for an emergent cesarean; (3) my husband is named as having power of attorney in the case of an emergency where I was unable to make my wishes known.  I also added some things that were missed on the form.

Please ask questions or offer your own suggestions!

NJ Rules That Mothers Have No Rights in Childbirth

This is too complicated and extensive to reproduce here, but essentially a NJ mother’s refusal of diagnostics and “treatments” in childbirth (practices that aren’t evidence based) as well as her refusal to allow a cesarean resulted in her newborn baby being taken from her.

Interestingly enough, the initial reason for her losing her baby (refusing an unnecessarian – the baby was born vaginally without incident) was thrown out of court.  However, this woman has a history of mental illness, and evidently the court found this history compelling enough to take her baby away for neglect and abuse.  However, she never had a chance to neglect or abuse her newborn since she was taken away immediately following birth.

From what I can tell, she ended up in this horrific situation because:

  1. history of mental illness (this is terrifying; I’m currently medicated for depression and was advised to stay on my meds during pregnancy – do I risk losing my babies at birth if I go AMA?)
  2. refusal of standard procedures in this hospital such as epidural and continuous electronic fetal monitoring
  3. squirming around as hospital personnel tried to MAKE her get an epidural
  4. refusing a cesarean
  5. kicking the OB out of her L&D room

To read more about this case as well as interesting comments from the peanut gallery, see Wise Law Blog’s post and the Volokh Conspiracy’s post.  (Unfortunately the commentary at VC’s site turned into a big abortion and feminism flame war between Dillan, Theo, and later John.)

I will say that this family took their chances going to a hospital (St. Barnabas was featured in Jennifer Block’s Pushed) with a 50% cesarean rate.  Additionally, I’m not sure if they had a clearly outlined birth plan (possible protection in court?) or cesarean “consent” form which would indicate under which, if any, circumstances she would agree to a cesarean.  She also should have had a doula.  This family really did go to McDonalds assuming they could get steak anyway.  Not good.

Tragic.  Terrifying.

Undue Burden and Access to Evidence-Based Maternity Care

I’ve been reading Jennifer Block’s Pushed and really enjoying what a journalist can bring to childbirth advocacy.  I’ve learned many new things – what a nice surprise.  It’s not that I’ve learned everything there is to know about childbirth, but I think I got “stuck” in reading books that basically said the same thing but in different ways.

A new term for me is “undue burden.”  Wikipedia’s definition falls short, in my opinion, but between Block’s discussion of it and other internet sources, I’ve come to understand it better (at least from a layperson’s perspective) and how it might apply to a LOT of women in the childbearing years.

I’ve learned that undue burden has been applied to reproductive rights issues, specifically abortion.  However, I don’t think we advocates have worked this “angle” enough in terms of childbirth choices.  Abortion rights activists have advocated for “morally agnostic undue burden standard[s]” [1]  Likewise, I would call for an “agnostic” undue burden standard applied to childbirth.

The undue burden standard is utilized in American constitutional law and historically has been applied in such areas as abortion rights, affirmative action, tax laws, and more.  The Supreme Court applied this concept to abortion, ruling that a state can’t put up so many obstacles to abortion procedures that a woman’s individual rights are violated.  [2] An undue burden is created when obstacles are severe and/or not justified.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  I feel like I am a victim of undue burden.  I have no reason to believe that I can’t successfully birth my twins naturally.  But the state has deemed that my preference of birth venue is not valid – women with breech babies or multiples are not allowed to birth at home with a licensed midwife.  My choices are to (1) birth unassisted at home, (2) go to the hospital against my will, or (3) enlist the services of an illegal midwife.  Additionally, the only services that would be covered by my insurance are hospital services.

In most states women with breech babies have no choice but to go to the hospital for a cesarean section even though breech presentation has traditionally been referred to as a version of normal.  We’ve lost access to vaginal breech birth.

In most locations women with multiples are pressured to succumb to cesarean surgery.  A number of folks have voiced their concern for my choice to birth these babies vaginally.  They simply don’t know any better.  Luckily I have found an obstetrician who is not afraid of normal birth.  However, I realize now that he may not be there for me when it comes time to go to the hospital.  He takes a week of vacation each month of the summer and is out of town twice next month, my birth month.  I found this out accidentally from his reception staff.

It is possible that I will show up at the hospital and some OB whom I’ve never met will show up and start pressuring me into surgery or ignore (or at least be unaware) of my birth preferences.  So because the state has deemed that twins should not be birthed at home, and because my insurance company won’t cover home birth anyway, I can either “choose” to go to a hospital that doesn’t practice evidence-based obstetrics or go eff myself, I guess.

Isn’t this an example of undue burden?  Lack of access to the care of my choice?  Paying for health care that doesn’t support evidence-based maternity care and forces me to go to a specific hospital in my town with a high cesarean rate and low VBAC rate?  Unjustifiably restricting scope of practice for midwives?  Not offering alternatives/access to the type of care I require?

I don’t want to be a patient.  I don’t see any need to expose myself or my newborns to the hospital environment.  Even my 4 year old doesn’t understand why I would go to the hospital to have babies.  “Mommy, are you sick?”

Don’t get me wrong, if I or the twins needed emergency medical services, you bet we’d go to the hospital.  I’m thankful to have access to obstetrics when necessary, but I resent being forced to utilize services that go against common sense, research, and are expensive and wasteful as applied to the great majority of laboring women.

I hope natural birth advocates, women’s studies researchers and writers, and lawyers will work together to expand application of the undue burden standard to the women who don’t have access to ethical, evidence-based care in childbirth, and are forced instead to incur great expenses to access the care they desire, to hire “illegal” or “under the radar” practitioners, to utilize unwanted services and support the over-payment of those services, or to go at it alone.

Please, give me back my right to birth.  Give me back my body.

1 – “Destacking the cards…,” Gender & Sexuality Law Blog, accessed 7/18/09.
2 – Jennifer Block.  Pushed. p.262.

Cesarean Injury: Another Harrowing Tale

Just today I stumbled upon the blog, The Man-Nurse Diaries.  If the blog title wasn’t interesting enough to catch my attention, his most recent post certainly was:

Nearly Bleeding to Death from a Cesarean Section

You must read it.  MUST!

The timing is interesting and something for me to consider.  I’m not superstitious, per se, but sometimes I do wonder if I am supposed to discover things along my journey at specific times.  Not only am I planning my own twin VBAC and have a persistently breech Baby A, but also I am working on a little project – a VBAC WebQuest.  More on that later.

Stressed: Woulda Shoulda Coulda

Shoulda:  One of my strongest feelings from DD’s birth in 2004 is that I shouldn’t have gone to the hospital.  When my husband started to nag me about getting to the hospital (I was severely dehydrated, and he wanted to take me in to get that treated), I thought, “I couldn’t possibly leave my house right now.”  Somehow I did get in the car and didn’t puke or poop myself on the way to the hospital.  The minute I got there, I *needed* a wheelchair.  I was sick. 

I wasn’t treated for illness.  I was treated for childbirth.

I should have hired a doula.  I thought I was “safe” because I was being attended by a CNM.  I should have reminded her that my birth plan stated no artificial rupture of membranes.  I should have insisted on changing positions even though I was peeing out my butt.  What shouldas are ahead?

Coulda:  I could have told my DH no, I suppose.  I certainly could have told my CNM to go jump when she suggested breaking my water.  What sorts of couldas are ahead?

Woulda:  Had I a “do over,” I’d have stayed put.  Or I would have refused AROM.  I would have changed positions while laboring and for pushing.  I would not have purple pushed.  Not gonna do that again.  Thinking too much about future wouldas is overwhelming.  Let’s not go there.

Woulda shoulda coulda is that much more stressful when you aren’t given options.  I’m not supposed to give birth to twins at home.  That’s risky.  I’m supposed to want to give birth at the hospital.  That’s safe.  Yeah, hospital birth is so safe for American women and their babies that our infant mortality rate ties Poland and Slovakia.

Let’s Find Some Power Birthy Music!

Right now I’m searching for music – music to listen to while I’m gestating away and music to listen to in the hospital.  I’m sure I’ll need to drown out a lot of stuff there.

Anyway, one of the first hits searching for childbirth playlist on google is an article about creating your own playlist

Lua Hancock, 31, of Davie, Fla., was in the midst of having an emergency C-section with her first child when she decided to focus on the music coming from the anesthesiologist’s radio to calm her nerves.

The song playing?

“The First Cut is the Deepest” by Sheryl Crow.

Oh my.

Other recommendations?