Western Culture & Colonization of Birth

Western Culture

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The West encourages reading and the attendance of Childbirth Education classes, along with other strategies for birthing.  In traditional cultures women “…prepare more symbolically.  They avoid all actions and thoughts that have anything to do with ‘getting stuck’ or ‘closing up’ and work on ‘letting go’. In traditional societies, women often go to midwives to confirm the pregnancy and then again only if there are special problems… (Nichols & Humenick,145)” prior to childbirth.

Another aspect is that most women within many traditional cultures used to be more directly involved in the childbearing and child birthing aspects from a young age. Her mother or aunts and grandmother would have taught her about the processes of childbearing and childbirth during childhood and/or adolescent years.  The concepts used to have “…been integrated into her maturity into adulthood (Ibid.)”. It would have come from her experiential life and stories told to her instead of a class or books.

Unfortunately, much of this kind of experience and tradition has been lost or is no longer practiced today by women. Some of the other women will talk about this or that grandma who was a midwife, and who may have been allowed at IHS for a birth. When I have asked women, they mostly talk about a more negative experience of their childbirth, if they speak up.

Traditionally, the birth of a baby was in the home, not a hospital.  Some cultures used “a special hut [that] is constructed for that purpose ;…(Ibid)”. But today, birthing mostly takes place in a hospital setting.

Close to the reservation are border towns, where bias and prejudice color the atmosphere of birth. Due to past experiences with IHS, many women may opt to not have their babies at these hospitals. Without midwives to deliver locally, this is what women on the Rosebud (Sicangu Oyate) Reservation face today.

In border towns, the hospitals have their own regulations as to who may attend the birth. They may also decide on whether a woman can have assisted births (Nurse-midwives/doulas/or family supporters).

De-Colonization of Birth
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In the 90s, several women, including myself, were having weekly meetings regarding birth in Indian country. Each week we would have speakers come to share their stories and ideas.

I found it interesting that the biggest objections came via a native woman who was working at IHS. She bluntly stated that no midwife would work through the IHS hospital in Rosebud, if she had a say.

IHS or PHS is a government funded health organization in the United States intended specifically for native health care.  Unfortunately it has its own regulations based upon the government in which native people have been the object of clinical abuse and government sanctioned studies [such as the Eugenics Program; See: ]. The intent of these studies was to lower native populations.

Such historical actions color the way in which indigenous women see childbirth in the dominant society. It creates an atmosphere of distrust in native women, that they too would be subject to similar treatment.

And lest we forget, there have been studies that demonstrated genetic memories. So whether the Eugenics Program was known to them or not, the emotional trauma would still be triggered.

Native women feel marginalized by non-native providers of health care, due to attitudes of the providers. If native health care providers are not available, cultural competence of the health care provider that is on hand is an essential for the indigenous person giving birth. In a study conducted with first-nations women, specially the Mi’kmaq, Lothian stated that “Women need to be assured they can have trust in the birth process (Lavell-Harvard & Lavelle, 50)”.

There are native women who have become Doulas, and who are nurse-midwives. In Vancouver, BC there is a group of women from the Squamish people working to assist women [Ekw’i7tl Doula Collective]. In Minnesota there is a group of native people from the Anishinabe that is training women in Doula work, Childbirth Education, and Breastfeeding [Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming /Bemidji, MN]. In New Mexico the first native birthing center [The Changing Woman Initiative] is being developed for  indigenous women.

 

 

 

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Cultural Perspectives on Childbirth

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Every aspect of who we are from our behaviors to our learning processes is framed by our culture. The whole idea of a “melting pot” in America where many cultures blend to become one culture, is a fallacy.  People of like cultural and ethnic background tend to gravitate towards what is similar and familiar.  It shapes their identity.

This is particularly true of treaty nations (indigenous peoples) who struggle to keep their own tribal identity. Even in the cities, away from reservations, native people gravitate toward what is familiar and comfortable (besides where else would they get some Indian Tacos?).

Every indigenous group has their own cultural beliefs, rituals and traditions. Even for pregnancy and childbirth.  How childbirth took place was shaped by cultural values, ways of knowing, and framed within ritual and belief.

Unfortunately the cultural aspects were not all preserved and kept in all tribal groups, due encroachment from white society.  This encroachment has created a rift in fabric of cultural life. “The culture in which people grow up is one of the key influences on the way they see and react to the world and the way they behave (Nichols & Humenick, 139).”

For many cultures, including the Lakota, pregnancy and childbirth is much more than just a physical act.  It is believed that a spiritual force is at work.  Concepts, customs, and traditions develop around these spiritual beliefs.

Here are some of the sites I found, for other cultures:

http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/immexico_healing.asp

http://www.louisianafolklife.org/LT/Articles_Essays/main_misc_wait_babies.html

http://ihst.midwife.org/ihst/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000000004/IHS%20Midwives.pdf

Multi-cultural Beliefs

Within each indigenous culture are the ideas and concepts that surround the actions of the pregnant woman, her diet, how others should act when around her.  Some ideas and traditions actually carry across into multiple cultures around the world.

One concept has to do with knots and ties. That if these were within view of a pregnant woman, or she stepped across them, it would cause the umbilical cord to be tangled at birth. Another has to do with actions of others. If you fight around a pregnant woman or with one, it causes problems with her pregnancy.

For most indigenous cultures there are concepts taught regarding the spiritual aspects of birth and early childhood. There is a belief that a female spirit that assists in childbirth, for the Lakota people, and also assists the soul of the child in “picking” the family in which they will be born.  In western society, what they call the “Mongolian Marks” is what this female makes when a spirit is born in our world.

Infants and young children (until age 5) are considered “sacred beings” and our actions with them must be tempered by this belief.  They are closer to the spirit world, in Lakota belief.

Because of the spiritual forces in play, many indigenous cultures had and still practice rituals at the birth of a child.  This is due to the understanding that childbearing and childbirth are a sacred act.

This may not necessarily be understood by present-day women within the culture, but in their soul and spirit the women do recognize that modern medicine’s “managed care” works against the traditions and ageless wisdom of their tribe.  This is true whether they have a traditional spiritual base and upbringing in their lives or they have adopted non-traditional religious practice. Their sense of “knowing” from their soul, speaks out against what is not natural and a part of the spiritual birthing process.

Next: the Western Culture & De-Colonization of Birthing

Birth Trauma Part 3

According to Cheryl Tatano Beck, traumatic birth is defined as “an event occurring during the labor and delivery process that involves actual or threatened serious injury or death to the mother  or her infant. The birthing woman experiences intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and horror” she had later revised that statement to include the woman feeling stripped of her dignity.

What is the cause of women perceiving their birth experience as traumatic? It is the systemic elimination of protective care during the birthing process.

In Beck’s study of 40 women she says that there were four themes that emerged. Theme #1 was to care for the women and treating them as human beings. Theme #2: Lack of Communication.  Theme #3 was safety. Theme #4: The ends will justify the means.

With theme One: #1 women feeling they were objectified, and treated arrogantly and with a lack of empathy. The women were #2 left alone, and abandoned. The #3 birthing mother’s needs were not met by the hospital staff. An example given was of a woman from Puerto Rico who was on all fours, when a nurse brought in 20 students to observe…without her consent.

In theme Two: #1 no one communicated with the woman in labor. They were described as having conversations with one another within earshot but not directly talking with or to the laboring mother. As if she were non-existent.

In the third theme:  the #1 laboring mothers felt that the staff (nurses and doctors) did not adequately deliver safe care. #2 The mothers were not being allowed input into the care being given for their own selves and actually fearing for their own and / or the infant’s life!

In theme Four:  entailed #1 the sense that what was endured and experienced by the mothers was the sense of being “pushed to the background” as everyone around them were celebrating the baby’s healthy birth. These women #2 felt invisible, only the infant mattered.

The experiences mothers have had led to severe post-partum trauma and depression.  Beck, Driscoll, and Watson’s book Traumatic Birth goes into detail about feedback loops [pp. 10-12] that describe the interaction of the mother and child after a traumatic birth, with a listing of the causes and consequences of the cause. Sometimes even breastfeeding is difficult, creating “…intruding flashbacks, disturbing detachments with their infants, feeling violated, enduring physical pain, and insufficient milk supply…” Often the anniversary of a traumatic birth amplifies the feedback loop.

 …

My own reaction to the shared experiences the women in this book had illustrated the barbarism of western medical professionals, a barbarism that is completely contrary to those principles I listed from the ACOG website in part #2.

The women who tell their story of childbirth weave an astounding sense of personal alienation.  It is no wonder that there is PTSD, depression, self-destructive behaviors, socially isolationistic behaviors and pelvic floor injuries as a result of the improper calloused form of care received. Many of the women feel as though they were raped, yet most had no “history of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse” so birth precipitated  a sense of having “the loss of the soul”.

I only touched on a small portion of the book in these three posts. In the next few blogs, I would like to address how we can alter the outcome for women in these circumstances and possibly change childbirth for women.

Birth Trauma – Part 2

What can you do to prevent problems in labor, and miscommunication with your doctor? My recommendation is to follow the recommended diet for pregnancy, exercise (for pregnant women), drink a lot of water, and attend to the prenatal visits.

Never be afraid to ask questions!

Why a certain test is being done, what does that word mean, etc. Some things I can assist you with during the Childbirth Education coursework…but asking the questions of your doctor is important. You get to know your doctor, and he/she can get to know you.

Your right as a patient is to have any procedure or test explained to you, by your doctor.

Questions such as:

-Is the particular procedure / test done because it is required?
-Who requires it?
-Why is it required?
-Is it because of doctor concern? What precipitated that concern?

Your doctor is not GOD.

If the doctor is not responding to your questions or you are not comfortable with the explanation / or attitude of the doctor you still can address the issue. Sometimes just a rewording of your question is helpful.  If still you are not being listened to, the following outlines your rights…

HIPPA law outlines a patient’s rights:

To Clear Communication

The AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics clearly states that it is a fundamental ethical requirement that a physician should at all times deal honestly and openly with patients. Patients have a right to know their past and present medical status and to be free of any mistaken beliefs concerning their conditions.
[https://www.emedicinehealth.com/patient_rights/article_em.htm#communication ]

To Informed Consent

Informed consent involves the patient’s understanding of the following:

  • What the doctor is proposing to do
  • Whether the doctor’s proposal is a minor procedure or major surgery
  • The nature and purpose of the treatment
  • Intended effects versus possible side effects
  • The risks and anticipated benefits involved
  • All reasonable alternatives including risks and possible benefits.

[https://www.emedicinehealth.com/patient_rights/article_em.htm#informed_consent ]

Within the perimeters of informed consent, the doctor ethically understands the responsibility of:

  • The patient being told what the doctor is going to do
  • That the patient is helped to understand the medical implications
  • Whether it is a minor or major procedure
  • The risks and benefits
  • Alternatives with the information about risks and benefits

The patient rights also include:

  • Freedom from force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion
  • The right to refuse or withdraw without influencing the patient’s future healthcare
  • The right to ask questions and to negotiate aspects of treatment

    The 3rd part follows in one week…

Birth Trauma – Part 1

Many things come up during the labor and birthing of a baby. These may or may not be emergency-level events. A woman in labor is focused on the process they are involved in: birth. The woman may not be aware of what is being discussed around them, nor the things happening that may alter their ideals of the “perfect”  birth.

Here are some things that may occur:

  • Slow dilation of the cervix
  • Labor stalling
  • Movement of the baby stops
  • Blood pressure of the mother rises

Often doctors in the hospital will want to intervene. The remedies may be interventions that you really do not need.

These interventions could possibly be:

  • Monitors
  • IV insertion
  • Inducing labor (Pitocin)
  • Or even the decision to have a c-Section (read my blog post on this here: )

The first two  can be alleviated by using gravity (walking, dancing, leaning forward onto the labor bed with feet on the floor and doing squats). Usually stressors or nervousness are the cause.

With Labor stalling, if already dilated 6-7cm, it could very well be a natural stall while going into the next stage of labor or “Transition” (Balaskas 127-131). Body tension can also effect how labor progression.

Low moaning sounds are effective here, in that the vocal cords being activated relaxes the sphincter muscle group of the pelvic floor, as Ina May states ” The state of relaxation of the mouth and jaw is directly correlated with the ability of the cervix, the vagina, and the anus to open to full capacity (Ina Mays Guide, 170). The sphincter muscles will close due to stress or fear. Goer suggests that “obstetric management can obstruct progress (The Thinking Woman’s, 108)”

Remember: Babies are birthed when they are READY. Not on some sort of perceived time schedule.  This is a process that cannot be forced.

If the baby stops movement, inform your doctor. You can use “kick counts” as a method to monitor movements if you are concerned. In active labor, the baby tends to move in a spiral as baby moves into birthing position . Sometimes stopping movement for a short period of time can be an indicator of  the baby 1) shifting position 2) resting before birthing.

Blood pressure issues could be gestational diabetes, or just stress. The cause for the blood pressure rising needs to be found. High blood pressure is also a symptom of pre-eclampsia. But if you were not having signs of this condition and diagnosed in pregnancy (which is why prenatal visits are essential) then it may be something else.

Of course, water by mouth could assist in lowering the blood pressure level. Here is suggested reading for you to understand the seriousness of this condition: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Preeclampsia-and-High-Blood-Pressure-During-Pregnancy

So now we move onto the second part of this discussion, published one week from this page.

A Good Question

What needs to happen, in order to fix a broken system? Your probably wondering what I mean by a broken system. I am talking about the care of women, and especially birthing.

In a nation that has been considered “advanced” we are so far behind the eight-ball that it becomes shameful. Our c-Section rates were seriously through-the-roof, and although some improvement has been made still higher than most “civilized” countries! The average being around 31%.

Along  with that outrageous number of c-Sections are the ever-climbing mortality rates of women in birth, predominately women of color. This is shameful in a country that is supposed to be “advanced”!

On top of both high c-Section rates, and high mortality rates for birthing, is the across-the-racial-board birth trauma. It should NEVER happen! But, we have nurses and doctors who force women into procedures, who intimidate and threaten.

The media makes it seem that birth is both dangerous and extremely painful. When that consciousness is embedded in the psyche of women, and you have a medical field that relies on mechanical means to monitor births… the stage is set. We have normalized bad birthing practices, and outdated concepts about birth.

That is without discussing the current political scenarios.

The next few blogs will address the history behind, and the current information about birthing in the United States. The outdated concepts surrounding birth practices need debunking. The normalization of bad birthing practices needs to have a light shown upon it, in order to make it STOP.

It is time to become educated,

get angry,

and create a change!

My sister site will also be publishing this information, although later, at joyousbirth

Asparagus

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Asparagus spp.

Fresh Shoots – A. Officinalis.

Useful for mild cases of cystitus, fluid retention and for slight cases of edema. After urination you can smell a distinct aroma that is caused by t breakdown of asparagus in the system.

It is an excellent source of folic acid and selenium.

Dried Root – A. Racemosus / Shatavari (Ayurvedic Medicine)

Shatavari means “she who possesses a hundred husbands” due to its usages. Used for debilities associated with female sexual organs. It has rejuvenitory properties. It can assist with fertility issues.

About Shatavari

Recipe with Fresh Shoots

Prepare shoots for cooking. While preparing pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet lightly with oil. lightly spray shoots and roll in raw sesame seeds, lay on the cookie sheet spread slightly apart. Bake until the seeds are a golden brown. Enjoy.

Orange

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Citris Aurantium: Fresh Fruit

Both the unripe and ripe fruits are used in Chinese Medicine. The unripe bitter fruit is more potent. The unripe bitter fruit (zhi shi) is used for constipation or to move stagnant chi energy. It can be used to make an expectorant for coughs. This bitter fruit is NOT recommended for use in pregnancy.

The ripe fruit has multiple properties for the pregnant woman. It is high in vitamin C and when eaten with the pulp, it contains Rutin.

A Small Orange contains the following nutrients:

Amount Per  1 small (2-3/8″ dia) (96 g) 100 grams 1 fruit (2-5/8″ dia)
Calories 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.1 g 0%
Saturated fat 0 g 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 0 mg 0%
Potassium 174 mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 11 g 3%
Dietary fiber 2.3 g 9%
Sugar 9 g
Protein 0.9 g 1%

 

Vitamin A 4% Vitamin C 85%
Calcium 3% Iron 0%
Vitamin D 0% Vitamin B-6 5%
Vitamin B-12 0% Magnesium 2%

 

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

 

Sweet Orange Essence Oil

The essence oil of the sweet orange blossom can be used in a diffuser for lack of energy and / or depression. Sweet Orange is an excellent choice for women who are having difficulty in labor and who are lacking energy. Do not use the essence oil in the bath during pregnancy, and use with extreme caution with infants present. Be sure to dilute with a carrier oil, such as Sunflower or Almond.

Neroli Essence Oil
Citris bigaradia

Neroli is derived from the bitter orange blossom.  It should not be used during pregnancy, but can be used during labor and right after delivery. Neroli helps with stress, fright, exhaustion, and shock. It is also great for anxiety. An excellent choice when there are complications in labor causing the mother to be exhausted, and anxious. If there has been a traumatic birth it will assist with the shock after the birth. Use only with the advice of a trained professional who knows about aromatherapeutic treatments. Do not use in a bath and limit its use around infants.

What’s Next?

In the next few blogs I will be discussing the healing aspects and nutritional aspects of some common foods. These are beneficial for a variety of reasons and good to use in dishes, or to have whole, on your plate!

These particular foods I would recommend to include in your diet for a healthier pregnancy…

 

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These will be:

Tomatoes
Garlic
Onions
Asparagus
Cabbage
Orange
Peppers
Yams
Apples
Ginger Root
Plum

Any warnings for pregnancy and lactation will be included, and where possibility of a recipe or two. All references for these are on my reference page.

NOTE: Imagery is from free-domain imagery sites.  If I have used any images that are not free to use, please email me [rosebud.cbe@gmail.com] and I will remove them.

Natural Contraception – Part 1

chart

Many women have said to me “Oh, charting is just too much bother”.  Well, is it too much bother to pencil in your eyebrows and put on lipstick before you leave the front door? This is YOUR body, it is your health we are talking about.  Once you get the blank charts, it probably will take you five minutes. Easy peezy… like tying your shoe laces!

Waking Temperature

Why do it?

  • you can see when you are ovulating
  • tell when you can have safe sex without unwanted pregnancy
  • see when you are no longer fertile (Great for when you want a “green light” for safe sex” or when you are trying to get pregnant, it is not gonna happen…
  • indicates when you will get your menses
  • potential issues with period

How to do it
glass thermometer
When you first wake up, before you drink water or anything else.  Everyday, including during your menses. If possible, take your temperature at the same time each day. Note the time on your chart. The later in the day, the higher the temperature…so if you forget to do the temperature upon waking, you need to note the time.

If your thermometer is digital, make sure to wait until it beeps.  The reading would then be more accurate. A glass thermometer, should be left in the mouth a full five minutes.  Shake it down the night before or at least remember to do so before you take the temperature for that day.

Take your temperature ORALLY.

Also note on your chart if you have had unusual events in your life, such as: stress, illness, are traveling, or you are moving. These events can affect your temperature.