What Is Going On in the World of Midwifery?
I received this message from a friend in Germany, “I have to shut down my practice next year. Every month, 23 midwives shut down their practices. The ways to clients become longer and longer and the health insurance companies try not to pay. Now I am going to care for a birth in France, despite the French threat to punish me with a fee for not having French malpractice insurance. So, we officially do the birth in a car directly on the border. The German health insurance will pay for my care, but the French punishment fee will get the income. The situation is horrible. Only midwives in midwife-led units or birth centers will survive; the normal homebirth midwife will not. In five years you won’t find any homebirth midwife in Germany.”
I was just speaking at the homebirth conference in Tasmania. The Australian situation seems almost as bad. There are wonderful, knowledgeable midwives there, but each one seems as if they have been put through the ringer of abuse from medical workers, and often the abuse comes from carrying out the very protocols the hospitals espouse. I am calling it “organization abuse” for lack of a better term. What happens is the midwives’ charts are constantly scrutinized. This goes on until the good ones bolt out of hospital practice.
Our obstetrician midwife friend from Hungary, Ágnes Geréb, has been under house arrest, then in jail and then under house arrest again. Our midwife friend from Russia just got out of jail. The Netherlands, the country of homebirth, is losing many births to hospitals. Around the world midwifery is under threat and we must figure out ways to do something about these issues. We are losing many of our best midwives.
It is interesting that though birth practices are getting worse, there are lights along the way. New Zealand still has a good system. The midwives from Iceland report good progress, and, as I wrote about before, China is determined to lower the cesarean rate and have more humane births. My friends in Spain tell me things are getting better there. We will be in Germany for our conference October 17–21, 2012. Join us as we make plans of how to change the world of birth for the better for MotherBaby. Our conferences are always places of peace and fun where we plan, organize and refill participants with the enthusiasm they need to fight the issues for another year!
— Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today
Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.
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Ágnes Geréb’s House Arrest
Dr. Ágnes Geréb, a Hungarian obstetrician and midwife, is currently under house arrest for supporting women in homebirth.
Homebirth in Hungary is legal, but any medical professional without a special license can be criminally charged for helping women birth at home.
Geréb has supported over 3500 homebirths amid the threat of arrest because she believes women should have choice in birth.
Geréb has been sentenced to two years in prison. Earlier this year, the court of appeal doubled the suspension period of her medical and midwifery licenses to 10 years. (There is an international petition to support Ágnes Geréb that already has over 10,000 signatures.)
— Harman, T. 2012. “Ágnes Geréb and the Case for Human Rights in Childbirth.” The Huffington Post. Last updated May 24, 2012. Accessed July 26, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toni-harman/filming-agnes-gereb_b_1539595.html
Women’s Gynecologic Health, Second Edition
Women’s Gynecologic Health, Second Edition, is an award-winning text that provides a strong foundation in women’s gynecologic health, including health promotion, maintenance and treatment. Based on the most recent research, the authors provide authoritative content written from a feminist perspective to convey a holistic approach to care. Order today and save 20% at http://go.jblearning.com/schuiling with Promotion Code WGHMT.
Birth Herbs and Homeopathics: Stats and Stories
When I first became involved with birth over thirty years ago, resources were extremely limited. Most of the books that are in print now had not been written yet and my information came from herbal books and studies. Initially I used dry herbs and made teas, as that was what was available. I’m not sure at what point I started using tinctures, as I lost everything in a fire in 1986. All my statistics are from after that time.
Tinctures have several advantages. They retain their potency indefinitely, are less bulky than herbs and are readily available for use at births without prior preparation.
The first book relating to homeopathy and birth came out in 1992—Homeopathic Medicines for Pregnancy and Childbirth by Richard Moskewitz, MD. I began studying this method. Homeopathics have advantages such as no taste, which can be a significant factor in labor. They are also even less bulky and heavy to carry than tinctures when attending homebirths. Homeopathics can be made from herbs as well as many other substances. Homeopathic refers to the process used to make these remedies. Herbs can be used dried to make tea with or as tinctures generally added to a small amount of water. I have seen more dramatic results with homeopathics although I have had good success with some herbs as well. Nothing I relate here has been studied in a controlled, scientific way, but rather through observation and experience.
I began to look at my records systematically when one of my apprentices expressed the belief that using castor oil to induce labor was a sin. I decided I should know how often it worked. One thing that frustrated me with earlier herbal information was the complete lack of dosage, timing or rate of effectiveness. Books would say blue and black cohosh were good to start uterine contractions. Period.
Most of my experience with castor oil appears to have been prior to 1986 as I could find only ten instances of use. Once it worked to speed a lagging labor. Twice labor started after several hours, and once castor oil worked after herbs failed with a mom who had had spontaneous ruptured membranes for forty-eight hours. Four out of ten did not seem great odds to me, considering the difficulties caused by taking it. I have mostly dropped it from my practice, though I know other midwives who swear by it. I recently learned that the best thing to put it in is a carbonated drink, which cuts the oil much better than juice.
— Diane Gregg
Excerpted from “Birth Herbs and Homeopathics: Stats and Stories,” Midwifery Today, Issue 80
View table of contents / Order the back issue
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What are the appropriate uses of medicinal herbs based on tradition and science?
Botanical Medicine in Midwifery Practice will help you find the answers.
Learn the use of extracts and the differences between standard, alcohol and water based preparations. This book includes a glossary of plant categories and a comprehensive list of herbal resources, products and supplies. The final section provides information about essential herbs for women.
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Midwifery Today Back Issues have the information you need!
From second stage and prematurity to birth change and natural remedies, back issues of Midwifery Today print magazine are packed with informative articles that will help you improve your practice. You’ll also find inspiring birth stories, birth news, poetry and stunning black and white photography. Choose from these available back issues.
Learn about Shoulder Dystocia and Malpresentations with Midwifery Today’s new 4-CD Audio Set
When you order this CD set you’ll be able to listen to Gail Hart, Mary Cooper and Ina May Gaskin as they discuss a variety of important topics. Material covered includes how to identify true vs. false shoulder dystocia, how nutrition can be one of the best methods of prevention and how to assist shoulder dystocia when it does happen during birth. Also included is information about malpresentations such as twin, breech and asynclitic births and brow, face and periatel presentations.
Order the audio CD set.
See how touch can be used during labor and birth
When you watch Nurturing Touch for Birth you’ll see the integrated use of touch during two home and two hospital births. The powerful imagery, evocative music, and inspiring narration all illustrate vividly the importance and power of touch. This DVD is perfect for childbirth education classes and doula trainings, and will also be an inspiration to midwives, nurses, and pregnant mothers and their birth companions. Buy the DVD.
Placenta rituals, remedies and recipes…
…are what you’ll find in Placenta: The Gift of Life. Read this book to discover the various ways placentas have been used by people around the world and throughout the ages. You’ll also find 15 recipes that will show you how to use the placenta in ointments, essences and other remedies for a variety of ailments. Placenta: The Gift of Life is a book from Motherbaby Press, an imprint of Midwifery Today.
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Q: What herbs do you recommend for pregnancy and/or lactation and why?
— Midwifery Today
A: For pregnancy, I recommend nettle and red raspberry leaf. Nettle is a great all-around tonic, supplying many minerals, especially iron, which is often low during pregnancy. Red raspberry leaf is tonifying to the uterus and supplies vitamins and minerals for the mother and baby. Other great herbs are alfalfa for vitamin K, which helps prevent hemorrhage, and skullcap, which aids in muscle cramping and restless legs that are so common in pregnancy.
— Rachel MacPherson Crouse
A: Cumin seeds, carom seeds, fennel and fenugreek—especially in the early lactation period. A decoction made by boiling these together, cooling and drinking improves digestion in the new mom, as well as improves breast milk production. I often advise new moms to drink it warm several times a day.
— Vijaya Krishnan
A: Goats Rue (a galactagogue) can help increase lactation and milk supply in breastfeeding mothers. It can also help mothers to re-lactate if they have stopped for a short time.
— Meagan Wilkins
A: Raspberry leaf tea from 34 weeks; one cup daily for uterine tone/efficient contractions resulting in a shorter labour. It doesn’t seem to work in OP labours, but it does increase milk production post birth. Wonderful stuff! I usually only give to primips though, as multips get wicked afterpains!
— Stephanie Getty
You want to be a midwife, but where do you start?
Are you an aspiring midwife who’s looking for the right school? Or maybe you’re trying to decide if midwifery is the path for you. Visit our Better Birth Education Opportunities page to discover ways to start or continue your education.
Nettle Leaf (Urica diocca) is rich in calcium, iron and other vitamins and minerals. Nettle is a nourishing herb, mild diuretic, helps increase flow of milk and aids in restoring and rebuilding the mother’s energy following childbirth.
— Mothering Herbs, herbs and herbal products for the pregnancy year and beyond
Wild foods and organically grown produce, grains and herbs are the best source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed during pregnancy. All the better if the expectant mother can get out and gather her own herbs: stretching, bending, breathing, moving, touching the earth, taking time to talk with the plants and to open herself to their spiritual world.
— Susun Weed
Dandelion root tea increases digestion and promotes bile to relieve constipation. It is one of the best herbs for cleansing and strengthening the liver, our main detoxifying organ. The liver breaks down hormones no longer needed by the body after birth and any drugs that may have been given at birth. Containing calcium and iron, roasted dandelion root [with its] coffee-like flavor is an excellent morning beverage. Add a handful of the fresh leaves, high in vitamin A, to other greens in salads. Drink dandelion leaf tea if a diuretic is needed to relieve fluid retention. Because of its high potassium content, it does not deplete the body of this important mineral, as other diuretics are known to do.
— Motherlove, an herbal personal care and supplement line specifically designed for pregnant and breastfeeding women
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Make the vision of natural birth available for all to see.
Ask your library to order natural birth and midwifery books for you. When a mother has more information about natural birth available to her, she can make more educated decisions about how she wants to birth her baby. Making requests is easy; here’s how.
A Harrisburg Conference Review
The following is an excerpt of feedback we received from a participant of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, conference held in April, 2012:
It was incredible! I came away so inspired and blessed, and totally confident in my calling as a midwife. It amazed me to see so many dedicated birth workers all gathered together in love and respect with a common goal: to support and protect the sanctity of birth.
I learned so much, and I found myself almost immediately afterwards in situations where I was very glad for the ability to apply that newly-acquired knowledge. Every class I took taught me something wonderful. The teachers were fantastic.
Perhaps the best—and the most compelling—aspect of the conference, at least for me, was the fellowship. The birth community is so ripped up with conflict and jealousy. It was priceless to be able to share in total openness with labor and delivery nurses, nurse-midwives, non-certified midwives, doulas, obstetricians and moms. I felt so refreshed and healed and lifted out of the smallness of human quarrelling. I experienced an oxytocin high that continued way beyond the conference. Awesome!
With my first baby, we got the date horribly wrong. I thought I had several more months and was just beginning to research midwives (but hadn’t settled on one) when I went into labor. My husband and I didn’t realize until too late what was going on, so our first birth was just the two of us, baby born into his daddy’s arms after a few short hours of labor.
The entire time I was at peace and did everything my body wanted. This experience taught me two unexpected things. First, I am convinced that every woman is hard-wired with the understanding of how to bring a baby into this world. I knew all the right things to do and when to do them without being told (I did loads of research afterward that confirmed this). And second, there is nothing more empowering than giving birth completely on your own strength. I know to the core of my being that if I can do that, I can do anything!
— Ariya Boone
“Do you know what?” my grandchildren often say when they are eager to tell me something. I listen with delight as they tell me “what.”
Now I have a “Do you know what?” that I am eager to tell you about—my poem, “Birth Incantation.”
I wrote this poem 33 years ago after photographing Linda Honey’s birth of her daughter Mirinda. Linda is a skilled, trusting midwife and dear friend. As she walked in labor, Linda saw herself in a mirror. She stopped, stared and exclaimed, “I look so ancient!”
Linda’s words resonated deeply with me, and months later “Birth Incantation” was born. Busy with births, I filed the poem with other writings. Recently I found it in a folder and knew it was time to bring forth this timeless affirmation of birthing women that begins, “I am ancient as I birth…”
The words of this poem fit beautifully on Pregnancy Mandala, a design I created from a pregnancy photograph of Linda that reflects layered nuances of pregnancy and creative energy of the womb.
“Birth Incantation” is available as art prints and on note cards. Please visit www.harriettehartigan.com to view and purchase.
— Harriette Hartigan, InSight Photography
[Editor’s Note: Check out Brought to Earth by Birth, a collection of Harriette’s black and white photographs.]
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