June 19, 2013
Volume 15, Issue 13
Midwifery Today E-News
“Herbs for Labor”
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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 also includes a glossary of plant categories and a comprehensive list of herbal resources, products and supplies. The final section consists of information about essential herbs for women. To order MT online store

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Plan now to attend our conference in Belgium this fall.

Belgium conferenceMark your calendars and save the date. This is your chance to learn from teachers such as Robbie Davis-Floyd (pictured), Michel Odent, Gail Hart, Gail Tully and Verena Schmid. Choose from a wide variety of classes, including Using Rebozo, Homebirth, Prenatal Care, Midwifery Practice in Hospitals, and Positions in Labor.

Learn more about the Belgium conference.

In This Week’s Issue

Quote of the Week

Used successfully by midwives for years to ease labor pain and reduce the need of drug intervention, herbs can also progress a stalled labor, slow bleeding, calm anxiety, provide focus and give renewed strength and nourishment.

Kathryn Cox

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The Art of Midwifery

Chamomile: This is the classic calming herb. It is great for colicky babies or cranky parents. The smell alone imbues relaxation. In tea form it is soothing to the skin and makes a lovely hair rinse.

Lisa Goldstein, excerpted from “Herbs for Emotional States,” Birth Wisdom: Tricks of the Trade, Vol. III, a Midwifery Today book
View table of contents / Order the book

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Jan’s Corner

Power to Motherbaby

It is time to get the fetal ejection response working in all births possible. Let’s find ways to keep the power with the mother so she can say, “I did it myself,” and enjoy the amazing oxytocic birth high. Let’s find ways to encourage her strong feelings because that is so helpful for her transition into motherhood.

Herbs are important in midwifery. They are generally easier on the systems of mother and baby if the right ones are used. My concern is that anything used routinely or unnecessarily can take the mother’s power from her. Using herbs to augment, induce and even strengthen the labor are interventions and we need to be conscious of all that we do. Ask yourself, “Do I need to do this, and if so, why? Will her body do this naturally on its own? Am I just doing my routine?” We need to relearn to trust the birth process, the mother’s body and the baby’s body in their innate ability to birth.

Midwifery is a beautiful calling. The privilege and joy to be present at the coming of a new life is beyond humbling. Let’s be sure to constantly look at ourselves in order to stay worthy of this sacred trust. While doing this we always must remember that sometimes, beyond our greatest efforts, things can go wrong. This means our knowledge and skills must always be kept current, with our intuition and heart always in the “on” position.

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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Products for Fertility, Pregnancy & Nursing Health


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Featured Article

Herbs for the Childbearing Year

When I wrote Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year 25 years ago, people asked me how I could be sure the herbs I wrote about were actually safe for pregnant women. After all, everyone knew that herbs are not safe to use during pregnancy. This view, that herbs and pregnancy don’t mix, is still prevalent and it is just as wrong now as it was then. Herbs are safe, and what’s more, they promote health and ease distress as effectively as and more safely than pharmaceutical remedies, before, during and after the childbearing year.

I am not proposing that all herbs are safe. With more than 10,000 plants used medicinally worldwide, there is bound to be enormous variance. Herbs are not alike in their actions or risks. While it is true that some herbs contain constituents that can injure us and some are source materials for powerful drugs, most herbs are more similar to foods than to drugs. Most herbs are safe for pregnant and lactating women when taken in appropriate forms.

For safety’s sake, we want to:

  • Avoid the use of herbs that are aromatic. We can use dandelion rather than mint to settle the stomach, oatstraw rather than chamomile to calm the nerves and raspberry leaf rather than ginger root to allay nausea. Aromatic herbs contain volatile oils that can be harsh on the liver and kidneys; they are best used sparingly during the childbearing year. Avoid strongly scented herbs during the early months of pregnancy.
  • Avoid the use of herbs that are in capsules. The safest herbal preparations are dried herbs (brewed at home into teas and infusions) and homemade herbal vinegars and honeys made with fresh plants. Teas, infusions, vinegars and honeys are easy and inexpensive to make. They are effective yet safe, even in large quantities. Capsules are widely sold, but they constitute the least effective, most expensive and most dangerous way to take herbs. Avoid encapsulated herbs while pregnant.
  • Avoid the use of herbs that are from a foreign country. Vitex is a better choice than maca, and motherwort is a better choice than dong quai. Imported herbs can be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and viruses. They generally have less quality control. Many patented Chinese “herbal” medicines contain drugs. While pregnant, avoid herbs you aren’t familiar with.
  • Avoid the direct consumption of fresh herbs. I enjoy eating unwashed salad greens from my garden and believe the micro-flora I’m ingesting is good for my gut. Fresh plants are naturally host to colonies of bacteria, yeasts, molds, viruses and other microorganisms. When we are pregnant, we need to be more concerned about exposure to even these common, and often beneficial, life forms. Boiling water will kill most of them. Fresh herbs are generally safe during the childbearing year if they are brewed into teas, put up in pasteurized vinegar or preserved in honey. Be cautious about eating raw foods while pregnant.

Susun Weed
Excerpted from “Herbs for the Childbearing Year,” Midwifery Today, Issue 104
View table of contents / Order the back issue

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Learn more about the third stage of labor!
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The Third Stage of Labor e-book is packed with information about the umbilical cord, the placenta and natural approaches to this phase of birth. This collection of 15 articles from past issues of Midwifery Today magazine includes “Placenta Accreta by Marion Toepke McLean, “Cord Burning” by Kelly Dunn, “On Meconium at Home and Delayed Cord-cutting” by Naolí Vinaver, “Placenta Rituals and Folklore from Around the World” by Sarah J. Buckley and “The Problem Is Induction, Not Meconium” by Gail Hart. Buy your copy and have it with you at the next birth you attend!

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Choose your classes from our Eugene 2013 conference!

Bring the conference home with your choice of classes on a portable USB drive. Classes available include Midwifery Skills, Developing Your Breech Skills, The First Hour after Birth, Shoulder Dystocia, Art in Midwifery and Birth, Prolonged Labor and Malpresentation. Just go here to select the classes you want and place your order.

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Learn the essentials of supportive touch.
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In Touch Techniques for Birth, Leslie Piper, LMT, and Leslie Stager, RN, LMT, show you how to make touch a part of your midwifery practice. You’ll learn about contraindications, acupressure, reflexology, hydrotherapy, general comfort strokes, pain relieving techniques and more. A special feature includes a midwife’s story of the use of belly rub and emotional support to encourage labor. This DVD belongs in your midwifery library! Get the DVD.

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A 72-page quarterly print publication filled with in-depth articles, birth stories from around the world, stunning birth photography, news, reviews and more. Subscribe. Midwifery Today Magazine

Put the gift of beautiful birth in her hands.
Brought to Earth by Birth Give Brought to Earth by Birth, a collection of black and white photographs by Harriette Hartigan, one of the world’s master birth photographers. It makes a beautiful gift for your midwife or doula, for expectant or new moms, for grandmothers and for anyone who loves babies and birth. And remember to order a copy for yourself!
Order the book.

Website Update

Read this editorial by Jan Tritten from the brand-new Summer 2013 of Midwifery Today:

  • Thoughts about Breech Birth

    Excerpt: Midwifery Today is concerned with the need for midwives to reclaim breech, twin and VBAC births. It is important that midwives gain the skills, experience and knowledge necessary to safely assist these births. Most doctors have lost knowledge of vaginal breech birth by allowing their few skills to get rusty as they needlessly perform cesareans for breech babies.

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Birth Q&A

Q: What are your favorite herbs for birth complications?

— Midwifery Today

A: Rescue Remedy! Everyone gets a few drops—mom, dad, doulas, friends and midwife.

— Angie Flanagan-Herzberger

A: Angelica to bring the placenta; witch hazel, shepherd’s purse and cayenne for hemorrhage; and Rescue Remedy for any sort of maternal stress.

— Erica Obert

A: I have used TriLight Herbs for years. I love Hem Halt and Placenta Ease. I have seen Hem Halt work more quickly than Pitocin!

— Christy Birthkeeper Fiscer

A: I use lobelia to rub baby’s back for wet lungs and tachypnea; Cotton root to increase contractions during labor and postpartum; and Beth root for a stubborn cervix. Homeopathic remedies: arnica for just about everything; aconite for fear and startled babies; antimonium for babies with tachypnea.

— Christina Lavender Holmes

A: Angelica to assist with delayed placenta birth; Echinacea and spikenard for immune support with prolonged ROM; cramp bark for afterbirth pains, especially with multips.

— Laura M. Perez

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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.

Conference Chatter

Bringing Ancient Knowledge to Conference

As I was sipping on my nettle tea this morning thinking about this edition of E-News, I was reminded of a wonderful recipe for an herbal pregnancy blend that one of our teachers shares on her website. So for this edition of Conference Chatter, I want to focus on Carol Gautschi, whose knowledge of herbal remedies is an asset at our conferences. She will be teaching at the upcoming fall conference, “Autonomous Midwifery: The Key to the Future” in Blankenberge, Belgium. She has been an integral part of many of our conferences, and we feel blessed that she shares her light and knowledge with us each time. Carol has worked as a traditional holistic midwife on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula since 1979 and is co-founder of the Washington Alliance of Responsible Midwifery (WARM) and chairs Olympic Peninsula Birth Matters.

Carol’s wonderful recipe for Herbal Pregnancy Blend can be found here on her website.

At the Belgium conference Carol will be teaching a variety of classes, including In Depth Midwifery—Hands-on Midwifery; Homebirth: Research, Safety, and How to Do It; and Birthing Woman, Sacred Ground. Carol’s are some of our most popular classes, and attending at least one of hers is a must for any attendee. To learn more about these classes and the other amazing teachers that will be with us at our October conference, please visit our Belgium conference page.

If you have any questions about this or any past or future conference, please feel free to drop me a note at conference@midwiferytoday.com and I’ll be happy to assist you.

— Andrea Goldman

Love birth?
You need Midwifery Today magazine!


I had to transfer to the hospital for induction after my membranes had been ruptured for 48 hours with no labor in sight. During my labor, we tried to keep the mood light. My mantra through my whole labor was, “Open” as I tried to coax my cervix into opening. My husband said I sounded more like a zombie, so I decided I’d really step it up a notch. During my next contraction, I moaned, “Brainsssssss” through the entire contraction. My doula, husband and midwife could not stop laughing after that. We still talk about me being the only laboring woman on earth to pretend to be a zombie through unmedicated Pitocin contractions.

— Shandi Sitzer Turknett

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