Breech Birth by Midwifery Today

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Editor’s Corner

Breech Birth

It is interesting that breech birth has become such a controversial issue. For centuries, it was considered normal and just another form of birth. It is surely something one needs extra training for and not something to be taken lightly. That is why we offer classes on breech birth at every conference. Babies can turn breech easily, so it is important to always be prepared for this possibility. Since most doctors no longer do breech birth, the medical world is losing its skill in the art of breech; the only option then is to have a cesarean or to find one of the few midwives willing to assist in a vaginal breech birth.

My dear friend Cornelia Enning, one of our conference speakers, does a class on breech in water because she says this is the best way to help breech babies. Cornelia says that breech birth in water is safer, in part because it improves fetal oxygenation by increasing uterine blood supply during immersion. Frank breeches need no special maneuvers because water alters the effects of gravity. Mobility of the mother in water allows better interaction of the baby through the pelvis and any maneuvers that may be required are easier in water. You can attend Cornelia’s breech workshop at our conference in Finland.

~ 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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Featured Article

The Best Dream Ever: Otto’s Breech Birth

I woke up feeling tired and grumpy. By 8 pm I started having period-type pains, which came in irregular waves and were completely bearable, so I didn’t think much of them really.

My husband, Fin, fell asleep at about 11:30 pm and I tried sleeping, too, but couldn’t. I was suddenly really hungry and thirsty, so I went to the kitchen and ate some food and had a drink. The contractions were getting more intense, but still bearable—I really didn’t want to wake the midwives until I was completely sure that this was the real thing.

At around 1:30 am I asked Fin to get me a sick bucket and a hot water bottle. I think it was at this point that I realized this might be the real thing. I stayed in bed a while longer, just keeping calm and breathing through the contractions. I then got up and really needed the loo and had a huge contraction on the toilet. I was still breathing through them, but I started to get quite vocal and loud. I called Fin and he rushed out of bed and said, “Okay I’m going to call the midwives.” I remember thinking that I was making a bit of a pathetic fuss!

Just after 2 am I had two enormous contractions while standing up with my hands on the arm of the sofa. I was very vocal through these (read: “I shouted my face off!”). I was definitely on a different plane of consciousness and my body was taking over. When Fin was off the phone to the midwives he said he was going to call a cab so we could head to St. Mary’s Hospital for the birth, but after another big contraction I said, “You need to call an ambulance now!” I was still leaning on the sofa, and after the second big contraction I said to Fin, “This can’t be right—I am having urges to push!” One more contraction made me yell out, “I can feel something!” I put my fingers behind me and there was something, a bottom or maybe a leg, just starting to present itself. Fin got on the phone to 999.

I was now on all fours on the floor with my face on the sofa. It was at this point that another quite vocal contraction woke my 10-year-old daughter, and in the middle of a contraction, I became aware of her in the doorway. When that one was over, I didn’t want her to be scared (she wasn’t anyway!) and also I wanted her to feel part of things so I smiled and said, “‘Hi Star! Come and hold my hand!” which she did, although she was keeping a very curious eye on what was happening at the other end too!

The paramedics (five of them!) bundled into my flat and stood in a semicircle behind me. I had two contractions which pushed the baby’s bottom (still in the sac) out, but I felt it go back in again. I felt the bottom come out and go back in again twice, and it must have been during the second one that the sac broke and then the next contraction pushed the bottom out fully. The legs and torso followed, and then I felt the arms ping out one by one—a very odd sensation! Star said that seeing her brother’s body out while his head was still in was the coolest thing she’d ever seen in her life.

I suddenly realized that there were no midwives there to advise me whether to push with the next contraction or what to do, and I saw two paths ahead of me: either I could panic, tense up and try to push, or I could relax, trust my body and see what happened. The contraction, quite a mild one, came. I felt my vagina relax and get bigger to allow the head through, then close up when he was out. Otto Gaze-O’Brien was born at 2:33 am on November 9, 2010.

I had no stitches or anything. Bizarrely, it didn’t even hurt afterwards.

The paramedics passed Otto through my legs (I was still on all fours) so I could have a rather awkward cuddle. They tried to cut the cord straight away, but I refused, as I wanted it to stop pulsing.

Our midwife, Liz Noonan, arrived at our flat about 10 minutes after our baby was born, and Fin, Star and I sat on the sofa giggling like school children and asking each other, “Did that actually just happen?!” It felt like a dream—like the best dream ever. About 30 minutes after I gave birth to Otto, Star watched me squat to deliver the placenta. She said, “Mama, that was beautiful. It was…it was majestic!”

~ Ezmë Gaze
Excerpted from “The Best Dream Ever: Otto’s Breech Birth,” Midwifery Today, Issue 106
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Bring breech birth information with you wherever you go.
MT e-book Download Breech Birth, a collection of 15 articles by some of the greatest  minds in the natural childbirth world. Articles in this e-book include  “Breech Birth from a Primal Health Research Perspective” by Michel    Odent, “Instinctual Breech Birth” by Sister MorningStar and “Three      Surprise Breeches” by Ina May Gaskin. Available on Amazon or on   Smashwords in a variety of formats.

Midwifery Today ~ The Medicine of the Ukhu Pacha: Andean Sacred Teachings around Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum

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Editor’s Corner

[Editor’s note: This issue’s guest editorial is by Sister MorningStar.]

I am very aware at present of the need for a paradigm shift toward our community involvement with birthing mothers. People are afraid of birth. Even ER docs and paramedics are afraid of birth. They would rather handle a gunshot wound. Grandmothers have become silent. Friends and family feel ignorant and helpless. We have lost the joy and wonder and celebration of birth that allows a mother to move through pregnancy and labor surrounded by calm loved ones and familiar environments. Indigenous people’s rites, rituals and prayers often don’t work when exposed to unbelievers. The natural mystery of life and birth is often undermined to breed fear rather than curiosity and trust. What to do? Learning more has not helped. Science proves and disproves on a daily basis and keeps everyone reading and confused. Meanwhile, mothers are growing another baby. Maybe the Cherokee can help. Maybe simplicity and sacredness can help. Maybe returning birth to community by way of village prenatals can help. [See MorningStar’s article on village prenatals.] Together, we can circle the earth and start a new wave of hope and joy.

~ Sister MorningStar

Sister MorningStar has dedicated a lifetime to the preservation of instinctual birth. She birthed her own daughters at home and has helped thousands of other women find empowerment through instinctual birth. She is the founder of a spiritual retreat center and author of books related to instinctual and spiritual living. She lives as a Cherokee hermitess and Catholic mystic in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Visit her at her website.

 

The Medicine of the Ukhu Pacha: Andean Sacred Teachings around Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum

Andean culture and wisdom offer a deep and honoring approach to women’s bodies and their reproductive health, including the time/space around birth and becoming mothers. Birth is considered a rite of passage in itself, where one will no longer be the same. The time of pregnancy and birth is considered to be a chakana (bridge) into maternity and an entrance to another reality: the Ukhu Pacha, where one enters her darkness, her inner world, and finds her strength and her medicine. The Ukhu Pacha is associated with the world of the ancestors, with the dark (from which everything is born), with the feminine generative force, with the periphery and with the unknown. The wisdom present in this can help women understand the different emotions we experience throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum, which are not only emotional or mental states on the “bright side” but can include also sadness, grief, doubt, deep fears and confusion as we dwell in the waters of the Ukhu Pacha. As we will see, Andean cosmovision doesn’t understand these emotions as negative but as opportunities to better know ourselves, heal in deeper levels and strengthen our personal medicine.

It is starting with conception that the pregnant woman slowly enters this Ukhu Pacha as her pregnancy progresses, reaching its greatest depth at birth. She then slowly emerges from the Ukhu Pacha together with her baby. When we cross the threshold at the time of birth, diving in the deepest waters of the Ukhu Pacha, we experience a paramount transformation and are reborn at different levels of experience. When we cross the threshold of birth, we not only give life to a new being but we give birth to ourselves. We birth ourselves as new women, as we will not be the same again. Thus, according to Andean practices, to incorporate within the world of culture or the Kay Pacha (the here and now reality), the woman and her baby, as beings in transition, make a trance from one state to another, from one world to another, and must enter in the cultural world of norms (Lingán 1995). Thus, special care is given to the new mother by female community members in this rite of passage, as this is understood to be a very vulnerable state, not only physical, but emotional, mental and spiritual, where so much of her experience in the world as a woman is transforming. In a way, a woman in her state as a new mother after birth is weaving again, little by little, her new identity/identities and her place in the world. This personal transformation into becoming a mother must not be taken lightly (by herself and by her community).

The mother and baby during the pacha, or time-space after birth, are still dwelling in the Ukhu Pacha and going out little by little (and incorporating themselves) back to the Kay Pacha, or time-space as we know it, and they sense it normally. Thus, in the Andes, the common cultural practice is to have a one-moon or one-month retreat after the wawa (baby’s birth) to support this transitioning. The new mother stays in her house during the first days after birth just in her room, and she is cared for by close family and female community members. Her husband is a key part of this support circle, and he helps with household chores, as the new mother has to be in absolute repose and isn’t supposed to cook, wash laundry or dishes or clean the house. Although she is “on retreat” and has to follow some cultural norms during her time of seclusion (e.g., a special diet, minimum contact with water), she is not alone and she feels supported in this process. Certain cultural practices are followed by mother and baby to support the containment needed in this vulnerable pacha, such as the Andean practice of walta or walteado (swaddling). It is also advised that the household’s physical environment remains dark, and this is easy to attain as typical Andean houses aren’t illuminated; they resemble dark little wombs.

Reference:

  • Lingán, M. 1995. “El ritual del parto en los Andes.” Dissertation. University of Nijmegen.

Cynthia Ingar
Excerpted from “The Medicine of the Ukhu Pacha: Andean Sacred Teachings around Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum,” Midwifery Today, Issue 118
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