Women’s Rights & Midwifery

Prayer and RestWomen today have more rights than our ancestors. As we have made progress it is odd that the loudest voice in the current women’s movement is for abortion. I would rather support the right of women to give birth in the setting that they choose. Across the world there is unresolved controversy over midwifery and home birth.

At the same time that suffragists were fighting for a woman’s right to vote, the medical system in the United States, was fighting against the practice of midwifery.

For the past few years I have been researching the life of Hanna Pörn and her court case. She was a Finnish midwife that received a certificate of midwifery from the Chicago Institute of Midwifery. She lived and worked in the Finnish/Swedish community of Gardner, Massachusetts. After eight years of practice, having better statistical outcomes than the local doctors, she was arrested for practicing medicine without a license. The case went to the district court, and was appealed several times. In 1909 she was found guilty and sentenced to two months in jail.

Other countries have had lawsuits against midwives. In recent years Agnes Gereb left her position as an obstetrician and trained as a home birth midwife in Hungary. After delivering many babies in the home setting, she was arrested because one baby died. She was placed in house arrest and the case has been moving through the courts. You can read about her case here.

Today my husband handed me the Wall Street Journal pointing out this article, Sweden Blacklists an Antiabortion Midwife. Ellinor Grimmark trained as a midwife in Sweden in response to the current shortage of midwives.

In spring 2013, with one term left in her studies, she asked supervisors at the hospital where she planned to work to accommodate her conscience rights. [She did not want to participate in abortion.]

She received a furious call from one manager. “How could you even think of becoming a midwife with these opinions?” *

It is a strange world if, in order to attend the birth of babies, you must be willing to kill babies. This brings to mind the Biblical account of two midwives.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiprah and Puah, “ when you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl let her live.” The midwives however feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do; they let the boys live. Exodus 1: 15-17

Ellinor Grimmark was unable to secure a position in Sweden and is now living and working in Norway. Swedish mothers are coming to Norway to give birth.

Many women are seeking a kinder, gentler way of birth.   Birth  has    physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. Midwives understand this.

So  much  emphasis  is  placed  on  the   physical aspect of birth alone—treating pregnancy like an illness. Frequently, aggressive management of labor takes place in the hospital—and there are consequences. We need to swing the pendulum back. Let labor and birth take place at a natural pace. Midwives have an important role in providing healthy birth care.

In Illinois the Home Birth Safety Act is up for debate in the senate.      Thirty-two states allow midwives to provide home birth care. Illinois should join these states and pass SB 1754. If you live in Illinois, call your state senator and ask him to support SB 1754.

*Sweden Blacklists an Antiabortion Midwife, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2017, A17.

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The Women’s March on Washington

A friend of mine is going to participate in the Women’s March on Washington that will take place on Saturday (1/21). I have seen pictures of pink hats that women are knitting for this event on instagram. I don’t plan to go, but the event has captured my attention. The following paragraph is taken from the mission statement of the march:

The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

This statement sounds good—defend the marginalized. Who are the most marginalized? What rights are human rights? Life is the most basic right. The organizers have issued a statement. The march is for pro-choice women only. Pro-life women are not welcome. This saddens me.

As a nurse I am concerned about reproductive health.

According to World Magazine chemical abortion (pills that terminate pregnancy) is becoming more widespread with less medical supervision. The FDA published a report of adverse events following use of abortion pills in 2011. Fourteen women died. Another 339 women experienced blood loss requiring transfusion.    Young  women  need  to  be  fully educated about medications and treatments that they receive.

More needs to be done to rescue the girls that are caught in the web of human trafficking. Abortion clinics enable abuse when they don’t report the pregnancy of underage girls.

Women need complete information about the side effects and risks associated with hormonal birth control. An article published by the BBC News Magazine was titled “My Nightmare on the Pill”. Vicky Spratt wrote:

We can’t make informed choices without information. We need better research into how hormonal contraception can affect women’s mental health, better ways of monitoring reactions in patients, more awareness and support for those who do experience serious side effects. No woman should feel dismissed or ignored.
To read the whole article click here.

Midwifery Today published statistics on maternal death following childbirth. Almost all countries are seeing the rate go down. In the U.S. the rate is going up. In 2015 the rate was 14 deaths per 100,000 births.

Women would benefit from an increase in the availability of midwives. Illinois could move forward and license certified professional midwives. Midwives educate women on healthy lifestyles and childbirth care at lower cost.

Pray for the women in our country and across the world. Pray that they would find their identity in Christ. Pray that every woman could grow and mature with support, health education and good healthcare.

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Ancient Wisdom, New Life and the Love Hormone

Could the book of Job be a description of  God’s  design for  the  earth   following the flood? Currently I am reading  The Remarkable Record of Job*  by Henry Morris.   Throughout the book he points out amazing insights about our world, offered in this Old Testament book of the Bible.

Morris theorizes that  Job  lived before  Moses  and possibly before   Abraham. The book makes reference to the great flood (Job 22:15-16). Prior to the flood the earth was covered in a mist, but following the flood a new water cycle was established. Dr. Morris reflects on passages that describe this great change. Job records references to wind, water vapor, clouds and rain.

He [God] binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the clouds are not split open under them. Job 26:8

For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything  under  the    heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it and searched it out. Job 28: 24-27

Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge . . . Job 37: 15-16

Dr. Morris, a scientist,  wrote a fascinating book that points to the details of God’s creation which we continue to discover. As a nurse I realize that we are still learning about the wisdom of God’s design for childbirth.

Once again  I was in awe of the miracle of new life  when  I  attended the birth of our seventh grandchild!

My daughter was able to go through labor with supportive care, but without medication or interventions. She gave birth to a healthy son.

The baby was placed on her chest, skin to skin, immediately after the birth. The baby stimulated her body to release the hormone, oxytocin, which is produced in the brain. This hormone has a calming effect and also stimulates the womb to contract. She did not need to have pitocin (a synthetic form of oxytocin) given intravenously.

Oxytocin has several of purposes.  It stimulates uterine contractions,    reducing bleeding. It enhances bonding between mother and baby.   It is involved in the let-down reflex that occurs during breastfeeding.

Kelly Brogan M.D. discusses the difference between oxytocin, an endogenous hormone, and pitocin in an article here.

Another article  (American College of Nurse-Midwives)  calls for more   research on oxytocin and pitocin. Click here.

A Swedish doctor has written a book titled The Oxytocin Factor:Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love and Healing.  Throughout the book Dr. Moberg cites the research that she has done at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. She lists the factors that enhance the body’s release of calming oxytocin: gentle touch; massage; quiet environment; various scents and music. For a brief review of the book, click here.

It is a common practice to give pitocin prophylactically following birth. My daughter requested that it not be given routinely.

Praise the Lord for this healthy birth!

We are thankful for the availability of modern medicine, but give praise to God for his marvelous design for childbirth.

kids_prim6254-2

*Henry M. Morris Ph.D, The Remarkable Record of Job, Master Books:Green Forest, AR, 2000.

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Medications: Why I am a Minimalist

If you watch very much TV you will notice that a great proportion of    advertisements are for medications. A medical problem is presented with the solution—a pill. Then a long list of side effects and risks are    recited.

Every medication and medical intervention has side effects and risks. So, should medication be the first resort to an illness? My experiences as a teen, a mom and a nurse have led me to believe otherwise.

When I was sixteen or seventeen my periods were very irregular. My mother was worried and took me to a gynecologist who prescribed     hormonal pills— better known as birth control pills. I began bleeding so heavily that I stopped using the pills and never touched them again. Today we know that hormonal contraception, pills or injections can cause abnormal bleeding, blood clots and increases the risk of breast cancer.

When my first three children were babies antibiotics were prescribed quickly and frequently. We went through a spiral of declining health. With my fourth child we tried supportive care—rest, fluids, chicken soup—along with a wait and see approach. This fourth child hardly ever needed an antibiotic. Eventually the medical field acknowledged that    antibiotics were being used too frequently.

I graduated from the University of Michigan Nursing program, well versed in the science of medicine. I appreciate the marvels of modern medicine. When our son was being treated for leukemia we pursued the latest research and treatment. Modern medicine has great interventions when we need them. The question is when do we need intervention?

When I worked in hospital labor/delivery units I saw many interventions taking place. Some necessary, some not, some causing complications. I don’t think we even know the long term effects of the increasing use of pitocin, a synthetic hormone used to induce or stimulate labor.

When I began attending homebirths it became clear to me. Many of the interventions in childbirth are unnecessary.  Women are equipped to give birth. My oldest daughter has given birth five times without medication or intervention.

At the same time I will admit that intervention is sometimes necessary. After beginning labor at home, my second daughter went to the hospital and needed intervention to assist the delivery of a healthy baby. But first she learned ways to support a natural birth and asked questions of her health provider.

When do we need intervention? It is a question that we should be asking when 22 vaccines are recommended for children within the first 15 months of life. What is the risk of getting the disease? Could this vaccine be deferred? How serious is the disease? What are the side effects and risks posed by the vaccine? Is there a family history of vaccine reactions or allergies?

Like antibiotics, I believe the day is coming when the medical field will acknowledge that we are giving too many vaccines.   But before that   happens parents and voters will have to respond to the huge push by lawmakers (funded by pharmaceutical companies)  to make all these    vaccines mandatory. California is making news that is unsettling. Read about the doctor who is under review for giving a vaccine exemption. Click here.

With time I have learned to trust the body and do the practical things. It is important to evaluate diet and make healthy changes. Sometimes we need to slow the pace of life and rest.

I have also learned that God has given us some tools for health in nature. I keep garlic in my kitchen. I grow herbs in my garden. I have learned about the benefits of elderberries and the cheerful calendula flower.

Our diet has improved over the years, and I am a minimalist when it comes to medication.

calendula-flowers

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Did Mary Have a Midwife?

Chicago Nativity
Nativity in Chicago

As I sat down to write our annual Christmas letter I was reflecting on gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke. It is apparent that the people of Judea lived in fearful times under Roman rule. Injustice, corruption and violence were common. A young woman lived in Nazareth, north of Judea, during this turbulent time.

My thoughts turned to Mary—and the grace shown to her by God. God sent an angel to speak directly with her. The angel gives her an amazing message.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1: 30-33

Wow!   Mary asks how this is possible, and then responds with          obedience.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1: 38

We know that Mary was encouraged and guided by her cousin         Elizabeth. ( Luke 1: 39-56) God’s timing for the pregnancies of these two women was a provision and a gift. The two women spent three months together. Elizabeth gave birth just months before Mary.

The time spent with Elizabeth prepared Mary for her own labor and birth—not that it was easy.  She was away from Nazareth and her      family.

And Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.                             Luke 2:4-7

As a labor/delivery nurse I have worked in hospitals with all the technology and interventions that are common today. I am pleased that God chose to send Jesus to a young woman who would give birth      simply. The design of her body was enough.  Perhaps she had a      midwife with her. The scripture doesn’t tell us.

My experience with home birth helps me get an idea of the birth of     Jesus. Birth can be a natural physiologic process. I saw the way endorphins (natural pain relief hormones released by the body) assisted women during labor. With position changes they were able to cope with contractions that gradually became more intense. I also saw women and their husbands lean in to prayer, seeking strength from God. It was both refining and empowering.

Virgin Mary
Painting by Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) Public Domain

Mary is an example for us. She was obedient and resilient. She knew the scriptures and the history of God’s faithfulness to Israel. She trusted God.

God is good. He is sovereign. The birth of Jesus is a magnificent chapter in God’s plan of salvation.

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Successful Breastfeeding

As a mom I breastfed my babies–learning more with each child. As nurse and grandma I have had experience in helping new moms to establish breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has many health benefits, but sometimes there are hurdles to get over. I have collected some articles that address problems and best practices.

Have you heard of the breast crawl? Research has shown that if newborn infant is placed on its tummy, skin to skin with mother following birth, the infant is has built in reflexes that help him seek and suckle the breast. This should take place within 90 minutes of a healthy birth.

photo credit: T. Adriaenssen
photo credit: T. Adriaenssen

This finding has led to a new understanding of best positions for breastfeeding. In an article in Mothering, Nancy Mohrbacher writes:

Every brand-new baby comes into the world with a whole repertoire of responses that are custom designed by Mother Nature to make baby an active breastfeeding partner. Baby is born with what’s needed so that–when conditions are right–breastfeeding and bonding happen easily and naturally. These responses work best when baby lies tummy down on mother with gravity anchoring baby there.  Read more here.

It is also important over the next 48 hours, to observe the infant for cues that show an interest in breastfeeding. The baby should breastfeed on demand–8 to 12 feedings in 24 hours.  Sometimes problems occur in the first month.  I have been aware of moms that gave up. They were breastfeeding frequently but the baby wasn’t satisfied.

It could be an incorrect latch at the breast. The baby might be restricted in achieving a good suck because tongue is tied more closely to the gums. Heather at Mommypotamus.com has written a post with detailed explanation of tongue and lip ties. She includes photos and advice from an expert doctor. Click here to read her post.

After persevering through the early weeks and then months of breastfeeding, a mom can be surprised when the baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed. This could be a nursing strike. To understand this phenomena read Nancy Mohrbacher’s article. Click here.

Many moms have to return to work. The breast pump offers a way to continue. One mom worked out a schedule for maintaining breastfeeding by successfully pumping. She shares her story here.

It is true. Breastfeeding requires patience, commitment and support from the family. Sometimes expert help is needed. During times of difficulty it is good to remember the health benefits for mom and baby.

A Swedish study demonstrated that women who breastfeed their     babies have a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Click here.

A Canadian study explained the role of healthy bacteria in the gut.    Infants that are breastfed develop healthy microbes in the gut and are less likely to develop allergies. Click here.

Whether a mom breastfeeds or bottle-feeds her infant, she needs the support and encouragement of family and friends. Mothering a newborn is both wonderful and very demanding.

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