All Articles Tagged "pregnancy"
The art of giving birth is a prominent part of womanhood. African and African-American history is rich in stories of women supporting one another during childbirth. From African villages all the way across the Atlantic to Southern plantations, childbirth has always been a time when women came together to support, encourage, and uplift one another in one of the most vulnerable but momentous occasions in a woman’s life. In many cases today, sharing in this memorable moment of labor with the mother and her family is a doula. Doulas serve as birth coaches who assist women during and after childbirth.
“Doula means ‘woman who serves,’” explains Dr. Mai Heath, ND. The 32-year-old naturopathic doctor has been a birth doula for three years. “During the relationship with the family I assist women before, during, and after labor to help ensure a safe, satisfying, and positive birth experience. It’s not about getting their ‘ideal’ birth, but about feeling like they are acting out of their power, making informed decisions, so that when they look back on the experience they feel satisfied and empowered. These are determinants for health, survival, attachment, and maternal mood.”
Dr. Heath says there is a big difference between a doula and a midwife.
“Midwives, like OB-GYNs, are focused on the medicalization of the birth process, the cervical os, the dilation, effacement, heart rate, and blood pressure. But a doula is focused on the whole transition for the mother and family,” Dr. Heath said. “We focus on the ritual of moving from woman to mother, wife to mother, mother of one to mother of two, etc. We walk every step of the way with a woman as she goes through the tunnel or portal into motherhood.”
Sunshine Cummings, 31, who began regularly attending births in the role of a doula in 2008, discusses the types of support she provides. “During birth, I support the mom with whatever physical needs she has and mostly provide comfort measures such as massage, applying hot/cold compresses, and head rubs. I also provide emotional support in the form of encouraging words, assuring her that she can get through the birthing process and that her body is made to do it. Whenever necessary, I act also as an advocate on her behalf to ensure her birth plan is respected by her caregivers.”
Dr. Heath continues the list of duties of a doula.
“I also use knowledge and experience as a woman, mother, naturopathic medical doctor, and doula to support the family on an emotional, physical, and informational level. I provide the options of relaxation techniques, meditation, visualization, massage, positioning, herbs, acupressure, acupuncture, and homeopathy when needed,” Dr. Heath said. “I also communicate, as needed, with caregivers to ensure laboring mothers have the information they require to make informed decisions, and I can provide suggestions for labor progression, comfort, and perspective to mother and her partner, if present. This is where the therapeutic relationship is key. You are a confidant. You are a constant for them to crash into as needed. Doulas also have a unique role in that we are an emotional support, but we have enough emotional distance from our clients so that we don’t crumble when we see them endure the things they must to bring forth their babies. Oftentime relatives have a hard time seeing their loved ones in such a state of surrender.”
Dr. Heath and Cummings are both mothers and reaped the benefits of having a doula by their side as they gave birth to their children. Cummings reminisces about what it felt like to switch roles from doula to expecting mother during labor.
“I had a doula when I gave birth to my deceased daughter in 2013, and also when I gave birth to my son earlier this year in February,” Cummings said. “Honestly, it didn’t really feel like switching roles necessarily, because in birth, when women are able to access the necessary energies required to birth a child, they are in a sense being their own midwife or doula throughout the process anyway. It felt more like having someone there to remind me of my power and help me get through little bumps along the way when I felt like giving up.”
Dr. Heath concurs as having a doula during the birth of her children ignited her interest in becoming one.
“I had doulas at both of my births, and they proved to be invaluable support,” Dr. Heath said. “I didn’t even know what a doula was until five days before I gave birth to my firstborn. We had been living in Toronto for a year when our first child came. All of our family were in the States, and our firstborn came one month early at 36 weeks and two days. My mom hadn’t made it up from Atlanta yet. So my doula was an important part of my birth support team. That’s why I became a doula. I love reliving my birth stories, the good and bad, and doulas are certainly big parts of those stories.”
I haven’t yet had the honor of birthing a child, but I had the privilege of being in the birth room when my friend gave birth to her son. After being in labor for hours, the doctors finally decided to give her a cesarean section. As they were transitioning her from the hospital bed to the gurney to take her to the operating room, she had to use her legs to push herself up and out popped the baby’s head. After that experience, I researched childbirth practices around the world and found that in many countries in Africa, as well as in Australia, women give birth standing up to gain the momentum and energy from their legs. From my research, I have come to the conclusion that the hospitalized childbirth practices we’re accustomed to here in the States aren’t ideal. Having women lying on their backs in a submissive position prolongs labor and causes more cases of childbirth surgeries like C-sections. Both Cummings and Dr. Heath agree with this theory.
“Being on one’s back is a very submissive position to be in for an event in which you’re supposed to be an active participant,” Cummings said. “It makes absolutely no sense. I was blessed to have been able to birth in a kneeling squat. Pushing was a breeze as was labor because I had the help of gravity to get my son to descend through my birth canal.”
Dr. Heath says doulas also take on an advocacy role so that women know their birthing options and don’t feel railroaded into making one decision.
“Too often the birth experience is centered around the doctor when in fact it should be centered around the laboring woman,” Dr. Heath said. “She is put on her back so the doctor can have optimal view of the birth canal, not for mom or babe’s benefit. This is distressing. There is more than one way for a woman to give birth, and the birth support team should create an atmosphere where the woman is comfortable. When a woman is free to be in the birth room she can run the show, call the shots, and steer the ship quite effectively.”
Dr. Heath and Sunshine Cummings are continuing our African legacy as doulas. Cummings encourages women to look into having a doula and experiencing more natural forms of childbirth when the time comes.
“I highly recommend women not only go back to their roots and learn ways of birthing naturally, but also hire doulas to assist in their births.”
In college, I had a friend who only had anal sex with men because she didn’t want to get pregnant. Unfortunately, Women’s Health Magazine just reminded my friend, along with many other women, that their logic is rather faulty because you can actually still get pregnant if you let your man enter your nether region.
Dr. Brian Steixner, a urologist from the Jersey Urology Group in Atlantic City told Women’s Health although there is a one in a million chance for a woman to become pregnant by anal sex, he witnessed it with his own eyes while in med school. A pregnant young woman apparently came to the emergency room one night because she was spotting. Although it is normal for women to have vaginal spotting during their pregnancy, this particular woman was spotting from her rectum. She was born with cloacal malformation, a condition in which you are born without a urethra, vagina and anus and therefore only have one hole, named the cloaca. The condition is rare and usually corrected at birth, however, this particular patient either did not have a successful surgery to separate the three regions or in response to the surgery, her body created a fistula. The latter causes a woman’s uterus to be fused with her rectum. Therefore, every month the patient’s menstrual cycle comes from her anal region because her vaginal canal is not connected to her uterus.
In a conversation with the patient, Dr. Steixner learned the woman had anal sex prior to getting pregnant, which explained the occasional spotting from her rectum. Nine months later she had a C-section (since doctors didn’t think it would be safe for her to give birth naturally) and she had a healthy baby. Dr. Steixner believes if the patient had a successful surgery as an infant to correct her cloacal malformation, she would not have been able to conceive her child through anal sex.
He said of the operation: “Building the walls to separate the three passages [the urethra, vagina, and rectum] is delicate work. The longer the walls need to be built, the closer surgeons get to the urethral and anal sphincters. Some women suffer from leakage of urine and stool their entire lives. It’s a huge psychological and quality of life issue.”
Although women who’ve had cloacal repairs may not have internal organs that function perfectly, physically they look normal. This interesting health issue gives truth to the notion, no two vaginas are alike. For more medical insight on cloacal malformations, read Dr. Griffin’s column here.
You would think that the United States, the land of the American Dream, would be a haven for women to have their bundles of joys — but it’s not. Not even close. According to RT, the U.S. is the absolute worst place to be a mother in the developed world.
State of the World’s Mothers 2015, a comprehensive report published by Save the Children, rated the United States dead last in maternal health among developed countries, 33rd place overall. America dropped two spots from last year’s 31st ranking.
An American woman is 10 times more likely to die from childbirth-related causes in comparison to an Austrian, Polish, or Belarusian woman.
Women in the U.S. also face a 1 in 1,800 risk of pregnancy-related death. This is the worst performance of any developed country in the world.
“Other countries are passing us by,” said Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children.
Save the Children also zoomed in on 25 capital cities of wealthy countries and found that in the United States, Washington D.C. had the highest infant mortality rate with 6.6 deaths per 1,000 births in 2013. “This rate is a historic low for the District of Columbia,” RT wrote, “but it is still three times the rate in Tokyo and Stockholm.”
In 2012, D.C. had an infant mortality rate of 7.9 deaths per 1,000 births. Yikes.
The study, unsurprisingly, found a notable disparity between the richest and poorest nations. In Norway, for example, the odds of a child dying before his or her fifth birthday is just 0.3 percent. In Somalia, on the other hand, that figure jumps to 15 percent. “Somali children who survive will get fewer than 2.5 years of formal education, while Norwegian children will get 17.5 years of formal education,” CNN said.
“We need to do more to make sure that all mothers and babies have a fair chance of survival and a happy, healthy life — no matter where they live,” Miles said in a press release.
The “State of the World’s Mothers 2015″ report investigated 179 countries and looked at five indicators of maternal death: educational status, children’s well-being, economic status, gross national income, and political status, CNN said.
Norway ranked first; Somalia ranked last.
It always catches me off guard when people remark, with some astonishment, that they can’t believe I grew up in an environment with mostly women and managed to have very little drama.
My father was the only male in a house full of women. (Four daughters, a wife, and my aunt who moved in with us when she was about 13 until she went off to college and grad school). I thought it was a relatively normal environment to grow up in; but when people (usually girls) would say, “Nuh-uhn, all those females?! I couldn’t take it!” I began to think that maybe it wasn’t as normal as I thought.
I realized that the reason why a house full of women was never a big deal for me was because of the mindset that my father instilled in us. He always told us that we were family and at the end of the day we needed to always be there for each other. Growing up with this in my mind helped me to deal with any sense of competition and jealousy and helped us each to develop a sense of camaraderie.
That eventually translated into my everyday life. So I don’t understand women who can’t have female friends. There are already too many things playing against women in this world for us to be fighting each other. If, for no other reason, we need to help build each other up instead of tearing each other down.
So that’s how I try to live my life, but there was a time where even I struggled because this chick… was trying me.
A few months after my (ex)husband and I started dating, I became acquainted with a woman named Amanda.*
When I first met her, before he and I started dating, she was rude. However, I shrugged it off because life is too short to try to make someone like you. But once he and I became more serious, she was around, and she was just… so… extra. I’d never seen anything like it before in my life, but I was committed to ignoring it.
After I became pregnant and we married, I guess I just assumed that her negativity would stop. It didn’t. In fact, she just continued to go even harder. She would text my ex-husband about how much weight I was putting on (she didn’t know I was pregnant then), asking what he even saw in me, and I was just irritated.
One night while we were driving, he told me that the reason she was probably so aggressive with the both of us was because he was “talking” to her before I came along.
All of a sudden, things clicked, and my father’s words came back into my mind. I told my guy that I wanted to apologize to her because, as a woman, I’ve been in her shoes before. I’ve been with a guy once before who I was “talking” to. I was thinking it was leading to something, and then all of a sudden I saw him holding hands with his “girlfriend” without a single notice. I wanted to let Amanda know that I empathized with her, and never wanted to rub our relationship in her face. Maybe we could have a clean slate. However, my guy begged me not to because, “It’s my role to talk to her. Don’t get in the middle of it.”
“Well, are you going to talk to her?” I asked.
So the next day, while interacting with her, I saw her in a new light. But as I tried to give her an encouraging “We-Are-Women” smile, she not only continued to be the most irritating person I’ve ever had to endure, she seemed to get worse. It was almost as if she was getting joy from any type of pain she could inflict on me, my feelings, and my relationship.
After a while, the new light I saw her in not only dimmed, but turned into a haze of anger. I thought to myself, I’m trying to be sympathetic to this girl about her feelings, and she’s going to continue to disregard mine?! I mean, all the time I felt guilty about her heartbreak and any way that I may have made her question herself, but she just CONTINUES to act crazy! And if she sends one more text to him talking about my fat thighs…
But things changed when I had my first ultrasound and the little baby, who is now my adorable four-year-old, started kicking her legs. It brought everything back full circle for me.
At that moment, it wasn’t my duty to protect Amanda’s feelings and it wasn’t my duty to be indignant. It was my duty to protect my child because I knew that at the end of the day, whatever I felt, my child felt. It was up to me to make sure that her environment was one of peace as she didn’t deserve to have her health compromised just because mommy couldn’t keep her cool.
After a while, I stopped crossing paths with Amanda. However, as I raise my daughter with the same knowledge that my parents raised me with, I try to instill in her that self-preservation is the greatest strength she can hold.
Even though a few years have passed, I recently reached out to Amanda to give her not just the apology that I wanted to offer long ago, but to add to it now. I wanted to tell her that not only did I understand her behavior, but I no longer held it against her. I also wanted to let her know that in this world there seem to be forces trying keep Black women at odds, especially along shade lines. I wanted to let her know that if she ever needed something that I was capable of helping her with, I would. My father always said, “We have bigger things to worry about than each other,” and that’s an example that I’m trying to set for my daughter.
Amanda never responded.
Millennial women aren’t looking forward to being called mommy any time soon. According to a new study, millennial women are having babies at the slowest rate of any generation in U.S. history. The study from the Urban Institute found it’s not because this generation is putting their careers first but rather for economic reasons.
Between 2007 and 2012, birth rates among American women in their 20s dropped by 15 percent. Financial challenges drive “young women who aren’t worried about the biological clock to say, ‘Things are tough right now. Let me put this off because I can,’” co-author Nan Astone, senior fellow at the Urban Institute tells The Washington Post.
By 2012, millennials reproduced at a pace that would lead to 948 births per 1,000 women—“by far the slowest pace of any generation,” the report said.
And surprisingly the decrease was across all races. Hispanics saw the largest drop; from 2007 to 2012, the rate dropped 26 percent (1,570 to 1,158). For African-American women the rate declined 14 percent (1,216 to 1,046) while white women experienced a 11 percent rate decrease (976 to 866).
With many millennial women finding it hard to land jobs and are still living their parents, motherhood doesn’t seem like a desirable option.
And a lot of millennials are still single, again for economic reasons. Marriage rates have dropped also in all racial groups. More than a quarter of never-married Americans, aged 25 to 34, have not gotten married because they’re not “financially prepared,” a recent Pew survey found.
Dr. Minkailu Bah who serves as Sierra Leone’s Education Minister has declared girls who are of school age and “visibly pregnant” would not be able to attend school, take exams or be friends to other non-pregnant students. Another government official also believes that if pregnant girls associate with non-pregnant girls, they would encourage them to conceive children at a young age too.
For eight months, students were on a school hiatus because of the Ebola outbreak. Before their students return to school, Dr.Bah revealed that it was an “unspoken rule” to not allow pregnant students to enrolled in school. However, he has decided to make the rule official. Sierra Leone’s Conference of Principals support the new law because they believe pregnant girls “lack self control.”
Although Dr. Bah and others feel as though the girls they are banning lack control, RFI reports that many teen girls have been sexually assaulted during the Ebola crisis. Also, there was a pressure for girls to perform sexual transactions in order to earn a living. Education advocate Chernor Bah says there are steps being taken to create pregnant alternative education classes.
He says of the pregnancy issue in Sierra Leone, “They don’t have the structures to do that, they don’t have the infrastructure to do that, it’s a violation of human rights. It’s very sad. It’s very painful because we’re seeing a visible number of pregnant girls in the country today. And we know why this is. It was a crisis before Ebola, it’s been made worse due to Ebola, and this policy just makes it worse and punishes the victims.”
Currently there is a petition against Dr. Bah’s decision in order to get the girls to be allowed back in school. The petition also calls for there to be sexual and reproductive healthcare information classes and services for rape survivors.
It’s disheartening to hear that pregnancy shame continues to ensnare young women who conceive a child but not the young men who participated in the sexual act or crime. This new ordinance could drive young women to have an unhealthy perception and relationship with themselves or their children.
From The Grio
Tavon White used to run his Baltimore jail. He later testified to the vast network of smuggling drugs and cell phones that he and other gang members had been part of, and both a federal judge and prosecutor praised him for his work on the case. In a scandal that has lasted over two years and has seen 35 different defendants plead guilty to involvement in the scheme, White described how the Black Guerrilla Family gang ran a smuggling operation inside the prison itself. White has even fathered four children with corrections officers during his time there.
Read more about White at TheGrio.com
Last week President Obama signed a memorandum that would allow employees at federal agencies to take up to six weeks of paid parental leave and he believes the policy should be extended to those in the private sector. Since then, reporter Jen Senior of The New York Times decided to cover the disparities between maternity leave at GOP senators’ offices and the private sector states Jezebel.
After writing to 100 Senate offices, only 26 offices responded to Senior, giving her insight on their policies. In her investigative report, Senior found that most Senators offer over six weeks of paid maternity leave to their staff:
“15 Democrats, two independents and nine Republicans — said they provided paid leave of some kind. What this means, practically speaking, is that all of them go above and beyond what the Family and Medical Leave Act requires — 12 weeks of unpaid leave, assuming both employee and employer meet the requirements. The traditional liberal rap on the Republican Party is that its policies are hostile to working women. But that’s clearly not how Republicans conduct themselves as bosses on Capitol Hill.”
For example, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida gives his staff as much paid maternity (12 weeks) and paternity leave (6 weeks) as possible. Wyoming’s Mike Enzi follows suit with six weeks of paid maternity leave too. Senior also notes, some Southern GOP senators may also allow their employees to supplement sick and vacation days along with maternity leave.
“One might expect this from Democrats, who, as a matter of principle, believe that governments have an obligation to care for their citizenry when the free market fails to do so,” writes Senior. “But it’s more surprising from Republicans, who generally speaking, do not. The question is, why?”
Senior posed this question to Republican Senator Deb Fischer (Nebraska) who offers six weeks of paid parental leave and an extra two if the mother had complications during her pregnancy. Fischer revealed (her opinion) that there is a “difference between the government requesting employers do something and requiring them to do it.” For her office, Fischer noted she set aside money for there to be funds for paid parental leave. Funds were cut from other departments or employee benefits such as minimizing the amount of staff travel. As for the private business sector, Senator Fischer believes it is up to private business sectors to make the decision if they can afford paid parental leave.
Do you think it’s fair for GOP staffers to receive paid leave but for GOP Senators to vote against the same policy for American citizens?
If your partner wants kids and you don’t, here are some facts that could get him on your side. If you’re already pregnant, these are just possibilities you should know about, but no need to freak out. Here are creepy things that can happen during pregnancy.
To pregnant women everywhere, you deserve to know that if most of your friends don’t have children yet, they’re not as enthusiastic behind your back as they are in front of your huge belly. Here is the sh*t your friends say when they find out you’re expecting.