There are so many decisions to make as a pregnant woman. They go well beyond what maternity jeans look best and will stretch out until 40 weeks. Early in my pregnancy, I quickly signed up for a few parenthood websites. As soon as I released my e-mail into the abyss, my inbox filled up with cord blood banking offers. Descriptions of saving my baby’s stem cells sounded like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. The ads seemed to promise a cure-all. Initially, my husband and I were sold. Why wouldn’t we spend the extra couple thousand at birth to help ensure life long health for my baby and possibly other family members as well? After receiving literally over 50 emails about cord blood banking over the course of my pregnancy, I became a little curious at all the top-notch marketing. What are stem cells and how can they help my baby? Who does the cord blood banking and does it actually work? Is there really a benefit?
Nonetheless, further research led me to this video which answered the rest of my questions:
The video talks about how if an individual is in need of live-saving stem cells from certain rare illnesses, there are public stem cell banks where a match can be found in nearly 95% of cases. So basically in most cases, scientists could dip into the public stem cell bank and find a match. Also, if a person is born with certain types of illnesses, their own stem cells can’t be used anyways.
Aside from the questionable benefits of private blood banking, there’s debate about the storing cord blood if it requires early cord clamping at birth. Respected midwife Rachel Reed posts about the specifics of how cord blood is drawn and what it requires on her blog Midwife Thinking. It sounds like it’s more beneficial to allow all the blood from the cord to enter the baby at the time of birth so the baby receives as much iron as possible. She mentions that blood can potentially be drawn from delayed clamping, however most doctors are reluctant to wait 15 minutes in order to allow the blood to drain after birth. In addition, there is a possibility that not enough blood is collected in the case of delayed cord clamping.
My husband and I spent a month or so doing our research in order to weigh our options. The truly annoying thing about making parenthood decisions is that nothing is black and white. Do we spend the $2,000 upfront for the potential that our child would be that 5% of people that can’t find a match in a public bank? Do we make an investment in scientific breakthrough that has yet to be reached? In the end, we decided it wasn’t worth it for us. We ended up using the money towards ice cream and beer. (Kidding and not kidding :p)
Disclaimer: This blog’s aim is to stimulate thinking and to share alternative information on birth and parenthood. The posts are personal views. They do not intend to provide medical advice or recommendations for individuals.
Author’s note: This response to a home birth story in no way is meant to put down this mother’s experience or to question it. I was fortunate to have well trained midwifery staff at my birthing, but this woman feels she did not. Her story further shares the importance of finding well trained birth professionals whether OB or midwife that you can trust. My intentions are to highlight the unpredictability of labor whether at hospital or at home.
So there’s this scary home birth story that was published today and I feel inclined to address it. It hits home for me because some aspects of our labors were similar. The difference is that she states her “baby almost died” and that she almost died because of her home birth.
To break it down, her baby was reportedly born in the brow presentation and also had shoulder dystocia. Her post quotes, “Brow presentation is the least common of all fetal presentations and the incidence varies from 1 in 500 deliveries to 1 in 1400 deliveries. The incidence of shoulder dystocia is generally reported to be between 0.5 % and 1.5%…” Both types of presentation make labor hard on both mother and care provider. There are 2 types of brow presentation and the landmarks on the baby’s skull can distinguish them. One type can snap the baby’s neck and kill it. The other can be delivered vaginally, but can be stressful on the baby. Of course, with an obstetrician, one alternative to a stressful vaginal delivery would be a c-section.
This mother’s post bleeds pain, confusion, and regret. Her wounds are deep and I sympathize. They deserve comfort and consolation. While her story is meant to bring attention to the risks of homebirth, I can’t help examine her story and that of her photographer’s. I can’t help try and understand exactly what happened so I can come to a conclusion, “would she have been safer at a hospital from the beginning?” After all, that’s the million dollar question in the natural birthing world. Which is better: Hospital or home? You can read my post here about why I made my own educated decision to birth at home versus with an OB at a hospital.
While my home birth did not end up at the hospital, it could have. Much of what this mother describes is all too familiar: the meconium, (meconium show is a sign of possible fetal distress and can be toxic to the baby), the oxygen tank, baby not breathing immediately after birth. I went through it too. The only difference is that my midwives followed different protocol and at one point stopped my labor contractions to physically insert their hand into me and move the baby. In my case, I feel my midwives saved me from major abdominal surgery. They informed me every step of the way. There was not a single moment where I felt out of control. In this woman’s case, she says there was no informed consent. There aren’t enough details in this mother’s story to conclude if anything else could have been done in her situation by the midwives.
In the end, what matters is that she feels regret for not laboring next to an OR. She feels that she endangered herself and her baby. The only issue I have is that I’ve read other stories about complications like brow and shoulder dystocia that end in death even when delivered in a hospital. So would she feel the same sense of regret had she been at a hospital? It is totally possible. After all, some of the pictures like the one below exhibit how big of a home birth supporter she was.
[photo was removed for copyright issues. The photo was a picture of a bumper stick on her dresser that states, "DARE to keep your baby off drugs. Have a home birth"]
It’s possible if things went badly at the hospital she would have blamed her OB.
In this case, would a c-section have been better? It is highly likely if the complications were diagnosed with enough time. However, there is a possibility that the complications were undiagnosed until it was too late. This can occur at a hospital as well. And in the end, the baby did come out vaginally, the baby had a 2 day stay at the hospital, and is now healthy. It is very possible that things could have ended up exactly the same at the hospital.
All in all, we cannot control birth. It is unpredictable and that can be scary. So is being in a hospital for birthing the safest? Not necessarily. There are benefits to a home birth that a hospital cannot provide, and benefits to a hospital birth that a home birth cannot provide. In an ideal world we would have the best of both. This is the case in countries like England and Japan where midwifery care works with obstetric care. In the U.S. however, side-by-side midwifery and OB care is only found in a minority of hospitals.
There are risks to birthing in any case. Some emergencies cannot be helped no matter where it happens. I personally know a mother who died giving birth at a hospital. I know a baby who died being born at a hospital. There is no complete safety net in labor. The benefit of a home birth is a more relaxed environment with a lower chance of medically unnecessary interventions. For some, this factor doesn’t matter. For others, it’s huge.
Instead of focusing on “I almost died,” I hope this mother can one day say, “I survived, I endured.” It is a lesson for everyone that well trained birth professionals are important whether midwife or OB. There is a time and place for both. At the same time, no matter how experienced a professional may be, sometimes unpredictable, uncontrollable issues occur. Life can be scary, but labor taught me that I always have two options: to stress out about all the pain, or just chill out and release myself to whatever fate God has in store. After all, what is it really that we control? The weather? Our health? Our heart beat? I’m not all too sure we control anything, really. When I was able to give myself up during labor, to go deep within myself and surrender all fear, that was when I felt absolutely no pain. I hope other women can experience this too. There does not have to be fear in labor. We can make our best educated decisions to labor at home or at the hospital, but in the end we can’t control everything. C’est la vie.
Final note: if you are looking into doing a home birth, it is the safest route to make sure your midwives are not only equipped with all the emergency equipment necessary, but are trained and educated enough to understand when a transfer is necessary.
This post was in reference to the following Popsugar articles:
It’s relatively common for women to have a birth plan when going into labor these days. This is due to greater education surrounding labor options and the unpredictable assignment of hospital staff. Most women who have a birthing plan typically have specific requests for their labor. A birthing plan does not mean your labor will go exactly as you wish. There are various factors surrounding labor that are out of our control. However, there are MANY factors that can be controlled and can potentially prevent more difficult labor both physically and psychologically on mom and baby.
If you study general labor protocol in the US and the hormone oxytocin that begins labor contractions, you may begin to understand why a birthing plan can help make labor better. For instance, if you are the type of person that gets stressed out by people who yell, or hate fluorescent lighting, or feel very uncomfortable around your mother-in-law being in the delivery room (true story…this happened to someone I know and she couldn’t say anything at the time), then you may want to put in your birthing plan, “please, no loud voices during my labor, I’d like my room lit dimly and prefer the fluorescent lights off if possible, and would like only my husband and hospital staff in the delivery room.” Of course, there may be cases where the birthing plan is thrown out the window for one reason or another. There are actually facilities and clinics that are anti-birth plans like this crazy place in Utah:
This clinic obviously believes in dominant healthcare, where the doctor is all knowing God and the patient should not have a say in how they are treated. This really ticks me off because from the research that I have done, much of labor is very very emotional and psychological as much as it is physical. A mother may have intuition about what should happen during her own labor that a doctor may not understand. For example, taking a walk or a hot shower can help labor progress faster. Birth is not always numbers and calculations. A birth contract or birth plan attempts to ensure the patient’s comfort levels are met. A doula helps mom with any physical or emotional support, and bradley is simply an educational tool!
There are some people that prefer not to think about their healthcare whatsoever. They prefer to freely give themselves at the mercy of whichever doctor they end up with. I, on the other hand, do not trust any old doctor. The M.D. to me does not indicate the kind of morals or care a person has. I work in the medical field and know many others that do as well. Having met many doctors who can be slimy, I just don’t trust every doctor. Actually, I trust a very small minority. I don’t say this to freak women out about their docs, but to say that in every profession, there are good workers and bad. There are people who take pride and care in their work. Then, there are those just looking to get a paycheck. Having a birth plan can help give the doctor a sign that you are not to be toyed with however they wish.
So here was my birth plan. This is not a “how-to” make a birth plan as there are many other links like that out there. I just wanted to share my birth plan and I’ll leave notes on why I put what I put with a little “^” to indicate my notes. Most of my plan is based off of a hypnobabies birth plan. You can download the Word file of my birth plan here: My Birth Preferences. Enjoy!
I would appreciate being assigned a nurse who enjoys working with couples who have prepared for a natural birth. Since I will be in hypnosis and highly suggestible, please never tell me what I will feel. I prefer to have my own experience. Thank you.
I will be using self-hypnosis to manage my birthing time and may not be immediately responsive to questions during pressure waves (commonly known as contractions). Please wait until my pressure wave ends and my eyes open to converse, or speak directly to my Birth Partner, Albert. Because of the high level of concentration, I request low lights and quiet voices.
In the event of an emergency situation with either myself or my baby, I am happy to discuss, however briefly, any measure which may be deemed medically necessary prior to their implementation; and, in the event of a normal birth, as we suspect this will be, we prefer:
Please no IV. A Saline-Lock is fine.
^I requested this so I could have free mobility during labor. I also felt comfortable simply drinking water during labor—a laboring mother is not a sick patient and I did not want to be treated like one unnecessarily. Interestingly enough about 6 hours into my labor, I ended up getting an IV with the suggestion of my midwife because my labor was pretty rough. I had the IV at home and everything was fine. I continued to drink water too and ended up peeing 2 liters after I gave birth!!!
I would appreciate a minimal amount of vaginal exams and do not want to be informed about my progress in dilation.
^Every vaginal exam increases the risk of infection. While dilation from 1cm to 10 cm may indicate when mom can push, it does not indicate how fast labor will go. A mom can be “stuck” at 5cm for several hours. Or, a mom can go from 1cm to 10cm in an hour. Vaginal exams give healthcare providers an idea of what’s going on during labor but does not tell everything. During my labor, I wanted to limit checks so I could progress naturally without pressure. At my first check a few hours into my labor I was 9cm already! I was happy to be so fully dilated without a constant pressure to open up.
During second stage, I would appreciate warm, moist compresses and perineal massage to help reduce the risk of tearing/episiotomy. I do not want an episiotomy, but am willing to discuss its medical necessity if one should arise.
Regarding this video take from improvingbirth.com:
Dr. Michael Klein, MD, CCFP, FCFP, FAAP (Neonatal/Perinatal), FCPS, is a pediatrician/neonatologist and family physician researcher and educator based at Children’s & Women’s Hospital and the Centre for Developmental Neurosciences & Child Health of the Child and Family Research Institute in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Klein pioneered randomized controlled studies on episiotomy in the 1980s and 90s, conducting over ten years of research that reached some groundbreaking conclusions (see articles here, here, and here). Thanks to his work, we have known for over 20 years that while episiotomy can be appropriate in rare circumstances, when applied routinely, it “cause(s) the very trauma that it was supposed to prevent” (see article here).
Of Kelly’s case, Dr. Klein said, “The physician here applied a medio-lateral episiotomy unnecessarily early through thick tissue, but rather than making a single definitive cut, he makes a series of short cuts that cause unnecessary bleeding and will interfere with healing. The episiotomy was done so early that the perineal tissues did not have time to stretch, so that the tissues were thick and bloody, a situation that would not have pertained if the professionals had waited… Having decided in advance to do an episiotomy, the doctor apparently does not even know how to do one–how to time it to minimize trauma. This behavior makes it more likely that severe trauma will occur, including tearing into or through the rectum. Our research and the research of others show that it is episiotomy that is the cause of severe trauma, not the prevention of severe trauma….”
He went on to say that the “doctor and the nurses were simply unwilling to allow time for the perineum to stretch, so that episiotomy would be not needed…. The mother is clear that she does not want an episiotomy. Her wishes are ignored and the clearly planned episiotomy is simply justified in advance so that the professionals can do what they planned to do anyhow…. It was all about the impatience of the professionals who were not remotely interested in the values and needs of the mother. They just wanted the birth expedited. This is a picture that was often routine in the past, but since the early 1980s this approach cannot be justified, if it ever was.” (Emphasis added)
Dr. Klein concluded, “this video shows a woman assaulted by uncaring professionals who ought to be sanctioned.”
Kelly, the woman in the video suffered from severed post partum depression and pelvic floor issues which required rehabilitation. Such a sad story.
We will provide blankets and will dry our baby ourselves. Please allow me time to get to know my baby (2 to 3 hours) before removing him from my chest for newborn procedures.
^Hospitals are increasingly “skin to skin” friendly. Not all are. I wanted time to bond with my new baby and help regulate my baby’s body temperature with my own. I did not want his first moments of life being rubbed down by a stranger and set under a heating lamp like a fastfood hamburger.
Please do not clamp or cut the umbilical cord until it has stopped pulsing.
^Research neither backs or or refutes delayed cord clamping in full term infants. There is a proven benefit for pre-term babies. Many argue that delayed cord clamping will help ensure baby receives more iron. There is debate surrounding this topic and most natural friendly moms desire delayed cord clamping.
I appreciate your patience in waiting for the placenta to detach naturally.
^Again, i wanted the process of the placenta coming out very natural. Mine came out about 15 minutes after my baby arrived. Just slithered on out.
We will be saving the cord blood and placenta.
^Hospitals will typically discard these items unless you request otherwise. My placenta was a gift from heaven. I swear by the pills I had made from them…really helped balance my hormones postpartum!
Personal birth plan notes for my doula:
Aromatherapy candle burning with lavender, and frankincense, neroli.
Essential Oil massage between contractions: foot massage, low back massage with 20 drops lavender, 8 drops clary sage in 4 oz carrier oil
Changing positions every hour utilizing the birth ball.
Dr. Carla C. Keirns is an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University and associate director for medical education for the Center for Medical Humanities there. She labored in a hospital and tells her story about dealing with the pressures of going into a c-section when she didn’t find it medically necessary. For most of us who are not medical doctors, it is incredibly difficult to navigate the hospital world when we’re pregnant and in labor. How can we trust our healthcare providers when they may be looking at the clock rather than at our bodies? Keirns writes a refreshing, honest article and her post is here:
People who follow holistic living tend to care a lot about “good gut bacteria.” After all, “70% of the cells that make up the body’s immune system are found in the wall of the gut.” So if one wants a strong immune system, a strong gut would be essential. In my household, I try my best to protect the sanctity of our guts through good nutrition, prohibiting the use of chemical hand sanitizers with triclosan, eating probiotics daily in foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and limiting the use of antibiotics to emergencies.
As for GBS, there is actually a way to help reduce your colonization while pregnant. [Current research implies that this regimen can help reduce the occurrence of GBS colonization, however it has yet to be scientifically proven. Research is currently underway by Floragen to help determine if probiotics help the vaginal flora]. My midwifery put me on this 2 week regimen before my GBS test:
Acidophilus- 3-4 billion live cultures per day (you can get this from Floragen Probiotic or yogurt. One Dannon yogurt has 1.7 billion live cultures).
Echinacea (450 mg) 4x per day (Make sure it does not contain Goldenseal as echinacea is often paired with Goldenseal but should not be taken during pregnancy).
Vitamin C (500 mg) 4x per day
Zinc (100mg) 2x per day
Taking that many supplements can be confusing so here’s a little time table I followed:
I’m no doctor or a medical professional. But I’m a mom on a serious hunt to help my family be as healthy as possible. From my own experience in seeing both a OBGYN and midwife, I learned that levels of care in traditional western medicine and holistic practices are extremely different. In my perspective, prevention and holistic care aligns with how I want to live my life. I’m just sharing my journey here in hopes to help encourage others who believe what I do.
Many expectant mothers ask me to describe labor because I was able to have a pain-free unmedicated experience. The best example I could come up with is sex. Yes, labor is just like sex. Here’s why:
1. Everyone has a different experience. Depending on the person, sometimes it’s long, sometimes it’s short, for some it’s scary, for others it’s an awakening experience. Some people feel empowered by it, and for some unfortunate others it’s scary and painful.
2. The same exact hormone is released during sex and labor. Oxytocin helps a person bond, develop a maternal instinct, helps in enduring friendship, and last but not least, orgasm! Interestingly enough, a woman needs oxytocin to go into labor. The synthetic version of oxytocin is pitocin however just like any man-made substitute it definitely does NOT process exactly the same in our body. Women have varying reactions to the same dose and it is often reported that they cause harder, more painful contractions. Oxytocin initiates labor in a pregnant mama by causing the uterus to contract. These contractions cause the cervix to dilate and the baby to move down the birth canal. Our body works in harmony with mind and body. If you allow stress or cortisol to be released, it will counteract oxytocin and can actually stall labor! So stressing out during labor or sex does not help a woman relax and open up. LET THAT OXYTOCIN FLOOOOW.
3. If you’re not ready and fear sex or labor, it’s painful. Let’s face it. Women get raped by psychopathic men. An intruder who violently penetrates the sacred woman space will inflict pain as her body would be tense, dry, and closed up. If you fear labor, your body will be tense. Your jaw might be tight and your fists may be clenched. Such a tense body does not help you open up. If you can imagine trying to stick a carrot into pursed lips, rather than a loose jaw, the pursed lips would be harder to penetrate. Or, if you’re having a bowel movement and restrict your opening while trying to push, you’ll have a hard time releasing your waste! Likewise, it’s important to release fear and relax during labor so that your baby can slip on out. Release, release, release. Just let your body do what it was made to do!
4. If you look forward to sex and labor, allow your body to run oxytocin, trust your body, and trust your partner, you CAN have a powerful, FEEL GOOD experience. I don’t have to describe sex because I think there’s a general consensus that unless you have a dysfunction, sex is supposed to be pleasurable. On the flip side, it’s less known that labor can be pleasurable. There’s actually a whole documentary called Orgasmic Birth. Women orgasm during labor!!! Although I did not orgasm during labor (maybe that’s TMI) I still had my very own pain free, positive experience. You can read my story here.
5. Labor or Sex will leave you either scarred or forever empowered and changed.
6. You won’t know until you experience it and media can have a major effect on what to expect. Virgins can only imagine what sex is like. Virgins can imagine, fantasize, or watch something in the media to portray what the experience may be like. However, more often than not, what happens on screen is not what happens in real life. Just the same, no first time mother can know what labor will be like. And unfortunately, a scary ER moment with a screaming mother makes for a more interesting movie scene rather than a slow, gradual, calm labor. But just because that mom on TV looks like she’s in hell, doesn’t mean that has to be the same experience for you. Just like how that barbie looking girl or that 8-pack GQ model probably won’t be you in the sheets.
7. It’s not entirely under your control. As much as you can prep yourself for sex or labor, some physical aspects of labor and sex are just out of our control.
8. You can prepare and educate yourself. You might prep sex with…well, I won’t go into the details. You can also prep yourself for labor. Diet plays a huge role in the creation of your baby and placenta. The type of nutrition you get during pregnancy can also impact your labor and reduce the risk of many different complications such as pre-eclampsia. Education can empower you with tools to help overcome fear and anxiety. I spent 8 weeks preparing myself psychologically for my birthing time and I’m so glad I did. It empowered me with tools to use during my labor which helped me have the pain free experience I expected!
There’s this sad seperation in the western medical world of our mind and body. You’ll see a general practitioner for a physical sickness and a psychiatrist for a mental illness. The body and mind are so connected and the more you can understand and trust your body in labor, the better your experience can be. Many women in the U.S. turn to an obstetricians to help bring their baby into the world. As much as OBs are fantastically smart and licensed to use forceps or cut open your womb, they may or may not be sensitive to your emotional needs. There is a psychological and emotional aspect of labor just as in sex that should be addressed. Unfortunately those needs often get thrown out the window once all the beeping machines turn on. For all those expectant mothers out there, trust your amazing body that is creating life! Let your birthing experience and the beginning of motherhood get off on the right foot by allowing your oxytocin to flow naturally from within. That same oxytocin that opens up your body and brings your baby into your arms will be the same oxytocin that gives you that motherly, nurturing bond. Get down with your bad mama self and labor on!
I don’t go around parading that I had a home birth to new moms I meet. However, occasionally, the subject comes up. I know it’s an uncomfortable topic for some people because there seems to be this whole natural vs. medicalized labor world. I don’t share my beliefs to put anyone down–it’s simply to share the journey I made. I went from knowing nothing about labor to researching day and night for 6 months. I feel that there are many assumptions made in the general public about the way labor is “supposed to be” and much of this information is not necessarily true.
I made this video to explain how and why I went from deciding with my husband to have a home birth. I am a little weird and into counter culture, but our decision was a clear, educated decision about the well-being of our family. We try our best to live holistically, to be mindful of our air, water, and food. We believe our bodies to be just like plants and that if we do good things to nourish our bodies and mind, that we will have healthier lives. From all the research I did, I found that a home birth with midwives we interviewed, was better for my body and mind. I took into account the positive aspects of a natural vaginal labor, my mental health and risk for postpartum depression (because of family history of depression and bi-polar), and also the experience for my new baby. Below is a 30 minute video explaining from A-Z how we came to the conclusion and what our experience was like.
Here are some research articles, books, documentaries, and various links. There’s actually a ton more research but here is just some of the links I’ve compiled for this blog post:
Interventions during labor that can lead to a higher chance of C-section as well as info about c-section, forceps, and other procedures that have life long effects on the female body→ Childbirth Connections Article
PTSD & Traumatic labor →“Maternity-care providers say the increase in the number of medical obstetric procedures in labor and delivery, like Caesarean sections and premature births, could be contributing to PTSD.” Wallstreet Journal Article
With a newborn, days feel like months and months feel like years. Therefore, I’m very excited to celebrate my son’s 9 months. As much as I’m astonished by the way my son has developed, I am even more astounded by how much I’ve matured. People ask me what life is like as a mother now and I can only describe it as being like one of those expanding spheres that kids play with:
Love, relationships, responsibility, and housework is harder, deeper, and yet more meaningful all at the same time. My life before parenthood was this parallel universe where I existed in this same body, however could get piss drunk without a thought. Obviously, things are much different now and getting piss drunk today entails losing control of my body. And to lose control of myself is to lose all care for my baby. That idea alone is terrifying.
A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon a Mister Rogers Neighborhood LP titled “You Are Special.” I watched his show as a child but playing it for my son was something really special. His messages are so simple but carry such depth.
These days, I play it for my son daily. He sits for two 15-minute sessions during the day and we will listen to the entire album. I face him outside so he can watch the bees, birds and trees in the backyard. I feel like it’s a good habit to form instead of being bombarded nonstop by our daily distractions. He gets 30 minutes a day to just sit, listen, watch nature, and be still. We started off with 5 minutes a day, and ultimately worked our way up to 15 minutes at a time. He happily sits there now and gets excited at every song change.
This super neat article about Mister Rogers revealed that the LP I found was one of his earliest records because it’s spelled “Misterogers.” This 44 year old record teaches my son about different types of emotions and feelings we have, our good days and bad days, and about the different types of people we meet in life. I’m learning to be a mom and sometimes the reality of it all, or perhaps the weight of it all, is scary at times. But then, I have to remind myself that I am special, that sometimes I have good days and bad days, and that there will be all different sorts of people I meet along the way. Although I’ve lived 315 more months than my son, the lessons he’s beginning to learn are the same ones I’m still trying to process.
While technology improves our standard of living and brings greater efficiency to our daily lives, occasionally they cause more harm than good. And in some cases, they’re completely unnecessary!
Here’s my 17 minute video rant on my experience with a mechanical vs. manual breast pump.
Call me crazy, but I find my manual breast pump to be WAY better on so many levels than my mechanical pump. (Why do I have both? I got a hand-me down mechanical pump that was used only once). Call me crunchy, hippy, or whatever, but I swear, my hand pump is by far better than my mechanical pump. This youtube mom of 4 agrees!
Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of the two different types of pumps I use:
Medela Pump In Style Advanced Mechanical Double Breast Pump
Lasinoh Manual Hand Pump
Weight & Bulk
7 lbs and is so heavy and large it comes in its own bag that I need to carry separately from my work bag.
So light I can’t weigh it…it’s several ounces. So small and light I can slip it into my purse.
Convenience & Comfort
Convenient with the hands free bra because I can type, eat, do anything with my hands while pumping. However, it’s big, heavy, and bulky so it’s inconvenient to carry around. I also need a power source—to plug it in or always have AA batteries ready to go.
The suction is controlled via the power source and if on too high of a setting can make it very for the nipples. It is also a little confusing in the beginning because it looks like a laboratory experiment with all the wires, tubing, bottles, and flanges. Had tender nipples when I first started using it.
Requires my hands—one to express the boob, and the other to pump. Does not require any additional power source other than the hand! Very easy and not difficult to squeeze. Super light and fits into my purse.
The suction is controlled with your hand and so you have no way of sucking too hard. It’s much easier and theres an additional little comfort padding that makes it softer and more cushion-y on the breast. Never had a problem with tender nipples.
Pretty loud! Requires me to find a place I feel comfortable with the machine going for 10-15 minutes.
Super quiet, I could pump in a library without anyone noticing.
Efficiency in Pumping
I pump 6 oz in 10-13 minutes
I pump 6 oz in 8-11 minutes
I break down in the video why manual pumping is quicker for me.
Retails $299.99 but can be subsidized through insurance or varying different types and versions can be free thanks to the Affordable Care Act 2014
Requires manufacturing of the mechanical component of the breast pump, extra plastic for the tubing, and additional pump, additional manufacturing of cloth, zippers, synthetic materials for the backpack, also requires energy to power the pump, uses AA batteries when on the go, and is much heavier and larger in trucking/shipping/transportation costs which in combination create more emissions. Then…it gets thrown away at the end!
Simple pump with one flange and minimal plastic manufacturing.
It’s weird to me that I don’t know a single mom who uses a hand pump. I get weird looks and “omygosh I can’t believe you use a hand pump. That must be so hard.” Well, nope, actually my hand pump is amazing, so simple to use, and doesn’t sound like a heaving cat. It’s just another one of those goddamn MUST HAVE baby items that I find to be a ridiculous marketing ploy by baby companies. I mean, they call the pump, “Pump in style.”
Aside from the manual pump being so easy and compact to use, it has a significantly smaller foot print on mother earth. And yes, some parents don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment as long as their baby has THE BEST OF THE BEST. But maybe this item that costs 10x more is really NOT the best of the best. It is my belief that if we want to help protect the future of our children, we must help protect mother earth as well. As a working mom away from my exclusively breastfed baby anywhere from 30-40 hours a week, I can safely conclude that the manual hand pump is more than sufficient and is not only easier to use, it’s a lot less bulk and a hell of a lot simpler. SO THERE YOU HAVE IT. GOT GETCHYOSELF A HAND PUMP!!!
In my last post, I outlined some reasons why understanding your cycle is super important! Today we’ll go a little more in-depth into the menstrual cycle and take a look at how it all fits together.
There are two main phases of the menstrual cycle: the follicular phase and the luteal phase. These two parts are separated by ovulation, which generally happens around the middle of the cycle, but can vary from woman to woman and cycle to cycle. In the first half of the cycle, our bodies are producing a lot of estrogen, and in the second half we are producing a lot of progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone have their own unique jobs in the body, and our fertility depends on them! The image below shows estrogen levels in blue and progesterone in red. The black line in the middle represents ovulation.
The bottom of the chart above shows what happens in the ovaries during each phase of the cycle: at the beginning of each new cycle, several immature eggs begin growing and developing. At some point during the follicular phase, one of the eggs emerges as the “dominant” egg, and continues growing alone (unless in the case of multiples, where two or more grow together). The egg grows because of the increasing levels of estrogen in the body. Eventually, the body reaches an “estrogen threshold” and the egg is developed enough to be released into the uterus. The egg breaks through the ovarian wall and ovulation occurs! It is swept up by the fimbria, small finger-like projections on the ends of the fallopian tubes) and is carried into the tube. If sperm are already present, fertilization can occur. If sperm are not present, the egg lives for only 12-24 hours and then is reabsorbed back into the body. The follicular phase has ended.
The other thing estrogen does is the production of cervical fluid! Cervical fluid is crucial for pregnancy, as it gives sperm a medium in which to swim once in the female body. Cervical fluid is produced by the cervical crypts, inside the cervix, and changes in consistency and color throughout the cycle. As a woman gets closer and closer to ovulation, the cervical fluid generally becomes more stretchy, wet and clear. Each woman has her own, unique cervical fluid pattern. Women who track this pattern each cycle can use the information to achieve pregnancy (they can time intercourse close to ovulation) as well as prevent pregnancy (they can identify when their fertility begins and ends, and avoid unprotected intercourse during that time). Cervical fluid is, unfortunately, often misunderstood (“What the heck is all this stuff on my underwear?!”) but is an amazing part of being a woman!
But back to the cycle: once the egg is gone, the casing of the egg that is left behind in the ovary turns into the corpus luteum. This tiny little temporary endocrine gland produces the hormone progesterone, which keeps the uterine lining intact for 10-16 days. Progesterone, just like estrogen, is also super important for pregnancy to occur, since it takes a fertilized egg about 7 days to travel and implant into the uterine wall. If progesterone doesn’t keep the uterine lining together, the fertilized egg has nowhere to implant and is swept from the body during the next menstrual flow. Progesterone also raises our body temperature, just slightly, which is how some women track if they’ve already ovulated or not.
The corpus luteum lives for about 10-16 days, waiting for another hormonal message (human chorionic gonadotrophin or hCG, the hormone that is tested for in pregnancy tests). If pregnancy has occurred, the corpus luteum will live for up to three months, continuing the production of progesterone until the placenta takes over. This progesterone production ensures the uterine lining is not shed. If pregnancy did not occur, the corpus luteum begins disintegrating, progesterone production stops, the uterine lining is shed and a new cycle begins. The whole thing starts over!
Understanding your hormones is not only a huge step in understanding your fertility and your reproductive health, but it’s also empowering to know how your body works. Check back for my next post on more information about how you can track your hormones and use the information they give to prevent or achieve pregnancy naturally. Until next time!
Progressive thoughts on childbirth, birth control, baby led weaning, elimination communication, cloth diapering, babywearing, breastfeeding, parenthood, and much more!