Category Archives: prenatal care

Empowered Birth vs. Empowered BY birth

The interesting thing about the natural childbirth movement (of which I strongly support) is that it often fails to differentiate between empowered birthing and the empowerment gained FROM ones birth. We tend to treat the two as the same thing when we discuss natural childbirth, and in our fervor, we fail to mention that it is entirely possible to have one WITHOUT the other. Instead, we refer to natural childbirth as “empowering” the woman and bringing “empowerment” to women everywhere. But, what exactly do we mean?

I’ve thought about this quite a bit lately, and it is my belief that we lump empowered birth and empowerment BY birth into the same phrase of  “empowering women”. I think we choose to use one phrase because in today’s society they ARE the same thing. In the current day where entering a hospital with a normal, healthy pregnancy increases ones risk of unnecessary medical interventions, we hope to educate women so that they might be “empowered” to make the birth choices that are correct for them. In turn, we hope that these women will experience a birth that is fulfilling TO THEM…thereby granting them a feeling of empowerment (increased self-worth, a powerful sense of accomplishment, and a revelry in her role as a woman).

I feel particularly strongly about increasing the education women receive with regards to the variety of birth choices that may impact their birth experience. Too many women simply go along with whatever their doctors dish out without QUESTIONING him or her. So many women end up in uninformed situations where they have no one to trust other than their doctor…their doctor who has been trained to treat emergencies…their doctor who is  a SURGEON first and foremost. A doctor who has no reason OR time to allow them to labor naturally…to provide them with alternative pain relief, and the solemn support of a midwife or doula. For these women, natural birth is a hard achievement…and often impossible. Some of these women go one to have traumatic births and are left with a sense of loss-the loss of their birth experience…and there is no empowerment in this.

For others, they may have what “normal” culture deems a ‘normal’ birth: labor naturally to 4-5 cm, receive an epidural, deliver vaginally with no complications, but they will still feel dissatisfied with their birth. Perhaps they would have felt a stronger sense of entitlement over their birth if they had managed it naturally. Perhaps they did not educate themselves enough to KNOW of these alternatives. Perhaps those they trusted to educate them failed them in their time of need. And, for these women, their is no empowerment in their birth experience.

By increasing the amount and quality of education that women receive prenatally, we empower women to take control of their births. We can inform them so that THEY can choose what happens to their bodies and their babies. If a woman receives unbiased, informative information regarding the epidural and its risks AND chooses it anyway, then SHE has made an empowered decision in her birth. I want this. I work towards THIS.

While I strongly believe that having an empowered birth (where the woman is educated in her choices and affirmatively controls what happens to her) will lead to a lasting feeling of empowerment BY her birth, I also believe that there are other ways to gain empowerment from birth. For some women, knowing that they have created life is enough. For them, there is nothing to be gained from a vaginal birth over a cesearean. Others only desire to birth vaginally…whatever happens past that point is meaningless as long as their baby is healthy. And, lastly, there are the women who are quite content to leave their birth and the health of their child in the hands of the qualified doctor they have chosen. While these births may happen in a variety of manners that I might not personally advocate, they all empower the women who choose them. These women are empowerd BY their birth.

So, have I made a mess of this distinction? Are we right to use one phrase/word to refer to such an ecompassing meaning? Have we alienated some women by our fervor? Or am I wrong to believe that we are actually referring to TWO separate ideas.


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Filed under Birth Preferences, C-section, childbirth, Homebirth, pregnancy, prenatal care, Uncategorized

Nausea, Pregnancy, and Ginger Root

In addition to taking Red Rasberry Leaf tea while pregnant, I also experimented with varying additions of ginger root to my diet. I suffered fairly awful morning sickness for the first 18 weeks of my pregnancy, and I had heard that ginger would relieve my symptoms. I first tried taking ginger capsuls, but after I read that they was no level of ginger that  had been determined as safe during pregnancy, I switched to a lighter dose of ginger tea. When that failed to work, I tried the old wive’s suggestion of real ginger soda…and ginger candy…and finally some ginger gum. Absolutely nothing worked. My nausea was extreme and lasted all day every day for 18 weeks until POOF! one day it was gone.

So, what is the deal with ginger root? Was I taking too low of a dose to see any benefit, or is it all just hearsay?

One study conducted at Chiang Mai University in Thailand found that fresh ginger root taken in the correct dosages can significantly reduce nausea and vomiting syptoms in pregnant women. The study found that of 67 women (divided between those receiving 750 mg of ginger and those receiving a placebo) those who received the ginger reported a significant improvement in their nausea/vomiting (87.5%). Less than 30% of women who had been taking the placebo reported similar results. You can read more about the study HERE.

I will go ahead and point out that there are some obvious flaws to this particular study. For one, the study was not double-blind, which is always a problem when their is a placebo involved. Also, the women were self-reporting their nausea/vomit levels…self-reporting is not the same as controlled observation. The women were also around 17 weeks pregnant when the study began which is a common time for morning sickness to be leveling out. AND (as the article mentions) the scientists had not determined what consituted a proper dosage.

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Filed under Herbs, pregnancy, prenatal care, Scientific Studies

Free Book of Birth Stories!

Sheri Menelli is offering the digital (pdf) copy of her book Journey into Motherhood for free! The book is a collection of 48 inspirational birth stories that are meant to empower women to take charge of their own birth experiences. She is also offering the hard copy version of her book for only $5 in the hopes that this collection will become as popular as the ‘DREADED’ What to Expect series. You can read more about it as well as download the pdf here.

I just found this today, and I can’t wait to start reading! I’ve heard that it’s an exciting read!

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Filed under Birth Preferences, Birth Stories, childbirth, Homebirth, pregnancy, prenatal care

Red Rasberry Leaf Tea

Red Rasberry Leaf tea was introduced to me during my pregnancy with Kaius as a sure way of “exercising” my uterus from the 2nd trimester on. The idea (as I understood it at the time) was that my uterus would then be toned and prepared for the physical trials of childbirth thereby shortening the length of my labor. Obviously I couldn’t pass up a labor shortening trick as easy as drinking a cup or two of tea a day, so I PROMISE you that I faithfully drank…and drank. I ended up with a 46 hour labor that was augmented with pitocin…not the “shortened” labor I had imagined.

Now, I’d like to revisit Red Rasberry Leaf tea and it’s supposed affect upon the length of a woman’s labor. I’ve found two studies conducted by a group of midwives at Syndney’s Westmead Hospital, Australia.

1. The first study was done retrospectively over a 6 month time period and basically involved a comparison of the prenatal, birth, and postnatal histories of 108 women during that time span. The women were self-selected with 57 (52.8%) admitting to taking Red Rasberry Leaf supplements in the form of a pill or tea. Most of the women began supplementing with Red Rasberry Leaf between 28-34 weeks, but a few began as early as 8 weeks. The study concluded that their were no side affects from the Leaf and suggested that it may help to prevent miscarriage and post-dates deliveries. It also found that the women who consumed Red Rasberry Leaf tea were less likely to require a C-section, forceps, vacuum extraction, and/or artificial rupture of membranes.

2. This second study was conducted much more scientifically and had more surprising (and believable [to me]) results. The study was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, trial of 192 first time mothers with an average age of 28.5 yrs. One group of women took Rasberry Leaf supplement in the form of pill (1200 mg/day) from 32 weeks until labor started. The control group took a placebo.

The study found that their were no side effects attributed to Red Rasberry Leaf and that it DID NOT significantly shorten the first stage of labor as had been indicated in earlier studies (and was what I was led to believe).  The study did find that the second stage of labor was shortened by about 10 minutes. It also led to a lower rate of forceps usage (19.3% vs 30.4%) and less chance of a C-section (62.4% vs. 50.6%).

(Both studies taken from:

Overall, it seems that Red Rasberry Leaf tea will not HARM you although it may not be as helpful to your labor and delivery as you may hope!


Filed under childbirth, Herbs, pregnancy, prenatal care, Scientific Studies, Uncategorized