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Maternity

When Everybody and Your Mother has an Opinion

You’re pregnant. Congratulations! Everyone is so excited!
You’re birthing. Yay! You’re finally meeting your baby. Everyone is excited!
You’re breastfeeding. That baby is demanding milk NOW! You’re doing your best to do what’s best for your baby.

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You’re parenting. Everyone has an opinion.

Your mom.
Your partner’s mom.
Your best friend.
Their parents.
Your sister.
Your sister-in-law.
Your neighbor.
The person in front of you (and behind you!) in the grocery checkout line.

Everyone.

This advice can seem critical and judgemental as you’re juggling a new baby in your sleep deprived state and doing a fine job thankyouverymuch.

Keep in mind, this well intentioned advice comes from a place of compassion. The adage “it takes a village” – it’s true. And humans take it very seriously.

Welcome advice with an open heart, maybe the advice will be helpful.

If not, here’s Five things you could say to deflect the advice:

  1. Thanks, I’ll think about that.
  2. Interesting point, maybe that would work.
  3. Everyone just does the best they can with the information they have at the time.
  4. That’s not something we would feel comfortable with in our family.
  5. This is what works for us.

Remember: this is your family, your child, your life.
You alone are responsible for the choices you make.
And there are so.many.choices. to be made!
Research, welcome input from those you trust (and strangers too, why not?), and ultimately listen to your heart. What makes the most sense to you?
And then, armed with your own intuition and research, engage with the well meaning opinion-sharers.
Or smile and nod and go ahead and do whatever you think is best for your family.

 

Whether you’re pregnant, or birthing, or breastfeeding – let’s document it!
Get in touch and we’ll get your name on the calendar.

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Birth Resource

Guest Post :: The benefits of Prenatal Massage, by Elizabeth, Girard, LMT

 

Elizabeth Girard, LMT of Lotus and Moon, shares how massage positively impacts pregnant women in her practice.
*hint prenatal massage makes an incredible gift, and Lotus and Moon offers gift certificates!

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In my massage therapy practice I see clients for many different reasons. Some of my favorite clients are pregnant women and I consider it a gift to work with them. It is a time like no other, when the body and mind are going through tremendous change. As a mother of three, I understand it is a sacred time, one that should be respected and honored. It is a privilege to witness and aid a new mother’s transformation.

Prenatal Massage Health Benefits

The body goes through dramatic changes throughout a pregnancy. Because of the many health benefits to getting a massage while pregnant, massage therapy is a wonderful way of supporting mother-to-be. Low back pain, headaches, leg cramps, sciatica, and hip joint pain are the aches that I most often see in working with pregnant women. These common discomforts associated with physical changes can be addressed in a natural drug-free way.

The body goes through huge structural shifts and these transformations can be eased by releasing muscular tension. Pregnancy can be an emotional roller coaster due hormonal fluxes and life changes. Massage soothes the nervous system by releasing endorphins and decreasing stress producing cortisol. By relaxing the body and helping to relieve anxiety, better sleep is enhanced. Increased blood circulation provides oxygen and nutrients to both mother and fetus, while stimulating the lymphatic system aids in the removal of toxins. In my practice, I strive to provide an environment where a mother can feel safe to fully relax, supported in both spirit and body.

What to Expect During Your Prenatal Massage

If anyone decides to have a prenatal massage it can be helpful to know what to expect. Massages in the first trimester can be very similar to a typical massage session. Work done is often mostly focused on relaxation and easing any muscular tension. Usually starting in the second trimester a mother is no longer comfortable lying on her stomach. We can then work with the mother lying on her side with pillows used for support. I also use a large angled bolster to place clients in a semi reclined position to work more comfortably on the neck, shoulders, head and face. During a massage, clients are fully covered and I only undrape the area I am working on at the time.

Because of the need to shift positions clients should plan on the session being a little longer than usual. I usually recommend an hour or hour and a half for full body sessions. Thirty-minute sessions are appropriate if a client only wants focused work on one or two targeted areas of the body.

During pregnancy women often feel more vulnerable, so a massage requires an extra level of trust between the client and practitioner. Clear communication is crucial to ensure clients feel comfortable, safe, and well supported. It is important for the client to make the therapist aware of any pregnancy related health issues such as pre-eclampsia, hypertension, severe swelling, blood clots, or varicose veins.

If you are unsure massage is right for you make sure to check in with your obstetrician or midwife. Other mothers can also give you good input on their experiences. This is what one of my clients had to say: “I knew if I ever was pregnant again, I wanted a prenatal massage. I generally like massages- but the prenatal massages I had were the best massages I’ve ever had. Your body is growing a whole other human, so it’s doing some hard work. I’m guessing that’s why a massage was so incredible. I had a massage about 48 hours before our baby was born and I attribute some of that initiation of a labor that eased into active labor to that last massage. It relaxed my body and got everything started. My only regret- not making time for a postpartum massage in the first few weeks after birth.”

 

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Birth Resource

Herbal Pregnancy Tea – why and how

Herbs are an easy addition to your nutritional diet, adding minerals and vitamins that might otherwise be challenging to consume.
There are several herbs that are particularly useful during pregnancy.

Herbs for Pregnancy

Dandelion Root – high in vitamin C, tones the liver
Raspberry Leaf – mineral rich (magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium), tones the uterus and pelvic muscles, eases labor, and minimizes postpartum hemorrhage
Nettle – rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium
Oatstraw – high in calcium and magnesium
Rosehips – very high in vitamin C. Vitamin C helps a body absorb iron and is essential in the production of collagen – the building blocks of cartilage, bones, and muscles.
Peppermint – relieves nausea, settles the stomach by relaxing it, and helps tea taste yummy. Peppermint can often relieve congestion and improve digestion.
Alfalfa – can ease morning sickness and is an excellent source of vitamin K – an important vitamin for both mom and baby during birth and immediately postpartum.

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Preparing Tea

  • 1 part dandelion root
  • 4 parts red raspberry leaf
  • 4 parts nettle
  • 2 part oatstraw
  • 1/4 part rosehips
  • to taste Peppermint
  • 1 part alfalfa

Mix dried herbs together in bulk.
When you’re ready to brew some tea, pour a cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves. Let steep for a minimum of 10 minutes, but it can easily steep overnight. Sweeten to taste.
I find this tea much more appealing iced. So I pour my steeped hot tea over a cup full of ice.
The recommendation is one cup during your first trimester, two during your second, and three during your third trimester.

Herb Supplier

You definitely want to be sourcing your herbs from a reputable source. The first time I ordered herbs for this tea, my husband said he could go out and find all of this in the pasture. (He couldn’t. It was winter.) He couldn’t believe I was buying weeds.
So yes – if you have access to a pesticide -free pasture and have the dedication to harvesting and drying your own herbs – do it!
However, if you’re wanting to start making this tea yesterday, Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Herb Store are great resources.

Not Pregnant?

I may have gone a little tiny bit overboard with ordering herbs approximately 9 years ago … so still have plenty. When I found myself (surprise!) pregnant the third time, I immediately dug out my collection of herbs and started drinking this tea.
Postpartum, I continued the habit.
I generally drink a quart 2-4 days a week. When I skip drinking it for a week, I notice. Pregnant or not, this tea is good for overall health and wellness. Drink up!

 

*If you are unsure, check in with your care provider about the use of any or all of these herbs. Some herbs are known to contradict conventional medications or may have other reasons they are not in your best interest.*

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Birth

Why You Should Write Your Birth Story

Birth is transformative, powerful, and overwhelming. It can feel unbelievable – that there are no words to express the experience.
Taking the time to write out your birth story as soon as possible will allow you to process your experience.

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6 Reasons to Write Down Your Birth Story

  1. For Remembering. Writing down your experience will preserve your memories. Not only does this mean you will remember details in the future that you may have otherwise forgotten – but also that you have a place to come back to, to jog your memory.
  2. For Healing. Birth can be many things, and sometimes it’s disappointing. Processing your birth story through the craft of writing allows you to embrace your story as you come to feel peace about your experience. Writing gives voice to the range of feelings you may have had during your experience and after, reflecting back on your story. This will hopefully help you come to terms with your birth.
  3. For Clarity. Writing down your birth story helps you map out a timeline, process the experience, and help you figure out why and how the story progressed. This empowers you as a parent, a birther, and a woman.
  4. For Prosperity. As the years pass, it’s amazing to be able to revisit your written birth story and wonder at your strength and your baby’s entrance into the world. It’s also an incredible gift to be able to pass this story along in a concrete way to your children. I tell my children their birth story every year and in this way it validates their experience and mine and (hopefully) empowers and informs their future births, should they become parents.
  5. For Sharing. We surround ourselves by like-minded people and the this is also true during our birthing time. If we hear stories all about cesarean sections or all about vaginal births or all about breastfeeding or all about formula feeding … we’ll tend to perceive those stories as the “normal” way to do the birthing season. So embrace your story and what you’ve learned from it, and gently share it with your expectant friends. Encourage them to surround themselves with the stories they feel empowered by as they enter their birthing season.
  6. For Education. In a culture where birth is behind closed doors, talked about minimally, and where birth largely seen as the responsibility of medical professionals, birth stories need to be told. For centuries women supported women in birth. Currently, this support is often minimal to nonexistant in birth. By compassionately sharing our stories and experiences, we empower birthing families.

Doula and Photographer

Hiring a doula and/or birth photographer for your birth has an enormous positive impact on your birth. One of the ways a doula and photographer supports your birth is by helping to hold space for your story. A doula and photographer will know the timeline of your experience. This support will be able to clarify details and affirm your memory of your story. With a visual history in hand through photography, your story is even clearer for you.

Let’s schedule a consult today, to talk about how a birth doula and photographer can positively impact your birth story.

For some inspiration, here’s my second birth story and my third birth story on my personal blog (that doesn’t get enough attention these days).

I couldn’t think through my first birth experience – never mind write it down! In hindsight, it was a very low-intervention birth and I’m so fortunate it went the way it did. Even so, it was still out-of-my-mind overwhelming. Over a decade later, I’m bummed I didn’t write down my first story.
Every woman remembers her birth experiences in detail for a lifetime …. but reading the birth stories I did write down and rediscovering forgotten details in those stories, I know that there are parts of my first birth experience that I wish I could revisit in writing.

So go write down your birth story. If you’re willing to share it, I’d love to hear it!

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Birth Resource

Routine Screening: glucose tolerance test

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When pregnant, there are several screenings or tests that are advised. Pregnant people must research the risks and benefits to these screenings and decide if they are appropriate for their pregnancy.
As a pregnant person who has hired a birth team, you are in control of what screenings/routines/protocols/etc that you consent to.
One such screening is the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). Generally, this screening is done half way through your pregnancy and is used to rule out gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is when you have diabetic symptoms (your pancreas is not processing sugar efficiently), but only during pregnancy.

You are at an increased risk of having gestational diabetes if you are:

  • overweight
  • over 25 (and moreso, if you’re over 40)
  • related to someone with diabetes
  • have a history of gestational diabetes
  • previously birthed a baby over 8lbs 13oz

No matter you’re risk for contracting gestational diabetes, you will likely be told to have the glucose tolerance test.
This screening involves consuming the equivalent of ten to twenty teaspoons of sugar (there is no standard amount). Approximately an hour later (the timing can vary), glucose levels are tested. If you are deemed high (“high” is not a standardized figure), a three- hour standardized test will be required. This standardized test involves a fasting glucose level test, and then 100g of glucola, followed by glucose level testing at regular intervals.
Of the women who “fail” the one hour screening, 15% will test positive in three hour standardized test.

The primary concern if you are found to have gestational diabetes is that your baby will grow larger than its supposed to and its blood sugar level will drop precipitously after birth (as it loses its constant oversupply of sugar from its diabetic parent). There is also an increased risk of the mother and baby becoming diabetic later in life.
Women with gestational diabetes will be required to test their blood sugar levels at home, up to four times a day. The goal is to keep blood sugar levels within a range of normal. This can be done through diet and exercise. If diet changes and exercise are insufficient, insulin will be advised.

As a mom who has had three pregnancies with gestational diabetes – I know the whole process can be stressful! Drop me a note if you want to talk gestational diabetes – I could write a book, I’m sure <3

 

For more information:
General gestational diabetes info and some thoughts about the glucoloa drink
Information from Sarah Buckley, MD
Information and research analysis from Michael Odent, OB

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Maternity

Fall Maternity Photography in the Adirondacks – yes, please!

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Maternity Photography in the Adirondacks

Maternity Photography in the Adirondacks is always stunning.
Fall, in particular, is such an exciting time of year.
It reminds us of new beginnings, coinciding with a childhood filled with firsts in the fall. Maybe this is why it’s such an enjoyable time to create maternity portraits in the North Country.

Are you expecting in the next few months? Let’s schedule your maternity session to take advantage of the colors that shine in our part of the country.

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Fresh Baby

Just do one thing, when you’re a new mom

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I always have big plans for that slow-time postpartum, when I’m a new mom again. I’m going to strap the new baby on my body (also known as babywearing ), and just keep doing life. That’s my plan. Every time.
And every time, I’m reminded that newborn care is time consuming.
The first time this really surprised me was with my second baby.
I was already caring for a toddler – how different would life be if we added a baby?
It turns out – a lot.
So for overwhelmed moms with newborns, it’s okay.
This is normal.

It gets easier

But at first – just survive.
Literally.
As a new mom, your job is to take it easy and take care of your newborn.
When you start feeling frustrated by your lack of “productivity”, make a to-do list.
A short one.
With one item on your to-do list.
For me, that was – getting a load of laundry in the washer.
That’s it.
If I did that, it was a productive day.
Well done Mama!
Life is slowly adjusting to your new normal.
You got this!

This time will go by fast and slow.
Right now the days drag.
In a year – you won’t believe it flew by!
I would love to document your life as it is now. Get in touch, and let’s get a time on the calendar for me to come and hang out.
Maybe that’s you’re one “to do” on your list today.

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Birth

Birth Photography at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake

birthing-woman-adirondack-medical-centerAdirondack Medical Center Birth Photography

After touring area hospitals (see here for local hospital birth options), I couldn’t wait to document a birth at Adirondack Medical Center.
Kiersten and Stephen were so excited to meet their new baby. Kiersten was strong and confident. Stephen was completely supportive of Kiersten and also so very concerned about Kiersten and her well being. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this didn’t cause my eyes to leak. More than once. Their love and respect for each other was so obvious.

Adirondack Medical Center Birth PhotographyThe team at Adirondack Medical Center was so kind, patient, and respectful of Kiersten and Stephen’s birthing space. When Kiersten had moments of doubt, the nurse and OB reassured her that she was doing everything well and her baby was doing well. Kiersten smiled warmly at Stephen between contractions.

Adirondack Medical Center Cesarean Section Birth Photography
Cesarean Section Birth Photography

After hours of pushing, Kiersten made the decision to shift her birth plan and birth her baby via cesarean section. Kiersten’s birth team continued to support her wishes and maximized the amount of time she had with her baby immediately after he was born. When Kiersten heard her baby’s cry, she turned to Stephen and was glowing. She looked so proud and happy to finally hear what her baby’s voice sounded like.

newborn baby

There was an army of grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles waiting in the waiting area to meet their new family member. The excitement was palpable! There were conversations via cell phone with family members who were driving as fast as they could and crossing their fingers that they didn’t get pulled over. This baby had so much love surrounding his birth.
After some time hanging out with his new family in his dad’s arms, this new baby laid eyes on his mama and stared and stared … and Kiersten could hardly stop looking at her beautiful baby boy.

Adirondack Medical Center is protective of that magical first hour or two after birth. They ensured that Kiersten and Stephen had this time with their baby, to bond, to breastfeed, to take a minute to process their experience.

new mom and dad with newborn at Adirondack Medical Center

The start of a Family

Birth matters. How we’re treated in birth matters. It sets us up for parenting. Kiersten and Stephen were shown their inner strength, calm, and nurturing skills that will shine in their future parenting journey too.

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Breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week in Plattsburgh

World Breastfeeding Week is the first week in August every year. It’s a week of raising awareness about breastfeeding and community supports for breastfeeding families.

There are many local activities planned to show support and raise awareness around breastfeeding resources in our community.

All this talk of breastfeeding celebration will have you thinking about contacting Brown Eyed Photography about scheduling a breastfeeding photography session. Don’t delay – because this phase of life is relatively short. (Says the mom who is nursing her last baby who is now a toddler.)  Whether we meet at the library, at a park, or at your house, your session will be unique to you.

Wherever you are in your journey, be proud. From the mom who is expecting her first baby and planning to breastfeed, to the mom who breastfed for a day, a month, a year, two years, or beyond – every thought of breastfeeding, every drop for your baby has had an impact – on your baby and on you!

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*Brown Eyed Photography will be at the Big Latch at CVPH on August 5, 2017.

Can’t wait to see you there!

Birth, Birth Resource

Birth Dictionary – all the terminology

For most, the world of birth is a mystery – until you’re in it! And then there’s a speedy learning curve.
Here’s a list of terms (a birth dictionary?) that are thrown around in the birth world to help with that learning curve!

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Birth Dictionary

General Vocabulary

There are lots of words used as you enter the world of birth that may be brand new to you. Many in the birth world forget that the vocabulary they are using is not general knowledge in the non-birth-y world. Here are some of those words. Because information is power.

APGAR – this is an acronym that stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration
These five factors are rated on a scale of 0-2 and all the scores are added up to give you a total apgar score (so a 10 would be a perfect score). This assessment is done quickly by your medical team at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. This quick assessment is used by your medical team, to determine if your baby needs additional medical support. Any score above a 7 is seen as typical.

Breech – a breech baby refers to a baby who is not head down in the uterus before birth. A breech presentation occurs in approximately 4% of term babies. There are several options for attempting to turn a breech baby. Generally speaking, local practitioners will prefer to birth breech babies by cesarean. There is a provider at Alice Hyde in Malone, however, who will consider birthing breech babies vaginally.

Cervix – this is the opening at the bottom of the uterus, through which a baby is birthed.

Colostrum – the first milk that is made for the baby. This is high in nutrients and antibodies for new babies.

Contraction – the tightening of the uterus that moves the baby down into the birth canal and out into the world.

Crowning – when the baby’s head can be seen as it emerges from its mother.

Dilation – how open the cervix is to let the baby pass through. This is typically measured by a medical professional inserting their fingers into the mother’s vagina. 10 cm is considered fully dilated or opened and birth is imminent. The assessment shows a moment in time. This means a woman who is 5cm right now, may be 10cm in an hour, or 4cm in an hour. Dilation gives medical providers an indication of how labor is progressing.

EDD – Estimated Due Date, the date that falls 280 days (40 weeks) after the first day of your last menstrual period. The emphasis is on estimated. Only 5% of babies actually come on their due date. The average baby is born sometime between 38 and 42 weeks gestation – and that’s normal. To avoid feeling discouraged after your due date has passed and you still have no baby in your arms, it might be helpful to think of it as a “due month” or think of your due date as 42 weeks gestation – you won’t be sad when you birth “early”.

Effacement – As the baby drops further into the birth canal, the cervix becomes shorter and thinner, in preparation for dilation.

Fundus – this is the top of the uterus and can be felt from about 12 weeks gestation. Birth practitioners measure from the top of the pubic bone to the fundus. Starting around 20 weeks gestation, the height in centimeters tends to match how many weeks gestation you are (so a 20week uterus will tend to have a measurement of 20cm). It’s not an exact science, but gives an indication of the baby’s growth.  It’s also possible to measure your own funds at home.
After the second trimester, fundal height is not as accurate in measuring your gestation.

Group B Strep – A bacterial infection found in the vagina and/or anus of 25% of all healthy adult women and typically does not have any ill effect on its carrier. However, women who test positive for Group B Strep in pregnancy have a 1 in 200 chance of passing the infection to their baby, if the mother does not have the routine prevention protocol. The baby then has an increased chance of having symptoms, most commonly meningitis. If tested positive during pregnancy, the routine protocol is to administer iv antibiotics to the mother during labor. (For more information on how to avoid a positive Group B Strep result and to remedy an infection)

Lotus Birth – A lotus birth is when the umbilical cord is not cut. This means the placenta remains attached (via the umbilical cord) to the baby until it falls off naturally – usually around day 3 of life. This eases the transition process for the baby. (here’s some more information about the reasons for having a lotus birth and the logistics of managing a newborn with their placenta attached)

Meconium (Mec) – A baby’s poop for the first few days of life. Sometimes babies poop during the birthing process, and this may come out with the amniotic fluid. If the baby poops during labor, this could be a sign of distress.

Placenta – An organ grown during early pregnancy. This organ’s job is to nurture and grow the baby. The placenta is birthed after the baby.

Ring of Fire – The sensation a woman feels as her baby is crowning.

Station – how engaged into the pelvis the  baby is. At “0 Station” the baby is engaged in the pelvis (this can happen in the last month before birth, or in labor); “+5 Station is crowning.

Support People

Birth is a specific time in life and requires specific, knowledgeable support people. Here is a brief explanation of some of the birth experts you may find helpful.

Doula – a birth support person who typically is hired by the birthing person/couple and provides information, reassurance, comfort measures, and more during labor. This person generally provides some support before and after birth too. Postpartum doulas provide postpartum support.

Midwife – Someone trained to assist women during the childbirth phase of life. This is an ancient skill set that preceded the involvement of obstetricians and continues to thrive today. Midwives today serve women who have low-risk pregnancies and tend to be less interventive than obstetricians, who are trained surgeons. Midwives are also skilled at assisting women through life for female-specific medical care.

Obstetrician – A physician who is trained in surgery and general care of pregnant women.

Medical Procedures

While birth is not a medical event, it is often treated as such in our culture. For that reason, there are many possible medical procedures that may be recommended by your care provider. Here is a list of some of those procedures. Keep in mind that every procedure has risks and benefits and these factors warrant research while deciding to partake in a recommended procedure. Thinking through these before birth might be beneficial.

Cesarean Section – a surgical method of birthing a baby using an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.

Doppler – using continuous ultrasound (instead of pulsating like the traditional ultrasound), a doppler tracks a baby’s heart rate in utero during pregnancy and labor.

Electronic Fetal Monitoring – The baby’s heart rate is monitored using doppler technology. The mother’s contractions (strength and duration) is also monitored during electronic fetal monitoring. The results are recorded onto a printout that is typically reviewed approximately every thirty minutes by your medical provider. Continuos fetal monitoring requires you to remain in or near the bed as you are attached to the monitors. Sometimes there is a remote option that allows you to be detached from wires. (here’s more on this practice and its possible pros and cons)

Epidural – a drug given through a shot in the back that dulls pain in a localized area of the body (in the case of birth, typically from the lower half of your body). Epidurals contain drugs such as bupivacaine, lidocaine, and  chloroprocaine and are often combined with opioids or narcotics to decrease the amount of local anesthesia needed. Epidurals are typically administered around 5cm dilation. This is a popular form of pain relief in labor, perhaps because alternatives are not always offered (here’s more information about the use, administration, and pros and cons of choosing to use an epidural.)

Induction (medical)- The artificial initiation of labor.
If your cervix isn’t thinned/effaced, then this is the first step in induction. Readying the cervix may be done by using oral and topical medication (on your cervix) or a tiny balloon attached to a tube and placed next to your cervix and slowly filled with water, pressuring your cervix to open. If more time is available, a practitioner may start by “sweeping” or “stripping” your membranes. This procedure is done when the cervix is at least a little dilated and the practitioner reaches up into your cervix and separates the membrane from the bottom of your uterus. If you’re a few centimeters dilated, your practitioner may break your bag of water. And lastly, pitocin, a synthetic hormone, can be administered to strengthen contractions.
Sweeping membranes, breaking water, and pitocin may be used even after labor has begun, if it is decided that labor is not progressing as quickly or steadily as the practitioner would like.

Non Stress Test – Your baby’s heart rate, movement, and contractions are monitored for usually 20-60 minutes. Non stress tests (NST) can be recommended if you are past your due date or your pregnancy is high risk for some reason.

Pitocin (Pit) – (referred to above under inductions) is a synthetic hormone, imitating oxytocin. Oxytocin is naturally produced by your body as part of the hormone cocktail that encourages contractions and bonding, among other things. Pitocin is not exactly like oxytocin and does not provide all the same effects (such as the bonding effect). This drug is often added to the iv of a laboring woman, if labor is not progressing as quickly as the practioner would like. Pitocin speeds up labor and often leads to epidural use as the pitocin-induced contractions are much more intense than natural contractions.

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