Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Downside to Feeding Your Child Cow's Milk

By Linda Folden Palmer, D.C.
Excerpted with permission.
To read more from Palmer, please visit her website and see her latest book, The Baby Bond: The New Science Behind What's Really Important When Caring for Your Baby.

cow milk is designed perfectly for baby cows ~ not baby humans

Today, many of the problems parents have with their babies are linked to new parenting and feeding techniques that have been implemented during the recent century. Colic, for instance, is far more common in the U.S. than in many other places around the world. Two chief causes for its rise are the stress suffered by babies being regularly separated from their mothers, and the common difficulties babies have tolerating the large cow's milk proteins in infant formulas and breastfeeding mothers' diets. Cow's milk is a foreign substance that has pervaded every corner of our diets—starting with artificial infant feeds, but finding its way into mother's breastmilk through the foods she eats as well. As it turns out, health problems such as childhood diabetes, obesity, bowel disease, osteoporosis, heart disease, cataracts, colic, ear infections, hyperactivity, and cancer, on the rise in both children and adults, are strongly linked to infant feeding choices.

While there are literally thousands of research studies, each revealing at least one of milk's hazards, the dairy industry goes to great lengths to stifle any damaging rumors. Blanket statements, such as, "There is simply no scientific research to back up these claims," are easily made. With a long and successful history of dairy promotion, these are readily accepted by the public. More people need to go to the real research and learn the truth for themselves. They should be very suspicious of these foreign foods being pushed on their children. They should question motives as well as possible outcomes. Although some of the dangers of cow's milk consumption relate more to adults than to children, parents' actions form the basis for lifelong dairy-consuming habits in their children.

The harmful components of cow's milk include all the major parts of it, as well as some more minor elements. Lactose is a sugar meant for babies, but it's generally harmful to adults. The proteins in cow's milk are different from human milk proteins and cause problems of digestion, intolerance, impaired absorption of other nutrients, and autoimmune reactions. Few of the proteins meant for baby cows are found naturally in human mother's milk, and none are found in any natural adult human food.

Even the high protein content in cow's milk creates problems. Human babies need the saturated fats and cholesterol in mother's milk. Bovine milk fat is not appropriately composed for human babies and is only deleterious to the health of children and adults. Cow hormones are not meant for humans, and older children and adults are not meant to consume hormones. And, cows have been selectively bred over time to create high levels of these hormones—those being the cows that grow the fastest and produce the greatest amount of milk. Cows also concentrate pesticides and pollutants into their milk fat, from their high dietary food and water requirements. The high amount of drugs now given to cows adds to this chemical soup. But we need milk to build strong bones, don't we? Actually, heavy milk consumption leads to increased osteoporosis.

The highly promoted idea that milk builds strong bones refers to the prevention of osteoporosis—this is the reason for strengthening bones. Decades of effort to demonstrate that high calcium diets chiefly derived from dairy products build strong bones have failed to prove any such correlation. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. (1) It appears that high calcium intake before puberty, and especially in young childhood, may have some slight positive effect on bones, but this diet is not the answer. A balanced intake of all the bone minerals, along with adequate vitamin A, C, and D, is what is truly needed. A balanced intake of minerals cannot occur when the diet emphasizes dairy. Dairy's high calcium causes relative deficiencies in magnesium and other bone-building minerals, and its high phosphorus and animal protein reduces calcium availability. Physical activity has the greatest benefit—the body efficiently uses what is available to build strong bones when it senses the need. Human milk and vegetable sources are superior to dairy for calcium and other nutrients in many ways. There are fewer nutritional or other health advantages to giving cow's milk to children than is generally believed, while there are certainly many risks.

Almost every day another health research finding is made about whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, or some other food, other than milk that is, and its connection to a reduced risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, diabetes, or other disease. This is because cow's milk and its derivatives today make up one-third of the adult diet, and half to two-thirds of caloric intake in children, thus replacing so much other important, nutritious food needed in the diet. This leads to insufficient intake of important vitamins, several minerals, and healthy fiber and vegetable oils. Cancer-preventing antioxidants in foods are missing in this milk diet as well. While one form of antioxidant vitamin A is added to milk (but not all dairy products), it is likely counteracted by the pesticide and drug residues. The full complement of vitamin A and associated enzymes, found in vegetables and other foods, are required for cancer prevention. Many, many more kinds of antioxidants are found in vegetables, legumes, fruits, and grains.

No other animal in the animal kingdom drinks milk beyond childhood. No other animal suffers from osteoporosis, except the occasional pet raised on human meals.

If there remains a desire to provide cow's milk to a child who has no diarrhea, rashes, or other intolerance reactions, organic (organic—not raw) non-fat milk would be the best choice. In raw (unpasteurized) cow's milk there can be many potentially dangerous microorganisms, in addition to the leukemia virus. In organic milk there are fewer antibiotic residues, no added hormones, and cows are given better feeds. Non-fat means less chemical residue and no artery-damaging saturated fat. Children can obtain fat in the form of non-hydrogenated (especially monosaturated) vegetable oils, be it in potato chips or cashews. Goat's milk is considered by many to be superior in many ways, and today low-fat versions are available. Much less documented information is available about goat's milk, but it appears that the proteins are less problematic for digestion, although allergic intolerance to these can also occur. Lactose and hormones would remain an issue although, to date, goats apparently are not injected with extra growth hormone.

Although it was apparent from day one that formula was a health risk for infants, back when it was first promoted, cow's milk for older children appeared to be a nutritional manna. And with one or two glasses a day from a healthy, range-fed animal, it likely nearly was. Since this time, however, the quality of dairy has drastically reduced while its consumption has exploded... with a little advertising help. The evidence suggesting that the early faith in milk was misplaced has been building up for decades. The dairy industry has had to take increasingly extreme efforts to keep this information out of public awareness.

I have only touched on the tip of the existing evidence against the health claims of the milk industry promoters. Since our childhood, the dairy industry has worked hard to have dairy products enshrined in a food group of their own. Even though they were given their own space in the new Eating Right food pyramid, they found themselves placed in a small upper portion and have lobbied to have the pyramid withdrawn. (2) Many nutrition experts such as Harvard's Dr. Walter Willett (3) suggest they should not be a featured group in the pyramid at all.

The dairy industry has also successfully convinced many vegetarians that milk from cows, especially cheese, is a vegetarian food. Since few substantiated health claims can be made anymore, the milk industry's most recent promotion has been to simply show their product on the upper lip of celebrities of all kinds, even those who are dairy-allergic (Bill Clinton), and even on those who are too young to be consuming whole milk (the Rugrats). Before this promo, it was simply "Got milk?" While an ever-growing preponderance of scientific information points to the dangers of cow's milk, favorable public and even mainstream medical opinion about dairy products has been very successfully maintained.

Knowing and avoiding the potentially harmful effects that high dairy consumption and milk-sensitivity reactions can have on your child is just as important and loving as nursing, close bonding, and informed health care decisions. What we feed our children matters; how we parent them matters. These measures will lead to the best health, comfort and happiness available to a child. Parents have the power to create and enjoy healthier, happier children with brighter futures.

 References:

1)  L. H. Kushi et al., "Health Implications of Mediterranean Diets in Light of Contemporary Knowledge. 1. Plant Foods and Dairy Products," Am J Clin Nutr 61, suppl 6 (Jun 1995): 1407 S—1415S.

2) M. Nestle, "Food Lobbies, the Food Pyramid, and U.S. Nutrition Policy," Int J Health Serv 23, no. 3 (1993): 483-96.

3) W. C. Willett, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, in the Boston Globe, June 8, 1999.


Related Reading: 

The Baby Bond [book]

The Baby Bond [website]

The China Study [book]

The Deadly Influence of Formula in America

Don't Drink Your Milk [book]

Dr. Sears on Cow's Milk 

Is Cow's Milk Necessary for Toddlers?

Should Children Drink Cow's Milk?

Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow's Milk and Your Health [book]




~~~~


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Birth Story: Premature Rupture of Membranes at 31 weeks. Beautiful, NATURAL birth 1 month later

The strength, wisdom, and determination of this mother despite all that was thrown in her path amaze me. That she could handle all of this, within the hospital setting, after 2 previous gentle homebirths is awe-inspiring. She told her birth story on the Mothering.com listserv.

Ember Lotus Halcyon
29 January 2008
1:45 p.m.
5 lbs. 1 oz.
17.5 inches
34w6d gestation

Ember's entry into the world started 4 weeks before her birthday. I was rolling over in bed and felt a gush of warm fluid.
"Uh-oh", I said. "That can't be good." I had experienced SROM before my first daughter, so I was familiar with the sensation. I did NOT however anticipate it occurring at 31 weeks gestation. I was NOT happy. I knew the possibilities of pre-term labor. I knew the dangers of a 31 week preemie. I also knew that my hopes for my third home birth were quickly coming to a screeching halt.
I decided that at 11 pm at night was NOT when and how I wanted to handle this situation, so I let my husband, Mark, know what had happened, what that meant, and what I planned to do about it. I cleaned up, put on a pad and went to bed. "If I don't wake up in labor, I want a good nights rest under my belt."

The next morning I did a little more research on pPROM and made an appointment with my midwives to confirm that I had, in fact, had a pPROM. I packed some pads, my laptop and little else, and headed into town. I knew I'd probably be headed to the hospital, but out of wishful thinking and simplicities sake, I did not spend the time trying to figure out what to take with me. "If I need it, Mark will bring it." Was the thought I had.

The midwives confirmed it was indeed a PROM, as amniotic fluid poured down my legs. We discussed my disappointment and with their well wishes and hugs, I headed off to my sister, a CNM, who no longer worked with, but knew many of the staff at the hospital I had chosen. Knowing my lifestyle choices as she does (very natural approach/non medical intervention) and as educated as she is (pros/cons/terminology/procedural) I chose her to be my advocate. She would then drive me to the hospital L&D. It was the last time I would feel the sun on my face for an entire month.

My visit started immediately by refusing a catheter catch urinalysis to check for infection and a vaginal exam.

Mark came after work with a few things I would be needing: toothbrush, change of clothes, hairbrush, etc. I spent the night in observation. A cascade of choices and refusals followed. I was suddenly thrust into a game of deciding which medical interventions and treatments I would agree to, which ones I would argue, and which ones I would absolutely refuse. This "game" was not a fun one. Before now, I had never in my life spent a night in the hospital, and CERTAINLY had no intention of spending any time there due to pregnancy and childbirth. It was NOT my way, nor my desire.
NO, I will not agree to that.
Yes, you can do that thing to me I swore I'd never do.
Yes, you can give me steroid shots, so that if I go into labor in the next 4 days, like 96% of pPROM cases do, my baby will have a better jump start on lung development.
Yes, I will agree to IV antibiotics.
Yes, I will submit to an ultrasound so that we can guess the weight of my baby...
Yes, we will go ahead and find out the sex of our baby, since we are here... oh my, she's a she. I guess we should pick a name.
No, you cannot do a trans-vaginal ultrasound, because nothing, and I mean NOTHING is going near my vagina.

I did not sleep that first night, because I was terrified my baby would come too soon and spend the next month or two in NICU.
Day 2 came and went. I called for my notebook and pillows. Day 3 came and went and I called for other personal care items. Day 4 was like a giant milestone. Once I made it past day 4, I had been told that "all bets are off" and I suddenly thought "I'm going to be here awhile." I began asking for my fuzzy blanket, crayons, my tea, my bunny slippers, more clothes, different clothes, hair ties, blow dryer, some symbolic stones I had been given during pregnancy. By the weekend, I had many things to keep me busy, preoccupied and comfortable. Now begins the wait for baby. Would it be one more day? Would it be several more weeks? No one knew.

I made healthy food choices and stuffed myself silly in hopes that I would grow a quickly chubby and healthy baby. I stayed in bed as to lose as little water as possible. I drank Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. I drank water. I drank TONS of water. I changed my pad each time I went to pee, whether it needed it or not. I was obsessively clean. I took tons of vitamin C. I asked for prenatal vitamins WITHOUT iron. I asked for pro-biotics. I wrote out my birth plan. I wrote TWO birthplans: one for if it was very soon and baby needed extra help, and one for later on, and she wasn't in immediate danger, in case we made it that far. I refused sleeping pills. I refused stool softeners. I submitted to vitals check and fetal heart tones every 4 hours around the clock. I submitted to Non-stress tests daily (for awhile). I stayed in bed. I chatted online. I was refused tylenol. I explained and re-explained my thoughts and ideas for the pregnancy and birth. I defended my ideas to residents. I felt relieved after visits from perinatolgists. I was refused a heating pad. I had blood drawn to check for infection. I gave away my pee to check for infection. I never once came down with an infection.

I had a few bad days. I had a few sad days. I laughed about the situation. I cried about the situation. I hardly ever saw my 10 year old. I saw my 19 year old twice. I saw my husband on most days. I talked to my mother every day. I answered, "no, i'm not having any bleeding or contractions" four times a day for 28 days. I missed my cat. I missed my bed. I missed sunshine. I missed the sound of birds. I missed cooking. I missed my life. I looked forward to the future. I feared the future. I couldn't wait to hold my baby. I started to refuse the non-stress tests because I found them to be VERY stressful and NOT helpful to the situation at hand. My baby obviously did not like "performing for the machine", but I had no fear for her at that point. That machine was unreliable and a pain. I started getting irritable. I refused to be induced when I reached 34 weeks. I was told the dangers. I was told my baby's cord would get compressed. I was told my placenta was surely sheer off. I was told that infection was imminent. I reminded myself and thought only of the benefits of waiting until SHE was ready. Each day I counted one ounce of weight gain and two less days in the NICU for my baby.

I stayed at the hospital for mine and my baby's safety, however, I began to hope for my home birth again. If I made it to 36 weeks, I would go home to have a home birth. Maybe everything would turn out the way I wanted. Maybe we would be able to actually catch our own baby afterall. Maybe I really could have another perfect birth. I was getting impatient but had to wait on my baby. SHE was the one that would decide how this went. Not me, not the doctors, it was she who would decide.

The day I turned 34 weeks, I awoke to streaks of blood tinged mucus. I said to Mark, "how do you feel about becoming a daddy today?" I knew for sure that this would be the day. This was the first day that I could be attended by the midwives instead of the o.b.'s. I gave thanks that this day had come. "Well, if I have to be in the hospital for this, at LEAST I can have a midwife." I was just a tiny bit closer to a less invasive birth.

The day came and went; as did the next day, and the next. In fact, three more days passed before I ever had anything resembling a contraction larger than a braxton-hicks, although I imagined SOMETHING was happening, albeit on a very slow schedule. I was uncomfortable, but certainly not in active labor. I was becoming ever burdened with the sensations lasting days. The contractions, the blood streaks, the "feeling" like "this is it" for DAYS.

On Sunday night, I was awakened at midnight with uncomfortable contractions. I began to pace the floor. I began to have to breathe through them. I called Mark and finally told the nurse. I went to L&D and spent the entire night awake and uncomfortable. False alarm, I went back to my room.

Monday was uncomfortable as well, but the contractions were irregular and didn't feel very effective. I said nothing to the nurse. I was up all night again with painful contractions. I moved, I squatted, I changed positions. I paced. I tried to rest. I rocked my body. I breathed thru them.

Early Tuesday morning I went to the bathroom and there was a gush of blood. Ok, so now this really IS it, and I hope that's not what I think it is... After a quick check by the doctor, it was, in her opinion, exactly what I thought it might be, but was crushed to hear her voice the words: the beginning of placental abruption.
I nearly cried when I heard this, as I was so terrified of medical intervention, so terrified of medications and pitocin and epidurals, so terrified of a c-section, so terrified to come all this way, fight so hard, and lose my baby, so disappointed and sad to have lived the last month of my life in a hospital, away from my family, away from MY life. So upset to have spent so much time defending myself and my baby, just to have it end like this. I was very upset, albeit not surprised that with two perfect homebirths behind me, this baby would come in such an awful, medical way. It seemed so ironic, it seemed so mean. All I could do was surrender and do what had to be done.

I was surprised when the o.b.'s told me, "it's not entirely out of the question that you still have a vaginal birth you know... you are still the perfect candidate for one. It's just that your placenta and the birth of your baby are now in a race. Your cervix is 2 cm. You may want to re-think pitocin."
I was moved to L&D and met the midwife that would be attending me. I sat on the birth ball. My mother showed up. My daughters both showed up. My sister showed up. I breathed through the contractions. They were deep and low and painful. They did not feel effective, as painful as they were. As surprised at my body as I was for a month without going into labor, I was now just as disappointed that I knew, just KNEW this was going to be a long, painful, ending in c-section and/or death for-one-or-both-of-us nightmare. I was sad.
I asked for fentanyl to ease my pain. Not my physical pain, but the emotional pain. "If it's going to be like this, I just want to be numb." It didn't help. I kept saying to my family, "I should just take the whole medical tour, now that I'm in this predicament." I began to question whether to ask for a c-section just to "save" my baby. Labor didn't scare me, a RACE between birth and my placenta did. A birth in THIS place terrified me.
My youngest daughter and mother fed me ice chips. My oldest daughter and husband pressed on my lower back. Two hours after arriving in L&D I was checked and was STILL 2cm. I was told, "I think it's time for a kick start, Julie. How do you feel about starting some pitocin?" I looked at the doctor with defeat, "I feel absolutely awful about it. I don't know how else I'm going to do it. Go ahead and start it." I was scared to death of pitocin, hearing that the contractions were horrendous and laboring without pain relief nearly impossible to do with it. I feared my uterus would clamp down and we would all die as a result of my attempt to bring my baby "sooner than later", again, in a race with my placenta.

At 11 am I was put on a pitocin drip at the lowest dose. The very next contraction told me that it was, in effect, working. I worked through maybe three or four contractions and yes, they hurt like hell, but suddenly I felt like I was in actual labor. Labor that was DOING SOMETHING and told the midwife, "can we please turn it off?" "Yes, of course we can, but I don't think those contractions are from the pitocin, it hasn't really been going in that long."
"It feels really strong, I noticed a distinct change in the contractions. I want to see how it feels to NOT be on the pitocin. We can always re-start it, right?"
"Yes, of course we can."
They turned off the pitocin, only about 10 minutes into it. The labor continued on. I spent the rest of my labor reminding myself that they had turned off the pitocin. Mark even checked for me that the pitocin had been turned off. I couldn't believe it. The contractions were so intense and so close together, there is no way there was no pitocin. My sister laughed and said, "I can't believe that you felt that... it was so little... maybe you only needed a little whiff of it to get things moving."
I began to have contractions every 3 minutes or so. I doubted my body even more, the pain so intense. So much more intense than my other labors. I wondered if it was because of the wires and IV's. It was so awkward to try to labor with all these monitors and blood pressure cuff and oxygen monitor. I wondered if being in the hospital made it hurt more. I felt like a caged animal, unable to labor as I wanted, move as I needed, arrange myself for the best possible working of each contraction. I did the best I could, changing positions, standing, rocking swaying, sitting on the birth ball, laying on my side... that hurt the most. Swaying on all fours.

I suppose some would think I was not restricted at all, however, I am not used to such interventions and accessories to birth. I felt trapped. I felt tied down. I felt very encumbered. It was so unnatural to be doing this very sacred thing in such a medical and institutionalized place of business. I wondered if there was something wrong. Nothing told their machines that anything was wrong, I had doubted the machines all month, and my body all day. I was still convinced I'd end up with my worst fears realized, and really unsure of how long this torture would last, I asked for an epidural. I wanted to see my baby born. I had been up for two days. I was afraid a spinal wouldn't last long enough until the c-section. I asked for an epidural. I felt defeated and cheated by my body. My 19 year old told the midwife, "she doesn't really want an epidural! MOM! You don't REALLY want an epidural! You don't want them drilling a big needle into your spine!" "Oh Bayleigh, If I have to be here, if I have to do this, if I have to do it this way, I might as well get the entire tour." I said. "If I am less than 8cm, I want the epidural." My mom said, "you don't have to be a hero, Julie." "I know mom." The midwife checked me and I was 6cm. "Give me the epidural." The midwife asked me, "Julie, do you want me to talk you out of this?" "NO." Was my answer, hard and firm as it sounded, I was very sad inside. I didn't want it. I wanted to rest. I had not slept for two days and had no idea how long this would last. I was not at home and I used to tell people, "in the hospital, at some point, EVERYBODY asks for the epidural."

It was true. I never asked for one at home. It was the farthest thing from my mind. I felt defeated. I wanted this to end. I wanted to be numb and I wanted my baby. They called for the anesthesiologist. I continued to labor hard and fast. Minutes later, the anesthesiologist arrived and told everyone they had to leave, except for one family member. Everyone left the room, except for my husband. She scrubbed my back down. The contractions were one on top of the other, no breaks in between. She kept telling me to hold still. I began to make otherworldly noises. Mark thought the anesthesiologist was hurting me. I knew it was the sounds of childbirth. She began to put in the little numbing shots. I continued to moan and squirm. Thinking the entire time, "oh my god, I can't believe I am submitting to this. I can't believe I'm going to NOT feel my baby be born." I said out loud, "I am getting pushy. I want to push." The anesthesiologist said, "ok." she grabbed the plastic off my back, gathered her things and left, just that quickly. The nurse said, "Let me check you!" I lay on my side on the bed. The nurse checked me. She said, "Julie, there is no cervix there. You are fully dialated." I could have told her that. I had gone from 6cm to fully dialated and pushy in less than 20 minutes. She left the room to fetch the midwife and family. Out the door we could hear her, "Baby on the way! Baby is coming!"

It was at this point, Mark and I were in the room. No doctors, no nurses, no midwives, no machines, no drugs, no family, no hospital, no place, no time. Nothing existed but me, him and this amazing force called childbirth. I reached down and felt the top of my baby's furry little head. I felt my perineum stretch. I panted until the next push came, holding my hand on the top of her head. I stopped panting and pushed. I felt her crown; my perineum stretching enough to let her soft little head out to about her cheeks, maybe to her little neck. So precious and tiny and I could FEEL her as she entered the world, her head fitting perfectly in the palm of my hand. I panted. With the next push, a long and hard one, I guided her out and felt her move past the shoulders, and with great expulsion, as her body became longer, my reach became shorter. As I became WE, I looked up to see Mark reaching for her, and I knew she'd be ok. I knew I could let go. I knew her papa would hold her and make sure nothing happened to her. I was able to let her go. Just the two of us, and now the three of us, I collapsed onto the bed, fully relaxing for the first time in a month. We had delivered our own baby, unassisted, in a HOSPITAL.
The midwife was soon behind Mark, helping him wrap her in a blanket and hand her up to me. Time stood still as I gazed into this tiny, beautiful work of art. She gazed back. She was perfect, absolutely perfect. She was finally here.

The room filled with people. Doctors, nurses, family members. All in disbelief at what had just transpired. My 19 year old was pissed she missed it. My 10 year old kept repeating, "oh, she's SO CUTE!" Mark kept saying, "good job." The midwife said, "I don't even know why I came to work today!" The doctors said, "We might have known that after all of this, you would end up delivering your own baby. We just thought you would bar the door to do it!" Our little Ember Lotus Halcyon came into the world in less than 3 hours after the whiff of pitocin, 6 days after the first tinge of blood, 3 days of prodromal hell, ONE MONTH of hospital bedrest, at ALMOST 35 weeks gestation. Some would say too early. We think she was right on time. Many say "unbelievable".

Never one minute in NICU, never an issue with breathing, she stayed warm on the bare chest of mama and papa. We all left the hospital together: Papa now a father for the first time and filled with love and so many feelings he never knew existed; me after one long and harrowing month, the last week being by far the most difficult; a placental abruption, a retained placenta, a hemmorage amounting to two liters of blood, a manual removal of the same placenta... and her... with a mouth so tiny that breast-feeding will take weeks to establish fully; a yawn so dainty and adorable, you wonder how something so teeny could possibly be functional, and little puppy noises that melt the heart; In a tiny pink outfit labeled "preemie" that I ordered the first week I checked into the hospital that is still too large for her, at 4lbs.9oz. we left the hospital.

She is my lesson in surrender. She is an exercise in determination and grace. She showed Mark and I how to work together again in ways that were instinctually natural. To come together in ways that we have not been, in entirely too long. A friend said it was magic the way that by surrendering some things, standing firm on others and in facing one of my absolute worst fears and turning myself over to it, we were given the gift of a perfect birth. At the very last moment, to be the ones she came to, just the two of us. Into our hands she was born. Had I not asked for the epidural, we would not have found ourselves alone at the perfect moment. Had one more minute passed, I might have actually had the epidural and never felt my baby be born. Mark calls her birth story serendipitous. I say it was kismet. She is just content to lay on my chest as I type this and sleep a deep halcyon sleep. She doesn't have to say anything. She is perfection in miniature.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Business of Being Born

i feel high.
i just watched The Business of Being Born.
incredible.
this is the first full film my prego bladder has allowed me to watch without running to the bathroom at least once...
i cried.
i cheered.
i was angered.
i was completely moved.
this film simply must be seen by everyone.
amazing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

HBAC Waterbirth Story

[Note: this story was anonymously sent to us without the author's information. If this is your story, please contact us so we are able to credit you. If you have an HBAC/VBAC story you'd like to share, feel free to drop us a note as well. PeacefulParents {at} gmail.com]




Here is the scoop on my waterbirth HBAC which I am TOTALLY convinced would have been another C/S had I stayed with an OB and hospital delivery plan. I will give a little background for those who haven’t read my previous posts.


I believe in the perfect design of our bodies and the process to give birth. It is not a medical event. Hospitals, doctors, and women make it into a medical event and lead women to believe that their pelvises are too small, their body just won’t progress, the baby is turned wrong, etc. They do little to advocate the proper help in labor needed to overcome most “complications” and their interventions either cause them or make it worse.


I had wanted a homebirth for my baby#1. DH was not comfortable. We chose a hospital midwife that was pro-natural and a hospital that was smaller and less invasive. We hired a doula. I told my DH not to call the doula when I was in very active labor. He finally called her in time for her to come force me to leave for the hospital. I labored at home the entire time and arrived at the hospital only to push. My doula was invaluable during the last stage though. I needed her. No drugs, no IVs etc. I did get my drug-free birth, but the hospital staff was just totally freaked out when I arrived. They wanted to hook me up to everything (but didn’t get to), made me hold my pushing for 20 minutes, rolled their eyes, had their arms folded…HELLO I already did the hard part BY MYSELF…please just catch the baby. After my son was born, he was whisked away and tortured by all they do at the hospital in bright lights and chaos even though he was perfectly healthy and born at 39 weeks.


With my 2nd DS I had a complete placenta previa that did not “move”. On hospital bed rest, I hemorrhaged for the 4th time. I had a C/S at 33 weeks. I hated the entire experience of the C/S…the feeling of the epidural…the way the baby is just taken away from you for hours and treated roughly…how nauseous I was from the epidural so I did not want to hold my baby, the recovery, etc.


When I first found out that I was pregnant with DS #3, I did feel that I needed to be at a hospital because I would be a VBAC. I was determined to find an OB and hospital that would do a VBAC with very little interventions…I have a LONG list. The more I searched; I realized this would be impossible and that I would be a nightmare patient for them fighting all of their protocols. My own GYN told me that any baby over 6 pounds would be a C/S!!!?? I hit so many obstacles that lead me to the possibility that you can VBAC at home (HBAC). My DH was definitely not comfortable with an HBAC. We researched and met with a HB midwife at about 24 weeks. My DH was sold on the HBAC, and we didn’t look back.


We hired my doula again planning to call her much sooner this time! My prenatal care from my midwife was phenomenal! Appts. were at her home, she was always on time, they lasted an hour and were peaceful and wonderful. It was by far the BEST prenatal care ever, even if I were to end up at the hospital.

So, to the good stuff…at my 39 week appt. I was 2-3 cm, 90% effaced, baby had completely dropped, lots of bloody show and mucus plug. Each day, I would have some really good ctx during the day then in the late afternoon they would go into a pattern for about 2 hours and stop.


IF I was planning to deliver at a hospital and I rushed off, I am convinced they would have wanted to start pitocin to start my labor again (and we all know everything that can go wrong with forcing labor) or go right for the C/S since I was a VBAC. The bottom line is…my body was making progress but the baby and myself were just not ready. I could have been labeled FTP or stalled at a hospital.


Finally on Thursday morning (1/31) I lost a whole lot more mucus stuff…enough that my hubby even told our other children and his co-workers that the baby will probably come today. I thought it in my head too, but I had too much to do that day. I had ctx on and off all day but not close together at all, and my boobs kept having the milk “let-down” feeling. By the afternoon I started having some really strong ctx that were a little more regular but still not close enough. I still had a few things I needed to do. My older boys (5 & 6) go to different schools not close to home. I also had to take one of them to a specialist appt. for a follow-up. I did not want to cancel that appt. since they take so long to get. So from about 2:30pm until 5:30pm I am driving around in a major metro city having ctx and telling my body that I needed to wait. I drove home in rush hour traffic too. When we got home, we went for a “family walk” to see if these ctx were “the real” thing. Each one also had this terrible pain of having a pole shoved up my a**!!!!! What was that?!!! After our walk, I walked by myself a little more. I just couldn’t eat dinner …anything but a wheat roll. I felt sick and uncomfortable and still having ctx. I could not sit on the birthing ball b/c of the rectal pain. I got into the bathtub while my DH put the boys to bed. At 8pm, we called our neighbor to babysit, so my DH and I could go for a good hour walk. At this point, he is just wondering when the heck am I going to let him call the midwife. Ctx were strong and in a good pattern. I felt like I was going to vomit at the end of our walk and had some weird pains. My DH wanted to call the midwife. I said let’s see if the ctx stay (I am in total denial here!!! They had been “staying” for hours). I do not want to be calling my doctor/midwife at only 1-3 cm or false labor. Finally, at 9:30p I gave my DH the green light to call the midwife. He was SOOOO relieved! I described everything to the midwife including the “pole in my rear” feeling. The baby is head down, but she said the baby was posterior (sunny-side up) and we needed him to “turn”. She told us some positioning to do including having my DH squeeze my hips during a ctx. My DH asked if he should call the doula. I said no, let’s wait for the midwife to make sure I am in labor. LOL My DH later told me that HE knew I was in labor and was freaked out that I wouldn’t let him make calls. ;-) like I did with our 1st child. The midwife rushed to get to our house…20 minutes!!! She knew I was in labor too. She did “check me” since we needed time to turn the baby around. I was already 7-8 cm!!!. She said she was going to be very careful not to break my bag of water since the baby needs the room the water provides to make the turn.


Ladies keep that in mind when you agree to have your OB rupture your membranes just to speed up labor…it is there for a reason and you may need it later or breaking it can put you at risk for infection.

You should have seen the look on my face…”Are you serious?” I asked her. My dh called the doula who rushed over.


The midwife’s 2 assistants also arrived. Now, with the doula and midwife they had be get into some interesting positioning over the birthing ball while helping to manipulate my legs and hips so the baby had room to turn. The midwife said this has less to do with my pelvis and more to do with tight muscles and a tight iliosoas (anterior hip muscles). She said it would take about 45-60 minutes for the baby to turn. My doula is also a massage therapist so she could help with this greatly. My hamstrings would get tired from holding the positions…she would just start massaging them. She knew what I needed without any words. The midwife assistant would help give me cushions for my knees, etc. These 3-4 women TOOK CARE OF ME like I was their dearest friend. Their love and compassion was just awesome…their sole focus was me and my baby and what I wanted. Let me tell you, the things these women were doing for me to help me position this baby, NO OB ALIVE would do and no hospital environment would be patient enough to let me do this.


Sure enough, just like the midwife predicted, 45-60 minutes later I FELT the baby turn around inside me. And at that point, they could all see a bump in my low back. This confirmed the baby had turned.


When the baby is in the correct position it actually pushes out a little lump in your low back. I put my hand back there and could feel the lump myself.


Yeah!! I can now get in the bathtub. I could not tolerate bright lights or loud talking during ctx. My doula, midwife just kept talking softly always saying the right things at the right time and giving me lots of fluids to drink. Ctx were much more intense now that the baby had turned and my body could “finish the job”. Then came the vomiting….I was nearing the pushing stage and was overwhelmed with nausea and just kept vomiting. (Good thing I skipped dinner!) This is normal in some women so it did not scare me. Everyone rushed to get me something to puke in and helped me through it. Then came pushing. I just took my mind into a different place. Even with all my support, I knew I was alone in the fact that I had to be the one to push this baby out. I dug deep I prayed to God repeatedly in my head to help me get through the fear and leave my Faith with him.


My sister was there to wake my other boys (ages 5 &6) to come watch. They did awesome…they loved watching the birth and are so in love with their baby brother. My sister was in charge of their care during this.


Once I got serious, pushing took only 4-6 minutes. And no, no one had to “check” me to tell me that I could push…I just did when I was ready. The midwife had arrived at my house at about 10pm. Andrew Michael was born at 12:05am in a beautiful waterbirth at home VBAC! 8 pounds 12 ounces 20 inches

He cried and then laid quietly on my chest for a long time. Everyone helped me out of the tub with baby, cord and placenta still attached. I moved onto my bed to just wait for the placenta to come out. This can take 30-40 minutes even. Patience is key. There is important communication between the baby and placenta to help ease the transition for the baby’s systems to take over peacefully. He never left my chest the whole time.


Forcing cord cutting so quickly and placenta out early like they do at the hospital is very traumatic for the baby and can cause hemorrhage to the Mom. The placenta needs time to make a clean detachment on its own.


After the placenta was delivered, I nursed Andrew a little and then the midwife took over taking care of the baby and then I needed a few stitches..not too many though. My older boys laid on the bed with me and we just answered the questions about everything. They watched the cord, placenta, baby nurse, loved touching him and looking at him. We just didn't make anything a big deal. It was very natural.


The doula kept taking care of my needs for drinking helping me nurse. One assistant kept taking my vitals. The other assistant helped me shower and change clothes. The midwife was busy doing all the medical check of the baby and me. And, they all cleaned up everything before they left.


My husband said it was the most peaceful experience for him. He was able to relax, get things when asked, videotape and take pictures.


~~~~


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best of Both Worlds? Why I am Choosing Homebirth

by Christy Rogers

Birth advocacy shirts available at Made By Momma


A little less than a year ago, my best friend had a baby, which made me painfully aware that my own biological clock was ticking away. Being the research hound that I am, I began making weekly trips to the library, bringing home every book on pregnancy and childbirth I could find. I came across Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. I had heard about the Bradley Method from a cable television show called “A Baby Story.” Curious, I took the book home. This book was the turning point for me, as I haven’t viewed childbirth the same since.

I had always assumed I would have a conventional birth—hospital, epidural, IV, legs in stirrups, episiotomy, and baby tucked nicely (and quietly) away in the nursery once born. Every woman I knew had had her baby this way, so why should I be any different? And who on earth would
voluntarily put herself through all that pain? After reading the McCutcheon book, I began to wonder if maybe there isn’t a better way—maybe I could give birth naturally, unmedicated, and with as few interventions as possible.

Admittedly, I was still skeptical. All the usual visions of childbirth were still ingrained in my head, and I was afraid of what might happen if I put myself in the position of not being able to have access to all the technology should I need it. I decided that I would try to have a natural, unmedicated childbirth, via the Bradley Method, in a hospital—but not be totally closed to the idea of pain relief. Best of both worlds, I thought.

The next books I read were Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley (the founder of the Bradley Method™), and The Birth Book by Dr. William Sears. These two books were also pivotal points in my transformation, in that the more I read, the more I came to the realization that my dream of having the best of both worlds would more than likely not come true. Simple statistics show that by walking into a hospital you are upping your chances of being subjected to routine hospital policies and time limits, invasive procedures, and about 30 percent of the time, a surgical delivery via cesarean section. The conditions a laboring woman is expected to endure in a hospital are simply not conducive to achieving a natural, unmedicated childbirth.

The more research I did, the angrier I became at the obstetrical field in general, not only for unnecessarily tampering with something that was created perfectly by God, but for robbing countless women of their inherent right to give birth to their babies.

I am so saddened by story after story of completely healthy women with completely normal pregnancies being made to feel that their bodies do not know how to operate properly. Failure to progress is one of the most common reasons doctors give for initiating a c-section. Have you ever known a woman to be stuck at seven centimeters forever? To be in labor forever? Or to be pregnant forever? Who on earth do these doctors think they are kidding! Why won’t they acknowledge that nature progresses at its own pace, not according to a textbook, and certainly not according to any hospital schedule!

After reading these books, I made my decision final. I wanted to have a natural birth, the way God designed it, with no drugs and no interventions unless absolutely necessary. I could not have such a birth in a hospital environment. I knew I’d made the right decision. Convincing my family, however, was going to be another story.

My husband, Randy, was a little nervous about embarking on a tremendous unknown without the benefit of close-by technology. However, he totally trusted that I had done enough research on the subject and told me that if I felt comfortable with my choice, he would support me. After taking a little time to get used to the idea, he totally agreed with me. My mother was another story. When I told her my plans, she freaked out. I wasn’t quite prepared for her reaction but should have expected it, considering that when she gave birth it was quite common for a woman to be totally anesthetized. For weeks she questioned me about every aspect of my choice, but finally she said she would support me. Showing her the books I’d read as well as sharing the statistics helped a lot. The others in my family have been totally supportive. In fact, I learned a neat bit of family history when sharing the news with my family. My grandmother informed me that my great-grandmother was a midwife!

When I talk about childbirth with my friends, they look at me in fear. They ask if I am really going to try to give birth unmedicated, as if I am some freak of nature for wanting to do so. They tell me I am brave. But I don’t believe my choice has anything to do with bravery. Ask me if I am scared, and I will tell you yes. Even though I am not yet pregnant, I am scared of putting myself in the position of having to handle something that I don’t have the first clue about. I am afraid that I might not be able to manage the labor, and I am afraid that some unforeseen emergency might occur. God made my body to handle the job of childbearing perfectly, however, and knowing this, I am more afraid of what might happen to me if I surrender myself to the care of a hospital and an obstetrician.

A friend of mine had a baby a little over a month ago. She’d eaten well and exercised regularly, and she’d gained 37 pounds, which according to the standard, is just about perfect. Hers was the epitome of a healthy pregnancy. When her labor started on a Sunday night, she told me she had
thought, “okay . . . here we go!” Her contractions stopped the next morning. That afternoon, the contractions started back up, but they were sporadic and not very strong. This lasted into the night. About 7 o’clock that Tuesday morning, her water broke. Even though her contractions were still sporadic, she and her husband decided to head to the hospital around 11 a.m. on the advice of the nurse that was on duty. Once at the hospital, my friend wanted an epidural because she had not been able to rest at home. However, since her cervical dilation hadn’t even reached four centimeters, the nurse gave her Demerol, which necessitated an IV. Demerol only made her feel dizzy and out of it, and finally she was able to get her epidural. Because the epidural slowed her labor as normally occurs, the doctor decided to administer Pitocin (also common) to get labor started again. Finally, around 5:30 the next morning, even though her cervix had dilated to nine centimeters, the doctor decided to do a c-section.

I didn’t understand the decision then, and I don’t understand it now. From my point of view, my friend had her right to birth her baby stolen from her, and that makes me mad. And it angers me even more that her chances are lessened of ever being able to give birth the natural way. That’s not to say that natural birth will be impossible for her in the future. But next time, it will be even more difficult.

And here’s what saddens me the most. She told me before she had the baby that she was going to try to give birth unmedicated, because she believed it was the best way. She told me that she was scared to have her baby with a midwife in case of an emergency, and that if she could make it through the first birth with no drugs, she would have her second baby at home. She thought, like I thought in the beginning, that she could have the best of both worlds. But this didn’t happen. Unfortunately, it rarely ever happens.

So, yes, I am scared, but not necessarily of the pain or the possibility of an emergency. Instead, I am terrified of having my right to birth ripped from me, and that after nine long months of taking care of my unborn baby and myself, some doctor or on-call nurse will deem my pelvis too small or my labor too long. Most importantly, I am scared of being reduced to being a patient in a hospital, rather than being a strong mother gloriously giving birth the way God intended it.


Christy Rogers is a veterinary technician living in Texas. As of this writing she has been married for two years and is trying to get pregnant.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What the World Eats - Photo Essay

I found this pretty interesting.


Kuwait
: The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City
Food expenditure for one week: 63.63 dinar or $221.45
Family recipe
: Chicken biryani with basmati rice

Food Nutrition Eating Health Diet [BOLD


Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Favorite foods: fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks




Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods: sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips
Food Nutrition Eating Health Diet [BOLD


Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07
Favorite foods: fried potatoes with onions, bacon and herring, fried noodles with eggs and cheese, pizza, vanilla pudding




United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week $341.98
Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken




United States: The Caven family of California
Food expenditure for one week: $159.18
Favorite foods: beef stew, berry yogurt sundae, clam chowder, ice cream
Food Nutrition Eating Health Diet [BOLD


Great Britain: The Bainton family of Cllingbourne Ducis
Food expenditure for one week: 155.54 British Pounds or $253.15
Favorite foods: avocado, mayonnaise sandwich, prawn cocktail, chocolate fudge cake with cream
Food Nutrition Eating Health Diet [BOLD


Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken




China
: The Dong family of Beijing
Food expenditure for one week: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce
Food Nutrition Eating Health Diet [BOLD



Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Family recipe: Pig's knuckles with carrots, celery and parsnips




Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Family recipe: Okra and mutton




Mongolia: The Batsuuri family of Ulaanbaatar
Food expenditure for one week: 41,985.85 togrogs or $40.02
Family recipe: Mutton dumplings
Food Nutrition Eating Health Diet [BOLD



Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
Family recipe: Potato soup with cabbage




Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork




Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Business of Being Born & Ricki Lake Interview on CNN

Everyone should watch this film when it is released (Netflix Feb 26th!)
Best documentary of the year by far.


ALSO: Ricki Lake does an exceptional job discussing birth, statistics, research, her own and birth in the U.S., this documentary, etc. when interviewed on Larry King in the Video below. Clips are also shown. Larry sounds like an idiot during this interview...but Ricki keeps her cool and speaks wisely and smoothly.

I cannot find a way to cut this clip for the pertinent parts, so if you watch it:
VIEW FROM MINUTES 6:45 - 10:45 (before and after these minutes Larry likes to talk all about Ricki's weight and that is not the reason she came on the show)...

RICKI LAKE ON CNN

ICAN - International Cesarean Awareness Network & Support

This is an excellent resource, community, information, and support group for moms who have had c-sections, or those with a passion in this area of birth. My current homebirth midwife went on to vaginally birth 5 healthy 9+ pound babies after her first c-section was performed because she was induced, hooked to an epidural, confined to bed, and unable to move...leading them to say her 7-pounder was too big to "fit"...She is a huge advocate of helping moms after c-sections and we've had many empassioned discussions about how this aspect of birth impacted herself and many women nationwide. I don't know personally what it is like, so I hope I can help someone out there with this info and exceptional group site.

The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has launched a new, user-friendly website, in an effort to further the group's outreach. Easy navigation is a key feature of the revamped site, which provides information separated into five categories: Pregnancy, Recovery, Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), Advocacy, and Community.

The site lets women research the VBAC policies of hospitals near them; learn how to correct problems (such as malposition or pre-eclampsia) that commonly lead to cesareans; get quick physical recovery tips to help after a cesarean; and stay up-to-date on medical research on pregnancy and birth. New community features include user birth blogs, videos and images; and the capability for users to create their own homepage on the ICAN site to share with friends and family. ICAN leadership also can connect more easily with the women ICAN serves via the site. Further, the site features a new logo. ICAN is pleased to note that the logo and all of the web work were completed entirely by volunteers.

This new site is a proactive response to research in 2007 by the National Center for Health Statistics that showed the cesarean rate reached a record high of 31.1%. Further, a CDC report indicated the maternal death rate rose for the first time in decades, and Consumer Reports includes a cesarean in its list of "10 overused tests and treatments." Other research from 2007 cites that VBAC continues to be a reasonably safe birthing choice for mothers. And while studies indicate a VBAC is a viable option, women often have difficulty finding a health care provider who encourages a VBAC—which is where one of the site's new features comes into play.

"The most useful tool for women is probably the Hospital VBAC Ban information," Collins said. "Women can look up the hospitals near them and find out their VBAC policy and if any doctors are actually available to attend them. It is getting difficult for so many women to find a VBAC supportive provider and this is one way to make that a little easier for them."

Source: http://ican-online.org/
ICAN is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery and promoting vaginal birth after cesarean. There are more than 94 ICAN Chapters across North America, which hold educational and support meetings for people interested in cesarean prevention and recovery.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Attention: HOMEBIRTH MOMS - Board of Medicine NEEDS YOUR STORY for CPMs

Dear NOVA homebirth members,

It has recently come to the attention of the VA Board of Medicine that CPMs are attending "high risk" moms at home. Included on their list of concerns are moms with gestational diabetes, morbidly obese moms, non-vertex presentation, twins and VBACs. It is essential that CPMs have the support of consumers to continue caring for women in these categories. It would be great to have both successful homebirth stories, as well as, attempted homebirths that resulted in a transfer of care. To that extent, if you are "high risk" homebirth mom that received care from a CPM, please contact me at loriorme2002@yahoo.com. I will be able to send you a draft letter that you can easily personalize. This is an URGENT matter as the VA BOM will be meeting in the upcoming weeks to discuss this matter.

Kind Regards,
Lori Orme

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Microscopic View of Human Milk, Cow's Milk and Formula


The following images were taken under a microscope magnified to 400x. Imagine what we might see if we magnified even further...

Human Milk (Alive with white blood cells, glyconutrients, and immunobodies)



Formula (the pointer is pointing to an air bubble; formula is a "dead" product)



Cow's Milk (more similar to human milk than formula, but with great compositional and structural differences - for example, human babies cannot digest cow's milk proteins, and baby cows would not be able to survive on human milk. For more detailed review of research on this subject see, The Baby Bond)



Thank you to Kristi for taking these images and granting us permission to post.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Waterbirth of Twins

Waterbirth is certainly the calmest, most gentle way to bring a baby into the world. Some call it the "natural epidural" for Mom, and it eases a baby from the watery world within, to a watery world on the outside to meet mom earthside for the first time skin to skin. Babies have an amazing natural swimming reflex when they are born - likely carried over from swimming within for so many months. And no, they do not breath underwater and drown as they have been living in their watery world and "breathing" amniotic fluid for all this time. Their first breath of air comes when their body enters the non-watery (air filled) atmosphere. As long as their body stays within the water until their head emerges, all in waterbirth is wonderful.

Below is footage of the waterbirth of twins! Peacefully, gently, beautifully filmed.



Friday, February 01, 2008

The Anesthesiologist, OB and Midwife


An anesthesiologist, an OB, and a midwife walk into a bar.

The anesthesiologist orders a pitcher of stout and a double burger; the OB orders a Reuben and a bottle of red wine; the midwife orders their biggest plate of steak and fries with a margarita. They all sit in a booth and share war stories.

A long time passes, and the three realize something has gone wrong with their order. They decide to find out what the problem is.

They find the bus boy just behind the swinging double doors to the kitchen. He is struggling to get their overloaded cart from the tiled kitchen to the carpeted dining area. The wheels keep catching on the bump.

The anesthesiologist kneels down and examined the tires. "You just need to inject something here in the back. Then everything will go better."

The OB leans down to look at the carpet. "This part of the carpet is blocking the cart. Give me a knife and I'll just give it a little cut to help things along."

The midwife leans over to the bus boy and whispers loudly in his ear, "You can do this! Just PUSH!"


~~~~

Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS)

Written for KidsHealth educator's site and reposted at DrMomma.org with permission.
Reviewed by Leslie A. Gavin-Devitt, Ph.D., and David V. Sheslow, Ph.D.


Munchausen by proxy syndrome (MBPS) is a relatively uncommon condition that involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker. One of the most harmful forms of child abuse, MBPS was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for telling outlandish stories.

About MBPS

In MBPS, an individual — usually a mother — deliberately makes another person (most often his or her own preschool child) sick or convinces others that the person is sick. The parent or caregiver misleads others into thinking that the child has medical problems by lying and reporting fictitious episodes. He or she may exaggerate, fabricate, or induce symptoms. As a result, doctors usually order tests, try different types of medications, and may even hospitalize the child or perform surgery to determine the cause.

Typically, the perpetrator feels satisfied by gaining the attention and sympathy of doctors, nurses, and others who come into contact with him or her and the child. Some experts believe that it isn't just the attention that's gained from the "illness" of the child that drives this behavior, but also the satisfaction in being able to deceive individuals that they consider to be more important and powerful than themselves.

Because the parent or caregiver appears to be so caring and attentive, often no one suspects any wrongdoing. A perplexing aspect of the syndrome is the ability of the parent or caregiver to fool and manipulate doctors. Frequently, the perpetrator is familiar with the medical profession and is very good at fooling the doctors. Even the most experienced doctors can miss the meaning of the inconsistencies in the child's symptoms. It's not unusual for medical personnel to overlook the possibility of MBPS because it goes against the belief that a parent or caregiver would never deliberately hurt his or her child.

Children who are subject to MBPS are typically preschool age, although there have been reported cases in kids up to 16 years old, and there are equal numbers of boys and girls. About 98% of the perpetrators are female.


Diagnosing MBPS

Diagnosis is very difficult, but would involve some of the following:

  • a child who has multiple medical problems that don't respond to treatment or that follow a persistent and puzzling course
  • physical or laboratory findings that are highly unusual, don't correspond with the child's medical history, or are physically or clinically impossible
  • short-term symptoms that tend to stop when the perpetrator isn't around
  • a parent or caregiver who isn't reassured by "good news" when test results find no medical problems, but continues to believe that the child is ill
  • a parent or caregiver who appears to be medically knowledgeable or fascinated with medical details or appears to enjoy the hospital environment
  • a parent or caregiver who's unusually calm in the face of serious difficulties with the child's health
  • a parent or caregiver who's highly supportive and encouraging of the doctor, or one who is angry and demands further intervention, more procedures, second opinions, or transfers to more sophisticated facilities

Causes of MBPS

In some cases, the parents or caregivers themselves were abused, both physically and sexually, as children. They may have come from families in which being sick was a way to get love. The parent's or caregiver's own personal needs overcome his or her ability to see the child as a person with feelings and rights, possibly because the parent or caregiver may have grown up being treated like he or she wasn't a person with rights or feelings.

Other theories say that Munchausen by proxy syndrome is a cry for help on the part of the parent or caregiver, who may be experiencing anxiety or depression or have feelings of inadequacy as a parent or caregiver of a young child. Some may feel a sense of acknowledgement when the doctor confirms their caregiving skills. Or, the parent or caregiver may just enjoy the attention that the sick child — and, therefore, he or she — gets.

The suspected person may also have symptoms similar to the child's own medical problems or an illness history that's puzzling and unusual. He or she frequently has an emotionally distant relationship with a spouse, who often fails to visit the seriously ill child or have contact with doctors.



What Happens to the Child?

In the most severe instances, parents or caregivers with MBPS may go to great lengths to make their children sick. When cameras were placed in some children's hospital rooms, some perpetrators were filmed switching medications, injecting kids with urine to cause an infection, or placing drops of blood in urine specimens.

Some perpetrators aggravate an existing problem, such as manipulating a wound so that it doesn't heal. One parent discovered that scrubbing the child's skin with oven cleaner would cause a baffling, long-lasting rash.

Whatever the course, the child's symptoms — whether created or faked — don't happen when the parent isn't present, and they usually go away during periods of separation from the parent. When confronted, the parent usually denies knowing how the illness occurred.

According to experts, common conditions and symptoms that are created or faked by parents or caregivers with MBPS include: failure to thrive, allergies, asthma, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and infections.

The long-term prognosis for these children depends on the degree of damage created by the perpetrator and the amount of time it takes to recognize and diagnose MBPS. Some extreme cases have been reported in which children developed destructive skeletal changes, limps, mental retardation, brain damage, and blindness from symptoms caused by the parent or caregiver. Often, these children require multiple surgeries, each with the risk for future medical problems.

If the child lives to be old enough to comprehend what's happening, the psychological damage can be significant. The child may come to feel that he or she will only be loved when ill and may, therefore, help the parent try to deceive doctors, using self-abuse to avoid being abandoned. And so, some victims of MBPS later become perpetrators themselves.


Getting Help for the Child

If Munchausen by proxy syndrome is suspected, health care providers are required by law to report their concerns. However, after a parent or caregiver is charged, the child's symptoms may increase as the person who is accused attempts to prove the presence of the illness. If the parent or caregiver repeatedly denies the charges, the child should be removed from the home and legal action should be taken on the child's behalf.

In some cases, the parent or caregiver may deny the charges and move to another location, only to continue the behavior. Even if the child is returned to the perpetrator's custody while protective services are still involved, the child may continue to be a victim of abuse. For these reasons, it's always advised that these cases be resolved quickly.

Getting Help for the Parent or Caregiver

Most often, abusive Munchausen by proxy syndrome cases are resolved in one of three ways:

  • the perpetrator is apprehended
  • the perpetrator moves on to a younger child when the original victim gets old enough to "tell"
  • the child dies  
To get help, the parent or caregiver must admit to the abuse and seek psychological treatment. But if the perpetrator doesn't admit to the wrongdoing, psychological treatment has little chance of remedying the situation. Psychotherapy depends on truth, and MBPS perpetrators generally live in denial.


~~~~

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