This week is the final week of Remy and my’s 4 -week Queer and Trans* Pregnancy and Birth series!
For the past 4 weeks we’ve been attending a radically-informed class on childbirth, pregancy, and childbirth hosted at Minnehaha Free Space in South Minneapolis with Meg Novak, a certified professional midwife in the Twin Cities.
Meg is great. She is the proprietor of Bella Luna Birth Services and provides both midwife services and doula services. For those out there that are totally new to the birth world, a midwife is someone who delivers a baby, and a doula is someone who provides emotional and physical support to the birthing parent. Many people have been doulas and they don’t even know it! As you may know, I have been trained as a doula, but I have yet to provide these services to anyone.
One of the first things we learned was that there are two kinds of midwives: certified professional midwives and certified nurse-midwives. Nurse-midwives are authorized to work in hospitals and can handle higher-risk birth situations due to their medical training. Professional midwives are only licensed to perform in-home births, but in Minnesota they can even perform in-home breech births, and multiples! So if you thought you had to give birth in a hospital with breech or twins, think again, you could do it in the comfort of your own home! The only possible negative is that they cannot prescribe medications, so if you go with a CPM,
The next thing we “learned” I already knew well. Let me get up on my little soap box, just a sec…climbs… No low-risk births should happen in a hospital! For one thing hospitals are places of business and places to receive care for illnesses. Even though doctors have come a LONG way from treating pregnancy like a disease, they still operate under legal processes and policies that can get in the way of the natural process of birth. Birth is unique to everyone, and I simply don’t believe it can be process-ized the way hospitals try to force it to be. I don’t blame them necessarily, processes and procedures save a lot of lives and legal anguish, but their well intentions don’t save pregnant people from the coercion into unnecessary procedures. Sometimes birthing people are overtly pressured into drugs, procedures or surgeries by doctors or nurses who use “the health of the child” as a motivator before they really should. More often though, this pressure is inadvertent, and due largely to hospital regulations and insurance companies that attempt to create a prescription for birth, and which cause anyone who falls outside of the normal bell curve to be left with a less than desirable birth experience.
The World Health Organization strongly recommends that 15% be the upper-most limit to cesarean rates because they are not necessary for more than 9-15% of birthing people. This is also the recommendation because vaginal birth is the safest method of birth there is. There is incontrovertible scientific evidence for this. Yet in Minneapolis the only hospital that comes close to this rate is St. Josephs in St. Paul, and their maternity floor is run by a team of midwives. The rest of Minneapolis hospitals operate at around the national average of 30%. So if you have a birth in a hospital you have a 1/3 chance of having a cesarean section. I understand that there are a lot of factors that contribute to this, but in the end, for whatever reason, hospitals and doctors are contributing to a cesarean rate that is simply unacceptable in my eyes.
So why do we continue to feel like the safest option for birth is the hospital? I think the answer is because we are taught to think so. We are taught that birth is potentially very dangerous and that we should trust doctors to be the authority on birth, not ourselves. But if you agree that birth should be a natural process, only intervened if absolutely necessary, then you should not believe that. I can say as a pre-med student myself that most doctors don’t receive training in natural unassisted birth, and many go their entire schooling without seeing an unmedicated birth. How is this possible? Doctors are taught a certain way that birth is supposed to happen, and doctors are the authority in hospitals, so if you’re in a hospital and you find out you don’t conform to what their idea of how a birth should go, you could be out of luck.
Here’s some websites. Do your own research.
Ok: I’m off my soap box now.
We’ve also discussed fertility, family planning, and what it takes to get pregnant if you’re not having heterosexual intercourse. I found this information extremely helpful as my partner and I move forward on our plans to start a family. One of the things many people don’t consider is how long it can take to get pregnant. In Minnesota you cannot get a diagnosis of infertility until you and your partner have been trying for a least a year. This is significant because many fertility treatments and procedures are preceded by a diagnosis. But luckily, if you don’t need fertility treatments you can “do it yourself” so to speak. Since my partner and I have a close friend who is willing to be a donor, we won’t have to buy sperm, or go to any clinic. The hardest part is monitoring yourself to know when you’re ovulating!
Monitoring your ovulation can be done many ways. Many people ovulate – or release an egg – 12 to 16 days before their period. Your menstrual cycle can be measured from the first day of your menstrual period until the first day of her next period. On average, a person’s cycle normally is between 28-32 days, but some women may have much shorter or much longer cycles.
Ovulation can be calculated by starting with the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP) or by calculating 12-16 days from the next expected period. Most women ovulate anywhere between Day 11 – Day 21 of their cycle, counting from the first day of the LMP.
I have a menstrual calendar on my phone that tracks my cycle for me. The reason you want to know your ovulation period is because this is when you are most fertile or most likely to get pregnant. But just counting days isn’t the most accurate; the most accurate method of tracking ovulation is by tracking your basal body temperature. Basal body temperature is your temp upon waking in the morning – before you get out of bed or eat or drink anything. During ovulation your basal body temperature or waking temp will increase 0.4 to 1.0 degree. This change may be too marginal to detect physically, but taking your waking temp each day can help you keep track of your fertile period.
Next we discussed the stages of pregnancy, discomforts and herbs. I already knew the stages of labor from my time as a premed student. I’ll skip this for time-sake but if you want to know more try this website is very informational but highly gendered.
I was also very excited to learn about natural remedies and herbs that are great for the discomforts of pregnancy. Everyone should use herbs and natural remedies, but they are especially helpful for pregnant people because there are many drugs you can’t take when you’re pregnant. I learned that red raspberry leaf is a particularly good uterine builder – and good for the first 2 trimesters (but not the 3rd because it can cause contractions!). I also learned that these other herbs can be particularly helpful during pregnancy.
- Peppermint Leaf – Helpful in relieving nausea/morning sickness and flatulence
- Ginger root – Helps relieve nausea and vomiting
- Slippery Elm Bark – (when the inner bark is used orally in amounts used in foods) Used to help relieve nausea, heartburn, and vaginal irritations
- Oats & Oat Straw – Rich in calcium and magnesium; helps relieve anxiety, restlessness, and irritated skin
Meg was great about finding resources and information on all of our questions. She even came up with recommendations for yoga and fertility as well as pregnant yoga.
In our upcoming class we will be talking about the postpartum period, breast- or chestfeeding, cloth diapers, and baby swaddling. I can’t wait to learn even more!
One of the other great aspects of this class was meeting other people who are in a similar situation as us. We know lots of great straight people who are having babies, but their situation and ours feel worlds apart. Perhaps it is the ease with which heterosexual couples are able to conceive, or maybe it’s their ability to walk through the world feeling like hospitals and doctors were designed for them, but I really appreciate meeting people who share a story that is more similar to my own. As I continue to try to figure out this messy, unpredictable thing called life, the more I realize how important and necessary community is to me. So I will end with gratitude. I am grateful for this knowledge and for having been brought together with this wonderful group of people to talk about babies!