Female Brain vs. Male Brain

I read these two articles, and thought they were just really interesting. Of course, it only makes sense that men and women are different — not just their obvious physical differences, but also how their brains are different, and process things differently.

While these two articles don’t talk about pregnancy, labor, or birth, some of the things in these articles made me think about being in labor, and how men and women can process things totally differently. It also explains why women many times will do best if they have another woman there — sometimes just to be there. Women pick up more subtle language and visual clues than men do. Men call it “female intuition” because they don’t understand how we can “just know” some things. Often, we can’t even put our finger on what exactly made us think a certain way, or realize how something was — we just knew it was.

Men tend to take in “the big picture” — “just the facts, ma’am” kind of thinking. In labor, this translates to making sure all the machines and numbers are in line; and if they’re all right, then everything must be just fine — as if the woman is a machine or a robot. Women clue in to more subtle things — little comments (or lack thereof), gestures, facial expressions — things that machines don’t pick up on.

So, women, don’t get upset if your husband just doesn’t understand things like your female friends do. He’s not mean or thick-skulled — his brain is just hardwired differently, and he can’t help it. While some men will be very intuitive toward their wives when they’re in labor, other men will not be. If you are expecting your husband to be something he cannot be, you will be setting yourself and your husband up for a fall. If you think your husband might not be this kind of labor-support person, please discuss it with him, and also consider having a doula. And cut him some slack during labor. What is glaringly obvious to you (“I need my back rubbed!” “Get me some water!!” “Get out of my face and leave me alone!!!”) is not so obvious to him.

If you are still pregnant, take this knowledge into labor with you. If you’ve already had your baby, try to reevaluate your husband’s labor skills (or lack thereof) in light of this new knowledge. If he was less than perfect in labor, that’s normal. Now you know why women have been traditionally the only people present in labor and at birth. It’s a female thing — men don’t understand. (Gross exaggeration, but generally true.)

Hospital vs. Home Birth on Dr. Phil

Changed my mind — this sounds like an awful show! Click here to go to the current page where he’s wanting people to be on the show if they regret their decision to have a home birth. What, is he in bed with Dr. Amy or something? Here are the current criteria for guests appearing on this show:

Did  you have a child at your home?

Did you want to have a soothing experience where you were in control and could bond with your child?

Did it not go the way you planned?

Do you regret having a home birth?

Do you regret using a midwife instead of going to a hospital?

Did you have your second child the traditional way in a hospital?

If you or someone you know regrets having a home birth please tell us your story below.

I responded to this, answering “no” to every question, and elaborating.

Dr. Phil just lost my viewership!

Windows in Space and Time

A Personal Perspective on Birth and Death, by Robbie Davis-Floyd.

Click here to read this powerful, moving article. Not only is the author an eloquent wordsmith, but she flawlessly encapsulates what is the grief process.

Her daughter died as the result of a car accident — she was thrown from the car when it flipped several times. My father did as well. She writes of how she spent time with her daughter’s body at the hospital, even though it was badly cut, bruised, and broken. I wanted to see my father’s body, but they wouldn’t let me — said it would be better if I didn’t — better to remember him as he was in life, not how he looked in death. Sometimes I think they were right; sometimes I think they were wrong; most times I just don’t know. In a lot of ways, I envy Ms. Davis-Floyd for having had the opportunity to have that experience — that closure. In some ways, it seems to me as if my father isn’t really dead, but is just off on a long mysterious journey, that is the staple of soap-opera “back from the dead” plots. One day he was there, full of life; then he just disappeared, leaving only pictures and memories. Closed casket — could’ve been empty for all I knew; but I know he looked so bad that it wasn’t “suitable” for viewing.

I’m crying as I type this, though it’s been nearly ten years since his car wreck. What does this have to do with birth? Not much. The essay I linked to does — she uses birth imagery all throughout, in comparing birth to death. But what I’m typing now is just personal. Though I’ve never lost anyone close to me but my father — no children, before, during, or after birth — I believe this article may be of some benefit to some people who have. If nothing else, to realize that you are not alone in your grief.

I agree with Dr. Amy

Incredible! Never thought I’d say it! (Don’t worry — I won’t make a habit of it!) 🙂

Read this post on some blog of hers I just happened across about “How to lower the C-section rate.”

She suggests a no-fault compensation fund, which I’ve also read of elsewhere (I think they may even have it in some states) in the case of babies who don’t make it or who survive with difficulties. Most of us home-birth advocates understand that there is no guarantee for a perfect outcome. Some babies just won’t make it; others will have problems; and neither of those is necessarily the midwife’s or doctor’s fault.

Another way would be to set up a court system just for medical cases — not just for obstetrics, but for other branches of medicine as well. The reality of our current system of using 12 people “off the street” is that they may simply be unable to wade through all of the medical testimony without getting totally bogged down. Most of this is due to the jargon and sesquipedalian words so common in medicine; as well as the probability of conflicting testimony from two doctors of equal credentials. Then it comes down to a popularity (or believability) contest between expert witnesses, with the plaintiffs having the “sympathy vote” for having a dead or disabled child. But if there could be a jury seated of medical professionals (not necessarily doctors; could be nurses, midwives, or others who may have medical knowledge; and not necessarily 12 people — the Supreme Court only has 9 justices, and many panels only have 3 judges), that already knew most or all of the medical terms that would be used in the cases presented before them, then they would be less likely to be misled by a bad “expert” witness who could fool an average person by using big words and convoluted language.

It’s an idea.

Incredible!

Baby pronounced dead, spends 5 hours in the refrigerated morgue, and is still alive. At twenty-three weeks!

Shocker!

What happens to the umbilical cord?

This is one of the frequent search terms I get, and I don’t think I’ve fully addressed it, so will do so now.

First, a brief elementary look at the placenta, umbilical cord and fetus. Within a few days after conception, the embryo implants in the lining of the uterus; part of the “conceptus” becomes a tiny placenta, while the rest of it becomes the fetus, with the umbilical cord in between. As the baby grows, so does the placenta and the umbilical cord. From what I’ve read, both the length of the cord and how much it coils depends on fetal activity; so a short cord and a straight cord are both correlated with low fetal activity. Fetal inactivity is associated with higher rates of fetal problems, so if either of these things is noted in an ultrasound, fetal abnormality is suspected. Short and straight cords may not be problems in and of themselves, but are associated with babies that have problems, although most babies are still fine with short cords. Long cords tend to be associated with very active babies — again, not a problem in and of itself, but babies can more easily become tangled in long cords, perhaps impeding birth, or if the cord wraps around the neck or tightens into a knot, can compromise or kill the baby with lack of oxygen. Long cords also increase the possibility of umbilical cord prolapse, since there is more cord that can come down before the fetal head.

The placenta is where the exchange of nutrients, waste, oxygen and carbon dioxide happens between mother and baby. During labor, the placenta keeps the fetus supplied with oxygen, just like during pregnancy; although the exchange is slowed or stopped altogether during contractions. This is why some babies go into fetal distress during labor that is artificially stimulated with Pitocin — the contractions can be too long or too close together, depleting the fetal supply of oxygen. It’s like holding your breath under water — if you can come up for air and breathe normally for several minutes, you’ll be fine; but if you can only take a quick gasp before being held underwater for another minute or two, you’ll eventually suffer.

When the baby is born, most hospitals will immediately clamp and cut the cord, although there is no reason for doing this, and the evidence simply does not support the practice. Other options include a “lotus birth” in which the cord is never cut, but the placenta is placed in a bag and carried with the baby until the cord dries up and falls off; waiting for several hours and cutting the cord (no clamp needed, because the cord begins to gel internally, cutting off the blood supply to and from the placenta, and the blood dries up); or at least waiting until the umbilical cord stops pulsing before clamping and cutting. If they don’t clamp the cord, it will be quite messy, since there is a lot of blood reserves in the placenta, and if they don’t clamp the baby’s side too, the baby can lose blood through the umbilicus.

Assuming the cord is not immediately cut, the baby is usually placed on the mother’s chest, where he may begin nursing, and where the midwife, doctor, or nurses observe the baby or give him a neonatal exam on the mother’s chest. The cord is typically long enough for the baby to reach the chest, even while the umbilical cord is intact, with the placenta still in the uterus. Usually within 15-30 minutes, the placenta detaches and the mother pushes it out.

Assuming the cord is immediately cut, the baby may be placed on the mother’s chest, or taken across the room for a neonatal exam, and other typical neonatal procedures (which you may request be delayed or not done altogether, like a vitamin K injection, eye drops or ointment, etc.). Many times, doctors will pull on the placenta to help it come out (controlled cord traction), although this is not necessary.

Once the placenta comes out, it should be inspected to make sure it is all there (occasionally a piece may be retained inside the mother’s uterus), or else the woman may experience continued bleeding, because the uterus acts as if the pregnancy is ongoing until all the “products of conception” are expelled. Once the placenta is entirely out, the uterus normally clamps down at the site where the placenta was attached, which is most easily described as a large, open, bloody spot, since that was where the fetus’s entire nourishment and oxygen supply was.

What happens to the placenta and the umbilical cord at this point may depend on where you give birth. At home births, it is not uncommon for women to choose lotus birth, to plant a tree or bush on top of the placenta (perhaps freezing it until springtime), or even to consume it (typically, dried and put in capsules; although I’ve heard of people eating it raw or cooked). If the woman doesn’t want it, some midwives or other birth junkies may save it for educational purposes — for instance, to show the next childbirth class what a placenta looks like.

In a hospital, choices may be more limited, especially if the hospital staff just follow whatever their routine is, and don’t ask or consult you. Some hospitals take samples of all placentas, as a sort of record that the placenta was healthy, should there be any future problems or questions with the baby’s health. I assume that most if not all placentas will be discarded as medical waste, and in fact have seen headlines (but did not read the story) about one couple’s fight with the hospital to be able to take their placenta home with them to plant a tree over it, which was traditional in their culture.

Here is an Australian midwife’s blog post in which she discusses the placenta, as well as has pictures of a real placenta, with descriptions.

Breech birth discussion and pictures

Go to Rixa’s blog to see what she has written, along with embedded drawings of a breech birth, and links to a footling breech photo-essay (fourteen minutes from emergence of the foot to the full birth) and the mom’s birth story. Awesome!