Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Book Review: Birthing From Within

So, I finished Birthing From Within, and have been meaning to review it. Here it is:

Birthing From Within is a good book for moms who are looking for an aternative to your average childbirth preparation book. I could see where it would also be a good book for doulas to read. Overall though, I would say it is acceptable but not exceptional. I think it is worth reading, but only if you are able to read more than a few books in preparation for your birth.

Some of the gems from this book are about facing fears, and how your ideas can shape your birth experience. I think that is really true. I also liked what she has to say about the importance of supporting moms during birth, but think Mothering the Mother is a better choice for that topic. I also liked the references to traditional cultures and their birthing practices, they were fun and informative.

The one part that gets a BIG THUMBS DOWN from me is about breastfeeding. Here it is:
“I generally do not encourage breastfeeding-on-demand to the exclusion of bottle feeding. In these days of working mothers, breastfeeding-on-demand for many months can be unrealistic.” She then goes on to talk about giving a baby 3-4 weeks of age a bottle every day, “to take better care of yourself during the stressful postpartum period”. She says that it is necessary to give the bottle early and every day because if you go past 6 weeks and you have to introduce a bottle you are more likely to have problems, and if you don’t do it every day they might “forget”.

Of course in my mind this is a load of malarkey to put it mildly. Breastfeeding-on-demand is VERY REALISTIC. And I feel it doesn’t add any stress to the postpartum period most of the time. There is no reason to give baby a bottle just in case. If he/she gets hungry enough and that is all they have available they will take it, or you can try alternative feeding methods if needed. Besides, you can get help in sooooo many other ways from dad. How about a load of laundry? How about picking up the house? I personally never suffered from sleep depravation when I had a baby; I nursed on my side and co-slept… I never even really woke up at all. OK, I feel better. Just throw out that piece of the book; maybe I will put electrical tape over that section in my copy…LOL

There are some pieces of advice I found were good. I really liked the stuff about coping with pain, and the ideas about training for it are pretty good (she uses holding an ice cube as the “pain” to practice techniques). And, I think it did a good job of telling women in a hospital situation about the possible difficulties they are facing. Also, her explication of why drugs can impede labor progress was one of the most concise and understandable I have heard yet. “Pain also raises endorphin levels in your body, while analgesic drugs and epidural anesthesia lower them. This is significant because endorphin levels correlate with the release of oxytocin. So, when pain is relieved through drugs or an epidural, the stimulus for endorphin production is eliminated, and its levels fall. This change is often accompanied by a drop in oxytocin, thus slowing down labor and dilation.”

So, overall, on a scale of 1-10… I give this one a 7.


Anonymous said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

That sort of bf'g advice sort of makes me cringe. I mean, if that's what a woman wants to do, but the way that she's phrasing it is like... "if you don't, you'll be sorry!" What's tiring is having to sterilize the bottles and do all that. I did it with #1 at some point or another. Send women to people who know bf'g -- LLLI or a certified lactaction consultant. -- Umm Zaid

UmmZaynab said...

Funny the research shows that the best time to introduce bottles is actually later rather than earlier but I don't have my BAB on me so I don't remember the exact time frame.

The stuff about postpartum hormones reminds me of something I learned at the breastfeeding and sexuality session I told you about. Immediate postpartum oxytocin levels are actually higher than they are during labor. This will be in my blog post eventually if I finish it (inshaa Allah before I leave) but oxytocin is primarily responsible for those good postpartum motherly feelings and for instinctual behaviors as well several factors that contribute to breastfeeding success. If one is induced with pitocin/syntocin, they give you so much of it that it overwhelms your oxytocin receptors and can actually cause them to shut down. I thought of this when I was watching some birth show the other day and the doctor came in to see a woman who was on pitocin but wasn't progressing and he said "I don't know why this works, but I've seen it work. Shut off the pump and let her uterus rest for 45 minutes or so." I assume that what needed to rest was not her uterus but she just couldn't process that much syntocin.

Worse, this effect can result in postpartum difficulties including difficulty bonding, difficulty initiating breastfeeding, and postpartum depression because when your oxytocin receptors shut down you also can't use your own naturally produced oxytocin. The baby also uses oxytocin and all this goes for the baby as well, subHaan Allah. Also, all kinds of analgesics given during labor can adversely affect the body's ability to use oxytocin.

It was fascinating (and scary) stuff.

UmmLayla said...

UmmZaynab, There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that moms who were given pain meds during labor are more likely to suffer from post-partum depression. But I have yet to see a good study on that. If you find one let me know. Considering the oxytocin thing I would say it might very well be true.

And, as for the BFing advice, the BAB says that at one month 70% accepted the bottle, at two 63% and between three and six months 72%. And also that "early consistent use of bottles is no guarantee that a baby will continue to take the bottle over time".

Like you said UmmZaid, it's mostly just an alarmist piece of advice; but I hear it all the time!