Natural childbirth grows in popularity in Northwest Indiana - February 15, 2017

Courtesy of NWITimes.com • February 15, 2017

By Giles Bruce

DeAnna Wellsand knew from the beginning of her pregnancy that she wanted a natural birth.

She was aware that when a woman has a medical intervention during labor, such as an induction or epidural, it increases her odds of having another one in the future.

So she read birth stories and prepared herself for the fact that labor and delivery are unpredictable.

“The woman’s body is an amazing thing,” says Wellsand, 31, of Chesterton. “I knew I could trust my body to do what it was supposed to do during labor. I figured if I could handle an unmedicated birth, I could do almost anything after that. I wanted to be completely in control of my body and just trusted that it would not fail me.”

She arrived at the hospital on the morning of Oct. 15 after experiencing contractions. Her doula helped her walk the halls and breathe. Her midwife encouraged her to listen to her body. Whenever she questioned the pain, the birthing staff asked her, “What does your body feel like doing?”

Rowan Daniel Wellsand was born at 1:03 p.m.

Says DeAnna: “I truly feel that I had a great birth experience and it wouldn’t have been the same without Prima Bella Women’s Health, my doula, my husband, nurses at Porter (Regional Hospital), my photographer, and my family supporting my wishes and the best outcome for my baby. We were all on the same page, and it was perfect. Not painless, but perfect.”

She is one of a growing number of Northwest Indiana women opting for natural childbirth. They say it helps them feel empowered and in control of their bodies, avoid side effects from medications, and their babies be born more alert and active. Region hospitals now offer water births, which are said to relieve the pain of natural deliveries, and have doulas and midwives on staff.

“People are starting to move away from medicine,” says Christine Riley, a nurse who teaches natural childbirth classes at LaPorte Hospital. “Back in the ’60s, they did Lamaze. Then epidurals were introduced. Now I think we’re swinging back.”

Riley says that over the past few years LaPorte Hospital has put bathtubs into birthing suites and started offering natural childbirth classes. In that time, the hospital has seen its epidural rate fall from three-fourths to three-fifths.

Amy Bauer, 45, of Cedar Lake, gave birth to all five of her children naturally. She did so to cut the risks from medical interventions and because she believes natural births have physical and emotional benefits for the kids.

“I would do my children’s births over again exactly the same if I had the opportunity because it was a very positive and empowering experience, and there were no complications,” says Bauer, who works as a doula.

About a third of American women get cesarean sections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. C-sections can cause babies to have breathing problems and leave mothers with surgical injuries or infections, and increase the risk of future birth complications. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that there has been no improvement in birth outcomes with the rapid rise in C-sections, and has recommended that OB-GYN specialists perform fewer of them.

Louise Albrecht-Mallinger, the doula program coordinator at Franciscan Health hospital in Crown Point, notes that ACOG says doulas, who are trained labor-support people, can be an important tool in decreasing the C-section rate.

“If you hire a doula, statistics show you’ll have a shorter labor and fewer interventions,” she says. “Fewer moms ask for pain medications or epidurals because they feel more supported. The risk for C-section is reduced if you have a doula.”

She notes that women can be pressured out of making their own birthing decisions. “People like to judge, especially in a birthing situation,” she says. “It’s such a personal choice, and everyone is pointing fingers: ‘You should just get the epidural. Why do you want to be a martyr?’ We have to be supportive of each other.”

Some try medication first

Jackie Sergeant, of St. John, had epidurals with her first two kids because that’s what she thought she was supposed to do. With her second child, she says, her back hurt for about six months from the shot. Then she researched hypnobirthing, which uses self-hypnosis and relaxation to help mothers through natural deliveries.

“I realized that birth is a mind-over-body experience,” the 32-year-old says. “I feel physically better after birth without medical interventions. I like to be able to move around during labor. I also feel like baby is more alert.”

She gave birth to her last four children naturally, including her daughter, Juliet, who was born Dec. 14.

“I do think natural childbirth is becoming more popular,” Sergeant says. “There is more information out there to educate women on the benefits. I also believe there is more encouragement to empower women to believe that they are able to birth a baby all on their own.”

Lisa Wilder had nerve damage to her spine from the epidural from her first delivery. So she had to go the natural route for her second child.

She labored in the shower and birthing tub for two hours, which she says relaxed her. The support of her family and her doula also helped. Her daughter, Kylie, was born Dec. 7, 2015.

“I see a lot more women taking control of their bodies and their deliveries,” says Wilder, 28, of Schererville. “There’s nothing wrong with being medicated; I’ve done it, some prefer it. But with my traumatic experience, I wouldn’t do that to myself.”

Amanda Rossi, of Valparaiso, was preparing to have her third natural childbirth in August. She wanted to wait as long as possible before going to the hospital to deliver.

“If labor stalls, interventions and medications are suggested, and unless a woman has a very strong support team such as a doula or midwife she is likely to succumb to pressure to move faster,” the 32-year-old says. “Birth can be a slow process, and this is normal.”

On Aug. 27, after having labor symptoms for about a week, she went into active labor. She contacted her midwife and said she was on the way to the hospital. She got her bag ready.

The contractions got closer together. She got in the family van, driven by her husband. The pain was intense.

“I felt the baby descending and knew we were out of time. I just followed my body’s lead, and when you have a drug-free birth it’s honestly amazing how the hormone releases help you through the process,” she says. “It’s almost like a high that causes you to transcend the pain. My friend Jill later told me that I looked asleep at some points during the drive.”

By the time they pulled up to the emergency entrance, the baby’s head was peeking through. She was giving birth in the van.

Two ER doctors put her on a gurney and ran her to labor and delivery. One or two pushes later, Clementine Joy was born.

“We all laughed when I commented on how nice it was that they had the tub ready for me,” Rossi says.

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She believes the medical community should better educate women about the benefits and risks of medications offered during pregnancy.

“America has extremely low outcomes for birth and outrageously high C-section rates,” she says. “For a developed country of our size, this is not acceptable and women deserve better.”

Pros and cons to medical interventions

Dr. Valentin Drezaliu, an OB-GYN specialist with Methodist Hospitals, asserts there are no medical benefits to natural childbirth for either the mother or the baby. He notes that medical interventions have decreased birth complications and infant deaths dramatically.

“People are Googling lots of things. They’re finding information online that is not verified,” he says. “They hear that Pitocin will affect the baby’s brain development, which is absolutely not true. They hear that epidurals cause severe headaches after—that’s a very rare side effect. It’s mostly fear.”

Shannon Markle, a certified nurse midwife with Community Healthcare System, says pain medications sedate newborns, which can cause respiratory depression and make them too tired to breastfeed and bond immediately after birth. Epidurals can also lower a mother’s blood pressure and increase her temperature, leading to additional lab work and medication after her delivery, she says.

Inductions come with side effects too, she says.

“If a woman is induced, we are trying to force her body to do something it is not quite ready to do, and that process can be longer, and bring more pain,” Markle says. “With a spontaneous labor the hormone oxytocin crosses the blood-brain barrier and creates a sensation of well-being that helps women to cope with the pain of labor and promotes bonding with her infant. The artificial version of that hormone, Pitocin, that is used for labor induction does not cross the blood-brain barrier and women perceive these contractions as much more intense.”

Many women write birth plans so their OB-GYN provider and the hospital staff are aware of their wishes.

“Women’s bodies were built for birth and it can happen beautifully without intervention or interference, unless there is a condition or problem that requires an intervention,” Markle says. “Ultimately, most women who choose natural childbirth report they are thrilled with their birth and proud of themselves.”

Jennifer Vanmeter, a certified nurse midwife at LaPorte Hospital, says that while natural childbirth is a hard topic to do randomized controlled studies on, it has been found to reduce labor time.

“It hasn’t been shown to cause any harm—that’s the big thing,” she says.

‘An unmedicated, laid-back’ birth

Eileen Torres says she wanted to have a baby the same way she was born: “an unmedicated, laid-back child birth.”

She went into labor at her Chesterton home on March 10, 2016. She soaked in the bathtub a few times to slow down the contractions. She used a yoga ball, birthing stools and pillows to change positions.

Twenty-five hours later, Ocean Dragana Torres was born.

“Ocean was stuck in my pelvis so I had to do lunges and nearly upside down positions to get her to move,” says Eileen, 32. “I used meditation to stay calm and quiet through the entire birth. It was beautiful.”