We Are Pregnant!

We are pregnant! We have been gestating some super exciting ideas. You know how sometimes where you are pregnant you want to go into a hibernation mode, curl up, limit your contact with the outside world? Sometimes you even neglect your beloved friends? This is what we have done, and we apologize. Now we have some second trimester energy and are ready to let you in on some of our news. We can’t tell you about our baby. We still need to keep that secret, sacred, creative space; however we want to invite you to our birth! We hope you will join us in San Francisco, CA at the BirthKeeper Summit June 27-29!

This blog post originally appeared on our Birth Activist Collective website to read the rest of this post and more exciting updates please subscribe to our new blog!


What will we be doing at the Birth Activist Retreat?

This blog was originally published on BirthActivist.org.  To see the original post and more excellent activist content click here.

The purpose of the Birth Activist Retreat is to lay the groundwork for a full scale birth revolution.  Our primary emphasis will be action, how can we actively engage in change as individuals and as a collective movement.  This is not a time for passively sitting and absorbing information; it is a chance for birth activists from everywhere to meet face to face and get to work. The retreat sessions will generally fall into one of four categories: inspiring addresses, workshops where activists can learn useful skills, moderated working groups, and opportunities to connect with other activists.

During the inspiring addresses accomplished activists such as Suzanne Arms, Dawn Thompson, Cristen Pascucci, Karen Brody, and Michal Klau-Stevens will speak to the group as a whole.  They will be sharing actions that have already made a difference and their visions for the IMG_4635best way our movement can effectively engage the system.  Gina Crosley-Corcoran (aka The Feminist Breeder), Kate Donahue (Truth About Birth in Social Media)  and January Harshe (Birth Without Fear) make up our panel on Social Media.  These lovely ladies will share their secrets to success and help us to outline a powerful on-line campaign that will continue to grow the number of folks engaged in changing the culture of birth.  The Birth Activist Skill Workshops will teach the skills every Birth Activist needs to know to be effective.

The moderated working groups are where we will really get down to the nitty gritty planning details.  They are also the most open ended type of  session.  Anyone can volunteer to moderate a group, and people will be able to participate in multiple groups.  The groups will focus on specific projects or ideas that need to be developed.  The moderator will propose the project and initiate the discussion.  The project could be something concrete such as creating a public service announcement that will air during midwifery week.  At the retreat the PSA could be written and a plan for recording and distributing the announcement could be put into place. The group would continue working beyond the weekend retreat to accomplish their goal.  Or the group could focus on an idea or something more general such as: how and what do we begin to teach young girls about IMG_4718birth? The potential for these groups is unlimited.  If you have an idea for a group you would like to moderate please email anna@wheresmymidwife.org.  We will share these working group ideas so that folks can get excited about them before the retreat, then at the retreat they can sign up and get to work!

As a group we will discuss activities such as the National Rally for change that can happen as a coordinated effort.  Two other events we will present are 1) flash mob/guerrilla theater  of the “My Body Rocks” scene from Karen Brody’s play “Birth;” 2) a film festival that promotes the Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative to be produced and coordinated by BirthNetwork National.  If you have a national event that is ready to be put into action email anna@wheresmymidwife.org and we will include you in this part of the program.  Everyone who attends the retreat will have all the information they need to implement these events in their community.  We will use the working groups to come up with coordinated actions that will part of the core events presented at the 2014 retreat.  Coordinated actions can cast a huge national spotlight on our cause.

Online communities dominate our current social worlds.  These virtual networks have tremendous power for activism, however there is still a need for face to face meetings.  The retreat will provide many opportunities for networking and building our activist community.   We will share our meals and we will be collaborating  and connecting during all the sessions.  Before the retreat officially starts and after it officially ends there will be time set aside for National Leaders to connect.  Who is a National Leader?  Anyone who is already working on a national level or anyone with the ideas, energy, and desire to be involved in that way!

IMG_4728The Birth Activist Retreat is a unique opportunity for people who are passionate about maternity care to come together and engage in the developing birth revolution.  As Dawn Thompson said the retreat “is about digging in, hard-core planning, and really working together to create lasting change in maternity care.”  You do not want to miss this crucial weekend. We look forward to seeing you there, July 26-28 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Click here to register now!

Second Annual Birth Activist Retreat

Why is the US ranked 50th in the world in maternal mortality and 37th in infant mortality?  Why are one third of pregnancies ending in major surgery?  If you are reading this blog post, you are very likely on the front lines, working to improve the way women give birth in your community as a doula or childbirth educator or nurse or midwife.  You may even see women being mistreated or disrespected and feel powerless to do something to stop it.  If you feel like we do, that the time for talk is over, that it is time for a full scale birth revolution, join us in Utah at the Second Annual Birth Activist Retreat Friday, July 26 – Sunday, July 28.  We need action now!

Last year, 75 folks from 29 states and 2 countries gathered at the Farm in Tennessee to get organized.  We heard from folks who had actively engaged the ‘system’  in their own communities and affected change.  We formed working groups and connected with other folks who were passionate about transforming maternity care in this country.  This year’s retreat will continue the work we started last year.

The Birth Activist Retreat is not your typical conference where folks sit around passively consuming information.  We will be working as a group planning actions that will make a difference:  Nationally coordinated events, such as the Rally to Improve Birth; local events that can transform communities; and individual actions that will raise awareness about the challenges we face. There will be workshops where Birth Activists can build the skills they need to make a difference. There will be many opportunities to network with other activists, share inspiring ideas and receive feedback on the unique issues facing your community.

Join Suzanne Arms, Karen Brody, Dawn Thompson, Michal Klau-Stevens, and other birth activists from all over the country who are working everyday to make birth better.  Together we have the power to transform maternity care!  Space is limited register now!

New Study Highlights the Tremendous Benefits of Birth Centers

AABC_Logo_2011_RGB-LGEveryone knows that WMM? loves birth centers. Birth centers are a place where women can fully experience the midwifery model of care. Pregnancy and birth are viewed as normal, healthy, yet important life events. The peaceful, home-like atmosphere allows for woman centered care. And, of course, birth centers are generally operated by midwives and we love midwives! A new study shows that this model of birthing provides huge benefits. The National Birth Center Study II was conducted by the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) and published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Midwifery Women’s Health, the official journal of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).

The birth center study included 15,574 women who received care in 79 midwife-led birth centers in 33 U.S. states from 2007 through 2010. Out of the 15,574 women included in the study 84% gave birth at their intended birth center. Only 16% had to transfer care to a hospital and of those transfers the vast majority were for non-emergency reasons. Fetal and newborn mortality rates were low (0.47/1000 births and 0.40/1000 births, respectively) and were comparable to those in low-risk births in hospital settings. There were no maternal deaths. Fewer than 1 in 16 of the study participants had a cesarean birth. That statistic is so amazing that I want to write it again and again: only 6% of women giving birth at a birth center ended up needing a surgical birth!!! This is big news. In 2010 the U.S. Cesarean rate reached an astounding 32.8% of all births. If this statistic is adjusted to reflect only a population that similar to the low risk women giving birth at birth centers, it is still an estimated 24%. That means 1 and 4 healthy, normal pregnant women end up needing surgery. If these women received care at a birth center most of them could avoid have avoided that costly intervention.

bcbabyOn the topic of cost, the study highlights significant financial benefits as well. Given lower costs in the birth center setting as well as low rates of cesarean birth, the 15,574 births in this study may have saved more than $30 million in facility costs alone based  on Medicare/Medicaid rates, not including additional savings in costs of other providers, anesthesia, and newborn care in hospital settings. If even 10% of the approximately 4 million U.S. births each year occurred in birth centers, the potential savings in facility service fees alone could reach $1 billion per year. In addition, U.S. spending on maternity care could decline by more than $5 billion if only 15% of pregnant women gave birth via cesarean. That is some serious savings!

The benefits of birth centers are too significant to ignore. This birth option needs to be available to women everywhere. Birth centers are the gold standard in maternity care.

Anna is Pregnant – Episode 2, Midwifery Magic

Erica_pic2I have been having practice contractions forever, at least my whole last trimester. As my guess date approaches– tomorrow!– they have been increasing in intensity and frequency. I have even had a few that have made me think, “humm, will tonight be the night!?” Last night seemed to be one of those nights, so I called my dear midwife in the early evening just to give her an update. I knew I wasn’t in labor, but the slowly increasing activity seemed worth noting. She replied with an offer to come to my house just to check me.

Now I am someone with a history of shorter labors. My last one was about three hours; and only half of that time was I really sure that it was the real thing. So having someone who is willing to drive all the way to my home in the evening just to give me a bit of extra information and reassurance, is deeply comforting. This is part of the magic of midwifery care. For me this aspect of truly personalized care is what is most important.

Stay tuned my next blog will probably have a baby in it, maybe tonight will be the night!

The “Big” Walk-In is Happening Now!

The "Big Walk-In"You may be wondering what is this? Where are people walking and why? The “Big” Walk-In is the first in a campaign of three events sponsored by Improving Birth, The “Big” Walk-In, The “Big” Write-In and The “Big” Call-in. These events are Big because they are happening everywhere at the same time, however they could also be described as small because they are all simple things one person can do without very much time or effort. Thousands of “small” actions are building something “Big”.

Here are the details! The purpose of this event is simple: to raise awareness about evidence-based maternity care. To participate all you need to do is register at Improving Birth, print their friendly letter and evidence-based care fact sheet, and take them to the maternity-care provider of your choice. This could be the OB office who cared for you throughout your pregnancy or just the maternity-care office closest to your house. You could simply deliver the letter and information about evidence-based care or you could also include a personalized thank you note and a box of chocolates. You could go quietly on your lunch break or you could invite all your friends and deliver a whole bunch of letters at once. Whatever you choose, you are participating in something “Big”.

One letter may or may not make much difference, but if one practice were to receive ten letters they would pause and think. If they receive one hundred letters they will see that there is a demand for change. In addition to the positive effect your letter may have, you will have the satisfaction that comes with speaking out for the rights of mom’s and babies in your community. Are you ready to walk in?

Improving Birth National Rally for Change Reaches Millions

Salt Lake City, Utah; Photo by Cara Baker

Did you hear the shouts for change? Do feel the ripples spreading out all over the U.S.A? This Labor Day almost 10,000 people participated in an Improving Birth National Rally for Change! Nearly 10,000 people used their physical presence to demand evidence based maternity care by standing together all on the same morning. We can only attempt to measure the impact of this historic event.

Salt Lake City, Utah; Photo by Earthside Birth Photography

Most rallies got some media attention. Improving Birth lists 68 different news stories on their website. That means countless numbers of people, who probably have no idea about birth politics or why birth even matters, got a taste for the change brewing in maternity care. Then there is Facebook, the National Improving Birth page reached 89,586 people in the week of the rally. The largest local page, San Antonio, TX reached 67,571. The modest page I administer for Salt Lake City, UT reached 10,571 people in the same week. The average reach of the 17 pages I have numbers for was 10,884 people, if you multiply this by the 110 rallies nationwide 1,197,318 were exposed to Improving Birth through Facebook in one week. I think my head would explode if I try to expand that number to the many weeks we have been promoting the rallies. There is also website traffic to measure and the people who drove or walked by a rally while it was in progress. We had a massive reach. Our ripples will be going out into the world for a long time!

Birth Salt Lake City, Utah; Photo by Vilo Photo

However, all of those numbers do not come close to showing us what it was like to be at a rally. As I have browsed hundreds of pictures from rallies all over the place, there is one clear thread. People are having fun. They are connecting with others in their communities, and their faces show the joy and satisfaction that come along with doing something they know is making a difference. There are children holding signs and playing with balloons. There are men and women standing side by side, many of them with a small child in their arms or attached to their bodies. People are cheering and chanting. People passing in cars are waving and honking. At our rally in Utah an elderly couple was passing by in their car. They slowed way down to read each sign, smiled and even stopped to talk to some of the rally participants. These types of interactions were a highlight for people everywhere.

Salt Lake City, Utah; Photo by Earthside Birth Photography

According to another number cruncher: since we had 75 people at last year’s rally and 9400 this year, the growth was 12533%. So, if we continue on the same growth rate, we can expect 1,178,133.33 people at next year’s rally. Imagine all the connections we will make, all the people we will influence, and all the relationships we will foster with our local hospitals as we demand change. The revolution is happening, and it is going to be fun!

Communities Across the U.S. Rally to Improve Birth

Change is brewing. Revolution is in the air. This coming Labor Day women and men in over 100 communities across the U.S. are coming together to demand that hospitals increase their practice of evidence based maternity care, as part of the Improving Birth National Rally for Change. Most of these rallies will take place in front of a local hospital. However there are some unique locations such as the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC and the headquarters of the American Medical Association in Chicago, IL.

The founder of Improving Birth, Dawn Thompson, participated in our First Annual Birth Activist Retreat. At the retreat we decided that this event would be the first of many coordinated actions we would promote and organize as a collective of birth activists. When people all over the country stand together and speak in unison the message can not be ignored. There is power in unity. We can change maternity care. This rally is the first step.

Every hospital that is being honored as a rally site has received a friendly letter introducing Improving Birth and encouraging them to make concrete changes that will improve the care they provide. Most of the hospitals were chosen for their high cesarean rates. The rallies will let the hospitals know that the families they serve are ready for change. We are ready to be their partners in making this change happen. We will not give up!

Where’s My Midwife? Is proud to be a National Sponsor of this event. We hope you will attend a rally near you. This truly is the beginning of a full scale birth revolution! Don’t miss your opportunity to be part of history!

We’re Not Gonna Take It!

The First Annual Birth Activist Retreat occurred June 22-24 at The Farm in Tennessee, this was an inspiring and transformative experience for all who attended!   Remember when we talked about finding Safety in Numbers?  Well, after meeting 75 activists from 29 states and two countries at the retreat, we’re feeling unstoppable!  We laid the groundwork for a full scale Birth Revolution.  The first event will be National Rally for Change this coming Labor Day  to raise awareness about the skyrocketing Cesarean Section and elective induction rates.

For a taste of what it was like to be at the retreat, check out our little video:

Where’s My Midwife? will continue as a separate organization. We are currently working on a toolkit that can be sent to communities who have experienced a loss in midwifery services. This toolkit will enable these communities to hit the ground running and organize their masses in effecting change and educating the public.

Anna is Pregnant! – Episode 1, Where’s my midwife?

The question “Where’s my midwife?” has suddenly become very personal for me. I am pregnant! My estimated due date is 12/12/12, wouldn’t that be an awesome birthday!?! We will be a family of five! So now that I have somewhat adjusted to all that excitement and caught my breath, I need to find a midwife! My last baby was born at home in North Carolina with the most wonderful CPM. Now I am living in Salt Lake City, Utah. The two states could not be more different as far as midwifery options go.

The state of North Carolina does not license CPMs, even though it is perfectly legal to have your baby at home, it is not legal for your midwife to be there supporting you.  And CNMs are required to have a physician’s signature to obtain a license, so only a handful of them practice home birth in the entire state!  These restrictions limit the number of midwives who will work in NC.  In Wilmington, where I lived, there were three CNMs practicing in hospital and one CPM practicing home birth.  We really wanted a home birth, as our first child was born at home in Boston.  But choosing the CPM meant that, throughout my entire pregnancy, I had to live with the very real possibility that my midwife may get arrested or be forced to quit working.  It was her loving support that turned me into a birth activist!  How could health care that was so personal, so wonderful NOT be an option? 

Now in Utah I can have a midwife that is licensed and doesn’t have to break any laws to help me out! I don’t have to press my ear to the underground to find someone. Oooo maybe I can even have one that is covered by my insurance and not pay for my entire birth out-of-pocket, wouldn’t that be neat!

So I went was my insurance company website. First I searched for “home birth midwife”, but alas that was not a recognized term. When I did I search for “Salt Lake City” and “midwife” I got 68 matches! Wow, surely some of these ladies will do a home birth, right? After further internet exploration I found that there is only one midwife, Rebecca Williams, a CNM, who is considered to be “in network” by my insurance. When I went to her website I saw that she is already booked through January! Yikes, I guess I am not on the ball enough to have the option of maximum insurance coverage. Oh well, going out of network opens things way up. I am not sure how many home birth midwives there in my area, my guess is more than ten.

My next step was to get recommendations from folks I knew in the birth community. From their advice and a little more help from Google I set up three consultations and interviewed five midwives. I love that I have options here, I get to choose! All five midwives were wonderful to meet with and highly skilled. I would trust them all with the details of pregnancy and birth. That makes choosing actually rather tricky. They all answered my questions perfectly, no red flags, five fabulous midwives.

My first consultation was with a pair of CPMs, Melissa Mayo and Heidi Sylvester.  One is licensed, and one is unlicensed. In Utah an unlicensed midwife is not illegal, so not everyone chooses to license. The benefits of licensure include being able to carry certain medications, such as things that would slow a postpartum hemorrhage. Some of the draw backs to licensure are being banned from attending breech and twin births. So midwives choose what works best for them.  If the licensed and unlicensed work together theoretically you have the best of both worlds.

The second pair I met with run a birth center and also attend births at home. The duo consists of Becky McInnis, a CNM, and Adrienne Trahnstrom, a CPM. They use the centering model for their prenatal appointments, all of that peaked my interest. With the birth center they also have the capacity to do ultrasounds and other clinical tasks at their offices and a CNM can prescribe medications. They had a lot of resources.

My last appointment was with Cathy Larson, the midwife I ended up choosing. She is licensed CPM with a solo practice. We met at her home office, but all of my other appointments will be at my home. I love not driving! In the end my decision was based on geography and temperament. Simply put, I thought her style would best serve my needs. I feel so fortunate now to have access to so many high quality midwives. I didn’t even meet with half of the midwives in my community! What are the birth options like where you are?  I would love to hear from you!