I want to share some amazing natural birth resources available to all of us in Southeast Michigan. When you are thinking of natural birth there are a few different settings this can take place; home birth, birth center or birth center attached to hospital. There are many midwives available to Southeast Michigan residents and a simple Google search will provide plenty of results. My personal experience, however, is with the St. John Providence Hospital Alternative Birth Center (ABC Unit). We are birthing our second child at the ABC Unit and have chosen this type of birth over the other two for several reasons. At first I was very set on a home birth but, my husband was apprehensive about the safety if an emergency happened (placenta previa or abruptio to name a few). However, I am still very interested in homebirth and may be exploring that option for our third child. Studies show that home birth is just as safe as hospital birth for low risk mothers. But since my husband was pretty uncomfortable with the idea I began searching for alternatives. I found out about birth centers which give you the same opportunity as a home birth but at a center, not your own home. Then I found the two birth centers that are attached to hospitals, DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital and the ABC Unit at St. John Providence Hospital. I was delighted to find these two units because they both are part of the actual hospital but offer the opportunity for a more natural birth experience. If there is an emergency then you are already where you need to be. However, the challenge in any hospital birth is making sure you do not get unneccesary “emergency” treatment. This can be avoided if you are clear about your expectations and goals with your midwife, doula and even pediatrician/family physician. Once you have made your wishes known you must have trust in the providers you have chosen. Having a doula is the best way to make sure your birth decisions are considered at every stage. She will be your birthing advocate and remind you of questions you wanted to ask should things change from your original plan. My favorite doula is Laurel Miller. She has many resources including homeopathy and is in training to become a midwife. Because doulas can help with pain management and labor progression in many different ways women who use their services are a lot less likely to need pain medicine or any interventions.
The Alternative Birth Center Unit (ABC Unit) at St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield, MI is truly one of a kind. Working with Metro Partners in Women’s Health physician and midwife group affords the billing for a natural birth to be covered under my insurance plan. The other reason the insurance company covers this experience is because the ABC unit is part of the hospital so there is no differentiation between ABC and the rest of labor and delivery for insurance purposes. However that’s about it when it comes to similarities between L&D and ABC unit. The ABC unit is run by midwives and veteran nurses who have dedicated themselves to providing the safest, most natural birth possible. To start you can attend one of the Meet The Doula/Meet The Midwife meetings that are held about every other month. At these meetings you will first have a chance to hear each doula (about 8 of them) give a quick intro and then speak with each one to find your perfect fit. The midwife meeting starts out the same with a quick intro given by each midwife (6 all together I think) then a PowerPoint about midwifery is gone over. This PowerPoint was so informative that it made a convert of my husband on the spot which is saying a lot for those of you that don’t know my husband! The actual ABC unit is a group of 4 large private rooms with a common kitchen area. Each room has a large two person jacuzzi-type laboring tub that submerges mom to about her chest and the partner can get in too. Water births are not permitted; the tubs are just used for laboring. However, these tubs relieve so much tension and pain for mom that they have earned the nickname “aqua-dural.” Each room has a queen size bed along with a shower. IV’s are not routine and moms are encouraged to eat lightly and drink liquids during labor (think coconut water, soups, fruit and nuts). The standard for monitoring contractions and fetal heart tones is intermittently with Doppler which increases with the intensity of labor. Moms are encouraged to birth in any position comfortable for them especially upright positions. Episiotomies are not encouraged. When I inquired about episiotomies the analogy of a piece of cloth was given. When you try to tear a piece of cloth in two it is very hard. But, if you cut that cloth a little it tears much easier. Once all goes well and your healthy baby is born the baby stays with mom and all monitoring is done in the room. The cord is not cut until it stops pulsing, unless you are doing cord blood donation or there is an emergency. You are even permitted to do the first bath if you choose. You are able to forgo antibiotic eye drops, vaccines and almost any other interventions you do not want for baby. The average hospital stay for a healthy mom and baby is about 24 hours. You may be asked to move out of the laboring room to a postpartum room once your baby is born so another laboring mom gets the same wonderful experience you just got. This is how the midwives ensure that all moms who want to birth at ABC have the opportunity. With the ABC unit orientation you receive a welcome packet that gives a list of ABC Unit-friendly pediatricians, a birth plan worksheet and a form to give to the pediatrician’s office that you can list all the exceptions you would like for your baby. Between the welcome packet, the Meet the Doula/Meet the Midwife meeting, the ABC unit specialized birth class and the unit tour the ABC unit and Providence Nurse Midwife group have given the women of Southeast Michigan a very informative and easy natural birthing choice!
When I was researching birth facilities I also checked into DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital since they too list themselves as having a midwife run program. I did a phone interview with one of the midwives and found that their midwife program seems to be very “by the book.” Meaning that strict protocols are in place for all situations a baby and mother may go through so those would be followed when staff felt it was necessary. There is not a website or any other information for the midwife group other than the office phone numbers and what is on the hospital website. Another key note that needs more investigation on an individual basis is insurance coverage. I called the Greenfield Medical Center, which is one of the centers that the midwife group works out of, and was told that the midwives bill separately than the physician group to the insurance companies. This can be a problem for those who want a midwife birth covered by their insurance company. I have BC/BS PPO and solely midwife care is not covered. On a more positive note the Hutzel midwife group has one tub available which is portable and you can do a water birth if you choose. If, however, the tub is in use when you are delivering then you are out of luck. All rooms do have a shower. Only a saline lock IV (not hooked to IV bag) is standard upon admission and you are able to eat and drink clear liquids (think coconut water, broth, jello). I was told that mothers can birth in whatever position is comfortable for them and that all newborn care is done in the room with mom. Parents can make a birth plan and the staff will try their best to stick to it. You are allowed to forgo antibiotic eye drops, vaccines and most other interventions for baby. As for doulas they are permitted but there wasn’t a group or list of doulas that are routinely used. I was also told that there is a Midwifery Tour at the hospital. All this being said if you are looking for a chance to try natural birthing with more of a standard medical feel then Hutzel is the place for you. Contact the Midwife group at Greenfield Medical Center in Dearborn, MI 313-581-2121 or Wayne State Physician Offices Group of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Detroit (just in front of Hutzel Women’s Hospital) 313-993-7444.
I have to say I am very excited for both the Providence Hospital, ABC Unit and the Hutzel Hospital, Midwife Program. Even though there are some differences between the two hospitals being clear about your wishes and having your partner or a doula or both advocate for those wishes is truly the best way to ensure you have the birth you desire. The fact that Michigan is home to two midwife run L&D units within hospitals is a major step in changing the obstetrical paradigm of treating birth as a business.
If you do decide to go the natural route for birthing the majority of the work will be on you as the mother and your partner as coach. It is a must that you maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine (if not contraindicated) during your pregnancy. These two factors alone can make or break your wishes for a natural birth. The key to avoiding drugs and most emergency treatments in labor and delivery is having birthing skills. There are many types of skills needed not just breathing. For example, a type of breathing called directed breathing will help you expand and relax tense areas in your pelvis; physical positions will also help open up the birth canal; and perineal muscle massage will help relax vaginal muscles in preparation for delivery. All these skills and many more can be obtained from one birthing resource, Birthing Better with the Pink Kit. I suggest you purchase this kit through Natural Birth and Baby Care.com because Kristen gives you some free guides to using the Pink Kit on a week by week basis. Plus her website has great pregnancy nutrition information and a week by week pregnancy progression.
It’s obvious that a woman’s pelvis, abdomen and back are stretched very rapidly to accommodate the growing uterus during pregnancy. Misalignments often form and can be corrected with the care of a chiropractic doctor who specializes in pregnancy. The Webster Technique is a type of chiropractic adjustment that works with the pelvic structures, muscles and ligaments to reduce intrauterine restriction which allows the baby to get into the best position for birth. At Optimal Wellness Family Chiropractic Dr. Michaella Walter and Dr. Jennifer Boechler are certified in the Webster Technique and have worked wonders for this momma. I have scoliosis and had some pretty major pelvic misalignment for this second baby causing some crippling lower back pain. After just 3 adjustments I feel tons better and Miss Olivia dropped into good pelvic position at 32 weeks! Most insurance companies cover chiropractic adjustments so check into this for yourself even if you don’t have back pain/problems.
Yet another priceless tool for natural pregnancy is Homeopathy. Pregnancy is a great time for homeopathic treatment for many reasons. The first reason being that all drugs, even over the counter drugs, have vitamin/mineral depleting effects and other side-effects. OTC and prescription drugs suppress symptoms rather than work with the body to heal the root cause of the issue. Constitutional treatment is fantastic during pregnancy because you will be treating yourself and your baby. With constitutional treatment you are receiving more of a long-term treatment for chronic issues. When pregnant and doing constitutional treatment you will likely decrease the expression of these chronic issues within your baby. All these great benefits without any side-effects and a safe track record for over 200 years! Even if you aren’t able to get constitutional treatment it is worth looking into using homeopathy for the discomforts of pregnancy and during labor and delivery to ease pain and correct issues that may arise. This can be accomplished with the resources below:
• Baby Grande CD set
• Homeopathic Medicines for Pregnancy and Childbirth by Richard Moskowitz, MD
• Double Helix Remedy Kit for Childbirth
For more information on natural births of all kinds you can also check out the following resources:
• Indigo Forest in Ann Arbor, MI has many great resources for pregnancy, childbirth and parenting including Homeopathy, nutrition, breastfeeding and lots of classes. Also has home birth midwife available.
• www.michiganmidwives.org is an excellent resource for all types of natural births.
• What to Eat While Pregnant is a great program that includes DVDs and pdf files on pregnancy nutrition and gives a pregnancy exercise routine.
• The Business of Being Born
• Natural Hospital Birth The Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel
• Ina May Gaskin Amazing woman with PhD who has advocated natural birth for over 40 years. Has many books and resources available.
• Dr. Jack Newman Physician who advocates breastfeeding. See teaching videos on website and book The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.