Empowering, Inspiring, Uplifting
This past week I had my first opportunity to attend the Irish Positive Birth Conference held in Dublin. I was impressed by the list of speakers including midwives, obstetricians, a mental health advocate and lactation consultant. It was clear by the list of presenters and their topics that this event was going to appeal to more than just birth workers like myself. This event was also aimed at educating the general public, parents and expectant parents on how to better navigate pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. There truly was something there for everyone who attended and overall I left the conference feeling empowered, inspired and happy to be involved in the Irish birth community that is continuing to evolve and change for the better.
I have below some of what I call the "golden nuggets" of information that I learned at the conference this year. These are things I have already begun to share with others and will continue to share with clients that I work with.
Ten Tips for Parents Approaching Labour
- Maeve O'Connell, a midwife, shared the top ten things parents should know about labour. I loved her focus on birth preparation because that is something I often help parents with during antenatal visits. She mentioned attending classes together with a birth partner, learning about the many different choices one can make during labour and creating a list of birth preferences. She also recommended parents learn and even practice the different positions for labour and birth. I find this helps parents feel less anxious as birth approaches and helps them recall the different positions when the time comes. There were so many wonderful things that Maeve said but what I could really relate to personally was the mental preparation that is so beneficial prior to labour. Visualising your ideal birth, seeking out those positive affirmations and even preparing objects for your birth that you find mentally uplifting can be so helpful! Visualisation especially helped me during my last two births.
The case for ZERO SEPARATION
- I found Dr. Nils Bergman's presentation on the neurological benefits and science behind skin-to-skin following birth incredibly fascinating! I was so engaged, I think a fire alarm could have gone off and I wouldn't have noticed! Prior to Dr. Bergman's presentation, I knew immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby was important. I knew it helped facilitate maternal-infant bonding, that it increased the hormones oxytocin and prolactin in the mother to facilitate breastfeeding, that it aided neurological development in the baby, balanced the baby's respiratory system, cardiovascular system and temperature, etc. The knowledge below that Dr. Bergman shared at the Irish Positive Birth Conference took things to a whole other level!
- A baby's transition from the womb to the outside world is critical for facilitating brain development. Skin-to-skin contact and other gentle birth practices are ideal.
- The baby's sense of smell and their contact with parents/caregivers are the most important factors in the development of the baby's social and emotional intelligence. These are permanently developed by six weeks old!
- Toxic stress, which is the absence or separation of a baby from their protective adults, disrupts a baby's brain architecture. This disregulation causes an increase in cortisol, the body's stress hormone. This toxic stress and increased cortisol levels encourage the infant's brain to develop more prepared for a harsh environment.
- Studies have shown that the more skin-to-skin contact an infant and mother have during the first 24 hours of life, the more interaction the mother has with her child 12 months later!
- The areola is the hottest part of the mother's chest following birth. In fact, the mother's chest following birth is incredibly warm at 37°C! Dr. Bergman described breastfeeding as a consequence of skin-to-skin.
- I can't leave out Dr. Bergman's recommendation of having a doula present during labour! Studies have shown midwives lower a mother's cortisol (stress hormone) levels, doulas increase oxytocin levels- the hormone of love necessary for contractions, and birth partners (such as fathers), increase the mother's dopamine levels which help with pain tolerance and focus during labour. Doesn't that sound like a great labour team!?
Gentle, Family-Centred Cesareans
- Dr. Andrew Simms shared a video of a gentle, family-centred cesarean performed at Nottingham Hospital in the UK. This video clip features the gentle cesarean with the infant being pushed out of the mother's uterus by the power of her contractions. The baby is not "pulled" out like many other cesareans performed around the world. Dr. Simms spoke about some of the elements of gentle cesareans that he assists with- these include: dim lighting, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin if mum + baby are stable, allowing the mother to watch the delivery, the slowing down of the cesarean process, allowing the uterus to contract and birth baby, putting the maternal monitors on the mother's back versus her chest (to help with skin-to-skin), putting any IVs or monitors on the mother's non-dominant arm, allowing the parents to bring in music of their choosing to be played, etc. What a wonderful way for parents to welcome their baby into the world! I wish all cesareans could be as gentle as the one we viewed in the full-length video!
I could go on and on about all of the wonderful speakers and knowledge I learned at the Irish Positive Birth Conference. I'm so happy I attended, as I got the chance to expand my knowledge, meet some wonderful professionals and hey, I even got some bump painting done by MoonWay Creations!