Sunday, January 11, 2015

Engaging Millennials in Social Media: The Next Step for Childbirth Education

Who is the person attending childbirth education classes now?  

Gen X and Gen Y - the two most tech savvy generations, who also use social media and online learning to expand their knowledge base.  They are no strangers to social media and are now being called Digital Natives, due to them growing up with smart phones and tablets like many of us grew up with teddy bears and bicycles.

Unless guided to evidence based websites and blogs, even the most knowledgeable expectant Gen X or Y will still have a solid element of fear.  Hard to believe, studies are showing that women are not exposed to normal, uncomplicated vaginal births in the media (Morris & McInerney, 2010).  These same women may be unaware of childbirth education philosophies and practices that support low/no intervention births or physiologic births. This along with the rising cesarean rate, elective induction rate and high epidural rate, this makes for an evidence-based information dissemination nightmare.

According to Dr. Julia Kish-Doto, women of childbearing age rely heavily on social networks for health including childbirth knowledge.  By using social media to expose Gen X/Y to physiologic birth concepts, we may increase awareness of physiologic birth and decrease the fear factor.

It is also important to point out that women and especially mothers are the major influencers on their family units in regards to medical care.  If they do, in fact, rely on social media for information about pregnancy, birth, infant feeding and other medical issues, as childbirth professionals, this has become a mandate for us to assimilate social media into our education/teaching strategies.

Childbirth education using social media has a major advantage to the typical childbirth education classes: information can be accessed at ANY time day or night.  Information regarding newborns, breastfeeding and postpartum issues are available at 2 a.m. as well as 2 p.m.  To do this, we must have a robust and consistent voice on places such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  And while consistency is primary, having a tag line or recognizable logo or phrases also helps to catch the eye and draw the reader into the message.

Additionally, our message must contain something that millennials want to share.  They share often, and are 3 times more likely to share content they see on social networks and 2.3 times more likely to click back on content shared by peers.  They will cross-share over the various ecosystems (such as Facebook or Instagram) – which will take the message further!

75% of millennials want news
62% are interested in food
50% of millennials rely on video sharing websites
59% said their favorite websites are visually appealing, including infographics
57% said the best websites have content that is brief, well-written and easy to understand

We have a unique opportunity to wage a dynamic and comprehensive information campaign that can change the way our society looks at childbirth.  May is coming up and contains Mother's Day (May 12) and International Week for Respecting Childbirth (May 20-27).

What if, for one week, we all joined together in one gigantic media campaign to set right the information about childbirth, physiologic birth, evidence based information?


Kish-Doto, J. RUprego? The Role of Social Media to Educate Young Women about Low Intervention Childbirth.  Cases In Public Health, Communication & Marketing.Vol IV, Summer 2010.

Morris, T. and Mclnerney, K. Media representations of pregnancy and childbirth: an analysis of reality television programs in the US.  Birth 2010; 37(2): 134-40.

How do Brands Effectively Reach Millennials on Twitter? By Greg Vodicka March 2014

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

What Will Be Talked About? : A Road Map for 2015

The New Year is upon us.  While it would be great to gaze into a crystal ball to see what the most researched and talked about birth and breastfeeding topics would be in 2015, one can only speculate.

Based on what was most talked about in 2014, here is my prediction of the top five topics for 2015, in no particular order.

  1. Increase breastfeeding rates by normalizing labor and birth
    Missing often in the conversation is the impact of what is done during labor and birth and
    the influence on the breastfeeding experience.  As author Linda J. Smith so pragmatically 
    presented in her book "Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding 2nd Ed.", there is mounting evidence that birthing practices/interventions impact the breastfeeding dyad. 

    If we want to promote breastfeeding and raise the numbers as indicated by the Healthy People 2020 initiative AND increase the health of newborns and strengthen the relationship between children and their mothers, we must dynamically address labor/birth practices and how they influence breastfeeding and the postpartum. 
2. Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
In spite of efforts of birth advocates, the cesarean section rate is still alarmingly high.  A "new concept", collaborative care (where obstetricians and midwives work together with a woman for pregnancy care) has produced better outcomes, including lower cesarean rates.

Also many care provides have not heard of or embraced the 2014 ACOG guidelines.  We must continue to bring both of these pieces of information to the forefront of the consumers' focus - in many ways - from articles to Facebook/Twitter posts and also infographics that can be posted in many places including Instagram and Pinterest.
3.  Postpartum support
While many women experience some form of mild mood changes during and after the birth of their baby, it is estimated that 15-20% of women will experience significant depression or anxiety.  Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) is not selective and can affect women from every culture and socio-economic level.  Anyone who works with expectant and new parents need to be very familiar with all aspects of PMAD and the resources in their communities to which referrals can be made.
4.  Epigenetics & the Microbiome
First, what is epigenetics?  Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. Epigenetics modifications can be as commonly as the manner by which cells end up as the particular type of cells they become.  In essence, it is the cellular traits inheritable by daughter cells.  Professor Tomas Ekstrom reported in his article ("Cesarean delivery and hematopoietic stem cells epigenetics in the newborn infant: implications for future health?" American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Nov 2014 Volume 211, Issue 5. ) higher rates of methylation of stem cells from 18 babies delivered by cesarean than 25 via vaginal birth.  Methylation of DNA affects whether genes are expressed or not within a cell and is the major path through which environmental factors can alter the expression of genetic traits.

A microbiome is the ecological community of microorganisms that literally share our body space.  In 2007, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). Movies such as Microbirth and findings such as those from Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News, show that a baby's first exposure to bacteria varies by the method of delivery and those differences will have health implications in later life. Research is showing that the gut bacteria may be important to the development of a healthy immune system.  Alterations in the gut bacteria early in life tends to increase the occurrence of allergies.  For example, David Brumbaugh, Asst. Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine cited a 2013 article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Cho, C.E. et al. Cesarean section and development of the immune system in the offspring. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 2013 Apr; 208 (4): 249-54) where gut bacteria may not get established in early life with babies born by cesarean section.  These babies may be at a higher risk of asthma, Type 1 Diabetes, and possibly celiac disease.  This brings attention to what childbirth educators have said for decades: what we do during the birthing process either positively or negatively affects the baby.
5.  Using Social Media as an Adjunct Education Form
The use of social media is the fastest form of education and outreach for the millennials and younger population. In fact, millennials comprise the largest demographic in the US today. Over 60% find that social media is an important source of news and current affairs. It is the preferred method (over 45%) of communication among millennials in countries such as the US, United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Italy, and Germany.  And the top two apps of the millennials are Facebook and YouTube.  This creates a guide for childbirth educators and other birth professionals to use when educating, or marketing their birth related business.

Where we go and what we do with this information will determine the outcome of our society. It is vital that birth professionals of all ages obtain the most current and evidence-based information for the creation of best practice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ending Pain in Pregnancy

Ending Pain in Pregnancy by Isa Herrera MSPT, CSCS is a common sense approach to common problems, including symphysis pubic dysfunction, sciatica, and diastasis recti.  For too long, women have been told that pain in pregnancy is "all in their heads" or "it can't be that bad". Many pregnant women suffer their entire pregnancy without relief or compassion.

Herrera operates Renew Physical Therapy in New York City and has dedicated her career to helping women find relief from painful pelvic conditions.

Beginning at the beginning, Herrera discusses anatomy and physiology along with proper body mechanics - the foundations of pain reduction or pain elimination.  In depth, she discusses the change in a woman's body during pregnancy and how the hormones can soften cartilage - affection the pelvic bones.  With careful detail, Herrera explores the causes and symptoms of pain in pregnancy and helps the reader develop a personalized plan.  

She also covers pelvic floor muscles, their function and the importance of Kegel exercises - a topic currently under scrutiny.  In a way that makes sense, Herrera also describes perineal massage, both
with words and clear illustrations.  This is by far the most extensive explanation of Kegels and perineal massage I have ever seen.

Positions to relieve pregnancy pain as well as pain in labor are covered in the traditional sense, but also in modified forms to aid women with orthopedic, spinal or pelvic conditions.  Non-pharmacologic pain relief methods and their inclusion in birth plans rounds out the labor and birth sections. Click here for Labor Positions Chart

To be thorough, Herrera also includes postpartum information.

This is more than a how-to book to be pain free.  It is a dynamic book that encourages health maintenance along with solving problems.  Herrera's common sense approach makes this the perfect book for any expectant woman as well as any doula, childbirth educator, midwife or Labor/Delivery nurse.

More women experience these types of pain during pregnancy than may ever vocalize.  Care providers need to once again be well-versed in the ways to eliminate pain and enable women to take educated control of their bodies.  But this book doesn't only address the physical aspects of pain in pregnancy - it goes a step farther and incorporates relaxation, visualization, meditation, mindfulness and breathing - making this an extraordinary valuable book. 

Available from Amazon:
Paperback    $26.59
Kindle          $23.99

481 pages
ISBN: 9780692237212 

Monday, December 08, 2014

What is the National Perinatal Task Force and How Can You Help?

The National Perinatal Task Force has been visible on Facebook, but you may be wondering what it is .  Here is a video Google Hangout done a few weeks ago, explaining the goals of the National Perinatal Task Force.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Five Tips for Staying Healthier This Holiday Season!

Whether you are a nurse, midwife, physician, childbirth educator, doula or lactation consultant....OR if you are forwarding this to someone who is pregnant, these five tips for staying healthier this holiday season are for you!

Stay hydrated

Oddly, winter is an ideal time to become dehydrated whether pregnant or not.  The increase in
caffeinated beverages with their diuretic effect can contribute.  You still need to consume 6-8, 8 oz glasses of water (not tea or coffee or soda) daily.  That is 64 fl oz or 1/2 gallon or more. Mild to moderate symptoms of dehydration in adults include an increased thirst, dry mouth, tired or sleepy, decreased urine output, urine in low volume and more yellowish than normal, headache, dry skin, dizziness, and few or no tears.  Still not sure if you are in need of more fluids?  Check out this info graphic from the Cleveland Clinic on what the color of your urine says!

Eat wisely

As you may have noticed in the recent US holiday of Thanksgiving, it is quite easy to depart from your normal eating patterns.  In remembering this, challenge yourself to replace breads and pies with veggies and fruit - you still need 6-10 servings of fruits and vegetables even during the holidays.  Refrain from red meats or meats that have been raised with hormones and antibiotics.  Begin the day with a good breakfast.  And perhaps finish the day off with some dark red cherries as they stimulate the production of melatonin - so you can do the following --->

Pay attention to your Circadian Rhythm

What is your Circadian Rhythm?  Defined by the Center for Sleep Medicine near Chicago Illinois, The term, "Circadian Rhythm" refers to our body's internal clock which regulates the timing of such body rhythms as temperature, hormone levels, metabolism, and most visibly the sleep-wake cycle. The clock is set in relation to the changing light and dark cycles of our planet and relies on "Zeitgebers" - cues which influence the clock's timing. Exposure to light and darkness the most important cues, but so are other functions, such as eating and exercise. The circadian clock functions in a cycle of approximately 24 hours. Our circadian clock is controlled by an area of the brain called the Suprachiasmic Nucleus (SCN). Exposure to light and darkness - which regulates the circadian clock - is communicated along a pathway from the eyes to the brain.  Age, genetics and hormones do pay a part in getting rest but listening to your body when you are tired, which may mean sleeping more during the winter (hibernation) leads to less weight gain, improved mood and an increased ability to concentrate!

Get at least 8 hugs a day

The website recommends at least 8 hugs per day because:

(1) The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and
honest communication. (
2) Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. (3) Holding a hug for an extended time lifts one's serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness. (4) Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free. (5) Hugging boosts self-esteem. From the time we're born our family's touch shows us that we're loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self-love. (6)Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues. (7) Hugs balance out the nervous system. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system - parasympathetic. (8) Hugs teach us how to give and receive. There is equal value in receiving and being receptive to warmth, as to giving and sharing. Hugs educate us how love flows both ways. (9) Hugs are so much like meditation and laughter. They teach us to let go and be present in the moment. They encourage us to flow with the energy of life. Hugs get you out of your circular thinking patterns and connect you with your heart and your feelings and your breath. (10) The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding.
Practice mindfulness daily

According to an article published by the Northern Arizona University, there are five key ways that mindfulness increased physical and mental health:  it strengthens the immune system and physiological responses to stress and negative emotions; it improves social relationships with family and strangers; it reduces stress, depression and anxiety and increases well-being and happiness; it increases openness to experience, conscientiousness and agreeableness and reduces negative associations with neuroticism; it leads to greater psychological mindfulness, which includes an awareness that is clear, nonconceptual and flexible - a practical stance toward reality and present attention to the individual's consciousness and awareness.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Birth Rocks Academy in UK

In case you missed it over the weekend, here is the link to the interview I did for Birth Rocks Academy in the UK.

Click here to read the interview.