Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sequestration and the Potential Impact on Childbirth in the US

You might think the two topics – sequestration and birth- don’t have anything in common.  Surprise!  They do.

If sequestration hits, and because we’ve succumbed to societal acceptance of the medicalization of childbirth, of course childbirth will be affected.

According to a White House announcement earlier this week, approximately 600,000 women and children would be dropped from the Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) from March through September.  At least 1,600 state and local jobs and $600 million could be lost as a result.

In Ohio alone, 26,000 civilian Department of Defense (DOD) employees would be furloughed and funding for Army/Air Force operations would be cut by $4.9 million. Virtually no state is exempt from DOD cuts. In California, 64,000 civilian DOD employees will be furloughed. Many civilian employees make up the staff for maternity care in military hospitals.

According to the Maternity Care Coalition in Pennsylvania, advocacy groups across Pennsylvania describe $85 billion in federal budget cuts as potentially having dire consequences for social service programs in Pennsylvania, including education, housing, and nutrition assistance.

Disparities in maternal health care will continue.  From an article on the Center American Progress website, between two and three women die each day from complications of giving birth. Black women in the United States die in childbirth at three to four times the rate of other racial and ethnic groups. The infant mortality rate in the United States is twice as high as that of other wealthy nations, and rates are highest for low-income women of color, who often lack access to quality health care. Sequestration cuts $4 million from the Safe Motherhood Initiative, which helps prevent pregnancy-related deaths; $8 million from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, which provides cancer screenings to low-income women; $24 million from Title X family planning and reproductive health services; and $50 million from the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant. The cuts to the Maternal and Child Health Services Block grant alone would mean 5 million fewer low-income families would be provided with prenatal health care and other services that help eliminate disparities in infant mortality and maternal health.

Research and Innovation will be impacted - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be forced to delay or halt vital scientific projects and make hundreds of fewer research awards. Since each research award supports up to seven research positions, several thousand personnel could lose their jobs. Many projects would be difficult to pursue at reduced levels and would need to be cancelled, putting prior year investments at risk. These cuts would delay progress on the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are costly to society and delay development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would issue nearly 1,000 fewer research grants and awards, impacting an estimated 12,000 scientists and students and curtailing critical scientific research. The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) would face delays in translating new science and technology into regulatory policy and decision-making, resulting in delays in new drug approvals. The FDA would likely also need to reduce operational support for meeting review performance goals, such as the recently negotiated user fee goals on new innovative prescription drugs and medical devices.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could conduct 2,100 fewer inspections at domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture food products while USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) may have to furlough all employees for approximately two weeks. These reductions could increase the number and severity of safety incidents, and the public could suffer more foodborne illness, such as the recent salmonella in peanut butter outbreak and the E. coli illnesses linked to organic spinach, as well as cost the food and agriculture sector millions of dollars in lost production volume. Outbreaks of foodborne illness will put families (including expectant mothers) at risk and costing billions in lost food production.

According to the Harvard Law Blog, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) will be cut by $490 million and hospitals could encounter  a loss of almost 500,000 health care sector jobs in the first year of the sequester according to an American Medical Association and American Hospital Association study, including job losses for 40,000 practitioners such as physicians and dentists.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Very Special Message: Africa Calling!

My name is Michelle Maisonville.  I am a wife, mother and certified birth doula in Lethbridge, AB Canada.  I am about to undertake an amazing journey that will be sure to change my life.  I, along with my friend, Lacey Klassen, will be travelling to Rwanda and Kenya with an organization called Home of Hope (  My call to Africa began when I was just a child.  A visiting pastor came to our little church and spoke about his missionary work on the continent.  He told a story about a place where infants were murdered because of their gender or physical conditions and “blood ran like a river” down a trough to a nearby body of water.  At my young age, I was struck by my perceived images of this scene and heartbroken for the babies who never got to live.  About a year ago, my friend Lacey came to me with another story, one of babies in the country of Kenya.  Because of rape, incest, extreme poverty and disease, mothers were taking their newborns and leaving them to die in a dump.  Again, my heart was torn.  Tears spring to my eyes whenever I think about these precious little ones.  Home of Hope works to rescue the abandoned children and cares for them in their children’s home, called the Dream Centre.  When Lacey and I found out we had the opportunity to go to Kenya and help, we sprang into action.  We have been approved to go to both Rwanda and Kenya from April 30 to May 15, 2013.

A trip of this nature costs quite a bit.  We have been able to secure our flights thanks to points Lacey has earned with her credit card, but we are still in need of funds to cover our lodging, food, and transportation costs.  These must be donated directly to Home of Hope.  We also require cash donations to help cover our immunizations, flight taxes, spending money for airport layovers and additional food, as well as donations to leave in Africa.  Our current need totals about $6500.  We are also collecting items to leave as gifts such as cloth diaper covers, medical supplies, birthing/teaching supplies (as I will be working with expectant mothers), small toys and clothing.  Any help would be very welcome.  Our blog, complete with links and instructions to donate directly to Home of Hope, can be found at  

Donations can also be mailed to me at #2, 2318 – 23rd Street North, Lethbridge, AB Canada T1H 4R7.  Donations to Home of Hope need to be received three weeks prior to our departure. 

Thank you so much for reading our story.  Thank you especially to Connie Livingston and BirthSource for sharing it with all of you.

Michelle Maisonville, CD(CBI)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Improve Maternity Care AND Save $$ - it is really possible? Yes, says the evidence!

A new study in the American Journal of Public Health has revealed that doula support in childbirth is associated with a 40% decrease in cesarean births.

While I am not really surprised at the results, given all of the studies and evidence Klaus and Kennell have given us these past 30 years, this is an important study because the demographics used in this study of 1079 are Medicaid recipients.  And this is HUGE for those managing or beginning community based doula programs.

In the study based in Minnesota, doula supported births had a cesarean rate of 22.3% while other Medicaid recipients had a 31.5% cesarean rate.

Katy Backes Kozhimannil PhD, MPA, assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the university of Minnesota, Minneapolis and her colleagues concluded that half of all states would save money if they employed doulas at $200 per birth and reduced cesarean deliveries to 22.3% of Medicaid births. Savings vary according to state reimbursement practices and cesarean delivery rate but could reach more than $2.5 million for up a quarter of all states.

I believe that if we really want to improve maternity health care and reduce medical costs, doulas (and other non-pharmacologic pain relief methods) should be instituted immediately into US maternity care. 

The evidence is there.  What are we waiting for?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chakras ~ how to Open or Rebalance them

From the previous blog, Chakras are energy stations or zones in the body and correspond to various glands or organs.  When a Chakra is blocked or closed or not balanced, it shows up in our lives either mentally, physically or spiritually.  Of course, this is not tangible but the power of the belief in Chakras does make sense. An inventory of the Chakra system can allow the individual to become more mindful and live with greater intention.

Root Chakra

The root chakra is associated with feelings of security, stability, and the feeling that you are grounded no matter what the situation. If your root chakra is blocked or under active, you probably feel unsteady, very nervous, full of anxiety, and fearful. If this chakra is overactive, you tend to feel very materialistic wanting more and being very resistant to changes around you.

Sacral Chakra

The sacral chakra represents deep loving feelings and sexuality. When this chakra is flowing, you are able to express emotions without being overly emotional. With a balanced sacral chakra, you will find it natural to be intimate and passionate. Additionally, your feelings are grounded and you will not be too emotional or too closed off from your feelings.  An under-active sacral chakra typically displays itself as someone who is very unemotional, does not appear very open to people, is unapproachable and appears cool or even cold to people who come in contact with the person. 

Solar Plexas Chakra

When it comes to having self-confidence, assertiveness, and feeling in control of your decisions, this has to do with the solar plexas chakra. If you tend to be aggressive and domineering, this chakra is most certainly overactive. On the other hand, if you are generally  indecisive, timid, and never get what you want, chances are this chakra is under active.

Heart Chakra

The heart chakra influences your interactions with other people,  your compassion,  love, and  friendliness. If this chakra is under active you tend to be distant and cold with those around you. On the other hand, if this chakra is over-active you may suffocate others with your affections and love.

Balance is the key and provides stability in your life!

Throat Chakra

If you ever feel that you are unable to express yourself while speaking to others, then your throat chakra could be blocked or closed. This chakra directly affects your ability to communicate with others. People with a blocked throat chakra tend to be quiet, shy, and unsure.  If you tend to interrupt others or dominate the conversation while not listening to others, this chakra may be overactive.

Brow Chakra

The brow chakra or third eye has become a major focus for many people, due to the fact that it deals with your inner vision, insight, as well as your intuition. If this chakra is fully open,  you have instinctual insight into the situations around you. However, if this chakra is blocked or unbalanced, you may have a hard time being able to think clearly.

Crown Chakra

The seventh major chakra is the crown chakra. This chakra deals with the feeling of being one with the world, spiritually connected to a Higher Power and about wisdom. When this chakra is balanced and open you will  be very aware of both the physical and spiritual world. If you are not aware of your spirituality and are often rigid in your thinking, this chakra is most likely under active. 

Clearing or balancing chakras is as individual of a process as the individual themselves.  For example, listening to music (particularly with flutes, drums and bells) can be very relaxing and provide balance.  Since aromatherapy triggers both mental and physical responses in the body due to their work on the Limbic System in the brain (which controls emotions, behavior and memory), aromas can trigger balance, too.  Movement such as yoga poses and tai chi can stimulate parts of the body that correspond to chakras.  A good workout at the gym may also be helpful for some.

Meditation is probably the biggest help in balancing or opening fully a chakra.  Meditation is more than just sitting quietly or humming or repeating a word.  It is sitting quietly and observing your body, the functions and the sensations.  It is becoming fully aware of your emotions and their influences.  It is doing interspection and inventory.  Meditation may also be quietly repeating positive affirmations.  Repeating positive affirmations can clear negative emotions and energy ~ and why not?  Negative affirmations can bring a person down and eliminate happiness so why not the opposite?  One type of meditation for Christians is Lectio Divina.  From the Catholic Faith, Lectio Divina is a slow and comtemplative praying of the scriptures.  For a step by step guide to Lectio Divina,click here.  There are many other sources of how-to guides for meditation on the internet to meet your spiritual needs.

Some people enjoy quiet time meditation.  Others prefer a guided meditation during their quiet time.  Below is a Chakra Meditation for Balancing and Healing available on You Tube.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Chakra Basics 101

As our view of other cultures and their health practices widens, it is important for birth professionals to become aware of elements that could impact a womans labor and birth.  This is true of Chakras.
Why talk about Chakras?  I believe that we are only scratching the surface of knowledge about our health, our bodies and reproduction.  It is not always about incorporation of ideas, rather it is more about keeping knowledge at hand in case it is needed as reference during a situation.  This became true of aromatherapy and birth, herbs and birth, hydrotherapy and birth – well, I think you see where I’m going with this: things that were not usually associated with childbirth are now associated with birth!

What are Chakras?
According to Hinduist and other belief systems, chakras are centers of PrĂ£na or life forces – vital energies that swirl in the body and correspond to points in the body.  Directly translated from Sanskrit, chakra means wheel or vortex and thus refers to the seven energy centers.  These centers function as pump stations to the energy flow in our system.  We, ourselves, and the conditions we face can open or close the valves in the pump stations.  Blockage of the energy in any of the seven chakras can lead to illness so it may be important to understand what each chakra represents and what to do to keep energy flowing freely.

Root Chakra
Color associated:  Red
Shape associated: Lotus with four petals
Stones: Ruby or Red Coral
Location: Base of the spine in the coccygeal area
Physical: Through this chakra, a child feels that strong connection with the birth mother and the nuclear family.
Known as the grounding chakra or earth energy.

Sacral Chakra
Color associated:  Orange/white
Shape associated: White lotus with a crescent moon with six vermillion or orange petals.
Stones: Moonstone
Location: Sacrum
Physical: Acknowledge issues of control and making changes/personal choices.
Emotional: The sexual center and where individual creativity is birthed.

Solar Plexas Chakra
Color associated:  Yellow
Shape associated: downward pointing triangle with 10 petals along with the color yellow.
Stone: Yellow Topaz or Citrine.
Location: Solar plexus
Physical: Our gut helps us take action or avoid something
Emotional: Self-esteem and personal power; gut feelings.

Heart Chakra
Color associated:  Green
Shape associated: Symbolized by a circular flower with twelve green petals.
Stones: Rose quartz, Malachite, Love Stones.
Location: Heart
Physical: Learn self-love and self-care
Emotional: The love center: heartbreak, grief, pain and fear.

Throat Chakra
Color associated:  Sky Blue
Shape associated: Silver crescent within a white circle with 16 light or pale blue or turquoise petals.
Stones: Kyanite and Sodalite.
Location: Throat
Physical: Repressing anger or displeasure often results in laryngitis, strep throat, etc.
Emotional: The voice center: expressing ourselves openly and honestly.

Brow Chakra
Color associated:  Violet, indigo or deep blue
Shape associated: Lotus with two petals 
Stones: Lapis and Apatite
Location: Brow
Physical: Mental calculations and thinking process.
Emotional: Taking past experiences and life happenings and put them into perspectives.

Crown Chakra
Color associated:  Lavender or cranberry color
Shape associated: A Sahasrara or 100 petalled lotus
Stones: Diamond, Iolite, Serpentine
Location: Top of the head
Physical: Spreads life force to other chakras
Emotional: Inner communications and spiritual awakening.  Entryway for life force and relationship with God.

The next blog entry will discuss why these may be of interest during pregnancy, labor and birth.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

More Tech for Birth! Google Hangouts!

Tired of social media just including Facebook and Twitter?  

Frustrated that Skype is just 1-1?  

Enter Google+ Hangouts!

Google+ Hangouts is a free video chat service from Google with unique features that allows 1-1 chats OR group chats with up to 10 total people at a time.  This can be valuable for birth organizations who wish to save money and use video conferencing for staff/board meetings, childbirth classes, interviews, demonstrations or even consultations.  Friends or family out of town?  Let everyone Hangout together!

Hangouts can be used on laptops as well as desktop computers and Android/iPhone mobile devices. Video chats can be recorded for anyone who missed the meeting.  Users need only to go to to download the free Plugin, which literally downloads in seconds.  Mobile users need to download the Google+ app.

I found this extremely helpful tutorial to help you set up for a Google+Hangout!  Get started today and join me for an upcoming Google Birth Hangout (GBH)!  Email me at if you'd like to be included in an invitation for a GBH!