The Allina strike will put birthing families in grave danger

I have been blogging for almost exactly 5 years in this space, and maternity care outcomes and transparency hold a special place in my heart. I don’t know if anyone gets as excited as I do when new info comes out. After a lot of thought over the weekend, I am posting this. Buckle in.

The Allina nurse strike saga continues. In June, the nurses went on a 7 day strike. Back then, I had concerns about the safety of giving birth with replacement nurses. Now that a strike date of September 5th at 7am has been set, and after careful consideration, I can’t say this without enough emphasis: DO NOT HAVE YOUR BABY AT AN ALLINA HOSPITAL DURING THE STRIKE. CHANGE PROVIDERS AND/OR PLACE OF BIRTH NOW!!!!!

I may not make any friends with the system’s physicians or administration, but the evidence is more than circumstantial to back up my warnings. While I understand the political forces at stake with public opinion of unions in general, staffing ratios and staff safety are always issues at Allina. And in fact, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the Minnesota Nurses Association’s complaints about unfair labor practices were with merit.

Historically, Allina’s hospitals have had some of the highest cesarean rates in the Twin Cities Metro Area. Recently, a change was made and births are no longer done at Unity Hospital, but in 2014, the c-section rate for Abbott Northwestern was 30.2%, it was 28.3% at Mercy Hospital, and 30.4% at United Hospital; all of these are above the state average of 26.9%. In 2014, 11,207 births occurred at Abbott, United, Mercy, and Unity–an average of 217 per week. With such high volume, Staffing problems will hit maternity services hard. Lactation services are sure to be hit hard as well, as union IBCLC RNs will also be on strike, so moms will have a very hard time getting appropriate breastfeeding help.

The last strike, which was limited to 7 days, cost Allina $20 million. On social media pages, nurses from other parts of the country are posting information they’ve received from staffing agencies recruiting workers to fill in for the striking nurses. Replacement nurses are being offered $6,900 per week and are not required to be licensed to practice in Minnesota. Additionally, because of such a high cost to replace nurses and because of the very large number of striking nurses (4,800), there is absolutely no way that Allina’s hospitals will have adequate staffing– in fact, only 1,400 nurses were brought in during the strike in June. A hospital system with a whopping 71% reduction in nursing staff is without a doubt incapable of providing safe care. While this creates a dangerous situation for all of the hospital units, because safe staffing ratios are so high– 1:1 nurse to patient ratios during labor and birth, and 1:3 nurse to patient ratios postpartum, there’s no doubt that having less than 1/3 the normal number of nurses will put mothers and babies in grave danger.

Very specifically, replacement nurses can’t provide appropriate care in the “Mother Baby Centers” of Allina hospital because:

  • Nurses will be much slower at charting in a system that they aren’t familiar with. Even if the nurses are familiar with EPIC, the most common EHR in our area, each organization has their own unique configuration. In births, charting is extensive– many, many things need to be documented in real time, taking away the nurses’ ability to provide patient care.
  • Maternity Care practices in our area are very different from those in other parts of the country. We tend to have better outcomes than in other parts of the US–meaning the replacement nurses will probably be used to maternity care practices that are considered outdated or unsafe. So, for instance, while Allina hospitals have Nitrous Oxide as an analgesic option for birth, it’s still rarely used outside of our metro area. Because the replacement nurses won’t have the training needed to provide Nitrous, parents will very likely find that options they expected to be available aren’t.
  • Patients with high-risk pregnancies are very likely to have replacement nurses that lack the higher training needed to keep medically fragile conditions under control.
  • Staff morale in hospitals during strikes always takes a major hit, distracting from the real need-providing patient care.
  • Even if the nurses were perfectly trained to work as Labor and delivery and postpartum nurses, even if they knew exactly how to use the Electronic Health Record System– In no way, shape, or form will there be nearly enough nurses to provide safe care.

When I previously wrote about my concerns, I wasn’t sure what birthing mothers would end up experiencing. However, last week, I made contact with one mother who gave me permission to share her story. Her name is Lisa, and her story follows:

I planned birth at Abbott due to VBAC.  I was aware of the strike and very concerned that I would go into labor during that time, but I was planning to birth with my midwife and with my doula and I was reassured that I have nothing to worry about. In fact I’m going to say what no one said to me when I was worried about the strike: RUN! I know everyone might not agree with that, but I speak from personal experience. I moved back from Alabama so that I could receive the care we’re accustomed to here in MN, and I still ended up with nurses from states where I would never give birth.  My due date was 6/19.  Same day as the strike. Water broke 6/16.  Labor never started so I went in 6/18 at 4am for Pitocin.

24 hours later [early in the morning of June 19th, the day of the strike], I’m laboring hard on Pitocin. I have a wonderful supportive Allina nurse. The best nurse I’ve ever had, but there’s a tension in the room so thick that you could cut it with a knife. We all know she has to go home at 7am, when her shift ends and the strike begins. In just 3 more hours. It was awkward. There was an elephant in the room. I considered asking her if she would stay with me but that seemed awkward and inappropriate.

So 7am came and she said “I’m sorry, I have to go now. ”

After that I had a stream of nurses. “I’m you nurse now. ..no I’m your nurse now. No I’m your nurse again.” I was in the shower and they kept interrupting me. I had a doula and a very supportive husband. I just wanted some privacy at this point, I wasn’t asking for extra support.

At another point I had nurses just standing around me with their arms crossed. Just watching me. Like they had never seen a woman labor before. Like I was a fucking zoo animal!!!!

At another point, one nurse was giving another nurse a tour of the room. “Here’s the warming station…” and then the two of them stand in front of the computer and discuss how the medical system works. I just hear whispering and taping on the keyboard. I’m butt ass naked, standing at the foot of my bed, huffing nitrous every 2 minutes for 90 seconds. I can barely speak. I’ve been at this for 30 hours. I wave my hand at them “They need to go. They’re distracting me.” I’m begging/irritated. My midwife then shooed them away.

This still pisses me off. I shouldn’t have to protect my own birth space like this. My midwife was there and my doula and my husband. But no one said anything. I had to ask them to leave.

It’s no surprise that soon after this I lost my ability to handle my Pitocin induced contractions. I asked for an epidural. Then my contractions went to 18 minutes apart and I ended up with a cesarean, again. Cesarean was 6/19 at 6pm.

They surgery itself had some parts that were less than what I would expect from Abbott and my post surgery care was grossly negligent.

I actually had to page my midwife on call during the overnight hours.  When the baby was born (unplanned cesarean ) we were told he could stay with us but would need to have his temp closely monitored due to prolonged rupture of membranes.  But they never checked his temperature the entire night.  Nor did they check my bleeding on the night shift.  It literally felt like everyone had left the hospital,  apocalypse. When she [the midwife] called me back I told her that I wanted to transfer with my baby to another hospital because no one was taking care of us. I paged her just after 7 am.  I knew I was supposed to have a new nurse and still no one had come to check on me or the baby.   I told her I was scared because we weren’t being monitored  and wanted us to be transferred to another hospital,  by ambulance if necessary.  She said “hold tight,  I’ll see what I can do and I’ll call you back.”

It’s my belief that when she hung up with me she called up there to the hospital and raised hell, because within a few minutes I has my day nurse and the charge nurse there.  They helped me clean up the blood that was dried from my waist down, changed my sheets and got me some food.  And filled out the white board.  There was definitely a turnaround of my care at that point.  My midwife called me back about 8am on June 20 and asked if I still wanted a transfer,  and  told me she could make it happen.  At that point I said we had a new nurse and I  felt safe again.  I told her we would stay.

Hiring a doula won’t be enough. Every single birthing family  with babies due in the next month needs to change plans on where to give birth, which likely will result in also changing providers, and they need to do it NOW. Changing is easy– I’ve outlined the process before. If you’re late in the game, you may need to change to a Family Med Provider who does OB care or an OB group. If you need help sorting your options, I’m happy to help. Call or email me– 651-200-3343 or veronica@babylovemn.com.

And Allina union nurses? I have your back. Allina’s C-suite? You are putting people at risk with your ongoing actions, and you need to be ashamed of yourselves.

Veronica

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital initiative is perfectly safe

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a clinical report that took a look at safety practices of bed-sharing and rooming in. This wasn’t a policy paper, but instead more of a “this is what a group of Pediatricians think” sort of thing. Headlines have been all over the map on this one, though. Some wise nurse and professionals looked at the publication and took away the advice that hospitals need to have good staffing levels and well-trained competent nurses to make sure patients are safe. Sorry to sound flip, but DUH. I guess there are plenty of places that put profits before patient safety (ahem), but in 10 years of attending births, I’ve only seen poor care of a baby after birth in 2-3 cases.

And then, Elisa Strauss of Slate has her opinion: The paper proves that a Baby-Friendly designation makes a hospital inherently unsafe.

Are you kidding me?

In reality, the paper does mention that aspects of the practices outlined by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative need additional guidance for safety– but nothing shows that these hospitals are inherently unsafe. Strauss has a history of writing about studies in a very odd way– in January she tore apart the idea of having a doula based on the most inane logic possible. If you want to see someone hell-bent on espousing experience-based practices, she’s your writer.

How dies she even come to her conclusions?

First, she writes that, “Their [the researchers] first area of concern is the initiative’s requirement for skin-to-skin contact between mother and child directly after birth until the completion of the first feeding, and to encourage skin-to-skin contact throughout the hospital stay. The problem is not the skin-to-skin contact itself, which has documented benefits, but the fact that mother and child are often left unsupervised during this time.” Immediately postpartum, nurse coverage should be 1 to 1– a nurse should have no other patients than the baby and new mother. Yes, complications can develop quickly right after birth, and medical supervision in needed. However, the problem isn’t the skin to skin contact– it’s hospitals that profit from lean staffing levels. Further, Strauss doesn’t present any solutions– does she think these babies should be taken away from the new parents and placed in a nursery with dozens of other babies with only 1 or two nurses to take care of these babies? Or should the babies be left in the warmer in the room for a couple of hours following birth? Or…..what?

The next paragraph is a doozy. Strauss writes,

Other concerns in the JAMA paper include the encouragement for rooming-in, even when the mother is exhausted or sedated. They believe this can lead to unsafe conditions for the newborn, and that parents, thinking that such sleep-arrangements were hospital-approved, may continue sleeping in such a manner once they return home. Also, they question whether supplementation with formula should really be banned, as there is no hard evidence linking early formula use to a decreased likelihood of breastfeeding further down the line. In fact, one study suggests that early formula use might help increase breastfeeding rates by reducing stress among new moms while they wait for their milk to come in.

Where to start?

NO HOSPITAL in their right minds would EVER encourage rooming in when a mother is sedated. The hospitals I have worked at rightly and explicitly disallow rooming in if a mother is unconscious and nobody else is there to attend to the baby’s needs. I want to see proof that this is a practice any place actually follows. I’m also not sure what she means by “these sleeping arrangements”. In reality, current SIDS reduction practices actually encourage parents to have babies sleep within 15 feet of the parents– in the same room. As far as formula supplementation being banned– it’s not. Nothing about Baby Friendly designation bans formula use. It calls for hospitals to pay for the formula (rather than get an unlimited free supply from the formula companies) and it calls for guidance when mothers do supplement. That’s all. This oft-repeated myth is a great tool for formula companies who want to create public panic, but it’s simply a lie. And WHY do otherwise intelligent writers perpetuate the whole nonsense that until a mother’s “milk comes in”, there’s nothing to feed a baby. It’s called colostrum, and it works very well to feed human babies and all other mammals, thankyouverymuch.

Finally, according to Strauss,

They end the paper by arguing that the Office of the Surgeon General should reconsider its call for an acceleration of the implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in the United States. “If government and accreditation agencies wish to encourage and support breastfeeding, their focus should shift from monitoring Baby-Friendly practices and breastfeeding exclusivity to monitoring breastfeeding initiation rates coupled with evidence of lactation support both during and after the hospital stay. More attention should also be placed on ensuring compliance with established safe sleep programs, emphasizing the need to integrate safe sleep practices with breastfeeding.

The language she quoted does not exist ANYWHERE in the cited publication, and at no point do the authors even come close to encouraging the discontinuation of the 10 steps outlined as Baby-Friendly. Further, she doesn’t even include a citation for this quote, and it could be completely made up for all we know.

In reality, the authors of the AAP paper praise the 10 steps, saying, “The Ten Steps include practices that also improve patient safety and outcomes by supporting a more physiologic transition immediately after delivery; maintaining close contact between the mother and her newborn, which decreases the risk of infection and sepsis; increasing the opportunity for the development of a protective immunologic environment; decreasing stress responses by the mother and her infant; and enhancing sleep patterns in the mother.”

For better or for worse, there will always be a backlash against the movement of hospitals towards the implementation of the 10 steps of the Baby-Friendly hospital designation. However, it would serve all of us better to see this discussion happen in a place without twisting a clinical report to serve one’s preconceived editorial slant.

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

About that Alabama birth settlement…

Last week, a mom in Alabama was awarded $16 million by a jury to compensate her for damage; they found the hospital “violated the standard of care for labor and delivery and participated in reckless misrepresentation of fact.” Evidently, the hospital had a pattern of what the jury described as “Bait and switch”. Of note was that they hospital’s advertising touted waterbirth until At least July of 2015, even though water birth had been banned since January of 2013.

Waterbirth bans happen. In April of 2014 in response to one of the dumbest, most illogical opinions ever published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Allina hospitals banned waterbirths. At the time, I blogged about the controversy, writing,

Rebecca Dekker over at Evidence Based Birth does a really good job talking about the evidence to support (or not support) the practice of allowing women to labor in a tub and to give birth in the tub. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, so go read it on her website. The upshot? This isn’t an easy thing to study due to logistics and ethical standards, but it has been studied. It’s been studied enough that the practice is considered safe throughout much of Europe. And guess what? Their water works the same there as it does here.

So, here’s the problem: According to an archived copy of The MotherBaby Center’s (really just Abbot Northwestern, an Allina Hospital) website from June 6th, 2014, waterbirth was still an option.

Waterbirth

Despite the fact that there was ample media coverage of the waterbirth ban, this page is, essentially, the very same bait and switch that the Alabama hospital was sued over. Waterbirth is being actively marketed, but it is not available.

This is not OK. It isn’t OK in Alabama, and it isn’t OK here.

While it’s true that Alabama ranks as one of the worst states in which to give birth in the US, with very poor outcomes for both moms and babies, cases like what this mom experienced happen all the time. As a doula, I have witnessed obstetric violence. I have been in the room as OBs told moms that if they didn’t comply, their babies would die. I have seen moms get episiotomies even though they explicitly stated that they did not consent. Some of these cases happened at hospitals that otherwise had good cesarean rates. Many of these actually happened while a patient was under the care of Nurse Midwives. Backlash from the medical community in response to last week’s verdict was severe; some doctors claimed that this verdict was not actually a victory for birthing families, but that hospitals would respond by caring even less about what her patients wanted and refusing even more obstetric choices. However, it’s important to point out that it took one mom who knew her options and knew her rights to stand up.

As expectant parents, it’s on your shoulders to take responsibility for making informed choices. Looking at a website and marketing is not making an informed choice. Staying blissfully unaware of the ins and outs of the maternity care system IS NOT assuming any responsibility for the outcome of your pregnancy and birth. You are the ones who need to ask questions. Put as much time researching your options as you spend researching cribs. Find out the difference between the different kinds of doctors and midwives that provide care. Look at freestanding birth centers. Tour hospitals and for heaven’s sake– ASK QUESTIONS. If they say they have waterbirth, ask to know the average times they use it a month. They know. If you must, tell them that you want to make sure what they market is really available.  And on the flip side, every single time something like the above happens, we need to make sure lots of people point it out and stay critical of it. Hold both marketing and maternity services to the highest standards. If nobody says anything, nothing will change.

In the MSP and surrounding communities, the voices of patients can and have produced profound change. And as much as I want to paint birth as a magical, shiny, unicorn-filled time, reality doesn’t always match that. Let’s talk about when it sucks, and when the places and people we trust create trauma, we need to raise our voices.

If you’ve seen a bait and switch in maternity care, I’d like to hear about it.

Warmly,

Veroniva

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

Guest Post: Every Woman Can

every woman can

Health Foundations is thrilled to announce our upcoming special event this December 9th, 2016, EVERY WOMAN CAN. This night of community, celebration, empowerment, great music and honored speakers will take place at Aria and will feature keynote speakers, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein and the musical stylings of female folk singers, Indigo Girls.

The EVERY WOMAN CAN movement was founded by Health Foundations’ owner and founder Amy Johnson-Grass and its mission is to empower and support women in making informed choices for childbirth and their bodies. EVERY WOMAN CAN is a community for every woman, throughout womanhood, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood and beyond. No matter what choices you make for your body or childbirth, we strive to support one another in recognizing the incredible strength and potential we have as women.

To celebrate this powerful mission, Health Foundations welcomes Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, creators of the raw and thought-provoking documentary, the Business of Being Born. Lake is a well-known advocate in the birthing community having served on the board of the nonprofit organization, Choices in Childbirth for many years. In their keynote address, these seasoned advocates of the birth community will address informed decision making and natural birth. Lake and Epstein’s work and life’s missions embody the spirit of the EVERY WOMAN CAN movement, seeking to empower women with knowledge and choices and to recognize the extraordinary potential of our bodies.

The grand finale of this special evening will be an exciting performance from none other than Grammy Award winning folk rock band, Indigo Girls. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are not only known for their hit albums and timeless ballads, but their profound political and environmental activism and support for women issues. Ray and Saliers will close the evening with a performance following the key note speakers and a social hour to allow time to connect and celebrate.

Health Foundations is proud to partner with Free the Girls, Nurture Project International and Esther’s Home to bring you this incredible night to remember. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go towards supporting these organizations and their commendable causes. Here’s a little bit about the work of these partnering organizations:

Free the Girls provides a unique opportunity for victims of sex trafficking to rebuild their lives through operating their own business selling secondhand clothing while going to school, establishing a home and caring for their families. Joined together with fellow survivors, these brave women sell second-hand bras to other women in need around the world. Health Foundations is honored to be an official drop off site for bra donations that benefit the Free the Girls organization.

Nurture Project International is a US-based, nonprofit organization that provides resources for communities impacted by crisis and disaster. Through the organization and support of volunteers, Nurture Project seeks to provide tangible services to those people whose lives have been negatively impacted by crisis and who are suffering the most.

Esther’s Home is a support center for victims of domestic violence that provides shelter, programs, education and counseling to women and children as they rebuild their lives following abuse. Esther’s Home seeks to equip women with the tools and support necessary to reclaim their lives and wellbeing following the traumatic experience of domestic violence.

 

Together with Health Foundations, these organizations eagerly await the EVERY WOMAN CAN event at Aria on December 9th, 2016. Please join Health Foundations for this momentous, once in a lifetime opportunity to join hands with women from around the world to celebrate a woman’s right to choose. To purchase tickets to EVERY WOMAN CAN, please visit the website at http://www.everywomancan.co/ or contact Health Foundations directly with questions. We look forward to celebrating with you!

Health Foundations Birth Center is a freestanding natural birth center that provides a safe and supportive environment for women throughout their pregnancy, birth and beyond. Embracing a women-centered approach, the midwives and staff at Health Foundations are there to empower you and your partner as you journey through this amazing life-giving experience. To learn more about women’s care at Health Foundations, visit our website or call us at (651) 895-2520 for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

What the Allina Nurse Strike Means for Birthing Families

Given the news that nurses at 5 Allina hospitals are set to strike starting Saturday Sunday, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re due soon and are facing the chances of going in to give birth and were planning to have your baby at United, Abbott, or Mercy, there are some things you should be aware of.

The replacement nurses will be trained in Labor and Delivery. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they will bring in their own ideas, which will very likely be very different than the hospitals regular protocols and policies. We have far better outcomes in Minnesota than, say, the South. Many of these nurses will be coming from areas with very high c-section rates, where waterbirth is banned, where there are de facto VBAC bans, etc. Be aware that you may face huge opposition from your nurse if she’s not normally around these things that families in Minnesota have come to expect as the norm.

Also, when replacements are brought in to any strike situation and cross the picket line, patient safety becomes a concern. Nurses unfamiliar with even where various items are kept or who will be struggling with an unfamiliar Electronic Health Record system won’t be able to provide the same level of care that the staff nurses can provide. Also, if staffing agencies had a hard time recruiting enough L&D nurses, patient ratios may be even worse than normal– a long time sticking point between the nurses union and Allina.

So, what can you do if you’re facing an impending strike and you’re days away from birth?

If you have the option to give birth at a non-Allina hospital with your current maternity care practice, do so. If you don’t have a non-Allina option, speak with your doctor (and since Allina is the only hospital group without a midwife group, it’s probably just a doctor that you have) about how he or she is planning to help keep patients safe during the strike. Will they be spending more time in the hospital while patients are laboring?

And even at this late stage, consider hiring a doula. She can’t provide medical care, but she will be able to be another set of eyes and hands and can help protect your birth, even with replacement nurses. It may be possible to hire a private doula, but I can get families birth doulas my non-profit. Our fees are on a sliding scale, too. You can find more info here.

It was stressful for patients during the last widespread strike, even though that strike only lasted 24 hours. Hospital administrators will always spin things to try to reassure patients, but parents have a right to understand that things won’t be the same.

If you have any specific questions, post them in the comment section!

 

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

Do we expect too much from dads at births?

dads birth doulas

This month is International Doula Month, and as such, I’ve been thinking about what I really wanted to say about doulas that I maybe haven’t said before. There have been a few interactions I’ve had lately that really got me thinking, although this is nothing I haven’t thought about before or even mentioned in classes.

We expect FAR too much from dads during birth.

So, here’s the deal:

Back in the day, like 130 years ago or more, when a woman went into labor, the local midwife would come into her home. The mom’s female friends and family would come to help– they would prepare her a birth space,  soothe her, help keep her fed, hydrated, and reassure her. Birth was a normal part of life, something that most woman would be familiar with long before it came time for them to give birth as well.

I’ll say this again: Birth was a normal part of life.

The role of a birth doula is to try to bring into the picture those women who were very experienced when it came to birth. Unless you’ve been around a couple of women as they give birth before, birth is a pretty weird process that no amount of videos can ever prepare you for. So while I’m not saying we should go back to the time when it was considered “improper” for men to witness births, I’m saying that the idea of a partner having to bear the responsibility of caring for emotionally and physically supporting a mom through birth is unfair to everyone– it’s unfair to the partner, it’s unfair to the mother, and it’s unfair to the baby.

We have mounting evidence of dads (there is no info out on same-sex partners) experiencing PTSD as a result of being at the birth of their babies. Even if there aren’t ANY complications, while we should try very hard to prepare partners to be active participants at birth, there’s nothing to really prepare anyone for the twists and turns of birth. Doulas can’t predict how a birth will go, but they are prepared to walk the journey with families, no matter what that ends up looking like. Doulas provide that reassurance to EVERYONE during the process, no matter what, helping reduce trauma.

Doulas aren’t emotionally attached, not do they have to bear the responsibility for the medical care being provided.

Hiring a doula isn’t a value judgment on the state of your relationship; in fact, having a doula can help provide the space and time for those critical moments during labor and birth that can bring couples closer together.

Hiring a doula will not take away from a partner’s role at birth; having a doula present will give him more confidence to be involved in a way that he’s comfortable with.

Hiring a doula means that the laboring mother will have what’s very biologically normal– the care and support of an experienced woman who will stay with her through the whole process.

Hiring a doula isn’t a luxury. Hiring a doula should not be a status symbol. Hiring a doula should not be political. Hiring a birth doula is a logical, critical, SMART choice that can help ensure that no matter what happens at a birth, everyone in the room was able to benefit from the professionalism and reassurance and care that a birth doula provides.

I believe in birth doula care SO MUCH that I have created a non-profit that, in addition to providing mental health services, provides doula care on a free and sliding-fee basis. Families who are interested in doula care through The BabyLove Alliance can come to our Information Nights. Upcoming dates are May 20th, June 24th, and July 29th at 7 PM at BabyLove. Find out more information about our unique program here.

Hire a doula. It’s important.

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

Medical Bill Basics: Explained

medical bill explained

Ever since Vox.com put out a video on how hard it is to determine the cost of birth, I’ve found myself wanting to put my head on my desk numerous times per day. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out:

Some people have pointed out that there are tools to help figure out how much a birth will cost, though it’s usually on a per state basis. Late last year, you may remember that I did a couple of extensive blog posts where I took a few hours to pull together the information for Twin Cities costs for births depending on the mode of delivery and the health of the baby.

The problem with that, though? It doesn’t even to start to take into account one tricky little layer: Each health insurer has different contractual allowances that ultimately determines how much you pay.

So, let me explain it this way:

  • Louise has a procedure done. The provider bills her insurance $175 for it.
  • Louise’s insurance has pre-set a rate of $90.47 for the maximum allowable fee arrangement for that specific procedure.

A few ways this could play out:

  1. Louise has yet to meet her deductible, so she has to pay $90.47 out of pocket to the provider for it.
  2. Louise HAS met her deductible, but she has to pay a co-pay amount. In this example, let’s say she has a $40 co-pay. She would pay the $40 to the provider, and the insurer would reimburse the provider $50.47.
  3. Louise’s insurance has a 30/70 split on all billed costs. Louise then pays $27.14 to the provider for the procedure, and the insurer would reimburse the provider for $63.33.

And this can go on and on and on in various permutations depending on all of the possible plan set ups. A different insurer could set that maximum allowable fee at a paltry $30.17. (Good for their shareholders, totally awful for the providers.) Can you see how it would start to be totally impossible to actually get an idea of what birth would cost?

Keep in mind, too, that everything done during birth can be turned into a billed procedure. There’s no way to anticipate what that might look like, because some hospitals will even bill you a couple buck PER TYLENOL.

This situation is  really, really, complex and has a lot of nuance I don’t think anyone has tried to explain too hard. I’ve even tried my best to explain what the process of “taking insurance” looks like from the provider side, and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how awful and infuriating it is.

All this is to say that, yes, it is really complex. I have my own opinions of how US Health Care could be made less expensive and safer, but I also know it’s not as easy to unravel as anyone who talks about it thinks it should be.

 

Have I missed anything? Are you a health care smarty with something to add?

Warmly,

Veronica

 

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

The Problem* with Breastfeeding

Problem with breastfeeding

When I meet people for the first time and tell them that I’m a doula, Lamaze educator, lactation counselor, and car seat technician, it’s interesting how they react. Some people respond by telling me all sorts of things. I end up being told birth stories, completely unprompted, or they tell me about a friend who is also a doula, or they tell me what their breastfeeding journey was like. Sometimes, there’s an air of defensiveness to their confessions. And I get it– I really do. Breastfeeding isn’t the most cut and dry thing to wrap our arms around.

1) We have no good way to tell how much milk a mom is making- If a mom pumps milk, we assume that the pump, which is this expensive machine that’s supposed to be really good at getting milk out of human mammals, is going to do so efficiently and is a good way to determine if a mom has supply issues or not. Yeah, that’s not the case. Not everyone responds well to pumping, especially in the first week or so, and if you use pumping to see if a mom is making enough milk, there’s a good chance that her pumping output is going to be disappointingly low. Ignorant providers use this as proof that a mom’s body is broken and can’t produce enough milk. Oh, and by the way….those pumps are having major quality issues and breaking all the time.

2) Since there’s no gauge on the side of the breast, we have to guess how much milk a baby is taking in- There’s an elaborate method of weighing a baby before and after a feeding to estimate how many ounces of milk a baby took in, but that’s still not bullet proof. It’s not an uncommon impulse to have so little confidence in the breastfeeding process that providers will make mothers bottle feed babies just to verify input. Even when bottle feeding pumped human milk, the message is strong–you can’t be trusted, your body can’t be trusted, and only the bottle can be trusted.

3) The nutritional content isn’t static, so it’s really hard to know what the caloric content is- The more we understand breastfeeding and the production of breast milk, it’s become startlingly clear that the milk a mom makes for her baby changes hour by hour, day by day, month by month. It changes depending on which child you’re feeding. If you have a preemie, we’ve just realized your milk is really a lot more calorically dense than we ever thought. We do know that on average, breast milk is a lot more calorically dense than formula, so it does take a higher volume of formula to approach the nutritional needs of a baby. At least, though, health care providers know exactly what is in it, unlike breastmilk, which changes if baby is getting sick, or needs more calories, or based on the time of the day.

4) It’s really hard to trust that you’re breastfeeding the baby as much as you say you are- When we talk about breastfeeding, we tell moms to watch for cues. We call them hunger cues, but babies also cue out of thirst. News flash– babies are human and get thirsty, even when they aren’t hungry. Expecting a baby to get hungry and thirsty on a set, quantifiable schedule is about as crazy as expecting you to only be thirsty every 3 hours. So with breastfeeding, every time you sit down to nurse baby can be different in length and frequency, which is maddeningly hard to plan out and account for.

5) Only a few people are qualified to help you- Breastfeeding has a learning curve. It’s not easy for most moms and babies at first, but if they can make it past the 2-3 week mark, it usually gets much easier. However, getting past that hump can be really, really %@$*!#* hard. If you had a baby 100 or 200 years ago, by the time you had your own kids you would have watched lots and lots of babies be breastfed, and most women knew enough about breastfeeding that they could help each other. Now, we not only have so few people (including medical professionals) that are appropriately and accurately trained to help with breastfeeding, but we wall them off and only make them available during banking hours. It can take a lot of dedication, perseverance, and tenacity to get through the early breastfeeding struggles, but there’s a huge role that luck plays. If you find the right lactation specialist, you’re good. If you have a bunch of lactation specialists who don’t really care…you’re probably screwed.

6) Your mom didn’t breastfeed, and her mom didn’t either- Breastfeeding rates have risen since the 1950s, when only about 5% of moms ever breastfed their babies, but the 6 week breastfeeding rates in the US are still pretty low. Initiation rates are high, but almost 70% of moms give up breastfeeding before they initially planned to. There are a lot of moms out there who had bad breastfeeding experiences. This makes breastfeeding seem impossible; more tragically, it can unintentionally undermine a mom’s desires for feeding if she’s hearing from others that it’s just not important. And this one is the trickiest thing about breastfeeding. We know there’s a sociological component to breastfeeding. The barriers aren’t just biological. The biological barriers can be real, but we still struggle to have good, healthy conversations about breastfeeding within the larger construct of motherhood.

As is the case with most medicine, we’re realizing more an more that there’s a whole hell of a lot of nuance with breastfeeding that we have to get used to. Pumping and bottle feeding human milk can seem like a good solution, but most people who suggest it completely ignore how draining the process of pumping for every feeding or after every feeding becomes. They suggest pumping and make it seem that it’s as easy as brushing your teeth. Constant pumping sucks. I don’t have anything super simple to offer as a solution to any of these things, other than education. Humans are mammals. We are mammals with young that need fed. Rather than think that the process is broken, I’d posit that breastfeeding usually works– but we are the ones who are making it not work with our bad information, lack of trust, and unrealistic expectations.

*I decided to couch it in these terms. It’s kind of tongue in cheek.

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

Primary Cesarean Rate By Group: Thoughts

I promised some thoughts on my blog post with the medical group rates last week. I was really interested in how many people actually clicked through to read the long as heck report! That’s awesome! But in some discussions online, a few things came up that need clarification.

First of all, this report is put out by Minnesota Community Measurement, an non-profit. I just find it and try to boil down the information in a way that’s more manageable. A lot of people were also wondering why some groups, namely midwife groups and family med groups, weren’t on the list. Here’s the exact methodology, as found on page 175:

This measure assesses the percentage of nulliparous women with a term, singleton baby in a vertex position delivered by cesarean section between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015 patients who had a C-section delivery. Any clinic that is part of a medical group in which the medical group has providers who perform cesarean deliveries were eligible to report data for this measure.

The statewide rate for Maternity Care: Primary C-Section Rate was 22 percent (a lower rate is better for this measure). Table 26 displays the details of this statewide rate. Figure 12 shows the average rate for this measure over time.

In maternity care, patients often seek care from multiple providers across locations within a medical group. Additionally, there are some providers who provide maternity care but may not perform c-sections, and patients who require a c-section are referred to a physician who does. Previous clinic level reporting of the maternity care measure did not include the deliveries performed by providers at a site without providers who performed c-sections, and as a result, rates for the state and at the medical group level had the potential to be artificially elevated. The maternity care measure is most appropriately calculated and reported at the medical group level in order to account for these considerations.

A few other people bemoaned the fact that we don’t have info on VBAC rates versus repeat cesareans. I agree. Given that, out of their whole existence, this is only the third report that MN Community Measurement has put out that has any Cesarean information, we’re really lucky to have the info we have. And really,  maternity care transparency is just a problem in Minnesota– we don’t really have any. We have a teeny bit, and I share as much as I can find.

OK, but my thoughts on the numbers:

For their volume, Park Nicollet had a really impressive primary rate of 20.1%, though it was up slightly from last year’s 19.2%. Since being bought by HealthPartners, which had a rate of 21.7% in this report, I do worry about the Park Nicollet number creeping up. Oh, and if you remember back to the post on costs of birth, there’s a major difference in price between Methodist and Regions.

In groups that had drops, I’m really impressed by John A Haugen Associates at 16.2% ( down from 21.2%), Multicare Associates at 19.3% (previously at 29.5%!), Adefris and Toppin Women’s Specialists down to 21.9% ( from 27%), and the biggest group on the list was Allina Health Clinics who was at 21.6%, down from last year’s 25.8%.

Hennepin County Medical Center, which had high marks in the 2012 report from MNCM, had an even worse showing than last year, going from 24.7% in the 2015 report after having a primary cesarean rate of 19.1% in 2014’s report. I’m curious to see how this will be reflected in the 2015 cesarean rates.

Speaking of 2015 Cesarean rates, that info isn’t available, but I’m going to throw caution to the wind and make a few guesses. I think we’ll see an increase in rates at Woodwinds, a slight increase at Methodist and a larger increase at Maple Grove (largely as a result of the high primary rates from OBGYN West and Western OBGYN), increases at Ridges, Southdale, and Regions. I’m going to predict a drop in the overall censarean rate at Abbot Northwestern, St. Joe’s, and North Memorial. I don’t think there will be many changes at St. Francis, St. John’s, or United. As far as the Unity and Mercy…who knows. Now, we’ll have to see if I’m right.

What do you find interesting about all of this? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Warmly,

Veronica

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

2015 Twin Cities Medical Group Primary Cesarean Rates

I’m a big nerd when it comes to birth data. Maybe you’ve noticed. So when new information becomes available, it’s like Christmas to me. Yesterday, I figured out that MN Community Measurement had finally released their 2015 Health Care Quality Report. For the second year in a row, they reported Primary Cesarean rates by Medical Group.

So, some good news. The State’s rate of primary cesarean dropped from 22.2% to 21.9%. After a decade of rapid increases in cesarean rates, this is just another measure that shows we’re going in the right direction. Whee!

OK, time for the real stuff. From highest rates to lowest, here’s what the report has for Medical Groups. For comparison, I put the rate from 2014’s report in parentheses.

  1. Allina Health Specialties- 34.7% (27.9%)
  2. Comprehensive Healthcare for Women- 33.0% (30.5%)
  3. Western OBGYN- 29.2% (26.1%)
  4. OBGYN West-27.9% (24.1%)
  5. Women’s Health Consultants- 27.0% (24.9%)
  6. Metropolitan OBGYN- 26.0% (29.5%)
  7. Partners OBGYN- 25.2% (27%)
  8. Clinic Sofia- 25.1% (25.1%)
  9.  Obestetrics and Gynecology Associates- 24.8% (21.9%)
  10. Hennepin County Medical Center Clinics -24.7% (19.1%)
  11. Fairview Health Services- 23.5% (24.8%)
  12. Adefris and Toppin Women’s Specialists- 21.9% (27%)
  13. Healthpartners Clinics- 21.7% (n/a)
  14. Allina Health Clinics- 21.6% (25.8%)
  15. Southdale OBGyn Consultants- 21.5% (21.6%)
  16. Park Nicollet Health Services- 20.1% (19.2%)
  17. North Clinic- 19.6% (24.4%)
  18. Multicare Associates- 19.3% (29.5%)
  19. U of M Physicians-18.4% (17.3%)
  20. Oakdale OBGYN- 16.3% (18.7%)
  21. John A Haugen Associates- 16.2% (21.2%)
  22. Hudson Physicians- Minnesota Healthcare Network- 14.9% (11.8%)
  23. AALFA Family Clinic- 4.7% (13.0%)

You can read the full report for 2015 here.

Coming up in the next post, I’ll share my thoughts on some of these numbers. In the meantime, enjoy!

Warmly,

Veronica

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.