Announcing Twin Cities Hospital Birth Costs at a Glance!

After last year’s epic process of compiling costs for births and newborn care, I was trying to figure out a more accessible way for parents to get the 2015 data. So, I created a more streamlined guide-at-a-glance.

This guide has a few features: health system affiliation is listed, allowing you to see how they differ in cost from company to company. It’s just two pages, making it easy to flip back and forth. I had fun compiling the information, and I hope you find it useful!

Warmly,

Veronica

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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 confident births look like

The weekend, during the Ready for Birth: Express class, I took a couple of minutes to show a birth video that I don’t always show; it was a larger class, and it was wonderful to have so many different families. Some were giving birth in birth centers, others in hospitals, some with OBs, others with midwives. There are a billion birth videos out there, but I love this first one because it’s a wonderfully accurate depiction of birth: the mom has intense contraction waves, but is able to still laugh a little during the breaks in between. It shows her moving around and changing positions. And more importantly, it shows how gorgeous birth can be when the person giving birth is surrounded by caring providers in a calm, patient environment. On Saturday, after this video, there weren’t many dry eyes.

The birth of Cody Taylor | Waterbirth at Mountain Midwifery Birth Center in Denver, CO from crownedbirthphotography on Vimeo.

Why do I want to show you these? Because birth is usually talked about in a way that’s scary. Because birth isn’t shown realistically on TV or in the movies. Because most people never hear about the amazing empowering, positive births– only the traumatic ones.

Here’s a birth in a hospital. It is another water birth, and I’m not terribly thrilled with how long it took to get baby to the surface, but it’s cool.

Milo’s Water Birth from David Mullis on Vimeo.

Here’s a hospital breech birth–keep in mind, these care providers are taught how to deliver vaginal breech births. It is something that is possible, but ONLY when the care providers know how to handle it. There are still quite a few places where vaginal breech birth is a skill still emphasized during education and training. Unfortunately, it’s not taught in the US on anything approaching a regular basis.

Nascimento Mariana, parto natural hospitalar pélvico – 04/jul/2013 – Natural breech hospital birth from Além D’Olhar fotografia on Vimeo.

A preterm birth of a wee double rainbow baby; again, the care provider is calm, patient, and caring. Births of rainbow babies are emotionally challenging. When a family gets pregnant after a previous stillbirth or miscarriage, there’s the very reasonable fear that another loss can happen. BUT, and this is important– in these cases, it’s even more critical to have a calm, caring, supportive birth environment rather than a fearful, negative birth environment.

Double Rainbow Baby, the Birth Story of Emilia from Jennifer Mason on Vimeo.

A hospital birth in—well, not the US. I love everything about this video. Again– you see calm, patience, and encouragement.

Thomas | Parto natural hospitalar from Ana Kacurin on Vimeo.

So here’s the deal: Everyone deserves this kind of environment during birth. Full stop. It’s not about medicated, unmedicated, natural, vaginal–it’s about understanding that birth is a normal biological process. It’s about a mother who is confident in her body’s abilities. It’s about having care providers and support people present who hold the space. Birth can be positive. It’s a lot of work, it’s never easy, but it doesn’t have to suck. A triumphant experience is possible.

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.

Fact vs Fiction in Modern Birth: An Intro

fact-vs-fiction-intro

Childbirth is distinctly different than any other discipline of modern medicine: Unlike every other medical specialty, humans have been giving birth for as long as– well, for all of human existence. As modern medicine started to really develop at the turn of the 20th century, childbirth– once looked at a normal life process– was taken over by doctors who at first really didn’t know at all what they were doing and had very little actual understanding of the female body or birth. That either the mom or baby made it through the process of birth in early hospitals was often a matter of luck.

I joke sometimes in class that so much of what’s wrong with birth in the US, with our rising maternal morality rates, is thanks to the arrogant, misogynistic, vain, and ignorant decisions made by men of the medical establishment since at least the 1850s. Who came up with the idea that episiotomies should be routinely done without evidence to prove their claims? Men. Who decided, without any evidence otherwise that once a mom had a cesarean, all births should be cesareans after that? A man–in 1912. And I’m not saying this to make a generalization that men are terrible, but to point out so many aspects of modern birth came from those without any real knowledge of the process. Once medical research really kicked in in full force in the 1950s, we saw some outcomes in maternity care improve, but not always.  Here’s where I strongly suggest that you read Tina Cassidy’s fantastic book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born. If you want to know the full play by play of modern maternity care–this is the book you need to read.

The reality is, while there are a few things that can be measured and quantified about pregnancy and birth (hypertension really being one of the most obvious situations, followed maybe by cholestasis of pregnancy), many doctors who provide maternity care struggle to fully grasp that birth can be really hard to study. However, just because some aspects about birth can be difficult to study or quantify, that doesn’t mean that evidence-based maternity care doesn’t exist–because it does. In addition to the 6 Healthy Birth Practices as laid out by Lamaze International, other strong resources and proponents of evidence-based care can be seen in the Report from 2008 called Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is and What It Can Achieve and in the joint consensus statement  Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery from ACOG and SMFM, originally published in 2014 and reaffirmed this year.

I am a strong proponent of intellectualism. Our shift to anti-intellectualism in all facets of life is more than a little disturbing. And while I can’t address everything in the world, I can go through some of the aspects of maternity care in the US and abroad, explain where they originated, what the original motivations were, and place those beliefs in the continuum between fact and fantasy. This post is an introduction to what I hope will be a interesting project. The next couple of posts will cover the rise of early birth “methods”…and then see where that takes us.

Are you ready? Let’s do this.

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.

From the Archives: Writing a Birth Plan

how-to-write-a-birth-plan

The subject of using online birth plans came up last night, so I wanted to distill my advice here on the blog. Turns out, I wrote about it 4.5 years ago. Ha! Ah well, it’s still good advice.

-Veronica

Originally published February 7th, 2012:

First of, let me say this:  I know you can’t plan your birth.  You can’t decide it’ll last only 20 minutes, or that you’ll only push twice.  Do you know this?  I hope you know this.  Rather, a birth plan is a tool that should be used by a mother to sort out her options and to communicate those preferences to her care provider.  While she can not plan what will happen, she can give a good amount of thought to how she will handle what happens.  Also?  I believe very, very much that it’s something that should be done no matter the place of birth.  Even moms planning home births need to think about what they want or don’t want.  So, after giving much thought over the last couple of days as to what makes a birth plan good, and what can make it very, very bad, I give you the following advice:

DON’T: Go to a website that “writes” a birth plan for you by having you check off a couple of boxes that sounds good.  Why?  Well, it comes across that you put very little thought into writing your birth plan.  Also, you can end up “choosing” things that are not even an issue at your desired birth place (like saying you don’t want to be told what to wear during labor at a home birth).  However, if you feel completely stuck, you can check out one of those websites for some ideas, just make sure you rewrite things in your own words.

DO: start with an introductory couple of sentences. Think along the lines of: This is my second birth.  My first birth was very long, and very difficult, with many things that felt like I was not listened to.  I am hoping for a much calmer, more supported birth. Or whatever fits your specific situation.  Make it short, to the point, and applicable to this birth. It will help the people who are part of your birth team know very quickly what you are looking for, which means that (hopefully) they will be supportive of where you are physically and emotionally, not where they think you should be.

DON’T introduce anyone and everyone in your life in the birth plan.  A birth plan is not an autobiography.  Please don’t use it  to introduce the nursing staff to your cats, or your turtles, or your childhood home that you haven’t been to in 25 years.  And for goodness sakes– no pictures of these things!

DO keep the information relevant.  If there is something about your medical history that is relevant to this specific labor and birth, include it.  Yes, it’s in your chart…somewhere.  But save everyone a headache and confusion and include that important information right at the top of your birth plan. Have you already met with an anesthesiologist and found out that you are not, for a specific reason, a candidate for an epidural?  Include that!  Is the father of the baby not participating in the birth because of religious or cultural reasons?  Include that! Trust me, it will save so much time and frustration of everyone is, almost literally, on the same page.

DON’T make your birth plan more than a page long, two at the most.  Very important information gets lost in long birth plans, and it can seem like not much actual thought went into writing the plan.

DO make sure only time-specific information is in the plan.  Don’t bring a plan to the hospital that talks about laboring at home (or how long you’ll wait before calling your midwife for a home birth). You do need to think about things like that, but it can end up burying the more relevant information.

DO write out a really long plan, if you feel you need to.  You can include things like how long you want to labor until calling your doula, or at what point you want to o to the hospital, or fill up your birth tub at home–whatever.  But then sit down with someone and go through that list with a very critical eye, and think, “What will people need to know at the time?” Then start to cut things out, leaving a shorter version.

DON’T list things that are not done at your chosen place for giving birth. If they don’t do routine IVs, don’t say, “I do not want a routine IV.” On the flip side, be reasonable.  Don’t list things that just CAN NOT happen, like, “If I have an epidural, I do not want an IV.”

DO take good, comprehensive childbirth classes so you can understand all of your options and help you understand how to avoid those things you do not want.  So, for instance, if you don’t understand why IVs might be used, you might need a class.  If you were never told the many different ways an induction might be done, you need a better class.  This might ruffle a feather or two, but knowing about something doesn’t mean it’ll happen.  Ignorance IS NOT bliss.  Hopefully there are things you’ll never need to go through, but knowing about them, just in case, is always a good idea.

And finally:

DON’T assume that writing something down means that it will be so.  Make sure that your care provider (and, since most people see a group practice, ALL the possible providers) will take the time to listen and respect your voice.  There is nothing sadder to me than telling families prenatally to address specific things with a care provider, only to watch those parents find out that  Midwife X won’t allow it, or Doctor Y doesn’t believe in it while mom is in labor.  Yes, you are the patient, but birth time should not be battle time, and if there are options, find the very best care provider to fit what you want.  And yes, it is worth it.

Quickly, in my opinion, what should a birth plan touch on?

  • support people
  • environment
  • comfort measures
  • labor positions/ tools
  • medication preferences
  • pushing and birth positions
  • newborn procedures (right after birth and the few days after birth)
  • post-birth maternal procedures

I’m sure I missed a thing or two (or three).  What do you think?  What tips would you add?  What else do you think is a MUST INCLUDE?  Add it in the comments below!

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.

Insurance reimbursement for childbirth education

With third-party reimbursement for childbirth education, one of the biggest barriers that exists in policy discussions is that not all stakeholders, including the educators themselves, understand what the current system is. The system is intricate and always changing, but on the surface, it boils down to three things: What is covered, who can render services, and how much are they paid.

Part of our existing insurance system is controlled by the federal government. A good example of this would be how the Affordable Care Act mandated that breast pumps and breast-feeding support was a covered benefit. Otherwise, most healthcare regulation decisions are made on the state level. This is where childbirth education falls right now: the coverage varies from state to state, and can change as new statutes are passed.

In Minnesota, childbirth education is considered a mandatory covered service by the Department of Human Services for residents who have coverage through Medical Assistance programs. Strangely, newborn care education is not considered essential, so as a standalone class it is not a covered service, but birth classes that include this information can be billed to insurance. Residents who are on Medical Assistance are either enrolled directly through the state’s Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare coverage. Some of the plans are managed though the state itself, but most are have PMAPs (Minnesota Prepaid Medical Assistance Project plans) that are administered through Managed Care Organizations.

So then, in Minnesota, not all employer-based insurance plans or plans purchased by individuals have the same coverage parameters. So while some do reimburse providers for in-person group classes, other health plans consider access to online information or sending pregnant patients a book as an acceptable way to deliver childbirth “education”.

Most state’s health departments then decide who can provide services– what kind of credentials they need to have and if they have to bill under a supervising provider. Again, in Minnesota, I have to operate under a “supervising provider” as an LCCE. It usually doesn’t take much digging, but each state is different, so what applies here may be different, but states are currently in charge of the “Who.”

As for the how much…that gets really complicated. Reimbursement rates for Medical Assistance services are set at the state level, and many of the rates haven’t been adjusted for inflation in 10-20 years. Employer-based plans set their own reimbursement rates, and those rates can vary even within the same insurer as determined by what the employer has negotiated. For example, you could have Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance and the contracts would say that if the provider bills the insurer for a procedure at $150 and the contractual obligation would be to only reimburse $110 of that money; Somebody else with a Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plan with a different employer might have that same service reimbursed at $97 when it was billed for $150. And then you have some other insurers who would take that $150 that was billed and only reimburse $35.

Not just anybody can bill insurance though, even if you are providing care within the state’s parameters. If you are not contracted with an organization as a provider, then anything billed would be out of network and would be subject to reimbursement rates set by the plan for out of network reimbursement. This really only applies to employer-based or individual plans; I’ve yet to find a state that allows billing reimbursement for out of network providers.

Hopefully this brief explanation helps you understand the very basics of third-party reimbursement for childbirth education as it exists today. If childbirth education is covered depends on which state you are in. Who can provide that childbirth education in a way that’s billable is also up to each state. The how much is something spelled out by each plan coverage. It’s not an ideal situation in the slightest; however, anyone who  wants to fix something first needs to understand how it works, otherwise it’s very likely any attempts to fix it will break it.

I am hosting a series of workshops, first for doulas locally, later for birth professionals via webinar. If you’d like to notified of upcoming dates, sign up for the professional development newsletter below.

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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 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.

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.

6 ways to feel more productive while nursing your baby

 

do while nursing

One of the hardest parts once you conquer breastfeeding is that sometimes it makes you feel like you should be doing something…more productive. I mean, come ON…you ARE making sure your baby is growing and thriving, but we live in a society that eats quickly, and unfortunately, babies still haven’t been forced to adopt out weird societal norm. Throw into the mix that babies nurse not just out of hunger, but out of thirst, too, and it can be darn frustrating to be sitting on that chair, nursing your baby…again. So, I came up with some truly helpful things that you could do while feeding your baby.

1) Clean up your phone contacts- If you’re like me, you phone is full of all sorts of clutter and old info and numbers for people you really never want to talk to again. Going through and deleting bad info seems like a huge chore, but is a perfect thing to do with one hand. Think of how amazing you’ll feel when it’s all clean and organized!!!!!

2) Order hard copy prints of pictures from your phone- If you’ve ever had a phone stolen with all of your pictures on it, you know how gut-wrenching it is to no longer be able to look at the pictures you’ve been taking of your sweet kids. And the reality is, those digital pictures can’t be handed down to future generations. While it may seem quaint, actual pictures in photo albums or boxes are the answer. There are apps that let you order prints from your phone, and they all have free print offers. Future you will thank now you, I promise.

3) Learn a new language- My husband is trying to learn German through podcasts. I’ve long been interested in trying Duolingo, a free app to learn languages. Finding the time can be tricky. But if you use feeding time for baby as learning time for you–you may actually make progress!

4) Get a lower cable/internet bill- Yes, this one actually requires making a potentially frustrating phone call, but if you call, tell them you’re thinking of switching to the competitor, see if you can score a lower rate. It may work, it may not. It never hurts to ask.

5) Check you credit score- This one will make you feel like you’re really doing a great job of adulting. And to make sure you don’t go the the wrong place, here are the instructions from the State of Minnesota.

6) See if there’s money out there for you, friends, or family- Yep, this is a real thing. I’ve found money for family members. I’ve never found anything for me, but maybe you’ll get lucky and locate money you didn’t know you had. Here’s Minnesota’s program. You may want to check all the states you’ve lived in or relatives have lived in. Just makes sure you ONLY look via official state government pages.

And if you’re local and you want to meet other moms and chat with a nurse, make sure you check out Mama Cafe. It’s a free group for breastfeeding mothers held every Thursday from 10am-11:30am, held here at BabyLove.

Any other clever things you do while breastfeeding? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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.

One thing about using nitrous oxide during labor

I’ve long thought that dental work has parallels to obstetrics in that finding a good doctor (or midwife? What would a tooth midwife be?) in either category can mean the difference between being OK with your regular appointments or being intensely fearful of going in to have anything checked out. My mouth is what I jokingly call a “million dollar mouth” insofar as it’ll eventually cost me a million dollars to fix all of the issues with my teeth. The last 2 months I’ve had ongoing tooth pain with my top molar– first, a chipped filling that resulted in a crown prep, a CAT scan that revealed the root canal that was done 2 years ago wasn’t done correctly, TWO root canals to try to clear up a massive infection that was raging in the neglected canal, and all of that culminated in having the damn tooth pulled last Friday. Seriously. All that work and the stupid thing was fractured and couldn’t be saved.

While spending hours and hours in the dentists’ chairs, I’ve written a version of this blog post over and over in my head–the problem being that I was under the influence of nitrous oxide, so when I came to me senses, the brilliant blog posts left my head. HOWEVER….I did have a MAJOR ah-ha moment on Friday that I needed to share.

See, as more and more hospitals and birth centers add nitrous oxide as a pain management option, there’s one thing that may be obvious about using it, but it may not be very obvious to everyone. Nitrous oxide requires active participation by the user in order for it to work; epidurals and analgesics work systemically without the user actively doing anything to feel an effect.

Bottom line? If you’re using nitrous for labor pain and anxiety management, you gotta breathe it in. The best results happen when you focus all of your attention on breathing in the “gas and air” mixture. If you don’t breathe it in, you’re not going to feel anything significant.

You see, when they were getting ready for the extraction, I really wasn’t feeling the effects of the NO2; it turns out, I wasn’t really breathing much because I was so nervous. After the nurse pointed out I needed to focus on my breath, it look less than 30 seconds of deep breathing to feel the wave of relaxation rush over me.

I needed to breathe.

So I do know that the mixture of nitrous to oxygen used during labor is different, and unlike the cannula (see the first picture) used by dentist offices, moms self-administer the nitrous oxide via a mask (see the second picture) or a mouthpiece (an example is shown in the third picture), but my point still holds: If you’re going to give nitrous oxide a whirl, you’ve gotta actually breathe it in, or it won’t work.

Breathe on, people!

Warmly,

Veronica

What do you think about this? Have you tried “gas and air” during your labor and birth?  Is it something you want to use? 

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.