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  • Listening To Babies: What Can We Learn From Them Listen Now
  • Birthing & Its Impact on Relationship with Self & Family Listen Now
  • Abortion: The Prenate & the Mother Listen Now
  • Preparing for Pregnancy I Listen Now
  • Preparing for Pregnancy II Listen Now
  • Trauma Caused to Mom's & Babies by Cesarean Section Listen Now
  • How to Avoid a Cesarean Section Listen Now

Information About Cesarean Section & A Healthier Model for Birthing

Cesarean section (c-section) is major abdominal surgery used to delivery a baby. It’s not always traumatic but just because it is major surgery and often unplanned, birthing moms are usually unprepared for it in addition to giving birth. It can be quite shocking, and take you some time and support to integrate and recover. When I work with pregnant mom’s who are preparing for birthing I encourage them to go and see their local labor ward, etc and to think through how they want to handle it if a c-section becomes necessary. Most moms are very resistant to doing this because they are so frightened of c-section, but those who prepare handle it much better, and there is less of an aftermath.

Many moms feel overwhelmed during and/or after a c-section. It can result in feelings of loss and grief afterwards. Most moms have a birthing dream, which they have lost because they didn’t get to have the birth they most wanted. Feeling that your body has let you down, or that you couldn’t do it can feel disempowering and reduce confidence. Many moms also feel very grateful for c-section when they have had a long and difficult birth, or when it was medically indicated and saved their baby’s life. There are a whole range of responses, and of course mom’s can feel both grateful and in grief simultaneously.

Around 5-10% of the emergency c-sections carried out in hospitals are real emergencies, medically necessary, and save lives. The average c-section rate for the US in 2006 was 31.1%. This varies greatly between different hospitals and physicians, and can go higher than 50/60%. Hospitals don’t make their c-section rates public knowledge, so it is very difficult to make informed decisions about where to birth. You can always ask your physician about their personal c-section rate and shop around if you want to avoid one. Non-medically indicated c-sections are a large percent of the overall number carried out. Some of the reasons for this high rate are:

1. Obstetrical time management,
2. Liability issues for doctors
3. Litigation pressures and fears for doctors
4. There are a number of medically caused reasons why women end up with surgery when birthing – see “Failure To Progress & Why It Can Lead To C-Section”
5. Many doctors’ refuse to allow women to have a vaginal birth after a c-section (V.B.A.C.), which increases the c-section rates.

The tools available in the medical birthing environment are drugs, electronic monitoring, and medical interventions. In a midwife attended birth you can expect to be supported to have your own timing and preferences.

Most obstetricians have never even seen a normal birth. Is this not shocking information? Birthing women and babies in the U.S. are routinely attended by highly trained surgeons, which could explain why there is so much surgery at birth. Marsden Wagner, M.D., M.S., author of “Born In The USA: How A Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed To Put Women and Children First”, when speaking at an obstetrical conference (he was once a pediatrician and an obstetrician himself) asked doctors in the audience to put their hand up if they had seen a natural birth – there were no hands. I highly recommend his unique book, written as one who was once on the inside of our medical maternity system and is now an outspoken advocate for changing it and challenging obstetrical practices. The World Health Organization advocates for a 15% c-section rate as healthy, I personally think this is still way too high.

Here in the U.S. C-sections have reached shocking high levels, and medical interventions in birthing are happening routinely in all U.S. hospitals. Jennifer Block in her book “Pushed: The Painful truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care” interviewed a number of OB/GYN’s about this issue in her book and it is clear from their responses that c-sections are done for financial and liability reasons, and not because they are actually needed. E.g. if they think a baby is going to have shoulder dystocia during birth they will do a c-section rather than risk a malpractice suit from the parents. This is very shocking and is having a detrimental effect on mom’s, babies, and families and on our culture as a whole. C-section rates continue to rise, as other countries are unfortunately emulating the U.S.

Surgery at birth is NOT normal.

I would like to see a holistic birthing model that includes the whole person – the psychological, emotional and spiritual as well as biological/physical. Birth is a multifaceted experience for both mom and baby; it is also a sacred and transformational journey for them both. The medical environment is currently unable to hold a holistic perspective around birthing moms and babies. They have yet to begin to understand both the immediate traumatic effects, and the long-term effects of so many extreme, routinely used interventions. I don’t know if they have even begun to consider these questions. Those of us working in the Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology & Health field are learning a lot about how these practices are affecting birthing mom’s, their baby’s, bonding/attachment, and family dynamics, and are supporting families back to health. Birth is a huge journey for all of us no matter how we come in, whether through c-section, or through the birth canal.

A Healthier Model for Birthing:
In the Netherlands midwives attend all births, and obstetricians are only called in for a real emergency, they have a c-section rate around 10%. This rate used to be even lower, around 5%, until women began to birth more in the hospitals and then it began to creep up. In hospital births in the Netherlands women are assisted by a midwife with no surgeon present. Drugs are not considered a normal part of birth in the Netherlands; they are not discussed or expected. The anesthesiologist only works office hours. If you are birthing in the hospital when the anesthesiologist is out there will be no drugs. The Netherlands is a great example of how we could be approaching birth, and I am using their c-section rate of 10% of births as a baseline rate for necessary and healthy use of surgery in birthing, even though I believe it can be lower. They show us that having highly trained surgeons attending births results in high surgery rates.

Moms and baby’s needs should be at the center of birthing, most importantly a birthing mom’s innate knowing should be respected and her inner knowing, body sense, connection to her baby, and her confidence in herself core to the process. Our aim must be to ensure that mom’s and baby’s have an empowering, ecstatic birthing experience and that they are in charge. Obstetricians and nurses often don’t know how to support a birthing mom’s innate knowing that she can do it, that she can trust her body and herself and her baby. Birth in hospital is not seen as a natural and normal life experience, but as a disaster waiting to happen. Medical interventions often inhibit the extraordinarily deep letting go and opening up that is required to give birth, frequently the interventions become the cause of the failure.

Doulas & Midwives: Having Good Support for Labor and Birthing:

In a study on the effectiveness of doulas, a woman was put in the room with a birthing mom, and she simply sat there, inactive, the whole way through the birth. This reduced c-section rates by 25%, and other medical interventions significantly. Why? Because women need women to be present in the birthing room, the same woman throughout, even if they are not ‘doing’ anything, birthing is about ‘being’ and letting go into the ‘baby time’ zone.

I advise women who are having trouble free normal pregnancies to employ an experienced midwife and/or experienced doula to stay at home with them whilst they labor until they need to go to the hospital. We have evolved into thinking that the moment we feel a contraction we must panic and get to the hospital immediately. Unless there is a problem, there is usually plenty of time! Birthing is not usually quick, especially for first timers. This early rush to the hospital is one of the largest contributors to c-section, as the longer and earlier you are in the hospital, the more interventions you will receive, and the more likely you are to have a c- section because interventions lead to more interventions lead to c-sections. If you are sure that the hospital is the right place for you to birth, you can take this supportive measure to ensure this won’t happen. In this way you can enjoy moving around, feeling safe and comfortable in your own home, eating and drinking as much as you like and having your privacy during labor. Your other children can participate if you wish; it is all much easier as the rules are yours. I want to emphasize though that you should not do this without the right professional support. Whilst these measures are for the prevention of c-section, you will enjoy the benefits of being relaxed and safe at home with familiar people around you, and this can only benefit your labor.

A Holistic, Multi-Faceted View of Birthing:
We are holistic beings with multi-level needs, and many moms are unable to open their bodies to the arrival of their baby because they are not being treated as a whole person who can birth their babies themselves. Mom and baby are birthing together, it is a dance of two, and doctors have been unable to learn how to support that natural process, focusing instead on a fear-based model of controlling and intervening, and then speeding it up for convenience. We need to get back to supporting mom’s, and babies in their innate ability to have a wonderful, empowering, ecstatic birth in an environment that centers itself primarily on those intentions.

Hospitals are for sick people, but birth is normal! It should not be happening in a hospital, nor attended by surgeons. I would like to see birthing centers popping up all over towns and cities, becoming a big part of people’s neighborhoods. They are a great alternative to hospitals, offering women who are not yet confident enough about birthing at home a great alternative to the medical birthing model.

 2014

Recovering from a Cesarean Section

Recovering Emotionally:
It is hard when you have been through a long or difficult birth ending in a c-section, and you may even be feeling traumatized by it, and then everyone expects you to ‘get on with it’ after a short time. Many women end up reeling through their days still in shock, functioning over the top of what was a traumatic experience. C-section is not just surgery; your baby is being born! It would be natural to be in shock after unexpected major surgery alone, but when birthing is added to the experience it may be more complicated. Most pregnant moms have a birthing dream that they are dreaming about and weaving during their pregnancy, a dream about how it will be, how they want it to be for both themselves and for baby. This is a natural and important part of pregnancy and birthing, and it can be very upsetting when your birthing dream is lost. There is naturally much grief afterwards. This is an important aspect of the c-section experience that needs to be acknowledged.

A small percentage of c-sections save lives and are necessary. A large percentage of c-sections are not necessary, and many moms feel betrayed by ‘the system’ or by their doctor, or midwife, and are left with anger towards ‘them’ to deal with too. They feel let down. For many women a hospital birth that ends in an unplanned c-section can leave them feeling disempowered as women, and as moms, and even depressed. It can undermine our confidence both as women and as mothers to have our birthing taken over by others.

It is important to seek support after a traumatic or stressful c-section if you are feeling very emotional, or not feeling anything at all. There is a lot to process and your feelings are only natural and understandable. Your baby may need some gentle support too. A cranial sacral practitioner who is experienced with babies and birthing issues, or a somatic prenatal & birth therapist can help both mom and baby to recover. Get help as soon as you can, you and your baby don’t have to do it alone. The sooner you can get support to integrate, the sooner you will feel better and get back to yourself.

Recovering Physically:
The aftermath of a c-section birth can leave you with pelvic pain and discomfort, inability to hold or carry your baby due to surgery pain, difficulty walking, and a temporary ban on driving can leave you feeling isolated and restricted. You may have to take painkillers, which can cause internal conflict if you are breast-feeding and concerned about the drugs in your milk. I encourage you to get the after care you need to return back to full health. Acupuncture is wonderful for accelerating recovery from surgery, cranial sacral work can really help to support the body, and seeing a physical therapist who works internally can be very helpful if you had a long labor or complications. In France all women see a physical therapist after birthing, and that makes good sense. They can help make sure all your organs are in the right place so you are comfortable. Much of our insides get squished and moved around during pregnancy and birthing to make room for baby, that’s natural.

Some mom’s find it harder to bond with their baby after a c-section because one or both of them are traumatized by the birth, and because of routinely longer separations after a c-section birth. Ideally, mom and baby would not be separated at all at birth. After a c-section dads/partners often get to stay with baby who is taken away for observation, so they at least have one parent with them. Dad may bond with baby at that crucial time just after birth. We are designed for this period immediately after birthing to be optimal for connection and bonding, our oxytocin in a natural birth would be high and everything in us wants to hold our baby in our arms and take them in on every level – smelling, touching, looking, etc. It may take a little longer for mom and baby to find their feet after the longer separation, and if you’re feeling its not going well, do get some support as early as you can. Often a trained professional can help you with attachment issues quite quickly when they are caught early on. C-sections happen in an environment in which interruptions to attachment are not being considered at all.

Some moms can find bonding with their baby is made harder because they are numb from deadening anesthesia, or because baby is too dopey from the same drugs. It may take you some time to recover enough to be able to connect with baby after going through major surgery, especially if it was unexpected or preceded by a very difficult labor.

During your c-section a screen was up and your baby was taken out whilst you were anesthetized but conscious (usually). Mom’s naturally need to feel their baby coming out, to be able to touch their head, see them arriving, hold them in their arms, smell them, see them, touch them – this is normal and necessary and when this instinctual, deep and innate need is not met it can cause bonding to take longer and low self-esteem may sometimes set in for mom’s. Questions can arise like “Is this baby really mine?” “I didn’t feel/see her coming out”, “I didn’t push her out with my own body”, and “I only saw her for a second when she was out, and then she was gone”. There’s a powerful and very natural and important connection that needs to happen that can be hard to establish after a c-section birth because of how they are conducted in the USA. There are some people in the UK who are doing what they call “natural c-section” and although I don’t think there is anything at all natural about c-section, some of their input is valuable for those of you who truly need surgical birthing. They slow the c-section down, let mom feel her baby’s head as she comes out, let her see baby coming out in a way that hides the surgical cut, cut the cord more slowly, and try to keep mom and baby together where possible.

With a c-section birth we can feel we have lost the incredible sense of achievement and the ecstasy and euphoria that comes with feeling ourselves doing it with our own body and being. We need to feel this because that’s is what feeds our confidence as a woman and a mother, our sense of achievement and that we did it! It helps us to feel that our body is our friend and that all is well.

If you are reading this in anticipation of a c-section, please read the article “How To Be Prepared for a Cesarean Section.” Those of you going for an elective c-section would benefit from a course of acupuncture to prepare.

Remember, your baby is having his/her own experience, and will need to be supported to integrate their experience of their birth too.

 2014

How To Be Prepared for A Cesarean Section

I want to give you some great ways that you can be prepared for any kind of c-section. I advocate strongly for Prenatal Bonding because if you have a strong connection with your baby by the time you get to your birthing, you have a good chance of having an empowering experience, even if it’s a c-section. You also have a much higher chance of keeping your baby safe and preventing unnecessary trauma. When I work with pregnant moms I encourage them to prepare for c-section even if it’s not in their plan, because it is best to be prepared. Preparation reduces the trauma that can be felt after unexpected major surgery.

If you are not used to connecting with your baby in the womb, talking to her, including her, telling her what is happening, what you are going to do today, etc then start now! Even if you only have a couple of days or weeks before your birth, you can forge a strong connection with baby. How does this help? Even in a natural vaginal birth you can use your connection with baby to stay in touch with how she is doing during birthing. You are doing this together. Birthing is a relational dance, mom is working hard to give birth and baby is working hard to get born. It makes sense then that the two of you need to be in contact throughout. If your birthing progresses towards a c-section you can tell baby what is happening, explain to her what it may feel like, what will be done and stay in contact with her throughout. E.g. when a drug is being given, let baby know it is coming in and what it may feel like for her – reassure her. One of the good things about c-section is that you will probably be conscious for it, so you can maintain your attachment to baby and support her as she goes through it with you.

Many pregnant women are very reluctant to even think about c-section during their pregnancy and birth preparations because it is naturally a scary thing to contemplate. For some its almost as if it feels like “if I think about it, it will happen!” It will not happen just because you thought about it, and prepared. If you are home birthing or at a birth center, part of what I suggest is that you go to the hospital you would be transported to if you need a c-section, familiarize yourself with what it looks like, the location, and talk to the staff about their procedures, etc. Then if you need a c-section it won’t all be new, and it won’t come as such a shock. You will feel more in control with this preparation, and you will know more about what to tell your baby.

Sometimes you may find that your ob/gyn will be willing to work with you about certain aspects of your c-section, so ask these questions before you are the midst of it:
- can I see my baby’s head coming out (they can do this without showing you anything else)
can you slow everything down as long as there is no danger to me or baby
can you not cut the umbilical cord quickly – I would like for it to stay attached until it has stopped pulsing allowing baby to receive lots of important nutrients before it is cut
can I hold my baby for as long as possible before they take her away (for observation, tests, etc).

When your baby is separated from you have your partner go with her to the observation room, and he/she can continue telling baby what is happening and that she will be back with you very soon. This can really help with moms feelings about being separated and having her baby out of her sight – which is most unnatural to endure, and also helps prevent trauma in baby that can come from not knowing what is going on, where her mom is, and when she will see her again. These are the most important concerns for a baby, her survival depends it. All of these actions can prevent unnecessary attachment issues from forming at this stage.

 2014

The Importance of Understanding “Failure To Progress” And How it Can Lead to a Cesarean Section

You need to understand about what Failure To Progress (FTP) means if you are choosing hospital birthing and you want to avoid a cesarean section.

What is Causing Failure To Progress?
A category of birthing has been created by medical doctor’s called ‘failure to progress’ (FTP). So what does FTP mean? The medical profession, long ago, did a study on how long a labor should take, and they created an average for all women, this is the measure by which you are being told you are failing. FTP means that you are not laboring within their study guidelines; this has become a normal way for assessing birthing women in hospital. Naturally, there are wide ranges of experiences within birthing, and that includes how long each mother takes to give birth. There is no ‘normal’, and it is not something that can be measured. This false measure is not helpful to moms or babies. Being told you are failing during birthing can be demoralizing and disempowering for a woman who is incredibly vulnerable and doing her best, and who is progressing very well.

FTP often indicates that a mom has come into the hospital either early in her labor, when her labor began, or she has come in to have her labor induced (see Induction article – this is becoming more common and is putting c-section rates up even higher). A big part of birthing in the hospital is that you are going to be on their clock. Obstetricians and labor ward staff do not understand how to operate on ‘baby-time’, unlike midwives who have learned to be patient and bring their knitting, they will often want to speed everything up. I think that part of this is that doctors want to make it all happen during their work day and not in the middle of the night, and this requires a great deal of intervention on their part. I often say that obstetricians and labor and delivery nurses need to learn to knit! Being a respectful birthing attendant is about waiting, patience, and holding respectful space. The tools that medical birthing has to offer are drugs and medical interventions, mainly to get things moving faster. Often the drugs have the unfortunate affect of slowing labor down, or bringing it to a halt, and then further interventions are used to get it going again.

If you want to actively avoid a c-section you need to know that the earlier you go into hospital in your labor the more medical interventions you are likely to receive. For this reason induction should always be avoided unless medically indicated. Inductions have become more popular because they are very convenient for doctors, and some moms opt for them because they want to be in control of when their baby comes. They are not a good option. The more interventions you receive the higher possibility there is for a c-section; the longer you are in hospital the more interventions you will receive, so this makes induction a high factor in c-section births because you are in hospital before you are even in labor. One intervention leads to another; it is a cascade affect.

Around 70% of women are given Pitocin to speed labor up or induce birth early (see Pitocin article). You may constantly be offered pain medications even if you have specified a natural birth. There is often no medically indicated need for you to be given any drugs, you were probably progressing normally and would have been fine without them. Pitocin speeds everything up, or gets it going before you and baby are ready. Baby starts the contractions when she/he is ready, so birthing is not just about the mom being ready. Anesthesia can often slow things down again, especially epidurals, so then more ‘speed up’ drugs may be given. It is a roller coaster, once you begin with the interventions. The unfortunate culmination is often c-section when there was no need at all for it.

Physical Restrictions: Another contributor to FTP is the physical restrictions often put on birthing women in hospitals. Moving around and changing positions is such an integral part of normal, healthy birthing. Birthing women need to be free to move around, to drink, and eat; to follow their own intuition, and listen to the wisdom of their own body’s. Lying on your back is the worse position you can be in to give birth, it impedes the babies descent down the birth canal making it harder for you and baby, and doesn’t utilize gravity. It is convenient for the doctor/hospital staff and that is the only reason it is used. This restriction of movement undermines your innate connection to your own, and your babies needs, during birthing. It is so important for healthy birthing that the mom be supported in every way to move and change position as she sees fit, unless there is a real reason why she should not be doing so. Fetal monitors and intravenous drips (for quick drug intervention) contribute to this issue of walking and moving restrictions.

Fear is Not Working For Us:
Women often go to hospital to birth because they are scared either about birthing itself, or of doing it at home. Unfortunately, I regularly hear that once in the hospital women are frightened by doctors and nurses who use fear to gain compliance and coerce their patients, e.g. if you don’t do this your baby will die” is quite a common one. Your doctor may even frighten you before you get to birthing. Fear contracts our whole body and being, and puts us in the opposite state required for successful, empowered birthing. We must feel relaxed, safe, in charge, and open. Fear closes us. For this reason hospitals have become the worst places for women to birth because the contraction caused in our systems by fear results in what will later be called FTP possibly culminating in a c-section. This failure is often the failure of the medical environment, and has nothing to do with birthing mom’s and their capabilities to give birth.

Support & The Right Space:
For the miracle of birth to happen a woman and baby must be deeply supported and totally empowered in a completely safe environment, with the support of loved ones, and with privacy if mom requires it. Birthing is a deeply vulnerable, sacred and intimate event. Research has shown that birthing outcomes are vastly improved if a birthing mom has continual care from one consistent person (doula’s are fulfilling this role). Some mom’s do manage to have a natural birth in hospital with the help of doula’s and extremely supportive and protective spouses, if they have a very strong desire to have their own birth the way they want it. This can take a lot of work and forethought because you are essentially going into a medical birthing environment and asking them not to do what they do.

If home birth doesn’t appeal to you I encourage you to take a look at birthing centers as an alternative. Why not meet some midwives and research the reality of home birth too? Make sure that the information you have about it is accurate. The obstetrical profession has been trying to get rid of midwives for many decades, make sure your information is impartial. I firmly believe home birthing and birthing centers to be much safer and more conducive to birthing that is natural, pleasurable, ecstatic and empowering. Some Birthing Centers will offer you all the support of a midwife even if you birth in hospital, so call yours and find out what they are offering.

Birthing is a sacred rite of passage for both moms and babies.

Please read “How To Be Prepared For a C-Section’

 2014

How Birthing Professionals Can Include Early Consciousness in Pregnancy & Birthing

I am English living in the USA and I have found it challenging to bring up the very important subject of prenatal (before-birth) consciousness here in America. It immediately provokes a heated discussion, strong feelings, or comments about abortion politics, and women’s rights. It seems that in the U.S. if you believe that prenate’s are conscious, you must automatically be pro-life which means you are against women having the choice of abortion. Then you are on the slippery slope of this awful polarity and oppositional way of thinking that doesn’t serve anyone.

We all need to reclaim prenatal consciousness from abortion and abortion politics! It is far too important and crucial a subject to be left moldering at the hands of politicians who use it as a ticket to get elected, or to be thought about in such a constricted way. We must liberate our early spirituality, and our soul journey. Our conception and time in the womb are crucial events in our early development, when we are incarnating, and growing our body. We must re-claim this profound aspect of ourselves, just as we need to claim birth back from the medical community, and place it firmly in the hands of people who will nurture and truly understand it. Those of us who are involved in the early journey into life, professionally – midwives, doula’s, doctor’s, etc are in the important position of being able to make a huge difference by holding the consciousness of the one coming in. A discussion on abortion and prenatal consciousness is very important, but is only a small part of what we must consider when we think about early consciousness, and is not my focus here. For those interested in prenatal consciousness and abortion, there is an audio recording of a panel on which I presented at The Assoc. for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (APPPAH) conference 2009 entitled “Abortion: The Prenate & The Mother”. Go to the Home page of my web site, this panel essentially promotes an understanding of prenatal consciousness, and explores Conscious Abortion as the way forward.

In this short article I present a broader and deeper way of thinking about prenatal consciousness, and what it could mean to you both personally and as birthing professionals, to your clients, and to your client’s children. We are all conscious, sentient beings when we come in to life, and this is the core principle of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, my field of work. Following are some ideas and examples about how the inclusion of prenatal consciousness could positively influence both your personal and professional lives, and the lives of those you work with:

Continue reading How Birthing Professionals Can Include Early Consciousness in Pregnancy & Birthing

How In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Can Affect Your Child

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) children are some of the most wanted children on the planet. Anyone who has gone through IVF to have a child is a courageous and determined person. IVF gives many couples a chance to have their dream of parenthood come true, and it is a miracle that medical science has found a way to make this happen. Medical procedures often focus on the biological level only, and the emotional/psychological/spiritual aspects of the experience can be neglected. Conception is a powerful and sacred moment, and pregnancy is the cauldron for our life’s deepest, core templates, also influencing our brain and neurological wiring. In my work with IVF families, I attempt to bring the sacred and the practical back together, providing a balanced, integrated approach to healing from IVF.

My work is somatic and focuses a lot on early imprints, attachment, and parenting, covering the period from pre-conception through early infancy, including conception, womb life and birth. The imprints laid down during this time affect our lives profoundly, and if you are interested in this field of work, called Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (PPN), you may want to explore further on both the Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (APPPAH) web site at www.birthpsychology.com, and on my web site. You are also most welcome to call me with questions, feedback, etc.

From the PPN viewpoint, we are conscious when we begin to come in to our body at conception, and we continue to be fully conscious and sentient throughout our womb life, birth and early infancy. Our life does not begin after birth, as the longstanding cultural myth would have us believe. In my practice I am learning about IVF from both children and their parents, and will share with you some of my experiences and observations. I hope this will help you in thinking about your child’s experience of coming into life this way, whether born or unborn at the point of reading. It might help you to think about IVF from your baby’s point of view as a conscious, sentient being.

There are three main areas in IVF that can potentially cause issues for babies, or that may create a need for some support in order to integrate the experience (this is not by any means a comprehensive list as we are still learning):

1. Sperm and egg collection
2. Conception
3. “Reductions”

After the eggs and sperm have been collected, they are immediately taken to the laboratory where they are put in a dish, which is then placed in an incubator, and the sperm is introduced. The eggs are monitored daily and, if fertilization has occurred, they can be transferred to the mothers womb in 3 to 5 days.

In a normal conception the ripe egg leaves the ovary and comes into the fallopian tube where it is fertilized by the sperm. In an IVF conception, the eggs are ripened with fertility drugs, and many are collected from the mothers ovaries. It is miraculous that we can facilitate the creation of life in this way. Dad’s,or your sperm donors, sperm are also collected and taken away, and they are either injected into the middle of the harvested egg with a needle, or they can be placed with the eggs in the dish to find their own way. I have heard IVF mother’s say “How do I know that they used the right eggs or sperm?” – in other words how do I know this is my baby? This can be a big concern, causing deep doubt and trust issues at this stage. This concern is not necessarily about the competence of the medical staff, it is more about the extremely unusual circumstances surrounding IVF; eggs/sperm going out of your sight, and being tended by many strangers. It is equally unusual for conception to happen outside of your body, your being, and your sight.

Normally a mother would have no doubt that it was her egg, and she would know to whom the sperm belonged. There would be no one else involved in the conception unless you were having an artificial insemination conception, or using an egg donor. In IVF we have a whole cast of characters involved in the pre-conception and conception phases who would not normally be there. We know in Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology (PPN) that even at the conception stage we are being influenced by the energetic field around us, and by the people closely involved with our mother in particular. That field is primarily our parents and their relationship/connection. Your child is having her own experience as she is navigating through this elaborate process. We need to gather much more information from children about how this is affecting them.

If you used an egg donor your child may have other siblings living in your community if your donor is actively selling her eggs there. This is a situation unique to families who have used egg donors. Even though your child has never met her siblings, she may have a connection to them. I have seen many children in PPN play therapy sessions demonstrate intricate, ongoing relationships with siblings who came in to the same womb/mother before them, and left before they arrived for various reasons, or who came in with them and left before birth. Children will communicate these relationships very clearly in sessions by using baby/child figures repeatedly to tell the story of the lost sibling/s, clearly demonstrating their connection.

I would like to see the collection of eggs and sperm in IVF procedures being held intentionally and consciously in the field of the parents’ deep love and connection, and with the sacred reverence it deserves. For example, rather than sending the father off to produce sperm alone, the parents could do that collection together so that it is held within their sacred and loving intentions to create a child, and in their love and hope. When the mother’s eggs are being harvested, let the parents loving connection and desire for a child together create the space in which the extraction occurs. There is nothing more miraculous than the creation of a child. We need to find ways to bring reverence into this process called IVF, which is really an assisted conception with a large cast of characters, all working together. If the IVF doctor won’t allow sperm collection with both parents present, they can connect energetically with each other as the sperm is collected, bringing all of their love. Being creative and creating their own rituals really helps.

An IVF conception is totally unique in that it is the only time a child is conceived with both the parents not present. There is a lot going on at conception, as we are:

- Coming into the physical body of our mother
- Beginning to grow our own body at the same time as we enter into the physical realm
- Entering into the field of our parents for the first time
- Coming into the ancestral lines of our parents, and into what our Soul level commitment is with this family line in particular.

Conception necessitates two people coming together to make a baby, and there is the potential for that union to be deep, passionate, conscious, and totally present. As we come into life at conception we get our first imprint of what relationship is about from how our parents are together, how they made love, how they feel towards each other, and so on. We also get our first imprint of sexuality, since we are conceived out of sexual union. As you can see there is a great deal happening at conception, it is a very important moment. So, what does this mean for a child who comes in through IVF?

What Mikaela Taught Me About Her IVF Conception:
Mikaela, a very bright and active 3 year old, was very intent on showing us, and processing, what occurred around her conception. She played repeatedly, over a number of sessions, with various plastic containers and trays, plastic droppers and syringes, water, paint, and kitchen roll. She mixed and moved of a lot of fluids from one container to another. This is not surprising when you think about how much movement of ‘liquids’ from one place to another is going on in IVF. I have plastic trays, syringes, and droppers generally available in my play space and kids with a normal conception never take any notice of them. Mikaela avidly mixed and moved fluids around in the same way for approx 5/6 sessions as she processed and showed us her experience of her conception (her parents were present the whole time in the sessions). She was showing us “I was there, this affected me, I remember it, and I need to experience it with my parents”. Children naturally process through play. They show us what they need us to know, and what they need support with. It helps them to integrate their experiences, in which they may have felt alone or overwhelmed. They are intensely engaged in this kind of play, and need their parents to deeply witness and presence how it was for them. Mikaela was working very hard to bring her conception back to her parents; they were not together for the original conception. It was very important for her to do this processing. After 5/6 sessions Mikaela asked me if she could take ‘it’ (the mixture) home? I gave her two plastic containers with lids into which we transferred some of the mixture. This was an important changing point in her play, as she had not done this before. In a very sacred moment, Mikaela somberly gave one container to each of her parents. Prior to this shift Mikaela had always left the mixture with me. This shift marked the end of her avid mixing, although she would still do some mixing in sessions, she moved on to process the ‘reduction’ of her twin siblings. I asked that her parents take extra special care of the conception mixture, and that they put the containers in a special, or sacred, place in their home. It was a sacred gift to witness a child showing us her conception, and to see the returning of it to her parents. She worked hard on it.

Conception is a sacred event and the sacred is rarely included or acknowledged during medical procedures, unless we include it ourselves. Our already profound understanding, in the PPN community, of the emotional/psychological/spiritual aspects of early imprinting, need to be applied to the IVF process, along with our curiosity, and some deep thought and listening.

It makes a lot of sense that for IVF children the absence of their parent’s presence at their conception is acutely felt by them. It is not yet possible to say what the affects of IVF conception are on our children in relation to their sense of relationship, sexuality, embodiment, and spirituality. Mikaela needed a lot of containment in her sessions. When she first came in to see me she was described by her parents as ‘bouncing off the walls’. It may be harder for these children to feel their own body boundaries, and to feel contained. There are unanswered questions. It may be that they are spiritually/energetically with their parents at conception even though the event itself is physically happening somewhere else. It will be fascinating to see this story unfold from the mouths of our babies and children.

It’s important that we listen deeply to our IVF conceived children. Let them teach us about this way of coming in to life, so that we can give them the support they need to be happy, healthy, and integrated. Ideally, I would like to see the medical community creating the opportunity for IVF parents to be present at their conception, including sperm and egg collection. I am sure that there are ways it could be arranged for parents to be there for this very important event, the beginning of a new, very wanted, and much anticipated new life.

If you are thinking about IVF, ask your doctor if you can be physically present for your child’s conception. If that’s not possible then you can be energetically present for the conception using visualization, intention, prayer, and meditation. Some people have a connection with their child before conception. If you are one of those, you can use your connection with baby to stay in touch throughout the IVF process – before and during conception and up to implantation. Find other ways to be present and involved if you are unable to be physically present. You can hold a sacred space for your magical child to come into your lives, and surround your child with your love and intentions. What a lucky child!

If you are already pregnant from an IVF conception, you can connect with your unborn baby, both parents together if possible, and then use your imagination to go back to his/her conception. See your presence and love union in your mind’s eye energetically surrounding each part of the whole IVF process. Imagine yourselves together at both sperm and egg collection; your energy surrounding your sperm and eggs at all times, including the actual conception. Slow down and talk to each other about your experiences.

Most IVF conceptions involve more than one fertilized egg implanting into the mother’s womb lining. This can often mean that at some point parents have to make a decision about whether they are going to keep all of the implanted babies. A “reduction” is an abortion, or multiple abortions, depending on how many of your fertilized eggs implanted, and how many babies you are going to keep. This is often a very difficult decision, both a joyful moment and a sad one, because you are pregnant and happy to choose a child to keep, and simultaneously you have to decide not to keep your other children. The abortion/s are carried out in the presence of your chosen child. Most of us are unaware of how conscious prenate’s are in the womb, and it can be hard to imagine what it must be like for a little one to witness this moment in which he is simultaneously chosen, and has to witness the loss of his/her sibling/s. One remedy to avoiding this issue is to only have one fertilized egg placed in your womb, although this does reduce your chances of conceiving.

The loss of one’s siblings in the womb is a huge event. Many children have shown us how much it means to them, and how connected they are, to their lost siblings. The lost one’s can be siblings who came in before them (miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth), or who came in with them. They communicate these the story and their feelings about it in Prenatal & Birth Play, here are two examples from sessions:

1. A 3-year-old IVF boy, Sam, demonstrated over and again how there were three of them in the womb (his twin siblings were “reduced”), and then there was just him alone. He had some very mixed feelings about this time in his womb life, and really wanted us to deeply understand how that had been for him. He would tie me up with yarn, and take me, and his dad into a small half bathroom, tie my yarn to a tap, and then he would leave with his dad. I would be left alone, locked in and tied up (umbilical cord) so that I couldn’t leave. The feeling of this game was deeply sad, deeply miserable, and overwhelming. This was Sam’s way of conveying to us his feelings about what it was like for him to go through that experience. Children are very creative when they are given the space, and they know there is deep listening available.

2. Ellie, a 5-year-old girl, often had a 6-year-old boy on a bike in her sessions. He always went on very long journeys away from his mother when she didn’t want him to, and his mother never had any choice about him going away. This mother had had a miscarriage, her lost baby had he lived would have been age 6 at the time Ellie began her sessions. Mom was sure when she was pregnant that her baby was a boy.

3. A 4-year-old girl, Maisie, repeatedly in a number of sessions tied babies to the end of the birthing tube in my office as she explored her relationship to her mother’s previously aborted babies. She tied the exact number of babies that were lost to miscarriage and abortion. She was always deeply sad when showing her mother that she knew about her lost siblings.

How children have these connections with their siblings is a big subject that I can’t do justice to here. When working with adults I have also seen the profound affects of lost siblings, lost twins, etc. With IVF children we must consider that they have not only lost their sibling/s, but they have witnessed their removal. Reductions are without a doubt one of the most traumatic aspects of IVF for baby, and it can also be very difficult for conscious parents.

The more aware you are of prenatal consciousness, and that your baby is having her own experience, the better you are able to take care of your baby. Reductions can be challenging for the whole family, but there are ways to both keep the trauma to a minimum, and to heal from it afterwards.

It’s important for IVF families to have this information whether it’s before IVF, during pregnancy, or after birth. At every stage it is possible to bring consciousness and healing to the experience. We can make it easier for IVF children and families with some support and understanding.

Prenatal experiences, and our womb environment, influence our perceptions of life, our sense of our family, whether the world is safe or not, etc. I recommend that IVF parents don’t wait until after birth to get support for their unborn baby if they have had “reduction/s”. When an unborn baby witnesses their siblings being aborted they can feel unsafe, and may feel life threatened. This is normal when we are faced with, or witness, life threat in the womb. With early support from an appropriately trained practitioner, your baby can return to a feeling of safety and relaxation. IVF children are some of the most wanted and chosen children, and they have a very unique journey into life. If your baby gets help with this before birth it will have a profound affect on the remainder of her gestation, and will positively affect birthing outcomes. What happens to us in the womb affects birthing outcomes because we bring all of the experiences we had before our birth, to our birth.

Our conscious, unborn children can be prepared before the IVF process begins, and it can be navigated consciously. It is always possible to heal and repair after the event, the earlier the better; it is also never too late. Please call me for a free initial telephone consult if you have concerns and questions about your experiences, and about my work.

If you have other information to offer on this subject from your own, or your children’s experiences, I would love to hear about it from you.


I found the following important article about the damaging affects of Pitocin, a drug routinely used in hospital birthing by obstetricians for inductions and augmentation of labor. Pitocin is specifically only approved by the FDA when medically indicated. I have added an important note at the end of the article about the emotional and psychological affects of this drug, which is rarely talked about. Here is the web site at which I found the following article:


May 30, 2010
Pitocin not approved by the FDA for elective (or non-medical inductions).
PITOCIN has been approved by the FDA for the medical induction and stimulation of labor. Pitocin has not approved for the elective induction or stimulation of labor.
Which means, that the common use of Pitocin in hospitals for inducing a mother post dates (without medical reason) is highly dangerous. The risks are too high for a non-medical induction. The use of pitocin in labor to ‘speed things up’ is not FDA approved. You can refuse pitocin augmentation unless it is for a medically indicated reason. It should not be used just because you are over your ‘due’ date or because its inconvenient to wait for baby to have his/her own timing. This drug has consequences that medical professionals know nothing about.

“Oxytocin crosses the placenta and enters the blood and brain of the fetus within seconds or minutes. There appears to be a correlation between fetal exposure to oxytocin and autism in the exposed offspring.”
The manufacturer of oxytocin warns the provider in the package insert:
“Maternal deaths due to hypertensive episodes, subarachnoid hemorrhage, rupture of the uterus, fetal deaths and permanent CNS or brain damage of the infant due to various causes have been reported to be associated with the use of parenteral oxytocic drugs for induction of labor or for augmentation in the first and second stages of labor.”
Because oxytocin is used so commonly to stimulate labor we note here that, in addition to the more benign effects of uterine stimulants, such as nausea and vomiting, the manufacturer of Pitocin (oxytocin) points out in its package insert that oxytocin can cause:

(a) maternal hypertensive episodes (abnormally high blood pressure)
(b) subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in area surrounding spinal cord)
(c) anaphylactic reaction (exaggerated allergic reaction)
(d) postpartum hemorrhage (uterine hemorrhage following birth)
(e) cardiac arrhythmias (non-normal heart rate)
(f) fatal afibrinogenemia (loss of blood clotting fibrin)
(g) premature ventricular contraction (non-normal heart function)
(h) pelvic hematoma (blood clot in the pelvic region)
(i) uterine hypertonicity (excessive uterine muscle tone)
(j) uterine spasm (violent, distorted contraction of the uterus)
(k) tetanic contractions (spasmodic uterine contractions)
(l) uterine rupture
(m) increased blood loss
(n) convulsions (violent, involuntary muscle contraction(s).
(o) coma (unconsciousness that cannot be aroused)
(p) fatal oxytocin-induced water intoxication (undue retention of water marked by vomiting, depression of temperature convulsions, and coma and may end in death.

Fetal and Newborn Effects
The following adverse effects of maternally administered oxytocin have been reported in the fetus or infant:
(a) bradycardia (slow fetal heart rate)
(b) premature ventricular contractions and other arrhythmias (non-normal heart function)
(c) low 5 minute Apgar scores (non-physiologic neurologic evaluation)
(d) neonatal jaundice (excess bilirubin in the blood of the neonate.
(e) neonatal retinal hemorrhage (hemorrhage within the innermost covering of the eyeball)
(f) permanent central nervous system or brain damage
(g) fetal death
“Uterine stimulants which foreshorten the oxygen-replenishing intervals between contractions, by making the contractions too long, too strong, or too close together, increase the likelihood that fetal brain cells will die.
The situation is analogous to holding an infant under the surface of the water, allowing the infant to come to the surface to gasp for air, but not to breathe. All of these effects increase the possibility of neurologic insult to the fetus. No one really knows how often these adverse effects occur, because there is no law or regulation in any country that requires the doctor to report an adverse drug reaction to the FDA.
These findings underscore the importance of the midwife managing the woman’s labor in a way that will avoid the need for Pitocin and the pain relieving drugs that are often administered to help the woman cope with the contractions intensified by Pitocin.

DELAYED LONG TERM EFFECTS: There have been no adequate and well-controlled studies to determine the delayed, long-term effects of Pitocin on pregnant women, or on the neurologic, as well as general, development of children exposed to Pitocin in utero or during lactation.”

Here is manufacturers insert including warnings and uses of Pitocin.

Were you aware that the drug so commonly used on pregnant women without medical indication is not FDA approved?

The link to the FDA page: http://www.aimsusa.org/obstetricdrugs.htm
And the manufacturers insert is here…


Note from Karen on non-medically indicated use of Pitocin: One thing this article doesn’t talk about is the emotional and psychological affect on babies of the non-medical, routine use of this drug for induction and speeding things up for no good reason. We have lost contact with the importance of the natural rhythms of birth and how vitally they are connected to the natural daily rhythms of life. Being born without medical interference gives us a very important imprint for life that we need. Navigating through our birth, both drug and intervention free, provides us with these important imprints; birth is a very important transition that sets us up for life. In a normal, natural labor the contractions build, increasing in intensity, they go up and peak, and then they come down the other side. There is a natural space in between each contraction in which both mom and baby can rest and gather their strength for the next wave. This space is very important for rest and resourcing during labor. When Pitocin is administered this natural cycle is lost, and contractions are unrelenting, one after the other, with no rest. This is what makes it both more painful for the birthing mom, and traumatic for baby. Because makes it more painful, mom will often be offered more drugs to kill the pain of the effects of the first drug!

Kids born with Pitocin often have this kind of unrelenting quality in their energy/nervous system and therefore in the way that they approach life. This can be exhausting for the child and his parents, and is an expression of the drug and possible birth trauma combined. It’s that feeling of someone coming at you with no space for anything else to happen. It has a rev in it too, a fast moving energy. Drugs leave imprints that are an expression of both the character of the drug, and the way it expresses it self and impacts the recipients. They impact our nervous systems, and affect our perceptions of what life is about. Could it be that there is a link between this drug and ADHD/ADD??

Pitocin interferes with the natural healthy imprinting that occurs in birthing. This drug also affects the way our children can negotiate transitions, which is a very crucial part of life. We are negotiating transitions all the time, getting up, leaving the house, going to school, coming home, moving from one activity to another, so this is very important. As birth is a major transition, how we are birthed has a huge affect on the way we handle transitions. Your child may have a tough time navigating transitions if they had Pitocin in their birth. If a mom is induced with Pitocin she will often end up with many other harmful non-medically indicated interventions, even ending up with a c-section. Induction increases your chances of a c-section. These all add to the imprints and birth trauma. Even if you only consider the medical problems with this drug, as in the above article, you would have to decide that it should be refused unless clearly medically indicated. Make sure that you know what medically indicated means if you are venturing into a medical environment for your birthing, because many drugs and interventions are routinely offered when not needed at all. Remember that any drug or intervention you say ‘yes’ to is going to have a big impact on your baby too, and on your experience of having an empowering birth. When medical interventions are really needed, they are great! It is however important to understand that if you are going into hospital to have your baby, that you are going to be offered the medical model of birth, and that is all about interventions and drugs, and not about supporting the natural timing and rhythm of birthing. The doctor will usually be in charge, not you. It takes a lot of research and preparation to come up against this system once in the hospital, and it’s hard work, although it can be done. Having a doula can really help if you wish to be in the hospital but have an intervention free birth. Do consider a birthing center if you have one near you, they are a great alternative if you don’t feel safe at home with a midwife and doula.


I found this on the Alliance for the Improvement of Maternity Services  (AIMS) web site, and I think that it is very important that every birthing family fully understands their rights if choosing labor and birth, or just birth, in hospital. It is also important to know these facts when you are considering the safest place to give birth. Knowledge is power, and only when you are fully aware of the implications of the decisions you are making, can you truly be in power and truly be making real choices for yourself and your baby’s health and future emotional, physical and emotional well-being. Karen

Many pregnant women are not fully aware of their right of informed consent or of the obstetricians’ legal obligation to obtain their patient’s informed consent prior to treatment. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) first publicly acknowledged the physician’s legal obligation to obtain his or her pregnant patient’s informed consent in its 1974 publication, Standards for Obstetric-Gynecologic Services, (pg 66-67) which reads:

“It is important to note the distinction between ‘consent’ and ‘informed consent’. Many physicians, because they do not realize there is a difference, believe they are free from liability if the patient consents to treatment. This is not true. The physician may still be liable if the patient’s consent was not informed. In addition, the usual consent obtained by a hospital does not in any way release the physician from his legal duty of obtaining an informed consent from his patient.


Pregnancy, Birth & Family Dynamics: What It Takes To Get Ready

We recently had a new baby come into our family, and I was reminded once again, how much change needs to happen when a little one comes into the family. Everyone has to make space for the new member, both internally, and externally in the family roles and dynamics. In birthing families everyone’s roles are shifting. We are all taking on new roles, and it is very helpful to think about this so that you can be clear about what your role is, and how you want to behave.  It is also important for each person to think about what they want from the other members of the family in this transition. E.g. mother is becoming grandmother, daughter is becoming mother, son is becoming a dad, father is becoming a grandfather, and born siblings having to move over for the younger member. There is a process that we are all going through to make these shifts, both internally, and in our outer roles. A pregnant family may have very different needs and requirements of their other close family members at this time.

Continue reading Pregnancy, Birth & Family Dynamics: What It Takes To Get Ready