Tatia DC Event: Role of the Birthing Community in Improving U.S. Maternity Care

On May 1, The Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation held an educational event in Washington, DC focused on highlighting the role of the birthing community in improving U.S. Maternity Care. The event included a screening of the documentary “Tatia’s Story: From Life to Death in 10 Hours,” and a panel discussion among maternal health experts and leaders in the birthing community regarding the issues of racial disparities in maternal mortality, the importance of being fully informed, and the dangers of using Cytotec for labor induction.

 

Speakers and panelists included: Nan Strauss of Choices in Childbirth, Tina Johnson of American College of Nurse-Midwives, Jennie Joseph of Commonsense Childbirth, Claudia Booker of Birthing Hands Midwifery and Birthing Services, and Maddy Oden, Executive Director of the Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation

Birthing, Blackness, and the Body: Black Midwives and Experiential Continuities of Institutional Racism

by Keisha La'Nesha Goode Graduate Center, City University of New York

In honor of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek18 I wanted to share a published dissertation I found on Midwife Shafia Monroes website that I've been reading and studying non stop for a few days now. I truly appreciate Keisha's research and attention to this subject. Very rarely do we detour the conversation on Black Maternal Health away from "call your senators!" and "Townhalls" and put our energy and finances into realistic solutions we have access to at this moment. Black Midwives are underutilized  and Keisha explains how and why in 215 pages

Black life at the intersectionof birth and death | Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa

"It is the artist's job to unearth stories that people try to bury with shovels of complacency and time," says poet and freedom fighter Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa. Performing her poem "The Joys of Motherhood," Katwiwa explores the experience of Black mothers in America and discusses the impact of the Movement for Black Lives -- because, she says, it's impossible to separate the two.

Uterine Health: Ovarian Cyst and Fibroids

A week ago, I had to admit myself into the hospital for dehydration. It was the third day of my menstrual cycle and I was having the worst uterine contractions I've ever experienced. The pain led to extreme nausea and vomiting for two days straight and because I couldn't keep anything down I was in and out of consciousness.  In the hospital bed with my family surrondining me and the doctor discussing Birth Control and a Myomectomy, I was upset with myself. It was my wake up call to pay more attention to my health. I have been having heavier bleeding and painful cramps every month for a year now and I have been ignoring it until my body forced me to pay attention. Over the last few years as a Doula I was learning and teaching my peers about Uterine Health and I was not walking the talk. I am lucky enough to have a large community of birth workers and healers around me but I am also aware of how inaccessible information about uterine health is. So listed below are the things that I am going to do to avoid birth control and major surgery on my reproductive organs. This list is centered on MY issues but are helpful for yours as well. Consult with your local midwife and/or herbalist for a care plan specific for YOU

Also helpful for PCOS, Endometriosis*

Ginger, Turmeric, Lemon Tea

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  • 1½ cups of filtered drinking water.
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh grated turmeric root (or ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root (or ½ teaspoon of ginger powder)
  • ½ a lemon (juiced with peel)
  • 2 to 3 twists of fresh black pepper ( Necessary step)
  • 1 tablespoon of raw honey or to desired taste.

Read about the benefits here 

Medicinal Herbs

Medicinal herbs are my go to for healing my body (also used for fertility and labor). Pharmaceutical drugs can be stressful on your liver.  I purchase my herbs from Karen Rose, owner of Sacred Vibes Apothecary  based in Brooklyn,NY. I HIGHLY recommend hiring her for a consult if you are unfamiliar with the practice of medicinal herbs.

Supplements

Zymactive is a proteolytic enzyme which helps to break down proteins that cause inflammation. Fibroids in their simplest form are a product of inflammation so as those proteins get broken down they also break down and release. Papaya is also full of these enzymes.

Evidence based information here

Nutrition and Hydration

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During this time I am officially (and hopefully foreva) cutting out processed meats, refined sugars and dairy. Stay out of the bodega yall. I am also drinking at least 2 liters of filtered water a day. What you eat and what you don't eat is important.

Here's a video on healing for PCOS and Cysts

Castor Oil Pack

Castor oil packs are for reducing inflammation and increasing circulation. They are excellent for the lymphatic system and assist in improving circulation, stagnation and elimination of benign tumors in women, especially those who suffer from uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts. Using castor oil packs will also increase lymphocytes cells in the body which are used to fight disease and eliminate various wastes including the toxins that may be contributing to common side effects of having fibroid tumors.

Here's a video on how to use

Mental Health

Mental health is often the last thing we pay attention when transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. Stress, anxiety, depression play huge roles in our reproductive health. Along with exercising, I am taking more time in my life for moments of silence and breath.  The breath is also medicine for the body and we don't take enough of it. If you want to get nerdy about it, The Science of Breath is a great resource.

Breathing Exercise

  • Sit on a chair with your legs parallel and your feet directly under your knees.
  • Rest your hands on your thighs, or cradle your abdomen in your hands, or place your right hand over your heart—whatever feels right.
  • Sit tall, finding length between your sits bone and the crown of your head. Relax your rib cage and your shoulders, find ease between your eyebrows.
  • Start to notice your inhalations and exhalations. Notice if you are holding your breath anywhere and without judgment, see if you can relax there.
  • Think about one thing that you need in this moment and one thing that you need to release.
  • When you are ready, lengthen your inhale and breathe in what you need.
  • Exhale slowly, gently and fully through an open mouth releasing that which does not serve you in this moment.
  • Repeat 5 more times, slowly. Do not rush this because it can increase cortisol.
  • Come back to an easy, natural breath focusing for a minute or so on what you need in this moment before returning to your activities

Essential Oils and Tinctures

Herb Pharms reproductive health tincture has several herbs that support a healthy function of your reproductive organ.

Clary Sage helps balance your hormones and great for pain management. I'll be using it massage my lower abdomen. Don't forget to dilute it with a carrier oil.


More resources on managing and preventing Fibroids here

It’s Cervical Fluid, Not Discharge

This episode explains the function of the cervix in the role of fertility, why we chart its changes in the fertility awareness method, the historic & cultural understanding of the role of cervical fluid, and information about long term impacts on the cervix when using contraceptive devices.

 

Nicole  created a podcast to teach more people how to use the fertility awareness method after her experiences using clinical birth control methods. She also uses the hashtag #FAMTaughtMe to discuss fertility charting & menstrual health

Nicole created a podcast to teach more people how to use the fertility awareness method after her experiences using clinical birth control methods. She also uses the hashtag #FAMTaughtMe to discuss fertility charting & menstrual health

More Black Women have died in childbirth this year than from abortion-related complications in the past 15 years combined

Reproductive Justice for Black Women, Latinas, More Critical Than Ever

Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Natural Birth Equity Collaborative; Karla Gonzales Garcia, COLOR

Getty Images

Getty Images

For the past three years, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR, along with dozens of partners, has hosted a Halloween-themed social media conversation on Twitter about the frightening facts and the disparate outcomes in health, wealth, safety and well-being that reproductive-justice warriors like Sister Song have been fighting to address for over two decades. #ScaryStats is part awareness raising and part call to action to invite people to do something about injustice and oppression in their communities.

#ScaryStats is also about sounding the alarm for black mamas not surviving the birth of their children in a country that spends more per capita on health care than any other nation in the world. People of color, LGBTQ people, undocumented immigrants and those who live at the intersections of these identities navigate a nation that reminds them every day that whether they live or die is not a priority.

This is not hyperbole; this is fact:

These facts are not just inconvenient statistics; they are manifestations of horrible policies imagined by powerful lobbying firms and approved by local, state and federal legislators who, too often, put their own personal beliefs and political agendas ahead of the needs of their constituents.

#ScaryStats is about sounding the alarm for black mamas not surviving the birth of their children in a country that spends more per capita on health care than any other nation in the world.

That is not just scary; it is terrifying. And the Twitter conversation was about shining a light on the struggles faced by women of color and other people living at the margins of power. It was about making it clear that #BlackLivesMatter and that black women are facing a public health crisis. It was intended to amplify the very real harms caused by our broken immigration system and lack of fair workplace policies.

Of course, social media trolls committed to proving how morally bankrupt they are were quick to attack. Anti-abortion trolls tried to hijack the conversation in order to shame people for accessing abortion care or supporting abortion access. As is often the case, they were too busy demonizing providers and people who need care to actually consider truly listening to and supporting women.

Planned Parenthood Black Community, a forum to lift the specific needs of black women and communities of color and to emphasize the efforts to ensure the health, rights and dignity of black people, became the focus of the Twitter attacks after it shared information about the maternal health crisis that black women in the United States are facing right now.

And, be clear, this is a human rights crisis.

More black women have died in childbirth this year than from abortion-related complications in the past 15 years combined. Much more needs to be done to protect and expand access to the full range of reproductive health services that black women need—including abortion—and make sure that people are aware that maternal mortality is an issue that needs some very real attention.

Read more here

The Mamas Gon’ Be Alright: Birthwork and Mental Health

By Iresha Picot

2012: I trained to become a birth doula after a yearlong stint providing services as a full-spectrum doula at a clinic in center city, Philadelphia. I left the birth workers training, feeling prepared and ready for the offerings that I had for the mamas to-be. I had my birthing balls; I had my rebozos, a rolling pin and oils. I felt equipped and confident in guiding the mamas along in bringing forth life. I just needed to show up, and be present for the labors.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the onsite mental health training that came along with the birth work. I had read extensively about post-partum stressors that developed into mental health issues, but none of the literature points to the mental health issues the mothers’ exhibit before the birthing process even begins. The prenatal work. (Side note: I’m also not new to emotional work. I have worked for several years as a Clinician in behavior and mental health). In my mind, I prematurely separated my mental health work from the birth work. I compartmentalized them as being mutually exclusive. And yet, almost every mother that I have provided prenatal service to, ended up in long, intensive conversations of childhood and present day traumas with me.

Birth work and mental health work often intersect:

--There was the sista who grow up in foster care homes of eminent abuse, most of her life and was planning to give birth while still residing in a shelter.

--The mama who told me that she had no positive models of women in her family. They all were drug addicts. She had been on her own since age 17.

--The woman who had been kidnapped and raped while standing outside one summer night in North Philadelphia.  

Many of these mothers have never thought about entering therapy, as age old stigmas kept them from seeking out help (“Only weak women go to therapy”, “I’m not crazy”). Others didn’t even know where to begin. I found myself putting the birth plans to the side, and using my best practices of listening to these mamas’ stories, offering up support, affirming to them that their fears were valid, and bearing witness as they vocalized their challenges.  

Birth work is emotional work.  We need more people--more mothers, to enter into a space of healing. One reoccurring theme I have found with mothers, who have suffered from trauma, is that they believe that they are broken beyond repair, and that bringing forth new life into this world, would signal a new start to making things right for once. But when we are the same people, who haven’t worked through the issues that bought us to the women that we are now, we aren’t offering our children anything new.

I recently read something on Instagram that said “I want to raise children who doesn’t have to recover from their childhoods”.

What better gift to offer to our children then to be healed, whole people.

Suggestions:

Seek out professional mental health support. Therapist comes in many models—Community Outpatient, Private Practice, post-partum hotlines, and talk therapy apps.

Join an online and in person support groups for new mothers, breast feeding mothers, peer support, etc.

Write your past pain into existence.

Ask for help (its ok!)

Iresha Picot, M.Ed, LBS, is a birth doula and peer breastfeeding counselor. Iresha works as a Licensed Behavior Specialist and Outpatient Therapist in a community mental health model. 

Iresha Picot, M.Ed, LBS, is a birth doula and peer breastfeeding counselor. Iresha works as a Licensed Behavior Specialist and Outpatient Therapist in a community mental health model.