by Jamie Siebrase
Placenta smoothies, overzealous Hollywood doulas manically screaming at doctors – they make for attention-grabbing headlines and hilarious comedy, true, but, behind the hype, is there anything worth considering?
This month, local experts open up about wacky birth trends that aren’t really all that wacky – or trendy.
This recent “trend” isn’t novel, considering homebirth was the de
facto method of delivery until things like anesthesia and widespread
insurance coverage transformed American childbirth. Today, 27 states,
Colorado included, permit a woman to hire a professional midwife to
deliver her baby at home.
“To give birth at home, all the stars have to be aligned,” says Lauren Williams, cofounder of Belly Bliss, 300 Josephine, bellybliss.org, 303-399-1191. “And, it isn’t for everyone,” she adds. Local doula Kristy Truesdale of Trinity Birth Care, 720-278-5935, trinitybirthcare.com, believes “wherever you birth, you need to feel safe.”
For me, the mess feels unsafe. “Birth isn’t as messy as people
think,” Williams reassures. Adds midwife Janet Schwab of To Each Her
Own, 191 University, 303-854-7898, 2eachherown.com: “Most women are in water, so mucus and blood are contained; the partner usually prepares by covering carpet with plastic.”
Schwab specializes in home births; she’s never delivered a baby with
so much as a low Apgar score (a five-criteria scale for assessing the
health of newborn babies). “That said, at home you’ll have to accept
some risk because you won’t have the same hospital equipment and
While critics worry about infection, proponents of aquatic birth,
which is reportedly how ancient Egyptian pharaohs were delivered,
believe water offers a smoother transition for babies. Supposedly water,
dubbed the midwife’s epidural for its pain-relieving properties,
decreases active labor time and offers natural support for the perineum.
Water isn’t an option at every hospital. Denver Health, 777 Bannock, denverhealth.org,
303-602-2915, is one of the few local hospitals to permit delivery in
water. “It was a big deal to get done,” says Dr. Kent Heyborne. “We had
to make sure everything was safe, especially in regards to infection
control.” Healthy mothers who have their prenatal care at Denver Health
may attempt water births.
Truesdale, and Trinity partner Diana Solorzano laud the pain
mitigating powers of Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation (TENS), a
chiropractic tool. The handheld device was first used during labor in
the ‘70s. Mild electronic pulses are sent to the nerves through
electrodes attached to the skin on the lower back at various acupuncture
points. “This is a tool a woman can use up until point she gets an
epidural or gets into the birth tub,” says Truesdale, who likes the
impermanence of TENS during labor, which unlike an epidural doesn’t take
time to wear off.
Taught by Mandy Jeffries at Belly Bliss, among others, the educational birth class hones in on Gerald Kein’s Painless Childbirth
technique – a process purportedly making childbirth more enjoyable by
allowing laboring mommas to remain deeply in hypnosis while walking,
talking, and changing positions.
The course introduces moms and partners to an entirely different
language. “You don’t have contractions,” says Truesdale, “You have
pressure waves.” Talking CDs and soothing background music deliver
subconscious cues; there’s also guided meditation. Jeffries’s course,
materials included, costs $350.
“Humans are the only mammals that don’t consume the placenta
immediately after birth,” says acupuncturist Lisa Bullis, owner of Pin
& Tonic, 1100 E. Evans, 303-733-3317, pintonic.com.
Back East, the placenta’s been used for thousands of years. Of
sensationalism surrounding placenta smoothies, Bullis says, “That’s
disgusting.” She cleans, cooks, dehydrates, then grinds mothers’
placentas for encapsulation for $75 for patients and $100 for
An American study performed in the 1950s found correlations between
placenta consumption and ample breastmilk supply. The practice is also
thought to balance hormones, particularly Corticotropin-releasing
Hormone (CRH): low amounts of CRH are associated with postpartum
At a basic level, doulas provide emotional and physical support to
mothers during birth. It’s a misconception that doulas are only for
natural-birthing moms-to-be. “A doula can help with any kind of birth,”
says Williams. “Sometimes a woman with an epidural needs a doula even
more.” Truesdale concurs, “We support moms in whatever their vision is;
there is a time for epidurals.”
There’s no shortage of Denver doulas. Prices and services rendered
vary. For those on a budget, student doulas are available through Belly
Bliss. Truesdale and Solorzano offer sibling doula services, too.
The 2008 documentary Orgasmic Birth put this practice on the
map. “It’s more about feeling good during labor, focusing on how birth
isn’t always bad, scary, and painful,” explains Williams who frequently
suggests orgasms as a way to kick-start labor. According to Williams,
some women use sex toys in labor to have orgasms because, when you have
one, your body releases oxytocin, the “natural-high” hormone.
Most fads are great, but two are best avoided:
Early Inductions & Elective Cesareans
“Induction is great,” says Bullis, “if there’s a concern for mom or
baby. Otherwise the natural process should be respected.” Adds
Solorzano, “Nonmedical inductions lead to higher c-section rates.” About
33 percent of American babies are delivered by c-section annually. Some
are medically necessary, but a rising number are requested.
Studies of U.S. women show white, married women delivering at private
hospitals are more likely to undergo surgery than poorer women, even
though they are much less likely to have complications requiring
cesareans. Many experts agree it’s best to follow American Congress of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines and avoid elective
cesareans and inductions before 39 weeks.