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As a certified nurse midwife, I take a lot of time with my women to explore the challenges they’ve overcome in their lives and to channel that energy if they face obstacles during labor and birth. I have them go back to their power. I want their mind to shift from thinking “Birth is going to be really difficult” to “This is challenging, but wow—this is incredibly empowering. I can do this!”


Part of the challenges women face in preparing to give birth is that we separate ourselves from other birth stories we’ve heard, or other experiences we’ve taken on as our own—specifically from the women typically closest to us, like our mothers, sisters and best friends.

As providers, we need to strive to have close relationships with our patients. If that’s not necessarily possible, then we must at least be intuitive and listen well. I work with women and hear what they say, paying close attention to the language they use.

Here are 6 questions I often get from women about their mothers’ experiences with labor and birth.


1. My mother had complications during labor. Will I have them, too?

She’s your mother and you love her, but you don’t need to unconsciously re-create her birth story—especially if it was a difficult birth. Our minds are very powerful, and we can cleverly re-create the trauma our own mothers experienced. But your mother’s birth(s) had to do with what was going on in her day-to-day life at the time—what her health was like, her relationship with her doctor, what was going on in her personal life, etc.

If your mom has mentioned that she experienced complications, ask her exactly what they were and what possibly caused them. It’s not enough for her to tell you, “This happened to me.” You have to ask her specific questions.

Let’s start with one example. If your mother had preterm labor, will you?

Well, what was her amniotic fluid like at the time she went into preterm labor? What was her stress level? Was she working a job that required her to be on her feet 40 hours a week? That can certainly trigger preterm labor. There are specific reasons why your mother had the complications she did, and it doesn’t mean you will, too.

2. My mother had a C-section. Will I have one?

So many women have asked me this question. The answer is no, not necessarily. Do you and your mother have the same body type? Is your mother 5 feet tall and your father 6 feet tall? Did your mom have a baby who weighed 10 pounds?

A situation when the baby’s head circumference may be too big for the diameter of the mother’s pelvis size and shape is called cephalopelvic or fetopelvic disproportion. If this occurs and a baby is unable to descend through the pelvis due to a narrowing of the mid-pelvis or pelvic outlet, then a medically indicated C-section is appropriate.

There are four types of pelves, but we often see a mixture of characteristics. So even if you have the same type of pelvis as your mom, the size and position of your baby will be unique for you—so you can understand how we can’t let your mom’s delivery outcome predict yours.

Many women ask me whether their pelvis is an adequate size. Forty-one to 42% of women have a gynecoid pelvis, with diameters quite optimal for vaginal childbirth. An extremely narrow pelvis, also referred to as male or android, where the front of the pelvis is narrow (about 32.5% of white and 15.7% of nonwhite women have this type) does make it more difficult for a good-size baby to navigate through. The rare platypelloid pelvis, which occurs in less than 3% of women, is characterized by a wide front diameter and shallow depth from front to back. It makes a vaginal delivery unlikely. The good news is that labor and birth are about movement, and babies are resilient, with heads designed to mold through delivery.

When the health care provider understands the mother’s pelvic size and structure as well as the baby’s position and size, the timing of labor and repositioning the mother in a knee-chest or left side-lying position can make all the difference in assisting the baby through.

A woman needs to labor and be pushing for several hours to determine whether the baby is unable to emerge under the pubic arch. This is definitely a subject to discuss with your health care provider. It is difficult to know all the circumstances of your mother’s C-section that contributed to her outcome.

3. Can I prevent any of the complications my mother experienced?

Yes. Make sure you’re eating well, staying hydrated and communicating openly and often with your health care provider. I also recommend seeing a chiropractor to make sure your pelvis is aligned. This gives the baby more room to move and adjust.

I had a woman transfer to me late, at 33 weeks—her baby was high and she wasn’t doing any exercise. I recommended she visit a chiropractor regularly. And sure enough, when the time came, she had a three-hour labor where her baby descended nicely.

4. Can my sister’s birth experiences tell me anything about what mine will be like?

Yes. Not necessarily physically, but psychologically.

I had a client in labor who kept saying things like, “I can’t believe it, I know I’m going to need a C-section.” I looked at her and asked her why she was talking out of such fear. It all finally clicked and I said, “This isn’t you you’re talking about, is it?” And she told me it was her sister she was talking about. She was subconsciously taking on her sister’s negative birth experience as her own. So I worked with her in labor to guide her through extreme birth counseling.

When we talked about her relationship with her sister, I learned she didn’t even like her sister’s ideas about birth. So I asked what made her different from her sister. She said she was holistic, and her sister was not. I asked her to repeat after me—“I am holistic. I am not my sister.” And that is what her birth mantra became.

With this mantra she was able to validate that she was different from her sister, and just because her sister had Pitocin and then a C-section didn’t mean that she had to have it too. She did have Pitocin to augment her contractions, which had spaced out, but I helped turn the face-up baby and then she had a beautiful vaginal birth.

This could happen with any woman you’re close to—your mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, best friend, etc. That’s why it’s so important to have the right provider guiding you.

5. My mother/mother-in-law had big babies. Could that determine my babys size?

While there could be some genetic connection for large gestational size babies, what I really believe is that your mother or mother-in-law could have been eating lots of carbs or foods high in sugar, and she might have had undiagnosed gestational diabetes. You have to know your clients, and quite often I have to be a sneaky detective to find out what she’s eating.

But keep in mind: I would much rather deliver a 9-pound, 5-ounce baby than a 6-pound, 5-ounce baby. Bigger babies are often well positioned—they don’t get into unusual positions that could cause complications. For example, a smaller baby can spin around during labor and cause a longer labor, and if you’re in a more conservative hospital or have a more traditional health care practitioner, they may not let you wait around to progress from 4 cm to 8 cm and instead suggest a C-section. But it all comes down to understanding fetal positioning.

6. What questions should I ask my mother?

I always ask the women I work with: What messages has your mother given you about birth? Does she talk openly about it?

If you’re pregnant and your mother seems to be avoiding talking about her own pregnancies, it’s likely for one of these reasons: She had a traumatizing experience; it’s just her nature not to share; or she doesn’t want to interfere because she doesn’t want to scare you.

If you’d like to talk to your mother about her birth experiences, here are a few questions to review on your own and with your mom.

Reflect on personally...

—Do I have the same pelvis as my mother?

—Do I have the same build as my mother?

—How do I differentiate myself from my mom and/or my sister(s)?

Discuss with Mom...

—What was the position of your baby? Was I/were my siblings face-up or posterior?

—Did you have a C-section? Do you know why?

—Were you stressed during your pregnancy and/or labor? What was going on in your life at the time?

—How much weight did you gain during your pregnancies?

—Do you remember the name of who delivered me?

—How long did you push?

If you have fears that aren’t alleviated by talking with the women close to you and reflecting personally, talk about them with your health care provider or find a therapist who specializes in pregnancy. If you don’t talk about your fears, they can surface during labor and delivery and possibly sabotage your birth experience. A prepared birth is best.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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