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Pain in Labor

Biggest Concerns

Tell me about natural birth. How is it different from a typical hospital birth?
Well, natural birth starts long before the moment of birth. It has to do with not intervening unless there’s a reason to intervene. So, for the women who come to us and desire to have a natural birth, our goal in supporting them is to not intervene unless some unforeseen thing comes up where we need to step in. We’re not opposed to medical intervention, but we think that in the medical community at large, interventions are overused in area of maternity care and birth.

What do you think people who are looking for natural birth are actually looking for?
I think they’re looking for a supportive environment to have the birth that they desire. I think they’re looking for people who are going to respect their wishes and their choices about their birth and with their newborn child.

And how does Family Centered Birth meet that need?
We respect women’s choices. We care about what they want for their birth and their baby, and we strive to make their birthing process match what they have envisioned for it.​

Mission & Vision

Tell me about VBAC. How do you think women feel who have experienced a C-section?
Women are often traumatized by their caesarean. They often originally had plans for a natural birth, or plans at least for a vaginal birth. Somewhere along the line, that fell apart, and now they’re suffering with the trauma of having major abdominal surgery while trying to bond with their newborn and care for their newborn. There’s often a lot of processing that they need to do about their caesarean. They’re often fearful about what could go wrong and could it happen again. They’re fearful of birth. They may not have been fearful the first time they approached birth, but now their fearful because they’ve been traumatized by this surgery. Sometimes they have feelings that their body failed them—which isn’t true. Sometimes there was a valid reason for the caesarean, and sometimes there wasn’t a valid reason for it. So, they’re often looking for a place to bounce off the scenario that happened before and get feedback as to whether it was really necessary or not. They’re looking for a place to process—and they’re looking for a place to feel safe.

What kind of response do you think women typically get from their doctors—or do you know that they do get from their doctors—when they tell them that they want a VBAC?
Most doctors are very negative about the possibility of doing a VBAC. Sometimes they will get a doctor who says, “Yes, you can do a VBAC,” but when it gets close to it, it all changes. We call it a bait and switch. They promise to be supportive of a VBAC, but then you have to go in and deliver your baby between 36 and 38 weeks—because at 38 weeks they often schedule a repeat caesarean. That’s not truly supportive.

Do you serve women who want a VBAC?

How do you feel Family Centered Birth does at meeting this need in the community?
Very well. We have had many successful VBAC births, and we have helped many women process and overcome emotional trauma related to past births.

What is the mission of Family Centered Birth?
Our mission is to provide a safe environment and supportive team so that women can birth in the way that they choose.

What is your vision for Family Centered Birth?
To be able to provide respectful, compassionate care for all pregnant women that desire a natural birth. 

Tell us more.
The reason this is so important is because how a mother feels about her birth will effect how she feels about that child—and that lasts much longer than just the labor. It lasts for the rest of their lives. She’s going to bond with that child, and that child is going to bond with her. Remember, the child is also having an experience of birth. The baby is coming into the world gently—is being treated very gently and respectfully during their birth experience—and that makes all the difference! This is going to form their whole concept of the other people that they meet in their life. It’s foundational. As we now know through psychology, the birth process is going to affect them for the rest of their lives. So our mission is not only to help women have the birth they want, but to help more children come into this world with a solid foundation in life—by giving them a peaceful and happy birth.​

Tell me about the midwives at Family Centered Birth. How would you describe yourselves?
Midwifery is quality healthcare for pregnant women. As midwives, we’re very passionate about women being able to give birth in the atmosphere that they are most comfortable in. The midwives at Family Centered Birth are caring, passionate women who want to serve those that choose to birth under the midwifery model of care.

Tell me about home birth. How is it different from hospital or birth center birth?
I love home birth. It’s different because we bring all the medication and equipment to you and you stay at home. If you feel like it might be time but you’re not sure, you call us and we come check you. You don’t have to worry about coming into the birth center and being turned away because it’s too early in labor. And when you’re done birthing your baby, we help tuck you into your own bed so you can rest there. We do all the other things that we need to do in your own home, and then we go.

What do you think people are looking for who seek out a home birth?
To be in a comfortable environment, to stay in their own home, and not have to worry about traveling. There are no bags to pack. Any other kids can just stay there if that’s desired. It’s just easier on the mother and often on the whole family.

Do home birthers often have special requests or requirements about their birth? And how respectful are you of those requests?
Yes. We try to be respectful of every birthing mother’s requests. We strongly feel that the birthing process goes best when the birthing mother is in the most comfortable environment surrounded by the people she is most comfortable with—whether that’s a private home birth with just her and her partner or a birth with 20 people around. It’s her choice. Whatever she’s going to be most comfortable with is what’s going to be best for her.

What types of things do people request for their home births?
Quiet music, candles, sometimes keeping people out of the room. They usually want privacy. They usually want quiet. They usually play their own music or watch their own TV shows or whatever it is that makes them feel good. They often have candles set up. There’s usually a box of the stuff that we require for the birth and another box of the stuff that they’re going to want—towels, blankets for the baby, and clothes for the baby. And there’s usually a third box that’s got their own candles that are going to be just for the birth, their own essential oils that are going to be used just for the birth, and her clothes—she’s often got a special outfit picked out that she wants to wear for the birth.

How do you feel you meet the needs of clients who want a home birth?
In my heart of hearts, I’m a home birth midwife. I feel that if the home is suitable for birthing in, and if the mom is comfortable there, that’s probably the best place to birth. We instinctively want to create a nest, and we want to give birth in that nest. We don’t really want to pack up in the middle of labor and go somewhere. It’s often instinctive to want to give birth in your own home.

We see each woman that comes to us as an individual that’s only going to go through this pregnancy and this birth journey one time. It’s a sacred event in her life! While there is a need to monitor and make sure that she’s normal and that she and baby are both safe and healthy, it’s also primarily a journey to be respected. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. You will only have this child once. We give a large amount of respect to the mother and to the newborn’s adventure in coming into the world. After the birth, we do our best to keep mother and baby together. We don’t clamp and cut the cord immediately. Ideally, mom holds her new baby skin-to-skin immediately after the birth. We make sure that baby is transitioning well from that place of connecting to mother. Our goal is to keep mom and baby together as they make this transition from the baby being inside to the baby being separate. The bonding of this precious newborn child with their new family is of the utmost importance. We protect that sacred space so that mom and baby can bond.

What options do you have to help women with pain in labor?
Our biggest pain relief option is what we call the “midwife epidural”—which would be the water, the tub. Most women find the birth tub comforting during labor. But we find that there’s less need for pain relief when women are comfortable in their environment. Whether it’s at home or in the birth center, when the birthing mother is comfortable, they don’t have as much need for pain relief. When you’re comfortable with the people around you, when you’re in the clothes that you’re comfortable in rather than being put into a hospital gown, when you feel supported, when the lights are low, when you’re listening to music that makes you happy, you simply don’t have as much need for pain relief, in general. In this relaxing setting, your body instinctively tells you what position to get in when the contraction comes, and it’s not as painful. 

What is one of the biggest health problems you see during pregnancy, birth, or after-birth care?
Nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, and poor lifestyle choices. 

What do you do to help fix these problems?
To fix these things, I educate our clients. I give them the information that they need to make the changes that will be in the best interest of their babies and their own bodies. It’s ultimately up to them. I don’t push anybody to do anything, but I do encourage healthful changes. We’re not just providing an isolated birthing package. We are truly interested in the best health of our clients and in providing them with optimal health care.

If there was one thing you could tell every pregnant mother-to-be for the benefit of their health and the health of their baby, what would it be?
Three words: Eat real food. Steer clear of processed foods and eat more unprocessed whole natural foods.

Tell me about the prenatal and maternity care that you offer. How is it different from what doctors offer?
We leave extra time to get to know our clients and so that they can get to know us. We also provide time to make sure that questions are answered. We go through all of the same checks that a doctor would to make sure that mom and baby are healthy. We do urine testing. We do blood pressure. We listen to the baby. We make sure that the baby’s heart rate is normal. We do blood work if necessary. We don’t do routine vaginal exams because they can be traumatic for a lot of women. If there is a reason for it—either to provide information that the mother wants to know or if we feel like it would be helpful in managing the upcoming labor and birth—then we might do a vaginal exam. But it’s not part of the routine exam simply because it doesn’t really give us any good information most of the time. Why put mom through something invasive like that when it’s not necessary? We’d rather spend the time talking to our clients. If we find out that she’s got any unusual symptoms going on, we see if there’s a way we can address those symptoms with diet changes, supplementation, or other gentle and natural methods. 

What do you think pregnant women are looking for in the area of prenatal care?
I think they’re looking for someone who’s going to take the time with them to make them feel like they’re a real person. They are a person who can think, who has questions, and who has a right to have the answers to those questions explained to them. They need to feel connected to their care provider and to feel like their care provider actually cares about their life, their pregnancy, their birth, and their upcoming family journey.

How does Family Centered Birth meet that need?
By welcoming the entire family into prenatal visits—whoever our client feels comfortable having there. If she has children, we want to get to know those children. We want her to feel like she doesn’t have to make special care arrangements for her other children in order to come to her prenatal visits. We want our clients to feel comfortable and welcome to come just as they are. There might be things going on in our client’s life that day. We want to know what that day is like. We want to hear about it. It’s important for them to get comfortable with the whole birth team at their prenatal visits.

Full Interview with Kate Potthast, LM, CPM

Tell me about water birth. What’s so special about it?
Water birth is very relaxing for the mother. It often creates pain relief for her. It softens the tissues of the perineum, which makes it less likely for her to tear. It’s a gentler transition for baby—from inside the womb surrounded by water to being in a tub of warm water—before having to make the transition into air.

Do hospitals offer water birth?
No, not that I’m aware of. I don’t know of any area hospitals that offer a water birth option.

Why do you think women seek out water birth?
I think they are looking for that peaceful transition for their baby, and I think they’re looking for a pain relief alternative to medication. Many women report that water birth is effective for pain relief.

How does Family Centered Birth view water births and meet the desire of its clients here?
As long as it does not seem to interfere with the labor process or compromise the safety of the mother or baby in any way, we are very supportive of water birth. We provide a water birth option whether you are birthing at home with us or in our birth center.