5 Ways to Be More Baby-Friendly (Without Becoming a ‘Baby-Friendly Hospital’)

By Deirdre Wilson

There are many great reasons why hospitals choose to work toward and achieve Baby-Friendly hospital status. There are also plenty of ways to encourage breastfeeding in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines without having that official Baby-Friendly Hospital designation. In fact, research has shown that implementing Baby Friendly practices such as early breastfeeding after birth, skin-to-skin care , and rooming-in,  in hospitals that do not have this designation, resulted in higher rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration.

Whether or not you’re pursuing Baby-Friendly status, your hospital can effectively support and promote breastfeeding among staff, mothers, and their families. Here are just 5 of many ways to go about it:

1. Start educating women about breastfeeding early.

Setting expectations and goals early in the care process that a mother will achieve desired health objectives. This is true of breastfeeding, as well.

  • Educating mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding is most successful when it starts during pregnancy. Indeed, Step 3 of WHO’s 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding—the key criteria for formal Baby-Friendly hospital status—requires that hospitals “inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.”
  • Educating parents proactively, rather than waiting for them to request information, ensures they have the education they need when they need it.
  • Educating parents electronically means the information can be shared in small, consistent pieces that don’t feel overwhelming. It’s also a time savings for staff and providers who would otherwise need to use medical appointments for breastfeeding education.

2. Incorporate breastfeeding education into your ongoing staff training.

Keeping your staff updated on supportive breastfeeding practices doesn’t have to be time-consuming or require organized training classes. Consider providing electronic breastfeeding education for staff to access anywhere and at their own convenience. Choose a solution that lets you track their progress, so you know when they’ve read the required information.

3. Stay in touch with women and their families about breastfeeding support opportunities, even after they’ve returned home.

In the U.S., 74% of babies have breastfed at least once, but only 23% are still breastfeeding by 1 year of age, according to the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card. Once new mothers are discharged, a strong connection with your hospital can encourage them to take advantage of available support, overcome challenges and stick with breastfeeding.

When following up with women who’ve recently had babies invite them to schedule a session with a lactation consultant or attend a  breastfeeding support group at your hospital. These opportunities not only provide additional revenue sources,  but also nurture relationships with women and their families, who will be more likely to return to your hospital in the future—whether for obstetric or other medical care.

4. Ask new moms for feedback about your hospital’s breastfeeding support practices.

Breastfeeding is an emotional topic for new mothers. With patient experience and satisfaction so important to a hospital’s bottom line these days, you want to know where you stand in patients’ minds.

Surveys are a great way to measure patient satisfaction with your breastfeeding education practice and policy. Send a quick survey by email or text message, asking new moms specifically about how your breastfeeding support has helped them and where you can improve.

5. Collect data on how many women who had their babies at your hospital continue breastfeeding.

Healthy People 2020, the population health measures created by the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, set goals for how many infants are breastfed by the year 2020, including 34% of infants breastfeed at 1 year and 26% breastfed exclusively through 6 months.

If you want to work toward or even surpass this goal, you need to measure how your patients are doing after they leave the hospital. Providing patients education in a digital format, i.e. on their mobile device, combined with data collection technology can help you gain insight.

Baby-Friendly status remains the gold standard for many hospitals encouraging breastfeeding. But if your facility has limited resources, these 5 strategies can help your hospital successfully support and encourage breastfeeding.

For additional information on becoming a Baby-Friendly hospital, visit www.babyfriendlyusa.org

AWHONN Resources


Deirdre Wilson, Senior Editor for UbiCare, is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience researching and writing on a wide range of health, wellness and education topics for newspapers, magazines and a news wire service.

The Power of Touch & Infant Massage

Lori Boggan, RN, Certified Infant Massage Instructor

The power of human touch is unmatched and irreplaceable.  It is an innate need of every human being, especially the infant.  I recently sat down and picked the brain of an expert in the field of infant massage.  Peter Walker, a London based physical therapist, who has been working with babies, children, and their parents for over 40 years. He travels the world and has trained nearly twenty thousand or more midwives, nurses, and other health professionals through his Developmental Baby Massage and Movement program. In his words “touch is the newborn’s first language-it is her prime means of communication and plays an essential role in the forming of early parent-child relationships.”  The following are just a few of the many benefits of touch and massage to both the infant and parents.

Skin to Skin

Study after study has shown the unbelievable benefits of placing an infant skin to skin with its parent.  The power of touch is evident from the first moments after birth when the infant is placed skin to skin. Remarkably, the infant’s temperature, heart rate, breathing, and blood sugar stabilize while being comforted on their mother or father’s chest.  Touch begins here.  A bond between parent and infant begins here.

Enhanced Immunity

The simple act of skin to skin with the mother sets forth an intricate orchestration of colonization and antibody formation that is transferred from mother to baby through the breastmilk.  A study done at John Hopkins University found a significant reduction of nosocomial infections in  infants massaged daily with sunflower seed oil however a Cochrane review of this practice published in 2016 found the evidence lacking that emollient therapy would prevent invasive infections and cautioned that more research was needed..

Hormonal Influence

Done regularly, massage may reduce the level of the stress hormone, cortisol circulating in an infant’s bloodstream.  In turn, it may increase the level of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates as well as oxytocin, the love hormone.  Both leave the infant with a sense of well being and further promote attachment between parent and child.

Colic & Gas Relief

The jury is still out on the exact the cause of colic.  Colic starts as early as the few weeks after birth and results in crying for long periods of time-particularly at night.  Massage may relieve a distressed and colicky baby.  Regular tummy time and massage of the stomach may ease gas, constipation, and aid in digestion.  It is best to avoid tummy time and massage directly after a feed.

Joint Flexibility & Increased Muscle Strength

 According to Peter, developmental massage, practiced according to his program “releases ‘physiologic flexion’ imposed by the fetal position from the time the infant spends in utero.  Gentle massage together with soft stretching can allow the infant to relax and coordinate their muscles to improve the circulation to their body’s extremities, open the chest to deepen their breathing volume, relax the tummy to assist digestion and disposition, and strengthen the muscles of the head, neck and back in preparation for (upright postures and movement).”

Develops Trust & Confidence

Infants learn through touch.  The gentle, reassuring hand of a parent teaches the infant early on that his or her needs will be met.  Touch and massage further foster a deep bond between infant and parent.  The infant learns to trust and the parent develops confidence in his or her ability to care for the infant.

Benefits to Parents

A 2011 study in the Journal of Perinatal Education found “participating fathers were helped by increasing their feelings of competence, role acceptance, spousal support, attachment, and health and by decreasing feelings of isolation and depression.”  Other studies have shown that mothers that massage their infants have improved mood and decreased symptoms of depression.

Educating Parents

Nurses and midwives at the bedside have an excellent opportunity to teach the benefits of skin to skin and massage.   Early education should start right at birth by encouraging immediate and regular skin to skin contact.  In addition, parents can be taught simple techniques as seen here.  It is best to use oil for massage so the hands move nicely against the skin. For sick or unstable infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care, teaching parents and family members the importance of touch in the form of a gentle hand is essential.  By simply placing and holding a steady hand over the infant that is confined to an incubator or radiant warmer, we are still able to convey trust and reassurance.  Early massage can begin when the infant is stable and willing.

Peter sums it up perfectly, “from the very beginning, the mother should remain at the center of any “treatment” offered to her baby.  Most mothers want to hold their babies and establish skin to skin contact before the baby is removed, weighed, measured, bathed, or dressed.  From his mother’s womb into her arms, touch becomes the primal language of the newborn, and it is through holding and caressing that a baby is made to feel welcomed and loved.”

 

AWHONN Resources

Additional Resources


Lori is an American Neonatal Intensive Care nurse that has made her way to Sweden.  Her passion is maternal and infant education.  She incorporates her years of work in maternal and infant health with a passion for wellness through her Prenatal Yoga, Mommy & Me Yoga, and Developmental Infant Massage classes in Gothenburg, Sweden.  Follow her adventures on Instagram or through her nursing blog, Neonurse.

 

Lessening the Risk of Birth Trauma

By Karin Beschen, LMHC

 “I was at a routine dental office visit a few weeks after my daughter was born. I remember being reclined in the chair, the bright overhead light and the scent of latex.  Images of surgical masks whipped through my mind.  Fear rushed through my body and I shook uncontrollably.  My body felt hollow and numb but also heavy and out of control.  In that moment I truly believed I was having another emergency c-section.”

This quote is from a woman who experienced a traumatic birth.  She is the mother of a beautiful baby and has had many moments of joy and connection, but also times of panic and fear.  “Mini movies” of her daughter’s birth play in her mind throughout the day.  She deleted the photos of her daughter in the NICU and she wants to disappear when her friends talk about pregnancy.  The birth didn’t end when her baby was born; it followed her from the hospital and it has interfered with many aspects of her life.

Research reveals that between 33-45% of women perceive their births to be traumatic. (Beck, 2013).  Birth trauma is defined as “an event occurring during the labor and delivery process that involves actual or threatened serious injury or death to the mother or her infant.  The birthing woman experiences intense fear, helplessness, loss of control and horror.”  (Beck, 2004a, p. 28).

Approximately 9% of women experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. Most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum. These traumas could include:

  • Prolapsed cord
  • Unplanned cesarean
  • Use of vacuum extractor or forceps to deliver the baby
  • Baby going to NICU
  • Feelings of powerlessness, poor communication and/or lack of support and reassurance during the delivery
  • Women who have experienced previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse
  • Women who have experienced a severe complication or injury related to pregnancy or childbirth, such as severe postpartum hemorrhage, unexpected hysterectomy, severe preeclampsia/eclampsia, perineal trauma (3rd or 4th degree tear), or cardiac disease

My therapy work with mothers is typically after a traumatic birth.  The more I learn about the mother’s labor and birth experience, the more I can understand what care and education could have better supported her during  birth.

The “3 E’s” – explain, encourage and empathize – can be a useful framework for obstetrical staff in lessening the risk of a traumatic birth.  

Explain  

When explaining a process, options or a procedure, always include the woman in the discussion of her own care.  There is a distinct difference in hearing a discussion and being a part of one.  If plans change, explain what is happening and what is needed to correct the situation.

Encourage

The connection a mother has with those caring for her during childbirth is deep — you are present during one of the most emotional, unpredictable times in her life.  Encouragement is empowering and can offer the mother a sense of control.  Encourage questions.   If plans change, discuss possible alternatives.   Using “we” in conversations shows alignment and rallying together.

Empathize 

Women in labor yearn for companionship, support and empathy.

Phrases such as “I know,”  “I’m here,” and “Yes” are phrases that connect staff with a woman’s experience when she feels pain, fear, disappointment or frustration.

I’ve heard many birth stories over the years; devastating stories of physical compromise, intense fear and loss of the baby’s life.  How the mother is cared for, is what she remembers.  The tone of your voice.  The gentleness.  The validation of feelings.  One of my clients was unaware she was being rushed for an emergency cesarean.  She said in all of the chaos and in a knee-chest position, she extended her arm and a nurse held her hand.  Beauty within terror.   It was a simple gesture and it has been the most powerful, healing memory for her.   Even in the midst of an emergency, someone saw her need.  Someone saw her.

Obstetric staff has great influence on how a mother remembers her birth experience.  Expressing empathy and explaining and encouraging a laboring and postpartum mom can influence her health and well-being.  New mothers who receive the “3 Es” can better transition to home, experience less anxiety, have more positive feelings about themselves and improved bonding with their babies.


Karin Beschen is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health.  She also serves as a volunteer co-coordinator for Iowa for Postpartum Support International.

 

 

Additional Resources

Postpartum Support International 

PaTTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Birth)

Improving Birth

References

Beck, C. T. (2004a). Birth trauma: In the eye of the beholder. Nursing Research 53(1), 28-35.

Beck, C. T., Driscoll, J.W., & Watson, S. (2013). Traumatic Childbirth New York, NY: Routledge.

 

 

 

The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

by, Lori Boggan, RN

The popularity of yoga has grown exponentially over the last many years in the western world. More and more studies are proving the benefits of a regular yoga practice. So how can yoga benefit the expectant mother? A 2015 study from Brown University suggests that yoga can be an effective alternative treatment for women suffering from depression during pregnancy. Another study from The University of California, Irvine, showed decreased cortisol levels and higher affect on the days the pregnant yoga group practiced. While most women can safely practice prenatal yoga during pregnancy, there are some conditions that may preclude yoga so women should always ask their midwife or doctor before starting. Conditions such as increased risk for preterm birth, placenta previa, premature rupture of membranes, or preeclampsia are other likely contra-indications. The following are just a few of the many benefits of prenatal yoga.

Connection to Breath

Prenatal yoga teaches the mom-to-be how to connect deeply to the breath, a breath that taps into the parasympathetic nervous system. In this state of deep relaxation, the baby benefits as well. The breath is the earliest bond that connects mom and baby on the deepest level. Also, the deep breathing that is practiced in prenatal yoga can relieve stress and anxiety and improve sleep. The breath learned and practiced week after week in prenatal yoga class can be used as a tool to guide her through the labor process.

Increased Flexibility

Gentle stretching and opening of the hips and pelvic floor muscles prepare the body months in advance to yield for the baby’s passage. Regular modified squatting as practiced in prenatal yoga can open the pelvic outlet by as much as 30 percent. The mom-to-be learns positions in class that can be used in labor to ease baby’s passage and possibly shorten labor.

Mental Preparation & Increased Strength

I tell my prenatal students to imagine they were about to run a marathon and had not prepared physically or mentally in any way. While they would of course make the finish line, had they prepared they will have been more apt and conditioned to face the challenges along the way. Prenatal students are guided through poses that test their strength and breath in preparation for their journey through labor. The added benefit of these exercises is strong legs for pushing and strong arms for baby holding.

Connection to Baby

Showing up every week to yoga class allows the expectant mom an hour of uninterrupted connection with her baby. Prenatal yoga allows her to connect to the living, growing being in her womb. It is a sweet meditation between mom and baby in anticipation of their first encounter.

Alleviation of Pregnancy Aches

Depending on the ailment of the day, there is almost guaranteed a yoga pose that can in some way alleviate it. Prenatal class allows a woman to practice in a safe environment guided by a teacher with knowledge of the common aches and complaints of pregnancy. From headaches to heartburn, carpel tunnel, constipation, low back pain, and/or achy feet, the yoga instructor guides the students through poses that can help relieve and soothe some of their complaints.

Creation of Community

Prenatal yoga brings women together during the most exciting, challenging and, rewarding days of their lives. Friendships are made out of the sheer desire to know that the mamas truly are not alone in this journey. These friendships and their support continue to grow long after their babies arrive.

While more research will likely prove the benefits, it is easy to witness in a class full of focused, happy mamas. Childbirth educator and Prenatal Yoga Teacher/Director of Mama Tree in San Francisco, Jane Austin, sums it up perfectly. “It is very common that when a woman gets pregnant, she looks outside of herself and her own experience for answers. Yoga gives women the opportunity to look within, to pay attention to how she is feeling not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. When a mama tunes into her own experience and really pays attention, it often amazes her what she discovers. She has a wealth of wisdom and an inner knowing that can surface if she creates the space to listen. Yoga helps create that space.” Stay tuned for my interview with Jane on the benefits of postnatal yoga.

img006Lori is a neonatal nurse that has made her way to Sweden. She is also a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher and Certified Prenatal/Postnatal Yoga Teacher. Follow her adventures working and traveling through Europe in her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.

References

Yoga during pregnancy: effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes.
The effect of prenatal Hatha yoga on affect, cortisol and depressive symptoms.
Potential for prenatal yoga to serve as an intervention to treat depression during pregnancy.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24767955
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25747520

Informal Milk Sharing in the United States

by, Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN

Susan is a nurse in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with a strong human milk culture.  Every day she provides evidence-based lactation care and support to mothers who have critically ill infants. She understands fully that human milk can be a lifesaving medical intervention and received two days of on the job education regarding the critical importance of human milk and breastfeeding.  Seeped in this culture, Susan also believes that nurses and health professionals have an obligation to help families make an informed decision and while it would be ideal if all infants were exclusively breastfed by their own mothers, this is not always feasible or possible.

Susan is also challenged personally Having experienced infertility for 10 years, she has decided to adopt a newborn. She has read the literature and met with a lactation expert .  Susan is aware that even with great effort and time investment, she may never achieve a full milk supply.  She is very concerned about giving her infant formula and asked the lactation expert about accessing Pasteurized Donor Human Milk (PDHM).

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) is the organization that oversees non-profit milk banks in the United States.  Even though the number of HMBANA milk banks is increasing in the United States and the amount of PDHM has also increased substantially in recent years, PDHM is still prioritized to preterm or vulnerable infants in the hospital setting.  HMBANA milk banks do sometimes dispense PDHM to the community setting.  However, in these instances, it is for infants with special medical needs and usually requires a prescription from a health care provider.

So for Susan who is planning to adopt a healthy full-term infant, she will likely be unable to access PDHM.  Susan is considering informal milk sharing in order to supplement what milk she is able to produce through inducing lactation.  It is important for nurses and other health professionals to be aware that informal milk sharing does exist and also to help families make an informed decision.

There are many reasons why women or families choose to pursue informal milk sharing in addition to the reasons in Susan’s story, including:

  • Women who have glandular hypoplasia or breast surgery and are unable to develop a full milk supply
  • Men and women who adopt children and may be unable to induce lactation
  • Women who have had bilateral mastectomy prior to childbearing
  • When a woman dies in childbirth and her family members wish to honor her plans to breastfeed
  • A short term need for supplemental human milk due to early breastfeeding challenges or a delay in Lactogenesis II

Although very beneficial in all of the above cases, informal milk sharing is not without any risk because just as antibodies, white blood cells, and other immune components are transferred in human milk, viruses can also be transferred.  In addition, some medications transfer into human milk (most in very small amounts, but some in larger).

Mothers who are considering informal milk sharing should consider the following steps:

  1. Get a complete health history from the donor mother. It is essential to understand  the donor mother’s past and current medical history as well as lifestyle choices is essential.  It is also acceptable for the mother to ask the donor mother for a copy of her serologic testing from pregnancy.
  2. Find out how the milk will be expressed, labeled, stored, and transported. The donor mother, first and foremost, should have an excess supply of milk that she does not need for her infant. When mothers express milk, care should be taken to ensure the safety of the milk.  At our institution, we have mothers wash their pump equipment with hot, soapy water and rinse well after every use and have them sterilize the equipment daily.
  3. What types of containers will be used for storage (the recipient mother could supply these to the donor mother) and how will the milk be stored (fresh or frozen) and transported from the donor mother to the recipient. Conversations between recipient mother and donor mother should be on-going to ensure safety of the milk. In this area the research literature has also evaluated  the use of home heat treatment to “pasteurize” the milk. Research has shown that heat treatment of the milk on a stovetop is not the same as Holder pasteurization, this technique has the ability to destroy viruses.  It is important to note that heat treatment also destroys some of the beneficial components of human milk.

Recently, the American Academy of Nursing published a position statement regarding the use of informally shared milk. This, along with resources shared below can be a starting point to have these conversations with families who are interested in the topic.

As health professionals, is also important to understand that there is a difference between milk sharing –  mothers may share  altruistically and be commerce free or there may be  an exchange of money or mothers who are paid for the milk.  When financial exchange enters the equation, mothers seeking to get paid for their milk may be motivated to dilute or alter their milk.  We should advise parents to be alert and aware of this.

Until PDHM becomes universally available, if a family does not wish to feed their infant formula, the only other option available is informally shared milk.  Having transparent and honest conversations with families to help the understand this practice is essential.


Resources for Informal Milk Sharing

The American Academy of Nursing (2016). Position statement regarding use of informally shared human milk.  Nursing Outlook, 64, 98-102.

Martino, K., & Spatz, D. L. (2014). Informal milk sharing: What nurses need to know. The American Journal of Maternal/ Child Nursing, 39(6), 369-374. doi:10.1097/NMC.0000000000000077

Spatz,  D.L. (2016.) Informal Milk Sharing. American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing;41(2):125. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000225. PubMed PMID: 26909729.

Wolfe-Roubatis, E. & Spatz, D. L. (2015). Transgender Men & Lactation: What nurses need to know. The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing,40(1): 32-38. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000097.

Israel-Ballard, K., Donovan, R., Chantry, C., Coutsoudis, A., Sheppard, H., Sibeko, L., & Abrams, B. (2007). Flash-heat inactivation of HIV-1 in human milk: a potential method to reduce postnatal transmission in developing countries. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 45(3), 318-323.

Diane SpatzDiane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN is a Professor of Perinatal Nursing & the Helen M. Shearer Professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing sharing a joint appointment as a nurse researcher and director of the lactation program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Dr. Spatz is also the director of CHOP’s Mothers’ Milk Bank.  Dr. Spatz is an active researcher, clinician, and educator who is internationally recognized for her work surrounding the use of human milk and breastfeeding particularly in vulnerable populations. Dr. Spatz has been PI or co-investigator on over 30 research grants, included several from the NIH.  She has authored and co-authored over 80 peer reviewed publications.  Dr. Spatz has authored or co-authored position statements for the International Lactation Consultant Association, the Association of Women’s Health Obstetric & Neonatal Nursing and the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.

In 2004, Dr. Spatz develop her 10 step model for human milk and breastfeeding in vulnerable infants.  This model has been implemented in NICUs throughout the United States and other countries worldwide. Dr. Spatz has been named a prestigious “Edge Runner” for the American Academy of Nursing related to the development and outcomes of her model.  Her nurse driven models of care are critical in improving human milk & breastfeeding outcomes and thus the health of women and children globally.

Dr. Spatz is also the recipient of numerous awards including: Research Utilization Award from Sigma Theta Tau International and from the University of Pennsylvania:  the Dean’s Award for Exemplary Professional Practice, the Expert Alumni Award and the Family and Community Department’s Academic Practice Award   She is also the recipient of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. Dr. Spatz received the Distinguished Lang Award for her impact on scholarship, policy & practice.

In the university portion of her job, she teaches an entire semester course on breastfeeding and human lactation to undergraduate nursing students and in the hospital portion of her job, she developed the Breastfeeding Resource Nurse program.  Dr. Spatz is also Chair of the American Academy of Nursing’s Expert Panel on Breastfeeding and their representative to the United States Breastfeeding Committee.  Dr. Spatz is also a member of the International Society for Researchers in Human Milk & Lactation

 

What You Need to Know About Hepatitis B

by, Leslie Hsu Oh

You’ll be fine. Don’t be selfish. This was Mā Ma’s last words to me. Even though she hadn’t been able to eat anything for days and liver cancer caused by hepatitis B had coated the insides of her abdominal cavity, I still didn’t believe it was possible that I could lose her. A year earlier, she had been diagnosed with liver cancer a week after my eighteen-year-old brother died of the same disease.

Dropping my college textbooks, I grabbed her hand and said, “I won’t be fine. Today is your wedding anniversary. In a few weeks, I turn twenty-one. There’s no way that God would take both you and Jon-Jon.”

No matter what I said, her eyes remained closed against the crisp white hospital pillow. Desperate, I said the most hurtful thing I thought I could say, “If you die, I won’t get married. I won’t have kids without you.”

Her eyes fluttered. I knew the words upset her because she once told me that becoming a mother was the best thing that ever happened in her life. An hour later, a chocolate brown bubble escaped from her mouth and she was gone.

For years, I thought that Oath was meant to punish Mā Ma for leaving me. But when I finally realized it was because I was afraid hepatitis B would claim another person I loved, I understood that I was only hurting myself.

My two daughters (11 and 3) are as feisty as my mother and my son (8) dotes upon me the way I thought only my brother could. They are free of hepatitis B because nurses like those of you who belong to AWHONN worked with me to ensure that all my kids were given the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, even though I am not chronically infected with hepatitis B. This is something that parents need to request.  I’ve spent the last 19 years since founding The Hepatitis B Initiative educating parents about how they can protect their children from hepatitis B.

Today, The Hepatitis B Initiative operates in several states preventing liver diseases caused by hepatitis B and C among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, African Americans and other high-risk groups. We have served Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai, Filipino, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Indian, Pakistani, Egyptians, Sudan, Syrian, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesian, Ghanaian, Moroccan, Saudi Arabian, Brazilian, Nepalese, Burmese, Salvadorian, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, Sri Lankan, Mexican, El Salvadorian, and Honduran communities who are not accessing health care due to a lack of affordable treatment options, employment in industries which expose workers to hepatitis (such as nail salons, health care work, etc.), language barriers, and a lack of culturally competent care.

Because we bring services directly to places where the community gathers (51 events held in 2015) like mosques, schools, churches, temples, health fairs, ESL classes, clients are willing to share the reasons why they have never heard about or been screened or vaccinated for hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is an easily preventable disease and yet it kills 2 people every minute. In the United States, 1 in 10 Asian Americans is chronically infected with hepatitis B. It is one of the greatest health disparities.

First, most who are infected feel perfectly healthy. As many as 75% of the Americans living with hepatitis B or C do not know they are infected.

Second, even though like my family’s situation, most Asian Americans contract hepatitis B from mother to child during birth, there is a stigma that it is a sexually transmitted disease and therefore most people living with hepatitis B choose to remain silent about their condition.

  • They are worried that they will lose their jobs or ruin their chance of finding a partner.
  • Immigrants believe they will be deported since hepatitis B is a reportable disease.
  • Many believe that it’s better not to know whether they have hepatitis B or liver cancer or cirrhosis.
  • Or worse no one ever told them that hepatitis B was a serious disease.

Third, many cultures enforce silence. I’ve been told all my life not to talk about the bad stuff. Pretend everything is fine. Save face.

My mother was a photographer, journalist, and painter. She taught me that art could say the things that we are afraid to say, how it could heal long after the life of its creator. With the weight of a camera around our necks, my mother would ask as we waded through white waters or leaped onto the back of a horse: “What story are you trying to tell?” In nearly fifty national parks, my aesthetic developed in the natural world, places woven with indigenous knowledge, bled in streambeds, trapped in rock layers, eroded in the earth.

While The Hepatitis B Initiative has had a life-saving impact, I realized that the transformative power of art does more. People tell me that my story saves lives. That’s why I’m working on a memoir which I hope will inspire others to find their voice. That perhaps together we can end the silence and stigma cloaking hepatitis B and other diseases.

On October 15, 2016, the Hepatitis B Initiative will be throwing a Gala at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. to celebrate 10 years as a nonprofit. For more information, please visit hbi-dc.org or contact janepan@hbi-dc.org.


Losing her mother and brother to hepatitis B at the age of twenty-one inspired her to found the Hepatitis B Initiative in 1997, which she later expanded to the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area with Thomas Oh. Today, this award-winning nonprofit continues to operate in several states mobilizing communities to prevent liver diseases caused by hepatitis B and C among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, African Americans and other high-risk groups.

Leslie Hsu Oh
lhsu@post.harvard.edu
www.lesliehsuoh.com

TOLAC and VBAC and Rupture! Oh My!

by, Bree Fallon

As a brand new labor nurse fresh out of school, I distinctly remember visiting with a seasoned traveling nurse, Pam Spivey, during an afternoon of monitoring women on the antepartum unit years ago. One of the preterm women I was caring for that afternoon was planning to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) with this pregnancy when the time came.  I was pretty green and knew what the acronym stood for, and that was about it. Pam and I began to converse about VBAC and she shared a story of hers from years prior.

She told me about a woman who had been admitted to L&D. The woman had delivered her previous baby in another country by C-section and the plan for her was to allow a trial of labor after cesarean (TOLAC). Pam said her labor progressed beautifully and soon it was time for her to push. I leaned forward on the edge of my seat as Pam recounted the details. She called the provider to come for delivery. “The fetal head crowned up so nicely, and then it was gone!” I felt my eyes grow large. “Where did it go, Pam?!” I thought. She explained the next moments were a mad dash. She pulled all of the cords and plugs out of all of the devices and outlets, grabbed the nursery nurse and down the hall they went with the woman in the bed, snagging the physician on the way as they ran to the OR. Pam even remembered losing her shoe along the way to the OR, but she did not slow down. Confused, I sat in disbelief of this story. Pam recalled the team got the woman to the OR, rapidly delivered her baby via C-section, and both mom and baby survived the ordeal and did well. Still perplexed, I asked out loud this time, “Where did the head go, Pam?” The kind nurse looked at me and explained when a woman’s uterus ruptures, there is no pressure inside the uterus or on the baby anymore. The instant that the head was gone, Pam knew the woman had ruptured her uterus and the lives of both mom and baby were at stake. Horrified, I logged this story away in my brain, vowing to remember what to do when this happened while I cared for a woman.

My first year flew by. Plagued by a horrible cloud of bad luck that followed me on and off of my floor daily, whenever I saw my name assigned next to a woman attempting VBAC, I would swallow the lump in my throat, and Pam’s story would flash in my head. I would mentally prepared myself, ensuring I had my A game for this woman, should any signs or symptoms of uterine rupture arise at any point in the day. The woman would either be successful in delivering vaginally or would not be successful. The only thing that mattered to me at the end of the day was healthy baby, healthy mommy.

A couple years later, my very best friend in the world and an exceptional labor nurse, Kelsey, was pregnant with her first baby. Her baby was breech and was delivered by cesarean. I remember Kelsey laying behind the drape, asking for updates, if her baby girl was ok. Having the privilege of caring for her sweet infant in the OR that day, I swaddled her newborn up as fast as I could. Kelsey had already waited 9 months to meet her daughter, so the extra few moments it took for me to wrap the baby and hand her to Kelsey’s husband before Kelsey could even see her seemed cruel. They snuggled with their new little one while doctor finished the surgery. In the PACU, Kelsey felt pukey and could not hold her infant. Recovery was not easy, but she didn’t know any different. Still today, Kelsey remembers having a difficult time bonding with her infant, and wonders if her delivery by cesarean had anything to do with it.

IMG_6993With Kelsey’s second baby, after discussing the risks and benefits with her provider, Kelsey wanted to attempt VBAC. I was very hopeful for her, but sick to my stomach a little too. Remembering Pam’s story, I was incredible apprehensive and ultimately didn’t want anything bad to happen to Kelsey. Her pregnancy flew by and was induced at 39 weeks and 5 days. I raced to the hospital with the very important job of taking pictures. Kelsey’s labor progressed and she delivered quickly with no complications. Watching my best friend get to see her baby immediately and hold and soothe her right away is one of my most favorite memories of my career. I had taken care of many women who had successful VBAC, but did not really understand its significance until seeing first hand Kelsey and her husband experience both types of delivery.  Never having a cesarean myself, but circulating hundreds, I considered them routine. It was very powerful for me to see the difference between a vaginal birth and a cesarean for the same woman.

Just this week I was asked to review some literature to develop patient education on VBAC. Here are a few facts that stuck out to me taken from ACOG Committee Opinion 342 as well as ACOG VBAC Guidelines.

  • 60-80% of appropriate candidates who attempt VBAC will be successful. The odds are in your favor that a woman will have a vaginal birth.
  • The risks for both elective repeat cesarean and TOLAC include maternal hemorrhage, infection, operative injury, thromboembolism, hysterectomy, and death. Both have their risks.
  • Overall benefits for a VBAC is avoiding major abdominal surgery. This lowers a woman’s risk of hemorrhage and infection, and shortens postpartum recovery too.
  • The most maternal injury that happens during a TOLAC, happens when a repeat cesarean becomes necessary if the TOLAC fails. Maternal injuries can include uterine rupture, hysterectomy, or even death.
  • There are risks for baby too. Both elective repeat cesarean delivery and TOLAC neonatal complications can include admission to the NICU, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, and even death. One study found the composite neonatal morbidity is similar between TOLAC and elective repeat cesarean delivery for women with the greatest probability of achieving VBAC.
  • If a woman has had a prior vaginal birth or goes into labor spontaneously, she has an increased probability of successful VBAC.
  • If a woman had an indication for her initial cesarean that may reoccur with subsequent labors such as labor dystocia or arrest of descent, she has a decreased probability of successful VBAC. If a woman  is of non-white ethnicity, is more than 40 weeks gestation, is obese, has preeclampsia, has a short interval between pregnancy or increased neonatal birth weight, her probability of successful VBAC is also decreased.
  • Women pregnant with twins attempting VBAC have similar outcomes to women with singleton gestations and did not have a greater rate of rupture or perinatal morbidity. (I have never had a twin mom attempt VBAC but it can be done!)
  • On the topic of induction, one study on 20,095 women attempting VBAC found a rate of uterine rupture of 0.52% with spontaneous labor, 0.77% for labor induced without prostaglandins and 2.24% for prostaglandin-induced labor. Prostaglandins should be avoided in the third trimester in women who have had a previous cesarean section.

As years went by, I cared for more women who wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean. I cheered hard for each of them to be able to experience a vaginal birth. Any healthy birth is always a miraculous moment to have the privilege to be a part of. However, caring for women who had only experienced a cesarean before the days of skin-to-skin in the OR and then watching them birth vaginally, and being able to instantly see, touch, hold their infant, is priceless.

In my 12 years of bedside care I worked in facilities delivering on average 4,000- 5,000 babies a year, and a uterine rupture during labor had never happened to one of the women in my care  I was in charge once where one of the nurses correctly identified that the scar on her patient’s uterus was beginning to pull apart. The woman had a cesarean immediately and delivered a healthy baby without any complications. We have had cases of uterine rupture since on my floor. It can happen and if it happens, it becomes an emergent situation that must be resolved swiftly and seamlessly for a good outcome. However, it doesn’t happen very often. In fact, ACOG cites the risk for uterine rupture for woman attempting TOLAC is low, between 0.7-0.9%.

There are many indications where a cesarean delivery is absolutely necessary. In the case of an elective repeat section or a TOLAC, it is imperative that women review the risks and benefits of both with their provider to ensure they make the right choice and promote  a healthy, happy mom and a healthy, happy baby.

Bree FallonBree Fallon, BSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM
Bree Fallon is a Clinical Educator for Perinatal Services at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, the busiest delivering hospital in Kansas City. She graduated from nursing school in 2004 and started her career in a tertiary care facility, providing high risk intrapartum and antepartum care. In 2010, she moved to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City who was looking for experienced L&D nurses to help open the their new Fetal Health Center.

Cora’s Law

by, Elizabeth McIntire

In northern Indiana in November of 2009, Cora McCormick was born–a full term apparently normal newborn. Her parents were thrilled at the birth of their first child. Her mother had experienced a perfectly normal pregnancy, labor and delivery. Cora took well to nursing and the new family went home from the hospital 48 hours after Cora’s birth.  Cora, her dad and mom Kristine spent three wonderful days together– until tragedy struck.

Kristine was nursing Cora when suddenly her baby girl turned blue/gray in her arms and stopped breathing. They rushed their newborn daughter to the hospital but nothing could be done. Cora died at five days of life. Cora’s cause of death was congenital heart disease.

Shortly after Cora died, her mother took up a crusade to make congenital heart defect screening in Indiana required as an addition to current newborn screening.

Due to Kristine’s efforts, in January 2012 “Cora’s Law” was passed by the Indiana legislature and required hospitals to screen newborns for critical congenital heart defects.

This is where I got involved. Prior to the law going into effect, perinatal providers throughout the state needed to become aware of the law and how it impacted newborn screening. I was responsible for developing an education program for these providers. As we were gearing up for implementing this law, I had the good fortune to meet Kristine McCormick, witness her advocacy for this screening and witness a mom who’s own heart was broken turn her grief into something truly amazing. I knew that if we could use Cora’s newborn picture—that of a completely healthy looking cubby cheeked baby girl, it would make an impact as we talked to physicians and nurses about the importance of the screening and new law.

Baby Cora

Baby Cora

Kristine gave me permission to use Cora’s picture in our educational presentations and in a postcard I helped develop with the screening algorithm on it. Fast forward to February 1st, 2012, one month to the day after Cora’s law went into effect. On that day a baby boy, Gabriel, was born in southern Indiana. He too looked perfectly normal—like Cora. However, before he went home he underwent the screening that Cora’s mom advocated for. The screen was abnormal. The staff at the hospital repeated the screening and again, he failed. With the screening algorithm at hand, they knew what to do and he was transferred to a quaternary center for management. He was diagnose with a critical heart defect and underwent emergency surgery to correct the issue. He did well postoperatively and was able to return home with his family.

Several months after surgery, Gabriel came back to Indianapolis for a routine postop checkup. It occurred to me that Kristine needed to meet Gabriel’s mom and Gabriel’s mom needed to meet Kristine. I wanted these two women to come together—both bound by motherhood, tragedy and victory. They needed to meet, to heal, hug each other, and share Cora’s baby picture, laugh and cry.

Mother to mother—each of them understanding that Cora Mae McCormick was the reason they were there, the reason Gabriel was wiggling in a blanket in Kristine’s arms. I watched as the local news channel filmed the event and next to me was one of the neonatologists who helped with the statewide teaching efforts. I leaned over and told him—“this is what it’s all about. This is why we do what we do”. It was and still is one of the most profound moments in my nursing career.

Click here for additional information on Cora’s Law. You can also find information on the Cora’s Story Facebook page.

To find out more about pulse oximetry screening, visit: http://www.childrensnational.org/PulseOx/ 

 

McIntire_Elizabeth_2015%5b1%5dElizabeth McIntire, WHNP,WHNP-C, EFM-C
Elizabeth is the Director Maternity & Newborn Health at 
IU Health Riley. Elizabeth started her career in obstetrical nursing and has never looked back. Besides her family, her passions are high risk obstetrics, perinatal safety, and high reliability, challenging the process and modeling the way.

A Nurse Making History

By, Lori Boggan

Organ transplantation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, dates back as early as 1869 with the first skin transplant. The first kidney transplant occurred nearly one hundred years later in 1954. Organ transplantation has saved countless lives. In 2014, transplantation history was made. It was the year the first transplantation bore life. Continue reading

How to Talk to a NICU Parent

by, Lori Boggan, RN

Working in neonatal intensive care can be tough no matter how long you have worked in it. With time however, many things become routine.  500 gram babies are our business.  Cooling asphyxiated babies is our business.  We are used to this world – the ventilators, the treatments, the pumps, the alarms.  The thing is, the parents and family are not used to this.  It is shocking, frightening.  It is our duty to remember this is their first experience in a world they never imagined, perhaps did not even know existed.  How can we as care providers support them? Continue reading