Alcohol and Pregnancy – An Approach Nurses Can Use to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

By: Ann M. Mitchell, Holly Hagle, and Brayden Kameg

Prenatal exposure to alcohol can lead to a range of physical, mental, behavioral, learning, and developmental disabilities, with possible lifelong effects for the child exposed in utero. This range is commonly known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder or FASD. FASDs are 100% preventable when a baby is not  exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.

Healthcare professionals may tell women that it’s OK to drink alcohol on occasion or even in moderation, when they are pregnant. However, evidence shows that there is no known safe type, safe amount, or safe time to consume alcohol while pregnant.

Additionally, it’s important for healthcare professionals to broach the subject of alcohol consumption, not only with their pregnant patients, but with all women of reproductive age. Women who are sexually active and not using effective contraception may be at an increased risk for alcohol exposed pregnancies, as nearly half of all pregnancies within the United States are unplanned.

It is critical that healthcare professionals educate all women of reproductive age about alcohol use and pregnancy. Alcohol screening and brief intervention (alcohol SBI) is one evidence-based approach to assessing patients for at-risk alcohol use. Screening includes use of a validated tool, such as the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). The AUDIT is a clinically reliable and valid instrument (Bohn, Babor & Kranzler, 1995). The AUDIT has been consistently found to screen and detect alcohol use across a spectrum of low, moderate, and high risk consumption (Reinert & Allen, 2007).  The AUDIT has been found to be valid and reliable with diverse populations and in a variety of settings.

When a patient screens positive for at-risk use, a non-judgmental discussion, called a “brief intervention” occurs with the use of motivational interviewing techniques. For example, the patient is provided with the score on the AUDIT during the health care visit. If a patient scores between an 8 and 15, this score is discussed in relation to their current health condition and presented objectively to the patient as moderate alcohol consumption. If the AUDIT score is between 16 and 19, then brief counseling and continued monitoring are suggested. With a score of 20+ a referral for further assessment is indicated (Babor & Higgins-Biddle, 2001). The main goals of the brief intervention are to increase a patient’s awareness of their alcohol consumption patterns, understand the associated risks and options for reducing or eliminating those risks, and to increase their motivation to make healthy choices.

As nurses, it is our obligation to ensure that women are provided with the knowledge needed to make informed choices regarding their health. For example, giving the patient objective feedback about their score on the AUIDT and then asking them “What are your thoughts about this score?” is a way to elicit their thoughts and feelings about their alcohol consumption in relation to their health and wellness. Further, exploring the pros and cons of the patients current level of alcohol consumption is an excellent technique to elicit the patients thoughts and provides an opportunity for the health professional to provide feedback and health education.  Patients have high trust in confiding to their healthcare provider and in particular nurses.

Additional Resources


Dr. Ann M. Mitchell is professor of nursing and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. She is principal investigator on a CDC-funded project for the implementation of alcohol screening and brief intervention with the ultimate goal of preventing FASDs.

Dr. Holly Hagle is Director of Education for the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addiction (IRETA) and a partner in the CDC-funded FASD project.

Brayden Kameg is a graduate student in the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner DNP program at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Nursing. She is actively participating in grant-related activities on Dr. Mitchell’s projects.

Human Milk is Magical- What Donor Mothers Should Know About Milk Banks

There is no doubt that human milk provides species specific nutrition for the optimal growth and development of all infants, including the vulnerable hospitalized preterm infant. 1,2 Since time began, mothers have supported mothers in providing this optimal source of nutrition but evidence is strong that human milk contains much more than nutrition for the infant’s well-being.3 Despite global efforts to provide infants worldwide with this basic human right resource, no country on earth meets the minimum support for breastfeeding.4  In 2004, Labbock et al., cited a key issue limiting the global acceptance of human milk- social and commercial pressures- that still holds true today and is relevant to current donor milk donation and utilization.5

When a mother is unable to provide enough milk for her own infant’s needs, then donor milk is the next best option. There are basically two business models for human donor milk bank operations; not-for-profit and for-profit. Both models provide safe, processed donor milk for infant consumption. One of the differences lies in the human species-specific properties retained post-processing procedures. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) is a professional association that supports non profit milk banks by  providing its members with standardized guidelines to screen donors, and process and distribute human milk.6 The for-profit milk banks utilize different, but safe, milk processing procedures, yet the end milk product produced by each contains significantly different human bioactive milk immune and metabolic components. HMBANA milk banks utilize holder pasteurization (milk is heated to 62.5°C for 30 minutes then rapidly cooled to 4°C) whereas for-profit milk banks utilize high vat pasteurization (milk is heated to 63°C ≥ 30 minutes), and  sterilization (milk is heated to 121°C for 5 minutes at 15 pounds per square inch). This sterilization process renders significantly less human species concentrations of protein, fat, immune components, and oligosaccharides.7 Donor mothers will benefit from knowing  this information to make informed decisions about where to donate their milk.

Another social and commercial pressure is the monetary compensation for donating milk . Donor mothers should know the differences in processing fees between non-profit and for-profit milk banks. A mission of HMBANA milk banks is to contain processing costs so that donor milk can be equitably distributed. One mechanism to contain costs is to not offer monetary compensation for milk donations.  For-profit milk banks offer monetary compensation which is then passed on to the consumer resulting in higher prices for donor milk. Guiding principles to determine whether or not a donor of a biological product can be offered compensation is outlined in an international statement developed by the convention of the Council of Europe   ; only those products created using patents can be distributed for commercial profit.8 This guidance protects for-profit milk banking companies. Donor mothers have the right to know how their milk will be processed and sold.

Lastly, for-profit milk banking companies have abundant resources to promote their product using sophisticated, provocative ad campaigns. Donor mothers have the right to receive informed healthcare data regarding the value of donor milk that retains 50-90% of human milk properties post-processing-the milk provided by non-profit human milk banks- which benefits  optimal infant growth and development.

HMBANA mentors those who are developing milk banks in areas where improvement in breastfeeding support is needed. To learn more about how to become a HMBANA- developing milk bank  visit www.hmbana.org . The Mothers’ Milk Bank of Louisiana, a developing milk bank member of HMBANA, would like to express sincere gratitude for the guidance of our mentor bank, the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin under the leadership of Kim Updegrove, Executive Director, as well as HMBANA guidance documents. August is National Breastfeeding Month. Let’s join together to honor all donor mothers for their lifesaving donation of miracle milk and pledge to inform and enlighten them of the invaluable impact of their milk donation decisions.

References

1.            American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition SoB, Committee on Fetus and Newborn. Donor Human Milk for the High-Risk Infant: Preparation, Safety, and Usage Options in the United States. Pediatrics. 2017;139(1):e20163440.

2.            Medicine AoB. ABM Position on Breastfeeding – Revised 2015. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2015;10(9):407-411.

3.            Agarwal S, Karmaus, W., Davis, S., & Gangur, V. Immune markers in breast milk and fetal and maternal body fluids: A systematic review of perinatal concentrations. Journal of Human Lactation. 2011;27(2):171-186.

4.            UNICEF. #breatfeeding- Breastfeeding A Smart Investment. 2017; https://www.unicef.org/breastfeeding/. Accessed August 5, 2017, 2017.

5.            Labbock ML, Clark, D. & Goldman, A. Breastfeeding: maintaning and irreplaceable immunological resource. Nature Reviews Immunology. 2004;4(7):565-572.

6.            Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Guidelines for the establishment and operation of a donor milk bank. Forth Worth, Texas: Human Milk Banking Association of North America; 2016.

7.            Meredith-Dennis L, Xu, G., Goonatilleke, E., Lebrilla, C., Underwood, M. . Composition and variation of macronutrients, immune proteins, and human milk oligosaccharides in human milk from nonprofit and commercial milk banks. Journal of Human Lactation. 2017.

8.            Council of Europe. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with Regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine. Treaty No.164. 1997; http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/html/164.htm. Accessed July 27th, 2017.

 

 


Shelley Thibeau, PhD, RNC, is the Director of the developing Mothers’ Milk Bank of Louisiana. As a NICU nurse for 38 years, her interest in breastmilk has expanded to exploring breastmilk immunology associated with preterm infant health.

Providing Care for Survivors of Sexual Abuse During Childbirth

“Humiliating and Traumatic,” these are the words from a survivor of sexual abuse when asked to describe her labor and delivery. All too often, women who have been sexually abused carry their wounds into the delivery room. And, all too often, these unresolved traumas rear their ugly heads and cause complications, from labor dystocias, to full blown anxiety attacks that result in a woman completely shutting down. These are some of the more challenging labors to manage.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, one in four girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. This is in many ways a silent epidemic. Sometimes victims don’t disclose their abuse to their care providers. The reasons vary, and can range from  ongoing suffering of the traumatic effects of the abuse and  avoiding  reliving it, to a continuing sense of shame that victims  may have never come to grips with.

What are some possible signs of sexual abuse?

According to When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women, having a constellation of these symptoms can indicate a history of abuse. Having one or more of the following should trigger a red flag and considerations for a woman’s  care during childbirth:

  • Not able to feel fetal movement. Some women have “numbed” that part of the body
  • Hyperemesis gravidarum
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Missed prenatal appointments
  • Panic with vaginal exams
  • Extreme anxiety with IV starts
  • Disassociation that manifests as if she’s going into a trance

Many of these symptoms can understandably occur in women who don’t have a history of sexual abuse, but when a woman has two or more, it’s reasonable to suspect that such a history is possible. These symptoms can stem from PTSD, which is triggered by a woman’s perception of loss-of-control, as well as the physical sensations that occur during pelvic exams, labor, and birth. By rushing through procedures, and not allowing the woman time to process (if possible), understand, and consent to what is happening to her body, we can inadvertently trigger a posttraumatic reaction.

Admittedly, the discussion of sexual abuse is a tough topic for those on either end of the conversation. We often just touch on the subject while reviewing women’s admission histories, and then move on. Fortunately, we don’t need the admission of abuse to employ strategies developed for survivors. It’s actually much more common for caregivers to pick up on non-verbal cues and then tailor their care. A real tragedy is the guilt and shame survivors can feel after giving birth. So, like we would do for any woman,  it’s best to acknowledge the struggle of labor and birth, the strength a woman demonstrated, and the effort and precious reward she  achieved.

What are interventions that nurses and other caregivers can provide?

  • Explain as much as you can in advance, for example “If we run into an emergent situation there might be unfamiliar nurses coming in to help. I know this can cause anxiety, but I want to prepare you ahead of time in case it happens.”
  • Always start with asking permission. From starting an IV to turning on the overhead lights, make sure to obtain permission before doing any procedures or making changes to the environment
  • Go slowly with everything you do–this can be helpful in relation to a woman’s  fear of losing control. Fast movements can be triggers. This is especially important when uncovering a woman or assisting her with positioning.
  • Limit vaginal exams. These are especially traumatic and should be minimized. If a woman is having difficulty in relaxing enough to complete an exam, try making an agreement about when and why you can perform one. If a woman understands that the exams are being performed only when necessary, and with her consent, her anxiety is often more controllable during exams.
  • Minimize people in her room. She might have issues with nursing students or residents, especially if they are male. Obtain her permission before any new staff come into the room, unless there’s an emergent situation.

What are things not to say?

  • Intrusive interest-prying for details or descriptions of the abuse
  • Minimizing the abuse: “Well, that’s over now.”
  • Exaggerated concern
  • Shock or disgust
  • Pity

What are good things to say?

  • “I can imagine that was very hard to share that with me. It takes a lot of courage to talk about and I respect you for doing that.”
  • “Sometimes talking about these episodes can trigger strong feelings. How are you feeling right now?”
  • And, it’s always essential to assess the woman’s current well-being “Do you feel unsafe in any aspect of your life?”

Not all survivors of sexual abuse have difficulty with pregnancy or childbirth, for some it can be empowering. For those who do struggle, recognize that we have a powerful opportunity to help them. We can communicate therapeutically to help  change the woman’s focus from feeling out-of-control.  We can employ care practices to avoid the woman feeling re-traumatizatized.  And we can set the stage to promote healing and bonding with the newborn. In many instances it’s our tacit recognition and respectful and supportive care that facilitates healing, more than any words we could utter or medicines we could administer.

Where can I learn more?

What are resources for my patients?

  • National Sexual Abuse Hotline: 1800-656-HOPE
  • RAINN: Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, www.rainn.org

Tasha-poslaniecTasha Poslaniec has been a registered nurse for 17 years. She has been working in obstetrics for over a decade and is currently a Perinatal Quality Review Nurse and Childbirth Educator.

She also writes about nursing and childbirth and has been published in the Huffington Post and the American Journal of Nursing. Pain control in childbirth has long been a topic of study and research for her.

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.

 

 

 

Navigating a Labor Experience: As A Student

By: Amy Smith, Student Nurse at MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston

I could feel the excitement in the room as I entered. The couple was receptive to my questions and suggestions; and the woman was more than happy to involve me in her care.  I tried to build rapport even though I was nervous in my role as a nursing student. This was the first time I had assisted a woman in labor and, after her membranes were artificially ruptured, her contractions started to come about two minutes apart.  At one point, I had my hand on her back and her husband smiled at me across the room and signaled for to me to remove my hand!  It was a great moment in which the support person and I connected!  I remained quiet during her contractions and I asked her if she wanted me to breathe with her but she said she had it under control. I kept thinking back to my own labors and what I felt I wanted from support people so I asked her if she would like lower back counter pressure but she refused.  The family had not done a childbirth preparation course so I assumed that their interest or skills with working through labor was limited.  I thought that they would need my help more yet her prenatal yoga practice seemed to have given her the tools she needed to get through her labor. The tools I offered her personally were meditative.  I told her to focus on her favorite place, to discuss her needs and frustrations with us in between contractions and reassured her that I was there for her to breathe with her and regulate her breathing as needed.

Reflecting on the Nursing Care Women and Babies Deserve virtues I used during this experience, I believe they were humility and engagement. Humility in that I had to understand I did not know what was best for this family. I assumed they would want and need what I needed during childbirth or skills I learned from the comfort measures video I used to prepare for this clinical experience. The woman decided what she needed and I was there to support her. In respecting their wishes I could engage with the family. Before I left them for the day they commented, “We felt like we had our own doula”.  It was easy and a pleasure to engage with this couple and follow their commands and offer suggestions. I told them I had never wanted to stay at clinical so much as I did with them. I will always remember this family.

 

Additional Resources

AWHONN’s Nursing Care and Women Babies Deserve Poster –  AWHONN’s statement on ethical nursing practice, Nursing Care Women and Babies Deserve, is rooted in the American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics for Nurses, and provides nurses with core elements of ethical nursing practice for our specialty and corresponding examples of the virtues of ethical practice in action.

Read a commentary about Nursing Care Women and Babies Deserve in AWHONN’s journal Nursing for Women’s Health. Consider submitting your own story of how you or your colleagues practice nursing care that women and babies deserve at https://www.awhonn.org/?NursingCare


nursepicamyAmy is an ABSN student at MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston.  She was a stay at home mother for 12 years,  a community coordinator for a non profit kids running program and a volunteer at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston before deciding to enter the nursing field.  With extensive volunteer experience from a camp for blind & visually impaired adults and children, to co-president of an elementary school PTO, she enjoys working with diverse groups of all ages.  Amy aims to work in labor and delivery after graduation in August 2017 but is also interested in global health and epidemiology.  She has intentions to keep making a difference in the lives of those she may never meet again.

Childbirth While Recovering From Addiction

By Tasha Poslaniec , Perinatal Quality Review Nurse

The first time that I cared for a patient who was both recovering from drug addiction while experiencing acute pain, was in Labor and Delivery in 2014. Neither of us was prepared for this. We both exchanged the same shell-shocked, “What do we do now?” look several times that shift. I had a profound realization that day; I needed to come up with a better plan.

My initial idea was a literature search in Pubmed, a free national database of indexed citations and abstracts from thousands of science and healthcare journals. I also hit up Cochrane, a database that provides systematic reviews of evidence based medicine.

While it is difficult to get a good estimate on the prevalence of drug addiction in pregnancy, the National Institute on Drug Abuse published data in 2015 showing that 21,732 infants were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in 2012. That’s equal to one baby being born every 25 minutes with this syndrome. That is a lot of potentially challenging labors to manage.

Ultimately, the most important take away from my research was “treat the pain, not the addiction”. While it’s never ideal to administer narcotics to a recovering addict without a bigger plan, it’s still superior than allowing a patient to suffer.

In an ideal world, the best plan is to have a pre-labor consultation with the patient and anesthesiologist. This can be tricky to make happen as pain control is rarely addressed (especially the kind that recovering addicts need) during the prenatal course. The opportunity for this most often occurs when women are induced, or come in for antepartum testing. I was fortunate enough that my recovering patient was having both of those.  I was able to broach the topic during an NST, and I then requested her when she came in for induction. We were both thankful that the anesthesiologist on that day was open to discussing a plan that she was comfortable with. Just talking together as a team helped her relax.

My patient at that time was taking methadone, which I learned while doing my nursing assessment. Since she had not taken a childbirth class, I gave her homework to research how methadone can both increase the body’s sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia) as well as limit the options for other pain medications like Stadol, due to the opioid agonist therapy (OAT) she was in. By front loading her understanding of how her pain control was about more than just preventing a relapse, her expectations were set to be more informed as well as more realistic.

The plan that we all agreed upon involved several key areas:

  • Set the expectation. While this falls under “patient education” it’s such a powerful tool that it bears having its own bullet point. Having a realistic and frank discussion about the realities of labor is important for any patient, and it should begin with prenatal care. As any L&D nurse can tell you, there is nothing more disheartening than a woman in labor demanding “the shot that takes all of the pain away”.
  • Utilize non-pharmacological modalities as much as possible. I created a folder with childbirth information for her in which Penny Simkin figured prominently. Her free guide with illustrations of positions and easy to read mantras were the perfect shorthand for the situation. While we started her induction, we discussed the handouts together.
  • Consult with anesthesia ASAP. Again, this can be difficult since you really need a doctor who is on board and .The plan that we came up with was for a labor epidural as soon as she wanted one. Thankfully, ACOG supports labor epidurals at any dilatation, and the evidence supports that receiving one “early” does not adversely affect labor outcomes. The other nuance was to administer the epidural without any opioids. No fentanyl mixed in, just Lidocaine and Bupivacaine. While the likelihood of the opioids placed in the epidural space crossing over into her circulation were pretty minimal, it was a very real concern for her, and we needed to respect that.
  • Have a plan B. Should things not go according to plan go sideways, we needed to have a course of action nailed down. This included contacting the obstetrician and enlisting their support while also reminding them that a patient in OAT can require as much as 70% more opiates to manage pain (which she was willing to take should she need surgery) post-operatively. We also discussed a social services referral in this event to help provide services to prevent relapse.
  • Provide continuous support. I have to say, this simple intervention was the most effective thing that I did. It helped that our census was low, and I had an understanding charge nurse.

In the end, a lot of stars aligned that day, as my patient was able to cope with the pain, receive an epidural, and ultimately give birth to a healthy baby girl.

Educating the patient, creating a team, and formulating a plan with the patient’s input, as well as providing continuous support, has guided me with the increasing number of patients that arrive in similar situations. This experience has also led me into many different discussions with other nurses and doctors.

The consensus has been that this growing population of patients is compelling enough to establish a pathway for care during labor.  Something we are working on and will hopefully provide a road paved with evidence based best practices in the near future. And while these patients are by no means representative of every person struggling with addiction (recovering or not) they allowed me to recognize a growing need, as well as to learn new ways of helping patients to cope with the dignity and compassion we all strive to provide for the patients we are caring for.


Search for these resources available in the AWHONN Online Learning Center 

  • Opioid Use in Pregnancy: Detection and Support Webinar
  • Breastfeeding Implications for Women Receiving Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders Webinar

Tasha-poslaniecTasha Poslaniec has been a registered nurse for 17 years. She has been working in obstetrics for over a decade and is currently a Perinatal Quality Review Nurse and Childbirth Educator.

She also writes about nursing and childbirth and has been published in the Huffington Post and the American Journal of Nursing. Pain control in childbirth has long been a topic of study and research for her.

Stress The Modern Day Predator

Holly A. Lammer, RNC-OB C-EFM

“The history of man for the nine months preceding his birth would probably be far more interesting and contain events of greater moment than for all the three score and ten years that follow it.”

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Decreasing the amount of stress that we encounter daily is beneficial to our health.   Stress initiates the body’s ‘emergency response system’ which activates the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol and adrenaline.  Cortisol is important for energy (glucose metabolism), blood pressure regulation, immune function and inflammatory response, but is secreted in higher levels during increased stress.  Heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, chronic inflammatory disorders, mental health issues, obesity can all in some way be linked to how the chemicals of stress wreak havoc on our bodies.   Statistics paint a grim picture:

  • Preterm birth in the U.S. is higher than in other developed countries (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2015).
  • Stress is associated with an increased chance of preterm birth (PLos One, 2012)
  • High rates of anxiety and depression, according to WHO, the U.S. has one of the highest rate of mental disorders of any other developed country. (U.S. News, 2016)
  • High rates of obesity – females affected more than males (World Obesity, 2017)
  • Immune and allergy disorders, chronic diseases have increased drastically in the last few decades (overwhelming majority affecting women)(Molecular Metabolism, 2016)

One concern is how these chemicals affect a woman and her growing fetus during pregnancy.  Many pregnant women  are exposed to chronic stress;  examples are the stress of jobs, finances, family responsibilities, the expectation and drive for success, high fat and low nutrient diets, lack of time for physical activity,  lack  of community and family support, intimate partner violence, effects of racism and social marginalization.  Stress chemicals can pass to the developing baby through the placenta.

Watering the Seeds of Peace:

But pregnant women can seek to balance and reduce their stress in order to pass on positive neurological chemicals to their babies.  In particular, mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation have profound impacts on the human brain and, when practiced in the prenatal period, can also influence the growing brain of the fetus. (PLos One, 2012)These types of practices produce changes in the neural pathways and hormonal centers that support parasympathetic response and as these neural connections are strengthened, sympathetic hypersensitivity is decreased. Mindfulness has the potential to reduce the effect of stress chemicals in the body (Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 2009) since these chemicals are being sent directly to the fetus, through the placenta.

Mindfulness may also reduce the effects of stress chemicals in the baby.  Research shows increases in gray matter concentration in the left hippocampus, which affects learning, memory, and emotional control.  Infants  born of mothers who practice meditation have been shown to have better self-regulation and more emotional control. (Infant Behavior and Development, 2014)

Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can also “create change in the brain that support feelings of peace, contentment, self-confidence and joy.  As these connections in the brain are strengthened, states of anxiety, worry and anger are decreased. Consequently, incidence and severity of stress related conditions are decreased and may, at the very least, become easier to manage.  Mindfulness practice has been shown to decrease anxiety, depression, insomnia, hyperactivity, substance abuse and chemical dependency.  It can also increase bonding and connection to others.

Preparation for Birth

In addition to all the above mentioned benefits, mindfulness has the added benefit of decreasing sensation of chronic and acute pain and possible subsequent psychological distress caused by pain.  This effect has been correlated to altered function and structure in somatosensory areas and an increased ability to disengage regions in the brain associated with the cognitive appraisal of pain, basically ‘reframing’ the sensation.  Most childbirth methods are based on meditative techniques (Lamaze and Bradley breathing, Hypnobirthing, etc.)  Mindfulness practices also enhance immune function – extremely important in pregnancy where it is already suppressed.  If there is a complication that is present (obesity, immune disorder, mental illness) or one that is diagnosed during the pregnancy (gestational diabetes, hypertension, multiples) or that happens during birth (prolonged labor, surgical intervention), regular meditative practices can help prime the immune system so that the effects of these events may be milder.

It’s as simple as ‘ABC’

One of the great things about mindfulness is that it can be practiced literally anytime, anywhere.

A is for Awareness:  Simply pause or stop and become AWARE of the present moment. An easy way to do this is just notice the body in space… the arrangement of the legs or arms, the overall tone in the body… the sensations in the body. Use the senses to drive your awareness:  the feel of the coffee cup in your hand, the sound of a bird chirping or the rain on the roof, the warmth of the sun on your skin.

B is for Breathing:  Bring your awareness to your breath.  The breath is always present.  Notice the inhalation and the exhalation.  Just by noticing the breath without changing it in any way, nervous system shifts to parasympathetic activity. You can enhance this shift by guiding the breath to be longer and deeper. Regulating the breath in this way also decreases blood pressure and heart rate.  Imagine your breath bringing oxygen to your growing baby. Imagine your baby listening to your deep rhythmic breaths and the slowing of your heart beat.  Calm, serene.

C is for Consciousness:   Or ‘thinking’. Now you have the space in the nervous system to examine your thoughts. Notice that they come and go like clouds on a windy day.  If there is a particular thought or sensation that is troubling you or seems uncomfortable, you have the ability to CHOOSE your reaction instead of unconsciously reacting with habitual patterns of response.

When we practice in this way, even for a few minutes a day, our nervous system slowly begins to rewire and connections of peace and joy are strengthened.  In the pregnant mom, this benefit is wiring the baby’s brain from the very beginning of development.

Helpful Resources and Links

Water Exercise for Pregnant Women

by, Lizzy Bullock, WSI

Exercise goes a long way to promote to a healthy pregnancy.  Exercise has many benefits for mom and baby but in the summer months, it can be difficult to find an activity that doesn’t cause you to overheat. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises pregnant women not to exercise outside when it’s extremely hot or humid and to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to avoid dehydration.

Benefits of Swimming During Pregnancy

Many land-based exercises become difficult to participate in as you continue to gain weight, and if your legs begin to swell. This is especially true of exercises like running and cycling that require more effort to carry your increasing weight. The resulting discomfort and fatigue often deter women from continuing their exercise routines during the third trimester, according to a study published in Medical Science & Sports Exercise. However, a study published in the Journal of Nurse Midwifery found that pregnant women who swam for exercise were able to maintain their routine’s intensity and saw no decline in performance, even late into gestation. This continued exercise allows for a lowered risk of gestational diabetes and a shorter, easier labor, according to a study by the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

And, thanks to water’s naturally cooling effect, it’s difficult to overheat in a pool as long as the water is not excessively warm. The Australian Physiotherapy Association reports that swimming and water aerobics are safe for a pregnant woman’s body and will not cause fetal hyperthermia when the pool is heated to 33 degrees Celsius or less (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit).  Do remember to drink fluids before and after swimming as you may not notice sweating as much when in the water.

A few other precautions: wear non-slip footwear when poolside to avoid slipping and avoid crowded pools because your risk of accidentally being kicked in the abdomen increases the more swimmers are in the pool. Wear sunscreen if swimming outside to protect your skin and prevent development of the mask of pregnancy (darker areas of skin which can develop on the face during pregnancy and be made worse by sun exposure).  Don’t swim so vigorously your heart rate exceeds 140 beats per minute. Finally, don’t dive or jump feet first from any height into a pool when pregnant.

Tried-and-True

Success stories from pregnant women worldwide are an inspiration to get in the pool. Kristi Lee, 36, competed in the United States Masters Swimming Nationals while pregnant in 2011. She noted a decrease in her lung capacity but still managed to take home a silver medal in her age group. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and was back in the water three weeks postpartum.

Another successful pregnant swimmer, Natasha Bertschi, competed in a triathlon in her 34th week of pregnancy. She elected to stick with water exercise because she found that it relieved first-trimester nausea, helped her to give birth naturally (rather than by Cesarean) and kept her weight to a healthy level.

But, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from the effects of being in the water during your pregnancy. As a pregnant swimming instructor, I spend at least 30 minutes in the pool every day. Sometimes just walking back and forth; sometimes swimming gentle laps alongside a student. The result is significant. My body feels cooler even after I get out. I’ve also managed to avoid varicose veins) and foot and ankle swelling (caused by sluggish circulation in the lower legs during pregnancy). In fact, the Mayo Clinic specifically recommends walking in the pool to keep swelling at bay. On days that I don’t teach lessons, I feel a marked difference in my body: increased abdominal tightness, lower back pain, and a general heaviness that’s tough to bear.

Things to Consider Before Getting in the Pool

Can I Exercise?

With so many considerations, it’s hard to know what’s safe for you and your baby. If you’re unsure about exercising during pregnancy, know that the American Pregnancy Association recommends moderate exercise for nearly every pregnant woman. Research by the Mayo Clinic indicates that, when carried out safely, exercise during pregnancy results in many attractive benefits such as preventing excess weight gain, increasing stamina, allowing for easier sleep and easing back pain. Additionally, doctors at California State University found that regular exercise during pregnancy led to the formation of more hardy, resilient vascular muscles in the child. There are certain circumstances, such as when a woman has preeclampsia, placental complications, or cervical insufficiency, when your midwife or doctor may advise you to avoid exercise and take it easy.  It’s always a good idea to discuss exercise with your provider at your first prenatal visit.

Accommodating Your Changing Body

Every day you’re baby is growing and your body is changing – making traditional exercise less manageable and, let’s face it, less appealing. Research by Thomas W. Wang, M.D. published in the American Family Physician Journal points out the many bodily changes that affect a pregnant woman’s ability to work out. As your uterus and fetus develop, your center of gravity shifts, resulting in less stable balance. A larger midsection leads to lumbar lordosis (swayback) which can be painful, and hormone production is thought to soften joints, increasing the risk of sprains and strains. Wang also notes that pregnant women who perform weight-bearing exercise may report pain and discomfort in the pelvis and abdomen, likely due to tension on the round ligaments that have stretched immensely to provide space for your growing child.

Thankfully, when you swim water provides a resistive force without the demands of  load-bearing exercise. And, because water provides a low-gravity workout environment, women who are expecting can exercise without worrying about risks like falling, joint stress or abdominal trauma. What’s more, water’s weightlessness removes the sense of heaviness in the back, legs, and feet – providing you with much-needed relief.

When beginning any exercise, it’s always best to first check with your midwife or doctor before undertaking any workout activity. Once the go-ahead is given, get in the pool and enjoy.

Lizzy1-HeadshotLizzy Bullock is a swimmer, Red Cross certified swimming instructor (WSI) and swimming coach with over a decade of experience working with infants, children, and adults. Lizzy currently works as a swimming instructor and staff writer for AquaGear, a swim school and online swim shop.

 

Ladies on a Mission

Guatemala

by, Lori Boggan, RN

When we enter the medical profession, we make a lifetime commitment to the service of others.  As nurses, we serve our patients, our community, our friends, and our family.  No other profession has such a deep connection to and is so trusted by society.  We are the ones at the bedside day and night.  We are the ones that our patients trust with their privacy, their secrets, and their lives.

Volunteer nursing is no foreign concept for American nurses.  In fact, the earliest “nurses” were nuns, or family members of those active in the Civil War.  They were in the trenches before any formal nursing education or organization existed.

For most, nursing is a calling.  Nurses are innate caregivers.  What is it about a nurse that is willing to use her own money, travel to an unfamiliar place sometimes lacking basic accommodations, and work long hours without pay?  It is the drive to care for those in need.

The following interview is with one of AWHONN’s own that goes above and beyond.  Nancy Stephani Zicker, a labor and delivery nurse from Central Florida has journeyed to Guatemala yearly since 2014 to help less fortunate women in need of gynecological surgery.  She journeys with her friend and obstetrician, Dr. Cecille Tapia-Santiago, of Volusia ObGyn Daytona Beach.  In addition to gynecological surgeries each year, Dr. Tapia sees patients in the mission’s clinic and educates Guatemalan midwives.  I interviewed both ladies in hope to inspire others to join mission work.

How long have you been going on missions?

Nancy:  I have been going on yearly medical mission trips every March since 2014.

Cecille:  I have been doing 1-3 mission trips a year since 2000.


Where has your mission work taken you?

Both: Guatemala


Why Guatemala?  Is there any particular need there with regard to women and infant’s health?

Cecille:  Absolutely. When we go there we provide contraceptive care, well woman care, and manage surgical conditions (uterine fibroids, large ovarian cysts, and pelvic prolapse being the most common).


Describe a typical day in the life of a volunteer nurse.

Nancy:  Each year that I have gone, I have been assigned to work as a circulating nurse (and sometimes scrub in to tech or assist) in the OR. There are clinic nurses, OR nurses, PACU nurses and ward (floor) nurses.

FullSizeRender-100We go in to a completely bare room and make it a functioning OR.

As an OR nurse, we first have to unpack and sort all of our supplies, as well as set up the operating rooms. We arrive on a Saturday late afternoon and get right to work. Sometimes we set up in community centers and sometimes we set up in an actual hospital. This usually takes Saturday evening and all day Sunday to accomplish.

Monday morning, the surgeries begin. Depending on the number of cases scheduled, we usually are in the OR from 8am-5pm. Once all surgeries are done at the end of the week, we have to break down the ORs to leave the space as we found it and inventory all supplies so we can order more for next year.  We all have had to improvise and be creative with available equipment and supplies. It’s quite the challenge, but the entire team comes together and we make it work.z


20140306_102410Cecille, describe your work educating midwives in Guatemala

It’s THE BEST PART. Midwives in Guatemala are mostly lay (no formal training at all). Guatemala has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. We do 1-2 day seminars and teach basic infant resuscitation as well as basic management of labor, delivery and postpartum complications. The midwives have to deal with a lot of prejudice from the physician community and often won’t get paid for their service if the patient has to be transferred to a hospital.  So anything they can do to show their critics that they are furthering their education and are doing right by a patient is helpful.

Is there any one particular patient story that you can share that stands out in your mind where you felt you really made a difference in that patient’s life? 

Cecille:  One of the midwives came back to a refresher course and told us that she gave CPR to a baby with apnea. Initially the family was resistant and thought the baby was dead. The midwife pulled out her certificate from the seminar and showed the family. She told the family to let her try and do CPR. She successfully performed mouth to mouth and chest compressions and the baby was fine!  We also had a young lady with an enormous pelvic mass that was compressing her entire abdomen and pelvis. She had been turned down by everyone and when we saw her, she was cachectic and probably a few weeks away from dying. We removed an enormous yet benign ovarian cyst. It was over 50cm in diameter and weighed 25 pounds.

How has mission work changed your practice?

Nancy:  It has made me a better nurse. Seeing and working with the patients I see on my mission trips has renewed my love of nursing and my compassion for people in general. The patients I see on these trips are so profoundly grateful for the care they receive.  It helps to renew one’s zest for nursing.

Cecille:  It hasn’t really changed how I practice at home, but you have to be a particular type of person to do well on these trips. In order to do this type of work you have to be patient, flexible, meticulous, and creative. You can’t go to these trips if you’re going to expect U.S. standards of equipment, timeliness and availability of things you have every day at home (for example blood, cautery, suction, light).  I have seen time and time again physicians, nurses and staff struggle because they have unrealistic expectations of what it’s like to operate in third world conditions. And by the same token seen plenty (like Nancy) that just sail, adapt and just sail.

How has mission work changed you as an individual?

Nancy:  Personally it has made me realize that as humans we all want the same things- we want our children healthy, we want access to quality healthcare, we want to be able to be happy in our daily lives, and we want a peaceful existence.

Cecille:  It refreshes my choice and faith in my profession. Medicine has changed so much. The physician/patient relationship many times is not what it used to be. We live in a defensive medicine environment that often plays in to how we practice here. Over there, patients and families trust and believe that, just like at home, I do my very best to provide the very best care my skill set allows, and that I will never go above that skill set and take unnecessary risks. That trust factor makes any responsibility tolerable.

Guatemala

What advice would you give a nurse contemplating mission work?

Nancy:  It’s important to choose the right organization to join, one that interests you. Each one has a different application process and requirements, as well as when and where they go on their trips. They all differ with their missions and what they offer. I have gone on 3 trips so far, and have applied for my 4th with the same group. It’s called Cascade Medical Team, whose parent organization is Helps International. I have friends that have used various other organizations. It’s important to choose one that fits your interests and your budget, as well as the dates you’re available to go. Also, for me on my first trip, it really helped that I went with someone I knew and who had experience with volunteering for medical mission trips. Not only was she able to give me a heads up on what to expect, but it is just amazing to be able to share the experience with someone you know- someone who understands why you would want to, or should want to, volunteer for such a trip
.

How can a nurse prepare for his/her first mission?

Nancy:  Be open-minded. Prepare to go out of your comfort zone and learn new things, both in the nursing/medical field and also culturally.

FullSizeRender-101Where to next?

Nancy:  To date, I have only been to Guatemala. At this point in time, I only volunteer for one mission trip each year and I have found that I really enjoy helping the people there and so have concentrated my trips to Guatemala.

Thanks for sharing, Nancy and Cecille!  And thank you for your service!  For more information on their work with Cascade Medical Team, visit www.cascademedicalteam.org.

Lori Boggan, RN
Lori is a NICU Staff Nurse at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. After becoming a nurse, Lori traveled across the country to work a three-month travel contract in San Francisco, California. Nearly five years later her journey continued to Gothenburg, Sweden, where she now lives and works. She also write her own blog Neonurse at https://neonursetravels.com/ or on Instagram.

Five Easy Steps to Save Lives and Promote Healthy Families

by, Donna Weeks

It’s staggering to think that 54 to 93 percent of maternal deaths related to postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) could be avoided.

So what can we do on our units to reduce the number of women with complications, or even death, from an obstetrical hemorrhage?

I have taken part in many discussions about high tech simulation and drills, and we are always asking ourselves:

  • How can we have effective drills without a simulation lab and simulation models?
  • Can low tech simulation play a beneficial role in decreasing obstetrical hemorrhage?

I recently took part in a pilot program that the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN)  trialed on postpartum hemorrhage risk assessments, evidence-based oxytocin orders, and hemorrhage drills and debriefing based upon a variety of settings.

Here are a few ideas that I have implemented without utilizing a simulation lab. These easy suggestions may help every obstetrical unit  raise awareness of obstetrical hemorrhage and contribute to decreased maternal morbidity and mortality.

First, have a mock code on your unit using your own crash cart.  You may be surprised to find out how many nurses are uncomfortable with finding key items in your crash cart.  Use a pillow to simulate a gravid uterus and have one nurse demonstrate left uterine displacement while other nurses deliver compressions and ventilations.  Additional nurses may find supplies, IVs, and medications in the code cart.

Second, devise a scavenger hunt and ask your staff to find the closest location of items needed during an obstetrical hemorrhage.  In many units the OB techs check the hemorrhage cart and the nurses may be less familiar with the items on the cart.  They may be leaving the room to get supplies and medications that are already on the cart.  In a true emergency this will use up valuable time.

Third, consider efficiencies. Do you have your medications locked in a Pyxis or Omnicell?  Do nurses have to remove the uterotonics one at a time? Due to the awareness raised by our hospital’s participation in AWHONNs postpartum hemorrhage project,  the day after our medication administration system was installed our pharmacy was notified that we needed a postpartum hemorrhage kit.  Now with one selection we retrieve ergonovine maleate (methergine), misoprostol (cytotec), carboprost (hemabate) and oxytocin (pitocin).

Fourth, how do you drill? What about drills in an empty patient room?  Have a drill in a patient room with nothing more than a mannequin.  Change the scenarios and include the less common situations.  With a type and screen being completed on most admitted labor and delivery patients it is not common to be ordering uncrossedmatched blood.  I use a scenario that includes a woman presenting to L&D with an obvious hemorrhage. This scenario presents the opportunity to review how and when to retrieve uncrossmatched blood.  What is your procedure?  Is there special paperwork or forms?  During one drill we strongly stressed the time element including how quickly we could generate a medical record number and how much time would be lost if an OB tech was sent for the blood. In our institution uncrossmatched blood may only be released to a physician or nurse.  Take the scenario further and include your massive transfusion protocol.  Review when and how to initiate the protocol.

Lastly, practice quantification of blood loss until it becomes routine.  Use scales, work sheets, and a variety of scenarios to keep staff informed and interested.  These can be presented by a charge nurse on any shift without preplanning.  It is just one more way to keep obstetrical hemorrhage on the forefront of everyone’s mind.  The more awareness we raise the better chance we have of early recognition and intervention. The goal is to have a healthy mother and healthy family.

DonnaDonna is a Perinatal Clinical Specialist at JFK Medical Center in NJ.  She has always loved OB nursing and also enjoys teaching.  She is currently an adjunct instructor at Kaplan University and Walden University.  She was the Hospital Lead for AWHONN’s PPH Project.

 

 


Citations

Berg, C. J., Harper, M. A., Atkinson, S. M., Bell, E. A., Brown, H. L., Hage, M. L., . . . Callaghan, W. M. (2005). Preventability of pregnancy-related deaths: Results of a statewide review. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 106, 1228–1234.doi:10.1097/01.AOG.0000187894.71913.e8

California Department of Public Health. (2011). The California pregnancy-associated mortality review. Report from 2002 and 2003 maternal death reviews. Sacramento, CA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.cdph.ca.gov/data/statistics/Documents/MO-CA-PAMR-MaternalDeathReview-2002-03.pdf

Della Torre, M., Kilpatrick, S. J., Hibbard, J. U., Simonson, L., Scott, S., Koch, A., . . . Geller, S. E. (2011). Assessing preventability for obstetric hemorrhage. American Journal of Perinatology, 28(10), 753-760.doi:10.1055/s-0031-1280856

Resources

Get free postpartum hemorrhage resources from AWHONN.

Learn more about AWHONN’s Postpartum Hemorrhage Project

For more in-depth info and to learn more about how to reduce clinician errors associated with obstetric hemorrhage mortality and morbidity, join AWHONN’s newest implementation community on Postpartum Hemorrhage.