Life Entangled in Pink Ribbon

 *This blog was previously published at www.summahealth.org

My name is Jennifer Doyle.  As women’s health nurse practitioner and breast cancer survivor, I was asked to share excerpts from a 4-part blog that was published as part of my Health System’s ‘Flourish’ series in 2013.  Only 5 days ago, I passed the ‘5 year mark’ from diagnosis.  Thank you for allowing me to share my story, which I hope may help others who face breast cancer.

Diagnosis: “I am NOT a pink ribbon”

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on Sept. 24, 2012. I was not necessarily shocked, as all three of my father’s sisters had been diagnosed with breast cancer by the age of 50. I found a lump through a self-breast exam, and within a week had my diagnosis. I noticed the lump a few months prior, but it was very small and very hard.  I figured it was just my monthly cycle. However, when I re-checked my breast in the shower, it was much, much larger and hard as a rock. I could not move it. I could not find the edges of the mass on palpation. When I got out of the shower and looked in the mirror, I saw the orange peel affect, or dimpling of the skin around the area, and instantly knew that I had breast cancer.

When it came to the actual diagnostic process, it was quite memorable. I recall going in for the mammogram, already believing in some part of my brain that I had breast cancer. I thought to myself, “Hey, if I get my mammogram and get out of here, I’m good. If they keep me for an ultrasound, I’m screwed.” I had the mammogram, and wouldn’t you know it, I needed to stay for an ultrasound. As I sat waiting for the ultrasound, and again waiting for the ultrasound results, I watched women come and go from the breast center. They came in talking on their phones, making lunch plans; in and out. I was jealous. I wanted to just get up and go on with my life, too. Yet, I already knew that I could not.

Then came the inevitable. I was taken into a room with a tech and a physician, and informed that I needed a biopsy – today if possible. I was told that I had a mass in my right breast and that it was “very suspicious.” When the staff members left the room, I sat somewhat stunned. I looked around and realized I was surrounded by pink ribbons. There were quilts and pictures all hailing the pink ribbon. I instantly hated the color pink. Everything in me rebelled against the pink ribbon. I thought, “I want nothing to do with any of this. I am NOT a pink ribbon. I will not be defined by this!”

My formal diagnosis came via a phone call from my OB/GYN. Despite being a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, I said “I work in OB; I don’t know anything about breast cancer! What does this mean?” He informed me that it was the most common type of breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma, and that he was referring me to a general surgeon. My path was laid out before me, and I began my journey….

Treatment-“Wow, you look like GI Jane!”

My husband, Tim was with me for the biopsy and the diagnosis. One of the most challenging days was the day I had to tell my parents and our 13-year-old daughter, Claire, Someone wisely told me that the most difficult part of dealing with cancer is dealing with others’ reactions and emotions. It is so true. I rarely worry, but I hate being the cause for worry in the people I love. What I would say about Claire and my recovery is simple: She was ALL of my reasons.

After I broke the news to my family, my Breast Care Coordinator Heidi Eve Cahoon, MSN, CNP, of Summa’s Jean and Milton Cooper Cancer Center in Akron, met with myself, my husband, and my parents. She explained the pathology report and typical course for the breast cancer patient. We all felt more informed and educated after meeting with her. If you’re coping with the same diagnosis, it’s worth reading more about how breast cancer navigators can help you through treatment.

I opted for chemotherapy prior to any surgery. This was due in part to medical recommendations, but it appealed to me because it bought me time to assess my options for surgery and/or radiation. My four rounds of chemotherapy included “AC,”which stands for Adriamycin and Cytotoxin (sounds so lovely). The very first round of chemo came with a side of the vomits. I began vomiting within four hours of leaving treatment, and this continued for a couple of days. Thankfully Dr. R. Douglas Trochelman (my oncologist) and the nurses changed up my antiemetic medications, and I did not experience any vomiting during the last three rounds.

Chemotherapy is quite interesting. The ‘chemical menopause’ ceased periods and brought on hot flashes. The nausea, the vomiting, mouth sores, and the utter exhaustion were novel and unwanted companions. Hair loss seemed to be the most focused-on side effect by nearly everyone. I followed the advice given to me: Buy a wig. Buy two wigs. Be prepared. I spent $400 on wigs. When the time came and the hair began to fall, my husband and I went into the bathroom. Clippers in hand, my remaining blonde locks fell all around. A tear or two did escape. But then my husband looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Wow, you look like GI Jane!” I regarded myself in the mirror for some time and decided I didn’t mind the bald chick look. I briefly tried wigs but found them intolerable. I decided to rock the new look and traded up the wigs for bandanas, ball caps, and very often, nothing at all!

I underwent a double mastectomy at Summa Health Akron in early February 2013. I chose to have this, despite being a “good candidate” for a lumpectomy. I did not have either of the BRCA genes. However, I wonder how many genes are there out there that we do not know about yet? Part of my reasoning was a desire to avoid radiation. The other was family history. My general surgeon performed the double mastectomy and my plastic surgeon placed tissue expanders. I took the Scarlett O’Hara approach to the double mastectomy. I did not think about it. I thought, “I will think about it when it is over.” I woke up after surgery and a funny thing happened. I actually was OK. I did not mourn my breasts. The pain was tolerable. I thought I was over halfway through my journey, when the road took an unexpected turn. My lymph nodes removed during surgery tested positive for cancer.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a game show announcer: “Jennifer Doyle, guess what YOU’VE won?! Four more rounds of chemotherapy!” I endured four more rounds of chemotherapy with the drug Taxol. No nausea, vomiting, or mouth sores, but the exhaustion persisted, and I experienced exquisite bone pain.

Breast reconstruction following mastectomy is quite novel and interesting. There are many options, from flaps to implants to prosthetics. Would you like a nipple created? Did you keep your own? Or would you like a nipple tattooed on? I chose to go with implants. What I would choose for nipples; Stars? Flowers? This was one of amusing things I thought about while going through the process.

It wasn’t easy as it seemed. In order to get implants, one must first endure the tissue expanders. The tissue expanders are like balloons made of tire tread. They are placed during mastectomy. A series of injections expands the balloon. The skin expands and stretches, giving the plastic surgeon a pocket, or space to place the implant, and adequate skin to cover the new implant. I began going to my plastic surgeon’s office for weekly expansion. I referred to them as my “pump me up” sessions.

The first time the nurse came in with the two large 60 cc syringes and extra-long needles, my husband swore and exclaimed, “Are you going to hit her heart with that?!” This was the expansion process. For me, it was one of the most painful processes of breast cancer. My husband went with me to nearly every expansion. When he could not go, my parents went. I always had Tim or my mom there to hold my hand during the expansion. I know it sounds wimpy. But, hey, it helped!

As I waited for my final surgery, a combination of breast reconstruction and oophorectomy (ovary removal), life went on. I went back to work at Summa Health’s Women’s Health Services Department once chemo was over.

A Successful Journey: “There is a lesson in every joy and every sorrow.”

I believe three factors have made my journey a success, even though the ending yet eludes me, and the outcome is not set in stone. First, is the seemingly endless support I have received from my family and friends. The care and outpouring has been humbling and heartwarming, to say the least. I am glad it was me who has breast cancer, and not my mom or sisters, though I know they would trade places with me. You see, as a baby, I was born with multiple birth defects and spent a large part of my childhood sick, undergoing surgery, or admitted to the hospital. So for me, medical issues are nothing new. I’m not Superwoman. It’s just that I take such things in stride; that is the second factor. The third factor is faith. From the diagnosis until now, my faith has held fast. I have always believed that everything has purpose. If it were not for my childhood challenges, I probably would not have become a nurse. There is a lesson in every joy and every sorrow. It may sound hard to believe, but I have never asked God “Why?”I have also never asked God to cure me. I have simply prayed for two things:

One, that God grants me the strength to endure this with dignity and grace, no matter what, and two, “Thy will be done.”

On July 8, I underwent my final two surgeries. The surgeries included reconstruction and an oophorectomy (ovary removal). You may recall that my reconstruction choice was tissue expansion followed by silicone breast implants. Both surgeries went very well. I actually woke up feeling a bit more comfortable than I did going into surgery. The implants are much better than tissue expanders! I consider myself lucky to have had such a fabulous care team of Summa Akron City Hospital nurses and surgeons!

Survivorship

Fast forward five years.  It is hard to believe all that has happened since Sept., 2012.  Now it is Sept, 2017 and I am President-Elect of AWHONN!  Claire is now a senior in high school and will leave for college next summer.  I am grateful every day for the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way both in my personal and professional life.  For now, I have defeated cancer.  However, cancer and I have each left our mark on the other. I still experience some discomfort most every day in my right chest and axillary region.  Not exactly sure why that is, but it is most likely related to scarring and adhesions.  I still cannot lift my right hand very far above my head unless manually assisted.  Opening a can or bottle comes with significant difficulty that offers a regular reminder. I continue to experience aphasia from time to time; this peaked during chemotherapy and has not completely left.  Finally, the neuropathy in my feet remains profound.  I have very little feeling in my feet and most of the time; they just feel ‘asleep’.  That can be really annoying, to say the least.  Despite some of these physical effects, I am overall quite healthy and physically active.

Once cancer has personally impacted your life, there may always be some small measure of worry in the deep (or not so deep) recesses of your brain.  Cancer can become a lifelong resident in your mind:  What if it comes back?  Is that a lump or just scar tissue?  I cannot believe that anyone is immune to these doubts that come to call on occasion. What I think is important is to own your thoughts and where you allow those thoughts to go.  Of course I have fears, but I remind myself to center and to refocus my thoughts and efforts in another direction.  Sometimes this takes specific intention. In every story, there is meaning.  While I still have not fully come to understand the meaning of my breast cancer, perhaps it will be made clear to me one day.  Lessons learned via a renewed appreciation for life’s small moments are perhaps what I take from this part of my journey.  Every person has a unique story and must come to their own point of resolution and peace.  I thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share some of my experiences.

My life was certainly entangled in the pink ribbon for some time.  Now, that has come full circle.  Today I embrace that ribbon and am proud to wear it as a banner symbolizing survival.


Jennifer Doyle is a WHNP with nearly 25 years of experience in obstetrics. She is the APN of the Women’s Service Line at Summa Health in Akron, Ohio as well as Faculty and Coordinator of the WHNP program at Kent State University in Kent, OH. She is AWHONN’s President elect in 2017 and is happy to share her personal story from the perspective of a breast cancer patient.

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.

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.

Where are the contraceptive options for males? It’s Not Just a ‘Women’s Issue’

By Kate McNair, RN, BSN, SANE

The sexual revolution began in 1960 with the emergence of a novel birth control for women in the form of a pill. Despite the increase in contraceptive options for women over the past 55 years (including many new long acting and reversible options), options for males have remained stagnant and have not progressed beyond the condom.

Although there have been attempts to create hormonal birth control for males, barriers persist. A recent study tested an inject-able male hormonal contraceptive (testosterone and progestin) with 266 male participants across 10 sites (Behre et al., 2016). These injections attempt to interrupt the normal hormonal cycle and decrease sperm count, rendering the male reversibly infertile (Ashbrook, 2016). The efficacy was 96%, a rate higher than OCPs(Oral Contraceptive Pills) for women (Ashbrook, 2016; Behre et al., 2016). Unfortunately, although the results were encouraging, the trial was abruptly halted last November due to reported side effects. Males reported acne, mood swings, and pain at injection site (Behre et al., 2016). Males also reported increased libido (Behre et al., 2016). Rationale for the discontinuation of the study has not been reported by the review board at the World Health Organization.

The reported side effects experienced by the males in the Behre et al. (2016) study mirror contraceptive side effects experienced by females. This further supports persisting patterns of cultural patriarchy in today’s science and reinforces cultural messages to the public that family planning and contraception is fundamentally a responsibility and burden placed solely on the female. While science may never occur without cultural bias, as personal beliefs and viewpoints tend to permeate our work (consciously or not), women’s health nurses can lend their support and voice to promote efforts to eradicate the androcentric bias in today’s contraceptive research.
As I become a nurse scientist, I am emboldened and hopeful, not deterred. I see opportunity for change in science, influenced by leaders in the nursing field. We must make a point to understand underlying biases in science and encourage nurses to have their voices heard. Only then can nurses advocate fully for the women they serve. Contraception is not just a women’s responsibility or burden, and we can change this paradigm starting now.

References
Ashbrook, T. (2016, November 4). Fresh controversy in male birth control. On Point.
Podcast retrieved from http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2016/11/04/male-birth-control
Behre, H., Zitzmann, M., Anderson, R., Handelsman, D., Lestari, S., McLachlan, R. &
Colvard, D. (2016). Efficacy and safety of an injectable combination hormonal
contraceptive for men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Retrieved from http://press.endocrine.org/doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2016-2141


IMG_4306Kate McNair is a women’s health nurse practitioner & PhD student at Boston College. She also maintains clinical practice as an OB/GYN RN at a community health center in Roxbury, MA. Follow her on Twitter @fem_nurse.

My Top Five Exercising Tips to Improve Your Mind, Body, and Spirit

Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN,

For Nurses Week, we are promoting the “year of the healthy nurse.” We are encouraging nurses, like you, to focus on having a healthy mind, body, and spirit, to support your overall wellbeing. For me, I love exercise and have become more committed to it than ever. I find that the simple activity of exercising helps to clear my head and prepares me for my day. If your body and the mind are healthy, the care you can give your patients will be improved.

Exercising has so many benefits for the body: weight management, endorphins that elevate your mood and the energy it delivers to you. Here are my personal five tips for exercising that I believe will help improve your mind, body and spirit.

  1. Establish routine. As nurses, our schedules can be pretty hectic and unpredictable, which is why it’s important to establish a regular exercise routine. This is key because when you neglect to establish a routine, it’s easier to make excuses or find reasons not to workout. For me, I go to the gym at 5 AM because that works for me. Take a step back and see what time works best for you. Exercise has to be established as a priority and built into your schedule for a day or for the week.
  2. Stand up regularly at work. As nurses, we stand up most of the day which is a wonderful way to stay active during the day. I find that getting up every once in a while is important to do at work because it keeps the blood flowing. It’s as simple as taking a brisk walk around the block, the facility or the grounds that can make all the difference. If you have the opportunity to have a standing desk, use it. I love mine. It makes it easier to walk around the office, and simple tasks that require you to go to a different part of the office are no longer hard to do.
  3. Use a medicine ball as your chair. If I am going to sit at work, I always sit on my medicine ball chair. This keeps my body still exercising even when I am sitting because it keeps my leg muscles moving and works out my core.
  4. Switch it up. When it comes to exercise, many of us are creatures of habit. We tend to gravitate towards doing the same routine on the elliptical, treadmill, or muscle work out. Regular workout is great but to maximize the time spent at the gym it’s important to include variety in your exercises to keep your muscles challenged. This helps overcome a weight loss plateau, builds new muscles, and prevents boredom from doing the same routine.
  5. Meditate for five minutes a day. Spend five minutes a day doing either spiritual meditation or just focus your mind in a direction of positive thinking. As nurses, we have stressful days. Meditation helps relieve some of the stress you face in your day-to-day life.

I have found that when I take care of my body and my mind my overall spirit is better. Nurses have hard days and multiple stress points at work. Whether its meditation, yoga, or exercise, all of these methods help improve the work-life balance we all reach to achieve.


Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN,
Chief Executive Officer, AWHONN

Lynn joined AWHONN in 2014 with more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare and nonprofit sectors.  She is a highly skilled national leader in the field of nursing and previously held key national leadership positions with three global health organizations: the American Cancer Society, the American College of Surgeons, and the Susan G. Komen Global Headquarters.  Lynn has also served in top leadership positions with several hospitals and healthcare systems.

Human Trafficking in the US is Real! Here’s How Nurses Can Help

by, Leith Merrow Mullaly, RN, MSN, IBCLC

Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists in our own backyard. Traffickers resort to violence, threats, lies and other forms of intimidation to force both adults and children to take part in sexual acts against their will. Sex trafficking can occur anywhere, even in your very own community.

In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to their Center were likely sex trafficking victims.  The Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia.  Prostitutes are victims of these crimes.

Yet, sadly, since 2007 the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline has received only 145,764 calls*  (1-888-373-7888).  Why is this? Many of the victims of sex trafficking have no knowledge that such a resource even exists.  To make a phone call to get help is not possible for most victims as communication is strictly controlled and monitored by the pimp who has all the power.  Perhaps, we nurses should have this phone number posted in areas where women in your care can see it.  Nurses should also be aware of the warning signs associated with trafficking, and  when we suspect our patient/client may be such a victim, we should hand them a phone!

Commercially exploited children in our country have almost universally been sexually abused and enter prostitution with a history of complex trauma.  Their families have been absent or dysfunctional.  Several young women with whom I work were identified by teachers as abused (eg, a 7 year old who wouldn’t change gym clothes because of bruises all over her body).  There  were mixed reaction from teachers.  Some did follow up with local child protective services.  Some called parents.  One young woman told me “My teacher was concerned but my mother denied any sexual abuse but then said ‘well, she is so suggestive around my husband’; I was 6 years old!”  Many girls tried to tell an adult but many were afraid.  Some shared “I have told people and nobody believed me”.  Some were placed in foster homes, and believe it or not, they were molested and recruited by their pimps from the foster care system.

What can nurses do?  This may seem so much bigger than what we can do as individuals. But we can develop a more acute awareness about the realities of human sex trafficking right in our own environment.   When you hear or suspect human sex trafficking may be occurring to the patient sitting before you, believe them!  They very frequently display a fearful, distrusting affect because many times they have tried to tell and NOT been believed.  Offer them your belief.   Former President Jimmy Carter wrote an editorial in the Washington Post (May 31, 2016) entitled: “Curb prostitution, punish those who buy sex rather than those who sell it”.  I recommend reading this. Carter describes the “Nordic Model” which is a system that treats purchasing and profiting from sex as major serious crimes.  That might be something for which nurses in small or large groups, such as an AWHONN  Chapter or Section, can advocate for at their own local or state level.  Just imagine the impact it could have if the men in your community who are purchasing sex were prosecuted and exposed in public as the criminals they actually are.  We have heard “but he is a pastor” and “but he is on city council” and “ their reputations would be destroyed”.  Women and children who are sold for sex face more than ruined reputations, they face ruined lives!

As health care providers and patient advocates we must begin to work vigorously with our own elected officials to change the unacceptable and shocking status quo.  Did you know that trafficked children are treated as criminals in many jurisdictions even though under Federal law those under 18 years old are classified as victims?

My state, the Commonwealth of Virginia, was the last state in the country to pass a stand-alone human sex trafficking law (2015).  Now, anyone assisting, or working to traffic, sell or purchase prostitution can be arrested and charged.  This law came about because of the incredible tenacity and diligent work of a very few advocates working with their local legislators.  They provided both Representatives and their constituents with education on this issue.

Health education has always been a strong focus for nurses.  The public looks to us to educate them and the public trusts nurses to provide solid, honest information.  My “own public” sat in disbelief when we first started talking about sex trafficking right here where we live and work.  I heard comments like “No way, this is a lovely community.  Not here!”  As they learned the realities they were initially horrified, but now are very energized to help in any number of ways.  We also can’t  forget to educate parents.  They need to know that when young teens, girls and boys, meet other “youth” on the internet they are often opening themselves to traffickers.  When middle and high school kids sext and post photos they can and do become easy prey to predators.

If your community doubts the very idea of sex trafficking in your town, send them to a website called “Backpage”.  It is a trafficking website that lists ads for prostitution.  In my small size city there are more than 20 ads a day!  “Plenty of Fish” is another site that purports to be a dating site. We have had some of our trafficked victims “hooked up” on this site with “clients” purchasing sex.  If a nearly naked woman is advertising to come to a hotel room to provide a “massage”, read between the lines.  If the face is blurred, it most likely means the girl is a young minor.  If you look…unfortunately you will find human sex trafficking right in your own backyard.

Overwhelmingly the young women with whom I work had dreams of growing up to be moms or lawyers or teachers or doctors or nurses.  One girl had seriously and sincerely wanted to be an astronaut.  No one ever dreamed of growing up to be a prostitute!  They were brought into the “life style” as young minors.    They did not choose the life and do NOT benefit financially (a common misconception).  Once used, these victims are humiliated, shamed, embarrassed and trapped in a system they despise but have no idea how to escape.  Many seem to know of a girl who tried to escape who either “disappeared” or who was re-captured with her photo posted on line with her head shaved and tattooed by  her pimp.

NURSES CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE if we just start working together to: 

  • Learn the facts about Human Sex Trafficking in our own communities
  • Work more closely with local and state law enforcement
  • Provide vitally-needed education to our peers, friends, organizations and parent groups
  • Advocate with legislators to enforce the law and explore alternatives such as the “Nordic Model” which is now used in Canada, France and Sweden
  • Believe a patient who trusts you enough to share their situation
  • Post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – 1-888-373-7888—in a visible location in your setting
  • Be hyper-alert to telltale signs such as :
    • Tattoos or branding
    • Very unclear past history and no stable address
    • STD’s, especially repeated episodes
    • Wearing scanty clothes – often 2 sizes too small
    • Presence of cotton or debris in vagina and/ or rectum
    • Problems with jaw or neck
    • Inability to keep appointments
    • No identification
    • Accompanied by a person who does not allow the patient to speak or does not want to leave them alone during interview and/or care
    • Inconsistent stories (conflicting stories or misinformation)
    • Lack of documentation of age- appropriate immunizations and health care encounters

There are 3 million nurses in our country.  I believe that together we have the power to change hearts and minds so that our local communities and our nation understand the realities of human sex trafficking.  I serve on the Foundation Board of a home for victims. Our motto is: “Changing one life at a time and changing the world for future generations”.  I have seen the first goal come true with individual young women.  Won’t you join me in meeting both goals?

AWHONN believes Nurses are ideally positioned to screen, identify, care for, provide referral services for, and support victims of human trafficking. Therefore, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) supports improved education and awareness for nurses regarding human trafficking. Learn more about AWHONN’s position on this critical topic.

Resources:


References

*Number of calls reported to the Human Trafficking Hotline as of December 2016 for more information visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/

Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Urban Institute


leithLeith Merrow Mullaly, RN, MSN, IBCLC
Leith Mullaly is a past president of AWHONN and has served at all levels of the organization. Leith has a passion for both nursing and the specialty of Women’s Health and Newborn care. Her focus within AWHONN has always been to mentor future leaders and encourage nurses’ participation in their professional association. She has experience as a Staff Nurse, Staff Educator, MCH Director, Clinical Faculty Member, Certified Lactation Consultant and Author. She is a nationally ranked speaker on topics such as Postpartum Depression, Breastfeeding, the Image of Nursing, Service Excellence, Perinatal Loss and Bereavement, Mature Primiparas. Her interest in care for Victims of Human Sex Trafficking has been a major focus for the past several years.

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.

 

 

 

We May Have Different Religions

By Evgeniya Larionova

“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race”. –Kofi Annan (Ghanian Diplomat, 7th UN Secretary-General, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize winner)

What is exactly childbirth? Some people compare it to a miracle, a heroic act, or a surge of love accompanied by strenuous and intense hours of labor. It’s absolutely one the most unique experiences that can happen to a woman’s body. The time when she is particularly vulnerable and in need of much support and care.

For me, a nurse practitioner student on labor and delivery floor at Massachusetts General Hospital, witnessing childbirth was something that I would never forget. Thrown into the action on a first clinical day, I had mixed feelings of joy, excitement and a slight nervousness. I felt extremely privileged and grateful to witness a natural delivery and I was hoping to help a future-to-be mom during the process.

From the morning report I found out that the woman I was assigned to follow was a recent immigrant from Guatemala who belongs to the indigenous Mayan population. Mayan was the patient’s native language but she was also able to understand Spanish. Her husband had been residing in the United States for 5 years. She moved here a year ago and the family has finally reunited.

My patient was accompanied by a traditional nurse midwife known as comadrona. Comadronas are trusted women leaders in their communities who accepted a spiritual calling. They usually don’t receive any formal training but have years of experience delivering babies. Comadronas regard birth as a natural process and rely heavily on God and prayers. The nurses established a plan of care recognizing my patient’s spirituality and personal support system. The Mayan midwife was present during labor and helped with comfort measures. The nurses also invited a qualified interpreter.

When I entered the room, a nurse and a midwife, along with the comadrona, surrounded the tiny woman. One of the nurses was checking her vital signs and the nurse-midwife was encouraging the woman to take slow deep breaths and relax. The comadrona, wearing a traditional colorful embroidered dress, was gently massaging her back. The room was dimly lit and the scent of fresh lavender floated in the air. My patient’s contractions were increasing steadily and were becoming more regular. This was active labor –she was ready to give birth.

The whole atmosphere struck me. There was no other language present in the room but the language of trust, respect and compassion between these women. I immediately wanted to become connected with what was happening- just by holding this woman’s hand and talking to her.

Reflecting back on this experience, I understood that nurses not only created the environment that made this woman feel comfortable and that was respectful of her spirituality but that the environment also had a significant impact on the labor and birth process. Although childbirth is unique and at the same time a unifying biological event for any woman; providing therapeutic communication, physical, emotional, spiritual care and comfort during the labor process is crucial.

The comadrona shared her knowledge and experience with the American nurses. It was important for my patient to have a traditional midwife near the bedside who comforted and prayed with her. There was interplay between modern and traditional medicine that contributed to the positive outcome. Nurses in this particular case were not only culturally sensitive and able to understand cultural values, beliefs and attitudes of clinicians and patients, but also culturally competent and had knowledge, capacity and skills to provide high-quality care (Jernigan et al, 2016).

It’s essential for any nurse in such a unique, heterogeneous country like the United States to be cognizant and open-minded of cultural diversity and the patient’s cultural perspectives. I will take this amazing experience to my future nursing practice and strive to always treat my patients with dignity, respect and compassion. I also hope to continue to integrate a holistic model and culturally sensitive care into our modern childbirth practices.

This woman gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter whom she named after a nurse taking care of her during her labor and birth.

Additional Resources & References
http://prontointernational.org/
https://he-he.org/en/
http://www.mayamidwifery.org/
http://midwivesformidwives.org/guatemala/
http://www.birth-institute.com/study-abroad-guatemala/
http://www.acog.org/
Jernigan, V. B. B., Hearod, J. B., Tran, K., Norris, K. C., & Buchwald, D. (2016). An Examination of Cultural Competence Training in US Medical Education Guided by the Tool for Assessing Cultural Competence Training.Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, 9(3), 150–167.


evgeniya-headshotEvgeniya Larionova received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from MGH Institute of Health Professions. She is a founder and an Artistic Director of AMGITS Drama&Poetry Club at the Boston Living Center. She is a member of the student Leadership Committee of the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care. Evgeniya is passionate about infectious diseases, community health and integrating holistic care in modern practices.  In her spare time she plays in the Russian theater, enjoy reading, playing the guitar and hiking.