The 51% Factor: Pregnancy, Power & Health

Recently I came across this posting and thought it worth posting again. On one hand I see signs of continuing progress, and on another hand it seems to me there are fundamentalist influences popping up everywhere (including among U.S. evangelists) that threaten women’s right to reproductive freedom and health. There is no end to the need to be vigilant.

In the U.S. and most of the developed world, approximately 51% of the population is female. Most females give birth at some point in their lives, although, in any year, only about 2% of the population gives birth.

No one living on earth got here any other way than gestation, so there ought to be some power attached to being part of that 51%. Historically, it might be said that the power has been merely for survival…the good breeders survived long enough to produce heirs and those who lived on knew where the roots and fruit grew.

Only women can make more people with their bodies.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Women make people
  • Women’s health and fitness before pregnancy affects whether the pregnancy is healthy
  • Women’s health and fitness during pregnancy affects her lifetime health and that of her offspring
  • Maternal survival is important to offspring well-being
  • Maternal health and fitness affects maternal adaptation and thereby offspring well-being

Thus, is it not a sanguine notion that the health and survival of women is critical to the health of everyone? After all, the health of nations is associated with this slight majority of females, and the wealth of nations is associated with its health.

The good news is that people working from this understanding are making some headway around the globe. Recently, the World Health Organization noted that maternal death among pregnant and birthing women world-wide has been dramatically reduced from the 1980’s to recently. This is very good news!

Here is the interesting footnote:  Maternal death in the U.S. has risen 42% in the same period. While the absolute numbers remain small, this is a disturbing picture. What could be causing this?

Time will tell if we can figure it out and fix it. I venture to suggest some directions for consideration:

  • The elevated cesarean birth rate with its sequellae of cardiovascular and immune system disorders
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndromes
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

Why am I hopeful, then? I see among our current educated generation of new moms and moms-to-be a willingness to exert their influence – as breeders – over the health care scene. They want less technological birth. They want support. They want more information. They want to be healthy. These are wonderful things. I salute these young women…they also make my job easier in the process.

In addition, I see among young health care practitioners an understanding of the value of these things. Among practitioners working in public health clinics there is a sense of desperation on the one hand that the poor and indigent have no capacity or will to take care of themselves. On the other hand, the first step is always education and there are a lot of people working on this issue.

Which brings me to the closing point:  How do we bring more resources and intelligence to helping women be healthy, prepare for pregnancy, have healthy babies, reduce pregnancy complications, and improve infant and maternal death rates? I, for one, will keep blogging on this issue. You, I hope, will vote for people who understand this issue. The political power and will is in our hands.

51% of us are women…some day 51% of us can set priorities

Mother’s Day for the Compassionate

Mother’s Day is an important day!  It is set aside because – let’s face it – without our mothers, none of us would be here. Not only do moms carry us inside their own bodies for those critical nine months, but once we are here our mom, or someone who can sub for our mom, is essential to our early survival.

For moms, moms-to-be and those with moms, here is something else to consider: Many presents celebrate motherhood. We can also give gifts that save mother’s lives, help them nurture their children, and improve the lives of families in our own countries and the developing world.

Here are a few groups to which you might want to consider giving this year. By donating to these organizations you can help improve the lives of mothers and children. Most will send a card or email message to the mom in whose honor you give the gift.

UNICEF Inspired Gifts.  You can choose gifts that improve education, water, health, nutrition, emergency care and other factors that affect the well-being of women and children.

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood. You can advocate for every mother and every child in 152 nations when you give to this organization.

International Confederation of Midwives. This group exists to raise awareness of the global role of midwives in reducing maternal and newborn child mortality.

The Fistula Foundation. This group exists to raise awareness of and funding for fistula treatment, prevention and educational programs worldwide. Fistula is the devastating injury cause by untreated obstructed labor.

The Preeclampsia Foundation. This organization supports research to prevent and treat one of the most dangerous disorders of pregnancy, one that accounts for a large percentage of premature births and low birth weight infants. Having preeclampsia is also a risk factor for later heart disease for the mother.

March of Dimes. The “mother” of all charities for helping prevent and treat disorders and diseases that affect children.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and – hopefully – to all mothers everywhere!

Healthy Moms Having Healthy Babies – the Challenge in 2011

Welcome to 2011! We want to take this opportunity to say, once again, that our main goal here is to provide credible, evidence-based information on how to prepare for a healthy pregnancy and birth, recover quickly and begin your mothering experience in good health. Why? Because that is what you can do to help get your baby off to a healthy start in life.

Helping women be healthy during the childbearing period is our primary goal. Not everything is within your control, especially genetic factors. But your baby’s life is determined – in part – by your behavior before pregnancy, during pregnancy, during birth and in the early mothering stages. More and more, we are coming to understand that the environment within the uterus is largely affected by the mother’s behavior (exercise, nutrition, stress, breastfeeding and avoidance of risky behaviors such as smoking) and environmental exposures (toxins in chemicals, the air we breathe and food products).

We are recommitting to making up-to-date and well-documented information available through this blog. Now and then you will get a rant, but for the most part, we want to help people have terrific experiences during the childbearing period. Of course, since we are part of Dancing Thru Pregnancy and its Total Pregnancy Fitness and Mom-Baby Fitness programs, you will hear a lot about being fit before, during and after pregnancy BECAUSE fitness has more benefits for mom and baby than any other single factor!

Here are some of the well-documented findings about being fit during the childbearing period:

  • assists in healthy implantation and improves placental function
  • reduces the risk or severity of gestational diabetes
  • reduces the risk of preeclampsia
  • reduces the risk of prematurity and low birth weight
  • reduces the risk for childhood obesity
  • may reduce the risk of surgical (cesarean) birth
  • improves long term maternal heart health
  • reduces the risk of postpartum depression
  • increases the likelihood that a woman will be fit in mid life

You can find references for these findings on this blog, on our website (dancingthrupregnancy.com) or through the American College of Sports Medicine and other organizations listed in our blogroll.

Our secondary goal is adding to the effort to assure Safe Motherhood around the globe. We do this, in part, by supporting the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and helping sponsor projects that improve mother’s lives locally. We are also committed to spreading the word that improving the lives of women and children involves a reality change…namely that helping women plan their families, have healthy pregnancies and give birth in safety are more important human goals than wars and violence.

Please join us this year in this important endeavor.

Thank you.

Ann Cowlin, founder/director, DancingThruPregnancy.com, twitter@anncowlin

Birth and Human Survival

Ever wonder if humanity will become extinct sooner rather than later?

Animal Planet program on sea turtles…hatchlings crawl across the sand to the ocean and the commentator remarks that only one in a hundred will survive to adulthood. Those who escape the pelican beaks or salt water crocodiles waiting for them on the sand may meet with sharks or other swimming predators. Not good odds. Conclusion:  No wonder they lay huge numbers of eggs in the sand.

But, what would the result be if the turtles figured out some way to destroy all these predators so that most of each hundred survived?

New Jersey has just completed a brief bear hunting season in which about 500 bears were killed by hunters because another species that competes with them for space and food has over-populated that space. The close interface of bears and humans resulted in a situation in which the natural predator (bear) was overcome by the competing creature (human) who figured out how to destroy the predator.

Human beings have been party to a number of species’ extinctions or near etinctions because of our capacity to use technology to overwhelm the natural process of competing for resources. Nature has a way of balancing out the advantages that one species gains over another, but the use of advanced technology – everything from guns to in vitro fertilization – oversets this natural order. Essentially, we are working on having more and more surviving members. Check it out:

What questions does this thinking raise for those of us concerned about the safety of birth?

How do we make birth safer throughout the world while at the same time address the issue of over-population? There was a time when the capacity to overset nature worked to human advantage. The notion of “go forth and multiply” worked for us much as it currently does for the sea turtles. But that balance has changed. Essentially, the difficulties of establishing family planning as accessible and acceptable behavior for women goes hand in hand with aiding women in having safe pregnancy and birth, as well as supporting infant survival. For directly working on this issue, a thank you    is due the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

How do we balance women’s need to work, the trend in developed nations to delay childbearing, the dangers of childbearing too young, and the need to reduce population? A hard question we need to ask is whether it is a “good” thing to have a child at 55 or 60. We know it is not safe for 12 year olds bear children. Yet, we go to extreme, expensive lengths to permit older women to have this experience while we spend very little on projects to prevent the atrocity of coerced reproduction in young women and girls.

So, the turtles and bears got me thinking scary thoughts:

  • What are the odds that the human population is growing so fast we cannot sustain safe water and prevent or quarantine infection sufficiently to avoid major epidemics that kill most of us?
  • What if engineered food products turn out to be not so good for us?
  • What if we so disturb the food chain by causing extinctions that we upset our food supply and end in chaos?
  • And, how does climate change fit in to all this?

Why would we allow this? Oh, right, greed. Growth is how economies are sustained. Have to work on that, folks.

Okay. I’ll stick to writing about enabling healthy pregnancy for now. But, let’s all work on raising awareness of the need for family planning.

The 51% Factor: Pregnancy, Power & Health

In the U.S. and most of the developed world, approximately 51% of the population is female. Most females give birth at some point in their lives, although, in any year, only about 2% of the population gives birth.

No one living on earth got here any other way than gestation, so there ought to be some power attached to being part of that 51%. Historically, it might be said that the power has been merely for survival…the good breeders survived long enough to produce heirs and those who lived on knew where the roots and fruit grew.

Only women can make more people with their bodies.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Women make people
  • Women’s health and fitness before pregnancy affects whether the pregnancy is healthy
  • Women’s health and fitness during pregnancy affects her lifetime health and that of her offspring
  • Maternal survival is important to offspring well-being
  • Maternal health and fitness affects maternal adaptation and thereby offspring well-being

Thus, is it not a sanguine notion that the health and survival of women is critical to the health of everyone? After all, the health of nations is associated with this slight majority of females, and the wealth of nations is associated with its health.

The good news is that people working from this understanding are making some headway around the globe. Recently, the World Health Organization noted that maternal death among pregnant and birthing women world-wide has been dramatically reduced from the 1980’s to recently. This is very good news!

Here is the interesting footnote:  Maternal death in the U.S. has risen 42% in the same period. While the absolute numbers remain small, this is a disturbing picture. What could be causing this?

Time will tell if we can figure it out and fix it. I venture to suggest some directions for consideration:

  • The elevated cesarean birth rate with its sequellae of cardiovascular and immune system disorders
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndromes
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

Why am I hopeful, then? I see among our current educated generation of new moms and moms-to-be a willingness to exert their influence – as breeders – over the health care scene. They want less technological birth. They want support. They want more information. They want to be healthy. These are wonderful things. I salute these young women…they also make my job easier in the process.

In addition, I see among young health care practitioners an understanding of the value of these things. Among practitioners working in public health clinics there is a sense of desperation on the one hand that the poor and indigent have no capacity or will to take care of themselves. On the other hand, the first step is always education and there are a lot of people working on this issue.

Which brings me to the closing point:  How do we bring more resources and intelligence to helping women be healthy, prepare for pregnancy, have healthy babies, reduce pregnancy complications, and improve infant and maternal death rates? I, for one, will keep blogging on this issue. You, I hope, will vote for people who understand this issue. The political power and will is in our hands.

51% of us are women…some day 51% of us can set priorities

American College of Nurse Midwives updates

Two updates on the ACNM website of interest:

• the value of exercise in pregnancy

• health care reform

Check out the ACNM site!!

Worthy Global Human Endeavors

There are only two truly worthy global human endeavors:

1. Humane Birthing. Find out more from the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.

2. Space Exploration. Find out more from the Augustine Commission.

Pass it on.

If you are not yet convinced about the global need for humane care for pregnant and birthing women, google (or bing, or yahoo…) “fistula.” If you want more first world information, compare medical birth with what’s on YouTube; while these two approaches to birth are at odds in contemporary medicine, in a humane setting they are both necessary.

As for space, let me paraphrase Craig Nelson’s notion:  In time, the Earth will perish. This is nothing you need to lose sleep over. It will be a long, long time before this happens. But, we need to start now to prepare. In time, the Earth will perish, and we will need to be somewhere else when that happens.

These two things will reap all the rewards that need be reaped. The enabling of safe motherhood and our movement into space are the only things that ensure human survival.

Here are two links to other DTP Blog posts related to this topic:  Health Care Reform and the 51% Healthcare Solution.