Female journalists shine a light on the sometimes-deadly process of giving birth

Around the world, and right here in the U.S., giving birth is still a dangerous experience, particularly for black women.
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Birth Justice: Where #MeToo and Medical Sexism Intersect

Never before have conversations about sexual harassment and violence been so commonplace. Around the world, feminists are declaring that they #BelieveWomen and women are telling their #MeToo stories. Despite a wave of fierce backlash to the feminist movement, we have broken the silence around the interpersonal and systemic violence that so frequently faces women, female-bodied, queer and trans people.

But I can’t help but notice a huge blind spot around birth.

Thousands of birthing women experience violence every day. (George Ruiz / Creative Commons)

UNICEF estimates that about 353,000 babies are born each day around the world—and in the process, thousands of birthing women experience violence. Birthing people are often coerced, threatened and violated during and after labor; they are separated from their babies, ignored by their doctors and forced into numerous other inhumane acts perpetrated by the patriarchal hospital system.

Doulas often say there is a “hidden epidemic” of doctors abusing women in labor—and in the last five years alone, women have begun to speak up about obstetrical violence. Caroline Malatesta won a lawsuit against the hospital where she gave birth after she suffered from PTSD and permanent nerve damage in response to the nurse forcefully holding her baby in her vagina while she waited for the doctor to come into the room. A woman known by the pseudonym “Kelly” sued her obstetrician for assault and battery after he conducted a multiple-cut episiotomy after she explicitly refused the procedure. 

But there are still millions of cases globally where the rights of birthing people are ignored—where their genitals are touched or cut without their consent, or their bodies are used in ways they explicitly refused. It is not uncommon to see doctors forcefully conduct vaginal exams on women during labor, even while they explicitly tell them to stop, for no medical reason whatsoever—a course of action that is, by definition, rape.

The #MeToo movement has openly grappled with the issues of privilege that shape its explosion. It takes privilege to stand up and say that one has suffered sexual harassment, abuse and rape. It is, in some ways, still a privilege just to be believed once you have spoken up. For every story told with the hashtag, thousands of stories go untold by women around the world because they fear greater violence or disenfranchisement. 

While every woman is vulnerable to obstetric violence, we are not all affected equally. Immigrants, people of color and poor folks are the least likely to be heard, and in many cases the most likely to be impacted, by birthing violence. In the U.S., black birthing people are dying in childbirth three to four times as often as white women. Latinx birthing people are dying twice as often as white women. 

My partner’s mother was raped when she went to her doctor for a routine prenatal checkup; she stopped going to that doctor, but didn’t report him to the hospital because race and class dynamics made her feel that nobody would listen. My grandmother is more willing to talk about the horrible atrocities she suffered during the Holocaust as a teenager than her first birth experience in a Brooklyn hospital in 1962—in which she was strapped to a bed, verbally abused and locked in a room alone during labor, and then separated from her baby for a week and discouraged from breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, although the vast majority of doctors have good intentions and want to take care of their patients as best they can, they work in a system that does not prioritize consent, that positions their patients as less knowledgeable about their own bodies than they are and that sets up a power dynamic where doctors can exploit their knowledge to get inappropriate access to their patient’s bodies. 

This violence is rooted in the history of the field: James Marion Sims, known as “the father of modern gynecology,” conducted experiments against female slaves without their consent and without anesthesia; today, medical students are still sometimes taught to perform pelvic exams on anesthetized women without their knowledge or consent—a practice that is only illegal in four states.

The midwifery model of care offers a much-needed alternative to western obstetrics. Midwifery, a century-old craft which means “with woman,” utilizes a model that prioritizes holistic female well-being. It is not only about keeping the birth safe—it is about keeping the birthing person feeling safe, and thus protecting the physiological process of birth.

We are all born, and medical research has concluded that birth affects us in deep, lasting and powerful ways. If mothers feel unsafe, violated or abused during births, their newborn babies will store those experiences in their nervous systems. Whether we are born through a cesarean section, vaginally in a hospital with an epidural or at home, our birth experiences affect us for the rest of our lives. 

Birth justice is finally becoming a part of the conversation, with states like New York and California creating initiatives to attempt to address the birth disparities facing communities of color—but we have so much more to do. We need to start calling obstetric violence what it is, and we need to start connecting the dots between #MeToo and medical sexism.

Men who are true allies to women need to be actively engaging with other men to end rape culture, and obstetricians must band together to stop obstetric violence. Men need to stop thinking that they deserve control over female bodie, and doctors need to stop thinking that they can do anything they want to our bodies under the guise of practicing medicine.

Marea Goodman is a home-birth midwife practicing in Oakland, California. 

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This patient’s medical record said she’d given birth twice — in fact, she’d never been pregnant

Medical record errors are extremely common and can be life-threatening. For 20-year-old patient Morgan Gleason, it took many hours to fix a glaring mistake. 
Health and Science

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The 61-Year-Old Surrogate Who Gave Birth to Her Own Grandson | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN

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Trump administration weakens Obamacare birth control coverage mandate

The Trump administration issued two final rules on Wednesday providing employers more flexibility with exemptions to deny women insurance coverage for birth control.


CNN.com – RSS Channel – Health

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Children’s personal online details being collected from birth

Vast volumes of personal data are being collected about children from social media, public services and even toys with the potential to have an impact on their futures, according to a new report.
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Women who give birth to boys much more likely to have postnatal depression

A new study into postnatal depression (PND) found the odds of developing this condition increased by 79 percent when mothers had baby boys compared to baby girls. Overall the researchers identified that women who give birth to males are 71-79% more likely to develop PND. Furthermore, women whose births had complications were 174% more likely to experience PND compared to those women who had no complications.
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Child Birth In Space, Sniffing Out Malaria, Kepler Calls It Quits

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor, said renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, and biotech company SpaceLife Origin is taking its cue from this quote. In this week’s “Did you know?” column, we are presenting news about SpaceLife Origin’s bold initiatives to colonize other planets, results of the world’s first study into dog’s ability to detect malaria
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Kenya Moore Confirms Preeclampsia Diagnosis, Will Give Birth Early [Photo]

The tests are in and Kenya Moore does, in fact, have preeclampsia.

According to a note posted by the former ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ star she’ll have to deliver Baby Daly earlier than expected — although she didn’t specify when.

Earlier this week Kenya revealed that she gained 17 pounds in one week due to possible preeclampsia. She weighed 200 pounds in September.

According to Mayo Clinic, preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication “characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys.”

It typically develops suddenly in women who previously had normal blood pressure after the 20-week pregnancy mark. Besides the sudden weight gain and swelling, symptoms may include severe headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, upper abdominal pain, blurred vision, impaired liver and kidney function and decreased urine output.

We’re praying for a safe and healthy delivery.

 

The post Kenya Moore Confirms Preeclampsia Diagnosis, Will Give Birth Early [Photo] appeared first on lovebscott – celebrity news.

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‘KUWTK’: Kylie Jenner Confesses She’s Feeling ‘Insecure’ About Her Body After Giving Birth — Watch

Kylie Jenner gets a pep talk from Kim Kardashian after she admits she’s feeling ‘insecure’ about her post-baby body in this preview of the Oct. 28 episode of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians!’

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FDA Allows Food Makers To Fortify Corn Masa To Halt Birth Defects, But Few Do

Two years after the Food and Drug Administration allowed manufacturers to add folic acid, a crucial B vitamin that prevents terrible birth defects, to their corn flour, very few have done so.

A new research report found that only 10 percent of corn masa flour and no soft corn tortillas contained folic acid, which can help prevent devastating neural tube birth defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly. The grain is a staple food in the diet of Hispanics, who have higher rates of the disabling and sometimes fatal defects.

The researchers, led by Dr. Godfrey Oakley, a birth defects expert and longtime advocate of fortification, examined about 40 corn masa and tortilla products in nearly a dozen grocery stores in Atlanta.

The review included national brands, which could indicate that fortification remains low across the U.S., leaving babies at risk, Oakley said.

“We’ve known since 1991 how to make new cases of this condition go away,” he said.

The findings disappointed Dr. Michael Dunn, the Brigham Young University professor of food science who conducted tests in 2016 to prove that folic acid was safe and stable in the corn products.

“I realized that the industry would be slow to move, but hoped it would have gained greater traction within two years than is being reported,” he said.

But Dr. Lisa Waddell, deputy medical officer with the March of Dimes, said a sample from one part of one city might not be representative.

“It’s intriguing and it’s interesting and it’s helpful, but it’s really limited,” she said. “It’s going to take a little time to see that change translated onto the shelves.”

A four-year battle led by a coalition of groups that included the March of Dimes resulted in the FDA allowing voluntary fortification.

It drew the attention of Congress, notably Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who in 2016 urged the FDA to move forward.

Herrera Beutler was prompted by reports regarding a sharp rise in birth defects in Washington state.

From 2010 to 2016, in three central Washington counties, dozens of cases of anencephaly — in which babies are born missing part of the brain and skull — were detected at a rate far higher than the national average. State health officials investigated, but no cause was found.

“Unfortunately, this study highlights that not nearly enough manufacturers are choosing to take that vital step,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement.

Gruma, the Mexican company that makes most U.S. corn masa, was part of the original effort. It now fortifies its 4.4-pound packs of Maseca, which has the largest market penetration among Mexican and Hispanic buyers north of the border.

However, other sizes of Maseca may not be fortified. And other U.S. companies, including firms such as Bob’s Red Mill of Oregon, which includes corn masa among its 450 products, haven’t following the voluntary ruling.

Meghan Keeley, director of food safety and quality for Bob’s Red Mill, said company officials have discussed the move, but the firm doesn’t have a current supplier with a fortified masa available.

Proponents say that grain should be treated the same way as wheat, rice and others. Since 1996, all enriched grain products have been required to be fortified with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, or NTDs.

Those are defects that occur early in pregnancy when the neural tube that forms the spine and brain fails to close properly.

After folic acid was added to enriched grains, cases of NTDs fell by up to 35 percent in the U.S. About 1,300 fewer babies each year are born with the defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Corn masa wasn’t included as an enriched grain in 1996. Since then, consumption of corn products has risen, along with the Hispanic population in the U.S. Still, about 3,000 babies are born each year with NTDs, with higher rates among Hispanic women, the CDC says.

The new research highlights the need for mandatory fortification, Oakley said. But that would require a change in the way the grain is classified by the FDA, likely a time-consuming and cumbersome process.

Voluntary efforts rarely succeed, said Scott Montgomery, director of the Food Fortification Initiative at Emory University. It would take increased demand for fortified masa from large grocery chains, restaurants and tortilla chip makers to get manufacturers to add the vitamin.

Diane Stadler, director of the graduate programs in human nutrition at Oregon Health & Science University, urged manufacturers to take what she said is a cheap, easy step to help a high-risk population. She compared it to adding iodine to salt to prevent enlarged thyroid glands, or goiters.

“There’s a reason salt is iodized,” she said. “It is because our food system and our lifestyle don’t allow all members of society to consume sufficient amounts of these micronutrients.”

Meanwhile, families should carefully scan the corn masa on their grocery shelves. All women of reproductive age — but especially Hispanic women — should eat only fortified corn products and take daily supplements that contain 400 micrograms of folic acid, the researchers said.


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and
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

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The Birth, Death & Rebirth of Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey

The War of the Spanish Succession. The War of the Quadruple Alliance. The War of Jenkins’ Ear. The War of the Austrian Succession. The Jacobite Rebellion. The Seven Years’ War (A.K.A. the French and Indian War). The American War of Independence. The French Revolutionary Wars.

The King of England fought a hell of a lot of wars in the 1700s, from the beginning of the century right up to the very end. In the process, Britain gained various islands in the Caribbean, saved its North American colonies, lost its North American colonies, and engineered a permanent split between Scotch and Irish whiskies—in the process giving us that uniquely delightful spirit known, since 2012, as “Irish single pot still whiskey.” (Before that, it was “pure pot still,” and before that—way before that—it was “old still,” which we’ll get to later.)

Just to be clear, the whiskey in question is the uniquely Irish style that is double- or (usually) triple-distilled in copper pot stills from a mix of malted and unmalted barley (neither can drop below 30-percent of the total mix of grains) and up to 5-percent other grains, if desired, and barrel-aged for at least three years. The large whack of unmalted barley gives the whiskey a subtle funk, often described as “musky” or “mossy,” that sets it apart it from a 100-percent malt whiskey and makes it interesting, much like a tiny hit of peat-smoke does to a Speyside Scotch malt whiskey.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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