Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

A Very Inspirational Update March 30, 2010

This one is for all you VBAC mommas out there!!!

In October of 2009 I posted a letter sent to me by Kelly, a mother who, at 35 weeks of pregnancy, was startled, hurt, confused, angry, and scared to find out that her supposedly VBAC friendly obstetrician was actually leading her on the whole time….

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Dear Nursing Birth,

 

I’m a day short of 35 weeks pregnant today and went in for an OB appointment this morning. My doctor said that if I don’t go into labor on my own in my 39th week that (depending on how much and if my cervix is dilated) she might put me on pitocin- although she did say that “they don’t induce labor for VBAC patients”. But that they won’t let me go to 40 weeks, and that by 40 weeks they will have to schedule another c-section for me. (I live in Cedar Falls, IA)

 

I am shocked and angry! First of all- since when is 40 weeks, too late? My OB says it’s not wise to go to beyond 40 weeks due to increased risk of uterine rupture. But this just sounds like B.S. to me!

 

And how does the doc get away with not telling me something important like this until NOW? Unbelievable!!  My doctor and I have already gone through my birth plan, line by line, because I want as few interventions as possible and no drugs, seeking a natural vaginal childbirth. I’ve taken 12 weeks of Bradley method birth classes to help my husband and I be better prepared this time.  I also have a fantastic, knowledgeable, and supportive doula. But I can’t believe what a fight it is to have a VBAC!

 

If I had known sooner that this was the doctor/hospital policy for VBAC, I probably would have gone somewhere else. Since it’s so late in the game now, I’m probably going to stick it out. I don’t have to do anything they say, I can always stay at home and come in when I’m ready, and that will be after I am already in deep labor on my own.

 

I was just wondering if perhaps this reflects a change in my hospital’s policy for managing VBAC? One of the other OB’s I met with at the hospital said that after a high maintenance VBAC patient a few months ago (who also insisted on a natural vaginal childbirth, and did it, but most of the hospital staff were very unhappy dealing with this patient…?) that the hospital is reviewing whether to allow VBAC at all. I’m probably not helping the situation by openly trying to avoid their planned interventions. I KNOW I’m required to have continuous electronic fetal monitoring… but I’ve also been told that my labor has to be pretty much “text book” regarding continuous dilation of my cervix, and of course no tolerance for fetal distress…or else!

 

I just wish all women would know this before their first c-section. If you thought recovering from a c-section was bad, wait till you try to have a VBAC and deal with the red tape and lack of support from the medical community. It’s just so frustrating to have to be prepared to battle, and yet relax at the same time! 

 

Have you heard of this kind of change in management of VBAC? That VBAC isn’t even allowed to go to 40 weeks?? Thanks for writing such an informative, educational blog and for being so supportive of natural childbirth! I have enjoyed your tips and insight from the hospital perspective (about writing birth plans, and managing your OB, and also the many ways hospital staff really will be supportive- even if you barf!).

 

Sincerely,

Kelly

 

 

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I replied to Kelly in my post entitled “The Ol’ Bait and Switch, OR Finding Out Your OB Has Been Leading You On” with words of encouragment and some information about other scare tactics that some health care providers use to intimidate VBAC planning mommas.  My main message was this:

“You deserve the opportunity to have the unmedicated, intervention-free birth that you have planned for.  Your desires for said unmedicated, intervention-free VBAC are well supported by the research.  You deserve to be cared for by a birth attendant who shares your philosophy regarding (among other things) childbirth and VBAC.  You deserve to NOT have to worry about fighting anyone to be given a fair chance at having the birth you have been planning…not the hospital, not the nursing staff, not your obstetrician, NOT ANYONE.  You deserve it for THIS birth. “

 

Fast forward 4 months.  I was struggling with the thought of returning back to blogging as NursingBirth.  I was working for a hosptial with a 40% C-section rate.  I was feeling powerless.  Until I saw this in my inbox…..

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Hi Nursing Birth!

Hope you still plan to come back after you settle in from your move- we miss your great posts!

 

Also, just wanted to say thank you -again- for posting about my comment awhile back!  I wanted to update you and tell you that I had a successful VBAC!  Thanks for your suggestions, resources, and support!

 

You can read my story over at my blog:  http://chun-beeks.blogspot.com/2009/12/happy-birthday-john-carl-fischer.html

 

Hugs and best wishes,

Kelly

 

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Needless to say I was touched, proud, empowered, honored, and ESTATIC!!!   There is no doubt in my mind that Kelly’s email was a main factor in my decision to return to blogging as well as take the plunge and start yet another new job!  So thank you Kelly for being just as much of an inspiration to me as I was to you!!!  I am so lucky to be a part of this awesome community we call the “birth blogosphere” 🙂

Congrats again Kelly!!  You rock!!

NursingBirth

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Urgent Message from ICAN! Please Spread the Word!! October 18, 2009

Filed under: In The News — NursingBirth @ 10:07 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

Hello Everyone!

 

Please check out an urgent message sent from Gretchen Humphries, the Advocacy Director of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN).  She needs our help to spread the word and send in stories about a most critical healthcare issue:  insurance discrimination.

 

For more information on this story please check out ICAN’s website.

 

Thank You,

 

NursingBirth

 

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From: Gretchen Humphries <advocacy@ican-online.org>
Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2009 1

Subject: Urgent request for stories

 

I have sent you this request because of your connections within the Birth
Community. I hope that you will see if there is any way you can assist ICAN
with this request.

 

We have made this request before but now the stakes are really high. Peggy
Robertson
is a woman from CO who testified yesterday before the HELP
committee (the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee) about
being denied coverage because of a previous cesarean, unless she could prove
she had been sterilized. (We managed to work in a couple of comments about
VBAC bans too! Which got some response from a couple of Senators!)
Senator Mikulski, who chaired that hearing, has asked for more stories
similar to Peggy Robertson’s. Please distribute this request as widely as
you can –

 

ICAN needs stories about discriminatory insurance practices based on a
previous cesarean. This can include but is not limited to demands for
sterilization, restrictions on how soon you can have another pregnancy and
be covered, higher premiums, restrictions on the total amount of benefits
they will pay, excessively high deductibles for maternity care. Even if all
you have is your name, state, contact information (email is fine) and a
description of the circumstances (with the name of the relevant insurance
company(ies) if possible) we can use it. If you have written documentation,
that would be pure gold.

 

There is interest about this at the highest levels of the Federal Govt. and
we will use this to open the discussion on other areas of discrimination
(like VBAC bans, lack of transparency, etc)….so please, take a moment and
get the information to ICAN. You can email me at advocacy@ican-online.org
or you can snail mail to ICAN of Ann Arbor, PO Box 48, Stockbridge, MI
49285.

 

Your story could make a difference that would improve the care available for
millions of women and their babies.

 

Thank You,

 

Gretchen Humphries
Advocacy Director, ICAN
advocacy@ican-online.org
(517) 745-7297

 

No Doula in the Name of Privacy? Oh Come On! September 26, 2009

This comment was recently left by a reader named Jessica under one of my older posts.  Since I read every comment that is posted on my blog I happened to stumble upon it this morning.  When I read it I couldn’t help but think “I Hear Ya Sister!!!”and felt that it was so well stated that it needed to be its own post!  I know that there are quite a few doulas out there that read my blog and I just wanted to take this opportunity and give a shout out to them all and say thank you for all you try to do to educate women before they get to me on L&D!  Unfortunately, they don’t all listen but I hope you know that there is at least one L&D nurse out there that appreciates your efforts, both before and during labor!!!

 

For all you expecting moms out there please check out DONA’s website to learn a bit more about what a doula is, how you can find one, the effects a doula can have on your birth outcome and experience, and how a doula can advocate for you!

 

And just for the record, there is NOTHING private about a hospital birth experience.  Even in the most well meaning hospitals with the most well meaning birth attendant and the most well meaning nurse(s).  Albeit some women’s hospital births might be more private than others and I personally have had the priviledge to be a part of a few totally amazing hospital births.  But to not hire a doula for your hospital birth (especially at a university hospital!) because you want a “private” experience is a very VERY naive and misguided idea!  I am not saying that to hurt anyone’s feelings and I am certainly not judging anyone out there who decided not to hire a doula for one reason or another.  I am just telling it like it is.  Some food for thought…

 

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Hi NursingBirth!

I am a certifying doula and have recently had an interview with a perspective client. She is 36wks pregnant with her first. She was strongly considering a doula, but everyone else in her family was on the fence, and pushing a “private” birth experience. However, they are planning a delivery at a university hospital, she has yet to see the same health care provider throughout her prenatal care, she has no idea which one will be at the birth, or if it will even be someone she has met. They are planning a natural birth. She assured me that the hospital she is birthing at offers a multitude of birth options, including water birth, birth ball, position changes, etc… and the childbirth education from the hospital has given them confidence in their ability to get what they want from this birth. After much “deliberation” they decided that they were not going to hire a doula, based solely on their confidence in the hospital to give them what they want, and their desire for privacy. While I can completely respect their privacy request, I fail to see how birthing in a university hospital will give her much if any privacy…AND if she doesn’t even know who will be her health care provider at the birth…how is she confident that the hospital will give her what she needs? I wish there was some way to help open her naive eyes to the reality of birth in hospitals today. Her chances of getting to work with a mother friendly doc that understands and respects natural birth have got to be low! Reading your blog was comforting (because I know there are others who struggle with this) and depressing(because we have to struggle with this). I don’t want to have her hire me for her VBAC next time around. I want her to have the birth she desires now. I realize there isn’t much I can do for her at this point, which is why I am here, leaving my frustration with a bunch of like minded individuals. I am hoping things will go well for her and in the mean time, I’ve let her know that I am and will be available until the baby is born. just in case. Thanks for the space to rant.

  

Sincerely,

Jessica

  

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Jessica, you can rant here anytime!!!  I Hear Ya Sister!  Loud and clear!!

 

And now I leave you with one of my FAVORITE Monty Python skits of all time.  I have seen it a million times but it is still as hilarious (and eerily true) each time I see it.  Notice how the doctor invites in an army of people to watch.  It often feels like that where I work no matter what I do!!!

 

 

“Pit To Distress” PART 2: Top 7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Unnecessary & Harmful Interventions July 9, 2009

Yesterday in my post entitled “Pit to Distress: A Disturbing Reality” I wrote about a troubling way of administering the drug pitocin to augment or induce labor that some birth attendants are practicing in our country’s maternity wards.  Called “pit to distress”, the intention is to order a nurse (either verbal or written) to continue to turn up (or “crank” as is the current L&D slang) the pitocin in order to induce hyperstimulation/tachysystole of the uterus so that a women is experiencing more than 5 contractions in a 10 minute period.  This action, sooner or later, will cause fetal distress as research has shown that a baby needs AT LEAST a 1 minute break in between contractions where the uterus is AT REST in order for the baby to continue to receive adequate oxygenated blood flow from the placenta and not have to dip into his reserve. 

 

Inspiration for my post came from two posts on the subject written by Keyboard Revolutionary and The Unnecesarean.  Since yesterday I have received many comments regarding this upsetting trend and one comment in particular has inspired me to address the topic again:

 

 

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July 8, 2009

 

Dear NursingBirth,

 

I really enjoy your blog and I learn a lot from all your posts. I am wondering if there is a way (as the patient) to know if something like this is happening and refuse it? Is the patient always told how much pitocin she is getting and can she say at a certain point that she doesn’t want it any higher if she is making progress?

 

Sincerely,

Zoey

 

 

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Dear Zoey,

 

This is a GREAT question.  I love hearing from women who desire to learn more about their choices in childbirth and become more proactive in the care they are receiving.  KUDOS to you for doing both!!  I have thought a lot about this and I have come up with a list that I hope you find helpful.  Please pass it along to all of your friends, both expecting and not, so that we can both work to inspire more women to do as you do….that is, DO their research and DEMAND better care!!!

 

 

 

TOP 7 WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM UNNECESSARY AND HARMFUL OBSTETRICAL INTERVENTIONS (including “Pit to Distress”!)

 

 

#1  Interview different birth attendants/practices before or during early pregnancy and CHOOSE a birth attendant that practices in a way that aligns with your personal childbirth/postpartum philosophy, is appropriate for your health status, and (optimally) who practices a midwifery model of care!

 

I wish I could scream this from the roof tops!  Sometimes I feel like a broken record I say this so often but I say it so often because it is SO important!!  The bottom line here ladies is that if you think you can pick any care provider you want and then just write a birth plan that clearly states your philosophy and preferences and just get what you want…..THINK AGAIN!  Birth attendants are creatures of HABIT more than anything else.  If they cut an episiotomy on the majority of their patients then what makes you think that if you ask, they won’t cut one on you?  In fact, not only will they cut one on you but they will come up with some bogus reason why it was necessary.  Likewise, if your birth attendant induces most of their patients, what makes you think that he won’t start pressuring you to set up an induction date once you hit 37 weeks! 

 

Think of it this way, if the birth attendant has a high elective induction rate, they probably feel more comfortable managing pitocin induced or augmented labors as opposed to spontaneous labors and hence, they will probably try to do everything in their power [including persuasion (e.g. the “convenience” card and the “aren’t you sick of being pregnant” card) as well as scare tactics (e.g. the “big baby” card, the “I might not be there to deliver you if you don’t” card, or my favorite the “if you don’t your baby might be stillborn/dead baby” card)] to convince you that your labor needs to be induced or augmented with pitocin.  Why?  It probably is a mix between how they were taught (i.e. medical model of maternity care), what they are used to (a self fulfilling prophecy), and a desire to be the one in “control.” 

 

Writer Lela Davidson quotes professional childbirth educator and doula, Kim Palena James in her article Create a Better Birth Plan: How to Write One and What It Can and Cannot Do For You:

 

“Too many parents create birth plans with the expectation that it will be the actual script of their baby’s birth. There is no way! Nature scripts how your child is born into this world: short, long, hard, easy, early, late, etc… The health care providers you choose, and the facility they practice in, will script how you and your labor are treated. The variations are vast. I wish every expectant parent spent less time writing birth plans and more time selectively choosing health care providers that align with their philosophy on health care, match their health status and their needs for bedside manner.”  (Emphasis mine)

 

So PLEASE for the LOVE of all mothers and babies, PLEASE do your homework! 

 

Of course there is always the chance that you do interview a particular birth attendant and they act one way in the office with you and then, WHAM!, are a completely different person when you step foot on L&D.  I see it happen ALL THE TIME where I work.  Just because a doctor gives you his home phone number and is sweeter than sugar in the office, doesn’t mean he won’t section you just to get to the company Christmas party!  (This actually happened to a patient I took care of!  NO lie!)  So what can you do about that! 

 

Jill from Keyboard Revolutionary recently blogged about this:

 

“Ya know, sometimes I feel bad for the good physicians out there. I know they exist. We all do. We’ve all shaken our fists in righteous indignation at the rants of Marsden Wagner. We’ve listened intently to the poetic, thickly accented declarations of Michel Odent. We’ve swooned over the tender ministrations of “Dr. Wonderful,” a.k.a Dr. Robert M. Biter. God bless those diamonds in the rough, particularly in the obstetrical field. It must be twice as hard to shine when the lumps of coal around you are so horrifically ugly.

 

I was pondering just now in the shower how so many of us think we’ve got a real gem of an OB (or any other doctor, really) until show time, and suddenly we’re hit with the ol’ bait-and-switch. Sometimes there are warning flags along the way, sometimes not. Sometimes the flags don’t pop up until it’s too late. It sucks that for many women, we don’t realize what a crock we’ve been fed until we’ve already digested it. How do you know whether you’ve got a bad egg or your own Dr. Wonderful?”

 

This leads me to my second point…

 

 

#2  Ask the RIGHT QUESTIONS and the RIGHT PEOPLE when researching potential birth attendants.

 

Two of my favorite posts from Nicole at It’s Your Birth Right! are her posts about choosing the right birth attendant entitled Choose Wisely I and Choose Wisely II.  She writes:

 

“The decision about WHO is going to be your birth attendant should NOT be left to chance.  Where you deliver, how you choose to labor, what you chose to do while pregnant and in labor, while these things are definitely important, without the proper WHO, the plan will have difficulty coming together.

 

I get questions, all the time from friends, friends of friends and even strangers.  They want my thoughts about pregnancy, labor and childbirth. I have spent HOURS talking with women providing answers and information they should be able to get from their prenatal provider/birth attendant.  I think to myself at the end of those conversations, “Why isn’t she able to get this information from her?  If  he doesn’t make her feel special, does not answer her questions, and doesn’t agree with her philosophy on childbirth and labor, why on earth is she allowing him to be her birth attendant?!”

 

When I pose this question to the women themselves, the answers unfortunately never include “Because I did my research and I found him to be the best match for me and my desired childbirth experience.”  Most of the answers I receive fall into [one of] four categories, none of which are good enough reasons alone to choose a prenatal care provider/birth attendant.   They are: “She delivered my sister/girlfriend”, “She is my gynecologist,” “He is the best/most popular person in area,” and “Her office is so close and convenient to my office/house.”

 

Now I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t trust your sister, sister-in-law, or best friend’s opinion about her personal birth attendant but if you are going to ask such a person for advice please remember that she probably has only had limited experience with that birth attendant as compared to, say, an L&D nurse or doula, and it is important to ask her exactly why she loves her birth attendant so much.  Does she love him because he trusts in birth and strived to facilitate a positive and empowering birth experience for her or does she love him because he was the only OB in the area that would agree to induce her at 38 weeks because she was sick of being pregnant?  There is a difference!!

 

If you have done some research and found a birth attendant that you think you really like, I would recommend tapping into some community resources to get the “inside scoop” about your birth attendant.  Here are some ideas:

 

1)      Contact your local grassroots birth advocacy group like International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) or BirthNetwork National and try to attend a meeting.  The women that attend these meetings are often in tune with the birth culture in their community and can be GREAT resources for which birth attendants are true and which are really wolves in sheep’s clothing!  Also, don’t count out ICAN as a resource even if you have never had a cesarean.  We have a quite a few moms currently in my local ICAN group that are first timers and decided to start attending because they said they were learning so much about birth in general from our meetings!

 

2) Sign up for a childbirth preparation class that is NOT funded/run by a hospital and ask the instructor for her opinion on different birth attendants.  It is the only way to guarantee that your instructor is not held back from speaking her true feelings since hospital based childbirth instructors are working for the interest and promotion of their hospital by the very nature of their job.  Independent childbirth instructors like Lamaze, Hypnobabies, Birthing From Within, Bradley etc. etc. can be GREAT resources as to which birth attendants follow which philosophies because often times their clients come back and tell them about their experiences.

 

2)      Consider consulting or hiring a doula.  A doula is a great resource as to the true nature of a birth attendant because she is someone who is actually in the labor and delivery room with her clients and has as close to an “insider’s view” as you can get without actually working for the hospital.  If you hire a doula to be with you during your labor, they will also advocate for you, your needs, and your birth plan as well as provide essential labor support that (unfortunately) even the most well intentioned nurse might not have the time to do. 

 

 

#3  Do NOT agree to an induction of labor unless there is a legitimate obstetrical, maternal, or fetal reason for delivering the baby before natural spontaneous labor begins!!  PLEASE Do NOT agree to an unnecessary elective induction of labor. 

 

This might seem like a no brainier ladies but so many get sucked in!  They don’t call it “the seduction of induction” for nothing! 

 

Bottom line is if you want to protect yourself from such an asinine, unnecessary, and dangerous intervention as “Pit to Distress” then DON’T agree to be induced unless there is a very important medical reason!

 

BABIES AND MOTHERS HAVE THE BEST OUTCOMES WHEN THEY ARE ALLOWED TO BEGIN LABOR SPONTANEOUSLY AS WELL AS LABOR AND DELIVER WITH MINIMAL INTERVENTIONS!

 

In the Lamaze Institute for Normal Birth’s MUST READ patient education bulletin entitled Care Practice #1: Labor Begins on Its Own, author Debby Amis, RN, BSN,CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, and editor Amy M. Romano, MSN, CNM write:

 

“There is growing evidence that induction of labor is not risk-free. In 2007, Goer, Leslie, and Romano reviewed the entire body of literature on the risks of induction in healthy women with normal pregnancies and found that when labor was induced, the following problems may be more common:

  • vacuum or forceps-assisted vaginal birth;
  • cesarean surgery;
  • problems during labor such as fever, fetal heart rate changes, and shoulder dystocia;
  • babies born with low birth weight;
  • admission to the NICU;
  • jaundice;
  • increased length of hospital stay.”

 

Okay, enough said!

 

 

#4  If you have to be induced or augmented with pitocin for a true medical or obstetrical reason, be honest with your nurse about how you are feeling and have one of your labor companions keep track of how often your contractions are coming.

 

And this does NOT mean for your labor companion to “monitor watch”!!  It’s not a TV for goodness’ sake!

 

Research has shown that due to the risks of pitocin, continuous electronic fetal monitoring (CEFM) is a safety requirement for anyone being induced or augmented with it.  However, remember CEFM is a machine and machines have limitations.  The tocodynamometer or “toco” is “pressure transducer that is applied to the fundus of the uterus by means of a belt, which is connected to a machine that records the duration of the contractions and the interval between them on graph paper.”  However, depending on your body type, how “fluffy” your abdomen is, your position, and your gestational age, the toco might not be recording your contractions appropriately.  You might be having contractions every minute but the machine is not registering them.  This is why I always remind women that they have to tell me how they are feeling. 

 

If you are being augmented or induced with pitocin your nurse SHOULD:

 

1)      Be palpating (feeling) your fundus (top of your uterus above the belly button) before, during, and after contractions periodically throughout your labor to judge how strong they are (mild, moderate, or strong).  Palpation before and after contractions also assures the nurse that your uterus is actually coming to rest (is soft) between contractions, which assures that the baby (and mom!) are getting a break!  Remember, unless you have an IUPC (intrauterine pressure catheter) in, the toco can only tell the nurse how far apart and how long the contractions are NOT how strong they are!  That’s right!  Unless you have an IUPC in, the height of the contractions on the monitors is ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS!  So therefore the only way for the nurse to know how strong the contractions are is to TOUCH your belly and ASK you!

 

2) Ask you about your pain level (for example to “rate” your pain on a scale of 0 to 5 or 0 to 10) regularly during your labor unless you have specifically asked her not to ask you about your pain.

 

3) Give you periodic updates on your progress and the progress of the pitocin.

 

[Note: I can only speak for myself here but what I do when I have a patient on pitocin is first and foremost to explain the process of titrating the pitocin and what the desired outcome is (and according to our hospital’s policy the desired outcome is moderate to strong contractions that are coming every 2-3 minutes, or 3-5 in a 10 minute period), as well as keep her informed throughout the process when I am increasing or decreasing the pitocin and for what reason.  For example, I might say “It looks to me like you are contracting every 4 minutes.  What is your pain level?  Do you feel like you are getting an adequate break?  Would you like to change position?  I would like to increase to pitocin to achieve a more regular pattern.  What do you think?” or “It looks like the baby continues to have variable decelerations in his heart rate despite all of the position changes we have tried.  I am going to give you a small IV fluid bolus and turn the pitocin down some to see if it helps to resolve the decels.  The baby’s variability is still very reassuring and she is still having accelerations so she is doing well.  I just would like to keep her that way!”  Your nurse should be keeping you “in the loop” so to speak and if she is not, it is your right to ask questions!]

 

It is also important to remember that that running pitocin is much more of an art than a science.  Therefore you might think she is being “mean” if she is increasing your pitocin since you are only contracting every 6 minutes but remember, running the pitocin lower than is needed to cause cervical change isn’t going to help you either.  No nurse wants her patient to end up in the OR for “failure to progress” because she didn’t turn the pitocin up enough.  There is a happy medium somewhere that most nurses are trying to find.  So please, know that sometimes, even if you really feel like those “every 6 minute” contractions are strong enough already, it is important for the nurse to titrate the medication to achieve an effective labor pattern that promotes a vaginal delivery with a healthy baby. 

 

If your nurse is NOT doing these things then it is your right to ask questions!!!  However, please remember for your own sake that when asking questions, one attracts more flies with honey than vinegar.  Don’t start yelling at her or demanding a new nurse.  Give her a chance and ask questions first!  She might just be so busy that day that she is in the zone.  Most nurses are happy to teach when asked!

 

 

#5  Learn about and practice non-pharmacological methods of pain relief as part of your childbirth preparation and consider not getting or postponing an epidural until all other methods of non-pharmacological pain relief have been exhausted. 

 

Okay, I know that this one is a bit controversial but please here me out first. 

 

It is the truth that pitocin contractions, especially when the pitocin is being abused, are typically stronger and longer than spontaneous labor contractions.  Also, being that you have to be on continuous monitoring can also limit your movement and hence, one of your most effective and instinctual coping methods for the pain.  For this reason, many people feel that it is crazy for a woman to go though a pitocin labor without an epidural.  And when “Pit to Distress” is in play, it is truly unbearable to both experience and to witness.  However, if pitocin is administered compassionately and appropriately it is important to know that an epidural is NOT an absolute necessity.  I have seen many women do it without an epidural and many who have done it with an epidural.  So if you have to be induced with pitocin and you desire an “unmedicated” birth, your hands aren’t completely tied.  You CAN do it.  However, I have said time and time again, I would rather a woman have a vaginal delivery with an epidural than a cesarean section without.   That being said, the pitocin and epidural partnership has a dark side too. 

 

While an epidural can help the woman relax and allow the pitocin to work more effectively, most birth attendants that practice “Pit to Distress” persuade and even bully their patients into getting an epidural specifically so the nurse can “crank the pit” without the woman objecting.  But I would like to remind you that even if you can’t feel those contractions, your baby IS feeling them.  Also, epidurals themselves CAN and DO cause fetal distress and anyone who tells you that epidurals pose no risk to the baby is being dishonest!  At my work, we nickname this the “ten by ten”.  That is, almost without fail, many women who get an epidural are is likely to experience a whopping fetal heart rate deceleration lasting approximatly ten minutes about ten minutes after she is put back to bed, which of course throws everyone into a tizzy. 

 

All of a sudden mom finds herself with her face planted into the bed, her ass in the air, a mask of oxygen on her face, an anesthesiologist pushing adrenaline into her IV to increase her blood pressure and a doctor with his hands up her vagina screwing a monitor onto the baby’s head.  Most babies do recover from said decel and go on to deliver vaginally.  But it is NOT rare for the baby to NOT recover which lands mom…you know where….in the OR.  And guess what!  Since she already has that epidural in place, why they can just cut her open even faster! 

 

Please know that I am not condemning any woman who requests an epidural in labor, especially if she is on pitocin.  I just want all you women out there to know that sometimes that epidural that they keep waving in your face is just a way for them to shut you up so they can CRANK the pit.

 

 

#6  If you feel like you are contracting strongly at least every 2-3 minutes (3-5 in a 10 minute period) and the nurse or birth attendant desires to increase your pitocin, you might want to consider requesting a vaginal exam. 

 

Now, I know limiting vaginal exams is very important to many women as they are invasive and uncomfortable/painful.  I completely understand!  However, if your care provider wants to increase the pitocin and you feel it is unnecessary, asking for a vaginal exam is a way to reveal if you are making any cervical change.  If you ARE making cervical change then there is no real need to continue to go up on the pitocin!  Remember the TRUE goal of pitocin administration is to stimulate an effective labor pattern that causes cervical change.  It is NOT (despite how many birth attendants practice) just about getting a patient to “max pit.”  Every woman is different! 

 

Lastly,

 

 

#7  You could always try writing something about pitocin administration in your birth plan. 

 

For example: “If deemed necessary, I would like to try non-pharmacological methods of labor augmentation and induction including (blank) first before resorting to pharmacological methods.  However, if my birth attendant and I agree that pitocin will be administered to me, I request that the pitocin be administered following the “low dose” protocol and is increased in intervals no closer than every 30 minutes, allowing my body an appropriate amount of time to adjust and react to each dose increase.”

 

I will be very honest with you.  If your birth attendant or hospital does not practice in this way, it is doubtful that this request will be granted.  However, I suppose it can’t hurt and is worth a shot!  At least it can provide a sympathetic nurse with another platform on which to argue with the birth attendant if necessary (like, “But Doctor X, your patient has specifically requested a low dose pit protocol!”

 

This should be a last resort!  Remember, writing something in your birth plan does not guarantee you it is going to happen if your birth attendant doesn’t practice that way!  Please refer back to point #1 about choosing the RIGHT birth attendant for you!!! 

 

 

All My Best,

NursingBirth

 

“Pit to Distress”: A Disturbing Reality July 8, 2009

Dear NursingBirth,

 

I just saw a couple of posts about “pit to distress” on Unnecessarean and Keyboard Revolutionary’s blogs. Can you comment on that as an L&D nurse?! Is the intent really to distress the baby in order to “induce” a c-section?  I’m distressed that such things may actually happen, and am holding out a little hope that it’s a misunderstanding in terms….

 

Thanks!!!

Alev

 

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Dear Alev,

 

I wish I could put your heart and mind at ease and tell you, from experience, that this type of outrageous activity (i.e. “pit to distress”) does not happen in our country’s maternity wards but unfortunately it does.  I know that it does because:

 

1) I have read and heard stories from other labor and delivery nurses who have worked with birth attendants who practice “pit to distress,”

 

2) I have read and heard stories from women (and their doulas!) who have personally experienced the consequences of “pit to distress,”

 

and, most importantly…

 

3) I personally have worked with attending obstetricians who subscribe to this philosophy. 

  

Before I start my discussion on this topic I would like to quote a blog post I wrote back in April entitled “Don’t Let This Happen To You #25 PART 2 of 2: Sarah & John’s Unnecessary Induction”.  This post is actually the first post I ever wrote for my Injustice in Maternity Care Series.  It is a TRUE story (although all identifying information has been changed to adhere to HIPPA regulations) about a first time mom who was scheduled for a completely unnecessary labor induction and the following excerpt is a good example of how “pit to distress” is ordered by physicians, EVEN IF they don’t actually write it out as an order (although some actually do!)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“…At 1:30pm, right on schedule, Dr. F came into the room.  After some quick small talk he asked Sarah to get into the bed so that he could perform a vaginal exam and break her water. 

 

Sarah: “Umm, I was hoping we could wait a little bit longer to do that, until I am in more active labor.”

 

Dr. F: “Well, if I break your water it is really going to rev things up and put you into active labor.”

  

Sarah: “I’d really rather wait.”

  

Dr. F: (visibly frustrated) “Well I at least have to check you!”

 

(Oh lord, I love the “have to”!)  Dr. F’s exam revealed that Sarah was 4 centimeters!  Yay!

 

After helping Sarah to the bathroom and back to her rocking chair, I stepped out the catch Dr. F at the desk.  “Thanks for holding off on the amniotomy, it was really important to her birth plan,” I said, trying to “smooth things over” and (gently) remind him that the patient was in charge!  “Yeah well I’ll be back around 4:00pm to check her again and if she hasn’t made any progress I am going to break her water,” he said, grudgingly. 

 

He started to walk towards the elevator but then turned around to me and said:

 

Dr. F: “You have the pit at 20 right?”

 

(Note: The way pitocin is administered for induction in my hospital (and many others) is that you start the pitocin at 2mu/min (or 6mL/hr) and increase by 2mu/min every 15-30 min (or more) to a maximum of 20mu/min (or 60mL/hr) until you obtain an adequate contraction pattern (or, 3-5 contractions in 10 minutes).  So what does that mean?  That means that you do NOT just crank the pitocin until you get to “max pit,” rather you TITRATE it until you get 3-5 contractions in 10 minutes that are palpable and are causing cervical change.  However, this is not what many physicians I work with ask you to do.   Bottom line is everyone is different.  I personally could take a whole box of Benadryl and not so much as yawn while my husband can take one tablet and all but hallucinate!  It is no different for pitocin.  Some people are extra sensitive and only need a little bit, and others tolerate “max pit” very well.  I seem to have this same “fight” with physicians all the time at work.  They insist you “keep cranking the pit” when all you are going to do is hyperstimulate the uterus and cause the baby to go into distress.  But I digress….)

 

Me: “No, I have her at 10mu/min.”

 

Dr. F: (sarcastically)  “What!?  What are you waiting for?! 

 

Me: (said while biting my lip so I didn’t say something I would regret)  “She is contracting every 2-3 min and they are palpating moderate to strong.  She has to breathe through them.  And the baby is looking good on the monitor.  I want to keep it that way!”

 

Dr. F:  “But she’s not going anywhere!  You have to keep going up if you want her to progress.”

 

Me: “But she has changed to 4 centimeters…”

 

Dr. F:  “I was being generous!”

 

Me: “So you lied…”

 

Dr. F:  (annoyed) “Listen, keep going up on the pit, even if she is contracting every 2-3 min.  They aren’t strong enough.  Keep going up.  If we hyperstimulate her, we can just turn the pit down.”  (Note: These were his exact words.  I know this because I was so flabbergasted that he said it, I wrote it down in my notebook that very moment!  The fact is sometimes the baby is in so much distress after hyperstimulating the uterus that just turning the pitocin down isn’t enough!  And it really bothers me when doctors start sentences off with “Listen…”  Grrrrr.)

 

Me:  (jaw dropped, completely dumfounded) If I turn the pit up anymore, I am GUARANTEED to hyperstim her.”

 

Dr. F: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.  I’ll be back around 4:00pm.”

 

By this point I was more than annoyed with Dr. F.  I explained the situation to the charge nurse and told her that I would not be cranking the pit on room 11 unless Dr. F wrote me an order that read “Regardless of hyperstimulation or contraction pattern, continue to increase pitocin until the maximum dose is reached.”  (By the way, he wouldn’t’ write me that order).  She basically told me to do what I felt was right because it was my license at stake too.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Ladies and gentleman the account that you have just read is called “Pit to Distress” whether the pitocin order was actually written that way or not.  What Dr. F gave me was a VERBAL ORDER to increase the pitocin, regardless of contraction or fetal heart rate pattern, until I reached “max pit,” which he acknowledged would hyperstimulate her uterus.  This goes against our hospital’s policy and the physical written order that this doctor signed his name under.  However, like some other doctors I work with, none of that mattered to him.  What he wanted was for me to “crank her pit” regardless and from my experience with this doctor, at the first sign of fetal distress we would have been crashing down the hallway for a stat cesarean!

 

Hyperstimulation of the uterus (more appropriately called tachysystole) is harmful and dangerous for both mothers and babies: 

 

“If contractions are persistently more often than 5 contractions in 10 minutes, this is called “tachysystole.” Tachysystole poses a problem for the fetus because it allows very little time for re-supply of the fetus with oxygen and removal of waste products. For a normal fetus, tachysystole can usually be tolerated for a while, but if it goes on long enough, the fetus can be expected to become increasingly hypoxic and acidotic.

 

Tachysystole is most often caused by too much oxytocin stimulation. In these cases, the simplest solution is to reduce or stop the oxytocin to achieve a more normal and better tolerated labor pattern.”

Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring” by Dr. M. J. Hughey

 

The truth, however, is that many times stopping tachysystole is not as easy as just shutting the pitocin off.  Although the plasma half-life of pitocin is about 6 minutes, it can take up to 1 hour for the effects of pitocin to completely wear off.  And for a baby in distress, one more hour in a hyperstimulated uterus is too much!  So guess what?!  The physician has two choices:

 

#1 Administer yet another drug (like terbutaline) to decrease contractions and wait and see (unlikely to happen), or

 

#2 Administer yet another drug (like terbutaline) to decrease contractions while heading to the OR for an emergency cesarean section (much more likely to happen.) 

 

Because in the end…who wants to “sit” on a compromised baby?!

 

 

What is also unsettling is that my encounter with Dr. F regarding the most appropriate administration of pitocin for that mother was downright pleasant as compared to some of the other encounters I have had with much more intimidating and hot-headed physicians.  Labor and delivery nurses all over this country (including myself) have been bullied, yelled at, cursed out, and down-right humiliated by birth attendants who want you to “keep cranking the pit” regardless of maternal contraction or fetal heart rate patterns or in general, refusing to be a part of or questioning other harmful obstetrical practices.

 

I once had an obstetrician, while in the patient’s room, call me “incompetent” in front of the patient and her entire family because I had not continuously increased the pitocin every 15 minutes until I reached “max pit” and instead, kept the pitocin at half the maximum dose because increasing it anymore caused my patient to scream and cry in pain and her uterus to contract every 1 minute without a break.  Who wants a nurse to take care of them that was just called “incompetent” by their doctor??!? 

 

Another time I had a physician (who via this program called “OBLink” can watch her patient’s monitor strips from her own home or office) call me on the phone from her house to chew me out about not having the pitocin higher.  When I explained that I had to shut the pitocin off an hour earlier and start back up at a slower rate because the baby started to have repetitive and deep variable decelerations despite position changes, IV fluid bolus, and 10 liters of oxygen via face mask, I was told that the decels “weren’t big enough” to warrant such a “drastic measure as shutting of the pitocin” and I was “wasting her time” because “at the rate [I] was going [her] patient wouldn’t deliver until after midnight.”

 

I had yet a third doctor tell me once that he wished that only the “older” nurses on the floor would take care of his patients because they aren’t “as timid” and “are not afraid to turn up the pitocin when a doctor orders them to.”  That younger nurses like me are “too idealistic” and don’t understand “how the world really works.” 

 

And yet another time I had a physician tell me that I needed to “crank the pit to make this baby prove himself either way” and that if I couldn’t do “what needed to be done” for his patient, then he would ask the charge nurse to “replace me with a nurse who could.”

 

And guess what, when I came in the next day and read the birth log, I discovered that 3 out of those 4 patients ended up with cesarean sections after I had left that night for “fetal distress.” 

 

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

 

Although not one of these physicians actually wrote in black and white “Pit to Distress” and they didn’t have to; their words and actions speak to their true intentions.  These physicians are smart in the fact that they know that actually writing “pit to distress” like some practitioners do can land them with a law suit if an adverse outcome happens and they find themselves in court.  So while it is true that one’s medical record might not show “pit to distress” on the order form, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen to you!  What these doctors do instead are bully nurses into to doing their dirty work for them.  (And I would like to note that just like Dr. F, I have yet to encounter one physician who will actually physically put their hands on the IV pump and turn up the pitocin themselves when I refuse to do it!…..They know better!)

 

 

As a registered nurse my practice must adhere to the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses.  Here is an excerpt:

 

“The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.  The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.”

 

What these practitioners don’t realize is that when they work with nurses like me (and there are many out there!!), they are working with someone who values the health and safety of women and babies (as well as their nursing license) much more than a fake cordial kiss-ass relationship with some high-and-mighty doctor!  But let me tell you, its really frigging hard to work like that!  That is, to constantly battle with practitioners who have such a different philosophy about maternity care than you do!  I mean, even the best nurses will start to doubt themselves if they are constantly being bullied and told that they “can’t cut it” or are “incompetent” if they don’t follow the status quo!  Like many other nurses, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to argue and fight.  Sometimes I have down right lied to a doctor over the phone about how high the pitocin really is (telling them it’s running at a much higher rate than it actually is).  Other times I just “forget” to turn up the pitocin for hours at a time.  One time I actually disconnected the pitocin and discretely ran it into the floor!

 

Women of this earth…TAKE BACK YOUR BIRTH!!!  We need YOUR voice!  We need you to choose caregivers that practice evidenced based medicine, and BOYCOTT ones that don’t!  We need you to HIT THEM WHERE IT HURTS….in their WALLET!!  We need you to DEMAND better care!!  We nurses, birth advocates, doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, etc. etc. can’t make change without YOU!!

 

Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU to Jill at Keyboard Revolutionary and Jill from The Unnecessarean for their blog posts on this issue!  I second their anger, outrage, and voice for change!!!

 

Are you an L&D nurse who has ever been ordered to “pit to distress?”  Are you a mother who has ever experienced the consequences of a birth attendant who followed a “pit to distress” philosophy?    Please share your story with us!! 

 

In closing I would like to say that I am NOT anti pitocin, but like ALL labor & delivery interventions, I speak out and advocate for the appropriate, evidencedbased, and safe use of them!

 

Please check out my next post!  “Pit To Distress” PART 2: Top 7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Unnecessary & Harmful Interventions

 

New Study Shows C-Section Births May Increase Odds For Developing Diseases Later In Life June 30, 2009

Filed under: In The News — NursingBirth @ 12:05 PM
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A new study published in the July issue of Acta Pædiatrica, a peer-reviewed monthly journal at the forefront of international pediatric research, found that babies born by cesarean section experience changes to their DNA in their white blood cells (called leukocytes) which they believe could be related to negative stresses around birth, particularly the cesarean section.  The study, entitled Epigenetic modulation at birth – altered DNA-methylation in white blood cells after Caesarean section, was led by a team of Swedish researchers who sampled umbilical cord blood (collected at the time of birth) and venous blood 3-5 days after birth from a total of 37 newborn infants, 21 of which were born by spontaneous vaginal delivery and 16 by elective cesarean section. 

 

According to the Medical News Today article, one of the authors of the study, Professor Mikael Norman, was quoted in saying:

  

“Delivery by C-section has been associated with increased allergy, diabetes and leukaemia risks.  Although the underlying cause is unknown, our theory is that altered birth conditions could cause a genetic imprint in the immune cells that could play a role later in life.  That is why we were keen to look at DNA-methylation, which is an important biological mechanism in which the DNA is chemically modified to activate or shut down genes in response to changes in the external environment. As the diseases that tend to be more common in people delivered by C-section are connected with the immune system, we decided to focus our research on early DNA changes to the white blood cells. 

 

 Animal studies have shown that negative stress around birth affects methylation of the genes and therefore it is reasonable to believe that the differences in DNAmethylation that we found in human infants are linked to differences in birth stress.  We know that the stress of being born is fundamentally different after planned C-section compared to normal vaginal delivery. When babies are delivered by C-section, they are unprepared for the birth and can become more stressed after delivery than before. This is different to a normal vaginal delivery, where the stress gradually builds up before the actual birth, helping the baby to start breathing and quickly adapt to the new environment outside the womb.

 

 In our study, neonatal DNA-methylation did not correlate to the age of the mother, length of labour, birth weight and neonatal CPR levels – proteins that provide a key marker for inflammation.  However, although there was no relation between DNA-methylation and these factors, larger studies are needed to clarify these issues.”

 

 Although this study has its limitations (recognized by it authors) including its small sample size, it is fascinating to me as it is part of a growing sector of developmental biology dubbed “primal health” by French obstetrician Michel Odent in his book by the same name in 1986.  “Primal Health Research” explores correlations between the ‘primal period’ (from conception until the first birthday) and health in later life.  Since opening the Primal Health Research Centre in 1990, Odent has also created the Primal Health Research Database, available free online, which is a public collection of all the medical and scientific literature that belong to the framework of primal health research.

  

In her book Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, author Jennifer Block writes:

 

 “[Odent] is interested in looking far beyond the 5-minute Apgar score to what we might call the 5-year, 25-year, 50-year Apgar.  He’s put a database online, where one can search studies that have connected narcotics at birth with addiction in adulthood; induction of labor with autism; and cesarean section with immune disorders.  The research is far from conclusive, but it points to the large, unknown territory of the impact of medicalized childbirth. 

 

Odent places value on the process of physiological childbirth itself, of which we still have only limited understanding.  How can we fully appreciate the risks of intervention, he asks, if we don’t funny understand what is normal?  The mother’s body has spent 9 months growing and sustaining fetal life, and millennia of evolution have depended on spontaneous labor and its timed release of several hormones to transition the fetus from the womb to the outside world.  Odent has compiled scientific evidence that each one of these hormones serves as an important function in guiding the progress of labor and supporting the fetus—and that these hormones are interdependent.  ‘What we’re understanding today is that what happens at birth seems to be important,’ says Odent.”

 

  

In my opinion, it should NOT be the case that the burden of proof lies on the supporters and proponents of unmedicated physiological childbirth (which is, as defined by author Jennifer Block, “[a birth where] labor begins and progresses spontaneously, the woman is free to move about for the duration, and she pushes in advantageous, intuitive positions.”) that “their” way is the safest and healthiest option for mothers and babies!  It SHOULD BE the responsibility of proponents of unnecessary inductions, unnecessary cesareans, and outdated and harmful labor & postpartum practices (i.e. routine episiotomy, early and frequent vaginal exams, early amniotomy, flat-on-back/lithotomy/recumbent pushing positions, separation of mother and baby, manual pressure on the uterus, and “directed,” hold-your-breath-and-count-to-10 pushing) to have to prove, beyond any doubt, that their way is superior.

 

 Because as far as I, and any credible research, is concerned it is NOT!  And if it ain’t broke, why fix it?!

 

More Risks for Baby With Repeat C-Sections May 24, 2009

A new study entitled Neonatal Outcomes After Elective Cesarean Delivery published in the June issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology (aka “The Green Journal” published by American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG)) concluded that:

 

“In comparison with vaginal birth after cesarean, neonates born after elective repeat cesarean delivery have significantly higher rates of respiratory morbidity and NICU-admission and longer length of hospital stay.”

 

The journal article begins with the following introduction:

 

“In 2006, the United States cesarean delivery rate of 31.1% was at an all-time high, making cesarean delivery the most common surgical procedure performed in American women.  This high rate of cesarean delivery is attributed to the rise in primary cesarean delivery rates from 14.6% in 1996 to 20.3% in 2005, an increase of 60%.   With the rates of vaginal births after cesarean delivery (VBAC) at an all-time low of 7.9% in 2005, women who have a primary cesarean delivery have a greater than 90% chance of having a repeat cesarean delivery, only serving to increase the overall cesarean delivery rate.   Almost one half of cesarean deliveries, a rate of 15%, are done electively, before the onset of labor.”

 

This study found that neonates born by intended cesarean delivery were more prone to NICU admission for:

 

1)      hypoglycemia (low blood sugar),

2)      needing higher rates of oxygen supplementation,

3)      needing intubation/ventilator support

 

This study’s findings were consistent with the multiple studies previously done that documented respiratory morbidity in neonates born after elective repeat cesarean delivery, particularly with an increase in:

 

1)      respiratory distress syndrome,

2)      transient tachypnea of the newborn,

3)      persistent pulmonary hypertension,

4)      need for supplemental oxygen

5)      respiratory morbidity related to failure to clear fetal lung fluid related to birth without benefit of labor

 

The authors write:

 

“While the common perception is that conditions such as transient tachypnea of the newborn are benign, self-limiting illnesses, several studies indicate that neonates with such conditions can progress to severe respiratory failure, leading to the need for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or death.”

 

This study really hits home for me since I had to scrub three, count them, THREE primary elective cesarean sections the other week, all attended by the same physician, for the most outrageous and bogus reasons EVER!  Stay tuned….More on elective primary cesarean section to come!

 

To read the full text of this study click here.

 

To read the Health Day newspaper article on this study check out Yahoo! News.

To learn more about Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and the risks of Repeat Cesarean Section, please visit ICAN’s website.

 

Special THANKS to The Feminist Breeder for alerting me to this study!