SUA Single Umbilical Artery

SINGLE ARTERY UMBILICAL CORD

About 30 years ago, a baby boy was born at home in a town about 90 minutes drive away from where I lived in Vancouver, BC. All was normal with the birth (first baby for the family). The baby was about 8 pounds and he seemed healthy.

I was taught to inspect every placenta carefully at some point in the hours after birth. One part of the placenta exam was to look at the cut end of the umbilical cord and make sure there were 3 little openings where the 2 arteries and one vein were. Remember, this was in the days pre-internet. Midwifery training was accessed by reading thick obstetric/midwifery text books in those days. This little boy’s umbilical cord had only 2 vessels. Oh no. Where was that third little opening for the second artery? I re-cut and peered at the end of the cord but, no, only two vessels. The only instructions in any of my textbooks about that possibility were to “call the pediatrician”. So, I did. At that time, we had a kind pediatrician who always took calls from home birth attendants. When I told him the situation, he said “Hmmmmm, I don’t know what that means. Could you go in to Children’s Hospital to the library and look it up?” I didn’t like to leave the family’s home without knowing for sure that the baby would be okay and I had that 90 mins between their home and the hospital library. I decided to call a friend who was a long time hospital nurse. She didn’t know either but thought it might have something to do with the heart. The baby wasn’t showing any signs of blueness around the mouth and was a keen breast feeder so, I didn’t see or hear any heart problem indicators. After a few hours, I headed back to town and went straight to the Hospital Library.

Vein larger than the 2 arteries

In those pre-computer days, the hospital Librarian was a God-send. She was very helpful and looked up a bunch of articles for me but they really didn’t tell me much more than “it could mean a kidney problem”. I was feeling frustrated but, then, got an idea. I could find the pathology department in the hospital and speak to a person who had seen babies with kidney problems and maybe get some useful help.

I was a bit nervous going to Pathology because I was afraid I’d see dead bodies but, no, the place was clean as could be. The Pathologist was glad to see me and have someone to talk to. (I think that’s a lonely job). I told him what was going on and the first question he asked was “How much did the baby weigh?” He then told me that babies with kidney problems tend to be very small so he doubted my finding that there were only two vessels in the umbilical cord of an 8 lb. baby. He suggested that I should bring the placenta in so he could take a look. I wasn’t relishing the 90 minute drive back and forth again but I was more than willing to be wrong about my count of the vessels if it meant I could relax about the baby.

One vein, two arteries

I returned to the family home, got the placenta from the fridge and drove it back to show the pathologist. He cut the end of the cord on his marble slab and peered at it and then said “Well, I see what you mean. There are just two but can you see that the vein, which is usually larger than the arteries, and the one other vessel are both about the same size? I think what happened here is that the two vessels grew together. If the baby is pee-ing normally and eating well, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” He then proceeded to reach up on to his shelf and bring down a copy of a thick text book entitled “The Human Placenta”. He told me that it was a fascinating book by a pathologist who had been a veterinarian before he pursued pathology. When I expressed amazement that there was enough to say about the placenta that it could fill a whole book of its own, he said that a lot of the information was comparing the human placenta to that of zebras, gorillas, and other wild animals. Somehow, I’ve never been tempted to buy the book. . . I like to keep my placenta knowledge on a “need to know” basis.

That little boy did just fine and he’s a big man now. That’s the only 2 Vessel cord I’ve ever encountered in 1500 plus births, so it’s very rare (and, in this case, not even a real finding).
I hope this story is informative and reassuring to parents/practitioners about SUA (single umbilical artery) diagnoses in babies with normal growth.
Gloria Lemay, Vancouver BC Canada

From www.midwifethinking.com
A great blog

HOW BIRTH STORIES GET JUMBLED

I wanted to share this memory with you, Ted. I don’t know if you remember this incident but I’ve told it to so many people and it always makes me laugh so I thought you might enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Many years ago, when we both had young kids and you were married to Karen, I bumped into you in the parking lot of the “7-11” on West Fourth Ave. We exchanged small talk for a while and, all of a sudden, you got a strange look on your face and blurted out the following, unforgettable (to me) sentence: “Gloria, is it true you were a topless dancer in China?” I couldn’t fathom how that thought could ever enter someone’s head. I’ve been accused of many things in my life but that was pretty far-fetched—I had never been to the Orient, I had never been to the local nude beach, none of what you said made any sense at all. But, somewhere in there, I started thinking “How could this husband of another birth attendant have gotten this idea in his head?”

Then, I remembered a birth that I had called Karen out to one evening. It was the second vaginal birth for the woman. When Karen arrived at the home, I went through the woman’s chart with her. The only surgery the birthing woman had ever had was a breast augmentation. She was a Caucasian woman who was married to a Japanese man. I explained to Karen that the couple had met in Japan and the first child had been born in a Japanese hospital, completely natural birth. The woman had been in Japan because she had taken a job as a hostess in a nightclub in Japan. japanese fan

Now, they were living in Vancouver and having their second child. The baby was born just after midnight and I sent Karen home soon after.

I’m guessing that what happened is that she crawled into bed with you, Ted, and you must have asked her “how did the birth go?” There wasn’t much to tell except that bit about her previous breast augmentation surgery so perhaps Karen told you about that. Somehow, in your sleepy state, that got changed into “Gloria Lemay was a topless dancer in China”.

Once I had retraced the strange pathway of that statement, I said to you: “You know, Ted, that’s not true about me BUT it’s way more interesting than my real life. Will you, please, spread that rumour about me!”

Thanks for the special moments and laughs that knowing you has added to my life. I love you and your dear family.

STORY FROM A STRAGGLER

STORY FROM A STRAGGLER

This story was told to me by a young man who came, on his own, to a birth film night that I hosted in Vancouver, BC. It was strange to have a 19-ish year old man in a room full of women. He said he had come because he saw the event advertised in a local paper and he thought it might be important in his future to know about birth. After the films ended, people milled about for a while chatting but, then, everyone dispersed except for him. He seemed to be loitering around. I wasn’t afraid to be alone in a building with him—he had such a pleasant way of being. As I packed up my gear and replaced things in the room, he said “Gloria, I’ve stayed behind because I want to tell you a story.” I was all ears. This is the story that the straggler recounted that night.

“My mother was born at home in Berlin, Germany. In Germany, it’s different from here. When someone has an apartment they stay in it their whole lives and sometimes pass it down through generations. It’s not like here where people move around a lot. In the old days, when my grandmother felt it was time to give birth, she would knock on her bedroom wall and that was a signal for her neighbor to come over and assist her with the birth. My grandmother did the same for her neighbor when the roles were reversed. So, my mother was born in my grandmother’s bed. Family Bed They were very close mother and daughter but my mother ended up falling in love with a Canadian and moved to Canada after she was married. She would take every vacation opportunity to fly back to Germany and be with my grandmother.

One day we got the news that grandmother had cancer and was dying. The doctors gave her six months to live. My mother took a leave of absence from her work and flew to Germany to be with her mother through this passage. The night that my grandmother died, my mother was holding my grandmother in her arms in the same bed and bedroom that my mother had been born in.”

That young man’s story has stayed with me. I’m so glad he came to my event and that he felt it was important to share with me. The more I ponder on this story, the more I think about him and I wonder if he has had children of his own. I think that, because he was the son and grandson of those two women, is why I felt so safe with him. Love Gloria
p.s. thanks for your encouragement to tell these stories, Babz Covington and Carla Hartley. I love you both so much. Please share your stories, too.

LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT

Quote

I wanted to write this story down because it is one I can’t forget.

I was walking back to my car after a late night downtown meeting and I was accompanied by Peter and Molly, old friends. Molly was someone I really admired and she had two young children. As we were walking along together, Molly said: “Gloria, I don’t think I’ve ever told you what an incredible difference you made to me.” My ears perked right up, I love to be acknowledged, but I couldn’t remember anything special that I had done for Molly.

She said, “Remember that day we bumped into each other on the street when I was hugely pregnant with Caroline, my second daughter? We hadn’t seen much of each other during my pregnancy and I was working with two registered midwives and planning a homebirth.End of Pregnancy

My mother had come out from Eastern Canada to help the family at the end of my pregnancy and it seemed to be taking forever for the baby to come. I was worried that my mom might be really scared to see me birthing and I had a feeling she didn’t like the idea that, this time, I would have the baby at home. I didn’t even want to talk to her about the idea I had of having a waterbirth. Everything else about the birth was going smoothly but I had this nagging fear about my mom’s reactions. Well, Gloria, you listened to everything I said and then you said “Oh, do you know what? I have the most amazing video of waterbirth that you just have to watch. Everyone who sees it has a lovely smooth birth, you’re going to love it”. (The video was Barbara Harper’s “Birth Into Being”). You went to your car trunk and presented me with the vhs tape. I took it home and we watched it that evening. My mom watched it with us and said at the end “Why don’t you get one of those water tubs and do it that way, Molly!” All my worries were gone and the next morning my birth process started. The birth was everything we wanted. Afterwards my Mom said “Honey, that is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened in my whole life. I’m so glad I came out to Vancouver and got here on time to be present to the miracle.”
My Mom returned home to Eastern Canada. She was a widow and she liked to live in her own home alone. A few months after Caroline was born, we got the terrible news that my mother had taken a fall down a flight of stairs and she died. The grief was terrible. Amidst all the grieving I had this sense of peace that my Mom had been present to a miracle and that we had shared a profound experience. I don’t know if it would have unfolded that way if you hadn’t run to your car and lent us that video.”

 Only two remain undilated.


Only two remain undilated.

Molly (not her real name) only told me this story when the baby in this story was about 12 years old. You never know what the ripples in the pond of your actions might be. Love Gloria

MIDWIFERY CARE FOR THE VBAC WOMAN

Midwifery Care for the VBAC Woman
by Gloria Lemay
© 2001 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 57, Spring 2001.]

Someone asked me recently what things are done differently with vaginal births after cesarean (VBAC) as opposed to a first baby. Midwives usually reply to this question with a reassuring, “Oh, we treat you normally,” but there are differences in the two situations that can be distinguished in midwifery practice.

Prenatal Preparation

The full history of the events leading to the cesarean is very important. With a VBAC client, ask her to get her operative record, nurse’s notes, anesthetist’s report, pediatric report—get all the records and go over them thoroughly. Often the couple did not get full or accurate information about what was going on. Sometimes there’s a little “clue” as to what went wrong that could help to prevent a cesarean from recurring. Sometimes there is a big chunk of information that didn’t get communicated. I saw one set of records where the only indication for the cesarean was the note from the obstetrician that “this woman is a natural childbirth fanatic.” Another set of cesarean records had no indicator whatsoever of why the woman received abdominal surgery when she had given birth at l9 years old. When she told her parents that the midwife was perplexed and could see no reason for the surgery, her father admitted to her that he had stayed in the visitor’s lounge all day and had been verbally threatening to the doctor: “If anything happens to my daughter, I’ll sue you!” This helped the daughter to understand what had happened to her and also helped her to be firm with her father that he was to be nowhere near her VBAC birth.

With VBAC births it is important for the midwife to work with the dad prenatally. A VBAC father is in a horrible position because, despite the fact that his wife had an operation and a long recovery, he still got a live wife and baby at the end of it all. VBAC dads are often “fantasy bonded” to the medical system and terrified of childbirth in general.

The good thing is that they listen very carefully and really know when the care is better and more thorough and when the practitioner is authentically on their team. I find that if the midwife talks to them very honestly, they can trust and be fully supportive when the birth time arrives.

If the woman has dilated past five centimeters in the first birth, I plan for it to be fairly fast—like any second baby. If the woman has not gone into the birth process or not dilated past five the first time, that’s all right, she’ll still give birth vaginally, but we have extra midwives on call to bring fresh energy if the others get discouraged or tired. We plan for it to be like going to two births in a row. The point that the woman reached in her first birth is often a psychological hurdle for her. If she dilated to six centimeters the first time, the news that she is seven or eight will be a relief and a breakthrough. One of our clients, a minister’s wife, said over and over again in her pregnancy: “I just want to feel what pushing is. If I only get to push, I’ll be happy. I just want to know what other women mean when they say they had to push.” She’d had a Bandl’s ring in the first birth process and the cesarean was done at five centimeters. We were praying that the complication wouldn’t repeat. She dilated smoothly and began to push. With each push she would exclaim “Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus!” What a wonder it was to watch her push out the baby, a girl whom she named Faith.

All humans have a certain propensity to self-sabotage, and the VBAC woman must be on guard against her own defeating patterns. The midwife must be bold in pointing out ways that the woman is repeating dumb moves—there’s no place for us being “nice” if it will mean another cesarean. An example of this: If the woman had a cesarean with five support people, she will be cautioned to keep her VBAC private.
Privacy and quiet are a must, and we will be very forceful about setting up logistics before the birth so that the woman can birth in peace. In short, the VBAC is high priority because this woman’s whole obstetrical future rides on its success.

Keeping a VBAC normal

Keeping a VBAC normal

We show the couple lots of videos of beautiful VBAC births because one video is worth a thousand words. If you don’t have your own, purchase a copy of my dvd “Birth with Gloria Lemay” which shows a beautiful VBAC waterbirth. Art therapy is helpful in creating the environment before the birth day. I place a big sheet of drawing paper in front of the father and mother with lots of colored pencils and instruct them to, “Draw your birth cave” or, “Color your birth.” When they are finished, I write the date on the two drawings and put them away in my files. After the birth, we take them out and are amazed at the details that were drawn weeks before and later manifested in the actual birth.

I schedule longer appointments with VBAC women because they seem to need to obsess. I don’t have solutions to many of their fears but it seems to help to just be able to talk to someone who cares and understands. I usually also ask them to, “Tell me how you know that this time you’re going to have a vaginal birth?” The answers always amaze me. One woman said, “Because this time I’m not depending on my doctor or my midwives—me and my husband are going to have this baby.” I suggested that she give up depending on her husband, too. She looked terrified at that idea but I could see that she understood; she looked me in the eye and said, “Right!” That was the moment I knew she would do it. She’s had three water homebirth VBACs since then, and after each birth her first words were, “I did it.”

VBAC women are so grateful for the opportunity to birth normally that they are often shy to ask for the extra things that make a birth beautiful, such as a Blessingway ceremony or a waterbirth. The midwife must remember to offer and encourage the mother to think “really beautiful birth” rather than “bare minimum birth.” I find it helpful to ask, “This is the only second baby you will ever have—what would make it really special?”

The Day of the Birth

In my practice, no one gets induced in any way or gets pain medication. This policy is very important for all women but especially for VBAC women. If there is a small chance of uterine rupture, we must have everything on our side to prevent it (the rate of VBAC uterine rupture without induction is 0.4 percent or less than one in 200*). It is beyond my comprehension how anyone could give a VBAC woman misoprostol (Cytotec), oxytocin or castor oil or strip the membranes or use any other form of induction when that would triple her chance of having a uterine rupture.

I believe that VBAC women have longer, gentler births because Nature is compensating for the scar. There is no hurrying. I would be terrified to induce a VBAC woman but feel safe to attend her at home if her body is pacing itself naturally. We keep it in the back of our heads that the signs of rupture are stabbing pain, unusual bleeding, decels of the baby’s heart, or a peculiar shape of the abdomen but we don’t look for problems if they don’t exist.

We are especially careful with the birth of the placenta in a VBAC because there is a slightly increased chance that the placenta might be adhered to the scar, and we do not want to have a uterine prolapse caused by pulling.

Postpartum Differences

After the birth, VBAC women need to be told that they can walk upright. They can’t believe that they can straighten at the waist right after giving birth. Then, they can’t believe it when we ask them to do sit-ups and leg raises on day one. Usually by day three when we go to visit, their husbands say, “Oh, she’s gone to the gym.” With VBAC women, the complaints are very few in the postpartum period because they are comparing to post-surgery pain and any minor scrapes and bruises seem like nothing.

In the years following the birth, these women and men send us more clients than anyone else, and if we’re in legal trouble, they’ll be at all the rallies, raise money, stamp the envelopes, write letters to legislators, and be our true friends for life. A VBAC is an amazing experience for the birth attendants as well as the family. Very Beautiful And Courageous (VBAC).

    Q & A: VBAC

Two Types of Pelvises
by Gloria Lemay

Q: From a midwife: A great many Asian women are very small and small-footed, yet I hear that many of them birth vaginally. Would you comment on pelvic size?

A: When I get a VBAC client and she is endlessly self-psychoanalyzing and beating herself up for having a c-section, I usually say, “Look you made two big mistakes! First you were born in the wrong country, and second you were born in the wrong century—if you’d been born and raised l00 years ago in France, for instance, you would have given birth vaginally.” When I teach my workshops, I tell the students there are two types of pelvises in allopathic medicine: l) contracted, and 2) adequate. In midwifery, there are two types of pelvises as well: l) roomy, ample, and 2) you could get a pony through there!

Gloria Lemay is a Private Birth Attendant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and a frequent contributor to Midwifery Today and The Birthkit.

DVD: “Birth with Gloria Lemay”

This is the kind of delightful feedback I receive about the DVD. Gloria

From Donna Reicks:
“Gloria, I just have to tell you…..I loaned out your DVD “Birth with Gloria Lemay” as I do to any “English” ladies I serve. These are 1st time parents (after 7 years of trying!) and she loved your DVD and commented her favorite part was the extra features on circumcision!! They were on the fence if they had a boy. Now, their decision is made. Thanks Gloria!! Keep up the good work! Much love to you!”

From Gloria Lemay: “When I made the DVD, it was easy to add a few “extras” besides the footage of 9 home water births. One of the “extras” is a Director’s Cut-type film with me explaining what is going on in the film. The strange thing for me is how many women say, “After watching the version with you explaining what’s going on, my husband is now comfortable with the idea of birthing at home and he feels confident.” The conclusion I’ve come to is that I must have been talking to the back of the sound technician (a man) and that’s why the words seem to affect men. Completely inadvertent but I like it.

Then, there were 2 really good videos that really taught me a lot about the importance of the male foreskin so I requested the use of them from the owners. They were both thrilled to give me their material. Again, so much of the feedback that I get is that those two features have such an impact on people. Both of those intact penis features are available for anyone to watch online but, it seems, a couple sitting on their couch watching a DVD will keep going right to the end of the DVD and THAT has put the information in a lot of people’s hands. It’s so gratifying to know that those DVDs are all over the world. If you have one, don’t leave it on your shelf—get it out and show it or lend it to pregnant families!”

“Birth with Gloria Lemay”

To order the DVD, send $35 via Paypal or Interac to birthdvd(at)gmail.com

1984: Midwifery in Vancouver BC

Midwife Gail circa 1984

Midwife Gail circa 1984

I saw this photo on Flickr by photographer, Mark Laforet. His description is:

“This is part of a series I took of Midwife Gail in her home office published in a book called: “Midwifery is Catching”.”

I wanted to preserve it on my blog because it reminds me of those years when we were young and the work of midwifery was just emerging. Gloria