The Unkindest Cut
Controversy over circumcision
In Michigan, well over half of all baby boys have their first surgery before leaving the hospital.
“Circumcision is the only surgery you can do without a state license,” says Norm Cohen, director of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers of Michigan (NOCIRC). The non-profit helps to educate parents and healthcare providers about routine, non-religious infant circumcision.
Currently claimed to prevent disease, non-religious circumcision has origins in the Victorian “mental hygiene” movement. Due to the foreskin’s sensitivity, its removal from the glans of the penis was thought to be a way to discourage masturbation. And that’s just part of the history of the procedure presented at the NOCIRC event, “New Perspectives on Circumcision,” held in Ann Arbor last December.
The event coincided with the release of a report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommending circumcision based on studies which prove significant reduction of HIV transmission. However, guest speaker, Dr Robert Van Howe, Professor and Interim Chairman of Pediatrics at Central Michigan University College of Medicine, questioned the data used.
He asks, “Why did the CDC wait years after the study it used to publish its findings? And why is there such a disconnect between the CDC and the medical literature in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand?”
In Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, non-religious circumcision rates are low to non-existent, without a corresponding spike in STD transmission. Additionally, Van Horn points out that protection from STDs becomes important only after sexual activity begins. “If you’re really concerned about your son catching STDs, invest the money that the OB will get for performing the circumcision in a savings account. By the time your kid is sexually active, he can buy condoms for life.”
“It’s quite an extraordinary surgery to be doing on children,” says Cohen, who began to research circumcision when his son was still in utero. A non-observant Jew, he experienced familial and cultural pressure to have the operation performed. But he found that surgeries can be botched, with excessive bleeding and infection potential complications.
NOCIRC also contends that circumcision-related problems may not surface until the circumcised party becomes sexually active. John Geischecker, Director and General Counsel for Doctors Opposing Circumcision and co-presenter at the event has practiced medico-legal law as an arbitrator, mediator, litigator, and law lecturer for over 30 years. He says that it’s extremely difficult to legally address any malpractice because the issues arise so many years after the fact.
Cohen has been involved with NOCIRC’s Michigan chapter for 20 years. “We do everything from peaceful street protests to conferences.” He says that mothers are often the most receptive to the information. “For other family members, it’s easier to give advice about what new parents should do, and say things like a boy has to look like his father or like other boys.”
“The pendulum is swinging against circumcision, but very slowly,” says Cohen. California’s rate of non-religious circumcision is currently 22%; Michigan’s is 84%, one of the nation’s highest. (Certainly, the latest CDC report could cause the pendulum to reverse yet again.)
Anti-circumcision advocates look to breastfeeding as something of a precedent. Actively discouraged by much of the medical community for a fair portion of the 20th century, breast milk is now recommended as the exclusive food for infants up to six months old by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP).
While the analogy to breastfeeding is accepted, one to recent anti-vaccine efforts isn’t. “Vaccines have been proven, again and again, to work,” says Van Horn. “In every study done to promote circumcision, the numbers don’t add up.” NOCIRC encourages parents to educate themselves on the options for their newborn sons.
Go to nocircofmi.org to get in touch or find out more information.
Soothing Your Baby's Colic Symptoms
Ways to help your crying baby
Crying is a baby’s way of getting our attention for a variety of reasons. When the crying becomes excessive and lasts for longer than three hours a day, however, this may be a sign that you have a colicky baby on your hands. When dealing with a colic, mothers suffer just as much as their little ones; calming a seemingly inconsolable infant can be frustrating, and mothers will do anything to soothe symptoms, even if it means staying up all hours of the night. Whether you are new to motherhood or you are already a mother of four, it can be hard to know exactly what to do when colic strikes. Luckily, there are some easy solutions to help ease your baby’s pain and discomfort and help bring bliss back into the home!
White noise: Sometimes, all it takes to soothe a colicky infant is a little bit of white noise. The most popular white noise used to relax a baby during colicky periods is the vacuum; however, a white noise machine, a recorded heartbeat, the shower or other household appliances have also been effective.
Massage and swaddle: Some soothing contact can change a baby’s whole mood. Try massaging them gently or wrapping them tightly in a blanket to provide a safe, relaxing environment similar to the snug feeling your baby was used to inside the womb. Likewise, holding the baby will provide a similar feeling, and if one position does not work, try shifting to another.
Ease a gassy tummy: Colicky babies tend to swallow air while crying, which can result in painful gassiness. Try a natural supplement, gripe water or antigas drops containing herbs such as ginger, dill or fennel, which settle the stomach and help relax cramping muscles while also being safe for your baby.
Keep an eye on your baby’s diet: Intolerance to certain foods or ingredients may upset your baby and cause tummy troubles as well. If you are breastfeeding, try switching out certain foods from your diet to see how your baby reacts. If your baby is on formula, it may be beneficial to switch to one with different ingredients – just be sure to talk to your baby’s doctor before making any significant dietary changes.
Roshan Kaderali was a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, Certified Lactation Educator, and is now the founder of Mommy’s Bliss. Working with an FDA-registered current good manufacturing practice laboratory, she developed the first all-natural gripe water for the American Market.
How To Cope With The "Baby Blues"
Having a baby can be a time of emotional and physical extremes. There is the joy of the new baby, but there is also fatigue and overwhelming feelings that often accompany it. The feelings a new mother experiences after the birth of a baby are called the “baby blues.” They occur in the first few weeks after childbirth for up to 80 percent of new mothers according to the Baby Center Web Site.
“One of the biggest challenges many new moms have in those first few weeks is that there is an assumption in our culture that you just love your new baby and love being a new mom and are capable in this new role,” said Lisa Kane Low, PhD, C.N.M. (Certified Nurse-Midwife,), Associate Professor, Women’s Studies and School of Nursing, Practicing Midwife at University of Michigan Health System. “Instead, most women experience a transition into feelings of competence and confidence in their new role as a parent over time. The fatigue of having given birth is not over just because the baby arrived. We rarely give consideration to supporting women as they recover from the physical demands of labor and birth, particularly if they experience a surgical birth which happens today in one out of three women. Rest, fluids, good nutrition and emotional support are all key to assisting a new mom as she transitions from being pregnant, giving birth and then nursing and caring for her newborn.”
The new mom’s body is going through many changes quickly. Hormone levels drop and the demands of a new baby can make one feel exhausted. Add to that sleep deprivation and the anxieties that accompany adjusting to a new routine and knowing what to do for a new baby, and it’s no wonder that the baby blues are so common.
“So much of the difficulty for new moms is not getting enough sleep,” said Dr. Marti Walsh, Obstetrician and Gynecologist with IHA Associates in Gynecology and Obstetrics in Brighton. “So many moms who are breast feeding feel like they can’t leave the baby. It’s important to give them a break for a couple of hours to help them feel like themselves again. The new moms feel responsible for everything.”
Knowing the Difference
Postpartum depression is different than the baby blues. Although the two have some common symptoms, if the feelings linger past the first three weeks after giving birth, a new mother should get professional support. This is especially true if the mother has a history of depression as well as depression in her family of origin.
Walsh says that there is a big difference between baby blues and postpartum depression.
“Baby blues are more transient, and new moms with that feel back to themselves in a few weeks,” said Walsh. “They may feel down the first couple of weeks after the baby is born, but they can still function and they feel like themselves. With postpartum depression, they frequently cry, are not functioning well, and can’t take care of the baby.”
A helping hand
For most new mothers, these feelings will pass within a few weeks after giving birth. Friends and relatives can help by offering reassurance and helping the new mom to create a schedule and set priorities. Making dinners and watching the baby while giving the new mom a chance to nap can be a great help.
“There is also a role for using Doulas for postpartum support to assist new families as they move through those challenging first six weeks to two months,” said Kane Low. “In the Netherlands the health insurance companies provide a health worker who is essentially a doula who provides education, support, does light housework and aids the new mom in getting rest and supporting breastfeeding for the first eight days post-partum.”
Pregnancy Faux Pas
What NOT to say to a pregnant woman
There’s something about pregnancy that strips friends, family members, and strangers of their societal niceties. Strangers will ask to touch your belly, friends will compare your belly size to theirs (and yours will always be SO MUCH BIGGER), and family suddenly has more unsolicited advice than you thought was possible. Here are some of the cringe-worthy remarks my friends and I heard during our pregnancies.
“You better sleep now because you won’t sleep again once the baby is born!”
While this observation may be true for many new mothers, we hate to be reminded of this likely possibility. Parenthood is frightening enough without the frequent admonition that sleep will forsake us once the baby is born (if it hasn’t already during pregnancy). Plus, we all wistfully hope that our child will miraculously sleep through the night after only a few weeks. Don’t burst that bubble.
This exclamation, along with the comparable phrases “Your belly is really big for X months” or “You are much bigger than so-and-so was at this stage,” seem like obvious things NOT to say, but most of us have heard something along these lines. Maybe we should start replying with retorts such as “So is your beer belly!”
“You must be having a girl, girls strip all the beauty from their mothers.”
I’m not making this up; this was actually said to a friend of mine–a beautiful, thin, pregnant friend of mine. Similarly, I was warned in the early stages of my pregnancy that “You better hope you’re not having a girl because you’re going to carry the weight EVERYWHERE.” We have all heard these old wives tales, so even an innocent prediction of a baby girl can send us spiraling into self-loathing.
“You know, you shouldn’t eat/drink/exercise that way while you’re pregnant.”
Pregnancy is emotionally and physically draining, and sometimes we need to indulge to keep our sanity. There are so many common items we renounce during pregnancy, and if we occasionally satisfy a craving for a piece of sushi or a sip of coffee or a rigorous workout, then the last thing we want to hear is condemnation from an observer.
“Are you going to deliver naturally?”
This is often a loaded question, depending on who is asking. Some moms judge others for not choosing an epidural, while others imply that women who succumb to medical interventions are weak. Some women create and closely follow a birth plan; others encounter medical emergencies that negate the best of intentions. Instead, people should focus on babies being born healthy and safe, not how they are delivered.
Erin Schoen Marsh, writer and yoga teacher, resides in Sylvania. She is the mother of Dexter, 2, and she is expecting a new bundle of joy this summer.
Getting a Grip on Whooping Cough
The ins and outs and how to avoid it
Whooping cough is making its rounds through Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas. It can be tricky to identify because it comes in different forms.
“For teenagers and adults, it is a nagging coughing illness that goes on for two to three weeks and people initially think they have a cold or bronchitis when it turns out they are carrying this particular bacteria called pertussis,” said Dr. Matt Davis, pediatrician at the University of Michigan Health System and chief medical executive for the State of Michigan. It can interrupt the daily routine and make sleep difficult, but for young children and infants, it can be much more severe and even fatal.
Boosting the Vaccine
The vaccine for whooping cough has existed for several decades. “After the United States started recommending vaccination against pertussis with the DTaP vaccine, we saw the rates of whooping cough come down substantially. Over the last five to 10 years, we have seen a general rise in the number of cases in our community,” said Dr. Davis. This led to the development and recommendation of a whooping cough booster shot for teens and adults beginning in 2006. “Infants are not eligible to get the whooping cough vaccine until they are six weeks old, so from the time they are born to six weeks, infants are relying on the adults and children around them to not have it.”
There is one main difference. “In infants, airways are about the diameter of a large drinking straw. It does not take much inflammation to cause swelling of that airway which makes it difficult to breathe. The same amount of swelling from the infection in a teenager or an adult is enough to cause a lot of coughing,” said Dr. Davis. The vaccine is prescribed to be administered every 10 years. “What is recommended now is that women who are expecting should get vaccinated each time they are pregnant in order to give their baby the most protection they can.”