International Cesarean Awareness Network » Education. Support. Advocacy. Thu, 21 May 2015 04:16:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ICAN Names Julie Herr the May 2015 Volunteer of the Month Wed, 20 May 2015 22:00:04 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Julie Herr May 2015 Volunteer of the Month

Julie Herr
May 2015 Volunteer of the Month

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is powered by the selfless efforts of our numerous volunteers. We cannot thank our dedicated volunteers enough for their cooperation and service in assisting ICAN with accomplishing its mission.

In an effort to acknowledge some of our amazing volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to offer support, education, and advocacy for the mothers in their area, the International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to announce Julie Herr as the May 2015 Volunteer of the Month.

Julie Herr, this month’s honoree, is a chapter leader with both ICAN of St. Louis and ICAN of Southwestern Illinois. In addition to volunteering as a chapter leader, Julie is also the Regional Coordinator for the Midlakes Region. During her 10+ years of service to ICAN, she was also one of the organizers responsible for the original VBAC Policy Database.


Get to know our May 2015 Volunteer of the Month:


How long have you been an ICAN member?

I have been an ICAN member and volunteer for a little over 10 years.


How did you first find ICAN?

I found out about ICAN while I was researching my birth options when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was having a hard time finding a provider because of the VBAC ban in my community. I got involved with ICAN after my daughter was born. I knew I wanted mothers in my community to know their options.


What motivates you as a volunteer?

I am motivated when I feel that I can help others make a change for the better in their lives, communities, or organizations.


Do you have a profession or any other passions outside of ICAN?

Currently, I am a professional volunteer helping to organize for the betterment of community youth in areas such as my children’s school library, my daughter’s girl scout troop and scout sponsored First Lego League team. My children are involved with the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra so I volunteer with this as well. I recently coordinated an area-wide Concerto Competition, almost doubling the number of participants from last year. I also volunteer where I can in my church – at the moment it is with Meals on Wheels. My professional and volunteer life has involved 25 years of working with volunteers in community organizing, and nonprofit program development. I am passionate about making sure that people have a voice in their community and in their lives (including birth). I am also passionate about networking people and organizations together to work towards common goals.


What was your proudest moment as an ICAN volunteer? What about your hardest?

I have two proudest ICAN moments. The first was helping coordinate volunteers to complete the VBAC hospital policy project. I am not necessarily a phone person but when I ran out of volunteers I realized that I was going to have to make a ton of calls myself. My coleader Ruthie and I, as well as many many ICAN volunteers, put a lot of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention phone minutes) into this project. It felt fantastic when as a team we completed the database and had some real results for all our hard work. Plus, the project got mention in a Time Magazine Article.

My next proudest moment was putting together a collaborative team of individuals and organizations to bring the Karen Brody play, Birth, to the St. Louis area. I knew that this event would be so much richer and more successful if we had many people with many different networks invested in this event. The first year was a lot of hard work but by the third year, it was a great success reaching several hundred people and earning several thousand in sponsorships!

Some of the hardest moments as an ICAN volunteer is trying to help mothers in areas where there are no VBAC resources and learning to let go of the outcome. This may mean helping mothers to accept that a repeat cesarean doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. It can be a family-centered experience that brings some healing and closure to their prior experience.


Thank you Julie for all that you do to support birthing women!

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Click Your Way to the Best Info: finding quality VBAC and Cesarean info online Thu, 30 Apr 2015 14:35:47 +0000 Continue reading →]]> By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

While April is recognized as Cesarean Awareness Month in both the United States and many other countries, quality consumer information about how to prevent cesareans (both primary {first} cesareans and subsequent ones) along with information about having a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) is valuable to families all year long.

Many families scour the internet looking for practical information and best practices, as well as inspirational stories that help them to feel less isolated and alone when they are recovering from a cesarean or planning another birth.

Here are my favorite websites to share with families who have experienced a cesarean or are planning a VBAC. I like these websites because they are easy to read and contain many articles relevant to cesarean and VBAC families. The first seven are great resources for evidenced based information and best practices on the topics of cesareans and VBACs. The last three are simply great inspirational websites where you can find stories of strong people birthing their babies. Everyone needs to celebrate the strength and courage that is demonstrated by birthing families.

best vbac cesarean info online

Evidence Based Birth, while only a couple of years old, has quickly proven to be a valuable resource time and time again. Rebecca L. Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN is the author and she has the wonderful ability to evaluate reams and reams of research and boil it down to important information that consumers can use. Many of her articles are available as a PDF to print and bring with you to a doctor or midwife appointment.  Some of my favorite posts that I think are particularly useful to the VBAC family include big babies, rupture of membranes, and due dates.

Jen Kamel is well known nationally for both her website and her class. Her slogan – “Don’t Freak. Know the Facts.” She maintains a comprehensive list of posts that explain the research on many of the obstacles that face VBAC families – information on different types of incision repair, VBAC after more than one cesarean, induction for VBAC parents and my favorite among many – “Want a VBAC? Ask Your Care Provider These Questions.

Well Rounded Mama

Well Rounded Mama, at first glance, seems like a website for plus or larger sized people, but honestly it is a fantastic website for any person who is having a baby, particularly after a cesarean. Pam Vireday does extensive research and her blog posts often cover issues that face many of us as we try and navigate our care after a cesarean. Her motto is “Because mothers and children come in all shapes and sizes. And because people of all sizes deserve compassionate, gentle, helpful care.”  “The Fat Vagina Theory – Soft Tissue Dystocia” is one of my favorite posts, but I look forward to every post that Pam publishes. Pregnancy & Childbirth

This expansive website is written by Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, author of many pregnancy and childbirth books and current president of Lamaze International. Robin’s blog posts are short and easy to read and full of relevant links where you can get more follow up information. They are always accurate and based on current evidence and chock full of resources and suggestions. I like to search on the topics of VBAC or cesarean to find posts of interest, but really, I enjoy reading everything Robin writes.

Spinning Babies

Gail Tully is the author and creator of and I just love her site. As a midwife, Gail has a unique perspective and I appreciate the breadth of information that packs her site. Since some cesareans are a result of a malpositioned baby, the information found here can help families to progress a labor that may be not moving along due to baby’s position. Additionally, for those facing a cesarean for a breech baby, Gail’s techniques may help to get that baby to turn head down. Lots of pictures and a new look make this site easy to use and refer to, even in labor when ideas and suggestions are especially needed. If you had a cesarean for a malpositioned baby, you will for sure want to be familiar with the information on Spinning Babies as you get ready to birth again.

Midwife Thinking

This blog comes from “down under” and is filled with great information on many topics that apply to cesarean and VBAC families. Midwife Rachel Reed takes on some of the myths that get perpetuated on birth and breaks them down in posts that are well researched and full of current information. Be sure to check out “Amniotic Fluid Volume: Too Much, Too Little or Who Knows?” and “VBAC: Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill” and “In Celebration of the OP Baby,” as well as many others that she has written. I encourage you to check out Rachel’s website and read more of her work.

Giving Birth With Confidence – A Woman’s Guide to VBAC

This consumer friendly website for all pregnant families has a very well written guide for VBAC’ing women, based on the 2010 VBAC Consensus Statement held by the National Institutes of Health. Over 10 different well-written resources make up this comprehensive guide to help people understand the research, make informed decisions and navigate the obstacles that they may face when they are planning to VBAC.

Black Women VBAC

This blog is full of stories of people of color who have had successful VBACs and is a great place for all people who are interested in inspirational birth stories to check out. People of color experience cesareans at a rate that is disproportionate to white people and the impact is significant. Read about the courage and strength that these families demonstrated and get inspired yourself. VBAC Birth Stories

A comprehensive collection of a wide variety of VBAC stories submitted by readers of

Plus Size Pregnancy Birth Stories

Collated by the same person who writes “Well Rounded Mama” (see above), this is an extensive collection of VBAC, VBAMC and Cesarean stories that will be sure to provide tons of inspiration and encouragement to families who have experienced a cesarean or are planning to birth after a cesarean. While the site is a wee bit dated, it is an extremely comprehensive collection.

These are some of my favorite websites for consumers to learn more about cesareans, VBACs, the VBAC climate, and what the current research says about both cesarean and VBAC birth. Families today need to be informed and prepared to navigate the choices and options available to them as they prepare to welcome a baby, in hopes of avoiding an unneeded cesarean and birthing after a previous cesarean.

What are your favorite websites, blogs and research sources for finding information on the topics of cesareans and VBACs? Share them with our readers in the comments section as we celebrate Cesarean Awareness Month.


About Sharon Muza

Sharon Muza headshotSharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE has been an active childbirth professional since 2004, teaching Lamaze classes, including “VBAC YOUR Way” and providing doula services to many hundreds of couples through her private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is an instructor at the Simkin Center, Bastyr University where she is a birth doula trainer. Sharon is also a trainer with Passion for Birth, a Lamaze-Accredited Childbirth Educator Program. Sharon is a former co-leader of the International Cesarean Awareness Network’s (ICAN) Seattle Chapter, and a former board member of PALS Doulas and Past President of REACHE.  In September 2011, Sharon was admitted as a Fellow to the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators. Sharon Muza has been the community manager, writer and editor for Science & Sensibility, Lamaze International’s blog for birth professionals, since 2012. Sharon enjoys active online engagement and facilitating discussion around best practice, current research and its practical application to community standards and actions by health care providers, and how that affects families in the childbearing year. Sharon has been a dynamic speaker at international conferences on topics of interest to birth professionals and enjoys collaborating with others to share ideas and information that benefit birth professionals and families. Sharon lives with her family in Seattle, WA. To learn more about Sharon, you are invited to visit her website,

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Birth Story in Africa: a birth without fear Tue, 21 Apr 2015 11:34:54 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Guest post written by Sarah S.

homebirth in Africa

In order to tell the birth story of my firstborn, I have to back up a bit. Actually, I have to back up a lot. For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of pregnancy and childbirth. My mother threw up the entire nine months of all four of her pregnancies. She was even hospitalized for a week while pregnant with my youngest brother because she was so dehydrated from all the vomiting. I was certain that I was doomed to face the same fate if I ever became pregnant.

When I was nine years old I watched a video of a family friend giving birth to her 5th child. Although I remember the mother being radiant and calm and even excited enough to ask to see the placenta after it was delivered, I was horrified by the reality of giving birth. Can you blame me? Every TV show or movie that shows a woman giving birth shows her writhing in pain at the first contraction and eventually screaming at the baby’s father while he stands there like an idiot, completely helpless.

So, by the young age of 10 years old, I decided that pregnancy and childbirth were not for me. I absolutely loved babies, but decided that I would acquire all of my own babies through adoption. I continued to stand firm on that decision until I actually got married. Deep down I knew I would probably feel differently if I ever got married. But, I was still full of fear about pregnancy and birth.

A few days before my 2nd wedding anniversary, my husband, Sam, and I moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa for two years. A few months before our 2nd wedding anniversary we felt strongly that we wanted to start a family. After a lot of [reflection], seeking counsel from older, wiser people and several tears, we decided we were going to stop using birth control. If I became pregnant while living in Congo, then that was what was supposed to happen. We moved to Congo in July and I found out I was pregnant with our first baby in November of that same year.

We were extremely excited and extremely nervous. The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the worst reputations for healthcare. We lived in a teeny house with no running water and limited electricity. The closest hospital with decent care was about a three hour drive away on horrendous roads and also had no running water and limited electricity. Prenatal care was very basic and attending a childbirth class was not an option. Although most women in Congo labor and deliver at home with a midwife, many mothers and babies die during the birth process because of limited resources in an emergency. There were many things in my situation that had the potential to add to the existing fears I had about childbirth, but Sam and I knew that our only choice was to trust our situation to overcome fear. So we continued to surrender.

It was decided that I would give birth in the neighboring country (Central African Republic) with an American doctor who worked at a hospital with much better resources and more staff than the hospital in our area. Medical resources would still be limited and an epidural would not be available to me. A Congolese doctor friend of ours visited me once a month for prenatal care which really only consisted of weighing me (if there was a scale available), listening to the baby’s heart (with an old-school pinard horn like they use on the TV show Call the Midwife) and measuring my belly. So Sam and I decided to learn everything we possibly could before the birth of our child. A midwife friend of mine suggested I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. I devoured that book in the first few months of my pregnancy and my husband read a few of the chapters as well. We read and worked through a used Bradley Method workbook and managed to get our hands on the book Husband Coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley a couple of months before my due date. We read and talked about childbirth and practiced relaxation exercises every day. I wanted to know everything I possibly could about managing pain during birth since I would not be able to have an epidural if I wanted one. Sam wanted to know everything he could in order to help me relax and manage pain and be my coach and voice during the labor and delivery. I prepared my body for the “big day” and we both prepared our minds.

A month before the due date we left for Central African Republic and stayed in a guest house and waited for our baby to be born. Dr. Tim, the doctor who would deliver our baby, lived a short walk from the guest house and we met with him several times. He told me I could deliver the baby in the guest house if everything went well and he agreed to everything we wrote in our birth plan. If there were any problems, the hospital was about 200 yards from the guest house and I would quickly be moved there if a cesarean was necessary.

The day before the due date I started to have a “bloody show” and the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been experiencing for a few weeks were increasing throughout the day even though they weren’t painful. By about 2:30pm I started tracking how often the contractions were coming and they were irregular at that point but coming consistently. That day was Sam’s birthday so we made dinner together and I stopped every 10 minutes or so to breathe through a contraction. After dinner was over we realized the contractions were coming every 5-10 minutes and were getting stronger so Sam went down to Dr. Tim’s house and let him know what was going on. Dr. Tim checked me at about 8pm and I was 70% effaced but hadn’t dilated yet so we had a long night ahead of us. I did feel a bit discouraged at that point because I hadn’t dilated yet and had no idea how long everything would take. We attempted to use Dr. Tim’s phone to call our parents back in the States to let them know labor was starting. The reception was terrible but we managed to chat for a couple of minutes. Dr. Tim, his wife Ann, and Jan (the wife of the other American couple who lived there and a nurse) came down to the house to set up a bunch of medical things in case I did deliver there and then they left us alone for a couple of hours.

We both attempted to sleep and Sam did for about 45 minutes, but my contractions got more intense and I walked around the house a bit and then just laid down to relax and breathe through each contraction. We spent the rest of the night in the bedroom with the lights low, mellow music playing (I had made a “labor and delivery playlist” on iTunes for this exact occasion) and Sam sat at my side next to the bed watching my every move, massaging my legs and back, and applying pressure to my back during the contractions. He coached me through my abdominal breathing and was the most incredible support, even though he was exhausted.

Dr. Tim checked me around 11:30pm and I was already at 5cm, which surprised all of us. He came back around 1AM and just stayed the rest of the night in our living room which allowed Sam and me to labor in the quiet bedroom in privacy, with little interruption. Sam talked me through everything as the pain increased and consistently encouraged me. I didn’t need anything or anyone else in that room to keep me focused and relaxed. Around 3:00AM I was at 7cm and Dr. Tim said we might have a few more hours ahead of us and he wasn’t sure if we would deliver at the hospital or in the guest house.

Starting at about 4:30AM the contractions and pressure in my pelvis became very intense. I was having a hard time breathing and staying relaxed during these big contractions that were coming about every 3 minutes. Sam was particularly amazing during this time to keep me breathing from my abdomen and relaxing my muscles when I felt like I couldn’t control what my body was doing. When my mind began to wander to a fearful place, thinking, “How long will this last? I can’t relax!” he calmly reminded me to breathe from my stomach. I started to lose feeling in my arms, hands, legs, and feet because I was hyperventilating a bit and then my hands began to spasm. This part was the only “scary” moment because I couldn’t make my body relax. Dr. Tim came in again around 5:30AM (I think…things were a bit fuzzy around this time) and with surprise in his voice announced that my bag of waters was about to break and he needed to gather his delivery team. As he got up to leave he said, “If you feel the urge to push… don’t push until I get back!” (By the way…that is the worst thing to say to a woman in labor!)

Within minutes Dr. Tim, Ann, Jan, and Julien, an African maternity nurse, were in the room getting set up to deliver my baby right there in the bedroom. I repositioned and Sam sat on the bed behind me for my main support and I began pushing through the contractions. The adrenaline rush during this time was incredible and a relief. I could finally work with my contractions and it felt amazing! They broke my water and Sam held me up, helped hold my legs and coached me through about 4 more contractions with pushing and then my first daughter, Hannah Margaret, appeared at 6:40AM! I held her right away and Sam was behind me the whole time as we ooed and awed over our beautiful daughter. I felt like Sam and I had both worked to get Hannah here safely and that was one of the most incredible feelings…to know that Sam was just as much a part of the process as I was.

homebirth in Africa

A couple of hours after Hannah was born, I clearly remember telling Sam that I would like to do that again. (Not immediately, of course). My experience of giving birth to a child was nothing like I had feared. It was peaceful, smooth, and while it was intense, it was nothing like the pain I had always seen depicted on TV shows. We truly felt peace overcome fear during the entire process. And because we had learned the specifics of what was going to happen to my body during labor and delivery, we felt empowered during the process and therefore able to focus on keeping my body relaxed.

homebirth in Africa

Hannah is almost three years old and Sam and I still talk about her labor and delivery often. The memory of working together to birth our first child is an incredibly sweet and intimate memory that I imagine we will talk about for the rest of our lives.

Guest post written by Sarah S.

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World Doula Week: a doula at a cesarean? Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:52:11 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Guest article by Lisa Kehoe IBCLC, CLD, CPD, in honor of World Doula Week (March 22-28).

Your vision of birth probably did not include having surgery. You were thinking of a natural, unmedicated, maybe even home birth, and now you’re having a cesarean. You may feel uneasy about this, but, for whatever reason, it’s the only choice to keep things safe (I won’t go into reasons). Your partner is even more terrified and may not be able to handle seeing you go through this. You may have had a great doula picked out and now you’re thinking, “Well, we should probably tell the doula we no longer need her <<sad face>>.” NO WAY! She can be the key to you and your partner having the greatest outcome possible. Get a fresh start with your cesarean and choose a great doula!

doula for cesarean

First, once you know you’re having a cesarean, find your local ICAN chapter and start attending monthly meetings. At these meetings, you will learn from other moms about how to cope with this news. They share stories, outcomes, and you may be able to connect with a mom that you can call or message regularly just to talk or vent.

When you meet with your doula, you form a bond that you can feel comfortable with. You can contact her with questions that can arise during the pregnancy. She may attend doctor’s appointments to form a great working bond with them, too. You will go over an extensive plan that will include some different situations that may arise during and right after your surgery so that you will be prepared and not shocked IF/WHEN baby would get transferred to another hospital for medical reasons. A doula will help you deal with your flowing emotions about the surgery in general and will be able to offer reassurance and answers to your partner on what to expect. Your partner may decide that they absolutely do not think they can handle being in the operating room and maybe it would be more comforting that your doula be in there with you to take off any pressure.

A doula can tell you about some options that you have during the cesarean. She can inform you of your rights. Examples include the type of sutures you receive, maybe you would prefer that the staff keep their conversations to a minimum (unless it is about the procedure), or maybe it would calm you down to hear a lot of others talking so you don’t focus on the procedure. A doula can provide evidence based answers to questions you will have on your surgery. You don’t have to go in and succumb to what they say is a normal everyday task and lay there and be uncomfortable.Once baby is out, your doula can stay with you (if allowed by the physician) while your partner takes pictures of baby and stays with baby to monitor the procedures you have agreed to. Your partner may choose to stay with baby if baby needs to go to the NICU at a different facility. Your doula can stay with you while you remain on the operating table.

Once you are back into recovery after your gentle cesarean and baby is fine, your doula will be able to come in and assist you with skin-to-skin and initiating breastfeeding. While in recovery you may still be lying flat and find it near impossible to hold baby and breastfeed on your own so having a professional will be the key to success.

Bottom line on having a doula in your corner for any birth (and especially one that can be potentially disconcerting) is that she works directly for you, not for the facility. You will be given such great care during your prenatal visits that you can feel a lot more reassured that this WILL be okay! Your partner will have someone other than you to complain to (yes, they might) and chat with. You will receive one-on-one care at all times with your doula (unlike busy hospital staff). You, too, will have someone you can complain to (venting is allowed). A doula provides emotional support as well as physical support.

fresh start

Lisa D. Kehoe IBCLC, CLD, CPD serving all clients in the Rockford, Illinois and all surrounding areas. She started Oh Baby Mine in January of 2011 and has served and treated hundreds of parents in the area. She does home, hospital, and birthing center births. As a postpartum doula she loves to serve and educate all parents to care for their new addition. With extensive advanced education in the field of breastfeeding she brings the best support to your birthing experience.She has two children of her own that were born completely natural and unmedicated. Breastfeeding was completely successful also. Those are the main reasons she chose to serve families to acheive as natural a birth experience possible. Lisa is a professional member of ICAN.

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Accreta Awareness Blood Drive Event Mon, 16 Mar 2015 06:25:37 +0000 Continue reading →]]> 10526088_905673386114189_5800171589525061341_n

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to be participating in this year’s Accreta Awareness Blood Drive occurring nationwide on April 3rd in support of the Hope for Accreta Foundation.

The purpose of this blood drive is to raise awareness of placenta accreta, a condition in which the placenta attaches itself too deeply into the uterus. Placenta accreta is also a risk of repeat cesarean whose treatment often requires emergency blood transfusion after birth.

In July of 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a committee opinion on placenta accreta. It stated that “the incidence of placenta accreta has increased and seems to parallel the increasing cesarean delivery rate.” Additionally, they also stated that “women at greatest risk of placenta accreta are those who have myometrial damage caused by a previous cesarean delivery with either anterior or posterior placenta previa overlying the uterine scar. The authors of one study found that in the presence of a placenta previa, the risk of placenta accreta was 3%, 11%, 40%, 61%, and 67% for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth or greater repeat cesarean deliveries, respectively.” (1)

In light of this, it is now more important than ever that women be made fully aware of placenta accreta.


Find a blood drive near you!




Dothan, AL

ICAN of the Wiregrass

LifeSouth in Dothan Family First Chiropractic

1816 W. Main St, Dothan, AL 36303

9am to 1pm

Amanda Martin –




San Jose, CA

ICAN of Silicon Valley

Red Cross San Jose Blood Center

2731 N First St. San Jose, CA 95134

7:30-2:30 PM

LaQuitha Glass –




Lutz, FL

ICAN of Tampa Bay

One Blood

108 Myrtle Ridge Rd Lutz, FL 33549

11 – 4 p.m.

Melissa Taylor –


Melbourne, FL

ICAN of Brevard

OneBlood Love Inc.

2774 N Harbor City Blvd, Melbourne, FL 32935


Heather Schweich –




Aurora, IL

ICAN of Kane County

Heartland Blood Centers- Prisco Community Center

150 W Illinois Ave, Aurora, IL 60506

1:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Aleksandra Neeley –




Baltimore, MD

ICAN of Hagerstown and Frederick

Red Cross Hagerstown Blood Donation Center

1131 Conrad Ct, Hagerstown,MD 21740 and at the University of Maryland Medical Center 22 S Greene St, Baltimore, MD 21201

12:00 to 6:30 p.m.

Brandy Firth –




Springfield, MO

ICAN of Springfield, MO

Community Blood Center of the Ozarks

220 W. Plainview Rd. Springfield, MO 65810


Natalie Bechard –




Asotin, WA  

LC Valley American Red Cross, Lewis and Clark Blood Services Region

Asotin Fire Department, Asotin, WA

May 6 2015, 2-6 PM


1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012, July). Placenta accreta. Committee Opinion No. 529. Obstet Gynecol , 2011. Retrieved from

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ICAN Names Elizabeth Aldea the March 2015 Volunteer of the Month Fri, 13 Mar 2015 02:41:18 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Elizabeth Aldea March 2015 Volunteer of the Month

Elizabeth Aldea
March 2015 Volunteer of the Month

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is powered by the selfless efforts of our numerous volunteers. We cannot thank our dedicated volunteers enough for their cooperation and service in assisting ICAN with accomplishing its mission.

In an effort to acknowledge some of our amazing volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to offer support, education, and advocacy for the mothers in their area, the International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to announce Elizabeth Aldea as the March 2015 Volunteer of the Month.

Elizabeth Aldea, this month’s honoree, is a chapter leader with ICAN of Kissimmee. ICAN of Kissimmee is our first chapter to focus solely on outreach to Spanish-speaking populations in the U.S. In addition to volunteering as a chapter leader, Elizabeth also serves as an admin for ICAN en Espanol, a group whose purpose is to reach Spanish-speaking communities throughout the United States and abroad.


Get to know our March 2015 Volunteer of the Month:


How long have you been an ICAN member?

I became an official member and volunteer for ICAN in 2014.


How did you first find ICAN?

A friend of mine introduced me to ICAN. She shared with me that I was already fulfilling much of ICAN’s mission through the birth advocacy that I was doing on my own, and that I should learn more about the organization and consider joining. Once I checked it out for myself, I agreed with her and decided to volunteer to help them with their mission. I thought, “If I can do it on my own, why not to do it inside ICAN?”


What motivates you as a volunteer?

I know this is a mission that I cannot do alone. Team work allows me to achieve more! When I realized that my goals matched with ICAN’s, everything clicked for me. Here are some of the factors that influenced me:

1. The state of Florida has the 4th highest cesarean rate in the U.S. based on the 2013 CDC report.
2. I am aware of people of Hispanic descent who do not speak English and are intimidated by the health system.
3. I can relate as a Hispanic woman.

So, I thought that having a Spanish-speaking chapter was a necessity.


Do you have a profession or any other passions outside of ICAN?

I have a Master’s Degree in Public Relations and I’m also a writer. In addition, I have my own company (NACER, LLC) that offers doula and childbirth services. I am a VBAC mother and wife.


What was your proudest moment as an ICAN volunteer? What about your hardest?

Wow! I think I’ve had more than one proud moment in ICAN. But definitely, having the community response at each meeting is amazing. Since we started on September 2014 (we are new), we have not had an empty meeting.  Also, we had one mom who VBACed last January and she told us it was because of our support and education. Another  moment I am proud of is when we received an emotionally traumatized mommy and she began to heal after each meeting.

I think the hardest thing has been trying to be creative with limited resources within our new chapter.


Thank you Elizabeth for all that you do to support birthing women!

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FREE Viewing of the Film ‘Trial of Labor’ for ICAN Members! Mon, 09 Mar 2015 22:52:59 +0000 Continue reading →]]> 10904097_821891127876267_2479028633585016145_o

Beginning on March 20, 2015, ICAN will be providing its members with a FREE viewing of the film Trial of Labor, directed and produced by Rob Humphreys and Dr. Elliot Berlin, until March 30th.

ICAN will also be hosting a number of screenings for the general public in select cities beginning in April.

Look out for details on public screenings coming soon.

Not a member of ICAN? Become a member before March 17th to access your free viewing!

‘Trial of Labor’ follows a small group of pregnant women and their journeys back to trusting themselves and their bodies after previous births ended in unplanned surgery.  Each woman has chosen to plan a vaginal birth after cesarean, and the uncertainty of their imminent births evokes in each a personal reckoning: finding a path through unresolved feelings and difficult decisions to the ultimate, unpredictable event of childbirth.



—Thank you for your generous support!—

Your membership will help us to fulfill our mission of improving maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).


View the trailer below!



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ICAN Names Kimberly Hellmuth the February 2015 Volunteer of the Month Mon, 09 Feb 2015 01:20:38 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Kimberly Hellmuth February 2015 Volunteer of the Month

Kimberly Hellmuth
February 2015 Volunteer of the Month

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is powered by the selfless efforts of our numerous volunteers. We cannot thank our dedicated volunteers enough for their cooperation and service in assisting ICAN with accomplishing its mission.

In an effort to acknowledge some of our amazing volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to offer support, education, and advocacy for the mothers in their area, the International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to announce Kimberly Hellmuth as the February 2015 Volunteer of the Month.

Kimberly Hellmuth, this month’s honoree, is a chapter leader with ICAN of North Florida. Kimberly is the graphic artist behind ICAN’s ‘Peace on Earth Begins with Birth’ logo and campaign, and is working on infographics in collaboration with ICAN, ICTC, BirthSwell, Elephant Circle and MANA.


Get to know our February 2015 Volunteer of the Month:


How long have you been an ICAN member?

I’ve been a member since July of 2010.


How did you first find ICAN?

After the unexpected cesarean birth of my first son, my Bradley instructor pointed me to ICAN. The closest chapter at the time was the (now defunct) ICAN of Gainesville. I joined their yahoo group, but that was all. A year and a half later, an acquaintance mentioned that she was starting ICAN of North Florida, and I offered to help. Eventually, she stepped down as Chapter Leader to focus on her career and family, and I took her place.


What motivates you as a volunteer?

I’m motivated by every mom who has been told that her body doesn’t work, that she doesn’t have a choice, or that ʺa healthy baby is all that matters.” Knowing that the support of our chapter can help just a few of those women to have better births is life-changing and affirming. Also, I received a ton of support in planning my HBAC, and I know how important it is to give that back.


Do you have a profession or any other passions outside of ICAN?

I’m a stay at home and homeschooling mom to two boys – ages 6 and 2. I’m a voracious reader and spend as much time in the water as I can. My family and I love to boat, bike, and play at the beach. My boys are active and busy and I spend a lot of time chasing them around!


What was your proudest moment as an ICAN volunteer? What about your hardest?

My proudest moment as an ICAN volunteer was when a friend, who I met through ICAN, told me that my support was integral to her VBAC. While there were so many other factors, like her strength, determination, and her amazing doula, hearing that I made such a profound difference in someone’s life was a wonderful feeling.

My hardest moments have been dealing with the frustration as new regulations or insurance requirements have made it harder for women to birth in our area. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle we have little chance of winning, but I try to remind myself of the individuals we are reaching and supporting.


Thank you Kimberly for all that you do to support birthing women!

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Overturning a VBAC Ban in Western PA Fri, 23 Jan 2015 04:39:46 +0000 Continue reading →]]> By Katy Rank Lev and Lauren McAnallen

Amy had a successful VBAC with her second child and would have faced a coerced cesarean for her third delivery.  She said she is so thankful ICAN helped to get the ban lifted—she had a vaginal delivery with Lydia, supported in the hospital by CNMs.

Amy had a successful VBAC with her second child and would have faced a coerced cesarean for her third delivery. She said she is so thankful ICAN helped to get the ban lifted—she had a vaginal delivery with Lydia, supported in the hospital by CNMs.

In late 2012, ICAN of Southwestern PA started getting calls and emails from women living in Mercer County, PA, about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh. Apparently, one of the hospitals there was instituting a VBAC ban! Some of the women contacting our chapter had already had successful VBACs in the city of Pittsburgh and had been looking forward to birthing closer to home, supported in the local hospital by a CNM, for their next babies. For them, the VBAC ban was upsetting. How could they choose between coerced surgery or driving an hour into the city for each prenatal appointment (with young kids in tow) and driving while in labor?

But then, our chapter learned that this particular hospital served the local Amish population and that they were transferred to this hospital for cesareans. Many of them felt safer birthing in the hospital for subsequent babies. This became an important factor for many reasons: these women felt called to have many children, however it simply isn’t a safe plan for a woman to have 8 or more cesareans. These women also did not carry health insurance. They would have to pay out of pocket for hospital procedures. Coerced cesarean delivery would mean tens of thousands of dollars per Amish family per child. Some Amish do not drive automobiles, so even though the tertiary hospital in Pittsburgh, where VBAC was supported, was only an hour away by car, this was not a practical option for families whose primary means of transportation is a horse and buggy.

We immediately reached out to the ICAN board of directors for advice. While we waited to hear back, we started a letter writing campaign, addressing our letters of concern to the patient advocate at the hospital as well as the head of obstetrics. We found some letter templates in the chapter leader guidebook and tweaked them to fit our situation.

Soon after, ICAN’s legal counsel got back to us. She felt that since Amish women in particular were being affected, this meant we had solid legal ground to approach the hospital administration persuasively. She began to draft a legal letter to the administrators, outlining how and why a VBAC ban was discriminatory against this religious group.

Meanwhile, we needed to find mothers who were willing to speak up against the VBAC ban. We found a few women who spoke with legal counsel, gave their stories and talked about how the VBAC ban affected their family planning and their own autonomy. A big challenge for us was to find Amish women who would speak to ICAN’s lawyer since our chapter leaders were located in the city, over an hour away, and many of these women could not access Facebook.

Thankfully, a CNM working in the hospital was willing to risk her job to help the cause. She created surveys and asked for community support and gave patients ICAN’s contact information so they could reach out to us for help. And, by winter, some Amish families did! Pregnant Amish women walked miles in the freezing cold to use a payphone and tell their story. One Amish woman pleaded with legal counsel, “My sister had a cesarean, and I saw [everything]. Please don’t let them cut me open like my sister!”

ICAN’s legal counsel developed the letter to be sent to the hospital administrators, which was about ten pages long, and called for an immediate lift of the ban. We were dismayed when they failed to respond.

At this point, ICAN’s legal counsel urged us to begin looking for an attorney who would take the case probono (we certainly didn’t have the funds to pay for a lawyer) to sue the hospital system. Our chapter decided it was important to get an ICAN person on the ground, closer to the women being affected, and so one of the mothers who originally contacted us agreed to start a new chapter: ICAN of Western PA.

Lauren McAnallen found out the day after her daughter’s first birthday that the hospital where she was delivered had instituted a VBAC ban. She says, “I was devastated. I didn’t really know where to start. At this point I was not an ICAN member; I had only attended one in person meeting and a handful of online webinar meetings, but this ban was hitting really close to home. Reaching out to ICAN was the first thought that came to mind.

“I got in contact with Katy and she soon put out a call to action for any mothers affected by the ban to write letters, spread the word, and to speak with ICAN’s legal counsel. Katy supplied some fantastic guidelines for writing my letter to the hospital’s patient advocate – simple but important things – keep it short, share how this directly affects you, quote current medical stance on the safety of trial of labor after cesarean, and encourage the hospital to reverse the decision. I quickly drafted my letter, dropped it in the mail and began to encourage my friends and family to do the same. I signed a petition in one of the local care provider’s office and kept in contact with Katy and ICAN’s legal counsel as we waited to hear if our efforts were making any waves or if they were being heard by the hospital administration.

“It took a while for my letter to receive a response, and when it came I was shocked by their reply. It seemed to be a copy/paste letter that neither covered any of my concerns nor was any bit empathetic to my personal experience or the impact of the ban on my family planning – they basically told me that there are other hospitals in the area that offer the services I want and that I can just go there. This was not the answer I had expected from a respected hospital and especially not the answer I expected after I put my heart and major concerns into writing a letter – I was furious to have not received a letter with even just the smallest bit of compassion. It was then I recognized how important it was for me to bring ICAN to my community and in March of 2013, I joined ICAN and took the steps to start a local chapter, ICAN of Western Pennsylvania.”

Over the next few months we continued to reach out to friends and family to write letters and did as much networking via social media as we could. The new chapter started holding monthly meetings and hoped to get some local interest in ICAN and fighting the ban. Also during these months news came that a different hospital would be closing their maternity department entirely. Since this time, three other hospitals have closed their maternity departments, funneling birthing mothers to the tertiary hospital an hour away. Options seemed to be diminishing for families in the area – until August 2013 when the almost miraculous news came in that the VBAC ban had been lifted.

There was little word about the ban before it was reversed. Things were really quiet for months before the news came through. It seems that the Amish community did most of the fighting. Two women came to the hospital in labor and quietly but powerfully declined repeat cesareans. They were treated respectfully by all staff, and both had successful VBACs attended by their midwife with the support of an attending physician. Soon after those births, the ban was lifted. Providers, anesthesia and nursing finally worked together to ensure the safest coverage for those desiring VBAC, advocating the lift of the ban at every staff meeting.

Our local ICAN chapters took all the steps we could to bring attention to the ban and did our best to get the community involved, and in the end it worked.

Keeping the ball rolling was the difficult part and ICAN’s board of directors and legal counsel provided the Amish mothers a voice and informed them of their options, because it really appears that they were the ones who fought the hardest.

Because of that fight the women in Western Pennsylvania have their option to birth their babies safely in a supported hospital environment. Although some women were caught unfairly in that painful period, and there’s no good excuse for that, finally common sense and autonomy prevailed!


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From the President – January 2015 Fri, 09 Jan 2015 22:05:22 +0000 Continue reading →]]> LaQuitha Glass ICAN President

LaQuitha Glass
ICAN President

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Happy new year from ICAN! The new year is a time of fresh beginnings and hope for the future as we march to the beat of collective change. As an organization, we have undergone many changes in the past year, with the intention of increasing our reach in a more cohesive manner in order to fulfill our mission.  I cannot fully express in words how excited we are about 2015 and the years to come.

Did you know that we have chapters available in most of the U.S. as well as chapters in Canada, Asia, Europe, and Mexico? Our chapters are a valuable source of in person support in your local area. We invite you to attend a meeting and connect with your local leaders!

If making it out to a meeting in person proves to be a challenge, many of our chapters provide virtual support through Facebook and email. Be sure to follow us on Facebook as well, as we provide anonymous support for mothers who prefer to keep their identities private.

As an international organization, we recognize the need to pursue our mission to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) in a way that also translates cross-culturally. Along those lines, our ICAN en Español group is another valuable source of support that we offer for our Spanish-speaking mothers.

As we continue into 2015, we look forward to hearing your stories and supporting you during your birthing year and beyond!


With Hope,

LaQuitha Glass

ICAN President


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