Doulas destigmatize “Eyes and Thighs”
Eyes and Thighs and Parent’s OH MYS!
When I was a new doula, I brought a lot of preconceived notions and personal bias to the table.
There were times, I am ashamed to admit, I came to prenatal visits with my own list of “shoulds and shouldn’ts” for my client. I felt justified because some of our hospitals had some questionable (in my NON-MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL opinion) procedures in place.
Procedures such as the good ol’ “Eyes and Thighs” treatment as we call it here in Houston.
Eyes and Thighs, are mandatory treatments in many states and provide protection for a baby against some unknowns. However, there is a stigma around the introduction of synthetics so early on.
No matter what we believe, as doulas, it’s not our responsibility to make decisions for our clients based on our own experiences or opinions. We provide education and information. We give them the information about what the procedure is, they make a choice, and we support them through it.
Provide the information. Support their decision. That’s it. So, let’s break it down.
What is “Eyes and Thighs”?
Within the first hour of the baby’s life, their eyes are treated with an antibiotic gel. The first choice, and most readily available is a prophylactic ointment called Erythromycin.
This eye treatment is strongly encouraged and often mandated, to prevent the newborn from contracting Ophthalmia neonatorum (ON). ON is an infant eye infection that may cause blindness. It is passed from the birthing person to the baby when the birthing person is infected with the common STI/STDs Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. ON is contracted as the baby is birthed through the vagina, yet, there have even been instances of ON when the babies were born via cesarean.
Erythromycin is applied to the infant’s eyes. In some rare instances, there may be a topical reaction to the medication, but it tends to resolve by 48 hours post administration.
An inter-muscular injection of Vitamin K into the thigh is routinely administered and often mandated to newborns shortly after the birth. Vitamin K is a cofactor in the activities required for coagulation (aka blood clotting). Since babies are born without sufficient amounts of Vitamin K, they may have trouble with blood clotting until around 7 days post birth when the levels are mature. Vitamin K is also given to prevent “Vitamin K deficiency bleeding” (VKDB), a bleeding disorder that is caused by K deficiency.
While oral vitamin K is available in some areas, the absorption rate may be decreased. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concluded that an intramuscular injection in the baby’s thigh is the more effective, and, preferred method.
Some parents have fear or worry about these early applied chemical interventions. They believe they link to developmental health issues that appear later. Some chose to refuse these procedures based on those beliefs or other philosophy based ideals.
We provide information and destigmatize procedures.
We build up the confidence of our clients; the parents who are making decisions for the wellbeing of this little person. This little person that they love more than they ever thought possible.
It’s that simple.
Now, as a more experienced doula, I am happy to say I leave my opinions and bias at home.
My prenatal visits consist of conversations. I discuss what my clients can expect as new parents. I answer lots of their questions. And I support them in their decisions.
There has been a great deal of relief around releasing myself from the responsibility of decision making for my clients, and I am a better doula for it.
Erin Young Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), ProDoula CD, PICD, CCE, Birth and Postpartum & Infant Care Doula Trainer
Owner of Mother Nurturing an apothecary for pregnancy and beyond, and Co-Owner of Houston Birth & Baby