High schoolers explore human placenta, learn about physiological birth

Mo15541886_1145159192257817_1272081161668931327_nst high school students are lucky if they get to dissect a formaldehyde-soaked frog in science class.

About 70 Wauwatosa East High School and Wauwatosa West High School students interested in pursuing medical careers had the opportunity to explore a human placenta in December of last year at a birth class hosted by midwives LaNette McQuitty, CPM, LM and Katy Skarlatos, CPM, LM of Authentic Birth Center Wellness Collective.   

The students ranged in age from 14 to 18 years old; about 20 percent of them male.

In two and a half hours, the midwives took the students on a tour of the birth center (which features three birthing suites complete with fiber optic, starlit ceilings,) discussed physiological birth, and directed a placenta dissection which was donated by an Authentic client.

15622302_1144862715620798_2906795628059322069_nMcQuitty points out that learning opportunities outside of the classroom are an excellent way to capture young people’s interest and allow them to better absorb information.

Wauwatosa West High School Family & Consumer Science teacher Ms. Teri Thompson says she wanted to expose her students to alternative birthing options and medical careers.

“Visiting Authentic Birth Center gave them a hands-on learning experience,” Thompson says. “Many times students just learn the traditional information provided in textbooks and ‘gloss over’ alternative choices. I want students to have all the knowledge they can have to support their future families and careers.”

Taking the students on a tour of the center helped them make connections and ask relevant questions, McQuitty goes on. The midwives explained that their birth suites feature dim lights because “when your eyes dilate, your cervix dilates,” for example.

“[The students] were able to see how the facility and the atmosphere really enhance physiological birth,” McQuitty says.

During class, the midwives showed a picture slideshow of a laboring woman at Authentic. They asked students to point out what they did and did not see. What they saw in the images was a stark contrast to how birth is portrayed in the media.

An image of the midwives’ medical cart appeared near the end of the slideshow, once baby had been born. Helping the students to be observant, allowed them to go down a thoughtful pathway and figure out the most important components of the birth process, McQuitty explains. In any birth setting, keeping mother and baby safe is of utmost importance.

“We can do that in a way that’s comfortable and enjoyable for mom,” McQuitty says. “No one is screaming and yelling.”

Later, the midwives showed the students a more graphic video which depicted the birth of the placenta.

“They were very curious about that which was our hope,” McQuitty says. “We talked about how our body creates this disposable organ each and every time and how amazing it is.”

And then, there in front of them, was a real placenta to explore! The midwives instructed them with very strict safety and sanitary rules in place. The students felt the weight of the organ and explored the thickness of the sac. They snipped off parts of the umbilical cord to try and identify the difference between the arteries and vein.

“Giving them tasks got them very interested,” McQuitty recalls.

It was a new and interesting experience even for Thompson.

“…As a mother of three I’ve never seen what a placenta looks like,” she says.

McQuitty says her favorite part about the placenta investigation was the students’ acknowledgement of how incredible the placenta is. She says she was also struck by watching them “put it together”: I was inside one of these.

All but two of the 70 students explored the placenta.

“They all wanted selfies with it,” says McQuitty.

Thompson reports that her students truly enjoyed the experience and shared their knowledge with their peers back at school.

It was amazing and such an authentic learning experience,” says Thompson.
More info about Authentic Birth Center Wellness Collective here.

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