Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cut me baby, one more time.

Pardon me while I rant.

Pregnancy is generally NOT a medical event. It is a normal natural state. Giselle featured a fabulous quotation a while back.

"Midwives see birth as a miracle, and only intervene if there's trouble. Obstetricians see birth as trouble, and if they don't intervene, it's a miracle." Gentle Birth Choices.

That's it exactly.

I just don't understand why more people don't consider midwives as their first route when pregnant. Why do we automatically turn to OBs? Obstetrics is a science. It is very useful if a problem develops. Midwifery, however, can PREVENT many of those problems. Studies have shown that planned hombirths with a midwife are safer than hospital births.

"Midwife" literally means "With woman."

I found this definition of "Obstetrics" to be very interesting (italics are mine):

1819, from obstetric (adj.), 1742, from Mod.L. obstetricus "pertaining to a midwife," from obstetrix (gen. obstetricis) "midwife," lit. "one who stands opposite (the woman giving birth)," from obstare "stand opposite to" (see obstacle).

I've been particularly disheartened with all things baby-related lately. I want to change the world. I want to help make this a gentler, safer, easier place to live. That's quite literally my job. I don't do this because I think I'm right. I do it because I've read the research. I have the education. I see the evidence every day. Yet there are those who, for whatever reason, won't ask for help or accept it. I mourn for them, not because they're not doing what I think is right, but because I know they could have a different experience.

I surround myself with like-minded people, so I've been privileged by the fact that many of my friends have used midwives and planned homebirths. Still, I see so many people having OB-attended hospital births that range from sub-par to horribly traumatic and I just have to wonder why. Every single woman that I have known who had planned a hospital birth in the past 6 months has had a c-section. All have been instigated by hospital interventions. Why? Why do we let this continue? Why do we as mothers make the choice to put ourselves and our babies in danger by birthing with an OB in a hospital?

We don't realize the consequences of surgical birth. When a doctor induces a mom at 38 weeks, he doesn't tell her that there's a 50% chance she'll wind up with a c-section. He rarely (if ever) tells her that full-term is 37-42 weeks. I've heard horror stories of doctors threatening mothers if they go to their due date (40 weeks) much less beyond it. I've known mothers whose OBs threatened to abandon them if they didn't agree to an induction no later than their due date.

Mothers often see c-sections as just another choice. Why? Because doctors often portray it as such.

How many OBs truly review the risks of surgical birth beforehand? How many women know that a c-section increases their risk of future stillbirths? How many are told that a primary c-section is more likely to kill that child? How many are told that a c-section makes fertility problems more likely? How many are told of the possibility of future physical ailments for the mom as a result? How many are told that mothers who delver via c-section are more likely to suffer cardiac arrest and hysterectomies (among other complications)? How many women are told that babies born via c-section are less likely to be able to breastfeed and are more likely to have hearing and breathing problems? How many are told that women who have c-sections are more than THREE TIMES more likely to DIE as a direct result? "Unnecessary cesarean delivery constitutes a threat to the future health of mothers and babies who undergo major surgery..." You can read a brief overview of the major risks here. Another list of risks can be found at this Mayo Clinic page.

Why don't we choose midwives from the start? Even aside from c-sections, there are greater risks and greater restrictions when we birth in a hospital setting. Why must so many people have a negative hospital experience before they seek out something different? It doesn't have to be that way. We don't have to force ourselves to suffer. Why won't more women take that stand? In this culture, we're willing to assert our right to flavorful junk food, but we're not willing to insist on a safer setting for ourselves and our babies. Why?


Tiffany said...

Wow! That is amazing. I never knew ANY of that and my OB never told me ANY of that when I had my c-sec with my daughter. Though the situation which brought me to undergo the surgery was because of an emergency, maybe I would have tried to push to have a natural birth considering all of those facts. Either way, thank you for providing this information. I want to pass this on to some women I know too!

Pixie LaRouge said...

If it helps any, knowing you changed my mind on birth, the where's and how's. I know I'm not the world, but you did help change MY world. Your convictions and your gentle persuasion spared me another "well, that's just the way we do things" birth. And, for that and so many other things, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such an informative and passionate post. I am a birth and postpartum doula, and I have seen first hand some of the consequences of unnecessary inductions. I have to laugh with irony when I hear the "I think your baby is going to be too big for you to deliver" spiel. I have NEVER witnessed this to be true, even for the moms whose babies have been well over 10 lbs. It just depends on the position they chose to deliver. One mom I worked with yelled at her doc in front of the nursing staff when she delivered her 7 lb 4 oz baby about how pissed off she would have been if she'd listened to her and had a c-section for her "large baby".

Penny said...

This is beautiful. Every woman needs to read it. Hell everyone needs to read it.
I can give you my answer about why I didn't seek out a midwife when I first started having babies.
Because I just had no idea whatsoever the vast difference between OB and midwifery care. And this is coming from a woman who admittedly loves her (former) OB and had fine and dandy hospital experiences. But I wanted more. Now I vehemently disagree with many of the things he chose in the course of my two hospital births. The medical establishment has brainwashed everyone into thinking births are fraught with danger and need to happen in a hospital, and you listen to what the doctor says, no questions asked.

Along the lines of what Pixie wrote, maybe you won't change the world, but you changed my world. Years ago... probably 1998-1999 range, I read your impassioned posts regarding circumcision on the NW boards, and for the first time, you made me think about circumcision in a different way. Nine years later, my son is intact because of the questioning and research I started after you got me to think. That wouldn't have happened if you hadn't given me a nudge. I would've gone along with the rest of the sheep.
Same thing with extended breastfeeding. Same thing with my birth choices. None of my "real life" friends has opted for anything but a hospital birth. Thanks to you and an amazing circle of online friends, I finally experienced birth the way my body was made to birth.

I am sad and outraged that we've all been so fooled. But now I'll keep sharing my stories, so maybe, just maybe, I'll change a little piece of the world, like you have.

Katie said...

I'm going with an OB because with my issues, I have seen my OB take better care of me and question and refer me out to specialists where the midwife said nothing about my condition at all. The midwife saw nothing wrong with my family history of aneurysms and the OB and perinatologist got me in Immediatley to the neurologist, and got me the MRI I wanted 7+ yrs ago.

The midwife was really sweet and i ALMOST went with her until the OB came in and took care of every issue I had. I'd be dead if not for my OB.

TheFeministBreeder said...

I wish I'd read this post during my first pregnancy. Maybe I could have avoided that first c-section. Heck, I wish I had read this at the beginning of my second pregnancy. I didn't know I even had a choice not to go to that stupid cut-happy OB - until it was too late. Thank goodness I got my VBAC anyway, but I'll never go to an OB again if I can help it.

Many kudos.

Jill said...

I agree with The Feminist Breeder. I wish I had read this during my first pregnancy.

I'm going to go back and dig through all of the linked articles. Good work.