Sunday, February 17, 2013

Medical versus natural child birth

I was watching TLC's A Baby Story show this morning and I was so angry at how much medical intervention was used in this particular birth.  The poor baby was given far too much trauma to begin her small life.  I see this show almost every morning since it is on when my daughter gets up and not much else is on at this time.  First of all, the woman was on her back and was not propped up, except her freaking head.  Hello!  Why would you not let gravity help to get the baby out?!?!?!?  And after the 6th push (ONLY SIX PUSHES!!!!!!!), the doctor decided to use forceps to pull the baby out.  And he was NOT gentle.  He was literally tugging on this poor baby's head trying to force the baby out.  There is NO WAY that this doctor did not injure this poor baby's delicate neck and head.  I would bet money that if this baby had have been taken to a chiropractor that the chiropractor would have seen trauma to the neck.

And what infuriates me the most is that there are far too many unnecessary medical interventions, which happen time and time again.  What do I mean by unnecessary?  I mean when you know, hands down, that if the same woman had given birth to the same baby with a midwife (preferably NOT in a hospital) that everything would  most likely have gone smoothly and there would be no medical intervention.  My own midwife told me that a birth that she had assisted in had a bit of complication, but it turned out fine and then she said that if the same thing had have happened in a hospital with a doctor that they would for sure have given a cesarean section.

I gave birth to my daughter at the Maison de Naissance, which is a birthing centre.  To me, the best part about it is that it is not a hospital and the staff do not talk or act like most of the cold, unfeeling health professionals that I have come in contact with over the years. There are no epidurals to be had, no forceps or vacuums (from what I understand) and no opiates.  I had a midwife, instead of doctors and nurses (who tend to think of me more as a number, instead of an individual having an individual birthing experience).  At the birthing centre, you can pretty much give birth in any position that you choose.  On the contrary, the majority of women who give birth in a hospital using a medical doctor (who pretty much dictates to them what to do) will end up lying flat on their back in bed, pumped full of drugs and not letting gravity help their baby to naturally slide out.  I chose to give birth using a birthing stool.  My second choice was to give birth in a hot tub, but when it came time, I decided to use gravity to my advantage with the birth stool. 

For those who may wonder why I do not like the medical views of child birth, I will tell you about my own experience.  I initially started off with a medical doctor and switched from a medical doctor over to a midwife at 4 months because I couldn't stand how my doctor only gave me about 5-10 minutes of her time at each visit.  It was also painfully clear that she did not care about me, since she actually brushed off the concerns that I presented to her and told me that some symptoms that I was experiencing (and researched about, no less) were unfounded since she had already done a couple of tests and they came back negative. (I found out later when I talked to my midwife and had more tests done that I was actually right in what I thought I had.  My midwife told me that there are more than 2 tests that the doctor should have done in my case.)  Like my former medical doctor, many medical doctors have a god mentality; they think that because they went to med school, of course they know everything and that their way is THE BEST way, since they are the ones with the medical degree and not their patients.  However, most people are fairly in tune with their bodies and know if something is wrong or not.  And dare I say that even doctors are human and are capable of making mistakes (gasp!).

What I really hate about the medical model of routine births in hospital is that most of the time the pregnant woman is laying flat on her back in bed and while in this position the medical staff will tell her to start pushing the baby out in this very awkward, difficult position.  Most hospitals don't even have any other alternative methods, such as a birthing stool, ball or hot tub, which means that millions of women are confined to lying on their back to give birth.  How does that seem logical, or even smart to anyone?  A great example of the difficulties that can arise from being in this position are shown in this drawing from the website, Dancing For Birth:

Millions of women over thousands of years have used the squatting position to give birth.  Why does modern medicine think that they can do better?   More importantly, why fix something that was never broken in the first place?  Oh yes, of course, for complete convenience to the doctor.  This is why there are so many cesarean sections being done now in hospitals.  Sadly, most of these women are blindly following the advice of their medical doctors.  I need only watch the show, A Baby Story to see it happen time and time again.

Dr. Jonathan Weinstein, an OB/GYN wrote a great article about the high percentage of doctors performing unnecessary cesareans to make it more convenient for themselves.  Please check out the article:  Confessions of an Obstetrician.  He talks about how most of these doctors are performing cesareans because they are more convenient for the doctor than a vaginal birth as well as, "it pays more to cut you open."  Still not convinced?  According to Time there was, "A study conducted by the American Association of Birth Centers and published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. Researchers tracked 15,574 births and found that birth centers saved the health-care system $30 million in facility fees alone. Women who deliver vaginally avoid the cost of surgery and the extra time in the hospital spent recovering." (1)

I will agree that sometimes under extenuating circumstances medical intervention is needed in order to save the baby and/or the mother, but this is really rare.  I feel that MOST of the time medical intervention is completely unnecessary.  I also think that most medical staff do not want to wait for hours and hours waiting for the baby to be ready to come out.  Thus, instead of waiting for the woman and baby to get ready for the birth, by dilating naturally, the medical staff decide to artificially get the ball rolling by pumping drugs into the mother to start contractions.  A lot of times, since the mother's body and baby are not actually ready for birth at that moment, the doctor then decides to either give a cesarean, an episiotomy or using forceps or a vacuum to pull the baby out faster.  I just can't understand why a doctor would think that forcing a baby out by pulling on its head with forceps or a vacuum would be a good idea.  Just search "forcep birth injuries" or "vacuum birth injuries" and see what sad photos pop up on Google images.  Patrick O'Neal sums it up quite nicely, "whenever labor is induced the probability of a cesarean delivery increases dramatically. The cervix hasn't naturally softened and prepared itself for labor, and lack of proper dilation at the time of induction means that it is less likely that a vaginal birth will occur."(2)  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "There is no justification for any region to have cesarean section rates over 10-15%". (3)  However, the US cesarean rate is currently over 30%. That is 1 in 3 women having a cesarean birth. Does anyone else see how wrong and corrupt this high percentage is?

Women need to be more empowered and surround themselves with people who will help to empower them.  To help women be empowered during the birthing process, first and foremost, the woman MUST find a doctor who actually cares more for the welfare of her and her baby, instead of his/her own convenience and paycheck.  Secondly, I think that doing your own research to see what options you actually have will also help you to make an informed decision if complications arise.  And finally, you also need to educate your partner and anyone else who will be at the birth about your birthing plans so that they can support your decisions as well as stand up for what you really want during the birth when you are too exhausted or scared to stick to your birth plan--especially if a nurse of doctor tries to bully you into doing something that you don't want to do.  For example, I also saw on A Baby Story a woman who didn't want to have an epidural, but when she started to feel the intense labour pains, her brother was making jokes and kept on telling her to just take the drugs.  Meanwhile, instead of her husband telling her brother to shut his trap, he was telling her that it was ok to take the drugs.  In my opinion, the husband could have shown much more support if he actually tried to help her focus during the contractions and coach her through it.

Life is not always easy.  Why are women brainwashed by movies and the medical system to think that it is perfectly normal to take the easy way out?  Why can't more women have medical staff and family members support them so that they can actually have a healthy, NATURAL birth?  And when I say natural, not only am I talking about a vaginal birth, but I am also talking about a drug-free birth, because pumping synthetic drugs into a woman's body (and thus, freezing her from the waist down to make it near impossible to properly push her baby out), is NOT natural. 

For anyone wondering, I did not have ANY painkillers for my daughter's birth and yes it hurt like a mo fo.  However, with that said, the most painful part (the ring of fire) didn't last more than a few minutes.  And I must admit that my wonderful midwife was so supportive during this time.  I started to crack from the pain and began to scream, but she told me that the screaming would scare the baby and not help with the pushing.  She said that instead of screaming, that I should give low, gutteral moans, which would keep me more focused.  I found a great description online of why these moans are great to make during the pushing process, "Low guttural noises and moaning keeps the pressure you are exerting on your diaphragm and helps you to continue progress. Screaming on the other hand usually takes place when a women is becoming overwhelmed and losing control during the process. Not the position you want to be in. Screaming irritates your vocal cords and causes you to release the pressure from up above as opposed to directing it below."

There is an AMAZING website called, Birth Without Fear, whose purpose is to educate and empower women in the whole birth process.  If you are pregnant or know of someone who is, please check out this website or pass the info along to others who could benefit from it.  When women are more knowledgeable about birth, they will fear less about the whole process and not be scared about it.  And hopefully, they will gain enough courage to not take the epidural so that they can actually partake fully in the birth of their child and not risk other complications due to having an epidural or taking other opiates.

If I could even save one woman and child from having a traumatic birthing experience, then I have accomplished what I wanted to do with this article.  Thanks for reading.

Resources:
  1. "Midwives Say Birthing Centers Could Cut C-Section Rates and Save Billions"
  2. "What's Behind the Exorbitant Cesarean Rate?" -By Patrick O'Neill
  3. World Health Organization Health report (page 4)

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