Business of Being Born
Sometime mid-pregnancy, back in January, my daughter-in-law decided to make the switch from regular OB to midwife--from labor room to birthing room--from no support to using a doula--who is there to coach, guide, and comfort her from the earliest start of labor on through breastfeeding.
With 1 out of 3 births ending up as C-sections, she wanted to up her odds for a normal delivery.
Soon after that, my son & daughter-in-law rented Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's documentary about giving birth in the U.S., The Business of Being Born. That's when they knew they had made the best possible decision.
But, babies & births are unpredictable. If they should need a C-section or a specialist, it's all one floor down--or up--or down the hall.
I got caught up in their enthusiasm, rented the film, and found myself aghast at how much labor & delivery had changed, even from when I gave birth almost 30 years ago--which was natural, without monitors or anesthesia. And I felt downright elated when seeing the experiences of moms who chose the midwife route. The film is a must-see for anyone thinking about pregnancy.
2. Squatting is less stressful for the mom--puts gravity to work--but it's inconvenient for the doctor--who wants to stand up & have a clear view of the birth canal.
3. Almost 1/3 of U.S. women now have C-sections. 40-45% of women in New York's Suffolk & Westchester counties end up having C-sections.
4. C-sections should only be performed when needed to guarantee the well-being of the mother and infant--never out of convenience. It should not be the first choice for healthy mothers. C-sections are major surgery--increasing risks to mother & baby.
5. Normal labor clears liquid from the infant's lungs, preparing the baby to breathe outside the womb--Cesarean's impede this process. Studies have shown that a vaginal birth “primes” a baby’s immune system by exposing it to various bacteria as it moves through the birth canal. In one large study babies born by C-section were 80% more likely to develop asthma.
6. Pitocin, the drug used to stimulate labor, can cause painful contractions, which then assures the use of an epidural to relieve pain--which then slows down the contractions--can lead to more drugs--or fetal distress--and may increase the doctor's recommendation for a Cesarean. Pitocin sets a mother up for "cascade of medical interventions".
7. Normal labor is slow, unpredictable & unprofitable. Compare 12 hours of normal labor with the possible 20 minutes for a Cesarean--complete with an anesthesiologist.
8. Interesting that C-Sections seem to increase at 4 o'clock in the afternoon & 10 o'clock at night.
9. Attendance at Lamaze classes (natural childbirth) has dropped 14% between 2000-2005.
10. Obstetricians have surgical training. Normal deliveries are just "so boring". Hospitals thrive on a high turnover. Speeding labor helps to fill & empty beds more quickly.
11. 80% of women have epidurals today. In years past the epidural was not given until the mother was 5 centimeters dilated--to insure that labor would not slow down. If you were too far along--you were encouraged to "just tough it out". All that has changed. Now mom can have an epidural as soon as she's admitted to the hospital, if she wants one.
12. Once you have an epidural you're going to be closely monitored. Labor slows--pelvic muscles slacken--you have to watch a monitor to even know when to push--you increase your chances for a C-section or a forceps delivery or vacuum extraction. In 1/5 of women, blood pressure drops--which can cut off oxygen to the baby--another reason for a C-section.
13. Midwives & lactation specialists see differences in the babies whose moms had epidurals. They are more sluggish, may be harder to soothe, and frequently have trouble latching onto the breast.
Check out Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's brand-new book: Your Best Birth. Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience. New York: Wellness Central, 2009.
Favorite quote from the film:
Watch the documentary, "The Business of Being Born"
Click here if you don't see the trailer.