Monday, August 10, 2009

Birthing in the USA : part one of two

Since we discussed health care, let's discuss one of the most expensive procedures people routinely have...childbirth.

Childbirth in the country has started to go a little something like this: you arrive at a hospital, because you are being induced. You are changed into a hospital gown. You are hooked up to something to cause contractions, usually Pitocin. You are monitored at least once an hour, but sometimes continuously to ensure that the Pitocin isn't stressing the baby. You are made to stay in or near your bed, in your room. A nurse checks on you regularly. If you don't progress quickly enough, you're recommended for C-section.

The number of babies induced in this country is placed somewhere around 40% in most cases. So, let me just reiterate...nearly half of all babies born are brought into this world not because the mothers body, which has grown and nurtured the baby for 40 weeks unconsciously knows that it's time to go and begins the process, but because a mother is forced into birth. Usually shortly after, and sometimes even before her due date.

That's crazy talk.

Don't get me wrong. There are many, many valid medical reasons for inducing a labor. But those valid reasons don't happen in forty percent of births. Instead, women are usually induced out of convenience. Either because they want to know when hey baby will be arriving so they can get time off, or pan it out or whatever, or so their doctor can have it planned. Doesn't seem so bad, when you put it that way.

Except that induced births can have many, many complications. First of all, your due date is a guess. Very, very few people have sex so infrequently that they can be sure of the date. And most women have literally no understanding of when they're fertile, so they can't accurately pin it down to even a few days. So, you could have gotten pregnant earlier or later than you're imagining, rendering that due date totally inaccurate. Also, most women, especially new mothers, "bake" their babies a little longer, often going to 41 weeks. Most pregnancies have no problems with going beyond the due date, as long as you're not beyond 42 weeks, where complications can begin to occur.

Also, inductions are painful. Contractions are worse. The mother often requests drugs, even if she was totally adamant about not getting them before. There's more stress on not just your body, but also on your baby.

And since it's known that extra stress will be on the baby, you're usually stuck in a bed, being constantly or semi-constantly monitored.

This is a bad plan.

When you lie in a bed, your pelvis is actually almost compressed, so the opening is smaller. You want your pelvic opening to be big, so you can get the baby out. Also, you don't get any help from gravity, which, in other positions, helps the baby move down and out. It also encourages fetal malpresentation, and can mess with the oxygen supply to the baby. All of which can push you towards getting a c-section.

Plus, all of this is way, way more expensive than a normal delivery would be.

This is going to, unintentionally, be a part one of two. I'll expound more later, because there's a lot more I want to say on this topic. Until then, I suggest checking out The Business of Being Born, or A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth.


Atina said...

I still and debating on how I want to go. I know what to expect from a c-section. Catelyn's umbilical cord was jacked from the beginning, so she wouldn't have been able to handle the stress.
The business of being born is fantastic. I don't know how I feel about switching from the Dr that I know, to a group in Columbia. I'm not sure about that whole thing, and the logistics of it all. I like the idea of waterbirth and such, and I guess I just need to force Shawn into helping me make the decision. Thankfully, he's more of the "honey, it's your body", which is great but this is something I need input on.

I have huge issues with Pitocin. My favorite line in The Business of Being Born, is the Dr saying that no one knows really what the long term effects are of Pit. It made me think that maybe that's were your ADD, and Autistic kids are coming from, maybe it's not vaccines.

Any whos good post, and continue trying to help me decide...

Anonymous said...

I was induced with Chloe. At 38 weeks and 6/7 days. But I was also horrendously sick after getting salmonella poisoning from peanut butter. The labor was fine until it was time to push, when she got stuck -- which didn't matter about the pitocin or anything, she just was turned wrong and had been. I pushed for an hour and a half -- no c-section, thank goodness.

Can't say I'm against being induced, but the next time around I would try to do things differently.

Sara said...

I don't debate these things. I know what worked for me and I accepted the consequences.

Star said...

I seriously never have any animosity towards women about their birthing practices. I have issues with doctors who don't explain things to women fully, and doctors who schedule unnecessary inductions or c-sections. I do think people in general should take the time to be more involved with their healthcare, but anyone who's happy with their birth, hey, awesome. Seriously. I'm totally not judgey. :)