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14 December 2008 @ 06:53 pm
Childbirth is an emergnence, not an emergency  
In a book I’ve been reading I came across a quote that caught my eye by a psychiatrist named Ronald Laing.  The first time I read it, it almost sounded offensive, but the second time through, a light bulb came on.  This is the wording I’ve been searching for to convey how modern obstetrics in the United States are not simply over done, but utterly, preposterously, ridiculous. Not to mention dangerous. 

“We do not see childbirth in many obstetric units now.  What we see resembles childbirth as much a artificial insemination resembles sexual intercourse.” 

Would anyone ever, ever, ever use artificial insemination to become pregnant unless they had no other way?  The question isn’t even worth mentioning.  Of course no one would.  Some people even question the morality of such methods.  Fertility treatments are emotionally, if not physically, stressful for many couples, but for those who need it, it can be a blessing.  And it goes without saying that most babies are still conceived by sexual intercourse.

The comparison to hospital intervention versus normal birth should be looked at the same way.  This country has a long way to go.  The big business of obstetrics in America has imprinted the past few generations with the thinking that women and women’s bodies don’t know how to give birth, that childbirth is an agonizingly, painful medical emergency safely managed only under a doctor’s power. 

Hospital birth has been sold to us like formula companies sold bottle-feeding in lieu of breastfeeding. Thankfully, the countless benefits of breastfeeding are widely known now and the thought that we can engineer something better than what naturally occurs with perfection is out dated.
Then why are we still bowing down to obstetric technology and doctors who insist on taking over the natural process of childbirth?  Women have been raped of the spiritual, joyous, empowering experience of childbirth.  Women’s bodies are designed to give birth.  But in the hospital, we are strapped down, plugged in, drugged, and ripped from our involvement of the births of our children. 

Obstetricians are medical doctors; they are trained to find illness and abnormalities.  As the old saying goes, “When what you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Many doctors in practice today have never observed a normal childbirth without medical intervention.  For this reason, they don’t realize it can be done, and therefore, tend to approach pregnancy and childbirth as an affliction needing to be cured.  But the truth is the bodies of women, big and small, are designed to give birth and will do so successfully, if the woman is in a low stress environment, with a supportive midwife.  The midwifery model of care monitors the health of mother and baby more closely and constantly and keeps the dignity of the family intact.

One conclusion of the downward spiral of interventions, occurring with alarming frequency, is the doctor-friendly cesarean section.  A cesarean section is major surgery with a greater risk of infection to mother and baby and a longer recovery time than vaginal birth.

New studies are showing that babies born by cesarean section are three times more likely to die in the first month of life.  The World Health Organization says that no nation has any reason to have a c-section rate higher than 10-15%, yet, almost 33% of all babies in America are born by c-section.  In 2006 at Huntsville Hospital, 34% of all babies were born by c-section.  (Alabama Departmen of Public Health: http://www.adph.org/healthstats/index.asp?id=1513)

We are the country that has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world. 

“Everywhere else in the world you see midwives attending 70 or 80% of all the births, and the United States stands alone.” -Marsden Wagner, M.D., M.S.

 Childbirth is not an emergency, it is an emergence.