Sunday, May 13, 2007
Medical: Dangers Of Hospital Births
Happy Mother's Day!!!
This article is also posted on Calla's blog.
As most of my friends know, I birthed my daughter naturally for 33 hours and 33 minutes. By naturally, I mean without an epidural or drugs. I was just as afraid as every other new mom about the pain of labor, but I made a purposeful decision. Despite what anyone may tell you, it isn't a time to let others induce you, let others drug you, let others cut you, unless of course that is your educated choice. But, most women want whatever is best for their child and that, for 90% of us, is labor without interventions.
For the child, inducing labor is dangerous. For the child, it is best to allow labor to happen on it's own course (except where the child is 2 weeks overdue or the water has already broken). Inductions increase c-section rates, increase risk for the baby including oxygen definiciency, increase infection, and increase the mortality rate for the mom and the child.
For the child, epidurals are dangerous. For the child, it is best to have a drug-free labor (except where fatigue has set in and the mother needs to rest), since epidurals can lead to complications for the mother and child (infection, overdose, allergies, fever), longer labor, and an increased c-section rate and use of forseps. Epidurals are the number one cause of fevers during labor unrelated to infections. Fevers lead to increased complications (often c-sections), infant death, and low Apgar scores. Maternal fever is now also linked to newborn seizure.
For the child, c-sections are dangerous. For the child, it is best to have a natural delivery (except where the child is breach, the mom has a fever, or either one's heart rate has gone too low or high). C-sections are a serious surgery and are physically damaging. The risk of the need for a hysterectomy, maternal & infant death (3-4 times compared to natural birth), organ damage, respiratory problems, and many other complications all increase after a c-section. After a c-section, moms are more likely to be re-admitted to a hospital and are more likely to become infertile. Future babies are more at risk for preterm birth and have an increased risk of stillbirth. The consequences of elective c-sections are indisputable.
With doctors in the United States encouraging use of all these interventions, how can you protect yourself and your baby? Low risk pregnancies in this country still have over a 30% chance of a c-section; most of those c-sections are unnecessary, unwanted, and unsafe. But physicians earn an extra $3000 or more per c-section as compared to a natural birth, and with approximately 150 deliveries per year on average, doctors are doing 50 c-sections a year making an extra $150,000 per year. The number one reason for an unplanned c-section: "failure to progress". Or is that "failure to wait"? First-time moms normally have long labors, with the average labor lasting 19 hours. Failure to progress is defined as 2 hours of active labor without progress. First, doctors should not be putting plastic gloves, instruments, or anything else unsterilized in the canal every two hours, because that leads to infection. Moms should only be checked very rarely or when they feel an urge to push (to make certain they are fully dialated). Second, your body knows what to do, and sometimes it may take longer than others but with most c-sections given for "failure to progress," please consider whether your doctor has a "failure to be patient".
I did research on the web and found a Midwife-run birth center nearby, called Birth Care. There, the c-section rate is less than 4% (national average is 33%), the episitomy rate is less than 6% (national average is 25%), and the average Apgar score 5-minutes after birth is a 9 (out of 10). At Birth Care, the baby is brought to the mom's belly or breast right after birth, when she is still attached to the umbilical cord. The mom gets a chance to bond and breastfeed her child immediately. All these photos are from the Birth Care Center in Alexandria and show you the comfort of a Midwife-led birth.
These statistics and supporting studies clearer show that it is safer to birth your child outside the hospital for a normal birth despite what the medical model or some well-meaning old lady may tell you. In developed countries, the Netherlands has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world (approximately 3rd) and one of the highest rates of homebirth (two-thirds of all births with less than 3% c-sections). The U.S. has the one of the highest infant mortality rates (24th in the world) and one of the highest rates of hospital births (about 96% with 33% c-sections).
If you have a high-risk pregnancy and need to birth at a hospital, make sure to have a doula or birth assistant by your side, working for you and with you. Your doula can help you make educated choices when you are in labor and unable to rebuff the pressure from well-meaning nurses and doctors to have a c-section or induce labor. Your doula can be as an advocate for you when you are busy birthing your child and your husband is busy comforting you. Your doula can also act as a second pair of much needed hands, running to get you ice and giving your husband a chance to take a break after the first 24 hours. Not surprising, births with doulas are shorter, easier, and have less interventions (including less c-sections!).
So for all those moms out there who feel lost in getting the birth you want, don't give up.
A hospital is no place to be sick. -- Samuel Goldwyn