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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Am I on a birth crusade?

I think I need psychiatric help. The more I read, the more I want to bang my head against a brick wall.

I often like to punish myself by reading (and answering) questions on Yahoo! Answers, an internet forum where people can write in and ask questions about all kinds of topics. I am a regular in the pregnancy forum, and consider it, on a good day, a way to reach hopefully hundreds of women and perhaps help them out in some way, whether it's by providing comfort, information or just my own personal experience.

However laughable it sometimes is, I consider this board and others like it (BabyCenter, etc) a network of "real" moms, a healthy cross-section of what women are experiencing in today's obstetrical system. One hot topic is induction of labor and c-sections, and of course, I have a lot to say. I've never been induced, but have three kids, have been through the 'labor and delivery system' with my own share of roadblocks, and have read a ton. Sometimes I think it's never enough, because I keep learning more each day that makes me want to run screaming for the hills.

I'm "just" a mom. Not a doctor, nurse, or even a doula (although I might be one when I grow up!). I haven't labored with countless women to see firsthand. So for those who are and have, I don't know how you do it. Combatting the myths and ignorance on a face-to-face basis every day would be enough to make me want to drink. Heavily. All the time.

One gem on the Y!A board of questions today made me cringe and laugh out loud. A concerned mother was writing in because her baby's heart rate during a non-stress test was over 160 beats per minute, and the doctor was concerned and mentioned an induction.

I thought back to all of my pregnancies and how, more often than not, the baby's heart rate was hovering between 150 and 160 BPM during each checkup, which the doctor said was perfectly normal. In fact, there's a wide range of "normal" when it comes to this.

I answered her and told her that was considered normal (one source I read suggested even up to 180 was "normal,") and that I thought her doctor was trying to scare her. Bring on the thumbs down, of course. As it often plays out with doctors, if you are pregnant and don't want to be induced, poked or prodded, people don't know what to do with you. Women were quick to reassure her that what the doctor was doing was right, that inductions are no big deal, blah blah blah. One poor woman had this to say:

I was induced at 11am, when I hadn't progressed at 4pm the inserted IV and gave me epidural, I had no pain so read a book, then at 7.15pm I gave 2 grunts and my baby was out without and (any?) need of intervention ...
This is the part where I started laughing. If an IV and epidural aren't interventions, what exactly are they?

Someone else responded with this:
Don't worry about it too much, it really isn't that bad. If they want to induce you, it'll be for a good reason. My baby wasn't ready either, but you have to do what's best...I had a perfectly normal labour and a beautiful baby boy. Ignore the horror stories, everyone's experience is different.
I honestly don't think this woman would know what a "normal" labor was even if her doctor beat her over the head with it, which is unlikely because her doctor probably doesn't know what "normal labor" is, either...

(I hate coming off as anti doctor, and it pains me to accuse doctors of not having their patients' best interests in mind, but really, how could they when they submit women to these things?)

What really gets me is that if you ask these same women if it's okay to take Tylenol during pregnancy, they'll probably say no, that it's unsafe for the baby. And yet you willingly go through this for no reason?  *scream*

We can blog all we want, but do we know if we're really reaching enough women to change anything? Sometimes I feel like they don't want to change, because they have no idea the reality of the situation. Their reality is not their own; it's their doctor's. Whatever he or she is telling me must be true, and therefore I'm not going to trouble myself to find out otherwise. Anyone who comes along and tries to tell me differently is a nut, and I'm just not going to listen.

For those who are true birth advocates in the field that offer support and truth-based, evidenced-based care to your patients, I don't know how you do it without coming apart at the seams.

I wonder if perhaps putting a list of the dangers of inductions and c-sections on the side of a milk carton might be the way to go here...


Heather Griffith Brewer said...

AMEN! And I think I just fell in love with you a little.
I understand what you're saying completely...and I think that psychiatric help needs to be sought by the other mom's who live in la-la land, not you.
These women out there, who place themselves and all their blind faith in their medical staff, claim to be fine in the end. "It's no big deal" is the most common thing I hear, but having worked beside laboring women and seeing what was fine go bad because of interventions, I am here to tell you that all is not "fine" in the L&D ward. While some women really don't care how things go about, as long as they get to take a baby home in the end, birth is still a competetive sport. No women wants to believe that her c-section, her babies NICU stay, or her complications could have been prevented...especially with something as simple as a little bit of knowledge.
The drug thing kills me too. Your entire pregnancy you've got people telling you not to take/use drugs, eat sushi, tuna, don't drink...and then the second you walk in the hospital doors you've got someone opening their trench coat and asking you what you want.
The only way I remain sane is to talk to women as much as possible and then let it go.
I do a lot of eye rolling though.

The Deranged Housewife said...

LMAO...I know ... I just want to run around in circles like a rabid dog and scream "Aghhhhhhh!" whenever I read this stuff. Some days you can take it and move on, and other days you're scratching your head and wondering "Why?" If I were a nurse I would have gone insane by now.

The sad thing is, if you refuse all that stuff and don't believe in it, YOU'RE the one with the problem! Gah!

Ethel said...

Well, I didn't get top contributor in any other manner then being a nut. I regularly post at Y!A, I don't have tons of reference personally since I am neither a medical professional or a doula, what I do have is the tons of evidence linking induction with increased c-section and the dangers of c-sections.

I don't think I'm a crusader, it's a forum that's full of people that represent most of America, not the folks who read the NYTimes or go to Medline or read your blog, so they just don't know about the risks. The range of intolerance for things such as nursing your child in public to being uncomfortable at 37 weeks is astounding, and whatever I do is minor - and I have found a couple of times my answers have been construed entirely in the opposite manner written, much to my chagrin.

What it comes down to me is that maybe most of these women are simply unaware, and perhaps simply ignorant not by choice but experience. I have to have faith that they need some honest and truthful guidance with evidence, not that I am the end all but maybe I can give the evidence that I have been gleaning for the last 5 years in terms of reproduction and last 20 in terms of biology/biochemistry background that I have.

Meh, maybe I'm throwing pearls in the pigsty.

Anonymous said...

I am 37 weeks pregnant and getting ready for my 2nd homebirth. After 2 hospital births with inductions and epidurals and horror stories, my DH finally gave in and we had #3 at home. It was wonderful, peaceful and just as I imagined; meaning I relinquished control to my body and God who created it. I followed no plan other than listening to my body and God. As women we have been born and made to carry babies and deliver them. Unfortunately society has lied to women and have told them that they can do anything, EXCEPT birth babies. That is just something you don't do on your own and don't you dare try to learn how. I am always amazed at how intelligent and resourceful women are to seek knowledge in all areas, except this one that is an intrinsic part of their being: motherhood. Great blog! :)

The Deranged Housewife said...

I totally agree with you - I spent my entire VBAC planning process both listening to my body and God, and figured that where my knowledge and experience left off, my faith in God "began." And He didn't let me down. :) Too many things happened with both my second and third labors to make me think it was just 'coincidence.'

Wishing you a happy and safe labor and many prayers as you prepare for another birth! Good luck!