In our culture, birth is unfortunately presented as a scary illness where something can go wrong at any second. If you buy that then you should know that many elderly people die on the toilet due to straining while, well, you know why people strain on the toilet. (This is a result of stimulating the vagus nerve, which causes a big drop in heart rate; not so good if you’ve got a bad ticker). Why then are people over the age of 65 not strongly advised to go to the hospital or their clinic whenever they have to poo? Because it’s ridiculous, that’s why. Because it’s a normal, natural process…
I firmly believe that healthy pregnant women have the right to have their babies at home or in birth centers attended by midwives. Why is that? This is how they do it in many other areas of the world. But just because everyone else does something doesn’t mean we should follow suit, right? Wrong. The United States has higher fetal and maternal death rates than some third world countries and since only 1% of babies are born at home, one can only deduce that this is happening in the hospital. How can this be when we have so much wonderful technology available? It’s that technology that gets us in trouble. Women are no longer taught to trust their bodies. We are given the message that we need a machine to tell us when we have contractions or when the baby is ready to come out. Trust me, you know.
Continuous electronic fetal monitoring keeps women strapped to the bed when the only conclusion that has come from numerous studies is that EFM leads to many unnecessary c-sections. Not to mention the fact that all these wires keep women stuck in bed to labor on their backs, which is the MOST uncomfortable position to have your baby in. The only worse position would be to do it upside down. However, if someone were able to profit from it, I’m sure it would be suggested that women give birth that way.
There are other reasons for our terrible statistics: hospital-acquired infections, inducing too early, induction period that causes way too much stress on the baby with harder and faster contractions. Using Cytotec, an ulcer drug used to soften the cervix that has been proven to rupture a woman’s uterus and cause fetal death. This of course leads to more epidurals earlier in labor, which leads to exhaustion and higher vacuum and forceps use and c-sections. Not to mention the fact that women aren’t allowed to eat when they are about to face the most grueling work their bodies can do. Would you set off on a cross-country road trip on an empty tank of gas? Didn’t think so. This used to be done to prevent women from aspirating during surgery but today most women are awake during a c-section and fully aware of when they will be sick.
The domino effect of medical intervention is staggering considering that most of them are completely unnecessary. Birth is a normal, natural process. Women have historically tended to other women during labor and birth. It wasn’t until male practitioners came along that everything took a turn for the worse. Don’t get me wrong. Doctors are great. Women with high-risk pregnancies need those doctors and the technologies that the hospitals provide. But most women aren’t high risk. And the ones that are told they are should really do their research and be fully educated on the reasons for their high-risk classification before they take anyone’s word for it. A woman has the right to decide how she wants her birth to go. We need to throw the fear out the window and give birth a chance.
Resources include: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin. Misconceptions, by Naomi Wolf and The Business of Being Born, produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein.