Sunday, April 5, 2009


So, the other night I was out playing Bunco with 7 other friends. We all had kids and 2 of the ladies are expecting again. Always interested in talking about birth, I struck up a conversation with one of the pregnant ladies.

I casually said, "So who is your doctor?" (I know the names of all the doctors up here and their birthing "theories"/practices).

She says her doctor's name and it is the doctor who has the most inane view of birthing, a deep penchant for c-sections, and in my opinion the lowest regard for women. I have plenty of stories about him which I may or may not write about in greater detail later depending on whether or not I need to vent about it. She tells me the same thing about him that I always hear about this man.

"He has a horrible bedside manner but he's the best surgeon up here."

So she puts up with it. Let me explain that up where I live, the (only) hospital does not do VBACs, once you've had a cesarean that's the only way you can give birth again no matter how well you've been doing.

The other pregnant woman is going to have a c-section too because her last was a c-section. As we all started talking about our births I realized that of us 8 women only 2 of us had vaginal births! And ALL of the c-section births began with being induced.

The most difficult thing about it is all these women had seemingly valid reasons to be induced and have a cesarean. Now even if I did know exactly what went on during their pregnancies and births I wouldn't pretend to know if their induction or cesarean was necessary or not. But I can make connections and all these stories all began with too much doctor interference. One woman had high blood pressure, a few were overdue, one had a rash, one had a large baby... it just seems like minor excuses that scare the mothers and get the result the doctor wants whether for the doctors' own convenience or just to eliminate the worry of insurance problems. The point is these women made the decision to have a cesarean during a stressful, pressure filled moment not knowing all their options or all the risks and missed out on a great birth experience. They put their full trust in these doctors and were let down by them but made to feel that their bodies had failed them.

Thomas Jefferson said once (he was referring to elected officials but I think the same holds true for doctors) that we are not obligated to trust those who hold the power. Doctors hold the power in the medical world but we don't have to trust them nor their judgements. They can give us their suggestions but it's up to us to find the truth and what's right for us individually whatever kind of birth that means.

Now, like I said, I can't make judgements on whether a c-section was necessary or not but the last conversation I had with one of the ladies was a woman in her mid 20's and it just made me so sad. It went like this:

me:"Did you say you had a cesarean too?"

her: "Yes, my baby wasn't breathing. While I was pushing, they don't know what happened but she just started to fail so I had an emergency c-section. When they got her out she wasn't breathing so they had to medi-flight her to Oakland. They don't know what happened."

me: "Really?"

her: "Yeah, the pregnancy was perfect, and labor was going just fine. It was just all of a sudden for no reason." she shrugs

me: "Wow, how scary. Were you induced?" (I had to know)

her: "Yeah, and I had an epidural."

me: "Oh."

Now maybe this was one of the cases where a c-section was necessary, who knows. But it is just such a coincidence that this happened, it just has to make one wonder.


Lani said...

One difference between politicians and doctors- if you don't trust them, they are more easily replaced. The saddest part about these kinds of trends is that many women HAVE NO DESIRE to do things differently. They DO NOT WANT to be more informed. It is, or at least seems to be, emotionally and/or psychologically safer to take yourself out of the decision-making process and hand that over to the doctor/prenatal care provider.

Anna said...

Great article Laura, and you're right Lani-the way to get women to understand the relationship between birth outcomes and medical interference is to help them WANT to know and WANT to make changes even it's just to educate future generations.

Lani said...

I just had to tell you guys my SIL was induced yesterday (9 days early) essentially for convenience. (I think convenience becomes somewhat of a valid factor once you have other young kids at home, especially when you don't live near family.) And she delivered just fine, 20 hours after being induced, but just fine.

Women do need to trust themselves, when they chose their prenatal health provider and when they make decisions regarding medical interventions. I honestly believe I ignored something in me, when I chose not to have the epidural with Jake.

Being induced can be just fine. I'd even go so far as to say that it is very safe for the majority of pregnant women. Sometimes the risk is worth it. I think the problem is that many people do not understand that with any intervention, you increase your RISK for further interventions. Most people will be just fine, but most people also completely ignore that risk (if they are even aware of it).

Sorry if I come off antagonistic to you guys. I just don't like to see this all put in a ALL WRONG or ALL RIGHT context.