Talking about birth is tough. If I tell one mother I want to do things a certain way she may respond excitedly because she believes the same thing about childbirth. But the next mother I talk to may feel like I am inferring that my way is best, and her way is deficient somehow. It may seem like my choices indicate that I judge her for not doing what I am planning.
I don’t object with any way a mother chooses to have her baby. Really I don’t. C-Section, Induction, Epidural, Vaginal, Hospital, Birth Center, At Home. I believe there is a time and a place for almost everything, and all of these things can have immense benefits when used in the proper context.
I do object with women who don’t make informed choices based on what is best for both the baby and herself. I don’t believe either beings, baby or mother’s, morbidity and mortality has to be placed above the other excluding the most extreme of situations. Most importantly, I object to women who don’t learn ALL of their options, the complications and benefits of each option, and take charge of their own health care.
I am 100% for doctors and hospitals. That should be obvious from my own past, as someone who had a breast reduction three years ago, and most recently had major back surgery. Those were both times in my life when something was physically wrong with me, and I needed to turn to a trained and qualified doctor to help me resolve the issues. When I announced I was going to have back surgery I had family members telling me about the non-surgical means they had used to treat their own back pain, but I had looked into my options, received multiple opinions from different surgeons, and came to the conclusion that major surgery was the best option for me. Now that the experience is over and the problems were visible to the surgeons naked eye, I can rest assured that I made the right choice in my unique situation.
The key in these situations is that I did my research. I read several books on breast reductions, scoured the internet, and got opinions from two different surgeons before I went under the knife. When I was experiencing back pain I sought chiropractic care, and went through multiple tests (including several x-rays and an MRI), working with three different surgeons in all before I decided to go for surgery. I felt educated and confident. I knew the risks and I also knew my other options if I wanted to choose other means that might provide satisfactory results.
Most pregnant women I know don’t seem to be doing this. They work with one doctor their entire pregnancy and they do everything he says because they believe that doctor knows what is best for them, and has only the pregnant woman’s best interests in mind. You know what? I don’t have my photography clients best interest in mind at all times. Most of the time I’m thinking about myself, how I can stay sane and keep my business afloat. How I can continue to be profitable so I can still do this thing that I love so much. I end up looking out for myself first, clients second. And I don’t think doctors or other professionals are immune from the same way of thinking.
Freakonomics labels this as “responding to incentives”:
As the world has grown more specialized, countless such experts have made themselves similarly indispensable. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, stockbrokers, auto mechanics, mortgage brokers, financial planners: they all enjoy a gigantic information advantage. And they use that advantage to help you, the person who hired them, get exactly what you want for the best price.
It would be lovely to think so. But experts are human, and humans respond to incentives. How any given expert treats you, therefore, will depend on how that expert’s incentives are set up… In a medical study, it turned out that obstetricians in areas with declining birth rates are much more likely to perform cesarean-section deliveries than obstetricians in growing areas–suggesting that, when business is tough, doctors try to ring up more expensive procedures.
Could this summary of the data be an extrapolation? Possibly. But I think it would take an incredible amount of willpower for each and every doctor out there to always act in your favor despite the incentives provided to him, not just in the form of monetary compensation, but also those incentives found in avoiding the possibility of malpractice at all costs. Doctors deliver at, and follow the rules of, the hospitals they practice in, and I can’t imagine anyone could deny that hospitals are a business, with their focus directed toward being as profitable as possible.
The only person who has your best interest in mind 100% of the time, is YOU.
Here I am sounding like a doctor/hospital hater, the exact opposite of what I wanted. But I’m not a hospital hater. I’m an education advocate. I’m fighting for women who believe in do-your-research, take-charge-of-your-health care, know-your-options . If the doctor wants to induce before your due date ask her about TTN (wet lungs) and research it on your own. If you’re thinking of an epidural, do you believe that gravity and movement can help with the pains and progression of labor, and are you willing to sacrifice that? How can pitocin negatively affect you and your baby? What do you know about the correspondence of epidurals with low blood pressure, shaking, itching, effects on the newborn, a higher incidence of maternal tearing, and an increased rate of c-sections? Do you want to eat or drink during labor (whether you are going natural or having an epidural), and is it possible at the hospital you are planning on delivering at? Do you want your baby sent to the nursery for tests directly after birth, or do you believe in skin-to-skin contact? Do you believe introduction of formula/pacifiers/bottles by the nursing staff can interfere with breastfeeding later on? The nurses are going to administer shots, ointments, and other procedures while the baby is in their care, do you want drops put in their eyes, the vitamin k shot administered, a bath and a rubdown right after birth? Do you know the statistics regarding the safety of out-of-hospital birth (where in a birthing center or home birth), and have you considered that you might feel more comfortable in a setting where you have more control over the way your childbirth experience goes?
Your body and your baby are not meant to be treated like the birth before you, and the birth before that, and the birth before that. Know the risks, the benefits, the alternatives possibilities for each option. Know your rights. Stand up for yourself (even when faced with an authority figure) if you don’t agree with proposed action. Know what you want done to you and your child.
Take charge and make it happen.