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Susan's Pregnancy Journal

Week 25 ~ December 28, 2003
~ Birthing Shows

I have to stop watching birth shows on tv. They are so frustrating and they are making me afraid to deliver in a hospital, even though I know my midwife won't be pushing interventions on me. I keep mentally shouting advice at the screen, telling the women it doesn't have to be like that. They are all so passive in these shows, meekly lying in bed waiting for their doctor to tell them which intervention they need next. Then they have a c-section due to "failure to progress."

Don't misunderstand me; I appreciate the fact that c-sections have saved many mothers and babies. But our section rate in this country is far too high, our birth outcomes are worse than many other first world countries, and I firmly believe that the push for overly-medicalized and induced labors is part of the reason why. This morning I tried to watch a birth show about macrosomic (overly large) babies. These women had each had nine pound babies in the past, so both of them were being induced to try to avoid that. Why? I had a nine pound baby. Lots of women naturally birth nine pound babies. It's not like the baby is 14 pounds! And the doctors have no way of knowing if the babies they are carrying now are large or not. Ultrasound is notoriously unreliable at predicting birth weight. So why add on the risks of an early induction just because the baby might be nine pounds, a perfectly reasonable size to deliver naturally? I'll never know the outcome of their labors, however, as I become too upset at the doctors to continue watching. The women labored flat on their backs, with pitocin, internal monitors, waters broken manually because they weren't progressing "fast enough", pain relief required because they had no labor support or methods to deal with it.

I wish I were able to have a homebirth. I know many people consider them risky and dangerous, but I really believe that under the supervision of a competent midwife, homebirth is safer than hospital birth. At least the hospital births we do in this country. But my insurance won't cover it, so I'm compromising on a midwife-led hospital birth. I know a woman who had a great birth experience with my midwife, and I feel very comfortable and confident in her. But I hate hospitals and wish I could deliver somewhere else.

Case in point: woman on birthing show is being induced two weeks early due to gestational diabetes. Woman has faithfully controlled her blood sugar levels, and does not appear to be carrying an overly large baby. Doctor's sole explanation of his decision: "I just think it will be better to get the baby out early." Woman is given medication to stimulate labor. Medication works too well and she begins hyper-contracting. Woman is given new medication to slow down labor. Woman is given pain relief due to previous medications. Doctor breaks her water, increases medication, declares failure to progress and orders emergency c-section. Baby is small and unable to breathe on his own, taken to NICU for 12 days. That show terrified me! Just a long series of interventions culminating in a c-section and NICU stay due to one doctor's arrogance in thinking he knew better than nature when the baby should arrive.

Contrast that to the one homebirth I've managed to see on television. Woman labors in birthing tub at home, surrounded by family and with two midwives watching over her. Labor progresses slowly but normally, she begins to push when she feels ready. Baby's shoulders are stuck (shoulder dystocia), so midwife changes her position, moves the shoulders and baby slides out in less than a minute. Baby is nearly 10 pounds, happy and healthy. Mother and baby curl up in bed to nurse with family nearby. How beautiful!

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