Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Dangerous Birth?

This evening I was thinking about fear of childbirth as a result of almost all of us grow up "knowing" that birth is dangerous and that doctors were required to get women through it.

Why is it we think that birth is inherently dangerous?

Well, for starters, we learn, from the media and stories we hear even as children, that women give birth in hospitals. While this may not be true for all women, the majority of little girls are not exposed to home births. And hospitals make us think of a patient who is ill or a person suffering from a health condition. At the hospital, the woman can be "cured" or kept "safe" in case they get worse by someone we think of as a health professional. (This makes me think of authoritative knowledge surrounding birth culture, but I can get into that at another time)

Furthermore, we are all taught that many women, historically, used to die of childbirth left and right. So, clearly, childbirth is a disaster waiting to happen and the woman needs to be monitored in a hospital by a doctor because something probably WILL go wrong.

I looked up exactly it was that caused women to die of childbirth and found that the main complications were infection caused by unsanitary tools and conditions and hemorrhaging. In modern times we understand infection and take precautions against this easily.  Postpartum hemorrhaging is caused by the failure of the uterus to contract strongly enough after the baby and the placenta are both expelled. But this is rare, as it most likely would have been in the past, except now we are better equipped to treat it.

Other complications for mothers historically, and still today in impoverished countries, are malnourishment, ill health, or giving birth at a very young age.
Birthing mothers chances are greatly improved simply by proper diet and exercise during pregnancy.


The point is, childbirth is not as scary and dangerous as many of us grow up believing, and we can have it our own way, not just how a doctor tells us we must.
A hospital can save the lives of mothers and babies who would have died a hundred years ago, and thank goodness. But birth is a natural process that a woman's body is completely prepared to handle and does not require constant interventions to speed it up or slow it down. A woman knows when to push without a doctor telling her to.  Women can labor completely alone and be perfectly fine.

The trouble is we aren't taught much at all about childbirth growing up, and that's why its important to learn as much as possible about what is happening to us!


A Truly Dangerous Birth:

Pitocin to induce labor - can cause uterine contractions that are so strong that they stress the baby and cause fetal distress.
Intravenous drugs affect the baby so strongly that the baby may not breathe at birth
Epidurals for pain - decrease the mother's ability to use her legs to walk around or squat; can lower the mother's blood pressure so that the baby isn't getting enough oxygen through the placenta; this can cause fetal distress and the need for an emergency c-section to rescue the baby
Episiotomy to increase the vaginal opening - tearing in the rectal sphincter, incontinence, longer recovery period.
Separation of the mother and child at birth, which makes initial breastfeeding difficult.


I feel like I could go on but I won't!

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