Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Study Finds that Women Show a Shocking Lack of Knowledge about Childbirth

I was going to simply share this article on my facebook page, like I do a lot, but I couldn't think of what to write in the description as a good summary of the article to compel readers to click on it. I realized, as I scanned for a good quote, that so much information in the article was worth sharing, that I should just share the whole article here on my blog. Please read!

Pregnant women show an amazing lack of knowledge about childbirth options, study shows

Fewer pregnant women and their partners are attending prenatal education classes these days and appear to be quietly following whatever advice the doctor or midwife recommends, researchers said Monday.

Doctors, led by Dr. Michael Klein of the Child & Family Research Institute and University of British Columbia, surveyed 1,318 healthy pregnant women. They found many seemingly unprepared to make their own decisions regarding childbirth options, such as whether to have natural childbirth or a Cesarean section.
Fewer than 30% of the women, all first-time mothers, said they had attended prenatal childbirth classes. Many said they used the Internet or books to become informed about childbirth. Still, a shockingly high number could not answer basic questions regarding the pros, cons or safety issues associated with epidurals, episiotomies, Cesareans and other childbirth options. The women who were receiving obstetrical care from midwives tended to be more informed about their options compared with women receiving care from a medical doctor.

"[E]ven late in pregnancy, many women reported uncertainty about benefits and risks of common procedures used in childbirth," Klein said in a news release. "This is worrisome because a lack of knowledge affects their ability to engage in informed discussions with their caregivers."

The study was published in the June issue of Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.

The type of provider mattered greatly in terms of what kind of care women received. The researchers published a related study in May in the journal Birth that showed younger obstetricians were much more likely to favor the routine use of epidurals and expressed more concerns about the safety of vaginal birth compared with older obstetricians. The younger obstetricians seemed to view C-sections as the preferred option for childbirth, the authors noted. In the United States, efforts have begun to reduce C-section rates. About one-third of all U.S. women have a surgical birth.

This is shocking and yet seems accurate. Women turn their decisions over to their doctor, but don't realize that their doctor is not explaining all their options and providing informed consent/refusal information. DON'T BE PASSIVE! Take charge of your health care!

Don't just rely on the internet, or assume you'll have time to read all those books. There is no substitute for a prenatal childbirth education class, or any in-person education, for that matter, such as breastfeeding. 

And this was a subtle point that I hope you noticed - if you want more information about your pregnancy and childbirth options, hire a midwife!

(the study abstract, in case you are interested, can be found here:


  1. "The women who were receiving obstetrical care from midwives tended to be more informed about their options compared with women receiving care from a medical doctor." -- I am not surpirsed AT ALL.

    This article is sad. I was the opposite. I devoured every peice of information I could get my hands on. Then again, that's how I am with everything. Apparently I'm "compulsive" about research.

    Thanks for posting this.

  2. If only everyone were as compulsive!

  3. In my personal opinion, I think this issue is not specific to childbirth. I think the fact that it is true for birth may be a manifestation of a larger issue, of health and medial things in general. There seems to be a lot of blind acceptance of whatever the doctor says that I find worrisome across the board. If the doctor says you need X, far too few people ask why or if there is another option, or what the pros and cons of them are. My view could be totally biased, and I could be completely wrong, but I have unfortunately seen many instances of this in many health issues, so it seems fairly pervasive to me. :(

  4. Agreed, its not just childbirth!


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