Birthing. Don’t upset the doctors!

Mothers and babies are dying  in childbirth for reasons that could be prevented.

WHEN I mentioned to people that I was going to write an article  on the large number of unnecessary caesareans, I was amused and alarmed by  the extraordinary number of first responses that were, “You know that  you’re really going to upset the doctors.”

Well, I had better not say  anything then.

Other people described me as “brave”. Should I be  worried that a gang of obstetricians will drive round in their BMWs, tilt  their heads, look over their glasses at me and then burn down my  house?

Good question. Who do I think I am? A consumer. An interested  observer. A person who has heard hundreds of birth stories and experienced  my own. A plain girl, not that clever, grew up on Struggle Street and  constantly questioned anything labelled “the done thing”. I found, more  often than not, that behind these “done things” were people who had a  vested interest in misleading, controlling and manipulating for their own  personal gain.

For me to even question let alone challenge the process,  culture or practices of the medical profession was met with: “How very dare  you? Who do you think you are, young lady?” But for every member of the medical profession prepared to go on the record defending the current rate  of caesareans and interventions, others have contacted me privately,  encouraging me as being right on the money.

And how about that term  “doctor-bashing”? How is doctor-questioning doctor-bashing? The medical  and scientific community is an amazingly creative organic world full of  curious people constantly questioning, researching and striving for better  outcomes. It seems that you can’t contribute to the debate unless you’re  in the club. But with birth, pregnancy and human lives, we’re all in the  club.

Even in my own article, I used quotes from doctors to fortify my  own argument. Had I used terms such as wisdom, confidence, experience,  spiritual journey, rite of passage, anecdotes and “the general vibe”, I  would have been disregarded as a mad, tree-hugging hippie.

Caesareans  are like 4WDs. People who need to have them can’t understand why anyone  would choose to have them. Despite statistics and proof, some people will  make a choice because they feel safer. Feeling safe is not always the same  thing as being safe.

The culture of fear is not simply a fad. Human  beings’ brains are hardwired to feel fear more keenly than reason. It’s a  primal response that kept us alive in the highland plains of East Africa  in 100,000BC. In his essay The Psychology of Security Bruce Schneier says  a brain hardwired to feel fear strongly “works great if you’re a lizard or  a lion. Some scary things are not really as risky as they seem, and others  are better handled by staying in the scary situation to set up a more  advantageous future response. This means there’s an evolutionary advantage  to being able to hold off the reflexive fight-or-flight response while you  work out a more sophisticated analysis of the situation and your options  for handling it.”

There is also the culture of cash. Many people feel  that the more they pay for something the more superior it is. The births  of my three children cost $18, $14 and $8. That money was spent on  parking. The care I received and the births I experienced were  wonderful.

The Government needs to bankroll midwives’ insurance and  give them a Medicare provider number. Women will be able to choose  one-on-one midwife care and then the idea of birthing without a doctor  will not be seen as radical, alternative or weird, but mainstream. If the  pregnancy becomes high-risk, the midwife can refer the woman to an  obstetrician. The statistics will get better and the culture will  change.

The bottom line is not nice but it’s true. Babies and mothers  will continue to die during childbirth. We need to ensure the safest  practices possible.

The infant and maternal death rate in Australia has  basically remained unchanged, yet the rate of caesareans has skyrocketed  and caesareans have a higher rate of maternal and infant deaths. Babies  and mothers are now dying for different reasons. Reasons that could be  prevented.

I wrote last week’s article for those women who had placed  faith in their birthing choices and then felt sucked in, ripped off and  angry by the outcome. Women who were told that they were too small, too  old, too slow labouring or that their babies were too big, too small, had  funny shaped heads, were in the wrong position, were overdue, were upside  down or were multiples and told that they had no other choice. Then  finding out later that they did have other choices.

A movie due out  later this year called Pregnant in America is poised to be the Fahrenheit  9/11, An Inconvenient Truth and Super Size Me of birthing practices. The  culture is changing and about bloody time.


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