Thursday, February 17, 2005

That Screaming You Heard This Morning? It was me.

Just when I'm recovering from the deadbeat-dad rant, I'm faced with one of my biggest hot button issues this morning. I'm watching The Today Show, specifically a feature on a new study with "great news" that women can basically receive an epidural in the parking lot when they arrive at a hospital to give birth.

This is one of those times when I'm jumping up and down in front of the TV like a lunatic begging Katie to, mid-interview, say "Hey, but what about the segment we just did a few weeks ago about the unexplained jump in the c-section rate in the US? To over 25%?" And Katie might not even know about the percentage of admittedly unnecessary c-sections. That statistic is probably low, since few doctors will admit to the c-sections that were "oopsies".

Why does this make me so nuts? If you treated yourself to my 100 factoids, you'll know that I gave birth to both of my children without drugs of any kind. After my son was born I decided to teach childbirth classes and do labor support, primarily for women who wanted to give birth the way I did. Before you start rolling your eyes, I am not a "Birth Nazi". If a woman wants to have an epidural and drugs to deliver, that's her choice. What I DO object to, however, is choice-without-education and fear-induced decisions that couples often make in labor, generally with the woman laying flat on her back attached to a fetal monitor.

I'm not going to bore you with statistics...you can do your own research if you are so inclined. But the lowest c-section rate worldwide is in countries where births are attended by midwives, not doctors. I used to lurk on an internet message board for OB/GYNs. That's fodder for another post, but let me tell you...it was a real eye-opener. (It's where I read a post by a doctor that said "I don't allow videotaping during delivery. That tape could become "Exhibit A".)

But back to this epidural issue: I'm always amused that the same women who won't take an aspirin or drink coffee while pregnant are more than happy to get drug-loaded in labor. Um, newsflash...you're STILL pregnant. Whatever you get does get to your baby. Let me tell you things I witnessed first hand: Labors slowed or stopped after epidurals, making it necessary to give pitocin drip to jumpstart labor. Pitocin creates extremely intense contractions which woman can't feel, but baby can. This can cause baby's heart rate to drop, which generally creates a panic which then leads to c-section.

The epidural itself is most often safe enough, but it can create a domino-effect of interventions that are not good for mother OR baby. What's so bad about an unnecessary c-section? Some good info here.

My question is more about this: Is it really a good thing to be "distanced" from your body this way? I've attended births where the mother gets an epidural and then she and hubby watch TV while waiting for the baby to come out. Call me crazy, but I find this really weird. "OK, time to push!" "Oh, but this is a good part! Moe is just about to poke Curly in the eye! Can we wait for the commercial?"

The real message that needs to be given to pregnant women is to make educated decisions. Know what the real risks are. There's no free lunch when it comes to childbirth. And is it really so bad to be fully present, physically and mentally, for what may be the most life-changing event you'll ever experience?