Friday, February 22, 2013

Anti-woman Obstetrics

By now, if you've read a few of my blog posts, you know I'm very pro-woman.  I'm not a huge supporter of hospital birthing or mainstream obstetrics.  My objections are not only personal problems, but public issues that should be addressed.  I have serious doubts about our birthing system and the industry that surrounds it.  I use the word industry, because that is all it is to the vast majority who work in maternal healthcare.  Women are cattle in an assembly line waiting to be slaughtered.

I feel that the policies that hospitals and obstetricians hold over women are policies of misogyny.  No faith is put into the woman or her abilities to give birth to her baby.  Often, women are told they are not capable of pushing a baby out.  Her body isn't built for it.  Frequently women believe it because they feel they have no choice.  And too many times is this reason unfounded.  Too many times, it's a straight up lie.

Next, women are directed to perform tasks that are undignified, to say the least.  Women are told to put their legs into stirrups, with no regard to their personal privacy.  Women are forcibly given cervical exams.  A tool can be inserted, past the walls of her vagina, through her cervix and into her womb, which has historically been recognized as a sacred space.  A doctor has the right to scream in her face "PUSH!!  PUSH!!  PUSH!!", often times when her body isn't completely ready.  When the woman's body "isn't cooperative" the doctor then assumes the right to slice open her body and aggressively remove the baby from her body

1 in 5 women's labors are induced.  Nearly 70% of women receive epidurals during labor.  Those numbers are astronomically high.  So why is this?  Are those 20% incapable?  Are the 70% of women who receive epidurals weak?  No.  I see these options as tools to make the professionals in hospital's lives easier.  Who really wants a laboring woman screaming in their face?  And who really wants to deal with a phone call at three in the morning from a mother who's possibly in labor?  These two things are huge inconveniences to doctors, midwives and nurses everywhere.  So why not give them some Pitocin or Cerdavil or an epidural.  Women are blindly led into these scenarios.  The implications made by doctors and anesthesiologists is that these interventions are the optimal choice.  However, they aren't told about how epidurals interfere with the production of Oxytocin, or how they can cause permanent damage to the mother's body like life long headaches; or how epidurals can have negative effects on breastfeeding success.

Moms aren't informed ahead of time that receiving certain drugs require constant monitoring throughout her labor.  Mom is relegated to the bed where she is strapped to monitors.  It is a proven fact that being mobile in labor will help speed up the process.  However, when a mother is given Pitocin and other drugs she is rarely given the option.  The nurses often ignore requests for telemetry units or fail to offer it to moms because, to them, it's just another work day.  As for the epidural, forget it.  There's no possible way to move with an epidural in place.

Postpartum, mothers realize that breastfeeding comes with many hurdles.  About 45% breastfeed up to 6 months, while about 25% breastfeed up to a year.  Women are unsupported in careers or by doctors in their decision to nurse their babies.  Many doctors don't use breastfeeding-specific growth charts, and when babies don't gain a certain amount of weight within a certain amount of time, they inform the mothers that their babies are failing to thrive.  Those are some big, scary words.  How could a mother, who is responsible for her baby, refute this accusation?  She can't.  Instead, she is pressured into supplementing, which ultimately creates confusion about breastfeeding.  Her production is compromised and her sanity is shot.

These are only a few examples of how men have taken over something that should be up to women.  We fought so hard for control over our bodies and lives when abortion became a heated, legal dispute.  But we seem to not care what happens to our bodies after we make the choice to become mothers.  Women deserve better.  Women deserve to feel dignified, respected and their wishes should be honored.  Currently, obstetrics are anti-woman.  This needs to change.  Women deserve the chance to choose healthy birth options without being lied to for convenience purposes.

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  1. I found your blog via a friend of yours, Oswin Oswald, in my Denver Cloth Diapering Mamas FB group. Great thoughts on things! I have a lot of the same concerns about obstetric care... but on the other hand, it's thanks to this model that my baby and I are alive and healthy. I had severe preeclampsia and delivered by crash c-section at 31 weeks after induction failed. It was an unavoidably traumatic birth, but St. Joe's in Denver did a great job of helping me feel supported and honoring my wishes and dignity in a shitty situation. I'm glad modern medicine was available for us, but most women don't need all the interventions I did and it saddens me to hear about unnecessary interventions and hospital deliveries that are made into bad experiences when they don't have to be.

  2. Hi Allison. I do agree that we must be thankful for having these tools available to us when they are needed. However, at the same time a birth that is considered high-risk should only account for less than 8% of births - especially with a skilled midwife. Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer in using healthcare when it's explicitly needed. That said, I have to wonder why 97% of births receive interventions - anything from forceps use to cesareans.