Hospital Waterbirth VBAC

I was catching up over at the True Face of Birth and was immediately drawn to a link about a successful hospital VBAC.  The story posted at Bellies and Babies is awesome and inspiring, and how wonderful to read the woman’s narrative and that of her doula!

I was tremendously impressed with the two obstetricians mentioned in the story.  The first OB ultimately told the woman that he wouldn’t allow her to VBAC.  (At 36 weeks this was BAD FORM.)  She found a provider who was supportive of her choice to have a vaginal birth, and it “sounds” like this OB really knew how to stay out of the way and let the mom do the work.  He also was educating his nurse about the whole process – how normal it is to be in water during the late stages of labor, how normal it can be to birth a baby in water, how normal it is to push at will (as opposed to pushing in 10 count blocks), how normal it is to birth the placenta when it is ready to release from the womb.  I am also impressed with the first OB – the one who told her “no.”  He evidently did some research after she left his practice and changed his mind about VBACs.  It takes guts and humility to be able to change your ways and be open to new practices (as if vaginal birth or even VBAC is a new practice).

Anyway, I hope you will enjoy reading these stories as much as I did.

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Two Cents: Modern Obstetrics and Gynecology

I happened upon an interesting self-ascribed feminist post about “medical rape” and the “medicalization of childbirth.”  I’m certain that I have written about being an empowered patient, since that is one of my goals as a childbirth activist – to help empower women to participate in their health care, ask questions, get second opinions, etc.

I’m not sure the original author has much knowledge of the socio-political dynamic in part responsible for the current state of modern medicine.  However, she makes some good points.  For instance:

But other interests come into play in a corporate system of medicine, and the patients’ best interests are unfortunately not at the forefront (for more reading, check out Paul Starr’s The Social Transformation of American Medicine). There are systematic and institutionalized incentives for the American Medical Association to promote hospital births and to keep childbirth squarely in the realm of a self-regulating medical profession. And there is a long history of a predominantly male medical establishment ignoring women’s concerns and knowledge about their own bodies.

The male medical establishment – even with female practitioners – tend to subvert women and suppress their decision-making ability, especially in the reproductive health sector.  Why?  Well, it is easiest to exert power over a woman when she is on her back with her feet in stirrups, her butt hanging over the edge of a paper-clad table, and a speculum shoved into her private parts.  Who hasn’t felt vulnerable and less powerful in that position?

I’m not suggesting that all obstetricians are bad or that men make sucky gynecologists, not any more than I’d suggest that cesareans are completely unnecessary, or that the safest place to have a baby is at home.  Then again, statistically about half of the cesareans performed in this country are not necessary (and don’t improve our infant mortality rate), and actually staying home is the best way to ensure that unnecessary interventions aren’t performed on you when you’re only 2cm dilated at the hospital.  Unfortunately, a growing number of women are dissatisfied with the services their obstetricians provide, are disgusted by medico-legal decision-making when it comes to women’s (and babies’) physical and psychological well-being during the childbearing year, and suffer poor childbirth outcomes.

Something has to give.

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Caution: You may not need a myomectomy

I just talked with my regular OB.  He was under the impress that I had a Mullerian Anomaly (such as a septate uterus) and a major contributor to my recurrent pregnancy loss.  I’ve seen a Reproductive Endocrinologist recently who came up with his own recommendation.  He suggested that my 1-1/2 inch fibroid was distorting my uterine cavity and causing the recurrent pregnancy loss.  He said that he would be “very concerned” about that fibroid.

I double-checked my obstetric records from my 2004 pregnancy.  The fibroid was discovered during a 10-11 week ultrasound (a first-time mom, I was nervous that the midwife didn’t find my baby’s heartbeat).  The fibroid was roughly 4.5 cm then and is therefore about the same size now.  However, I don’t believe it to be a cause of my recurrent losses.  Rather, it is a symptom.  It is a symptom of imbalanced hormones, usually too much estrogen.

Anyway, my OB’s nurse called me today to say that he (my OB) would NOT recommend a myomectomy for a non-symptomatic small fibroid.  I don’t bleed without stopping; I don’t have unmanageable pain.  Since I already have a cesarean scar, he sees no reason to add to that.  Phew!

So, if anyone tells you that you definitely need a myomectomy, please do seek other opinions.  Your uterus may just say “thank you.”  In my case, it should be thankful that I’m saving it from at least two more uterine surgeries.

When doctors don’t support women’s choices

As you can tell, I am back to reading my google alerts.  I came across a post titled “Cesarean vs. VBAC – Birthing Story” and decided to read it.  It seems to me that this is the very type of woman who needs the support and resources that ICAN, CIMS, Childbirth Connection, Conscious Woman, and the like provide.  Women are understandable very protective of their birth stories, so I didn’t post a comment.  However, she may come across my post if she tracks her pings.

I’d like to address specific details of her story.

  1. “I was instructed to read through the risks of VBAC and give in my consent in writing…. this during my first visit to the doctor.” She wisely decided to wait to “consent” to the mode of delivery.  Understandably she had concerns and questions due to the manner in which the information was presented to her in her first visit.  Furthermore, she states that her doctor never seemed to discuss the benefits of normal birth.
  2. “No mommy would want to carry a healthy baby for 9 months only to risk the baby’s health during delivery.”  Absolutely!  And natural birth advocates believe that every woman deserves the right to weigh the risks and benefits of cesarean versus normal birth for herself.  OBs are not upfront about the risks to both baby and mother from cesarean delivery much less the harm that occurs once mom and baby are home.  Doctors suggest procedures and tests that have not been proven to aid the birth process yet may have a negative impact on normal birth.  These include continual fetal monitoring, artificial rupture of membranes, induction, vaginal exams, IV, episiotomy, and the list continues.  These interventions usually only benefit the doctors and nurses.  And did you know that amniocentesis carries a substantial risk for pregnancy loss?
  3. “My mid-wife advised me to wait till the 35th week before I made any decision. But the doctor would not wait till such time. Even before I gave my written consent on my preference I got a call from doctor’s office about scheduling my C-section for the 13th May. (my due date was 26th May).  This irritated me to great levels. While one of the major benefits I was going to get by opting for C-section was a date of my choice, the doctor had deprived me of the same by just giving me one option.”  OBs suggest that it is safer to perform a cesarean before Mom goes into labor.  However, scheduling a cesarean 2 weeks before a due date is risky.  It is sad that this OB was intent on taking this woman’s last “choice” away from her.
  4. “Besides, I knew that I was making good progress and could go in for VBAC.”  Women should trust their instincts about birth and surround themselves with people who support their needs and desires.
  5. “During my 40th week appointment, the doctor examined me and said that I had made no progress at all since 37th week. The baby’s position and the cervix measured the same. She also scared me that the baby was big and it could be a very hard delivery for me.”  The next day at the hospital she began labor on her own. 
  6. “The nurses who were monitoring me repeatedly started asking me if I really wanted to go in for C-section which was scheduled at 11:30am.”  Hooray for her nurses!!  It seems like they wanted to encourage her to have a normal birth!
  7. “I got a call from the doctor immediately … I must say it almost sounded like a threatening call. She said if I didn’t go for C-sec at the decided time, she was not going to be available for the entire week and that some random doctor from the hospital.”  Yes, that was a scare tactic.
  8. Her “big” baby weighed just over 7 pounds.

The reason I’ve quoted and listed these points from her story is that this story is all too common.  When are we going to stop this abuse, this subversion, this last form of modern sexism?

CNN: Empowered Patient

Today I have the luxury of time and relaxation.  After walking (yep, that’s right) my daughter to daycare, I returned home and swept out the garage.  I finished at 9:30am and have the entire day ahead of me.  I digress.  As I was sitting on my bed checking my e-mail, I discovered that CNN was discussing how women make mistakes with regard to healthcare.  This does not apply to soft-spoken women alone; in fact strong women like me have a hard time demanding the care that we deserve.

This article at CNN discusses resources for various health issues that women face.  Dr. Christine Northrup shares a few gynecological resources.  I hope that the media continues to reach out to female consumers and remind them to be proactive and empowered in their health choices.

Upcoming Interview

In about an hour I will be interviewed for a local news station regarding Montana’s cesarean rate.  I don’t know much more than that.  The reporter has a young child.  The reporter is supposed to be meeting with a local hospital official.  Other than that, who knows what her focus will be.  In anticipation of this interview, I decided to review some things that I have read and wrote regarding cesarean rates.

With regard to rates, it is important to consider that the US cesarean rate (2006, preliminary) is 31.1%.  The rate has increased by 50% since 1996.  The rate recommended by the World Health Organization is 10-15%.  Once the cesarean rate exceeds 15%, the risks (statistically speaking) outweigh the benefits.  The Montana cesarean rate (2006, preliminary) is 28%, nearly a 3% increase from the year prior.  According to a source at the local hospital, our local rate is around 31%.  I was told that only 16 VBACs took place in 2006 at my hospital.  (A local CNM questioned the accuracy of the VBAC figure, suggesting that VBACs were under-reported.)

I can list many contributing factors to the continued increase in the cesarean rate:

  • Medico-legal concerns on the part of doctors, hospitals, and insurance providers (it’s HUGE, actually)
  • “So and so had a cesarean . . .”
  • Hollywood stars having elective cesareans
  • Young and underpriviledged mothers are more at risk for cesarean surgery
  • An unchecked trust in care providers – most women do not seek second opinions when it comes to maternity services
  • Sensationalization of birth – Baby Story and OR Live come to mind
  • Society – our view of birth has changed; the culture of fear has spread to childbirth
  • Cesareans ARE more safe now than they ever have been

Of course I’ll direct the reporter to resources such as:

  • ICAN
  • The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative
  • Childbirth Connection
  • Conscious Woman

Sharing Cesarean Awareness

I found this on ICAN’s eNews (www.ican-online.org/community/eNews/) and want to share it with those who maybe aren’t (yet) subscribers!

Cesareans Affect Lives. Real women, real babies. Lives changed.

How has your cesarean impacted you? Come to www.ican-online.org and blog about your experiences in 100 words or less, tell us your story.

Cesarean Awareness:
is not only about the “bad” cesarean and recovery
is not about guilt for not succeeding at VBAC
is not about not attempting VBAC
is a state of being, whatever that may be for you or me – hope, fear, acceptance, sadness, depression, thankfulness
is about doing the research to understand the reality of the risks taken on every time another mother has another surgery

ICAN is about all birthing women having access to that information.  Cesarean Awareness Month is about encouraging the spread of that information.  We want to encourage you to find a way to spread the awareness in your community. Wear your ribbon. Write on your car. Buy brochures to drop off in the library. Put up a poster at your work. This is about open communication about the health of our women, babies and families.