(or ‘Things that make you go “HUH”?’)
By Stephanie Soderblom CD CLD CCCE CBC
I am a doula. What this means is that I have spent the last 10 years helping moms and dads BECOME moms and dads. I like to call doulas, “People helping people out of people”. However, over the years I’ve seen many practices that are “standard” and “routine” that I have found just doesn’t make sense at best, and appear dangerous at worst.
The following are some of my thoughts on some of the routine procedures that have left me wondering “Is anyone thinking about this??”
1. Oxygen in Labor:
We’ve all seen it…mom is laboring and baby has some funky/questionable heart tones. First thing they do, of course, is change moms position. The next thing they always do...is slap oxygen on moms face. Look over at the pulse oximeter and it shows mom's O2 level as being 100%...before we added oxygen. Ok..if mom's oxygen saturation is already at 100%....what do they think having her breathe more oxygen is going to do other than freak her out?? In what way can it possibly benefit her?
2. Scheduled Inductions:
Parents are told that they will be inducing next week...for [fill in any reason].
This is an elective induction, not a medically necessary one. That’s a pretty bold statement...how do I know this without further information? Because if they were REALLY worried about mom or the baby, would they really send her home and wait 4 days before inducing her? And if they aren't worried...then couldn't they recheck on them in 4 days and THEN decide a course of action?
3. Baby is getting too big:
Parents are told that they need to induce at 39 weeks because the baby's getting "too big".
Ok...so...how much do they think the baby's head/shoulders will grow in that extra week or two weeks? They talk about baby's weight...but what about baby's head and shoulders? Babies don't get stuck at their chubby little thighs, hung up by their adorably dimpled butts ....
What we have to work hard to birth are heads and shoulders, not their chub. To help with the delivery the baby’s head is made to mold, the pelvis will expand and open up…
What growth do they think will occur those last 1-3 weeks that will change the outcome of the delivery? What really is the difference in head size between an 8 pound baby and a 10 pound baby? (double chins don’t count!)
4. “We don’t know how long baby will continue to tolerate...”:
Parents are told that they need to give her Pitocin because, although baby "looks good now, we don't know how long baby is going to tolerate this..." Isn't that true from the moment of conception? We never know how long baby is going to be happy.....all we can go off of is NOW..and right NOW baby is happy and everything is fine. If everything is fine...why are we in a hurry? Why rush it? If mom and baby are fine with the way things are right now – then it must not be because of mom and baby that we need to speed things up, right?
Then who is it for? To this I have an answer, but would prefer that each reader is able to answer this question themselves. If it’s not for mom and baby, then for whom are we wanting to hurry things up for?
5. Diet and drugs during pregnancy:
Women are told to fanatically watch what they eat or drink....watch out for tuna because of mercury, deli meats could have listeria, don't walk into a restaurant that has smoking because you might inhale second hand smoke, no sushi, no alcohol whatsoever, no caffeine. When you are pregnant you are making decisions for two and should be meticulous about what you put into your body.
When a baby is getting ready to be born, aren’t you still pregnant? Do the rules stop applying? Yet on the day that the baby is to be born, the most important day that this child will have, much more important than the day she was 20 weeks 6 days pregnant…much more transformation than on the day she was 32 weeks 4 days pregnant…an even more dramatic day than the day she was 8 weeks 1 day pregnant. On THAT day we will encourage mom to take an average of 7 – 9 different pharmaceuticals (including things such as Stadol, Demerol, Fentenyl (“100 times more potent than morphine”), bupivicaine) and prevent her from eating anything at all, and we will call that “normal” and “safe”.
6. It’s TOO RISKY:
We will routinely take women and artificially rupture their water, introduce catheters and monitors to the inside of the uterus, add Pitocin into a woman, give her anesthesia, induce her if she gets too uncomfortable, give an elective cesarean if she just strongly requests it.....
But then we will say that a VBAC is too risky and shouldn't be done. After all the risk of a baby dying during any type of delivery is 0.12%...the risk of a baby dying during a VBAC is .20%. Not a huge difference. Risk of dying from a uterine rupture is .0095%, risk of dying from a repeat cesarean is .0184%. But a VBAC is too risky.
Let's take this over to a homebirth. We will do all of the interventions listed in the first paragraph (things we KNOW dramatically increase the risk to mom and baby) but say that homebirths are SCARY! After all – what if something goes wrong! We forget how very often things went wrong BECAUSE we were messing around with things – how often things go wrong in a hospital that wouldn’t have gone wrong at home because we wouldn’t have been inducing her, wouldn’t be giving her those pharmaceuticals, wouldn’t be restricting her eating, wouldn’t be breaking her water…
7. “Take a big deep breath like you’re going under water, chin to your chest, curl around your baby, and push down – 1, 2, 3, 4, NO NOISE, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…good pushing, now deep breaths, breathe for your baby…”:
Women are told to hold their breath for 3 counts of 10 while pushing, not to make any noise or let any air out.... then are told they need to "breathe for their baby!" between contractions...between....when there is no pressure on the baby. But they don't need to breathe for their baby during the contractions?? I ask every pregnant woman right now to get a watch or timer with a second hand – and hold your breath 3 times for 10 seconds IN A ROW and see how it feels. Now do it again…after walking for 10 minutes on a treadmill. How does it feel?
As for the no noise thing - I've heard them say, "your voice is your power...if you are making noise you are letting your power out..." Here are some mental images for you - Think 'karate'...think 'Olympic weight lifters'...think 'US Open tennis players'. You'd think if your voice was your power then karate instructors would be saying "SSHHHhhhh!" and the karate studio would be absolutely silent. Wouldn’t Olympic coaches have discovered that fact that you can lift more or gleam more power from being silent?
8. Premature urge to push:
Women are told that they MUST not push before they are fully dilated....the pressure down on the cervix could make the cervix swell. Not even little grunts! No no, breathe, don’t push!
But then, an hour later, she is given Pitocin to strength then contractions, they never worry that it will make the contractions so strong that it will swell the cervix. She feels nauseated and is throwing up, and they don't worry that THAT will swell the cervix. Isn’t the point to have good strong pressure down on the cervix?
I’ve heard some women be told that they might TEAR the cervix! YIKES!! That would stop me from wanting to push, too! But if that was the case then wouldn’t it hurt MORE to push not less? Most women who are pushing are doing so because it feels BETTER to push…wouldn’t think that tearing your cervix would feel better than not, do you?
9. Internal examinations prior to labor:
Why are we checking you? What is the point?
Oh yes, I hear you answering now…it’s to see if you’re going to have the baby soon.
First off, if you’re full term (which I HOPE you are if you are having internals!) then the answer is a resounding YES! You will be having your baby soon! (and I don’t have to stick my hands inside of you)
Next, an internal examination prior to the onset of labor gives NO information that is beneficial or useful.
Wow…pretty bold statement, yet true. You are checked and found to be ZERO dilated and ZERO effaced. You could have your baby that night. (that was my third child) Or you could be found 3cm dilated and 75% effaced and it could be WEEKS! (that was my second and fourth children) So if dilation and effacement aren’t going to tell us when we are going to go into labor, why are we checking?
Wait, not fair…that was MY question!
10. You need an IV in labor…just in case something goes wrong, we MUST have access to your vein!
Rather than question this statement, I’m simply going to relay what happened with some students I taught a childbirth series to many years ago. He (the expectant father) happened to be an EMT-Paramedic. This couple was doing a hospital tour so that they could become familiar with the hospital they intended to have their baby in. The nurse showed them the triage area, then showed them the labor and delivery rooms, explained that this is when they would get their IV…
The EMT dad said, “Umm, what if we don’t want an IV?”
Nurse replied, “It’s standard…what if something goes wrong? We must have access to your vein and what if it takes a while to get the IV started? It can be difficult sometimes to get it started…what if we can’t get it started and we’re trying to get an IV in while your baby is having problems??”
The EMT dad looked her straight in the eye and said, “Are you telling me that I can start an IV in the field, at night, in the rain, inside a vehicle that has been flipped over on a patient who is critical and bleeding out…and you are concerned about starting an IV on my healthy wife in your brightly lit hospital??? That frightens me.”
Hee hee. I’ll just let that story sit with you for a while.
Maybe I’m too logical…or maybe there will be ONE person who reads this and starts to THINK about this thing we call ‘childbirth’.
See…I’m not just logical…I’m a dreamer, too.