December 17, 2007

Know the Statistics; Don’t Be One

Several months ago, I constructed a list of 5 questions to ask your doctor before your birth. Asking questions can help you begin to decide which caregiver would best align with your ideas of birthing. It’s definitely a good jumping-off point to begin the conversation about your journey into motherhood, but the responsibility to do serious research goes a little further than just asking a few questions. Educate yourself!

The other day in class, I overheard several students complaining that their childbirth education classes were too long. (10-12 hours of their lives.) Another woman approached me and asked about an in-home private childbirth education class. I told her that it is usually about 4 hours long. She asked if it could be shortened. I responded, “NO!”

I truly believe that the birth you have affects the rest of your life. So why not put a little time and energy into exploring your options? I have heard many women express how empowered they felt about their experience and also many who felt, sadly, disempowered and disappointed. Of course, you cannot completely tailor your birth story, but you can take responsibilty to inform yourself of your options. Even if things do not unravel just as you’d planned, you won’t feel backed into a corner, unable to understand what is taking place. Although your birth may differ from your original vision, by making informed decisions you are still an active participant.

A recent national study Listening to Mothers II , gathered information from over 1,600 mothers that birthed in a US hospital during 2005. The study states “Far more mothers were exposed to childbirth through TV shows than through childbirth edcuation class”. It goes on to say “We asked mothers about knowledge needed about side effects of labor induction, epidural analgesia, and cesarean before deciding to have these interventions. In every case, virtually everyone felt that all (78-81%) or most (17-19%) complications should be disclosed. However, whether mothers had had the specific interventions or not, they were poorly informed about a series of complications of labor induction and cesarean sections: most had an incorrect understanding or were not sure.” In conclusion, the study explains “Women’s typical experiences during labor and birth were especially troubling. Many women did not have the childbirth choices or knowledge they wanted. Support for women’s intrinsic capacity for physiological childbirth appeared to be extremely limited. Large portions experience numerous labor and birth intervention that would be of benefit for mothers with specific risk conditions, but are inappropriate as routine measures. These interventions left healthy women immobilized, vulnerable to high levels of surgery and burdened with hleth concers while caring for their newborns.”

I highly encourage the expectant moms out there to PLEASE go to childbirth classes, pay attention, ask questions of the teacher and your doctor, attend your prenatal yoga classes, and read about all of the different options, interventions, and their side effects so that you can make an empowered, informed decision of how you want to birth your baby.

Here are just a few very interesting facts:

External Fetal Monitors: 90% of laboring women endure full time EFM. The major risk associated with electronic fetal heart rate monitoring is a false-positive test result that may lead to unnecessary surgical intervention. There are certain hospitals that require full time EFM. In New York, Presbyterian Hospital aka Weill Cornell Medical Center is one that has adopted this practice.

Episiotomy: Routine The use of Episiotomy in uncomplicated births offers no benefit to women. 25% of women receive an Episiotomy.

Induction: 2002 In the Listening to Mothers Survey, of the nearly 1600 mothers interviewed, 49% who gave birth vaginally reported that their medical provider attempted to induce their labor, and 44% actually had their labor induced.

Early Rupture of Membranes: 59%, 6 out 10 mothers had their membranes artificially ruptured. There is no evidence of benefit.

*The above statistics are from The Journal of Perinatal Education published by Lamaze International. Article “How well Do Your Provider’s Practices Match the Evidence.” Fall 2007

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