May 27, 2008

Celebrity Births. The Good. The Bad. The Influence.

I have never been one to closely follow celebrity gossip. In fact, I am embarrassingly behind the times – stuck somewhere in the late 90’s when Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan and Friends were big. But I can’t deny the influence celebrities have on society. They are the American equivalent of the British Royal Family. Recently, the biggest Hollywood trend is pregnancy and babies. (I have even been called up by VH1 looking for the scoop on “hot Hollywood mamas” only to disappoint the producer when I told him the mega stars have not passed our threshold.)

With this uprise in celebrity births there is a bit more scrutiny on how the precious little off-spring of the Hollywood elite come into the world. And, it stands to reason that like everything else, how Tinseltown gives birth will have an impact on Jane Q. Public. There seem to be two emerging camps of thought: A return to the home for birth or an early trip to the ER for a planned cesarean birth.

On one hand we have people like Ricki Lake, who has used her celebrity status to open the eyes of many to the possibility and safety of a home birth with her film The Business of Being Born. I recently spoke with one midwife who said she has never been this busy. That movie really boosted business! After a little digging, I was thrilled to find out that many well-known celebs have recently opted for a home birth with a midwife. Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, and Davina McCall have all given birth at home three times. Nelly Furtado, Lucy Lawless, Ani DiFranco, and Pamela Anderson are also amongst those who chose a home birth. Pamela Anderson is quoted as saying “I gave birth at home both times, naturally, with a midwife, in water, with nothing.’

Then there is the other side – the planned cesarean births – that seem to get a bit more media attention. I guess what I find most horrifying is the reasoning behind this choice, and I am ghastly afraid that the American public will follow suit. Many of the Hollywood mamas are “too posh to push”. Christina Aguilera has been quoted in Hello Magazine as saying “I didn’t want any surprises. Honestly, I didn’t want any [vaginal] tearing. I had heard horror stories of women going in and having to have an emergency C-section [anyway]. The hardest part was deciding on his birthday. I wanted to leave it up to fate, but at the same time I was ready to be done early!” I strongly encourage readers to research the full spectrum of evidence on the risks of non-emergency C-sections.

A related scary trend is the idea of “near term” births. These are babies that are delivered 4 or 5 weeks before the given due date. (Note that full term is considered between 37-42 weeks.) It’s rumored that some celebrity moms have asked to deliver their babies via C-section a month before their due dates to get a head-start on slimming down, says Wang, co-director of the newborn nursery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

There is significant risk to a child delivered before full gestation. A study published last year in the medical journal Pediatrics,compared 90 near-term infants with 95 full-term infants. Near-term babies were more likely to be evaluated for infections and to have low blood sugar, unstable temperatures, breathing problems and jaundice. As a result, 27% of the near-term babies required treatment with intravenous fluids, while only 5% of the full-term babies did. And 50 of the near-term infants didn’t get to leave the hospital with their mothers, compared with only 7 of the full-term babies. Infant mortality in our country is at a surprisingly high rate for a developed country. Does this “near term” birthing trend shed some light on why U.S infants die too often? Marian MacDorman, a statistician at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), was recently quoted as saying The single most important thing we can do to lower the rate of infant mortality is to reduce the rate of preterm birth. But in fact the trend is going in the opposite direction — that rate [in the U.S.] is increasing.

We live in a society where our heroes are actors and rock stars – fame is valued, many would argue, more highly than education. I’m not prepared to debunk the importance of the cool factor in our role models. But I do think it’s important to bear in mind that when it comes to life and death decisions, jumping on any bandwagon being driven by pop culture is ill-advised. Who will empower you? What will inspire you? And what is informing your decisions?

Watch the red carpet for the latest in evening gown fashion and read the tabloids to see who looks best in a bikini. But when it comes to how you bring life into the world, look not to the A-list, but to your very own inner goddess.

*Check out the article from about Angela Kinsey from The Office, as she talks about how prenatal yoga practice prepared her for birth!




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