October 2008


Traditionally women have learned about birth through stories passed on from their mothers or other female relatives.  Sounds great but there are women for whom their mothers are uncomfortable telling their birth story or their mother is a Twilight Sleep mom or had some other birth experience that rendered her unable to recall many details of her birth experience.  Today, we have more and more women exploring all of their birth care options and birth stories range from birthing a baby under the moonlight because “I wasn’t sure I wanted to be at the hospital and fight the docs who didn’t agree with natural childbirth” to “the doc and I high-fived each other because this was his first time catching a baby with mom on her hands and knees” to “my midwife guided my hands into the water to catch my daughter.”

So, who’s your birth link?

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Fear is a primal tool for humans to use to protect themselves and our overuse of it is causing Americans to stop thinking rationally in order to make educated choices.  All too often American public policy is driven by fear and that is the worst motivation for action.  Fear motivated calls to action have historically led to both famous and infamous events which we must stop and examine in an effort to avoid failures in American government which leads to personal tragedies in our lives.  We are bombarded every day with messages telling us the right thing to do implying we bring negative consequences upon ourselves ~ and sometimes on others around us ~ if we don’t.  

I first heard this acronym for fear, False Evidence Appearing to be Real, when I began researching the banning of VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) in America’s hospitals.  The rate of uterine rupture with a trial of labor ranged anywhere from 0.2 to as high as 1.5 percent (Rinehart).  A uterine rupture sounds horrible and it is.  However, that was the sole impetus for driving a policy to ban VBACs: let’s avoid it by just doing repeat c-sections.  Upon closer inspection however, it is the methods used for managing labor that leads to most uterine ruptures.  An often ignored and misused but very important tool for assessing the risks of labor induction is the Bishop’s Score (University Klinikum Bonn).  This system not only indicates the likelihood of an induction being successful it also provides for induction methods to be avoided. Yes, the original interpretation actually calls for avoiding induction if the bag of waters has ruptured and to consider no induction as an option if mom is a first-time laboring mother.  Boston’s famed research clearly concludes induction is contraindicated for a VBAC, yet induction with VBAC is still done and it is a major cause of uterine rupture.  Women who are unaware that inductions and augmentation in VBACs are a no-no and doctors do NOT have the patience for an unmanaged birth agree to repeat C/S.  Their decision is driven by the atmosfear driving OBs to make more money in less time and by-passing due diligence in confirming a procedure is both safe and justified.  In this example, you see, fear of uterine rupture caused a ban on VBACs in hospitals rather than ensuring medical protocol follows evidence-based research.

The 1940s and 1950s brought us McCarthyism, the fear of communism which is in direct conflict with the American ideology of democracy.  It eventually led to our nation’s Cold War whereby we fought wars on foreign soils in the name of stopping the spread of communism.  We can never forget the tragedy of the Vietnam War nor the total cost to the world over four decades.  The cost of both American troops’ lives and that of both soldiers and civilians in Vietnam including children lives on in infamy (PBS).  Decades of fear driven international policy on foreign soil.  The use of unproven and unsafe technology on women today, or as these mad scientists would call women “maternal environments”, is akin to the Cold War.  As long as its done on someone else’s body in a way that the doctor does not see the depth of his/her actions, well, then it is rationalized to be simply a necessary cost.

Finally, we have the fear of spreading illness as the leading motivator for vaccinating newborns, babies and young women in spite of the record numbers of injury to children in the form of Autism and death to girls and women from the new Gardasil vaccine.  The public should be demanding vaccine manufacturers undertake more expensive but quality trials as well as demand the pharmaceutical companies prove just cause for an aggressive vaccination schedule.  Instead, we continue to push for the restriction of parental rights by actually posing a poll question of whether or not parents who decline vaccinations should be jailed.  Sadly, our government heard the pharmaceutical companies and allowed for them to be protected from major lawsuits before conceding vaccines may be a direct cause of autism.

Fear robs us of our greatest natural skill for protecting ourselves.  Just because the people we face today are not carrying a literal bayonet it doesn’t mean our lives and our babies’ lives are not at stake literally.  In America today women must take the step to seek independent counsel on their birth care options.  We must protect our right to credible information in order to make informed decisions not fear driven decisions.

The ICAN offer below is a genuine offer and has been posted through VBACtivism, an organized yahoo support group.  It is our understanding that you should contact the group below if you are seeking help protecting your access to VBAC health care because you have been denied the right to VBAC.  You will be asked to provide information pertinent to your situation and a determination will be made as to whether or not you have a case.  Please, if you’re thinking about contacting the email below, do it!  Just the fact that you are thinking about it is enough to warrant following through.  You and your baby deserve to exercise your rights to choose your health care for yourself.  Write a letter to your careprovider first but don’t wait for a response that may never come, learn more now!

I’m a lawyer with the Northwest Women’s Law Center in Seattle.  I’m investigating possible legal responses to bans on vaginal birth after cesarean at hospitals in the northwest states – Alaska, Idaho, Montana,Washington and Oregon.  If you are currently pregnant and want to have a VBAC, but are facing a hospital policy that would require you to have a c-section regardless of whether you want it and whether it is medically necessary, and are willing to consider working with a lawyer on this, we’d like to talk with you.  Please email us at vbacbanhelp@ican-online.org.  Our services will be provided free of charge.