cesarean


Seriously?  When it comes to maternity care the emotional tie of a baby’s health can be used unscrupulously.  Of course a mother doesn’t want to do anything that would hurt her baby, but is the emotional blackmail of responses such as these really necessary?:

“Well, if you don’t care what happens to the baby…” “If you don’t do this your baby could die.” “You can choose that if you’re going to take all of the responsibility for the risks and sign this waiver.” ~ What Are They REALLY Saying?

Natural or ‘normal’ birth advocates and educators are sometimes labeled as rebellious, extreme, etc. with the opponents claiming in the same breath to also being focused on healthy birth outcomes.  Kathy Petersen, IC member, muses more about the same team issue.

There may not be an “I” in ‘team’, but there certainly is a “me.”  The only ‘team’ that exists is the one you put together and at its center is you.  You are the “me” in team.  You are an active participant in your birth and that actually benefits your practitioner because you get to give informed consent or informed refusal.   Are practitioners so afraid of the legal system that it’s easier to just have women go along with what makes a lawsuit least likely to arise?  The truth is most consumers don’t want to have to deal with a lawsuit either.  It may appear to be easier and simpler to just go along but it isn’t.  If Big Baby Bull doesn’t help you see ‘malpractice’ intertwined with emotional tugs perhaps a mother or a baby dying from the misuse of the drug Cytotec for an induction (for the suspected big baby??) will.

Informed refusal gets dicey because a practitioner must be able to prove that their client/patient was aware of the consequences of not following a specific protocol.  Yet when it comes to maternity care, a system so fraught with the overuse of technology that many in the field admit they’ve never seen a natural birth, can practitioners really convey to a mother what will happen if they refuse technology?  We can hear that conversation now: “Well, if we just sit here and wait you will have to have this baby completely on your own!”

A practitioner’s ability to understand normal birth is greatly undermined by their own failure to appreciate the litigious environment they created themselves.  ACOG recently admitted, for example, that the guidelines for external fetal monitoring are left open to interpretation.  What they are not making clear to the consumer though is that it is the obstetricians who have failed to understand and deploy external fetal monitoring prudently but it is the mothers who are shouldering the consequences, the fear of malpractice:

“Our goal with the ACOG guidelines was to define existing terminology and narrow definitions and categories so that everyone is on the same page,” says Dr. Macones. One of the problems with FHR tracings is the variability in how they’re interpreted by different people. The ACOG guidelines highlight a case in which four obstetricians examined 50 FHR tracings; they agreed in only 22% of the cases. Two months later, these four physicians reevaluated the same 50 FHR tracings, and they changed their interpretations on nearly one out of every five tracings. ~ ACOG Refines Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring Guidelines, June 2009

Desirre Andrews, IC member and President of ICAN, shares Alexandra Orchard’s experiences spanning six years of trying to achieve a natural birth.   Again, as Alexandra and her family learned, it is not the VBAC itself that is to be feared but rather fear that the practitioner’s judgement, recommending surgical delivery in the first birth, will be called into question is what drives a practitioner’s loathe to attend a VBAC mother.

Last, the public itself is brought into the drama with irresponsible headlines such as this one from the New York Times blog, Refusing a C-Section, Losing Custody of a Baby.

Contrast Alexandra’s letter to her obstetrician (watch the video to the end!) to this scenario ripped from the headlines today over the mother who supposedly lost custody of her daughter solely because she refused a repeat cesarean.

Independent Childbirth supports the natural birth community through the use of quality and self-earned birth knowledge about natural childbirth.  Mothers are the birth experts.  We share normal birth and because we do, more mothers today recognize medical interventions are sometimes needed but they do not justify today’s rate of surgical deliveries, birth injuries and denying mothers of patient rights.  Let calmer heads prevail, that of a thinking mother (who isn’t?) choosing normal birth experienced practitioners who value a mother’s instincts.

**For more on “informed refusal” visit The Risk Management Handbook for Healthcare Professionals.  For more information on the New Jersey case visit Knitted in the Womb and VBAC Facts.
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We hear from practitioners about women whose goal it is to avoid a cesarean and have uninterrupted contact with her baby in the first hours of her baby’s emergence into our world.  It seems that these practitioners find it completely illogical for women to desire this goal because women are often out of it, exhausted, or undergoing surgery by the time second stage arrives.  In their experience, women are begging for epidurals, asking for c-sections, are completely unprepared for “the realities” of labor.  The practitioners are completely oblivious as to their role and influence in the outcome of the birth.  They are aware, though, that the public’s awareness of the need to question the application of protocols in general is on the rise.  Chaos ensues when the practitioner no longer takes on the responsibility of learning about normal birth, remaining current on research, does not hone his/her listening skills (read: bedside manner) and does not exercise patience, a critical element for a healthy birth outcome for both mother and her baby(ies).  How can we expect them to see they are the main contributing factor to what a laboring mother’s second and third stage will be?

It doesn’t strike practitioners as odd that they’ve come to believe and accept myths or oft-repeated misinformation as fact.  Peer research concludes the use of consensus in scientific matters is not infallible.  If the Michigan AMA Resolution 710 proposed above isn’t difficult enough for expectant mothers to fight their way through, there is also the medical birth community’s attempt at blaming mothers for dismal service results including the rising cesarean rate.   It seems mothers are darned if they do (they’re identified as hostile) and darned if they don’t (they’re asking to be cut open).

For example, back in the news again is a protocol that has not changed since last highlighted three years ago, but if it did revert back to its historically safe use has the power to change our country’s maternal and newborn statistics: pitocin.

Pit to distress” is the formal name of a protocol by which a mother is given pitocin to  either induce or speed up her labor at a rate that subsequently distresses the baby and leads to an automatic c-section.   Independent Childbirth member Jennifer Riedy explains the protocol on her blog and follows up in our post stating First…nurses (and doulas, and OB’s…and any type of care provider) need to realize that what happens in their area of practice is not the same as what happens in another area.  Even as a doula I see vastly different practices in two hospitals that are part of the same hospital system and located only 20 minutes drive from each other.  If a particular hospital has implemented guidelines to avoid “Pit to distress” that is great.  But don’t fall into the trap of believing that it isn’t happening (in another L&D room).

Just because it isn’t *called* “Pit to distress” does not mean that isn’t what is done.  If an order is given to put a woman on a certain dose of Pitocin, then up that dose every 15 minutes up to some maximum dose, then the unwritten part of the order is “or until the baby shows signs of distress.”

…Bottom line, the package insert says to start the Pit at 0.5-1 microunit per minute, and raise at 1-2 microunit per minute increments every 30 to 60 minutes.  More aggressive protocols raising the drip rate every 15 minutes –even if it is using those same doses–also put a mother and baby at the risk of being “Pit to distress” because it takes over 30 minutes for the Pitocin to equilibate, so while baby may tolerate well the dose that was set at noon, you will not really know that until after 12:30, and if the dose was raised at 12:15 and 12:30…you may have hit the “distress point” with the 12:15 dose.”

There are other mothers who will tell you they experienced pitocin at levels that they instinctively knew were not right for their bodies because their bodies were not only in pain their bodies were also signaling signs of fight or flight response.  They begged to have the pitocin turned off, only to have practitioners refuse to document their request and outright deny it as well.   A Rockville General (hospital) doctor in Connecticut was cited by one such mom when she birthed there in 2007.  She went on to share that the practitioner believed her mother was trying to influence her decision to ask for the pitocin to be turned off and attempted to remove her mother from the birth room (labelled hostile perhaps?).  Another doctor at UConn in Connecticut has stated that he is known for having the most aggressive pitocin protocol and achieving more vaginal births that way.  But, at what cost?  Certainly we were present for one such birth where a mother experienced an adverse pitocin reaction and rather than document it as such her files were noted that she refused pitocin.  Incidentally this same doctor is infamous for telling mothers who desire a natural birth that “80% of women ask for epidurals” (could that be because of the pitocin rate you employ???).  This is not an indictment of UConn, where we have also been present for healthy natural childbirth experiences with other doctors.  It is to exemplify the need for mothers to research their practitioner options and to confirm Jennifer’s observations that two vastly different scenarios can take place in the same hospital!

Jennifer Riedy’s well researched conclusions on the use and abuse of pitocin being common are backed up by the medical community as well.  Doctors Gary Ventolini and Ran Neiger state (Contemporary OBGyn; Sept 2004): “Oxytocin is also abused when one attempts to induce labor, especially in patients with unfavorable uterine cervix, and ‘induction failure’ is diagnosed shortly thereafter, before the onset of active labor.  We feel that as long as the fetal condition is reassuring cervical ripening should precede labor induction.  Once labor induction has begun, don’t abandon it in favor of a (cesarean) delivery before the cervix has started changing only because a set length of time has elapsed.”

On the subject of routine induction at 41 weeks as another example, there are also practitioners who see the fallacy of consensus in the medical community, specifically from practitioners Leung and Lao of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China (Routine induction of labour at 41 weeks of gestation: “nonsensus consensus”; BJOG Volume 109, Issue 12, Dec 2002):

Sir,

We read with great interest the commentary by Menticoglou and Hall published in May 2002 and want to echo the point of increasing caesarean section rate as a result of this nonsensus consensus. Our unit has adopted the practice of routine induction of labour at 41 weeks of gestation for several years on the basis of the findings of the Cochrane Review1, which suggested that this approach can reduce perinatal mortality. Women are admitted to the hospital at 41 weeks of gestation for cervical assessment with the Bishop’s score and induction of labour.  If the cervix is favourable, combined induction of labour with
artificial rupture of membranes and oxytocin infusion is performed on the following morning. If the cervix is unfavourable, a vaginal prostaglandin E2 3-mg tablet is used to prime the cervix. Combined induction is performed on the following morning if the cervix becomes favourable. If not, another dose of vaginal prostaglandin is given and induction is delayed for another day. In the case of labour occurring after cervical priming with vaginal prostaglandin, it is counted as induction of labour.

We have analysed the caesarean section rate for nulliparae undergoing induction of labour at 41 weeks of gestation from our hospital obstetric database. In the year 2000, 183 nulliparous women were induced under this consensus and 59 of them (32.2%) had caesarean sections. This caesarean section rate was significantly higher than that for term,
singleton, vertex presenting fetuses in nulliparous women in the same year (excluding those 183 women with induction at 41 weeks), which was 368/2271 or 16.2% ( 2 test, P < 0.0001). More alarming is that the caesarean section rate for nulliparous women undergoing induction of labour at 41 weeks of gestation increased even further to 35.0%
(63/180) in the year 2001 and 41.1% (23/56) in the current year (January to May).

We agree with the authors that it is now time to reconsider the consensus on routine induction of labour at 41 weeks of gestation, particularly in nulliparous women.

Reference
1. Crowley P. Interventions for preventing or improving the outcome
of delivery at or beyond term [Cochrane review]. The Cochrane Library,
1. Oxford: Update Software, 2002.

Simply put, you can’t get there (a normal second and third stage) from here (a medically managed first stage) without hitting a whole lot of long shots along the way.   We’ve read the book many times and the ending never changes.  Straightforwardly put, neither medical model practitioners nor mothers will ever know how different a birth experience might have been, and that has reverberations throughout a mother’s  lifetime and her baby’s lifetime.

The responsibility for knowing normal birth truly lies with mothers today as the majority of practitioners cannot get out of their own way in preventing injury to mothers and their babies.  You can, however, keep them out of your way.  Learn from the experts: other normal birth experienced support resources. The educated mother can choose her practitioner wisely and ‘get there.’

While we don’t normally publish consecutive posts on the same topic we thought today’s post warranted release.  We are committed to increasing international awareness of the issues and controversies in birth care protocols, advances in birth policy legislation, best practices and alternative options available to mothers.  To that end I recently authored a paper for submission to the international database resource available for the summit on Respecting Childbirth.  The summit took place in France during our Mother’s Day week event, the week of May 11, 2009.  We are all pleased to announce the paper was accepted for their database and some light is being shed on the truth of the state of maternity care in the USA.  It is our desire to raise awareness internationally that although America spends a lot of money on technology it does not mean that all American technology is to be accepted on face value as being beneficial.  The link to the summit (above) will bring you to the link on the paper, Home Birth: The Gold Standard of Cesarean Prevention or you may click the title link to download the paper and distribute it in your community, to your legislators as you move forward protecting your birth options where you live.  The first link in this post will also provide you with a tri-fold brochure you may wish to distribute by email or hard copy to your state’s legislators as well.

The more a midwife speaks to a mother and spends quality time with her, the more likely a mother is to open up and reveal more of her daily routines and habits that can affect her pregnancy and birth.  For example, the midwife will ask a mother the most basic yet critical questions like what is she eating and follow up with nutritional counseling, a topic in which the midwife owns expertise. She’ll ask her what is occurring in her life today, yesterday, expecting for tomorrow. A mother’s every day peace and stress contributes to her body’s sense of well-being and reaching the point where mother and her body believe it is time now to give birth safely and securely.

The psychology of labor is addressed during the med school L&D rotation by incorporating finding other resources for emotional and mental support.  Subsequently we have a number of practitioners in all fields lacking in bedside manner today, but in birth this aspect has an impact intangible to the practitioner but very real to the mother and her family.  The average obstetrical course of education includes fewer than three credit hours in understanding nutrition.  The focus on prenatal nutrition is only a small portion of the syllabus (do your homework choosing a careprovider!).  The home birth midwife also follows the mother into the immediate postpartum and continues home visits to see how mother and baby function as a unit.

It is the midwife who is better versed in delivering babies in various but normal birth situations.  A breech baby can be birthed safer in the hands of a midwife than a hospital attendant.  She has not let her skills fall behind because medico-legal liability has dictated a breech birth to be enough of a risk as to deem a cesarean to be the required course of action; therefore, she continues to hone both her observational and palpating skills.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), America’s leading organization promoting the benefits of clinical obstetrics in the sterile rooms of trained physicians, has found itself in a dilemma.  The technology and protocols ACOG promotes are the very ones that directly influence our birth statistics negatively.  The birth technology ACOG promotes to prevent or lower risks in birth for both mothers and their babies has not been proven to be beneficial, yet it is used profusely.  Birth in America rarely includes the intimacy of the act that culminated in procreation.  Images of an infant gently caught into its own mother’s arms are so rare that they cause the general public to question the safety of such an event. Debate for and against the licensing of midwifery – and the definition of midwifery itself – is gaining momentum, because statistics for hands off care of normal, natural childbirth are far better than those of managed birth.

In fact, Rebecca Watson of the New Mexico Department of Health has stated, “I sometimes wonder why [we bother compiling statistics on midwives], since their statistics are so much better than everyone else’s.”

While home birth is stereotyped as dangerous because of the lack of medical supervision, it is the lack of that technology and medicine that actually makes birth at home safer than birth in a hospital under today’s protocols.

Studies have shown that once a technology is introduced and mandated, it is difficult to remove it from care practice despite being proven unsafe or unnecessary.  For instance, although the rates involving an episiotomy (cutting the perineum to create a larger opening for the baby to pass through) have dropped drastically since 1980, it is still a common practice.  Ironically, episiotomy rates today are justified as integral to the higher use of vacuum-assisted deliveries or unfounded fears that a baby is stuck because it is a large baby or presenting in a less than optimal position, (posteriors, for example, where a baby faces away from the mother’s back during labor).

America is one of the few nations where birth is managed more with technology than with the hands and eyes of the care provider, but other countries will soon catch up. In a country that boasts technology superior to other developed nations and is not known for undernourishing its citizens, our mothers and babies are faring no better at birth than underdeveloped nations such as Croatia. No improvements have been made in the maternal mortality rate in America since 1982, and  America’s infant mortality rate in the past two decades also has not improved. Our birth technology has increased and the number of routine prenatal screening tests have multiplied since the early 1960s, but our maternal and fetal outcomes have gone progressively backward.

“Despite a significant improvement in the U.S. maternal mortality ratio since the early 1900s, it still represents a substantial and frustrating burden, particularly given the fact that – essentially – no progress has been made in most U.S. states since 1982. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that most cases are probably preventable.” states C.T. Lang in a 2008 obstetrics and gynecology report.  Further, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 1983 that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 8.0 for every 100,000 live births (Monthly Vital Statistics Report).  In 1993, the rate was 12.0/100,000 live births (CDC).

Among the causal deaths that could be prevented were those that involve both underlying health issues such as poor nutrition and high blood pressure (World Health Organization) as well as those that are physician-caused including infection and hemorrhage.  Bacterium can be introduced first by the mother arriving in an environment where diseases are being treated as well as from infiltrating the natural barriers we have against infection through vaginal exams and, of course, surgical delivery. In addition, there are higher incidences of hemorrhage from forced delivery of the placenta as when a care provider intentionally pulls on an umbilical cord to tear the placenta away from the uterine wall of the mother’s womb. In all instances, normal birth evidence training of the professional birth attendant is critical.

Injuries and deaths related to the physician’s care range from the off-label use of medicine such as Cytotec (also known as Misoprostol) for the inducing of labor as well as the sanctified use of surgical delivery, which gives us embolism, one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and a risk directly associated with cesareans.  Cesarean rates for delivery rose by 46 percent from 1995 to 2006.

Women around the world, the time to look again at the image of women birthing with women versus a medical obstetrical group in normal birth is now. WE can improve global maternal and newborn birth outcomes and experiences. WE know birth. WE know women’s hopes and fears.  A new generation of birth wisdom and experiences is here!

Wishing you a truly happy Mother’s Day secure in the knowledge of your body’s innate wisdom!

Learn more about the wisdom of utilizing your best resource: an Independent Childbirth member led birth education class like Dorene Vaughn’s All Natural Baby!

Visit our comments section (this post) to find some of the most awesome birth wisdom posts our readers have found on the web and to add the ones you’ve found!

There are many variations on the only thesis available to opponents of home birth: What do the statistics say? Despite the enticement of a warm, peaceful and private birth that a home birth offers, the perceived importance of missing technology lingers like impending doom. In America, less than 1% of births takes place in homes. It is difficult for the other 99% of Americans to make the transition from technology as the benchmark for establishing worldwide leadership to the reality that the human body is designed to give birth and it has evolved to make many variations in labor and birth look so easy.

The Stockholm Birth Center Study followed one birth center’s outcomes over a ten-year period culminating in 2000 and comparing the outcomes to the associated hospital’s birth outcomes. The one strong observation in this study is the truism that many women will choose a birth center because of the perceived safety in having a hospital nearby. However, it is a mistake to conclude the birth center is free of institutional intervention. The study’s results are negated because of the influence of the obstetrical backup. Every woman who chose the birth center for her birth location was still subjected to the institutional care package. This is the most influential determinant in whether or not a woman is “risked out” of laboring and ultimately delivering in the birth center.

A birth center so closely associated with a hospital is not autonomous and must operate under strict supervision by institutional birth practitioners. The authors themselves state they did not study the effect of individual labor and delivery protocols, but rather the care documented in each case as a “package.” In addition, they have correctly remarked standards of maternity care do not exist, but they have again missed the mark on the importance of this statement. This is critical to interpreting the outcomes, because one solitary intervention can turn out to be the predictor of a birth outcome. For example, every care provider practices according to their comfort level; although every care provider will monitor a baby’s heart tones in labor, how the monitoring is done varies by care provider. Continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) can range in definition from ten minutes hooked up to a monitor every hour on the hour to a handheld doppler check through a contraction every few hours to a telemetry unit (a girdlelike band outfitted to wirelessly transmit fetal monitoring data) that allows the mother walk more freely.

The ability to walk freely even under continuous monitoring allows the mother greater mobility for finding a position that increases her ability to cope with her contractions. Setting aside the U.S. Preventative Service’s Task Force’s findings and stance that continuous fetal monitoring provides no benefit at all – and the data showing that continuous EFM results in more cesareans – it can be argued that fetal monitoring that limits a mother’s mobility is therefore more likely to result in more intervention as the mother shows signs of distress and therefore the baby does as well.

The authors of the Stockholm Birth Center study argue that many other studies have reached conclusions similar to theirs. In the same publication we are offered a Cochrane Systematic Review of Home-Like versus Conventional Institutional Settings for Birth. Here the reviewers concluded births in home-like settings compared to purely hospital settings “provided only modest benefits including reduced medical interventions and increased maternal satisfaction.”

A hasty read of this data by institutional birth practitioners correctly supports their ingrained training that routine intervention is acceptable and “safe.” However, the paper actually clearly demonstrates that all births taking place in a hospital are going to meet up with interventions at some point during labor, and it is the overuse of technology that needs to be analyzed. Indeed that message is there somewhat cryptically as the authors instead hinder the possibility of improving on the scope of research by advising “caregivers and clients should be vigilant for signs of complications.” It is difficult for any woman who has given birth or who respects her body to hear such little value placed on the differences the studies do reveal, such as the “modest benefits” of “reduced medical interventions” and “increased maternal satisfaction.” Surely even one avoided episiotomy would be appreciated by the woman whose perineum would have been cut and would find several women healing from receiving an unnecessary episiotomy envious.

In 1998, a study of infant mortality in planned home births was conducted in Australia. Author Hilda Bastion reviewed these outcomes as neither hospital nor home births have defined what constitutes standard care. She reviewed both midwives and medical practitioners, registered and unregistered, minimal experience and heavy case load. Also included in the study were births that would be deemed risky by virtue of poor health in the mothers or other underlying health conditions. This is crucial to understanding the bias of many hospital birth proponents: It is not the intent of home birth advocates to claim home birth is best for everyone, but rather a viable option for low-risk and otherwise healthy women. The author goes so far as to note it is a disturbing trend that midwives may be encouraging and willing to take high-risk births because of the high number of low birth-weight infants counted in the statistics. In fact, it is quite possible that a woman who cannot afford good nutrition may also not be able to afford hospital birth care, and perhaps a midwife is her better choice than no care at all.

In general, birth care is divided into either purely institutional care or modified institutional care. No research exists on pure, spontaneous vaginal birth over an intact perineum without induction agents, drugs, surgery and instruments. What is available is mounds of research on what a mother or baby can “tolerate” in labor and what interventions have achieved an acceptable degree of risk. The acceptable degree of risk is not defined by an independent counsel but often influenced by the strongest or loudest lobbying effort, as witnessed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) August 2007 statement on the advance of midwifery options for consumers. ACOG’s bottom line is midwifery options must be controlled and home birth as an option must be eliminated. The average consumer misses the bias and conflict of interest: A rise in home births means a decrease in income for a field already plagued by the reality that there is no money to be made in natural childbirth.

In addition to a lack of studies of organic birth as defined above, there are no long-term, randomized longitudinal studies to confirm or deny the correlation of many interventions. For example, the impact of a mother’s drug use in labor on emotional bonding, breast-feeding, postpartum depression, later drug abuse (baby as a young adult), etc. In the 1970s, Doris Haire, the President of the American Foundation for Maternal and Child Health, said, “No drug has been proven safe and effective for use during pregnancy or childbirth.” Considering that 25% of drugs introduced in the market today are recalled or pulled off the market in 1 to 5 years, this statement has never been more true. Until such time that midwifery care can be studied with a critical but appreciative eye, we will find only the weakest of studies boxed in by outdated beliefs that American women cannot afford to birth outside of a medical institution. In fact, it is our country that cannot afford to NOT offer free standing birth centers as a birth care option for American women.

Works Cited
Bastian, Hilda, “Perinatal Death Associated with Planned Home Birth in Australia Population Based Study”: BMJ 1998; 317: 384-8

Hodnett, E.D and S. Downe and N. Edwards and D. Walsh, “Selected Cochrane Systematic Reviews: Home-like versus Conventional Institutional Settings for Birth”; BIRTH Issue 32:2; June 2005

Waldenstrom, Ulla and Charlotta Grunewald, “The Safety of Birth Centers Responses to a
Critique of the Stockholm Birth Center Study”; BIRTH Issue 32:2; June 2005

Just a quick look at the birth outcomes for Independent Childbirth educator led birth classes led by Sheridan Ripley, Gretchen Vetter, Olivia Sporinsky, Molly Remer, Aimee Crane, Joni Nichols, Ruth Trode, Dale Bernucca, Brandy Segin, Helen Loucado, Sara Wallbaum and Dorene Vaughn.

PLANNED OUT OF HOSPITAL BIRTHS  (132)

Free Standing Birth Center = 45; Planned Home Birth = 55; Planned Unassisted Birth = 4; Unplanned Unassisted Birth = 3; Transfers = 25

Combined Spontaneous, Unmedicated, Unmanaged Vaginal Births = 107

Combined Transfer Medicated, Vaginal Births = 8

Combined Transfer Medicated, Cesarean Births = 2

Combined Transfer Unmedicated then OR for Cesarean = 13

Combined Transfer Unmedicated, Vaginal Births = 2

  C/S Rate for all OOH Births:  11.36%

  Transfer Rate for all OOH Births :  19%

  C/S Rate for Transfers of OOH Births:  60%

 

PLANNED HOSPITAL BIRTHS  (101)

OB Attended = 75; Family Physician Attended = 6; CNM Attended = 19; Other = 1

Combined Spontaneous, Unmedicated, Unmanaged Vaginal Births = 57

Combined Managed, Unmedicated, Vaginal births (i.e. AROM) = 6

Combined Managed (includes pitocin/induction only) Vaginal Births = 25**

Combined Managed Resulting in Cesarean Births = 11**

Combined Spontaneous, Unmedicated, Unmanaged Resulting in C/S = 2

   C/S Rate for all Planned Hospital Births: 12.88%

   C/S Rate for all Managed Hospital Births**:  26.19%

   Percentage of Hospital Births Managed**:  41.58%

 

We did not penalize hospitals by including cesareans from homebirth transfers in their statistics.  We did however include c/s for breech in their statistics because medical training trends have forced those cesareans by no longer training medical practitioners to catch breech babies.

Amber Marlowe anticipated an easy delivery when she went into labor on January 14, 2004. But after a routine ultrasound, doctors at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, in Pennsylvania, decided that the baby–at what looked like 13 pounds–was too big to deliver vaginally and told her that she needed to have a cesarean. The mom-to-be, however, wasn’t convinced: After all, she’d given birth to her six previous kids the natural way, including other large babies. And monitoring showed that the fetus was in no apparent distress.

After she said no to surgery, doctors spent hours trying to change her mind. When that didn’t work, the hospital went to court, seeking an order to become her unborn baby’s legal guardian. A judge ruled that the doctors could perform a “medically necessary” c-section against the mom’s will, if she returned to that hospital. Meanwhile, she and her husband checked out against the doctors’ advice and went to another hospital, where she later gave birth vaginally to a healthy 11-pound girl. “When I found out about the court order, I couldn’t believe the hospital would do something like that. It was scary and very shocking,” says Marlowe. “All this just because I didn’t want a c-section.” ~ Could You Be Forced To Have A C-Section?, Lisa Collier Cool, Baby Talk Magazine

Although the c-section rate for planned out of hospital births appears to be the same as that for planned hospital births here is the difference:  the c-section rate for planned hospital births doubles when the labors are managed (ANY intervention is used).

The possibility of a cesarean section should be discussed with every patient as part of the patient’s birth plan, with contingent consent for a cesarean section obtained early in the woman’s pregnancy. The woman must sign the consent form herself; her husband should not be asked to sign it. At the time the cesarean section becomes necessary, the woman should be asked to resign the original consent form, indicating that the conditions for needing a cesarean section have now occurred. The fact that the mother may have had some pain-relieving drugs does not render her legally incompetent to acknowledge the need for the procedure. Her husband has no authority to sign the consent to her surgery unless she has given him this right in a power of attorney. If the mother is medically unable to consent because she is psychotic or comatose, the surgery may go forward based on the consent signed as part of the birth plan. – Excerpted from LSU’s Law Center Medical and Public Health Law Site

Practitioners presenting the information for acquiring a mother’s informed consent are not always comfortable with how to explain the procedure they want to do and why they want to do said procedure.

It isn’t always easy for birth practitioners to call their colleagues’ errors to public attention and in the process perhaps admit that they themselves crave a better quality of training.  

It is necessary to call attention to and demand spontaneous, normal, unmedicated, vaginal birth over an intact perineum be the gold standard for birth care.  We do so for the greater benefit to global maternity care.  Independent Childbirth educator members are at the forefront of making a difference.  When women are educated as to all of their birth care choices including planned out of hospital birth our combined c-section rate is 12.02%. The World Health Organization declares no region in the world should have a c-section rate greater than 10% to 15%; based on the cesarean rate for managed births we know our combined cesarean rate could be improved dramatically with increased use of better birth care practices by medically trained personnel.

*In our statistics there were 7 successful VBACs and 2 successful VBA2C; 2 VBACs became repeat CS for a successful VBAC rate of 81.82%.  There were 29 waterbirths.  There was one vaginal breech birth while 5 other breech presentations were automatic cesareans.  All 7 unassisted births were successful, healthy outcomes.  There were four sets of twin births, two with both vaginal but very managed labor, one scheduled c/s for breech at 31 weeks, one singleton born vaginally at term with sibling stillborn vaginally and it was known sibling had died inutero but mother chose to continue pregnancy for her other daughter’s health.  Learn more about gentle stillbirths and remembrance at Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

One thing we loved about the documentary Orgasmic Birth, is how it complements Business of Being Born’s consumerism awareness and vice versa because the woman herself was the focus.  Her power.  Her ability to birth.  No focus on who is catching the baby.  AND…the births take place in America in the mother’s own time and her space.  A Disney film attempted to show waterbirth with dolphins and took place in scenery meant to be exotic and far away, but took a toll on both the dolphins and the women and families birthing in the name of cinematography in the process instead.  Disney, we don’t need to sell birth in an infomercial, but birth is of global interest.

Practitioners are selling fear of birth.  The truth is birth is simple and we do more harm just by using words to put a fear of the unknown in place rather than the empowerment of experiencing the new.  Birth is not an unknown UNLESS you throw interventions into the mix.  Then you’re on a whole ‘nother flowchart.

I think we, natural childbirth educators and advocates, are accused of “selling” natural childbirth by careproviders annoyed that they’ve lost another customer. 

When birth is allowed to just happen it is not only an experience of wonderment for all in its presence it is also an experience in appreciation for a woman to be “a” woman, one not one of many.  For a baby to be the individual human welcomed, not one of many.

I loved “Kerstin’s Birth Story” which is the birth story of our own Olivia Sporinsky now living in Texas with her husband and family on his military base.  Olivia tells us of her birth experience in Germany where the careproviders believed something definite about American women.  Still, they were open to allowing Olivia to birth her way even though it differed from what they believed to be true about American women and how they birthed.

I recalled Henci Goer during the NIH conference on elective cesarean.  The panel was quick to say “more research is needed”, the typical wishy-washy answer so as not raise the ire of an industry that has a heavy interest in the public perception of cesareans.  However, Henci, in her usual to the point manner, asked, “What are careproviders telling women about labor, birth?”  Her viewpoint being if we only look at “elective” cesarean as a “whatever you’d like” versus talking to women about labor as a healthy and safe process; VBAC labor as one where we support natural labor as the healthiest route even more so; talking to women about how normal it is to have trepidation about natural birth and recommend resources for them to learn more about the birth process, well then, of course you breed more fear of birth.  Careproviders themselves are actually talking themselves into being afraid of the laboring woman as pure risk.

Here’s to you Olivia and Kerstin.  May the international birth community and women around the world know that technology is good to have but do not attach technology as a necessity for American women, for any woman.  America’s maternity care has misplaced faith in technology and other countries need not follow.  There are American women who are not afraid of birth and every day these women are a hands-on lesson for society and practitioners every day.  Humble and wiser is the practitioner who gives the mother her due for a most satisfying labor only she can do.

In January 2005 I found out that I was expecting my 3rd child.  Being stationed in Germany with my husband I was excited about giving birth outside of the US.  I was assigned a German OB and also sought out a midwife.  Home birth was finally an option with my insurance.  The funny thing was that the insurance insisted that I continue to see the OB even though I was seeing a midwife.  I eventually stopped seeing the OB because it was a waste of my time to go to 2 appointments for the exact same thing. 
 
In my 8th month the midwife informed me that due to some legal technicalities she could not attend my birth on the Army base.  It is considered US soil, and there was some question about whether she could lose her license if she attended a birth there.  I would have been the first home birth on the base.  I then returned to the OB who sent me to register at my choice of hospitals.  I chose St Hildegardis-Krankenhaus I would be attended by midwives at the hospital and an OB would only be called in if there were a problem.
 
On September 8th I drove a friend home, about 20 minutes from my home.  On the way back I had a strong contraction.  I thought to myself, “if I have many more like this before I get home I won’t be able to drive”.  I returned home, climbed the 3 flights to my apartment and sat down on the couch.  A couple minutes later I had another contraction that made me jump off of the couch.  I said to my husband that that was the 2nd strong contraction like that I had had.  It was now about 9:45 in the evening.  He asked if we should call the neighbor to come take our other 2 for the night and I said no, it will probably be a while yet.  The first 2 contractions were about 20 minutes apart and the next few were strong, not painful and about 10 minutes apart.  I spent my time sitting on the toilet, the most comfortable position for me, but also a good position since it opened the pelvis.  I prayed that this labor, which felt so different from my 2 previous, would go quickly.  God granted my prayer request.  Around 10:20 or so I said he needed to call the neighbors and let them know he would be bringing the kids over.  When he asked for the number, and wanted me to call, I couldn’t form a complete thought.  I pointed him to the list of emergency numbers to call.  After he carried our second child over, I realized I could not wait for him to come back upstairs to get me.  I gathered my bag, his wallet and the keys and was waiting in the parking lot for him.  He looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, but I knew we needed to leave then.  The normally 26 minute drive took 45 minutes that night, and the car ride through the country to the “big city” was painful.  Every bump in the road hurt. 
 
We arrived at the hospital, around 11:20, and he dropped me at the door and then went to park the car.  I rang the bell for the night watchman (not all German hospitals have “emergency” rooms, we went to a private hospital that handled scheduled procedures and birth), told him in my very broken German that I was in labor.  As he went to get a wheelchair I waved him off and said I couldn’t sit anymore.  We made our way slowly upstairs, pausing every 2 minutes or so for a contraction.  When we arrived in the labor area, I rang the bell and told the midwife I was American.  She returned with an English speaking midwife who watched me through one contraction and said we needed to be in the birth room.  The next words she said shocked me.  She said, “we should call the anesthesiologist, yes?”  I responded with “No, please don’t”  She then said, “you are American, yes?”.  I said that I was but I really preferred to do this without any drugs.  It wasn’t until later that I realized the full implication of what she had asked me.  She asked if they could check to see how far I was dilated, and I agreed, again, curiosity getting the better of me.  I think I was 6 or 7.  I requested that they break my waters, my other 2 had come so quickly after the release.  She grudgingly agreed and did it the German way–no amniohook, just pinched the bag during a contraction and popped it–never again will I request that!  They wanted to get a good read on the baby, so I allowed them to hook up the EFM.  The room (at the hospital) was wonderful.  I had all the tools at my fingertips that I needed.  The midwives then left me to labor quietly, peacefully.  I spent most of my time swaying, doing the belly dance, and chanting “baby out, baby out”.  My husband wonderful as he is, is not a great labor companion.  He kept saying that he wished he could get the baby out.  I didn’t want him to do anything, I just needed to say it.  Suddenly there was a flurry of activity in the room and I realized that they were pulling out the internal monitor.  I couldn’t verbalize that I knew where the baby was, that all was ok with her/him.  There was no way that I was letting them screw that electrode into my baby’s head.  I knew it meant that my 4 hour recovery stay would turn into 24.  All I could say was that I would have 1 more contraction and push.  I climbed on the bed on all fours, had one contraction, rolled over and in a half-sitting position pushed before the midwife knew what was happening.  My husband was frantically ringing for the other midwife to come in.  She ran in just as my baby’s head was born.  They all stood there and stared at me.  After a short time, 2 minutes, she that I needed to push again to birth the body.  I’m not sure if she was concerned that the shoulders were stuck, or what, but when I felt the urge, I birthed the body.  They allowed me to reach down and pick up the baby, who was a girl.  She was born at 12:28 am.  They nestled us skin to skin and covered us with warm blankets.  Then came the next crazy (in my opinion) question:  “did you remember to bring your own formula?”  I pointed at my breasts and said “I have 2 of these and they work great!”  The lights were turned up a bit when they took baby Kerstin across the room to weigh her and do her exams.  They dressed her and brought her back where she happily nursed away.  They continued to bring us warm blankets until about 5:30 when they took me to my room, holding the baby in my bed.  I then had the option to take her to the nursery while I showered.  I shared a room with 2 other women, neither of whom had her baby in the room and both were sleeping.  I showered, got my baby, and ate breakfast.  While I waited for  my husband to come pick us up, I noticed that there were several nurses who kept pausing at our door.  I started listening to their conversations (oh, the joy of understanding a foreign language) and realized they were all talking about me–the American who didn’t have drugs and was breastfeeding.  I also insisted on leaving that morning, 9 hours after her birth, we left for home.  The Germans typically stay for a week until the birth certificate is ready, they leave rested, and prepared to care for a baby. 
 
I finally understood understood why the midwives were so surprised that I refused the drugs.  Most of the American spouses who deliver there demand drugs, the German women don’t.  I started asking all the Germans I knew, they all had home births, or non-medicated hospital births.  It also made me so sad that American women are seen as weak, not able to handle labor.  The Germans don’t see it as painful, just a necessary process to have a baby.  So what if it hurts a little?  They accomplished it.  I’ve often said if I were to have another baby I would hop a flight across the Atlantic if I could not have a home birth. 

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