“Yes, we do make bets on when your doula will leave, your birth plan will go out the window, and you’ll beg for an Epidural. And we go ahead and set up the OR. Happy Nurses Week!”

So one of my Facebook friends is a labor and delivery nurse, and she posted this on Facebook as a meme. I’m not friends with her per se… it’s one of those things where we’re friends on Facebook because we went to church together 15 or so years ago.

I take great umbridge with what she posted. I think it’s highly disrespectful and demeaning to make a game out of a laboring woman’s discouragement. You know *why* laboring women in hospitals will sometimes throw their birth-plans out the window and beg for epidurals? One of the biggest reasons is because we are forced into a “standard of care” rather than evidence-based care.

Many times, we go into a hospital and are immediately turned into sheep. We have to dress in hospital gowns and are subjected to “routine” interventions that studies are showing as questionable medical procedures. We are hooked up to I.V.’s and continuous fetal monitoring, and have our labors either induced or augmented with Pitocin, which means that we have to labor in bed. Sometimes that’s even the hospital’s standard of care anyway; the laboring woman must stay in bed. When we aren’t “allowed” to move about freely, we can’t accommodate the pain. It hurts WAY worse to labor laying down in bed. Not only that, but when you aren’t allowed to move around during labor (think sitting on birth balls, swaying, walking, and just moving around), the baby has a harder time moving down into the birth canal. *Gravity* is a laboring mother’s best friend. Also, movement during labor helps baby get into an optimal position for birth. For example, if the baby is sunny-side up, then movement will help him shift to face down.  I came across a very interesting Consumer Reports article saying EXACTLY what I’ve been saying for years about how some of these interventions are completely unnecessary and only increase, rather than prevent, our risk of things going wrong.

Also, birthing on one’s back is the worst possible position ever. Not only are you pushing against gravity rather than with it, but your tailbone has a harder time moving out of the way to accommodate baby, making the birth canal 20% smaller, and leading to the widely-embraced misconception that the baby won’t fit, labor has stalled, or mom’s body is unable to give birth. Granted, sometimes these things really DO happen, but women aren’t given a chance to birth in different positions or move around to give themselves & their babies a chance.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and I don’t want it to sound like I am painting everyone with the same brush. However, I truly believe that for the vast majority of us, our bodies won’t make babies we can’t deliver ourselves. Once our labors and deliveries are turned into a medical event and become medically managed, we are saying our bodies are incapable of handling birth without medical aid. This introduces doubt and fear, and it disempowers us. When we introduce drugs such as Pitocin (which is man-made Oxytocin used to induce or augment labor, mentioned above) into our system, we don’t get the endorphins Nature gives us through the Oxytocin our own bodies make while in labor, and neither does the baby, which can have a serious impact. And even more disturbing is the term “Pit to distress” that I’ve come across lately. When you think about it, such high levels of Pitocin causing such strong contractions can’t be safe. When contractions are unnaturally strong, the baby can’t get enough oxygen. What happens when our brains are denied sufficient amounts of oxygen? Parts of our brain can die. This is just me talking, but think about all the neurological problems that occur with oxygen deprivation to the brain. In fact, Autism is a neurological disorder, so how do we know drugs such as Pitocin, especially when it’s “cranked up,” doesn’t play a part in the staggering rise of Autism that we’re seeing? Likewise with immediate umbilical cord clamping. The baby’s blood is in the placenta, and when the cord is clamped and cut immediatey after birth, how do we know that denying the baby the iron-rich, oxygen-rich placental blood doesn’t contribute to lack of oxygen to the brain?

This is why I feel it’s so important to do birth the way God and nature intended. By changing what nature intended, we really don’t know what we’re messing with and what the long-term consequences are. And yes, sometimes these medical interventions are necessary and life-saving, and we are fortunate to have them when we need them. But using them when it’s not an emercency is just a risk I can’t take.

So yeah, I find the quote I started this post with incredibly offensive, disrespectful, and arrogant. And blithely saying they have the OR prepped for the inevitable c-section is just awful. America has an astounding c-section rate of one out of every three women. That’s about 33% of babies being born surgically. While many are medically necessary and save lives, most others are not. There is nothing “wrong” with c-sections or women who choose to have them, but it’s a major abdominal surgery and comes with serious risks. And each c-section a mother has increases her risk of serious and life-threatening complications. VBAC’s (vaginal birth after Cesarean  also come with their own risks, but seems to be less risky overall with way more benefits than repeat c-sections.

But anyway, I said all that because it really bothers me that my Facebook friend posted something like that. That is *exactly* why I’m going with a birthing center this time around, as long as everything goes well of course, and seeing a midwife. Thankfully, there are MANY wonderful, supportive nurses out there who advocate for their patients, but unfortunately there are those who are like my Facobook friend, and I don’t want to take that risk. It seems like she has little respect for laboring women and spends her energy “making bets” rather than being supportive and encouraging when a laboring woman is feeling discouraged. Me, my baby, and my choices for birth are more likely to be respected at the birthing center I’m going to. Interventions with little to no benefit to me & my baby won’t be forced on me as a routine “standard of care.”

Its really heartbreaking the amount of disrespect that’s rampant towards laboring women in hospitals, mostly by some power-happy OB/GYN’s. It’s almost as if we’ve been turned into cows on an assembly line. Get us in, get us out so that we don’t interfere with the doc’s golf tournament or dinner party. It’s as if once we go onto labor, we lose our autonomy, our right to make informed decisions and informed refusal of certain interventions and procedures based on what we feel is best for us and our babies. Nowhere else in medicine is this evident except in obstetrics. It’s sad.

I hope things are better when my children are having children.

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