Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is it Safer or is it Normal?

These days, although the topics surrounding childbirth have become controversial, the statistics are indisputable that it is safer for a women to give birth naturally. But what does that mean?
The World Health Organization states that 90-95% of women can give birth normally and free from interventions. So if that is the case, then why does the U.S. have a C-section rate of 31.1%, an induction rate of 16%, another 16% are "helped along" with synthetic oxytocin, as well as staggering rates for other interventions?
If you look back at birth over the ages, a woman in ancient times didn't have many options.  There was no agony of decision over hiring a doctor or a midwife, she most likely had experienced women to support her. She didn't have to decide to give birth at the hospital, her home, or a birth center. She didn't have to fill out a birth plan and hope it was followed. Her biggest quandary was choosing a soft patch of moss or an animal skin to squat over! So what changed?
Women are still women. The complications with childbirth, though few and far between, are still the same. What changed was when normal became complicated. That's when things went wrong. Women these days, upon arrival to the hospital, are put into wheelchairs and then into bed. They are poked, prodded, and monitored by any and all means. If they are not "progressing" fast enough there are drugs for that. If those drugs cause too much pain, there are drugs for the pain. If the drugs for the pain from the drugs to help progression cause the mother's heart rate to become too low, there are drugs for that. And if all else fails, there is always a Cesarean. This has become our "normal".
If a woman chooses not to follow this standard of procedure and wants to birth her baby in her own time, on her terms, in whatever place she decides, this is called "natural childbirth". People will question her about the safety of her choices, they will question how she will deal with the pain, and either admire her courage or condemn her recklessness. After her baby is born they will both be more alert than most mothers and babies, the baby will score higher than most babies on the Apgar, have less trouble than most babies with breastfeeding, and the mother will have a quicker recovery than most mothers. But are they really "more" alert, scoring "higher", having "less" trouble, and recovering "quicker"? Or is it just normal?

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