The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. Just got this book today. I've only made it to page 35, and I can tell it's going to be an interesting read. So far, Jennifer Block has been talking a lot about the history of medically managed childbirth. I knew some of the things she's writing about, but I'm amazed at just how much I didn't know. The best part? She has gazillions of references. Everything is backed up by research. One example, electronic fetal monitoring. I knew that there's ample research that shows that continuous electronic fetal monitoring during labor does not change fetal outcome, but has, in fact, been shown to double or even triple the woman's risk of ending up with a c-section. What I didn't know was that this research first started showing up 30 years ago! Just a few short years after the monitors were introduced to labor and delivery units in hospitals. 30 YEARS! Yet it is part of the "standard of care", and women often have to put up a fight if they don't want to be monitored continually. Another example is the liberal use of pitocin. One thing I didn't know is that pitocin use during labor can actually increase a woman's risk for post-partum hemorrhage, in turn requiring another injection after birth. As far as I can tell, after 35 short pages, this book should become required reading for women who are pregnant, or are considering becoming pregnant. So many times, we talk about "choice" in childbirth. There is lots of debate about whether women should be able to choose induction for non-medical reasons, or even elect to have a c-section. There is a general consensus that women should be free to choose pain medication during labor, including the epidural. But when it comes to choosing FEWER interventions, women often fight an uphill battle (I experienced this myself when giving birth to my daughter 2.5 years ago). Furthermore, choice should be based on informed consent. All too often, "informed" means "my doctor said it's safe". Few women are truly informed about risks vs. benefits of medical procedures routinely used in hospitals. By being strapped to their beds, hooked up to IV's and monitors, their water artificially broken, labor becomes a daunting task for women. No wonder we so often hear "I loved my epidural", "the epidural saved my life", "I wouldn't ever want to give birth without an epidural". Giving birth without pain medication is not a heroic act, neither are women who birth without pain meds martyrs. They're not stronger than other women, and they don't have higher pain threshholds. What makes a natural (pain-med free) birth successful is the support a woman receives. It's the preparation she puts into getting ready for birth. It's the environment she births in. When women are allowed to move freely, and are not subjected to routine procedures like amniotomy or supplemental pitocin, labor becomes much more manageable. I didn't get suddenly stronger between birthing my first child and birthing my third. My pain threshhold didn't change. Yet the births were like night and day. With my first, I was strapped to bed, my water was broken, and I was in excruciating pain (ending with me getting an epidural). With my third, I was free to move around as I wished. I had learned some deep relaxation techniques to help me breathe through contractions. I had a supportive midwife who spent the last three hours of my labor right by my side. My water wasn't broken until the end of my labor, and only after I had given my consent. Not once was I in excruciating pain. It was an intense experience, but not painful. It was empowering. It was exhilarating. It was wonderful to feel my "natural chemistry" do the work. I had been able to overcome my fear of childbirth, and welcomed it instead. Both experiences I will never forget. Both births ended with a healthy baby, but this mom felt much more healthy after birth #3 (both physically and emotionally).
Now, I need to get back to reading. There's lots to learn. :o)