When I think of The Extraordinary Machine in its reference to the female body, pregnancy and labor is the ultimate showcase of how truly awesome our bodies are. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people, with women possibly (and ironically) being the largest demographic, who think and act otherwise.
A majority of women in our country go into labor at a hospital which is typically the place where she will find herself attached to monitors and intravenous fluids alike, be administered synthetic chemicals because her labor isn’t progressing as her doctor sees fit, ultimately has an epidural shoved into her spine and is then instructed when to push because she cannot figure it out for herself. When the baby is born, the cord is clamped haphazardly, the baby is taken from his mother prematurely, weighed and measured, washed and prodded, poked with a Vitamin K shot and is then temporarily blinded by erythromycin in the eyes. After numerous interventions, the infant, who has been subsequently drugged via the epidural, is given back to his mother who barely knows up from down. This is the standard for pregnancy and labor in our hospitals and the fact that it doesn’t disturb more women is puzzling to me. But who’s fault is it really?
Currently, there are at least 169 OB/GYN, postpartum and newborn diagnostic codes. These numbers label “issues” like breech presentation, false labor and failure to progress. In other words, these codes are examples of the “problems” the medical field gets to slap on you for insurance purposes when you don’t fit inside their standard of care. Frighteningly enough, there are 101 diagnostic codes to distinguish the location of neoplasms (cancer) and 71 for cardiovascular disease. When it comes to having babies, why has allopathic medicine duped us into believing that pregnancy and labor is more of a disease than a natural process?
According to the CDC, in 2008, women who’s births were attended by a medical doctor in the U.S. were administered epidurals as a form of intervention at a staggering rate of nearly 65%. Additionally, in a 2006 survey of nearly 1,600 women, 86% used pain-killing drugs and nearly 45% of the practitioners present at the time of labor were reported to have tried to induce labor. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that interventions like induction via oxytocin (pitocin) aren’t as safe for the neonate as we originally thought. The study revealed that the use of pitocin to induce or progress labor has been found to be an independent risk factor for unexpected admission to the NICU lasting more than 24 hours for full-term infants. [Pitocin] also correlated with Apgar scores of fewer than seven at five minutes. But hey, can’t we just assume that with all this monitoring, drugs and surgery we are performing, we can be assured that this is the healthier way to deliver babies?
Even though the United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, its infant mortality rate ranks equivalent to Poland and worse than Hungary. We are twenty-six among thirty countries ranked by The National Center for Health Statistics. IF YOU MISSED THAT, WE SUCK. If we had a report card and were graded by a percent in relation to the other 30 industrialized countries we are ranked with, we would receive a 13%. That’s like, an F—–. Why is it that we are seemingly convinced that our bodies, with all their infinite wisdom, have the capacity to conceive, develop and carry another being inside of us successfully, but when it comes time to labor, our bodies are stupid, completely insufficient and require interventions?
When was the last time your obstetrician told you that your body is smart enough to actually enlarge its own heart and lungs due to its increased work load, or that your uterus produces upwards of a pint of extra fluid to help protect your baby? Did you know that you produce almost 40% more blood volume to help circulate more red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body during pregnancy? Were you ever reassured that during an undisturbed birth, the hormone oxytocin (the body’s natural pain-killer) is released at astronomical rates, helping make labor sustainable and pain more manageable? How about the fact that beta-endorphins are secreted during labor to help increase your alertness and can actually shift your consciousness to increase your focus if you allow your body the chance at a natural birth? All of these things happen naturally because we are designed to be an Extraordinary Machine, but we continue to rely and electively opt for multiple interventions to make the birthing process quick and painless. In the end, aren’t we really just shorting ourselves?
I could spend a great deal of time discussing statistics and how dangerous interventions completely obliterate the normal and healthy physiologic process of pregnancy and labor but I intend to write future posts on specific interventions like cesarean sections, epidurals and erythromycin. I, however, want to offer to you a few avenues on how to perform like THE EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE:
1. GET A MIDWIFE. This is my number one piece of advice to any and all expecting mothers. Midwives, depending on proper certification, have hospital rights in every state in America. They are trained to do nearly everything an OB/GYN can, including prescribe medications and perform minor surgeries. They statistically spend more time with their patients, personally coach women through their labors and offer safer alternatives to pain management and birthing difficulties. They also have a dramatically higher satisfaction rates with their patients than do obstetricians and osteopaths. I will definitely be dedicating a blog to these wonderful men and women.
2. QUIT UNDERMINING THE PROCESS. I have heard so many women say that they are “trying” for a natural birth. What other kind is there, really? I was in labor for over 33 hours, for which of four I pushed. I was exhausted and disheartened but never was the answer to our situation drugs or surgery. The difference between women who are “trying” for a natural birth and the ones who succeed is this: they have MADE UP THEIR MINDS that their baby is coming naturally, hell or high water (besides for pathological emergencies), because they TRUST and KNOW that BIRTH IS A NATURAL PROCESS.
3. GET EDUCATED. The best place to start is by seeking out women who have had successful natural births and practitioners who support these women. Listen to their stories and allow them to take precedent and high priority on how it is you view birth. In addition, find out what these women are doing differently. It is very typical that this demographic of individuals is cultivating habits that are suppressed by the medical world. Things like avoiding ultrasounds, flu shots and medications during pregnancy, being under the constant care of a chiropractor and keeping a strict exercise regimen. Read books published by midwives and chiropractors instead of osteopaths and medical doctors. They will give you a much better insight into natural child birth and health care options and they rarely utilize fear as leverage to manipulate decisions. I personally recommend “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” by Sarah J Buckley and “Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta” by Ina May Gaskin. These books will ROCK. YOUR. WORLD.
Ultimately, the birth you have is almost completely up to you and I would hope you would be fully informed and comfortable with the decision(s) you make. At a later date, I would be honored to share with you the birth story of our first son, Trigg, because it is an awesome testament of The Extraordinary Machine. I would also like to encourage you that having a heightened awareness of the potential of the female body during your pregnancy is powerful and can ultimately give to you the birth that you are entitled to and designed for.
*** Any statistical data I have published can be produced if asked for.