Thursday, October 15, 2009

Medical Science vs Natural Childbirth

I sat here to write the story of our first planned VBAC and realized as I scanned my other posts that I had to tell just a little more history to help explain the attitudes of the times.
During the mid 70's early 80's... our country was changing in many ways. In the medical world, Obstetrical medicine was becoming more specialized with the development of many subspecialties including  "Perinatology" and "Neonatology".  Perinatology by definition is the study of the unborn fetus and recently born infant during the first several weeks of life. It was the changing concern of obstetricians from a sole focus on the mother's health to one which is balanced between the mother's health and the unborn or newborn. ACOG started to offer a specialty certification exam for perinatology  in 1974, and in 1977, the Society of Perinatal Obstetricians (now called the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine) was formed.  The term used to describe a Perinatologist today is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist.  This specialty is the management of high-risk pregnancies and the assessment and treatment of the fetus. Neonatology (established 1975 by the AAP) is the study of a highly specialized care of the newly born infant especially the ill or premature newborn infant usually hospital based in NICU's.
Young women were becoming more and more interested in a natural approach to childbirth. People all over the country were driving maternity services to offer the availability of birth options for these moms. The ICEA [International Childbirth Education Association] came to our town in the late 70's and a local chapter was born. “Freedom of choice based on knowledge of alternatives” in childbirth was a motto on their pamphlet information. There were some individuals in the community going for the new certification of childbirth educators. They were educating some new mom's about birth options...... that we, the staff hadn't learned about let alone developed as an option for our patients. Many on the staff scorned this movement. It seemed to me that these changes were all happening at the same time. We were learning about advances in observing and monitoring the well-being of both the laboring mother and her unborn fetus, preventing complications etc.... arising from the research studies done from the emerging sub-specialties. We had one fetal monitor and purchased another. As soon as the specialists found that continuous fetal monitoring was advantageous to picking up potential problems in advance, to possibly avoid or prepare for complications, there was a natural childbirth revolt against the constant recumbent positioning that EFM (electronic fetal monitoring) seemed to require. There were more examples as with IV fluids or access and other routine procedures. The nurses didn't understand. They were just trying to do what science and our doctors were telling them...[though not always willingly as some were afraid of the newer technology.] To them, this group pushing a natural childbirth movement was the same population that had just wanted to be given drugs, put to sleep and "wake me when it's over" crowd.
I realize that although these advances in science and the movement of young people seeking natural childbirth options seemed to happen so close to the same time in my world, it probably didn't happen this way for all of the country. Here, I really think it probably greatly contributed to the attitudes of nurses and doctors I worked with at the time. Those professionals who just couldn't relinquish control. They were learning more about the science of birth, of monitoring and couldn't quite allow or see how the "natural" component could fit in. Those individuals often were guilty of the abuse of professional power, the use of misinformation and the blindness and arrogance to maintain control of the birth process... taking it away from the mother.  Those professionals who should have known better.  They did not know of the rights of childbearing Women, or of general patient rights for that matter. Unfortunately-- there are some who still have these control issues.
That's another story....

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