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Ode to the Toad McBirth Stay on Your Feet Hospital Birth

Things Your OB Doesn't Want You to Know

Your obstetrician will happily tell you about the improved maternal mortality rates in the past century, crediting medicine with the improvement. What he doesn't want you to know is that most of the maternal deaths in the previous century were from childbed fever - an illness that was caused by the doctors themselves! This fatal disease was even reported in the 1700's as being remarkably infectious in the lying-in hospitals, yet it did not occur at home births.

Once the germ problem was discovered doctors improved their aseptic techniques to the point that by the 1940's every normal, healthy mother was disinfected and purged like a surgical patient. Not only was this uncomfortable, unnerving, and unnecessary; it made matters worse. It was finally discovered after years of perineal shaving that the practice CAUSED more infection than it prevented. Your doctor wants you to forget that too. Even though doctors still disinfect the area during delivery to avoid contamination, there is now some evidence that it actually may benefit the baby's immune system to come in contact with normal vaginal germs and even feces.

Your obstetrician doesn't want you to know that it was doctors and their technology that caused blindness in low birth weight babies. He wants you to forget that they used to prescribe DES to pregnant women and claimed it was a safe drug with no side effects. He hopes you have forgotten about thalidomide, the drug given to pregnant women which caused horrible birth defects. Your doctor wants you to trust and believe in him.

Your doctor will emphasize the risks of home birth to scare you into having your baby in the hospital. He doesn't want you to know the risks of giving birth in the hospital with him in attendance; after all it's his livelihood and his workplace. Besides, his obstetrical training teaches that childbirth is dangerous and requires medical assistance. Most doctors are nice people and want the best for their patients. Having faith in modern medicine they believe that the way they manage deliveries is the best way for both mother and child. It appears obstetricians are taught that the woman's body is not designed for giving birth, and requires their surgical intervention to correct this problem. For example, their obstetrical Bible warns of the risks of NOT intervening during a normal birth:

"This encirclement of the largest diameter of the fetal head by the vulvar ring is known as crowning. Unless an episiotomy has already been made, the perineum by now is extremely thin, and almost at the point of rupture with each contraction. At the same time the anus becomes greatly stretched and protuberant, and the anterior wall of the rectum may be easily seen through it. Failure to perform an episiotomy by this time only invites perineal lacerations and some degree of permanent relaxation of the pelvic floor with its possible sequelae of cystocele, rectocele, and uterine prolapse."

There is a common misconception that women stopped giving birth at home because hospital birth was much safer. That is far from the truth, according to the research done by the Ontario Government. Due to consumer demand, the Canadian Government set up a task force on the Implementation of Midwifery in 1987. The report summarized:

"One thing that is clear from many different mortality surveys... is that the progression from the popular birth culture to modern obstetrics took place during a time when, for more than three decades, medical birth in hospital was statistically more dangerous than birth accomplished at home in the traditional manner. The popular notion that midwives yielded to modern obstetrics because it was shown to be safer is therefore in error."

The statistics they gathered in their research showed time and time again that in every report, every study of home vs. hospital births both in Canada and other countries, there were always lower mortality rates in home births. The shocking truth is, mortality rates were higher in doctor-attended home births than midwife-attended home births, and highest in hospitals.

Physicians liked to explain the embarrassing statistics away by saying it was the harder cases that ended up in the hospital. But in fact, since doctors were more expensive, only the upper class could afford them. Therefore it was often the poorest women that had their babies at home with midwives; those with inadequate nutrition and no prenatal care, in unsterile conditions, with poor lighting and no plumbing or other conveniences.

Furthermore, in rural areas the "midwives" were often quite inexperienced, since they would only attend a few births a year. They were simply women who came to help out their neighbours when they were in need, knowing that the favour would be returned when their time came. The doctor often resented the midwives who received little or no pay for their services, while cutting into what the doctors perceived to be their business.

Because only the upper class could afford doctors, midwives became associated more and more with the lower class. One doctor expounded on this belief by describing midwives to his colleagues as "untrained, unkempt, gin soaked harridans unfit for the work they were supposed to do, and a menace to the health of any woman whom they might attend."

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