05 February 2009

Birthing choices

As much as I don't like doctors, I have to hand it to my maternity doctor, she's not being pushy about my birthing choices. I have found that entirely too many people, doctors, nurses, other moms, are really bad about not respecting the decisions women make.

For example, some time back, there was an article on cbc.ca about the rate of c-sections in Canada. (This wasn't actually the exact story I was looking for, but it'll do. And the comments are similar). Immediately, the comments are negative toward women who choose to have c-sections, and there are women (women!) saying that elective c-sections shouldn't be allowed. In the most recent article's comments, there were comments denigrating women as "too posh to push", and a ton of unsubstantiated comments about how this is a trend, on the rise. Prove it, I say.

I completely agree that the rate of c-section is particularly high here, and probably needn't be. But blaming the women getting them is utterly ridiculous. I can tell you right now that if I had walked into my doctor's office at 38 weeks and said "I’m 38 weeks pregnant and I don't want to be pregnant anymore" as commenter Carleigh seems to think we're doing more and more, I'd have been laughed out of the office. It wouldn't have happened. In fact, I'm a good candidate for a repeat c-section, and my doctor said flat out that if I went into labour, I would not be given a c-section even if I asked for it, that I would have to go through the labour until *they* decided the c-section was necessary. Hmmph.

So then, what is the reason for all these c-sections? Are they unnecessary? Some are, certainly. Doctors get antsy about getting sued, and want to be extra careful, so they section before necessary. Too many interventions along the way (epidurals, for example, raise the c-section rate quite a bit). Inductions before they're really necessary. Or hell, inductions even when they are necessary REALLY raise the rate. And then there's the "elective" section. All this means is a planned c-section. Sometimes these are planned because of absolute necessity - placenta previa, and feet first breech for example. (Okay, so there are things one can do to turn a breech baby, but let's assume those have been tried). And some of them are planned because of almost necessity. Like a previous c-section with a vertical cut - almost no doctor will risk VBAC after a vertical cut. Or if the placenta has grown over the scar from a previous section, raising the risk of a uterine rupture. There are some planned c-sections for good reasons that aren't necessarily necessary. For example, a woman has had a previous section after a long labour because of a large headed baby, and ultrasound shows this one to have an even larger head. Risking uterine rupture to do a VBAC mightn't appeal. On the other hand, there's nothing saying this labour wouldn't be completely different, and that the baby might birth a lot more easily. Finally, there's the c-section for convenience. It's not going to happen without a previous c-section. Unless the doctor is a complete quack, and God knows there are a number of them out there!

So, there are a lot of things that drive up the rates. And that sucks. Because frankly, vaginal birth is the way to go if you can do it, and most women are smart enough to know that. It's way less risky to both the mother and the baby, and a hell of a lot easier to recover from (again, in most cases). C-sections are at a very increased risk for breathing problems for the baby and infection and/or hemoraghing for the mother. Even VBAC is safer in most cases than c-section. Although uterine rupture happens in about 1% of cases, that's still less of a complication rate than serious problems related to c-section.

So yeah, I understand why people get grumpy about women deciding to do this without good reason, but I gotta ask, who decides what good reason is? In my opinion, it ought to be the woman and her doctor together, i.e. the doctor makes a recommendation, and the woman educates herself on the issue and makes up her own mind. That's what I'm doing. My doctor has made her recommendation - without being pushy, God Bless her! - and I am doing what I think is best, regardless of whether that is what she says.

But you should just hear (see?) the things that women say to each other on pregnancy forums. Should a woman so much as mention she's having a c-section, she's guaranteed to have at least 3 people demand to know why, and then innundate her with links about why she's chosen the wrong thing. And God forbid she listen to her doctor without finding out absolutely everything she can from every biased source they throw at her! She's clearly stupid and without hope of being a decent parent! Seriously, the vitriol, the condescension, the know-it-all attitude that the anti-intervention group takes is just appalling. I know that they think they have the best interests of the mom and baby at heart, but it often seems a lot more like they have an agenda, and don't give the first shit what the mother wants or thinks.

I'm sure it seems like I'm talking about myself here, but actually, I've been avoiding telling anyone anything about my decisions, so I haven't had the holier-than-thou Mommy brigade (a group I'm sure I'll talk about more!) come down on me, though I know at least one of my friends is "disappointed" in me for my decision. That's okay. I'm disappointed that I had to make it. I have another friend who is a doula. She told me something that really helped. She said, "This is your body, and your birth. You do what you need to do to make it a positive experience for you, and to hell with the rest of them."