WHEN NATURE CALLS

As someone that doesn’t talk much, I do a lot of thinking. I’m usually pondering some sort of situation in my mind and often times questioning the ‘establishment.’ Whether it is big government, our health-care system, or even my own divided profession, I often wonder how an original idea, something that was simple and effective, progressed to what is know today as ‘normal,’ yet not even close to the original design. I only question these things because as simplistic ideas progress, the industry usually evolves into a system of more intervention, more interference, poorer outcomes, with an extremely high cost. It’s the American way…spend billions on systems that don’t work, and when they are absolutely broken, throw more money at it. The broken industry that has been crossing my mind of recent is childbirth. A quick disclaimer, “no, my wife and I are not pregnant.”

The buzzword of ‘natural childbirth’ is being thrown around quite a bit. This ‘natural’ description has many different definitions. The most conservative scenario could mean that the woman had the child in a barn, unassisted, because there was no room at the Inn. The more common for today’s ‘natural’ could mean that there were no drugs used but was performed in a hospital with lots of monitors for the fetus, mom’s blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels, temperature, etc. As a chiropractor, I operate in a paradigm where the less intervention, the better. I operate under the truth that the body was designed and created to perform, function, and heal for 80-120 years. We just have to take care and be good stewards of the body for the time we have here on Earth.

I question how a natural process, in which the body knows exactly what to do, became a ‘disease’ like state that has been delegated to hospitals under the quick supervision of surgeons? Is this model working? The obvious answer is “no it is not.” Our nation ranks 37 by the World Health Organization in infant mortality. That means there are 36 other countries, some third world countries, which have less baby deaths for every 1000 births in their respective countries. Comparing Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and many of the developed European countries, they have a 30% rate of hospital births compared to our 99%+ rate of hospital births. Aren’t hospitals for emergencies? Are American women that deformed and inadequate compared to the women of the world that we need 70% more emergency childbirth intervention? Or is it our system that is deformed and inadequate?

My next random thought is why would I want an OB/GYN delivering my baby? An OB is trained in surgery…birth is not surgery but somehow the rate of surgical births has increased to 33% (1 in 3 babies are born via C-section). If I were to put myself in an OB’s shoes, a regular birth would be boring. An OB is trained in pathology so wouldn’t they have a tendency to look for pathology (or create one, see the next paragraph) for complications that may exist with the childbirth process? It would be like you coming to me, a Chiropractor, and asking for a massage. I can do the massage, but it’s the last thing I want to do. I would send you to a massage therapist. As c-sections have increased, so have infant mortality rates. I’m thankful we have access to that intervention if needed but how often is it really necessary? 99% of the time?

“But Dr. Kurt, I was in labor for over 8 hours, the nurses and doctors were getting worried and making me fear that there was something wrong, it’s all about my baby.” Let’s look at this scenario. Let’s say you decided to have a hospital birth. As a pregnant mom, you were most likely put on your back, with your legs in the air, separated by stir ups and your head/neck was all jacked up with pillows. In this position, physiologically and neurologically, this gives you the least ability to push when needed. Right now in your chair, drop your chin to your chest and try to breath deeply. It’s difficult right? You are cutting of oxygen supply to your body. If you are trying to push as hard as you can, with little oxygen available, do you think you have full capability of delivering a baby? But that’s ok, they can put oxygen on you and charge you thousands of dollars, when all they needed to do was remove the pillows that were jacking up your neck. Secondly, by being on your back with your legs in the air removes gravity from the equation as well as shrinks the pelvis’ ability to open completely. Do you think a wide-open pelvis would be important in childbirth? The only person this position benefits is the doctor pulling the baby out.

Please take what I’m about to say not as offensive but me being a human that possesses an X and a Y chromosome trying to relate the gravity of familiar situation to the gravity of a situation I will never experience. I remember a time when I was running in the woods, on some trails when a wave hit me. That wave was to perform a unique and urgent duty (pun intended). There were no bathrooms around, just trees and forest décor. I was cramping, walking funny, and in pain. I had to get rid of it. Instinctively, do you think I performed this duty on my back with my legs in the air with my head propped up by a tree stump? Or do you think I popped a squat somewhere and let gravity do its work? In childbirth, laying on one’s back with legs in the air, totally takes gravity out of the equation, making the process way harder. No problem, there is Ptosin to help with the contractions that have been as hard as possible by the position of mom. If you’ve had Ptosin, you know the excruciating pain of those contractions, which usually follows begging for an epidural. The epidural then relaxes the muscles, which will call for more Ptosin because the relaxation prevents the contractions. Ptosin gets increased which causes longer, harder contractions, followed by another epidural. By this time, the OB is starting to freak out because now the baby is in ‘distress’ because the baby is feeling the full effect of the ebb and flow between the Ptosin and epidural while mom sleeps through labor. So then, in the name of your baby’s safety, you are rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section. You baby’s life was saved. Thank you modern medicine, you saved my baby’s life.

Honestly, I only bring this topic up because even though I am hopefully a couple years away from having kids, I want to look at both sides of the equation, have a plan, and stick to the plan. I know, I know, I’m not the one that will be in pain, agony, and distress but hopefully I can bring certainty and confidence to the plan of action. Do we have a plan yet? No, but my wife and I will have looked at all scenarios/options prior so we are not making decisions on fear when that amazing time comes. If you are in the planning stages of a family or already have kids but want to do things differently the next time, I encourage you to interview midwives. If you plan on having a hospital birth, make sure you have a plan prior to showing up in labor. Lastly, I recommend a documentary called the Business of Being Born. If you have Netflix, you can watch it right on your computer. Remember health is a choice, a whole choice, and nothing but a choice.

6 comments:

  1. Great post Kurt!

    Being that I have "had" to have ptocin 2 times, I will agree that it is TOTALLY the worst pain ever! I will also add that having an epidural isn't all it's cracked up to be. Since the birth of my second, I have had pain in my left leg. I was told it was from the epidural. No one EVER tells you that this could happen.

    There are so many different options as to how you plan on giving birth but most of us only hear of one...Thanks for speaking the truth!

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  2. I had a home birth, and I was very blessed to do so. If I had been in the hospital, my baby would probably have been born C-section or forceps. I am so grateful that did not happen to us. Many people told me I was so brave to want a home birth. I don't feel that way. The truth is that home birth is much more safe than a hospital. ... "Look at the statistics... Follow the money"

    P.S. My home birth cost less than $2000. The Experience starting my family: PRICELESS!

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  3. Hi Kurt! I stumbled onto your blog a while back through a link on fb.

    I agree, I think it's logical to approach child birth naturally. While pregnant, my baby and I survived two major abdominal surgeries and the last thing I wanted to do was go back to the hospital! ;) But I think I was just going with the flow. Everyone else goes to the hospital, why shouldn't I? I wish I would have put more thought into it and approached it as a personal decision. I had a hospital birth without drug intervention and afterward I realized that my doulas (I had two ;) and my husband were the support I needed to get me and Vi through. I was annoyed when my nurse told me i needed to leave the warm, soothing jucuzzi tub because "the doctor wants to check you". I was doing exceptionally well in there! I probably could have shaved off an hour or two of my labor if I had been able to do what my body was telling me was right!

    Once my daughter was born she was having difficulty breathing and they wisked her away immediatley and i couldn't hold her. They suctioned her lungs and she was still having trouble so the NICU nurses began to get her ready to move her and my doula intervened - she asked that i have a chance to hold her first. She knew that Vi needed to be near me, to hear my voice, and the pattern of my breathing. The nurse relented and handed her to me and within 10 seconds Violet was breathing normally and there was no need for the NICU.
    I do understand there are instances when medical assistance is necessary, but I agree that typically nature isn't allowed to run it's course and some "issues" are actually caused by premature responses.

    Next time I would strongly consider a home birth (if I could find a midwife and doula near by that I trusted). I think it's a logical move and both my baby and I would benefit.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

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  4. Ah, having a plan! The only problem with plans is that life has a way of not going according to your plans, lol.

    I'm dismayed at the health care industry treating pregnancy like a disease. My preference is a midwife in a birthing center attached to a hospital, with doctors & drugs intervening only AS NECESSARY.

    Patrick's (natural)birth was assisted by a midwife in a hospital and it went great. Had I had a 3rd child I would have opted for home-birth, as Patrick came only 30 min after arriving at the hospital and I don't find a transportation by an anxious husband while I'm in labor to be all that soothing! Sarah was a different story, so I do appreciate the skills of a dr when needed. The goal was to be drug-free and, except for Pitocin towards the end, I managed that. However, after several hours of trying to let gravity work in a natural position we opted to allow a forceps delivery. Was it the right thing to do? I don't know... she wasn't in distress, but I had no energy left to keep pushing. Had I had a midwife, I suppose the outcome may have been different and that's why I wholeheartedly encourage women to go that route under the guidance of a doctor.

    Can we really blame doctors for the increase in C-sections, or should we look at insurance companies, frivolous lawsuits, and malpractice insurance? Which came first?

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  5. First of all, I give you props for opening up THIS can of worms (being a man, and all). Don't you know that every woman loves to tell of their labor and delivery!?

    Second, I agree that any time you can do things the natural way it is better. I, too, had a plan in mind when having both of my children. As "they" say though, "the best laid plans of mice and men..."

    With my first, there wasn't all this "controversy" of what is better and what is not (ok--there was--but I was more with Lora and went with the flow of things). I was a week past my due date and the doctor said I "needed to be induced because the longer the baby was inside of me, the higher the risk of my baby dying." Yep, a good old scare tactic. Of COURSE I went along with what the doctor told me because all I heard was "Your baby is going to die if he doesn't come out today". His scare tactic worked. Turned out, the day I was to be induced (while waiting for a phone call from the hospital), my water broke and I went into labor. They STILL gave me pitocin b/c I wasn't progressing fast enough for their liking. About 12 hours into it, and only at 3 cm dilated, I had an epidural. After 21 hours of hard labor, and hour and 1/2 of pushing...being up all night and completely worn out, the doctor told me that I could continue pushing for another hour and 1/2 or more, or she could go and get the forceps and have him out in a minute and 1/2. I asked the risks...she told me perhaps some slight bruising on his little head, but nothing to be concerned about. I was clearly not in the right state of mind to go into it any further and I told her to get the forceps. It worked and I delivered a healthy baby boy. The right decision? I guess in my mind, it was. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy and didn't have to have a c-section. Praise God.

    With my second, I had an even BETTER plan! Ha! Guess what...due to my son's blood mixing with mine during delivery, I developed a rare antibody that is only a potential problem during pregnancy. This required me to have bloodwork done bi-weekly and close monitoring of my baby. "Selfishly" (and that is the word he used), my doctor wanted to be there for the labor and delivery...so, once again, I was to be induced...a week early. Once again, the doctor had concern for my child, and what I heard was that he wanted to be there in case something went wrong. The right decision to go along with what he said, rather than take matters into my own hands? I think it was. He had been doing lots of research on this antibody and had legitimate concerns for the well-being of my baby. After 9 hours of labor and being maxed out on pitocin, I chose to have the epidural once again. Prior to the epidural, I was at 5cm dilated. Within 20 minutes of having the epidural, I was at 10cm and ready to push. Perhaps some would argue it is not healthy for a woman's body to progress that quickly, but for me, I got to meet my healthy baby girl...antibody not an issue. Again, I praise God.

    All THAT said, I think women need to do their research, ask questions, use their instincts, and then make an informed decision. I most certainly think women should have a plan in mind, but understand that sometimes there are people who are more informed (not necessarily surgery hungry) on certain conditions and in a better state to make decisions on your behalf. Whether you choose a midwife, or an OB, as long as it is an informed decision, I don't think either one is the wrong choice.

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  6. I don't think having a hospital delivery has to contradict what our bodies are designed to do naturally. I had a midwife for my prenatal care and both deliveries, and while I appreciated the natural approach to labor and delivery, there is no part of me that would want to deliver at home. I was induced with both boys. Ben's induction was due to pre-eclampsia; I had hypertension and proteinuria. After weeks of monitoring (and determining that both mom and baby were fine), my labwork showed a sudden and drastic change in the wrong direction, and it was time for him to come out. I didn't end up needing Pitocin, because the drug they used to soften my cervix (Cytotec) kicked me right into labor on my own. I had taken childbirth classes, and I had a plan in mind, but most of all - I am a human being, and I in spite of all that education, I was afraid. My body progressed very slowly, though my labor was active. Emotionally, I was in a panic that I wasn't going to be able to make it; one never knows how long labor will take or how it will progress. I "gave in" and had a shot of Morphine, the drug of choice for prodromal labor. WIthin a few hours, I had dilated to 9 cm and was ready to push. Ben was born a few days early, and was induced, but he arrived healthy. I pushed Ben out from a lying down position, and although the head of my bed was up, gravity wasn't working with me. Even so, it took only 40 minutes to push him out. I spent a good deal of my labor standing or walking, so gravity was my friend when it needed to be. (By the way, tucking your chin to your chest encourages the woman to curve her spine, which encourages the baby to move it on out.) Matt's delivery was also induced, this time with Pitocin, only because I was overdue. The contractions were intense; there was little break between them; Matt was nearly a pound heavier than Ben... and yet, I delivered him without pain medication, and I pushed him out from my hands and knees. He remained in a posterior position right up until delivery, and the back labor was so intense that I couldn't tolerate laying on my back or even squatting. This time, gravity was working with me, but to keep my baby off my spine, not to help him exit my body. I am thankful that I delivered in a hospital both times, because there were skilled professionals nearby should I have needed them. Not folks who wanted to grab my baby away from me and perform needless interventions, not someone who wanted to perform an unnecessary episiotomy, but people who were experienced in the healthy condition of pregnancy, and who knew what to do to assist me and insure the health of my baby. I was thankful for the nurses who cared for my sons between feedings in the night as I began to recover, the nurses who mopped up my puddle of blood for me when I gushed on my way to the bathroom, the midwife who could look at my breasts and tell me what my son(s) were doing right/wrong to support breastfeeding success, the kitchen that provided my meals, etc... a home birth, and recovery, would have been very stressful for me. I took advantage of the support system that would only be available in a hospital without compromising my values for the natural process of childbirth.

    Probably most importantly, especially for one's first child, it is impossible to know what exactly to expect. One must allow for the unexpected, and because a hospital is able to handle the entire spectrum of what could happen, it's not a bad place to be. If you know what is important to you, and you make it known, it can be just as natural as being at home... with a few more beeps and monitor strips. :)

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