Birth in the Know


hospital birth

Most women in the United States give birth in the hospital (about 98%). That is pretty much everyone, except for a few that give birth at home, or a birth center. If you look back in history, you will discover that this is a very recent occurrence. Prior to the 1930s, the majority of women gave birth at home, surrounded by the village.

Hospitals and western medicine, in general, are both very good at emergencies, crisis care, and acute medical events. Many lives are saved due to the advancement of modern technology. Unfortunately, this technology is overused, including childbirth. 

 Not every woman requires every test and procedure, and being in a hospital can be quite scary, and anxiety-producing. Think about it. There are so many sick and dying people in hospitals. In fact, the United States has a rising maternal death rate. I don’t say this to scare you. I want you to know that despite technological advances and modern medicine, the United States has very poor outcomes compared to other industrialized nations.

The childbirth industry is worth about $50 billion per year. And the hospital wants a piece of it. Also the insurance industry wants a piece of it. Moreover the pharmaceutical industry wants a piece of it, and the retail industry wants a piece of it.

“Where do you want to spend your money to have a satisfying, safe experience for you and your baby?”

 These are my top five reasons why the hospital is the last place you’ll want to give birth.

#1 You are entering a system where everyone is on a time clock.

Labor is not a timed event. You could be given only a certain amount of time to give birth before there will be some kind of intervention to speed you up. The new report that just came out, Blueprint for Advancing High-Value Maternity Care Through Physiologic Childbearing, mentions barriers to physiological childbirth, one of them being:

 “Widespread scheduling and hastening of births to foster hospital throughput and concentrate births during weekday, daytime, non-holiday hours.”   In other words, the hospital must consider its bottom line profit margins, and scheduling and speeding up labor to cause births to occur at certain times saves them money.

Induction or augmentation of labor to make labor progress faster can lead to cesarean-section if you or your baby become distressed.  

#2 You are more likely to receive some kind of intervention.

Intravenous fluids, continuous electronic fetal monitor, Pitocin (induction agent), and vaginal checks are all common interventions in the hospital setting. These can all interfere with your natural progression of labor, and the labor hormones that support you in giving birth.

Just because these interventions are common, I would argue that it doesn’t mean they are all evidence-based. And produce optimal outcomes for the MotherBaby, and family.

According to the above-mentioned Report, another barrier to increasing access to physiologic childbirth is “many women are not supported to become fully informed about shortcomings of the maternity care system.”

#3 You will likely have strangers coming in and out of your room.

There are nurses, and cleaning people, and med students (teaching hospital), nursing students possibly. If you are there for a while, you may experience the shift change. When you are supported by loved ones or a doula, and you have privacy and calm, it is easier for you to feel safe and secure. This is necessary for the progression of labor.

The report states: “Loud, busy, impersonal hospital environments, as well as bright or loud medical and personal electronic technologies, can interfere with the calm, quiet, private, low-stress environment. And that foster healthy physiologic perinatal processes.”

#4 You are more likely to have a cesarean section, as about 1 in 3 women give birth this way.

These births only occur in the hospital setting. And your likelihood of having a cesarean is dependent upon which hospital you go to, not your medical condition.

From the report; “Cesarean birth is widely understood to be overused. And systematic reviews find that cesarean born babies appear to be more likely than vaginally born babies to develop chronic conditions such as asthma, allergies, and obesity.”  

There are also risks for the mother that include infection, chronic pain, and problems with future pregnancies.

#5 You may be subject to fear tactics.

If you aren’t progressing fast enough, or you aren’t able to freely move to change the position of the baby, you could be given a certain amount of time before further intervention is necessary to “save” the day. You must be a strong advocate or have one with you. Your wishes are more likely to be honored when you are in the midst of labor and can’t speak for yourself. This is critical if you want a normal, physiological birth, and do not want the intervention.

 On a final note, if you choose a hospital birth to be aware of this system and how it works. Make it work for you. You are the consumer, and it is your body, your baby, your birth, and your entrance into motherhood. Know that your birth experience will stay with you for the rest of your life.

 There is no pass or fail, but there is an opportunity for you to feel your power,. And also to experience a transformation like never before.

Being aware of all your options, doing some research, talking to people that have had positive experiences, and choosing exactly what you want for your birth is key. 

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