For thousands of years, women around the world have successfully survived and reproduced without the benefit of hospitals, drugs, or anything remotely ‘modern.’
Yet somehow, keeping humanity alive and growing over the centuries has failed to make us experts on our own reproductive system. Doctors and patients alike trust less and less in nature’s ability to carry women through childbirth, relying increasingly instead on new drugs, procedures, and surgery to simplify and expedite delivery.
Midwives, on the other hand, are specially trained not just as women’s health experts, but to treat childbirth as a normal, natural process. Despite being trained in all the modern techniques, as well as operating out of the same hospitals as OB-GYNs, certified nurse-midwives are quietly growing in popularity as an alternative to the high-risk, interventionist methods so prevalent today.
One in three women will deliver via C-section, whether or not she originally planned on doing so. While it would be convenient to just vilify hospitals or obstetricians, there are really several factors contributing to the shift, and avoiding one doesn’t completely eliminate vulnerability to the greater trend.
Patience is a Virtue
Remarkably, one of the leading reasons for the shift is simple impatience. A new guideline was released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to describe best practices during delivery. Of the six main points in the guide, four emphasize the importance of simply being patient and waiting for nature to take its course.
Admittedly, childbirth is a long, uncomfortable process, but use of any intervention techniques—from an epidural to inducing labor—increases the likelihood that further interventions will be necessary, culminating in a fully surgical delivery. That means that getting impatient (or overreacting) at any stage of the process makes a natural delivery less of a possibility.
Granted, in some special cases, a surgical intervention is unavoidable—about 5 to 10% of all deliveries, under normal circumstances (only 4% when attended by a midwife, whether in a hospital or at home). But when C-sections account for fully one-third of all deliveries, more health risks for mother and child are being created than avoided.
The Price is Right
Along with impatience, the sad truth is that “the best interests of the mother and child” are sometimes being confused with “the bottom line for the hospital” when it comes to interventions in delivery. Surgeries cost more than natural deliveries, and make more money for the doctors and hospitals where they are performed.
Although certainly not typical, the financial incentives have been shown to influence doctors’ recommendations in the delivery room. Particularly in cases where the mother is not well-informed on the indications and risks of surgery and other modern intervention techniques, doctors (perhaps unconsciously) recommend them, reaping the rewards of the increased costs for the procedure.
Conversely, when patients are more knowledgeable—and especially doctors themselves—doctors are significantly less likely to opt for operations, instead letting the pregnancy develop naturally.
Women should not need medical degrees to ensure they have a safe, natural delivery. Having a nurse midwife directing the process can ensure that nothing medically unnecessary is done. Midwives are specially trained to intervene only when necessary, ensuring that surgery and other interventions are only used when unavoidable.
A Tough Habit to Break
When it comes to personal health choices like diet, pursuing a more natural route can be as much about preference as concern for holistic health. While mainstream science continues to wring its hands over the benefits of various ‘super-foods,’ though, there is no ambiguity when it comes to the dangers to mother and child presented by the move away from natural birth. Even the Mayo Clinic has listed the numerous risks associated with C-section deliveries.
The trend toward intervention is not unique among first-time mothers, either. When their first child is delivered by C-section, 90% of women will repeat the procedure with future pregnancies. This makes it all the more critical for women to have a natural health advocate working with them during their first pregnancy.
Mother Knows Best
Pregnancy can be an incredibly rewarding, fulfilling period of time in a woman’s life, but it unfortunately also is a period of great vulnerability. It can be a challenge to fulfill your desire for a natural, healthy delivery when hospitals, doctors, and popular trends are all moving in the opposite direction.
Having another women’s health expert—one who will take a nature-first approach to you and your child’s health—is your best chance for getting the right information when you need it.