Why Pregnancy And Labor Education Matters
About a year ago when I was 20 weeks pregnant, I received a bill from my hospital that was about $2,000 for one specialized ultrasound. After a quick Google search I learned that my ultrasound was standard procedure but not necessary at the time of my baby’s fetal development. I could have saved that money had I known.
If you’re like me, pregnancy will be the first big run-in with the healthcare system. The paperwork, the insurance claims, blood draws, the doctors, the whole shebang. Unfortunately, far too often, we treat the medical industry differently from all others. Most of us will do a ton of consumer research and make several visits before we buy a car. However, not many of us will look into the stats of a hospital or ask our OB-GYNs what their c-section rate is before we choose our healthcare provider and hospital for labor. (Because c-section stats vary drastically from hospital to hospital and state to state, and so do maternal death rates).
I work as a marketing specialist in the dental imaging field. I help sell highly specialized products to dentists and see firsthand how the dental industry works. Honestly, dental practices are businesses. I don’t know why I never viewed hospitals in the same light. I guess house calls on Little House on the Prairie instilled too many fuzzy emotions about doctors in me.
But my paradigm shifted when that huge bill came, and when I stumbled upon an online forum of nurses complaining about hospital policies for changing gloves due to budget. At the end of the day, we are customers to doctors and hospitals. To make matters worse, throw billion dollar industries like insurance and pharmaceuticals into the mix. You’ve got a lot of hands in one pocket.
Yes, doctors go through a ton of training in their particular medical field. So that’s why we’re supposed to trust them right? But the truth is they can only be as good as the system they were put through, and the environment in which they work. Stories published in 1958 in Ladies Home Journal “included women being strapped down for hours in the lithotomy position, a woman having her legs tied together to prevent birth while her obstetrician had dinner, women being struck and threatened with the possibility of giving birth to a dead or brain damaged baby for crying out in pain, and a doctor cutting and suturing episiotomies without anesthetic (he had once nearly lost a patient to an overdose) while having the nurse stifle the woman’s cries with a mask.” While these stories are perhaps the worst case scenarios, the publication sparked outrage and helped improve maternity ward conditions all across the U.S. soon afterward. If you go through some of the photos posted by mothers on improvinglabor.org, you’ll notice that such harsh conditions for laboring mothers still exist today.
History proves that there’s always room for progress, and as much as our American pride would like to say we have the best health care system in the world, we don’t. At least for laboring mothers we don’t. In fact, we rank 60th in the world for keeping women alive during labor. Yes, a whopping 59 other countries keep laboring mothers alive better than us. So if you ask me, that’s pretty damn terrible.
Now, this is not a haterade on the medical industry in the U.S. I’m simply suggesting that women who care, should educate themselves before being thrown at the mercy of the medical system. Because time is money in a hospital, and for hospital staff, that often means doing everything in their power to make labor go faster even if the laboring mother’s body is not ready. And if you do the slightest bit of research on standard drugs used in the hospital, you will learn how often times one intervention leads to a slippery slope of complications that ultimately lead to a c-section and increased chance of maternal and fetal death. In the words of childbirth activist Gloria Lemay, “Major abdominal surgery is the fate of 30% of childbearing women in North America. Cesarean section has lasting effects on women’s health and sexual lives. Modern hospitals are more factory-like than ever before. Even very well educated, well armed women find it impossible to “strike a deal” to get a decent hospital birth. Childbirth educators must tell women that going to a hospital and expecting an inspiring birth is like going to MacDonald’s and ordering a steak. No matter how you wheel and deal, MacDonald’s will never prepare a steak for you, right? Unfortunately, too many women find out too late that the system is rigged against them.”
Better pregnancy education can empower a couple financially, mentally, and physically. Education about optimizing pregnancy health, learning time-tested laboring techniques, and having information about the various routine labor interventions can have a huge impact on the success of labor and the wellness of a new mother, father, and baby.
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