It has been a fascinating journey, being side-by-side with my wife as she's gone done the road less traveled in preparation for the birth of our daughter.  We've both learned a lot and much of what our research has yielded has been eye-opening.  As always with things in the health realm that are different than the commonly held practice, I want to share it with you.  Since this is about mothers and babies, I think it's even more important than a lot of the other topics that we've discussed in the past.  Before we get there, allow me to clarify something about the last newsletter sent in early July.  I mentioned something about the healthcare reform that several people noted as being offensive.  Know that it was not intended that way and I encourage you to realize that nothing written in these "columns" is laced with malice.  It's merely meant to be informative and make you think.  We need to think....long and hard about the choices we make in the healing arts. 

So, much of the following comes from our recent viewing of the Ricki Lake produced documentary, "The Business of Being Born" and the subsequent research prompted by it. 

Much like our unfortunate talks of iatrogenic death (people dying from adverse reactions to medications), this information is not widely known.  We tend to bury our heads in the sands to the realities.  Maybe it's because we want to believe otherwise.  We don't want to admit that taking pills prescribed for various health conditions could be the 3rd to 1st leading cause of death in the USA and we don't want to believe that the manner in which children are birthed in our country - with all the modern technology at our disposal - could possibly be a major part of the problem as to why we rank 2nd amongst all developed countries in newborn death rate.  We have a hard time wrapping our collective heads around maternal death rates being amongst the highest in the industrialized world, too.  It's scary to admit the truth, but the frightening claims are verified by the USA's top medical journals. 

The history of America's birthing habits dates back several decades, when hospitals were found to be cleaner and safer environments for delivery.  That may have been true in an era where sanitation was still being figured out, but it hasn't been that way in a really long time, especially as it pertains to the vast majority of the people reading this.  The cultural shift made the long standing practice of midwifery a thing of the past, despite the fact that the practice of midwifery remained the predominant method of child delivery throughout the rest of the developed word.  In the United States, as has become the case with healthcare in general, the birthing process became a business and hospitals, according to the research conducted by those that study this type of thing, set out to cash in on it.  Sure, it made sense on the surface.  Who would be more qualified than a doctor to help mothers deliver children?  Well, midwives, for starters.  However, a smear campaign took place that made it seem like asking for a midwife's help was a horrible idea.  It made midwives out to be unqualified hacks that would harm your baby.  Based on the mere 8% of births attended by midwives in the United States today, that perception still exists. 

Well, we stand alone in this country.  70-80% of the births in every other developed country are attended by midwives because they're the most qualified people around to help the mothers.  So, who's really the weirdos?  Is it the countries doing things differently from us that are getting better outcomes or is it us doing things differently from everyone else and getting worse outcomes?  The problem is in the knowing.  Most people don't know that it's not nearly as safe to give birth in a hospital for the majority of women without the high risks or those 2% with all the terrifying complications.  That might seem like an odd statement, at first, but consider that most American women do NOT benefit from the routine protocol in a hospital.  YOUR BABY does not benefit from that practice either.  For those that are curious, this is the protocol (in the following, "you" and "your" is meant to define women in labor:

The water breaks and you're encouraged to rush to the hospital, as if the baby will come out right then (it usually doesn't).  You're admitted.  You lay in a bed.  You wait around.  If they don't think you're progressing quickly enough (most don't), then they push a drug called pitocin.  Pitocin is man-made form of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates uterine contraction.  The contraction has to happen to open the vagina for delivery.  Unfortunately, like any medication, pitocin has side effects, the main one of which is that it causes stronger than natural contractions.  This is where pain medication comes into play.  Drugs are given to counteract the other drugs.  As the contractions continue to be strong, often the pain becomes unbearable.  This is where the epidural comes into play.  An epidural is a method of injecting strong pain medication into the tissue that surrounds the spinal cord, hoping to dull the sensation of pain but also dulling all other sensation in general.  So, then it comes time to push.  Well, you often can't.  Your senses have been dulled from the lower spinal cord down, so you're incapable of pushing normally.  Plus, once you've had the epidural, since your lower limb sensations are dulled, they don't let you move.  So, you lay there with your pelvis angled up and your legs in the air.  In one out of every three cases, at that point, the decision is made to deliver the baby via Cesarean Section.  The other two of three suffer through a grueling experience

The concept of what is "normal" has changed quite a bit.  Does any of the above read as being normal, from the standpoint of the health of the mom and baby?  It goes back to the old mentality that we've often discussed over the years that just because something is common, it must be normal.  Well, that's not true.  Pitocin is a drug that disrupts normal body processes for the purpose of delivering a baby faster, but if the mother has to go through the ringer to achieve that, then was it worth it?  Are the side effects worth it for your baby? Nobody seems to take into account what pitocin does to the child.  The immediate severe side effects on the child are bleeding of the eyes, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.  If it can do that in the immediacy, what can it do in the long-term?  As for epidurals, there are over 100 potential side effects that span the nervous, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, and immune systems for the mother and baby. 

Birthing is a process.  You let it happen on its own time.  Rushing the contractions is a mistake.  Rushing to perform major surgery to cut out the baby because of the effects that began with rushing the contractions is a mistake.  An old friend of mine said to his wife's doctor during the birth of their son, upon being asked about stimulating further contractions, "You know, this baby is going to come out.  That's what it does.  It's not going to curl up in there and stay put.  Her (his wife's) body was designed for this.  Let's just allow what needs to happen to happen on his time and not yours."  Well said.  It's the speeding up of the process and the cascade of effects that stem from it that leads to the rise in C-sections.  If a woman's body has been racked with pitocin that made her have blinding pain, which was followed by the epidural that numbed her body so she can't push, all while her legs are kicked up in the air so that the birth canal is narrowed making it harder to push, then more C-sections are sure to follow.  The whole operation is all wrong for women and the babies.  One study showed that the most common times of the day for C-sections are 4PM and 10PM - quitting times for certain shifts in hospitals, interestingly enough.  It's not a business or something to rush through. 

C-sections have risen 46% since 1996 to the point where they account for as many as half of all births in some states.  C-sections are only good in emergency situations.  Again, that goes back to the tiny little 2% figure.  The other 31-48% of them were unnecessary.  When doctors intervene and intervene and intervene some more in the natural process, then C-sections are often their "life saving" answer....but only because they changed the question.  That doesn't even take into account the long-term damage done to the brainstem by pulling the baby out of a space it wasn't designed to come out of.  Many think that C-sections are easier on children than vaginal births, but that's not true.  Many of these kids then quickly develop immune dysfunctions and other abnormal conditions that women are told "run in the family" or "have genetic markers" - all of which is a cop out since there's not any factual data suggesting that, but rather a conglomeration of generalizations.  It's just easier to blame it on genetics than say "I don't know." 

I find that many women get defensive about how they gave birth when you challenge what has become the traditional methods - inducement drugs, epidurals, and C-sections.  It's understandable to a degree, but at the same time we're talking about a scary epidemic of sorts that has swept through our country and pulled a giant veil across our collective eyes.  Birth has become a billion dollar industry, as we spend twice as much as every other country on deliveries.  Sadly, though, the money isn't being spent in a way that makes things better for the 98% of women without the complications and the 90% that aren't high risk.  The proof is in the statistics. 

Operation: Back Pack

For the third year, now, we have teamed up with High Point Bank for a back pack and school supply drive.  Two years ago, we raised 76 back packs full of supplies at the office alone.  Last year, we set a new standard with 90.  I hope we can break a hundred at the office this year, but we need your help to do it.  Kernersville Elementary has had a 5% increase in the number of kids falling below the poverty line - it's up to 75%!  We need to make up the difference with a stronger effort.  I've always been thankful for the patients traveling from various communities to help out our neighboring school, so for every two back packs brought in, an additional office visit will be tacked on to your care plan and you'll be given a certificate of health for a friend or family member to receive a complimentary consultation and exam at the office.  You truly never know how far reaching something you do today can affect many lives tomorrow. 

Thinking good things for you, as always,

-Dr. Chad