(Full disclosure: both my father and brother are Ob/Gyns. I, however, am not.)
I remember once, in a completely unrelated discussion, talking to Adam about the benefits of electric shaving vs. razor shaving. One argument he made at the time was that if he could have a machine do the job for him, why do it himself? (I am not going to address the merits of this argument, the point is as an intro).
Essentially, the argument is technologist. Whatever science and technology can do to improve our lives, it should. And we should take advantage.
One area where there always seems to be resistance is in childbirth. I have had (surely less than my father and brother have had) many conversations with women who laud the wonders of “natural childbirth.” The conversation usually goes something like this: The woman will say something along the lines of “I want to experience it” or “women for millenia have done fine without _______ (fill the blank: drugs/hospitals/doctors)” or some such argument. And I always respond with some variation of “would you turn down anesthesia for surgery? why feel pain when you don’t have to? There’s a name for that, it’s called masochism.” Or “yes, women have always done OK, but never as well as they do today.”
See, this is what bugs me. That’s a BS argument. At the turn of the 20th century, a woman was 100 times more likely to die in childbirth than she is today. ONE HUNDRED TIMES!!! Not 100%. 100X. 10,000% So, no, by today’s standards, women have not done fine for millenia. They were dying at alarmingly higher rates. Why? Oh, maybe because doctors, hospitals and modern medicine have prevented those deaths?
And it’s not just women, it’s babies, too. The perinatal mortality rate (defined as deaths from 28 weeks gestation to 6 days post partum) in 1950 was 32.7 deaths per 1,000 live births (that includes 14.9 late fetal mortality and 17.8 7 days neonatal mortality – see the chart below). That number goes down to 6.9 in 2002.
|Deaths per 1,000 live births|
|Year||Under 7 days||Late fetal
That’s a huge reduction. Do you think, maybe, the quality of prenatal care and advances in childbirth have a little something to do with that? The World Health Organization does:
Prolonged labour or prolonged rupture of membranes causes infections in mothers and babies. However, babies are more susceptible than mothers and infections in infants are more difficult to detect. It is estimated that 26% of newborn infants who die do so as a result of infections that occur around birth.
The perinatal period covers the period leading up to birth and the first week of life; deaths occurring in this period are largely due to obstetric causes. More than 3.3 million stillbirths and over 3 million early neonatal deaths are estimated to take place every year. In the year 2000, over 6.3 million perinatal deaths occurred worldwide: almost all of them (98%) occurred in developing countries.
The perinatal mortality rate is five times higher in developing than in developed regions: 10 deaths per 1000 total births in developed regions; 50 per 1000 in developing regions and over 60 per 1000 in least developed countries. It is highest in Africa, with 62 deaths per 1000 births, and especially in middle and western Africa, which have rates as high as 75 and 76 per 1000. The perinatal mortality rate in Asia is 50 per 1000 total births, with a peak of 65 per 1000 in South-central Asia, the third highest rate among the subregions, lower only than those of Middle and Western Africa. Oceania’s rate of 42 per 1000 falls between the rates of Asia (62) and those of the Latin America and Caribbean region (21). (Source)
Aside from the historical trends, the present difference between developed countries and developing countries is stark and indicative of the point. Where obstetric medicine lags behind in modernity (and approximates that of the 19th and early 20th century) women and babies die at much higher rates. So why do women insist on giving birth in a way that mimics those times and places? It seems just so assinine to me.
Then today (which, btw, is what spurred this post) I saw this: The Business of Being Born (I didn’t actually see the movie, just the website and the trailer). And it infuriated me. People make villains out of doctors and nurses. They cry and moan about not wanting any medication, “natural.” OK, if you want to be an idiot and suffer through the pain without the epidural, whatever, that’s your call. But there are some medications that are necessary. For instance, without pitosin, I have no idea when my first child would have been born. For that matter, my second either. And that my wife’s water broke the morning the second one was born, but she wasn’t really contracting, there was a serious infection risk to both the mother and the baby if she didn’t deliver soon. Giving her pitosin helped her contract and helped the baby come out. Why is it better to do “natural” which means suffering through a long childbirth and taking the chance that the baby develops an infection? That’s better? It’s absolutely idiotic.
I’m not saying that modern medicine is perfect, and that you’re for sure going to suffer some terrible tragedy if you reject it. But why increase your chances? Why not take advantage of everything modern science has to offer to make the process easier and more likely to go smoothly?