The "Safety" of Interventions and Hospital Birth
It is interesting to talk to people about home birth because most often the comment you hear is "I would be too afraid to do that, what if something when wrong" or something to that effect. Of course most home birth mom's feel much safer at home because of the frequent interventions in a hospital setting.
I recently read about something that made me think about how even the most common and accepted interventions in the natural process can be scary and even deadly.
I recently read a post from a doula who attended a birth where the baby was born still. It was moving and kicking throughout the labor but at birth was born dead. The mother had at some point refused a Cesarean. When an autopsy was performed it was determined that the baby died from a staph infection in the placenta, that the DOCTOR believed was caused by a vaginal exam sometime during the pregnancy.
The doctor also mentioned that it was a good thing they refused the Cesarean because the mother would have likely died also.
Iatrogenic is a very important word to know when you start to learn about medicine and childbirth. It means doctor caused. When I hear about peoples horrible near death experiences in childbirth (and most everybody has them these days) it does not scare me away from home or natural birth. It makes me think about how many of those near death experiences (or actual deaths or damage) are caused by those that interfere with the natural process.
Birth is one of those things that is most often SAFER when left alone, even from the most accepted interruptions like the vaginal exam.
The Vaginal Exam
The vaginal exam is probably one of the most accepted parts of pregnancy and birth in this country. Even many midwives do frequent vaginal exams. Some care providers do them every single visit from 35 weeks or so on.
The vaginal exam is also probably one of the silliest, invasive, and dangerous both physically and mentally, things that can be done to a pregnant or laboring woman.
In a vaginal exam a care provider takes their hand and uses their fingers to measure how far dilated you are, and also position of baby and station of the baby. It is not a totally useless exercise, but it is also not always necessary, and certainly not totally harmless as often believed.
The VE is obviously a way to push bacteria up towards the baby, closer to the bag of waters. There is some evidence that this can weaken the bag of water and cause it to break prematurely.
When done after water has been broken, the vaginal exam can shove bacteria up where it is not supposed to be and cause an infection in the mother, manifested by a fever.
One of the most disturbing effects of the vaginal exam though is the mental toll it can take on a mother when done frequently. How many women give up on the natural process after yet another hourly vaginal exam where they learn that they are still at a 4? Even worse, how many women are cut open because they have "failed to progress" after yet another vaginal exam.
And, unfortunately for the above mentioned family and baby, it can be the cause of infection and ultimately death.
The take home message from this for me is to rethink birth. Question everything that you have heard, even if you have heard it from all your friends and your care provider. Everything has pros and con's and there are opinions on both sides. Take the time to take responsibility for your birth experience so that you don't become another statistic.