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I am fascinated by how often the term "educated" is used when it comes to birth. People talk about how the choices they made were due to "educating themselves" on the subject at hand and making a decision based on that.
Often however this education is made of of reading Facebook statuses from natural birth groups and blog posts from people. (Yes, people like me!) Or, on the other side of the spectrum, people claim to be too educated to birth at home because it is proven to be terribly dangerous. The proof, their OB told them so.
Sadly though, following a few naturally minded Facebook pages does not amount to making an educated decision regarding birth. Nor does listening only to your doctor with the 40% c-section rate and checking out the small pamphlet he hands you. I would even go so far as to say that simply reading "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" is also not enough information for educated birth decisions.
So how does the modern woman become truly educated about her birth decisions? I am going to be presumptuous enough to tell you what I think helps. Yes I know I am biased. Yes I realize this sounds horribly prideful of me. I am going to do it anyway.
I don't think you need to be a doctor to be educated on your birth choices nor do I think that all educated women make the same birth choices.
1) I love the site drugs.com because you can read the package insert for any drug commonly used in birth and delivery. Simply being aware of the warnings and contraindications is eye opening. Doing this in the depths of hard labor simply doesn't work. If you want to be committed, then it simply helps to know why you are birthing naturally before you start birthing.
2) Another great resource is the Cochrane Library. You can search countless subjects here. They describe themselves thus,
"Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognized as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They also assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given condition in a specific patient group and setting. They are published online in The Cochrane Library."I personally think that this does have some limitations. Because they compile studies they could leave some out and they are limited to what has been studied. If all the studies are biased or bad then it could impact the findings. Still, you will be amazed by the things that are common obstetric practices that have been found harmful.
3) PubMed is another source that I use often. You can search for research articles according to subject. One disadvantage is that the entire study isn't always listed, often just the abstract. Still, there is lots of information to be found here if finding research journal articles is what you are looking for.
4) The ACOG website can also be interesting reading. Of course I consider them "the enemy" but there is some good info here. For instance, their position on less restrictive VBAC is fascinating reading. It can be useful to know if your care provider isn't even aware of the recommendations of their own trade union. (Yes, I consider ACOG a trade union.) Even opinion papers like this one, which I disagree with, can be helpful because it is referenced. You can then use the references to further research your interests on PubMed.
I am sure that if you are interested you will find many other resources that can help you make a truly informed decision regarding your birth.
Some other things to keep in mind:
~Studies are often funded. Who are they funded by? Who is doing them?
~How big is the sample size in the study you are reading? Do authorities consider it to be a well done study?
~Has the subject you are interested in even been researched well? (Many haven't.)
~Is what you are reading a primary or a secondary source? Or, is what you are reading simply an opinion on the subject (like a blog). Knowing the difference MATTERS.
~Question EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. Almost everybody is biased. Almost everybody has an agenda. This goes for both sides of the spectrum. Many of "facts" I hear batted around constantly by natural birth supporters simply can't be supported. If proof exists I can't find it. Remember- just because you have heard something said 100 times, DOESN'T MAKE IT TRUE. It just means it is accepted. This is just as true for epidurals being safe as it is for other truths held to be sacred by natural birthing mamas. (I won't say what things we often believe but can't prove because then you would all hate me.)
In the end, it is really quite possible to have a fabulous natural birth or a fabulous epidural birth having done zero research. But, if you want to feel like you can back your opinions up with research facts, it is worth it to take the time to really find out what is proven and what is not.
I have a confession though. All my choices aren't based in provable evidence. Chances are yours aren't either. That is OK- birth is deeply emotional and will never be decided simply by research. But it is important that we know the risks and benefits of our choices. Every birth choice has a risk and a benefit.
Good luck ladies.