Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The one subject I insist be in my daughter's high school curriculum - Pregnancy and Childbirth


Prior to the birth of my first baby in 1989, I was clueless about what I was in for with my first childbirth experience. But I did not know this.  After all, I had the first edition of "What to Expect When You're Expecting," and I took the hospital childbirth classes at my local hospital.  I thought I was as prepared as anyone else in my class for going into labor and having my baby.


And sadly, I probably was.  From that book, and from the hospital based classes, I was the perfect maternity patient, willing and able to surrender my body and my baby to the wisdom and experience of the childbirth professionals at the local hospital. After all, they did this every day, all day and this was my first baby!  And they had my welfare at the forefront of all their care right?

My first birth was very typical, and yet not at all what I had expected. I excitedly entered the hospital a healthy 30-year-old woman expecting to deliver my baby the way my mother and grandmother had delivered theirs, and I left a post-surgical patient in more pain than I had ever experienced in my life, detached from my baby and my husband, and wondering how it had all gone so wrong.  In 2009 I wrote:


What I learned was that because I had not educated myself well about the birth process and how normal birth should work and because in retrospect the hospital classes really prepared me more to be a compliant patient than a birthing woman, when I got into tough situations, I had to defer the decision making process to others. Because I didn't really know my choices, I didn't have any. I also learned that informed consent was very subjective. 

That experience made me start questioning everything in my life. It was those questions that made me switch from Democrat to Republican to just conservative in the early 1990s.



It has been a mini-mission of mine since then to try to share what I learned over the years (and six more births) with other women in the hopes of them getting the best and safest birth experience possible. I joined ICAN, I went to birthing seminars, I read books and films and even went to a few conferences. I became a trained doula and attended my friends' home births.  For a time, I was a birth junkie.

My friends are older now and not having any babies. I think the last birth I went to as a doula was around 2001 or so, but I was always open to discussing birth with younger women. Over the last couple of years it has become clear to me that young women are still as ignorant about childbearing as I had been AND they are still just as naive about the modern medical practice of giving birth.

Not long ago at a family dinner the topic of inducing labor came up and both Mr. Pete and I shuddered at the thought.  My son's girlfriend then innocently asked, "What's so wrong about being induced?"  Clearly she was not aware that induction was not without some serious risks.   She's not alone.  The talk among my young preggo friends on face book has shown me that induction is NOT considered a big deal and something to be avoided if the nonstress test and biophysical profiles looks okay.

Ditto the epidural. In fact most of the rhetoric on FB seems to about what a marvelous invention those are.  But they too can cause problems. 

Surprisingly, even Cesareans are not seen as risky. This stunned me.  What is it about the modern 21-st Century person that they don't see slicing open the abdomen as having some inherent risks? And it's not just lay young women of childbearing age who naively believe this.  Some medical professionals see it that way too.  I recently had a discussion with a young male nurse anesthetist who seemed quite shocked at the idea of Cesarean birth being LESS SAVE than vaginal birth in regard to mortality and morbidity.

Higher m and m rate??? First I've heard that. Do you have literature to support that?


c-section

How is that possible?  NO clue. but I think it is quite telling that this young man opined,
 I would take today's obgyn service over that of 10 or even 20 years ago due to advancements in technology and literature research.




Why does he think that?  It's not even true.  Amnesty USA's report, Deadly Delivery noted:


Maternal mortality ratios have increased from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006. While some of the recorded increase is due to improved data collection, the fact remains that maternal mortality ratios have risen significantly.
The USA spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this, women in the USA have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea.



So I had my own epiphany moment - Young women aren't learning about birth at home any more and they certainly don't seem to be covering it in high school, and apparently even medical professionals working with birthing moms are somehow clueless about the actual procedures they perform daily that carry risks for mother and baby.

I don't want that for my daughters, and I do not want it for my grandchildren. With that in mind I am going to come up with my own high school curriculum for my daughter that includes:

  • The anatomy and physiology of pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Information about natural childbirth.
  • A realistic view of medical interventions.
  • Breastfeeding
  • And a look a the psychological and spiritual aspects of childbirth and how that all relates to the Theology of the Body. 
When my daughters leave my home I want to feel confident that they will be prepared to make truly informed decisions about these things. 





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7 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good plan. I am not opposed to using the tools of modern medicine but I have found the trick it have many discussions with your obgyn about what you do and don't want. You have to know so you can trust when an emergency comes up. I had 9 hospital v births with no problems. I have had two early miscarriages. The last two were surprise twins that shared a placenta. They were taken early because my health tanked. I learned so much this pregnancy and I thought I knew it all. I was surprised at how routine the doctors can become. Anyway our twins are good and now so am I - four months later. I would be curious to see what you compile in your class. I have a houseful of daughters that I want informed.

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  2. Thanks Neen. I will probably post more about the course as I get it ready. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting.

    (The twins are darling!!)

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  3. Unfortunately the curriculum could not get into a public, or even probably Catholic, high school. It would be looked at with suspicion- as if the teacher had evil intent.

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  4. I would probably aim it for homeschoolers anyway if I did anything with it outside of my own family. But if evil = asking questions of the medical providers than I guess I would be guilty as charged! ;-)

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  5. I would be as well. I am teaching family life and consumer science this year. I asked if I could teach a bit about childbirth choices in the parenting unit. Nope. I cannot teach about child abuse either.

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  6. A good overview of breast feeding is so important and can help in working through difficulties at a later stage. I say this as a mom who was not successful at breast feeding 20 years ago, and also as a current WIC nutritionist who has learned tons about BFing in the three years I've been with WIC.

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