Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Beyond Beyoncè: Five lies the media tells you about birth

As a birth journalist, I receive hundreds of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding news alerts each day. About 85% of them are about celebrity pregnancies.  That leaves approximately 15% new stories, read by both parents and professionals,  that contain some modicum of truth.  Or do they?
What both parents and professionals see in the media (news, podcasts, internet, television shows and movies), to some degree, take away from the natural body instincts for birth and parenting.  Here are some examples:

  •      Childbirth is a dangerous event.   Studies from across the globe confirm that childbirth is inherently safe.  The WHO indicates that there may be only 10-15% of birth events in need of cesarean birth to maintain safety.
  •      Babies will drown during a waterbirth.  If you carefully examine the physiology of this event (water birth), you will see that since the baby is going from one water environment to another, and the umbilical cord is still attached there is no chance for drowning.  However, should the baby be brought up from the water and air is touch the face, this helps to initiate breathing and yes, if the baby is put fully back down in the water, that may cause a problem.
  •      The pain of childbirth is excruciating.  That actually depends on the situation.  Many times, pain is exacerbated by other situations: fear of the unknown, being alone, tension, reduced food and fluid intake, and sometimes just a simple low tolerance to pain.  In all of these cases, knowledge gained through childbirth education classes will help – not cure – the experience of pain in childbirth.

  •      Interventions during childbirth, including epidural anesthesia, are bad.  Again, knowledge is power.  With any medical procedure, from starting an IV to performing an episiotomy, there is risk.  However, the risks (all of them) must be weighed against the benefits (all of them) and vice versa.  This takes a birth team of skilled and knowledgeable people!  Another point to add here is that if the medical staff only know one way to handle a birthing situation, then all women in that birthing situation will be handled that one way.  It is how the staff are taught.  It is ingrained in then that THIS way is the BEST way….which may or may not be accurate.
  •      Because you are birthing in the US, you can be assured of accuracy, safety and a better birth outcome that most countries.  We Americans still have a LONG way to go in terms of the maternity care field.  While we don’t have the highest cesarean rate in the world, it is still over 33%.  Our maternal/infant mortality and morbidity statistics rank us lower and lower each year amongst other countries, sometimes as low as 51st place.

Regardless of whether you are a parent expecting a baby, or a birth professional, you need to know the facts, physiology and truth about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.  Read and read and learn, ask questions!  Go beyond Beyoncè to get the facts!

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