Lack of prenatal care, my arse.

Minutes after birth at OU...notice no annoying I.V. :)

First and foremost, natural childbirth advocates encourage unmedicated births because they are safer for mom and baby, not because we like pain, consider ourselves superheroes or want others to be in pain during childbirth.

On Thursday, I went to an Amnesty International panel discussion on the Maternal Healthcare Crisis in America. I walked away disappointed. Granted, prenatal care is very important and the lack of it surely contributes to the health of mothers and their babies, but I feel like they missed the biggest cause of death or near deaths of mothers. I believe that the way birth is handled by the majority of providers in this country has got to be just as big of a reason as lack of prenatal care for the deaths of mothers in this country, not to mention infant mortality. Much of this blog post will quote information from one of my favorite and most informative books on childbirth, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. If there's a page number after a stat or relevant info, that is the book you will find it in.

  • In 1970, the Cesarean section rate was only 5%. Currently, the c-section rate in the U.S. is 32%. The World Health Organization recommends a rate no higher than 15%.
  • Two-thirds of c-sections in the U.S. are done for either "insufficient progress" or because the prior birth was a c-section. p.19
  • Convenience plays a big factor in the increase in our c-section rates. Studies have shown that obstetricians are less likely to perform c-sections late at night or on weekends. p. 17
  • Money matters. Obstetricians receive hundreds more for a c-section and hospitals make thousands of dollars more. p. 17
  • Risk of maternal death is 2-3 times higher with a C-section. 

How do you prevent a C-section? I'm glad you asked. ;)

  • Don't be induced!! 

    • Induction causes the problems it was intended to prevent. Contractions are much harder on the baby because it takes greater contraction pressures over a longer period of time to get labor going and keep it going. p.50 This in turn causes more pain for mom as well as baby and a deceleration in baby's heart rate due to the increased stress of unbearably long contractions. Mom needs an epidural, labor slows down, needs more pitocin, baby is stressed even more, emergency c-section ensues. See "cascade of interventions" for more info. 
    • The 40 week pregnancy length was simply declared by a German obstetrician in the early 1800's, yet in a study done in 1990, researchers discovered that the AVERAGE pregnancy for first time moms was 8 days longer. That is 41 weeks and 1 day mamas. For women with a prior birth, the average length was 40 weeks and 3 days. 

  • Choose a caregiver with a low c-section rate.
  • Have your baby at a free standing birth center, at home or at a hospital with a low c-section rate and a high VBAC rate. (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean.) OU Medical is the only hospital in the metro area that I'm aware of that allow VBAC's. They do many of them! The midwives are amazing there!
  • Hire a doula. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. A doula is a woman who supports a woman in labor physically, emotionally and through the giving of information when asked. If you think you can't afford a doula, check around for recently trained doulas who attend births for significantly cheaper or even free. Usually the more experienced the doula, the higher the cost. Mine was $600 and she earned every penny. :) More info on doulas and find one at or Birth Matters in OKC.
  • Don't plan a repeat c-section. VBACs are legal in Oklahoma and statistically safer than repeat c-sections. 
  • Refuse a planned c-section for a big baby.
  • Consider refusing induction for going past your due date or rupturing your membranes.
  • Refuse continuous electronic fetal monitoring.
  • Refuse a c-section for slow progress.
  • Avoid an epidural.
  • Stay active in labor. (above suggestions are from p. 27)
  • Don't deliver at Lakeside Women's Hospital... (my opinion) 

C-sections can save lives and I am glad we have them. They need to be reserved for true medical emergencies though and not just because the doctor or the mother wants one. I think there should be a mandatory video watched on the "cascade of interventions" before a mother goes into labor. As women, we should educate ourselves on birth and the safest and healthiest way to get the baby out. Doctors though, being paid by our insurance that many of us pay hundreds of dollars a month for, are responsible as well. They should make sure a woman knows how her body was made to get a baby out, it wasn't made for a doctor to get the baby out. A woman should have the right to make a fully informed decision based on the knowledge of the risks of pain medications, i.v. use, epidurals, internal monitoring, artificially rupturing bags of water, etc. It should not be based on fear mongering by the doctors or from knowledge obtained from watching A Baby Story, although A Baby Story has had some pretty awesome unmedicated births on there recently.

If you are planning or considering a natural, unmedicated childbirth, here are some resources I recommend looking into.

This is such an intense topic and so much more information is available. I hope this is just a starting point for some of you on your way to achieve a better birth for you and your baby. Thanks for reading. 

For a look at my last birth plan, click here.

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