Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Show, Old School

U.S. Maternity Care: Don't get me mad! Because I have a whole posse of women behind me who are happily nursing and caring for their babies and don't want to get mad either.
This week, a new television show premiered, called The Doctors. Here's what I have to say:

San Francisco—It is too bad that the producers of a new television show called The Doctors, which premiered this week across the country, aren’t paying attention to all this vetting that is going on in the news lately. Seems that they missed a few fact checks in their preparation for their show on home birth as well. For example, they start off the show with Dr. Andrew Ordon (don’t mind him, he’s a plastic surgeon— of course he isn’t up to speed on childbirth) saying, “Without a question, the safer place for mother and baby is in the hospital.” Hmmm, fact checker please. Where is the evidence to that claim? Is it in the 30% C-section rate, our abysmal U.S. infant mortality rate or the maternal mortality rate that is on the rise for the first time in 30 years? Those are hospital births we are talking about. As a matter of very known fact, most births in the U.S. happen in the hospital, given that less than 1% are planned home births. So, is the hospital really safer? What are they so afraid of?
Or did they forget to vet the statistics on home birth all together? You would think so, since the show was so slanted to the anti-home birth camp. Did the family that had a home birth even get to speak? Funny how Dr. Lisa Masterson interrupted their talk and subsequently never asked any follow-up questions. Where was the discussion or dialog? They didn’t even have an expert on home birth on the show to answer questions or refute what the doctor had to say. Midwives, of course, are the experts in home birth. Sounds like good ol’ boy politics to me—not what the show purported to be—fair and balanced. I should know because I spoke with the producer more than once. She claimed it would be a dialog about home birth and not a hit and run. Guess she didn’t know about the way doctors operate because I’m sure she wouldn’t lie to me. To the show’s credit, Dr. Sears had a few things to say: 4 of his siblings were born at home. But they silenced him too by saying those babies were just lucky. Yes, indeed, lucky to have been born into the loving hands of a compassionate family that chose the best for their baby. Not “lucky”, as Dr. Masterson implies, to have escaped certain death and irreparable damage from a home birth. Does Dr. Masterson know anything about homebirth in this country? Fact checker, please.
Midwifery is not based on luck. Midwifery is a time-tested profession that holds at its pinnacle a dedication to the safety of mothers and babies in childbirth. Ample evidence exists today to prove that US doctors, most notably the trade union ACOG, is behind the times. They cling to backward notions that the hospital is the safest place to have a baby while the C-Section rate climbs far above the 10-15% that the World Health Organization and the Healthy People 2000 Consortium deemed appropriate for our country. The induction rate is also escalating as pitocin is used with aplomb, as if two things were true: 1) that women can’t give birth without artificial stimulation, and 2) that its use has no health consequences. Dr. Masterson would like the world to believe that OBs would NEVER do anything for their convenience. Did she read the Listening to Mothers survey? Maybe she’s never done anything like that, but for sure her ACOG colleagues are. The Listening to Mothers Survey states, “Almost half of all mothers reported that their caregiver tried to induce labor, most commonly through the use of artificial oxytocin. More than one-third of those mothers cited a non-medical factor as at least partially the reason for the attempted induction.”
In the meantime, certified professional midwives attending planned home births have a 3.7% C section rate and much lower intervention rates than their planned hospital birth counterparts. All the while having a similar infant mortality rate as a comparable, low-risk group having their babies in the hospital. This data shows that by having your baby at home, you have no greater risk of your baby dying than by having it in the hospital. Too bad they didn’t have a certified professional midwife on the show to follow up on the inaccuracies presented. I guess Kathy Gulinello, producer of this segment of The Doctors, didn’t see it as a necessary voice. Dr. Sears spoke only once for 30 seconds and that was deemed enough to be the balance in their version of fair and balanced.
Too bad they are so old school. They are up-to-date on things like “informed choice” and the fact that having your baby at home or in the hospital can be “one of the most important choices” you will make. But Dr. Masterson misses the most salient aspects of maternity reform when she says, “You don’t want to take on the responsibility for your child, you absolutely do not.” Maternity reform is on its way, with women being more informed than ever, standing up for their birthing rights, and yes, indeed, fully taking responsibility for their bodies, their babies and their births. As maternity care evolves, more women will be empowered by their birth experiences. Midwifery care and home birth will continue to make in-roads as a solution to some of our most pressing maternity care disparities. In the meantime, hospitals will need to take a hard look at their sky-rocketing C-section rates, infant mortality and maternal experiences that beg the question: Are we really doing the best that we can for mothers and babies? More vetting and less kvetching will show that homebirth is not the problem. As the rest of the world moves forward, this new show will be left in the dust.

P.S. Have Dr. Masterson call me. I'll tell her how to avoid a 10-15% shoulder dystocia rate.

Please log on to their website and visit the forums and give them hell for trying to mess with us. Here is the address: The Doctors


Rixa said...

Oh yes, I have BTDT with shows that promise to have a fair, balanced, and non-controversial view. I appeared last summer on the UK's GMTV LK Today Show (kind of like the Today Show) to talk about my unassisted birth. The producers told me multiple times that it would be non-controversial, not a debate, but rather an opportunity for me to chat with the host about why I had a "freebirth." They didn't tell me, until the day I arrived, that they were inviting a doctor on the show. But, they assured me, it would not be a debate at all; he'd just have one minute at the very end to make a short comment. Well, as things turned out, I had about 30 seconds total, and then the host turned to the doctor. And the rest of the time was basically the two of them reaming on my choices. So much for a friendly chat!

Lisa Clark said...

“You don’t want to take on the responsibility for your child, you absolutely do not.”

I missed the show and I'm glad I did. I'm insulted that a doctor actually said this on camera. I absolutely DO want to take responsibility for my child! That is not an obligation I can or want to abdicate to anyone else. If my child has a serious injury or health problem at birth or any other time in their life, I will be the one who must live with the consequences of my health care decisions for them. And I can live with those choices. It's one-size-fits-all medicine I can't live with, especially if it's coerced or forced.