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Reflection: The Business of Being Born

The first startling statistic of childbirth in America is that less than 8% of births are attended by a midwife. In Europe and Japan, midwives attend an average of 70% of births.

Startling stats, part two. The USA has the number one worst maternal death rate and the second worst infant mortality rate in the developed world.

Perhaps this makes more sense when we realize that in other countries midwives deliver babies, not doctors. Obstetricians are always available or on call in case of delivery emergencies. Obstetricians don’t do the majority of baby delivery in any country except the USA.

What’s the big difference?

Capitalism.

Hospitals in the USA are businesses, and businesses are all about increased traffic and turnover. Pregnant women in — baby out — minimum recovery time — goodbye. Any time additions lose money.

In an effort to keep turnover high and profits higher, many women are nearly immediately administered pitocin to induce stronger contractions. This is painful, so women are then offered and encouraged to have an epidural for pain relief. But epidurals slow contractions. Therefore she needs more pitocin to keep up the rate of contractions (and then needs another epidural…) The fluctuation between pitocin-induced contractions and epidural slowing contractions takes oxygen away from the baby, and too often results in “emergency” c-sections.

Since 1996 there has been a 46% increase in c-sections, s that by 2005 one in three births were c-sections. Additionally, it has been documented that c-sections peak at 4pm and 10pm — when doctors are ready to go home before shift changes. The surgery is relatively simple on the part of the obstetrician, meaning that they’re less likely to be sued than in a traditional birth.

Why the lack of midwives? Answer one is that there is a lack of understanding what women in labor need (in the USA). The biggest reason though is that hospitals don’t like the competition — therefore many insurance companies don’t like to want to pay midwives. This means midwives have to fight insurance companies for what is owed to them, and many go bankrupt. Midwives average $4 thousand for their services, while a hospital bill is often around $13 thousand.

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Food for thought —

Natural birth releases a huge cocktail of hormones and “love drugs,” helping a new mother to truly bond with her newborn. A c-section bypasses this, and no love hormone cocktail is released into the mother’s body. Does this screw up one in three kids later?

Also, do labor and delivery drugs fuck with infants? In previous studies with formerly used drugs there were side effects later in life for these babies. For now, and this round of drugs, there are no conclusive answers yet.

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One thought on “Reflection: The Business of Being Born”

  1. Another consideration with C sections is the cocktail of beneficial bacteria that coats the baby on the way down the birth canal and helps kick start its immune system.

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