Monday, November 28, 2011

Birth in America: What you haven’t been told

I was born at home. So were all my siblings. The older I get the more I realize that my parents were ahead of their time. In an effort to follow the Lord’s leading and apply His Word to their lives they made choices that were once considered outrageous, but are now almost mainstream.

The last 8 years I have spent much of my time and energy invested in pro-life projects - a crisis pregnancy center, and now The Morning Center - a pro-life maternity hospital and mobile care units which Samaritan Ministries plans to launch in the next 18 months. At each turn I seemed to bump in to questions about how modern Americans approach birth. I began reading articles, talking to friends, and casually informing myself about birth statistics in our country. The more I studied, the more I became fascinated..and horrified. And, the more I began to wonder if God was calling me to take the birth process in America on as more than a casual study.

What I have discovered has been shocking. American birth has gone from a process that was once reverenced and valued for bringing the next generation in to the world, to a process that is characterized only by pain and fear. Giving birth used to be surrounded by hope and plans for the future. Now it seems little more than a procedure that is rife with parental selfishness, medical greed, and a ever-increasing rate of risk - at least in mainstream birth practices.

One of the documentaries I just watched, entitled The Business of Being Born (please use discretion if watching), pointed out that the new “type of birth” being embraced in the lives of higher-end Americans is called “Designer Birth”. Yes, that’s right. A woman goes to her local doctor’s office and picks out what day she’d like her baby born, what time, and pretty much everything else - except the baby’s gender. What has our world come to?

The truth is this: God made women to bear children. That statement is pregnant with much more than meets the eye. Biologically speaking, however, it means that women’s bodies were designed to grow, nurture, and deliver a child. The bearing of children is not a result of the fall. Quite the contrary, a woman’s desire to have and bear children is part of God’s perfect plan for our universe and his ultimate redemption of and glory on earth. Rather, it is the pain and challenges of birth that are a result of the fall. Pregnancy and birth is natural. It’s the gestational diabetes, “morning” sickness, and pain of labor that is un-natural.

Unfortunately, modern American culture treats pregnancy as an illness, rather than a natural process. In a different documentary I watched, Pregnant in America (also use discretion), it was fascinating to me to see the difference in American and European (specifically, Dutch and German) approaches to child birth. Over 85% of babies born in Holland are born at home, under advisement of a midwife. When one of the new Dutch moms was asked if she’d rather be like an American woman that goes to the hospital, she was shocked and said, “But...I’m not sick.” Exactly.

In our culture we are told rush, rush, rush. But, the reality if something is worth anything, it is worth waiting and laboring for.

All of this, and we haven’t even broached the economic aspect of giving birth. I have a friend who runs Crisis Pregnancy Centers in New York City. A few of his clinics are actually located in hospitals that have Labor & Delivery. When I queried him on why his clinics were placed there, he said that doctors are actually paying him to operate there. Why? Because they make more money (whether being paid by Medicaid, a 3rd party payer, or self-pay) on live births than abortions. In other words, to these OB/GYN’s, it was economically advantageous for them to deliver a baby rather than abort one. It horrifies me that their business practices were based solely on economic grounds, and not moral. Who of all people should know the joy of bringing new life in to the world than a doctor who specializes in delivering babies?

Still, many times I am afraid we underestimate the economics of birth. It is always so important to figure out the economic motivations of any institution in society. Figure out where the money comes from and where it’s going, and you’ll know how to change it for the better - or the worse.

And, the greatest thing driving the economics of birth is the c-section rate. If a woman is convinced that she can’t have a natural birth and she needs surgery then the doctor can charge her more, the hospital can charge her more, and her risks go up, her recovery rate is going to take longer, and it provides more paperwork for the insurance companies - so it keeps them in business. In other words, it’s a winner for everyone...except Mom and baby.

The other thing that controls medical decisions by OBGYN’s and doctors at a hospital is that the are the puppets of Insurance companies. Why is this? Because they don’t want their malpractice or other insurance rates to go up. When do their rates go up? When someone calls foul. So, a doctor does what they must to protect themselves. They don’t want any decision they make in caring for a patient called in to question, so a doctor almost always takes the most extreme measures which means doing the radical c-section surgery (where they are fully protected and justified by their insurance).

Even if a c-section is not performed, other extreme measures, such as artificial induction often takes place. Pictocin is the most commonly used drug for inducing labor - it’s artificial oxytocin which causes distress to the women and the babies. And the scariest part of it all is that no one knows the permanent effects of this popular drug.

I could write on and on about this. Have you guessed that by now this is a topic I’m very passionate about...but, I don’t want to do all our research for you. I encourage you to read books, read blogs, and learn more about this very important topic.

As for me, I’ve launched in to studying to be a doula and midwife both on the side. In fact, I’m meeting with a local midwife this week to explore the possibility of apprenticing with her. Knowledge and experience are so vital in this field. And, the way I look at it even if I just accumulate knowledge for my own sake or for the sake of friends and family the studying and experience is worth it.

My mind keeps wandering back to the Israelite midwives in Egypt. Their knowledge to quickly assist the women and their wisdom in responding to the authorities of their time saved the lives of babies and preserved God’s people. Perhaps its time for medical professionals who are focused on high-quality health care, focusing on women and babies, to once again stand in the gap and change the face of birth in America.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, Elysse! I'm excited for you...what an amazing route to take. May God bless your endeavors!