May 25th, 2010

Government and Childbirth, Compared


photo credit: Ángel Martín Mateo

The process of delivering a child in America has become horribly broken. The vast majority of women have, in recent decades, come to fear childbirth as a highly dangerous event requiring the guidance, supervision, and intervention of a doctor. These women give birth in a sterile environment (in more ways than one, though there are plenty of germs to go around), deferring all important decisions and diagnoses to their medical supervisor—after all, “doctor knows best”.

As a result of this trend, women have come to see medical interventions during the birth process as a given. They expect to be put on “pit”—short for pitocin, a drug to induce labor—and given an epidural—a routine (though still dangerous and complex) administration of anesthesia through the spine to relieve the mother-to-be of the pain associated with giving birth. The consequences of this trend are as alarming as they are unsurprising: 32.3% of women who give birth in America end up getting a cesarean section.

For various reasons, expectant mothers birthing in a hospital are either advised to go on pitocin, are given pitocin without their knowledge, or request it themselves. This drug both initiates and augments labor, often making contractions much harder than they normally would be if the body were left to its own devices and tempo. With the increased pain of more intense contractions, women are more likely to request an epidural (unless they were already expecting to get one, as most are) in order to alleviate the pain. The idea behind the placement of the epidural in the spine is to numb the entire lower half of the woman’s body, rendering her senseless in the areas involved in giving birth.

However, numbing this region of a birthing woman’s body is like putting a blindfold on a race car driver. As such, women who receive an epidural are less able to control their muscles and therefore further become dependent on the doctor’s intervention to help extract the baby. Numbing the womb in this way increases the likelihood of “failing to progress”, in which contractions can slow or become unproductive, dilation may stop, or the descent of the baby down the birth canal slows or altogether stops. This prompts the nurse to administer even more pitocin to further induce labor, and thus the intertwined intervention of both pitocin and epidural pain relief continue to compound upon one another.

Whatever the arguments for or against these medical interventions may be, it’s good business. Doctors are able to turn beds more quickly, thus increasing their profits and decreasing the amount of time they have to wait around for nature to take its course. But it’s bad for mothers, as evidenced by America now enjoying one of the highest cesarean rates in the developed world. Even though America spends more on maternity care than any other nation, there are 40 nations with lower maternal mortality rates than us. It’s safer to give birth in Kuwait than in California.

Keep in mind that a high chance of getting a cesarean section, or even death, is not the only downside and risk to these interventions. By administering this combination of drugs, the need for even further intervention is increased—forceps, vacuums, episiotomies, and the like. Essentially, using medicine and medical practices to alter the body’s natural processes (when not medically required) creates one problem after another, inviting more and more intervention as the doctor strives to remedy each new problem.

As I think over this sad state of affairs, I can’t help but make a comparison to our government. Consider how many interventions are made, by government, that are both unnecessary and improper. Whether it’s the subsidization of the sugar industry, the suppression of free speech through campaign finance laws, the denial of habeas corpus to suspicious men with brown skin, or any number of other issues (of which there are far too many), our government—like the doctor who claims to “know best”—is administering one intervention after another that compounds upon the previous to produce an outcome that is both alarming and often destructive.

Consider a common example: prayer in schools. Is it proper to have prayers at the opening of sports games, assemblies, classes, or other meetings inside of a government-run school? If so, how is the Buddhist boy going to feel when his classmates are all praying to their God, leaving him in the inferior minority? And if prayers are banned, one can only imagine the anger God-fearing Christian parents will unleash upon school administrators and local legislators, pointing their finger of scorn and warning of divine retribution for taking God out of the classroom!

But these questions all disappear if the interventions are avoided, just as our high cesarean and maternal mortality rates would drastically decline if women chose to avoid unnecessary interventions whenever possible—an effort that requires becoming educated and confident enough in one’s own abilities to resist the possible fear-mongering and pressuring from a doctor with a set agenda. Think of it: if people truly understood that government has no role in providing education to its citizens—if “public” schools were abolished, destroying the monopoly that prevents the proliferation of more private, co-op, and home schools—then we would have no need of answering this question of prayer in school. We wouldn’t need the further interventions that always follow—draconian school policies, litigation against the school district, new laws to try and regulate the issue at hand, and a frustrated and fractured group of parents who want the government to decide in their favor.

Anytime you see a setting in which one intervention is being caked on top of another, pause to analyze the underlying issue. Chances are, you’ll find an example of excessive government intervention trying to regulate, legislate, and tax in places it should not be.

Pitocin, epidurals, and extra-constitutional policies and programs are all dangerous to the health of each individual involved. Further, the introduction of one intervention begets opportunity for another, creating a cycle that is difficult to counteract. For the safety of all mothers, babies, and citizens of our country, it is imperative that we demand that both doctors and legislators alike be used only when absolutely necessary, and when confined to acting in a proper and safe way.

42 Responses to “Government and Childbirth, Compared”

  1. Jeremy Nicoll
    May 25, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    Let’s not forget the risk of stabbing the spine with a needle. If a women does get an epidural, she should only get it once in her lifetime as the risk of damaging her spine is quite high. Yet, they are given like candy. What you say highlights the need for every one of us to be informed about our own lives and decisions.

  2. Aaron Bradley
    May 25, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    This is a thought provoking essay, I appreciate the comparision as well. Further comparisions may be made regarding social issues such as gender equality or sexual orientation – look at the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ stories in the new today. Also this essay applies to the Mortgage and finacial crisis, or even CA leagalizing Marijuana… more government intervention begets additional bureaucracy, which favors yet additional controls, and on an on, thus leaving the actual percieved problem or social issue burried in a mired and complex structure that is supposed to provide a solution… sadly the ‘solution’ is far more problematic and gives birth to it’s own set of problems. Worse thatn the sum of all it’s parts.

  3. Jeremy
    May 25, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    This is an excellent point. It reminds me of a sound byte that I’ve heard a few years back. People are very good at making decisions, but they are very poor at making assumptions. Most of what we do, by necessity, is based upon assumptions. The more we can question and get to the root of things the better off we are. Thanks Connor.

  4. Gary Nuila
    May 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    I think the analogy is potent because of the similarities between the use of authority in both settings. Having been at my wife’s side for four births, all involving the medical establishment in some way, I can attest that the attitude of the medical establishment and government align almost perfectly: “we have studied, you have not, we are experts, you are not, unless you have gone to the schools we have gone to, your opinion is not valid, we will take care of you, we are wise, we know.”

    Yes, you are free to challenge that authority, but the response in both cases is usually that if you choose to disregard the authority, you are foolish. That’s exactly the response we’ve had from doctors when my wife has insisted on forgoing the epidural, or in this latest birth, when we announced to the doctor that we would be transferring to a midwife because we had absolutely no reason to believe this pregnancy would require intervention from an OB. We were made to think that such choices would be risking the health of our children (without any justifying reasons or evidence), and were strongly advised against them. When decisions are framed like that, how many parents do you think can resist such authority (especially with the the skewed view of the infallibility of this authority that is fed to us)? Very few, and hence the high rates of US intervention.

    I don’t blame the doctors for framing things this way. I know the medical establishment has it hammered into them to watch their backs because of the always imminent fear of malpractice suits. Also, I don’t deny doctors have a host of good information and practices, I’m thankful for them, and I am glad for their intervention when needed, much as I am glad for our government’s intervention when needed.

    On the government side, think of how the US intervention in Iraq was framed to the American people by the Bush Administration: “agree to our decision or you foolishly risk national security. We know. We’ve studied. We have the information. Trust us.” It is quite literally the same message: “follow us or risk the wellbeing of your children like fools.” And what did that intervention in Iraq get us? You got it: intervention in perpetuity till someday, emergency C-Section will likely be the only option remaining.

  5. David
    May 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Connor? I don’t think that the way to resolve the prayer in schools issue is by abolishing public education, just as we wouldn’t address the increase of c-sections by eliminating hospital deliveries. Nevertheless, a good comparison to government bureaucracy.

  6. Connor
    May 25, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    David, I think you’re missing the point.

    I am not trying to resolve the “prayer in schools” issue, but rather point out that it is only an issue because government has intervened, in this case, into education of children.

  7. Brooke
    May 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    I’m sorry but I think this comparison is a bit much. I agree with David that it is extreme. Epidurals pose a danger to every 1 and 250,000 women who receive them. As far as someone I knew who experienced childbirth- they were happy to receive the pain relief the epidural provided and after receiving it felt that it made the whole process significantly better and easier. Of course there are those who want to take it all natural- kudos to them, but I think there are many who would prefer an epidural or some pain medication. And if you want to take it natural I don’t think women are ignorant of other options simply because the doctor is persuading otherwise.
    Yes our maternal mortality/ infant mortality rate is too high for the great developed nation that we are. That is one of the reasons why I supported health care reform. Our health care system IS being run more like a business than a place to simply administer for the best interest of those seeking medical attention.
    I also think that it is OKAY to fear such a significant event as child birth. I don’t believe this is a new phenomenon with the advancement of medicine.

  8. Sarah
    May 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    BAH! Don’t make me want to strangle my OB more than I already do!

  9. Jim Davis
    May 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    Public education is an interesting predicament that many anti-socialist-type conservatives will have to be honest with themselves at some point.

    You can’t be against socialized medicine (on the premise of principle) and at the same time be for socialized education.

    As someone attending a state school I have some deep soul searching to do. :)

    Great article Connor! My sister just had her second baby. Her experiences with both births taught her much of what you wrote about here. Her first birth was done at Utah Valley Hospital and her experience was much like you outlined- “We know what’s best and you’ll do what we tell you.” On the second birth she went to Timpanogos Hospital and had a much better experience. They gave her the most natural birth that circumstances could permit within a hospital. She said it was a lot less painful without the drugs and inductions. Also, they respected her wishes even though she could tell they didn’t necessarily agree with her.

  10. John
    May 25, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    Given that congress was already establishing funding for public education in 1785, I would like to read a constructive article from you, which explained what you think the proper role of government in education is.

    Take it as a given that we agree the current system is broken beyond repair, and describe what a better system would be, and what the government’s role in it would be. If the government is to have no role at all, then explain how we went off track even before the constitution was written.

  11. Clumpy
    May 25, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    The anti-epidural argument is a little silly; the risk is far higher than Brooke mentions but still in the one in the thirty thousands for any sort of serious complication, and maternal death itself is pretty low in the United States, nowhere higher than 17 in 100,000 by most estimates. The “developed world” has it pretty good as far as actual deaths go.

    I think that Connor’s comparison is valid nonetheless, though – we take these procedures as a matter of course, trusting the experts to give us the information we need. (Naturally this is a huge blow to the private sector libertarian mantra which relies on a completely open and free flow of information, but never mind that for now.) The experts may be motivated primarily by profits in usually going further than may be necessary in their treatments, though I’d say that the developed world has access to far better resources for preserving the lives of both mother and child than the more “natural” births those who distrust the medical establishment may subject themselves to.

    Finally, Kuwait’s maternal mortality rate may be something like 4 in 100,000 lower than California (the state usually cited when giving this information), though it’s higher than the U.S. average and the country’s infant morality rate is higher than nearly any U.S. state (and more than two-and-a-half that of Utah). With countries like Afghanistan losing 15% of their babies and 1,600 out of every 100,000 mothers during delivery, I’d be shocked if the developed world weren’t the way to go.

    I’ve made the same mistake I noticed in the comments – focused on the wrong points. I fully understand the main point of government being the cause and then offering themselves as the cure, though I think the connection was pretty labored (ha!) and as such kind of undermines my confidence in the underlying point, striking me as it does of armchair analysis (which is what I’m doing too, though my chair be plastic and immobile, so judge where you must).

  12. Carissa
    May 26, 2010 at 1:35 am #

    Connor- just curious, when you say “government has no role in providing education to its citizens” are you speaking just of federal government or state/local as well?

    And what do you think of Thomas Jefferson’s intent to provide (tax-funded, non-compulsory) basic education to all children free for 3 years? Was he too idealistic to suspect government would stay it’s hand?

    And by the way, I’m glad we have pitocin and epidurals available, but I hate the stigma associated with the choice to forego these modern options and give birth in a natural way- that it’s somehow irresponsible. Ergghh… so UNempowering.

  13. Eric Checketts
    May 28, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Great article, Connor. I am a firm believer that artificial intervention into natural laws/processes is detrimental to the health and well-being of those whom the laws/processes are meant to benefit.

  14. oldmama
    May 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    good heavens, aren’t there any home educators and home birth people on here?

    As for government having anything to do with education, it should not.

    Churches, probably.
    Private organizations, perhaps.
    Parents and other family, most of the time.

    But government. No.

    Sorry–

    I taught public school (did/does anyone else on here?)–

    and . . . I won’t support it, though my taxes did for the two decades I home educated my children.

    As for home birth, well–

    *we* can argue for the natural stuff all *we* want. I never used it, and, sure, it was painful, but–

    Finland has 90% or higher home births (or did when I checked about 5 years ago)–

    and their infant mortality is the lowest in the world, I believe.

    That should say something. But, oops, it’s hard to administer those ‘feel good’ drugs at home, isn’t it?

    It is every woman’s choice; I do believe that–

    but the statistics speak for themselves.

    As for public education, it has chafed me (and my husband) to pay taxes that support schools while buying my own books for 20 years. Howl, if you wish–

    gnash your teeth at me–

    I have heard all the anti-home school arguments, and I’ve survived them all.

    I won’t mind; I’ve put up with people criticizing my home school for 20 years, so I doubt you can hurt my feelings.

    LOL!

    But, I think you make good points, Connor.

    If people don’t want to think outside the box, however, *they* just won’t think outside the box, whether it’s the standard four walled box (generally windowless) in which children are mass educated or whether it’s the standard four-walled box in which most elderly people die and in which most babies are born (hospitals)–

    as for public education, this is what I think–

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUASiDg-kg4

    and the ‘bottom line’, of course, is that medical doctors are still some of the highest paid ‘professionals’–

    school teachers, on the other hand, don’t get much financial respect.

  15. Clif
    May 30, 2010 at 4:05 am #

    Interesting thoughts. I have some real problems with your analogy though.

    You say, “if women chose to avoid unnecessary interventions whenever possible—an effort that requires becoming educated and confident enough in one’s own abilities to resist the possible fear-mongering and pressuring from a doctor with a set agenda.”

    You see I guess this really gets at the heart of where our disagreement lies – both in terms of medical practice as well as the scope of government.

    Are doctors always right? Is every treatment that is done always necessary and beneficial? Of course not. There are plenty of examples that can be cited where doctors have misdiagnosed and/or mistreated a patient. Nevertheless, the idea that doctors are motivated by a “set agenda” and resort to fear tactics in order to get their way is just not being very honest. Almost every doctor that I have ever worked with (I am a Critical Care RN) makes a good-faith effort to do what is right for their patient. You can go ahead and romanticize the concept of “natural” childbirth. I have a feeling that almost every pioneer woman that ever had to give birth naturally would gladly trade places with their 21st century counterparts.

    Your assertion that a woman can educate herself in a relatively short period of time and thereby have judgement on par with the physician’s is unrealistic, to say the very least. Suddenly reading a couple of books and some articles off of the internet is a substitute for 8 years of schooling, 3-5 years of residency and internships, and several more years of professional experience?

    What this all boils down to is trust. We can use engineering as an example. Do I trust the engineers that design the airplanes I fly in or build the bridges that I cross over? Yes, I do trust them. Does that mean they are perfect and that mistakes never happen? No. Nevertheless, I recognize that their knowledge and experience far surpass my own and I am willing to take my chances.

    We are not islands unto ourselves. We are dependent on the expertise of others to get us through life. This interdependence makes life better for all of us. I personally feel very blessed to live in country where we have a government that provides all sorts of experts. It could be the engineers that design the infrastructure of our cities, biochemists that verify that the drugs that I take are safe, accountants that verify that the money in my bank account is safe, air traffic controllers that see to it that I get from point A to point B in safety, microbiologists that sequence bacterial DNA in order to enhance our understanding of infectious diseases, buiding inspectors that enforce codes to ensure the safety of buildings I enter, food inspectors that see to it that the food that I eat is safe for consumption. The list goes on and on. There is no way in the world that we can become experts on every subject out there. At some point we have to be able to have some trust in others.

    I trust my government. Does that mean it is perfect? Of course it doesn’t – not even close. Nevertheless, it does a tremendous amount to to improve the quality of life for all of us.

  16. oldmama
    May 30, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    wow . . .

    I realize that *you* are not responding to *me*, Cliff–

    but it amazes me to find someone who trusts *his* government.

    I do not trust *mine*–

    it’s not *mine*–

    wow–

    “it does a tremendous amount to {to} improve the quality of life for all of us”–

    which “all of us”? I don’t think those young women and children whose husbands and fathers are fighting in Iraq have a very high quality of life (or the children whose mothers have to leave and go over to the middle east)–

    there are quite a few who would argue that the government does more to decrease the quality of life than the other way around.

    I am just so amazed that someone still has such rose-colored glasses on.

    Are you LDS? Do you . . . um . . . read the scriptures at all?

    just wondering–

    sorry to get personal, but I am still so . . . in awe–

    those experts–

    wow . . .

    where would *we* be without the experts?

    Wonder what God would do without the experts–

    LOL!

  17. oldmama
    May 30, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    oh, and have you read the journals of any ‘pioneer’ women or midwives?

    I know one midwife who delivered 1,000 babies and never lost a mother or child–

    you make blanket statements–

    and you haven’t spoken to any of those women–

    it’s just your pro-modern/progress hunch–

  18. Clumpy
    May 30, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Oldmama, your posts read like the sorts of rambling, pointless chain e-mails I receive periodically from people who think that they know more than they do – unstructured, full of needless asides and above all a paralyzing sense that the person sending the message has something significant to tell the world. I have yet to see one from somebody who does.

    All that your posts are missing is a font size at least six points too large, an unnatural text color and broken or oversized images scattered liberally across the body of the message to season the self-centered ignorance on display. I thank the powers that be that the restrictions of the comments format on this blog have limited your formatting options.

    Your claims to have been a public educator are certainly plausible; I’ve dealt with my share of crank teachers and professors. Finally, in reference to your homeschooling crusading, I can only fear for the wellbeing of any student (or child) unfortunate enough to find themselves in your tutelage.

  19. oldmama
    May 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    wow–

    do you feel better now?

    I was just coming on to apologize to Cliff for sounding “cynical and snide and too personal towards him”–

    and then I saw your post; I guess it’s not necessary.

    You did/do a very good job of slamming without appearing to slam.

    So, do you wander around the internet looking for people to say these things to?

    That, also, is amazing.

    So, apparently, *you* (whoever would call him/herself ‘clumpy'; I, at least, am honestly an old mother/grandmother) travel around on the internet and look for people who are going in a direction different from yours and see what you can do to stop them?

    I happen to come on here because I sincerely appreciate what Connor has to say.

    Why are *you* here?

    I went back and read your previous (to the one that slammed me) post, and it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either.

    I guess we live in different worlds, and I’m glad I’m in mine.

    Your world is brutal, but you seem comfortable there.

    Feel good about yourself; you succeeded. You successfully cleansed Connor’s board of an older voice.

  20. Connor
    May 30, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    Clumpy,

    You owe “oldmama” an apology, I believe. I, too, find her writing style unique and perhaps indicative of her age, but so what?

    Yours was a completely unwarranted attack on somebody based entirely upon writing style.

    How about an apology and then discussion of the various points being made?

    You know better than this.

  21. Clumpy
    May 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Oldmama, I do apologize for focusing my condemnation on your writing style rather than what you had written. More specifically, I really was angry at the specific content of your posts but didn’t express that, instead focusing on your writing style. I fear I’ve lost any moral authority to pursue the wiser path of conduct now, however :(.

    I wrote that in a particularly grumpy frame of mind which I am no longer in and I hope I didn’t seem to be condemning you as a person. The luxury of being able to delete things I’ve written just to vent and then write something better is something I’ve taken for granted, and I simply don’t have that option here. I don’t know you, and I’m sure were we to meet in some neutral setting we’d fine each other perfectly nice and well-adjusted human beings. I don’t believe that I contributed anything by my previous comment and while my words did have the intensity I wanted at the time, it would have been better for me to remain silent as I couldn’t possibly have written a polite or constructive rebuttal. It seems strange, but had I taken the “oldmama” username literally I probably would have been far less direct and given you the ordinary leeway I give people from a different time and bank of experiences.

    Your posts represented your own anecdotal experiences and beliefs, and as this means that any negative response to them would essentially be attacking you as a person, I should have just ignored rather than doing the text equivalent of a drive-by shooting :(. Again, sorry.

  22. Clif
    May 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    Well oldmama, what can I say?

    I guess this really comes down to one of those “glass half-full or glass half-empty” type scenarios and nothing you or I say is going to change the other’s opinion.

    If you want to believe that the government is corrupt and/or out to get you, you will certainly find reasons to support that point of view. As I said in my previous post, I’m under no illusions that everything the Federal government has done has been beneficial or even moral.

    Nevertheless, I am of the belief that, by and large, our elected officials and civil servants act in good faith. So even if I strongly disagree with their policy choices, I usually am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that they are at least making a sincere attempt to do what they think is right. Of course if enough people disagree with them, then they have the privilege of voting them out of office. That system has worked pretty well for quite a while now.

    So yes, our government is *my* government. Sometimes I find my opinions and beliefs represented by the majority and sometimes I don’t. That’s just how it goes – and I wouldn’t have it any differently.

    So to go back to Connor’s original post about doctors, we have two competing viewpoints. Are doctors simply going about doing unncessesary procedures in order to line their own pockets while being totally indifferent to the welfare of their own patients? Or are they making a good faith effort to do what they feel is right and in accordance with what are generally accepted best practices? (And those generally accepted best practices are constantly evolving as we continue to learn more and more.) Well, I’ve worked with hundreds of doctors over the years. Some of them were far more competent than others. Nevertheless, I don’t think I have ever come across a doctor where I questioned their intentions to help the patient.

    It is easy to idealize this whole notion of rugged individualism – and to get carried away with it. Personally though, I’m really happy that there are people in this world that know more than I do on a given subject and that I can trust – whether it be doctors or government regulators. I’m really happy to live in a place where I can reasonably assume that my food and water are safe because someone in the government has the job of making sure it is so.

  23. Mike
    May 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    I agree with Clif that the vast majority of govt. officials and doctors are well-intentioned. I have learned though that there are a few completely corrupt individuals that view government as the best vehicle to further their evil designs. They know govt. is the most effective means of control in our society.

    As we can see by Clif’s statements, govt. is afforded a level of legitimacy that no other organization has. These corrupt individuals know that to be most effective in their agenda they must convince a large number of well-meaning people to go along with their designs and be the main force in their efforts, albeit unwittingly. Their efforts are rarely overt enough to alert the majority to their true intentions, but the destructive results are clear for anyone who has a real desire to see.

    Most of us are completely unable to fathom such pure evil, and we dismiss this possibility altogether. This is exactly why this method is so effective. Anyone who truly wants to know will look for tell-tale signs of manipulation that show up as quantifiable statistics/trends.

    To “reasonably assume that food and water are safe because someone in government has the job of making sure it is so” is to ignore statistical trends. The tell-tale signs that Clif and the majority of trusting people neither look for, nor believe are corrolated to corruption, include sky-rocketing cancer rates, heart-disease, obesity, pharmaceutical abuse, bold-faced admission that our water-supply is contaminated with chemicals, pharmaceuticals, poisons etc.

    I’m not surprised though that Clif holds these views. I held these views for the majority of my life. As many of us know, there is a vast ocean of cognitive dissonance between perception and reality. Those of us on the other side of the ocean often suffer from selective amnesia, forgetting what it was like when we first realized we’d been lied to by those we trusted – whether intentional or not.

    We all have our own version of reality based on a lifetime of experiences and conditioning. The trick is aligning our version of reality with God’s reality – easier said than done during a time of universal deceit.

  24. Jim Davis
    May 31, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    oldmama, if you’re still reading… Please don’t leave Connor’s blog. I find your perspective very valuable.

  25. Brian
    May 31, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    When I started reading this article, I excitedly thought that Conner was going to address (or at least touch on) the government intervention in home birthing that is going on. But I was disappointed. Let it be said: home birthing is harder and harder to do — thanks to increased government regulations in recent years. Specifically, I refer to Utah’s laws. Ex: Midwives aren’t supposed to allow clients to have home births if they are a “high risk” pregnancy — like twins, for example. You can still have twins at home — but there mustn’t be a midwife present. This is just one of the rules that either passed recently or is on track to be passed soon. Forgive me if I got the details wrong, but the gist of what I’m saying is true: that home birthing is becoming harder to do, thanks to government. Despite what readers personally believe about child birthing, I think most readers here would agree that the government shouldn’t be slowing encroaching on our rights to birth at home.

    As a father of 3 children, all of who were born at home, I hope that voters will come to realize that we should have medical freedom too.

  26. Eric Checketts
    May 31, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    Thanks for saying that, Brian! My wife and I just had our third child. The first two kids were born the “modern medicine” way, with an epidural, pitocin, etc. For our most recent child, my wife decided that she wanted to do a natural birth. We still went to the hospital, but it was done in as natural a way as was possible in that setting.

    It was the single most sacred experience of my life. It would have been even more amazing if we had done it at home, which we fully plan on doing if we are blessed with another child.

    It is sad how hard they are making it for a person to maintain control over their own health and health-related care.

    Regulation isn’t freedom, and it isn’t what our Founding Fathers fought for.

  27. Josh Williams
    June 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Hey, Connor.

    Makes me think of a famous quote by the 14’th century physician Theophrastus Paracelsus, to paraphrase:

    “The difference between the cure and the poison is in the dose.”

    In this post (though you add qualifications,) you seem to conclude that Modern medicine IS the primary cause of the obscenely high maternal and infant morbidity here in the US. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) As you said, “the disease masquerading as the cure.”

    I feel that this perception is incorrect.

    If this were the case, we should logically expect to have rates of morbidity and mortality equal or greater than countries where most of the population has little access to modern medicine.

    If we want to learn where we are erring, we ought to examine the medical system in the countries that have the lowest rates of the same. Namely, Iceland, Singapore, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Hong Kong, and Finland.

    The reasons for our unusually high infant and maternal morbidity are hardly a secret. To summarize, it’s not excessive care for those who don’t need it, but lack of care for those who DO need it. Particularly, lack of basic prenatal and palliative care for low income, uninsured, minorities, and other at-risk groups. Also for those that do receive care, the tragic reality is that it is often poorly managed, regardless of how much is paid in medical bills at the end of the day. My opinion is we have simply allowed too many obstacles, too many middle men, and too many considerations between the relationship of doctors and patients, so both have a hard time doing their jobs.

    Martin Luther King Jr. said:

    “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

    I agree with some of the posters that have said you’re exaggerating the risks from epidurals. I’d also caution that until you’ve given birth you may not be qualified to give an opinion on whether or not they’re necessary.

    I think the problem with any “expert” of any sort, is they are just as vulnerable to ignorance as anyone else.

    “Too much care” becomes a problem, only if we as patients refuse to take responsibility for our own medical decisions, and neglect to educate ourselves independently about our options. It becomes a problem if we mistakenly expect to be “taken care of” in a paternalistic fashion, instead of taking an active, adult role in our own healing.

  28. Josh Williams
    June 16, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    The quote by Paracelsus equally applies to government.

    Too little government is just as poisonous to social order and individual happiness, as too much. Therefore, the challenge is to find the correct dosage.

  29. Clif
    June 16, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Too little government is poisonous to social order??

    You communist !!!

  30. Brandon
    June 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    As a father of 5 children, four of which were born at home, I concede that the potential problems created by unnecessary intervention was a large part of the reason we began having our children at home in the first place. The analogy to government is apt, and I have made it myself many times.

    The misperception that Clif and many others have is that lack of trust in government has to do with a perception of corruption among government officials. While I certainly don’t deny that corruption in government is a part of it, the larger issue is independent of corruption or the lack thereof.

    The point is that many if not most of the societal problems that people seek to solve using government, are not solvable by government, regardless of good intentions! (Remember what the road to hell is paved with?) It is precisely this mistaken belief (i.e. in statism) that leads to even greater problems than those that were intended to be solved! In this case, let’s go back to the childbirth analogy! Yes, an epidural can solve the problem of labor pain, but at what cost? An increased rate of “need” for surgical intervention, and as any doctor should tell you, any surgery increases the risk for post-operative infection, and yes, death. The fact that these outcomes are relatively rare does not change the reality of the increased risk and incidence of such outcomes. The higher infant mortality rates here vs. other developed countries being prima facie evidence.

    Trust, Clif, should come from being actually ABLE to provide solutions, like your engineers building bridges. This analogy to gov’t is faulty precisely because government is simply not suited to solve many of the ills for which people turn to gov’t. It’s the whole “To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail” syndrome. “Too little” or “too much” is a poor choice of words when it comes to government. This is why the concept of “the proper role of government” is the correct paradigm. If a problem is not suited to a governmental solution, then this is outside its proper role, and too little or too much have nothing to do with it.

  31. Josh Williams
    June 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    The misperception that Clif and many others have is that lack of trust in government has to do with a perception of corruption among government officials.

    I think a lot of people label as “corruption”, what is actually a deeper, more fundamental philosophical problem.

    Corruption is deliberately and knowingly subverting the law for financial or personal gain. Merely acting in one’s own interest isn’t illegal, even if you’re a politician, as long as you obey the law.

    Deeper problem number one is we expect elected officials to be altruistic, and to automatically place priority on our OWN needs and interests. The former is humanly impossible, the latter is unlikely at best.

    Deeper problem number two is we mistakenly believe our goals and interests, whatever they are, will never be incompatible with anybody else’s. That is we believe that all our goals and interests are objective and reasonable, no matter whose point of view is taken. When we demand concessions from government and by extension, everyone else in society, we delude ourselves into believing we are not actually being self-serving.

    When politicians 1) act in their own self-interest, and 2)make a choice between two implacable goals or ideologies, is it fair to accuse them of being “corrupt” or “subversive”?

  32. Josh Williams
    June 17, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    There is nothing more hypocritical, more unlikely, and more worthy of suspicion, than when any public official claims to be altruistic. It’s almost as bad when voters expect altruism.

  33. Deann
    June 18, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    You are NUTS! Obviously a man who has never experienced childbirth. It is a personal experience and to sanitize and criticize it the way you have demeans and cheapens it. And for the record, I have had THREE natural childbirths! But it was my choice, not some uneducated man who espouses something he knows nothing the hell about. Starting to see a pattern here…

  34. Eric Checketts
    June 18, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Deann,

    I can respect the fact that a mother understands childbirth on a much deeper and personal level than a man ever could. But, do you honestly believe that a man, or even a father, knows “nothing the hell about” childbirth simply because he has not personally experienced the miraculous act?

    Setting aside my personal belief that a father, in his own small way, does experience childbirth, I don’t think it is at all fair to exclude “outsiders” from the conversation. This is commonly the tactic of those in the medical profession, who refuse to hear any sort of criticism from non-doctors because “only those who spent 4 years in med school can know anything about anything.”

    It would be a scary world if every decision was made purely based on the input of those who were personally invested in the issue. A perfect example is lawyers who will never allow us to ever see any real tort reform. Not to mention those doctors and medical professionals who will do everything they can to prevent a return to more holistic and non-invasive (not to mention cheaper) practices.

    Sorry for the soapbox, but I don’t appreciate this unsubstantiated attack. Connor is certainly not “uneducated”, nor are you in any position to say what he “knows nothing the hell about.”

  35. Josh Williams
    June 18, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Too little government is poisonous to social order?? You communist !!!

    I hope you’re joking! ;)

  36. Clif
    June 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Yes I was joking :)

    Actually I appreciated your comments. You said much of what I had been thinking and said it well.

  37. Neil
    July 3, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    I had a son born 3 weeks ago and my wife did it all natural and on top of that it was a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Which in the medical field is a no no. But becoming more popular because people are waking up. We did alot of research and found most of its just hipe to scare people into spending more money. It’s also a form of medical birth control because doctors advise not to have more than 3 C-Sections. Lets just put it this way do your research. It seems most doctors and nurses are compartmentalized and not seeing the big picture. If you don’t think satan wields power in the corporate medical industry I feel you are mistaken. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go to the hospital but we should be informed patients. Especially if its not a emergency like child birth.

  38. Clif
    July 9, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    Hmmm, I don’t know where to begin with this one.

    First of all, VBAC is not a medical no-no as you claim. They are done all the time in hospitals all over the country – tens of thousands a year. What IS true however is that there is a higher risk of serious complications associated with such deliveries.

    I mean, it’s great that it turned out OK for you (congrats BTW), but your logic here is really screwed up. Just because it turned out OK for you doesn’t mean that the warnings were all bunk. You are one case out of hundres of thousands. When studies are done over thousands of cases, it becomes quite apparent that the risks are not imaginary.

    Using your logic, a drunk driver that makes it home safe and sound could conclude that it is perfectly safe to drive drunk and all those warnings were only scare tactics. Heck, we could even come up with a really good conspiracy theory that blames taxi drivers trying to scam people for the anti-drunk driving hysteria.

    I got a chuckle out of your assertion that doctors and nurses are compartmentalized from seeing the big picture. Let me advance an alternative explanation here. Perhaps doctors and nurses have seen a heck of a lot more than you have and know what it is like when things go bad (and they can go bad in a hurry). Perhaps you are the one who is not seeing the big picture here.

    You say to do the research. Well, actually I have done a pretty fair amount (although not in obstectrics). A lot of what passes for research is crap – plain and simple. A lot of people’s “research” consists of finding a book that merely confirms a person’s preformed ideas. You go find me an empirical study that is published in a peer reviewed journal that says that VBACs at home are safe. Good luck finding that.

  39. Yin
    July 9, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    Clif,

    First off, Neil didn’t mention anything about an HBAC (home birth after cesarean), only a VBAC. So, I’m not sure why you’re asking for an HBAC study.

    Secondly, VBAC’s are a lot harder to achieve than you might think. One third of all American hospitals have an all-out ban on VBAC attempts. And for those hospitals that do “allow” it, many make it extremely difficult to actually get it with all the red tape, and good luck finding a doctor that is willing to do it and is truly supportive and not just paying lip-service to the idea.

    It’s thought that only 10% of hospitals and doctors are actually really VBAC friendly and supportive. Yeah, good luck getting your VBAC with those odds.

    As far as the “serious complications” of VBAC you mentioned are concerned, the most serious complication of an attempted VBAC is actually ending up with a repeat cesarean after trial of labor. Because major abdominal surgery is most definitely a serious complication. And even though yours odds of uterine rupture are higher with a VBAC over a repeat cesarean, with each c-section you get, your subsequent pregnancies are at higher risk for complication, as is each surgery. So, in the long run, many people want to take the small increased chance of rupture over the myriad of other complications and risks that are associated with multiple cesareans. And if getting a VBAC is tough in this system, don’t even think about trying for a VBA2C or VBA3C.

    You yourself admitted that you hadn’t done the research in this area. So, maybe you should before you make such absolute statements.

  40. Clif
    July 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    You yourself admitted that you hadn’t done the research in this area. So, maybe you should before you make such absolute statements

    Fair enough. My expertise is in critical care. I have very little experience in obstetrics (a couple of two week rotations during school plus seeing 5 of my own kids born). Nevertheless, I see the same principle in action all the time where I work – namely, people who have done their “research” and therefore feel qualified to pass judgement on everything that I do. I have no idea what you do for a living, but surely you have had the experience of someone trying to lecture you on whatever your area of expertise is and laughing within yourself at that person’s arrogance or laughing at how obvious their ignorance is without them even realizing it.

    Now don’t get me wrong here…I am *NOT* saying that it is a patient’s duty to remain ignorant and go along unquestioningly with everything the doctor says. Some doctors are incompetent. A little research will allow a patient to ask intelligent questions. If a doctor seems to be ducking reasonable questions and expects you to just “trust him” – it’s probably time to find a new doctor. Neverthless, the idea that a little research is a substitute for 10-20-30+ years of experience is absolutely absurd. And of course, a lot of people simply have no clue what honest research even means.

    Neil didn’t mention anything about an HBAC (home birth after cesarean), only a VBAC. So, I’m not sure why you’re asking for an HBAC study.

    Well, unless Neil is a surgeon and he turned his bedroom into an operating room, an HBAC would be a VBAC. And I didn’t ask for an HBAC study, I asked for a study that could responsibly conclude that VBACs at home are safe.

    You seem very quick to brush off or to minimalize the risks here. Yes, the odds of uterine rupture are small. But considering that the death of both the mother and the fetus would result without an immediate hysterectomy (which would be unavailable at home), even a 1 in 1000 chance of rupture could be unacceptably high. And of course you have the far more likely scenario of dystocia where again, without surgical support close at hand, permanent injury or death to either the fetus or the mother could likely result.

  41. Clif
    July 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    I just read Neil’s post again. He never said that he had his child at home – he said they had it naturally. He did say that he wouldn’t go to the hospital if it wasn’t an emergency – like childbirth. Maybe that’s why I had the impression it was a home delivery.

    Here are his statements that I strongly take issue with…”hipe to scare people into spending more money”… “a form of medical birth control”…”doctors and nurses are compartmentalized and not seeing the big picture”… “satan wields power in the corporate medical industry”

    Sorry, I know how comforting it is to believe in conspiracy theories, and that every problem has a simple explanation, and if we don’t understand something then satanic influences must be to blame…but the truth is far more complicated that. There are risks that have to be managed by the physician and those risks are not imaginary. People like Neil might complain about how their care was managed, but it only takes one really bad outcome to change your whole perspective on that one. Maybe you can try a little harder to see things from the practicioner’s perspective. Maybe doctors have motivations more noble than trying to “scare people into spending more money”.

    (and maybe you can even go a step further and follow Connor’s analogy between childbirth and government and start to see that perhaps a lot of the anti-government rhetoric is pretty baseless and self-serving as well)

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