BIRTHING CHOICESWritten by Brett Hill
If you’ve recently discovered you’re pregnant, congratulations! It will bring great joy and great responsibility. You are now in charge of you and your family’s health and it would seem responsible to find out everything you can about the choices that will confront you over the next year or so in order to make informed healthy choices, so hopefully this will help.
At hospital or at home?
For many people, this isn’t even a choice they consider. They have been brought up through experience, school, TV and society in general to assume that all births happen in a hospital and by a doctor. If you are in a high risk group, this may well be the best option for you, however if you are in the vast majority of people who don’t fit that bill then research suggests that a home birth is at least as safe. In fact one large study published by the British Journal of Medicine in 2005 showed home births for low-risk pregnancies were as safe as hospital births and had much lower rates of intervention.
If you consider birth to be a healthy, natural process rather than a medical event that needs to be managed, you may wish to birth your baby at home with a private, experienced midwife. If anything unexpected goes wrong, she will be able to advise on what to do, and arrange for you to move to hospital if necessary.
Ultrasounds and tests?
Did you know that the World Health Organisation recommends against the routine use of ultrasounds during pregnancy? Why is that? Well, the answer is that as with all interventions, ultrasounds carry some risks. Research has shown the possibility that ultrasound can cause slowed growth of the fetus and that some children exposed to ultrasound may later have mild neurological deficits. There is also the risk of a false result which may lead to more risky interventions or even termination of the pregnancy. But isn’t not having an ultrasound risky? Well, one large study in the US of more than 15,000 pregnant women showed no improvement in the mortality rate of the babies undergoing routine ultrasound.
Birth position is a really important choice. If a woman lies flat on her back, her pelvis is tucked in and her birthing canal points towards the ceiling, reducing her pelvic outlet by as much as 30 per cent. She needs to work against gravity, meaning there is more resistance and she is more likely to need some sort of intervention. Squatting may be a more logical choice.
Medical interventions all have risks. Even a routine, scheduled caesarean section with no complication carries twice the risk of mortality for mum. There is also a 20 per cent chance she will get an infection as a result of the surgery which often also leads to antibiotics. More babies born after caesarean section also develop respiratory distress syndrome.
Twenty-three percent, or nearly one in four women who are given an epidural will develop a complication, including higher mortality rates, neurological damage and fever. They are also likely to have a longer labour. There is also four times greater use of forceps or vacuum extraction and at least twice the rate of caesarean section after an epidural, which can also be very stressful for the baby, potentially leading to interference to its fragile spine and nervous system. Research also shows that having an epidural also leads to an increased risk of back pain after the event and even one year later.
A healthy, natural birth provides a number of benefits for the baby, including beneficial bacteria that help set up the baby’s immune system for life. So if you are expecting, be sure to examine the pro’s and con’s and make sure that you are making the right choice for you and your baby, whatever that choice may be.
Speaking of Chiropractors, chiropractic care is helpful in pregnancy, and you can find a great article, with links to many other relevant articles, from the ICPA here.