Your baby has just been born. Would you let someone draw their blood and remove 30% of their blood volume? It would be senseless and highly dangerous and to remove a third of the baby’s blood from their body before they were born, but doing this immediately after birth has become the norm.
Imagine a woman in labor at the hospital. How she is moving? Where is she in the room? What is she doing? Probably you see a woman lying down in the bed, wearing a hospital gown, hooked up to various monitors, straps and tubes.
In some high-risk labors these procedures may truly be necessary for the safety of moms and babies (or for women using epidural medications). Most healthy low-risk women do not need to be hooked up to anything in order to safely birth a baby. Imagine how different hospital birth would be if most women could move around as they pleased without any sensors or straps attached to them. Imagine women moving instinctively, following their own inner rhythm and positioning themselves in ways that made their bodies feel powerful, relaxed, and productive. Read more
People in the “Women should birth where they feel safest.” You hear this a lot in the birth change movement. Midwives, doulas, CBEs, advocates and allies — we all support women’s choice in birth place. Most women in this country give birth in hospitals. Are women going there to birth babies because they truly feel safe there? What ingredients = feeling safe?
There’s the standard, albeit superficial, ‘healthy mom, healthy baby’ wrap offered up by women to partners and sometimes themselves, but what lies beyond the cheery one-liners? Where does emotional safety lie? Normal birth is so hidden and rare in our culture that the average woman may never even encounter it through her life experience or in the media. She has no models around her. We can see the challenges to trusting birth and feeling safe within a low-tech, instinctive birth model. So where then are American women birthing in the hospital finding their sense of safety? To what extent is it external? Is it found in the presence of machines? Uniforms? Medical personnel? Medications?
There’s been a lot of talk lately about physicians responding to their ‘patients’ birth plans by providing a copy of their own written birth plans of what they will or will not do, allow, accommodate, or condone during a woman’s labor and birth. The Feminist Breeder and Stand and Deliver have written recently about the hullabaloo, as have The Unnecesarean and Crunchy Domestic Goddess. The following is an excerpt from an OB birth plan that was given to a pregnant nursing student during one of her prenatal visits. Just for fun I bolded the parts I thought were the most outlandish and offensive, or simply untrue.
DR. ________ “BIRTH PLAN”
As your obstetrician, it is my goal and responsibility to ensure your safety and your baby’s safety during your pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period… The following information should clarify my position and is meant to address some commonly asked questions…
* I do not accept birth plans. Many birth plans conflict with approved modern obstetrical techniques and guidelines…. Please note that I do not accept the Bradley Birth Plan.
I recently attended a planned hospital birth of a client who transferred out of my care shortly before her birth. We transferred her care to our small, local, natural birth-friendly hospital. A gracious family practice physician took over her care. Two of my client’s main hopes for her birth were delayed cord clamping (of at least a minute or two), and to receive her baby immediately from the hands of the doctor. The doctor and I discussed the mother’s wishes more than once while she labored, and she was amenable to both. I had such high hopes for this baby’s entrance; We were going to have a somewhat physiological experience here!
After a few pushes baby comes out, pink and happy, and I’m watching, waiting…… still waiting for baby to be in mom’s arms. The doctor holds the baby down by the mother’s thighs, taking ample time to do unusual and unnecessary things. First, she bulbed the vigorous baby four or five times, then leisurely picked up a piece of gauze and slowly wiped the baby’s face. The energy shifted in the room from pure joy and excitement to mistrust and anger. She had previously agreed to give the baby immediately to the mother and now she was stalling. We were all very confused. What was she doing?
Meanwhile the mother was pleading desperately to have her baby: “Please, pleeeease, give me my baby.” I will never forget the sound of this mother begging to hold her baby. It caused me visceral pain. Every second of it broke my heart. I pray I will never again be in a situation where I, or anyone else, would withhold a newly born baby from her pleading mother.
After mother and baby were settled and nursing I seized a brief moment to talk to the doctor in the hallway. I asked her why she did not honor the mother’s desire to immediately hold her baby, as she had previously agreed to. She stated that she did honor the mother’s request to immediately receive her baby (“immediately is often a relative in the hospital), but that she also was attempting to honor her request for delayed cord clamping — requests that, in her mind, were mutually exclusive. She argued that she could not give the baby to the mother while the cord was intact because the baby’s blood would back flow into the placenta. In her mind, the delayed clamping needed to happen first, then the mother could have her baby. The two things could not happen simultaneously. We all know that thousands of babies are placed on their mother’s bellies every day, and probably have been since humans started having babies, but somehow the rules have changed.
I was stumped. Of all the bizarre medical model theories and logic I’ve encountered, this one was new to me. Typically physicians oppose delayed cord clamping because they believe the baby will receive too much of his or her own blood volume through the cord. This doctor was afraid that baby would not receive enough of her own blood because it would back-flow into the placenta if the baby was on the mother’s abdomen.
After debriefing with some of my peers I discovered that fears about blood draining out of the baby is not uncommon. But since the medical community largely opposes ‘delayed cord clamping,’ the question about where the baby should be while waiting to cut the cord rarely comes up in OB-attended births.
To be fair, there is some logic in the belief the blood will backflow out of the baby. If a woman gives birth and someone holds the baby up two feet above the mother’s body for any length of time, yes, common sense tells us the force of gravity will encourage blood flow downward, away from the baby. However, there are two problems with application of this logic. First, suspending the baby above the mother should never happen. There is no valid reason to suspend a baby feet above her mother moments after birth. You may have seen this in birth scenes from the 80′s, but this is not an appropriate or even reasonable practice. Second, we now know that a complex feedback process determines when the cord vessels close and thereby minimizing blood flow out of the baby and maximizing blood flow into the baby. It has very little to do with the position of the baby in relationship to the placenta.
Nature came up with a perfect design here. We can’t outsmart this one. Keeping the baby at the level of the mother’s abdomen is practical, normal, and biologically best. Fortunately for babies born in the hospital , some contemporary evidence-based OBs are coming around to accepting what midwives and mothers have long known: leaving the cord intact allows the baby to receive her full blood volume along with all the stem cells, red blood cells, oxygen, immune-boosting antibodies, and whatever other undiscovered life-giving properties our blood supplies.
An OB candidly shares her remarkable journey though three inductions, two cesareans, two vacuum assisted births, and one unplanned VBAC. Now a VBAC advocate, she shared her story on her blog:
My Surprise VBAC
“Needless to say, like most OB residents, my experience with normal, low-risk physiological birth was minimal……..Reflecting back over my journey, I see how much the field of obstetrics has managed to contribute and sometimes outright cause complications, all the while assuming they are just keeping everyone safer. And I see how much fear has overtaken the natural birthing process. I’ve said before that shows like Deliver Me, A Baby Story, and Birth Day should be renamed “Fear Factor” because they play on a woman’s often natural concerns about the birth by portraying the whole process as highly dramatic, with a woman strapped down and hooked up…..”