I finished Jennifer Block’s Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care in the wee hours of Friday morning.  The last two chapters were just so intense that I couldn’t put the book down to sleep if I had wanted to.  I don’t think a book has ever held me so rapt because of its truth.  I’m not usually one for non-fiction, though I don’t mind reading for career-advancement or just to keep myself current about particular birth practices and "procedures," but books like this are not what I would look for at Barnes & Noble.  However, after reading it, I think every person should read it.  Even if you don’t plan on having children, you have a right to know what passes as sound medical practice these days.  You have a right to know that informed consent is usually bullying, rather than being presented with unbiased information and a chance to arrive at a decision you feel comfortable making after you have had a chance to review the pros and cons.  As a consumer, it’s your right to know what you’re paying for and why.

          I was always very happy with the way our boys were born.  For the most part, I always felt very confident and self-fulfilled about their births.  I love our midwives and the doula that was present for Bear’s birth.  I will never forget them or be able to thank them enough for allowing me to do what I needed to do to deliver my babes.  But now, after beginning to truly work in L&D wards, seeing what most hospitals are like, and after reading more and more, I am appalled.  I wouldn’t deliver my baby elsewhere if you paid me.  I would deliver at home, unassisted before I would set foot into a hospital labor and delivery ward.  A 30%+ national cesarean rate is not only unwarranted, but in most cases, unwanted.  Episiotomies being performed without knowledge, let alone consent is simply unacceptable.  If you cut someone on the street without their consent, you’d be facing assault charges, yet few people even raise their eyebrows when an OB cuts a woman’s vagina without her consent.  Ridiculous.

          We’re the only country where the overwhelming majority of women are seen by OB’s throughout pregnancy.  We spend the most on maternity care, but have one of the worst maternal death rates in the developed countries, and the second worst newborn death rate.  If we’re so great and our interventions improve mother-baby outcomes, why are we still at the bottom of the totem pole? 

            As consumers, we would run a car company out of business if they told us to change the oil every 2,000 miles, the diagnostic computers gave warnings every 3 days, and the car spent more time in the shop than on the road.  Why are we any different when it comes to the births of our children?  Why is it okay for a C-section to be the most performed operation in US hospitals?  Do you truly believe that many women are incapable of delivering their babies?  Why is it okay to increase a woman’s healing time by cutting an episiotomy, but not offering perineal massage or compresses as she delivers her baby?  I don’t get it…

          Before I go off the deep end, I will get off my soap box.  I am angry that this book had to be written, but glad that it was and I hope that people read it, pass it along, and that we really begin to question the policies and procedures being shoved down our throats when we walk into a delivery room. 

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