Many women know at least a little about pregnancy before finding themselves pregnant. Some women are extremely well-educated through experience, education or self-study, while others feel as though they don’t have a clue what’s going on with their pregnant bodies! Pregnancy is often a time spent learning and growing, not only as a person, but as a woman and soon-to-be-mother as well.
The majority of women utilize the services of an obstetrician during their pregnancies. An obstetrician is a specially trained physician who provides medical and surgical care to women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.
As a birth doula and childbirth educator, I find many women, even women who are not or have not been my clients, open up to me about their birthing experiences. The most common thing I hear when women express dissatisfaction with their birth are phrases like “My doctor made me…” and “My doctor said I had to…” It seems that there is an increasing trend of women not taking control over their own bodies, and reproductive choices and instead, allowing their obstetricians to take full reign of the pregnancy simply because they hold a medical degree.
Your obstetrician is hired by you! You are paying them for their services, whether its through self-pay, insurance or medicaid. Just as you have the right to hire any obstetrician you choose, you also have the right to fire them if you do not feel they are assisting you in the best way possible. This being said, many obstetricians have different beliefs and practices when it comes to childbirth than the mother does. This further reiterates how important it is to interview you potential obstetricians prior to committing yourself to one for the duration of your pregnancy.
Although most mean well, many obstetricians may follow practices that are unnecessary or simply against common sense or current medical research.
“Your Baby is Too Big to Birth Vaginally”
I have heard many women tell me that a “big baby” was the reason they required a scheduled cesarean or induction; doctor’s orders! Upon further investigation, I find out from many of these women, that their babies were average-sized babies, ranging from 6-9 pounds. Although there are cases where a baby may be genuinely too large, it is all too common to see average sized babies delivered via cesarean as a precautionary measure to protect against the possibility of the baby being too large. Currently, there is no fool-proof way to determine how big a baby is prior to his or her birth. Even the weight estimates derived from advanced ultrasound technology can be off by up to two pounds in either directions. I have seen many cases, myself included, where the baby was said to be close to eight and a half pounds, only to be just barely over six at birth! One woman, Sabrina, said ” I was told that based on ultrasound my son was going to be well over 10 lbs. I was told that I would need to be induced because he was getting too big for me to birth….My son was born 8lbs 4oz. It is now believed the measurements were off because he was tall.”
“You’re not sick. Go home and relax.”
Who is better in tune with their body than the woman herself? Many clients, friends and family members of mine have told me that they “just knew” something was wrong, however, when these concerns were expressed to their caregiver, they were brushed off as just being part of pregnancy. One woman, Amber, states “I was told by an OB I wasn’t sick and to go home and care for my husband and kids. 36 hours later the preeclampsia I had for a month developed into HELPP and i had more than a fifty percent rupture of the placenta and had an emergency c-section to save my life and my daughter’s. She was 7 weeks early.” Amber’s frightening story alone is a great reminder of why it is so important to trust your body. If you feel something isn’t right and your caregiver brushes it off, get a second opinion. Get a third opinion if you have to! Only you know your body best, and it’s important to listen to it! If your guy (or uterus) is telling you something isn’t right, follow up on it.
Scare Tactics & Exclusions
I have had many women tell me about the scare tactics employed by obstetricians when the mother wishes to do something the obstetrician doesn’t necessarily want to. One woman, Jodi, wanted to try for a lotus birth but was told my her OB that she couldn’t due to being positive for hepatitis C. “I asked to be retested, she said that one came back positive, I didn’t believe her and went to my primary doctor who tested and said I was negative… Hep C would have made it IMPOSSIBLE for me to have a Lotus Birth, but unfortunately, she made me think I had it so I couldn’t do the Lotus birth.” Although we may never know if Jodi was deliberately lied to, or if her test results were simply mixed up with someone else’s, it wouldn’t be the first case of a physician claiming something was wrong that wasn’t in order to prevent the mother from giving birth a particular way. Many women have told me their obstetrician’s have pulled what I call, the “dead baby card.” Many women report their physician telling them that if they didn’t do something, or comply with certain interventions or procedures that their baby could die. This can be, in some circumstances, a manipulation tactic. No woman wants their child to die so insinuating that the child might in order to coerce the woman to comply, is wrong.
Many physicians have instilled the inaccurate belief in women that carrying a pregnancy beyond 41 weeks is dangerous for the woman and the child. However, this isn’t true! It is generally regarded as safe to continue a pregnancy to 42 weeks and possibly even longer dependant on the conditions of the mother and child. Being past a due date should not be the sole reason behind scheduling an induction or a cesarean.
“VBACs Are Dangerous!”
With the high cesarean rate in the United States, many women are showing interest in having what is known as a VBAC or a vaginal birth after cesarean. Many women are being met with roadblocks due to obstetrician’s fear of liability in the case of a uterine rupture, which can be deadly. Uterine ruptures are a possibility in a laboring woman with scar tissue to the uterus, however, the chance is extremely low and provided she is being cared for and observed for signs of rupture, the mortality rate is low for women who do rupture. The chance of a woman’s uterus rupturing is less than 1%, yet many physician’s are against allowing a woman to deliver vaginally after a cesarean. My own (former) obstetrician told me, when I started inquiring about a VBAC, that I could die from uterine rupture and made it seem as though a rupture was pretty much guaranteed if I even tried. This is not the case, and in many more ways than one, a VBAC is usually much safer than a repeat cesarean.
The Bottom Line
Only you are in control of your own body and even during pregnancy, you have the right to advocate for your own desires and needs. Be sure to think for yourself and if something your obstetrician suggests, or even orders, doesn’t sound or feel right to you, do some research, get a second opinion! Not every pregnancy is perfect, and not every delivery goes according to plan, but not every intervention is necessary, and not every emergency is inevitable. Be sure that when you’re making decisions, you take into account any special health concerns that you or your baby may have. Do what you need to do to feel comfortable in your situation and with your choices, after all, at the end of the day, the only one that has to live with those choices, is you! Make sure you make the choices that are best for yourself, your baby and your situation! And remember, if you’re skeptical of what your obstetrician is saying, get a second opinion!
What Is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist? (OB/GYN)
Delivering a Large Baby
Baby Too Big?
Lotus Birth Questions
What About Uterine Scar Rupture?