On the Topic of Birth

My wife has a baby on the way and we’ve been attending some baby related classes to prepare ourselves a little bit mentally. The class we are in now is about the birthing process and we have heard about a number of techniques, both medical and otherwise, to make the experience more comfortable for the woman. The thing that keeps striking me as so curious is how most of the most up to date “best practices” essentially equate to just letting nature take its course and doing things the way people have done them for hundreds of years. The really curious part is that these are generally cutting edge or progressive ideas about childbirth among the U.S. medical community and are not even widely practiced yet.  How did things get so turned around such that doing things naturally is somehow progressive?

4 replies on “On the Topic of Birth”

Nate says:

I remember this interesting article in the New Yorker that describes the when and why of Cesarean sections becoming the norm.


Paul says:

I’ve always wondered how it is that we even got to thinking we NEED “birthing classes”. Thousands of generations of people managed to be born without classes.

I suppose you could make the argument that when we lived tribally (which is basically 95% to 99% of the time that we’ve been “human beings”) we were around childbirth much more frequently, so we were used to it, so we picked up the knowlege simply through living.

Now we don’t grow up with the basics of life and death happening around us all the time. When you’re living in a teepee, it’s hard to ignore the kid being born, but when it happens in a hospital in a private room miles away, it’s like it’s not even there.

So maybe we do need childbirth classes. I just know that if my gf and I wind up trying for kids I’m not crazy about the classes idea. I plan on doing it the truly old-fashioned way- pacing around in the waiting room waiting for a nurse to tell me what happened.

cheyenne says:

I think birthing classes are good for these two reasons: The typical American birth is complicated and technical AS VIEWED by a hospital (and most births take place in a hospital) and so it is helpful to take a class that details birth from that perspective–what the hospital will do routinely, what drugs they typically use and why, and especially what options and flexibility you have when dealing with all this. And then I think it’s important to just remind people that women have actually been doing this since forever and as far as the physical part of birth itself is concerned, there’s pretty much nothing to do but deal with the contractions however you can and then push at the very end. Reminding women not to be freaked out by this whole thing is important since most of what they have picked up on the subject (usually from TV or movies) involves screaming, blood, lots of frenzied hospital staff, dire circumstances, and near misses. That said, I kind of skipped the classes myself in favor of reading like 15 books on the subject (I sort of have a bad attitude when it comes to classes); there are some really excellent books out there that really helped put my mind at ease regarding the whole deal.

Another interesting thing I read was that after 9-11, cesarean rates in the US increased markedly. The reason is believed to be because insurance companies raised rates in all kinds of insurance in order to pad their loss (including those not related whatsoever to terrorist bombings) and the increase in malpractice insurance was perceived by doctors as caused by an increase in malpractice lawsuits (though there was no increase). Therefore, as a whole, obstetricians became more nervy in their practice and cautious and when things started to get weird during labors, they are even quicker to jump on the C-section bandwagon in an effort to avoid anything unexpected or potentially litigious.

dallas says:

@Paul, if you think the ‘old-fashioned’ way is desirable you should watch a documentary called “The Business of Being Born” and find out what was really going on back in the labor room while the husbands were out there pacing.

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