Monday, June 7, 2010

Baby Birds and Birth

I had a dream in which I had some eggs, and in one of them grew a baby bird. I noticed cracks in the egg and I helped the little bird by opening the cracks and getting it out of the shell. But, since I had opened the egg prematurely the baby bird was weak and unable to even stand on its own feet. It would have to live in captivity its whole life to be cared for. It was a beautiful bird with fluffy bright blue feathers. I wondered if it would ever be able to fly.

After I woke up I couldn't get the image of this helpless baby bird out of my mind. The dream was so vivid, that for hours after waking I could still see the blue baby bird and feel it's soft warm body in my hands. I couldn't help but think how it's the same with human babies.

In modern obstetrics, labor is often induced or augmented artificially, for many reasons. Sometimes the medical intervention is necessary, but many times it's simply for convenience to "help get this baby out" or for scheduling purposes for the parents and/or care givers.

I know first-hand how it feels to be 9 months pregnant and so ready to be done with pregnancy. So ready to get the baby out and be able to hold it in my arms. The longing for the discomfort and awkwardness of pregnancy to end, and to start the next chapter of life with my new little one. The feelings are real, and they help us to be ready for labor when it comes.

The danger comes when labor is forced or coerced before the baby is ready. Many times babies who are induced prior to 40 weeks, even if they're considered "full term" at 36 or 37 weeks will still need assistance with breathing, feeding and basic survival in the neonatal intensive care unit. Should our goal be to get the baby out and support it in the NICU to survive, or should we focus instead on letting the baby come when it's ready and able to breathe and feed successfully without medical support?

"In his classic book Husband-Coached Childbirth, Robert Bradley, MD, compares the arrival of human babies by nature's schedule to fruit ripening on a tree. Some apples ripen early, some late, but most show up right in season. Along with Grantley Dick-Read, the father of what we now call 'natural childbirth,' Bradley advocated relaxation, trusting nature, and allowing babies to show up when nature intended."

One hospital prohibited elective inductions prior to 38 weeks. As a result, there was a drop of over 40% in newborns being admitted to the NICU. There was also a drop in the number of c-sections being done.

The concept of nature knowing best also applies to c-sections. When a baby endures labor contractions, the compression from the contractions press on the baby's lungs, preparing them for breathing on its own. Newborns delivered by c-section are more likely to have respiratory problems and require breathing support and admission to the NICU. Babies born by elective c-section may also be at an increased risk for SIDS because of the associated problems with breathing and sleep apnea.

Elective inductions and scheduled cesarean sections have become commonplace in our modern society. This poses greater risk to both mothers and babies.

You would never break open a chick's egg to get it out faster knowing that as a result it would be too weak to survive. Why would you do the same thing to your own baby?

"Attending births is like growing roses. You have to marvel at the ones that just open up and bloom at the first kiss of the sun but you wouldn't dream of pulling open the petals of the tightly closed buds and forcing them to blossom to your time line."
- Gloria Lemay

Here are some other posts about labor induction:

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