Despite growing evidence of harm, many obstetricians and maternity hospitals still overuse high-tech procedures that can mean poorer outcomes for baby and Mom. Test your knowledge with our quiz below.
T/F: An obstetrician will deliver better maternity care, overall, than a midwife or family doctor.False. Studies show that the 8 percent to 9 percent of U.S. women who use midwives and the 6 to 7 percent who choose family physicians generally experienced just-as-good results as those who go to obstetricians. Those who used midwives also ended up with fewer technological interventions. For example, women who received midwifery care were less likely to experience induced labor, have their water broken for them, episiotomies, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and electronic fetal monitoring, and were more likely to give birth vaginally with no vacuum extraction or forceps, than similar women receiving medical care. Note that an obstetric specialist is best for the small proportion of women with serious health concerns.
Induced labor can halt fetal development.
True. The vital organs (including the brain and lungs) continue to develop beyond the 37th week of gestation. There is also a five-fold increase in the brain's white matter volume between 35 and 41 weeks after conception. Inducing labor (with synthetic oxytocin, for example) might stop this growth if the fetus is not fully developed. Between 1990 and 2005, the number of women whose labor was induced more than doubled.
Due-date estimates can be off by up to two weeks.
True. This inaccuracy can lead to a baby being delivered by induction or Caesarean section up to two weeks earlier than its estimated due-date, cutting off important weeks of fetal development.
"Breaking the waters" helps hasten labor.
False. There is no evidence to support the fact that this common practice (about 47% of women) shortens labor, increases maternal satisfaction, or improves outcomes for newborns.
Induced labor increases the likelihood of Caesarean section in first-time mothers.
True. The cervix may not be ready for labor. Other effects of induced labor include an increased likelihood of an epidural, an assisted delivery with vacuum extraction or forceps, and extreme bleeding postpartum.
Once you've had a C-section, it's best to do it again.
False. Studies show that, as the number of a woman's previous C-sections increased, so did the likelihood of harmful conditions, including: trouble getting pregnant again, problems delivering the placenta (placenta accreta), longer hospital stays, intensive-care (ICU) admission, hysterectomy, and blood transfusion.
Labor itself can benefit a newborn's immunity.
True. When babies do not experience labor (if the mother has a C-section before entering into labor, for example), they fail to benefit from changes that help to clear fluid from their lungs. That clearance can protect against serious breathing problems outside the womb. Passage through the vagina might also increase the likelihood that the newborn's intestines will be colonized with "good" bacteria after the sterile womb environment.
Epidural anesthesia is a low-risk way to make labor easier.
False. Many women welcome the pain relief, but might not be well-informed about the increased risk of its side-effects, including lack of mobility, sedation, fever, longer pushing, and serious perineal tears.
Epidural anesthesia presents risks to newborns.
True. Babies whose mothers received epidurals during labor are at risk for rapid heart rate, hyperbilirubinemia (the presence of an excess of bilirubin in the blood), need for antibiotics, and poorer performance on newborn assessment tests.
Episiotomies reduce the risk of perineal tearing.
False. Evidence shows that routine use of episiotomy offers no benefits but rather increases women's risk of experiencing perineal injury, stitches, pain and tenderness, leaking stool or gas, and pain during sexual intercourse. Yet in 2005, 25 percent of women with vaginal births continued to experience this intervention. Episiotomy is one of several obstetric practices adopted into common usage before being adequately studied.
Source: "Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is and What It Can Achieve," a detailed review of clinical evidence by Carol Sakala and Maureen P. Corry published by the Childbirth Connection, the Reforming States Group, and the Milbank Memorial Fund, October 2008.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Consumer Reports Health Condemns Common Obstetric Practices
Consumer Reports Health is a new public service from the well-known Consumer Reports. They are now providing reporting data on medical procedures and treatments in an effort to assist consumers of health care to be more informed. I am impressed, and pleasantly surprised, that they are present the research-based evidence regarding obstetric practice, instead of what the American College of Obstetrics and Gynoecologists is promoting. This is what Consumer Reports Health have to say about basic obstetric practice: