After two years of reviewing 15 years of medical literature, a team of national experts has come forward with this reality: Many of the routine medical interventions used in births in the United States do not improve outcomes for mothers and babies. Some even cause harm.
Their findings demonstrate increased risks and problems with many prevalent interventions including labor induction, cesarean section, continuous electronic fetal monitoring, routine use of IVs, amniotomy (artificial breaking of water) and withholding of food and liquids. Though these interventions have become commonplace and viewed as part of "advanced" and even "superior" medical care, this study indicates these practices are not improving outcomes in most cases. In fact, they often create more problems than they eliminate. These findings will appear in the winter 2007 supplement to "The Journal of Perinatal Education" in a summary report entitled "Evidence Basis for the Ten Steps to Mother-Friendly Care."
This is not the first time these facts have been brought to the nation's awareness. Time and again researchers, activists and organizations, such as the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, have tried to create change by raising awareness about the problems with maternity care in the the United States. Generations of women have recounted their birth horror stories over and over to each other. Scores of women wear the physical and emotional scars of unnecessary medical interventions.
Who is listening?
Does anyone care?
Let me use the words of Thomas Paine from his fiery call to arms, "Common Sense," with just a few of my own insertions: "Every quiet method for [change] hath been ineffectual. Our [appeals] have been rejected with disdain; and only tended to convince us, that nothing flatters vanity, or confirms obstinacy in [an old, broken system] more than repeated petitioning." The methods we have used thus far have been passionate and have brought about small victories, but the changes most needed have yet to be recognized or addressed by the mainstream medical community. We need a new approach.
Buckminster Fuller said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
Women and mothers of the world, I call on you to "build a new model." The time for complaining, pleading and persuading is over. Those methods have been tried, and they have done little. It is time to say, "Enough!"
Let us no longer accept mediocrity and "go along blindly" with any procedure. Let us no longer tolerate practices that have been shown to cause us or our babies harm. Let us stop playing the victims and start creating the reality that we all deserve — the absolute best maternity care possible. Let us demand the best of the best for ourselves and our babies.
We cannot underestimate the power of women united in behalf of themselves and their children. "There is a woman at the beginning of all great things," said Alphonse de Lamartine. Imagine what we can accomplish if we unite our efforts. Imagine what we can create.(Opinion piece I wrote for The Deseret News.)