If you had your baby in a United States hospital in 2005:
- There’s a 1 in 3 chance you had cesarean surgery.
- There’s less than a 2% chance that you experienced a package of evidence-based care practices known to ease labor and prevent complications.
- You most likely were separated from your baby during the first hour after giving birth.
- There’s a 1 in 5 chance (1 in 4 if you are black) that you had symptoms of childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the months after giving birth.
- There’s a 7% chance you had to be rehospitalized before your baby was 18 months old.
These data are from a national survey called Listening to Mothers. For years, as a midwife, I’ve listened to mothers ask if there is a healthier way to give birth. Many of them ask this after they’ve already had a baby and been disappointed with or even traumatized by the experience or endured health problems stemming from the care they and their babies got around the time of birth.
Yes, you can and should expect more from your care in pregnancy and birth. And if you’re pregnant again, you can plan for a healthier, safer, and more satisfying birth. But you must actively participate in your care and find a provider who encourages this kind of participation. If passively accepting what our system routinely offers was a good idea, we’d have much better health outcomes, instead of being outranked by nearly every other industrialized nation in the world. In this week’s collection of posts, I will show that our system is not designed to protect and optimize the health of babies and mothers. (Perhaps I’ve already done that. Surely the costliest maternity care system in the world should have better stats than what we see above.) I will also show how empowered, supported women who participate in their care have the healthiest outcomes of all. I’m looking forward to it.