Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Doctors Give Birth

This weekend, my husband and I attended a get-together to celebrate the birthday of one of our dearest friends and his mentor. Because the hubby is a medical resident and his mentor is an attending at our local hospital, most of the party guests were either doctors, residents, or involved in the medical field in some respect. It was all good food, good conversation, laughing and sipping wine...Until the topic of birth came up!

You see, one of the doctors was expecting her first child and another had recently given birth. Was it fate that I would end up in the same room with both of these women and their partners? As I've said before, folks (including myself) have some really strong opinions regarding birth, breastfeeding, and parenting. So, of course the new mom proceed to give the mom-to-be an earful about what she should and should not do before, during, and after birth. Dr. New Mom's breathless advice: "Regardless of what your OB tells you, go to the hospital early because I waited at home an walked and changed positions and stuff to ease my discomfort (which was stupid because that's what helps you have stronger contractions, so don't do that) and by the time I got to the hospital I was 8 cm and they refused to give me the epidural. - Go early and get the epidural! Oh, and after the baby is born, don't ever let the baby sleep in your bed. EVER. Not even for a minute. Otherwise, you'll never get them out of your bed." *sigh* Dr. Mom-to-Be's response: Silence (wide-eyed, terrified expression plastered on her now ashen face).

Oh, what's a midwife to do, feel, or say in this situation? Here were two very intelligent women who are trained doctors and neither has clue number one when it comes to birth. I was frustrated. Yes, Dr. New Mom's comments irritated me because I don't appreciate misinformation. But misinformation coming from a medical professional, no less? It made me upset to realize how little doctors are taught about the natural process of childbirth. It made me furious to realize that highly educated women are no better protected than anyone else from the misinformation that all too often robs them of their power in childbirth and subsequent parenting. Of course, I already had some frustration simmering beneath the surface after recently speaking with a client (also a physician) who was in tears after being told that her 31 week fetus is too small (at 3lbs 5oz and within NORMAL range) following an ultrasound.

Growing up, I was taught that education is the key to not being taken advantage of. Granted, none of these women are in the field of obstetrics and I don't expect them to know what OBs know (and don't even get me started on what OBs "know" about natural childbirth). However, I did expect them to have an advantage over moms who lack education. They don't. In fact, studies show that women with post-graduate education are at higher risk for things like domestic violence and c-sections - things that many of us would like to avoid, to say the least. I left the party this weekend thinking, If education is the key to escaping marginalisation, these highly trained physicians should have nothing to worry about. Yet, they trust the medical system blindly because of their education. What a reality check.


  1. I think that physicians are just as susceptable as anyone else to taking their personal experience and generalizing it. I once knew a doc that had a bad side effect from statins and refused to offer them to patients despite lots of data showing they save lives.

    Perhaps a gentle, "That isn't a typical experience" would be helpful for Dr. Mom-to-Be.

    This is why I am very careful about giving personal medical advice to people I care about. I'm afraid it might be biased, even as I am trying to help.

    I have delivered quite a few babies, but when it came to being a father in the delivery room I stayed in dad mode and out of doctor mode. The midwife did a marvelous job and I enjoyed the experience because I knew my wife and child were in competent hands.

    I'm enjoying your blog.