By Darrel Crain, Chiropractor
Babies, it has been discovered, are a major cause of children. This is the conclusion reached by researchers after careful observation and replication of identical results in virtually every corner of the globe. The cause of babies themselves is certainly a stimulating and controversial topic on its own, but we shall modestly postpone that discussion for the time being.
Children, of course, have been linked to a wide range of unpredictable behavior in adults in our society. For example, from time to time parents actually decide to keep children around for entertainment long after they have passed the stage of being cute little miniature humans, grinning, cooing and drooling on your best sport coat.
Let me just say that the hobby of raising a child or two at home in your spare time can be amusing and even rewarding. However, experts in the field recommend that you don't take up raising children unless you have a sturdy sense of humor and the patience and understanding of Saint Francis. It is also suggested that sufficient financial reserves be on hand for keeping food in the fridge and gas in the minivan. Considering current prices and the necessity of building up a modest college fund, parents today are advised to have a goal of saving up two or three trillion dollars to cover basic expenses.
But back to babies, America doesn't seem to have too much trouble when it comes to starting them, although for some reason we seem to drop the ball just when the babies are ready to make their grand entrance. What is it about the American mode of delivering babies and our early care of the little ankle-biters that's killing us?
This question reared its ugly head recently when America's newborn survival rates were compared with 33 other modern, industrialized countries. How did we do? We tanked. All I can say is, thank goodness for the people of Latvia, because if it weren't for them, we would be tied for dead last. As it is, we tied for next-to-last with four others: Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia.
Once again, let me hasten to assure you that the problem is not caused by a lack of effort on the part of modern medicine. In fact, birthing babies has become big business in the U.S., totaling more than $20 billion a year!
This situation raises a few questions. Do you suppose our newborns are suffering because the medical profession is trying too hard? How could trying too hard create problems for newborns? And just what is it those other countries have that we don't whose babies are healthier than ours? The answer is they have more midwives.
The name midwife means "with woman." Midwives have always been in charge of delivering babies, ever since the beginning of human existence, all the way up to about 150 years ago in the United States. That was when a small group of medical doctors decided to launch a war against midwifery, having unilaterally decided that medical doctors were better suited to the job than midwives.
What evidence did these scholarly gentlemen present to support the notion that they could do a better job? Evidence? Bah! They didn't need no stinking evidence! They had clout, they had money, they were men, and that was enough.
Recall that during this historical era, women still did not have the right to vote.
No matter that birthing has always been an inherently low risk, completely normal and natural human process for at least nine out of ten pregnancies. No matter that midwives have attended births since the beginning of time, passing on traditional wisdom to each new generation of midwives.
Never underestimate the ability of a well-funded group of men to quickly move beyond mere facts when they decide to wipe out the competition. The strict moral code of wartime was immediately adopted, "Never tell a lie unless it is absolutely convenient!"
By 1920, the percentage of midwife-attended births had fallen to 15 percent, and the heavy toll exacted by excluding midwives from the birthing room was already evident.
One medical doctor lamented the inferior quality of U.S. births in 1921, "...the maternal death rate for our country was higher than that of every foreign country for which we have statistics, except that of Belgium and Chile."
"Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations!" pretty well sums up the smear campaign used by medical politicians of the day to rid society of the "ignorant" midwives. "We can get along very nicely without the midwife, whereas all are agreed that the physician is indispensable."
The authoritative, international study culminating in the book, Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth found little agreement with the medical men. "You may be shocked to find what little evidence exists in support of most obstetrical practices... the evidence favors non-interventive management," wrote the authors.
"Doctors are not trained in physiological miraculous birth. They are needed as surgeons and high-risk specialists. They are highly trained in pathology," explained midwife and author Jan Tritten. "Using an obstetrician for normal birth is like using a pediatrician as a babysitter," wrote birthing specialist Marsden Wagner.
Numerous articles in the medical literature have reached similar conclusions. John Robbins wrote about one such study that compared an equally matched number of midwife-attended home births to hospital births.
"The study found that women birthing in hospitals were five times more likely to have high blood pressure during labor; nine times more likely to tear; three times more likely to hemorrhage; and three times more likely to undergo cesarean sections."
But aren't all the interventions justified to protect the babies, even if they are somewhat tough on the moms?
"The hospital-born babies were six times more likely to suffer fetal distress before birth; four times more likely to need assistance to start breathing; and four times more likely to develop infections," according to the study.
Hospital births are characterized by a relentless need to speed up and control the birthing process, resulting in numerous drug and surgical interventions that are costly, largely unnecessary and frequently harmful.
"It (birthing) is not a medical event. There is almost no hope of a peaceful pregnancy and joyous birth within the medical system. Every woman needs and deserves the kind of nurturing and care a midwife provides," noted Jan Tritten.
Perhaps the lesson here is to stop trying harder and start trying smarter. We have in our midst a courageous community of midwives that has endured lifetimes of irrational persecution.
If we ask nicely, maybe the midwives will agree to come back and help us overcome society's addiction to well-meaning but inappropriate medical interventions during birth.
"Babies are such a nice way to start people," wrote Don Herold. Wouldn't it be great to start people off with the healthiest possible beginnings?
© Darrel Crain, 2006 All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Opinions? Rants? Call Darrel Crain at 619-445-0100
Dr. Darrel Crain
Natural Health Writer
President, CCA San Diego County District