Sunday, July 27, 2008

What I did this Weekend

There's a lesson in here, somewhere. Actually, it isn't too hard to find, since we humans are mammals too.

I work the day shifts this weekend and mid-day yesterday, a good Samaritan brought in a VERY pregnant stray cat with the tail of a kitten hanging out. She was obviously distressed, panting and vocalizing. She is also very sweet, not even protesting even when I had to do a vaginal exam. All I could feel was the tail of the presenting kitten. Everyone is asking "should we get surgery set up?" "Does she need oxytocin?"....the radiograph showed at least 7 skulls....I said NO. We are going to take a little blood just to make sure she doesn't have low calcium or glucose and isn't FeLV/FIV positive and then we are going to make her a nice box with fluffy blankets, give her food and water and leave her alone in a dark ward. There was much grumbling when I told them that on pain of my everlasting wrath they were NOT to check on her until we heard kittens (good natured grumbling, they all know how I "am"). This morning I came in to find *8* beautiful kittens -- all alive and all nursing beautifully. And a mom who is just a fantastic mother and still as sweet as can be. Too bad they don't give women the same sort of treatment when they are trying to have a baby. And the pictures DO make me glad that for the most part, humans don't have litters!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Won't Play Nice Anymore, Part 3

This question was raised on an email list I participate in: “if OBs are constantly feeling threatened by the angry mob that is the rest of us then how will we ever be heard, and how will we ever come to a consensus?”

(Let me preface all the rest of my comments with this: as women in this culture, we are from a very early age taught in very subtle ways to be nice, act nice, play nice, keep people happy, don’t rock the boat, whatever you do don’t be a bitch…..there’s a price to be paid for not being a good girl. We want people to get along and it’s hard to know exactly what to do when there’s no chance of that happening.)

This topic gets discussed by ICAN’s Board of Directors with some frequency — are we "too extreme", "too angry", "too whatever"….how do we get listened to and become more than just a "bunch of angry women"…. A starter Blaming the Activists — the topic is size acceptance, not birth, but it did resonate with me and the notion of being "angry" or "extreme".

I’ve been involved in some form or another with ICAN for about 9 years now. As my kids have gotten older, rather than getting less involved ("moving on") I’ve gotten more involved, on a larger, more "political" level, I suppose you could say. So I’m going to ramble a bit about where I’ve ended up on this topic…. I’m not sure I can put it all in a concise and succinct form.

On a very fundamental level, I believe there will be no change until the powers involved start either losing money, or believing that they will lose money. That’s the way our system works, that’s the nature of a for-profit system. It’s why I believe that the VBACban crisis will only be solved by the courts — because it will be only when VBACbans are ruled illegal (and thus, those who have them are open to prosecution) that they stop. If it were about asking nicely or not-so-nicely, if it were about facts, if it were really even about what women want, there wouldn’t be VBAC bans now. The hospitals that have reversed bans have done so because the publicity threatened their bottom line. That doesn’t mean we stop educating but it is why we have to be realistic. And when you threaten the bottom line for a large corporation….you will be tagged "radical", "extreme", "unreasonable", "shrill", "hysterical" and any other name they can think of to discredit you.

The status quo in this country for all birth issues is not OK. But, it is the status quo. Which means, if you challenge it, you are going to, once again, be labeled "radical", "extreme", etc etc etc. It means that, since most people in the country don’t look beyond the surface when it comes to birth, anything you say that conflicts with the conventional "wisdom “about birth (which has nothing to do with being wise) will make you seem crazy. If you challenge the pervasive techno-worship that characterizes all of medicine, you look radical. You ARE radical!

We are a pain phobic society. If you talk about the emotional fall-out from birth gone bad….you will make people very uncomfortable. You will make the people participating our twisted maternity "care" feel bad…often they will think you want them to feel bad. You will trigger very unwanted emotions in women who’ve stuffed their own trauma in order to survive. People will accuse you of wanting to make other women miserable, of wanting to push your own belief system on others, of intolerance, of just about anything they can to not think about what you are actually saying. Because if you are right, then people have to do something about it. If you say things that don’t have these effects on your listeners….then you are no longer be talking about the issues we are so concerned about. Change is tough….and there’s always institutional resistance to it. If the institutions threatened by the change we want successfully describe us by framing the issue as a personal one ("all OBs are awful people who are only out to get rich and don’t give a flip about women and babies") instead of as a criticism of a broken system ("ACOG is a protectionist organization looking out for the financial interests of their members at the cost of safety for mothers and babies") then it is very simple to marginalize us as a bunch of irrational, intolerant, angry women.

We can be polite to the new president of ACOG, we can write carefully crafted letters encouraging him/her to take on the challenges of the future, blah blah blah….but let’s be realistic here. The people who run ACOG are very politically savvy….and they (think they) know darn well exactly what they can get away with, they know darn well exactly who’s pocket they need to be in….and they have the money to do it. It isn’t about facts. It’s about money. Even if you want to blame "the liability crisis", it’s still about money. Why are they suddenly talking about legislating homebirth into illegality? With less than 1% of all births out of hospital, it certainly doesn’t impact the bottom line….but….now the midwives are getting organized (The Big Push). Now the mainstream is learning about how illogical maternity care really is (BoBB). Now ICAN is telling stories about insurance companies denying medical coverage and distributing information about how to fight a VBAC ban…someone has decided that the bottom line might just be threatened after all…. if ICAN makes any difference at all on the macro level, it isn’t going to be because we are nice. It isn’t going to be because we are nasty, either. It’s going to be because we are numbers. We are the only consumer based organization in this mess….and our biggest strength is you and others who support ICAN with their money and their time. Why? Consumers. Money. Votes. Money. It will be because we do threaten the bottom line and thus, force change. I think that ACOG and AMA understand us (and the midwives) just fine. As long as we aren’t a threat, they ignore us (and until very recently, that’s pretty much what they’ve done). When we are a threat, they will fight us. They will never accept us and willingly make the changes we want. Not because they are made up of bad people (I don’t think they are) but because they are a business.

Of course I’m angry. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong. (or irrational. or mean). What activist hasn’t used anger over injustice to motivate them? I defy anyone to name a successful reformer who didn’t have anger/passion/righteous indignation working for them….political/colonial independence. abolition. suffragettes. civil rights. apartheid. And all of those reformers were crazy, angry, radical, fringe activists too….we are in very good company. The people we are in opposition to (the "OB community") should feel threatened. Because that’s exactly what we are doing. Threatening their comfort, their safety zone, their livelihood. Not because we wish ill upon them as human beings but because we can no longer sit silently as ill is visited upon a larger and larger number of women and babies. Because if we don’t speak, no one else will. If that doesn’t make you mad….well….not much more to say. And certainly, no consensus to be had.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Honesty from ACOG

Sometimes you just have to wonder if someone wasn't thinking. I'm not sure who originally found this, but its a document well worth giving some time to: "Lay" Midwives and Homebirth, from ACOG State Legislative Update Year in Review (August 2007)

Its no secret to anyone that ACOG doesn't approve of midwives or homebirth. They barely tolerate CNMs and have only recently given approval to certain credentialed Independent Birth Centers (which typically restrict access to only the most narrowly defined "low risk" client possible) because of the threat they see in increased public attention to homebirth (there's no reason to think that homebirths are actually increasing, all buzz about The Business of Being Born aside). The thing that I just
love about this document is that its so honest! So honest in its deliberate misrepresentation of midwifery (while I've been known to do my share of OB bashing, I don't believe they are mostly idiots -- they know exactly why the term "lay midwife" doesn't apply to most midwives these days) and so revealing in the motivations for why ACOG is opposed to midwifery. Let me share a few choice tidbits:

"Even the nurse-midwives no longer can be counted on to speak publicly against home birth or lesser trained midwives...Nurse-midwives – a fickle ally...Whereas nurse-midwives have been ACOG’s front-line defense against these bills, that’s no longer a sure thing. Today, you don’t see nursemidwives speaking with any consistency against home birth or the certified professional midwives (CPMs)."
(Gotta wonder what the leadership of ACNM is feeling about this right not...since it tends to look like they continue to believe their future lies with ACOG. So much for sticking up for each other.)

"Legislators respond to the home birth “choice” message...In 2005, a midwife bill (HB 36) was championed by an unusual coalition – Republicans, including the Speaker of the House, home schooling proponents, the religious right, and the state’s Amish and Mennonite communities. The bill language was deceptive in its simplicity. It said, “Nothing in Missouri law shall encroach on a mother’s right to give birth in the setting and with any caregiver of her choice.” (I can't really see how homebirth isn't a choice. And I don't see what is so odd about the above coalition, other than they aren't usually associated with "choice" in reproductive terms. Now, when the "pro-choice" advocates finally realize that birth in all its forms is just as much a "choice" issue as abortion, THAT will be a strange coalition. Oh, and I'm unsure of what's so deceptive about the Missouri bill -- I think its pretty clear.)

"The situation with hospitals declining to do VBAC deliveries has complicated our advocacy efforts on midwives. ACOG Fellows in California, Washington and other Western and Rocky Mountain states report that women are seeking out alternatives, including home birth with midwives, in their desire for a VBAC." (Well, no kidding. After all, it is a free-market and if you don't provide the service....someone else will. When they provide a service that is exceptionally better than anything you ever offered, you are going to have trouble catching up.)

"Physician back-up for midwives and out-of-hospital deliveries is a growing concern in some states." (lack of back-up IS a problem, one which the homebirth community would love to see a solution to. Oh, wait...) "In Wisconsin, the professional medical ethics of physicians who choose to back-up CPM-trained midwives were in dispute over home birth legislation that got approved in 2006 over the objections of the Wisconsin ACOG Section, the state AAP Chapter, and the State Medical Board." (...the problem is that physicians ARE backing-up CPMs! How unethical.)

With regard to Licensure Bills in various states: "ACOG is playing defense on most of these bills. It’s the rare situation where we can defeat these bills on the merits. For example, in Missouri, ‘lay’ midwife bills get introduced year after year. These bills have been stopped – up to now – mainly by deft political maneuvering and hardball tactics employed by the State Medical Society, not by any persuasive testimony about comparative safety or quality of care." (This might be my favorite. There it is -- they can't defeat these bill based on any evidence that homebirth is less safe or poorer quality care. They have to use hardball tactics.)

There's lots more but you'll need to just go read it for yourself -- the usual "European studies of homebirth aren't relevant to the U.S.", "people just can't understand all the different types of midwives", "midwives are uneducated" drivel, laid out in clearly understood language. Send it to those people you know who think that ACOG really is speaking out for the best interests of women and babies, and not for their own best interests.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

ICAN and the AMA

Statement of the International Cesarean Awareness Network
Regarding the AMA/ACOG Homebirth Resolution
June 30, 2008

The International Cesarean Awareness Networks (ICAN) condemns the recent resolution passed by the American Medical Association and put forward by the American college of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggesting that homebirth is unsafe and that legislation stating such should be passed by states.

The resolution is not evidence-based and, in its apparent suggestion that homebirth ought to be outlawed, threatens long-held standards of informed consent and patient autonomy. ACOG itself maintains that maternal autonomy is almost absolute. The resolution is also a clear conflict of interest, since AMA and ACOG have much to gain in driving women away from using home-based care providers.

The resolution ignores a solid base of evidence that consistently shows homebirth is safe for low-risk women.[i] It also ignores the fact that there is no evidence to support the notion that hospital-based deliveries are superior for low-risk mothers. In fact, while the obstetric community often touts the significant drop on childbirth-related deaths in the last century, little of this improvement has any relation to obstetric care practices, but rather the advent of antibiotics, sterile practices, and safe transfusions. Approximately 95 percent of women in the U.S. give birth under the care of an obstetrician in the hospital and with this care, the U.S. has the second worst newborn death rate in the world[ii], and ranks 41st in maternal deaths among all nations [iii]

This resolution comes at a time when the physician community increasingly fails to deliver quality, evidence-based care to women and their babies. The most basic needs of laboring women – continuous labor support, food and drink, freedom to move, freedom from routine interventions, being allowed to push in an upright position, and immediate and unbroken contact with the newborn – are routinely ignored in U.S. hospitals. Additionally, major medical interventions such as induction and cesarean section are frequently used without true medical need.

For many mothers, the hospital environment fails to meet their needs, which is why some mothers choose to deliver at home under the care of a trained professional midwife. In our volunteer-based community, ICAN regularly supports mothers who were frightened or bullied into unnecessary interventions by their care providers or were never informed of the risks of interventions. Because of concerns over legal liability and convenience, physicians have prompted over 300 hospitals to ban vaginal birth after cesarean, forcing normal healthy women into cesareans they likely do not need.

Every woman has the right to evaluate the risks and benefits of various care providers and birth settings and choose what is right for her and her baby. Whether through legislation or institutional pressures, it is unacceptable for any professional trade organization to infringe on women’s autonomous decision-making process.

[i] Johnson & Daviss, BMJ 2005;330:1416 (18 June), Fullerton et al., J Midwifery Womens Health. 2007 Jul-Aug; 52(4):323-33., Wiegers et al., BMJ. 1996 Nov 23; 313(7068):1309-13., Janssen et al., CMAJ. 2002 Feb 5; 166(3):315-23., Anderson & Murphy, J Nurse Midwifery. 1995 Nov-Dec; 40(6):483-92., Ackermann-Liebrich, et al., BMJ. 1996 Nov 23; 313(7068):1313-8., Declercq, Public Health Rep. 1984 Jan-Feb; 99(1):63-73., Duran, Am J Public Health. 1992 Mar; 82(3):450-3., Olsen, Birth. 1997 Mar; 24(1):4-13, Mehl., et al., Women Health. 1980 Summer;5(2):17-29.
[ii] State of the World’s Mothers: Save the Children.
[iii] World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the U.N. Children’s Fund, the U.N. Population Division & The World Bank.

Read ICAN’s response to criticism of maternal and infant mortality rate numbers.