23 July 2013

How to write a crappy book on childbirth, or, how to piss me off in six easy steps

I don't actually remember the title of this book, so I apologize for that. Some kind of guide to natural pregnancy and childbirth. I picked it up at the library yesterday out of curiosity (and because the Braxton Hicks contractions just keep getting more frequent, so part of me's wondering if Munchkin's thinking of making an appearance), and put it down in disgust, very tempted to take it to the librarian and demand they strike it from their catalogue. While I disagreed with some things in, say, Bradley's method of natural childbirth, his book's wacky ideas made me laugh. They didn't make me angry.

What was wrong with the book, you may ask?

1. The author had no medical credentials. Zero. Being a "natural childbirth advocate" is not the same as being a trained doula (here doulas have to be certified to practice--I think in the States it can vary), registered midwife, nurse, or OB-GYN. I'm sorry if you despise the culture of credentials, but there is a reason why I prefer to take medical advice from medical professionals. Even the doctor at the clinic who manages to make me angry and upset every time I talk to her makes me feel like she knows what she's doing when it comes to medical procedures (she's just bad at the empathy side of her job).

2. Right off the bat, the author ranted about pre-term labour and how bad it is for the baby and then listed a few things to hold it off (true, a full-term baby is preferable, but the causes of pre-term labour are complicated and many are not fully understood yet). This included reducing exercise dramatically in early and mid-pregnancy. Last time I checked, exercise was recommended--the body goes through many changes in pregnancy and not exercising is counter-intuitive. True, we pregnant women are supposed to avoid high-impact exercise (one book I read included sumo wrestling on the list of stuff to avoid), but not exercising at all, unless your doctor recommends it, seems like a bad idea. What happens when you get to having the baby and your stamina just isn't there because you didn't exercise at all?

3. She was so adamantly opposed to medical interventions during labour that she only listed the cons of various medications and treatments. I'd like to hear both sides, please. There are reasons why medical interventions are available. I'm also far more likely to respond positively to a balanced view.

4. There was a section in there about how ultrasounds are highly inaccurate and get most things wrong, which didn't seem to have much basis in fact. Ultrasounds, like any medical imaging technology, have a margin of error, but that doesn't mean they are a useless tool.

5. She was anti-vaccine. I'm sorry (actually, I'm really not, it's just a habit to apologize for everything here in Canada), but just because you think having measles would make my child less prone to eczema does not mean I'm going to not immunize my child. I think eczema is to be preferred to some of the more dangerous complications that can result from measles. Even chicken pox can have some nasty complications that are far more likely to occur than side effects from a vaccine.

6. Also, she had some anecdote in there about a woman whose doctor had recommended a C-section based on a previous labour and the size of her pelvis. The author said that this person should have a natural birth because C-sections are to be avoided as much as possible, because it's just ridiculous that the baby might not fit through her pelvis. Who is she to say that this is ridiculous? I may be planning to avoid a C-section if I can, but I'm glad that the option is there if it's needed. And who knows? I might need it. It might be the safer route. If so, that's okay. It's not what I would have preferred, but the scenario that gets me and the baby safely through labour and delivery is the one I want.

At any rate, I slammed the book shut and did not bring it home with me. The overall tone made me too angry to be able to read between the crappy stuff to see if there was anything decent in there. I mentioned the book to J. yesterday evening and he was still pissed off about it this morning. After experiencing near-constant Braxton Hicks contractions for a few days, together with a couple not-so-delightful rounds of pre-labour (or possibly false labour--different books use different names--the guide I was given at the hospital calls it pre-labour), I've had to come to terms with the possibility that my child might arrive a couple weeks sooner than I was hoping. Or not. She might decide that random contractions are awesome (she certainly moves around enough after them) and it'd be a great idea to stay in there until after her due date. It wasn't a good time to read a rant about pre-term labour when, at 36 weeks, me giving birth would technically be considered pre-term.

I guess the worst thing about the book for me was that it felt like it was calculated to induce guilt in the reader, and to create distrust between the doctor and their pregnant patients. Yes, there are poor doctors out there (in the pejorative sense, not the financial sense, though I suppose there are those, too), but assuming that your doctor's an idiot from the get-go is probably going to be counter-productive. And really, do pregnant women need to be guilt-tripped? We're stressed out enough as it is.

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