When women started using doctors as opposed to midwives, birth experienced some hiccups as most doctors had never even attended a live birth. In addition, doctors tended to interfere more with the process which was dangerous considering the poor living conditions and hygiene practices. Women who opted to have their babies at institutions often were forced to share beds with other women while rats crawled on the floor below them. Male doctors would do frequent internal exams, often right after working on cadavers of women that had died from childbed fever. Nurses were then instructed to douche the woman’s vagina which pushed the deadly bacteria up into the womb. It took the medical community over a half a century to figure out that they were the ones causing women to die by not washing their hands.
One thing that I have come to learn as I journey through motherhood is that as parents, it is critical that we question everything.
Lately, I have been thinking about some of the common held beliefs that often go unquestioned. One being that the advent of hospitals saved women and babies from childbirth. ACOG perpetuates this notion with all their campaigning against home births. The other claim is that vaccines eradicated deadly diseases. The CDC has this one on their website most likely to reassure worried parents. I have found that neither one of these claims tells the entire story.
My recent reading into the history of childbirth has concreted my beliefs that birth is not the risky venture that ACOG makes it out to be. Many of complications that occurred during childbirth were and remain to be caused by man.
Diet also was a complicating factor. Women who did not get adequate nutrition were at an increased risk of developing rickets. The deformed pelvis made it difficult and sometimes impossible for a baby to fit through the birth canal. At that time c-sections were too risky so women would labor for days before either dying in the process or having to make the tough decision to abort the baby.
Nowadays, home is a safe place for low risk women to have their babies. Running water and electricity have helped to improve living conditions as has our knowledge surrounding hygiene. Midwives are equipped with pitocin to stop hemorrhaging, and oxygen to resuscitate breathing in newborns. Hospitals are close enough in the event that a mother needs a blood transfusion, antibiotics or other life saving intervention. How then did we all come to believe that hospitals are what saved us?
My new found knowledge about the history of childbirth has naturally led me to question the vaccination claim. Ironically, the two seem to parallel each other in ways. Cleanliness, living conditions, diet along with the advancements in modern medicine all helped to prevent illnesses and deadly diseases. While I do not doubt that vaccines work, it is a far stretch to say that they single handedly eradicated diseases.
I am sure we didn’t come to believe these things over night. The campaigns that vaccine companies and doctors publicized were probably so effective that we started to adopt them as “truths” as the concepts became more mainstream. So much so that now even governmental and medical organizations have it on their web pages. I hope I am not sounding like an alarmist. I do believe in the benefits of modern medicine where it makes sense. I just think that vague claims like the ones above encourage people to make decisions out of fear rather than weighing all of the benefits and risks.
While I do believe that modern medicine has its place, the use of it should not be taken lightly by parents. Our bodies are unique, and should be treated as such. These are not “one size fits all” issues.