Guest Commentary by Judy P. Berger

Childbirth should not be a McHasty decision

Judy P. Berger

Judy P. Berger

Americans need to be savvy shoppers. Health and beauty products, nutrition, appliances, electronics and entertainment — there are hundreds of choices. So many stores sell the same or similar products, and we must decide what to buy and where. There is emphasis on speed: Internet buying with next-day shipping, fast food drive-thrus and same day delivery for the new water heater. Selections are increasingly more complex in lives that are already hectic and demanding.

What does this have to do with childbirth?

Well, no one’s come up with a way to put a drive-thru window on the side of hospitals. But today’s trend is that giving birth can and should be quick and painless. Many women schedule Cesareans because it sounds quick and easy. But a C-section is painful major surgery with greater risks, and it requires a longer recovery period than vaginal birth. Nevertheless, Kentucky has reached a C-section rate of more than 30 percent, despite the World Health Organization’s opinion that no region in the world should have a rate greater than 10-15 percent.
Having your baby on schedule sounds attractive to many women, and that probably explains why there are so many scheduled C-sections and elective inductions these days. An elective induction is when drugs are used to start labor, although there is no medical indication that it is necessary. It may sound convenient, but an induction carries serious risks.

When it comes to healthcare and our own bodies, many of us seem to think our options are limited. You choose a healthcare provider or a facility because they are on your insurance list. You think any decisions will be left up to the experts. After all, why would you think we know more than they do? Well, the primary reason is because you live in your body, and that makes you an expert of a different sort. You know what kind of an experience you want for your birth. Maybe you want to actually feel the experience of giving birth to your child, or maybe you just don’t want to be the one in 10,000 women who have a serious reaction to an epidural drug. A safe and satisfying birth is possible. However, it is like shopping for anything else of significant value: Not all childbirth options are the same. You will want to do the research.

You should ask questions of care providers, making sure you are on the same page regarding your care. Do they make you feel like a time bomb about to explode or like a defective product that needs to be recalled? Or do they treat pregnancy and birth like the normal events that they are?

Midwives are experts in normal childbirth and provide a more intimate level of care that appeals to many women. In fact, women in Louisville are choosing to give birth in Southern Indiana so they can have a certified nurse midwife attend their birth, because that is not an option on this side of the river. Some women may choose to have the continuous physical, emotional and informational support of a birth doula. It is a fallacy that birth doulas make you give birth without medications, but there is research that shows that hiring a birth doula can decrease your need for pain medications by 35 percent and the use of epidurals by 60 percent. Having a doula can also decrease your need for a C-section by 51 percent.

Research shows that a more satisfying birth experience enhances maternal infant bonding. The Dalai Lama says, “Change in society begins with the mother, who passes those feelings on to her family, which in turn influences society.” By that way of thinking, creating more positive birth experiences can quite simply improve the world.

It is convenient to grab a bag from the drive-thru, but is it really that satisfying? Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to have a home-cooked meal or a gourmet meal from a restaurant? Why should we skimp on the quality of our birth experiences?

To find out more about birth options, doulas, midwives, pregnancy, labor and the newborn, you can attend the fifth annual Birth in the Bluegrass on Saturday, March 24. This year’s childbirth expo presents the theme “Shopping for Options.” The free event at U of L’s Shelby Campus in the Founder’s Union Building is from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 499-4418 or go to for more info.

Judy P. Berger is an RN and has worked as nursery nurse, mother-baby nurse, childbirth educator, birth doula and post partum doula. Her five children were born at home with the help of midwives. She serves on the board of directors of Birth Care Network and cares for children — her own and other people’s. Contact her at [email protected]