Pregnant women now have one more reason to worry. Consumer Reports, the group that reviews vacuum cleaners and treadmills, now doles out health recommendations including advice about C-sections, fetal monitoring and other pregnancy procedures. Who knew. Check out this recent article. What to Reject When You're Expecting: 10 Procedures to Think Twice about During Your Pregnancy.
As if pregnant women need one more stressor. As if they need more advice. As if there aren't enough actual medical experts, pediatric organizations, baby websites, parenting guides, mommy bloggers or lactating celebrities telling pregnant women what to do or not do.
As if women need further flawed, simplistic or otherwise not-quite-right information guiding them through the gauntlet of toxins and perils otherwise known as pregnancy. In other words, what we have here is yet another less than accurate expose on the dangers foisted upon women and children, here the supposedly unnecessary or overused medical procedures related to pregnancy, labor and delivery.
True, mortality rates among infants and women giving birth remain depressingly high in the US. In fact infant deaths have been rising due to increasing rates of premature and low-birth-weight babies. Maternal deaths are on the up too. Anonymous (i.e. whoever wrote the article, an editor, intern, under-employed fiction-writer?) largely blames the maternal and infant deaths on the rise of C-sections, medically unnecessary ones specifically, as some health experts also have suggested in conjunction with other factors. She or he was considerate enough to come up with nine other suspect procedures to nicely round out a Top Ten that we can peruse for supporting evidence or lack thereof in a game of I Spy:
1. A C-section with a low-risk first birth
I spy no evidence of risks cited here but I think we can all agree C-sections are major surgeries with not a little risk. Anonymous gets a pass here because there is in fact ample evidence of the risks.
2. An automatic second C-section*
I spy one expert and a reference to a 1999 report by the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology. There are studies out there but not here.
*Until the last decade or so, vaginal births after a cesarean (VBACs) were not recommended unless basically there was an emergency C-section team assembled in a brightly lit OR.
3. An elective early delivery
A couple studies, an expert and a graph of early scheduled deliveries in Utah.
Utah. Six hospitals. Utah. Whatever.
4. Inducing labor without a medical reason
One study, a couple experts.
5. Ultrasounds after 24 weeks
No evidence of harm exactly but there's this…
"doesn’t provide any additional benefits leading to better outcomes for either mother or baby, according to a 2009 review..."
6. Continuous electronic fetal monitoring
7. Early epidurals
8. Routinely rupturing the amniotic membranes
"according to a 2009 review..."
9. Routine episiotomies
"according to a 2009 review..."
10. Sending your newborn to the nursery
"Research shows" moms who send their kids to the nursery don't get more sleep.
Translation: Don't even think about banishing the baby to the nursery or getting any rest after nine months of creating another human being let alone the physical assaults of labor and delivery or (don't email me) trying to breastfeed.
So there you have it, evidence of what happens when often well-intentioned purveyors of information try to distill a diverse body of research into perky lists. As I've said so often before it's not that it's wrong, it's just not right. Not accompanied by enough critical detail nor supported by enough meaningful or relevant evidence.
Unfortunately for those of us who like our knowledge based on a good dose of empirical evidence, Anonymous didn't stop there but saw fit to spew out more recommendations. 10 Things You Should Do During Your Pregnancy includes the nuggets "listen to yourself" and "touch your newborn." 5 Things to Do Before You Become Pregnant features generic no-brainers like "stop bad habits" and "take control of chronic disease." For the final insult, readers may suffer through Success Stories featuring women who suffered traumatic C-sections but no worries each ultimately triumphed upon pushing a newborn through her vagina.
If only I were pregnant, I could vomit.