Monday, January 03, 2005

Fear and Loathing in the Birth Center

In the last two weeks I’ve come across two interesting editorials that pointedly represent the differing reactions families can have to medicalized births.

In the first, New York Times health columnist Jane Brody describes her newborn grandson’s post-partum brush with death and concludes that “all babies should be born in well-equipped hospitals, with neonatologists at the ready and a neonatal intensive care unit down the hall.”

In another, appearing in Slate, freelance writer David Dobbs thanks his lucky stars that Cesarean birth was an option for his first son, but then lobbies hard for continued VBAC options.

As I think back over the two pieces, what stands out is the authors’ opposite reactions to fear and risk. For Brody, the small risk of complications that accompanies every birth should mandate hospital deliveries. Dobbs, on the other hand, acknowledges the elevated risk of VBAC but puts it in perspective: “If a woman accepts a 1-in-200 chance of a rupture and emergency Caesarean, she has a 75 percent chance of avoiding another C-section altogether.”

I wonder if Brody’s wish to put all births in NICU-equipped hospitals and many women’s preference of Cesarean birth over VBAC might be another manifestation of our culture’s heightened value on security after 9/11. If we are willing to let our government hold individuals in terrorist investigations indefinitely without evidence of wrongdoing (habeas corpus? Hello?) and without notifying anyone on the rationale it might keep us a little safer, then a hospital or Cesarean birth is hardly an inconvenience in the interest of safety.



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