This is a long one…
With my wife and I expecting our first child, we’ve been thrust into a brave new world of “do you or don’t you?” While we are dead set in our beliefs to have a home birth, we’ve really come across some interesting information on how our culture views the whole birthing process. I would like to share with you the knowledge and insight we’ve been exposed to along the way, and add a little information as to how the female body works. Of course, I’ll add a little input from the Chiropractic side of things as well…
I, along with all three of my siblings, was a home birth with midwife supervision. There were no drugs. There were no painkillers. There was no epidural, no episiotomy, no Pitocin, no M.D., no Ob/Gyn, and most importantly, no crisis mentality. There was nothing but my mother’s body and her intuition doing what it does best; nothing but her body’s innate knowledge of how to give birth. Just like every other mammal in this world.
In the 1950’s, the Cesarean section (c-section) rate in the United States was about 3%. In the 1970’s, it had increased to about 5%. Today, the c-section rate has swollen to a nearly unfathomable 35% of all births in this country.[i] This is literally approaching epidemic levels. We spend the most money (by far) of any developed nation on care for the mother and baby, and yet, there are 32 countries with lower infant mortality rates. Iceland’s infant mortality rate stands at 2.9/1000 live births (currently less than half that of the U.S.).[ii] We stand at 20th in developed nations in terms of lowest maternal mortality rate.[iii] Research into reasons for emergency cesareans found that 66% occur between the 25% of day shift hours of 8 AM and 3 PM, and the least between 5 AM and 6 AM leading the authors to conclude that physician convenience is a leading cause of “emergency cesareans.”[iv] I hope you are as shocked by this as I am.
However, what’s even further ignored is how the allopathic view of childbirth ignores basic anatomy and physiology. The absolute worst position to “deliver” a baby is lying on your back with the hips tucked and the feet up. Doing this shrinks the birth canal and forces the mother to push the baby out against gravity after the head tucks under the pubic bone. It also prevents the mother from walking around, squatting, and stretching. This often results in the baby getting “stuck,” and requires the doctor to pull on the baby’s head, often with enough force to permanently damage the spine and brachial plexus (nerves into the arms). I often ask people who view this as acceptable if they would ever hold a baby by its head. Their response is always “Oh no! Of course not! Are you crazy?” Holding a baby by its head only tractions the neck about 6 pounds max, but yet we find it acceptable to use vacuum extraction (pulling the baby out by a suction cup attached to its head)? To have a foot braced against the hospital bed to pull a baby out? This just doesn’t make sense! Walking and squatting twist and open the pelvis, thereby “wiggling” the baby lower. There is no reason to rush this process. Birth is a natural process than cannot and should not be rushed. There is no set time table, or user’s manual, for giving birth as every woman will experience it differently.
Allow me to paint a picture for you. A mother’s water breaks and she officially goes into labor. Pandemonium ensues. She is rushed to the hospital for this dire emergency. After a couple of hours go by and the cervix is slowly dilating, a medical provider arbitrarily decides that the labor is not progressing fast enough (must have consulted the manual…). The fact that the woman is generally lying on her back and thus the baby’s head is not fully resting on the cervix is ignored. The gravitational stress of the baby’s head on the cervix causes a reflexive release of the hormone Oxytocin, which softens the cervix and causes wave-like contractions in the uterus. In order to speed up the labor, Pitocin (synthetic Oxytocin) is injected into the mother. Pitocin causes long lasting, clamp-like contractions of the uterine muscles. This is VERY painful, especially given the fact that the cervix has not dilated. This generally prompts recommendation of an epidural painkilling injection. The epidural effectively reduces the brain’s ability to adapt to sensory information from the uterus and cervix (it’s been blocked), which decreases Oxytocin production and slows delivery. More Pitocin is administered to make up for this, which then increases the strength at which the uterus contracts and now the baby is being constantly squeezed in a clamp-like fashion rather than in wave-like bursts if the contractions were caused naturally by Oxytocin. However, pressure on the baby isn’t the only problem. Wave-like contractions allow for blood flow to return to the placenta whereas clamp-like contractions do not. This disturbs the exchange of nutrients (like oxygen) and waste products between mom and baby. Keep in mind, the umbilical cord is still the only source of nutrition for the baby. Now you have a situation where the baby is under stress and its heart rate will increase. This creates an emergency where a c-section must be performed “for the baby’s sake.” Now let’s get one thing straight, the c-section is medically necessary as the baby IS in danger. The intervention that put the baby in danger is not. If only those with patients had more patience.
Many people view the c-section surgery in terms of convenience, that it’s “just routine surgery and then you have a baby.” What a lot of doctors are not telling women is that a c-section birth is not only major surgery, but also robs both the mother and baby of some extremely important biological and neuro-hormonal events. Remember that hormone Oxytocin? It has very intriguing effects on the human brain. It is also known as the “love hormone” or the “bonding hormone.” The amount present in a woman’s body is never higher than when she gives birth. This surge in Oxytocin is believed to permanently bond her with her child. It has been shown that women who give birth naturally are more caring for their children (on average, but there are always exceptions). Lead author Dr. James Swain, Child Study Centre, Yale University, states, “We wondered which brain areas would be less active in parents who delivered by caesarean section, given that this mode of delivery has been associated with decreased maternal behaviors in animal models, and a trend for increased postpartum depression in humans. [. . .] Our results support the theory that variations in delivery conditions such as with caesarean section, which alters the neuro-hormonal experiences of childbirth, might decrease the responsiveness of the human maternal brain in the early postpartum.” Dr. Swain is literally saying that a vaginal birth promotes greater bonding between mother and baby. In several studies with chimpanzees and c-sections, the mother will often completely neglect a c-sectioned baby. To make matters worse, Pitocin does not cross the blood brain barrier, so it does not produce the same emotional response in the brain as Oxytocin. This poses even greater neuro-hormonal problems for women induced by Pitocin injection, which has a very high rate of resulting in c-section.
As for the baby, it has been consistently shown that “babies born by Caesarean section, even at full term, are more likely to have breathing problems than are babies who are delivered vaginally.”[v] When a baby passes through the birth canal, it is intensely squeezed. This functions to expel any remaining amniotic fluid from the lungs and prompts the baby’s first breath. The loss of this critical step may be why children born by c-section are known to have a higher incidence of problems with lung functions down the road, such as asthma.
Now what if everything goes right? What happens in a hospital after vaginal birth is successful? Generally, the baby is taken away from the mother, sometimes for hours, in order to perform tests that could very easily be performed on mom’s stomach. The vernix caseosa, the baby’s greasy covering, is then stripped clean before being given back to mom. This covering is still protecting the baby’s skin, and does not need to be frantically cleaned. Prior to all of this, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut while still pulsating (a big no-no; the cord will stop pulsating when blood flow is no longer required). Perhaps most shocking, though, is the routine administration of either erythromycin or silver nitrate eye drops and the Hepatitis B vaccine. Antibiotic eye drops are administered to prevent infection by the same organisms that cause Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Hence the question, “If the mother tests negative for these diseases, then why give the drops?” The answer to that is simple. It costs less to administer the drops than to test the mom. Administering these drops has even become law in some states. Hepatitis B vaccine is a topic for another newsletter, but just let me state one thing: it’s only contracted by dirty needles and sexual contact. Exactly what do they expect the baby to be doing? Even after a full childhood vaccine schedule, according to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) own documents, the protection is confirmed to have worn off by age 13. My question is, if it wears off before the individual will need the protection, then why do it at all? Especially within the first 24 hours of life, when the baby cannot make its own antibodies? The argument is that it will protect the baby IF the mother is infected. Unfortunately for that train of thought, Hepatitis testing is routinely part of most pre-natal blood panels. Again the question… why?
Now for the Chiropractic spin. The whole philosophy of Chiropractic is that your body, my body, a baby’s body, all have the ability to heal themselves. This is known as innate intelligence and is governed through the nervous system. The nervous system is the first system to form and guides the development of a human being from the union of just two cells to an organism composed of trillions. When the spine is properly aligned and balanced, then the nervous system is free to govern all of the body’s innate abilities (i.e. digesting, regulating heart rate, producing stomach acid… and giving birth). There is even a Chiropractic technique devoted to balancing the pelvis and uterine ligaments so that the uterus is properly positioned. Often times, a breach baby will re-orient itself head-down after this procedure is done. This is not a learned behavior; this is the baby’s innate knowledge. This is just like how a newborn knows to suckle, or grasp an object in its hands (a reflex to hang on to its mother).
Almost two decades ago, a woman brought her little boy in to see my father, Dr. Zev Myerowitz, out of an act of last resort. The little boy had iatrogenic (doctor induced) trauma to the nerves in his neck from being forcefully pulled out during delivery. She had been to every specialist she could find. The official diagnosis was Erb’s palsy, which is paralysis of the nerves controlling muscles in the arm, and has little hope of recovery. He had not moved his right arm for the first 18 weeks of his life. Two days after his first Chiropractic adjustment, he moved his arm, and to quote his mother, “the progress was nothing short of miraculous.”
If you have any questions or comments, or would like to meet with me face to face, then please call my office at 207-989-0000. My door is always open.
Daniel J. Myerowitz, D.C., Dipl. Ac. (AACA)
291 Main Road
Holden, ME 04429
[i] ^ a b “Births: Preliminary Data for 2007”. National Center for Health Statistics. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_12.pdf.
[iv] Goldstick O, Weissman A, Drugan A.The circadian rhythm of “urgent” operative deliveries.Isr Med Assoc J. 2003 Aug;5(8):564-6.
[v] · ^ March of Dimes: Cesarean Birth for Medical Reasons