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Standard Childbirth in America

Now, imagine the opposite of a gentle birth; a situation where the baby is born under stressful or insensitive circumstances. If the mother experiences a lot of pain during labor in a hospital, she will probably be given pain medications, even if she doesn't want them and is trying to have a natural delivery.

These drugs will, of course, be transferred to the baby, who will likely feel the effects of them for days after the birth. These babies seem dazed and unable to focus their eyes on their mother or respond to her.

Perhaps this is why so many doctors believe that babies do not see or feel at birth. Since two generations of American doctors have routinely medicated mothers during labor, and thereby inadvertently medicated their babies, it's easy to understand why they have concluded that babies are insentient at birth and for days afterward, as these doctors are completely unfamiliar with the behavior of infants who do not have drugs in their bodies at birth.

In a hospital the mother is usually hooked up to a fetal monitor, which means she is most likely to be kept lying in bed. Other than being hung by the feet, the lithotomy position, with the mother supine on her back, is the worst possible way to deliver a baby, reports Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia, MD.

Lying down during labor and birth can interfere with the supply of oxygen to the baby and does not make natural use of gravity, as does the squatting position. However, it is by far the most convenient position for the doctor and hospital staff. Although the mother may feel a natural urge to move around, standard hospital procedures may make that difficult or impossible.

If the labor does not proceed according to the hospital's narrow definition of normal, the woman may be given drugs to speed up her labor. Then, if her doctor can't be reached in time to get to the hospital to attend the delivery, she may be given more drugs, to slow down her labor. There is a dangerous tendency in modern American hospitals for one intervention to be followed soon by another and another, until the natural process of birth may be completely eclipsed by a complicated series of interventions, often resulting in a C-section.

Although most doctors who opt for cesareans are genuinely concerned about the safety of their patients, we cannot entirely discount the fact that doctors and hospitals profit far more from a cesarean delivery than from a normal one. They also know that with a cesarean they are less likely to be sued for malpractice if something goes wrong in late labor.

It is true that, in some cases, lives might have been lost if it had not been for the intervention of modern medicine and the technology needed to deal with emergency situations. But it is also true that many lives have been lost or damaged due to unnecessary interventions in the natural birthing process of a completely healthy women.

The time has come to re-evaluate our national attitudes and approaches to childbirth and to revamp the institutionally entrenched practices that no longer serve the best interests of mothers and babies. It is their well being that should be the first concern.

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