Friday, February 15, 2008

On Surgeons and Normal Birth

"In [European] countries, obstetricians serve as specialists. They are essential members of the maternity care team, but they play a role only in the 10 to 15 percent of cases where there are serious complications. Most women have babies without ever setting eyes on a doctor.

In the United States, the numbers are reversed. Obstetricians "attend" 90% of births and have a great deal of control, essentially a monopoly, over the maternity care system. Obstetricians are taught to view birth in a medical framework rather than to understand it as a natural process. In a medical model, pregnancy and birth are an illness that requires diagnoses and treatment. It is an obstetrician's job to figure out what is wrong (diagnoses) and do something about it (treatment) - even though, with childbirth, the right thing in most cases is to do nothing.

To put it another way, having an obstetrical surgeon manage a normal birth is like having a pediatric surgeon babysit a normal two-year-old. Both will find medical solutions to normal situations -- drugs to stimulate normal labor and narcotics for a fussy toddler. Its a paradigm that doesn't work."

Marsden Wagner, M.D., M.S.

Born In the USA,
How a Broken Maternity Care System Must Be Fixed
to Put Women and Children First,
University of California Press, 2006

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