Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another marathon analogy

I just read the newest issue of the International Doula (Vol 15, Issue 2) and it had an article comparing laboring to marathon running, complete with a tongue-in-cheek description of race guidelines, including:
  • Time limit on the race: if you don't run fast enough, you'll be driven directly to the finish line
  • Mandatory IV for all runners; absolutely no eating and drinking
  • Pain medications strongly encouraged, beds provided all along the race to rest because the meds make you sleepy (but you still have to keep up the minimum pace!)
  • "Synthetic energy" if you're not running fast enough
Paula Holland. "Birth--The 'Marathon' of Life." International Doula 15.2 (2007): 14-17.


  1. did you happen upon the Washington Post article from yesterday? Lots of interesting blogging going on about it on both sides and all over the place.

  2. HAHA...ha. Would be funnier if it weren't so true. Really puts the analogy in perspective though...if you can't run a marathon after being deliberately weakened in every way possible, how can you give birth?


  3. Yes, I've been reading some of the responses. Part of me just doesn't want to expend the energy trying to explain/defend something that's so much more complex than the newspaper portrays it.

    One function that UC is having on the birth climate in North America is that it makes home birth midwifery seem much less extreme. Midwife-attended homebirth is no longer the crazy, dangerous, radical birthing choice of extremists. We get the honor (?) of being the new extreme.

    I am still surprised at the amount of fear that people hold about birth. You'd think that of all times NOT to be unreasonably fearful, it would be today. Thanks to a combination of better nutrition, sanitation, reliable clean water supplies, and medical techniques (abx, blood transfusion, low transverse C/S rather than classical incision, etc) for true emergencies, we have incredibly good odds of having a healthy birth and baby. So why the overwhelming and very strident fear that comes across in so many of the conversations surrounding birth, especially UC? Living in so much fear seems a bit paralyzing.

    I think the thing that makes some people feel threatened when they hear about UC is that most UCers have lost their fear of birth. Not that we stick our heads in the sand and say "la la la childbirth is natural so nothing will ever go wrong." Instead, we know enough about birth and understand the hormonal and physiological process to a degree that we no longer fear birth. We embrace and welcome it. I've found that education tends to replace fear with confidence.

    Afraid of hemorrhage, for example? Well, start researching more about it. How to prevent it during pregnancy through nutrition. What lifestyle behaviors or practices predispose women to hemorrhage? What practices during birth might trigger hemorrhage? How do doctors treat it? How do midwives treat it? How do UCers treat it? What are the risks and benefits of various treatments? What is the true incidence of hemorrhage if you eliminate all of the risk factors you have control over? etc...

    I was at a conference about 2 years ago and Michel Odent was talking about the third stage (period between birth of the baby and birth of the placenta). He mentioned that he has never had to use Pitocin to control hemorrhage in something like 15,000 births. That is amazing. Instead, his approach is to facilitate the proper hormonal balance so that a woman's body doesn't hemorrhage in the first place (warm room, no interrupting or even speaking/interacting with parents, parents have uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with baby, no bustling about doing anything, etc). That is incredible and I want to ask him more about it. Did I really hear him right?! What other practices are important for the third stage? I will see him next March at the Trust Birth Conference and I will definitely be asking him more about this.


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