Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More! Better! BirthTrack (TM)!

Remember in Pushed, where Jennifer Block mentioned a company developing a continuous dilation and station monitor that would clip onto the cervix? Well, the BirthTrack is here and being actively marketed to both doctors and mothers-to-be. It consists of an internal electrode that is screwed into the baby's head and two ultrasound clips that attach to the cervix. Its purported benefits include (quotes from the manufacturer's website in red):

It will reduce the number of vaginal exams during labor. Instead, you'll have two clips permanently attached to your cervix the whole time! Sign me up! "In the usual procedure vaginal examinations are performed numerous times during normal labor. In the case of labor arrest or other complications the number of vaginal examinations increases."

It will help doctors perform a cesarean for "failure to progress" even faster! Because we're not jumping the gun fast enough as it is, with our 31.1% cesarean rate! Remember, labor must never stop or slow down! "In the event of non-progressive labor, the diagnosis may be delayed, thereby preventing the mother from obtaining the best medical care."

It will make sure you don't go too slow or too fast! "In managing labor, obstetricians are faced with a number of important challenges, including...identification of inadequate progress of labor and assessment of a quick developing labor process."

It is more accurate! "The information available to the caregiver is inaccurate due to the objective nature of the measurement and intermittent [assessment]."

You'll have information streaming at you non-stop, every second! Next up: sending the info to your Blackberry in real-time! "You will have continuous information regarding the progress of labor and you will know the position of your baby every second."

Your partner will be more involved in the birth! He can stare even more at the machines and less at you! "Your partner will be able to be an active participant in the labor process as he/she follows the progress of the partogram on the screen next to your bed."

Oh and of course, as this last statement indicated, you WILL be lying in bed!
You won't even notice it! It will just "minimally disrupt patient comfort."

It's more convenient for your doctor's pocketbook! He will get sued less, since the machine gives him "a lower risk of malpractice"! BirthTrack is also a "Support tool during litigation--BirthTrack provides full documentation of cervical dilatation and fetal head descent during the labor process."

More is better! This new device results in "significantly improved medical care"!

More is cheaper! By buying this expensive piece of machinery, we can achieve "reduced costs" by reducing human-to-human interaction even more! We can also make more money at each birth by increasing the cesarean rate due for failure to progress!

It provides not one, not two, not three, but FOUR paths to getting an infection. First, your water is broken. Next, an internal fetal monitor is screwed into your baby's head. Then you get two clips attached to the opening of your uterus. Free ride to any germs looking for some action!

My suggestion to BirthTrack and to those who stand to profit by making, marketing, and selling this new piece of gadgetry: get your hands (or rather your cervical clips) outta my vagina and outta my pocketbook!


  1. ROTFLMAO "In the event of non-progressive labor, the diagnosis may be delayed" goodness gracious hurry up and make that diagnosis of non progressive labor quick before it starts to progress again!!!
    Rixa, thanks for the good laugh.
    This must be as absurd as obstetrics can get, right? Surely they are reaching the tipping point, after which they won't be able to take themselves seriously anymore.

  2. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

    To be honest, that's all I can really say.

  3. So let me ask...what in the heck happens to those "cervical clamps" in a precipitous birth? Since it looks the the sensors are daisy-chained together (right cervical monitor, fetal scalp monitor, left cervical monitor), do they just rip right off of the cervix????

    Or hey, what happens with the occassional baby who likes to spin his/her head around a bit in the pelvis?

    I don't think the website is really clear about whether moms can be mobile with this thing in place or if they need to stay laying down...but I think it is pretty obvious that any kind of laboring in water would be out of the question!


  4. Oh good grief. When will the madness end?!?! Human beings are not droids, can't treat the body like a machine! SO STOP TRYING! AAAGGHH!

  5. Maybe women could get it attached at 36 weeks so they can tell when they go into labour!! LOL

  6. OH, MY... really, what will be next???

    I was just about on the floor with the "hurry up and make that diagnosis of non progressive labor quick before it starts to progress again"... LOL

  7. I think up next will be continuous fetal monitoring from 14 weeks on, "just to make sure" there aren't any problems that crop up that is transmitted to the closest L&D unit you are near. That way, if your baby's heart rate takes a dip at any given moment (pesky babies who like to play with their cords!) you can be paged to the OR STAT, and an emergent cesarean can be performed so as to save the baby's life!!

    God help us all...

  8. While watching one of the Star Wars movies my 9 year old son said, "Wouldn't that be awful having robots deliver your baby?"

    I have always thought it interesting how many tecnological things in sci-fi movies, like cell phones, robots, stealth crafts etc... become a reality.

    I think this is another movie gadget that man will try to bring to life... robotic births.

    I wouldn't put it past the medical profession to offer mechanical wombs for growing babies. Then birth would be perfectly "safe."

    This whole talk about what makes birth "safe" is driving me nuts.

    Another point that gets me is this:

    "The information available to the caregiver is inaccurate due to the objective nature of the measurement..."

    I'm glad someone in that profession is acknowleging that vaginal exams aren't accurate. Too bad this info isn't shared with pregnant women.

    Thanks for this info Rixa, I'll be linking to it.

  9. Noooo!

    I cannot believe this. Because it's so much better to have something up your cervix ALL the time instead of every couple of hours.

    You called it on every one of those "benefits".

    If only we could figure out a way for companies to reap profits on doing nothing; on avoiding technology; on letting things happen. Do you think we could start a fund that will pay extra for every normal birth?

  10. Hi I'm a midwife from the uk and have been reading your blog for a few months now. I recently read about this in one of our journals and was horrified! I know that the midwifery & natural birth culture in the US is in dire straits and you do have a different system than we do but whrn I found it being advertised here, it made me feel sick. It goes against what I was trained to do. Watch & wait, be patient not lets know whats happening for every second of the labour so we can whip out our blades and go home at a reasonable hour!! Labour is not a straight line, it is a curve and sometimes a plateau for a while. (SIGH!)

  11. Well said! This "device" is horrifying. Say it gets popular...then we will have nurses, doctors, even midwives that are no longer practiced on the very basic skill of checking for dilation. The comment about robots dlivering babies is right...we really seem to be heading there fast!

    I hope you sent your blog entry to the company!

  12. Loved your review... thanks for the reminder of where I'd heard of this before, it was in Pushed.

    I was flabbergasted at the idea of this unit, and now to see it marketed... well, it's just weird to me.

  13. Aw dang. One thing to ask my doctor to make sure they won't use on me.

  14. Pardon my profanity, but holy fucking shit.

    I've had two births without interventions and have always considered myself a gentle advocate of natural childbirth but tolerant and understanding of those with other preferences, situations, and desires.

    One sight of that machine just pushed me over the edge. Raving contingent of crunchy lotus unassisted homebirthers, here I come.

  15. As a childbearing woman, a birth worker, a childbirth educator..on all levels I am equally horrified. I can only hope that this technology fades quickly and that women will just become "one less", and refuse to allow this to become part of their births.

  16. this is the most horrible thing i have ever seen... as a midwife i would never allow its use... these people must really hate oregnant women.

  17. Instead of BirthTrack why don't they call it BirthTrap! That way birthing women will know that they will be trapped into having a c-section by it's diagnosis.

    Can someone with the intelligence level of an OB really think that this is a good idea? Oh silly me, of course they can. I forgot that some also support continuos FHM, epidurals, lying or sitting for delivery and episiotomies.

  18. i was going to write something about this ludicrous-ness on my blog, then read this and realized i couldn't top it so i just linked to you instead. sarcasm makes me happy.

    anyway, i find myself signing some REM "it's the end of the world as we know it." i can't say i feel fine though. i'm with judit on the tipping point, these guys should read themselves some malcolm gladwell.

  19. OMG, I think my legs are permanently fused together now. That looks like a torture device. Pap smears are bad enough but now they want to clamp something to my cervix while I'm trying to cope with labor. The developers are psychotic.

    Not to mention, they suck at proofreading:
    "The information available to the caregiver is inaccurate due to the objective nature of the measurement..."

    I believe the word they're looking for here is SUBJECTIVE. Idiots.


  20. hsp,

    Not only did they use the wrong word, that sentence is also a sentence fragment! If you read the original sentence, the text reads:

    "The information available to the caregiver is inaccurate due to the objective nature of the measurement and intermittent."

    Intermittent what? Monitoring? Vaginal exams?

    Yeesh! The Grammar Queen is displeased!

  21. I remember reading about this in Special Delivery also a year or two ago. I think it is fantastically frightening--the person who said it should be called "Birth Trap" was right. Sometimes, I swear, it is an absolute MIRACLE that women actually manage to push out their babies in hospitals.


  22. Since it can be data linked..I wonder if it can also page the anesthesiologist when I have reached 2cm so I can get my epidural? Then I think it would be totally worth it. That way I don't miss the window for the epidural. AND if it could be linked on my blog then my whole family could enjoy knowing the blow by blow, leave comments and react to each change.

  23. I'm sorry, did that say "screwed into your baby's head"? Everything went all blurry after that. Must've been the shock...

    Absolutely abominable.

  24. LOL

    This is too right along with the blackberry updates that some OBs are carrying now. Pretty soon we can watch our labor on the TV. Have you seen WALLE? I feel like we are headed that way.
    Developing a "solution" that requires them to then create and advertise a problem/need is sad. What about common sense? More technology is not better technology? Has any one on thedesign team even seen a vaginal birth in person, let alone birthed?

    Thank you for posting!!!

  25. This is a joke right... I mean really a JOKE!!! Who in their right mind would do this to their baby... wake up people!
    Lets focus on better birth out comes! Not how much money we can get for the new latest and “greatest” gadget. When is everyone going to see how all these do more harm then good….. Oh wait I know….. When price is no longer in the equation!!!

    I am really waiting to see if this is a joke.


  26. As a pre- and perinatal psychologist and self-proclaimed human with commonsense, isn't it a bit ridiculous to think that screwing something into a baby's head while she is trying to get out of the womb (which she is physiologically primed to do with ease and grace, especially if her mama is feeling safe and supported and basically left alone to let her body and her baby do their thing!)is invasive, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous? Oh yeah, I forgot, the baby doesn't have any feelings at that point. Duh! (sarcasm fully intended). This is beyond absurd and super harmful. Keep your probes out of our vag's and off our baby's heads!!!

  27. And if you dig a little deeper into their website you'll notice that the board of directors is made up of a a crew of MBA's and investors. These people are after the big $$ of medical engineering. Their medical advisor group has no one listed....Hmmmm.

  28. I'm just mortified. I wish I could come up with some witty whatever to put here, but I'm sitting with my mouth wide open and shaking my head. Just mortified.

  29. Oh Goodie! Screw with my baby's head before he or she even makes it into the world, that really is an achievement! I am actually feeling nauseated and releived that I found a doctor who believes in non-invasive deliveries!

    I have yucky chills now! UGH!

  30. give me a break! Invent something useful and stop wasting your time trying to make birth better. It's already awesome!

  31. Every day I get closer to wanting to move to the wilderness and write my manifesto while eating wild berries and raising my daughter alongside the local wolf population. This device just adds to my reasons to do so.

  32. I (obviously) agree with the horror expressed by everyone here. But the single thing that scares me the most about this, beyond the fact that some research and development people (who went easy on the research, and heavy on the development) came up with this piece of crap, and beyond the fact that of course OB's will find it the most convenient thing ever invented, is that your average mom won't even notice.

    She's already spent more time worrying about baby names and designer strollers and how soon she'll lose that pesky pregnancy weight(or baby names and how soon she can start partying again and how soon she'll lose that pesky pregnancy weight) than learning about the capabilities of her own body. I try my best to help women learn about the natural process of labor and birth, but it's hard not to get discouraged.

    This contraption will become just one more thing that women agree to because Dr. knows best. 'You just sit there honey, and let our fancy machines do all the work. But if it's not working fast enough, it's all your fault, and we'll have to cut you open so that you don't hurt your baby, mmmkay? Good."

    I'm sorry I'm venting here in your blog comments. It may have something to do with the last birth I attended where, after a vaginal exam the husband congratulated his wife and baby on their progress "Go baby! Yay, mama!" The nurse then had the unmitigated gall to turn around and say "Yay Pitocin!" I wanted to smack her, but mom and dad didn't even notice how rude that was. *sigh*

  33. *Ugh* Seriously sad. Just really, really, sad.

    May I link this post on my site?

  34. I am totally horrified. What scares me the most is that many women will be allowing this at the suggestion of their OBs or even the nurses. Nurses can be part of the problem some times. Though I certainly know of times when they saved the day, there are some who simply seem clueless about birth as the OBs (mostly) are.

    Most nurses are super and those with experience can really be helpful for women who do not know enough to hire a doula to go with them to the hospital, or better still stay home with a doula and a midwife.

    This is so sad. So "modern" and so heartless and mechanical.

    This idea of the damn thing being ripped out by a baby in a hurry keeps coming to mind. I had one that simply would not wait...and still remember a (non-helpful) nurse yelling at me to keep my legs together so they could get me to the delivery room and my doctor could be there! (Still mad at her to this day, and that was 45 years ago!)

    Women simply MUST rise up in anger at the audacity of this company's goals and put a stop to this before it takes hold. I have eight granddaughters. I fear for their birth experiences. I NEVER thought it would get this bad.

  35. Hey, can I copy that entire post to share on a boar of mine? I won't share who wrote it...but I'd love to get it in people's heads before it's thrown out as the new fangled best thing you know? ;o)

  36. Now this is the last straw! As a childbirth educator and a midwife I used to make a joke about the medical community inventing something like this. Was one of them listening? Am I at fault! Oh say it isn't so!

    What else can we do to make normal birth impossible? I especially loved the bit about how your partner can be more involved by watching the screen more. Give me a break.

  37. Eck...I posted a link to this post on my blog and a friend emailed me telling her that her first child had this done, he still has a scar and a dent in his head from where it was hooked up to his head...she also ended up having a c-section, and of course, so were the rest of her children... It's heartbreaking to hear!

  38. Whatever happened to going out in a field and squatting? There is no EFM there.

    Oh, I lament the poor OB's and women who really think they need this product!

  39. I am begging all of you to write to the company and tell them what you think! We cannot passively stand by and let this happen. I also would love to see a petiion drive against this monstrosity! Can you forward your post to Pushed Birth and Our Bodies, Ourselves to get more exposure plus any midwifery group I can think of, please? Thanks,

  40. Thanks for bringing this to our collective attention! Very frightening...I had a blast ripping it to shreds though!

  41. My first birth was a normal hospital birth (read: full o' interventions even without a c-section, pitocin, etc.) and yes, they SCREWED a monitor into my son's head.

    He's now 14. With an injury to his head that is still visible, and does not grow hair and gets infected from time to time, from his internal monitor.

    I was a teenager at his birth, and very naive about how unbelievably anti-birth a hospital could be, but you can bet I would never put myself or my child at risk again in a standard hospital birth.

  42. This was beyond horrific! I literally sat reading about it in tears. How impersonal, dangerous, robotic, INSULTING, and disgusting can our society get????! I'm losing it here. No wonder C-sections are rising every day with interventions like this monstrosity!!
    I seriously want to give birth by myself in a rice paddy...

  43. Saw a link to this post on a natural childbirth support msg board.

    I'm horrified! I mean, I know that this is the Brave New World of birth, but still. It's simply awful in more ways than can be stated! You did the best possible job of outlining it, I must say.

    Thanks for the heads-up. I'm off to go ponder my upcoming, 3rd homebirth (w/ midwives) where I don't have to worry about sadistic devices like this.

  44. OMG, the next EFM horror. The hospitals are all gonna buy it and then we're all gonna be required to use it. Or else.

    When is this going to stop?

  45. It really is getting ridiculous. How many machines is it going to take for them to realize that we don't need machines, for a non-complicated birth?

  46. wives call me "lucky" in that I get a break from my contractions before transition hits hard! 1 labor this window was 2 hours long! (yay mama got to sleep) It's usually at an "Early" point in labor as well (go to sleep at 3 cm wake up at 7 cm) THIS IDIOCY makes me GLAD I know live in Europe! Sheesh, they apologized for the belt monitor that had to go on every 2 - 3 hours for a 1/2 hour! This thing makes me sick! The most "technology I've seen here was a romawheel and a tub! I am yet again in AWE of the stupidity of my fellow Americans when it comes to something as natural as having a baby, what next a sex monitor to tell you exactly what position works best for conception today? oh wait I think they may have that already.....then this is just going backwards? right that's it!


    Future Technologies
    The Company is presently engaged in further development of its core technology. This current development is targeted in three separate areas:
    1. A next generation BirthTrack System with a unique fetal monitor capable of measuring FHR, frequency of contractions (TOCO), Intrauterine Pressure (IUP), Maternal SPO2 as well as Cervical Dilatation and Fetal Head station.
    2. New software expected to reduce the number of internal sensors from 3 to 2, utilizing the latest technologies developed and patented by Barnev. Early stage development of proprietary algorithms may further reduce the need for internal sensors by calculating CD with a single sensor.
    3. A new central monitoring IT system that is expected to be capable of merging multiple bedside BirthTrack monitors into one central monitoring station. This system is intended to act as a conduit for data storage and transfer to the hospitals central electronic medical records system (EMR).



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