As Tim McGraw's biggest fan, I subscribe to a number of Country news emails and Facebook groups. I skip over most of it, but sometimes I'll see something that catches my eye that is not even related to Tim. As you can imagine, it usually has to do with someone having a baby.
A couple of weeks ago it came across my News Feed that Jewel was showing off her new baby. She lives in this area of Texas, about an hour from me, and because we have about a 50% c-section rate, I was very curious how things turned out for her. (I had heard that she had desired a "natural birth.")
The story goes that she was doing Hypnobirthing -- no details available. Could have been self-study or CDs, maybe a class. So I assume that desiring a "natural birth" really did mean an unmedicated birth, not just a vaginal birth.
The article went on to describe how violent the Braxton-Hicks contractions were and put the baby at risk. Yadda, yadda, yadda... she had an emergency c-section that miraculously saved her baby.
The singer, who studies hypnobirthing, was eager to have a natural birth, but things didn’t work out as planned. When Jewel started having early Braxton Hicks contractions, Kase’s heart rate dropped. She admits, “I feel lucky to be pregnant in the modern age where they could actually tell he wasn’t well during those contractions.”
In the end, Jewel says her scheduled birth plan wasn’t what was important to the young family. “We felt thankful that we had good doctors and a good hospital nearby, and that everything was OK,” she says. “I’m so lucky that we have a healthy baby boy. That’s all I cared about.”
I can't help but think this poor reporter got his terms mixed up about the contractions, and there's little information to go on from there.
Regardless, how many women have had c-sections that truly believe they were necessary -- that their baby would have died without the surgery? Countless. The year the Electronic Fetal Monitor was introduced, we went from a 5% c-section rate to 23%. Studies have shown time and again that a baby who is truly in distress will be picked up with intermittent monitoring. (Side note: "intermittent" means different things to different care providers. It may mean during and between a couple of contractions per hour, or 20 minutes per hour. Find out what intermittent means at your place of birth.)
One of the problems with the continuous monitoring is the lack of communication between the birth team and the parents. Mom is monitored from down the hall, and when a nurse does walk in, she tends to look at the monitor and not the laboring woman. Another problem is obvious: mom can't move around and help her baby out. The baby is left to figure it out on his/her own.
Problem number 3: Any time a mom receives drugs of any kind, she'll be put on a monitor to be sure the baby is handling it OK. This can mean hours and hours of a baby being exposed to ultrasound. That's what Electronic Fetal Monitoring is -- ultrasound. I've written posts on the risks of ultrasound in the past. Click here and here and here. You need to decide how comfortable you are with this intervention.
Problem number 4: The biggest problem of all is simply that they have to do something with the results of the readout. Take a baby that has a cord around the neck, for example. This baby will have decels of the heart rate on the printout. They aren't sure why the baby's heart rate is dropping, but better safe than sorry, right? Lawsuit alarms start going off and a c-section is performed. The baby is fine (Jewel's baby looked great!), but there is this perception -- or defense mechanism -- that thank goodness the c-section was performed and saved the baby.
We'll never know. But now, because it's so hard to find a VBAC-friendly doctor, we've put this mom on a c-section path for all her children -- unless of course she becomes informed of her VBAC options. As an OB, this is exactly where I want her. Easier for me and twice as much money. Few women will question the c-section because it makes her look like a bad mom. She trusts her doctor. It's easier to believe that the surgery saved the baby.
Another side note: The cord around the baby's neck occurs in about one in three births. When a c-section is performed where the cord is around the neck, the OB often makes a big deal about it, making the parents feel like this was very dangerous. It's not. The OB or midwife, after the head is out, will simply lift it over the baby's head. It could be wrapped around the neck several times! The most I've seen from one of my student's was 4 times! Had she stayed with her original hospital and OB -- who required continuous monitoring -- she assuredly would have had a c-section. Instead, she had a fabulous water birth with CNMs at a different hospital.
So, I feel bad for Jewel. Maybe her baby really was in distress, but I suspect that the doctor didn't want such a public birth taking a chance at going sour. Given the high c-section rate in our area, perhaps he was less comfortable with (unmedicated) vaginal birth than cesarean birth. He knew he could perform a mean c-section and spin it like he saved the baby. Again, just me speculating. I do believe that she was likely another victim of our broken maternity system and doesn't even realize it. While I always advocate for women being informed of their choices in childbirth, sometimes ignorance is probably quite blissful.