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Research Shows Medical Teams Focus Only On The Baby, Not Moms During Labor

by | October 23, 2018

Everyone has a plan of how they want their birth to go, but it doesn’t always stick to plan. New research has shown that the medical teams’ focus is only on the baby, and not on the moms during labor.

Stephanie Portell had an easy labor with her first child. She said her delivery was so easy she only really had to push once, so when she was heading into her second pregnancy she expected the same experience. Instead,  she nearly lost her life.

Right after the delivery of her second son, she had a beautiful moment as he was laid on her chest, but once she handed him back to the nurses, she knew something wasn’t right. She felt her stomach cramping in a pain she had never felt before, but the nurses didn’t seem concerned and told her it was a common thing to happen after a second pregnancy. 

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Then Portell tried to stand up, and felt lightheaded. She told WebMD the last thing she remembered before blacking out was terrified looks on her families faces, including her 4-year-old son who was also in the room, before hearing nurses yelling “she won’t stop bleeding, get the doctor here now.” Not something anyone wants to hear at any time, especially not as moms during labor, or just after. 

After delivery Portell’s uterus wasn’t contracting properly. She spent more than a week in and out of hospital, passing blood clots and hemorrhaging. She ended up ultimately getting multiple lifesaving blood transfusions to get back on the road to good health, but she never found out why it happened in the first place. Now, several years later, she still looks back on the delivery of her second son, confused and astonished as to how the experience unfolded and went on for so long. 

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Speaking about her experience, Portell said “The medical staff didn’t listen to me, and they made mistakes over and over and over again for no apparent reason. Everyone is always so focused on the baby. But I think a lot of women like me, who have gone through something terrifying during childbirth, are amazed how little is known about how to care for moms.”

Portell’s sons are now 5 and 9, and she said she will not be risking her health by getting pregnant for a third time. “Even though I physically can, I wouldn’t. I don’t feel it would be safe because I don’t know what was wrong and doctors didn’t seem to know how to handle me,” she explains. “I am so thankful I escaped death, not everyone is as lucky as me.”

What more can be done for moms during labor?

Experts say there has been concern for a long time that obstetrics has focused on babies’ well-being over the moms in labor, almost to the point of exclusion, but many of them hope and believe that the tide is beginning to turn. 

With more research being done, we can get more answers where the focus is during labor and delivery. A National Institutes of Health task force has recommended research into pregnant and nursing women for the Department of Health and Human Services. The task force found that there is not enough information available to ‘guide the care and treatment of pregnant women in several areas.’ It also called for further research into finding new drugs to help treat pregnancy-related conditions. 

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The group says more research needs to be done and more information be widely available about the dosing for medications approved for the general public, which might not apply to pregnant or nursing women. 

Dana Gossett, MD, is chief of obstetrics, gynecology, and gynecologic subspecialities at the University of California, San Francisco, and she urges pregnant women to do their research and check the available data at hospitals and with doctors in their area, for things that matter to them, like C-section rates. 

Gossett explains her views stating; “Many institutions publish their C-section and episiotomy rates. These are not perfect markers of quality, because some groups of women are higher risk than others and some hospitals may care more for at-risk populations, but it is a reasonable place to start in asking a provider’s philosophy on these issues and how they think it might be related to your individual case.”

She also suggests considering using a midwife or doula, and says that both can help women with low risk pregnancies to make better decisions for how they want their labor and delivery to go. 

Maternal Health, there is still a lot we don’t know

In the US there are nearly 4 million births a year, but despite all the advances that have been made in modern medicine, there are still a lot of mysteries surrounding the health of moms during labor and pregnancy. With everything from maternal mortality rates, diabetes, pain management, c-sections, and more, there is still a lot that isn’t scientifically understood or standardized, and the harrowing childbirth stories that are shared are distressingly common. 

READ MORE: NOT ONE THING PROTECTS WOMEN DYING IN CHILDBIRTH

A 6-month investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that the USA has the worst rate of maternal deaths in any developed country. The latest data available from the CDC, released in 2014, found that 50,000 women a year have what is called severe maternal morbidity, which involved unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery which can cause both short and long-term health-related problems, including the need for blood transfusions and hysterectomies. 

There are several new studies being researched and published as new information is being discovered. Although modern medicine has come a long way in recent times, the science and research in obstetrics lags behind research in other areas like cardiology by at least a decade. 

“(it) was hindered for a long time by ethical concerns about doing research among pregnant women,” Gossett explains. “This did pregnant women a real disservice because we have less data than we would want.”

To read more on this topic, you can find the full story on WebMD

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