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On Doctor Bashing

I stole this picture from www.legaljuice.com. It’s linked.


Perhaps this would be a good time to divulge that I don’t hate doctors. I don’t hate hospital birth. I support a person’s right to seek the care they want for their pregnancy and birth, if any. This blog is written with the due reverence for those in our society that have dedicated so much of their lives to learning how to cut people open and put them back together correctly. The achievement is no small feat.

My only reticence in deconstructing medicalized birth bit by bit is that obstetricians and obstetric organizations are notoriously hostile toward the practice of midwifery.  I am obviously a proponent of legalizing midwifery in every state and restoring autonomy to the profession, which is NOT and never has been the practice of medicine, yet involves identifying and referring women who need obstetric intervention.  

That being said, there are way too many unnecessary c-sections performed on women in the U.S. Most Americans never question why it has become customary to rush to a doctor to demand a fix, “just to be safe” or to maintain the illusion of safety and control. Urgent care clinics fill nightly with people seeking a fix for the common cold, expecting a treatment or a pill instead of being told to go home and go to bed. The trend to over-treat, over-manage and over-prescribe is costing us all.

To maintain the illusion that every pregnancy and birth needs medical supervision, “the system” needs a woman’s cooperation and trust. She must trust that doctor knows best and she must believe that they would never recommend anything unnecessary, harmful or unhealthy. In turn, the doctor must obtain consent for everything and instilling fear is an effective weapon. If a doctor waits until a woman is already in active labor, there is really no choice but for her to comply because the window of opportunity to seek a second opinion or take a minute to think about the decision has all but closed. Scribble “dystocia” on her chart and wheel her off.

Faux-scientific childbirth management has become integrated into cultural norms and expectations. Pregnant women are treated like walking time bombs, causing harm to their fetus every time they have a cup of coffee or go jogging or eat frozen yogurt and sonograms and high-tech monitoring have rendered her just invisible enough for the experts to keep their “eyes on the prize”—the fetus. In spite of these attempts to predict the unpredictable, electronic fetal monitors and sonograms have a significant margin of error

Most women that I know have no idea that they have just as much right to informed REFUSAL of treatment as they do to informed consent. Things have changed in the last few decades. Refusing a Cesarean recommendation in 1970 would have been foolhardy. Today, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether a doctor’s recommendation has any merit and it’s tragic to see so many obstetricians making a mockery of their own profession, especially under the translucent blanket of buzzwords like “safety” and “choice.”

I’m going to keep picking and digging and researching and chipping away and deconstructing medicalized birth, pulling back the curtain on the way women give birth in the United States and beyond. At the same time, the focus of this site remains fairly narrow:


Big babies are born vaginally all the time. Pelvises are rarely too small. It is nearly impossible to predict outcome and any doctor that tells a woman otherwise is lying. Question everything.


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Reader Comments (4)

Absolutely spot on! I wholeheartedly agree that the "just to be safe" mantra is most definitely a factor. I think it's closely related to the "expertization" of our society. You can get simple gardening advice in a book anymore it seems without a disclaimer that one should "check with your local gardening expert" at the front. I'm not sure that all that much will change in our society until both trends are countered by common sense.

February 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpampered_mom

PM, that is so funny! And so true. And before you read the gardening book, you should check with a local literacy expert. I'm pretty sure that someday the pendulum will swing back to a happy medium being assigning blame and taking responsibility.

February 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

Wow, this is a well written post. I think that some mothers just prefer giving birth surgically because we all know that child birth labor is very very difficult and with so much pain to take. On the other hand, there are some mothers who would like to give birth through natural way. So, it's inevitable to consider the choices of the mothers, but when it comes to a condition where the mother and the child's safety is in the line, we should trust the doctors expertise.

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDentist Ontario

"when it comes to a condition where the mother and the child's safety is in the line, we should trust the doctors expertise."

Most of us would love to trust, Dentist Ontario, but not all doctors use their expertise judiciously. That's why we have so many unnecessary cesareans here in the U.S.

July 24, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill
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