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Australian Docs Say 'Natural Birth' Puts Women, Babies at Risk

Medical News Today ran an article today on the Australian Medical Association’s backlash against the proposed changes to the country’s maternity services.

Dr Capolingua said the real test of the report is not in the recommendations, but the policy it generates. “We will keep government accountable for any changes that lower the bar on the health of women and their babies,” she said.

“It is not enough to run maternity services on the belief that birth is a natural process. When things go wrong, and they often do, women need immediate access to an obstetrician, an anaesthetist and a paediatrician. This access saves lives.

“I fear the introduction of a system where women are pressured into having a ‘natural birth’ that puts them and their baby at risk. Too often in other countries, including New Zealand, the midwife model means obstetricians are only called in when the ‘natural birth’ has become a medical emergency.

“Rather than expanding the range of services available to women, the New Zealand experience saw the virtual abandonment of GP obstetrics in rural areas.

“Any policy that doesn’t seek to improve our current world-class survival rates for mothers and babies must be viewed with deep suspicion.”

This coverage is a public response to the Australian government’s recently publicized review on maternity services. Additional coverage was found on WAToday:

The Australian Medical Association has accused Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon of being “gung-ho” about the role of midwives and misrepresenting the findings of the Government’s maternity services review.

A report released yesterday by the Commonwealth chief nurse and midwifery officer Rosemary Bryant recommends an expanded role for midwives — but only if they meet “an advanced level of professional education and experience”.

The changes could potentially allow midwives to prescribe medicines, open private group services and contract their services to hospitals. Midwives would also be given access to the Medicare system, although the report did not recommend Commonwealth funding for home births.

The AMA is claiming that doctors and hospitals can’t afford to stay in business, especially in rural areas, if their services are only used in emergencies. They assert that, not only is everything fine with the current medicalized maternity system, it’s “world class” and therefore they are suspicious of granting more autonomy to midwives, who do not have the interest of mothers and babies in mind.

The all-or-nothing modus operandi is impeding progress in maternity care. Using the rudimentary “live mother, live baby” measure of success, the AMA not only ignores Australia’s skyrocketing Cesarean rate, but it promotes it as “world class.” Their argument is that doctors will run out of business, especially in rural areas, if more midwives attend births. They need the bodies of pregnant Australian women just to remain afloat financially, regardless of whether their services are actually necessary.

Citing New Zealand as an example, Capolingua essentially issues the threat that obstetricians will pack up and leave rural areas if they don’t get enough customers and the AMA will hold the government accountable for any changes that “lower the bar on the health of women and their babies.” For their necessary services to remain available in rural areas, they must therefore continue to subject healthy women to unnecessary maternity “services” at the expense of, coincidentally, the health of women and their babies.


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Reader Comments (3)

It would be very, very interesting indeed if the Australian AMA was held accountable for the actions of it's members. I wonder how many AMA OB's and Registrars have been involved in complaints about maternity care in the past 5 years, not to mention lawsuits, and how and if, these instances were resolved. The same could be said about ACOG members and Medical Residents in the US. I'd bet that independent midwives in both countries endure far less complaints and lawsuits-from consumers.

In the interest of safety and transparency, any party should be able to look up a provider's record, which could include reported adverse events and instances of failure to obtain valid consent. Insurance companies have access to this information, and so should consumers. We have safety ratings on cars, toasters, irons, cribs, clothing and toys, and it only makes sense to have a safety rating for ALL healthcare providers and institutions. A little healthy competition for customers would most likely cause more positive changes benefiting consumers. But a free market in maternity care includes licensed independent midwives, and, as more women and babies are mauled during managed birth, the desired option of homebirth or primary midwifery care for subsequent pregnancies equals millions of dollars lost to unscrupulous providers. The answer? Oust the midwives of course! (For SAFETY?!)

We shall see if the governments continue to allow this Fornication-Under-Consent-of the Congress/Committees. I'll take a moment here to pause and fondly remember the valor of those brave Scotts who refused to share their wives with the English "nobles" and eventually secured independence for their country. My distant kin. Well, Australia and America, history repeats itself. We're talking about women and babies here, being ravaged for reasons which benefit doctors and hospitals. Husbands and fathers are disillusioned, mothers are hypervigilant for themselves and their daughters, and people are very, very angry. If the government fails to support the will of the people be ready to be voted out. I'm sure the Green Party will support "Green Births". So what a few egomaniacal sadist docs stamp their feet and walk away? Since half the cesareans are unnecessary anyway, we can afford to loose half the OBs.

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

I know why I like you, my anonymous friend. We both see that history is repeating itself and share the hope that, for once, maybe we can all stop it.

Excellent point... who is holding the AMA, et. al., accountable for the overuse of surgery and unnecessary interventions? And you're right. Independent, autonomous midwives rarely have complaints filed by clients. From what I've seen, legal action comes from "the powers that be" and not the client. The recent developments in Australia show that the concept of an independent midwife is just too much for various governing bodies to handle. For now.

February 25, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

Wow... I'm suprised they actually came right out and said that these measures would force the Docs out of business, and that was their primary concern. Of course, it was said in a round 'a' bout way... but i was said.

March 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder
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