The Doctors aired the show “Three Medical Procedures You Shouldn’t Fear” on Monday, May 11, 2009 which featured Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein discussing birth options and promoting their new book, Your Best Birth.
The episode offers a lot of fodder for discussion.
Dr. Masterson: Oh, we always want to empower women and I think hospitals have really gone to an extent to give that to women, to make the labor and delivery units, to make—I mean, there’s a lot of birthing centers, you know, in the hospitals that I’ve been to where the bedrooms look better than my bedroom. You know and there’s nurses there that’ll do all the hands off. You don’t have to have the epidurals. We know that and we’ve learned a lot from other countries that if you don’t follow labor properly you’ll have fistulas, so there’s reasons why we do interventions and you also don’t want to have a baby that’s born at home where the head’s stuck. Even if you do everything right, you can have a dead baby and a dead mommy and that’s the worst possible thing.
Dr. Stork: As a non-obstetrician, I really respect that if a woman wants to make that choice and if they know the risks and have educated themselves—
Dr. Masterson: [Hands in the air] You have a choice—
Dr. Stork: — I absolutely feel like that’s appropriate. I have friends who have delivered babies at home and right [to Dr. Masterson], I completely agree with you—
Dr. Masterson: [Holds out palm of hand] Take a risk with your baby if you want and there’s doctors that will go there with you.
Ricki: But there are some people out there who feel that having a baby in a hospital is taking a risk. You know, because if you look at a half a percent of women who choose to give birth at home, the infant mortality rates skyrocketing or getting up is not because people are choosing home birth.
Dr. Ordon: Why is it going up? That’s what I don’t understand.
Ricki: Why are our numbers so bad if we have all this technology?
Dr. Stork: That’s a great question.
Ricki: …you know, why? I want to mention malpractice and the climate that we are in, in this litigious climate that everyone wants to blame everyone else and the obstetricians are being sued left and right up until that child is eighteen—
Dr. Masterson: That just means that OBs are going to be ever cautious. You want your OB to be ever cautious. I will personally go on record and say OB/GYNs don’t go in the business of thinking about their c-section numbers. We would rather not even keep track of the rate because the answer to your best c-section rate is what is needed and that’s what is medically required because you want to save a life, you want to save a baby, so that is what we do. We stay up, we give our LIVES and we feel responsible for every mother and baby that we take care of.
Ricki: And midwives, I want to say, also are highly trained—
Dr. Masterson: [abruptly interrupts Ricki] Midwives are fantastic and I think they’re fantastic and they should be in hospitals. In Germany, that’s how they do it. That’s the best way they do it. There midwives take care of the baby.
Dr. Stork: Your emotion right now is tied into the work that you do in third world countries and your passion for maternal and fetal wellbeing.
Dr. Masterson: Well, it’s not even third world countries. I treat in county. I have seen thousands and thousand and thousands of deliveries. I know what can happen. And you don’t want to see that happen at home and you don’t want to be responsible for the death of your baby or the death of your wife.
Abby: I had first thought that Ricki was crazy and reckless to have a home birth but when I really studied and looked at studies that were done and also understood that, you know, a midwife who comes to your home to deliver a baby is prepared for hemorrhage, they do bring Pitocin, they do bring oxygen, they do bring an IV—
Dr. Masterson: [abruptly interrupts Abby] What if you can’t get to the place, if that doesn’t work—No! You [wags finger] cannot necessarily get there because even in a hospital sometimes you can’t transfer quickly.
Abby: But you can’t always—like you said, even in the hospital you can’t. Exactly.
Dr. Masterson: So why would you put yourself at an increased distance?
Dr. Stork: I’m going to play mediator here. Things are about to get very passionate. Don’t go away.
Dr. Stork: I think the passion—you have to understand that the passion coming from Dr. Masterson—
Ricki: And we are laypeople and we don’t claim to be doctors or experts.
Dr. Stork: And I think it’s important and I want Ricki to make a comment here. As the moderator of this discussion, as someone whose cousin had two wonderful home births who I think is a very intelligent woman and made that choice after researching options, I respect a woman’s choice and [to Dr. Masterson] I know you do, too. What you don’t want is a misinformed choice and you’re passionate because you do run the risk with the home birth of having a complication where you can’t get to help in time. So, okay. Having said that… Ricki.
Ricki: I think, you know, our—our movie was a great tool for women and for me, personally, I had this incredible birth experience that’s in the film but also, see—women seeing images of women giving birth in ways they can’t even imagine. A woman at home standing up, pulling her baby out. A woman in a tub in birth center. You know, those are images that I think are really important especially with the media painting these horror story pictures. You watch, you know, A Baby Story and all of these scary shows that are the emergency c-section where we save the baby! And I think it’s really great to see a woman give birth the way she chooses to and have this experience, that people have that picture in their head of what it could be if only they were comfortable.
Dr. Masterson: It could be beautiful in the hospital.
Ricki: I’m not saying that. I know, I mean, I had a beautiful hospital birth with my first son. I’m not saying hospital or home birth is best. I am pro-choice in this area and I want women to have access to the information.
Dr. Stork: Give us a few words on the book.
Ricki: Yeah, it kind of takes it to the next level. It talks about VBACs, it talks about epidurals, it talks about all the interventions—
Dr. Stork: VBAC, which is…
Ricki: A vaginal birth after cesarean, which is really controversial because a lot of hospitals are no longer doing it. I think it’s 200 hospitals around the country won’t offer VBAC. [Cut to Dr. Masterson, nodding head] which is really unfortunate when you think a lot of women are given unnecessary c-sections with their first child, thus leads them to another c-section.
Dr. Stork: The book itself, it deals with obviously specifics?
Abby: It’s very down to earth, you know. It’s sort of like girlfriend language. It goes through everything from sort of how to… you know, how to envision what is your dream birth. What do you see? You know, building your birth team. How to pick your doctor, do you want a doula there? How to research, you know, your hospital and it goes all the way through post-partum and bonding. You know, if you have to have a c-section, it talks about, you know, what are ways to have a really great c-section? How can you prepare for that and what can you talk to your doctor about doing in the OR, you know, dimming the lights or—
Ricki: It also talks about one thing that I don’t think has ever been talked about in, I think, a book like this is, you know, sexual abuse and how your birth can really be a healing process for someone who’s been the victim of sexual abuse and I experienced that personally. So, umm, it just covers a lot of ground in a very accessible way and I’m really proud of it.I am thrilled to offer this as a tool for women to make the best choice when it comes to their birth.