Evidence Based Maternity Care: Is That Too Much To Ask For?

I had a newer doula call me yesterday for some advice. She had been in a recent doula training class at Seattle Midwifery School and wanted to talk over a current client situation. Her client was less than a week overdue with her second child and her first baby was a vaginal birth with no complications. Her doctor told her that she needed to be induced, sooner rather than later! Like…tomorrow! And when this client inquired as to why, the reasons provided by this surgeon were: 1) most women are done being pregnant by now and just want their bodies back, 2) the baby is only getting bigger and bigger every day, and pretty soon your baby’s head will not be able to fit through your pelvis. Remember, this is a mama who has a “proven” pelvis, meaning that a baby has already found it’s way out through this very same pelvis, that now is getting more and more unable to birth her second baby by the minute! When the client asked about waiting a few more days, the doctor replied that the client could only be induced on days that the doctor was on call, even though this is one practitioner in a large, well established practice with doctors on call 24/7 for the unlikely event that a labor actually starts on it’s own.

Since this multip’s (woman who has already birthed at least one baby) cervix was already dilated and effaced, the method of induction would be pitocin or if the client preferred, they could rupture her membranes. No discussion of the benefits or risks or alternatives of any of these interventions, no discussion of the evidence based research that supports the appropriateness (or not) of these interventions, nor any reason that indicates this induction is based on a valid medical reason.

The parents were confused, scared and nervous. Maybe the obstetrician was right, maybe it was best to induce the next day! They asked for more time to discuss this privately and told the OB they would call with more questions. They called their doula, using her as a resource to help them make this decision. And the doula called me. The more I listened to the comments allegedly made by the doctor, (and I do realize I was receiving this information second-hand!) the more I could feel myself shake my head in disbelief. How is this behavior ethical? Even The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (a professional organization, mind you, not a research institution) in their own literature and patient pamphlets states what is a valid medical reason for induction! And “wanting your body back” is not on the list! No evidence of improved outcomes following induction of labour for non-diabetic women who are thought to be carrying large babies has been found that warrants an induction for macrosomia in this case.

What is up? Where is the information about informed choice, benefits and risks? Where is the truth? A great resource for anyone facing an induction for non-medically supported reasons (and even for the medically supported ones!) can use the Coalition for Improving Maternity Care Problems and Hazards of Induction as a great guide. CIMS Problems and Hazards of Induction Fact Sheet

An extremely valuable resource was published this fall by some powerhouse organizations, including Childbirth Connections that I think should be required reading for all women of childbearing age, particularly, the pregnant ones: Evidenced Based Maternity Care: What It Is and What It Can Achieve You can read a pdf on-line, or you can order copies for free! What a fantastic resource. If you are a doula, childbirth educator, or other birth professional, consider ordering some for your practice to share with clients!

As for the woman mentioned in the original paragraph, at last report, she has been in early labor since this morning, all on her own and with the support of her partner and doula, waiting for things to pick up! Maybe it was that beautiful full moon over Seattle that “induced” her baby to come! May this baby arrive safely earthside before the moon sets again! phinney_moon

Moonset over the Olympics, from Seattle.  Photo by Karen

Moonset over the Olympics, from Seattle. Photo by Karen