– Ben Martens

In Defense Of Hospital Births

Every situation is different. Keep that in mind as you read this entire post. I’m not trying to convince you that our way was right, but I do want to share our experience.

Tyla and I took a lot of classes leading up to Elijah’s birth. We had about 30 hours of a natural birth class that were separate from the hospital, and we also attended 4 or 5 shorter classes from the hospital. Before taking any of the classes we had decided to have our son at the hospital, but Tyla still wanted to go as natural as possible. In talking with various people inside and outside of the natural birth classes, we heard over and over again how much we’d have to fight to keep the hospital staff from intervening unnecessarily. We walked into that hospital ready to fight… but the fights never came. The methods suggested by the hospital aligned very closely with what the natural birth people said we’d have to argue for. The staff were fully on board with almost every single one of the things proposed in our class and would have done them even if we hadn’t asked.

It seems to me this area of science is going through lots of change. Imagine life before the mid-1900s: the only choice was a fully natural, unmedicated birth. Death rates for mom and baby were very high. As medical science took off in the mid-1900s, researchers were flooded with new data and technology for intervening in the birth process. The rate of intervention sky rocketed but it dramatically improved the success rates for mom and baby. Now it seems that the medical profession is starting to realize that by intervening less and in only the more critical cases, they can improve success rates even more. National C-section rates have stopped rising and are holding steady at around 1/3rd of births. In many hospitals (including Evergreen), there is a huge push to drive the rates down. I heard one unsubstantiated estimate that said a healthy C-section rate is somewhere between 10-15% which aligns with my intuition about how many times births went bad back in the old days.

As we went through the pregnancy, we sometimes wondered if we had made the right choice by going to the hospital. But I think if we had more frank discussions with our OB about how she practices medicine, I think we could have dismissed some of the antagonism coming from the natural birth people who were apparently basing their opinions on what hospitals used to be like 10-20 years ago. Who knows if we’ll have another child or what we’ll decide at that point, but right now I’d be shocked if we ended up anywhere other than Evergreen Hospital.

I wrote a post earlier explaining why a C-section was the only path toward a healthy mom and baby in our case, so I’m extremely thankful that the staff recognizes those key points where they need to intervene. But I also like the idea of letting nature run it’s course when possible and trusting the birth process to work in most cases. I’m sure by the time Elijah’s generation grows up and has children, everything will be changing again, but as long as the rates of healthy mom’s and babies declines and the rates of medical interventions decline, then I think it’s a win for everyone.