My brother and sister-in-law did not have the birth experience of their dreams yesterday. My brother, like most modern dads, imagined being in the room at the moment of his baby's birth. He wanted to support his wife. And he wanted to see and hold his baby as soon as humanly possible.
That didn't happen. Instead, he waited, alone and distraught in a waiting room while his wife underwent a C-section under general anesthesia.
Baby and Mom and Dad are fine -- and I'm thankful for that! But the whole thing got me thinking, once again, about the importance of information. Because these are the facts about birth in America, circa 2013:
- At least 1/3 of births are via Cesearan. Rates vary from hospital to hospital, with some hospitals having C-section rates of less than 10%, while other deliver nearly 70% of their babies via C-section.
- Almost 1 in 4 women have their labor artificially induced. The rate of labor induction increased 140% between 1990 and 2007 (the most recent year for which I could find data).
- Labor inductions and C-sections contribute to infant prematurity and health problems. As the number of C-sections and inductions has increased, so have NICU admissions. The link is so stark and startling that medical experts recommend avoiding labor induction or a C-section before 39 weeks of gestation unless absolutely necessary.
- More women die of childbirth-related complications now than in 1987. In 1987, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 6.6 per 100,000 live births. In 2006 (the last year for which data is available), the maternal mortality rate was 12.7 per 100,000 live births.
Expectant parents today have to navigate their way through a birth climate and industry that is infinitely more complex than it was in the past. There are SO many more options, ranging from prenatal tests to delivery choices, and parents-to-be are regularly asked to make decisions that affect the health of their baby and family.
Information is key, I think, to informed choices, and that's where The Business of Baby comes in. Margulis' book explores some of the not-often-talked about facts of pregnancy and birth and baby care. She covers everything from prenatal care options to birthing practices, infant feeding, diapering, vaccinations and well-child care, and she does it by analyzing the available evidence to support (or not support) what have become routine American practices. She finds that many routine practices are not grounded in science at all.
That's a startling statement, in and of itself.
But Margulis goes further. The evidence she finds strongly suggests that profit motives -- not science -- underlie what have become routine recommendations.
Whether or not you agree with or ultimately accept all of Margulis' conclusions, I believe that all expectant parents (and anyone who cares about birth in the United States) should read The Business of Baby. The only way to make informed decisions is to gather knowledge, and The Business of Baby brings to light a lot of important information.
Have a question for Business of Baby author Jennifer Margulis? Leave it in the comment section below. She'll be visiting Blogging 'Bout Boys in the near future to answer your questions.
Full disclosure: Jennifer Margulis and I are both members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I'm also quoted in Chapter 7 of The Business of Baby.