Birth is a team sport, which requires many players. Mom is the team captain. Dad is the coach. The fetus is, of course, the star player and the team of nurses and doctors run defense in one of nature’s most sophisticated and greatest of miracles.
For centuries women have entered labor and emerged mothers. Unfortunately, for centuries some women and/or their babies have also died in childbirth. According to the Center for Disease Control, the mortality rate in the United States has increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 17.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2009 and 2011. So what’s changed? Women’s health and delivery preferences.
Many young women today suffer with obesity, poor physical conditioning, smoking, and substance use and abuse. This combined with substandard or total lack of prenatal care put the rigors of labor to the test. Prenatal care is critical because it allows for early diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and hypertension.
In addition, many women opt for home births, as they desire less intervention and greater comfort in their own environment. However, increasing rates of maternal and especially newborn deaths make home delivery risky. In the case of an emergency, transportation to a medical facility takes precious time meaning the defense team is already behind.
Luckily, there are increasingly helpful strategies within hospitals to improve the birthing process and safety of both mother and baby. Labor units provide birthing suites equipped with Jacuzzi tubs, birth and peanut balls, tranquil video and music, and comfortable space for the family support unit. Labor nurses, midwives, and obstetricians, encourage a variety of labor techniques such as Lamaze Method and Hypnobabies to improve the mother’s success with relaxation and delivery. Women are also permitted to move about while laboring and may engage in comfort measures as they experience their own unique process of delivery.
Most importantly, hospitals offer the ability to react quickly and efficiently to unexpected events. Protocols are in place for the management of hemorrhage, fetal distress and seizures to name a few, which allow rapid response and safe delivery. The dynamic process of labor and delivery carries extremely high stakes for the players and their families; there is no margin for error. Every player must prepare by learning the game rules, self-conditioning, trusting their defense, and entering the process with a positive spirit in the safest environment available. Our goal should always be Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.