I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately — we bought our house about a year and a half ago, and are in the process of repainting it to our tastes. I’ve got the downstairs just about done, and am about to start painting the upstairs hall.

On every can of paint that I’ve seen is a warning about lead, and scraping old paint. Lead is toxic; it used to be used in paint. Children used to chew on painted surfaces (like cribs), and it was also possible for them to scrape their walls or windowsills and breathe in or ingest the lead-based paint. Although paint hasn’t had lead in it (at least in the United States) for probably 30 years, these warnings still exist, and the risk is still real for anything that might have been tainted with lead-based paint.

The thing that gets me, though, is that lead has long been known to be toxic — one source puts that knowledge about 200 B.C. Yet it was still used in common household paint up until, really, just a few years ago. Why?

I wonder what will be discovered about current birth practices and interventions (and defensive medicine) that will make future generations ask the same questions. You know, like the ones we ask about the previous generation or two’s past practices and interventions. Like general anesthesia for all vaginal births. Enemas. Pubic shaves. Being strapped to the delivery table. Thalidomide for morning sickness (wonderful drug! just makes your babies lose their arms and legs). DES for possible miscarriage or “for healthier babies” (except that it can cause permanent changes to those babies’ reproductive systems, and put them at higher risk of several different types of cancer, and do who-knows-what to their children). Near-100% episiotomy rates. High percentage of forceps deliveries (because drugged women had a difficult time pushing with the contractions, y’know?).

Let’s have a nationwide, generation-long “CSI moment” and say, “What does the evidence say???”


2 Responses

  1. Yes, what does the evidence say? I am still reading it. However, not all Hospitals or Doctors are the same. Many of my Doctors allow eating and drinking in labor as long as there is no Epidural. Many do not cut episiotomies routinely. Many will refer to new research and use it.

    But that means we have to be intellectually honest. We cannot just site research that serves our purpose. We have to be open to all the research and be able to read it with a critical eye. So ask yourself, am I intellectually honest? Can I put away my bias? It is hard.

  2. Oh, yes, it is hard! 🙂 For instance, a few months ago, a fellow childbirth educator asked about one of her clients who was being pushed to have an induction because of some particular health concern. I researched it and *so* wanted to find that an induction was unnecessary in her case, but instead all of the research pointed to greater risk of fetal demise the longer the pregnancy continued. If she refused induction, would her baby definitely die? No. But the risk of that happening was greater — and quite a bit greater, too, even though she wasn’t anywhere near post-term. I didn’t want to report that, but it was the truth.

    Most of my concerns about modern birth practices stem from the lack of evidence-based medicine of previous generations. I admit that there is a lot more and better research nowadays than there was formerly. But it still concerns me that there are some things that are being done and insisted upon, for which there is little or no evidence for, and sometimes quite a bit of evidence against. The two closest hospitals to me, for instance, are very backward (imho) and set in their ways. They’re not quite stuck in the 70s, but close.

    Other concerns are practices which have started, without long-term side-effects being considered. It is only recently that pregnant women have been able to participate in research trials for medicine; which means that (correct me if I’m wrong), there was little or no actual research done on pregnant women and their babies, for things like ultrasound, epidural, and pitocin before they gained widespread use. Most of the information received from these things were from trials involving animals, men, and (possibly but not usually) women who were past child-bearing age.

    As someone who bears proof of being exposed to DES after it was supposed to have been no longer in use (although I’m wondering if I have a cockscomb cervix due to being a DES granddaughter, instead of a DES daughter), I’m greatly concerned about long-term effects from medications and procedures that are taken up with great fervor before long-term studies are available. I’m similarly concerned about Gardasil, and a host of other vaccines, especially the combination vaccines.

    Take EFM, for instance. It’s a form of ultrasound. My first baby swam away from it until he was too big to hide from the Doptone. Also, when I was in second stage with him, both times the CNM used the Doptone (home water birth), he protested — the first time he turned his head quickly (which felt really weird inside my vagina), and the second time he retracted quite a bit (which was disheartening, after having pushed for “so long” to get him to that point — probably just 30 minutes, but it feels pretty long at the time, y’know?). After realizing that, in my second pregnancy, I refused Doptone and only had a fetoscope. Slight risk, but what was the benefit to me or the baby from disturbing the prenatal environment? Anyway, now in most labors in the hospital, women are being continuously monitored by Doppler, which means that the babies are being continuously subjected to that ultrasound. I’ve read of one scientist measuring the sound from the disturbance that ultrasound waves make, and it being equivalent to a subway train rushing past. Does that do nothing to the baby? For 14 hours of continuous monitoring in labor? Has that been studied, versus intermittent or no Doppler monitoring? (It’s possible — I haven’t looked it up yet, but may for a future post.) Until both short-term and long-term effects of EFM have been researched, I’m uncomfortable with it.

    That’s one thing about us natural-birth advocates — we can come up with some problems to question *everything*! 🙂 My son just handed me my cell-phone, and it reminds me that all the news outlets are talking about the study that links maternal cell-phone use with child behavioral problems. Actual cause unknown — whether it is something mechanical (radiation from cell phones) or behavioral (women ignoring their children to talk on the phone). It’s something to think about, and to look into. We see a nationwide epidemic of behavioral problems. How much of that is due to poor parenting, poor diet, too much TV, too little exercise, I don’t know. But has a link been researched between autism, ADD/ADHD, etc., and pregnancy and/or birth practices? I don’t know that either, but will have to look into that myself.

    One problem that exists in my mind is the tremendous difficulty that presents itself in isolating these factors when it comes to pregnancy and birth. The typical home-birthing woman will be less likely to get many or any ultrasounds than the typical hospital-birthing woman. She’ll also be less likely to have continuous EFM, epidural, pitocin, etc. She’s also more likely to breastfeed (which has significant health and bonding benefits). It may be that some of these things by themselves don’t cause problems, but when taken together do.

    Anyway, at this point, I’m just thinking out loud here, and rambling, so I’ll stop. 🙂 But I am afraid that a lot of things done have questionable benefit and as-yet-unknown risks (possibly because we’re not *looking for* risks). The risks of maternal X-rays during pregnancy did not become known for, what, 30 years? Same with DES during pregnancy. Will we find in the next ten years that the pitocin-epidural combination increases the risk of ADHD? Or that 2 or more ultrasounds in pregnancy increases the risk of hearing loss as a young adult? What bothers me most is the unknown.

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