When feelings trump research

Sometimes all the research in the world implies one thing, when your feelings strongly indicate something else.

For instance, there is little or no research that indicates that bed-rest helps avoid preterm birth at all. I started looking at this subject because of a recent comment — a woman whose cervix was already very short in the 2nd trimester was wondering what to do about being prescribed bed-rest. I looked at several studies, and didn’t find one that looked at no treatment vs. bed-rest vs. bed-rest with cerclage — most were studies with or without cerclage, but all had bed-rest. I knew of one study with twins that examined bed-rest vs. no bed-rest, which showed no difference in outcomes; but with this woman having already been diagnosed with a short cervix (and being pregnant with a single baby), I don’t know if this study was applicable to her situation. This study looked at rates of compliance, and found (not surprisingly) that high-risk women who complied with recommended bed-rest were more likely to be married and not to have any other children. Obviously, having a husband to help take care of “life”, and not having to run after any other children, would make it more feasible for women to lie around all day. However, there were no differences in outcome between women who complied and those who did not comply with bed-rest.

So, there is obviously no slam-dunk for doctor-recommended bed-rest. But I remember reading Devon’s birth story, by Enjoy Birth, in which bed-rest made a difference. It didn’t stop his preterm birth — in fact, he was born by emergency C-section at 34 weeks — but it saved his life. Because she was on bed-rest, she was very aware of her baby’s movements… and then his lack of movements. Had she not been on bed-rest, she may not have noticed that he wasn’t moving until it was too late. She recently said that while wrestling with the idea of bed-rest at the time, she and her husband both had a strong feeling that she should be on bed-rest, even though they recognized that there was no real evidence to indicate that bed-rest would make any difference.

Statistics are all fine and good, but since there is no such thing as 100%, sometimes it does just come down to “I gotta feeling.” I have read so many stories about pregnancy, birth, or other aspects of life, in which “a feeling” made a difference. Or might have made a difference. One fellow birth instructor told the story of a woman she knew who was pregnant with twins, and scheduled for a C-section, and just “had a bad feeling” about her upcoming surgery. She died during or after surgery, and never got to see her babies.

Call it “women’s intuition” if you will, but sometimes we just know. Like this story. Or this story. I’ve read some stories on email in which women who normally choose a home birth “get a feeling” during pregnancy, and decide to go with a hospital birth — and then find out that their baby had some problem or condition which made it a good idea for them to be in the hospital — sometimes a condition that wasn’t known or even couldn’t have been known prior to labor or birth.

A friend of mine had a feeling all throughout one of her pregnancies that there was something the matter with her baby. When he was born in apparent good health, she breathed a sigh of relief… and then a week later noticed that his breathing wasn’t normal. The doctor confirmed that he had a heart defect which would be fatal if they did nothing, so they opted for the risky surgery and he died on the operating table.

In a non-pregnancy vein, there is this story I remember from 10-15 years ago, with the Midwest flooding. I think it was in 1993, and there was “The Flood of the Century” when there was a huge rain, and the Mississippi flooded, killing several people and damaging or destroying acres upon acres of homes and land. One family was close to the flooding, but their home was not actually damaged. Afterwards, the wife got scared at how close they came to losing everything, and wanted to get flood insurance. The husband disagreed because their house had been untouched by the worst rains and flooding they had ever seen, so why should they get it when it couldn’t get any worse? She ended up buying it anyway, never telling him. Then a couple of years later, there was a worse flood, and this time it damaged or destroyed their house. The husband apologized for not heeding his wife’s concerns about flood insurance, and she didn’t say “I told you so,” she just sweetly told him about the flood policy she had taken out.

There are so many stories like this, that to sum up, I strongly believe there are times when feelings trump all the research in the world. Listen to your intuition and your body — sometimes it will tell you things that all the studies and doctors and researchers in the world cannot.

One Response

  1. I really liked this post.

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