I write this as I'm 25 weeks pregnant with our first daughter (which means she's 23 weeks old. isn't it weird that we don't count in utero time for our age?)
I am writing it because this journey of pregnancy has revealed to me that everything and anything about this is my choice. And I don't mean the choices I used to "help" moms go through as a doula (Low lighting in your hospital room? Delayed cord clamping or nah?)
I mean there is no choice A and choice B. You can literally grow a baby and birth any way you want.
A lot of people believe that there's certain things associated with birth that are "against the law", which is how it may be presented by some providers. The truth is, there are merely things that are against hospital policy and probably *not* illegal in any way, shape or form. You can give birth in a river, in a car, in a gas station ...
And in the same manner, you can deny or participate in ANY prenatal and postpartum or pediatric care that you choose, or not. This includes ...
Vitamin K shots
Having an attendant at your birth (or not)
Newborn "wellness checks"
Fundal growth checks
Group B strep & gestational diabetes tests
And virtually any "screening" or intervention you can imagine for you or your baby
As a doula, another thing I used to profess a lot was that any and all birth choices are good choices. But the work of Rachelle Garcia Seliga and others has given me the courage to stop being so neutral and to profess what I merely * know * to be true based on years of research, studies, and firsthand experience - there is a physiological way to birth that is better for both mother and baby (and physiological needs of mother & baby that need to be met in pregnancy & postpartum, regardless of 'beliefs').
I'm not going to get into what that way is too deeply in this post, but it starts with as few unnecessary interventions as possible (hint: every intervention is unnecessary). For more resources, I highly recommend these works: Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Kaplan Shanley, https://www.freebirthsocietycourses.com , http://innatetraditions.com , The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care
At this point you might be saying, "But, if a screening or intervention 'doesn't have many side effects', why not do it? Just to be safe?"
There are always risks associated with intervening on the physiological process of pregnancy and birth. As demonstrated in the movie The Business of Being Born, in a hospital setting, this usually includes a "cascade of intervention" which means that saying yes to one intervention or screening leads to another, and another, and another, each with their own capacity to traumatize or disturb the health of both mom and baby.
But even outside of the hospital setting, are screenings doing us much good at all? For example, when we look at things like ultrasound, which were only introduced routinely as recently as the seventies, we find that their introduction has led to more interventions, but not better outcomes for moms or babies.
I want to step away from pregnancy for one second to demonstrate where else this happens in the medical world. Have you heard the term 'medical hexing'? It refers to getting a poor prognosis or diagnosis from a doctor (who you esteem and trust as someone who 'knows better than you do'), and it is very real. Participants in the control groups of clinical trials (control groups receive a placebo instead of a drug) often experience the side effects of the drug that they think they are taking. Early screening for cancers (such as breast and prostate cancer) lead to more detection, more intervention, and lower survival rates, nationwide. This means the earlier you 'detect' a cancer, the worse your outcome is likely to be. The very real power of the mind was demonstrated by Laura Kaplan Shanley in her book Unassisted Childbirth,
"Pat Carter (1957) tells the story of a well-authenticated experiment conducted by French scientists on a prisoner during the Reign of Terror. After telling the prisoner they were going to bleed him to death, they took his arm and put it through a small opening in a wall. The scientists then proceeded to run the back side of a knife across his wrist - an action that did not even scratch the skin - and pour a trickle of warm water down his arm. In a short time, he was dead. An autopsy showed drained and whitened tissues as if he had died from hemorrhage."
This story can help us understand the "nocebo" effect more thoroughly as the power of suggestion, which is never good prenatally because so much of our pregnancy and birth outcomes are dictated by what we believe.
Combine that with the fact that prenatal screenings are highly prone to error (how many moms do you know who have had the experience of an ultrasound showing something that turned out to not really be there? Even genetic disorder blood testing has a margin of error, which can be catastrophically stressful for some families) and we find ourselves in a situation in which the opinions of our doctors (which may or may not turn out to be fact) are influencing the outcomes of our pregnancies and births through their effects on our beliefs and stress.
In contrast, the human race would not be here today if these very recently-introduced interventions had any real effect on maternal or infant mortality (they don't) - our ancestors grew babies and birthed wildly, listening to the innate wisdom of their bodies, their babies, and trusting the natural process unfolding, which in turn led to less stress around pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
So it is this unlearning that I invite you to participate in, if you are inviting in a new spirit. Go beyond the opinion of an individual to examine the truth of our situation. Tap into your intuitive knowing when it comes to making very consequential decisions for yourself and your baby. If your intuition is telling you 'no', do not ignore it. Change your situation, and (very importantly) know your rights to do so.