Tag Archives: Birth

Bliss

I’m at the end of my second week at my new obstetrics residency.

It has been an amazing two weeks. I’ve been at the ambulatory women’s health clinic at the community health center. I’m going to be on L&D soon.

I am going to get my own Doppler! Eep!

Today, I got to do an initial prenatal on my cousin Susan. She had a smile when I opened the door, even though she had already been waiting for hours. As I went through the whole checklist of her health history, I got to hear about her challenging first birth.

She had her records. She had her operative report. She told me she wanted to try for a VBAC. By all criteria, she was a good candidate. I told her that I was happy to say we were just told that the physicians’ group affiliated with the women’s center would now be accepting VBAC candidates because of our residency! The attending physicians and residents would be providing coverage to fulfill the requirements of the hospital. (One of my attendings high fived me when I told her the news!!)

I mentioned that the hospital already had the lowest cesarean rate in the county. She smiled and said she knew. At the end of the appointment, she told me she had researched her options on the ICAN website. I laughed and said that I was a fan.

This.

Plus, did I tell you I’m going to get my own Doppler?

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

In which I try not to overthink blogging and share some funny stories

I had a few stories I wanted to share, and I resisted writing on here until they reached some sort of critical mass. I felt a little weird suddenly posting over and over again. I think getting into ob/gyn residency has jazzed me up in a way that cannot be ignored. I’m trying to look at it as a rejuvenation of my spirit for blogging and medicine, and not overthink what it meant about my spirit and confidence over the last two years. Anyhooooo….

Plus, I have worked ob/gyn clinic for two straight blocks recently, simply a complete coincidence, because neither of these two blocks are going to count at my new site. Ob/gyn just lends itself to a bunch of hilarious stories. I have a serious delve-into-the-evidence-because-something-is-stuck-in-my-craw kind of post a brewin’, but I won’t mix that in with the fun stuff from today.

Needless to say, no names are used, no specific descriptors are used (except for tattoos, I guess), not all stories are recent, and details are bent to obscure the innocent. None of these are my real patients, they are all stories about my cousin Susan’s adventures in health care, rewritten as my own patients to make it easier. And, needless to say, this is ob/gyn related stuff, so if discussion of private parts and fluids gets you discombobulated, you may want to go look at some lolcatz or something.

Story # 1

A patient and her husband were explaining a recent trip to the patient’s gynecologist (I was seeing her as a family practice resident). She was having an irritation down below. Her husband’s helpful explanation of the diagnosis: “My sperm, when it comes out, it’s so hot it BURNS her.” Emphasis emphatically his. I bit down a giggle and asked, “Sir, if this isn’t too personal, may I ask if your sperm has ever touched your own skin? Say, on your hand? It didn’t burn you, right? I don’t think that’s the issue here.”

Story # 2

This one is an in-the-biz special.

Electronic fetal monitor

Electronic fetal monitor

Heard on the labor floor: “I know! The pink one is for the girls, and the blue one is for the boys, right?” I kind of thought the pastel colored binary gender straps were a bit silly, but I didn’t think they’d be confusing. Maybe I should have.

(For those not in the birth biz, that is an external fetal monitor. Both of those get used on everybody, regardless of the gender of the in-utero passenger.)

Story # 3

Maybe I should have realized it could be confusing or important to patients. At a two week postpartum follow up, a mother’s biggest complaint: “Everyone keeps getting him confused with a girl.” I eyed the 13 day old wrinkled baby in a blue hat, blue clothes, blue car seat covered with a blue blanket suspiciously as he slept in a very non-gender specific way. “I don’t think he’s very worried about that right now.” What I wanted to say was, “Now I think it’s a bit early to start imposing roles on it, don’t you?” in my best Graham Chapman voice, but I restrained myself.

Story # 4

I see a lot of interesting tattoos in my line of work. I have two tattoos, and I am not judging people who have them. In fact, having a tattoo in certain age groups is actually more common that not having one. Some of the people I hung out with when I was younger had some highly questionable tattoos. A friend of mine dated someone who had a tattoo on his leg of a manatee with an erection. That was only one of the list of questions I had about her choice of this guy, but hey, poor dating choices happen to the best of us.

I was triaging a young woman in labor, and when I raised her gown to attach the eternal fetal monitors (as seen above) to her burgeoning belly, I saw two dolphins dancing on either side of her navel. I said “Oh, look! Dolphins!” Then I glanced at the cursive writing underneath her navel. It read “Wet Pussy”. And they say the kids aren’t learning cursive these days. Wait, maybe that’s a good thing for her offspring.

Not judging. Not judging.

I also saw “Respect My Mind” tattooed on a patient’s hand, which I kind of liked. It was next to a 305, which is our area code here in Miami-Dade, for the reader who is not a local, or isn’t familiar with Pitbull. (Ironically, also my birthday. OG, here. Ironic because the longest I’ve ever listened to the song was just now to copy the link.) It’s a common tattoo, on that always makes me sarcastically wonder if they’re afraid they’ll forget the area code. Maybe they just want to remember my birthday. If she did forget the area code, I’d have trouble respecting her mind. Or, I would at least try to figure out why she wasn’t oriented.

I saw “Most Hated”, which I kind of didn’t like. Well, it made me wonder about the history and self esteem of the patient. It also reminded me of the brother of a tattoo artist in a city I lived in years ago, a brother who was notorious for being a conceited, inebriated, loud, omnipresent nuisance. He had the nickname of “the Hated Joe Schmo”. Even though he was covered with tattoos, courtesy of his super cool brother, I don’t think he had “Most Hated”. It would have been appropriate.

I saw “Live Fast Die Pretty” on someone’s arm. That made me giggle.

Story #5

Not really a funny story, but something I wanted to share. I was wrapping up my ob/gyn rotation, and one of the nursing students who was also at the site told me that she would want to go to me as an obstetrician if she was ever pregnant. I am always grateful and pretty much floored when someone from inside the system tells me that. We were working with several wonderful obstetricians at the time. I don’t think it was a commentary against them. I don’t mean to get all sappy, but I think I love it so much, it really shows when I am talking to a patient. I also think it is uncommon for someone to be a mother, a patient, and frankly an adult with real world problems before becoming a physician. I am not knocking my younger peers. They say they don’t know how I do it as a mom. I don’t know how they do it as a young adult coming of age. I think my empathy comes from a different place than some physicians. Even physicians who are parents often became parents second, and were navigating the medical side of pregnancy and birth with a much greater ease and insider perspective when they went through it.

Should I throw in another story of hot jizz to wrap this up? I am fresh out, at this time. Let’s see if this newly renewed excitement carries through to me finishing the post about epidurals and informed consent, too.

Until then, live fast and die pretty.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Reply turned post, I reject your reality! style

OK for Mythbusters, not for health advocacy

I have been participating in the Facebook group VBAC Facts Community for a little while now, ever since meeting the wonderful community founder Jen Kamel at the VBAC Summit last year. It is a supportive group, and Jen runs the site well with the help of moderators and a good foundation of evidence.

This group, at times, can be a good example at how distorted internet microcosms can make uncommon opinions seem much more accepted. In this community, using midwives and having a home birth comes up in almost every thread, it seems. I have seen using a midwife treated like a hipster fashion choice recently on Jezebel and other sites. However, midwife attended births still make up less than 10% of births in the United States. Hardly a huge trend. Midwives are underutilized here compared to many other countries with better maternity and neonatal outcomes than we have. But, depending on your source, midwife attended and/or out of hospital births may seem to be common or even a glorified standard. However, in the circles I travel in my daily grind as a physician, choosing out of hospital birth is fringe, reckless behavior.

So, it’s like entering a portal in another world when I participate on a thread in the VBAC group, and the commenters have a heated argument about epidurals, and many participants did not get one. On our labor and delivery floor, it is a rare to never occurrence that someone wouldn’t get one. Because out of hospital birth, choosing not to have an epidural even if you deliver in a hospital, and VBAC are such rarely available, rarely supported choices, I am usually on the side of defending people who advocate for such choices as underdogs, not the holier than thou bullies that many paint them to be.

It’s also a really strange place for me to be in when I gently try to correct medical inaccuracies, and I sometimes get painted as a brainwashed surgico-technocrat physician. I correct fellow physicians when they say all VBAC is dangerous. For real, even my attending physicians. I also have corrected fellow physicians who state episiotomies are preferable to tearing. But, I also correct women in the VBAC group who state things that are medically inaccurate, like that worsening hypertension in pregnancy is not serious and does not warrant an induction or cesarean unless the fetus is in distress, or that leaving the hospital midlabor is a reasonable course of action if one is faced with unwanted interventions (in one particular thread in which I was painted as a typical brainwashed South Florida cesarean happy physician, the intervention that warranted attempting to leave midlabor was continuous external monitoring).

These are not the majority opinions even in this microcosm. But, they are often aggressively defended positions. One that has come up repeatedly, recently, is an insistence that tubal ligation is linked to “post tubal ligation syndrome”, which leads, according to some posters, to the majority of women needing hormonal interventions to control heavy menstrual bleeding, and / or hysterectomy to control intractable post procedure pain.

I think these communities are incredibly valuable, not just because of the sharing of strictly evidence based facts. I think a lot, even the majority of the benefit is the support and stories from other women who have experienced similar choices and situations, or share similar priorities and stories. I think in the VBAC community, and in pregnancy and mothering as a whole, there is so much value to support, empathy and stories. However, there is a big difference between asnwering an original poster who says “what was your experience with tubal ligation?” and someone answering “geez, I had pain and menstrual irregularity after” and an original poster saying “I am planning on a tubal ligation” and a slew of commenters saying “NO! This is PROVEN to cause a, b and c horrible side effects to the majority of women who get it!” and usually a touch of “Have you considered Natural Family Planning?”

Sigh.

I have reluctantly been the heavy in many of these conversations, but it is triggering a bunch of pet peeves of mine. 1. Medical inaccuracies masquerading as facts. 2. Ignoring the expressed informed choice and priorities of the woman posting and substituting the commenters’ own priorities and (often faulty or anecdotal at best) information

So, this coalesced into a recent thread, and here is the reply I posted:

“This is the best article I have found on post tubal ligation syndrome:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm200012073432303#t=articleResults

It is a good article because it compares women who have had tubals with women whose partners have had vasectomies. It is also a good study because it has an N number of over 9,000 subjects who had the tubal ligation. It is also authored by a group from the Centers of Disease Control (the CDC). There is no economic conflict, and the New England Journal of Medicine is about as high quality a publication as it gets. Here are the results:

“The original concern about sterilization involved the risk of heavy bleeding and intermenstrual bleeding, but we found no evidence of either problem. Furthermore, we found that women who underwent sterilization were likely to have decreases in the amount of bleeding, the number of days of bleeding, and the amount of menstrual pain and an increase in cycle irregularity. We know of no biologic explanation for these changes, most of which were beneficial, in women after tubal ligation.”

I don’t think there’s any evidence of widespread issues post tubal. In fact, this high quality study seems to indicate the opposite. I am not saying a tubal ligation is right for everybody, but I do think it is inappropriate for every thread on here in which tubal ligation is mentioned to devolve into a pronouncement that tubals are PROVEN to cause these problems, often with alarming figures like half of all women who get tubals end up with hysterectomies, etc.

As I have also said, it is inappropriate at best and borderline bullying at worst for women on here to disregard a woman’s stated informed choice and substitute their own priorities, especially if they are coming from a place of anecdote and questionable information. It is also inappropriate to ignore a woman’s expressed desire for a highly effective form of birth control (like a tubal or IUD) and to tell them to try NFP* instead, when it has a typical failure rate much higher. I hold a woman’s right to make informed decisions about her reproduction to include highly effective birth control if desired as well as safe options for trial of labor after cesarean.

I am not a surgery lovin’ medicoindustrial defending brainwashed doctor. I trained as a midwife, had both of my kids unmedicated** with midwives, and have never used hormonal birth control myself due to my own priorities and reasons. I support low intervention birth and VBAC for two main reasons which may seem contradictory, but are wonderfully not. 1. It’s a woman-centered approach and 2. It is an evidence based approach. Bullying women into avoiding their choice of safe contraception is neither.”

*I love this site for comparison of contraceptive methods: http://www.birth-control-comparison.info/
**The first labor was augmented with pitocin without my informed consent, but was otherwise unmedicated

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The past, present and future

Howdy, blogland. Long time no see. Oh, and happy Mother’s Day.

It’s been a rough string of months. I had personal changes, a 40th birthday, a malignant rotation, a psoriatic arthritis flare, the stinking IRS is holding my refund for some sort of random review, a struggle with the black dog, and now I topped it off with a nasty viral infection that doesn’t want to leave my lungs.

But, things are looking up. Or, I have to start looking at the positive. I got my schedule for next year. Most rotations, I will be doing two days a week of clinic, which I am really looking forward to. I have zero nights, zero swing shift for the year. I’ll get to do some rotations I am looking forward to, like radiology (I hope I get to focus a lot on ultrasound) and hematology. I also will get to do a full four week block of clinic and one block in a community health center, so I’ll get my share of outpatient medicine. Hooray! I also have a block of NICU and a block of obstetrics, among other hospital based blocks.

I went to a social event with a lot of members of the local natural birth community, and everyone seems to be eager to work with me in the future. I see a lot of possibilities. I have always kept myself motivated by imagining what my future would look like. I am imagining a future with a practice in a freestanding birth center, doing women’s health, prenatals, family planning, lactation medicine, pediatrics, and possibly even some births. One of the local obstetricians said she would welcome me into her solo practice to see her clinic patients. This may be a more compatible future than doing hysterectomies and cesareans.

So, the future is bright. I just have to free myself from the gloom of the recent past.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Breaking the silence

I am happily coming down off the high of presenting at the Medical Students for Choice annual conference – I was part of a fantastic panel on Protecting Choice in Birth. I felt honored to be sharing the table with some brilliant people – two wonderful ob/gyns, two reproductive justice lawyers, and little old me. We talked about the legal and ethical underpinnings of patients’ rights and choice in birth: site of birth (e.g. out of hospital birth), VBAC, even use of a doula or refusal of certain interventions.

It was a wonderful experience. The director of MS4C told us the response was so overwhelming that the conference was buzzing about our panel, and we are definitely invited to return. I learned a lot from my co-panelists, and loved the enthusiastic response from the audience. One sweet medical student literally had his jaw agape when Farah Diaz-Tello, from the National Association for Pregnant Women, described a woman who had her baby taken away and put in foster care for simply wanting to postpone signing a blanket consent for any intervention or procedure during her labor and delivery. She had a healthy, spontaneous vaginal delivery with no complications during her SECOND psych consult (after the first psychiatrist deemed she was clearly mentally competent and allowed to refuse consenting to an unnecessary hypothetical cesarean), and apparently her six year old is still not in her care due to the red tape surrounding her case. Jaw dropping, indeed.

I talked about my journey, including being a patient, mother, midwifery student, doula and research fellow before becoming a doctor. I discussed the hostile-to-patient-autonomy atmosphere in South Florida, my fellowship research on labor interventions, and how to present risk to patients.

I almost burst into tears when my co-panelist, the lovely and dynamic Dr. Hanson, showed pictures of twins and breech births she has delivered all over the world. I did end up tearing up during lunch, not just because birth is moving and emotional, but because I am slowly accepting that I will most likely never be doing these difficult deliveries, and my wonderful copanelists innocently asked me about my residency plans. I may not be doing deliveries at all.

I got a decent amount of invitations to obstetrics residency programs. I am slowly canceling them, one by one. I simply cannot justify moving my two boys to a city where I don’t know anybody, then disappearing to work my ass off 80 hours a week at all times of day or night. I also don’t want to put them in public schools in the Deep South. When I got divorced during my third year of medical school I knew that would mean facing residency as a single mom. The divorce was worth it, but now that I have experienced the reality of how hard internship is, even with significant family support in my home town, I had to reconsider my options.

I will most likely be pursuing a family practice residency at a local residency program, probably at the hospital where I am doing my internship. Yes, obstetrics can fall under the family practice umbrella, but I would be the first family practitioner to get hospital privileges in the greater Miami area in recent or remote history. In other words, the chances of that happening falls between not likely and impossible. Yes, not even if I do an obstetrics fellowship, which would involve leaving town for a year. It’s just not the standard of care here, even if it’s normal in other parts of the country. And my custody arrangement stipulates that I practice here after training. So, even if I move for residency, I would have to uproot again and come back.

I can still do women’s health. I can still do prenatals. I can do lactation medicine, including the pediatrics portion. I can even be the medical director of a local freestanding birth center, just not their backup surgeon. Which, honestly, was never a huge draw for me. I want to be at the normal pregnancies, not a back up for the ones that go wrong. I can do family planning. I can still do academics, including medical ethics, which is an interest of mine.

So, most of the time I am ok with this. Most of the time. I have a lot to be happy about. I have great kids, good family support, a supportive director of my residency program, relatively good health, friends, a cute little house, a fuzzy loyal dog, and a blossoming (very tentative!) new relationship with a nice guy. And I’m a doctor, for Chrissakes. With a job in a shitty economy.

So, anyway, another permutation on the journey. Let’s see how it plays out.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Preventing primary cesarean

Hi! Internship has been keeping me busy. So has getting together my presentation for this year’s VBAC summit. I had an hour and fifteen minutes to talk. I went over, and I still didn’t cover half of what I wanted to say.

The First Cut is the Deepest. (I can’t figure out how to embed the viewer.)

You can find the mp3 to hear me speaking to go along with the presentation. I explain. A lot. I also tell funny stories, horrible jokes, and pass out chocolates. Sorry, the chocolates are not available through the internet.

MP3 of me: https://www.wepay.com/stores/vbac-summit/item/preventing-primary-c-sections-what-you-need-to-kno-717302
MP3s of all of the presentations: https://www.wepay.com/stores/vbac-summit

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reply turned post, from abortion to homebirth style

Hello! Hey, I’m a doctor!

Please go read this excellent article at RH Reality Check: Why Birthing Rights Matter to the Pro-Choice Movement.

Here is a great quote from the author Laura Guy, who is a doula (yay!) and a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) (double yay!):

But let’s be clear about something. Reproductive justice means that everyone has complete control over if, when, where, how, and with whom they bring a child into the world. It means that people have accurate, unbiased access to information regarding all facets of their reproductive lives, from contraception to pregnancy options, from practices surrounding birth to parental rights. It means that our choices are not constrained by politics, financial barriers, or social pressure. In other words, how can the right to give birth at home – safely and legally – not be on a reproductive justice advocate’s radar?

As I commented on the article, I was thrilled when, during the keynote address at my first Medical Students for Choice meeting, the speaker mentioned out of hospital birth. Reproductive rights are full spectrum. They start before sexual activity begins – bodily autonomy begins with birth, stretches through childhood with protection from oversexualization, extends through accurate sexual education, includes contraception and freedom to choose when and how to become sexually active, and definitely doesn’t end once one decides to carry a pregnancy to term. The ability (or lack thereof) of women to choose the site and mode of their delivery, among other important issues of autonomy during pregnancy, are key ways that women’s rights are challenged daily in this country. Pregnant women are not human incubators.

So, seems like a bunch of mutual appreciation society activity here. Where is the angst that usually prompts the reply-turned-post? Well, on the RH Reality Check link of Facebook, one commenter says: “This is great and it’s also important for women to have the right to medical interventions (like elective C-sections) they feel are right for them.”

Here is my reply:

‎@Kathleen – within reason. Feeling something is right is one thing, but unnecessary medical intervention is not a “right” per se.

It’s a very nuanced issue that may not fit well in the comments section on Facebook. For example, evidence and expert position statements warn against early induction. Feeling like an induction is right is not enough of a reason to get one. Take it from someone who has been in the paper gown, sick of being pregnant, and in the white coat – many women feel like an induction before the end of pregnancy.

Also, someone who is a really poor candidate for vaginal delivery (placenta previa, for example), may feel like they want a vaginal delivery, but it is not medically advisable. Same goes for women who are poor candidates for homebirth. I think homebirth is an excellent option for good candidates. Not all. There is a role for practitioners to play here, too.

As a physician and most likely a future ob/gyn, I will be one of many practitioners who need to constantly work that balance between respecting a patient’s autonomy, providing good informed consent, and practicing good medicine with a good conscience. Medicine is more than ordering off a menu.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Reply turned post, midwives are hacks style

When I signed onto Facebook this morning, a link showed up on my feed from a page that I don’t remember “liking”, but, as it is called “Nurtured Moms”, I can see it being a possibility.

The link was to an article by OB Management examining collaboration between ob/gyns, nurse midwives, and CPMs / lay midwives. The original article is actually not that bad, and does encourage collaboration with midwives (mostly with CNMs) and higher standards and licensing for CPMs, which I support. It didn’t accurately give the background on the Flexner Report, the purpose of which was to weed out inferior MEDICAL SCHOOLS, not midwives. But, I didn’t bring that up because I thought it wasn’t fully relevant to the discussion.

The posting on the Facebook page included the caption:

Exactly. In fact, it is even worse than the article suggests.

It states, “The North American Registry of Midwives’ Portfolio Evaluation Process requires midwives to be the primary care provider during 50 home births and to have 3 years’ experience. The average ObGyn resident gets this much experience in 1 month.”

However, this is not the requirement one needs to meet to become a CPM; this is the requirement to be a PRECEPTOR of CPMs — to pass your “knowledge” on to others!! In fact, to become a CPM, you only have to attend 20 births as a primary care provider. Also, just this year, they added the requirement for a high school diploma. For the last 15 years, you didn’t even need one to become a CPM. The most recent requirements are here: http://narm.org/req-updates/

The first commenter said this:

People need to understand that high standards do not limit choice for mothers. It boggles my mind when I hear lay midwifery apologists insist that making CNM the standard would “limit mothers’ choices.” Limit *what* choice, exactly? Oh right, clearly they want women to be able to “choose” substandard care (CPM) even though the very best (CNM and OBGYN) is readily available to everyone. It’s disgraceful that in America we allow uneducated hacks to practice medicine on the most vulnerable citizens. The ACOG is right not to “collaborate” with lay midwives.

I posted this:

The requirements for direct entry midwives are higher than that in Florida. Also, ob/gyn residents are already licensed doctors by the time they get that experience. There is no requirement for any specific clinical experiences first, although most medical students do at least observe a certain number of births.

Also, ob/gyn residents are not on labor & delivery every month. It depends on the training program, but most involve less than 100 vaginal deliveries a year.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a supporter of adequate training for CPMs/DEMs/LMs. I am also a supporter of accuracy.

Commenter #1 replied:

Accuracy? Lay midwives’ “education” pales in comparison to that of legitimate medical professionals. That’s accurate. Split all the hairs about med school that you like– lay midwives are still substandard, full stop.

I replied:

I am not splitting hairs. I am giving accurate information. A first year ob/gyn resident on her first labor and delivery rotation may have never caught a baby herself. She is a “legitimate” licensed medical professional.

Again, I am all for adequate training and licensing for CPMs. I do not think it is fair to call them all “hacks” or “substandard”. I also don’t think it is safe for ob/gyns or ACOG to not cooperate with lay midwives, nor is it accurate. ACOG does acknowledge that birth center births have been proven to be as safe as in hospital birth, and they support birth centers as a safe site of birth in their position statement, and most birth centers are run by CPMs or other types of lay midwives.

The best way to make homebirth and other out of hospital birth safe, other than adequate training of midwives, is to ensure seamless cooperation with other “legitimate” medical professionals when necessary. Anything less is unethical and unsafe for mothers.

Full stop.

I am not sure I am going to go back to comment on the thread, but if you follow the link to the new qualifications, 10 + 20 + 20 + 5 = 55 births required, not 20.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Awesome free resource!

I am so thrilled with the free books available at Herperian.org. They are designed for ease of use and medical accuracy, and take into account limited resources in remote locations. Each of the books is available in multiple languages.

squatting position for pushing stage

I downloaded “Where There Is No Doctor”, “Where Women Have No Doctor”, and “Book for Midwives.” I haven’t had time to read them completely. Each one is more than 500 pages! I glanced through the midwifery book first, and was thrilled with what I saw. The section on the second stage of labor discourages frequent cervical checks, for example. It also has illustrations of alternative pushing positions, or in this case, physiologic pushing positions. The section on breastfeeding has accurate, non alarmist but very true information that formula can be harmful, including an illustration of an emaciated baby with diarrhea, warnings about unclean water sources, and the valid point that formula companies use predatory advertising practices to sell their product.

“Where Women Have No Doctor” has some overlap. There is a great section on abortion, with nonjudgmental language, and emphasis on safe abortion and management of complications. the chapter begins with reasons why some women choose abortion, and the first one is “She already has all the children she can care for.” Many people ignore the fact that most women who choose abortion are already mothers, and in developing countries with high maternal mortality rates, there is real danger to their already living children if their mother has an unwanted pregnancy. The midwifery book has a training chapter on manual vacuum aspiration.

Safe abortion is a safety net

Both books have good sections on family planning. Even though they are designed for practitioners in remote areas and perhaps minimal training, there is a good balance between necessary actions and not overstepping and perhaps causing harm by doing interventions with a lack of training. For example, the section on IUD insertion states that insertion can cause injury or infection, and should be inserted only by someone who is trained, but does not have alarmist contraindications. And, the book warns against putting in IUDs without permission, and the right to refuse an IUD.

The women’s health book also has a nonjudgmental section on sex workers, with information on risk reduction and negotiating condom use. It also has a section on women with disabilities.

I downloaded the Spanish version of the women’s health book. I figure I can read it to improve my medical Spanish, and I may be able to use it as a translation tool.

OK, I have gushed about the books enough. Go check them out!

Thanks, KK!

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Reply turned post, Trisomy 18 and mental masturbation style

I can get really frustrated by people who enter into philosophical arguments about serious medical ethics questions online. Many of these people have a definite agenda, often controlling access to abortion, but try to couch it as some sort of intellectual exercise. Many of these commenters are men who toss around large words like “autonomy” and “qualitative determination.” This happens all over the interwebs, and I know better than to spend my time hunting down every blowhard that litters a comment section with his ideas on viability and fetal rights.

However, I clicked through a link on my Washington Post headline newsletter on Trisomy 18, since it is a topic that genuinely interests me. Presidential candidate and notorious crusader against contraception and abortion Rick Santorum has a daughter with Trisomy 18, one who is questionably lucky to have survived the few years she has, and has been hospitalized yet again. I was generally pleased with the accuracy and tone of the article. I hesitantly stumbled into the comments section, and then happened upon a perfect example of what I like to refer to as mental masturbation, from a commenter named “johnbmadwis”, which he wrote in response to a comment drawing the logical connection between the suffering and medical expense of Santorum’s daughter, and his position on the ability of other families to choose this road for themselves:

But haven’t you just made Santorum’s point and fueled the fire of the pro-life proponents? That is, the pro life advocate’s long held belief that abortion rights advocates are not really talking about rape and incest, but rather personal evaluations of the quality of life of the fetus or externalities such as heartache and expense. Regardless of the condition of the fetus, pro life advocates would say society has a moral interest, they’d say imperative, in preserving the life of such a fetus from individuals such as yourself, who may want to terminate that life due to such condition. At what point, if any, does that societal interest give way to individual autonomy? Would you truly advocate for the ability to terminate that life after birth? in the last weeks of pregnancy? 3rd trimester? viability? Whatever the point, what is the guiding principle? Individual autonomy? Quality of life? (determined, assuredly, by one other than the one whose life is at stake – so, whose individual autonomy?) at what point does one achieve individual autonomy? Does a fetus have individual autonomy At some point the life of the fetus does, presumably, outweigh the individual’s autonomy, right? When? Is individual autonomy equally valid if it were exercised for clearly base purposes such as mere inconvenience or desire, say, to have a boy instead of a girl? Who should make that qualitative determination? Society? The individual carrying the fetus. The affected fetus? The personal choice of a couple does affect the life of another human being in your scenario, so, it is reasonable to ask you when, if ever, do you believe that personal choice must give way to other principles or interests?

My reply, which was thankfully limited by a character limit, is here (I added a few hyperlinks to this version, but otherwise it is unchanged):

@johnbmadwis, these questions have been answered by courts and medical ethicists. There is an obvious glaring difference in autonomy between a child who is already born and a fetus, whose existence depends entirely on the mother, whose life is intimately affected and at risk by carrying a pregnancy. Late term abortions (post viability) are extremely rare, and most states have strict limits on the conditions under which such procedures can be performed.

If you are worried about a slippery slope, it is pretty obvious the slope has been tilting towards restrictive legislation limiting all abortion, not just the dramatic but rare cases you bring up. More than 400 bills have been proposed recently in state legislatures seeking to place barriers on access to abortion, from extended waiting periods for all terminations, overreaching excessive requirements for providers and facilities that don’t extend to other, riskier outpatient surgeries, to personhood bills for fertilized eggs.

Trisomy 18 is a serious condition that is considered mostly “incompatible with life.” Not only is the fetus likely to die in utero, but if it survives, it is likely to die as newborn. The article (mostly) covered this really well. (We do know the “cause” of most trisomy 18 – nondisjunction during meiosis II – which is much more common the longer the egg has been in a suspended state of meisosis, i.e. in older mothers).

Santorum’s daughter is lucky in some ways to be a 1% in more ways than one, but this is more than just some sort of ethical masturbation in a comment section of a blog. This issue involves the emotional and physical challenges to the mother. Have you ever carried a fetus, commenter with a male sounding handle? Have you ever had a stranger put their hand on your belly and ask when you were due, when you knew the fetus would most likely die before birth, or soon after? Then there’s the suffering of the baby if it survives, and the emotional toll such care takes on caregivers – do you have any idea what it is like to work in a NICU on suffering, terminal infants? With major cutbacks in personnel in public hospitals, too.

Not to mention the health care dollars arguably misproportioned here. I got to tell pregnant mothers with no insurance yesterday that they had to pay full price, cash up front for necessary basic lab tests. These are mothers who don’t have husbands flying around the country campaigning for president. These are mothers who may and do skip important labs, or prenatal visits, because they have to choose between knowing if they have hepatitis B or food for their existing children. We got to tell a mother who was having her fourth baby and desired a tubal ligation that there was no funding anymore for it. She could pay $1400 up front to the clinic then pay more in hospital fees. Maybe she could google birth control – oh, wait, she probably doesn’t have a computer.

Enjoy wringing your hands about the autonomy of a trisomy 18 fetus. It’s a luxury.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized