Monday, September 19, 2011

The Inheirent Saftey of Birth

Here in this highly medicalized country we tend to think of birth as a dangerous medical condition that carries a great deal of risk to mother and baby. We act like we think birth is as dangerous as the worst of surgeries. But is that attitude justified?

The most dangerous country in the world to give birth (the place where mommy is most likely to die) is The Central African Republic where 1100 woman will die for every 100,000 births (about 1.1 in 100). This is a horrid rate of death, but still far below the “one in three” number often quoted by hospital birth advocates as in “One in three women died giving birth in the 1800s.” This a very inaccurate statement. The truth would be “One in three women who gave birth IN HOSPITALS died in the 1800s.” Very different numbers (Doctors refused to wash their hands at this time causing many women to die of infection. However those who stayed home- the majority- or went to birth centers run by midwives seldom died.)

In Greece the death rate of mothers is 1 in 100,000. That is some difference!

 The US looses 8 moms per 100,000. This is EIGHT TIMES the number that Greece looses! In the country on the planet that spends more money per mom and has the best emergency care system on the planet this is absolutely unacceptable.

(This puts us at 19th over all.

And yet…

Only 8 women die out of every 100,000 births. That’s 1 in every 12,500 out of the 4,131,019 births per year or about 330 deaths per year.

And why do women in Africa die so much more often? Mostly due to sanitation. Their governments discourage traditional birth attendants leaving dirty, primitive, understaffed, undersupplied hospitals as their only options. This coupled with malnutrition and disease (especially Malaria) simply makes life in general more dangerous.

Yet, even under these conditions only one in 1000 die.

When looking at the big picture, it is obvious that birth is generally safe. And especially so in countries where Mom is well fed and her attendant can wash her hands.

So what about Baby?

In 2005-2010 Singapore lost 1.92 babies per 1000 live births (nearly two babies died after being born for every 1000 babies born alive. This does not count still births or miscarriages but would count premature births where Baby was simply too young to live more than a few minutes. The age at which a baby is called a miscarriage instead of a premature birth varies from country to country. The US does count baby as a premature birth at a younger age than most of Europe, artificially raising our death rate slightly.)

Angola lost 180.21/ 1000 live births (or nearly 1/5.)

The US lost 6.81. Still way too high. We rank 34th in the world.

But again, in a country with good nutrition and good sanitation plus antibiotics, it is obvious that babies seldom die.

Let’s put it this way, If I told you there was a 6 in 1000 chance I would come visit you tonight, would you bother prepping your guest room? Probably not.

Now this isn’t to down play the heartache of women who have lost a baby. It doesn’t much matter if you chances are 1 in 5 or 1 in 10,000, it is tragic and life shattering when your baby dies.

It is also not to down play the fact that these numbers don’t cover damage that doesn’t lead to death. Moms who spend the rest of their live suffering from birth complications and babies who are brain damaged are very tragic and these problems should be dealt with and eliminated (and generally are by simply having a trained attendant who washes their hands.)

I just think all this fear before birth is unwarranted. There just isn’t the evidence that birth is that dangerous. God designed our bodies to give birth. He sculpted our bodies and our babies’ bodies. If we are simply intelligent about it, there is no reason to approach birth like a major medical tragedy waiting to happen.

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