Feminist gives birth to hospital criticisms - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Feminist gives birth to hospital criticisms

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Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003 8:52 am | Updated: 1:05 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Like many mothers-to-be, best-selling author Naomi Wolf had a difficult time making decisions about the necessity of procedures such as amniocentesis, Caesareans and episiotomies.

"Nothing happened the way I imagined it," said Wolf, author of "The Beauty Myth." "After I went into labor, I was told I would have 24 hours to deliver before they would have to perform surgery. That sword over my head and the ticking clock marking the moment my doctors would decide to wield it filled me with fear."

Wolf’s labor stopped.

"What was left of me as a physical presence felt like a trapped, cornered animal," she said. "I did not understand how it happened, yet that is what I experienced when they issued me a deadline. I did not feel safe in the hospital. In spite of my best intentions, I could not labor."

Wolf was forced to undergo a Caesarean section and is still "mad as hell" about it. She directs her anger at the traditional medical birthing industry in "Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood." Wolf will discuss the book Saturday at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

"My experience showed me that there are many hidden agendas operating behind the scenes that will shape your birthing experience," Wolf said. "These may or may not be about the best approach for you, about your personal pattern of labor, or even about the best outcome for your baby."

Wolf said some of the misconceptions women encounter during the typical, high-tech hospital birth are that the hospital approach is the safest way to assist birth; a fetal monitor will help protect your baby; the normal birth position in hospitals is conducive to labor and delivery; your doctor and hospital staff will offer you adequate emotional support; epidurals are necessary; an episiotomy should be part of your standard of care; and that you may require an emergency Caesarean.

According to Wolf’s book, half of the 800,000 Caesareans performed each year are motivated not by fetal distress, but by the fear of lawsuits and the desire to increase profit.

East Valley doctors dispute that claim.

"Sometimes we get a bad rap, and people get a skewed view of obstetricians," said Dr. Patricia Lanter, an OBGYN for CIGNA Medical Group in Tempe. "People think we stand in the corner trying to figure out how many things we can do to them. But at two o’clock in the morning, I have no more desire to do anything but deliver a healthy baby and hand it to you. It’s more work to do extra procedures that aren’t necessary to protect the health of the baby and mother."

Wolf argues that a healthy alternative to traditional hospital births is the use of a birthing center that is affiliated with a hospital, but run by licensed midwives.

"Birth centers feel, oddly, like the opposite of even the best hospital obstetrics ward," she said. "It is about vitality, not technique; about health, not crisis. It is about life processes, not a series of unhappy conditions; relaxed and cheerful, with no fear."

Author speaks out Who: "The Beauty Myth" author Naomi Wolf discusses her new book, "Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood." When: 2 p.m. Saturday Where: Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe Cost: Free Information: (480) 730-0205

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