A new study has shown just how dangerous ignoring medical advice when you’re overdue can be.
It was reported this week that researchers in Sweden cancelled a study into the effects of allowing pregnancies to progress beyond 40 weeks after six babies died.
Five babies were stillborn and one died in early infancy when mothers were allowed to let their pregnancies progress as late as 43 weeks.
“Our belief is that it would not have been ethically correct to proceed” researchers said at the time.
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Once more the evidence is laid out in all its grim, tragic reality. If your pregnancy is overdue, your doctors will want to intervene. And they know better than you do about the risks of ignoring their advice.
Yet over and over, we hear stories of mothers who believe that it’s their ‘right’ to take complete charge of their babies’ births.
In February, Kidspot reported the case of a woman in Hawaii who lost her baby after letting her pregnancy go to 45 weeks without medical help. The woman sought the ‘advice’ of a Facebook group, 10 Month Mamas, who encouraged her to let her pregnancy happen ‘naturally’. She finally went into labour at home but passed only dark brown meconium and slimy fluid.
When she finally consented to go to hospital, doctors confirmed the baby was dead.
I’m not sure how much more evidence is needed before conceited westerners who think they know better than doctors realise that, actually, they don’t.
The facts are unequivocal. Each week a pregnancy continues beyond 41 weeks, the risk of stillbirth rises – significantly. The most recent metadata suggests that the risk of stillbirth increases by 87 percent at 42 weeks compared to 41 weeks.
Brisbane obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Gino Pecoraro says he wishes all women understood that medical professionals are not there to hurt you, hurt your baby, or ‘ruin’ your birth ‘experience’.
“Our whole job as doctors is to save people who once upon a time wouldn’t have survived,” he says. “People were sick and tired of women dying in childbirth and so a lot of research went into finding out how to prevent it. And we’re pretty good at it in the vast majorities of cases.”
He despairs of the conspiracy theories that insist doctors intervene in births in order to push some bizarre personal or financial agenda, or that their years of training and education can be overridden by a few Google searches.
“People who go into scientific pursuits are not thick,” he says frankly. “They are bright people who have wholesome and good interests for humanity. And if it takes them 20 years to become a specialist obstetrician – which is how long it takes – with respect, why you do you think you know more than they do?”
Of course there are women who are so scared by the horror stories of induction or caesarean sections that they do their best to avoid any sort of medical oversight when their pregnancies are overdue.
One Sydney woman described her fear to Kidspot:
“I was terrified of induction as I’d heard nothing but horror stories, so I kept putting off [going to the hospital],” she says.
“When I finally got to 11 days overdue I was induced. It ended up taking three days and an emergency c-section to bring my little girl – thankfully – safely into the world.
“What terrified me, though, was that afterwards the midwives looked at my placenta and said the only bit still functioning was the size of a 20 cent piece. If we’d left it any longer the baby would have been deprived of oxygen and we might have had a tragic outcome.”
Intervention, or medical help to give birth can be upsetting. But guess what’s more upsetting? A dead baby.
In a perfect world, we’d all have easy, natural, complication-free labours that resulted in healthy babies. No one disputes that this is the gold standard.
But we don’t live in a perfect world, and our babies and bodies don’t always do what we want them to, just because we wish they would.
Babies don’t care about our birth experiences. They simply deserve the best possible chance to survive.