Birth Intervention & Trauma


shutterstock_61804246Most American parents have no idea that having a child born in a United States hospital can actually be very dangerous.

But this is another area in which our country’s track record is cause for concern.  In a society where pharmaceuticals and intervention is readily available during labor and delivery, most assume that this leads to better outcomes for the mother and child.  Consider the fact that in Japan and Europe, over 70% of babies are delivered naturally with midwives, but in America, less than 8 percent of women opt for natural birth.

The Birth Expert:  Midwives

What is overlooked is that midwives are actually experts in supporting the physiological birth process: they are highly trained to monitor mother baby during labor, to help the mother into positions that encourage the labor progress and to protect the woman’s anatomy during pushing. Of great importance is their skill of “catching” the baby from the position that’s most effective and comfortable for the mother, not the position most comfortable for the midwife or attending physicians like in a traditional hospital setting. When healthy women are supported this way, 95% give birth vaginally, with hardly any intervention.

Medicine’s Affect on Childbirth

Modern medicine has altered the normal course of childbirth, starting during pregnancy.  For example, most obstetricians require ultrasounds routinely thought the pregnancy which has been associated with delayed speech and dyslexia in children.  In January 1998, the Lancet reported that early prenatal testing actually increased the rates of not only abortions but also birth defects.

The trouble with intervention in labor is that most commonly one intervention leads to the necessity to use another.  For example, pitocin a synthetic form of oxytocin, is often used to strengthen uterine contractions. It can be utilized either to induce or to speed up labor.  When Pitocin is used to shorten labor, the greatest risk is to the fetus: the increased pressure of the contractions can, and often does, compress the umbilical cord and cut down the baby’s oxygen supply.  This often affects the baby’s heart rate and also causes little rest for the mother in addition to extreme pain during contractions that most women are unable to tolerate.  For this reason, the use of epidural anesthesia has become increasingly popular. However, it is alarming that the overall complication rate of epidural anesthesia is 23%.  And there seems to be a significant increase of additional birth interventions when epidurals are used.  When the dose is too large or when it sinks down into the tailbone region of the body, the perineum and the vagina are anesthetized. Anesthetic is intentionally injected into this area late in labor to deaden all sensation. When it “accidentally” happens earlier in labor, the muscles of the pelvic floor are prematurely relaxed.  Often when mother is dilated and ready to push, she cannot feel the natural urges and the baby must then be pulled out with forceps or by suction.  Frequently women fail to progress, ultimately resulting in a Caesarian or c-section delivery. Epidurals make it difficult for the muscles in the arteries of the lower body to respond and to keep blood adequately flowing through the body. The ability of the heart to respond to changing needs of the body is impaired. Most babies of mothers receiving epidural anesthesia develop episodes of slow heart rate and the mother’s experience a drop in blood pressure. While this may not become problematic for a strong baby, it can be disastrous for the baby that is already compromised from another condition, which is often unknown to the doctor.

Even internal fetal monitoring can be traumatic, as sensors are attached in utero to the fetal skull to monitor the emerging infant’s health status. Scalp abscess has been noted in as high as 5.4 percent and hemorrhaging in 44 percent.  Also keep in mind that medications taken during pregnancy, labor and delivery can cross over to the infant.  Many mothers who received epidurals during labor have reported that their infants have difficulty latching on to breastfeed and seem lethargic.  Other reported problems are decreased maternal-infant bonding and a possible link to behavioral problems and hyperactivity up to seven years.

Despite the poor health outcomes, intervention during birth in the US is standard procedure. 

A US national survey of birth practices revealed that:

  • 93% of women had electronic fetal monitoring
  • 86% had intravenous fluids administered through a blood vessel in their arm
  • 55%had their amniotic sac membranes artificially ruptured
  • 53% had artificial oxytocin to strengthen contractions
  • 63% had epidurals for pain relief. More than a third of labors were artificially induced.
  • Almost three quarters of the women were restricted to bed
  • Three out of four women were on their backs during pushing.  This position is not favorable and often works against gravity prolonging the birth process.

Birth trauma is estimated to be between the sixth to tenth leading cause of infant mortality in the U.S, even though it is under reported and often misdiagnosed. 

Study upon study has shown that planning a natural birth with a trained midwife is a great choice if you want to avoid unnecessary medical intervention. Birthing centers are opening across the country due to public demand.  Home birthing is also an option utilizing highly trained midwives. A June 1998 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health compared 3.9 million vaginal births delivered by midwives and physicians:

A 19 percent reduction in infant mortality rate was reported by the midwives when compared to similar births attended by physicians. It was also found that neonatal mortality in the first 28 days was 33 percent lower if delivered by nurse midwives. The risk of delivering low birth weight babies was 31 percent lower among the midwives.

Antibiotics During Delivery

One other great area of concern for childbirth in the US is our protocols for antibiotic use during labor and delivery.  Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterial infection that can be found in a pregnant woman’s vagina or rectum. This bacteria is normally found in the vagina and/or lower intestine of up to 40% of all healthy, adult women.

The bacterium can infect the fetus during gestation, during passage through the birth canal or after delivery leading to Group B Strep disease. Infection commonly manifests as meningitis, pneumonia, or sepsis and can lead to infant death.  However, this occurs in a significantly small number of newborns.  Between 2000–2006, a total of only 1,199 early-onset cases and 1,005 late-onset disease cases were reported for all babies born in the US.  And these were cases total, not deaths.  Based on this scenario, in 2002, CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued revised guidelines for prevention of early-onset Group B Strep disease. These guidelines recommended universal screening of all pregnant women for the presence of Group B Strep in the rectum or vagina at 35–37 weeks’ gestation.  For all women testing positive, up to 40% of the pregnant population, the current policy remains to administer IV antibiotics. This should be done throughout the delivery and at least 4 hours prior to the birth of the baby to insure the newborn is treated with antibiotics through the mother.

Parents are advised that there are almost no side effects of this invasive procedure.  However, the effects on the baby and mother are very significant.

Click HERE to learn about the risks of antibiotics 

Antibiotics have a profound affect on the mother’s digestive tract, immune system and breastmilk.  These consequences have an even greater influence on the newborn.  Is this a medical policy that does more harm than good?  Over 4.3 million babies were born in the US in 2007.  If the GBS policy was followed perfectly, up to 40% of these newborns were treated with antibiotics the first day of life.  This is the disturbing fact.

Aside from the adverse effects of this substantial antibiotic use, a report was published in 2007 by the CDC.  It indicated that between 2003–2005, following the revised policy, the overall rate of early-onset GBS disease actually increased.

Physical Birth Trauma

The normal hospital birth also commonly results in physical birth trauma to the baby.  Dr. Abraham Towbin, was a Neuropathologist from Harvard Medical School, in 1969 who performed autopsies on infants who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome referred to as SIDS.  Professor Towbin examined more than 2,000 newborn infants who had died shortly after birth. In his report “Latent Spinal Cord and Brainstem Injuries in Newborn Infants,” Professor Towbin summarized his findings,

“Spinal cord and brainstem injuries occur often during the process of birth, but frequently escape diagnosis. Respiratory depression in the infant is a cardinal sign of such injury. In infants who survive there may be lasting neurological defects reflecting the primary injury; in some, secondary hypoxic damage to the cerebrum may ultimately be manifested as cerebral palsy.”

He then looked at the normal obstetric births and discovered that babies are commonly pulled with much force from the birth canal during normal vaginal delivery.  Dr. Towbin referrers to this pulling as the “Normal axial pull” on the baby’s head during delivery.  He found that it is common during hospital delivery that a child’s head will be pulled with 90-120 pounds of force. If the trauma is small, the body may be able to heal on its own. If it is moderate or significant trauma the nervous system function, blood flow and other critical functions will be reduced. In his infant autopsies, he observed torn ligaments, broken bones and dislocated vertebrae.

Dr. Tobin’s research proved that a normal obstetric birth can traumatize the neck leading to brain and spinal cord injury and even result in death.  Damage to the medulla and spinal cord has been shown experimentally to affect the rate of respiration.  The top bone in the neck, the C1 vertebra, is the most unstable vertebrae in our spine, connected only by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. With any kind of extreme twisting, turning, or yanking, that vertebra will misalign in three directions, which will result in occlusion, pressure, and interference.

How Chiropractics Helps Babies

Chiropractor are doctors who specialize in injuries of the spine and we refer to misaligned vertebrae as Vertebral Subluxation.  A slight vertebral subluxation can lead to serious health complications. What people don’t realize about spinal injuries is that the real damage is done to the nervous system, the systme that controls and coordinates all of the other systems in the body.