The Time for Change is Now: A Call to Action Part 1

If not me, who? If not now, when?
— Mikhail Gorbachev

obama_sunrise.JPGAfter reading and hearing about some of my friends* doing fund-raising and volunteering for the Obama campaign, last weekend while out running errands, the family and I stopped in our local Democrat headquarters and I inquired as to what I could do to help. I happily signed up to call democrats and undeclared voters in my city to remind them to turn in their mail-in ballots. I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought as to when I would do the calls, I just knew that I feel so strongly about this election that I wanted to do something more than exercise my right and responsibility to vote.

The first day I tried to make calls while the kids were playing outside. I got through about seven calls before Ava came to the backdoor and started yelling – while I was in the middle of a call, of course. The woman on the other end chuckled and I said, “You can’t tell I’m making this call from home, can you?” ;) I decided then that I should probably reserve my calling time to when my husband Jody was home in the evening or on the weekend.

On Tuesday night with Jody home to tend to the kids, I got through about five pages of calls while sitting in my car in the driveway. Seriously. That’s not exactly what I had planned when I signed up to volunteer, but it was quiet and there was no one to disturb me. :)

Even though there are less than two weeks until the election, there is still a great need for volunteers (and donations as well). Beyond making calls to remind people to return their ballots or remind them of their polling places, etc., volunteers are needed for other reasons. Volunteers are still needed to canvass local neighborhoods, especially in key swing states like Colorado (where I live). They are needed to drive people without cars or licenses to and from the polls on election day. There is also data entry work to be done (which would be a lot more practical for this mom to do at home in her jammies). And although this is not an actual volunteer position (but something that I’m sure would be very much appreciated), one can always deliver snacks, meals, etc. to the poll workers on election day.

That quote by Gorbachev has been going through my mind a lot lately. If not me, who? If not now, when? In these last few days it’s up to all of us to do whatever we can, whether that be talking with our friends and families about our choices, blogging about it, pointing out lies that the GOP is spreading (I just got a flier in the mail today saying Barack Obama is a friend of terrorists – paid for by the Colorado GOP), volunteering on a formal level, etc. If you’ve been wanting to do something, but not knowing what you can do, I encourage you to visit or call your local Democratic office and ask. It’s that easy and I bet you you’ll feel so good about yourself once you’ve done it. The time is now.

* There will be a follow-up post to this one chronicling the volunteer efforts of my mom and a few of my friends. They’ve inspired me to get involved and it is my hope that maybe they will help inspire you too.

Still not convinced you need to do something to help Obama secure this election? Watch this video. Maybe it will change your mind. The time is now.

Consumer Reports: high-tech births=poor outcomes

Consumer Reports isn’t just for researching your next car purchase or washing machine anymore. That’s right, that longtime resource for product reviews has broadened its scope to include health and wellness. In a recent article Consumer Reports tackles the topic of childbirth, concluding that "Too many doctors and hospitals are overusing high-tech procedures."

Consumer Reports cites a new report, Evidenced-based Maternity Care by the nonprofit Childbirth Connection, which found that "in the U.S., too many healthy women with low-risk pregnancies are being routinely subjected to high-tech or invasive interventions that should be reserved for higher-risk pregnancies." Some of those interventions include:

  • Inducing labor. The percentage of women whose labor was induced more than doubled between 1990 and 2005
  • Use of epidural painkillers, which might cause adverse effects, including rapid fetal heart rate and poor performance on newborn assessment tests
  • Delivery by Caesarean section, which is estimated to account for one-third of all U.S births in 2008, will far exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended national rate of 5 to 10 percent
  • Electronic fetal monitoring, unnecessarily adding to delivery costs
  • Rupturing membranes ("breaking the waters"), intending to hasten onset of labor
  • Episiotomy, which is often unnecessary

The study suggests that high-touch, low-cost, noninvasive measures are underused in today’s maternity care for healthy low-risk women. These include:

  • Prenatal vitamins
  • Use of midwife or family physician
  • Continuous presence of a companion for the mother during labor
  • Upright and side-lying positions during labor and delivery, which are associated with less severe pain than lying down on one’s back
  • Vaginal birth (VBAC) for most women who have had a previous Caesarean section
  • Early mother-baby skin-to-skin contact

They’ve also included a quiz to test the consumer’s knowledge about maternity care and debunk several misconceptions. Here are a few examples from the quiz.

An obstetrician will deliver better maternity care, overall, than a midwife or family doctor.

False. Studies show that the 8 percent to 9 percent of U.S. women who use midwives and the 6 to 7 percent who choose family physicians generally experienced just-as-good results as those who go to obstetricians. Those who used midwives also ended up with fewer technological interventions. For example, women who received midwifery care were less likely to experience induced labor, have their water broken for them, episiotomies, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and electronic fetal monitoring, and were more likely to give birth vaginally with no vacuum extraction or forceps, than similar women receiving medical care. Note that an obstetric specialist is best for the small proportion of women with serious health concerns.

Once you’ve had a C-section, it’s best to do it again.

False. Studies show that, as the number of a woman’s previous C-sections increased, so did the likelihood of harmful conditions, including: trouble getting pregnant again, problems delivering the placenta (placenta accreta), longer hospital stays, intensive-care (ICU) admission, hysterectomy, and blood transfusion.

Labor itself can benefit a newborn’s immunity.

True. When babies do not experience labor (if the mother has a C-section before entering into labor, for example), they fail to benefit from changes that help to clear fluid from their lungs. That clearance can protect against serious breathing problems outside the womb. Passage through the vagina might also increase the likelihood that the newborn’s intestines will be colonized with “good” bacteria after the sterile womb environment.

The buzz in the blogosphere about this is mostly positive. Critics of the current state of birth in the United States are happy to see Consumer Reports raising awareness about the need for change and bringing this information to mainstream society.

The blogger at Rain Garden says, "I feel encouraged that a non-profit organization like Consumer Reports is picking this up on their radar – it is just one more spark that may ignite change."

Susan at Hug the Monkey agrees and says, "It’s kind of amazing that a mainstream and respected organization like Consumer Reports has gotten behind natural childbirth. This must signal a shift in our society’s ideas."

Shay at Augeries of Innocence says, "This just goes to prove pretty much everything that is in The Business of Being Born. If you haven’t seen the DVD, I highly suggest you watch it, rent it or buy it. Even if you’re not wanting to go completely natural for your birth, it has a lot of helpful information on it and really lets you see how wonderful the childbirth process can be."

Yogi Barrett, a prenatal class instructor who blogs at Five Points Yoga, says,

Though women and their partners shouldn’t have to become “experts” on maternal and fetal care when they’re pregnant, it’s very helpful to remember that you are a paying consumer. I recommend finding a doctor or midwife who will take the time to answer the questions you have, and who will talk to you about your choices, options and alternatives. Too often, women come to my class and say something like, “My doctor won’t let me go past my due date. She’ll induce me if I do.” We have to remember that we have a responsibility in all of this to ask questions, and know that it’s *our* decision whether we have that test or procedure. We cannot abdicate responsibility for our bodies and our babies, even if a doctor/midwife presents a procedure as non-optional. The time to set up this dynamic is before you’re in labor – it’s difficult to have rational conversation and decision-making in the midst of active labor!

If you’re pregnant, remember that you need to have confidence in your provider. It’s never too late to switch providers if you’re unhappy. I’ve had students switch providers mere days before giving birth! But also remember, the most important person to trust is yourself, and your baby.

I couldn’t agree more. As a natural birth advocate myself, I think the fact that Consumer Reports posted this study is huge and another step in the right direction. Women want to be informed, they want to make conscious choices regarding their prenatal care and their birthing care for their sake and the sake of their babies. The more information women and their partners easily have access to, the more empowered they will be to make choices that are best for themselves and their babies.

Cross-posted at BlogHer.