Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Michel Odent Article and some of my musings

So yesterday, this article showed up on the unassisted birth forums. Michel Odent is a French physician and he spoke at the Trust Birth Conference a couple of weeks ago.

For those of you who don't feel like reading the whole article, I'll give you his main points.

  • Cortisol, the stress hormone, can hinder the growth of unborn babies.
  • The current state of prenatal care causes the mother to be more stressed than is needed, which causes the creation of cortisol in her system, which, in effect, can be detrimental to her pregnancy.
  • Regular, repeated prenatal visits give the doctors more opportunity to scare the woman about her pregnancy, ultimately hindering the natural growth processes.
  • He mentions a British study which found that delaying prenatal care doesn't have a significant effect on the infant mortality rate. In places, such as the US, where studies have shown that prenatal care is correlated to birth outcome, prenatal care is also connected to socio-economic status. Basically, those without care are the same as those without money, information, nutrition. For a normal, healthy woman with care, information, and nutrition available if she needs it, prenatal care doesn't change the outcome of the birth.
  • Odent also writes about regular prenatal testing (blood pressure, protein, glucose tests) and shows that the birth outcome is not significantly changed when these tests are used.
Basically, I really liked Odent's article. I'm surprised I hadn't found it before now.

Prenatal testing and me:

Ok. I'm the sort of person that is easily stressed. My parents can attest that I would get really stressed about my schoolwork in high school, and the migraines I started having in college are also testament to that.

You don't have to go too far to find studies that say excess stress is harmful to your body. Early on in my pregnancy, I knew that if I was stressed, the baby would feel it and be stressed also. If my own body can be harmed by my stress, then how much more would a little tiny body inside of me be harmed?

So I knew what I wanted was the most stress-free pregnancy route. Frankly, I was completely fine with doing absolutely nothing in the way of prenatal care. (Can't be stressed if there's nothing to stress about). McKay, however, felt we should at least do SOMETHING. So we bought a fetoscope and urine test strips. I was concerned at first that if I were regularly checking for things, I'd stress myself out, but in the end it was good- I've only really checked on things when I felt something was up. Let me give you an example:

In early January, I was having a hard time getting through the day at work and being able to stand upright by the end of the day. I had lots of lower back pain and people at work were worrying me with, "Are you sure it's not back labor?" questions.

So I tested my urine, since someone mentioned that lower back pain can be related to kidney infection. When I tested, everything was fine, except for leukocytes. That means one of two things: the sample was contaminated or I had a UTI. UTIs are pretty common for me, so I erred on the side of caution and started treating my UTI. After 3 days of lots of water, cranberry juice, and limiting my sugar intake, I retested and everything was fine. Had I been seeing a doctor, I'd have been given antibiotics and told to come back in 2 weeks, giving me two weeks of "will this go away?" stress. Instead, I just changed my diet and was reassured of my health immediately.

I've done this a few times. There have been times where my protein was high (which is a sign of preclampsia) but I didn't have any of the other signs of preclampsia such as swelling, high blood pressure. A quick diet fix and the protein levels went down. I've also had glucose be a little high, but limiting sugar in my diet fixed that quickly, too. There have even been times where I hadn't felt the baby move a lot in a few hours and I was able to get out the fetoscope and listen to the heartbeat, reassuring me.

What this has given me is control over my pregnancy. I'm in control, and I don't worry. Of course, if something had been continuously an issue that I couldn't fix, I'd have sought medical advice, but that's never come up. I am left with a clear mind and no stress and a very active, healthy baby. Very active. Very very active.

I have been asked, "What about things such as an ultrasound that you can't do for yourself?" Fairly early in my pregnancy, I was advised to only do what I know is right for the baby. I haven't found any substantial evidence to whether or not ultrasound technology is harmful or helpful for the baby. In fact, the FDA states, "Recent reports in the medical literature suggests that an increase in the number of ultrasound examinations during pregnancy may restrict fetal growth and that prenatal ultrasonography may be associated with delayed speech in children. Other experimental studies have reported adverse effects (lung hemorrhage) in animals resulting from ultrasound exposure." Also, at the bottom of this page, the FDA gives a list when ultrasound is appropriate in pregnancy. McKay and I reviewed the list (presented here) and decided it wasn't necessary.
  • Diagnosing pregnancy- We already diagnosed that ourselves.
  • Determining fetal age- I know when I ovulated last and I've always had very regular periods, not a problem there.
  • Diagnosing congenital abnormalities- Congenital abnormalities include things like heart defects, Downs syndrome, etc. Most of these are unavoidable and not something you can fix. McKay likes to quote a statistic he learned in Family Life class last semester: that 80% of babies diagnosed with Downs syndrome are aborted. We already have decided to not abort the baby so that doesn't matter. And knowing ahead of time would just add more stress and not be helpful.
  • Evaluating position of placenta- I can hear the placenta with the fetoscope- it's in a fine position: upper right side. This is just to diagnose placenta previa.
  • Determining multiple pregnancies- Fundal height CLEARLY indicates I only have 1 inside me.
My favorite part of that list is how finding out the gender isn't on it. So the FDA doesn't consider identifying the gender to be a good enough reason to get an ultrasound... interesting...

Well, I think I've lectured enough for now. Meanwhile, I get to do some cleaning (vacuuming and such).

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