Thursday, December 9, 2010


I am dedicating this entry to all the horrors that have been developed and were imposed/used on women who were pregnant or in labor. I am going to state here that despite everything else, I am grateful for the advances in medical procedure that have saved many mothers and babies lives. My cousin and her daughter might not be here without them.

I'm going to start with the one that I have to say shocked me the most. It was something that was introduced and used around the time my Great-Grandmother was in childbearing years and continued until my Grandmother was in childbearing years. Many people have never heard of it, only know of it through old horror stories, or actually had a family member endure it.  I am talking about the "Twilight Sleep". The modern use of the word speaks of people who are sleep deprived, meaning going for more than a day on average without sleep. The lesser known use speaks of the morphine and drug induced state that women were put into when they were having their babies. At the time this was hailed as a medical breakthrough to "Save" women from the pain of childbirth. What these women and their husbands didn't know (since husbands were not allowed into the birth room) is that the side effects consisted of one to three days of confinement for the women afterward. While they were in this "healing" period (what was told to the husbands) women were often tied down to their gurney while the drugs wore off. The Doctors and Nurses would use sheepskin restraints so as to not leave any marks on the hands and feet of the women.  During this period of recovery, the women would often scream, writhe around, and be in pure hysterics since they were not in control of themselves. They were often kept in deplorable conditions as well. They would often be laying in their own soiled sheets for hours if not a day or two.  When the medication had left the system, the mothers often returned to their normal state with no memories of this hysterical sleep or of having had the baby.
Wikipedia "Twilight Sleep"  C-sections and Twilight Sleep  A history of Pail Relief  And article suggesting restriction of use

I first heard about Twilight Sleep when I watched "The Business of Being Born". I think the word SHOCK is putting it mildly. I could never imagine not remembering giving birth and that the idea of being tied down to a bed and left for days leaves me without words. This was deplorable to me and I am so grateful that it is no longer in practice.

This second Horror didn't affect the mothers as much as it affected the babies. The drug Thalidomide was used in the 40's and 50's to help combat morning sickness. Since it was given to the mothers when the baby is still considered an embryo and in it's crucial physical developmental months. It caused thousands of babies to be born with severe deformities in their limbs. Most were born without Arms and Legs.  The unfortunate fact is that this is the harsh truth of what can happen if Medications are not tested properly before being administered. In our ignorant haste of wanting an answer we made our children suffer with these deformities.
Sadly, Thalidomide is still being used is parts of the world. Babies are still being born without limbs and are even dying because of their deformities.  
Thalidomide Drug information    The Recent Cases

Also during this time, Doctors had taken to giving pregnant women routine Pelvic X-rays. To see whether or not they could birth the child they were carrying. This of course was giving the babies cancer. So they stopped doing that. Our poor children. It blows my mind, how much was done. When thanks to our lovely pelvic bones and uterus' our species has thrived despite medical advances.  There are some stock movie clips of pregnant mothers getting the x-ray done. I have searched online and cannot find anything so far.

I'm sure you are probably thinking by now that, well that was back before they did safe studies and they don't have problems like that anymore. I wish I could say that they stopped using medications that caused such tramatic effects on mother and child, but I can't.

The most recent medical mishap is the use of Misoprostol in labor. It was one of the many drugs given to a mother who was in labor or being induced. It was also being used on women who were trying to have a V-Bac (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean). What was happening is that it was causing hard contractions and in turn was causing Uterine Ruptures. This is every OB's worst nightmare and fear. A uterine rupture is just that, it means the uterus has split open. This makes an emergency c-section mandatory and unfortunately when they were using this drug, the mortality rate was sky high.   Wikipedia

You are probably hoping this was in the 80's and early 90's. This drug was introduced in 1999 and stopped use in 2000.

The last is probably the saddest for me and the most hidden. It is the High Infant and Mother mortality rate in the days after the mother is sent home from the hospital. It is swept under the rug and hidden by a simple flaw in our death certificates. They do not ask if the deceased was pregnant or had been pregnant at or around the time of death. Mothers are going home after having their babies and hemorrhaging to death within the first week of postpartum or from other complications.  While I was pregnant two mothers died in labor due to hemorrhage. Yet there is no mention if any by media or magazines about what happens to mothers when they come home from the hospital. Our country, for all it's vast medical machinery, has overlooked one very important detail and that is postpartum care. Being sent home and then not being see by a Doctor until 6 weeks after is a high risk. Other countries have nurses that visit the new mom weekly or daily if she had complications. Ours have none.  A wonderful author and activist in the home birthing movement wrote about it.  Masking Maternal Mortality

Childbirth is the one thing that is going to happen to every women at some point in her life. It can be a wonderful event and it can also be out of a horror movie. Like I said at the top I am grateful for all the advances in medical procedure. But the trouble is that it all came at a very great cost to some. One of my biggest things with Childbirthing today is that there is still a want to be saved from the pain. After everything that has gone wrong, we still want to be saved from having our own children.
Being in labor is the only time when you are being given drugs in doses that have not been really tested for long term effects on the infant. With most medication, your Doctor tells you what it is, what it does, and the side effects. As part of the millions of women who give birth in America, I didn't know what the side effects were of the medicines being given to me in childbirth. I learned about them afterward and I didn't need to go much further than Wikipedia to feel outraged. The doses given are safe for adults. These doses are so high that they flow through the placenta and into our baby. What effect is it having on them? Some have pointed to the ever mysterious Autism, others point to basic learning disabilities, and mental retardation. Most babies are fine, but others are not.

I don't want to end this on a preachy note. I just want to make anyone who reads this think. I hope you learned something and I will try to write something less morbid for my next one.

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