Dating Scans: A comfort or crime?

Over this year I am doulaing for 4 women who are enjoying their first pregnancies, and all planning to give birth at home.  Each one of them was very sure of her dates when she had her last period and some were sure of ovulation.  All of these 4 women were told at dating scans around 12 weeks gestation that the scans were more accurate than their own dates that they had charted.  Each one of these women have been given a date of 40 weeks which is actually around 39 weeks or 38 weeks of pregnancy.

I was quite shocked by this so decided to throw the question out to the homebirth group that I facilitate.  The response was quick – 2 women emailed me to say their recorded due dates were a week earlier than their own calculations and several other women shared their unhappiness at dates not corresponding to their own knowledge.  I asked all the women expecting a subsequent baby that I was doulaing for and many of those were given expected due dates earlier than expected.

Now we only have to go over the see to France, a neighboring Country, to find a system of determining gestation of pregnancy between 41 and 43 weeks.  At least that gives some leeway if a dating scan is so far from the reality.

http://www.frenchmamma.com/2011/07/how-to-calculate-your-pregnancy-due-date-in-france/

This has led to much reflection. ……

Firstly, I ask: What is happening here?

Women who are aware of their own bodies, who chart their cycles, are being undermined.  Instinct and intuition is being written off at the start of pregnancy.  Women are being taught that the healthcare provider knows best.

Women with healthy pregnancies and beautifully nurtured growing babies are being told their babies are at risk, due to postdates, with a higher chance of stillbirth.  Induction is offered between 41 and 42 weeks, a membrane sweep is offered at 40 weeks.  Often a pregnancy based on the woman’s own cycle is not even at the 40 week mark.  This is a human rights issue.

Women planning to have their babies out of hospital, at home or at a birth centre (for the lucky few who live near a birth centre that is not closing down) are being told this choice is not allowed, and are often told their babies will die.  Women having planned home births and aware of the risks associated with birth in a hospital are going into hospitals reluctantly, consumed with stress, and often surrender to the procedures they had planned to avoid by planning home births or births at MLU (midwife led units).  This is a feminist issue.

There are many worthy articles about the risks of induction, see The Thinking Midwife

http://midwifethinking.com/2010/09/16/induction-of-labour-balancing-risks/

Or look at the AIMS booklet:

http://www.aims.org.uk/pubs3.htm

My other question is what does this do for the self-esteem of women and the future of birth?

Women are being brainwashed into the lie that their bodies do not spontaneously go into labour.  Natural birth then becomes a myth under this belief.

‘’Considering that induction of labor brings with it some important risk factors, perhaps induction isn’t quite so seductive after all. Five of the documented risks include:

1)    abnormal fetal heart rate[1]

2)    baby being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)[2]

3)    use of forceps or vacuum extraction[3]

4)    prematurity, jaundice and breastfeeding difficulties[4]

5)    cesarean[1] [5],[6],[7]’’ ( http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/?tag=risks-of-induction)

Breastfeeding has become harder as a result, with infants struggling to latch on after drugs have crossed the placenta. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595228/)

Women are starting their journeys as mothers DONE IN!  Exhausted, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What can we do about this?

Women need support to access more knowledge in their first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

By this statement, I guess I am raising awareness of our cultural tendency to keep the pregnancy quiet in case of miscarriage.  As a woman who has birthed a baby not ready for this world, at 12.5 weeks, I can say that support at this time is crucial.  So women need to connect with other women, we need strength in our voices and strength at times of sadness and challenge.  I see this happening all around me with Red Tent movements happening across the UK.  In particular, around Yorkshire from where I am writing.  CONNECT, CONGREGATE and CARE.  Share stories of your monthly cycles, dreams and build that strength that we are capable of giving as womyn.

Consider whether you want to have a dating scan?  If you know your cycle, stay with it.  Trust that age-old wisdom that has been the voice of reason through a million years of mammalian birth.  Get the information regarding the safety of ultrasounds.

Ask yourself what an ultrasound will give you.

Yes, you will get a picture of your baby, but does this scan at this moment tell you what will be happening tomorrow?

Does this scan tell you on what day your baby will feel ready to embark on their journey into the world?

Will this scan give you confidence in your knowledge you have been handed by your ancestors?

Come on women, stand up and use that voice from within with confidence and strength.

 

References

[1] http://www.ajog.org/article/0002-9378(95)91415-3/abstract

 

[2]http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/2000/08000/Forty_Weeks_and_Beyond__Pregnancy_Outcomes_by_Week.26.aspx

[3] http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/153/2/103.full

[4] http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/vaginalbirth_inducing.html

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20027037

[6] http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000215/tips/39.html

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10511367

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