Archive for the ‘electronic fetal monitoring’ Category

Rethinking the nature of intervention in childbirth

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

There is much awareness and conversation of what the routine interventions are that can occur during the labor and birth process within the hospital environment.  These interventions can include induction, augmentation with Pitocin, epidural, or cesarean. In all my professional and personal roles, I am privy to a great amount of pregnancy and birth stories. Within these experiences there are many “silent” yet obvious interventions that are hidden in plain sight under the guise of protocol, practice and societal expectation.

My current list of hidden in plain sight interventions in no particular order that can make a difference on how a woman labors and ultimately delivers her baby is below.

  • The uniform -Asking and expecting the mother to give up her clothes for the hospital gown.
  • Who’s on first? – If care provider is part of a large practice or on-call group a woman may have never met or have any knowledge of the person who’s practice style and philosophy is helping to guide and steer her labor and delivery. On-call CP may or may not adhere to the birth plan the laboring woman worked out with her own CP.
  • On a short leash – Continuous monitoring even if she is not high risk, medicated, or being induced/augmented.
  • The big drag around – Requiring IV running with absence of medical need.
  • Staying put – Asking or requiring the laboring woman to stay in bed for ease of staff without medical need.
  • Ice chips and Jello – Disallowing snacks and sometimes even actual water even though labor is hard work.
  • The marketing tool – Disallowing the laboring woman to get into the touted tubs or showers since it isn’t convenient for staff and she will not want to get out.
  • One is enough – Limiting the amount or type of support persons a woman is allowed to have with her.
  • I know more than you – Treating the laboring woman as if she knows nothing or shouldn’t know anything.
  • If you don’t… – Instead of giving informed consent and refusal, telling only what bad could, maybe happen.
  • Attitude and atmosphere – Negative, non-listening, lacking compassion, leaving the door open, ignoring requests, and the like when a woman is laboring.
  • Only if you ask – Though some wonderful practices are in place, they are only offered if a laboring woman or postpartum mother ask/insist on it.
  • Bait and switch – The official tour of labor and delivery and the reality of labor and delivery don’t fit together.
  • New with bells and whistles – The pretty with all the fancy bells and whistles like wi-fi, flat screen tv’s, etc. have to be paid for somehow. Because of this investigate the intervention rates there.
  • Routine vaginal exams – By and large VE’s are very subjective and can vary greatly between one person to the next on how they score a VE. This variation can deeply affect the course of a woman’s labor and delivery.  Women birthing in the hospital really only “need” a VE upon entrance for assessment of where she is in labor, if she desires an epidural/IV narcotics, if she is having a very prolonged labor, or if she feels pushy.
  • Pushing the epidural – When a woman is moving, moaning, making noise or just doing her thing in labor and it causes the staff discomfort or worry.  It could even be that anesthesiologist is going in to surgery and it can only happen now.

Simply because a societal norm is birthing at the hospital, as well as, what routinely goes on there, doesn’t mean the hidden in plain sight interventions are wise or harmless.

My goal here is to give pause and broader thinking to what intervention means for labor and delivery as another tool in planning and preparing for childbirth with eyes wide open.

ACOG refines guidelines for fetal monitoring in labor

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

ACOG recently updated guidelines for fetal monitoring in labor.  They call it a refinement.  Very interesting.

Directly from the press release “Since 1980, the use of EFM has grown dramatically, from being used on 45% of pregnant women in labor to 85% in 2002,” says George A. Macones, MD, who headed the development of the ACOG document. “Although EFM is the most common obstetric procedure today, unfortunately it hasn’t reduced perinatal mortality or the risk of cerebral palsy. In fact, the rate of cerebral palsy has essentially remained the same since World War II despite fetal monitoring and all of our advancements in treatments and interventions.” That is an increase in use by 89% with what benefit to mothers and babies? More cesarean?  More interventions and managed labors? Perinatal mortality hasn’t decreased.  Shocking really.   So for the needs and most likely benefit of the truly high-risk moms and babies all women have been subjected to more and more electronic monitoring in labor resulting in more morbidity for mothers and babies.

Apparently a big issue is that there are huge discrepancies in interpretation when assessing the FHT strips by physicians. There was a group of 4 physicians who initially assessed 50 FHT tracings and only agreed 22% of the time. Then two months later the same 4 physicians were asked to re-assess the same 50 tracings and their own evaluations varied nearly 1 in 5.   I have heard this over and over anecdotally from labor and delivery nurses through the years.  That no one can agree.  That the variance is so great.  Better to treat just in case whether by interventions or a cesarean.  I have been told that even a 40 hour course on FHT assessment leaves one without any clear advancement of skill or knowledge. The training actually left one individual less inclined to trust assessment.  So how does this comfort the expecting woman? Knowing that the machine that rules so much of labor and delivery in combination with the human element is so fallible.  Now that is non-reassuring in real life application.

So what can be done?  Unless there is a real high-risk situation that needs to be addressed, ask for intermittent auscultation with a handheld doppler or even better with a fetascope.  When a nurse, midwife or doctor actually listens personally to a baby with a fetascope there is no machine interpreting sound. It is with their own ear and skill assessing your baby.

The other thing to remember is keeping away from routine use of  induction, narcotic use, and epidural use in labor can greatly improve the opportunity to remain low-risk and healthy.  Thus not requiring continuous fetal monitoring.

I only touched on a few aspects of the new guidelines.  For a more complete breakdown of the refined guidelines, the NY Times did a nice piece.