photo credit: Ángel Martín Mateo

The process of delivering a child in America has become horribly broken. The vast majority of women have, in recent decades, come to fear childbirth as a highly dangerous event requiring the guidance, supervision, and intervention of a doctor. These women give birth in a sterile environment (in more ways than one, though there are plenty of germs to go around), deferring all important decisions and diagnoses to their medical supervisor—after all, “doctor knows best”.

As a result of this trend, women have come to see medical interventions during the birth process as a given. They expect to be put on “pit”—short for pitocin, a drug to induce labor—and given an epidural—a routine (though still dangerous and complex) administration of anesthesia through the spine to relieve the mother-to-be of the pain associated with giving birth. The consequences of this trend are as alarming as they are unsurprising: 32.3% of women who give birth in America end up getting a cesarean section.

For various reasons, expectant mothers birthing in a hospital are either advised to go on pitocin, are given pitocin without their knowledge, or request it themselves. This drug both initiates and augments labor, often making contractions much harder than they normally would be if the body were left to its own devices and tempo. With the increased pain of more intense contractions, women are more likely to request an epidural (unless they were already expecting to get one, as most are) in order to alleviate the pain. The idea behind the placement of the epidural in the spine is to numb the entire lower half of the woman’s body, rendering her senseless in the areas involved in giving birth.

However, numbing this region of a birthing woman’s body is like putting a blindfold on a race car driver. As such, women who receive an epidural are less able to control their muscles and therefore further become dependent on the doctor’s intervention to help extract the baby. Numbing the womb in this way increases the likelihood of “failing to progress”, in which contractions can slow or become unproductive, dilation may stop, or the descent of the baby down the birth canal slows or altogether stops. This prompts the nurse to administer even more pitocin to further induce labor, and thus the intertwined intervention of both pitocin and epidural pain relief continue to compound upon one another.

Whatever the arguments for or against these medical interventions may be, it’s good business. Doctors are able to turn beds more quickly, thus increasing their profits and decreasing the amount of time they have to wait around for nature to take its course. But it’s bad for mothers, as evidenced by America now enjoying one of the highest cesarean rates in the developed world. Even though America spends more on maternity care than any other nation, there are 40 nations with lower maternal mortality rates than us. It’s safer to give birth in Kuwait than in California.

Keep in mind that a high chance of getting a cesarean section, or even death, is not the only downside and risk to these interventions. By administering this combination of drugs, the need for even further intervention is increased—forceps, vacuums, episiotomies, and the like. Essentially, using medicine and medical practices to alter the body’s natural processes (when not medically required) creates one problem after another, inviting more and more intervention as the doctor strives to remedy each new problem.

As I think over this sad state of affairs, I can’t help but make a comparison to our government. Consider how many interventions are made, by government, that are both unnecessary and improper. Whether it’s the subsidization of the sugar industry, the suppression of free speech through campaign finance laws, the denial of habeas corpus to suspicious men with brown skin, or any number of other issues (of which there are far too many), our government—like the doctor who claims to “know best”—is administering one intervention after another that compounds upon the previous to produce an outcome that is both alarming and often destructive.

Consider a common example: prayer in schools. Is it proper to have prayers at the opening of sports games, assemblies, classes, or other meetings inside of a government-run school? If so, how is the Buddhist boy going to feel when his classmates are all praying to their God, leaving him in the inferior minority? And if prayers are banned, one can only imagine the anger God-fearing Christian parents will unleash upon school administrators and local legislators, pointing their finger of scorn and warning of divine retribution for taking God out of the classroom!

But these questions all disappear if the interventions are avoided, just as our high cesarean and maternal mortality rates would drastically decline if women chose to avoid unnecessary interventions whenever possible—an effort that requires becoming educated and confident enough in one’s own abilities to resist the possible fear-mongering and pressuring from a doctor with a set agenda. Think of it: if people truly understood that government has no role in providing education to its citizens—if “public” schools were abolished, destroying the monopoly that prevents the proliferation of more private, co-op, and home schools—then we would have no need of answering this question of prayer in school. We wouldn’t need the further interventions that always follow—draconian school policies, litigation against the school district, new laws to try and regulate the issue at hand, and a frustrated and fractured group of parents who want the government to decide in their favor.

Anytime you see a setting in which one intervention is being caked on top of another, pause to analyze the underlying issue. Chances are, you’ll find an example of excessive government intervention trying to regulate, legislate, and tax in places it should not be.

Pitocin, epidurals, and extra-constitutional policies and programs are all dangerous to the health of each individual involved. Further, the introduction of one intervention begets opportunity for another, creating a cycle that is difficult to counteract. For the safety of all mothers, babies, and citizens of our country, it is imperative that we demand that both doctors and legislators alike be used only when absolutely necessary, and when confined to acting in a proper and safe way.


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