Friday, October 5, 2007

Two hours of prenatal care?

A while ago I got Lamaze's email newsletter regarding "Research Summaries for Normal Birth." One summary is of a study regarding group prenatal care. In the summary, it states in passing, "In the settings where the trial took place, traditional prenatal visits lasted about 10-15 minutes each for a total of 2 hours of prenatal care over the course of a woman's pregnancy. The group care model, on the other hand, yielded about 20 hours of prenatal care over the course of the pregnancy."

Wow! Two *whole* hours of prenatal care during a woman's pregnancy? I'm so impressed! And, I daresay that this is likely a generous estimate. I know very few women who actually see their OB for a whole 15 minutes during a prenatal visit. Anyway, this quote made me realize how truly absurd it is when people say to unassisted birthers--"But what about prenatal care?!" like you are totally endangering the life of your baby without it or as if you could not possibly manage to get through pregnancy without it. I know there has been some research studies indicating better outcomes for women who have prenatal care, but I seriously question whether or not 2 hours out of 40 weeks can actually matter very much in the scope of things. That is pathetic! I forgot who said or where I read that prenatal care is what happens between prenatal visits--prenatal care is what a woman does throughout her pregnancy, not a 10 minute visit and fundal height measurement (was it you who told me that, Shauna, or did I read it in a Midwifery Today or in Laura Shanley's book or somewhere else...)

So, that is the UC perspective in me--how could 2 hours really make any kind of difference and that question people ask about prenatal care is such a twisted joke really. The midwifery perspective in me says, don't we value women and babies enough to spend more than 2 hours out of 40 weeks with them? Don't we value them enough to spend even more than the 20 hours referenced above out of 40 weeks one-on-one with them? Women deserve more than two hours of targeted attention during their pregnancies! (Not to "save" their babies, but to show them how important and how valued they are!)

The aspect of midwifery care that I most valued from my midwife was the time she spent with me--that is what I wanted from her, not fundal height or heart tones or blood pressure (I can do all of those things myself, big deal. But someone to listen to me and to care about my pregnancy and to care about my thoughts and views about birth? That was priceless to me!) I estimate that she spent probably 30+ hours with me during my pregnancy. Then, 5 minutes during the birth. What actually mattered in my life? Those 30 hours, not those 5 minutes (I could have done that myself too, just like I can find and listen to my own baby's heartbeat.) Also, she spent probably 12 hours postpartum with me. That was also of great personal value to me. What OB spends 12 hours--or really ANY TIME AT ALL--with women postpartum? (other than maybe spending some time on stitching, but that is a whole other rant...)

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