COVID-19 is holding expectant mothers hostage in a maze of red tape dictated by hospitals and state regulations. What do I mean by that? In order to contain the spread of the virus, the health of mothers and their babies is taking a backseat to testing and CDC reports.
Everyone is already jumping through hoops trying to return to daily life and remain safe. Social distancing is now a staple and masks have become the norm. Health seems to be on everyone’s mind.
At thirty-nine weeks pregnant, I’ve been dealt the third brutal round of medical bullying I’ve experienced thus far during this pregnancy. Now, I expected some relative strangeness as a side effect of giving birth during a pandemic. What I didn’t expect was my overall health to be shoved aside and scoffed at because of a test result that yields questionable reliability, at best.
And with the end of my pregnancy quickly approaching, what I’m “allowed” to do with my own body hangs in the balance between my own iron will and the strong arm of the hospital authority. At my thirty-seven week appointment, it was thrust upon me that the hospital was “pushing for the inductions” of all mothers at thirty-nine weeks.
As it was explained to me, this had nothing to do with medical necessity but everything to do with obtaining a current COVID test the week before. That’s great due diligence, right?
Let us consider that the evidence behind voluntary labor induction is mixed and plagued with messy variables. Most labor & delivery professionals will report that unnecessary induction often leads to a cascade of other unnecessary medical interventions including cesarean. That’s major surgery. That’s a surgery that can contribute to negative outcomes, including death.
So, let’s recap. Hospitals are introducing the risk of a myriad of birth complications, including fatality in order to subdue the widespread panic associated with a virus that may or may not interfere with birth. Of course, I thought the push from my doctor to be absurd and I’ve pushed back the entire way.
My physician has threatened that I will not have my husband in the room. There’s a mandate from the anesthesia department that if I do not have a current COVID test I cannot have an epidural (COVID tests are only good for one week and my doctor made sure to threaten the possibility that a rapid test might not be available if I do not give in and schedule). But the risk? Well, studies actually suggest that early epidural placement is optimal for COVID positive patients.
In my thirty-nine week appointment, my trusty physician told me that a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) was not recommended after week forty. For many women that would be enough to make them cave. I, however, have already given birth at forty-one weeks. That’s right, I’ve already had a successful VBAC after an unsuccessful induction that resulted in the cesarean of my first pregnancy.
The only thing that is explicitly warned against when considering VBAC after forty weeks is the risk of uterine rupture associated with…you guessed it…INDUCTION! In short, my doctor that is generally a source of trust and knowledge actually used false recommendations to scare me into falling in line. This comes after I was forced to see another doctor at my thirty-eight week appointment who agreed with my hesitation.
What’s that say about the use of policy to control childbirth? Apparently, it’s not a unanimous opinion. That gives me some hope for women giving birth during this strange time. At least some doctors still care about the patients they serve.
Hospitals are supposed to feel safe. However, with the administrations only looking at numbers and statistics, they are adding another way the medical system falls short in the care of women. Maternal mortality rates in the United States are startling as is. With COVID giving the system free rein to push policy and bend the will of women, the figures will only worsen.
Hopefully, this glimpse into the environment of obstetrics care sheds some light on the challenges mothers are facing in addition to the daunting task of bringing life into the world. The support wasn’t there to begin with. Now, it’s being willfully tossed aside.