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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1976
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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1976 - Page 10. May 1976. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. September 25, 2021. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/2571/show/2564.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(May 1976). Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1976 - Page 10. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/2571/show/2564

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1976 - Page 10, May 1976, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed September 25, 2021, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/2571/show/2564.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 5, May 1976
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date May 1976
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Title Page 10
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Transcript Ethics of male-practices explored It does not matter if a wo - man dies in childbirth, she has fulfilled what she has herself been born to." Martin Luther *'Our rapid advances m science and technology have men living in space, yet women still suffer in childbirth, the most common, everyday occurrence." I.C.E.A. (International Childbirth Education Association) Modern medical practice is an example of the "male ethic" which dominates our culture, whereas midwives practiced the "female ethic" which dominated pre-technological civilizations. The male ethic favors manipulation of nature while the female ethic is based on cooperation with nature. American obstetrical practices are clearly designed by and for male doctors to manipulate and work against nature. Every two minutes a child is born in the U.S. with a birth "defect." Many of these defects are not hereditary, but are due to medical interference with the natural process of birth. The U.S. ranks 23rd among developed nations in the rate of infant deaths due to respiratory distress and asphyxiation, the major causes of brain damage at birth. But oxygen stress does not always kill infants. One out of twenty Americans lives with brain damage. Some scientists state that 50 percent of Americans sustain subclinical, undetected 'minimal brain damage' at birth which manifests itself in learning difficulties, emotional impairment and violent, non-rational behavior. We now have 6 million retarded people in the U.S. with a predicted annual increase of 100,000 a year. Recent research makes it evident that obstetrical manipulation is a major cause. When women receive no prenatal care at all from physicians and deliver their babies with midwives, infant deaths decrease significantly: after a 2-year nurse midwifery program in California, when midwives turned over their obstetrical duties to physicians the rate of infant deaths doubled. More important than the effect of the hospital birth system on infants is the suffering it causes the 4 million women who have babies each year. In Lamaze Natural Childbirth class, we're told that fear in childbirth is fear of the unknown, born of ignorance. But before I had my first baby I wasn't afraid at all. Now I'm petrified to repeat the experience. I'm convinced that the statistical odds have to be against me next time-that no one person can escape that many premeditated bungles twice. In virtually all countries except the U.S., the woman remains vertical during labor, walking about and continuing her activities until the membranes have ruptured. In U.S. hospital labor rooms, she is made to lie down even though this retards the movement of the fetus down the birth canal. Confinement to bed means she will labor several times longer, and it increases her attention to pain and the need for pain-killers. Even 50 mg. of Demerol will cause deviations in normal newborn behavior 4 weeks after birth. The doctor forfeits his delivery fee if he is not present at the birth, and the staff make every effort to prevent the baby from emerging until he arrives, or at least until the mother can be moved from labor room to delivery room. During this interim she is told to breathe rapidly and shallowly to prevent herself from pushing down normally with contractions. Attendants may administer an unrequested spinal anesthetic which prevents her from pushing down, since it renders her uterine muscles flaccid. These physical restraints increase her pain and the risk of infant oxygen stress. As contractions come closer together and the cervix is dilated, she is ready for delivery. "The doctor usually shoves his fists up her vagina during a contraction, an act which is calculated to intensify pain and increase humiliation. Doctors defend this with the argument that the only time the extent of dilation can be determined is during a contraction-but this is being determined for the doctor's convenience." Kathleen Barry SCIENCE MAKES US SICK_ QUESTION: Why is birth more painful for American women than it is for Dutch women? ANSWER: It isn't. Yet pain- killing analgesics and anesthetics are used in 82 percent of U.S. births while in the Netherlands they are almost never used. The U.S. infant mortality rate is correspondingly high-22 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to Netherlands' 13 per 1,000 births. Neither is there reason to believe that 30 percent more American fetuses need their lives saved than British fetuses. Yet forceps are used to extract them in 35 percent of U.S. births, and only 5 percent of British births. Forceps save many infant lives, but their necessary use is far outweighed by their unnecessary uses. In addition to fetal brain damage, forceps directly cause such injuries as broken clavicles, torn brachial nerve plexus, and amputated ears, not to mention injury to the mother's birth canal. Since general anesthesia often makes a woman vomit and inhalation of gastric fluid can be dangerous, most doctors tell women not to eat or drink once labor has started. This may mean many hours without nourishment when maximum energy is needed (the only instance in our culture in which people who work hard are instructed not to eat). When spinal anesthetics are given, the woman's participation in the birth is stopped. An anesthetized uterus is an organ that has been rendered ineffective and useless. Contractions are prevented, forceps deliveries made necessary, and even the placenta may have to be delivered manually. The incidence of breech births is increased, as %is the danger of placental fragments remaining behind, causing maternal hemorrhaging. The danger of injecting anesthetic into the cerebrospinal fluid instead of into the epidural fat of the spinal canal is great. In fact, this happens more often than not, judging from the widely reported "eight day migraine" and from how often mothers are told to remain horizontal after birth to prevent the anesthetic from traveling up the spinal cord. Anesthetics often make it necessary to catheterize her after birth. She is not able to urinate because the anesthetic has deprived her of muscular control of her bladder, yet she must urinate to evacuate the harmful anesthetic. Catheterization is painful, and it risks urethral infection. Since the growth of medical science, drugs rather than emotional support are used to relieve the mother's discomfort. Birth is painful. But the pain is shortlived and not always alleviated by anesthetics: Jhe caudal is given too early, often before the woman knows whether she will have enough pain to warrant it, and the saddle block is given just prior to birth, when she has already been through most of her pain. These are used in the majority of U.S. births regardless of individual needs. Since regional anesthetics prevent feedback from the contracting uterus to the central nervous system, the woman's control of her own pushing is prevented. Explosive births and perineal tearing are often the result of this chemical interference with her vaginal opening being too small, and so episiotomy is done. When anesthetics are used, labor-inducing drugs must often be given to stimulate contractions. Since these increase the likelihood of fetal oxygen deprivation and the need for infant resuscitation, the mother must give birth in a delivery room equipped with life support systems. Anesthetics means she has to give birth lying on her back since she is not in control of her legs, and the umbilical cord will have to be clamped immediately to shorten the infant's accumulation of anesthetic from the mother's blood str Early clamping denies the infant up to a fourth of the blood due it from the placenta. All obstetrical medications, nausea remedies, diuretics, sedatives, muscle relaxants, analgesics, regional anesthesia and general anesthetics compromise the fetus. It is almost unknown for a woman to be told that if she has been given medication and prolapse of the umbilical cord or premature separation of the placenta occur, the fetus will be in danger. Or that all of these medications rapidly cross the placenta: when a baby is sedated at birth, its respiratory center is depressed. A delay in spontaneous breathing can deprive oxygen to brain cells, causing death of those cells. The best course for a woman who expects a painful delivery is to refuse all medications except the paracervical block (local novocaine) to anesthetize the cervix and perineum only although the New England Journal of Medicine recently reported some fetal deaths from paracervical block as well. SHAVING THE BIRTH AREA "Research involving 7,600 mothers has demonstrated that the practice of shaving the perineum and pubis does not reduce the incidence of infection. In fact, the incidence of infection was slightly higher among those mothers who were shaved," states Doris Haire of the International Childbirth Education Association. Perhaps the sexist practice of shaving the pudendal area derives from the sexist name female genitals are given by male doctors. Dorlands 1973 Medical Dictionary defines "pudendum" as "that of which one ought to be ashamed: the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora and the vestibule of the vagina." UNNECESSARY SURGERY Women deliver babies quite well without a doctor's help, and the first obstetricians felt useless standing by. Probably the habit of doing episiotomy (incision of the vaginal opening to make it larger) developed because it gave the doctor something to do. If episiotomy were really done of necessity, then we would have to conclude that American women have smaller vaginal openings than British women. 68 percent of U.S. births are preceeded by episiotomy, while 16 percent of British births are. There are no research studies showing that episiotomy prevents tearing or reduces neurological impairment of the baby. With episiotomy, the perineal muscle is severed crosswise, usually an unacceptable surgical procedure. "Interviews with obstetrician-gynecologists in many countries indicate that they agree that a superficial, first degree birth tear is less traumatic to the tissues than an incision which requires several sutures for reconstruction," states Haire. Incision can weaken this muscle for the lifetime of the mother unless exercises are done, but obstetricians are seldom known to advise these. For many women, episiotomy means getting painful cauterizations of blood clots which may form during healing. For most, episiotomy means the baby will spend the first week of its life on a diet of milk and Demerol. Pain-killers taken for relief of episiotomy pain get into breast milk. Unfortunately, most physicians cut the mother open instead of allowing her into a vertical position which would reduce tension on the pelvic floor, elasticize the perineum by keeping it bathed in blood, and lessen the need for episiotomy. INFANT MORTALITY The only good reason for giving birth in a hospital is because life- support systems are available there. But while hospital equipment saves many mothers' and infants' lives each year, many of the disasters they are saved from are hospital- produced. In 1935,65 percent of American babies were delivered by their mothers at home without fasting, forceps, straps, leg braces, episiotomy, oxytocin, artificial membrane rupturing, anesthetic, analgesic, catheterization or DES. In 1974, only 5 percent of American babies were born that way. In the Netherlands, 27 percent of the babies are hospital- delivered. The Netherlands' neonatal morality rate is 1,150 deaths per 100,000 live births. That 4 million women a year are made to give birth in a position that intensifies pain, for their doctor's physical comfort at the delivery, and pay for the privilege, demonstrates the bowing down of women to the male medical mystique. The science of obstetrics today is the science of withholding information from women about the disadvantages of obstetrical medication. In obstetrics, as in all areas of life, men seek to dominate and compromise women. That women pay men to do this testifies to the completion of their subjection. MARILYN IVORY Special thanks to Doris Haire, whose research and ideas as reported in the Journal of Environmental Child Health, June 1973, are incorporated into this article. 10