Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Doctor's Orders?

As a pregnant woman, or mom, do you follow doctor's orders?

This question came up recently when a friend of mine innocently asked if she could have a ham sandwich (she is 14 weeks pregnant). She got over 30 responses. A lot of people told her to eat the sandwich. A few, like me, told her to proceed with caution. One response was "when I was pregnant I asked my midwife about eating deli meats and soft cheese and she asked me if I ever had listeria and I said no and she said well, you probably won't get it now." Interesting.

For me, it's weighing the risk. I recently heard from an old high school friend who told me another classmate of ours lost her baby at 28 weeks from listeria. She had gone to a luncheon, ate two sandwiches with cold cuts. That was it. 24 hours later, she was having contractions, bleeding uncontrollably and there was no heartbeat when she got to the hospital. It's a very hard thing to think about for me. So, I probably would pass on the ham sandwich, but if I was really craving it, what's so wrong about heating it up?

I think the midwife's response to the person above was irresponsible knowing what we know about the effects of listeria on unborn babies. Yeah, I've never had cancer before either, does that mean I probably won't get it now that I'm in my 30's? Perhaps she should have given medically proven advice. I realize that women have been eating cold cuts for years while pregnant and been just fine. My own mother would eat a BMT sub from Subway once a week while pregnant with my brother Ben. And yes, the risk of listeria is small, but do you really want to risk being one of the few who gets it? After all, your midwife isn't responsible if you take her throw caution to the wind attitude and you lose your baby. You put the tainted food in your mouth. Again, what's wrong with throwing it in the microwave?

I see this more and more these days. Led by Jenny McCarthy's war-cry of "I don't need science. My son is my science," people are more willing to put their faith in the anecdotal evidence of their friends than in medical knowledge. I've heard it in relation to the back to sleep campaign for babies, sunscreen wearing for prevention of skin cancer, immunizations effects on autism (please do not post comments on that, I hear/read enough about it with an autistic child), vbac births, and breastfeeding. There are a lot of "doctors don't know what they are talking about" talk going around on the internet, on the television and yes, as in this case, on facebook.

Do I take my doctor's advice? Mostly, yes, but there are times when I stray. For example, the doctor was worried about my son Joseph's iron levels and prescribed a supplement when he was nine months old. I detest vitamins. My iron levels were excellent in all my pregnancies and post-partum because I ate iron rich foods and lots of them. It was hard because I have a blood clotting disorder that prevents me from eating leafy greens, so I piled on the well-done red meat. I decided, with Joey, to increase his iron-rich foods and it worked. No supplement needed. I got the result the doctor was hoping for just not in the way she recommended. And, when I confessed to the doctor, she was thrilled because iron (as are other minerals and vitamins) is best absorbed by the body when it is consumed via food. Our body processes things like beta-carotene in a different way when we get it from a carrot vs a pill. And it processes more.

Everything is a calculated risk. If you choose not to immunize your child, you risk their exposure to things like measles, mumps, rubella and rubeloa (among others) that have the potential to severly handicap or kill your child. If you choose to have a vbac, you risk tearing at the scar, uterine rupture and possibly death. These are things that vary from person to person. Michelle Duggar has given birth 19 times, at least three by c-section, and several vbacs. Does that mean every and all women should do that? Absolutely not, for any number of reasons. I don't disagree with Michelle's choices, they were and are right for her and she seems to me to be an intelligent person who understands the risks involved. She is not adverse to changing the game plan if need be. But some women, like Michelle, might be good candidates for vbacs and multiple ones and multiple births. Others, like me, should never be considered a vbac candidate. I was given a choice with Joseph, I chose conservatively and he was a repeat c-section. As it turned out, my uterus was so thin at the incision, the doctor thought she might have been able to use a gloved finger to open it. My chances for rupture had been greater than 95%. I weighed the risks and I knew we wanted more children and I couldn't risk losing this baby to fulfill a "rite of passage" of natural childbirth.

I can't profess to say that people should or should not follow doctor's orders but here are some things I have decided for myself:
1) I rarely, if ever, ask friends for medical advice. Unless they are medical professionals who have studied the subject in question they are unqualified to give me anything more than anecdotal evidence which likely could mean nothing.
2) I do not google diseases or symptoms. There is too much personal information on the web that could be mistaken for science.
3) I do rely on intuition but not readily if it blatantly flies in the face of science.
4) I pray on decisions. Especially those made that are medical in nature.

Maybe I'm too far out there from the mainstream on all of this, but I'm the type of person who likes when common sense prevails over common conceptions.


Ambrose said...

know, it's a funny sequence.
Science helped our lose their faith in religion. No, I don't blame science (I am an engineer), but as you know, manay people see science and relgion as an either or situation
Now people are losing their faith in science. Seems we are replacing it with myth again.

Kristen said...

I agree. I think the two can and do work in tandem quite often. It is my faith in God and His plan that leads me to pray over new treatments for Shelby or any medical undertaking I may have to undergo. I pray that God leads me in the direction that is right. Usually, that leads to proven scientific facts.

I think people began to believe science was not just telling them how but why in many cases. Some are now realizing the error in that and are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

To use the vbac analogy again, for years women were told once a c-section always a c-section. Then, when it was discovered that different methods of c-sections could allow vaginal births, people started to doubt that there might be cases where a repeat c-section might be the better option of the two. And that has now morphed into a surprisingly common belief that all c-sections are unnecessary and that medical professionals (doctors or midwives) are unnecessary as well because birth is a natural process. Yes, birth is a natural process, so is death and sometimes without proper medical care and/or interventions the two are combined.

Unfortunately, people who are realizing that science doesn't answer the why, are not seeking God and instead turning back to myths. Somedays I expect to see temples being built to Zeus and Athena again.

Kristen said...
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