Post contributed by Jeanne Faulkner, author of Common Sense Pregnancy.
As a registered nurse and writer focused on global women’s and maternal health, certain aspects of The Baby Box really touch my heart. I love that the product grew out of a European practice of outfitting new mothers with essentials to give all newborns a good start – a bed, some clothes and some solid support for that baby’s mama. It reflects much of what’s right about the way countries like Finland, Norway and England provide maternal support and health care. The Baby Box says, “Here Mama, we’ll help you start out on the right foot.” It’s no coincidence that these countries rank highest in the world for maternal health outcomes.
In contrast, the U.S. pales in its lack of support for mothers. Sure, some can afford for their newborn to have the best start in life, with good prenatal care, a healthy birth, the right newborn equipment. For many, however, those are luxuries. They can’t afford health insurance and three meals a day, much less a lovely layette and decked-out nursery. That’s partly why the U.S. comes in 61st in the world in terms of overall maternal health outcomes. Americans support the theory of motherhood, but when it comes to real women, real choices and real support, we don’t put our money where our mother’s mouths are.
Take, for instance, the differences between how the U.S. structures prenatal care compared to how the top ranking countries for maternal health structure it. Here, about 94% of women, whether they’re healthy or not, see obstetricians for all their maternal health needs. In countries with the best maternal health outcomes, most women see midwives. If there’s a problem or a complicated health history, then women see obstetricians.
Midwives are educated, trained experts in the normal, healthy physiology of pregnancy. They recognize when to consult a specialist (AKA obstetrician) and when to provide personalized midwifery support. Obstetricians are educated, trained surgical experts in complicated pregnancy and women’s health. It’s their job to watch out for complications and increased risks and thank God they do because when problems arise, that’s who you want taking care of you. But is it appropriate for your healthcare to focus on complications, even if you’re healthy? That’s how American maternal healthcare is focused now. It’s risk and fear-based with nowhere near enough focus on what’s normal and healthy. We know 15% of pregnancies contain some level of complication, but that means 85% are entirely normal.
I wrote my new book, Common Sense Pregnancy (Ten Speed Press, 6/2015) in hopes that more mothers will focus on the 85% chance pregnancies will be healthy instead of the 15% chance they might have a complication. I want readers to educate themselves well enough to participate in informed consent, with enough information to choose the most appropriate healthcare providers and birth settings, which tests and interventions to consent to and which to decline. I want readers to understand how to take charge of their health and support their pregnancies to be the healthiest possible.
Common Sense Pregnancy is neither all-natural nor all-medical. It’s not anti-obstetrician, anti-C-section or anti-epidural. It’s a comprehensive guide to the personal, medical, cultural, and insider’s information needed to fully partner in your own maternal healthcare. It’s personal, from my perspective as a mother, labor and delivery nurse and global maternal health advocate. It’s funny, because, let’s be honest, pregnancy and parenting can be a hoot. Most of all, it’s honest and reassuring because I believe when parents have all the information, they make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Enjoy the read.