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DT: come reap

High-Tech Births

Posted on 2003.08.12 at 08:25
How I feel about it all: irritatedirritated
Soundtrack: Eeebil pledge drive on WBUR
From Reuters:

Defense Software Could Make Births Safer -Report


LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists have incorporated defense software used to pick up targets on military radar into a new painless technique that detects problems during labor and could lead to safer births.
The electrocardiogram (ECG) trace developed by the defense research company QinetiQ can record an electrical signal from the heart and indicates if the baby is not getting enough oxygen or has an irregular heartbeat, a science magazine reported.
It can also detect the strength of the mother's contractions, which shows how the labor is progressing.
"The non-invasive system records signals from 12 electrodes on the mother's abdomen, separating out useful components from background noise from muscles other than the heart or interference from electrical equipment," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
Doctors at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in southwestern England who are testing the device believe it will help to detect early problems during the delivery and help to rule out unnecessary Caesarean deliveries.
A technique called cardiotocography (CTG) is already used during labor but it is not as accurate as the ECG.
"The researchers also found they could measure the mother's contractions directly, using the electrical signals from the muscles," the magazine added.

© Copyright 2003, Reuters

Um. I think this could be useful in very, very high risk birth situations. In normal, low risk situations, however, it's just another way of making chilbirth into an illness, of stealing power from women AGAIN. How much do you want to bet that millions of women will insist on it without question?


let's get the seven lines.
bookshop at 2003-12-08 06:06 (UTC) ()
Hmmm. It seems to me that (as freaky as it is that this is defense weapon technology they're incorporating), nothing is being done to affect the birth process itself in normal situations--it seems like a more advanced variation on the standard monitoring systems they already have in place. I'm not really sure I'm seeing where the empowerment factor is involved.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2003-12-08 06:36 (UTC) ()
When fetal monitors are used, the woman has to stay in bed, usually on her back. This leads to less control over labour (walking, moving around in labour makes it easier for the mom to work with her contractions in whatever way that works best for her. The labours often are shorter and less uncomfortable). Also , a machine that picks up the tiniest traces of irregularity is more likely to prompt unnecessary intervention. Once the Hospital Technology Machine starts grinding its wheels, it doesn't go backwards. They want to protect their arses, so the go the most "cautious" route, which leads to some big messes.

let's get the seven lines.
bookshop at 2003-12-08 06:40 (UTC) ()
erk. really. this is not a surprise to me, really--but still, argh, as if i needed something else to be paranoid about! o.O
the day you left was just my beginning
patchfire at 2003-12-08 06:50 (UTC) ()
No, we're not tag-teaming you, dear. *g*

The problem lies in exactly what you said - it's an advanced variation on the standard monitoring systems. The guy who invented the EFM (Electric Fetal Monitor) that's currently used has said, publicly and frequently, that it's being misused. He designed it for high-risk situations, and then it was applied to all. Beyond that, interpreting the readouts has more to do with what mood a doctor's in than any real science. There was a study done where they took various printouts to a number of doctors and asked them to interpret if the fetus was in distress or not. Very rarely was there anything approaching a concensus. After six months, the same doctors were given the same printouts, and asked to interpret them again. In most cases, they didn't agree with themselves from six months prior.

The real problem lies in that doctors only view birth as 'normal' in retrospect, if nothing goes wrong, when in fact, many problems in birth are often iatrogenic. (Monitoring requires you to lie down on your back, breaking the waters with an amniohook can increase the chance of infection, GBS transmission, cord prolapse, and it goes on.) Whatever else you want to say about women, our bodies were designed to give birth. There were no caesareans, so if you couldn't give birth, you more than likely died.

Oh, and for the record, they 'monitored' me in labour with a handheld Doppler, for the most part. The component of the EFM that monitors contraction strength really isn't needed, and the intermittent monitoring has been shown to be just as effective in capturing true fetal distress. Not to mention a little transceiver is a lot more comfortable than a huge-ass belt. (Another sign that these things were designed by men. What pregnant woman wants to put not one but TWO wide belts on her stomach??) Still, I wanted to kick the nurse's arse whenever she was hovering and wanting to monitor - I had work to do, after all. ;-)
let's get the seven lines.
bookshop at 2003-12-08 07:09 (UTC) ()
I am one big world of o.O.

So when you were in labor were you able to have the freedom you wanted to move around and be as comfortable as you wished? What kinds of restrictions did they put on you? If it were up to me I think I would probably want as little work to do as possible during delivery, lol--but then my maternal instincts are also about as strong as a fruitcake's.
dejaspirit at 2003-12-08 10:51 (UTC) ()
Sorry to disagree with Primroseburrows, but I had "the works" and I'd do it again. Hell, I'd have an edpidural for mentstrual cramps if they would let me. I don't believe in the whole "natural childbirth" hype. Unless I'm attempting to push that baby out of my nose, it's natural.

And I have to say, when I was in labor the last thing I wanted to do was walk. I did not want to meditate, breath like an asthma victim, or do some damn mother earth childbirth chant. I wanted someone to knock me over the head with a mallet. I wanted Evan to feed me bon bons. If my doctor had told me to walk around instead of giving me pain medication, I would have kicked his ass.

What's empowering is having choices. If someone wants unmedicated birth, then they should be allowed and supported when they make that choice. And when I choose not to, I deserve the same respect.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2003-12-08 21:32 (UTC) ()
Oh, I think that people should have the birth they want, within reason (such as scheduled sections/inductions before the baby's ready). My problem is the lack of choices, and the way hospitals escalate treatment without even considering the mother's wishes.

Epidurals I have problems with, because they necessitate an internal monitor, which opens the baby up to a world of infection. I had one with my youngest. Nobody told me about the internal monitor beforehand, or the IV, or the loss of sensation. Doctors should educate better. I wouldn't have had it had I known. Still, it's a choice that every woman should make. They just so often don't get the chance to choose at all.
Not cool enough to have a witty name here.
jessindistress at 2003-12-08 06:35 (UTC) ()
I think this could be useful in very, very high risk birth situations. In normal, low risk situations, however, it's just another way of making chilbirth into an illness

Have my children... please?

Honestly... I'm totally with you... I hate it when I hear people going, "But it's unsafe" to, say, have a homebirth- or act as though we're totally against utilising high tech stuff if it's needed... *rolls eyes* (I had family members get quite shocked when I said that, gawd forbid, I was going to a birthing centre staffed entirely by midwives rather than a hospital ward to have Lewis.)

Seriously... if it were so hideous, and so risky in these times, why do so many of us wind up able to live to tell the tale? And why the hell are most of the people telling us what's best for us men? At the end of the day, no matter what training they've got or what they "know," they're not going to go through it themselves... *sighs*

I guess you can say, at least it's non-invasive. I heard some shocking horror stories just before Lew was born about people being hooked up to machines that they didn't want to be hooked up to, etc, and not being able to move around while they were in labour and stuff... *wibbles*

try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2003-12-08 06:49 (UTC) ()
I hate it when I hear people going, "But it's unsafe" to, say, have a homebirth- or act as though we're totally against utilising high tech stuff if it's needed...

I think high-tech stuff is great when it's needed, and I'm really glad that it's there. But the hospitals that hook you to an IV "just in case" they need to give you something (and "something" is usually an invasive epidural), then stick you on a fetal monitor, where you can watch the strips to see your contractions (gods forbid you should actually feel them!), then comes more and more monitoring for tiny fluctuations in the readings, and BAM! You're off to see the Caesarian Wizard. Or maybe low forceps or a Vacuum Extractor, or maybe an internal monitor (where they screw an electrode into the baby's scalp!), or at the very least a Great Big Episiotomy.

I guess you can say, at least it's non-invasive.

Yeah, but even non-invasive stuff keeps women confined to their bed because of electrodes, etc. And once the tiniest off-reading is seen, the Technology Machine will start rolling, and then you're in for invasive stuff, big time.
Really Sunny
willysunny at 2003-12-08 06:55 (UTC) ()
i totally agree with you. when i was pregnant, i was scheduled to give birth at a birth center, but instead had my son extremely prematurely (almost 3 months). speaking as a mother who might "benefit" from this sort of electronic gadgetry, i am appalled to think that women will receive this type of propaganda as soon as they enter the starch whiteness of their hospital, laboring and nervous. it irks me to no end that labor and delivery, a natural process to many women, can be contorted so that by the time it reaches their ears, already nervous of the inevitable, it's become an illness that can only be cured in the hands of their trusty physician.

now, i have to say, my child survived due to western medicine - he is perfectly fine and growing strong. but even in my extreme case, i was angered by the way i was treated (not spoken to - never quite in the know until the end). it was as if i had lost all control and just had to release myself into their arms. i understand to a degree, but if i ever were to have another - risk or not - i would vote birth center all the way. it's there that you are treated like a whole person - and validated for each pain and emotion. the midwife at my head during my labor was the only thing that kept me pushing as hard as i did - i didn't even look at the doctor until it was over.

okay, i'm done ranting. :)
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2003-12-08 07:00 (UTC) ()
Labouring women are treated like they don't know anything. It's the American way, it seems. Dunno how it is in other countries. Yay for you having a midwife there, though.
Not cool enough to have a witty name here.
jessindistress at 2003-12-08 07:05 (UTC) ()
*hugs* I'm so sorry you were treated like that. No one deserves that crap- particularly not when you're in labour and let's just say, a trifle edgy as it is anyway. ;)

But... yeah. If I'd been told there was some sort of complication and I was going to need any of the gadgets- *shrugs* I wouldn't have questioned it. But it's when you're expected to not question things before there's complications that it gets to me...

naadi at 2003-12-08 14:46 (UTC) ()
Getting in on the tail end of this post - I gave birth to my daughter at home with a midwife - no drugs whatsoever. She could tell from her hand on my stomach and a stethoscope how the baby and the labor was progressing. I walked during the whole labor and when the contractions came, my husband held me while I did a total body relaxation exercise - Bradley method - no weird breathing.

I completely believe that all these gadgets are almost always unnecessary, and often *cause* the complications - lying on your back while 9 months pregnant usually causes the weight of the baby to press back onto the mother's main artery and cut off the circulation to the fetus - so yeah - the baby goes into distress! Not to mention internal fetal monitors that are actually screwed into the baby's scalp while it's still inside the mother - gah - you could poke an eye out with that thing. Monitors - unless there is an actual emergency can become dangerous crutches. I think to some extent they are invented by men trying to control something - birth - that is otherwise beyond their experience.

haha - you must have hit my soapbox button! Didn't mean to go on so - but a woman can't be informed enough in this situation.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2003-12-08 21:42 (UTC) ()
I'm planning on taking a course in how to teach Bradley. Eventually, that is, when I'm done being a n00b at my current job.

My sister had three of her four kids at home. One was eleven pounds, partial shoulder dystocia. She didn't tear, because the midwife did such great prep. No episiotomy, no tear at all. Yay, midwives. *g*
naadi at 2003-12-10 12:19 (UTC) ()
I'm planning on taking a course in how to teach Bradley.

That's awesome! I'm very glad to know people are still using it. I swear by it every chance I get. It really works! I got so relaxed, I was eventually falling asleep during the contractions (also due to having only 2 hours sleep the night before *g*).

Yay, midwives.

Yes! Mine was so wonderful.
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