Great Reads: Low-Tech Labor

An obstetrician dispels the myth that heavy women can't have healthy pregnancies and normal deliveries

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The years Marsden Wagner, M.D., M.S., spent working at the World Health Organization revealed to him why the U.S. tends to have worse birth outcomes than some lesser-developed countries: Not despite our advanced technology, but because of it. In Creating Your Birth Plan: The Definitive Guide to a Safe & Empowering Birth, he describes the inclination of some obstetricians to allow fear of litigation to influence their decision making, sometimes using whatever high-tech tools are available--electronic fetal monitors, drugs to augment labor--to protect themselves from lawsuits, even when such interventions may be unnecessary or even unsafe.

Wagner wholeheartedly recommends midwifery for low-risk births. He points out that midwives remain by the laboring woman's side, while doctors usually show up just in time to "catch" the baby. Indeed, he notes that during their medical training, OB-GYNs are not required to attend the entire length of even one normal labor. And he drives home the importance of having a birth plan to ensure the birth is as mother- and baby-centered (not doctor-focused) as possible. MOST VALUABLE TIP: "Having an obstetric surgeon attend a healthy birth is like having a pediatric surgeon babysit a healthy two-year-old." (Perigee, 2006, $16)

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