Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back in Boston

At my reading last night at Brookline Booksmith, two members of the audience made excellent points that I would like to share. One mother wondered why there is so much conflicting information when it comes to the scientific study of obstetrics. For example, why do some studies say an epidural is safe for mothers and babies -- that it is even OK to have an epidural early in labor -- while other studies caution about the relationship between epidurals and higher cesarean rates, difficulty pushing, problems with breastfeeding, prolonged labor, etc. ? Another member of the audience, a woman who works in labor and delivery at one of Boston's large teaching hospitals, responded by saying how difficult it is to study birthing women because of ethical and legal constraints. The result is that advocates for different birthing methods or points of view can trash each others' studies by saying they were not large enough or thorough enough. The politics of birth get in the way. And expectant mothers are left scratching their heads. It's a gross disservice to women. One resource that might be helpful for women is the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (www.cochrane.org). The British-based library collects scientific studies, sorts through them, and attempts to cut to the bottom line. The database is easily searched using keywords such as breastfeeding, epidurals, cord cutting.

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