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Sunday
Sep132009

Hedonistic Obstetrics & Medical Spas: Ready for Your Pap-n-Wax™?

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The Today Show aired a segment about home birth on September 11, 2009, called “The Perils of Midwifery.” Journalist Peter Alexander leads into the segment by asking, “Is avoiding the clinical nature of a hospital birth worth the risk when complications arise?” Halfway through the clip, Erin Tracy, the delegate from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who who authored the anti-midwifery AMA resolutions last June, provided her answer to Alexander’s question. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to a delivery setting, some of the emergencies arise that can’t be predicted, they happen in low-risk women with no prior medical issues during their pregnancy and if you can’t intervene within minutes, the life of the mother and the life of the baby can be endangered.

 

Andrew Goldman, a contributing editor at New York magazine and author of the March 22, 2009, article titled Extreme Birth, was also interviewed in the Today Show segment. The comments that Goldman attributed to an unnamed doctor have been met in the blogosphere with both laughter and disgust.

One of the doctors I spoke to said that he thought home births had become almost the equivalent of a spa treatment for women, that it was sort of this hedonistic concept of birthing.

 

The snippet of Goldman’s interview used by the Today Show might not be representative of the entire interview with Goldman, nor was the anti-home birth title of his New York Magazine article, “Extreme Birth,” of his own doing. Goldman wrote in a comment to Jennifer Block on her Huffington Post response to his article, “I’m sure you’re well aware that a writer almost never pens her own headline or display text, so I can’t take credit for the dek, or the headline, Extreme Birth. Blame New York Magazine.”

The childbirth-as-spa-treatment concept is actively promoted by hospitals as a way of attracting pregnant customers. The Star Tribune posted a list online in July entitled “What a Mom Wants,” which lists amenities available at local hospitals, including the following (via Stand and Deliver):

Wireless internet, flat-screen TVs, CD and DVD players, spa services by “Go Home Gorgeous,” studio-quality portrait photography.

Birthing tubs with whirlpool, surround sound stereo, massage services.

Wireless internet, doulas, water-birth tub.

Water birth, massage, “healing touch” therapy including Reiki, music therapy (including the hospital’s own harp), acupuncture.

Two obstetricians on duty around the clock, studio-quality portrait services; spa service starts in August. [Emphasis mine to highlight this luxury]

 

Television’s most vitriolic critic of out-of-hospital birth, Lisa Masterson of The Doctors, brags about how nice hospital labor and delivery rooms are, stating most of the hospitals now are changing everything. “They look better than my bedroom at home,” said Masterson on a January 1, 2009 episode of the television show.

According to her web site, Masterson takes spa treatments to a new level combines gynecology and spa services at her Santa Monica, California “medical spa.”

Dr. Masterson’s unique practice includes a myriad of services not found in today’s traditional gynecological medicine, paving the way for advancement in her field. She offers a medical spa within her office and is available for house calls to those of her patients unable to make the nine to five business hours.

 

For 75 dollars, women can “keep things clean and fresh down there” with a shave or waxing at Masterson’s medical spa. Masterson calls this “one of the best pieces of advice you will get before delivery” and adds a manicure and pedicure so that “you are a diva during delivery.”

Also on the menu at the medical spa is an alternative, non-pharmaceutical induction massage that will target specific areas of the body to encourage labor.  

 

Interestingly, Masterson provided a pre-emptive reality check to Dr. Tracy on the May 11, 2009 episode of The Doctors, which featured Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein of The Business of Being Born and Your Best Birth.  While arguing with Epstein about why home birth is unsafe because of the distance it puts between the woman and the hospital, Masterson admitted the following:

You cannot necessarily get there because even in a hospital sometimes you can’t transfer quickly.

 

It is a fact that emergencies occur in a hospital and the appropriate staff is sometimes unavailable to perform a cesarean. The luxury item listed above of “[t]wo obstetricians on duty around the clock” is sometimes not enough or not available.

The concept of hedonism is often coupled with psychological egoism, the theory that humans are motivated by their self-interest. ACOG shared the results of a survey on September 11, 2009 that its members are knowingly causing harm to their patients by placing their self-interest before the health of the women in their care. OB-GYN student Hilary of Mom’s Tinfoil Hat has written a few times about a professor that turns up the heat on his patients to schedule their cesarean beginning in the first trimester of their pregnancies.

He told us that he preferred it because “twenty minutes, the baby is at the mom’s breast, and I get to go home, instead of waiting for twenty hours of labor.” He disparagingly said, “I am not a labor sitter. I am not a glorified midwife” and went on to assert that, in his capable hands, a cesarean was as safe as a vaginal delivery.

 

While The Today Show did not reveal the source of Goldman’s home birth disparaging doctor on the air, the topic of hedonism and the search for the most pleasurable, least lawsuit-triggering (in theory) work schedule possible is relevant in today’s maternity care climate. Producers, writers and editors at The Today Show and New York Magazine might feel that they have accurately identified the perils of midwifery, but educators, activists and consumer advocates are actively promoting awareness of the perils of hedonistic, self-serving obstetrics and helping women provide care providers who will best meet their health care needs during pregnancy and beyond.

 

And telling pregnant women to wax their crotches is not on their priority list.

 

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Reader Comments (30)

Gah, this makes me want to barf. "Be a diva during delivery," in other words, be pretty, stay quiet, don't you dare get sweaty or curse or flail around and be UNLADYLIKE. And did they HAVE to use the term "down there?" What are you, my prudish next door neighbor who can't even say "penis," and has to call it a "THING?" Yet more proof of how detached they want women to be during childbirth...can't even say the real words for the place where a CHILD IS ABOUT TO SHOOT OUT OF. God forbid we get too in touch with our bodies! BLECH!

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill

There is just a cornucopia of things to respond to here, but first of all, a obstetrician/GYNECOLOGIST used the term "down there"? And put it in quotes herself? In 2009? For real? And this is in the context of saying that scheduling a Brazilian is "one of the best pieces of advice you will get" before the birth of your child?

My fellow women, one of the other best pieces of advice you will get: avoid like the second coming of the plague ANY doctor, let alone a gynecologist, who refers to your genitals as "down there".

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

Simul-posted with Jill! JINX! You owe me a beer.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

Pardon my crudeness, but any OB who suggested a Brazilian would get a loud "fuck off" from me. If natural human body hair is too much bother for her delicate OB sensibilities, she can stuff it. What does she want, a dotted line to help her cut her episiotomy?

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

Nothing like having a bikini wax to compliment your new designer post- baby vag, i mean your "down there" area. My six year old doesn't even use the phrase "down there" to describe her pubic area/vulva! I am beyond surprised that an OB/Gyn would. Do urologists call it a wee wee? Would you go to a oncologist who called your breasts dirty pillows? A podiatrist who referred to your feet as your tootsies or piggies? No thanks, I'd like someone who uses more accurate words than the average pre-schooler And I love that now women need to feel "fresh and clean" in order to have a pleasant birthing experience. The natural state of things "down there" is something to be improved upon by modern technology, after all. Uhg.

Great response to this absurd allegation that homebirth is something women chose bc they want to be pampered...I'd like to point out that every OB/GYN office I've ever visited also offers laser hair removal, weight loss body wraps, and nutritional supplements that can help you look and feel "years younger" Sending the message that your body is icky, gross, and in need of professional grooming will surely lead to an empowering birthing expereince in which momma feels confident in her body's awesome natural abilities! My homebirth midwife, luckily, seems to like me just the way I am and is more concerned with my health, my family life, how I am sleeping, helping me to find ways to handle stress, supporting me through my pregnancy, and asking questions about how I would like to prepare for our birth.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustine

I guess the wax is a good piece of advice coming from an OB who will more likely than not otherwise have to have the patient shaved prior to thier section ...

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

I hope people (besides regular readers) get that it's as silly to call obstetrics hedonistic as it is to call home birth hedonistic.

I'm still dying to know who the doctor was that told Andrew Goldman that out-of-hospital birth was the same as a selfish spa treatment to women. It makes me wonder if it's anyone we know.

September 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

I am surprised a good old colonic is not on the "menu" either. Don't want anything to come out "down there" that is not supposed to.
Unreal.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReality Rounds

Ok, the last thing -- absolutely the LAST thing -- I would have thought about during labor, was whether or not I had just had a manicure and/or pedicure! Somehow, whether or not I had pretty red toenails doesn't seem like it would even enter into my conscious brain during a contraction. This whole post makes me want to barf. Blech!

However, I'm actually somewhat in favor of laborists, because I can see it being a benefit to women, to have a doctor in the hospital who doesn't care when she gives birth, because he will be going home at the same time, regardless of whether she gets a C-section in an hour, or has a vaginal birth ten hours from now. Doctors who attend night-time births, knowing they have to get up at 5:30 the next morning to get to the office in time to see a full schedule of patients, have a definite interest in speeding up a woman's labor so that she will give birth sooner rather than later, so he can get more sleep. Not saying all doctors would do this -- just saying the temptation would not only be there, but could be very strong, and would then cause a woman and her baby to undergo medically unnecessary, unwarranted, and potentially dangerous interventions so that he could get extra sleep. A laborist wouldn't.

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Laborists are great. The only real criticism I've heard is that you don't know who's going to show up while you're crowning, but that's... pretty much how it is in most hospitals anyway. I fully support staffing round-the-clock laborists, especially if it's a way of making hospitals okay with VBAC.

September 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill
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