Have you ever looked up infant mortality rate in the United States? The results are shocking. You’ll find yourself scrolling further than you think to find the US’s home on the list. According to the CIA’s world factbook, we are ranked 48th in 2011, behind Cuba. Behind Cuba, people!
Willy and I visited Cuba in 2010.
We travelled there legally with humanitarian licenses. Ironically enough, we were responsible for bringing medical supplies to a mission in Havana. Ironically, these supplies included things like prenatal vitamins. Yes, you are understanding me correctly. We, US citizens, supplied Cuba with prenatal vitamins. Yes, Cuba’s infant mortality rate is lower than the infant mortality rate in the US. Interesting, no?
The other day we met with a realtor to discuss the option of selling our home. We mentioned Zillow in the conversation and the guy rolled his eyes. This was the second realtor we talked to that rolled their eyes upon mentioning Zillow. So we questioned the eye roll and his response was something along the line of too much information being provided to people that are not educated enough to filter it correctly. Information overload.
Back to the infant mortality rate.
The rate of medical intervention in the US is presumably higher than the rate in Cuba. Would anyone argue against this? I think birth in the US has become too medical. I think there are more interventions because there is more monitoring. This sounds like a crazy statement, I know. But there’s been lots of research done to support this claim. The following excerpt was taken from an interview with Dr. Alex Friedman:
There are numerous reasons that one of three U.S. births now is by cesarean, but Dr. Alex Friedman blames some on an imprecise monitor strapped to laboring women. Too often, he has sliced open a mother’s abdomen fearing the worst, only to pull out a pink, screaming bundle.
“Everyone knows it’s a bad test,” said Friedman of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “You haven’t done the patient a big service by doing an unnecessary surgery.”
Electronic fetal monitors record changes in the baby’s heart rate, a possible sign of too little oxygen. They became a tradition — now used in 85 percent of births — years before research could prove how well they work.
Guidelines issued last summer, aiming to help doctors better interpret which tests are worrisome, acknowledge the monitors haven’t reduced deaths or cerebral palsy. But they do increase the chances of a C-section. While they should be used in high-risk women, the guidelines say the low-risk could fare as well if a nurse regularly checked the baby’s heart rate.
In looking at the US infant mortality rate versus Cuba, I do think it is only fair to look at the counter argument. Because we have more medical technology the number of high risk babies born is higher in the US. I found the following information here.
In the United States if an infant is born weighing only 400 grams and not breathing, a doctor will likely spend lot of time and money trying to revive that infant. If the infant does not survive — and the mortality rate for such infants is in excess of 50 percent — that sequence of events will be recorded as a live birth and then a death. In many countries, however, (including many European countries) such severe medical intervention would not be attempted and, moreover, regardless of whether or not it was, this would be recorded as a fetal death rather than a live birth. That unfortunate infant would never show up in infant mortality statistics.
In any event, when I research birth I look for information as it relates to me. If I happen to go into preterm labor at 20 weeks, my midwives will certainly not support or participate in a home birth. I would be in the hospital kissing the fetal monitor and thanking the doctor for any interventions that could potentially save my baby. But if my pregnancy remains low risk and if I remain healthy, I feel strongly that delivering at home is safest for me and, perhaps more importantly, for my baby.