Tuesday, May 08, 2007
There are 16 hospitals that provide maternity care in my city. That sounds like a lot, but it isn't. Spread around our large metro area, it comes down to one, maybe two hospital choices for any given community. About 5 years ago, there were 20 hospitals where a woman could give birth. We are actually losing hospitals, two in the last 2 years. Some consolidate with other hospitals, others simply close down. We now have fewer hospitals but a growing population. The local hospitals have taken to two new means of advertising, billboard and TV. All along the highways earnest professional faces peer at you through your morning drive, touting their focus on research, or excellent nursing care. Fine. Its the TV ads that get my goat. They typically focus on one of two things, cardiac care or birth care. Cardiac care is fiercely competitive and a big revenue generator. Birth care is a loss leader that creates customer loyalty and brand identity. One ad shows airbrushed scenes that at first make you think you are looking at a spa. Finally they reveal that these images represent their 'birth center.' Yeah, its real spa-like to be numb from the waist down, have your legs hiked up in stirrups while a dozen strangers stand around gaping at your vagina. This week, I saw a new commercial with a former news anchorwoman and female physician giving testimonials for a local facility. These folks have no idea what well birth is. Their idea of normal is completely skewed. You know why? Normal birth isn't allowed to happen in a hospital setting. (Not in this neck of the woods anyway)Normal birth is entirely too risky for the average hospital. So they serve up this 'active management of labor' version that's been all the rage for the past twenty years (maybe thirty)and pawn it off as normal. It is not. Normal birth is woman respectful and body friendly, not fear-focused and controlling. Normal birth is watchful and patient, not technology heavy and performance focused. Normal birth is sensory rich and cyclic, not body numbing and task oriented. Normal birth is ruled by birthing women not litigation weary white-coated professionals, or conservative hospital protocols, or the squeamishness of health care legal eagles whose job it is to cover the hospital's collective ass. The hospitals and the professionals they employ have their interests well covered. Whose looking out for birthing women? Let them put that in their next commercial.