Medical Literature — Chapter 3

IMG_1683Access to the medical research journals at the university was a blessing that I will be forever thankful for. As any new parents can attest to, once you become pregnant your focus shifts to things pregnancy and baby related.

My first concern was with weight gain. I was gaining weight way faster than any of the baby books thought reasonable. I went into the library to research aspartame. It seemed reasonable to see if there were any problems with it. I felt that if I was gaining weight too fast one way to deal with this was to replace real sugar with no calorie sugar. I looked up the two peptides or the ‘dipeptide’ that is used to make aspartame and found a study.

It is well known that some people have sensitivity to one of the components of aspartame. Blood taken from babies when they are born is routinely checked for this sensitivity so that the diet can be adjusted accordingly. So, I found a study that was designed to take a group of “normal” subjects and expose them to aspartame in order to establish a control group. Then subjects that were known to be sensitive would be exposed to the same amount of aspartame and compared to the control group.

In any scientific experiment it is necessary to develop a control group. The control group essentially balances all of the things that the experimenters cannot account for. Biological systems are so complex that it is difficult to draw any conclusions unless you have a group that has been exposed to exactly the same “experiment” without whatever it is you are testing.

So the idea of this experiment was to bring in the control group and have them do basic comprehension and math tests. Then, after exposure to the aspartame, they were to repeat the tests. The test group, the ones that were sensitive to a component of aspartame, would go through the same process and the results from the two separate experiments could be compared to see if there were any differences in how the test subjects responded.

In this particular scientific paper the authors explained that when the “control” group came back in to do the comprehension and math tests for a second time the study was discontinued on ethical grounds. Simply put, their ability to do the tests was diminished so significantly that the experimenters could no longer ask anyone to participate because they knew that exposure was doing them harm. Enough said. No way I was going near aspartame while pregnant.

The second thing that I started to research was the interventions that occur during birth. When you go into the hospital you will find that each hospital has a protocol of what needs to be done to a woman in labour. The range of these procedures is great and varies with the hospital. At the time, things like fetal monitoring were quite popular. It has been sixteen years since I had a baby and I have no way of knowing if they still do fetal monitoring or if the same equipment is being used. But although most hospitals used fetal monitoring, it was already established that it was not related to healthier babies but it was related to more intervention in the birth including a higher cesarean section rate and a higher rate of induction. Scary stuff.

The literature was full of controversy. If you go to any doctor or hospital and ask what their policy is, you will always get an explanation of why they do what they do. These are “truisms” that are believed by the staff. My favourite is that you should get an episiotomy before the baby is born. For those of you that have not been intimately involved in a birth, this is a cut that is made to open the woman wider so that the baby can come out.

The “truism” is that it is “better to have a clean cut than it is to have a ragged tear”. Nice visual imagery, I must admit, but it is completely false. The reason that women need an episiotomy is because when you are in the hospital you are forced to give birth on your back with your legs in the air. This is not true of all hospitals, but it was certainly true in the 1980’s. This is very unnatural. Just try having a poo in this position and see how things turn out. It is essentially the same process.

Fear overwhelmed me. My friend told me that she was looking into having a midwife. I remembered seeing a television program about them and being impressed so I looked into it. Fortunately for me, there was a Mennonite Settlement not far from where I lived and they still had births attended by midwives and so I found myself a midwife.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Keep Reading: Midwives

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