Motherhood is perhaps the most challenging phase in a woman’s life – not just because of the of physical changes she experiences, but also due to the wide range of advise she is subject to from family, friends, and the medical practitioners she consults. While advise on motherhood and parenting by friends and family members is often based on that individual’s personal experience (or that of his/her close relative), one would expect that medical practitioners would provide appropriate advise relevant to the patient’s life style, mental and physical health, and monetary compulsions. Sadly, my experience indicates otherwise.
Let me explain this by outlining 2 key conflicts that a woman experiences as part of motherhood and how medical practitioners do not necessarily provide unbiased advise to educate the patient and help her take the most suitable decision.
- C Section or normal vaginal delivery – Despite knowing very well that both methods result in a safe baby delivery, those opting for (or resulting in) C section deliveries are made to feel inferior. When a doctor can find out about the patient’s pain threshold (a simple test such as do you take pain killers during your periods can help get a general idea), it would be best to advise the patient accordingly. But this is seldom done.
My first baby’s delivery was a nightmare because no one listened to me screaming for close to 12 hours in pain, requesting for an epidural. Ultimately, my BP dropped and so did foetal heartbeat, before the doctors wheeled me in for a C section. Could this have be done earlier, when they realized that labor wasn’t progressing as plan? Perhaps. My second delivery, in contrast, was a wonderful experience. I opted for C section because I didn’t want a repeat of the trauma I experienced the first time, even though my doctor (not the same one who delivered my first child) felt I could try a normal delivery. She respected my sentiments and went ahead and planned the delivery accordingly.
What is wrong in a woman choosing a particular kind of delivery, especially if she is going to pay for it and is aware of the recovery process? Unless there are obvious dangers to a procedure, I don’t see why doctors should stress on normal delivery. (By the way, most of my friends who have had C sections have recovered faster than their peers who delivered normally and continue to face no challenges whatsoever a good 5-6 years post surgery also)
- Breast milk or formula milk – Medically, there is less than 10% difference in the composition of breast milk and formula milk. Of course, breast milk has antibodies that formula milk doesn’t, but there is no empirical evidence to show that formula fed babies have a poorly developed immune system. In the West, a woman can choose to not breast feed, even though she medically can. In India such a thought would be considered nothing short of blasphemous. Irrespective of the complications that arise when a woman tries to breast feed and is unsuccessful, our ‘lactation consultants’ seldom provide useful advice on how she can cope. Eg: finding a comfortable position as the baby grows (using the same technique to hold a newborn and three month old to breast feed can result in grave wrist injury); how to re-lactate after a gap (milk supply tends to vary with periods where supply can be as little as 5-10 ml); how to handle supplemental feeding etc. The advice that is usually given is – ‘persist with breastfeeding, the child will sooner or later succumb’ or ‘no matter what, do not feed the child with formula. Only exclusively breast feed. If necessary, I will prescribe tablets for you.’ What if the resulting tablets do more harm to the mother? I have heard of women complaining of engorgement and at times even mastitis and infection due to prolonged used of tablets in their quest to exclusively breast feed the child for 6 months.
Also, today most mothers live in nuclear families in cities with ageing parents. Often after the first month post delivery, they are left to handle most household chores, besides caring for the baby and feeding it. In such circumstances, dependency on formula milk is inevitable. When medical practitioners have seen the woman through her pregnancy and are aware of her family and social economic situation, why do they imagine she will miraculously give up everything to simply breast feed the child?
In developed economies, women are advised never to starve the child due to breast milk inadequacy. They are encouraged to breast feed by finding solutions that are suitable to both mother and baby (such as more comfortable positions/ holds, timing the feeds so that baby is more inclined to take it). If nothing works, they are not judged for feeding formula.
These are clearly challenges that most women in India face while seeking health services. I am sure it is not different for men when it comes to seeking patient education from hospitals, clinics and other sources. In my next piece I would look at some potential solutions. I would also encourage you to send in issues that you have faced, either by commenting on this post or by posting your commenting on the Facebook page.
About the Author
Archana Venkat is a Marketer, new mother, former journalist and media critic, photography and yoga enthusiast. She loves to listen to new business ideas/ inspirations. The Views expressed are personal. She is based in Bangalore and also hosts the blog straighttalkwitharch.blogspot.in