If you heard my recent interview with Henci Goer, you know I’m really interested in women having the information they need to make decisions for their care, especially during pregnancy. I also think women have the right to choose the care they feel most comfortable with, no matter how certain data is interpreted, or by whom, or if there is no data at all. For example, choosing midwifery vs OB care can be based on statistical data of outcomes for certain providers, or it can be based solely on how a woman feels about a particular individual.
When it comes to risks and benefits, it’s up to individual women to discern their own comfort levels, especially about safety, weighing the benefits and the risks based on her individual perspective.
Similar decisions are made by individuals all the time. For example- the option to drive or walk to the store:
I live less than 2 miles from my local grocery store. A sidewalk exists on one of the 3 roads that I need to travel. The speed limit on the roads without sidewalk is 30 mph, but enforcement is nil and generally cars travel about 40 mph. Because I live in Florida, the weather is generally nice enough to walk 90% (or more) of the time.
Benefits to Walking:
- Walking is great cardio exercise.
- Carrying my groceries will help me save money b/c I may not be able to carry “extras”
- Ecological benefit- less pollution
- Save money on gas
- Fewer miles on car/less maintenance needed
- Safer than driving
Risks to Walking:
- Possibility of getting hit by car where there is no sidewalk
- I could trip/fall
- May take time away from other necessary activities
Benefits to Driving:
- Can carry as much as I want/need to buy
- Safer than walking
Risks to Driving:
- Possibility of car accident (3 left turns to get to store)
- Danger of navigating the cars backing out of parking spots
- May spend too much money due to no limits on carry weight
If you read closely, you’ll notice each option is “safer” than the other, as listed under benefits. That’s because there is a risk of injury in both cases, and ways to be safer in both cases. I could walk on the grass shoulder; wear a seat belt; wear reflectors; drive defensively. I’m sure somewhere I could find statistics that define the probability of accidents for walking vs. driving this distance under various conditions and make a statistical comparison.
But even with a thorough review of the statistics, I get to choose which feels safer to me. Even if the data “clearly show” a greater chance of injury for one option, the benefit of speed (or a smaller carbon footprint) might outweigh the risk.
Choices should be offered to women for childbirth with the full understanding that women are ultimately responsible to choose, and that women have the right to choose for themselves, no matter how others interpret the benefits and risks involved.
After all, risks and benefits cannot always be measured and statistically defined. In birth, it’s more personal than that.