In our culture, pregnancy and birth are sometimes approached like an illness that needs to be treated. Contrary to that point of view, these are normal, natural, and healthy parts of the life cycle for many women. We don’t need to be rescued from our own reproduction!
In keeping with this way of thinking, I’d like to discuss five things that the majority of pregnant women don’t need a doctor to help them with.
- Pregnancy Tests
This one is quite simple. Women do not need a doctor to tell them they are pregnant. Despite the frequent appearance of “false positive” pregnancy tests on TV and in movies, it is actually virtually impossible to get a positive pregnancy test when you aren’t pregnant. The only way this can happen is if there is the presence of the hormone HCG in your urine, which only happens when you are pregnant or taking certain hormone supplements for purposes such as fertility treatments.
So, for the majority of women, taking an at-home pregnancy test is extremely accurate. Depending on how early the test is taken, it may be too soon to show positive even if you are pregnant, but retaking the test in a few days is all that is needed. A positive pregnancy test means you are pregnant, and a doctor does not need to “confirm” your pregnancy. Most doctors’ offices will simply give you a urine pregnancy test that is exactly the same as the ones you can take at home.
Other options for pregnancy testing are a blood test and an intravaginal ultrasound – both of which are unnecessary, and why undergo an invasive test when you don’t need to? Also, there is no reason for most women to wait to go to the doctor before finding out that they are pregnant. A pee-stick test is inexpensive, easy, and will give you the information you need. We can and should take charge of our own bodies and reproduction, ladies!
This one may be surprising, but in many areas of the country there are stand-alone ultrasound “clinics” where pregnant women can easily make an appointment for an ultrasound with a trained technician. Women who get ultrasounds through their doctor’s office are also seen by an ultrasound technician, not a doctor, for the ultrasound itself. There is very little difference here, except that if there are issues discovered in the ultrasound, then seeing a doctor is the next step, and this is more convenient when you’re already at the doctor’s office. But in the majority of cases, the ultrasound shows that everything is perfectly fine, so a doctor’s visit really isn’t necessary.
The availability of ultrasounds outside of the medical arena allows pregnant women to schedule ultrasounds on their own terms. Did you know that you can find out the baby’s gender at around 13 weeks? If you don’t want to wait for your 20 week prenatal appointment, you don’t have to! You have control of when you get to take a peek at your baby.
On the other hand, ultrasounds aren’t actually medically necessary for most pregnancies. Some women forgo them altogether, and this is perfectly fine. Either way, it should be a family’s choice about if and when they want to have an ultrasound done, rather than on the doctor’s schedule.
In any case, ultrasounds are definitely not needed at every single prenatal appointment. One option is to have one scan done in early pregnancy (around 6-8 weeks), one around 13-14 weeks to find out the gender, and one around 20 weeks for a full anatomical scan of the baby to determine that everything is developing properly. Beyond that, there is really no need for additional ultrasounds, and having too many can possibly (but not likely) have negative effects. Ultrasound is a relatively new technology, and only time will tell us exactly how safe it is.
- Prenatal Care
While many people assume that when you get pregnant, you automatically go to see an OBGYN, this doesn’t have to be the case for low-risk, healthy pregnancies. Midwives offer prenatal care that is much more personalized and holistic. Especially for those planning a natural birth at home or in a birth center, midwives are much better suited to be prenatal care providers. Even those planning a hospital birth may choose to use a midwife for their prenatal care, as long as they are low-risk. Some hospitals offer certified nurse midwives as care providers for pregnancies that are more complicated as well. Midwives can significantly decrease the risk of having unnecessary interventions, and reduce the chance of having an unnecessary cesarean.
…to do anything. Pregnant women do not need a doctor’s permission to do anything—except maybe fly on an airplane in the third trimester, and that’s only because of airline policies. Really, though, pregnant women can and should be making their own informed choices about everything, not simply following a “doctor’s orders.” We don’t need permission to have vaginal births after cesarean sections—which, by the way, are statistically safer than repeat cesareans. We don’t need permission to birth in whatever position we feel is best for us and our babies. We don’t need permission to skip unnecessary vaginal exams or refuse any unnecessary interventions. If your care provider is trying to tell you what to do instead of discussing your options for your choices, together, then you might want to find one who is more enlightened and respectful, and frankly, competent. (Whew… sorry, got a little rant-y there.)
- Giving Birth
And finally, most pregnant women don’t need a doctor to give birth. Midwives are more appropriate as care providers for healthy, low-risk pregnancies, and that is because they respect the natural process of birth rather than pushing a medicalized model of birth on women. Again, midwives help women avoid unnecessary interventions that increase the chances of having an unnecessary cesarean section, and by doing this they increase the chances of seeing of positive outcomes for birthing women and their babies.
Of course, I understand that many women wish to give birth under the care of doctors, and may even want very much to have an epidural or other pain medications that only can be used under the care of doctors. And I truly do respect that, as it is each woman’s choice about how she wants to give birth. I don’t judge other women’s care choices, when they are informed. (Even when they aren’t informed, I don’t judge them, but I do feel sad and frustrated when I see that.)
I would urge any pregnant woman to consider carefully why she is making the choices that she is. Is she making them out of fear? Based on negative and untrue messages that she’s been told about pregnancy and childbirth? Based on the idea that she is inadequate, that she can’t handle it, or that her body won’t do what it’s meant to do? Because those are sad reasons to choose a care model that simply is not producing as good of outcomes as other models of care around the world. Don’t choose out of fear. Choose after educating and informing yourself, and finding your belief in your body and your God-given ability to gestate and birth. Choose from a place of empowerment, rather than blind trust in doctors who are just imperfect people like you and me, with their own biases and opinions.
And when you do need a doctor, that’s okay! We are lucky to have advanced medicine in our world and access to doctors when we do need them. Sometimes, we certainly do need them! Just not for everything. 😉