Monkeys in the Wild
Oxytocin: The Wonder Drug

Medical Meddling in Birth

Healthcare providers may interfere with birth even when no intervention is necessary.

A survey of 1,573 women who gave birth to a healthy child in 2005 found that medicalizing the labor and birth process still is the norm. More than four out of ten mothers said that their caregiver tried to induce their labor -- and in 35 percent of those cases, there was no medical reason for induction. And 11 percent of all mothers said they'd been pressured to have an induction.

Epidural anesthetic has become the norm, given to more than three-quarters of all mothers in the survey, while use of Pitocin was at nearly 50 percent.

No one has proven it yet, but many researchers believe that the combination of epidural and pitocin can create a hypersensitivity to oxytocin in the baby, leading to autism (see "A Whiff of Oxytocin for Autism") or contribute to an "attachment gap," interfering with the natural bonding process (see "The Mother/Baby Attachment Gap").

According to the survey, these are the commonly used interventions:

Electronic fetal monitoring: 94%
Intravenous drip: 83%,
Epidural or spinal analgesia: 76%
Urinary catheter: 56%
Membranes broken after labor began: 47%
Synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) to speed up labor: 47%

According to Childbirth Connection and Lamaze International, sponsors of the survey, "… mothers experienced numerous labor and birth interventions with various degrees of risk that may be of benefit for mothers with specific conditions, but are inappropriate as routine measures."

The "Listening to Mothers" survey was conducted by Harris International for Childbirth Connection, a nonprofit that promotes safe, effective and satisfying maternity care for all women and their families, and Lamaze International, an organization promoting natural childbirth.