Nursing Birth

One Labor & Delivery Nurse’s View From the Inside

The Ol’ Bait and Switch, OR Finding Out Your OB Has Been Leading You On October 21, 2009

Submitted on 2009/10/20 at 3:24pm

Comment under: Urgent Message from ICAN! Please Spread the Word!!

Dear Nursing Birth,

 

I’m a day short of 35 weeks pregnant today and went in for an OB appointment this morning. My doctor said that if I don’t go into labor on my own in my 39th week that (depending on how much and if my cervix is dilated) she might put me on pitocin- although she did say that “they don’t induce labor for VBAC patients”. But that they won’t let me go to 40 weeks, and that by 40 weeks they will have to schedule another c-section for me. (I live in Cedar Falls, IA)

 

I am shocked and angry! First of all- since when is 40 weeks, too late? My OB says it’s not wise to go to beyond 40 weeks due to increased risk of uterine rupture. But this just sounds like B.S. to me!

 

And how does the doc get away with not telling me something important like this until NOW? Unbelievable!!  My doctor and I have already gone through my birth plan, line by line, because I want as few interventions as possible and no drugs, seeking a natural vaginal childbirth. I’ve taken 12 weeks of Bradley method birth classes to help my husband and I be better prepared this time.  I also have a fantastic, knowledgeable, and supportive doula. But I can’t believe what a fight it is to have a VBAC!

 

If I had known sooner that this was the doctor/hospital policy for VBAC, I probably would have gone somewhere else. Since it’s so late in the game now, I’m probably going to stick it out. I don’t have to do anything they say, I can always stay at home and come in when I’m ready, and that will be after I am already in deep labor on my own.

 

I was just wondering if perhaps this reflects a change in my hospital’s policy for managing VBAC? One of the other OB’s I met with at the hospital said that after a high maintenance VBAC patient a few months ago (who also insisted on a natural vaginal childbirth, and did it, but most of the hospital staff were very unhappy dealing with this patient…?) that the hospital is reviewing whether to allow VBAC at all. I’m probably not helping the situation by openly trying to avoid their planned interventions. I KNOW I’m required to have continuous electronic fetal monitoring… but I’ve also been told that my labor has to be pretty much “text book” regarding continuous dilation of my cervix, and of course no tolerance for fetal distress…or else!

 

I just wish all women would know this before their first c-section. If you thought recovering from a c-section was bad, wait till you try to have a VBAC and deal with the red tape and lack of support from the medical community. It’s just so frustrating to have to be prepared to battle, and yet relax at the same time! 

 

Have you heard of this kind of change in management of VBAC? That VBAC isn’t even allowed to go to 40 weeks?? Thanks for writing such an informative, educational blog and for being so supportive of natural childbirth! I have enjoyed your tips and insight from the hospital perspective (about writing birth plans, and managing your OB, and also the many ways hospital staff really will be supportive- even if you barf!).

 

Sincerely,

Kelly

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Dear Kelly,

WOW!  I am so sorry that this is happening to you.  You story deeply saddens, frustrates, and angers me because unfortunately YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Women all over this country have to fight everyday for their VBACs.  Too many are unsuccessful.

First off I want you to know that your gut is absolutely right; 40 weeks is NOT too late and the research does NOT support your obstetrician’s claims.

Second, if that hospital is actually considering revising their entire VBAC “policy” in response to one mother who, as it sounds to me, shook the boat a little bit by demanding better care as well as exercising her right to informed refusal, they are absolutely outrageous and ridiculous!  I would be skeptical of that story if I hadn’t recently read this about the sign placed at the entrance of the Aspen’s Women Center in Provo, Utah.

Third, sounds to me like you did everything right!  You found what you thought was a VBAC supportive care provider, you researched your options and decided you wanted to stack as many cards in your favor as you could for a successful VBAC by planning a drug-free/intervention-free childbirth, you wrote up a birth planthat you painstakingly went through “line by line” with your physician early on in your pregnancy, you have sought out and taken childbirth preparation classes that are geared towards not only providing knowledge about how to have a successful natural childbirth but also help in preparing mentally and emotionally for such an important journey (and on top of that you took those classes with your husband!), and you even hired a doula.  (Yup!  Just as I suspected…you did everything you could!)  So what happened?!?!…

Unfortunately you are a victim of the ol’ bait and switch.

It happens to women everyday around this country.  And its existence is further proof that our maternity system is broken, in shambles really.  There are some obstetricians, family practice physicians, and yes, even midwives that have become really friggin’ good at this awful game.  Women write in to me all the time with similar frustrations and complaints as yours, Kelly.  And I always find myself helpless and speechless.  I don’t know how to help women avoid it and I struggle everyday in my own professional life with how to fight it and stop it!

The worst part of the ol’ bait and switch is the feeling of betrayal that most women report experiencing after they have been victimized they this outrageous action.  (I want to note that I used the terms “betrayal” and “victimized” on purpose.  I understand that they are very strong words but I feel they are the best to describe this very serious phenomenon).  So why does it happen?  Both from what I have personally experienced as a labor and delivery nurse as well as what I have read (for example: Born in the U.S.A by Marsden Wagner and Pushed by Jennifer Block) there is not one simple answer for why some healthcare providers use this “technique.”  But there is no doubt in my mind that money, greed, fear of litigation, fear of losing patients, competition, superciliousness, willful ignorance, impatience, convenience, blatant disregard for evidenced based medicine, favoritism for the “because we’ve always done it this way” model of practice as well as favoritism for the paternalistic provider-patient model of practice (that is, the care provider only presents information on risks and benefits of a procedure/test etc. that he or she thinks will lead the patient to make the “right” decision (i.e. the provider supported decision) regarding health care) all have something to do with it.  Providers who practice the ol’ bait and switch fall somewhere on the, what I like to call “Asshole to Apathy,” spectrum.   Some may be bigger assholes than others, but in the end, they all fall somewhere on that spectrum in my experience.

[PHEW!  Okay, WOW!  Now I’m all worked up!  Sorry, sorry!  I don’t know where that rant just came from!  But this kind of thing really burns by britches!]

So Kelly, you must be thinking, “Where does this leave me?”  The good news is that Kristen, a philosophical doula blogger friend of mine over at BirthingBeautifulIdeas is author of an amazing series she calls “VBAC Scare Tactics” which I think is a resource that you, and other moms in your situation, might find very helpful.  What you are describing sounds to me like VBAC scare tactics (#3): An early eviction date (aka “I’ll let you attempt a ‘trial of labor’ just as long as you go into labor before your due date.  After that, we’re scheduling a repeat cesarean.”)

In each post she identifies one particular scare tactic, supplies a list of questions that a mother can ask her care provider in response to this scare tactic, and then provides an analysis and/or summary of the research that either challenges or even debunks the scare tactic and its insinuations.  In the introduction to the series she writes,

 

“Many women who want to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (or VBAC, pronounced “vee-back”) in this country have faced some sort of opposition from their care providers when they have expressed their desire to VBAC.

 

Sometimes this opposition is blatant.  Sometimes this opposition becomes obvious only at the end of the third trimester. (Many VBAC-ing moms refer to this tactic as a “bait-and-switch” since it involves a supposedly VBAC-supportive care provider rescinding this support once the actual VBAC is imminent.)  Sometimes even a care provider’s “support” of VBAC is instead a conditional, half-hearted, or perhaps sneakily-disguised opposition to VBAC.  These “scare tactics” are often misleading, exaggerated efforts by OBs (and yes, even midwives) to discourage women from VBAC and to encourage them to “choose” a repeat cesarean.  (Of course, it’s not really a choice if your provider won’t even “let” you VBAC, is it?)

 

If you do find yourself facing such scare tactics, and if you do want to have a VBAC, there are some questions that your care provider should be able to answer when s/he hurls those scary and/or outrageous comments and standards your way.  And if s/he refuses to or even cannot answer these questions, then you might want to consider finding an alternative care provider–one who is making medical decisions based on research, evidence, and even respect for your patient autonomy and not on fear, willful ignorance, or even convenience.”

Things I love about BirthingBeautifulIdeas’ VBAC scare tactic posts include:

#1    Her writing is organized and clear.  (You know how much I love organization and lists!)

#2    She respects research and understands the importance of evidenced based medicine. (In fact, the reason BirthingBeautifulIdeas is aware of much of the research she cites is because she actually used said research studies in weighing her own decision about whether to have an elective repeat cesarean section or instead prepare and plan for a VBAC.)

#3    She has personal experience with this subject.  (In fact she not only experienced a VBAC scare tactic and the “bait-and-switch” with her former OB, but also made the difficult decision to and successfully did transfer her care to a VBAC supportive care provider late in her pregnancy (at 37 weeks to be exact!) as well as experienced a subsequent and successful VBAC hospital water birth.  Check out her story “My very own VBAC waterbirth”.)

#4    She does not provide advice.  As she said herself, she is NOT anti-OB nor is she telling women to do anything.  Instead she provides tools that allow women to make their own decisions and stick up for their own decisions about the birth of their babies hoping that in doing so women come out of their birth experiences feeling positive and empowered, regardless of the outcome.

Kelly, please check out the post VBAC scare tactics (#3): An early eviction dateI was going to write to you about the research and such on the topic but BirthingBeautifulIdeas has already done such a fantastic job herself that it wouldn’t even be worth it to summarize her article.

While I’m at it, here’s the entire VBAC scare tactics series:

VBAC scare tactics (#1): VBAC = uterine rupture = dead baby (aka “Why would you want to risk a VBAC only to have a ruptured uterus and a dead baby?”)

VBAC scare tactics (#2): When bad outcomes in the past affect patient options in the future (aka “I’ve seen a bad VBAC outcome, and it was terrible.  You really don’t want to choose a VBAC over a repeat cesarean.”)

VBAC scare tactics (#3): An early eviction date (aka “I’ll let you attempt a ‘trial of labor’ just as long as you go into labor before your due date.  After that, we’re scheduling a repeat cesarean.”)

VBAC scare tactics (#4): No pre-labor dilatation = no VBAC (aka “Since you are 39 weeks pregnant and your cervix isn’t dilated or effaced, it looks like you probably won’t go into labor on your own ‘in time.’   We need to schedule a repeat cesarean and forgo a VBAC attempt.”)

VBAC scare tactics (#5): VBACs aren’t as safe as we thought they were (aka “You know, VBACs aren’t as safe as we thought they were.  They are much more dangerous to you and your baby.  A repeat cesarean is the safer route.”)

A VBAC scare tactic interlude (Thoughts and resources on transferring your care to a VBAC supportive care provider, inducing labor when you have a history of a cesarean and weighing the pros and cons of pain medications and interventions if you are planning a VBAC.)

 

VBAC scare tactics (#6): CPD or FTP = no VBAC (aka“Here in your chart, it says that your cesarean was for failure to progress (FTP).  Oh, and there’s also a note here about cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD).  You’re not really an ideal VBAC candidate since your cesarean wasn’t for fetal distress or breech presentation, so we need to schedule a repeat cesarean.”)

 

VBAC scare tactics (#7): Playing the epidural card (aka “An epidural can mask the signs of uterine rupture, so I do not permit my VBAC patients to have an epidural during their labors.” OR “In case of an emergency cesarean, I require all of my VBAC patients to have an epidural in place in early labor.  That way, we will not have to wait for the anesthesiologist to get the epidural in place if a uterine rupture occurs.”)

VBAC Scare Tactics (#8): The MD trump card (aka “Look, I’m the one who has earned the medical degree and I am telling you that you cannot attempt a VBAC.  Your only choice is a repeat cesarean.  Period.”)

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Kelly you wrote, “Since it’s so late in the game now, I’m probably going to stick it out. I don’t have to do anything they say, I can always stay at home and come in when I’m ready, and that will be after I am already in deep labor on my own.”  You are right.  You don’t have to do anything they say.  You have the right as a patient to both informed consent as well as informed refusal.  However I want to say a few things.  (Here comes my cyber pep-talk, meant of course to be 100% supportive of whatever you chose and not at all meant to give you advice.  But I don’t think many women get a chance to hear from anyone what I am about to tell you.  To get the full intent of this pep talk just picture me standing behind you vigorously rubbing your shoulders as I squirt water into your mouth from a sports bottle and wipe the sweat off your face.  So here it goes…)

You deserve the opportunity to have the unmedicated, intervention-free birth that you have planned for.  Your desires for said unmedicated, intervention-free VBAC are well supported by the research.  You deserve to be cared for by a birth attendant who shares your philosophy regarding (among other things) childbirth and VBAC.  You deserve to NOT have to worry about fighting anyone to be given a fair chance at having the birth you have been planning…not the hospital, not the nursing staff, not your obstetrician, NOT ANYONE.  You deserve it for THIS birth.

I know that it is scary to even think about transferring care to a new care provider so late in the game.  But I encourage you to at least think about it.  Even if you think that there are many limitations in your options regarding availability, insurance, distance, etc. etc, it is worth it to you to at least check it out.  I also encourage you to get in touch with your local ICAN chapter (unless, of course, you have already done that.)  Some of the members might be able to give you some suggestions on VBAC friendly care providers that they know actually attend VBACs!  Sometimes even if a VBAC friendly midwife or doctor is booked they will make an exception for a late transfer of care if a doula friend or former patient calls and asks for a favor.  (I’ve seen it happen before with my local ICAN chapter).  Also ICAN’s website has a variety of helpful articlesfor moms planning a VBAC against hospital or provider resistance.

I can tell by your story that you are a very strong woman and my gut tells me that you will indeed fight for your rights even if you stay with your current obstetrician.  You just shouldn’t have to do that and it saddens me that any your energy is going to be dedicated to defending yourself during your birth.  Even one tiny little bit of energy devoted to that is too much!  You deserve more!  You deserve better!  I think you said it perfectly when you wrote, “It’s just so frustrating to have to be prepared to battle, and yet relax at the same time!”

 

I couldn’t agree more!

So Kelly, I wish you the best of luck!  And like many of my readers, I really wish I was going to be your labor and delivery nurse!  CONGRATULATIONS on your pregnancy and on your upcoming birth!  I will keep you in my thoughts and I hope that you will one day come back and tell us how your birth went!  I hope that this post has helped you in some way.  Oh and please apologize to your friends and family for me since you probably will be wasting a lot more time in front of the computer now that I have provided so much reading material!  Haha!

Sincerely,

NursingBirth

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