Reflections on the ICAN Conference 2011

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I wanted to go to the ICAN  Conference (International Cesarean Awareness Network) in St. Louis because of the speakers.  I also wanted to go because I wanted to know how to support my Hypnobabies students if they had a c-section after taking my class or if they had a c-section and were going for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).  The speakers included Dr. Macones, Henci Goer, Gail Tulley of Spinning Babies, Pam England, Amy Swagman, Isa Herrera, Micky Jones, Jodi Brunley, Dr. Vlastos and others. 

The First Kiss by Amy Swagman

I was excited about the conference, but I learned very quickly that at this conference, you probably shouldn’t say that you are thrilled to be there.  Most of the attendants had at least one prior c-section, one mom I met had four.  They come to this conference for healing, fellowship and education.  I was there to learn from them.  I have had two awesome home births with no interventions.  I hope I can never completely relate to their situations, as a c-section and hospital birth bring a lot of fear for me. 

One thing came up during this conference and I was thinking back to my first pregnancy and how I made a mistake.  I intended to have a home birth and had hired a CPM.  My husband was not so sure about this option so I elected to interview an OB/GYN and go for a couple of visits. The first visit, I was about 20 weeks pregnant.  We asked the doctor a few questions and he was upfront that a doctor is going to actively look for problems with a pregnancy, whereas a midwife, expects things to go along fine.  I appreciated this perspective. 

I asked him about the safety of ultrasound and he gave me a wishy-washy answer about his kids are teenagers and they don’t show any effects from it.  There were other questions, but I don’t remember them almost 4 years later.  The nurses were shocked that I had not had an ultrasound yet.  They fit us in for a quick ultrasound and without asking, told us the sex of our child.  I wanted it as a surprise.

I went a few more times to this OB office, but I only saw the nurse practitioner.  The nurses on staff there tried to insist that I have certain things done because it was mandated by TN law.  Not true and I just turned them down.  I thought it was odd to pee in a cup and then push it through a metal door, never getting to find out what the results of the urine tests were.  At my midwife’s house, I always tested my urine and knew what was going on with my body.  The reason I stopped going to the OB/Gyn was because of a comment by the nurse practitioner.  I had asked her questions about inductions and what date they start pressing for an induction.  I was worried about staying near that practice, even though I fully intended to home birth, because when I tried to tell them that my due date was closer to October 27th, not October 23rd, they ignored me and wouldn’t change it on the paperwork.  I know my cycle is longer than the standard 28 days.  At my last visit, the nurse practitioner told me, or at least this is what I think she said, “In Chattanooga, God doesn’t decide when babies come,” and then she laughed. I was shocked and didn’t say anything else.  I scheduled my next appointment and walked out the door.  I kept telling myself that she couldn’t have possibly said that.  To this day, I don’t know, but I never went back.  The OB/GYN office never called to check on me, to wonder why I hadn’t come back.  I made a mistake by just leaving and not giving a reason for my disappearance.  I should have called up the OB that was over this nurse practitioner and told him exactly why I would not be a repeat customer.  I took the easy way out and just disappeared from their radar.  I was scared of what would happen if I stayed with that group, even though I was planning a home birth. 

Reef 2 by Amy Swagman

At the conference, I got the impression that we, mothers are supposed to be advocates for ourselves and try to make a difference.  It seems so hopeless though.  The OB’s are so overloaded and don’t seem to have time to research.  So many of the women in this area think it is fantastic when an OB does and ultrasound at every visit.  Almost everyone I know, is pressured for an induction at 39 weeks.  People won’t listen to me, nor do I want to come off as pushy.  I just try and tell them about my positive birth stories and hope that they might ask more.  I talk about  birth to my co-workers, whom I’m sure do not care a bit about induction rates, c-sections or breastfeeding, hoping that by me talking about it, I give them a bit of information that they use in the future.    I’m not sure how to change the birth culture in this area, but I know I want to try. 

At the ICAN conference, they mentioned repeatedly, that the only way to get things changed in maternity care is to tell your care provider why you are seeking a different route.  Each birth brings money to a hospital and when I walked…no ran away from that type of care, the OB needed to know the reason.  He needed to know that some women might want a more hands off approach and he needed to tell his nurse practitioner about her words.  Truthfully though, I should just send a thank you note to the nurse practitioner, thanking her for her remarks so that I would never go back. 

The c-section rate in Chattanooga is way too high.  In 2008, Chattanooga had a total of 2,568 c-sections out of 7035 births.  This gives us and average of 36.5% of births in this area coming via c-section.  That’s a hell of a lot of women. 

Facility # of C/S Total Births C/S Rate
Erlanger East 745 2152 34.6%
Parkridge East Hospital 766 2123 36.1%
Erlanger Medical Center 1075 2760 38.9%

I really wish I could find the data on the induction rates of these hospitals.  I bet it would tell us a lot.

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8 thoughts on “Reflections on the ICAN Conference 2011

    amybirthingbody said:
    April 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for posting about my mandalas! I had an amazing time at the conference, it was so powerful.

      lahancock responded:
      April 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      No problem Amy. The mandalas were amazing. I purchased one of the safe motherhood shirts too. These images are very powerful. I’m glad that you are impacting the birthing community and the art world.

    thevfamily said:
    April 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    You had the worst OBGYN and staff ever. I had none of that occur, no forced ultrasounds, no expectancy to have a baby by a certain date (in fact, she told me from the beginning to plan to go past the “due date”), no NP visits only, and I always got as much time as I wanted or needed to talk with my doctor. I once even cried in her office (major preggo w #2 stress) and she held my hand and gave me a tissue, listening and responding only when needed. I know you are pleased with your results but I am sorry that you had someone that did a poor job. I would have walked out too. But how did you end up at that doctor in the first place? I just would have hoped to have never started off there to begin with.

    Glad you enjoyed your conference!

      lahancock responded:
      April 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm

      summer that doc is supposed to be one of the friendly docs in town. So far in Chattanooga I’m finding very few docs who do not pressure for induction at 39-40weeks on the thirty-six week appt. Saying that the baby is looking big. You were very fortunate on your docs. I had already planned a home birth as I think it is a fantastic option for the low risk mother and my midwife had heard that this doc was better than most in the area.

      Sent from my iPad

        thevfamily said:
        April 19, 2011 at 7:48 pm

        Yes, I guess with the c-section rate that your city has, the poor docs must be a big factor. I knew another Chatt mom that chose homebirth based off some of the same issues and results from doctors. When she began working with her midwife, everything she did with that professional was the same that I did with my OBGYN, minus being at someone’s house or having a home visit. I guess I was pretty blessed to have a supportive practitioner, at least for me.

    lahancock responded:
    April 20, 2011 at 3:27 am

    Summer the c-section rates in your area are pretty close to Chattanooga. There is one hospital in murfreesboro that must be a high risk hospital because it has an 86 percent c-section rate.

      thevfamily said:
      April 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm

      I think it is a high-risk hospital. My friend gave birth to her IVF twins there, a bit prematurely, if I am guessing of the same place.

      I know the rates are high in many places, but at least I personally felt like I had a doctor that was supportive and never once suggested a c-section or induction or anything else that I was not supportive of. My NP also never said anything ridiculous such as God not deciding when babies would be born. I think I would have left on that note too.

        lahancock responded:
        April 21, 2011 at 6:12 am

        Summer, I’m very glad that your doctor was so great. I hope you recommend him/her to as many people as you can. There are a few here in town that I would send mothers to and I’m actually trying to compile a resource list so that if mothers do not feel comfortable with a home birth, then at least they could have some more information about a specific caregiver before seeing them in person. Also, I think it is really unfortunate that people can’t get to know the nurses that will be taking care of them before birth. The nurses are the once that can make for a very pleasant birth experience or for a very miserable one.

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