In birth, as in life, there are no guarantees. However, in birth, as in life, we can act in ways that are likely to protect health and wellbeing.
Today (Sunday, 27 April) I had a call at lunch time from a news reporter, Kelly Morgan, who wanted a midwife to comment on a story that is being prepared to go to air in the Channel 10 News tonight. The story is about a new ING life insurance for women to take out, with an option to insure future unborn children (there is a 12-month waiting period) against certain congenital malformations and disabilities, and even against ectopic pregnancy and still birth. My initial response to Kelley was that I had not heard of this, but could see from the insurance company's point of view that there is a market.
I had to do some quick thinking - do I agree to say something about this story, and if so, what can I say? Kelly wanted to take a cautious line, and suggested that this sort of product is capitalising on women's fear. Yes, I agree with that. But do I have anything useful to add?
There is no bigger investment that we will ever make than our own children. Those who have never experienced such loss can only imagine the sadness of parents who see disability or serious disorders in the child who bears their name. Taking out insurance is not going to change a mother's or a child's health - it's a financial risk management strategy. It will probably sell well in the professional market, particularly for women in their late 30s, who are aware that if they are ever to have a child they had better get a move on.
I told Kelly that the big issue in childbirth today is the increasing caesarean rate, and that more caesareans have not reduced the rate of cerebral palsy. It's interesting that cerebral palsy is not listed in the newspaper article (http://www.smh.com.au/text/articles/2008/04/27/1208743315952.html)
In agreeing to be interviewed on camera I got the opportunity to say a word about promoting health in pregnancy, and that the safest way to have a healthy baby is to avoid drugs and surgery if possible.
The interview was over as quickly as it had begun. The cameraman took a few more shots as we chatted, then they packed up and went. I hope the story that goes to air is able to give a clear message of health promotion in protecting normal birth.
post script: No guarantees when dealing with the media either! Most of what I said, particularly about promoting health in birthing, was not included in the piece that went to air. Never mind - nothing ventured, nothing gained.