Yesterday marked the anniversary of my birth and as the years march on, I become more reflective. I wish I could thank the obstetrician who brought me into the world via C. Section because I was a butterball who weighed over 9 pounds. My poor mother had been in labor for over 8 hours when her doctor said, “Enough.” Had mom’s obstetrician ignored her abnormal labor pattern and made her push for hours, I could have easily ended up with a birth injury to my shoulders, arms or neck. Using common sense in medicine certainly has its advantages.
Obstetrics has changed dramatically since I made my grand entrance in more years than I care to admit. My mother remained in the hospital for almost a week after her C. Section. Most mothers now leave in 48 to 72-hours. The gender of a baby was not known until the time of birth; now ultrasounds clear up the mystery. Men comprised the majority of the obstetrical work force. Fifty-percent of obstetricians are now women.
Mothers washed and sometimes boiled cloth diapers. Now they purchase disposables. My mom had a miscarriage with my twin and then discovered that she was still pregnant by a flat-plate- x-ray. Most mothers can now their unborn children by ultrasounds in 3-D. Diseases such as Spina Bifida and Diaphragmatic Hernias are no longer crippling because corrective surgery can be performed on a baby before birth. Women who have Rh-negative blood are no longer at risk for harming their Rh-positive babies thanks to the introduction of Rhogham. By measuring the blood flow in a fetal brain, we can now determine if they are at risk for dying if they have abnormal growth.
Despite the challenges that are inherent within our fractured healthcare system, the innovations of medicine are extremely encouraging. Cord blood from babies will help cure cancer and bring about a new specialty called Regenerative Medicine. Premature rupture of membranes might be corrected with a “medical plug” called an Amniopatch in the future. And most important, pregnant women will become empowered to recognize their high-risk conditions before they spin out of control and know where and how to obtain help.
Both patients and obstetricians now have more options. What an exciting time to practice obstetrics.