I’ll never forget hearing a recount from my daughter’s old childcare provider, about her experience of giving birth to her first child. I was pregnant at the time with my second child. Her story was terrifying to say the least and I remember thinking thank God I had already had one kid and knew what to expect because if I hadn’t, I would have been even more horrified than I already was.
Sherry–my daughter’s daycare teacher– lay in her hospital bed after a full day of contractions and was getting ready to deliver. As she pushed, the doctor–who wasn’t her actual ob/gyn—told her that she wasn’t working hard enough and that she needed to focus and push harder. Mind you, this was after already being in active labour for hours. She told the doctor that something didn’t feel right, to which he remarked: ‘Hunny, this is your first child, how would you know what it’s supposed to feel like?’ Long story endless, she was right. Something was wrong and they ended up having to break the baby’s collarbone in order to get him out of the birth canal, which put him and her in distress. Sherry received a blood transfusion because of the blood loss and the baby was placed in neonatal intensive care unit for a few weeks.
The moral of the story…the only person that truly understands your body is you. I don’t care how long your doctor has studied or where he or she went to school. Nobody knows your body the way you do, and no one ever will.
Unfortunately, this story is one of many and it is for this reason, why many women have sought out alternative methods of healthcare. Many women feel that modern medicine doesn’t take us seriously and the success of the wellness industry definitely proves this. The healthcare system is generally unpleasant: impersonal and harried. The doctor-patient relationship has been slowly eroding as a result of long wait-times, difficulty obtaining appointments and impersonal interactions with medical staff. This often makes people feel devalued.
Some research suggests that the medical system is even less accommodating to women, whose experience of pain is routinely minimized by health practitioners. For instance, severe-menstrual related pain is often dismissed or underestimated by doctors. Many women with autoimmune diseases, endometriosis or fibroids go undiagnosed or dismissed. Many women experience birth in a hospital setting where they are given limited control over their care or which procedures they are subjected to. I’ve listened to several women talk about being urged to have C-sections without proper explanations as to why.
When women’s preferences and needs are routinely dismissed in the process of childbirth, it’s not surprising that we seek out alternative methods of healthcare. And the wellness industry is a direct response to this. It’s easy to see how a sympathetic doula who listens to and advocates for her patient could seem appealing.
The wellness industry strives to cultivate compassion and is designed to help empower women. It is for this reason why many women are supplementing traditional medicine with alternative forms of medicine.
Until the traditional healthcare system begins to align with the needs of women, we will continue to take our health into our own hands and seek out other healthcare professionals that validate our concerns and strive to serve us better.