02 September 2009

Worrying trend: social inductions

Western Bulldog Brian Lake* has requested that his wife be induced 2 weeks before her due date so that he can 'focus on the finals'.

Since when did it become acceptable for football to trump the birth of your first child? And why on earth would his wife agree to such a preposterous and unnecessarily risky request?

When women are induced, there are given pitocin which is a synthetic form of oxytocin, the hormone that kicks off labour. With induction, there is no gradual build up with contractions become increasingly stronger and more frequent over an extended period of time. Induction essentially sticks women right into the second stage of labour so contractions are strong straight away. Some studies have shown that induction is linked caesareans because when you don't have a gradual build up to get your body used to being in pain, women often will have an epidural because the contractions are so strong straight away. As a result, for some women labour is slowed with the epidural, they can't push as effectively, the baby can become distressed and then needs to be born surgically. There are also considerable risks with induction including brain damage to the baby as a result of lack of oxygen if contractions are too strong or too frequent.

In my mind, unless induction is medically necessary, I can't conceive of how one could justify putting the lives of loved ones at risk. When Adam Gilchrist's** son Harrison had complications after being deprived of oxygen in his induced birth before the 2002 Boxing Day Test, he wondered if the induction was partly to blame. "Looking back, it seems stupid that I got myself into that position. I should have just walked away from cricket for the critical week or weeks, however long it took," Gilchrist wrote in his autobiography True Colours.

What is really worrying is that that having high profile people in the community participate in these sorts of things, it sets a precedent by which it becomes increasingly acceptable to have interventions in birth unnecessarily.

I am befuddled that his wife's obstetrician would consent to doing this. Considering we now live in an age in which patients have power as paying consumers of medicine, is an obstetrician breaching their duty of care to the patient by ceding to the patient's wishes for a scheduled birth (and of course the same argument can be made with regard to elective caesarean)?


*this is an Australian rules football player for those of you who are outside of Oz
**Australian cricket player

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