Health has never been a big concern in my life. As a child, my mother chose to avoid the doctor because I literally fought the nurses tooth and nail. That was back when antibiotics were given by needle, not mouth. So, I sweated out the fevers, took a few aspirin and got over it.
When I became pregnant, needless to say, I had little experience with medical professionals. Somewhere along the way, I must have developed a sense that doctors are the foremost authorities on health. I entrusted my health and the health of my unborn child to what I thought were a sort of super-human breed of folk.
It wasn’t until the third or fourth OB-GYN visit when my opinion began to change. Visits were brief -- very brief -- like five-minutes brief. I had a gut feeling this just wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. As a first-time mother, I wanted my physician to be just as interested in my pregnancy as I was. I was sorely disappointed.
I contemplated changing physicians but chose to go against my gut feeling and continued seeing this doctor. Visit after visit, it became clear that this guy had no more interest in my pregnancy than a total stranger. I checked in, got weighed, they took my blood pressure and pretty much shoved me out the door. I knew if I met him on the street he wouldn’t recognize me, much less call me by name.
Other things began to concern me as well. His practice did not check pregnant women for gestational diabetes or group B strep, tests that are routine at most other practices. When I quizzed him on why not, he told me that the risk to the child was so low it wasn’t worth taking time to administer these tests. I felt that if there is any risk at all, the tests are worth it. On my own accord, I had him test me for group B strep and was positive. Later, I found out that the risk to the child is pneumonia, meningitis or a blood infection -- illnesses no parent in their right mind would want to risk. Newborns can, and do, develop severe complications from these illnesses and may even die.
Besides the strep test being positive, my pregnancy was somewhat uneventful. I had some back pain issues but nothing much else I could complain about.
But then my due date came and went. My physician said he would wait up to three weeks to induce me. I thought it strange, but he was the authority and I didn’t question him.
About seven days after my due date, I began having very mild “Braxton Hicks” contractions. Those subsided and I began experiencing very painful contractions, about one to two minutes apart. So, I phoned my doctor.
He asked “where” I was feeling the pain. I said in my lower pelvic region, where you would feel menstrual cramps. “Oh, those are not contractions. You generally feel contractions up near your belly button,” he said. “You probably have a twisted pelvic bone. That can feel very much like contractions.” As if he had ever felt menstrual cramps or contractions before!
So, I hung up the phone and went on having these unbearable pains, thinking they would go away soon. Remember, I am a week past due.
My husband comes home from work and sees what agony I’m in and calls the doctor himself. Meanwhile, I’m screaming bloody murder in the background. The doctor maintains that I am in false labor and we would be “wasting our time” to go to the hospital. Oh, did I mention that I was a week past due?
Finally, after two hours of torture, my husband takes the reins and decides we are going to the hospital. We second-guess ourselves on the drive and almost turn around for home.
But, we stayed the course and checked-in. As the nurse is hooking me up to the heart monitors, we hear a very slow, “beep . . . . . . . .beep . . . . . .beep.” My husband asks, “Is that the baby’s heart rate?” A look of panic comes over the nurse. She says “yes” and, before you know it, there are a half-dozen of hospital staff in the room poking and prodding me from every direction.
Turns out, the baby’s heart rate had plummeted to less than half of normal. Each time I had a contraction, the baby was being deprived of oxygen. My physician showed up eight minutes after he received the emergency call. The staff had stopped my contractions and the baby’s heart rate had returned to normal. But, since they had no explanation as to why the heart rate plummeted, I had an emergency c-section.
As the doctor was cutting me open to get the baby out, he notices that due to stress in the womb, the baby had a bowel movement. This is very dangerous to babies because the tarry substance gets into their lungs and can cause oxygen levels to be very low. My newborn was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit and I didn’t even catch a glimpse of him. He spent six long days there recuperating from this complication.
My son is now four-years-old and is fine. But the experience I had with my OB-GYN still haunts me to this day. My gut feeling told me to switch, but I put all my faith in the fact that this physician came highly recommended and was a seasoned doctor. I lost sight of the fact that he is, after all, human. And, as we all know, humans make mistakes and even the most trusted doctor can become complacent about his patients. To him, I was just another expectant mother going through just another routine pregnancy.
I learned a very important lesson during this experience: to not second-guess my gut feeling when it comes to health. You are your own best advocate. Be outspoken when you’re not getting the best treatment. Giving life should never be treated as a routine experience. Each and every pregnancy is unique and special. Choose a doctor who thinks so too.
And, never let a doctor tell you what you are feeling. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts or you may suffer the consequences.
I have a second son now and handled my pregnancy with him much differently. I chose another OB-GYN from a friend’s recommendation but did not assume this doctor was the end-all-be-all. Fortunately, I made what would be one of the best choices I have ever made for healthcare.
Now, it's the pediatricians I have to watch...
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