Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cardio Update/Moral Dilemna - Is knowledge always a good thing?

Went to the cardiologist on Friday. He said he thought, like me, that this could be normal for pregnancy. However, because the progression of symptoms matches the progression for real heart problems, we will do a stress echo to make sure.

On one hand, this is really cool. They will ultra-sound my heart while I walk on a treadmill at increasing speeds and inclines and check for normal patterns. I hope I get to see the ultrasound! And I like the idea of being thorough. I'm so grateful for full medical care and utilizing this great diagnostic technology to verify my safety.

On the other hand, I'm scared that I'll be forced into an episode. It's scary to feel my heart pounding so hard and not be able to bring it down just with my breath, like I'm used to doing. Then the dizziness and leg numbness. Inevitably, the dizziness makes me feel panicky. And the worst part - what if something is wrong? If they find something wrong, will that mean I can't birth in the birth center? Does it mean that for sure something bad will happen during the birth? If I do this, and something is wrong but not bad, will I be putting myself in danger? Would I be bringing a legal liability into the hands of my midwives?

Sometimes knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Birthing babies is such a common yet still mysterious physiological event and western medicine tends to err on the side of the known. It's easier to have a c-section than try a variety of other methods that might not work because the baby could die and we know (very well) how to perform a c-section without killing anyone. WE should - it's the most performed surgery in America. It's easier to birth in a hospital and have the mother on her back, feet in stirrups, constant fetal monitor because we can see best (despite she's pushing against gravity) and we can know if the baby's in distress. Of course, the baby's distressed! They are being pushed through a somewhat stretchy tube with a bunch of bones at the end and if they aren't in exactly the right position, it's much harder for everyone. Birth is a traumatic event, but so is climbing Everest or walking down the hallway of your new high school. You may have an idea of what will happen, but until you've done it, you haven't done it. And I'll bet your heart pounds a lot and maybe a little irregularly from excitement and exertion.

So, I guess my question is: Am I inviting a hospital birth by doing this stress echo and is that a good thing or not? Is it just a personal bias, a bad ju-ju that freaks me out? If it's best, can I safely put my feelings aside (guilt, trauma, anger) to make sure I'm safe? And what determines best? If I have a 10% chance of going into cardiac arrest during or post partum, is that enough to say I should be in a hospital? What is safe risk and what is just plain stupid?

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