Sunday, July 12, 2009

Article on swanky new L&D departments

The esteemed Navelgazing Midwife posted this on Facebook: "Definitely Not Your Mother's Maternity Ward" - and I found it very revealing. An excerpt:

At Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, women can now give birth in rooms with whirlpool tubs and wi-fi. At Fairview Southdale, new moms can hire a massage therapist or a portrait photographer.

Even Hennepin County Medical Center has upgraded its maternity ward, with pastel decor and a deep tub for water births.

All three are part of a major marketing offensive by hospitals to win a coveted demographic: mothers.

Thanks to a cultural obsession with pregnancy and babies, new moms are more informed and more demanding than ever. Many come to the hospital clutching "birth plans" and expecting to be indulged. Make them happy, the thinking goes, and they'll become lifelong customers.

The comments are quite interesting - many of them very akin to my own thoughts on it. I'm all for improving facilities, but too often it seems redecorating is a superficial substitute for actually changing problematic POLICIES. I couldn't care less about whether or not I can get a postpartum pedicure if their policies dictate a 24 hour deadline for labor. The comments, again reflect this; one woman writing, "My experience at Fairview Riverside was that they advertised one thing but delivered another (no pun intended!) They ignored the birth plan that they had encouraged me to make, kept trying to drug me and didn't believe I was in labor until the baby was on his way out. The after care was even worse!"

Exactly as I feared. Putting considerable funding and resources into "adding frills" (as the article itself puts it) without putting any effort into overhauling policies is just perpetuating the real problem. And it's the worst kind of condescension. I can just picture a Chief of Medicine (of course, I'm visualizing Bob Kelso) glancing at some poll results and sighing with exasperation. "Hmph, it seems that more women are wanting 'birth centers'. FINE, we'll give 'em a 'birth center'. Throw up some curtains, add a rocking chair, cover the equipment cabinets with wood paneling, and hire a manicurist. That oughta do it."

Unfortunately, it seems to work. I belong to a message board with a lot of mainstream mamas - wonderful people, but just largely mainstream - on it, and it comes up again and again, how they toured a hospital that just had the nicest maternity ward, they had hot tubs and lactation consultants and everything! But - without asking a lot of very careful, critical questions (I mean critical in both the 'harshly evaluating' and the 'extremely important' senses), there's no way of knowing whether the tubs would be available, and under what circumstances (is constant fetal monitoring mandatory, or is intermittent allowed? What about ROM?), or what KIND of lactation consultants they are and what hours they work, and on and on. It's the same old bait and switch. I genuinely hope these moms have good experiences, I do. From the bottom of my heart. But I've swallowed the red pill, and can never see only the face value of the hospital world again.

And frankly, I seriously object to the characterization of women as being under the influence of a "cultural obsession" and wanting to "be indulged". Excuse me??

Here's a revealing post from Keyboard Revolutionary on the trompe l'oeil performed by these maternity ward Extreme Makeovers.

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