Birth Professionals

Taking the serious seriously

I am studying my least favorite subject tonight – TORCH infections.  I have to admit to not learning much about these in class, not because we didn’t cover the information, but because I was not yet thinking about infections like a midwife.

As a childbirth educator, my training in pregnancy infections went something like this.  “Herpes is no big deal. They can cover any spots and prevent spread to the baby.”  “Toxoplasmosis is no big deal. Most women with a cat have already been exposed.” I was then assured that the medical community exaggerated these infections and used them to get women to do what they want.

It is scary to think this type of education felt adequate to me.  I have to be honest, the provision of reassurance without adequate information on a subject was something I was told the medical community did to ensure people were compliant.  I am not sure how I was oblivious to the same quality of “education” being provided to me.

I’m older and better educated as I pour over research on the subject today – actual research and not a paperback book for expectant mother’s about pregnancy. The reality is, these infections are serious and they do pose dangers to the baby. Fetal death, blindness, mental retardation and seizures are just a few of the possible outcomes. Maybe if I had understood that from the beginning I would have taken the time to really learn them instead of pushing them into my “not going to bother” pile.

Being on this end of it, I also have a better appreciation for how unnerving such a possibility must be for an expectant mother. If it were me, I wouldn’t want to be told not to worry about it.  I would want information, real hard facts to help me understand how to reduce the risk to my baby. I can guess most women would react the same.

I may not see many women with these infections, just like I may not see many shoulder dystocias.  This is why I now believe it is important for me to take these infections seriously.  I need to be able to explain the risks to a woman, and help her understand how she can reduce those risks.  I need to be able to tell the difference between being in contact with someone with an infection, and contracting the infection. I need to be able to identify a problem early, because quick identification of the infection may offer a chance for treatment, and that  may be able to help a baby.

And as for herpes,  I can accept that it isn’t usually going to be a problem.  Not because the herpes virus is no big deal, but because I’ll help her prevent an outbreak and reduce the risk of transmission with suppression therapy.  Having good information to share means the women I work with can make decisions based on solid research.

Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)