When I was pregnant with Monika, I watched, with growing anxiety, as my due date came and went. At my 41-week appointment, my midwife and I started talking about inducing labor. But since Dan had been born by Cesarean section, my options for medical induction were limited.
Furthermore, a failed induction would result in another C-section, which I was actively trying to avoid. Some moms are OK with routine repeat c-sections, but I wasn't. I couldn't imagine how I would be able to take care of my 2-year-old while recovering from abdominal surgery. The recovery from my first c-section was awful and I was still having intermittent incision pain at Dan's first birthday.
Before my 41-week appointment, I had looked into several non-medical options for inducing labor. One of them was acupuncture. My midwife agreed that it was a safe option. So, on day 10 overdue, I walked into the acupuncturist's office for my one-hour treatment.
One hour gave me plenty of time to chat with the acupuncturist. He answered my questions about the procedure. We talked about dairy farming. And he listened while I vented about my frustrations with my health insurance company's unwillingness to cover a 50-dollar acupuncture treatment that had the potential to save thousands of dollars in induction and/or c-section expenses.
But what I found most interesting were his stories about his experiences using acupuncture to treat infertility and turn breech babies. He said he had a 70 percent success rate in using acupuncture to turn breech babies. However, when he offered the service to several obstetricians in the area, thinking that they would be interested in helping their expecting mothers turn their breech babies and avoid unnecessary c-sections, those obstetricians weren't interested. They said that performing c-sections was more profitable than delivering babies naturally. (And, according to my old doctor, they're also more convenient than a natural delivery.)
Why am I telling this story now?
I recently heard about a dairy farming mom-to-be who is scheduled for a c-section because her baby is breech. As I listened, I remembered the acupuncturist's story and started to wonder. Is this mom-to-be OK with having a planned c-section? Does she know there are several safe methods for trying to turn her baby, one of which is acupuncture? Did her doctor suggest any of these options?
Maybe I shouldn't care about what happens to another mother and her baby.
Or maybe I should. Maybe we should all care more about how many unnecessary procedures are performed and what can be done to prevent them.
We received the notice from our health insurance company about what to expect with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The notice stated that, if we choose to keep our current plan, our benefits will not change, but that we should expect our premiums to go up because the overall use of health care services is increasing, and the cost for health care services, such as hospital and physician visits, also continues to rise.
This led to a discussion about who's responsible for rising health care costs. Is it health insurance companies? Is it doctors and medical facilities? Or is it patients?
The truth is, we're all responsible.
Health insurance companies need to recognize, and cover, alternative treatment options that have the potential to reduce overall health care costs.
Doctors need to think twice before writing prescriptions for routine C-sections. C-sections are major surgery; they have greater risks and greater price tags than normal births.
Medical facilities need to do their part to keep costs in check, too.
Did you know that a five-gram foil packet of antibiotic ointment costs nine dollars if you acquire it in the emergency room? When I fell in our parlor up north and bashed my knee open, that little packet of ointment was dabbed on the wound after it was stitched up. Those stitches cost me 900 dollars, but it was the nine dollars I spent on antibiotic ointment that really made me mad.
Along those same lines, a 99-cent package of baby wipes will cost you five dollars in the hospital, but what does five dollars matter when you have a 15,000 dollar bill, right? And those five dollars will get wrapped up into the facility charge the hospital submits to the insurance company.
Most patients never even request a detailed hospital billing statement, let alone question the charges.
As patients, we need to always ask questions about our care, know our options and make sure all decisions are in the best interest of our health, not the best interests of somebody else's bottom line.
I know I will continue to ask questions and seek alternative options.
I left the acupuncturist's office that afternoon and returned home. I went into labor that night and Monika was born the next afternoon, without a medical induction and without a repeat c-section.