One thing that's always bothered me about Western medicine is it seems like often people find it impossible to balance science with common sense and natural health. While ultrasounds in the last trimester can be off by up to (and commonly) two pounds, a trained and experienced midwife can feel through your stomach and often, they're closer than the ultrasound. They can almost always tell the position of the baby this way, too, without machines, just hands.
So it's no surprise that doctors in Belgium spent two years designing a special MRI machine that was open so they could have access to the person in it -- a woman giving birth, all recorded on the machine.
My very first thought was, "Is that even safe?"
Well, it appears no one even knows, but it's recommended to avoid MRIs on pregnant women and babies unless there is an immediate need. The biggest concern seems to be the injection of contrast chemicals that help with clarity of the image. The infant swallows the chemicals, pees them out, and swallows them again, and it's detectable in tissue even a full day later. There is also concern about the heat that the magnetic and radio waves create causing possible tissue damage or long-term negative effects.
And that's just the concerns over a normal MRI.
In this case though, figure that the pushing stage alone can take an hour, give or take, and that'd be a long time to be in the machine. Not to mention it obviously would restrict movement, despite the special design, which has negative effects on birth as well. There are five more of these births planned, and I can't help but hope that these women potentially risking their kids' health have births that provide lots of information for the doctors -- statistically, one or two of these women (it'd be two or three if it were in the US) will end up in a c-section, and maybe this can shine a little more light as to why.
Amongst a wide variety of things they're looking for and don't yet understand, they are particularly interested in looking at shoulder dystocia, where the head delivers but the shoulders are stuck in the pelvis. Often, this leads to c-section, but it doesn't need to -- not only could the simple act of squatting instead of lying down allow for the pelvis to widen enough (it's even illegal in another country to make women birth lying down unless they want/have to), but there is also a maneuver named after the woman who created it, the Gaskin Maneuver, that can safely dislodge the baby.
My hope is that in these MRI-examined births, they can take advantage of it to test what natural birth advocates have been saying all along, that the more science tries to take over a natural process, the more they mess it up. For Western medicine to embrace more traditional, natural methods, I know they've got to see it and document it. If anything comes out of these births, I hope that's it.
Don't get me wrong, I seriously love science and think that modern and natural medicine can co-exist in the most beneficial way, but they're often at odds with each other, when they really don't have to be.
Would you give birth in an MRI machine in the name of research?
Image via dailymail