Now, here is my preface.
I have never been a doula in a difference province in Canada. All the births I’ve done have been in British Columbia. And the birthing system is quite different between BC and Alberta and Manitoba etc etc.
Also, I have only done ONE birth in Mexico. In Puerto Vallarta, at One hospital with One doctor. I am by no means, the authority on this subject.
Thus the title of the blog post should be: The difference between Charlotte’s particular birth in Puerto Vallarta with Dra. Laura compared to the births I’ve done at hospitals in Vancouver and Victoria hospitals. Not very graceful eh? Now you can see why I chose the blog title I did, and why I must start with the preface I did.
-Natural Births are not the common practise-
When Charlotte first started seeing her doctor in Puerto Vallarta, she was lead to believe that most women schedule their c-sections without a second thought at 37 weeks pregnant. Period.
Her doctor did not resist her request to try a natural birth. But often it was suggested during appointments that “when” she has her epidural, then this and this will happen. And then *if* she needs a c-section, bla bla bla. And quite frankly, Charlotte gave birth in the operating room. There was not a separate delivery room as opposed to an operating room like they have in BC. Thus, Eric and I were fully suited in scrubs and everything was carefully sterilized in the delivery room.
-There is minimal hospital supplies.-
I know this seems like a given when you’re comparing a first world country and a third world country. When a woman goes into the hospital in Victoria, there is a stack of these blue super-absorbent pads in every room. There is a dresser full of medical supplies, towels, sterilized needles, gels, etc. In Puerto Vallarta, there is not. There are sheets on the bed you’re laying on. If you bleed on those sheets, they move them around a little so the wettest part isn’t touching your skin. Yeah, I know it sounds gross. Because it is, a bit. There isn’t a huge effort made on keeping you all polished and clean the way there is in Canada. There is great effort made in Mexico to keep you sterilized. They are a great fan of having an alcohol solution in a pressurized can and spraying and spraying the site where a needle will potentially go in, in a couple hours. And they spray the spot like someone with OCD would polish a brass handle. Every couple minutes, spray the spot again. Yeah I know the needle isn’t ready yet, but a germ may have crawled over in the last five seconds.
-There is paperwork at weird times.-
There is a lot of paperwork when you are first being admitted into the hospital in Mexico. Lots of “sign here’s” and “you missed a page” kind of moments. In BC, if you arrive at the hospital in full blown labour, they ask your name, they talk to your care provider, but you are pre-registered for the hospital so you don’t have to show any ID, you have no paperwork to fill out. Your care giver has already done all that and they have phoned the hospital to let them know you’re coming in.
In Mexico, we phoned the doctor, but they still had a good stack of paperwork for Eric to sign before Charlotte was officially admitted.
Then when a woman is in labour in BC, the nurses, midwives, doctors and anyone who enters the room or breathes in the same vicinity of the patient has to fill out multiple boxes on the charts they have floating around the room at all times. In Mexico, the doctor did not spend one moment filling out any charts. The nurses did a little bit of paperwork. The doctor was delightfully engaged in her patient the entire time that she wasn’t texting her husband on her phone. I really liked the way the doctor was engaged and didn’t have to bother with this.
When Charlotte was admitted from the delivery room (read: operating room) the amount of questions that the nurse had to ask her was unreal. And really strange things like if she was right or left handed. What was her religion? Did she have siblings? It was a bit ridiculous and bureaucratic but completed nonetheless.
-Fetal Heart Monitoring-
In Canada, they are obsessed with fetal heart monitoring. They have to do it every 10-15 minutes to fill out that box on their chart. Whether you are giving birth at home or in the hospital, they are always trying to get a heartbeat on the kid. Having a heart kid, I totally get it. The heartbeat of the baby tells the care giver a lot. It tells them if the baby is in distress. It can give the care giver hints on the position of the baby and if they are tolerating labour well.
The straps they have for the heart monitoring system is probably one of the most irritating things the nurses can do to the mother. The mother cannot move as freely and the nurse is constantly adjusting these straps to get a better read. Then if the monitor slips or the baby’s position changes, the machine starts beeping like mad to signal distress, even though often there is not any distress, and everyone gets just slightly anxious. How can you not when there is a machine beeping at you? (Yes, it may remind me of Monty Python with the machine that goes PING!)
In Mexico, Charlotte was at the hospital for 2 1/2 hours before the baby came out. For 15 minutes of that, I was putting bags in her room, putting scrubs on and then trying to find Charlotte again. So I was there for 2 hours and 15 minutes with Charlotte in the hospital prior to Lyra’s arrival. In Canada, she would have been monitored, if not continuously, probably 10 times for the baby’s heart beat. In Mexico, they listened to the baby’s heartbeat Once. Yup. Once.
So. (Like Cora says, “So” and then pauses like it’s a complete sentence. Now my child does this too.) So. This may be a good thing as it doesn’t bother the mother as much, and it’s not nearly as intrusive or cumbersome. So. It also could mean that if more women were going to attempt a natural birth in the hospital in Mexico (which they really don’t) then there is more chance for the baby to be in distress with no one noticing.
-There is no receptionist-
Doctors in Mexico have no receptionist. When they give you their phone number, it is their cell phone number, which they have on their person at all times. This is like, the best thing ever! In Canada, you phone a doctor’s office, you call outside their operating hours and you often can’t even leave a message on an answering machine. You phone in their office hours, you are put on hold, you can’t talk to an actual doctor because they are with patients. You speak to a receptionist who cannot tell you if the lump you found on your leg is cancerous or a cyst or a bad bruise or an ingrown hair.
In Mexico, you phone a number, you get a Doctor! You can ask them whatever you need to ask them. And then they say “Come down in twenty minutes? Or an hour?” And then you get a face-to-face visit with a doctor just.like.that.
Since I’m not American, and I’ve never done a birth in the United States, I do not know the comparison of that system. I’d be curious to know so feel free to leave comments to that effect or ask more questions on anything I didn’t cover.
I’d love to keep this discussion going and learn what could be different about our system and what is different about other systems world wide.
I would also like to say that this blog post was not to say that one country is better than the other. It was so interesting professionally and personally to see how different countries handle birth. And my perspective was singled out to one experience. There is a birthing centre in Guadalajara, just four hour drive away, and I imagine birth itself is a whole different animal.
Also, I wanted to thank Charlotte again for letting me be so open about her personal experience and deconstructing her own birth for this purpose.