For thousands of years, women have been giving birth naturally but in the last 30 years that has changed. It appears that many women are no longer capable of delivering without medical interventions as a result of a small pelvis which simply can not fit their baby.
So, I have to pose the question, "what has changed in the last 30 years?" Is it due to our diet, calcium deficiencies, posture or stress levels? When I began to search for answers into this 30 year old epidemic I was alarmed at what I found....turns out our bodies aren't failing us after all. Rather, it's the medical system that is failing womens bodies.
The idea that a woman’s hip size has everything to do with her ease of birth is not a new idea. It’s been a way of thinking for centuries, and it’s hard to shake a long standing myth.
Women are told all the time that they have a pelvis that is too small. They end up with an automatic cesarean without a trial of labor, only to give birth to the next child - much bigger in size, vaginally. The diagnosis of CPD (cephalopelvic disproportion - meaning babies head is too big compared to the size of the pelvis) is given out way to often - sometimes before the birth, and sometimes after a long labour followed by a cesarean. A long labour, and even a long pushing stage is not an indicator of a small pelvis/big baby. Often these same mothers give birth to their subsequent children who are much bigger. Labours stall for other reasons. This diagnosis gives women doubts in their bodies and then through the sharing of birth stories they pass these doubts on to other women. A woman who is a size 20 and has a nice large hips is told she cannot give birth naturally to her 6 pound baby. She tells the woman who is a size 5, with ‘smaller hips’, and then this poor women doubts her ability to give birth. Next thing we know, we have women measuring their hips, and wondering if they will have a harder or longer labor - and they are scared of a baby bigger than X pounds.
What most people do not understand is that the pelvis is not an immovable structure. We tend to imagine the pelvis as something solid and some believe it is one giant bone. There are four joints that join different pelvic bones together. During pregnancy and labour the hormone relaxin softens and relaxes the ligaments that join the pelvic bones, allowing the pelvis to give and stretch. In between the two bones that meet there in the front lies a pad of cartilage. This is symphysis pubis. In some women there can become a decent size gap there.
There is one more element to be considered - the baby. A baby’s head is made up of several bones - and they are made to overlap during birth. This is what causes molding. No one, not even a doctor, can tell a women how much the babies head will mold - or how much a woman’s pelvis will relax to accommodate that baby. The only way to find out is to try it.
A woman's pelvis can and will open naturally if given the chance, except in rare case of deformity or certain illnesses. It's important that we (doctors, midwives, moms, dads and doulas) trust in the birth process and wait patiently while the birthing body carries out what it inherently knows to do.
For further reading on this topic, please visit the links below.