Friday, October 19, 2012

The Value of Midwives?

A Finnish net article looks at  regional differences in the number of women giving birth who suffer from severe perineal tears. 

What caught my eye about the article wasn't that much the regional differences within Finland but the comparison to Swedish data.  One researcher notes that severe perineal tears happen in about three percent of all Swedish births whereas the Finnish average is only 0.6 percent.  It looks like the US comparable figure might be four percent.

Assuming these data are correct, why is the Finnish average lower?   The same researcher thinks this has to do with midwifery (my translation):

Mika Gissler, a research professor at the Institute of Health and Welfare, knows the reason.  According to him Finland has preserved the old manual skills of midwives:  In natural births one supports the baby's head so that tears in the vagina or the perineal area can be avoided. 

It could be that there's something off in the Finnish data.  It could also be that the same midwife skills have been preserved elsewhere.  But if not, here's something that could benefit women giving birth in other countries.  And the change wouldn't be expensive, either.

I also found it interesting that one reason for an increase in severe perineal tears is that obstetricians now try to avoid doing Caesarian sections.  An unintended side-effect of a good policy?