There are many things I love about ObGyn. One of these reasons is there are a lot of happy and good memorable moments. There is also a lot of pain and suffering that often gets overshadowed by these moments. The title of this post is also the title of a documentary that impacted me long ago. To this day I still think about it often and of ways to change the outcome.
A fellow medical lifestyle blogger, Dr Jones from MindOnMed.com , recently shared her experience on why she chose ObGyn as a specialty, as well as why she feels it is a sacred choice. After my recent time as a sub-intern in the Labor and Delivery Room, I have to concur with her words and experience. In just a few days I witnessed several heartbreaking experiences. These truly showed me how, we as doctors can do so much more than cure or relieve. We can heal and connect as human beings with our patients. This part of our job is truly a sacred privilege as an ObGyn.
Three particular cases truly reached inside my soul and showed me how we can do much more as doctors. One intrauterine fetal demise at term, a termination due to maternal mortality risk, and a termination because of fetal anomalies incompatible with life. All of this in a period of 24 hours.
As an extremely empathetic person. I felt the pain and suffering of my patients during this arduous process and they all brought me to the verge of tears. Offering our condolences is not nearly enough comfort for such a loss. I cannot begin to imagine going through that process. With simple gestures, words of encouragement, and even silence and time, we can help mourning patients get closure.
As Dr Jones put it, we have to be grateful for the opportunity to be allowed entry into such a sensitive moment of a patients life. We become the support and reassurance they need during this very difficult time. In most of these cases, we can give patients comfort in the possibility of a future pregnancy if so desired. In other cases, we need to guide them through the process of recognizing that a future pregnancy will not be possible. We support them, as well as allow them to grieve. We offer them any other tools available to help then through this journey. In other words, we become friends, cheerleaders, therapists, or comforting figures for a person who was joyful, and who has now lost their child.
Lisa Russell is a documentary filmmaker. In the documentary that I spoke about in the beginning of this post she focuses on Obstetric Fistula. It shows how in Niger and other African countries many women face the awful reality of a lost child a lot more often than necessary, usually from preventable causes.
One of the main reason is that they go into labor. Due to malnutrition or inadequate prenatal care, their bodies are unable to go through the birthing process. As such, the baby dies inside the mother after hours of pushing. This situation, and the constant pressure at the pubic bone causes damage to the tissues and forms a fistula, a connection, between the urethra and the vagina causing urinary incontinence. These women are often shunned from their communities and abandoned by their husbands because they smell of urine all the time. The whole point of the documentary was to educate those who watch it about how we can help these women.
A cesarean section in the local clinics is worth a lot less than a fistula repair. So is providing prenatal care for nutrition and giving multivitamins to help their bodies be better prepared for childbirth. As a result they can have healthy babies and become healthier post-partum women.
How are all these stories related? Well in the end patient education and care are important parts of what we do and ObGyn. We must always remember there is more to medicine than curing, operating, or diagnosing. As physicians, as obstetricians, have the ability to impact and change women’s lives every single day. We must know that even a small gesture, like offering a hand, a hug, or crying together are important parts of patient care and of the practice of holistic, humanitarian medicine.
To read more about Lisa Russell and her life long work to women’s health and othe rpublic health issues check out this article!
Thanks for reading!