Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So, Anyway

Where were we? Oh yes, my gigantor baby story. VM has been my patient since I started practicing here in Whooville. I delivered her first baby shortly before the Bean, so imagine my surprise (and hers) when she came to me last spring, pregnant with her second child. VM had gestational diabetes with her last pregnancy, but it was very well controlled with diet. This pregnancy was a different story. We tested early, and began the diabetic diet and teaching very quickly, but her sugars waged out of control for a good 2 weeks. There were some ups and downs with her insulin control, but we finally struck a good balance. She remained well controlled for the remainder of the pregnancy...on paper, any way. Long about 36 weeks, VM's fundal height began to measure larger than her dates by more than 2 cm. (2 cm above gestational age or 2 cm below are considered in the "normal range.") The ultrasound revealed a fetal weight extending into the 90th percentile.

Due to her early gestational age, we decided to observe the fetal growth and aim for induction of labor at 39 weeks (the week after Christmas). All progressed merrily, with an ultrasound at 38 weeks predicting an estimated fetal weight of 10 pounds 7 ounces. "Ha ha!" we laughed. How *funny* that would be if it were *true*? In the back of my mind visions of shoulder dystocias danced in my head, but I kept repeating the mantra that "Macrosomia is not an indication for induction." over and over until the voices were quashed. VM presented for induction of labor for insulin dependent gestational diabetes at 39 weeks and 2 days. She received ce.rvi.dil overnight, and pit.ocin was initiated in the morning. Her previous pregnancy had been a spontaneous labor at 38 weeks, and had lasted a little over 4 hours. By 10 AM, VM was comfortable, with a good epidural, and she was *frustrated* that the baby had not been born already! I reassured her that induced labors were different, and that this baby was probably just a wee bit bigger than her last (8 pound 3 oz) baby. Right about noon, she began to feel the telltale "pressure." Sure enough, she was complete and at +1 station. She had no discomfort at all, and not much urge to push, so we turned back the epidural and let her "labor down." Nearly 30 minutes later, VM was ready to push. I remember that she was laughing, because she couldn't feel what she was doing. What she was doing was pushing like a champ. She laughed/pushed for about 4 contractions.

Then, the head completely crowned....and I just about died. It was a very, very, large head. The delivery was very well controlled, but the head just kept coming and coming and coming. I made eye contact with the nurse, and, mirrored in her eyes, I saw my own concern. She maneuvered the patient into McRobert's and prepared for suprapubic pressure. We wouldn't need it. The anterior shoulder slid under the pubic bone with only the slightest pressure. I think I actually breathed again once I felt that shoulder deliver. I lifted the small toddler, erm, baby into the waiting arms of her mother, and she cried and the baby cried with her. There was a very small second degree laceration that was easily repaired. The head circumference as 16", and the weight was 10 pounds 15.7 ounces. VM asked if she could "get credit" for having an 11 pound baby. "Without a doubt!" I said. So that is my eleven pound baby story; the largest baby I have delivered vaginally. (The largest by C-section was 13 pounds, ack!)

SO, what is the moral of this story? Well, I think there are a few things. For one, sometimes, despite all of the talk of ultrasounds being incredibly inaccurate in the third trimester, your baby *is* as big as the ultrasound says it is. But second! Even if your baby is ginormous, and you have to undergo a god-forsaken medical induction, you can still have a smooth, successful delivery. And third, as a physician, it reinforces to me that it is always best to prepare for the absolute worst, while trusting the process, and hoping for the best.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thank you all...

...for your support. You guys make me want to cry! Don't worry, I'm not going to stop blogging, nor will I change the way that I blog. I value this space, and I certainly value all of you, whether you agree with me or not! So, thanks again for all of the kind words. I was beginning to feel a little persecuted! Coming up...Dr. Whoo gets her first day off in 18 days, relocation woes, and an 11 pound baby (!). Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


There were a couple of comments from sarai on my last post that were rather lengthy, so rather than leave them in the comment section, I am posting them both here, in their entirety, along with my response. Italics are sarai's words, and the regular text words are mine

It can be very hard for the patient however, after having the doctor be wrong numerous times over the years with drastic consequences to your life. I don't watch Oprah, and the articles you mentioned irritate me, but yes, I do look for reputable internet sites, and before the internet was available, I researched.

sarai, I realize that your postings are coming from a place where you have been burned by the medical profession, but I certainly do not believe that physicians are anything more than fallible human beings who will make mistakes. That was not the point of the post.

That doesn't mean that I approach the doctor like I know more, and like I expect them to act as my puppet. But if I go to an OB appointment and say my baby isn't moving as much, and I am concerned about placental insufficiency, for example, I DONT want to hear "you're baby is moving just as much, it just doesn't feel the same because he has less room". Excuse me, doctor, YOU are not the one that's actually pregnant here, DON'T tell me how much my baby is or is not moving. YOU are not the one that will have to live with a dead child if there is a stillbirth (which the medical world is completely unable to understand how to prevent) I and MY HUSBAND ARE.

I think you are misunderstanding me. I *do* appreciate an informed patient. As I stated before, I practice collaborative medicine, not paternalistic care. I take my appointment time with patient to educate them and talk about treatment options. I even have a list of reputable internet sites on which to research information. That is completely different than someone coming in (or better yet, just calling the nurse line) and telling me that they have already diagnosed themselves, and now would like me to prescribe this medicine or order this test for them.

Again, I know that you've been hurt, but I am not the doctor that didn't listen well enough to you when you knew something was wrong, so please don't cyber yell at me. Just because I may vent my spleen on anonymous blog about things that irritate me about patients does not mean that I quickly dismiss them or am rude to them, quite the opposite actually. I take my patient's complaints seriously and act quickly on alarming symptoms. The dismissive attitude you are attributing to me does not apply in real life. You only see the seedy underbelly of my brain here.

You doctors don't always know how many times in person's life a previous doctor missed something important and the patient paid a heavy price. The doctor may have done nothing wrong, they may have met the standard of care, but to the person living with the consequences, it just doesn't matter, and they will do anything they can (watch Oprah, read really stupid Reader's Digest, surf the net) to try to make sure they get more observant care next time around.

Yes, as I said, "we doctors" are not omniscient. I did already know the patient about whom I posted, and have been doing her GYN care for 3 years now ( and each time I did her pap, her small speculum was warmed and lubed). She is not new to me or my practice. My care of her has been as observant as can be. Doctors are human, we do our best, and sometimes, despite our best efforts, it just isn't good enough. It sucks, and we try hard so it won't happen, and it bothers us perhaps more than you will ever know.

As a nurse, I've seen term babies stillborn, (decreased fetal movement, doctor ignored, or minimized), diarrhea was actually Ecoli, which turned into HUS, by the time treated (after being sent home 3 times) kid had stroke and ended up needing kidney transplant, a "viral upper resp infection" was actually a bacterial pneumonia, doc wouldnt believe patient couldn't breathe well 'cause sat was OK, vomiting and increasingly decreased LOC was actually juvenile onset diabetes (also sent home a few time before ER doc figured it out -- kid almost died.) This may be why some people are reading articles and trying to advocated more vigorously for their own care. I know I am. Even as I feel sincere empathy for you as I see the look on your face when you see my internet sheets........

See above, and there are even term stillborn babies where there were *no* warning signs. No decreased movement, no pain, no bleeding, sometimes babies just die. We do everything we can to prevent it, but despite our best efforts, babies still die. Yes, there are physicians that dismiss patient concerns, or miss pertinent signs, but we are not all the same person. Advocating for your own care (what you are talking about) and telling the doctor what to do and how to do it (what my post was about) are two different things entirely.

And here's something that just kind of bothers me about your blog, which, BTW, I otherwise enjoy reading.........it's judgement both from you and commenters, about women's birth choices.

Well, I can't speak for my commenters, but part of my job is to regard "women's birth choices" with my own clinical judgement. That's my job. If women come to me for care, they are, in fact, asking me to use my clinical judgement in their care.

If I'm reading your blog right (and correct me if I'm not), the "ideal" expectant mother in your practice wants to go into labor naturally, not mind being past due date, and not object if you feel at the last minute she needs a crash c-section. Moms who want to be induced (God forbid a week or two early) prefer a c-section straight off, or "insist" on a "happy vaginal midwife birth" even if things don't go according to plan are subjected to the eye roll.... Kind of a tall order, Dr. Whoo.....

I don't know if there is a "right" way to read my blog, so who am I to say who is "reading it right" or "reading it wrong?" I do think that you may perceive my words in a more malicious way than they are intended, and this is probably only highlighted by your bad experiences. I vent on this blog when things get tough to take, a safety valve, if you will, so that I do not blow up in the presence of an actual patient. There is no actual eye rolling going on in the presence of my patients. No matter their circumstances, personality quirks, or clinical needs, they are treated fairly and equally.

Loosely speaking, my "ideal" patient (as you put it) doesn't exist. My guidelines for delivery, elective or otherwise, are dictated both by the standard of obstetrical care, my clinical judgement, and the individual aspects of each patient. What I expect of my patient is a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Those are things that must be earned...by both parties. There is no "laying down the law." There is a give and take that is natural in these kinds of professional relationships, and quite honestly it doesn't merit many blogging entries because it is so routine. I don't think that you understand, you only see so much of me here.

One thing I did NOT NOT want with my first child was a crash c section. Either a vaginal birth, or a planned section, didn't care which. Of course, doc wouldn't do a c-section just because I wanted one, so we had a crash vag delivery with vacuum, (baby crashed too late to get c-section) where I got to experience watching my firstborn be revived, separated for her for hours after birth while she stabilized, and was so sore and torn up that I didn't want to have sex for months and months, and still deal with stress incontinence since that delivery well over a decade ago.....but because I didn't go to med school I didn't get to decide what would be better for me. I would like to argue, both as a nurse and as a mom which was physically better for me -- ugly vag birth or planned c-section. Yep, I'd choose c-section. Sorry.

I'm sorry that you had such a traumatic experience, and that it still haunts you. There is no way to predict when something like that is going to happen. Crash deliveries of any kind are heart stopping, but it *is* the physician's decision, in that moment, what will lead to the best outcome for mother *and* baby. If there is a terminal deceleration, and the baby is on the perineum, it is much more likely you will get a better fetal (and maternal) outcome with an assisted vaginal delivery.

I'm sorry that your bottom got torn up, and you had to undergo the trauma of seeing your daughter (successfully?) resuscitated. But, if I'm reading correctly, your baby survived. If your physician did what you wanted them to do, what you *perceived* to be "physically" better for you, and did a c-section, your baby's brain could have been deprived of several additional minutes of oxygen, with possible disastrous consequences. Whose fault would it be then? Yours? No, it wouldn't, it would be the physician's fault, who let the clouded judgement of an overly involved party (read, you) make the call. Instead of a torn up bottom, you could have hemorrhaged and required an emergent hysterectomy, precluding any future deliveries. Would you take the responsibility of zero future fertility, just because you *wanted* a surgery? Or is that the physician's responsibility? So yes, when you put your medical care into the hands of your physician...in that critical moment...you may not get to make that final call on what you *think* may be best for you. That is what a physician is there to do.

The recovery from next delivery was even worse, crash section, nobody's fault, but if I had it to do over again, possibility of crash section or planned section, well, I'd choose planned every single time. The crash carries psychological scars --- many of them. If you are lucky, you get to go to sleep and miss your baby being born. If you are unlucky, you have to stay awake, with no one talking to you, while your baby gets CPR. and your husband is God knows where. Physically, its a lot harder, too, and wound healing is not nearly as good than it is when the surgeon has time to take his time.

Agreed, but the point is the same, you cannot always predict these things. You said yourself, nobody's fault. Precisely. Planned surgeries are often more controlled than emergent surgeries...but not always. There are exceptions to every single "rule." Again, I sympathize that you have had such traumatic experiences, but the neither medical profession at large (in general) nor I (in particular) are to blame for this. I didn't have the perfect, ideal, rainbows and orgasms births that I would have loved to have, either, but I was fortunate and had 2 viable, healthy babies. I wouldn't trade that for any "experience."

The reason that patients want to run the show is because THEY have to live with the outcome!!!!!!! Tell yourself over and over and over again, its not about me, its not about me, its not about me!!!! especially in your profession where the stakes are so so high.......

But in order to be safe, objective, and effective the patients cannot feasibly run the show! They can (and should) be involved in the decision making process and development of a treatment plan, and they can consent or not consent, but they *cannot* "run the show." That is what a physician is supposed to do. Run the health care show.

This blog *is* about me! How I feel about the things that I do and that I see. Here, in this little corner of the internet, it *is* all about me. That doesn't mean that I disregard what my patients want. It also doesn't mean that I haven't had to make a decision that a patient was not capable of making on their own.

Maybe they really want to be induced when they know YOU, whom I'm sure they all really like, will be there. Maybe they are tired. Maybe afraid of late 3rd trimester stillbirth. Maybe they are struggling financially and need tax break. Maybe already not able to work anymore and trying to maximize maternity leave. Wanting to be induced at 38 1/2 weeks is not a sin.

Perhaps it isn't a "sin," per se, but it isn't valid medically. There is a lot of research to read about elective inductions, especially prior to 39 weeks. Often the outcomes are less than stellar, both maternal and fetal. Wanting your own physician, or "being tired," or "being afraid," or "needing a *tax* break (!)" are not viable indications for medical procedures that can have lasting impact on fetal and maternal health and well being. Elective induction of labor is associated with higher rates of cesarean deliveries, fetal distress (and dreaded "crash deliveries"), and fetal hospitalization for various immaturity issues.

Take a page from your midwives book. Listen to your patient. Ask questions. Try to figure out what the patient is afraid of. What she values. Try "why is this so important to you?" instead thinking "I can't believe she wants to have her baby by Christmas!" Find out what other experiences she has had with other health care providers. Maybe the last doc that did a pelvic jammed a large cold speculum where the sun does not shine, and she thinks you respect Oprah more than her. And remember, if she wanted a midwife, she'd probably be seeing one, so try to tactfully ask what she wants from your expertise, if you feel like she is treating you like her puppet.

Not to beat a dead horse, because I'm already feeling nuts for defending myself for talking about the way I feel on my own freaking blog, but how do you know that I *don't* listen? You don't know. You don't know me. You don't know how I treat my patients. The last doc that patient had for a pelvic exam was *me*, and I did not jam a cold, extra large speculum into her.

I've found that being a patient and having really horrible medical experiences makes me a lot less offended by my patients. Because if a patient asks me "will the doctor use a small, warmed speculum like it says to in Oprah's magizine?" my first thought is not to roll my eyes, it is to ask, "what has your past experiences with pelvic exams been like...."

Unfortunately, having really horrible medical experiences makes you a lot *more* offended by the things that I say, anonymously, on this blog, and causes you to extrapolate and frame my commentary in a less than favorable light. I hope my response has given you some insight. And truly, for all the snarking on the blog, I never forget that my patients are just people, just like me, with a different frame of reference. Even if it doesn't translate in text, I'm certain it translates well in person. I wish you healing as you attempt to move forward from your painful past experiences.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


It's a new year, it's raining outside, I'm cranky from dieting, and OtherDoc has been out of town for a week. Do I need to provide anymore preface than that? That's right, time to vent!

It's weeks like this that I truly wonder why any sane person would ever consider being in the medical field. Money? Small potatoes compared to other professions. Autonomy? Hardly. Respect? A resounding "Ha! I don't freaking think so!!" I don't know about anyone else, but I am getting sick of hearing about what Op.rah thinks about my profession. This week a patient advised me (and I quote), "Well, Op.rah said to be sure you use the very smallest, um, sepulchre things, and warm it up, too!" Um, did you *really* just say that to me? Really?? Gee, I would have never thought of that without Op.rah's help. Thank you so much for enlightening me, O great one, in how to better practice medicine for my patients. News flash, I know, but I *already* use small *speculums* and I always warm them, too thankyouverymuch. I am already cringing about next week when all the people that watched her s.ex show on Friday call in for urgent, stat libido check appointments. Thanks a heap, O.

It's not just her jumping on the bash physicians bandwagon, though. I see magazine articles and news stories every day instructing people how to "Find out if you have a *good* doctor," or "Things your doctor isn't telling you," or "Medical horror stories, part 374." It makes me physically ill. Like we don't have enough on our proverbial plates, now we have to dispel the media panic surrounding our profession, as well. Why is it that you never see articles about "Accountants gone bad!" or "What your plumber isn't telling you (but should)"? It certainly doesn't help me out when patients come in with printed sheaves of website information instructing me on how to treat their perceived ailment, before I have a chance to take a history, do an exam, or any baseline lab work. It seems that physicians are being reduced to being the "gatekeeper" of health care, instead of the director. "Just shut up and give me what ever test, drug, diagnosis, etc. that I want." What is worse is that we get this from both patients and insurance companies, further restricting our ability to practice our profession the way we are meant to practice. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not of the mindset that physicians are omniscient. I practice collaborative medicine, not paternalistic care, but I see the shift even away from collaboration to patient demanded care, and it just isn't right.

This attitude is reflected in the patients each time they call to demand a Di.flucan prescription without coming in for an appointment, over the phone, even if they haven't been seen in the office for 2 years. Or women who delight in paging the physician at 2 in the morning to ask for the list of cold medicines to take in pregnancy because they "lost" the sheet given them in the office, because that's my *job*, you know? It is also rampant in the lay and medical blogospheres. The fear and mistrust of the medical profession is almost painful to read. Sometimes I have to sit on my hands to keep from commenting, lest I perpetuate the "doctors are assholes" perception. Especially in the birthing blogs, where the common thought is that Ob/Gyns are out to fillet every pregnant woman that comes through the door, just because they are evil, scum sucking doctors and not loving, caring midwives. Practicing medicine isn't what it used to be, and I find myself disheartened at the direction our role in medical care is taking. I see my colleagues (and myself) yearning for a job where we can turn off our brains after plugging in our allotted hours of time, instead of taking our work home with us and worrying about people who only see us as drug dispensing/test ordering automatons.

I still have the flashes of what medicine is supposed to be. I'll have a really great pregnancy/delivery with a patient, or I'll do a surgery that improves some one's quality of life, or I'll make a diagnosis that has the potential to alleviate suffering or even save some one's life. It is those few moments that keep me moving forward, doing what I've spent 12 years of my life training to do. Medicine used to be about helping people, but if the changes I see now continue on, medicine will soon be just another "punching the clock" kind of job. If that happens, my friends, then we all lose. Every single one of us.