Labor Intensive | KUOW News and Information

Labor Intensive

KUOW Photo/Nick Danielson

The stories from the labor and delivery ward at UW Medical Center in Seattle are often told breathlessly.

A nurse tells of a pregnant woman who arrived at the hospital brain dead after being airlifted from Eastern Washington. She was kept alive as nurses pumped her breasts to feed her baby, who had been delivered by cesarean section.

Sarah Meyer (right), a midwife, was recently hired by Whidbey Island General Hospital, as part of a plan to reduce the hospital's C-section rate.
Gary Taylor/Whidbey Island General Hospital

In Coupeville, Washington, Sarah Meyer is pressing a fetal Doppler on Christine Meyer’s belly to check the baby’s heart rate.

Meyer, no relation to Christine, then checks her ankles for swelling. Christine is 25, and this is her first baby. She says she chose Whidbey General because the hospital offers what she was looking for – a midwife.

Emily Cameron, left, her husband and their five children. Her first-born was delivered by C-section at 37 weeks, which she believes was unnecessary.
Courtesy Emily Cameron

Public health officials across the U.S. say the number of cesarean sections being performed has gotten way out of hand. It's a life-saving surgery for complicated births, but today nearly a third of pregnancies end up as a C-section.

Family photo

It’s 7 p.m. on a Thursday at Valley Hospital and Medical Center in Spokane, and Dr. Nathan Meltzer has already had a very long day.

He has one mother in labor. She’s been there for more than 12 hours.