Cristen Pascucci is articulate, educated and not afraid to speak up for herself, but 41 weeks into her pregnancy she felt as if she wasn't being heard or getting the information she needed to make the best choice for herself or her baby.
Her doctor wanted to induce labor but couldn't give her a good reason why.
So, even so late into her first pregnancy — average gestational time is 40 weeks — Pascucci switched doctors.
It was that experience surrounding the birth of her son, Henry, born in 2011, that led Pascucci to become part of ImprovingBirth.org, a nonprofit advocacy group designed to help women make informed, fact-based decisions about their maternity care.
The organization sponsored Lexington's 2013 Rally to Improve Birth, one of 170 Labor Day rallies in cities across the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada. In Kentucky, rallies also were held in Louisville, Pikeville and Bowling Green.
Pascucci, who lives in Lexington and is vice president of the national organization, said insurance and hospital policies, even staffing issues, are among the nonmedical factors that can influence how and when a baby is delivered.
"Every woman has the opportunity, and I would say the responsibility, to search out the very best care there is," Pascucci said Monday as a handful of people held up signs to cars passing Triangle Park. Organizers estimated that about 400 people milled about tables promoting options for maternity care during the two-hour rally.
It had the feeling of a cheerful baby-palooza, with lots of round bellies, strollers and infants nestled in slings.
But the intent was serious — addressing what Pascucci called a crisis in maternity care across the country.
While the United States has the highest costs for maternity care in the world, it ranks 45th in maternal safety, according to data from the United Nations, which lists the United States' maternal death rate as tied with that of Iran and Hungary.
According to a news release for the event, supporters want "safer, evidence-based birth practices that put women and babies before profits, convenience and liability concerns."
In Kentucky, 35.4 percent of births are Caesarean section, the seventh highest rate in the nation, and more than double the 15 percent suggested by the World Health Organization as a highest recommended rate, according to information from ImprovingBirth.org.
The choices supported by ImprovingBirth.org include allowing women to choose the most comfortable positions for pushing; supporting birth with the help of a doula, a trained, nonmedical person who works with mothers during pregnancy; not using drugs such as pitocin to induce labor, and supporting water-immersion births.
Dr. Shannon Voogt of Lexington came out as a mother and a physician. With baby Edith, just 2 weeks old, swaddled securely on her chest, Voogt said some women don't even know the right questions to ask. And, she said, doctors are not always trained to listen to the mother's perspective and sometimes make decisions about care simply because that is the way things have traditionally been done.
Voogt was chatting at the rally with Lela Kessler, who was carrying Graham, almost 1, whom Voogt delivered. Kessler said she had made a careful plan for her son's birth and thinks all women should be able to do the same. But, she said, women need to be better educated to make good choices.
Tanya Bolton, marketing manager at Lexington Women's Health, said women can be intimidated when talking to a doctor. But, she said, they should come prepared with any and all questions they have. "They should come in with a list," she said.
For more information
Go to Evidencebasedbirth.com or ImprovingBirth.org.
Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.