#79 | Cynthia Mini: What is Medial Rhetoric?

February 8, 2021

Medical Rhetoric involves language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often lacks sincerity or meaningful content. How can you tell when your obstetrician or medical provider is using rhetoric to persuade, discourage or manipulate you into going along with a particular course of action without first offering you any information or data that would be useful in your decision-making?  

Share your stories of rhetoric with us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or at www.DownToBirthShow.com. 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you enjoyed this episode of the Down To Birth Show, please subscribe and share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

You can sign up for Cynthia's HypnoBirthing classes as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

Support the show (https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/cynthiaovergard)

View Episode Transcript

When I asked a newly pregnant couple, in, particularly the mother what she wants for her birth, she usually looks back at me a little bit frozen, because she isn't sure what she wants yet. And that makes sense. Because typically for most of us, in the first, third or half of pregnancy, we're much more clear on what we don't want than what we do want. So the first thought is often something like, I just don't want to be pushed around, I don't want to be bullied, I don't want to be induced, I don't want it to be zyada. me I don't want to see section. It's what I don't, I don't I don't want. But really what ends up happening when you get educated and aware of your options, and the possibilities out there. And you see evidence of women having really beautiful birth outcomes, which can include a surgical birth when it's the right course of action, and when she's at peace with it, and she's with a provider she trusts that falls under the umbrella of a really beautiful birth, because the mother is at peace. She then opens her world into what she does want. So it might feel premature when a woman in the first half of pregnancy here is what do you want for your birth. So let me give you something that you can focus on at any point in pregnancy, but even the moment you find out you're pregnant, or that first prenatal visit, here's something that can be useful to you. It's very important to learn what medical rhetoric is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it feels like, in your body when you hear it. So let's talk about this. What's the definition of rhetoric? Well, rhetoric is simply language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience. But it's often lacking in sincerity, or meaningful content. In the work that I do. I hear stories on a regular basis of women and their partners who are at prenatal visits, and being scared by information that is not supported whatsoever by any data or research or evidence. When I was pregnant with my son, and first started seeing my obstetrician, I was asking her some good questions. And one thing that surprised me was she said to me, I'm going to need to see you dilate a centimeter an hour, because you have to have the baby and 10 hours or less, not understanding rhetoric, not expecting rhetoric, I just didn't really know what to make of it. I was confused. I said, I don't understand what part of the birth has to happen in 10 hours or less. She said all of it. And of course, I was feeling a lot of anxiety and pressure just at the thought of being timed by something I had absolutely no control over. So she said to me, that's what I like to see. When she said that to me. My first thought was Come on, Cynthia, she's the expert. She's a doctor, she does this every day. This is what she knows. And of course, she wants a positive outcome. All of those things are true. And yes, of course, she wanted a positive outcome. What she didn't mention was that there's no evidence whatsoever behind what she was imposing on me. Other examples of rhetoric are if the doctor says something like, well, I, for one, want a good outcome here. Or don't you think I know what I'm doing? Or look, I'll get that baby out of you. And here's one that very recently happened with one of my couples, they were speaking with their doctor and shared their intention to have a natural birth. And the doctor said, Look, priority number one is I get that baby out of you safely. priority number two is a vaginal birth. Now, I just want to ask you, as you listen to that, who is going to disagree with anyone who says priority number one is a safe outcome. No one and the doctor knows, no one's going to disagree with that. That's why rhetoric is intended to persuade. It's really very manipulative. Obviously, everyone's number one intention is a safe outcome. But if we set aside if we cast aside or table, what the couple is saying they want, which is perfectly reasonable to say that their intention is to have a vaginal birth, they weren't saying they were hell bent on it, and come hell or high water. They were they were only having a vaginal birth. But they they said that that was their intention. Why should that be disputed? She's a low risk mom. It was a perfectly normal thing to say. And for the doctor to immediately come in with saying, look, let's get one thing straight, I get that baby out of you safely is priority number one. Now, it's really the way of saying to the couple Look, you're out of this. I'm the one making the decision and whatever I do, you need to accept as having been the safest course of action. However, statistically all things equal for low risk moms. There's no question that a more natural birth and a vaginal birth is Statistically safer than intervention, or worse or a surgical birth. So what they were asking for was reasonable. And it was, in fact, the safer assumption. You are looking ultimately for a provider who respects you far too much to speak to you that way. And frankly, who respects themselves for her too much to speak that way, it's with any client of theirs, they should want to educate you when necessary, they should want to make sure that you understand what they're recommending and why the risks, the benefits, the alternatives, any side effects, and the likely outcomes and the probable outcomes, they should be able to share that with you. In fact, that is encompassed in the definition of informed consent to begin with. And I know they're midwives and obstetricians who would be horrified to hear these stories, because they would never speak to their patients or their clients this way. And I have far more extreme examples, I've intentionally left out of this conversation today, because it's just not worth provoking anyone's emotions when they hear certain things. But there's, there's really no end to how extreme it sometimes gets. And, you know, an ethical provider who respects their clients would be more offended by this kind of rhetoric than then we would be. So this definitely is not representative of the of the typical provider. But that's why it's so important to point out because we always assume the treatment we're getting is the treatment everyone is getting. And I want to just underscore for anyone who can relate to this, that this isn't normal. And you certainly can do better. The best thing you can do is ask your intuition. Because rhetoric can be difficult to identify at first. It's manipulative, it's insidious, it's subtle. It provokes your emotions, which throws us off and throws off our thinking. But your intuition is always your guide. So as long as you're feeling attuned to that, and how you're feeling at that appointment that tells you everything you need to know with respect to whether you're the writer that is right for you. So with that said, Thank you for listening to this topic, it is one of my favorites, and share your stories about rhetoric with us, you can contact us at downtown birth show on Instagram, or you can contact us at downtown birth show.com. Thank you for listening, everyone, and we'll see you on Wednesday for our regular weekly episode.

If you enjoyed this podcast episode of the Down To Birth Show, please share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

Share this episode: 

Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

Want to be on the show?

We'd love to hear your story. 
Please fill out the form if you are interested in being on the show.

screen linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram