Birthing For Years
Women have been giving birth for hundreds of thousands of years. We know this statement to be true or…well…we wouldn’t be here! Birth has been a right of passage for women throughout history, the transformation from woman to mother. Anyone who has given life through her body will tell you that it changes you forever. Birth has always been an inevitable part of life; yet the face of birth has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. Somehow birth changed from being a natural life process into a highly medicalized industry. Ask most anyone where you go to deliver a baby and they will likely tell you the hospital …of course! I have challenged mainstream ideas throughout my life, yet when I first became pregnant I never even considered that there was another way. I thought that doctors’ deliver babies …period. I thought that midwives were a thing of the past, and that medical intervention spearheaded by doctors was the safest method of birthing. I have come a long way since then. First of all I would like to point out that doctors do not deliver babies, neither do midwives for that matter. Mothers deliver babies. We are the ones who give life to our children; our bodies do the amazing job of creating an entire human being from 2 tiny cells. Why then do we not trust our bodies to open up and create a path into the world for our babies? When people speak of birthing today they generally speak of a litany of invasions into the process as opposed to the actual process. Many women even define their children’s births by these interventions. A common hospital birth story tends to talk about procedures, pain, and medication; the wonderful moment of a child emerging from its mother’s body is often conspicuously missing. Women show up at the hospital, birth plan in hand, completely unaware that if they step onto the intervention superhighway it is very hard to get off. A laboring mom may have the desire for an un-medicated birth, yet in a moment of weakness decides to take some pain medication. She probably won’t be told that this medication may slow the contractions. If the contractions do slow, which is quite often the case, doctor routinely prescribe pitocin (a synthetic form of oxytocin-the hormone responsible for uterine contractions) to "speed things up a little". Pitocin contractions are extremely painful and often lead to subsequent doses of pain medication. If pitocin has been administered the mother must be monitored by a Fetal Heart Rate Monitor. This means the mother must lie on her back with two belts around her belly, thus restricting her movement and choice of position for labor and delivery. It has been shown that mothers who are allowed to make themselves as comfortable as possible, are free to walk and move, and are not in a stressful surroundings are less likely to be diagnosed with FTT (failure to thrive). Being attached to a monitor does not allow any of these freedoms. It is probable that this potentially normal, low risk delivery will instead end in a cesarean section because of a diagnosis of FTT. This outcome is not as a result the nature of the birth but rather the interventions into the process. Had nature been allowed to take its course the out come would most likely have been different. Even in minimal intervention births our bodies are deemed untrustworthy to do something as natural as deliver our placenta. Many hospitals give women a "standard" shot of pitocin to deliver the placenta, because there is a chance of hemorrhage, this despite the evidence that shows synthetic oxytocin can interfere with the breastfeeding relationship, increases the likelihood of post partum depression and can cause uterine ruptures. The shot could easily be given in the event of a problem but instead is given to every patient regardless of the situation. So even if a mother manages to dodge all the interventions leading up to delivery she is still affected by hospital blanket policy.
This is where you may ask yourself "is there a better way?" Have you ever considered how or where your great grandmother was born? We tend to think of hospital birth as the norm but actually less than 10% of people walking this earth today were delivered in a hospital. Why is it then that very few women in our society would ever consider having a baby anywhere else? To be honest the first time that I heard of home birth my reaction was fairly standard…"Isn’t that dangerous? What if something goes wrong?!". I stumbled across my first article on home birth in my Chiropractors office. The story told of a home birth that was attended by mom and dad, a certified nurse midwife, and the couple’s 3-year-old son. It was not a flashy story, no last minute save-the-day procedures, no harried moments with dad yelling "BREATH, BREATH", just a gloriously un-eventful entrance into the world, in the comfort of familiar surroundings. It was the kind of story that whispers to your heart and echoes in your soul. Since that first article I have read many statistics on the safety of home birth. Countries such as Sweden, Holland and Denmark that implement midwifery care for the majority of low-risk births consistently enjoy the lowest rates of infant and mother mortality at birth. Yet the US, where 95% of babies are delivered in hospital, ranked second from the bottom out of 25 industrialized nations for perinatal mortality. Many people believe that homebirth is not safe in the event that something goes wrong. Midwives have intimate knowledge of birth complications and carry the same equipment as a small rural hospital. If the need for medical attention arises the mother and baby can be transferred, with the midwife calling ahead to notify staff of the situation. There is also the assumption that the hospital setting is safer than ones home but if you consider that 4 out of 5 complications during medicalized birth are actually iatrogenic in nature (induced inadvertently by a physician, surgeon, medical treatment or diagnostic procedures), you may change your mind.
Despite the fact that the statistics look good in favor of midwifery, this is not what ultimately changed my mind. The birth stories full of love and wonder weighed the scale. Mothers who deliver at home are more likely to use the words "beautiful, empowering, fantastic" to describe their birth stories than the more common "painful, hard, awful". I have yet to speak too a home-birthing mom who has ANYTHING AT ALL negative to say about the experience. Perhaps this is because it was her choice, and I agree, I think that speaks volumes. If you invite a midwife to the occasion of your birth you will have the comfort of knowing that there is a wise woman in your house who will sit on her hands and let you and your family bring your new precious addition into this worldMain Entry: iat·ro·gen·ic