Last month we saw the pre-release of a homebirth meta-analysis piece that claimed worse outcomes for babies born at home than in the hospital. I wrote about it and the ensuing Lancet insult to women’s rights here. Decades of well-conducted research does in fact support the safety of planned homebirth for women and babies, although here in the US the research has fallen on deaf ears among physicians, their trade union ACOG, and hospitals. In light of the solid new research of the past few years clearly demonstrating the safety of homebirth, how likely is it that “evidence” will ever win the medical industry’s approval of midwife-attended homebirth? I am doubtful. Here’s why.
People in the “Women should birth where they feel safest.” You hear this a lot in the birth change movement. Midwives, doulas, CBEs, advocates and allies — we all support women’s choice in birth place. Most women in this country give birth in hospitals. Are women going there to birth babies because they truly feel safe there? What ingredients = feeling safe?
There’s the standard, albeit superficial, ‘healthy mom, healthy baby’ wrap offered up by women to partners and sometimes themselves, but what lies beyond the cheery one-liners? Where does emotional safety lie? Normal birth is so hidden and rare in our culture that the average woman may never even encounter it through her life experience or in the media. She has no models around her. We can see the challenges to trusting birth and feeling safe within a low-tech, instinctive birth model. So where then are American women birthing in the hospital finding their sense of safety? To what extent is it external? Is it found in the presence of machines? Uniforms? Medical personnel? Medications?
For the vast majority of our history as a species, pregnancy and birth have been the domain of women. Not women physicians, surgeons, or even midwives — just women! We know, in our collective consciousness, that birth will always belong to women.
The trade union representing obstetricians in the US, ACOG, continues its smear against midwives and homebirth with regular press releases, garbage science, and other low-brow tactics aimed at securing their financial and medical monopoly over childbirth. Other OB/GYN groups and publications have also jumped in the bad-science ring in an effort to undermine the well-established safety of midwife-attended birth at home. In light of the physician groups’ continued demonstrations that they are threatened by safe, normal, woman-centered birth at home, I’d like to share some images in solidarity with birthing women everywhere.
Here’s to you, birthing women! Here’s to the power, beauty, and dignity of woman-centered birth!
There’s been a lot of talk lately about physicians responding to their ‘patients’ birth plans by providing a copy of their own written birth plans of what they will or will not do, allow, accommodate, or condone during a woman’s labor and birth. The Feminist Breeder and Stand and Deliver have written recently about the hullabaloo, as have The Unnecesarean and Crunchy Domestic Goddess. The following is an excerpt from an OB birth plan that was given to a pregnant nursing student during one of her prenatal visits. Just for fun I bolded the parts I thought were the most outlandish and offensive, or simply untrue.
DR. ________ “BIRTH PLAN”
As your obstetrician, it is my goal and responsibility to ensure your safety and your baby’s safety during your pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period… The following information should clarify my position and is meant to address some commonly asked questions…
* I do not accept birth plans. Many birth plans conflict with approved modern obstetrical techniques and guidelines…. Please note that I do not accept the Bradley Birth Plan.
Don’t miss this — A smart, powerful short look at the public politics of birth change, homebirth and midwifery. Featuring legislators, midwives, and mothers. Oh, and there’s a birth in there too!
“[There is a] very large amount of institutional resistance to a women having a certain amount of autonomy over their birth…”