Friday, April 15, 2011
Midwifery is about education and empowerment to me. Sadly, far too many women blindly follow whatever their OB/GYN tells them to do. Facebook and other online resources have significantly increased the opportunities for people to learn about alternatives to "traditional" care, but the responsibility still rests on the individual to choose to educate themselves. Popular media, movies, and TV shows continue to show birth as scary and horribly painful which serves to reinforce misconceptions about birth. It prevents many people from believing how empowering and peaceful birth can be for a prepared and educated woman. Skepticism and fear still prevent many people from considering natural childbirth.
It seems to me that interest in out-of-hospital birth is increasing, and I think the internet has a huge role in that. The old adages "a picture is worth a thousand words" and "seeing is believing" are totally true. Before the ease of viewing videos on YouTube and Facebook or Netflix, one might have read books about natural birth, but there were few options to watch a natural birth. Now anyone can find literally thousands of examples of peaceful natural births - these videos can serve to counter the negative fear-based birth images on TV and in movies.
Ricki Lake's the Business of Being Born has played a huge role in opening people's eyes to alternatives from using an OBGYN and giving birth in the hospital. We often hear from new clients that watching that film helped convince them to come to the birth center.
When a woman chooses an out-of-hospital birth, many times her friends and family are skeptical and concerned for her and the baby's safety. Showing concerned friends and families videos can often overcome their skepticism.
I have been practicing for 15 years. When I first started in a Birth Center in New Jersey, it was pretty much unheard of for the client's mom to have had a natural or out-of-hospital birth. In the past 5 years, we hear more and more that a new client's motivation was that her mom had a natural birth or wished that she had. We lost a whole generation of experience with natural childbirth when birth moved into the hospital in earnest in the 1950's.
The "hippie" movement of the late 1960's and 70's created a call for alternatives. I think we all owe pioneers Ina May Gaskin and Barbara Harper a huge debt of gratitude for rescuing the natural birth movement. They (and others I do not mean to overlook) not only learned and practiced midwifery, but they wrote about it and publicized it. For the longest time, the best way we could show natural birth was Barbara Harper's Gentle Birth Choices film. Ina May also filmed births and promoted her safe techniques for resolving shoulder dystocia, tight cord around baby's neck and breech birth, neatly countering the common concern "but what if something goes wrong?"
I also credit Michel Odent with bringing waterbirth to the US. Although water labor/birth is not for everyone, in my experience water in some form (shower/tub) makes natural birth achievable. He also promoted the idea that attendants and family should leave the mom undisturbed, following up on the work of Lamaze and Dick-Read that fear and tension increase pain.
I see midwifery care and out-of-hospital birth increasing in popularity, especially when this generation of moms’ children grow up and have kids of their own. Although there will always be those who claim out-of-hospital birth is dangerous and impossible, the proof is right there on the internet of how wrong they are.