Birth Centers in Utah are under attack
(see . No matter how a woman chooses to bring a child into the world, I feel that the preservation of choice is a very important issue. In short, when old birth center regulations were recently brought up for review (in hopes that obsolete and ineffective 20 year old rules might be updated), the Utah Hospital Association and other opponents of natural out-of-hospital birth jumped on the opportunity to submit their own proposal which would in effect shut down the 2 licensed birth centers in Utah within a year. These opponents have relied on groundless claims and scare tactics to influence a public largely uneducated about the realities of out-of-hospital birth. Our baby daughter was delivered at Birth and Family Place in Salt Lake last June, and the difference between her birth and my son’s hospital birth is indescribable. The Utah Hospital Association and other ‘health’ committees would like to take away choices in birth by exploiting our culture’s unhealthy fear of birth. It is tragic that we are taught by our culture to fear birth and to mistrust our bodies when the vast majority of births could be conducted without medical intervention. Yes, birth is unpredictable and at times warrants intervention to save lives. But studies have demonstrated time and time again that with common sense precautions, outcome statistics at Birth centers regularly exceed those of hospitals. As outlined in the link, there is an meeting there is a meeting at the Health Department (Cannon Building, 288 N. 1460 W, SLC ) at 9am on March 25th . The most critical thing needed is NUMBERS. The governing bodies need to see that there is a large population in support of choices in childbirth. Become a freind of the SLC Birth Center on Facebook. Look for Friends of SLC's Birth and Family Place.

(I posted a lot of this a while back but here it is again).
I have some strong opinions about childbirth since it is a field I have been active in, even years before my own child bearing. I trained as a labor and postpartum doula six years before I had my first baby. During graduate school I presented a paper at a Medical Anthropology conference in London about teen mother's mental health as it relates to their childbirth experiences. I have always been amazed with birth. I feel it is a miraculous and spiritual process where the power of God moves through a woman’s body to bring new life. In America there is a current crisis in maternity care as discussed in the film “The Business of Being Born”. Suffice it to say that Cuba and Poland have better infant mortality rates than the USA . The film obviously has a very pro natural birth stance and explains some of the choices and options available. I read another article recently that stated “the maternal death rate in the USA is four times higher than it should be and why is no one talking about this?”* . There are many very alarming trends that hurt women and children, many of which come from cultural/medical perceptions which treat birth as a pathology and not a normal, healthy process. I am very grateful for the medical advances that are available and that save women and children everyday. However, for the majority of women, birth is a normal process and more problems can arise when medical interventions are introduced. I am not judging people who choose a medical birth, but I believe that with proper preparation, a belief in the birth process, and confronting the fear of childbirth instead of giving into it, women could have more options in the process of birth. If women really looked at some of the trends in maternal/child health and knew what questions to ask then some different choices may be made. Here is a local example from Utah . Utah has around an 80% induction rate, which directly corresponds to a nearly 40% cesarean rate (at some hospitals) as induction greatly increases the probability of a surgical outcome. In normal circumstances, about 15% of pregnancies will have a medical reason to end in a cesarean, which again, is wonderful and saves lives (Only 3% of the births at our birth center transfer and result in C section). But C- sections are major surgery and carry all the attending risks of major surgery. When they are happening almost 3 times more often than necessary, it is time to ask some questions. As a doula, I was taught that when considering medical procedures we should consider the risks, benefits, and alternatives available. Women are typically not taught to think like this about childbirth and the medical establishment is certainly not forthcoming with any options other then those which fit their model. Many first time moms I have spoken to did not even know they had other options in childbirth outside of the typical interventions. And even if a woman is aware of other options, the power disparity that typically exists between a laboring woman and her OB/GYN makes choice illusory.

* from “Masking Maternal Mortality” by Ina May Gaskin in the March/April 2008 issue of the magazine “Mothering”.More interesting reading about the cultural fear of birth: Davis-Floyd is a Cultural Anthropologist and has many interesting articles about childbirth here:

Feel free to stop reading here, or earlier if you please. Maybe I even emailed this to you?
On a personal note:
Before I was trained as a doula and assisted other women through childbirth, I assumed I would deliver my future children the way most American women do: in a hospital, with an OB and medical interventions. Instead I have taken another route. My first son was born in a hospital, and the birth itself was a wonderful and empowering experience. I had my husband laboring with me and could not have done it without him. He has become a great advocate for natural childbirth as he is among a minority of people who have witnessed how labor can proceed naturally (only about 14% of American women give birth naturally). We also had a great nurse, midwife, and two very supportive friends who came to welcome our son into the world. The hospital never pressured me to receive pain medication or unnecessary interventions, and I was very, very happy to not have an IV, continuous fetal monitoring (Doppler yes but I was not strapped to the bed). However, I had a very quick labor (8 hours total, about 5 hours in the hospital) and things may have been different if I had been hanging out there for 24+ hours. I trusted my body. I trusted the birth process, and visualized every contraction bringing me closer to holding my baby. I was able to totally relax, not fight against the process but completely give into it. The only time I felt uncomfortable in the whole process was when the nurse made me stay still or in a position I did not want to be in to take my blood pressure. I was free to move around and naturally and innately found ways to be comfortable. We had a situation with our son after he was born where we felt that hospital policy took precedence over what would have been best for our situation, and this is why we chose to give birth in a birth center instead of a hospital with our second child. The birth center is amazingly peaceful and lovely, and has a 3% cesarean rate (which is partially due to the fact that higher risk pregnancies are referred out to OBs and hospitals, as they should be.) All other outcome statistics are also better than average at the birth center. I do understand that if there is anything had threatened my life or the life of my baby, we would have gone to a hospital, and I completely trusted my midwife to make that judgment call. We enjoyed a very peaceful, but intense water birth to welcome our new daughter into the world and I am so grateful that I had this choice in childbirth. Please help support birth centers and support choices in childbirth!

1 Comment:

  1. jungleprincess said...
    Thanks for your informative post. What a tragedy for the powers in medicine to use the public's fear and lack of knowledge as a means to remove choice from parents who have researched and planned for gentle birth. I'd love for them to reschedule that meeting so I could be there!

Post a Comment