Is childbirth a medical condition or a beautiful natural event?

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Is childbirth a medical condition or a beautiful natural event?

 “It’s become a war over our perception of pregnant women and the nature of pregnancy. Is it a potentially deadly medical condition requiring massive intervention to produce a “good outcome” or is it a beautiful, natural moment of bonding between human souls? How you answer that question says as much about how you view the world as how you view childbirth.”  This questions from Heather Michon’s Salon Blog: “What We Miss When We Talk About Home Birth”  adds to the great debate that I always ask my clients and students – What frames your beliefs and values about childbirth?   

Why when less than 2 % of women give birth at home or in a birth center in the U.S and almost 4 million women give birth in hospital, do we have so much controversy on home birth, rather than focus on what the challenges are to have a safe and healthy- undisturbed birth in a hospital or as doctor Stacey Marie Kerr, book calls: Homebirth in the Hospital

Our rising maternal mortality rate as Ms Michon’s point out is growing, and our poor outcomes for both mother and baby are a national disgrace.  We cannot even begin to put that on the small percentage of people who give birth at home.  Is the homebirth debate a smoke screen so we don’t focus on the real issues plaguing American maternity care – our overuse of technology, high cesarean section rates, lack of midwives and lack of a life course perspective  valuing women, their bodies, and reproductive health care?

Childbirth is a human rights issue!  Women have the right to choose where, with whom and how they give birth.  Our system has the obligation to make all options as safe as possible.  There are problems on all sides, for until we see the system as a whole, home birth, birth center and hospital, each with it’s strengths and establish a collaborative model where there is safe back up and transport for home birth and birth centers, where hospitals allow women the options that research supports which are well described in Lamaze International’s Healthy Birth Practices,  and we hold all sides accountable with universal reporting of maternity mortality and morbidity, we will continue through our own wars to leave women and babies at risk . 

While we all value the physical health of MotherBaby, we must add equal value to their emotional well-being.  Far too many women suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome and postpartum depression.  In the landmark 2008 study by Childbirth Connection – New Mother’s Speak Out – 18% of mothers had symptoms of PTSD and  9% screened as meeting all criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Black non-Hispanic mothers (26%) were more likely to report scores 12 or higher compared to white non-Hispanic (17%) or Hispanic (14%) mothers.    Research shows mother’s who have a cesarean birth or assisted birth are more likely to suffer birth trauma.  This is another unspoken tragedy.  A day that can be transformative, ecstatic, blissful or orgasmic is becoming traumatic for far too many women. 

Let’s focus on creating a strong maternity care system with all options available.  We need more midwives, as well as doulas, physicians, nurses, and educators so women can choose what is best for them and their babies without media fear and mis-information muddying the water  making women feel that positive, powerful,pleasurable births are only for those who choose birth at home or eat granola. A Safe,  Satisfying, Pleasurable Birth in any setting is Every Woman’s Right!

What is your vision for a healthy maternity care system?