Marsden Wagner, Meet the Expert

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Marsden Wagner

Marsden Wagner, MD, former Director of Women’s and Children’s Health for the World Health Organization says in the film:

“Very clear hard evidence in the last 10 years [shows that] the number of women who are induced—that is, their labor is kick-started—is doubling. You kick-start labor by giving them a powerful drug. And then you give them more drugs to keep the labor going. 

Now, there are about five to ten percent of women in which there’s a good medical reason to do this, and you’re saving lives and all that. But if you go above ten percent, you’re not saving lives anymore. These are powerful drugs with all kinds of risks, including brain damage to the baby, a dead baby, a dead woman. And yet we do it twice as much [as we used to]. 

And there’s so much pain in induction—incredible pain. And so they have to come with all the pain relief and the epidurals and all of that. So we get induction, leading to epidural, which leads to cesarean. And that is what’s happening in this country. 

Now, why? Did something happen? Did American women’s bodies suddenly go bad? Did American women’s bodies suddenly lose the ability to figure out when it’s time to go into labor? 

Goodness, no! You know, why do 60 to 80 percent of American women have to have powerful drugs and interventions to their bodies? Well, it has nothing to do with there being anything wrong with their body. And it’s not because of bad doctors. It’s a bad system.”

Orgasmic Birth movie captures intimate home births as well as births with midwives in US hospitals. 

With the decrease in hospital-based midwifery practices in the United States, the option for normal hospital birth is gradually disappearing in many communities. 

We look at other models of midwifery care, such as in New Zealand and the Netherlands — models that have achieved some of the lowest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world.

Dr. Wagner discusses how a midwifery model of care is cost effective while contributing to a safe and positive birth for mothers, babies, and families:

“More and more countries are losing fewer women and losing fewer babies than the US, including Cuba and Slovenia. Countries that we would normally expect not to have such a great record are losing fewer women and fewer babies than we are. 

And it’s not because we have bad doctors. We have highly trained, very good doctors, as good as anywhere in the world. We have good nurses—as good as any…  

We don’t have enough midwives! We have 40,000 obstetricians and 5,000 midwives. Great Britain has 1,000 obstetricians and 35,000 midwives, and they lose fewer women and babies than we do.”