Who Controls Birth? Defining the Argument.
Periodically, arguments arise in the birthing field over who controls the way we give birth. Often this happens at times when birthing women change their behavior trends, putting financial pressure on professionals working in this field. The major players in this argument are medical doctors (obstetricians), certified nurse midwives and professional home birth midwives.
Currently we are seeing women leave the traditional hospital setting for birth in larger and larger numbers…and taking their dollars with them in the process. While the question of home birth safety arises every time this control argument comes around, the question of whether it is safe to intervene in a labor that is progressing normally is a new component of the discussion. This time the argument is: The safety of home birth vs. the safety of using hospital technology to intervene in normal birth.
How Money Affects this Issue
As with all commercial ventures, controlling access to safe birth requires controlling the information in the market place. This information needs to address the perceived wants of the target audience. For a long time the main message has been: Safe birth is only available in a hospital.
The financial pressure of giving women (consumers) what they want — a normal experience of birth in a safe setting where medical help can be quickly available — has powered the birth-center industry. Free-standing and in-hospital birth centers have grown in numbers, and are largely enabled by certified nurse-midwives. Meanwhile, professional home birth midwives have increased both their credentials and practice standards, as well as their visibility.
Both of these options, birth centers and home birth, threaten the livelihood of traditional obstetrical practices. Low risk births (about 70% of births) have the potential to be normal births, requiring little or no intervention. But, giving birth in the hospital means participating in measurement procedures that intervene in the labor process.
So, to convince women they need to be in a hospital to be safe, medicine has maintained the argument that home birth or out of hospital birth is not safe. However, research does not indicate this is true. The nature of this ongoing argument is discussed in a 2002 article from Midwifery Today.
What’s New? The Counter Argument.
The physiology of normal labor is dominated by parasympathetic, meditative, gonadal energy systems. Measurement is a sympathetic, rational, adrenal energy dynamic. Only when it is time to expel the baby does the underlying energy system make a transition (transition, get it?) to an adrenal impetus for the strength activity of pushing. Immediately following normal birth, maternal physiology is again dominated by gonad-driven energy along with a rush of endorphins.
“Intervene enough and things will go awry. You can easily end up being cut and/or separated from your baby at birth.” These ideas have gone viral. With the arrival of the internet, women have found a very quick way to do what we have always done: Share information.
Thus, in my exercise program and in my childbirth preparation classes, I have more and more frequently been fielding the following question from women who want a normal birth and want to be safe: “How can I avoid interventions while I am in the hospital?”
So, I ask them what leads them to ask this question. And, they say: “I read on the internet and/or heard from my friends that interventions make birth less normal and less safe. I want to protect myself.”
Women themselves are entering the argument in a much more conscious way than in the past. Some professionals would like to keep women out of the argument. But, like with many things in our 21st century world, we have already past the point of no return. As they say, the horse has already left the barn!
Word has gotten around. More and more, as a prenatal fitness expert who strives to listen to my clients, my job has become educating and physically training women to cope with a strenuous and primitive process in a technological world.
Hopefully, we can all keep our eye on the ball here. Preventing trauma should be one key goal. Just as we have learned to hold our newborns skin to skin so they can smell and taste us, listen to our heart beat and voice, and maintain their core temperature, let us learn to comfort and nurture our new mothers, while we steel them for the rigors of birth.