Natural childbirth for healthy, low-risk women is the only natural function of the human body that typically occurs in the hospital. “Why is that?”, you may ask. Because our culture has co-opted Birth, babies, and women’s bodies for the benefit of capitalism – Big Pharma, Insurance companies, and Hospitals – the Trifecta of the medical-industrial complex. That is the only reasonable explanation as Women’s bodies have been successfully birthing live babies for literally millennia – else how would we be here? Birth has only been happening inside hospitals for about one hundred years and studies have shown that it’s safer to birth outside the hospital to avoid the unnecessary interventions that lead to worse outcomes. 1,2
Doctors are taught to fear birth
Medical schools have also contributed to the situation by instilling a climate of fear surrounding Birth mostly related to potential litigation. They believe that if the doctor is taught how to control birth, then they have control over being sued. In addition, natural birth is not taught to OBs because their focus is surgery. They are surgeons; the interventions they advocate frequently lead to surgery, and this is where they shine. Obstetricians are surgeons and if you are seeking the care of a surgeon, you are likely to have surgery. Very simple.
Birth cannot be controlled
Interventions in childbirth give the illusion of control over a natural bodily function that cannot be controlled. Women’s bodies will open and release the baby inside when the body and the baby are ready. This is normal, natural childbirth in a nutshell. Even the women doing the opening and releasing have no control over the process. The only control that is possible and productive is the act of surrender to this most basic bodily function. When a woman is able to fully surrender to every aspect – when and how – then when her body and the baby are ready, it will happen. The more surrendered a woman is to the process, the more efficient it is.
Thirty-eight percent cesareans in Palm Beach County
Our community (and there are many like ours) has not embraced this principle. It is very typical for women to be induced at 38 or 39 weeks of pregnancy for a myriad of reasons. We know that when labor is induced before the body and baby are ready, then things can go wrong. The body may not fully dilate no matter how much cervical ripening is chemically encouraged or how much Pitocin is given. Often the baby will not be able to tolerate the cocktail of chemicals involved between the induction drugs and the inevitable epidural. A woman may enter the hospital wanting a natural birth, but very few are able to tolerate the torture of hours of fasting, limited mobility and abnormally strong and consistent contractions, not to mention the flow of strangers into the room, the bright lights, uncomfortable bed, etc. An epidural is the only relief she can get in the hopes of maintaining her dream of vaginal birth. Palm Beach County has an average Cesarean rate of about 38%. That’s more than 1:3 women walking into the hospital expecting a vaginal birth and ending up having surgery to have their baby!
This is NOT because Birth is dangerous. This is because our community has a culture of meddling with an otherwise normal, natural process. And that meddling leads to dangerous birth.
ACOG supports VBAC
The national organizations that oversee and regulate birth providers have reasonable recommendations regarding things such as vaginal birth after cesarean and breech birth. But the local OBs tend to disregard these reasonable and evidence-based recommendations. One example of how our local OB community rejects recommendations by ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the national organization for obstetricians and gynecologists), is with VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) candidates. ACOG recommends that doctors offer vaginal birth to women who have had 1 or 2 previous cesareans. They also don’t recommend inducing labors for VBAC candidates. Yet many OBs in our community still recommend repeat surgery for these women or insist that they birth by 39 weeks. They routinely induce VBAC candidates at 39 or 40 weeks which can lead to the very complication that they fear – a ruptured uterus. Also, there is no solid evidence that a woman with more than 2 cesareans is not a good candidate for a VBAC, but there are very few OBs that are willing to “allow” these women to attempt a vaginal birth.
ACOG supports out of hospital birth
Another example of how our community defies the national recommendations is through a document is known as The Levels of Care document that was endorsed by both ACOG and SMFM (Society of Maternal and Fetal Medicine, the obstetric specialists). In this document, it is recommended that all healthy, low-risk women birth outside the hospital in Birth Centers. If the situation changes, the woman is transferred to a higher level of care – one where the ability to perform a cesarean or other interventions such as Pitocin or epidural is available. There are even higher levels of care such as Intensive Care where caring for someone who is on life support machines is available and not all community hospitals have this option for women during or after childbirth, so she would have to be transferred from the lower level hospital to a higher one. The idea is that we have lots of birth centers, less of the community hospitals and only one or two regional centers to care for the very complicated cases. However, our local OBs do not encourage their healthy, low-risk women to birth outside the hospital. Rather, they look for reasons to elevate a woman’s risk and encourage interventions such as unnecessary inductions.
Birth is sacred
Birth is a sacred event that happens to each of us only once as we enter the world. How it happens is important for the one being born and for the one giving birth. If we are going to see a world that is healed from all of the devastations of poverty, war, climate change, and abuse it has to start with how we care for those giving birth and being born. I have grown up in my Midwifery career hearing the saying that ‘Peace on Earth begins with Birth’. We have to honor the process and respect both mother and baby by not causing pain and trauma but rather supporting, facilitating, and protecting the process. This can happen more easily out of the hospital in a woman’s home or in a birth center. However, I have not given up hope that we can shift the culture of childbirth within the hospital by spreading information and demonstrating a better way. We do this by supporting birth centers and encouraging the growth in the number of birth centers in our community.
Support the ‘birth’ of Gentle Birth Centers
I’m happy to announce the addition of a new birth center in Wellington – opening soon. Gentle Birth Centers will be teaming up with Midwife360 to create an integrated practice of home, birth center, and hospital care for healthy, low-risk candidates. We plan to open this spring and are located within a mile of the nearest hospital. Let’s change birth together!
1.Outcomes associated with planned place of birth among women with low-risk pregnancies Hutton et al CMAJ Mar 2016, 188 (5) E80-E90
2.Outcomes of care in birth centers: demonstration of a durable model Stapleton et al JMWH 2013 Jan-Feb; 58(1):3-14
4.ACOG Practice Bulletin Number 115 Vaginal birth after previous cesarean delivery
5.Obstetric Care Consensus No 9 August 2019: Levels of Maternal Care ACOG SMFM