Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reinventing Childbirth Education: Another Call To Action

I sat absolutely riveted to the latest issue of BIRTH (Vol 37, No 2 June 2010), particularly the Editorial by Diony Young (Childbirth Education, the Internet, and Reality Television: Challenges Ahead), and an article by Theresa Morris PhD and Katherine McInerney MA titled "Media Representations of Pregnancy and Childbirth: An Analysis of Reality Television Program in the United States".

Morris/McInerney analyzed 41 episodes of Birth Day,  and 44 episodes of A Baby Story for a total of 123 births.  Not to any maternal child health professional's surprise, interventions and technological control such as IVs were portrayed as natural and normal, and birth with medications such as epidurals was portrayed as easy and fun.  Seven of the births were out of hospital (two homebirths and five in birth centers), but were marginalized under titles such as "alternative" or "unexpected" ~ since only 5.7% of the births were such, the chances of a random viewer seeing them was slim.

It was no surprise that pregnancy and childbirth was represented as dramatic and perilous ~ after all, that is what brings in viewers and consumers and sells the products touted during the commercials.  Morris/McInerney suggest that the practices shown in these childbirth reality shows are not consistent with evidence-based care.  Women are viewed as in danger and in need of technology to rescue them.

Diony Young, editor of BIRTH, stated that according to the Listening to Mothers II survey, 25% of women reported attending childbirth education ~ a drop from 70%  in 2002.  Most women use the internet as a source of information on pregnancy and childbirth - nearly 97% and 68% of women watch the reality birth shows regularly.

These findings walk hand in hand with those brought forth by Vicki Elson in her documentary film "Laboring Under An Illusion" (click here for review of that film).  Elson concludes that media makes women scared of the normal physiological birth process.

Young goes on to say "Childbirth educators and other health professionals will have to find new ways to fill in the gaps and help women evaluate what they see, understand the evidence, and sort out the facts from the fiction."  Lastly, she makes an incredibly intuitive statement:  "They will have to re-invent childbirth education".

I sat long and hard staring at the BIRTH articles trying to figure out how to reinvent childbirth education and came up with a few steps to do this.  I wanted to share with you what I came up with:

1. Childbirth Educators must look and act professional in all that we say and do.  From your blog, to Facebook to your website, it must be professional and evidence-based.  It must have references and footnotes to show research.  That way, visitors know it is not just your opinion.

2. We must ALL take a lesson in marketing our classes - become more savvy and smart.

3. We must ALL take a good hard look at our teaching techniques ~ you cannot teach like its 1999!

4. We must ALL become more well read as far as research and journals. 

5. We must ALL become a part of something larger than ourselves.  An easy fix to this is to attend the Lamaze/ICEA Mega Conference in Milwaukee in September.

6. We must ALL bring that spirit of something bigger back to our own community, re-energize those who were not able to go and then reach out in innovative ways to the pregnant community.

7. We must ALL refuse the pull to be adversarial - enabling arguements and ill feelings only cause us to spin our energy wheels while defensive medicine and interventive birth becomes more accustomized into our culture.

8.  We must ALL form a new paradigm for childbirth education ~ discuss what this looks like and rapidly implement it to begin a revolutionary change.

9. We should ALL read the book "Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way."

Because if we don't, there may not be a future of birth ~ we need to be making a difference again!

Thank you so much to Diony Young for such a dynamic issue of BIRTH: Issues in Perinatal Care!

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