There is much discussion regarding climate change in the world. There should also be conversations about climate change in birth.
Current conversation about birth talks about what is happening now: maternal morbidity/mortality, infant morbidity/mortality, breastfeeding rates à but what about the future? How will the way we required women to give birth now, impact birthing in the future?
And furthermore, why should we care?
In his book, Childbirth in the Age of Plastics, Michel Odent points out that we just do not knowhow interfering in the normal reproductive physiology impacts the future. We already see an increase in autism and anorexia nervosa. Could these be caused by a birth intervention, an alteration in the oxytocin system? Odent says that the evidence points to yes.
What about labor pain? Either women are fearful of it or they do not want to face it at all. Regardless, the physiology of labor pain is not being taught in nursing or medical schools and only a handful of childbirth educators and midwives teach about the physiology of labor pain. Hence, we are raising several generations of both parents and professionals who do not understand that labor pains are a guide for how the laboring mother’s body needs to respond to the labor. The pains tell the mother how and when to move to assist with the Cardinal Movements. Labor pain is unlike any other pain humans experience and should not be treated in the drive-thru method of getting rid of it. It should be considered, contemplated and cooperated with.
During labor, mothers have restricted movement (inhibiting Cardinal Movements), have the pain removed by anesthetic/analgesics (inhibiting Cardinal Movements) and restricted in food and fluids. Simply put, the medical community, in its zeal to care for laboring women, put those women at a distinct disadvantage and enable fetal and maternal distress to occur. The medical community promotes the notion that labor and childbirth are emergencies waiting to happen and facilitate the self-fulfilling prophecy.
The aforementioned anesthetics/analgesics cross the fetal blood brain barrier and we are unsure of the results. Natural pain and coping techniques such as positioning, touch, relaxation, breathing and hydrotherapy are systematically being removed from choice options for pregnant women. Many childbirth education classes minimize or remove exploration of these options due to perceived time constraints (“parents don’t want lengthy classes”), when in reality, parents don’t know what they want and are often disappointed when abbreviated classes are over. And besides, what tools can they use between onset of labor and getting “their” epidural?
Women are not encouraged and often miss out on falling in love with their babies during pregnancy. They then miss out on the right of passage called labor with the glorious hormonal dance.
Do we really want assembly line childbirth in the future? And at what cost?
Odent,M. (2011) Childbirth In The Age of Plastics, Pinter & Martin LTD.