Thursday, October 30, 2014

Has the Focus of Birth Professionals Changed?

In my humble opinion: 

Many people wonder why birth professionals (childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, nurses, lactation consultants) are so passionate about their profession.  Unlike other professions, childbirth (and breastfeeding) evoke great emotion and energy in many workers.  What is the underlying cause of this emotional energy and has it changed over the years?

I think it is safe to say that in the 1970s when I began teaching became a nurse and subsequently also became involved in childbirth education, the push of childbirth education was
to come along side women who desired less interventions and a more natural (or physiologic/non-interventive) childbirth.  Educators taught women that their gut feelings about physiologic birth were not wrong, what the evidence said, and gave them the tools to achieve that goal.  The empowerment of women in the 70s enabled educators to thrive and achieve those goals.

Somewhere in the mid-1980s, childbirth education relaxed the emotional energy expended and reaped the benefits of the past.  But in sitting back, this allowed a more interventive style of childbirth to emerge and then we were looking at the 1990s with an increase in epidurals, assistive deliveries (forceps and the miti-vacuum extractor), and an increase in cesarean rates.  By the 2000s, we tried to catch up and began movements such as “evidence based information” in childbirth education and later, in social media, but it was too late.  The perception that “drive thru” deliveries that were scheduled, induced, medicated and sometime surgical became the optimum.  Few were mindful of what all of this was doing to moms, babies and future generations.  Women just wanted the uncomfortable last 3 weeks of pregnancy to end, to hold their babies after little/no pain, and to get back to work.

Questions began to arise in 2010.  Why is the cesarean rate so high?  If women are designed physically to give birth, what is the reason for the 32.8%+ cesarean rate?  Why are only 33% of women attending childbirth education class?  What is the medication given during labor/birth doing to our mothers and babies?  Can we curb elective early birth – why don’t we wait the full 40 weeks?  Are future generations going to be affected by birth practices now?  Will women lose their gut instincts about labor and birth? Will women lose their physical ability to give birth (epigenetics)?

Many birth organizations such as AWHONN, ACNM, MANA, APPPAH, Lamaze and ICEA began asking these questions.  Forward thinkers such as Marsden Wagner and Michel Odent wrote landmark books explaining the research and forecasting the future.  Videos and movies such as “The Business of Being Born”, “Pregnant in America”, “Laboring Under An Illusion” and “Birth by the Numbers” allowed the public to be exposed to the questions we birth professionals were also asking.  And this year, “Microbirth”, put it all in perspective: if how we are born affects how our health manifests itself, we must take that as a mandate to let birth alone and allow humans to reach the potential for which they are destined.

The answer then, is yes – the focus of birth professional has changed.  We have gone from “freedom fighter” to someone “sounding the alarm”.  Birth is much more than having a mother choose her position during labor.  How we treat mothers and babies during pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum will forever change us as human beings.  It can be a change for the positive or the negative.  Right now, we are on a slippery slope to the negative. 

It is time for a change.

It is time for those of us who know the research, the facts, the truth – whatever you want to call it – to come together in one strong voice.  Does that mean we become the protectors of future generations?

Become informed.  You be the judge.

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