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Rethinking Birth: Harm & Disruption in the Birth Room.

Wild World Mama - Rethinking Birth

“When intervening becomes routine, meaning there is no reason for it, only risks remain.” – Henci Goer

Can I Ask A Big Question?

A question that might be difficult to answer for a lot of people. These are legitimate, soul-searching questions I want you to really sit with. Think beyond the surface. . .

Why is it we routinely and relentlessly disrupt women in birth? Why is it we feel the need to “manage” the birth process when it is moving along in a normal, healthy way? In my humble opinion, it seems disrespectful to the birthing woman, in a healthy and normal pregnancy, that after growing this baby we feel the need to make sure she is not confident that she can birth her baby without extreme medical intervention. 

Why is it that we casually offer to induce in situations where there is no medical need, knowing that puts a woman and her baby at higher risk?  That we have cesarean surgeries that are a direct result of mismanagement of labor. That phrases like “unintended prematurity” is an actual thing. Why is it we consciously or unconsciously create situations in which we as the provider can be the “hero” of birth, to swoop in to save the woman and her baby? Perhaps not realizing that it was the initial act of intervening itself, the act of disturbing the woman’s birth, that caused the chain of events that ended up creating the crisis in the first place. A crisis that would not have happened had we not intervened or disturbed the mother.

The God complex is rampant in birthing rooms today. Why do we casually and routinely introduce real risks without clear benefit in the name of efficiency? Why are we scaring women into decisions without giving them ALL the facts so they can make a truly informed decision? Why aren’t we respecting women’s choices in birth, laughing at birth plans, saying things like “don’t be a hero” or “I’ll allow you”. We forget it is the mother who is the authority on her baby and body, not her hired provider. We forget that as the provider it is just another day on the job, for the woman, it is everything.

Why is it we often forget about the actual women when they are hooked up to a bunch of beeping machines? Machines with 99.8% false positive rates. Why do we still use those machines on basically every birthing woman in America when they have been proven to not only not be effective in improving outcomes, but have historically introduced more harm than good? Why is it black women are 3-4x more likely to die in childbirth than white women? 

Why is it that the United States is one of the most dangerous places to give birth in the developed world? This should make us all step back and think for a moment, to reassess what we are currently doing. 

Perhaps what we are doing is wrong. We are doing birth wrong in America, that is pretty damn obvious. We need to give birth back to birthing women. To make birth safer, we women need to take birth back. The pendulum of birth practices has swung too far in one direction and it needs to make its way back to the calm, sane, and respectful middle ground. 

If a woman is sick, if her baby is sick, thank goodness for modern medicine. We’ve come a long way from when sick mamas and babies were harmed by lack of access to medical care. That being said, when a woman is not sick, let’s not make her “sick” by introducing unnecessary medical interventions that take a low-risk woman and send her into a higher-risk situation. We treat women and their bodies with such distrust, even with disgust and shame. We treat women in birth as if they need to be “managed”, “controlled”, or “handled”, and by doing so we are harming those women in the worst ways possible, in their most vulnerable moments. 

Many well-intentioned people have gone blind to a system that is doing more harm than good. We have come to just accept many things as necessary evils of giving birth, but when we take a step back, most of the things we are doing are not necessary, just evil. We have become uncomfortable with women in a natural birthing state, the noises they make, the movements they do, the needs they have. We have become uncomfortable with birth in general, as beautiful and gritty and primal as it is. 

Why is that? Why is that . . . 

Perhaps many things we are routinely doing to birthing women is causing a harmful disruption in our body’s innate feminine and ancient wisdom. We are recklessly, routinely, and often unnecessarily disrupting the complex, important, and unique physiological processes of birth. We view birth as inconvenient. We treat technology as if it is smarter than nature. Technology should be used to help and serve birthing women, to be used appropriately and judiciously, not “routinely” and in ways that hinder or harm a birthing person and her baby. 

We aren’t listening to women. We are instilling incredible amounts of fear into women in regards to birth. We are subtly but relentlessly instilling a distrust in a woman’s ability to birth her baby without the need of extreme medical intervention. We are manufacturing avoidable emergencies and avoidable complications. Overall, we need to trust in women’s ability to birth more and interfere less. We need to offer better support, better birthing environments, patience, ACTUAL options, individualized care, and evidence-based information. 

We need to only intervene when there is a clear medical need, not routinely and in a conveyor belt like fashion. To only intervene when the benefits of that intervention outweigh the risks for the mother and baby, not the provider. We need to only intervene, to make that potentially life-altering decision to disturb that birthing mother and her birth, only when she FIRST provides truly informed consent. We need to always make sure she is an important part of that decision-making process. We need to understand that women are competent and capable of making decisions for themselves and their babies when they are given accurate and complete information. 

We need to stop scaring and scarring women. 

We need to support women emotionally and physically in ways that introduce the least amount of risk and harm. We need to realize unnecessarily disrupting a birthing woman is not only disrespectful, but harmful.

Birth is not “routine” and women are not “machines”. When we treat them as such, when we try to force things that aren’t ready to happen or speed things up (for no clear medical need) that’s when we introduce unnecessary risk and put women at a higher chance for emotional and physical harm. That harm is felt not only by the mother, but those around her. She enters motherhood on shaky ground, emotionally and physically traumatized, and with wavering confidence in her own abilities. Her experience is dismissed to, “just be grateful you have a healthy baby”. 

Birthing practices in America are corrupt. Many (not all) well-intentioned, caring “healers” have lost their way in a broken system. They have lost sight of the big picture, why birth matters and that how we treat women during birth matters. Even the most well-intentioned care providers often have their hands tied by an extreme fear of litigation, they are overworked with lack of adequate resources, and are under the thumb of insurance providers who make the “rules”. Women need to be listened to, supported, and respected. Women need to be the ones in charge of birth.

We all need to take a step back and ask, why are doing this? Why? Before we disturb the birthing person (in small or big ways) first ask, are we providing value to this mother or just getting in her way? Are we actually helping or are we doing more harm than good?

“Women’s bodies have their own wisdom, and a system of birth refined over 100,000 generations is not so easily overpowered.” – Sarah Buckley

Mama you are powerful, take back your power!

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Kristen Mantell, BBCI

Kristen Mantell, BBCI

Owner of Wild World Mama, LLC
DONA-Trained Birth Doula
Certified Birth Boot Camp Instructor
Professional Graphic Designer

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