The recent wave of letters and articles regarding the cesarean rates – while necessary to bring this issue to the forefront – has yet to reveal the simple steps that can be taken by both parents for their own personal benefit and by journalists for the benefit of the public at large. First is a proactive approach to educating themselves about the physiological process of natural birth and the impact of interventions on a woman’s ability to birth normally. Second is an independent review of labor experiences and sharing of consumerism experiences among real women across the country and around the world.

We encourage everyone to research the facts behind natural birth and homebirth – before reading and accepting interviews that support the culture of fear. While parents may be unsure of where to begin researching their options they are influenced by the media’s articles. Unfortunately we must remind the public that journalists are taking a well-deserved hit for their failure to research various views on highly emotional and volatile issues. For example: Frontline recently aired its expose on the lack of credible journalism in the finding (or non-finding) of weapons of mass destruction. The journalists did not do their research but instead were shown to have simply googled some key phrases and pulled up the most popular articles.

Journalists on the issue of health care in general and birth care in particular can avoid a repeat of this blemish on their respected field if they will take up the challenge to research the safety of birth. They can find independent sources to balance those from mainstream medicine by interviewing those who see birth care as a normal health care issue under normal scrutiny: are providers acquiring new skills? how are they assessing client needs? how are they meeting those needs? how are they evaluating their individual outcomes? what resources are care providers offering to their low-risk clients?

Both parents and journalists could interview independent childbirth educators ~ those who are not trained or employed by hospitals ~ who are well-versed in natural childbirth. Today most women are referred by obstetricians to the hospital’s birth education programs, a conflicted resource. Some women don’t research their educational and true birth options for a variety of reasons. Among the reasons we’ve heard are that women believe they aren’t qualified to research birth care options because they believe birth is a medical condition although they cannot fully compare the medical (birth must be managed) and midwifery (birth as normal) care models. Some believe their careprovider to be skilled, knowledgeable and up-to-date on practices and so they don’t question their recommendations let alone their birth information resource referrals. It has also been suggested that some women view natural birth as beneath them and some women and their partners believe that a vaginal birth will destroy their sex life. Partners have a great influence in how a woman views her body in birth. Partners in particular need to know that that it is invasive labor management practices such as episiotomies, if not the residual psychological trauma of a high intervention birth complete with loss of autonomy that can be a real cause of the loss of enjoyment of one’s sexuality. In fact current research is beginning to consider that what is being diagnosed as postpartum depression might in some cases actually be post traumatic stress syndrome.

By far though one of the greatest contributors to restricting access to birth information is the typical seemingly benign hospital-based birth class. Women can be enticed by a one or two-day crash birth course in their local hospital because it’s conveniently located, is completed in far less time than a full coverage birth education series, and it offers economic incentive in the form of low cost if not free birth classes. Women are often unaware of the conflict of interest posed by receiving their birth information solely from the birth education resource at the hospital where they are birthing because that is where their careprovider is affiliated. Take a similar life stress event such as purchasing a home. The savvy consumer knows to engage their own realtor, choose an independent home inspector and an independent attorney. This consumer knows that they can limit their exposure to purchasing a moneypit by not falling victim to the conflict of interest provided by the referral links between realtor, inspector and attorney ~ they all want you to buy this home. How much more important than a real estate purchase is a mother and her baby’s care? Why surround oneself solely with people who believe birth is a disaster waiting to happen?

The primary influence in determining care that is routine in America regardless of its proven risks and benefits lies in the perception of birth as a dangerous and life threatening event. This is such a strong perception that careproviders and birth locations not only continue to use outdated protocols but they also present them to parents as ‘law’ thereby neglecting to apply a basic tenet of patient rights: informed consent and informed refusal. It is no small irony that in the cases of true life threatening health situations (terminal illness, life support, etc.) a person has the right to choose the medical protocol of their choice including doing nothing. Pregnancy is not an illness and yet our rights to information and freedom of choice are lost because of the fear factor that influences birth care guidelines and protocols set by insurance, obstetrical peers and the hospitals themselves.

The outlook for birth in America appears bleak and if the lack of birth knowledge is supported then it will remain bleak. It is the restricted access, whether real or subliminal, to credible normal birth information that limits the view of the consumer and the media’s ability to portray the truth behind America’s birth statistics. For example, in the case of one of a few independent educators in the state of Connecticut (a state which offers hospital, birth center and homebirth as birth locations and independent midwifery, OB/midwifery groups, and OB-only care) we have statistics that show a very different picture of birth. The World Health Organization states that no region can justify a cesarean rate greater than 10-15% and independent childbirth educators can make those guidelines a reality for America.

Among this educators’ clientele, the c-section rate is in line with the World Health Organization’s recommended guidelines – less than 15% had their birth experience result in cesareans. In addition, of the 85% of women who birthed vaginally, about 80% birthed without pain medications. In this one year alone, so far none of the new mothers chose an epidural ~ a known contributor to America’s high cesarean rates. These parents availed themselves of the best birth health care America has to offer and made their own choices from all options after receiving birth education from an independent resource and this information made a difference in their choices and their ability to be proactive participants in their birth care.

It is commonly accepted that the weakest of our society need advocates because alone they cannot enforce their rights. Women are not weak. There is an emperical and ancient view of women as fragile and unable to think for themselves. This is simply not true. The public needs to hold their legislative representatives and the medical boards responsible for ensuring careproviders are current with national and international healthy birth care protocols, are well trained in normal birth variations and most importantly that they end the legal environment that enables medical careproviders to bind a woman’s hands and remove her rights to exercise freedom of choice in her own health care.

For example, every state allows for the medical careproviders to consider breech a risky birth and does not have careproviders trained to catch breech babies therefore the state allows for the automatic scheduling of a cesarean. In actuality breech babies can be delivered safely vaginally IF the careprovider has the skills to both deliver breeches as well as knowledgeably discuss the risks, benefits and complications of both vaginal and cesarean delivery as options. When your careprovider’s skills are limited and they do not make you aware of their limitations are they really giving you a choice in your care?How do you, the consumer, learn not only your options but the best way to secure them for yourself? Independent Childbirth education! In independent natural birth classes you receive a credible comparison of the medical and midwifery models of care in normal birth. For example, in the typical hospital and medical birth environment birth is viewed as a disaster waiting to happen and your medical staff can save you from this imminent doom. However, in an independent natural childbirth class this pervasive fear of birth can be dissipated through knowledge. This is a proven approach to any new situation. Those experiencing an illness are encouraged to explore all options including natural care. Those desiring to explore a new frontier riskier than birth, such as sky diving, are encouraged to face their fears, learn how to skydive safely and then enjoy the exhilaration. However, when a woman expresses both the fear of labor and/or a desire to experience birth fully, she is met with either a syringe, a disparagement or ridiculing of the birth experience, or both because birth as viewed as a clinical process rather than as the natural process that it is. Women are not ill. They are pregnant. They are not risking their lives. Birth is a normal part of life. It happens every day.

We believe in both the freedom to share information and the positive effect that the sharing of natural childbirth has on women. We remain skeptical of doctors who have never experienced a joyful, spontaneous birth over an intact perineum influencing a woman’s choices by limiting her birth education resources. We give parents current and credible birth information from national and international resources in order to ensure that each mother will have unrestricted access to natural birth knowledge and can compare it to the medical models presented to her thereby helping her identify protocols and care that are healthy, low-risk, safe, current and modern. We ask the media to contribute to a positive change in birth care by doing the same. It’s time to clear the “atmosfear”.

Envision the birth you want. The one you believe in. Click here to learn about and meet other women enjoying birth!