Birth in America has reached an alarming state. While that may sound like entitlement, someone unappreciative of all that is available, the fact is that birth here is indeed at a low point. For example, as a nation:
- We know that women birthing in the US today–today–are at more risk of death than any other nation of similar wealth. While the world’s maternal death statistics drop, ours rise.
- We know that maternal death rates for black women are startlingly higher than those for white women. And the news gets worse from there. You can get a taste of these in an easy-read, non-technical format here.
I call that alarming.
I read and wonder: Do people know about this? If we do, why aren’t we upset? Like calling our doctors and hospitals and demanding change kind of upset?
…but hey, the above may feel like theory, like it’s happening to an abstract other. So how about some of these additional points? Statistically, if you’ve given birth in the US in recent decades, you might find them relatable:
- Did you experience electronic fetal monitoring? The ones they strap onto your belly when you arrive at the hospital? Electronic fetal monitoring was developed and adapted as a practice despite a lack of evidence at the time or since. It *is* proven to increase cesarean rates (see below) while not improving outcomes (What it does best is hold up in court.) Read more here
- Did you or someone you know have a cesarean? Cesareans increase risk for mothers, babies, future pregnancies, and therefore future labors, yet they have become normalized. Here’s ACOG explaining the risks and alternatives. ACOG are the folks who create policy for OB/GYN’s. So if they’re suggesting that things need to change, we really need change.
- Have an induction or “scheduled c” on the earlier side? Babies born prior to 39 weeks are at risk, but again, it’s become normalized to induce or perform a surgical birth (with the tidy name of c-section so we don’t think of it as major abdominal surgery) prior to this point. This isn’t news. Here’s the March of Dimes urging OB’s to halt unnecessary inductions. In 2009, mind you. So again: 11 years later, this is not news.
The list goes on and on. All things we’ve known, for a long time even. Should you want to explore more on your own, Evidence Based Birth is an excellent starting point.
So why? Why do we stand for and conform to a system that is literally killing us? Do we really not mind being at risk? Is it because the information arrives in tiny packages, like this? Do we read it, gasp, then move on?
Do we view these as risks for other people, and therefore not our problem?
Are we exhausted?
Are we paralyzed?
Are we despondent, with no idea of what to do?
Here’s a TED talk that offers suggestions for making change without donning a special advocacy hat, or marching, or writing postcards. It’s presented in a gentle, “You can do it” kind of way. Just to dip your toe in for a brief moment and try it on.
See how it feels.
Written by Jackie Kelleher
Jackie has been supporting families as a doula, doula trainer, lactation counselor, childbirth educator, and group facilitator for more than twenty five years.
Photo credit: Reynardt