I finally watched the documentary The Business of Being Born. Can I just say whoa! What an eye-opener. The film takes a hard look at the modern American delivery room and makes a strong case for natural childbirth overseen by experienced midwifes. It’s definitely a must-see for any woman planning to have a baby at some point in her life.
Did you know that midwives attend over 70% of births in Europe and Japan and in the US they attend less than 8%? The infant mortality rates of these countries are the lowest in the world while the United States has the 2nd worst newborn death rate in the developed world and one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized nations. Say what? I doubt this is just a random coincidence. Cuba even ranks higher than we do!
Some more startling facts:
In 1900, 95% of all births in the US took place at home.
In 1938 half of all births took place at home.
By 1955, less than 1% of births took place at home. And it remains at that number today.
Unfortunately in America, medical decisions are made for monetary and legal reasons, not necessarily because they are good for a mother and her baby. It seems that women are pushed through this system that the hospitals have in place whether they want it or not.
It’s looks something like this: You’ve been at the hospital in labor for over 12 hours. The nurses and the doctor tell you that they are going to give you pitosin (the drug that induces labor/speeds it up). Pitosin causes contractions that are much worse than contractions in a natural labor. So then they tell you that you should have an epidural. They call the anesthesiologist to make that happen asap. Sometimes the epidural works and sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work you are going to get another epidural. Ugh. Either way, you’re gonna get more pitosin. You’ve now put a tremendous amount of drugs into your body in a very short period of time. The contractions caused by the pitosin are so strong that the baby can very easily become distressed. If and when this happens the doctor tells you your baby is in distress “and for the health of your child” an emergency C-section needs to be performed. As a terrified mother-to-be what would you do! Are you seeing the domino effect here?
Since 1996, the C-section rate in the US has risen 46% and in 2005 it was 1 in 3 births. It is now the most common major surgical procedure performed on women. A recent study showed that the peak times for C-sections were 4pm and 10pm. 4pm means the doc can make it home in time for dinner and 10pm means the doc doesn’t have to be up all night. Let’s not forget the money factor: the average cost of a hospital birth in the US is $10,000, add another $5000 for a C-section. We spend more in America per birth than any other country in the world. Compare that with a home birth which averages about $4000.
Point of Interest – Oxytocin (what I like to call the yum yum hormone) is only released during orgasm and childbirth. Pitosin is the synthetic version of oxytocin. When you give birth naturally, you release the highest amount of oxytocin you ever will in your life. How cool is that!
I think there is a lot to be said about a woman trusting her own body and allowing the labor process to unfold in the time it’s supposed to take. I also think it must be so empowering to have control over how you give birth to your baby. At the same time, I think every woman is different and natural/home birth isn’t for everyone. But it’s nice to know women have LOTS of childbirth options today!
0 thoughts on “The Business of Being Born…in America”
Thanks for your comment Jill! The statistics are shocking indeed. What’s worse is that it sounds like the WHO is describing a poor third world country where women don’t have access to proper food or health care!! Abysmal…
I also just read that the number of babies being born prematurely in the US is up 21% since 1990 and the number of babies born with low birth weights was up 24% since the mid-1980’s. Could these jumps also be connected to the high C-section rate or are there other health issues looming behind these increases? This is what the WHO says about low birth weights: “At the population level, the proportion of babies with a low birth weight is an indicator of a multifaceted public-health problem that includes long-term maternal malnutrition, ill health, hard work and poor health care in pregnancy. On an individual basis, low birth weight is an important predictor of newborn health and survival.” I’ll let all of you, who know far more about health than I do, comment on the science behind this stuff but even a layperson like myself can see the writing on the wall here. How is it possible that in 2011, in the wealthiest country in the world, we could be digressing in the most basic and important area of our healthcare system, child birth?