I’m excited to announce my new online class: Expecting Success! A Positive Approach to Pregnancy and Birth. The 4 week (1 hour a week) class begins Sept. 4th at 1pm Pacific (4pm Eastern). For more information or to register for the class click here - http://www.entheos.com/academy/courses/Expecting-Success. This will be a fun and interesting class. Anyone with an interest in birth is encouraged to attend. Please spread the word!
The unassisted childbirth documentary originally titled "Outlaw Births" and now renamed "Freebirthing" will be airing on the Discovery Health Channel on Oct. 21st. As far as I know, the only things that have changed are the title and perhaps the narration. I enjoyed the British version, but as expected, there were numerous unsubstantiated comments from medical professionals about the supposed safety of hospital birth and the dangers of homebirth (specifically unassisted homebirth). In my interview with the producers last summer I addressed many of their concerns but most of my comments ended up on the cutting room floor.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes will be made to the US version. A producer from Discovery Health contacted me a few weeks ago to see if some of the "facts" presented in the program were indeed facts. I wrote him a long letter telling him more than he probably wanted to know! I've included some of my comments below. I'd actually be suprised if any changes were made to the program, but we'll find out soon!
I’m glad to hear it will be airing in the US. Overall I thought it was good, although I felt they were wrong to say that 50,000 UK women hemorrhage each year, without adding that much of this is due to medical intervention – epidurals, pitocin, aggressive management of the third stage of labor, c-sections, etc. Without bringing in this fact, it makes it appear that large numbers of women will naturally hemorrhage if a birth isn’t medically assisted.
Nine pregnant women were actually interviewed for the documentary (although most weren’t featured), and all nine went on to successfully give birth unassisted. None of the women hemorrhaged, and only two sought medical care after the birth – Heather, for a placenta that was slow to come out (but came out without assistance in the hospital), and another woman who tore and decided to get stitches. Heather is now sorry she went into the hospital, as many women that give birth at home deliver the placenta hours (and occasionally, days) after the birth with no problems. There really was no reason for concern. And so I would dispute the narration that accompanied this segment, as they implied (if not outright stated) that Heather was in serious danger.
Regarding the statement that “80% of women say that childbirth is more painful than they ever imagined," I googled “childbirth more painful than imagined” and found several references to a UK study from 2002. However, the article states that of the women in the study, “Almost a quarter had had a Caesarean and 96 per cent gave birth in hospital with a variety of technical assistance including forceps, suction and epidurals. Only 6 per cent reported having a 'completely natural birth.'”
As far as the accuracy of the comment in the end of the program that "For Laura Shanley the responsibility rests on the medical community to offer a different kind of support to women," this actually bothered me, as I would never make a statement like this. I believe the responsibility rests on women. If women truly want to have a better birth experience, they need to educate themselves as to why birth can sometimes be problematic. From the research I have done, I believe it can be traced to three main causes: poverty, unnecessary medical intervention, and fear (which triggers the fight/flight response and shuts down labor). We cannot depend on the medical profession to “save” us from birth, as we really don’t need to be saved – and their idea of saving (inductions, c-sections, etc.) brings with it a new set of problems that are actually causing an increase in both maternal and infant mortality. And so I encourage women to overcome their fears, believe in their own abilities and allow their bodies to work the way they were designed.
The producers of the documentary did ask me what doctors, midwives and doulas can do, and I told them they can help women to believe in themselves (and this is the clip they showed after making that statement). But I would never put the responsibility on the medical community, as I do not believe birth is a medical event. Contrary to what many reporters are saying, the unassisted childbirth (UC) movement isn’t simply a reaction to over-medicalized birth (although that’s certainly a factor). I think interest in UC is growing because women are wanting to take responsibility for themselves in all aspects of their lives. They no longer feel comfortable turning themselves over to the “authorities.” The idea that “doctor knows best” doesn’t sit right with many people anymore. Yes, doctors are necessary and sometimes their services are needed. But when it comes to birth these days, I believe they are creating more problems than they’re fixing.
Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do. Dare I say, there were several other statements made in the documentary that I didn’t agree with – and actually addressed in the hours of interviews I did with the UK crew. Unfortunately, most of that ended up on the cutting room floor. Still, I’m thankful that I was able to say as much as I did (I did a 4-hour interview with the Seoul Broadcasting System a few years ago, and when the documentary aired a year later my part was 15 seconds long). I also felt the British did a nice job presenting the women’s stories. I don’t object to them including negative comments from doctors, but many of the comments made simply weren’t true.
The British documentary “Outlaw Births” will be airing in the UK tomorrow (July 9th) on Channel 5 at 9pm. The film deals with unassisted childbirth (also known as "UC," "unassisted homebirth," and "freebirth"). I was interviewed along with nine pregnant women who were all planning on giving birth at home, unassisted. I'm pleased to say that all nine succeeded! The film focuses primarily on three women, Clio, Clair and Heather. Footage from all of their births will be shown.
An article about the documentary was published today in the British newspaper The Independent. The article features lovely photos from Clio's recent UC! In the months to come, the documentary may be shown in other countries. I'll be sure to post information on this as soon as I get more details.
Concerning the title, the term “outlaw” refers to the fact that women who choose this route often feel ostracized by friends, family and society. While the UK laws are vague, technically it is not illegal for a woman there to have an unassisted birth.
Tomorrow, March 24th, somewhere in the world, at some point during the day (am I being too vague?), the Associated Press TV segment I was interviewed for will air. Stations around the world that subscribe to AP video can air the 3 to 5 minute segment if they choose to. They can also air part of it, or show the footage but with their own voice-overs. I believe there will also be a 2 minute segment which can be posted online by newspapers that subscribe to AP video. I’m hoping that if it doesn’t air locally (or even if it does) I/we can view the video online, but I’m not sure if that will be possible. In addition to a short interview with me, the segment will also include an interview with my friend Liberty, and comments from a physician (I think we all know what to expect). It’s hard to say how many stations will choose to air the segment, but if anyone out there sees it please let me know. A short blurb about the segment is posted here.
Interestingly enough, this segment was 9 months in the making, and tomorrow is my husband David’s birthday. It seems very fitting to me that it should air then, as David was the one that started me on this path. While he only witnessed the birth of one of our children, he was very much with me in spirit each time, and like me, views this as his life’s work (actually, our work is much larger than UC, but this is our primary focus right now). My book, Unassisted Childbirth, was very much a joint creation. Certainly David hasn’t been as vocal about birth as I have, but he’s slowly coming out of his shell. He was interviewed by the AP TV producer (as were two of our children, John and Joy), but unfortunately their comments weren’t included. I hope you will be seeing more of him in the years to come. The man has read thousands of books in the past 35 years, and is a walking encyclopedia.
In other news, I added two lovely, inspiring videos to my main page this past week, “My Birth Path,” by Sarahjeanne, and “My Birth Journey,” by Reyvene. Stop by and have a look!
Postscript: The Today Show in Australia aired an edited version of the segment. Click here to view it.
I’m happy to say that the Trust Birth Conference far exceeded my expectations! It was wonderful to connect with so many people I had corresponded with over the years but never met in person. All the sessions I attended were excellent. Each of the speakers stayed true to the Trust Birth slogan: Birth is Safe; Interference is Risky. Speaking of which, apparently the sign we had posted in the lobby (which bore the slogan) did not go over well with some of the hotel guests. A group of surgeons complained to the management, and asked that the sign be taken down! The surgeons felt we should not be able to make a political statement (dare I say, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet?!). Fortunately, the sign remained. :)
I wish I could say I took lots of pictures but I didn’t. The reasons for this are as follows: when it comes to photography, I suck, and I truly wanted to immerse myself in the experience and not be concerned with documenting it. Believe me, I was there! Thankfully other people took pictures. Click here to see Brenda Capps’ pictures, and here to see Gloria Lemay’s.
One of the MANY highlights for me was the panel discussion on “Why Women Stay Home...Alone!” Several of us on the panel had been a bit concerned that we might endure criticism from midwives, but I can honestly say that not one of the midwives in the audience had anything negative to say about UC (unassisted childbirth). After my fellow panelists (Melissa Collins, Heather Cushman-Dowdee, Jody McLaughlin, Rixa Freeze, Heather Brock and Emily Reeves) and I shared our reasons for choosing UC, the discussion turned to how we can build a bridge between UC and midwifery. I was thrilled to learn that there are many midwives who truly want to help women in their quest for a UC, whether that means being a back-up, doing prenatal care, offering knowledge and support during the pregnancy and/or checking on the mom and baby after the birth. I never felt I needed this but I understand that some women do, and so I’m thankful there are midwives who are willing to provide this service. The discussion was so productive that midwife and UCer Kristi Zittle set up a Yahoo group with the following description: “An elite group of women joining together to find a common bond between hands off midwifery and the power of the unassisted birthing woman. Our goal is to meet the needs of all women without interfering with the natural processes of birth; and, through the dispelling of birth fears!” To join the group click here.
Of course I know that not all midwives support UC, and even some who do are reluctant to help those UCer’s that request it for fear of losing their licenses should something go wrong with the birth. This is why my midwife friends (and I suspect many of the midwives in the audience) have tended to fall into the following categories: no longer practicing (either by force or choice), unregulated, underground, or licensed and regulated but willing to break the law. As several of the midwives pointed out, a midwife basically has to decide who she’s going to answer to: the woman or the state. Those who decide to answer to the state may be able to help women that have text book labors, but they will hinder women whose labors deviate from “the norm.” Does a woman truly need to transfer if her water has been broken for more than 12 hours, or her placenta isn’t delivered within an hour of the birth? In most cases, I don’t think so. But a midwife who answers to the state will do this in spite of the fact that she knows it's unnecessary.
There is so much more I could write about (and so many people I could thank/praise) but I’ve been home for a week and I'm still trying to catch up on email, work, etc. To those who would like to read more about the conference click here.
As you’ll see, I’m not the only one who didn’t want it to end! In fact, conference organizer Carla Hartley (who will forever hold a place in my heart) is already talking about having another conference in 2010. I’ll keep you posted! For those of you who weren’t able to attend (and even those who were) recordings of the sessions will soon be available for purchase here.