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Pushing Back

Has the natural childbirth movement gone too far?

By Lisa Selin Davis |

“I’m going to have a VBAC,” Annie said, “if it’s the last thing I do.” We were sitting in a prenatal yoga class in an unnamed facility in an unnamed Brooklyn neighborhood (one people assume they must move to the minute they conceive). For at least half of each of these classes, we talked about where we planned to give birth, with whom, and how the endeavor was going – lots of chatter about lower backs and digestive systems.

Annie, like almost every other repeat mom in the class, had endured a C-section the first time around. And, like almost every other repeat mom in the class, she harbored a sense of failure about the experience, and felt violated by the medical establishment that had allowed it.

And yet her determination to go vaginal the next time around wasn’t just the result of that experience. Indeed, that pre-stretch chatter may have had something to do with it. I noticed that women choosing home births, birth centers or midwives got a bigger smile and better feedback from our teachers than those who mentioned the words doctor or epidural (unless they did so with derision). It reminded me of a tense meeting with my OB. She had expressed just as much skepticism and dismay when I brought up the possibility of delivering at a freestanding birth center with midwives as these yoga teachers did about doctors and hospitals.

I’ve learned over the last eight months of pregnancy of the longtime conflict between midwives and doctors, between the medical community and the natural childbirth movement. And we knocked-up ladies, sadly, are the collateral damage of their battle, forced to navigate each side’s distrust of the other, getting bruised in the process. I mean, look at Annie – what she’d ultimately said was that she’d rather die than have a C-section again.

At first, I didn’t think much about the preference for all things natural in yoga – yoga is, after all, endemically hippie-ish, biased toward the non-medical model. At that time I was still signed up with my OB (who wholeheartedly endorsed yoga, doulas and childbirth education classes, by the way), and seeking advice from both my sister the pediatrician and a friend I’ll call Kim, a journalist covering maternity care in this country.

It didn’t surprise me that Kim and my sister’s views didn’t mesh – my sister toes the pediatrics party line on everything from interventions to vaccinations pretty conservatively, though she is as gentle and empathetic as can be. Kim, on the other hand, has many hundreds of pages of evidence of how the medical establishment had failed women.

But I assumed that my own bouncing around between views was a private journey, and one I was well equipped for as a journalist; it’s my job to gather as much information as possible and sift through it, searching for synthesis. Then my husband and I signed up for a childbirth education class. We loved it, don’t get me wrong, but the bias was a little off-putting. We read an article that suggested an epidural could make your child four times as likely to become a drug addict; that you and your child would both miss out on necessary hormones if it didn’t come out the vaginal route; that the hospital would snatch your baby away and do dangerous things to it if you weren’t lucky enough, or maybe smart enough, to select home birth.

The teacher was educating us, of course, trying to reverse the course, and the curse, of the last fifty years that have led to a C-section rate of over thirty percent and a generation of women, like Annie, feeling stonewalled and abused by their doctors. And yet the teacher was making many of the students feel stonewalled and abused, before they’d even gone into labor.

Marie, a cancer survivor in our class, said she had assumed she’d get an epidural, having had plenty of experience with pain: but now she felt guilty, pressured into avoiding it. She and I had both left the same OB after the doctor erupted into a defensive rant when we asked open-ended questions about C-sections. (I’m pretty sure I just said, “I want to ask you about C-sections,” and she spent twenty minutes speaking incoherently about her $175,000 of malpractice insurance and a woman who broke her pelvis pushing for six hours). But Marie’s switch in labor plan seemed almost as odd.

I detected a pattern in these rooms. When women discussed information their doctors had disseminated, the doulas, childbirth educators and yoga teachers I encountered dismissed it. Anyone who complained of having sciatic pain in yoga, a well-known side effect of pregnancy, was told that they had been misdiagnosed and only one body worker in Chelsea (with clientele, apparently, such as Gwyneth Paltrow) could help – anyone else might make it worse. We were informed that there is only one true emergency C-section – a prolapsed cord – and that if you were told you were having an emergency C-section for any other reason that you were being lied to. Once I brought up the anemia my doctor (back when I had that OB) had called to tell me about. “Don’t listen to your doctor,” the teacher said. “Pregnancy is an anemic condition. Ask your friend Kim.”

Doctors, midwives, come on – can’t we all just get along?Kim knows a lot about maternity care in this country – she’s a big part of the reason I ended up leaving my OB in favor of midwives at a birthing center – but hemoglobin is not her specialty. She’ll be the first to admit that. But the teacher’s reverence for Kim’s opinion over my doctor’s revealed to me the scope of the rift between the medical community and the natural childbirth movement. So skeptical are the practitioners and advocates of intervention-free birth that they dismiss medical professionals altogether and anoint themselves or others they admire as experts. While my doctor was far too stingy with information, the childbirth educators and yoga teachers were far too free with it, especially tidbits of data that were clearly not true. (My iron, by the way, is still dangerously low, and the midwives say if I don’t up it, I can’t give birth in the center after all).

This is not to say that misinformation doesn’t come from the medical community as well. I can’t tell you the number of women who come to class announcing the exact size of their baby. “She’s seven pounds, three ounces,” they say, not knowing that their doctors have given them an estimate, one that can be as much as two or three pounds off, and then can be wielded to talk them into a C-section later – the “big baby” reason for getting cut open. Charlie, another yoga mate, was told by her OB that she was endangering the life of her baby by switching to a midwife, that she was selfish and even stupid. (The midwife, by the way, has never uttered a word against doctors, Charlie reported.)

Now, at thirty-five weeks pregnant, I’m properly confused, not sure whom or what to believe. At least I enjoy wading through the information, playing a pregnant sociologist observing the various parties misbehave. Still, I feel bad for the women caught up in that rift, angering their doctors when they get educated, feeling bullied by those who educate them.

I know the natural childbirth practitioners mean well. They want us to be allowed to hold our babies the minute they come out, to resist Hep B shots if we so choose, to learn to ask for more time before being bullied into an operation we may not need. And maybe they’re going too far out of passion. But I think they forget the pregnant women just as much as the OBs do. They’re just as caught up in the cause and not the individual cases. Doctors, midwives, come on – can’t we all just get along?

This much I’m sure of. When, iron levels willing, I’m headed to the birth center in a month or so, I’m going to try not to forget that what counts is the health of baby and mother, whether that means a C-section and epidural or an Ina May Gaskin-style unmitigated orgasmic birth. Annie might have temporarily forgotten that, scarred as she is, both literally and figuratively, by her C-section experience, and pressured by the pro-natural childbirth forces. Though VBACs might have a success rate as high as seventy percent, they can be still dangerous. If she insists on having a vaginal birth no matter what, it very well may be the last thing she does.

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About Lisa Selin Davis


Lisa Selin Davis

Lisa Selin Davis is the author of the novel Belly (Little Brown) and a freelance journalist. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Interior Design, New York and This Old House.

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61 thoughts on “Pushing Back

  1. jojo44 says:

    Thank you for writing this article.  I had a natural birth.  I was in labor for two days and pushed for six and a half hours.  I came out with a perfectly healthy baby and went home 12 hours after pushing her out.  I would not change the birth at all even though it was not easy.  I would have loved to have A LOT more help after coming home.  That was by far the hardest part.  A woman broke her pelvis after pushing for six hours?  Something was wrong with her pelvis in the first place, clearly.
    As much of a cheerleader as I am for natural birth, I completely agree with the author.  There is a bizarre us and them attitude between midwives and OBs.  I hate it.  It is absolutely dangerous for the women and babies.  As great as the birthing center was, the midwives were not nearly as skilled as OBs in taking care of the medical needs of the women.  Their greatest value was in listening to the women and taking care of their emotional needs.  It was never good when they tried to play doctor, especially with the infant.  We were told that we could bring our baby in to the birthing center when she was two weeks instead of taking her to a pediatrician.  We did this, stupidly.  It was such a bad experience that we went straight to a real pediatrician the next day.  The midwives had no idea what they were doing and they basically missed some important issues with our baby. 
    As for my birth, after all of the hullabaloo none of the midwives  bothered to read my birthing plan.  After a very long labor, I was chastised by the midwife for not pushing well enough (my baby was posterior).  She finally cut an episiotomy after six and half hours of pushing.  I kept telling her there was not enough room.  No one listened until I finally broke down and started screaming that I wanted to go to the hospital.  So, they cut me and the baby came out.  Her heart beat was fine throughout.  They were very careful to check constantly.  Her apgar was a 9.  I felt like I had been bullied and ignored during pushing.  When I have another baby (we have moved since), I will be careful to put in a maximum time for pushing before I want the midwives/doctor to perform an episiotomy. 
    Can’t we all play for the same team?  I hate the thought that a pregnant women needs to choose between midwives who pretend to know everything and OBs who are foaming at the mouth to give you an epidural, pitocin, and then a C-section. 

  2. Cali mom says:

    I totally agree that there is way too much “us and them”. I completely believe that a woman should have a choice as to who delivers their baby and where it is delivered. However, I can never understand how someone can give birth to a healthy, beautiful baby and then later look back and complain about how the birth experience was not perfect. You really need to appreciate what you have.After multiple miscarriages and a horrible pregnancy, I gave birth via C-section to my beautiful son. We are both healthy and happy. However, I have been asked several times if I was disappointed in my birth experience, and that I should have resisted getting a C-section. (I work in the medical field, and am completely comfortable that my C-section was the right way to go.) After everything I went through, all I cared about was that my son was healthy, and that is a greater gift than any kind of short-term experience.I really believe so many women look back on their births as a sub-par experience because of all the people telling them that they failed because they did not do it the natural way. Anyone who puts this kind of pressure on other women should be ashamed of themselves.Again, I am a full supporter of women having a variety of choices (hospital, birthing center, home, etc.) But in the end, if baby and mom are healthy, you really need to move on.

  3. GP says:

    I am lucky. I did not experience the “us and them” in the midwifery practice I chose for my pregnancy and birth. In fact, the midwives have an agreement with specific M.D.s at the hospital, should a transfer be required. I do understand why, though, there might be an “us and them” attitude. Just read the other article posted today by Jennifer Block that discusses what I would characterize as sheer treachery by the AMA.
    I do agree, though that mothers and mothers to be should not be made to feel guilty for their choice and certainly should not be ridiculed for simply asking questions. I might advise that a woman learn about childbirth options BEFORE she becomes pregnant, when mentally she may be operating at not so high of an emotional pitch and be able to more intellectually process the information she’s learning.
    I read Naomi Wolf’s “Misconceptions” before I even got pregnant which led me on a self-educating mission that made me choose the natural/midwifery route over a hospital birth.

  4. Manda says:

    Great article. I myself have had 3 cesareans. The first was very necessary, and the ones after were chosen by me for a myriad of reasons. While I fully support women choosing to have whatever birth they want, I do somewhat resent this natural childbirth movement we are so deep in right now. I don’t feel anyone would argue that natural childbirth is most often the best option. But there is so much emphasis on the exact means in which our babies exit our bodies, that it is no wonder so many women are left out in the cold. Feeling as if they failed or were denied this wonderous god given gift of the “perfect” birth. And I don’t mean just c-sections vs. natural births. I mean all the nitty gritty details in between too. Episiotomies, epidurals, pitocin, midwives, OB’s, doulas, home births, hospital, etc. Absolutely women should be educated as to their choices and supported in them. While the natural childbirth movement is in ways a great one, it is on other ways oppressive, in my opinion. The point of this movement is to empower women to have their best birth. If you have a natural birth, then yay, great, round of applause and esteemed respect shall follow. But if your birth wasn’t as “natural” as it could be or you had a cesarean, than well, you should feel jilted, as if you failed or were taken advantage of. Clearly your doctor just had a round of golf to get to. Obviously, I am making some sweeping generalizations here, but it truly has felt that way for myself and other women I know who have had cesareans or births that just “weren’t 110% ideal”.The very women who want to empower women to take control of their bodies and have natural births are often setting up just as many, if not more, other woman for failure, because for one reason or another, they will not be able to “achieve standards.” It has become a competitive sport, and it is incredibly disheartening. For as much support for women who want a natural childbirth are getting, I wish the same could be true for everyone else. Your best birth may not be my best birth. But it does’t mean it was any less special, meaningful or empowering in my own life.

  5. Ali says:

    There are too many people struggling to live with lifelong disabilities because they were injured during birth. Prolonged labor greatly increases the chance of infection, oxygen deprivation and trauma to the baby. Sorry but I would rather follow the medical advice of my physician who can see my child is in distress than the empty promises of a frustrated birth assistant. The midwife injures or kills your child due to their bad advice you have no legal recourse. It is just tough for you. The whole battle between the two camps is due to the faiure of women in the country to fight for real empowerment. They take up an “easy” cause, child birth and child raising, to fight for with the enemy that does not exist, other women. Rather than fight men for equal pay (the ERA is STILL not ratified in this country!), equal opportunity, fight sexism, fight discrimination, they pick easy “battles” with no true winners. My partner calls the breast-home birth-epidural-vaccination battles “Hen Chatter”. No real substance or results. These arguments do nothing to better the lives and livelihoods of women or our daughters. Filled with hystrionics and personal anecdotes they are just busy work, like darning once was, for women. Keeps the little women busy and from tackling the real fights. Keep it up ladies and we will remain in the 1960′s for another half century. Empowering women is not about how you have a baby!

  6. Laure68 says:

    I have a quick question. Why do you mention resisting Heb B shots in this article?Maybe I am reading this wrong, but are you linking the natural birth movement to resisting vaccinations? If so, I think this is wrong. There is lots of scientific evidence showing that natural/home births are very safe. However, all of scientific evidence for vaccinations points to getting them on schedule.I know this is anecdotal, but I know 2 people who had homebirths and still got their kids vaccinated per the recommended schedule. (Obviously, the Heb B shot did not happen at the hospital, but at the first pediatrician visit.) They really resented getting linked to the pseudo-scientific, anti-vaccine “movement”.

  7. anon says:

    I don’t understand why if you have a c-section, you fail. is there some sort of a competition of who has the most natural birth? what the hell do other people care about woman’s choice at the moment of birth? One can’t possibly be in her shoes when she is in pain and choosing epidural, or when the nurses say, CTG is not good, the baby is stressed, you are heading for c-section. can anyone imagine a woman say, No, let’s wait , when she is told, the heartbeat doesn’t seem to be good and she needs a cesarian?it’s a big chase for money between birthing centers and hospitals – everyone wants to get women give birth in their establishment. Women do not need to be caught up in this game, their ultimate goal is to survive and have a healthy baby, no more and no less..

  8. GP says:

    No sane, decent person thinks you “fail” if you have a c-section, you take an epidural or whatever. Those people are jerks. It has just gotten so that people think the machines and interventions are “normal” and to just have the baby without all that stuff is “out there” when it is really not. Women’s bodies were designed to give birth and so a healthy woman, who wants to, MOST of the time (there are always exceptions) when given the right support and environment to do so, can give birth without interventions safely. Sometimes hospital settings don’t allow for the right environment to do this, and so interventions beget interventions. Some of which are more dangerous than the natural things that happen in labor.
    Also, I am a extended breastfeeding homebirther who is very committed to on-schedule vaccinations. Some things benefit from modern technology, others don’t need it. Prevention of disease and curing illness are responses to PATHOLOGIES (in other words, disease), pregnancy is not a pathology, but a natural bodily process.
    Ali, if taking charge of one’s own health and body is not at the very source and core of empowerment, I don’t know what is.

  9. Jessica in AZ says:

    Good article. I gave birth in a hospital to my 2.5 year old daughter. I had zero interventions, and no drugs. It was just a process and annoying to have the nurses & doctors ask if I wanted my water broken, and then ask if I wanted drugs, but we made it through the way we intended.
    I know there is some rift between the medical side of birthing, and the more natural side of birthing. And there is not only a rift between doctors & midwives, but the women that choose either side and deliver that way. Everyone wants to be socially accepted, and to some, it is more acceptable to get an epidural; for others, to birth at home.
    I think people make their own personal decisions on the matter, and that should be that. If a woman chooses to give birth at home, how wonderful and beautiful is that! And, on the other hand, a woman wants an epidural from the moment she feels contractions; that is a beautiful thing! We are all strong women, and our decisions are just as unique as we are.
    Also – I am having another baby in November. I will be giving birth at home with 2 loving and amazing midwives. And I plan on vaccinating my daughter as recommended by her pediatrician.

  10. cutiebear says:

    I had both my kids at the hospital. The first one was overdue and when he did come I pushed him out myself just like the natural birth people exclaim about. The 2nd I did choose an epidural after 20 hrs of labor and still pushed him out. I never feel or felt guilty about having an epidural, it was that bad, i was glad i was in a location where I had the option. With both the kids I held them immediately after the came out, I gave the last push and the doctor tossed him on my belly and i held each one while the cord was cut and all that. In my opinion, the blame should not be solely on the doctors for the increase in c-sections. Most the women I know enjoyed the process and chose it again for their 2nd and 3rd, so perhaps it’s just a change in what women what today.

  11. Natural mama says:

    Ali, I love your comment about hen chatter and your point is very well-taken that women should stop fighting about this silly stuff and worry about so many of the real equal rights that are denied us. But I do think you should be aware that there are far fewer life long disabilities due to a long labor or natural birth complications, than due to c-section issues (for baby: well-documented lifelong breathing issues including serious athsma and other problems, for mom: blood clots, and bleeding issues, unnecessary hysterectomies, etc.) I know a woman whose daughter has a visible facial laceration from being cut in the face while being removed from the womb in a c-section and this is not rare). Anyhow, I loved your comments!

  12. brex says:

    I don’t think that advocating for reproductive rights (and really, that’s the core of the natural birth shift – rights during reproduction) is “hen chatter”. It’s about not being second-class citizens and being treated the same as invalids by the medical community – i.e. informed consent and the right to refusal which is granted to all but the unconscious, the mentally unfit, and children. In addition to the women who lament having things done to them without consent, I also know some women who were totally P.O’d that they couldn’t get an epidural in time and had to push without drugs. As long as YOU are the one calling the shots, who cares?
    That said, I do get where this article is coming from. I used to read an active natural birth community and the day that someone got dressed down for calling their drug-free birth “natural” even though they had had AROM left me cold. That and someone asking the agonizing question of how it was possible to both have a “lotus birth” (where you leave the placenta attached to the baby until the cord dries up and detaches by itself) and also eat the placenta afterwards. I quit the group after that. (That to me was “hen chatter”.)
    I feel lucky that I got to have a natural birth in hospital (didn’t have much choice, I was fully dilated when I got there, plus the hospital itself is very hands-off in that it has no “policy” in place in regards to what MUST be done with laboring women), but I wouldn’t have hesitated to use my available options if I had hit a breaking point. Also, I don’t know if this is true, but it feels to me like places where midwives and doctors can work peaceably side by side (like they do here in BC) that there isn’t as much “us and them”. In a province that is strapped for providers, midwives seem like a welcome relief as well-trained, competent birth attendants for those of us in the low-risk category. All of the divisiveness seems to be coming out of the U.S.

  13. clementine says:

    Please take the time to educate yourself about vaccinations, so if you choose it, at least you know why, and exactly what you are risking to gain the proposed benefit.  Newborns are vaccinated against HepB because the shot exists.  Newborns aren’t sexually active or sharing needles with anyone, but they might when they get older, so the applied logic is that if the protocol is “vaccinate all newborns”, then when those newborns become older, there will eventually be a drop in the rate of HepB, compared to the rate that exists now.  Not all of us anticipate our newborns becoming promiscuous and/or iv drug users, but even if we did, we could choose (notice the word choose) to have our child receive the shot later, not on the first day of their life.  Never even mind the whole discussion about how a newborn’s immune system is immature and not able to properly respond with enough antibodies for a respectable amount of immunity for protection later.  If your general strategy is to just follow whatever the AAP puts out, well, go ahead.  But you are in no position to defend that decision, having made it without informing yourself of the actual risks/benefits of the shot, vs the risks/consequences of the disease. 

  14. Laure68 says:

    clementine, HepB actually can be transmitted through sharing of toothbrushes, nail clippers, etc. You do not have to share needles or have sexual contact to contract HepB, as it is much more contagious than HIV.When I was pregnant I researched many topics (where/how to give birth, circumcision, breastfeeding, etc.) including vaccination. I am a scientist who has worked on many clinical trials, and I fully understand how to read data. I was amazed to see how people could argue against vaccinations when the benefits were so great compared with the risks.Trust me, I did not just “follow whatever the AAP puts out”, but I would suggest you not just follow whatever people like Jenny McCarthy put out, without checking if it is really true.

  15. Laure68 says:

    btw, I apologize to everyone for sidetracking this conversation. The original point I was making was that we shouldn’t group home birth advocates in with anti-vaccination groups, as that is really not fair to the home birth advocates, who have solid reasons for choosing their path.

  16. Cali mom says:

    It is true that Hepatitis B is much easier to get than people think. I worked in a hospital for a while and was required to get this vaccination. I was told that, before this vaccination, Hepatitis B was a major health risk for health workers, since it was fairly easy to transmit.Actually, before I knew my pregnancy was high-risk, I looked into home birth mostly because I was worried about all the germs/viruses that can be found in a hospital. (Maybe I was overly paranoid from my hospital days?) I wonder why this is not discussed more, as I would think this is one big plus to having a birth at home.


    Unfortunately, the author has chosen a bad title and worse conclusion
    to an overall accurate assessment of opposing attitudes regarding childbirth. The tone at the end appears to be anti-vbac, and therefore loses it’s neutrality altogether. Disappointing.   Remember, many women and babies die due to cesareans as well, so scheduling that repeat cesarean may also be the last thing a woman does (and more likely so, since it is major abdominal surgery and death via vbac is extremely rare).  In addition, due to the current vbac climate, a fierce determination to have your baby vaginally is often what is needed to avoid that second/third/ etc cesarean.  We’ll hope that a woman wouldn’t go so far as to refuse a cesarean if it is truly (although rarely) needed, but listening to a traumatized woman’s ranting is not necessarily indicative of her choices if (rarely) faced with an immediate life-or-death decision. Perhaps our society should recognize her trauma and help her work through it (without drugging her again, please).  Her response is the same as the woman so traumatized by her first cesarean that she schedules a repeat cesarean simply to avoid giving birth altogether.  Avoidance, in her own way, of repeating the same.  Let’s try to understand the underlying psychology and support women instead of judging them. 
    Raquel Lazar-Paley, Executive Director, Conscious Woman, Inc.

  18. Mama Sista says:

    Ali, thanks for a little sanity on this debate!
    I soo agree that this american obsession over breastfeeding, natural birth and the like seems so incredibly backwards when real “feminist” issues such as equal pay, maternity leave or political representation, glass ceilings and the like are pretty much ignored.
    “Empowering” women by “fighting” for the treat of a drug-free, unmedicated, “natural” birth “experience” and then encouraging them to breastfeed for a few years while wearing their baby everywhere????Really??? There are a bunch of third-world women out there who didn’t ask for so much “empowerment” and would gladly trade places! Anyone interested?

  19. Manda says:

    CONSCIOUS WOMAN – Your comment about a women scheduling a repeat cesarean to avoid “giving birth” is highly offensive. A woman who has a baby via cesarean does give birth. Your statement is incredibly oppressive and exactly what I imagine when I think of “hen chatter”. There is more than one way of giving birth, no need to give less credence to or put down one that wasn’t your choice. I am gonna guess you have never experience or recovered from a cesarean.

  20. Cali mom says:

    conscious woman – what is the maternal death rate for VBAC? I have never been able to find this. I know that for C section in the US is it 1 in 50,000. (Which is definitely higher than vaginal birth.) All I can ever find for VBAC is that the rate of rupture is 1 in 100. So as long as fewer than 1 in 500 women who rupture will die from that rupture, then yes, VBAC is safer.

  21. Shana says:

    I just had a homebirth on July 26th.  I started labor Saturday around three A.M. and my son was not born until Sunday at 4:03 P.M.  I was in labor forever to say the least.  The contractions were of course painful.  But I never asked to go to the hospital until I started to get frustrated about the fact that the baby was not out yet after pushing for over six hours and just begging the midwife to pull him out.  I had a second degree tear from giving birth to my 9lb 3oz baby and got a lovely hemrrhoid to go along with that.  My husband and I were very happy that we got to go with the homebirth.  It was nice being able to walk freely around the apartment as I pleased.  I pushed sitting on the toilet, in the tub and then eventually on the futon in our living room.  It was also a relief to do this at home because we live on the fourth floor of our building and I have no idea how I would have gotten to our apartment after returning from a hospital.  I admit in the immediate aftermath I thought to myself “I am never having another child again!”  But lookng back now, I had the best birth for my baby and I.
    The funny thing also, I am anemic in general.  My OB was not really concerned.  He was rather blase about it actually.  My midwife though was a little freaked by it.  And I very much intend on vaccinating.  As a kid I got all the vaccines that are recommended now, but were not required in the eighties just because my mother knew where to get them for free (she woreked in a hospital and then an elementary school in a low income neighborhood).  My husband on the other hand has had both measles and mumps and his mother is pretty adamant that we vaccinate her grandkid.

  22. Shana says:

    Callmom, forgot to say, the maternal death rate for VBAC must not be very high considering the WHO is actually trying to encourage them.  I somehow doubt the WHO is in the business of increasing maternal death rate.  And a simple Google search comes up with it not affecting maternal death rate at all from what I can see:

  23. Cali mom says:

    Shana – thanks for the link! I am always hearing one side say they are safer than the other. It seems, after looking at this (rather quickly I have to admit) that the maternal death rate is approximately the same for repeat C-section compared with VBAC – so it then becomes the mom’s choice.

  24. Amanda B says:

    I hope that we can eventually get Congress to pass some version of medical liability reform. How many C-sections are performed just because doctors are afraid of some John Edwards-type filing a ridiculous lawsuit?

  25. ann05 says:

    I agree with much of this article. In my opinion, both sides, the midwives and the doctors failed me. I am an intelligent, educated woman, and yet I couldn’t get my OB/GYN to have a reasonable conversation with me about medical procedures and practices relating to my birth. She told me we did things her way or I was out. The midwives were just as bad in the opposite direction and I was poorly prepared for my emergency c-section. In the end my birth experience was incredibly traumatic and I felt like absolutely nobody gave a damn about my health or well being (except the weekend doctor randomly assigned to check in on me in the hospital- he was great). 

  26. motherearthbirth says:

    I’m currently pregnant, mother of two (natural, homebirths), doula and childbirth educator: this issue of being at “war” is a human and, right now, a particularly North American dilemma. It’s not just birth. Most of us are not taught how to be compassionate and hold many truths at the same time. Both “sides” are advocating for noble goals. As a doula in a hospital, I have fought wars with nurses and doctors so that a woman can have a natural birth. In one of those wars, the nurses were so offended that they called Child Protective Services on the mother and she spent weeks defending her right to be the child’s mother. Now I will bend over backwards to get along with nurses and doctors so that my clients don’t suffer that kind of backlash and wrath. But it’s not always easy to be the “bigger” person, the one who turns the other cheek, who offers peace when the medical person with the authority says something really awful or confrontational at a birth.
    My last point is that I totally get why a yoga instructor would believe “Kim” about iron levels. The obstetrical community does not tell the truth about many issues — either blatantly misrepresenting the facts (as in the case of the safety of homebirth or VBACs) or leaving out chunks of the truth. Sometimes doulas, yoga instructors, anthropologists, and journalists actually know more about an issue than a doctor trained at a medical school because they are willing to look at more sides to an issue. The science that is available to the doctors is easily available to us, too. And, as I have learned from cancer survivors in my life, when the issue is one’s own body, we often get much more informed and wiser about the issue than the “experts” and when we go to our appointments, we pay to educate them.

  27. JFoley says:

    @Laure68-I can’t speak for the intentions of the author regarding vaccinations and the natural birth movement, but I can tell you my experience.  I have had one child in a hospital and one at home.  Prior to my hospital birth, my OB never behaved as though any test/vaccine/shot/etc. were even an option; it was all required.  I had done extensive research about a number of things, and when I asked questions, I was completely shut down, to make a long story short.  However, my midwife patiently explained pros and cons to every available test, etc. so that I could make an informed decision for myself.  I had a hard time even getting her own personal opinion out of her (I wasn’t necessarily going to do whatever her opinion was, I just wanted to know).  I ended up accepting some things and declining others, but I appreciated having an intelligent, well-researched, well-thought-out discussion.

  28. enuf please says:

    I think the natural birth movement goes too far when it disseminates misinformation such as this idea of “cascading interventions” — that a woman is more likely to end up with a c-section of she has an epidural. Studies have proven this is NOT TRUE. (A book that does a good job of presenting a balanced POV with facts to back it up is Birth Day by pediatrician Mark Sloan.) While I agree birth is often over medicalized in the US, there ARE advantages to C-sections – I know women who found their vaginal births horribly traumatic (4th degree tears) and wished afterwards that they’d had a c-section. Many many OBs choose c-sections for themselves and for good reasons. I just wished there was a more balanced presentation of the facts so women could make better decisions for themselves without having others’ agendas and viewpoints pushed upon them.

  29. AnnaTwo says:

    My friend had her first two kids in the sixties, and had absolutely no interventions at all. She had her third child in the eighties, and due to her advanced age and some other complicating factors, she had an epidural. And she said that if she had had any idea of how great an epidural was, she would have had it for the first two kids as well. She was still in pain, could still push, was still fully conscious–she was just not bowled over and drained by the pain, as she had been with her first two kids.
    Like the author of this article, I have often wondered why no “middle ground” is presented in the
    arguments about childbirth–doesn’t it seem like it’s presented as a choice
    between excruciating pain, on the one hand,
    and total loss of consciousness on the other? I would agree with the all-natural advocates that, to a certain point, pain is indeed a part of the texture of life and a meaningful part of experience. But past a certain point of severity, pain
    *itself* removes texture and obliterates experience, as surely as any
    hard-core narcotic. It is absolutely possible to be fully conscious while also taking the edge off the pain. Until I heard my friend’s story, I had always taken the nonmedicated-labor-as-
    empowerment trope for granted, but now that I think about it, why is it that the most beloved narrative of childbirth-experience-reclaiming is about hard-core pain? Is there a relationship between pain and culturally acceptable ways for women to assert selfhood/self-determination? Is pain easier for women to “own” than things like pleasure, anger, or joy?

  30. Brooke Johnson says:

    I’m not sure how much of a divide actually exists between medical doctors and midwives or alternative practitioners. I know there are extremist on both sides. I think the AMA has made it extremely difficult for midwives and doctors/hospitals to get along because of their language against midwives performing home births and their legal action against them. However in other countries both are united to provide the best care for women. In the UK, hospitals provide birthing kits to mothers who give birth at home. Maybe this is the reason why we have one of the highest maternal death rates and infant death rates in the industrialized world, instead of combining forces or recognizing each others strengths and weaknesses the two groups are instead busy fighting each other.

  31. Kimberly says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece. It’s fair, loving and tough on both
    and ultimately heartbreaking for women that they feel caught in the
    middle at a time in their lives when they should feel completely
    But no need to perpetuate a distorted risk of VBAC. VBAC is less risky
    than amniocentisis for the baby (in amnio, there’s a 1/200
    chance of miscarriage; with VBAC, it’s a 1/200 chance of the uterus
    rupturing and a
    1/2000 chance of the baby dying or suffering severe harm). For the
    mother, a repeat C-section
    is in many cases more risky than trying VBAC.
    Because of the rise in repeat C-sections, there’s been an uptick in
    extremely dangerous complications like placenta accreta, which cause
    hemorrhages that are difficult to control and are sometimes fatal. (and
    just for clarity, a 70% VBAC “success rate” would mean that 70% give
    birth vaginally and 30% have repeat c-sections, not that 30% have bad
    outcomes. And some providers get up to 80% or higher.)
    What Raquel said above is just as true: “scheduling that repeat cesarean may also be the last thing a woman does.”

  32. Cali mom says:

    Brooke Johnson – just a quick comment about the US having a high maternal/neonatal death rate compared to other industrialized countries. This is true on average, but there are huge differences within the US. In poor areas (inner-city, rural south, etc.) the death rates are much higher. In more wealthier areas, the rates are comparable to European countries.One huge issue is the lack of health insurance and health care for so many people in this country. Until this issue is solved (hopefully soon!), this discussion (midwife vs. OB, home vs. natural vs. medicated, etc.) is one that only the privileged few can engage in.

  33. contravert says:

    It is indeed unfortunate that those in the Midwifery, natural birth field and those in the Obstetrical, medical birth field can’t seem to join forces and do what’s best for women seeking their assistance.  But the blame for that clearly lies with the medical community. They have all the power in this game and they are primarily protecting there own interests.  A recent article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (V 199: n 5, p 445) reviewed 41 common labor and delivery practices and evaluated the evidence supporting those practices.  Only 4 were found to be strongly supported by the literature (the presence of a support person – doula, training of birth assistants in developing countries, upright position – sitting, kneeling, squatting, and perineal massage from 34 weeks on) and 14 were found to be harmful. The rest do not make a diference (on the measures that were assessed) or there was to enough evidence to support or refute.  In all fairness there were several problems with the methodology of this study, not the least of which was they only reviewed journals included in the Cochrane database and essentially bypassed the midwifery literature altogether.  There is a big problem here. Physicians are admonished to “First do no harm”.  That means that if they don’t have good evidence that some intervention helps, they shouldn’t do it. There own literature shows that there practices are not evidence based. 
    Take for example the most common indication for Cesarean delivery, failure to progress.  There is absolutely no evidence that a prolonged second stage of labor increases the risks to mom or baby or results in poorer outcomes for either (AJOG, 173: 906-912).  Nor is there any evidence that intervening with pitocin, epidurals, oxygen, or Cesarean delivery improves those outcomes.  Of course it goes without saying that moms outcome is poorer if she undergoes major abdominal surgery that is not needed (now 31.8% of the pregnant US population) but that is not even included as an adverse outcome measure.
    So it’s no wonder that the “natural” birth community is skeptical of the practices of the medical community. The Obstetricians don’t even come close to following their own literature.  Fortunately the backlash to rising operative delivery rates and poorer outcomes for both mom and baby is brewing. The disparity between US and European practices, costs, and outcomes is becoming more glaring and it can’t come too soon.
    By the way, I am a Mount Sinai graduate MD and residency trained Obstetrician who for the past three years has done only home deliveries. To date 172 home deliveries, 1 (elective) transfer for a Cesarean delivery (I don’t force or bully anyone – she made her choice), 1 forceps delivery (no anesthesia, no tears), 1 27 week transfer to hospital care for severe preeclampsia, 1 post partum hemorhage (managed at home with IV fluids), 1 neonatal resuscitation (baby just didn’t feel like breathing – 5 minute Apgar 10), 12 first degree lacerations, no tears greater than first degree and and no adverse maternal or fetal outcomes.  There definitely is a better way.

  34. Cali mom says:

    ugh, I just read my post and realized I wrote “more wealthier”. I must need some more coffee.

  35. Concerned Mom says:

    Excellent article! Both sides could learn a lot from each other. It is wonderful to hear a voice who is truly unbiased. Thank you!

  36. Pencils says:

    Thank you for this article. Having a baby is hard enough without getting stuck in the middle of a battle between “natural” childbirth advocates and those who feel safer with a more medically based birth.  BTW, I hate the term “natural” childbirth–having a baby in a hospital with a doctor doesn’t make it an “artificial” birth. 
    I had a C-section last fall. I was a forty-one year old, first time mother, with a high-risk pregnancy (not just my “advanced maternal age,” I have several chronic medical conditions.)  For a bunch of reasons, including that fact that I never dilated more than 4cm, and because my daughter went into distress twice during my labor ( the most terrifying minutes of my life), my doctor told me that she thought I should have a C-section, and I was perfectly happy to go along with it. In fact, I was annoyed because I had to wait several hours to get a room as there were people ahead of me and an emergency case came in. The procedure itself wasn’t terrible–it was a bit weird, but not terrible. The main thing I was afraid of was getting my arms tied down (I’m claustrophobic) but they didn’t do that.  And recovery wasn’t a huge deal, I’ve had surgery before that was a lot worse.
    I don’t think everyone should have a C-section, but I really don’t understand what the huge fuss is about. I never fetishized childbirth, so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I personally believe that the miracle is creating a baby, a new human being, out of nothing but a couple of cells, not squeezing that baby out of your body.  And as someone who suffers from a chronic illness characterized by severe pain, I believe painkillers are my friends.  I loved the epidural!  I stuck it out until I just couldn’t bear the pain anymore, then I asked for the epidural. Every woman feels pain differently, and although you may not have needed an epidural, other women might, so don’t feel superior because you got through childbirth without drugs.  You have no idea how much pain I, and other women, suffered.

  37. Eliza39 says:

    “But the blame for that clearly lies with the medical community.”
    This type of statement proves the point of this article perfectly.

  38. Mamamaven says:

    Am I the only one that finds a total, almost offensive, disconnect between the title and content of the article?  Your OB yells when you ask about c/sec or says you are going to kill your baby?  Par for the course.  A natural childbirth advocate gives you bad advice?  Now that’s going too far…

  39. mbaker says:

    There is a middle way. If you look hard enough you can find midwives who practice at hospitals. Many of them in fact have practices in conjunction with obs. My midwives are part of such a practice at a progressive hospital and it’s the best of both worlds. Even though I ended up having to have a c-section I’m not upset about it because my midwives took extraordinary measures to try for a natural childbirth.
    The best part is the fact that my midwives provide well woman care as well and are breastfeeding experts.

  40. S TX mom says:

    Not all healthcare providers are created equal. Just as there are many viewpoints, personalities & intelligences – these differences are found in midwives and OBs – even in the same practice. That’s why it’s so important for us to be informed & active participants in the care that we receive. Ultimately, it is up to us to be our own advocates. It is very important to do your own research and be informed so that you can choose the right provider that fits with your personal preferences & viewpoints about your different birth options.
    With my 1st child, I was fortunate enough to live in an area where we had a medical center with a joint OB & CNM practice. I started out with the OB practice, transferred over to the midwife practice, and ultimately when my water broke at 37 weeks with meconium in it and many other complications happened at the end of the pregnancy (including severe pre-eclampsia & cholestasis of pregnancy), I was transferred back to the OB practice. I was grateful for both the OBs and midwives that attended to me. I was able to have the things most important to me – a healthy baby, my life unharmed, and a vaginal birth. I’m now due any day with baby #2. The area where we now live does not have a joint OB/CNM practice – and actually very few midwives and birth options besides a hospital. I was fortunate to be able to find an OB that has my same viewpoints regarding birth and my options because she had the same preferences for the birth of her own kids.

  41. who cares says:

    I find it so interesting that people actually care about how other mothers give birth. I wanted a c-section, so I got one. My sis wants a natural birth, so i’ll help her with her breathing and meditation when the time comes for her to labor. It really makes no difference to me as long as I have the choice to do what I want.

  42. Moons Mon says:

    I loved my OB and his quest for helping keep a Mom as comfortable as possible, Loved the epidural I got after 36 hours of painful labor and absolutely adore my perfect child (who as far as I know doesn’t seem to be using drugs at the ripe old age of 2) and one better, I LOVED the formula that fed my child after 2 months of trying to eke out enough milk to sustain her. I also LOVE telling this to all the Moms in the unnamed Brooklyn neighborhood I’m assuming we both share. It’s fun to watch their heads explode.
    I’m not for or against any method of giving birth but it’s really tiring when you meet and have to listen to the POV’s from people who are supposed to be so open minded and in reality are sheep following the herd.
    I hope you have a great birth and healthy child-no matter what way he or she comes out!

  43. Manda says:

    Ah, Moon Mon, wish you lived near me;) Have a feeling we may be fast friends, haha. Love to tell people I have had cesareans and then have some of them look at me like “gasp, shock, horror!” Followed by the look like I must just be super uneducated. Love my kids, love my births. Hope everyone gets to love theirs too!

  44. scottishlass says:

    It is a mistake to assume a woman who chose homebirth is judging women who did not. My head does not “explode” when someone tells me they had a birth they loved, whatever means that birth was had by.
    Just because i felt i wanted to have a homebirth and to use as few interventions and drugs as possible, it dosn’t mean i am measuring or comparing anyone else by those standards. When a friend gives birth i want to know how she FEELS about it, not the irrelevant nitty gritty of how’s and why’s.
    I wanted a homebirth because i am scared of hospital. I don’t mean “a bit uncomfortable” i mean diastolic BP up by 20 points when i smell the place, on the verge of a panic attack TERRIFIED. I would go there in an emergency because in an emergency i would be in that state anyway. But i wouldn’t try to give birth rigid with fear. I fully appreciate that some women are rigid with fear until they GET to hospital, and obviously they shouldn’t be encouraged to attempt to birth at home in terror!
    I didn’t want drugs because i am scared of being drugged and out of control of myself, and because breastfeeding was important to me (due to my family medical history) and i knew a drugged baby might make it harder for me to establish feeding with. What on earth difference does it make to me if another woman doesn’t have those same concerns – i’m sure every woman has unique concerns based on her experiences.
    I did not “fetishize” childbirth simply because i wanted a normal delivery. I was sexually abused for 7 years as a child and i worked my butt off just to have a normal sexual life, and for me birth is a part of that. The damage i incurred, rejected and ultimately, thank goodness, recovered from through having stolen and then taking back my sexual self cannot be discussed on those terms. I didn’t birth at home to make anyone else look better or worse, i did it for incredibly complex and personal reasons. At the heart of those reasons was my love for my child and my desire to give them the best start I was capable of.
    I can honestly say, in all the women i know, with all the many kinds of birth they have had, i think every one of the shared those motivations, love and a desire to do what is best. What is best for me couldn’t be best for everyone. I would never suggest it is. Isn’t it time that rather than argue about who is wrong or right or better or worse we start to TRUST that women will do what they feel is best and safest for their baby? Yes, homebirth is safe, but for me it would have been the best option even if it were less safe, due to my own personal circumstances and background. For some women surgical birth IS going to be the right choice, even if statisticaly it doesn’t represent an absolute optimum.
    The worst thing that the current care offered to pregnant women does is that it makes us doubt ourselves. Yes, BE educated, but also accept that statistics can only ever be a small part of the way in which most people make choices. The safety of vaginal examinations in labour cannot undo my past trauma from abuse and make me comfortable with them. Luckily (for me) the fact that vaginal examinations are not critical allowed me to decline them without self-doubt. Knowing a thing and really feeling it are not the same thing at all. Are we going to ask women to make decisions that go against their hearts simply because we have decided logic should prevail? I am not that kind of woman and not that kind of mother. There are creatures into which you can feed the cold hard facts which will then make a logical decision based on those facts and not on preconceptions or feelings, but computers don’t give birth.

  45. Krista1977 says:

    Interesting discussions. I definitely see the point the author was trying to make. We all are colored by our own experiences. Mine have included a very-much-needed cesarean with a horrible, horrible recovery and two unmedicated VBACs, the best experiences of my entire life. Obviously, I can’t say enough great things about VBAC and when I see how hard women have to fight to just get a chance to have one, it makes me very, very angry…..I think that’s a big reason why so many of “us” get so passionate about the subject. However, its unfair that women get caught in the middle of the tug-of-war during a time when they are so emotionally vulnerable.

  46. Stop covering up Jenn Block says:

    Did anyone see what happened on the Jennifer Block thread?
    She very stupidly said that conclusions from the CDC that showed high death rates from lay midwife homebirth weren’t valid. She claimed you couldn’t tell which homebirths were with midwives and which were accidents, etc. Nor who died from high risk problems vs. errors in birth monitoring.
    Then, it was pointed out that that is precisely what the database does — filter out deaths on a number of criteria, including by birth place and birth attendant .
    Both her egregious error and the post pointing it out were erased.
    The midwife fanatics just run around claiming “it’s safe and effective” no matter how wrong they are and deleting all the evidence to the contrary. Correct info is now flagged for abuse.
    Midwifery is more like a cult, than health care.

  47. Enjoy Birth says:

    Thanks for your article. It is a nice reminder for us to play nicely! I am a Hypnobabies Childbirth Educator. Most of the students who sign up for my class are wanting natural childbirth, so that tends to be my focus. However there are certainly times whan an epidural is a great choice during birth and I cover that. There are also a lot of other good reasons for cesareans than cord prolapse.
    I am lucky enough that I have had 3 kinds of birth. Cesarean for my 1st, epidural VBAC for my 2nd and un-medicated VBAC for my 3rd. It helps me see that there is a good time for all these choices.
    I just think if moms are educated about their choices, then when they decide to do something, they will feel good about it. Rather than going to their birth and just letting things be done to them.
    It sounds like you are in a position where you will feel empowered, regardless of the choices you make.
    Enjoy your birth!

  48. auldsport says:

    So far I haven’t had any problems except from the doctors who I have tried to talk with about my preferences. I’m on the verge of changing to a birth center with midwives that is within a hospital, which seems to me the best of both worlds. I don’t want the risks of not having medical assistance if the need arises, but I really don’t want to have an argument with my doctor about whether or not what he feels is a routine intervention is really routine interfering. My doctors – both male and female – have treated me with disdain from the beginning as I gingerly began to propose my wishes for a natural delivery. The final straw came when one doctor admitted to me that less than one percent of his patients have a natural delivery. I’m not so interested in being a unicorn when i’m having my baby – I want to be with professionals that believe in me! Lets hope the midwives have seen my sort before and welcome me in.

  49. Anonymous says:

    The majority – maybe all – of the “natural birth” crowd that I know are all about informed consent. If you are informed, and you then choose to consent to epidural/induction/cesarean, then the informed part is (one of) the most important things. The biggest issue that I see is that so many patients are not truly understanding of the things that are done to them, the choices that are essentially made for them by their healthcare provider, and that is not the way medicine – or childbirth – should be. Patients should be given facts. Then they should be expected to make a decision based on the facts.

  50. MaxMom says:

    Re: Jenn Block
    Midwives are hardly a CULT. Midwives delivery the majority of the babies in this world and until the medical profession took over childbirth and claimed it as their own, that was the way all babies came into the world.
    The article that you are referring to IS BIASED as they are also claiming children that died once they were at the hospital, when the death could possibly related to what happened at the hospital and not during a home birth.

  51. Janice Ernest says:

    This piece rubbed me the wrong way. I do not like the way that at the end you say that if “annie” chooses to have her vbac it may be the last thing that she does.There are plenty of women who have had successful vbacs and healthy beautiful babies. I also had an OBGYN at the beginning of my pregnancy but switched to a midwife in the 3rd tri. and My ob never said anything negative about me switching to my midwife and my midwife has never talked down about my old ob. I don not feel that midwives and the hospitals are at each others throats and playing tug of war with women at all. I find this piece biased and I think you need to do a little more research before writing something like this again.

  52. Mamato2 says:

    I am as pro-homebirth/midwife as they come, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. You are very right. Something I am only learning about recently is this schism between midwives and doctors. It really is a sad situation for pregnant women today. So much misinformation and even more, lack of information. Education really is the root of this problem. I hope someone learns that one day.

  53. bayareadoula says:

    I am a doula and I think you are totally right. I lived in a state where doctors and doulas and midwives got along perfectly and then moved to California where it’s just rawr rawr rawr. And the mammas get lost in the fight. Then feel like crap. The job of a doula, yoga instructor whoever is support the choice of the mom, so she can be prepared for labored and empowered to care for an infant. Parental guilt is something we will have all our lives for something or another it doesn’t need to start over things we had no control over.

    However, personally when I chose 12 years ago to use an OB to have my child, I was not given any choices, I was not allowed to get off the bed to labor in different positions, or asked if it was ok to break my bag of water, or to use the vacuum extraction and because I was only allowed to be on the bed laying down the pain was so bad there was no other choice than an epidural and I did have side effects that were bad enough I couldn’t breastfeed my son and my recovery was so horrific and traumatic that I didn’t even want to go through that again and I never wanted another child. Birth trauma is very real. I never tell my clients that, but its why I do what i do. No one person deserves to be treated like a second class citizen on the most important day of their lives. I just try to help them make decision about whether interventions are needed or convenient for the medical staff.

  54. browneydgrl147 says:

    I am 32 weeks pregnant with my first child and I plan to deliver in a birthing center with a midwife. I agree with pretty much everything that’s been said, so I don’t want to make any redundant observations. But as someone who is currently experiencing this huge life-changing decision, I really do wish that proponenets of both sides of the argument had more respect for each other. I work in a medical office, and it seems that I practically have to pretend I’m going to a hospital just so I don’t get bombarded with lectures and horrible looks. I don’t degrade other women for going to the hospital and getting an epidural/induction/C-section, why should I be berated for my opposite decision? I don’t even think there needs to be a compromise in views or practices necessarily, just a little respect from both sides. My stance has always been on education. Women need to educate themselves regardless of where or how they will give birth. I have known more than a few women who don’t know anything about the process of birth, just go blindly to the hospital and do what they’re told, and then act victimized by the establishment. Then natural birth advocates welcome these women with open arms, almost glad that they have another victim to convert to the idea of birth the “right” way. How can you blame a doctor for doing their job and following hospital policy just because you didn’t bother to learn anything on your own? Putting blind trust in a doctor OR midwife and relinquishing all responsibility for your own healthcare is ignorant and all too common. So while I believe that a natural approach is right for me, I can understand the frustrations from both sides. I wish that we could all just respect women for the incredible thing that they are capable of doing-growing a child and becoming a mother. The last thing we need is a division among womankind.

  55. suziq says:

    Thanks for this essay. At 39 weeks pregnant, I am feeling completely inundated by too much (mis)information regarding birth and parenting. While I am sympathetic to a less medicalised birth, I am increasingly skeptical of the “natural” birth movement that seems to spout more medical advice than qualified doctors. I have seen women who have c-sections made to feel ashamed, regardless of the medical reason. The movement has gone to far — and insulted the intelligence of many pregnant women who would rather not make decisions based on just anecdotal evidence.

    But this movement goes further than the birth process — I was recently derided for not wanting to use cloth diapers. I find that most of the women I know pushing natural birth and parenting are staying home with their kids – which is wonderful, but not for everyone. Perhaps this gives them too much time for gossipy advice? Have we lost sight of the ideals of the feminist movement – including allowing a mother some time for herself (and not to be constantly worrying she is not measuring up by saving time on disposable diapers and store bought baby food)?

    I would love to see more written about this.

  56. doing just fine with science says:

    It is the evangelical nature of the home birth movement I find alarming. I, too, was made to feel ‘less than’ by some of its members. I felt more discomfort and stridency in my birthing class than I ever felt in my OB’s office. But even they were nowhere near the bullies the La Leche League were. I am happily the parent of an only child, but were I to go around again, I would happily decline all brushes with the ‘natural’ childbirth movement. Yes, women gave birth unassisted in droves throughout history. They (along with their unfortunate infants) also died. A lot.

  57. Lorraine says:

    A million thanks for postnig this information.

  58. FoxyKate says:

    If you are truly a journalist as you claim, why not throw some facts, figures or evidence in the article to support your ideas? A handful of women at a presumably upper-middle class yoga studio with a teacher who sounds like a jerk doesn’t really give an accurate picture of what is going on in the “natural childbirth movement.”

  59. FoxyKate says:

    Here’s the thing: the women who are pushing back, be they the clients or practitioners, are doing so precisely because they have seen so many women steamrolled by medicalized birth practices. We are the result of hearing our sisters, our co-workers, clients, and friends tell stories about their “necessary” procedures – from having their water broken, which has not been proven to speed labor but can, in fact, increase the risk of c-section – to not being allowed to eat or drink during a long labor. So, so, so many of the procedures used during a hospital birth are simply not necessary – let alone inconvenient, and sometimes downright dangerous (unnecessary induction prior to 39 weeks, anyone? off-label use of Cytotec for induction?) but women are not being FULLY INFORMED of their right to refuse these things, nor are they FULLY INFORMED of the risks involved in interventions.

    My wish is for all women choosing to have a baby is that they are cared for by a provider that makes them feel comfortable, who informs them of both benefits AND risks of possible procedures, and then supports them in the choices that they make. It would be lovely for laboring women to not feel pressure by the clock or by the staff who are there to help them. My wish is for every woman bringing a new life into this world, that it is the most amazing and loving event in her lifetime – because a birth without drugs can be that. A birth with an epidural can be that. A surgical birth can be that, too. But not as long as we have an assembly-line commoditization of the birth process that dismisses mothers’ wishes.

    Perhaps there are many in the “NCB” movement who lean too far into tree-huggery, but there are also too many medical providers leaning too far the other way. I am sure if you expand your search, you will find many of us fall somewhere in between – wanting to support women in the birth setting that they’ve chosen as best for them and their family, and understanding that for some women that may be at home with a midwife and for some women that may be in a hospital.

  60. RC says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal journey through the world of pregnancy and birth. I think many women feel as you do, and I think it’s a shame. We need to be able to exchange ideas freely and without judgement, so we can learn.

    I think that, if all practioners and locations/techiques are given respect, we can all relax and choose what produces the most healthy result for each mother/baby pair. I have strong personal preferences, but I want everyone to have options and respect–to the point where I won’t make a case for my POV unless invited.

    I really want everyone to have access to good, comprehensive information, the support they need, and respect for their choices.

    In that spirit, I would like to point out that choosing a modern homebirth (or even unassisted birth) is NOT equivalent to unassisted births of the past, which caused many women and babies to die. Our living conditions, knowledge and resources are vastly better than what women had throughout most of history. And we should all get to celebrate that by making informed decisions!

  61. Deena Blumenfeld says:

    Wow, your prenatal yoga teacher has really overstepped her bounds! I know, because I am a prenatal yoga teacher and a Lamaze Childbirth Educator. Giving medical advice, without being qualified, is a huge no-no! She is the kind of teacher who gives the rest of us a bad name.

    That said, I hear you on the OB vs. Midwife, natural vs. epi, repeat c-section vs. VBAC. Some of this is personal experience, and not a valid generalization. Not all of us NCB folks are rabid extremists who will condemn you for your choices. Most, like me, are actually pretty middle of the road.

    Another bit – YOUR information is unsupported and anecdotal as well. You are not backing up your information with facts. Using a scare tactic like ” If she insists on having a vaginal birth no matter what, it very well may be the last thing she does.” is unfair and inappropriate. Your risk of uterine rupture if you have a double-stitched, low transverse scar is 0.7% – in other words you have a 99.3% chance you won’t rupture. Scar dehissence is another matter, but it’s not usually a problem for mom or haby, that’a 1/200 chance, as opposed to rupture which is 1/2000. So, please, use the facts. READ the NIH VBAC statement of March 2010.

    All that said, I wrote a blog post this week on a similar topic I think you might like what I have to say.

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