Monday, May 19, 2008

When They Ask For It

I don't like Ricki Lake. Or didn't. My only basis of judgment has been the few minutes I've seen of her now defunct tabloid talk show. But now I'm thrilled she's using her fame to encourage a national discussion on the current state of maternity care in America. This weekend I participated in a well-attended screening here in Athens of The Business of Being Born, and a panel discussion featuring local birthing professionals and a guest, Jennifer Block, who wrote this:

I thought I knew what I would hear from the panel and the documentary, but I came out feeling like I and the rest of society know very little of the complexities of childbirth and what to do about the current road we're headed down in American maternal health care.

The directors of the film followed pregnant women around who were about to give birth, showed their births and interspersed them with a little history of maternal health care and interviews from various doctors and professionals. The blame is spread around (in the movie but I also hear these from women I've listened to), often without solutions.

"It's A-COG's fault" some say (That's the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology for us plain English speakers)

Others say, "The healthcare system has got to go"

some blame women for not being patient & using elective c-sections as "a quick fix."

many want to blame economics. "If those hospitals weren't so worried about their bottom line!"

"How could anyone do that to their child?" comments another, blaming women in general for their choices in care.

"It's just the way it is. Deal with it," I've heard it said before.

But I have a hunch most women don't want to just deal with one of the highest maternal death rates in the world or the second worst newborn death rate among developed countries. They don't want to be part of the 85% of women in America whose births are considered traumatic. As Jennifer Block put it, they don't want to be "caught in a system that discourages ... optimal care." I don't know any mothers who want less than the best in terms of care for themselves and their babies.

I've researched. I've given birth myself. I've talked to many friends and relatives about birth. But I didn't see this as a rights issue until now. Women, especially vulnerable, hormonal (HA!), pregnant women in this country deserve to have correct information about pregnancy and birth so they can make informed choices about their care. Birthing professionals need access to current research and incentives to apply that knowledge quickly to their practices. I hope that more women will get involved in the discussion and the result will be great changes in the system in the coming years to make birthing empowering to women and extremely satisfying.
I liked this quote from the doula who spoke on the panel last weekend:
"Women have the power to change birth [in America] but there will only be a reform if they ask for it."

1 comment:

Alyssa said...

How crazy-- in my own research just yesterday I came across "Pushed" and am really interested in reading it! I am compassionate service leader (again) in this ward and know that the last 3 births here were all inductions (and there is another planned for a week from today), none medically indicated. Two of them ended in C-sections. Strangely the woman scheduled for next week seems to have zero concern whatsoever that starting this birth might have any risks or complications. Her doctor said "Lets induce next week." and she said "Okay!" I definitely don't think doctors inform their patients about what can happen. I agree that many parts of the system are messed up. Wish I could have been at the forum too!