While a lot has changed in the maternity world since the days of "twilight sleep", too much has stayed the same. Ladies, let's continue to advocate for our voices to be heard.
On Saturday, May 30, Rekha Basu published this article in the Des Moines Register. Titled “Recalling Lamaze: We need another childbirth revolution”, the article points out the fear-based culture of obstetrics in the United States, as well as the need all women have during pregnancy to be heard and be a part of the decision-making process, as it relates to their pregnancies and their bodies.
In response to her article, Jacquelyn reached out with the following letter:
First, THANK YOU for taking an interest in the birth experiences of women in our community. You are right - It IS time for another childbirth revolution! All too often the voices of the vulnerable are not heard. What can be more vulnerable than being in the middle of childbirth and feeling helpless? As a private childbirth educator and labor doula with Powerful Mamas, I have had the privilege of witnessing many beautiful moments as a couple makes the transition to becoming a family; often with incredible nurses and medical providers assisting along the way. We truly do have some of the most caring healthcare professionals in the country! Unfortunately I have also witnessed far too many violations, ranging from basic disrespect to what would be classified as physical assault in just about any situation other than childbirth.
I think it's fair to say that everyone involved in our maternity care system, whether they be doulas, midwives, nurses or OBGYNs, desperately want a safe outcome for both the mother and baby. But there is more to a safe birth than a healthy baby!! How the baby makes its arrival can drastically affect both the mother and the baby, both physically and emotionally. For example, if the mother experiences traumatic events or feelings of violation during her birth, those feelings can have lasting effects on not just her but also on her relationship with her child. Studies show that women with traumatic birth experiences have higher rates of postpartum depression and anxiety, lower rates of breastfeeding (which can directly affect the health of the baby) and more trouble feeling connected with their child.
The definition of respect for most does not include being physically leashed to monitors while being told to undress, lay down and open their legs for a vaginal exam, (which happens to be completely subjective in nature, not evidence based care, and could lead to infection). Most healthy, low risk women do not need to be told when and where they may relieve themselves, what they can put in their mouths, nor in what position they should push their babies into this world. Again, many of these hospital policies do NOT follow evidence based care.
In my experience, the primary issue seems to be that interventions and procedures designed for high-risk pregnancies are being applied to the 90% of women that are not high risk. All too often women are not being treated as individuals, but rather a number on an assembly line. That would be fine if there were no negative side effects associated with these interventions, but evidence shows that is not the case. Interventions and procedures applied to women who DO NOT NEED THEM can lead to very dangerous outcomes for both mom and baby. These procedures are NOT risk free - and these statements are based on statistics, not opinions.
We cannot ignore that there is also a human rights issue at stake here. A woman does not forfeit her autonomy when she has her first contraction. Her body is still her own. She deserves to have her questions answered, her voice heard, and to be respected during this momentous and potentially challenging occasion.
When I was working on Capitol Hill as a young legislative correspondent I never could have imagined that I would eventually own a business focused on educating families on informed childbirth. Yet I've found that those needing justice, advocacy and empowerment are right here in Iowa, perhaps in the most unlikely of locations - sitting in our maternity wards.
Thank you for calling attention to this important issue!
Jacquelyn Duke, M.Ed., CCCE, CLD, CIES(FCEC)
President Intrinsic Birthing LLC, dba Powerful Mamas; CAPPA Certified Childbirth Educator, Labor Doula, & Labor Doula Faculty
I am so excited to see this topic covered in our local media and will do my best to keep you all informed when I see similar features. We do need a childbirth revolution and articles like this are stepping stones to making that happen!