After reading the article on "normal birth" from ICAN's latest newsletter, I just couldn't help but marvel over how completely some people miss the point of my blog. This blog is about empowering birth, and unfortunately hospital birth has become less and less empowering. In the article, "The New Normal," Elizabeth Payne discusses the new book written by American journalist Jennifer Block,"Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. The book argues that the "increasing intervention in birth is not only unnecessary but dangerous."1 Payne shares with us a particularly telling story from the book, which I feel obliged to share with my readers:
One of the most telling anecdotes in her book takes place at Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Centre in Sebring, Florida. When Hurricane Charley hit in 1994, it knocked the power out. The hospital had an emergency generator, but its capacity was limited. So the hospital sent most women home and asked them to come back when they were in active labour.
During the few days following the hurricane, nurses noticed a change in the way babies were being born: most babies made it into the outside world without medical intervention and within hours of their mothers arriving at the hospital; nurses saw no cases of fetal distress or respiratory distress in newborns; and the hospital's C-section rate dropped dramatically -- from more than 29 per cent to 17 per cent (six per cent if several scheduled repeat C-sections were excluded from the stats).
Prior to the storm, most mothers were induced so that their babies would be born during the day, and labours were electronically and chemically managed. Once life returned to normal, a number of nurses quit the hospital, convinced its management of labour was doing more harm than good.2
As the nurses in the above story discovered, hospital birth is becoming less and less safe and not at all empowering. Birth becomes a series of dictated medical events that are done to the mother. Birth can be beautiful, powerful and passionate but unless something changes, there will be fewer and fewer women who experience it as such.
1 Elizabeth Payne, The Ottawa Citizen, "The new normal." Published Saturday, August, 18, 2007. Accessed on-line, http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/arts/story.html?id=428f0c90-dc95-4ecc-b95f-89e962a5a9e8, September 18, 2007.