One Born Tragically Every Minute.
Perhaps the UK series; ‘One Born Every Minute’ shows examples of why a Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) Expert Advisory Group said; “Too much care is provided within secondary and tertiary settings. Too many babies are born in the traditional ‘hospital’ setting. We need to drive this care back into the community with the appropriate provision of facilities and professionals with appropriate skills.”
This series also shows the need behind the UK’s ‘One midwife, One woman’ movement, Campaign for Normal Birth and government targets to increase homebirth. Whilst most New Zealand women can and do access a midwife as their Lead Maternity Carer, many go to a secondary or tertiary hospital to labour and birth. Thus several annual MOH reports state; “Common interventions used during (‘normal’) childbirth include: induction,epidural,episiotomy,manual removal of placenta and the management of postpartum haemorrhage.” Yet New Zealand has no government targets about normal birth, nor campaigns to lower growing intervention rates. Rather national inactivity around this issue suggests a lack of concern about the costs of childbirth interventions for the women, babies, families or communities of New Zealand?
Meanwhile the UK Campaign for Normal Birth aims to get women birthing off beds plus UK midwives to apply ‘10 Top Tips’ to support ‘normal birth practices’. However, as UK Midwife Sheena Byrom quotes Michel Odent saying “The best environment I know for an easy birth is when there is nobody around the woman in labour but an experienced midwife or doula – an experienced mother figure who is there, and who can remain silent. Silence is a basic need for a woman in labour. Privacy is another basic need.”
The science which birthing women need is that which accesses their natural labour and birth hormones. ‘Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering’ and ‘Orgasmic Birth’ as their titles suggest are 2 books that explain the benefits of these hormones as well as ways to access them.
The Venus of Willendorf created about 24,000 BC, honours women’s birthing abilities, though human birth had been successfully happening long before even this date. Birth in hospital started as desperate charity housing of homeless, medieval women and resulted in the death of far more that the more usual homebirthing, till antisepsis then antibiotics were widely introduced in the mid 20th century. Homebirth continued as the place of most births until post WW2. The social standing and power of new medical doctors led suffragettes to support the building of women’s hospitals and wealthy women began their gender’s submission of their labouring bodies to the rituals, directions and unproved knowledge of obstetricians, again from just before mid last century. To maintain their livelihoods midwives followed the women to work in hospitals, and then to become a ‘profession’ they accepted hospital based training, taking on the experiences and practices of fearful rather than respectful birthing. Though some women and midwives maintained the homebirth fires which are now being flamed by more recent scientific knowledge of the birthing hormones, which confirms the ancient experiences and substantiates emerging midwifery studies of woman-centred, undisturbed labour and birth.
Overall, ‘One Born every Minute’ reflects growing evidence about the inappropriateness of hospital as the place of birth for the healthy majority compared to the safety of homebirth and why women have higher levels of satisfaction with their experiences in ‘home-like’ environments rather than hospitals.
Signs around New Zealand suggest that vets and sheep-farmers understand that what happens around birth has life-long implications for the nurturing relationship between a mother and her child. New Zealand needs programs to promote, support and protect natural birthing, which can benefit us all as new generations then start life bathed-in and primed by optimal levels of oxytocin. Becoming a supporter and promoting the Maternity Manifesto which seeks government support of ‘Normal birth and Alternatives to Hospital Birth’ is one way of creating more woman-centred birth options for all New Zealanders.