Medical Interventions

Why We Love The Business of Being Born (And You Should, Too!)

Business of Being Born Banner

Did you know that the US currently has one of the highest infant mortality rates among industrialized nations? Though you may find this to be shocking given the wealth of our nation and available technology, this issue is among several concerns about birth in the US that Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein set out to explore in their documentary, The Business of Being Born. This cutting edge documentary was created with the intent to provide women with a thorough examination of the current state of the birth industry in the United States. Through raw footage of empowering homebirths, candid interviews with mothers, doctors, midwives and other health professionals, and an analysis of common hospital birth practices, Lake and Epstein have created a provocative and informative film that is a must-see for all women. 

Why They Created It:

Ricki Lake initially sought to create a film examining common birth practices in the US after her own first birthing experience left her feeling unsatisfied and like something was missing. Interested in the factors leading to the decline of the use of midwives and the increase in the use of medical interventions, including C-sections, Lake hoped to expose some of the reasons women feel unequipped to have a natural birth. Epstein, a strong proponent of natural homebirth directs the documentary while pregnant herself and as you see in the end provides viewers with a firsthand account of why it is necessary to be flexible sometimes with your birth plan in spite of your own wishes.  

Why We Like It:

This film is all about empowering women to realize the tremendous and natural capabilities of their own bodies without intervention. Through extensive and awe-inspiring footage of natural births, The Business of Being Born successfully shows that women need not fear childbirth and that they have the strength within themselves that they will need to birth their baby. The post-birth euphoria that the new moms experience in the film is palpable through the screen and allows viewers to see some of what they might be missing should they feel pressured to undergo a cascade of medical interventions at the hands of their doctors. Lake and Epstein also take a look at the potential motivations for hospitals to encourage the use of interventions and in some cases even favor the use of Cesarean sections to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit. This film is beautifully feminist yet will appeal to any individual who is expecting a baby and wants their partner to have the dignity of the choice to have a childbirth that is best for her and her new baby. 

What You’ll Learn:

The Business of Being Born is a treasure trove of interesting facts about the history of childbirth in the United States, the decline of midwifery and the rise of and reasons for the medicalization of birth. A few topics explored in the film include:

  • The cascade effect of childbirth interventions 
  • The reasons many obstetricians are ill-suited to attend to natural births 
  • The economic implications to hospitals when allowing women to follow their body’s natural birth plan without intervention
  • The risks associated with repeat Cesarean sections
  • The primal bonding mechanism of the natural birth process
  • The relationship between the growth of technology and the changes to the childbirth industry in the US
  • The power, pride, and strength a woman experiences through natural birth.

The Take Home Message:

All women deserve the right to make informed decisions about their childbirth experience. Whether you choose to birth at home, in a birth center or at the hospital, you are entitled to the right to be educated, empowered and supported in the process. Lake and Epstein have created a powerful film that boldly personifies this mission through real life accounts, professional commentary, and raw footage. The Business of Being Born is a must-see for all women expecting a baby. This December, Health Foundations is thrilled to welcome the esteemed creators of this cutting edge documentary to our EVERY WOMAN CAN event at Aria. Lake and Epstein will give the keynote address during this night of celebration, community, and empowerment. For more information about EVERY WOMAN CAN, visit our website at http://www.everywomancan.co/.

The Quick Guide to Natural Childbirth

Natural Birth

If you have decided on or are considering birthing in a setting like a freestanding birth center, it perhaps has to do in part with your desire to have a natural birth experience. It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of childbearing women are considered low-risk and are great candidates for a natural birth. But what is a natural birth exactly and what does it entail? Are there really worthwhile benefits to it and how much pain will I experience? These are all important questions when considering your birth plan. Here are the whos, whats, wheres and whys of the choice of natural birth.

What is a natural birth?

Natural birth is a vaginal birth that is free of pain medication and has minimal, if any, medical interventions. With a natural birth, the mother is in control of the labor process; she is a part of each and every decision, including when it’s time to rest, change positions and push, with her care providers acting as support throughout the process. 

Why do women choose to have a natural birth?

There are many reasons women choose to have a natural birth. Whether you are expecting your first baby or had a past birth experience that left you wanting to try something different, here are a few of the top reasons moms choose natural birth:

  • To have a sense of control over the birthing process
  • They view birth as a natural, normal, non-medical event
  • To have a sense of presence and awareness during birth
  • To have the ability to move about freely during labor
  • To have the ability to follow the lead of your body’s natural instincts
  • Less invasive
  • To avoid unnecessary medical interventions
  • To avoid undesirable side effects of pain medication to mom and baby (such as drowsiness, a drop in blood pressure or nausea)
  • To avoid undesirable side effects of pain medication on labor (such as slowing or stopping the progress)
  • A sense of empowerment
  • Reduced risk of certain interventions such as the use of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin), forceps and vacuum extraction
  • The ability to eat and drink throughout labor

Where do women have natural births?

While you can absolutely have a natural birth in a hospital setting with the right supportive team and a clear birth plan, you might find that a birth center is more conducive to your goal of a natural delivery (It is important to note that some hospitals call their labor & delivery units "birth centers"...this is not what we are referring to). Birth centers place a strong emphasis on empowering women to realize the amazing capabilities of their own bodies without intervention or pain medicine. Another option for natural birth is having your baby in your own home. This approach typically includes the attendance and care of a midwife. 

Who can have a natural birth and who attends them?

As previously stated, approximately 85 percent of women are considered great candidates for a natural, vaginal delivery. However, in order to plan for a natural delivery, a woman should ideally have a low-risk pregnancy with few complications or other existing serious conditions. 

A natural birth can be attended by a doctor or midwife, along with a birth assistant and a doula, depending on your setting and personal preferences. Continuous care and support from a midwife or doula throughout labor has been associated with lower rates of the use of pain medicine, incidence of C-sections and other interventions in addition to shorter labors and greater overall satisfaction with the birth experience.

How do women cope with the pain of a natural birth?

Every woman will experience the pain of childbirth differently. Fortunately, there are many alternative forms of pain management that can be used during a natural birth instead of medication or an epidural. Here are just a few of them:

Nitrous oxide for Labor Pain
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Water immersion/water birth
  • Massage
  • Relaxation
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Visualization
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga
  • Changing positions
  • Distraction
  • Visual imagery
  • Meditation
  • Walking
  • Hypnosis
  • Birthing ball

Consider taking child birth preparedness classes that focus on natural birth and pain management. The better prepared you are, the more tools you will have to help you achieve your goal of a natural birth.

What if something goes wrong?

The most important thing with any birth plan is to approach it with flexibility and a willingness to heed the advice of your caregivers who have you and your baby’s best interest at heart. While having a natural birth is typically very safe, complications do arise occasionally where medical interventions are not only suggested but necessary. Beginning with a caregiver that you trust is an important step to helping you feel confident and comfortable in the event that a change is made to the plan involving unexpected interventions. Just know that no matter what course your birth ends up taking, whether it is perfectly natural or ends in a C-section, you and your body have done an incredible, life-giving thing. There is no shame in a birth that does not go as planned.

For questions about natural birth, prenatal and postpartum care and all other women’s care services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Our goal is to support you in realizing your body’s tremendous strength and potential.

Eight Ways to Avoid Unnecessary Interventions During Labor

Newborn with Mom

Avoiding unnecessary medical intervention is one of the most important factors in having a naturalbirth. Unfortunately, in many US hospitals, interventions are common and all too often hastily decided upon. Consequently, the rate of C-sections nationally is about 32.7 percent. The term “cascade of interventions,” refers to the domino effect of one intervention, leading to another which leads to another, resulting in a series of unplanned and undesired repercussions. If you are hoping to have a natural birth experience, knowing what you can do to reduce your chances of unnecessary interventions is important. Here are 8 ways you can increase your odds of achieving your desired natural birth experience by avoiding unnecessary birthing interventions.

  1. Create a birth plan: Creating a written copy of your birth plan will help ensure that everyone on your birthing team knows and respects your wishes and expectations for your birth experience. Although it is important to remain flexible should complications arise, a birth plan is a great way to familiarize your care providers and any participating family members or friends with specific preferences you have including avoiding unnecessary medical interventions.
  2. Use a midwife: Because of the level of specialized care, support and priority placed on natural birthing, using a midwife can increase your chances of having a natural birth by up to 95 percent. Your midwife will help prepare you physically and mentally for an unmedicated childbirth, reducing your anxiety and likely lessening the pain you will experience.
  3. Take birthing classes: Choose classes that focus on natural birth techniques to help equip you with the tools you will need to achieve an intervention free, natural birth experience.
  4. Choose a care provider and birth setting that encourage natural birth: In addition to using a midwife, choosing to birth at a birth center with a low rate of interventions versus a hospital can be a wise decision if you are hoping to have a natural birth. Hospitals often place time limitations on labor and may pressure you to opt for interventions that hasten the process if it has been drawn out too long. A birth center that is supportive of natural birth is more likely to let you labor as long as you and baby need.
  5. Hire a doula: A doula provides physical, emotional, and educational support for the mother during pregnancy and the birthing process. Research shows that having a doula assist you in your birth can reduce your chances of electing to have an epidural by up to 60 percent and cut your chances of having a C-section in half. To learn more about the many benefits of hiring a doula for both mom and baby, check out this article.
  6. Research natural alternatives for pain control: Techniques such as self-hypnosis, deep breathing, guided imagery, yoga and massage can offer non-invasive alternatives to help lessen the pain and keep you calm and relaxed during labor. Practicing these techniques during pregnancy can help prepare you for the big day once it arrives.
  7. Practice perineal massage: Utilizing massage to stretch the area around the vagina during pregnancy can help prepare you for childbirth and potentially shorten the labor process and accelerate your delivery. Begin your perineal massages after week 34 of pregnancy using warm olive oil as a lubricant and relaxing music to calm you. Having your partner help if you are comfortable with it is a great way to get them involved in birth preparation. 
  8. Know your rights: You may find yourself feeling pressured in the heat of the moment when a medical intervention is suggested during labor. Educating yourself beforehand and knowing that you have the right to accept or refuse any procedure, test, medication or treatment will help empower you to make the decisions that are best for you, even under pressure.

Having a natural and normal birth is a noble and attainable goal. Preparation during pregnancy can only help your chances of achieving your desired birth plan. At Health Foundations, we value the natural and miraculous nature of birth and seek to empower women to realize the awesome abilities of their bodies without intervention. To learn more about how Health Foundations can support you in your goal of natural birth, contact us for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are committed to supporting you throughout your pregnancy, birth and beyond.