The Business of Being Born

Clay and I watched this incredible documentary a couple of weeks ago, and it totally blew my mind.  It was just as good as I knew it would be, and I’m afraid it might have ruined me for having my next babies in a way that’s comfortably expected.

Here are a few things I didn’t know before watching this film:

*The U.S. has the second-highest fetal death rate among developed countries.

*The rate of c-section is drastically rising, and I believe it hovers somewhere around 46%.  Many of these are completely medically unnecessary and not by maternal request.

*Epidurals and Pitocin often counteract the effect of one another, thus leading to a much higher rate of unnecessary cesarean births.

*The hospital-mandated position of giving birth while lying flat on your back with your legs in the air is the worst position for which to deliver a baby.  There is a much increased risk of perineal tearing, and the opening of the pelvis is smaller, and gravity is working against you.  Pushing in a more natural squatting or standing position allows the baby to more gently slide through the pelvis as it twists and moves, and the pelvis opens a full 30% larger than it does when the mom is on her back.  Makes ya wonder about all those babies who get “stuck.”  (Evelyne included!)

*The U.S. stands alone in our extremely low use of midwives to assist births and almost complete reliance on hospitals for normal, low-risk births.  Many other developed countries, like England and Japan, rely heavily on midwives and they far out number hospital and obstetrician births.

*Since OB/GYN’s are primarily surgeons and medical intervention is used in almost all U.S. births, many doctors are not familiar with what a natural birth can look like.  They aren’t familiar with what our bodies do under normal circumstances, and because of that, neither are we.

*After watching several unmedicated homebirths in this documentary, I was struck by how beautiful and natural it was.  There was no one yelling at them to “PUSH! PUSH! HARDER!”, there were no flourescent lights in their eyes, they were allowed to move freely however was most comfortable for them, they were able to listen and be guided by their own bodies instead of what someone was telling them to do.  They were able to help “catch” their baby and spend time holding and nursing him instead of nurses wisking him away to be poked and prodded while the poor baby lies there screaming his head off.  It just appeared to me to be closer to the way God designed it to be.

I very strongly suggest that every woman (and every man who plans to have a woman and children in his life) watch this film.  The point is not to convince women that hospitals and OB’s are evil or never necessary, it’s to educate about very real and wonderful options that are out there for childbirth.  To undo a little bit of the bias that the medical profession has instilled in us about what birth is supposed to be like.  To strip away the fear and ignorance we have about giving birth with someone other than an ob/gyn.  As women we have the responsibility to educate ourselves about all of the options out there when it comes to our health and our babies’ health and safety.


13 responses to “The Business of Being Born

  1. I have a friend (Bianka on my blog) who also recommended I watch this. I had both of mine as naturally as I could at the hospital….however with my first one the Dr’s were yelling at my husband to count for me and push harder and you aren’t pushing correctly and it just wasn’t calm and I HAD to be on my back a certain way. I kept wanting to roll over and hang off the bed but no. And they limit how many people you can have around. If I do have one more (still talking it over) I am really thinking I might do the home birth. I would love to do it how I feel comfortable doing it and have strangers raising their voices at me….and I want my whole family there. I will definitely have to watch this now, two recommendations.


  2. I meant “not having strangers yelling at me.”


  3. for those without complications and difficult pregnancies- go for it! for me, i was not able to have “natural” birth or homebirth- and i’m thankful that i didn’t get my heart set on that- b/c i would have had to bury two of my three children without the medical intervention nearby at birth.


  4. Weren’t Sam and Bethany both premature? I believe in those situations a midwife would immediately send her patient to a hospital…. actually, there’s a situation in the film where that happens. That’s part that I should have mentioned, there’s definitely an assessment process where a midwife would see if a patient is a good candidate for a non-hospital birth, I think they usually encourage high-risk patients to deliver at a hospital. Thank God for them in those situations! =)


  5. Em, I totally loved this documentary too! I actually blogged about it a while back and it started some interesting comment conversations. The home births were so moving – even Leland thought they were so special. I’ve thought a lot about the possibilities of committing to a natural birth with a midwife for future babies, but it turns out that there is a law against home births with midwives in AL and they do not allow them in hospitals from what I understand. How backwoods is that? Anyway, great recommendation, and I’m glad you enjoyed it too!


  6. My doctor (and your current dr) would have permitted me to try any position to push if I hadn’t had an epidural. She told me that if I did have an epidural, then my only option was the “standard” pushing position w/ my legs in the stirrups because I wouldn’t be able to hold myself up in any other position. It seems to me that how “natural” your experience is depends on whether you have an epidural and who your ob is. I felt that mine was super supportive of my wishes, and despite the awful tearing due to a 9 lb baby who came face up, I had a fabulous experience the second time around.

    Also, you mentioned how England relies heavily on midwives. That’s because medicine is socialized there and the gov’t won’t pay for obs to attend to birthing mothers. Midwives perform almost all deliveries and only call an ob in case of emergency. Do note that a recent study in England found that 40 per cent of maternity units provided a poor or below average standard of care.

    I like having options and making an informed decision.


  7. Laura, that’s great that Dr. Cole would let you get out of the bed, I never wanted to go natural with Ev, so I never asked her any of those questions. As far as England, I’m sure the lack of good hospital care is definitely a factor in the high rate of midwife use, but the important part of that is the fact that the US has a higher fetal mortality and C-section rate , so no matter why they’re doing it, they’re getting much better results than we are with all of our great hospitals.


  8. Ok Emily, I’m less than 3 months from delivery and I’m going to trust you on this and watch the video 🙂


  9. yes- Sam and Bethany were both preemies- actually Sam wasn’t “technically”- at 37 weeks, you are considered full term. but he didn’t cry, pink up, etc. and it was due to the fact that one lung did not inflate properly. Bethie was born at 34 weeks, which was a miracle due to the fact that i dialated to 6 cm at 28 weeks. i didn’t get an epidural with bethany- i missed it- and tore like crazy- i guess due to the precautions, i wasn’t allowed to move around a great deal- but i just wanted her O-U-T! with sarah jane (middle child) i got an epidural that was wonderful- i could feel everything, i was a bit uncomfortable with contractions, but knew when to push, etc. it was wonderful. (i also got to take her home with me) with sam, also epidural- which didn’t have anything to do with his lack of lung maturity, boys just don’t do as well with the breathing stuff. sorry if i came across snobby in my first post! i am very thankful for the three children i hold daily and the one that went to Jesus early in my pregnancy- and for me- that meant relying on an OB- but with “normal” pregnancies- there is nothing wrong with exploring your options and chosing a less invasive route if possible. i am all for that- but i admit the epidurals were wonderful for me. i felt more than i wanted to- but remember the whole experience.


  10. Because of medical complications I, too, was unable to have babies naturally. I truly wish I could have experienced what “real” birth is like. After my first daughter was born (long story short, we almost died, the both of us, emergency c section..messy..not fun) I felt very inadequate as a woman. I felt like I had failed completely in what I was born to do. It took a long time for me to get over the idea that vaginal birth is the only way to have a child and be a “complete” woman. If i had stayed at home with a midwife we would have both died…therefore it was really a good thing I was in a hospital. But, if I had the chance to have a normal delivery, I would have done it! And I do think I missed out on a very beautiful part of life!


  11. I gave birth in Canada and honestly, i am scared of giving birth in the US. But this film is so true, even if you dont agree with it, its always god to watch something new. It just makes you think…



  12. I have given birth at home 3 times. I would not have it any other way. I am in the process of writing about my experience on my blog.


  13. Dear Emily,

    Thank you for your post. It’s all about CHOICE. And about helping women end the fear that’s grown up around birth. Just like you said…

    We’re working on that over at Indie Birth.

    It’s a new site about homebirth… focused on getting good information out there for mothers to make the right choice for THEM.

    You are welcome to visit and help spread the word:

    Thank you,

    Maryn Leister


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