KUOW Morning Edition: Story of Natural Birth

Thanks to board member Lisa Chin for pointing out this great piece by KUOW this morning:

There Will Always Be Three Now: A Story Of Natural Birth

You can listen online at their website.

When it comes to giving birth in America, there are choices. What doctor? What hospital? What medication? What kind of birth do you want? Less than 1 percent of couples choose a natural birth, a birth with no drugs and little to no intervention. Producer Katy Sewall brings an intimate look at one couple’s decision to go that way. What is your birth story? How did you make the decisions you did? Are you satisfied with the choices that you made, or that were made for you? Call 1.800.289.KUOW (5869).

Special thanks to the midwives at the Puget Sound Birth Center and at Group Health Seattle.

The program is about choices in childbirth – in particular this is about the 1% who choose a “natural childbirth”. I chuckled a bit because many in the birth field know “natural childbirth” can mean different things to different people and as such, is a very confusing, and sometimes loaded, term.

To some, natural childbirth simply means having a vaginal birth, regardless of the interventions – just not a cesarean birth. To others, natural childbirth means birth without pain medications, and sometimes without any interventions at all. This program, however, seems to refer to natural childbirth as out-of-hospital birth, including home birth and birth center birth, which is why they say only 1% of families choose it. A listener commented on the show about obstetric or nurse-midwife practices in-hospital, which have a high percentage (50% or more) of birthing moms who deliver without intervention or medication, but still in the hospital setting.

One of the people interviewed in this piece is Penny Simkin, a doula and childbirth educator here in Seattle and one of the founding board members of Open Arms. Penny provides some fabulous information about doulas in this program as well as reiterating some of the statistics about c-sections – the shocking rising rate of c-sections, for example – up 50% since 1996! She says this is due to the inflated sense of dangers of vaginal birth and unrealistic appraisal on the part of parents of dangers of cesarean. She also talks about the variation in the “cesarean epidemic” across the country, where different states and areas are apt to have widely differing c-section rates. For example, you’re far more likely to get c-section in New Jersey than Utah. One of the reasons? Malpractice fear. Another reason for the rise was breech birth. Penny explains there was one very widely study finding bad outcomes in breech births that since has been completely discredited, but now 7-8 years later, medical schools are no longer teaching new physicians how to vaginally deliver a breech baby. So, with no training, few doctors can do them now.

All in all, this was a lovely program. For those of you doulas listening in, it’s so nice to hear a peaceful birth on a radio show – you’ll appreciate it. My husband rolls his eyes every time there’s a birth on television. All that drama and huffing and puffing – he knows I’ll make some sort of comment about that initial contraction and boom! she’s in labor and boom! out pops the baby with screaming and hollering. It’s nice to hear a birth happen in calm and peace.

On another note, this program has a caller that talked about the hard fight women had to gain their birthing choices – in her case, admitting the father to the birthing room. That work isn’t done. Have you all seen the recent controversy about the Ohio medical practice that bans doulas? It’s pretty interesting – read the comments on that blog. Those of us in Seattle are used to having quite a few more birth choices than in other areas of the country, or even other areas of the state. The fight for birth choices isn’t over.

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