liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Movie: The Business of Being Born

This movie was Ricki Lake's idea, after she was pushed through a standard hospital birthing with her first child. Her second child was born at home, and that birth is one of several shown in the movie. Someone warned me that in the movie I would see Ricki Lake "in her altogether" and indeed, there she is. But the nudity is simple, human, practical, not sexualized or titillating. It brings the beauty of childbirth back into my consciousness. Interestingly, the film's director Abby Epstein gets pregnant while making the movie and we get to see her experience as well.

Here's the website for the movie:

--in Europe and Japan 70% of births are assisted by midwives
--in the US less than 7% of births are midwife assisted
--Ricki suggests that women in the states don't take responsibility for their births, and don't trust themselves to "know how"
--women in the US fear giving birth and expect trauma, and imagine that the doctor is there to save them
--in the US we spend twice as much per birth as the rest of the world
--the US has the 2nd worst newborn death rate in the developed world
--the US also has a very high maternal death rate
--"normal" birth is not known in the US
--the pain of childbirth is seen by some as the curse of Eve
--the drugs given during childbirth (in the US) decrease the woman's memory of the experience
--one doctor interviewed for the documentary said that women wanting to give birth naturally and bear the pain was an example of "feminist masochism"
--AMA will not support non-physicians doing anything that physicians can do

--in the US women started having their babies in the hospital in the 1900's, after a media "smear campaign" in which midwives were portrayed as old-country, dirty and illiterate, and hospitals portrayed as gleaming meccas of modernism
--1900: 95% of childbirth in the US occurred at home
--1920's, women were blindfolded and bound in the hospital for birth
--1930's it became standard to xray pregnant women
--1938: 50% of US childbirths occured in the home
--1950's thalidomide was used for nausea and pregnant women, is teratogen
--1955, under 1% of children were birthed at home
--1960's the hippie communes start doing some home birthing again
--1970 started using electronic monitors during birth, C-section rate jumped 4%-->24% in one year.
--1990's, zydetec (sp?) is given to women who have had previous C-sections, causes uterine rupture
--since 1996 the C-section rate has increased 46%
--1999 stopped giving zydetec
--now, birthing centers are having a hard time staying in business

--billion dollar industry: medical decisions made for monetary and legal reasons
--"hospitals are businesses they don't want women hangin' around in the labor room"
--woman who goes to the hospital to have her baby gets "put through the system"
--position: flat on her back narrows pelvic opening, increases need for episiotomy
--it is standard for women to be induced using pitocin (synthetic oxytocin, aka "pit" in hospital)
--pitocin increases the length and strength of contractions
--long contractions can cause distress for the child
--women who are given pitocin experience more pain and are then administered an epidural for that pain
--an epidural slows it all down, so more pitocin may be given ("augmentation")
--pitocin increases pain so more painkillers may be given
--there are a great variety of drugs used, each in reaction to something else that may well have been caused by drugs, "a domino effect"
--long term effects of the birth-time drug coctail on child is not known, but it wouldn't be surprising to find that it had some correlation ADHD, autism etc. Studies needed.
--a woman in the course of a birth is unlikely to argue with her doctor about medicines due to 1) power imbalance 2) pain 3) being out of it from the drugs
--induction shows a very strong correlation with C-section, and precipitates the need for many C-sections

--induction or augmentation --> C-section
--the doctors in the US who are in charge of childbirth are surgeons
--hospitals have an interest in getting the birth done quickly, requires less staffing and space, costs less money hence makes more profit
--people are accustomed to optional surgery, plastic surgery is fashionable
--C-sections help hospitals and doctors avoid getting sued: "we did everything we could"
--women aren't fully informed that C-section is a major surgery with infection risk and damage to structures
--C-sections take about 20 minutes, "doctor friendly"
--the average labor time is 12 hours
--some women schedule their birth or C-section with a tummy tuck to follow, "a designer birth"
--"too posh to push"
--peak times for C- sections are 4pm and 10pm----end of the hospital shift
--without vaginal birth woman does not experience normal hormonal bonding with child
--average hospital normal vaginal birth cost: $13,000.

--home birth is comfortable, safe, on your own turf--a supported environment
--home birth outcomes are better than hospital outcomes
--need the option of transfer to hospital if intervention is necessary
--during every birth the woman experiences utter despair: "between a rock & a hard place"
--the rock: it hurts too much to push
--the hard place: if you don't push it out you'll be pregnant forever
--moving mother, dancing, rocking hips, helps baby move into optimal position for vaginal birth
--squatting opens pelvis
--tub of warm water often used
--huge oxitocin rush causes contractions and turns on protective "mommy brain", causes cascade of natural chemical reactions including opiates, natural endorphins, love hormones that encourage bonding
--midwife is there to say "reach down and take your baby"
--new mother is high on natural hormones, deliriously overjoyed, "my baby, my baby"
--magical process, life altering experience, transformative
--average midwife birth cost: $4000
--"If I could do that, I could do anything": empowering

Some of my thoughts:

Women are disempowered in our culture. Our unwillingness to take responsibility for childbirth is another example of a way in which we give away our power, and then do not have the experience that would show us without a doubt that we are powerful.

Many surgeons these days are too hasty, and too rough. There is no need to yank and tear things the way that they sometimes do. A friend of mine who had a C-section was utterly distraught at the damage that was done to her finely balanced body while she was out for the procedure. Another friend of mine recently had a pacemaker installed and the surgeon punctured his heart wall and his lung sac. When he awoke from the anesthesia he reported a stabbing pain in his back. They told him it was nothing, gave him more painkillers and sent him home. In the middle of the night he was back in the hospital with a lung half full of blood. He ended up spending 16 nights in the hospital, and to top it all off, the surgeon refused to vary the location of the pacemaker batter so that my friend could shoot his rifle normally. My friend can no longer shoot his rifle on the side of his dominant eye. This is completely unacceptable. He says he thinks the guy that worked on him was "a rookie".

These kinds of stories fill me with rage, and bolster my conviction that there is a lot to improve in modern medicine. And for sure, if you ever decide that you will have a surgery, ask lots of questions, get to know and trust the doctor before going in, or don't do it. Just because someone is wearing a badge that says MD and a white coat does NOT mean that person is looking out for your best interests. Better know it in your gut before you let them put a knife in you.

Update: an article on the increase in risk that occurs when a home birth is transferred to a hospital:
Tags: america, childbirth, death, feminism, healthcare, hospitals, medicine, movies, naturopathy, pharmaceuticals, pregnancy, surgery, women

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