I ask my self this question a lot. Maternal mortality in the United States has gotten worse over the last 20-30 years. When I started as a postpartum doula in 1991, the U.S. maternal death rate was 10.3 deaths per 100,000. Now, in 2020, the U.S. maternal death rate is 17.4 per 100,000.
We have more doulas than back then, and information is at our fingertips in an instant.
What is happening to cause this significant increase? The United States spends the most money on health care, yet we have the sickest nation and more mothers are dying in childbirth or from pregnancy and childbirth related causes. This is inexcusable.
I could tell you the increase in deaths is because we have so many obese and unhealthy mothers. I could tell you that access to prenatal care is not available to every woman. I could tell you that giving birth in the hospital is a factor in the maternal death rate. There is some truth to all of these. Yet, if we look at trends in childbirth, particularly the cesarean-section rate, we might find the real answer.
In the 1970s the cesarean-section rate was around 5% in the United States. Currently, we are hovering around 32-33% nationwide. In some hospitals there is a 50% rate. Cesarean surgery comes with risks. And, repeat cesareans come with more risks. Death is a real risk with any surgery. According to the World Health Organization, there is a point at which an increase in cesarean sections does not equal better outcomes. Saving lives is the goal.
Is the need for many cesarean-sections created by interventions such as induction, and constant fetal monitoring?
Why is vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) unavailable for many women?
Why aren't women saying, "hell no?"
I am not going to answer these questions. I like to ask them and inspire you to look for the answers. I can tell you that I have witnessed interventions and watched the cascade of more interventions. I have witnessed unnecessary cesarean-section. I have heard many birth stories of emotional and physical trauma.
The U.S. maternity care system is broken. We live in a consumer driven culture, which runs on supply and demand. Currently, the vast majority of women give birth in the hospital. I believe that if women demanded differently, things would be different. I also believe that learning about options in pregnancy, birth and beyond at 6-7 months pregnant is late in the game.
When women and mothers are thriving, and well cared for, the world is thriving. Pregnant women deserve to know the truth about childbirth, about the providers of prenatal care, about cesarean section rates, about breastmilk, about newborn behavior, about real motherhood.
What are young girls learning about their amazing bodies? Where are they learning about the miracle of birth? When is the right time to begin this learning?
Ingrained beliefs form well before pregnancy.
Childbirth classes are for information. You won't learn how to give birth. You already know.
When I began my doula career in the 1990s, I went to a conference where I listened to a lecture about the hazards of formula, instead of the benefits of breastmilk. Talk about flipping the script!! This was a eye opener, and pretty radical. The speaker was Dr. Jack Newman, who is a very well known Canadian doctor and lactation consultant.
Here we are, years later, and we know even more about breastmilk and formula. We know that as soon as formula is introduced to a baby, their microbiome is disrupted. Research about the microbiome is not new, but new enough to not have become mainstream national news.
Can you imagine the headlines? "Save Your Baby's Microbiome: Set her up For a Healthy Gut." Choose breastmilk because formula is hazardous to your baby's health. I doubt we will see that any time soon.
If you take offense, or you feel bad or sad or angry when you read this, I am not responsible for that. Seeking truth and speaking truth is what I do. You may not agree, or like what I have to say, BUT it is not my fault for how you feel.
We have been hearing a lot about corn syrup solids. Basically it is corn syrup minus most of the water. It isn't really that great for you in high doses. It has been known to contribute to obesity and heart disease. So why is this ingredient 42% of this can of formula? The next ingredient is soy protein isolate. What is that? It contains phytoestrogens which are known endocrine disruptors.
I believe language definitely shapes beliefs and beliefs shape language. Let's break it down. How does it feel when you say "I know it is going to hurt?" Say it out loud. Feel it. Sense it. What is happening in your mind and in your body?
Now, how does it feel when you say "I may experience some painful sensations?" What are you feeling, and thinking now? Is it different than the previous statement?
What you tell yourself is important. What you speak out loud is important. Thoughts are energy, and when you speak you are communicating with the Universe. This is what I believe. You may believe something very different. Know that it is those beliefs that will drive all your choices.
Childbirth is not painful for everyone. Your mind is such a powerful tool. One that you can use to your advantage when it comes to childbirth. When you leave room for possibility, everything in your experience changes. Telling yourself maybe instead of absolutely makes for a very different experience.
How do you know it will hurt? Did you read it in a book? Have you experienced childbirth before? Did someone tell you it will hurt? Did you watch a T.V. show that had a birth scene?
Even if you have given birth before, it will not be the same experience, because you are not the same as you were before, and you are pregnant with a different baby growing inside of you.
Childbirth is a rite of passage, a bringing forth of life through your amazing body. Be aware of what you feed your mind; what you think, feel, read, speak, and watch.
Women are so powerful. You are powerful. The fact that we can grow life, and give birth is amazing. It is a great idea to prepare for childbirth, and I know it can be confusing to sort through the options. There are many hospital based classes that teach about being a good patient, and all the interventions.
Then there are preparation methods like Hypnobabies, which was discussed on my Facebook Live a couple of weeks ago: Bellies, Birth, Babies, and Boobs. And, there are courses like The Primal Birth Course that will take you deep into the power that lies within you.
The fact is that the United States has earned the reputation of being the most dangerous place to give birth of developed nations. I wrote this article about some of the reasons why. This is not meant to scare you but rather to inspire you, and encourage you to stand in your power, and demand better.
This can only happen if you believe in your ability to give birth. I know how it feels to step into the unknown. Isn't that how life works? There is always an unknown future. And, if you listen to a lot of outside noise, and search for all the answers outside of yourself, it can create more self-doubt.
What can you do today to change your language to become confident about giving birth?
You can sign-up here, and get my Pregnancy Checklist, which includes Eight questions to Ask Yourself, Top Ten Lies, and Twenty Five Sample Questions from Down the Canal - the Game of Birth.
I want you to be prepared mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Only you can do that. Start where you are and discover what is possible.
Sharing my knowledge and wisdom about all things birth