More and more women these days are choosing ‘alternative birth’ — that is, birth outside a hospital setting. This may mean a birthing center, or it may mean home birth. It often means that women are choosing midwives instead of doctors for their births.
Women who have made this choice know exactly why they have done it. But the rest of the population seems to remain in the dark.
I want to make it crystal clear why this happens. It happens because, on a large scale, women do not feel respected as autonomous individuals in a hospital setting. And when they do choose hospital births, it is because they feel comfortable there — they have found a hospital, staff, and doctor who care about them and their needs and wishes during pregnancy and birth.
It is the personal relationships and the mutual respect that lead a woman to choose her care providers and her birthing location. If she feels she is most likely to get what she needs at home or from a midwife — she’s going to choose that.
Why Does This Matter?
The mainstream still does not get it. The mainstream view is still that women who choose alternative birthing options are just ‘hippies’ who want to do things their way and eschew medical help entirely. They think that women are more interested in their own experiences than their babies’ well being. They’re so disconnected from it that they sometimes pose themselves as adversaries without even intending to.
There is a very popular post on this site, You Want to Stick That in My Baby Where?! Informed Consent in Newborn Procedures. This post is viewed thousands of times every month. About twice a week, a mainstream OB nurse or other mainstream-supporter has to leave a comment on the post.
These almost always leave me shaking my head — their ignorance and their attitudes are the very reason people choose out of hospital birth! Let me share with you some actual quotes from these comments.
“Wow, well if you dont want anything done to your baby then just go have him at home or in a cave! shees you crazy tree hugging people!”
“If parents do not want the advice of doctors, who spend innumerable hours each week providing education and attempting to better the health of their patients, I suggest you do not visit them.”
“So many people come in with so many stipulations for their labor I sometimes wonder why they don’t just stay at home! My job is to protect mom and baby during the labor process and when a parent is demanding interventions or lack of interventions it makes my job that much harder. You came to the hospital so the nurses and doctors can care for you safely so stop trying to do my job and I promise I won’t try to do yours!”
“I cringe when I hear people refusing procedures recommended by PROFESSIONALS! These procedures are in place for a reason.”
“A few things may be unnecessary in the hospital, but for the most part not getting certain interventions could cause more harm than good.”
“Child birth can be dangerous for Mom and baby.”
“The babies who wait to have their cords cut can have extremely high bilirubin levels…Vitamin K IS NECESSARY! If you can live with your child dying of a brain bleed or be permanently disabled fine don’t give it”
“they have to clamp the cord by a certain amount of time it actually shuts a valve in the babies heart so the heart can beat regular”
This is horrific. What I read here is:
- “Don’t question doctors; do whatever they say because they know more than you.”
- “It’s my” [medical person] “job to deliver your baby, so stop trying to speak your mind and do what I tell you.”
- “Interventions are better than not most of the time.”
- “If you don’t do these interventions, you’re killing your baby.”
- “Just go home if you don’t want what the hospital tells you to do.”
If you are a professional and you believe these things, then you are the reason women choose alternative birth. Women do not want to be bullied. They do not want to be told to shut up, lie down, and do whatever the doctor says. They do not want to be told they are too stupid to think for themselves, to do their own research, to make healthy choices for themselves and their babies. They do not want their birth to be reduced to someone else’s “job.”
As a medical professional, your goal is to help and serve your patients. To be loving, considerate, and kind. To present them with their options and your opinion on the best course of action. Never, ever to force them into things.
According to these people, you don’t have a right to think for yourself. If you’d prefer to do so, then you ought not to seek medical care or advice at all. It’s “my way or the highway.”
The Culture is All Wrong
Not all professionals feel like this — thankfully. But enough do that there is a pervasively negative, paternalistic culture. There are great doctors, and there are terrible ones. Having “MD” after your name doesn’t make you great. Having a desire to learn, stay up to date on current information, and do the best for your patients does. Beyond that, we have to stop treating birth like it’s a medical emergency (unless it actually is).
We’re far calmer and less invasive over broken arms — something that’s not normal — than we are about birth — something that is! If and when a particular birth becomes an emergency, women are grateful for modern interventions. But only where needed.
(There is also so much false information being shared in those comments. Babies will die if they don’t get vitamin K shots or immediate cord clamping? That is so silly! Plenty of actual studies disprove that, not to mention a lot of anecdotal experience. If you’re pro-science, please find some before saying something so over the top.)
Our culture needs to have more respect for women and for the birthing process. This respect is more often found in ‘alternative’ birthing locations and with midwives than with doctors. It is not true for all ‘alternative’ sources or all midwives, just as there are excellent hospitals and doctors. But on a large scale, the trend is for more respect in alternative situations.
It’s so important to break down these ways of viewing birth as an emergency and a secret process that only doctors know about. It’s time to stop disrespecting women who ‘dare’ to question tests or procedures. It’s time to make women and their health care providers — doctors, midwives, or whatever — partners in the care process again.
If you are a doctor or a nurse and you love your patients and go out of your way to inform them of their options, respect their wishes, and care for them as best you can, then thank you. You are what all women wish they were lucky enough to have.
If you are a doctor or a nurse who doesn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t just take the recommended tests and procedures and follow a doctor’s advice without question (after all, they went to medical school and you didn’t), you are the reason why women seek alternative care.
Respect, people. Respect and giving women the choice of what is best for them. That’s what it’s all about.