Prepared with pop-up tents against the threat of rain, a dedicated band of moms, partners and local support groups staged the first ever Improving Birth rally in Sacramento on the west steps of the state Capitol. The Sacramento rally, one of over 170 held across the nation on “Labor” day, was rooted in promoting quality and evidence based information about birth options for women.
Home births shut down by doctors
While western medicine has made tremendous progress in reducing infant and mother mortality, we have also cultivated stereotypes and assumptions about the delivery of a baby that can be a disservice to the mother. Physicians and hospitals have perpetuated a myth that women can’t deliver a baby on their own and it is only safe to give birth at a hospital. Participants in this medical fantasy have also lobbied governments for laws giving them a near monopoly on for the reimbursement of maternity services limiting financial access to midwives and doulas.
Birthing options and alternatives
The nonprofit organization Improving Birth has a mission to bring “evidence-based” childbirth and care information to new mothers. The worst time to try and make a decision about inducing labor or an epidural is when you are in the throws of contractions and trying to push out a kid. Women and men need to be armed with the facts and evidence about those procedures so they can make an informed decision.
Should maternity be profit driven?
The conversation of information can be one sided as doctors and hospitals hold all the cards from marketing to health insurance reimbursement. Women have options. Doctors are not there for support but diagnosis and treatment. Hospitals just want to fill a bed for the money. In short, doctors and hospitals can’t focus on the long term health of mother, child or family. Their goal is to deliver a healthy and profitable baby.
Information is the key
The experience of giving birth can only be improved with knowledge and education. A hospital delivery might be the the best option for a new mom. But until she knows and explores the alternatives she can’t make that decision. Improving Birth is working to make that information as available as possible. Even though all health insurance will include maternity benefits beginning in 2014, there are still institutional disparities when it comes to birthing alternatives.
Small progress for alternatives
Earlier this year, CFAM launched a statewide, grassroots effort to make one critical change to California law: remove the unobtainable and discriminatory provision that requires licensed midwives to work under the supervision of a physician.
As you are likely aware, physicians are unable to supervise midwives due to restrictions placed on them by their malpractice insurance carriers. Thus, virtually all licensed midwives in the state of California are practicing illegally, and are in constant and unrelenting danger of prosecution for breaking the law. They are also prohibited from serving Medi-Cal families because Medi-Cal does not recognize them as independent providers.
Lobbyists don’t give birth, only cash
While this is nice, it would be even better if the services of a midwife or doula were covered by insurance. It’s actually a sad commentary on our society that we even need organizations like Improving Birth to advocate for better information. Unfortunately, the business of birthing is wrapped up in profits. California is only one of five states that prohibits hospitals from hiring doctors. Guess who wrote that legislation?
Real women, real information, no agenda
We can’t expect providers to give unbiased information about alternatives when their livelihood and profession is dependent on providing specific services. The best people to give information and advice are from the women who have given birth. Their stories, good and bad, are what can help inform new mothers to make the right decision.
Sacramento starts to blossom with birth information
This past Saturday, there were plenty of women excited about helping others learn about improving birth. Amber Malley of Sacramento Rally To Improve Birth put in many volunteer hours organizing the event and it was a delight to attend. There was excellent information from International Cesarean Awareness Network, Improving Birth and the Birth Center in Sacramento. They have a good nucleus of volunteers which should help spread the word about improving births and next year’s rally.
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