Changing the Climate of Birth

Tina Cassidy, author of Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born posted this as a guest post on her blog today. I'm sharing it here with some additional images by Erin Wrightsman.

Tina and I met while in Boston interviewing, fundraising, and networking with the birth community there. One of the things I love best about making this film is meeting so many amazing women (and a few men) who are advocating for women and families. Tina is one of those women.

Our current system of birth is unsustainable. A system that spends 111 billion dollars on maternity and newborn care annually is not sustainable. A 33% c-section rate, while sustainable in some sense, is not without significant consequence.

As a family nurse practitioner, I’ve done work in healthcare improvement over the past 10 years. “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets,” is a common saying in improvement work. Keeping this in mind, it’s not surprising that we have ended up here.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe there is one player at fault. The factors at work in the system are complex.

Instead of looking at hospitals, doctors, or insurers, I’m interested in how we as a culture have colluded with the system to sustain it and how we might change the cultural conversation around birth.

Currently the message many women hear about birth is, “Birth is painful. You can’t do it. The experts know what to do, let them handle it.” What if instead women heard something like this, “Birth is an intense transition to motherhood. You are powerful and capable. You have everything you need within you to do this. If you need help, a trusted guide is here to help you.”

We live in a culture that values technology and progress, speed, efficiency, and expert advice. While these values have led to significant improvements in many areas of science and medicine, they don’t translate very well when it comes to birth. Our outcomes have made this evident. The judicious and appropriate use of technology is too often replaced with a one size fits all overuse of technology. Still, there is reason to hope.

There is a growing movement that questions these cultural assumptions and the way they are broadly applied. We can choose to slow down and honor birth and it’s place in the family and community. We can do this at home and at the hospital while improving outcomes and the experience of birth for women and families.