Oprah.com article on alternative birth practices

I was interviewed for this Oprah.com article about alternative birth practices. It’s a pretty good overview of the standard aspects of alternative birth practices: midwives, doulas, out of hospital births, techniques like water. I seem to be the only source the author quotes, so here is a round-up of my contributions. While I’m flattered to be used as a resources I wish he had also talked to some other experts on the issue!

Also of note is that what seems to have drawn the author to the subject was his wife’s own delivery with a midwife in a birth center wing of a hospital just three months ago. He told me this during the interview, it wasn’t in the actual article. It’s so often that awareness about childbirth only comes when a person or their partner go through it themselves.

Read the whole piece here and see my quotes after the jump.

According to Miriam Perez—a volunteer doula, activist, creator of RadicalDoula.com and editor at Feministing.com—while a midwife attends to the medical needs of a labor, a doula’s mission is different. “A doula is only really worried about the emotional needs of the mom,” she says. “She’s there to coach and support the mom and kind of help her get what she needs from her birth experience. That’s what makes [the doula] unique from everybody involved—from the partner to the doctor to the nurses to the midwives. The doula is the only person who is there just really focused on the needs of the mom.”

There aren’t requirements about who can and cannot see a midwife in a hospital, but most CPMs will only attend to an out-of-hospital birth if the mother is not in an at-risk category. This usually means mothers cannot be very young or old or have conditions like high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, cancer, obesity and diabetes. However, “at risk” is not a definite term. “There’s a lot of debate in the birth world about what things should be [‘at risk’],” Perez says. “The only reason you couldn’t have a midwife at all, even in a hospital, is if you had to have a Caesarean section, because midwives are not surgeons. That’s what obstetricians are—they’re trained as surgeons. You’re not going to have a midwife doing C-section, but pretty much anything else can be done by midwives.”

Once labor actually begins, one way to alleviate some pressure and pain of contractions is through use of a water tub. Some pregnant women even deliver in water. A common misconception about water birth is that the newborn baby will drown in the water. “Because babies are floating in an amniotic sac of fluid in the belly, they’re already in water. That’s not an issue,” Perez says. “And they’re not breathing through their noses until the umbilical cord is cut. They get all their oxygen through the cord.”

Perez adds that some water birth advocates even believe it’s the best option for everyone. “Some people argue that it’s less shocking for the child to born into the water rather than to be born straight into a shocking, bright environment,” she says.

3 thoughts on “Oprah.com article on alternative birth practices

  1. Anne December 1, 2009 / 8:32 pm

    I’m not sure who’s list you have there for “at-risk” conditions that would rule out home birth, but I am obese and am due any day with my second home birth baby. I am also in an online group of obese women who have safe home births, with a midwife.
    Obesity is really only an issue if the practitioner knows how to do cesareans or if the practitioner is not well informed on obesity and pregnancy.
    It’s very sad that there are so many CPMs that are not comfortable working with overweight women, because in a hospital, we are a target for unnecessary procedures and even verbal humiliation.
    If a midwife dismissed a fat woman because she is uninformed or misinformed and would rather just avoid the potential risk (where there usually is none), then she is contributing to the outrageous cesarean rates as much as the OB and hospital that the woman she rejected now has to submit to.
    The same goes for women of young, or advanced maternal age, like myself.

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