Sunday, 24 November 2013

Freedom for birth

Peace on earth starts with birth.  Sounds cheesy?  Sounds daft?  Surely we don't need to worry about women's rights in childbirth?  Or persecution of midwives?  Our modern obstetrics run maternity care gives us the best outcomes and women don't need to worry any more, right? Wrong.

Midwives are being persecuted for supporting women's choices, and for giving women's choices.  The Albany midwifery practice was shut down and the senior midwife suspended, despite a better safety record than the local maternity unit and for incredible outcomes for women and babies - 99% knew the midwife who attended them at birth, and for 98% of them it was their own midwife; 40% gave birth at home; over 60% gave birth without even needing gas and air, they were so supported and prepared.  After more than three years the senior midwife has been exonerated, just this summer.

This isn't the only case in the UK.

Over in Ireland one woman died because she wasn't allowed to end the pregnancy of the very sick baby inside her.  Another was denied, in court, a vaginal birth after caesarean. She came to the UK and had her baby last month.

Many women are told 'you must' have a caesarean for a breech baby; 'you're not allowed' to go past 42 weeks; 'you can't' have a home birth if its your first baby/no midwives available/high bmi etc.  None of which are true.

Why does it matter?  Babies only get one birth.  Mothers will be making decisions for their babies till they are eighteen.  They should be empowered from the beginning.  Birth does matter.  Birth works best undisturbed.  This leads to better outcomes for babies. The obstetric led model of maternity care does not get it right.  We wouldn't treat our cats and dogs in birth as we do women.  Birth sets up a mother for the post natal period.  To be happy and confident, or confused and scarred.  I have supported women who felt raped by their midwives/obstetricians as they lay naked on the bed with legs in stirrups and arms and hands and instruments entering their vagina, while they shouted 'stop' 'no'. Others so traumatised by how the birth went, and mostly, how they were treated, that it takes years before they are ready to be pregnant again, if ever.

This film highlights human rights in childbirth.  It mostly follows the case of the Hungarian obstetrician, Agnes Gereb, who, unable by Hungarian law to support women at home births, retrained to be a midwife and then was taken to court and is currently under house arrest.  A woman in premature labour had come into her clinic.  Agnes Gereb had taken the women to hospital and the baby died.  The parents know it was not Agnes Gereb's fault.  But it was enough for the authorities to arrest her.  See her powerful story, and those of women and midwives around the world.  Court ordered caesareans in the USA.  Woman denied home birth in Netherlands.  Plus hear wonderful testimony from famous midwives, obstetricians and activists at the first international conference on human rights in childbirth.  Michel Odent; Ina May Gaskin, Sheila Kitzinger, Beverley Beech, Professor Lesley Page, President of the Royal College of Midwives and Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives.

One inspiring film; many people starting a birth revolution.

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