Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review: The Business of Being Born

I watched The Business of Being Born yesterday, while I held the (rather fussy) baby, who didn't want to sleep in his crib. I'd wanted to see it for a long time, but was a little scared to. I mean, who wants delivery horror stories when they're coming up on their own labor?

Well, I got through mine and survived, so I figured there would be no harm in watching theirs. And really, I needn't have worried. There weren't any "scary stories," and as for the facts, I knew all of those.

However, I still wasn't impressed. They were dealing with a really important issue -- the explosion of over-medicalized births, with an increase of negative outcomes for mom and baby -- but they weren't terribly convincing. The whole movie seemed rather disorganized. One minute they're interviewing an OB/GYN -- the next minute we're watching a video of a home birth -- then a midwife is talking about something entirely different.

But the worst of it was, they did not focus on their most convincing arguments. A convincing argument, to me, for getting birth out of the hospital is, "The US leads the developed world in hospital births, c-sections, and maternal death rate." Or, "Epidurals often lead to Pitocin, which often leads to c-section." You know -- facts. Facts convince me. The fact that there could be better outcomes for mom and baby with a home birth than a hospital birth convinces me.

But that wasn't what they focused on. Instead they went on and on about the "experience." How the experience of a natural birth is so much better / deeper / more empowering than a medicated birth. And to that I say, "Sure, that might be true, but if it isn't better in a medical sense, it's not worth it." I would not compromise my baby's health or my health so that I could have an "empowering experience." (There are people who would -- which is my opinion on people who choose unassisted birth. It's a terribly risky thing to do, but they do it because they believe in the "experience.") So, unless you can prove to me that home birth is medically smart as well as a great experience, I won't do it.

And then there were some statements that I simply couldn't agree with.
* "You will feel cheated of your identity as a woman if you don't go natural." Well, maybe -- but maybe not! Some people might not be bothered by it in the least. Clearly many people are not, because they choose to do the same with their second and third and fourth children.
* "You won't bond with your baby if you have a c-section." They brought up studies of monkeys, showing that monkeys won't care for their babies if they have a c-section. That is too bad -- but clearly not true in humans, since human mothers DO care for their babies when they have a c-section. It does seem bonding is slightly delayed sometimes -- but it does happen.
* "When you give birth naturally, you have a huge "birth high" which is the best experience of your life." Um -- no. They stated that as if it was a universal fact -- which I can testify, it's not. I was in a good mood after Mark was born -- it sure was nice not to be in labor anymore, and to have a baby to hold -- but I was not euphoric. I did not react like the natural-birth women in the movies, who laughed and cried and said "Oh my God" over and over. And during the labor, I didn't "go to another place" or "feel outside of time." I felt like my normal self. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- but don't lie to women by promising something they may not actually get.

Natural birth isn't a magic formula that will suddenly change everything, empower you, give you the secrets to the universe. It's just the simplest way to deliver a child, and the one that is likely to result in fewest complications in the healthy mother and child. I wish they had focused more on this.

However -- it's still worth a watch. I just think another documentary could be made that would do the job much better.


Katie said...

I watched the documentary (well, most of it) on Saturday and had a similar reaction. I thought there was good information tucked in there, but I don't think I would recommend the movie to someone who wasn't already convinced about the virtues of natural birth and midwives and so on.

Warren said...

The modern "mind" (or rather what is left where the mind should have been) privileges the feelings over the truth.

They didn't make the big claims because (I'm guessing) big claims require something to back it up, and if you make claims that could cause people to make a decision that harms them, you could be held accountable.

If I was a lawyer advising the producers of this film, I'd say "there's no way you should be trying to influence the decision mothers make".

The industry-of-being-born is at least based on science, and is accountable, and keeps records. I'm in Canada, and our infant mortality rates, and our universal socialized medicine make the hospital birth experience a lot less financially painful for a lot of people. And that makes putting the health of the baby over the health of your wallet, and the HMO's preferences, possible.

How about the home-birth industry? Do they keep records? Do they regulate themselves to at least the same professional standards? Here in Canada, no they do not. I couldn't say in the USA, but I would do my homework first.

I am in favor of having a mother deliver in hospital, because I am in favor of removing the fifteen to fifty minute delay between mother and child entering the danger zone, and being able to do something about it.

As a dad-to-be (soon) this is very much on my mind. I should not like to find out what happens when the baby and mother need urgent care at home, beyond what the doula and midwife can provide for her, and we are twenty five minutes from receiving the modern intervention that will save my child, and my wife's life.


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