Tuesday, March 6, 2007

A Message from Barbara Harper about the Oregonian Article on Sunday February 11th!

A Message from Barbara Harper about the Oregonian Article on Sunday February 11th

Dear Friends,

Most women desire to have an empowering birth experience which is gentle and loving, as well as safe for their baby. Many women today are aware that the experience of birth affects not only their own lives, but more importantly, the lives of their babies. Women who seek ways to avoid unnecessary trauma or violence at the time of birth are not doing so to "bear the pain of natural birth" nor are they out to make anyone "feel pressured" into choosing what they feel is the best for their babies. Women in Oregon, who choose to birth naturally, are strong, vibrant and full of determination to avoid medical interventions, if at all possible. These women want to avoid the routine use of powerful drugs, chemicals, artificial hormones and surgical instruments whenever possible because they feel it is best for their babies and their own health and well being. We have the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to help a woman experience an undisturbed and powerful birth.

The Portland community offers all the options to any woman who wants to strive toward a gentle loving birth experience. Portland, and many areas around the state, offer waterbirth at home, in freestanding birth centers, and even in the hospitals with nurse midwives. We have naturopathic family medicine, including labor, birth and pediatric support; labor and post partum doulas; health spas; pregnancy yoga; breastfeeding and lactation counseling; birth pool rentals; prenatal swimming; therapy to resolve traumatic birth issues; rebirthing and conscious living. Portland is a very green city when it comes to supporting a woman through a natural birth experience.

We know how to assist her to experience her birth as pleasurable, even orgasmic, as opposed to painful. That is one reason women all over the world are exploring the use of warm water immersion during labor and birth. They absolutely know, deep in their hearts, that there has to be a better, gentler way to give birth and welcome their babies into the world.
The baby pictured above was born in a pool of warm water on Thanksgiving Day. This first time mother experienced a four hour labor and didn't even push one time. She simply breathed her baby out. She breastfed almost immediately, waited until the placenta was born before cutting the cord and walked out of the hospital with her baby still naked on her chest, wrapped in her robe, after only a five hour stay. Once home she kept baby on her chest skin to skin for the next 72 hours. Hers was a gentle birth.

Waterbirth International has chosen Portland, Oregon as the back drop for the Gentle Birth World Congress and Whole Baby Expo because of the diverse opportunities for families to enjoy birth "alternatives." The Congress will bring together experts in obstetrics, midwifery, neonatology, waterbirth, gentle birth, undisturbed birth, Kangaroo mother care, infant brain development, effects of medications on the neurological system of babies, breastfeeding, bonding, pediatric cranial work, and many more topics, while the Whole Baby Expo will provide an up close and personal look at all the birth options that the Pacific Northwest has to offer families.

There has never been a more critical time for parents and professionals to examine everything about maternal/child health, the world over. My hope is that the Congress and the Expo will serve as the middle ground for people with differing opinions to come together and share points of view and work out solutions. Because, quite frankly, our goals are exactly the same - happy mothers and healthy babies.

I do feel badly that any woman would feel guilty or depressed about her birth, but when it happens we use these feeling as an opportunity to explore and heal her inner child. We also determine if she wants to make changes in her life and the way she would give birth, if there is a next time. Many women are completely satisfied with their medicated births and that is great. But, when you have been counseling women as long as I have, you hear story after story of disappointment, pain, tears and heartache. Many women feel robbed of something primal and important. When women hear that there is a connection between insecure attachment at birth and emotional distance as an adult, they often report feelings of guilt. This is okay, if we help them process. Mothers are not to blame. The medical system that prevented the bonding and attachment by separating mother and baby at the time of birth and not giving her adequate assistance with breastfeeding and the society that discouraged her from co-sleeping, baby wearing or breastfeeding in public all had a part to play. But, the medical establishment has done the best it could with the information that it had. We now have much more scientific evidence and have decades of observations of undisturbed birth, so that we can offer birthing families an entirely new picture of gentle birth.

The good news is that babies are resilient and mothers and fathers are resourceful. Women suffer from emotional and physical fatigue even under the best of circumstances after a baby is born. Our primary goal is to assist every woman to have a gentle birth with or without medication, provide every mother with the resources to equip her to be good parent and hope for the best.

I just got off the phone with a woman from Portland, pregnant with her first baby, not too well informed, but knowing that she wants a better experience than her girlfriends' births. She feels very strongly that not having medication is best for baby. After a brief conversation about her needs, I introduced her to the concept of a hospital birth with midwives. She had no idea that you could have midwives in the hospital. She didn't feel safe about staying home or going to one of our excellent freestanding birth centers. I enjoyed assisting her to find a birth care provider that would listen to her and empower her to make good choices. Now, multiply that times 20,000 more other women, whom I have counseled over close to three decades, and you will see what I truly love to do - inform, empower and educate - not to make women feel guilty. We as women have too many things that put us down and make us feel that way without the stress of mothering, pregnancy and birth.

I am passionate about birth and babies and have sat at the bedside (or tubside) with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women, holding their hands, wiping their brows, breathing with them and being there when they gaze into their awake, aware babies eyes for the first time. It has been, and will always be, an honor and a privilege for me to hold a space for women to be empowered, passionate and orgasmic about having babies.
Thank you for taking another look at my comments in a new light.
Many Blessings,
Barbara Harper
Founder/Director Waterbirth International


Amy Tuteur, MD said...

In many ways, this post demonstrates the reasons for the negative feelings that "natural" childbirth advocacy engenders in a large number of women.

The language is pejorative and condenscending. Take the first paragraph as an example:

"Most women desire to have an empowering birth experience"

No, most women do NOT desire an empowering experience. Most women desire a healthy baby and a healthy mother. The whole notion of "empowerment" through vaginal birth is a social construct of a small cultural subgroup, and dates back only a few decades. To my knowledge, no one wrote or spoke about "empowering" birth for the thousands of years of recorded history prior to the 1930's.

"Many women today are aware that the experience of birth affects not only their own lives, but more importantly, the lives of their babies."

There is no scientific evidence that the experience of birth affects the lives of babies. That is just something fabricated by "natural" childbirth advocates.

"Women who seek ways to avoid unnecessary trauma or violence at the time of birth"

Trauma and violence are needlessly (and deliberately) pejorative terms. There is no evidence that C-sections are violent or traumatic, and there is no evidence that vaginal deliveries are not violent or traumatic. Again, this is entirely fabricated by "natural" childbirth advocates to make themselves feel good about their own choices by denigrating others who make different choices.

"Women in Oregon, who choose to birth naturally, are strong, vibrant and full of determination"

And women who choose C-sections or end up with C-sections are no less "strong, vibrant and full of determination", although their determination is to have a healthy baby, not to have an "empowering" personal "experience". They are equally worthy of our respect and admiration. To imply otherwise is gratuitously insulting.

"These women want to avoid the routine use of powerful drugs, chemicals, artificial hormones and surgical instruments whenever possible because they feel it is best for their babies and their own health and well being."

They may "feel" it is best, but there is no scientific evidence that it is best. This is yet another fabrication by the "natural" childbirth subculture.

"We have the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to help a woman experience an undisturbed and powerful birth."

Anyone can have an "undisturbed" birth and most mothers who have ever lived have had unmedicated birth without interventions. Indeed the majority of women throughout the world give birth each and every day without medication or interventions of any kind. Of course, they die by the multitudes and even more of their babies die. There is no "achievement" in having an unmedicated birth without interventions. Anyone can do it, if they choose. The achievement is having very low maternal and neonatal mortality rates. ONLY modern obstetrics can achieve that.

So much of what passes for "natural" childbirth advocacy is just the attempt of some women to claim superiority by denigrating other women. If you want to have unmedicated childbirth, go ahead. Just don't claim that it is better, healthier or superior in any way, because there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.

Mindyleigh said...

Actually, Dr. Amy, if you look at the Primal Health Database compiled by Dr. Michel Odent, for example, you'll find plenty of evidence that birth interventions due have a negative impact on babies (and their older adult selves). It can be found at http://www.birthworks.com/primalhealth/keywords.html.

More later...must get kids into bath. :)

Sage Femme said...

rah! rah! Barbara, your commitment to more gentle birth for women and babies is important to eradicate violence in our culture.

beautiful post! I applaud all you do. thank you, thank you!

Jesse Henderson said...

Divisiveness does nothing to contribute to the long term health of women and their babies. As outcomes go, women and their families thrive when given the best possible choices and support backed by real evidence. The evidence DOES, unfortunately show that the poor outcomes of the good 'ole USA give us nothing to hold our hats on compared to any of the industrialized nations. And this is not only true in birth but in every other aspect of our cultural support of mothers.

Did you know:
• We spend the most on health care but have the worst maternal and newborn outcomes of any industrialized nation?

• Only four countries in the world—Lesotho, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea and the United States fail to provide paid maternity leave to all workers?

• Mothers in the United States are only half as likely as non-mothers to be hired for the same job and the average college graduate who becomes a mother will sacrifice a million dollars over her lifetime?

• Businesses that create flexible work environments find that productivity goes up, they attract more talent, turnover is reduced and their bottom line is improved?

• 82% of all American women become a mother by the time they are fourty-four. That means most of us, are affected!!!

These and other startling facts are presented in a powerful and engaging new one-hour documentary, THE MOTHERHOOD MANIFESTO--a film by Laura Pacheco and John de Graaf, which is narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Mary Steenburgen. I hope every mother and person who has a mother gets to see it.

Mom's Rising--working towards real family values:
M: Maternity/Paternity Leave
O: Open, Flexible Work
T: TV We Choose & Other After-School Programs
H: Healthcare for All Kids
E: Excellent Childcare
R: Realistic & Fair Wages

Real family values start with the source--the mother's experience as she is born a mother and nurture's her own mother nature in whatever way that is true for her.

As a doula, I support women every day whose ultimate desire are to be the best mothers they can be under their own unique circumstances. And fortunately for us, despite the lack of support and great challenges our country creates for them--they still succeed on many levels.

It's unfortunate that like so many other forces of our culture the desire to cut women off from their source of internal strength and power is so over-riding an urge that even other women in influential positions choose to spend their time working against rather than for the strongest possible positive platform for all women to speak their truths.

Thanks Barbara for making your platform available to share our comments.

Jesse Remer Henderson
Mother Tree Birth, Founder
Portland Family Time Bank, Founder
Moms Rising--Local Organizer
& Proud Mama to Dash & Juna

Barbara Harper said...

This we emailed to me this evening.

I guess Amy Tuteur had her mind made up before she even read the article. She apparently missed Barbara's statements:
"Many women are completely satisfied with their medicated births and that is great. But, when you have been counseling women as long as I have, you hear story after story of disappointment, pain, tears and heartache. Many women feel robbed of something primal and important." From the tone of Tuteur's comments, I doubt that any of these women would ever confide in her, so she probably has never heard any of this pain and heartache.

Personally, I really don't care what individual women decide to do -- I don't walk in their shoes and I respect that every woman makes the best choices she can given her circumstances and the information and options available to her. What I do care about is that women have complete information about the risks and benefits of each and every procedure and treatment and intervention they are expected to undergo, information which is almost never provided to pregnant or laboring women in the medical setting, and that their fundamental right to consent to or REFUSE each and every procedure and treatment and intervention is fully respected. And I care that options for emotional support, respectful treatment, drug-free labor, physiological birth, with evidence-based care, are available and accessible to all those women who want them, which is NOT the case for most women in this country at this time. Barbara Harper and many others are interested in educating about and providing access to "gentle birth" for those women who want it. No one is stopping women from getting drugs and surgery if they want them. Why is Tuteur so angry? I guess we can all draw our own conclusions...

Susan H.

Amy Tuteur, MD said...

So much of what passes for "natural" childbirth advocacy is factually false. For example:

Jesse Henderson:

"we spend the most on health care but have the worst maternal and newborn outcomes of any industrialized nation"

That that statement is false and is yet another fabrication on the part of "natural" childbirth advocates. According to the World Health Organization, the US has one of the lowest rates of perinatal mortality in the world, despite the fact that it has a relatively high risk population compared to other first world countries.

Neonatal and Perinatal Mortality Country, Regional and Global Estimates was published by the World Health Organization in 2006. It provides detailed statistics as well as analysis and commentary.

Not surprisingly, third world nations have the highest rates of perinatal mortality. The Ivory Coast has the dubious distinction of the highest perinatal mortality rate at 96/1000. The lowest rates occur in countries that have widespread access to modern obstetrics:

country perinatal mortality rate
Denmark 8
Finland 6
France 7
Germany 6
Japan 7
Netherlands 8
United Kingdom 8
United States 7

Comparing perinatal mortality rates, which the WHO believes is an indicator of obstetric care, the US is comparable to all other first world countries. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that the US has a higher risk profile than other first world countries.


"if you look at the Primal Health Database compiled by Dr. Michel Odent, for example, you'll find plenty of evidence that birth interventions due have a negative impact on babies"

Dr. Odent does not publish his results in peer review journals. He writes for lay people who cannot evaluate his comments for veracity and adherence to the scientific method. A lot of what he writes is simply not true, and some of it (bonding and C-sections) is gratiutously nasty and entirely fabricated. "Natural" childbirth advocates favor Odent because he his falsehoods flatter them. There is simply no scientific evidence that unmedicated childbirth is better, healthier or safer in any way.

Susan H.:

"What I do care about is that women have complete information about the risks and benefits of each and every procedure and treatment and intervention they are expected to undergo, information which is almost never provided to pregnant or laboring women in the medical setting"

That's my aim, too. It is simply false that pregnant women are not counselled about the risks and benefits of various procedures.

I feel it is very important to point out that much of what passes for "information" among "natural" childbirth advocates is simply false.

Moreover, I don't think that most women realize that Grantly Dick-Read, the father of "natural" childbirth, was a racist and a sexist, who created "natural" childbirth as a way to convince white women to have more children than their "inferiors". You have probably heard about his claims of painless childbirth for "primitive" women. It's not true. He made it up. He was heavily influenced by the eugenicist movement and by a strain of Victorian/Edwardian thinking that women's desire for voting rights and education would render them "unfit" to bear children.

I'm not kidding. The claims of painless childbirth in nature are utter lies (as anyone who works in 3rd world countries can tell you) and they were made up specifically to keep women barefoot and pregnant and thereby prevent "race suicide".

"No one is stopping women from getting drugs and surgery if they want them."

The article in the Oregonian was not talking about access, it was talking about the ways in which "natural" childbirth advocates put other women down by claiming or implying that "natural" childbirth is somehow better. "Natural" childbirth is a preference, no more, no less. It is a preference just like the preference for vanilla ice cream over chocolate. For those who like vanilla, vanilla ice cream is "superior", but it is not superior in any objective sense.

"Natural" childbirth advocate are entitled to have whatever preferences they want, but they are not entitled to elevate their personal preferences above those of other women.

Michaela said...

Dear Barbara, I can understand your frustration......but lafter ooking up "Dr. Amy" on the internet, becuase frankly I had never heard of her, I have come to the conclusion that she seems to be a very angry, bitter woman, she was probably separated from her mother at birth, she was most likely not breastfed, and based on her bitterness one can olny deduce that she herself was probably denied a magical birth so that is why she puts it down.

Maybe she needs to take some "Resucue Remedy" to chill out! Of course everyone wants a healthy mother and baby, but health also includes emotional health and psychological health, not only medical. Plus isnt the US up there with many third world counties in maternal and baby mortality rates and the countries with the LOWEST rates are those where home and midwife attended births are the norm? She reminds me of a Doctor who called me several months ago becuase he wanted to send his patients to a childbirth educator, he found one of my brochures and called me. He told me that we would be happy to send me his patients but he wanted to know where I stood with regards to epidurals. He wants all of his patients to have epidurals and he wanted me to tell his patients to get one. He stated that "I can't understand a women not wanting an epidural, that would be like riding a donkey when she could be riding in a mercedes-benz". Obviously, I never met with his doctor.

Do you know if Dr. Amy even has children? Maybe she is just threory and no experience?.

There are ignorant people out there and no matter how much harvard and BU education someone can have you can have all the education... in the world and not be street smart, in her case birth smart. You know you have changed and influenced peoples live POSITIVELY and you are rewarded for that with all the people who love and respect you. I am proud to know you and I can tell you that you have influenced my life and I pray that I can introduce your labor of love in the Dominican Republic with the first waterbirth. Be strong, and know in your heart that you have and will continue to the the right thing by advocating womens right to chose how they want to birth and by supplying them with the information to make an informed decision.

- Michaela

Patricia M. Couch said...

The truth of the matter is that a woman's birth experience is forever. A baby brought into the world gently is a wonderful thing. I have an incredibly hard time understanding how anyone can contest this.

I am a child born to a mother that was traumatized during her birth. I was told my entire life how horrible the day I was born was for my mother. I was born in the early 70's to a teenage mom. She was cussed at yelled at and treated as if she had committed a crime. As the child of this experience I have always had a hard time knowing that my birth was such a horrible experience. This is why I feel strongly about Gentle Birth.

Gentle birth goes beyond natural, medicated, cesarean and so forth. It includes the general treatment of women through their pregnancies and birth, including adequate information and education.

Gentle birth includes informed consent, which in turn offers empowerment.

Women deserve the truth before the big event.

The truth is that birth is safer without interventions for both mom and baby.

The truth is that interventions are overused.

The truth is that the US has bad statistical outcome in comparison to other industrialized countries.


So why is it that we should not choose the most gentle birth possible for our beautiful babies?

I have seen Dr. Amy hit hard on other advocates for normal, natural and gentle birth. Why is her time spent in this way?

The 1930's were an incredibly different time Dr. Amy and still many grandmothers did in fact tell the stories of their births to their daughters and grand daughters. Birth in the 30's was often shared within a community. My grandparents were all born at home in the 1930's with Midwives. My great grandmother was a Midwife in her community. Birth was looked at as a normal biological event. GO FIGURE...

Most women TODAY do not know that they can be empowered by their births and that is a cultural problem. That is the reason there are so many of us standing up and saying things need to change. We need to shift the birth horror the women of the US are experiencing into birth beauty and empowerment.

Many Blessings,

Patricia M. Couch

KristelW said...

Ms. Harper:

I highly encourage you to follow the example of Henci Goer at the Lamaze Intl forums and shut "Dr." Amy (it should be noted that she is unlicensed and has been for a number of years) down by not allowing her to use YOUR blog as yet another platform for her hysterical rantings of this absurd crusade she considers herself to be upon.

She has her own blog, her own website, even her own BlogTalk broadcast, yet she is desperate enough for attention and publicity that she keeps trying to hijack the fora and blogs of other people. She's a bored housewife (she doesn't deserve the respect of referring to her as a SAHM) dabbling at playing l'enfant provocateur. Don't allow her to derail YOUR blog to trump up more attention for herself.

She's also a hypocrite.

She runs another Blog titled "Treat Me With Respect" while championing a profession notorious for treating women little better than cattle being shuffled through the chutes at the stockyards.

Why doesn't she tilt at the windmill of her own profession, if she's so concerned about the way women are being treated? Maybe because it's easier to try to bully a small minority than to try to affect change within the goliath of the medical childbirth industry and she knows it. Harassing non-interventionist birth advocates makes her feel "big."

She's not posting to your blog for the purposes of engaging in meaningful debate. She's not acting as a concerned medical professional--she's acting as a loud-mouthed pundit looking for her next publicity stunt. She wants equal intelligent discourse about as much as Ann Coulter does. If you allow her the leeway to do so, she will quickly overrun your blog, because she has nothing else with which to fill her time and because she wants to drive traffic to her own blog and site for profit off the banner ads.

Don't allow her to do it.

sailorman said...

I am curious after reading this:

Are you implying that you believe the experience of birth has an effect on the grown baby during its life?

I'm not talking about INJURIES during birth. Obviously being injured (or not) can affect you later depending on the injury.

But you seem to be implying here that what I might best call the "birth experience" can affect the child at a later life. Or, put in specific terms: You are implying that children, and adults, are different than they would have been had their mothers had different "experiences."

This seems an extraordinary claim. Have you any proof of this?

Nicola L said...


"But you seem to be implying here that what I might best call the "birth experience" can affect the child at a later life. Or, put in specific terms: You are implying that children, and adults, are different than they would have been had their mothers had different "experiences."

This seems an extraordinary claim. Have you any proof of this?"

It's pretty simple, Mr Sailor. If a mother has a traumatic birth of whatever description, whether it be vaginal or surgical, she feels the impact of that for a very, very long time. She may develop PTSD or PND as a direct consequence of her experience, which will obviously impact on her ability to care for and connect with her baby. I know women who were simply incapable of caring for their newborn for the first few days if not weeks of their lives to the point that when they were able to begin bonding with their child, it was extremely difficult for them and even when the child was older and the mother had been at home full time, the child still had a closer connection to whoever had cared for them in those early days, whether it be father, grandparent or whoever.

Can we know how someone would have turned out had a birth taken a different route? Of course not. We can never see the results of what hasn't been done, only the results of what has. But I seriously cannot see why it should take a scientific study to demonstrate that birth is more than just the first day in your baby's life and that the actions surrounding it can impact for years to come, if not a lifetime.

You also might want to check out the research that is being done into drugs used during labour and birth and drug abuse in the child later in life.

Patricia M. Couch said...

Thank you Barbara for all of the work you do not only in the US but Internationally. I hope that you will write soon in your blog about all of the important work you have been doing in Taiwan and your experiences there.

It is so easy for us all to get caught up in the emotions of negativity aimed at the Gentle Birth Movement.

The author of the Oregonian article is planning to do other pieces about birth in her future.

Here is a letter I sent to the author.

Dear Gabrielle,

Your article in the Oregonian today has filled me with a great sadness, it actually brought me to tears.

I don't believe that birth is a competition or an issue of braving the elements.

I believe that if more women understood that we are in a birth crisis in our country that they understood why they may make more educated decisions.

Your article addressed so many angles, yet it missed the most important!!

Maternal health care in our country is being ran into the ground by malpractice fear.

OB/GYN's do not educate their patients about decisions.

We have a cesarean epidemic. First time mom's have a %50 chance of a cesarean birth.
WHY??? Because of the use of unnecessary interventions and the practitioners fear of malpractice.

We have an autism epidemic. Believe it or not many are linking this to maternity care.

We have a fear epidemic. Women are scared to give birth because so many women are having bad experiences.


Birth is important in our culture.

We need to stop this belief in the medical savior and remember that women's bodies are created to give birth. It is only a small percentage that need intervention.

Maybe next time you write and article about birth in Oregon you can really get down the real issues.

How much are women and babies really missing out on?

Here response was...

Dear Patricia,

I do plan on addressing the very high C-section rate in this country,
though it is in fact somewhat lower in the Pacific Northwest. I agree
with you that a culture of fear abounds.

I do think that since women do deliver naturally here at a rate much
higher than the national average, we did hit SOME of the issues. You are
correct to say that C-sections and fear of malpractice is immense. One
of the biggest problems is the difficulty of VBAC providers, which
drives the rate of C-sections higher.

Thanks for writing. Do you mind if I contact you for future pieces?

Gabrielle Glaser

Gabrielle Glaser
Features Writer
The Oregonian
1320 SW Broadway
Portland, OR 97201
503.294.7691 fax

Her email is gabrielleglaser@news.oregonian.com

We must remember that the biggest impact that we can have is by staying positive, moving forward and continuing to put one good intention in front of another.

Barbara your work is important for women all around the world.

Thank you again.

Patricia M. Couch

KristelW said...

Considering the amount of "creative" editing Ms. Glaser did in her article (presenting Ms. Harper's remark out of context, completely ignoring the interview she did with another natural birth mom) I would be VERY cautious how you approach allowing her to use you or your words in any future articles she does, Patricia.

The impression I got from her article is that she has an ax to grind. As Jennifer Gallardo pointed out in her letter to the editor published the next weekend, women opting for pain relief are in the VAST majority, they enjoy media favoritism (when is the last time you saw an unmedicated birth on "A Baby Story"?), they don't get friends, family, and care providers questioning their sanity or accusing them of trying to be "martyrs" and "heroes" for their decision, and their care providers are many times more likely to cooperate with them than with women choosing unmedicated births.

How then is it that they are feeling so bullied and picked upon and victimized by women who make a different choice, to the point where Ms. Glaser felt the need to take up the standard for this poor belittled, downtrodden majority?

I would be VERY cautious before rendering Ms. Glaser ANY assistance.

Maria said...

I'm tempted to reply to some of the falsehoods and erroneous reasoning used by Amy Tuteur, and at the same time I'm inclined to agree with those posters who say that giving this person more attention is really contrary to common sense or good judgment. I suspect attention is the primary desire here, not education.

I will say, as a mental health professional, that there is evidence that the birth experience can affect the lives of babies, for exactly the reasons mentioned. Post partum depression can have serious consequences for the emotional development of a child and a traumatic or disempowering birth experience can definitely contribute to the development of PPD.

To say that in the past no one spoke of empowering birth is a bit of a nonsense for a few reasons. One could be that for most of history women were in control of the birth process, with the support of experienced support such as midwives. There are some very interesting accounts of the morbidity and mortality rates of experienced midwives in the past. (And don't forget, doctors refusal to believe the medical evidence about their transmission of infectious agents to women at birth led to epidemics of "childbed fever" and death rates that midwives did not generally have.)

It is only in relatively recent times that childbirth has become so overly medicalized.

Additionally, women tended to never speak of empowering themselves about anything for much of history. I'd hope we now recognize this for tragedy it was (and is, in all too many cases.) There were laws that enshrined the rights of men to beat and rape their wives, to treat children as property, to ensure women could own nothing if married, etc. So in this case a historical argument is pretty flawed.

I'm encouraged by the Oregonian reporter's response. I do understand that many women feel judged by natural childbirth advocates (and in some rare cases there is judgment out there). However I think we would do well to examine the extreme defensiveness that many women feel about even discussing their childbirth choices, a defensiveness I think is brought about by fear, ignorance, and misinformation, as well as being a way to cope with previous unsatisfactory birthing experiences .

I recently gave birth for the first time (and most likely the last.)

I don't consider myself superior to anyone who had a different birth. I do consider myself very fortunate, however. I had a rather precipitous labor and found the whole experience pretty scary.

I also had the support of an excellent nurse, excellent midwife, and excellent doula. They constantly reminded me and showed me I was safe and I would be ok. If I'd been in a hospital, with the constant medical monitoring, constant threat of intervention, and a mindset that says birth is abnormal until proved otherwise (rather than vice versa) I can guarantee you I would not have felt so safe.

I also know how vulnerable I was during that time and so much of the post partum period. It would be very easy for a medically focused protocol (one based on more fear of lawsuits and dogmatic belief in certain protocol than actual evidence) to have taken over in another environment, and that certainly would have felt extremely traumatic, with the ensuing loss of what little control I felt I had.

Anonymous said...

in answer to dr Amy ...ur staTS dont match with what the rest of the world has... THe lasted is that USA is just behing Cuba !!! haha around the 24 th ranking I think??? just doublle check ok and ohh it got worse the past few years...

Myyyyyy go to CIMS site... u need to be updated to what women want dear... but how can u with spending 15 min for prenatal visits if u r good !!!!

A CNM who loves homebirth yes....

Patricia M. Couch said...

Another very dear friend of mine, Kathie Scott Hill who I worked with for years was also quoted in the Oregonian article.

Kathie as well as Barbara were both interviewed for 3 hours each.

Kathie was quoted about birth plans as saying

"I tell women, 'Think of your birth plan as a tool, not a script,"

"They can be a big setup."

"Women think, 'If I write a plan, and I tell everyone about it, this is how it will go,' "

"Well, you don't go to the first day of a new job with a script. At the end of the day, you're lucky if you know where the bathroom is. Having a baby is the biggest first day on the job ever."

"Lower-income women don't have the luxury of birthing classes, or doulas, or sometimes even the time to think about a birth plan."

...Kathie does have a point. Birth plans are often very rigid. Women choose to write them because they want to have a say in their care. I believe this comes from so many people telling them of all the bad things.

Unfortunately from my hospital experience I have heard many nurses say "CESAREAN WAITING TO HAPPEN" when handed a birth plan. So where is the real problem? In the woman that wants to map out her natural process or in the staff members hostile opinion of her desire to have choices in her own birth?

Maybe if women began calling Birth Plans their Birth Hopes or Birth Wishes. I wish I knew the answer to this. I have seen many women leave the hospital feeling disappointed because their wishes were not respected or even acknowledged...

Barbara was quoted in a positive light her quotes were wonderful.

"I'm a birth cage-rattler,"

"I want women to understand what their choices can mean for a lifetime."

Harper, 55, delivered her first child in an Ohio hospital in 1978, "totally strapped down and vulnerable,"

"I know how spiritual and gorgeous and orgasmic birth can be."

"Babies know how to be born, and mothers know how to give birth,"

"Centuries of feminine wisdom are lost when it is turned over to doctors."

"I do enjoy making women feel guilty,"

"They are so natural the whole pregnancy, eating only organic food and not touching a drop of alcohol, and they'll throw it all down the minute they step into a hospital."

... A cage rattler is often what you have to be to be seen. Obviously traumatized by the birth of her fist child she decided to stand for what she believes to be true. Wanting women to experience the gentle and spiritual side of birth is an amazing journey in itself.
As for making women feel guilty I am not sure how that quote came about. I imagine it was meant as an I enjoy encouraging women to wake up and live the life you live in that natural and organic way. Let nature trickle into all aspect of you’re like including your birth.
Birth is as beautiful as nature gets and in nature natural disasters happen, but few and far between. This is an important concept to think about when seeing our National Cesarean Rate at 30.4%.

There are so many holes in our health care system. Most patients aren't having all of their needs met. Time and finances do not afford many women the luxury of an informed and empowered birth. This is a sad fact. On the other hand we have many women that do have that luxury that do not seek the information out. How can we ensure more women are receiving adequate information to make informed decisions? How can we ensure all women have the support they need to have healthy pregnancies and empowered births?
This is an incredible task at hand.
We can do this one woman, one baby, one family, one birth at a time.

Over the long term, we must think of the children.

As a culture we need to start looking at our lives in a more holistic way. By teaching our children to eat healthy, improving our education system (which includes teaching children to use critical thinking skills), encouraging kindness and compassion which are led me example) the birth models our children choose may be chosen in a more holistic manner (meaning they know that the birth choices they make may affect their children being born).

I don't believe that Gabrielle Glaser's objective was to anger natural birth advocates. Media does however have the ability to cause controversy. This article definitely got people talking.
She stirred the pot. From time to time it is good to stir things up; it helps the wake up process.

Good publicity or bad publicity?

The time is now!!

Jan Tritten sent me an email out to our group in Eugene, the Lane County Birth Network a couple days ago.

Here is the email...

You guys are awesome. Thank you for carrying on this important work. I just got back from speaking at a natural birth conference in Chile. They have a 40%+ cesarean rate and a 100% epidural rate. This 2 day event began a movement that will shake up the country. It was great to meet more inspiring women like all of you half way around the world. Remember Robbie Davis Floyd says if we can reach 20% (who know and act) that will be critical mass and we will win the struggle for mother baby. Hope to see some of you at the conference next week.

LOVE jan

I agree with Jan.

We fill pockets all around the world. I know that my life has a purpose that goes far and beyond me and my family.

I am looking forward to the Midwifery Today conference as well as the Gentle Birth World Congress. Many strong individuals and groups will have the opportunity to meet, gather and gain strength from one another.

I am hopeful for the future.

Many Blessings,

Patricia M. Couch

Claire said...

For my part, if you can do it, waterbirth is the only way to do it! Being able to nap when you're 9cm dilated - and not drugged - is amazing and a gift. Barbara and I have long since been friends and sisters in this mission to give people as natural and gentle a beginning for their baby as possible.
As someone who trained in another non-third-world country, I am frankly disappointed by the trends I see in the US towards increased inductions, instrumental and operative deliveries. This defensive medicine really has to calm down! We should be assessing people as individuals and customizing their care - within realistic limits.
In just the same way that it would be unsafe to put every single woman into a tub of water to deliver her baby - there are those for whom it simply isn't suited - it is unwise and undesirable to increase the intervention we place on what is, at the end of the day, a normal process. Medicalization of childbirth is fabulous for the purposes of screening and intervening in an emergency, but denying a woman the option to "do her thing" in labor is medicalization gone too far. If everything is fine and you're in a hospital environment, why do women have constant monitoring? Research has shown the benefits of ambulation during labor, and the lack of evidence to support constant monitoring. All it does is increase the c-section rates. I am also appalled at the trend towards c-section by request, due to "maternal intolerance of pregnancy", as if being pregnant is an inconvenience.....
I applaud the pioneering work of my friend Barbara, and the likes of Michel Odent, who have shown a way too litigious community that we can offer the choice of normal and natural drug-free childbirth.
Claire-Marie Alvarez

Stephanie Morales said...

Hi Barbara Harper my name is Stephanie Morales, Im a senior at Northeast high school in Philadelphia, PA. And for my senior project I'm doing waterbirths. The procees of waterbirths fascinates me in everyway. But I was wondering if i would be able to interview you for my senior project. You can e-mail me at ghghtd@hotmail.com. Thank you for your time