Open any website these days and you’ll find women ranting about how their access to birth control is becoming limited (although that’s a misnomer anyway; it’s not access, it’s whether or not insurance companies are paying for it. And as always there are clinics for women who have no insurance or cannot afford the co-pay where they can get birth control. Which isn’t healthy anyway, but that’s another discussion).
There’s a huge fight right now between proponents of Obamacare, who are trying to mandate that any and all employers cover birth control, regardless of their beliefs about it, those who believe it’s a fundamental human right to have birth control covered; and those who believe that in the name of religious freedom, companies or people who don’t believe in birth control shouldn’t have to cover it.
I see so many problems with this, I don’t even know where to start.
Why is birth control somehow synonymous with “women’s health” and some kind of panacea? Why is it that birth control makes women free and gives them everything they could ever want? Or so it appears, from the way these people keep fighting over it. Of course, there are so many issues surrounding birth control that are never mentioned — the health drawbacks, for one. It’s also only one tiny piece of women’s health, which is the part I find most baffling. Why do we care so much about one little thing, when there are much bigger issues?
Take home birth.
There was a shockingly whiny, ridiculous article about a “case for hospital birth” in The Atlantic. In my opinion, they should be embarrassed to even have published it. It’s a personal story — of one incident, that was actually handled properly — from one doctor about how much home birth transfers annoy him and that it’s clear, from his “training” and experience that no women should ever have home births. He ought to be embarrassed for having written it, too, and passing it off as “news.” Unbiased, it is not.
Why Women Choose Home Birth
Did you know that when I’m pregnant, I wander my large homestead property wearing my super long hair in braids, and I dress only in muu-muus? I chant “ohm” daily as I rub my stomach and whisper affirmations to my baby. I drink strange concoctions of herbs to nourish my baby and make birth painless. Oh, and my house is lit only with candles because modern electricity is evil (solar panels power my laptop just so I can bring this blog to you…) and I would scream and hiss if a doctor ever came near me. I’d have a homebirth no matter what because it’s natural and I just really want to get in touch with my foremothers.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that, per se. If you want to live on a homestead, dress in muu-muus and meditate over your baby daily, please do! What I’m objecting to is the stereotype that any and all women who consider or choose home birth must be this way. The idea that any modern, educated woman would wisely and deliberately choose a home birth because she felt it was healthier and safer for both her and her baby is ludicrous to doctors.
I get so weary of arguing with people who have no facts, but simply say, “Those stupid hippie mothers who just want to be in touch with their feelings…don’t they know moms and babies used to die in child birth?”
Sure they did. Before people washed their hands, and before we had medical help for serious complications. These days we’ve just substituted “die” for “suffering post-traumatic stress disorder due to unnecessary interventions forced upon women.” Sure, it’s better to be alive, but if a woman is suffering from depression or other mental issues while trying to parent a newborn, is that actually healthy?
Here are some facts about women who choose home birth (in my experience, this is not a scientific study):
- They have carefully weighed all their options — which vary by location, medical history, etc.
- They care supremely about their baby’s health and safety (this is true of any woman, regardless of her birth choice)
- They wish that there was an OB/birth center who was supportive and non-judgmental available to them for back-up, if needed
- They believe is a natural process and needs to be generally left alone…
- BUT are aware of signs and symptoms of problems, and are perfectly willing to seek intervention when needed
It’s so important to realize this. Women do not choose home birth out of some misguided hippie notion. They choose it because they believe it is best for their babies and themselves.
What’s Wrong with the System?
One thing that ‘the system’ is not doing is looking at its own role in this situation. To hear the mainstream talk, they are absolutely baffled why women are suddenly choosing home birth in much larger numbers. They believe they are providing, as always, top-quality care and that women are “lucky” to have such an advanced health care system.
Women are lucky that these options are available to them, if they need it. They are not lucky that these “wonderful” interventions are forced on them because managed birth has become normal. Interventions — of any variety — should be used with caution and where needed, and everyone would celebrate them. It’s simply that they overstep their bounds. (And yes, the insurance companies’ pressure and the threat of malpractice lawsuits isn’t helping matters — the whole system is broken.)
Women are choosing home birth now because:
- The c-section rate is 33%, and in some areas, much higher. That’s totally unacceptable. (WHO calls for no higher than 10%, and most midwives have a rate of 2 – 4%.)
- Women are frequently scared into early inductions for reasons like “the baby might be too big” or “your fluid might be low” or “you’re past your due date!” None of which are necessarily valid reasons.
- Early induction means that ‘failure to progress’ is more likely, and c-section is more likely
- Women are forced into continuous monitoring
- Lying still in bed (as required with continuous monitoring) increases the need for pitocin, and an epidural
- Pitocin increases the likelihood of an epidural because of increased pain
- Most women are told to push while on their backs, with their bottoms in the air. This leads to longer pushing, a greater risk of tearing and/or episiotomy, and a greater risk of forceps/vacuum delivery (due to the pelvic opening being smaller by about 30%)
- These practices in the majority of cases are NOT evidence-based; they are “hospital procedure” or “doctor convenience”
- Women are not actually informed of the risks/benefits to each care option, they are simply told what “procedure” is and encouraged to just follow it
The bottom line? Women don’t have a choice. They are told, however gently, “This is how we have babies. Deal with it.” Women aren’t really objecting to the treatments; they’re objecting to the lack of choice.
There is no informed consent here! With informed consent, a doctor says to a patient, “This is what the situation is. These are your options. These are the risks and benefits to each. This is what I recommend you choose. Now what do you want to do?” That’s almost never what happens.
Image by koadmunkee
Why This Matters
Some women will never consider home birth. And that’s fine — it is not for everyone. It is for those who strongly feel that, given their research, it is the best option for them and their babies. Realistically this will remain a fairly small percentage and there is nothing wrong with that.
But women who don’t want to choose home birth should still care, because it is part of a larger health issue: do we have the right to choose our care?
And this extends to any and all health care issues: do we have the right to choose birth control or not (and be informed of the true risks/benefits of choosing it, rather than celebrating it as a women’s liberation issue — it is a drug, everyone, not freedom)? Do we have the right to choose where we get our OB care? Do we have the right to choose where our babies are born?
Outside of women’s health, do we have the right to choose vaccines — or avoid them? To get or avoid drugs? What food to consume, even? Raw milk is still illegal and farmers are being prosecuted for selling it, even if they are using herdshares or other legal methods. How do we have the right to consume dangerous processed foods, alcohol, cigarettes…but not raw milk?
It’s time to stop focusing on just one freedom issue — birth control, for example — and start focusing on the issue as a whole: do we have the right to make our own choices, free from bullying and oppression? When we’re arguing about “women’s rights,” why don’t we argue for the right to choose anything for ourselves? To stop society that wants to tell us what all the answers are? Everyone is affected by this in some way.
I just get so annoyed when I see everyone focusing on whether or not insurance companies will cover birth control. Home birth isn’t even legal in many areas; forget about insurance coverage! Some women have to hope they don’t “get caught,” lest the police or CPS are called and they lose custody of their newborn (it’s rare, but it happens). Why are we sweeping this under the rug? Worse, why are some women who are heavily advocating for birth control to be covered also against other women being able to choose home birth? All women should have a choice. We, the parents make the decisions — not other individuals, and certainly not the government!
The Bottom Line
The government needs to stop legislating what is “appropriate” health care and what is not. It needs to stop telling us what we can do with our bodies and our babies. The decisions — and the consequences of those decisions — lie with each of us.
Next time an issue comes up, rather than fighting about that issue and drawing lines and sides, with people who make different choices and hold different beliefs fighting against each other, maybe we can unite and fight to have our rights, to have our freedoms. That’s the real issue.