This past week, Lynn Griesemer, author of Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love appeared on the PBS show To the Contrary. Lynn spoke beautifully about unassisted birth, but I was very disappointed in the discussion that followed. Host Bonnie Erbe and four panelists commented on Lynn's statements, and all agreed that women who choose unassisted birth are selfish and irresponsible.
Below is a letter I sent to Bonnie Erbe. I actually could have written much more, but I suspect I'd be wasting my breath! I can always hope.
To listen to a podcast of the program click here. The segment starts about 19 minutes into the show. While the show was disappointing, I was encouraged by the fact that anyone on American television chose to deal with the subject. Hopefully more shows will follow.
As an unassisted childbirth (UC) advocate, I was pleased to see this subject discussed on “To the Contrary.” Lynn’s comments were excellent, but almost all of the statements made by your panelists were inaccurate, and revealed a misunderstanding of the true sources for the problems some women encounter in birth. I would be very surprised if the panelists researched UC at all. Thankfully most of the women who choose this option have done their research. This is not a decision they make lightly, and it certainly isn’t made for selfish reasons. We believe that for most mothers, UC is the best and safest way to give birth, both for ourselves and our babies.
A case in point: The biggest cause of infant death is prematurity, yet according to Midwifery Today magazine, the biggest cause of prematurity is induction of labor. Doctors are inducing women before their babies are ready to be born. This is only one of the many dangerous and unnecessary interventions taking place in hospitals today. Many studies show that babies that are delivered by C-section have a much higher rate of death than those born vaginally. As you may know, the C-section rate in this country is now over 30%. In addition to the dangers of the procedure itself, recent studies show that babies are having serious health problems as a result of the pain medication given to mothers recovering from C-sections. The medication is passed on to the babies through breastmilk. These babies have already endured drugs during labor, as it is a well-known fact that drugs easily pass through the placenta. So I would have to ask, who is being selfish – the woman who chooses to take drugs in labor fully knowing it will be passed on to her baby, or the woman who chooses a drug-free unassisted birth?
Your question about babies dying in hospitals was promptly dismissed by Dr. Healy. She claimed it rarely happens, yet in truth, babies die in hospitals every hour of every day. They also suffer numerous injuries as a result of medical intervention. Two to six percent of babies are cut during C-sections, others are cut during episiotomies or injured during forceps or vacuum extractions. None of this was mentioned in the segment. Instead hospital birth was touted as safe, and UC was dismissed as dangerous and selfish.
The comments made by Eleanor Norton about birth not being enjoyable were simply wrong. Countless women have enjoyed their births. I encourage her to read the articles and stories in this section of my site.
As far as Dr. Healy’s statement that women who are giving birth to their first child are not doing it unassisted, this too was wrong. Here is the unassisted birth story of my first child, John. There are many women who choose UC for their first birth.
If you truly want to understand the UC movement, I would encourage you to devote another segment to the subject. But this time I would suggest that the panelists research UC, and in the interest of fairness, I would also suggest that you invite a UC advocate on the program who would actually get to respond to their comments or questions.
Bornfree: The Unassisted Childbirth Page