Some time ago I wrote a post about medical control as acceptable, in which I pondered the question of why do we care about birth, if many birthing women themselves don't really seem to care? Why do we make it any of our business what other women choose to do with their births?
Well, I've been doing some thinking and here is my list of why I care:
- Because women are suffering--birth trauma is real--see organizations like Solace for Mothers--and postpartum mood disorders are very common.
- Because babies are suffering--late pre-term births are increasingly common, many babies experience at least some post-birth separation from their mothers (which is not their biological expectation), and many babies spend time in the NICU. Infant mortality rates, especially for minority babies, are higher than in other industrialized countries.
- Because breastfeeding is suffering and thus public health is suffering (see my previous article on the birth-breastfeeding continuum)
- Because the physical costs of our current birth model are high--morality and morbidity rates are higher than necessary due to high volume of cesareans and many physicians and hospitals do not practice evidence-based care--continuing to deny laboring women food and drink and continuing to use Cytotec for inductions for example.
- Because the financial costs of our current birth model to society are high--birth is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Some maternity care facts from CfM:
- Over four million births in the US each year (26.4 births per 1000 women aged 15-44 years in 2004).
- Second most common reason for hospitalization of women.
- Care for mothers and babies combined rank 4th for hospital expenses.
- Hospital costs for deliveries mounted to more than $30 billion in 2004. More than 30% of births by cesarean section. ranking seventh highest total on the "national bill" for procedures (over $17 billion per year).
- Of all births, 99% take place in hospitals, 90% are attended by obstetricians.
- Over 6 million obstetric procedures are performed – the most common category of surgical procedures.
"The percentage of births paid for by Medicaid varies from state to state but can be as high as 50% or more in some states. Coverage by all insurers (Federal government, Medicaid, private, HMOs, etc.) varies; many will not reimburse for OOH births, and when midwives are covered, the reimbursement rate is only a percentage of the rate for physicians. We all pay for births, including unnecessary interventions and preventable complications and injuries, through our taxes, health insurance withholding, and individual policies."
- Because women's birth memories last a lifetime (see Simkin, Not just another day in a woman's life).
- Because women deserve better.
- Because I know in my heart that birth matters for women, for babies, for families, for culture, for society, and for the world.