The Business of Being Born, A Review by Dr Claire Raggio Ballinger, the Chiropractor, Gawler, South Australia

Posted on 7th May, 2011 and filed under Homebirth | No Comments

The Business of Being Born: Review by Dr Claire Raggio Ballinger, The Chiropractor, Gawler, South Australia.

This long weekend a doula friend of mine tummytomummy.com.au brought overĀ The Business of Being Born. I thought I’d review it here on my blog. As many of you know it is a documentary produced by Ricki Lake. Ricki had a hospital birth and felt overwhelmed that it was not the experience it could have been and did more research into birth and found an amazing wealth of information that inspired her to have her next baby at home. The movie follows the film-maker, who is by chance pregnant and also follows an independent midwife, attending several relaxed home births.

The movie explores the USA’s shockingly high Caesarian rate and interviews midwives, OBGYNs and members of the WHO (World Health Organisation). Many women are interviewed as saying their reason for requesting a C-section was in order to ‘get it over with’ and similar comments. A history of birth in the USA from the 1920’s (please read http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/childbirth.cfm for more detailed information) is explored. This including the practice of the lithotomy position which is the positon where the woman lies on her back with her leg in stirrups which is painful and reduces the size of the pelvic opening by 30%, but is used in order for the doctor to have a better view of what is going on. The use of early drugs like ether and chloroform is also explored, and the practice of drugging the birthing mother and tying her to the bed so that she would give birth in her drug induced haze and not remember the event. The documentary also tells of the smear campaign that the American Medical Association created to discredit midwives and cause people to fear them as unskilled and dangerous – damage that is still lasting to this day.

The documentary includes Ricki’s successful homebirth, but also ends with the film-maker going into pre-term labour with a baby in breech position, which leads to a caesarian section. The film-maker tells of how this interrupted her bonding and breastfeeding relationship with her child.

The message is clear in this film that birth is a natural event that is needlessly being interfered with. Induction which can cause great pain and faster than normal labours, leading to women requesting epidurals which leads to foetal distress, and then caesarian section is the unnecessary cascade of intervention that interrupts normal birth, but makes lots of money for the surgeons and the hospital. The WHO recognise and admit that the Caesarian rate in the USA is unacceptably high and is driven by fear, convenience and money.

A disturbingly real and sad documentary, but also uplifting that there is an alternative, and that some attitudes are changing for the better. A must see for anyone pregnant and planning for a gentler birth where the mother is in control, not the hospital.

Claire Ballinger

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