Ethics in Birth Care
We now know so much more about overall health and the seeding of a healthy microbiome at birth that it would be unethical not to have the mother and baby skin-to-skin and undisturbed unless there is a life-threatening emergency. We find in life that many of the things we used to believe are not true anymore. We can really only take responsibility for what is known. The benefits of a healthy microbiome are now well known, and birth practitioners fail mothers and babies when they do not facilitate the best foundation for a healthy life.
Michel Odent wrote a great article for our next issue of Midwifery Today magazine where he talks about all of this in detail. He concludes that the best place to have a baby is in the mother’s home where her microbes flourish. We homebirth midwives are at a great advantage here but it is also important that we facilitate what we know. Since most babies are born in hospital, it is of utmost importance that practitioners there figure out the best ways to help families facilitate this right to a healthy microbiome!
~ Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today
Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.
The Voice of Reason
“Good luck with that cesarean section problem,” said my webmaster as he posted the beautiful home water birth photos of mother Kalista and baby Loki with father Trace and sister Sophie immersed in love, joy and newborn water. “It seems we were talking about that problem 30 years ago.” Yep, he’s right. We were.
By 2013, ACOG had released their new definitions for gestation, making 40 weeks term and paving the way for inductions at 39 weeks. California-licensed midwives received news of tighter restrictions for homebirth. National and world statistics worsened for infant and maternal mortality making it seem reasonable to move toward higher requirements for birth worker education and tighter control for standards in childbirth. ACOG seems to be the voice of reason.
I, however, am the voice of another reason. In all these rulings, standards, guidelines and laws, the voice of the mother is rarely seen as the expert. Her final knowing and final word ought to stand firm above the knowing of others about her; this is a human rights issue. As we midwives started to create a tiny space to serve mothers, serve our callings and serve ourselves without being thrown into prison, we thought the mother’s voice was heard through our midwifery voice; this was our initial mistake. The Cherokee made the same mistake in calling all men brothers as the foreign foot stepped onto this land. Another’s voice can never replace the one to whom actions are being taken or suggested, especially when the action is insisted upon with threats of death. This is why one must go deep and quietly into the presence of birth to see what miracles are possible.
In his latest book, Childbirth and the Future of Homo Sapiens, Michel Odent concludes, “Let us work as if it is not too late.” Some may work for legislation, others for research, some with colleagues and some with mothers, but may all work with heart and soul with little thought of self and much thought of the seventh generation. I have many passions, but intellectualizing and standardizing birth is not one of them. So I am the voice of undisturbed birth and I am saying, “Stop frightening birthing mothers.” May we learn how to speak our truths without frightening others and without frightening ourselves.
Meanwhile, I wonder, why can’t we see that the way we are handling birth and the very real correlating outcomes are making things increasingly worse? Who cares how much more qualified, educated, scientific, evidence-based, equal or superior we have all become if we as a collective motherhood and as a collective midwifehood are more afraid of birth and, therefore, act accordingly. I’m not sure anyone with any education or training is best suited to be with a birthing mother. If a mother can somehow escape the claws of a professional, she ranks in the numbers of those women who are birthing the last free human beings on our planet—the last human life free from needles, machines, drugs, plastic, spotlights and the coercion of fear.
The right to decline treatment, seek a second opinion, seek alternative therapies and change care providers is a human right available to all, including pregnant women. It is a bogus right if, when exercised, a woman is made to feel that she is stupid, irresponsible and dangerous to her own offspring. The use of threats, coercion, bullying, demeaning language and looks, withdrawal of care and downright meanness are used every day against the women who carry the future of their families and the future of our species inside their wombs under their heart near their instinctual nature. The right to humane treatment is more visibly applied to endangered species of zoo animals than to pregnant women.