Childbirth in Crisis? Ricki Lake Thinks So

Health & Wellness on 07.14.11
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Image Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Painted Turtle

Yesterday, Ricki Lake spoke to People.com about her upcoming release of More Business of Being Born, a follow-up to her acclaimed yet controversial documentary (The Business of Being Born) focusing on the state of childbirth and maternity care in the United States. In the interview, Lake talks about her hopes that her work on both films will inspire women to educate themselves on the choices they have when it comes to childbirth, so they don't have a lackluster or traumatic experience.

I hadn't yet seen the first installment, but I do remember it was panned by critics for the thrashing it gave hospitals and doctors. But with Lake's insistence that the film was not a lecture on midwives or home births, but rather an education on what's available, my interest was piqued. So, it was with some trepidation and an admitted chip on my shoulder at the thought of someone telling me my choices were wrong (hospital, doctor, epidural) that I sat down yesterday afternoon to watch it.

After seeing the film, I'm not sure it was all Lake promised it would be. For the most part, the documentary focused on midwives, home births, and a natural experience, all extremely valid and beautiful choices if that's what you choose for yourself and your child. As for the rest of it, I was horrified by the stories they shared regarding OB/GYNs and hospitals.

They told of doctors who push drugs and C-sections in order to free up beds and make it home for dinner. They also made the case that many doctors are in cahoots with big insurance companies making it difficult to pay midwives for their services because there's too much competition. And they spoke of the dangers that hospitals pose, and how unhealthy -- mentally and physically -- it could be for the mother and the child.

I have no doubt that everything they said is true -- to an extent. I'm sure the experiences they chronicled in the film happen all the time. What disappointed me was that it was only one extreme or the other. Either you had an amazing experience at home with a midwife, or you went to the hospital and were drugged and forced to deliver too fast in order to make a buck.

I had an amazing experience, too. I delivered my daughter at a women's center attached to a hospital with the same doctor I've been seeing for 10 years. I was encouraged to walk, move around, change positions often, and was even given the option of a water birth (something featured heavily in the film). I was in labor for 24 hours and I pushed for three. I was never once made to feel like we needed to speed up the process, nor did the subject of a C-section come up because birth was taking too long. When she was born, my doctor laid her on my chest while my husband cut the umbilical cord, the same process as in all of the home births in the film. And she wasn't whisked off to a nursery; she stayed in my room with me until we checked out days later.

I'm sure there are many women out there that would like to deliver somewhere in the middle of those extremes like I did, and I hope they have an experience as wonderful as I did. I wish Lake and her team had explored more than just the horror stories of a hospital birth.

In the next installment, which she's hoping to release in October, Lake will focus her attention on VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), as well as interview several celebrity moms about their experience, among them Alanis Morissette and Gisele Bundchen. Maybe exploring more topics will bring more of a middle ground to the follow-up documentary.

What did you think of the film? Did it change your opinion on how to deliver?

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Orgasmic Birth: Trading Pain for Pleasure : Parentbales
Shhhh! Kelly Preston Schedules a "Silent" Birth -- Wait, Is That Even Possible? : Parentables