The Business of Being Born (Review and Opinions!)

First, before I dive into this deep discussion, I have two disclaimers:

1. I’ve never had a baby. Therefore, I have never been in labor. I’m not an expert on this topic. I don’t claim to be. That is why this post is my opinion, not based on experience or fact.

2. I’m not a hippie. I like to do things “naturally” if I find it healthiest for my family. We have free range chickens/fresh eggs, we home-make our bread and all our meals, we live very minimally and frugally, I love to be barefoot (in the summer), and I want a natural birth. But I really wouldn’t consider myself a hippie, and most people who know me wouldn’t either.

So, a couple thoughts on the documentary, The Business of Being Born.

For those of you who have never heard of this documentary, it is a controversial documentary about how hospitals and OBGYN’s are using labor and delivery as a business, not as a way to help empower women during childbirth. The producer, a woman who had both a natural hospital birth and a birth center birth follows several women through their pregnancy, labor and delivery with a midwife. I think 3 out of 4 of the women had home births.

The documentary explains the history of hospital births, and points out that OBGYN’s are not trained to be there for a regular ol’ vaginal birth. They are surgeons, trained for emergency’s that can happen, but often don’t. Because of this, they are either constantly on the lookout for something that could go wrong, even if there is nothing (although it is a very good thing to have someone who knows the signs of something going wrong). However, midwives are also trained to recognize this and know how to deal with it. The documentary also lays out some interesting facts that I never really thought about:

In a hospital birth, the staff want you in and out ASAP. They are running a business, they are being paid per patient, per bed. In a hospital delivery, the doctor will most likely come in after several hours and say something along the lines of “you are not progressing fast enough”. This fast enough is NOT fast enough based on the mothers health or babies health, but on the needs of the hospital and staff.

Which leads to a second fact: medication. After determining that labor is not progressing “fast enough”, a drug is given that speeds up the contractions. It makes the contractions longer and harder, increasing the need for an epidural. Once an epidural is given, it slows the contractions down, causing them to need to give more of the first drug to speed labor up. This continues in a cycle, and can easily lead to maternal and/or fetal distress, then bringing in the need for a C-section. Again, all that points back to the moment that the doctor/nurse said “labor is not progressing fast enough”.

Another little fact: Most c-sections take place at 4 pm and 10 pm. Why? 4 pm- the doctor can be out by dinner time. 10 pm- the doctor can go home to bed. Woah.

Now, after all these horrible facts about how horrid hospital birth is, the whole documentary was not like that. As I said, they followed four women throughout their pregnancies and labors. 3 of these women gave birth at home (ummmm….also, their is no blurring of ANYTHING while they film labor and delivery. Just a warning, if you are watching with other people, the woman’s fully naked body is shown.), and their births were absolutely beautiful. The fourth woman, however, went into labor 5 weeks early. The baby was breech, so the midwife immediately took her to the hospital where a c-section was performed. I really appreciated that the documentary did not say “Home birth is the ONLY way.” or “Natural vaginal birth is the ONLY way.”

Instead, it said, “In the US, we have learned to associate natural labor and vaginal birth with FEAR. We go in wanting to get out of it, or make it as easy as possible. Instead, labor and delivery can be seen as a natural thing that the body will do, and it can be beautiful. Painful? Absolutely! Are their risks? Yes. Are we uninformed? Yes.”

I do highly recommend this documentary to anyone who is planning on having a baby. I don’t think that natural birth or home birth is the only way to go. If a pregnancy is high risk or has many complications, please don’t feel like you are doing something wrong to not deliver vaginally or naturally. However, I do think that we are not fully knowledgeable of this process,  and we as pregnant women can live in fear of labor and delivery, not letting our minds become prepared for this huge event.

For those of you wondering, if all goes according to plan, I will be delivering at a local birth center. It is connected to a hospital, but I hopefully won’t need that option. I’m sure I’ll be keeping all my faithful readers updated on that process. I am currently having all my prenatal care done by a team of 3 midwives and 2 OBGYN’s. I see each of them throughout my prenatal care, and then when I go into labor, the one who is on call will help me deliver. I will also have a Douala present. Like I said at the beginning, I really have no clue what I am doing. God could have totally different plans for me than the ones I am carefully laying out and researching. If anything goes wrong, I will not hesitate to involve a hospital or a doctor. However, I think that being informed is one of the most powerful things I can do at this point in my pregnancy. If you have questions, feels free to shoot them my way. I would be happy to try and answer whatever I can!

The documentary The Business of Being Born can be found on Netflix.