What do poetry and birthing have in common? What a question, I say. February 29 is social media action day at the Association of Ontario Midwives, who are busy campaigning for birth centres, so I thought I’d write a hasty and simultaneously long overdue post about why they need our support.
1) Women choosing their babies’ birth place. Women receiving midwifery care currently have two options when it comes to birthing their babies in Ontario: home or hospital birth.
Despite evidence-based, methodologically-sound research demonstrating that home birth is at least as safe as, if not safer than, hospital birth, some women feel safer in hospitals. And midwives are all about making women feel comfortable and confident during their pregnancy and labour, so birth centres offer a happy medium between the cold comforts of a hospital birth and the somewhat daunting, depending on what kind of day you’re having, task of preparing one’s home for birth. (Full disclosure: I planned a home birth for my daughter. The first thing I did after my water broke at 2 a.m. was to try and sleep. The second thing I did was vacuum and scrub the floors in a vain attempt to remove the pug hair.)
Centres would be like birthing hotels run by midwives, complete with cozy décor and birthing tubs– no blue sheets, hospital rails, fluorescent lights, or super bugs. In addition to care during labour, women would receive prenatal and postnatal care.
2) Saving everyone money. Even if you aren’t pregnant, you should care about birth centres because they’ll relieve our beleaguered healthcare system.
Midwives already save the healthcare system tons of dough. The average prenatal, labour, and postnatal care with a midwife costs about $3000. Compare that figure to an uncomplicated vaginal birth in a hospital, which costs $2500 alone, and the savings start to add up quickly. On top of that $2500, women still require prenatal care. Because family doctors rarely catch babies or provide prenatal care these days, most pregnant women are referred to obstetricians, who are specialists trained in high-risk pregnancies and births.
It makes much more fiscal sense for obstetricians to only manage high-risk pregnancies and births. Birth centres would save even more money by keeping low-risk women out of hospitals, first by accommodating the considerable portion of midwifery clients who want a home birth but are a little too uneasy and opt for the hospital (80% of clients currently birth in hospitals), and second by creating more spaces for midwives to practise, thereby alleviating the demand on obstetricians.
Finally, because the infrastructure required for birth centres – buildings, equipment, and midwives – already exists, the start-up costs of birthing centres would be incredibly low. Low investment, big payoff.
3) Meeting the needs of pregnant women. This isn’t a fringe movement. Midwives are in demand, big time. They aren’t women who show up with a rusty kettle and a flask of herbs – they’re medical experts with university degrees in low-risk pregnancy and birth – and word has gotten out. Because most pregnancies are low risk, forty percent of women who want a midwife in Ontario can’t get one. Forty percent! In addition to the financial benefits listed above, imagine the social benefits to our communities as women safely birth the way they want to – “life-changing” is an inadequate adjective for this experience — and also receive six weeks of postpartum support that not only includes breastfeeding help, but emotional support. The postpartum period is biochemical madness. As many as fifty percent of women experience the baby blues, and as many as twenty percent of women experience postpartum depression.
Healthy mamas equal healthy babies equal healthy families equal healthy communities equal healthy world.
You may accuse me of hyperbole or oversimplification. But we’re all born, aren’t we? And yes, I unabashedly heart midwives.
On board and wondering what you can do? Send an e-postcard to Dalton McGuinty, email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) tweet your support (@Dalton_McGuinty and @Deb_Matthews that you support #birthcentres), update your Facebook status, and cajole your friends and relatives to do the same.
My daughter’s birth was difficult. I had the sample pack of birthing experiences, all guided by my incredible midwife: twenty-four (mostly) lovely hours of labouring at home, then fetal tachycardia and a hospital transfer for a stress test, then pitocin and an epidural, and then another seven hours and then my daughter. My daughter. My daughter.
I hope I’m blessed to receive midwifery care for the next baby, whenever he or she comes around. While I’m pretty sure I’d choose home birth again, it’s nice to think there would be another option to consider that would have the wonderful outcome of two healthy human beings.