Who Are the Statistics?

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 83, Autumn 2007.
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According to the Listening to Mothers II survey conducted in 2005, four in 10 women had their labors induced and 47% were augmented with Pitocin. Women are given epidurals, they are catheterized, they are forced to birth on their backs and nearly 30% have their babies cut out of them.

Let’s personify this crime: Who are the traumatic birth statistics? They could be you, your mother, sister, wife, friend or best friend. How much damage is done to these women, their babies, the rest of their families and our society? We will never know. Contained within those numbers on paper or on a computer screen are the God-created, incredibly important women we all know and love. These women—beautiful, needed and meaningful to those who love them—are struck down, incapacitated and forever damaged at the time they should be experiencing their greatest creation, their greatest miracle.

Thinking in terms of statistics is easy, but when we personalize birth injury it is a completely different herstory, and I really mean her story. Almost one in three having their babies cut out of their beautiful bellies instead of experiencing their highest calling to motherhood is an abomination.

Up to 98% of US women and/or babies receive iatrogenic injuries. Some of these injuries may be subtle, caused by lack of support or respect, early cutting of the cord, separation of motherbaby or unkind words. Most are deep, deep wounds that cause much damage. The aftermath of birth injury ranges from autism in the child to death or maiming for both mother and baby. Depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in mothers who should be happy and high is so prevalent that practitioners of mainstream medicine think it is normal! This is a pandemic among women having babies—mothers, cousins or friends who may be walking around with permanent injury. The baby has injury without memory. What are the effects of that?

How dare we—for money or because we are afraid of losing a job by violating protocols—allow this to happen to mothers and their babies? Each baby counts on her/his mother’s well-being for the highest level of nurturance and care for his/her own well-being. Is it any wonder we have such a wounded society? What really are the effects on this child and mother? Is this the root of the “mommy wars” where stay-at-home moms and working moms are at battle? Are women detaching in some subtle way in the pregnancy, birth and bonding? Are teen suicides a possible result of our traumatic birth ways? What will the future hold as the cesarean rate continues to race upward?

Who do we work for: motherbaby or “the man”? How can we strive to be “midwives in partnership with women”? The whole idea of having a natural, uplifting, ecstatic birth is part of good holistic health. Being spiritually, emotionally and physically whole is a goal of childbirth, as is having a healthy mother and baby. To reach these goals, women need power and choice in their births, but they also need to know the potential adverse outcomes of medicalized birth. They need to know what choices are possible and know them without unfounded fear. As I have said before: We are afraid of the wrong things.

So, again, who are the statistics? She is a beautiful, holy mother loved by God, her family and her friends. She may read books, garden, help her neighbor and feed the poor. She may be an artist, a runner and an avid recycler. She may be Muslim, Christian or Buddhist. Regardless of who she is and where she lives in the world, her chances of being damaged or traumatized in birth are probably near 99%.

This is a battleground and mothers and babies are the gun fodder. This must stop. Global warming may make our world physically uninhabitable, but battering mothers is making it spiritually and emotionally uninhabitable. We know that the hand that rocks the cradle controls the world, and now that hand belongs to the irresponsible, mendacious medical community and the corporatocracy. Imagine cutting a woman open for no reason other than power and money. This is criminal.

We all must do what we can to change this because mothers and babies are dying, being damaged and starting off wrong. The scars are similar to those of the soldier home from war. It affects a mother’s whole life, even if subtly. As Eldridge Cleaver said in the 60s, “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem”; and you who are reading this are part of the solution. Do what you are called to do—serve women and babies with all of your heart, mind and soul, and in so doing you will serve God as well. Help the world one baby, one mother at a time. Don’t let women in your care or sphere of influence go into birth without protection. The world has changed; the pitfalls are too many and begin, for the woman having a normal birth, when she walks out the door of her home to give birth. Even getting prenatal “care” can be dangerous, with ultrasounds, unnecessary testing and other procedures that can poison the prenatal environment.

Teach women to trust birth and question everything being done to them. Teach them to protect their babies and themselves. Teach them to love their pregnancies, their bodies and their babies. Teach them that they are having a miracle. Your role as a midwife, doula or birth activist is very important because few of us have this knowledge and we have a responsibility to change the world. As Carla Hartley says, “Birth is safe; interference is risky.”

Toward Better Birth,

About Author: Jan Tritten

Jan Tritten is the founder, editor, and mother of Midwifery Today magazine and conferences. Her love for and study of midwifery sprang from the beautiful homebirth of her second daughter—after a disappointing, medicalized first birth in the hospital. After giving birth at home, she kept studying birth books because, “she thought there was something more here.” She became a homebirth midwife in 1977 and continued helping moms who wanted a better birth experience. Jan started Midwifery Today in 1986 to spread the good word about midwifery care, using her experience to guide editorial and conferences. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies in the United States and around the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world!

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