… But Isn’t It Really Different Now?
Women have been birthing since the beginning time, right? Birth is birth is birth, right? How different can it be?
How birth is actually experienced is different for each woman even if the parameters are relatively similar. Birth is also not the same from one child to the next for the same mother largely due to her previous experience, or perhaps factors in this particular pregnancy that are not similar to the last one. Geographic location, or where one lives, also has an impact on birth. Homebirth is still considered the norm globally, but in North America the debate continues regarding its safety regardless of the copious research and global evidence which continually highlights positive statistics. Highly industrialized countries have more births taking place in hospitals while developing nations generally experience birth at home, in clinics, and in rudimentary hospitals.
Another factor that changes the way women experience birth is the number of choices and options that women have, or don’t have, locally available. Ceiling hammocks for swaying and traction, drugs, epidurals, cesareans, tubs – all those options make one birth entirely different from the next. Choices also involve primary careproviders; for example, in some rural communities there is only one practicing doctor or midwife while in more urban centers, women have the ability to shop around for the doctor with the best reputation. However something to consider is that generally the intervention/cesarean rates are not part of the reputation equation while women “shop around.”
While North American statistics for interventions, emotional and physical trauma, mortality and morbidity are not good and are not changing, life in the birthing world is better than it was.
- 1900: Women were given chloroform as a form of pain relief.
- 1915 – 1925 (and beyond in some regions): Women were given a morphine-scopolamine mix, often referred to as Twilight Sleep.
- 1945: The majority of babies born in Canadian hospitals were formula fed.
- 1955: Women birthed alone in a room, or contrarily, in a room full of other women. The treatment you received varied widely in the USA and this was based on skin colour.
- 1965: All babies went to nurseries until they went home.
- 1975: Partners were starting to assist during labour as “coaches”.
- 1985: Routine birth care included enema, an episiotomy, and epidural and a pubic hair shave.
- 1995: The substantial amount of research from the late 80’s regarding the purpose and value of labour support had not only emerged but had broken loose. While labour support has always been a practice globally, North America had lost the human aspect of birthing at some point in history. Strange, but true. At this point, some women were choosing doula care for their labours while other women were taking workshops or classes to deepen their understanding of how their bodies worked so their own births would be better.
Here is the big one, though, one of the biggest changes in birth. Since 1995, thousands upon thousands of people have been through doula trainings and have a more innate understanding of the process. The result of all these birth-educated women is that the children of those who have taken a workshop see birth as normal and something to be honoured, as something sacred, as something all mammals do. The current generation is coming into their birthing years with less fear than their mothers AND their grandmothers, and with more options, plans and ideas of what it will take for a positive experience.
According to Jordyn Martinez, 25, an editor and a daughter of a birth activist, “It isn’t that women are GIVEN choices now, but they’re TAKING their right back to birth in the way that they want.” Women are not only planning unmedicated, natural births, but women plan for epidurals and cesareans and that is something that just did not happen until very recently.