Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Business of Being Born, a Review

I recently watched The Business of Being Born as per my Bradley Method teacher's recommendation. I've gotten a lot of flak for being very anti-medical model on this blog, mostly from friends IRL (in real life). This documentary did a lot to reinforce my belief that midwives should be more accessible in the United States.

The statistics that are presented in the documentary are cultivated from valid medical studies whose results reinforce the midwifery point of view but many medical professionals ignore. The scenes where obstetricians share their perspectives were extremely troubling, especially for someone who has done a lot of reading about the hazards of medical perspectives in birthing.

To reinforce the statistics and relate them to real experiences of women in labor there are some fantastic interviews with women who birthed using the medical and the midwife professions. They talk about the cascading effects of medical interventions, about the ways that obstetricians coerce women into further interventions, and about their observations about society's views of childbirth. Some of these interviews are even with women who favor the medical model and argue for scheduled inductions and cesareans.

 I love their emphasis on the snowball effect that comes from the introduction of medical interventions, specifically the use of Pitocin causing the need for an epidural which can stall labor and create a need for more Pitocin, which then puts the baby in distress and creates a need for a C-section.

The documentary does a good job of approaching the myths associated with midwifery and home birth. They follow a midwife to some home visits and even a birth, emphasizing all of the tools that she brings with her, most of which she does not often use but carries for emergencies. 

I would imagine that one of the hardest decisions for the filmmakers was to include the filmmaker's own homebirth which ended in a rush to the hospital and a c-section because of fetal distress. I feel like this inclusion added legitimacy to the documentary by giving it a balance and showing how it is still possible to get needed interventions during a homebirth.

One critique that I have is the inclusion of the 'machine that goes ping' scene from Monty Python:

Although the video is frighteningly accurate, the comedy is not prefaced with the documentarian's reason for including it. Instead of showing how absurd the medical perspective is, I fear that the inclusion of this video just makes those who are pro-midwifery seem like they are getting their information from comedy or that we are overreacting.

I have to say, this documentary has given me much more respect for Ricky Lake. I loved her in Cry Baby, didn't really understand her show, and never realized that she had real passion. Her work through this documentary is amazing.

I will be showing this video to any woman I know who is pregnant and will encourage her to do her own research about the medical and midwife perspectives to childbirth.

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