Posted: Oct 08, 2013 7:00 AM
 
It seems logical that a pregnant woman has the right to choose where and with whom she births her baby, but red tape, bureaucracy and outdated laws often regulate women's birth choices. Across the country — maybe even in your state — women are battling for the right to make their own educated birth choices.
The U.S. ranks 34th in the globe in terms of maternal and infant mortality.

With a world of research right at their fingertips, more women than ever are showing up at the hospital with well-thought-out and thoroughly researched birth plans. Many of those women then find their birth plans disregarded or overruled by outdated medical practice and hospital policy. With the U.S. ranking 34th in the globe in terms of maternal and infant mortality, women are rapidly losing faith in our maternity care system. Some say it’s a crisis, and it’s something that women across the country are fighting to change.

Evidence-based care is essential

Providing evidence-based maternity care means providing care that is based on the highest quality and most up-to-date medical and scientific research. Providing such care reduces the incidence of injuries, complications and death among birthing women and their babies. We have a disconnect in this country between policy and best practice, where routines and hospital protocols are not following what evidence suggests is the ideal treatment for laboring women — and it’s robbing women and their infants of the best possible health outcome when it comes to birth.

We have a disconnect in this country between policy and best practice... and it’s robbing women and their infants of the best possible health outcome when it comes to birth.

Examples of birth practices that are not supported by evidence include:

  • Routine intravenous fluids
  • Restricting a woman’s movement during labor
  • Prohibiting food or drink during labor
  • Routine electronic fetal monitoring
  • Artificial breaking of the waters
  • Acceleration of labor with Pitocin.

Research shows that use of these procedures as standard protocol in the majority of births is not in the best interest of the mother and baby, yet these medical interventions are now considered routine, with nine out of 10 women receiving one or more of these interventions during labor.

Lack of access is a crisis

Lack of evidence-based care in a hospital setting is a huge driving force behind women choosing to give birth somewhere other than a hospital, such as at home or in a freestanding birth center. Currently, midwife-attended out-of-hospital birth is prohibited by law in several states. In some states where out-of-hospital birth is legal, a limited number of care providers make out-of-hospital birth available only to those living in major cities, leaving women in smaller cities or rural areas without access to the type of care that they deserve.


No time to wait for birth reform

Family at Birth Reform Rally Andrea Shandri, Blessings Photography and Birth Services

Amanda Hardy Hillman, Ph.D, is at the front lines of the battle to reform birth in her home state of Iowa. Hillman says that we need to take action now to accelerate the pace of birth reform in this country. She says, “It takes between 10 to 20 years to see science catch up with practice, so the research studies that we’re producing right now are not going to be effectively integrated into maternity care for another 10 to 20 years. We cannot wait — we are in a crisis."

Hillman emphasizes that the fight to improve birth has to be consumer driven, "equipping consumers with information and tools are so essential to what is happening right now. Women will be the change." To take action and improve birth in your state, check out birth advocacy organizations such as Improving Birth to find out how to get involved.

More on birth

Does labor induction cause autism?
How to write a birth plan
Prepare your mind for childbirth

Photo credit: Andrea Shandri, Blessings Photography and Birth Services