Tara - posted on 10/18/2011 ( 270 moms have responded )
While having a baby at home and live online may seem wacky, it draws attention to how rare natural childbirth has become, writes Elizabeth Payne.
Nancy Salgueiro is not crazy. She is tired, very busy and extremely happy, like most new mothers.
But the Barrhaven woman's decision to live-stream her home birth, which took place early Sunday morning without a hitch, while unconventional, was not irrational.
In fact, doctors, nurses, medical students, health policy-makers and prospective parents would do well to watch the recording of baby Oziah's birth, which is available at Salgueiro's website yourbirthcoach.com. It might be one of the few chances they ever get to see a baby born without medical intervention, which is a sad comment on modern health care.
The fact that normal has become the wacky exception when it comes to birth is a problem that gets too little attention. If Salgueiro's decision to bring her baby's birth to a world audience was provocative, that is a good thing. It might just provoke a conversation that is needed about how natural childbirth became something so rare that few people even know what it looks like, including the very people whose jobs it should be to promote and encourage it.
That is why she decided to take the unusual step of welcoming the world into her living room to watch her give birth. An estimated 2,500 people, who had registered beforehand, watched from countries including Brazil, Afghanistan and Australia.
"I want people to realize that birth is not the crisis that (movies and television shows) make it out to be. Birth is just a normal part of life."
Salgueiro, 32, who is a chiropractor and birth educator, says there is a great deal of unnecessary fear surrounding birth. "We are the population with the least faith in our ability to (give birth naturally). Women are totally capable of it, it doesn't need to be managed."
It is a long way from the giant tub Salgueiro and her husband Mike Carreira placed in their Barrhaven living room for last weekend's birth to the operating rooms where growing numbers of Canadian babies are delivered. If there is a lesson to be learned from Salgueiro's live-streamed birth, it is not that everyone should be having babies in their living rooms, but that there has to be a safer, more rational middle ground that swings the pendulum away from the operating rooms and medically intensive births back to something that is both safe and more natural. Salgueiro is right: Women can do it. They just need a little more support from the health system.
And that is often where things fall down, but not for a lack of good intentions.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada has actively campaigned for fewer C-sections and more natural births. In the last few years it has rewritten policy guidelines, including one that said doctors should automatically perform C-sections in cases of breech birth.
"The safest way to deliver has always been the natural way," said Dr. André Lalonde, executive vice-president of the SOGC. "Vaginal birth is the preferred method of having a baby because a C-section in itself has complications."
The problem with the SOGC's new guidelines, which said doctors should not automatically rule out vaginal births for breech babies, was that a whole generation of doctors had never been trained regarding - or even seen - a breech baby (about three to four per cent of term births) delivered any other way than by C-section. They needed training (in some Ottawa cases, with the help of a midwife who had experience) to gain the necessary confidence. And likewise, many doctors have never witnessed a natural birth at home.
While C-sections can save lives, they can also cause problems. The World Health Organization has said no more than 15 per cent of babies should be delivered by C-section. In some parts of Canada the rate is double that, and rising.
What is the solution? While it has been popular of late to blame mothers for the pressure to deliver more babies by C-section, some research has debunked that and suggested a number of systemic factors within the hospital and health system contribute to mothers feeling pressured to agree to C-sections.
Not only is the increasing reliance on medical interventions in birth costly (one estimate says the country's health system would save $25 million if the rate of first-time C-sections was reduced to the amount recommended by the WHO), but they are risky. Compared to vaginal delivery, C-sections bring with them greater risk of cardiac arrest, hysterectomy, infection, fever, pneumonia, clotting and hemorrhaging than vaginal births. There are also more risks to the baby.
And yet, too many needless C-sections and other medical interventions continue to be the new normal for birth in Canada.
Who sounds crazy now?
Elizabeth Payne is a member of the Citizen's editorial board.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
Do you think there should be a shift in the medical field towards a more natural attitude about birth?
How were you talked to about natural birth? Were you planning on natural birth?
Personally I am thankful that here in Canada there is always room for dialogue, for discussion and a review of the way things work, and that the focus is on the health of baby and mom.