Last night, like thousands of others around the world I attended a screening of "Freedom For Birth". I met some wonderful people with beautiful souls. It only saddens me that we met over a film that shows the truth of birth worldwide - and that that truth is that women are being denied the basic right to choose what is done with their body, being denied the right to birth where they feel safe and comfortable. Those that persevere in their desire to have a normal physiological birth are subject to accusations of child abuse or neglect, and the midwives that support them become subject to criminal charges.
Having autonomy over your own body is a basic human right. This right is often violated when it comes to women giving birth. You may think that in the UK we are lucky, we have the NHS, we have choices, that we should be grateful we have such resources and therefore use them. However, pregnancy and birth has become such a medical model that women are not aware of what their bodies are capable of, what their rights are. The freedom of information is not available to enable women to feel empowered in their ability to birth. Thus the medical model is followed and doctors are blindly trusted. Women are denied the right to birth how and where they want to because the medical profession says they "can't".
Do not get me wrong, I am more than aware that there are times when interventions and cesarean sections are life-saving actions. If a woman feels most comfortable and safest birthing in a hospital, I will support that 100%. But it has become such that pregnancy is treated as an 'illness' that must be 'cured'. In modern times we are so scared of litigation that women are being asked to sign waivers relinquishing doctors of responsibility should something happen to mother or baby in order to have the birth that they want. The whole process is led by fear.
"It's not consent if you make me too scared to say NO."
Fear stops birth in it's tracks. When the body is in a state of fear, muscles cannot work properly. The body's hormonal response to stress and fear is the release of cortisol. Cortisol inhibits the release of oxytocin - the hormone that kick starts labour and works in a positive feedback system with the body to keep labour progressing.
Women who do not have that innate confidence in their body's ability to birth, who haven't been provided with the information to understand the true process of birth, women who naively (but understandably) believe that their doctor has their best interests at heart are more easily coerced into agreeing to interventions, submitting themselves to doctors choices over where (hospital, birth centre, home), how (vaginally, surgically, in water, with/without drugs) and when (don't get me started on 'due dates') they should give birth.
There are some fantastic doctors and midwives out there who support women and empower them to make their own choices. Unfortunately, they are working in a system where funding, time management and resources are valued over a woman's right to choose.
The aim of this film is to bring awareness to the fact that women have these CHOICES. Women have these RIGHTS. You can choose what you do and do not consent you. You have the ability to do your own research before consenting to or declining any treatment you are prescribed.
This is not about dismissing the medical model, or medical professionals. As I have said there are some fantastic professionals out there. They have trained for years and have the knowledge that enables them to deliver your baby safely in the event of any complications and have been able to reduce maternal death rates dramatically. It's about understanding that there are always two sides to a story. It's about understanding that pregnancy is not an illness, it's a journey and you have the right to choose the path you take.
A woman's body was designed to give birth. Have faith in that ability and the things you can do to support it.
I am sure there will be times during my Midwifery training when I doubt myself and my ability to work 'with' the system. When I will feel ostricised and even penalised for my belief that we should be empowering women. However, as a very wise man once said:
"Be the change you wish to see in the world" - Mahatma Ghandi
For more information about the film, visit Freedom For Birth
To find out how you can help change maternity services for the better, visit AIMS