Promoting A Gentle and Informed Birth Culture

Photo by Adrian Bois

You will often hear me say that my goal as a doula is to promote a gentle and informed birth culture. As I’ve said before, I believe our birth culture is in need of a shift towards a model that is more respectful of women, their bodies and their choices.

What Does Gentle & Informed Birth Culture Mean?

The physical and emotional impact it has on women and their families can be far reaching, with the power to run the range from incredibly empowering or deeply traumatic.  The goal of Birth Takes a Village is to promote a birth culture that allows for as many women as possible to remember their births as positive experiences, and in turn contribute positively to the long-lasting impact birth has on women and their families. I believe creating a gentle and informed birth culture is an important step towards creating positive birth experiences.

Informed: Women have the right to access accurate and up-to-date information about their options in regards to birth. Here in Vancouver, we can choose home births or hospital births, doctors or midwives, and have the option of choosing from a wide range of doulas if desired. Women deserve to be well-informed about the choices available to them, and to be active participants in their maternal health care. While in some social circles, people may seem to be aware of the options and resources available to them, I meet women every single day who do not, and that needs to change.

Gentle: It is extremely important that the choices women make in regards to pregnancy and birth are heard and respected by supportive care providers. You might want to assume this is already the norm, but sadly, even here in Canada, it is not. There is an incredibly high incidence of psychological or emotional problems that are the result of feeling bullied by their care providers into making choices they do not wish to make.

Why Is Shifting Birth Culture Important?

Impact Of Birth On Physical & Emotional Health

The experience a woman has during childbirth can have a huge impact on her physical and emotional health, as well as that of her new child. The number of women who have negative birth experiences is currently much too high!

According to www.vancouverbirthtrauma.ca, the two factors that lead to women having negative or traumatic experiences of birth are:

  • The use of unnecessary medical interventions during birth, which very often cause more harm than good and can lead to difficult labours and poorer birth outcomes
  • Feeling disrespected or abused by medical staff. 

*If you are currently pregnant, I would suggest you consider avoiding  birth trauma stories or negative births stories. Surround yourself with positive birth stories and information, lots of good quality support, and choose your care providers and doula carefully, and you will be much more likely to have a positive birth experience.

Dr. Kalina Christoff, founder of the Vancouver Birth Trauma website, is currently part of a team researching the factors that contribute to birth experience. The study involves completing an online questionnaire before and after birth. If you would like to be part of this important study, please contact me, or visit me at Burrard Pharmasave in downtown Vancouver for a brochure. You can also visit the birth study’s website.

Creating An “Ecological and Sustainable” Childbirth System.‎

“The humanization of childbirth does not represent a romantic return to the past, nor a devaluation of technology. Rather, it offers an ecological and sustainable pathway to the future.” ~ Ricardo Herbert Jones, Obstetrician 

Having access to the midwifery model of childbirth frees up medical doctors and obstetricians to deal with what they were actually trained to do: manage medical problems or complications. Dedicating medical technology and specialized medical staff to healthy, normal births is not only unnecessary and often harmful, but it also is extremely costly! Training more midwives and having access to midwifery care, in Canada and across the globe, saves these medical resources for people who truly need them, allowing healthy pregnancies and births to be assisted by professionals who are experts in supporting healthy births.

How Am I Working Towards Promoting This Shift In Birth Culture?

Spreading Free Information & Awareness About Birth Online

My friends affectionately call me the hippy of the group and sometimes accuse me of despising technology. I will admit I prefer having friends and colleagues ‘round for dinner to chatting with them over facebook, and that I personally imagine I would rather birth under a tree (well, okay, at least in my own home) than with all the technological wonders you receive during a hospital birth. Note: That being said, I am a huge advocate of women making whichever birth choice is right for them. You can read more about my philosophy of home birth vs. hospital birth in Do Doulas Trust Women?

However, I am bit of a junkie when it comes to using social media technology for sharing birth information. I love how easy it is to connect with other women and birth professionals, sharing knowledge, experience and the latest research on maternal health care. I also love being able to provide support to women who are looking for resources to help them make educated decisions about their pregnancy and birth choices.

I strive to share positive and accurate information on my facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages, and really value the community of people that I’ve been able to engage with online. It’s a great, free, easy way to keep myself informed and share important and positive information I come across.

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Building Community

Part of the Birth Takes A Village goal is to create community-based support, something I think is lacking in our culture. One of the most rewarding projects I’ve taken on so far in my birth career has been the creation of the Birth Takes A Village Community Birth Group. The group focuses on building connections between pregnant women and experienced moms, encouraging them to share  knowledge, experience and support on a peer-to-peer level.

Traditionally, knowledge about birth was passed down by women on a community level. Our birth culture has shifted towards a system where women mainly have to rely on paid professionals for advice and support during pregnancy and birth. This is fine for when there are complications in pregnancy and we need medical advice. However, for something that is such a natural part of the female life cycle, I think we really need to have more information about pregnancy and birth in the general community.

Our group meets once monthly in Vancouver, and gets bigger every time. It is so rewarding to build friendships with these women and see them sharing their experiences and knowledge in a warm and friendly environment. We also have guests join us periodically, providing us with their expertise on topics like pelvic floor health and prenatal nutrition.

You can read more about this community group on the Birth Takes a Village website, or visit us on meetup.com. If you are from outside Vancouver and want help setting up a group in your own area, feel free to contact me!

Providing Affordable Birth Doula Services and Prenatal Classes Here In Vancouver

I wrote a blog post a few months ago called Does Birth Take A Wealthy Village?. I certainly believe it should NOT. Birth resources and information should be accessible to everyone, not just women who are part of the birth community or who can afford to hire professionals for support. This is why I spend so much time organizing the free community group, posting free articles to my blog, and sharing birth information online.

I also strive to provide my professional services at reasonable and fair prices.

Are You Promoting A Gentle And Informed Birth Culture In Your Community?

I want to hear about it! Share your contribution in the comments section below.

Click here to return from Promoting A Gentle and Informed Birth Culture to the Birth Takes A Village Home Page. 

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  1 comment for “Promoting A Gentle and Informed Birth Culture

  1. Kim
    January 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Jessica I love what you do and who you are and think you are amazing with technology and social media.  I believe I am promoting an aspect of informed birth – I hone in specifically on core function helping educate women on diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction.  Tearing is a major concern of many women and not enough attention is paid to helping women prevent some of the dysfunction that can be caused by birth no matter how ‘natural’ that birth is.  A woman can have a midwife, a doula, a homebirth in a birthpool with no tearing and still have dysfunction afterwards.  It is about providing the information gently to women during pregnancy so they are informed and know the best way to prevent and treat any issues they have postpartum and get the help they need.

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