Labor Day: Improving Birth

Warning: This post has graphic imagery and content

Today is Labor Day. It’s a day chosen by birth activists to rally to Improve Birth in dozens of states. Although it’s a national movement there is a rally here in Tempe that anyone can join in.

The rally’s theme is Break the Silence which is an effort to bring awareness to abuse and trauma in childbirth.

This video posted on Facebook this week is a graphic example of how easy it is for those in positions of power to abuse women in their most vulnerable moments.

I didn’t share this video because I hate doctors, or because I hate men. It’s not because I hate seeing women in the high stirrups, or because I hate episiotomies. I shared this video because I hate that women are being abused while giving birth.

It is important that everyone see what happens in the labor room. I shared it because it makes it clear that women should be listened to and respected.

This woman was clearly refusing a medical procedure, one that is no longer routinely used and that the evidence does not routinely recommend. She made a choice that she wanted to try to birth without an episiotomy even if she tears. Her choice didn’t matter.

Three people in the room who should’ve been advocating for her failed her: her nurse, her doctor, and her mother. Instead they all ganged up on her, as if she wasn’t helpless enough lying on her back with her legs up in the air and her butt exposed to the world. 

This video made me feel sick and sad. It reminded me why I became a midwife – to help women have satisfying birthing experiences and to prevent the abuse and mistreatment in others that I experienced as a pregnant woman.

The video of a woman having her perineum cut 12 times is extreme but every day women giving birth have their choices taken away from them in small ways that leave them damaged. Even being treated with a lack of compassion or respect when a woman needs it and deserves it the most is traumatizing.

Women in labor are being bullied on a regular basis and not because doctors, midwives and nurses are mean, bad people. It has more to do with a labor and delivery culture that has developed around the paternalistic notion that providers know what is best and a woman who has her own thoughts about what she wants is out of line.

This Labor Day event is a chance to increase awareness of the problem of abuse in childbirth. If you would like to join this event it is being held at Tempe Town Lake Park from 9 – 12. Directions and parking instructions are on their Facebook page.




3 thoughts on “Labor Day: Improving Birth

  1. This video turned my stomach. Where was the patient advocate? Sure, the physician is bullying, not providing informed consent and assaulting this patient. However, what about the role of the labor nurse? She was a physician advocate, not the patient advocate. The laboring mother had good questions, and the demeaning way she was answered was unbelievable. This poor lady was stripped of her power, was helpless and vulnerable. When an episiotomy is necessary, then I thank God they are available, however, the routine use of episiotomies is old-school, not evidence-based and in this case, selfish!


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