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Archive for the ‘Press’ Category

The imperative of choice

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I have been watching Mad Men recently, and quite apart from how fantastic and beautiful it is as a series, it is completely fascinating to see into the (admittedly fabricated) lives of women in the 1960s. It wasn’t that long ago really, and yet sexism was rife, women were only beginning to be liberated and generally you get the sense that their choices were, by design or default, significantly curtailed by the cultural norms of the day. Fast forward 50 years, and we are all superwomen, capable of choosing between motherhood and careers or having both, informed and educated and spoilt for choice. Or are we?

Because the women of New York have just had a huge choice taken away from them ( see article). Last week,  the closure of one of NYc’s most progressive St Vincent’s hospital spelt the end of legal backing for midwives who worked independently. As o that day, there is not a single midwife in New York who can legally attend a home birth. That is millions of women now deprioved of a very basic choice as to whether to birth at home or in hospital. In a country that honours freedom as much as the US does, that borders on the sacrilege.

Not everyone wants a home birth, and not everyone should have one. But for those that do, the lack of choice will feel stifling. The most important thing a woman needs to consider when she is planning her birth is what environment she will birth best in. Security and privacy are two complete essentials - if a woman feesl safe she will birth better. Fact.

For some women, that safety comes from being in hospital, with medical attention only a corridor or two away, and an epidural on hand should she cry out for one. But for other women, safety comes from the comfort and familiarity of their own homes. Research on home birth shows that for risk-free prgenancies birth at home is at least as safe a in hospital, and Holland, where the home birth rate is a whopping 30%, has some of the lowest maternal morbidity rates in the world. According to the science both places are safe for mothers in general, but certain places are better for mothers as individuals. And it is only the women themsleves that can decide what is right for them.

Except in New York they cant.

Birth is hormonally driven, and hormones function best in particular environments. When a woman is denied the right to choose that environment, she is effectively ebing denied the right to a good birth. There is, and should be public outcry about this.

Let us also hope that this particular little development is one that we dont decide in the UK to follow. Birth practice in the US seems to be exported, even when it is found to be faulty. I have never been one for protectionism, but there is a time and a place, and when it comes to choice for mothers, that time is now.

Being Good Enough

Monday, April 26th, 2010

On the same subject as ‘brining up babies’ that has been in the press recently, there was a fantastic half hour on Radio 4

Between Ourselves: Series 5 where Olivia O’Leary talks to Laverne Antrobus , and educational psychologist, and Oliver James, the now very successful author and child psychologist about what children actually need, and what we can do as parents to bring up happy, emotionally healthy children. I highly recommend a listen.

The Vanishing of the Bees

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I once saw a very good documentary called The Vanishing of the Bees ( which if incidentally you get a chance to see then you should- quite haunting stuff but really well done and inspiring - if nothing else you’ll want to plant more flowers). The basic premise of the documentary is that industrialised farming, with their monocultures and their over-reliance on pesticides is detrimentally harming the very thing that farmers depend on- the bees which pollinate their crops. It reminded me of a fabulous book by Michel Odent called ‘The Farmer and the Obstetrician’ - which again I highly recommend you read. In it he argues that we have not understood the ills of industrialisation in the world of farming until it is too late- or at least until we have outbreaks like foot and mouth and mad cow disease, and that we are in danger of treading the very same path in our ‘industrialisation’ of the birth process. too much is undertaken in the context of birth for reasons of efficiency, and to cope with the sheer scale of hospitals and the number of births they are coping with. As a result, too little time is taken with each women, tending to the emotional side of birth. Protocols are introduced, be they the routine use of pit to speed up labour, or the arbitrary time limits imposed on stages, or the use of EFMs ( when they have been proven to bestow no benefit on mother and child and simply increase c-section rates) - not to make birth better or easier for the mother or baby, but to make birth easier to manage for the hospital. And all of this without any idea of where it might lead us or what the consequences- both medical and social- are of this huge interference with an otherwise natural process.

It was Ghandi who said speak only if it improves upon the silence. Surely we should apply that adage to any natural process- intervene only if it improves upon the natural process. In far too many cases it doesnt, and we are yet to discover what the consequences of this is. Surely we need to stand back to gain some perspective, lest it takes a disaster to warn us of the perils of interference.

Article in The Mother Magazine

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Nicole Croft has an article entitled ‘Contented babies’ published in the latest edition (Issue 25 Nov/Dec 2007) of The Mother magazine. For more information or to order a copy visit their website