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“Industrial Childbirth” and “The Business of Being Born”

February 7, 2009

A few months ago I posted (in part) about an article titled Industrial Childbirth.  I want to follow up with a mention of a documentary, unpolished but important, on the same subject: The Business of Being Born.  It is worth a visitation by every American woman, and men too!

The Business of Being Born has two major strengths. The first is that important information about the cascade of interventions in managed birth, U.S. practices vs. other countries and the resulting outcomes, drugs, c-section rates, and medical evidence is presented in a way that is accessible and informative even to those who are taking their first look at birth issues. The relevant information is conveyed alongside the women’s stories, leaving the viewer better informed without beating her over the head with medical jargon and data, making it a perfect introduction to the topic for those who have not already immersed themselves in the literature of birth. There is a growing contingent of women who are informing themselves and speaking out on birth practices, but this film presents the story of birth management in a way that could reasonably encourage the uninitiated to seek more, and to speak up.

The second major strength is that the film clearly locates birth issues inside feminism and choice, noting the power disparities of the traditional hospital birth system, the often misguided focus on outcomes and potential litigation that ignores women’s needs and experiences, and the empowerment that many women feel when able to give birth on their own terms. The film notes the current emphasis solely on “taking a healthy baby home” and the playing of the “for the baby” card in hospitals that strips women of their ability to fully participate in a life-altering experience, and contrasts this with home birthing women who state afterwards, “If I could do that, I can do anything.” While the documentary does not suggest that the outcomes for babies are not important (as anti-home birth/anti-midwifery folks often seem to think), it does clearly illustrate how women are ignored, under-informed, over-powered, and failed by the current system. As Aunt B notes, “Women getting dicked around by the system is always a feminist issue.” (Women’s Health News Review)

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