Tag Archives: maternal mortailty rate

A Weekend of Midwives and Ina May Gaskin

Man, has it been a busy few days!  Over this Labor Day weekend, I managed to splice in a few incredible, and nice, and lovely events.

On Saturday, I had the esteemed honor to sit in on a fifteen-person conference in Billings, MT (made up mostly of midwives from the Rocky Mountain region, plus a few childbirth educators and doulas) for which the keynote speaker was none other than Ina May Gaskin. If you don’t know who Ina May is…oh, good Lord…PLEASE follow that link and find out!  She’s only the most famous midwife across the entire planet.

Modest, brilliant, compassionate and heart felt, Ms. Gaskin spent the first hour + of the conference discussing her Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, by showing us square after quilted square of the now 200 piece tribute to women who have died surrounding the time of pregnancy and childbirth–deaths that occurred largely due to inadequate care and/or treatment delivered by western medicine providers and environments.

The primary goal of Gaskin’s self-directed project is to raise awareness of the maternal death rate in the United States which is drastically under-reported by insufficient processes and procedures currently in place in our country.  (The presently stated maternal death rate is ~ 15/100,000 but even the CDC contends that this number is potentially 2-3 times too low.)  To find out more about this project, visit Ina May’s site.

This afternoon, I was privileged once again to participate in another midwife-driven event:  the blessing and open house for the Bozeman Birth Center.  This makes it only the third birth center for the entire state of Montana!

A casual passer-by of this blog might assume these events were attended by only the crunchiest, hippiest, dread locks wearingest…people because, after all:  natural birth practices are only embraced by this type of person, right?  Wrongo, my friend!

I was pleased to be surrounded by people of all different ages, hair styles, footwear, sexes, creeds and colors during these two historic events.  And as Ina May, or Ricki Lake, or any of the grandma and grandpa types, corporate types and teacher types, stay-at-home-mom types and full time working mom types who were at either or both of these events will tell you: midwives and natural birth and dignity for the woman and gentle births for babies aren’t just for hippie chicks anymore.  They are for everyone.

And me?  I’m not much of a hippie chick myself.  Yes, I do own a pair of Birkenstock sandals…but they hurt my feet and I don’t wear them anymore.  I prefer my Keens instead.  I don’t wear long flowing skirts without underwear beneath, and I brush the tangles out of my hair every day.  I have never smoked marijuana (for real) and I don’t even like the smell of patchouli.  But I’m sold.  I’m a former allopathic medical provider convert who believes the hype.  I don’t teach my childbirth education students to “birth naturally, or don’t birth at all,” but I can kinda see why some folks do.

The women in our society that practice midwifery…they are something else.  Are each any every one of them perfect and infallible and brilliantly skilled?  Certainly, no.  But there are some pretty damned good ones out there.

Here’s to you, Ina May.



Filed under Childbirth Issues, Living

The Debate Over Childbirth Safety in America

Wow.  I’ve been in a rather heated, on-line debate over the past week.

On the women’s self-advocacy and information-sharing, on-line community called EmpowHer.com, I recently posted an entry to the Maternity/Parenting forum called, “If You’re An Expectant Mom, or Know One, Please Read This!!!”

It was based on an article recently released by midwife Ina may Gaskin about the maternal mortality rate in the US (15.1 women/100,000 will die in chidlbirth overall…36.5/100,000 for African American women).
No less than four hours after my original post, an obstetrician named Amy Tuteur chimed in, and boy did she have a mouthful (a page full) to add.

From there, the debate commenced:  Discussions on childbirth safety here in the US in the hospital vs. in the home setting with midwives, comparing the US maternal mortality rate to that of other countries around the world, the life saving techniques and technologies perfected by the obstetrical community and whether or not those advances deserve a place in all births, or only the rare 10% or so that really require their use.

The debate got hot.  And then hotter.  A few more folks joined in.  Statistics were flying.  Sweat was collecting on the brow of each and every participant, I’m sure.

But the debate is not over.  It never will be.  As long as women and babies still die in childbirth; as long as there are still drastically different opinions about how women should be cared for before, during and after their childbirth experiences, the debate will go on.

What are your thoughts?  Visit EmpowHer.com and follow this link to the debate.


Filed under Childbirth Issues, From One Mother to Another, Living