Birth is not a crisis…

By Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen October 18, 2011

“While having a baby at home and live online may seem wacky, it draws attention to how rare natural childbirth has become, writes Elizabeth Payne.

Nancy Salgueiro is not crazy. She is tired, very busy and extremely happy, like most new mothers.

But the Barrhaven woman’s decision to live-stream her home birth, which took place early Sunday morning without a hitch, while unconventional, was not irrational.

In fact, doctors, nurses, medical students, health policy-makers and prospective parents would do well to watch the recording of baby Oziah’s birth, which is available at Salgueiro’s website yourbirthcoach.com. It might be one of the few chances they ever get to see a baby born without medical intervention, which is a sad comment on modern health care.

The fact that normal has become the wacky exception when it comes to birth is a problem that gets too little attention. If Salgueiro’s decision to bring her baby’s birth to a world audience was provocative, that is a good thing. It might just provoke a conversation that is needed about how natural childbirth became something so rare that few people even know what it looks like, including the very people whose jobs it should be to promote and encourage it.

That is why she decided to take the unusual step of welcoming the world into her living room to watch her give birth. An estimated 2,500 people, who had registered beforehand, watched from countries including Brazil, Afghanistan and Australia.

“I want people to realize that birth is not the crisis that (movies and television shows) make it out to be. Birth is just a normal part of life.”

Salgueiro, 32, who is a chiropractor and birth educator, says there is a great deal of unnecessary fear surrounding birth. “We are the population with the least faith in our ability to (give birth naturally). Women are totally capable of it, it doesn’t need to be managed.”

It is a long way from the giant tub Salgueiro and her husband Mike Carreira placed in their Barrhaven living room for last weekend’s birth to the operating rooms where growing numbers of Canadian babies are delivered. If there is a lesson to be learned from Salgueiro’s live-streamed birth, it is not that everyone should be having babies in their living rooms, but that there has to be a safer, more rational middle ground that swings the pendulum away from the operating rooms and medically intensive births back to something that is both safe and more natural. Salgueiro is right: Women can do it. They just need a little more support from the health system.

And that is often where things fall down, but not for a lack of good intentions.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada has actively campaigned for fewer C-sections and more natural births. In the last few years it has rewritten policy guidelines, including one that said doctors should automatically perform C-sections in cases of breech birth.

“The safest way to deliver has always been the natural way,” said Dr. Andr√© Lalonde, executive vice-president of the SOGC. “Vaginal birth is the preferred method of having a baby because a C-section in itself has complications.”‘

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