May 5th is the International Day of the Midwife. The United Nations reports that each year around 300,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth and almost three million babies don’t survive past four weeks. They feel midwives might help reduce a number of these deaths.
“Midwives are our heroes and the backbone of sexual and reproductive health,” says Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund. “Let us support them and the women and newborns at the heart of their care.”
Ina May Gaskin, the founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee, gave a TEDxSacramento talk about her experience as a midwife and the ways in which she feels birth culture in the United States needs to shift from one rooted in fear to one that celebrates the entire birthing process.
“We don’t want fear in the room,” she says about her philosophy of delivering babies. “It’s easy to scare women. It’s even profitable to scare women and girls about birth. But it’s not nice, so let’s stop it.”
Gaskin pointed to the book Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read — first published in 1959 — as what inspired her to think about birthing attitudes; she says the book points out that “unbearable labor pain was almost always associated with fear; fear and lack of good preparation during pregnancy, and perhaps lack of understanding care during labor.” One way Gaskin feels expectant mothers can feel more relaxed during childbirth is to hire a doula, a non-medical “labor companion.”
“What she (usually a she) does is keep a calm atmosphere, they’ll slow down the pace of breathing, maybe humor will be allowed in the room,” Gaskin says.
Gaskin has traveled around the world learning from cultures where “complicated births” are delivered through a variety of innovative ways. She feels the U.S. needs to stop judging women based on their decisions on how to deliver their babies. The number one rule in Gaskin’s practice? “The mother is the boss; we’re doing what she needs done,” she says.
Check out her entire talk below: