Choices in Childbirth Statement Encourages Options and Evidence in Maternity Care
By Rachel Walden — November 13, 2008
Our Bodies Ourselves has just posted “Choices in Childbirth: A Statement by Physicians, Midwives and Women’s Health Advocates who Support Safe Choices in Childbirth,” which articulates concerns about preserving safe choices in childbirth and respect for the diversity of women’s needs. Currently signed by more than 35 midwives, physicians, educators, and other women’s health advocates, the statement urges the following actions:
1. That communities preserve the option of vaginal births after cesarean (so-called “VBACs”).
2. That options for hospital-based midwifery care (utilizing Certified Nurse Midwives and Certified Midwives) be made available in all communities across the country.
3. That Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) be licensed and regulated in order to make the option of homebirth as safe as possible.
The statement also calls for evidence-based practices in maternity care, and for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association “to strike those resolutions that deny childbearing women the autonomy and rights that medical professionals, educators, and women’s health advocates have historically endorsed.”
OBOS Executive Director Judy Norsigian, who was instrumental in coordinating the creation of the statement, explains further:
“During the past 8 months, while I was meeting with maternity care providers and community groups after the publication of ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth,’ I was struck by how many people were deeply concerned about current trends in childbearing. At the same time that women’s birthing options were increasingly being restricted and that obstetric practices were moving more and more in the direction of highly medicalized births for ALL women – even those women without pregnancy and labor complications – our national statistics regarding birth outcomes were far from impressive, especially as compared with other industrialized countries.
As a result of many conversations with health care professionals and women’s health educators/advocates, we embarked upon a rather unusual ‘group writing’ project, the result of which is this ‘Choices in Childbirth’ statement. We hope that this effort will reinforce other national initiatives seeking to establish a greater focus on evidence-based practice and a commitment to sustaining women’s desires for safe childbirth alternatives. Liability concerns now appear to be taking precedence in community after community, rather than the well-being of women and their babies. This is a situation that must be addressed before the morbidity and mortality from unnecessary and inappropriate medical interventions become trends too difficult to reverse.”
The statement concludes:
We recognize the central importance of health care reform proposals now under consideration and urge all maternity caregivers to become involved in debates surrounding these proposals. We support efforts to make maternity care safer by reducing the risk of systems errors that can harm patients and lead to litigation. It is time to create a system that allows women all reasonable choices in childbirth and to encourage practices that produce optimal outcomes for both mothers and babies.
Maternity care providers, public health professionals and childbirth advocates who support the statement are invited to become signatories, and can do so by filling out this online form.