Babies come out of where?! Explaining childbirth to kids

I was due to give birth to my son when my daughter Ava was 2 1/2 years old. Since my husband and I were planning a home birth, we felt it was important to discuss with Ava how the baby would be born. Because she would be within earshot if not in the room when Julian was born, I wanted her to know what she may see as well as hear.

One of the ways I prepared Ava for what would happen was by reading “Welcome With Love,” a beautiful children’s book about natural childbirth. We also watched some childbirth videos (natural and water births) together, including “Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices” by Suzanne Arms. I made sure to explain what was going on and reassure her that although the mommy might make some loud or funny noises, even yell, she was OK. In “Welcome With Love,” the older brother speaks of his mother’s noises during labor but he’s not afraid because she had told him beforehand that although she “might make a lot of noise,” he mustn’t worry because “that’s what it’s like when babies are being born” and that she’ll feel better if she yells and screams.

I kept things fairly simple, but because she was likely going to be present, told her what I felt she needed to know to feel safe and secure during Julian’s birth. It worked well for us. Ava was never scared even though mommy made some very loud noises while giving birth to her brother.

I realized the other day that Julian is now older than Ava was at the time he was born, but because I am not pregnant (and have no plans to become so) and the subject hasn’t come up, he has no idea how babies are born. I will probably remedy that soon by reading Welcome With Love to him and another book I recently received to review called We’re Having a Homebirth!

A friend (who is expecting) recently pondered on Facebook how she will explain childbirth to her 5- and 3-year-old daughters, and I began to wonder how others handle the subject.

I came across a discussion on a BabyCenter message board where the original poster posed the question How do you explain childbirth to a child? Here are some of the responses:

  • One person admitted that she has been “skirting around this issue” even with her 9-year-old. She said she has told her most of the details, but doesn’t “want to freak her out too much or gross her out for that matter.”
  • Another said, “I tried to skirt the question by answering…that the doctor takes the baby out.”
  • Another said, “I have a child psychology book called The Magic Years. They say to be truthful, but give as few details as necessary.”
  • Yet another said, “I found it was quite easy to explain things using the correct words at a young age. And I’d rather explain it while my kids aren’t embarrassed by it and will ask questions instead of having a 10-year-old blush or roll her eyes and not wanting to ask questions about things she doesn’t understand.”
  • From another, “better he hears it from me than his peers at school.”

After I browsed the ‘net, I asked my favorite audience (Twitter) and got some more answers.

Many feel that honesty is the best policy.

@OneFallDay said: If my 7-year-old asks, I answer. I’ve always felt if they are old enough to ask they deserve an honest answer.

Jackie from Belen Echandia said, “[I] don’t have personal experience. But would like to think I’d tell the truth in a beautiful, non-frightening way.”

Penny from Walking Upside Down said, “[I] told mine they came out of a hole between my legs. :) Honesty is the best policy. Did not show them said hole tho’. ;)”

Jessica from Peek a blog said, “I spoke to the doctor about what to say. We told my 3-year-old that mommies have a special place where babies come out when ready. Just enough info with more details on an as-needed basis, but totally truth.”

Cate Nelson said, “I told my then-2.5-year-old that baby was going to come out of Mama’s yoni. (our term for it) I also told him his own birth story, bit of the pain, but how it helped Mama push him out. He loved his (natural) birth story!”

Others think along with being honest, it’s important to use proper terminology with children.

@ColletteAM said, “I always tell the truth about bodily functions and use proper terms. I don’t want my kids to feel ashamed of their bodies.”

Mandie from McMama’s Musings said, “My 4-year-old can tell you about ovaries, eggs, sperm, uteri, birth canals, and c-sections. He calls egg+sperm a ‘seed.’ LOL”

@JenniferCanada said, “I got great advice from @babyREADY to prepare son [for] our home birth. We watched a lot of birthing shows. We talked about what would happen. He can tell you babies come from vaginas and you push them out. He has actions. He is 3 years old.”

Others prefer a more vague approach:

Lee from CoupleDumb said her son was 3 and “I told him that his brother would come out of me when I went to the hospital. That’s it.”

Kristie from Tilvee said she was asked how babies come out last night by her 6- and 3.5-year-old daughters. She “didn’t lie, just told them we would talk about it in 5 yrs?!”

One person thinks explaining a c-section is easier than explaining vaginal birth:

Beth from I Should Be Folding Laundry said, “I’m up for a c-section, so that makes the explanation very easy.”

Another thinks a c-section makes it more complicated:

@Loudmouthedmom said, “I haven’t been pregnant again but have always been honest with son, either vaginally or c-section. He took c-section much harder. Learned the hard way not to tell a 4-year-old a c-section involves mom being ‘cut open.'”

The reactions kids have about childbirth are often amusing:

Kailani from An Island Life said, “My 3-year-old thinks the baby will come out of my mouth. :-)”

Krista from Typical Ramblings, Atypical Nonsense said, “When I was pregnant with E, my older kids were 11 and 8 when he was born. I told them how the baby came out. My daughter asked if it hurt, I said yes but once it’s over the pain is gone. She says she is adopting kids. ;)”

Ann-Marie from This Mama Cooks said, “[I] told Nathan how babies got out when he was 7. He told me he wasn’t having kids. Truth is good birth control.”

Childbirth education props: Dolls and Children’s Books

If you are looking for some props to help you explain childbirth, you might be interested in these dolls. Thanks to Kellie, I learned about this childbirth education doll that can be custom ordered or the experience crocheter can make it herself. There’s also a Waldorf doll that gives birth and nurses. According to Droolicious, instead of just sitting there looking pretty, this doll “gives birth complete with placenta, and she nurses too. This Waldorfian handmade plush doll comes from Brazil where it is used to teach girls about natural childbirth.”

There are also lots of books that tackle the topic of explaining childbirth to kids. From books about home birth like Welcome With Love and We’re Having a Homebirth! to more mainstream childbirth books like What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, How You Were Born, and How Was I Born?: A Child’s Journey Through the Miracle of Birth, there is likely a book out there for your family. And for parents who are looking for some age-appropriate information about “the birds and the bees” check out It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends and a review of it over on Punnybop.

There’s more information on how to prepare siblings for the birth of a new baby over on babyReady where they suggest: make a game out of the kinds of strange noises that you may make when you are in labour, try not to make too many changes to your child’s routine close to the delivery, let your older child open the baby’s gifts, and take your older child to your doctor (or midwife) visits, and more.

Ultimately your childbirth explanation to your child has to be one that you feel comfortable with. I think it is important to answer children’s questions – about childbirth, puberty, dating, sex, etc. – as honestly as possible while making sure it is age-appropriate. Mactavish said to me on Twitter, “I can’t imagine not being old enough to know how babies are born” and I have to agree. Candace concurs, “I generally assume that if she’s too young, she won’t ‘get it’ anyway and if she ‘gets it’ then she’s old enough for truth.” Sounds like a good philosophy to me.

Cross-posted on: BlogHer

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Home birth advocate’s baby dies during free birth, prompts questions

Janet Fraser, a home birth advocate and founder of the site Joyous Birth, recently experienced a personal tragedy when her baby died at her home in Australia on March 27 during her free birth or unassisted childbirth (where a woman gives birth at home without the aid of a midwife or doctor).

When a tragedy like this occurs, people are often left scratching their heads wondering how something like this could happen, what went wrong, and lastly, who’s to blame? I don’t know if we need to point a finger to make ourselves feel better, but it seems to be human nature to ask, “why did this happen?”

While I did not consider giving birth at home without a midwife in attendance for my home birth, I know a handful of women who chose an unassisted birth and I respect them for it. I believe these women did a great deal of research in advance, knew what they were doing, trusted their bodies and their babies and were prepared to go to the hospital if any issues arose. Although I don’t know her, I trust that Janet Fraser would fall into this category as well. Not everyone agrees with me though and some, like Amber Watson-Tardiff, are suggesting that what Fraser did by having her baby unassisted was “reckless, neglectful and borderline criminal.”

Jessica Gottlieb of Eco Child’s Play says, “I support women who chose a home birth. But a free birth? I cannot see the wisdom in it. Neither can Ms. Fraser’s baby.”

Watson-Tardiff goes on to say, “I hope she is at least subject to an investigation for child endangerment.”

Ronda Kaysen of MomLogic says she sees the value of home birth as a way of reducing medical intervention, but believes giving birth without medical assistance is “absurd.”

Fraser’s “free birth” argument, which on the surface appears feminist, is actually the opposite. It doesn’t empower women to take control of their own bodies. It sends them and their babies into the dark ages of medical care – where women give birth with no medical care at all and face the very real possibility of death as a consequence.

For the record the police are investigating the death and have said “it was not clear whether the baby was stillborn or died after delivery. If a baby is stillborn, there is no autopsy. If a baby is alive at birth and dies soon after, it is considered a matter for the coroner.”

I guess I give Fraser the benefit of the doubt and assume that like most mothers she was doing what she thought was in the best interest of her baby. Although she coined the term birth rape (birth interventions done against the woman’s wishes), I don’t believe she would put her child in harm’s way rather than accept a potentially life-saving intervention. Then again I don’t know Fraser and have not spoken to her, so I can only speculate just as others are doing, but I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt. However, I do believe that whenever a child dies, there should be an investigation into the death.

While many are blaming Fraser for her baby’s death since she did not have a doctor or midwife in attendance, no one seems to mention the fact that babies die in the hospital, where doctors are present, all the time.

Laura Shanley, author of the book Unassisted Childbirth and owner of the Bornfree! website who blogs at Letters from Laura – Thoughts on Unassisted Childbirth, brought up that point and shared another perspective many of us may not have thought of when she shared the following statement with me:

I don’t know Janet, but of course my heart goes out to her. An Australian friend of mine has told me that despite what the media is saying, Janet’s baby was stillborn and the outcome wouldn’t have been different had the baby been born in the hospital. Regardless of whether or not this is true, I find it sad that so many people are blaming Janet for her baby’s death. A baby is stillborn in an American hospital every fifteen to twenty minutes. According to a story on my local newscast, this is double what it was ten years ago. Yet almost no one blames hospital birth mothers (nor should they) for these babies’ deaths. This is because it’s assumed that if a baby dies or is stillborn in the hospital, everything possible was done to save the baby’s life. The possibility that at least some of these deaths might have been caused by early inductions, c-sections and other interventions is rarely discussed.

I can tell you, however, that as a homebirth advocate I have received numerous letters over the years from grieving mothers who wonder if their hospital born baby might have survived (or avoided injury) had they been born at home. The fact is, in most cases we may never know. Sometimes medical intervention saves lives, and sometimes it takes them. This is why I encourage parents to do their own research and decide for themselves where and with whom they want to give birth. In my case, I chose to give birth at home unassisted because from the research I had done I felt that the majority of problems in birth – both now and in the past – could be traced to three main causes: poverty, unnecessary medical intervention, and fear which triggers the fight/flight response and shuts down labor. Despite what most people believe, the act of birth itself is not dangerous. But our cultural beliefs and practices can make it so. In the end, it’s a personal decision. And just as the death of a hospital-born baby doesn’t mean that no baby should ever be born in the hospital, the same should be said for babies born at home. Regardless of the outcome of this case, I will continue to speak out about unassisted childbirth as I believe that in most cases it’s the safest and most satisfying way to give birth.

Genie, an Australian blogger who writes at Home Is Where the Heart Is, blogged extensively about her thoughts regarding Janet Fraser and defends her choice to have her baby unassisted at home. She feels the insinuation that women who birth at home do it to feed their own ego at the expense of their child is “a crock.”

Women choose to homebirth with their baby’s best interest at heart. They do it FOR the baby, not in spite of the baby. Yes they want to feel empowered and blissed out, but the lack of trauma and the satisfaction a mother gets after a natural birth all benefits the baby too. A mother’s health and well being has a HUGE impact on the baby. So why should we ignore the interest and well-being of the mother?

In the wake of this tragedy and surrounding media coverage, some feel the need to point out that there is a difference between home birth and free birth. Dr. Meredith Nash of The Baby Bump Project says homebirth and freebirth are not the same.

The media has failed to differentiate between freebirth or unassisted birth (no midwife or doctor) and homebirth (a birth at home, usually with a midwife or homebirth doctor). For the most part, for low-risk births that are attended properly, homebirth has been proven to be a safe alternative to hospital birth. Freebirthing is significantly more risky (sorry, I’m a supporter but also a realist). It is essential to make this differentiation. Now that homebirth is on the precipice of being banned given that independent midwives are likely going to be denied indemnity insurance from next year, the suggestion that all women who homebirth are crazy radicals or that homebirth represents the majority of birthing women in Australia (only about 2%) is ridiculous. If anything, midwives and their ability to attend homebirths will be the saving grace of the Australian maternity system. Rather than convincing the small proportion of women who avoid a medicalized birth, why not support these women in their choices by making homebirth safe and easy?

Summer Minor, who blogs at Wired for Noise and gave birth to her daughter at home a little over a week ago, references the recent Nederlands study that says home birth is as safe as hospital birth. “A new study is out from the Netherlands that gives us home birthing mothers a nice little pat on the back. Despite the labels of ‘dangerous’ and ‘unsafe’ by some, once again it’s been found to be just as safe as giving birth in a hospital.” From the BBC:

The largest study of its kind has found that for low-risk women, giving birth at home is as safe as doing so in hospital with a midwife.

Research from the Netherlands – which has a high rate of home births – found no difference in death rates of either mothers or babies in 530,000 births.

I think that Shanley said it best when she said, “In the end, it’s a personal decision. And just as the death of a hospital-born baby doesn’t mean that no baby should ever be born in the hospital, the same should be said for babies born at home.” We all must do our research and make the choices that we feel are the best for ourselves and our babies and then, find peace with our decisions.

I offer Janet Fraser and her family my deepest sympathy. My thoughts are with them.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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20/20’s Extreme Motherhood falls short, disappoints

As I found myself watching and live Tweeting the 20/20 episode on Extreme Motherhood on ABC Friday night, I felt disappointed that once again mainstream media had let me down. It didn’t come as a complete surprise, but I really had hoped for better from them.

The show, for those of you who were occupying your time with better things (wise choice), consisted of segments on Orgasmic Birth, fake babies – women who buy Reborn dolls and treat them very much like real babies (um, yes, it was more than a little freaky), long-term (extended) breastfeeding – including a mention of 2 1/2 yr old twins still nursing (uh, what’s extreme about that?) as well as a few older children, serial surrogates, and home birth. The majority of the time seemed to be spent on the fake babies and the serial surrogates, with lesser amounts devoted to the rest. The least amount of time (and what I felt should have received the most) went to home birth.

The home birth segment had very brief interviews with Ricki Lake and Abbie Epstein (producers of Business of Being Born) and Laura Shanley (author of Unassisted Childbirth). There were no interviews with any midwives. There was no talk of the training midwives go through or the preparation that women who choose unassisted birth generally undertake. It all seemed very much focused on fear rather than offering up real information. The AMA says blah, blah, blah – nothing we haven’t heard before.

One of my main issues with the show was that it was not objective journalism at all. The correspondents spewed a lot of shock value comments instead of asking intelligent, thought-provoking questions. Maybe I’m naive to expect better from them.

twitter fail whale for 20/20Overall, I have to say I’m sorry I wasted my time watching it. I felt it was very exploitative. 20/20 gets a big ol’ Twitter Fail Whale from me. I don’t feel the show gave much, if any, useful information, except maybe some women will seek out Business of Being Born or Orgasmic Birth (which has a lot more to it than the name implies) after watching 20/20.

For those of you who are looking for some real information, you might be interested in reading my thoughts (and others’ thoughts) on orgasmic birth – Giving Birth can be good, ecstatic and even orgasmic or long-term breastfeeding Breastfeeding until age 3, 4 or 5 – more common than you think? – including a list of moms who have breastfed older children. I’ve also written about planning for a home birth and my home birth story.

Giving birth can be good, ecstatic and even orgasmic

I know I just wrote about this topic last week, but I have more to share and wrote about it for BlogHer this week.

Last week, Lisa Belkin, parenting blogger at The NY Times, wrote about the upcoming 20/20 special on the film “Orgasmic Birth.” The topic apparently hit a nerve with many, many people as she quickly received more than 500 comments.

Many people, as to be expected, are skeptical.

Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda had the most humorous response I read to the idea.

As soon as I

1) Find a man with a 9-pound penis
2) Become drunk enough to let him put it inside me for thirty hours at a time

I’ll definitely see if those conditions can result in an orgasm.

But until then? Whatever, man.

Catherine, who blogs at Her Bad Mother, had similar feelings and said, “Me, personally …? I think that I’ll stick to getting my orgasms the old-fashioned way.”

The day after Lisa Belkin’s initial NY Times post she followed up with About that orgasmic birth… and went into a little more detail about the responses she received, the film and one of the women featured in the film.

I was not surprised at the number of comments that dismissed the possibility as a fairytale. I was very surprised at the number of women who wrote to say that they had experienced what the film explored. I was a little distressed at the hostility the first of these groups showed to the second. And I was somewhat surprised, and very pleased, to receive an e-mail from Tamra Larter, one of the subjects of the film, who had been following all the comments, and wanted to make a few of her own.

It’s really worth it to click over there to read what Ms. Larter had to say about the film and her birthing experience, but here’s a snippet.

“I hope people will see the film,” she wrote. “Then they will see that it is about much more than the title suggests. There are many choices and possibilities when it comes to birth.”

And she uses the word “orgasm” with conditions. “I never claimed to have a pain-free birth,” she wrote, “but laboring with my daughter was awesome and for the most part felt really good.” The actual “orgasmic experience” did not feel like the climax of sex, she says, but rather “sensations which were something different than sex, but similar enough I feel O.K. using the word orgasmic. It was a wonderful feeling.”

She also confessed that upon first hearing about the idea of orgasmic birth, she thought it was “gross,” “weird,” and “not possible,” but said it was before she had had any children and the only childbirth she had seen had been on TV.

After reading many comments and several blogs about this, I clicked over to the Orgasmic Birth web site, where I watched the trailer (again). The first time I watched it was many months ago and I felt a refresher was in order.

I admit that even with all of the birth videos I’ve watched in the past and my “crunchy” ways, it makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat to hear a woman making pleasurable sounds while in childbirth (or in any situation really). And yet, I see the whole “orgasmic birth” thing as being just a small piece of the film, and believe it is titled the way it is to grab our attention. (And it’s certainly worked, hasn’t it?) I still believe, as I wrote on my blog over a week ago, “that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.”

Marsden Wagner, MD, who is interviewed in the film, makes an excellent point about childbirth saying, “It’s got to be like it is when you make love with someone. It’s got to be safe, secure and uninterrupted. And that is how you have an orgasmic birth.”

I do not want to turn this into a debate over home birth vs. hospital birth, but having had both types of births I will say I felt much more safe, secure and uninterrupted at home than I did in the hospital. Although I’m sure it’s possible, I think that for the most part, these “orgasmic births” are much more likely to occur in a birthing center or home environment than in the hospital.

I think the term “orgasmic birth” is subject to interpretation too and noticed that on the Orgasmic Birth site, in their call for birth stories they say, “Please share your ecstatic or orgasmic birth story with us.” I would never say that I had an orgasm while giving birth to my son, but the experience was amazingly intense and was one of the most empowering moments in my life. Does that mean it was an orgasmic birth? Maybe. Was it an ecstatic birth? I believe it was.

Ninotchka had an empowering birth experience as well and commented about it on my blog:

I can’t say that I had an orgasm while giving birth. But after birthing Elle right into my hand, I felt so triumphant and organically happy that I would certainly call that feeling “orgasmic.” It all happened so fast and we’d waited so long for that little sweetheart. It was a definite rush and I was absolutely elated.

I think giving birth will always conjure up different ideas and feelings for different people. No two births are exactly the same and I think that’s the way it should be. Innerbrat summed it all up nicely when she said, “The important thing here, as with everything regarding women’s health, is to give women the ownership of our own bodies, so we can make an informed, conscious decision about what’s best for us and our children; and the first and best way to be informed is to openly talk about the subject.”

ABC’s 20/20 special on Orgasmic Birth, which will also include segments on home birth (unassisted and midwife-attended) and long-term breastfeeding, is currently set to air Friday, Jan. 2, 2009.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

Orgasmic birth on 20/20 this Friday

Update: The show has been pushed back. The new tentative air date is Jan. 2 now.

Just a quick note to let you all (but especially the birth junkies) know that ABC’s 20/20 is doing a segment on Orgasmic Birth this Friday, Dec. 12.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? OB-GYN Dr. Christiane Northrup, midwife Ina May Gaskin, and childbirth educator Debra Pascali-Bonaro all agree that under the right circumstances, i.e. when a woman is relaxed (and in my opinion very comfortable with her body), and due to the huge hormonal changes that occur in the body during labor, a kind of birth ecstasy is possible.

To learn more about the 20/20’s Orgasmic Birth, check out Labor Orgasms called ‘Best-Kept Secret’ – Moms, Experts Say Relaxation is Key to Pleasurable Childbirth. Then be sure to tune into 20/20 on Friday. I’ve already got my DVR set to record it.

What do you think? Is a segment on ecstatic birth “a bit too much information” as one woman on Twitter called it or, in a largely-medicalized, fear-based birthing society, just the kind of information women need?

Additional resources:
Orgasmic Birth, the film
Orgasmic Childbirth: The Fun Doesn’t End at Conception! by Laura Shanley
Pioneering midwife touts ‘orgasmic birth’ on MSNBC

Edited to add: I want to point out that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.

For women who hope to create a similarly happy ending for their labor, Pascali-Bonaro hopes they realize that it’s possible, but the goal is not necessarily an actual orgasm.

“I hope women watching and men watching don’t feel that what we’re saying is, every woman should have an orgasmic birth,” she said. “Our message is that women can journey through labor and birth in all different ways. And there are a lot more options out there, to make this a positive and pleasurable experience.”

Consumer Reports: high-tech births=poor outcomes

Consumer Reports isn’t just for researching your next car purchase or washing machine anymore. That’s right, that longtime resource for product reviews has broadened its scope to include health and wellness. In a recent article Consumer Reports tackles the topic of childbirth, concluding that "Too many doctors and hospitals are overusing high-tech procedures."

Consumer Reports cites a new report, Evidenced-based Maternity Care by the nonprofit Childbirth Connection, which found that "in the U.S., too many healthy women with low-risk pregnancies are being routinely subjected to high-tech or invasive interventions that should be reserved for higher-risk pregnancies." Some of those interventions include:

  • Inducing labor. The percentage of women whose labor was induced more than doubled between 1990 and 2005
  • Use of epidural painkillers, which might cause adverse effects, including rapid fetal heart rate and poor performance on newborn assessment tests
  • Delivery by Caesarean section, which is estimated to account for one-third of all U.S births in 2008, will far exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended national rate of 5 to 10 percent
  • Electronic fetal monitoring, unnecessarily adding to delivery costs
  • Rupturing membranes ("breaking the waters"), intending to hasten onset of labor
  • Episiotomy, which is often unnecessary

The study suggests that high-touch, low-cost, noninvasive measures are underused in today’s maternity care for healthy low-risk women. These include:

  • Prenatal vitamins
  • Use of midwife or family physician
  • Continuous presence of a companion for the mother during labor
  • Upright and side-lying positions during labor and delivery, which are associated with less severe pain than lying down on one’s back
  • Vaginal birth (VBAC) for most women who have had a previous Caesarean section
  • Early mother-baby skin-to-skin contact

They’ve also included a quiz to test the consumer’s knowledge about maternity care and debunk several misconceptions. Here are a few examples from the quiz.

An obstetrician will deliver better maternity care, overall, than a midwife or family doctor.

False. Studies show that the 8 percent to 9 percent of U.S. women who use midwives and the 6 to 7 percent who choose family physicians generally experienced just-as-good results as those who go to obstetricians. Those who used midwives also ended up with fewer technological interventions. For example, women who received midwifery care were less likely to experience induced labor, have their water broken for them, episiotomies, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and electronic fetal monitoring, and were more likely to give birth vaginally with no vacuum extraction or forceps, than similar women receiving medical care. Note that an obstetric specialist is best for the small proportion of women with serious health concerns.

Once you’ve had a C-section, it’s best to do it again.

False. Studies show that, as the number of a woman’s previous C-sections increased, so did the likelihood of harmful conditions, including: trouble getting pregnant again, problems delivering the placenta (placenta accreta), longer hospital stays, intensive-care (ICU) admission, hysterectomy, and blood transfusion.

Labor itself can benefit a newborn’s immunity.

True. When babies do not experience labor (if the mother has a C-section before entering into labor, for example), they fail to benefit from changes that help to clear fluid from their lungs. That clearance can protect against serious breathing problems outside the womb. Passage through the vagina might also increase the likelihood that the newborn’s intestines will be colonized with “good” bacteria after the sterile womb environment.

The buzz in the blogosphere about this is mostly positive. Critics of the current state of birth in the United States are happy to see Consumer Reports raising awareness about the need for change and bringing this information to mainstream society.

The blogger at Rain Garden says, "I feel encouraged that a non-profit organization like Consumer Reports is picking this up on their radar – it is just one more spark that may ignite change."

Susan at Hug the Monkey agrees and says, "It’s kind of amazing that a mainstream and respected organization like Consumer Reports has gotten behind natural childbirth. This must signal a shift in our society’s ideas."

Shay at Augeries of Innocence says, "This just goes to prove pretty much everything that is in The Business of Being Born. If you haven’t seen the DVD, I highly suggest you watch it, rent it or buy it. Even if you’re not wanting to go completely natural for your birth, it has a lot of helpful information on it and really lets you see how wonderful the childbirth process can be."

Yogi Barrett, a prenatal class instructor who blogs at Five Points Yoga, says,

Though women and their partners shouldn’t have to become “experts” on maternal and fetal care when they’re pregnant, it’s very helpful to remember that you are a paying consumer. I recommend finding a doctor or midwife who will take the time to answer the questions you have, and who will talk to you about your choices, options and alternatives. Too often, women come to my class and say something like, “My doctor won’t let me go past my due date. She’ll induce me if I do.” We have to remember that we have a responsibility in all of this to ask questions, and know that it’s *our* decision whether we have that test or procedure. We cannot abdicate responsibility for our bodies and our babies, even if a doctor/midwife presents a procedure as non-optional. The time to set up this dynamic is before you’re in labor – it’s difficult to have rational conversation and decision-making in the midst of active labor!

If you’re pregnant, remember that you need to have confidence in your provider. It’s never too late to switch providers if you’re unhappy. I’ve had students switch providers mere days before giving birth! But also remember, the most important person to trust is yourself, and your baby.

I couldn’t agree more. As a natural birth advocate myself, I think the fact that Consumer Reports posted this study is huge and another step in the right direction. Women want to be informed, they want to make conscious choices regarding their prenatal care and their birthing care for their sake and the sake of their babies. The more information women and their partners easily have access to, the more empowered they will be to make choices that are best for themselves and their babies.

Cross-posted at BlogHer.