Did you know that this week (September 3 – 10) is Empowered Birth Awareness Week? This is actually an educational week that happens every year, starting the first Monday of each September.
Empowered Birth Awareness Week (EBAW) is all about educating the general public about birth options, birth interventions, and the risks and rewards of different types of birth. Those participating in EBAW want ALL people to be educated about birth, so that we can have the best outcomes for both mothers and babies.
The United States is not at the top of the list for safe births. In fact, we have the highest maternal mortality rate ofany industrialized nation; women here have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy related complication than 49 other countries, including Kuwait, South Korea and Bulgaria. All this is true, even though we spend more money on maternal healthcare than any other country.
Why is birth in America so dangerous? Perhaps it’s because it takes so long for evidence to change public policy. According to the EBAW page, it takes 20 years for proven research to be implemented in practice. We spend money on birth, but are we spending it in the right places, on the right practices? The World Health Organization recommends that c-section rates be at 15%, yet the USA c-section rate is 34%, and higher in some individual hospitals, even getting so high as 61.8% of births in 2010 at South Miami Hospital. C-sections are more expensive than vaginal deliveries, and actually have twice the risk for the mother and baby when the infant is positioned correctly.
Routine c-sections aren’t the only problem EBAW sees in our maternal healthcare. EBAW seeks to empower pregnant people, doctors, hospitals and the general public to fight back against routine procedures and ask, is this procedure necessary? Is this good for the woman and her baby? Will this cause more harm than good? Each birth situation is unique, and therefore should be treated uniquely, not as part of a factory assembly line. Many people assume that birth is routine and safe, and they fail to research the different procedures and risks. EBAW hopes to encourage families to take ownership of their pregnancy and birth by doing all the research, finding the best birth place, method, and provider for them, and thus getting the best outcome possible.
For many people, the meaning of EBAW is to educate the general population. But for some women, EBAW can have a bigger meaning: whether or not they will give birth in chains.
The United States has a large female inmate population. Being in prison does not stop or prevent pregnancy. Women who become pregnant in prison or who enter prison while pregnant end up facing extremely dangerous situations where their rights are ignored and their bodies are harmed. Sometimes, the medical needs of pregnant women are ignored, leading to miscarriages and stillbirths. Other women are moved to a medical facility to give birth, only to be chained to a bed by both hands and both feet. Only 16 of our 50 states have any regulation against women giving birth in shackles and chains. And even some of those states still practice shackling women even though it’s illegal. The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are both against this practice, but there is little publicity about it, and thus, it is very hard to make any progress to stop it. Luckily, there are organizations like the Prison Birth Project, which is working to help these women.
EBAW started on Monday with rallies across the United States called Improving Birth National Rally. Mothers, fathers, children and their advocates joined together in front of hospitals (who often welcomed them and provided refreshments and bathrooms) to educate the public. It continues with supporters sharing information through facebook, twitter, blogs and in person communication. The more people who share data, the more lives we can reach- and perhaps, save. If you want to get involved, visit Improving Birth and Birth Power.