We Are Failing At Birth. What Can We Do About It?

March 26, 2019


I have had a lot of people showing up in my office lately who are really struggling in the postpartum – I mean, really struggling.


This is not a topic we really like to talk about. It is sad and overwhelming. But it is also true. And it is not going to get better unless we really look at it and start taking the steps needed to change it.


So in the name of really looking at it, I share this with you.


The postpartum struggle looks a lot alike from one person to the next - all of them share with me, through tears, that they feel like failures. That they’re anxious and depressed – nothing feels right anymore. Their nervous systems are heightened and they cannot relax, much less sleep well. Many admit, after skirting the issue for a bit, that they don’t want to even say it out loud, but they don’t feel a connection with their babies and everything just feels kind of… “flat.”


What these dear people are experiencing is a direct result of pregnancies and births that felt traumatic in one way or another – or in many ways. Each of these people is a sad testimony to the fact that how we manage pregnancy and birth at this point in time, is failing us as living, breathing, loving human beings.


You know the old saw about “The most important thing is a healthy mom and baby?” Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, but we are even failing at that.


We are failing at that in two ways:

1) Our moms and babies are often not healthy after giving birth. They suffer from physical issues, but also consistently report psycho-emotional issues described above. Young women believe birth is “scary” and “painful” and that recovering from pregnancy and birth is “hard” and “unpleasant.”

2) And even if you think that “important thing is a healthy mom and baby” thing just means that mom and baby are alive… Well, those stats are not on your side either.


"From 1990-2008, the rate of maternal mortality worldwide dropped by 34% while the rate in the United States nearly doubled. The U.S. currently ranks 38th in infant mortality…” (nacpm.org).

And heaven help you if you are a pregnant person of color. “African American babies die at more than twice the rate of white babies, and maternal mortality is four times higher for black mothers than for whites, while American Indians and Alaska Natives have an infant mortality rate 60% higher than whites" (nacpm.org)


So what are some steps we can take to begin to change this situation?

1) Make sure we share all of our birth stories – ALL OF THEM. They all inform and they all deserve to be heard.

2) Let’s make it cool to be informed. Information is truly power and we can learn a lot about care providers and their statistics, hospitals and birth centers and their statistics, how birth works best, nutritional support, evidence-based practices, etc.

3) I may be biased, but the statistics are with me on this one: EVERY SINGLE PERSON NEEDS AND DESERVES A GREAT DOULA!