Tuba City, Arizona: lessons in safe hospital birth

The US have one of the highest rates of c-section births in the world. How did this rate become so high and why is it that women are birthing more and more in an operating room? C-sections are major surgeries and should only be used wisely, when mother and baby are at risk during birth. Each caesarean birth will increase the risks for the mother in ulterior pregnancies. Most of the time, given the proper support, intimacy, space to move about and time, women will give birth naturally and without the need of interventions.
The New York Times just ran a story about what is happening in rural Arizona, where women are given the space and time to birth their babies, resulting in healthier outcomes both for moms and kids. In Tuba City, Arizona, the local hospital is not run in the way most hospitals are run in the US. The hospital is run by the Navajo Nation and is federally insured against malpractice, lessening the fears of lawsuits for doctors, nurses and anaesthesiologists. Doctors earn a fixed salary, and are not paid according to the procedures. Practitioners live close-by in case of an emergency so there is no need to “rush” moms during labor. The hospital provides an environment for women to give birth in a safe way. The results are there: Tuba City has one of the lowest rate of caesarean births in the country and one of the highest rates of VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).

At the Tuba City hospital, most births are attended by nurse-midwives, who usually have a track record of fewer interventions. It was really nice to read a mainstream media article that actually stressed that fact and stressed the need for hospitals that provide safe environments for women.

Giving birth without being ill-treated by overworked personnel, rushed into operating rooms by doctors who are in a hurry to get to their golf game or forced into uncomfortable birth positions because of liability issues is a right that women should fight for. Giving birth is not a medical emergency except for very rare cases. Women should and must be allowed to give birth in a safe, secure way, in a way where their integrity and dignity are respected. Birth should not be portrayed as a catastrophe in waiting or as a necessary trauma.

In Navajo country, the article states that: 

Birth is a joyous affair here, and the entire family — from children to great-grandparents — often go to the delivery room. [...] As a result, many young women have already seen children born by the time they become pregnant, and birth seems natural to them, not frightening.

I think we should all learn something from the Navajo way: there is an alternative to the way we treat birth today. For those who don’t want the “granola-eating-tree-hugging” sort of birth as some view homebirth, hospital birth should be just as safe, peaceful and fulfilling. Most important, birth attendants should always have the mother’s and baby’s health and interest in mind, not their own...

Read the full New York Times article here.


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