Why the Science of Birth Doesn’t Matter

I recently got to hear Joel Salatin speak. For those who don’t know, Joel is a farmer and an advocate of the right of American consumers to purchase raw dairy, meat, eggs, and vegetables from small, local farmers. He says that if our Founding Fathers could have imagined that this right would ever be taken away, they would have protected it in our Constitution.
During the Q and A, an audience member asked about the science that shows that raw milk is safe. I’m paraphrasing, but the point of Joel’s response was that the science is there of course, but that the science doesn’t matter. He said that even the scientists sometimes don’t believe their own science. That is why it is important to frame this discussion in the context of the right of the consumers to purchase and eat whatever foods they choose.
I have long been fascinated by the similarity of the politics of birth and raw milk. We have the science to show that less intervention in birth usually makes birth safer and that much of what is done in obstetrics is not evidence based. We know that ACOG evaluated their own recommendations and found only 30% to be evidence based. We watch as the rate of American maternal mortality rates climb, along with the rising rates of inductions and cesarean births. It makes me think that Joel is right, it’s not about the science.
The way to protect birth freedoms and midwives is to frame the issue as one of consumer freedom. Women are smart and our right to make informed choices about our bodies, our health, our babies, and our births needs to be protected. This is another right American founders could hardly have imagined disappearing.
In my childbirth classes we talk about how ultimately birthing decisions are heart choices. I watch the pregnant students in my VBAC classes sometimes struggle to decide if they want to VBAC or have another cesarean birth. We talk about safety and science. But ultimately the decision is about the heart and not about science. My natural childbirth students sometimes struggle to decide if they want a home birth or a hospital birth. We discuss the data, but ultimately this too is a heart decision.
When birth advocates work to protect the right of a mother to choose where, with whom, and how to birth, when we move the discussion away from the science, then real change will begin.

Julie Brill, CCCE, CLD is honored to have taught thousands of childbirth education students and hundreds of CAPPA childbirth educators and labor doulas. To register for a New England CAPPA childbirth educator or labor doula training visit www.WellPregnancy.com. To follow her on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/wellpregnancy.