There are many options for women who want to create not only a healthy and safe environment for the new life to enter into, but also a sacred and welcoming experience that brings balance and security to everyone involved in the process.
Child-birthing trends are shaped by the culture of mothers and whatever the medical industry is recommending. Up until the 1930s a majority of women were having babies at home with no painkillers and in the company of the family doctor. In 1936, a new childbirth anesthetic was being debated, and the controversy of how far do we go to try to relieve the pain of childbirth began. By the 1950s, most women were having their babies in hospitals, with the aid of medications for pain and ease of delivery, and the majority relinquished all decision-making to the delivering doctor. Breastfeeding was not in fashion and formula was seen as the more convenient, modern option. In the ‘60s and ‘70s some women began revolting against these practices and began seeking out midwifes and natural birthing options once again.
From then, however, the cesarean-section rate began increasing. It grew from 5% in 1965 (in line with international recommendations of 5-10% being optimal for women’s health) to 33% in 2010 and 2011 (that’s one in three births!). This increase in rates is linked to several things: an increase in labor-inducing drugs in first-time mothers (i.e. Petocin), medical and insurance industry incentives for an “efficient” labor, casual attitudes about cesarean-sections and their side effects and risks, and a lack of providing women an informed choice that includes vaginal birthing options.
Women are now in the position to reverse the trend as education around natural birthing options becomes more available. Pregnant women are doing yoga, using forms of hypno-birthing, aromatherapy, and accessing many other new and ancient practices. There are even a variety of options when it comes to home birthing in our region. Three nurse midwifery homebirth practices in the Hudson Valley offer safe affordable home birthing. In the Catskill area midwife Jenna Houston serves a five-county region, and in Ulster County you can find both River and Mountain Midwifery, and Olivebridge Midwifery.
If home birthing is not for you, you can find many hospitals and providers within our communities that support women of varying needs and birthing plans. Birth centers like Northern Dutchess Hospital’s Neugarten Birth Center understand that when a woman enters the hospital for childbirth she should not a be treated like a trauma patient, nor is she ill (although all of these people deserve a serene environment, too)—she is, in fact, about to experience the most extraordinary thing her body could ever do. So, they now provide rooms that feel more like being in an inn, with wood floors, curtains and pull out sofa chairs. Hospitals will allow you to bring in your own music, and sometimes even create your own lighting for a relaxing environment.
Vassar Brother’s Hospital Maternity Center offers luxury maternity suites, and an advanced neonatal intensive care unit. They have fabulous prenatal services, designed to ensure support for underserved populations, and a vast array of education programs ranging from breastfeeding to parenting.
At Northern Dutchess’s Neugarten Birth Center, you get a home-like atmosphere, and they even provide a complimentary post-partum massage. There is a water tub for women who either want to relax in warm water during labor, or who want to give birth in the tub. I delivered both my children as “water births” at Neugarten Birth Center. Not only did I find the tub extremely relaxing and a natural transition for my babies (from the watery womb), but I also had my husband and best friend with me, helping me relax. The midwife and nurses left us alone as much as we liked, which was very intimate and special.
In the birthing tub I was buoyant, it took the pressure off my bloated body. My children floated out into the world under water, stayed under as the midwife cleaned them off, and then took their first breaths when they were gently lifted into the towel and put on my chest. It was more than awesome, and I was very grateful that this option existed in such a relaxing birthing environment that was also a part of a hospital (although a separate building). And water birth is just one of many ways a woman can choose to give birth.
There are many midwives and doulas in the area, and their services can often be covered by standard health plans. Doulas, such as Glenford-based Mary Riley, help women birth comfortably through touch and calming, grounding words, and emotional and physical support. Riley also gives birthing courses and can provide extensive childbirth education. She is a wealth of birthing knowledge, offering the perspectives of what to expect during labor in regards to doctors, hospitals, your own body, and your partner—and she truly empowers women to select and work toward their ideal birth plan.
You’ll even find the most amazing stores for pregnant women and new mothers and babies. Waddle n Swaddle is a mama/baby essentials boutique and wellness center with two locations: in the Arlington section of Poughkeepsie and Rhinebeck. Their goal is to meet the needs of the expecting mother, newborn, infant and toddler. They carry select essentials for each stage of pregnancy and baby-hood to help make life easier for parents.
I recently had my annual check up with my midwife, Suzanne Berger, who delivered my first child ten years ago. Berger is part of the Health Quest practice—the only practice to offer midwifery 24/7. She has been “catching babies” for 21 years. When asked if she had any recommendations for new mothers, she gave these words of wisdom: “Research. Do your homework. Talk to other women who’ve had babies. If you are seeing a doctor and you aren’t happy or aren’t comfortable go somewhere that you feel comfortable. You need to feel comfortable and have that trust relationship. So, claim your power. Listen to your heart.”
Why Is the National US Cesarean Section Rate So High?
Empowered women shape modern maternity care: