The decisions surrounding pregnancy and birth are some of the most important decisions women make in their lifetime, and can set a precedent for the health and well-being of themselves and their families. Women often attempt to balance their own personal beliefs and values with pressure from doctors and family members who may have more experience or education. This attempt at balance can easily turn into compromise. Compromising one’s own needs can lead to an uncomfortable or unsatisfying birth experience, which is difficult to recover from both physically and mentally.
Expectant mothers deserve to have options and opportunities to educate themselves so they feel confident and respected throughout their pregnancy and beyond. For many, this involves an experience outside of a hospital. Luckily, our community is full of resources and support for those interested in alternative birth, prenatal and postpartum care.
Holly Horan, a certified birth and postpartum doula and instructor at Oregon State University, has been providing doula services in the Corvallis area since 2012. She describes the role of a doula as a non-clinical provider who supports and informs women before, during, and after birth. Those who feel intimidated by the process or who would simply feel more comfortable having an educated, experienced guide behind all their decisions—particularly those in their first pregnancy—can benefit immensely from doula services.
There are many local doulas who are more than willing to answer questions regarding natural childbirth and alternative postpartum care. Horan explained why limited interventions are becoming increasingly part of our birthing community. “Women are understanding the benefits of alternative, natural birth. It is a transformative experience, and we have been doing it for thousands of years.”
As far as concerns go, Horan said the concept of safety dominates the argument on both sides of the spectrum. “Some people feel reassured by an obstetric setting. Others believe an obstetric environment may be compromising their safety. Women should assess their own health and risks, and through education, decide what type of support they need and want.”
Although it ultimately comes down to personal preference, there are many studies which demonstrate very similar degrees of safety in low-risk pregnancies for both mom and baby in hospital, birth centers, and home births. Medical interventions are often not necessary, and can lead to additional invasive procedures. A 2014 study by the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, which examined 17,000 cases of midwife-led births, “confirmed that among low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of intervention without an increase in adverse outcome for mothers and babies.”
Horan works at the International Reproductive Health Lab at OSU, which is both a student and community center full of graduated professionals, midwives, and doulas committed to answering questions and providing support on all aspects of reproductive health. They are available every weekday and are a great resource for those considering different birthing options.
Another valuable community resource is the MidValley Birth Network, which publishes a free, thorough resource guide called The Push. The Push is full of contact information for local midwives, doulas, birth educators, breastfeeding support, postpartum support, and much more. All members of the network, whether they be hospitals, birth centers, or home birth services pledge to be mother-friendly and agree to 10 philosophical principles. These principles, focused on natural and supportive care, can be found in The Push guide, located in several spots around town including the Corvallis Library and First Alternative Co-op.
Melissa Meyer, mother of three and president of the MidValley Birth Network, believes the biggest decision pregnant women make throughout their journey is their care provider. “There are choices,” said Meyer. “Many women think they have to pick a doctor and do what that doctor tells them and that is just not true.” Meyer is confident that women can make the best decisions regarding their own birth experience. “The only way we are going to initiate change is to stand up for what we believe. Women are becoming more educated about the cascade of interventions and they want to take charge of their birth.”
Meyer believes women should birth where they are most comfortable, whether it be in a hospital, birth center, or at home. “Birth is 90% in your head and 10% in your body,” she said. “If you are not comfortable, you won’t have the best birth.”
Join Meyer for her 10-week Birth Boot Camp class for first- and second-time parents interested in natural birth and education on interventions and procedures. Also, consider attending the MidValley Birth Network’s third annual Baby’s Birth and Families Wellness Fair on Saturday, July 9 at the Starker Arts Park in Corvallis, free and open to the community. For info, check out their website, www.midvalleybirthnetwork.com, or contact Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach the International Reproductive Health Lab, contact Melissa Cheyney at 541-737-3895 or visit the HUB in Waldo Hall on Oregon State’s campus.
By Sarah Nieminski