Childbirth has been a normal part of human history for as long as there has been human history. In the relative scheme of things, babies being born in hospitals and attended by physicians is a fairly recent occurrence. Lifetime has recently announced a new reality show in the making, Born in the Wild, that will highlight women giving birth in a back-to-nature setting, without being attended by obstetricians or midwives.
The new series was inspired by a viral video last year of a woman whose baby was born unassisted last year in the wild, actually in a rainforest. The YouTube video has been viewed over 20 million times.
Reactions from the medical community to Born in the Wild have been, not surprisingly, are largely unsupportive, citing fears of all the things that can go wrong. Birth is frequently a medical event complete with a myriad of interventions and technological advances to make birth “safe.”
Increasingly, women are viewing the safety of hospital birth as an illusion, choosing out-of-hospital birth options instead.
The Inquisitr recently broke down the latest statistics about the maternal mortality rate in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, that rate has more than doubled in the past decade. In fact, there are 59 countries where it is statistically safer for a mother to give birth than the US, up from 27 in 2005.
The US is one of only eight countries where more, not less, mothers are dying in childbirth. Infant mortality is on the rise as well.
It is little wonder that many families are looking to more natural ways of giving birth, given the fact that all of the increase in technological advances has not actually made birth safer statistically. Some experts point to the number and scope of interventions as being part of the reason.
Lifetime executive Eli Lehrer is the father of a baby born at home with a midwife, and he spoke with Entertainment Weekly about the show:
“These are all people who have already had babies in hospitals who had unsatisfying experiences and who are choosing to have different experiences. This is something people are doing and we set out to document it.”
Lehrer emphasizes that, even though the births will take place in the wild, they will remain within a certain distance of a hospital and have trained medical professionals, at least an EMT, on hand. He goes on to say, “Our presence at these births is going to make them far safer than if they were doing it on their own.”
Therein lies the rub, according to a number of natural and unassisted birth supporters. It is the very presence of the film crew that will “change the whole dynamics” of the birth, according to Carla Hartley, founder of Ancient Art Midwifery Institute.
A number of unassisted birthers, or family birthers, stress that what Born in the Wild will be showing is not actually unassisted birth. At what point will comments be made or the attitude of those observing affect the birth, which could possibly create a problem that wouldn’t have existed otherwise? Unassisted birth, by definition, is free of people standing around and gawking at it.
Denise Hibben, student midwife and freebirther, tells The Inquisitr :
“Birth is a normal, natural function of biology. Birth is not just contractions and the emergence of a child; it is a complex dance between mother and child, with an amazing and interesting symphony of hormones. I can’t help but think that the very act of filming these mothers, of observing them, is interference that has the potential to interrupt the birth process.”
Australian physician Dr. Sarah Buckley writes for the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services, AIMS Journal, “The full expression of these labouring hormones requires specific conditions: that the labouring mother feels private, safe and unobserved…. Conversely, if she is not feeling private, safe and unobserved in labour, her adrenaline levels will increase, slowing labour and decreasing blood and oxygen supply to the baby and leading to fetal distress for vulnerable babies.”
“Sensational complications with ‘savior’ doctor swooping in WILL happen,” believes doula Jessica Crosmun about Born in the Wild. She says, “birth will not be safe with spectators, fear-filled emergency personnel at hand, and the eyes of the world upon them. Plus, normal boring birth never sold TV shows.”
The phrase “Birth is safe; interference is risky” was coined by Carla Hartley, who says:
“Birth is not an entity that goes around sprinkling good birth dust on some and bad birth juju on others. Birth is the cooperative effort of the physiologies of mother and baby to bring baby from the uterus to mother’s arms. I trust that. Birth starts at safe….it is what we do that affects the physiology of mother and baby that makes it less safe. Any interference edits what the birth would have been.”
“It saddens me that birth, real physiological, raw birth has to be sensationalized in order for it to get the attention as the option for birth it is,” says Hibben. However, Born in the Wild “could also be the wakeup call that will change the birth paradigm for the better.”
Born in the Wild is stirring up plenty of controversy among medical professionals and natural birth advocates alike. Neither side is completely happy with the concept, but what will matter ultimately to the Lifetime network is whether or not viewers like it. What do you think? Will you watch it? Do you think that this show can change the birth paradigm, or will it cause more harm than good?
[images via birthinnature.com, Christy Colvin photography, and bing]