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Holistic Bowen Therapist,
Midwife &
Childbirth Educator Sussex UK

 


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A Declaration of the Rights of Childbearing Women
By Leilah McCracken

Birth is easy; obfuscating medical factoids make it hard. Modern obstetrical knowledge is based on false hospital outcomes; more is known about how bedridden patients give birth than how real, panting, sensual women give birth. The wild animal inside each of us is anesthetized in an unfamiliar environment: we cannot hope to explore our primal side in any hospital nor even at home if our birth attendants are accustomed to working within sterile fields.

Birth is not dangerous; birth need not be frightening; birth does not require people well-versed in the abnormalities of childbirth to observe and record its every fluctuation. Birth needs to be trusted. Birth needs to be believed in. Birth is safe.

There are qualities inherent in safe, loving childbearing which must be recognized as the global rights of all women. Dangerous, dehumanizing medical procedures are violations against women's most basic human rights and are also violations of children's rights to be born without undue pain and exploitation.

Birth's integrity diminishes as obstetric interventions multiply. These are the rights of women and babies everywhere:

1. All women have the right to sacred, fantastic, profound, and loving birth experiences. Childbirth must never be viewed by birth attendants as routine, cumbersome or insignificant.

2. Childbirth must happen in physical and emotional privacy. Women's vaginas in birth are as sacrosanct as they are at any other time; routinely penetrating them with fingers, forceps, scissors or hooks is a severe violation against the most fundamental rights women have to privacy and protection of the self. Women have the right to vocalize, move about, assume any birthing positions they like, and allow their births to unfold uniquely, without feeling the need to gain the acceptance and approval of their birth attendants. Women have the right to refuse birth attendants altogether. All hospital staff, midwives, family members, and friends of birthing women must have full consent before viewing the childbirth process. Women's bodies are never to be regarded as learning aids. No institution has the right to impose spectators on any woman's birth.

3. Women have the right and power of "No": if they understand interventions and procedures, and refuse to allow them to be implemented, their refusals must be respected by all medical personnel. Childbearing women will not be barraged with attempts at mind-changing or browbeating.

4. All women must be physically safe at birth. Instruments of routine interventions seriously harm the bodies of women: scissors, knives, harmful drugs, forceps, catheters, hooks, needles, fingers, tubes, and razors can be classified as tools of assault. Extreme caution must be used whenever intervention into the natural birth process is considered.

5. All babies, either in the process of being born, or after their births, must not be harmed: forceps, scalp electrodes, vacuum extraction, rough or careless handling, early amputation of the umbilical cord, suctioning catheters, ventilating equipment, injections, eye treatments, and an oxygen-deprived birth environment- caused by either pain-relieving or induction drugs- all cause a great deal of distress to new babies, and can upset their future wellbeing as well.

6. All women have the right to complete, immediate access to information regarding all procedures done, either to them or their babies, in pregnancy, birth and the postpartum. Women must be informed of any potential harm of all procedures, regardless of the length of time the explaining takes (except in the most extreme cases). "Informed consent" cannot be taken lightly by women or their birth attendants. Women have the right to be made aware of nonintrusive alternatives to common hospital procedures- such as the superior safety of giving birth at home, waterbirth as a safe method of pain relief and the advantages of natural, private methods of induction of labor.

7. It must be recognized as a criminal act to mutilate women's bodies in childbirth.

8. All women must have easy, free access to information that illuminates the natural childbirth process for them, and helps them prepare for their births, and assists them in preparation for care of their newborns. This information must be given in a way that does not view birth as a dangerous, biological anomaly, but as a natural, joyous one.

9. All women have the right to give birth wherever and with whomever they choose; and to know the safety statistics of any individuals and/or institutions they choose to give birth with/in.

10. All women have the right of complete access to all of their own recorded medical information, as well as access to knowledgeable people to interpret the information who are advocates for the consumer.

11. The newborn must be viewed as a natural appendage of its mother. Mother and child must remain together, in quiet dignity, for as long as the mother desires. Handling of the baby by anyone other than its mother for the first hours of life is to be strongly discouraged.

12. Ongoing breastfeeding information and support must be available to all women.

13. The rights of women are inalienable and will not be undermined by any government, male partner, professional birth attendant, nor any individual or group of individuals whose interests do not reflect the
wishes of parturient women regarding their own, or their babies', safety and wellbeing.

These rights cannot possibly, right now, be mandated by any government; too many individuals and organizations are exploiting women's basic needs to trust and to feel safe for their own gain and/or expediency.

Yet birth cannot be safe when a woman's wishes are secondary to those of her birth attendants. These rights must be demanded by every woman; no one will give them freely to her. These rights are for women to learn and cherish. All enlightened women must inform other women of their inherent rights as women of the Earth.


Reprinted with Leilah McCracken's kind permission from www.birthlove.com.

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