So the head of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) in Western Australia (WA), Dr Michael Gannon, has come out and reminded us that women who choose homebirth against medical advice are selfish. This link will take you to the article.
And for some reason the whole birth community is in an uproar. What this guy (because it’s always men in charge of uteri…) is saying is wrong and horrible on so many levels. But it’s not like this is new. The AMA and RANZCOG have been saying crap like this for years. Women who choose not to do as they are told by our patriarchal heroes (who are just trying to save our babies from our murderous uteri and vaginas) are selfish.
By now you all know my thoughts on bodily autonomy, homebirth and “selfish” women…but I thought I’d add my voice to the commentary. Because this is a topic that I am passionate about and I really think that this guy needs a good slap to the head.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Firstly, this statement from the AMA in WA is in response to the deaths of 3 babies at homebirths. These deaths occurred in 2010 and 2011. These were incredibly tragic deaths. But what about all the babies that have died in hospital in the same period of time? Where is the public (as in, in the mainstream media) examination of the causes of death? Where is the public assessment of the choices made by those parents and the actions of those care givers? And why doesn’t anyone ever ask “Would these babies have lived if born at home”?
Next, what of all the unnecessary caesareans that are performed? WA consistently ranks as having the highest caesarean rate in Australia. It’s where “that” Ob was from – the one selling caesareans as a “better birth”. But here’s the thing. An elective caesarean is 3 times more likely than a vaginal birth to leave a family without their mother. I don’t see any comments from the AMA about all these Obs who are so willing to “roll the dice” with women’s lives. When women "choose" caesareans the AMA are all about "bodily autonomy" but when women choose homebirth they are all "selfish women". Anyone else wondering about this?
“The WA Australian Medical Association has urged pregnant woman to listen to their doctor's advice if giving birth at home is deemed not safe.”
I’m seriously yet to hear of two obstetricians agreeing on anything. I run a huge VBAC support group and here’s what I’ve found. Policies vary. From state to state. Hospital to hospital. Even care givers in the same hospital will make different recommendations. Prime examples are around induction of vbac, how far overdue a woman is “allowed” to go and whether water birth is supported. If Obs can’t agree on these things how can we trust that the advice we are getting from ANY of them is evidence based and accurate? How much of what they say is based on one bad experience 20 years ago, or an article they read about another Obs experience, or a mainstream media release…
And then you have another conundrum. Obs are the “experts” on surgical birth. Midwives are the “experts” on normal birth. So if I want a normal birth wouldn’t I be better off consulting a midwife? And what if the midwife says something different to the Ob? Oh dear, we’re now in quite a pickle!
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Dr Gannon says that we need to convince women that hospital is the safest option. But if hospital really were the safest option wouldn’t the stats speak for themselves? I mean it’s some pretty educated women who are choosing homebirth. Women who are capable of reading and interpreting statistics and studies and reaching sensible conclusions. Like, that hospital isn’t the safest option for them…
"We need to work very hard on those women who feel disengaged from the health service when they have had a difficult first birth”.
This statement shows one major thing about Dr Gannon.
He has no fucking idea what is going on.
Seriously. Women are not disengaging because they have had “difficult” births. They are disengaging because they have been assaulted, abused, coerced, manipulated and bullied. These things are illegal and by referring to them as “difficult births” Dr Gannon is condoning the ongoing physical and emotional abuse of pregnant and birthing women.
Let’s think about that for a minute. The WA Australian Medical Association is suggesting that women go back into situations and environments where they have been abused. Because somehow, being abused by an Ob in a hospital makes a woman and her baby safer than being respected by a midwife at home.
Women who stay in abusive relationships are often spoken of quite disparagingly. “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Now women who choose to leave an abusive situation are being referred to as selfish. How about instead of referring to women who wish to avoid abuse as "selfish" we start referring to those who bully women into unnecessary procedures in the name of "routine practice" as what they are: abusers, bullies, manipulators, criminals. And how about the AMA stop protecting these criminals?
Courtesy of Amey Bencke
So let’s get real Dr Gannon. You’re a bloke. You’re unlikely to ever lose your life during a caesarean. Childbirth is no risk to your wellbeing. If a doctor bullies you into an invasive and risky procedure people will tell you to lodge a complaint. No-one will call you selfish if you disagree with a doctor (who disagrees with a doctor down the road and several other specialists). If someone cuts your genitals while you scream “NO” they will probably go to jail.
So, Dr Gannon, guess how many fucks I give that YOU think I’m selfish?
Pregnant women are human beings and, as such, are deserving of the full range of human rights. Including the right to bodily autonomy and the right to pick and choose our care givers and what medical treatment we consent to. Shaming women who exercise their legal and ethical rights is NOT okay. And we will not tolerate it.
I think you hit nail on the head with this one. I was really abused through my birth of my daughter and even leading up to her birth. I was in the bath and was always about to have her with no pain killers. They told me they wouldn't be able to get me out of the bath if I had her there. However I had the babies dad and my mum that would have helped me out. I was like 2 cms way from her coming out however when I was taken I could handle the pain when I was in the bath I was fine. So asked for Epidural which I was pushed towards having which meant that I stopped having my baby and she didn't ebf up coming for another 12 hours. Also she came out not breathing what if they left me in the bath everything may have been different. The bullying I got was also was able the timing of my baby cause I pushed it to 42 weeks let's say they were not happy however my daughter now growing is so better for it. She seems to get everything faster then other kids her age. This is the first time I have actually felt like someone understands what I went through and that there are so many woman who a pushed into things that just is so wrong. Also we are not treated like this if we have cancer but if we have a baby we are.