Birth: it's a miracle. A rite of passage. A natural part of life. But more than anything, birth is a business. Compelled to find answers after a disappointing birth experience with her ... See full summary »
Birth: it's a miracle. A rite of passage. A natural part of life. But more than anything, birth is a business. Compelled to find answers after a disappointing birth experience with her first child, actress Ricki Lake recruits filmmaker Abby Epstein to explore the maternity care system in America. Focusing on New York City, the film reveals that there is much to distrust behind hospital doors and follows several couples who decide to give birth on their own terms. There is an unexpected turn when director Epstein not only discovers she is pregnant, but finds the life of her child on the line. Should most births should be viewed as a natural life process, or should every delivery be treated as a potential medical emergency? Written by
A film about birthing at home; you will be surprised by what you see.
This movie is terrific. I had my doubts when I learned it was produced by and starring Ricki Lake, I admit. But it is sensitive, interesting, intellectual, captivating, and incredibly moving. It was not manipulative, but by the end, the entire audience was in tears.
The most important thing about this film is that it shows the public what birth can be, for both the mother and baby. You see several homebirths, nothing too intimate (unless you consider the incredible post-birth high that somehow permeates the screen and affects the viewer, to be too close for comfort). No dilating vaginas or body fluids, sorry to disappoint. But what it does show is something that almost no one, especially not doctors (I am one), get to see. A natural birth with no intervention where things go right. Shocking! In my medical training, I attended hundreds of births. I probably saw one or two with no medical intervention in the hospital. My hospital birth was normal, with no problems, but I had interventions despite having told my OB (and mentor) that I didn't want any.
It does not idealize birth per se, except by showing how simple birth can be without medicalization. But the volunteers of this midwife to be filmed were not excluded if there is a problem; one of the births requires transfer so you see how that is handled as well.
The film educates people about the history of birth in this country, how things are done in other countries including Europe, and shows statistics about birth (there are more than they include in the medical literature) that will probably surprise a lot of people.
I wouldn't say that the film is about Ricki Lake. She shows up here and there, and yes, she gives birth, but there are so many women followed here, and so many experts in birth interviewed.
Dr. Michel Odent is one of them. He is a French OB/Gyn who attends homebirths. He has done considerable research on birthing, and has written multiple very intelligent books about it. He brings up the idea that when a rat or a monkey has an epidural or C/S, they will not bond with their babies. They will not breastfeed, they will not mother them, they do not care for them. There will be no natural hypothalamic oxytocin release, which causes a release of norepinephrine, dopamine, prolactin, serotonin, that prepares a woman not only to breastfeed but to bond. The oxytocin release in this situation will never be replicated, even if the women breastfeeds or does infant massage (which both do cause oxytocin release but not in the same amounts as if you start off with this kick-off). As breastfeeding lowers breast cancer rates in women in a dose related fashion, oxytocin release over time is associated with a certain calm, lower levels of stress, but actually is dose-related to lower levels of stroke and heart attack in the mothers. So it is a long-term benefit of natural birth. This is touched upon in the film, among many other interesting facts.
It is not surprising to discover that doing things the way women are created to do them benefits both the mother and baby in so many different ways. Part of why this movie is so important is that it challenges the notion that man-made is better than the intricate design of man from God or evolution or however you want to approach it. Many people may not subscribe to it when it is stated like that, but in the food we eat, the we feed our babies, the way we grow our food, the chemicals we use in the environment, and the way we birth our babies, we are saying that every single day.
Common sense says that man-made leaves a lot to be desired. Science is proving this every day, in research about omega-3 requirements in neurological and other conditions, in breastfeeding and oxytocin literature preventing cancer/heart attack and stroke, to the benefits of breastmilk for babies. This movie is a peek into how doing things as nature intended is BETTER.
I don't feel I am exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most important films of these times for both men and women. Everyone should see it. You may not decide to have a homebirth afterwards, but you will walk out better educated about birth and what is happening in the hospital when you give birth.
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