The Business of Being Born, a documentary film by Ricki Lake and filmmaker Abby Epstein, has finally brought the modern maternity machine under mainstream media scrutiny. The film explores the use (and misuse) of modern maternity practices and procedures and explores and questions US birthing practices, ultimately advocating for mothers' rights to informed consent and evidence-based, mother-and-baby centered maternity care.
The US, despite spending in excess of $80 billion per year on maternity care, more than any other nation in the world, holds the second worst infant mortality rate in the entire developed world. In sharp contrast, all developed nations which implement a midwifery model of care boast significantly better birth outcomes including lower rates of infant mortality, intervention, complications and higher maternal satisfaction rates at a fraction of the cost.
The documentary follows the stories of several NYC mothers as they receive their prenatal care at the hands of skilled midwives to culminate in planned homebirths. At the heart of the film is footage of the birth of Ricki Lake's second child, in the bathtub of her own apartment. During filming, Director Abby Epstein finds that she too, has become pregnant, and explores her journey through the modern medical machine as unexpected complications arise.
This thought-provoking piece highlights just how far the US maternity system has fallen from evidence-based practice by letting liability and the bottom line dictate policies and procedures.
Its impact has been so widespread that recently the American Medical Association (AMA), in support of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), published a resolution to draft model legislation stating, "the safest setting for labor, delivery, and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex", despite 75 years of research supporting homebirth as an equally safe or safer option for low risk mothers which is the norm and well-supported in most developed nations. Much to their chagrin, this attack on homebirth thrust the issue out of the realm of birthing and into the arena of civil rights by challenging a woman's autonomy to make her own healthcare decisions.
In its original form, the resolution rebuked Ricki Lake by name. However, the public outcry over these statements became so vehement that the AMA amended its resolution to delete mention of her name.
The Business of Being Born is now available on DVD and a book and a sequel are due out next year. It's the must-see movie that will forever challenge preconceptions about birth in the US and open minds to the possibility of a better, easier, safer way to give birth.
To challenge perceptions about birth in the US and to learn more about the film, visit http://www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com/press/BusinessofBeingBorn.pdf
Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE
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