Helping Expectant Moms Learn About Childbirth Options

by Andrea Barbosa & Angela Bailey

SWFLBN Chapter Leaders

The way that a woman experiences childbirth can profoundly affect her mental, physical and spiritual well-being.  Postpartum Support International states that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth is experienced by 1-6% of women, most often caused by real or perceived trauma in labor or postpartum. Reasons can include poor communication and lack of support and reassurance during the delivery and/or having an unplanned cesarean.

Many women are choosing to become informed about all of their childbirth options, yet there are many more that are unaware of having choices available.  A community-wide effort in reaching out has begun through meetings, resources, support and advocacy by four of us, local mothers and childbirth professionals, forming the Southwest Florida BirthNetwork organization.  Our mission is to promote the awareness and availability of Mother-Friendly maternity care and encourage women to be active participants in their healthcare decisions.

It is our belief that safe and satisfying births can take place in hospitals, birth centers, and homes with appropriate, Mother-Friendly care and support.  We refer to the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI) which defines and outlines steps towards maternity services that promote the normalcy of the birth process, the autonomy and empowerment of the parents, and the responsibility of the caregiver to implement evidence-based care practices.

We desire to address the need for local accountability in maintaining the standards set by the CIMS and the World Health Organization that states a cesarean rate below 15% is recommended for the best mother/baby outcomes.  Our Network coordinated the first annual Improving Birth National Rally for Change on Labor Day, September 3, 2012 when about 100 local community members and professionals gathered in front of Gulf Coast Medical Center, the hospital with the lowest cesarean rate in the region at 26.12% as of 2011.  Lee Memorial Health System supported our cause and would like to help us plan next year’s rally to continue raising awareness for improvement.

We offer memberships to professionals and facilities that endorse the MFCI and feature them in our Birth & Beyond Resource Guide, a directory provided free to parents that can be found online and in print.  Our Mothering Tent is also available at regional, family-friendly events giving new parents a quiet, comfortable space to change, nurse and feed their babies in.  Individual and group support meetings are offered to expecting and new parents.  Over the past six months, we’ve shown the The Business of Being Born and Freedom for Birth movies, and on November 17, 2012, Pregnant in America will be shown at the Lakes Regional Library in South Fort Myers.

Families exploring birth options are encouraged to seek providers who support their personal philosophies. We believe that greater participation in birth leads to greater participation in parenting, and women have the right to experience birth in a way that maximizes self confidence and trust in the wisdom of their bodies.  Birth matters not only for a day, but for the rest of our lives and the lives of our children.

This article was originally published in the October 2012 issue of SWFL Parent & Child Magazine.


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