We Can Improve Primal Health
by Jan Tritten

[Editor's Note: This editorial originally appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 81, Spring 2007.]

Much of primal health depends on non interference in birth; that is, not performing procedures on women that can negatively affect their babies. The foundation of superior health depends on the one great and original physician—God—who designed the process to work ever so well.

Our meddling—first around birth and now in the prenatal and postnatal period—has damaged both mental and physical health of moms and babies. The corporate medical culture has taken over our lives, from cradle to grave, and because it is so embedded in our culture we don't question it.

Though primal health refers to the babies' health, the mothers' health is also deeply affected especially in the prenatal, birth and breastfeeding periods. Motherbaby cannot be separated at this time and should be considered as one for nine months after birth.* The health of a baby relies on the mother's health and well-being. A mother who has had a cesarean is not her normal capable self in the first week or more. If she is depressed, possibly due to being railroaded into the procedure, her mothering of this baby could be affected for a lifetime. I believe that the mothers' health is of similar importance to primal health. I propose that Michel [Odent] come up with a term for the adverse effects on the mothers' health during this period and begin to note the studies that reflect this. Then we can start to get a clearer picture of overall health of our society as well.

When I first started midwifery 30 years ago we had not invaded the uterus. Ultrasound machines were not in the hospitals yet, much less in doctor's offices or at the malls! Amniocentesis was seldom used and had a one percent miscarriage rate. We ordered blood tests, but that was about it for medicalization of our prenatal care. We talked about diet, reducing stress, what was going on in the woman's life and her feelings about everything.

With gross medicalization, reducing a pregnant woman's stress level is practically impossible, even with midwifery care. Senseless, non evidence-based protocols have permeated midwifery practice, too. In my homebirth practice our prematurity rate was one third of one percent: practically zero.

Our breastfeeding rate was almost 100%. (One woman's doctor sabotaged her.) Why do we need lactation consultants today? Because birth has been separated from breastfeeding and messed with so badly that women can no longer do what they were designed to do. Remember, the great physician designed this all to work in a special and specific way. Mess with one part and it all goes haywire.

My anthropology professor used a perfect analogy: If you rubber band a bunch of pencils together at their tips, when you move one, others move. The cascade of interventions applies to primal health too! One iatrogenic action affects many areas of health. You cannot separate the mother from the baby without horrendous and detrimental outcomes.

What can we do to ensure primal health from the beginning and also guard moms' long-term health at the same time? Mother and baby are so connected in so many different ways. Moms need to be healthy to take the best care of their babies. Let's go back to our maker's design pregnancy and childbirth. It works quite well.

Look at Dr. John Stevenson from Australia. He helped at over 250 homebirths without a caesarean. He is the most trusting midwife I know. The Japanese birth homes, whose midwives work with a woman's physiology have a one to a one-and-a-half percent caesarean rate. These practitioners also practice in non-interventive ways. We cannot achieve such good outcomes here because of our birth culture. Step outside the medical culture and look at real evidence. Resist the temptation of the brainwashing that the medical culture wants to impose.

We cannot minimize the importance of these ideas. Each mother's and each child's long-term health, as well as the health of our whole society, depends on it.

What can you personally do about it? Make sure you are practicing in ways that first do no harm. Recognize that the whims of the medical culture should not affect your practice. Look to real evidence and the many kinds of evidence. Research can be skewed and often it is. Listen to women. Help them improve their diets. Practice good midwifery care. Put the mother and her baby first.

At the same time we all must diligently work for a change in the wider culture, as time and energy permit. If you are a midwife or a doula with a young family, doing births might be all the time you can commit. Indeed the most important part is one birth at a time. But working on birth change is the other calling we must answer.

I love to go to conferences because I meet so many people who are all working on their dreams for birth change. If we all do our part I pray we can shift the paradigm. One small thing I would like you to consider doing is to write for Midwifery Today or The Birthkit. Share your knowledge, ideas, dreams and visions. (See our themes below for the next four issues. We are happy to receive articles on any birth subject.)

Toward Better Birth,

Jan Tritten, Editor, Midwifery Today magazine

*Nine months is considered in anthropology about the time the baby has more mental and physical development that compares with other primates. Our big heads make us come out earlier in order to fit. The brain gets us in trouble in many ways!

Upcoming Midwifery Today Themes

  • Issue 83 Breech Birth (mini theme: Animal Birth); submission deadline June 1, 2007
  • Issue 84 Birth Change; submission deadline September 1, 2007
  • Issue 85 Technology: Stemming the Tide; submission deadline December 1, 2007
  • Issue 86 Choices in Childbirth; submission deadline March 1, 2008

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