What is birth? How is it both universal and specific? Is it medical, dangerous, spiritual, normal? I’ve looked for answers to these questions in hospitals, birthing centers, clinics and at home. The process contains so many ideas: struggle, beauty, culture, power and transformation.
Maternity carries risks – 287,000 maternal deaths occurred in 2010, though nearly all of them could have been prevented, and women living in developing countries are more than 15 times more likely to die from complications.
And the U.S. has the highest first-day infant mortality rate of any industrialized nation, in part due to excessively high rates of intervention and difficulty accessing prenatal care.
But in my travels to the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Mexico, the Navajo Nation, Massachusetts and Florida over the past seven years, I’ve seen how women can have meaningful experiences wherever they deliver. When maternity care integrates midwifery and cultural traditions with doctor backup when complications arise, women are respected while giving birth safely.