The Myth of Better Hospital Birth- A History In Pictures

I always find it laughable when people talk about how much birth has improved through time and technology. "Birth was so dangerous before hospitals" is such a ridiculous statement. But one of the most moronic things of all is that we somehow think that women are better off now than they were during the era of twilight birth.

During the era of twilight birth women were so heavily medicated that they had to be tied down to prevent them from hurting themselves or others. They did not remember their births. They were not active participants of the birth. This was all done for the sake of pain relief.
The pictures are rare and disturbing.

And yet today we continue to function under the illusion that medicated hospital birth is now a much happier affair.

Again, the pictures tell a different story.

Again we see women unable to move. Again they are not active participants in their births. Again it is done for the sake of pain relief.

Or it is done for the sake of the baby. We can't trust our bodies to actually give birth safely. All those attending us must listen to the mechanical heart beat. The thing that is most tragic to me today is that we ASK to be tied down in labor. We are so afraid of he process and the pain that we don't even want to be active participants in the process.

An epidural is not a feminist statement.

A continuous fetal monitor won't save you from your birth.

Take back your power. Take back birth. Get off your back.


Elisha said…
Wanna know the funny thing about this? That image of a woman getting and epidural is EXACTLY what made me start searching for a better way. It's how I found peaceful birth, natural birth, water's how I turned into a crunchy momma. All because I did NOT want a needle in my spine.
Unknown said…
This is bullshit. You do not know why a woman laid on her back to have her baby! So stop with this bullshit! Babies are SAVED with the fetal monitor! Babies are SAVED when their own mother is laying on their backs delivering them!!!!
Elisha said…
You sound very defensive and angry. If that is where a woman is most comfortable and makes progress, then sure, on her back she should be. But plenty of research has shown that to not be the most productive position for birth, merely an easier one for doctors and nurses to "get in there". Here is some good info about why birthing on your back is NOT ideal:

You are right, SOME babies are saved with fetal monitoring. In many cases - probably MOST - the FM causes unnecessary interventions. Especially with the current mentality of MOST doctors.

I'm sorry you are so upset about this, though I don't understand why. I know why people like "us" get upset that doctors use these interventions and women are given the education about all aspects of what they are told.
Mama Birth said…
Thank you Elisha- much appreciated! Maybe they were kidding? That is all I can think....
Research shows that the constant fetal monitoring does not improve outcome AT ALL but only increases interventions-
But don't take my word for it- look it up! Find your own voice.
Heather said…
@lilredsdoc8: Just plain not true. On one's back is the WORST position, physiologically, in which to labor and birth. This is not an opinion--it is a simple matter of biology & physics. Laying on your back necessitates pushing the baby uphill. Being able to stand and squat and walk means you are pushing the baby down. Being able to utilize different positions also helps the baby move into a better position for being born, saving C-sections, tearing, injury to the baby, and all manner of other problems.

The nearly-10 pound baby I gave birth to standing up in my own bedroom was much easier to birth than the less than 6 pounder I gave birth to in a hospital bed, even though I made them get the bed as vertical as it could go.

As for continuous electronic fetal monitoring: again, simply not true. All the research shows that babies are NOT saved by EFM. EFM does NOT have batter outcomes than intermittent monitoring with a Doppler stethoscope.

Do your research before you yell at people.
Kaia/Joey/Orion said…
Oh! Of course this is all bullshit! Of course, doctors don't care about the money. Of course, hospitals try to make you comfortable by letting you do what you want. Oh who cares that the U/S has one of the highest maternal/infant death rates.


Medical intervention is what helped those rates get that high. Impatient doctors who used fetal monitors, pitocin, etc, is what caused those rates. You might want to do your research before you start shouting that none of this is true.
mcm said…
Its interesting speaking to people about birth. They think I am brave to have a homebirth and even disagree with the idea but then go on to tell me about the awful things that can happen in hospital and not for safety! Soon they are telling me how there mothers or grandmothers were born at home and its been done for centuries. Hospitals don't save us from ourselves. Infant and maternity mortality rates are still high in western world where most women give birth. We don't like to talk about it but I think hospital birth does damage. Suicide is the biggest killer of women of childbearing age. That speaks volumes, doesn't it?
Wow. Is lilredsoc serious? I'm so confused right now....
Missie said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Missie said…

why do doctors recommend not to sleep on one's back during pregnancy? because doing so compromises the blood flow to the baby.

trolls are not nice. keep an open mind about that which you fear. <3
Rachel said…
Maybe lilredsoc8 has a personal experience that you're very hostile post touched on? I am a huge natural birth advocate, Ive had 3 of my own and attended many more as a doula. But Im learning more and more not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

At the last 2 births I attended, the lives of the babies were saved because of the medical technology we are VERY blessed to have in this country. The EFM saved the life of my sister's baby less than a week ago - her cord was tightly around her thigh and putting great stress on her with each contraction. It dropped dangerously low even as they prepared for a csection and it became a real emergency. There was no way she could have been born vaginally, it wasnt physically possible. They wouldnt have known there was an issue without a few hours on the monitor. God led her there, it was part of His plan and protection for her and the baby. Laboring at home could have been fatal.

**Its really about empowering women to have a choice and be educated about birth and their own bodies, and not about hating the other side**
Rachel said…
Chewymama-auscultation or intermittent monitoring would have caught the same problem. As an L&D nurse when I do intermittent monitoring with a mom who is going natural I am able to catch when the heart rate drops(which is what happens with a nuchal). If that happens I don't just strap on the efm. I monitor more often. The only time I feel the need to use an efm is if I need to know when the dips in the hr are happening(some are ok and some aren't depending on how they line up with a contractions) or if I simply don't have time to listen to the heart rate every five min or so.

Both ACOG and AWHONN(obsetric nurse association)have put out statements that's it's ok to use intermittent monitoring for low risk woman. Also any homebirth midwife worth her weight is also monitoring the babies heart rate and transfered if it was dipping low. They just do it in a way that allows them to move.

That said. I also agree there are situations that efm is needed. Just not very many. If that's the case I still try really hard to allow the woman to move around however she wants.
Anonymous said…
Can you tell me where I can find more pictures of twilight birth. Thanks! My e-mail:
Jeanice Barcelo on facebook.
Anonymous said…
Can you tell me where I can find more pictures of twilight birth? Thanks. My e-mail -
My website:
My facebook: Jeanice Barcelo
Mama Birth said…
@ Chewymama- I don't hate the other side- I do hate a LOT of what is going on in obstetrics, and I think more people should be upset about it, thus the angry post. Notice the post was not directed at ANY individual women, but at a broken institution. Nor did I say that monitoring was bad- only that CONSTANT monitoring was- (for which there is ample proof, as pointed out by Rachel)

Thank you Rachel for pointing out the diff- much appreciated.

Am I passionate about birth- YES- and deeply so. Does that mean I judge women who do things differently than I- No it does not. I believe that women are not getting what they deserve in maternity care in this country. Women that are happy with their birth (no matter what interventions are involved) is what I would like to see more of.

I myself had a baby born at home with a nuchal cord- monitoring was important in helping choose good positions- but it did not mean I had to transfer, or lie on my back, or anything else.

My mission is to empower women- and condemn a broken system. Read the blog- angry posts are only part of it. Or don't, thats ok too.

Blessings, knowledge, and peace in all of your birthing journey's.
Mama Birth said…
@ Birth of a New Earth-
I just googled twilight birth pictures-
There are very few out there-
Good luck!
Lora Roy said…
I had a Hospital VBAC and I loved my Epidural :)
Kristin said…
I loved my epidural too but that was only because I was so exhausted I couldn't carry on any more. And the only reason I was so exhausted was because the hospital made me come in early in the morning for an induction (and then we had to wait for a bed), and I was not allowed to rest or nap at all - partly because my cervix and blood pressure were being checked so frequently and partly because every time I lay on my side the monitor stopped picking up my contractions. (Then the nurse would come in and say my contractions had stopped and I'd try to explain that they hadn't, and she'd turn up the pitocin, then I'd ask her to just try re-adjusting the strap around my tummy, which always worked until I tried to rest again). When I labored at home in a tub of warm water, I never got tired, not once, not even a little. I found that I could always make it through one more contraction and I never felt scared or like I couldn't take it anymore. I would be willing to bet that for most women the epidural becomes obsolete when she is allowed to move, eat, sleep, sit in water, moan, lay on a birth ball, sway with her husband - whatever helps her body work. Laboring in a strange room surrounded by strange people, wearing clothes that don't belong to me, strapped up to machines, an IV in my arm and not allowed to eat or drink is the limit for me. I can't believe that any woman who could just have a glimpse of what birthing on her own terms is like, would choose to subject herself and her babe to people who don't know her or care about her. I can't believe that anyone who really knows what home birth is like would ever choose to be treated like a caged animal. I know that it's hard to see the truth when you've only done it the hospital way. It took me a while to realize something horrible had happened to me and my son. It really hit home the first time I met with a midwife during my second pregnancy. I cried. I had never felt so cared for during my first pregnancy or birth. I finally felt human again.
Rachel said…
Following up from my comment above - I read your blog often and enjoy it very much. Ive shared it with friends. I just think this post is particularly in-your-face and can easily offend. Although I totally agree with you. I have learned from my own sharing that when you put people on the offensive they dont want to listen to you at all.

In my sisters birth the heart rate was not disappearing with every contraction but went the baby had trouble, she had big trouble. Thats why I know she was there on that monitor for a reason. I personally have had two in the hospital and two outside the hospital and am having a homebirth this time. I agree that monitoring does not have to be continuous to be safe. For some its good but its often a hinderance.