Labor Day Rally to Improve Labor and Childbirth for Mothers and Babies

They gathered on Labor Day to increase awareness about better labor and childbirth practices. The Rally to Improve Birth took place on the Park Strip in Anchorage today.

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by Michele White

 ANCHORAGE- They gathered on Labor Day to increase awareness about better labor and childbirth practices.  The Rally to Improve Birth took place on the Park Strip in Anchorage today.

With signs and their presence on the Park Strip, more than a dozen people came to raise awareness for women- and practictioners- about women's options in childbirth and the need to provide evidence-based care for moms and babies.

"This is what we're passionate about," says Dr. Glen Elrod OB/GYN, "It's making sure women know that what's been told to women [for] the last 30 [to] 40 years by doctors isn't necessarily always the truth."

His wife Tara Elrod is a midwife. 

Together they provide maternity care at their clinic- Integrated Women's Wellness- in Wasilla.  

They have organized the Rally to Improve Birth for the last two years.  

Every Labor DayImprovingbirth.org invites supporters to join their international rally.  According to its website- RallyToImproveBirth.com- more than 170 cities in all fifty states- as well as cities in Canada, Australia and Japan- held rallies on Labor Day to raise awareness for improving childbirth for mothers and their babies.

"We try to encourage women to bring up questions and we try to stay current on what the evidence shows us," says Dr. Elrod, "and not really fall into the trap of doing things the same way just because they've always been done that way."   

This doctor and midwife encourage and provide vaginal births after caesarean section.

"The evidence out there says it's safe to do and it's safe to offer," says Dr. Elrod, "There are countless numbers of doctors and hospitals across the country who simply won't do it because they think the risk is too high.  But, the evidence shows that that's really not the case." 

According to the World Health Organization, caesarean delivery- commonly known as c-sections- has been shown to substantially increase the risk of disease in mothers and babies, such as bleeding, infection, post-partum depression, hysterectomy and uterine scarring, which can undermine a woman's future reproductive health.

The WHO also says that a woman who undergoes a caesarean surgery to deliver her baby is at a risk of 4 to 10 times higher than a woman who delivers a baby vaginally to die in childbirth.  

"Right now, with a national c-section rate of 32.8 percent," says Tara Elrod, midwife CDM, "We can do better than that and every year, it raises...and in some places, it's a lot higher than that.

The WHO says an acceptable rate is 10 to 15 percent.

And the babies delivered by caesarean section also have risks.

"Babies who are born by caesarean section have an increased risk of having respiratory issues and they also have an increased risk of spending time in the [neonatal intensive care unit]," says Tara.

The WHO says that fetal death and neonatal mortality- up to hospital discharge limited to the first week of life- are severe perinatal outcomes of a caesarean section for the baby.

Another example of what these improving birth supporters call evidence-based birth is the time restraints put on women to deliver their babies.

"Labors can take a long time," says Tara, "It's completely normal that pushing a baby out can take longer than 2 hours, that women should not have these very stringent timelines."  

She says providers are performing elective inductions for a multitude of reasons.

"Number one is convenience," says Tara, "Convenience not only for the provider, but also for the mother.  Women are not given the true evidence-based information from the get-go.  They're not told that they're increasing their chances of further intervention and increasing their chances of c-section, and so, a lot of women choose that because it's convenient.  And a lot of times, it's convenient for the practitioner because they don't have to worry about coming in in the middle of the night for a delivery."

She questions the disproportionate relationship between wealth and maternal and perinatal health in the United States.

"You would think that in America, where we have all of this money and we're putting all of this money into maternity care, you would think that that would equate to us having the very best outcomes for moms and babies and it's simply not the truth."        

And that's what these supporters of the improving birth organization hope to change.