Is this thing on???

Hello, birth workers.  I’m talking to you – midwives, doulas, activists, advocates, physicians, nurses, bloggers, hospital administrators – anyone and everyone who can see what a mess our maternity care system is in.  I want to congratulate all of you for working to make birth better for mommies and babies, and to ask if you are ready to ‘kick it up a notch’?  For over a year now, I have been using the word ‘revolution,’ and calling on all of us to unite and begin actively engaging those who hold positions of power to effect change where it is needed (Let’s get it started in here, Time out for Bad Behavior, and Who Ya Gonna Call?).

Over the Christmas break, I read a post over at the Unnecessarean about ‘pit to distress.’  I had heard of this practice, but did not realize how pervasive it is.  As the post points out, pit to distress (giving a mother high amounts of pitocin in order to send a baby into distress) was occurring in our country at such high rates, the act found its way into nursing text books.  I was so angry after reading this post, I couldn’t sleep for weeks.  I wanted to blog about it, but every time I sat down to write, I became afraid of my anger.  How could this be happening in our country?  How could people who had taken an oath to ‘do no harm’ be putting women and babies in danger for their own convenience?  And what of the people who were carrying out the orders, knowing what the implications were for their patients?  The post was written three years ago – is this practice still going on?  And when will it stop?  As a wise physician once said to me, “We [the physicians] are comfortable with the way things are. Nothing is going to change until the women ask for something different.”

We at WMM? have been emboldened by our successes. Twice now, when mommies and midwives have stood together and demanded change, the folks who have the power to affect change have listened. We believe the time for action is now. Let’s stop talking about how bad things are and do something. Let’s come together, gather our allies, learn from the people who have improved maternity care in their communities and lay the groundwork for a full-scale birth revolution! Join the national grassroots movement to change maternity care.

WMM? invites you to spend a weekend at the Farm in Tennessee, collaborating and brainstorming, coming up with activities that can be carried out in any community at any time for little to no money. These activities will raise public awareness about our broken maternity care system, and draw attention to the methods that are producing better results for mothers and babies. We need to put public pressure on the people, organizations and businesses in positions of power and hold them accountable for improving outcomes.

If you are ready to take the next step, join us June 22nd through the 24th at our first annual Birth Activists Retreat. For more information, e-mail us at

And remember, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


3 thoughts on “Is this thing on???

  1. Im a midwife, hospital based, and was an OB L&D nurse for many years. I also had my kids at home after reading Spiritual Midwifery. Listen, I am in support of natural birth, and of home birth for women who choose it, are attended by competent midwives, and screened for risks. But there is a strong trend of filling women with fear of hospital birth. So much so that women are even mistrusting of their midwives, and choose instead to “trust” those educators, doulas and activists who would fill them with fear. Midwives and most physicians practice with the best interests of Mom and Baby, and family, in mind. Sure there are unscrupulous practitioners, and c section rates are too high. But there has to be a way to bridge the divide between home birth advocates, medically trained or not, and hospital based practioners. Is it really fair to; a)spread fear and b)convince women that absolutely nothing can possibly “go wrong” with birth, so therefore anyone who acts with due caution or suggests interventions to avoid harm, is out to do harm? Education is the key for sure. But in the end, birthing women and their families, and even doulas and childbirth educators cannot possess the knowledge, skills and expertise of midwives and physicians and should not be encouraged to “second guess” their providers. Rather, women should be educated to choose thier providers carefully, fully inform themselves of birth choices as well as REAL possible “problems” that DO come up for a minority, and then TRUST their providers! This is the only way a woman can feel safe in labor and birth.
    The subject of “pitting to distress”, refers to a practice of using pitocin in a questionable situation where the practitioner suspects that the baby isnt doing well in utero, and will likely require c-section because of early signs of fetal intolerance to any contractions, natural or pitocin induced.
    It simply means the practioner is “testing” the baby (actually the placental function) to see if it is indeed going to be unable to tolerate labor contractions. Midwives dont do this, obvioulsy. But again there is so much fear mongering around the subject of pitocin. Pitocin has its place, in actually preventing c sections for women who have inadequate labor. It is not the EVIL that most natural birth advocates now make it out to be, again creating immense fear for women planning hospital birth. Pitocin is NOT used to cause a normal healthy term fetus to have distress so that a c-section can be done. To suggest this is dishonest and irresponsible.
    Im not naive….I know there are physicians who actually do “set women up” for c-section. Its one of the reasons I finally completed my midwifery education. But, in my experience (26yrs) our maternity wards, at least here in Northern California, are not “a mess” They are comprised of predominantly caring teams of physicians, nurses and midwives, who listen to and honor women’s choices.

    • Hi, Kerry. I’m sorry you did not receive the intention of our post. I am not fear mongering, nor am I a natural birth advocate. Our organization fully supports birth in every setting, as illustrated by our mission statement. I believe that if we do not talk about what is wrong with our maternity care system, we will not be able to address those problems and fix them. As I have stated on this blog in the past, we are simply pointing out bad behavior. We stood up to physicians and hospital administrators who were blocking our access to the care providers we chose (midwives), who happened to be practicing in hospital. We told them that placing unnecessary restrictions on midwives was unacceptable to us, and they heard our message. Our success in affecting change has inspired us to encourage others to speak out as well, which is why we are holding the retreat.

      As far as ‘pit to distress’ is concerned – I understand that in some cases, pitocin is used to test the fetus and is used responsibly. Unfortunately, as you point out, there are some practitioners who do not use it responsibly. As long as those practitioners are out there, we will continue to voice our concerns about that kind of bad behavior.

      I am thrilled that the climate for birthing women in Northern California is so wonderful! Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my community and countless others. We are hoping that we can inspire women in those places to use their voices to begin a dialogue with local practitioners and administrators, and to begin educating the women themselves about how to have the birth experience that is most satisfying to them, free from any kind of fear.

  2. Pingback: Is this thing on??? | Birth Activist Collective

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