If there's one thing that gets me spitting mad, it's seeing respected major news outlets telling women they're inadequate to give birth. The damage that this BBC article will do cannot be told, and I am really, really upset about it.
The article claims that cesareans are impacting human evolution. When I click through the article, I honestly expected something about the microbiome, which would kind-of-maybe make sense.
But no, this article is attempting to throw women back to lies I thought we had mostly overcome – the lie that your pelvis is not enough for your baby.
See, doctors always need ways to scare women into submission, and the “baby is too big” hand has been played again, and again, and again. Fortunately most women seem to realize it's a cheap trick, so recently doctors have resorted to other ways to terrify women (currently the whole “you don't have enough amniotic fluid so we must induce you RIGHT NOW” seems to be the most popular trick in the bag – following closely behind the ever popular “your baby will DIE if you don't do EXACTLY WHAT I SAY” that has been used to manipulate women for years).
But this article looks to raise this antiquated argument from the dead and terrify a whole new generation of women into surgical submission, leaving them feeling somehow less of a woman because they just “don't have a big enough pelvis.”
Except Your Pelvis is Big Enough for Your Baby
Yeah. Honestly, that should be enough said. But let me cover a few more points:
We Don't Have Monkey Pelvises So We Can't Birth Babies
Sadly, however, the article does stoop this low. A monkey (or ape) has a pelvis that seems bigger and more of a “straight shoot” than the human woman does. This means that something must be wrong with human women, and we are stuck with babies who get… well… stuck.
We are not monkeys, we are human women. It doesn't really matter what works for them because, well, we are not them. We are human women and our bodies are made to birth beautifully. Our babies do need to navigate a little more than your cute neighborhood ape baby, but guess what? Our babies move during labor. They work with us to move down, through, and out. It's actually kind of beautiful. Check out the Baby's Experience of Birth for more.
What's Really Responsible for a Narrow Pelvis?
This article claims it's genetics and evolution.
Except we know that's wrong.
Evidence already shows that nutrition is what's primarily responsible for narrow, restricted pelvises (and facial structure, for that matter).
There's been a huge trend in the last hundred years or so to remove a crucial nutrient from the diets of humanity…
Without fat (and fat-soluble vitamins), human beings do not develop optimally.
When you add those optimal nutrients back in, the next generation shows a reversal of the degradation. In other words, it's not evolution, it's nutrition. When you feed mothers right, they give birth to baby girls with ample pelvises (and wide facial structure).
Want more on this? Read Healing our Children and Pottenger's Cats
The Pelvis is Flexible
Did you know that the female pelvis is not rigid?
It's actually flexible and becomes more flexible during pregnancy because of hormones such as relaxin working to help a woman soften and open more easily.
The pelvis flexes during birth – and it only takes a little flex to make a lot of room.
Okay… So Why Are Women Having Trouble?
I find it so sad that it's laughable…
…but apparently nobody has stopped to think that there might be other reasons women are having trouble giving birth.
Let's revisit mother ape.
She grunts a few times, squats, and pushes that baby right on out. Because of her pelvis, right?
Why don't you take mama ape out of her comfortable natural environs and instead stick her in a hospital.
She gets there and gets whisked around in a wheelchair. She's trying to ignore the hospital smell, and the blaring ambulance alarms around her. You know, trying to forget she's in a building full of sick and dying people.
She'll just squat and get on with it and block all that out, right?
Um, sorry Mama Ape.
We're going to stick you in a room full of bright lights instead. We'll just poke you with this needle – so you're tethered to a pole now.
Oh, and Mama Ape? Forget squatting and pushing that baby right on out. We're going to stick you in bed and put a monitor on you. Sorry if it irritates the fur (not to mention completely sabotaging the hormones of birth)…
WHOA MAMA – DO NOT MOVE – YOU'LL MESS UP THE MONITOR!
You've just gotta hold on and stay still!
Okay – Mama Ape is finally dilated (we can't figure out why getting stuck in a room, poked and prodded, and told she can't freaking move has interrupted things… at least she finally got over that).
Now don't try to squat!!!
We'll just put those legs sky high and let you try and push your little apeling UPHILL!
Then we're going to scratch our heads and make ape noises because you're having trouble pushing that furry little guy out…
Isn't it obvious why women are having issues birthing babies?
Even an ape can't give birth easily if she's forced to birth the way “evolved” human women are.
You Have Enough Pelvis To Birth That Baby
Sometimes birth is intense – and sometimes you really have to work your baby out. But honestly, mama, I believe in you. Even if you need to spiral, stand, or rock, you and your baby can work this out.
I say that what we need to do is tell these “researchers” where they can stuff their research and take back our babies and our pelvises.
Get out there, stand, squat, spiral… do what it takes…
and birth that baby.
I recently gave birth to my second baby, and I was having a terrible time getting him out. I could intuitively tell he wasn’t coming as quickly as he could have, and I kept changing positions, trying to help him find the “sweet spot”. When I found the right one, it was immediately apparent, and he was born within minutes. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if I’d been birthing in a hospital.
I just read the introduction to this post and had to scroll down right away to comment. I gave birth to my first child in July of 2015 via C-Section, not due to my pelvis being too narrow, which I had read about before, but due to my “extremely low volume of amniotic fluid”. I hadn’t heard of that issue before or since, but seeing you use it as a scare tactic in your post really hit me. My husband and I were all geared up for a natural birth, albeit in a hospital, since we live in rural Kansas and there are no midwives around. I was eating according to WAPF principles and practicing Bradley exercises. We even went through birthing rehearsals together! I never researched C-Sections or anything like that, because I was healthy and strong and didn’t think I would need it. After a 39-week sonogram because I was measuring small, my doctor said my daughter had to come out right away, I had almost no amniotic fluid and that was causing my placenta to die. It was a shock to hear, and we were terrified for her, so we agreed. Within an hour of my sonogram I was being prepped for surgery. How I’ve wished since that I had a doula or someone knowledgeable to advise me. It all happened so quickly and I was so scared that they even had to put me out for the surgery, which caused a lot of other complications later that night and made my first day as a mom a terrified blur. Since then, I’ve found your website, and a midwife who lives a few hours away, and hopefully I can have a natural birth next time. Sorry for the long comment, and thank you for all the wonderful information you provide on your website.
I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl yesterday. All natural (which wasn’t entirely planned but I was waiting for the pain to be unbearable before resorting to medication). My doctor and nurse tried to scare me because they broke my water, and I pushed on their command but then refused and stopped. They said “if you don’t get this baby out we’ll have to start pitocin or get a cesarean.” I kept ignoring them and shifting positions. They wanted me to stay on my back, but I jumped over to my hands and knees and eventually asked for a squat bar.
After dealing with contractions for about 1.5 hours I finally got the urge to push. And then they told me to stop! Because no one was ready. But I couldn’t stop. My body was just going and less than 10 minutes I gave birth naturally to a beautiful baby girl.
I can’t believe they were trying to get me to have my baby on their schedule (I didn’t initially want them to rupture my membranes) but when my body was finally ready, they wanted me to stop.
Lets put this in perspective – the article states “Researchers estimate cases where the baby cannot fit down the birth canal have increased from 30 in 1,000 in the 1960s to 36 in 1,000 births today”. We are only talking about an extra 6 cases per 1000 births.
This certainly doesn’t justify the high caesarean rates we have today. Certainly medical management and interferrence with the natural birth process is mostly responsible.
But consider that there may be an element of truth in what they are saying. Certainly some contraction of the pelvis can be related to nutritional deficiency (e.g. the development of ricketts). But I wonder if women with an android shaped pelvis were more likely to have difficulty with birth, and I wonder if these were women who were more likely to have obstructed labour do to the increased incidence of occipito- posterior position, and were the women who used to die from obstructed labour, prior to the availability of caesarean sections. We often inherit body shape (including pelvis shape) from our mothers. So to me it makes sense that we may see a small increase in women who have difficulty with birth due to an inherited android shaped pelvis. Note I said “small”.
The BBC article was certainly sensationalizing the topic, and I certainly believe that there is a lot more we can do to help women achieve a vaginal birth through good positioning and lack of interference. I generally applaud the message that this website provides. But I think it is misleading to suggest that all babies can be born vaginally, no matter how experienced the doula is, or no matter how much good movement or postioning the mother provides.
Sorry but not all women can do a VB. What about girls under 17 or so and women with narrow pelvis?
A really young teen can have trouble with a vaginal birth (like a 12 or 13 year old) but in general, teens are the easiest birthers we see. Their biggest issue is nutrition, and if you can educate her on proper pregnancy nutrition, most teens will work hard to eat well. If she’s well-nourished, her blood volume expands and meets the needs of her growing baby and her own body. Women have been birthing in their teens for ages, and they are just as committed and dedicated to their babies as older mamas. I was a teen mom and have supported teen moms – they do well <3
A “narrow pelvis” today doesn’t really happen – rickets or other diseases of severe malnutrition are just not seen today. Again, I personally birthed as a very small teen mother who didn’t have what you would call “birthing hips” and my baby came out just fine. As a student midwife, I have seen many small/slight moms with “narrow” pelvises give birth. If you’re really interested in this, I’d encourage you to take my classes at http://www.mamababybirthing.com where I discuss in detail the physiological changes of pregnancy that help soften and expand the pelvis, how positions can create room in the pelvis, and how the pelvis is not “fixed” to begin with in women.
Along those lines – teens are actually in a good place since the suture lines in their pelvises have not fully fused and a pregnancy can help permanently widen the pelvis.
As a student midwife, I’m well aware that not all women can birth vaginally, but I’m also well-aware that tired excuses like young mothers and narrow pelvises should be retired so that women can birth their babies without scare tactics.