Birthrights: The Risk of Choice is produced by Betsy Kulman, distributed by Al Jazeera, is a 25 minute documentary featuring several doctors, families and birth choice advocates in an attempt to bring awareness about the choices surrounding cesarean sections as an option to birth. The film starts with a couple from Columbus, GA traveling to Atlanta, 2 hours from home, to deliver their baby at a hospital with the only doctor they could find that will allow a trial of labor in order to provide VBAC services. Another scene in that doctor’s office shows other pregnant moms talking about why they chose him. One woman reports calling over 30 OBGYN clinics looking for a practitioner that would allow VBACs before she found Dr. Tate. She said that she was told by other doctors that she would not find anyone who allows VBACs and “it’s for a good reason.”
Dr. Tate is a OBGYN who is a man of Jewish faith. He believes that it is his traditional Jewish upbringing that gives him a healthy respect for nature’s intention of the way almost all women are able to birth naturally. He also believes there is a time and place for cesareans and interventions to help deliver vaginally and that he will provide them when necessary. And even though many doctors are performing Cesareans because of the fear of being sued, he leaves that in the hands of his faith and provides the best medicine for his patients that he has determined is in their best interest, not his.
The documentary also gives statistics such as the WHO recommendations that the cesarean rate be below 15%, that the risk of Uterine rupture during a VBAC is less than 1%, that cesareans are the #1 surgery performed in the USA, and that 77% of OBGYNs will be sued at some point in their career.
It is because of the risk of being sued that many OBGYNs will jump to section a mother. When utilizing cesareans as a normal part of their business, they don’t have to work the longer hours of a practitioner who waits on natural labor, They can schedule more mothers that are due in the same month, they won’t be under the stress of anything else that might happen which could create risks of being sued and they get paid more money when performing the cesarean. There is no incentive for them NOT to use them or, in many cases, over use them.
The film also highlights support for mothers who have undergone cesareans and seek community to process the emotional issues surrounding these traumatic births, such as ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and Jill Arnold’s website www.TheUnnecesarean.com where people can access studies, research, data, birth stories and other resources to make informed choices about birthing practices. Jill says, “The overriding theme is frustration and desire to change the system.”