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The Business of Being Born (2008)

Abby Epstein  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Directors: Abby Epstein
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Millennium
  • DVD Release Date: May 6, 2008
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013LL2XY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,676 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Business of Being Born" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Is it conceivable that in the United States, profit is increasingly driving the business of birthing--sometimes at the expense of the best possible outcome for mothers and babies? Should birth be viewed and treated as a natural process or a potential medical emergency? This documentary, produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein, opines that money and fear are changing the way Americans give birth, and not necessarily for the better. Beginning with shocking statistics that the United States has the second-worst newborn death rate in the developed world and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in industrialized countries, the film presents interviews with medical professionals including Dr. Jacques Moritz, OB/GYN from St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital; Dr. Michel Odent, OB/GYN researcher; and Masden Wagner, MD, former Director for Women's and Children's Health at the World Health Organization. Each expert paints a dismal picture of American birthing and emphasizes the frequent overuse of medical procedures in what are otherwise potentially normal deliveries. Stressing the prevalent use of midwives in birthing in other developed nations (70% of births are attended by midwives in Europe and Japan, versus 8% in the U.S.), the documentary then follows Cara Muhlhahn, a certified nurse midwife in New York City, as she attends a variety of home births. The footage is candid and sometimes very graphic, showing various home-delivery methods, including water birth. Interviews with Cara and her clients emphasize their shared philosophy on birthing as a normal life process that, when attended by a caring and well-trained midwife, can be both empowering and exhilarating. Though a midwife is often characterized as a supportive, but medically untrained birth attendee, the film dispels that stereotype, stressing a good midwife's solid training and knowledge of when it's appropriate to seek outside medical intervention. Key in every birth is a commitment to doing what's best for mother and baby, regardless of pre-planned agendas. The filmmaker's lament is that hospitals and doctors often too quickly advocate medical intervention in the interest of saving time and avoiding potential litigation. While unquestionably advocating midwifery over hospital birthing, this documentary presents solid expert opinions, concrete facts and statistics, and anecdotal experiences of both mothers and midwives that are crucial in making an informed decision about the use of midwifery in birthing as well as enlightening as to the current state of birthing in the United States. --Tami Horiuchi

Product Description

Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein. Former talk-show host Ricki Lake and filmmaker Abby Epstein present a documentary about home births and midwifery, with footage of Lake's own life-changing, home birthing experience. 2008/color/87 min/NR.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 116 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review by a Couple With Some Home Birth Experience March 3, 2008
Format:DVD
The film does a good job of explaining the "intervention cycle" that is so common in medicalized births--the mother is hooked up to intravenous tubes and all sorts of technology, and thus there is inevitable pressure to use (or misuse that technology). Anesthetics, which are supposed to ease the pain, lead to slowdown in the birth process, which leads to more intervention (pitocin etc.) and oftentimes to "crisis" into which the physician steps to save the day. The film gives a fair amount of attention to the power of the physician over against the mother in medicalized birth. The portrayal of the respectful and extremely helpful manner in which home birth midwives work comes across very well.

We give the film a four-star rating instead of five for several reasons. We think it does not do quite well enough at explaining the reasons why home birthers do certain things--for example, why they often choose water birth. Why husbands/partners might not wear a shirt when assisting the mother. Why the home setting is generally superior to the hospital setting in terms of exposure to dangerous microbes. There are good reasons for all these things, but they're not really explained in the film.

We think the film dwells excessively on the experiences of the director (Cara) and upon Ricki Lake. It's fine to have these folks profiled in the film we just think they take too much screen time that could have been better used educate people further about non-medicalized birth. This is one reason that the film starts to languish a bit in the second half. Some of the language used on the film (casual swearing) will be unnecessarily offensive to many home birthers and potential home birthers.
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74 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars much needed movie! March 22, 2008
Format:DVD
5 stars for being a timely piece: women NEED to learn the truths about childbirth and put it in context with the rest of the world and hundreds of years of history. It was disturbing in some of the movie's early interviews that women said they wouldn't even consider using a midwife. We are trained to expect birth to be traumatic and medicalized.

The only cons in this movie are more artistically centered and definitely LESS important than the need to see a movie like this in the first place. E.g., the ending was anti-climatic with the director of the movie resorting to a hospital birth because the baby was breech.

I also agree with the reviewer who said more discusssion needed to happen about options when baby is in the less than ideal position... breech CAN be dealt w/ at home, for example.

I do NOT agree with the person who quoted the newspaper about the "Michael Moore" style editing. How insulting! This movie SHOWS doctors who fully admit their limitations and expectations. What's more, they show doctors of the opposite persuasion who question if home birth is safe since they don't do fetal monitoring etc.

I've had 3 hospital births and will never do it again. The first 2 were with a midwife and it was fine... she was great w/ me. But I still had to deal with hospital policies with the baby taken away for testing and having to get woken up in the middle of the night to be given painkillers. I didn't know better. I, like too many women, figured that delivering a baby was something that just happened to you in a hospital like getting your tonsils taken out or something.

My third child was born with a traditional doctor in a hospital and it was a horrible experience.
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to birth choices March 6, 2008
Format:DVD
This documentary does a wonderful job of introducing the ideas that motivate those who are working for change in the birth system in this country. The filmmakers have really portrayed the reasons that many "mainstream" families are opting for birth outside the hospital setting in a way that makes them easy to process. And they have done this without vilifying those who have hospital births and medical interventions.

Having had both a birth in a typical US hospital and a homebirth I can say that I would recommend that any healthy woman having a normal pregnancy seriously consider birthing outside of a hospital. The care I received from my midwife was far superior to that from my obstetrical team and giving birth at home had positive effects not only for myself and the new baby, but for my husband and our first child as well. The whole family benefited from the experience. I only wish I'd seen this film before having my first baby!
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47 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Need to watch objectively August 4, 2009
By ReadSub
Format:DVD
Like all documentaries, this one is biased. Overall, it explained a few things I was wondering about. First of all, what are my options on alternative births? What is the downfall of modern science? What is best for me and my baby is something I need to decide myself, but this movie gave me information to help me make that decision. I did not go into this movie thinking it would be unbiased. What documentary is? I did not like how the only doctors interviewed believed the system was faulty with the exception of one who they constantly proved wrong. Ever doctor was also from NYC. I am from a smaller Midwestern community and I think that the doctors in this area may have different opinions. Maybe they would not have a birth plan system or maybe they would be more accommodating. I only really know my doctor. Which is another thing that was not explored at all. My doctor is a family practice doctor. He has provided care for me since I was 12. Every doctor in the movie was only in the picture for prenatal care and delivery.
Also, I laughed at propaganda of the portrayal of the original hospital births. Yeah they were bad! But so was hospital care at that point! They had barely moved away from blood letting! What the medical profession was 100 years ago is a far cry from today.
I also have no option for alternative births. The closest midwife (and then only one) is 80 miles away. The next closest (Minneapolis) is a 5 hour drive. This type of situation was never discussed. I would have like to hear more about alternative birthing plans in the hospital. There was only one view of the hospital birthing. My thought is that the filmakers needed to do more research and spend more time on the movie.
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