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Business of Being Born, The

413 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Business of Being Born, The (FS/DVD)

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein
  • 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: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Millennium
  • DVD Release Date: April 7, 2009
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (413 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013LL2XY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,941 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Business of Being Born, The" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth L. Smith on 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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78 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Rose Augustine on 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tsu on April 8, 2011
Format: DVD
I first watched this movie midway through my pregnancy, when I was ready to stop being scared, start getting educated, and explore what birth was really going to be like. My first impression was that it was extremely biased, with the goal of promoting home birth over hospital birth, and some of the comments from the natural birth advocates made me roll my eyes.

But I must say, even with my skepticism, the part about the cascade of interventions grabbed my attention and I couldn't shake it from my mind. The last thing I wanted was a C-section...I was already considering natural childbirth because I hate needles, so I was more afraid of an epidural than the pain of childbirth. Watching this movie really made me think and want to research the benefits versus risks of such common interventions. Up to that point, I only had one friend who had had a natural, unmedicated (hospital) birth, and didn't know anyone who had had a home birth. The majority of women I knew with kids spent more time shopping at Babies R Us than reading about birth or independently preparing for their births. Most of them read "What to Expect When You're Expecting," maybe took a brief hospital childbirth class, went to the hospital as soon as their water broke, or got induced for whatever (non-medically indicated) reason, including "I'm tired of being pregnant," got an epidural, and "trusted their doctor" and the hospital staff to take care of them. Did they have any idea what the risks were? Did they question anything? Were they treated badly and not even realize it, just accepted it as a part of the horror of childbirth that American culture perpetuates? Did they view birth as a medical event, an emergency waiting to happen, that needed to be actively managed?
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