Customer Reviews: The Business of Being Born
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on March 3, 2008
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. The film did not mention the religious reasons some people choose home birth (we'd have loved to see interviews with Amish home birthers, for example). We did think the contributions of Michael Odent, Ina Gaskin, and the other midwives (and the back-up doctor) were portrayed very well.

We have had six home births (four with well-trained midwives). Our midwives definitely went the extra mile for us, and were genuinely interested not only in "getting the baby out" but in all aspects of prenatal, delivery, and early infant care. They were extremely generous in their time and expertise. In terms of theoretical and practical knowledge, our trained midwives were the equal if not superior to the typical birth-attending physician. This perspective comes across pretty well on the film.

All in all, this is a good film. It could be quite a bit better in terms of explaining non-medicalized birth to people who are unfamiliar with it. But it's a good start and we recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.
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on March 22, 2008
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. They ignored my wishes, they insisted on a hep-lock, they refused to take my pitocin IV out after the birth and whenever I asked for it out, the nurse would "go to check" with the head nurse and never come back. Or they'd soothe me "sure, right after this bag." I had nurses who pretty much just strapped me to the monitoring and ignored me until I started moaning badly and then it was time to push. I felt violated and without dignity the whole time.

It pains me that women expect this. I have many friends who've birthed at home and it was the best experience in the world for them. This movie needs to get in the hands of all expectant mothers just for the simple fact that they should CONSIDER other options and perhaps clear up their misconceptions about midwives being little more than some hippy babushka who comes in with herbs and potions. Kudos to Ricki Lake for stepping us in the right direction.

***UPDATE*** I've now had two home births and stand by my hope that I never have to go to a hospital for delivery again. They were so empowering and beautiful and RIGHT in every sense of the word.
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on August 4, 2009
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.

What I liked:

I did find it very informative into many aspects of home birthing and midwifery. I did not realize all the medications that were given during labor and all the interventions. I am happy I am now more aware they are not all necessary other than speeding it up for the doctor. This has made me more prepared for these decisions and has given me more time to do more research. Most women I know would not give hospital birthing a second thought. I guess part of that reason is there are few options, but I have never heard a single discussion about alternative births in any discussion on birth I have had with another female.

I am not necessarily saying I did not like the movie, only that it was biased. I was appreciative of the information I did receive, although I wish it were more complete. I think this movie brought alternative births out in the open and hopefully it will be something looked at more critically with future mothers.
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on March 6, 2008
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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on April 8, 2011
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?

Watching this movie brought out all of those questions in me, and made me seek out others who had experience with the more natural, non-medical side of birth, and I'm SO glad. My husband and I found an independent, natural-focused childbirth class, got a doula, and were well-prepared for our hospital birth. I continued my pregnancy with a completely different, positive outlook on birth, had no fear, and looked forward to it as what my body was made to do, a transformative experience! I was able to avoid almost all unwanted interventions...but the hospital still had their protocols, and I still had to submit to their control, which I didn't like. So while we weren't comfortable with home birth at that time, I will definitely be planning for one next time! It didn't register during my first viewing of the movie, but it did when I watched it again after my daughter was born--how calm and peaceful the home births were, how different the environment was, the pain relief and relaxation provided by the water births, for example (good luck finding that at the hospital). When I compare the idea of that, with how I felt in the hospital, strapped to the fetal monitor, with 4 different nurses and an impatient doctor telling me how to push (on my back), I would definitely rather be at home in the tub.

I still admit the movie is biased, but I recommend it to all of my pregnant friends, just as a starting point, hoping that it will get them questioning things like it did for me, not so that they'll choose natural or home birth. I support all EDUCATED birth choices--it's when a woman is misled into something, by a care provider that she has blind trust in, and then disappointed with her birth outcome, where if she'd had all relevant information and been able to offer informed consent, things may have been different, that I have a problem with.
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on April 27, 2013
I had an emergency c-section with my first son because he wasn't tolerating labor. I received an epidural after being in labor for 14 hours. I just couldn't tolerate the pain any more. I was having major contractions (the nurse said the intensity was what they would expect when women are at 8cm), but they weren't doing anything to dilate my cervix. When my son's heartbeat started declining, they suggested I have an epidural to relax me. They suspected that because I was bracing myself during every contraction that I was not relaxed enough to let the contraction do its job, and it was causing stress to my son. Fifteen minutes after getting the epidural, I had an adverse reaction to it. My blood pressure crashed, and my son's oxygen levels started declining as did his heart rate. Once they got me stabilized, they tried to do some things to stabilize my son, but they didn't work. So I ended up with an emergency c-section. He had the cord wrapped around his neck several times, and the low amniotic fluid (my water broke at 1cm) wasn't providing any cushion to the cord. They suspected he was trapped in the pelvis, and that is why my cervix wasn't dilating past 5 cm.

Fast forward a couple of years....When I got pregnant with my second son, I investigated all of my options starting with this video. While I think it's important to understand the history of obstetrics in our country, I was a little disappointed in the slant of this video. It was not objective - in my opinion. It portrays all doctors and hospitals as money-grubbing facilities that only want to get you in and out much like a fast food establishment. While they did show a lady who ended up at the hospital after her stay-at-home birth didn't pan out, their intent was to focus on how awesome home birth can be. They make it sound like any woman should consider home birth. Well...I don't think so. After researching all of my options, I elected for a repeat c-section. I am very happy I chose that way for my son to be born. The things that happened with my first son also happened during the birthing process of my second son. I had an adverse reaction to the epidural. My second son was slightly bigger than my first, and my doctor told me that my second son could not fit through my pelvis, which was why I had been in labor off / on for a couple of days. They suspected my pelvis was too small with my first, but since I had other complications they weren't 100% sure that was the reason he wasn't tolerating labor. If I had chosen to give birth at home or a birthing center, there is a very real chance that my son would have gotten stuck in my pelvis and died. I could have died. If I would have listened to this video, I would have mistrusted my doctor when he said he would not recommend a VBAC due to the complications in my first birth.

Unfortunately I have a friend who had a c-section with her son because he was failing to thrive. When she got pregnant with her daughter, she researched things as I had done. She had 3 different doctors that told her they would not do a VBAC because of the risk since her first son was failure to thrive. So she decided to go to a birthing center and use a midwife. Right before she was supposed to start pushing, they lost the baby's heartbeat. She ended up at the hospital and delivered a stillborn daughter. If she had trusted her doctors, she would have been holding her daughter instead of planning a funeral.

Are some of the statistics they present in this video accurate? Yes. But keep in mind that just because there is a correlation doesn't mean that it is the cause. For instance, more ice cream is bought in warmer months. Warmer months don't cause increased consumption of ice cream. It's just a correlation. They are related, but they are not cause and effect.
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on July 30, 2015
My wife and I, having just given birth in a hospital, were very curious about what alternatives could have been taken. This is not the documentary to give you adequate info. It full of very one-sided arguments solely intended to promote the movie's agenda (at home births are better). We had to turn off the movie part way through, as it presented dumpy music during med professional interviews, chose interviews from med professionals that made them seem clueless, and presented at home non-MD practitioners as saviors. Don't get me wrong, the premise of this movie may have some merit, but the presentation was awful and irresponsible.

Do not use this movie as a primary source for deciding between at home and in hospital births! Go talk to your local hospital to see the benefits vs the costs.
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on December 19, 2010
I watched this when I was 4 months pregnant and appreciated the information that was provided from the documentary and had my husband watch it also. It was educational and discussed the importance of natural births. Yet, I thought that perhaps it was a bit too one-sided and may be exaggerating a bit.

The next week I went in to discuss my birth plan with my doctor and I experienced static and resistance when I mentioned the words "birth plan", "natural", and the possibility of a "water-birth". I then started realizing that this documentary was very true. I even went to the hospital's midwives department to discuss the possibility of transferring to their care and they got nervous as it's unusual for a patient to transfer from a doctor to a midwife halfway through pregnancy. Therefore, the documentary did adequately warn about the resistance a mother will encounter if she tries to go a different route rather than through the hospital. I recommend watching this documentary before you decided on a midwife, doctor, etc. to save you from the hassle later on.
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on July 8, 2008

According to statistics, the infant mortality rate in the United States exceeds that of virtually every other nation in the industrialized world. The U.S. is also the only place in which far more women give birth in hospitals than at home under the care of a professional midwife. The documentary "The Business of Being Born" sees a connection between those two facts.

Executive producer Ricki Lake first conceived of this film after she delivered her first baby in the hospital and then felt cheated of the potentially beautiful and meaningful experience a home birth might have provided. With the aid of director Abby Epstein, Lake has gathered together a group of women, couples, midwives and physicians who, through their own personal experiences and/or studies on the matter, help to provide evidence for her case that, for the large majority of women, delivering at home is preferable, on both a practical and spiritual level, to delivering in a hospital. Lake has even allowed herself to be filmed in the process of giving birth to her second child at home.

This is an eye-opening and informative movie that admittedly provides really only one side to the issue. But it makes a pretty convincing case for that side and certainly gets the audience thinking. First, it offers a number of startling statistics, the prime one being that roughly one third of all babies born in America are now delivered through Caesarian Section, a procedure that is classified as "major surgery" but which is often treated with casual indifference by both physicians and patients (the shots of a Caesarian are far more "gruesome" than any of the shots of actual childbirth we are shown). The movie also recounts a brief but somewhat disturbing history of obstetrics practices in the United States during the past century when many women were put into "twilight sleep" and missed the birthing experience entirely. The movie also points out that, in a hospital setting, a "cascade of interventions" often prevents women from having the ultimate say in how they choose to deliver their babies. But the majority of the case is made through personal anecdotes from mothers and midwives concerning their own birthing experiences, as well as by the recording of many of those actual home births live on camera. Interestingly, after all the successful home births, the movie ends on one in which the child arrives prematurely and is in a breach position and thus must enter the world in a hospital room after all. It's an indication of the honesty and courage of the filmmakers that they didn't feel called upon to edit that sequence out of the movie.

Yet, for the most part, the film takes the multi-billion dollar medical industry to task for being too quick to use drugs and a scalpel in the birthing experience. The movie also harshly criticizes the insurance industry for failing to recognize the much greater cost efficiency of home-birthing and hence refusing to cover it in their policies, thereby forcing many midwives to simply close up shop.

In many ways, "The Business of Being Born" is fighting something of an uphill battle in that it appears counterintuitive - especially to a generation raised on the belief that the medical industry can do anything - to suggest that a birthing process with a physician and modern medical equipment on hand could actually be less safe than a birthing process without them (though the movie is quick to point out that the midwives are all state-certified and trained to deal with any unforeseen complications that might arise). Still, for women facing this decision - as well as for a society that for over a century now has frowned upon even the thought of natural childbirth - "The Business of Being Born" may serve as a paradigm-shifting event.
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on May 27, 2008
My wife and I had a home birth for our 2nd child. And it was the most amazing experience ever. But even after doing that, I wasn't too excited about seeing Business of being born. I thought it was going to force the "i hate the hospital" mentality down your throat.

Well it didn't at all. It does provide very eye opening facts about the hospitals and rates of C-sections. Very Very interesting stuff.

Definitely recommend this movie for anyone who wants to know more about how having babies is done in the US, and what questions you SHOULD ask your doctor, whether you want a home birth or NOT
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