How to give birth boldly

BOLD Tips on Giving Birth
By Karen Brody

Tip #1: Trust that childbirth is normal. This simple statement can go a long way in creating the conditions for a powerful birth experience. Our culture - through television shows and movies - has convinced women that childbirth is an illness and that all women need to be hooked up to beeping machines in hospitals. Try for a moment to erase all of this conditioning from your mind. Then ask yourself: if birth is normal - not an emergency - what would I want my birth to look like?

Tip #2: Believe your body rocks. My favorite quote ever from a childbirth expert is renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin's words to pregnant women: your body is not a lemon. Yes! Once you believe this you have already taken your birth to a courageous place.

Tip #3: Be BOLD and explore all your birth options. While we may see and hear mostly about hospital births and obstetricians there are many people who provide care for pregnant women. Midwives (in and out of hospitals), doulas, birth centers and homebirth options are all strong birth options for low risk mothers. Check them out.

Tip #4: Find your birth community. Don't know where to find out about childbirth resources? Find a local birth network in your area (go to for birth networks around the United States) or find an inspiring midwife or doula in your area and ask them (Check out BOLD's inspiring websites for details).

Tip #5: Seek the truth about childbirth. There's a lot of "talk" about childbirth out there - much of it telling women horror stories about childbirth. Get evidence-based facts about childbirth through books like Henci Goer's The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. Read other inspiring books and stories about childbirth (Check out BOLD's inspiring books section).

Tip #6: Drop your Very Important Story Lines. Take the path of bravery and drop all the "Birth is scary," "My neighbor had a horrible birth so I will too," "I can't deal with pain" story lines that prevent you from becoming a birth warrior. The less you spin off and go crazy about how horrible birth can be, the more you will be able to taste the pleasure of giving birth.

Tip #7: Remember that pain and pleasure go together - they are inseparable. Focusing just on the pain presents a lop-sided view of childbirth. Instead of looking at pain as a punishment and pleasure as a reward see them as complimentary - something to be celebrated. In childbirth there can be both pain and pleasure. The point is, don't cultivate one thing as opposed to another. Let the pain and pleasure just be.

Tip #8: Connect, connect, connect. Get off your Blackberry and into your birth. The more you can connect to your birth experience and disconnect from all the distractions of modern culture (email, cell phones, etc) the more prepared you will be to give birth. Childbirth is the perfect opportunity to slow down, breathe, and go within.

Facts on childbirth

In the United States...

  • 30.2% of all babies are born via cesarean surgery *
  • 41% of mothers get induced
  • 76% of mothers have epidurals
  • · 94% of mothers have electronic fetal heart monitoring
  • 85% of mothers are connected to an IV line during labor
  • 25% of mothers have an episiotomy
  • 57% of mothers who give birth vaginally are on their backs while giving birth
  • 57% of mothers with a previous cesarean were denied a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)
  • 15% of mothers were permitted to eat during labor
  • 2% of mothers received care practices that promote normal birth and are endorsed by Lamaze International

The figures above (except for the cesarean rate) are taken from Childbirth Connections' "Listening to Mothers Survey 2" conducted in collaboration with the Harris Group. For more details on the report click here.
* Center for Disease Control, 2005

Among 33 industrialized nations, the United States is tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies, according to a new report from Save the Children (April 2006). This is the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.

The five countries with the lowest infant mortality rates in the March of Dimes report -- Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Finland and Norway - midwives were used as their main source of care for 70 percent of the birthing mothers.

Cesarean section is the most commonly performed surgery in the US, at a cost of $14 billion per year.

Cesarean-delivery rates are now at an all time high in the United States at 30.2% (preliminary data for 2005). The increase represents a 40 percent increase in the past 10 years. (In 1970 the rate was 5.5%)

Overall, according to studies by Washington-based Public Citizen's health research group, the cesarean section rate for hospitals with nurse-midwifery services was about 13 percent lower than the average cesarean rate for all hospitals.

A new report by the World Health Organization, published in the international medical journal, Lancet, identifies complications from cesarean surgery and anesthesia as the leading causes of maternal death in developed countries, including the United States.

About Karen Brody
Karen Brody is a writer, birth activist and mother. Birth, her critically-acclaimed play about childbirth in America, is currently performed to more than 10,000 people worldwide every year as part of BOLD, an arts-based global movement inspiring communities to create childbirth choices that work for mothers. Brody is the founder and Artistic Director of BOLD. In 2007 Brody produced and directed a short film about BOLD, Being BOLD.

A paperback version of the play Birth (AuthorHouse) was released in August 2008, including background, commentary, and stories of how the play has impacted communities around the world. Christiane Northrup, MD, who is a vocal proponent of Brody's work through BOLD, wrote the foreword.

In addition to the play, Brody started BOLD Red Tent around the world throughout the year encouraging mothers to tell their birth stories in intimate spaces. And as part of BOLD's College Campaign initiative, Brody is currently developing a college course, Women Power, Birth and Social Change, to raise the consciousness of college students about childbirth issues and women's rights.

Brody is also the author of The Candida Diet Book (Sheldon Press, UK) and Coping with Celiac Disease (Sheldon Press, UK) and has written articles for Mothering Magazine, among others.

Before becoming a writer she worked as a community organizer with women's groups around the world, from Belize to Guatemala to New York. She has a Masters degree in Women and International Development from the Institute of Social Studies in The Netherlands and a BA from Vassar College in Sociology.

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