Sustaining Change

by Bonita Katz, BA RN ICCE ICBD IAT CLC

I just finished reading a research article about unnecessary interventions during labor and birth. That should read “another article.” Too many cesareans, too many inductions… I am sure you have seen the list just as many times as I have. An all-to-familiar feeling of frustration began to stir my thoughts.

In 1972, Doris Haire (then President of ICEA) wrote “The Cultural Warping of Childbirth.” I recently printed the article out and started glancing through it. So many of the issues that she addressed in that publication continue today: the effects of medication during labor, induction of labor, withholding food and drink from laboring women, insufficient support for breastfeeding, and the list goes on. It is discouraging to think that we face the same battles that were fought almost fifty years ago.

Rather than allow my frustration to build, I tried to think of solutions. The culture around birth must change… and not only must it change, but we must consider ways to sustain the changes. Two things came to mind.

First, ICEA Board member Michelle Hardy recently emailed me about needing more mentors for the Mentorship Program. Michelle has championed ICEA’s Mentorship Program since its inception. Mentoring is a great way not to simply pass along knowledge, but also to shape another’s thinking and to open their minds to other possibilities. To sustain positive changes to the culture around birth we must mentor the next generation of birth workers.

Second, we need to talk to one another. Practices and procedures vary from one part of the world to another. Even within the same country or city practices can differ greatly. Cesarean rates are higher in Greece than they are in Sweden. Generally speaking, in the US, cesarean rates are higher in the southeast than they are in the northwest. It’s a cultural issue. If we would talk to one another we could gain a broader perspective and a better understanding of what is truly necessary and what is often optional.

Each of us can be a part of sustaining the change. If you are a childbirth educator or doula with some experience, would you consider mentoring someone who is just at the beginning of their journey? We need more mentors. Let’s pass on the wisdom we have gained so that the things we have learned are not lost, but rather passed on to those who come after us.

And I encourage you to save the date for the ICEA Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, USA on November 6-8, 2020. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from those who are experts in their field… and also to learn from your peers. We each bring our own experiences and knowledge when we gather.

I appreciate the research that is being done to expose the areas of maternity and newborn care that require improvement. As we work toward the necessary changes let’s be sure we employ strategies to sustain the changes that need to be made.