Birth is a profound and transformative experience, but unfortunately, conflicts and disagreements within the birth space can sometimes overshadow the joy and empowerment that should be at the forefront.

Navigating Conflict in the Birth Space

In this episode of the Fear Free Childbirth podcast, Jenny Koslow, a perinatal educator with four decades of experience, sheds light on the issues of conflict and tension within the birth world.

Understanding the Birth Space:

Jenny begins by sharing her wealth of knowledge and stories gathered from birth workers around the globe. She highlights the conflicting views and struggles that exist between different professions within the birth world, such as midwives, lactation consultants, and doulas. These conflicts often arise from differing ideologies stemming from the biomedical and naturalistic sides of childbirth. From home births to highly medicalized hospital births, the spectrum of choices and opinions can be quite divisive.

The Influence of Birth Settings:

The conversation then delves into the impact of various birth settings. Jenny discusses how midwives typically handle vaginal births with minimal intervention, but the c-section rates in private clinics in many countries are unacceptably high. Public hospitals, where most people give birth, often face issues with support and the need for less judgment towards healthcare providers working in these systems. There is also a sense of resentment among professionals like midwives, obstetrical nurses, and doulas, especially in countries like Spain and other Latin American nations.

Examining the Roles of Birth Workers:

Jenny addresses the challenges within the doula movement, including the need for more professional training and regulation. While doulas carry immense emotional weight, they may not bear the same level of medical responsibility as healthcare providers. This discrepancy, coupled with differences in income and work dynamics, can sometimes lead to tension and dissatisfaction among birth workers.

Finding Common Ground:

Despite these conflicts, Jenny emphasises the importance of recognising the positive work being done by individuals in the system and avoiding generalisations. She highlights positive initiatives in different countries, demonstrating that change can come from a combination of different approaches rather than extreme views. The conversation explores the crucial need for effective communication, formation of personal relationships, and acknowledgement of the contributions made by individuals across the birth spectrum.

Promoting Unity in the Birth Space:

Positive changes often stem from top-down leadership but acknowledges that frontline caregivers need more support. The conversation explores the imbalances in authority, challenges faced by professionals within institutionalized childbirth, and the importance of respect and recognition. The episode also delves into the role of birth education, the impact of the internet on preparation, and the different priorities individuals have when it comes to their birthing experience.

Jenny tackles these burning questions:

  • How does conflict in the birth space impact the overall birthing experience for families?
  • What are some common sources of conflict between different professions in the birth world, such as midwives, lactation consultants, and doulas?
  • How do different birth settings, like private clinics, public hospitals, birthing centers, and home births, contribute to the conflict in the birth world?
  • What are some potential solutions to reduce the conflict between birth professionals and improve collaboration in maternity healthcare?
  • What role does fear play in creating conflict and backlash in the birth space? How can fear be addressed and alleviated to create a more positive birth experience?
  • How can authorities and decision-makers in the birth industry support birth professionals and foster unity and respect among different roles?
  • What are some potential drawbacks of the current doula movement, and how can it be improved and regulated to create a more professional environment?
  • What can be done to bridge the gap in understanding and respect between birth professionals in the biomedical and naturalistic sides of the birth world?
  • How can birth education and prenatal classes be improved to better prepare couples for childbirth and empower them to advocate for their own values and desires?
  • What steps can individuals in the birth industry take to address judgment, shame, and guilt among birth workers, and promote empathy, respect, and professional ethics?

By exploring the perspectives of various birth professionals and delving into the need for unity, better training, and improved communication, this episode serves as a catalyst for positive change in the birthing industry.

About Jenny

Jenny Kozlow is a highly experienced perinatal educator with a passion for traveling and listening to people’s stories. Over her 40-year career, she has accumulated hundreds of stories from birth workers such as OB GYNs, doulas, midwives, obstetrical nurses, and lactation consultants from various countries around the world. Jenny recognized the value of these stories in promoting better understanding and collaboration within the field.

She discovered that many stories centered around the lack of respect and feeling of invisibility experienced by the gestational family, and she aimed to address this imbalance. By sharing these stories, Jenny hopes to shed light on the perspectives of others and foster a more inclusive and collaborative approach in the birth community.

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Episode Time Stamps:

02:40 Long working hours create stress, disrespect. Toxicity and conflict in medical environments. Need for collaboration to support families.
07:56 Perinatal educator accumulates stories from birth workers.
11:21 Openness and criticism among birth workers.
19:38 OB GYNs and doulas clash in birth.
26:23 Institutionalised childbirth vs. more natural birth options.
32:34 Internal vs external communication in pregnancy care. Professional/personal balance. New professionals lack experience but want to serve.
33:57 Challenges of healthcare system for midwives.
39:18 System not all toxic, individuals doing great things.
45:52 High c-section rate in private clinics unacceptable.
53:21 Doulas and consultants support families emotionally.
59:10 Fair reporting and recognizing shared humanity.
01:05:26 Difficulties raising child, authority and boundaries.
01:07:26 Amazing, vulnerable, emotional journey of childbirth education.

Alexia Leachman
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