Rallying to improve birth experiences

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Thousands of women, men and children came together for a common cause Monday in the third annual international Rally to Improve Birth.

The rallies took place across the United States, Mexico, Canada and Australia. Locally, an event was held in Huntsville outside A Nurturing Moment, a maternity and breastfeeding boutique.

The movement was part of ImprovingBirth.org. The organization started as a small group of moms in San Diego, California but quickly grew to encompass women all over the world.

The group espouses evidence-based maternity care which is defined on its website as, "practices that have been shown by the highest quality, most current medical evidence to be most beneficial to mothers and babies (reducing incidences of injuries, complications and death), with care tailored to the individual."

Practically speaking, supporters say there are far too many unnecessary Cesarean sections. In addition, once a woman has had a c-section, most doctors in the US will insist on repeat c-sections for future deliveries. Proponents of evidence-based care say every woman who wants a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) should be given the opportunity.

In Alabama, supporters also believe the use of certified midwives at home births should be legal. Currently, midwives are not allowed to attend home births. A woman who chooses not to go to the hospital to deliver, must deliver at home without medical help or travel across state lines to Tennessee.

Anne Bertone, with the Alabama Birth Coalition, organized the Huntsville rally. She points to other issues, as well - Alabama is second only to Mississippi in the rate of infant deaths; African-American infants are twice as likely to die as white infants; more than half of the state's counties have no obstetrical services; where care is available, interventions are common.

Bertone says, "one out of every three pregnancies in Alabama now ends in a cesarean section delivery, which is highly invasive and very costly. Women who want to avoid a highly medicalized birth in Alabama are left with very few options. We have no freestanding birth centers in the state. There are just a handful of certified nurse midwives that are practicing at hospitals, and none north of Montgomery, that I'm aware of."

By raising awareness and educating the public, the group hopes to eventually change that. To learn more about the Alabama Birth Coalition, click here.