There’s a new, horrifying trend called “crowd birthing,’’ where some mothers are inviting a “birth entourage’’ of numerous family members and friends into the delivery room, according to a U.K.-based marketing survey by Channel Mum.
The report says the average is eight, but some even admit to allowing up to 15 people in. Fifteen people! Is nothing sacred anymore?
Channel Mum interviewed 2,000 mothers and discovered that the number of non-medical delivery room onlookers is doubling with each generation. Giving birth is becoming a “spectator event,’’ writes Channel Mum. Today, moms under age 30 average a birth entourage of eight people, including mothers, mothers-in-law, friends, and men besides the baby’s father. According to the study, one in 25 moms are inviting their own fathers. Brothers and fathers-in-law are joining the party, too.
“The younger generation are used to sharing every aspect of their lives, so why not birth?’’ said Siobhan Freegard, founder of Channel Mum, in a release. “Many women feel it is their biggest achievement and so want to share the moment with all of those closest to them.’’
This isn’t just a U.K. thing. A California doula told ABC she is seeing the trend and had an entourage of five when she gave birth. An Ohio hospital has been grappling with the issue, according to ABC, because birth entourages have resulted in safety issues.
So has the trend hit Boston?
Boston-area hospitals say no. A local doula says absolutely.
“Right now it hasn’t been an issue,’’ said Linda Potts, professional development director for perinatal services at Tufts Medical Center. “It could potentially become something that we have to consider and adapt to.’’
Tufts allows two in the room, but is open to requests for more — to a point, said Anne Cormier, clinical nursing director of perinatal services.
“If mom feels she will be more supported by an additional person, we try to accommodate it,’’ said Cormier. “This is not a ticket-buying event. This is about delivering the baby safely. You have to think about, what is the purpose of having anybody in the room?’’
Boston Medical Center allows three in the room, as does Massachusetts General Hospital.
Tara Campbell, a doula and founder of Birthing Gently in Haverhill, Massachusetts, said crowd birthing is a definite trend in the state. She sees it all the time.
The doula of 14 years employs nine doulas who help women give birth at Boston-area hospitals. She said hospitals don’t always abide by their policies and sometimes allow persistent mothers to invite more family members. The most she’s seen in a delivery room is seven.
“I have five kids and the thought of having that many people in the room, I would have been mortified,’’ said Campbell.
Think of it this way, she tells her moms: “How many people would you invite to watch you have a bowel movement in the bathroom?’’
Campbell has seen everything from family members wearing party hats and blowing noise makers to making medical suggestions. She’s had to kick family members out for causing a commotion. Campbell said the stress brought on by a mom’s entourage can actually slow down her labor. She sometimes worries that the crowd is in the way of the medical team and equipment.
“It kind of takes away from our job,’’ said Campbell. “Because you have all of these people asking questions. I’m spending so much time with other people that the focus comes off the mother.’’
And she’ll never forget the time a mom’s father-in-law, at the moment of the birth, put his glasses on, pushed her out of the way, and stuck his head right down where the baby was coming out to get a better look, Campbell said.
“I try to open up their minds to the reality of having that many people in the room,’’ said Campbell. “It may sound good on a TV show, you may see the Kardashians doing it. But what is the reality?’’
I am blessed with loving parents and close friends. I also love my brother, brother-in-law, and father-in-law dearly. But would I entertain the notion of them holding my knees to my ears while I put chin to chest and push? Hell no.
When I gave birth, I decided my husband was the only one allowed in the room besides the medical professionals. It was an easy decision. I felt giving birth was intensely personal. My own mother wasn’t invited in (and, for the record, she was totally fine with that).
Birth is beautiful. I get chills when I think about the moment my children arrived into this world. I still can’t believe my body accomplished such a feat. It was emotional, to say the least. But it’s also ugly. There was screaming. There was blood. There were other bodily fluids. My family members don’t need to see that.
There’s another reason to think twice before inviting an army of people into your delivery room: If the crowd birthing trend continues, is it putting babies at risk?
“I think it’s going to be a big problem for the hospital trying to manage that many people,’’ said Campbell.
Campbell isn’t the only one concerned about safety. An Ohio hospital has changed policy four times in an effort to balance the baby’s safety with the public’s demand.
During the birth of my first child eight years ago, in the wee hours of a November morning, I pushed for more than two hours but my son showed no signs of coming out. He was stuck in the birth canal. And his predicament must not have looked good to my midwife, who suddenly called for backup. A sense of urgency filled the room as a medical team swarmed in. My son arrived safely soonafter with the aid of forceps.
But how many precious seconds would have been lost to all of the “pardon mes’’ and “excuse mes’’ by the hospital staff if they had to navigate around my birth entourage?
That’s the thing about birth. You never know how it’s going to go down. Would those lost seconds have jeopardized my baby? And is any entourage worth that?
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