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We have broken birth, it is time to fix it.

8 years of listening to women speak openly & honestly about their birth experiences. Many of these stories are chilling and unnecessary.

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My name is Kiersten Miller and I have been working with mothers and families in Rome, Italy for the past nine years. In Italian, a doctor says "io l'ho fatta partorire," which loosely translated is, "I made her give birth"; the active verb goes to the doctor, not the mother. Women have been told by pediatricians: “You are blond, blonds make less milk, just give up on breastfeeeding.” and “Your daughter is 6 months old, you should stop breastfeeding her, if not she will become a lesbian.” In Italy most women accept what is “given” to them and do not question medical professionals. It is considered offensive to even bring up the subject of a second opinion. A lot of work needs to be done on women's rights during birth the world over. In Italy the further south you go the more of a disaster it becomes. Italy had the second highest rate of Caesarian sections in the world up until last year when we dropped to number three. This is not a nod to Julius Caesar or due to the fact that Italian women are made differently; the cause of this is manifold and marries a very high level of medicalization to a somewhat corrupt system inside of a culture that does not do much for gender equality. Along with the high rate of Caesarian sections, women are often told that they do not have enough milk to feed their babies and are immediately given formula in the hospital. This has the effect of telling women that they are broken, that they are incapable of the two most basic requirements of motherhood: the ability to birth their children and then feeding them. When women become mothers, we are full of fears and doubts; we do not need the medical community exacerbating this for profit or indolence. Medical professionals should not judge; but give fact based information to ensure a woman has whatever is going to make a her feel safe and capable, whether that is an epidural or a birthing ball. We should work to give women information so that they are able to make these informed choices for themselves, and, to be there as shoulders to lean on when it doesn't all go as planned. Through the work my company has been doing we have been able to see how simple things can change the way women give birth as well as affect change for the local birthing community.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

The way women have been delivering babies is having long term negative effects on the health of both mother and child. We have seen first hand how well informed women paired with health care providers who listen to them have begun to change the status quo. These women are bringing change to their local communities and paving the way for women who come to deliver after them.

How does this research relate to our use cases and personas?

The Under Resourced (and under supported!) Mom, The Unusual Suspect by including fathers in our classes and resources. We have seen that fathers who understand the birth process are much more effective and mothers have more positive experiences. As for policy, we have already worked with the UK government to change their policy regarding maternal coverage.

Tell us about yourself:

For 8 years I have been listening to women speak openly & honestly about their birth experiences. Many of these stories are chilling and completely unnecessary & made me want to do something about it.

Are you currently an employee of Sutter Health or UCB Pharmaceuticals?

  • No

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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Kiersten 

There is 1 week left to submit ideas to the New Life Challenge. It would be great to see you and your ideas there.

The deadline for idea submission is Sunday at 3 pm PST on September 24.

Please email me if you have any questions - krushton@ideo.com

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