Midwife-led home birth ‘shone such a huge light’ says Australian documentary-maker


Midwife-led home birth ‘shone such a huge light’ says Australian documentary-maker

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Zoe, Aaron and family, after birth of second child_Jerusha Sutton
Zoe Naylor, husband Aaron Jeffery and daughter Sophia with Beau, moments after he was born

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Australian film-maker Zoe Naylor didn’t realise her first birth had been traumatic, until her second child, Beau, came along.

When she gave birth to her daughter, she said the experience left her feeling alone and with subsequent postnatal depression

But giving birth to Beau in a water birth at home was a completely differ­ent experience.

It “fundamentally changed” her as a woman, she says.

“I had trauma from my first birthing experience, and then I had full continu­ity of midwifery care for the birth of my second child, and that just shone such a huge light. I am a highly educated, re­sourced and privileged woman, but I went into my first birth really ignorant.

“It brings you to tears to know that you can actually change how you moth­er, and your ability to enjoy mother­hood, if you actually understand the value of midwifery-led care.”

It’s this experience Ms Naylor shares, in her documentary Birth Time, a birth­ing journey with doula (birth compan­ion) and photographer Jerusha Sutton, and midwife Jo Hunter.

Come and get reinspired

Ms Naylor decided to bring the film to New Zealand, and will be hosting a series of screenings across the country in late June.

The film cites national and global re­search that suggests an increasing number of women are experiencing trauma in childbirth, including higher numbers of caesarean sections and oth­er interventions, as well as postnatal depression, which Ms Naylor says has become “an epidemic”.

In 2018, 35 per cent of Australian women gave birth by caesarean section, compared with the 10 to 14 per cent recommended by WHO.

Ms Naylor encourages primary care professionals to see the documentary, saying it “makes you cry, but it also makes you laugh”.

“Midwives are tired and feel under­valued, so come and get reinspired about our humanity.”

Shining a spotlight

New Zealand College of Midwives chief executive Alison Eddy says Birth Time shines a spotlight on how funda­mentally important the woman’s expe­rience of birth is, and not to discount it.

“We should be talking honestly about this – they may have a ‘normal’ birth, but their experience is traumatising,” Ms Eddy says. “And we just put this under the carpet.”

Midwives are the only health professionals who work through the whole birthing process, but their care is not recognised or valued. Ms Naylor says New Zealand doesn’t realise how lucky it is with its maternity services.

In Australia, public mater­nity care is free, but women cannot choose their lead mater­nity carer; private care allows for choice, but the woman must pay or use private health insurance.

Ms Naylor reports, “In Australia, 0.03 per cent of women choose to birth at home, and only 8 per cent can access continuity of care, but in New Zealand every woman has that choice.”

She says other countries see New Zealand as decades ahead.

Birth Time will be screened in cinemas from Kerikeri to Dunedin. A panel for Q & As will include film-maker Zoe Naylor and a New Zealand College of Midwives representative. For details, visit birthtime.world/screenings