For one group of central South Dakota families and citizens, Labor Day festivities consisted of taking to the streets to rally for – what else – expanded options in the way pregnant women do labor. On Monday, the national Rally to Improve Birth came to Pierre as participants held signs along Sioux Avenue with messages of education about women’s birthing options.
Thousands of people worldwide took part in the second annual Rally to Improve Birth, and this year was the first rally in Pierre. ImprovingBirth.org is a nationwide nonprofit organization consisting of mothers whose mission is to bring what they call evidence-based care to childbirth.
Nine in 10 American women receive care that increases, rather than decreases, the risks of harm to them and their babies, according to ImproveBirth.org.
Shannon Zeeb, Pierre’s rally coordinator, said the event was held to increase birth awareness and encourage mother- and baby-friendly birthing. The rally focused on promoting what supporters say are cost-effective, scientifically proven practices that lower risks of complications, injuries and death during childbirth.
Zeeb said some conventional hospital techniques involved with childbirth – such as lying on one’s back, being hooked up to an IV and not being allowed to eat – are not scientifically proven to help birth and may actually cause harm.
While Pierre’s core group of supporters is rather small, Zeeb said they’re growing in number. She said “sometimes it takes a bad experience for moms to want to be in the group.”
Mary Weinheimer of Pierre was one concerned mother present at the rally, who said wanting a more natural birth often means standing up to doctors who prefer a traditional medical route.
After having bad experiences in hospitals, Weinheimer had two natural births, and said it was an “awesome experience.”
“Do your own research and never give that control over,” she said.
Pierre chiropractor Laura Prunty has been a certified doula for seven years, meaning she supports women and their families during childbirth. Midwives and doulas offer emotional and physical assistance during natural births by massaging, helping with breathing patterns and offering encouragement.
Prunty has had two natural births herself – both with a midwife and doula. She said their knowledge and support helped her continue a natural birth, where a hospital or doctor may have turned to interventions such as Picotin or an epidural.
Marissa Davis, a certified doula and lactation counselor from Minnesota, said the group isn’t anti-hospital – they just want more education about the choices women have during childbirth.
Davis’ mother, Diane, was also at the rally, and said she had no choice but to have three cesareans when she had her children. Now she’s grateful that her children have embraced natural birthing practices.
One perk is the ability to have family members beyond the husband in the room during birth.
“The greatest gift I was given was watching my grandchild be born,” she said.