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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Birth Time: The Documentary (M) - 104 minutes

Freedom of choice and more say are at the heart of a forthright new birthing documentary that condemns the hands off, “baby factory” process involved in many hospital births.

The confronting doco speaks with a litany of women ... and men who shed light on a broken system that leaves many traumatised.

The basic contention presented is that pregnant women about to give birth in hospitals lack empowerment.

Photos by Jerusha Sutton and Anna Todd

The filmmakers have assembled an impressive cadre of mums, dads and medical, health and legal experts. They are erudite and impassioned.

A senior lecturer in midwifery says about a third of women leave the birthing experience describing it as “traumatic”.

About two thirds of those say it is because of the actions and interactions of “care providers”. So, that references what is being done and said to them during the birth.

Over the last century, birth intervention rates have risen dramatically in an increasingly medicalised system.

An obstetrician says that western medicine has a tendency to overtreat and to justify that overtreatment.

Now about a third of all children are born via caesarean section.

What those interviewed say makes sense, notwithstanding the fact that rattling around in my mind is concern along the lines of “all is fine until it isn’t”.

In other words, a home birth is all well and good, presenting a beautiful, comfortable environment with the presence of not only the nearest and dearest, but a trusted midwife.

What happens, though, if there are complications, when time is of the essence?

A graph is referenced that points to the Australian Birthplace study, which looked at 1.25 million births over 13 years.

It reveals that the outcome is actually more favourable in a birth centre or home environment.

The takeout: medical safety needs to be balanced with emotional safety.

Much of what is shown involves home births, but not exclusively. Some women choose hospital births, but with greater control than what they consider the norm.

Westmead Hospital in Sydney is presented as an example of a hospital which is getting the birthing process right by having a midwife involved from early in a pregnancy until after the birth.

The documentary sheds light on a program called Birthing on Country, which is designed to change the face of birthing services for indigenous women across Australia.

Issues about the system, money, human rights, the patriarchy and feminism are canvassed.

Suffice to say, there is a great deal of positivity among these “true believers” about the benefits of an open, honest and transparent system, which respects pregnant women and their partners in their hours of greatest need.

It seems incontrovertible that improvements to current processes are needed ... and the sooner that happens the better.

Written, produced and directed by Jerusha Sutton*, Zoe Naylor and Jo Hunter (with the trio also responsible for researching, casting, cinematography, sound and lighting), Birth Time: The Documentary is rated M and scores an 8 out of 10.

* Sutton also co-edits the work with Ryan Harrison.


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