The International Normal Labour and Birth Conference, downunder for the first time this October (2016), was, as one participant described, “A perfect blend of science, love, and dancing.”
It was a pleasure and privilege to participate, alongside stellar speakers, articulate advocates, refined researchers, and many, many, marvellous midwives (and midwifery students) from all over the world. All were passionate about mothers and babies, and the benefits of normal, natural birth. Thanks everyone for travelling so far to be with us!
There were many magical moments and powerful presentations, along with fun and frolicking, which midwives (and lawyers, doctors and others!) are equally good at- see the video links below.
I left the conference with huge gratitude to Soo Downe, Professor in Midwifery Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, who began NLBC in the UK in 2001, and to our own fabulous and prolific Hannah Dahlen, Professor of Midwifery at the University Western Sydney, along with everyone who helped to bring this precious gathering to our shores.
For those who came (and just couldn’t choose which of the incredible concurrent sessions to attend); those who wanted to come but couldn’t make it (tickets sold out quickly); and/or anyone interested in the future of birth and the wellbeing of the planet, here are some of my favourite presentations and take-aways:
- Opening and warm welcome to country with our precious Aboriginal elder Aunty Millie
- Soo Downe, just fresh off the plane from the UK (thanks Soo!), asked, “Who has mastery over safety and what it means in childbirth?” Soo highlighted the recent Lancet series on midwifery that discriminates birth interventions that are “too little too late vs too much too soon.”
- Caroline Homer gave a tour-de-force presentation on “Why normal birth matters in low and middle-income countries too.” She included the WHO goal for universal health cover by 2030 and the beautiful quote in the image above by Aung San Su Kyi; “The birth of a baby is an occasion for weaving hopeful dreams about the future.”
- “The only way we’ll get sustainable reforms in maternity care systems is to institutionalize the input of mothers’ experiences and attitudes into the process” Sobering conclusions from Eugene Declercq, Professor of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, and author of the US Listening to Mothers surveys. Eugene generously shares his slides here and his presentation is here.
- “The next decade is a crucial one to ‘save’ normal birth in the western world.” Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine Alec Walsh, a strong supporter of midwifery care, with midwifery Professor Sally Tracy from the University of Sydney, who also discussed the M@ngo study, which found lower rates of intervention, lower costs and equivalent outcomes for women and babies randomised to continuity of midwifery vs usual care.
- “Scaling up midwifery services markedly reduces maternal and infant mortality.” Holly Powell Kennedy, former US ACNM President with top-line medical evidence from The Lancet
- Saraswathi Vedam, Professor of Midwifery at the University of British Columbia and convenor of the exceptional annual multi-disciplinary homebirth summit, shared the summit consensus Homebirth referral guidelines. I recommend that you check out her fabulous TedX talk too. She also brought her beautiful daughter Zoe Miller-Vedam who is a human rights lawyer, also working for human rights in childbirth.
- Obstetrician, breech birth expert– and midwifery supporter– Andrew Bisits, shared that, for him, every breech birth offers some insight into normal birth. He also took up the Q&A challenge to demonstrate how a breech baby gets itself out!
- The lovely Sheena Byrom brought her warm presence and social media skills to get us all up and tweeting (leading to 14 million impressions- see below!!) Sheena also brought along her great books, including the powerful book The Roar Behind the Silence: Why Kindness, Compassion and Respect Matter in Maternity Care, and even did her own SoMe film of the conference.
- My friend, colleague–and my own childbirth educator back in 1995–Rhea Dempsey gave a standing-room-only workshop on Pain Dynamics and Physiologic Birth. The whole workshop is here part 1 and part 2 (scroll down)- Thanks Sheena for filming!
- I gave a workshop on Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing, based on my report and with a special focus on the evolutionary roots of physiologic birth. My “triangle of reproductive success” emphasises that “The hormonally-mediated processes of successful lactation and maternal-infant attachment are intertwined and continuous with the biologic processes of parturition.” In other words, when we interfere with the hormones of labour and birth, we can inadvertently disrupt breastfeeding and mother-baby attachment. Watch this space for the whole workshop posted in my Gentle Natural Birth Professionals program!
- “…it’s not just being friendly. It influences the physiology in a basic way.” Oxytocin guru Professor Kerstin Uvnas Moberg from Sweden, talking about the biologic benefits of having support–your own doula or midwife–in labour.
- Maralyn Foureur Professor of Midwifery at University of Technology Sydney, shared insights and some of her ground-breaking research on the impact of birth environment on women and care providers.
- Proud and passionate indigenous midwives Renae Coleman and Leona McGrath, along with Professor of Midwifery at the University of Queensland Sue Kildea, spoke about the urgent need for traditional birthing practices and for birthing “on country” Watch this space for opportunities to support.
- “The right to autonomy includes the right to informed consent, to refuse medical treatment, and to make decisions for her unborn baby.” The wonderful Bashi Kumar Hazard spoke about Human Rights in Childbirth from her perspective as a HRIC board member and lawyer. Her full presentation is here.
- A great summary of the benefits of midwifery care from conference organizer and stellar researcher Hannah Dahlen.
All the abstracts here
- Check out the Twitter stream–14 million impressions!– #normalbirth2016
- Facebook #normalbirth16
- Because we’re happy- Shea Caplice gets us all up and dancing
- Sally Cusack interviews participants for Pregnancy Birth and Beyond radio
- Hilarious skit from the student midwives about choice
More round-ups- thanks to all the bloggers!
- Sydney Doula Ellen Croucher (lovely to meet you Ellen!) and her fabulous blogs about day 1, day 2, day 3
For the Mamas!
As the speakers at this conference emphasised again and agin, the best scientific research shows that having your own midwife will reduce your chance of unnecessary intervention, while giving the additional benefits of midwifery care. Having your own midwife may even reduce your chance of early stillbirth. Having a supportive birth companion (doula) will also increase the chances of a gentle natural birth and is a great option, especially if you are using an obstetrician as your main care provider
Photos and more
Thanks to my friends, heroes and sheroes, including Pip Wynn Owen, Sheena Byrom and her lovely Paul (who together welcomed me at the airport) , Rhea Dempsey, Lesley Page, Kerstin Uvnas Moberg, Hannah Dahlen, Eugene Declercq, Pat Brodie, Nicky Leap, Bashi Hazard, and all at #NLBC2016! More conference photos here.
I missed lots of photo opportunities, including with my dear sister-in-law Sue Lennox, NZ midwife of 40 years+–and the reason we had our babies at home, which started all of this! Thanks Sue!