The Birth Atelier: Supporting Physiologic Birth in a Modern Medical Context


Birth Photography
Birth Photography by Tia Biggs

Getting on the same page. The Birth Atelier strives to use education to improve birth experiences and outcomes. To achieve this goal, we must narrow in on change. Change can be brilliant, but it can also be ambiguous, uncomfortable, and imperfect. With this in mind, what we are sharing is ideas, rooted in empirical, physiological, and evidence-based information, not medical advice. We provide a perspective to consider, not a substitute for medical expertise. It is critically important that all readers continue to consult their healthcare provider when making medical decisions. No medical advice is provided by the Birth Atelier at any time.

The existence of Homo sapiens today provides undeniable proof that birth is an inherently successful biological process. And yet, an equally true statement is that cesarean births and medical intervention in birth saves lives. The reconciliation of these two truths has led to many "pendulum swings" with one end of the spectrum encompassing the perspective that all birth should be medically managed and the other believing that all birth should be unmanaged and undisturbed. Individuals subscribing to either end of this spectrum often have clear paths ahead, either birthing unassisted out of hospital or arriving in hospital and requesting "all the things."


There is a level of clarity in the extremes, each with their own consequences (both positive and negative), but what about the individuals who wish for a blend of these two belief systems? It has been my experience that the majority of birthing people land somewhere in-between these two perspectives, and as a result must navigate the complexity associated with reconciling the belief that most bodies can birth without intervention while others will require medical intervention to do so safely. Often families are open to "necessary" intervention, but wish to avoid unnecessary intervention. In itself, this request is quite straightforward but when put into practice, often leads to a sea of ambiguity. It is my intention that the information shared on this platform will support individuals who wish to have a safe and physiologic birth within medical contexts.


The Purpose & Perspective of the Birth Atelier

I have spent the last several years experimenting with several ways to increase the likelihood that individuals felt that they could maintain as many physiological aspects of birth as possible within medical contexts without compromising safety. It quickly became clear to me that information alone was insufficient to achieve this. This is because many families would learn effectively, but found it difficult to apply their learning. It was in response to this, that The Birth Atelier was born. Our goal is to not just educate families about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, but to also equip families with skills that facilitate informed consent. Ultimately, the informed consent process is at the heart of all that we do. Informed consent not only protects a birthing person's autonomy but also provides the substrate to make decisions that align with their perspective while also taking into consideration the medical context and recommendations from their healthcare provider. It is within the informed consent process that we find the balance between support for physiologic birth and safety.


To pursue this goal with integrity and clarity, it is important to us that we share both our background and founding principles with families considering taking our classes.


Our Background

It is critical for everyone to know that we are not medical professionals. As a result of this, we will never provide medical advice nor suggest that any one intervention is wholly necessary or unnecessary. Instead we choose to share information from reputable medical bodies such as the SOGC (Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada), Health Canada, and the World Health Organization while also emphasizing that applicability of such information to any individual birth will be evaluated by the healthcare provider within the context of said birth.


Instead, my background combines the scientific literacy I gained throughout my BSc with almost four years of experience as a doula in Edmonton. It is also my background that has provided the foundational principles for the Birth Atelier.


Our Core Tenets

Informed Choice

As mentioned above, our philosophy is based upon a strong belief in the role of informed consent in birth. As a result, the information we provide is targeted towards families who wish to be actively involved in their care. This is a foundational principle both from an ethical and empirical perspective suggesting that informed choice and involvement in care not only protects an individuals autonomy, but also increases the likelihood that they are satisfied with their birth even in the event that it strays from their expectations (1).


Humility

Despite being founded by an incredibly type-A individual who wishes for clear & straightforward answers to all of life's questions, we are incredibly aware that this is a fantasy in birth just as much as it is in our day-to-day lives. Science is often touted as providing the "right" answers, but the reality is that science instead provides statistically validated answers. Unfortunately for those of us who are inclined to seek out clear cut answers, truth and statistical validation are not synonymous.


While we derive our information from the most scientifically valid sources that we can find, we are all at the mercy of study design, scientific evolution, collective blindspots (i.e. the things we don't know that we don't know), bias, and funding discrepancies. What this means in practice is that we can assure you that we have done our best to provide credible and scientifically supported information, but can also promise that it will inevitability be imperfect. For example, several non-medical alternatives have not been rigorously studied and as a result, we can share the results of the small studies that have been done but must also be aware that such findings are likely to evolve over time.


Hence, the need for humility. Even the largest, most credible scientific bodies cannot claim to have "all of the answers," and it is incredibly important to us that our families understand the inherent instability and inevitable inaccuracy of the human pursuit for understanding.


Physiology

In the context of science's strengths and imperfections, our teachings side with the body. What this means in practice is that our classes are founded on the belief that the body knows more than we do, and as a result the less we need to disturb it, the better. As has already been discussed, there will of course be times where this is not possible, however, it is important that we are transparent about the perspective that was taken when building these courses so that families can decide whether it aligns with their own. Much of the information to come on this platform will explore the inherent serendipity of birth that has led us to hold this perspective, in hopes that it will strengthen our collective respect for physiologic birth.


 


If you have made it this far, we hope you are as excited about the information that we have collected as we are! More information about each of our courses can be found here. All of our classes are accessible online in a self-paced format and can be purchased at any time!


(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2200649/

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