A new documentary about midwives is out, and advocates say it's long overdue. They say pregnancy is not something to be afraid of and they want more mothers to explore their options. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
They call her the most famous midwife in America. Now, Ina May Gaskin of Tennessee is a rock star, thanks to a new film promoting natural childbirth.
The directors of "Birth Story" follow Ina May around a southern commune, and they also use archival footage from back in her heyday.
The author and activist founded the Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, Tennessee in 1971. She has attended more than 1,200 births, and she has rarely needed medical intervention.
"Ina May says our bodies were built to do this," says Mary Wigmore, co-director of "Birth Story". "It's such a simple things to say, but it sounds so radical."
"I think there's a misconception that midwives are hippies and they come in and pray the baby out," says Sara Lamm, co-director of "Birth Story". "They are intelligent, trained, skilled professionals who are experts in normal birth."
According to the American College of Nurse Midwives, more than 312,000 babies were born in 2010 with the help of a midwife, and the number steadily rises every year.
"Birth Story", which focuses on farm life, also resonates with New Yorkers. Activists with a nonprofit called "Choices in Childbirth", based in Midtown, say "Birth Story" is long overdue, and women in urban areas could learn a lot from it.
"They are showing us this beautiful alternative to what is right now the norm in this country, and in this country, that norm is fear," says Elan McAllister, founder of "Choices in Childbirth".
Ina May Gaskin's Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee has not been thoroughly studied over the years due to a lack of published data, so it's not exactly known how mothers and babies have fared during home births. But Ina May's many fans around the world say she is taking the fear factor out of pregnancy and making it a joyful experience for the entire family.