‘Birth in South Africa’ was one of my presentations at the Damanhur Birth Summit. I presented a workshop on traditions of the ancient Khoisan and San Bushmen transcendent ways of approaching a birth, but this I will talk about later.
Firstly I’d like to delineate the birthing situation in South Africa. We have two systems, namely the Public Health System and the Private Health System.
The Public Health system serves the greater public who most likely do not have any sort of medical insurance. The sound methods of treating and assisting women are predominantly evidence-based, yet the hospitals are understaffed and over full. This means that women may feel and be treated like they are on a birthing conveyor belt. Tired staff and overworked doctors mean that mothers are not given the personal and emotional attention they deserve and opportunities for creating a sacred space for a woman to give birth are neglected.
The Private Health Care System serves the people who are able to pay the high costs of medical insurance. These people have one-on-one care and facilities are really good, with comfortable and private birthing rooms and a medical team of specialists on call should they be needed. While this can be an absolute boon, it does not always work in favour of birthing women who need time and trust for labour to proceed without intervention. Doctors in this system may be afraid of litigation and the tendency is to intervene in labour before it may be necessary, with the result that caesarian rates in private hospitals in South Africa are among the highest in the world (65%-90%).
Natural Birth Independent Midwives work across both systems, liaising with medical doctors and obstetricians in both private and public health care systems. Our scope of practice is to assist the healthy woman with a normal healthy labour and birth and to refer or consult should a woman deviate from the ‘normal’. We offer assistance at homebirths, hospital births, waterbirths, gentle births and even assist at caesarian sections. Most of all, we try to respect the process a mother and her family have chosen and empower both parents to achieve the highest possible level of transcendence that can be achieved during birth, by remaining conscious of our spiritual and physical responsibility to serve.