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Ricki Lake offers sneak peek at The Mama Sherpas — her latest birth film

Grab the popcorn. In the new movie The Mama Sherpas, Ricki Lake continues in her legacy of birthing controversy.

This film tackles one of the most uncomfortable topics to ever come up at playgroup: The unnecessarily high C-section rate in the U.S. — estimated now at 30 percent.

Executive producers Lake and Abby Epstein, known for their work in the The Business of Being Born, see The Mama Sherpas as an opportunity to continue a necessary conversation: The birth industry is changing. Women aren’t happy with their birth outcomes. More midwives are working alongside doctors to help women have the best and safest birth possible.


Image: The Mama Sherpas

This is a conversation worth having if we ever want to see a change in how our children are being born. In this exclusive SheKnows clip, you’ll get a first look at The Mama Sherpas, released July 21, 2015:

This is the kind of birth conversation that can educate and empower women. Not only were we lucky enough to get an exclusive clip from The Mama Sherpas, but director Brigid Maher sat down to answer a few questions about the film:

SK: Why is the rising C-section rate a danger to expectant moms?

Maher: “C-sections are major abdominal surgeries, and there are real risks involved in the surgical procedure, such as infection, slow recovery or worse. From a practical standpoint, the recovery from the operation hinders the ability to care for the newborn. Moms can’t lean over to change a diaper, let alone bathe the child for the first two weeks of his or her birth. Obviously, there are many instances where a C-section is a lifesaving procedure, but there is an overwhelmingly high rate of unnecessary C-sections, putting mothers around the country in potential danger.”

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SK: What other dangers have you seen in the birth industry?

Maher: “I think the danger is that we cannot always trust that hospital or birth industry policies are in our best interest. Mothers and families-to-be need to educate themselves so that they are well prepared for the birthing process. For instance, having a doula present during your birth has proven to lower the risk of intervention and even C-sections.”

SK: Do you think your film will be considered controversial?

Maher: “I do not think the film is overtly controversial, nor was it made to be. I made sure to show four very different midwifery practices to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of practice settings where midwives work. Midwives care for women from all backgrounds and income levels, not just the privileged, and I’m excited to share this with audiences.”

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SK: How can a woman take control of her birth outcome?

Maher: “Women can take control of their birth outcomes by educating themselves and with a variety of resources. Do your research, know your providers, talk to other moms, understand what services are offered in your community, work with a doula and build out a customized birth plan that works for them. Be as prepared as you can be.”

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SK: What do you hope women take away from this film?

Maher: “I hope that this film will educate the American public about how they can be part of the solution to the obstetric crisis in America. Midwives can play such an important role within the collaborative settings in a hospital and work to ensure moms can have the safest and healthiest birth possible. Additionally, the film shows seven beautiful and diverse births (from water to breach and everything in between) and strives to normalize how we view birth in America, so that we no longer fear it but embrace it as a beautiful moment in a family’s life.”


Image: The Mama Sherpas

As odd as the practice may sound in parts of the U.S., midwives are anything but antiquated. Women in the U.K. with low-risk pregnancies are being encouraged to give birth — with the help of midwives — outside the hospital. Even obstetricians back here in the U.S. are questioning our nation’s hospital-focused birthing practices, considering that our C-section rates are even higher than the U.K. and our maternal mortality rate is on the rise.

The Mama Sherpas hopes to make sense of this jumbled mess we call the American birth plan. Through conversation and education, this 77-minute film is designed to make you question what’s really going on in the delivery room. After seeing how polarizing The Business of Being Born was among new moms, at the very least you know that any doc produced by Ricki Lake is bound to put on a good show. The Mama Sherpas is now playing in select theaters and is available on iTunes and DVD.

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