'The Mama Sherpas': Film Review

Important viewing for expectant mothers

Ricki Lake is one of the executive producers of Brigid Maher's documentary examining the growing trend of midwives and doctors collaborating in the birthing process.

Expectant mothers and their partners would be well advised to check out Brigid Maher's (Veiled Voices) documentary before making important decisions about giving birth. Lamenting the growing use of Caesarean sections and positing "collaborative care" between midwives and doctors as the solution, The Mama Sherpas makes an impassioned, highly persuasive case. Executive produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, the film will prove a natural companion piece to their earlier, similarly themed efforts The Business of Being Born and Breastmilk.

Maher was motivated to explore the subject for very personal reasons when she later felt guilty over having had her son delivered via C-section. Upon becoming pregnant again, she enlisted the services of a midwife and delivered her second child in a hospital via natural childbirth.

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The film spotlights a number of hospital and medical practices in which doctors and midwives work together delivering babies through various methods, including water birthing (in which babies are delivered into a tub of warm water) and hypnobirthing (in which laboring mothers use hypnosis to dispel fear and tension). The footage of the former is particularly impressive, as the baby enters the world without uttering a single cry.

Impassioned testimonials are given by numerous doctors, midwives, nurses and patients on the beneficial effects of collaborative care. It's a growing trend and clearly a necessary one, as statistics reveal that roughly one in three babies is delivered via C-sections even as the World Health Organization recommends that the number should be halved.

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Many doctors are resistant to the change, arguing the case for health and safety reasons. But time and convenience often factor in, with some physicians simply not wanting to stick around during a long delivery. One of the mothers interviewed says that her doctor pressured her to undergo the procedure by telling her, "Your vagina will be so much nicer afterwards."

Although there are many heartwarming true-life stories on display, the film occasionally gets bogged down in repetitive, lengthy consultation scenes. Still, those may be a welcome respite from the highly graphic delivery sequences that may leave some male viewers nostalgic for the days when they were relegated to hospital waiting rooms with cigars in hand.

Production: Tiny Leaps, Black Salt Productions, BOBB Films
Director/producer/director of photography: Brigid Maher   
Executive producers: Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein, Laila Rossi
Editor: Nikki Jones
Composer: Paul Oehlers

Not rated, 77 minutes

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