The Childbirth Olympics

golden podium of top 3 winner isolated on white background

Hi, folks, we at the Extreme Sports Network are proud to be reporting from this year’s Childbirth Olympics. We’re especially fortunate to have world renowned childbirth expert Ima Frawde, CPM here with us as a commentator.

Ima, tell us about competitive childbirth.

Ima Frawde, CPM here. I want to start by thanking the Extreme Sports Network for inviting me to comment on this very important event. Many people may not know about competitive childbirth, but it’s an obvious outgrowth of our understanding about birth. We used to think that childbirth was about having a healthy baby and a healthy mother, but we now realize that birth as a piece of performance art whose goal is to perfectly replicate birth in prehistoric times.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In addition to her medal, the winner receives a golden pessary and a lifetime supply of Depends.[/pullquote]

I like to think of the sport as akin to rhythmic gymnastics. In rhythmic gymnastics participants are judged on how closely they execute a variety of stylized moves and how closely they mimic each other. In competitive childbirth, the judges evaluate each mother for how closely she executes the pre-approved moves of competitive childbirth and how closely she mimics childbirth in prehistory as imagined by a bunch of high school graduates thoroughly ignorant of both obstetrics and history.

The competition involves 3 phases. Competitors are awarded marks in each area: each competitor receives risk points, the object being to enter the arena with as many pre-existing childbirth risks as possible. Basic individual risks —breech, twins, postdates, VBAC —- receive small numbers of points. The key in this phase of the competition is to combine risks for bonus points. Bonus points are also awarded for women who willingly expose their babies and themselves to above average risks —- like a history of a previous stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction, or a history of postpartum hemorrhage. pushing for more than 6 hours, ignoring thick meconium, or failing to monitor the fetal heart rate for hours at a time.

The strategy in this phase is come as close as possible to killing your baby and yourself without actually dying. No, there’s no point penalty if your baby or you actually die, but you can’t brag about the award if you don’t live to see it.

The second phase, which we’ll be watching today, awards style points for how closely the competitor mimics childbirth in nature as a imagined by a bunch of ignorant clowns. Style points are awarded for prolonged latent phase (regular contractions for two or more days BEFORE labor really starts), arrest of labor lasting 6 hours of more (extra style points for going over 8 hours), and pushing for more than 6 hours (extra style points for pushing more than 12 hours). Style points are also awarded for how much food a woman consumes during labor (it doesn’t matter if she vomits it up later), how much time she spends in the fecally contaminated birth pool, and how many herb preparations she consumes. Bonus points are awarded for pushing for more than 6 hours, ignoring thick meconium, or failing to monitor the fetal heart rate for hours at a time. Giving birth in creative place, such as in the Amazon rainforest or on top of Mount Everest also merits bonus points. Additional bonus points are awarded for being accompanied by animals like dolphins or sharks.

The final phase awards points for defiance of authority, but don’t thinks it’s merely about refusing postpartum interventions meant to protect the health of your child. Competitors are judged both on the seriousness of withholding those interventions; as you might expect, refusing the vitamin K shot, which could result in the baby bleeding into its brain and sustaining permanent damage, gets more points than refusing the eye ointment, which might only lead to blindness. Points are also awarded for bizarre childbirth practices attributed to indigenous peoples but actually made up by white women like lotus birth or eating the placenta. Additional bonus points are awarded for tricky maneuvers like attempting to breastfeed a non-responsive baby, or breastfeeding while in hypovolemic shock due to hemorrhage.

The winner of the competition is determined by adding together risk points, style points and defiance points. The winner has the satisfaction of knowing that she met the highest standards fabricated by a bunch of ignorant clowns.

Wait, what? The baby? Oh, yes, a live baby can be an unexpected bonus of the Childbirth Olympics, but that’s hardly a requirement, especially because many women enter because they want to experience a “healing” birth after a previous loss (of the competition, silly, not the previous baby), as opposed to wanting another child. There’s so much more to childbirth than whether the baby lives or dies!

The prize? Thanks for reminding me. In addition to her medal, the winner receives a golden pessary and a lifetime supply of Depends, which is going to come in very handy when she develops urinary incontinence after the inevitable uterine prolapse.

What do the runners-up receive? They receive a consolation prize for failing to meet the high standards of the competition: a lifetime supply of guilt!


Adapted from a piece that first appeared in September 2013.