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The Farm was set up in the early s, when hippies from the San Francisco Bay area travelled across the US in midwiferry of freedom and a place to live their ideals. They bought some rural land in Tennessee at a cheap price and began to settle there, naming their new home The Farm.

On the long journey to Tennessee people within the community started to have babies, and to help out, some of the women began to learn about midwifery and subsequently became midwives.

Over 30 years later The Farm is gaaskin going, albeit not in exactly the same guise as it was all those years ago. About people live there, including six midwives, and nowadays people travel hundreds of miles specifically to give birth there. Spiritual Midwifery was one of the first books we read as student midwives, and it made such an impact that it remains an inspiration. We were delighted to take advantage of the opportunity to join a group of ten other students and midwives for a week to attend midwifery workshops at The Farm.

Perhaps what is so amazing about The Farm, and what made us so keen to visit, is that the midwives there manage to maintain incredibly low intervention rates in a country with highly medicalised maternity care. These inaa are impressive, even in comparison to low-risk midwifery units in the UK. We were intrigued to find out how the midwives on The Farm managed to keep birth so normal.

What could we learn from them?

How did the spiritual and philosophical beliefs of people living on The Farm affect midwifery practice there?

Preparation for the trip took quite a few months. First of all we needed permission from our course director to attend. Thankfully she supported our enthusiasm and gave us the go-ahead, on the condition that on our return we present our learning experiences to the other student midwives in our group.

Then there was the question of finances. Being students living on NHS bursaries, where were we to find the funds? This was to cover the return flight to Nashville, workshop fees, accommodation, meals, travel costs within the US, educational daytrips and administration costs.

We decided that the only way was to set about fundraising. Most of the additional money we earned through our part-time jobs. There was no magic formula to the fundraising, just a lot of hard work writing letters, applications, and a generous bunch of friends and colleagues. We raised funds by organising football scratch-cards, and there were further donations from friends, family and colleagues, including two GPs who Karen works with on community placements.

Months of fundraising made the dream a reality and at the end of April we set off on the adventure of a lifetime or at least of our midwifery training! The trip was coordinated and organised by two midwifery teachers, Sara and Lorna, who regularly organise midwifery trips to The Farm. Other midwives and students can contact Sara and Lorna at: Another aspect of preparation for the trip involved meeting the other UK-based student midwives and midwives who we would be spending time with on The Farm, which we did in March.

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On the first day in Nashville, we visited a large high technology maternity hospital and a small out-of-hospital birth centre. This gave us insights into the provision of gasikn high- and low-tech midwifery care in Tennessee. We then travelled to The Farm where we arrived just before dark, jetlagged and yet alive with anticipation.


What struck us most on that first evening was the calm and tranquility of The Farm. It is not just that the environment mdiwifery peaceful — trees, greenery, water, wood cabins and roaming horses, but it is also the people — the smiles, waves and conversations with complete strangers as your paths cross for a moment on the roads and dirt tracks.

Walk around The Farm at any time, day or night, or sleep under the stars and you will not feel unsafe. Nobody locks their houses on The Farm. We had a week of intensive workshops on topics such as the history of midwifery on The Farm, clinical skills and spiritual parenting.

Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

Each day was filled with lengthy indepth discussions with the midwives living and practising on The Farm. After being at The Farm for a few days, we began to get a sense of how women can give birth there so well. Birth is fully integrated into the lives of people on The Farm, labour is culturally celebrated, and birth is viewed as spiritually significant and pregnant women are treated with the utmost respect. There are rituals and songs mideifery birth that make it a special time for everyone.

Women are often given presents as the special midwjfery approaches and the soiritual do not expect any negative birth stories to be told to pregnant women fear gakin seen as one of the greatest obstacles to a normal birth process. In an environment where people trust one another fully, in which people are working and living with rather than against nature, it also began to make sense to us that women would feel safe enough to trust their bodies and to surrender to the natural process of birth.

Halfway through the week even we prudish Brits were stripped naked swimming in the lake! We were delighted by the willingness of The Farm midwives Ina May Gaskin and others to engage in iha, and to learn from and listen to women. Being so far from medical aid and having very little money in a system where health care is not free at the point of access, they have learnt skills toprevent complications in labour and to deal with them in an emergency.

They use their knowledge to support physiological processes such as midifery endorphins and oxytocin.

Technology during childbirth is used with caution. The midwives deal with midwifery and neonatal emergencies in much the same way as we have been taught at university. The environment at the Farm minimises fear in women, midwives avoid using pharmacological methods of pain relief and encourage a high protein soy-based vegetarian diet which they consider at least partly responsible for the low incidence of pre-eclampsia on Spirituall Farm.

It was amazing to hear The Farm midwives talking calmly and matter-of-factly about things that are virtually unheard of in the UK such as twins or breech babies born in wood cabins in the forest, and women having orgasms in labour. This is normal midwifery to them. Tennessee is relatively supportive of midwifery practice in comparison to some US states, yet even in Tennessee the vast majority of births are attended by doctors rather than midwives.

This mqy us appreciate the position of midwives in the UK, who can provide safe midwifery care for all pregnant women. Spending time in Tennessee therefore convinced us that midwives like those on The Farm have much to offer midwives in the UK. They have resisted the dominant culture of high-tech, interventionist, obstetric-led birth, choosing low-tech, normal midwifery and never forgetting how miraculous birth really is.

Midwifery care at the Farm is provided on a small scale and midwives know the women they work with. In the UK a similar model of care can be achieved through one-to-one care, caseload midwifery and birth centres. Despite the differences in the cultural expectations of women in UK mkdwifery those living on The Farm, it is gaskim difficult for individual midwives and students to find ways of enhancing the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of women, ma highand low-risk pregnancies.

Having been inspired by our time in Tennessee, we hope that we have brought back with us a little bit of the spirit of The Farm to England. And we now look forward to the challenge of gaskni this into our midwifery practice.


We would like to thank the RCM and Bounty for providing funding toward the trip. Our thanks also gqskin to everyone else who made our visit to The Farm possible by providing financial and other forms of support.

Spiritual midwifery on The Farm

We would like to give our special thanks to The Farm midwives, and to everyone who lives at The Farm, for making our stay so memorable and enjoyable. Anna Fielder is a student at the University of Salford and is due to qualify in April Karen Beckett is a student at the University of Salford and is due to qualify in April Stella Oakes is a student at the University of Salford and is due spirituual qualify in April Pain study tests morphine for effectiveness on premature babies.

Review estimates levels of preterm birth in The Royal College of Midwives, a company limited by guarantee, registration number The Royal College of Midwives Trust, a company limited by guarantee, registration number Our membership is a united front of midwives, maternity support workers and student midwives. We offer membership both in the UK spjritual internationally. You can jidwifery us here or by calling If you are already a member, you can update your membership details here.

We provide workplace advice and gakin, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. Contact the RCM by email, telephone, and post 24 hours a day. Find the latest RCM and professional midwifery news here.

Read blogs, watch video blogs and read in-depth articles, briefings and reports on clinical midwifery practice, development and professional issues. Our members know that should the worst happen they have got the best support in their corner. You can turn to the RCM should you need support with disciplinary hearings or clinical negligence, and many other issues. The RCM has a vital role in disseminating information about professional midwifery practice, and in ensuring that there is a recognised UK-wide platform for sharing good practice.

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The Royal College of Midwives, since its foundation inhas sought to work with and support midwives from all over the world, through international forums and committees and by fostering links with individual midwives and associations. For more information on global midwifery, contact us. Skip to main content. Spiritual micwifery on The Farm. Spiritual midwifery on The Farm Spiritual midwifery and the whole ethos of natural birth is captured in the atmosphere of The Farm in Tennessee.

With remnants of the heyday of the s hippy era, it embodies all that is holistic, spiritual and low-tech, and promotes the physical and emotional wellbeing of each expectant mother. Spiritual midwifery and the whole ethos of natural birth spiritjal captured in the atmosphere of The Farm in Tennessee. Midwife wins ‘alternative nobel’. One of the world’s most famous midwives and dedicated campaigners for natural childbirth has won a Gaskin demands prison release.

A world-famous midwife has urged Hungary to release a home birth advocate who was convicted of Pioneering midwife Ina May Gaskin is known as the mother of authentic midwifery.