A Review of the Film Mama Sherpas

Nurse Midwifery in the United States

Mama Sherpas
Photo © Amazon.com

The Mama Sherpas by Brigid Maher is a new film about the hospital based certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the United States. This film looks at four different types of collaborative practices for hospital based nurse midwives around the country, talking about the issue that face the women, the midwives, and society.

The film starts off with a very in depth look at the cesarean rate in the United States and the needs of the mother looking for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).

Maher has had one baby via cesarean, and used midwifery care to have her second baby vaginally, thus the idea for this documentary was born. Thankfully the film doesn't dwell on this point exclusively, as there are many other points to make. 

I love the conversations with women sprinkled throughout, their hopes and fears, what they want for this birth and how they decided to get midwifery care. This adds a real human touch to the film. There are also a number of births scattered throughout, including a cesarean birth, a vaginal breech birth, and a water birth. These images and sequences do a really good job of showing how calm and unhurried birth can be with a care provider who know when to use technology and when to use patience.

The birth scenes are not overproduced. They are left intact and raw. This really helps the viewer understand that birth is rife with emotion.

It is great that they discuss midwifery education, even though I feel like this could have had a bit more detail to it in terms of length of time, testing, etc.

Watching the one student nurse midwife as she was graded on a vaginal exam was really interesting. I loved hearing her talk about the process and how she would change it the next time.

They also discussed how medical students and how they can be trained with midwives as well. The thought is that they will understand how to function in the presence of a normal labor and birth.

This is a very important piece as we move forward.

A few statistics are shown in the film, but they are not over done. Just enough to make a case for midwifery care. I also liked that the filmmakers discussed monetary and social aspects of midwifery care. While 8% of the births in the United States are attended by midwives in a hospital setting, there are a large portion of those women who are paying for their birth care via medicaid systems. Midwives are often called in to cover these women, who are often very high risk. The midwives often have much lower intervention rates and better outcomes, even in these high risk populations.

I do need to say a word about the title, Mama Sherpas. I am not how familiar the average person is with the term sherpa. In the film, I anticipated an explanation for why this term was chosen. I was disappointed that there wasn't an explanation. My fear is that it will prevent those people who would watch this film from finding it.

This book is a great look into one of the easiest fixes we have for the broken maternity care system we have today.