Defending Home Birth

| 7/29/2008 12:34:31 PM

Home-birthed baby Mai

The American Medical Association is under fire for its recent decision (word document) to advise against home births. Doctors, midwives, feminists, natural family planning proponents, and even Ricki Lake are all upset with the intrusion. 

Childbirth is a natural part of life, writes Dr. Vijay Goel for The Health Care Blog. It’s been around longer than hospitals have. So why is the AMA advocating against home birth, a practice that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, only one percent of women choose? The AMA’s resolution “appears to be based more on turf management than evidence,” writes Goel, “...especially when evidence exists that the process is safe for low-risk mothers.” Condemning home birth is another medical attack in the battle between women and doctors over childbirth in the United States.

Restricting all women to hospital or birthing center delivery, like encouraging unnecessary cesarean sections, is prompted by “junk science and further reduces the credibility of our once proud profession,” writes Goel. Doctors elsewhere would disagree with the AMA’s decision, points out Jennifer Block, author of Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, writing for the Los Angeles Times. Block quotes a British National Health Service handout, which states: “There is no evidence to support the common assertion that home birth is a less safe option for women experiencing uncomplicated pregnancies.” 

For more on the ideas and issues surrounding home births, read “Drugs, Knives, and Midwives” and “A Tale of Two Births” from the March/April 2007 issue of Utne Reader.

Image by Big Ben(Gaijin Bikers), licensed under Creative Commons.

8/4/2008 5:57:10 PM

My daughter was born by emergency c section after many normal hours of labor in a hospital. Something unexpected happened at the last minute and I thank my lucky stars each day as I look at her that I was in the hosiptal and not at home giving birth. Every woman certainly has that choice to make but for me, no home births!

8/4/2008 4:20:02 PM

My oldest son was born by cesarean in a hospital. My youngest son was born at home with a midwife. My cesarean was, I believe, a direct result of the unnecessary intervention of the medical team. I was working with a midwife team, but they were very much members of the medical community. Birthing at home was a beautiful experience that I will treasure forever. I won't begin to go into the very personal details of the birth, but having experienced a home birth I can honestly say that I'd never go back to a hospital to give birth.

courtroom mama
8/4/2008 4:05:55 PM

I think that the first commenter very aptly expresses the sentiment that troubles me the most: "but what about the baby." That reasoning has been used for a number of policies against pregnant women - from locking them in prison for minor offenses that would only get probation for other people (like forgery) to compelling a caesarean section. Mothers who choose to birth at home do so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they believe that their home is the best, safest place for them to labor. Withtout speaking for everyone, I can say that a woman generally labors at home for the best interest of her child, her health, and for her own family. The truth of birth is that there is always a possibility that the unthinkable will happen. Being in a hospital will not change that, or even lessen the possibility. In fact, merely being in a hospital carries its own risks (MRSA, iatrogenic complications, etc). We should trust families to weigh these risks and decide for themselves. Maybe the first poster is right - that when a woman becomes a statistic, she will wish that she were in a hospital. But let that be her decision or mistake to make. Parents make a variety of decisions on behalf of their children every day - many turn out to be the wrong decision. This should be no different.

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