Defending Home Birth

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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.

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