Those crazy Europeans. They think that–gaffaw–home birthing is safe! Haven’t they heard about home birth activist Janet Fraser and her very personal tragedy? You know the story: an unassisted childbirth ended with her baby’s death, for reasons that have not yet been determined. And now some are calling for her head, while others are criticizing at home births in general (though not the same as freebirthing).
A large-scale study in the Netherlands has found no difference in death rates of either mothers or babies in 530,000 births. Whether you give birth in the hospital or in the comforts of your own home, the stats are the same.
Remind me again how home birthing is a crime?
This study was commissioned after some pointed to the Dutch freedom of birthing choices as the reason for the Netherlands’ infant death rate. It was one of the highest in Europe. They also have a huge home birth rate, at 30 percent of births, compared to .59 percent of all births in the U.S (though 9 states have twice the rate of the general American population).
Turns out, we can’t blame those crazy home birthers. Professor Simone Buitendijk of the TNO Institute for Applied Scientific Research, said of the findings,
We found that for low-risk mothers at the start of their labour it is just as safe to deliver at home with a midwife as it is in hospital with a midwife. These results should strengthen policies that encourage low-risk women at the onset of labour to choose their own place of birth.
Almost a third of the women in the study had to be transferred for one reason or another (fetal heart rate, “need” for an epidural). And those babies and mamas had the same mortality rate at either location.
Researchers said highly trained midwives are key.
Which women were “low-risk”? Those who had no known complications, such as a baby in breech or one with a congenital abnormality, or a previous Caesarean section. (Though a dear bloggy friend had her best birth ever when she had a home VBAC.) So…wouldn’t “low-risk” include most women? Even though we’re trying our damnedest as a culture to up the C-section rate?
Of course, our illustrious medical leaders in the United States don’t agree. In 2008, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG. Tell me how reasonable you sound with an acronym like that?) reiterated their longstanding opposition to the crazy practice of birthing without a magnifying glass properly attached:
While childbirth is a normal physiologic process that most women experience without problems, monitoring of both the woman and the fetus during labor and delivery in a hospital or accredited birthing center is essential because complications can arise with little or no warning even among women with low-risk pregnancies.
I suppose they’re following the, “Oh my God, she’s gonna blow!” theory. *Sigh* Repeat after me, good doctors: Pregnancy is not a medical condition. Hospitals are for sick people. The act of giving birth does not make one “sick”.
Now the real question: which location is mentally safer? [Hand in air…pick me! pick me!] I’d vote for home birth, though both my sons were born in the hospital. For the second birth, I had to direct the nurse who checked my status through my anatomy (the clitoris is not, in fact, where the baby comes out. And please don’t touch me there. I don’t know you like that!) and tell her when Baby E was crowning. Mark and I knew much, much more about where in labor my body was than the doctor (sitting in the corner sipping a cappuccino), medical midwife, and nurse combined. I’m absolutely positive a home experience would have helped me hold on to my remaining tidbits of precious sanity.
As for the “freebirth” home birthers: By the time I reached the end of my second pregnancy, I was “ready to hide in a closet and give birth like a cat.” The medical “professionals” thoroughly scared me away. I understand the mindset of these brave women and why they choose to do it on their own terms. Unassisted birthers, the ones I’ve been blessed enough to meet in this bloggy world, are much more educated about every working of their bodies than most women I know.
If we give women the chance to trust in their own abilities, they just might surprise us.
Image: Jesica_4 by molly_darling on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.