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Homebirthing -- Do you think it's a safe option?

By July 2, 2008 - 11:06am
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The firestorm that erupted last month over Ricki Lake choosing homebirthing and the AMA's subsequent statement about how it feels hospital births are safer got me thinking. Should women have choices when it comes to birthing options? Or should women rely on hospitals?

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I completely agree with susanc. Women have a right to choose the birth place and provider that is best for them. For many women, that is definitely at home.

I've birthed one baby at the hospital and one at home. Both were great experiences, but honestly, I felt safer at home. At the hospital the dr. rushed in at the last minute, immediately clamped the cord and my baby had to be resusitated while I watched helplessly and no one (except my wonderful doula!) told me what was happening. Thankfully, she began breathing fairly soon and I was able to hold her finally. I didn't have any drugs or unnecessary interventions. My doula and husband were perfect. But at home, the 2nd time around, it was still so much better. My midwife assured me that if the baby didn't breathe right away, she would still be ok, because she wouldn't cut off her lifeline by clamping early. And if the baby needed help, she'd help her right on my belly. I had an amazing birth, with no pain (seriously, no pain at all- the only ick part was some diarrhea), and my daughter's birth was so gentle. I felt completely safe, I didn't have to worry about someone "hooking" me up to anything or telling me how to push or what position to be in. I knew that if something crazy happened the hospital was just up the street, but that didn't make me feel safe. My belief in birth itself and my faith in all parties involved created that safety. For women who've only birthed in hospitals, you truly don't know what it could be like at home.

All of that being said, homebirth is not for everyone. If you are high-risk for various reasons, it's probably not a good idea. If you or your partner feel very scared about it, it's not a good idea. If you can't find a qualified, good midwife, it's not a good idea. If you are far (more than a few minutes) from a hospital, not a good idea. If you just really want a high-tech, drugged childbirth, then you need the hospital. If you just don't want to take that much responsibility and leave it to the "expert".....

It's my belief that all women can greatly benefit from the midwifery model of care, at home and in hospital. There are many things that can be adapted so that everyone can get this care. Continuity (the same provider for the entire labor and someone you've formed a relationship with for 9 months), a super low rate of interventions (almost no inductions, epsiotomies, and a lower than 10% rate of c-sections), continuous support by a midwife or doula or dr or nurse who acts like one throughout labor, excellent breastfeeding support and postpartum support, a general practice of putting the needs of the mother first and putting her in control. An end to defensive medicine where drs have to think about how a situation will play out in court. If hospitals offered this kind of care, I believe women would feel so different about birth and far fewer women and babies would be hurt during birth too. This is what we can learn from homebirth and from the many, intelligent, well-researched women who choose it.

In my opinion Ricki Lake is one smart lady who knew what her body could do and how birth works. She made a very safe decision for her birth. People who say homebirth is not safe have not looked very hard at the issue (there's lots of positive research out there) or are hopelessly biased against it to begin with.

July 15, 2008 - 9:40pm
HERWriter Guide

Lying on your bed with no preparation or help is not the way to give birth! But with careful planning, a midwife or doula to help, and a doctor or hospital on call in case of emergency, a safe birthing experience at home can be had by many women.

Most women who choose to give birth at home are pretty well educated about the benefits and risks and hospitals aren't exactly the cleanest (or even safest) places in the world.

When we think about home birth, we often think of it being a necessity - a kind of third world issue. Not so. Many people in the Netherlands still give birth safely at home. We have friends who had all their children at home with no complications and my husband and his sibling were both home births.

I admire Ricki Lake and what she is doing. I never saw a doctor in my entire first pregnancy, rather I chose midwife care and a natural delivery, that ironically ended up in an emergency c-section but hey - I tried! I subsequently chose the rest of my children to be c-section babies and that was a choice I made and have no regrets over. My OB/GYN was very encouraging to try a natural child birth again for my second child, it was my decision not to.

I think women who are well-versed on home births and who have a similarly well-educated and experienced support system can have a safe and positive experience. For many others, they prefer a hospital or birthing center which is very natural too.

As women, we have never been more educated in terms of our own bodies and our strengths and limitations.

Let us decide what is right for us.

July 2, 2008 - 12:29pm
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