The Place Where Home Births Are Discouraged

Chinese BabyMe, I’m not the home birth type. I labor like I’m under siege, too overwhelmed by labor pain to respond when I’m told to push, or stop pushing, or stop shrieking, or stop strangling my husband. An epidural is my only hope if I want to be emotionally present at my babies’ births.

(Seriously. I bit my husband while the nurse was sprinting for more Fentanyl. Later, he said, “You bit me!” and I asked, deadpan, “Aw. Did that hurt?!”

On the other hand, fully half my mom-friends have had home-births that either went perfectly well or transitioned into successful hospital births without a hitch, and everyone came out happy and healthy. Many moms and midwives are pushing for more home births whenever possible, saying this will lower medical costs and improve births across the board.

Yet across the world, it’s a whole different story. While we’re upping our home births, another country is decreasing them for the same reasons.


This mostly deals with minority and impoverished women -- they actually have a pretty dismal birth experience here in the US. Preventable pregnancy-related complications and deaths have increased sharply over the last 20 years, largely among the poor. But we’re still way ahead of China. There, deaths fell from 25 to 9 per 1,000 live births between 1996 and 2008. In urban areas, things have improved a lot more.

So what changed? The government started a program to improve hospitals, educate doctors, and encourage (and pay for) families to have hospital births. Their next task is to get free folic acid to pregnant women so they can reduce birth defects.

Home births are great if you’re prepared for them, if you have a backup plan, and if they’re what you want. I think the best option is to have a choice in the matter, and rural Chinese women are finally getting a choice. Safer births are always a good thing, whether they’re at home or in a hospital -- right, ladies?

Did you have a home birth? Would you recommend it to everyone?

Image via HotShot²/Flickr

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