Hospitals Should Adopt Home Birth Rituals


Home birth has been proven to be as safe or safer than hospital births for normal pregnancies. A study done by the CDC shows there has been a steady rise in home births and birthing center births.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists (ACOG) has maintained that they absolutely do not support home birth, classes on home birth, or anyone who provides midwife care during one. They think encouragement of them is irresponsible and wrong, and they are part of the reason there have been recommendations for or even successful enactments of laws to ban home birth in some places.

In addition to the country's excessively high c-section rate and our ranking as #1 in intervention in the world (which is GREAT in life-or-death cases but really bad in non-emergency births), and the anti-vaginal birth after cesarean laws in some states, it's no wonder that women are choosing home birth.

Sometimes secretly.

When you strip away a woman's right to choose what's best for her body, force her into dangerous and scary situations, force her to have no hospital option but a repeat cesarean (despite the fact that vaginal births after cesaerens are much safer), you force her to escape the system and realize that she has to go against "conventional wisdom" and even accepted social standards to do what is healthiest and safest, or even just the most desired and most comfortable choice for her. (Sound like another polarizing issue?)

Unfortunately, all of these things have some very serious repercussions on home birthing women as well.

They are likely to be treated badly by hospital staff, despite the fact they obviously did what is recommended -- come in if/when there's a problem, concern, or complication. In fact, every recommendation for home births makes sure that it's clear for the midwife and patient to acknowledge certain situations in which a transfer to the hospital is necessary -- and I've never known a woman to argue it -- but it can make it difficult to make that decision for fear of the actions of the hospital upon arrival.

Women avoid use of a midwife or doula in areas, from lack of insurance coverage (despite home birth's major financial benefits to insurance companies) or even due to feeling the need to hide the birth from family and friends -- in some cases, CPS has been called on women JUST for birthing at home. No wonder they're keeping it secret!

Home birth advocates often use other countries with high home birth rates as examples, but it's argued that those countries also have very different systems in preparation for birth, as well as much more education and support for home birthing mothers as well. Just like with breastfeeding, when it stops becoming the norm, myths and rumors begin to override fact and the number of people who are able to properly teach and assist becomes much more limited.

Eugene Decleq, of the Boston University of Public Health, who was the author of the study for the CDC that showed the increase, states that the lack of such a setup keeps safer home births from being a bigger option in the United States.

I think if you actually move to a system like that, it would be fine in the United States, because the evidence from other countries suggests that it is as well.

Looking at the numbers, adopting such a system probably wouldn't lead to widespread home births in the United States. It would not climb to 30 percent like the Netherlands, but would be closer to the rise to 3 percent seen in the United Kingdom

Seeing as we're not going to see any rise in professional and insurance company support of home births and an overhaul of our midwife training anytime soon, what else can be done?

Stop scaring women away from the hospital, for one. One of the driving forces for some women who choose home birth often isn't the desire to birth at home. As often as not, it's the desire to escape the hospital. Rightfully so, when our country is rising above a 1 in 3 c-section ratio, over twice the recommended maximum percentage. All it takes is a tiny bit of research and reading of birth stories as well to see how women are bullied and forced into unnecessary interventions in some hospitals to understand why someone might refuse to birth in a hospital setting.

If the OCOG and CDC want to discourage the choice of home births at a time when many are looking into the option more, they should provide a more home-like atmosphere at the hospital.

Rather than using monitors that strap a woman to a bed unnecessarily, forcing her to be unable to deal with her pain and internalize it, they need to make it standard procedure to allow and encourage women to walk around (not just in early labor, either), take baths or hot showers (both of which are okay even after your water is broken), sit on birthing balls, and deal with her pain in ways other than gritting her teeth and bearing it or accepting the often horribly pushed medications.

If hospitals employed doulas and kicked out doctors until they were actually needed, that move alone could (and does) significantly reduce the amount of complications and c-sections.

No one should discourage home birth by attacking the women who choose it and make them seem like baby-endangering freaks. Instead we all need to acknowledge that many of our hospitals are currently broken and terrible places for giving birth, and work to change that instead.

If our hospitals could function more like birthing centers and really work to help mom be in beneficial positions to push on her own (instead of on her back being told when to push) and encouraged to deal with pain in healthy ways, we'd get more women back into hospitals in the first place. We'd also save a lot of babies and mothers who die or are mentally or physically damaged for life in hospitals from complications from unnecessary interventions and cesareans as well.

What are your thoughts on home birth?

Image via Odd_dog/Flickr

delivery, complications, homebirth, labor & delivery


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Caroline C. Lewis

I wanted to weigh in on this . . . the high rate of C-Sections is not just on the hospitals that perform them, but also on the WOMEN WHO ELECT them in the first place. As someone whose delivery story was an absolute DREAM, I think the key is a physician who is willing to WORK with the woman. I didn't even break a sweat during childbirth, had my daughter vaginally, and felt LITERALLY no pain during the process, which was awesome, but that was all my choice and was made with the blessing of a doctor who wanted me to have the experience I wanted in childbirth.

Smile... SmileyMoo

The doctor and the center is very key in having the birth you wanted. Personally, my doctor and midwife expects a birthplan at the 30 week appointment and it is discussed and talked about at each appointment after that. In contrast, anothe doctor in my county sneers if a woman has a birth plan (he induces a LOT and lots of sections) So, practices going on in the same hospital can vary.

I would love a homebirth simply because of convenience of not having to be at the hospital and if my doctor and midwife ever retire and I'm still having babies? You better believe I would try to find a homebirthing midwife.

I think women need more education on both subjects so they can make the best choices for both situations

nonmember avatar Allboys

There is not one LAW that prohibits women from giving birth vaginally after a cesarean. There is however hospital policy forbidding it. There is a clear and definable difference between hospital policy and a law with criminal charges. Women need to start believing THEY hold the power to make the choice in who provides them with care and where they give birth. So many women tolerate substandard care from providers who are downright abusive and they accept it as common practice. Birth would be thought of as different if more women were empowered with the knowledge that they should be treated with absolute respect at all times by their doctors, midwives, nurses, anesthesiologists or they can refuse any procedure at any time. After all doctors aren't more intelligent than their patients they simply have more education and training.

RanaA... RanaAurora

Thanks for that clarification, Allboys. You're correct. There are laws against providing a VBAC anywhere other than a hospital in some states, which a lot of women aren't comfortable with (and will lead them out of the hospital if they want their VBAC) but that isn't a direct anti-VBAC law. There are also hospitals that refuse quite a few things, generally based on malpractice insurance and whatnot, again not specifically a law, but leaving no options for women who refuse their practices.

cafemama cafemama

One of the driving forces for some women who choose home birth often isn't the desire to birth at home. As often as not, it's the desire to escape the hospital.

This was true in my case. I actually didn't love the idea of a home birth, but I liked it better than the idea of having another hospital birth like my first.

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

I am a huge proponent of out of hospital birth.  My son was born at a freestanding birth center with a direct entry midwife and I had an AMAZING experience.  My midwife was hands off and just let me do what felt right.   My future babies will be born at home with a midwife. 

 I definitely think things can and should be improved at hospitals for the women who choose or have to give birth there. 

I personally will NEVER give birth in the hospital if I have a low risk pregnancy.  Hospitals, to me, are where sick and dying people (and all of the fun germs they have) go.  1 in 5 people admitted to a hospital end up with an infection that has nothing to do with the reasons they were brought in.  That number includes moms and babies.  I wouldn't want to needlessly expose myself or my newborn to things like MRSA and every other bug floating around in hospitals.

Rachel O'Gara

My second child was a homebirth and a decision we loved. In our state it is illegal for a midwife to attend a homebirth, yet mine along with many others risk that to help create the beautiful experience of a homebirth. Any other children we have will certainly be born at home. I only wish hospitals would be more inviting to those who choose to use them.

Toddl... ToddlerBrain82

Great post!! My first son was born by c-section after a failed induction that I was needlessly pressured into by my OB. My second son 3 1/2 years later was born peacefully on our bedroom floor at the foot of the bed. Unless there is a medical emergency I will never birth in a hospital again. I felt like a broken person after my oldest son's birth, and I felt like that piece of me that was broken was put back together again after my HBAC. There's a lot to be said for the normal flow of hormones that occurs during an unmedicated birth. I feel like I became a better mom to BOTH of my boys once I experienced a normal birth.

briar... briarraindancer

Awesome post, Christie! I desperately want to give birth at home. However, it's a felony for a midwife to attend a homebirth in Nebraska, and there are also no freestanding birthing centers. However, much like the previous poster, there are still midwives willing to risk breaking the law in order to provide that homebirth experience. 

They're just insanely difficult to find. In my case, a friend of a friend of a friend is having a homebirth, and if I'm willing, I can give my contact information to my friend, who will then pass it down the line to the midwife. If I decide to use her services, I'll be given a pager number to contact when I enter labor. 

The fact that there has to be such subterfuge in order for a woman to have the birthing experience she chooses is appalling. 

Ashly... Ashlynnsmommy07

If you want to homebirth, more power to you but it's not for me!

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