Thursday, February 2, 2012

Musings of a Pregnant Mom: Home birth vs. Hospital birth

Today I was reading an article online about a home birth advocate who died during childbirth. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to read the comments below the article and, of course, they made me mad. So mad that even though I am not one to post comments where they can be dragged through the mud, I need to get my thoughts out there before I go insane.

First and formost, I have absolutely no problems with home births. Also, with some qualifications, I have no problems with those who chose to have their babies in the hospital. But it really gets me when people say that those who chose a home birth are uninformed and endagering their lives as well as the lives of their children. So here is my response to those people.

Yes, it is important to be informed when making a decision regarding the birth of your child. And yes, those that have tragic experiences with home birth may have been uninformed, but not in the way that you think. Those who have hospital births may be just as poorly informed as those home birth moms. When choosing where and with whom you want to have your baby, the most important thing about which you should be well informed is your health care provider. There are good doctors and not so good doctors. There are good midwives and not so good midwives. Whatever kind of birth experience you choose, you must be well informed on the person overseeing your birth.

When choosing a midwife, you need to know their record. How long have they been attending births? What is their maternal/infant mortality rate? What is their hospital transfer rate? Are they licensed? Can you get references from previous birth moms who have used their services? Is the midwife sensitive to your needs and concerns? What is your midwife's plan if something seems to be wrong? In my opinion, you need to find a midwife who meets your needs and desires as well as being careful to observe warning signs and get you the care you need before it is too late.

While those in the medical field stress how important it is to be informed when it comes to our care, how many future moms do you know that know anything about their OBs and hospitals? Just like for midwives, moms need to closely examine their OBs and the hospitals they work at. How long have they been practicing? What is their maternal/infant mortality rate? What is their cesarean rate? Are interventions like Pitocin, episiotomies, forceps, epidurals etc routine or are they only used when necessary? Do they talk to you about the risks of each procedure before they perform it? Are they sensitive to your needs and concerns? Do they involve you in the decision process or do they just tell you what is going to happen? Just because you are giving birth in a hospital does not mean that everything is going to be safe and perfect. However, by choosing a good provider, you can minimize your risks just like you would by choosing a good midwife for a home birth.

Now, what have I chosen for my next birth experience? I am going with a group of midwives that operate a birth center. My main midwife has a fabulous track record (25 years worth) and the birth center as a whole has amazing stats
(ie very low hopital transfers, very low cesarean rate and no maternal/infant mortality). I feel very comfortable with the care that I receive there and know that they will get me the help that I need if warning signs appear. I do NOT feel like I am uninformed and while I am not choosing to have a home birth (they suduced me with talks of massages and meals brought in to me which I would not get at home), these same midwives do attend home births and I would feel comfortable having them attend any future home births I might plan.

Ok, I'll step down from the soap box now. Have a great day!


Delirious said...

I think your choice is very good. A birthing center is more equipped to handle emergencies.

I have to tell you one of those tragic stories I experienced. A woman in our Ward had 3 C-sections. On her fourth pregnancy, the midwives all told her she would need another c-section. She found one midwife who disagreed, and told her she could have it vaginally. This woman labored for several days, and finally, when things got critical, went to the hospital. But it was too late, the baby had died. This was a case of someone who wasn't well informed, and didn't listen to advice. The thing that bothered me the most was that she said, "It was the Lord's will." Not sure I agree with that...

Laurel said...

This made me chuckle just a little because it's so true. So many folks just aren't informed no matter what they choose. When I looked for my OB I asked exaclty all those questions. Found the one that didn't believe in interventions, had a less than 3% c-section rate, and was completely supportive of natural birth. And yup, I got to be part of the 3%. But I think home birth can be safe for some people, just like hospital births can be horrible and vice versa. The most interesting way I look at is this. We've delivered hundreds of lambs. Most of the time they do just fine, but once in a while we have to help. And once in a great while a lamb will die without a c section. We've had to do 2. The lambs lived. Without it they would die. BUT there are an aweful lot of cut happy drs who drive the percentage that need it up. I also know someone who chose their ob because he scheduals your induction up front. Now that just ticks me off! But to each their own and glad you found a wonderful birth center tha you'll be happy with. I will probably always go with a hospital now because of my past. BUT I also have the knowledge that if something happens at home our lambing kit is ready to go and Justen has delivered more "babies" than a lot of drs. :)

Liz Johnson said...

Amen, amen, amen. In fact, I would argue that most planned home births are better informed and well-researched than planned hospital births. It is safe for a low-risk pregnancy. Of course it's not best for everybody, but neither is a hospital birth. I get really fired up about this stuff, too... so your rant was appreciated. :)

Bridget said...


Fromagette said...

Laurel, I thought about you while I was writing. You are a fabulous example of someone who educated herself on her health care provider. Then, when he came to you and said for this and this and this reason he suggested this course of action, you knew that he wasn't just trying to save his malpractice insurance rates, but was truly concerned about you and your child.

Belkycita said...

I love what you had to say Sara. It is so easy for everyone to judge other's decisions. Your point of being informed regardless of the method is what really matters.
Thanks for sharing.

oh and

Jeanerbee said...

Thanks for the post Sarah - so true! All of it! One thing that really bugs me about young moms having hospital births is not that they chose a hospital - it's when they don't seem to know or care to know anything about their DR's or the hospital - it's just assumed that since it's a hospital the Dr knows best and everything will be fine. Seems like many of the complications I hear about my friends having are really side effects from their care or hospital policy or routine procedures and they are just not informed enough to realize it. That being said, my last baby was a home birth and it was awesome. This time around I'm going to a hospital - but one that's 40 minutes from my home, not the closest, but the best fit for me and where the Dr. I trust practices.