Posts Tagged ‘Birth Place Debate’

Middle Ground on the Birth Place Debate

As I research and read more and more, I think I am becoming more balanced on my view of the birth place debate.

Last fall, I had a homebirth. I loved having my baby at home. I am a supporter of competent midwife-attended homebirths for low-risk women with a good emergency plan set into place. I felt safe, supported, and never under pressure.  While I am very friendly and outgoing, I still  prefer to have the most intimate moments of my life occur in private. I think that feeling comfortable and relaxed, as well as having freedom to eat, drink, and move really helped me to progress at a good rate.

I knew that most complications for low-risk women came up slowly (e.g. baby’s poor toleration of labor, true lack of progress, etc.). I honestly wasn’t too concerned for the rare complications that could happen quickly, as not even all hospitals are equipped to handle immediate emergencies in a flash. I actually felt that a complication would be caught more quickly at home than in the hospital, because I had a midwife and her assistant completely focused on me, rather than one nurse divided between four to five laboring mothers.

All that to say, that I am not anti-hospital. It’s every woman’s individual choice as to where she wants to birth. Some women might feel safer birthing in the hospital for the “just in case” emergency. Like I said above, feeling safe and comfortable is probably the best thing you can do for yourself during labor. If a hospital does that for you but a homebirth scares you out of your mind, then by all means, go to the hospital.

Some women may know right from the outset that they want pain medication, and that is absolutely their choice to take it. There are some women who need to be in a hospital for high-risk factors in labor. I am very glad that we have hospitals for women who want to birth there.

For the mother who wants a natural childbirth, birthing at  home or in a birth center are probably the options most conducive to that goal. I only say this because natural birth is not the norm in the hospital. I don’t think that most doctors are directly against natural childbirth itself, but it’s not what they are used to seeing, nor what they are used to “doing” (because a natural birth doesn’t really require much “doing” on the doctor’s part) . However, I have heard of many women who have had successful natural births in the hospital and were treated with kindness and respect.

As far as the accusations that often get thrown on each side, I do believe that the stereotypes exist. For example, I’m sure that there are doctors who get fed up with waiting around for a mom to finish laboring and order up a c-section so they can go home for dinner. I’m also sure that there are midwives who are so “trust birth” oriented that they forget that things can and sometimes do go wrong, and might ignore the warning signs. Both of these situations are tragedies that disregard the needs of mom and baby.

 Each mom has very important decisions to make regarding her birth place. She should first research her caregiver thoughtfully, as Enjoy Birth so aptly discussed. Your choice of caregiver is probably the choice which most affects how your birth will go. Make sure you agree with his or her birth philosophy and practices, and make sure that he or she knows what is important to you in a birth.

After choosing your caregiver, then you can work on choosing your birth place. I believe that if you have a competent, sensible, supportive, and qualified caregiver with plans in place for the unexpected (in any setting), you can have a safe birth where ever you please. For those who point fingers at homebirthers for being irresponsible or hospital workers for being malicious and filled with ill-intent, please see Birth Sense’s article Hurt by ___ (Home, Hospital, Unassisted) Birth?. She writes an admirable blog post that makes us realize that antecdotes from either side of the debate don’t prove the safety of either place. She instead urges us to ask the right questions: How can we make homebirth safer? How can we make hospital birth more welcoming? I must quote her:

“Instead of asking, ‘How can we eliminate home birth?’ or ‘How can we convince women that giving birth in the hospital is dangerous?’, let’s ask, ‘How can I help the woman who chooses to give birth in that setting, to have the safest birth possible within the boundaries of her choices?'”

Exactly. Well said. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages, and things could go seriously wrong or blissfully right in any birth setting. Many studies have shown that under the proper circumstances, each birth place has similar safety levels. Let’s stop arguing and encourage women to know the pros and cons of each place, then make her own decision.