Monday, July 26, 2010

The Home Birth Controversy

Depending on who you talk to, home birth is either the best thing you can do for the safety of your baby, or the worst. Who are we to believe?

Home Birth has been in the news a lot lately. Just one day after legislation was passed in New York allowing midwives to practice independently of physicians, a meta-analysis of home birth studies was publicized by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, slamming home birth and claiming that home birth "triples risk of infant death". The Unnecesarean and the Midwife Next Door both chimed in, among others, refuting the meta-analysis and exposing it's faults.

One thing I like to remember is to recognize the source. If a study or analysis is being publicized by AJOG, which is the journal of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, then it's going to favor the positions which ACOG has taken on issues. ACOG is a lobbying group, which serves to protect the interests of physicians and hospitals. Groups like the American Medical Association and ACOG have taken strong positions against home birth for a reason. They have financial interest in hospitals and doctors. They lose money when women choose to birth at home. If you read the scathing reviews on the recent meta-analysis you'll see that the analysis contradicts itself. The studies used in the analysis don't support the findings, and the analysis itself contains contradictory information.

You must look closely. Don't take things at first glance, and don't put stock in a catchy headline. Read and do your research. You may find, as I have, that modern obstetrics is not based on evidence. It's based on what's profitable and convenient for the system that's in place.

Do your homework. Read books, like "Get Me Out; A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank", "Pushed" by Jennifer Block, "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth" by Henci Goer. Watch "The Business of Being Born" by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Read any of the books written by Ina May Gaskin.

Jennifer Block wrote a really good piece: The Birth Wars: Who's really winning the home birth debate?

We see so much about hospital birth because 99% of babies are born in the hospital in the US. If you want to learn about the safety of home birth, you have to look for it and find the sources. Here are some you can start with:
Ultimately, it is YOU who must decide what's best for you. After you've done your research and educated yourself, search yourself and see what feels best in your heart. I believe that intuition can guide us to make the best choices. Avoid making a choice based on fear. This is where the education comes into play. When you're fully informed, you have no need to fear. If you feel peace about home birth, then you know it's a good choice for you. If you still have doubts or fears about it, keep researching and reconsidering until you come to a decision you feel comfortable with.

Busca on Birth Faith posted a really interesting piece about the irrelevance of the place of birth: The irrelevance of home vs hospital. She states that the place of birth is less important than the support a woman receives through labor and birth. I personally feel that both are equally important, but you must come to your own opinion.

You may decide that home birth isn't for you. You want or need to be in the hospital, but you want it to be a beautiful experience. There is a book called Homebirth in the Hospital, which can help you plan and prepare for a beautiful hospital birth.


  1. Great thoughts here. I would like to clarify though... I think the place of birth can be very important to some women. What I really meant when I said "irrelevant" was that it was irrelevant to ME what OTHER women choose. Some women feel safer in a hospital and can have wonderful births there. Other women feel safer at home and can have wonderful births there. But neither place will provide a wonderful birth if the people around you aren't wonderful. Anyway... I've had quite a few people misinterpret what I was trying to say, so I wanted to chime in! :-)

  2. Busca, thanks for the clarification! It's funny, because I reread your post this morning when this one was published (and updated the link to your new site), and I realized I had misinterpreted your message. I love reading your posts, and it's great to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Thanks for the input :)

  3. Thanks, Cherylyn! It's always helpful to get feedback. It helps me improve as a blogger so I can try to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

  4. Thank you SO much for saying everything I can never find the words to say.