Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Birthing Experience Vs.Birthing Safety

There is one phrase that I hear that makes me cringe, "My birth experience wasn't what I wanted." And although I sympathize with more extreme cases, I don't sympathize with those that complain over "unnecessary medical intervention," and include getting an IV and having the baby monitored as "unnecessary". Sometimes having a baby isn't about the mom, in fact it is always about the baby.

 I just watched "The Business of Being Born," and within ten minutes of hearing statistics, I was ready to chuck something at the TV. The moment it mentioned "midwives" in the US vs. the rest of the world, I knew I was in for an hour of untruths. I hate the term midwife. Why? Well certified midwives in the US don't have to go to school. They attend some training and call it a day. Certified NURSE midwives are completely different and have at least a masters degree and typically work in doctor's offices or hospital birthing centers. The rest of the world only uses the term "midwife" for those who go to extensive school/training like our NURSE midwives. Make sense? We already have highly-educated nurse midwives, and I simply don't understand using a second-class midwife.

Do not mix up the two. The homebirths you see are done by a midwife who hasn't ever worked in a hospital and seen first-hand "real" life-threatening births. So when a life-threatening birth happens, how is she suppose to spot it before it is too late? Midwives here are more like doulas, which are great to have for support, as a spokesperson, and someone to help you through the labor. When it comes to having a completely normal and safe birth, then yes homebirths with a midwife are probably the best experience ever. The midwife has learned all the techniques to deal with the pain and delivered countless babies. But, and this is a big BUT, what if something does go wrong? Is this beautiful homebirth experience worth the risk?

I'm guessing you can tell I am against homebirths? I am all about having a good birthing experience without an epidural, prolonged cord-cutting, and birthing in the water. I am not for homebirths--unless you don't make it to the hospital in time. The statistics you read can be confusing, and pro-homebirthers love to claim that homebirths are as safe or safer than hospital births. This is not true.

For starters, most people who have homebirths have gone through a screening to ensure they are a good candidates for safely birthing at home. This takes out any high-risk labors, previous C-sections, multiples, and women with pre-existing medical conditions. So the hospital pool is a combination of everyone, while homebirths are the ideal safe births. This immediately throws off the statistics.

Secondly, if a home-birth goes wrong and baby is transferred to the hospital, the hospital gets to add that "homebirth" into their numbers. This also includes babies born at home but pass-away in the ambulance or at the hospital.

Thirdly, studies that truly reflect low-risk women in a hospital setting vs. homebirth, show that homebirths are two to three times more likely to end in death.

Fourthly, The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) has never released the honest data of homebirths risks to the public. If they showed homebirths were safer, you can be dang sure they would share the data.

So yes, I think homebirths are a risk. I understand why women want them. They sound amazing, but I will never tell a women to have one. In the end it is the mom's choice, and I definitely respect that, but knowing all the facts before making a final decision is a must. This doesn't me rushing to a certified midwife and asking for her thoughts.

As for delivering in a hospital, I say go for whatever you want! You want your doula there? Do it. You want to labor at home? Go for it. You want to labor in the tub and walk around? Then do. I think before writing out a birth plan, it is always proactive to ask yourself, "Is this <insert detail> really going to affect my birth experience or is it safer for the baby?" While we all envision how we want our labor and delivery to go, it really can take us anywhere. Yes, I do believe that C-sections are overdone, and many women feel like they were robbed of an experience when they are rushed to surgery, but all doctors aren't quick to cut. I was in labor with Lincoln for 12 hours and his heart rate was insane, and guess what? When it dropped to 40 and the nurse panicked for a C-section, the doctor calmly said, "give it a few seconds," and then helped me push my son out.

While I love reading birth stories, it saddens me to hear people disappointed in holding their baby for the first time; too caught up on their missed vision, they forget to embrace the miracle happening right in front of them. Being prepared, but open to "interventions" will help you appreciate the gift of creating a baby inside you for nine full months, even if it is done with medicine. I am so blessed and thankful to live in the world we do. One hundred years ago 7% of women died in childbirth, and now that number is below 1%. How miraculous! I will always put birthing safety above my birthing experience.

For more information, statistics, and truths about homebirths check out this doctor's website. I found it very interesting, especially since I was looking at delivering our next baby at a birthing center. After learning more about midwives and talking to Scott, I realized it wasn't for me. I don't have a problem with birthing centers though, as they have strict regulations and fast transportation to hospitals.



  1. I hated that movie, incredibly one sided and a misrepresentation of many amazing doctors. I agree with you. As smooth and 'perfect' my labors are I would never give birth at home because I would rather use the time I have in an emergency actually getting care at a hospital instead of wasting those minutes being transported to a hospital. Also, I'm all for as little intervention as possible but you better believe if I had ever needed a c-section to save the baby I would have. Loved this post!

  2. Nancy, I actually thought of you when I wrote this. You would be the ideal candidate for a homebirth. With your high-pain tolerance, all-natural births, and amazingly fast labors, I always wondered why you didn't have a baby at home. Now I know why! You are part of the reason I want to go natural on my next; I think it is incredible that you avoided all the drugs and did it in a safe setting.