I came across a post in a pregnancy forum where a woman was blaming a tragic GBS newborn death on the mother’s decision to have her baby at home. Some in the forum pointed out that pertinent information surrounding the GBS test and treatment was omitted. Even so, this woman continued to use the unfortunate event to convince people that home births are dangerous. At one point she begged for advocates of home birth to admit the risks and move on. That by having a home birth the mother is putting her experience over the health of the baby. The truth is there are risks to childbirth regardless of the place. It just so happens that a lot of people have an easier time accepting tragedy when it happens in the hospital. My aim is not to convince you of the safety of home birth as there are plenty of studies out there that confirm that. My goal is to show there is more to this issue than meets the eye.
When deciding where to give birth, we usually start out by measuring the risks in tangible ways such as complications and death. It is hard for us to evaluate the intangible consequences with a clear mind when such strong emotions are at play. Many mothers have to go through a crappy experience to realize the importance of playing an active role in the decisions that take place during childbirth. It is no coincidence that mothers who are dissatisfied with their experience often go on to struggle with postpartum depression. How a mother feels during the birth of her baby will follow her for the rest of her life. It plays a huge role in how she interacts with the newborn, how she feels about herself and how she interacts with others. There are many studies that have been done that document this. When we dismiss how a mother feels about her experience, it only serves to delay the healing process and ignores the problem at hand. Surely this is an area we should be paying more attention to since all of us come from mothers.
One only has to learn about the history of birth, to realize how much we don’t know. From the prevalence of x-rays, gassing unwilling moms, doing away with midwives to routine episiotomies -it is clear to see the dangers in not exercising caution. I am sure the people 50 years ago had a hard time accepting that their “new and improved” way could actually be causing more harm than good. Something we should all consider when we are deciding what tests and procedures to have done. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all forms of intervention are bad. I am very thankful that modern technology allows us to save babies and moms who would have otherwise not made it. The problem is this life saving technology is being used in excess. We have hit a point where it is creating problems for low risk women, who likely would have been fine had they been left alone.
Every woman has a different set of beliefs surrounding the process, her body and what she is comfortable with. There are physical limitations as well. Given these differences, every birth should be approached and treated as a unique event. We need to concern ourselves more with what level of intervention is acceptable for low risk pregnancies and births, and ensuring informed consent takes place for those who want or need to go a different route.
That is far from where we currently stand. Births are scheduled for convenience and managed for efficiency. A number of machines are used to monitor mom and baby for the sake of malpractice risks. Procedures are often carried out without informed consent. This disturbing trend is exactly why more and more women are choosing to bring their babies into the world outside of the hospital. It isn’t so much “the experience”, as it is about avoiding unnecessary risks that the management of birth brings. There are hospitals that are trying their best to be sensitive to the unique needs of women, yet so many continue to do what is best for business. This should be cause for concern for all who value the autonomy of women.