Friday, March 4, 2011

Why Home Birth?

This article is the first in a 7-part series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.

In 1940, 44% of all births in the United States occurred at home. However, since 1969, about 99% of all births in the United States have occurred in hospitals [1]. This means that the last few generations of women in the United States have had very little exposure to home birth, either in first-hand experience, word-of-mouth, or the media. The predominant feelings about birth in our culture are negative, and women have generally bought into the idea that labor and delivery are medical occurrences that need to be attended by a doctor.

Growing up, I never heard of home birth. I heard of midwives, but never considered that there could be an alternative to birthing in a hospital.  I had always heard of birth as either an awful experience, or just something you have to get through to have a baby, but never something that could be enjoyed.
I have now birthed two children at home, and each labor was an amazing experience. I am saddened that so many women will never get to experience labor and birthing as such a joyous and empowering experience. This is not to say that women birthing in hospitals will never feel the joy and empowerment of birth, but those emotions are generally not associated with labor and birth in our society.

Birthing at home allows the mother to be in control of her birth experience. She is free to enjoy the comforts of her own home. She can have as many or as few guests as she likes. She can listen to music, dim the lights, soak in her own bathtub, or even go for a walk and revel in the nature around her home. She can also easily control things like whether or not her child gets vaccinated, what germs the baby is exposed to, and what kind of food and drink she can enjoy. Home birth adds a sense of history to the home, as children are brought into the home they will live in.

Home birth is a liberating choice. It allows the mother to birth as directed by her body’s intuition, not as directed by protocols and rules. It is a safe and healthy choice for mother and baby. It facilitates bonding, breastfeeding, and family closeness. It allows women to experience the true joy of labor and birth. I am hopeful that someday our society will awaken to the truth about labor and birth, and will let go of the idea that the only place to give birth is in a hospital.

1. “Trends and Characteristics of Home and Other Out-of-Hospital Births in the United States, 1990-2006”, Marian F. MacDorman PhD, Fay Menacker Dr. P.H. C.P.N.P., Eugene Declerq PhD, National Vital Statistics Reports, 3 March 2010, Volume 58, Number 11.


Mrs. Ed said...

My mother, brother and son all are on the autism spectrum. They are now finding a different bacterial make-up in autistics. Also, being born ceserean ups your chances of Celiacs and autism. So, I'm beginning to woder if having babies in hospitals has altered a nautral step in bacterial colonization.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Mrs. Ed,
I think being born in the hospital absolutely can have a negative effect on the bacteria in the baby's gut. Babies are born with a sterile gut and it is supposed to be populated with healthy flora from the mother's birth canal. When a baby is born via c-section, the gut is instead populated with bacteria from the hospital. Disturbing to say the least. And a large majority of women's flora in the birth canal is messed up anyway because of things such as birth control pills and antibiotics, so even delivering vaginally is no guarantee of good bacteria for the baby's gut. It is distressing that we have come so far from the natural way that things were designed to happen.

Nicole Reeves said...

Beautifully written and explained. I wish I had had this post to show family when we had my 3rd at home 7 years ago. Her birth was a bit traumatic, (stuck in the canal with shoulder dystocia) but even with the difficulty I would've done it at home again in a heartbeat. I would've been sliced and diced at the hospital and instead gave birth to a 10 pounder with out a rip or tear. My midwives made me a turkey sandwich and sat on our bed and watched the video of her birth that had happened just minutes before. Such a beautiful, SAFE and HEALTHY experience.