Tori's Blog

Homebirth vs. Hospital Birth – The Gloves Are Off

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Birthing babies is what I love most in the world. The fact that I now have women ask me “is it really bad for me to have my baby in a hospital?” breaks my heart and has forced me to come out swinging. Enough is enough. I can no longer sit back and listen to this dialogue about homebirth come up again and again without inserting some badly needed facts and a serious reality check. The argument is always the same by homebirth advocates. Hospitals are loud, hectic, bright, insensitive, uncaring machines full of greedy doctors and overworked “medical personnel” – (I am pretty sure as a nurse, that means me) who are just waiting to hook women up to unnecessary medications and prevent them from “trusting their bodies”.

The argument goes on to state that homebirth is safer, more satisfying, more loving, more empowering, less interventive, healthier for the baby, more spiritual and on and on. Anyway you shake it that very implicitly pronounces that to give birth at home is… “better”. Period. But always, at the end of any article, blog or comment about it by it’s proponents, are the words “but a woman should be encouraged to give birth wherever she feels most comfortable, including a hospital”.

Wait a minute. Is that what you just said? Let’s assume I am having my first baby. I am very excited and I want to learn everything I can, and of course, I want to do what is best for my baby and myself. Do I choose to have the “scary, cold hospital birth” that I was told about or the “loving, empowering, spiritually-fulfilling homebirth”? I am very likely to make the choice to give birth in either a birth center or a hospital but wow – what a set-up for feeling badly about my choice.

Let’s look at some actual facts about birth in the United States:

Over 4 million women give birth each year

97% of women choose to give birth in a hospital

2 million women live below the poverty line and have limited access to adequate maternity care

100 years ago, a woman had a significantly high chance of dying during childbirth . Medical advances, including the use of antibiotics, oxytocin to induce labor, safe blood transfusions and better management of hypertensive conditions during pregnancy, are directly responsible for the decline in maternal death rate.

Today, around the world, every 60 seconds, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, often from an avoidable cause. There are no well-documented, large-scale studies that show that homebirth is either safer or more satisfying than hospital birth. We have “far from perfect” health–care in this country when it comes to taking care of moms and babies. However, there is truly a disconnect with what is really important here. Perhaps those who exert so much energy on faulting the U.S. maternal/health care system could spend even ¼ of their time working to provide better access to care for the 2 million underprivileged women here who really need it.

I have shared in the births of several thousand women at homes, in birth centers and in hospitals. I have seen miracles, tragedies, difficulties and wonder in all of those places. What angers me so deeply is the direct insinuation that giving birth in a hospital denies a woman a safe, positive and life-affirming birth experience. What kind of support is that? A woman deserves to feel nurtured by other woman, not faulted, questioned or criticized. There is no “better or best” way to give birth and I am no longer going to be quiet about it.

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Your Comments

  1. I stumbled upon this post while researching this wonderful home birth option my best friend is so excited about. Along the way, at every web page I have read that allowed comment or discussion there is the overwhelming oppressiveness of this superiority that homebirth advocates/devotees display. It is on display in this comment section, with women unwittingly demonstrating the author’s point by their own dismissive rhetoric. As I have researched this issue I have read rants against doctors, nurses, modern medicine, men, and Western culture. The most hateful, vile accusations have been made against all these entities, with no substantiation, and those accusations have been hailed as enlightened and courageous. The author is correct. There is a concerted effort to demagogue birth itself, and the home birth movement is to blame. Well I have read enough. The bile and hatred coming from that direction have convinced me that I want no part of home birth and that I should advise my friend of same.

  2. I just stumbled across your post and see it is a duplication of a comment you posted on my own blog: http://www.unorthodoxdad.com. I chose to re-post your comment into my blog and pick apart your argument. You can review my comments here:

    http://www.unorthodoxdad.com/blog/?p=331

  3. A birth is sacred wherever it occurs. I had one of my children at a birthing center and the second at home because I knew my fear of hospitals would slow my births. Both of my daughters were born healthy and vital and began nursing almost immediately. I did not tear and was not cut, and neither were my girls. I think you are hearing the voice of homebirthers loudly because we have to speak loudly in order to be heard against the prevailing winds of Western medicine. But those loud voices do not mean to denigrate birth in any setting, so long as that setting respects the intelligence of the birther and her right to choose the way in which she brings her children into the world. I think the sad truth is that it is much more common for a woman who gives birth at home to be made to feel ashamed of her choice than the other way around. I don’t think a woman should be shamed for trying to avoid places where 1 in 3 babies are brought into the world surgically.

  4. Well having done it both ways and having my third child I can tell you that I would avoid the hospital. Managing hypertension? In a hospital they put you on bed rest deliver the baby early and give you drugs. With a midwife your given cod liver oil and told to go for daily walks. What worked best? the cod liver oil thanks. All that safety… fetal monitors have actually been show to prolong labor, increase pain and but the baby at greater risk. In the hospital your choices of birth position are limited to the least effective fighting against gravity and restricting the birth canal making the labor harder and less effective prolonging it and making the baby and mother week and tire. At home you give birth on your feet you walk and sway and do what comes natural. Pin relief? In hospital you get morphine or an epidural making you pretty much helpless and not completely taking away the pain again making labor harder and longer. At home you get hot water heat packs massage and ice pack position changes all pretty effective at managing pain without taking drugs. Not to mention hospital staff I have seen that before in a women who had an emergency c-section not pretty. Thanks but I will take my chances at home for number three. I just wish we could have all the fast response safety of a hospital with the common sense approach of a midwife in one bundle.

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