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Natural Childbirth I: Is Home Birth More Dangerous Than Hospital Birth?


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In this series we’re going to explore natural childbirth (home birth) as an alternative to industrialized childbirth. Industrialized childbirth could also be called “disturbed birth”, which Australian family physician Sarah J. Buckley, MD defines as follows:

Anything that disturbs a laboring woman’s sense of safety and privacy will disrupt the birth process. This definition covers most of modern obstetrics, which has created an entire industry around the observation and monitoring of pregnant and birthing women. Some of the techniques used are painful or uncomfortable, most involve some some transgression of bodily or social boundaries, and almost all techniques are performed by people who are essentially strangers to the woman herself. All of these factors are as disruptive to pregnant and birthing women as they would be to any other laboring mammal – with whom we share the majority of our hormonal orchestration in labor and birth.1

Buckley embraces an evolutionary perspective on pregnancy and childbirth. Such a perspective affirms the natural process of gestation and birth and recognizes a woman’s genetically inherited capacity to give birth without medical intervention.

In the same way that we evolved to eat a species-appropriate diet (i.e. paleo), we evolved to give birth in an undisturbed environment.

This innate system of birth has been refined over 100,000 generations. It involves a complex, finely tuned orchestration of hormones that prepare both the mother and baby for a successful birth and catalyze profound neurological changes that promote the bond between a mother and her new baby.

And just as we experience health problems when we stray from the evolutionary dietary template, women are more likely to experience complications and difficulty in labor when they stray from the evolutionary template of “undisturbed birth”.

Natural childbirth is in our genes

Throughout the vast majority of human history, women have always given birth in a familiar place, with family members or other trusted companions.

Even now, babies are still born at home in most places around the world. And although the move from birth at home to the hospital began in the 18th century, home birth was the norm even in westernized countries until the 1950s.

Think of it this way: humans have been giving birth at home for 999,998 generations, and it’s only in the last 2 generations that hospital birth has become common.

This means that women have given birth at home for 99.998% of human history.

Yet in the U.S. today, fewer than 1 percent of births happen in the home. This abrupt and almost complete transition from natural childbirth toward industrialized childbirth has had profound repercussions on mothers, babies and the culture at large.

My wife Elanne and I have chosen to have a home birth with our first child (who is, as of this writing, due in about 2 weeks!) It has been fascinating to watch people’s reactions – outside of our close friends, who have almost all had home births – when we tell them this.

Some come right out and say “that’s brave!” Others are more suspect, using words like “interesting” or maybe even wondering out loud if it wouldn’t be a better idea to use a hospital midwife. Still others are more direct in their opposition to our choice.

This is evidence that the medical establishment has done a fantastic job convincing people that hospital birth is “normal”, in spite of the fact that home birth has been the default choice for 99.998% of human history.

Doctors and the medial have also managed to convince most people that hospital birth is safer than home birth. But is that really true?

Another myth bites the dust: hospital birth is not safer than home birth

In the Netherlands, where 1/3 of babies born at home under care of midwife, outcomes for first babies are equivalent to those of babies born to low-risk women in the hospital, and outcomes of second or subsequent babies are even better.

A UK analysis found that birth at home or in small family practice units is safer than birth in an obstetric hospital for mothers and babies in all categories of risk.

Other studies have shown that modern obstetric interventions have made birth more dangerous, not safer.

In fact, in terms of outcomes for mothers & babies, studies show that planned home birth has perinatal mortality levels (the numbers of babies dying around the time of birth) at least as good as – and often better than – hospital figures, with lower rates of complications and interventions.

A landmark study by Johnson and Daviss in 2005 examined over 5,000 U.S. and Canadian women intending to deliver at home under midwife. They found equivalent perinatal mortality to hospital birth, but with rates of intervention that were up to ten times lower, compared with low-risk women birthing in a hospital. The rates of induction, IV drip, episiotomy, and forceps were each less than 10% at home, and only 3.7% of women required a cesarean (c-section).

Other studies have shown that women who plan home birth have around a 70-80% chance of giving birth without intervention. And because of low use of drugs, home-born babies are more alert and in better condition than those born in the hospital.

Contrast this with the 2002 and 2006 Listening to Mothers surveys which examined 3,000 births in conventional settings. They found “virtually no natural childbirth” in either survey.

In the 2006 survey, around 50% of women were artificially induced; almost 75% had an epidural; and 33% gave birth by c-section.

Finally, in a review of the safety of home birth by the esteemed Cochrane collaboration, the study author states:

There is no strong evidence to favour either home or hospital birth for selected low-risk pregnant women. In countries where it is possible to establish a home birth service backed up by a modern hospital system, all low-risk women should be offered the possibility of considering a planned home birth…

I agree with the author’s conclusion that hospital birth is no safer than home birth. But if you consider the statistics above which suggest that having a natural, undisturbed birth in a hospital setting is exceedingly difficult, I would argue that there is strong evidence to favor a home birth.

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Birth complications are more likely to occur in a hospital environment

A common defense of hospital birth by medical professionals and laypeople is the assertion that it’s necessary to be in a hospital during birth in case something goes wrong.

While it is certainly true that complications may arise during labor that require medical intervention, what is often ignored by proponents of hospital birth is the fact that such complications are more likely to occur in the hospital environment.

In other words, the distortion of the process of birth – what Buckley calls “disturbed birth” – has come to be what women expect when they have a baby and in a way has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As Buckley states:

Under this model women are almost certain to need the interventions that the medical model provides, and to come away grateful to be saved no matter how difficult or traumatic their experience.2

TV shows almost always depict birth as some kind of medical emergency, with the woman being rushed down the hallway on a gurney or connected to machines and wires in the delivery room surrounded by medical personnel. Since most people have never witnessed a home birth (or any other birth) before having a child themselves, their impression of what labor is like comes almost entirely from television.

It’s easy, then, to understand why people are afraid of birth and feel the need to be in a hospital setting in case something goes wrong. But that doesn’t mean giving birth in a hospital is safer. The studies I’ve presented in this article demonstrate that it’s not.

I want to be clear: no matter where birth takes place, complications may arise that require medical intervention and I am 100% in support of it in these cases.

When the mother or baby’s life is at risk, we are fortunate to have access to surgical techniques that can save lives or prevent serious complications.

The point I am making in this article, and will make in more detail in the articles to follow, is that the scale of medical intervention in birth today is not only far beyond what is necessary, but is contributing to the very of the problems it attempts to solve.

If you’re interested in learning more about natural childbirth, I highly recommend Buckley’s book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. I’d also suggest checking out her free eBook called Ecstatic Birth and her eBook/audio package Giving Birth At Home.

Note: this series will very likely be interrupted by the home birth of my own child. Elanne is due on the 17th of July, so the baby could be coming anytime. When that happens, I’ll be taking some time off to spend time with my new family. I’ll pick this up again when I return from paternity leave.

Articles in this series:

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  1. Buckley, Sarah J. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Celestial Arts, 2009. pp. 96
  2. Buckley, Sarah J. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Celestial Arts, 2009. pp. 96
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Join the conversation

  1. congratulations on your upcoming birth! I’ve had 3 hospital births, but wish they could have been home births. My most recent birth (feb) was a gorgeous experience, until the Dr decided for no reason at allt hat ten minutes was long enough to push and pulled my baby. The pain was excruciating. The damage was horrible, and preventable. Recover was long. This was my best hospital experience yet.

    A CNM is the way we’d go if we had a chance, but it is important a person does their research prior to choosing a homebirth. Knowing what could possibly go wrong, and what they want done. For us there is very little that could go wrong at home that couldn’t be resolved at home as well – in the small chance that a hospital was needed, we’d transfer. We also know that in the majority of cases there are indications prior to delivery that something is amiss.

    In the case of GBS it is easily treatable, it is highly unfortunate that a family did not receive proper care, but IMO that is an omission of that individual care provider and not an over all picture of home birth. Of course, here, only CNM are allowed to practice and standard protocol is that all women are screened (and if mom isn’t screen, then baby is deemed positive), if mom is negative, then no worries, if mom is positive, then she is treated, if she is not treated IN LABOUR, then baby is deemed positive and treated – or if parents refuse initial treatment, then baby is monitored closely, with antibiotics standing by. In other words, as long as the midwife follows protocol, then GBS is no more of an issue than in the hospital.

  2. PS during my 2 unmedicated L and Ds I would have gladly received an epi when those contractions got “for reals”. There comes a point where pain is so intense and unrelenting for such a long time that all philosophies fly right out the window leaving me to admit fully and unblushingly that I would not care one whit if they had to stick that needle in my eyeball as long as there were sufficient drugs on the other end of it.

    It’s a bit of a western notion that drugs are to be avoided, tribal people certainly make good use of them and have for a very long time. YMMV

  3. Long term LC dieter,

    I have had 5 children. 2 unmedicated deliveries, 2 epidurals, and one unmedicated emergency c section.

    The pain of labor is more intense than the average c section [mine excepted obviously] but the recovery from a c section is just dreadfull. I’d take a vag delivery any day. However I’d take it with an epidural if I had my ‘druthers.

  4. Having a home birth will be a fantastic experience for most who opt for it. However for the few who have a medical emergency good outcomes are measured in minutes and even seconds. That shouldn’t stop people from making the choice to home birth but it should be taken very seriously and planned for as well as possible.

  5. I went in having read the pros and cons. I didn’t want pain medication, went to Lamaz classes. I read 13 books about pregnancy and labor (my OB/GYN said, “it’s not a test” when he walked in and saw me highlighting the book).

    At the time, I was fully aware that 25% of births resulted in c-sections, so I refused the epidural. I was really sorry I did, because when I needed it the anesthesiologist was not available. I thought I was going to die of pain. No one talks about this, and no one even in the family would let me talk about it. It was unbearable, and after it was over, my mother told me she thought she was going to die in childbirth too.

    I would much rather have had a c-section than go through that bloody, horrible, hell. I was angry that my mother didn’t warn me about how bad it was going to be.

    So, I had natural childbirth. What are the consequences of this? Think about this. It’s called incontinence. No one talks about this either. Now in my 40’s, I’ve had surgery to “correct” this, which helped only a little for two years, and now it is almost as bad as it was.

    If I could do it over, I would ask for a c-section. Seriously.

    • I am so sorry that you feel so obviously traumatized by your experience. I never advocate suffering, only coping with effective support from loving people. Labor is incredibly hard work, and can be intensely painful. Anyway, I wanted you to know that incontinence is common even with women who have cesarean births and also women who have never born children at all. I hope you find both physical and emotional healing.

    • Apparently your Lamaze classes were not very good! I teach natural childbirth classes and we discuss everything you mentioned in great detail!

    • Natural childbirth does not only mean un-medicated. It means natural in every way – the support, the treatment, the respect, and the trained care. It doesn’t sound like you had that.
      Incontinence is not an effect of vaginal birth. It also afflicts nulliparous women. In women who have given birth, it is usually because of being coached to push in an unnatural and prolonged way. I don’t have the names of the studies, but I was just reading an obstetrics textbook on the subject. And surgery to correct it, according to this book, is unsuccessful at least 25% of the time.
      I wish you the best of luck in finding a good doctor who can successfully help you.

    • I’m sorry for what you went through, but I can’t comprehend why you’d be surprised that giving birth can be extremely painful and can cause incontinence, especially after reading so much about pregnancy. I know this and I won’t be having children. It is bad that no one really talks about the disadvantages of pregnancy. I don’t know why. Also, a C-section might have been worse because it’s a lot more risky than vaginal birth. It all sucks basically. LOL.

    • Incontinence most likely occurs because of stress on the pelvic wall during pregnancy, not just during childbirth.

    • Because all women are different, it stands to reason that all labors are experienced differently. I have given birth 5 times, all at home. First baby, Twin A, terrifying, painful , intense, overwhelming. A half an hour later, baby B second twin, absolutely NO PAIN. It was peaceful, relaxed, almost pleasurable. Third baby 3 years later, labor and delivery very hard. 5 years later, 4th baby, wonderful labor, hard pushing because of shoulder dystocia. 5th baby, hard labor wonderful pushing. So one woman, 5 different experiences. Women can’t “warn” you of the pain, because they may be doing you a great disservice, it may not hurt you. There is no way to know, until you do it.

      • I loved reading this comment…it is a good reminder, especially to us midwives, that women are so individual and so are their labours. Although a woman may experience what seems like a lot of pain, many times afterwards they will tell you how they’d like to do it all over again. When I’m educating women I tell them that pain is usual, but that for most of the labour it will be totally bearable with breaks in between, plus she has her own body’s helpers, to “work with it” (rather than “relieve it”). To my mind women’s experience of pain is bound up in their expectations, FEAR, and their trust/or lack thereof in their body’s ability. In most homebirths I’ve been at, the women are definitely feeling pain, but they are not suffering (the mental and emotional response to pain). Add in the encouragement and support of loved ones and midwife, plus our obvious confidence in her ability, and very few women need to transfer for pain relief.

  6. This is a response to distractions being touchy feely:
    A woman giving birth is very vulnerable, and often the positions she wants to be in or is forced to be in, anyone would find vulnerable. Strangers coming and going in your space, uncomfortable temperatures and clothes, all the loud noises in a hospital; these things all make it hard to relax, which is exactly what you need to do during birth. The vagina is a sphincter, would you find it easy to use the bathroom laying flat on your back with your feet in the air, people coming in and out, bright lights in your face and cold air blowing on your nether regions? I have known people that couldn’t pee if someone might hear them.
    “Distractions” can slow the pace of labor, then the interventions start, such as pitocin, and more risk is introduced.

    • For the record, I don’t view distractions as being touchy feely. I was responding to an earlier comment. As you point out, distractions can lead to medical intervention, such as induction, epidurals and c-sections, which have real, measurable and lasting physiological and psychological consequences.

  7. All the best for a wonderful peaceful birth, Elanne and Chris. As someone who fell victim to ‘the system’ with my first child, then had a wonderful VBAC at home 3 years later, attended by wise women who understood and trusted birth, I totally support anyone’s choice to home-birth. One thing my husband noted was the amount of medical equipment the midwives brought with them (none of which needed to be used) – they are very astute at observing, and dealing with, complications, rather than creating them by interfering with the process. Unfortunately, changes to the maternal healthcare model here in Australia mean that it will soon be against the law to birth at home with an independent midwife.

    The ‘Paleo’ diet gets a lot of press, but pregnancy, birth and childrearing is a whole other part of the picture – something which the likes of Sarah Buckley, Michel Odent etc have shared so much on. Carrying the baby, co-sleeping, baby-led and gentle introduction to (REAL!) food, full-term breastfeeding etc. Babies have not evolved beyond needing these crucial elements, and neither have we, no matter how clever we think we are in our priveledged Western society. Looking forward to more posts in this series, Chris.

    Happy birthing and baby rearing – a wonderful journey awaits.

    PS being at an ‘alternative’ school we are surrounded by home-birthing families and only one transferred to have the baby in hospital.

  8. I have had all three of my babies naturally (no inductions/drugs/forceps/etc). The first was born in an ambulance (on the way to the hospital -long story) while the second two were born in a hospital. I had a doula with all three and I was fortunate to be able to labor and birth exactly how I wanted with minimal monitoring/intervention. I was mobile right up until delivering and was able to deliver in the position of my choosing as well. Perhaps this isn’t the case with some hospitals, but I felt wonderful about all my deliveries and did not feel they were “disturbed”. I think with a good doula and a good birth plan – it is possible to have a great “natural” child birth in a hospital.

  9. Thanks for the post. I agree that the most important outcome of birth is to have a healthy mother and healthy baby. Both of my births were at home and afterward I felt strong and empowered. I feel that the mental/emotional aspect of a woman’s birth experience is so important. Have you come across research comparing the rates of postpartum depression in women after homebirth vs. hospital or c-section? I personally know of many women whose traumatic hospital experiences seem to have contributed to postpartum depression. Best wishes!

    ps- sleep will soon be your weakest link!

  10. What about birthing centers? I guess I wish I could have backup access to medical intervention AND am environment supportive of natural methods.

  11. I had 3 homebirths and 3 hospital births. It was the intervention in the first that drove me to have the next 3 at home. I hated being invisible; they only wanted to look at the monitor, not take care of me. The third at home came quickly and was unattended by the midwife, though she was there to take care of my massive hemmorhage, and she did an amazing job. My last 2 births in hospital stalled both times because of the constant interruptions and my fear of hospitals. They both involved pitocin, but the first midwife watched me and saw how little it took to do the job. With the next, they paid absolutely no attention to me and just kept turning up the dosage every 15 minutes until I put a stop to it!

    I know bad things can happen, and we were within 10 minutes of a hospital in case of emergency, but I would never say everyone should birth at home or vice versa. Every mother should give birth where she feels safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, that’s too often a hospital with an astronomical c-section rate!

    I wish there were more birthing centers where you could have all the comforts of home and the skills of a well-trained midwife, but emergency equipment seconds away.

    I wish you luck in your birth, Chris and Elanne. I hope it will be beautiful!

  12. We were fortunate to have a wonderful home birth room experience at a local hospital. I would like to think that it may be the best of both worlds for those who choose to be closer to medical help if needed. I was also wondering if people who want home births might be better informed and practicing positive lifestyle habits that would influence having fewer complications.

  13. If you are the mother of a child that died during a home birth you have a totally different opinion. Your child died and society views you as the evil mother who killed her child. It destroys all your family relationships, sometimes it ends in divorce. Family members point fingers and whisper. If you are the “ONE” that this happens to, you have a whole different opinion of the dreaded “hospital”. Statistic speech, only works when it’s not you.

    Mothers like me who have lost the child, we don’t usually speak, because we are so consumed with guilt and grief. Ask a mother that’s lost her child what she would do and then act on that.

    • Joann: I’m so sorry that happened. I can’t imagine anything more difficult to go through.

      Unfortunately, babies can and do die in the hospital, so the same rationale could be used to avoid hospital births. The idea that you are 100% protected from bad things happening when having a baby in the hospital is exactly the myth I am debunking in this article.

      • Joann, I’m sorry for what you went through.

        Chris Kresser, I don’t think that any rational person would argue that hospital births are 100% safe. However, the advantage of hospitals is that they can intervene when things go wrong. I wish that more hospitals would allow natural births in their hospitals, only intervening when things go wrong.

        • however, when a baby is lost in a hospital it is seen as a medical complication and the blame is placed on the doctor who is then protected by the medical community and insurance…when it happens at home, the mother is vilified and, as Joann has experienced, carries the guilt for the rest of her life. I think the point is, society views home birth as irresponsible and dangerous, while the hospital is “safe” and there is so much less guilt when things go wrong!

          Joann, I hope you are able to share your experience with other moms….what you said certainly made me think about it from a different perspective!

      • I have studied natural birthing among rural midwives in the third world. I am now studying nursing in the first world. I had one baby via unnecessary c-section in a hospital and was unable to walk for an entire year afterward. I had my second child at home. I had a very experienced midwife who knew how to handle the frightening amount of blood I lost after my second child. I had an OB who rejected the mere thought of experiencing labor pains with the birth of her own children (she is a wonderful person, but believes in medicine more than the human body’s ability to birth.)

        I am the very first person in my ancestral history, which I believe goes back bazillions of years, to have been born in a hospital. Somehow, every one of my ancestors managed to survive.

        I know 4 women who have lost their newborns to hospital acquired infections. I have witnessed a great many home births and I personally know of not one woman who has lost a child in a home birth. I myself had an atrocious experience because of a botched, unnecessary C-section (doc had appointments to keep, my time ran out). I have witnessed women in the developing world give birth under terrible conditions with surprisingly wonderful statistical outcomes. I cannot abide by people saying that hospitals are safer because they can treat things that go wrong. In a low-risk pregnancy, hospitals are dangerous places for newborns and laboring mothers. There are bacteria that grow in hospitals that mothers are not immune to and antibiotics cannot treat in a newborn. A dear friend lost her baby to multiple organ failure weeks after the hospital birth of her child because of a MRSA infection she acquired shortly after delivery. For those of you who ask how the home birth mother feels when her baby dies, how do you think that mother felt when her baby died? See, it’s not a valid argument because the statistics don’t show that home birth is less safe. On the contrary.

        My OB encouraged me to birth at home. He told me that a VBAC birth at home was statistically safer than a repeat major abdominal surgery in the hospital and that his insurance company no longer allowed VBACs to be performed, despite the statistical body of evidence that showed their safety. He said that if anything goes to court, docs are protected by enumerating the interventions they performed, even if the interventions are the cause of death. He said interventions make it look like they tried harder, and docs will intervene even when they know it is dangerous to do so, because it covers their butts.

    • Joann,
      I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I am also a mother who lost a child during a homebirth. Unless you’ve been through it, you just can’t understand it. In my case, none of my family or friends supported my choice to have a homebirth. They all warned of the horrible things that could happen and told me how foolish it was to choose to birth at home. I spouted the statistics and reassured them that everything would be fine.
      Family came to the funeral, and offered their concolences, but I knew what they were all thinking. I made the decision. I killed my son. Not one person ever said to me “it could have happened even in the hosipital.” My baby was gone. I was dead inside, overwhelmed with guilt and depression, and had no one to turn to for help because I knew what they all thought.
      We also had the awful experience of dealing with the hospital staff when we transported. I was treated horribly. The doctor pulled my placenta out while I was screaming at him to stop, the nurse catheterized me when I told her I didn’t want to. I was in such a state of emotional shock that I didn’t have the willpower to argue. When my husband took a stand for me and tried to make them stop, the doctor called security and threatened to have him thrown out.
      At the OB’s insistance, the medical examiner held our son’s body, so they could decide if they had any legal premise to file a wrongful death suit against me. They didn’t, and no legal action was taken against me, but he almost missed his funeral. My midwife had legal action taken against her, even though she had not violated the law in any way.

      Imagine the recourse from our family when we became pregnant with our second, and again chose to have a homebirth. If it hadn’t been obvious before, it was now very clear who they all thought held responsible for our first son’s death.

      At first, I didn’t want to consider a home birth again. But the more I did consider it and re-researched it, the more I knew that I couldn’t give birth at a hospital. We were the one in a million. Yes, it had gone horribly wrong: our son was lost. But there was no gurantee that he would have been saved at a hospital. Giving birth at home gave us the best chance of having a healthy baby, and that was the only thing that mattered.

      Our second son was born healthy and happy at home. So was our daughter. And if we have more children, they will be born at home aswell.

      The decision to birth at home isn’t for everyone. It’s immensly important that the woman is comfortable wherever she chooses to birth. If she isn’t comfortable at home, things will not go well there, and the same is true at the hospital.

      Joann, you are 100% right about mothers of lost homebirth babies not speaking up. We broke the societal “norm” and ended up losing the thing that is most precious to any mother. But you did not kill your child and anyone who blames you is simply ignorant. Would they still blame you if it had happened in a hospital? Of course not. You made the choice that you felt was best for you and your child. No one should ever blame you for making an informed decision, about your or your child’s healthcare.

      • Joann and Christina–
        I know you have only shared a snapshot of what you have experienced, but I was so moved! If I was an agent, I would make sure your stories were published to help open the eyes of others! I know what I’m saying sounds cheesy, but you have been through the worst-case scenarios of childbirth and had to depend largely on yourself to recover. You’re right, in a hospital, the finger-pointing and guilt would be so different. I want to thank you for helping me think of childbirth from a rarely-heard perspective. Christina and Joann, I hope you’ll reply with some insight for mothers who are thinking about homebirth and may have been swayed by your stories…that includes me!

      • Thank you so much for sharing your story, despite how difficult it must be. My deepest condolences for your loss, and bravo for having the courage to move on in such a healthy manner, rather than caving under a system who has wronged you. You considered your options again, and made the best choice for yourself.

        I had a conversation with someone once about how I can’t think of another facet of our life that is so deeply imbued with fault and blame when something goes wrong as it is with birthing. No one blames a parent whose child died in a car crash that only had a 3 star rating of killing their child because they didn’t get the 4 star. No one tells individuals to only eat peanuts and shellfish for the first time in a hospital because allergic reactions occur.

        We cannot play God. There are risk factors associated with birth. It’s an egregious offense that because complications can arise, and there are times for medical intervention, that such a large number of women should submit to laying down, being pumped full of drugs and cut open.

    • Joan, what a terrible tragedy – I too lost my little girl (stillborn) but just after I had transferred to hospital and everyone blamed it on the fact that I had planned a homebirth and laboured at home. So I know how it feels to be cast as the devil, and my marriage did not last in the long run, either. As a result, my next child was brutally born by elective C/S and had respiratory distress and was kept from me for many hours while they made sure he wouldn’t die (so much for hospital safety). My last child was born at home after I realised that I (and only I) had to decide what was best for me and my child, and not expect anyone to make decisions for me. That birth went a long way to healing our family and was the catalyst for me becoming a midwife myself. NO MOTHER puts her wish for a great birth ahead of her baby’s wellbeing. Most of us would rather cut off our right arm. If we make the choice to birth at home, it is usually after much research and consideration and we are usually very motivated to be healthy. Unfortunately babies die – our sick society does not get that death is part of life – and sometimes the reason is preventable and/or predictable, in which case you make best use of the resources at hand to deal with it. But at least 50% of the time a perinatal death is out of the blue and the place of birth would have nothing to do with it. I hope things get better for you as time goes by, Joan.

  14. I had my youngest two children at home with a midwife and it was an amazing experience both times. I can’t imagine ever choosing to give birth in the hospital again, unless of course there were complications.

    And by the way my daughter had the cord wrapped around her neck. It was no big deal- the midwife just unwrapped it.

  15. Thank you for posting this. I gave birth for the first time last year. I was determined to have an unmedicated and low intervention birth and spent my pregnancy preparing for that. I chose to give birth in a hospital under midwife care. Never again! I am not sure Whether I would choose a home birth or some kind of birthing center. But I will definitely not do it in a hospital a second time. Even under midwives the monitoring, the bright lights, the shift change right before I started pushing, the monitoring of the baby after birth, being separated from my child for routine procedures like weighing and measuring, I could go on! And then they forced us to stay despite us both being perfectly healthy for 36 hours because of a policy! I was so upset and longed to be in my own bed at home. I am convinced my labor (8 hours start to finish) would have been faster and easier on me had I not gone in to the hospital. I did have a drug free birth – didn’t even have an IV even though the nurses insisted on it because the nurse placed the cath in my hand and completely misses my vein! I was howling in pain not from my labor but from them trying to run saline into my flesh! But i also think it’s important for a woman to birth wherever she feels safe and comfortable even if that is the hospital. Anyway congrats on your upcoming birth!

    • I also had a hospital birth with a nurse-midwife, however my experience was a positive one. I am not saying you shouldn’t look into home birth, as I am, but you may be able to find a better midwife and hospital. I went to a practice where the midwife attended the whole birth (not just labor) and there were only 2 so I knew one or the other would be there the whole time. Shift-change did not happen. Also, we had low-lights, a tub and I kneeled with a birthing bar while pushing. I spent as little time as possible in the hospital before and after due to the support of a doula.
      If possible, look into your options, especially a doula, and learn how to make a hospital or home birth what you want it to be.

  16. I hate to play devil’s advocate here, but it seems to me that people choosing home births are more likely to have an interest in health – so it’s no surprise that their births/babies are healthier.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that there’s any benefit to industrial birth, just something to think about.

    • You are right Kit. As a traditional midwife the families who call me are very health conscious and very connected to their bodies. They eat well, exercise, do yoga, meditate and usually have done lots of research on their own. They are very self-directed in their own well being.

  17. And I think people who birth in the hospital are the ‘brave’ ones! keep me the heck outta there, I hate those places! talk about being uncomfortable and feeling uneasy! whew