Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics decided to create some guidelines that they say should govern midwife attended home-births. These guidelines, though they don’t seem too extreme, seem to suggest that hospitals know best when it comes to birthing mothers. The question is – are hospital births really safer than home-births?
Though a small percentage of births take place at home nationally (around 1%), research shows that women who give birth at home have a higher likelihood of spontaneous labor, 20-60% fewer interventions – such as cesarean sections, augmentation, and epidurals -as well as experience 10-30% fewer complications. Medical intervention has become common place in hospital births, such as constant electronic monitoring. Though these interventions are meant to keep both baby and mother safe, they can lead to other unintended results, such as slowed labor and ruptured membranes which can lead to further complications.
A mother who gives birth in a familiar environment is more likely to remain in a calm, relaxed state. This state is extremely important when it comes to birthing, as any form of tension or stress on the mother will in turn stress the baby and cause the cervix to tighten instead of dilate. Cervical dilation happens in direct proportion to the ability the mother has to relax and ‘surrender’ to the birthing process. A mother who gets continual intervention, that might disturb the rhythm of her natural process, can lead to unwanted cesarean sections in order to speed up a birth that has slowed.
Midwives have been around since the beginning of time and childbirth. Back then they were simply sisters and mothers, other women who had birthed and who could support the birthing mother. Time gave them wisdom and tricks of the trade in order to make the process easier and more fluid. It is true, that many improvements and advancements in technology have contributed to safer births, but what have we sacrificed in forgetting the ancient wisdom? The knowledge of birth has always existed, it is in our genes.
According to research explained in Bryan Sykes book “The Seven Daughters of Eve” – a professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford explains that mitochondrial DNA, the genetic material passed down from the mother, has codes required for energy production. This mitochondrial DNA is passed to both sexes along the maternal line – creating a unification of female lineage. This DNA is inherited only from mothers, suggesting the knowledge of how to do certain things, such as birth, is given to both the male and the female by their mothers. This is significant. This information implies that all the wisdom to birth exists within the mother and the father – together.
We have become a disempowered people when it comes to birthing. Instead of fathers playing an important role, they have been replaced by the medical doctor, a stranger with an important title. We have assumed that through their training and experience that they know more about birthing than we do as parents. But is this true? In this country, we are 50 places from the top, in the international rating on maternal mortality. This is despite the fact that we spend over $98 billion dollars a year on hospital births. You think we could do better than that. Also, most hospitals have over a 50% cesarean rate, most of them NOT emergencies. This is largely due to the fact that doctors are untrained to do intervention-free births. It’s almost foreign to them…they just want to get their ‘professional’ hands in there and do something!
I am not saying everyone should home-birth, there are certain women people who have greater risk and ought to be under medical supervision, but this is not the majority of women. In a home setting, a woman and her partner are able to tune into their natural impulses as humans who know how to birth. When given the space of confidence and opportunity to find this space, it is more likely that a couple will be able to reach within and discover the power of birthing that is inherent inside of them.
I don’t know a lot of people who would feel confident to birth in this primal way, though many, after having negative hospital birth experience say they would never want to repeat their experience there. Often those who have been introduced to other forms of natural treatments and therapies opt to try the home-birth method or at the very least, a birthing center, where they feel to have more say in what occurs there. Most every mother who has birthed in a birthing center or at home will say it was the best experience of their life. Not always so with a hospital birth.
So, what are the guidelines put out by the AAP to be supposedly followed by midwives in home-births? They are fairly simple and to the point. At least one CPR trained person should attend the birth who can pay attention to the newborn infant -solely. Equipment should be tested for delivery. A phone line should be available for contact to the hospital, if needed. Transport available if needed – to a hospital, with a plan in order. Finally, they expect that all the things that babies get in the hospital should be done to babies birthed at home: “monitor their temperature and heart rates, keep them warm and cozy, administer vitamin K and heel-prick newborn screening tests that are sent to outside labs for processing, among other things.”
Though these requirements are not outrageous and could be, for the most part, followed by any birthing team at home, the main concern is the Academy of Pediatrics feeling that they really know best when it comes to birthing. They definitely are specialists in a field that experiences the medical side of birthing, but what about the intuitive, primal aspects? Where is the acknowledgement of the mother and her innate wisdom in regards to birthing? Where is the encouragement for fathers to participate and team up with the mother for a birthing experience that is unique and special to their particular relationship?
Fathers usually have very little involvement in the birthing process. But, according to Lynn M. Griesemer’s book “Unassisted Home Birth: An Act of Love” , she states: “A father is profoundly influenced by childbirth…there is no greater joy for a father than to be the first to see, touch and hold his own child. He will instantly know that no doctor, midwife, or other person should be the one to accept this new miracle in their hands.” She speaks about men and women delivering together as a culmination of the creation process, thereby increasing intimacy in their relationship and forming an unbreakable bond that will aid them in parenting and deepening their partnership.
Childbirth is a natural process that has been going on since long before doctors ever existed. Sometimes medical intervention is necessary, but it ought not to be the norm. If we would begin to educate pregnant women and their partners and empower them in the knowledge that they are wired for this process, we would see very different results, not only in childbirth, but in relationships and families. Through our collective knowledge and furthered education on the birthing process we can create a world where hospital births or home births are equally supportive and non-invasive, unless absolutely necessary. This begins with acknowledging the parents intuitive role in birth.
Written by Stasia Bliss