Home Birthing
May 14, 2004 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Giving birth at home can certainly be beautiful, but is it safe? Research indicates that while it certainly is cost effective, there is no resounding consensus on safety. If you do decide to give birth at home, here’s a shopping list, ideas on what to do with the siblings, and, er, how to clean your carpet.
posted by grateful (20 comments total)
My wife does not like hospitals. Period. There was no doubt that we'd have our children anywhere but and she was persistent enough to get what she wanted. In our favor was that both pregnancies were uncomplicated and risk was minimal and our daughters were born at home with a nurse-widwife in attendance.

I'm glad you mentioned the carpet cleaning. Our youngest was quick and was almost born before the nurse-midwife arrived. As a matter of fact she was so quick my wife never made it to the birthing room upstairs but instead gave birth on the nice new Oriental rug in the family room. The guy at the rug dealer was a little surprised when we brought it in for cleaning but they got the stains out.
posted by tommasz at 10:30 AM on May 14, 2004

Giving birth at home can certainly be beautiful, but is it safe?


Which is why the human race never survived to the point that they could create hospitals.
posted by soyjoy at 11:22 AM on May 14, 2004

I was recently witness to a two-hour home labor and delivery - It was amazing. My neighbor-friend had gone to sleep and woke up thinking her toddler son had peed in the bed....and then realized it was time for a baby. Tommasz, like your wife, my friend's midwife didn't even get there in time. My friend had made a little alcove with a bar to hang from while squatting/pushing, and she just did it all herself. Of course, this woman is incredibly healthy, had seen a lot of babies born already, do not try this at home without adult supervision, etc. But the Peacefulness of the entire experience is something I will never forget, particularly in the next few days, as she and the baby rested in her own bed, with no nurses waking them up and no heart monitors beeping and no florescent lights.
posted by pomegranate at 11:38 AM on May 14, 2004

I'm really torn on this. On one hand, I think that our medical establishment tends to treat pregnancy too much as an illness. Giving birth at home is certainly easier on many women and probably considerably less stressful in a lot of cases. On the other hand, things can go south very unpredictably and very quickly in labor, and I can't help but think that having someone around with more medical training than a midwife is not a bad idea. I think that's particularly true with first-time moms.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:46 AM on May 14, 2004

Soyjoy, I'm not thinking that the people who are concerned about safety are necessarily thinking of continuing-the-species level safety. I think they're probably more worried about their personal safety, which is not really assured by the fact that we're still here. After all, while the hospitalization of births has it's down sides, can you really argue that a hospital doesn't at least increase safety? Several studies (done by advocates of home birth) have been done that don't find a huge difference in mortality rates, but they fail to take into account the fact that women who have very high-risk pregnancies are much more likely to deliver in a hospital, and women who give birth at home in the western world are very likely to be women who take a great deal of responsibility for their prenatal health.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:53 AM on May 14, 2004


Which is why trained and experienced midwives (or the team of them that delivered our baby) recognize signs of danger, and try to work closely with family doctors (where possible), etc. , to make sure that IF something goes wrong, it can be addressed. Doctors told my wife that she had 'narrow hips, and might want to plan on a c-section'..she had the baby at home, on a birthing stool, and not only didn't need a c-section, didn't even tear or need an episiotomy. ..not intended to be a "doctor's don't know everything" point, but more of a "there are other mechanisms in place to deal with the birthing of a child other than ones requiring scalpels"

also, I caught my daughter and was involved in every step of the childbirth, and that was so incredible i am tearing up four years later, just thinking about it..

also, what soyjoy said
posted by das_2099 at 12:01 PM on May 14, 2004

We're lucky in living only minutes from the nearest hospital so that made it less of an issue for us. It's definitely a decision that must be made with full understanding of the risks and with the approval of your doctor (especially in the case of HMO's). It's like anything else in life, you do the best preparation you can but there's still a possibility that things could go wrong. A certified nurse-midwife has a significant amount of training, they're not "the lady down the street" anymore.

And what das_2099 said, too.
posted by tommasz at 12:19 PM on May 14, 2004

Here in Georgia, it's a felony to have a homebirth. There is an underground network of midwives, but the state has been sending our pregnant women to bust the midwives, so they are now afraid to take on anyone they don't know.

Which is why my wife and I will have to cross state lines to have our baby, in a beautiful very homey birthing center in South Carolina, a little less than three months from now.
posted by ewagoner at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2004

My sister was fortunate enough to have a midwife who was also a registered nurse AND was enrolled in a hospital that had a huge birthing center. She went this route for both of her kids.

The rooms were called "birthing suites" and were setup to be as home-like as possible. Looking at the photos sis sent me, you'd think she'd checked into a posh hotel and gave birth (and recovered) in one of the rooms.

If you ask me, that's the way to do it.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:39 PM on May 14, 2004

I was always too chicken, but I knew a lot of people who had home births back when I was having mine. They all did just fine. Some used "underground midwives."

On preview: My first was born in a birthing center, with a midwife. It was a block or so away from the hospital. It was run by my first obstetrician's wife. (This was almost 20 years ago.) But it was too "clinical" to be homey and too "homebirthy" to have the perks of the hospital -I went home less than 24 hours later. My favorite birth was a traditional hospital one-I had a doc that really listened to me and the nurses were awesome. For me that's what it mostly boiled down to.
posted by konolia at 12:48 PM on May 14, 2004

Also: Births have one of the highest profit margins of any hospital "procedure". The average cost (in these parts) is over $10,000, not counting any of the pre-natal care. Kinda high, especially for a couple without insurance.

Our cost using our midwife (who's delivered more babies than any obstetrician I've met), all pre-natal care included (less two doctor visits): $3500. And she's bartering down some of that in exchange for our organic vegetables, which is nice.
posted by ewagoner at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2004

The tension between the medical establishment and midwifery apparently has a long history.
posted by grateful at 1:44 PM on May 14, 2004

"After all, while the hospitalization of births has it's down sides, can you really argue that a hospital doesn't at least increase safety?"

--Well, maybe, for high-risk births and complications. Although, in the case of the midwives WE worked through, they transferred all serious complications, or high-risk pregnancies, to doctor's care, or to the hospital during delivery. Incidentally, they had 1 fatality (infant) in ~30 years, and that was due to a congenital heart defect, that would not have been treatable , even in hospital. I know it is anecdotal, but I was hard pressed to find a single ob/gyn with that sort of record in my state. In other words, if there are medical issues, they defer to doctors...otherwise, they are there to assist in the most basic, and natural process there is.

think about it: if the number of births that take place in hospitals really needed medical intervention..how the hell would we have made it this far?

Also, the greatest decrease in infant and mother mortality happened when doctors started routinely washing their hands before delivering...sanitation is the major key.

THat is not in any way saying that there are not some medically necessary interventions going on...but they are far fewer than you might think.
posted by das_2099 at 1:57 PM on May 14, 2004

Here in Georgia, it's a felony to have a homebirth.

That phrase sent a chill through me. Georgia really doesn't think much of the autonomy of women and their bodies, and apparently neither do the authorities in Pittsburgh. It's amazing how less than one hundred years has changed the perception of childbirth from what women's bodies were designed for into a medical emergency requiring massive interventions which, in most cases, only serve to protract and increase any problems or difficulties which might arise. Our approach to childbirth in the 21st century doesn't really strike me as being "progress."
posted by Dreama at 2:04 PM on May 14, 2004

My opinion, as a childless male: the best way to birth is with a midwife, an inflatable pool, and warm water. It doesn't have to be painful and dangerous and scary.

The hospital on-the-back, feet-up position is just so damn stupid that I'm shocked it's even still allowed. Stupid beyond stupid.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2004

my wife had a pretty rough pregnancy the first time around. she ended up getting prescribed bedrest (which she ignored, grr) and so we HAD to go into the hospital.

she wasn't in a TON of pain, and could probably have done it at home. but her placenta, after she delivered it, was pretty fucked up. the doc said it looked fine, but he showed me parts where it had torn away from the uterus and had formed clots.

she was hurting, of course, of course, but not a dramatic amount.

my point is that hospitals are there for all the unexpected emergencies. i believe, like fff, that water births are best, and it's gratifying to find that some hospitals and clinics are starting to try out alternative birthing methods.
posted by taumeson at 5:06 PM on May 15, 2004

We were gonna do a home birth, but nature had other plans
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:43 PM on May 15, 2004

that's a good story, eustace--i'm glad everyone's ok, and what a cutie!
posted by amberglow at 6:58 PM on May 15, 2004

I was going to be born at a hospital, just like my three siblings before me. I was born at home in East Hartford, Connecticut 1961. The event occurred in the bathtub (an empty one) as my mother wanted to contain the inevitable mess. My father assisted my mother. The family pediatrician came to the house later to check on me. My first visit to a hospital was when I was seven, when I broke my leg.
posted by Dick Paris at 11:38 PM on May 16, 2004

Thanks, amberglow!
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:01 AM on May 17, 2004

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