Why Is Homebirth So Contentious

I had an interesting time yesterday browsing through a few blogs. It’s only something I’ve taken an interest in since setting up a blog of my own. What I found amazing was how contentious and vicious some of the homebirth related sites are. I don’t really get it. Much of it stems from how unsafe homebirth allegedly is. Well it seems we’re never going to get an unequivocal opinion on this, but let’s for the sake of argument say neonatal deaths in hospitals are 1 in 1000 and 2 in 1000 at home (I’m not agreeing with these figures but they are typical of those quoted by the anti-homebirth camp). So in big headlines we can say that a hospital birth is twice as safe as a homebirth!! Don’t you just love how you can mislead with statistics. Alternatively neonatal death rates were 0.1% in hospitals compared to 0.2% at home. Mmm, those figure don’t sound so scary now do they? They are quite tiny percentages right. Why do people get so worked up over a 0.1% difference in risk? Now when you consider that less than 1% of the population birth at home, how many people are really affected and why does it cause so much hysteria?

Official government statistics abound thanks to the Internet, and I also read that in the UK motorcyclists are over 40 times more likely to have a fatal accident than car drivers. So I’m wondering do car drivers rabidly haunt online motorcycle communities telling them how irresponsible they are and how they should only drive cars. Is Ford lobbying governments to get Yamaha thrown off the roads? Well I’m sure if any of that is happening the “freedom of choice” argument is being used in a suitably persuasive manner to keep things rational. So why then is there so much animosity against those who choose to homebirth. Why are they persecuted for their freedom of choice? I’m sure we all have our suspicions.

What I also find amazing here in South Australia is that although only 0.8% of the births happened at home, the heads of unit and all the other decision makers on committees have indicated the new homebirth policy in this state is only to control what is already happening. Fortunately the document states it’s for government employees and since not one of the hospitals will take it up why don’t they just leave us alone. Fancy going through all that effort, time and money to get a homebirth policy to try and control the 3 of us in this state. What a waste.

What are they all afraid of? I often try and work this out. They deregister midwives all the time in Australia for nothing, but you can be the butcher of Bega and they are still not sure. How the hell does that work? I am one person doing what I can do educate women on their choices and to make them ask questions and think hard before choosing their care provider. I don’t force people to birth at home and I am often just an information service to help women to say no inside the system. If you are truly providing women centred care why would this create any problem what so ever?

It’s interesting to see the universities here sending students along to the fantastic information sessions provided by Birth matters, and the WEA courses when the information is apparently delivered by the spawn of the devil (meaning the independent midwives involved not the consumers who are doing their best of course). Shouldn’t women have the choice? Got to hospital and have a medicalized birth interfered with induced, timed out and managed or stay home and have a labour and birth which is not.

Last year I was at 48 births and 3 women had a section. At the hospital there were 4800 births and 1600 of them had a section. Rate of sections at births I attended 6% – rates at hospital 30% (My section rate the year before was just 4%) I am always happy to say, Obs are surgeons and a specialist in their field of complexities during labour and birth. Why can’t I get the same respect as a specialist in normal pregnancy labour and birth.

How often does a birth with a private Ob look like this?



6 responses to “Why Is Homebirth So Contentious”

  1. labortrials

    You write:
    So why then is there so much animosity against those who choose to homebirth. Why are they persecuted for their freedom of choice? I’m sure we all have our suspicions.

    I think those people who are so vocal against homebirth are pretty clear about their reasons. The fear of poor outcomes for the BABY. It seems that the baby is worth more than the mother. Homebirth is a “selfish” choice, evidently, that only makes the mother feel good about herself. Homebirth is a “disaster” just begging to happen. @@

    It is true that when a mother makes decisions with regard to HOW the baby will be birthed, the innocent baby is not in on the decision-making process. The “rights” of the baby only matter, so it seems, when there is a poor outcome (for the baby) outside of the hospital setting.

    OBs are not used to seeing normal (as in natural) birth. They are not trained to assist natural birth. They are trained to intervene. They are trained for surgery. They are trained for catastrophe. They are trained to medically-manage outcomes not facilitate a physiologic time-proven natural process.

    Of course I do realize that I am preaching to the choir.

    Best wishes,

  2. Emma Someone

    I’m at uni and in tears at the look on M’s face. Just thought I’d write to say how much you inspire me to be a homebirth midwife when I grow up :) .

  3. isaacugonma

    home birth is not good for any woman

  4. fliperty gibbert

    Homebirth was great for me! And my baby! It never felt like a contentious issue until I came back to Australia and got lecture by all my rellies on how much blood you can loose in 10 minutes blablabla… Had my other 2 in a hospital, 1 in the pool (aparently also contentious… but oh so very amazing, the pain was GONE, and less scary than a huge dangerous drug needle injected in my SPINE (why have I been told drugs are bad my entire life, then encouraged to use them in a situation where they can be absorbed by my neonate? it does seem rather random…)).
    The other was nearly born on the side of the road (HOW is being in labour then getting in a car & driving through pouring rain in the middle of the evening rush hour safer than having a baby at home with skilled professionals in attendance?) That one had to be held in so the MW could get my pants off, so no pool :-( but over so quickly it didn’t matter! Had the hospital births due to lack of HB midwives in my (rural) location, finances, and time for transfer in event something did go wrong!
    I had the same MW for 2 & 3, and tho she’s in the hospital, she also does homebirths and listened to what I wanted, so I had control.
    All my births were positive, almost adidctive experiences.
    Hospital or home I think the most important thing for birthing is continuity of care, you get told your “privates” are private then expected to get them on show for a bunch of strangers, relaxing and helpful to facilitate good birthing – I think NOT!

  5. Claire

    We are about to get pregnant and as my sister also gave birth at home by water, I planned to do the same….until almost being bombarded by people telling me how dangerous it was. I stated that my research on the subject showed that neonatal/perinatal mortality rates were virtually the same whether birth is at home or in hospital. My doctor stated that the risks for first time mothers were much higher when home birthing and asked what the rates were for other types of birth related trauma like brain damage due to lack of oxygen etc. Can anyone help me with this? Is this true or not?