Thursday, November 24, 2011

Study Finds Hospitals Aren't Necessary for Low-Risk Births

A study paid for by Britain's department of health has found that mothers who are low-risk (healthy women who carried their babies to term) have little difference in birth complications whether they deliver in a hospital, home, a freestanding birth center, or a birth center within a hospital. The study is being used to promote women's choices in where they deliver:
More than 90 percent of pregnant women in England now give birth in a hospital. Some officials say the new study should prompt women to consider alternatives.
England's women already see midwives at rates far above American women with 60 percent of babies being delivered by midwives.  Most (90 percent) of births still take place in a hospital.

I'm glad to see a study showing that home births and other alternate birthing locations are safe and legitimate options for mothers. Personally, though, I'm interested in broadening the discussion of choice.

This time last year, I was days away from my due date and terrified of needing interventions in a birth that I really wanted to be as natural as possible. My daughter was measuring large (10 pounds 4 ounces) and my doctors (I had a main OB, but there were several doctors in her practice, and I often saw one of them at my appointments) were concerned. I'd had one brief (and not that high) blood pressure spike and had talked them out of an induction after hours of observation (and normal blood pressure) a week earlier. When I went into labor on my due date and delivered a 9 pound 0 ounce baby the next morning without medication, I was happy with the outcome, but frustrated that I'd had to fight to be able to move around during labor. I'd felt misled by a hospital tour and conversations with attendants that led me to believe they were natural-birth-friendly when they really weren't.

So when we talk about giving women more choices for where they give birth, we're talking about choices between birth cultures.

I truly feel most comfortable giving birth in a hospital. I'm not against medicine and medical advances. My own birth was via emergency c-section after my mom had labored for 36 hours. I very likely would not be here to write these words if she hadn't had access to those services. But that doesn't mean the culture of fear and emergency should be the default. Studies like this are great to help give women choices outside of the hospital, but they should help broaden choices inside of the hospital, too.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really good point. It is actually really rare in the States to have midwives *inside* a hospital (which is the default in Scandinavia), which is a great way of promoting the more choices that you describe. I was very lucky to have this opportunity to have midwives all through my pregnancy and them being there for the birth of my daughter, still I gave birth in a hospital with access to medical options and doctors, should something happen. The 'either or' options in the US not only stigmatizes home births and birth center births as 'crunchy', 'weird' and even to some 'risky', it also pushes normal births and pregnancies in a medical direction where the doctors are looking only for things that are possibly bad.