Most people, even those who want to have a natural birth and expect that all will go well, can’t get past one major fear in order to birth at home: That something catastrophic will happen during their birth, and being in a hospital could have saved mother or baby, whereas at home she and/or the baby will die.
What I say next is not judgment. I have had 4 home births, and I’ve had to wrestle with my own fears with each one.
But this overwhelming belief that hospital birth is safer than homebirth is … simply an untrue and unfounded belief.
You know, something catastrophic could happen to me or my child in a home birth. Or in a hospital birth. Or in our next car ride to Walmart. Statistically, I am more likely to be killed in a car accident than in childbirth. I am more or equally likely to die in a hospital birth than in a homebirth. Of those three options, statistically, my safest option is to birth at home.
From Marjorie Tew, a British statistician who researched and wrote the book Safer Childbirth? (one who’s never had a home birth and became interested in the subject later in life when she gave her students research assignments and the results shocked her). In the final chapter, after all the statistical analysis, she concludes:
When the history is told, it becomes very clear that at no time in the past or present and in no country have medical interventions made childbirth safer for most mothers and babies. No evidence can be found to support theories that, in general, applying the methods of physical science can evolve obstetric procedures which improve the natural birth process. A few interventions are undoubtedly beneficial, and these are sincerely appreciated, but they are appropriate in only a small proportion of births and so have only a marginal influence on mortality and morbidity. … By contrast, many interventions undoubtedly cause positive harm; further interventions have to be devised in the hope of counteraction this harm, but often succeed only in compounding it. …
On the other hand, plenty of evidence can be found to support the theory that childbirth manages best without direct human intervention and that successful reproduction depends, first and foremost, on the good health of parents. … Human intervention is best restricted to creating conditions which conduce to good health. Impaired health of mothers maybe caused by deficiencies in their current environment, in particular the quality of their nutrition, but it is more damaging to their childbearing function if they have suffered deficiencies all their lives, from conception onwards. … Downward trends in maternal and perinatal mortality are explained by the gradual spread of prosperity, leaving a diminishing proportion of mothers malnourished and reproductively inefficient…. (pp.289-290)
Extensive and unanimous evidence that obstetric intervention only rarely improves the natural process.
The evidence is found in the impartial statistical analyses of the actual results of care, which show consistently that birth is the safer, the less its process is interfered with. (Preface, vii)
21 March 2014: I’m currently studying this topic, so I’ll be filling this page with information….
Food for thought: We all know that there are babies & moms who died in home births who wouldn’t have died in if they’d been in a hospital. But it is equally true that there are babies and moms who die in hospitals who wouldn’t have died had they been at home.
General reasons women die in/due to childbirth:
- Infection (This was a major cause of death especially in hospitals. But this reduced greatly after 1936 due to the development of antibiotics, not because of practitioners’ carefulness.)
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Other (embolism, accident of practitioner, …)
General reasons babies die in/due to childbirth:
- Congenital malformation (can be from poor diet and vitamin deficiencies in mom, there is an association between chromosomal damage and deficient nutrition and toxins from cigarettes and alcohol.
- Hypoxia–insufficient oxygen before, during, or after the birth