Each year, an average of around four million babies are born in the United States. Of these four million births, approximately 98% of them took place in a hospital. However, over the past few years, there has been an increasing trend of women choosing to give birth at their own homes, without any assistance from a doctor, and sometimes without even the supervision of a doula or midwife.
Personally, if I chose children one day, I would only ever choose to give birth in a hospital where there is a team of doctors and nurses, and medicine, and other high tech machines and procedures, available to help deliver my child and deal with any possible complications right away. However, I understand that some do not like hospitals or their approach towards giving birth, or want the process to be as normal as possible and in the comfort of their own home.
The women who chose to have a home birth do so for many reasons such as: not wanting to have a C-section done (as shown in the picture above), not wanting have their labor induced, their “mistrust” of doctors, or wanting to give birth in their own home which they feel is a less stressful environment and can allow them to have a better bonding experience with their baby. Many women hire midwives or doulas to assist with process, however a select few chose to have no help then all other than their spouse/partner, etc.. To me this is a very dangerous idea, and one I would absolutely not recommend. An ER physician that I shadowed last summer has a saying that she often tells her patients when they ask about how sure she is about something: “Medicine is never 100%,” which I believe is a very true statement, especially when concerning childbirth. Even if a women is healthy, and has had a low-risk pregnancy, there is always the chance that something could go wrong at birth, and if there is not even a midwife/doula or anyone with some kind of medical background, there is no back-up plan if something goes wrong, and there will be no access to any medicine or technology to help the process. This could include the fetus having trouble through the vaginal canal, or the umbilical cord being wrapped around the fetus’ body, both of which can have consequences for both the mother and the children. This is why I believe that it is very important that there should always be at least someone who is trained in the profession to be present and to provide assistance.
I believe that there is however, a safe middle ground in between hospitals and home births —birthing centers. Birthing centers, as shown in the picture above, resemble a typical hotel room, with the addition of a large tub in case the mother chooses to have a water birth or use the water as a natural way to help with pain during labor. Birthing centers are staffed by doulas/midwives and also have the emphasis on the more “natural” side of delivering. In addition, many birthing centers are either located near a hospital, or may even be in partnership with the hospital so if anything does go wrong during birth, there will be little time lost in receiving necessary care. Personally, I believe this to be the best option for those who want to avoid the hospital since you have a trained professional on hand to help if needed and access to more technology than you would at your house.
I am all for women choosing what they want to do with their bodies, and this extends in choosing how and where to give birth. However, I don’t believe it to be wise that anyone with a high-risk pregnancy or pre-existing conditions that could complicate a delivery should give birth outside of a hospital. Even those with low-risk pregnancies need to discuss the pros and cons of a birth outside of the hospital with their doctor. At the end of the day, all everyone (doctors, parents, midwives,etc) wants is for both the baby and mother to be healthy no matter where a women gives birth.
Cultural Fun Fact:
In Bali, the placenta, referred to as the ari ari, is so important that it is considered to be a “sibling” of the baby. The placenta is cleaned, placed inside a container (traditionally a cocnout or a clay pot), and buried with a stone placed on top. In addition, blessings, or gifts, are often placed around the buried placenta, as shown in the picture below. Girl’s placentas are placed on one side of the house, while the boy’s placentas are placed on the other.