Just this weekend two Holistic Moms Chapter Leaders brought new babies into the world - both at home. While birthing at home is not uncommon among Holistic Moms Network members, an estimated 99 percent of women birth in the hospital. Homebirthing moms are often viewed as "radicals" who are willing to take risks for themselves and their babies.
But research shows that homebirth is, in fact, quite safe for low risk women. A 2005 study of homebirth in North America (published in BMJ) demonstrated that women who birthed at home with professional midwives had outcomes comparable to their hospital-birthing counterparts but with fewer medical interventions. An American Journal of Public Health study published in 1992 also compared homebirths in rural Tennessee (with The Farm midwives) to more than 14,000 hospital births and concluded that "no significant differences between the two groups regarding fetal and neonatal death, labor- related complications, or low 5- minute Apgar scores were detected." More astounding, they found the homebirth midwives to have a c-section rate of just 1.46%. According to the World Health Organization's 1985 Joint Interregional Conference on Appropriate Technology for Birth, "Countries with some of the lowest perinatal mortality rates in the world have cesarean section rates under 10%. Clearly there is no justification in any specific geographic region to have more than 10 - 15% cesarean section birth." Current trends, however, indicate that here in the United States c-section rates are nowhere near the 10-15% range. Rather the rate has risen to more than 31.5% nationwide and in some hospitals in the NY area this rate is as high as 44.5%.
Why are American c-section rates going up? Childbirth Connection suggests that one reason is a lack of informed choice about birthing options. Many mothers are unaware of birthing center or homebirth options and have been grossly misinformed about their safety. Certainly homebirth is not a viable or even desirable option for all moms. But what is important is that parents are made aware of their options and that they are empowered to make informed, educated decisions. Choices in Childbirth is one organization working to protect birthing choices by offering parents practical information, c-section rates at area hospitals, and helpful guidelines to ask birthing professionals.
Protecting childbirth choice is an important action we, as mothers, can all get behind - no matter what our personal decisions. Birth should be an empowering, healthy experience. Education and freedom of choice will go a long way to achieving that goal.