BY NORBERT RUG
We’ve been recently been watching Call the Midwife Sunday nights on PBS (WNED). This is a British Broadcasting Corporation drama about a team of nurse/midwives that worked in London during the late 1950s and early 1960s. This program, although listed as a drama was very educational for me.
It made me think about the Eastern Niagara Hospital’s decision to shut down it’s obstetrical unit to make space for more lucrative medical procedures. This decision means that maternity patients in the area will have to travel to Niagara Falls, Buffalo or Amherst to give birth. I don’t think that driving over 15 miles is a good option for a woman in labor.
In the U.S., gaining access to a midwife for a home birth is complicated. The choices for receiving an out-of-hospital birth in the United States differ from state to state. Licensing and a lack of certified midwives experienced in out-of-hospital births creates barriers to finding a competent midwife. The for-profit system Insurance system can also take part in making home birth in the U.S. more difficult to attain.
There is a limited amount of information on the safety of a home birth in the U.S., but available statistics suggest that increased home births performed by midwives could actually make the practice safer according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (www.acog.org.). Never the less, the statement that a hospital birth is always best and a home birth is wrong all the time is mistaken in my opinion.
In the United Kingdom, home birth is offered as an option by the National Health Service and is approved by the leading obstetric and midwifery bodies as both appropriate and safe for a majority of women. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence even states that home birth is not as dangerous as a hospital birth for a number of women with straightforward pregnancies.
But women who opt to have their home births are often criticized for this decision. One example that can be cited was the reaction to Meghan Markle when she was thinking about having a home birth for her son. Her decision was branded as dangerous by the press, and even preposterous by obstetricians. These stereotypes are inaccurate, outdated and they need to change.
There are several reasons a woman might pick a home birth. She might believe she had more ability to advocate for herself in a home setting, she may want to get know the person who will be handling her care better or perhaps she might feel more relaxed and safer at home than in a hospital.
By far the most frequent criticism about home births is that they are unsafe. But research disputes this notion. In 2011, researchers from Oxford University studied over 64,000 low-risk births and discovered that women having their second, third or subsequent child, a home birth was not any more dangerous for their babies than a hospital birth. Even a study of higher risk women displayed comparable outcomes for babies born at home as in hospital. But hospital born babies had a higher rate of admission to neonatal units.
There is no 100 percent, risk-free option for dealing with childbirth. It’s a juggling act balancing the risks and benefits that is based on a pregnant woman’s health, history, and preferences. One paper did find a small but significant increase statistically, in adverse consequences with first babies that are born at home. This is something women need to know when they are planning where to give birth. The hospital setting offers pain meds likes an epidural, which is an important consideration for many women.
Research indicates that giving a woman a choice and control in selecting thier labor and birth procedures is tied to having positive birth results and can help reduce the suffering linked to childbirth. This is a very important idea and when you take into account that the rates of stressful birth and postnatal depression are rising and according to the British Medical Journal suicide and not medical complications are the leading cause of maternal death.
The concept of midwifery dates back to ancient Egypt. I believe that a Lockport based midwife service would be very beneficial to the area. I think that anything that reduces a new mother’s stress levels is worth trying.
It is my hope that one day in the near future, a woman who chooses to have her baby in a place that feels the most comfortable to her, her home, will have the idea accepted as a viable choice rather than with contempt.
In researching this article, I tried to find a midwife that would perform a home delivery. I did find a few locally based midwives but it looks to me like they perform deliveries in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital
Norb is an independent journalist and blogger from Lockport. He blogs at WhyWNY.home.blog.