Perspectives: Is home birth an antisocial act?

OPINION – Childbirth is no laughing matter. I learned this the hard way at the birth of our first child.

With my wife deep in labor, as we dutifully followed the instructions we had received in our Lamaze classes, I quipped, “This breathing really seems to work. I don’t feel a thing.”

Becky laughed but our nurse’s icy stare seemed to lower the temperature in the room considerably.

I remembered that stare as I read last week about how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Census Bureau are reporting that home births are on the rise nationally.  The Utah Department of Health agrees that popularity of home births in the Beehive state appears to be on the rise.

When the subject of home birth comes up, it’s fascinating how many people default to an expression of concern or skepticism over the choice to give birth outside of a hospital setting. They view childbirth as a serious medical condition rather than a natural, normal, physiological function of a woman’s body.

They forget that less than 100 years ago, the vast majority of births in America occurred at home. By 1970, less than 1 percent of births took place outside of a hospital setting. What changed?

The physiological process of birth hasn’t changed throughout the history of mankind. But our attitudes about childbirth clearly have. We tend to see it as something inherently dangerous to a woman’s physical health; something that requires a combination of state and medical supervision.

This is why in some states, midwifery is strictly licensed and an unlicensed midwife who assists in a birth can be charged with practicing medicine without a license.

To be fair, there can be risks associated with pregnancy and delivery. But the level of suspicion faced by women who choose to give birth outside of a hospital setting is entirely disproportionate to the number of births that end badly.

When the subject of home birth is brought up among family, friends, or coworkers, someone will volunteer a horror story they’ve heard that reinforces the dangers of delivering a baby outside of a medical setting. In fact, mothers and infants can and do die from complications during hospital births. Where is the sensationalism over these tragedies?

As with home birth, such complications are rare but they do happen.

Home birth challenges the cultural mythology that has arisen as government and medicine have become increasingly intertwined. This is why it is sometimes viewed as an antisocial act of rebellion.

Modern society has been trained to see childbirth as a medical procedure that requires drugs to induce labor, drugs to minimize pain or discomfort, and emergency surgery if the labor doesn’t progress in a timely fashion. When a cesarean section is performed, costs rise dramatically.

Home birth operates on a more flexible schedule that is customized to the individual woman’s desires, body type, and needs. The costs are typically much lower than a hospital birth but this is only one reason a woman may choose to give birth at home.

When we were expecting our second child, my wife and I learned that my employer had dropped maternity coverage from our health insurance. The corresponding expense associated with a hospital delivery prompted us to examine our alternatives.

Along the way, we found a number of reasons to consider doing a home birth.

Becky had a less than positive experience with the medications that were used during her first birth. She wanted to go a more natural route. Following the birth of our first child, we had made a commitment to become more self-reliant. Both of us wanted to know that we had what it took spiritually to do a home birth.

We contacted a reputable midwife and met with her to discuss our options. During our first meeting, it became clear that she was screening us and trying to determine if we were the kind of patients she was willing to take on.

She needed to know that we were capable of developing a deep level of trust in her as well as bolstering our trust in God.

We learned a lot about ourselves as we prepared for the birth.

Under our midwife’s supervision, we gathered the necessary supplies and made the preparations for the big event.

The labor and delivery were textbook. The main difference we noticed was the overwhelming sense of peace that surrounded our home birth. Our little girl arrived blinking and alert but did not cry at all. It was a profoundly spiritual experience for all of us.

This doesn’t mean that hospital births cannot also be positive experiences. However, much of the antisocial skepticism directed at home birth is undeserved.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • BULLY January 19, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Do you think the medical profession lobby has any thing to do with the birth restrictions in place? Does ObamaCare pay for homebirths? (I don’t think so)
    Speaking of groups wanting to control. Do you think the Green Planet folks will team up with PETA to outlaw the consumption and raising of beef and little pigs over the concern that the production of that nasty methane gas polution? It will kill us all?

  • ladybugavenger January 19, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Its OK to be anti socialism, I mean anti social.

  • Voice of Reason January 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

    How do you know someone at a party did a home birth? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. They won’t be able to … about it.
    Ed. ellipsis.

    • Katelyn January 21, 2015 at 11:10 am

      How do you know someone got a joke off of reddit? It was posted on reddit.

  • medicine? January 19, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    You ask “what changed” about going from mostly home-births in the early 1900’s to less than 1% now? Some might call it science, or medicine, which has significantly increased live birth rates and mother survival rates during child birth. If you look at CDC info, “At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and approximately 100 infants died before age 1 year. From 1915 through 1997, the infant mortality rate declined greater than 90% to 7.2 per 1000 live births, and from 1900 through 1997, the maternal mortality rate declined almost 99% to less than 0.1 reported death per 1000 live births.” Child birth is always a risky natural event, and while there are social concerns about home births, there are many medical concerns that need to be addressed as well.

    • ladybugavenger January 19, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      Yep, medicine has increased our life expectancy, and also increased our social security retirement age. I think I can retire at 72. 🙁 geeeee that’s so far away

      • ladybugavenger January 19, 2015 at 1:02 pm

        Oh its better than I thought its 67…holy cow, I hope I live a long time.

    • BULLY January 19, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      What country are we talking about here Medicine? USA, China,Canada, Brazil? What was the purpose of the study grant you quote?
      Reminds me of studies manufactured in New York. i.e. How fat and potentionally shorten ones life span if they order a 16oz soft drink conpared to a 12oz drink? Someone has figures to justify outlawing the large container.
      How many productive hours does one waste by reading articles on the internet news feeds and then commenting on? (their should be a law).
      Manditory Commom Core teaching methods studies suggest home teaching
      should be outlawed too.

    • Raeann Peck January 20, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Home birth midwives have also benefited from increased knowledge, skills, ability, and improved equipment in the last 100 years. We are more able to discern difficulty, respond carefully, and thankfully, access hospitals when there is need of medical care. I’m very grateful for that option and for the willingness and ability of medical folks. However, I beg to differ with “Medicine?”s comment that child birth is ALWAYS a risky natural event. I do agree there is potential for unforeseen difficulty, and that is the wisdom of including the assistance of a well trained, experienced midwife rather than choosing an unassisted home birth.

  • arts and letters January 19, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    This hardly seems like a topic for a discussion of antisocial behavior. Women can choose what they want regarding childbirth – neither choice is better or worse than the other. Why make a big deal about it…go bait a different trap, Bryan. Hooray for you and Becky on your home birth. Give yourselves big medals. Do whatever you want. You are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to knowledge of the best birth practices. There are pros and cons both ways and it’s kind of like choosing a new car – whatever works for you. But just because you choose a red convertible doesn’t mean there’s a thing wrong with the beige sedan. If you want to write about anti-social matters, find a topic worth writing about. On MLK’s birthday today, racism and ethnic problems would be a good topic.

    • Bunny2015 January 19, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Hyde is just a glorified internet troll. Pls don’t feed the trolls

      • Dana January 20, 2015 at 5:52 am

        Bunny, you are so correct! He’s trying to be relevant.

      • Dave January 20, 2015 at 2:49 pm

        How is he a troll? Because he has an opinion on something?

  • sagemoon January 19, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Where’s KOOLAID? I thought for sure he’d have some crack about breast feeding in this comment section. My opinion about home birth: it’s for the brave. I’m not just referring to risk of being out of hospital during birth but the clean up afterward has got to be a bit gnarly. My niece did a home birth and ate the placenta! Most of the women I know are having their babies at birthing centers so they get the mid-wife experience without the clean up and easy access to medical assistance. Maybe that’s just my crazy family.

    • Bunny2015 January 19, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      Dang tweekers! …er… I mean, Dang homebirths!

      • sagemoon January 20, 2015 at 8:51 am

        It’s been a slow past few days. Where are all the tweeker arrests?

    • Koolaid January 19, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      What???????!!!!!! Ate the placenta? Serious? Did she invite guests over for a dinner party? Is your niece a cat? You just turned me into a vegetarian. Ew! Ew! Ew!

      • sagemoon January 20, 2015 at 8:51 am

        The funniest part? My niece is a vegetarian. Apparently self cannibalism isn’t off the menu for a vegetarian.

    • NO INFO AVAILABLE January 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      Well I’m sure he’s going to say something now because of your comment… Geeeeeeeez

    • Raeann Peck January 20, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      Dear dear Sagemoon. Did you know that birth is not typically a gnarly mess? Besides, midwives leave the birth place tidy. I start the laundry, and have been known to wash the dishes in my spare time.
      Also, whether at home or OOH birth center, there is no difference in safety as pertaining to transport time in most cases. It’s still a transfer of care to hospital.

      • Sue January 20, 2015 at 6:04 pm

        That’s right—there’s no difference in safety between home or OOH birth center; they’re both abysmal. In an obstetric emergency, minutes matter. If a baby’s oxygen supply is compromised, no hospital is close enough. Even if you could get a laboring woman out of the house, into the car, and into the hands of a medical professional in 5 minutes (which you can’t), it’s too long. Can you hold your breath for 5 minutes?

    • NO INFO AVAILABLE January 21, 2015 at 2:46 am

      Maybe you should take up the art of not being so stupid oh and it’s not to late to donate to KOOLAIDS fundraiser.!

  • lissy January 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Live and let live. You never know how your birth will go though. I have a family member who had her baby at home and it went smoothly. My first one probably would have been easy at home too. My second one…there is no way my baby would have lived without the rapid response of the NICU nurses. I didn’t even get to hold her for awhile, but I know she would never have made it through a home birth. So, for this reason, I personally would try to talk my children out of a home birth. And it is true, if a woman has had a home birth, they don’t ever shut up about it. Annoying. Congratulations…you just gave birth like a pioneer. Now …. . ANd your baby has a cone head. Awesome.
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • arts and letters January 19, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Uh oh, I’m at a gathering of women discussing their childbirth experiences. Please pass the hash brownies. They’re over there by the handcart. How about those Sea Hawks!

    • ladybugavenger January 19, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      Just watched the game, watching green bay lose was amazing! I just became a Seahawk fan. Go Seahawks!!!

    • pushit January 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

      Well, that is what this article was about. Skip it if you don’t want to talk about exactly what the article is talking about. GO to the finance article or the sports section. You people. Seriously. Its like when I went to Applebees and sat in the bar area, only to be asked not to drink a beer by a lady who chose to sit next to me with her child because she didn’t want her child to see me drinking alcohol. Pick another seat then. Same wiht you Arts and Letters. Pick a different article then.

      • NO INFO AVAILABLE January 21, 2015 at 6:10 am

        That happened to me once and I told that person to get lost and then drank the beer and she asked for the manager and she was told to leave. LOL.! and I had another beer ha ha ha ha

  • KOOLAID. January 20, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I ate it

  • EmilyP January 20, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Childbirth, at home or at the hospital, isn’t something to be mocked or scoffed at. It is a remarkable feat. It should be admired. Educated people don’t mock the decisions of others. Having a home birth does not make you a hippie, (which I’m assuming some were implying by saying “pass the hash brownies” in a previous comment) weird, anti-social, uneducated or selfish. It means you chose to do something that someone else did not. That’s it. I imagine many people do things that are much more weird than choosing to have a baby in the comfort of their own home. Because God forbid you do what feels comfortable and safe to you! Also, the cleanup is not that bad. This isn’t a slasher movie people! Home births, usually, are planned out and you have all the necessary items prepared and ready for easy clean up and removal. As for eating or encapsualting the placenta, you are ignorant for even attempting to make a statement on it. Whether at home or the hospital, if requested, you can keep it. So it’s not just these “weirdo” home birthers who do it. It can be very beneficial and any research proves so. Which obviously no one here researched at all, just simply judged it. So maybe, just maybe, because you wouldn’t do it doesn’t mean it’s a bad decision or weird. It’s just not what YOU would do. Maybe people should worry more about themselves, rather than judging the decisions of others.

    • Raeann Peck January 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Well said, EMILYP!!

    • ladybugavenger January 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      There is a risk of being born in the hospital that an at home birth may not have and that is the risk of being switched at birth.

  • Throckmorton Peachabellimanskischwartz January 20, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    We had our first 3 childbirth experiences in a hospital setting with excellent staff and no complications. With the cost in UT of over $5000.00 as a deductible for hospital birthing under an individual insurance plan, we opted for the services of a midwifery. Our youngest two kids were healthier and stronger than the first three, and as a father and true partner in the delivery process, I felt much more connected to my wife and walked away feeling like we had shared a sacred experience vs. feeling like we had paid a specialist for a provided service call. Administering pig semen-derivatives to induce labor and cutting women open for the easy, calendared-item C-section isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

  • NO INFO AVAILABLE January 21, 2015 at 6:13 am

    My gold fish had babies we decided on fish bowl birth

  • Hmmm January 21, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    I always find everyone’s opinions on here intriguing. Whatever your experience or not, we all have an opinion one way or the other. I actually have a biased opinion being a RN. I have seen the big bad and ugly when it comes to home birth. When it’s a home birth gone wrong is not just bad but tragically bad in so many cases. I think it has to be a personal choice whether to home birth or not and there isn’t a wrong or right. Just be catious when choosing because there are midwifes that know what they are doing and many that don’t. In the hospital there are trained teams for every scenario good AND bad, that’s not the case at home, because the idea at home is the “natural” birth, with no complications. Who wants to play Russian roulet with their child’s life? When a split second decision makes all the difference.

  • Sue January 24, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Yes, Mr. Hyde, “less than 100 years ago, the vast majority of births in America occurred at home.” And 100 years ago more than 600 women died for every 100,000 births. Is that acceptable to you? Today it is 15 per 100,000, thanks to modern obstetrics. You said “We tend to see [childbirth] as something inherently dangerous to a woman’s physical health.” You know why? In every time and culture, childbirth has been one of the leading causes of death in young women. In addition, the day of a child’s birth is the most dangerous of his or her first 18 years.

    “The level of suspicion faced by women who choose to give birth outside of a hospital setting is entirely disproportionate to the number of births that end badly.” I bet you wish you could rewrite that sentence. Because what level would be entirely proportionate? And anyway, how dare people suspect homebirthers of . . . something. And “end badly”? Are we not allowed to say “dead babies”? Because that’s what’s at issue, or should be: dead babies. Yes, women and babies die in hospitals, but it’s deceptive to refer to hospital deaths without context. Do you know the causes for those deaths? Were they preventable, or were they the result of comorbidities? How many of them were home birth transfers? Hospitals account for over 98% of births, and 100% of high-risk patients, yet hospital intrapartum deaths are rare. But you know what? The number of dead babies isn’t relevant. It’s the rate: CDC death data show that the neonatal mortality rate for babies in planned home births is at least three times the rate of babies born in hospital (see the CDC WONDER site).

    In preparing for the “event,” you considered cost, the effect of medication (because everyone knows they force you to have an epidural in the hospital), how it could help you become more self-reliant, how it would increase your spirituality, the benefit of a “flexible schedule,” and, perhaps, the opportunity to challenge cultural mythology. Did you miss anything? Oh, that’s right—the baby! You considered your wife’s “desires, body type and needs,” but did you consider your baby’s needs? Did you read the Utah Department of Health’s study you cited? It shows that from 2010 to 2012, the neonatal mortality rate of planned home birth was over twice that of hospital birth. (Remember, the hospital stats include all the high-risk cases, including home birth disasters.) Do all the supposed home birth benefits to yourself outweigh the risk to your baby?

    Your nonchalant comment on your Facebook post speaks volumes: “Different strokes for different folks and all that.” This is not about trying to understand people who don’t like sushi like you do. This is not about adult preferences at all. This is about an unborn child who deserves the best chance to survive birth.

    I recommend this piece on rights vs. responsibility in childbirth.

  • safer midwifery utah January 26, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Midwives in the state of utah do not need a license or insurance to deliver babies. It is harder to legally drive a car than be a “midwife” here. There are horrific cases like Valerie El Halta and Vickie Sorensen that illustrate the need for licensing, insurance, or perhaps restricting home birth to nurse midwives. I think it is important that women have qualified care providers no matter where they decide to have their babies.

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