April 6, 2000 01:15:59
Posted By Oak Grove Midwife
©2000 Stacy L. Vandenput, B.A., Traditional Midwife, Certified Bradley Method® Natural Childbirth Instructor
The words "home birth" strike a deep chord in most everyone who hears them. For some, it raises fear. Fear may be based on misinformation or directly related to frightening experiences with birth. Some people cannot conceive of anywhere better suited to bring forth babies than in their own home. Other may be attracted to home birth as a result of previous terrifying experiences with birth in medical settings. Home birth is not for everyone, nor is hospital birth. Choosing the most appropriate birth place is a personal endeavor which can only be made by the mother-to-be. Anyone who entices the mother away from her heartfelt choice of birth place may unwittingly lead her and the baby to unnecessary pain, emotional trauma and complications of birth.
Well meaning, but uninformed family members, husbands and health care practitioners often attempt to sway women away from home birth by telling horror stories, refusing to allow it, giving erroneous information or withholding services to the mother.Many people searching for home birth services report having been told that home birth is illegal. In fact, home birth is legal in Wisconsin; the State Department of Vital Statistics reports an annual home birth rate of more than 1% of total births. Frequently, mothers-to-be report being turned down for medical services due to their choice of home birth. Physicians are concerned that they, as the licensed and insured practitioners, will be at risk for a liability suit if a complication arises in a home birth patient who is in their care. However, in 1994, Susan Jenkins reported in the Journal of Nurse Midwifery that when it comes to doctors and midwives, the risk of vicarious liability is a myth. Jenkins emphasized that each professional is separately accountable and responsible for their own actions related to their unique roles in the birth.
The problem of people trying to sway mothers sovereign choice of birthplace works in both directions.; It is equally unethical for a family member, friend, spouse or health practitioner to convince a mother to have her baby at home,when she is wavering in her decision, or has strong reservations about attempting to birth at home. I am aware of a few families where the mothers came for home birth services at the behest of their husbands who wanted to save money by staying home. In this situation, a keen midwife will detect the mothers reservations and encourage her to seek a caring physician who will work within the family's budget constraints.
All mothers instinctively know where and with whom they need to be during the birth process, but when mothers are met with antagonism about their intuitive competence, they may be scared away from the choices in their hearts. Misinformation abounds. Mothers have a huge responsibility to sift through hearsay and find accurate information which upholds the decisions they are making.
Research indicates that home birth with experienced attendants and hospital birth are relatively equal in safety. About the same number of infant deaths occur whether the mother gives birth at home with skilled midwives, or in the hospital with nurses and physicians. Each birth setting has it's own set of benefits and risks. As in all life decisions there are tradeoffs. The attentive mother takes her responsibility seriously, asks the right questions of potential birth attendants--physicians or midwives--and she learns to close off the hearsay, antagonism and faulty advice. Jenkins Susan. The Myth of Vicarious Liability: Impact on Barriers to Nurse-Midwifery Practice. J Nurse Midwifery, 1994; 39(2):98-106