In Her Words
“Home Births Are in Fact SAFE!”
Passion fuels both sides of the issue
Janita Pavelka, a 45-year-old mom from Oxford, Neb., had all four of her children at home and would do it again “in a heartbeat.”
“It was a wonderful experience; calm, peaceful, bonding for my husband and me. It’s the way birth was intended to be,” she said.
Mothers who choose to have their babies at home are very passionate about their choice – and will back up that choice vehemently with statistics and personal anecdotes. The reality in the United States, however, is that most women will choose to have their babies in a hospital setting. While some organizations such as the National Association of Nurse-Midwives support the right of women to choose home birth, provided they meet certain criteria, other groups strongly advocate giving birth in the hospital.
“Despite the rosy picture painted by home birth advocates, a seemingly normal labor and delivery can quickly become life-threatening for both the mother and baby,” claims the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The home birth controversy recently made headlines when Janet Fraser, one of the most outspoken advocates of home births, had a baby girl who died of cardiac arrest during an unassisted home water birth in Australia.
As sad as this story is, many women in this country believe having babies at home is the safer option.
“If you consider that 95% of all world births are not born in hospitals, why are hospitals safer?” said Kitty Werner, of Waitsfield, Vt., who had both of her children at home. Unlike Fraser, Werner had the support of a midwife. In her opinion, “using experienced trained midwives is a just as safe, or than using a hospital.”
Homebirths are not endangered by the dangerous overuse of medical technology, “much of which has never been proven to be safe or effective as usual care. Birth is safe. Interference is risky,” asserts Jennifer Fargár, a certified birth doula and chairperson of the Georgia Friends of Midwives.
So many misconceptions about home births exist, “that ol’ granny midwives with no formal training assist. That all women who chose to give birth at home are some kind of granola crunching hippies, burning incense and chanting mantras. That’s it is messy, there’s blood everywhere. And that it’s dangerous.”
Valerie Christensen, who had three hospital births and one home birth, challenged her obstetrician’s concerns that too many things could go wrong with a home birth. So many problems are caused by hospital intervention – “inductions, slowed labor from epidurals or narcotics, fetal distress from pitocin,” Christensen had argued.
Still, others feel that the hospital is the safest place to have a child in any circumstances.
Kara Glad, who lost a child to preterm birth at 24 weeks after an emergency C-section, strongly favors delivering babies at a hospital that has a neonatal intensive care unit.
“You never know what can happen at any time and it is such a miracle to have a healthy baby, so I feel you need to have all your resources available in case of an emergency arises. I know several friends who carried to term and their babies still needed to visit the NICU,” she said.
Jennifer Lubell is a healthcare reporter in Washington, D.C.