This is an awesome article, with links below to several more awesome articles about the benefits of homebirth and the dangers of hospital birth.
Via CHRIS KRESSER L.AC
"In this series we’re going to explore natural childbirth (home birth) as an alternative to industrialized childbirth. Industrialized childbirth could also be called “disturbed birth”, which Australian family physician Sarah J. Buckley, MD defines as follows:
Anything that disturbs a laboring woman’s sense of safety and privacy will disrupt the birth process. This definition covers most of modern obstetrics, which has created an entire industry around the observation and monitoring of pregnant and birthing women. Some of the techniques used are painful or uncomfortable, most involve some some transgression of bodily or social boundaries, and almost all techniques are performed by people who are essentially strangers to the woman herself. All of these factors are as disruptive to pregnant and birthing women as they would be to any other laboring mammal – with whom we share the majority of our hormonal orchestration in labor and birth.1
Buckley embraces an evolutionary perspective on pregnancy and childbirth. Such a perspective affirms the natural process of gestation and birth and recognizes a woman’s genetically inherited capacity to give birth without medical intervention.
In the same way that we evolved to eat a species-appropriate diet (i.e. paleo), we evolved to give birth in an undisturbed environment.
This innate system of birth has been refined over 100,000 generations. It involves a complex, finely tuned orchestration of hormones that prepare both the mother and baby for a successful birth and catalyze profound neurological changes that promote the bond between a mother and her new baby.
And just as we experience health problems when we stray from the evolutionary dietary template, women are more likely to experience complications and difficulty in labor when they stray from the evolutionary template of “undisturbed birth”.
Natural childbirth is in our genes
Throughout the vast majority of human history, women have always given birth in a familiar place, with family members or other trusted companions.
Even now, babies are still born at home in most places around the world. And although the move from birth at home to the hospital began in the 18th century, home birth was the norm even in westernized countries until the 1950s.
Think of it this way: humans have been giving birth at home for 999,998 generations, and it’s only in the last 2 generations that hospital birth has become common.
This means that women have given birth at home for 99.998% of human history.
Yet in the U.S. today, fewer than 1 percent of births happen in the home. This abrupt and almost complete transition from natural childbirth toward industrialized childbirth has had profound repercussions on mothers, babies and the culture at large.
My wife Elanne and I have chosen to have a home birth with our first child (who is, as of this writing, due in about 2 weeks!) It has been fascinating to watch people’s reactions – outside of our close friends, who have almost all had home births – when we tell them this.
Some come right out and say “that’s brave!” Others are more suspect, using words like “interesting” or maybe even wondering out loud if it wouldn’t be a better idea to use a hospital midwife. Still others are more direct in their opposition to our choice.
This is evidence that the medical establishment has done a fantastic job convincing people that hospital birth is “normal”, in spite of the fact that home birth has been the default choice for 99.998% of human history.
Doctors and the medial have also managed to convince most people that hospital birth is safer than home birth. But is that really true?
Another myth bites the dust: hospital birth is not safer than home birth
In the Netherlands, where 1/3 of babies born at home under care of midwife, outcomes for first babies are equivalent to those of babies born to low-risk women in the hospital, and outcomes of second or subsequent babies are even better.
A UK analysis found that birth at home or in small family practice units is safer than birth in an obstetric hospital for mothers and babies in all categories of risk.
Other studies have shown that modern obstetric interventions have made birth more dangerous, not safer.
In fact, in terms of outcomes for mothers & babies, studies show that planned home birth has perinatal mortality levels (the numbers of babies dying around the time of birth) at least as good as – and often better than – hospital figures, with lower rates of complications and interventions.
A landmark study by Johnson and Daviss in 2005 examined over 5,000 U.S. and Canadian women intending to deliver at home under midwife. They found equivalent perinatal mortality to hospital birth, but with rates of intervention that were up to ten times lower, compared with low-risk women birthing in a hospital. The rates of induction, IV drip, episiotomy, and forceps were each less than 10% at home, and only 3.7% of women required a cesarean (c-section).
Other studies have shown that women who plan home birth have around a 70-80% chance of giving birth without intervention. And because of low use of drugs, home-born babies are more alert and in better condition than those born in the hospital.
Contrast this with the 2002 and 2006 Listening to Mothers surveys which examined 3,000 births in conventional settings. They found “virtually no natural childbirth” in either survey.
In the 2006 survey, around 50% of women were artificially induced; almost 75% had an epidural; and 33% gave birth by c-section.
Finally, in a review of the safety of home birth by the esteemed Cochrane collaboration, the study author states:
There is no strong evidence to favour either home or hospital birth for selected low-risk pregnant women. In countries where it is possible to establish a home birth service backed up by a modern hospital system, all low-risk women should be offered the possibility of considering a planned home birth…
I agree with the author’s conclusion that hospital birth is no safer than home birth. But if you consider the statistics above which suggest that having a natural, undisturbed birth in a hospital setting is exceedingly difficult, I would argue that there is strong evidence to favor a home birth.
Birth complications are more likely to occur in a hospital environment
A common defense of hospital birth by medical professionals and laypeople is the assertion that it’s necessary to be in a hospital during birth in case something goes wrong.
While it is certainly true that complications may arise during labor that require medical intervention, what is often ignored by proponents of hospital birth is the fact that such complications are more likely to occur in the hospital environment.
In other words, the distortion of the process of birth – what Buckley calls “disturbed birth” – has come to be what women expect when they have a baby and in a way has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As Buckley states:
Under this model women are almost certain to need the interventions that the medical model provides, and to come away grateful to be saved no matter how difficult or traumatic their experience.2
TV shows almost always depict birth as some kind of medical emergency, with the woman being rushed down the hallway on a gurney or connected to machines and wires in the delivery room surrounded by medical personnel. Since most people have never witnessed a home birth (or any other birth) before giving having a child themselves, their impression of what labor is like comes almost entirely from television.
It’s easy, then, to understand why people are afraid of birth and feel the need to be in a hospital setting in case something goes wrong. But that doesn’t mean giving birth in a hospital is safer. The studies I’ve presented in this article demonstrate that it’s not.
I want to be clear: no matter where birth takes place, complications may arise that require medical intervention and I am 100% in support of it in these cases.
When the mother or baby’s life is at risk, we are fortunate to have access to surgical techniques that can save lives or prevent serious complications.
The point I am making in this article, and will make in more detail in the articles to follow, is that the scale of medical intervention in birth today is not only far beyond what is necessary, but is contributing to the very of the problems it attempts to solve.
If you’re interested in learning more about natural childbirth, I highly recommend Buckley’s book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. I’d also suggest checking out her free eBook called Ecstatic Birth and her eBook/audio package Giving Birth At Home.
Note: this series will very likely be interrupted by the home birth of my own child. Elanne is due on the 17th of July, so the baby could be coming anytime. When that happens, I’ll be taking some time off to spend time with my new family. I’ll pick this up again when I return from paternity leave.
Articles in this series:
Natural childbirth I: is homebirth more dangerous than hospital birth?
Natural childbirth IIa: is ultrasound necessary and effective during pregnancy?
Natural childbirth IIb: ultrasound not as safe as commonly thought
Natural childbirth III: why undisturbed birth?
Natural childbirth IV: the hormones of birth
Natural childbirth V: epidural side effects and risks
Natural childbirth VI: Pitocin side effects and risks
Natural childbirth VII: Cesarean risks and complications
Buckley, Sarah J. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Celestial Arts, 2009. pp. 96 ↩
Buckley, Sarah J. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Celestial Arts, 2009. pp. 96 ↩"