Is homebirth safe?
Homebirth has been in the news recently, with reports that homebirth may be unsafe.
If you read an article that reports this, it is important to note the background of the researcher or commentator, and where the research has been published. As you may be aware, there are many vested interests in the maternity care system, including individuals and institutions who could lose much of their livelihood if homebirth became more popular.
As well as this, many of us enter the caring professions with a strong "need to be needed".
It can be confronting, especially for those with long years of training, to realise that women's bodies are superbly designed for labor and birth (as I describe in my ecstatic birth ebook), and that the vast majority of mothers and babies will birth safely anywhere, without outside assistance. (As my friend, and neonatal resuscitation teacher extraordinaire Karen Strange says, "Birth is designed to work, even if there is no-one else around")
The debate about homebirth safety is not just about home birth. It is the tip of a centuries-old argument that began when medical doctors first entered the birth room: is birth intrinsically safe, or an accident waiting to happen? Can we trust women's bodies or do we need to constantly improve them with monitoring, medicating and otherwise intervening?
This argument continues to rage in other aspects of birth: for example a recent paper argues that routine induction for all women at 39 weeks (as compared to 'expectant management') would be cost-effective and beneficial for all mothers and babies.
However, as my writing and research shows, there are many known safety factors in normal birth, and likely many more that we have not yet discovered. Without a full understanding of these factors, any attempt to 'improve' birth for healthy mothers and babies is unlikely to succeed. For example, we still do not understand the processes that initiate labor, but have identified mechanisms that switch on brain protecting factors. and that do not operate before term in other animals.
You can read more on my website about homebirth safety and benefits (and see an interview with my daughter Emma** ) and my blog post Ten things to love about homebirth.