Today’s guest post is from Kelsey Saintz. Kelsey grew up in North Idaho. You may recognize her if you spent any time in Mother’s Haven in the past few years, she worked there and was a wonderful advocate for birth and breastfeeding in our area. She recently moved to Colorado, where her adorable son Malcom was born at home.
Eating, sleeping, breathing, having sex, and giving birth. These are all actions humans have performed since the dawn of time, yet one is now considered scary, dangerous, painful, cringeworthy. You mustn’t do it how it’s always been done. We know better now. We know it’s not safe. But studies show otherwise.
The United States has the highest maternal death ratio than any other industrialized country – it ranks 50th. More than 99% of births in America occur in a hospital and very few in a home birth setting. Hospitals are where medical inductions, epidurals, use of forceps/vacuums and cesarean sections occur, and while these interventions aren’t forced onto pregnant women, they are commonly used and can lead to serious complications.
I delivered my daughter in a hospital in July 2012 with a certified nurse midwife, several nurses and my husband. I delivered my son at home in July 2014 with a certified professional midwife, a student midwife close to certification, a midwife’s assistant and my doula, along with my husband.
The two situations couldn’t be more different – I was pre-eclamptic with Penelope. I required magnesium sulfate during labor to reduce my risk of seizures. That slowed down contractions, so I was given Pitocin to continue my labor. I ended up with a second-degree tear so deep I needed a blood transfusion. The only part of my first birth that went according to plan was that I did not have an epidural and felt every contraction and every push. I’m forever grateful for the care I received at the hospital, and needless to say, I would not have attempted a home birth for that pregnancy as I was showing high-risk signs for several weeks up until going into labor.
Two years later, my home birth midwife was well aware of my history and monitored me closely for pre-eclampsia. She assured me that if I had signs of the illness, or anything else that was out of the ordinary, she’d transfer my care to a local obstetrician. Transfers happen to about 1 in 10 of her patients, she told me, and she’s not in the business of taking risks. I crossed my fingers and was lucky enough to have the most peaceful, easy water birth I could’ve imagined at 41 weeks. Malcolm was born at 2:48 a.m. after about 90 minutes of active labor and 10 minutes of pushing. The baby, my husband and I were tucked into our king size bed by about 4:30 a.m.
My friends questioned my decision to birth at home. “So, how serious are you about this home birth thing?” Very. “There’s no way I could do that.” That’s why there’s the option to give birth at a hospital! Go where you’re comfortable. I was 35 weeks when I decided against another hospital delivery because I just couldn’t justify it – I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t scared. I knew I could take the pain. I’d done the research.
A 2014 study published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health found that among low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies. According to the Midwives Alliance of North America, “97% of babies were carried to full-term, they weighed an average of eight pounds at birth, and nearly 98% were being breastfed at the six-week postpartum visit with their midwife. Only 1% of babies required transfer to the hospital after birth, most for non-urgent conditions. Babies born to low-risk mothers had no higher risk of death in labor or the first few weeks of life than those in comparable studies of similarly low-risk pregnancies.”
The keywords here are “low-risk pregnancies.”
Hospitals are an option for any pregnant American woman with access to medical care. Home births are an option for women with low-risk pregnancies who are dedicated to natural, unmedicated childbirth. Unnecessary interventions don’t exist at home because midwives are all about watching women birth as nature intended – in their own space, without interruption, surrounded by a birth team of familiar faces. They can walk, eat, shower and change positions, and do so without fear of intervention, constant beeps of machines, or visits from an anesthesiologist.
Birth isn’t one size fits all. Not everyone wants the experience of flying down the hospital hallway in a wheelchair pushed by your terrified partner, or embracing sweet numbness after hours of contractions. Some people – myself included – prefer to birth in a way that’s less socially accepted and rarely depicted on TV or in movies. Home births have been proven safe for healthy women and should be respected as a normal way to welcome babies earthside.