Home, sweet home

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS -

And while we’re on the topic of new­borns, it seems more of the lit­tle dick­ens are be­ing born at home. One mother chose home birth be­cause it was cheaper than go­ing to a hos­pi­tal. An­other gave birth at home be­cause she has mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and feared un­nec­es­sary med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion. And some choose home births af­ter ce­sarean sec­tions with their first ba­bies.

What­ever their mo­ti­va­tion, all are among a strik­ing trend: Home births in­creased 20% from 2004 to 2008, ac­count­ing for 28,357 of 4.2 mil­lion U.S. births, ac­cord­ing to a re­cently re­leased study from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

White women led the drive, with 1 in 98 hav­ing ba­bies at home in 2008, com­pared with 1 in 357 black women and 1 in 500 His­panic women.

Sherry Hop­kins, a Las Ve­gas mid­wife, says the women whose home births she’s at­tended in­clude a pe­di­a­tri­cian, an emer­gency room doc­tor and nurses. “We’re def­i­nitely see­ing well-ed­u­cated and well-in­formed peo­ple who want to give birth at home,” she says.

Rob­bie Davis-Floyd, a med­i­cal an­thro­pol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin and re­searcher on global trends in child­birth, ob­stet­rics and mid­wifery, says, “at first, in the 1970s, it was largely a hip­pie, coun­ter­cul­tural thing to give birth out­side of the hos­pi­tal. Over the years, as the for­merly ‘lay’ mid­wives have be­come far more so­phis­ti­cated, so has their clien­tele.”

The Amer­i­can Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­ne­col­o­gists, which cer­ti­fies OB-GYNs, warns that home births can be un­safe, es­pe­cially if the mother has high-risk con­di­tions, if a birth at­ten­dant is in­ad­e­quately trained and if there’s no nearby hos­pi­tal in case of emer­gency. Some doc­tors also ques­tion whether a “fem­i­nist ma­cho­ism” is at play in want­ing to give birth at home.

But home birthers say they want to be free of drugs, fe­tal mon­i­tors, IVs and pres­sure to hurry their la­bor at the be­hest of doc­tors and hos­pi­tals. They pre­fer to la­bor in tubs of water or on hands and knees, walk around their liv­ing rooms or take com­fort in their own beds, sur­rounded by loved ones as they lis­ten to mu­sic or hyp­no­sis record­ings with the sup­port of mid­wives and doulas. Some even go with­out mid­wives and rely on hus­bands or other non­pro­fes­sion­als for sup­port.

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