Home, sweet home
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.