Deaths During Home Births vs. Hospital Births News Coverage: WTF?

06 Apr

This afternoon, I was talking to someone about home birth and midwifery, and they brought up a very interesting point.  They CONSTANTLY hear about home birth deaths, but they’ve never seen a news story about a mother or baby dying in the hospital.  There wasn’t a whole lot I could say about it, because truthfully, I haven’t seen any coverage of maternal or infant mortality in hospitals in the mainstream media, ever.  All I see related to the subject are broad statistics.

Why is it that when I search hospital birth death cases, the first few results are about HOME BIRTH DEATHS?!  Then the rest of the results are just lawyers who want to represent you in cases against hospitals, and one result about a hospital who got sued after mortality resulted from a birth there.  It’s kind of appalling.  It’s not like women and their babies don’t die in the hospital during and after birth.  It’s not like the interventions taken during a hospital birth never result in death of mother or child.  THEY DO!  I don’t want to scare anyone.  Please remember that birth anywhere carries great risk, but with well-educated, trained medical professionals present those risks are much less likely to result in Mom or Baby dying.  And midwives who are trained properly fall under that ‘medical professionals’ category.

I think it is supremely unjust that such high weight is put on home birth deaths.  The top result from that search for hospital deaths earlier?  Check it out here.  She died of cardiac arrest the day after giving birth.  Something that would have happened anyways if she had given birth in a hospital or even a birth center.  And 24 hours after birth, if she had done it naturally in the hospital, there’s a good chance she would have been at home already anyways.  This complication is exceedingly rare in childbirth, and isn’t something that would have been easily caught even if she were in a hospital setting.  And yet the article is titled “Death After Home Birth Raises Questions.”  I feel like it’s pure propaganda.  It makes me sick.  It also makes me fear for my future profession.  With such propaganda flowing freely around otherwise reputable news sources, how in the world am I supposed to find patients who will trust me to do the job I will be extremely well qualified for?!

Here’s the truth: We are all only human.  Both hospitals and midwives do sometimes make mistakes.  Bearing children carries risks.  Midwives and doctors alike do everything in their power not to miss anything.  We are all trained to recognize symptoms and treat them as quickly as possible.  While a hospital IS a better place to be if you show signs of those risks (which usually can be seen far before labor begins), unforeseen circumstances such as a postpartum heart attack or hemorrhaging can happen long after you would be discharged from the hospital anyways.  Every woman has a different comfort zone when it comes to where they give birth.  And that is perfectly fine.  But I urge EVERY woman to do as much research about alternatives to hospital birth as possible, and try to see past the vast array of propaganda.  Birthing at home (WITH A QUALIFIED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL ON HAND) isn’t any more dangerous than birthing in a hospital.  Be careful when you look at statistics, and remember that the home birth stats almost always include unattended home births where the mother has not sought any type of medical care, which is reckless and extremely dangerous.  Example of one such study here.

Yeah.  I just went on a full-fledged rant.  Sorry about that!  But it is true.  There is a ton of propaganda out there against home birth that is just not true.  And it makes my heart hurt for women out there who end up going through traumatic births at the hospital because they weren’t properly educated on what home birth and natural birth really mean and what risks they truly carry.  I also feel bad that no one tells them that a hospital birth is just as filled with risk and just as likely to produce infant or maternal mortality.  It’s sad, but ladies please remember: it’s your job to educate yourselves about your options in childbirth.  And it’s a long process.  Don’t be ignorant just because the media is biased.  Use your noggins.  Do the research.  Do what is best for you, whether it’s hospital, home birth, or birth center.  Only you know which environment is best for yourself.

Anyone have personal stories related to this post they’d like to share?  Midwives who weren’t properly trained, doctors who didn’t explain all the risks, etc?  Share below!

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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Rants


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