Home births were up 20% from 2004-2008, with all signs pointing toward the trend continuing to accelerate in more recent years. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recently voiced their disapproval of home births. So why aren’t women listening to their doctors? Well, here’s a telling statistic: The national C-section rate hovers at a historically high 30%, with some hospitals in New York boasting a 90% cesarean rate. That’s one in three moms who are either choosing to schedule a C-section or who are being told they aren’t able to give birth naturally. For perspective, that’s double the C-section rate one generation ago. What’s going on here? I’m part of this home birth statistic, so I can tell you from personal experience. As a new mom that went from one extreme of hoping to take a one-day hospital childbirth class all the way to ending up taking homework-intensive Bradley birth classes and having a home birth, I can tell you what’s up with those numbers.

The current trend among obstetricians heavily favors doing everything possible to make sure babies are born safely. Sounds good, right? But the number of available “interventions” has caused obstetricians to meddle quite a bit with women’s labor. Overdue? The doctor will induce you. But he won’t tell you that this can cause labor to be twice as painful. Not progressing quickly enough? Hospitals are on a time clock to fill labor beds, and obstetricians get nervous when labor takes a long time, not wanting to put the baby’s health at risk. That’s great, except it means the use of artificial hormones to speed up labor, which have been shown to cause contractions (and the pain) to go out of control, thereby causing the fetal distress they’re trying to avoid. The doctor will want to make sure the baby is okay during all of this, so that means fetal monitoring. They just don’t tell the mom that this means screwing a wire into the baby’s scalp during labor. And the list goes on.

If all of this doesn’t sound fun to you, it doesn’t sound fun to babies or women in going through the process either, which leads to the aforementioned emergency C-sections. The cycle continues, the trend embeds itself in obstetric culture, and women who either do thorough research or learn the hard way the first time that hospital births can be anything but relaxed start to consider home births, which are far more sophisticated than most people would think, with all the basic tools of any birth on hand and a trained midwife and doula to help the mother deliver the baby.

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I actually had traditional obstetric care all the way up to the birth of my daughter, but when I finally got my doctor to sit down and talk specifics about how he would handle things if X, Y, or Z happened, I realized we were not speaking the same language about what natural birth even meant. He underestimated my ability to handle pain (I had excruciating migraines several years before giving birth, which turned out to be twice as painful as natural birth — at least intervention-free birth), he disregarded my informed opinions about how my body would respond (badly!) to artificial hormones and drugs. And so I hired a certified midwife, planned a home birth, and decided that I would stay home in my birthing tub unless an emergency warranted a trip to the hospital, thank you very much. I believe every pregnancy and every situation warrants a careful evaluation to decide if home birth is a safe option, but my birth turned out well under circumstances that almost certainly would have landed me with an emergency C-section in the hospital, so I couldn’t be happier with the results and the fact that I did the research and trusted my instincts. So here I am, a walking statistic among friends who suffered a much more traumatic fate (perineal tears, womb tears, emergency C-sections, inductions and failed epidurals). I hope and pray that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will listen to this trend and respect their patients enough to consider that they could reverse this trend if they did some serious analysis of the outcomes of modern childbirth interventions. I and many other new moms will be waiting at home for them to come around.

+ The Business of Being Born

Via Medical XPress